Saturday, December 31, 2011

Snow! Snow! Snow!

Okay, the truth is that I teach in a very sunny city in California.  Having grown up here, I know that it snows once every ten years.  Of course, if you blink, you miss the snow.  However, most teachers here have a deep, down fascination with snow.  So each winter, we take time to create lots of art focusing on ... snow.  One year a teacher from _________ (an unnamed COLD state) told me that it made no sense to have our students make snowmen since it doesn't snow here.  (She didn't fall for the "it snows here every ten years, but don't blink" speech.)  I tried to explain that that is EXACTLY why we make snowmen and snowflakes and whatever else we can think of that is snow related.  But she didn't get it!  Hopefully you will!

I am posting PRIOR to making these projects with my class because otherwise I won't get around to telling you until the spring.  (Seriously, I have drafts of blog pages with pumpkin ideas and gingerbread ideas that I never quite finished and I would be WAY too embarrassed to post now so those blog pages will have to wait until the next school year to be posted.  Maybe I will post them in the summer and you all will be soooooo impressed with how organized I am!  Hah hah!)

Back to snow ...

1) Pattern Block Snowflakes:

Every year we make pattern block snowflakes.  This idea came from my teaching partner Marlene.  (THANKS Marlene!!!) To prep,  I use a pattern block template and copy all of the different pattern blocks onto white paper.  Then I get a helper (usually a middle school or high school student) to cut out the various pattern blocks.  For each child,  I cut a blue (either dark or light) 12" X 12" square and glue a white hexagon in the middle. (Last year I cut the blue paper into circles ahead of time because I had kinders and wanted to make their project different than the first grade project.)  Each student is to create a symmetrical snowflake using the white pattern blocks.  The hexagon in the middle gives them a base to build from.  These snowflakes always turn out beautiful (although a few are always .. well, interesting) and they make a great bulletin board display.  Plus this is really a math project!  I expect students to use the correct names of the shapes as they work.   Here is a link to the templates for the pattern blocks.

2) Quilt Square Snowflake:

I have a quilt square bulletin board in my classroom (see the picture above).  Each month, the children make a new quilt square. Last year we made snowflakes for January.   I get all of my quilt square ideas from TLC Art from The Quilt Book.  I gave my students the 8" X 8" dark blue square along with 3 light blue rectangles (about 7" X 1") and 5 white rectangles (about 1" X 2").  The children first glue on the light blue rectangles.  Then they cut all of the white rectangles in half and make squares.  Then they cut three of the squares in half to make triangles.  (Lots of geometry here!!!)  BUT you can have students create their own patterns for this also.

3)  Coffee Filter Snowflakes:

This is an idea from Pinterest.  Here is my sample.  To make this you fold a coffee filter into half, and then half again, and then half again.  If you have older students, you can fold even more.  Then the students cut triangles, half circles, etc on the folds.  I am going to tie math into this.  As we fold, we can talk about halves, fourths and eighths.  We can also talk about the shapes we are making .  "Hmmm ... I cut a triangle, but it turned into rhombus when I opened it, Why is that?"  (I heart math!!!!)

4)  Torn Paper Snowman: 

Years ago my sister gave me a card that had a flower made from torn paper.  It was so beautiful that I decided to have my students tear paper to create snowmen.  I love to do torn paper projects because it helps my perfectionists loosen up.  It is impossible for a torn paper project to be "perfect" so they learn to live with an imperfect project that is adorable.  I am a perfectionist with a capital P (What does that really mean?  "With a capital P"?  Well, it sounds impressive so I will use it.)  I sure wish I had teachers that nudged me to loosen up instead of asking for perfect pieces of art.  This is the only sample I could find - not a great sample, but you get the idea.  I have students begin by drawing three circles with a white crayon so they know where to glue their pieces.  (I think this child skipped that step!)

5)  Cutest Snowman EVER!!!!!
Here is my very favorite snowman ever - it is at the top left of my Pinterest board.  (With all of the controversy about clipart, I got nervous about posting anything that wasn't mine.)
Okay, this is an idea I haven't used yet, but because I think it is the cutest snowman ever so I plan to have my students create these snowmen.  We will start with dark blue paper and then use crayons to create them.  (Note to self: Find white crayons for the students to use.  Why don't ALL crayon boxes come with white crayons????)  This snowman is from Kathy Barbro's art blog, which I LOVE!  

Love to all,


Friday, December 30, 2011

Use Trash to Teach Inference

Now that  I have your attention, I want to tell you about a great professional book that I read.  (.. and I promise to tell you how to use trash to teach inference).

Here is the book:
Comprehension Connections Publisher: Heinemann
Comprehension Strategies

Here is why I LOVE this book:
This book ties in with the books Mosaic of Thought and Reading for Meaning.  The author (Tanny McGregor) gives a concrete way to teach each reading strategy.  For example, to teach "Determining Importance" Tanny brings in her purse (after censoring the contents a bit) and shows all of the items inside to the class.  She tells the class she is going jogging after school and can only carry a few items while she jogs so has to pick the most important.  Tanny has the students engage in conversations to determine which items she should carry with her and why.  Then in later determining importance lessons, the purse activity can be referred back to.  ("Remember when we decided which were the most important items in my purse?)  For each strategy, Tanny details several activities, not just one.  I love metaphors and this book is full of them!

I have used the beginning lessons in this book to reteach metacognition and plan to move on to schema in January.  My students LOVED the lessons on metacognition and each activity really seemed to build their understanding.  Parents even commented on what their children were coming home and telling them.  Hurrah!

This book has really made me think about my teaching.  It is so easy to teach concepts abtractly by just talking about them.  That is the quickest way to teach and the easiest way to plan.  But it doesn't lead to true understanding.  Reading this book has made me wonder how else I can use concrete activities to teach abstract concepts in EVERY subject.

For more ideas on bringing the concepts in this book to life, check out this website:
Reading Resource

Love to all,

P.S.  Using trash to teach inference:
Tanny brought in garbage that were supposedly from a new neighbor that she wanted to learn more about.  She gave each group a trash bag and asked them to tell her everything they could about her neighbors.  Students had to support each inference.  Can you imagine how fun this would be?!?!?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

11 in 11

Miss Kindergarten

Two of my favorite bloggers are having a party and we are all invited!  Thanks Kristin and Hadar for the invite!

