Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cyber Monday SALE!

Black Friday has come and gone but Cyber Monday is here! Don't miss out on getting a great deal on all of my TPT products. My WHOLE store is 20% off.

Check it out here: 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Student Centered Library

This year I tried something a little different in my library. I used to use a sun tent as my reading center. However, when I moved to my new school, I wasn't sure if I would be allowed to use it. Sadly, this year, there is no reading tent (tear) yet I continue to tell my students to go to the reading tent during centers time. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Instead, I decided to try something new with my students. These bins used to be painted with crabs, fish, and turtles (my old reading groups) but I re-painted them, gave them snazzy new labels, and made them a little more student centered. Now, these are my students' go to books every time they come to the library center. They can "like" books and put them in the Recommended Books bin. They can write their own books, newspapers, or magazines and put them in the Student Authors bin, and I am in charge of the Seasonal Books bin. I use the wonderful dollar books from Scholastic to fill these up for each season throughout the year.

You may be wondering where I got these cool chair bins. Many moons ago, back when I was a sparky new teacher, I found them at Five Below. However, I have since hunted high and low for replacements and have come up dry. I'm sure you could use 3 crates tied together if you felt so inclined. The fabric bins inside came from the Dollar Tree and I'm pretty positive that they would fit in a crate, though I haven't tried it. Either way, just having these three bins in one form or another in your library center will be sure to spark their interest in reading and even writing. My personal favorite is the Student Authors bin. Some of my students actually write weekly editions of their own classroom newspaper and put them in there. I remember one headline Johnny Throws Rocks at Recess! I laughed pretty hard at that one. 

Here are the signs if you would like them:

Stay warm and happy reading!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Candy Activities Split

My family is a little cuckoo for candy. My husband has eaten large amounts of candy daily since I met him 8 years ago. Apparently he always has and always will. I have embraced his fruity candy love and we celebrate candy season every year. In case you didn't know when candy season is, it starts in the beginning of October with Halloween candy and ends in April with Easter candy. We obviously take our candy very serious here. In case you were wondering, my son hardly touches the stuff (we tell him it's yucky). However, every night for our daily us time, my husband and I bring our nightly ration of candy downstairs watch TV. With so much candy in the house, I knew that there had to be some way that I could use it at school (and not just for good behavior). I created a candy activity pack last year and my students loved all of the activities. At some point this year, I realized that everyone probably doesn't want all of the different subjects and they may just want one or two. I decided to split the product up so that all of the different subjects could be purchased separately. I finally finished this morning and they have been posted to my store. In case you didn't already know, all of my products are 50% off for the first 72 hours, so don't forget to follow my store so you don't miss any new products or awesome savings! Get them while they're hot!

Happy learning!

- OneCrazyS

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Busy Busy Bee

So yes, I am aware that it seems like I have fallen of the face of the earth (or at least the internet). In the past 3 months my husband and I have painted 17 rooms, packed up a house, unpacked a house, and I have started a new job. I am at an elementary school in Springfield, VA and I couldn't be happier! All of the students, staff, and administration are absolutely wonderful. We had a fire drill the other day and I have never been more impressed. Over 700 students stood outside of the building in what seemed like dead silence. Absolutely amazing! It has taken a little while to adjust to my new environment full of construction workers and noises (our school is in the process of renovation). My year has also had an interesting twist when my class changed from a second grade class to a first and second grade split class. It has brought some new challenges to my day but SUPER organization has helped to keep me on track. My students work great with each other and we have a wonderful dynamic in our room. As you can tell, to say that I've been busy is an understatement (especially considering that I have an almost 3 year old at home too). Either way I'd like to rejoin the world of the internet and keep sharing great teaching ideas.

This year I have already come up with some great things on my own and learned some awesome things from my new colleagues! Today's share is from my new team leader who has been so helpful that I can't thank her enough. This year I put my color coded stickers at the bottom of my journals. This way my students barely had to pull their journals out of their desks to see which journal it was before deciding if it was the correct one or not. I have to say, I thought that I was pretty smart.

 Until I saw my team leader's journals. Without a doubt they were better than mine.

She had her students color the pages on the outside all the way around the journal so they didn't even  have to take their journals out at all. All they did was look inside and boom they could see the pink or green and pick the journal they needed! Genius. 

Of course, I then had all of my students color the outside of their pages too and now it's never been easier for them to find their journals. Thank you Ms. Navarrete for the super tip! Hopefully you can use this in your classroom too. Do you have a tip that helps to keep your students' desks organized? Leave a comment below!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back to School Sale!

It's that time of year where everyone is starting to go back to school! I have to go back for new teacher orientation next week though I know many of my friends are going back this week. To make this time a little easier on you and your wallet, I am throwing a SALE in my TeachersPayTeachers store! You can save 15% from me as well as another 10% from TPT. That's 25% OFF of a whole bunch of products. Check out a few that will be on sale: 

Originally $3 on SALE for $2.40!

Originally $3 on SALE for $2.40!

Originally $5 on SALE for $4!

Originally $6 on SALE for $4.80!

Originally $3 on SALE for $2.40!

Have fun shopping and I hope you have a great start to your new year!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Classroom Library

Our move is COMPLETE (minus the unpacking of a million boxes). Thank goodness! Our new house is like our own personal gym complete with several flights of stairs. I should be in pretty good shape soon enough!

I am definitely excited to be in a new state, county, and school. Change is always a good thing in my world. I am even going to teach a fifth grade class this year! It will definitely be a different teaching experience but it should be tons of fun. I have to say that if I had to pick one thing that I will miss the most out of my old first grade classroom, it would be my library. My library was always something special. It was a place for students to sit down and get lost in a good book. For five years, my classroom library was in a tent. In fact it was in a sun tent (they are like half-tents that you take to the beach). It was something that new students were always excited to see. Here is my happy place:

I don't know what my new classroom will be like so my hopes of having a tent may be lost. However, I already have some new ideas! I just painted those bins in the back of the tent white. This year I will use them as bins for: Recommended Books, Seasonal Books, and Student Author Books.  I can't wait to get started! I know that we will have a great year!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New School!

If you didn't already know, I am moving up and out of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We are headed to Springfield, VA and we couldn't be happier! I officially have a new job at Springfield Estates Elementary School and I can't wait to get started. I already have so many new ideas to try with my students. I always put a large emphasis on the fact that our class is our "school family" however, this year I want my students to feel like the classroom is their home away from home. I want them to have an active part in making the classroom theirs. My idea starts with a white table (which I have to explain the background to first). My mom's friend Ms. Anita (who is my second mother), moved into her home in Florida and found a picture on her wall. She tried to remove the picture and realized that the person who lived there before her painted on the actual wall and then put a picture frame around it. The people before her called it the "Murial." Yes, the Murial, not the Mural. Anyways, everyone who ever came to her house was asked to paint a picture onto the Murial. I really liked this idea and I wanted to do a version of this at my own house. I had an old table from when I was a child and so I painted the entire thing white and then painted a beach background on the top portion of it. Whenever a friend or family member would come to the house they would paint a picture onto the beach scene and then paint their name. It was a fun tradition and it became a very interesting beach scene full of a dolphin, battleship, and even an airplane. 

I decided that it was time for the table idea to move its way into school. I took several pictures of it and then sanded and re-painted it white. At the beginning of the year I would like to have the students paint something on the top portion of the table and then paint their name. I have a Plexiglas piece that goes on top of that part of the table so we can use it without damaging our paintings. I have also drawn squares all over the rest of the table for the students to create a quilt like creation. I drew squares so no one would paint ridiculously large pictures that took up half of the table and so no one would paint over anyone else's art work. I will keep the table on top of a plastic bag and the paints and brushes inside of the table. I think the students will love the opportunity to be creative and help personalize their classroom furniture. We'll see if it works, I'll keep you posted!

P.S. - I am without a doubt upset to be leaving my students at Woodson. I will not be able to see them grow and change and say Hello in the hallways like I always do. I told them that they are more than welcome to write to me at my new school but at the end of the year I wasn't sure where exactly I was going. To any of them who are interested in writing to me I would LOVE to hear from you!! This is the address of my new school: 

Springfield Estates Elementary
6200 Charles C Goff Drive
Springfield, VA  22150

Please don't send any letters until after September 1st if possible (they start after labor day here). I truly look forward to hearing from you and I can't wait to hear how your summer went! Plus, I'd love to tell you all about my summer adventures as well! I hope to hear from you soon (: 

Mrs. Soderstrom

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Birthdays Celebration

Every year I struggle trying to figure out what to do for those poor students who happen to have their birthday over the summer. Normally, I like to have a big class party where I make cupcakes and we sing and watch a movie for them. This year however, I had a much better idea. In case you didn't know, I love to bake! It's a sad thing for me though because no one in my house likes baked food. Not even my 2 1/2 year old boy! What's a sad baking girl to do? Bring baking to school of course! This year, I decided to bake our birthday treats as a class. Originally I was going to have us bake cupcakes but since I didn't want them working with raw eggs, I decided to use blueberry and chocolate chip muffin mix instead (where all you have to add is water).We used both of these yummy mixes to make muffin puffs (basically muffin cookies). Of course I couldn't just have them mix in the correct amount of water and be done with it, I let them experiment. We put more water in one mix than the other and made predictions on what we thought would happen. We also discussed what to do to make dough or batter thicker or thinner if we were following a recipe (this knowledge definitely comes in handy when cooking). We came to the conclusion that adding liquid to batter would make it thinner and adding a solid like flour or confectioner's sugar would make it thicker.

