Sunday, November 22, 2015

TPT Guest Blogger Excitement!

EEEKKK! I am so, so excited to be a guest blogger on the Blog today! I blogged about my four top tips for making your lesson plans brain-friendly!!
It is such an honor to have been able to write this post, and I would L-O-V-E for you to head over to their blog and check it out! While you are there, you can also read the story behind the pink, smiling object in the picture above -it is a true *treasure* in my life and I explain why in the post! :) 

Click HERE 
Click on the picture above to head over and read the post! :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Turkey Trot Blog Hop! Freebies, Ideas, and Dessert!

Welcome to “The Chalkies” Turkey Trot! We hope you enjoy a jog through our blogs gobbling up freebies, ideas, and recipes for some holiday joy!
First off, we have a new blog name!  We switched out the word "Primary" for "Elementary". We want to meet the needs of any teacher K-6. Our blog has been thoughtfully designed to help you find what YOU need for YOUR classroom level!
I love those grade level tabs {seen above} that help me grab what I need. This trot will also take you through the grade level blogs of your choice.

We hope you enjoy this little meal, from appetizer to dessert!
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For an appetizer, grab this interactive and engaging Thanksgiving passage from my Fall Text Evidence Reading Passages pack! Did you know my Fall pack includes passages that will take you all the way up until winter break? After that, you can check out my Winter and Spring Editions for even more text evidence passages! 

Grab the freebie by clicking HERE

3rd and 4th grade teachers: These quick little passages make AWESOME warm-ups, morning work, and independent practice! Parents love them because the text is short but the comprehension packs a powerful punch! They are great for review and keep kids cycling through all of the various reading strategies and skills they need.  (Great for intervention specialists, too!) 


Here's a little game we enjoyed playing last week to practice our 2nd quarter sight words.

Okay I have to be honest with you.
This is not a game.
It's not even CLOSE to being a game.

But they did.
Because they are 7.
And that's why I like teaching first grade.  
I can get away with being "cool" by making up a game that's not really a game.
Here's how we "played." 
I gave each student 6 cubes of the same color. I told them that when I said, "GO!" they would have TEN seconds to put FIVE of their cubes on top of any cards they would like. 
Since I knew this activity would obviously go towards to the top of my "Top 10 Ridiculously Lame Activities I've Made Up for My Kids That They Loved" list, I made my voice sound super dramatic.

(Enter: Dramatic Teacher Voice) "On your marks.....get set....get ready....get really ready....GO!"

The kids scrambled around the table to place their cubes on the cards of their choice. Then, I told the students to switch their remaining cube with a friend at the table.  Whatever color they were holding now, those were the cards they had to collect off the table and read aloud!  

Yep. That was it. End of "game." We get pretty wild in first grade, lemme tell you. ;) 
We repeated this little activity about three times, and it only took us around 3-4 minutes of total playing time. Surprisingly, they had a blast and it is now one of our little "Friday small group games" that we play when we need a break from routine! If you try it out, let me know if your kiddos are as easy to entertain as mine are!

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You guys. This is the BEST recipe I have ever made. It's a French Toast Bake and it's the yummiest thing you've ever eaten for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

 The picture below and the recipe is from Rach's Blog and if you click the picture it will take you to her post for this recipe.  She has amazing step by step directions, and they are EASY PEASY! Just click HERE or on the picture below! Trust me, you want to make this dish during a holiday weekend or for Christmas morning!! :) YUMMMM!!!

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For me, November means that my students and my classroom is in FULL SWING. We deeply know our routines and expectations and *INTERVENTIONS* are fully being implemented. If you're looking for reading intervention packs, you might want to check out my store to find what you need to get your kiddos' on track. :)

I have several *New and Updated* Custom Categories to help you find everything you need!

Click below to TROT on over to the next blog for another great "meal!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Turkey Hunt Math Freebie!

November is flying by! I wanted to pop in tonight and share a fun math strategy game that my students have been LOVING this month! This game is great for fostering thinking skills because the kids have to predict and assume their partner's next move! It's called Turkey Hunt and it is a definite favorite that I wanted to share with you for FREE today!

