New Year's Resolutions, Linky Party

A friend of mine described this vacation time as "defrosting."  I'd say that's pretty accurate for me.  After the hectic Christmas rush, with working up to and including the 23rd, then driving 190 miles to be with family for Christmas, followed by the return drive, well, I was beat.  So on Tuesday, my first really free day, I was defrosting.  In other words, doing nothing.  Yeah!

As I defrosted, I thought of my New Year's Resolutions and then found A Teacher's Treasure's Linky Party.  It's time to jump into the fun!

New Year's Resolutions

  • To become a Weight Watchers Lifetime member.  I have about 10 more pounds to go, having already let go of 40.
  • To clean out another of my flower gardens this spring
  • To continue touring the night sky while the leaves are down and I can see it from my home in the woods


  • To differentiate more, always something that is both necessary and beneficial, but not that easy to achieve
  • To finish reading What Really Matters in Spelling by Patricia Cunningham.  I'm a big Cunningham fan.  This book is filled with research based instructional strategies that I can easily incorporate in my classroom.
  • To continue blogging, a great professional development activity!

What are your New Year's Resolutions?  Link up at A Teacher's Treasure and join in the fun!

Happy 2012!

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Currently December

It's time to link up with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for the December Currently Linky Party.  Been waiting for this!  Head over there to check out everyone's Currently.  Here's mine:

I might give myself a special Christmas gift this year, a ticket to Blogging 101 at Virtual Teaching Expo.  I'm very curious.  What fun!

When I last checked, there were 60 bloggers linked up for the December Currently.  That could take care of an hour or two of solid browsing.  Go on, have a look-see.
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Holiday Card Exchange

One of the activities that I really love to do with my class at this time of the year is Jen Wagner's Holiday Card Exchange.  I signed up for the project in mid November, and received my group list soon after that.  Each class that registers for the project is placed in a grouping of classes from around the country.  This year there were over 1000 classes participating!

We brainstormed ideas for what to include inside the card, what we would like to tell a class of students from a different state.  Then we made 29 snowman cards and mailed them out, eagerly anticipating the cards we would receive from those classes.

Check out my class website to see pictures of our cards.

Here's our bulletin board filled with received cards.

My daughter, who teaches 4/5th grade in a different district, also participates in this project and she asked her parents to donate stamps for the mailings.  Smart girl!  It does help with the mailing costs.

If you are interested for next year, just bookmark Projects by Jen and watch for the sign-up date.  In the meantime, there might be another project there that you'd like to try.

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Holiday Fun Writing Freebie!

Ok, so I've been reading that a lot of you are now OUT for Christmas vacation.  How nice!  However, I'm sure that there must be many of us who will still be teaching through next week.  In my district, we are in session right up to and including Dec. 23.  So here's a little freebie to help get us all get through the week.  It's a writing project that I call Holiday Fun.  Just click below to download.

To assemble the booklet, just print out the pages, then cut each page in half horizontally.  Staple together to make a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 booklet. There will be 7 pages in all, including the title page.

To introduce Holiday Fun, I usually read a book like Christmas Is... by Gail Gibbons, which leads to a discussion about the sights, sounds and smells of the season.  Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

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Liebster and a Cuppa!

Last week, as I was inundated with two nights of parent conferences, Barbara at Grade ONEderful passed the Liebster Award to my blog!  It couldn't have come at a better time.  Thank you, Barbara!

This award brings recognition to blogs with under 200 followers and it is a way to support and encourage new bloggers.  Once received it needs to be passed on to five up-and-coming blogs.  I hope you stop in to visit these outstanding blogs.

Now grab your CUPPA and head on over to check them out!

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Barbara at Grade ONEderful is hosting a giveaway which ends on Sunday.  The winner will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon or Starbucks, so head on over to check it out.  Her incredible blog is always filled with great ideas and freebies.

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Sunshine On My Shoulder. . .

Makes Me Happy!

I was quite amazed to find that the Sunshine Award has been passed to me by not one, or two or three teachers, but four!  Thank you to Liz at Stickers, Scissors and Smiles, Barbara at Grade ONEderful, Kimberley at First in Maine, and Tina at Quench Your First.  I'm both honored and very touched, and I look forward to passing on the glorious golden rays of the sun to others.

To shine the rays, I must now thank the bloggers who gave this award to me and write a post about it, answer a few questions, and then pass the award on to 10-12 fabulous bloggers, letting them know I awarded them.

