Monday, January 27, 2014

The Many Adventures of Winter {Differentiated Writing}

I've been putting off writing this blog post because I wanted my first graders to finish this writing project but, well, I feel like we are never going back to school. It's looking like a six day weekend for me! Today marks snow day number 6 and tomorrow will be number 7. I am all for snow days but my first graders still need to learn! We need to be back in school! I think this is my first time in 25 years (that's how old I am, not how many years I've been teaching) that I've ever complained about snow days! Haha

Anyways, before our extended weekend I have had my first graders working on writing about their favorite winter activities. Below I am going to do a recap of what we have accomplished so far. I would say they will need another day or two to finish up their published pieces to share during shared writing.

Day 1:
To begin, I read the book the Snowy Day. I'm sure everyone has heard about this book. It is definitely a favorite. After reading the Snowy Day, our class brainstormed a list of some of our favorite winter activities. I wanted my students to really get excited about this writing assignment so I "played" up how much fun winter is. Actually, I really do enjoy winter. Did you know I snowboard? Well, I haven't in two years, but I do plan on it next winter. Last winter I was pregnant and this winter has just been WAY TO COLD! Ok back to school stuff...

Here is the list of winter activities my class came up with.

After we made a group list I had my little friends go back to their seats to write their own list. I told them they were more than welcome to use ideas from our class list, but I encouraged them to challenge themselves to come up with some of their own favorite activities.

Here are some of the lists that my first graders came up with.


Day 2:
I began our second day by reading another winter themed book that had a little girl and her dog walking around outside doing some of their favorite activities.

***We do formula writing at our school as of right now. I try and mix it with some the writing workshop framework. I just have my students pre-pre-write their original ideas onto the formula wheel before going at their pre-writing.***

I modeled to my students how I would choose what activities I would write about. On the large class list I circled the number of my three favorite activities. Then on the formula wheel I told my class that the topic of our piece was about winter. So in the circle I wrote winter. Then on the three spokes I wrote each of my three favorite winter activities. After that quick mini lesson on how to choose your ideas from a list, I had my little friends go back to their seats to circle their favorite activities and then begin to fill out their formula wheel.

Day 3:
Next came a very explicit lesson on how to write a topic sentence. (Many of our lessons are embedded in first grade, but I felt this skill needed to be taught explicitly.) My students are now required to write a topic sentence completely on their own. Well, I couldn't just throw them into it so I did a mini lesson on what a topic sentence is.

Here is the anchor chart I made to introduce a topic sentence.

I began by following the mini lesson from my Many Adventures of Winter pack. As the lesson progressed, I modeled the first sentence for my class, then they came up with the last two sentences. I was really impressed with what they came up with because usually they give good examples of summary sentences instead. It is really hard for them to differentiate between the two in the beginning.

Here are the topic sentences we all came up with.
I then proceed to do the mini lesson on summary sentences. My plan was to wait but they really seemed into it and they still had some stamina so we went at it.

Here are the summary sentences they came up with. Again, I modeled the first one and they came up with the last two.

Day 4:
Day four was the day they actually began the writing process. We have been using my writing process clip chart to monitor where each student is in the writing process. They have adjusted to it pretty well and are moving their clips completely on their own now.

Our writing process clip chart (on the right). This is the only picture I could find. There are no clips because this picture of from the summer when I was setting up my room.
You can get my writing process chart here.

I grouped all of my students into differentiated writing groups before day four. That way when it was time for writing I knew exactly which paper to give to what student.

I forgot to take pictures of their work. I was busy meeting with my friends for a writing conference.

AND, that's all I have. We haven't been back to school since Wednesday and it is now Monday, and we won't be back tomorrow either.

If you are interested in trying out this differentiated writing activity you can grab it here or click the picture below. The mini lessons, the winter activities list, and the formula wheel are all included in the pack. Also included (but not pictured) are the actual differentiated writing papers. You can click on the preview to see the differentiated writing papers for all the steps of the writing process.

Happy Teaching,

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Differentiated Writing Activities

I can't believe I actually found some time this Thanksgiving break to make two writing activities for my first graders!
I like to make writing as hands-on and interactive as possible. I was not much of a writer when I was growing up so I want to make it as interesting for my students as possible.
This winter I plan on using both of my differentiated writing packs that are perfect for all learners. We all know that all of our classrooms contain learners at all levels. My class this year has some extremely high learners and some extremely low learners. I came up with these differentiated writing activities that will keep all of my students engaged and excited about learning.
First, I created my "What's My Elf Name?" writing activity.

