Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pets In The Classroom

Have you heard of Pets In The Classroom?

This is a wonderful organization that helps Pre-K through 8th grade teachers support pets in the classroom through direct, no-hassle educational grants. You can obtain a grant for the purchase of new pets, pet environments or pet food and supplies for existing classroom pets. I applied for and received a grant last year which provided me with the funds to get a 10 gallon aquarium for my classroom. It was a totally simple and quick application to complete and I found out within a few weeks that I had been one of the recipients. Within a couple of weeks of being notified, I received a packet in the mail with coupons to go to the pet store I had chosen to purchase the items I needed. 
This year I applied for and was ecstatic to have received a sustaining grant. These grants are intended to support pets or aquariums in the classroom for the purposes of teaching children to bond with and care for their pets responsibly. The sustaining grants are in the amount of $50 which allowed me to purchase new filter pads, a decorative rock and background to improve the habitat of our fish, fish food, supplies to clean the tank and some new fish.

Again, I can't say enough about this organization and the joy it has brought to my class over the past year. My kiddos have become very responsible in helping to feed our fish and check the temperature of the water and have acquired a love for our pets. On a daily basis you will find kiddos over by the tank checking on the fish, reading to the fish and even writing to them! 

If you are interested in a classroom pet, I encourage you to check out the Pets in the Classroom site for more details. Pets are not limited to fish. you can also apply for grants to purchase small animals, birds, and reptiles.

Monday, August 27, 2012

One your mark... get set...

The beginning of the new school year begins tomorrow for me (without kids) and our Open House is Wednesday evening. Today has brought a mad dash to finish up some Pinterest-inspired projects for Open House and the beginning of the year.

My room decor is dog-themed and I've incorporated quite a bit of bright, almost neon colors, around the room. (I forgot to take pics when I was at school yesterday. I'll have to try and remember tomorrow)  That being said, these great little "flower sticks" will add the perfect touch for Open House. I found the idea on Ginger Snaps. She has quite a few other fantastic neon printables as well. Needless to say, I was in heaven going through her blog! I'm going to place one of these at each of my students' spots along with the "Me Bag" below and a raffle ticket.

Here is the "Me Bag"  I found on Mrs. Heeren's Happenings. I have these printed and stapled to lunch bags. I'm going to tell students that this is their homework for the 1st day of school. I'm excited to see what they will bring to share with the rest of the class. I think  this will be a fantastic way for all of us to get to know each other a bit better and break the ice on the 1st day. You can find the printable here.

Last, I put together a little raffle gift. I've never done this before but thought it would be a fun incentive for the families that come. I found the Chinese-style box at The Dollar Store and then filled it with Dollar Store items. I filled it with glitter glue, silly string, grape scented erasers, playdough, and a pack of telling time flashcards. Each kiddo will have a raffle ticket at their table spot along with the other items above. The raffle tickets are also from Mrs. Heeren's blog. They are part of her Open House Activities pack which you can find here.

This is by far one of my favorites though. I simply put my kiddos names into Wordle and then played with the font, color, and layout until I found one that I liked that matched my classroom colors for the year. I'm going to frame this and display it somewhere in my classroom or outside of our door. 

Whew! Needless to say even though it was the last day of summer vacation, when I wasn't taking the dog to the vet or getting ice cream with my kiddos, I was working on school stuff or scouring the dollar store for those last minute odds n' ends for my classroom. Ahhhhh... I now need to stay off of Pinterest until school starts for fear of finding another idea that I'll want to implement prior to the kids coming. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

QR Fun!

Sight words are a big part of learning to read and write in a first grade classroom, but often times are one of the most mundane of tasks. In an effort to try and make this task a bit more fun and interactive with a technology twist, I made QR codes for all of my sight words. My plan is to post these around my room for students to find and scan with a QR reader on their iPads. 

