Monday, December 31, 2012

The One Where I Wish You a Happy New Year

Well,  I'll admit that I did have pretty grandiose plans for my Christmas Break.  I was going to blog more. I was going to make several things for my TPT store, namely my January Math Journals.  I was going to actually get out the several posts flying around in my head.  But I didn't.  Oops.

What I did do though was have a fantastic, and relaxing, Christmas Break with my family. In the end that's better than my initial plans anyway.  Wouldn't you agree?  Posts will get written.  Items will get made.  Hopefully the January Math Journals will get done ASAP.  But until then I will continue to relax and enjoy my vacation.

Well, the entire 1 day I have left.  Yep, I return to school on Wednesday.  Yikes!  Has the break flown by that quickly already?  What will I do those first 3 days back?  Oh, I mean, I need to check my lesson plans.  No, just kidding, I do have a slight idea of what to do plans for those days when the kids are totally crazy and still all jazzed up on Christmas Break, toys, and candy.  

How has your break been?  Do you return on Wednesday?  Thursday?  Or are you super lucky, like my wife, and have all the way until next Monday?  Well, whenever you return I hope the remainder of your break is good.  I hope you've enjoyed the time away from the classroom and have rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated yourself so you're ready to greet all of those little faces when they return in January.

One half of the year is gone.  The 2nd half of the year is always so much fun as you begin to see the kids grow so quickly and they suddenly gain so much of the independence and skills you've been working on for the previous months.  

But I'm rambling a bit here.  Sorry.  Maybe it's the late hour.  I've got 20 minutes left until New Year's here.  Everyone else in the house is asleep.  I'm too stubborn though and always insist on staying up.  Then about 5 minutes later I turn in.  And again I'm rambling.

So, I think I'll just wish you a Happy New Year and sign off.  I hope that 2013 is awesome for you and you have a wonderful and blessed 2nd half of the school year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The One to Wish You a Merry Christmas

Well we've been out of town for the past few days celebrating the season with family. I hope you've been enjoying your much-needed Christmas break! I still have about a week left and there are tons of things on my To Do list. Oh well. For now though its all about being with my family and relaxing! I just wanted to pop in for a minute to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! More to come later!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The One About Christmas Crafts

Well, again I've been away for a bit.  But, I'm sure you'll understand given the season.  I think for 2013 I'll make a resolution to blog more.  Both here and at my personal blog.  Although, come to think of it, I think I make that resolution every year.  Alas, life intervenes.  Anywho.

So, today was our last day before Christmas Break!  Not to rub it in to all of you who still have school until tomorrow or Friday.  Thankfully it was only a half day.  This is good because that is already a half day more than my kids had left in them!  Know what I'm saying?  Monday and Tuesday flew by and went surprisingly well.  In between specials and practice for our Christmas program/Advent Service we just barely got in all of our projects.

I didn't go all out this year as I have in the past.  I just played it low-key.  As it turns out, that worked out well since Christmas Break fell during a funny time this year.  Such is the case when it's on a Monday/Tuesday I guess.  I still managed to fit in my 2 favorite crafts though.  Sometimes I think I should try something new, but these 2 have always been so reliable and easy to complete, even in the busiest of times.  So I keep them around as my good old standbys and I add in some smaller new things every now and then.

I thought I'd try and get this post out there since some people (like I often am) may be looking for some last minute ideas to fill the time during these crazy last few days.  That or maybe you'll hold onto the idea for next year?  That or I can just share the ideas!

The first one is a little writing craftivity I've done for so long that I've forgotten where I got the idea from.  It's super simple and cute.  I love it because it has a uniform set of directions/procedures but the kids can personalize it in so many ways, they are always individual and different.  Plus that and I love me some reindeer at Christmastime so this is right up my alley.  All you need is a large sheet of dark brown construction paper, a smaller sheet of light brown construction paper, red construction paper scraps, the writing paper, and crayons/markers.  The kids do their writing first, why Christmas is special for them, and then assemble the reindeer.  I also like this because it's somewhat of a tiered activity, everyone can write something; from the stronger students to those who are not the best writers, they all turn out beautifully.  This is my standard hallway bulletin board display during Christmas and let's get serious, who doesn't like a board-ful of reindeer grinning at them?

Cute huh?

Here's a close-up of Braeden's.  Having your own kid in your class means you can always show their work and not worry about parental permission!

The inside of Braeden's reindeer: "I'm going to Kansas.  I get lots of presents.  It's a lot of fun.  My smile on my face says I'm happy."  Excuse his handwriting!  :/

Cute huh?  I absolutely love it.  Nothing too fancy but it just makes me smile.  Plus the kids adore it too.  The next craft is the gift I have the kids make for their parents.  Again, it is nothing super fancy, but I have gotten many compliments over the years from it.  I'm honestly stoked to finally have one for myself this year!  Yet another perk of having your own kid in your class!  It's just a standard issue noodle craft, but I am a huge fan of making an ornament with the kids' pictures in it each year.  In my mind the parents look back year after year and fondly remember me and all of the fabulous things their child learned/did in First Grade.  I know, probably delusional, but you never know.  It's a nice thought though right?  Plus, maybe they'll remember me in 20 years when they're rich and famous.  I'm just saying!  :)  I start with using the "O" die cut on poster board because the oval shape lends itself better to the picture than a circle, at least I think so.  The kids decorate 2 wreaths (because there are many different family situations out there) any way they please with noodles.  Then I spray paint them.  I take their pictures in front of our classroom Christmas tree and then hot glue those in myself.  Sorry kids.  * On a side note I gave myself a wicked bad hot glue gun burn this year.  I was assembling these and singing along, acting silly of course, to Christmas music, when I got a huge glob of hot glue on my thumb.  A student who was watching me then told me that's what happens when you use a hot glue gun and act silly.  Out of the mouths of children right?  But He was right!  :)*  Ok, back to the post.  Then I have the kids choose where their noodle bow goes (top or bottom) and hot glue that and the hanger on.  There, not too hard at all.  Plus it's super inexpensive and wallet-friendly, always a plus.  Like I told you, nothing fancy, but a great keepsake.  Again, I'll reap the benefits of having Braeden in here and show you his.

Cute huh?  Well, I love it!

So that's about it.  I make other small crafts every now and then but this years that's about all we had the time for.  We also made paper plate angels and popsicle stick reindeer but I'll post about those later.  This post is getting a bit long and I don't want you to be bored.  Plus, I really should be cleaning my room from today's party and the fun of the first semester.  I just had to take a blog break.

So, tonight is our Christmas Program/Advent Service and then I'll officially be on Christmas Break!  I hope those of you with a day or so more left survive!  I'll be thinking of you!  I'll share my secret: coffee (lots), smiles, recess, and crafts!  Again, I hope to blog more often over the break and then again in the new year!  I have some great things in my mind to create for TPT for January so hopefully that will get done!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The One About A Desk

My desk.  And an excuse to play with the panoramic feature on my iPhone!

Do you have a desk?  A table?  A landing spot?  I have to personally.  I know a lot of people are anti-desk, stating that a teacher should be up and about and around the classroom at all times.  Well, me (and my feet) slightly disagree with that notion.  See, I need a landing spot.  See how I italiscized that?  To stress the need.  A place to put my stuff.  A place to grade.  A place to organize, gather, sit, collect, hold, etc.  I think you get the picture.  

Now, I don't sit there all day.  I am up and about most of the time.  But if I am using the ELMO or grading or working one-on-one with a student, I'll be there.  That and, of course, on breaks.  See, you agree now don't you.  I'm sure most of you have a similar spot somewhere.  Mine is a table and student desk put together in an L-shape in the front of the room.  The location is crucial as my laptop must be connected to the ELMO and the SMART Board, both of which are in the front of the room.  See, yet another important need for a desk.  So, it's not a desk per say, but you get the picture.

I've had a lot of difference set ups over the year.  There was the ginormous (I kid you not) 6 foot by 4 foot metal monstrosity I had at one school.  It was huge!  But I loved it.  Do you know how many piles of stuff neatly organized stacks you can create on a desk that size?  I've also had a smaller wooden number, basic but it got the job done, a simple computer desk, and another art class-type table.  I have to admit, the ginormous beast aside, my latest arrangement is my favorite.  I'm a fan of the L-shape.  

I wish I could say that I was the most organized teacher out there.  Like some of the great blogs I follow.  But I don't like to lie.  Now, I'm not a mess, exactly.  I like to think of it as organized chaos.  Yeah, that's probably a good description.  But, I'll have you know, I know exactly where everything is and there is a method to my madness.  You know how it is.  You're busy.  There isn't always time to put it away neatly where you found it (despite the fact that you tell the kids that about every game, manipulative, and project they get into).  Sometimes you just need to put it down somewhere.   

There are times though, that it even gets to me and I must purge and reorganize.  With the Christmas season upon us I'm quickly getting there.  So, I've bared my soul, and desk here to you.  I hope you don't think less of me as a person or teacher.  I'm sure everyone has their dirty little classroom secret.  Like my closet, but that's a topic for another post!

So, what about you?  Desk?  No desk?  Everything neatly organized and aligned or creative piles?  I promise I won't judge you either!  It takes all kinds though!  :)  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The One About Math Journals

So, Math journals.  Do you use them?  Know what they are?  I have to admit.  I'm still somewhat of a newbie when it comes to them, but I am totally addicted.  I'd been hearing about the concept for a little while, but never made the time had the time to check it out.  However, in October, one of the sellers I follow on TPT was posting weekly Math journals for free!  Free!  I love me some free stuff.  T-shirts, food, and classroom resources.  So I thought, why not give it a shot?  I loved the format and it seemed like a fun way to enrich my Math curriculum.  I dove in and haven't looked back.

I'm sure there are a gazillion different types of Math journals out there and just as many ways in which you can use them in the classroom.  However, for me, I have found that using them as Morning Work is the best.  Since the kids come into the classroom at varying times, the activity should be easy to grasp, self-explanatory, and not too time-consuming.  So that's what I do.  My kids know to come in, unpack, and work on the Math journal entry for that day.  Then, before we begin our Math lesson each day we go over that day's entry together on the ELMO and we have a chance to discuss it and the skills/concepts covered.  It's worked beautifully in this way and my kids have really responded well to it.  They will even go back and work on previous days' entries if they were absent.

So, I used the October freebies and fell in love.  But I begin thinking to myself, I could do this.  I could make my own Math journals.  Not that the ones I had downloaded weren't great, they were, but if I made them myself, I could ensure that they would tie into the skills and lessons we would be working on that month.  So I was inspired.  I made my first set for November and posted those to TPT.  By now my kids and I were hooked.  Toward the end of the month they were already asking me if I had the December ones ready (they know I make them myself as I may or may not have used that to increase the "oooooohhhhh" factor for them.)  November flew by and before I knew it Thanksgiving had passed and I didn't have my December Math Journals completed (or even begun to be honest).  Remember though, I told you I was an addict, and I needed a fix.  Plus, I love me some routine and procedures so I couldn't just not have Math journals!  Gasp!  That would be horrible!  So, I pushed it and used every spare minute of the day I had to get another month done.  Luckily December is so short once you factor in Christmas break, I didn't need to create a full 5 weeks as I had for November.  

Tomorrow we begin them and I am so excited to have them ready to go on the students' desks in the morning.  This month the 5 skills I've covered include subtraction, tally marks, place value (tens and ones), even/odd numbers, and probability (certain, possible, impossible).  As I did with November, each week's entries are progressively a little more difficult while maintaining the same format.  Just in case I've swayed you (as a Math journal convert) or have piqued your interest (as a current Math journal junkie) I have a freebie for you to preview.  It's the Monday and Tuesday entries for the first week.  Click on the picture below to download it.  If you like it, head on over to my TPT store and check out my whole December Math Journal packet!

So, what are your thoughts on Math journals?  Intrigued?  Eager to try them out?  Do you already use and love them?  How do you use them in the classroom?  I just had to share and post about this since it's one of my (many) new addictions!