Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ho, Ho, Ho...shhhh... it's parent Christmas gifts

We made these adorable little reindeer ornaments for our parents today. They were so easy and inexpensive. This is the 2nd year that I've made them with a few new modifications this year.

To start, I bought a sheet of white hexagon shaped floor tiles from Home Depot. I think the whole sheet cost all of $3.00 if I remember correctly (I bought this sheet last year and had enough left over for this year's class) There were 36 little hexagon tiles on a sheet. I started by cutting apart the sheet and then separated the hexagons and the squares. I'm not sure what I'll do with the squares, but they were too cute to throw away... maybe good for sorting/counting activities?? They'll likely see the garbage during spring cleaning if they're still in the cupboard without a use this year.

After separating, I used a scissors to quickly cut off the excess adhesive that originally held them together. Next, I had my kiddos come up 1 at a time to do their thumbprint. I had them write their names on the back of the tile along with the year with a Sharpie before we started. I wanted the kiddos to do it so moms and dads have a handwriting remembrance. I then used a foam brush to quickly paint an even layer of paint on their thumb and then they pressed it onto the tile.  We used acrylic paint that I picked up from Wal-mart. The color was Burnt Umber and cost a whopping 89 cents. This little bottle will last you umpteen years! I did all of my class in about 10 minutes (fingerprints only at this time) We let them dry over the lunch hour, but to be honest, they are dry enough within 15-30 minutes for the next step if you don't make the prints too thick. You can see the difference between a one which is a bit thick and one that I consider just right to the left. I like it when you can see the swirls of the fingerprint a bit so parent know it's a print.

A 15 point buck!
After letting the paint dry, I call kiddos to my kidney table 3 at a time for the next step. This step turns the ordinary fingerprint into an adorable reindeer ornament with a Sharpie marker, some white paint and a little bit of puffy paint.  As the kids come back they use a brown Sharpie marker (I bought 3 last year at Home Depot at Christmas time when you could buy individual colors.I think they were about $1.50 each) to draw on the antlers. We do this first so they won't smudge the paint we are about to put on. Once their antlers are done I have them dip the end of a different Sharpie marker into some white acrylic paint (yup, another bottle from Wal-mart) and dab it onto their print where they want their eyes to be. I model this for them so they don't over dip and they do a fantastic job. Next, they use black puffy paint to squirt 2 dots on the white for the pupils and then squeeze some red puffy paint onto the bottom of their print for a Rudolph nose. I honestly can't tell you how much the black and red puffy paint costs as I bought it for other projects many years ago... but that being said, once you buy, you won't likely need to buy more again for MANY years with just a dob here and a dob there.
We then let them sit overnight to completely dry and set up. 
The next day I hot glue on a loop of cute sparkly silver ribbon that they can hang their ornament from the tree from. I always buy my ribbon after the holiday to get it 50% or more off. Each spool usually lasts me 2-3 years depending on how many kiddos I have and I big I make the loops. (I usually have about 18 kiddos in my class) and viola- you have a cute, inexpensive ornament that is a personalized remembrance for parents. I use to do the handprint snowmen ornaments but they started to get expensive and messy to do. THese are so much easier and more durable as well.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Double Digit Numbers and Pic Collage

Our new math program has little lessons called Investigations built into the curriculum. Today we did an investigation having to do with double digit numbers. We spent a few minutes discussing what a double digit number is and giving some examples. We then brainstormed some places that we thought we might find these kinds of numbers. After our discussion, students were paired up and spent 10-15 minutes walking around our classroom and school looking for double digit numbers and taking pictures of them with their iPads.
It was amazing to see some of the places that students found double digit numbers, everything from clocks and calendars to classroom door numbers and  even entrance numbers to our building. I absolutely LOVE this picture of one of my students getting this picture.

After we got back to the room students were asked to import the pictures they took into the app, PicCollage to show their learning. The only stipulations were: 1) you have to work collaboratively and creatively with your partner 2) You must have your names on your collage
3) You need a title for your PicCollage

We've used PicCollage several other times and my students are getting quite adept at maneuvering their way around the app. I did introduce them to a new feature today- cropping their photos, which came in very useful for some of the pics they had taken. They really enjoyed trying this out and it definitely made their learning come more to the forefront of their creations. 

