Monday, February 23, 2015

This, That, and a $20 TpT Giftcard Giveaway!'s been over a month since my last post and I've got some guilt about that....because I appreciate you all so very much!

I have boat loads of post ideas in my mind and "on deck" for this little bloggy blog. Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, Differentiation, Personalized Learning...


I hope.

I reallllly hope.

But I have to be a mom, wife, teacher and friend first (love making memories with my peeps)....and deal with laundry, grocery shopping and other "life factory" stuff in between.

And even a little bit of flying out to Pasadena to present at the SCKC conference!! I've been tweaking my presentation and am getting super excited to get out of the WI cold and get warmed up for a few days!

My presentation is about Digging Deeper into Shared Reading...maximizing Shared Reading throughout the year with your first graders. 

I'll also be presenting in Vegas this coming July at I Teach 1st!! Eeek! #commenceheartattack

For your bloggy patience and understanding, I'd love to share a little love...TpT love, that is.

Growing Firsties
Winner of the Gift Card: Brandi from Success in Second Grade!!!!!!!!
TpT will be having a sale and I'll be throwing my store on sale for two days this week! Weds 2/25 & Thurs 2/26.

There are so many incredible sellers and for any time you've spent in my store or on my blog, I am grateful!

In case you're planning to visit my store, here are two new products I've added recently...they're the first packs in a new ELA and Math series of Differentiated Practice.

first grade place value practice

l blends r blends first grade practice

Here are a few explanation slides from the packs...
Growing Firsties
 l blends r blends Growing Firsties


When I shop a TpT sale, I go for the bundles from my favorite sellers! If you've had your eye on any of my bundles, they'll be 20% off PLUS 10% more when you use the code HEROES...that's 28% off!

Here are some of my bundles...
Growing Firsties Common Core Reading Workshop
Growing Firsties Writing Workshop Genre Studies

LOVE me a sale and I hope you win this gift card!!

I'll be giving Winner's Choice to a blog commenter! Please leave a comment telling me where you're from and a favorite book. I'll choose a comment to win $10 to my store.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 19, 2015

Working With Writers Who Struggle to Complete Their Writing

I'm a systems girl.

When I don't have a system for something, I muddle around and around and around.

And feel ineffective.

Drives me nuts.

So, I try to develop systems for the "big" parts of my teaching.

Writing Workshop is one of them.

A little background first...our district follows both the reading and writing curricular calendars from Lucy Calkin's Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. We are a "Workshop" district for both Reading and Writing, which I love!

Today I want to share with you a system for keeping track of which writers are writing and which ones need support. It keeps me on track for who I need to be nudging for productivity by checking in on his/her ideas and writing plan.

It also helps me plan mid-workshop interruptions, loud compliments, student goals and mini-lessons.

I'm a bit of an "out of sight, out of mind" kind of girl. Some might call it "visually organized."

That hasn't worked in my favor when I've implemented routines and procedures that have students put their finished work in their writing folders. Some years I tried collecting the folders. #couldntstandthemess

So, I started using this system the last two years, and this year have used it consistently with my class and it's worked well!

Here goes...

After determining the amount of student writing time for the week-ish, I set a target for how many completed pieces writers should be able to finish in that amount of time.

Students hand completed pieces in at the end of the writing workshop time each day as they complete it; I have them hand it in at the end so that they have their work right with them for partner or group sharing time (which we have nearly every single day).

I keep a skinny little class list and a big ol' binder clip handy. When the child hands it in, they set it on top of the "done pile." At the end of the day or of writing workshop (or the next morning...or...or...or) I read their piece and jot instructional notes. If it fits what done is supposed to look like, then I mark a tally mark next to their name and clip it in to the pile.

Currently, done is supposed to include completed editing circles on each page...I love having writers build the habit of revision and editing early on!! The editing circles are RIGHT.THERE. and really seem to help.

Once a writer gets to three tally marks, they are able to choose the genre they'd like to write.

For the sake of ease for grading and conferring, I clip the students work in their classroom number order. As the pile grows larger, it takes a titch longer, but there are generally only 4-8 done pieces each day so it's manageable.

My instructional notes could be about individual nudging for students, whole class mini-lesson opportunities, writer "shout outs," mid-workshop interruptions and also strategy group work I could be conducting soon.

For the particular pile in the picture above, we've been working with informational writing and based on the amount of writing time we had for a certain period, I determined that they should have three pieces completed. Once completed, they could choose to write personal narratives, work in their writer's notebook or do more informational writing. Soon, we'll begin opinion writing and that will be a hoot!

One glance at the tallies helps me know quickly who is struggling to complete their work during the work time (or who might be spending so much time on their illustrations). This helps me know which students to confer with about their ideas and plans for writing. I can also see who, after a nice string of work time over a few days who I might have a strategy group with to discuss how I can help support them to finish their work by using their work time well.