Playing is simple! Just print out the board and cover each turkey with a math cube or a counter. Players take turns uncovering one, two, or three turkeys. The partner who uncovers, or "hunts", the last turkey left on the board, loses. The other play wins! Then, the kids simply cover up their turkeys and play again.  They love it!

You can download this pack for free from Google Docs by clicking HERE or on the picture below. I have included a color version and a black & white version that is "printer friendly." 
I hope you enjoy this cute little strategy game! 
Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

How I Told My Class A Secret!

Hello teacher-friends!
I have been waiting and waiting to share some special news with you.
I usually try not to go overboard with sharing personal news on my teaching blog, but after blogging for almost five years, this is one piece of news that is just too hard to keep from you, as it has already become the most precious and important thing in my life:
We're having a little baby!!! 
My husband and I are thrilled to announce that we are expecting our first child this April.
We told family and friends awhile ago, and now I'm so excited to share this with YOU! :)

If you have wondered why my blogging habits have decreased a bit since the beginning of the school year - now you know why. :) I found out we were expecting before school started and felt awful during the first trimester - hence, it was all I could do to stay awake past 8pm, let alone blog and create!  I'm happy to say, however, that I am now almost 17 weeks along and feeling much, much better!!! So, I am slowly getting back into the swing of blogging, creating, and this little thing they call having more energy. :)

While I am sharing my announcement with you, I thought I would also share how I told my first graders I was having a baby! This year, I have twenty of the most precious little sweethearts you've ever met. I wanted to tell them the secret I had been keeping from them since the first day of school in a special and memorable way. 

I started off by telling them that I had a secret that I was going to share with them!
I gave them a special word search and told them they would have to solve it to find out my secret. ;)
 As they started to get to the end of the puzzle, I heard little gasps and "ooooo!" around the room. The little girls all had big smiles on their faces. 
We celebrated the announcement with pink and blue donuts that I had ordered from our local grocery store. They were definitely most excited about the donuts!!
Since my husband and I will not find out the gender for another few weeks, we shook up our morning routine and completed some fun "baby" learning activities! They had a blast!
First, the kids graphed if they thought I will have a boy or a girl:
 Then, we turned our pictograph into a bar graph.  They also had to tell me why they thought I was having a boy or a girl.
 We played Addition Bottle Battle with partners. This was a fun roll and add game!
 We also had a little probability lesson. The students had to spin their paperclip twenty times and tally their results.
 After twenty spins, they wrote down what their teacher was having based on their results.
They wrote down their favorite names to help my husband and I when we pick one out. 
They filled out a hilarious information page about the baby "mad libs" style. My favorite is this little boy's answer: Before the baby comes, my teacher should ___calm down___.
HAHA smart kid!
We ended our morning by writing letters to the baby. It was so adorable to read what they wanted the baby to know before it was born. These two were SO sweet!! 

If you're interested in using this little pack I made for your own pregnancy announcement, or if you have a friend or family member who might want to use it for their class announcement party, I've uploaded the pack to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
You can find it HERE or by clicking on the image below. 
Thank you SO much for letting me share this special time in our lives with you!
We have been on cloud nine since the day we found out, and we cannot wait for our little bundle of joy to arrive this spring. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Language In The Classroom: Social Skills

Welcome back to our blog series: Language in the Primary Classroom.  In this monthly series, I am collaborating with Nicole from Allison's Speech Peeps to bring you ideas that integrate language and other content areas into our classroom and speech rooms! This month's topic is one that ALL teachers in EVERY grade level deal with on a day to day basis: social skills. Some of our students are naturally graced with social skills. They make and keep friends easily and they problem solve like pros. In the eight years that I have taught, I have noticed that many of these students - students who have great social skills with their peers - also have great language skills.  They succeed in verbalizing their feelings and they are able to articulate their thoughts, opinions, and conversational points with ease.

