We celebrated Easter in first grade last week. And I had so much planned I didn't even get to finish it all!!

We chose two Eastery {is that a word???} fables to study this week. We started with The Ugly Duckling. We read the book each day and did a different activity each day. 

The first day we talked about and charted the elements of fables. 

Then, we read The Ugly Duckling and talked about whether it was a fable or not. And we talked about what the life lesson was in this fable. {Treat others the way you want to be treated.} We also charted the life lesson on our life lesson unit chart that we will update throughout the unit. And admist all of the moving crazies I didn't remember to take a picture of the chart we started. I'll update next week!

The next day, we watched a short video of our fable and sequenced the plot of the story in groups. 

Then, during our writing time, we wrote about the plot of our story using our fable graphic organizer. I love this organizer. It's great for whole group guided writing and it's great for guided reading groups to do as a small group or even as homework. 

On day 3, we reread the story and made connections to the story about times when we were mistreated by others or a time when someone else was mistreated and we were a good friend to them. 

And, man! This quickly turned to counseling session 101 with my sweet firsties. I heard all of the sad stories and they loved sharing. In a quick 5 minute share time I heard about being ignored at recess, sisters lying to little brothers and a secret diary being stolen on the bus and almost being read! Deep stuff here, folks! It was really a great conversation...and more importantly, really help them internalize the story. 

After our counseling session was over, we wrote about our connections with the help of our narrative graphic organizer {which I'll blog about later}. Then, we made our super adorable, Easter themed duckling crafts!

I loved this fable and can't wait to do The Tortoise and the Hare next week. I wish I could've squeezed them both in before Easter, but it just wasn't meant to be. I love this mini-fable packet for Easter cuteness that's still substantial learning and Common Core based. Cutesy activities with no real learning goals? Ain't nobody got time for that!!

Hope you had a wonderful Easter.  Welcome, Spring and all of the fun and colorful learning that comes with it!

As *luck* would have it :), my two year old decided to come down with a really, really bad and long-lasting stomach bug that meant I needed to miss St. Patrick's day at school to be a mommy to my sick little baby!

And he wasn't *lucky* enough to catch the 24 hour version of the tummy bug either.  This sucker was off and on for 5 days.  And it took almost a week to get back to 100%.  Goodness!

All that bad *luck* meant that our leprechaun fun at school was put on hold until today!  And I had to trim out our rainbow experiment because we just didn't have enough time... But you can read about that one HERE!

Tuesday, my lovely intern read The Luckiest Day book at did the writing activity with our kiddos.  Thank goodness for great interns that just roll with the punches!!  Here's a look at this creative group's leprechauns!

This little girl insisted on adding some hair to make her leprechaun a little prettier!

"It's raining gold, Mrs. Shaddock!"

Find the templates and 9 writing prompts here!

During math, we graphed our Lucky Charms marshmallows.  The past 2 weeks we have been focusing on data displays during our math skills time.  The kids graphed our weather for the month of February by taking our tally mark data and turning it into their own display.  Making the graphs authentically, instead of coloring in a bar graph has really made for some great discussions on measuring data and what is important when making a graph.

This conversation continued today....

All I did was remind them of our graphing weather data last week and told them to use their marshmallows as their data to make a display that would be easy to compare.  As we had been discussing in our room, a display that's easy to compare means I can look at it and compare data with my eyes--without having to count.

On their own, all of the groups immediately started sorting the marshmallows into categories.

They counted and recorded their data...

And then made their displays.  No, this isn't a great display.  And no, it doesn't even remotely look like a graph.  But it was perfect in my eyes because it will give us some great opportunities to talk about what is important when we graph. {No, we didn't have time to share today, but I'll be saving the pictures so we can share later!}

What's interesting about this graph and the one below is that when we graphed weather with our paper data, I didn't have any one that didn't have a lined up, traditional looking bar graph.  I don't know if it was the marshmallow data instead of paper data, that 3 of my strong math thinkers were absent today, or the fact that it was the Friday before Spring Break {hellooooo!!} and we were all ready for a little vacay. #ithappens

These are more like what I saw with the first group graph.  It's so interesting to watch the kids build their own graph display.  I always seem to have one group that starts at the top and graphs down.  Things and issues I'll be questioning them about on this graph when we share are: each category doesn't have the same starting point, gaps in between data points, and doubling up some of the data.

