It's July Currently time..a little early!

Oh my, oh my- I can't believe it's already here, but it's time to link up with Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her July Currently! 

I am just loving my summer so far and have really truly been enjoying each day, whether I'm just hanging around with my hubby at home, on a vacation or hanging out with my friends and family (and even those days I'm being productive too).  I kinda can't believe it's already the end of June, but at the same time, I do feel like I've done a whole lot in the last month, so I shouldn't be too shocked by the date!  The weather today and this upcoming week is supposed to be in the upper 70s/lower 80s which is perfect weather to just spend the days/nights outdoors.  We get lots of humidity here in Chicago, so any day without it in the summer is a major plus!  My hubby wants to do some de-cluttering in the garage and for that to really happen he needs my assistance, so maybe on the next rainy day we'll get to it?! 

Oh and my tips/tricks part....I personally love creating things for my classroom that others can also use.  The main reason for this is because it is a total creative outlet for me! I am not super crafty like lots of you other bloggers seem to be, but I do like to create new things on the computer.  I think being creative is such an important piece of blogging & helps make your posts & products original and fun! So with that, just take your time and be creative when writing posts, making products or whatever it is that you are doing!

Have a great day!


Five for Friday and a Freebie!

I am linking up with Doodle Bugs {First Grade Rocks} and Teaching Blog Addict for some fun on Friday!  

1. Blogging Buddy Lunch
On Monday, Kristin from iteach1:1, Aylin and I met for lunch.  I wish I took a picture to go with this little post but I didn't...we were too busy chatting and working!  It is so fun to meet with blogging buddies because there is simply so many ideas to run across one another and things to discuss.  I swear we didn't stop talking for 4 hours!  At one point Kristin's hubby came home, walked in to say a quick hello, and then walked right out because I am pretty sure after only a few minutes of gabbing he was totally overwhelmed!

2. Anniversary Dinner
This week the hubby and I celebrated 2 years of marriage!  I love special days, (who doesn't?!!?) -so you can imagine how excited I get for our anniversary! I woke up to a sweet note from my hubby as he went off to study for much of the day.  When he got home we went out to dinner to one of our favorite restaurants and came home to open cards and watch our wedding video.  It was a good day and I am certainly blessed to have such a wonderful and caring husband!

3. AND 4. Ten Frames Galore
I have talked about this before but number sense is so important to a strong mathematics foundation.  That is why common core spends so much time helping young students to dig deep into numbers.  I have been looking over and thinking about things that are crucial my kids have a strong understanding for in mathematics.  Ten Frames is one of those concepts and I plan to hit hard next year. Ten frames help students to visualize numbers in many different ways.

For instance, when drawing 8 dots (see below) into a ten frame the number 8 can be seen in several different ways. 8 can be seen as 5 and 3 more or 2 less then 10.  This visual understanding helps students to turn it into addition and subtraction i.e. 5+3=8 and 10-2 equals 8.

I have been working on a couple of new ten frame products and am really excited that they are finally finished! This Ten Frame Fun Game and Center Pack gets kids interacting with ten frames through a variety of fun hands-on math centers!  This pack includes several games, task cards, and printables to help you assess your students learning.  Click here to see this pack!

To get my kids going with the technology in our classroom I created a QR Code Ten Frame Number Hunt.  Each QR Code scanned tells students which number they need to look for next.  Students go on a hunt around the classroom as they find each new number! 

If you are reading this...thanks for staying with me!  Finally, click here to get this Ten Frame Freebie! Helping students to visualize numbers recognize them in many ways is the a great beginning step to helping them understand both addition and subtraction.

5. Show us some Bloglovin’

Our Bloglovin' Giveaway is still going on!  To see our original post on Bloglovin' click here! Or simply enter the raffle copter below! You will be entered to win 1 item from each of our TPT Stores (winner's choice!)  
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Happy Friday!

Tune into Technology Linky: Integrating Technology into Reading

We are so excited to host our very first linky with Kristin over at iTeach1:1- Tune into Technology! Our hope is that you will also link up with us to share technology ideas with everyone.  Please just grab our linky image (with a link back to this post) and link up below. If you aren't a blogger, please feel free to leave a comment on this post sharing your ideas for the classroom too!

