Sunday, December 20, 2015

Alternative Sub Plans

We all know that as a teacher, taking a day off is often harder than just going to work. BUT we all need a day off every once in a while either because we're deathly ill, need a "mental health" day, or just need a day to do what normal human beings do. Taking a day off just because is not something we are used to doing because sub plans can be a bit of a pain.

Well, last week I just had to take a day off. I needed to go to a few doctors appointments and I was willing to do anything to get in, so that meant writing sub plans. As I was typing up my plan I realized how long it was really going to take me to type every detail of how to do my reading group routines. So, I had the grand idea to just do what I was typing and record myself doing it. I maneuvered a device to hold up my Ipad, put what I needed up on my interactive board, and just went straight through the lesson. I even called on students during the video and gave them time to share their answers. My students LOVED it! So, next time you're writing sub plans and its taking FOREVER, don't! Record yourself teaching instead.

A word of advice, after recording myself, the video was about 15 minutes, which is way too large to e-mail. So I would recommend sending your sub the link to the video via Drop Box. This was the easiest way I could find to get it to her. Happy sub plan recording! :)


Sunday, December 13, 2015

TPT Reminiscing & GIVEAWAY

I remember the day I decided to start selling products on TPT. It was a Sunday, and I was visiting my family in Kentucky. I randomly remembered how much my firsties struggled with double-digit addition with regrouping and thought, "Why not create a bingo game to help my kiddos practice?" I started out in Word, and for those of you who sell on TPT, you know how AWFUL Word is to create in. I wrote out a bunch of double-digit addition equations on pieces of paper and put them in a hat. I drew out a card at a time and typed it on the bingo board. It took me hours, but I finally made 30 bingo cards. I remember being frustrated that Word wouldn't let me maneuver things how I wanted. I finally finished creating my first product after a good while. After this experience, I thought, "Why not create things for my classroom?" So, ever since that's what I've been doing.

I remember back when I had 12 followers on TPT. I thought it was pretty sweet that 12 people
thought I was worth following. Now that I'm at 100 followers, I feel like a rockstar. I know that's not near what the top sellers on TPT have, but you've got to start somewhere, right?? When I hit 100 followers this week, I may have jumped for joy and giggled like a school girl. So, to celebrate this victory of mine, I'd like to give back to you!

Enter below to win a $10 TPT gift card to help me celebrate this joyous occasion! The giveaway starts tomorrow and will end next Monday. Good luck, and thank you for your help and support on my journey! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Candy Cane Graphing

In my opinion, graphing can be a tad boring. So, when you tell your students you're graphing AND there's food involved, their ears are bound to perk right up!

For this lesson, I bought three different kinds of candy canes. You only need one box of each kind because you break the candy canes into smaller pieces. Each student gets a SMALL taste of every kind of candy cane. (There isn't a kid out there that needs to eat THREE ENTIRE candy canes, ESPECIALLY this time of year!) Another thing I'd suggest, is buying candy canes that look different. This makes it easier for the kiddos to remember which kind is which.

Once your students have sampled the three different types, they color a candy cane (shown in the picture above) to look like the candy cane they liked most out of the samples. The students then put their masterpieces under the correct category written on the board. I like to write the brand name to look like it does on the box, but that may be a little much.

Each year I try to predict which candy canes the students will like the best. I am usually dead wrong, and this time was no exception. This year, our winner was Sweetarts. Not my first choice when it comes to candy canes, but I'm also not six years old!

Once all the candy canes are placed on the board, pass out the paper that says, "Candy Cane Class Graph." This is where you graph the results of the data that was collected, and answer the questions pertaining to the graph.

The students will also get to do this with a small group, but when it comes to the questions they will probably need some assistance. 

This helps your students not only become pros at "gathering and interpreting data," but who doesn't love to devour an edible treat?

Want to try this with your class? Grab the FREEBIE from my TPT store by clicking here. Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Math on the Move

This week we worked on composing the numbers 6-9. Each day, I came up with a word problem to make the math applicable to my firsties. To give you a better idea of what I mean, here is one of the problems we did: Sam (changing the name for confidentiality of course) has nine dinosaurs. Some of his dinosaurs are Tyrannosaurus rex and some are Pterodactyls. How many could be Tyrannosaurus and how many could be Pterodactyls?  (I put my students' names in the problems because they LOVE it!) The boy I used for this problem LOVES dinosaurs, so you better believe the moment he heard his name, he was enthralled!

