Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's Giveaway Time!!

Hi all,

Great news!! Linda, over at Primary Inspiration is celebrating her 1,500 followers in a big way!  She has put together 2 huge giveaways with the help of many awesome teacher bloggers!

There are a bunch of great giveaways for preK to 2nd grade and another group of giveaways for grades 3 to 5!

I have donated one of my most popular products; Kevin Henkes Author Study Unit.  This unit is 29 pages full of common core state standard aligned worksheets and craftivities for some of his most popular books; Owen, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Sheila Rae, the Brave, Wemberly Worried and Chrysanthemum.

Click the cute purple button above to head over to her cute blog and enter the giveaway!! Thanks and good luck!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writing centers that work like a charm!!

How do you manage writing centers?  When I first moved from 2nd grade to 1st grade I realized that what I did in 2nd grade was not going to work for my cute little 1st graders!  Of course I turned to my more experienced teammates and pinterest for inspiration.  I loved all the writing center menus that I saw online but when I tried those it was too many choices for my students and then spent their time choosing or fooling around and making mulitple choices per center rotation.  That is when I decided to dedicate a different writing activity to each day of the week so that they would have variety and consistency!  I bought a set of plastic in boxes and labeled them with the days of the week and put the materials in each day.  It has worked like a charm ever since.  Check out my Daily Writing Center Menus in my TPT store and feel free to download the preview for a closer look!

Here is the order for our daily writing centers:


Write a friendly letter!  I have a selection of writing papers that they can choose from and they get to pick anyone from our class to writing their friendly letter to.  At the begining of the year, I ask them to make sure their letters have a greeting, closing and at least 3 sentences.


Make a book!  Sometimes I use books from Enchanted Learning or DLTK!  My kiddos also like to create their own books using construction paper and lined papers.


Write and create!  This is my one of my favorite days because I get to use different pieces of artwork or cool photographs  to inspire my kiddos.  I use the See, Think, Wonder strategy to have them use critical thinking skills to analyize the artwork.  They have to write one thing they See, one thing they are Thinking about when they look at the picture, and one thing they Wonder about after looking at the picture.  There are so many cool resources and ways to differentiate this on the


Think and Thank Thursday!  This is my favorite out of the whole week!! My principal actually started this awesome tradition in our school.  Every Thursday morning during announcements he reminds the students that it is "Think and Thank Thursday", he charges them with finding someone to thank that day and to think about how that person has helped them in some way.  So during writing centers that day my kiddos make a Thank You card using construction paper.  They glue a precut piece of lined paper on the inside right panel of the card and write a thank you note to someone in our building.  I have a list of people who work in our building and used pictures from our website so that they can pick someone new each week.  They decorate the front of the card when they finish the writing and then I deliver the cards after school that day.  Everyone loves Think and Thank Thursday!!  Thanks Mr. Kaplan for the GREAT idea and motivation!


Free writing!  On Friday I have different types of lined paper that they can choose from to just free write about anything they want.  Sometimes the paper has space above the lines to make a picture of their writing and sometimes I mix it up and give them decorated papers to just practice writing.

That's the whole week!  I have the menus hanging on a bulletin board where my writing center table and supplies are.  I put each page and anchor chart in a top loading sheet and then put them into a an old binder that I cut up and stapled to the board.  At the end of each day, I just flip the page to show the next day of the week and I am ready to go!

My classes have loved doing their daily writing activities and they look forward to their favorite days of the week too.  It's cool to hear a student tell another student, "Oh, I love Think and Thank Thursday!"

I hope you will share some of your writing center ideas because I am always looking for ways to keep my writing center engaging and fresh!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Parent Communication Made Easy and it's FREE!!

One of my goals this year is to improve my parent communication and an awesome friend of mine turned me on to the website (and app) Remind101.  It is a totally FREE and easy to use program that will allow me to send a text message to all my parents at the same time without having to give out my cell phone number.  The website and app walked me through the set up process and within 2 minutes I was all set with a special number and code that I handed out to parents at the open house and back to school night.  Once parents texted the special code to the number they were automatically added to my class' roster. 

Here are a few screen shots to show how user friendly the website and app is.  It is pretty handy that I can send out the texts from my computer or my phone!  There is even a message history log that keeps a record of all the messages sent!

Another super cool feature is the schedule feature,  I can type the reminder and then schedule it to be sent later.  So as soon as I hand out permission slips or learn about special events happening at school, I schedule the reminder text message to go out on the day before. 

How do you keep in contact with your parents?  Do you use instagram, twitter or facebook?  Please leave me comments and let's share some other cool ways to communicate with parents!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pancakes & Sprinkles

Do you have class pets?  I have two gerbils in my classroom, and I love them!  When my own children were in elementary school one of their favorite teachers (who has now become one of my dearest friends) had a pet guinea pig as her class pet.  My son had her as his teacher in 3rd grade and then again in 5th grade (she changed grades) and my daughter had her in 5th grade.  So, for 3 years we got to take Oreo home on weekends and toward the end of his long classroom life, we were his lucky retirement home since my teacher friend was actually allergic to his primary food source (hay) and could never take him to her home.

When Oreo passed away he was so famous that our local paper actually wrote a little article about him.

Anyway, Oreo was my inspiration for getting classroom pets once I started teaching.  I researched pets and decided on gerbils instead of guinea pigs because of the easy of care!  There is a great website that gives grants to help you get started with a class pet; Pets In The  I used the grant to purchase my pets and it even gave me a coupon for a free cage, which I use for their take home cage because it the perfect size for my students to manage.

Meet Pancakes & Sprinkles!

They are so cute and friendly!  My students love them and they are a great edition to our room.  At the beginning of the year I have parents sign permission slips for students to be able to care for the gerbils and take them home on the weekend.  I have a class pet permission slip and care sheets FREEBIE available here, if you are needing them for your class.

Students take turns taking them home for the weekends.  I made a journal from a composition book, that goes home with the gerbils and students write all about their time with Pancakes and Sprinkles.  On Mondays, they can share their journal writing and show any pictures that they included in their entry.  Kids love reading through all the journal entries, especially the ones from the year before!

I'd love to hear about any class pets you have and how you incorporate them into your classroom community!