I've decided to start a blog series on my favorites for each month: favorite books, favorite activities, just anything I love about that month for teaching!  Here's a look at February Fav's!

February Must Reads:

Here are the links for purchasing these awesome books!
>>Guess How Much I Love You
This is a favorite all year long at my house with my preschooler, but we definitely read it a few extra times around Valentine's Day!

>>Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Love
Anything Pete the Cat is a winner in the classroom, so of course my firsties love this one too!

>>Clifford First Valentine's Day
My 3 year old is AHHHHbsessed with Clifford right now.  Last weekend, we read 5 Clifford stories in a row including the Christmas one and the Valentine's Day one! ;)  And Clifford is a winner with elementary kiddos too!

>>Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse
I love reading this story before making Valentine's with kids because it's so good for brainstorming who to give Valentine's to and what kind of Valentine each person might appreciate!

>>The Day it Rained Hearts
When I teach our weather unit around Valentine's Day, this book is the perfect tie in.  I even have some creative writing prompts and crafts with this story in my weather unit.

>>I Love You, Snugglesaurus
My Cooper is in LOVE with this book.  It's seriously one of his fav's.  And it's so simple that he could "read" it on his own when he was 2 and a half.  It's a great bedtime story all year long, but especially in February!  And I love displaying it in his play room in February too!

>>Groundhog Day
This is a must read for Groundhog Day.  Gail Gibbons is one of my very favorite authors for non-fiction because she gives so much information that's ENGAGING to young kids.  Find activities and crafts to go with Groundhog Day here.

>>Martin's Big Words
Yes, MLK day is in January, but black history month is in February.  Either way, this is a must have book for your classroom.  The firsties really get this book.  I used this in my MLK packet which is also part of my American Contributors unit.

>>A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver
You can read about all of the people in black history I cover in first grade in another blog, but George Washington Carver is always a crowd pleaser, because...let's face it: who doesn't love peanut butter?? :)

>>A Picture Book of George Washington
>>Abraham Lincoln
There are SO many books about these 2 awesome presidents that it's sometimes hard to choose, but I just love the picture book series during our American Contributors unit (they cover many other great inventors and contributors!).  And I came across this book on Abraham Lincoln a couple of years ago and it is HANDS DOWN my favorite.  So much information and lots of fun facts and trivia for the kiddos.  The love this one!

...and, of course, my poetry packet has plenty of February poems for students to read in shared reading, practice independently, or order poem lines in a literacy station...

February Activities:
Here are a few of my favorite mini-units for February...


I loved teaching this Sunday School unit to my preschool babies last year {Read more HERE}!  And I even steal a few of these crafts and lessons for my firsties from time to time!

And I love this mini-packet for President's Day!  We are now in the middle of our American Contributors unit and will be starting our research on George and Abe next week!  See more of this packet in action on another blog post!

What are your favorites for February?

This post has been a long time coming.  Seriously, I started working on it back in the summer and I just haven't had a chance to finish it out! Phew!  Because of the dragging out on my part, this will now be a 2 part series!

I have LOVED working with Cooper at home "playing school!"  It is one of his most favorite things that we do together.  I'll be honest, when I'm teaching, it's hard to get to consistently, but we do try to play school games at least once a week while I'm in school and at least 3 times a week when I'm on breaks!

If you follow my blog, you probably have figured out by now that I'm a math junkie {If you haven't, read about that here}.  So, helping Cooper build a strong foundation in math is something I really love to do!

He already knew how to rote count to at least 10 before we started working on math this summer, and he could already identify most of his numbers 0-10 and he could count a small set of things.  So, I knew he was ready for a little bit more number sense...and my iTeach Tots Math packet was born!

Here is our math school time counting routine:
1. We order our numbers 0-10 to make a number line.
{Now that he's really good at ordering his numbers, we match the number word cards to the numeral--I read the word and he reads it and matches it!}

2.  We count on and count back using our number line we made.  We started by counting from 0 to 10 and counting back from 10 to 0.  Then, I started asking him in my most excited voice, "Do you think you can count on starting at the number 3??" Cooper just giggles and uses his number line to count on.  When he mastered that, we started the same thing counting back from random numbers 0-10. I know it seems silly, but this is one of his favorite parts.  Anything that is approached like it's a game is a winner in our house!

3.  We use the bears to build sets.  We start with the number 1 and work as high as he can go.  At first, we could barely make it to building a set of 3.  But now, he can build sets over 10 and we don't have to start at 1...I just choose a few numbers for him to build for me!  We always try building the set on his own first, and when he struggled, I would pull out the dot cards as extra support.

