Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Rotten Apple Hunt: A CVC Reading Adventure

I LOVE creating engaging learning experiences for my kiddos. One of my favorite ways to do that is to have "special visitors" come by our classroom. Little kiddos have hearts that are so open to believing in magical people and animals. Whether it be Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, or Clifford the Big Red Dog, little kids believe in them.

In September, we get a visit from the Crazy Apple Bunch Friends. This is a group of apples that want to get children reading and thinking. They try and trick kiddos by seeing if they can find the Rotten Apple words...words that are non-sense and silly! After stopping by our classroom to leave us a letter explaining our mission, we head off to find this crazy bunch!

Their apple words have placed words all around our school AND the Crazy Apple Bunch Friends have words written on THEM!!!

Do you see those round, red balls by these Crazy guys??? That is APPLE POOP!!! 
And the kiddos get to eat the apple poop!
Shhhhh...It is really cherry sour candy.

After collecting all of the apples in a basket, we must sort those crazy guys by whether they are yummy apples (real words) or rotten apples (non-sense words).

The Crazy Apple Bunch also leave us several activities that we can use in our Daily 5 Word Work. These activities help us work on rhyming, sorting words by their short vowel sound, and more practice reading CVC words. Take a peek. :)

I think this activity might be one of my favorite adventures because it was so easy to set-up. All I had to do was hot glue some googly eyes on the apples and write CVC words on them with a Sharpie. The apple poop just added to the excitement and engagement. My kiddos just went crazy nuts over this adventure and I know your kiddos will too!

Happy September sweet friends.

From My Heart to Yours,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday's Heart Start: Snapshots of the Heart

This Sunday's Heart Start is one that I think all teachers need to hear. This past year was a struggle for me. Not because I had a difficult class but because there were so many moments that just showed the sad direction I see teaching heading sometimes. But then my heart remembered...

...My heart remembered Little Warrior from years and years ago. Little Warrior was not in my classroom for very long but I will never forget her smile, her laugh, and her perseverance. Little Warrior's story was very sad and to protect her privacy wherever she might be I won't share it. God placed Little Warrior in my room for a reason...just like each child He places in my room and in your room every year. Little Warrior taught ME more than I know I taught her. The snapshot of her in my head has nothing to do with her scores or grades but her heart.


At the end of this year, I looked at my classroom snapshot and compared the scores and achievements of my kiddos from the beginning of the year to their scores in May. My teacher heart was so proud. When I turned it in to my Principal and Instructional Coach, I joked that it was stained with all of the blood, sweat, and tears everyone in our room shed. And that was true because many of the assessments caused my little Firsties to cry. There were also tears from me because I felt so pressured by testing this year.

We give the STAAR test 3rd and up in Texas. My district gives CBA's (curriculum based assessments) for 1st and 2nd. We have given CBAs before so that was not new but it just seems like more and more eyes look and question your scores, your lessons, and your schedule when your scores don't show enough growth. 

I don't think it is a questioning of what we are doing wrong...everyone just wants to help our kiddos do their best. I think the frustrating part is often the steps we have to take to get to a place where our kiddos may not be developmentally ready to be.

Teachers already pour their hearts and souls into helping our kiddos. We see huge growth all of the time that often does not show up in those scores. I think because we are so passionate about what we do that we tend to feel a little hurt when someone thinks we may not be doing a good job because of what some score shows. They are not in the trenches seeing the moment by moment growth we see and celebrate daily.

This post is not about testing because our scores already show the difference a teacher makes. Yes, most of the time that snapshot is not a true picture of that child and his/her capabilities. Heck, I cannot think of anything in my life that I would like for someone to take 1 snapshot of and be judged by that snapshot.

But I started to think of snapshots that SHOULD be in our classroom each day. Snapshots reflecting laughter, music, games, play, art, hugs, friendships, ah-ha's, collaboration, science experiments, engagement, and many other things that SHOULD still be a part of a young child's day and life. Those are the snapshots that will make a difference in the hearts of our kiddos. Those snapshots won't fade from our kiddos hearts.

I can take no credit for any difference I might be making in the classroom because I just pray for God to use me how He can. Even after 15 years in 1st grade, I still worry about not being good enough. I get so inspired by my friends out in the teaching world. I LOVE how much passion I see out there in social media but it sometimes seems that passion gets lost when I step on campus. I think that doubt is when I lose my focus because I am worrying about scores or other stressful burdens that teachers try to carry alone. I have to remember to create those snapshots that will make a difference in more than a score. Because I need to remember that before you reach their heads, you have to touch their hearts.

One hug can make a heart smile.
One giggle can heal a heart that has been hurting for awhile.
One song can comfort the silence at night.
One teacher can be God's beacon of light.

YOU can be God's difference of One...Because when YOUR passion shines through, you will ignite that passion in the hearts of others.

From My Heart to Yours,

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Great Paw Print Hunt with Pete the Cat

Hi Sweet Friends. Since I never blogged about this last year, I knew I wanted to share it with y'all now. If you have ever read my blog, you know that we LOVE to have special visitors come to our classroom.