This week's theme is Integrating Technology into Reading. We are going to focus on Daily 5 since that is how we set up our reading block.

Read to Self:

During "read to self" my kids have a choice to read from book baskets and/or to use their Raz-Kids account on their laptops. Our district has an account to Raz-Kids. It has been a wonderful edition to our reading block. My kids love reading from their Raz-Kids accounts. I also love when they choose this because there are so many wonderful features on this program.  When a child reads to self using Raz-Kids I can see which stories they are reading, I can make sure that students are only reading books at their independent reading level, students can record themselves reading, and there is a comprehension piece which is also wonderful.

This student is listening to his recording of a book on Raz-Kids.  

Read to Someone:

Read to someone is the one part of daily five that I have a tendency not to do each and every day. In first grade when we do read to someone students get easily distracted and off topic.  I am hoping next year if I slow down the "building stamina" part of our read to someone I will have more success with it!

Anyways, when we do read to someone I will sometimes have students read into Garageband together as a reward to my partners who are working really hard.  Students will take turns reading pages or reading their story together.  I love it because it promotes fluency as they listen to themselves and often  record and rerecord themselves many times.  Students like it because they enjoy listening to their voices!

Word Work:

Our little friends are still learning to read which means our word work time is very important so that they can develop their skills as readers. I love using the free ABC Magnetic Alphabet Lite app on the iPads for word work. I use this app practically everyday in a word work center or during the word work practice of my guided reading groups.  

I say a word that fits our word focus of the week (words in the -an family, silent e words, words with -ing ending, etc.) and then they find that letters to make the word and pull those letters up on the screen.  After we have made a few words, I say one of the words and then my little friends "send it back home" by swiping the letters of that word back down to the bottom.  I also use this same activity with my little kinder friends but they are identifying letters instead of making words. If you aren't doing this in a teacher guided center, you can instead have one student be the teacher while their partner is working on the iPad. One student can be the teacher by reading a word from a list and then the other partner needs to make the word on the iPad, using this app. Then the students switch roles so everyone gets a chance to use the iPad and practice their words!

Meet with the Teacher:

We know that "Listen to Reading" is another Daily 5 center, but since students are able to listen to reading during their Read to Self time on Raz Kids, we are focusing on our 'meeting with the teacher' time instead as that is a major portion of our daily reading blocks! Similar to Raz-Kids, I use our Reading A-Z subscription to find great books that cover a variety of word work skills we are working on that my little friends can then read on the iPads or Macbooks.

I find books that are at my students' instructional reading level and then save them as PDF's in my Dropbox account which I can then use to open on each iPad or through uploading them to our website server where students can access them.  Check out this post here for more information on how I do this! I use these stories during our guided reading groups where I can easily assist students with their reading. My little friends love the stories that Reading A-Z has to offer and so do I because they really help my little friends be successful readers.

Work on Writing:

Writing is such an important component to incorporate into a daily reading block.  Writing activities give my little friends the chance to show me their application of whatever skills we have been practicing. My favorite tech idea for writing centers is a website called Storybird where students can create their own stories with their choice of illustrations.

You can set up a free teacher account where you can then create separate logins for each of your students. Students each will have their own account and can log in to their creations each time. 

Once students login, they can select "create" and then choose their set of illustrations that they wish to use- there are a large variety of artists/illustrations to choose from, so you may have some students always choose the same artwork while others choose different ones each time. Your students can then add pictures and text to the stories they create. My little friends generally describe the picture for their stories, but eventually they start creating real stories the more we work on narratives. I imagine older students would develop more of a story!

Here are some examples:

I love Storybird for the ridiculously cute illustrations and how simple it is for my little friends to use it. Also, since there are SO many fun illustrations to choose from, my little friends never get sick of their "work on writing" time when we use Storybird!

We hope you found something new to try out in your classroom.  Please link up any ideas you have for technology & reading! We are so excited to read your tech ideas for reading! (And see you next Thursday for our focus on Integrating Technology into Math.)

Have a great day!
Amanda & Aylin


Show us some Bloglovin!

Hi fabulous followers!! 

You have probably heard by now that Google Reader is going away on July 1st.  Well, Google Reader may be going away, but we don't want YOU to go away, so we hope that you will consider following our blog through bloglovin!  We know that change is we thought we might sweeten it up for you a little bit!

We are doing a giveaway for all of our fabulous followers that take the leap and switch over to bloglovin.  You may have already switched over!  In that case, this will be an easy entry!

If you have not yet switched or are not following our blog through bloglovin, then there are a few easy steps to follow.  You can go to our sidebar (that's the column on the right over there that shows our followers) and you can click the button that says Follow this Blog with bloglovin.  Or, you can go into the Rafflecopter below and click the link in the first entry, and that will take you to our blog on bloglovin.

You will need to set up an account with bloglovin so that you can follow us.  Please be sure to leave your bloglovin username in the Rafflecopter entry.

If you want to go ahead and move all of the blogs you follow from Google over, you can go to this link and it will take you through the super easy steps.  BUT, please go to our bloglovin link and make sure that you are following us through bloglovin.  To be sure, make sure that the blue button at the top of our bloglovin page has been clicked (it should be gray with the word following- if it's blue, please click it to follow!)

So, if you follow us by bloglovin, please enter our giveaway!!  We will be picking 2 WINNERS and each winner will get their choice of 1 product from each of our TpT STORES! 

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You will need to set up an account with Bloglovin' so that you can follow us.  Please be sure to leave your Bloglovin' username in the Rafflecopter entry. Since we can't see the list of all of our followers (yet), we are asking that you "like" this post on Bloglovin' after you become a follower. We can see who has liked the post, so that will be a way for us to verify the winners!
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Happy Wednesday!
Amanda and Aylin

Tuesday Tried It: Sight Words Ideas and Organization Bin

I don't know about you, but I just have SO many materials/resources to teach the same concepts: word families, phonemic awareness, CVC words, sight words, etc.  As this school year was winding down, I decided I needed to get all my materials together based on the topic so that I could easily choose from that one spot for lesson planning, activities, etc. So, today I have an organization idea that I began recently and will really try using in the fall. I'm linking up with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday and Fun in Room 4B & Ladybug's Teacher Files for Optimum Organization.

Now, this is nothing brilliant, but just another simple organization idea that I think will really help me in regard to not only using a variety of tools to teach the same thing for extra practice (which my little friends surely need) but also a way to hopefully help me actually use all my materials! I grabbed one of my bins that I used in my classroom for something else and turned it into my Sight Word Bin. is my Sight Word Bin: Yay-everything is together!

And, here are some of the items in my Sight Word Bin:

Lots and lots of different sight word cards that I use for daily review and games.  I use the Dolch Pre Primer and Primer Words with my little friends so all of these words are from those lists. I do sight word Go Fish, Oops- where they pick a card from the container, read it and then if they pick the "oops" card all the sight word cards go back in the container- very fun and great way to review words! We even do sight word memory where they are looking for matching words. It always surprises me how much of a challenging game this can be for my little friends, but they get better as the year goes on. :)

Word Wall Chains- my little friends LOVE making word wall chains. These are so much fun to do and an easy center to include in your rotation.  My students choose a few words from the word wall (usually we'll do 10 words at a time) and they write each word on a piece of paper that I've previously cut for them and then we either tape each piece together in a linking format or I'll staple each one (this usually is the fastest method).  They then take their word wall chain to the carpet and practice reading each word on their chain and then exchange with a partner to practice reading their words as well. 

Words of the Week- on Monday morning, each student gets to pick a word from this container and we hang it in the pocket chart on our board. We then review these specific words very quickly at the beginning of each day. My little friends will either get to be the "sight word pointer" where we all just practice reading the words, i'll give them clues and they have to tell which word i'm thinking of, we'll put them in ABC order, say words that rhyme, use them in a sentence, etc. I love beginning each day this way because it is a great review and a quick assessment for me to see who still isn't getting these words.  All the words in my "Words of the Week" container are from our Dolch Pre Primer or Primer list and I place specific ones in the orange container that I know my little friends need to practice.  (I keep them all in the little white bag.)