I also think about my students who struggle with social skills. These students are often (not always - but often) the same students who struggle to get their ideas, opinions, and thoughts out during class discussions. They are the students who get angry and frustrated but do not always know or understand how to use their words to help them in their situations. 

So what are some easy, simple, no-fuss ways that classroom teachers can help ALL students advance in their social skills?  We can offer our students some practice tools they can use when they are faced with various social experiences.  Today, I am going to share with you HOW I teach three important social skills that our students need to master in order to thrive.  I hope you find them helpful!
Here we go!
 It may seem like a silly "skill" to teach, but do you know that many adults have trouble with this skill, too? I'm sure you can think of a family member or a friend who has a hard time receiving a compliment.  Maybe they brush it off, get embarrassed, deny it, or ignore what you said when you complimented them.  Giving and receiving a compliment is a social skill that kids and adults need to be able to master.  It combines empathy, kindness, encouragement, and the ability to be thankful for someone's time and consideration. 
Model Specific Compliments:
The first thing teachers need to be able to do within the classroom is give specific compliments to our students. Using language such as "Good job!" or "Nice work!" is positive but it is not productive when we are modeling what a true compliment to peers is.  Make a constant effort to give positive compliments to your students that are extremely specific. By doing so, your students will hear and mimic your language when they give their own compliments to their peers. Try modeling compliments that hone in on a specific skill:
Your topic sentence really captured my attention today!
I love the way you helped Lisa read the directions on today's morning work.
You did a wonderful job in gym today when you pushed yourself to run that extra lap.
Compliment Circle
I LOVE using Compliment Circles at the end of the day! It's an easy opportunity that carves time out for students to practice giving and receiving compliments. Have students sit in a circle around the carpet or your meeting area.  The teacher should start the circle by giving a specific compliment out loud to the child sitting to his or her right (or left). The child who receives the compliment must verbally express gratitude for the compliment - even a simply "Thank you so much!" works for this activity.  The child then passes a unique and specific compliment to the friend sitting beside him or her. The circle continues until everyone has received and given a compliment to a peer.  It's also a positive way to end your day! :)
Compliment Cards
Place a basket or a box with index cards and a pen or pencil out in your classroom. Encourage students to write compliments to the class or specific peers on the cards and drop it in the box.  Randomly pull out a compliment card to read throughout the day. These also work as great discussion starters for class meetings. 
 You probably just read the above picture and immediately thought of two to three students in your classroom who are AMAZING helpers.  We all have those students who just WANT to help.  I love kiddos that always want to help me, but my desire is for them to want to help one another - not me. I want my students to see themselves as a community and a family of learners, who work together, help one another, and challenge each other at school.  So how do we teach kids how to be a helper? 
Point It Out!
Before I intentionally thought about this social skill, let me describe a typical situation in my classroom during my first three years of teaching:  A child drops his bag of crayons on the floor and crayons scatter everywhere.  A child nearby stoops down to help the child pick up the crayons. While I'm teaching, I quickly make a comment such as "Thanks, Bill" and then I move on with my lesson.  
Now let me know describe this same situation TODAY in my classroom. Notice the shift in the students' actions and my own reaction:
A child drops his bag of crayons on the floor and 4-5 nearby students immediately scramble to help him or her clean up the crayons. I immediately STOP my teaching and exclaim, "Oh, WOW!! Look at all of our kind and helpful friends in this room! Seeing you all stop so quickly shows how wonderfully kind and caring you all are!"
What was the difference in this scenario?  I made an intentional decision to point out the helpful act that my kids were showing one another. Notice that I didn't say anything such as, "Seeing you all help one another makes me so happy!" Why did I not say something like that? If I had said that, my students would learn that helping a friend makes their teacher happy - not them. I want my kids to WANT to help each other because it makes THEM feel good! :) The language we use to draw attention to helpful acts in our classroom can make all the difference. :)
Create Opportunities for Students to Help One Another
We need to create and set up opportunities for students to help one another if we want them to be able to get good at it. Social skills need to be practiced and practiced just like math facts, if we expect kids to master the skill. An easy way to do this is to put your students in the position of being the "teacher" as much as possible. It not only makes learning more student-driven, but they take on the responsibility of helping their peers learn, too. Here's an example of what this might look like in my classroom:
While editing our writing, I am conferencing with a student about capital letters. I share with the class, "Is anyone having trouble editing their capital letters?" 6-7 hands go up in my room. "Boys and girls, can you find someone with their hand up and work together on capital letters?"  Many times, students WANT to help each other with learning targets such as writing skills, but they do not know how to start or where to begin. This simple question not only gives students the chance to help each other, but it also shows the class that having trouble with something is no big deal. In our classroom, we are all teachers and we are all learners. We are a team! 
Teach Kids How to Ask for Help and How to Offer Help!
We use thinking stems in writing and reading, so it makes sense that these little prompts would help our kiddos with their social skills and language, too! Create an anchor chart that shares how to ask and offer help when it is needed. This is both a language and a social skill that many kids do not have yet.
To ask for help:
Can you please help me with ____________?
I'm having trouble understanding ____________. Can you please help me?
Can you please explain ___________ to me?
Do you know where I can find _____________ in our classroom?
Can you please show me how to _________?
To offer help:
Can I help you with that?
Let me help you _______________.
Would you like help with ___________?
I would be happy to help you ______________.
Do you need help finding ____________?
These prompts provide your students with language that will support them in their social skills when it comes to asking for and offering help.  It will also help teach them empathy and reinforces that we all need help with things. :)
"Jimmy ran into me on the playground."
"Amanda cut me in line."
"I was reading my story to Susie and she wouldn't listen to me."
Sound familiar?
When we have little ones, their first reaction is to come and tell us, their teacher. Let's not even get into the topic of tattling vs. telling right now. Let's just discuss how we can change our students' actions in these situations. They will not be able to do it independently - at first. They will first need their teacher to coach them through the discussion regarding conflict. 
When a child comes up to me and "tattles" about a student, here is some language that I use with him or her:
"It sounds like _____ made you feel really _______."
"How do you think ________ felt when that happened?" (Note that I am attempting to instill empathy into the child and at least get him or her to see this story from the other child's point of view. This will come in handy later in the discussion.)
"What would be a good topic for the two of you to talk about together?"

