Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday News & Place Value Marshmallow Activity {first grade}

{Scroll Down!  Printables posted below!}

Happy Monday, sweet friends!  It's been a *dang* good day, and I'm certainly glad that Monday is out of the way.  I'm mildly tuning into The Bachelor while I type tonight.  {Sidenote: Does Brad get Botox?  I'm not judging, he just looks a little...hmmm...tight-ish in the face??  Also, Chantelle just said "orifices."  Shoooo, buddy.} 

Anyway, thank you so much for your sweet comments about the new blog!  I'm working with my amazing blog designer on the finishing touches and it should be up and running soon.  But, until then, those of you who are here to read about un-teaching related topics will just have to persevere. 

So, this weekend.  I'm failing miserably at NOT working on the weekend.  Of course, I'm spending every Sunday naptime up at school, despite my accountability partners (mom and Dr. B) calling to tell me I need to be at home.  I can't help it.  As I'm sure many of you can relate, sometimes teaching is so much more of a hobby for me than a chore.  I get a lot out of organizing, planning, and creating.

Speaking of organizing.  I bought a bunch of paper trays at Goodwill on Friday night and couldn't wait to attack my filing cabinet, which was ridiculously overloaded with stuff.  And I came to one conclusion: I am a Paper Hoarder. Hi, I'm Abby and there's nothing that does it for me like a fresh stack of colored paper. Except maybe a new package of Flair pens...  Apparently, I have enough pink and purple construction paper to last for many Valentines Days to come.  And then some. 

All while I was doing this, Becks was running around terrorizing playing with all the goodies in my room.  My kiddos kept coming up to me this morning asking why they found an odd item in their desk or out of place.  The culprit?  This lollipop eatin' chickadee.  He was in to everything.  I'm still scraping play-doh particles off his shoe soles. 

A couple of quick teaching ideas...

In an effort to send off the snow with a bang, we completed our gobzillionth snow activity last week, and I announced to my class that I would not be discussing snow anymore during the remainder of their first grade year.  SO. OVER. IT.  {And, of course, we're supposed to get iced tomorrow.  Lovely.}

How precious is this sign?!  I had a few students volunteer to make it so pokey fingers wouldn't be tempted to touch our VERY touchable creations!  I love that it says "are" instead of "our."  Only in first grade :)

We made super fluff snowmen with a combination of shaving cream and white Elmer's glue. If you're looking to make them, I have no scientific method for mixing the two, but err on the side of more shaving cream for a fluffier mix. No one likes a runny snowman.
Sorry for the pic overload, but I just LOVE how cute they turned out!  A VERY tactile activity, too!

Today, I taught an introductory lesson to place value, and it went surprisingly well!  I found this idea online somewhere, and then adapted it for my classroom, plus created a printable for my students to use with it.  First they assembled place value holders with marshmallows and toothpicks.  I made a little hundreds, tens, and ones mat for them to sit their marshmallows on.  Then, I called out 1-, 2-, and 3-digit numbers for them to create using o-shaped cereal on the toothpicks.  Afterwards, they used the worksheet to recreate the marshmallow activity and write the numbers they were making.  {This is a good lesson to do before introducing cubes, longs, and flats.}  I hope the pictures below help you make more sense of this activity.


And, if you want a free download of the corresponding recording sheet and sorting mat, click HERE. Let me know if you have any questions :) 

Have a super Tuesday, y'all!!!

Menu Plan Monday - Week #3

Here is week #3 of my menu plans! Last week went great! I got the groceries in time and so had everything available for the nights I needed it! Also, the new recipes I tried last week - slow cooker lasagna, chicken stew w/ oat dumplings and alfredo sauce - turned out so good! Well...if you can ignore the part where the blender nearly killed me then leaked half made alfredo sauce everywhere but that just adds to the excitemant right?!

Also, you'll notice that there are a couple suppers that I have changed from the 'master plan'. I did this because they were meals that were not used in weeks past so I still had all the ingredients for them and simply could not justify spending money on more food when it wasn't necessary. Anyhow, I added the links to both meals in case you are interested in checking them out!


B: Toast and honey

L: Egg Salad Sandwiches, Yogurt and Kiwi

S: Baked Chicken breasts, homemade fries and carrots


B: Toad in the Hole

L: Alphabet pasta w/ pasta sauce, corn and banana

S: Chilaquiles Casserole w/ Salad (replacing Tandoori Tofu)


B: Blueberry Pancakes

L: Mini Pizzas, veggies and dip, apple slices

S: Corn Chowder and Rolls (replacing Minestrone Soup)


B: Baked Oatmeal w/ Strawberries

L: Soup, Hummus and Pita, grapes

S: Chicken Broccoli Divan


B: Cranberry Muffins and Banana

L: Deceptively Delicious Mac and Cheese, peas and fruit cup

S: SlowCooker Roast Beef Dinner


B: Eggs and Cereal

L: Roast Beef Sandwiches

S: *Pot Luck @ church* (aka undecided as to what to bring!! Anybody have a good hashbrown casserole recipe??)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tot School - Reaching New Heights...

Taitum, like her sister, has been a busy girl this week! I am astounded at how quickly she catching on to new things and becoming a 'big girl'! Where did my baby go?! Every minute is delightful though (even the cranky, teething ones aren't so bad when I think of how quickly this stage will fly by!) and I truly love watching her learn and grow!

We spent one whole evening playing dolls! We looked after this sweet little dolly together - I would say what the baby needed and waited to see if Tait knew what to do. I was amazed at how she knew what to do for each thing I suggested! It went something like this: "Tait, the baby is hubgry!" She puts the doll in the high chair. "Uh-oh! The baby needs food!" She goes looking for some play food. (I did have to help her find some in Piper's room.) "Baby is all done! Wash her face off!" Using a cloth I provide she wipes the dolls face, giggling delightfully. "Oh! Baby is tired!" Takes baby to the doll bed. Anyhow, you get the picture! But is was mesmerizing for me to watch my little 16 month old toddling around playing Mommy and knowing just what to do!

We spent time playing with this ball pounder, a hand-me-down from Piper, but it was the first time Taitum had used it (I finally found some of the balls that belonged to it!). As you can tell from the expression on her face, she loved it!

My babies have always had a huge attraction to the computer! I'm sure this is a normal baby thing - wanting to watch what's on the screen and push all the buttons on the keyboard!! For this reason, the girls are rarely allowed near the computer. They always find the one button that will shut down the computer or do something crazy to it! But when Piper was a toddler, I came across It has all kinds of fun games where all your baby has to do is press any key on the keyboard! Unfortuantely, they are going to start charging a fee to use their games but are supposed to still have a few free games available. 

We did some color matching with this activity. Piper and I rounded up some red, blue, green and yellow items and then gave them to Taitum one at a time to place on the matching color file folder. She needed quite a bit of guidance with this but was a very willing participant. The cutest thing was that when I would say the color she would attempt to repeat it everytime!

This pounding block has been a great learning tool! Not only does Taitum enjoy pounding away with the hammer but she is crazy about putting the pegs back in the holes after I remove them all! Talk about good practice for fine motor skills!

It amazes me how the simplest activities are so intriguing for the kids. Both Piper and Tait spent a long time playing with these stones, a ice cube tray, tongs and a yogurt container. Having tried them and found them too much work, Taitum left the tongs to Piper and happily placed the stones in the ice cube tray with her fingers. Then I pulled out the yogurt container. I had cut a hole in the top but it was small enough that you had to push to get the stone in. Initially, Tait was a little annoyed by this but once she figured it out she got SO excited each time she succeeded! Here is a little video to show you what I mean...

Many of the other things we did this week were the same as what I did with Piper. It makes my life easier to plan things they can both do and learn something from! Together they...
Balanced 'snowballs' on spoons and raced to get them in the bucket...

Joined in the cottonball snowball fight (her strategy was to ambush you while driving in circles around you on her princess ride on!)...

Played with our ice sensory box...

Enjoyed the indoor snow play (tasting it brought on some funny faces but how else is one to test just how cold it is?!)....

And helped make snow ice cream!

Taitum's biggest accomplishment of the week was eating a full meal without using her hands once! She knows how to do it but usually tosses the spoon and digs in with her hands! One morning we had cereal and she ate the whole bowl without dipping her hands in once! I am so proud of my girl! 

And this week's trial? Climbing. She has a passion for it. These are the mildest examples since generally there is no time to take a picture, only time enough to run and grab her before she crashes and breaks a bone!
Look at that face. She's loving the adventure! In fact, I found her later on standing on this same rocking stool, balancing as it rocked back and forth! ACK!

And this was when I caught her attempting to reach her favorite perch - that kitchen table in Piper's room! Oh me nerves!

Thanks for stopping by for our Tot School adventures! Its never a dull moment!

Tot School

Coming Soon...

Just a little teaser pic :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Mish Mash

Becks and I just returned from grocery shopping.  I don't know about you, but I do not get prettied up to hit up Kroger on a Saturday morning.  I do brush my teeth, but I totally rock my bedhead ponytail and yoga pants PJs.  If I really want to gussy up, I might throw in some faux pearl studs - ya know, just in case I run into that hot guy from high school  that I used to date.

Oh, wait.  I'm married to that hot guy ;)

Anyway, Becks has been my date this weekend, accompanying me everywhere from Goodwill {yup, I'm thrifting again!}, to Baskin Robbins {bribery}, to the grocery story {we're out of milk.  again.}.  I love taking him along and getting to spend some one-on-one time with him. 

This is the extent of Becks' character clothing.  You know how I feel about it.  Of course, it's like his favorite shirt.
While Goodwilling produced some ah-mazing finds last night, I do have to tell you the absolutely unbelievable conversation I had with some 20-year-old chick.  Let's just say my Momma Bear claws about came out.  And I rarely feel the need to bar those. 

Anyway, Becks and I were both wearing our Ugg boots.  Fairly typical since we can't escape the snow around these parts.  This girl immediately came over and started gushing over how cute he was wearing "those" boots.  Then, she went over and told her co-worker she'd never seen a little boy wearing "girl" boots.  Whatever.  I continued to shop and blew her off. 
I think these are not girly look at all.  If you think so, don't tell me!
She happened to be the one checking me out and continued to go on about the boots and how she can't believe he's wearing them.  Then, and I am not exaggerating, this is what she says to me:

"You do know those are G-I-R-L boots, don't you?"  {Yup, she even spelled out the word!}

Um, no, they are not GIRL boots.  THE NERVE. They're grey, he's two, and they're snow boots.  I told her they were totally unisex and she seriously frowned and shook her head and whispered, "No, they're not..."  My blood was a-boilin', y'all.  Girl's lucky I'm very non-confrontational, paid for my purchases, and then went on to call every member in my family to relay the story so I didn't wring her little neck.  Shooooo, buddy.

So, on to the great find of the night...

A pair of Genetic Denim Cigarette Skinny Jeans in Silver that retail for - stop the world - $188!!!!

I only wish my butt looked that good in them!

And the best part?  Besides the fact that they're like brand new, it was 50% off clothes last night, so they were regularly $6.99 and I got them for $3.50!  Ah!  Loooooove and loooooooove.  {PS.  I live in the suburb of a biggish city, which is why I have pretty good luck finding designer duds.}  And what are the odds they were my size in the waist and length?  Had to be fate :) 

Have you found anything good thrifting lately?

Happy Saturday, y'all! 

I Warned You There'd Be Ramblings!

I came across a post today that was so relevant to how I've been feeling lately. At the end of the day, I feel like very little has been accomplished. I get discouraged because the tub that I promised myself would be scrubbed clean by the end of the day is still as filthy as the moment I stepped in it this morning. The closet I aimed to organize that afternoon is still in shambles. My goal of having a clean kitchen floor is a flop.

The thing is, I don't stop all day long. I take an hour to myself during nap time to sip a coffee and catch up on FB and my blog but THATS IT! So what's going on?!

Thankfully, I have this amazing husband who comes home at the end of the day and draws out of me all the things I did do that day. And as I start to list everything, I become more and more encouraged that the day (or week or month) has not been a loss! Its just that, well, at this stage of the game reading to my girls or playing blocks with them is more important that the cleanest house. My time with them is important!

And the thing is - I do clean! I clean in increments throughout the whole day. I mentioned to Matt about that the other night too. My frustration: if I clean all day, why, oh why, is it still a mess! Ha! He kindly informed me that this is the season we are in. For now, I am in maintenance mode. I need to be OK with that. If we have clean clothes, clean dishes and healthy meals, that is a job well done with 2 young ones swirling around and demanding so much time and attention. All the other things will come with time. Not that I don't clean my tub, organize areas or mop my floors - I do. It just doesn't get done every week like I want it to. I realized that I am my own worse boss. I put way too much pressure on myself. So although I will continue to aim high with my daily goals, I am also going to strive to be content with having done the important things and not be brought done by the "so-called" urgent things in life. Because let's face it - although a perpetually clean kitchen floor would be nice, it really isn't that urgent of a matter. Taking time to cuddle my girls, have a coffee with my sweet hubby - now that's what matters.

I've rambled on long enough. I only meant to share this post - Fighting the Tyranny of the Urgent at Home. What can I say?...Blogging is therapeutic! ;)

P.S. I also read this post - Rock Bottom Mom - and found it very encouraging. Not that I've hit rock bottom, I actually feel pretty great, but some of the tips she gives are helpful, even for just those weeks when things are just not going the way you had hoped!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Inferencing Activity {First Grade}

We learned about inferencing this week in First Grade and I was determined to find a better way to teach it than complete the ridiculously ineffective {and booooooring} graphic organizer that my reading series issues for this unit.  It was totally BLAH.  Anyway, with snow being so prevalent in our lives right now, it only seemed fitting to find a way to connect inferencing to the ever-present white stuff that is driving me batty.  {This was actually the lesson I taught for my observation.}
So, I decided my students were going to Inference Investigators

 After activating prior knowledge with Snow Day by Barbara Joose, we completed a whole group graphic organizer about snow day activities. 

Next, I read a cute mini-story that I wrote about "Tim", who is at home on a snow day with his grandmother.  When his mom arrives home from work, she has no idea where either Tim or his grandmother are or what they did all day.  So she starts searching the house in search of "Snow Day Evidence."  After reading this story to my students, I told them that their assignment was to be an "Inference Investigator" and to work with their group members to sort through the evidence Tim's mom collected to figure out a) what they did all day and b) where they were when she got home.

I presented the evidence in Snow Day Case Files (laminated manila envelopes) that contained four "pieces of evidence."  They were oh so excited!  I looooove to see my kids get pumped up about learning! I gave them a recording sheet so that they could make inferences based on the objects in their case file.

Here is what one group found...

Thus, they could infer that Tim and his grandma might have eaten at McDonalds and drank hot cocoa. 

Each group had a different set of evidence, and some of the evidence connected to other group's evidence.  For instance, one group had a muffin tin and inferred that they made cupcakes.  However, another group had a recipe for blueberry muffins.  So, at the end of the lesson when we reconvened as a whole group to sort through all of the evidence together, the two groups were able to conclude that they must have made blueberry muffins (though cupcakes was a great inference, too!). 

To finish the lesson, students responded to some questions that I wrote out.  We then extended the lesson by creating a whole-group timeline of what we thought their day might have been like; then, the students chose a time and illustrated Tim and grandma's activity.

{This may seem like a complex activity - and it is detailed - but it isn't easy to teach 6- and 7-year-olds about inferences.   So, this is VERY hands-on, and my students really "got it" when all was said and done.  I heard lots of Aww, now it I get it!  or It all makes sense now!  as they sorted through the evidence - making them detectives was key!} 

I have created a printable of this entire activity that includes the detailed lesson plan, story, case file front/back, graphic organizers (not pictured), and activity sheets (not pictured) - plus, as a bonus, 2 inferencing definition posters, and 5 inferencing pictures and text posters to supplement your reading series or to use with a mini-lesson.  You can buy it at Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking HERE. 

If you click on the picture below, you can download a free printable of one the inferencing pictures/text posters.  The picture of the one in my classroom seen beneath has copyrighted clip art, so I couldn't upload it to TpT.  However, the clip art I used for the printable was much, much, much cuter!  I'm going to reprint them for my room.  Enjoy :)

{FYI: You need the latest download of Adobe Acrobat to clearly view/print the download. MAC users need a special Adobe application.}

What are your ideas for teaching inferencing? 
I'd love, love, love to hear them - and happy Friday!

{PS.  For those of you that asked, I create all the printables in a Word document that I then convert to a PDF.  I share them via Google docs. Would you like a more detailed explanation?  I could write another post about it if you do!  Let me know :)}