Friday, November 30, 2012

Common don't scare me!

I had a realization this week...Common Core is not that scary!  Everyone is scared for the BIG switch to Common Core and I have to admit, so was I. Not anymore!  Common Core is not that different to what we have been teaching.  Yes there are some changes and yes it is very specific about what concepts we need to teacher.  However, is that really a bad thing? 
I have been remaking all of my materials and aligning them to Common Core.  I know that this sounds like a daunting task, but this is what has led to my revelation.  Let me share with you my process...
1.  When I make my plans for the week, I look at the Common Core standards that I am responsible for and decide which one I am going to teach.
2.  Then I look through my files and decide which ones apply to this standard.  If they need some tweaking, I make the needed changes and label the file with the Common Core standard it addresses.
3.  If I don't have a file that address this standard, I create one and label it with the standard it addresses.
4.  Lastly, I write the date next to the standard that I am teaching.  So next year, I can separate the standards out my quarters, so it is not such a huge document.

SIMPLE!  This has really helped me become familiar with the standards.  As I have been doing this I have been placing these activities on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

The lessons listed below are available on my website and are aligned to Common Core. Each lesson will tell you exactly what Common Core Standard it is aligned with.  However, there are many more lessons that are aligned to Common Core at my store, but the standard is not listed. I am working on updating these with the standard. 

Contractions Underconstruction
Irregular Plural Nouns Packet
Irregular Plural Nouns SMART board lesson
Thanksgiving  ABC Order and Guide Words Packet
Diving into ABC order SMART board lesson
Cornocopia of Nouns and Verbs
Trick or Treat Nouns and Verbs
Inferencing Suitcase
Expanded Form Elves
I'm Thankful Mobile
Thanksgiving Argumentative Writing
Thanksgiving Personal Narrative Writing
Thanksgiving Procedural Writing
Thanksgiving Writing (Packet of all three Thanksgiving writing lessons)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Falling for Word Sorts!

Well...Fall is here!  I love fall, it is my favorite season.  After working with a student who was struggling with the different sound of c and g, I was inspired to create two word sorts. 

Hard and Soft G tree....
Students take leaves that have words with hard and soft g sounds.  Students place the words on the appropriate tree.  (Either the Hard G or Soft G tree)  The best part about this center is there are three degrees a difficulty.  There are leaves where the sound is at the beginning.  There are leaves where the sound is at the middle and end. However, the leaves can be mixed and students can practice with all three types of words.

Hard and Soft C tree...
Is exactly like the Hard and Soft G tree.  It can be played three ways...just beginning sounds, with middle and ending sounds, or with all three sounds.

I also created a center to help students practice their basic addition facts.  Coming soon will be a center for basic subtraction, addition with regrouping, and possible subtraction with regrouping.

In this center students make the worms "eat" the apple by threading the worm through the slits on apple with the addition problem that matches the answer on the worm. 

While you are checking out these items, please check out the other items at the TPT store...Doodlebug's Dittos! 

Friday, September 21, 2012


As I was reading the bedtime story The Napping House by Audrey Wood to my daughter for the 100th time, I was struck with sudden inspiration for a lesson on Synonyms.  The following lesson I did with my students this week, and it was a huge success.  Now they are searching for synonyms all over the place. 

Click on the image below to download the lesson from TPT.  While you are there, check out my TPT store. 

Synonym Search with The Napping House by Audrey Wood

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Alternative Seating in the Classroom

Why did I choose to have alternative seating options in my classroom?

Do we all learn the same?  NO!  With that being said, why do we expect all kids to learn in the same environment?  A few years ago I was inspired by two amazing teachers at my school.  I came in after a nice long summer break to see they had replaced the desks and chairs in the their rooms with lower tables, exercise balls, moon chairs, pillows, and other various seating options.
The light bulb went on!  Why do I expect all my students to sit in a chair and desk and learn?  At home I do my best work on the couch with the sound of the TV in the background...I would NOT learn best at a desk and chair.  So I too transformed my classroom.

I added the following items...

a futon. 
I allow two students to sit on here at a time.  Students can get clipboards or lap desks for writing, which ever they prefer.

lower tables and exercise balls.

moon chairs and cubes.
Again students can use clipboards or lap desks to write on.

even lower table and pillows.

Other seating options that are not pictured yet.  (I will post more pictures as my room continues to come together.)
1.  mini stools
2. bean bags

A lot of time is spent at the beginning of the year modeling expectations for sitting in a classroom like this.  I share with the students that they need to try out all spots and decide where they learn best.   When I notice that student is not on task I will have a discussion with that student about how this spot isn't helping them be the best they can and they are not learning all they can.  After time, conversations, and practice students fall into a routine of picking their spot and getting to work.  It is interesting to see how students will continually pick a spot that is best for them.
This is not to say that you will not have any behavior say so would be a fantasy.  We all know that no matter what setting you have in your classroom, kids will be kids and test the waters every now and again.  However, this arrangement is will provide a comfortable place where learning is conducive.

***Any student that would prefer a desk and chair is always welcome to one.***

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Summer Summer TIME!

I have been MIA! Well below is the reason for my absence.

My days have been filled with Cheerios, toys, dirty diapers, naps (Pinterest time for mommy), hugs, Dora, books and lots and lots of FUN!  I am already naming this the BEST summer ever!  Last summer my little peanut was only a few months old, so this summer is totally different and I am loving every minute.

I have however been logging some time on Pinterest and I am getting inspired for this upcoming school year.  I will be blogging about all my "inspirations" as I try them in my classroom.  If I make any kind of resource, I will post it to Teachers Pay Teachers as a FREE resource.

PREVIEW as what is to come!
1. Friday Journals
Students will journal a letter to their parents about what they did during the week. 
2. Daily 5 writing board
A board with activities with independent writing activities to do during Daily 5
3. Organization

Monday, May 21, 2012

The end is near!

Coffee in the morning, Moutain Dew at lunch, and maybe some wine at night.  This is how I'm surviving the end of the year! :)  The end of the year brings such excitement for both students and teacher.  At the same time it can make us all go a little crazy too.
I want to appologize for not posting anything of great importance in a while.  I am finishing up all assessments, report cards, our class DVD, and packing up my room.  Doesn't sound like much, but just when I think I am close to the end, I remember something else that I need to do.  While trying to do all of this...I have to teach a room of twenty-one eight year olds.  However, I would not trade this job for anything in the world.  I love what I do and I love my students.  I am really going to miss them. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I met The Sisters!

For those of you who have been following my blog, know how much I L-O-V-E the Daily 5 and CAFE!  So when I got to meet The Sisters this week at the IRA conference in Chicago I was a blubbering mess. I wish I would have been a little more coherent and shared with them the impact their books have had on my classroom and my teaching. 
Oh well, who knows maybe I will get to meet them again and be able to compose myself enough to speak professionally.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

CAFE and Daily 5

Here is my CAFE menu board.

I use the CAFE board to show students all the areas of good reading.  When I teach a specific comprehension, accuracy (decoding), fluency, or expanding vocabulary strategy I add it to our CAFE board.  Then when I conference with students we put their names on star Post-It notes for them to mark what strategy they are specifically working on.

I teach a CAFE lesson prior to starting Daily 5. My lesson will last any where from 10 to 15 minutes.  Students then use their Daily 5 card to select what Daily 5 activity they will do for the first 30 minute rotation.  After 30 minutes, I ring a bell two times, which signals students to clean up and meet me on the rug.  Then, I will teach another CAFE lesson or I a writing lesson. (10 to 15 minutes)  After the lesson, students use their Daily 5 card again to select what Daily 5 activity they will do for the second 30 minute rotation. 

What do I teach for my CAFE lessons?

A while back I found a teachers website that had a Beanie Baby for each of the comprehension and accuracy (decoding) strategies.  I LOVE this as did my students.  So when I embraced Daily 5 and CAFE I did not want to lose this.  However, with the CAFE board, I no longer had room to display all the Beanie Babies. I came up with a solution!  I added picture of the Beanie Babies to each of the CAFE menu cards.

**The link to the Beanie Baby Reading Strategies, is off of my classroom website. I am NOT the creator of these strategies.  The lady who created them no longer has them up on her website.  The last I heard she was working on publishing them, but has not done so at this time.**

I do not teach all of the CAFE strategies that "The Sisters" have laid out in their book.  I do use Cross Check, Tune into Interesting Words, and Read Good Fit Books.  I also do not introduce strategies in a specific order.  I introduce what the majority of my students are needing at the time. 

I use trade books for interactive read alouds/shared reading, anchor charts, science and social studies big books (content area) to teach and model each of the various comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and vocabulary strategies. 

My goal is to slowly upload some of  my "go to" lessons that I use to introduce these strategies. Please keep checking back often!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pinterest...a GREAT place to find lesson inspiration for Daily 5

Now that you have implemented the Daily 5 in your classroom, you need lessons to teach before sending students off to work independently. I am planning on dedicating an entire post about how I implement CAFE into the mix.  However, I wanted to share a lesson I did with my students this past week.  I was inspired from an anchor chart that I saw on Pinterest.

This is the anchor chart that inspired me!  I found it on Pinterest...of course!  I <3 Pinterest.  Seriously, how did I teach prior to this amazing sight?  I found it on  Fabulous blog, you should all check it out!
Each of the questions are tied to a Common Core standard.  The problem for me was that these were first grade standards and I teach second grade.  After checking out the second grade Common Core standards, I found lots of questions that students should be asking...for fiction and non-fiction. So I started by making an anchor chart titled, Questions We Should Ask When Reading Fiction. It is my intent to make one for non-fiction as well.

I also only wanted to introduce the first two questions.  I wanted to create the anchor chart with my students, model what this looked and sounded like before adding the next question to the chart.  I believe that if students are apart of the making of the chart, then they will be more likely to reference the chart later on. However, I do NOT want to create this again next year, so I will be laminating this cart after this year.  Next year though, I will cover up all the questions and reveal them as we learn them. 

Here is what I did for the my lessons for the first two days of introducing this strategy. I did each lesson prior to my first rotation of Daily 5.  

Day One: RL.2.1
I explained to my students that good readers ask themselves who, when, when, where, why, and how WHILE they are reading.
I read the book, The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting
I would read a few pages, stop and do a think aloud, modeling how I ask myself a who, what, when, where, why, or how question.  Then I would answer what I was thinking.  I would continue reading then I would pause and have students share with a thinking buddy a who, what, when, where, why, or how question.  The other partner would try and answer it.

Day Two: RL.2.6
I explained to my students that good readers pay close attention to who is telling the story.
I read the book, Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson 

 I read the first two pages, but paused before reading...being Lindy's doll baby was a right important job.  I asked students to turn to their thinking buddy and share who they thought was telling the story and how they knew. After sharing with their buddy, I ask students to share with me their thoughts.  Then I read the sentence...being Lindy's doll baby was a right important job.  I asked students if their predictions were right. 
I continued the book the same way as I had on with Wednesday Surprise, modeling who, what, when, where, why, and how questions and having students do the same with their thinking buddies. 
This book was longer, so I stopped after reading the page where Lindy and Miz Rachel were getting up in the middle of the night.  I told students I was going to level them in suspense. 

I will continue to post the lessons that I teach to go with each question on my chart and the finished anchor chart.  I promise in the posts to come I will touch on how this fits into CAFE, even sharing my literacy schedule to help it all make sense.  :)
Please feel free to let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Freebee Friday!

Yes...yes I know that it is not officially Friday yet, but close enough. Next week, my students are going to be doing some Earth Day activities.  Today, while planning for next week, I couldn't stop thinking about how my students really needed to brush up on some dictionary skills.  Specifically, using guide words and alphabetizing.  In wanting to stick to the Earth Day theme...I had some sudden inspiration!

 First I would laminate all the pages.  Then I would cut out each of the word cards.

Students then use the guide words at the top of each mat (5 total) to sort the word onto the correct page.  After all the words are on each page, student will put them into alphabetial order.

Well, I was pretty darn excited about my idea. So much so that it's 9:00pm on a Thursday night and I am posting this for all of you.  My restlessness is your gain.  I hope that you all enjoy this FREE resource. If you have time, take a look at the other items available at my TPT store.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Student managed rotations!

I am a firm believer that children need to take ownership over their learning.  Therefore, when it comes times for students to go to the various Daily 5 activities, I allow them to select what activity they will do...with parameters of course.  :)  Getting students to be independent when selecting their activity, takes lots of time and modeling at the beginning of the year, but totally pays off!

Each students is given a laminated Daily 5 card.  Notice there are only 4 of the 5 Daily 5 activities.  My students do not have a choice whether they will silent read on a particular day.  This is something that every child does every day.
We start off Daily 5 with a CAFE lesson. (More on this during a later post...some stop on back.)  After the lesson I direct students to go back to their seats at take out their Daily 5 cards.  These are kept in their book bags.  (All materials needed for Daily 5 are kept in their book bags.)

With a Vis-a-Vis marker, students write the date that they chose to do the particular activity. Students are taught that the must do each activity once, before the can do it a second time. They can't do an activity a third time until they have done everything a second time.  This ensure that students are getting equal amount of practice of each Daily 5 activity. Please note that not every square will be filled in by the end of the week.  If we have a full week of school, each activity will be done at lease twice.

While students are doing their Daily 5 activity, I am working with my guided reading and strategy groups. (Again more on this during a later post!)  When we are done with the first rotation, I ring my bell two times.  This signals the students to clean up and meet me on the rug for our writing lesson.  After the writing lesson is done, we begin our next rotation of the Daily 5 the same way that we began the first.

Friday, April 6, 2012

First Things First...Read to Self

If you are familiar with the Daily 5 the 5 components of the Daily 5 are Read to Self, Listen to Stories on Tape or CD, Work on Writing, Word Work, and Partner Read.  Students rotate to all the activities every day with mini lessons in between each rotation.  I could NOT make this rotation schedule work for me because of time and specials. 
I only had time for 2 or 3 rotations each day, but I felt very strongly that Read to Self should be happening DAILY....period!  So here is what I have worked out in my classroom.
Every morning when students arrive they drink milk and silent read for 30 minutes.  (We do 2 or 3 rotations of the other activities later in the morning during Daily 5 time. More on this in a later post.)  While my students are reading I am holding reading conferences.
During Read to Self time, my students are reading books from their book bags.  Each student has a Book Bag that has books they have selected that are at their independent reading level. Fridays are Free Read Fridays and students can read any book from our room they would like.  The goal is they will use the I PICK method taught earlier in the year. :)

How do I know that  my students are getting books at their independent reading level?  Well, I have two classroom libraries in my room.
This is my leveled library.  The books are leveled using the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels. The baskets are given a color coded sticker rather than the actual level so as to not put too much student focus on the level. After I conference with students I direct them to the appropriate basket where they can pick out 10 books for their book bags. 

This is my classroom library that is divided into a fiction and nonfiction section.  Books are organized into various categories.  Some are organized by subject and others are organized by author.  Each basket has a sticker indicating what books are in that location. On the back of each book their are two stickers.  The first sticker is a fiction or nonfiction sticker so students know what section of the library the book belongs.  The second sticker is a label sticker that matches the sticker on the basket.

This is the nonfiction section of my library.

This is the fiction section of my library.

Monday, April 2, 2012

3x5 Folded Card

Modern Stripe 3x5 folded card
Unique party invitations and announcements by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Daily 5 and Cafe.

I am a huge fan of the Daily 5 and Cafe, but like many teachers have adapted the two methods to better meet the needs of my students and classroom.  I am going to dedicate my posts in April to sharing how I have implemented Daily 5 and Cafe into my classroom and sharing some of the resources that I have created to help facilitate the process.

If you are a fan of Daily 5 and Cafe share your ideas as well.  Let's make April Daily 5 and Cafe month!  

Both of these books can be purchased off of  I highly recommend both of them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Purge Continues

I am slowing moving all my documents from the Teacher Web website to TPT.  All the documents will be FREE for download on TPT.  While you are there please check out the other items available at my store.

Shapes Island

Penny/Nickel Equations

Penny/Nickel Equations Part 2

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lucky Name Tags

Instead of using the desk plates for my student's "Irish" names, I made name tags they could wear. I made these in publisher so you can either write the names or type the names onto each tag.  Simply print the document onto Avery 5163 labels. 

Click on the image to download your FREE copy from my TPT store.  While you are there check out the other items available. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

FREE printable lessons

Well, I am deleting the Teacher Safari page off of my class website!  I have decided to merge everything with my blog and TPT.  All items that were Teacher Safari will be available for free on TPT.  While you are there please check out my store.

1st, 2nd - Education -

Below are all the literacy items that I had on my website. Click on the item name for your FREE download!

Inferencing Suitcase

Introduction to Visualization

Main Idea Backpack

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lucky Money

My students and I have been working on counting money.  I created a SMART file where student's pulled gold coins out of the pot o' gold.  Each gold coin had a value written on it.  Students would make the value with their coins. 
Click on the image to get this file from my TPT store.  (Doodle Bugs Ditto's)

Friday, March 9, 2012

St. Patty's Day FUN!

Every year I give my students an Irish name for St. Patty's Day.  I simply add Mc or O' to their last names.  When they come into class on the morning of St. Patrick's Day, they are so excited, curious, and giddy to see that everyone, including me, has a new name for the day.  I go by Mrs. McWanke for the day.

If you would like to do this with your class, click on the image below to visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store for the FREE download! While you are there check out some of my other items at my store.  I am new to Teachers Pay Teachers, so check back often for new items.

Click picture for your FREE download from Teachers Pay Teacher!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leapin' Leap Year

For many of us who teach the younger grades, trying to explain why we have a leap year can be a daunting task.  A fellow co-worker shared with me a YouTube video that explains leap year.  I just could not resist sharing it with everyone else.  Please feel free to share any other great leap year resources or ideas.

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First Time Blogger

I have never blogged before and to tell you the truth the thought of it excites me and scares me all at the same time.  So why blog do you ask?  Simple...I have been inspired by all the amazing educational blogs out there.  I hope that I too can develop this blog to share many ideas, lessons, and resources to other teachers.  I also hope that I can continue share ideas for fellow bloggers.