 First, I lined the cookie sheets with foil and sprayed them with cooking spray.

(The pans we used at school were smaller. I had to recreate this at home because I forgot to take pictures at school.)

  Then, I let each of the students put a blob of muffin mix from each bowl on the pan and then I put them in the toaster oven. (At school we put each of the different batters on different trays.) Don't worry if the blobs are too close to each other.

While the muffin puffs were baking, I wrote all of the students' names (with summer birthdays) and their birth dates on the board. I passed out colored paper and assigned 2-3 students a specific student from the board. We spent some time creating hand made birthday cards. 

Once I removed the golden brown muffin puffs from the toaster ovens (they only take about 5-7 minutes to cook), the students passed out their cards and we sang Happy Birthday. Then, we observed the different muffin puffs to see what happened when the batter was thicker or thinner. We also talked about why some of the muffins ran into each other and how we could avoid that if we ever baked them again.

 After that, I passed out the muffin puffs and juice. We had such a great time and I think the students who had a birthday over the summer really felt special. It was easy, educational, and tons of fun! I will definitely be doing this again next year!


P.S. - Normally, I try to post something every week but over the summer I am going to try to post something every other week. We are in the wonderful process of moving which means fixing and painting EVERYTHING in the house. Oh the joys of moving!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What Teachers Really Do Over The Summer

Most of us teachers have been watching all of the funny teacher videos of "What Teachers Really Do Over The Summer." Ms. South organized the whole event and one day after school turned into a fun-filled costume show of sorts. Everyone came out in full force with their boas, horse heads, masks, wheelchairs, and wigs. It was a blast and I couldn't have asked for a better end to the year. Ms. South made a great trailer for the students and we all watched it on the announcements on Friday. The big day will be next week for all of the students to watch the whole performance in all of it's glory! I can't wait! She was nice enough to post it on YouTube for all to see. Check it out below and enjoy the show!


Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Magic of YouTube

Everyone knows the power of the Internet, but one specific site has changed the face of education today. YouTube is one of the most widely used sources for informal education. If there is anything you want to learn, just look it up on YouTube, and more than likely someone will be there ready to share their knowledge with you. Personally, I use YouTube all of the time to advance my own knowledge outside of professional development opportunities, grants, graduate classes, and the like. I am well aware that I do not know everything there is to know on any particular topic, therefore I am always looking for new ideas or a fresh take on an old idea. Some teachers may spend their summers at the beach, but honestly . . . I spend most of my time learning (just ask my husband). Last summer I spent several hours a day watching YouTube videos to learn how to create a blog, as well as the title, tags, and widgets for a blog. I stayed up late learning how to create professional looking teaching materials through the use of an open source program called Inkscape. I even learned how to film, edit, and publish teaching videos to share on YouTube. I cannot express my love and admiration for this site enough. Some people may spend their time watching cat videos or funny babies, but I use it as a free gateway to gaining knowledge. You know what they say . . . knowledge is power! It's possible that I spend so much time learning because I don't have any cable or public television service, nor do I want it. I truly see myself as a lifelong learner and I always want to acquire more knowledge about anything that I can; television is a distraction to this process in my opinion. I am an inventor at heart, which explains why I am continuously curious. I use everything I do as a learning experience and then I use YouTube to help me figure out how I can improve upon those experiences. More recently, I have been using YouTube to learn a new way of teaching. Some people may already know this, but soon I will be moving away from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My family will be moving into the Springfield, Virginia area and we couldn't be happier. As a teacher in Somerset County, Maryland, I realize that many other counties (including Fairfax County, Virginia) use a much different teaching model than what I currently use in my county. I have taught in many different ways throughout my eight years of teaching, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. The key to anything in teaching is to file away the successes for later use and to learn from the failures or challenges that have been presented to you. I never truly see anything as a failure and I discuss this in depth with my students. The only way to fail is to give up! If something does not go as expected or as you had hoped, then the only real thing to do is to stop and figure out what went wrong and how can you fix it to make it work better. I see students become upset and frustrated when they think that they have failed. I then explain to them that this is not a time to be sad, but a time to think: What happened? How can I make this better? They change, they immediately stop and their mental wheels start to turn. An inventor is not someone who is the smartest man or woman in the world, but someone who never gave up and tried something multiple times until they succeeded. Yes, I realize I have wandered away from my original YouTube discussion, but this was important to say, as so many teachers ignore struggling students instead of giving them the tools needed to become self-motivating individuals. Now, back to my move to Northern Virginia. We are moving to Fairfax County and with that comes new challenges and experiences. I have been on a few interviews and have learned so much from each and every one of them. I did not realize how different the actual classroom teaching model was in other counties compared to mine. The need to know immediately took over and I began doing extensive research into the way that Fairfax County teaches. I have asked questions and emailed the Elementary Mathematics Specialist in the county. I have learned about DRA2, Words Their Way, Guided Reading, Responsive Classrooms, and Math Workshop. I have watched numerous training videos and other videos of teachers in the classroom using these types of teaching models, all without having to go out in the rain. YouTube is simply a wonderful tool for any teacher who just wants to know more. After watching videos of teachers using these strategies in their classroom, I began using some of them in my classroom as well. I like to test and try things out before jumping into anything (if at all possible). My students and I have a wonderful relationship, and I have explained to them that we are going to be trying new things and they are more than happy to oblige. We now have daily morning meetings and use transitions to get from one place to another. We meet in small, leveled guided reading groups and work on individual skills based on their needs. We use secret passwords (e.g., stars with words) on our chairs each day to help us learn new word patterns at our individual level (stay tunned for this blog post later). We meet in small groups to learn specialized math skills, which are based on previous assessments. So many changes in so little time, yet I feel nothing but happiness. I see how happy my students are to greet each other and pick transitions. I see how much they have improved because of the more individualized instruction. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing happy children learning. I have started to wonder where has this model been my whole teaching career? I have always worked hard to have happy students who enjoy learning, but this was something different. This was a whole new way of thinking and teaching, and I welcome it with open arms. I know that there is still more to learn and I am excited to see what else my good friend YouTube has to offer. I know what I'll be doing this summer, what about you?


Shaina Soderstrom

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

End of the Year Awards Necklaces

The year is beginning to come to a close and I have truly loved my class this year. We always become so close and yet I know I have to let them go. I love having my students vote and give class awards at the end of the year (like most teachers) but this year I wanted something different. I was tired of the same old certificates that ended up on the fridge for a little while, in a special box, or more than likely in the trash. I wanted something that my students could wear with pride and show off to their family. I wanted them to feel like they earned a real medal. I love to invent new things and I felt like the end of the year award necklaces were the way to go. I made a student voting sheet for the students to decide who gets which award. I also made a Teacher Tally Sheet because it used to be such a pain to figure out who won each category. With this tally sheet, I can just write the initials of the students who they voted for in each category, put tally marks if they were voted for more than once, and then circle the student who had the most tallies. Much easier!

Once I know who won each award, I'm going to print the necklaces out on card stock. After that, I will write their names and then laminate them. I made three options because I love to have different choices. Personally, I like the black and white ones the best. They are easy to print at home and don't use a lot of ink. Plus I can have the student who won the award color it themselves.

Then, all I have to do is laminate it, cut it out, punch holes on the black circles, and tie a piece of string long enough to go around their neck. Voila! Super awesome awards necklaces all ready to be worn and shown off. I am so excited to give these to my students!

There are also awards necklaces in color (so you can just print and go) and a pack of both color and black & white necklaces. However you like your necklaces, I know your students will love wearing them. I can't wait to see their smiles while they wear these! I hope your last few weeks are happy and not too stressful (: 

Check Out My End of the Year Awards Necklaces HERE:


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Classical Learning

I have spent several years working in teacher collaborative grant groups at Salisbury University. We spent many weekends and week-long summer sessions learning about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.Throughout the past year or two, STEM became STEAM, adding a new element of the Arts into STEM education. Ever since I was a child, I have been deeply involved in the arts. I love to dance, act, and create anything imaginable. I honestly think that my arts education has helped to shape me into the teacher that I am today. I try to weave the arts into my daily lessons so that my students enjoy learning and are engaged in everything we do. I love to create chants and dances to help my students remember new concepts. I also love playing music during class, especially instrumental music. The students hear plenty of lyrics throughout their lives outside of school, but I want them to truly listen to the music behind the words. Recently, I came across a wonderful group on YouTube called The Piano Guys. Most of their work consists of instrumental remakes of popular songs. They cover songs like "What Makes You Beautiful," "Let It Go," "Titanium," "Story Of My Life," and more. All of them are beautiful and my students love listening to them. My absolute favorite one to watch is "What Makes You Beautiful." 