Things happen, though, and I am flexible. A systems girl with choice and flexibility within the system. #otherwiseigocrazytown

What are you wondering about? What have you tried in your writing classroom?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

$25 (x 2!!) TpT Gift Card Giveaway

Hoping you found loads of great ideas during yesterday's Bright Ideas Link Up! My post was about a fabulous and free site where you can create and publish books...I'm excited to use it with my class!

Today, I'm teaming up with Megan Wheeler from Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade for a giveaway!

Lovvvve me some TpT and my wish list is FILLED right now. $25 would come in super handy!!

If you happen to head over to my TpT store, you might be interested in some of these any pic to get to it.



Leave a comment below sharing something you do to help yourself beat the winter blues and a random commenter will be selected to win $10 to my store. Head over to Megan's blog and enter for $10 to her store, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Free Site for Creating & Publishing Stories

So, I had a plan for this month's Bright Ideas. A product-free, no affiliate links, blog link up where contributors share tips that are helpful for teachers.

Without going into too terribly much detail, let's just say I had a COMPLETELY different post be-bopping around in my head. Took photos to post.

And then...Life Happens. (Camera's with needed pics are left at school. Why didn't I use my phone? Gah.)

Plans change.

Enter my colleagues, Angela and Kate. They are fifth grade teacher bloggers with expertise and experience in personalized learning. They blog over at The T.E.A.M. Togetherness and have loads of great ideas!

Angela shared one with me today.

And now it's my Bright Idea tip for this month. Whew!

Her wonderful student teacher (more an intern) found this amazing and FREEEEEE site called Story Jumper where you can make your own storybooks and publish them online for free and also in paperback ($12.95) or hard cover ($24.95) REAL BOOKS.

You don't HAVE to publish can share them online for free.

Talk about motivating!!!! It looks like you can use them as a fundraiser for your school, too. #nomoreexpensivegiftwrap

Authors create the graphics using the tools on the site or pictures can be uploaded and used as the illustrations.

There are many examples on the site to read and a great tutorial about how it works.

My mind is spinning with how I can make it work with my first graders, since they don't keyboard....but I'm motivated for sure!!! I'm kind of thinking I'd get parents involved with typing and taking/uploading pictures of books their children have written in class.

Yet, creating right on the site seems so fun, too!!

Would LOVE to hear if you've used the site!!!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following me on Facebook, Teachers pay Teachers, and/or Pinterest! There are LOTS of other Bright Ideas for you to read about from bloggers...make sure to check them out below!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

LASIK Adventure & TpT Sale


(I hope those extra i's and !'s come across as me saying an enthusiastic, I missed you, kind of hi and not a shouting at you obnoxious hi! 'Cuz I really do think about you as real people, even though we haven't met in person!)

Here's a whirlwind tour of my last week....

Me....wearing glasses during the day and on an actual holiday (Christmas Eve) for the first time since FIFTH GRADE....

I needed to wear them for about a month before....
Heading in for my LASIK appointment Monday afternoon!!! EEEEEEE!!! The time had come to deal with my -8.00 vision....messing around with glasses and contacts for over 30 years was getting OLLLLD. So was not being able to see the alarm clock above me on my head board. So many layers to the annoyance of dealing with contacts, solutions, glasses...I was o.v.e.r.i.t.

So over Thanksgiving break I made the appointment to see if I was even a candidate (don't you always schedule ALL your appointments over breaks and then run from appt to appt? Oy.)...and I was - SOOO happy...cuz my eyes were so bad I was worried I wouldn't be.

Turns out they go to -10.00 and up to +2.00 for LASIK nowadays, in case you're wondering. (I guess far-sightedness is a different process and they have good results at smaller correction numbers.)

To say I was fuh-reaking out inside would be an understatement. As the day and time got closer and closer I was getting more and more nervous. Terrified, even. Once I arrived for the appt, I can't even quite describe the was like my heart was in my throat. Super emotional.

The Valium helped with that.

A lot.

The actual process of being under the lasers was actually quite cool!! Very techno and space-alien like at such close range. The staff was incredible and explained everything step by step beforehand and during. I couldn't have asked for a more positive experience, truly! And that's not the Valium talking!! They truly had anticipated and prepared me for everything. Chart for taking drops...carrying case for the sunglasses...sleeping pills and pain pill in an envelope labeled nice and large...really, they did EVERYTHING so professionally!!!

I could tell immediately, even though I had extra fluid under my "flap" that my vision was already greatly improved! So exciting!

Here's me...when I'd...
Do ya love my glasses?? I think I forgot to smile because I'm pretty inept at selfies. :-)

My family drove me home, I took my sleeping pill when I was 10 mn out and slept the rest of the day and through the night. No pain pill needed.

Yesterday was Day 1 Post-Op...I was still fuzzy and my left eye wasn't seeing as clearly as my right eye so it was kind of weird...I often covered my left eye to see what I needed to more clearly. At the post-op appt, the doctor shared that it is likely due to inflammation and time will improve it. And that I need to stay on schedule with the various drops.