These special visitors are usually an animal like Stretchy Snake or something seasonal like The Pumpkin Snatchers and Lucky the Leprechaun...and those are just a few of the visitors that have stopped by our room. There are tons more.

These special visitors are a great way to engage the kiddos and get them excited about the lesson. The visitors usually have us "hunting" and looking for things around the school. I usually just put the things we are hunting for down the hall/path we will take to go to Music/PE. This way we can quickly gather them without spending class and learning time hunting for them. Plus, this helps the kiddos be quiet in the line because I'll call on quiet friends to hold the things we find. :)

These lessons usually start with a letter.

After receiving this letter, we start hunting for paw prints. Before starting the hunt, we talk about and make predictions about who the paw prints might belong to. You always hear some interesting predictions. :)

When we are hunting for things in the hall, the kiddos know to stop the line and quietly point to what we are hunting for. There is LOTS of very enthusiastic pointing!

I always set the hunt up before school and then pretend when the kiddos see the things in the morning that I have no idea how they got there. :)

When the kiddos see the paw prints, most still don't make the connection that these are Pete the Cats paw prints...and I don't tell them. :)

Beside each paw print is a clue. The clues tell the students about a favorite treat of the author of the letter. Remember, the letter is signed as a Groovy Friend. 

When we finish finding all 6 clues, we head back to the room. When we get back to the room (This will usually be AFTER PE/Music), there is a package and a cat food bowl full of letters on my table.

We talk about all 6 clues and read the letter on the bag that tells us we need to use our schema and infer what could be inside the bag. We practice using sentence stems to help us talk about our inference.

We open the package to check our inference. We find strawberries and our paw print letter hunt cards.

Along with the strawberries and word study activity, the Groovy Friend also left us one of his books.

The reason there were paw prints around the school was he lost his shoes because they were covered in strawberries! :)

My kiddos seriously loved this activity. I was able to use the cards in Word Work and in my reading/RtI groups. If you are interested in grabbing it, click on the link below.

Click on the picture to grab a *freebie*!

Have a groovy day!

From My Heart to Yours,

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday's Heart Start: Getting Your Room Ready

Hi sweet friends. This week was so hard to be here in Texas while all of my teacher friends and teacher inspirations were in Vegas. Let's just say I have done a lot of stalking scrolling through pictures.

I have LOVED seeing everyone's pictures. So to make everyone jealous about where I was, I went up to my classroom to start setting it up. While there, I thought of what this Sunday's Heart Start would be about.

I'm not sure about y'all but seeing my furniture all piled into one LARGE jumble is not my favorite sight to see...especially working when there is NO a/c.

This is the first year EVER that my stuff was not piled to the ceiling! I usually have to climb the Mt. Rushmore of furniture to begin setting my room up! And this is not an illusion....this is the ACTUAL size of my closet classroom.

In a few weeks, everyone will start sharing the beautiful pictures of their classrooms. I LOVE seeing them all and get so many ideas. I also have to say a few prayers to not be jealous! Lol! :)

I LOVE creating a warm, friendly, inviting home for my kiddos and myself...and let's face it, our classroom IS our 2nd home. But I also know I have to caution myself to not get caught up in lots of little details. I have to remind myself that there is more to a classroom than all of the Pinterest projects....especially when you are craft challenged like myself and take FOREVER to make anything!

I have to remind myself as I am crossing off things on my to-do lists that I need to be spending equal time planning lessons and activities that will build Our School Family and reach the hearts of my kiddos. I want my kiddos to know that when they walk into our classroom, they walk into my heart.

For many of our kiddos, our classrooms are safe havens. Our rooms might be the one place during the day where they feel loved and safe. Because of that, I want to encourage and build a caring and supportive home. Here is one way I build that environment where kiddos feel safe.

I'll be back to share about this special box. Yes, I am teasing y'all! :)

As you start getting your room ready, be sure to take time to get your heart ready.

From My Heart to Yours,

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday's Heart Start: Are You Ready?

Hi Sweet Friends. Y'all have been on my heart constantly and there have been so many times when I wanted to sit down and blog but just couldn't. I'll go more into all of that in another post. I have truly missed blogging and sharing with each of you. Blogging has always helped me get my heart in the right place. So....I am going to start a series on this blog...or at least try my best to.

I love Sundays because they are the start of a new week. Yes, they are the end of the weekend. Yes, I spend them procrastinating about writing my lesson plans. Yes, I LOVE my nap after church. But the reason I love Sundays is they are my HEART START to the week. They are God's reminder that each day and week is a fresh start.

It is so easy to dread Mondays. Each Monday when I pull into the parking lot it is easy for me to not want to put my first foot onto my campus. I know the days and week will be full of obstacles and more on my plate than I can usually deal with since I don't have super powers. :)

I love teaching but it is all of the other STUFF that gets me down. I know how much the power of encouragement can uplift a heart and make a difference. I want to give those words of encouragement to others if I can....especially to my kiddos. :)

I know I have to have my attitude in check because if I don't, a bad attitude will bring me down.

My attitude will effect my kiddos.

Your attitude will effect your kiddos.

There are times I need to listen to certain songs, pray, and find inspiration in the things that remind me WHY I teach.

This video always reminds me of the importance and the difference that teachers make.

As you get ready for a new week, make a plan to encourage, uplift, and serve others. Remember, God gives you a gift each day. A day we can use to make a difference by sharing His love with others.

From My Heart to Yours,

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Gift of a Teacher

Merry Christmas sweet friends. I hope you are enjoying your holiday and are finding time to see the blessings that are all around us. I am blessed by the gift God gave us in His son because without the manger there would be no cross.

Last week as I was gathering the goodies for my gift to my kiddos I realized that what I really wanted to give them was not something I could wrap or buy. One of the gifts that would make a difference would be to give them the best teacher that I could be. Yes, I hope they remember the fun activities we do but I would rather them remember how I made them feel.

I want to give them a teacher who has A Heart of Patience because we all have so many things going on that make life stressful. I want my words to help them when things are going wrong and I want to lift them up with encouraging words that make them strong.

I want them to find magic in the books of a book and show them small miracles that others overlook. I want to remember that when I look at them I behold the future...even when that scares me!

Seeing our kiddos as the future seems to get more difficult and difficult each year because teaching becomes more and more stressful and the dynamics of our classrooms keeps changing...and not always as we see for the best. I want to give my kiddos the gift of taking these difficult and stressful situations as opportunities to help them become kind and caring individuals.

I want to give them a teacher that sees them with Eyes of the Heart. Eyes that see the good and eyes that see past the facade and the behaviors. Eyes that see everyone with love because God loved me first and I am a sinner that is not perfect too.

I want to give them the teacher in the mirror that is enough because we often forget that teacher when we become discouraged by all of the obstacles in our way. I want to remember I am teaching a child and not just a curriculum. I want to see my kiddos with growth glasses that see achievements both big and small that data on a paper does not show.

I want to give them the gift of giggles because our days need to be full of joy. The smiles and laughter of our kiddos will be remembered in our hearts long after memories of benchmark tests fade from our brains.

I want to give them the gift of a classroom that is a special place because when they walked into my classroom they walked into my heart.

I want to give them the gift of a childhood as much as I can in the 7 precious hours I have them at school.

To you, I want to give you the gift of knowing that Because of You a difference is being made.

As you celebrate Christmas and the holidays, know that you are giving your children something precious and are giving them the gift of a teacher.

From My Heart to Yours,

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Teacher in the Mirror

WOW! It has been forever since I wrote a blog post. I have thought of so many things I wanted to share with you but just can't get it together to share them. I find myself wondering how is December almost over??!!?? Where is this year going????

This is my 15th year of teaching...and I have been in 1st the whole time. Considering that piece of info, I wonder how in the world can I feel as if I am drowning at least 80% of the time??? Why am I creating and making new activities???? Why do I find myself feeling like a crummy teacher more days than not???

I realize I am teaching in a world that forgets that I am teaching a young child. I follow a curriculum that seems to expect kiddos to learn a new concept right away. My kiddos don't leave their burdens at the door and my kiddos still need time to explore, play, and laugh...We won't even talk about all they keep heaping on our plates...I do like to sleep and have yet to figure out how to get it all in!!!

I think many teachers of the little ones find us in a world where developmentally appropriate doesn't matter anymore. I realize the reason I might have a HUGE headache when I come home could be because we taught addition for 1 week and the next week we are introducing subtraction. Hmmmm, hello???? Where is time for us to be building neural pathways and the time for practice and reteaching???

When someone looks at your score and sees kiddos below benchmark, they may not see and understand that one of those kiddos knew 0 letters when the year started or one of those kiddos has a parent in jail or one of them is living in a shelter.

When I have kiddos struggling, I forget to look at these other factors...I just start feeling as if I am not a good enough teacher.

There have been times this year that I looked into the mirror and did not like the teacher and person I saw. It is so easy to look at others, our kiddos, and ourselves with critical eyes. Most of the time I do not see others or myself as God does. When I saw this video, I cried and knew that others needed to see it too. Click on the link to watch. :)

I pray that I remember when I see this teacher in the mirror that I see a teacher that will keep creating new activities because I want my kiddos to be engaged. I pray that I remember that scores are just numbers on a page that do not accurately show the learning that has taken place. I pray that I see the teacher that loves her kiddos and that tries to teach them to be kind to others because that will make a difference in the world. I pray that I see others as an inspiration because teachers are making a difference in countless ways every day.

Remember this when you see the teacher in the mirror....

You are an inspiration to your kiddos. You are making a difference. The teacher in the mirror is a blessing because that teacher in the mirror is YOU!!!

From My Heart to Yours,