Monday, February 17, 2014

St. Patrick Day Activities

My ESOL team and I have been actively ACCESS testing our kids for weeks. On top of that, we've had holidays and snow days. Since we're wrapping things off, it will soon be time to plan the next units, plan for centers, and plan of CRCT review. Ah! Testing season is approaching.  

With Valentine's Day behind us, it's time to pull out some green ideas. Green for St. Patty's Day!

Leprechaun's Visit
I'm not wild about the mischievous leprechaun that turns the classroom upside down. My A-type personality making an appearance, as you can see. I do like to tell the students that the leprechaun turned everything green (i.e., bulletin boards, decor, all the markers, all the crayons, all the construction paper, etc.) while we were out for the weekend and leaves a glitter trail behind. I choose amongst the St. Patrick's Day books I already have displayed in the classroom, and as we're discussing the book (or insert appropriate standard here), I pretend I've heard something. "You guys, I'm not sure what I just heard. (Whispering) Do you think the leprechaun is still here?" "Why do you think he'd still be here?" "If you guys can do so very quietly, we can all look around the classroom to see if you see him or any clues."  My classes are very small, so this is manageable. Hopefully, as they look around, someone finds THIS... his hat!

Now, I can't say whether the kids are just going along with it, or if I'm so skilled an actress that they fall for my little tale, but the kids lose their minds over this hat. I have to say it's cute. Easy to make, too! All you need is an old Keurig cup and some glitter and embellishments. I found the idea a few years ago while studnet teaching. CLICK HERE for the tutorial. I allow them to gently pass it around, and we figure out what to do next. Ah! The discussions I've heard. I love them! At the end of class, I tell the students that I'm putting the hat in a very safe place before deciding what to do.

The next day, the leprechaun has written our class a letter, begging the students to let him have his hat back. I've changed the letter over the years, but he mentions how cold his head is, he promises gold, he begs to not be trapped, he promises green skittles, he thanks them for being kind and understanding. I know I have this whole process wrong, and we're supposed to trap him and yadda yadda, but I'd rather use this as a moment to teach the kiddos compassion, and hey, this way, we can do some letter-writing. With my ESOL kids, we usually write a class letter through guided writing. This gives them brainstorming ideas and scaffolds them for writing at the end of the week. 

We usually end our week with "If I were a leprechaun for a day" writing activity. We discuss point of view, and use all of our leprechaun knowledge from the week filled with leprechaun activities that ends with St. Patrick's Day treats, of course! Perhaps, we sprinkle some fake gold in there... all courtesy of the very appreciative leprechaun. 

The writing paper and various activities are included in this packet. However, I've seen a hand full of precious construction paper crafts for similar activities on Pinterest. This packet includes writing papers for all elementary levels (line spacing), boy and girl templates, color and blackline, a book report sheet, and a crossword. There is a version of the crossword puzzle with some letters filled in and the completed key. 

Hope this gives you some creative ideas for St. Patrick's Day. It's a little bit different, I know. Hope you can appreciate the different perspective. Best of luck to ya!

"Sunday" Reflections - Gratitude

Yes, today is actually Monday, but our district is off for President's Day. I have had a very restful, yet productive L-O-N-G weekend due to snow and ice days that slammed Atlanta metro during the course of last week. My husband is back to his regular schedule, the house is silent with just the dog and me, and I'm content. For a moment, I bask in this feeling. I don't feel like I'm thrashing around in the water, gasping for air.

When the dust settles, this is when I begin to remember my journey and all of those that helped me get here. I had great professors at Mercer University, and I miss interacting with them. I loved being a college student! My family knows this, oh, too well. My soul is happy when the people around me impart knowledge and share ideas. Today, this goes to them, but also to my teacher friends. Thanks for the learning opportunities. Thanks for allowing me the chance to be a sponge.  Have a great week this week!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

They're Here! Brainy Bottles Class Sets

Insomnia makes me super productive. I was able to put together the Brainy Bottle classroom sets and divide them by grade levels for you! All sets are available on TPT. The classroom sets include:
  • Kindergarten - 1st (5 sets): Plural words, rhyming words, and syllable counts
  • 2nd - 3rd (6 sets): Rhyming words, plural words, homophones, synonyms, and antonyms
  • 4th - 5th (5 sets): Homophones, synonyms, and antonyms

Please visit my previous post for more details, including the bottles I love to use by a drink company called NEURO. There, you will also find a link to the dyed rice recipe I use. I've included two grade levels per set with differentiation in mind, and I hope you find that useful. Glad I could bring this to you so soon. Now, the question is.... sleep or Netflix? 