This is where my Sight Word Bin sits for quick access for me (along with other daily materials- Phonemic Awareness bin, Guided Reading drawers, QR Code task cards, etc.):

Not every last little thing I use for sight words fits in here, but lots of materials do and this way I have it all right next to each other in one spot! So, if you are like me and have tons of items to teach one concept, I recommend putting everything together in one bin where you can easily grab your choice of material for the day!

Hosting our 1st Linky!

We are super excited to be hosting our 1st linky with our best bloggin' buddy Kristin over at iTeach1:1!  Every Thursday for the next few weeks, we will be hosting a 'Tune into Technology' linky. We will have a different theme for each week (listed below on the button) and we hope you will link up your own technology ideas to join in on our tech fun!

Thanks to Ashley Hughes & Megan Favre for their cute graphics! 

Have a great day!

Guided Math: Part 1 (Getting Started!)

A couple of years ago I decided to begin teaching mathematics through guided small groups instead of whole group instruction. This change has helped me to better reach the strengths and struggles of my 28 first graders in a much more meaningful way.

Getting Started...
First things first....if guided math is something you are wanting to try...try it!  Let this be the school year you dive in and give guided math groups a whirl.  I promise, you won't regret it.

To get your brain going and thinking about the possibilities of guided math groups in your classroom try answering each of these questions:

*How much time can I dedicate to math each day?
*How many guided groups will I have in my classroom?
*How many times am I going to try to meet with groups each week?
*Where will your students be working with you during guided math instruction?

How much time can I dedicate to math each day?
This will certainly vary depending on your school and its expectations of mathematics.  At our school, we are required to spend at least 60 minutes on math each day.  Now, 60 minutes may sound like a lot to some people but from someone who loves math this is a short, very short, amount of time. I do go over that allotment of time but try to keep mine to about 80 minutes.

My Breakdown is as follows:
10-15 minute mini lesson  (to introduce a skill, review a skill, discuss expectations, create an anchor chart, ect.)

Four 15 minute rotations of meeting with guided math groups (or if it is a more difficult concept: three 20 minute rotations of meeting with guided math groups.)

10 minute closing/sharing  (something students learned today or something to add to our anchor chart.)

How many guided groups will I have in my classroom?  
Small group instruction, in an ideal world, should have 5-6 students.  However, in my classroom of 28 students I have 7 kids in each group-giving me 4 different groups of students.  It is what works best in my room and allows me to see the most students each day.

How many times am I going to try to meet with groups each week?
I say "try" because I feel as though during most weeks something comes up and changes my "ideal" schedule.  Whether it is an assembly, a fire drill, or a special running late there always seems to be something.  So I make my "ideal" schedule with the understanding it might now always happen!

I enjoy being able to meet with every group every day.  That is why I choose to have 4 groups of 7, instead of 5 or 6 groups with less children.  However, due to the depth of a lesson or something cutting into my "ideal" schedule (like a fire drill or an assembly.) I am flexible and my students also learn how to be flexible with math groups.  

Where will your students be working with you during guided math instruction?
I am lucky to have a "jelly bean" table in my room (totally took that cute name from Aylin-so much better sounding then "kidney" or "horseshoe.") I can fit 7 students around my table with our work mats and manipulatives.  There are also times when I will relocate my guided group to the carpet so that I can use the SMARTBoard.  Students get a clip board during our guided groups if we are not sitting at the "jellybean" table.  You can certainly be creative with your space: using tables, carpet space, or the ground.  As long as students can write (clip boards or even an individual white board can be used in a student's lap) and they can pay attention and focus on you/the lesson the space should work just fine!

My "jelly bean" table used for both guided math and guided reading with my first graders.  

Click here to get a freebie that will help you organize your weekly guided math time. It is in an editable file so that you can either print the blank template and write on it each week or type directly in the document.

I am going to break this post into several shorter segments.  So, that is all for today!  Let me know any questions and/or suggestions you have about your classroom-I'd love to hear them!

