Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Ornaments Kids Can Make - Parent Gifts

After our Candy Cane experiment yesterday afternoon, today we made gifts for our parents - tie dye ornaments.
The supplies were fairly minimal - glass ornaments (mine were purchased from Hobby Lobby when Christmas goodies were 50% off), tempera paint (or acrylic with older friends), ribbon for a hanger, Dixie cups, rubbing alcohol, and table coverings. Before beginning your adventure, make sure to wash out all of your ornaments with rubbing alcohol - this will ensure that the paint spreads easily inside the ornament. 
To make the ornaments, I split the class into 3 groups. While I was working with one group of 8, the other two groups were working in centers. When students joined me for ~25 minutes or so, I started by letting them choose 2 colors to use. Then, I modeled how to pour the paint in the ornaments - both the ornament and the paint at an angle. Since you want the paint to travel the side of the ornament, you want to tilt both as your pour. Before the students arrived, I had already removed the metal tops to speed-up the process. 

 Many students also opted for the shaken approach. ;) They poured paint into the ornament and then, carefully paced their thumb over the top of the ornament and shook for 5 seconds.
 When students finished their ornaments, they put their ornament upside down in a Dixie Cup in the window. The kids ended up using more paint than I did, so we needed to allow time for the excess paint to drain. Under each cup is a post-it note with the students' name!
 After the ornaments dried, I put the put tops back on the ornament. BEWARE - do this yourself. Working with the tops, I broke 1 I cannot imagine if my friends attempted this.
 Tomorrow, we'll take 5 minutes or so to wrap our gifts. Our mini-gift bags were 3 for $1 from Dollar Tree and small ribbon for the ornament hangers from Hobby Lobby. (Note the handheld broom for any ornament causalities...there was only 1 causality today; fingers crossed for tomorrow).
 There you go! Overall it was a simple process. It definitely needed to be done in small groups and if you try it with your students, I would do a trial run yourself first. It's one of those crafts that you need to try before teaching others how to do it. ;)

Do you do parent holiday gifts? What are your friends doing this year? I'd love to hear! :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Candy Cane Experiment

It's the week before Christmas and all is well in 1st grade. My friends are not too distracted or crazed, and we are loving the chance to sneak in a few extra read-alouds. ;) Our mornings have been perfectly normal - Daily 5, math workshop, and writing. Then, in the afternoons we've been enjoying some holiday-themed activities. Today we pulled our favorite Christmas treat - the candy cane - and practiced making predictions!
Our question was - What we will happen if we place a candy cane in a cup of water or vinegar. To conduct our experiment we needed vinegar, 3 clear plastic cups, candy canes, and paper towels. (Please ignore the baking side and foil tins. These were for another venture!)
We labeled our 3 clear cups, filled them (cool water, vinegar, and warm water) and then, made our predictions. Which liquid will cause our candy cane to dissolve fastest? (At this point in the lesson, I had not introduced the term 'dissolve' so our friends talked/wrote about melting candy canes.)
Then, partners took turns placing the candy canes in each cup. We voted to put the 'hook' side of the candy cade down, so more of the candy was in the liquid. 
It was SO fun to watch the kids' faces as the candy canes started to dissolved. Within 2 minutes all three candies were starting to turn the water pink/red. It was definitely magic!
Groups of friends took turns coming up to the table to observe the cups and compare the reactions. 
As the candy canes were dissolving (taking approximately 25ish minutes), I would quickly snag the candy canes and show their progress. It was SO neat to see how the candy canes had transformed in the water - splitting into multiple pieces, bending significantly, etc. 
Within 25 minutes or so, we had our results and we could determine if our predictions were correct/incorrect. The cup with the warm water was the first liquid to completely dissolve the candy cane, while the vinegar was the first liquid to remove all of the red from the candy cane. The cool water removed the color/dissolved, but just more slowly than the other two liquids. 
It was then that one of my friends had a GREAT science question. Are you ready for this???? A asked - "Since the warm water dissolved the candy first and the vinegar took the color first, what would happen if you combined the vinegar and the water?" Woohoo! Don't you love their thinking?? Therefore, we have our experiment for tomorrow!
As the wrapped-up the hands-on part of the experiment, we went back to our desks to record our observations and then, write about the results. It was so neat to see the kids use their new vocabulary words (dissolve, prediction, result), as well as, how they explained the 'why' behind the experiment. Oh to be in 1st grade. ;) (You can grab the recording log from DropBox here.)
Well friends, I hope you are having a fabulous week and you're keeping life somewhat normal. So, my question for you - are you able to slip in some holiday-themed learning?  If so, what have been your favorites so far?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Scholastic Warehouse Sale

Twice a year, I take a pilgrimage to Nashville, TN to volunteer and shop at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale. These are mega-sales that take place all over the nation. You can check out the closest sale to you and grab $25 off $100 coupon here.
In this sale, EVERYTHING (with the exception of new releases) is 50% off the cover price. Then, damaged books are 80-90% off. If there is a 'real' warehouse (as compared to a hotel room sale), there will literally be millions of books in front of you - prepare yourself!  I know it sounds like it's too good to be true, but my classroom libraries have been SO blessed by these sales. The biggest sales are always in December and May, and smaller sales in February and August.
In most of the Warehouse Sales, there is also a "Build a Box" section in which you pay $25 for all the books you in put in a box (normally 50ish books). Usually these areas are hit-or-miss. They are best for adding quantity to your classroom library (great for teachers just starting in a new grade). In past sales, I've been very successfully at the build-a-box section, but this weekend was not my time.