In the scenario of "Jimmy ran into me on the playground," our discussion might go something like this:
"It sounds like Jimmy made you feel really unappreciated on the playground. I can see why you would be frustrated and sad about that. How do you think Jimmy felt when that happened?" (At this point, I WANT to steer the child in the direction that Jimmy *might not have known* he ran into him or even that Jimmy might not have meant to and it was possibly an accident. I want the child to understand that this is a real possibility, and we'll never know unless we talk to Jimmy about the situation - not just the teacher.
"What would be a good topic for the two of you to talk about together?"
(Again, I will have to do the coaching, but the topic of playground rules and the topic of respect is one I want to address in this situation. It may take me suggesting this for awhile before the students learn how to use this kind of language themselves.) 
At this point, the student and I would meet with Jimmy and instead of saying "You're a meanie for running into me," my hope is that the child will explain to Jimmy how he felt, and together, they could begin to discuss the topic of respect and playground rules while instilling empathy and problem solving skills using our words! :)

Does the conversation always work out like this? No, but by modeling and coaching our children through the discussion, they learn respectful language and they get practice in how to use this language with their peers. It's important that we take the time to develop these language and social skills instead of brushing them off. I know we have buckets of curriculum to get through, but these situations are terrific teachable moments that can help develop wonderful life-long skills! 

I hope these social skill ideas and tips were helpful and practice for you! As our students consistently hear and practice using positive language in our classroom, it will in turn lead to the development of their social skills. Happy students with positive social skills makes us very happy teachers and parents! :)  Thanks for visiting this month's Language in the Primary Classroom blog series. 

Don't forget to check out Nicole's post for this month's topic. She's sharing how she incorporates social skills into her Speech & Language classroom. Visit her blog post by clicking HERE or on her button below:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ahh I'm 30! Help Me Celebrate With a Birthday Sale!

