Saturday, February 23, 2013

Going Low-Tech in the Classroom

Happy weekend, everyone!  I hope you had a great week, and for those of you in the Midwest, I hope you're warm and cozy with all that snow.  Today's post is about using game boards in the classroom.  With the technology available today, it's so easy to bring up a game on the SMARTBoard, or go to or and pull up games for the kids to play to practice and reinforce skills, but there's something about two or three kiddos engaging in a hands-on game with actual physical materials that promotes direct interaction between the kids

In a three-player game, two girls are looking at a third girl, who is spelling the word she was given

Think about it.  When they're playing on the computer, they're looking at the computer.  One child at a time is manipulating the mouse.  The others are watching and giving verbal input, but not connecting the tactile with the mental action.  As the kids are talking to each other, they are not looking at each other.  There's little eye-to-eye contact going on.  Most of it is eye-to-screen.  I wonder what pathways that develops (or doesn't develop) in the brain?

 A versatile game board with a holiday theme always causes great excitement in my classroom

Now give them a game board and word cards and a spinner or dice and observe how their interactions change.  They face each other.  They look each other in the eye.  They talk TO each other.  They respond to verbal and non-verbal cues that are sent out.  As they think, they are matching a tactile movement to their thoughts.  They engage more of their senses in the learning process.

Spell the word, spin the spinner!

I developed this game board initially to use as a way to practice sight words  but yesterday, the children used it to practice their spelling words.  First they broke into groups of two or three.  One student read the word to the other.

My Project 1-001
The word is "watch."

The partner spells the word.  If they spell it correctly, they get to spin the paperclip spinner and move that number of spaces.
spin the spinner
Use the paperclip spinner.
make a move
Move that number of spaces.

The kids absolutely loved playing this game, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well most of them spelled their spelling words!  Now, if I can just get them to apply that to their writing, but I do think the more we play games like this, the better it will become.

This game board is so versatile.  It is very open-ended and can be used any number of ways.  If you'd like to get this for your classroom, click the picture below to download it from the For Fans Only section of my Facebook page.

luck o the irish

Click here to visit my TPT store download this freebie. Please consider leaving feedback if your children enjoyed this resource and you found it to be useful. Thanks!

Let me end by saying I am not anti-technology.  I love using technology in the classroom, and increasingly, our children come to us already connected to the technology with iPads, tablets, eReaders, computers, laptops, smartphones, and laptops.   It is quickly becoming a part of our global community, and children need to know how to use these tools.  But let's not forget about the opposite end of the spectrum, and the important skills that are developed through this low-tech approach to teaching!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Miracle for Miracle

Hi everyone!  Please take the time to read this and donate if you would like to.

Mrs.  Smarty Pants is having a fundraiser over at her blog for a little girl in her school who went in for a routine physical and came out with leukemia.  The little girl's name is Miracle, and her family is struggling to make ends meet.

The staff at Samantha's school put their heads together to come up with ways to raise money, and Samantha called on some wonderful TPT blogging friends for a product donation.  She wound up with 31 awesome St. Patrick's Day and spring products (an approximately $110.00 value) that she is selling for a donation of $25.00

I'm going to send you over to her blog for the complete story, to see exactly what products you'll be getting when you donate,  and details on  how to donate and receive your package of products.  I hope you will consider donating!

Have a great evening and count your blessings when you tuck your healthy children into bed tonight.  I know I will be.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Free For Fans Only! (Come and Get It!)

After spending just a few hours (okay, ALL DAY) on this, I've finally got my new "For Fans Only" section working  on my Facebook page.  I've posted a great freebie for the next two hours, from 6:00 PM EST until 8:00 PM EST.  You can snag my newest resource, How To Writing for February and March - includes transitional phrases and graphic organizers.  There are a few pages that focus on President's Day, just in case you have school tomorrow!

febmar preview-001

Go to my  Facebook page by clicking on the cover of the resource below to grab this freebie.  You have to click on the "Free for Fans Only" tab.  From there, if you are already a fan, you can download the freebie.  If you are not a fan, you will have to like the page to get the freebie.

At 8:00, I will replace this freebie with an all the time freebie until I offer my next flash freebie.  If you miss out on the freebie, you can purchase this item from store by clicking the picture below!

Have a good evening!

Here a Freebie; There a Freebie; Everywhere a Freebie!

