1 Second Everyday #thankful

Alright--so I had a random (but really cool) idea this weekend. My roommate/co-worker Kelsey Svrcina and I were talking about making a Thankful Tree at school so our kids could write down what they are thankful for through the month of November. We both think it is so important to acknowledge how lucky we are to have so many things to be thankful for--whether they be small or big.

As I thought more and more about ways we could show ways we are thankful, I remembered the app my friend Natalie Priest  told me about while we were working on our Masters this summer in Ireland. It is called 1 Second Everyday and it allows you to record 1 second of each day, and then it puts the seconds together for you in a video. It is really awesome. The app is $2.99. Natalie recorded 1 second of each day in Ireland, and the resulting video was phenomenal.
Anyway, I had the idea that my kids could take turns recording 1 second of each day at school to show what they are thankful for. Before we leave for Thanksgiving, we can watch it together as a class! I think it will be a great way to show how how we are all thankful for different things, and that there are some things we did not even realize we should be thankful for. Please feel free to join me and try this with your class! I would love to hear about it and watch your video. Stay tuned for ours :)

Cardboard Challenge 2015

Right before the school year started, I attended and presented at our schools professional development day: Rebel U. I presented on providing opportunities for creativity in the classroom--hoping to inspire other teachers to let students PLAY this year :) During my session, we watched and discussed the Caine's Arcade video and the Cardboard Challenge.

A few days later, our awesome Tech Integration Specialist, Sarah Wood, and one of our wonderful high school/middle school Spanish/English teachers, Rosana Tocco, approached me with the idea of our two classes working together to create a cardboard arcade! I was SO excited and completely on board with the idea. Our district is small enough for Rosana's class to walk to the elementary school and back in one class period (it's pretty awesome). So, our plan was to have our kids collaborate a few times and then display our projects for the school to see. As we continued to work out the details, we came up with the idea of our classes hosting a cardboard arcade for the school. Knowing how supportive our administration is (kudos to our principal, Peter Geerling, and superintendent, David Britten), we decided to take the Cardboard Challenge school wide (that means over 400 students would have the opportunity to create a passion project--woohoo!).

Students spent four weeks working on their projects during art time. Rosana's class came to work with us about five times for roughly 35 minutes at a time. The interactions between the older and younger students was rewarding to see. The older students had the opportunity to act as mentors for my little guys and develop a sense of leadership, and my students were able to create an amazing project in a small amount of the time with the assistance of the older students. What Rosana and her class never got to see was the excitement on my students' faces when I said "the high schoolers are coming today." They really loved and looked up to the big kids :) We truly became a little family of learners and problem solvers. I am really, really going to miss getting together with Rosana and her class! We will have to start brainstorming for the next project :)

On Friday, the four weeks were up and we had a BLAST at The Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center Cardboard Carnival! Teachers took their classes on a gallery walk through the school to see each individual student's project. As I walked around with my class, I witnessed my students asking questions, complimenting and "ooh-ing" and "ahh-ing" at the projects they saw. I witnessed other students explaining to my students where they came up with their ideas and how they put their projects together. I witnessed so much pride and happiness in each and every student! It was AMAZING! Check out some projects below.
After the gallery walk, grade levels met my class and Rosana's class in the gym to play the cardboard arcade games. Rosana and I sat back and watched our kids take charge and run their own carnival. Her students brought in hundreds of dollar store prizes...and GOLDFISH--yes, real, live goldfish (I am pretty positive every student who came to the carnival left with a prize). They passed out tickets to students who played the games and the students then took those tickets to the prize table (with huge smiles on their faces).
The atmosphere in the gym was incredible--excitement, ownership and a little bit of nervousness. I have to admit I was super nervous about how the day would go...and that is why we, as teachers, need to follow the advice we encourage our students with: take chances. I am hoping the Cardboard Carnival at the ECC is an annual event and I cannot wait to see what we come up with next year!

I also cannot forget to add that we were all able to participate in this awesome afternoon because we were fed a delicious lunch from some of our wonderful parent volunteers. Homemade tacos :) I love, love, love our school!

I'm back!

Wow...sorry for the leave of absence! As you know, I was in Ireland for 4 weeks working on my Masters in Educational Technology (I am 2/3 of the way there...woo!) and then I spent a week traveling Europe with my mom. It was a LOT of fun but I am very happy to be home :) I took lots of fun pictures of videos that I look forward to sharing with my new batch of first graders!

