Image Map

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rainbow Research and Experiments

That moment when your teaching week is going along grand and life throws you a curve ball and almost nothing happens that you planned to happen by the end of the week?  ...yep, that's where I am...

Last Friday, we did our first of 3 *planned* weather experiments from our weather unit over the next week.  We caught rainbows!


I have done this with my preschool Sunday School babies at church for years when we learn about Noah's Ark.  Those sweet 3 and 4 year olds get so stinkin' excited about catching the rainbow on the floor with their paper! So, I knew my firsties would love it too.  And I was right!

We filled our glasses with water and used a flashlight to shine a rainbow on our recording sheets.  The angle is a little difficult and not for the faint of heart, but my little sweeties learned perseverance and each successfully "caught" a rainbow on their paper with the help of their group. And my intern. And me... {It's times like these that I love having the extra hands of a full-time intern!}

Have you ever noticed that everything is better more engaging with the lights off?

After we caught rainbows, we inferred the cause of the rainbow together and made connections to what the flashlight and glass of water might represent in nature {sun and rain}.  I purposefully didn't read anything on rainbows.  I wanted to do the experiment first so they could "discover" some of the information on their own. And, man, that was powerful!

Then, we read a book from our school library on rainbows.  It's called Rainbows and Me.  I cannot seem to find it anywhere on the web though... We skipped around and only read about half of the book because some of the information goes into things we weren't focused on, but it's a great read for first graders!  We charted our new learning...

Students wrote their own informative writing paragraphs about rainbows on their cloud and made a rainbow too! {this little project came about as one of those after school, "what could we do to spice up rainbow writing?" casual planning sessions with my teammates.  You know, those ones you don't plan to have? I love my creative teammates! They are seriously my second family!!}

We needed something to cheer us up during these cold frigid winter days, so we filled our hallway with rainbows!  You can't walk down our hallway frowning now....they are just so happy looking!!

Man, we were on a R*O*L*L with these science experiments and integrating them into our writing.

Next up in the plans was this "making a cloud" experiment while learning about the water cycle this week.
 
And then I had two all day meetings that snuck up on me, so my intern had to do it without me...{insert sad face here.}

I saved this "Cloud in a Jar" experiment for Friday because my intern wanted to see it and they have University classes on Thursdays. {{EDIT: read about this experiment from the next year HERE}}
And then Thursday night at 7:50 we took my 15 month old to the doctor and found out he has croup.  So I stayed home Friday.  My poor firsties are missing this one altogether because it was not one I left for my intern to do since it is an "all hands on deck" experiment...{wink}  The next two weeks are my intern's solo weeks. So, this poor little experiment is going to have to be shelved until next year.  Boo!

I traded Friday's planned science experiment in for this...

Some times messed up plans, foregoing experiments, and surprise meetings are frustrating.  But sometimes they're okay.  When my week ends with day long snuggles with my normally busy 15 month old baby boy, everything else can wait.  I hate that I didn't get through all of our plans and didn't get to capture what I know would have been some awesome learning moments for my firsties.  But....some things are just more important...


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Math: Breaking Traditions

I've spent the last 2 days in 2 different meetings about math.  Any of the precious people I teach with can tell you that I'm a total math nerd.  Numbers are how I think.  I like things to be logical and orderly. And math is absolutely one of my favorite things to teach.

All that being said...16 hours of math meetings makes even my nerdy math brain hurt! Ya know what I mean?!?! One of the meetings I was in is a monthly leadership meeting with our Ed Coop about analyzing content, curriculum and progressions in math.  It is a 3 year project where we are looking at the different strands of math to deepen our content knowledge and then trying to decide as a school district what an appropriate progression will be for our kids in K-5.  It's an awesome project...but it is quite an undertaking and most months I leave with so many ideas swimming through my little brain that I have a {bit of a} headache...

I should probably back up and tell you that our district and our region is heavily trained in Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).  Here is the research that this teaching philosophy is based on...

If you're not familiar with CGI, it is a way of teaching math that completely breaks traditions in math instruction. No textbooks, no teacher guide, no worksheets with 20+ addition or subtraction problems, no timed math tests... CGI is based on the idea that kids come to school with a natural understanding about math.   My job is to facilitate student learning through word problems and problem solving that matches how kids naturally think about math.  One good example is base 10.  We use story problem types that are teacher-written that will help kids think in 10's and understand how to compose and decompose 2-digit numbers into 10's and 1s....or 100's, 10's and 1's.  When I was in school {many moons ago}, we were given math problems from our textbook, or cutesy color-by-number 2-digit adding worksheets and taught to borrow, carry, etc.  But that is not how kids naturally think about math.  I can ask several of my first graders to add 67 + 24, and they will say with no prompting or direct teaching from me, "60 + 20 = 80 and 7 + 4 = 11, so 80 + 11 = 91." There are fewer mistakes with my kids and they have a better understanding of number sense and operations.