Before we started the lesson, I had set up white butcher paper on all four sides of the room. Then, after we read the problem, I divided my students up into four groups. I put one student from each group in charge. The person in charge helped guide the conversations and wrote what the group advised them to. Each group started by one piece of butcher paper. I gave the students about three minutes to talk about what they thought they should write or draw and why. When the three minutes were up, the leader was to write the group's ideas on the paper. Then the groups rotated to the next piece of butcher paper and repeated this process. Each time the students came to a new piece of paper, they would look at what was already written. This guided their conversation to what was missing and how they knew. The students rotated about ten times.

We then came together and discussed what was written and how the groups came to their answers. I loved how talkative my kiddos were and how students who rarely speak, were anxious to share their ideas. My students were all engaged and loved the changed pace of our math lesson. I love when my kids discover the answers for themselves! If you're wondering what I was doing during all this, no I wasn't sitting back sipping Diet DP, I was walking around observing and asking the students questions to guide their thinking.  When they teach each other and have valuable conversations, I feel that the concepts really stick! We call this a walk-a-bout and it could be done with any concepts. Get your kiddos moving by incorporating this idea.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

This teacher LOVES tieks!

At the beginning of every school year I start shopping for the most comfortable teacher shoes. This year, instead of going to every store I can think of, I took my question to my teacher friends on facebook. I had many responses, but I am picky about what my "comfortable" shoes look like. I was looking for something cute, comfy, and durable. So, after careful consideration and some research, I decided to try out tieks. Now you're probably thinking, "Are you crazy? That's a lot of money for shoes!" Well, you would be right, but finding shoes that are cute, comfortable, and come in every color imaginable sold me!

The first day I wore my tieks to school my feet didn't hurt and neither did my back. I have had back problems from fracturing my tail bone when I was younger, and my arches have fallen too. So I am VERY particular about my comfort level when it comes to shoes. I am also big on having flats that don't make my feet hurt or leave me with back spasms by the end of the day. This has been my experience with many brands in the past, so I was a bit skeptical.

I'm ecstatic to say these shoes are like walking on a cloud! Whatever technology went into making the tremendous turquoise bottoms and bendable leather structure, have sold me for life! Not to mention, they come in the prettiest turquoise box with a bag to carry your shoes.

When I get home from school the first thing I want to do is throw off my shoes, but I left them on the entire day. That is saying something about these beauties! I want to wear them every day and get them in every single color! (Don't tell my husband ;))

If you are in the market for some new "teacher" shoes, I would suggest taking the plunge, and splurging on a new pair of tieks! You won't be sorry! AND just so you know how much I love this company and their fabulous shoes, I'm giving away a $50 gift card! The giveaway starts tomorrow and ends the following Monday. Enter below for a chance to win! Happy feet make for a happy teacher!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Kinesthetic Spelling

Before I began teaching, I worked at a Title One School as the Title One Aide. Part of my responsibilities included helping a fabulous first grade teacher with an after school program. From her, I learned a way to get the kiddos up and moving while spelling their sight words. Before I describe to you what I'm talking about, I will tell you, this could really be used for any words. I use this for high frequency words, spelling words, sight words, or any word my students may be struggling to spell.

I start by drawing lines on the board, or bringing up digital lined paper. I write the word we are working on, on this. I say the word and we read the word together. Then, I spell the word modeling this "spelling with our bodies," as I like to call it. I show the students that if a letter touches the top line, like the letter h, then we jump up and pretend to shoot a basket while saying the letter. Then, I tell them that if a letter touches the middle line, like the letter i, we touch our waists as we say the letter. If a letter goes below the bottom line, like the letter y, then we touch our toes as we say the letter. Overall, this gets my students moving and learning! You can't beat that double whammy! Try it with your class and let me know how it goes! Have a fabulous three day weekend!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to School Bonanza

Today was my first day back to school! Let me just say, it's never a good sign when you're sweating profusely before school even starts. Our school does not have a.c. and it is a bit hot during the summer. I may have carried a paper towel in my pocket as to not drip on anyone. Too much information? But seriously, it was dang hot! It probably didn't help that I wore my hair down and a dress made of a thicker material, but you gotta look cute for first day pictures, right?

My kiddos are too cute and I didn't have a single kiddo cry or run away. Pretty sure it is my first year without either of those catastrophes happening. We started the day by going over routines, as I would imagine most teachers do. I showed my kiddos where their lockers are and what to do with all their school items. (How cool is it that first graders get lockers?) Lockers come in handy, especially during the winter months with coats, boots, and mass amounts of paraphernalia that kids bring to keep themselves warm!