Please look for several more parts to this Guided Math post throughout the next several weeks of summer.  In these upcoming posts I will discuss the ways I hold students accountable during independent centers, management pieces I have learned a long the way, as well as what I am doing during my guided math groups.

Other Guided Math Posts and Freebies: 

Happy Monday!

Spark Student Motivation: Mr. Frog

I love reading motivation ideas over at Head Over Heels for Teaching's Spark Student Motivation Saturdays. So, today I am linking up with a simple idea that has really motivated my little friends in my classroom the past few years. This motivation tip is something that is very simple to add to any classroom, all you need is a stuffed animal! I use a large stuffed animal, Mr. Frog, as a way to get my little friends excited about reading. 

I introduce Mr. Frog to my little friends the very first time they come into our classroom. Mr. Frog is our friend who sits on top of my bookshelf and "watches" us as we learn and practice reading and writing. I tell my little friends that he is watching what we are doing and will come down and give a high five to any little friend he sees doing a really great job reading and writing.  This gets my little friends SO excited because evidently being able to give that giant Mr. Frog a high five is a very special thing because it means you are being recognized for working hard! Sometimes Mr. Frog even comes off the shelf just to sit and watch us read up close...which they love.  I bring down Mr. Frog occasionally- maybe once a week or every other week if I forget...but it really is a great way to get your little friends excited about whatever it is you want them to be excited about in your room-- just a little added motivation! 

I used to keep Mr. Frog down on the ground by us, but quickly realized that he was WAY too big of a distraction and every little friend was constantly giving Mr. Frog hugs/high fives, so instead he moved on up in the world to the top of my bookshelf. :)  I highly recommend getting a version of "Mr. Frog" for your classroom for a little added motivation because let me tell you, we LOVE Mr. Frog in our room!

Have a great day!

Another week of fun and a freebie!

These weeks sure continue to fly by for me!  I'm linking up with Doodlebugs for my Five for Friday and TBA for a freebie!


1. So this isn't from this week, but close enough....last week I stayed in a lake house in Michigan which was so relaxing and enjoyable! My hubby and I were there with my family and we had a great time...especially since I got to spend all day each day with my little niece who I just can't get enough of- she's just the cutest little thing!

Such a gorgeous sunset!

2. This week my hubby and I continued on with our vacations and went to Rocky Mountain National Park and stayed in a teepee! We usually go camping in our tent, but thought, hey- why not- let's stay in a teepee- and let me tell you it was pretty amazing!

3. Before heading to Colorado this week, I had some quality TPT creating time and am super excited for this Vowels Bundle Pack I just posted. I spend SO much time trying to get my little friends to remember all the different sounds vowels can make and this pack will hopefully be really helpful for my little friends next year.  I already started using the posters in this pack this school year and now I also added a whole lot of center activities to practice all those vowels! The bundle pack focuses on short vowels, long vowels with silent e, r controlled vowels and two vowels walking. I included a few pics below of some of the activities, but you can check out the entire pack here!

4. My freebie for this week is one that you can use all year long as a weekly center activity- it's a Searching for Sounds Journal. I have done a version of this for awhile in my classroom, but finally took the time to make it a little cuter...:) This can easily be added to your weekly literacy centers by aligning it to your word work focus of the week.  Each student can have his own journal and then you choose the type of words they are searching for (words that end in -en, words with short i sound, words with long u with silent e, -s endings, etc.) and then students search the room for these types of words and make a list on their paper.  I personally use magnifying glasses for this activity (which my little friends love) and I also have my students look through books and look around the room at our posters, games, etc.  I usually put out several books that I know have words that follow the type they are searching for that day to help guide them in the right direction and make sure they stay on task.

This is my old version- just writing on papers- but fun still because of the magnifying glasses!

New version! 

You can grab this freebie here!

5. Next week I will be headed to a 3 day workshop on a Comprehensive Literacy Model.  The focus is to provide ideas for school improvement in relation to RTI.  I'm hoping I will be able to get lots of new literacy ideas to bring back to my school! 

Have a great weekend!

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