In My Neck of the Woods...

It's been a while since my last update, but I wanted to pop in and let you know what's going on in my neck of the woods.

Things have been busy with the end of the school year approaching.  My conference schedule has wound down, but everything else seems to be going into overdrive.  Ever feel like that?!?!

One thing I've made a priority amidst the craziness is Bible study.  I drive about 45 minutes after school  to get there every Monday night and I wouldn't trade that time of reflection and fellowship for anything.  God is changing my heart one chapter at a time.  I've always struggled with self-doubt and insecurity.  I feel like my worth is measured by validation from other's approval and different things I accomplish.  That kind of false sense of worth can leave you feeling pretty empty at the end of the day.  God placed this Bible study on my heart and and I'm telling y'all...it's given me so many "a-ha!!!" moments and helped me to remember that my worth is found in Christ and Christ alone.  What a powerful promise of God's unconditional love!!!

If you ever struggle with self doubt and insecurity (who doesn't?!?!), I HIGHLY recommend this study!!!!



In the meantime, you should read the latest post from Michelle at Fabulous in First.  I love that she took time to share her heart and her perspective.  I think we can ALL relate!!!!

I was just in Nashville last weekend for a quick little getaway and adventure all organized by the wonderful team at GoNoodle.  

We got to participate in a little focus group while we were there.  Let me just tell you that I ADORE GoNoodle.  Not just their resources (did you know about GoNoodle PLUS?!?!?!?!?  Worth every penny!!!!!}, but their heart for kids.  Their vision is unparalleled.  They're not just about helping teachers, they're truly all about the kids!  I can't wait for the exciting things to come!!  They have such a vision for the future and I'm so excited for y'all to find out what's planned!!  You won't want to miss it!!!!  


And no trip to the headquarters is complete without a photo op with our favorite champ!!!


I admit that our weekend in TN wasn't all business.  We did lots of other fun things, too....


Shopping at Kendra Scott (free earrings on grand opening day!!!), Jeni's ice cream, amazing BBQ, a little more shopping, donuts (amazing!!!), and pedicures.  Relaxing and non-stop all in the same breath!!!   Thrilled to be there, so sad to leave :(


I've also been gearing up and prepping for some exciting things to come (in my little world, anyway).  I've been doing lots of research and burying my nose in some wonderful PD reading and I can't wait to share with you all what I'm learning!!!  I've also been working with some fabulous teachers and helping them get ready for these last few weeks of learning!

For these last few weeks of school, I had a few requests to create something that incorporates both math and literacy...something good for review, but not too easy and really engaging.  I mean, that's not hard, right?!  HA!!!  We're all FRIED this time of the year!!!  Of course that's a tough one!  I went through some of my old files and it hit me.  Mystery Messages!!!!  My kids LOVE those!!!  I decided to make them a bit more current and more applicable for this time of the year.  I combined 15 addition, 15 subtraction, and 6 bonus mixed operations  mystery messages for my newest resource....


My boys love hanging out with me when I'm creating.  Landon was watching me print out some of these Mystery Messages and he was a bit beside himself.  He loved the idea of earning his "badges" to become an addition/subtraction detective.  He is DETERMINED to become a detective before his little brother.  Just a little friendly sibling competition :)



It can be really challenging to keep our kids excited about learning and engaged in their activities when they've got sunshine and lemonade on the brain.  I love creating activities that excite kids and "trick" them into thinking they're playing a game instead of learning.  With Mystery Messages, kids have the opportunity to solve "case files" (addition/subtraction equations corresponding with scrambled messages) .  Each time they solve a case file, they fingerprint their tracking sheet to close the case.  Once they solve 15 addition messages/15 subtraction messages/6 mixed operation messages, they earn a "detective badge".



Landon is well on his way to earning his.  As soon as he's finished with his homework, he heads right to his "case files" (I keep them in a file folder for him) and chooses a mystery to solve.  Right now he's working on earning his addition detective badge. 


I love the idea of using these in the classroom as a morning challenge for morning work or as a fast finisher activity (who can earn their detective badge first?!?!).  They also lend themselves for group review (displayed on the Smartboard or document camera).  One of the teachers with whom I'm working suggested sending these home for the summer to help prevent the dreaded "summer slide".  I included a parent letter with this resource in case you want to do that, too!  I absolutely LOVE that idea!!!

 My sweet Grant loved that idea, too.  He's one that will only do what's required of him when he's at home.  If his teacher says read 1 book for homework, he'll read one book and one book only.  Nothing more, nothing less.  He's a smart little cookie, but he needs motivation.  Since he's still in Kindergarten and I'm big on letting them be little, I don't push too much after school.  I want him to do what's required and follow the rules and after that I want him to be 5!!!   So, I went ahead and started creating his case files for summer break while it's still on my mind.  Lord knows I'll get lazy if I wait much longer.  He told me he might not want to wait until summer and I have a feeling that he'll be motivated to get a head start once he sees his brother's tracking sheet :)  Whatever works, right?!


If this is something you're interested in for your classroom...or you'd like to send these home for summer review...just click on the pic below for a description and preview...


These will be on sale for the next 24 hours!!!

I'm also putting this little unit on sale as well.  It's *almost* Mother's Day and it's sneaking up on us way too fast!  This little packet includes Mother's/Father's Day coupons, graphic organizers, writing prompts, and craftivities.  


Aren't these gift bags precious?!  I sent these home with my kids the last couple of years and they turned out precious!  Whatever artwork and gifts we made for mom were all put in the bag and taken home for Mother's Day before the weekend.  


Here's a little Mother's/Father's Day math freebie for you!!!!



And in the spirit of all this talk about "mysteries", I included a couple more items in the sale for 20% off...but only for the next 24 hours (ending Thursday at noon, CST).  Can you solve the mystery and find out what they are?!!!  


Let's Get Ready for Earth Day!

Earth Day has always been one of my favorite events to celebrate with my school babies.  There's just something about it.  I love the sense of camaraderie we gain through our teamwork as we clean up trash around the school grounds, pay more attention to our recycling efforts, and love our Earth just a little more than we already do.  

As usual, this time of the year seems to speed by quickly and these events sort of pop up without giving us much time to plan or prep.  I mean, it's not like we have a MILLION other things going on, right?!  HA!!!  I thought this would be great time to remind us of some fun Earth Day activities for our primary babies and help you {maybe} try to plan ahead this year!!!  


I always like to stock my library with lots and lots of Earth Day friendly books around this time of the year.  I put them out a couple of weeks ahead of time so that the kids can do their own perusing.  When we start our thematic unit of study, I'll read several of them aloud.  I like that the kids are familiar with them prior to reading.  These are some of my favorite Earth Day books...

After we read a few of these books, we make our anchor charts.  Things that help the Earth and things that harm the Earth.  These stay up in the room as a visual for a few weeks after Earth Day.  The kids love using them as a reference for their writing.


Remember what I said about the camaraderie and cooperation earlier?!  This is one of those group projects we displayed in the hallway and absolutely LOVED putting together!!!!  We brainstormed lots of different ways we could help the Earth first and then I typed them out and we reviewed what we said as we splashed them on the display.  Then the kids painted their hands blue and green and added their handprints to the "Earth".  I loved this!


This is another litte writing craftivity I love to incorporate into our learning.  I think I've been doing this one since the first year I started teaching!  I'm shocked I'm not tired of it yet!  Really, I love anything with their sweet handprints!!!



Earth Day is a great time to reinforce and/or introduce the concept of cause & effect.  We reinforced this skill using this freebie.  It was a great way for me to assess not only my kid's understanding of cause and effect, but it also gave me a glimpse into their understanding about what we learned about Earth Day.


We love singing this song, too!  Each of my kids gets a copy of this song for their poetry folders and then I print it out on sentence strips for our poetry center as well.  My kids have access to this song/poem for a couple of weeks....manipulating the words, one-to-one correspondence, tracking print, rhyming, fluency, etc.  This is in my What a Wonderful World Earth Day packet, but you can grab it for free here.  Just click on the pic.


I mentioned my What a Wonderful World Earth Day packet and here are a few activities we do from using this resource.

My kids loved "tossing the trash" in their word work center!!  I just printed off the real/nonsense word cards and sorting labels and then crumpled them all up and placed them in a container.  THe kids have to uncrumple (is that even a word???) the word cards and determine which words are real and which are nonsense and then sort accordingly.  I let them toss the trash into the corresponding bins and they thought this was a hoot!  


