Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm Lovin' Homework: Writing

Welcome to Post 4 in my mini homework series, friends.  If you missed the previous posts, click below

Post 1: TEAM Homework

Today I'm going to focus on writing homework.  Say what?  You give writing homework?  Who does that??  I love writing.  I love to teach writing.  I love to write (especially poetry).  I love to read writing....especially second grade writing.  PRECIOUS!  And, yes, I give writing homework.  Well, it's one of my "extra options" at all times.  So, my goal is to make 
I want to make writing just as much of a priority as reading and math!  I am a strong believer that students at this age need to WRITE!  It doesn't matter what they write, they just need practice recording their ideas!  If there is one subject that my students come to me dreading it is writing.  That makes me sad.

Nothing breaks my heart more than having student after student say "I don't know what to write" during writer's workshop.  You know why they say that?  It's because they don't have much experience writing.  Sure, they write answers to questions, but to actually come up with ideas of their own and record a's not something they do as often as reading or math.  And, they are afraid that what they write is going to be "wrong" - after all, their answers in math and most other subjects are either right or wrong.  They need more experience with writing to understand that there is no wrong topic to write about.  They can write about absolutely ANYTHING!

Also, writing is the one thing that parents often don't get to "see" how their students are doing.  They see math papers come home, science tests, they read with them nightly, but they have no idea how their writing is progressing.  I think it's important for parents to see this and be just as involved in writing as they are reading.  In fact, I tell my parents that I would prefer they trade some of their reading time and WRITE instead!  By second grade, my students are on their way to becoming fluent readers already, but writing is often another story.  And do you know what?  Reading and writing go hand-in-hand.  If the students are writing, they're also using many of those reading skills!  But it doesn't work the other way around. :(

Traditionally, I don't really believe writing homework is given.  I know I never gave it my first few years of teaching.  I mean, sure, students may have reading responses or essay questions to respond to in other subjects, but writing homework?  Nope.
When I first started offering the option of writing homework, it was to respond to reading.  Whatever book the student read that night, he/she was to write about it - a response, a summary, their thoughts.  Now, don't get me wrong, all of those things are important for a student to be able to do.  But I believe that assignment is better suited for the classroom.  For one, I don't want the writing to take away from the enjoyment of reading at home.  Also, I want them to write more creatively in order to foster that love of writing.  Who wants to be TOLD what to write about?  That's no fun at all.
Several years ago I decided that I wanted my students to begin practicing the same types of writing that we were working on in class at home, too.  Not only would it give them more practice, but it would also let their parents see exactly what quality of writing their children were producing.

So, I created writing calendars.  I've always taught writing through genres in my classroom.  So, I created a calendar for each genre.  At the beginning of the year, we always start with sentences.  Yep, just sentences.  We work on expanding them into "fancy sentences" using lots of adjectives and adverbs - details!  Then we move on to writing a paragraph.  After those are mastered we dive into our genres - descriptive, persuasive, friendly letters, expository, how-to, poetry, dialogue, and comparing/contrasting.

After teaching each of these in class and giving students lots of exposure and practice with each genre, I place a writing calendar choice as an extra homework option.  The actual calendar is placed in students' daily take home folders (in a clear page protector) to stay for the month.  The calendar is FILLED with topics so students have lots of choices (or they can come up with their own ideas...these are just to help those who are "stuck"). 

{Writing Calendars from Teacher's Clubhouse}
I definitely don't want students to complete a writing task each night.  I don't want it to become a chore.  But, I encourage parents to have them choose this option once a week - especially if they could benefit from the practice.  The topics range from (persuasive) "Persuade your parents to let you get a new pet." or "Persuade someone else to do one of your chores." or "Persuade a monster to stop scaring people." or "Persuade an alien to take you back to his planet."   Lots of choices for lots of personalities!

With the change to common core and a strong focus on Narratives, Opinions, and Expository pieces, I am redesigning my calendars for this year.  Each calendar will surround four monthly themes and the topics will all be narrative, opinion, or expository pieces about these themes.

