Vocab Activities with a Freebie!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Last summer I took a grad class all about vocabulary and comprehension instructional strategies. I remember being thrilled to have so many new ideas and I could not wait to try them ALL out. Then the first week of school rolled around and next thing you know it was March and my students scores on our benchmark assessments were low in two areas. Which two? You guessed it, vocab and comprehension. I knew something had to change.  What about all my fabulous ideas? Well I don't know about you but the last thing I want to do in the middle of the school year is pull out a grad textbook to refresh my brain about those fantastic strategies I read all about last summer. 

So, instead I did some leg work and created these easy peasy lemon squeezy vocabulary activity cards to have at my fingertips during my daily guided and shared reading instruction.  And now I am here to share a couple of my favorites AND some freebies!

First up is Character match.  This is a slight twist on describing a character's thoughts, feelings and actions but with incorporating vocabulary.  Students take the list of vocab words from the story (after they have been introduced to the words and read the text) and organize them based on which part of the character they best fit. 

What I love about this activity (and others from this pack) is that it can be very subjective.  NO RIGHT ANSWERS!! Isn't that the best? It requires students to use their noggins to support their answers with text evidence!

You can pick up this recording sheet FREE.  Just DOWNLOAD the product preview here.

Next is a simple activity to motivate students to actually USE the words they have learned into their writing and academic language.
  Whenever a students uses one of those posted vocabulary words (there is an option for 6 or 8 words), the whole class yells says "Cha-ching!" and they get to sign the Million Dollar Word Wall. It can just be a piece of scrap paper hanging below the words or may you have them posted on the whiteboard so they can write with a dry erase marker which we all know is super special. (optional) 

This gives students an incentive to use the words and we know if they start using them they are more likely to incorporate into their mental vocab bank.  AND the rest of the class has to be on top of it by staying mindful of those 6-8 words!

If you are interested in picking up the pack, click here or on the picture below.
They will be $1 off for the next 24 hours only!

Sneak Peak at September

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lesson planning can feel daunting.  Where to start? The year? Month? Week? Day? Minute? I have found I like a combination of all of the above. I sat down this summer to think about the whole year.  But I got lost when it came to spring time.  Most days, I sit down in the morning and make a checklist for each chunk of time subject throughout my day.

We are required to plan for the week.  In addition, I have decided to map out my plan for the month so I can see where those weekly plans are headed. So here is my September Overview!

***If you click any of the following pictures it will take you to a downloadable file.  You must SAVE it to your computer and open and then the resources you see will be CLICKABLE (aka lead you to where you can download/purchase)***

Since we start back to school earlier than ever before, by the time September rolls around we will have been in school for two weeks, (we are currently OFF school today.  It is the THIRD day of school and yesterday we left after only an hour but that is a story for another post.)  I will still be going over routines and expectations ALL month long but we will start to dive into some REAL learning, too!

I really love how A Teeny Tiny Teacher launches all of her centers by doing them whole group first. "This makes sense.  I should have known to do this." I said to myself as I read her post last year. But, then again, I was on maternity leave for the first 6 weeks of school so that was a bit out of my control (ha!).  This year, I am doing it right. Slow and steady.  I will focus on reading to self, reading to someone, comprehension and word work centers. 

My school does not use Journeys but my old school did so I started making supplemental materials for all of the stories.  However, I have *almost* a class set of the first Henry and Mudge books.  I think it is a perfect book for the beginning of 2nd grade and hits on skills like bare bones sentences and beginning/middle/end. 

Yes, I realize August Rooted in Reading is in my September plans.  I love the August books for the beginning of the year and with just 8 school days in August I know I won't be able to start Rooted in Reading until September so I am bumping it back a month.

Finally, I will introduce close reading.  I plan to start this in temporary reading groups as we will still be DRA-ing and I won't form my actual reading groups until October.  I am in the process of updating ALL of my Holiday Close Reading Packets so that they include 3 differentiated passages!  Labor Day, Columbus DayVeterans Day and Election Day are COMPLETE!

