Friday, February 25, 2011


Here's a game, Keyboad Climber
that I have used with both 1st and 2nd graders to help them with letter location and hand placement on the keyboard. 

To play the game, students need to help the monkey jump from tree to tree by typing in the letter shown on each tree. If the tree is on the right, they should use their right hand and if the letter is on the left, the should use their left hand. If they press the wrong letter, the monkey drops back down to the bottom and you start again. The monkey also goes back to the beginning if you take too long to find the correct key.

There are several levels which keeps the kids interested as they go. My kids loved level 3 when the monkey is in space and is wearing a space helmet. 

The main site, has lots of other fun things to explore as well, including math and science games, arts and music, puzzles and games, and more.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wow and Thank you!

WoW!!! I am totally amazed at how many hits my blog has received since starting it the end of January. I never imagined in a million years that I'd have just shy of 1000 hits in only a month, over 20 followers, and people checking in from around the world.
Thank you everyone!

I am soooo enjoying blogging as an avenue to share with others in addition to reflecting on my own teaching. I have had numerous comments from parents at parent-teacher conferences over the past week about our classroom blog as well. For anyone who does not have a classroom blog, I highly encourage you to give it a try. You can honestly have a blog up and running in less than a half hour and posting is a breeze! It truly gives parents a new perspective of what goes on in their child's classroom that a traditional newsletter just can't quite portray.

I hope that you will continue to check in, leave comments, and pass this blog along to others!
Have a fantastic week!!!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Harvey's Homepage

SMARTboard users that teach math will LOVE this site!

For those of you who have SMARTboards, this is definitely a site that you will want to check out.

This is a site that is chuck full of math lessons for the SMARTboard. My personal favorite is The Function Man file. For those of you that teach Everyday Math this file is a wonderful resource. I know that the function machine is used in both 1st and 2nd grade. The best part about this file is that Harvey Almarode, the author, also explains how to make your own using the trickery involved in the file. My kiddos went absolutely crazy for this lesson and were in total awe trying to figure out "the magic". Needless to say, they really paid attention and picked up on the concept fairly well.
3rd grade EM teachers, you'll love that he has a lattice method multiplication file!!!

 There are lessons in 7 areas on his website: 

  1. number sense
  2. computation estimation 
  3. Patterns, algebra, and functions
  4. geometry
  5. measurement
  6. probability, statistics
  7. Utilities
The utilities section has files on creating your own spinners, jeopardy games, and pre-done manipulatives. 
All of his files are creative and engaging, and best yet- FREE!

One thing to note regarding this site- it loads extremely slowly in Internet Explorer. I use Google Chrome without any issues. The website itself recommends using Firefox.

Have fun exploring!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

25 sites in 50 minutes

For those who follow this blog or check in regularly, my colleague Tracy and I presented a workshop during our district inservice titled, "25 sites in 50 minutes". We talked about all of the sites listed below.
At the bottom of this post I have embedded a Lino wall for you to share great sites that you use or can't live without. Please add your "can't live without 'em" sites to our wall. Enjoy the following links- hopefully you will find something new that you can use as well! If you have any comments about the sites listed, please feel free to leave a comment!

Teacher Resources
Voki/ Monkey Business
Teacher Tipster

Interactive, online kid sites
Giggle Poetry
Letter Generator
Mad Libs Junior
Digital Storytelling

Now it's your turn- what are some of the great sites that you use that you can't live without. Please add them to a sticky note for all of us to learn from each other. Just put your mouse on the blue "Share your favorite site" bar and pull down a sticky note of your choice.

To see others' posts, grab and slide the background up, down, left, or right. You can also hover over the blue tab on the bottom right which will slide out and show you where the various posts are located on the wall. Also, if leaving a link, in order for it to be clickable link, you will need to use the http:// address.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sqworl Bookmarking Site

Screen shot of Sqworl page
Ok, this is my new favorite site and late night addiction. I love this site for bookmarking my frequently visited blogs and websites because it creates a thumbnail of the bookmark not to mention, now all of my favorites are located on just one page.  It's extremely easy to use and has an add button that makes adding sites to my existing groups easy. There's a space where I can jot some notes about the site I am saving and it creates URLs for my groups so that I can share my finds with others.

The possibilities are endless with this site. I've created a Sqworl for my favorite 1st grade blogs & websites and am in the process of creating a Sqworl for my students of sites that we visit frequently in our classroom. What a great visual tool for those that still struggle with reading!
I also love the fact that you can search the Sqworl site for other people's Sqworl's. By just typing 'math games' into the search box, I came up with several great resources. I may even end up creating Sqworl's for each month and/or curricular area. It's just a great organizational tool!

Here's my Sqworl for the 1st grade blogs & Websites that I follow

Edited to add: Check out this blog for even more info!

Sqworl Screencast from Caleb Brown on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My turn to ask for help...

