Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why I Tore Down My Word Wall {& a freebie}

Hey There!

Today I have to speak from my teacher heart.

It might be controversial.

You might disagree.  

I might be wrong.                                           

Word walls. You know the kind with a bank of sight words.

If you are a K-2 teacher, I bet you have one.

Me too, I mean, had a word wall.

You see, last year I ripped mine off the wall.


In theory, word walls sound very effective to me. You introduce a few new words. You practice the new sight words. Then after a week or so you slap those puppies up on the word wall for your student’s reference for the remainder of the school year.  

Students will work the word wall. They can play I spy or word detective games. They will constantly be exposed to the print and the words will seep into their brains. While independently writing their little brains will be capable of spelling those tricky words (they, said, want...) because they will just remember it is a sight word and look at the word wall.

In theory, this is why I have had a word wall for years and years and years.

Then last year I ripped it off my wall.

Say what?

I decided to put a portable word wall on EVERYTHING!

I had previously made a list of sight words organized in alphabetical order for my students. 

I had mounted a copy on my students’ writing folders.


Click the picture to see more! 

I had them glued to the back of their homework folders. 


Editable Homework Newsletters and Folders (click picture)


But we needed more!

So I mounted on construction paper, laminated, and taped the mini word wall onto my students’ tables.




I placed multiple copies at my writing center.

I created monthly hidden sight word games for them to interact with at the word work center.


Monthly Hidden Sight Words~ Click the picture to see more info! 


Basically, mini word walls here, mini word walls there, mini word walls everywhere!

Here is what I have noticed: 
My students are more frequently looking at their word wall.  While they are writing and stuck on a word, they are more frequently stopping to search for the high frequency word they need. 

I am not sure what the difference is? My only guess it that having the list taped down to their tables is SO MUCH EASIER for them to look at than looking across the room? Or maybe it is that they see the laminated mini word wall on their desk ALL.DAY.LONG?? 

What ever it is, I am thankful they are finally using their word wall to spell those tricky words. :) 

So there you have it, if I have my way I will never take up precious wall space again for a giant word wall that no one gives any love. 

If you like this "mini word wall" you can download it for FREE by clicking the picture! 




I'd love to hear any comments you have on word walls. Do you have one? Do you have any amazing strategies you have found to help your students learn those darn sight words? 

Thanks for reading :) 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

12 Books of Christmas Giveaway!

Hey There! 

I am Christina from Mrs. Winter's Bliss. I have been teaching 1st grade for 20 years...WAIT, what? How did that happen? I cannot be THAT OLD! Anyway, I am excited to be linking up with 11 other amazing bloggers to share some of our favorite holiday books and FREEBIES with you! 



Along with the freebies for each book, we are also giving away a copy of each book. Make sure to read through to the end of the post to grab the freebies and a chance to WIN ALL 12 books! 



I chose to share the book Junie B. First Grader Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May.) by Barbara Park. 




If you are like me and my 1st graders you already know what a hilarious and relatable character Junie B. is to us. This book is no exception! 


It’s holiday time, and Room One is doing lots of fun things to celebrate. When everyone picks names for Secret Santa, Junie B. gets stuck with Tattletale May! Junie B. thinks maybe, just maybe, a Secret Santa gift is the perfect opportunity to give May exactly what she deserves. This book has a sweet kindness message at the end.

My freebie is a packet of text dependent comprehension questions. I use them with my small group“independent” readers who are ready to dig deeper into what they are reading. Junie B. Jones Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May.) 2.5 (DRA 24) reading level.

There are 2 text dependent questions for students to provide a written response for each chapter. Also included are character analysis graphic organizers. 

When I meet with my small group I have them bring their book and reading response sheet from the previous chapter they completed independently.

First, we discuss the main events of what they read and each child shares their responses to the comprehension questions assigned previously.  I give my students time to comment or question other student’s responses in the group.

Next, we preview vocabulary words in context to clarify meaning before they read independently.

I highlight the vocabulary words in the books so students can easily find them while we preview AND so students recall them as a word we discussed while reading independently. 

Last, each child reads the chapter and completes responses independently before our group meets again.

My students greatly enjoy the independence, have continued or ignited their love of reading, have become much better at writing responses to text dependent comprehension questions, and can better communicate their thinking with other students.


Of course you could use these response sheets to practice the rigorous text based written responses after reading aloud the book to your whole class, or as homework for individual students. 




You can grab this FREEBIE by clicking the picture or {here}! 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Before you hop onto see my friends, Angela and Kelley over at Glyph Girls, don't forget to grab my number! Each blogger will have a number at the end of his/her post. Collect all the numbers along the way, and when you're done, add them all up and enter the total number in the Rafflecopter below!


Good luck, happy hopping!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Perfect Printing & a Freebie!

Hey There!

Fall is here! The cooler weather is upon us, time for yummy pumpkin everything, sweaters and boots, but best of all,our students have mostly settled into our classroom routines.

Are you like me and LOVE LOVE LOVE neat printing? It makes my OCD self so happy. :) I often tell my students, "Your printing looks like my favorite font!" #BLISS

For me, neat printing is not optional. I expect encourage and praise my students for their neat work.

The beginning of the school year as I am establishing procedures and routines is the perfect time to teach proper letter formation. In my first grade class, I review 2 or 3 letters a day. Even though my students learned proper letter formation in kindergarten, I feel that since I expect it I should reteach it.

I love to use music and chants during transitions. This chant is awesome at directing students what they should be doing to start their work. After the first few times of saying it, my students always chime in.



By saying this chant with me, my students forget they were going to talk to a friend at their table and get off task. #winning

If you'd like this FREEBIE to try with your class, you can grab it {HERE}.

Throughout the year, I have my students continue printing practice. I have sent it as homework, put it in a center, or as part of their morning work.

This year, after social time is over in the morning, my students begin their day with Printing Practice with Decodable Text.



It is working out well for me because my students are able to be independent. My students do not need help knowing what to do on their morning work, which allows time for me to work with a few students who need reteaching or support with previous learning.

Each day my students practice an uppercase or lowercase letter. They also trace and write a decodable sentence with the letter of the day embedded in the text. The sentences review basic sight words and are a mix of declarative, interrogative, or exclamatory sentences.

I made these printing practice pages with short vowel decodable text and long vowel text.


Short vowel sample


Long vowel sample 






You can try these with your class FREE, if you download and print my preview file.  You can find both Manuscript and D'Nealian styles {HERE}.

Thanks for stopping by, I'd love you to comment how you teach printing in your class! Do you have any songs or chants you love? :)





Saturday, October 3, 2015

Spelling Activities {a Freebie}

Hey Friends!

What is your favorite part of your day? Without a doubt, it is literacy centers for my students and I!

They love to work collaboratively. They love to be independant. They love having choices.

I love watching them. They are helpful. They are hard working. They are capable of so much! My students work like Star Students!

I just finished updating a few new spelling/word work activities and thought I would share them with you!


These activity pages could be used to practice spelling or sight words as a center, morning work, or homework. My students enjoy the variety.

Since I have control issues To be sure my students clearly understand what to do for each activity, I model and my students do the same activity for that rotation of centers. After they have learned all the spelling activities I hang a menu board and they are able to choose whichever activity they'd like during word work.





I also have sight word stamps, salt trays, and writing paper to write spelling sentences but these activities seem to be most engaging for my first graders.


You can grab them FREE {Here}!

How do you teach and assess your students spelling words?

I have been asked some questions since I posted this picture on Instagram and Facebook a few weeks ago.


My district didn't have a spelling program, so my team and I made one many years ago. I love it so much and continue to use this program more than 10 years later!


At the beginning of the week after I explicitly teach the new spelling pattern, I give my students a word list to practice what they have just been taught. It also serves as one way for parents to know the new spelling words to practice at home. (Plus I get a little handwriting practice in too).



During the week we practice the words during mini lessons with our whiteboards, word sorts, and dictation sentences.