And what's interesting to my nerdy, math junkie brain, is how much of graphing understanding really comes from how well they understand measurement.  When we share displays, the same important points from our measurement discussions, come up with graphing too.

This group asked for extra paper so they wouldn't have to double up their clover data!  They also tried to order the data from greatest to least, but forgot about the moons until it was too late.

I just love having my firsties build authentic graphs without coloring in a worksheet.  There are so major high-level thinking going on and it's so much more meaningful to them.  They become problem solvers, evaluators, analyzers, and great communicators...which are all skills that we can each agree are important life skills!  No, they didn't all build a perfect graph.  But I'm glad.  Perfect isn't realistic.  My job as their teacher is to turn realistic mistakes into learning opportunities and conversation points with my kids.  Sometimes mistakes are our most powerful teachers!

Hop on over to my TPT store and grab your *LUCKY* free download of my Lucky Charms Graphing activity!
No, seriously.

Just put them in the trash, already.
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Ok.  Let me back up... #longpostalert

More than 20 years ago---TWENTY YEARS---I sat in my 5th grade classroom as someone brought in a *huge* box of orange, wooden base 10 blocks.  My 5th grade teacher had won a grant and we got free math tools!  So fun and so exciting!

But that was 20 years ago.  When manipulatives were just being explored as a way to help kids understand math.

2 years ago I listened to Linda Jaslow, my math instructor for a math leadership class I am taking part in quote Linda Griffith {a well known CGI researcher},

"No math tool should ever do the thinking for the kids."

And it changed how I thought about math manipulatives.  Specifically, base 10 blocks.

You see, the problem was, my first graders were using the base 10 blocks for anything BUT math.  During our math mysteries time, my kids were super pumped to grab those shiny blue base 10 blocks and then used the ten rods to represent the friend that their math mystery was about, or even worse...used a ten rod to represent one of something, a tally mark, the number one...

And, yes, I spent a good 5-10 minutes every day working on breaking numbers apart into tens and ones with interactive base 10 blocks during Math Wall.  And they totally got how many rods and cubes to use to build 2 digit numbers---even 3 digit numbers.

But, did they really understand our base 10 system?

I don't think so.  Not even close.  Because they couldn't use the base 10 blocks to help them solve math problems on their own...well, besides maybe 2 kids out of 25.

We spent most of last year's math leadership class talking about our base 10 system and how important it is for kids to understand base 10 to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide successfully and with understanding.

So, what's the big deal? Why don't base 10 blocks work?

Because they can't be manipulated and changed.  Kids can't actually build their own group of ten, they just have to know that grabbing 1 ten rod is the same as grabbing 10.  And that's really, really, hard to master.  As a teacher, I can't just tell them 1 ten rod is the same as grabbing 10 and expect them to understand.  That's something that takes a lot of experimenting with counting and grouping objects to understand.  And if they need to break apart the ten to subtract? Forget about it.  You can pretty much count on your typical first grader, taking away the whole ten rod instead of trying to exchange it for ones and only take away part of it.

If you want to be a teacher that just teaches kids the steps and lets them copy you, then fine.  It might work.  But if you want your first graders to understand and be able to add and subtract 2 and 3-digit numbers on their own without your help in remembering a bunch of steps?? Yeah, not gonna happen with base 10 blocks....at least not before they understand the base 10 system.

Ok, fine.  I'll trash the base 10 blocks.  Now what?

Last year, I took a suggestion from a Math TOSA in our district and turned my pop cubes into groupable "base 10 blocks."  After taking up the base 10 blocks {and, um, not actually throwing them in the trash...pretty sure I didn't buy them and that would be a big "no, no."  I just hid them away in storage!}, I passed out our tubs of pop cubes to each group (Find my favorite pop cubes here!).  These were actually already on the shelf for kids to use during math mysteries time, but, honestly...they weren't really using these for tools anyways.  Pop cubes are good for one thing and one thing only for 6 year olds: building towers.  And guns.  Okay, so maybe that's two things...

Back on track....after passing out the pop cubes, I had the kids build the number 48 in the most efficient way possible.  So that whenever I counted their cubes, it would be fast and easy for me to count.  I chose 48 because it's number most of my kids can build at the beginning of the year when we do this, and because it's high enough that just building a tower of 48 becomes a problem and a few kids will try to break the tower into groups.  After giving them a few minutes to build the number, we shared ways we built 48. Lots of my firsties built a big long tower.  {{EDIT 9/2015: These are pictures from this same task the next year since I didn't have pictures at the time of this original post.}}

Some made "creatures..."

And some LITERALLY made the number 48...

But some starting breaking the tower down.

When we did this in early September, I had 2 kids that had made groups of 5's and no one that made groups of 10's.  {The picture above is the edit from the next year where I did have some group by 10's}

I had hoped someone would make groups of 10's, but, hey, sometimes you just gotta go with what you have!  And all were predictable and acceptable for my lesson goals: find multiple ways to make the same number and find the most useful way to build a number.

First, we shared one kid's wacky shaped 48.

I pointed out that he had 4 here, 12 here, etc...and then asked if the shape was made in a useful way for counting? {NO....}  I asked, "How could we arrange the 48 cubes so they would be useful for counting?"  Some of my firsties responses: "I keep losing track of where we are!" "I can't see that cube!"  Remember, this lesson takes place in September, so the level of understanding isn't as high as it would be if I did this same lesson now! :)

Then, I shared another kid's tower, and we talked about how long it would take to count to 48 by all counting ALL 48 cubes by ones. I asked, "Is it useful to have to count all 48 cubes by ones?  How could we arrange the cubes so they would be useful for counting?"  Some firstie responses: "We could count by 2's! Or 5's! Or 10's!"

I shared a girl who had broken hers into groups of 5's.  We counted hers by 5's and then ones.  We all agreed that was faster to count and more useful.  Then, I asked, "Is there another way I could count that would be even faster?"  My highest math thinker saved the day and said, "TENS!!!!"  Thank goodness for those high kids.  They help drive our conversation when we are about to make some ground-breaking math discoveries and help make it easier to pull along the others to a deeper understanding.


I had already planned for no one coming up with the idea to count by 10's....here was the plan in case that happens to you:  "You said we could count by 5's/2's.  What else do we know how to count by?  (10's)  Could we make groups of 10 cubes so we could count by 10's?"

Once the kids discovered that counting by 10's would be faster, I had each student build their 48 cubes by making groups of 10s.  We did this together and carefully discussed our 8 ones left over and how they do not make a full group of 10.  At this point, all of my firsties were on the 10's bandwagon!  So, I had each group make all of the pop cubes from their group's tub into groups of 10's and they left the left overs as ones.  Then, I told them that we would be keeping our cubes grouped this way all year long.  When they clean up after math story problems, they are expected to make sure cubes are in their groups of 10s.  We just briefly talked about how much more useful this tool would be when building a big number ("You can build it faster," "I can just count by 10s now!"...)

And low and behold, the very. next. day. during math story problems, the majority of my kids had those pop cubes out building our 2 digit numbers from our math problem to add!

Well, that's great.  But how is that different than my pretty Base 10 Blocks?

The main reason pop cubes are better is because the kids can build and break the 10s themselves.  And because I start the year with having them make them into groups of 10's, they have a better understanding that their rod of pop cubes isn't just one.  It's 10.  The flexibility to break and build 10 is so SO useful.  I have watched on-grade level kids (not just my high kiddos) needing to add 9 more and grabbing a 10 and just taking away one cube instead of counting out 9.  That's a REALLY important idea for kids to be able to decompose off of 10.  And that's something you won't get with regular ole base 10 blocks.

So you, seriously, don't ever use pretty Base 10 Blocks anymore?

