Monday, February 23, 2015

Super Sale and a Super Giveaway!

Hello friends!  I have some SUPER news!  It is time for another TpT sale.  The sale begins on Wednesday.  Everything in my store will be 20% off and you can use promo code HEROES to save an additional 10%.  This sale is to celebrate teachers and honor you for the heroes you are.  Yep!  Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back.  You deserve it for all you do.  I am a serious shopper.  Whenever there is a sitewide sale, I always like to prepare so I get the most bang for my buck.  I am going to share some of my tricks with you.

1)  Earn TpT credits by leaving feedback!
Go through all your previous purchases and make sure you have left feedback.  You can use your points to save even more off the sale prices.  It is easy to see what items you have not left feedback for.  Just go to "My Purchases" and then sort items by "Needs Feedback".  SO easy and this could save you big time!
2)  Go through your wishlist.
This is the time to clean out that wishlist.  Maybe you put something on there and you have changed your mind.  Maybe you put something wonderful on there and forgot all about it.  This is the time to prioritize and snag products while they are discounted.

3)  Plan ahead!  
Site-wide sales don't come around often.  Think of all the things that will be coming up...Read Across America, Test Prep, St. Patrick's Day, Spring, End of the Year.  This is the time to stock up for things you know you will need in the future.

I want to show you some of the new things I have in my store.  I have added some great management tools since the last sale.  If you don't have these, you should check them out.

This set is perfect for working on sustained silent reading.  Check out this video to see a preview of it in action.  

This set includes a variety of themes and I will keep adding more until I get themes and holidays for the entire year.  It currently has:
St. Patrick's 
Click here to check out Reading Stamina Timers and Tools in my store.

This set already includes 50 themes to keep student behavior on-track and it keeps growing!  I will keep adding themes to this set until it reaches the maximum file size allowed on TpT.  I use these EVERYDAY with my kids.  We use the build tools while I run reading groups.  We use the take away tools at clean-up.  These were too of the worst times of the day for me and now they are a breeze.  I can literally praise and correct behaviors without saying a word.  This is a MUST!  To read more about Classroom Management Life Savers, click here.  To add them to your wishlist, click here.

I am LOVING these with my kiddos!  We are having fun, getting some exercise, and learning.  My firsties are going to breeze through multiplication because they can skip count fluently.  I like to use the yoga themes when we need to calm down and relax. The Move games are fun when we have some extra wiggles we need to get out or when we can't go out for recess.  Click here to see the Yoga Skip Count and click here for Skip Count and Move.  

 Some of my friends over at The Primary Chalkboard and I have decided to do a giveaway.  We are each giving away a $20 Tpt gift certificate.  Enter my raffle to enter then hop over to some of the other bloggers who are participating.

2 Brainy Apples 
Out of this World Literacy
Teaching and Much Moore
Growing Firsties
Chalk One Up for the Teacher
Surfin Through Second

Good luck and happy shopping!
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Writing Workshop with a Techie Twist

CONFESSION: I used to really struggle with writer's workshop.  I had a hard time meeting with all my kids and managing the herd while I met with small groups.  I hated writing prompts on my bored.  I would forget which prompts I had already used.  It was boring.  I had good intentions, they just didn't work out very often.  Well, since I have started incorporating technology, my writer's workshop is super easy to manage.  I meet with all my kids on a regular basis, and have no issues with managing the class while I do it.  Want to know my secret?  Here it is!

Materials for my writers workshop are:
Stickers cut into groups of 4-6.
Craft sticks with numbers (one side red and one side green)
Writing journals
PowerPoint Prompts

I start off by making journals for each of my students.  I make a new journal each month and include enough pages to give us one page for each school day.  My school buys a TON of primary lined story paper each year, so I use that with construction paper for a cover.  I have created journal pages to make your own journals if your school does not provide lined paper.  These are included in my PowerPoint Prompts.