Ahhh.... the calm after the storm has arrived, albeit just for a few days. Between Groundhog Day, Packer Day on Friday, the Super Bowl win and the craziness that accompanies it, and the 100th day all crammed into a week's time- life in 1st grade has been anything short of normal. I'm happily looking forward to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Yes, Monday is Valentine's Day and so a bit more craziness next week along with Parent Teacher conferences, a field trip and 2 RTI meetings. Hmmm... did I already say how much I am looking forward to this Wed, Thurs, and Fri?  :-)
Granted I don't have time this year, unfortunately, but I'd like to do some version of student led conferences next year with my firsties and incorporate the SMARTboard as well. I've seen one way of doing it but it was VERY teacher time intensive and unfortunately with a 6 and 4 year old at home, I have limited time in some regards. Does anyone out there do student-led conferences or a modified variation of them? Does anyone incorporate the SMARTboard into their conferences and how?? If you've got some insight into either or both of my newest ponders, could you please leave a comment or email me at

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Groundhog Day

Being back in 1st grade this year has been wonderful but at the same time challenging. It's seems harder and harder every year to find the time to fit in some of the fun things that are still educational, such as Groundhog Day. This is one of my favorites as I incorporate research, writing, reading, and technology. I've also been working to try and incorporate more 21st Century Learning skills into my teaching.
Here's some of what we did this year... maybe you can take some of these ideas and tweak them to fit another topic that you teach.

The day before Groundhog Day we created a graph predicting whether or not we thought the groundhog would see his shadow. After putting up our graph and discussing the results we brainstormed a list of teachers in the building that we also wanted to survey. I had my kids write the name of their teacher on a little whiteboard and then they set out in teams of 2 or 3 to collect their data. When they got back we took the information and added it to our graph.  We even made an appt. with our superintendent to come over and give us his prediction. We also surveyed visitors to our blog using Survey Monkey. Overwhelmingly, the vote was that the groundhog would not see his shadow.
 During our shared reading, we used fantastic groundhog SMARTboard lesson that I found on Smartexchange. (If you have a SMARTboard and haven't checked out this resource, you need to run, not walk to see what's waiting for you. There are some fabulously creative people who share their wonderful notebook files!) This file has wonderful facts, links to other sites, and is extremely interactive! My kids learned a ton and had fun at the same time! The authors of this file also have their own site where you can purchase add'l files that they've created for just $2.00 each. A real bargain when you consider how much time it takes to create a quality notebook file!
On Groundhog's Day, we used Google Earth to locate Punxsatwney Phil's home in Pennsylvania and Jimmy the Groundhog's home in Sun Prarie, WI (did you know that we had a famous groundhog right here in WI?). We used our map skills to discuss continents, states, cities, terrain, etc.
We also went onto both Phil's and Jimmy's websites to find out how their predictions turned out and to do more research about groundhogs.
We even made a text to world connection--- Did you know that it was a battle of the groundhog's- PA vs. WI just like in the Super Bowl on Sunday?!
After all was said and done, we blogged about our experience on our classroom blog, The Dog Blog, as well.
Next week, we'll be taking our research a step further and writing paragraphs using our Step Up To Writing format and then displaying them for others to enjoy.

I sure wish all of my lessons could come together this well and incorporate so many facets of learning and technology.
On a final note, Jimmy the Groundhog has a special prediction...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

a change of scenery

Have you ever just needed a little bit of new scenery to make things interesting again? Well that's just how I've felt for the past few months. Normally I am a person who jumps into everything or wants things done yesterday... however, as much as I've wanted to jump, I've restrained myself for the past two months while I tried to think through all of my options. This whole dilemna started last year when my SMARTboard was installed and the "front" of my room changed from the north wall to the west wall. For 2nd graders it wasn't such a big deal not to mention my board wasn't a vital part of my daily teaching. Well this year it is embedded into a large part of my day and my kids' tables just weren't in a location condusive to the majority of them being able to see the board well let alone interact with it in a timely fashion, this coupled with the fact that I am now teaching 1st graders which also made a difference. This problem has consumed me for the past month almost daily as I soooooo see the need to have my students' table spots around my board for better focus, time on task, and interaction, but still wanted to have a group area on the floor in front of the board as well.
WELL..... it finally came to fruition today and I couldn't be happier with the outcome of  the room. The whole room has a new feel to it, is soooo much more 1st grade friendly, and has lots of open space. I absolutely LOVE it! I'm most excited about a little nook that I made for a writing center. This is also something that I have been trying to work into the room arrangement as my kids were just going back to their table spots to write and behavior issues were cropping up. The new area is very inviting and has all the supplies in one area and the kids are pumped about it. I even put a small table lamp at the center which makes the area even more homey and inviting!! Can't wait to see how it all functions over the next few days and how the traffic pattern will flow through the room.

Edited 2/12 to say,
The new room arrangement is working beautifully!! There are so many large open spaces for the kids to spread out for Daily 5 time and math games and the writing area has been a HUGE hit- even for my reluctant writers! In fact, our temps have been below zero all week so we had indoor recess and the writing center was humming right through recess time as well!!! The tables around the SMARTboard are also working well and each set of 2 tables has a built-in teacher area that has been wonderful as it gives me a place to sit where I can work wtih 4 of my challenged learners at one time!! WOOT!!!