I can't wait to see the excitement in my first graders faces when they figure out their elf names. I think that alone will keep them engaged and excited about this writing project.
Following the elf names, I will have my students write about their "elf" experiences at the North Pole!
Second, I created "How to Make Hot Chocolate" a how-to writing activity.

 My plan is to squeeze this in before Christmas break because I am also going to use this as parent gifts this year, but if I don't get it in it will work great in January or February too.
 Our school is all about getting rid of the "extra" and making everything as academic as possible. I get it and that's fine but I still want my first graders to get the time to be creative. That's why I made making hot chocolate a combination of something fun, academic, and a holiday gift idea. Nothing like killing three birds with one stone! Right!?!
You can get each of these separately or bundle for 20%!! Plus, they are on sale today and tomorrow!
Be sure to check back as I write a more detailed post about what these activities actually looked like in my classroom.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Oops...2 months in rewind

Ooops...I am a horrible blogger. Is it too early to make my New Years Resolution?!?!
My first goal this year was to work on managing motherhood, being a wife, and a teacher. Well, I think I have a routine figured out that is working far. My new goal is to add blogging back into the mix. Here is my first attempt in two months.
I feel like so much has been happening in my classroom, but I've been horrible at documenting it. Here is a little bit of what I have from the last two months. Now, it's not much and it isn't really anything exciting.
One of the mini lessons that I did with my little ones awhile back was on asking sentences. They were having a very difficult time identifying whether a sentence needed a period or a question mark at the end. This was a  spure of the moment mini lesson and anchor chart.
I added the heading: Words that Show Someone is Asking a Question before the mini lesson. Then I directed my students to list some words that would show that someone is asking a question.

This is the beginning of the list. This mini lesson actually took two days to complete. Each time a student added a word to the list, we also wrote an example sentence using that same word.
Afterwards, I hung this chart in the classroom and I feel that it has "clicked" for many of my students. We just need to work on applying it to our writing!

Back at the end of October, my first grade team invited a "bat man" to come visit our first graders. Mr. Bat Man brings in some skeletons of bats and some REAL bats for the firsties to see. I remember last year I was extremely nervous, but this has actually been one of my favorite moments in first grade.
Mr. Bat Man brings in a large net and 3 or 4 bats to fly around. Well, the first time we had him scheduled to come for a visit he FORGOT! Our firsties were so disappointed. While they were disappointed I was in a panic. I had nothing planned for the next hour!
So, I did an impromptu lesson on main characters. I quickly created the anchor chart below and pulled out Purplicious to read. This impromptu lesson on main characters actually ended up being a great lesson and it transformed my entire day. My firsities were really into learning about main characters. This group of kiddos is really creative. 

After reading the text and doing some "turn and talking" about the main character, I had my little ones only draw to describe Pinkalicious. I was really impressed with their creativity. This group of kids loves to draw and WRITE! I am loving this group this year. (Math on the other hand is not so great, but that is a story for another time...)

We also wrote a great writing piece using key details to describe the main character that also was an opinion piece as to why they would recommend the book Purplicious to a friend or family member. But...I forgot to take a picture of the whole display. I told you I have been slacking at documenting what has been happening. Ooops.
So, that is all I have. Be on the look out this weekend for my Black Friday Sale and the TpT Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale! Plus...I am working on a really cute Elf writing activity that you don't want to miss out on. I hope to have it done by Monday!
The Early Bird Sale...
Lori Rosenberg's photo.
The Big TpT Sale...
Photo: Guess what is coming...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Johnny Appleseed and I Can Statements

It's official. I now have to post student friendly I Can statements in my classroom. Tuesday I had my pre-conference for my first formal observation of the year and one of the things we talked about was posting I Can statements in my room. I was completely honest with the boss man. I said I am really running out of wall space and I think it would be more beneficial to have meaning and purposeful content on the walls rather than something the kids won't use to further their learning.
Well, he somewhat agreed with me. He said as long as I say it before each lesson and include in some part of our learning that that would be just fine. But after some thinking I just went ahead and posted them today. The only reason I did it was because I figured out a way that it didn't take too much time and it didn't clutter up my walls.
So here is what I came up. It's so easy breezy that it would only take one 30 minute prep time to complete.
I used colored sentence stripes to write kid friendly I Can statements on. But of course I had to color code them.
Pink: Writing CCSS
Yellow: Reading CCSS
Blue: Math CCSS
I wrote the I Can statement on the lines and then below in smaller print I included the CCSS. It is nothing special, but it got the job done.
In my classroom, I have designated boards for each content area. Back by my reading tables I have our CAFE board and math focus board. In the front of the room I have a writing board used for writer's workshop, a Daily 5 board, and another writing board that is used for Daily 5's Work on Writing.
Here are what my headers and I Can statements look like for each of the boards.

