Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Expanding Vocabulary: WORD NERD Style!

Friends, this summer is off to a GREAT start!
One of my very important summer to-do's  was rethinking and creating some meaningful type of daily Vocabulary and Language routines in my classroom for next school year.  With an already "jam-packed" schedule, I needed something that would streamline the new common core language objectives along with introducing more rigorous vocabulary.  My grammar lessons of seasons past have included the Six Traits but something was definitely missing and I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, this past year the momentum seemed better and more structured around the "Theme" that I was teaching.  So for example, if the theme was APPLES,  we would tie in adjectives describing apples and so on.
 After more reflection, it became clear that I had some "gaps to fill" so that my students have MORE consistent, daily opportunities to reach a higher, richer vocabulary with adjectives or any grammar component for that matter.  So I went off to do a little research!  


Have you read this little gem?
Word Nerds
I read the first chapter and was HOOKED!
By chapter 3, I achieved  full-buy-in.
By chapter 5, I put the book down, not even finished with it yet, and ran over to my computer to begin brainstorming ideas!
Word Nerds was exactly what I needed to clarify my vocabulary and language goals for my students.

So what does that look like exactly for first grade? 

Friends, I am bringing back WORD OF THE DAY in Word Nerd Fashion!  Creating a short interval of time spent, EVERY DAY, for a rich & rigorous "vocabulary workout" is how I plan to achieve such a BIG goal in first grade.  Just like with Daily 5, this needs to be consistent, routine, and most of all, engaging for students.
Looking through the first grade Language concepts, the heavy hitters are common & proper nouns, singular & plural nouns, adjectives, verbs, determiners, prepositions, contractions, compound words, conjunctions, pronouns, and possessive nouns.  My goal is to hit each one of these major concepts using the same consistent routine and trying to reach a higher level of understanding of WHY these word categories are so important to the kids.
Since I had so many ideas swirling around at once, I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to choose the first one that popped out.
ADJECTIVES!  And a week later, this was born!

 I LOVE calendars and planners.  So I decided to make a month-long planning calendar with my ADJECTIVE of the Day focus-

 Now with that in place, I created some anchor charts for my focus wall for daily interaction.
 Here's a peek at the template I created for our 
Word of the Day focus lesson.  
 Saving paper, I am running this second page on the backside.
Next is a more descriptive explanation that provides 
Step by Step instructions:

  I am absolutely thrilled with how this activity turned out! There are multiple concepts and strategies being used all at once and I think that will provide me the piece of mind that I am hitting target goals for each student.  I think my first graders are going to be eager and encouraged to take risks with these BIG fancy words because the framework is designed for all levels of learners.  Even those who can't write up to par will still get to "sketch pictures" to show their understanding.

 Also included in this new unit is a fun BINGO game to play at the culmination of the word study unit.
 Of course, the final excitement comes when the students get to really SHOW what they KNOW on these handy-dandy 
weekly word assessments!

 You can find this new unit over at my TPT store!  Just click on the image below for more details.
I was so inspired by my WORD NERD reading adventure that I have already began the next set in what I hope to be a series! 
 Wish me luck!
Thank you so much for stopping by and catching up!  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Weekend Warriors: June Edition: Teacher Bio

Welcome to this very special monthly edition hosted by Our Weekend Warriors Team!

I hope you enjoyed getting to know alittle about me!
Now it's your turn!
LINK UP with us and share your favorites!
Feel free to use these blank slides in your post.

Happy Summer!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Enter for Your Chance to WIN our Summer Prize Pack Valued at $200.00!

Are you ready to celebrate summer?
This is YOUR chance to enter to WIN some AMAZING summer gifts brought to you by A Spark of Inspiration!

Click on the Rafflecopter below for your chance to WIN all these FABULOUS prizes!
This giveaway is for U.S. residents only please.
Giveaway ends July 3.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

#TPT Seller Challenge & A Fabulous Freebie Just for Stopping By!

Happy Sunday friends!  I am so excited to be joining the talk of the town this week!  Have you heard?  The PeppyZestyTeacherista and several friends are hosting #TPTSeller Challenge and being on vacation, I thought what better way to spice things up a bit!  
OF COURSE I take the challenge!!

My first TPT product makeover begins with WILD about Sight Words-
This teacher challenge was entirely worth it because then I got the real creative juices flowing and decided I wanted to spice up a few more products! :)  #Ilovethisnewchallenge!
As many of you know I am a HUGE advocate for building in student-led self assessment tools in the classroom.
I created this 4-point scale rubric to use as a quick and easy way to assess student understanding of each & every mini-lesson throughout the teaching day.  It has been a HUGE success with my first graders for the past two years.
If you already own this lovely little unit, please head on over to TPT for a new download!
And now that I have Self-Assessment on the brain, why not create a  new kid-friendly rubric for let's say......WRITING!!!
POOF!  Done.
This new RATE YOUR WRITING scale stream-lines beautifully with the same corresponding 4-point scale as mentioned above.
I intentionally left off the number cards because I feel it is so important to have a strong introduction to each level of writing followed by an opportunity for students to play with the numbers and RATE the posters themselves.  This allows them to have meaningful connections with this new grading scale that will become a very integral part of their learning day.
I plan on taping  the reference ladders to student desks and giving students that same opportunity to practicing rating the levels of writing again- Students will get 4 mini-dot stickers, color-code the stickers to match our Levels of Understanding posters, and then with pencil or marker, write each number in so they are fully participating in their new learning.
If you think this product might be something useful for your classroom of little learners, click here or on the image above for more details.  Did I mention it's FREE on TPT?  Thank you for leaving your encouraging feedback on this item!  In doing so, I am challenging myself to create more and more products this summer!

