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Veteran's Day Choice Board

Happy Halloween everyone!  This is Ashleigh from Ashleigh's Education Journey.

Now that Halloween's over, I wanted to share with you my new Veteran's Day freebie that I think students will really enjoy.  I know that we are entering a busy part of the year, but I try to make the effort to teach my students about this important holiday and to encourage them to honor our men and women who have served our country. 

There are 9 different activities in this Veteran's Day Choice Board, and students can choose one activity from each row to complete.  Students love having the opportunity to make choices in the products they create and are usually very motivated by their ownership in the assignment.  You can get your copy by clicking of the picture below. 

Go Away, Big COLORFUL Monster!

I just thought that I would share this cute and easy activity that I did with my kinders this week. It is based on "Go Away, Big Green Monster" by Ed Emberley. This is not my original idea, but I cannot remember where I got it! The kids did everything by themselves - which makes them really cute, I think! Some heads are small, some are big, some are square. I contained them to a the size of a regular sheet of paper, but I have seen them done larger! Anyway, after reading the story, the children create their own colorful monster. The paper has this heading " _____________'s Big ___________ Monster". They fill in the blanks with their name and the color of their monster and then create it! Cute, fun, and easy!

Cute 3D Owls!

This week we made the cutest owls from a Styrofoam ball and a paper cup! Here is how we did it...

Supplies: (per student)
1 Three inch Styrofoam ball
1 nine ounc
e brown paper cup
2 LARGE diameter wiggle eyes
3 inch x 3 inch
orange fun foam
3 inch x 3 inch yellow fun foam
8 inch x 3 inch brown fun foam
Natural colored feathers
Tacky glue

Teacher Prep:
Hot glue the Styrofoam ball to the paper cup.
Trace wings onto brown fun foam. To create t
he wing, draw wavy lines along both long edges. Meet at a point on the top corners.
Trace yellow circles onto the yellow fun foam. I use a milk lid as a template.

Step 1: Students paint the Styrofoam ball with brown paint. Let dry. (I use tempera paint.)

Step 2: Students cut out the wings from the brown fun foam. "Paint" tacky glue in a long stripe down the middle of the wing. Lay the cup onto the stripe to attach.

Step 3: Students cut out two yellow circles from the fun foam. Use tacky glue to attach to head.
Then glue the wiggle eyes on top of the yellow circles.

Step 4: Students use pencil to draw a triangle onto the orange fun foam. Cut out. This is the beak. Glue onto the head.

Step 5: Students draw two "W" shapes onto the orange fun foam. Cut out. These will be the feet. Glue onto the front of the cup.

Step 6: Students use tacky glue to attach feathers to the cup, wings and head.

These owls are absolutely adorable! The pictures here just don't do justice to how CUTE they are! Despite the fact that this is a craft and not art, these owls always end up with their own individuality!

When dry, we compare owls and bats using a Venn diagram (I am sure that many of you do this!)

We also do a nocturnal animal book and those books turn out super cute, too! Here are examples of their owl and bat. They also made a raccoon, firefly, and a moth.

3 D Bats!

Hi Everybody!
This is Cindy (Kinderkay) and I have another cute idea to do with Styrofoam balls! This week my students made bats from a 2 inch Styrofoam ball and a toilet tissue roll. Here is how we did it:

Teacher Prep:Attach a 2 inch diameter Styrofoam ball to a toilet tissue roll with hot glue. One for each student.
Trace bat wings onto black fun foam with a white crayon. To make a tracing template, measure an 8 inch x 3 inch rectangle. Draw scallops along both long edges. Cut out. Use this template to trace the bat wings. Fun foam is easy for students to cut, so I usually have them cut out their own wings. But they can be pre-cut, too, if desired.

es: (Per student)
1 Two Inch Styrofoam b
all (I ask parents to supply this for their own child.)
1 Toilet tissue r
2 wiggle eyes
1 small black pom-pom
Black fun foam (8 Inch x 3 Inch)
1/2 black Pipe Cleaner
2 inch x 4 inch strip black or brown fun fur

Here is how we did it:
Step 1 - Students paint the ball and tube with black paint. My students use Tempera paint because it is cheap! But acrylic could be used too! Also, we made our bats black, but brown paint could be used if preferred!

Step 2 - Using tacky glue and a Q-tip, students attach fake fur to the bottom (tummy) of the tissue roll. I tell my students to "paint" their glue in one long stripe from bottom to top. I have strips of fur pre-cut for them to lay on the glue stripe. They glue on fur to represent the fur of a mammal. I do not have them cover the whole body - too expensive; but it can be done if the cost is manageable for you!

Step 3 - Students now know where the bottom of the bat is, so I then ask them to turn their bat over with the fur on the bottom. Using tacky glue and a Q-tip, they glue on wiggle eyes. This can be tricky because the eyes want to fall off the Styrofoam. Tell students to count to 20 while pressing on the eye. When they remove their hands, the eye SHOULD stay on. If not, try more glue!

Step 4 - Using a small, black pom-pom, students dip one end into tacky glue and attach to head for a nose.

Step 5 - Using tacky glue, paint a stripe of glue down the top of the tissue roll. Lay the tissue roll on the bat wings. Press and hold. Then turn bat over with the wings on the bottom.

Step 6 - Using tacky glue, attach toothpicks to the underside of the wings. These are the bat's finger bones!

Step 7 - This is the tricky part and one that I usually do.... Curve 1/2 of a long black pipe cleaner into a "U" shape. Attach to the bottom of the tissue roll. Curl ends to form a hook. These are the feet.

Step 8 - Students use their black foam scraps to cut 2 triangles. These are the ears. I hot glue the ears to the tops of the head, but sometimes tacky glue will hold them on, too.

Step 9 - Let dry overnight. A pipe cleaner can be attached to the top to create a loop in which to hang the bats or fingers can be inserted inside the tube to make a bat puppet!

My students LOVE these bats and they are really cuter than these pictures show! I used a 45 minute block of time to complete them. Some children needed the whole time and others did not. They were dry the following morning and we did some fun bat flying that day! :) I put on the song "Vowel Bat" by Shari Sloane while the kids flew their bats around the room - what a kick the kids got out of this! We also flew our bats while making a bat sound "Eeee"! (in a high pitched voice) Be prepared for lots of noise! :) If you are interested in more nocturnal animal ideas, visit my TPT store. Click on the bat to get you there!

Rockin with Doubles

Its the Doubles Rap, Baby!  We are diving into doubles and near doubles in class.  Nearly a year ago, Heidi Samuelson from Swamp Frog First Graders posted a video tutorial on creating an iPod case out of an envelope for your flashcards. You can link here to see her post.

I gave each of my kids the doubles rap to place in the "screen" of the iPod.

Once the doubles rap was glued on the sealed envelope, the kids colored a border.  This allowed for a visual of where they should cut the the top off.

Technology is powerful.  The kids love their iPod case and are eager to pull out their math facts. 

Here is a sample of another iPod.

I'm including a copy of my flashcards and the Double Rap. Link over to grab a copy!

Primary Graffiti

Has the Daily 5 Gotten You Down?

Hello and happy Tuesday from Stacy at Mrs. Johnson’s First Grade.  I say “happy” Tuesday because the 1st quarter has finally come to an end for me and my students!  And can I say what a CHALLENGING one it was.  I am sure there are plenty of you who agree!  My little Firsties are sooo adorable but can also be such little testers of my patience!!
When I first started teaching, I taught 4th and 2nd grade.  I am in my 4th year of teaching first grade and absolutely LOVE, LOVE it!!  But I have to say that this new bunch I have are probably, by far, my most challenging…knock on wood because it will probably happen again next year...ha ha!
Has the Daily 5 got you down??  It got me down about 2 weeks ago when NOTHING was keeping their attention longer than 10 minutes in any of the centers…so I decided to make a few changes and I am loving the classroom life now!!!!!!

The first thing I changed was read to self and read to buddy.  Rather than just sending them off with a book box full of books and expecting them to keep their attention on reading the words the whole time, I added a little twist.  We have been learning about Main Ideas, Characters, Setting, Cause and Effect, and making Predictions.  So I added a chart with one of those headers and some sticky notes.  When they read a book, they have to fill out a sticky note with notes about their story.  They LOVE IT!!  I have students asking if they can read to self and read to buddy as a first choice in centers!
The second center that the students were the most “off task” was writing.  It was because they would finish quickly and not know what else to do and would play around or it was too hard for my struggling students.  Well, I got myself a small white board and have 3 activities now that I know will keep their attention through at least 2 writing centers.  I also differentiated the activities so my struggling writers could do it.  I labeled items with numbers to indicate which ones are for the struggling students and which ones are for the on level students.  That way it doesn’t label them as strugglers or being better than anyone else.  If they don’t finish, they have a folder with unfinished work that they will need to complete first the next time they go to the writing center.

I did the same thing in word work.  I got myself a 3 drawer bin with activities in each drawer.  They like the variety and the fact that it is not the same thing every time.

For my listening center, I use two players so when they finish one book, they can listen to another.  Sometimes I add a writing activity so they can answer questions about what they just listened to so I know they were paying attention.
It does take time coming up with some good activities and games for the centers, but it is worth it to be able to have a calm class for reading groups and readers workshop.
I hope this helps you with any ideas of how to make a few changes for the better!  It has done wonders for me!

Halloween Party Planning 101

A classroom Halloween party has the potential to be a chaotic, sugar-induced commotion. However, it is possible to keep your party under control and maintain structure in your classroom during this exciting time of the year. Here are a few tips for your classroom party:

Plan a menu: If you do not plan what you would like students to bring for your classroom party, you may end up with 20 trays of cupcakes, complete with extra-sugary icing and sprinkles on top. An easy way to avoid this is to pre-plan a menu. Involve the class in planning what types of food should be brought. Include healthy snacks such as cheese and crackers, fruit and vegetables. Then have each student sign up to bring one item. For example, one student could bring carrot sticks, another could bring dip and another could bring cheese. Send a note home to each parent telling them what their child volunteered to bring. This will actually cut down on cost for each parent, as they are only bringing one small item rather than a larger tray of baked goods. And, your classroom will be the envy of the rest of the school, as you will have the best planned party food around!

Plan a schedule for the party: Schedule exactly how the party will work, and write the schedule on the board so that students know what to expect. For example, students might get their costumes on after noon hour, then have a snack, play a game and lastly pass out any treat bags that they have brought for the class. If students know exactly what to expect, it will help to maintain structure in your classroom.

Recruit parent volunteers: There are almost always parents that are keen to be involved in their child's Halloween party. Recruit one or two parents that can help set out snacks, facilitate games or activities and help students with their costumes. Be sure to have tasks planned in advance for each parent volunteer.

Plan an art project for the afternoon: Keep students busy and engaged with a Halloween art project. If you are looking for some ideas for Halloween crafts, you can check out my Pinterest-inspired blog post here.

Create Halloween-themed learning centers: If you are fortunate enough to have some volunteers or assistants in your classroom for Halloween, consider putting each adult in charge of a fun Halloween center in your classroom. At each center, have students complete an engaging activity or game. Some ideas for Halloween centers include:
  • Print off a pumpkin template and have students create a jack-o-lantern design. You can find lots of Halloween printables on Disney's Family Fun website by clicking here.
  • Have a volunteer read a Halloween story to a small group and discuss.
  • Create a Halloween "feely-center" by putting eyeballs (peeled grapes), worms (cold, cooked spaghetti) and other items into plastic containers. Label each container. Then have students feel the items without looking and describe how each one feels.
  • Play Halloween "Memory." Print off six pairs of Halloween pictures. Have pairs of students place the pictures upside down in an array. Then one student can flip two cards and try to make a pair. The game continues until all of the pairs have been made.
Play a whole-class game: Some fun whole-class games include:
  • Wrap the Mummy: Have groups of 3 students use a roll of toilet paper to wrap one student up like a Mummy.
  • What's Missing? Gather 10-12 Halloween items and set them on a tray. Show the students the items one-by-one. Then, have students cover their eyes while you remove one item from the tray. Have students try to guess which item is missing.
  • Who/What Am I? Write a Halloween-themed character or item on a recipe card for each student. Fasten the card to each student's back (the student should not know which character/item is on his back). Have students mingle around the classroom, asking other students "yes" or "no" questions about what is written on their back. The goal is for each student to try to guess which character is written on his recipe card.
Remember that whenever you play a whole-class game that involves moving around the room (especially on an occasion like Halloween), it is really important to set your expectations before beginning. This will improve classroom management during the activity.

If you are looking for a way to integrate creative writing into your Halloween celebration, I have recently posted a Halloween freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers that you might find useful. Feel free to download it by clicking here or on the picture below.

If you have any other Halloween party tips, please leave a comment below this post! Good luck and Happy Halloween!

Meeting with the Parents

To me, this is one of the hardest parts of teaching, but one of the most important.  We are given the amazing gift of trust by the parents of our students, and we need to let them know that we are doing everything in our power to help their little one grow up to be a productive member of society.  That’s a heavy load to carry, huh?

My very first parent teacher conference was a DISASTER.  The mom came in with all guns blazing.  To this day, I have no idea what she said to me, but she was MAD.  I just stood there and nodded my head.  (Yep, we hadn’t even gotten to the table yet).    Thankfully, after I talked with one of my colleagues, I was reassured me that I was doing everything right, and this mom had some “issues.”

It is always a delicate situation to let a parent know that their child is struggling in school.  Especially in Kindergarten.  Most parents do not realize that their has been a huge shift  in Kindergarten in the past 10 years.  My memories of Kindergarten are of rest time, the play corner, and painting.  Oh, and my teacher would draw a HUGE birthday cake on the chalkboard whenever it was someone’s birthday.  (I was always bummed that I never got a birthday cake drawn on the board for me since my birthday is in December Sad smile). 

We need to gently let parents know if their child is having a tough time with the curriculum, while still reassuring them we are doing everything we can, and we will not give up on them.  We also need to celebrate their success and help them to understand they we will push their child as much as we can.  We want their child to learn, and we celebrate their successes!  We also have to let them know that we can’t do it alone.  We need their support.  That’s where goal setting comes in.

In our district our conferences include goal setting.  As teachers, we look at the data of our kiddos and set goal for the next time we meet.  The goals that we write are SMART goals.

Here’s what that means:

The goals need to be:

S – specific

M – measurable

A – Attainable

R – realistic

T – timely

Yep, they are a bit more work, but it spells out exactly what they kiddo needs to do, when they should do it by, and how we are going to assess it.  We also write action steps for the teacher, parents, and student.

So, a goal for Susie Q might be: (this would be an example of a goal for one of my LOW kiddos – I still let parents know that MY goal is for all students to know their letters and sounds by November.  I let them know that we can’t go on teaching them to read if they don’t know their letters and sounds!  February is the chosen date since that is when our next conferences are).

Susie will read, write, and say the sounds of all 52 letters of the alphabet by February 2012.  This goal will be progress monitored through weekly letter/sound checks and a formal assessment will be made through our quarterly Kindergarten assessments.

Action Steps:

1. Susie will participate in whole group, small group, and one-on-one language arts activities.

2. Parents will practice writing, identifying, and saying the sounds of the alphabet for 5 minutes each night.

3.  Teacher will work with Susie in small groups to practice these skills.


I always try to be very specific in what the parents will need to do.  I know what I need to do, so I don’t always include that in the action steps.  If February comes and little Susie is still struggling with letters and sounds, and I know I have done everything in the classroom, I can then ask the parents if they have done their part at home.  If they have – then we have some further testing to do.  If they haven’t….well….you fill in the blanks.

Our district has a form that we use to write the goals, but I also send one home to the parents.  This form gives me a good idea of what kind of expectations they have for their kiddos and how much they really know about kindergarten.  I should add that each fall we have a parent meeting in which we explain to parents the goals and expectations we have for them and their kiddos.  If a parent fills in the form with “add double digit numbers” (yes, I got that this year) or “learn letters” – I know that I will have to help the parent understand what Kindergarten really is all about!

You can download the form I send home by clicking on the picture below.


I usually write 1-2 goals for each student.  Sometimes they are both literacy, sometimes there is a literacy and a math goal.  Sometimes I have to add a behavior goal too!

Here are a couple of other forms I like to have handy for notes during the meeting:


And a time/schedule chart – just fill in your times and the names of your kiddos:



How does your district run their conferences? Do you have any conference horror stories?  Any a-ha moments from parents?  I would love to hear about it!  Leave a comment below!

Be sure to stop by and visit me over at my blog!