I am going to start Writing Workshop for the first time this year! I took a reading/writing graduate course over the summer which was full of useful information about best practices for writing instruction.  I am still a little nervous but also excited.  Writing fell on the back burner last year due to an implementation of a new phonics program. Sad, I know.  But I hope to do it justice this year with the help of the top two resources. 

{{{Picture of Posters with Clips}}}

I printed and laminated the writing process posters and have them hanging in order.  Using clothespins with student numbers on them, they will move their clip based on which stage of writing they are on.  This will help me plan conferences and see who is ready to share!

The "Cooking Up Small Moments" is a FREEBIE by Sweet Integrations. It has great resources for scaffolding idea development to help students choose a topic. I plan to use it with each of our "formal" writing pieces and I hope we can get three completely done the first marking period. What is the first type of writing you do with your students?

Math is my favorite!!! It was where I felt most confident in my first year, too! I do a balance of whole group and small group teaching.  I am replacing my current calendar time with a digital version to free up some wall space.  I am excited about all of the options this PowerPoint Calendar Math offers!

I am obsessed with Angie Olson's Interactive Math Notebooks.  I bought the bundle in late fall last year so I didn't use the addition and I cannot wait to start off the year with it! When I saw her post a picture of her RAINBOW binders with all of her IMNB resources stored inside, I just HAD to do the same thing. #copier #sorrynotsorry

My plan is to start Science s l o w e r this year instead of not at all and then all at once (are you seeing a pattern here?) I have had this resource by Second Grade Stories for a few years and it looks amazing but I just never get around to using it.  I think it will make a HUGE difference with how my students view themselves during science.  Hopefully it will take their scientific thinking and writing to the next level!

Last but not least, Social Studies will be all about manners and character. Sarah Plum really has it all in her Clippin' for Character pack. And I love the idea of a positive clip chart however I think I am going to switch it up and have the students earn them as badges, almost like brag tags.  With an already existing clip chart, and a clip chart for writing I just can't keep up with all those clothespins! Ha!

I hope you found something useful! This is not in any way an all inclusive list of what I will use...and I won't use everything is all of these resources but it is a general overview of the direction we will go this September! What is you favorite upcoming resource?

My First Week Plans

Monday, August 15, 2016

Are you back to school yet? Teachers start tomorrow and our first day with students is Monday 8/22.

I am always back and forth about making visual plans for back to school.  There are SO many other things to do and it seems like a waste of time unnecessary.  However, I find them to be super helpful. I like putting all my activities together and being able to rearrange them as needed. 

So, here they are! Nothing really that new or groundbreaking.  I searched and searched and searched for the best activity or book to read first thing on the first day.  It seems First Day Jitters is the overall favorite and I really can't find anything else that is as fitting. 


 For the first week of school, our whole 2nd grade walks through lunchroom and recess procedures and then has recess together in the morning. We really don't have a morning recess in our schedule but we think we might just need one--at least while the weather is still nice!

AM Plans

Is there any other perfect day 1 read besides First Day Jitters? If so, let me know! Not that I don't enjoy reading it but I also love switching it up!

I realize "Intro to Math: What will we learn?" is pretty vague so here's a deeper overview about what we do:
  • First we chat about and make a list of what they learned in math in 1st grade
  • Then, they make predictions about what they will learn in 2nd grade math
  • I hand out their math work books and let them look through the pages and we go back to the prediction and see what we can add/change
  • There is always this "Math in the Real World" type drawing page in the front of the book so they do that and we share
  • If there is time (there usually is), we play Trash Can Math which you can read all about here
Wednesday and Thursday are spent discussing expectations and rules for math manipulatives.  I give them free time to explore about 6 different tools (dominoes, base 10 blocks, 2 sided counters, geoboards, unifix cubes and shapes). 

Then we come up with rules together.  I use this sorting page to drive it home and make sure they know what's up!
You can find this in my math tools pack here.