No, I really don't.  Well, sort of.  I still do math wall that has an interactive base 10 blocks slide on it about once a week, but we rarely go over the base 10 blocks slide.  And when we do, we just use it for flexibility--How many ways can we build the number 76 with tens and ones.  They also practice the base 10 slide during their math wall station during our stations and guided reading group time.  But we do not spend significant math instruction time on base 10 blocks.  In fact, I would venture to say that my direct base 10 block instruction time has been less than an hour for sure this year...possibly even less than 30 minutes.

Why don't I use that base 10 blocks math wall slide much?  Because my kids don't need it.  Because using pop cubes as a groupable base 10 manipulative has helped solidify their understanding of tens and ones and most of my class just doesn't need practice with that anymore. This past Valentine's Day, I copied a place value busy work page I found somewhere on Pinterest (can't find the original source) for party day.  The kids were to count pictures of base 10 blocks and color the number on the hundreds chart to reveal a secret picture--a heart.  Not one--not ONE--kid in my class struggled with this.  Not. One.  Even my lowest kids could count the base 10 blocks and write the number in the blank.  Maybe I should've been shocked by this considering the lack of instructional time spent with base 10 blocks and the non-existent base 10 blocks in our classroom....but I wasn't shocked at all.  Because when you teach for base 10 understanding instead of teaching for base 10 tools you get more bang for your buck.  And your kids can do all of those low level skills that many teachers spend all year working with their kids on.  No problem for a kid who has a strong base 10 understanding!

Alright I get it.  Now, what else besides pop cubes do you use to teach "Place Value"?

I spend a great deal of instructional time helping my kids develop an understanding of base 10.  Besides choosing number sets that help with base 10 during math mysteries and the pop cubes, there are a few other regular activities that really help with base 10.

1.  Counting Collections:

You can read my detailed blog about Counting Collections procedures and routines HERE. When kids have to count large numbers every single week, they begin to group their collections into groups of 5s or 10s or even 20s to help count more efficiently.  Making groups of 10s over and over and over helps solidify the understanding that 10 ones is the same as 1 group of 10.  It's also great for giving kids lots of different visuals (besides a 10s rod) for a group of 10...ten toothpicks, ten pennies, ten in a straight line, ten in a circular group, ten in a stack of buttons...

2.  Math Talks:

The Number Talks book and my corresponding packet has a whole section on number talks for making tens.  Each mini-lesson is set up to get kids to visually see how to make a group of ten to count more efficiently.  Each section also has ten frame number talks which I also love for a visual representation of a group of ten.  Of all of the number talks, these are the ones I use more than any others.

3. Math Games:

These sets of games are specifically designed with base 10 understanding in mind.  Of course, many have been around for years and are not my original idea, but I have found that using the handouts that I've included for recording really help with base 10 understanding as well as just plain ol' accountability! *wink*

So, take a deep breath, find all of those tubs of base 10 blocks, and donate them to another teacher whose not brave enough to throw them away.  Or put them in your inside recess tubs.  Or stick them in your school's math storage closet. Or, or, or....

Just don't use them anymore!  You can do it!  You will be a better teacher for it and your kids will be better math junkies because of it too!

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Just Another Manic Monday...

Not sure why, but that song has been in my head all day today!  So in honor of my "Manic Monday," here are a few randoms from the last week or so as we get ready for St. Patrick's Day tomorrow!

For the last 3 weeks we've been learning about the seasons.  It wasn't supposed to take that long, but add a workshop day and 2 snow days in the middle of the week...and well, you know how it goes!  The plan was to do 2 seasons the first week and compare/contrast and the other two the next.  I've already blogged about the first week of our season fun, but I wanted to add our finished chart!

I've done several seasons charts over the years, but this one is my favorite because it really helped the kids learn to categorize their details in writing as I blogged about earlier.  And it just wouldn't be right to learn about the seasons without learning our seasons poem!  This is one of the 45+ poems in my Year Long Poetry Pack and it's a class favorite.  Perfect for leading into graphing the seasons {which I had to cut out because of snow days this year...} which is, of course, in my complete Weather Unit.