Speaking of my new batch of first graders...I am SO EXCITED! When I compare my feelings now to this time last year, I think I am more eager and more excited to get back. My experience with my first year teaching last year and all of the new things I've learned this summer is what I believe has me so psyched. It is a beautiful summer day outside so I am going to make this post quick.

Here is what I have been up to!

1.) Classroom Website: Last year I did not have much time to consistently update and promote the use of my classroom website. My goal this year: make it a priority. I have spent so much time since I have been home updating and morphing my website into what is going to work best for myself, my kiddos and their parents. The part I am most proud of: subject area resources. Disclaimer: This is not done yet. I am going to continue adding resources as the school years go by--I think it is unrealistic for me to get all the resources on there at once! I am using Blendspace to organize all of the resources by skill. Please check out our website and give me some feedback!

2.) Daily 5 CAFE: This year, I am going to implement CAFE along with our Daily 5 instruction with the other teachers at our school. I am really, really excited to do this as I feel the two frameworks/strategies complement each other perfectly. Here was my one problem: I could not find matching Daily 5 & CAFE posters...URG! Huge problem...right? (I know...I am crazyI). I am such perfectionist when it comes to bulletin boards. So of course I had to create my own! I am not complaining though...it was really fun for me to practice my designing abilities and also learn more about the frameworks. I feel as though I have such a better grasp on how and what I will be teaching during reading this year. You can find my new Daily 5 CAFE posters here and here FOR FREE! :)

3.) Relaxing & getting back in shape: Yep...I am forcing myself to do these things! Teachers have this tendency to revolve their lives around helping other people instead of themselves. During August, we revolve our lives around our future students and how we are going to support them in our best ways possible. However, I don't think we can be our best unless we feel our best. I have been jogging/walking 5 minutes each morning (getting addicted), replacing coffee with MateFit tea, and replacing chips as my afternoon snack with Balance Bars. I am not making any drastic changes (besides the getting rid of coffee everyday thing) and I feel great! Hopefully I can keep it up as the year goes on!
That is all for now! I am going to spend one more week at home by the pool and then it is back to Michigan to set up my classroom (YAY!). Enjoy your last few weeks in the sun!

Happy Teaching!

Base Ten Organization

Schools go a little later in New York, so today was my moms last day of school! I went to school in the same district she teachers in, so I always love to go back and visit everyone. Now that I am an official teacher with my own classroom, I have what you might call teacher vision. Only teachers have teacher vision. Teacher vision is kind of hard to explain--but basically it is when you see something in a school hallway and you wonder...Is that free? Can I take that? I can totally use that in my classroom. Is someone seriously throwing that out?! ... Then, you take it (making sure you've checked with the person who ditched it first--that part is very important) and put it to good use. One teachers trash is another ones precious treasure. What I am getting at here is that today I hit the jackpot. Teachers left and right were ditching stuff and I was taking it all! They were relieved and happy their belongings were finding a 1st grade home!

My mother then had the brilliant idea to stop by my old elementary school and look for grade level goodies. I left with 5 BOXES full of stuff (score)! The pictures don't even do it justice--my moms SUV was full, too Not only was it great to get more supplies for my classroom, it was great to see old teachers and go back to the place that instilled my love for learning. That is where the magic happens and I'm so lucky I get to be on the other side of it now.
Now that I am done rambling...to the good stuff. One of the very useful things I acquired was different types of base ten blocks. Lots of different colors and even some foam base ten blocks--which I think my kids will really like.

I could not stand this past year how I organized my base ten blocks (in ziplock bags). Half the time the bags weren't closed, the amount of blocks in the bags were totally uneven, and by the end of the year the bags were totally destroyed (if they even made it that far). SO here is where my crazy organizational side comes out. I went to the Dollar Tree and found these Betty Crocker Divided Containers.  ($1 a piece, about $26 total--completely worth the money for me). Next year, each student will have their own box of base ten blocks to be responsible for (alleluia). All that's left to do is number them and decide where I want to put them--desks or shelves? Any suggestions are appreciated.
How do you organize your base ten blocks?

Happy Teaching!!

Guided Reading Changes

Now that my first year is over, I am SO ready for year 2! I thoroughly enjoyed my first year (I had the most perfect group of first graders) but there are so many things I want to change to improve my teaching practice and my classroom. SO what better place to start than guided reading time? We all know that learning to read is a crucial part of first grade. This year, I felt as though my guided reading time was just okay. I had the materials I needed and differentiated my groups--but I did not feel as though we were working towards any specific goals (aside from the obvious learning to read).

That's where Mrs. Wheeler comes in! I follow a lot of teacher blogs--I feel like it's professional development at your finger tips whenever you want it. I can only hope I have a blog similar to those that I follow one day--but I think that will come with time, experience & confidence. Anyway, Mrs. Wheeler is a fantastic first grade teacher who, through reading her blog, I am learning a lot from. Her blog has fantastic ideas for any first grade classroom and those ideas can also be applied across other grade levels. She has saved me this summer by providing various resources to support guided reading time. You can read about all of her resources and what they provide on Mrs. Wheeler's TPT site. Below, I've provided pictures that you can click on to take you to each resource I will be using this upcoming school year.
My favorite resource she provides comes from her Guided Reading Resources K-1 product. She gives you everything, step-by-step to ensure a successful and smooth running guided reading time. Specifically, I love that she provides "Skills by Level." As a new teacher, I don't always know what exactly my kids needed to progress to the next level (yes, I can admit that :) ). With her list of skills, I can easily assess my students during our time together and give them exactly what they need to advance. It will be my best friend next year :) I cannot wait to put her products to use and see my kids flourish. Working like crazy before my departure to Ireland!
If you want a quick look at how Mrs. Wheeler runs her guided reading groups, download her FREE planning guide! Thanks, Mrs. Wheeler!
I leave for Ireland on Friday (WOO!!). I am still putting off packing my clothes because I am the WORST packer ever. So, I have been busy getting my goodbyes in and shopping of course. I treated myself to an early birthday gift--the Fitbit Charge HR. I love it for multiple of reasons (heart rate monitor, called ID, exercise tracking) and I can't wait to see how many steps I get in abroad.
I hope everyone is enjoying summer!

Happy Teaching!

Summer Project: Rise & Shine Binders

Unfortunately and fortunately, I have a short summer due to my study abroad program in Galway, Ireland :) Woohoo! I'll be pursuing my masters through Michigan State University in Educational Technology. I am super excited for this opportunity to travel across the pond (first timer) and bring back some awesome ideas for my upcoming school year.

Seeing as my trip is 11 days away, I don't have TOO much time to obsess over what I'll be changing about my classroom for next year. I am such a busy body and constantly trying to improve my classroom (it is a blessing and a curse). Over the next 11 days, I will be finishing a project I'm working on for the upcoming year. This idea came from an amazing teacher I follow on TPT, Reagan Tunstall. I read her blogpost about the "Rise & Shine Binder" she created and it was something I knew I had to try. You can purchase the binder materials for $7.50, here :)  
During the last school year, I spent a lot of time and paper each month putting together morning work packets. It was just...blah. The kids did not love it and either did I--hence, the Rise & Shine Binders! I'm about half way done putting them together, and yes--putting them together is a lot of work--but I am confident my kids will love them and instill very important first grade skills in the process. After reading Reagan's blogpost, I was convinced! Here's my progress so far:
Sheet protectors & Expo markers--I'm saving a rainforest!

Ok this right here is one of my favorite parts. Base ten is HUGE in first grade--practicing this each morning is going to be so beneficial for my little guys. Great for fine motor skills, too!

I think I will make something like this for my students who need a little extra help here. Reagan uses a clear counter and I think that will work great for my higher kiddos.
I can't wait to put them into action!

Happy Teaching! Or as they say in Ireland--Slan go foill!

Chromebook's in a First Grade Classroom

A goal of mine this year was to get my first graders on our schools classroom set of Chromebooks as frequently as possible! We are SO lucky to have them at our school and I wanted to take advantage of that. Last year, I interned in a fourth grade classroom where most of my students knew how to use a computer, a mouse, a keyboard, the internet, etc. Using the schools laptop cart was relatively easy as the majority of my students knew how to handle the devices and navigate them. I knew that working with first graders would be a whole different story! During parent teacher conferences, I learned that 7 out of 23 of my students had access to internet at home (via handheld devices such as an iPhone or a tablet). Our classroom sessions at the computer lab also made me aware of the lack of exposure they had with laptops and computers. It was evident from the start that I needed to teach some computer skills to my little guys!

Using the classroom set of Chromebooks is (I hate to say it) relatively pointless without a management strategy :) You cannot expect to just get the Chromebook cart and pass out the laptops and expect a stress-free situation--something I have been working on in first grade in general! I'm still transitioning from my fourth grade teacher brain to my first grade teacher brain :) Anyway, here are a list of some simple things I found that made our Chromebook experience an amazing one!

