Monday, February 1, 2016

Kindness Matters

Today I'm sharing some of the kindness activities I'm planning for the week before Valentine's Day. It's our I Teach First February Link Up. We are sharing some ideas, activities, resources, and some FREEBIES, too!


My school will be participating in The Great Kindness Challenge. We have four main school rules. BE KIND is at the top of the list.

Be kind.
Be respectful.
Be responsible.
Be safe.

Our school decided to take the kindness challenge to help create a kindness culture. This will be our second year participating in the challenge. It's an opportunity to focus on kindness in a bigger way. The official date for the kindness challenge this year was January 25-29, but schools participate at a time that works best for each school. Valentine's Day and kindness go hand in hand, so we're celebrating during the week leading up to Valentine's Day.

The school-wide kindness activities will include a checklist of 50 kindness challenges, a kindness art contest, and class kindness banners for a "Wall of Kindness." We'll also have a spirit day: "Peace, Love, and Kindness." Students will dress up in hippie attire. Kindness quotes over the intercom will start our mornings. The quotes will also be written with chalk on the blacktop areas of our school.

If you want to participate in The Great Kindness Challenge, you can find out more about it HERE.

I'm planning complementary activities in my classroom and wanted to share some of my favorite kindness-themed books.


One of my favorites is Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. It's a heart-warming story about a lonely man. He receives a package one day with a note that says, "Somebody Loves You." He  thinks he has a secret admirer. His happiness has him interacting with others with kindness. At the end, he is surprised with the kind and loving way others return his kindness.

Little Red's Schoolhouse  has a wonderful Storybook Study of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch that I will use with my students. Click on the picture below for a preview.


Another book that's perfect for first grade is Pink Tiara Cookies for Three by Maria Dismondy.


It's a story about a new girl who moves into the neighborhood and how two friends work thru accepting her into their friendship.

Jen at Sparkling in Second has a great blog post about the book and how she promotes kindness in her classroom. I will be using her Kindness Cards {free download} in my classroom. 


The Potato Chip Champ: Discovering Why Kindness Counts by Maria Dismondy is a story about a boy (loves potato chips) who has everything and wants for more and learns an important lesson about kindness from a boy who has very little. You can listen to Maria Dismondy read her book HERE.

The next book is beautifully written and illustrated.


The book is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. It's about a new girl in school who tries to reach our to other but is ignored. It is a lesson on how even a small act of kindness can make our world a better one.

I created some Kindness Printables to use during the Kindness Challenge. You can click on the picture below to download.


If you want to join the Kindness Challenge or just want to promote kindness in your classroom, I hope you've gotten some ideas here. They fit well with valentine-themed activities. If you're looking for Valentine's Day activities that support kindness, check out Valentine's Day Writing for Firsties.



I'd love to hear about any books or activities that you use to promote kindness in the classroom.



Saturday, January 23, 2016

So. California Winter Blog Hop

Hi everyone! I've gotten together with some wonderful southern California teachers for a blog hop and giveaway. We're sharing some of our favorite southern California places, and we've have some winter freebies for you, too! You can enter our raffle for a chance to win an Amazon gift card. Our blog hop is hosted by Kristen at Easy Teaching Tools.


I just love that sunny southern California has so many places that we can enjoy. You don't have to travel very far, and you can be at the beach, the desert, or even skiing in the mountains during the winter.


We have beautiful weather and beautiful beaches. I grew up on the coast, so one of my favorite places is the beach. I think it's probably the #1 spot for most people who live near the beach. There's so much to do from surfing and swimming to fishing and walking on the beach. The sunsets are amazing!


I also think we have the most amazing views. These are the Flower Fields that come alive in the spring. They're a big tourist attraction. You can even see the ocean peeking up from the background.




We have theme parks galore! Some of my favorite parks to visit are the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, Balboa Park, and Disneyland, too.

Here's a WINTER FREEBIE for you. It's called How to Build a Snowman. Click on the picture below to download.


It's a sample from one of my most popular writing packets,  Winter Writing for Firsties.


For a chance to win an AMAZON GIFT CARD, enter below. Then hop on over to Heidi's fantastic blog, Glitter is Everywhere. Just click on the button below for more southern California favorite spots and freebies.

Glitter is Everywhere







Friday, January 1, 2016

Winter Activities

This is our January I Teach First blogger linkup. We are sharing lots of ideas, resources, strategies, freebies, and more. You can visit the blogs by clicking on the links below. We'd also love for you to follow us, so you don't miss out on any of our monthly linkups. 