I had him build the set of bears on the dots and then took the dots away to see if he could build it independently.  This worked really really well for him and as a math junkie, I know seeing those dot patterns and making him visualize the dot patterns to build the set independently is the perfect foundation for subitizing!

4.  Now that Cooper is really really solid with building sets, we match the dot sets to the numeral.  This makes it a tad harder because it's taking away the manipulative and just using a picture representation.  Now his routine is to order the numbers, match the word cards and then match the dot cards to the numerals.  I can usually get him started working on this and then while he is matching, I can get ready for the rest of our lesson time.


And while Cooper adores his counting cards from the iTeach Tots Math Packet, we've had a blast changing these up to some seasonal counting and set building cards!


Grab the Christmas tree set building FREEBIE by clicking the image! :)
We are creeping in on February and little guy still loves building sets with his Christmas trees and pumpkins! :)

This entire counting routine takes about 10 minutes.  After our counting routine, we move into a few math stories....I'll be blogging about that soon!  In the meantime, check out all of my iTeach Tots packets!


A few years ago, I started really studying the Standards for Math Practices during a math leadership meeting.  Our team began using the SMPs to drive our goals for our CGI lessons each week {read about that in another blog.}

As I began using these as goals for my teaching, not only did I see immediate improvement in my student's thinking, but my instruction was more focused.  Our share time was more focused.  My one on one conferences were more focused.

And then one day, it hit me....these Standards for Math Practices aren't just great in math...they're fantastic in literacy too!  Almost every single SMP has a literacy application as well and so I began helping my first graders see those connections over the last few years.

And it truly has made a huge difference! Here are the connections I try to make with each practice....

#1 Make sense of the problem and persevere >> Comprehension in reading
#2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively >> does it make sense? decoding words
#3 Construct viable arguments >> ummm, construct viable arguments in literacy.... :)
#4 Model with math >> explain/justify your answers in reading response or writing prompts
#5 Use tools appropriately >> Literacy tools (pencil, journals, books, dictionaries, supplies...)
#6 Attend to precision >> spelling, editing, revising, rereading, sounding out words
#7 Look for and use structure >> story structure and non-fiction features
#8 Look for and express repeated reasoning and regularity >> phonics and spelling patterns

Really, the connections are endless once you get started!

Here's an example from just this year!  This past week, our SMP goal has been #6: Attend to precision.  As I've blogged before, I introduce each practice with motions to incorporate some Total Physical Response to help kids remember.  This one is making a big circle with your pointer finger and then pointing the finger straight in the middle of the "circle" you made on "precision"--like you are hitting the target!  We charted what attending to precision means the first time this was our goal and continued to revisit those things this week...

And precision was our topic all during conferencing and share time...specifically coming up with some sort of tracking system to keep track of what you've counted.  We weren't quite ready for that earlier in the year.  I have so many kids not counting by ones anymore, BUT they are making counting mistakes because they don't have a way to keep track of which numbers they've added/subtracted....

Here are some of the results of our "precision" and tracking system focus from this week...

Even though this little one is still working on smaller numbers and holding on to counting by ones, we shared hers and I praised her for labeling her counting and labeling each person's set of dollars with our names!

Love how this kiddo labeled each box, labeled the answer, and if you look closely you can see her checking off marks under her "7" in 73! {And how 'bout that super notation too?? Who says first graders don't have great math thinking???}
 This guy's checking system is a little clearer {look at the check marks under each 10 of his equation.}  This was interesting to me because usually I model checking off in their thinking instead of the equation, but he figured out a way to make it work and I loved it!

Here's another kiddo checking off his thinking as he adds his numbers.  These are the kinds of strategies where I see kids make mistakes year after year...Their thinking is great and at that high relational level where we want them to be, but they just "forget" to add part of the number after they break down numbers into 10s and 1s.  So, checking off as he goes is a great way for this kid {and so many other now thanks to his sharing!} to attend to precision!

Then today (Friday) we worked on editing our writing.  As I've blogged before, each Friday we focus on editing or revising with partners or as a group using our self-assessing checklists.  We talked about editing being the way we catch our mistakes in writing and just like that someone blurted out, "Just like we catch our mistakes in math!"