Friday, February 14, 2014

What's Developing: Brainy Bottles (A Hunt for Words)

Today, I want to share one of my favorite DIY classroom tools. I made these last year after seeing bottles in my mentor's classroom. As soon as I saw them, my urge to craft and create was awakened. I could think of tons of categories to make for the bottles, especially since I taught so many grades. This is exactly what I'm sharing with you today. You will also get a glimpse into my hoarding tendencies and love for the Neuro line of drinks. I digress.

I call these Brainy Bottles, and my classes have used them to find words and strengthen their language arts skills while experiencing a touch of kinesthetic learning. These are wonderful for centers and for partner work. The possibilities are truly endless, but I've created bottle sets for antonyms, synonyms, verb usage, homophones, rhyming, and plural words. For extension exercises, I have the students write sentences using (blank number of) words from the bottle or write new word pairs.

I get tons of inquiries on these perfectly eye-catching bottles when we've packed them up for conferences. I don't remember which came first - the love of the drinks that came in the bottles or the bottles themselves. They have certainly served a purpose for Brainy Bottles. NEURO DRINKS is the line of drink, and hopefully you can find them at your local convenient or grocery store. Any bottle will do, though, but I couldn't resist the colors of these.

Here is the link I used for coloring the rice. HOW TO DYE RICE. I prefer the neon food coloring colors over the primary colors, and for these bottles, they were a perfect match!

I'm putting up this freebie today for synonyms. I will put up complete sets soon. Keep your eyes peeled as I hope to run a contest so that one of my followers can win a full set, already-made! I love the drinks so much, that I have bottles waiting to be won!! Seriously, you have no idea how happy my husband would be if I got rid of a couple sets.

Happy crafting, and I hope you find uses for these bottles for years to come. You only have to make them once! I can't wait to hear how you do.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What's Developing - Academic Pom Poms

I love coming up with ideas to make the room cute. It's a bonus when I can find an academic use for them, too! This year, I'm missing my half-time classroom from last year so much! I could hang stuff from the ceiling there, and it really made a huge difference. My school this year has motion-sensors, so anything hanging in the room could set them off. No fun!

One of my favorite functional decorating items were these pom poms that I hung over my different center tables. Depending on the unit or the time of year, I would change the vocabulary words that were attached to the poms poms. Instead of saying, "Group 1 will be at Table 1" or "Go to the Blue Center," I'd used current vocabulary. "This group will go to the Addition center, and this group will go to the Sum center."  This reinforced the use and the recognition of academic language.  Before sending my first graders to their centers, I might say, "Today, you're going to the Total center. What's another way to say total?" It was so efficient and took seconds to ask the question and get answers, and it was really fun at the same time. Students were very interested when the words were changed. 

As we got deep into the testing season, I switched it up a little more. I wanted to empower my students and plant a little seed to help them feel confident and smart. I changed the labels to Genius, Smarty Pants, Einstein, and Brilliance. It's the small things, but I could see them light up a bit when I told them they were in the Smarty Pants or Genius center that day! I love the little things! I really love classrooms that don't have motion-sensors. I'm still trying to come up with a creative way to designate my centers next year. I might have to build some desktop topiary!  =) If you can hang things in your classroom, consider these pom poms. They're eye-catching and can be a great way to expand your word wall and remind your students of the vocabulary at hand.

Be Inspired - Keepers of the Flame

I am a sucker for inspirational pieces written with teachers in mind. As a teacher myself, I love to view how others see us, but I share them because I don't think I reach greatness as a teacher without first surrounding myself with inspired teachers. So if this reaches whatever teacher community I'm a part of, including my co-workers, blog readers, random visitors... I'm happy to pass it on. I found this gem, and I'm so touched by it. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope that from time to time, we're all reminded of the power we hold. Remember how important you are to the students, remember how and why you were called into this profession. It's good practice for all of us.

Written by Paul A. Reynolds • Art by Peter H. Reynolds... beautiful!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Who Needs Some Motivation??

I do!!!

I have given myself a pep talk all day today. I will still be pep talking as I lay my head down and close my eyes. Last week was rough! Snow-in day was more mentally exhausting than physically exhausting. I think I, among many other teachers, worried about students as well as our loved ones, our colleagues, and all of our fellow Atlantans. Our metro area was a MESS as was my busted pipe. Today, in 60-something degree weather (ummm.... yeah), I really decided that last week is over. Time to move on. So here's to my efforts and energy to get past last week. Here's to yours, all you teachers, that will be waking up the same time as me tomorrow morning. We can do this!! Monday is yours. Take it and the rest of the week by the horns, and may the faces that greet you tomorrow fill your buckets.