While my kids are out at afternoon recess, I just open my PowerPoint Prompts.  I have a prompt for every day of the month.  I click on the number that matches the date.  This ensures that I don't repeat or forget which prompts I have used.  I have also included random prompts that go with holidays and themes during the month.  I did this to make my journal prompts more versatile.  Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is January 15th, but you might want your class to write about it on the Friday before, the Tuesday after, or any other time it fits!

Another thing that I love about using PowerPoint Prompts is that they are much more engaging than a prompt written on the board.  I have included a variety of topics and writing skills.

These PowerPoint Prompts also have built-in quiet music.  You can choose to play the music or not.  This is a totally versatile tool!
As soon as my kids get back in the room and see the prompt on the board, they know to take out their journals and get busy writing.  This is a quiet, independent work time.  They are not allowed to ask for help with spelling.  Sounding words out independently reinforces phonics skills and makes them more confident writers.  I encourage them to use their dictionaries, but they can't ask me or classmates for spelling help.  I give my kids about 20 minutes to work on writing then they leave their journals on their desks and come to the rug.
I choose a stick from my cup and that student must share with the class.  They bring their journal up and read it to the class.  Next, I put it under my document camera and we critique it as a class.  The document camera lets the whole class see the writing on the board!  When I started this, I was worried that my beginning writers would be embarrassed or that kids might be mean to each other.  I was really careful about how I set it up and just the opposite has happened.  They are super supportive of each other and always proud to share.  We always find some things we like about the writing and some things for the student to work on.  This public sharing really motivates the kids to work hard and use their time wisely.  Once I started using the document camera, I saw a HUGE improvement in their handwriting!  They want to impress their classmates.  Everybody gets positive feedback even if it is "I like your picture" or "I like the way you did a lot of writing".  The kids are always kind to each other.  I love the way that this brings the class together and helps us feel like a community.  They see that they all have things to work on and things that they all do well.  We each have our strengths and weaknesses and we can help each other.  Some kids have incredible creative thinking skills, but need to work on using their dictionary for spelling sight words correctly.  Some kids have beautiful handwriting but need to work on punctuation.  I always guide the conversation and ensure that there is plenty of praise and just the right amount of critique needed to encourage and motivate without putting anyone down.  The document camera allows the whole class to discuss writing in an authentic and purposeful way.  It keeps the whole group engaged and participating - which means I am not trying to keep them busy while I work with small groups!

I have goals for writing.  My school does report cards every six weeks.  (BOO!)  The first six weeks of school, I want them to master one sentence.  Every day when we journal, their goal is one sentence.  I want a capital, punctuation, and it makes sense.  The second six weeks, we are working on two sentences.  We continue increasing our writing goals until the end of the year when we are writing paragraphs with a minimum of six sentences.  If the student who is sharing has completed our writing goals, they get a sticker on their journal.  I will make corrections and write notes while we are critiquing under the camera.  If students do an exceptional job, I call this "second grade writing" and they get two M&Ms.

More about the stickers -
The reason that I cut stickers into small groups, is because it helps me regulate how many students I am choosing.  I tend to try to choose too many and they get bored with it.  BORED = NAUGHTY!  Don't make that mistake.  By only picking 4, 5, or 6 students, they stay interested and look forward to our writing time.
More about the sticks -
I have had the same set of sticks for years and years.  I wrote numbers on the sticks (my kids all have an assigned number).  I painted one ond of the sticks red and the other side green.  I start with all the sticks green side up, red side down.  I remember that green means "GO".  Go ahead and pick them!  Red means "STOP".  Stop you have already picked them!  I pick a green and flip it over.  This helps me choose every student every week.  Once all the sticks are showing red, I flip them back to green and start over.  

