Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oak Galls

 Do you have a life science standard similar to this?
2c. Students know animals eat plants or other animals for food and may also use plants or even other animals for shelter and nesting.
One of the units we do is a study of oak galls. Do you have oak trees near you? We have  Valley Oak and Coast Live Oak trees in our outdoor classroom. First, we learned to tell the difference between them.

We went on an observation walk and did bark rubbings.

An oak apple gall.
We learned that galls are a swelling of plant tissue that provides food and shelter around a wasp larva growing inside.
This tiny wasp is only about a mm.

 I turned the photo in my iphoto but it still uploaded this way. Grrr...anyone know a trick for turning photos in blogger? I modeled how to draw as we talked through the life cycle.

We looked at some samples and identified and collected data on the many different types of galls: oak apple, candy kiss, jumping balls, saucer, caterpillar, spined turban.
Did you know the Declaration of Independence was written in oak apple gall ink?
Each student got a chance to write with a feather and real oak apple gall ink.

We brainstormed what we had learned on a circle map.
Ignore the messy handwriting. If I slow down to make it neat I lose my kids.

This was our first step-up to writing paragraph. I asked for the students input but clearly this was heavily led by me.

Hope you enjoyed learning about oak galls!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Fall, Y'all

Happy Fall, Y'all! 
(Okay, I gave in to my secret desire to use y'all but I just don't think a California girl like me can really pull it off. Maybe I'll come back as a cute little Texan in my next life. )

Have you noticed your class is seriously lacking in fine motor skills? Do they hold the scissors upside down or move the scissors around instead of the paper? The only answer is to provide instruction on proper technique and opportunities to practice.

I teach art every Tuesday and many of those weeks we use directed art projects from TLC Lessons. I give step-by-step directions the students must follow like, "Pick up the largest brown rectangle. Hold it vertically. Cut off a triangle on the top two corners." This reinforces shape and positional vocabulary and I use my observations of how well they follow directions as a listening grade.

Last week we did a tearing project for fall although I changed the colors from the original TLC directions.
 The students decided how many leaves to put on and where.
WOW! Talk about F-A-L-L!
This one looks like it is nearing winter. :-)
I would not be able to manage this if it wasn't for my terrific parents. I have one mom who cuts all the paper at home and sends the project in all ready to pass out. I have other parent volunteers attend so they can walk around and remind children to hold their scissors correctly or get a new brown rectangle if the student had a hard time with a certain step (always have a few extras!) Especially in the beginning of the year there is some frustration and tears. It helps to have these parents to put out multiple fires.

I do admit I do need to manage the parents a little. I caution parents about helping their own child. I've found the parents are either overly tough on their child OR the child becomes a baby with the attention of their mother and the mom wants to coddle them. One boy started bawling last week and I told the mom point blank that I thought it was because she was there and as soon as she moved to the other side of the room and I talked to him he stopped crying and got to work. Unbelievably, I have also had to say, "Parents, please don't pick up the glue and do it FOR them. " But once I have the parents trained :-) it is all good.

If you are worried about your kids getting upset about how their artwork turns out, my advice is to read the book Ish.

I  posted about this before but it works wonders. When we tore the trees some of the kids were a little sad that their tree had a bigger chunk out of it than my sample. I said, "Does it look tree-ish?" and the other kids jumped right on. "Yea, it is tree-ish. Maybe that is where a squirrel lives!"

I also wanted to share some blog designs that we finished. I hope you don't mind me sharing these occasionally. Maybe you will find a new blog to follow? Click on the photo to go visit.

Finally, I fixed a long overdue problem on my blog. I now have all the teaching blogs I follow listed on my sidebar! I hadn't updated that gadget in forever and was feeling badly about not having some of my new favorites on there. They are listed by the most recently updated so everyone will get fair billing. Only 10 show at a time but you can expand the list if you are interested.  I so appreciate all the wonderful ideas you ALL share! I'd love it if you would add me to your sidebar, too.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Blurting Brainstorm

Anyone else ready for bed at 9 PM? My class is seriously wearing me out!
This came up when I googled exhausted. LOL! Umm...I wish I looked that good when I WASN'T exhausted!

I mentioned before that I have many students that were from a kinder class that a rough year. Things are getting much better but there are still a few darlings having a hard time with calling out every thought in their head OR making weird sounds??

Ready for my magic solution?

I start the timer running. If someone calls out I stop it (it makes a nice beep) and say something like, "Oh, calling out stops our timer" and write the time the class earned on the board. Then I start it over again and they try to go longer without calling out to beat their time. Time earned gets them out early to the next recess or lunch.  After a little while, I didn't need to say anything about the calling out anymore I just stopped the timer and the beep was enough. The offender usually clamps their hands over their mouth!

Here is the super secret teacher trick: I never show them the actual timer because I LIE. Yes, think what you will but I lie to my children. There is no way I am letting them get out TOO early so I make up the times so they improve if they should but not by so much that they get out earlier than I am comfortable with.

Hope my occasional idea is helpful to someone else!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Flashcard Friends

Do you have English learners who are still having a hard time getting their letter sounds down? I had one sweetie last year who I did flash cards with daily and she kept missing the same ones. When I asked her what the picture was on the m card, she said rat instead of mouse. On the q card she kept saying princess instead of queen. So those clues were no help at all! One day I realized she knew her classmates names better than many of the other kids did. BRAINSTORM!!! 

I quickly made these alterations to the flashcards:
Luckily I had a wide variety of names and could cover most of them. Now, she quickly learned the sound of M because of her dear friend Megan! Not only were the pictures more helpful but she was more engaged in practicing her flashcards!

I don't think I'll need this trick this year since most of my students are only missing a few sounds here and there (that darn short e is a tricky one) but I came across these cards and thought maybe someone else could use the tip. Worked like a charm for my sweetie. Isn't she a cutie?


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Teddy Bear Day

If you use my daily editing math word problems you know that I like to incorporate interesting "holidays" into my lesson plans. This Friday was Teddy Bear Day. We made a day of it by inviting our bears (or other furry friends) to spend the day with us. We got in the spirit by making teddy bear headbands.

We recited this poem.
We made a class book introducing our furry friends. You can download a copy here.

There was a little drama when one boy's white teddy lost his eye. Luckily we found it!

I gave them the writing prompt: "Today my teddy bear came to life and..."
Today my tiger came (to) life and it was playing on the monkey bars.

They had a lot of fun coming up with what their bear would do.

Today my teddy bear came to life and my teddy bear ate my lunch.
Each child got a bag with 12 gummy bears. They sorted by color, made a bar graph, and then answered questions like which color did you have the least of? The graph I got from Teaching Heart.

 Of course, we also read some bear stories.

We didn't have time because we have music class on Fridays but I was also going to have them measure their bears with unifix cubes and then do some comparing.

It was a fun-filled day that I hope the children will remember fondly when they think back to first grade.

In other news, I would like to thank  Teacher Education Degrees for naming my blog to their Top 50 Early Childhood Education Blogs. There are so many wonderful teaching blogs out there I was greatly surprised and honored.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Root Viewers

We start our year off studying plants in science. One of my favorite activities is these root viewers. It illustrates what plants need to survive: water, air, and sunlight and leads right into our next discussion of roots. Plus, the kids gets such a kick out of checking their seeds to see if anything is happening!


1. Soak the seeds (we use pea because they grow quickly) in water overnight.
2. Prep the sandwich bags by folding a paper towel and cutting it to fit. Then staple across the middle leaving some room so the roots can grow between them.
3. I had them work with their table partner so write both their names with permanent marker on the outside.
4. Each partner gets a job. One can put the seeds in, the other can add the teaspoon of water.
5. Zip the bag halfway closed to allow for air.
6. Tape to the window for sunlight.

I made this observation booklet. You are welcome to download it here. I purposely made the cover off-center so I could add the green construction paper edge but it would be fine with just staples, too.
 I wrote and drew with them on my document camera the first few days .

 We also planted some seeds in soil so they could more fully mature before we transplant them to our class garden.

For the last page of the booklet I handed the pots out to partners to observe. They got to choose what to write and sounded the words out the best they could. This cutie noticed roots coming out the bottom of her pot!

I'll be sure to post when we get our garden planted!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day! Pat yourself on the back today for all that you do! It is a good thing thing I find teaching so rewarding because MAN do I put in WAY too many hours!

Here is a little reward I just  found out about. Teachers Pay Teachers is having a flash sale today. The promo code is FLASH and offers 5% off all your purchases today!

Wow,  I was awarded a Top Ten Blog Award by 3 people! Thanks so much to Tunstall's Teaching TidbitsFaifthful in First, and Pitner's Potpourri for the honor. I get so many great ideas from all you other fabulous bloggers I hope that I do sometimes give you something you can use in return.

My hubbie and I spent most of yesterday working on custom blog designs. Here are the latest three that went live. A few more are close! You can click on the image if you want to go say hi.

 Alrighty, time to go LABOR over the enormous laundry pile so my family has clothes to wear this week. Our district has uniforms so I have to be on the ball.  Both my boys strongly prefer the school t-shirt over the polo. I caught the 6th grader trying to wear a dirty t-shirt one day last week. He moodily told me I hadn't washed them all so he was short one. You know what I said. "I wash what is brought to me. If my laundry service isn't up to your standards  you are welcome to wash your own from now on." That reminds me, I should go refresh the stinker's memory of that conversation. Enjoy your day, friends.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pete the Cat Cause & Effect

As promised, here is the 2nd Pete the Cat activity I mentioned. Our comprehension skill this week was cause and effect.  I first taught the skill using the read aloud from HM, Charles Tiger. This concept is pretty confusing for 1st graders so I thought using Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, a story they loved and understood well, might make it a little easier. I created a simplified flow map with a sentence frame. The signal word because is highlighted to help them remember that a cause will follow. You can grab this worksheet here.

I modeled how to draw the cause and effect in the boxes and fill in the sentence frame correctly. I had images of Pete that I had drawn that they could glue on if they preferred but most of my class wanted to draw a close-up of the shoes like I did in my model. Here are the small Pete pics if you'd like them.
Small Pete

Then off they went to work with their partner. They had to:
1. decide which cause/effect example from the story they wanted to use
2. make sure both partners participated
3. use resources in the room or sound out the words

I am so happy it is a long weekend! I will most likely spend a lot of it working on school stuff and blog designs but at least I can do it in my pjs!