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Saturday, November 24, 2012

SALE!!! (TpT Store)

I am throwing a sale!

28% off ALL PRODUCTS!!! 
Monday and Tuesday 
(Nov. 25th and 26th)

20% off ALL PRODUCTS! 
Wednesday and Thursday 
(Nov. 27th and 28th)

Cyber Monday

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wish there was More Time!

There is just not enough time in the day!  I wish I had more time with my daughter, more time with my husband, more time to teach the kids, more time to plan, more time to create products for Teachers Pay Teachers, more time to work on this blog, more time to do research, and more time to do crafts...

I had to take a break from the blog for a bit because I just wasn't getting enough sleep.  I miss posting and want to get back into it. 

Any suggestions on how to balance everything?  I'm a new mom and appreciate any advice.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Calendar/Circle Time

Calendar is a very important part of the day.  In my first grade class a student leader "teachers" calendar and I guide him or her as needed.

On my Teachers Pay Teachers page, I made a set of blank calendars! They have multiple uses!

The blank calendars can be used as citizenship documentation in which each child colors a square in corresponding to his or her behavior that day (e.g. green, yellow, or red).

They can be used to track weather, teach calendar skills, document how the students are feeling that day.

You can even use them to write down your instructional focus for the week and the daily objectives.

The can be used as a testing schedule or to mark which days your students go to various pull out programs (such as speech or ESL).

They are great for creating your own homework calendars.  These are useful if you have children that need more challenging work or extra reinforcement at home.  If you take the time to make one of these special calendars, you can use it for improving the home/school connection.  You could create summer calendars to the children do not lose what they have learned over the summer.

These calendars can help extend circle time where the children apply what they have learned.
The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fun Vocabulary Builder

A fun way for kids to learn new vocabulary is to have them make a classroom museum.  Basically each child is given a word and they have to make a model of that word using clay (or play-doh).  They also make a sign for their exhibit with the word and an explanation of what the word means.  Once everyone completes their exhibit the class goes on a museum tour and the children read and discuss the clay models as they walk around the room.

If you want to take grade or document the activity, you can have them fill out the Museum Exhibit Report form.  The report form is a useful tool for the children to help them maintain focus while sharing with the class or their buddy.  It's only one dollar on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Afterwards, the children buddy up and discuss their word and their thought process behind the model.  The children then take pictures of each "exhibit."  The teacher loads the pictures into a slide show or a PowerPoint and then the class reviews the words each day.

It's a great way for the children to be engaged and to build their vocabulary.

You could also have the children write about their museum experience or you could have them list as many new words as they can and then share the lists (the possibilities are endless).

Note:  If you do not want each child to do their own word, you can have them work with a partner or a group of three.  If you have them do groups I would have a plan for dividing up the responsibilities.  One person could be the artist, one could create the label/sign, and the other could be the reporter/photographer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Station Documentation (Centers)

I have a new product in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!  It is a station documentation packet.  Basically it is a way to record what stations your students went to during the day.  I have also included s brief explanation of the various stations.  Right now it is on sale for $3.00!

Here are a few images to give you an idea of what is included. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Common Core Resources

I created my first item for Teachers' Pay Teachers!

Check out the link to my page!  I've created first grade checklists to document the following Common Core Standards:

Reading: Literature
Reading: Informational Texts
Reading: Foundational Skills
Speaking & Listening

Please give me some feedback.  I'm new to this and want to do my best!

Here are some great resources on the Common Core Standards!

Common Core Resource created by the State of Illinois
This is a great resource.  If you scroll down to the table of contents there are links for activities that correlate with the common core standards.

Read Tennessee
This website breaks down each standard.  I love that it includes the vocabulary the children need to know, what the standard is, and questions to ask,  It also provides a suggested learning progression.

Common Core Standards
This is a link to the actual standards.

PARCC and the Common Core
This is the new assessment that will be based on the Common Core Standards.

 CCSSO Council Chief State School Officers
List of resources

Cleveland Metropolitan School District
2011–2012 Scope & Sequence Guide  PreKindergarten through Grade 12
This resource is over 600 pages.  I printed pages 17-25 for first grade information.  The only drawback is that the font is very small in parts.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Who likes Decodables?

Owl Holding a Book

 Decodable texts can be boring but they can also be very useful.  My district uses the SRA Imagine It! reading program.  First grade students have two workbooks filled with decodable texts that can be ripped, folded, stapled, and taken home to practice.  By the end of the year the children have over 100 decodable books to add to their home library.

Here is a list of ways that decodable texts can be used...
  • Practice telling a story through the pictures (picture walk).
  • Echo read with someone (take turns reading the same page)
  • Buddy read with a partner (one person listens, one reads and switch)
  • Read it to a stuffed animal
  • Read it using silly voices
  • Be a word detective and look for words that contain a certain letter or spelling pattern.
  • Practice retelling the story.
  • Add descriptive words to the book.
  • Look for end marks (periods, question marks, and exclamation points).  Copy sentences under appropriate heading (statement, question, command).
  • Practice writing who, what, where, when, how, and why questions about the story (make up a quiz)
  • write a detailed description about the setting in one of the pictures.
  • Cut out the pictures and sequence them.
  • Cut out the pictures and the text and make a match game.
  • Cover up the text and write the story in your own words.
  • Compare the characters in the story.
  • Make a word ladder using words from the text
  • Make a list of all the words you cannot sound out.
  • Sort the words from the story by vowel patterns.
  • Find all the stories that have similar characters and see if the character changes or develops.
  • Sort the books by genre (realistic fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, other)
  • Write a new ending for the book.
  • Create a cover or a title page illustration.
  • Change a character in the story and discuss how it would impact the story.

Please share how you use decodables! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Scholastic Book Clubs

I absolutely love Scholastic Book Clubs!  At the beginning of every year, I send home a couple of book order pamphlets.  Scholastic often offers the best bonus points deals at this time.  I like to stock up on bargain books for Accelerated Reader Awards and for classroom gifts. 

This year I am going to try something a little different.  Normally I send home the book order monthly and it gradually tapers off.  Instead I think I will send it home only four times this year.
  • September - Back to School books - Everyone is excited!
  • November - Holiday books - Great for giving as gifts!
  • February - Half of the year is already over (practice, practice, practice) - Allows me to replenish my supplies...
  • April - Stock up on summer reads - I can start building up my bonus points for next year.
I plan on creating a letter so that my class families are aware that there will be opportunities to order throughout the year but that they are limited. 

By only sending off four orders...
  1. The children still get to experience book orders.
  2. I spend less time and money ordering books.
  3. Bonus points build up more because the orders are often larger.
I highly recommend sending home the code so that the parents can order online.  It is incredibly easy and it saves you so much time.

I got a little carried away on this book order...

I always get a little carried away on book orders...
Thankfully there are only three more left to do this year!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Open House

Tonight was Open House at my school.  I love to see how the children light up when they share about their classroom.  

I had iPhoto playing a slide show of pictures I took on the first day of school and while the children were working.  iTunes played one of my favorite piano play lists in the background.  Scentsy's pumpkin aroma filled the air. 

For the last several years I have been doing a scavenger hunt.  Basically, I type a list of activities or items I want my student to share with his or her family.  When the list is complete, my student brings the list to me and gets to pick out a free book.  

.Some of the items on this years scavenger hunt list:
  • Sign in
  • Sign up for parent conferences
  • Share the contents of your desk
  • Share your pocket/morning jobs
  • Read Around the room
  • Share your classroom job(s)
  • Look at a book from our classroom library
  • Share your rain forest project
  • Take home your rain forest project and any papers on your desk 
In years past, I had an estimation jar as part of fun.  Whoever had the family member that had the closest estimate took home what was in the jar the next day.  I am not a fan of giving out candy, so I usually put math counters in there as the prize.

I have also had the children do a self portrait and asked the family to guess which one was theirs.

Every year I like to do things a little differently...

Every year it is a lovely evening!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blog Links

I would love for others to have access and follow your blog.  If you have a favorite blog that you refer to often OR if you would like me to add your blog to my page where others can view it, please drop me an e-mail at  In the subject line mention Groovy Educator Blog Link so I know it is not spam.

My vision for Groovy Educator is for it to be a valuable resource for new and veteran teachers.  There are so many amazing blogs out there, I would love to help organize and share them with you.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

ESE Blogs

Early Elementary

First Grade Blogs

Groovy Educator

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Volunteers are Wonderful!

In my thirteen years of teaching, I have worked at three different schools.  The first school had moderate amount of parent volunteers.  The second school had a scant amount of parent volunteers and the third school has a copious amount of volunteers.  I am so blessed to have such wonderful families to work with. 

Our PTA (Parent Teacher Association) is very active and it positively affects the school environment.  Our PTA spoils the teachers by providing a scrumptious breakfast once a month to celebrate birthdays.  They also collect and turn in Box Tops, Campbell's soup labels, and a couple of other items.  For our school carnival each teacher provides a booth (often manned by parent volunteers).  The PTA provides all the prizes and sells the food.  They organize the whole event.  They also create and sell our school yearbook.  This is no ordinary yearbook.  It looks like a high school yearbook for an elementary school (great quality).  Once every nine weeks they cover lunch duty.  (The teachers at my school have lunch duty every day). This is just a small sampling of what our wonderful PTA does for our school. 

Today I had a volunteer orientation in my classroom.  I invited volunteers to come to my room while the children were at Art so I could go over important information.  I gave a tour of the room, explained the sign in process, went over various projects, and how to complete various tasks.  We also walked over to the library and I demonstrated how to use the laminating machine and copier.  We went over dye cuts as well. 

On a more serious note I explained about the need for confidentiality.  It is important to be mindful of the student's right to privacy.  If they are working with struggling students, it is not okay to share with other parents or discuss with their children about how these particular students are struggling.  They can discuss their day but leave the children's names out. In addition we discussed appropriate and inappropriate touching (e.g. no sitting in the lap).

The volunteers that came today were so wonderful!!! Two stayed the whole day!  With my new baby at home it is such a blessing to have this kind of support.  My classroom library consists of 23 tubs (the kind you use for dishes) that are labeled with the numbers 1-23. (A parent just provided the numeric labels for the bins.)  Each bin is sorted by genre.  In the past I used a color code system but moved to the numbering system.  One parent today numbered ALL the books.  ALL THE BOOKS!  It was incredible!  The other helped monitor children while I gave a statewide computerized one-on-one test.  They both also helped rip out and sort workbook pages.

If I continue to have this kind of participation, I will train my volunteers in word sorts and let them work with small groups.  They also want to help with our Accelerated Reader Reading Program.  

The number of volunteers varies widely from year to year.  This year I am so blessed!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans are always evolving.  As the year progresses in first grade the time it takes to complete assignments change as well as the amount of time the children can focus on independently.  Group work becomes more productive as well.

I've tried many different formats for my plans from hand written to having them completely typed.  They have also varied in length from five pages (one for each day) to two pages for the whole week.  Each year I tweak them, always trying to be more efficient and find the best use of time during the day.  I like my plans to be highly functional where I can refer to them quickly, complete them quickly, but where they also contain all the necessary information.

For me I like a typed format where I hand write part of the plans.  Sometimes I like to work on them when I am away from the computer and this affords me the opportunity but it also saves me from writing the same thing repeatedly.

Here are the plans that I am using right now.  In the future I will take pictures of plans from the past.  I would love for you to share what works for you!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Classroom Ownership

Check out!

I want every child to have a sense of ownership in my classroom. It is important for the children to develop a sense of responsibility.  The way to do that is to give them opportunities to be responsible.

I assign classroom jobs.  There are weekly jobs that rotate so that every child is able to practice that skill.  There are jobs that are earned and there are permanent jobs that are chosen.  There are also jobs that change periodically.

The weekly jobs that rotate consist of:

  • door holder-self explanatory
  • equipment person-carries out the playground equipment and accounts for all the pieces
  • lights person-self explanatory
  • teacher assistant-This student is my go-to helper.  He/she passes out papers, puts mail in the mailboxes, stamps papers, takes notes up to the office, or any other job that pops up.
  • classroom inspector-He/she is in charge of checking to see if chairs are pushed in, desks are clean, areas are clean, helps find missing pieces, etc...

The job that is earned is the classroom star student.  This student is the line leader and assists the student teacher assistant when need be.  He/she is the substitute for the teacher assistant if the teacher assistant is absent.

Every child has a permanent position. Depending on my students sometimes the permanent position gets reassigned or I might change them out after a couple of months.  Most of these jobs are end of the day jobs and are completed after we pack up.  Some are during the day.  All are important.  Because they are so important, I like to know who is responsible for completing the jobs.  There are so many that it makes it easier on me for them to be permanent AND the students really like becoming the expert in their area.  Here is a list of permanent jobs.

  • lunch cups-changes the cups from red to green and green to red.  At my school when the cups are on red there is no talking.  When the are on green there is quiet talking.  The first ten minutes of lunch are on red so I teach the cup person how to watch the clock and then look for my signal
  • library people-several students help organize the classroom library.  Each tub is numbered and all the books in that tub need to match the number on the outside. 
  • Accelerated Reader helper-he/she organizes the AR books and answers student questions about AR.  
  • computer shut down-a student shuts down the computers at the end of the day and straightens the keyboard, mouse, and mouse pad
  • board eraser-erases all white boards
  • stick person-students have to move their stick as part of my behavior management plan.  After we have colored in our citizenship chart, the stick person moves the sticks back to where they need to be.
  • floor monitor-sweeps up the big pieces of trash with the cow broom
  • missing pieces-I have a tub for lost and found in the room.  At the end of the day, this child attempts to put back toys/tools that were left out.
  • backpacks-this person makes sure that everyone has picked up their backpack and lunch box
  • paper/clipboard person-makes sure that the paper trays are organized and the clipboards were put back neatly
  • pencil people-sharpen the community pencils in the red cup and place them in the green cup.  They also sharpen other student's special pencils at the electric sharpener.
  • glue monitor-checks to make sure all the glue bottles were closed
  • counter person-wipes down the counters and some tables with a baby wipe.
  • substitute-fills in for any student that is absent
Sometimes I add extra duties to smaller jobs like the glue they arise

The jobs that change periodically are the materials managers.  Next to each team is a three drawer bin.  Inside the bin are all the necessary math manipulatives.  The materials managers pass out and collect these manipulatives for their team.

In my post Blue Moment / Blue Day (Happy Times)  I explain about how the Star Student of the week is the line leader.  That position is earned. 

I hang a poster with the names and assigned jobs so we can all easily keep track.  This takes a little extra time to set up at the beginning of the year but it is worth it later on.  You can even have the job experts train the other person that replaces them (if they get replaced).

      On a side note, I sell on eBay and promote other sellers.  If interested check out my eBay Store: Lowery's Loft.  My username on eBay is GroovyEducator (just like this blog).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Developing Listening Skills

Even though we are busy, busy, busy teaching the curriculum, it is very important to help the children develop listening skills.  Being a good listener is a life skill. 

Many children these days have difficulty focusing and attending.  Everyday I do many short activities to augment these skills.  Being able to focus is an essential attribute of a good listener.

My theory is that if children can focus intensely on technology (e.g computer game, X-Box, etc.),  they have the capacity to focus on other things (e.g. people).

With that said, this is what I do...

I never assume a child knows HOW to listen.  During circle time, I explicitly go over what a good listener looks like what a good listener does.  We role play and practice at the beginning of the year.

I read Listen Buddy by Helen Lester.  This book really helps in explaining WHY it is important to listen.  We make a chart listing other reasons why it is important to listen.  This is an anchor chart that we refer back to as needed

I bought a poster entitled 5 Star Listener.  It is a lot like Give Me Five.  Check out the links because they are both great at teaching listening.  This year I am using the 5 Star Listener chart because I can say things like "I see three star listeners but I need five star listeners.  I like how you have your eyes on the speaker, lips closed and ears listening, but I need quiet hands and feet."  It also goes along with my behavior management plan.

Throughout the day the children have many, many, MANY opportunities to practice their listening skills.  When we start a new activity, we sing a song "Write your number, name, and date, your number, name and date.  Isn't it great to write your number, name, and date."  After that I give a direction for them to show me they are ready to move on.  For example:  "When you finish writing your number, name, and date hold up your green crayon."  If I ask them to rip out a work book page, I ask them to put their pencil under their name tag.

I often come up with a silly set of directions.  It keeps things interesting and lightens the mood.  It also shows me who listened.  "When you finish questions 1-5, grab both of your ears."  "When you finish cutting out all the pieces, point your pencil at the ceiling."   I like to do this because the kids find it fun and attend to the directions.  Also, it gives me a visual of who is working and who needs more time.

We do a listen and draw sometimes..  Everyone has a blank piece of paper (you can use scrap paper or the back of a sheet).  We all have our dividers up so no one can see our paper.  It's an independent activity.  In preparation I ask the children to get out three different color crayons (e.g. green, brown, red).  I then give oral directions on what to draw.  Before we begin I tell them that I will say each direction ONLY ONCE.  (This is a fun activity and I never give a grade.)

Here is an example:

Pick up your green crayon. (pause)
Write your name in the middle of the paper. (pause)
Pick up your red crayon. (pause)
Draw a circle around your name. (pause).
With your red crayon, draw a small circle at the bottom of your paper (pause)
Color the small circle green. (pause)
Draw a brown triangle next to the circle with your name. (pause)

After that I have the children put their crayons away and share their drawings with the people who sit near them.  I walk around and pass out a sticker or say great job to the super star listeners.

There are many other ways to develop listening skills but these are my favorites.  Please share what works for you. 

Oh! I just had a NEW idea!  I could give each child a "Who's a Good Listener" printout (with the owls-see below).  Every time they are caught being a good listener I could stamp another owl on their paper OR I could stamp a star to make it look like night time.  Hmm...the possibilities...

Colorful Owls in Pretty Tree


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hand Drawn Clip Art 2


Hand Drawn Clip Art


Hurricane Ready?

 Hurricane Isabel (Image from

It's that time of year again... The peak of hurricane season.  Right now it is a wait and see about Tropical Storm Issac.  We fall in the cone of uncertainty.  With that said, here is what I do to prepare at school.

Bins! Bins! Bins!  Hurricane Ivan was the first hurricane I experienced and it was a doozy!  Looking back, I now realize that must be where my obsession with bins and plastic originated.

I keep my centers, math supplies, reading supplies, school supplies, etc.. in plastic bins.  Okay Just about EVERYTHING is in a bin when it is not being used.

On Friday our principal came over the intercom and instructed personnel to cover all the electrical equipment with plastic.  I use the dollar plastic table cloths at Walmart to cover my computers.  The T.V., projector, and document camera are covered with plastic trash bags.  I lock the computer and iPad both wrapped in plastic in a cabinet off the ground.

Right now I am kicking myself because I usually cover all my book bins.  They are open plastic tubs that are usually used for washing dishes.  I need to buy a couple of more of those Walmart plastic table cloths to cover my classroom library.  They will probably be okay. Most are off the ground, well away from the windows, and are not pushed up against a wall.

From Hurricane Ivan, I have learned that placing items up against the interior walls is not always safe.  I thought by moving everything away from the windows, it would be protected.  Nope.  Water can make its way down the walls so it is important to move items that you do not want damaged away from the walls.

I had a doctor's appointment on Friday after school so I was unable to fully prepare my room.  I did cover the electrical equipment and do all the things the principal instructed.  I did not, however, get a chance to cover my precious books or move a couple of things away from the wall.

In planning my room, I was aware of the windows and did not place anything of value near them.  I did not want to have to move those items anytime there was severe weather.  Also, over the course of the last eight years, I have purchased numerous plastic tubs with covers to store my items in .  When I moved schools, I bought clear plastic bins instead of boxes.  I figured I could reuse them and they protect my items.

I have been teaching over a decade and have invested way too much money into my classroom, to not prepare.  I know it is just stuff but it would be hard to replace years of acquisitions.  I am a bargain hunter.  If any of my teaching tools were damaged, they would be hard to purchase again or make again.  Especially with my new baby.  I am curbing my school spending drastically to take care of my new bundle of joy.

Keeping her safe is my number one priority right now.  Let's just hope this storm does not strengthen over the warm gulf waters.  I have a queasy feeling about this one...