Pocket Chart Sorting Cards

My most favorite part of the Spelling Bundle is the assessment. It is clear with this assessment if a student has memorized their spelling words or really understands the spelling pattern and can transfer their knowledge of the pattern in untaught words. I dictate the words list words we have practiced throughout the week. The "star" words are words that we haven't practiced but follow the same spelling pattern.


Students must edit the silly sentence and write it correctly, then finally they read (to themselves) the bottom sentence and draw a picture to show comprehension.

If you'd like you can visit my TpT shop to see more.



1st Grade Program {Here}




2nd Grade Program {Here}



3rd Grade program {HERE}

Thanks so much for reading! I'd LOVE for you to leave a quick comment to share with me engaging ways you have your students work with words!!! :)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

DonorsChoose (YOU can do it!)


Hey There! 

I am so excited I can hardly contain my teacher self!!! 

I posted a project for 4 mini iPads and protective cases on DonorsChoose and it was funded in 5 days! 5 days!!! I cannot believe it. They are on the way to my school site as I type. 

Do you know about DonorsChoose? If you don't, basically it is a nonprofit website that allows public school teachers to request donations for their classroom. Individuals and business owners come to the site looking for projects to help fund. The donations are tax deductible. #WinWinForEveryone

I have never written any sort of grant before and felt like it might be hard or overwhelming but once I got on the website I found it was so easy! If you have a need in your classroom I would encourage you to go there NOW (after you finish reading this post :) and DO IT! 

From what I have heard raising $1736 in 5 days is not typical. I am going to get right down to it and share with you a few things I did that I believe helped fund my project so quickly.


Use Your Voice
Try to make your request as personal as you can without giving out personal information of your school or students. My classroom theme is "Shining Stars" so I made sure to talk about them as that and how iPads would help them Sparkle! I was as specific as possible as to what we could do with iPads that would enhance my students' learning. 


Get the Word Out! 
Send an email to parents of the kids in your class. If you are like me you might feel strange asking them to donate. I wanted them to know my project was out there without asking them directly and putting pressure on them to give money. Here is how I worded it: 

Dear Parents, 
I am so excited that the DonorsChoose grant I submitted has been approved!!! 
Would you help me spread the word to your friends/family/businesses who are looking to make a donation that really will make a big impact with our students? 

I had several extended family members (Those grandparents wrote such sweet words about their grandchildern) donate and I am pretty sure it is because I simply suggested my parents share with their families. 

Get the Match! 
My project happened to be running when DonorsChoose was offering to match each donation up to $100 if donors used a promo code. 
Many of my donors forgot to use the code when checking out...YIKES! 
I decided to email the website and asked if they would please match the donation. They said YES! If I had never sent the email, 7 donations equaling $475 would not have been matched. Sending the email took me less than 5 minutes :) 



Share on Social Media 
I shared a link to tell my Facebook friends and family I had a project running. I asked them to share on their wall if they were comfortable with that too. Several people shared my post :) 

So the CrAzY thing is, I raised more money than I needed. A friend and a few parents saw that my project was fully funded when they got around to making a donation and "donated" a gift card to be used for future projects I post. Now my wheels are spinning on what my next project will be.... :) 

I am overwhelmed by the generosity of others. When I thanked a parent or friend personally, their response warmed my heart. "We are so happy to help, we are impressed that you would take the time and seek donations." People are awesome.

My firsties are going to be so excited upon the arrival of that special box, that is if I let them open it...

Thanks for reading, now go get what YOU need {HERE} :)


 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Classroom Management (non verbal)



Hey There!

It's the weekend, time to recharge those batteries and get ready for the next week of craziness in the classroom. 

So today I want to share some ideas to help make the classroom less CrAzY! Non verbal signs and hand signals...do you use them? If you don't, you should read on to see why they help make me the queen of classroom management (ok, maybe not QUEEN...but pretty good at it! 

