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So apparently my last post was in January and it's currently May... OOPS! I would give you the list of excuses for why I haven't been blogging, but who really wants to hear that?!

Instead, I'll share with you my newest creation and, of course, tell you all about the Teacher Appreciation Sale!

Last year the Kindergarten teachers began using Wilson's Fundations phonics program. This year in first grade we continued. I'll admit, I was suspicious at first. I'm not usually a fan of scripted programs. They typically do not meet the needs of a majority of my learners.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how truly versatile Fundations actually is. Yes, there are many parts that are too "low" for my learners. And that's okay. There are MANY parts to each lesson, so I choose what is most appropriate for my kiddos. I love, love, love all the dictation practice. My kids are phenomenal spellers this year and their handwriting has improved dramatically. 

Instead of just knowing how to read common sight words, Fundations expects kids to learn how to write them as well.

Of course you know all about my love for QR Codes... so what better way to practice those trick words than with a lil' technology?! My kids LOVE this activity during Daily 5. I put it in my Word Work area and it's always their first pick.

For those of you who haven't yet discovered the magic of QR Codes {GASP!}, here's how it works...

I created FIVE sets of these bad boys to cover the entire year's worth of Trick Words. These follow the Second Edition of Fundations for Grade 1.

The best part is, you can get them for 28% off during the Teachers Pay Teachers sale! The sale runs May 3rd and 4th. My entire TPT Store is on sale. Don't forget to use the checkout code CELEBRATE

Happy Shopping!!!

Writing workshop. Some teachers love it, but most teachers I know struggle to feel successful in this area. 

Teaching students concrete concepts, like how to add 2+3, or that living things have similar basic needs, is tangible and quite manageable. But how do you teach a child the craft of writing?

Each author brings a unique set of experiences and interests that influence their writing. No two books are the same, just like no two authors are the same. 

Writing involves planning, organizing, knowledge of language, creativity, and so much more. So how do I teach all of that to my six year olds?! It's quite a tall order. 

So it's no surprise that year after year I seek new resources, attend workshops, and read professional development books about writing. Every year I get a little better at teaching this truly complex subject. And every year I see better growth in my young students. 

This year I've made some major changes in my workshop methods.

Behold... the writing binder!!!

It all started with this book right here. I just ate it up. So much valuable information! Jennifer Jacobson is a genius. Seriously! Check out her website: http://jenniferjacobson.com.

So after reading her book I was ready to get started... almost. I dabbled with a few of her ideas last year. Then, in the spring, she came to NY for an all day workshop. I gathered my troops and off we went. (I also might just have been nerdy enough to bring my book so she could sign it!)

Hearing her speak and really getting a chance to understand more in-depth about how she runs writing workshop was AH-mazing. She shared so much more than was in her book. If she is coming to speak anywhere close to you, run, don't walk, and sign up to see her. It will be so worth your time, I promise!

Hence, FULL implementation this year. And I'm NEVER going back!

It all starts with the writing binder. Look at those glorious binders all lined up! Girls keep theirs on the top shelf, boys on the bottom. Totally alleviates the cramming of all binders on one shelf! 

Here's a peak inside the binders. There are three sections. I used page protectors and colored paper to separate the sections because dividers seemed too costly!

The blue section is for Resources.
The green section is Go (writing in progress).
The red section is Stop (completed pieces).

Here are some examples of their resources...
I include an ideas chart, an alphabet chart, some drawing charts, a heart map (this is one of my first mini-lessons), and a word wall. They use these resources ALL. THE. TIME.

Jennifer introduced me to the colored pencils for editing... green for capital letters, blue for sight words, and red for punctuation. LOVE that the kids can look for one specific convention and clearly spot and edit their errors.

I also leave out the stapler so they can help themselves. I sprung for an electric stapler to avoid the jamming and other problems that come with six year olds trying to operate a stapler!

And here is my conferencing pocket chart! I keep it right on our Focus Wall. There are three slots open for conferencing. I love that the kids can "sign up" for a conference when they feel ready to share a piece with me. Each student has an iPod card with their name on it. As soon as I call over a student, they bring me their card, and that leaves an open conference slot for someone else to sign up. So I just rotate... conference 1, conference 2, conference 3, conference 1, conference 2, etc. This gets me to keep conferencing, and make sure that I conference with every student frequently.

Finally my writing workshop truly flows. I start with my mini-lesson. I use mini-lesson ideas from Lucy Calkins, Jennifer Jacobson, and various teacher bloggers who have generously shared ideas!

Off my writers go to get their binders and get started. The binders stay neat and tidy, no matter how much my firsties write! (Folders always became a hot mess once they got full!)

I put on my Amazon prime FREE classical music and the magic happens. 

They write.

And write.

And write.

I give them a few minutes of quite writing before I start calling conferences. Jennifer suggests the silent ten (10 minutes where everyone, including the teacher, writes). Unfortunately I just don't have that much time in my writing workshop block (yet!).

I just love it. The kids love it. (Well, MOST of them love it. You can't always convince all kiddos to love writing, haha!)

What are your favorite parts of writing workshop?!

I am so thankful for my many blessings this Christmas season.

I have neglected this blog a lot this fall/winter. There has been a lot going on in my personal life. But I'm happy to be back and sharing some Christmas fun! I was fortunate to be with my family and spending Christmas in Chicago this year.

Christmas is always better through the eyes of little ones!