Now that we are halfway into March and almost to the end of our Weather Unit, we have been researching rainbows.  Much of what we did this year is the same as last year, because....well, let's face it: Great activities are worth repeating.  You can read about what we did with rainbows in detail here.  Rainbows were especially fun this year since we got to do them the week before St. Patrick's Day!  Perfect timing and the perfect way to decorate!

Things we did differently this year:   For our rainbow informative writing, I had to come up with something because we were using this paragraph for our district writing prompts...and they couldn't be written on clouds.  So they wrote a rough draft on regular paper and then were going to publish on their cloud paper.  But who wants to write the same paragraph with pencil AGAIN??  That's just boring!

So we wrote about rainbows in color felt tip pens.  And this. THIS. was the best. idea. ever.

Really, ya'll.  I'm probably behind the times here, but this is going to definitely be a regular occurrence in my classroom now!  I've always used pens during stations and I have giant pens kids can rent to use with reward money, so I know the power of writing with something special.  But there was just something awesome and fantastic about everyone getting to use a special pen at the same time.

You could have heard a "pen" drop....:)

Just look at these serious writers...

Just. Precious.

Felt tip markers made for some mad publishing skills, people!

Another thing we added this year was rainbow writing sight words.  This is something I do every year, BUT usually at the beginning of the year for our writing station.  For whatever reason, I didn't ever add it this year, but it worked out perfectly to do it while learning about rainbows!

This is one of several literacy station activities and handouts in my stations packet.  Get your copy HERE.  This is my next big overhaul packet.  I'll be adding lots more of my station handouts to this one soon...just gotta find a spare moment or two.  So, get it now and get the extras for "free" later! :)

As I was a substitute proctor for our PARCC exam for 5th graders Monday, I had the same thought I have every time I proctor a standardized test...

What am I going to do with the next few hours of my proctoring life???

Let's face it.  Proctoring the PARCC exam for kiddos who get extended time is basically asking to be locked up in a prison cell for an unknown amount of time.  No phone.  No conversation.  No sitting.  And no contact with the outside world unless someone is dying in your room {or throwing pencils at you.  Yes, that will also get you contact with the outside world.} #yesitshappenedtome

So, during the first few minutes of silent, hollow, proctoring brain activity...I decided to make my top 8 ways to entertain the proctoring brain to, ya know, entertain my own proctoring brain...

8.  Walk around the room and monitor with your eyes closed to make sure you don't actually read what's on that screen or in that test booklet. Don't even think about opening your eyes and peeking at a question.  That's a costly no no.  Reading what's on the screen would be a testing violation that would send you to "teacher jail."

7.  Change your pace of walking.  Do not, I repeat DO NOT, sit down.  That will get you sent to "teacher jail" too. Truth: Walking the same pace for hours on end is too dull.  Walking, skipping, high stepping, slo-mo walking and side step walking is much more entertaining.  For realz.

6.  Count your steps from one end of the room to the other.  And then count them again on the way back just to make sure you agree with yourself.  28 steps. {You know you were wondering!}  Then, when you've checked yourself 547 times and find yourself with a spare 43 minutes left until the testing session is over, you will want to get creative with your step taking.  The high step Richard Simmons walk is my fav.

5.  Check the extra #2 pencils to make sure none of them need to be sharpened.  Forget about actually sharpening them right now.  No chance that's gonna be okay during the test.  Save that fun for after the test is over....ya know, when you can actually speak freely and do things normal humans get to do?!?!

4.  If you are lucky enough to get snack packs during your testing session, spend some time planning out how you will sufficiently spread out your snack eating habits so that you can make your snacks last as long as you can.  Possible ways to eat your snacks:
     *Eat a small handful every five minutes.
     *Slowly, very slowly, eat one small piece at a time...being careful not to rush your pace for fear you will run out of snacks too soon.
     *Or, take my plan and just start stuffing your face as fast as you can because, well, you have plenty of other things to do with your time when you run out of snacks. #sarcasm

And if you don't get snacks, then....this...