I'm also going to create a checklist with all of the words so students can check them off as they find them. In this way, I figure they are reading it on the checklist as well as reading it from the QR reader. Along side of each word on the checklist, I am also going to have a line for them to write the word as well. My hope is that this will make sight word practice a bit more engaging while also getting my kiddos up and moving. Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt, right?
QR Scavenger Hunt

To make the QR codes, I used a sight called Kaywa QR Code. You can access it by clicking on the link or scanning the QR code to the left.  You can create a code for a website, text, phone number or a text message. Creating a QR code takes only seconds and once your code is created, you just need to copy and paste it to your document or use the embed code to add it to your website or blog.
click image to access iTunes

So you say you can't scan it because you don't have a scanner, well if you have a smartphone, iPad or iTouch, you can download an app called QR Reader for free. There are lots of readers out there and some have some extra features, but I've found that this one serves my purposes just fine. 

Another great site that I recently heard about and have played with just a little is QR Voice. This site allows you to input up to 100 characters of text. It will then create a QR code for you to copy and when scanned your text will be read by a synthesized voice. What a great tool for students who may have trouble reading directions. I was thinking I could use this in my Work on Words area during Daily 5. I'll just make a QR code for the directions and tape it into the drawer that the supplies are in. If students don't remember what to do, they could easily scan the code and have the directions read to them instead of coming to me and interrupting reading conferences. Check it out for yourself by scanning the code below.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pinterest, oh my!!

How many of you are in love with Pinterest like I am? Oh my!!! I had a summer FULL of pinning; now I need a make-and-take day  week, well in all actuality,probably a couple of weeks to make everything I pinned.

I love coming up with new ideas for my classroom, but honestly, sometimes I just lose my creative juices when I'm thinking so much about technology and which app might help to hit home a particular concept or showcase my students' learning. So seeing everyone else's ideas is always refreshing.

Here are just a few things that I've made that I'm excited to use in my classroom this year.

Love this idea! When students need to use the bathroom, they will place this at their table spot so I know who is gone. When they come back they will take a squirt of hand sanitizer before putting the "pass" back on the counter. I'm hoping this will help to ensure clean hands and less germs in our room and on our iPads too. 

Here's another one... I've been using Daily 5 for a number of years and have dabbled with CAFE as well. I love them both and love how students have more independence as well as a better sense of what their goals are. I've always wanted to do something similar for writing. Well... thanks to Pinterest, wish #535 has come true.

Next, I  made "theme journals" for the kids to use at the writing center during Work on Writing time. I six all together: sports, ouch, dinosaurs, vacations, pets, and family. I really think this will be a hit with the kids. I don't plan to pull them out right away, but rather use them as a motivational tool when things start to get a bit mundane.  One of my colleagues used this idea last year  and had great success with them. Most of the clip art I used is from the DJ Inkers, Critter Craze collection if you're interested. 
I also found this fantastic resource that I plan to use with my kiddos when we begin to edit our writing. Click the link under the image if you'd like to check it out for yourself.

Ok, off to work on my next Pinterest-inspired project... seeing as I only have a few days left before school starts I better get going on my "make and take" days since they days are dwindling fast.

Daily 5 Check-in management

Last year I tried many different ways of having my kiddos check-in for Daily 5. Although many of the ways worked, none of them helped with the management issue nightmare of having only 2 iPads in the room and who got them. After many tweaks I finally found a system that worked for my class. 
Below you will see the SMARTboard document that I created.

I really like the way this document worked and how it gave my kiddoss more ownership of their choices versus me calling their name and them telling me what they were going to do. I also found that having the visual made it easier for them and me, especially when they had multiple options within an area. For example, when they would say they wanted to do Listen to Reading, I would then have to ask them if they planned to use the tape player, CD players or the computer... now, I don't have to waste precious time asking and they can just sign up for their choice. 
Each of the * that you see is for one name. I don't have a limit on the number of kiddos that can choose read to self at any one break-out time so that's why there are no asterisks there.
We do 3 rounds each day. To make our sign up time more efficient, the kids only sign up for round 2 when they come in in the morning. When we come back from recess, they sign up for round 3 as they come into the room and before we head down for lunch. Round 1 is always Read to Self for all as I find many of my highly distracted kiddos need at least 1 round that does not have 5 million different things going on around them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

21st Century Learning - PCSD New Teacher Inservice 2012

21st century learning skills & technology
 enhances teaching and learning
for even the youngest learners!!

   Engaging!            Motivating!        Problem Solving!