My kiddos came in to find a coloring page on their desk, so I could take pictures with the kids and answer questions from parents.  Next, we learned how to move our lunch counts and what to do if we have something to say. Speaking of raising your hand, I have a little boy who raises his hand, jumps up, and shouts my name when he has something to say. I had to contain my laughter the twenty or so times he did this, but at least he raised his hand! Kids are a riot!

I took my firsties on a tour of the school and we found the restrooms, lunchroom, and other highly important places. I had one kiddo ask why girls couldn't go in the boys restroom, completely straight faced. I had to politely explain that we have separate restrooms because girls are girls and boys are boys. It seemed to make sense to this little cutie.

This year I decided to implement Ron Clark's 55 Essentials in my classroom. I created, "Mrs. Westwood's Essential 55" and put my own spin on a few things. If you haven't read this book, I would highly recommend you grab a copy ASAP! I am going through five a day, and I am already loving that my students respond with, "Yes Ma'am." Of course, we had to clarify that women are ma'am's and men are sir's. They found that quite comical.

We took brain breaks of course, with some videos from Go Noodle. There weren't any adults around so I danced it out with my firsties! They thought it was hilarious. I told them that I'm old and can do it, so there's no reason they can't! Usually my firsties tell me I'm not old, but not these kiddos. You could have heard crickets!Absolutely no response!

We also did a "Find a Friend Who" page. When I went over the page, and read through each box, I had my kiddos draw a picture to help them remember what the words said. I have quite a variety of reading levels, so I had all the students draw a picture to aid those who struggle. It worked super sweet!

We came back from lunch and I read my students The Name Jar. I love this book and how quickly my kiddos picked up on the idea that names are unique and special. They commented that we shouldn't make fun of others just because we are different. I love how intuitive kids can be!

We also got a little learning in, in math. I gave my kiddos a word problem that had to do with composing shapes. We learned the words compose and decompose, and I had my students write a three word definition for each. One of my sweet littles, told me that it was a LOT of writing. I told him that we do a TON of writing in first grade. Poor little guy is in for a rude awakening because tomorrow we are writing actual sentences!

I ended the day teaching my kiddos about the "secret piece of trash." If you don't know this trick, you've got to read on! Here's how it works: I pick out a single piece of trash on the floor and my kiddos pick up trash until I say stop. They aren't allowed to ask if one of their pieces is the secret piece, or who got it, until the bell rings. I watch as the students are picking up their pieces. When the bell rings, I announce who has captured the secret piece. This student gets a small treat. The custodians love me because of this.

When the bell rang, I gifted some sweet, adorable lollipops from LolliPics to my kiddos and they were off! Boy, oh boy am I wiped out! Today was an early out day, so I can just imagine what I'll feel like tomorrow at this time, but I love what I do! Happy Back to School!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Managing Manipulatives

As I was working in my classroom today, organizing my math manipulatives, I had an inspired thought pop in my head! Of course the next thought was, "I am so blogging this!" So, today I'd like to share with you how I handle manipulatives in my classroom. Now, you may be thinking that you hate using manipulatives because your kiddos get so distracted from the actual concept you're trying to teach. You can picture that student, you know the one I'm talking about, who uses unit cubes as a weapon or some other object that isn't acceptable at school. Well, this little tip will change all that.

I need to preface this tip by telling you that my students sit in table groups. Each week, I have a student who is the table captain. This student is in charge of getting manipulatives, coloring utensils, or anything their table needs. This eliminates the chaos of all the students being up at once.

When it's time for math, my table captains grab the math buckets for their table. In my math buckets are small containers with all the manipulatives that we could possibly need for math. (The picture above was taken before I bought mass amounts of containers at Dollar Tree.) The table captains only get out of their bin what is needed for the lesson. This student divides the manipulatives up among the members of their table.

Now this is the juicy part. I start out by explaining to my students what a tool versus a toy is. We talk about how tools are used to help us learn or for a specific purpose, while a toy is for playing and enjoyment. I tell the students that we will have a set time for them to use the manipulatives as toys, but as soon as my timer goes off, the manipulatives IMMEDIATELY become tools. I then set my timer for two minutes and the students play and build to their hearts content. I of course remind the students that we can only play with our manipulatives appropriately.

After the two minutes are up, I have the students stop and put their hands directly on their heads. We review that the manipulatives are now tools. I warn them that if anyone uses them as toys, they will become mine. Now this is the hard part too. You have to follow through with what you say, or using manipulatives in the future will always be a challenge. I always have one student at the beginning of the year who plays with the manipulatives and automatically loses them. The rest of the class usually is dead silent and stares at this student. They then realize that I am serious and I will keep my word. I usually don't have another student take this risk the rest of the year.

Now you may be thinking how mean and terrible I am because that is usually what is going through my own head. BUT....students have to learn that you mean what you say. It is imperative as a teacher to follow through with what you say. Don't get me on my soap box about this because this will become the longest post of my life!

When I do take the manipulatives away, I remind the students that I gave them time to play. I explain that it is now my time to teach and for them to learn. They usually nod their heads in agreement. Now, the next time we get out manipulatives, the kid that had his/her taken away last time will absolutely, positively not use them as toys during our tool time. This has been a life saver and eliminates any chance that my students are distracted during a lesson by something in front of them. Try it out and let me know what you think! Good luck! :)

Monday, July 13, 2015

TPT Vegas 2015

Exhausted and inspired are the only things I can muster up to describe how I am feeling right now. This past week I have gotten up earlier than I have the ENTIRE summer, but it was SO worth it! I am blessed to have been able to attend the TPT 2015 Conference in Vegas. I made MANY new friends, and have been taught by some master TPTers! Every night after the conference my brain was so fried, I struggled with deciding where to even go for dinner! My mind was blown by all the fabulous information, and also a tad overwhelmed with everything I wanted to do when I got home! I can't wait until next year's conference!

First off, I just need to tell you how amazing it is to be part of an organization where you have access to the Founder, CEO, and Director. Meeting these fantastic people was one of my favorite parts of the week. With what other group do you actually see the "big wigs" amongst the members? I can't think of one either. AND to know that TPT is worldwide? AMAZING! There were people at the conference from South Africa, Australia, and all over the United States! It seriously gave me goose bumps!

So on to my "Ah-ha's" from the week. As you've seen from other posts, I am often overwhelmed by all the things I have on my plate. This week I came to the realization that I need to be selective with what I am part of and what I spend my time on. When I told my husband this, he told me that he had been telling me that same thing, which he has, but me being me, I had to come to that idea on my own. I decided I need to make a list of all the things I'm a part of and decide what is MOST worth my time.

While in Vegas, I met a few of the teacher bloggers and TPT'ers who I really look up to. It was like meeting celebrities! I was a tad star struck to say the least. When talking with one of these ladies, she mentioned that she is just a real person. That was my biggest "Ah-ha" moment! These are real people who have worked their booties off to make it! The idea came to me that I am just a regular person too, who can work hard and do anything I set my mind to!

The last thing I wanted to share was another thing that may sound silly to you, but it hit me hard! Using, "I don't know how to do that," is not a good excuse! We have access to Google, YouTube, and so many resources to learn how to do new things. I have not done things on my blog or TPT store many times because I didn't know how. Well guess what? I can ALWAYS learn something new and be a life long learner! Not taking the time to learn how is lazy, and I just got off the bench and am ready to give it my all!

I am SO glad to sleep in my own bed again, but not gonna lie, I miss my TPT friends AND the gelato! :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tolman Teacher Cruise

Do you love the people you work with enough to go on vacation together? Well, I am lucky enough to answer yes to that question! The day after school got out, all the first and second grade teachers ventured to California to get on a cruise! We may have acted more like our students than our professional selves, but it was a blast!

The first day off the boat was my birthday, and it was one for the books! I got to go parasailing, paddle boating, dress up, take pictures, eat lobster, laugh until I cried, and my teacher friends surprised me with a chocolate cake. I was pretty spoiled to say the least! 

The second day off the boat was an interesting experience. I have never been to another country and we got off in Ensenada, Mexico. When we got off to explore this city I was a bit shocked. We saw so much poverty and hardship. It broke my heart, but made me grateful I live in the United States. In Ensenada we had the option of doing an exploration to "The Blow Hole," the flea market, and riding horses on the beach. As glamorous as all of that sounds, it was an...interesting day, for lack of better words. The ocean views were gorgeous, but I learned that I am a hard bargainer. One of the vendors asked me what my name was and where I was from because apparently I drove a hard bargain. Riding horses on the beach was the most bizarre part. We pulled up to a shack, which was heart breaking, and got on the horses, ready to ride. To give you an idea of the bizarre part, we were followed by a garbage truck, passed more shambles of homes, and random dogs and chickens. It wasn't necessarily what we had in mind, but when will we be able to say we rode horses on the beach again? 

