Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Peek into our First Grade Spelling

Last year, our school decided that we needed to do something different with our spelling program.  We used to have individualized lists which sounds AMAZING right?  It was- but it was also a HUGE undertaking and was stressful every week.  We had to depend on parents to give our spelling tests.  It would take a couple of hours each week and if they didn’t show up then the rest of our day was consumed with giving spelling tests.  We loved the differentiation and wanted to keep some differentiation with our new program but we needed to make some changes.

I created a system that introduced the first grade spelling patterns as well as some commonly misspelled sight words.  There are two different tests each week.  Here is an overview of how we used it last year.

First, we would give a pre-test every Friday.  The pre-test would be the words from the Blue List.  These words are basic first grade patterns that we wanted all first graders to master.  If a student scored 80% or above, he/she would get the Red challenge list.  The Red challenge list consists of words with the same spelling pattern but the words are more difficult.  If the student scored below 80% he/she would get the Blue List.  Spelling lists were sent home on Friday with the students.  Both lists consist of the same two sight words as well.  The sight words are not on the pre-test.

On the pre-test, the students write the words on the Try-it side of their paper.  Afterward, they put their pencil away and take out a crayon or colored pencil.  We go over the words together and they write it correctly on the Practice side of their paper.  OR you could just collect the papers and grade them yourself.

We practice our words throughout the week doing different activities and we have our test on Thursdays.  When we did our test, my teaching partner and I would each take a group.  I would give the test to the Blue group one week and she would do the Red group and then we would switch the next week.  This system worked really well.

On each test there is also a dictated sentence.  The dictated sentence includes both sight words as well as a couple of the spelling pattern words that we had for the week.  At the bottom of the test paper, there is a place for the teacher to record the students Capital Letters, Punctuation, Spelling, and Neatness.  I used a plus, check, minus system.  (See picture). 

Also included is a recording sheet that has the tests split up by the quarter or trimester.

So, if you are looking for a new spelling program, maybe this is something that you would like for your school too!  It worked well for us last year!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back to School GIVEAWAY! 4 $25 TPT Gift Certificates!

I don’t know about you, but I have already spent many hours in my classroom trying to prepare for the up and coming school year.  First off, I have a small confession to make…

I NEED HELP!!  Someone needs to keep me away from Amazon, IKEA, Sauder Woodworking, Wal-mart, Big Lots, Dollar Tree and of course TPT.  I just can’t help it!  Is it bad that I have everything sent to school so my husband doesn’t see it??  Please don’t tell!  Does anyone else out there feel they may be in need of a ten step “school supplies” program??

Anyway, I know there are many of you out there that would love to purchase products on TPT but maybe it isn’t in the budget right now… So, I decided to do a little giveaway.  I am giving away 4 $25 Gift Certificates to TPT.  They can be used on ANY items on TPT- not just in my store.  This is only available for 4 days- so your odds are very good!  You can enter here through the Rafflecopter OR (I am trying something new) and you can enter on my Facebook page!  There is a tap at the top that says GIVEAWAY!  Click the picture to take you to my Facebook Page.

See the bold word Giveaway??  Just click on that tab.

Or you can enter here...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will be drawing winners on August 4th!
Good Luck!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hand Signals- 1,2,3 FREEBIE

Yep, every morning... this is Jay...

At least he was on a schedule right?  And not running in room yelling- "Mrs. Johnson, can go to the bathroom!"  

That's what happened the first year I used hand signals in my classroom.  I LOVE THEM!!  The lesson to teach them takes about 2 and a half minutes and they've got it!  No more interruptions when you are in the middle of a great book and that kid raises his hand (yep, you know which one).  You think to yourself, he is going to have something really great to say about the book we are reading- he made some sort of connection and then BAM! He says, "Can I get a drink?"  REALLY??  RIGHT NOW??  

So now, he just gives this sign...

You shake your head yes, because let's face it- he's not really listening anyway because he is dying of thirst.  

I used to use 5 hand signals and realized that I didn't want them to ask me to get a pencil every time they needed a pencil- I was beginning to feel like a bobble head nodding my head all of the time.  And the other signal was for EMERGENCIES...
Did you know that a hangnail is now an EMERGENCY- YEP- That's how my class rolls...

So now there are only 3! 

If you haven't used Hand Signals, I encourage you to give it a try- and why not because these are FREE in my store!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Teacher Toolbox! Finally!

Ever since I saw this idea a few years ago, I have been wanting to make one.  I FINALLY decided it was time to just do it.  I really figured it would be one of those Pinterest FAILS- you know what I’m talking about right?  When you see the cute little Cookie Monster cookies on Pinterest and it looks so easy but when you try it, it doesn’t look a thing like Cookie Monster- more like a blue blob with eyes

That’s what I thought would happen, but it was super easy and didn’t take that long to do!  So, here is my before picture.  I saw a Facebook post by Erica Bohrer the other day and decided to give it a go!  I bought the Toolbox at Menards but you can order one HERE from Amazon.

