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Teaching Informative Writing

Ahh, informative writing! Writing is one of my favorite times of the school day and I absolutely love teaching informative writing. One reason it's one of my favorites is because first graders absolutely love to learn facts about real things. They also love to share what they learned too. I also find this writing easier to teach than narrative or opinion writing, but that might just be me. 

My firsties really love animals. They love to learn about animals, look at pictures about animals, etc. So, here's how I taught them informative writing this year: 

First, I exposed them to the many nonfiction texts in our classroom. They've had access to these texts all year long, but we have never really talked about them. They explored ocean books, bug books, dinosaur books, etc. They were filled with pure excitement and joy when looking through these books. 

We discussed nonfiction writing and how the author is an expert or becomes an expert on a particular topic... So much that they can write about it. Here's the anchor chart we created:

It cracks me up what some of my kids came up with. As you see, Blake is an expert on his brother whining a lot ;)

The next day, we discussed how we may all be experts on different things, but there's two things we are all experts on: our school and our classroom. My mini lessons for this unit focused on our school and when my mini lesson was over, my students wrote about their classroom. I taught them what Four Square notes are and we took notes on our school and then I sent them off to take notes on our classroom.

Did you notice this little sweetie wrote "and it's filled with love."?! All the heart eyes for this girl!

Then, we used our four square to create our graphic organizer and our stories!

After this week, we did a group informative writing piece on polar bears. I modeled and my firsties did all the pieces with me. Then, they wrote their stories on their own, using the graphic organizer. 

The following week, they got to choose from four different animals: sloth, great white shark, meerkat, and cheetah. They went through the whole process by themselves, with guidance from me. 

Here's a closer look at what's included in the informative writing unit! My first graders absolutely loved it! Click on any of the pictures to take you to the resource. 

How do you teach informative writing?

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Valentine's Day Favorites

Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday to celebrate with my first graders! Outside of school, it's meh. My husband and I usually do something small, but celebrating with kids is just so much fun!

Today, I'm going to show you the goodies I picked up from Oriental Trading. I picked up some treats to give them on Valentine's Day, like these personalized pencils. I can't wait for them to get these. I know they will totally eat them up. I can already hear it, "Mrs. G, this says your name!" Plus, I'm a sucker for anything personalized and fun. 

 I also got them these chocolate bar pencil sharpeners and chocolate bar notepads. I grabbed up the sharpeners because I don't sharpen "fancy" pencils in my nice, fancy sharpener because whenever I do that, that's when the sharpener begins to break! So, yellow pencils only in my nice, fancy, teacher sharpener! Also, I wanted to get them something this year that wasn't candy and I think these will still do the trick since they're sweet ;) My kids absolutely love to write and always seem to go crazy for notepads that are their own!

The sharpeners also have an eraser inside! So convenient, I love it!

I also have these stampers that we are going to use at our writing center. It would be really fun to use these as a math center with ten frames too. My kids love stamps so I know they will be excited to use these again and again again!

Grab the free Valentine's cards here! Or click on the picture below!

(Fonts are from A Perfect Blend)

What do you like to give your students for Valentine's Day?

*I was provided these products from Oriental Trading for review purposes, but all opinions expressed are mine.

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The Best Way To Start Guided Reading

I love teaching guided reading. I really do. 

I hate planning guided reading. I'm not super about it either. 

So, that's why I like starting guided reading the exact same way every time. Having the same thing planned every time means that the first 3-4 minutes of guided reading is boom.done.dontthinkaboutit.

Every time we begin guided reading... And it doesn't even matter which group I'm calling... We play "Pop The Balloon!". "Pop The Balloon" is a quick game in which each student in you group has a balloon card. He/she begins at the bottom and reads each sound or word correctly. If he/she makes a mistake or needs help, he/she has to go back to the bottom and start over. Whenever they reach the top, they pop the balloon! My kids like to clap and go "POP" at the same time when they reach the top. This "game" is a game for a child to do independently. It's not a game they play with the group, although the entire group is doing it. During this time, I listen to each child read his/her card around the table. Sometimes, I give them a new card. Sometimes, I don't.

Here's a video of one my firsties reading sounds to pop the balloon:


There are 8 packs total for this fun little game, which makes it easy for me to differentiate between groups. I know exactly which skill to pull for the group, depending on their needs. Plus, since this is something we do everyday, no need to explain rules or expectations. Win win!

You can find the "Pop The Balloon" cards by clicking any of the photos below!

I love starting guided reading this way! How do you start guided reading?

UPDATE: Since this post, I've created Pop The Balloon! cards for sight words and addition facts. You can find them by clicking the pictures below!

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Christmas Gift Tags

Hi everyone! I posted this picture on my Instagram account earlier this morning when I was wrapping books for my kids for their Christmas gifts. I got them Santa Duck from Scholastic for just $1 each. I love getting my kids books every year and Scholastic makes it possible by always offering books for $1. Anyway, since I got such a great response, I decided to add these on my blog for you for free! There's two options: "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays"! 

Click the picture below to grab them!

Click here to grab these editable tags for free! 

Merry Christmas!

Classroom Cornucopia

Do you celebrate Friendsgiving? This year I am having a virtual Thanksgiving Potluck with some of my teacher besties! We have so much to be thankful for, and we wanted share our blessing with you!
We created a FREE Classroom Cornucopia of our best selling resources! These are some of our favorite classroom creations that can be used throughout the year. Here's a taste of everything we shared in our Cornucopia...

Emily from Polka Dots Please shared a Tooth Word Bank that can be used for writing folders, anchor charts, or a creative writing center. There are pictures to match every word so little writers feel inspired and supported! (This is a BONUS word bank that is not included in the original set!)

Alisha from Missing Tooth Grins shared Winter Main Idea Passages. These main idea passages are designed for the winter months and help your students understand and practice telling the main idea and supporting details from a short passage. They are consistent, easy to use, and require no prep!

Jessica from Mrs. Stanford's Class shared Post It Note Reminders! These easy to use sticky note reminders are a great way to keep notes home consistent in your classroom. All you need to do is print the template, stick the post its, and print again. Have them stocked up in your drawer for your next writing checklist! Parents and students will love the consistency these checklists can bring to your classroom! Teachers will love the convenience! 

Katie from Simply Creative Teaching shared Place Value Exit Slips from her Math Exit Slips for every Common Core math standard! You can grab exit slips for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade! They are designed to be completed in 5 minutes or less and there are 4 to a page for quick and easy printing. 
Kelly from Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten shared Kindergarten Reading Comprehension Stories that are so much fun for emergent readers! Students read a text with CVC words and sight words while using the tracking dots to point to the words as they read. Students color a star or symbol at the top of the page each time they read. Four comprehension questions are included (multiple choice and fill in the blank). Additional practice is included on the bottom of the page with CVC words or seasonal vocabulary.

Diane from One Giggle At a Time shared her best selling Joke of the Day Set! It's her favorite part of every school day, and it has been rated by her firsties on the Top Ten List of Bests in her classroom for years! Every day of the school year, her class starts the day with a joke, a fact, and a question to ponder together. It is a great way to join together to share some giggles, some deep thinking, and a little each other. Joke of The Day set includes daily cards that can be printed out or a Smartboard version that can be displayed on the screen each morning as the students come in. 

Amber from A Smiling Teacher shared Editable Sight Word Lists! 
They make it easy for teachers to differentiate sight word and spelling practice while giving your students choice! The pack includes 15 word work activities that require little to no prep and can be used with any spelling or sight word list! Students loves the variety of choices and teachers love that students are working on words that are just right for them! EDITABLE word lists are included and make it easy to personalize learning! 

Elyse from A is for Apples shared differentiated reading logs! They are the perfect way to hold students and parents accountable for reading at home while also making it fun! Students color in a picture every time they read a book, and you can choose from over 20 recording pages to meet the needs of all your learners!

Gina from Teaching with Heart shared Work on Writing. You can easily create ENGAGING and MEANINGFUL writing center activities for your kindergarteners or first graders! The pack includes lots of activities so you and differentiate and scaffold to meet the needs of your students!

We are so thankful this year and happy to share our Classroom Cornucopia with you! You can download the whole 43 page pack here or click on the picture below! Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

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Oriental Trading Wishlist For Teachers

I am so excited that I have gotten the opportunity to partner up with Oriental Trading to show you some of their wonderfulness that I have found! 

I always put birthday gifts last as something I get ready for my kids for school. It's sad. It's pathetic. For some reason, it's always on the back burner and when an August birthday pops up the week after school starts, I'm scrounging around to find things. 

If you've been following my blog for awhile, then you know my classroom theme every year is a sweets/candy/cupcake theme. If you walk in my room, you'll see sweets and candy everywhere and I call my kids "the sweets". So, when I saw these rubber duckies, I went crazy for them! Seriously, how cute are they? And I know my kids will absolutely adore them. 

What I love also is there are many different themes of rubber duckies, so there might just be one that matches your theme too ;) There's superheroes, unicorns, actual happy birthday duckies, etc. Seriously, SO MANY.

If you decide that rubber duckies are the perfect birthday gift for your students, you can grab these free printable tags here. Or you can click on the picture below. You can print them on pretty, bright paper or you can print them in color. Both options are available. 

While we are here, I also want to show you these awesome center time seat markers. As you can see, I use them as my carpet area for whole group. My kids know to sit on the spot and to not move spot to spot. 

I also want to let you know that Oriental Trading has a new feature where you can create a classroom wishlist! You can share your wishlist with parents and families too. If you want to check out my wishlist, click here. Stay tuned for future blog posts because there are a few other goodies I want to show you from Oriental Trading that I haven't had an opportunity to use yet, but once I do, I will share them with you!

Looking for a deal at Oriental Trading? Visit their coupon page for the latest in sales.

*I was provided these products from Oriental Trading for review purposes, but all opinions expressed are mine.