Ok, here goes!
The Questions

  • Favorite color:  green, the deep color of the forest
  • Favorite animal:  dog, of course  
  • Favorite number:  7 - My dad was the last born son of the last born son, seven times and the line stopped with him.
  • Favorite drink:  white hot chocolate
  • Facebook or Twitter:  neither!  I am proudly a Facebook holdout.
  • Passions:  Learning new things and living simply
  • Giving or getting presents:  both, yeah!
  • Favorite day:  Friday
  • Favorite flowers:  red roses

The Sunny Blogs

Buzzin on Cupcakes in 1st Grade
Crayon Bits - a first grade blog
Doodle Bugs Teaching
Circus of Learning
The Polka Dot Owl
Ms. Preppy
Hopping Into First Grade
Teacher Tam's Educational Adventures
First Grade Exploration
Teaching with TLC Blog
Mrs. Saylor's Log
Primary Practice

Best wishes to you all!  Let's move into the Holiday Season with renewed smiles and sunshine.

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Give Thanks!

Thanksgiving is a very special time when we get to reflect on the blessings in our lives.  With that in mind, I'm very excited to link up with the teachers at What a Teacher Wants and their Thankful Linky Party.

1.  What are you thankful for in your classroom?
This year I'm thankful for a new LCD projector, thanks to a mini grant from our PTC!  The projector has enabled us to use the Scholastic News Interactive site, which is chock full of activities and helpful supplemental material.  When I project onto my white board, it's almost as good as a smart board because the children can highlight, underline, and circle specific words or text features, and then just erase it away.  I love it!

2.  What person are you most thankful for?
It has to be my mom, who is 85 years young.  She is a brick, and has always been there for me with the most practical advice.

3.  What 3 blogs are you most thankful for?
This is a hard one.  I'm really thankful for just about every one.  I learn something new with each blog I read.  However, having to pick three, I'd say I'm thankful for GradeONEderful, Ladybug's Teacher Files, and the Clutter-Free Classroom.

4.  What guilty pleasure are you most thankful for?
Oh my, I love candy.  Just love it, especially if it's combined with chocolate.

5.  What am I most thankful for?
My family and friends, hands down.  I love them all!

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Reading and Language Arts Links

Are you looking for great websites for your students?  I've listed many on my classroom blog that are really terrific.  Click here or on my button below to head over to that blog to check them out.  I'm hoping to add math websites soon.

If you come across any other cool websites that I haven't listed, please let me know so that I can add them to the page.

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Word of the Day (Week)

In order to increase vocabulary development, I've been using a word strategy that was demonstrated by Ms. Noonan on the Teaching Channel.  Ms. Noonan has to be my all time favorite there!

If you're interested, you can read all about the Word of the Day (Week) on my classroom blog.  Just click here.

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November Book Picks

I'm linking up again with Learning with Mrs. Parker to share my November book picks. It's pretty obvious what we will be learning about! Enjoy the month everyone! What will you be reading?

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Currently . . .

Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade is again hosting her Currently Linky Party.  This is a first for me, and I have really enjoyed learning how to download the template and add my own thoughts to it.  (See below for tips with a Mac.)  I just can't believe it is already November!  If there is any one thing I've learned in my life, it's that the days just keep on coming.  There is no stopping the passage of time.  And, so . . .

Here are the links to the two blogs listed above. 

Grade ONEderful has a great blog, with lots of free downloads and super ideas.

Astrobites is a daily journal written by astronomy grad students to present current research in an accessible format for undergrad students.

If you have a Mac, just drag the template to your desktop and open it with Pages.  Then follow the directions at A Teacher's Treasure to add your own thoughts.

Welcome November!

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List Making and a Freebie

We have been learning to make lists in various ways in the past couple of weeks.  Last week, we made a list called Spider's Things to Do, after reading the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

This week we've been reading One Gorilla, which is essentially a list of favorite animals. 

And, so in writer's workshop, we are now learning to make a list of ideas for writing.  Below is the barebones list form that I use.  It's free to download!  Please let me know if you experience any difficulty with the download.

Happy List Making to You All!

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Dark, Dark Wood Stories

This is the perfect time of the year to read and compare the different versions of the dark, dark wood story.  I begin with Christine Ross' "In a Dark, Dark Wood" (big book). 

The first reading is for enjoyment; there's quite a surprise at the end.  Then we read it through again, and on each page I ask the children to identify the important word.  ("And up that dark, dark path, there was a dark, dark house.")  I use highlighter tape to highlight that word in the big book.  Then, of course, we reread the entire book again.  It's just so much fun to read!  

Finally I pass out the little versions of the story for the students to read and illustrate (free download below, cut each page in half, assemble, staple together.)  After the children read each page, they need to highlight the important word on each page, as we did with the whole group.  The highlighted important word is what they will illustrate.  In their little books, the children decide what they want to be in the box at the end of the story.  It's always interesting to read their final pages!

As the children work on these books throughout the week, they will practice reading and rereading them.  My word wall words for the week come right from this book and so I know this activity gives them a lot of practice with those words.

