Classroom Elf Freebie

Happy day after Thanksgiving!  Are you suffering from a turkey hangover like I am?!  I don't understand the words "moderation" or "restraint".  Needless to say, I'm all about the leggings today :)

Since December is quickly approaching...4 more days, what?!?!..I thought I'd revisit an old post all about our classroom elf.  Here's a freebie for you and I hope you're able to use it in your classroom this holiday season!!!

Click on the picture below to read all about how we celebrated with the elf in our classroom.


You can grab the freebie HERE.

And if you're in search of some elf ideas, I posted a few on my domestic blog last week.  You can check those out here...

Best time of the year!  

If you're looking for some additional holiday resources, you can check these out using the links below.

Happy Black Friday!

Reading Comprehension


It's me.

I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet.

Adele anyone?!  I mean, those lyrics pretty much work for everything, amiright?!   But seriously.  It's been a while since I've blogged!  Sad!  I miss my little corner of cyberspace.  

All that to be said, let's go ahead and dive right in, shall we?!  

First of all, I hope you're enjoying your time away from the classroom this week.  As much as we love our home away from home, it's nice to be surrounded by friends and family for a few days so that you have a chance to recharge and mentally prepare yourself for the next few weeks before winter break. 

If you're doing any shopping this weekend, I put a few gift guides for her, him, kids, and them on my domestic blog. I'd love some extra ideas, too :)

Now let's talk shop.  How's reading coming along this school year?  By now I'm sure you're in full swing with guided reading.  I recently went to both Indiana and Tennessee for the SDE Kinergarten and 1st grade conferences.  I had the opportunity to talk a lot about guided reading (a hot topic!!) and reading comprehension in several of my sessions.  

If you're looking for some great guided reading phonics activities for teacher table, check out this resource full of tried and true activities I used in the classroom and read about how I used them HERE.

If you already have this resource, be on the lookout for Volume 2!!!  I'll be posting another set of guided reading phonics activities this weekend.

Today I wanted to touch on comprehension while I'm thinking about it.  Sometimes I feel like we're so concerned with moving our kids to the next level that we don't really pay close attention to the skills our kids need to become independent readers who can truly comprehend what they're reading.  I feel like this is the most important part of reading!  Understanding what we read.  How do you fit that into your instruction?  

First I think it's important to break down the skills and strategies our kids need to learn and practice.

This book was recommended to me this past summer by several readers and after purchasing it I realized it was a book I had already owned and read, LOL!  I guess I never paid attention to the cover or the author because I barrelled through the book like it was nobody's business.  Tanny McGregor is a genius when it comes to teaching kids how to apply comprehension strategies to their reading.  I implemented so many of her ideas into my instruction when I was in the classroom.  I HIGHLY recommend it!

So what exactly did some of these activities entail?!  Well...that's a whole other post, lol!!  But if you really want to know, just grab the book!!!  

As far as comprehension skills were concerned, it was really important for me to have easy access to resources and questioning prompts so that I would be able to target various skills any time we read a book...shared reading, guided reading, etc.  I needed to be able to have things right at my fingertips.
I finally had the chance to give those resources a makeover and now I can share them with you!

I liked to keep a set of mini comprehension posters with me at all times.  I actually printed out two different sets.  One to display on my focus wall (as new skills/strategies were introduced) and then I kept one on a binder ring and placed it on a command hook next to my easel so that I'd have quick access to it...and so would my kids.  They knew they could use that resource whenever they had questions, etc.

I also kept 3 sets of questioning cards/prompts readily available...questions to ask before/after/during reading.  These were probably my most used resource in the classroom.  I kept them in my guided reading toolkit and carried that toolkit to my carpet every time I did a read aloud with the kids.  I've since added a lot of new questions to all three rings, but these were great for getting kids to think about the text in a variety of different ways.  They also include a lot of higher order thinking questions.  That was something that was really important to me.  I wanted to be able to differentiate questioning on-the-fly and these provided me with a way to do that effectively and kept me from asking the same questions over and over again.

My little comprehension dice cards were also a favorite for both myself and my kids!  Any activity with dice is always a favorite, right?!  I created a lot of different comprehension cards to target different skills and strategies and depending on what we were targeting in our instruction would determine which cards we would use.  They were great to use with our guided readers, but we also used them with our shared reading books to change things up a bit from the questioning rings and prompts.  Gotta keep 'em guessing ;)  
ANY time is a good time to work on comprehension strategies and skills and it's definitely not a part of reading we want to neglect or ignore.  If you want to grab a set of these comprehension resources for your classroom, you can find them here:

How do you target comprehension in your classroom?

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

How many of y'all are in scramble mode right now?! Scrambling to get things planned and prepped for your Thanksgiving festivities...and I don't mean your homebound celebrations.  I thought I'd throwback to some old things I've done in my classroom for Thanksgiving and share a couple of new things with you as well.  If you're still not done planning and prepping, maybe these ideas will help!

First up, here are my favorite Thanksgiving books!

Before I throwback, here's a little something new for this year.  I created this supplemental math & literacy resource full of printables and writing craftivities to get you through the week.  There's a fun little non-fiction reader all about the very first Thanksgiving, too.  I love any chance I can get to incorporate non-fiction elements into my instruction.  

Here's a peek at the writing craftivities...

Now let's throwback, shall we?!

These little whimsical turkeys are from last year and they turned out SO great!  This was one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda activities that I came up with as I was reading to my kids.  As they were completing their writing, I was cutting out all the parts.  I know I'm not the only one who's done this before ;)

If you wanna snatch this craftivity up and use it in your own classroom this week, just click on the pic below.

After reading The Great Turkey Race a couple of years ago, my kids extended their thinking by writing about the beginning/middle/end of the story and then we displayed their writing on these darling little turkeys.  And they made me laugh every time I looked at them.  I would LOVE to share a template with y'all, but I don't have one that I can find.  I mean, I know I have one, but heck if I know where it is!!  Shoved in a box at the bottom of a pile in storage, I'm sure.  SO sorry!!!!

Let's go back to 2011 for this one.  We created these little old lady's after reading I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie.  Again, no template....SADSVILLE...but these would be pretty simple to recreate.  I just cut out a face...then some hair...and a big black mouth...we used googly eyes and then had the kids draw glasses around them.  The writing prompt was "If I were the little old lady, I would swallow....." and then they had to write about a Thanksgiving food they would eat.  Then they drew the picture of that food item, cut it out, and glued it in the old lady's mouth.  TOO funny!!!

Here's a little share from 2011.  We were working on character traits/details at the time and this little follow-up activity was the perfect way to reinforce that skill.  We read "The Littlest Pilgrim" (one of my favorites!!!) and then the kids made their own and wrote complete sentences describing the main character.  When I displayed their work, I included the anchor chart we created to keep as a learning visual/reminder.

These were always a favorite to hang up in the room during November.  My kids loved showing off their work when their families visited the room for VIP day the Friday before our long week off.  

This giant class graph was so much fun, too!!!  A perfect little activity from Deanna Jump's Thanksgiving packet.
This is usually how my room looked in November, too.  Excessive.  And fantastically exciting for the kids.  

And can you spot First Grade Blue Skies pilgrims in the back there?!?!?  LOVE THOSE!!!

We'll go back all the way to 2010 for this one.  These are the little Mayflowers you see sitting on the desks above.  We made these out of grocery sacks.  I'd share the template with you, but they're not my idea and I don't want to share someone else's creation :)  However, they were super simple to create!  We attached a pencil to the back of the sack to hold up the sail and then filled the inside with facts about the Mayflower.

Of course, before we could write about the Mayflower, we had to read as many non-fiction stories about it as we could.  And then we kept up an anchor chart to which we continually added facts.  

And if you're going on the Mayflower, you have to pack for it, too.  Here are our suitcases filled with all the things we would take if we were pilgrims.

Speaking of pilgrims, this was my most FAVORITE project EVER!!!  I absolutely LOVED the way each of these turned out.  First we created a Venn diagram comparing Pilgrim boys and girls to boys and girls today.  Then I had the kids write about something they would do if they were a pilgrim boy/girl.  They used their computer time to draw a picture of themselves as a pilgrim boy/girl on KidPix.  I absolutely ADORED the way they all looked!!!  SO cute!!!

We also made little pilgrims to hang up with a little writing that compared what the kids can do today (or have today) that the pilgrim boys and girls couldn't do (didn't have) back then.  

Now let's stay in 2010 and talk about another one of my favorite projects.  My little symmetrical turkeys.  I absolutely LOVED how different and unique each one turned out.  I cut out a simple peanut shape for the turkey body and then had the kids cut their own beak, wattle, and feet.  They had the option to cut out or draw on their eyes.  I cut out the pattern block shapes on our school die cut machine, but I'm pretty sure you can donwload pattern block templates online (free), too!  I had the kids start with their pattern first...building onto the yellow octagon...and then going out from there.  Then they glued the little turkey bodies to the top of that.  These were always a class favorite!

While we're talking about turkeys, let's talk about these little placemats we made.  The turkey body was created from tracing their feet and the feathers, of course, their handprints.  Then we read the poem together and used this as a handwriting activity...letting the kids print the poem onto a piece of writing paper then gluing it next to the turkey on a large piece of construction paper.  We laminated these and used them at our Thanksgiving feast then sent them home with the kids as a keepsake. So sweet.

If you're working on fact families, this might be a fun little something to squeeze in this week, too!  I don't have a template, but this can easily be recreated.  You can read more about this HERE.

Hope your week is as full of fun as possible!!!  You will definitely earn your break!!!  

Veteran's Day (& Freebies,too!)

If you're anything like me, you are always looking for more ideas and resources to add to your ever growing collection.  I do this for EVERYTHING.  Constantly looking for new ideas...more resources...and more time.  If anybody can tell me where I can find more time, I'd really appreciate it ;)  

That to be said, I want to share with you a few ideas to help you get ready for Veterans Day {next week...ALREADY!!!! Gah!!!}  

I absolutely LOVE teaching my kids about veterans and the sacrifices they make for our freedom.  At my old school, veterans related to the students were invited to an assembly and honored with speeches and songs and we finished it all off with a parade around the school.  It was so cool.   The assembly was streamed in all the classrooms so that everyone could watch. At my current school, we celebrate by inviting veterans to lunch...tables are decorated and the walls in the cafeteria and the hallways are, too.  It's such a sweet day.

We read several books leading up to and on Veterans Day to help teach the kids about this holiday.
These are some of my personal favorites...

I keep these books in our library center through the month of November.  My kids read them during their read to self/someone block of time and they also use these books to write some pretty great stories.  "Hero Dad" is such a sweet book and "The Wall" always makes me cry.  Make sure your tissues are nearby if you read that one aloud.

After reading a few of  our nonfiction books, we create anchor charts to display.  These are a few examples of anchor charts I created with my class the last few years.

I like to display the kids' Veterans Day writing around the anchor charts to tie everything together. 

Last year we read the book, "My Hero", and I had the kids write a text to self connection with this little writing activity...
I mean, seriously.
"My hero is my mom because she takes care of me."  
Can my boys please write something like this for me?! I MELT!!!!

In addition to our text to self writing, we also wrote what we LEARNED about Veterans and Veterans Day.  I loved displaying this in the hallways!  
I included the writing & craftivity templates in my Veterans Day mini pack.

This year I'm adding something new to the mix with this writing craftivity.  It's a great way to incorporate our theme based vocabulary, too!  

I love adding poetry and music to every theme/unit.  I made up this one and my boys are already humming the tune to themselves.  I can't get it out of my head, either!  HA!!! 
We always add a printable version of our songs and poems to our poetry folders.  I like to write the words on sentence strips, too...then I add them to my pocket chart center and encourage the kids to assemble them in sequential order, practice one-to-one matching, etc.  We use the printable version for highlighting sight words, spelling patterns, etc.  The printable version of this song is in my Veterans Day mini pack.

My boys always get excited when I create new things for my teacher friends.  I was printing a few things out the other day and they insisted on trying it all out.  It sparked a really great discussion about Veterans Day, too.  I promised them I'd pull out my Veterans Day books for bedtime stories this week.  Their favorite activity was this little Roll and Color Word Family printable.  They, of course, turn everything into a race so they were determined to see who could color the soldier first and fastest!  When I told them the prize was a kiss from mommy, they seemed less than excited to finish the race first...hahahaha!  They begged for candy kisses instead.  Oh, BOYS!!!

They also loved these little math booklets.  I included two different versions in my Veterans Day mini pack to target differing ability levels.  Landon zipped through the Armed Forces Addition...very sloppily {little toot!!!}, my poor lefty...and Grant loved his "jutht-right-for-me-book, right-mom?!?!" version.  They boys are enamored with soldiers so these were right up their alley.

You can check out my "Patriotic Holidays" board on Pinterest for some more GREAT ideas and links to some really neat resources {videos, online stories, freebies, craft ideas, etc.}.

Here are a few FREE printables for you to add to your ever growing collection of "stuff".    Hopefully they'll help you out when you're planning for your Veterans Day festivities, too!

Now it's your turn.  What do you do to help your kids learn about Veterans Day?  Does your school do anything special to celebrate?!  I'd love to hear more!

Stoplight Sounds (Freebie!)

So, I was in Wal Mart the other day (I promise this isn't the start of a bad joke ;))
I was grabbing a few things from the travel section and found these great little containers.  97 cents a piece.  Of course, there was no way I'd use them for travel purposes, but I knew they'd make a GREAT activity for the classroom!

I picked up a red, yellow, and green because I knew I wanted to do something with a stoplight theme.  They had orange and blue containers as well.  As I was driving home it dawned on me.  STOPLIGHT SOUNDS!!!!  I could use the lids to segment sounds ...beginning (green)/ middle (yellow)/ end (red).  Perfect! 

Then the ideas for variations on the blending activity just started flowing.  These would definitely make the perfect addition to your guided reading toolkits.  I think one set per student (5-6 sets total) would be perfect.  

Now let's talk about how this all works.

My original thought was to have my kids just use the lids for segmenting and identifying phonemes.  I'll assign each color to a different sound in CVC words as mentioned above.  Then I'll give my kids a set of letter tiles and have them place the letters under each sound dome and go from there.  But that didn't make any sense because I want this to be an activity that makes them think and use the decoding skills they've learned thus far. are a few ideas.

Explain to your kids that each container represents a sound. 
Green = beginning consonant
Yellow = medial vowel
Red = ending consonant

Prior to starting this activity, fill the green and red containers with about 3-5 letter tiles each.  For the yellow container, you can place one vowel (the one you're studying) OR choose a couple (for review).  Teacher discretion, of course.

Now give a set of pre-filled containers to each student in your small group and prompt them to place the containers in stoplight  Remove the lids and place them in front of the containers. 

Now you can do a couple of different things...

* Call out words for the kids to make (they will make the words first, then segment each sound by placing one letter under each lid). Then tap the top of the lid as they say each sound and finally blend the sounds together.

* Prompt the kids to make their own words following the stoplight sequence.  Have them distinguish between real words and nonsense words.  Encourage them to segment/blend each phoneme in the words they create to make a word.  

I'm sure you could think of a jillion different variations or activities to use with these little tubs.  I think they'd be great for math, too.   As for phonics, this is a great way for kids to visually see and physically touch the phonemes in CVC words.  It's a great way to reach kids with different learning styles.

  I think something like this would also make a great independent literacy station. Keep a few sets in a literacy tub and fill the containers with letter tiles.  Have your kids make different words....write the words and illustrate....or make words and distinguish between real and nonsense.  They can use these printables to record their work (if that's something you want them to do.) I'd probably keep them in a dry erase sleeve and put this activity in one of my fast finisher tubs.  But only after introducing, modeling, and interacting with this activity first :)

Since we're talking all about CVC words and blending/segmenting phonemes, I thought it would be the perfect time to throw some treats your way :)  Click on the pics below to take you to these resources.  They will only be marked down for a short amount of time so get 'em while the prices are slashed!!!  Great resources for independent work or small group/guided reading activities!!