To keep myself from being very overwhelmed, I always go in with a goal in mind. Being new to 1st grade this year, my goal for this year's sale was getting beginning readers for my F-H readers.
My secondary goal was adding some book-sets to my library. Without a book room/cabinet (we use a basal) in my new school, I really miss using real literature in guided reading. "The Cat Sat" can only hold my interest for so long. ;) I picked up 5 sets of books (6 copies of each book) to add to my collection - Guided Reading Levels F - I. These books totaled $60 (30 books/$4 book, $120 - 50% discount = $60)
I also had the chance to buy some great trade books to add to my read-aloud collection! I am really in love with this Curious Creatures book (on the left with the huge frog on it). It has THE BEST pictures and it is written in prose! I was also able to snag some books written in Spanish for one of my ELL friends.
Now, one of the best parts of the Warehouse Sales, is that you can volunteer at each of the sales - as many hours as you like! When you register with a sale, make sure to check the 'Yes, I want to volunteer' box. When you volunteer, you receive a certificate for $10/hour in FREE books! This year, I only volunteered 5 hours (receiving a $50 voucher), whereas in past years, I spent 10-12 hours stocking shelves - earning over $100 in vouchers!) 

So, what does the breakdown look like?? After volunteering 5 hours and with the $25 off $100 coupon I received when I registered for the book sale, I ended up making a $62 investment in my 1st grade classroom library! For 72 books that my students will read and love, that is an investment I am very happy to make and am blessed that Scholastic offers these sales!

Have you ever been to a Scholastic Warehouse sale?!? They really are the most amazing places! If you ever have a chance to visit, DO IT!

Friday, December 12, 2014

1st Grade December Randoms

Happy Friday, friends! I hope this post finds you well and loving our 5-days-until-Winter-Break countdown. Today I'm just stopping by to share some pictures and funnies from 1st grade. Nothing serious, just fun. :)

It's official friends, I have corrupted my children. We've been 'enjoying' a lot of indoor recess lately, and after we had our mandatory Go-Noodle session, 3 of my friends organized the dominos. Color. Then, number. ohmygosh.
 Participating in Computer Science Week, we also tried our hands at the Hour of Code. Friends, let's just say it was hard. Very hard. Manageable? Absolutely, but my friends definitely struggled. It was really interesting to see which friends battled head-on and the friends who wanted to immediately give-up. Some of my engineering-minds THRIVED, which was really neat to see. My take-away: we need to do out-of-the-box really-hard things more often! :)
One of the most wonderful parts of blogging has been the amazing teachers I've met along the way. It was such a sweet surprise to arrive home to this adorable ornament from ZipADeeDooDah Designs!
This was our Monday-morning pep-talk and IT WORKED!!!! Woohoo :) I came back to a clean room, everything on my plans completed, a stellar report from the sub (aka guest teacher), and happy children. Amazing guest teachers are SUCH a blessing!
Also, have you heard about - Educreations?!?! It's an amazing app that allows you to record your voice while writing on the screen. It similar to ShowMe or other tech devices...but a lot easier to use and has a lot of bonus features. I'm impressed! I've created my first video about making 10 to Add....something parents consider the new 'Common Core' math and really don't understand. You can check out my first Educreation here -
 This week also marked the end of the annual Christmas-play season. My Mom is a children's pastor at our church, so every year I'm blessed to watch our lambs, angels, and shepherds shine!
My new school has zero book-rooms/closets/cabinets which makes guided reading tough. I use Reading A-Z and our basal but still I miss REAL books. So, I'm creating my own book room. Every month, I order 7-8 copies of all the $1 books Scholastic Reading Club offers. In the next few years I'll have a great selection for all my reading groups!!! My order arrived today. BESTDAYEVER!
This week I also blogged about our Daily 5 Word Work center, including how I differentiate for all my learners. You can check out the post and ideas here!
This evening I spent a little extra time a school prepping for our Christmas-themed week next week. My favorite part of the evening was setting out my Christmas book. My friends LOVE walking into different displays each week. It's so fun to see them immediately dart to our shelf on Monday mornings!
Well friends, I am off to bed. I will be suffering a Saturday-morning alarm into order to volunteer/shop at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale. This is one of my favorite Saturdays each year, so I've got to be ready to roll in the morning! Have a fabulous weekend, friends. :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

1st Grade Word Work: Daily 5 Style

Hi, friends! I'm stopping by with a picture-heavy post all about how Word Work runs during our Daily 5 block. Since the end of October, we have been running a true Daily 5 complete with our own choices, pulling small groups, and a small reflection time at the end of each block to keep up accountable. 
This month in Word Work, my friends have 4 choices right now (soon to be switched out!). I keep the activities in Sterilite containers with their week's words on Command Hooks above the containers (a color representing each of my ability groups). You can read more about how I differentiate and organize the words in this blog post.

I keep 3 of each ring on each Command Hook because 3 students may visit Word Work each round. Students are expected to visit Word Work at least 2 times a week. 
With so many moving parts to Daily 5, I try to provide as many scaffolds to my friends as possible. Yes, we did spend lots of time teaching and practicing each of these activities, but still - they're 6. Sometimes they forget. Sometimes they get off track. I find providing visual directions on the tops of each container really helps us keep focused...especially at the beginning of the month when we have new activities. When making visual directions, I prefer to use pictures of my kids, but sometimes (like Super Sentences) it becomes an example/step-by-step guide of what they are to do.

Within each container, I keep colored folders for my three different ability groups - below, at, and above grade level. Students know to pull the papers or recording sheets from their colored folder. This is a really simple way to make sure everyone is getting just what they need and what they are ready for!
This is what is working for us right now! In the next week or so, I will switch up at activities to keep it fresh and interesting. I keep the word-ring storage the same, but will choose 4 of our other favorite word-work activities. I believe January will be long vowel dominoes, Stacks, and potentially some phonics sound-sorts. I'll keep you updated! :)
What are your friends favorite Word Work activities??? I'd love to add some variety to our routine! :)