As we head back to school in a couple of days, I’ve been preparing some winter activities for the month of January. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

We will start our discussion of winter by brainstorming a list of words that are associated with winter. Children add to the list as they think of more words. This activity can be done over several days. Adding to the list of words also makes a great sponge activity.


We then sort the winter words into categories. We do this whole class. The chart stays up thru the winter months. Students can refer to it when writing.


I then make word cards.  I put the word cards at the literacy center. Students sort the cards into categories with a partner. The students can also sort the cards using their own categories. Other uses for them: bingo cards, alphabetizing, syllable sorts, writing sentences and poetry, etc.

Lots of winter read alouds are always a must. Here are some snow and snowman books that are great for reading aloud:



A snowman is perfect for discussing the beginning, middle, and end of a snowman story.


The children will also be painting snowmen. We add salt to the paint to give the snowman paintings some texture. The snowmen adorn our bulleting board. I keep them and place them in a memory book that the children receive at the end of the year.



On an especially cold or rainy day, I surprise the children with hot chocolate. It’s quick and easy to prepare in the classroom. I heat the water using a hot plate and large pot. The children can choose to add a few marshmallows, too.

Here’s a ”sweet” and engaging mini unit of HOT CHOCOLATE ACTIVITIES to go along with a hot chocolate day.

It includes a craft that can be used as a bulletin board display or the cover of a booklet.

You can click on the pictures for a detailed preview of what's included in the packet.

And here’s a snow booklet. Children can write about all the fun things they can do in the snow.
Click on the picture for a FREE download.

Happy winter!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Centers: Management and Organization Ideas

Hi everyone! This is the first of the monthly I Teach First blogger linkups. We will be sharing lots of ideas, resources, strategies, freebies, and more. You can visit the blogs by clicking on the links below. We'd also love for you to follow us, so you don't miss out on any of our monthly linkups. 

I love using centers, so I thought I’d share how I use, manage, and organize them. Hopefully, you’ll find something you can use to help manage and organize your centers. If you don’t use centers, it may spark an interest in using them.

Using centers has really helped me manage my reading and math guided group time. I want the children to be involved in meaningful, engaging activities while I instruct small groups. I’ve found that using centers keeps my students involved in practicing skills.

The centers engage the students. They are usually manipulating cards, sorting, pairing, talking with a partner, etc. They are involved in hands-on activities to complete the center activities as opposed to doing a paper pencil task.  For example, a literacy center may have cards that need to be ordered on the pocket chart to make a sentence and then read using a pointer. They enjoy doing this.



I assign “Centers” to one group at a time. Other students work on math assignments, word work, or with technology. I am then able to focus my attention on guided instruction.

I integrate math and literacy skills with social studies and science in the center activities. During the holiday season, I include holiday themes. Children can practice skills thematically. Students also practice social skills.

I know that managing centers can be an issue. I have tried many, many different ways to manage them in my classroom. I’m sure I'll continue to change and improve upon the way I do this, but this is what I currently do. It is working well with my students this year.

I think one of the keys is to model, model, and then model even more. I continue to model repeatedly throughout the year. I find that the students need review on procedures for taking the centers out, working with a partner, problem solving, using  quiet voices, putting the centers back when finished, etc. I continue to make notes as I observe the students. We have discussions and on-going reminders as issues arise.

Centers make great partner activities. My students can choose to work individually or with a partner. Most of the time they choose to work with a partner. They learn to work together to solve problems and help each other to complete each center activity. They’re able to share their understandings with a partner and learn from each other. It’s especially gratifying to glance over and see and hear students talking about how to solve a problem and then deciding together on the solution.

The initial preparation of centers can be time consuming. Initially, the centers have to be copied, cut, and laminated. Once that’s completed, they can be stored and used year after year.

I bag them up and store them in large manila envelopes. I keep the envelopes in my filing cabinet. When I’m reading to use them, the only preparation is copying the recording sheets.



Each of the centers is kept in a single gallon baggie. The front of the baggie displays the center directions. The direction card stays in the baggie.


The back of the baggie has the cards that students will use along with the recording sheets.

When the students are using the centers from a packet, they're kept in a labeled bin on the floor.

If you were to enter my room when my students are involved with center activities, you would see them sitting on the rug. I think that’s one of the draws of the centers. The children have more opportunities to move around. They’re able to spread the activities out on the floor. They put their recording sheets on clipboards to record their answers.

I put the center pictures of each card on the pocket chart. The students can see what centers are included in the container.


The students have center folders. I staple a "Menu of Activities" to the inside front cover of the folder. I just use folded 12” x 18” colored construction paper for folders. File folders will also work.