I think my favorite addition to my classroom this time of the year is my little Compost Critter.  We talk about the idea of composting and learn all about what it is and how to do it and then we create this little critter who will show us how compost is made.  It's a pretty cool process.  It takes a while for the material to turn into compost, but the kids love being able to observe the changes.  Once it's all ready, we use the compost to plant our plants :)  The kids LOVE this!!!!


I found the book, I Can Save the Earth, a few years back and use that as a springboard for this writing craftivity.



We also have a "GREEN DAY" as a culminating activity to our learning.  We actually have our Green Day ON Earth Day and this is a perfect way to tie in all of our learning and have loads of fun at the same time.   I send home a parent note requesting different items and for the entire day my kids are engaged in fun, hands-on (academic!!!) Earth Day activities.  I can't imagine doing it a different way now!!  All the details are in my Earth Day packet....along with family homework, too!




These are two of my favorite Earth Day experiments.  They're perfect for our primary kids and really help to bring these concepts to life! 





My favorite thing about Earth Day is hearing what my own two boys have to say about it when they get home from school that day.  Last year they became SO very conscientious about recycling and conserving water.  My oldest came home and told me he was DONE with baths!!!  "Mom..baths use SO many gallons of water.  I'm a big boy...I can totally take showers instead from now on!"  

I about died.  

And let me tell you what.  That's all both boys take anymore....showers.  Every now and again I'll suggest a bubble bath...because, FUN....and they insist that's too much wasted water.  I really hope they're always this mindful of different things when they get older!!!  
Conserving energy however is totally different struggle ;)

Now let's take care of a little business.
If you own my Write the Room yearlong bundle, please make sure you download the April edition as it's been added to the pack.  May is coming soon, so be on the lookout!!!


And if you're right in the middle of teaching and reviewing r-controlled vowels like we are, then here's a little something for your files.  These  R-Conrolled Vowel Flip Strips are perfect for reviewing and reinforcing these spelling patterns!!!  


Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites, Chapter 8

Thanks for stopping by for our latest link-up in our book study....




Today we're talking all about metaphors, analogies, and similes.  You're excited, right?!


This is one of those chapters that made me think.  
It's all about making connections.  Marcia Tate says that this is the MOST EFFECTIVE strategy.  
HELLO!!!!
MOST EFFECTIVE!!!

I'm certain this is a strategy I don't implement enough.  
Dang.  Of course I wouldn't be implementing the MOST EFFECTIVE strategy as much as I should!!

But what makes this the most effective strategy?!  Why are metaphors, analogies, and similes so important to implement?!
  It's all about the CONNECTIONS.  
Say it with me now....CONNECTIONS.

Research has proven that our brains are wired to search for connections and patterns.  Constantly.  We're always talking to our kids about making connections, sure.  Especially when we're reading.  But how often are we modeling those connections in our daily classroom happenings??  

I loved Marcia's example.  When she introduces the concept of Main Idea, she explains to her kids that the Main Idea and Details are like the table and the legs.  The top of the table is the main idea and the legs are the supporting details.  Great connection and visual imagery.  Why didn't I ever think of that?!  

I know that I'm good about incorporating similes into our writing.  I give my kids many opportunities to write different similes throughout the year...especially around the holidays.



Something that popped in my head as I was reading this chapter was my vocabulary instruction.  After reading the book Word Nerds, I became so much more intentional about implementing  structured vocabulary instruction into my plans. We are CONSTANTLY making connections during this time.  Synonyms, antonyms, examples/non-examples, etc.  This is SO important in vocabulary instruction.  Again, it's all about making connections to make those abstract words more concrete.  


Making "synonym rolls" for different vocabulary words really brought this concept to life!



But metaphors and analogies?!  Do I use these enough??  I'm thinking NO.  I was reading Elizabeth's post on this chapter earlier and she mentioned that she uses glue bottles as an analogy...vowels are like the glue that hold our words together.  That reminded me that I do the same thing.  Okay...so there's ONE analogy ;)


When we're learning about writing and how to space our letters and words, I've always referred to the space between letters as "spaghetti" spaces...thin.  The space between words is more like a "meatball" space.  Just a little bigger :)  I always tell my friends that I don't like alphabet soup...the letters are all jumbled up and I can read any of them. I tell them I don't want to see "alphabet soup" when they're writing.  They need to show me spaghetti and meatball spaces.  After all, pasta is my favorite food.  Give me pasta, not alphabet soup :)  

I know I can get better about using this strategy and seeing as it's the MOST EFFECTIVE, I know this is where I need to focus!!

