Saturday, January 29, 2011

Project 7- FOUND!

Found another student! I remember Triniti being shy and quiet as a first grader and now, she's on Student Council!

Here she was then:

And now:

What a beautiful girl! Congrats Triniti!

Friday, January 28, 2011

One Thing at a Time


Sometimes, depending on my mood, I avoid browsing other peoples' blogs. In my eyes, everything that "they" do is wonderful, over the top and completely fabulous. I get so overwhelmed at what everyone can do and think about all the things that I don't do. Feelings like that lead me to a pity fest where I am the only guest and there is lots of dessert!

Why can't I be fabulous at EVERY SINGLE THING???????

Why do I feel like I have to be fabulous at EVERY SINGLE THING??????

I think that it is impossible for any ONE person to be great at EVERY single thing.

For one thing, it is the high expectations that I set for myself. I expect myself to be able to do so many things and not to just do them, but to be GREAT at doing them.

And another thing, when I am looking at someone else's work, I am not looking with the right eyes. I see what I want to see and that is their strengths. I end up comparing their strengths to my weaknesses. Not a fair comparison.

When I moved to California, almost 4 years ago, I was in a little depression. I told my husband that I wanted to learn how to do something and be really good at it. I felt like I did many things but when it came down to it, I didn't feel like I was particularly "great" at anything. If someone were to ask me what my talents were, I would have had a hard time answering them.

Photography was something that was on my list of things I had interest in. I was immediately hooked and I wanted to practice and learn all that I could. It was my primary focus and in the end, I got pretty good at it.

I believe that you can LEARN how to do ANYTHING and if you focus and practice, you can become really good at what you do. There are so many resources available online where you can teach yourself how to do anything.

I also think that you must have an interest.

For example, a few years ago, I thought teaching myself the guitar would be a fun thing to do. I was interested at first, but then stopped not long into it because the interest had faded. I didn't have the desire to continue.

Interest equals continued desire and motivation.

How about trying ONE THING?

I think that is how I became good at photography. It was one thing I was trying to get better at. I wasn't, at the same time trying to become great at everything else.

Does that mean you should only do ONE THING?

No. But don't expect yourself to be great at EVERYTHING.

I love doing all sorts of things: crafts, crocheting, cooking, playing sports etc. but I shouldn't expect myself to be an expert in all those areas.

What about doing ONE THING AT A TIME?

Take your interests and give them the time and focusing that they need to be developed into something more and then try something else. That way, you can continue progress in one area while branching out to another.

I am definitely not an expert on this subject but am trying to be better. Sometimes, these epiphanies come and I want to write down, so I don't forget them and can be reminded.

P.S. I couldn't post this until I had a picture. How lame is that?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Project 7- FOUND!

Today I found my first student, Caleb Lawson. For awhile, I thought this goal of mine to find all of my first graders who are graduating this year, was going to be impossible. But, yet, here I am with my first success!

Here he was 12 years ago:

Here he is now:


It's hard to picture what my then 6 year olds look now. I had to study his picture really hard before I was completely convinced.

I am pretty sure that I have found 4 more kids, but I am waiting to hear back from them on Facebook.

Eeeeeee! So much fun!

More Family Blocks


I made some of these for my Mom for Christmas and of course, wanted to make some for myself. I had a great idea this time around for the front of the block. Last time I used scrapbook paper and stickers. This time around, I decided I was going to try just using pictures. My mind is always on pictures and how I can use them.


I sized the pictures in Photoshop. For letters in the word "Family", I looked up a background that I liked on the web and typed the letter on each one. I developed them in a 4X6, about .13 a piece.

I think it worked out great and I will be using this idea more often.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January Activities- Kids Project

Using books to teach concepts is a great way to grab your student's attention especially if the book is a classroom favorite. Here are 3 of my favorite winter books and some ideas to go along with them.

Snowmen at Night
Concepts: Sentence structure, handwriting

1. Read the story "Snowmen at Night"
2. Review some of the things the snowmen did at night.
3. Have the kids cut out the words from the snowmen worksheet.
4. Have them put the words in a sentence if they are able or write it on the board for them to refer to.
5. Have them glue the sentence in order.
6. Have the kids think of something that snowmen do at night. They could use examples from the book or think of their own.
7. Have them write it down in a complete sentence. You may need to write the sentence for younger kids to copy.
8. The kids can then illustrate their picture using the snowmen from the worksheet or by making their own.

The Mitten
Concept-Story sequence, Retelling

1. Read the story, "The Mitten".
2. Have the kids color and cut out the animals and mitten from the Jan Brett website here. Jan Brett has an awesome website with tons of ideas and printouts. Go here to check it all out.
3. After cutting out the animals, give the kids popsicle sticks to place their animals on.
4. When you do the mitten make sure you double up with a blank white paper. Cut out the mitten with the blank paper. I usually staple them together to make it easier for the kids to cut out. A staple on the top and bottem. When they are done cutting it out, take the staples out.
5. Flip the mitten over and glue around the edges EXCEPT on the bottom of the mitten.
6. Place the blank white mitten on top. You should have an opening on the bottom for the animals to climb in.
7. Read the story again. This time have the kids use their mitten and animals at the same time.
8. You could have the kids retell the story and use their puppets to tell the story.

