Thursday, May 21, 2015

Teaching about Sound: 1st Grade Science

Hi, friends! Today was 'Sound Day' in our classroom, and it was a blast. We are in the final countdown (4 days) until Summer Break, so it's the perfect time to use themed days from The Science Penguin's Primary Science pack. With state testing, we don't have morning meeting and forgo specials which gives us an extra 80 minutes to play with each day. So, we've been slipping in some fabulous science! 
We started morning work with 3 passages from ReadWorks. I found 3 passages that were just-right for my three reading groups. Then, in reading groups, we used Leveled Readers from Reading A-Z. I know the Level U book is crazy-hard for 1st grade, but my highest group of readers can independently read Level N books. We worked as a group, and actually learned a lot of about sound. So, scaffolded - it worked!
During 'specials' we make the classic water-in-glass musical instruments. We 'played' the vases with different mallets (a popsicle sticks, pen, metal rod) and then, talked about what we noticed about the pitches of each glass. 
Then, we read Loud or Soft? High or Low? - a perfect whole-class read aloud. It included spot-on sound vocabulary that was expertly explained for 1st-grade learners. You can see some of the vocabulary we learned in the first picture in this post.
 Before we made our own musical instruments, Moby and Annie helped explain some of the new vocabulary we learning. Then, we took the 'HARD' quiz as a class and aced it!
Now, it was time to make our own InSTRAWments (pun intended)! This 'experiment' was from Ari's Primary Science pack. I was able to snag the materials for under $3.00 since all I needed was straws (.98 a pack). The unifix cubes were for measuring the straws and each student needed their own pair of scissors.
Ideally, we would have used rulers to measure, but we are in 1st grade and this is real life. So, we used 7 unfix cubes to measure our 5 straws. The longest straw was 7 cubes long, the next was 6, then 5, 4, and our shortest straw was 3 cubes. It was a simple and safe way to measure. Plus, nonstandard measurement is a 1st grade math standard. Boom!
 That most difficult part of this shindig was assembling the pan flutes with tape. It was hard for the students to manage the tape with the 5 cut straws. Ultimately students ended up partnering (one person holding the tape and one person placing the straws), and it went much more smoothly!
 We were SO proud of our instruments and had a fabulous time forming mini-bands. We played melodies with each other and put our sound vocabulary into action. We loved comparing the sounds of each straw, as well as, how the lengths affected the pitch. It was fabulous!
After a bit of experimenting with our instruments, we went back to our seats and diagramed our instruments. Tomorrow morning, we are going to explain how the lengths of the straws effected the pitch. We love writing paragraphs and get super excited to highlight vocabulary words we use. It's the perfect chance to integrate science, music, and writing!
Well friends, it was a fabulous day! Was it exhausting? Absolutely...but most themed-days are. Regardless, the end of the year is the perfect time to integrate all your learning for the year - writing, science, reading, and music. It keeps our skills fresh, keeps us learning new things, keeps our hands busy, and keeps our minds engaged! Tomorrow will be Race Car Day as we learn about ramps, speed, friction, and velocity.

Happy teaching, friends!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Ideas: 1st Grade

Happy Mother’s Day, friends! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with many hugs, cards, and reminders of just how awesome moms (and all women) are.


I just wanted to quickly stop by and share with you what our 1st graders made for Mother’s Day. We went very simple with a watercolor painting and a card. Next year, I’d love to add-in a Mother’s Day song (most likely from Ron Brown Intell-tunes)..but for this year, it was a perfectly simple way to say – “Thank you!”
We started the watercolors as a directed draw. I saw a picture on Pinterest that I really like and used that as the guide. Unfortunately, the photo was never linked, so I can't give credit - sorry! Our class has done several watercolors throughout the year - turkeys, snowmen, Cat in the Hat...so my friends love and know the process. We always start with a pencil drawing, then sharpie, and then, watercolor. This week we added a step and mounted our paintings on black construction paper!






To accompany our watercolors we also wrote about our Mom and what we know about them. I used this Mother's Day card template, and I loved reading the kids' response.
 This sweet friend "My Mom is good at running and washing feet." First graders are definitely the best!
Well friends, that's it - short and sweet. Have a wonderful day celebrating the women in your life!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Celebrating the Kentucky Derby in 1st Grade

