Archive for April, 2011

C is For-

C is for: Counting

We count everything in first grade. We count the days we’ve been in school. We count rainy days, sunny days, snowy days and windy days.  We count children. We count shoes and we count feet.  We count who has what for lunch. We count books we’ve read, and how many words we know. We count money and time, steps and inches in our classroom. We count by ones, twos, fives, and tens. We count odd and even, and how many degrees on the thermometer. We count how many stories we’ve written and how many poems we want to write. We count teachers, parents, brothers, sisters, dogs, cats, and fish. We count pencils, crayons, markers and pens. And of course we count all the way we can use them.

One thing I don’t let my kids count is how many days we have left in school. There is so much to learn, and so many things yet to do. When they start counting days left, they tend to forget about the learning and think more about the summer living (ok the teacher does too at times).

But as things go, the office sent a note home the other day stating that we have twenty-two days left in this school year. I cringed and hoped it wouldn’t be read by my crafty first graders. No such luck.

Sure enough bright and early Monday morning they jubilantly strolled in and announced “we only have twenty-two more days of school!”  “Yes.” I reply. “But that is over a month away.”

They look at me as if I have lost my brains over the weekend and replaced them with rocks from their rock garden.

“Nuh-uh” they all chime. “The note said we only have twenty-two.” (Deep breath and some counting on my part) “Yes” but those are school days, twenty-two school days, not just twenty-two days in a row.”

“But the note said twenty-two days,” one girl diligently argues as the others back her up with their heads bobbing in unison. (Another deep breath and more counting underneath) “I know it did,  but do you come to school every day?”

“Yes” they all chide. “Really, so you were here Saturday?” “And on Easter?” The nodding wavers. “Noooo, but the note said only twenty-two days until school ways out.”

“Yes, but we don’t come to school every day.”

Finally a light dawns and one boy frowns “ohhhh I see, you mean we don’t count the days we’re not here.” Another nodding, but not happy, “you mean like the weekends, when we don’t come to school.”

I watch as the others begin to understand. The jubilance they felt as they entered is waning as they explain it to each other.

Finally, I think, the end, “get out your journals and write a slice of your weekend,” I announce. Sullenly they get out their journals and begin to write.

I smile as I hear a couple of them say “I’m counting how many days there really is until the end of school in my journal.” It catches on and before you know it they are all counting how many actual days until May twenty-fourth.

“Wow!” One exclaims, “We only have thirty days until the end of school!” And the smiles return.

One thing I can always count on in first grade; nothing will keep my kiddos down for long.


B is for-

B is for:

First grade is never Boring even when we are testing. Today was day one of testing in first grade. Our school has three separate tests we give in first grade. One state mandated reading test (with three separate parts), a standardized test, and the GATES reading test. We have all our bases covered in testing in first grade.

Since it is testing week and a short week I try to fill the rest of the time with other activities while still working on our first grade skills (still lots of work time left). Writing workshop the next few weeks will be filled with examples of poetry and practice at writing the same. Easter crafts and activities will be made this week, and a unit about our county is leading us into our end of the year fieldtrip.

The morning was spent testing and S and I were shocked when the kids said “this is fun” during our first break. Ok, we thought that’s a good sign. We muddled through the rest of the first half of the day and saved the second part for tomorrow.

As the day progressed the kids of course began to get a little more “antsy.” Writing workshop was filled with poetry. One little girl showed a poem she had written on her “cover paper” from the morning tests and the kids were invigorated. They wanted to write poetry too! And they did!  Next we made a cute bunny bag, did some rabbit math, and read some stories.

The day was winding to a close and we were gathering on the carpet to discuss our county and what we had learned the day before. As I asked questions I heard a fly hitting the window behind me, and its flyish buzz. This is how it went  from that point:

Teacher: “Who remembers what the name of our county is?”  One boy: “wow look at that fly!”  Teacher ignores, (S snickers). “Who remembers what county we live in?”  Another boy: “that’s a horsefly!” Teacher: “does that have anything to with our county?” Heads shake no. And yet another boy- louder now, that’s a HUGE horsefly!” Teacher-(giving up) “ok come up here and tell us what you know about flies”(not a horsefly). Boy: Silence. Teacher: “Anyone?” Kids all at once: “they are gross” “they land in poop”  “they throw-up on you” Teacher big sigh, OK…room: silent… except for the fly hitting the window and its flyish buzz.

Tomorrow we’ll be writing poetry about FLIES!!

A new Challenge!

One of the blogs that I follow “Windows to My Life-Writing to Remember” has been doing a really interesting and fun writing challenge much like the “slice of life” challenge I did last month (this is where I discovered her blog).

She has been writing through the alphabet about the state she lives in, Montana. I jokingly suggested that when she got to “H” she should write about my brother’s hat shop in Billings. He makes cowboy (and girl) Hats, his last name starts with H, he has a Huge Handlebar mustache, and he is always Happy to talk about his Hats.