I am a little nervous about this linky party because it may highlight to you all how dull and boring I am.  But I will gather up my courage and party anyway!

Camille's Eleven in 2011:

11. Favorite movie you watched:  
Hmmm ... I haven't seen any new movies (I told you I was boring!), but there is a Christmas movie that I watch every year because it has it all:  action, adventure, romance, Christmas music, humor plus it was my husband's favorite movie.  The movie (drumroll, please):  Die Hard.  Hey, since it takes place at Christmas, it qualifies as a Christmas movie, right?  Just don't let your children watch it!

10. Favorite TV series:
My all time favorite is Perry Mason.  In the summer it comes on at noon so I eat my lunch in front of the tv during the week.  (No Perry on weekends ... boo hoo!)  My new favorite is Drop Dead Diva.  I watched the first episode by accident and was hooked.  So, so, so funny plus so, so, so sweet.   I don't have cable so have to watch old episodes on Netflix.  

9. Favorite restaurant:
I love to eat and I love restaurants so there are many places I could name.  BUT of all the food in the world, I love Persian food the most.  So I would have to say the Persian restaurant two blocks from my house is my very favorite restaurant.  It is a small place with about four tables.  It is family run and the food is spectacular.  Plus it is located next to a tattoo parlor so my secret plan is when I am feeling wild and crazy, I can run next door and get my first tattoo.

8. Favorite new thing you tried:
Easy!!!!  My Smartboard!!!!!  I am in L.O.V.E.  We got them in just four days before vacation, but I started using it the moment it was installed.  I have so much to learn about using it, but know that it is going to be a powerful tool for teaching!  I already found a calendar and have it ready to go for next week.  (Oh,  my school got Smartboards because we won the Pepsi Challenge in the fall!  I thought it was such a longshot, but we came in first for the $25,000 grant.  Oh, yeah!!!!!)

7. Favorite gift you got:
An adorable living Christmas tree from the kinders in my class.  Too sweet!  They each made an ornament for the tree.  The parents told me that since the tree is living I would always have it to remember the kinders from this class.  How precious is that?!?

6. Favorite thing you pinned:
Well, it is not one item but how I finally got my Pinterest boards organized yesterday.  I originally had a board for each subject, but that wasn't working because my art board (and my math board and my science board and ...) was a disaster.  So I regrouped items into months.  That way I know I can find my items for Hundreds Day in February and my items for Thanksgiving in November.  Instead of having to look at each board every month to find appropriate pins, I only have to look at the board for that month.   (I still have some work to do on previous months, but I have the future months ready to go!)

5. Favorite blog post:
Kristin's Halloween post!!  It is a classic!  If academy awards were given for blog posts, this one would sweep every category!  If you haven't read it, you need to stop reading my drivel and RUN to her blog and read it.  Trust me! 

Now that you have read Kristen's Halloween post, I am supposed to name one of my own posts.  I am thinking it would be my Ocean in the Classroom post because it brings back great memories of the fun my class had studying the ocean last spring.  But it is not at all funny like Kristin's Halloween post.

4. Best accomplishment:
Does survival count?  (See number 3 to understand why survival was HUGE for me.)

3. Favorite picture:
So this is going to be deep (at least for me) and it ties in with survival.  This photo is of the Valentine's Day party that I hosted in 2011.  I invited about 15 women to my house for dinner on Valentine's Day.  (I am not posting pictures of the women since I don't have their permission.  You are stuck with a picture of some of the food.  Everyone had to bring a red food.  Sounds yucky, but it was great!)  This was my first Valentine's Day without my husband (he died in a biking accident on Labor Day 2010) and I wasn't sure I would survive the day.  So I invited other women who were "dateless" for a variety of reasons ( recently widowed, divorced, breakup).  You know how you always hear that a good way to fight depression is to help others?  Well, in this case it turned out to be true.  I am the WORST hostess in the world, I HATE having people over.  But I took a deep breath and invited everyone that I thought might be having a hard time being single on Valentine's Day and everyone that I invited came!!!  There were smiles and laughs filling my house.  (I was mostly quiet, but bringing joy to others brought me joy.)

2. Favorite memory:
Having Thanksgiving dinner with my dad and sister Colleen in Oregon.  We had not planned to be together because Colleen and I live in California and didn't have much time off.  Then my dad had a stroke 10 days before Thanksgiving and it was unclear if he would survive.  (Side note:  He survived and is thriving!!!)  So the three of us ate Thanksgiving dinner at a care facility where my dad was staying while he underwent rehab for his stroke.  It was definitely not the Thanksgiving setting of anyone's dreams and yet it was so wonderful because we were together and my dad was improving!!
I am going to cheat and add a photo of our Thanksgiving.  We all are looking a little grubby, but the joy on our faces is obvious!  (I am the one in the striped shirt that makes me look like I need to loose even more than 15 pounds!!!)

1. Goals for 2012:
*** personal ... to eat healthier, work out and lose 15 pounds  (This may sound lofty, but my dad's stroke and  rehab really made me think about being healthy)
*** professional ... to put the children's best interests first even if it means I ruffle a few feathers of other staff members (I am a total people pleaser so this is actually a harder goal than the personal one)

Whew!  I feel like I just finished an hour of therapy!  Writing all of this was very therapeutic for me - hopefully it was interesting / engaging / insightful for you.

Love to you all!


Monday, December 26, 2011

... and the award goes to ...

As 2011 nears an end, Fern has asked us to look at our three most viewed posts.  Great time for reflecting!

Drumroll please!

Here are my top three:

Seriously?!?  Paper plate frisbees?  Too funny!!  I think the lesson learned (remember, I said it was a great time for reflection) is I linked my frisbee post to a very popular linky party.  Lesson learned!

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are having a wonderful day after Christmas!

Love to all!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish all of my dear bloggets a VERY Merry Christmas! May you all have a day filled with joy! Much love to you my friends.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

You Can Pin Me!

I just found out how to put a "Pin It" button at the bottom of each of my posts. Do you see it down there at the bottom? (I will pause my typing to give you a chance to look.) How cool is that? Of course, there is nothing to pin on my posts, which means I need to become Miss Super Blogger and start to add pictures to my posts. Great incentive!