On the second day we read "A Beasty Story" by Steven Kellogg and Bill Martin.  This version is a hoot!  After reading it through, we complete a large venn diagram to compare the story elements.


On the third day, we read "A Dark Dark Tale" by Ruth Brown.  At first, and throughout, this seems to be the scariest of the three books.  But, oh my, the ending is quite a surprise!  It's a must read.  A lively discussion always follows the reading of this book.  

Head over to Ginger Snaps' Halloween-spiration Linky Party for more Halloween week ideas.

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Favorite Read Alouds Linky Party

Courtney at Swimming Into Second is having a Favorite Read Alouds Linky Party.

I have to say, hands down, that my favorite read alouds are the Poppleton stories by Cynthia Rylant.  She has to be my all time favorite children's author.  She's written the Poppleton books, the Henry and Mudge books, the Mr. Putter and Tabby books, only to mention a few. 

The heartwarming Poppleton books touch on topics of friendship, loyalty and kindness, all with a touch of humor.  You just have to love Poppleton and his friends!

What's your favorite read aloud?  Head over to Swimming Into Second to see more.

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Thank You!

Christine at Hopping Into First Grade has passed the the Blog on Fire Award to me.  This is so exciting!  Thank you!  The world of blogging is a new place for me and I've been enjoying it tremendously.  Blogging has been a refreshing and enriching experience, and I'm amazed by all of the terrific teachers in the blogging world.

So with this award, I need to share seven things about myself, then pass the award along to other "hot" blogs.  Here goes!

I have four young adult kids in their 20's and that includes a new son-in-law.  I'm not crazy about cooking.  I love to knit, crochet and sew. I'm a Weight Watchers member.  I've had Scottish Terriers in my life for over 38 years.  I love astronomy, and my mom is a happy 85 years young.

I'm passing the Blog on Fire award to these fantastic blogs:

Check them out!   

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Roll em!

Here's a great solution to math games that require the use of dice.  When we started using the Everyday Math Program a few years ago, I loved the games with dice, but wanted to find an easy way to control the rolls.  Sometimes the dice would travel 10 feet or more when the games were going on!  

So I hunted around, and don't really remember where I found this idea (maybe somebody can let me know its origin) but it works very well and is so easy to make.  At Ruth's Reusable Resources, a local organization that recycles materials, equipment and supplies, I found a bunch of clam chowder lids.  

Our district has a membership to Ruth's, so the lids were free.  While there, I also picked up some felt.  I cut the felt into circles to fit inside of the lids, then glued the felt in.  Easy!

Now, the when the children roll the dice, it's inside of the lid.  The felt keeps the noise level down and slows the movement of the dice.  If the dice go out of the lid, the roll doesn't count.  Love it!  

If you're looking for more ideas and ways to use dice head over to Little Miss Kindergarten's Getting Dicey page.

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Grade Level Linky Party

Kim at The Teacher's Lane is having a Grade Level Linky Party.   Blogs there are organized by grade level, which makes it easy to browse around on blogs specific to your level.  And, my goodness, there are so many blogs to read!  Grab a cuppa and head on over!

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October Books

Mrs. Parker at Learning With Mrs. Parker has a linky party to share our favorite October books.  Love this idea!  Here are some of my favorites for this time of the year.

A big classroom hit is always A Beasty Story, which is Steven Kellogg's and Bill Martin, Jr.'s version of the dark, dark wood stories.  And Poppleton. . . well, he has to be the sweetest , kindest and coolest pig ever!  Love, love, love Cynthia Rylant and her characters!!

What are your October favorites?  Head over to Learning With Mrs. Parker to check out other recommendations!

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The Quiet Lamp

The Quiet Lamp sits in my friend's classroom, which is right across the hall from my room.  One afternoon I happened to be in her classroom when I noticed a little girl go over to the lamp to turn it on and move its arms around.  When I questioned her about this, she told me that this was her job because she was the Star Student of the Week.  She then turned off the ceiling lights, leaving the soft glow of the Quiet Lamp to warm the room.  The rest of the children were quietly resting, having just come in from outside recess.  They knew that when the Quiet Lamp was on, it was time to rest.

My teaching buddy later told me that she wanted to give the children more responsibility for the classroom setting and tone, and chose this odd and unusual lamp to incorporate into this plan.  Giving the Star Student this job was a way to give the class ownership of their classroom and at the same time, a way to calm the children down after their recess time.  The lamp is first grade friendly because its arms are easily adjustable and at the correct height for little 6 and 7 year olds.  On top of that, the lamp came from a yard sale!  Score!

What a terrific and very effective strategy!  Kudos to my teaching friend across the hall!

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