Monday, October 5, 2015

All About Our Apple Week!

It's October! How did that happen? Where did September go?! 
Since fall is in full swing, it's time for me to share all of the activities that took place in my classroom during Apple Week! We had so much fun! Our week was filled with lots of sweet and integrated learning activities. Take a look!
We kicked off Apple Week with a little apple tasting! 

 As my kiddos tasted their apples, they completed a Tasty Recording Sheet. The students first gave their opinion on taste and then rated the apple by "grading" it with a 1 (I did NOT like the apple.), a 2 (It was "okay."), or a 3 (I really liked the apple!). This launched a great discussion about what an opinion is. 
 The students then chose their favorite apple and wrote an Apple Expert Opinion writing response. We worked on using the word "because" when we we are asked to explain why
 We graphed our favorite apples on our class bulletin board. As you can see from the photograph below, Granny Smith was definitely the winner!
 Students then used our pictograph to create a personal bar graph of our class' favorite kind of apple. This page can be found in my Apple Unit by clicking here.
 We combined our reading with science one day, as we explored the favorite story, "The Little Red House with No Doors and No Windows." Students completed a guided lab report as we listened and discussed the story. At the end of the "experiment," they discovered the secret to the apple! This lab report is also in my Apple Unit
 Of course, we read lots of informational books about apples. As we read, we added our details and knowledge to our class Apple Facts anchor chart.
 During our reading mini lesson, we used my nonfiction apple passage from my Interactive Reading Passages: Fall Edition pack.  It contains paired passages that combine vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. It also contains an Interactive Notebook feature within each passage. 
 We used A Cupcake for the Teacher's Johnny Appleseed craftivity for our apple orchard informational writing pieces!  The kids did an amazing job on these writing pieces, and they look adorable in our hallway!

 We practiced sequenced narrative writing using the apple printable from my Narrative Writing Practice Pack. These little writing stories are really helping my kids focus on writing complete sentences with capitals and punctuation. 
 No Apple Week would be complete without a trip to the apple orchard! We are super lucky because our school is in WALKING DISTANCE to a real live apple orchard! It's great! We had a fun walk to the orchard. I had taught my kids some fun apple songs, and we sang our little hearts out the whole way there!
 We made homemade applesauce! Yum!
 I had to explain to the kids that our applesauce would not look like the applesauce at the store. They were great sports and gobbled it right up. Our room smelled delicious!
 As we made our applesauce, we completed a recipe for homemade applesauce. The students were so engaged with each step of this writing process, because they could not wait to complete the next part of our applesauce recipe! They also loved taking this recipe home and getting to share it with their families. 
Whew! I'm exhausted all over again just thinking and looking at everything we crammed into our Apple Week! I hope you enjoyed this little "tour" of everything we did! Thank you for stopping by! :) 

The activities and lessons in this blog post come from the following resources in my TpT Shop. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Pencil Pal Club & Giveaway Winner Announcement

I'm not sure about you, but it's the little things that can easily cause me to get overwhelmed throughout the week. You know the ones - that paper you forgot to make copies of, the school-wide project or contest that ends up taking ten minutes away from your lunch break, and....pencils! In the past, I spent time every week sharpening pencils for my kids. It's my own choice that I do not let my kids sharpen their pencils:
1) The sound of the sharpener throughout the day or even in the morning drives me nuts! 
2) It wastes instructional time. 
3) It wastes instructional time.

I've tried multiple ways of dealing with the whole pencil issue. You can read about one of those ways here. I have successfully solved the "I lost my pencil!" issue by using Pen Pals on our desks. These little things are amazing! I bought mine at Walmart, but you can also buy them on Amazon or in office supply stores. 
To be honest, I think every class handles pencils differently. Some classes cannot keep pencils to save their lives. For other classes - it's not a big deal. They use them until they break or are worn down, and then they switch their pencil for a new one. This year, my class is awesome about pencils. They don't abuse them and they use their pencils for as long as they will last - yay! 

But I still hate sharpening pencils. And it still eats up our class time if I let them sharpen the pencils themselves. So last year, I started The Pencil Pal Club. 
The Pencil Pal Club is for parents. They join the club and help our classroom by....sharpening pencils! Yes, it's a small act but it makes a BIG difference in our lives! I simply send a bag of pencils home with a kid that need sharpened in a plastic bag, along with a pencil sharpener. Parents sharpen the pencils and return the bag and sharpener back to school with their child. It's THAT easy! It is a HUGE time saver and it makes both their teacher - and the students - happy, happy, happy! 

You can download the letter that I send home to use in your own classroom by clicking on the photograph of the letter below. 