The third day we spent on the boat laying around and reading. The night before we did karaoke and danced until way later than our usual bedtimes, so it was a nice change of pace to rest and relax. On a side note, I included a video of us singing because it is a riot, and no we were not intoxicated. 

Living in small quarters with five ladies may not sound like fun, but we managed quite well and had the time of our lives! I am sooo grateful to work somewhere where I have life long friends who I would vacation with anytime! Happy Summer!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Reading Races

Really quick side note: Follow me on <a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a> :).

I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have had this three day weekend. Not only did I finish a product that I have been meaning to finish for a while, I actually rested and relaxed. After reading that sentence, you may be thinking, "Working is not resting and relaxing!" Well, when you are used to go, go, go all the time, working on one thing over a three day weekend is SERIOUSLY resting and relaxing.

Getting to the end of the year I feel like my kiddos aren't too keen on doing a whole lot. So, I of course am working to turn anything and everything into a game. You know that look your class gets as soon as you say the word game? You know the one. Well, I am excited to introduce my sweet kiddos to these game boards. They tested out the first game board in the set, and I made a few modifications as per their suggestions. I love how brutally honest they are with me. Except of course on the days when they tell me I don't look so good. That is a bit too honest. :)

So to tell you more about this game of mine. The object of the game is to have the students read Zeno Sight Words while completing a variety of tasks. Some of them include spelling the words with their bodies, solving math equations with the words included in the problem, talking to a friend until they use the word, etc. There are also spaces on the board where the car you're driving has a mishap and you have to go back. My kiddos ate it right up. They were laughing and giggling the entire game. So, if you're looking for a way to review sight words and keep your kiddos entertained during these last few days, weeks, whatever you have left, check out Reading Races! (Click on the pic below to check it out in my TPT store!) Have a great week!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Busy as a Bee

This week we learned about similes, hence my creative title. Every year we talk about similes, I read my kiddos the book, Crazy Like a Fox by Loreen Leedy. They love all the similes and trying to guess what words are going to be on the next page to complete the simile. Although I am starting this post about similes I am more posting to recap my week.

I started the week feeling like it would never end. I haven't been feeling well and have been to the doctor twice this week. No, I do not love been poked and prodded. If you do, as my first graders would say, you are "cray, cray!" I have had serious stomach pain and a sinus infection that I just can't seem to kick. I have been using my Neti pot, taking Airborne, going to bed early, and attempting to relax. I have been using more tissues than my students, and that's saying something! I know it is the end of the year and I am VERY worn down, but not being able to do everything I want to is killing me.

We took our end of level assessments this week and I usually have a treat with a little saying for each day. Did I accomplish any of that, absolutely not due to my lack of  health. Sometimes as teachers I think we feel like we have to do it all! We have to be the best and have something to post on Instagram or Pinterest to keep up with those teachers who seem to ALWAYS have their stuff together. Well here I am to tell you we don't have to do it all. I never thought I would be the one saying that but its true. We are human, despite what some may think, and we have to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. I always think of what the flight attendants say on airplanes. First, we have to put on our own oxygen mask before we can help others do the same. I feel like I forget this about 90% of the time.

My husband likes to remind me that I have to take care of myself, but I don't always listen. I tutor everyday, mystery shop, work on my Teacher Pay Teachers Products, oh and teach. You may thinking why are you doing all that? Well, I like to stay busy and I like to always be going. As you can imagine this is why I am stressed and sick and can't get better. I have had to realize this week that it is okay to cancel tutoring sessions and to not work 24/7. I also had to find the good in the chaos.

One of my moms from last year noticed my audible sigh as I walked down the hall one morning. She came in with my beverage of choice, Diet Dp. She said she thought I could use it. Seriously, MADE MY DAY! Another sweet thing happened when a student brought in a portrait she has drawn and framed. She drew me and was smiling from ear to ear as she carried it to me. I also cannot end without mentioning the countless little hugs and hopes that I feel better from my cute students. AND my teammates are amazing. All the first and second grade teachers took a few of each of my students so I could venture to the doctor. These ladies are my angels! They never cease to amaze me with how they are always willing to drop their plans and help others! So, despite feeling pretty crappy and dwelling on the negative, life is pretty dang good.

