Vocab Activities with a Freebie!

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.


Sneak Peak at September

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.  Regardless, I will 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

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!  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!

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. So, I love that a lot of these get students up and moving! 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.


This School Year Will Be the Best {freebie}
All About Me bunting {freebie}
Getting to Know You Four Corners
Be a Reading Expert
Back to School Scoot
Find a Friend (sorry, I don't have a specific link for this but you can find them on TPT)
Back to School Jeopardy

Get your own copy of these plans.

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

Hope you have a great first week!


Why I Am Not Dreading the End of Summer

I love summer as much as the next teacher.  This past school year felt like I was running a marathon (and I really don't like to run).  If you know me, you know it was my first year in my own classroom and I had a baby the first week of school.  I barely kept my head above water and I know most first year teachers also feel like this.

But, one very wise teacher I once worked with said, "June always comes."  And it did. 

June rolled around and I could breath and spend time with my baby (now 11 months old).  We could take leisurely walks to the park and around Target.  I couldn't sleep in per say but I did catch a few extra minutes of relaxation in the morning and even some afternoon naps. We had play dates. I caught up with friends.  I went to wineries on weeknights! It was glorious.

But, August always comes too. And I am choosing not to spend my last few weeks sulking.

I thought more than once about how lucky I am to have this time to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with my family and friends.  Spending precious days with my soon-to-be toddler is priceless.

But just as I cannot prevent him from growing older, I cannot summon an endless summer.  Thankfully, I have rested, vacationed and now with slightly sun-kissed skin, I feel ready to prepare for a new school year.  I even did some planning, too! At a leisurely pace, of course : )
June may have come but my teacher brain never shut off. (ha!)  I screenshoted (is that a word?) soooo many images from other amazing teachers on Instagram, I think they may outnumber my actual photos on my phone.  But I am so grateful because now when I step into my classroom next week, I have some direction about where I want to start.  I also have my entire first week of ideas planned out and a clear vision for the first month of school.  After a year of winging it minute by minute occasional last minute planning, I can't wait to have a grip on where to start and where we are going!

3 of my favorite summer screenshots

Learning in Wonderland shares more useful information than most of my college education classes! Seriously, one smart, talented teacher!

I love how Miss DeCarbo incorporates reading skills (inferencing seen here) into other subjects (like science!).  She used this activity as an activating strategy for a new unit!

Teacher Trap nails it with this anchor chart! This is one of the biggest issues in my classroom and  I am so thankful for this solution!

What's your favorite takeaway from this summer?

It's plain and simple.  I adore the ladies I work with.  My 2nd grade team is strong, supportive and full of laughs!! Our group text game is on point ; ) And although we did chat over the last few months and got together, I can't wait to see them and lunch with them for the next 180+ days!!

I wish I had a picture : (  #goalsforthisyear
With every new season, we can better appreciate the last.  This summer was filled with nurturing friendships, old and new.  I also had the opportunity to learn so much from the wonderful teachers at the TpT Orlando conference.  
Summer 2016 will definitely be remembered as a time of growth and change.
My favorite girls in Orlando: Becky (The Class Couple), Lauren (Teaching in Stripes), me, Caitlin (Cait's Cool Scool), Alleah (Alleah Maree).

Last, but not least, the feeling of a new start.  Not many people get to experience that with their careers every.single.year.  We, as teachers, have the amazing opportunity to let go of the past and focus on moving forward with new students, a newly decorated/organized/rearranged classroom, maybe some new curriculum but most importantly a fresh attitude and positive outlook.  I can't wait!!

What are you looking forward to this school year?!


4 Student Gifts that Won't Break the Bank

After 19 trips to Target, 11 to the Dollar Tree and 3 checkouts during the TpT sale, I am about to pull a Michael Scott and declare bankruptcy.

I was really thinking that any type of student gift for the first day of school was not happening. #lazybroketeacher But I still appreciate a pretty little gift with a punny tag.  So, instead of buying something extra or more candy or a piece of  junk that will end up in the trash, my advice to you is:

Disguise something you were going to give kids anyway and
slap a tag on it so it magically transforms into a present.

This may not be new news to you.  But they say no news is good news, right?  I have rounded up some of my favorite ways to turn regular ole school supplies into gifts with just a cute tag and ribbon you have laying around.  Or if you don't have ribbon, use washi tape.  Or just regular tape.  (Do these kids even notice how it's attached?!)

First up is an option for student crayon boxes. This tag was intended for use as a "New Year's" gift.  Which had me like "People are giving student gifts for New Year's?"

But it would work just the same for a new school year.  It is a sweet little poem from Happy Teacher Happy Kids.  It does require your students knowing how to read to get the full effect.  You could even use it as a formative assessment.  (ha!)
Or just read it to them.

She even printed these on labels so she could just peel and stick.  So smart.  Don't want to use all that ink? She has a printer-friendly option where students TRACE the words in the poem!
Get all the directions and the printables here.

Every student will obviously need a pencil. Unless you are going paperless.  (In that case, I don't really have a gift idea for you because I cannot even wrap my head around it.  I am seriously amazed by it but it is beyond my comprehension.)  Turn pencils into presents with this simple yet adorable gift tag (FREE!) by A Cupcake for the Teacher.

She even suggests using a dab of hot glue instead of ribbon or tape! Cheap and genius!! 

When I set out to look for some eraser gift tags, I thought of "We are going to make A LOT of mistakes this year." (HA!) But then I stumbled upon this amazing idea from Aesthetic Outburst.

No printable tag needed! But you will need an X-ACTO knife to cut a slice in each eraser.  I couldn't find her original blog post with directions but I am going to use some inferencing skills.

You will need: 
-graph paper cut with a 1.5 inch width
-Paper Mate Pink Pearl Erasers (12 for $5 --->here)
-X-ACTO knife 
-gold star stickers
-your class list (this may be the hardest to acquire ha!)

Write names on the graph paper and attach a gold star.  Cut 1.5ish slices into erasers.  Stick in graph paper name tags.  Voila! The stinkin' cutest name tags ever! 

Highlighters are one of my favorite school supplies.  Kids LOVE them and you can find quality, inexpensive ones from the Dollar Tree.  I purchased a whole bunch last summer for my demo lesson I taught to the principals, teachers and admin in my interview.  

I let my kids use them A LOT during guided reading and when they are completing a comprehension passage and whenever I need to up the engagement of a lesson I just yell "GET THE HIGHLIGHTERS!" and everyone is instantly more into whatever it is we are doing.

You can find this *Freebie* in both the option seen above and 
a more printer-friendly like one below in my store---->here.

Hope you found something useful! 
Or maybe you really don't have time for any of this with all the P.D. and classroom set up! 
Whatever the case, I am not judging ; )