Friday, May 27, 2011

End of Year Activity and Gift

I love to give my students a little something to remember their first grade year and our time together. This year I'm doing two things, one is free and involves the students, and the other is an inexpensive handmade memento from me.

  • Wordles - I love to make wordles, as you've probably guessed by now. This year I had planned to create wordles for each of my students with their names and adjectives that describe them. As they were writing bucket notes last week (we do bucket filling), I got the idea to have them come up with the adjectives. I put a large sheet manila paper on each student's desk and had them write their names in the middle with marker. We brainstormed positive adjectives together and started off by writing an adjective on our own papers first. Several of the students said it was hard because they'd never complimented themselves before! So sad! I was really glad we started off with that because throughout the rest of the activity, everyone was smiling and feeling good about themselves, which makes it easier for them to say nice things about others. The students rotated around the room and wrote one word on each student's poster. I will use their posters to create a personalized wordle for each student.  
  • Backpack Tags - These are a cheap and easy craft to make, and I know the kids love them because I see them on the backpacks of my former students all the time! You will need: a class set of wallet size class pictures (I've used Walgreens and Shutterfly), a class set of luggage tag and loop laminating pouches, double sided tape, paper (I used colored, but white will work) and a printer. You could also handwrite them, but I love the chance to spice things up with my fun fonts! There are two different kinds of laminating pouches you can get - some need to be run through a thermal laminator to seal and some are self stick. The self-stick come in smaller packs and are slightly more expensive, but I use them because I don't have that kind of laminator at my school and it gives me the freedom to work on them at home. I used Microsoft Word to make a table with boxes that are the same size as my wallet prints (2"h x 3"w) and typed each students name, my name and the school year. After printing them out, I cut them apart and used double sided tape to attach name cards to the back of the class pictures. From there I just sealed them in pouches and voila! Last year I made them all the same, but this year I used different fonts for the boys and girls. It could definitely be made cuter with a border or clip art, but I was pressed for time because I found out on Wednesday that 3 of my kids wouldn't be back next week. Here's a sample of the name side of a boy and girl tag:

Do you make gifts for your students? I'd love to hear some new ideas!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What We Love Wednesday... on Thursday: Walls

If you've been over to Mrs. Claborn's page, then you've heard the sad news... we won't be on the same team anymore. Mrs. Claborn is graduating and leaving us for 2nd grade! I know she's going to be a fantastic 2nd grade teacher and we're sad to lose her, but glad she will still be at our school. The silver lining is that I may get to move into her room... which is considerably larger than mine. All of our kinder and 1st grade rooms are very spacious with carpet and cabinets - it's wonderful! Except mine. I've got the carpet and cabinets and I am thankful for that, but I can't tell you how many times a parent, student or visiting teacher has walked in and said, "Oh my gosh, it's so small!".  I'll know soon and hopefully I will be packing up B103 and moving on to B107.

So how does this relate to walls? Well, she has a bit of a challenge in her new room. Her new classroom only has cinder block walls. All 3 of the classrooms I've been in have had cinder block walls, so I definitely understand the difficulties of hanging things up and getting them to STAY up. I have 2 things that I've found will USUALLY keep things up on cinder block walls: hot glue and Magic Mounts brand mounting tabs. Even with those, after a couple of really cold or really humid days, it starts raining posters and word wall words in B103. How do you keep things up on your wall? Does anyone have a magic trick for posting things on cinder block? What kind of walls do you have?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Career Dress Up Day!

A couple of weeks ago Mrs. Claborn and I wrote about how much we LOVE to wear costumes. We're at it again this Thursday for Career Dress Up Day! We're doing a mini-unit on jobs this week and we're dressing up with all the kiddos on Thursday. I can't wait! But... I need some help. I want to dress up as a pastry chef... but I have no idea where to find a hat! Any ideas? How can I make one or where can I find one??? Help!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sweet Papery Giveaway Winner!

I am so excited about this giveaway and I really wish this post was going to announce ME as the winner... but I guess that wouldn't really be fair :). I'm so glad I have something fun to post since blogger has been driving me cRaZy (For example, I edited the labels on one of my old "What We Love Wednesday" posts and it republished it as a new post tonight... that's never happened before and I'm super annoyed). So, I sat down this evening and wrote out a list of all the entries and assigned each entry a number. I used the oh so popular random number generator on to choose a winner... and here it is:

Well Gwendolyn, it looks like you will get to find out how cool it is to stamp your name on your games before loaning them out! Email me at FantasticFirstBlog (at) gmail (dot) com in the next 24 hours so I can let you know how to claim your prize! Congrats! And for all of you who did not win, THANK YOU for entering my giveaway and participating. I definitely reccommend heading over to Sweet Papery and ordering a stamp for yourself... you won't be disappointed. It makes sending everything SO. MUCH. FUN. Yes, I even stamp my monogram address stamp on bills!

What We Love Wednesday - Ways to Keep in Touch

First, I have to say that Mrs. Claborn and I are pretty proud of ourselves for keeping up the alliteration with our "What We Love Wednesday" topics. Every week I think, this time there are REALLY no "w" words left.  This week's post is all about how I communicate with my students as well as their parents. Parent communication is SO important and I really feel like in many cases, a little proactive communication can go a long way. Here are some of the ways I keep in touch in my classroom:

  • The Griffin Gazette - As you can probably guess, this is my newsletter. Each week, sometime between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, I send an electronic newsletter. We were encouraged by our principal to do this and I think it's a fabulous way to communicate with parents. I break it up by subject and explain what the objectives are for the week. It's also a great way for those absent kiddos to keep up with what's going on. Of course, at the bottom I add in any important information for the week - field trip info, important dates, reminders and announcements. What do you do if a parent doesn't have or doesn't provide you with an email address? I have 3 of those, and I just print out my email and send it home in take home folders. This is a great way to go green and save paper, plus I feel like parents read this version more than when it's another paper in their child's folder.

  • The Web - Being a technology magnet, it makes sense that we would want to communicate using technology and the many resources on the web. For several years, my school (and now many other schools in my district) has used Blackboard. I think Blackboard has great features, and I think it's probably a great tool for intermediate and secondary teachers. That being said, it has a lot of great features that as a first grade teacher, I just don't need. I'm hoping to convince my principal to let us use wikispaces next year instead. I went to the Region 10 (anyone else in North Texas go?) Technology Conference yesterday and saw 2 great presentations about wikispaces. In fact, I was so excited, I went straight home and created my own page. I think having a wiki page will be better suited for what I want to use it for - not just communicating with parents, but posting student work for parents to view and the kids to revisit.  What a great way to review! Students can just hop on our wiki and review concepts by looking back at products that they and their classmates have created.

  • KidBlog - I don't know how many of you use KidBlog, and if you don't you absolutely need to check it out. It is a great way to integrate technology that allows kids to reflect, respond and share on any topic. We've used it for every subject. I know the kids love it as much as I do because they're always getting on at home! Sometimes the kids create their own posts about a certain topic, or sometimes I post a question and they leave a comment to respond. One of my favorite "tricks" is to post a question and not tell the kids for a couple of days. I like to see who is keeping up with our KidBlog on their own and I usually reward those sweeties with a "pawsitive paw" (it's a school wide positive reinforcement system). I'm putting this on my list of ways I keep in touch for two reasons. First, it allows other people in the building to communicate with my class. We've had all kinds of exciting visitors leave us comments and questions, such as our technology teacher, one of our math specialists, one of our reading specialists and even our principal! Second, I plan on keeping the KidBlog open this summer so the kids can communicate with me, if they want to.

  • Postcards - Yep, good old fashioned snail mail! Confession: I am one of those people who cries on the last day of school. I just can't believe our time is over! One thing I love doing is to give each of my kiddos a blank "postcard" with a stamp and my address. I print these on 4x6 index cards and just have my address printed on the right half of the unlined side. Usually the kids will draw a picture on the left half and then write a letter on the back, where the lines are. At the very least, I know they'll practice their writing once over the summer! It really is a nice surprise to get their sweet notes in my mailbox.

  • Bucket Filling - I started bucket filling in my classroom a couple of months ago, and I love it. Of course the kids love getting a note from a friend, but they especially love finding a special note from me that's just for them. Since we started in February, I try to write at least 5 or 6 notes per week so that by the end of the year each sweetie will have gotten a few from Miss Griffin. I think it's a good way to remind them of the great things they've done - I might write a note that says "I really liked how you helped _____ during centers."  - and I swear I can see them thinking to themselves when they read the notes "Oh yeah, I did do that!". Brining bucket filling into my classroom has truly improved the way my kids communicate with each other, and I think that's a pretty cool thing.
How do you keep in touch? Speaking of keeping in touch... stop by tomorrow for my giveaway announcement! Here are your clues: it was on my list of favorite things and it has to do with one of the above mentioned ways to keep in touch. Eeek! I can't wait!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

7 more hours to enter!

My Sweet Papery giveaway ends tonight at midnight CST. Check out my post from last Sunday, May 15th to find out how to enter! Good luck!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Looking for Texas Unit

Do any of you Texas girls have a Texas unit you can share or that is on TpT? We're doing one the last week of school and I'm looking to spice mine up. If not, maybe I've found myself a summer project!

And of course, I have to remind you, make sure you enter my giveaway by midnight CST on Sunday!

UPDATE: If you're looking for Texas things, you can find my activities here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What We Love Wednesday - Wrapping Up Our Year!

Hey y'all! I'm not a superstitious girl, but I gotta say, when I saw that I now have 113 followers, I decided that had to be good luck. After all, 1/13 is my birthday! So, here we are on Wednesday night and my internet is down. I'm posting from my iPhone and it's less than ideal! So, this will be short and sweet - a difficult task for me!

First, I got Jodi's End of Year Activity packet and can't wait to do the hermit crab activities next week, but what I REALLY want to tell you about is the adorable activity we're doing this week. Our theme this week is "Bugs, Bugs, Bugs!", so when I saw her writing prompt "I loved first grade bug cause" I had to go ahead and use it. I'm using it as one of our writing stations this week and it is precious. I had my kids glue the writing activity to manila paper when they finished, and then use scraps of scrapbook paper and construction paper to create their own insects. I love them! I will definitely have to come back and add pictures!

Second, make sure you enter my giveaway! It's open until Sunday night at midnight. Sweet Papery is oh-so-adorable and someone is gonna be a very lucky lady!

Can you believe that for me, that was a short post?

10 more days! Have a great night friends!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Only 12 days left...

Yep, you read that right! 12 days of school left for me! I'm taking a personal day this Friday, so really I guess I just have 11 days left with my first grade sweeties! It amazes me how fast the year goes by. I feel like they go faster every year! My other exciting news... as of this evening, I have 100 followers! I am so excited and feeling very humbled. I just can't believe there are that many people who want to know what's going on in Room B103! I posted my giveaway yesterday, so make sure you check out my post to find out how you can enter to win a stamp from the ADORABLE Sweet Papery!

Here's a random weather share - I know most of you are finished with weather units, but my kids did this a few weeks ago and thought it was really fun. They wanted to know if we could have it as a science center again this week. After reading all of their weather reports, I totally get why they liked it. According to my class, we were going to have a very drastic weather week in North Texas, chock full of every natural disaster imaginable. It looks like I have a room full of future meteorologists and storm chasers!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sweet Papery Giveaway!

My giveaway is finally here! Ok, so I’m not quite to 100 followers, but 94 is pretty darn close and I was just too excited to wait any longer! If you saw my favorite things post, you know that stamps and Sweet Papery are two of my favorite things. The amazing and VERY generous Farrah over at Sweet Papery is donating a stamp for me to giveaway to one of you lucky readers! SO, here’s what you need to do to enter:
  1. Be a follower! then, head over to Sweet Papery and check out the adorable stamps. Come back here and leave me a comment letting me know that you are a follower AND which stamp you'd choose if you won. Piece of cake, right? That will get you one entry.
  2. For a second entry, head over to facebook and like sweet papery. Again, leave me a comment letting me know.
  3. And if you REALLY want to win, here's how you can get a third entry: blog about my giveaway! Make sure you leave me a comment with the link so I can check it out!
Good luck! You have until Sunday, May 22nd at midnight CST to enter. The winner will be announced on Monday, May 23rd. Happy stamping!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day Idea

My kids did a quick and easy Mother's Day project today that they really enjoyed and {I think} their mothers will love. The kids brainstormed words that describe their mothers and my heart melted at their sweet words - caring, loving, hardworking, beautiful... the adjectives just flowed! Each sweetie made a list and off we went to the computer lab. The kids went to and made wordles for their mamas using all of their adjectives. They turned out precious and the kids all added what they call their moms to the word cloud. Tomorrow we're going to mount them on construction paper, et voila! I actually think I'm going to do the same thing for each one of my kiddos as the end of the year.
PS: Summer countdown = 19 days!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

I hope you are all feeling as incredibly loved and appreciated as I am today! I can't believe I only have 21 more days with my sweethearts! I brought lots of treats home with me this afternoon - they're keeping me motivated as I grade papers!

PS - Can you even believe the incredible sale over at TpT today? So many great bloggers are throwing a 20% off sale PLUS use the code TAD11 for an additional 20% off! Ummm... how many units can I buy in one sitting?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Another Insect Idea!

Everyone has been sharing their insect ideas and activities, so here I am inspired to share as well. We haven't done a full insect unit, but we've been working on a ladybug unit during science for a couple of weeks. I have one of those thematic unit books on ladybugs by Teacher Created Resources and it really has some great activities in it, so a lot of my craftivities and cross-curricular connections are ideas I've taken and built on from that book. This activity though is something I came up with while we were studying ladybug spots and their symmetry. First of all, did you know that ladybugs can be green, yellow, orange and even black? The kids LOVE that little piece of information. Side note: I found a 30 pack of giant ladybug diecuts at a local teacher store for $5.99, and decided that was money well spent. I am perfectly happy to pay $5.99 to avoid tracing and cutting 22 ladybugs out! My little scientists chose a color for their ladybugs and drew as many dots as their little hearts desired - fine by me as long as they showed symmetry. They looked adorable, but I thought they were missing a little something. So, being the technology magnet and always looking for a way to tie in technology, the students typed what symmetry means and glued it on. They all typed it themselves, and I was very pleased with how many used our science word wall to spell symmetry correctly! They voted on a pair of "crazy" scissors and voila! An authentic product tying together math (symmetry), science AND technology! I did cut the typed text out for them since Miss Griffin's crazy scissors are a little dull these days.

And I had to throw in this picture of us at the bug ball this year! This is my fabulous team: Mrs. Claborn, Mrs. Fulbright, Ms. Hemmingsen and Me!

 Happy May, y'all! We only have 22 days of school left here!