I'm anxious to read about how you implement this strategy in your classroom, so be sure to link up below! 

In April, you will be visiting these girls for the remainder of the study:
Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Chapter 9 &10 (April 4th)
What The Teacher Wants Chapter 11 (April 7th)
First Grader At Last Chapter 12 (April 11th)
Erica's Ed Ventures Chapter 13 (April 14th)
KinderGals Chapter 14 &15 (April 18th)
A Rocky Top Teacher Chapter 16 (April 21st)
Mrs. Wills Kindergarten Chapter 17 (April 25th)
Little Warriors Chapter 18 (April 28th)
Falling Into First Chapter 19 (May 2nd)
Kickin' it in Kindergarten Chapter 20 (May 5th)

You can join in for whatever part you like! If you are not a blogger, that is OK! We will want you to join in on the fun. You can participate in the conversation in the comments. We want this to be a positive collaboration between teachers! The whole point is to encourage each other with inspiring ideas while still using research based best practice.

Now link up and let's share strategies!!!



All About the Weather! (Activities, Ideas, & Freebies!)

Happy weekend to you!!!!

My weekend started off not-so-happy.  My littlest bit was sent home Thursday afternoon with a fever.  After a round of Motrin and lots of TLC, he was seemingly back to normal.  Never ran a fever again.  So weird!  But his school day fever meant he had to stay home yesterday.  I won't lie to you.  I cherish days like that.  Not the circumstances, but the moments when I can just soak him in just the way he is without any other distractions.  

I'm feeling a little sentimental...can you tell?!

Now that the littlest member of my family is going on a full 48 hours of fever free symptoms, I can get excited about the weekend.  No big plans except for a birthday party later today...just the way I like it!  I've been keeping quiet here on the blog mostly because I've been blogging over on my other pet project...my little domestic diary.  Sometimes I just don't have much to say over here and dont' want to bore you with nonsense...so I'm boring you with nonsense over there instead ;)

Now let's move on to the reason we're here.  

WEATHER.

Y'all.  Have I told you before that this is one of my most favorite thematic units to teach?!?!  I love all things weather!!!!  And it's fascinating to me that year-to-year my kids love it just as much as...if not more than..I do!!!!  I typically don't dive into weather until closer to Earth Day.  Some of you may have already finished this particular theme.  Hopefully you'll be able to take away some ideas that you can implement into your planning...either this year or next!

I've been saving up so many of these ideas since last year.  It was a crazy time of the year last April and I was doing good just to teach my kids the content and have them participtae in the activities.  I seriously had no energy to get into all the details of our learning on the blog.  I honestly forgot all about it until I was doing some spring cleaning a few weeks ago.  I found my old notebook full of notes and got started organizing everything as soon as I could.  GAH!!!  I don't know why I'm so excited, but I am!!!  I just can't wait to share it all with you!!!

I always start out our weather study...or any new theme...with some kind of graphic organizer or thinking map.  Here's a sample of one I did with my kids when I taught 1st grade.


Weather encompasses SO many different concepts and ideas and it's hard to know which way to go with it all...especially when you don't have a concrete curriculum guiding you and telling you exactly what and how to teach the content.  I personally like to gauge my kids' interest and that's how I determine exactly what I'm going to teach...then I can go in and implement our state objectives/district standards into the learning.

I like to set out lots of non-fiction weather books in our library about a week or two prior to starting our study.  I take inventory of the books the kids gravitate to the most.  If they seem to be reading books upon books about clouds, I'll probably head that direction and teach them about clouds. If they are more interested in the different types of weather, I'll go that route instead.  I want them to be as engaged and excited about learning as possible and teaching to their interests always does the trick.  I know I can ALWAYS fit the standards and objectives into our learning...I just want to go about it in the most interesting way possible :)

Speaking of clouds, I make anchor charts for these when we first start learning about them, too...



Abby's Cloud People are still one of my most favorite ideas and visuals to help kids understand the clouds' placement in the sky.  Genius.