Thank you to Mrs. Johnson (Hey- that's my name!) from Mrs. Johnson's First Grade (wait ... that's my grade, too!) for pointing me in the right direction to learn to add a "Pin It" button!

Thank you to the brilliant Julie Ann at Julie Ann Art for showing us step by step how to do this. THANK YOU!!

If you want to learn how to add a "Pin It" button, just click here.

Now I am off to add some things to my blog that are pinworthy!

Love to all,

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Moose on the Loose

After reading several blogs about the Elf on the Shelf, I went to Target to buy one. But I started to reconsider when I saw the price tag: $30!!!!!!! This was for a really cute elf and a book that introduces the elf. I didn't like the book so decided to change things up a bit. (I LOVE Santa and his elves, but the idea of an elf watching me to see if I am naughty or nice gives me the creeps. I think it has to do with the movie "Chucky". All about an evil, murderous doll. Note to self: No more horror movies!)

Anyway, I found an adorable stuffed moose for $5. The moose doesn't scare me at all! He is decorated in red and green so looks Christmasy. I am going to put him in a box in the freezer so that I can tell my students he came from the North Pole. Then each morning the moose will be found in a different place in the classroom. He will have a new note each day encouraging the children to be kind, patient, etc. I got the ideas for the notes from Kerri's sweet Magic Elf unit, which is all about the true meaning of Christmas. I changed up her notes so that they came from a moose.

I think my kiddos will love this! I have six of the same students this year so love doing things we didn't do last year.

Love to all,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dear Santa,

Happy December! (Well, almost!)

One of my favorite December activities is to have my students write letters to Santa. But not just any letter will do, they must write friendly letters. The students may give Santa compliments and they may ask questions, but they may not ask for anything. We write the letters and then send them. The friendly letter strategy must work because my students ALWAYS get return letters. Santa is so very busy in December that he assigns his elves to respond. So each of my students receives a letter from a different elf. Typically these letters arrive just before our winter break and just as I finish reading Polar Express. The amazing thing is that when the envelope arrives it is ICE COLD - really!!!! Hmmm... since it is coming from the North Pole, that makes sense, right? When we open the envelope, we find a letter for each child AND ...drumroll please ... A BELL!!!! Just like in the Polar Express!!!! Don't you just love Santa?!?!

Okay, for those of you who don't believe Santa is real (I hope that is NONE of you!!!) ... here is what you can do:
Find an upper grade teacher willing to have her class respond to your letters. Her students will have great fun choosing elf names and thinking of funny answers to the younger children's questions! Once the "elves" write the letters, place the letters and the bells all in a big envelope and put the envelope in the freezer overnight. The next day ask someone you trust to give the envelope to the secretary at the appointed time. Then the very excited secretary calls the room to tell you that a VERY cold package has arrived for your class! Be prepared for screams!!

Love to you all,

Camille Johnson

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trading Day

I love, love, love trying new things and for November my kinder team is trying out "Trading Day". I am especially excited because the firsties in my K/1 combo have never done this before so it will be new, new, new for all of my students! (I really try to not repeat things that my kinders may have done last year - not completely humanly possible, but I try!)

I have to credit a WONDERFUL kindergarten teacher named Kim for many most ALL of the ideas I am about to share. KIM, YOU ARE AMAZING!

So what is Trading Day?
Trading Day is based on the bartering system that the Native Americans used. Students bring in items to trade with one another. The items they bring in must be natural items and not manmade. Examples include: acorns, rocks, raisins. Students have to barter with one another over their trades. (Example: How many rocks does a child trade for one acorn?) We sent home a letter explaining Trading Day to parents. Here is the letter.

The students are going to be making several projects next week to prepare for Trading Day. Since this is my first time to do these things, I don't have photos yet. The activities include:

Choosing a Native American name
Wonderful Kim gave us a list of Native American names. One of my teammates had students pick a name from a bag. Smart!
But being me, I had to make it more complex. I wanted to reinforce the parts of speech with my firsties so we brainstormed a list of animals (nouns) and then a list of adjectives to describe the animals. Sounds great, right? Hmmm... in doing this we got away from true Native American names. Hopping Kangaroo? Jumping Jaguar? Whoops! I did explain that those animals were not native to the United States, but by then my students had their hearts set on certain names so I let them keep those names.

Trading Mats
We will make these from 12X18 pieces of light brown paper. Students will draw Native American symbols on these and then fringe two of the edges. On Friday the students will place all of the items they want to trade on these mats.

Many,many ways to go with these! My class is going to use a Sharpie to make Native American designs on a brown foam circle. (I have precut the circles, punched two holes in each and strung a piece of yarn through the two holes.) A teammate bought some stick-on jewels from Lakeshore, so I am going to have the students make a pattern around the perimeter of the circle using the jewels. (Another way to sneak in academic vocabulary: perimeter.)

I cut these out of sentence strips. Then I wrote the chosen Native American names on each strip. Next week the students will use construction paper squares to create patterns. (My plan is to give them 2"X2" squares of many colors. Students may use the squares or create circles or triangles from them.) Then, of course, I will staple the ends together and -voila- a headband! I am thinking of giving the students one feather at each station on Friday, but somehow that doesn't feel authentic. (I really want to be respectful of the Native American cultures and sometimes I cross the line in order to be "cute", but I am really trying not to!)

Kim (have I already told you she is BRILLIANT?!?) showed me a much easier way to make vests. (Years I made them out of grocery sacks and that was a lot of work.) Instead they will be made out of brown packing paper. Just fold a large piece in half and cut out a hole for the head. Then the students will make designs on the paper. (Sure wish I had a photo!!! They will come, I promise!)

Whew! Lots to do next week! My students are sooo excited and I am sooo, sooo, sooo excited!
Love to all, Camille

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Pinterest Discovery!

Like all of you I love Pinterest and I just discovered something NEW and EXCITING at Pinterest! The wonderful Charity has created Pinterest boards for each grade level. That's right ... Charity has a board just for kinder and a board just for first grade and so on.

Here are the links:
Kindergarten Pinterest Board
First Grade Pinterest Board

Since I only (ONLY?!?) teach kinder and first those are the only two boards that I care about! Sorry! But if you teach a different grade level, there is help for you.

In addition to the Pinterest boards, Charity also created blog rolls for each grade level. (Does this woman sleep?) These operate out of a site called Teaching Blog Central. If you are interested in other Pinterest sites or blog roll sites, Teaching Blog Central contains ALL of the links.

But for my special kinder and first grade friends, here are the links:
Kindergarten Club
First Grade Faculty

So now the question is: Will we ever sleep?


Friday, November 11, 2011

Let the Children Speak

Hi all! I am now in the midst of parent conferences and thought I would share a technique I use. Although I conference with parents only, I want each child's voice to be heard at their conference. So I send home a list of five questions that parents are to ask their children ahead of time. For example: What is your favorite part of first grade? I also include three questions for the parents to think about ahead of time.

I begin each conference by going over the form with the parents. The comments from the students serves as a reminder that they are the focus of the conference. The comments from the parents give me a heads up as to any special direction the conference should take.

Here is the form I use. It is simple, but powerful.
First Grade Questionnaire

I hope this is helpful!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Want a treat? Try DonorsChoose!

What treat are you wishing for? More math manipulatives? Leveled readers? Digital cameras?

Today's post is all about DonorsChoose. Don't panic, this is NOT a request for donations, instead I am going to encourage all of you to write up a project for DonorsChoose.

When DonorsChoose first started, I tried it out but wasn't impressed. I wrote up a project, but nobody (and I mean NOBODY) made a donation. After three l.o.n.g months, the project expired and I felt foolish for wasting my time. (I also felt very unloved!) It also bothered me that the fees for shipping, handling and overhead seemed so high. (Later, I came to realize the unbelievable time and effort that goes into running the nonprofit called DonorsChoose. Now I believe that every extra penny they tack on is reasonable and WELL worth it!)

Then ... I ran into some teachers who had their projects fully funded and I decided to give it another go. Brilliant idea! I have now had five projects funded (four of those in the last two months)!!! What types of materials did I receive? So glad you asked!! Digital cameras, a Bamboo tablet, watercolors, and lots and lots of leveled readers.

There are certain stipulations but in general, teachers who teach at a public school in the United States qualify.

I don't like to ask people for things, so I have never posted my projects on Facebook or Twittered about them. (But you could.) I have also never told classroom parents, coworkers or friends about my projects. (I really, really am shy about that type of thing!!) So, just think, if I am getting my projects funded, all of you outgoing bloggets are likely to get your projects funded much, much faster than I do!!!!

My hints:
**Start by looking at projects that are already posted. Get ideas from these about the types of materials you can request.
**Make your projects worth less than $400. People like to donate to projects that look like they may be funded soon.
**Have a catchy title. (Okay, this is hit or miss for me. But it really does help!)
**Take advantage of any special funding. One of my leveled reader projects was 75% funded by a publisher because I followed their rules and mentioned their product in my proposal. (I LOVE their books so it was easy!) Then my second leveled reader project was 75% funded by NEA because they were funding literacy projects. Check the list of special funding available and write your projects accordingly.

Feel free to ask me questions. I HEART DonorsChoose!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Happy, happy birthday ideas

How much do you love Dr. Jean? I think maybe she is wonderful times a gazillion!

I was just reading Dr. Jean's blog. In this post she shares the idea of acting out a birthday cake with children as candles and as the cake. Meanwhile everyone is chanting about the birthday. How cute is that? (Do all primary teachers love, love, love cute? I think so!) Since I have had quite a few birthdays already this year (I mean the kiddos, not me: I only have one a year.) I will have to wait and try this idea next year. But in the meantime, here is what I do ...

Each child begins the day with a birthday bag on their desk. (See my previous post for an explanation of the birthday bags.) Then later in the day my class sits on the floor in a birthday circle. (Or as my kiddos this year call it: "birthday square" since we sit on the perimeter of our square carpet.) I pass around a stuffed bear and each child turns to the birthday child and says something - I aim for a compliment, but at the beginning of the year, "Happy birthday" will suffice. The birthday child says "Thank you" and the other child says "You're welcome". (I try to fit in manners whenever I can!!!) Then the bear is passed to the next child. Next we sing "Happy birthday" and then we sing "Happy birthday" using sign language. The birthday child tells us one thing she/he really likes to do and we create a "birthday sign" by "signing" the first letter of the child's name performing that action.

I love the compliment time. It is so precious to hear what the children have to say. The birthday children are always beaming throughout this event.


Friday, October 21, 2011

We are family! (... fact families that is)

"We are family! Brothers and sisters are we. We are family; get up everybody and sing!" Don't you just love that song by the Pointer Sisters? If I was brilliant I would turn it into a song about fact families. But, alas, I am not brilliant, so instead I have a few fact family games to share with you.

In math my firsties are learning about the relationship between addition and subtraction. Even though my math program (Envision) doesn't teach fact families for awhile, I like to introduce them now. It just makes sense to me.

So I made up a simple game called "Fact Family Toss". To play this game you need two dice and a piece of paper for each child. The child tosses both dice, adds the number together and then writes out four equations (a fact family) using the three numbers (both dice numbers and the sum). I have students start out with the typical dice with numbers 1-6, but later add in a variety of dice: ten sided dice, twelve sided dice, dice made from wooden cubes that I have written numbers on ...

Then there is also, "Domino Fact Families". Same idea. The child chooses a domino, adds the two numbers together and then creates a fact family using those three numbers.

For a much cuter fact family game, go to the First Grade Fever blog. Christie has posted French Fry Fact Families. Yes, it is as cute as it sounds and it is free!

"We are fact families! Sums and differences are we! We are fact families; get up everybody and sing!" Hmmm ... just doesn't work!

I am a YES Girl!

Well, I am back at my blog. I am a little embarrassed since it has been almost two months since my last post. (Okay, I am WAY more than a little embarrassed!!!) How did life get so crazy?!? I am a simple gal and lead a simple life, but it sure is a hectic one! Are you the type of person that just has to ... volunteer for every committee that sounds interesting? ... attend every workshop that sounds intriguing? ... say yes to each request that comes your way? You get the idea and I'll bet many of you are the same way! During the summer, I actually practiced saying "No!" with a friend. But then school started and I was well rested and everything sounded so interesting and "Yes!" was my answer. Sigh. So now I am back to leading a hectic life! But I will try to have that life include blog posting. My goal was to use my blog as a memory book for myself that would trigger memories the following year. Having photos and links to activity sheets would make life so organized and easy; but alas, I have posted so little this school year that my "memory book" won't be very helpful next year. Hmmm ... maybe I can change that. I will try!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Week One: Done, Done, Done!

I just finished my first week back at school. What a whirlwind of a week! I love, love, love my class! For the second year in a row I am teaching a kindergarten/first grade combination class. I love both grade levels so am a happy camper! However, at times I feel somewhat lonely. I am like "a man/woman without a country" because I am not truly affliated with either grade level. I am a hybrid of my two grade levels. That is why I LOVE my blogging buddies!!!!!

As I reflect back on my week, one new activity that stands out is the observation books that we made. I got this idea at a FOSS science training. (I soooooo LOVE FOSS!!!!) I gave the children four page booklets and magnifying glasses. (Each page was about 8" X 5"). Their job was to observe four different objects and then draw them with great detail. (Well, a few details at least since these are kinders and firsties!) First, they looked at a ball and drew it. Then a crayon, a plant and finally any object of their choice. For the plant, I took them outside and let them observe a plant in the garden. At the end of the lesson I felt like they had a good understanding of "observing". Hurrah! Plus watching them look through the magnifying glasses at each object with such serious expressions on their faces was so precious!

My students' favorite lesson was hunting for Pete the Cat. They keep asking when we can look for Pete again. So guess what our first prize for Teamwork Bingo will be? Yep! My kiddos get to hunt for Pete again. I will have to make up new clues. They are working super hard to win this "prize" so I have to get on the ball and create a different hunt. Too, too funny! Each day they have me read "Pete the Cat". I read Rocking in My School Shoes today, but I don't think it will ever replace the original at least in my heart. Oh, I do love Pete!

Now I am off to plan wonderful lessons for next week - which means I have some serious blog stalking to do!!!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher

This is for the Meet the Teacher Linky Party at Blog Hoppin'.

Tell us a little something about you.
I started teaching 8th grade students and gradually worked my way down the grades. Currently I have two favorite grade levels: kinder and first. Lucky me! I get to teach BOTH of my favorite grades this year because I have a kinder/first grade combination class!

How long have you been teaching?
Really long! Last year I had the joy of having the daughter of one of my former students in my class!

You might not know ...
I was the very first teacher to have a computer in her classroom in my district. My sister was a programmer for Atari and she gave me a computer to take into my class.
I had TWO Donor's Choose grants funded this summer and a third one is close! Most of the donations are from strangers (which touches me deeply).

What are you looking most forward to this year?
Taking a diverse group of strangers and creating a class family.

What do you need to improve?
Organization!! I have sooooooo much stuff that I have a hard time organizing it all. I HATE to get rid of anything because it might come in useful with a future student. Sigh. I am really trying to get rid of some of my things.

What teaching supplies can you not live without?
I am going to loosely define "supplies" to include people. There are the people I cannot teach without:
my students: adorable, sweet, eager to learn
my principal: supportive, positive, encourages me to take risks
my families: unbelievably supportive
my co-teachers: supportive, good listeners, loving
my fellow bloggers: creative, risk taking, supportive, brilliant - You amaze and inspire me! Lots of love to all my fellow bloggers!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So what is ESGI?

I am the queen of "To Do" lists, especially at this time of year! It seems like for every item I cross off, I add two more so my list keeps growing and growing!! Yesterday I had to stop working on items on my list to attend an inservice.

Have you heard of ESGI? Well, I hadn't either, but after the inservice yesterday, I am now super excited about it!

ESGI is a data recording system for kindergarten. That's sounds quite boring, doesn't it? But actually it is going to save me so much time. The teacher sits at a computer with one student. The test items show up one at a time on the monitor and the teacher types in whether or not the child gave the correct answer. ESGI creates class graphs of the data, parent letters, and flashcards all based on the results. The child's data is tracked for the year. ESGI has assessments you can use or you can input your own tests (like my very wonderful partner Stacey did for my district). Except for a running record, my complete battery of kinder math and reading assessments can now be given using ESGI. The kinder teachers are all very excited about this new tool! The cost is $199 for a year for one teacher. (Bulk rates are available.) My district willingly paid $149 for every kinder teacher because they saw the benefit. I left the two hour inservice yesterday feeling like I had a good handle on ESGI. I had been able to input all of my student names, plus do a fairly complete run through of our entire kinder assessment.

I feel like this is a commercial for ESGI. It is not! But I am just so thrilled to have a tool like this at my disposal!

Now off to my classroom to try to dwindle down those To Do lists!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

More About Pete

Hi all!

I am stressed out of my mind preparing (or should I say, not preparing???) my classroom. There is so much to do that I spend most of my time thinking about all there is to do! Crazy!! But I did finish one task. Hurrah! The clues for my Pete the Cat hunt are now complete. In a previous post I explained my plan and gave a list of all of my clues.  Since I don't know how to add colorful graphics to documents, I had to cut and paste (yep, with scissors and glue). But I LOVE how they turned out! (...and yes, I have added "Learn to add colorful graphics to documents" to my TO DO list!!!!) For my cards I used pictures from a bulletin board border I found at the Dollar Store. Here is the first card:

Now it is time for this girl to go on into the classroom!
Take care my hardworking friends,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I'm Interviewing Today!

Gulp ... I am interviewing today. But ... double gulp ... I am not the interviewee - I am the INTERVIEWER! I am on a panel to interview for the unfilled teaching positions in my district. I am THE teacher rep on the panel. Me! The one and only teacher rep for my entire district. Me! Triple gulp! I think I am as nervous today as I was a million years ago when I was applying for teaching jobs. Yikes! It seems like just yesterday, but now here I am on the other side of the table!!

Just a few months ago, my district was giving pink slips, but now due to a variety of circumstances, EVERY teacher was offered a position and we have to hire a few more teachers. WOW!

So dear Bloggets, if any of you are looking for a teaching job in northern California please post a comment to this blog. I am more than willing to contact you and give you specifics. At my school alone, we have two openings: kinder and third. Great district, great school, great principal, great families, and most importantly: truly great students! ... and if you are interviewing for jobs, please know that the interview team is truly on your side and wants to make you shine during the interview!

Have a great Thursday everyone!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where's Pete? Forget Waldo, We Want to Find Pete!

Last week I ordered a stuffed Pete the Cat from Amazon and I have been waiting patiently (HAH!) for Pete to be delivered to my house. I keep wondering, "Where's Pete?" which prompted me to write clues for a hunt for Pete. (Very similar to the Gingerbread Man hunt.) These clues are nothing brilliant, but I want to share them with all of you. I am offering them just as they are - no graphics, no fancy fonts. See what you think. If someone likes them enough to fancy them up: GREAT!! - just let me know.

Here is my plan - I will read the book Pete the Cat to my class on the first day of school. After finishing the book an envelope will mysteriously drop out of the book. The envelope will be addressed to Team Five. (I teach in room five so I refer to my class as Team Five.) Upon opening the envelope, we will find this note:

Dear Team Five,
My name is Pete and I am a cat.
I've been waiting for you, but where are you at?

I decided to look around; everything is so new.
But to help you find me, I will leave a clue.

Clue #1:
I went to Mrs.P to look for you.
She's so smart, she'll tell me what to do.

Walk, walk, as quiet as a hat.
Please find me; I'm Pete the Cat.

(Mrs. P is our secretary so we will go to the office and meet both Mrs. P and the principal if she is available. While there Mrs. P will hand us clue #2.)

Click here for the rest of the clues

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Does anyone know you blog?

So I am really curious.  Does anyone know that you blog?  Do your friends know that you have another circle of friends, none of which you have ever met in person?  Do your coworkers know that you spend hours stalking blogs?  

Here is why I am so curious:  I am in a weeklong math institute.  On Monday, we had to list one hobby and then find someone else in the room with that hobby.  Without thinking I listed my newest obsession, whoops - hobby: blogging.  As other teachers checked my card to see if our hobbies matched, I started getting the strangest looks.  If I hadn't known better I would have thought I had grown two (or even three heads).  I soon realized that I stood alone with my hobby - absolutely alone.  I also realized that since I have been hanging out with all of you, I assumed that we bloggers were in the majority.  Hey - there are a lot of us, so surely wherever I go, there will be many, many bloggers.  Whoops, guess that was a bad assumption!

So I am now sending out lots of love to you all ... I am so happy that I am a part of the blogging community.  I love having this opportunity to learn from such brilliant teachers and I also love being able to share my ideas.  Even if I am the sole blogger in the room, I am standing tall because I am proud to be one!

Love to bloggers and bloggets everywhere!


P.S.  The math institute is absolutely wonderful and the other teachers delightful (... even though they don't blog).
P.P.S  I will start sharing ideas again soon!!!  Promise!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Look What I Found: Shoes for Pete!!!


Like many of my blogging friends, I am head over heels in love with Pete the Cat.  Because of my love for him, I decided to make Pete my class mascot this year (sigh - that means my next purchase will have to be a stuffed Pete!!!!)  If you haven't met Pete yet, you really should.  Click here to find Pete on Amazon.

Since Pete is now my class mascot, that means I need SHOES!  Lots and lots of shoes.  So yesterday I went into Dollar Tree determined to find shoes - and I did!

SET #1    30 shoes per pack!!!   (The white paper in the background is 8 1/2"  X 11").

SET #2    15 shoes per pack

... and my fav: a banner with REALLY large red shoes! (... sorry cat not included!  But obviously this banner has the very important feline approval.)  The banner says "Put Your Best Foot Forward!"  At first I was going to just cut out the red shoes and toss the rest of the banner, but now I am thinking I will use the whole banner.  Hmmm .... Put your best foot forward just like Pete the Cat!  Sounds good!

Now I have to figure out exactly how to use all of these shoes!  But first, I have a date with my scissors because yesterday I laminated many of my gifts from my blogging friends!  

It's all good!  (or so says the very wise Pete and I choose to believe him!)


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Birthday Bags

A few years ago I was observing in a first grade class and saw the most adorable idea: birthday bags!  I just had to make these the following year and I LOVE them.  Special thanks to Annie in Littleton, Colorado for this great idea!

Here's the scoop:  Ahead of time the teacher makes a birthday bag for each child in her class.  The bag is filled with little odds and ends.  Each bag is labeled with a name and a birth date.  The bags are all posted on a bulletin board and are a great decoration.  (I put mine in that narrow space above the whiteboard. Cute!!)  When a child walks into class on his birthday, his birthday bag is waiting on his desk (or that's the plan).  My kiddos LOVE these bags. They all know exactly where their own bag is at and it is the point of many conversations with me.  (Will I really get the bag on my birthday?  Yes. You won't forget will you?  Of course not.  (I hope!)  Can I look in my bag today?  No, you have to wait until your birthday.  Etc.

This is one of my birthday bags.  I don't have my class list yet, but once I do I will type the child's name and birthdate on a large label and stick it to the bag.  (It is much easier to FIRST put the label on the bag and THEN fill it, but I made this bag for all of you.)  Then I add cute birthday stickers to the bag.)

Here is what I am putting in the bag this year.  I bet you recognize some of my Target and Dollar Tree finds!  The items are:  a sticker for the child to wear, a stretchy bracelet (Do you recognize the Cat in the Hat?), a pencil, a bookmark,  a set of birthday stickers, a notepad, 2 erasers, and a small bouncy ball.

One of the reasons I love this idea is that it insures I am prepared and consistent for each birthday.  Even when I forget a birthday, a bag is waiting for that child.  Children with summer birthdays get their bags on their half birthdays.  Hope this idea is helpful to some of you.

Love to all of my bloggets,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Do I Sqworl Away?

Question from a follower (Gosh, "a follower", that is pretty humbling to me!!!):
Camille, what websites do you put on Sqworl for your kindergartners?

Well, last year was my first year to teach kindergarten and I had a K/1 combination so I am NOT an expert on the best websites out there for kindergartners.  I know some of you have better ideas, which I hope you will share via a comment.  But, here are the online sites I used:

1)  Starfall - free and fun -
My students loved this website.  My one concern is that a few of the games were not very academically oriented and those were the ones that my students were most attracted to.  Since this was my first year with Starfall (and kindergartners), I learned as I went.

2) RAZ - Kids  $80 /year per class (If ten classes sign up together, it's $60 /year per class.)
I love this site because it is so easy for the children (and the teacher) to use.  I can choose the level of books for each child to read online or I can open up the entire library to them.

3)  Sylva Dell Books - Free
This company will give schools free access to their online books if you apply.  These books are much, much harder, but I liked giving my students another option for reading online (... and remember I also had first graders in my class and some of them needed a challenge.)

4)  Oxford Owl - Free
I just recently discovered this site and have not used it with a class yet.  Students choose books to listen to online.  This site is based in England so the narrators have an English accent.

5)  IXL - $199/ year per class
I was very frustrated last year in my quest to find a math program for my students to use online.  In the Spring I found IXL, and although it was pricey, it somewhat fit my needs.  I only used it for about 2 months with my class, so the jury is still out.  However, my students seemed to really enjoy it.  A plus is that all the standards are covered.  A minus is that it is mostly drill and practice; however, if you miss a problem you can ask to see an explanation and the explanations are good (completely visual, no voice).  But how many kinders would ask for an explanation?  I think zero.  Another minus for me, is that I couldn't figure out a way to control which standards my students were working on.  The entire year's worth of standards is given as a choice (actually all standards from K-6 are given as a choice).  Whew!  That's a lot of choices!  So I am not 100% sold and am continuing to look.

I also used these two math programs and cannot recommend them for kindergarten, but they might be your cup of tea.  Here's the scoop:
1)  XtraMath - Free
This a great drill program for mastering the basic math facts.  I can't recommend it for kinder because I don't believe kindergartners should be spending their time memorizing math facts.  (My two cents.)

2)  Study Island - Math - $121/ year per class  (It's another $121 for language arts for K or 1st.)
The upper grade teachers RAVED about this program, so I gave it a try.  For kinder and first grade, Study Island uses the same standards nationwide, but it was a close enough match for me.  The first year I used it, I taught first grade and it went over well with my students.  I like being able to stipulate which concepts students worked on.  But things changed in the Fall, when my district created usernames and passwords for Study Island that were impossible to remember and impossible for some of my students to type in (periods, random numbers and random letters).  I think this was a district thing, not a Study Island issue; but for whatever reason, I can't use a program that my students cannot access.  (Luckily my subscription ran out right when this happened so I didn't have to pay for a program I wasn't using.)

Whew, that was a long post!!  If anyone is still reading and has ideas for great websites for kinders and firsties, PLEASE let us know in a comment.  Thanks!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sqworl It Away!

Yep.  Today you are going to learn how to "Sqworl It Away".  (It's time for a tech tip from a tech loving teacher.)

Sqworl is one of my very favorite web tools for my classroom.  It's easy, it's useful and I just love the weird name!

Sqworl is like a mini-webpage that displays all of your links along with a picture of the opening screen for each link.

So, here is how it works:  My students click on an acorn icon on the desktop.  (Get it?  Sqworl = acorn.  But this is only on a pc.  You Mac users will get a regular Mac icon.)  Once they click on the acorn in my class, the screen shown in the photo below opens up.  ALL my student links are listed there.  Yep, ALL. (If you look closely, you can see RAZ Kids, Star and a few math websites.)   Students then choose the link they want, click on the picture and that site opens up.  No more hunting around the desktop for each link!  No more missing links!  No more non-readers struggling to find the correct link.  These all have pictures!!  Oh, I heart Sqworl!  Oh, I forgot to tell you that it is free.  Yep, F.R.E.E., FREE!  Oh, and I am not even to the best part yet.  Keep reading ....

I just hate finding new websites for my kiddos and then running around the room to each computer to create a link on the desktop.  Well, I never, ever have to do that again!!!!  (Unless I get a new computer or switch rooms.)  Now whenever I want to add a new website that I want my students to use, I just sit calmly at my own computer and go into the edit mode of my Sqworl and add that link.  Then like magic, the new link appears whenever the acorn is pressed.  No more running around the room adding icons to the desktop.  Oh, I soooo heart Sqworl.  Oh, and there is more.  In the past, whenever I taught the children how to use a new website, I would send home the url to parents.  No more!  Instead, I just send home the Sqworl url at the beginning of the year and students automatically have access at home to any links I add to my Sqworl.  Plus, you can have more than one Sqworl page.  I am thinking of creating a Sqworl page for science next year.  Your Sqworl pages are all linked so again, just one url is needed to have access to ALL of your student links.

Okay, there need to be some issues, right?  Well, there are.  Sqworl just recently starting putting one advertisement on each page.  But the ads are all educational type things so that is fine with me.  (That is why Sqworl is free so I can accept that.)  Another thing to be aware of, is that the Sqworls are public.  This is not the place to add a link to photos of your students or anything else you want kept very private. (When I say "public", I mean it is just like anything else on the web that is not behind a "wall".) 

Now, I strongly encourage you to check out Sqworl!!!!!  It is really easy to use, but email me if you need any help.  There are even short videos Sqworl to help you get started.

Love to all of my followers,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Picnic

What do you do to build community?  I would love to hear ideas from you all!

I am always trying to build community both among my students and among my parents.  Last year I had a kinder / first grade combination class so it was especially important to blend the two sets of parents.     One activity that I did after two weeks of school was to host a Family Picnic on a Saturday.  All of my students and their families were invited.  It was very simple and very low key.  We held it at school on one of the playgrounds from 11:00-1:00.  I asked everyone to bring their own lunch.  I planned ahead and got a key to the nearby bathroom.  (One year I forgot - never again!!!)

For the photo, I had to delete a few heads so no faces would show up so this photo makes me laugh!  Hmmm ... I wonder if you can find the three people that are missing heads.  I'm the lady (with my head still attached) on the far right.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Paper Plate Frisbees

Jodi over at Fun in First is having a linky party.  Now normally I am NOT a party kind of girl.  But this party is all about activities for the beginning of the year so I am soooo in!!  Jodi posted a super cute version of a gingerbread man hunt.  Plus other activities are being added even as you read this!

Here is my addition to the party.  Oh, it's super simple, because I am a super simple girl.  But it's tons of fun for the kiddos, because I LOVE having fun with my kids!!