Much to my surprise and delight she did mention his hat shop for H after writing a really fun story about her own experience with a favorite Hat. Here is the link to her story and blog:

I of course sent it to my brother, and told him to be on the lookout for a school librarian who needed a blue cowboy hat!

Her blog and A-Z challenge has prompted me to start my own A-Z writing challenge. Instead of writing about Oklahoma (although there are many things to write about) I have decided to write about first grade, and first graders. Thank you “Storykeeper” and “Two Writing Teachers” for the great inspiration to write.

A is for-

Authors of course! In first grade we spend a large part of our day reading and writing (ok most of the day). Everything we do hinges on these two things, they are what sets the tone for their remaining school years. It is my goal that before they leave my room they are thoroughly prepared to do both.

We have “writing workshop” every day in our class. It begins directly after lunch. I begin with a mini-lesson that I have created from a mentor text I have previously read that day, or week. Or from a specific feature we are working on such as voice, ideas, setting, characters, etc. We discuss authors and how they became authors, their writing styles, and the things we like or notice about the different author’s styles. We talk a lot about being authors ourselves.  We then move into “Quiet Ten.”

During quiet ten kids (and teacher) do nothing but write. Soft soothing music is turned on and voices are turned off. We are not allowed to get up, talk, read, work, or whine! We do nothing but write, or think about writing. The kids have already gathered supplies and they are ready to have at it.

After quiet ten it’s time for “workshop.” This is when collaboration and imaginations take off.  Our “Sous Chef” (We are Klinger Café in my room) quietly walks around and date stamps everyone’s work. Students gather together to work on editing, or team-writing. Illustrations are made. Books are stapled together. Conferences are scheduled and held. This is where the nuts and bolts of being an author happens. I meet with students, and students meet with each other. We discuss ideas, listen to stories, and offer suggestions that we may see, or ideas that the author may use if they so choose.

Finally after workshop we have time for celebrations (if time is limited we may move this to the end of the day). This is when authors share their finished work with the rest of the class. They may choose to read their writing to other classes such as Kindergarten. They can take their book to the school library for other kids to “check out.” Some choose to read to the principal or other teachers, and some choose to take theirs home to share with family members.

I have really seen a change in my authors this year. I have one little guy that refused to write in the beginning who now writes wonderful truck and tractor stories. One boy who did nothing but draw in January is now working on the SEVENTH chapter of a book. A girl that only wrote letters for words early in the year is now writing beautiful sentences and stories. They have all grown and improved in some way, and it has manifested through their writing.

Because I have been out of the classroom the past few weeks (student teacher has been teaching); I am thinking of having an “all day” celebration for parents (and me) to explore the changes that have taken place and celebrate their awesome work.  

Time for writing is very important in every grade. In first grade it is much like me; one of the many posts that supports the continuing strand of education (or fencing) that stretches throughout their lifetime.  

And in first grade AUTHORS are AWESOME!

Did I say I really want to go?

I REALLY want to go to a Professional Development Conference in Indiana this summer. I REALLY want to go. The list of presenters that are going to be there are the best I have I ever seen. It has such people as Katy Wood Ray, Debbie Miller, Ann Marie Corgill, Ruth Ayers, and many more. It would be a- dream -come -true.

The problem is- I live in Oklahoma.

 I looked it up.

Warsaw Indiana is eighteen hours away. That’s quite a drive for professional development.

It is only nine hours from my brother’s house in Tennessee. We are going to his house for vacation.

I REALLY want to go to this conference.

We could swing through Indiana on our way home. It would only add twenty-seven hours and two days to our trip.

I REALLY want to go.  

I could change our vacation. We could go to Indiana.

I wonder what there is to do in Indiana. My kids would be mad.

They want to go to Tennessee.

I could fly. Is there an airport in Warsaw? I should look it up.

I REALLY want to go to this conference.

The date of the conference is the same as our wedding anniversary. We could take a romantic trip.

Indiana would be fun.

I wonder if they have someplace to go fishing. Hubby could fish.

I could go to the conference.

The kids would be mad. They want to go to Tennessee.

I REALLY want to go to this conference.

It would be a good learning experience. I might be able to take it off my taxes.

I’m going to sign up. Maybe.

I’ll talk to my hubby. I’ll tell him-


Meant to Be

This is my student teachers last week to teach full time. Next week we team teach and then the week after that she will be observing in other classes. It has been such a joy to see her learn and progress through her time in our classroom.

Today her evaluator came from the college for her last visit. We have commented the few times she has visited at what a natural S seems to be. Today I came into the room after the evaluation; I wanted her to see S in the classroom alone. Her evaluator and I began discussing her lesson and activity, and how well it went.

She once again commented on what a natural S is in the classroom. She went on to say that she has really improved, and seems to have a good grasp on all aspects of the classroom. I agreed and told her how nice it has been to have her teaching with me.