Last time we used PicCollage kiddos figured out how to import photos from the web as their backgrounds. We had Minecraft and Halo backgrounds which really distracted from the learning we were trying to showcase which lead to a fantastic discussion of what would be a better choice. Today,  I again reminded them of that conversation and asked that they find backgrounds that complimented their collage versus taking away from their learning. At that point I let them create as I didn't want to micromanage what may come out of their brains. I was quite impressed to say the least with the choices they made for their backgrounds and their ability to work together so collaboratively from start to finish!!! 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Simplistic app smash

Looking for an easy and engaging way for your students to practice their spelling words or high frequency words? 
In our class, kiddos use the Magnetic Alphabet app to place virtual magnetic letters onto a variety of backgrounds to create their weekly words. Students love using the different backgrounds to give each of their pics a little extra pizzazz. Once students have finished creating one of their words, they save their image to the camera roll. After they have all 5 of their weekly words created and saved, they import their 5 images into PicCollage where they can creatively put all of their words together onto one page, change the background and then send to their parents. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

SAMR model

I happened across this Thinglink by April Requard as I was perusing Pinterest this weekend. (You can follow her on Twitter at @aprilrequard.)

In our district the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model is becoming a hot topic of conversation. We have had several inservices this year in which this acronym has come up. As we continue to venture down the path of going 1:1/ 1:2 in our district, we want our staff to be prepared for technology integration beyond the substitution level as we continue to raise the bar for our students, as well as for ourselves. This Thinkglink gives some nice examples of apps that fit under each of the categories and when you click on the nubbin (the little round circle by each app) you'll get the name of the app and a little more information about that app

I've personally used many of these apps in my classroom, yes, even the substitution apps. I truly believe that even substituion apps have a place in the classroom if it ties in with your curriculum and is not just being used for the sake of using technology. For example, my class used the Drawing Pad app last week to record our mental images from a story. Could we have done our drawings on a piece of paper with crayons? You bet we could have, however, the engagement factor in my room went up 10 fold by using our ipads and having the variety of colors and tools available that we wouldn't otherwise have had. Plain and simple, the drawing of our mental image on the iPad was substitution. Taking this simple idea to the Augmentation level, we are able to share our images globally via our class Twitter account or with any of our buddy classes around the Unites States. This is something that we weren't able to do with just paper and pencil. It is definitely a functional improvement and one which my students look forward to. 
The more I embed technology, the more I find myself questioning my use of the technology in my curriculum. Is it simply substitution and if so, is it worth doing? Sometimes the answer is still yes, but other times, no- the time needed doesn't justify the results. How can I take a technology integrated project and take it to the next level? As I've become more comfortable with managing a class set of iPads and more comfortable with curricular components, I often find myself looking to take a project to a new level. I truly believe that as educators technology integration is an path that we need to become comfortable with and sooner rather than later. That being said though, we also need to allow ourselves to move through all four phases of the SAMR model. Not every lesson every day will be at the modification and redefinition level. There is a time and a place for substitution and augmentation within our day. 

How are your using the SAMR model in your classrooms???

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Number stories

Earlier this week we spent some time learning about addition and subtraction word problems. Students have been learning about subtraction language (flew away, broke, got eaten, etc). I really do love the way our new math program introduces subtraction to students. The seem to have a better grasp of it and it doesn't seem to send them away screaming like it did in the past. Well maybe not screaming, but crying definitely showed its ugly head on occasion.

Student creating visual representation of the
pirate problem above
One thing that I have found helps students internalize subtraction language is having concrete examples. We started earlier in the week with these types of examples and then began to work into visual representations. Students were given a word problem and together with a partner had to determine how they were going to solve the problem. Was the language telling them to use addition strategies or subtraction strategies. Once students decided on how they wanted to tackle the problem they worked together to visually represent the problem using Doodlecast Pro. I chose this app as I wanted them to have audio capability to record their thinking once we were done. Thinking about the SAMR model, the beginning of this lesson was just substitution, but the engagement factor of using the iPads definitely helped to keep the learning at the forefront.

