Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writing Dude 2.0

This is my baby, his name is Writing Dude.
I created him as a way to teach writing skills to my first graders using my SmartBoard and all of the fun bells and whistles I'm able to incorporate into my lessons.  At first I created theme music (intro & closing) and was pretty proud of myself.  I got some feedback one day about wishing he could talk and read what is in the speech bubbles in his lessons.  That stuck with me and I've finally worked on it and have been successful!

The software is called Notebook and my personal laptop has the most up-to-date version which has a recordable microphone...problem solved.  BUT my school computer that is connected to my SmartBoard cannot use that version and must use an older version, and for some reason the recordings don't work.  So plan B was to use a voice changing app on my phone.  The one I'm going with right now is
It's a bit time consuming, but I like the results.  You can check out #15 of my Writing Dude series by clicking below.
Even if you don't have a SmartBoard, you can still use these lessons.  All you need is a computer (with the Notebook software installed on's FREE and great!) and an LCD projector.  You can project the lesson and manipulate it from the computer (students just can't use it interactively).  You are also able to export the lesson to a PDF format.

Let me know if you have any questions about Writing Dude or SmartBoards in general because I've become super proficient with them and love it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Make Your Own Pointers

I'm short.  Good thing I teach 1st grade because none of my students are taller than me.  Being short means I need to use a step ladder in my classroom.  I also use pointers when using the SmartBoard because I can't always reach.  Well I also use pointers because it's fun!  I made my own a few years back after seeing a Kindergarten teacher at a Spanish immersion school have some in her classroom.  But they've been put to good use and are no longer in shape to do the job of pointing to things and dragging things around on the SmartBoard.
Tonight I made the time to make some new ones.

They are pretty easy to make and the expense is minimal.  It probably takes about 10 minutes to make one.
Here's what you need.
Step 1: Cover the dowel with duck tape.
Step 2: Stuff the mitten.
Tie the opening shut with ribbon.
Hand stitch the pinky, ring and middle fingers to the body of the mitten.

Chinese New Year starts on Friday and my Readers' Theater pack that has group, partner and trio plays all about the fictitious origin, the present day celebration traditions, what the lunar calendar is all about and zodiac animal traits is on sale now!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Smartboard FREEBIE

I love my SmartBoard a lot! I have so much fun creating lessons and activities with the Notebook software and it makes my teaching flow so nicely and my student's are more engaged.  

So I was planning for this coming week and opened a file about contractions as it comes up again in our Houghton-Mifflin curriculum.  But I took one look at it and thought, "Ew, that's pretty ugly and boring.  It needs a makeover."  And voila, an updated contraction review that I'll use this morning.  
Click on it to get it :-)

Go check out lots more FREEBIES over at 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Snowflake Art Project

We're not seeing too many snowflakes lately up here in Anchorage.  I know that sounds strange but I think we have traded weather with the lower 48.  It's been raining and melting like crazy here!  I can see the grass in our yard again, wahoo!  Give me sand (versus snow) any day.

I've been pinning art projects that could work during my Daily 5 groups all year and am really enjoying finally incorporating art into my classroom.  January has been all about snow so we did this super CUTE project this past week.  It was easy to prep, easy for kids to do and it turned out way better than I had anticipated!
Here's what you need.
Poke a hole in the middle of each "branch" and they can be fastened together with a brad.
Students crumple up big squares (3"x3") and glue them on.

The next day I punched a hole in the end of one of the "branches" and we hung them up with yarn above our classroom windows (forgot to take a picture of them).

SO FUN!  Click here to see the original source.  Thanks again Pinterest!
I'm on Pinterest as well, check me out:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Water, water everywhere!

The weather we're experiencing up in Anchorage is not typical of this time of's warm and wet.  By warm I mean above freezing.
It's been raining outside and we've been learning about water inside. Our second science kit this year is "The Power of Water" and it gets really fun on our  fifth lesson when we get to play with water!  This past week we learned about the sticky property of water known as 'cohesion'.  Students put drops of water on a piece of wax paper and used a toothpick to get them to stick together.
Then we learned about 'surface tension' by putting as many drops of water as possible on the face of a penny until it spilled over.  But the cool part was getting down on our knees to see the dome form on it!
This week we're going to learn how to break the surface tension of water.  Hint: it rhymes with rope and starts with an 's'.  Next week we'll get into the whole water cycle.  Speaking of which, I just finished a new Readers' Theater about the Water Cycle, which we'll infuse into our small reading groups next week.