There are hundreds of other teachers just like me participating in the #TPTSeller Challenge so be sure to grab a refreshing drink and follow along!  We will be back next week with a new challenge!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weekend Warriors: Favorite EOY Activities

Welcome to this very special MAY edition of Weekend Warriors!  I am so stoked to be joining this amazing group of teacher bloggers to share one of my most favorite times of the year with you!

 I've realized that as a first grade teacher in her 13th year of teaching first grade, there was NO WAY I could choose just one EOY activity to share with you....  I have too many that I cherish so grab that cup of Joe and settle in because I have a ton to share with you today!
First up: This snazzy Countdown to Summer Chain created by the lovely Megan Wheeler!
End of the Year Countdown Chain
 I start the chain the first day of May and the kids have had quite the reaction to it.....You would expect a certain level of anticipation and excitement building up with each new chain that is added....but this year, my kids are looking pretty darn sad as the chain gets longer.  My heart is breaking as I begin to hear moans and sighs saying, "Oh no....not yet!" or "Mrs. D, can you come in over the summer so we can stay in school with you!"  Talk about tugging on your heart strings!!!!
My next EOY Favorite was shared last year by a truly fabulous blogging buddy and it is a keeper!  The very vivacious Haley O'Connor has this OUTSTANDING EOY pack FILLED to the brim with fabulous activities. In mid-May, I run a class set of her Summer Practice Packet to send home with each of the kids.
 See those lovely piles and piles of papers?
Any time we have delay days, snow days, or times where activities did not get completed, I simply add them to my "Summer Pile" in my work room.  I never throw them away.  
During the last full week of school, the kids take out the folders we have used for various reasons throughout the year, and those folders now have a NEW PURPOSE!  We call them our
 Those piles of papers are sorted into 4 Folders:
Reading Folder
Math Folder
Writing Folder
Phonics Folder
I type a very simple instruction list to the parents so they know what each folder is about and then the kids take them home with pride and eagerness to hopefully continue their learning over the summer months.
The purple folders have a very special purpose in our classroom all year!  Each student has used this purple folder to keep track of their Sight Word Mastery using my "Wild About Sight Words" Program.
Click on any image for more details! 
I had a very special volunteer that came in every week this year to check students word lists.
With each new level passed, students moved up and earned brag tags to show off their skills on a reading ribbon displayed in the hallway.

 We used the same incentive for Accelerated Reader too!
 Now, that we have reached the end of the year, it is time to send this special folder home.
 First, we had a big celebration for students to show their growth from the beginning of the year until now.  Talk about excitement!  Giving the kiddos a chance to reflect and look back at where they started was definitely an eye-opener to say the least!  These kids were feeling very proud by the end of the day!
 Inside the folder is the student's growth chart,
 and the new levels to practice over the summer months.
 Students also get to take home the remaining brag tags.
 As they pass each new level, they can continue to add brag tags to their ribbon.
The kids  thought this was so exciting and couldn't wait to take their Sight Words Folders home to share with mom and dad!
 Another EOY favorite that I just found is this sweet little writing pack by Miss Decarbo.  Just click on the image below for more details.
 I am having my kids do 2 pages every morning for morning work and they just LOVE it!
This page is my favorite!  It's called the Rockin' Reader and meshed perfectly with my Critter Cafe strategy learning!

 Beanie Baby Reading Strategy Posters for the Common Core C

Daily Read alouds are so special....Especially at the end of the year.  Finding books that really drive home all that learning that has taken place throughout the year is what I try to pack in as much as possible in those remaining days.  A true favorite is "Dear Mr. Blueberry" by Simon James.
 I have found some very fun and engaging follow-up activities to do with the story-
But my favorite is making a writing connection from teacher to student and student to teacher. 
 This is the point where I invite my now almost second graders to write a letter to me....and tell me what they loved about first grade.

 This is often the part where I begin sobbing uncontrollably...
What do I do with all the special trinkets and letters I have accumulated from the students each year?  I put everything in a Binder that I can then make a snazzy cover for and display proudly in my office.  
Oh, and speaking of favorite read alouds....
I attended one of Lester Laminak's seminars several years ago and boy did he WOW me with his take on adding fabulous vocabulary to stories and read alouds.  I purchased this gem-
 which comes with a CD of Lester reading aloud my favorite summertime book called "Saturday and Teacakes".  
In first grade it was a challenge to pluck out the Genre of Memoirs until finding this treasure....  It makes the connection so clear and easy for our littles!
 I also had a very sweet connection to the story because it reminds me of all the summers I spent with my grandparents...... baking summer favorites like Grandma's Teacakes!
 On the last day of school I have a very special ritual that includes reading aloud this time-honored favorite-
 Followed by a Glamorous Awards Ceremony where I get to hand out and recognize each and every special first grader in my class!
Then I pass out my farewell letter to the kids and again, the waterworks are hard to control......
 I also invite each student up to pick up a special summer treat!
2 Favorite books from Scholastic and a really fun book mark!
Then my room mother is coming in to set up a Drive-In Movie themed pizza party and movie treat for the kids!
It's going to be a memorable last day...
Here's to making every moment count in the eyes (and hearts) of our little ones!

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