As we continued on, students were then asked to record the math sentence that matched their thinking. As they finished, they used the record function of Doodlecast Pro to explain their thinking. This is a fantastic way to delve into the thinking of your students, especially your out-of-the-box thinkers, as it gives you new perspective into the thought processes they are using. I encourage you to give this a try. It has definitely opened new doors for me into how my students are tackling problem, something that I am not always able to discern in a whole group conversation. In the case above, I thought students would make the 9 muffins and then cross of 3 to find out how many muffins were blueberry but instead they used the addition strategy of counting on which they explained in their audio.

In addition to sharing their doodlecasts with me, we also used Air Server to project some of our projects and to share our thinking with the class. For students who are shy this has been a phenomenal way for them to share as they are often comfortable enough to create their audio with a buddy but are uncomfortable in front of the whole group. When we Air Serve they are able to play back their Doodlecast without the pressure of having to be on the spot in front of the group.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pic Collage for assessment

Yikes, pics uploaded last night, too tired to write the post... better get it up as it's been favorited already. LOL

Over the past few days we have been learning about capacity in math. We've done several hands-on explorations and learned a whole body representation of full, almost full, half full, almost empty, and empty~think head shoulders, knees, and toes with a stop at the hips for half full. The kids loved it and the representations definitely seemed to help them, although half full is still throwing a handful of my kiddos for some reason when having to identify it in real life examples or in their journal. How do I know this you ask, well, for starters, we did an collaborative, real world assessment of these concepts using the app Pic Collage. 

Here's how it all shook down (sorry for the not so pretty Smart board resource on the first image)...
When the kiddos came in on Wednesday I had the Smartboard on with the word capacity and an image of the PicCollage app icon displayed. We had a quick discussion of what capacity was and then I told them they were going to work with a partner to take 5-8 pictures of items around the room that had capacity. After taking their pics, they were to work collaboratively to create a Pic Collage to represent their findings and label the items they found. Seeing as we are first graders, we quickly wrote our capacity words so that teams had a resource to refer to. With the exception of that bit of information, teams were sent on their way to begin the task. It was great to see them talk about the items they were finding and discussing if the object truly had capacity. 

Once their pics were done, they headed to a cozy spot and began working together to create their collages. Again, the conversations were rich with vocabulary and "tech talk". Students began grouping and arranging their pictures, discussing and labeling their examples and of course, putting their creativity to work in designing their piece. 

On a modification side note:
I have one student who is visually impaired and utilized braille as his primary form of writing and reading. Even with his visual limitations, he and his partner were able to complete this activity to the benefit of both. They worked together to find the objects, felt them to check for capacity and when it came time to create on the iPad, my little gal every so gently guided him to move images around using descriptive language such as "Slide it more to the right". Our VI (Visually impaired) specialist also brailled the capacity words which my student used to discuss the items they photographed and when it came time to label on their collage, they took pics of the braille words to use as their labels. It was a great team effort for this group and was a true testament to the fact that kiddos can be supportive of each other no matter their abilities. Both learned from each other in this instance, and learned so much more than just math concepts!

Once we finished our assessment, we got back together as a group and students used Air Server to project their collages onto the SMARTboard. Yes, my students Air Serve independently! (For those not familiar with AirServer, this allows you to mirror whatever is on your iPad through a projector. This has been a fantastic tool for us to share our works with the whole group in a format large enough for all to see. It's also wonderful when introducing apps to students, but more on that another time)
Once their collage was up, groups came up and shared their pics and what they knew about capacity. One of my students even made the connection that iPads have capacity as well. This was an interesting discussion as most first graders need more concrete examples to see how something would be filled and obviously "seeing the iPad fill" is very abstract. To put it lightly, I was simply amazed!! I truly believe that many times we underestimate what our younger learners understand.