 Here are a couple examples of our actual writing journals.  The prompt was "Would you rather paint or run?"  The student on the left knew that he needed help spelling exercise and could so he used his dictionary for those words.  He thought he could spell want and and, so he did not use the dictionary for these words.  We talked about that in our critique.  We also talked about reading over your work to make sure it really says what you want it to say.  He forgot a couple words, but he thought he had written them.  It wasn't until he read this to the class that he realized he left them out.  Our critique needs to be positive so we always find things we like and praise, praise, praise!  This kid was trying and there were lots of things he did right.  We recognized those things and gave plenty of compliments.  One student commented on how she liked the way he labeled his picture.  Another said they liked the way he used nice spaces between his words.  I want all my kids to leave writer's workshop feeling successful.
The student on the right is a more proficient writer than the one on the left.  At this point in the year, we are working on three sentences, but I would consider this "second grade writing" because I would be happy to send this kid to second grade with these skills.  While his writing is really good, we still find things for him to work on.  This creates a feeling of equality in my little writers and helps prevent them from feeling inadequate or boastful.  We said we liked the interesting words the student on the right used.  He will "draw a master piece" and be "famous".  We like how he chose to write the letters FUN in all capitals.  It was a great opportunity to talk about why he chose to do this.  When I asked why he did this, he said he liked how Robert Munsch used all capitals in some of his writing.  What a great opportunity for the whole class to hear one of their peers say something so inspiring!  This would not happen with my old small group writer's workshop.  What does this kid need to work on?  We gave him the goals of writing more!  He is ready for more sentences!  He had the word went instead of want and noticed this when he read to us so we also gave him reread as something to work on (the same goal as the first student).
This has been an amazing solution to writer's workshop.  It is so easy to manage and allows me to meet with every student every week.  The best part is, the kids love it!  This is by far my easiest block of time each and every day.  It allows me to assess my students and give them feedback with almost no prep!  LOVE THAT!  This year, I am creating four bundles of PowerPoint Prompts to use with writer's workshop.

Here are the links to the bundles I have in my store:

I have made a short demo video that shows how easy it is to use this resource:

Until next time,

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January Goals Gift Card Celebration

I am a firm believer in setting goals.  I set goals for myself every day!  Getting laundry done, lesson plans finished, projects completed, etc.  To keep myself motivated, I also set rewards for finishing my goals.  I believe that setting goals and writing them down is hugely important.  I have decided that 2015 is going to be the year of TpT goals.  I have always had my own goals, but I want your help to accomplish some of them.  I am going to give away a $10 gift card for each goal reached!  When you win, you tell me where you would like me to get your gift card from.  You choose your prize!  I am going to do this every single month all year long!  That means this is year, I will be giving away almost $500 worth of gift cards!  Holy smokes!

Here are January's goals:

Goal 1: 100 Blog Followers  (currently at 83)
Why follow this blog?  This is a great place to get more info on my products, ideas and resources to use in your classroom, and grab some freebies.  How do you follow?  Click the "Join this site" button on the right side of this blog.

Goal #2:  1,200 Facebook Likes  (currently at 1,037)
My facebook page is the best place to keep up on the latest products and updates.  This is also the best place for communication.  If you have an idea, question, or suggestion, this is the place to post it.
Goal #3:  15,000 TpT Votes (currently at 14,223)
Are you leaving feedback for your TpT purchases?   You earn credits to use toward free products!  Only about 1/3 of buyers leave feedback.  You can to to "my purchases" then sort items by "needs feedback".  This will help you make sure you got them all!  I recently figured out that I have earned over $140 worth of FREE TpT products just for leaving feedback!  How awesome is that?
Goal #4:  2,900 TpT Followers (currently at 2,757)
Why follow me on TpT?  You get a notification whenever I add new products.  You can also receive messages once a month telling you about sales, new products, or updates.  To follow, click the small green star below my store name.  When you are following, it shows "following".