And even though Martin Luther King day has now passed, his message and life can be carried on throughout the year.  My readers' theater 'Martin's Message' is now on sale, so consider taking a peek.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin's Message

One person can make a difference.  One person's positive actions and words can inspire and ignite others to join together for the common good.  It has happened many times and will continue to happen.  On this day we remember, learn about and honor a shining example of this, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I love quotes and have been inspired by many of Dr. King's quotes.  My favorites:

* It is always the right time to do the right thing.
* Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
* If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
* Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?".    

The last quote, in my opinion, is what this holiday should be all about.  Reflecting on all you are thankful and grateful for and then reaching out to help others for the common good.

So look in your local newspaper or online for MLK happenings today and, at the very least, take the time to watch his famous I Have a Dream... speech. 
Click here to view the speech in its entirety.

Times have changed but his underlying message is the same, treat everyone equally regardless of attribute.  We as teachers lead by example and explicitly teach it.  This message needs to live on every day, not just on the third Monday in January.  Here's a kid friendly way to teach and inspire Martin's message.
Click to check it out.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Read to Someone: Partner Plays

We added 'Read to Someone' to our Daily 5 reading groups when we got back from winter vacation recently.  With that new routine going well, I added Partner Plays this week for kids to try.  I had these three available
which are based on the two books by Laura Numeroff.  The third one I wrote myself and now want to write another one because they're funny to read and fun to write!
I keep all the Partner Plays in folders in this bin that is attached to the wall next to our classroom library.
I'm sharing them for Manic Monday and you can get them for free by clicking on the photo above.
I hope your students have as much fun with them and improve their fluency like my students are doing!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is coming up and I'll admit, I've never done anything with it in my classroom.  But I wanted to learn more this year and spent time researching it and the more I learned, the more I knew it would be great to learn about and celebrate....via Readers' Theater!

Some interesting things I learned about the Chinese New Year:
* It's now the year of the Horse.
* It's a 15 day celebration.
* Kids get red envelopes full of money.
* It's based on the cycle of the moon.

Gung hay fat choy...starting January 31st!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Partner Reading

It's back to school after a nice 2-week winter break!
And it's Monday so that means

The introduction of partner reading is on the agenda for today.  
If you do the Daily 5 (in my classroom it's the Daily 6) you are familiar with "Read to Someone".  Before I knew anything about this facet of the Daily 5 program, I was partnering my students up during their small guided reading group with me after we had read a new book a few times. I only did it because I figured they were tired of reading the book aloud chorally and by taking turns.  But what I realized is that, if students are on task, they are really benefitting from it!  Fluency increased, helping each other blossomed and I was able to be an observer.  
I don't feel that first graders are ready to do partner reading until after winter break, but you may feel differently.  I am going to use these 2 posters to help teach and then remind kids what to do.

You can get them for FREE at my TPT store by clicking on the picture below.

Happy first week back if you're going back tomorrow!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Great website find!

I really wish I could draw!  I just don't have any drawing genes.  When creating teaching resources for TPT and TN I love the marketing aspect of making my products visually appealing.  Being a consumer myself, I tend to look at and preview materials that look good from first glance.  

When I first started creating products I would download visually appealing freebies and take note of who they were getting clipart and design elements from.  I still would love to try creating some simple things on my own but I randomly came across a website called Pixlr. There are 3 parts to the website but the one I'm referring to is the Editor.  

This website allows you to upload a photograph or piece of clipart and edit it right then and there!  For instance, I was making a poster that explains the 3 ways to "Read with Someone", since we're going to start that component of the Daily 5 in my classroom on Monday.  I uploaded a piece of clipart (from Scrappin Doodles) and only needed the 2 kid's heads...not the hand in the middle that I couldn't get rid of.  But with Pixlr you can use the eraser tool and get rid of whatever you want!

Here's an example.  I don't want one of the shoes.

Position the eraser (circle) over the shoe...

Voila, the shoe is gone!
I'm so excited to have found this easy to use, FREE website!