I was so busy yesterday that I didn't have time to let you know about all the great freebies that came through my inbox yesterday.  You may know about some of these already, but if you don't, be sure to check them out!

First up is Primary Paradise's Top Five Freebies of the week.  You can find them by clicking on the picture below.
My Primary Paradise

Martha has found some fabulous freebies to offer you this week!

Next up is Share the Wealth Saturday by Mr. Hughes.

John has over 30 freebies linked up to his site this week.

Pirate Girl Education Invasion has a really cute freebie featured for Valentine's Day.  I found it too late to use this year, but printed it out and put in my February box for next year!

And finally, while not technically a  freebie, Chalk One Up for the Teacher is having a 100 follower giveaway!  She has so many great resources to offer you. Be sure to head on over to Cyndie's blog and sign up for her giveaway!

So that's it for now!  Be sure to check out my Facebook page later today, where I will be having a special "followers only" freebie giveaway (if I can figure out the technology side of  it.  I think I'll be able to; I've got a YouTube video tutorial to follow, thanks to the generous Christi  Fultz from Mrs. Fultz's Corner)

Enjoy your Sunday!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Making the Resources Work for You

As a curriculum resource designer, I often have a set idea in my mind of how my resource should be used.  I create the resource from the perspective of how I would use it in class. This will be a center.  This is a whole group activity.

But I often wonder how often a teacher uses that resource exactly as I have envisioned it.  Based on my own experience with resources I've bought or downloaded free, I'd say not every time.

Many of you probably picked up this fabulous resource during the 14 Days of Love blog hop we recently hosted.

Danielle from Crayonbox Learning designed this as a learning center activity.  I really wanted to use it, but felt my first graders weren't quite ready to read the long vowel combinations independently, and I wanted to do a lesson about how different vowel combinations make long vowel sounds, so I decided to use it a whole group activity.

We sat on the floor in a circle, and I put the header cards out on the floor.  Each child received a word.  We went around the circle, and the child read their word, decided which long vowel it had, and put the word under the correct header.

sorting by long vowel sound

After we sorted out all the words, the kids wrote them on the recording sheet under the correct vowel.

long a highlighted

After they recorded the word, we got out a yellow marker, crayon, or highlighter, and I had them study the words in each column to figure out which vowels worked together to make the vowel sounds long.  We then highlighted those vowel combinations in each word.


Since we had been working with silent e, my kids easily recognized that vowel combination.  Some of the others were more challenging, but working together,  the children did identify and highlight all the different vowel combinations that made long vowel sounds on the paper.

highlighting vowel combos

This lesson wound up being a wonderful way to introduce these long vowel combinations to the children.  They were engaged the whole lesson, and they really liked Danielle's cute graphics and Cupig.  I know this is not quite how Danielle envisioned this resource being used, but I think it's wonderful that we have all these resources at our fingertips to use in the way that best suits the needs of our children at a particular moment in time.

I wonder how many of you have used any of my creations in a way not quite like I intended but still loved the outcome?  I'd love to hear about it if you have.
Have a good evening.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How do you spell...

How Do You Spell. . ._Page_1

How many times a day do you get that question?  I could have retired if I made $1.00 every time a child asked me that question.  I do have a seasonal word bank I put up each month, and I do have a word wall in the room that I refer the   children to, but the first stop is always me.  So I thought, okay, they want it in front of them for future reference.  So I made these little books that I include in my How-To writing resources (the February/March edition will be done within the week).  Now, when a child asks me, "How do you spell (insert word here)," I write it in his or her booklet and the word belongs to him or her forever!

I am offering it to you for free  as thank you for visiting my little blog.  Click on the picture below to get your free "How Do You  Spell. . . " resource.
How Do You Spell. . ._Page_3

And of course, don't forget to check out day 12 of the "For the Love of Teaching" blog hop!  Today Teresa at 2nd Grade Pig Pen has a Valentine Sentence Scramble for you to download.  I swear, with all these great freebies, Valentine's Day will be one big party of one fun activity after another!  Click the button below to visit Teresa and snag today's freebie.

You can find this freebie offered on Manic Mondays classroom freebies along with over 30 other great freebies.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

That's it for today folks!  Have a great evening.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Don't Miss Day 11!

Be sure to hop over to Teach With Laughter's blog to pick up the freebie for day 11, a wonderful Valentine ABC order activity for your kiddos to work on this week!

