Remember the days of doing fact family houses?  I did them when I was a kiddo and many kids still do them today....I even had my firsties make a few of them on dry erase boards this week.  And there's nothing wrong with those cute little houses...

...except that they're not much more than that...cute little houses...

Unless we add some rigor to that cuteness!  That's just what we did this week in our classroom.  And not only did the kids get more out of fact families, but they had a BLAST, and most importantly, they became better mathematicians.

Our math skill goal was:
I can choose a related equation to help me solve a problem.

Our Standard for Math Practice was:

Our Common Core Focus Standard was:
1.OA.B.4  Understand subtraction as an unknown addend problem.

I started by introducing our goal and doing the following math talk...

20 - 19 = [  ]

We shared strategies and I notated equations to match the strategies...
One of my favorite parts of math talks is getting to notate kids' thinking for them.  Kids can't "discover" correct notation on their own...and they are always watching and end up copying what I model! {Plus, I get to color code strategies and it just makes me happy! :)}

Then, I pulled out the equations and we compared them to discuss what's the same and what's different about them...

I recorded the same three numbers in all equations as that came up in our discussions and we also talked about where the "answer" is in each equation and I put a box around that...

This talk helped kids see that there are a facts that are related.  Then, we charted our findings as I taught them our "fact family" song.... {To the tune of the Addams Family! ;)}

The next couple of days, we continued singing our song and doing math talks on related facts.  Here is one of my planned math talks....

Mrs. Shaddock has 10 M&Ms.  She ate 8 of them. How many does she have left?
     *What is the equation that matches the structure of the story problem? (our math skill focus for the previous week)
     *Which equation could you use to solve the problem?
            10 + 8 = [  ]
            8 + 10 = [  ]
            8 + [  ] = 10

These math talks only last about 10-15 minutes in my room...sometimes shorter, but they are so powerful.  The shallow reason is because there are many questions just like this on standardized tests (ITBS and MAP testing for our district).  These talks help prepare kids to be successful on those standardized tests...but in a meaningful way!  Because the deeper reason for these math talks is to help kids think logically and to justify their thinking....because those are skills that reach beyond standardized tests and even math! :)

And after a few days of math talks and singing our fact family song, lo and behold kiddos started using fact families to solve problems during our CGI Math Mysteries!  Here are just 2 examples for the story problem:
Warren had ____ dollars.  He lost ____.  How many dollars does he have now?
This sweetie still subtracted, but switched the order to subtract and was able to tell me exactly why during our 1 on 1 conference: "I didn't want to have to count back 18 times..."

This is the same problem, just higher numbers....
"Mrs. Shaddock, it's like way faster to do it this way....that's why I'm already on level 4!" :)

I love these kiddos!  And when I think about what we actually want from those cute fact family houses, it's that kids will USE those facts to solve problems.  As I tell my kids, if it's not useful, there's no sense in learning about it!

At the end of the week, I did a few math "show what you know" quizzes.  A few on dry erase boards (so fancy, I know, but it works!) and then one paper quiz for evidence to send home to parents....

I absolutely LOVE these weekly "show what you know" quizzes we are doing in math.  It gives me hard, concrete data on how my kids are doing (I have a spreadsheet checklist that I keep on each skill we've assessed so I can pull intervention groups for math!).  PLUS, it gives the parents a look--and some times a wake up call--on how their child is doing in math!

You can find 23 math skill quizzes, math story problem rubrics, plus 4 quarterly assessments for skills and math story problems and an at-a-glance look at how I pace out my math instruction in my newly updated Math Pacing and Assessments Packet!

And if a pacing guide is what you are looking for, you can find a much more detailed, year long pacing guide for math, literacy and science and social studies for first grade HERE.

We are back from our February break and celebrating Dr. Seuss in first grade! 

Of course, I have my favorite Seuss activities that I do every year, so I will not rehash those again.  You can read up on my old favorites HERE.

This year, I added a few new activities to my Seusstastic Rhymes Packet.  We focused a little more on characteristics of Dr. Seuss' writing.  Here are our top 3 ways to write like Dr. Seuss!

1. Creative Writing

Dr. Seuss is famous for his creative, imaginative writing!  We introduced this idea by reading and studying his imagination in books like To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, and The Cat in the Hat.  Because let's face it: You have to be a creative writer to come up with some ideas like that!  We then did our own creative writing in our journals by writing about what it might be like if WE ran the zoo or what would happen if the Cat in the Hat visited OUR house!  It wasn't fancy....just plain ole journal writing...but they turned out so so cute!  In fact, I wish I would've had them write it on the "cute" writing prompt paper from my Seuss Packet because I would've loved hanging these in the hallway!