I always take my Dollar Store trays and teach my kids how to spray them with shaving cream.  These go in my word work center and my kids get to practice writing their sight words/spelling words in the "clouds".  Oh, they love.  And my room smells SO good!!!


While we're on the subject of shaving cream, let's talk about this project.  This was a class favorite, for sure!  A little bit of shaving cream mixed with a little bit of glue equals three-dimenional cloud art!  My kids designed their own clouds with this concoction and then wrote about their clouds as a reading response to "It Looked Like Spilt Milk".



We made these little flip strips using cotton balls on the top to  represent different clouds.  They wrote about each type of cloud underneath the flap.  I love that they had to use their new learning to figure out how the cotton balls needed to be styled to represent each type of cloud.



Keeping with that same thing, I threw out some cotton balls to my kids one day and told them they had to use them to create their favorite type of cloud.  Then we graphed them and talked about the data we gathered.


Last year we created these fun little clouds and then incorporated that tactile piece with some writing.  I made mini-booklets similar to these where the kids had to tell me all about what clouds are/can do/have and then go on to write facts about each type of cloud.  These were fun to display & a really neat piece to send home as well!  My kids were so proud to show off what they knew about these giant groups of tiny water droplets.  



One of my favorite things about teaching thematically is the opportunities to grow my kids' vocabularies.  Not only has brain research proven that this is the best way for kids to learn, but I tink there should be some study that determines this is the most exciting way for teachers to teach!  Building vocabulary is SO important and I feel like it's something we never spend enough time doing.  Teaching thematically brings in so much RICH vocabulary and exposes our babies to SO many new words and concepts. 

I like to keep things like this available for my kids to reinforce new vocabulary.  Vocabulary dice and/or vocabulary sticks are two simple and effective ways to engage your kids in using new vocabulary in sentences, etc.  

For my popsicle sticks activity, I just programmed a bunch of the sticks with weather vocabulary words.  I place them in a container and then store them in my word work center. My kids can pick a stick and then write about the word in different ways (synonym, antonym, another word with the same number of syllables, write the definition, illustrate the word, etc.) .  It's all about building connections.  The vocabulary sticks are great for transition and assessment, too.  When they aren't in my word work center, I keep them by my desk and when we go to line up, I'll call my friends one-by-one to come and pick a stick.  I'll prompt them in different ways before releasing them to line up. {Examples:  Use the word thunderstorm in a sentence.  Give me another word that has the same number of syllables as lightning.  Use 3 words to describe a blizzard.  What is a cumulonimbus cloud?}  SO many different ways these can be implemented in vocabulary instruction!

The vocabulary dice are perfect for controlled choice as well.  I like for my kids to use them with a variety of writing prompts.  Ultimately I would much rather them write to write..not necessarily with a prompt...but non-fiction concepts really lend themselves to this type of writing and I think it's important to make sure our kids are familiar with and comfortable doing this kind of work.


I love using predictable charts to help with vocabulary, too.  While I know this seems like it might be an activity that is too simple for any grade above K, I can assure you it's not.  It's all about the process!!!  I love that predictable charts are easy to differentiate for all different learning levels and abilities.  It always looks like my kids are doing the same exact thing, but they've all been given a  different objective to get them through the process.

Some of my kids might just be highlighting certain sight words or letters.
Some may be matching pictures to words.  
Some may be assembling the sentences in sequential order
Some might be assembling the sentences and then choosing one to use as a springboard for a story.
And that's just to name a few different ideas!  There are SO many wonderful concepts you can incorporate with a predictable chart!


How about incorporating vocabulary orally?!  I absolutely LOVED this last year!!  I couldn't wait to share it with y'all!!!!  Eeeeek!!!!  Teach your kids about meteorologists and what they do and then have your kids act as "mini meteorologists" and give the class a weather report.  You could do this for several weeks until everyone in the class has had a turn.  

