Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Feel...Writing Assessment - First and Last Day!

Today was our last day of school! It was bittersweet. I absolutely loved my class this year. They were one of those classes who just genuinely CARED about one another. During our closing circle today, one of my little sweeties started to cry.  I watched in awe as one little girl put her arm around him. Another little boy got up without being asked and retrieved a tissue for his little friend from the back counter. I sat back, taking in that very simple but very powerful scene. These were classmates who generally did not gravitate towards each other on the playground or outside of school. But in our classroom - they were a family. They had learned the true meaning of what it meant to "take care of each other." 

:) Another favorite moment of today was our "I feel..." writing activity. On the very first day of school, my students complete an "I feel..." writing activity.  You can use regular writing paper, or you can grab my template, which is included in my Back to School First Week Fun pack in my TpT Store.  Here are some examples from our "I feel..." writing activity this year - the first day of school!

I save these writing pieces and tuck them away in a safe spot. I don't tell the students what I' using it for. I just tell them that I can't wait to take them home and read them. :)  Then, today, on the last day, I gave each child a regular piece of writing paper. I told them to write about how they were feeling in that moment. We all started with the same prompt, "I feel..."

As they wrote, I passed back their papers from the first day of school, face down on their desks. On the count of the 3, we all flipped our papers over. There is always a lot of laughter and squeals as they compare their writing from Day 1 with their writing on the last day.  I often hear, "I can't even READ what I wrote!" or "Look how BIG my writing was!" and "Oh no, this is horrible!" But it is all said with a big smile on their face, as they look over the piece of writing they just completed (quickly - and, let's be honest, it's the last day of school...and not their best work haha!) They can instantly see the improvement in their writing and it's a moment when they all realize, "I worked hard and it paid off!"

It's one of my favorite moments of the school year. :) So many of my little sweethearts have come SO far in their writing abilities, especially the samples from above. They were two of my most struggling writers on Day 1, and looking at these before and after pictures makes my heart SO happy! :)

Thanks for letting me share our little celebrations from today. :) Maybe you will be able to find a few minutes to squeeze this simple little "assessment" in next fall for back to school! Have a wonderful Friday!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - A Piece of Our Heart!

Do you de-clutter your classroom at the end of the year and give things away to your students? I always "raffle" off the odds and ends that I'm throwing out every year. Guess what item is the MOST WANTED item in the pile every.single.year.? Our class "wrinkled" heart that we created during the first week of school! We passed this heart around and each student crumpled it up. This illustrated that when we use unkind words with our classroom family, we can apologize, but we can never fully smooth out the wrinkles on our friends' hearts. 

I tell my students that whoever takes home the heart gets to hang up a "piece of our classroom's heart" in their bedroom!  It is by far the most "prized possession" of the year and that makes MY heart very happy! :)

Do you raffle off or give things away at the end of the year? If so, what do your students just LOVE getting to take home? 

Leave a comment below to share with us or link up and browse everyone else's photographs! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ten Months of Memories...A Lifetime of Impact.

Tonight, I started to put together my end of the year gift to my students. For the past 7 years, I've given the same gift - a DVD slideshow, set to music, with pictures of our entire year.  On the last day of school, after we get back from our picnic lunch outside, we will sit down at our seats for one last time. I will pass out individual awards (each unique, each one carefully chosen).  Then, we will watch our slideshow together, as a whole class.  Every year, it's the same - my kids laugh and giggle at their pictures floating across the screen, while I sit behind them, with teary eyes and a grateful heart. 

I can't help but think of the past ten months. Ten months of challenging students to meet my expectations, and then challenging them to go even further. Ten months of developing independence, self-control, kindness, flexibility, and a deep understanding of what it means to think. Ten months of reading, writing, adding, subtracting, problem solving, and analyzing. Ten months of friendship circles, lessons, character building, and instilling confidence. Ten months of hugs, laughter, smiles, and jokes. Ten months of calling them "my class," "my kids."  Next week, they will walk out of my room and for the billionth time this year, I will, as I do every day, tell them "I love you!"  I will get lots of hugs from the girls and from my boys, fist pumps that end in our  class handshake  we all created together back in October. 