I've also put together an editable copy of The Pencil Pal Club letter. This download is a PowerPoint file. Simply download it by clicking on the picture below, and then type your own words into the body of the letter. 
I hope The Pencil Pal Club makes you as happy as it makes me! It is always a huge help to me throughout the year and I have found that many parents WANT so much to help, but often can't make it into the school to help out. This gives them a way of helping out at home, on their own time. It involves parents that otherwise might not have been able to volunteer - just like those parents who like to cut things out and assemble things at home! Your families WANT to be involved - don't be scared to ask them for their help! If they can - great! If they can't - that's okay, too! :) We'll never know if we do not ask. :)

Before I head off to church, I want to share the winner of my $50 Blog Makeover Giveaway for a $50 TeachersPayTeachers gift card! The winner is...
Thank you to everyone who entered! Amy, I have emailed you and look forward to hearing back from you! Congratulations!! 

Have a wonderful week everyone! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Blog Design GIVEAWAY: $50 TpT Card!

I am so excited you stopped by to visit today! 
This sweet little blog got some much needed TLC this week by the adorable and talented Gabby Barba from Gabby's Classrooms! She did an amazing job and I am so thankful for her! I am loving the bright colors and the clean background - yay!! It feels a little like that feeling you get when you find a comfy new pair of fleece leggings while shopping and you wish you could wear them to work every day haha! 

To celebrate this new design, I am having a GIVEAWAY for you!
I cannot say thank you enough for all of your endless support and kindness toward my blog, posts, ideas, curriculum, and friendship!  It means more than I can even express!

So what can you win?!
I am giving ONE lucky follower a $50.00 gift certificate to!

Enter using the Rafflecopter below! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The giveaway will end September 26, 2015.
I will announce the winner on my Facebook page and on Instagram - so be sure to follow me on FB and IG to see if you were the winner! :) Good luck!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Language In the Classroom Blog Series: Building a Classroom Culture

Hello friends! I am SO excited to introduce a new blog series that I am writing with my sweet friend Nicole over at Allison's Speech Peeps! Nicole is a speech and language pathologist and one of the BEST SLP's I've had the privilege of meeting! She is super passionate about student achievement and integrating classroom activities and content into the speech and language room.  Last spring, we had an idea to bring a blog post series to you this year, which will focus on the importance of language skills within the classroom. Like Nicole, I am passionate about integrating language development and language skills into my first grade classroom. Language skills are truly the foundation our students need to be able to read and write successfully!

Every month, Nicole and I will write a blog post that discusses how to integrate language skills into a content area. Nicole will write tips, activities, and ideas that can be used within the speech and language room and in a small group. I will be sharing ideas to use within the whole classroom setting. Together, we hope you find a multitude of informative, fun, and easy ways to boost the language skills and focus for your students. We know the power students hold when they are grounded in solid and successful language abilities, and we hope you experience this as well!
 This month, we are discussing how we integrate language skills while we are building and setting up our classroom culture. There are so many opportunities to build language skills while we are building a classroom culture. Many times, as classroom teachers, we are so focused on the "classroom culture" part, that we may not even stop to think how language is a part of these activities and ideas that so many of us do on a daily basis. Let's get started!
 Do you know there are a handful of students who enter our classrooms every year who do not even KNOW how to appropriately greet a fellow child, much less an adult? Taking the time to individually greet students every morning helps them to HEAR and be exposed to polite, respectful greetings.  "Good morning, Bobby!" is a very simple phrase that some students need to be taught how to respond to.  I ask my students to say "Good morning!" back to me. I also encourage students to use my name when doing so. "Good morning, Miss DeCarbo!" is what we love to hear when students walk through the classroom door. While preschool teachers do an excellent job at making morning greetings a priority in their classroom, we often forget the value of a simple morning and afternoon dismissal in the primary grades. At the end of the day, it's important to me that I tell each child to have a good afternoon on their way out. I also make sure to praise them and tell them that I can't wait to see them tomorrow. Often, simply modeling this social gesture helps students take ownership of it. 
 In today's day and age, it is uncommon for students to shake someone's hand and introduce themselves. But guess what?! It is such a VITAL life skill!! Students need to leave our schools understanding how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, and introduce themselves. It is a life skill they will use within the workplace and within their everyday lives. Many students are not taught this important skill at home. As teachers, we have the opportunity to make sure this necessary skill is used in school. Some students will need LOTS of practice looking someone in the eye and using their words to do this. This is a great lesson to implement during those first few months of school as students are learning one another's names.
I believe children have amazing hearts. They have so much empathy for others and such a desire to comfort, help, and encourage. However, some students do not know how to express that empathy that they feel towards others with their words. Holding meaningful classroom discussions that make students think about the empathy and choice of words they would use in a specific situation helps them to develop the language and wording they would use when the situation plays out in real life. I love to use my Let's Get Chatty! pack while I'm teaching kindness and empathy within meaningful conversations. The pack contains lots of real photographs and posters that require students to think through the situation and decide what they would SAY and do if they were in it. Modeling appropriate language, reactions, and phrases the students can use during the conversation is SO powerful!