{Core Writing through the Year BUNDLE}

I also send out a Family Write Night idea each month to parents.  This is a FUN writing-themed night idea for the entire family to participate in!  It is so important for kids to see adults writing, too...and for it to be FUN!  You know I'm all about having families incorporate learning into QUALITY family time. :)  So, even if they just choose to do this one monthly writing piece, I know that they are building a LOVE for writing. <3

From having each member of the family write a persuasive piece about a movie for family movie night to writing spooky stories to read while roasting marshmallows, this resources gives a fun family "write night" idea for each month of the year!  It gives the task, ideas for creating a setting for the "mood" and also provides a skill to work on - an instant family hit that gets the entire family writing!

If you have our Summer Buckets Unit you already have this resource as a part of that pack!  If not, you can pick this resource up on its own at our website - look under the "Summer Buckets Unit" for the "Family Write Night Idea Packet" - it's a steal at $0.99!

If you aren't providing a writing homework option, I hope I've given you some ideas to think about.  Come back tomorrow to learn how I handle spelling homework!

And, CONGRATULATIONS to Krystyn from Ms. Richard's Musings for winning the Great Poetry Race Pack!  Look for an email from us soon. :)  If you didn't win, remember that is on sale for 30% off in our TpT shop through Friday!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'm Lovin' Homework: Reading {A Mini Series} & It's still WINSday

Welcome to Post 3 in my homework mini-series.  If you missed the first two posts, you'll want to read those here:

Post 1: TEAM Homework

I'm thrilled that so many of you are thinking about trying the TEAM homework approach and engaging your students through math games for homework.  I would LOVE to hear how it works for you, if you do!

Today's post is all about making
When I think about my goal with reading homework, it is that I want to make the experience authentic.  Do you love to read?  I do, too!  Some of my favorite days are when I find a book that I can't put down (even to eat...and that's serious stuff y'all)...I get so wrapped up in it that it consumes me and I read it in a single day.  Best days ever!  But you know what?  I HATE when someone tells me WHAT to read.  Like seriously hate it.  

It doesn't matter if the book is a wonderful one, that I might otherwise enjoy.  If I'm being MADE to read it, it somehow zaps the joy out of it.  That is exactly what I do not want to do to my students.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm fully aware of the importance of stretching students' reading experiences and having them experience new genres and books that they might not typically select on their own.  That's my job in the classroom - and I absolutely LOVE when they discover a new genre and fall in love with it.  

But, for homework, I really want them to read because they LOVE it.  To enjoy it.  For it to be {hopefully} an authentic experience, possibly even with their families.  Read on to find out how I try to do this.
When I think of reading in a traditional sense, I think of the basal.  Yep, when I first started teaching I, too, used the textbook.  We read the story in class.  Several days a week.  And you know what students did for homework?  They read the story again.  And answered questions about it.  Each day.  Different questions, same story.

Can you think of a better way to ZAP the love of reading???  Could you imagine if you were taking a class and the instructor had you read something again and again and again.  The same book every single day over a period of time?  Ugh!

I quickly learned that there had to be a better way to teach reading and assign homework.  {I won't go into my love of teaching reading in this post since the focus is homework, as much as I want to. :)}  Instead of having my students read from the textbook for homework, I began letting them choose their own books to read.  I really didn't care what they were reading, as long as they were reading!

Sounds great, right?  Almost.  Except, I still required students to keep a reading log.  Don't throw stones at me!  I know a lot of teachers use and love reading logs.  Not me.  Here's why...

* Students hate tracking the pages they read.  I mean, wouldn't you?  Do you do that when you read?  It's just not authentic.  Remember the goal is for them to LOVE reading!  So, think about each thing you do related to that reading.  If it's not fostering a love for it, maybe it's time to make a change.

* Parents hate signing the logs.  I mean, I'm pretty sure reading logs rank way up on parents' hate lists. Just read some mommy blogs if you don't believe me.  *sigh*  And, it's pretty pointless.  I've seen it.  Either parents just sign for the entire week on Mondays so that they don't forget as the busy week progresses or parents get busy and forget to sign.  And then their students are punished because their parents were too busy and forgot to sign.  So then the parents just sign for the entire week on Mondays.  See what a nasty cycle we create with reading logs??