Some add'l learning came out of this project as well in regards to presentation as a couple of groups figured out how to add backgrounds from the web and chose Minecraft images to enhance their projects. The kids LOVED them and all wanted to know how to do it, but we found out quickly that the learning was overshadowed by the cool backgrounds. We talked about when a Minecraft background might be more appropriate and what the focus of our collages was. It was a fantastic authentic way to show this without me having to be the bad guy to say, "you can't use ___ or ___ for your backgrounds". The power of this conversation was in the fact that they all experienced it firsthand. Once students know the basic functionality of an app, I try very hard not to micromanage their creativity but rather let the little things like this guide our discussions and learning. Don't get me wrong, students still need to be shown how to use the apps appropriately as "they don't know, what they don't know" but I prefer to be the guide on the side once we have the basics down. It is amazing what I have learned from my students over the years that I wouldn't have learned had I limited them solely to my standards.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day

To all who have or are serving- 
Thank you and Happy Veteran's Day!!

Our class has been learning about Veteran's Day and what a veteran is. We sent an email out to our staff as well as to our parents to find out if anyone was a veteran and what branch they served in. My class has been very interested in this topic and we are excited to find out if anyone we know is a veteran. If you are reading this and are a veteran, please feel free to leave us a comment and tell us what branch you served in.

Depending on the information that we get back, I plan to have my class graph our results regarding how many people served in each branch.
This isn't a tech heavy project obviously, but as simple as it was, it enabled us to reach out beyond our classroom to learn more about a topic that for many kiddos is very foreign.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pumpkin Seed Project and Twitter integration

On Thursday of this week we took part in a Projects By Jen online project in which we had to find the number of seeds in a pumpkin. We took part in this project along with our buddy class in Oshawa, Canada via Twitter. 
We started our adventure by tweeting pictures of our pumpkins and our predictions to each other. As we began to open our pumpkins up, we again tweeted a picture of the insides of our pumpkins to each other in the event that we would need to or want to update our predictions based on what we saw.

After we scooped all of the seeds out of the pumpkins, to the delight of most, but groans and ewwww's from others, we began to talk about how we would go about counting all of the seeds. We had some great discussion, and in the end, decided that it would be best and easiest if we put our seeds into piles of 10s to start with. This was a great strategy as it is exactly what we have been focusing on in math. As the teams went to work counting out piles of 10s, we again tweeted a picture to Mrs. Drapers' class to see if they could figure out what counting strategy we were using. The groups then began to work collaboratively to count their seed piles. 
After passing the 100 mark some found it difficult to go on, so we discussed what happens when you get 10 piles of 10 and how many that is. We were then able to combine more of our piles into groups of 100 which made the counting even easier. In the end, one of our pumpkins had 3 piles of a hundred, 4 piles of 10 and 7 extra ones. Using this information, we were able to quickly figure out that the pumpkin had 347 seeds.
When we were done, we tweeted a final picture to Mrs. Draper's class to show them the final count so they could compare their predictions to the actual number of seeds. It was a great collaborative activity in our classroom as well as via Twitter with Mrs. Draper's class. It was also fantastic way for us to work on problem solving skills, predicting, counting by 10s and 1s, and our writing skills all while using technology to enhance our learning.

You can check out our Twitter feed here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Number Line app for Counting On strategy

During math, my class has been learning the  strategy of counting on. Today we focused on counting-on on a number line up to 20. After doing a couple of problems together on the SMARTboard, I wanted to give everyone a chance to actively participate, so we took out our iPads and used the free app, Number Line. This is a very easy app to use and has several great functions including the ability to hide and reveal numbers on the number line, the ability to mark the number line with multiples of any whole number from 1-100, and easy drawing tools just to name a few.

As we worked through using the app for the first time, I had one of my very tech capable students use Air Server to mirror her iPad to the SMARTboard so we could all follow along. If you haven't used Air Server or some other form of mirroring, I highly recommend it. It is a fantastic and easy way to model apps and have students show and share their work.