I love my little firsties and how worried they are about me. They are starting to realize that we have a limited time together. They asked if I could go to second grade with them, but I am sure this is not an option. There are eight days left of school and I am hoping this three day weekend gives me the boost and rest I need to persevere! Enjoy your three day weekend and remember (I am saying this mostly to myself) take it easy and remember, we don't have to do it all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

To be, or not to be sick, that is the question!

So I'm sitting here from my bed wanting to be out running or doing something marvelous in this gorgeous weather, but I am confined to the space that is my bedroom. I have felt queasy for days, and no I'm not pregnant, so don't even ask. My husband tells me this is my body's way of telling me I need to slow down. He says, "Go lay down and just watch your show (meaning Pretty Little Liars)." He sure knows me well!

Usually when we have this conversation I tell him that I don't have time to be sick and we go back and forth with similar comments. I usually listen after a while, but currently I'm only half listening. I am technically in bed and "resting." AND of course I'm watching "my show." BUT I just can't bring myself to slow down! There's too much to do and never enough time!

I love to always be going and doing, but my body always has those times when it forces me to stop and take care of myself. I just don't wanna slow down and only watch shows. I want to be watching a show while cooking dinner and working on a new product and grading papers. This is my normal and I like it that way, but yes I am mortal and have to learn to SLOW DOWN! So, contrary to my normal, I am taking my husband's advice and taking it easy.

As you know, it is SO much easier to go to school than write sub plans and prepare for a sub. Knowing that, you can guess that I went to school today. So, because my of my tummy ache I put some mint sprigs in my water this morning, hoping to settle the uneasiness. One of my firsties walks up and says, "Um, Mrs. Westwood did you know there's leaves in your water??!!" The look of worry on his cute little face was hilarious. I told him that I indeed knew there were leaves in my water and he proceeded to ask why I would put leaves in my water. I informed him that it was mint and it gave my water a nice flavor. He still was baffled by the fact that there were LEAVES in my water! Sometimes the no filter thing is pretty much a riot!

Speaking of kiddos saying hilarious things, while we took a brain break today using a Go Noodle video, one of my kiddos shouted, as he's dancing, "These hips are like spaceships, they're about to take somebody out." I about lost it! The things they come up with are out of this world!

It being a gorgeous day outside, we tried out one of my new products outdoors this afternoon. I love when I hear my kids says, "I love it when she makes us games." They are too cute with how much they go goo, goo for my creations.

We have been working on double-digit addition without regrouping and it has been a challenge to say the least. So, I created a SUPER tic-tac-toe game to help my kiddos get some extra practice. Check it out in my TPT store. It's called "Seeing Double." The name's inspired by the way my kids look at the double-digit equations. They seemed to get it more with the game, so hopefully that was an inspired idea! Anything we can take outside I am all for! Being outdoors helped get my mind off the fact that my stomach was doing flips.

I'm hoping my "taking it easy" will pay off tomorrow! I just have to remember, today is hump day and one more day closer to SUMMER!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sight Word Freeze Tag

Looking out the window today at the gorgeous weather, I just couldn't take it anymore! Sometimes I think I'm worse than the kids with how much I want to be outside instead of in my musty, old classroom! After gazing out the window for a split second I thought, "Hey, I AM the boss, so why not take this outside!"

It didn't take much convincing to get my kiddos to go outside and break out of our normal end of the day routine. So, I broke out my handy, dandy, laminated sight word cards and explained to my students how Sight Word Freeze Tag works. They could hardly contain their excitement as we ventured down the hall to the playground. 

If you've never had the joyous experience of playing "Sight Word Freeze Tag," here's how it works: Gather cards with the words you want your students to practice. I use use the Zeno Sight Word cards from The Teacher Wife's "POW!" game. Choose two to three students who will be it. (Depending on the size of your class, of course.) I have twenty-five rambunctious firsties, so I usually choose three taggers. Once we are outside, I give the students who aren't it a chance to run. This usually lasts about ten seconds or so. Then, my taggers are free to tag to their hearts content. 

When a student is tagged, they raise their hand and stay frozen until I get around to them. I run around to the students and have them read a sight word or two. If they read the words correctly, they are unfrozen and can continue playing. I usually take this time to do a super quick reteach for those students who aren't reading the words correctly. 

During the game I change up who the taggers are about every five minutes. This eliminates the drama of everyone wanting to be it. My kiddos love this game, and I get in quite the workout in the meantime. 

