Saturday, January 28, 2012

UAGC & News Anchor Research Writing

Rebecca and I had the amazing opportunity to present at Creativity Night at the Utah Association for Gifted Children Conference on Friday.  While Rebecca was hard at work at the Candy Factory, I shared with fellow educators how to teach their students how to incorporate interest-based research into their primary grade classroom - but with a twist. After thorough modeling and exposure to what research is and how to conduct it, I have my cute kiddos do their own research during our center time. I have the research papers and graphic organizers to help students focus their writing. This is interest driven as they choose their own topics and if I do not have the research materials on that topic, I do my best to scour the school for some! This project works especially well for our talented learners as they can go more in-depth in a topic and access materials that are appropriately challenging for them!

After presenting last night, I realize I should have my students record a "How to" video about this. So that is what we will do in this following week or so! Can't wait to share that with you all!

UAGC & Place Value Freebies

Katie and I had the opportunity to present at Creativity Night at the Utah Association for Gifted Children Conference today.  At the Candy Factory, I shared with fellow educators how to teach their students to package tens and ones in a creative and sweet way in order to develop a conceptual understanding of our base ten number system.  

Here's a freebie that you can use to teach expanded notation with tens and ones.

Check out our Place Value Unit on TPT for more great resources and materials like an engaging Go Fish Game, a partner order building game, lesson plans, and more student reproducibles!  

Here's my little factory workers busy packaging candy orders into long boxes and singles!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Sparkly E Fun!

As Katie mentioned in the first sparkly E post, we created a word hunt activity for students to use their sparkly E's. We have done this with A and I cvce words thus far. We put cards with cvc words (some of them Dr. Seuss silly words) around the room. Students find a word, read it, then put their sparkly E on the end and read the word again. Students then record the cvce word they made with their sparkly E on a half sheet word hunt page. Can I just tell you what a big hit this has been?!? Katie and I have had such a positive experience with this activity. I went ahead and made word hunt cards with U and O as the vowels because the firsties loved the word hunt with A and I so much! We want to thank Jodi at Fun in First for inspiring us!

Today is your lucky day because we are here to share the word hunt cards and the word hunt recording page!! Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Polar Bear, Polar Bear

Ah what did we see? Students engaged in an activity! Ok, so my rhyming skills are only so-so, but today was a brilliant day to be a first-grade scientist! My kiddos and I have been learning about descriptive writing and identifying details in expository text. Our topic? Polar Bears. Now that we finally have snow, it seems like a good time to talk about this lovable Arctic animals.

To begin, we made a KWL chart yesterday. We brainstormed as a group all of the things we know about polar bears. Then we listed all of the things we wanted to know. I've learned two things, a) my students know a lot about polar bears! and b) they are great at coming up with questions to further their knowledge. We filled out our polar bears can, have are graphic organizer and were set for our experiment!

Today I posed the question, what keep polar bears warm? Then came the fun part! We conducted a science experiment about what which would be a better insulator, cotton balls or shortening (aka our polar bear blubber)? To conduct the experiment I gave each trio of students a small "Arctic ocean" filled with ice water. Then, each group got a empty plastic Ziplock bag, one lined with cotton balls (I double bagged them so the students wouldn't put their hands in the cotton balls) and one filled with shortening (again, double bagged :) )

Each student tested the water and all of them were pleasantly surprised that the shortening, or our simulated blubber, was the best insulator! The kiddos and I had such a blast! We are definitely looking forward to learning more about polar bears tomorrow!

shortening glove

cotton balls

~ Katie

Click here if you want the polar bear can, have, are page

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cause and Effect With Cupcakes

To review cause and effect, my kiddos and I read the crowd pleaser "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake" by Laura Numeroff. Really any of the "If you..." books by Numeroff would work splendidly for this activity, but I love cupcakes so this one won out! 

To go along with the story and to help students practice, I created a mini (and I mean mini - 2 activities) unit for my kiddos. I think my favorite part of the activity was having them draw their own cause and effects. That really helped me see whether they understood the concept. My favorite response:
Cause "When I run fast"
Effect "It makes me go crazy." 