As you head into your final weeks, it's easy to get swept up in the many "to-do" lists sitting on our desks. We have report cards, data, assessments, classroom packing, assemblies, and more. It can be overwhelming and fly by.  I urge you, in these last few weeks, to take the time to simply ENJOY your kids.  Draw a picture with them. Sit down on the carpet with them and read an extra story.  Tell them a funny childhood story. Ask them what they are excited about for next year. Ask them what they are worried about.  Give them extra hugs. Tell them you love them. :)

Sometimes we feel like we are spinning our wheels throughout the year and getting nowhere. However, you are making more of a difference than you thought. Today, one of my seniors walked into my classroom and handed me a note. I was her cheerleading coach when she was a freshman. We both had stubborn personalities. I remember a couple times when I thought, "I'm not getting through. I want her to know I care about her goals and dreams more than the sport of cheerleading. I just want to teach them how to be kind and goal-oriented young women."  As a young coach who had no experience coaching high schoolers, and was also a first grade teacher, I found it difficult to be as firm and strict as I should have been. ("1-2-3 eyes on me" doesn't work with high school teenagers - just so you know.) When I resigned from coaching in order to spend more time with my husband and family, I felt defeated. I had so many things I would have done differently. What if I hadn't been as effective as I could have been? So this morning, I couldn't help but smile as I read her note:

Our students hold us in their hearts as much as we hold them in ours. We may not always see it, or realize it, or slow down enough to enjoy it as much as we should - but our impact reaches far beyond the classroom. As you say goodbye to your class this year, know that you have made a permanent sparkle in their heart and in their life. 

It took you ten months to make an impact that will last a lifetime.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

2015-2016 Free Behavior Calendars UPDATED!

Happy Sunday! I just spent a wonderful weekend outside of Boston for my aunt's wedding! The weather was GORGEOUS and the little town we were in was soooo cute.

We stayed at an adorable bed & breakfast and I got to enjoy some delicious coffee all weekend long!
We also had some time today to go to the beach! :) 
It was sooo nice to be able to spend a whole uninterrupted weekend with family - especially my mom! We had so much fun. :)
Even though you might be thinking, "I wish I was at the beach!"..... Do not be jealous of me right now.  I am stuck at the Boston Airport because my flight home is....very.very.delayed.  Right now, I'm scheduled to get back to Ohio at 2:30am.  That should make for one glorious Monday, right?! :)  ;) 
However, since I'm a BIG believer of positive thinking....this means I just had time to update my 2015-2016 Free Behavior Calendars for you! Yayy!!!! You can grab them HERE in my TpT store or click on the picture below. :)

I hope you enjoy these calendars! You can find the clip chart they coordinate with HERE in my TpT store or by clicking on the picture below. 

Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope everyone has a fantastic week! We are having our Fancy Vocabulary Parade and Party this week, as well as Ice Cream Day on Thursday! I'll have lots of fun posts for you later in the week. :)  Don't forget to stop back soon. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wordless Wednesday May 13th - Writing Assessments

Tonight I went through 24 diagnostic writing assessments. Aren't you jealous?! ;)
My question this week:  Do you have an end-of-year writing assessment your students are mandated to take - either by your district or by your state? 

Link up with me below or use the linky pics to jump from blog to blog and catch up on this week's photographs and events! :) 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"Have a Delectable Lunch!" Fancy Vocabulary Activities

"Have a delectable lunch!" is what you would hear these days if you stood at the entrance of the cafeteria while my first graders headed into lunch.  While we focus on vocabulary instruction all year in my room, during the last half of the year they really seem to take ownership for their vocabulary development! They learn how confident they are as readers and writers, and suddenly using the "fancy words" that we have been learning all year is FUN and "super cool."  

We've had a lot of fun reading lots and lots of Fancy Nancy books over the past few weeks. 
 As we read, we post these new words onto our anchor chart.
(Ahhh-mazing props to our stupendous kindergarten teacher who was sweet enough to draw Fancy Nancy for this artistically weak first grade teacher! ;) Thank you so much, Mr. B!
As I read, I stop every couple of pages and the students discuss new and exciting words they hear.  I read the sentences around the word and draw attention to the illustrations for them. Our goal for the read alouds? Context Clues! We discuss the word's context clues and I give an example of the word's meaning by sharing a quick scenario or story with the students. I want to model how the word is used both within the context of the story and give examples of how they might use the word within their everyday lives. 

Our Fancy Vocabulary parade will be held next week, and we cannot wait! You can read about my annual vocabulary parade HERE and grab a free packet for your parade while you're there! The packet in that post contains a word list, parent list, reminder cards, and explanation page to start your own annual parade! :)

We also continuously add to our Fancy Vocabulary wall, which is actually posted on my back cabinets.  I have a bunch of colorful stars pre-cut.  As the year progresses and my students start to take on ownership of words like "dapper," "frustrated," and "intelligent," we add the stars to our board.
Our Fancy Word Wall keeps expanding! (That's fancy for getting bigger!)