Now for what we have been learning. This week, just like many others, we have been working on Johnny Appleseed. My focus was to get some science and social studies in with Johnny Appleseed but to also work on identifying facts and writing them done using a graphic organizer and then writing an informational piece using the facts we learned about Mr. Appleseed himself.
First, we watched a short, animated movie about Johnny Appleseed. While the students were watching the movie they were prompted to write one fact that they learned on a post-it note.

After the movie we gathered on the carpet with our clipboards, post-it notes, and graphic organizer. We began discussing all the new information we had learned. My little ones came up with some really great ideas, but I also had to really prompt them to get them to have the types of facts I was looking for.

As my little ones shared their facts I added them to the chart below.
While I was writing they were also writing on their graphic organizer that was organized the same way.
This is what our hallway display ended up looking like. It's really simple nothing simple but it really show cases that we are working hard and not just doing the "cutesie" things.

So that was day one. Day two began with us reviewing our chart and teaching them that we can use facts to write an information paragraph about Johnny Appleseed.
This was our interactive writing piece for the week. I haven't released them with any responsibility to write on the chart. I am going to take it slow this year. They did help construct the sentences.
I forgot to take pictures today. But I will add them tomorrow.
The Johnny Appleseed interactive writing that we did today is part of my Clipboard Writers: Fall Interactive Writing packet that you can get in my TpT store.
So that was just a part of my day. Now I am off to bed because this little guy has been waking up once or twice during the night and I need some good sleep!

Yours in Teaching,


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Classroom Happenings...5 Weeks In

Next week I will begin my sixth week back to school. It has been a roller coaster ride for sure. My class is amazing and school has been going pretty well. However, life at home has been a major adjustment. I do feel like I am finally starting to adjust to this whole working mom thing. The Mr. is still have some difficulties.
A look back at our week from the family side of things...
This past week was my little man's second week at the babysitter. This has been the most difficult thing to adjust to. So, as I walk in on Monday the sitter tells me that lice is going around. What! Seriously! You have got to be.....! was my reaction on the inside. Lice is like my biggest fear. Luckily the little man doesn't have a lot of hair yet. I think I was more worried about myself. So that was family issue number one!
Family issue number two... the Mr.'s car has been giving us some trouble and finally broke down on his way home from work. Have I mentioned he works an hour away from our hometown. So, he had to borrow his friend's car to get home that night.
Now here is where things really start to get bad. Family issue number 3...The next day the Mr. and his dad drive an hour to the "big city" to tow our car back home. While on his way down a semi (YES, A SEMI!) sandwiches my Mr. into a concrete barrier. Luckily, he walked away with only some scrapes on his hands. But the car is another story. Now, remember he was driving his friends car. So now our car is a goner and his friend's car is a goner!
So needless to say this has been our toughest week as a family of three so far. I was a mess, the Mr. was a mess, our house was a mess. Everything was a mess. Oh wait, I forgot to mention before all the car trouble our t.v. died a couple days earlier. They say bad things come in threes. Hopefully these are our FOUR things because I don't know if I can take anything else.
So, yesterday we went car shopping and got the Mr. a new car, dropped the little man off at the grandparents, and had a night to relax with friends (the same friends who no longer have a car too. :/)
Hopefully things start to get better for us.
Ok, enough of the family issues. Let's take a look back at week 5 in the classroom...
Luckily, school is going smoothly. I have an amazing class minus the usual couple of little ones that take all of your energy. But they really aren't that bad. Things could be worse. My class this year has some of the most polite little ones I have ever had.
Kid, "Mrs. Eddleblute, I'm so sorry. I am just trying really hard to stretch out my words but I am stuck. I apologize, but could you please help me out?" Seriously, this kid melts my heart. He talks like this all day. AND it is rubbing off on the other kids. I LOVE IT!
Daily 5 is in full swing. I did decided to hold off on Read to Someone this year. I just didn't like the way it went this year and I didn't want to implement it until I had a better plan. I believe this group could really handle it. I plan on introducing Read to Someone late October or early November.
Here is what our Daily 5 board looks like. (Sorry for the glare, I'm still exploring my new camera.)
 I did mention before that I am not doing Listen to Reading. I just don't have the space and the materials I need to implement it effectively. So instead I threw in Read with Teacher as the fifth option.
Here are our I Can charts for Daily 5. (I forgot to snap a picture of our Work on Writing chart.) We spent the first 4 weeks really reviewing and practicing Read to Self, Word Work, and Work on Writing. The practice has really paid off. My little ones are very independent.