Take a look:

When my students watched this, they were completely engrossed in the video; it is absolutely amazing to watch. Who knew you could play the piano like that? I am truly inspired and in love with this group's work. All of the songs are appropriate for everyone. I can't wait to listen to more of The Piano Guys this week! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

- OneCrazyS

Monday, May 4, 2015

DEAR Time Contest

First grade is a wonderful age where students truly become readers. Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) time started several years ago. I'm not exactly sure when, but I know that we had DEAR time many moons ago when I was a young student. I used to only have DEAR time when I could squeeze it in. Mainly because many of the students would not read the entire time. Their attention would wander and I would see several of them just running their fingers along the words quickly or looking around the room. My inventor mind went to work and I came up with our behavior snack and the DEAR Time Contest. Once DEAR time begins, I pass out a small snack (goldfish, pretzels, or animal crackers) to everyone who has behaved well all day long (their card has not been moved for poor behavior). Then, I take out my book and read with my students. While I am reading, I look up at the end of every page or two to see who is also reading. I begin to keep a short list in my head of 4 to 5 students who are engrossed in their books. As I continue to look up, I narrow my winners to 2 or 3 students who were truly reading the entire time. Once the timer goes off (I set it for ten minutes after I pass out the snack), I have everyone put their books back in their "book bag" (i.e., a gallon zipper bag where they keep all of their books in their desk) and then I have them all come and sit quietly on the carpet. I bring 1 or 2 small prizes and announce my winners. To each winner, I may give out a pencil, a smelly sticker, an eraser, or anything small for their effort.

My students love to be the winners. I also make sure that I tell everyone else who didn't win that it could be them tomorrow.  Now, we make room for DEAR time every day and my students groan when we have to stop. I have noticed that many of them are reading harder books and that they even point out spelling words and phonics lessons that we have learned in the past. The addition of a very simple contest has turned what used to be a chore into a treat. Hopefully this contest can help to keep your students actively reading during your entire DEAR time. 

How have you kept your students engaged during DEAR time? Let me know! I'd love to hear about what you've done (:


Friday, April 24, 2015

Perfect Awards Ceremony

Today we had our quarterly student awards assembly and I was worried about how a few of my students would behave during the assembly. It is long (about an hour) and not exactly engaging for a 6 or 7 year old. They are expected to sit in their seat quietly and not move a muscle while about 85 other students get their awards read off as they go up on the stage. The ones you expect almost always end up with their feet on the chair in front of them or talking to the person next to them. Today I randomly came up with a really great idea. I happened to bring some sticky notes and a pen to the awards and sat the ones who I thought might have a hard time near me. Every few minutes I would write a note to them on my sticky note like "You're doing a great job sitting quietly!" or "You aren't getting this award (honor roll) but it's OK." They looked like this: 

(I just used sticky notes that I already had on their awards folders but next time I will bring extras just for this)

I would tap them gently with my pen and show them the note. I had never tried this before and honestly I wasn't sure if it was going to do even an ounce of good. Surprisingly, every time I showed them the note, their face lit up with a big smile or they nodded their head and went back to doing an amazingly great job. I saw other teachers fussing with their kids while mine just kept looking at a new note every few minutes, smiled, and continued to sit quietly. Now I'm not saying I'm a miracle worker but it definitely worked much better than I ever though it would. I just wanted to share it to anyone who wants some peace at their awards ceremony. Hopefully it will work for you too. Let me know if you had any success or if you made any changes that worked even better!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Plants, Plants, Plants!

The birds are chirping and Spring is in the air. It's about time! No more snow to be seen. Trees and bugs are waking up from their long winter nap. Sounds like a good time to start learning about plants! We've learned about seeds, roots, and stems so far. My students love seeing our plants grow. They've enjoyed all of the books and experiments so far. Their favorite was the headband but there is so much more to come...

Inside you will find headbands, necklaces, pennants, a small book, experiments, and worksheets for each of the different plant parts (seed, root, stem, leaf, and flower). Free product in the preview! It doesn't hurt to look (: Have fun learning!


Sunday, April 12, 2015

OR Sound Song

This week we learned all about the OR sound. I like to let my students watch a video using their new sound to get them engaged in the weekly phonics skill. When I went on my quest, I became extremely frustrated with the selection. There were a total of 2 videos for kids with the OR sound. One with a giraffe where it found 4 things around the house with the OR sound. Another with the OR and AR sound. Pretty slim pickins. I always make up little chants for my students to help them remember a phonics sound. There are just so many  rules for the English language that they can be boring and hard to remember. We always sing our chants every day and practice blending words. I am by no means an expert song writer. In fact, several of them are not even songs but the kids love them and before the end of the week they know their phonics sound. Now will they apply the chant every time they read with 100% accuracy? Well, that's another story. I decided this week I was going to make a video of the chant that we did and then how we blend our words to read. Check out the video and pass it along (: 

Let me know what you think! Have a great week (:


Friday, April 3, 2015

Reading Buddies

When I started teaching first grade five years ago a friend of mine, Ms. Finlayson, enlightened me to the wonderful idea of reading buddies. It started out as just a friend for students to read with during DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time but has evolved into so much more. Over the years my students have become very creative with their buddies and those small, cuddly bunches of fluff have helped my students to become more fluent, use expression in their voice while reading, and to just plain love reading. I don't hear the ugh when I say it's DEAR time. I hear the ugh and the groans when it's time to stop. Check out how I use reading buddies in my classroom: 

I hope some buddies make their way into your room. My kids love to read with them at their desk or around the room during indoor recess too! Grab a book and have fun reading (: 


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Sight Word Cards

Spring is finally in the air! However, it did flurry today but I'm going to forget that I saw that. Spring is my favorite season by far. No more dark days, no more cold nights, hello warm air and beautiful colors! As part of my daily intervention group, my students practice their own set of sight word cards. I thoroughly believe that being able to recognize and read sight words is one of the most important foundations to becoming a fluent reader. Since I've been hoping Spring would hurry along, I've made my students some new, flowery sight word cards. I made four different options because let's be honest, who doesn't like choices?

When I use these I quiz each of my students individually. I give them the student word list first and while they read each word, I use the checklist to mark which ones they did and did not get correct. 
Then, I only give them cards for the words that they did not get correct. I have them write their initials on the back of each card and put them in a baggie with their name on it.

Over the course of a few weeks the students practice their words on their own, with a partner, or with a stuffed buddy. If they don't know a word, I tell them what it is. I quiz each student a couple of times a week. While I quiz them I make two piles with their cards. I make a pile for the words they know and a pile for the ones they don't. When I am done quizzing them, they put the words they don't know back into their baggie. I give them a marker or a pen for the words they do know and have them draw a dot along the top of each card that they got correct. I try to give them different colors each day to make it a little more fun. Once they have at least 5 dots on most of their cards, I quiz them again on the entire word list. Whichever words they still do not know, they keep in their baggie. Then, I send all of the cards that they do know home in a separate baggie with the parent note attached. They love practicing their words because it becomes a game of how many more words can they get today. They also really want to get to the next level. I've noticed more confidence in these students as the year progresses and their ability to readily recognize and read sight words improves greatly. Hopefully these cards can help you with your little readers too!

Check them out here: 

Try to stay warm and have fun reading!


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Compass Cha-Cha

We've been working on cardinal directions and I really wanted a fun review song or dance for my students. I looked on YouTube and Pinterest and didn't really have much luck. While helping some students with their direction words, a perfect cardinal directions song/dance just poofed into my head. It is to the tune of the Cupid Shuffle. I actually did it with my students before recording it to see if they liked it or not. They were singing it all day long and now they remember which direction is which! Super success in my book (: Check out the song below:

If you like this, share it or leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Compass Hide-and-Seek

We've just finished our economics unit and now we are off in a whole new direction. Maps, maps, and more maps! I began by teaching the basic cardinal directions. I have a little chant that we do as we clap our hands outstretched in each direction: North, South, East, and West, These are what we know the best! I also thought of something new this year that I wanted to share. It was something I had never done but my students had such a good time with it. We played cardinal directions hide and seek. I cut colored note cards in half and together we made our very own, genuine compass. I showed them some pictures of basic compasses on the computer. They all wrote the cardinal directions on the blank side of their card and their name on the back. Some of my students made theirs look fancier but my model looked like this:

We very briefly discussed intermediate directions but not in depth since I only teach first grade.Every time I teach directions my students tend to grasp North and South pretty quickly but East and West are always confusing to them. In order to help with this, I had everyone get in line with their compass and told them that different rooms in the school were hiding and it was our job to figure out which directions we had to go in order to find them. Whenever we got to a dead end or "stop sign" in our school I had all of the students whisper to me in line which direction we had to go next to get wherever we were going. When you do this, your trip will mainly consist of East and West which gives your students tons of practice. I made it so that our final destination was the lunch room and I made sure to collect all of their compasses before they entered the lunch room doors. The students loved walking around and checking their compasses. They keep asking to play again so we might use them on the way to specials next week. We will see how much they remember. Hopefully this is something you can use too! I hope you have a great week (:


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Easy Math Ring Toss

We've had so many snow days that I don't even know what to do with myself! Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I LOVE snow. In my world if it's going to be cold outside it better snow! I've had tons of fun with my family. We've made 3 snowmen so far and had some snow cream. I have to say though, after all of this snow, it's going to be really hard to have a full 5 day school week. Oh well, all good things must come to an end. The fun doesn't have to stop though, take it to school! Try making this ring toss game. It's a cheap, easy, and quiet game that will have your students begging to play again! Check it out below:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teachers Are Heroes Sale!

Coming TOMORROW to the TeachersPayTeachers world is a wonderful Teachers Are Heroes Sale. In the midst of all of this ridiculously cold weather (we were off for a whole week), warm up with some red hot sales! Most people are only reducing their prices by 20% but I think we all need a well deserved break (: Here are the items in my store that will be on SALE:
Visit my store HERE

Character and Setting Video Pack
Regular Price $3 - SALE Price $2

Alphabet Book - ABC Book

Regular Price $3 - SALE Price $2

This is one of my absolute favorite products. My students loved doing all of the candy activities! Tons of activities for all of the different subject areas inside. This is one of the best deals too!

Literacy, Math, STEM, and Social Studies Candy Activity Pack

Regular Price $5 - SALE Price $3

Owl Chevron Classroom Pack

Regular Price $7 (Value $11) - SALE Price $5!

Short Vowels Worksheets - Loomy Bracelets

Regular Price $2 - SALE Price $1

Spelling Test and Quiz Templates - Monthly

Regular Price $3 - SALE Price $2

Grab these deals now! For ONE DAY ONLY! Who knows how long it will be until another sale this good rolls around again! Have a great day and Happy Shopping (: 


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Safe Buddy Website

So, I have been very focused on spreading the word of Safe Buddy to as many people as possible. However, I am sadly the smallest fish ever in the deep abyss of the ocean. I decided to make a website just for this endeavor. I wanted to help people find the perfect Safe Buddy for them and to have a place for everyone share their Safe Buddies. I have been working for a while and am finally done! Check it out for yourself and leave a comment and let me know what you think. If there is something you want but don't see just contact me and I will make it for you. If you like this idea, please spread it with others so that one day every soldier will have their own Safe Buddy (:

Thanks a bunch and have an awesome day!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Slip and Slide

Sweet mother of mercy it is cold! I don't know where you live but here in the not normally frozen state of Maryland it is a hot 13 degrees. Considering our central heat has been broken for the past two years, our little electric heaters have been keeping it a balmy 62 degrees in the house. I've got on two sweaters and two pairs of pants... brrr. Hopefully it is warmer wherever you are. At least now we're getting some snow! While pretending to be in warmer weather this past week, my class had a slip and slide learning experience to learn how easy it is to add to the number 10. Now they understand why it is so important to try make a group of 10 whenever they are adding. Click the link below to check it out:

Leave a comment and let me know what you think (: 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Valentine's Day Crafty Fun!

I can't believe that Valentine's Day is almost here! Boy did the beginning of 2015 fly by! I was tired of some of the same old word searches and coloring sheets and wanted something more crafty for my students. Of course my students had to be my guinea pigs and they had the best time making these. I came up with party placemats (with a place for your plate and drink of course):

Loomy bracelets:

Picture Hangers - just add a clothespin and some string (:

If I had to guess their favorite, I'd probably say it was the heart-pouch necklace. Each student had a sheet at their desk with their name on it. Everyone walked around and wrote one reason why they liked each person in the class.
Then they went back to their seat, cut out their notes, and heart pouches. Then they glued their heart pouches together with some wet glue and stuck their notes inside (I helped them tie on the necklace string). They loved being able to reach in and grab the little notes inside and read why someone in their class liked them.

My personal favorite is the heart pocket headbands. The students layer the heart onto the headband to make a pocket and then place small "smile" hearts inside. Whenever they see someone who looks unhappy or sad they can give them a smile (: I love helping students to be happy, the way their face lights up when they get these smiles is priceless!