Hi friends! 
How did that happen? I very distinctly remember reading little notes from my mom in my lunchbox, heading to high school football games, moving into my dorm room in college, and even sneaking the puppy I bought (and still have) into our senior apartment building. I can still remember the sweat and excitement as I painted the bulletin boards in my very first classroom when I landed my first teaching job. I think back to the day I got engaged, the beautiful wedding day I spent with the man I love, and signing for our first house! My oh my, does time fly! I know 30 is not old at all, but a new "stage" of life sure does make you reflect a little!  

Today, I am giving lots of thanks to God for this beautiful little life he has blessed my family with. He is so good! I'm also very thankful for YOU! Your visits to my blog, my store, and my social media accounts keep me passionate, energetic, and inspired about teaching and the important role we play in our students' lives. 

I'm celebrating with a SALE in my TpT shop! EVERYTHING in my store is 15% off! 
Click HERE or on the picture below to visit my shop. 
Happy Birthday Shopping!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Halloween Ideas, Activities, and a FREEBIE!

Happy Halloween! Okay, not yet! But it's SO close!
Are you ready for it? Are you ready for your class to go "Halloween Crazy?" 
That's what I call it when my class' energy is running on candy and costumes all week!

I don't know about you, but Halloween makes me T.I.R.E.D. Throw a Halloween party into the mix and you get a teacher who wants to go home and put on her pajama-costume, sip some chamomile tea, and head straight to bed!

I've rounded up some of my favorite "No Prep/Just Print" Halloween activities, ideas, and packs that will make your Halloween lesson planning EASY and FUN. Most importantly, these packs are filled with content-rich skills and practice for your little goblins! Let's take a look:
This little Halloween craftivity is SO fun and easy! Just give your students a little white square to make their own head, and throw out some Q-tips. Then, let their imaginations and creativity do the rest!  If you are looking for printable writing pages that coordinate with this craftivity, you can find them in my Halloween Writing Pack.
It not only contains printables for this adorable little skeleton, but it contains TONS of other writing activities, too! Your ghosts will stay busy while they build essential skills!

Here's another cute craftivity and writing project! These are adorable because you can give your kids additional scrap paper and let them customize their ghosts with extra accessories! Last year, some of my girls added a purse, a necklace, and even high heels haha! 
Find this Ghost Craftivity Pack HERE or click below:
If you're looking for some Just Print reading activities for your small groups, you will love this fluency pack! It's packed with partner plays that would be SO cute to perform as a little Readers' Theater for the other classrooms on Halloween! It also contains passages for beginning readers, phonics spinners, and poems and songs! If you combine the poems/songs with the plays, you have an instant HALLOWEEN PERFORMANCE! How adorable would that be?! Find it HERE or click below:

Finally, I LOVE to incorporate holiday-themed math centers into my classroom! These little games are literally NO PREP! Just have your kiddos' cut out the number cards. Then, slip the game boards into a sheet protector and voila! Instant math centers that can be reused over and over again! The best part? Since your students are using number cards, the games can be easily differentiated for your entire class of learners! 
Find this October Math Games pack HERE or click below:

Here's another idea that I LOVE to use in my classroom! And yes, this Halloween idea involves some yummy mini marshmallows...
Here's how it works. I give each student a copy of this Haunted House Math Mat. Download this for FREE by clicking HERE

I have the kids place it in a sheet protector.  Then, I give them each a little pile of mini marshmallows. (If you can't use food in your classroom, use cotton balls!) 
Then, I tell them the best.part.of.this.activity.
"The marshmallows are GHOSTS!!" 
This, of course, makes them all squeal!
I then proceed to tell them fun little Halloween story problems. The kids have to act out the story problems with their "ghosts" and use their dry erase markers to write the number sentence to match. You can even do this with older students, because they have to decide whether the story problem calls for addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division! 

I hope you find these Halloween ideas and activities useful, effective, and fun!  I also hope they make your Halloween week less exhausting, while spicing up your lesson plans! 
Happy Learning,