After the post-op I took my family to breakfast and then we went ottoman shopping...Clearly, that was my kids favorite part of the day. Ha!!

Today is day 2 post-LASIK and my eyes are better than yesterday! I can't shake the feeling that I'm wearing contacts and need to remove's such an amazing and new feeling to NOT be using something to correct my vision!!

I owe a huge thanks to Teachers pay Teachers - TpT, along with a silly mistake I made putting money into Limited FSA instead of my HSA, is how I've paid for my Lasik. I couldn't be more grateful to TpT for the friendships I've made, the confidence I've gained, the time I've saved using the purchases I've made, and, yes, the extra pocket-book padding. TpT leadership is incredibly supportive and positive - SUCH "good people" and I'm so grateful every day!!!

With that said, and speaking of friends, my peeps and I from the Primary Chalkboard are throwing a sale today and tomorrow!

You can stock up on some of these items from my store (individually or in bundles) and check out everyone else's sales, too!

You can link up with the Chalkies if you're throwing a sale, too!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Day 7 Giveaway - Amazon $30!!!

Don't you just love Zippy over at Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah Designs? She has put together 12 Days of Giveaways with 40 fab bloggers!!!

Today, the giveaway is for a $30 gift card to Amazon & $5 store credit in each of our stores:

1. Good-Enough-Teacher -
2. Growing Firsties Lisa Mattes -…/Growing-Firsties-Lisa-…
3. Deedee Wills Kinder -
4. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs -…/Zip-a-dee-doo-dah-Desi…

Click the image below to enter on the Rafflecopter!

Make sure to stop over at Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah on facebook each day to enter to win, win, WIN!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sight Word Spelling Practice

Hello Hello HELLO!!!!

I have MISSED you!



I have been swallowed up into home life and school life and blogging life has taken a big ol' back seat.

But I still have five gobzillion blog post ideas swirling in my head!

Just need more time in a day.

Or, to give up sleep.

But, I like sleeping WAAAAAAY too much to give that up.

I gave up cleaning long ago, so giving that up won't buy me more time.


Anywhoooo - I wanted to post today about Sight Word Spelling...I've chosen to work harder with my firsties on spelling their sight words than reading them, as past experience has made me feel I get more bang for my buck when going that route.

Our district has a variety of high frequency word lists, containing 25 sight words each. In early October I conducted spelling inventory tests, starting with List A. For students who spelled most of those words correctly (18/20+ out of 25, depending on the child and the misspellings), I inventoried them on List B. And so on and so forth, all the way to List D, as that's where my kiddos maxed out.

So each child has been placed in the list that has a mix of words they know, as well as words they need to learn. There are four groups - a group working on List A, a group in List B, one in C, another in D.

I divided the lists up into five groups of five words each and each week and labeled each grouping with a fancy name...Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 and Week 5.

You're loving my ingenuity with creating names, I can feel it.

For at home practice, students have this Tic Tac Toe page - I copied it on blue paper and asked them not to write on it...that they should try to make three in a row each time they practice, but that they should save the sheet to use week after week. I also uploaded the page as a file to my class' secret facebook group so parents can easily print another one if needed.

So I'm working through a series of 5 week cycles. All students in all lists have practiced and been quizzed on their lists through Week 4. Next week is our Week 5 quiz and after that I'll reinventory...since it's a short Thanksgiving week.

Here's the form I'll use on the upcoming inventory:

Based on how they do on the inventory test of their list, I'll move them ahead to Week 1 of the next list or I'll keep them in their same list and have them start at Week 1 again.

Hoping that makes sense!

After each weekly quiz, the students get their new list on the form below. I have the words listed on the far left. They re-write the words two more times so that the three lists look the same. Then after I do a quick double check that they spelled the words correctly going across, they cut off the school list and keep it in their School Folder.

For practice at home, they take home the Home and Car lists. I have them keep the two together and cut them apart at home, as I don't want the lists to be too skinny and get misplaced.

The weekly quizzes are done using this page, cut into thirds...

You can download all these pages by clicking the image below...

For practice at school, we spend a few minutes a day practicing in a variety of ways...

Roll A Word (which is a freebie from {THIS POST HERE})

Buddy Quiz - where kids partner up with someone assigned to the same list and take turns quizzing one another.

The class knows the Tic Tac Toe options well and enjoy practicing those ways, too.

In addition, I rely on my amazing bloggy pals! Here are some great products that we use consistently...

Christina DeCarbo's Word Work Wheels are a big hit! Kids use a paper clip and a pencil to spin and practice their words. I printed out two to a page folded them in half and laminated them. My students store them in their "School" folders. You can check them out in Christina's {BLOG POST HERE}!

Jessica Tobin has some great Interactive Notebook packs for Dolch Words! You can check them out in her {BLOG POST HERE}!

How do you organize/practice Sight Word Spelling in your classroom?