3.  Start a lunch countdown. Truth: You may have to break for lunch and continue your extended time test after you eat.  With your kids.  No adult contact yet, people.  And if you don't have to finish after lunch, you can almost guarantee you'll be testing right up to lunch time.  Starting an over/under bet with yourself on whether you will finish before or after lunch can give you 8 solid minutes of proctoring brain entertainment.  Questions to consider....
     *Will your group finish right at lunch time, after lunch or with a few minutes to spare before lunch?
     *How many minutes before or after lunch will it be?  Over/Under?
     *Will your group be the only one eating alone at lunch or will other extended time groups have to eat alone too?

2.  Decide the order in which the 8 kids in your small group will finish.   Then, keep track of your results in your head and how well you do.  PS:  Do not write this order down for fear that it may be a testing violation and you will spend the rest of your life in "teacher jail."  PPS: You may begin to hear cheering and booing voices in your head as you watch the results come in.  Refrain from making faces like this one at students as a result of your cheers.

1.  Walk slowly by the door every few minutes.  Walk slowly enough that you can almost pause and look at the outside world longingly....looking for any sign of adults that you can smile, wave, or just roll your eyes at!  Heaven forbid you open the door and speak...that would get you....yes, you guessed it...."teacher jail."  So you will have to settle for facial expressions.

Watch out, as this can border on creepy stalkerish if you're not careful.  But just seeing an another adult just outside of your "chamber" is like a little happy during a test session.  And getting a glance or smile back is pretty much a pot of gold at the end of your testing rainbow!

How do you entertain your test proctoring brain?

Yesterday was Dr. Seuss' birthday and we celebrated in style!  By the time my first graders come to me, they've already had the green eggs and ham feast and "fun" stuff in kindergarten.  So we do some different activities that are still fun and engaging and a little more first grade appropriate!
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Rhyming Sentences

Monday morning we read Hop on Pop and brainstormed rhyming words from the book as we read.  Then, we became authors like Dr. Seuss and wrote rhyming sentences just as his book is patterned.  In first grade, we did the first 2 together, then they did 2 with their group as my intern and I walked around to check and then they wrote 2 on their own after they were checked.  This was such a *fun* review on rhymes and writing complete sentences.  It was also an easy way to review our mechanics {capitals, sight words, spaces and periods} for some of my low babies {which is why this activity is great for kinder through 2nd because it can be whole group, productive groups, independent work, or a combo of all of them like we did!

They absolutely loved coming up with silly sentences like Dr. Seuss writes!

Love the bat poop one this group came up with! :)

Antonym Opposites!

Monday afternoon, we talked about antonyms.  I'm not sure who to give the credit to for this story.  I kinda think one of my college professors told us this story, but I can't find anybody to back me up on that.  So maybe I made it up.  That's totally possible, too, since I can tell some cRaZy stories!

....but anyways...the antonym story goes like this:
Antonym means opposites.  Have you ever found an ant hill before?  What happens if you accidentally--or on purpose--step on the ant hill???  The ants go EVERYWHERE!  They run away in opposite directions screaming, "ANTonyms!!!!"

I know what you're thinking.  That's the silliest story you've ever heard.  And it is.  But year after year, it works.  When I hear the word antonym, all I can think about are ants running in opposite directions.  Silly as it is, my firsties remember what antonym means because of that crazy story.

And I *promise* this relates to Dr. Seuss....We read The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss, which is all about...OPPOSITES!

We found the pairs of opposites as we read and charted them on our antonyms chart.

Then they "paired up" and traced two feet.  With their partners, they came up with a pair of antonyms to write and illustrated.  We posted our pairs of antonyms on our big foot in the hallway!
Yes, the big foot is a bit wrinkled, but it is several years old....and it just gets rolled up and stored until the next year so I guess I shouldn't be surprised!
 I loved this one...thought it was so original!

I have some opposite cards included in the packet that go in my ABC literacy station.  Partners work to reinforce opposites by matching pairs and recording them on our antonym feet recording page!

So much fun these past two days and so much more from this fun little Seuss packet that we didn't have time to squeeze in!
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