* Students lose the logs.  Or they don't.  And then they turn them in.  And then the teacher hates the logs.  You know why?  Because they're not complete and/or parents didn't sign them.  Or signed them for the entire week at once (yes, we can tell).  

So pretty much, reading logs zap the love out of reading homework for everyone!
So, what do I do now?  I ask the students to....READ!!  I don't care what they read.  I don't care how many minutes they read.  I don't care who they read to or with.  I don't care where they read.  All that matters is that they READ!

How easy is that?  No logs to collect.  No textbooks or papers to send home.  Just read.

Do I know for a fact that every single time that a student stars that they read on the homework sheet that they actually did read?  No.  I don't.  But, I didn't know that with the reading log either.  All I knew was that their parents signed it (probably on Monday for the whole week, remember?)

To me, it's not a battle that's worth the outcome.  If you really want to get your parents on your side, drop the reading logs! ;)  It is my hope that (at least in 2nd grade) families are still reading bedtime stories and really enjoying the reading moments at home together.  I would much rather them have those experiences than sitting down at a table and reading until Mom says time is up.  That is not going to foster a love for reading.  I want the experiences to be authentic.

I encourage parents to select chapter books that they can read one or two chapters per night with their children.  I encourage them to share the reading.  Let the child read some, let the parent read's still so important for them to hear adults reading fluently at this age.  Often parents think that because their students are able to read now they shouldn't be reading TO them anymore, but that's not true!

Now, with that said, I will sometimes give an option for "reading fluency" homework.  With some of my lower students I send home fluency passages for them to read each night (just a one-minute reading per night).  They read the same passage each night and watch their fluency increase throughout the week.  It works wonders and it only takes ONE minute (the parent tells them when to stop).  The repetitive readings are really beneficial for these students.

Another fluency option I use with my students is our "Great Poetry Race."  We usually have a poem of the week in our class.  I pull the poems from all different places - online, Scholastic books, etc.  We place our poems in folders and use them for different activities in the classroom.  And for homework, students have the option of participating in The Great Poetry Race.  This isn't a new's been around for years, but I try to really have fun with it in the classroom.  You can check out the unit above if you're interested in it.

Basically, students take their poems home and read them to as many different people as they can throughout the week.  They read them to Mom, Day, brothers, sisters, friends...they even call grandparents or faraway relatives and read them over the phone...take them to ball practice or church...the possibilities are endless.  Any student who gets at least 10 reads in the week earns a punch on a punch card and the student who has the most reads is crowned our "Poetry Race Champ" for the week.  It's a lot of fun and students get very competitive...sometimes even choosing to bring their poems to recess - that's right - they choose to READ instead of PLAY!

Repetitive readings are important to build fluency but I use small passages and/or poems for that and I make it a FUN experience.  No more reading the basal stories over and over and over.  

The reading experience should be authentic for all students.  Those students who may not have books at home to read, I will gladly let them "check out" books from our classroom library to take home to read.  The best books are well loved books, after all!

Let me know if you have questions about reading homework.  I'll be back tomorrow with a post on another WRITING homework.  Yep, you heard that right.  And, it's one that I think is the most important, so don't miss it!

Since today is WINSday around here, this week I'm going to give away a copy of 
unit from our shop to someone.  Just leave a comment - any comment - on this post and leave your email address with it to be entered.  I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

If you don't win, the WINSday item will be on sale for 30% off in our shop through Friday!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I'm Lovin' Homework: Math {A Mini Series}

First of all, thanks for reading yesterday's post about how I set up my homework and for leaving such great questions!  I updated the post last night with answers to your questions (scroll to the bottom of the post) and will continue to do so with new questions so keep them coming!

But, today's post is all about making...
...or at least math HOMEWORK

I've chosen one word to represent my goal for each subject's homework...and for math engaging is what I aim for with the homework.  A question about my math homework is what actually got the ball rolling on this series, so I thought it might be good to focus on it FIRST.

