This kid friendly video is a great way to kick off Class Dojo in your class!
Here is the video I use for twenty minute stations. Feel free to try it out!
Check back soon for my Lego Writing Process slideshow!
This one is a pretty typical lucky charm. Make a wish on a star right? But one night back in high school, my sister and I were at a park by our house and noticed that we kept seeing shooting stars. Never having seen this before, we were amazed. By the time we made it home the sky was lighting up constantly with huge streaks of meteors. We were lucky enough to have stumbled into a meteor shower and spent hours just laying on our driveway watching. This is one of my favorite memories from high school!
Sidenote: My fiance Cory just happened to be watching the same meteor shower in his backyard and texted me that night to ask me if I was watching. We were only friends then, and at that time, we rarely talked, but it is kind of special that that event made him think of me. Awww! ;)
Another lucky charm from high school; giving the windshield two taps as you pass under a yellow light. My friends did this all the time back in the day and eventually I picked up the habit as well. When Cory and I first started dating, I was still some-what in the habit of windshield tapping and he would always roll his eyes playfully at my superstition. Time passed, and the habit faded, but not too long ago as we were passing through an intersection, the light turned yellow and Cory tapped the windshield. He gave me a teasing grin and we both laughed at the memory.
My Grandmother, we call her "Grammy", was born a New Year's Baby. She was the first baby born at the hospital on January 1st that year, and the world sure is better for it! Needless to say, New Year's Day has always been her day. We wake ourselves up after a night of ringing in the new year, and make our way to Grammy's house to celebrate. Every year, even though it is HER birthday, she has the kitchen full of goodies (you can never go to Grammy's house and leave hungry) and she never fails to have a big pot of Black-Eyed Peas. Growing up, she would insist that we each have a spoonful, even though our tummies went straight for the Mac and Cheese and Homemade Fried Chicken. She said we had to have a bite for good luck, so we always did. As we grow older, there may be years where her birthday celebration is put off a day or two, or life gets in the way of one or two of us making it to her house, but she has never failed to reach out and make sure we eat our Black-Eyed Peas!
Grammy was not the only one born in January! My family is full of January birthdays. In order it goes Grammy, my Aunt Carol, Me, [my cousin Avery, my cousin Emmy], Grandad (Grammy's P.I.C), and my brother Scott/Andrew (remember Scandrew?). Since there are so many, we break it up into two birthday celebrations. The "January Girls" (Grammy, Aunt Carol, and I, Emmy and Avery are on the other side of the family) go first, and we celebrate three generations of January "Stephens' Girls". Being one of the January birthday's has always been special to me, and is a part of my little family story, so I have always felt lucky to be a January baby. Luckiest of all, is that I was born on January 7. Seven has always been my lucky number!
Sidenote - Cory's birthday is on the 27th of November (his entire immediate family has Nov. bdays...crazy). We started dating on February 27, 2011. He proposed on March 27, 2016, and we are getting married on May 27, 2017. SO MANY 7s!! Maybe 27 should be my new lucky number?
Cory and I's wedding day is starting to feel so close, but we are trying to soak up every moment of the whirlwind. Planning has been stressful at times, but the little traditions are what makes it memorable and enjoyable. As I go I am collecting the little tokens I will use to fill this age-old rhyme.
I do not have my "something old" yet, but it would mean so much to me to have a token from one of my grandparents to wear on my wedding day! I will put Grammy in charge of that one! ;)
I JUST ordered my "something new". On a whim, I decided to check out Kendra Scott's Color Bar. I love me some Kendra, and I figured why not include it on the wedding day. I played around for awhile and decided on a bracelet using stones in our wedding colors. I showed it to my sister and when I told her what stones I used she got excited. It turns out that the pink stone that I used was "Rose Quartz", the stone of LOVE, and the blue-green stone was "Chalcedony" which is said to absorb negative energy and create a nurturing feeling. I only picked the stones because I liked the color, but my little "something new" turns out to have multiple uses if you believe in the power of crystals!
I gained a sister last summer when my older brother married Hannah. At their wedding, I gave up the bouquet toss and let Hanna's sister have that one, but the Garter Toss Champion was Cory...does that surprise anyone? haha. I decided that the garter he caught would be my "Something Borrowed" and I would use it until Cory passes it onto the next Garter Toss Champion!
My "Something Blue" will be easy. I am going to find a cute shade to get my nails done in for the wedding. Any votes?
For this Friday Five we are covering the five children's book we have to have in our classroom! It is especially important as a 1st grade teacher to have a good collection of books that get children to fall in love with reading, while teaching valuable lessons at the same time. It's funny, because as I thought about the books I love reading the most, they all linked to a variety of skills and objectives, and it turns out that I actually only personally own TWO of them! So for me, this list really is a must-have list, since these are the books I am constantly borrowing from my teaching buddies year after year! For each book I am just going to list three things:
1. My personal connection to the book.
2. The skills the book teaches.
3. How I have used the book.
1. I was introduced to this book in one of my education classes at Texas State. I immediately went out and bought a copy and so it became the first book of my classroom library. From the start, I loved how the whole story was an analogy for your feelings and emotions and how your actions affect other people. I knew then that I wanted to teach young children, and I could just see this book being something I could constantly refer to in my classroom.
2. This story teaches kids that negative behaviors and experiences will "take a drop from their bucket" and as their bucket empties, they will feel worse and worse. However, every positive action or experience can "refill their bucket", and has the power to fill the buckets of others around them too. Every year my first graders really grasp this concept, and they notice even before the story reveals, that positive actions fill the bucket faster than negative actions empty it.
3. I read this book to my class during the first week of every school year. Some classes simply need it read once, and carry the lesson with them as the year goes on. Other classes may need more reminders, and when that is the case, I have a small bucket that I fill with "drops" (blue marbles) every time I see someone being helpful, or responsible, or respectful. When the class gets a compliment or has a really good day, they are showered with "drops in their bucket" and they begin to feel motivation to overflow that bucket!
1. I have been a teacher in training my whole life, and I tend to teach best when I am able to be creative and flexible. I am one of those teachers who could care less about the lesson plans (sorry principals and teammates!! But let me clarify, I DO still follow them!!) and I teach based on the situations of the classroom around me. During student teaching, my mentor teacher showed me this book, and told me to have fun with it, so I came up with a lesson on the fly and it has been one of my FAVORITE lessons to teach even now.
2. You could do so much with this story! It is a different point of view on the whole "monster under the bed" scenario that young children are so familiar with. The boy in the story checks under his bed one night to find his monster has "Gone Fishing". He then begins to hold interviews with a variety of monsters to fill the spot of his monster, since he knows he will not be able to sleep without him. This book goes into great detail about each monster, and paints a picture in the students minds and models descriptive writing at it's finest. You can also use this book to model making predictions and inferences, as you wonder what monster will be chosen based on the criteria the boy has outlined. An online version of this story is available at http://www.storylineonline.net/i-need-my-monster/ if you want to check it out!
3. I use this story to model using adjectives for descriptive writing, making inferences, and following multi-step directions. I given students a piece of paper and we fold it into 6 parts. I read the story as I walk around the classroom with my students at their desks. I do not show any of the pictures as I read, and as each monster is introduced I tell the students to draw the monster in one of the boxes based on the description of the monster. After the story, I show them the pictures and they are always over the moon excited about how close or far-off their pictures were from the actual monsters. Every year this lesson is a hit, and I have monster drawings cluttering my classroom for weeks afterward. Proof to myself that not every lesson needs a lesson plan ;).
P.S. I just found a short movie version of the story - maybe now I can show the movie after we read the story, and add some comparing and contrasting to my lesson!
1. Every year our curriculum has us read "The Three Little Pigs" during the month of October. Now everyone knows the story of the Three Little Pigs, and there are endless renditions of the tale from "The Three Ninja Pigs" by Corey Rosen Schwartz to "The Three Little Dassies" by Jan Brett (both of which are FABULOUS.) We spend this particular week in October reading version after version of this fairytale, and that is how I was introduced to this wonderful version.
2. This fun rewrite of the classic swaps the perspectives of the characters and makes the pig out to be the bad guy! The Three Little Wolves are building their houses and want to stay safe from the monster of a pig that will crush their homes with one stomp. Forget straw and sticks, the wolves go straight for the bricks, but when that doesn't work, they have to figure something else out! This story teaches comparing and contrasting, and also shows students how a story can change when it is looked at with a different perspective. This story is also great for teaching characterization, because the same animals from the original story are used, but their qualities and character traits are different. The hidden skill in this book is that of "thinking like an engineer" as the wolves engineer a solution to their problem of escaping the big pigs wrath!
3. Authentic learning is the BEST LEARNING (in my humble opinion) and it just so happens that at the time this story falls in our LA curriculum, our science curriculum has us introducing the Engineering Design Process. I LOVE when my lessons naturally integrate - if I could have it my way, I would just teach all day based on where the wind blew my class, so when it happens that I can integrate, I DO IT! I ended up using this version of the Three Little Pigs to model the Engineer Design process, as the "Three Little Wolves" just happened to use each step as they hid from the "Big Bad Pig". From planning their homes, to building and creating them, then to improving them after the pig's destruction, this story paints a HILARIOUS picture of rebuilding and improving until you have solved your problem (complete with plexiglass,barbed wire, and dynamite - soooo FUNNY!)
1. Standardized testing - bleh. It is sad when even those of us not affecting by the tests, are feeling the stress in the building. Every year during the STAAR test, when the building is in lock-down mode, my students are wondering why we are having to be confined to our room for a silly test. I always tell them that we just want to show respect for the other students in our building so that they can show Texas how much they have learned this year. We want to give them an environment that allows them to focus, so that they can remember all of the important lessons they have been taught all year. So during this period of quarantine, I read my students Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!
2. In this story, there is a school that is full of creative teachers who teach their students a multitude of skills through a variety of opportunities and experiences. The students are happy and well rounded in their abilities, but are given a test that does not test those abilities. When the students do not do well, they feel as if they have failed, but the teachers assure them that through all of their experiences they have taught themselves how to problem solve and figure out a solution to any problem that comes their way.
3. Most of the students in my class don't put two and two together that the test talked about in the story represents the test that they will be expected to take in just a couple short years, but every student can relate to the feeling of being anxious or disappointed in themselves. I love the sentiment in this story that true learning comes from experiencing life, and this book teaches that learning is not black and white. Great discussions can be had after reading this story!
2. This is a story about a blue flower who does not want to grow in the same patch as a purple flower, because the purple flower is different than him and his friends. The blue flower's mother helps him to see that every flower enjoys sunlight and wind, and that the bees find each flower beautiful and so should he. The blue flower opens his mind and becomes friends with the purple flower, teaching a lesson in friendship and acceptance.
3. I kicked off Friendship Week by reading this book to my class. The metaphors offered in this story were not lost on my first graders. They completely grasped the concept of how every part of a garden works together, and that is much like being a class. The bees do not discriminate by choosing only the blue flowers, and friends don't discriminate either. All flowers need sunlight, and all people need love. Butterflies visit each flower much like each person should be visited with respect. The analogies were endless and led my class to create a Friendship Garden in our classroom, where we are continuously posting examples of friendship that we see throughout each day. The kids decided together what traits they wanted to represent in their garden, and have now taken ownership in making sure that they represent those traits with their friends.
I have a large metal cut out of this quote hanging in my house that I purchased from Magnolia Market. I love this quote because it describes my outlook on life. My fiance, Cory, and I always talk about how so many people these days seem to blame the world for their problems and do not take ownership of their dreams and goals. When I see these words on my wall, it reminds me that if I want something, I have the power to make it happen. I am the designer of my own life, and so far, I am loving my design!
I like this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson because it pretty much echoes the advice that my mother gave to the high-school aged me. At a time when Mom's advice is unwarranted and automatically wrong, because obviously a 16 year old has way more knowledge and world experience than Mom, I actually heard her advice and have remembered it through the years. She told me that if you are with someone because they fill a void that you have, then you will never be able to be truly happy. You need to be happy with yourself first, before someone else can make you happy. Her advice was to find someone that motivates you and makes you a better person in some way, and I think about that advice often when I look at my fiance. He has made me a more outgoing, confident, and motivated version of myself, and I am grateful that I feel strong enough to be myself when I am with him!
Speaking of my fiance, this quote was created by him at the ripe young age of 15, back when we were "just friends" and a little more quirky than we are now. My best friend Kasi and I would often be called "weird" or "goofy" because for one, Kasi dressed how Kasi wanted to dress, and did not care if others thought her patterns clashed or her hair was too crazy, and as for myself, I used sarcasm as a shield. I was full of dumb jokes and not-so-witty banter. Cory embraced this "weirdness" and would constantly tell us that we were are own version of normal. He would ask "what is normal anyway?" It was a comforting notion, and it made a lot of sense. I think about how true this notion still is as I wonder why so many of us feel judged for who we are and what we like. No one should feel unusual, because ..."You are your own normal" so be you!
Everyone has something that they just dread doing. Something that they know will make them better, but that does not sound particularly enjoyable. This quote hits me hard when I think about how I would feel if I lost the ability to do something that I take for granted. I would never want to look back on my life with regret. This quote is like another version of "you never know what you have until it is gone", but it is more personal because, no I do not want to get up and go run, yes I know it would make me a healthier person, but it sounds so boring and painful, but ....what if I couldn't run? What if I did not even HAVE the option....think about that.
The days before Winter Break come with a variety of feelings and attitudes that can be witnessed throughout the school building. As a teacher in the weeks before winter break you may feel excited, overwhelmed from the holiday stress, or even annoyed at the silly behaviors that you witness from those sweet little munchkins you call students. (Come on people - they are PUMPED UP! It's CHRISTMAS!) I completely understand how the chaos can get to people, believe me, but I have decided to cope with the "Holiday Hooplah" by embracing the crazy in the best of ways!
Long story short, our school counselor, Tracy, is a pro at spreading cheer throughout the school.(And not just during the holiday season!) After we returned from that taste of holiday freedom that I like to call Thanksgiving break, Tracy came to me and asked for help recording a Musicly in our ugly holiday sweaters. (We had our annual staff holiday party later that day, hence the sweaters...) She had come up with the idea to make a video each day of December leading up until Christmas day. Each video would be about 15 seconds long and would center around a popular Christmas song. Talk about spreading the Christmas cheer!
I cannot tell you how much of a blast these last couple weeks have been. We have gotten my first graders involved in the brainstorming and they have been so excited to see what their "crazy" teacher and counselor come up with next. I figured I could keep spreading the cheer with everyone in the social media world as well - so if you are feeling a bit "Bah-Humbug" sit back and [hopefully] crack a smile or two!
Ok... new school year + new school + busy teacher = zero blogging. BUT I decided to check in to share my first fav of the year! We are teaching these new baby firsties how to develop strategies for themselves to help them become more independent. One of those strategies is to sound out words on their own instead of asking for help...and there is a variety of ways they can do that! We made it fun (of course) by tying it to the analogy of blowing a bubble of gum. I began the lesson with 4 balloons blown up and one balloon that was not blown up. I put together my strategy poster as I talked to the kids about the strategies and I explained to them how we stretch out the word by saying it slowly...just like if you were blowing a bubble. Then I gave the kids a word, and had them say it as I blew up my empty balloon. They did a really good job of stretching out the word slowly as I inflated the balloon and stopping the word when I stopped. I tied off the balloon and then said "LISTEN!" and popped the balloon. I explained that we need to listen for the sounds in the word after we stretch it out, then write down the sounds we here. I explained that that is not the ONLY strategy we use though. I had a balloon attached to the word wall and ran over and popped it and said "We can look at the word wall for help spelling words!" Then I had two other balloons (one taped to the white board, one on a random poster) around the room. I ran and popped those and said "We can look around the room for help!" then I went back to the front of the room and popped the last balloon right over the kids heads (sitting at the carpet) and said "You can also use words that are in your brain that you already know!". Of course I elaborated on each of these points - but this was a fun way to help the kids remember the strategies, or at least the lesson, and connect it in a way that makes it interesting to them. (Otherwise it would be a blah,blah,blah fest!) Anyhooo.....this worked for me, so let it work for you too! If I was a really cool teacher I would have given them all gum to chew as they practiced writing down words.....but I don't think we are quite there yet ;).
For an extension activity I had the kiddos draw their faces. Then I gave them each a bubble cut out from pink construction paper and had them write their favorite strategy on the bubble. I had them put this into their writing portfolio to remind them while they are writing that I do not have to be their walking dictionary!
For the download check out my TPT here:
We are having a guest speaker tomorrow in our classroom for CAREER DAY! My kiddos are excited to welcome a member of our community into our classroom to speak to us, and we wanted to thank them by showing how their example will help us grow into what we want to be! Just an idea to share :)
So, being a first year teacher, the only experience I have had with holidays in school came from my student teaching experience. I have always heard that Valentines Day and the day after Halloween can be the two WORST days for teaching. Well due to my school's schedule, our Valentine party fell on the day BEFORE valentine.s. Meaning the kids stuffed themselves FULL of processed junk, sugar, and red dye 40, all to come back the next day for the actual holiday. So not only do I have Valentines Day with them...but I have the effect of the day after Halloween; sugar - crazed seven and eight year olds in my classroom. I just knew when I walked into morning meeting that the day was over (at 7:30 in the morning!). My only saving grace was that in my anticipation of this, I planned a day full of heart themed, on your feet, move around, activities. There was no way I was going to be able to keep these kids in their seats, so I did not even fight it!
One of my smoothest lessons came during math - telling time. This "find your valentine" game was super cute and the kids were so excited to search the room looking for their valentines. The idea was that each kid decorated an anonymous "Valentine card" that had a certain time on it. The time on the card that they decorated was the time they drew on their paper watches that they put on. Then I collected all of the cards and redistributed them randomly, and the students had to find the person who was wearing the "watch" that matched the time on the card they received. It went really well, and did not force these hyper little ones to sit still - SO I thought I would share my hope that even on the craziest day of the year, learning was STILL taking place in room 20.
I'm just an Elementary Nerd sharing my excitement for the classroom!
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