We also created those good ol' Synonym Rolls as we learned about synonyms and antonyms!  I WAS planning on putting these Synonym Rolls onto a foil "cookie sheet" and hanging it in the hallway.  However....I failed. You see, this thing called "The Month of May" happened. It came out of nowhere, I swear! All of a sudden, I woke up and it was May 4th already. Between a million emails a day that are packed with due dates, special events, theme days, and end of year reminders.....the cookie sheet did not end up in the hallway.
Imagine the cuteness, people. 
Go ahead - practice your visualization skills.

That's it for our recent vocabulary activities! I'll be back next week with another blog post about the big Vocabulary Party we are planning in my room - and a fun freebie for you that will be the perfect little game to play at the end of the year!

Thanks for stopping by! As always-

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Compare and Contrast Freebie! (And a SALE!)

Happy Tuesday! 
As you know from my post HERE, we have been comparing and contrasting like lil monsters lately! To put a new twist on our small group work, I added a Compare and Contrast Comprehension Pack to my store! It's part of my Strategy Series and contains 20 compare and contrast passages with "text evidence" style to them! 
My kids have been doing AWESOME with these and it has helped them read, comprehend, and identify similarities and differences on their own as they closely interact with the text. 
You can find this new pack by clicking HERE.
 Here's a look at all of the features these passages contain. Students read the passage three times for fluency. Next, they use the coordinating colors for the strategy pack (For this pack, the colors are red and blue) to underline the similarities and differences between the two topics. Then, as one of my kiddos put it, "This is the REALLY SUPER FUN part of this!!" - The kids get to color the pictures according to the text evidence information they read in the passage! Talk about AWESOME test taking practice! It also gets students comfortable with the practice of rereading. 
Like all of my passages, this pack contains a freebie passage for you to try out with your students! If you click HERE, you can download the Preview File and print out the following passage. These passages also make great activities for morning work, sub days, literacy centers, small group work, homework - and more!
I hope you enjoy my newest addition to my Comprehension Strategy Series! :)

It's the annual Teacher Appreciation Sale on! 
EVERYTHING in my store is 28% off when you use the code: ThankYou
Click HERE or on the picture below to jump to my store

Did you know you can shop my store by clicking on Custom Categories?! It makes it really  easy for customers to find exactly what they need from week to week.  Custom Categories are listed on the left hand side of my store. 

Let's take a little peek into some of the items in my store that are on SALE tonight and all day Wednesday! :) Click on the picture to jump to that section of my store. :)

Thanks for stopping by! Wordless Wednesday will return NEXT week! 
I hope everyone has a great week! Happy Shopping! 
Click HERE To Start Shopping! 
(Or, click on my button below!)

Monday, May 4, 2015

We Love Teachers Sale Linky Party!

Hi friends! 
It is that time of year again! (Cue: Rocky Theme Song) The sun is back, warmer weather has arrived, and summer vacation is on the way! It's also the time of the year when we get to celebrate TEACHERS for Teacher Appreciation!
And.....Guess What?!
There is a TPT Teacher Appreciation Sale this week!!!
Lots of TPT Sellers are putting their entire stores on sale for 20% off! You can even save an additional 10% off of your purchase when you enter the promo code ThankYou when you check out!

We want to make it very easy and convenient for you to find the stores of teachers participating in the sale! (I can probably get to my favorite store in the mall with my eyes closed so let's make TpT shopping just as easy, shall we?!) ;)

I have teamed up with some of my best blogging bloggies to host a linky filled with teachers participating!!
  Teachers participating should link up a blog post or their TPT store!!
You can click on any of the link ups below to shop or go to their blog to see some products they have on sale!

Here are some of the products I have on sale this Tuesday and Wednesday! (EVERYTHING in my store will be on sale but here are some of my favorites!!)

My favorite product for May? My Sub Plan Pack
Does it always seem like we are out a day towards the end of the year? Every year since I have started teaching, I'm always out at least one day during the month of May! Here's a super FUN pack that will leave you worry-free on your day off:

My favorite items to PREP in May to get prepared for Back to School come August are my No Prep Intervention Binders!! You can check them out individually or as a bundle by clicking HERE or click on the buttons below. 


Here are some previews of my sweet friends' sale items, too!

You can head to my store by clicking HERE tor on my store button below see EVERYTHING on sale! Stock up for the end of the year, OR join me this month as I prep materials and supplies for back to school time! I LOVE starting the year off with essential papers and materials already laminated and cut. It saves me SO much time and stress come August!
Here is What to Do to Participate in the Linky
1. Copy and paste the blank template into PowerPoint.
2. Put your product pics in the template.
3. Save your button AND our linky button.
4. Create a blog post using these images.
5. Link your published blog post up with us OR just link up your TPT store that will be on sale! 

Thanks for linking up with us and we're ready to shop til you drop on May 5th and 6th!