Cut out a TV shape using butcher paper or poster board.   I would suggest laminating so that the TV stands up straight when taking pictures. I adhered to long dowel rods to the back of either side of the TV.  That's what my kids held onto as they held up the TV.  Display a map...a weather map would be even better!!!!...on your whiteboard or another surface in the classroom.  Have your kids check the weather and then instruct them to stand in front of the map.  Give them the TV to hold and then have them give their weather report to the viewers :)  I kept two laminated speech bubbles and dry erase markers available when doing this.  My kids would make two reports.  One, they would tell about the current weather conditions and then they would make a forecast of tomorrow's weather.  They had to use the vocabulary when delivering their report and let me tell y'all...it was a hoot!!!!!  I took pictures of them giving their reports and then combined all of the pictures into a class book I kept in the library.  I'm just sick that I didn't take a picture of it!  It's currently in storage.  I titled the book, "Mrs. Carroll's Mini Meteorologists".  HA!!!!  This was their favorite book in the classroom!!!!

Another way to get your kids making forecasts and observing current weather conditions is to make them responsible for keeping track of it all in their personal weather report.  This was another favorite project of mine last year.  My kids kept their reports in a folder inside their desks and we would add to it daily.  When it came to the weekend, I had my kids take home their weather reports and asked them to bring it back to school the following Monday to share with the class. SO fun!

We typically read some type of non-fiction book about meteorology as well.  I could never find one with all the info I wanted for my kids to know, so I created one to read to them.




Last year we followed up our reading with these fun little comprehension flip books!!!  GAH!!!!  I love the way they turn out!!!




And we loved this craftivity from the talented Julie Lee!!!!  This was so much fun!  I paired it with "IF I were a meteorologist..." sentence starter and they did the rest!



Another thing I love about thematic teaching is integrating the skills/concept across the board in all curricular areas.  I had so much fun coming up with games for my kids last year.  I love to make everything hands-on and exciting and math is one of my favorite subjects to do things that are really life-sized and interactive!  This subtraction game (please don't take my sunshine away!! hahaha) was a class favorite.  Not only did we play this whole group, but I turned it into an independent anchor activity as well.  This was the most visited anchor activity during that unit of study!



Speaking of math, here's a fun game to play with your kids!  Another favorite. 
First up, you need a package of lightning and raindrops.  (lightning = sparkly gold pom poms, raindrops = multi-colored blue pom poms....Michaels usually has these)
I cut out a couple of clouds, stapled them together, and then used that to hold my lightning and raindrops.  I also set out tens and ones clouds along with two place value dice.

Basically , the kids will roll one die and then represent the number rolled with lightning RODS under the tens cloud.  Then roll the other die and represent the number rolled with raindropsunder the ones cloud. To take it a step further, I have my kids write the base 10 blocks on a dry erase sleeve...along with the matching numeral...to show what they rolled.



Speaking of lightning, here's how I integrate weather with our sight words.  We play a little game called, CRASH!  As in, Lightning CRASHES :)  (I spent many a day in the 90's wearing plaid shirts and Doc Martens singing this song over and over. HA.)
CRASH is played just like BANG!, so if you know how to play it, you're good to go.  If you don't, you can click on the pic to download the activity and the instrutions....FREE! 
Although BANG! has always been a class favorite and the novelty doesn't seem to ever wear off with this game, I'm always trying to come up with variations just to spice things up a bit.  And this does the trick!  When my kids get a CRASH card, the other kids in the group set down their cards and THUNDERCLAP loudly as they say "BOOM"!  Hahahaha!!  They really get into it!



And no thematic unit is ever complete without a few writing craftivities....for good measure, of course ;)  My personal favorite is the tornado.  My kids were OBSESSED with learning about tornadoes last year.  I'm not obsessed...just totally scared.  It was neat to see their interest though.


You can find more of my free weather ideas and activities HERE and HERE.
There are a few freebies in these posts so make sure to look carefully!

I would keep telling you about more ideas and activities, but this post is fast approaching neverending and I'm sure you've stopped reading by now.   You can check out my All About Weather Pinterest board and see what I've created and what I've been pinning over there.  



Many of the activities mentioned above can be found in my All About the Weather packet.  It's a great (mostly) non-fiction resource with vocabulary cards & visual anchors, non-fiction books, close reading and comprehension printables, and MORE!  It's 228 jam-packed pages full of weather fun!!  And I'm so excited to share it with you!


What's even MORE exciting is that I'm having a little spring sale in the shop this weekend, so you can grab this bundle of weather fun for a steal!!


Now with all that to be said, I'm headed out to enjoy the weekend with my three boys!!!  Have a great one!