Sunday, November 27, 2016

Creating Critical Thinkers through Questioning!

Hello Everyone!!
I really can't even believe how long it has been since my last post!!  I am so sorry! Thanks to all those who have e-mailed me asking about my absence.  You are too kind. We have had a very busy and emotional homelife lately.  My nephew's baby daughter has been diagnosed with Krabbe disease, an aggressive  incurable genetic disease.  We had to fly to Florida to help and support them.  It is such a sad thing because she could have been tested for it at birth and would have been eligible for some transplant treatment which would have prolonged her life.  Please keep little Lola and her mom and dad, John and Kathrin, in your prayers.  
Early November, my mom turned 80!  We had a wonderful surprise party for her.  All my brothers and sisters (5 of us!) flew to Texas to help her celebrate!  They live all over the country! She about flipped!!!  It was the celebration of a lifetime!!  We feel so blessed to have had this opportunity!
And finally, another celebration!  My baby boy (24 years old!) built and just moved into his first home.  He has always been such a go getter.  He graduated from high school early and was able to go to college at age 17.  He graduated with a double major and is working in Austin in the tech industry. He loves Austin so much that he decided to build there. It also helps that he is very frugal with his money! :) We were able to go help him move in.  And he let me decorate for him!!! Such a fun, but exhausting time. 
So, all that brings me to finally having some time to post a little.   I thought I'd share a bit about what I am doing to help kids think more critically.  In this ever changing world, just teaching facts is not enough.   Kids need to learn to problem solve...ask anyone in the work force today.  There is more than one way to get the work done. 
As I worked on using the higher level questions based on Bloom's Taxonomy, I found that my kids were really finding new ways to answer, adding value to every problem, sharing their ideas more readily, and understanding that we learn more from our mistakes. I found that kids are very capable of asking each other critical questions as well.   I have worked hard to help my first graders be aware of what I mean by digging deeper into everything we do.   I am also pleased to say that our district is embracing the power of questioning as well. I want to show you what I have developed so far.  Keep in mind that there are many  many more ways to add the right kind of questioning to your curriculum.  These are just a few of the easily adaptable strategies you can add tomorrow!  Just print and go!

This is just the beginning.  I am a problem solver, as well.  I want my students to do all they can to think at a higher level than ever before.  I will do what it takes to help!!! So...stay tuned. I will be back with more. 
Thanks for your patience as we work through life and teaching!!! 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

SUPER SENTENCES! (Mentor Sentences, Sentence Imitating), a little math fun and a lesson plan template!

Hello Everyone!!
This post is a mix of writing, math, and a downloadable editable lesson plan template.So hold on tight and stay with me!!
The case for using mentor sentences or sentence imitating begins with the premise that students are more motivated to organize sentence construction through the use of well crafted sentences from books we read rather than teaching a grammar lesson and using a “find the mistake” type activity.    Mentor sentences serve as examples for students of what good writing is all about.  Mentor sentences can help students identify all those elements of writing you are working on. In the primary grades, they might highlight good nouns, verbs, verb usage, capitalization, punctuation, etc.  Kids can also see how adjectives,adverbs, and other parts of speech are used effectively. In my first grade classroom, I have adopted a mentor sentence component to my writers workshop time.  Before I begin my workshop mini lesson and modeling, we write our “Super Sentence!”
*I have a sentence written on sentence strip displayed in the front of the classroom. The sentence comes from a book we have been reading that might have specific examples of skills we might be working on that week.

*We read and discuss the sentence, including conversation about those specifics. “What are some things you notice about the sentence?” “What kinds of things can we identify?”
*Students write the entire sentence, or imitate the sentence in a notebook. I check it over for correct imitation. Kids highlight specific focus words, word parts, or punctuation marks.
*The next day, I underline the word or a part of the sentence I want them to  change or revise to begin making the sentence their own.  Students write the sentence with their choice word in their notebooks directly under the original sentence from yesterday.
*The next day I choose another part of the sentence for the students to revise, making the sentence even more their own.
*Finally, students revise one more thing and write the sentence one more time. By this time the sentence is almost completely their own. They can change one of the other words, add some words, or change the type of sentence.
Each day, the “Super Sentence” activity takes only about 5-10 minutes.  

Now on to a little math fun from last week.  we have been working hard on expanded notation, and finding patterns in our observations of that type of numeration and number sense.  Last week I wanted a fun way for the kids to show what they have learned.  I found some of the paint chip cards with the little windows in them.  I cut some plain white copy paper the same size as the paint chips.  The kids had to pick a two digit number and write it out in expanded notation to show through the windows. They also had to show what each addend of the expanded form meant. They each did about 5 or six pages and then we punched holes and added a brass fastener.  The flip book became a quick, fun, formative assessment of their grasp of expanded notation!  

Great job, guys!!!

Now, finally, on to the lesson plan template.  I get requests almost daily for my editable lesson plan template.  I shared it a couple of years ago. I think I had the template saved in a storage system that has since gone to a pricey membership system.  I am so sorry about that. I have since loaded it into my googledocs file and have it for you to download for free. It shows you how my day is organized, but it also gives you total freedom to edit to fit your schedule.  I simply print off the year's worth, punch holes, and keep it all in a binder.  I fill in the specs by handwriting them, but you could certainly store it all on your computer and fill in your own specs, because it is just a word doc.

Hope this post gives you some ideas for your week coming up.  Please holler if you need anything else!!!  Have a great rest of the weekend!!

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Howdy All!!!
Place value is always a tricky math concept to teach little ones.  We worked very hard on this objective this week.  The kids already had a sense of what it was all about because we have included a "place value" piece during calendar time every morning.  (You know the whole bundling straws thing!) But to bring it home I created giant pick up sticks using pieces of wood and a paint bucket.  On one side of the stick I simply drew 10 black dots.  On the other side I drew one red dot.  When the sticks are dropped we look at the "up" side and sort,  the tens together and the ones together.  We can then easily see the value of each place. 
Writing down the value of each place was an important component.

After practicing whole group, the kids got to make their own "place value pick up sticks." They used popsicle sticks. After creating their own, they got to play with a partner. The kids loved having their own set!! :)

Coming up in writing, we will work hard on nouns, common, proper, and plural.
I have shared this little unit before, but I added a lot to it. 

That's it for now. Thanks for stopping by for a peek!!  I appreciate your interest!!  Have a joyfilled week! Don't forget to enjoy the journey!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dandy Dozen Day and Coming Up? Apples!!

Howdy All!!

Thanks for stopping by today. Dandy Dozen Day has come and gone and we had a blast! I think the kids really connected with the number 12!  Here are some pics.
We talked about the different arrangements of 12.
4 rows of 3, 3 rows of 4. 2 rows of 6, 6 rows of 2
...and may have even had a little snack!

I split the kids into groups and each had to find a way to stack 12 of the items in their baskets.

Marshmallows were hard to stack.

Oreo Smores cookies were easy to stack
in a tower of 12!

LOOOOOOVE this!! :)
And we loved Dandy Dozen Day!

Coming up next week with the beginning of fall, we have taken the them of apples and Johnny Appleseed and created a unit which encompasses and integrates all of our objectives for the week. I am sharing the 95 page unit in case you need something in the next couple of weeks!! Here are a few pics of the 
contents .

Lots of math and science!!

If you are interested in this unit, Simply Click HERE!!! :)
That's all I have for now.  I'll be back soon with so much more!!!  Have a wonderful week and don't forget to leave a comment!!
Nancy :)