So my kids know have been trained NOT to bother me while I am working with others unless there is an emergency. Tip: if your class is like mine you will need to review WHAT is an emergency? In my class it can be only 3 things: 
1. my pencil is broken
2. I don't know where the word work center is
3. a book is ripped

1. There is a fire in the classroom
2. You are about to throw up
3. Someone is passed out

Simple right? So what do kids do if they cannot bother you? What if they need to use the bathroom right after we just visit the bathroom? Hand signals!!

Many years ago, I got the idea (probably from another teacher) to use the sign language letter R to signal, "I need to visit the restroom." It is awesome because I don't even have to stop talking while teaching whole group or small group because I can just give a quick nod to give permission. 
In addition, there is no ripple effect of kids needing to go to the bathroom since it is silent. #winning

Sorry, about the "wet spot." Seems this sweetie missed her mouth while drinking water ;)

My favorite hand signal is our class quiet sign. At the beginning of the year I use this Finger Eye Puppet to engage my students. {HERE}


We talk about what a good listener looks like: their ears are up and their lips are closed.
So this is our class quiet sign, they love it. IT IS OURS....IT IS SECRET.
Now it's your too!



Use it, you will crack up when they point the quiet sign at their own face to quiet themselves down! HA!

In my classroom I try to make every minute count. I also need to make my kids accountable. No sleeping in my classroom, no letting your friends answer everything while you cruise.  So I use hand signs to do that.

Before I go on,
here is an important thing...WAIT TIME. Some of your students will try to be lazy, but once they know that is not acceptable they won't try it anymore. WAIT TIME, give it!

During whole group mini lessons I use think and point.



For example if I ask, "Does the word glass have a short vowel or long vowel sound? Think and point." Students are told to point left/right while keeping their hand under their chin so I can make a quick assessment of who "gets it."

You can also use hand signals under your chin for yes, no answers. I call it thumb/no thumb.


You might say something like, "Did I solve this math equation correctly? Thumb for yes, no thumb for no."

The possibilities are endless...what do I need to do to solve this math problem? Make a plus sign if I should add or a minus sign under your chin if you think I should subtract....

Again, no sleepers, no one skating by. You will be making quick observations of what your kids know or don't know.

I have one last management idea. In first grade, it is a HUGE deal to lose a tooth. 24 kids losing teeth throughout the year equals lots of interruptions to instructional time.

My first graders love to wear badges, it is so powerful! They take it very seriously to be what ever their badge title is. You can read more about these badges: Table Captains Freebie {HERE} Sight Word Detectives Freebie {HERE}


So I knew I had to make a badge to wear when one of my Shining Stars loses a tooth. They wear it proudly! But more importantly they do not have to say A WORD, NOT A SINGLE WORD until I am ready. They just grab a badge from the basket and somehow they are pacified until we are ready to hear all about how they lost that tooth that has been hanging by the root and they have had their hands in their mouth playing with it for days! (BLECK!)

If you or your students are not the badge wearing type, you could do the same with these labels. 
If you are interested in finding out more about these badges, labels and other celebration goodies to protect your instructional time, you can see more {HERE}



Thank you for stopping by and reading! I hope you got some new classroom management ideas :)







Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Quick Tip!


Hey There!

Tomorrow is FriYay!!! A weekend of luxury awaits us my friends!!!

Today I wanted to share a printing tip that made me so happy when I discovered it about a year ago. :)  If you are like me you wish a part of a digital file could be put in a Shrinky Dink oven to better use the resource.  Well now you can! You can print multiple pages of any document by a click of a few buttons. :)

When I created this file I Lost a Tooth, I originally planned to print a recording sheet for each month to post in our calendar area.
Then I checked my wall space, oopsie...I needed this sheet to be smaller. Rather than rework the whole file I just printed 2 to a sheet!  Here is how I did it:

 First select print, then when the window opens choose the pages you want to print.
Then choose how many pages you want on a page. For this picture I choose 2 pages per page. 

Walla, you have printed multiple pages to a sheet! Here is one more picture showing 6 to a page. 

Sometimes I make anchor charts to teach and later I print them multiple pages to a sheet and make my students reference cards or bookmarks. 

I hope this printing tip has been handy to you, I'd love you to leave a handy tip you have learned in the comments for me!