The 141st Kentucky Derby is in the books, and our 1st Grade Kentucky celebration was a blast. I'll have to admit Derby is one of those topics that as a former intermediate teacher I said - "Really?!" It's one of those topics/themes that gives Primary Land the rap of fluff. So, over the course of our week, I intentionally surrounded us with great literature and integrated our learning - math and writing - as much as I possible.
Over the past few weeks, we've been working hard on learning to write compare and contrast paragraphs looking at texts, characters, and things around us. This week was the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast Race Horses and Domesticated Horses. We used Reading A-Z's Wild Horses for the base of our comparison.
Since our school is officially out of white bulletin board/chart paper, we used an online Bar-Graph generator to chart our Derby predictions. We chose 5 horses (obviously the ones that had the coolest names) and then, took a class vote. This is a perfect math tie-in, as we're starting to learn about data and graphs next week!
In preparation for running the Derby, we took time to create our own racing silks. I then printed pictures of the kids, cut their faces out, placed them on the silks, and put together a "Run for the Roses" bulletin board for the hallway. The kids love seeing their faces like a 'real' jockey!
Now for Derby Day (Friday, that is) - at the school where I taught last year, the grades not racing made and wore Derby Hats to the races. This year, only the 1st graders and their families attended the race and when we finished the other grades greeted us in the hallways for a Derby Day parade. 
Each 1st grader parent made a shoebox float to drag/pull down the hallway for our parade. The older students did a fabulous job of cheering on our students and shouting praises. It was such a sweet moment. Our 1st grade friends rarely go upstairs to Intermediate Land, and they felt so special to hear the BIG kids cheering for them. One of my sweet littles said to me afterward, "My eardrums are so fragile. I was worried they might break!" #blessthem


To keep the actual races fair, we ran girls heats and boys heats. The top 2 boys/girls from each class raced the other 1st grade winners. Ultimately, two 1st grade winners were name - a boy and girl. As you'll see below each student race with a stick horse that they decorated and named. They attempted to gallop, but in the end, running was what actually happened. :)
Since my friends knew all about the Derby being nicknamed "The Run for the Roses", I awarded my top girl and boy winners with 4 roses. It was such a special moment!
After an afternoon of racing and parading, we came back to the classroom. We enjoyed a final Derby book together and a sweet Derby treat. I would have loved to served Derby pie, but with food allergies we opted for nut-free mini-cupcakes from Kroger. #ohtoteach1stgrade
Well friends, it was a fabulous Derby Week. Although not completely educational, we kept it as focused as possible, and we throughly enjoyed a 1st grade rite of passage - racing the KY Derby. 

Do you celebrate the Derby at your school? I would imagine only my KY friends would, be who knows?! Are their other state-specific events your school celebrates? If so, I love to hear about them! :)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Guided Math and Math Centers: Spring in 1st Grade

Hello, friends! It's been several weeks since I posted a guided-math update, so I wanted to share some of the learning that has been happening in 1st grade. With our guided-math structure, students visit 3 rotations each day - teacher table, technology, and a center. We start our math block with a short number-talk and immediately break into groups. You can read more about our routine here.

This is what life looks like when I switch-out centers. A set of centers typically lasts 5-6 days depending on the number of interruptions to our math block. 
The content in our math tubs tend to follow a traditional schedule, so I don't have to spend instructional time explaining what is going on. Tub 1 = interactive notebook (see the comparing numbers foldable below. I put a sample on the top of the bin, so students have a guide. Tub 2 is typically Versatiles, this week money Versatiles (I snagged the Hairy Money poster from Swimming into Second here.) Then, the 3 remaining tubs are spiral review. Below you see Making 20 Go Fish, Spin and Add (double-digit addition), and time math (to the half-hour and hour). 

To keep this weekly schedule manageable, our team shares ideas for centers and we do not use centers with a lot of 'pieces'. We tend to use a lot of dice, spinners, and playing cards. All of these materials are cost-effective, and make differentiation really easy. 

With each tub, I keep visual directions and the name of the title on the tub. The directions are pictures of the center in action, and then, an "I Can" statement for their learning.
Solve the Room is one of my 1st graders favorite centers. Students know to grab a clip board, a recording log out of their differentiated colored folder, and get to work. In these folders I keep different recording logs for the same cards around the room. One group may be writing the time in words and numbers, while my friends who need more support might be choosing if the time is o'clock or thirty.
We're also focusing on adding within 120 using double-digit addition. Below you see the yellow spinners which is for my on-level group. They are working with numbers that do not requiring breaking apart a ten. 
For the same center, I also have green and blue spinners. The blue spinner (below) is my above-grade level group, and they are working to add within 120 with any type of number. I DO NOT introduce regrouping in 1st grade (or even 2nd) so students can break apart the numbers, use the base 10 pieces, use the 120s chart, or an open number line - mathematicians choice! The green spinner gives students a base number and then, they spin to add groups of 10 to that base-number.