Just click on the day 11 button below to visit Laureen's blog and get your ABC order freebie now!

Have a great evening!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Footsteps to Jesus flash freebie - Come and Get It!

For the next two hours, until 12:17 AM EST on February 10, my newest product, Footsteps to Jesus, will be on a flash freebie.  I have been doing all three of these activities for 12 years with my first graders to help them understand Lent.  I think it's a great unit, and I hope you will like it, too!  Click on the picture below to get visit my store and download your freebie.  Have a great evening, everyone.


Trying to Keep Up

Some weeks I feel like I'm running as fast as I can just to keep up with everything (and not running quite fast enough).  Between school and home responsibilities, with parent-teacher evening conferences thrown in, I felt like I spent last week going in circles.  Without the help of my lists, I probably would not have survived.

When you have weeks like that, something has to give, and in my case, it was keeping up with my blog and everything that revolves around it, like the "For the Love of Teaching" blog hop.  I hope you were able to keep better than I was through the links that we continually added to my little blue frog face that you can find here.   All the freebies have been  fabulous, so just in case you weren't able to keep up, here are the links for the past three days and today.

And today, be sure to head over to Sugar and Spice where Christina has a Valentine's writing freebie for you!

In the mood for more freebies?  Check out Primary Paradise's blog, where she lists the Top Five Freebies of the week, where I am beyond honored to have my freebie offered as the numero uno! My Primary Paradise
freebie. Wow! Thank you, Martha!

I'm working on a few new products that should be up in the today and tomorrow.  I'm really excited about both of them, so be sure to check back tonight for a flash freebie on my Lent resource that I am thisclose to finishing!  Next up will be my How to Writing for First Grade February/March edition, where I introduce using transitional words and phrases and using graphic organizers to organize ideas.  You won't want to miss that!

Until next time, enjoy your day!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stepping Out of my First Grade Teacher Box

I was browsing my Facebook homepage when a friend of my son posted this link to

2011 Catholic Heart Work Camp - Dayton, Ohio (Video Highlights)

If you are involved in any way with Catholic youth, and you don't know about this program, you must find out about it.  It is a fantastic opportunity for our teens to unplug for a about 6 days, provide service to others, and connect with other teens from around the country.   My son has been involved for the past two years, and it has been wonderful to see his spiritual growth after each trip.  My son is 18 now, in  his senior year, and leaving for the Marines on June 17, so he won't have the opportunity to attend this year.  And it makes me sad.  I can only hope that the lessons he learned while at work camp will carry  him through the challenges he will face as a Marine.

The other thing I wanted to share with you is this.  National  Catholic Youth Conference 2013.  OH. MY. GOD.  And that is a prayer!  As a Catholic,  I have never experienced anything like this before or since.  I attended in 2011, and I still don't have the words to describe it.  The energy.  The emotion.  The joy.  The love.  The connection.  How could I have been a Catholic for 46 years and not known about this?  How could I have been a mother of a Catholic teen and not known about this?  Why isn't the Church shouting from every pulpit, "Get thee your youth to NCYC?"

You can watch the promo for NCYC 2013, but it won't do the experience of actually being there justice.

Here's a clip of one of the many amazing things tht happened at NCYC 2011.  Can you imagine it?  Can you envision 22,000 people joined together in song and prayer at this moment in time? I still get chills and am moved to tears when I think of it.

Here is the Facebook page for National Catholic Youth Conference if you'd like to find out more.

So again, if you are in any way involved in with Catholic teens and you don't know about these events, you owe it to the youth you work with to find out about them and do everything in your power to get your teens there.  It is well worth the effort.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 4 of the "For the Love of Teaching Blog Hop"!

Welcome, everyone, to day 4 of the For the Love of Teaching 14 Day  Freebie Blog Hop!  Special thanks to our friend, Mel (Graphics from the Pond) for designing our unique buttons for each day!
day 4

Aren't you loving all these freebies?  Samantha,  Cyndie, and Cynthia all had fantastic freebies to share with you.   I can't wait to work all these activities into my plans for this week!  My kiddos are going to love, Love, LOVE all of them!

I'm excited to share my free item with you today.  It's called "Love Me True," and the idea is to read an addition or subtraction problem and decide if it is true or false. If answered correctly, you get to move your marker the number of spaces written on the owl on the math fact card.   I played it with my math group on Friday, and they loved it!

