Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Almost Gingerbread Time!

I love December because it's gingerbread time!  I do lots of fun things and I found even more this year surfing around the web.

Here is a freebie that I made after seeing a cute Tennessee version of it on Swamp Frog First Graders.  She made a little booklet telling about the Gingerbread boy traveling through Tennessee.  I live in I made a few changes and made it a bit longer and turned it into an Idaho book.

Now we have something fun to send to our 1st grade pen pals in North Dakota!

To get a copy of this on the title:
The Gingerbread man runs through Idaho!
It's loaded into my TpT store.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Zebra Fun

Sometimes I do goofy things...sometimes without really thinking they are going to be goofy, but because I meant something else at the time.

This morning was one of those moments.

I typed "zebra" into the search on TpT because I was looking for something that had to do with the "Sam Likes Fried Zebras" saying that goes with Vowac.

Well...I didn't find what I was looking for...but instead found out that you could purchase everything with a zebra theme on TpT.  Apparently it's not just for the junior high girls anymore, but us teaching gals have a thing for it too??

Laura Carson, from South Carolina has just about everything Zebra for sale on her TpT site.

D'Ann Haffner has these alphabet cards...I think her kinders are going to throw up zebra with these alphabet cards and banner.  They are bit too hard on the eyes in my opinion.  Young eyes need a better contrast.  But they are pretty even if they are a bit over the top for kinders.

Mrs. Croak has a Punk Rock Zebra package.  I would have thought with a name like croak that maybe she would have leaned toward frogs...but perhaps her wild side is coming out for TpT.
Crayon Box Learning has a very bright pink zebra theme that will be all over your room in no time.  If you like pink and you like zebra...this is the one for you! lol

Here is a different spin on zebra in your classroom.  How about teaching about zebras!  This is a cute little unit on zebras.  Megan Mitchell from Ohio put this one together.  At least now you can have  a purpose to all the stripes showing up in your room!

There is a whole lot more on TpT.  The choices went on for pages.  There were multiple choices for everything from calendars to word cards to name tags to lesson planning pages and more.  So if you need to add a little zebra to your life...just know it's already out there and already been least half a dozen times!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Computer Center

I don't do organized group rotations for my centers.  I have done it that way in years past. But when you don't have parent helpers it takes a long time to teach to and if a group has a problem, it totally eats up the time from the group that I am supposed to be with.

So last year I started doing centers where students choose the center that they want to do.   I have a chart with 12-15 different choices.  The students put the card for their choice in their name pocket.  It works well.  I have a combination of math and language arts centers to choose from.

They know that they have to do more than one center a day...anything with a worksheet has to be done sometime during the week or they don't get their reward activity on Friday.

The one center I always have trouble getting them off of though is the computer center.  I have 3 computers in the class and 22 that makes it tough for them to all get a turn when you get a couple of them that camp out on the keyboard.

The computer game we are using right now is Starfall.  So I came up with a solution that is working so far!

My teacher partner last year had signs she hung on her computer monitors that she flipped over when the computers were out of order or off limits.  This gave me an idea...

I screen captured the list of learning games on Starfall and printed them out in color so they would look just like the game on the computer screen.  Then I popped them into a sheet protector.  (Most of the things in my class are either laminated or in a sheet protector...except for my students...although sometimes that seems like it would be a good idea too).
Then I made a little arrow out of a sticky note and put it on the game I want them to do that week.  They can only stay on a computer long enough to finish that game.  Then they have to choose another center.

This is working really well for my class this year.  I feel like a genius sometimes! lol

Monday, November 5, 2012

Found a Free Font!

I love fonts!  I am truly addicted to them.  I have bought some that are just to die for...but most of my favorites have been found free!  Just look around and they pop up all over the place!  You have to be patient for your collection to grow if you just want free ones, but they are out there!

Here is the free one I found the other day:
This is from Graphics from the Pond.  There is a lot of fun clip art on this blog as well as fonts. is addicting!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November Fun Stuff

So I spent part of my weekend avoiding my report cards.  Starting them always overwhelms me because they start out so empty and it seems like there is so much to fill out! lol

As a break, I hop around looking for fun new ideas to make learning fun.  I don't just mean for my students, but for me too!  I never do everything the same every year.  I would get bored, and if I'm bored, I sure can't be all that inspiring to my students.

I love Pinterest and I post what I find on my board...because I am sure I wouldn't be able to find things again otherwise.  Here is my November board: LifeInIDaho

Cute Turkey Craft--would need a glue gun to make it work though

I found this one on Erica Bohrer's 1st Grade blog. It is such a stinking cute craft project.  It would take a glue gun to get it done and a parent it is not very feasible for my class of 22 kids...but cute just the same.

Here is a fun freebie that I am going to do at least parts of it on Tuesday.  It's from First Grade Fever on TpT.  I love the little characters for the two nominees.  I'm not sure which site she got them from....but these are the ones she listed as purchasing her art from:

Scrappin’ Doodles, KPM Doodles, Melonheadz & From the Pond

Let's Vote! {Classroom Election Kit}

Then we also have Veteran's Day this month.  Here is a cute parts of speech sorting activity.  Perfect for my blue chart at centers!  The only thing she didn't include was a response sheet for them to fill out after they sort the words.
I found this one on TpT as well.  It's FREE.  I like Free!

And one more for the big turkey day....Blair Turner posted a freebie on TpT that is awesome.  It's a template for turkeys.  Perfect if you want to teach about writing main ideas and details or if you want an art project that includes writing about what the students are thankful for.  I have an older version that I made...but it's not on my computer...was before I was such a computer geek.  So Blair's project can help you out:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November Snuck Up On Me!!

I don't know how it happened, but it is already November.  My first quarter at a new school site is completed.  Do I feel caught up now?  No!  I still feel disjointed and worse even -- disorganized!  it's amazing to see that  even in the same district, things are not done exactly the same in each elementary school.

Although we use the same curriculum, all our assessments are not exactly the same.  It has been a struggle to pull it all together...and now that I need to be filling out report cards, I feel that I don't have all the assessments completed to do my report cards.

Now, that is not to say that I don't know what each child can and can't do, but I just don't have a summative assessment in hand to back me up.  It's more anecdotal and formative type assessments that give me my information.

Why do I not have what I need?  Well...long story short...we have Scot Foresman as our reading series.  We also have a transition going on toward the Common Core.  Our report cards are standards based.  The standards that are on the report card sort of jive with what we are trying to do with the Common Core...but our assessments are in limbo because they are from a curriculum that we now only partly use.  Our district is trying to create stand alone assessments to measure our students growth in achieving the standards in the Common Core, but they are a long way off from accomplishing that mighty goal.

We are a district that was curriculum driven for a very long time and now are trying to switch to being Standards driven.  This is what I am used to doing all along (from working in other states and other school districts)  The thought of relying solely on a publisher to tell me what and when to teach things to my student was alien to me.  Also, having assessments tied to a curriculum always seemed biased to me.  Stand alone assessments not only 'test' your students, but it 'tests' the ability of the curriculum to meet their needs.

So I am trying to find a clear path between assessments and standards and teaching.  I know there is one there.  It's just a matter of finding the time when you are mired in it all to rise above it and figure out the path I need and how to organize my direction to meet all my students' needs!

If anyone has some good advice or resources, I would love to hear it!

O.K.  back to my report cards!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Constructing some Deconstructing

I gave up my valuable report card day to attend a district level workshop about creating effective assessment.  It was a good workshop for getting my brain thinking, but I didn't walk away with more answers than questions.  Good formative assessments are in important to have  in light of new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Unless you teach on the moon, or perhaps Texas or Alaska, you have to have been impacted by the CCSS by now.

Most of the states, except for the two mentioned above plus a few more, are in the process of changing their state standards and state testing to follow the guidelines of the CCSS.  So far they have ELA and Math.  The CCSS are a new set of universal standards that follow a scope and sequence throughout the grade levels, K-12.

Quite a few states have been swimming in the sea of CCSS for a few years now.  Our state, Idaho, has been a little shy of jumping in.  Our state sat on the sidelines for a bit just to make sure they really had to jump in.  They decided at the end of last school year to dive in....head first...with no flotation device and pretty much no swim trunks either!

The frustrating part is that Idaho doesn't have an ESD (education service district) or a COE (county office of ed) to help oversee this process of changing over.  In states like Arizona, Washington, California, Kentucky, and North Carolina (among others) there is a 'middle man' --the county office of education--that helps organize the big stuff.  In Idaho, the individual school districts deal directly with the state.  Which means they administration passes the buck to the teaching staff.  I suppose there is a positive side to that, but when it comes to huge tasks like new state standards, it would be nice to have some education organization to help unify the districts so we are all doing the same thing.  It also means that we have to take time away from lesson planning and our students to come up with new learning targets and new assessments.

As it is now, each school district has been left to interpret the standards and create local assessments to measure student growth.  Don't get me wrong.  We will still have an annual common state test through The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium.  I don't know what those of us in K-2 will be seeing.  I personally won't miss the IRI (Idaho's state reading test for k-2).  It is an assessment tool that can only be improved upon in my opinion.

For those of you new to education, or maybe teaching in a school district that is dragging its are some sites to visit for more information about Common Core and creating assessment.

Arizona Department of Education -- they have been working on this for quite some time and have a lot of information on their state's website.

North Carolina has come up with Extended Common Core State Standards.  They took the CCSS and added to it.  They aren't exactly Learner objectives or deconstructed standards.  It looks like they just added things that they thought CCSS was missing at each grade level.

Here are some sites with lots of support information about the CCSS:

Common Core State Standards Initiative
Achieve the Core -- I like the name of this one although it's not my favorite resource.
Education Northwest --Great resource for finding some meaningful assessment tools, both formative and summative.  Dig around the's full of lots of treasures!

School Here is a free webinar to help you learn how to create learning targets from the common core standards.

I could go on forever listing resources...but these are a good start.  I now have to put the whole assessment piece on the back burner for now and complete my 1st quarter report cards!  If you have a great resource that you find to help wade through common core, please share!