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Monday, March 27, 2017

Mother's Day Tea

The school I was at last year had a tradition of doing a Mother's Day tea in May!  It was a fantastic day for our first graders to get dressed up and invite moms (or grandmas or aunts or volunteer teachers as stand-ins :) ) to our classroom for a special tea and celebration!

Here's a look back at last year's tea party celebration.

Table Decorations

The kiddos helped me with everything!  I really wanted them to understand the responsibility and the joy that comes with hosting a party.  And they were so precious with how serious they were about setting this up just so! :)

We covered our group tables with a plastic table cloth.

Then, we added our gifts to each place setting.  The mother's would be sitting in the chairs while the kids stood and served their mommies!  The gifts that were at each place setting were the mom interviews (not shown), the "I love you because" picture and writing (each of these are found here)...

...And the mom portraits and frames!

In the center of each table, my firsties unfolded a paper napkin to add a splash of color in the middle of the table.  Then, they filled a plastic cup with water and added some fresh, knockout roses that I cut straight from my flowerbeds the night before.

At the end of our mother's day tea, we drew names (see the picture of the raffle container) for 6 moms to take home the arrangements in the middle of the table!

Food Table

I was in charge of decorating our food table...although I did enlist some help from some especially well-mannered firsties....*wink, wink*

I bought 2 flower pots as "grand prizes" to give away from our raffle.  I used one to decorate the food table and the other went by the raffle container.  I unfolded a few extra napkins to add splashes of color to our table as well.

For food, we served nuts, grapes and strawberries, and cupcakes (which I ordered from Sam's club for $14 for 30 cupcakes).  I added yellow plates, stacks of napkins and a small jar of forks to fill up the rest of the table.  It really was super super easy...yet the moms just raved and raved about how special it was! #winning 

I ordered half chocolate and half white cupcakes with yellow icing.  Then, we made these cupcake liner flowers as souvenirs for the moms and they also made a beautiful topper!  Read the how to on these cupcake liner flowers here {post coming soon!}.

As the moms arrived, my firsties instructed them to fill out a raffle card with their name on it.  Then, the first graders were to turn in the raffle card for the mom.  Next, they went and prepared a plate for their mom after asking them what they wanted to eat.  Finally, they shared their gifts with them and visited with their moms while the moms, my firsties did not eat!  We talked about it before hand and they were given strict instructions that this was all about mom!  {...but for those amazing hosts and hostesses, I did have cookies that I bought for them to eat after our celebration was over!}

This was such a fun tradition and I was so thankful I got to be a part of it!  My first graders were so proud and learned that it truly is better to give than to receive!

Find these crafts and tons more activities in my Mother's Day packet. {And get Father's Day crafts here!}

Thursday, March 2, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Toddler Fun

Here's a flashback to that time when my now preschooler was still a toddler and all the fun we had exploring all things green!  Plus, my favorite holiday lunch EVER!!
(Note: this was originally with another St. Patrick's Day post, but I decided to make it a blog post on its own!)

Our afternoon was all about learning the color green!  I made a sensory tub with things that were green and two things that weren't.  Instead of doing 3D objects, I did die cuts from school so we could turn our game into a book!

Cooper loved getting to dig into the oats...but got so frustrated when the oats fell out of the tub and he couldn't pick them up with his fingers!  Silly boy!

 Is the apple green?  Noooooo...
 We found the shamrock!

Then, we took all of our green die cuts {leaf, frog, tree, and shamrock} and glued them into a "Green" book.  I was super excited to make this with Cooper so he would have something to remember our game with!  Cooper?? Not so much...

He was so over it and ready to go outside and play.  So we glued our pictures down and made our book in a flash! {As the old teacher adage goes, "Modify and adjust..."}

Cooper really does love to read, so I'm hoping he'll enjoy going back and reading our green book later...we'll see if we are that *LUCKY!*

Since, I had to miss Cooper's lunch time, I packed him a *LUCKY* lunch: rainbow kabobs, pot o' gold {errrr...corn!} and lucky guacamole!

Apparently, he loved it!  So thankful my mother-in-law sent me a picture of him enjoying his lunch!

Last, but not least, Cooper had a play date with his cousin, Jax, today while I was at school.  Apparently, it was too much to ask for a picture of them together!  This one's a keeper!

