Friday, April 11, 2014

Teaching Seasons and Weather

One of my favorite units to teach with my first graders is seasons and weather.  I love being able to integrate science, math, reading, and writing into one theme, and seasons lends itself perfectly to that!  Here's what we've been up to! (Hold on to your hats- it's a long one!)

I begin my unit by teaching/reviewing the months of the year.  I was really shocked last year when I launched right into seasons and then found out my firsties didn't know the months.  Uh oh.  So we back-tracked!  Now I make sure to start with it.  We loooove this dance.

At the same time, I begin integrating a "Today's Weather Is..." during our morning meeting time.  I have a poster that looks like the one below and I rotate students to do Class News and the weather each day. 

Need this for 1st graders!

Next, I read Chicken Soup with Rice.  That book is so perfect for teaching months, seasons, and weather.  It is also great for figurative language and understanding illustrations.  My kids loved being able to shout out "chicken soup with rice!" at the end of every stanza.  Following our read-aloud, I projected a poster from my Seasons, Clothing, and Weather (Oh My!) unit onto my whiteboard and we completed  attempted a sort to match the seasons with their months.  It didn't go so well.    

Here's how I know it didn't go so well: when I saw them struggling with the table sort, I had them do a walking sort instead, thinking that would be better.  Nope.

Lesson learned. It's ok to slow down and not rush the "what months are in the seasons" lesson.  So, the next day, we reviewed the months and took it one season at a time.  We did the sort over again a day later and had much much better results! 

In the meantime, we learned the Seasons Song from this packet, which is so perfect for my students.  We also completed some of the writing prompts to tell about our favorite seasons and weather. 

To add to our study of the weather, we learned about some clothing vocabulary using one of the posters in my pack, then worked on the mini-book on the board.  Students practiced sorting the appropriate clothes to wear for different weather situations.  I spent a lot more time on this part of the unit last year- the group this year had a much more solid foundation in clothing vocabulary. 

My first grade group is extremely diverse in terms of proficiency.  I have two extreme newcomers, one student ready to exit, two somewhere in the developing stage, and one extra-special friend.  I am very fortunate to have a class set of Surface tablets, so I'm often able to do a semi-center rotation in order to work with students independently or allow my high-level students to explore things more in-depth.  Here are some of the websites I've been using to teach seasons, weather, and clothing (oh my!):

I found this one in the morning while getting ready for the day.  It was such a lucky find!  My group loved it and it was perfectly paced for them.  Definitely give it a go. 

This one is an interview with a meteorologist! So cool! There are really great extension websites at the bottom that gave me a lot of great ideas for my students as well.  Below are some other websites that were in heavy rotation in my classroom. 


To finish our unit, we did two culminating activities because I just couldn't choose!

We made it rain!

I had them put 5 or 6 drops of food coloring- it was cool to see the different strategies once they saw where their classmates placed theirs. 

They had the best time patiently waiting for the rain to fall.

My fourth graders came in the next period and wanted to do the experiment too, so we did, just with a little more academic vocabulary and a little more scientific method thrown in.   And finally, while waiting for our rain to fall, we made rainbows about our favorite seasons.  They came out so cute!  I've seen the rainbow name-bows all over the blogging world and finally had a good reason to make them. I love how they turned out! 

Summer is the best.  I like the summer.  I can ride my bike.  I like to go in the pool.  I can go to the park.

I like summer.  In summer I can ride bike.  In summer I can swim.  I like summer because I will go to the beach.  The summer is my favorite season.

That was one of my newcomers.  He only learned cursive on Monday! He started with me in September...I cannot believe how far he has come.  He is writing paragraphs and talking up a storm.  I am constantly amazed by his drive and dedication. 

I put our rainbows out in the hall for everyone to see.  I am so proud of my 1st graders- our Seasons, Clothing, and Weather uint was a success!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Currently

Hola April and adios March! Time to link up with Farley! for some Currently fun.  Ready to find out what's on my mind? (Well...a little teensy tiny part of it anyway...) 

1. The Mister Softee truck drove right in front of my house! At best, I carry $2 cash on me so there was no way I could get anything...which is probably a good thing!

2. Miss Nelson posted a picture on her b-e-a-utiful instagram of this coconut water and I had to try it.  I found it at my local Wegman's and have since been loving it!! I order it by the case now! (Sorry, husband.)

3. 17 1/2. In case you were wondering.  

4. Needing, actually...I did order some Jamberry from Charity Preston (The Organized Classroom Blog) but it's almost open toe shoe weather! My toes need some TLC!

5. I've mentioned that I'm in grad school for my admin cert.  I've realized that I need to toughen up when it comes to discipline and personnel.  When I worked in my former district I had more of a tough edge to me, which was good for discipline, but my current district is like Whoville...everyone is nice and kind of Kum-ba-ya (sp?) so I am losing my edge.  Actually, it's gone.  I'd like it back.  If I ever become a VP I will need to stick to a handbook and leave emotions out of decision making, not to mention not get emotional when others get emotional.  (Is there a fairy godmother for that?)  

6. Staff contract hours are 8:10-3:15.  I have early morning meetings two days a week so I'm in at 6:45- if no meeting, I'm there by 7:25.  I try and leave at 3:15 or 3:20 one or two days a week so I can go home and relax, but I have grad school one or two nights and homework club another afternoon...before you know it my afternoons are booked! 

What's on your mind? (Hmmm...I sound like Facebook!)  Link up with Farley!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

Thanks so much for the birthday wishes!  I had a lot of fun reading your favorite birthday memories as they came in all weekend!

 Here are the winners: 

Ladies, please email me at and I will send your prizes over! 

Thanks again to all who played- you made my birthday extra special! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Birthday Sale and Giveaway!

Do you know what day of the week on which you were born?  According to my Burmese students, it's a very big deal- for some it even determines who you can and can't marry.  Our students begged my teaching partner and I to look up our zodiac signs according to this Mahabote chart.  I'm a Saturday child, so in Burmese zodiac I'm a dragon.  I like it!

I hope you're ready for a nice weekend- I know I am ready to relax!  I don't have plans this year with friends or family but life has been so busy lately that I'm perfectly fine with that.  I didn't want to forget my blogging friends, though, so I've decided to put my store on 20% sale, and throw a little giveaway party!

Make sure you enter the rafflecopter below!  The giveaway will end Sunday night and I will announce winners on Monday.  One person will win the gift card and one person will win a choice of any two products from my store.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Little Bit of Sunshine

Have you ever had one of those weeks when you felt like you just couldn't look at another lesson plan, type another assessment, or smile through another meeting?  If you haven't, please click the large red X in the top right-hand corner.  Kidding...this is an equal-opportunity blog.  But seriously, I think there comes a time in a teacher's life when we all need a little bit of sunshine.  I've been to the tanning salon (I know, I know), I'm taking extra vitamins, I'm wearing bright colors...sometimes.  A few weeks ago I was nominated by a few bloggers for the Sunshine Award, so I think that will be just the ticket to brighten up my week!

1} Decaf or caffeinated?
Before 12: caffeinated.  After 1: decaf. 
{2} Do you have a teacher Instagram account?
Yes!  @everyonedeservestolearn...come take a peek into my daily life!
{3} What makes the level you teach/work at special to you?
Here's a perfect example: today, one of my newcomers (who came in September and had never been to school before) read a book.  He read ME the book.  On his own, sitting in my rocking chair, happy as a clam, my little boy read a book out loud to the whole class.
{4} Where are you located and what’s the current weather like?
I'm a North Jersey girl living in Southern NJ.  It's currently (6:00 pm on 3/25) snowing.  Jeez louise.
{5} You win a magical field trip to anywhere in the world with your students. Where do you go?
DisneyWorld.  Amusement park and all the fun countries right there for you.  Sign me up.
{6} Three words to describe your teaching style.
Thoughtful. Engaging. Fun.
{7} Subject you most enjoy teaching?
Wri-story.  (Writing/history- I can't choose.)
{8} If you weren't in education, what would be your alternate profession?
Boss of the world.  Seriously.  All decisions would be best approved by me to avoid mistakes being made. 
{9} What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
Reading, completely undisturbed. I can devour a book in a few hours.
{10} Favorite teacher as a student?
My 6th grade LAL/SS teacher.  I still think about her all the time and the life lessons she taught us. 
{11} What's your go to snack?
Nada.  I try not to snack.  

Thanks so much to the sweet bloggers who nominated me!  And thanks to all my blogging/TPT/IG friends (and real-life friends too) for making my days just a little brighter!  Here's a little treat to brighten up your day! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Baked Shrimp Scampi- Monday Made It

I am so happy to be linking up with Tara for Monday Made It!  I can't remember the last time I linked up, so I'm glad I have something delicious to share today.

Both my husband and I come from seafood-loving families, so shrimp or salmon is on our regular menu rotation.  He often declares food that I make "the best ever," and I tend to think it's so I'll keep feeding him, but the compliments went on and on about this dish.  I tend to agree- this was easy and delicious, and would be a great company meal.

Baked Shrimp Scampi
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 lb shrimp
1/2 lb pasta (I used rotini)
3 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp White Zinfandel (or dry white wine, as the recipe calls for)
salt and pepper (I use Papa Joe's)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 onion, minced
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp lemon zest (I just go around the whole lemon)
half a lemon, juiced
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko or breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Set a pot with salted water to boil.  Peel and devein shrimp.  If you're serving alone, leave the tails on.  If serving with pasta, take the tails off- it's just neater that way!  Toss shrimp with olive oil, wine, and 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.  Allow to marinate. In another bowl, gently fold together the butter, egg yolk, garlic, onion, lemon juice, zest, and spices.  In the meantime, add the pasta to the boiling water.  Lay shrimp in a single layer in a cast iron skillet or baking dish, and pour the remaining marinade over top.  Finally, spread the butter mixture (like you would an apple crisp) over the shrimp and top with bread crumbs.  Bake for 11 minutes.  Drain the pasta and toss with the shrimp.  Serve with a lemon wedge on the side.

I also have a few classroom Made-It's!  The first one is an addition to my Diary series, which I am super excited about!  I read a book recently about Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union spy, and that inspired me to write a diary from the perspective of female spies in 3 different wars.  I can't wait until this wonderful-amazing-fantastic-terrific testing (#sarcasm) is over so I can actually USE it!! I know my 4th graders are going to love it.

And, I finally finished a project I started LAST year at this time!  I had wanted to do an author study with my 2nd graders, but we ran out of time.  Then I planned to do it in summer school, but we ran out of time.  So this year I am making it a priority! 

I can't wait!  I love the Freeman books- Norman the Doorman and Fly High Fly Low are two of my very favorite children's books and I can't wait to share them with my students. 

Click any picture to check out the units.  Is there something you want to squeeze in before the end of the school year? Leave it in the comments for a chance to win one of my made-its!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Effective Assessments for ELL's

Recently, my teaching partner and I were asked by our principal to put together a presentation to go over ELL modifications in content area classes.  In our school, we pull-out our ELL's for Language Arts but they remain in the classroom for all other content areas. Some have push-in support from a bilingual aide once or twice a week. With the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system, SGO's, and quite a few other things, we ELL teachers we are more than happy to make the modification process easier and more effective.

We began with a quick look into the Danielson (our evaluation system) framework, focusing specifically on preparation and planning (modifications).  Note the second paragraph in Unsatisfactory.  We got a few gasps at that one!

We continued onto a reading passage from a book called Pronouncing Words.  I received a copy at a workshop and don't have the author's name.    It is a comprehension passage of nonsense words, followed by questions.   The teachers in the workshop were able to answer the text-dependent questions, but when the question asked about defining a word, they were stumped.  The purpose of the exercise was to explain that ELL students can find answers in the text, but many words are still unfamiliar to them- they will need background support and scaffolding in order to be wholly successful. 

Next, we went over the WIDA Can-Do Descriptors, which you can find for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8 here on my blog.  You can also find them in the full version on the WIDA website.  Depending on your state, you may use CELLA or another measure of English Language Proficiency.  Once we established each student's level, we moved to modification practice. 

We used an actual example from our math textbook to modify, and if you are presenting, I would recommend the same thing.  The teachers were comfortable with the material and then began pulling up other assessments about which they had questions on their tablets.  Many of the questions we had were concerns about standardized testing, and I can only answer from a New Jersey point of view, but here are some FAQ's: 

1.  Do my students have to take the NJAsk?
Short answer: yes.  Long answer:  All ELL's take grade-level math, no matter what.  If your student has been in the country less than a year he/she does not have to take Language Arts.

2. Will they count to my SGO/SGP?
If you have included them in your sub-group for SGO, then yes.  For SGP, there are many criteria to take into account, including time spent in classroom, absences, and a few others. Remember that your students will be rated against students from other schools with the same demographic factors, such as Sp.Ed, ELL's, income, population, etc.

I thought our presentation went really well!  Some of the websites/apps recommended for ELL's during the presentation were: 

iXL - website
iMath- app
XtraMath - website
Sheppard Software- website
DoGoNews- website
TweenTribune - website

I hope this was helpful! If you would like a copy of our presentation, click here to grab it from Google Drive.