Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Apple-solutely Apple-icous Activities: Happy Birthday, Johnny Appleseed!!

I love holidays. I mean LOVE holidays!!! Simply the thought of Thanksgiving, birthdays, New Year's, 4th of July, the Superbowl (which, yes, I realize is not actually a holiday, but is a fun event with friends, family, and food so I feel like it fits in the holiday category) makes me smile. The decorations, laughter, and memories associated with these events and gatherings make my heart skip a beat...no joke!!

So needless to say, holidays and celebrations are a pretty big deal in my classroom. This is why we spent a few days learning about and celebrating Johnny Appleseed. As his birthday was Saturday (September 26), we took time on Friday AND Monday to enjoy all things apples!!! #twicethefun

We began by reading about John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed), acting out a play of his life, creating a biography minibook, and also narrative writing piece about him. Below are pictures of my firsties reading their narrative pieces during Author's Chair time!

This week the comprehension skill we were working on was identifying the topic, main idea, and details in a text. Of all of the skills we do in the year, I think this is always the most challenging for my dear scholars. I wanted to give my firsties some extra fun practice with these skills by making a "Topic, Main Idea, & Details Johnny Appleseed Hat!" The firsties were so excited to to make their hats, that they were more than willing to work through the challenge of identifying the topic, main idea, and details! Once we had written everything out, we created our cooking pot hat with the topic and main idea on the big red apple and six smaller apples with details on the side!

The kiddos were so excited to wear their hats through the day!! Here are my boys sporting their hats and showing off their treats!

We ended our biography unit on Johnny with an "all things apple" celebration! We enjoyed sliced apples, apple sauce, apple juice, and apple cake!! The students were so happy to celebrate Johnny, all he did, and his birthday!! Happy Birthday, Johnny Appleseed!

Hope you all had a wonderful day celebrating as well!!!


Thursday, September 24, 2015


"Fair isn't everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need to be successful."

This quote has made it's way through educational circles via Pinterest and many other social media outlets. It hangs proudly in my classroom and it's a mantra our class lives by.

At the beginning of the year as we establish routines and procedures with our students, there are three key things I want my firsties to understand about who they are and the way our class will run: 1) they are all SUPERSTAR students with unique abilities and strengths that will be celebrated, 2) that I am here to help and support them in whatever areas they need to grow in, 3) the way I help each student with their individual needs may be different and the way it looks from student to student may be different.

Our first social students unit is called "All About Me." In this unit we cover a number of social procedures, class contract, behavior things, etc. We take some time to do the famous "bandaid differentiation" lesson. During this lesson I ask the students to tell the class about an ailment -- real or imaginary. They all tell me "where it hurts" and why (my leg hurts because I fell off my bike -- real, my ear hurts because of the shark bite -- imaginary, etc). After we giggle our way through our imaginary pains, I tell the students that I have a bandaid for each of them. I explain, however, that since I want my distribution of the bandaids to be fair, I will give each student the same bandaid in the same place, in the same way regardless of their particular owie. Each student is given a bandaid directly above their right elbow, even if they complain of pain on their ear, knee, toe, eyeball, or tongue. The students each year laugh at the preposterousness of the getting a bandaid where it doesn't actually hurt and we explain that this kind of "fair" doesn't actually help anyone at all.

I love this lesson because it helps students understand why different rewards, encouragement, modifications, etc. may be given to certain students. It also helps my higher achieving students accept more challenging work because they realize they all want to grow and what I am asking or requiring of them will help them grow -- it's what they need. We refer back to the bandaids countless times during the year and it is a very tangible and visible reference for differentiation through the year.

Another beginning of the year lesson we love is about Superstar Students! It's my first tutu costume of the year and the kids love coming back from lunch to see me dressed like Superman in a bright yellow tutu. We discuss superheros, what kinds of super powers we wished we had, and then what kinds of super strengths we actually do have. Students brainstorm and write about their strengths and then get to make their own superhero emblem that shares what makes them a superstar student. They love to proudly wear their tags and share what makes them a super student!

Some days of first grade are wonderful and exciting and amazing and fabulous! But sometimes school is hard, other days it's challenging, and other days its difficult. I want to start off the year with students recognizing that they are strong, talented, smart, and awesome!! This lesson is also something we reference during the year to remind students how incredible they really are!

This precious firstie below was so excited about her superstar tag and my costume, she asked her mom to take a picture of us after school!! I have the most precious group of superstar student scholars ever!!!

My super students have already proven to be amazingly talented scholars and I am so excited and happy about a year of growing and learning with them all!! Here's to a SUPER fabulous, SUPER incredible, and SUPER fun year!


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Classroom Couture -- When Sight Words & Blog Shirts Meet

"Playing dress up begins at age five and never truly ends."
~ Kate Spade ~

If you know me well, you know I love Kate Spade and adore dressing up! I live by the "you can never be overdressed" motto. And, I love PERSONALIZED things. My planners, clothes, etc. are all monogramed -- if it doesn't move, monogram it!!! That's why I was beyond excited to get my personalized blogger t-shirt from A+ Images!! They offered teacher bloggers FREE (that's right, FREE) blogger t-shirts!! Such a sweet and generous gift!

As a collector of teacher tees (many of which I purchased in Las Vegas from A+ Images booth at the I Teach 1st Conference!), I have instituted my own "casual Friday" to showcase all my teacher apparel on a weekly basis!! However, this week I was able to showcase my teacher style for educational purposes as well!! Two of our sight words were "once" and "upon." What better way to review sight words than to wear your blogger t-shirt sporting those two words!! My kids LOVED seeing their words on my shirt!! It was such a fun way to showcase my style as well as reinforce content!!

A special thanks to A+ Images for their generous donation to teacher bloggers!! We love you and are so thankful for your fabulous company! Also, be sure to check out their adorable classroom faces shirts -- such a fun keepsake to do with your class! To explore their designs and order their terrific products, find them HERE!


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Classroom Reveal: Welcome to First Grade Fairyland!!!

Once upon first grade,
In room 402,
Was a costume-loving teacher,
And her bright scholars true.

Welcome to Miss Allison's First Grade Fairyland!! I have been waiting for weeks and am now extremely excited to link up with Ashley from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and Angie from Lucky Little Learners for their #2getherwearebetter Classroom Reveal Linky. The time has finally come!!! Once Upon First Grade, in a faraway land...

I hope that as you enter our room, you are transported to an adventurous land far, far away filled with fun, learning, and lots of magic!!! You will quickly notice that I have an extremely small room. This matches my private school class cap of 12 students. While space is limited, we make an effort to use all of our space to create a fun and magical environment for learning and growth! Join us as we adventure into Firstgrade Fairyland!!! 

Above was our door the first day of school! We took first day of school pictures (using photo frames that can be found in my TPT store HERE) that will soon go on the door on each of the name cards. Below is the door from the outside, our new class announcement board, and our backpack and lunch cubbies! 

Here is the view of our class when you enter First Grade Fairyland!! Our student desks are in the middle, our morning meeting and math rug are off to the left, our front rug is up at the head of the class, and my teacher desk is to the right! 

We'll begin our adventure into Fairyland by giving you a panoramic view from left to right. Immediately when you walk into class on your left is our class library and Listening Center. We know that reading for firsties can sometimes be difficult -- reading is a lot of work. I wanted to create a library area that would inspire a love of reading and literature in my students. To do this, I turned to my AMAZING cousin for help. If you know me, you know that I the sad recipient of the worst artist EVER award...no joke!! But my cousin Nicole is an extremely talented artist who created this amazing mural for my class library. She designed, drew, and then painted it -- clearly, she's truly incredible!!! 

This side of our library houses all of our books. Our class books are organized into bins with a specific picture corresponding to the book type or genre. The picture is placed on a bin label and also on each book. This makes it easy for students to help me find and return books to their correct bin!!! One of the things I love about these books is that about half of them were my own books growing up. My mom was the parent who was always ordering from Scholastic Book Clubs and taking us to Barnes and Noble. Knowing I wanted to be a teacher, she kept all of our books until I was ready to house them in my class library. It's a special treat to pull out my childhood favorites, with my name written in my elementary handwriting on the inside cover, to read to my class. 

Continuing along the west wall of our classroom is our "Crown Jewels" bulletin board where we recognize and display the incredible work of our first grade scholars. I can't wait to showcase all of my students' amazing creations this year!!! Sharing that same wall are our class mailboxes and inside cubbies. These cubbies are used to store students' extra supplies, book boxes, and Writing Portfolios!

There is a door that joins our first grade room to the adjacent second grade room. On that door we have our Royal Duties chart. I wasn't able to find many fairytale-themed decorations, so I ended up printing a lot of clipart to decorate the room and creating my own decorations and posters. My Royal Duties chart was one of those projects. I simply created a document in PowerPoint with clipart and then printed it poster-sized at Costco (for less than $5!!!). I then printed princes and princesses for each student on magnets. I placed corresponding magnets on the posters and just switch the students from job to job each week!! 

Next we journey to the north-west corner of the room which is our morning meeting and math calendar rug. This is one of my favorite areas because of my pink princess chair. I knew I couldn't have a fairytale themed classroom without some kind of "throne," but all the ones I saw online were WAY too expensive!!! So, I decided to make one myself. I looked at lots of ideas on Pinterest, and then spent an entire day shopping (a special thanks to my fabulous roommate for traipsing around town with me) to find this pink chair. With the help of my talented mother, we turned it into my pink princess chair!!! 

Journeying on we come to the center of the room where our student desks are. I seat my students in pods. This allows us to do lots of cooperative learning, group work, partner discussion, etc. quickly and easily!!

At the very front of the room is our whiteboard and another rug for the students to sit. Whenever we're using our interactive whiteboard, our class sits on this rug to allow them to easily come up to the board to do things! 

This year I'm starting to use brag tags (which my students and I have completely fallen in love with). However, in my small room I had no idea where I was going to store them. I was able to use the space underneath my whiteboard to hang the brag tags for each student as well as organize and store the new tags to hand out!! 

On the wall next to our white board hang our class rules, or Laws of the Land. Our school has five main rules that we all use!

At the front corner of the classroom is my teacher desk. While I'm currently considering getting rid of it, it's still there for now. We'll see how much longer it lasts...

My classroom has no storage...as in none whatsoever. I finally got a set of bookshelves to house all of my supplies (which are clearly now falling apart), but have struggled at the best way to organize everything. I am so embarrassed at the way it looks and would much prefer something that was covered, but haven't been able to afford anything yet!! Here's what our supplies look like for now! If anyone has any ideas of how to help this disaster of a storage situation, I am all ears!! 

In the fourth corner of our room is our small group kidney table. Here is where I get to spend some of my favorite time during the day -- working in small groups during literacy centers. Reading and connecting with students in a one on one or small group way is so rewarding and special!! Behind the table are our leveled readers, our "And They Learned Happily Ever After" objectives board which you can read about on my blog HERE, and our reading focus board. 

The final wall of our room has a number of important things. To the left you can see our literacy center group board (that is magnetic of course -- I'm all about magnets). I simply move our groups (Castles, Crowns, Swords, and Shields) from center to center so students can see where they are supposed to go. In front of our window is a set of drawers that houses our copies for the week and also a bin to store graded student work that is sent home each week. The last area of our room is where our aide table is. My school is 1st-12th grade, and sometimes we have the privilege of having a high school student aide in our classroom; this is our special area for them. 

Our aide table houses our homework center. It has a set of trays where students turn in their homework each morning as well as their "Knightly Homework" board that keeps track of the students who have turned in their homework each night. 

And now we've come full circle back to our classroom door. Thank you for taking the time of journey through First Grade Fairyland with us!! Hope you got a peak at our magical land in a kingdom far away!!!!

If you'd like to join in the classroom reveal fun!! Link up with us to continue the festivities!!

I can't wait to see everyone else's classroom reveals!!!!!!