1.) Patience You need it and the kids need it. As you can imagine and I'm sure relate to, when a first grader has technology in their hands it is one of the best times of the day. So, the second something goes wrong with an iPad or computer you can expect a reaction similar to this...they are six years old :) However, who is that helping? We sat down on the carpet together as a class and I asked them that...brief silence...and then their response: "nobody!" Ugh, they're so smart :) They all agreed that sometimes technology might not work the way we expect it to (low batteries, frozen screen, broken buttons, no internet, etc). So we agreed to use the ever so simple silent hand raising signal which tells me as the teacher that something isn't right with their computer and they need some help! We related this to our Daily 5 training and had kids show good and bad examples of how to handle a Chromebook problem!

Yes, I know this is a very teenie tiny management tip. But since we have established this rule, computer time is nearly silent and there is (brace yourself) no whining! The kids learn to be patient, too. They know that they might need to wait a few minutes until I can get to their desk to help them. Life skill!! I'm all about those. Computer time is now very laid back and manageable!

2.) Take a whole class period to explain the norms and how the kids will be managing their Chromebooks. Prior to this lesson, I numbered all of the Chromebooks with my labeler as well as their designated slot in the Chromebook cart.  

I do this for three reasons. First, I train my kids to take and put away their own Chromebooks...saves TONS of time. Second, if a Chromebook breaks or needs tech support, I can simply make note of what number device it is and send that information to the tech department. Third: I'm an organization freak :)

We took a class period to practice taking out our Chromebooks, carrying our Chromebooks, posture while using the Chromebooks, putting away Chromebooks, plugging Chromebooks into their chargers, transporting the laptop cart, reciting our technology reminder ("be patient!"), and what to do when we need help (silently raising hands). The kids took this SO seriously. I am constantly reminding them that not every school or classroom has access to this technology and that we should all be very grateful!

I know what you might be thinking--I don't have time to take a class period to do that! However, I don't think I or any teacher could mentally handle using the Chromebooks if the students didn't have responsibilities or know the expectations. It has saved me loads of time in the long run.

3.) Take a day to go over basic functions of the device. This is also a major time saver! I mirrored a Chromebook screen with my Apple TV onto the board and had the kids follow right along with me. For some kids, it was a review...good thing they know to be so patient :) But for most of them, it was a lot of information that their sponge-y brains retained (seriously I have barely had to repeat myself). We covered:
  • turning the chrome book on and off
  • how to click, double click and right click
  • how to delete typing
  • how to adjust the sound (this is a BIG one)
  • how to open the internet--what is a URL? Where do we find a URL? What to all URLs have (www and .com)?
  • how to type in an internet site--sounds terrifying doesn't it? Don't underestimate your little guys...I did and I was blown away with their spelling and typing skills!
  • how we leave our computers for the next person (exit any open programs, volume, make sure they're charged, etc.)

Within 30 minutes, my kids were using the Chromebooks like pros. It has also made our computer lab time much more manageable. They know how to use the computers now and problem solve...again, life skill :) It also makes things much, much easier on me. I am doing a lot less running around for simple fixes and more conferencing.

4.) My kids know how to use the computer...now what? With the exception of Fun Free Choice Friday, my kids do not get on the computers and just play games. That's a very important thing to realize as a teacher...these resources are not provided to us to provide for more planning time. In fact, computer time is one of my busiest times in my day. I am constantly walking around--answering questions and monitoring.

During our Chromebook time you can find us doing quite a few things. My classroom website has a "useful websites" section. They can find activities for any subject. I'm all about choice--so I might say, "you may pick any activity under the Reading tab today." They also might be working in their type writing skills. I also have various keyboarding games provided on my website that they can practice with--that's another (drum roll please) life skill!
Next years goal: google drives for each student. I just didn't have time for that this year..and that's ok! Baby steps. I'd rather have my kids be experts using the Chromebooks rather than me scrambling to put those together and have it be a big mess. I'd love to have them do some of their writing in the chrome books.

5.) Enjoy! :) Seriously though...sometimes I just step back and take a minute to watch my kids use the Chromebooks. It makes me so happy to see their progress and interest in technology. You will not have moments like that unless you take the time to set up a management system for yourself...my way is by no means perfect--but for my first year, it works! I hope it helps you, too :) Happy Teaching!

Have any other management tips for using a classroom set of Chromebooks/laptops/computers in the classroom? Leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you :)