 Creativity!         Risk Taking!

So... where do you start? 
Here are just a few of the tools I have had success with in my own classroom.

Our classroom blog

SMARTboards are wonderful tools!

Students are:
- Engaged
- Independent
- Collaborative
-Problem solving
-Critical thinking

The sky's the limit...
Photo from Jessica Meacham's website

* Math lessons
* Word Sorts/ spelling activities
* Attendance/lunch
* Daily 5 check-in
* Calendar Activities
* Handwriting practice
* Student-led conferences 

Great for substitute teachers- lessons can be preplanned

Click here for more SMARTboard files from Jessica Meacham

There are TONS of wonderful, 
free tools and apps to use

To find out more about how to connect with a class click go to
 or the Skype in Schools wiki.

Pic Collage App
Click image for iTunes link

click image to see more about this project
Educreations App
Click image for iTunes link

Remember- you have a lot on your plates for this year... choose one thing to start with~ explore and have fun with what you choose!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Daily 5 Pensieve App- COOL!!!

Have you heard the good news? "The Sisters" are releasing an electronic pensieve! They are scheduled to release it early August... considering it's the 11th already, I'm hoping that means SOON! 

I'm totally pumped about the possibility of doing my conferences on my iPad. I have been toying with the idea of using Evernote for this purpose but have been waiting to see what this app will be like 1st seeing as it is set up for the purpose I'm intending it for. 

If you want to take a peek for yourself at some of the information and/or screenshots, check out the following links.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Let's Get to the Point!

I LOVE technology and with a class set of 1:1 iPads, a SMARTboard, and 7 netbooks what more could one ask for? 

Believe it or not... I would kill for a good fantastic pencil sharpener. Pencils can be a 1st grade teacher's nightmare... missing, broken, shavings everywhere, and the #1 biggest frustration... pencil sharpeners that eat an entire brand new pencil because the lead continues to break as you sharpen. Uuuggghh!! I'm sure I'm not the only one that has experienced that frustration. It got to the point (no pun intended) that I bought all of my students mechanical pencils, however, that came with a new set of frustrations. Yes, despite all the technology we use in our room we still use pencils- but how do we keep them sharp and ready to go?

Well, I have the answer... and I promise you'll love it! 

This is the BEST pencil sharpener I have ever owned and after 15 years of teaching and probably as many sharpeners, I guess I could consider myself an expert of sorts. Yes, this even beats the coveted electric sharpeners.

I'll admit that I was extremely skeptical as I saw others raving about this sharpener- I mean, what manual sharpener could possibly be better than an electric sharpener? and furthermore, who would pay $25 for one? Out of curiosity and continued frustration with the issues listed above, I caved and finally ordered one.

When it arrived, I grabbed a pencil and put it to the test. To my amazement it worked, and even better than I had imagined. I was so excited that I showed my husband who also grabbed a pencil and tried it out. Needless to say, every pencil in the house was sharpened that night as we could hardly contain our excitement and fascination. I have never seen the point of a pencil as sharp as this.  Take a look for yourself.

The next morning I brought my sharpener to school and showed my 1st graders how to use it and their reactions were the same as mine. You should have heard all the ooohhs and ahhhhs  that filled the room when they saw how sharp the pencils were. I have never had so many volunteers to stay in for recess to sharpen pencils- not even to play Angry Birds!  The excitement was definitely contagious- anytime someone would stop by our room, we had to show them as well and the reaction was always the same... ooohhhh....ahhhh... where did you get that?

After school I was like a kid in a candy store! I went around to anybody I could find and asked them if they wanted to see the coolest pencil sharpener ever. Like me, many were skeptical, but once they tried it for themselves they got the point (pun intended). Who would have thought a pencil sharpener would bring so much happiness?!

Needless to say, I now have 2 in my classroom and 1 at home and we haven't had a dull pencil in the house since.  Oh and by the way, they are so awesome that I ordered one for each of my son's teachers too. 

I know that we are all gearing up for the school year and September is right around the corner but if you truly want to have a great start to the school year, click here and order one of these super duper awesome pencil sharpeners for your room. I promise you will NOT be disappointed!