After our AM recess, it's all about more rules and expectations (so fun!) Well, I have tried to spice it up by breaking down each expectation and connecting it so it has more meaning and use kinesthetic activities like the (free!) roll and respond.  I find that students can better understand the "why" to our class rules if we dig a little deeper. I read a book almost everyday and we discuss the character's behavior.  I also use fictional short stories the first week and throughout the year when we need a reminder about behavior in our classroom and around the school.
I made sure that in each story the student is making both positive and negative choices. We talk about what they are doing well and what they could improve upon. There are also sheets for written reflection.


After a looooooong morning of more serious-type stuff, I tried to pick more interactive, game-like activities for the afternoon. Let's face it, by that time I am tired of talking and they are zoned out, too. I made the afternoon focus: getting to know each other.  It truly goes hand in hand to build a classroom community along with setting expectations. So we will be scooting and four-cornering and finding friends and all that jazz. 

You can download a copy here to explore.  Each picture is clickable and will take you to the resource/freebie/blog post. 

Make sure to DOWNLOAD and save to your computer before opening or else the links won't work.

For more first week activity ideas, follow my Pinterest board here.

Hope you have a great first week!

6 Anchor Charts for the Beginning of the Year

 Let me begin by saying I do not think anchor charts should be created without student involvement.  Period.  And beautiful anchor charts do not equate to a successful lesson/learning.  But, let's also face the fact that they can be visually appealing high effective resources. You may want to have a mental image of the direction of anchor chart design so that students are motivated to reference them.
(And so that you want to actually hang them up-- ha!)

So here are some of my favorites for the beginning of the year.

I was in search of the PERFECT, #1, most important, best ever anchor chart for the beginning of the year.  But I couldn't find just ONE that encompasses all of the crucial elements to those first few days.  Then, TADA, Kristin at School and the City blogged about her first week and shared this photo.http://schoolandthecityblog.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-first-week-of-second-grade.html

This, my friends, just makes my teacher heart happy.  She included her students in SO many ways.  You can tell their thoughts, ideas, opinions and feelings are the CENTER of each of these. 

First, she asked about how they felt on their first day of school and they graphed it.  They also voted on their favorite first day activity.  She had them share their ideas about what makes a good student and what makes a good teacher as a starting off point for discussing expectations. And finally, they developed a class constitution! LOVE IT! Simple but yet so powerful!

“If a child does not know how to read, we teach....
If a child does not know how to multiply, we teach. 
If a child does not know how to behave, we… Teach?...Punish?"
John Herne

Last year, I became frustrated with many of my students' behaviors.  Sometimes I even felt personally offended that they weren't listening to me! I placed too much of the responsibility to behave into their hands without teaching them how I was expecting them to behave.https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155866837076835683/
I think one of the first steps in helping students be successful with their behavior is to teach them that they are in control of their actions.  This Self-control anchor chart is simple but helpful in explaining how to apply self-control for students.
And I am going to pair it with this great bubble lesson to practice self-control.
{I had a hard time tracking down the source for this one, if you know,
please share so I can give credit!}

Do you GoNoodle? Setting expectations for behavior during this time is crucial! One of my pet peeves is students complaining the song was too short or whining about doing another one. Or picking the Whip Nay Nay every.single.day. 
{Super cute chart by Loopin Littles}
I had kiddos who didn't want to participate (gasp!) and I was fine with that but I also don't want them wrestling in the back of the room so I might add in what I expect if you aren't GoNoodling.

Cara Carroll is the QUEEN of gorgeous anchor charts.  {Okay, let's be real she is the Queen of many amazing teaching skills}  After taking a writing class this summer, I am SO excited to implement writing workshop this year so this anchor chart is a MUST!

If you are like me and NOT an amazing artist, The Pinspired Teacher shares all her secrets for creating AMAZING anchor charts with pre-made accessories.  SO definitely hope over there and take a look (but obviously not until you have finished this list!!!)
This chart is great because it breaks down those BIG words we are often using when talking reading comprehension.  You could even start with just one or two and add the others as your reading instruction deepens.