From this particular student, I would definitely agree that happens! If you want to take a look at our free unit click here

~ Katie

Monday, January 16, 2012

Place Value - A Yummy Introduction

This week we began our Place Value unit. This is always a more conceptually challenging math topic for students, so when Rebecca and I thought to tackle this we wanted to relate it to something the students would be excited about. And what better topic than candy! We transformed our students into candy factory workers and it was absolutely brilliant!

Not only were students engaged, but they were learning too! We have posted this scrumptious unit on our Teachers Pay Teachers store. It has two lesson plans, practice pages, manipulatives, task cards, and a review "Go Fish" game! Let us know what you think!

~ Katie and Rebecca

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mapping Mini Unit

Ahoy mateys! We have added a new pirate themed mapping mini unit to our shop! It includes 11 printable student pages, directions for an interactive compass rose game (our firsties beg to play it on indoor recess days), and a fun performance assessment. (Shiver me timbers! We just used fun to describe an assessment!) As always, thanks to the talented Kirsten at KPM Doodles for all of the darling clipart!

Go check it out and let us know what you think!

~Katie and Rebecca

Treasure Hunt

Our state core features geography and what better way to get the kiddos excited about mapping than to stage a treasure hunt? To begin our mapping unit, we spent several days on map features and how to read a map. We always launch this unit by reading "Me On a Map" by Joan Sweeney. This book does an excellent job of building on a simple map of a girl's room all the way to where she belongs in our world. We discussed the different features we saw on the map as well as the different types of maps there are. After we finished the book and our map discussion, our students transformed into cartographers charged with drawing a map of their bedroom.

Throughout the unit, we discussed the compass rose and practiced finding our way around our classroom using the cardinal directions. We looked at several different types of maps to help students gain an understanding of landmarks and using a map key. Once students had been exposed to the different map features, we decided to put our learning into action! Our students were charged with hiding their treasure - after all, it's what pirates do best! We used an outline of our classroom as the beginning of our map making. Then we discussed as a group what needed to go on the map. This really reinforced what constitutes as a landmark and what doesn't, as well as the different map features and where they belong. From there, we added our landmarks and color coded them on the Map Key on the back of the map. Once the map was filled in, the students were give one gold chocolate coin in a baggie with his/her name on it. Our little pirates set out to hid their treasure! Students then put a large red X on their individual maps marking where they hid their gold. Once the treasure was successfully "buried", it was time for a map exchange.
A Student example

The map key on the back

Using our two classrooms, students exchanged maps and were charged with finding the other's buried treasure. Oh my stars! All of our students were so excited. The perfect part?! This worked as a wonderful performance assessment to see which students were able to successfully use the map features (compass rose, landmarks, map key) to locate a specific place. What better way to see learning then when it is put into action!

For more fabulous mapping ideas, check out our TPT shop for our mapping mini unit!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spreading Some Love

We saw this and couldn't not participate! We are sending our love to all the teachers, students, and families in Joplin. Thanks to Mrs. Wills Kindergarten for uniting us bloggers in a great cause!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Literacy Love Struck!

Click here to purchase our Lovely Literacy Centers Pack

We have finally finished our Valentines Literacy Unit and we are so excited to share it! Thanks to KPM Doodles for having such inspiring clipart, we just had to get a jump start on some of next month's heart-themed literacy centers. We can't wait to show our kiddos!

There are 11 fabulous literacy centers - writing, word work, and games! We hope you love this unit as much as we do! Please drop us a note if you do get this unit - we would love to hear what you think about it!

~ Katie and Rebecca

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sparkly E - A Long Vowel's Friend

This is the class' E and student's E.

It's that time of year again when we teach about silent e and all of its power. Normally I say "Alright friends, when you see Silent E he gives all of his power to the first vowel; which makes it say its name." Not too bad, but definitely not catchy. Then I saw on the wonderful Fun in First Grade that Silent E doesn't have to be, well, boring. Let's dress him up a bit! So that's what I have done!