I went through my first CGI training 6 years ago and I immediately fell.in.love.  I knew this would change how I taught math, but I knew it would be for the better.  It is a lot of work on me as a teacher.  I'm writing story problems for my kids based on what they know and understand and purposefully giving them problems and numbers that will deepen their thinking.  But I've seen the fruit of this research-based instruction and I wouldn't go back for anything.

As great as CGI is, there are some areas that are more difficult to cover in a "word problem."  So, we also have a non-traditional "Math Wall" time each day where we cover essential skills that are not taught through CGI or need to be reinforced for fluency purposes {like time, shapes, measurement, rote counting, etc...}  I absolutely love it!  We do it Monday-Thursdays for about 30 minutes on our Promethean Board.  In that 30 minutes, we cover 12 {count them...TWELVE!} Common Core math standards.  It covers building 2-digit numbers with base 10 blocks, counting on/back, skip counting by 2's, 5's and 10's, mentally adding and subtracting 10, comparing numbers, true/false equations, dividing shapes into halves and fourths, non-standard measurement, telling time, 2D and 3D shapes.  My kids love {really LOVE!!} how interactive Math Wall is too! They love getting to write and move manipulatives on our Promethean Board.  They love the You Tube songs and dances embedded in the slides.  They are totally engaged and not even realizing that they are learning math along the way!

I have 7 different Math Walls in my TPT store.  I have created 6 Math Walls - one for each of our 6 Common Core units.  Each progressive math wall goes a little deeper into each of the standards and skills covered.  I also have a combo pack that includes all 6 math walls for a discounted price.  I had many requests from people who bought my math walls to include calendars into them so I have included the corresponding calendars into each of the units for those who still feel they need to go over a calendar.

EDIT:  I now have math walls for 2nd grade and kindergarten is coming soon!

I also had several requests for a more traditional "calendar" on Promethean Boards.  So, last year, I made a more traditional calendar flip chart based on what I did with my first graders before Common Core.  It includes calendar, days of the week, months of the year, yesterday/today/tomorrow, ten frames, tallies, money, seasons, weather, and base 10 blocks, as well as video links embedded in slides also.




If you have a Promethean Board, these would be a perfect supplement to your math instruction.  If you have a Smart Board, you will not be able to use the flip chart file.  HOWEVER, I have also included PDFs in the downloads that you can import into your Smart Board software.

How you are you "breaking tradition" in your math instruction?


Friday, January 17, 2014

Mrs. Mom: He Is Learning From Me

Any teacher will tell you that it is pretty much impossible to turn off your inner teacher.  So, I'm always finding ways to teach.  There are some situations where I have to engage my *filter* and restrain my inner teacher...but let's be honest:  sometimes that's just difficult!

Monday through Friday from 8:00-3:00 I teach 6 year olds.

But the rest of the time, I teach my 15 month old.  He is at that perfect age where his little brain is a sponge.  He absorbs everything we show him and is determined to figure EVERYTHING out.  So, indulge me and let me brag on my baby boy for a minute.

He can sign lots of everyday things {which makes it SO much easier to figure out what he wants and needs} like: more please, all done, where is it?, hi, bye-bye, thank you, eat, water, milk, yummy, sleep, outside, train, airplane, read, no, bath, *kisses*, and I love you.
He can say, "Mama," "Dadda" (when he wants to) and the first sounds of things that start with m, b, p, s and y.
He can follow one-step directions.
He can point out most body parts.
He can make animal sounds for: cow, duck, cat, dog, fox {what does the fox say?}, baby, and sheep.
He can sleep 12 solid hours at night and nap for 2-3 hours during the day.
He can put himself to sleep and has been since he was 9 weeks old.
He can use a spoon to feed himself.
He can tell the sounds the letters A, B, and C make.
He can work anything--ANYTHING!--with buttons.
He can dance to music.
He can point out everyone in our family, including, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents and great-grandparents.
He can turn a book the correct way to read.
He can turn pages independently.
He can point out characters and objects in books.

I'll stop there for now...

I love this stage.  But, frankly, I've loved every stage.  He is constantly learning from me and from others around him.  Seeing your baby grow through your "teacher eyes" is an awesome perspective.  I was obsessed with child psych classes in college. {I always wanted to go back and get a second Masters degree in Child Psychology...still considering that one.} So, everything Cooper does gets "psychoanalyzed" by Mrs. Mommy.  I know, I know.  I'm a nerd.  But I just love that kind of stuff.  Even Mr. has learned what "object permanence" is. And, God love his heart, he plays along with me.  Bless him!

