Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Week of Thanks

I have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a great job, a beautiful house, a wonderful family, and you!  I'm linking up with BlogHoppin to share what I'm most thankful for this week.

I am so lucky to work with some of the best faculty I know.  I have a fabulous teammate in the ESL department, but I also work with so many talented people who really care about kids. 

It's true: I get by with a little help from my friends.  I am not one to ask for help, but my friends and family know when I need it, and are always there to lend a hand. 

I know that my guardian angels are up there watching me- in the most stressful times I feel as though there's a hand on my shoulder guiding me in the right direction. 
I'm so thankful to have made new friends who are teacher-bloggers and sellers from all around the country.  I can usually identify a seller's product when I see it in the copier, and I'll say, "Oh, I know her!"  Or I'll reference a blog post and say, "My friend ____ just wrote a great post about _____ in the classroom!" It's wonderful to have this online community. 

Are you a fox or a hedgehog? 
The fox knows a little about everything, and the hedgehog knows a lot about one thing.  
I think I'm a fox, but it might be nice to be a hedgehog once in a while!  I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue my education- I tell my kids I'm in 23rd grade.  At the rate I'm going I'll be in school until 35th grade, and that's ok!

They make me smile, they make me laugh, they make me cry.  We learn together as a family.  I love my students and would do anything for them- they are a wonderful group of children, and I am a very lucky teacher.  

What are you thankful for? Link up with BlogHoppin!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Feed the Birds... (Pincone Birdfeeder)

tuppence a bag, tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag...

I apologize. It's just that I've had that song in my head ALL DAY!

This week's lesson was all about forest animals and their habitats.  We read about bears, owls, skunks, raccoons, beavers...you name it!

To cap off the week, we watched a Wild Kratts video about squirrels and blue jays- check it out on youtube:

At the very end of the video, the Kratt brothers teach about how to make a birdfeeder.  That gave me the idea to make our own pinecone birdfeeders! #keepcalmandpretenditsonthelessonplan

So I headed to almighty Pinterest to find a craft for my class.  A few clicks later and voila!

Make A Pine Cone Bird Feeder
Source: My Blessed Life  (Ours didn't look that profesional!)
On my way to school (which is when I get all my best ideas) I decided to turn this activity into less of a review on habitats but more of a lesson on sequencing.  The students in my 1st grade class are fairly proficient in reading and writing, but need a lot of work on fluent speaking.  Scroll to the bottom to see the freebie I used!

To make pinecone birdfeeders, you'll need the following: pinecones, twine or string, peanut butter/almond butter, and birdseed.  I also grabbed some plastic utensils from my drawer to make spreading easier.

I tied the twine around each pine cone, then let the girls at it with the almond butter and peanut butter.  We started off using plastic spoons, but that didn't work so well.  After a mini mini lesson on being safe with a knife, I let them use the plastic knives. 

Once they slathered on the butter, we dipped each pine cone into a cup full of birdseed and twirled it around.  That was an easy and non-messy way to do it- you dip it just like you would a chocolate covered pretzel.  

Cute, right?

The girls were so proud of their creations.  We put our jackets on and headed out to hang them up. 

Each kid got to pick a branch for their feeder.  The delight of choosing one's own branch was almost too much to handle.

When we came in, we went right to the window in the hallway to watch the birds swoop to the feeders.  I had to pry them away from the window- I promised that we'd be back at that window on Monday to watch the birds.    Aren't they adorable?!

Once back in the classroom we talked about the importance of animals in our environment, when to help them, and when to stay away.  To sum it all up, we used my sequencing freebie and each girl took a part to explain.  Click the picture below to grab it from TPT!

 This was such an easy and fun lesson- perfect for a Friday.  Have you ever made bird feeders with your class? Have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Teaching Wants and Needs {a Mini-Lesson and a Freebie}

Did you get the Holiday Toys 'R Us catalog in the mail yet? How about the one from Target? I did, and eagerly flipped through it to see this year's hot new toy.  I've got to make sure I'm keeping up with the 8 year olds!  Skimming through the pages gave me an idea for a mini lesson that is perfect for this time of year- the difference between wants and needs.