The students put finished recording sheets in their folders. They also keep recording sheets that they’ve started and not completed in the same folder. I correct the recording sheets and stamp or put a happy face on the centers that are completed. It’s a way for students to keep track of what centers they've finished. It also helps to keep students accountable for their time at centers.

And just for fun, I sometimes add something extra to the topic, holiday, or season. For example, here are the "Merry" pencils the students can use for the Christmas centers. 



Instead of putting the cards on a pocket chart, the cards can be displayed on a strip of ribbon and topped with a colorful bow.


A few fun touches go a long way in engaging the students.

I created a sample center activity for the holiday. It's called Gingerbread Ten Frames Math Center. Students count the dots on the ten frames and match them to the equations. Click on the picture for a FREE download.



I hope you’ve found the ideas useful. Let know know if you have any questions about the centers. 

Thank you for stopping by.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

News-o-Matic App and iPad Giveaway!

Hi everyone! Wondering if you are all ready to go back to school. I return back to school in about a week. I'm in the midst of planning and reviewing some long range plans. With each new year come some brand new procedures, materials, routines, and ideas. 

I thought I'd share about an app I’ve found that I will be using with the class this year. It's called News-o-matic Daily.



It’s a daily newspaper with 5 featured current events each day for kids. The articles and activities support the Common Core Standards. Children can interact with the features by responding to questions, creating drawings, watching videos, playing games, and more.

Each feature includes the article with a “Read to Me” option, a video clip, slide show, a highlighted fact, and “Act,” which is a related activity. The students can look at interactive maps that not only relate to the articles, but also integrate geography and math.

The children can even enter a newsroom and respond to the articles by writing to Russ, the Editor-in-Chief. They can write about their reactions to and feelings about the stories. Students can also create a drawing that illustrates the article.

Wacky Week is another feature. These are short, fun, “wacky” stories children read about that happened during the week.
News-o-Matic has school editions that allow you to tailor the readings to each student’s reading level. Home versions can be useful for homeschoolers or children who want to learn more about world events.  

I plan on using it whole class during the year. I think it will make a meaningful beginning of the day activity. My hope is that students will find that non-fiction reading is exciting and that reading the articles will extend their awareness of the world around them.

For those of you who may not have an iPad or would love to win another one for FREE, the iTeach First bloggers are having a HUGE giveaway. This is what one lucky winner will win:

iPad Air2, Case, Stylus pen, and iTunes card

Enter starting today, Sunday, August 2nd. You can enter thru Saturday, August 8th. Find out the details and enter to win HERE!

Good luck and happy back to school planning!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge - Dare to Dream

It's Week 2 of the TPT Seller Challenge hosted by Third in Hollywood, Teach Create Motivate, Sparkling in Second, and Peppy Zesty Teacherista. This week's challenge is Dare to Dream.


I've been creating and selling products on Teachers Pay Teachers® since 2012. First Grade Schoolhouse has continued to grow each year. The best part is that my love for creating educational products has also continued to grow. Creating materials that teachers find useful and helpful is so gratifying to me. My goal is to continue to learn and improve in every aspect of the business to create better products and a bigger store.


I already feel so blessed to have surpassed some of my dreams. 

Financial security is the first thing on my list. My "DREAM BIG" goal in this area is to be debt free - even having my house paid off - a hopeful thought.

Being more financially secure has given me more choices in my life. Choices that I may not have had without TPT. I dream about an earlier retirement and being able to travel more. 

I've been able to give back to some local charities. Not just with time and help, but also financially. I want to be able to do that on a grander scale.

Find out what other TPT sellers "DARE TO DREAM." Check them out HERE

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TPT Seller Challenge - Makeover Madness

I'm participating in the TPT Summer Challenge sponsored by Third in Hollywood, Sparkling in Second, Peppy Zesty Teacherista, and Teach Create Motivate. It's a four week challenge and this is week one: Makeover Madness.



I went back to the first products I created. The ones I'm redoing were some of my best sellers at the time. I started on TPT in 2012. A lot has changed since then - so many more fonts, graphics, more practice, and experience. My style has changed.


The "before" name was Reading to Learn About Community Helpers. I simplified the cover and changed the name. It's now called Writing About Community Helpers. The before title was too confusing.  I made the fonts and graphics bolder. I want buyers to know what the packet's about at a glance. 

I used different clip artists for the community helper graphics in the "before" packet (had to use graphics from different clip artists to find all I needed). I was able to use just Melonheadz for the community helpers graphics on the new one. It makes it more consistent and unified. I love that we have so many more choices for clip art now. 

I also added posters and student word lists to make the product more complete.

Head on over to see more of the makeovers HERE.