I take teaching seriously.  But I take teaching my own child seriouslier...or more seriously.  Whatever... While the signs, animal sounds and concepts of print he's learning are amazing to me, it's not eternal.  What an awesome responsibility God has given me to equip my child to be a productive contributor of our society.  Cooper is learning from me.  My in-laws gave us this sign for Cooper's nursery.  It was in Mr.'s nursery when he was a baby.  It's a simple reminder everyday that we are his first teachers.



In college I read that 80% of the brain is fully developed before a child enters kindergarten.  80%.  That's hard to believe.  But then again, it's not.  Right now, Cooper is learning something new every day--every minute--about his world from me. And these are the things that are forever.

He has learned to trust mommy and daddy.
He has learned that we will keep him safe.
He has learned that we will comfort him when he is upset.
He has learned to smile.
He has learned to laugh and be silly.
He has learned that it's ok to fail, but to try again.
He has learned to be creative and find ways to play with things around him...even if it's not a "toy."
He has learned to interact positively with other people.
He has learned that going to church is important, but fun too.
He has learned to pray. {He even folds his hands when we tell him we are going to pray.}
He has learned to appreciate others by saying signing, "thank you."
He has learned to help people.
He is learning to be empathetic to others through hugs.
He is learning flexibility and the ability to adjust easily in all situations.
He has learned that, like our heavenly Father, his parents' love is unconditional.

While academics and cognitive development are important to me and I'm always proud to "brag" on his new discoveries, every now and then I like to stop and think about all of the "LIFE" things he's learning too. After all, parenting is a divinely appointed task.  To think that my Creator entrusted me to teach my baby about being a life-long follower of Jesus is flattering and nerve-racking all at the same time.

Psalms 127:3 Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.

What a blessing Cooper is to us.  He is truly a gift from God.  I didn't earn the right to have a child.  God freely gave me my child as a gift. I hope I never forget that.  Even on those worst of the worst days that are sure to come.  He is what we wanted.  He is what we prayed for.  I will spend my life parenting him like the perfect gift he is.

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad.

I have seen this truth already in just 15 short months.  Teaching Cooper makes  my heart happy.  Seeing him learn brings me joy.  Witnessing his loving personality that we have tried our hardest to cultivate has given me peace of mind about his future.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

These verses convict and choke me up every time I read them. 

Am I being a good example for Cooper and doing the good works God created me to do? Because he is watching and learning from me

Am I instilling God's truths into my son enough? Because he is learning from me.

Do I repeat God's love over and over, again and again to him? Because he is learning from me.

Am I comfortable enough with God's Word to talk about it at home, around others, on the road, during the day, and at bedtime? Because he is learning from me.

I am doing my best.  But, so help me God, my best today will not be my best tomorrow.  I will be the best Mrs. Mommy I can be to my child.  God expects my best.  And Cooper deserves my best.  Because...he is learning from me.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Weather Cycles Unit

So after 3 days out for S*N*O*W last week, we are finally back in a normal routine this year.  Today is Wednesday {hump day} and it's the first time in about a month that I've worked 3 days in a row... now that's just crazy!

We're diving into our unit on cycles and weather this week.  Here are a few things we've been up to...

First, we read this book on weather.  This comes from a Scholastic set of weather books that are fantastic readers for first graders.  They're perfect non-fiction books.  Easy enough for first graders to understand, but beefy enough to teach good information.  I love these books so much that I have a set for our animals unit we do also! They have lots of simple non-fiction features too {bold print, table of contents, glossary, captions and labels}. **Note: I'm not sure why the link goes to such an expensive set of books.  I bought mine through book clubs for less than $10 for the set...


As we read our weather book, we charted weather words on our "cheery" weather words chart...hey! I had to think of some way to bring a little warmth and sunshine into our lives.  Mother nature certainly wasn't doing her part last week!

We also started an on-going chart on Earth's natural cycles.


I absolutely love doing this chart because it lends itself to such great conversations: what cycles are, the difference between cycles and linear events (weather types versus water cycle), natural cycles versus unnatural cycles (like recycling)...  The kids love "discovering" cycles during our unit as I strategically lead them  on their own. :) The following may or may not have been heard in my classroom in during this unit in past years:
   
      "Our schedule is the same as it was yesterday!"
   
      "So, it was December and the end of the year before we left for break and now we've started ALL OVER again in January. Hmmm."
   
      "You mean after 12:00 it's 1:00 AGAIN??'

Yep, guilty.  It's just so much more meaningful when the kids "figure it out" on their own!  Also, they love getting their name on each of our cycles papers we add so they can claim their discovery.

This week we did a carousel activity where students rotated in groups around our room to write about what they already know about weather types.  We will go over each of the charts as we talk about them whole group so we can find misconceptions, and new learning.  They had 1 minute at each station to write what they knew about sunny, snowy, icy, cloudy, partly cloudy, sunny, windy and stormy.  While I've used the carousel strategy for several years, this particular group was 100% lovin' this activity!  I'm going to be finding more ways to use this carousel activity in our classroom because they were hooked from start to finish!  Because I'm a color-coding *freak* I gave each group a different color pen.  Have you ever noticed that writing in pen is super awesome? Because it is. To six year olds anyways.  Everything is better in pen.  But, the "real" reason for colorful pens was so I could see that each group was adding to the poster.  It makes it easy to see which groups are contributing and which are not...