Now, my kiddos get to meet Sparkly E! Rather than using my usual verbiage, I use the same introduction as those over at Fun in First Grade. "This is Sparkly E and when he shows up at the end of a word, the other vowel in the word gets so excited they just have to say their name - "Hi, I am A!""

We used Sparkly E to make words for our long a chunks this week, _ame, _ake, and _ate. The kiddos have loved Sparkly E so much! In fact, the kiddos got to make their own and go on a word hunt around the room! So fun!

We love our Sparkly E's!
~ Katie

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Snowglobe Art

Katie saw this adorable art and writing activity on First Grade Blue Skies. It was so adorable we knew we both needed this up on our bulletin boards and pronto!

Katie read Stranger in the Woods with her kiddos to get them thinking about winter sensory words.

(book image via

I read Snow to my friends and we brainstormed different things we would hear, see, smell, and feel.

(book image via

As prompted from her literature selection, Katie's class drew adorable drawings of woodland creatures and trees.

I had my class draw themselves in the snowglobe, paying close attention to details about themselves (hair, eyes, what their snow clothes look like, etc.)

I didn't have time to run to the craft store for glitter spray, but I did have a moment of brilliance as I was headed out the door to work the day we were making these. The Halloween Bin! I rifled through fairy wings, witch stockings, and feather boas and came out with glitter hairspray. It totally did the trick. Next year I will totally be stocking up on glitter hairspray for winter art projects!

I just love it when Katie and I plan something together, but they still turn out differently. That's what makes teaching fun...taking a great idea and putting your own spin on it.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Valentines Clipart ~ Freebies


So I love Valentines, even with all of the mushy, cutesy stuff. But I especially love Valentines in 1st grade! The kiddos are so dang cute to one another and it gives me an excuse to decorate with pink and red (something I'm sure my boys love! :) ) While I was on TPT, I saw that the fabulous artists at Graphics From the Pond have so generously offered up some heart-themed clipart. Thought I would share! Thanks!

~ Katie

Let's Recap: And take a breath

This week has been such an adventure for us, but wow has it felt long! Thank goodness the weekend is here, right?! Ok, to recap our fabulous centers overhaul!

Katie: "Today was amazing! My kiddos were so engaged in writing today!"

Rebecca: "I am excited that your post office is up and running! My kids will be excited too. I love the idea of building stamina with both reading and writing. How did you set the stage for your firsties to have such an engaged writing day? "

Katie: "To begin, we reviewed our anchor charts on why reading and writing are important. I had my kiddos echo read them with me so they heard themselves read the purpose to centers."

Rebecca: "I like that you keep connecting back to the importance of the charts to help your friends remember. What do you think has been your "winning strategy" with the implementation thus far?"

Katie: "I think what worked in my favor was conducting the check-ins. Once a student was demonstrating off task behavior, I rang the bell and had the students gather for a quick check-in on how they felt they were doing with the current center they were working on. I also use this time, which is no more than 3 minutes, to review what the reading and writing stations should look like and sound like."

Rebecca: "Check-ins are brilliant! I need to be better about doing that. I think that would really help my posse of rowdy boys be better about being on task!  "

Katie: "What worked well for you?"

Rebecca: "In my room we have been working on being "deep thinkers" during centers. I have done lots of modeling on making connections (text to self, text to text, and text to world) and using our comprehension strategy animals. Ooh Katie, we should share our comprehension strategy animals!"

Katie: "We totally should! I love that you are teaching your students how to be deep thinkers and tying it to the strategies that we use in our classrooms!"

Rebecca: "I have absolutely LOVED center share. It has been a really positive thing for my friends. They are eager to share their connections and their hearts from centers. Some of the connections are a little...should we say... superficial, but at least they are making them. I think as they develop a real consciousness about what they are doing the quality of their connections will improve."

Katie: "Center Share has become such a fantastic time! I love that we are teaching our kiddos to think and reflect about what they have been working on and learning. As time goes on, I bet we will see less and less of the superficial comments and more outstanding insights!"

All and all, we think we are going to love this new center system. It will be interesting to see what happens when we incorporate Learning Licenses!

~ Katie and Rebecca

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

100s chart game

Rebecca here with a freebie! I made this math game in a pinch and it is easy to play! I was thrilled when my firsties loved it! I think it is funny how the simplest things sometimes end up being the biggest hits!

Everything you need is included! :)

I hope your little friends enjoy this game as much as my friends did!


Triple S Blends

In order to help my kiddos practice their triple s blends, I came up with a partner spinner game. My students love playing games together and I just love that they are learning while doing so! Best of both worlds, no?! I have the students use different colored counters to cover up their spaces, but you can totally use whatever works best for your kiddos.

Feel free to download this game for your fabulous firsties as well. :)

~ Katie

Interactive Writing

I love to use interactive writing as a means for labeling our room. and filling up our walls.

During our first grade color days at the beginning of the year, we make a collage for each color day. Over the summer, I go through the magazines I have saved over the year and roughly cut/ tear out 25-30 pictures in each of the 10 colors. I label a gallon storage baggie with each color to store the pictures.

On the color day, we interactive write the color word and then I pass out a magazine picture to each friend. Friends are responsible for carefully cutting out the picture and then gluing it on to our collage. (11x17 piece of construction paper) I enlarge the color word we wrote during interactive writing and add it to the middle of our collage.

We also interactive write the numerals and number words at the beginning of the year. I add dots to make them into dominoes and enlarge our writing as necessary. They are displayed on my back cupboards. We refer to it as our “number wall”.

The kids love to read the color words and the number words during read the room.

Displaying their interactive writing also gives the students a sense of ownership in our classroom. Sometimes I let my desire to make things "cute" take over and then the things on my walls just become wallpaper. Interactive writing is a meaningful use of wall space. Plus, I think nothing looks more "first grade adorable"!

~ Rebecca

*When I was working on my undergrad, I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a TA in a kindergarten classroom and then in the same teacher’s first grade classroom. She was a true master at interactive writing. The credit for both these ideas belongs to her! Shout out to you Julie Porter! 

Daily Five with a Twist: Recap of Day 2 & 3

With the first day of our centers overhaul a success, both Rebecca and I felt empowered to tackle day two and three! (yippy!!!) Our students had a completely different reaction to centers using this new system. They were more engaged and had a clearer understand that what they were working directly impacted their reading and writing. The first day, and most of the second, we focused on reading centers and what they should look like, sound like, and feel like. We each made sure to refer back to our anchor charts that each of our classes had created the day before. We also would periodically have students gather on our rugs for a check in to see how well students were doing with the new structure of centers.



One thing that was very powerful was discussing and modeling the three ways to read a book. After going through each of the three ways, we each had our students practice reading a book. It was amazing to see all of our kiddos engaged in reading - whether pictures, words or retelling - a book of their choice. Even our struggling readers were actively engaged! Amazing!

When introducing the writing centers, we gathered our students onto our rugs to create a new anchor chart focused on why writing is important. It is wonderful to hear the students' perception about writing and what it means to them. By using this brainstorming session and anchor chart creation, our students are able to more successfully see the purpose of centers. They are also developing a sense of empowerment and ownership over their own learning. Isn't that what it is all about?!


We can't wait to see what happens when we reteach our word work centers and have students choosing between all three categories! Here's to tomorrow!

~ Katie and Rebecca

Monday, January 2, 2012

Daily Five With A Twist

Over the wonderful winter break, Rebecca and I began to discuss just how our language arts centers block was at best frustrating. At first I (Katie) was embarrassed to say anything, after all if it worked last year what was I doing wrong this year?! Thankfully, Rebecca shared the same feelings. Our students, bless their hearts, were not as engaged in the centers and our guided reading groups felt choppy at best. So where did I turn? To the amazing online community of teacher blogs. This was the first time either of us had heard about the Daily Five. I rushed to Amazon to order the book and it is indeed as fabulous as everyone has made it out to be.