She then said something that surprised me and made me stop and think. She told me that I had been a good teacher to her and that I had been a good role model. I paused because I had never thought of myself as S’s teacher. To me we have just been teaching together. I knew that I was opening my room to her and that I would be sharing ideas and my kiddos, but I never really thought about being her teacher.

To me S has been a friend, a coworker, a confidant, a sounding board, and fellow teacher. She has become part of our school family and my life. She has listened to me talk about my kids, and I have cried with her about her grandpa. It’s as if she has been a part of my life for much longer than the last twelve weeks.

And now her time has almost come to an end. She has become a wonderful teacher. I would like to take the credit, but sometimes teachers are born not made. Sometimes young girls (or boys) dream as young children to grow up to be a teacher, and they do. And sometimes the rest of us are blessed with the gift to watch it come to be.

The Slow Dance

I found this poem last night, It doesn’t have an author but is so good, and poignant.

The Slow Dance

“Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.
Do you run through each day
On the fly?
When you ask How are you?
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?
You’d better slow down
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.
Ever told your child,
We’ll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
’Cause you never had time
To call and say,”Hi”
You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day, It is like an unopened gift….
Thrown away.
Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.”

– Anonymous-

Manners and Math Monday!


I get to be in my classroom this week. My student teacher is at the college doing her teacher prep stuff so I get to play teacher for a couple of days. I tease that I don’t know if I can “work” two straight days, but I am secretly excited.

As I met the kids at the door Monday morning (first rule in first grade-you have to hug the teacher before the day begins and when it ends) I could see the look of surprise on their faces. One even had the audacity to ask “Where’s Mrs. J?” She’s gone today I tell him, I’ll tell you all about it inside.

I could see that they were a bit worried to see me at the door, instead of Mrs. J. Had they done something wrong? Was she gone for good? When would she be back?

I explained that Mrs. J. was just gone for a couple of days to do her “school work,” and then I asked how they thought it’s going with Mrs. J. “good” they all chimed. “Really?” “Great!”  “So you are doing all your work, and remembering all of our promises to each other and our classroom?” Eager nods all around. “Everyone is following procedures and being respectful, using best manners?” I watched as some nodded enthusiastically, as some began to bow their heads, and others that looked at me from the corner of their eye, or not at all.

I smiled to myself. Mrs. J and I had discussed the different behaviors that have started showing up the past few days (when the teacher’s away…). I quickly reminded them of how we work together in our class, and that Mrs. J. was there to learn from them as much as they are from her. We discussed different ways to make sure we were doing “our jobs.” I reminded that it didn’t matter if I was in the classroom or down the hall they were all independent and smart first graders (almost second graders) and I knew they know the right behaviors. I told them I knew they could be great “teachers” for Mrs. J. They of course agreed in unison and promised to be great role models. The proof they say will be in the “pudding” but I am confident they will remember our conversation.

With that taken care of, we then moved onto our work for the day. I told them that today would be “Math Monday” and everything we did was going to be about math. They were very excited. We have had “reading day” before but never a “math day.” With testing coming up I needed to get a better feel as to what we need to review.

We began with Smart-Board activities of graphing, fact practice, place value, time, money, and odd or even numbers. We then moved onto to a fact sheet of subtraction and addition (good tool for assessing their progress with facts).

After our fact page, we made “fact family flowers.” I asked each child their birthday, then used the month and year to give them the first two numbers of a fact family. I had them figure out the third by writing a missing addend problem for them to figure out. Example: my birthday is 9-25, so I would write 9+___=25. They would find the answer, we would write the members of the family in the center of the flower, and then they wrote the math facts for the “family” on each petal. (pictures to come later today). They really liked this project. Our principal came in while we were working on these and the kids had to explain all about the flowers and their birthdays, and the mess on my desk of construction paper!

After lunch is writing workshop. I told them we were even doing math for writing today! “How are we going to do that?” They cried. “I’ll show you.”

We read a book about addition as our mentor text. I then gave them each a cup full of skittles and some “book pages” (folded copy paper stapled like a book). I told them they could use the Skittles to make math facts, graphs, story problems, numbers, or whatever type of math story they wanted. They worked and colored, counted and figured. Finally they finished and got to eat their inspiration!

After gym it was time to measure. We used our inchworm rulers to “measure” the room.  They measured everything from their feet to books and desks.

Finally it was time to clean up and get ready to go home. We counted and timed as we cleaned and prepared. As we gathered on the carpet for a wrap up of the day, they were discussing the rulers, flowers, and the books they got to take home to read to their families. One little guy exclaimed “I love Math Monday!” “Yeah” many said in agreement, “Let’s have Math Monday every day!”

I laughed, well maybe not every day, but maybe every Monday! I don’t know what tomorrow will be, but I have a surprise for them. We didn’t get everything measured; I still have candy bars to find the length of!