So, take advantage of the gorgeous weather and take your class outside! I have also played this game with math facts or just about anything I want my students to have more practice with. Tomorrow is FRIDAY, so break the norm and try some Sight Word Freeze Tag!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I wish my teacher knew....

I was inspired this week by a teacher in Denver who gave her students the writing assignment entitled, "I wish my teacher knew..." She encouraged other teachers to do the same after posting some of the notes she got back.

So, this morning I set out 3x5 cards and wrote a message on the board explaining to my students what I wanted them to do. I orally gave them some examples including things that take place at home or things that go on at school. Many of them wanted to write on more than one notecard, and I am pretty sure a few of them did five or six. They were so eager to tell me things I did not know about them and their lives. I told the students that this could be anonymous and that got them even more excited.

The students put the notes in a pile near my desk and were adamant that I read them A.S.A.P. I told them I would be reading through them later. (That answers seemed to suffice for the time being, thankfully!) Many students told me about sports or activities they are involved in outside of school. Some of them told me that I am a great teacher and I make school enjoyable. Other students told me they don't do their homework because they have so many chores to do.

I cried and laughed as I thumbed through their sweet notes. I think sometimes I forget that they are six and seven years old. I forget they have rough, crazy, busy lives outside of my classroom.

I sure do love my cute kiddos and they are a huge part of my world. I haven't had the opportunity to have kids myself and having these sweet beings in my life is priceless. As much as they drive me crazy sometimes, I sure do love how much they care about me. I breaks my heart thinking of the kids who have such hard lives. I have to remember that I need to make school a safe haven for them and influence their lives for good.

I took pictures of some of the notes that touched or tore out my heart. I hope they touch and inspire you! (For some reason my e-mail isn't getting the pictures I sent, so I will update them A.S.A.P.)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sight Words Heads up, Seven up

When I was in elementary school, I remember loving when we had a substitute for the sole reason that we got to play Heads up, Seven up.  I still love this game but, me being me, I have an internal battle over taking any time to play games that aren't educational. So, on Pinterest, (How did we teach before Pinterest???) I found a pin about someone who played Heads Up, Seven Up with sight words. This of course appealed to me because I try to have a purpose for everything we do. So, we had about five minutes to spare one day and I decided,  "Why not try it out?"

I chose seven students to come to the front of the classroom. I gave each student a card with a sight word on it. (The cards I use are from The Teacher Wife.  She has a fabulous download on TPT for the Zeno Sight Word Cards.) This card is the students' name as long as they are "it." The rest of the students put their heads down and their thumbs up.  The students who are the seven choosers walk around and each touch the thumb of one person.  If your thumb is touched you tuck it into your hand so you aren't chosen multiple times. Then, the choosers quickly tip toe back to the front of the room.  When all the students are back to the front, I say, "Heads up, Seven up!"

The students whose thumbs were touched stand up.  They take turns saying who they think touched their thumb.  (Now this is the educational part!) Instead of saying the student's name who they think touched their thumb, the student says the sight word that kiddo is holding.  If that student guesses correctly, the student in the front sits down, handing me their card.  The student who guessed correctly gets a new sight word card and joins the other students at the front of the classroom. If a student guesses incorrectly, he or she sits down and the rest of the students continue with their guesses.

When all the students standing have made a guess, the students put their heads down and the game continues as described above.  We usually get through a few rounds in a five minute period.

My kiddos beg to play this game and think it's hilarious that each student has a "new name" that's a sight word.  It really is a fabulous, different way to help my kiddos practice reading sight words.

Try it out, and let me know what you think!

Happy early birthday to the irreplaceable Dr. Seuss.  I can't wait to celebrate his birthday on Monday! Have a wonderful, relaxing weekend!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

100th Day of School!

When my kiddos got to school on Thursday they were in for a huge surprise!  They knew the hundredth day was coming because we had been counting up to it using our hundreds chart.  They had no idea what we were doing and were shocked when they saw a huge banner decorating our doorway. They came in to find our center baskets all over the room and another poster on the board. They were a bit rambunctious, to say the least.

I passed out a bingo card that had all the activities they could do throughout the day.  There were 16 different language arts & math activities. I let my students pick where they wanted to start. (I LOVE doing bingo cards for days like this because my students can all work at their own pace. Differentiation at its best!) The rules for the day were only four people at a station.  Of course then I got the questions like, "Well what if there's five?"  You've got to love kids that ask those questions. :) I usually have another student tell them the answer. 