After printing the cards that I bought in Erica’s store, I decided on the 23 that I wanted and then I made my own for the last storage compartment.  I was a little OCD when it came to choosing the ones I wanted- I wanted 6 of each color- yes, don’t judge

Then I added Modge Podge to the back of the cards and glued them on the front of the compartments.  After drying, I did one final coat over top the front of the cards to make them stay a little better and be more durable!

Walla!  It worked!  It wasn’t a Pinterest FAIL!  So, if you have been thinking about making one, I say- Give It a Try!  It was pretty easy!

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I am linking up with Lindsay over at Primary Polka Dots for #tbtFREEBIE which she is hosting every Thursday this summer.  What a fun way to find some new freebies on Facebook and Instagram!    The freebie that I am showcasing this week is my Guided Reading Binder.  This is my most downloaded freebie because it is a simple way to better organize yourself for your Guided Reading time with the kids!

Here is a picture of how I stay organized with my Guided Reading Groups:

I use velcro for my student names so that I can easily change them when I change groups.

 I keep my blank lesson plans in the back using a lettered dividers!

I have lesson plans that have the skills listed for each book level A-Z for purchase in my TPT Store!  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Making Writing Workshop WORK!

If you know me at all, you know that I have a passion for Guided Reading and meeting the needs of all students during Guided Reading in my classroom.  What you might not know is that as much as I love Guided Reading, Writing Workshop is actually my favorite part of the day... there are two big reasons why!

 1.      The kids LOVE writing workshop.
2.   Each student is working at their own level! 

Please know that what I write in this blog post is how I run my Writing Workshop.  I realize different things work for different people.  What I am going to write about works for me and my kiddos.  I hope that maybe I can give you some ideas to add to your writing workshop time…

Why do I choose to teach writing in a Writing Workshop format?
  • ALL students are working at their own level!
  • Students get to choose topics that interest them to write about.
  • The mini-lesson allows for Interactive Writing (share the pen).
  • Writing Workshop allows the teacher to conference with students individually or in small groups to focus on their needs.

How do I get started with Writing Workshop?
  • I start on DAY 1.  I encourage students to just write, write, write from the start.  Anything goes and no matter what they are writing about- it is AMAZING!
  • I get REALLY excited each day before we start writing.  I tell them how much I love writing workshop and how much they are going to love it too!  Positive energy about writing is really contagious!
  • The first days/weeks I really focus on the rules, routines, and organization of Writing Workshop.

If you were to walk into my room during Writing Workshop, what would it look like?
  • Writing Workshop lasts about 45-60 minutes every day.
  • First, we do a mini-lesson (usually on the SMART board).  I try to keep the mini-lesson between 10-15 minutes.  Many times we are writing together doing a shared interactive writing and writing stories together.
  • After the mini-lesson students will begin writing on their own.  I call table groups to get their writing folder as we watch how well everyone can get started quickly and quietly.
  • I have soft music playing.  I usually listen to a Pandora station.
  • Students will be spread around the room.  I switch off each day, BOYS will work on the floor one day while the GIRLS are at their seats and then visa-versa.
  • Students on the floor are sitting on mats in their own area (they get to choose).  I don’t allow students to go under desks though or else it turns into a fight of who gets to sit where.  They must not be able to hold their arms out and touch another student.
  • I meet with students (usually about 5 each day).  We discuss their writing and talk about where they are going with it.  I focus on WHAT they are writing and spend very little time worried about mechanics.
  • Students write for about 20-30 minutes and then come to the “story pit” to share. 
  • I have sharing/conferencing charts that I use.  Each group has about 5 students and I meet with those students that day and then they also share.  They share their stories no matter where they are in the writing process.  We focus by giving 2 compliments and an idea.

My newest product is structured the way that I run my Writing Workshop.  I did these lessons with my first graders and they are now writing up a storm!  I love to see how excited they are when writing time comes around every day. 

This product includes:
·      25 Narrative Writing lessons including getting started with Rules, Routines, and Organization
·      Lessons are also set up in SMART Notebook Files to allow for interaction on a SMART board (this is not needed but is an added bonus!)
·      Writing Folder (pages to set up your writing folder)
·      Set-up directions
·      Conferencing sheets
·      Narrative writing rubric that focuses on skill taught during lessons
·      Sharing Charts (editable)
·      Letter to send home to parents explaining Writing Workshop

Lesson Topics include:  

Each lesson is set-up along this format...

Here is a sample from Lesson #1

There is so much more that I could write about but I didn't want this post to go on and on... if you have any specific questions about how I run my Writing Workshop or any questions about this product, I would love to hear them!

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