Don't you love it when that happens?  It was one of those moments that rarely ever happens in my teaching world where my students actually read my mind! :)

So, I helped solidify this connection from math to literacy by saying, "In math we have been working on developing a checking system to catch our mistakes or prevent our mistakes.  And today in writing, you will be editing some writing to help catch my mistakes!" #angelicchoruses

Here's what we did:  We worked as a whole group to edit a reading passage from my American Contributors Unit on MLK and found capitalization errors.  I showed them how to "notate" {another math word} their edits for capitals and they even got to use our special felt pens as editing pens!

I even had them each develop their own tracking system for making sure they found the correct number of mistakes {I have the number of mistakes on the star of each passage}.

Then, they worked as a group to play, Pass the Pen--a class favorite which I've blogged about before--to find punctuation mistakes in the same article.


I loved being able to make connections between math and literacy and I think it just makes the learning that much more powerful when we provide opportunities for kids to connect across subject areas!


This week in first grade we have been researching and learning about Martin Luther King to prepare for his upcoming holiday.  I loved spending time learning about him right after our New Year dreams we wrote our first week back from break!  The connection between our two ideas was just perfect!

If you use my Common Core Units, you may be wondering why I'm teaching MLK now and not with Unit 5: American Contributors...and the answer is simple...sort of!

Since I switched districts, I have more freedom as to which units I teach where.  In the suggested Common Core units, their timeline suggests this be Unit 5 which would be mid February-end of March for me.  And I just like the way the American Contributors unit fits in January and February.  It ties in with MLK day, with Presidents' Day and with black history month!

So I was super excited to start our Bright ideas unit this week!

We started off by reading resources and gathering facts about MLK.  I **LOVED** using Google Docs for this and integrating technology this way.  The kids were engaged and loved watching me type and it definitely saved anchor chart space!

We read 3 different sources, Martin's Big Words, a reading rainbow clip about MLK and a pebble go article on him.  We added a * beside each fact when we heard it again from another source.  So, two stars by a fact means we heard it two more times after the original time.

Since we would be talking about choosing *important* facts the next day, knowing which facts we heard over and over would be important!

The next day, we reviewed our facts and talked about what his bright idea was--what was his main contribution that made our lives better?  We charted his bright idea on our group charts {each group is named for an American Contributor}.

Then, students recorded his idea in their "Who Had a Bright Idea?" booklet that we will use during the entire unit to record our contributors we study.


In readers' workshop that day, we discussed filtering through facts to choose the *important* facts.  We highlighted our facts in blue!

We charted our important facts on an anchor chart for future reference! {But thankfully it could be much smaller since we'd filtered through our facts!}

Then, students chose 4 of their own important facts from our notes, turned them into complete sentences and recorded them on our MLK graphic organizer!

On the 3rd day, we "published" our important facts and made our MLK craft!  Isn't he adorable?? :)

Thanks to this MLK mini unit, my first graders are ready to rock and roll with our next idea in writing...choosing the most important facts to teach readers! ;(

You can steal this MLK mini unit as one of my #dollardeals in my store...

... or grab the entire 6 week unit which includes MLK and other American contributors!

Last year, I started a tradition with my first graders on choosing one word to focus for the year...and I fell in love INSTANTLY with this project! {Read about it here!}

But, I was <<<SUPER>>> excited to try making #OneWord2016 Resolutions with my family this year!  Last year, a friend of mine shared that her family made one word resolutions and posted them on their mantel in January.  I loved this idea and although it came a little too late for 2015, I knew it would be perfect for this year!

Each person in our family came up with one word resolutions {okay, okay, I sort of helped my 3 year old, but he understood more than I thought he would!}

Justin's word is MOVE: physically move by exercising and mentally move by making quicker decisions.

I was pretty sure I knew what my word would be back the Sunday before Thanksgiving when God reminded me of one of my favorite hymns in church.... "Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say..."
And even though it may seem like a hard connection for some, it was clear my word should be PATIENT:  patient with my family, patient in my parenting, and patient with the lot I am currently blessed with.

Cooper's word is SERVE:  We used our family rules poster to decide on which one he wanted to work on this year.  While he is a good helper--no a GREAT helper for a 3 year old--our desire is that he begin to help and to serve without being asked first, by asking, "How can I help you?" and by beginning to see needs in others who need to be served.
Then, my hubby used his newest "tool toy" to cut out each of our words!

We spray painted our words white and the husband attached them to the pallet wood frame.


I think this looks perfect hanging in our entry way!  It will be a constant reminder of what we plan to work on in 2016!


And even though it'll be hard to leave my sweet family for work again next week, I can't wait to try my latest version with my sweet students next week too!


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