Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Teach 1st! {Day 1}

I am attending the I Teach 1st! conference this week.  I chose I Teach 1st (even though I teach K) because I had a "high ability cluster" and thought that I could find some different ideas to help challenge them.  I also thought it would give me a new perspective since I never taught first and would help me learn more about how to better prepare all my students.

I started off the morning the keynote from Todd Parr.  He was funny and "real".  It was a great way to start the morning off!  I also got a few books signed. :)

The first session of the day was with Cara Carroll from First Grade Parade.  This session was all about reader's workshop.  Cara talked a lot about how her room runs and it gave me some ideas for my own classroom.  One of my favorites was her "old friends" books.  This is a tub of books were the familiar reads go.  Even the nonreaders are able to read from this bin.  I also liked the "birthday book". Students have the opportunity to donate a book to the class library for their birthday.  The child holds the book and Cara takes a picture of them then puts it in the book as a bookplate and has the child sign the inside of the book. These books go to a special bin in her classroom library.  So cute!  I thought it would be great to read the book to the class or have the child read it to the class if they would like to.  Cara wrote a post about her day, you might want to check it out here with some freebies!

My second session of the day was with Reagan Tunstall from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits.  This session was about writer's workshop and building writing portfolios.  She shared the mini-lessons she does each month and the seasonal ideas she does each month.  I loved how she pulled in important things happening in other subject areas of her classroom into her writing curriculum.

While I loved all the ideas and can't wait to try to incorporate writing more into my art (we don't have an art teacher), science and social studies, I really liked what she said about mentor texts in writing.  The slide below shows how she uses a mentor text throughout the week.  The first read is "for fun"; just the enjoyment of the story.  The second read is "notice it"- students share a reaction to the story.  It could also be that the teacher took note of a reaction from the first read and shared it with the class; I think this would be particularly helpful the first few times we tried this!  The third read is "name it"- students give a name to the strategy.  While it might be called "alliteration", give the kids the chance to own it by naming it themselves.   Last is "try it" where students try that strategy in their own writing.

The third session I attended with also with Reagan.  This one was about science.  I am not very good about science outside of reading books and an occasional experiment, so I thought this one might help.  She suggested Peep and the Big Wide World (YouTube link) for videos to teach a variety of science concepts.  She also shared that she purchases her lab coats from Mr. Disposable.  Her suggestion was to pull the verbs for your standards then think interactive.  We had the opportunity to do a make and take with her magnet pack.

This was something I thought I could use in my classroom, and it would work with my kids.  It seems like it would be easier and more efficient for my style of teaching and how my classroom runs.  I'm looking forward to trying something like this.

My final session of the day was with Donna Whyte, and it was about critical thinking.  Her "big idea" was to create a thinking, you have to stop giving all the answers.  The "bouncing ball theory" was mentioned several times- bounce the question back to them and make them think!  She gave an example of a question matrix, which was something I've never heard of.  It was basically just ways to ask questions that make kids think rather than simple questions that they have the answers to immediately.  I think this would be great for my building as a few of us have had discussions that having a few questions in the back of your mind ready to go makes you more likely to use them.  We also talked about having a mini chart (just for the teacher) somewhere that he/she could refer to with 5-7 questions that you could "fall back on" when you need a higher level thinking question.  I'm thinking these could be used for that too.

While this session was a topic that shouldn't necessarily be funny, Donna did a great job keeping us engaged (especially since it was the last session of the day) with real-life stories where this applies.

I had the opportunity to hang out with Mary Amoson from Sharing Kindergarten during a session- so much fun!  I love how down-to-earth she is and easy to talk to.  I won a prize from Kim Adsit at the teacher meet and greet tonight. My friends I am traveling with and I saw Cirque du Soleil's Mystere show tonight, which was awesome.

It was an amazing first day, and I can't wait to go back for more tomorrow!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Teacher Top (My New Blogger Shirt!)

The awesome folks over at A+ Images offered bloggers a free customized t-shirt about a month ago.  I immediately jumped on it because it sounded like fun!  I knew I wanted more than just my blog logo on it, so I went on the hunt for an image/saying I liked.  Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten had the perfect shirt for me.  I chose a couple of my favorite fonts and was off to design.  The graphic I used was from the A+ Images website. Missie was awesome at communicating what would work and what would not and getting my shirt on to production.

It is difficult to tell in the photo below, but my shirt is a purple color.  Purple is my favorite color, and it matches the purple in my blog button found on the back of my shirt.  I so appreciate the option of "women's fit" when it comes to t-shirts because it fits so much better!

Front of the shirt
Back of the shirt
As much as I love my shirt, I think these "kid designed" shirts are even better.  Classroom Faces shirts allow your students to draw pictures of themselves then the designers take what the kids drew in make it into a t-shirt.  These would be so much fun for an end of the year gift for kiddos!