As we worked through our objective for the day, students circled our starting number, made their "bunny hops" for counting on and then showed the mathematical number sentence by writing it above their work.  Using this app kept everyone involved and engaged in our learning and in my opinion, truly helped us to grab onto the concept as we were able to visually represent it and then use that representation to create our number sentences.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pic Collage for buddy intro

Looking for a tech-inspired way for your class to introduce themselves to a Skype or Twitter buddy class? Look no further, PicCollage is your go-to, easy schmeasy app of choice!

This morning we spent some time putting together a PicCollage project to send to our buddy class in Oshawa, Canada. Each table team was responsible for working together to take each others' pictures, import them into the PicCollage app, add their names, change the background and add stickers if they so chose. 

Each team did a fantastic job problem solving how each person would take somebody else's picture so everyone got a turn (this may seem simple, but for a 1st grader, this can be a big problem solving process) The creativity and differences between each groups projects were neat to see and compare. 

When we were done, we emailed our collages to our buddy class so that they could get to know us better. Our buddy class also used PicCollage and sent us their creation which we now have proudly displayed in our classroom. This has really helped us to put a name to a face (pun intended) and is helping us to feel more connected with our buddies when we read their posts on Twitter.
The finished product and a happy team!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Calendar time with a tech twist

 This month I am trying something new during our calendar time in order  for all students to participate and more importantly, for all students to be able to analyze and share their information about our weather graph at the end of the month. We normally do our calendar routine on the Smartboard, which allows student participation, but only allows one student at a time.

To start our new venture, I took used the snipping tool to capture a picture of our October calendar, minus the dates and extra icons that we drag each day, and also snipped a copy of the weather graph that we use. I then sent these two pictures to my students' iPad via the Chirp app (more on that later this week). Once I sent these, students saved them to their camera roll and then imported the pictures into the Doodlecast Pro app.  Each morning as we complete our calendar on the smartboard, students will now also add the date to their own calendar on their iPad and also color in the corresponding area on our weather graph. 

At the end of the month, we'll use the recording feature of Doodlecast Pro to analyze our weather graph and tell what we observe. For example, there are 5 more sunny days than rainy. When we are done, the Doodlecast app, will also allow us to share our finished projects with parents, our global classrooms and myself. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Do you use Twitter in your classroom? Are you looking for a way to easily display the names of the classes that you most frequently connect with? 

If so, head over to my TPT store and download this free, simple "poster" and then write the Twitter handles and names of the classes you connect with most often. I plan to display mine near our Smartboard so kiddos can easily double check who they are sending their Tweets too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dot Day Success!

Our Dot Day was a success today! To help get my students excited about the day, each of them got this sheet on their desks this morning. Their job was to color a picture inside of "the dot".

Once they finished their coloring, they opened an app called, colAR Mix on their iPads and pointed their iPad at their image. As they held their iPad on their sheet, the center area came to life in a 3D way. You can click on the link above to download this free app and try it yourself. There are other neat pictures to color and use the app on as well. My 2nd grade son has printed some of the sheets to practice his spelling words on. He's always excited to see what it will do. This has definitely been a motivator for him! (Whatever works!!!)

 After watching the story on YouTube, we used the Drawing Pad app to create digital dot pictures. Here are our finished digital dot art pieces. Kiddos not only learned how to navigate the new app Drawing Pad, but also how to use a stylus, how to take a screen shot and how to save their images to their camera roll today as well. It was a fantastic day of embedding technology into our learning!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Dot Project

Are you looking for a collaborative digital project to start your year that doesn't take much prep? If you answered yes, I've got just the place for you to start! It's The Dot Project!

Monday, September 15th is International Dot Day- a day to celebrate creativity, courage and collaboration. Yes, I know that tomorrow is the 15th which doesn't leave you much time, but remember... I said it doesn't take much prep?!

If you are interested in participating in this project, go to the The Dot Club to sign up.  You simply need to share the book by Peter Reynolds called, The Dot and then find a creative way to help make YOUR mark. They have a fantastic PDF that gives lots of ideas, may of which are as simple as taking a piece of paper and having your class create their own dot pictures. Can't get much simpler than that!