2. Wacky Words

One of my favorite things about reading Dr. Seuss stories is his love for wacky words!  You just can't help but giggle when he writes them!  This year, we read a few of his books like Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to listen for wacky, nonsense words.  Then, during Readers' Workshop, my first graders worked with a buddy to read a Dr. Seuss book together and look for wacky words.  We shared our wacky words during share time!

Then, we worked on reading real and wacky words from One Fish, Two Fish... and sorting them into real or wacky.  There was even a "blank" card for the firsties to make up their own wacky word--which they LOVED doing!

And on a more serious note....I really put a lot of stock into this activity this year because of my school's focus on the DIBELS assessment.  I am finding that a lot of my readers struggle decoding nonsense words.  And while I used to believe that it didn't matter because real readers need to **make sense** of words as they read anyways...I'm beginning to think that reading nonsense words DOES matter.  As we've studied our newest phonics program through the help of our district literacy coach, we have found that as readers begin reading multi-syllabic words, the syllables they have to break words into to read are often nonsense words.  For example...

basketball --> bas * ket * ball 

In order to decode this word, the reader HAS to be able to decode nonsense words!

Since this revelation, we've been working more on nonsense words and I'll be adding a brand new packet I've been using to help us with this in my store soon!

3. Rhyming

Rhyming books are just so fun to read!  And Dr. Seuss is one of the BEST at this!  During our author study, we read and listened for rhyming words in Green Eggs and Ham and highlighted the rhyming words in our close reading (read about last year's adventure with this for more details and pictures).  We added this final type of Seusstastic writing to our anchor chart...

 Then, we brushed up on our own rhyming skills in readers' workshop...

And next week, we will be tackling writing some poetry like Dr. Seuss!

Catch all of these activities and much much more in my Dr. Seuss Packet!

Today was Valentine's party day and, well, there was just 50 shades of crazy up in my room today...and basically just this week! :)

I'm exhausted and over it and ready for spring....and...thank God for a week off next week for February Break!  Yes, the good Lord knew I would need that break! *wink*

Here's a 5 for Friday look at some of our February happenings from the last two weeks!

1.  "Show What You Know"
Our team has decided to start giving a short "show what you know" kind of math quiz each Friday to see how our kids are getting our math skill focus for the week.

And I REALLY love that we are doing this.  I think this has been a big missing piece for me the last few years in my CGI journey and I am glad to bring back a few more assessments with evidence to show parents how their kids are doing.  With CGI, it can be difficult to help parents know how to help their kids, but I've found that sending home these skill checks is great feedback for parents and gives them something a little more tangible to work on at home in math!

I also am able to keep a running spreadsheet on who isn't getting which skill so I can pull intervention groups during our Counting Collections or Fact Fluency times {read more about RTI math ideas HERE}.

I have some of these "show what you knows" already in my store and will be adding all of them to my math assessments packet over my February break next week!

2. Presidents' Day Craft
One of my favorite crafts of the year happens in February.  I just love looking at Abe and George hanging out in our hallway each year!

This fun craft plus a bunch more presidents' activities you can read about here are in my Presidents' Day Packet.

3. Tic-Tac-Toe Valentines
Cooper just loved making these for his friends and family!  And he even liked playing tic-tac-toe with me!  He got to sign his name to each one, but his favorite part was tearing the tape and putting the washi tape on!

4. Piece of Cake Valentines
These were a HUGE hit today with my firsties.  They loved the cake and I think they turned out so fun.  And they were super cheap and easy too!  Also, snack bags are just the absolute best! #teacherobsessions

Working on all of our Valentines this year, reminded me just how much I love washi tape.  Like ***LOVE*** it.  I really don't know what I did before washi tape.

BUT the one downfall with washi tape and kids (as I discovered in December when I made Grinch-Doh), is it's not all that sticky.  And once you put a bunch in a bag altogether, they just start coming off!

So, this time around, I stapled first and then covered up the staple with the washi tape.  SUCCESS!  I'm sure I'm not the first one to discover this, but when this idea came to me this week it was like angelic choruses playing in my head!  It doesn't take much to make this teacher happy! :)

5. Mommy's King of Hearts
I'd be breaking tradition if I let February get by without sharing some more pics from my awesome father-in-law photographer of my little valentine.

So glad I stumbled upon this adorable shirt from because it made taking pics super simple...and thank goodness for that!  My February was just too crazy to make things difficult with pictures!

And because I'm biased and it's just too hard to pick a favorite, here are a few lot of pictures of the king of our hearts!

I've spent the last 2 blogs focusing on deciding whether information is fact or opinion and focusing on the difference between important and interesting facts.  All with the goal in mind of working smarter, not harder to combine Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop and that all important, but hard-to-find-time for content unit studies!

Our last focus for our American Contributors Common Core unit was...

...choosing facts that support our opinions.

This has been a problem for lots of my firsties over the years.  You know, when kids write,

"Abraham Lincoln was a great president.  He was shot and killed...."

Really??? I just shake my head.  Every. Time.

We've talked about it here and there over the years, but this year I decided to give it a little more focus!

So we worked in partners to sort facts about Lincoln to decide if they support the opinion or not!

This helped SOOOO much when we finally wrote our own opinions about which president was our favorite!  I'm so glad we used this activity to help us.

You can find this 2 sorts like this and lots more activities in my Presidents' Day packet.

And if you follow my TPT store, I already sent this file to your inbox for FREE for February go download it now.  And if you don't follow my TPT store, click here to follow to catch each FREEBIE for TPT followers only!
Now that we are in February, we are almost to the end of our American Contributors unit.  We have been researching George Washington and Abraham Lincoln this week.  I have blogged about several activities already so I will not rehash them.  This post will focus on how I tied our big idea unit into Readers' Workshop and Writers' Workshop mini-lessons...because let's face it: We don't have a lot of time.  The struggle is still real... So, when I find a way to tie reading, writing, and content together into one big block of time, I'm a happy teacher!

This is the 2nd post of 3 posts (for now) about our Readers' and Writers' Workshop focus on fact and opinion.

During our first two weeks of our American Contributors unit, we worked on recalling facts from a text that support each person's contribution and how to choose what to write about.  You can read about that in this blog post.

Then, our reading focus became listening to decide if information is a fact or an opinion.  Read the first part to this mini-series in this blog post!

This week I had two goals in mind for Readers' Workshop to wrap up our unit.  Let's take a look at the first one for this little blog! :)

Our first focus was...

...determining whether a fact is important or interesting.

We "graduated" from giving facts after only a few pages to listening to the whole article or book and then recalling facts from the entire text.  I think this helped kids filter out the minor details and focus on what's important!

The first day of Readers' Workshop this week, we started reading one of my favorite books...The Important Book.

We read each page and talked about what was important about each topic and what was interesting.  We also discussed WHY the important fact was chosen as important.  We read the book across two days in Readers' Workshop to keep the lesson part "mini!" :)  We charted our discussion.

During Writers' Workshop they chose a topic and wrote about what is important and interesting about their topic in the same pattern as Margaret Wise Brown.  We just did this in their journals, but they were too cute not to share!

So how does this tie in with content?  Because after these activities, we were able to move on to charting important and interesting facts on Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.  Here's the beginning of our chart for Lincoln...

No, the dry erase board chart isn't the cutest, but it got the job done.  And this was the perfect segway into our Writers' workshop time where we talked about which kind of facts we need to include when teaching about someone.  This chart helped make it easy for kids to see that while the interesting facts help give our writing style, it's our duty as authors who teach our readers to include several important facts as well.  And this made a HUGE difference in their informative writing!

Now that we've got our facts down pat, we will be moving on to how to choose facts to support our OPINIONS!  Check back in soon for that blog!

Have you ever noticed how authors just conveniently slide their opinion about topics into a text?

Well, it happens.  A lot.

And it kinda drives me crazy when teaching kids the difference between opinion writing and informative writing! #grrrrrface

Since we had already learned to listen for facts that support a topic, we were ready to dig a little deeper into what kind of information authors give us.

So, we spent some time last week during readers' workshop with this goal in mind...

...reading to determine if the information in a non-fiction text was a fact or opinion.

First, we charted what facts and opinions are...
You can find a pre-made template for this anchor chart here.  Just print and chart with your kids!

Then, as we researched our inventors, we added our information we learned under each side of our chart on our dry erase board (sorry, I forgot to snap a pic!).  This was really helpful for the kids to see how authors use both kinds of information in non-fiction texts!

We followed this same routine all week as we researched Alexander Graham Bell, sound, Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison.

Then, on Friday, we sorted our facts and opinions on one of our topics we researched: Sound.  This was the kiddos Readers' Workshop activity.