Our First Week of School

Well, I did it. Or should I say we did it?! We (my class and I) survived the first full week of school, plus the two days the week before. I am happy to say that this is the best first week I have ever had. It was full of the 3 L's: Love, Laughter, and Learning! 

I am happy to share with you all some of the things that we did too!

First, this is actually from before the first week of school. I recorded myself reading The Night Before First Grade and then provided a QR code for students to hear me read it on the night before our first day of school. I stapled it to the gallon baggie that I put all their papers in from Back To School Night. I will try to do a blog post on how to do this soon. 

We read The Crayon Box That Talked to discuss being proactive (habit 1 if you're a leader in me school) and how we all have to work together as a team. Then, we made these cute crayons. I demonstrated with mine first at how it doesn't have to be on solid color and that we could each make our own unique crayons because we are all unique. I am not sure where the crayon template came from, so if it's yours from a blog or something, please let me know so I can provide a link :)

 We read Chrysanthemum to discuss how to treat people and why kindness matters. We did the crumpled heart activity that I'm sure you have seen on many other blogs and through pinterest. I'll explain it though just in case you haven't :) I cut out this giant red heart out of butcher paper. It was all nice and pretty. I sat in front of the class and read Chrysanthemum. I passed the heart to the student sitting in front of me. With each mean and rude thing that was said in the story that hurt Chrysanthemum's feelings, they crumpled the heart and then passed it to the friend sitting next to them. However, if something was nice that was said, the student got to smooth out the heart. This is what our heart looked like! I wrote out the little part in the middle. The reason the white heart is crooked is because I let a first grade friend glue it on (because after all, it's our heart and our classroom, not just mine). 

We also did this fun (free) name activity from Brenda Tejada. The kids loved it and it was great review for vowels, consonants, and ten frames. Plus, they loved writing their names all fancy at the bottom. 

Then, we made these fun bracelets that are a freebie from Keepin' It Kool In Kinderland. Here's my sweet friend's sweet little boy modeling the bracelet :)

We also read one of my all time favorites, Officer Buckle and Gloria. The kids get a kick out of it and so do I, especially considering just a couple weeks before, I can't say I was always the safest when hanging up things in my classroom. Afterwards, we watched Kid President's Pep Talk for Teachers and Students. Then, it was time to discuss our Codes of Conduct. 

Codes of Conduct are like rules that we create together. Last year, I had three codes of conduct (Be Respectful, Be Kind, & Have Fun). This year, we have one. Anytime that a student is yelling out, I can point to the Code of Conduct and ask, "Are you making our day sweet?" Or, if a student is helping out a friend when he dropped his books, I can point to the Code of Conduct and tell our friends, "Look at so-and-so doing her part to make our day sweet!" Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I like Codes of Conduct more than setting "rules", although my kids understand that this is a rule and it covers all parts of the classroom. I also put it right by our clip chart as a good reminder. 

To decide on the Code of Conduct, I asked the kids what Kid President's message was for us. They replied that it was to "make everyday awesome." I asked how we could make that unique to our classroom (since we are the "sweets") and they came up with this :)

After I wrote our Code of Conduct on this huge piece of butcher paper, I laid it on the tile in our classroom and let the firsties go to town on decorating. Most of them drew "sweet" things to match our classroom and our Code of Conduct. 

We also learned a lot about how to take care of books, how to book shop, what to do with damaged books, etc. Then, we got to book shop! Eek! Best thing ever!! We sat in the library to talk about all these things. They were so excited! 

I mean, seriously... look how pretty. You can find these labels in my store here.

We also started Read To Self this week. We have a block of time after lunch for this, which is perfect. I've never had this time before right after lunch and I can't get over how perfect it works. We come back from lunch, read a chapter of Junie B. Jones, and then get right into Read to Self. I introduced it on Tuesday and as you can see from the picture below, we didn't make it very far... 32 seconds. On Friday, we made it 9 minutes 14 seconds. I was amazed. Our goal is 20 minutes, although when centers start up, I'm not sure if we will actually be able to have Read To Self for 20 whole minutes, but building our stamina up to that is a good goal. I told the class that I don't expect us to meet that goal for awhile, since we are still learning to read and learning to have self control. I was very impressed with 9 minutes though by the fourth day. Wow!

Here's a view of our entire data wall, where we are tracking our Read To Self stamina. There will be other goals that we track that will take up the top part of the board at a later time. To read more about Celebration Central, you can read my blog post here

We also did some of these printables from my First Week of First Grade No Prep Printables. I loved being able to use these as a quick assessment to see what my firsties remembered from kindergarten. This also let me see more of how they write their name, who rushes through their work, who attempts to read directions, etc. 

One of my favorite activities was this recess sorting activity we did which was part of the The Recess Queen activities from Michelle Hudgeons. I actually told my class that these were real life scenarios that happened last year with my class (and yes, they believed me). We did this activity right before recess. I wish I could say on purpose, but I just got lucky that we had just enough time to read the book and do the activity right before. Don't you love when that happens?

That's it! I hope it gave you some ideas for your first week of school (if you haven't had it yet) or maybe some ideas for next year even! 
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