Everyone deServes to Learn Wants and Needs

 At my school we have a large underprivileged population, and a sizable ESL population.   Many of our ELL's are refugees from Burma and Thailand and came with their families to the US with nothing but the shirts on their backs.  They were given some necessities by a local charitable organization, but then left on their own to figure out life in America.  This is especially evident around the holidays, when their classmates chatter away about Santa, wishlists, and Christmas morning.

Two years ago, my teammate and I decided to bring a little holiday magic to our students.  We were able to give every ESL student a gift to open on Christmas.  One of our 4th graders at the time had been desperately wanting a Barbie. She had never received a gift before, never unwrapped a package.  When she opened her Barbie and car at our Holiday Party, she was so overcome she just sat there and cried.  We cried, too. We'll be reprising our roles as Santa this year by getting donations from faculty and the community.  If you want to read more about the holiday party, click the picture.  

Everone deServes to Learn Wants and Needs

Since this is our 3rd year in a row, we want to discuss with our students the difference between needs and wants. (Because Santa's money doesn't grow on Christmas trees!) Before our party, we always make a list of students' names, sizes, and wishlist so faculty can donate gifts if they wish.  This year we thought we'd get the students involved in making their wishlist, but add a little twist to it.  They'll have to tell us what they want, what they need, and as a little bonus, something they'd like to read. Click the picture to grab this form from Google drive.

Once they turn in their wishlist, I'm going to show a BrainPOP video about wants and needs.  The BrainPOP will come second so that they'll have background about their own wants or needs while they are watching. We'll take the quiz (they LOVE the quizzes on BP) and then play the game as a group or in partners.  Click the pictures to go to BrainPOP.

After we discuss wants and needs, we will revisit our Wishlists.  I'll model how one of my needs is actually a want, and I'll ask for volunteers to talk about their wants and needs.  We will edit our wishlists, and then share some of our wants and needs with the class.  As closure, I'll display some pictures from Google images and have them show me if it is a need or a want.  If I find they need some reinforcements, we'll do some of the activities from my friend Halle's unit- check it out below. 

How do you teach wants and needs with your students? Leave me a note!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thanksgiving Resource Round Up

Gobble Gobble! Thanksgiving is coming up soon- are you ready?  I need something about the First Thanksgiving, on a 1st grade reading level, with big-kid clipart and big-kid writing lines. I spent a while searching for Thanksgiving resources on TPT, but couldn't find what I wanted.   So, I thought it would be fun to get a link up going for all your Thanksgiving themed resources- hopefully I'll find what I need!  Join Everyone deServes to Learn with a Thanksgiving Resource Round-Up!

Click any picture to head to my TPT store!

This is the newest installment in the Diary of a... Series.  I'm so excited to work on it next week!

Right now there are two diaries in the Thanksgiving Bundle.  A third is coming soon!

Studying Pilgrims? This Thanksgiving-themed mini-book is great to use as a literacy center, for small group instruction, or as a substitute lesson. Students will gain experience reading historical fiction and providing text-dependent evidence.

This is a great diary if you are studying Pilgrims.  Use it as a read-aloud, for centers, or as guided reading.  

An emergent reader about the first Thanksgiving.  Great for primary and low-beginning ELL's.

Last year I wrote this for my ELL newcomers.  It's perfect for K and 1! 

If you're looking for a fun craft, I worked on these torn-paper turkeys with my kiddos last year.  Super easy and a crowd pleaser!

Link up your Thanksgiving themed resources below.  Feel free to post your blog link or TPT link.  *If you link up, please share on social media- Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tsu...*

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy November!

What a beautiful way to start the month- all the trees in my neighborhood have changed, and the colors are just divine.  I think November is my favorite month!

1. When we are home, the TV is turned to one of 3 or 4 channels: ESPN, Food Network, or HGTV. My little brother works at ESPN as a steadicam operator, so it's kind of become a game: "Can you spot DJ?" 