The catch. It is mid-year and now we are both facing a complete overhaul of centers. If I think too much about it, I become slightly nervous. But fingers crossed that it can be done! As with a new year and any new goal, we made a plan and discussed the varied needs of our students. Luckily, most of the centers that we have can easily be categorized into the three main language arts tasks outlined in the Daily Five. One thing that is working to our benefit is our students already have the an established foundation in center procedures. Those centers that didn't fit into any of the categories we decided to retire. How we decided which centers to keep and which to toss came down to the same questions "Is this center enhancing our students' learning? Is there something to be gained by engaging in this center?"

Using our Gifted and Talented endorsements, we decided to make a hybrid center system - part Daily Five and part Learning Licenses (more on this to come). This, my dear friends, is a new adventure for both of us and our kiddos.

Day 1

The Daily Five focuses on three language arts tasks - reading, writing, and word work. We decided to introduce each task by topic. Today we focused on reading and why reading is important. As a class, we made an anchor chart to answer this question. The kiddos are so great at offering their reasoning (my favorite - so "when you grow up, you don't mess up." Priceless!)


Afterward we did loads and loads of modeling the correct behavior at each reading center. I modeled both correct and incorrect behaviors then I had students model the correct behavior to their classmates. Afterward, the entire class  had a turn. As in the Daily Five, I had my students practice REALLY reading a book (either pictures or words) in one spot in the classroom. We were able to do it for about 4 minutes before any off task behavior arose.

It was amazing to see the different perception the students had in just one day. Throughout our blog journey we will explain each of our centers and how we conduct them - and whether or not our center hybrid will work!

~ Katie and Rebecca

Classroom Post Office

After our letter writing unit my firsties became fast and furious letter writers. Their take home cubbies were beginning to overflow with letters, so I decided to make a little classroom post office. I picked up a 12-pair (24 pocket), over the door shoe rack from Target, sliced it in half, and stapled it up under my whiteboard. I added a name label on each pocket and viola! My kids love to choose letter writing as the day’s writing center.

So no one feels left out, I have a “need a letter” pocket and an “already have a letter” pocket. Friends choose a stick from the “need a letter” pocket and then after they have written and delivered the letter, they deposit the stick in the “already have a letter pocket”.  The only requirement is that their letters have all 5 parts: heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature.

It has been so neat watching the students have an authentic purpose for writing! We are excited for Katie’s class to get their post office up and running so we can write letters to them too!

Here is the letter template we use. Katie and I add clip art to make the letter writing template thematic. Enjoy!

~ Rebecca

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello All!

We, Rebecca and Katie, would like to take a moment to introduce ourselves as we jump into this wonderful world of teachers that blog about all things that are innovative, creative, and engaging. What a fabulous community to join! We are both super excited to see where this takes us as we have been following so many wonderful teachers out there - we just had to contribute some of the cute and fun things that we do with our kiddos as well.

Meet Rebecca ~
This is my 5th year teaching. I have taught 4 years of first grade with a year of kindergarten squeezed in there. My undergrad is in Early Childhood Education with an ESL minor and I have a master’s of Elementary Education with a gifted and talented endorsement. I absolutely love my sweet firsties! When I’m not in the classroom, I love a good book, decorating, J. Crew (gotta love that teacher discount), and cupcakes. Katie and I are so thrilled to share a glimpse into our classrooms!
Meet Katie ~
I have been teaching first grade for 3 years, all next door to Rebecca (who could ask for a better teammate and neighbor?!?!), and what a wonderful ride it has been so far. I am absolutely in love with my students and have found teaching to be one of the most fulfilling things I have done with my life! Like Rebecca, I have my Master's in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented. When I am not at school, I am with my wonderful hubby and our two Border Collies Wyatt and Ollie. Life has been such a blessing and I am excited to see what happens next!