How can you help reach these goals if you are already doing all these things?  Tell your friends!  Spread the word!  I love to celebrate milestones with big sales and giveaways.  Okay!  Finally time for the best part!  THE GIVEAWAY!  This raffle will run all month.  Winners will be selected the beginning of February.  Good luck!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Blog Posts from 2014

I can't believe that 2014 is already over?  There is SO much more I wanted to do!  Well, I didn't want anybody to feel like they missed out on reading some really great blog posts, so I have asked some of the best bloggers around to link-up their TOP blog posts of 2014!  All the great posts in one location.  What could be better?  If you are a blogger, feel free to post your top blog post from 2014 in the link up below.  Thanks for visiting and happy 2015!

10 Ways to Get Fit in Your Classroom

One of my biggest challenges as a teacher is finding balance.  Between the endless responsibilities of teaching, being a wife, mom, and friend, I find that I seem to always come last.  There is never time for ME to do something good for ME - like working out!  Well, a few years ago, I discovered some simple things I could do during my school day to help me lose weight and get healthy.  I lost 40 pounds in one year!  These pictures are from the Marine Corps Ball 2011 and 2012.

In 2011, I remember not wanting to go dress shopping.  I was so grossed out with myself and refused to buy the size that I actually needed.  I found something in my closet with enough elastic to work.  Looking at the picture, I can't believe how booby-licous this was and I actually wore it like that!  And now I am putting it on the internet!  Oh, lord!  I believe it will help others, so I am willing to make this embarrassing sacrifice.  Don't judge!  :)  In 2012, I had lost 40 pounds.  I had not gone dress shopping and there was only one dress in my closet that would fit me for the ball.  It was the same dress I wore to my first ball with my husband when I was just 19 years old.  (Saved only for the memory, I never intended for it to be worn again!)  How freakin' awesome is that?  Three kids later, I was rocking the same dress I wore at 19.  No spanx, no sucking in!

Here are 10 little tricks that I implemented to help me achieve this success and keep the weight off!
  1. Walking Club - So one day, I was standing on the playground doing recess duty when I realized that instead of standing, I should be moving!  I rounded-up some kids and started "the walking club".  Our walking club does laps around the playground.  To keep it fresh and exciting, I came up with little "challenges" as we walk.  One wall has an ocean mural.  When we walk by it, we pretend to swim and hold our breath.  There is a small hill that we call "danger hill".  Every time we go down the hill, we say, "Oh, no!  It's Danger Hill!"  We raise our arms in the air and run down the hill.  There is an alcove near the office.  This is a bear cave.  We tip toe across very quietly so that we don't wake the bears.  There is also an electromagnetic wall that we run past (or we may stick to it), scary trolls, and we stop to smell the flowers (another mural).  When we walk by my classroom door, we raise our hands and give a little woot-woot, because this marks one completed lap.  I keep a tally chart in my room to track our laps.  Last year, we got almost 200 laps.  Kids want to join the walking club.  They see me walking and run to join.  Walking club is for all kids on the playground - not just my own students.  My class this year has added another fun twist on the walking club.  They use sidewalk chalk to create obstacle courses.  They make bombs that we can't step on, tight ropes, stones that we must jump on, and more.  They get so creative and are super excited for our walking club to walk their course.  Their obstacles work even more muscles.  Jumping on the "stones" is a real workout!  I also love that they label the side walk with "bear cave" and "danger hill".  I love to see that they are motivated to write.  
  2. Skip Count and Move - I totally created this as a way for me to get some exercise into my day, but they are good for my kiddos, too!  These are PowerPoints that get us moving while we practice skip counting.  You choose which number you want to count by.  Numbers 2-10 are included.  There are simple exercise moves to do as we count.  We do frog squats, polar bear jumping jacks, penguin knee lifts, and more!  This runs through numbers three times for lots of practice and exercise.  The squats make me sore every single time we do them!  When we started jumping jacks, I could not finish them all.  Now, I do them easily.  I am so proud of my progress!
  3. Fitbit - If you have never heard of a fitbit, it is a small pedometer that syncs to your phone or internet account.  It is SO fun because you can add friends from school.  It shows who from your group got in the most steps for the week.  This gives me a little more motivation to move more.  It also tracks active minutes, flights of stairs climbed, and calories burned.  There are even fitbit community groups.  I am part of a teaching fitbit group.  Just think of all the steps you can log if you start your own walking club!
  4. MOVE IT - This series features lessons with built-in brain breaks.  This is a GREAT way to get in some cardio in the classroom.  My class does a MOVE IT about three times a week.  They love it because they have a chance to get out of their seats and move.  I love it because I can move, I can assess their skills and give immediate feedback, and I can throw out a boring workbook page.  To read more about MOVE ITs, click here!
    30 seconds of jumping jacks!
  5. Drink more water - I have not had a soda in four years.  NO soda for 4 years!!!  When you don't drink soda, there is not much else to drink, so I have a lot of water.  Drinking only water can get really boring, so I spruce it up with fruit slices.  Here is my trick for yummy school water.  I buy produce, slice it up, put the slices on wax paper or saran wrap (so they don't stick together), and freeze them.  Once they are frozen, I store them in a container in my freezer.  If you put all the slices in a container and then freeze, they make one solid block and are almost impossible to pry apart.  When I am in a hurry for school, I can just throw a few frozen slices in my ice water.  Some of my favorite things to add to my water are: lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, cucumber, pineapple, mango, and fresh mint.
  6. Tie fitness into your curriculum - I like to introduce the subject of healthy food choices with the story The Gulps by Marc Brown and Rosemary Wells.  This is a story about a family that changes their ways and gets healthy.  It is a nice way of broaching the subject without making anybody feel bad.  I also really like the story Miss Fox's Class Shapes Up.  We use this as a motivation for our class to work together on fitness goals.  I use the morning songs Healthy by Ken Sheldon, Let's Go to the Market by Greg and Steve, and A Very Good Me by Penny and Pals.  Singing these songs in the morning is a reminder to me about the choices I need to make. 
  7. Get rid of your throne! - I used to have a comfy rocking chair in the front my room.  I found myself sitting in it way too often.  I replaced it with a cheap computer chair and found myself spending less time sitting.  If you have a stool that you sit on while you teach, or if you are often perched behind your desk, try to get away from that comfort zone.  Stand more. Walk more.  Move more!
  8. Alpha-Stretch - These are quick brain breaks that reinforce letter size.  We touch our waist for small letters, reach up high for tall letters, and touch our toes for letters with a tail.  These come in a variety of themes to last all year.  This is a great way to stretch and feels great if you find yourself sore from all that exercising you have been fitting it.  To read more about Alpha-Stretch, click here!
  9. Change the way you party!  - Instead of having cupcakes and cookies at your party, have healthy choices like strawberries and carrot sticks.  You will be shocked by how much your kids enjoy them.  Instead of having a popcorn or root beer float party, have a dance party!  There are two ways my class has a dance party.  For the first, se use my Freeze Dance videos.  These have fun songs to dance to and then "FREEZE!" to practice skills like reading sight words, reviewing phonics, skip counting, etc.  The other type of dance party is where they come to the rug where we have lots of room and I put on fun songs for them to dance to.  I have some kids bop CDs that they like for this.  With both types of dance parties, I always review the rules so it doesn't get too crazy!  There is no break dancing or mosh pit.  You are not allowed to be on the floor because we might step on you!  Our objectives are fun and safety!  If we do not review these rules, dance parties can get a little dangerous!  
  10. Make yourself a priority!  - Remember that you are a role model for your students.  It is important that they see you setting a healthy example.  By taking time for yourself, you are actually taking care of every one in your life.  Your students, spouse, and children will benefit from you being the best you that you can be!  Treat yourself!  Buy yourself a new outfit when you reach a goal.  Your appearance affects your attitude.  Set goals and work to achieve them.  If you have a bad day, brush it off and start fresh tomorrow.  
Do you have any healthy classroom routines to share?  What keeps you motivated?  Please share!  

Until next time, 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fostering Independence

Dear Teacher,
I love to go to you with all of my problems.  I love that you are always there to fix them for me.  When I told you that Sally wouldn't share the ball with me, you told her she has to.  When I needed help opening my chips, you were always there to do it.  When I need help on my work, I know you will be there to help me find the answer.  When my shoes need tied, you are just the one I want to go to.  Thanks for always being there to fix my problems for me.
Love Always,
The Dependent Student

Dear Teacher,
Thank you for NOT always solving my problems.  You were always there for me, but you gave me the tools to fix them myself.  When I told you Sally wouldn't share her ball with me, you told me how I should address Sally to take care of the problem myself. Now, I know how to handle conflict with friends and I don't need to rush to you when there is a problem.  When I needed help opening my chips, you taught me how.  At first my hands were not strong enough to pull the bag open, but with lots of practice, I can do it on my own.  When I needed help with my work, you reminded me to read the directions, go back and check my answers, sound words out.  You gave me the tools I need to do my work independently.  When my shoes needed tied, you taught me to tie them.  It took many lessons before I finally got it, but I am so proud of myself now because I know I can do it.  Thank you for not always doing it for me.  Thank you for teaching me how to be an independent, problem solver.
Love Always,
The Independent Student

I began my teaching career in preschool.  I knew I wanted to be a teacher so I began working with kids while I was in high school.  I started out in a classroom for three year-olds.  I thought those little kids were so darn cute!  So little!  So young! Babies really! The teacher in the room, Ms. Martha, was in her late sixties.  She has been teaching little kids all her life.  She would scold anybody who called her kids babies!  They were three!  They were capable!  They were not babies!  At first, I thought she was so harsh and callus.  She wanted these little tiny kids to put their own shoes on!  They had to clean up all their messes themselves.  She forbid anyone from carrying these little darlings.  She did not put up with crying or whining.  They had to make their own beds before nap time and put them away after.  I admit that when I started I felt bad for these little kids!  It didn't take long for me to see that even though she had high expectations for these kids, they always met them.  They could clean their messes.  They were capable of putting their own shoes on.  There was very rarely any crying or whining because they knew it would not work for them.  They made their beds and seemed to enjoy it.  The following year, I was moved to the four year old classroom.  This teacher was in her thirties and very sweet.  She had a different philosophy than Ms. Martha.  She viewed the kids as little babies who needed her help.  She had me cleaning their messes and putting on their shoes. I made the beds and put them away. There were constant tattles and whining.  Many of the kids were the same that I had in the three year-old room.  I knew they were capable.  The expectation had changed and so had they.  Working at the preschool helped me realize what kind of teacher I wanted to be; the kind with high expectations.  My classroom would foster independence.   I strive to do this everyday.

In the ten years I have been in first grade, I have seen a change in the children.  Every year, they seem younger and more immature.  We have farther to go to get them to that independent stage.  I have kids who cannot speak in proper sentences, "I go bathroom?" This is because they are not corrected at home.  Baby talk in first grade is not cute.  It needs to be corrected.  I have kids who cannot button their own pants.  I have had parents who do EVERYTHING for their children to the point where it has affected fine motor strength.  I have had first graders who expect me to wipe their noses!  How is this happening?
The other day, I was talking to my dad.  He was telling me about working when he was a kid.  When he was in first grade, he chopped fire wood.  I can't imagine my firsties with an ax!  How dangerous! When he was 12, he drove heavy machines at his family's sawmill.  I have a 12 year old.  There is no way I would let her drive!  That is just crazy!  I asked my dad if his family was crazy to let such young kids do such serious work.  He told me this was the norm.  His friends had these same type of chores.  Times have changed.  Expectations have changed.  What will the world be like for my children's children?  Will we have a future like in the movie Wallie where we are all obese and live in our own little bubbles?  It seems like a scary likelihood.
What can we do about it?  I try to teach my parents how to help create independence at home.  I give them realistic expectations for their kids.  They should be squeezing their own toothpaste on their toothbrush.  They can help load the dishwasher.  At school, I do not solve my students' problems for them.  I teach them to do it.  I will be honest, TEACHING them how to take care of problem takes ten times longer than just doing it for them.  Once they know how, my life becomes easier.  Second grade teachers will have a better year with them.  They are more confident and capable.  They quickly learn NOT to run to my with their problems.  They know what I will say, "How can you take care of it?"  I see them start to come to me, rethink it, and then try on their own.  If they try and can't, I am always there to help them.  I just expect them to TRY on their own before coming to me.  I also teach them the difference between tattling and telling.  Tattling is trying to get someone in trouble. Telling is when someone is hurt or could get hurt.  I always want them to come to me if someone is hurt or could get hurt because my job is to keep them safe.
That teacher in the four year-old classroom was doing her best.  She was trying her hardest and wanted only the best for those kids.  I was so fortunate to see these two vastly different approaches to teaching.  They have helped me as both a parent and a teacher.

How do you create independent students?  Do you agree that they seem to come in more needy each year?  Share your thoughts!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Hour of Code in First Grade

A few weeks ago, my sister asked if I had heard of the Hour of Code.  I asked if this was a movie.  She told me that if I was going to call myself "The Primary Techie", I better find out about the Hour of Code.  So, I did what any good techie would do, I Googled it!  The Hour of Code is a global movement to encourage children to learn basic computer coding.  Computers are our students' futures.  I believe that we should immerse them in technology.  I am a wannabe techie and know NOTHING about coding.  That being said, I believe that if I want to learn something, I can.
I signed my class up to participate and began watching the tutorial videos.  I was surprised by how easy it was to understand.  Many activities were based on popular characters and themes like Frozen and Angry Birds.  There are many activities to choose from.  The tasks become more challenging as more puzzles are completed.
Some of the activities seemed much more appropriate for older students (independent readers).  I borrowed a third grade class yesterday so that I could play with the more difficult activities.  The kids were so into it, that they asked for the website so they could continue coding at home.  With my firsties, I introduced all concepts on the smartboard.  We walked through the activities together.
The kids were bursting with excitement to try the coding on their own.  One of the many tutorial videos showed how two kids should work together on one computer.  They talked about one being the driver and the other is the navigator.  The activities are perfect for taking turns and working together.  I have four laptops in my room, so computers are usually one of my six stations.  I wanted them to try the partner work, so I used two laptops at two different centers.  This worked really well because the kids were able to keep their computers for two center transitions,  which gave them longer turns.
I knew they would learn computer stuff, but I was surprised by all the other benefits of the activities.  They are excellent for problem solving, mathematical thinking, reading, and communication skills.  Whether you are a techie or not, you should check out The Hour of Code.  After you sign-up, you will get an email with certificates to print for your class.    
I told the technology director at my school about our Hour of Code.  His response was, "What now?"  I was so excited and that response kind of deflated me a bit.  What now?  He is right!  What now?  We are excited about it.  We like it.  What now?  Does this fizzle out until next year when I do it again with a new group of kids?  NO!  I want my kids to continue this enthusiasm.  We need to keep it going.  We will add these activities to our weekly learning stations.  We will incorporate this in our weekly tech lab time.  The Hour of Code will not last just this week.  The Hour of Code will become the YEAR of Code for my students.
I took typing in high school - on a TYPEWRITER!  When I was in college, we didn't know how to cite the internet because it was too new.  Technology changes so quickly and encompasses every aspect of our daily lives.  I can't imagine what my students' futures hold, but I know that time spent teaching them about technology is a valuable use of time.