On a school note of thankfulness, I am thankful for the many donors that funded my Donors Choose project this fall. We were fortunate to get a class set of whisper phones and some awesome nonfiction books. Donors Choose is an amazing and generous organization.

Have you all recovered from your turkey hangovers?! Now that Thanksgiving is behind us (or ON our behinds if we ate too much, haha!), it's time to get ready for the next holiday. And that means time to SHOP!

But before we get to the big sale, I want to share my newest creation with you! 

I LOVE teaching with Julia Cook books. If you haven't heard of her, you need to check out her website ASAP! She writes books dealing with a variety of life issues in such a kid-friendly way. Her characters are quirky and fun, and she has such a way with words. I highly recommend checking her out... and then checking out this resource that I created to use along with some of her books!

And, of course, TPT is having their annual Cyber Monday & Tuesday sale! My entire TPT Store is on sale. Be sure to use the TPT code SMILE to save up to 28% at checkout!

Here are a few of my favorites that you may want to add to your wishlist...

Happy Shopping!

I'm sure many of you have heard of, or even used, Kagan Structures in your classroom.  I like to think I do a lot of cooperative learning in my classroom.

But do I really?  

I'm starting to delve deeper into cooperative learning with Kagan Structures and it is some exciting stuff!

One of a the structures I immediately connected with was Quiz Quiz Trade.  A simple routine in which students pair up, quiz each other, and then switch their cards and quiz another student.  I like that the students really mix it up with one another, and they get a chance to quiz with lots of different questions.

This game can be used with any content.  The sky's the limit!

We are currently working on digraphs in our classroom.  So I made a Quiz Quiz Trade game that focuses on the digraphs we have been practicing.  I can't wait to teach my firsties this game.  I know they will just love it!

You can find this awesome cooperative learning game {HERE} in my TPT Store.

Happy Cooperative Learning!

Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely LOVE to take pictures!  Over the past few years I have developed a real passion for photography.  I have quite an array of fancy equipment.  But you don't have to be an enthusiast like me in order to take great pictures in your classroom!

All you really need is a little fabric, a cute prop, and get ready to snap away!
The photo above was part of our Mother's Day gift last year.

It is SO SIMPLE these days to take awesome photos to share with your students' families.

I've purchased fabric in several different colors and designs for my photo booths.  I usually buy two yards of fabric... from the sale rack of course!  I like when the fabric is a solid color with a slight texture.  Sometimes designs can be too busy and take the focus away from your subject.

I always set up my photo booth near a window.  Natural light is your friend!  Just be sure to NEVER shoot directly into the light.  Keep natural light behind you or to your side.  You can see how bright the day was in this picture below.  It was so helpful to have the shades to block some of the light.  You never want direct sunlight on your subject's face!

This is an adorable prop I bought on Etsy from Dandelion Designs.  It's a chalkboard frame and it was around $20.  I did find that when my student's wrote on the board, it was difficult to see in the picture.  I solved that problem by digitally adding the text (keep reading to find out how!).

I bought this wooden frame at Michaels super cheap from the clearance section.  Then I put a coat of aqua paint on it, and layered on some polyurethane to make it smooth.  The frame is a 5x7.  I don't like any prop that's too big for my firsties.  Again, it takes the focus away from their adorable faces!  I got the "first day" sign from Aimee at Primarily Speaking.  {Unfortunately, I couldn't seem to find it in her TPT store anymore!}  And be sure to keep the glass part of the picture frame off, because it could cause a glare. 

Here is a pic from our Father's Day photo shoot.  I used Pic Monkey to quickly and easily add the text to the chalkboard.  I edit my photos in Lightroom, but Pic Monkey has some awesome editing features, too!  And, Pic Monkey is FREE!!!

I typically print my pics at my local Walgreens, because it's quick and easy.  I also like to send a digital file to the student's family.  Parents LOVE getting the pics in their email.  That way they can print additional copies, forward the email to other family members, or post the pic to their social media page.

Happy Snapping!!!

Back to school is often a time when teachers spend A LOT of their own money on supplies for the classroom. 

This year I was so blessed to have some amazing donations to my classroom stash!

First there was a fantastic contest by McGraw-Hill.  They filled a RedCube with tons of goodies that I wanted!

Please note the Amazon gift card in there. I cannot WAIT to attack my wish list - there are a TON of new mentor texts I want to purchase for writer's workshop. 

I can't wait to dive into these books!

My firsties were so excited to see these card games being put in our indoor recess area. 

You can never have enough glue sticks.  Am I right?!  Plus dry erase and Mr. Sketch.  Yes please!!!

I may or may not have opened the Milky Ways immediately.  Just.  Saying. 

I also took part in this years Reddit Teacher Exchange.  What a cool idea this is!  You should definitely check it out next year.  It takes place each year in August.  I got these amazing supplies from an anonymous donor.  What generosity!

Clorox Wipes - because first graders love to share their germs!  I go through Ziploc bags like water, so these will be particularly helpful.  So excited about the thin dry erase and Mr. Sketch markers. Now I don't have to be so stingy when their markers run out, haha.  There are also some Ticonderoga pencils on the way.  Every teacher knows the value of Ticonderoga!

You may not think that page protectors are a hot item in first grade, but I use them a ton!  We are using binders in writing workshop this year.  There are a lot of resources I like my writers to have at their fingertips so they can be independent.  They each need at least 10 page protectors in their binders.  That adds up quickly!

Thank you so much to Tim at McGraw-Hill and my Reddit donor for these generous donations to my classroom!!!

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