Traditionally, math homework is....well...BORING!  You give a student a worksheet, much like one they've already completed at school and ask them to do it that night for more "practice."  I mean, really??  Completing 20 or more problems that are almost identical is no fun for anyone.  Students having been sitting at desks for most of the day and much of their tasks have been paper/pencil.  That is not what they want to be doing when they get home!

It helped me, as a teacher, tremendously when I began to send home the worksheets for the week all at once.  You be "flexible."  Well, it was flexible as far as TIME mattered - no time for math homework tonight because of soccer?  No problem - just do it extra tomorrow night! Wait!  Yikes!  40 problems in one sitting?? AHHH!  It wasn't very flexible in the format.  It wasn't making students "love" math or homework.  In fact, the opposite - they began to dread it.  And so did I.  Checking all of those problems??  Ugh!
Did you know that second graders actually LIKE math?  Every single year when I give my self-interest survey during the first week of school, math is the favorite subject of students - by far!  You know when they start hating it?  When they have to sit and do worksheet after worksheet.  I'm not hating on worksheets.  They definitely have their time and place.  However, if it's possible to practice those SAME skills in a FUN way, why not??

I've always used a ton of games in my classroom - especially in math.  I cannot walk into a Dollar Tree without leaving with a bag of playing cards and dice.  I have containers and containers full.  I'm not sure what my obsession is with having so many of them.  But, I will say, they do come in handy!  Especially when I had a brainstorm one day and thought, "The kids love playing math games so much, what if I could create games to meet all of the standards using JUST playing cards?"

And that is how this little ditty came to be...
I started with our 2nd grade {common core} standards and tried to develop a game {using only playing cards} to address each one of the standards.  I was beyond thrilled with the result and so were the kids!  

I introduce each game in class, showing students how to play it, partnering them up and giving them time to play it.  Then, they will see the game appear on their homework options.  They are familiar with the games and are able to teach Mom, Dad, sister, brother, or a friend to play {of course, the directions are right there if they forget}.

I knew the students would be excited about playing games for homework, but I had no idea how much parents would LOVE them!  I must say that the emails and feedback that I received reassured me that this was a wonderful change.  Parents were ecstatic to be able to spend "fun" time with their child while practicing skills for homework.  I mean, usually homework and family time fight against each other so combining the two was a win-win for families!  And also for the teacher - no more worksheets to collect and check! ;)

The Set Up
I print the games on colored cardstock (each domain/unit is on a different color) and each time we learn a new game it is placed on a metal ring.  This helps students to find the assigned games easily, but it also helps parents find "needed" games easily too.  If their child is weak in the area of money then they know to continuously go back to the green cards for extra practice.  By the end of the year students will have a full set of math games! Can you say summer review fun, too??  #meltateachersheart

My students have daily folders that go home and come back to school each day.  All of their important papers are kept in there.  I added a pencil pouch to the folder and this is where their "game stash" is kept.  Since the games are kept in here, it is easy for them to pull them out anywhere - home, school, daycare - to play.  It also makes it easy for us to add new games as they are introduced.

Of course, the one thing students need to go along with the card game directions is CARDS!  I supply these for my students at the beginning of the year.  I pick up the playing cards from the Dollar Tree (2 packs for $1.00), remove all of the face cards (those aren't need for any of the second grade games), and bind them with a rubberband (or you could put them in a ziploc bag).

That's it!  Math homework for the YEAR!!  That's right - I use these cards and the games to practice all skills...addition, subtraction, telling time, money, geometry,

So, do we have math workbooks?  Yes.  Our math curriculum is consumable books.  Honestly, I don't use the workbook pages at all in class - we are almost solely hands-on and use whiteboards for problem practice usually.  So, I do send home the workbook pages for each unit at the beginning of the unit. I just rip that entire section out, staple them together and send home as extra practice.  Some parents like to have worksheets as a backup or to do it "the way we did it" back in the day.  I send them home and they can use them if they wish.  I do not want them returned.  Some of my students even enjoy using them to "play school."  That's fine, too!  I'm all about options! ;)

What about your test scores?  All I can say is that my math test scores were higher than they've been in the past this year.  Was it because of these games?  I have no idea.  This was the only thing I changed in my math routine this year so at least I can say the worksheets weren't missed. :)

Again, I hope I've given you something to think about in regards to homework. Drop back by tomorrow to read about homework in another subject!