Snowflake Bentley

1. Read the story, "Snowflake Bentley". Talk about how snowflakes are unique and that everyone is different. Snowflakes are also symmetrical. You can show some real snowflakes from a page in the back of the book. Explain to your students what symmetry is and maybe do a few examples on the board. Tell them that today they are going to make a snowflake that is symmetrical.
2. I saw this idea at a teaching conference one year and adjusted for my 1st grade students. I made this outline for the students to use.
3. Place a piece of wax paper over the outline. The long lines with dots at either end represent a cue tips. There are 12 cue tips that are bent to form a "V" that you will place back to back.
4. Have the kids match up the cue tips making sure the place them as exact as possible.
5. The part on the outline that has a circle around it means that is where you will put a ton of glue. The kids love doing this because normally I will tell them, "A dot not a lot" but now they get to do a huge glob.
6. The basic idea is to cover the ends all in glue.
7. Let it dry over night and then peel away from the wax paper.
8. You could spray with a glitter spray to add a little sparkle.

*If you have pattern blocks, start with a hexagon in the middle to make these:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Teaching Kids to Read- Part 2

"Word families are groups of words that have a common feature or pattern - they have some of the same combinations of letters in them and a similar sound."(definition from

Word families or "chunks" as I like to refer them as, are an essential part in teaching kids to read. The basic idea is that when kids are decoding the words as they come to them, instead of sounding each letter out, they look for chunks that they know, and therefore it makes reading more smooth and easier.

Here is a sample of some common word families: ack, ain, ake, ale, all, ame, an, ank, ap, ash, at, ate, aw ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ick, ide, ight, ill, in, ine, ing, ink, ip, it, ock, oke, op, ore, ot, uck ,ug, ump, unk.

You can also find more complete list here and here.

1. A book with the chunk in it many times. Rhyming books and nursery rhyme books work great.

Here is a site where you can print off your own word family book.

2. Letters to make words with using the chunk. They could be magnetic letters or letters typed and cut out, or blocks that have letters on them. Whatever you can find.

3. Something to record your chunk words on. I have a chunk book where we record all the words we make with the chunk.

1. Show the students the chunk. Let's use the -an chunk since that is what I did with Mia today. I tell her, "This is the chunk -an, it is also a word "an" (some chunks are words and you can tell them that so they can make the distinction).

2. Next, see how many words you can make using the chunk -an.

3. Then write the word on your record sheet.

4. Have someone put it in a sentence.

5. Repeat until you have made up as many words as you can. You can decide if you want to put nonsense words (ex. if your child says, "lan" for the chunk -an) on your record sheet.

6. After I have a list, we read the list together.

7. Last, we read the book with the chunk in it. Today I read the book with Mia and had her clap each time we came to a word with the -an chunk in it. You could have the students stand up or do something each time you come across one of the words. You could use a magnifying glass to find all of the words with the chunk in it.


Here are some printable worksheets that reinforce the concept.

You can also purchase books that have activities in them.

I got this out of one of the books that I purchased and laminated it. The kids use vis a vis marker to write the words and then I can clear the sheet with a wet paper towel and use it again.

You can also find games and activities to make.

You can purchase items like this from places like "Learning Resources", or use the idea and make your own. I've made my own using a wooden block. I have also used the dice from Scategories.

When you are beginning with chunks, my suggestion to you is to start with short vowel ones that are two lettered. For example, the first chunk I like to introduce is -at and then -an and so on.

Have fun with CHUNKS!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Teaching Kids to Read

When I graduated from college and was hunting for a job, I thought for sure, I would get a 3rd or 4th grade teaching job. Those are the grades I really enjoyed teaching while doing my cohort and student teaching experiences. Well, you know how things don't always work out the way you plan them to. I was offered a 1st grade teaching job. I never thought I would teach the younger kids, after all, they are so young. I accepted the position and loved my 7 years in the first grade.

One of the things that scared me to death about teaching first grade was that I had to teach the kids to read. Where do I begin? How do I do it? Here are some tips:

One of the most important things a parent can do is read with their children everyday. Another thing is to make sure your kids see you reading. Set the example and show your kids that you enjoy reading.

Environmental print is all around you. Read labels from cereal boxes, favorite food boxes and wrappers, candy bar wrappers and familiar logos like McDonalds.

One of the first words your child should be able to recognize is his or hers name. It is the best place to start because with younger kids, "it's all about them."

Make a name bag with the letters in your child's name and have them put it in order. I used foam squares.If you don't have individual letters, use the game "Scrabble".
Explore your child's name by using magnetic letters.
Use food to make letters in their name. Let your child "play with food."
I say food because all kids love to snack and what better way to learn than with food. You could get alphabet soup, licorice lace to make their name, make some pudding and put some on the table and have the kids write the letters in their name. My daughter loves using pretzels to make letters. She'll eat the parts she doesn't need. Say the name of the letters. Put your child's name on their jacket, backpack, etc. Let your child see their name everywhere.

I think letter recognition is one of the first places to begin. Using your child's name will get them started. Introduce a letter a day (or do one a week or just a couple a week, whatever is best for your child).

a. Say the name of the letter.
b. Make the letter.
Use playdoe and make snakes to make letters, Pipecleaner, wikki sticks. Write the letter
on a chalkboard, a white board, in your writing journal, in sand.

c. Find the letter.

Use old magazines and highlighters to find that letter. Give your child a pointer stick and go around the house finding that letter. I have also made a letter hunt where I typed the letter on a sheet and cut them out and taped them around the house and had the kids find the letters.
Make a neckless finding the letters in your name.

Next time we will look at ideas for learning letter sounds, sight words and blending.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stu Sneak Peak-Part Deuce

Today the weather cooperated beautifully with us. Everything worked out great and I couldn't be happier with the results! We just picked up where we left off. . .just without the rain!







This one is my favorite so far, if I'm allowed to have one.



Thanks for a great day!