Finally, applying Growth Mindset in math is so important! I feel like a lot of students see math as black and white.  You are right or wrong.  And a lot of times, they think there is only one way to get to the solution.https://twitter.com/hashtag/GrowthMindset?src=hash

Obviously, these values are important in all subjects.  But, if we want our students to talk about math in a meaningful way and not just when they think they have the right answer, we need to be explicit in teaching how we can discuss mathematics as a process not just a product.

If you are looking for more anchor chart ideas, follow my Pinterest Board: Anchor Learning!

Happy Back to School!

Five for Friday

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hey hey hey!! It has been for.ev.er since I linked up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday and I am super excited because this week has been crazy exhausting and I need to unload! : ) Warning: Lots of classroom set up with a little bit of life mixed in!

Sunday was one of those blissful, impromptu, summer days.  It kind of felt like my last one so I was glad to live it up.  First, the hubs and I played some basketball at the local elementary school's playground.  We have been really inspired by the Olympics to be more active (ha!)

Then we went to our friend's parents house for swimming, sun, bbqing and drinks (Can you guess that beer sitting there?) : ) Our little guy had a blast with some other kiddos there.  The day ended perfectly with some ice cream.  We said to ourselves "Why don't we do this more often?"

On Monday, we could FINALLY get into our classrooms!
Thanks GOODNESS because this was part of my pile of stuff at home sitting in my living room.

{my view when I first walked in....and yes I brought my baby with me on the first day which equaled zero work getting done lol}

After a lot of walking around aimlessly, I started to get a direction of where I wanted to go.  This included lots of black, and bright, bold letters!

When you look at the picture below, try to ignore my hot mess of a classroom library and just focus on the beautiful bold letters on that wall : )

I was inspired by Teach Create Motivate's brilliance she posted on Instagram and the next day
I went in to my room and made it happen! Yep, still working on that library. 
And the bulletin board.  And  I am not even sure what to put on that whiteboard.  But the QUOTE, people, that's going to be a hit!

More bright, bold letters. This time, with stars. On my bulletin board in the hallway.
If you count the stars, you will get 21.  One for each of my stupendous new 2nd graders whom I will meet on August 22nd! Stahl Stars also happens to be my "class cash" if you will.  They collect them for positive behavior and can use for rewards.

I have to be honest, last year I would forget it was a kid's birthday more often than not.  Thank goodness I had special first thing in the morning because I would quickly throw together some semblance of a birthday treat.

But not this year.  No, this year I am PREPARED! I made these ADORABLE birthday cups for my students.  And despite the picture of 5, I actually made 24 and they are now sitting in the back of my car a shelf in one of my cabinets ready to go! Bring it, birthdays!

Under my most favorite spot in my classroom so far, I started a word wall.  But then I ran out of binder clips. Thank goodness this year we can actually order supplies!!! Does your school allot you money to spend? This is new to me because last year we were frozen due to our state's budget not passing forever.  I ordered those binder rings and they should be there waiting for me to finish this project next week!
Ew, that cord looks just awful.
I also moved my rules expectations from the back of my room to the front. I thought maybe they would be a little more "in your face" since this is my whole group learning area.  Maybe then students will follow them better? I don't know! Just an idea!

On Thursday, my baby boy had an appointment at CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia).  Long story short: He was born with a birth defect and had surgery to correct it back in January.  We just found out after a very unsatisfactory experience with our original surgeon, it was completely unsuccessful. So now we are going to the best of the best at CHOP.  He will undergo surgery again in a few months. : (

But while we were in Philadelphia, we went to Ikea so I could get a few things for my classroom.  Harrison was completely enthralled by the rainbow Abacus.  Isn't he sweet?

How was your week? Are you back to school? Setting up your classroom? Enjoying summer?

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