Love Me True Math_PDF

The first time we played, we did it as a whole group with the girls against the boys and I was coach/judge/moderator so that I could make sure they understood how to play the game.

We gathered as a group with the board in the middle and the cards in one pile,  face down.
My Project 2-001

Pick a card and read the math problem.  Decide if it is true or false.  If it is false, tell why.

My Project 2-002

Use the number line to check and see if the person has given the correct answer.

My Project 2-003

If answered correctly, move your game piece the number of spaces on the owl on your card.  Follow any directions that are on the game board.

My Project 2-004

The game I played with my children is in black and white because I printed it out on the copier.  But the download is in full color as shown above!

The girls won the group game, and we ran out of time before we could partner up and play the game, so we are going to do that today.

I hope you enjoy this freebie, and please do come back and let me know how it worked out in your classroom!   Click on the picture below to download "Love Me True" from my TPT store.

Love Me True - A Common Core Correlated Subtraction Game_Page_01

You can also find this freebie featured on Manic Mondays Freebies.  Click the button below to see all the great freebies offered there!
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Next stop is Mrs. Fultz's Corner, where my friend, Christi,  will have another fun freebie for you tomorrow.  So be sure to come back tomorrow to click through and  hop on over to Christi's blog.

Ms. Fultz's corner

Enjoy your day!

If you missed any days so far, click on the little blue frog face below.  As more days are added, you'll be able to see them here.

A Snowman freebie!

Here's a fun and engaging lesson in analyzing, comparing, and contrasting literature.
frosty comparison-005

First, you pick two similar winter-themed stories.  I used Frosty the Snowman the book and Frosty the Snowman the movie.  In the past I have also used The Snowman and Frosty the Snowman.  Read the books and/or watch the movie.  You can use this great new product from my store to retell the stories and write about the sequence of the stories to deepen children's comprehension.


After completing both books, review with the children the purpose of a Venn diagram.  Show them the snowman body turned sideways and talk about how you would use the Venn diagram to compare the two stories.  Then turn it right side up and ask them what it reminds them of.  Somebody (hopefully) will say a snowman body.

frosty comparison-003

Either you can prewrite  the names of the things you're comparing on the blanks before you copy them,  or the children can write them.  Then they illustrate and/or write about about something that happened in only the first story in the top part, only the second story in the bottom part, and something that happened in both stories in the middle.  Add the head (included in the packet), and let the children use crayons, markers, and construction paper to personalize their snowmen.  You now have an awesome wall display that highlights your children's amazing ability to analyze and compare two pieces of literature!  Here's some finished samples from my class that we did this year.

frosty sample 2

Teaching at a Catholic School, I did not have white construction paper, so we used manila colored paper.  They still came out very cute, and most kiddos did a fantastic job.  A few needed a little extra help from me to figure out what was the same and different, but that's okay!

frosty sample

I did not use the pattern I'm supplying you because I did not have it yet!  I just put it together now for this post.  I will probably use it next year, but I do sort of like the uniqueness of each child's snowman when they cut the circles themselves.  If you do let them cut the circles themselves, be prepared to draw the center overlapping part for some of your kids.  That was tough for several of mine.   I drew that section on both of these samples for the kids working on them.

teacher sample of frosty

Here's a finished sample I showed the kiddos as I explained the project.  In this sample, I compared Frosty the Snowman to The Snowman.

Frosty (the book) versus Frost (the movie)
Frosty (the book) versus Frosty (the movie)

And here's my finished wall display.  We have conferences on Wednesday, so I will leave these up for parents to look at.

If you'd like to try this in your class, click on the picture below to download the parts.  Do you have any other suggestions of winter stories you could use this for?  I think it would work well for any winter story because a snowman is the quintessential winter symbol.  Maybe two of Jan Brett's books, since many of her books have winter themes.

frosty comparison-001

Have a great Sunday, everyone, and go -- err, being black and gold Steelers  fan, I'm hoping for a Super Bowl tie.

YIKES!  How could I have forgotten to send you over to 2nd Grade Pad for day 3 of our "For the Love of Teaching Blog Hop"?  There's just so much going on today!  Head over to Cynthia's blog to get her compound word freebie activity.  You won't be sorry you did!

Click on the link below to head over Classroom Freebies for even more great freebies!
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
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