Saturday, April 26, 2014

Shedding a Little Light on Reading!

I have an awesome find to share with you!  I was cruising the toy isles at Wal-Mart when I spotted the coolest little lights.  They fit on the ends of your fingers and the best part is...there were 4 for only $1.50!!!

I bought eight packages of them so that I would have back-up when some die.  I put them in a little basket on my reading table.  Perfect for tracking words early in the year!  I used these with my guided reading groups by challenging the kids to light up our focus sounds on the pages in their books.

Here are some other ideas for ways to use these lights to enhance reading lessons:

  • Find punctuation then read sentences with proper inflection
  • Finding contractions
  • Compounds
  • Sight words
  • Highlighting the evidence in text
  • Text features
  • Main idea and supporting details

I have seen a really fun picture on Pinterest that shows "Flashlight Fridays".  The kids read in the dark with flashlights.  I think this is TOTALLY fun, but flashlights are expensive and I honestly don't have a space for 24 flashlights. (I have A LOT of stuff in my little room!) Don't get me started on batteries for 24 flashlights!  These little babies are PERFECT for this!  No batteries, no replacing bulbs, VERY easy to store, inexpensive! I am planning on buying more of these to keep as back-up, because I love them so much and know they won't last forever.   My kids were SO excited to use these little lights during reading.  I was able to give each one of my students a light, turn off the classroom lights, and let them read their good-fit books in the dark.   We had a little talk about what we should and should not be doing with the lights.  There were no troubles at all.  These lights are so much fun, but I think I am only going to use them a couple times a month so that they don't lose their novelty.
 I hope that this gives you some ideas for ways that you can light up your reading!  Have a terrific week! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Teach K SDE Conference Giveaway!!!

I have attended the I Teach K conference in Vegas every summer for the past eight years.  I LOVE IT!  There are so many wonderful presenters, and I always come away with a ton of great ideas.  It gets me so pumped up for the next school year!  Last summer, I had a booth in the exhibit hall and shared my products with teachers from around the world.  How cool is that????  This summer, I am having a booth AND presenting.  This will be the first national conference I have presented at.  To celebrate this huge milestone, I am giving away two tickets into the conference.  Each four day registration is valued at $599 - making this my biggest giveaway EVER!  Woo-Hoo!

Here are the details:
The conference will be in Las Vegas, July 7-10.  It is held at the Venetian.

Could this get any better???  
Okay, we probably won't actually go on the gondola together, but I couldn't resist making this goofy picture.  
To enter:  leave your name, email, and a short message in the comments below.  I will number the entries and randomly choose two winners.  You can enter here and on my FB page to double your chance of winning!  Follow my Facebook page, blog, and TpT store for all updates and more giveaways!  Good luck!

Claymation Story Telling

I am on a tech team at school and something that we are really trying to work on is using technology as "student tool" rather than as a "teacher tool".  I am trying to implement more "real-world" uses for technology in my classroom.  As I was teaching my kids about time lapse photography, I showed them a project I did with my daughter a couple years ago.  It was pretty fun and could definitely be used in the classroom, so I want to share it with you.

Over spring break (third grade), she was given the assignment to learn to do something new and share it with the class.  She is really into cartoons so we decided to learn to make claymation videos.  She thought of a simple story with a beginning, middle, and end.  Her story would be about a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly with a very Emma ending!  She used clay to build the scene and the character.  She posed the scene, and we took a picture.  She would move things a tiny bit, and we would snap another picture.

We did this over and over as she told her story.  We put all the finished pictures together in a slideshow.  We set each slide to transition after 0.10 seconds.  Here is her final product:

With all the technology that is coming into classrooms today, this could be applied to many areas!  Here are a few ways that I can think of to use claymation and videography in the classroom:

  • Kids could write their own stories as my daughter did, or re-tell stories they have read.  
  • This could be used as an alternative to book reports.  
  • It could also be applied to math.  You could give them a word problem and have them animate it. For example,  "Four frogs were in a pond.  Three more joined them.  How many frogs were there in all?" To simplify the project, they could use plastic frogs and just take pictures of four frog and adding three more to the "pond".  
  • Use as a way to illustrate vocab words!
  • I love using sign language in the classroom.  Kids could finger spell sight words or spelling words and take pictures of hands as they form each letter.  Put photos together to see words spelled out.
  • Illustrate life cycles and chemical reactions!
  • Retell a historical event.
  • Create their own social stories.
There are SO many ways that this could be used to enhance lessons and use technology as a student tool.  My kids are definitely going to play around with videography and claymation before school lets out.  Please let me know if you do this in your classroom or have other ideas about how it could be applied.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Plants, First Grade Time Lapse Photography, and FREEBIES

We have been celebrating spring by learning about plants.  Every spring, I get this surprise box in the mail.
I am not sure who signed me up for this, but I am so happy about it!  The box full of soil pods, seeds, and cups.  Just add water and time and... VOILA! PLANTS!!!  There were a variety of seeds in my box, so I had each group plant a different type of seed.  I drew around the top of each cup with a sharpie that correlated to the group color so that we could easily tell what was growing.  The red table grew squash, orange had pumpkins, yellow got marigolds, green was lettuce, blue grew basil, and purple planted sunflowers.

We were very scientific and used magnifying glasses to inspect the seeds.  We recorded how they were similar and how they were different.  We predicted which plant would grow the fastest and which would be the biggest.  Does the size of the seed effect the size of the plant?  We wrote our predictions in our science journals.  They loved it!  I have never met a first-grader who wasn't crazy for science.

I have planted seeds for years, but this year I wanted to add a little techie-twist to the project. I taught the kids about time lapse photography.  Here is a great example from YouTube:

We took pictures of our plants every morning and every afternoon.  I made the slideshow in front of them using the projector to show them how what I was doing.  We edited the song and added it to our video.  This was a really simple project.  Many kids mentioned that their parents make slideshows, but I don't think any of them had ever made a slideshow.  I think we will play around some more with this because it is such a simple way to integrate real-world technology.  Our video is not nearly as cool as the one above, but we had fun making it! The music on my video is by Ken Sheldon.  I love ALL of his songs!  This was also one of our morning songs this week.  To read more about morning songs, click here!

I made some fun crowns that show the life cycle of a plant.  When the band is assembled, it shows the cycle in a circle around their heads.  Quick, easy, and they can tell their parents all about it!  To print your own crowns, click here! 

I also found a WONDERFUL plant journal freebie from Carillo's Kinder"garden"!  This resource has 5 different pages.  It was really easy to put together and exactly what I wanted to go along with my plant unit.

Hydroponic garden in action!
One of our fourth grade teachers is really into gardening and her class actually has a hydroponic garden.  We visited them today and learned about how this works.  My firsties brought their plants to share with the fourth graders.

It was pretty neat to hear the younger kids ask about how the plants got nutrients without the soil and the older kids explain to them how they hydroponic system works.  The kids talked about the similarities and differences in the two types of gardening.  The fourth graders also have a garden outside that they planted at the same time.  They are experimenting to see which plants grow faster.

My kiddos took their little plants home with them today.  Some of them were getting really big and need to be re-potted.  This was one of my favorite years for plants.  Thank you to Wal-Mart and Burpee for putting plants in my classroom.


Monday, April 14, 2014

These Kids Make Me Laugh!

One of the best things about teaching is having the opportunity to be surrounded by such wonderful little people.  My husband always tells me that I should be making a book of the hilarious things I hear at school.  I decided adding them to my blog would be much easier than writing a book.  Plus, other teachers can appreciate and relate on a level that normal folks can never understand.  Here is the first of many stories that make me laugh...

My kids have been terrible about calling my name a million times over and over and then they have no idea what they wanted to say.  "Mrs. Morrison!  Mrs. Morrison! Mrs. Morrison!  Mrs. Morrison!"  "WHAT?"  Then they look at me with a blank stare and say, "I forgot."  This has been a DAILY occurrence from about five kids all year long!  I am sure you can relate.  This happens frequently to parents and teachers.  The past few weeks there has been a change.  Somebody had a very clever idea and it has spread.  They say, "Mrs. Morrison!  Mrs. Morrison!  Mrs. Morrison!  Mrs. Morrison!  Mrs. Morrison!"  Then I scream, "WHAT????"  They stare at me with that blank look and then say, "You are cute."  How can you be mad at that?  Of course I smile and giggle.  This crazy exchange has been going on for weeks.  It cracks me up every time I think about it.  I can just imagine them scheming on the playground - "Just tell her she is cute and then she won't be mad if you forget what you were going to say."   They are BRILLIANT!  :)

Funny Confession Ecard: If you are going to call my name over and over, the least you can do is tell me something sweet when I reply.

Happy days!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Scrolling to Build Number Sense

We celebrate every time somebody makes it to 1,000!
I heard about scrolling at a conference a few years ago.  To make scrolls, take empty paper towel tubes and tape a blank hundreds chart on it.  Kids fill-in numbers on the chart.  Once the chart is filled to 100, we use a glue stick to add another chart to the end of the first and they write 101-200.  The scrolls just keep growing!  This is AMAZING for building number sense.  Some kids really struggle to see the pattern in the numbers.  "What comes after 310?"  We can go back to the chart and find 10, then 110, then 210.  It is such a great resource!  Another thing I love about scrolls is how they differentiate themselves.  Some kids may be working on the three hundreds and others are on the thousands.  Everybody works at the level that is right for them.  My kids do scrolls for about 15 minutes once or twice a week.  My teenage daughter saw them in my room and told me she couldn't believe I was so mean that I would make the kids write so many numbers.  Gotta love teenagers!  The truth is, THEY LOVE SCROLLING!  When I take scrolls out, they cheer!  They keep telling me how excited they are to take the scrolls home and show their families how long their scrolls are.

Here are some tricks that make scrolling successful:

  • We use rubber bands to hold scrolls shut when we are not using them.  Teach the kids to slip rubber bands on their wrists.  We don't wrap rubber bands around multiple times, but just slide them onto the scroll.  When they try to wrap, they crinkle their papers.  
  • Check for accuracy as they go.  If they skip a number, it is easier to catch it early on.  
  • Teach them to check that they are on the right track.  When my kids get to the end of a row, I have them check that all the numbers in each column end with the correct number (the entire column of 5's ends in a 5 - 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, etc.)
  • Use clear packing tape to attach the first chart to the tube.  
  • Put labels with student names on the inside of the rolls.
  • Ask for paper towel rolls to be donated at the end of the year so you are ready to go at the beginning of the next year!
  • Teach them how to cut off the edge of the paper so that this becomes one continuous chart.  (See picture below for a visual of this!)

The student on the bottom of this picture has cut off the edge of the paper and is ready to glue a new chart on the back.  The charts should line up to form one continuous chart.  
I store scrolls in a basket with rubber bands around each one.  

  Once scrolls are made, they are super easy to maintain.  To print your own charts, click here!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I KNOW Watch, Think, Color games are great math practice.
I WANT to know how we can incorporate them in other areas.
I LEARNED that they make great KWL charts!

This week my class is learning about birds.  I have a cute bird Watch, Think, Color game.  I wanted to make a KWL chart about birds, so I decided to combine the two by making a WTC KWL chart!  On Monday, we practiced counting on and counting back with the WTC game and colored the bird picture.  On Tuesday, we gave our chart a title and filled out the K and W sections of our chart.  Today we finished up!  I have lots of books sorted according to subject so I gave each group a handful of nonfiction bird books.  We spent some time reading and learning about birds.  We met as a class, discussed what we learned, and filled-in the L on our chart.  This was so much fun!  To download this WTC KWL chart, click here!  I hope that you can use this resource to make your Watch, Think, Color games even more useful.  I have other WTC graphic organizers in the works!  ;)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fun - NO FOOLIN'!

Oh, Mr. Sketch...Can I be your Mrs?
We had SOOOOO much fun today!  We are actually going to celebrate April Fools Day all week long.  Here are some of the activities we are doing...

I was organizing my writing area when I realized what a hoarder of smelly markers I truly am!  I have TONS of them!   They are so fun and remind me of my own childhood.  I always wanted them and rarely got them so I am really making it up to myself now!  :)

This worksheet really smells!
So, there I am alone in my classroom, smelling all the markers.  The yellow reminds me of my grandma who always ate lemon drop candies.  I thought it would be fun for the kids to sniff the markers and write words that described what the smells reminded them of - toothpaste, cookies, soccer practice...who knows!  The sense of smell is powerful!  I thought this would also be great for spurring some creativity in reluctant writers.  They smelled the marker and wrote the words with that marker.  The best parts of this activity were that when they wrote their name it said "Autumn" Smells!  An added bonus was laughing at them for getting marker all over their noses.  Perfect April Fools fun!
I think you might have something on your nose, buddy!
Of course we had a little reminder talk about how smelling some markers are not good for us, but smelly markers were made for smelling and are safe.  To download the worksheet, click here!  WARNING:  IT MIGHT SMELL!  :)

I LOVE the inventive spelling!  It is such a great assessment of phonemic awareness!

Toilet hats?  Only on April 1st!
We also practiced expanded notation using the April Fools Watch, Think, Color game.  This design makes a toilet.  There is a flush sound at the end and "April Fools" is written on toilet paper.  We stepped it up by using the WTC crowns and actually WEARING our toilets on our heads.

I love to read Arthur's April Fool.  In the story, Arthur gives Binky Barnes a note that can only be read in the mirror.  After the story, we practiced reading silly poems that were written backwards and could only be read in a mirror.  This was lots of fun!

Arthur's April Fool

Yuck!  My hand looks so old and wrinkly!  
 I found mirrors at Dollar Tree (where I spend too many dollars!)  To download a few backward poems, click here!

I hope that you had a super April Fools Day with your kiddos!

Til later,