My class will be participating this year and will be enjoying the book via the YouTube video below. (I've made even less prep for you by embedding it below) We will then talk about creativity, self expression, and taking risks.  As part of this project, we will then create our own dot projects and see what just a dot can turn into when it comes from different people's imaginations. We will be doing our projects digitally on our iPads using either the Doodle Buddy app (free) or the Drawing Pad app ($1.99 or 99 cents if volume purchased). 

Once we finish our projects, we will share them with our parents via our classroom blog. We also plan to Skype with our buddy class from Canada and share our creations with them as well.

So... what are you waiting for? Go sign up and take part in this year's International Dot Day! The video is below and everyone has paper to do pictures with. If you're interested in connecting with a class after the project, we'd be happy to hook up with you as well!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

iPad licenses and PicCollage

Well it's day 5 of the school year and we are digging further into iPad use than we ever have by this time of year. I truly think a big part of it is the amount of technology that kiddos have available to them at home as well as the digital native aspect of our young learners and their willingness to take risks.  

We are already well into taking pictures with our iPads and using the app PicCollage. We've also been working hard to earn our iPad licenses by knowing how to carry our iPad, how to adjust the volume, where to put them when they need charging, how to enter and exit apps, and more. Half of our class has earned their licenses and the privilege of creating on their iPads in some of the fun areas in our classroom such as the stools, crate chairs, etc. 

This week we discussed how to take pictures. We learned how to zoom in and out, how to change our vantage point by turning the iPad horizontal versus vertical and what makes a good picture. The kiddos did a fantastic job and it was neat to see the pictures they took as their eye for a great picture is often different than what we might expect. I made sure to go around and conference with each of the kiddos regarding their pictures to find out what they thought (were they blurry, too far away, or maybe didn't show what they wanted?) If they had some that didn't meet the criteria or their expectations, we discussed how to delete those pics and redo them.
After finishing our pictures of the items in our Me Bags, we learned how to import our pictures into the app, PicCollage. This is a free app that allows you to collage your pictures, add text and stickers, and change fonts and backgrounds. It's a powerful, but very easy app to use.  

Each of the kiddos then moved and re-sized their pictures to create their own unique version of their Me Bags. They also learned how to add text, change the font, color and background of the fonts!  We will be sharing these with parents as soon as we have our email accounts set up.

Pandora in the classroom

Just wanted to share a fantastic find for those of you the listen to Pandora in the classroom. I love listening to Pandora but have found that the ads are annoying to the point of not wanting to have it on if students are in the room for fear of what the ad content may be. Well, there is a fantastic, easy, awesome solution... and it's as easy as a quick click on a Google extension. It's called, Pandora Audio Ad Remover. After adding it to Google Chrome, you simply click on the icon in your extension list and Pandora will pop up in a separate window with no ads whatsoever!! It also removes the audio ads!! All the shows up is the album cover, the station name, and your thumbs up/down and play/pause.

I am absolutely loving this and have loved being able to have Pandora on now while we are writing. One of favorite stations to listen to is Lorie Line. I love instrumental stations when we are trying to work as kiddos are able to still focus on their work. 

I definitely recommend giving this a try for yourself. If you do, let me know what you think. Do you have a favorite station that you listen to with your class? Comment below and let us know!

Friday, August 22, 2014

PAWSitively germ free

OK,  PAWSitively germ free might be a bit of an overstatement but anything I can do to help prevent the spread of germs is a good thing, especially with 17 little munchkins bopping around the room.

I simply created these cute little labels to match my dog themed room and then printed them out and used packaging tape to adhere them to bottles of hand sanitizer. (You can get a set from my TPT store here.) When my kiddos ask to use the bathroom, they grab the correct bottle and leave it at their desk. When they return, they take a quick squirt (a great way to double protect in case any of my little sweethearts forget to wash their hands when they are in the bathroom). This has also been a great way to manage bathroom visits during Daily 5 time. I keep the bottles near my reading table and if kiddos need to use the bathroom they simply check to see if they pass they need is available and then leave it at their desk. This way I can see who is sneaking out of leaving the room and with a quick glance at the tables I can see who is still gone. 