Better *LUCK*, next time, boys! *wink*

I hope you had a fun-filled St. Patrick's day full of lots of love and luck!  This holiday is always a silly reminder of how "rich" and "lucky" {errr....BLESSED!} I really am!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dr. Seuss Week with Preschoolers

Dr. Seuss week is one of my favorites in the classroom (read about it here) and I'm sad I'll be missing out on it this we brought some Dr. Seuss fun home this week!

Green Eggs and Ham Rhyme Match

My preschooler loves matching games so we pulled out my rhyming match cards that go with Green Eggs and Ham and have played a few games already this week!  Even for a preschooler, this game was so helpful in practicing our phonemic awareness and listening for rhyming sounds as mommy read the words!

Rhyming Hats

We read The Cat in the Hat.  Then, Cooper loved seeing how "tall" we could make the cat's hat by adding more rhyming words!

And then we Daddy came home from the gym, Cooper begged him to join our game!  So we played a family game of "pass the pen."

These hats are also great in the classroom for pass the pen, independent practice for stations or doing a carousel activity whole group!

Dr. Seuss Snacks

The best part about celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday at home this year will be the fun snacks!  My little guy is going to go crazy when we make these snacks this year! :)

All of these activities and much much more can be found in my Dr. Seuss packet.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Joy of Teaching Through Our Battles

I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was my first year teaching.  My parents set us down the weekend before and told us that my dad had taken a superintendent job almost 3 hours away.  And this daddy's girl, who had never been away from my parents longer than a week, bawled like a baby.  Like, the ugly cry.

And just about the time I got it together, it was time go teach first grade the next morning.  At some point in my trying-to-be-cheery morning at school, the rest of the staff found out my dad was leaving our district and moving away.  And with everyone around me knowing my life-changing news again, I bawled.  Again.  In front of my firsties.  And it was so noticeable that I kept getting asked by my sweet kiddos if I was okay.

As terrible as that was to deal with my first year teaching, I had no idea that would be one of the smallest personal battles I fought on the public stage of teaching kids.

Over the next 10 years of my teaching career, I received all kids of shocking, life changing news and battled through numerous personal struggles...all surrounded by 6 and 7 year olds.

It was in my first grade classroom that I fielded phone calls from nurses about test results.

It was in my classroom that I dealt with the eminent death of grandparents.

It was in my classroom that I quarantined myself from my teacher besties so I could pump and continue to nurse my baby for 13 months.

It was in my classroom that I cried tears of separation anxiety from leaving my baby boy each morning.

It was in my classroom that I learned my newborn niece passed away.

It was in my classroom...minutes before parent teacher conferences that I got a phone call that we weren't pregnant.  Again.

And the list goes on.  The list is even longer for many other teacher friends.

Receiving and dealing with shocking news isn't a teacher thing.  It's just called life.  But what is different for teachers (and many other professions) is dealing with the shock in front of 25 little people.

There's no place to hide.  There is no quiet office to run to and close the door.  The hallway is filled with teachers, parents and students. And walking to the car to have a good cry and leaving first graders behind to fend for themselves just isn't a real option.

The personal battles are real.  And for extremely private people like me, dealing with those battles on a public stage can be enough to send us over the edge.

So what do we do? How do we make it through?  And how do we find the joy of teaching through those personal battles?

Use teaching as a distraction

For me, teaching is a job where I have to be in front of kids teaching, managing and guiding. I can't sit back in a corner and feel sorry for myself and get lost in my sadness. I have to be busy making sure my classroom still functions. And the busy-ness is therapeutic for me. During my biggest personal struggles, the busy-ness of teaching is my sanctuary. It's my place to get lost from the stress going on inside of me or outside my classroom walls. Yes, there are moments when I break down--especially those initial moments--but for me they are short lived because of the little sweeties in my classroom that are so good at pulling me back into teaching mode!

That's the joy of teaching through the struggle.

Make Our Class Family Stronger

Life throws teachers curve balls...but life throws people curve balls too. And little people aren't exempt from that. The reality that I'm not the only one inside my classroom walls dealing with "stuff" is a comfort and a teaching opportunity to me. As a class family, my first graders and I have dealt with the hospitilization of a brother of one of our little friends after he was run over by their uncle. And he dealt with that at school. Another year, a little girl's sweet mommy died while on the operating table for a routine procedure. All while we were at school.

Our little people are not exempt from personal battles. And how we respond to their personal battles models how they respond when we are struggling...or when their friends are struggling. To many of us, teaching goes beyond a textbook. We teach literacy and math, but more importantly we teach life. In 178 days together, one of us is sure to have some curve balls to deal with. I find the joy in the midst of my struggle to be the opportunity to show my kids how to gracefully deal with whatever "stuff" comes my way. It may not be appropriate to unload all the nitty gritty details on our little people, but it's okay for them to know we are feeling sad or upset and to see that we make it through just fine with the kindness and support from each other. That's what family is all about. That's what our class families should be about too.

And that's the joy of teaching through the struggle.

Having Teacher Besties

As a teacher, it's hard to leave my classroom in the hands of someone else. It's hard to release control. It's hard to justify writing sub plans when I have a cold or feel under the weather. It's so hard. But sometimes it's necessary. I was blessed to have a teacher bestie that wrote sub plans for me when my grandfather passed away. I am so thankful for a team of teacher friends who knew when I needed a mental break even when I was at school...when I needed to go find a bathroom and have a five minute cry by myself before heading back to my classroom.  I find joy in the midst of my personal struggles when I have wonderful people around me who can help take care of my daily teaching needs so I can focus on the "stuff" that matters...when many times those same teacher friends don't even know the details of our "stuff." That's a teacher bestie for you.

And that's the joy of teaching through the struggle.

I have a choice when dealing with "stuff" in the classroom. I can let my personal struggle get the best of me if I want to. I can be angry that I'm locked in a classroom with loud little people without any adult contact, the ability to process my thoughts in the peace and quiet, or the ability to even answer my phone.

Or I can choose To see the joy of teaching through the struggle.

"Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Weekly Phonics Routine

It took me almost 10 years to find my groove with phonics in my classroom.  If I'm being honest, I spent the first 9 years of my teaching career hating phonics and making excuses to just not teach phonics or spelling in my classroom...or so I thought!  Mostly, I hated scripted phonics lessons.  I hated reading thick teacher I thought I hated phonics altogether.

Then, after 9 years, it hit me!  There were pieces of our daily and weekly routine that were very much phonics and very much who I was a teacher too!  So, I spent some time combining our routines and a few of the "good" pieces from some scripted phonics lessons I had been trained on and came up with a weekly phonics routine that I makes me look forward to our phonics block (who woulda thought??)

I spend about 15-20 minutes on direct phonics instruction each day.  Of course, my kids get more work on phonics in guided reading and word work during stations...but this is our whole group phonics block time!  Here's a look at what we do each day....but if you are more visual, watch the video to see my routines here.


First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Then, I introduce our new sound (3 minutes).  Let's say our new sound is long e as in ee or ea.  I show my kids pictures of our long e pictures and we say the word together.  My kids listen to see if the word has our focus sound.  They give me a thumbs up or down to let me know if the word has our focus sound.  If the word has our focus sound, we then listen for the position of the sound.  Is it at the beginning the middle or the end?  My kids touch their arms to show me the position of the word (see my video on this).

Next, we look at words that have our focus sound and sort them (2 minutes).  For our example focus sounds, ee and ea, I would sort the words into an ee and ea category.  At this point, we are really just focusing on looking for the focus sound and not necessarily reading it fluently yet.  I will read the word and then have them tell me where to sort it.  We sort it whole group.  Then, I can add the same sort into their word work station to do independently or with partners later.  Find the whole year's sorts here.

After our sort, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We have 3 words that decode each day of the week (except Fridays). You can watch me model slide, slide, slippety slide in this video.  We do this for each word.  We slide the first word together.  Then, I ask, "what long e pattern do you see in this word?" and call on a random student to answer.  Then, I ask that same student, "and where is the sound in the word?" and they answer beginning, middle or end.  Finally, we highlight the pattern in the word together.  We repeat this routine for each word.  This can be done whole group on the interactive powerpoint, or can be done as guided practice with each student having their own word list.

Then, we work on spelling with our break it down chant (3 minutes).  If you've seen my spelling video, you already know this routine.  It's available to view here, so I won't rehash in this post!  As soon as we finish decoding our word list, I tell my kids to get their dry erase boards ready and while we are transitioning, they practice writing our sight words on their boards or spelling words we've already learned for the week.  Once everyone has their boards ready, I introduce 2 new words  on Monday with our dry erase boards and our break it down chant.

Finally, we introduce new sight words (5 minutes).  I love using Body Spell from Go Noodle for this!  It's perfect: I just type in our new sight words for the week (I have a suggested list of sight words in my phonics powerpoint pack) and the kids get to practice reading and spelling our sight words and have a brain break too!  I love it!


Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays look very similar to Mondays with minor changes.  Here's a look at Tuesday!

First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Then, I introduce our phonics poem (5 minutes).  I read it to them without showing them the poem.  Then, I reread the poem and students listen for our focus sound and I have them give me some TPR (total physical response) when they hear it.  For our example ee/ea sounds, when my kids hear that long e sound, they smile really big and put their fingers in their cheeks because I teach long e as the sound that makes us smile! :)  Next, I show them the poem and they look for our focus pattern with their eyes.  We highlight the focus sound words together.

Next, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We decode 3 new words from our word list for Tuesday.

Then, we work on spelling with our break it down chant (3 minutes).  During our transition to dry erase boards, students write our spelling words we introduced yesterday.  Then, I introduce two new spelling words with the same routine as Monday.

Finally, we do a sight word hunt (5 minutes).  We go back to our poem and reread it together looking for sight words.  I have kids come up to our interactive powerpoint and circle the sight words they see in our poem (new ones from this week and old ones).


First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Then, we sort real and wacky words (3 minutes).  You can read about why I now LOVE using nonsense words in phonics instruction here!  We decode each word together and decide if its real or wacky.  If it's real, my kiddos open their hands in the shape of an open book--it's a real word we can find in a book.  If it's fake, they do the crazy sign around their ears! :)  Just wait for all the giggles!!

This is another activity that gets added to my word work station for partner or independent practice later on!

Next, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We decode 3 new words from our word list for Wednesday.

Then, we work on spelling with our break it down chant (3 minutes).  During our transition to dry erase boards, students write our spelling words we introduced yesterday.  Then, I introduce two new spelling words with the same routine as Monday.

Finally, we leave our dry erase boards out and play sight word I spy (5 minutes).  We do this whole group.  I say, "I spy a sight word with 4 letters."  The kids write a word with 4 letters.  If anyone gets it right after the first clue, they win a ticket (our school wide character reward system).  If no one has it, I give another "I spy a sight word with 4 letters that has a 'c' in it."  We continue until I have at least one winner.  We play for about 5 minutes.  Once we've modeled this game several times together, we play it with partners later in the year.


First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Next, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We decode 3 new words from our word list for Thursday.

Then, we review our six spelling words from Monday-Wednesday on dry erase boards (10 minutes).  We do a practice spelling test whole group on their dry erase boards.  This is another activity that we do whole group at the beginning of the year and as they learn the routine, they do a partner practice test with dry erase boards later on.

Finally, we practice our sight words in sentences.  Sometimes I show the sight word and have students use it in a sentence for me or turn and tell their partner a sentence for the sight word.  And some weeks, I have sentence frames already with fill in the blanks to decide which sight word goes in which sentence.  These are on my interactive powerpoints for each week.  Just know that some weeks I switch it up and have them give me their own sentence for the word instead.


Everybody knows Fridays are crazy.  Teachers are ready for the weekend.  Kids are ready for the weekend.  And it's pretty much assembly day where I'm at too!  So, the best thing I did to help me be more successful and consistent with my phonics block was to do a phonics test on Friday at the beginning of the day and be done! :)  ...well, almost!  On Friday mornings, I have my kids come in and get our phonics poem for the week, at it to their poetry folder, and highlight our focus sound words and circle sight words like we did together on Tuesday.

You can read about my phonics tests and how I assess in this post.  And find my pre-made year worth of spelling tests that align with my phonics program in this packet.

And if you are interested in using my interactive phonics powerpoints, you can find the growing bundle and first 6 units soon in my store!