Today we did our shadow experiment to talk about what causes day and night and why our shadows seem to move during the day.  We were supposed to do this Tuesday when it was 50 degrees outside, but it turned out to be cloudy Tuesday.  So we settled for today.  When it was 28 degrees.  With a windchill of -200.  Or something like that.  We jogged to and from our recording spot in the school driveway just to keep from turning into ice.  Seriously.  Why didn't we wait until another day? We didn't have another day this week that worked and next week we need to be moving on to other cycles.  So today it was.  I had this great plan of taking pics of my kiddos tracing each other's shadows, but that plan failed {but I did take pics the next year....read about it here!}  Apparently, I was focusing on warm thoughts and not pictures! Brrrr!!!  I did take a picture of their recording sheet once we were back in our cozy, 76 degree room!

Of course all of these activities and tons more are in my weather unit on TPT!

Sending warm thoughts your way...


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Back to School...Finally!

After 2 weeks off for Christmas break AND 2 snow days, we finally get to go back to school tomorrow!  Our district has had 7--yes 7!--snow days so far this year.  It's the beginning of January, people.  We are not used to this kind of winter craziness around here.  It was -2 degrees {windchill -25!!} on Monday.  Arkansas is NOT used to this kind of weather, ya'll! My 15-month old baby boy, Cooper, and I have been making the best of it though. I secretly love LOVE my time home with him, so I'll take any extra days along the way I can get!  Here's how we spent our Christmas vacation and snow days...

A few professional Christmas pics of our sweetie from our very own "Pops." (aka my father-in-law)

**photo credit: Jimmy Shaddock Photography 

Family night & Christmas lights on the Fayetteville Square.

Somebody wanted to help pass out presents...

Snow day fun with Mommy!

Daddy made a bubbleman snowman bubble in honor of our inside snow day... you just don't go outside when it's below 0 in Arkansas!!

All this snow and crazy typical Arkansas weather has me thinking this is the perfect time for the start of our upcoming Common Core unit on Weather.  My firsties are always curious about weather, but the snow sure takes it to a WHOLE new level in their eyes {you know what I mean??}

I'm super excited about our weather unit.  It's one of my favorites.  It's so hands-on, full of science experiments and the kids just eat.it.up!  Plus, we don't just talk about weather in this unit.  We talk about cycles: weather cycles, day/night cycles, months cycles, scheduling cycles, seasonal cycles, circle stories...there are SO many literacy connections that can be made with this big idea: cause/effect, circle stories versus beginning, middle and end...  I love that cycles are a topic that can be integrated into everything - we even pull it in to math with number cycles in base 10 and cycles in time!  I'm a firm believer that learning occurs best when connections to an idea can be made in multiple curricular areas.

Last year, I added the Weather Channel app to my iPads so my kiddos could check out the current weather and watch forecast videos, etc and it was hands down their favorite thing to do at stations! You would have thought I gave them a million dollars...or free recess {pretty much equal value in the eyes of a 6 year old...}

Here's a peek at our weather unit that you can purchase at my TPT store.

It's 6 weeks worth of daily lessons in science, writing, reading, as well as weekly connections for math and phonics.  There are daily narrative lesson plans and a weekly visual plan for each of the 6 weeks.  Common Core standards are tied to the activities too!  Plus, all the materials you need to teach these lessons during this 6 week unit are included in the packet.  100 pages of weather fun! And in honor of our 7th snow day, I'm putting it on SALE for the next 48 hours!  I'll be posting classroom pics from our unit on my blog soon!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year...New Blog!


So I've decided to give this blogging thing a try! I love to journal and write, but usually I do it privately. So blogging and writing publicly is a big step for me. BUT...I love to teach my firsties and I wanted a way to remember all of the fun adventures I'm having.  I totally regret not having my first 8 years documented!

That teacher journal everyone told me to keep and write down cute things kids say? Yeah, I never did one. Should have. But I didn't. 

Those pictures I should've taken of classroom memories, fun projects, or great lesson ideas so I wouldn't forget them? Yeah, I never did that.  Should have.  But I didn't.

Those Common Core standards that everyone says are too hard, have changed teaching too much and are too boring for the kids? Yeah, I'm not perfect at that either.  Should be better.  But I'm not.

Here's to a new year and new projects! I'm going to be better.  Better at finding fun, creative ways to teach the Common Core standards.  Better at taking pictures to document the small moments, crazy moments and {every now and then} brilliant moments! Better at writing down those bits of kid cuteness!

Let's be better together!