This is an example off their website.
I'm looking forward to meeting the A+ Images crew in the exhibit hall!  Thank-you so much for my comfortable custom shirt!  Have you ever made customized shirts for yourself/staff or your students?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Made It {June 29}

I'm linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It.

The first thing I was an "I Spy" bottle.  I made a few bottles, some with letters and some with numbers to find.  For the bottles we gave away, we used colored rice to fill them.  Pinterest gave me some other ideas.  We made these during our "games" unit at school to give to other classrooms, but I wanted a few for myself and gave some to our church's preschool as well.

Number beads I used in my bottles.  I put 2 of each number in.

Water beads that I used as filler.

I used bottles from Ice Water that one of my teammates drinks. I liked these because they did not have any ridges in the side of the bottle.  I started by filling it with the water beads.  It was easiest to use a funnel to get those little guys in there.

Next, I put the number beads into the bottle.  No funnel for these; they got stuck. Just drop a few at a time in.

Then, I filled the bottle most of the way with tap water.  You need some room to allow the materials inside to move, but too little is not good either.  This one had a little more water added after the picture was taken. Shake it up to get the numbers to distribute throughout the bottle.

The last thing I did was use E6000 glue to close the lid for good.  I love the look of the bottles with the water beads in them, and I think they will be calming for some kiddos!

The other thing I made was car "survival" kids for my friend's kiddos.  They were making the journey to Disney World with a 3 year old and a 6 year old.  This is the 6 year old's stuff.  I wrapped each item separately and put them in a gift bag. Each kiddo had different colored wrapping paper.  I didn't get a picture of these steps. My friend and her husband could then determine when they each got open a new surprise.  She said they loved being able to open new things along the way.  Mom and dad also had a special bag with markers, colored pencils and a sand timer- you know, just in case they needed it.

This last one will hopefully be a future "made it", but first I need your help.  I did a major "clean out" at the end of the school year.  I found these, which I purchased for them Target Dollar Spot years ago, and they need a purpose.  There are 3 sets with 9 "coasters" in each set.  The inside pieces are all different parts of a sandwich. What can I make with these?  I'd love your ideas!

Be sure to check out all the other "made its"by visiting Tara's blog!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Video Games {Part 3}

The last part of our "Games" unit, was my students' project to make video games.  One of the questions asked at the beginning of our unit was how video games are made.  This is certainly not my area of expertise; as I explained to the kids, I was not even allowed to play video games until I was in high school!  So, I called in an expert!

Our technology integration teacher at the high school came to chat with me about ways for my kiddos to create video games.  In the end, we settled on the app Floors.  There are 2 options with this app: draw the game on paper using a code and take a picture to put it in the app or draw directly on the app. We decided to have the kiddos draw on the specially designed paper because we could have everyone work at the same time, and we thought drawing on the app was more difficult.  The games they created are "Mario"type games.

Teaching us how to find and play a game on the iPad.  The iPad is connected to projector and projected on the SMARTboard.  The "smart" part of the SMARTboard cannot be used at this point, manipulating is done on the iPad.

After our "expert" showed the kids how to draw a level and loaded it on his iPad for them to see, they set to work trying to draw their own levels using the special paper and "code sheet".  We allowed them to practice 3 days and gave them the option to take paper and code sheets home if they wanted to try it at home too.

After everyone had a chance to practice, I gave them the option to be in a group and create a game with 2 or 3 other kids (these groups worked with the expert) or to play and make games with me.  Out of my 18, 11 chose to try to make a video game in a group.  Surprisingly, the child who ask how video games were made did not choose to make one.  My literacy coach said, well, he learned how it was done and decided it was something he didn't want to do!

The groups worked together for 2 days (about 30 minutes per day) before Mr. Smith (our expert) went around the took the pictures of them to load them into the iPad.  In their groups, there was one "drawer" and the other 2 or 3 kiddos were allowed to dictate where everything went.  The "drawer" was chosen by me based on their practice time.  You had to draw right on the lines to make it transfer well, so I looked what the kiddos had done during practice time.  We tried to let the kids help with the scanning, but there are places that have to align on the screen and the paper, and this provided to be an 'expert' skill.  Once they were scanned in, the kids worked with Mr. Smith to choose backgrounds, characters, colors, etc. 

Scanning the drawings into the iPad.

Making their video games their own!
Once the games were complete, Mr. Smith uploaded them into the arcade on the Floors app.  He marked them so students could easily find the games created by students in our class.  These were then a center option during our game time.

This project was a bit of a leap of faith for me.  I had mixed feelings: "This is so cool, they are going to love it" and "There is no way they are going to be able to do this."  The paper they had to use was tiny graph paper, and drawing using a code was not something we had ever done before.  I broke out thick- lead mechanical pencils thinking that the sharper the pencil was, the easier it would be to stay on the lines.  I was shocked how excited they were to start trying to draw the "extras" like coins, spikes, ladders, etc.  