Next, we will be digging deeper into facts to decide if they are important or interesting with one of my very favorite literacy read alouds of all time!  I'll be blogging about that one soon too!

At the beginning of the year, I blogged about how I was making my new district's requirement of readers' workshop work with what I already knew was best for kids.

It's been an adventure to say the least!  So, here I am reporting that by October of this year, we had closed down literacy stations in my classroom for the first time in 10 years.  Gone.  Out the Window.

While I truly believe that hands on experiences in literacy stations are great for's not great for anybody if the first graders can't quit talking long enough to stay on task! :)  In 10 years of first grade literacy stations, I have never had so many problems getting kids to use quiet voices while working!  I pulled out all of the tricks I knew to pull out: turning lights down during readers workshop, playing quiet working music, rewarding students who worked the quietest....nothing worked long term.

And let's face it: Guided Reading is really the goal during Readers' Workshop.  I need to be able to meet with my kids and intervene on their level in a small group setting.  And if I can't do that because of issues I'm having with other kiddos staying on task, then I've just waisted a full hour of my instructional day!

Do I think I'll ever do literacy stations again? Of course!  It just wasn't best practice for this class.  As with each group, we modify and adjust.

I'll be spending the next few blogs talking about the changes I made.  First up....

If your kids don't do "stations" or "centers" while you meet with guided reading groups, then what do they actually DO?

Well, they do literacy stations still.

Except every one does the same station.

At their desks.

And for whatever reason that has cleared up 90% of our volume problems.  I can't explain it.  It doesn't make a lick of sense...especially when I've had groups who the only time they were quiet was during literacy stations!  But for this group, it was just too much to handle!

I know that this is not an earth shattering idea.  Many people have probably implemented very similar routines into readers' workshop....this is just an update on my journey to find the best fit for me and Readers' Workshop!

Here is what a week of tasks looks like for our "literacy stations."

1. Computer Time/Read to Self
First of all, our school is blessed with laptop carts to share between our hallway.  So, during readers workshop, 2 table groups (8 kids) read to self on one of our laptops.  I use this as a reward system and choose the 2 hardest working groups during readers workshop...but also, I try to rotate everyone through as best I can.

They have 2 choices on the computer to read to self:
>>> Raz-Kids {your school totally needs to jump on board this AMAZING resource if you haven't already!}

>>> Pebble Go {another resource your librarian needs to sign your school up for!}.  On Pebble Go, students are given a specific category of articles to read which correlates with science or social studies we are studying through our Common Core integrated units. The kids have LOVED getting to read and make connections to our big ideas!

2. Read to Self
Usually Mondays, we have quiet reading.  This is also our day we shop for new books from our classroom library. Book shopping and quiet reading just seem to work well together.   This day is essentially our classroom library station except everyone is doing it at the same time!  There are plenty of reading response sheets to give them to work on after they read, but usually I don't give them an extra assignment because of the time it takes to shop for books.  This also gives them a chance to catch up on their reading group assignment for me {which I'll blog about next}.

3. Word Work
On Tuesdays, we work on our phonics sounds for the week.  This can change from week to week, but we do anything from phonics printables and games that come from our district's adopted phonics series, Benchmark Phonics, to sorts from my phonics packets!

When they finish their assignment, they can read to self or to a buddy.

4. Buddy Reading
Usually on Wednesdays, students read to a buddy.  We still use the same routines and "I can" card goals from our literacy station, it's just that everyone is doing buddy reading instead of just one set of partners.

They can choose to read at their desks or can choose a quiet spot around the room to buddy read.

Sometimes, they just buddy read from their browsing box or library books.  On this day, they are usually required to do the buddy reading recording sheet from the literacy stations packet.

Sometimes, they are given a Scholastic News article to read with their buddy.  I use these as much as I can as they connect with our big ideas!  And the kids LOVE these.  The follow the procedure for our big idea station on this day:  Circle sight words, read the article to a buddy and then answer questions on the back.

4. Writers' Workshop
Okay, I'm just gonna be real for a second...I have some major time issues this year!  And, specifically, I have a day where we have 3 different activity times when kids aren't in the room.  So, on that day, Thursday, we combine readers' and writers' workshop!  Instead of meeting with small writing groups during writers' workshop, I meet with guided reading groups during that time and we "kill" two birds with one stone!

5. Sight Word Practice
Once a week, students work on practicing their sight words for the week using one of our sight word games from our packet.  These are the same activities I used for literacy stations, they are just all doing them at the same time now at their desk.

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