Earlier in April, we used Becca Foxwell's 120s Chart Cupid Shuffle song to practice adding 10 less and 10 more on the 120s chart. It was the perfect way to get my friends up and moving, as well as, provide students a tool for working with the 120s gird. It was so sweet to listen to my friends at this math center sing "To the left, to the left, one less, one less" while they worked! 
One of the math curriculums our school uses is Making Math Magic. It is a FABULOUS number sense program and has laid such a strong foundation for our students. Typically, one of our centers each week, is a throw-back to this number-sense foundation that we heavily focused on the first quarter. Making 20 Go-Fish was our throw-back this week. It's perfect for building fluency to 20, and the kids cheer when we play it. :)
Now, while all of this goodness is happening in the classroom, I meet with small-groups of students. I pre-assess based on our unit and regroup students every few weeks based on the skill. Over the past 2-3 weeks, we've been hitting some of our last remaining math standards - geometry (composite shapes), fractions, and measurement.
After learning about 2D and 3D shapes, we marched into fractions using shapes. It was a perfect time to integrate composite shapes again. In first grade, we're only supposed to learn about half, quarter, and whole. With the shapes, though, it's easy to dabble in larger denominators. 
Our college block student led a few small-groups over the past few weeks and helped us review comparing numbers. She used our dice packs to differentiate some teacher-table activities. The kids loved having a hands-on way to practice greater than, less than, and equal to.
With my on-grade level and my above-grade level groups, we're also working on finding different number combinations that equal the same sum. Money has been a perfect way to do this. The skip counting, the open number lines, and multiple combinations are an incredible way to showcase our 1st grade math learning. :)
Well friends, isn't it amazing to see how much our friends have grown over the course of a year? So many days I am left speechless at their progress and their thinking. My kids 'know' how to talk math, and it is awesome! Guided math (i.e. small-group instruction) and building number sense has made such a difference this year, and I cannot wait to hit the ground running next year. It's going to be fabulous!

If you're interested in using the math centers above with your 1st graders, you can snag in here at my TeachersPayTeachers store.

So friends, what does your math block look like right now? What are you focusing on? I'd love to hear about how your 1st grade math life is going!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Parent Communication: 1st Grade

Hello friends! Today I'm joining with Angie from Lucky Little Leaners and Ashley from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd to talk about how I partner with families and ensure they know what's happening in the classroom. Our students spend 8 hours a day in our classrooms, and even though I'm not a parent, I can't imagine not knowing what's going on. So from Weebly, to Twitter, to newsletters, to YouTube - I want families to be connected.
The 'hub' that connects all my communication efforts is our Weebly Class Website. Using Weebly, I upload photos, update our class blog, keep parent resources (newsletters/math reference guides - both seen above), as well as, suggestions for at-home practice and linking district websites. Weebly for Educators is a free platform and it's simple to use as it is based on drag-and-drop media (note the menu-bar on the left in the picture below). There is no coding or finagling involved! (Note - I do pay for the basic Weebly package so I'm able to access analytics on our website. I think the website is great but if families are not using it, it's not worth the time to update it. Through this stats function, I've learned that an average of 15 unique visitors connect with our website each day. In a classroom with 23 families, that tells me a website is worth the effort!)

As you saw above, I do send-out a weekly classroom newsletter. On our newsletter, I include upcoming dates, our high-frequency words for the week, our learning goals, and any reminders for families. At the beginning of the year, I asked parents to choose if they wanted an electronic or paper copy of the newsletter. I currently send out 17 e-newsletters (saved as a PDF), 6 paper newsletters (printed black and white), and put a JPEG of the newsletter on our classroom website so families always have easy-assess to it.

To keep families reading our classroom newsletter, I change out the template every 2 weeks or so. I try to keep the basic outline similar, so it's recognizable but change out the color and theme. This helps keeps things fresh. You can snag these newsletter templates here.
Remind texting has been an effective resource for joining these communication forces together. Remind offers teachers a FREE and safe way to send out information (texts, pictures, documents, links) to families. You don't have phone numbers of those who sign-up for your class list and the subscribers don't have your phone number. Rather, every time you send a message (via phone, iPad, or computer), they receive it! Here are my 3 top-tips for getting the most of your Remind texts! You can read more about how I use Remind and my tips for making the most of this FREE and safe communication venue here.
Additionally, half-way through teaching 5th grade, I opened a classroom Twitter account for documenting our learning in real-time. I enjoy using Twitter for several reasons - (1) It's short and sweet. 140 characters with pictures (up to 4) counting as 23 characters. (2) Families know in real-time what our classroom looks like. At 10:30, we are doing math and you can see us breaking apart double-digit numbers to add. Boom. (3) It connects me - as a teacher - to other teachers in my district. There are 14 elementary schools in our district and I follow all the 1st grade teachers who Tweet. There is great solidarity in knowing "They're learning about main idea in reading, too!", as well as, getting fabulous ideas. After seeing something in action, it's simple to send a message or email asking for links to the resource, ideas, or suggestions on teaching a certain topic.
Lastly, don't forget the most tried-and-true form of communication: in-person conversations! As each quarter begins, I ask families for a printed or email schedule of sporting events, recitals, church events, in which their child will be participating. I commit to going to at least 1 event for each student, and it makes a world of difference. It tells families I am invested in their child's life, it gives me a chance to learn about the family, it allows families to see me as a real-life person, and it gives me a great platform for making content connections and 'hooking' my students in learning. Plus, students LOVE have their own cheering section...Even in 5th grade, my students would light-up when they saw me in the crowd!
We'll, friends, that's it for me today. So, tell me - how do you keep families in the loop? Is there anything you're hoping to try next year? Any ideas that have worked well for you? I'd love to hear them!

To see how other teachers and classrooms are partnering with families stop by Lucky Little Leaners or Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd for an awesome smorgsboard of links and blog posts!