Our expert was a definite bonus, as he has young children himself and a love for technology with was apparent.  My kiddos loved his visits and were willing to take risks and try different things.  I was in awe of their completed video games.  In my wildest dreams, I would have never thought to make a video game with 6 year olds!  It was an amazing project, and it makes me want to try other projects that I might not have thought possible.  Don't underestimate them when they are interested, engaged and have the right resources, no matter how old they are!

What kind of projects have you tried with your students?  When have your kiddos exceeded your expectations and/or surprised you?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five for Friday {June 19}

I'm linking up with Kasey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for this week's Five for Friday.

My teammate and I had another math work session.  We *think* we are now set with templates and other manipulatives that need created through February. This is a good place for us!

A teacher friend, her daughter and I hit the Regal Cinema's $1 movie on Tuesday.  They have $1 movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00am.  This week we saw Box Trolls (eh, ok) and last week we saw Annie (so cute!).    Check it out and see if they have it in your area. 

The movies were fantastic because we've seen 4.5 inches of rain this week.  Needing something keep us busy!  We've also been prepping for VBS this week- another great inside activity.

Snowflakes from the ceiling and "base camp" at the entrance to the sanctuary.

Our VBS theme is Everest.  We borrowed a Yeti from our local science center.  It was part of their window display this winter. A very creative guy at our church designed the mountain and built it with the help of some volunteers.  Can't wait for the kids to see it!

I had some successful "fix its" this week!  I'm not very handy, but I am frugal and I don't like waiting around for someone else to do it.  So, thanks to a friendly employee at Lowe's, I able to fix my tub drain that had stopper that didn't work (you couldn't take a bath).  That was a 3 minute fix.

I also fixed my ceiling fan in my bedroom.  When you turned it on, it sounded like it was going to fly off the ceiling. It was wobbly and loud!  A frugal home improvement guy on YouTube said to tape nickels to a blade to balance the fan.  Who knew!?  The only problem with that fix it was that I couldn't find the duct tape and ended up having a nickel fly off the moving blade.  I promptly went and looked for the duct tape again!  We are good to go now. :)

What have you been up to this week?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Making Games {Part 2}

I started writing about our games unit earlier this week.  This unit was very much student-driven.  One thing they wanted to learn was how to make games. We learned to make video games (post to come soon) and some "non-video games".

One thing we made was "I Spy" bottles.  While a group of kiddos was making video games with an "expert", the rest of the kiddos were working with me.  My kiddos started by measuring out how much rice they needed in their bottle by filling the bottle about 3/4 of the way full with white rice.  They then dumped the rice in a Ziploc bag and dyed it using food coloring and rubbing alcohol (I poured this in).  They "mixed it around" then poured onto a paper towel (wax paper under just in case- see left of picture) to dry.  Once dry (about 25 minutes), they used the funnel to fill the bottle again. Every so often, they put their "skill" items in.  We made letter and number bottles for each of our preschool classrooms.  We also made endangered animal bottles for one of my teammates as that is what her kiddos decided to learn about.

Something the whole class made was an "I Spy" page similar to an I Spy type book.  They choose some symbols they wanted their friends to find and put them in the "key" (the box on the left of the screen in this picture).  They placed these items in the picture then filled in the picture with other stamps, thus "hiding" the pictures.  These I Spy pictures were put out as a game center the next day. They not only loved finding the pictures in their friends' creations, but they were thrilled to watch others try to complete the search they created.

The final post in this unit is about how students learned to make video games when we brought in an "expert".  Be sure to check back for that post!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Made It {June 18}

I'm excited to link up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for my first (and hopefully not last) Monday Made-It of the summer!  My "made-its"are fairly easy, but an accomplishment none-the-less.

The first one is snowflakes in preparation for our "Everest"-themed Vacation Bible School next week. We snowflakes hanging all over our winter wonderland.

The second thing that I've worked on making is my word wall in my classroom.  I had the opportunity to visit other classrooms toward the end of the year and loved one classroom where their word wall was magnetized and placed on the sides of their teacher's desk.  I have wanted mine to be more accessible for a few years now, but it has been put on the back burner many times over.  This was inspiration for me to get my act together.  I did some furniture rearrangement and made room on my chalkboard (which has not ever had chalk to it in the 9 years I've been in that room).  I made some letter cards and picked up a roll of fun masking tape.

I decided to tackle this project on our teacher workday.  It was a little last minute, so I wasn't necessarily prepared with supplies.  The lines are not perfectly straight, but I've decided that I am over it because I love how it turned out :)

What have you crafted lately?  Be sure to visit Tara's blog and see what others are making too!