The little ones in my class are definitely strong writers. Their weak point is math, but they love writing and they are really coming up with some great pieces.
This is the beginnings of our writing menu for Work on Writing. I have introduced how to make a list and how to write a story. Of course the stories are very basic since it is the beginning of first grade. But they have surprised me. Many of my little ones are starting their stories with once upon a time and ending them with a happily ever after.
Their lists are also surprising me. They always add a title, are using the paper in their writing folders that gives them ideas on what to make a list of, and even coming up with some ideas of their own. It really is impressive.
During week 6, I am hoping to add another choice to the menu. I haven't decided which one and I haven't finished my lesson plans yet.
This pink crate is where they will find all the papers to correlate to the writing menu. So far it is working fine. Of course there are always better ways of doing things but on my budget this will do for now.

I also started guided reading groups this week. So, since introducing how to write a list, we have also been using list writing in reading groups. This was our first focus on how to write about reading. Two of my reading groups read fictional stories that had a water theme. My lowest group made a list of toys that you could play with in a pool, and my low-average group made a list of places you could find water.
Since these lists were completed in reading group and looked a little more "complete" than a list they would complete independently, I stamped the paper with a stamp that said "completed together in class." Many of the things we do in reading groups at the beginning of the year is done through modeling so I like to stamp the papers so that their parents know that some things going home are completed together as a class.

Of course we did many other things this week. But once the family issues started to begin I forgot to take pictures of everything else. Next week our class is going to be wrapping up our apple unit by doing some apple taste testing and we may just have to make some applesauce. But, we will have to see about that.
Yours in Teaching, 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Beginnings of a Great Year? and Daily 5 Praise Necklaces {Freebie}

Holy Moly! Today I just finished day 5. The last 5 days have been a mix of emotions. Sad that I have to leave my little man for the first time since April, but extremely excited to start this year long adventure with my new 25 little ones.
I have been M.I.A. since the beginning of school because I have been trying to adjust to my new busy life. I was so used to coming home from school to just crash on the couch, eat dinner, do some school things, and head to bed whenever I felt. Ummmm not so much anymore. I have definitely had to become more efficient with my spare time. The good news is that I feel like I'm also getting more things done during the school day. I am getting way better at managing my time.
I am still working on finding time to take pictures of the things we are doing in the land of first grade. That is a goal that I am working on. I have taken a few but nothing really worth sharing.
I did want to share some milestones that my little ones and I have reached in the 5 days that we have been together. I was so proud of them this morning. Yesterday, we began our first day of Daily 5. We started with Read to Self. We began by creating an I-Chart and then we began working on our stamina right away. My little ones made it 3 minutes on the first try. We only practiced once the first day. I wanted to keep it positive and as short as possible so that they didn't get burned out on the first day.
But today! Holy Moly! We practiced building our stamina twice. The first time they made it 5 minutes and the second time they made it 7 minutes. The only reason we had to stop was because someone came into the room and it threw them off task.
I think what really helped today was my introduction of my Daily 5 Praise necklaces. Today, I showed them by Stamina King and Queen necklaces. Actually, one little girl noticed them hanging on the board and asked what they were for. I had completely forgotten about them. So, I introduced them, gave it a whirl, and BAM, we built our stamina to 7 minutes!
I was so proud of them and I think they were more proud of themselves than I was. Some of the first graders did Daily 5 in kindergarten and I can see a huge difference in my little ones this year compared to last year.
Here is the link to my Daily 5 praise necklaces. Check out this FREEBIE!

I am so excited for this group of little ones. I can already tell that they are strong readers and writers. Here's to the beginnings of a great year! Yippy Skippy!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What's on your TpT Wishlist?

I have seriously been waiting all month for the big TpT Back to School sale. I have caved and already bought some things so that I could get a head start before school starts.
What are some things that you have wish listed? I could always use some great resources.
Here are some things on my wish list that I plan on purchasing on Sunday, and some things that I have added to my store this summer (just in case you missed some of them).
Items on my wish list:
 Common Core Writing Workshop Mini-Lessons: Unit 1-Personal
Mrs. Wheeler's Writing Workshop Mini-Lessons Unit 1
A Writer's Workshop Folder {PK-1}
Rowdy in Room 300's Writer's Workshop Folder
Beginning of Year Assessments for First Grade
Mrs. Wheeler's B.O.Y. First Grade Assessment Pack
Common Core Differentiated Morning Work for August/September
Jodi Southard's August & September Morning Work to complete my set.
a bright year {a craftivity}
A Cupcake for the Teacher's A Bright Year Craftivity.
And here are some resources that I have added to my store this summer. Each picture will take you to the direct link to my TpT store.