 Teaching kindness is important when we are developing a classroom culture. A teacher can do a million and one activities and top notch lessons that are devoted to classroom culture, but if students are not taught how to interact with one another, the kind culture we desire will never develop. We need to teach our students what kind friends SAY to one another and we need to use and review that language EVERY DAY. Make a chart with your class and post it in the classroom. Add kind phrases and sentences that kind people would use with one another to the chart throughout the year. I believe that teaching really little ones to say "I'm sorry," is great, but as our students get older, we need to explicitly teach them to elaborate on this thought. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cut you in line. I know I hurt your feelings and I won't do that again," is a more elaborate apology that we can teach.  Start small, with simple, short phrases.  As the year progresses, expand on these sentences to encourage students to elaborate and include detail.  Your students' writing - and your happy classroom of kind friends - will thank you!

 While this tip is not a "student activity," how you set up and design your classroom can actually have an effect on how easy it is for your students to collaborate and hold conversation with one another.  Think about your own house. My favorite spot in my house is our kitchen table. It's not fancy - but it brings people together. We have had family dinners at that table, and many nights where friends have gathered at the table for snacks, coffee, meals, and just to chit chat. Our classrooms are no different. Arrange seats in pairs so that students can use the areas to read together, discuss, collaborate, and complete partner work. These kinds of seating arrangements encourage conversation and interaction among students. A classroom with desks is isolation can set a tone that says "Every man for himself!" A classroom with group seating, partner seating, table seating, etc. can set a tone that says, "We are here to learn together, talk to one another, and share ideas with each other."  One of my favorite spots in my classroom is a little rug that has two ottomans on it.  It's my favorite because it is one of my kids' favorite spots. They love to sit there together to do writing reviews, play math games, and read to one another!

This one is probably a no-brainer for teachers but it is a good reminder! Teach students HOW to praise one another! Make an anchor chart of encouraging words and phrases, practice praising one another during morning meetings, and use many different variations when you are praising your students. This not only promotes a classroom culture that says, "We are here to support one another," but it teaches students how to praise one another. 

A great activity for this is to have your kids sit in a circle at the end of the day. Tell students to praise the friend sitting beside them by telling them something great they did that day. Give students a sentence starter if they are younger. Encourage students to use their friend's name. For example, "________, you did a great job at ___________ today!" You will love seeing your students' faces light up - both on the receiving side and from the student giving the compliment or praise. This is a great way to help students interact positively with one another. It also ends the day on a happy, supportive note! :)
I hope you found this first blog post in our new series helpful and encouraging! Helping to develop language skills within the classroom does not have to be time consuming, costly, or overly complicated. Often, it is simply a matter of elaborating on the activities and lessons that we already do on a daily basis. Integrating language skills can not only set the foundation for strong readers and writers, but it also helps students to become well-rounded, successful little people who can communicate effectively with those around them! 

I hope you take some time to check out Nicole's side of this topic, over at Allison's Speech Peeps! It's filled with many great ideas! :) We'll be back next month with ideas on integrating speech and language skills with reading, decoding, and articulation! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fall Interactive Reading Passages for Your INB!

Today I want to share with you one of my newer additions to my TpT store: Interactive Reading Passages {Fall Edition}! I am super excited about these new passages and my first graders are just eating them up!  Let's take a look inside this new series!
I am so excited to introduce a series of reading passages that will focus on Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary, text evidence, and a wide variety of comprehension skills - all combined into one easy to use pack that is very LOW PREP! :) One of the best parts of these passages? The text is MANAGEABLE for young and beginning readers. They won't feel overwhelmed by the length or complexity - therefore boosting their confidence and allowing them to focus on comprehension and vocabulary discussion! 
These passages fit into a regular sized spiral notebook. However, if you'd like to use composition books, you can shrink the size on the copier to make it fit - easy cheesy! :) Adding the passages to your Interactive Notebook is EASY:

Trim (I just use the paper cutter to trim the entire class set at once!)
 Cut the Interactive Notebook feature at the bottom. 
These passages just take ONE little cut to make two flaps. Some passages require just two cuts to make three flaps. These are SOO low prep!! No need to spend lots of time cutting and gluing complicated notebook pieces before you tackle the standards! Eliminate that time and add instructional minutes to your lesson. :)
 Glue the top of the passage into a notebook.
 Fold up the flaps at the bottom of the passage to create your "Interactive Notebook" feature!
 Ta-da! You now have an age appropriate passage, with an INB feature for comprehension, that is ALL on the SAME page!! This is IDEAL for little readers!!

 Let's take a look at some example pages! 

Students highlight the three Tier 2 or Tier 3 vocabulary words prior to reading. You can discuss these words with your students before you read the passage or while you read the passage in order to focus on context clues! 
 Each passage comes with a Text Evidence feature. Students have to go back into the text and underline a detail, fact, or specific piece of information from the passage. 
 The pack spirals between lots of different comprehension strategies. 
Find the entire Interactive Reading Passages Fall Edition pack in my Tpt Store by clicking HERE or clicking on the cover page below. In the PREVIEW file, you will also find a FREE sample passage that you can use to "Try before you buy!" Have fun! I hope you find these passages as effective for your reading block as I have! :)