Paper Plate Frisbee
Students will each get to decorate and then fly a frisbee.

Ahead of time I buy two paper plates per child. (This year I purchased 60 plates just in case we really and truly have 30 students next year.  Ouch!  Ouch!  Ouch!)  The thin white picnic ones won't work, but anything just a tad sturdier will.  This year I got mine from the dollar store.

The next step is to cut a hole out of the middle of HALF of the plates.  (Leave half of the plates whole.) The diameter of the hole is about five inches.  (The exact measurement is NOT important.  Many plates have an inner circle and I just cut on that.)  Then staple a whole plate to a plate with a cut circle.  For example, if you purchased blue plates (my favorite color) face the blue part of the whole plate to the blue part of the "holed" plate and staple about four times around the edge of the plate.  You now have one frisbee.  : ) Repeat this until you have enough frisbees for each student.

Hurrah!  Teacher prep is done!!!

Note:  I have kinders and firsties so do this prep for them.  With older students, you might have them do the prep.

Now for the fun:
Students decorate the plates using crayons or markers or ????  I have them write their names BIG on the frisbee.  Then we take them out and fly them.  Great fun!  These frisbees work great and the students run around having a blast (once they get the hang of throwing them.)  It is a great way to begin to build community because the students are all running all over the field interacting with each other.  Did I already say it was great fun?

I let the students take the frisbees home that day so that they can have fun with them at home.

Update: August 31, 2012:  I remembered to take photos this year.  This time I wrote the names on the frisbees.  This lovely girl has just started decorating her frisbee.

Here is the other side of her frisbee.  The plates were red this year.  But since I staple the two plates towards each other, the frisbees are white on the outside.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

FREEBIE!!! (But not from me : )

Woohoo!  I just scored a FREE unit!  Thanks to Laura at Kinder Kraziness I now have a lots of fun activities that my kiddos can do with the story Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.

Hmmm ... are you wishing you could get the same deal?  Well, wonderful Laura is offering this unit FREE to every teacher that becomes her follower.  Just go on over to Kinder Kraziness and sign up.  Laura has lots of other freebies, too so you WILL want to follow her!


Student Led Safaris - oops - Conferences

Last night I spent time with my bestie Andrea.  She told me about a cool way to do student led conferences even in kindergarten.  I thought I would write about it here so I don't forget the details.

Who:  my students
What:  lead their own conferences
When:  March (at the November conferences we will meet to set goals; but the March conferences will be student led)
Where:  all around the classroom
Why:  for students to take ownership of their learning and for parents to get insight into their child's learning
How:  The set up will be similar to a safari.   Stations will be set up around the room that match the standards.  Students will lead their parents around the room from station to station following footprints on the floor.  Students may even wear "binoculars" made from paper towel tubes.  Stations will be numbered so that students advance in order.  Each station will be based on a standard and will involve a student activity.  For example, the standard may be to count to 30 (kinder) and the task is for students to count orally as high as they can.  Students will be scheduled to come in about 6 at a time each hour.  The teacher will be the park ranger and will be available at the end of the safari for students and parents to check in with if desired.

My thoughts:  Since I plan to have my class set up like a forest, instead of a safari, I can have my students lead their parents on a hike though the forest.  (Subtle difference, I know!  But I like to pay attention to details.)

February 3, 2012
Tammy at LiveLoveLaugh just posted a great description of her student lead conferences in kindergarten.
Read all about it here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Ocean in the Classroom!

In the spring my class was studying fish (as part of our WONDERFUL science program: FOSS - love, love, love it!).  So I had my kiddos help me turn our class into an ocean.  Great fun!  The sign was placed outside our door.  We are in room five so I refer to my class as Team Five.  Here are some of our ocean activities:

1)  Fish Quilt:  With inspiration from TLC's Quilt book, I created a fish quilt square.  (Note: This square is NOT from their book - I made it up.  But there are many great squares in the book!) The students started with a variety of squares and had to cut them, and layer them to create this fish.  There is a bookcase in the way so the angle of this photo isn't great., but here is our finished "quilt":

2) Directed Art Fish: Using the ideas from "Directed Drawing Volume 4: Sealife" from ABC Schoolhouse on TPT, the students created sealife for our ocean.  Each child got to pick any color of construction paper (the pieces were about 9" X 11"), and then followed my directed drawing directions using a black crayon to create several different fish.  We did just one a day.  The students cut each fish out and I taped them to our ocean.

Our fish!
Another view

3)  Individual Oceans:  After making the directed drawing fish, each child got to create their own smaller ocean animals.  They drew them in black crayon and then used watercolors to paint them.  Next they cut each animal out.  Using construction paper, they created their own background (ocean, seaweed, ...) and then glued on each animal.  Lots of steps (over several days), but they turned out adorable!  (Okay, in all honesty, I am not sure I would do this with a straight kinder class; but since I had only 10 kinders and 15 first graders, it went really well.  However, faced with 25, or possibly 30, kinders this project might be a bit much.)

4)  Writing Board:  Our displayed writing was about ... fish.  (You would think my class would be sick, sick, sick of fish, but of course they weren't!!)  Students did a directed drawing of a fish bowl.  (Can you tell that I just love doing directed drawings?!?  I do!!!)  Then I gave each student a fish sticker.  They placed it in their fishbowl and wrote about their "pet" fish.

5)  Door Display:  For Open House we decorated the door.  Most of this was done by me (usually I like to just have student work, but I was making this up as I went along, so I did it).  I took a photo of each child against a blue background (just a blue piece of butcher paper that I taped temporarily to a wall).  Then I cut fish bowl shapes out of folded paper (so that the fish bowls could open up).  Inside the fishbowl I taped student writing about kindergarten or first grade.  (Since it was Open House, I had the students sum up the year.)  Then on the outside I glued blue paper in the shape of waves and then glued their photos on top of that.  My district does not allow student photos to be displayed on the web so I chose a photo that is very unclear on purpose.  Sorry about that!

6)  Last, but definitely not, least:  Our Fish!  What would an ocean theme be without real fish?  Here are our poor babies that we studied during our FOSS module.  There are goldfish and minnows.  I am maybe the worst fish mommy in the world, but somehow they survived!  (.. and they continue to thrive!)

Whew!  That was my longest post yet!  Time for me to get some work done!