Well I hope your students loved these crafts as much as mine did. You can pick up your own here:

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! Happy Valentine's Day (: 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tricks of the Trade

Originally I really wanted to make fun videos for my students but I have found it to be extremely time consuming and with a 2 year old at home, I honestly don't have the time right now to make them. Instead, I've decided to make some videos called Tricks of the Trade. These are just going to be random ideas, tips, tricks, and chants that I have either learned or created over my 8 years of teaching. I have also learned a lot from my mother who taught for over 30 years. I am a teaching scavenger and I am always on the hunt for something new, creative, and engaging. This series will hopefully be a fun way for other teachers to see some new "tricks" for their classroom.

Check out my Trick of the Trade #1 - Reading Pointers:

Cheap, easy, and tons of fun. Let me know what you think!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Early Finisher Bins

Last time I talked about one of my new favorite early finishers - student authors. This week it's all about my newest early finisher idea: Early Finisher Bins. I spend most of my summer working on things for the new year. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "Don't teachers lay on the beach all summer?" Not this freckled one. My summer normally consists of organizing files, finally checking out all of the things I have pinned over the year, and then turning them into tangible items for my classroom. A young intern for the ELL teacher walked into my room and told me that it looked like Pinterest exploded. Frankly, she was right. I try several new things each year. Some succeed, some fail but either way the outcome is always surprising. One of my newest additions this year was the early finisher bin. I have never been the best teacher ever when it came to students who finished early. So this was definitely something I wanted to work on this year. I found a bunch of early finisher ideas on Pinterest and then I made cards, envelopes, and bins for each table in my classroom. I gave each student a zip lock bag of early finisher cards. Then I made bags and envelopes with the early finisher cards taped to them so they knew which cards went with which materials in the bins.

I got these bins at Michaels years ago and frankly they've been sitting in my room longing for a home. I thought this was the perfect use for them. Each table gets a bin with a bunch of materials. There are different types of papers (white, dotted lined, lined with blank space), notepads, envelopes and other things inside.

I have to say that these:

Were by far the most popular thing everyone wanted to do. They LOVED writing letters. We ran out of envelopes in a week! Good thing the dollar tree has more (: I've found this bin to be a great creative outlet for those students who finish their work early. There are a lot of different things inside for them to do so they don't get bored with it. It is also a great and fun way to practice the writing process (which we all know we never have enough time for). Either way, these bins are definitely a keeper for next year!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Awesome Authors

        Every year I try a plethora of ideas with my new batch of students. Some of the ideas are wonderful (like the lost and found box), while some of them are a bust (hot gluing fire pens). When I first started teaching, many moons ago, I used to struggle with the higher level students. What on earth should they do when they finish their work early? After years of trial and error my students are now challenged and engaged even if they finish early. How? You might ask. Two simple things have made my students independent and driven young children. 

        The first thing I tried, I learned in an early childhood writing class a few years ago. This class promoted students as authors. My professor encouraged us to move away from the conventional book paper which had a box for a picture and lines for their writing. We were told to give them blank paper and ask them to write a book. While I was skeptical at first, I was astonished at what my students were capable of. Sure some of them produced books that were repetitive or not exactly a story but some were absolutely amazing. Many were more than I could have ever imagined a first grader to create. Some students created their own versions of stories we had read in the past while others created a whole new story of their own. What I learned was that this activity was something that automatically tailored itself to each student's personal level. This is an ongoing activity that I give time for every day. When my students have finished their book, I always make sure that I give them time to share. This part of the writing process is extremely important and sadly overlooked by many. This is the time for the author to feel pride in their work and for the audience to see what they like and don't like about someone else's work. It allows students with lower ability to strive to have books like those who take their time and have full story books. It allows higher students to become true authors and illustrators. I have even had students team up where one is the author and the other is the illustrator. Here is a book that one of my students wrote. They created their own version of the Don't let the Pigeon ___ (these pigeon stories are written by Mo Willems). This one is called Don't Let the Pigeon Eat too Much.

I thought this was great! Not only did it have an actual story with a beginning, middle, and end but it had wonderful illustrations that matched their story. After they are done writing, I let them share. They others give them glows and grows. Things that they like about the book as well as ways that they can grow in their writing. The one thing that stood out to me with this book was the tendency to write words at the bottom of the page and then at the top of the page which was somewhat confusing to the reader. This student saw this and was able to fix this in future books. My students love this activity so much that they even ask to write their books during recess. This is my absolute favorite activity to do with my students! It turns them into young children who absolutely love to write. 

Stay tuned next week for my newest early finisher idea. A must have in every classroom!
I hope everyone had a wonderful winter break and starts the new year bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (: