Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Made It: Word Work Dew Drops!

Heya'll! I'm posting my Monday Made It early (4th Grade Frolics is only hosting on the second Monday of every month now that school has begun) so I will be linking up later. Here's what I made:
They are what I am calling "dew drops" for a making words activity during word work centers. I originally got this idea from 4th Grade Frolics but could not find little round alphabet stickers AN.Y.WHERE. So I had to get a little crafty. First I grabbed my trusty neon paper pack:
And got a couple bags of those clear vase fillers, or "accent gems" from the Dollar Tree.
I sorted through them to pick out the truly clear ones (some of them had a reflective sheen on them that made it more difficult to see the letters....you can skip this step but I am just that anal).
Then I traced one of them on my neon paper to create a "stencil" to quickly cut a bunch of circles in bulk. After I had all the paper circles cut, I wrote out the alphabet twice and vowels a couple more times just to be safe (I wanted there to be enough dew drops in order to allow multiple students to build words at the same time without fighting over letters).
I did not have any ModPodge so I just used regular old school glue to paste the letters onto the gems. I painted a thin layer of glue onto the bottom of the gem, stuck the letter onto the gem, and then painted over the paper and around the sides to seal everything together. Once the first layer had dried, I painted another thin layer of glue over the paper just in case. Tedious, yes. But strangely therapeutic!
Once everything is good and dry, your dew drops are ready to go! You can use these in SO many different ways. I'm going to be using them for a making words activity in my word work center. Students can either spell words they see around the classroom and on the word wall, spell their names, or copy sight word cards for extra practice.
After making their words, students complete this extension worksheet:
This worksheet is available in my Word Work pack:

And that's that for today! I'm always looking for ways to keep my word work center interesting and I just know my kiddies are going to flip over this...I hope yours will, too!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Just Hangin' Around the Room (Teacher Tips!)

Hey'all! So it's the last day of this fabulous #teacherweek13 linky. THANK YOU to the fabulous ladies over at Blog Hoppin' for hosting, and thank you to all of you who commented, pinned, and just visited my blog this week...I know I sure have gotten a TON of great resources and ideas from all of you!
Today I will be sharing a Teacher Tip.

It is no secret that, as the year goes by and we are developing more and more anchor chart resources by the minute, that you quickly run out of space to display charts in your classroom!!!
Well, my friends, I have a cheap and easy solution to share with you! One day, I walked into my brilliant first-grade-teacher friend's (I've featured Stacy in the past HERE and HERE) classroom and saw this:
Can you see how the charts are hanging? Here's a closer look:

I just about *died* with excitement (I must be a teacher haha). But seriously, how smart is that? You can use any kind of pant hanger to display your anchor charts: 
(those cheap plastic ones you get with pants from Walmart are awesome)

Whether you hang them off a push pin, over a cupboard/door (that's why it's great to get the one with the spinning handles so you can turn it like I did in the first pic), or on the back of a bookshelf/storage unit, etc. The possibilities are endless! I ended up grouping my anchor charts and having one hanger at my word work center, one hanger at my writing center, etc. So that the kiddies could flip through ALL of the relevant anchor chart resources we had been creating since the beginning of the year.
Love it! Thanks for your ingenuity, Stacy ;)

Psst...check out THIS POST for another mind blowing anchor chart solution!

Okay, your turn! Click the pic below to head over to today's topic and link up!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Teacher Week '13 & What I'm Loving Wedne...THURSDAY!

So I'm getting all kinds of crazy today and knockin' out TWO linkies!


Let's start with #teacherweek13 
(remember to use this hashtag when sharing your post on Instagram, too! I did! @funwithfirsties)

So today on the Teacher Week '13 menu is 
Taming the Wild: Classroom Management.

It goes without saying that a strong establishment of routine right at the beginning of the year makes all the difference. But it's also all those little things that help get you and your kiddies smoothly through the day. I'll be sharing a couple of "the little things" with you today.

First thing in the morning, my kiddies walk in and see this:
(This question was originally from our Spiders Unit)

It is a "question of the day" chalkboard where, every day, I write a different question for the kiddies to answer and discuss. I started this because, during that Morning Madness time where I'm trying to take attendance, get milk/hot lunch orders, etc., the kiddies are usually still chompin' at the bit to talk.talk.TALK. So I figured this chalkboard was not only a great way to focus the chit-chat, but also to set the tone for the rest of the morning (and quench my personal obsession with chalkboards in a chalkboard-free school). I'm always so pleasantly surprised with how engaged my kiddies are in their on-topic talk. It becomes a daily surprise for them to see what the Question of the Day is going to be.
How It's Made: I made it by simply painting over a 2-dollar-garage-sale-find-old-as-heck oil painting with chalkboard paint. And then I made it nice and pretty by painting the frame in a blue ombre style (with acrylic paints).

Note: Most days I will write an education-related question; whether it be reviewing something learned the day before, activating prior knowledge about a topic we will discuss that day, etc. But some days (typically Fridays and holidays) I will write a "just-for-fun" question.

Now, like many of you, I need to frequently change things up in my classroom...keep my kiddies on their toes! So, some weeks, I'll scrap the chalkboard talk and replace it with "Brain Break" videos on my SmartBoard. The kiddies can.not.get.enough of these. Their favourite videos are from Just Dance Kids, Just Dance Kids 2, and Just Dance Disney Party. Here are a few examples I found on YouTube for you to see:
video video video video
I just pop these DVDs into my computer at school and we're good to go! The deal is, the first kid ready and in the class gets to press play on the ready-to-go video (touching the SmartBoard never gets old!). It's amazing how quickly kids can take off their layers of winter clothes when they know their friends are having a dance party in the classroom without them.
We usually do 2-3 Brain Breaks after the bell and then we are ready to learn! I also throw these on throughout the day when I see my kiddies fading away...it works wonders with their focus and energy levels!



1. David's Tea is always an obsession of mine. But I am LOVING my Bodum Stainless Travel Press...filled with *any* of their looseleaf teas. mmmmmm. Bring on the crisp autumn breeze.

2. My new Word Families Booklet! I struggled with teaching word families last year simple because I felt there were SO many of them and we were all.over the place. So I came up with this little booklet to not only help me organize my own instruction, but also give my kiddies a resource they can refer to throughout the year!

3. I am in desperate need of new PJs. I've been eying Victoria's Secret Cotton Mayfair Pajamas and Sleepover Cotton Pajama (one in every colour please).

Now it's your turn! Click either pic below to link up your post or just check out all the great things going on:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teacher Week: Now Teach! Organizing for Instruction

Hey y'all!! So I'm back today with:


to share with you some organizational tips

(I was not able to participate yesterday as I, sadly, do not get my classroom until the end of October this year...but I am still planning on linking up to Classroom Digs then!)

Because I am still working and organizing from home, I'm just going to share two quick tips with you...two of my favs!
I organize all of my math tub activities using these four 3-door storage units:

Inside each drawer is all the activities I will bring out for each month. I organize those in envalopes like this:
that I label with the name of each activity. 
(I should have taken pictures of the inside of the drawers so you can see, sorry. But I'm sure you get the idea!)

Here's another look of the three organized-by-month storage units:

After all of my monthly labels, there end up being 2 drawers leftover so I use those for:
(where I keep all of my extra activities in case I want to change things up, use them as an "I'm done, now what?" activity, etc.)

(where I keep most of the manipulatives that go with more than one math tub activities; such as large and small dice, a baggy of snap cubes, etc.)

I also use this organizational system for my literacy centers.
If you would like to download your own copy of my simple chalkboard labels, you can grab a free copy of those HERE.

The last organizational tool I'm sharing with you today that I can't live without is my Thirty-One teacher bag!
(notice all of the beautifully-colored pens that I use ALL the time  that are mostly just for decoration)

It weighs about a thousand pounds and contains WAY too many things that I really don't need to bring home with me every.single.night. but I love it and need it by my side! 
The best part about it is that it fits one of those basic plastic hanging file racks so I can organize all of my materials with files and folders. I'm currently in the process of reorganizing my bag but you can see I still have a couple labels in (marking, notes/ideas, and resources).

Yes, one of the reasons my bag is so heavy is because I carry all of my "teacher manuals" back and forth every day in the hopes that I will be in the mood to plan ahead, which happens just about every single night because I'm super organized.

Now click the pic below and head on over to Blog Hoppin' and check out everyone's fabulous organizational tools, tips, and ideas!

Monday, August 12, 2013

#teacherweek13 -- Meet the Teacher!

Hi everyone!! I'm excited to be linking up this week with Blog Hoppin' for:


MONDAY Topic:
(I'm going to "steal" a few random facts from a recent blog post)

1) My name is Sam. Technically, Samantha Alexis Nowak (pronounced "novak"...my grandma is Polish). I was born on February 14 and I have a big sister named Stephanie:
(She's less than one year away from becoming a paramedic! ...I hope this means I get to go for rides in the paramedic van)

2) I moved waaaayyyyy up north (not really THAT far, but definitely far for a city girl) just to teach. There were next to no teaching jobs in the city so I dragged my fiance back up north to his home town. As terrified as I was at first, we very quickly fell in love with this place. How could you not?!
And, before I knew it, this became my favourite past-time:
I quickly learned: the more mud the better!!!

3) Speaking of the fiance, I'm marrying my partner-in-crime in Jamaica on February 12, 2014 (his birthday). We're a little nuts...

4) I danced 24/7 for 16 years of my life. I have my Royal Academy of Dance Advanced 2. My studio was competitive so I've traveled to places like Florida and Las Vegas for Grand National competitions.

5) I eat whipped cream out of the tub like icecream. DE.LISH.
6) The only "celebrity crush" I've EVER had is Jim Carrey. No Aaron Carter, no Brad Pitt, no Channing Tatum. I've only got eyes for Jimmy!

7) I love sketching and painting, although I haven't had the time in a while. It was always my favourite subject throughout elementary school, high school, and university. 

8) I make my own red and white wine.
9)  Last year (2012) was a *crazy* year: I graduated from teacher's college in April, moved up north, finished the school year supplying at a local elementary school, got engaged, and, about 2 weeks before the new school began, landed my dream job as a first grade teacher. 
Those two weeks were spent in a complete frenzy trying to prepare for something I suddenly felt I knew nothing about...but it didn't take long for things to fall into stride.
(When I moved into my room, it was completely empty. This picture was a couple days before school started and, although it may look finished, there was still TONS to do!)
My first year was absolutely insane. Good insane, bad insane, I got it all!!! There were days when I was *loving* life as a first grade teacher: working at school until 5 and then working at home until 12. And there were days when I went home at 3:15 in tears, opened up my computer, and started looking for another job. 
I thank God every day for the support from my school's staff (you guys are stinkin' AWESOME!); my family who put up with my stressed-out, over-emotional, borderline bi-polar behaviours; and the amazing world of teacher bloggers for continually renewing my love for this career!

10) Oh, and of course I have to mention CARLOS our minniature long-coat chihuahua. He's super important. So here's some cuteness before you go:

Like I said, I LOVE connecting with new teachers every day...you are all so creative and inspiring, and I can't wait to get to know you all a little better.

So, head on over to Blog Hoppin' to LINK UP and join the fun!!! 
Here's what's on the menu for the rest of the week:
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