I've been using this idea in my classroom for a couple of years now and love it!! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting to Know your students

Are you ready for your new crew of students? 

The end of August is always such a crazy, busy time for teachers with the new school year just around the corner.  I'm sure all of you have been busy getting everything organized, printed, laminated just like I have. 

One of the things that I have done for many years is to send home a "Get to Know You" questionnaire to parents prior to the school year starting along with my welcome letter. I've found this to be such a great source of information for me. It has often times sparked conversations with parents that otherwise wouldn't have taken place or has given parents a place to share information such as a recent divorce that otherwise is difficult to bring up in person.
I've also had parents comment on how they appreciated receiving this prior to all of the beginning of the school paperwork which gave them more time to complete it.

Here's looking forward to a fantastic year of fun and learning with our students and their families! If you'd like to get a copy for yourself, you can find it here in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store or just click on either of the images.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Writer's Tea

Three of our 1st grade classrooms hosted our first ever Writer's Tea on Friday and I can tell you that it will definitely be an annual tradition for my classroom!!! 

We started by sending an invite home to parents about a month in advance and planned our celebration for the last hour of the day on a Friday in hopes that parents could make arrangements to get off of work or leave a little early. Grandparents were also invited as we wanted every student to have at least one person to come and celebrate with them. 
We served punch and cookies to make the event all the more special.

In the grand scheme of things, this was a relatively easy event to get ready for. I saved my kiddos' writing all year long... every single piece of writing! Let me tell you, it is eye opening how much writing we do in the course of a year when you have to find a place to store it all!  A few days before the event, I began passing back all of my kiddos' writing. It was fun to listen to them as they got certain pieces back and they would say things like, "I forgot about this one" or "Oh my gosh, I can't even read this" The latter comment was the best as they really were able to appreciate how far they have come as authors!

After getting our pieces back, we needed something large enough to hold all of our pieces as some of them were larger craftivites. I wanted something that would make it easier for them to tote their writing to a place in the room and that would also hopefully serve as a "one-stop storage spot" that would have special memories for them and their parents. I am hoping that parents won't just throw all of their child's hard work away. My solution was to fold a piece of tagboard in half and to glue students' 1st day of school pictures and a matching end of the year picture to this folder. (It was amazing to see how much some of them have changed over the course of the year!) Students then decorated their portfolio however they wished. They weren't overly fancy, but each student's was unique and they had a lot of fun designing them. It also gave them even more ownership of this event.

Finally, students filled out an About the Author paper to share with their visitors. This ended up being the very first piece in our portfolios that student's shared with their visitors. You can click the link above to download a free copy for yourself if you're interested. 

When the big day finally came, my kiddos were beyond excited! They asked all day long when the Writer's Tea was starting. It was fantastic to see how excited they were and to feel the energy in the room. Every student in my class, except one had at least one adult in attendance. Knowing ahead of time that this student, and a few others from the other 2 classes didn't have a visitor, we made arrangements with other staff members in our building (Assistant principal, reading specialist, LMS, etc) to come and be a special visitors for them so nobody was left out.

I have to say, the event was fantastic and went off without a hitch. The students were in charge and I was able to mull around the room, take pictures, chat with our visitors and sit back and watch as students were the teachers. Throughout the course of the hour, they shared all of the writing in their portfolios, shared the stories they had done digitally on their iPads, enjoyed a cookie and punch, and also shared a few projects in the hall, including our Global Art Project. I was shocked when we were 3 minutes from the dismissal bell ringing and I still had 3/4 of my class and their visitors in my room!! I told them all to enjoy and not be in a rush and many stayed even longer. All together, most of my students spent about 45 minutes to an hour with their visitors.

As I said above, this will definitely become an annual tradition for me. The only change I think I may need to make is to plan for a full hour next year. Three days later, I am still smiling about how well it went and the sheer joy that my students experienced getting to share all of their hard work!