Throughout the day my students enjoyed making hats with 100 stickers, predicting if 100 licks would get them to the center of a Tootsie Pop, writing about their life as a 100 year old, going on a word hunt to find 100+7 words they knew, and a ton more!  Their favorite activity was taking pictures with my photo booth props and hundredth day signs. Looking through my IPAD, I had to laugh because their goofy personalities came out perfectly in their pictures. They had a blast and I didn't even have one behavior problem!  

One of my kids told me that it had always been her dream to do centers all day long, and apparently this was the best day ever, so I was told.    By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but seeing my students so engaged..PRICELESS!  A few of them even told me, "Thank you for the great day."  I was BLOWN away!  

This has nothing to do with the 100th day, but I have to tell you the most hilarious moment of my week. Two of my students were taking out the recycling, and one of them dropped my bin in the actual recycling bin.  When they came in and told me, I jokingly told them they should figure out how to get it.  One piped right up and said, with a huge smile on his face, "Okay!"  I told him I was kidding, but he told me that he seriously could get it out.  I went with him after school to the bin, and he hopped right in, telling me that he was trained for this.  I asked where he got his training, and he said he does it all the time at his dad's work.  He successfully got it out and got himself out without any help from me.  My kids crack me up!

Now that the hundredth day is over, on to planning for Dr. Seuss Day! Have a fabulous week! If you live out west, enjoy this outrageously, amazing weather! 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Parent-Teacher Conferences

I feel like I haven't blogged in AGES!  This has been one long week, and it isn't even over! As we all know, parent-teacher conference week is insane.  Over the past four days I have worked over forty hours.  I am a tad exhausted, to say the least.  Even though I feel like a zombie, I LOVE seeing the progress my kiddos have made. AND....I love when they see their own progress. Their little faces light right up.

I prepared for almost a week getting graphs completed, writing notes about my kiddos strengths, writing goals for each kid, and thinking through everything I was going to say.  This is keeping it simple for me, but according to my colleagues, this is anything but simple.  I had no idea that I was going over the top because I only have me to compare myself to.

I also love to send home a game that I've made at conferences because I know my kiddos will listen up as soon as I say that magic word. This time, I sent home a vocabulary game that I recently made. Check it out in my TPT store.  Our vocab this year, as I have mentioned in a previous post, is anything but simple.  Any extra practice my students get with these words is fabulous.
As much work as conferences are, I love getting to talk to all my students' parents and get more insight into each of my sweet students. I also love hearing all the things my kiddos go home and tell their parents about me. It is quite entertaining!

Before I get back to watching my guilty pleasures, I MUST tell you the funny of the week.  One of my students earned lunch from me for good behavior.  He came to school a few days later and put some change on my desk.  He told me that this was for the lunch I bought him.  I told him that wasn't necessary and that he earned it.  I gave it back to him and he gave it right back to me.  This went on for quite some time until I finally gave up.  It was only forty cents, but he was so proud giving it to me to pay for the hamburger. (I told his mom and I think she gave me to okay to keep it.) He is such a cutie!  I just love my little, firsties!

Have a fabulous Friday!  Don't be jealous, but I get to leave early tomorrow!  Can't wait for a good, LONG nap!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Missing Addends & Monsters Bingo

This past week we worked on missing addends.  Many of my kiddos really struggled with this concept, so I came up with a game to give us some extra practice.  I made a bingo game where my students start by solving for the missing addends.  While my kiddos were solving the equations, it gave me the time to help out and reteach my struggling learners.  I LOVE any chance I get to work one on one with my kiddos.  I know for all of us finding the time for this is slim, so any chance I get, I take it!

After my sweet kiddos finished solving the equations I passed out a pack of SMARTIES!  I learned my first year teaching that having loads of SMARTIES is essential.  When I give my first graders a pack of SMARTIES you would have thought I gave them all a million bucks.  This is usually the time when I hear, "Mrs. Westwood you are the best teacher EVER!"  It is too cute that a pack of SMARTIES and the chance to play a game gets this response.

As you can see from the picture, this is a concept we are still going to need to work on. :)

So after my kiddos have opened their SMARTIES, without eating ANY of them of course, we can PLAY!

One thing I love to do when we play a game like this is stick the bingo cards in sheet protectors. The students solve for the missing addends using a dry erase marker.  After each round, I have the kiddos erase their board, pass it to another student, and solve the new equations.  This way, we are getting that much needed practice.

Check out my Missing Addends & Monsters Bingo here: