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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!