If you're interested in the card games I created, you can find them in our TpT shop!  We have them for 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, and 3rd Grade!  And, I must say, where else can you get a year's worth of math homework for under $5.00??  That's a DEAL {no pun intended}. :)

I'd love to hear your questions if you have them!

Monday, July 21, 2014

I'm Lovin' Homework {A Mini-Series}

The dreaded word.  Students do not look forward to it.  Parents do not look forward to it.  And, do you know what?  Neither do teachers!!  Can I get an "AMEN?"  But, after 17 years of teaching 2nd grade I can say I have FINALLY figured out the homework method that works for ME and I'm LOVIN' it!  So, this week I'll be sharing my homework routine with you in hopes that you will love it, too!

When I began teaching I assigned nightly homework.  It never dawned on me that I could do anything differently.  I sucked at it.  Seriously.  Why?

First, I hated having students write down their homework assignments in agendas.  It would literally take some of them an hour to copy down a few words.  And even then sometimes it wouldn't be copied down correctly - or neatly (so parents weren't able to understand it).  Don't hate me - I totally get the importance of young students needing to be able to copy from the board, but I just didn't think this was time well spent.

Second, there was the passing out of homework.  Again.  I sucked.  I would more often than not forget to pass it out.  So even if it did get written down, the students may or may not have the worksheets to complete once they got home. #hangsheadinshame  I would just get so wrapped up in teaching and teach my heart out all the way up to the bell.  Oops!

Third, I would have to collect that same homework (if it had been passed out) the next day.  Then what?  Did I check it?  What did that show me?  Some students would return "perfect" homework every single day because their parents would go over it with them.  Therefore, I may think they understood the concepts perfectly when in fact they didn't.  Or, some kids would return the homework with every problem wrong.  Not good.  They just practiced how to do something the wrong way TWENTY times because they had no support at all.

I very quickly realized that traditional homework wasn't for
I changed to weekly homework packets.  #lifechanger  Instead of assigning nightly homework that students copied from the board and I passed out/collected daily, I compiled all assignments and stapled them together with a "cover page."

The cover page listed the homework for the week with "suggested" times of completion.  I loved that students didn't have to copy assignments from the board any longer - an instant 15 more minutes of instruction time!  Woohoo!  Parents loved this method as it provided flexibility.  Soccer and ballet tonight?  No problem.  Just skip homework tonight and double up another night!  I loved it because I only had to pass out homework on Mondays and collect it on Fridays.

But still...what to do with it once collected?  Check?  Correct?  "Store?" (Don't know you've done that!)  The homework wasn't telling me anything as a teacher that I didn't already know about students' performance.  I mean, I've been working with these kids on these concepts ALL DAY LONG!  I know what they can and cannot do.  So, why was I assigning it?

Because the students needed extra practice?  Really?  Do they?  Most of them actually didn't.  And those that did often didn't have the support at home and were the ones who would practice it incorrectly.

Let's face it.  Most of the time I assigned it because parents expected it to come home.  Of course, you have those parents who would be thrilled if you didn't assign any homework.  But, on the other hand, you have those parents who are asking for EXTRA homework. 

How do you please everyone?

A couple of years ago I discovered Whole Brain Teaching's Universal Homework Method.  Here's a {detailed} video about it.

I took this concept and made it my own.  I now call it "TEAM Homework".  Basically, my students have a list of homework assignments each week.  I list them on our class newsletter.  For each task that students complete, they put a "star" beside it.  At the end of the week, students add up their stars and parents initial the page.  This page is returned on Friday.  As a class, we add up our stars and try to reach a "TEAM" goal.

If our class earned 100-150 stars, they receive 10 minutes of game time
If our class earned 151-200 stars, they receive 13 minutes of game time
If our class earned over 200 stars, they receive 15 minutes of game time

And, by game time, I mean learning games, of course.  Sneaky huh?  Their reward is that they get to keep practicing skills in a fun way.  They eat it up, too!  They work so hard to try to get the full 15 minutes!

Here's a look at one of my newsletters that shows TEAM homework assignments each week.

I always include a reading, spelling, and math homework option.  There's usually an option for reviewing a study guide also.  Then, there are "extras" - perfect for those students who want to go above and beyond!

This homework format works for everyone for several reasons.

1) Differentiation
Parents can guide their students in picking the options that work best for their child.  If a students knows all of his/her spelling words at the beginning of the week, then why should they have to practice the words each night??  They don't!  Pick a different homework option!  Do one of the extras instead!

2) Flexiblity
Life too busy today?  No problem!  Skip homework one night.  Do a few extra throughout the week to make up for it.  You're still done your part for the TEAM!

3) Routine
Without having the "traditional" homework, students and parents will still know what to expect each night.  They know right where to look to find homework each week.  They have all of the tools at their fingertips (this will be explained in future posts).  It's an easy routine that works for all!

4) No more "lost" homework
Did you notice that the only thing students turn in to the teacher is the newsletter page with their star totals on Fridays?? <3  Students don't have to keep up with a ton of worksheets/pages - just this one page that stays in a page protector throughout the week in their folders.

That leads me to why this TEACHER loves this homework method.  I do not have any homework to CHECK!!!!  Jealous much?  Remember, the homework that I had checked in the past really didn't tell me anything at all - it all depended on how much support students had at home anyway.  On Fridays, students turn their newsletter page into a basket in the mornings.  I quickly add up the stars and announce our TEAM score for the week.  At the end of that day (Friday) students get their "reward" time and reinforce skills we've been learning through games.  It's a win-win, friends!

Have I convinced you yet?  I must say that this system works well for me because I'm not a huge cheerleader for homework anyway.  I am a believer that students work hard while they're at school.  And, they've been at school ALL DAY LONG.  Once they leave school, they need time to be a kid!  Play outdoors, go to baseball practice, play games with their families, read for fun....

But, I also realize that homework provides a bridge between home and school.  It lets parents see what we've been working on at school and how their children are mastering the concepts.  So, with that said, most of the homework I give is FUN homework.  They get to play games with their families that tie into practicing skills we're learning, they get to read (whatever they WANT)...and it counts as HOMEWORK!

In fact, I did not send ONE SINGLE WORKSHEET home last year.  Not ONE!  Come back tomorrow to find out how I did away with worksheets and really got my students (and parents) LOVIN' homework!

For the remainder of this week, I'll focus on one subject area per day with a little in depth look at our homework.  If you have questions about my system, leave them below!  I hope I've at least given you something to think about.

**Update**Questions Answered**

1) Do all of the teachers on your team use this homework approach?
No, and I'm fine with that.  One of my biggest peeves about education is trying to make all teachers "cookie cutters".  I realize that not everything that works for me will work for others.  I also realize that teachers (including me) are hesitant to change and it takes time.  I started using this homework approach two years ago.  Last year two of my teammates used (and loved) it, as well.  Maybe this coming year even more will want to try it out!
2) What happens to students who do not earn any stars?
Nothing.  I wish I had a better answer for this, but honestly I don't think it matters what homework system you use, you can't control what happens when the students are at home.  I focus on what they do when they're at school - with me.  What happens (or doesn't happen) at home is out of my control.  
However, I will say that students are very keen on noticing who goes to the basket to turn in their page on Fridays and who doesn't.  The know and peer pressure works!  I very rarely have a student who doesn't turn in homework.  For one, since the homework is "fun" students are more apt to attempt it - even with no support at home.  But also, they WANT to be a part of the TEAM to help us earn points toward the goal.  They very quickly realize that it takes everyone contributing to earn the entire 15 minutes of game time...and they can be very persuasive with each other!

3)  What exactly do you send home if you don't use worksheets?
For this one, you'll have to keep reading the posts this week for an exact answer, but for the most part I use lots of games and menus.  Check back for those posts!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Budding Bloggers Showcase {Meredith from Creativity to the Core}

Hi friends!  Thanks for popping back in this week to meet another new blogger.  This week, you're meeting Meredith from....

After reading more about her, drop by her blog and leave her a little note to welcome her to the blogging community.  Go ahead and follow to see her creativity unfold throughout the year!

 Hey! I'm Meredith from Creativity to the Core. I live in sunny South Florida, just west of Ft. Lauderdale. Living a half an hour from the beach is a beautiful thing, although I need to get there more often than I do. :) 
I have been married to my husband for a year and a half now. We met at church my senior year of high school on Halloween when he was dressed like a chicken {yes, a big yellow chicken} and I was in my ballet costume from 7th grade! Quite the picture! He is so relaxed and silly, which works to keep my Type-A personality in check. I never go a day without laughing!
Typical man trying to "fake" push me off the railing at our engagement shoot.
We enjoy going to our pool, volunteering in the kid's ministry at our church, and spending time at Disney since it is only 3 hours away. I am currently in the last year of my Master's in Reading, but when I have a free moment, I'm always creating products for TpT or items to use in my classroom.
The last day of school with my babies!
I taught high achieving first grade this past year. It was my first year teaching, although I interned with the same kiddies the year before in Kindergarten. All in all, my first year was great. Knowing the kids from the year before worked wonderfully. This year, I have accepted a position as Communications Director at the elementary school I grew up in. So I'm stepping out of the classroom to switch from public school to a private Christian school in August. I will also be teaching Character Education as a special each week for grades K-5. I'm excited for what this year has to hold!
Math centers on the floor are my students favorite!
My favorite subject to teach is math. In first grade, I absolutely LOVED incorporating math center rotations into my day. We stopped using our textbook after about one month, and I began creating the curriculum for my high firsties. I have found that students are really engaged with the activities and truly understand the concept more when they are allowed to practice in many different ways. 
If you were to pop into my classroom, you would see students working in centers almost all day long. We incorporated reading centers and math centers with lots of writing every day while integrating science and social studies. I firmly believe that this is THE best way to get kindergarten and first grade students proficient in those early math and literacy skills. My classroom is quieter than most, and sometimes we work with the lights off, but students are communicating with each other and moving about the room freely. Last year, my principal said, "Your classroom functions like little men and women!" That was the truth! Independence was key.
Coffee, goldfish, and GoNoodle get me through those rough days. Weird combination I know... My students know that I need my coffee in the morning, and that goldfish are my favorite snack. However, when the kids are just having one of those off days, GoNoodle does the trick. It lets them get their wiggles out!
This is one of my students from summer camp who was very hesitant to come to reading because he didn't like to read and had trouble because of his hearing problems. But dice made reading fun!
I cannot live without dice. I swear, give a child a dice {or "Number Cube" as we have to call them in my district...Say no to gambling! lol} and a math or reading game, and they are SO concentrated. I'm not quite sure how it works. But, boy oh boy, it does!
Letter writing & homophones after reading Dear Deer.
My favorite classroom activity is when students get to listen to a fun interactive read aloud and then do a project that coincides with it. Usually, I pair a writing prompt and a craft together after we read. Sometimes amidst all the testing we forget, but they are still six and seven years old! Because I had to prepare the kids for gifted classes, I also incorporated a lot of choice in the products that students created at the end of our units. I often gave 4-6 options for students to pick from. This keeps the kids on task and interested in their final product.
Harriet Tubman "I Am" poems was one product option after reading learning about Harriet Tubman.
This year, my goal is to blog at least three times each week ALL year long, including linky parties. I enjoy getting together with other teachers, sharing ideas, and collaborating on projects. Most of the time, it's better than professional development from the county! I hope to meet more teacher bloggers soon!