2. I love a good #PSL, but let me tell you about the Pumpkin Spice Smoothie from Smoothie King.  It is like drinking a pumpkin pie.  In the battle of pumpkin spice, smoothie trumps latte, by far.  

3. I just wrapped up a new Diary, and added it to my Thanksgiving Bundle- click the picture to check it out.  I have three in my Halloween Bundle, so my OCD-self would like three in the Thanksgiving Bundle.  I'm also thinking ahead to Christmas, and would like to write two more.  Any suggestions?

4. Our third anniversary is at the end of this month, and we've planned a weekend in NYC.  We'll do something he wants (hockey game) and something I want (Broadway show).  What I can't figure out is where to eat.  There are too many good restaurants to choose from.  Living so close to NYC and Philly is not good for the waistline, that's for sure. 

5. Nothing.  I need nothing. I am so blessed with the life I have. 

6.  They're not periodicals or journals or peer-reviewed, and they are certainly not scholarly.  I did learn some tips from Real Simple, though.  Like this trick: Put a second garbage bag  underneath the first so there is always a bag waiting.  Mind. Blown.

Happy November to you! I hope this month treats you well!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to Plan a Pumpkin Decorating Contest

This month my school hosted its first pumpkin decorating contest.  I spent many hours searching for the best way to organize the contest, so I thought I'd sum it all up in one easy package that you can save for next year!

First, I worked with our VP and a few other teachers to narrow down the size and scope of the event.  Originally, we thought it would be fun to have the homerooms compete, but there just wasn't enough time.  We decided to open it up to our middle school (6-8) and any teacher who wanted to participate.  You can see the rules and procedures in the image below. 

Next, I got the pumpkins donated from a local nursery.  I had to call several times, but I was persistent.  We were so fortunate to have 40 pumpkins donated! 

Then, I created a google survey for sign ups, and kept it very simple.
Team Name
Homeroom Teacher

We put this picture on our school website, and then announced it over the morning news.  It's helpful to have your VP and/or tech staff on board with your project if you want to really promote.  
Students and teachers signed up using my google survey.  I handed out the pumpkins one Friday after school, and teams had one week to create their works of art. 

A week later, I collected the pumpkins in the library.  This took some juggling, and I would recommend having another person help you.  I made little index card tents with numbers, and wrote the initials of the team on the inside.  We didn't want to show the names on the outside.  I also took a picture as they were submitted, and checked their name off on my excel spreadsheet from the google survey.

Here were our great submissions! In the student category:


Aren't they fabulous!?

In the teacher category: 


I created one more google survey, which we emailed to teachers and announced over the morning news.  In the form, I placed both the collages you see above, as well as these questions: 
Favorite Student Pumpkin
Favorite Teacher Pumpkin

I tried to keep it simple so that even my low ELL's and kinder babies could vote if they wanted.  We placed the link to the form on our website, and had over 200 votes in just a few days.  I had my VP, Secretary, and two teachers vote for their favorites in the other 4 categories.  

Here are the winners!






We announced the winners on our morning announcements, and you could hear the cheering three hallways away! The Parent Teacher Association generously donated movie gift cards and candy, so I presented those to the winners in their homerooms. 

Here's my humble candy-apple pumpkin.  It didn't win, but I was pretty proud of it!


If you wanted to do this in your classroom or in your school, here are a few suggestions I would make:

  • Ask for your donations early.  I had this bright idea two weeks before October, so it was a bit of a scramble. 
  • Have a team help you distribute and collect the pumpkins. 
  • Ask your secretaries and custodians to vote on the pumpkins- really get your whole school involved.
  • Make sure you have enough prizes for ALL the kids on the winning team.
  • Make it curricular by having your upper math classes analyze your results- find out which pumpkin was most popular in grade 4, grade 6, etc.  If you ask for more demographic data in your survey you'll have more to analyze. 
  • Allow your classes time to come and see the pumpkins displayed, and then vote.  Pictures only show some of the story. 
  • If you do it with just your class, hit some speaking and listening standards by having students present their pumpkin in an expository format.
Have you organized a contest like this in your school? Any tips or tricks to add? Leave them in the comments!