Monday, February 28, 2011

My Favorite Things

Yesterday, Kristen over at First Grade Teaching posted about a few of her favorite things. We got a conversation going in the comments section about starting another linky party and Jodi at Fun in First got us started. Here are a few of MY favorite things:

1. Sirius Satellite Radio - I can't imagine my driving life without it! This is a pic of my favorite satellite listening moment - when a song from my brother's band came on! I got so excited that I pulled over and took a picture!

2. Monograms - I love them on everything! Whether it's just an M or the full MFG, they're everywhere... school bag, lunch bag, travel mug, key chain, planner, post its... the list goes on! Here are two of my faves - a little Texas twist with my Jon Hart planner, then good old classic preppy script on my lunch bag!

3. My silver TOMS - they go with everything and who doesn't need a little extra sparkle?

4. School Supplies - especially post its, mechanical pencils, and my label maker. I label EVERYTHING.

5. Birds... and all things shabby chic - How cute is this little guy that I picked up this weekend? (Excuse the blacked out faces in the frame... I wasn't sure if my friends were ready to be blog celebrities :) )

6. My iPhone, my Wii, DVR, Netflix - What can I say? I LOVE technology!

7. OWater - I don't like water. I know that sounds weird, but I just can't make myself drink it. I found this water at Central Market and I LOVE it. I do feel a little guilty spending $1.49 per bottle, BUT I usually mix half OWater and half regular water so it lasts a little longer. And I gave up sodas last year, so this is my drink. Here I am justifying it because I do know it's ridiculous. I swear, putting my own fruit in my water just does not taste the same!

8. The Texas Longhorns - What can I say? I'm proud to be a longhorn grad!

9. Nordstrom - If I can't find what I need outfit, makeup or shoe wise at Nordstrom, then it probably doesn't exist.

10.  Mail - I love sending and recieving good old snail mail! I have a great stamp that I use every chance I get that a sweet room mom gave to me a couple of years ago. You can check out her site at . Honestly, I'd love to get another one from her but they're all so cute that I can't choose! Maybe one of these?
bradshawmatt & lisanikki

Now, head on over to Fun in First and link up!


Click the button below to head over to The First Grade Parade and enter a great giveaway! Cara has teamed up with Jodi from Fun in First and I'm crossing my fingers for a win!

If you're not following both of these great blogs already, you need to!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Things to file away for next President's Day

I think this post is a note to myself to help me remember what I want to do with my firsties next year. In my post last Sunday, I wrote about an idea Mrs. Claborn and I had and were excited to try out. I'm back today to let you all know how it worked out... it didn't. Since we'd been studying coins for a few weeks AND it was President's Day, our idea was to trstudent'sprofils profiles on a paper plate and have them create their own coins. It turns out I seriously underestimated the size of a first grader's head, and overestimated the size of a paper plate. So, as we teachers so often do, I had to scrap that plan and come up with a new one. I had already told my students that we were going to do it, and they were really excited. New plan: I traced their profiles on black construction paper and then gave them a full piece of white construction paper and had them create a dollar. They LOVED it and I got a kick out of the values they gave to their currencies - some of them had so many zeroes I honestly didn't know what the number was! They still really wanted to create their own coins though, so we did something a little different this week and had an art center. It was great seeing them creatively showing what they know about coins as they included all the important things we've learned about that are on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I definitely will do this activity again! I also wanted to share two links for virtual field trips related to President's Day. I already knew my class loved nonfiction, but I was still surprised to find out how engaged and enthralled they were as they learned about Presidents Obama, Washington and Lincoln last week. I will probably share these with my class some time next week (when I can manage to find an extra few minutes) and bookmark them to share with my class next year when we do our President's Day unit. Check them out!

A Tour of the Capitol:

A Tour of the Lives of Presidents Lincoln and Washington

Also, I'd like to thank Mrs. Thiessen at The First Grade Sweet Life for this post where she shared a mobile making idea. While I read biographies about Washington and Lincoln to the kiddos, they jotted down facts they found interesting on index cards. We then shared these facts, posted them in our Venn Diagram pocket chart, and chose four facts for each President, which were incorporated into their "show what you know" projects. The students chose between making a foldable or a mobile for each and being able to choose really made it an enjoyable and meaningful experience.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Filling Buckets and a Long E ee/ea Game

I've been looking forward to starting up "bucket filling" in my classroom since December. I've seen lots of blog posts about it so I know I'm not the only one using this. My school didn't have the book so I had to wait and get it from another school, AND THEN we had snow and ice, AND THEN I had to wait until a day when FINALLY no one was absent. That day finally came on Monday. I had a small bulletin board that I was using for our focus wall/anchor wall (reading/la skills for the week are posted here), so I moved that over to a corner of my whiteboard and took over this space for our buckets. I plan on putting up pictures of our class to fill the empty space, but for their privacy I took this picture first. I used small library pockets and made a label with each student's name and clipart of a bucket. I couldn't find clipart that I liked for the sign so I drew that myself... I'd be lying if I said it took any less than 45 minutes for me to make that. I'm not much of an artist! I stapled an actual bucket to the board and it holds the notepaper and some pencils. I snagged that bucket (actually more like 5 of them) in the Target dollar spot last summer and I knew I'd find a use for it! We'll get notes out on Fridays only, and they can write notes for bucket filling when they finish morning routines, when they finish work early, after lunch when we're taking our bathroom/water breaks, or at the end of the day when they're all packed up. It's only been 2 days and those buckets are getting pretty full!

Our bulletin board

Our bucket filling notes

Here's something I've been working on for next week. It's an ee/ea long e game called "Read the Street". Students read the ee/ea words on the car cards and try to move their cars through each stop light. Watch out for yellow lights (lose a turn) and red lights (start over)! Every thing you need for the game is in the download and there are a few blank cars in case you want to add your own words. You might also want to draw arrows on your game boards to guide players through the lights. I'd love for some of you to use it and let me know what you think! Click on any of the preview pics below to download.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

President's Day Part 2

Here is the word sort I was mentioning on Friday. It's somewhat presidentally themed, but I had some writer's block when brainstorming president-related words, and I wanted the kiddos to be able to read them independently and have enough understanding of the word to sort it. The result is a handful of themed words, some long vowel words, and some of our word wall words. My munchkins L-O-V-E sorting things, especially in the pocket charts so I know they will really enjoy this center. I also included a recording sheet that has a challenge for them to add their own words. Hopefully it's not too late for some of you to use this too!

My team mate Mrs. Claborn (check her out at A Burst of First) and I came up with an idea that we're going to try out in the morning and I'm SUPER excited to see how it goes. Our best ideas are when we're bouncing things around in our grade level meetings and this one was no exception. We're going to trace the profiles of the students onto paper plates, and then have the kids create their own coins! How fun does that sound? We've been studying coins and thought this would be a creative way to bring that in to our President's Day activities. Check back soon to see how they turned out! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It turns out other people DO read my blog!

Thanks to Dana from A Place to Share for giving me affirmation that someone is reading this, AND for my first award!
Here are the rules for receiving this award:
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 5 recently discovered great bloggers.
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

Seven things about me:
1. My mom, aunts and grandmothers were/are all in education in someway. One grandmother was a music teacher, another worked as a school secretary, my mom taught for 39 years (I think that's right), my aunt Leslie still teaches kindergarten and my other aunt is a speech pathologist in public schools.  It was my destiny to be a teacher!

2. I hate chicken. Weird, huh? I will tolerate chick-fil-a if I can DROWN it in bbq.

3. I love to read. I would usually rather read than say, watch tv or a movie. I like to read all kinds of books, except romance... which is funny since all of the above mentioned teacher family members can't get enough of that stuff.

4. I LOVE music. I couldn't live without my Sirius satellite radio in my car. My fave channel is channel 26 - Sirius XMU. I sing along VERY loudly in the car.

5. I am obsessed with France - which you probably already know if you read my very first Fantastic First blog post. I am a sucker for ANYTHING with an Eiffel Tower on it or un mot Francais (a french word)!

6. I really, truly, love my job. I am excited to come to work every day, and I cry on the last day of school. Also, I work very hard each year to convert all of my students into Longhorn fans. It's working. They're brainwashed :).

7. I cannot for the life of my figure out how to waterski or wakeboard, but none the less I LOVE water, boats, lakes, etc. That was my FAVORITE thing about living in Austin in the summers during college. I am content to watch others demonstrate their water sport talents, or just hang out - anything to be on or near a body of water!

As easy as it is for me to talk about myself, that was actually hard. On to the 5 awesome blogs I will be passing this award on to:

A Burst of First

Pattons Patch

Not Just Child's Play

Bishop's Blackboard

Swamp Frog First Graders

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 18, 2011

President's Day

This is the first year I'm going to do President's Day activities with my first graders and I'm VERY excited! In the past we've had staff development on President's Day, and we were scheduled to do that again, but after all of our snow and ice vacation days, the district changed it to an instructional day. I've made a couple of activities for my kiddos and can't wait to use some of the FANTASTIC ideas I've seen on other blogs. I'm not sure how I'm going to fit it all in! Here are two things we're going to be doing on Monday - a job application to be President and a making words activity with the letters in presidents. My students use letter tiles for making words, so it doesn't have letters to cut out, but you could always add that in. Since I use many of the ideas I find out there in blog world, I thought I'd put some of my own back out there - like blog karma :). I'm in the middle of making a noun, verb, adjective word sort so I will post that when it's finished. Have a great weekend blog friends!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is your suitcase unlocked?

One of my favorite things about teaching first graders is how much they make me laugh. This morning was a great example. As all teachers know, the things we teach, especially in math, build on each other. I would get so frustrated when we would start a new unit and the students would seem to forget everything we'd done before it. One day while trying to explain that we need to hold on to everything, I came up with an analogy that seemed to make sense to them. I told them that their brains are like suitcases and we pack all of the things we learn and do into our suitcases and bring them with us everywhere we go. Sometimes we take things out and use them, and then we put them back. They really seemed to get that and I hear them saying funny things to each other like, "Get it from your suitcase!" and sometimes I see them touching their heads and "packing things" when we're doing something new. Well, this morning one of my sweet girls looked up at me very seriously and said, "Miss Griffin, I have that in my suitcase, but my suitcase is locked today and I can't get anything out!". I HAD TO LAUGH. I mean, we all know what that feels like, right?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Treat Ideas?

I am SO proud of my first grade babies and their science fair projects. They met and exceeded my way high expectations. I mean, they are in FIRST GRADE and they can do some AMAZING things! And in a really excited moment when I was telling them how proud I am, I promised treats for tomorrow. The problem here is that they've had A LOT of treats lately. I gave them new pencils, stickers and notebooks for the 100th day, and every sweet treat you can imagine for Valentine's day. We have free time each week as one of their postive behavior incentives. Any new ideas? I'm not regretting promising them something special, but I wish I had thought of what I wanted to do/bring before I promised it for tomorrow!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

100th Day Hooray!

Last week on Thursday, we FINALLY got to celebrate our 100th day! It was rescheduled twice due to snow days and I think it made our celebration even more exciting - anticipation! We had so much fun! I know my munchkins had a wonderful time because I even got a sweet, sweet card the next day from one of my boys. It said "Thank you for teaching me for 100 days!". That really warmed my heart! A few of us decided to make t-shirts in honor of our big celebration - we glued 100 stars, 100 rhinestones and 100 eyes to our shirts.

Here we are!

We started our day with a rotation through all of the first grade classrooms (there are 4 of us). The students wrote about what they would do with $100, made 100th day art with 100 fingerprints, estimated how many times they could do different activities in 100 seconds, and put Fruit Loops into 10 groups of 10 for a 100 Fruit Loop necklace. With my own class we also did a fabulous critical thinking activity that came from Read Write Think called 100th Day Bottles (click here for the lesson plan), and of course, made portraits of ourselves at 100. Those always turn out so cute! I love the ones with beards! Sadly lots of my kiddos have been sick so I'm missing a few portraits.

What a good looking bunch! (As you can see, I have a sports theme in my room. It was so hard to get that paper up there just right and those letters with the perfect spacing... so it stays up all the time.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SMART Coin Spinner and Graphing Activity

Well, we've had a GREAT two days back at school (after being home Tuesday - Friday for snow and ice last week), but here we are at home again today. More snow and ice. This is an especially disappointing snow day because today was supposed to FINALLY be our 100th day! I had these cute stickers and pencils for my firsties, plus lots of fun activities planned. I'll have to save all of that for a post after we finally get to celebrate! Now... heads up, this is a loooong post. I am a talker, and I write like I talk. And I give a lot of details. Don't say I didn't warn you...

I've seen tons of posts recently about smartboards, and while I am trĂ©s jealous because my school doesn't have interactive whiteboards, we do have some pretty cool tools that use the same software. We have something called air slates, and I L-O-V-E them. Air slates are basically wireless tablets, which at the very least are great for controlling your computer from any here in the room. The super thing about them is that they use the SMART software, so I can do all the same things that you SMARTBoard teachers can do! I just have to use my computer and my projector. Of course the kiddos love it because it's technology and I love it because the possibilities really are endless. You really can use it for ANYTHING. I could easily go on and on about them... but that's not what my post is about! We are working with coins this week and had a fanstastic time with our air slates yesterday. (I actually took some pics of my firsties during the activity, but I'm saving those for my parent blog on blackboard). It was only our second day working with coins, but most of the kids are pretty familiar with them already and I knew they were ready for a challenge. I found a spinner that I created last year in SMART and I think I've managed to work it into my lesson plans at least 3 times this week. What is it about spinners (and dice) that make everything more fun? So, yesterday we used the spinner to reinforce identifying coin names and values, and graphed our results as we played. For this lesson I used a coin graph master from Box It or Bag It. Now, it's pretty plain jane and it doesn't have fancy font, but it had everything I wanted on it - coin name, picture and value - so why not use it? I told my class that we would take turns spinning the spinner until either a coin column was full or everyone had a turn. It worked out perfectly and everyone got to spin - whew! I had fun watching them get so excited - they cheered when the quarter caught up to the dime, and again when we finally spun a penny. Our game was simple - the students would spin, identify the coin that the spinner landed on and share the value. Obviously I wanted everyone to be successful, so I told them they could choose conference with their neighbors before answering. I was really proud of them when they ALL knew their coins and the values. It really helped that the graph recording sheet we used had pictures and values on it. That was a great way to support the kids who didn't have as much background knowledge and I definitely saw a few of them quickly referring back to it before responding. As another way to reinforce that value piece of the lesson, I had them record the value in each box of the graph instead of coloring it in. The kids really stayed engaged even after their own turns because a) I let them use markers and b) they really wanted to see which coin would "win". We finished up the activity by interpreting our data and writing about it in our math journals. Just another one of my sneaky ways to work in writing!
This is what our graphs looked like:

And a little math journaling

I'm going to put my laptop and an air slate up as math station later this week and the students are going to play again, except with an extra challenge. I've created a new graph with only coin names, no picture or value, to use as a recording sheet. The students will be able to refer to our class anchor chart and each other for support when needed, but I'm hoping that without the picture and value on the graph they'll be forced to stretch their brains a little more. If any of that sounded interesting to you or if you have a SMART Board and want to use my coin spinner, I'm attaching/linking what you need to do this in your own classroom. I'm not quite blog savvy enough to figure out attaching a SMART file, so I posted it on Teachers Pay Teachers for free here. I have to warn you - you can't lock the spinner (or at least I couldn't) so you have to be careful not to drag when you click to spin. My kiddos didn't have any trouble with that though, so I don't think it's a problem. You can find the graph I used for the whole class lesson in Box It or Bag It. If you'd like a copy of the recording sheet I created for our follow up math station, click on the picture below.
As we continue working with coins for the next two weeks, I can't wait to incorporate some fabulous games from The Great Coin Collection, one of The First Grade Parade's Cara Carroll's TpT creations. If you're working with coins, you definitely need to head over there and grab a copy for yourself !

Now, crossing my fingers that I'm back at school tomorrow for the 100th day!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday, is that you?

After being out of school for 4 days (snow and ice), it doesn't really feel like it's the weekend. But the sun is out for the first time all week and that's definitely a good thing. I'm really looking forward to getting back into my classroom and doing all the things I had planned for last week. I'm disappointed that we missed Groundhog Day and Chinese New Year though :(. We will finally celebrate our 100th day, REALLY begin our coin unit (I don't count last Monday as beginning the unit), and the kiddos have some cute centers in store for them.

One of the centers I was excited about last week, that we will now definitely be doing this week, is my "Contraction Cones" activity. My teammate, Mrs. Claborn made some contraction cupcakes that are way cute (check out her blog here), and then I saw this post on Once Upon a Time in First Grade, and I was inspired to make my own. Now, I KNOW what you're thinking - I could have made these myself. Here's the deal. It was one of those weeks when there was something going on every night. Then it got to Thursday (crunch time) and I stayed at school really late, then had to run an errand at a teacher store and when I saw them, all I could think was how much I didn't want to cut out my own over the weekend. Sometimes, it's totally worth a few bucks to save yourself some time and a hand cramp from too much cutting. So, I bought these:

They're made by Carson Dellosa and you can get them here, or at your fave teacher shop. We're only working with contractions with not, so I made a list of 10 contractions with not, and had exactly enough to make 2 sets. The students will match the ice cream containing the two words with the cone that has the newly formed contraction. I'll add a picture of the final product once I'm finally back in my classroom. To avoid having to sort through two mixed up sets later, I put a silver star sticker on all of the pieces of one set, and a gold star on all of the pieces of the second set. I'm sure they'll still end up jumbled all together, but I had to try! The kiddos will record the contractions on this recording sheet. You can see it below.I know it's totally lacking cute clipart, but I think I'm way more concerned about it looking cute than my kiddos are!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Itching to get back to room B103!

No. more. snow. days. please.

I don't think I can handle any more of this snow day "staycation". Don't get me wrong, I love time off, but not when I'm cooped up inside! And I can't enjoy it fully when I know it means I'll be making it up later during some beautiful, warm, sunny spring and summer days. Sigh.  My friend Allison (a FABULOUS first grade teacher, I might add) sent this to me, and boy does it hit the nail on the head!

I'd love to give credit to the creator of this cartoon, but after several google searches, I can't find out whom that might be.

I had a lot of things I was excited about doing with my sweet firsties this week - starting money, the 100th day, filling buckets, and watching all of our new plants grow, to name a few. I know they'll all still be there when I get back - which I hope is sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Meet Miss Griffin - Linky Party

Hello Blog World! I thought it would be fitting for my first post to be this "Linky Party" that started on one of my favorite blogs - The First Grade Parade . I'd been inspired by the many creative teacher bloggers I've been "blogstalking" and finally chose a name for my own blog last week. I brainstormed and was disappointed when my first choice, great expectations, was already taken. I finally settled on "Fantastic First" after spotting one of my rolled up teacher posters which says "First Graders Are Fantastic!". With  a few snow days this week I finally had time to fine tune my look and write my first post.  Now, what to do with my 3rd snow day tomorrow...
Meet the Teacher

I grew up in Houston, went to school in Austin and now live in Dallas. I'm a Texas girl through and through! I went to The University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a BA in French. I then went on to graduate school at Texas State University - San Marcos, where I earned an M. Ed. in Elementary Education. I started at my school 6 years ago and have been very happy there.  I hope to stay there for a long, long time. I spent three years in 2nd grade, and now this is my third year in 1st grade. I've loved both of them for different reasons. I have fabulous friends, great coworkers, wonderful students and an AMAZING boyfriend. Life is fantastic!

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a teacher?                                             
A:  Maybe something with French... I don't get to use it nearly as much as I'd like down here in Texas! I've never regretted my decision to major in it, but I do regret not being able to make use of it. All of my pre-teacher jobs with the exception of a brief stint as a law office file clerk, were jobs working with kids. I was a nanny, a babysitter, an after school program counselor, and a director at a summer camp. SO, I'd have to say I'd be doing something with kids!

Q: What are your hobbies?                                                                                    
A:  Reading, shopping, finding new music, travelling (which I don't get to do as often as I'd like), and now blogging! I also babysit a lot, and I think it counts as a hobby!                                                               

Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?                     
A:  Lawyer. I love to argue!
Q: What are your guilty pleasures?                                                              
 A: Icing, candy... ok maybe just sugar! And reading blogs!

Q: What is your biggest fear?!                                                                   
 A: Eeeeeek! Snakes!

Q: When you’re on vacation, where do you like to go?                               
 A: I just went on my first trip to Vegas for my 30th birthday. I had a blast and would LOVE to go back. My fave international destination is France (not surprising). I've been 4 times and it just feels like home. Other than that, I love travelling to any new place and any place where I can visit friends (Chicago, NYC, Austin, Baton Rouge). The boyfriend and I are going to a wedding in Vail this summer and I am really looking forward to my first trip to Colorado!
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?                                                   
A:  I think most good advice is something you already knew, but didn't want to do.

Q: What do you value most in others?                                                                   
A:  Honesty - I really try to teach my students how important this is, even when it's about something small. I also love enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
Q: If you could choose one of your personality traits to pass down to your kids, what would it be?                                                                                                        
A: No kids yet, but I think I'd want to pass on my LOVE for learning new things. I also think I have a knack for finding the silver lining in any rain cloud.    

Q: If you could have lunch with anyone in the world….living or dead…who would it be?                                                                                                           
A:  My maternal grandfather. He died before I was born, before any of the grandchildren were born, and I'd really like to know what he was like.

Now tell us one random thing about yourself:
I was on TRL once. Yep, I got to introduce a song. Hopefully no footage of that exists because I was pretty nervous and stumbled over my line a little bit!

Now if you want to link up your blog, start by visiting the site below: