Friday, October 11, 2013

The Epic Battle.....

Freebie Fridays

Teaching reading skills vs. teaching to a test.  Now that I'm teaching on a testing grade; this is a constant struggle for me.  In the wake of our first eye-opening benchmark test, I've realized (as much as I hate it) we're going to have to do some test prep!  So, I'm working with my amazing team to dissect our state madated standardized test, and come up with some STAAR-esque questions to go along with our authentic literature.  My kids love read alouds, and I refuse to deprive them of that--in lieu of workbooks with passages.  Those workbooks will have their place in our room; they are great practice BUT our kids also need to hear real stories, and be able to apply the skills and strategies we teach them to actual books!  *step off soap box*

What we've come up with are the same type 3-4 questions  for 4-5 different stories each week.  Each question will be aligned with one of our state standards, and is modeled after the same verbage used on our STAAR test.  We want our kids to get used to the confusing ways these questions are they will be able to show what they know!  We will rotate books and questions each day, and by the end of the week our kids should be familiar with the questions, and the best strategies to use in order to answer them.  
Click the pic for a free download of our first round of questions for the Uglified Duck by Willy Claflin. 

What about y'all?  What do you use to help your kids get ready for their "big test?" the pic to download the free questions to go along with the Uglified Duck by Willy Claflin

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I'm baaaaaaaackkkkk!

Ho. Lee. Moley!  It's been awhile!  I've had so much going on in my life the past few months.  From the loss of a dear friend and parent, to changing positions at's been a bumpy ride!
Where to start?  I guess with the most painful news.  I lost my father suddenly back at the end of the summer.  He was my rock, one of the few people in my life I knew I could always count on.  His passing came without warning, and it's been a rough few months for my family.  We're coping and doing the best we can.  We live with his memory in our hearts, and knowing he will forever be my Big Joe.  I <3 u.
And then there's this whole fifth grade thing.  I moved to a self-contained fifth grade classroom this year.  On top of being the instructional technologist, I can plate is full!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE fifth grade, and can't wait to share all the fun new ideas I've got going!  I've been really into QR codes this first part of the year.  Here's some long division practice I put together for a can click on the picture to learn more.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Valentines Idea!

I'm going to share what I did for my kids this year for Valentines.  Hold onto your DOESN'T involve candy! *gasp*

    I found an app called Mustache Me.

It's free, and you can find it in the App Store.  All you do is take a pic, and then you can add any of hundreds of mustaches, hats, glasses or props to your pics.  It also allows you to play with the colors--I did mine in black & white, to get that "hipster Instagram" look.  Lastly, you can email, tweet, Facebook, etc your creation to print them out.  That was step one.

     Step two involved Pinterest!  I found this cute Pre made care template that I decided to use.

 I just printed it on card stock, cut out the middles, and taped my kiddos pics in them.  They turned out soooo cute!  It was super easy & the kids loved them!  If you're looking for a gift that's not sugar-fueled, try a mustache.  Cause really......who doesn't love a nice stache?!
Mr. Whoopsie wants to be your valentine......

Extreeeeme! XC Beta

(Insert best wrestling announcer voice). Extreme....collaboration!  It's extreme, it's collaborative....does life get much better than that?!
     The goal of the Smart Technology Classroom project I'm a part of is simple: create a collaborative learning environment.  I am constantly searching for new ways to use the technologies so generously given to me to give my students a richer learning environment.  Guess what?  I found a new toy software.  I'm going to take a few minutes to share this easy and versatile software for anyone interested.  I will have pics next week, unfortunately when we were were working with it...I gave the kids my iPad and iPhone so we'd have devices in more hands.

  XC, or extreme collaboration is available as a beta version for free on the smart exchange.  (If you've never been to the smart exchange, check it out.  its a site that has hundreds of teacher made SB activities, free and ready to download!). Down load the file, and crank er's super easy to use!  You do have to create a free account to use it, but it takes a couple of seconds & you're done!  Ten, just start thinking as to how you could utilize it. It's similar to  I'm a fan of pollev, but the kids have to type in the address, and I always end up having to help them log's usually a little bit of a hassle to use.  To log in with XC,the kids use (my favorite) QR CODES!  Easy Peasy!  Once they've scanned the code, it takes them to your virtual room.  Then, they are able to type answers in their device (iPods, iPads, iPhones) and those answers are displayed together on your Smartboard!  Fantastical you say?  Pollev, can do that too. bUT with XC, you can move the answers around, have the students sort them, and manipulate them!

We even did a simple research piece with it.  My question was "type the name of any presidents you know."  Of course, we got Washington, Lincoln, Obama, and a few even knew GW Bush.  Ten they were stuck.  So, on the surrounding boards, we brought up, and they had a slides how of all the presidents the kids could scroll through and get new names from!  Simple, easy to use, first grade appropriate research!  The kids loved it!  Please please please, if you have a Smartboard in your room, and any sort of smart device....try this software out, it's really versatile and easy.

      Pics will be up next week...we're using it again for a study on the bossy r!  Happy Sunday:)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

FREE phonics app!

First of all,  if you haven't liked Smart Apps for Kids on Facebook, do it now!  They search iTunes for the best and newest apps in education, and post about them weekly.  The best part, is that they offer a free app of the week!  Yes, free!  

I just picked up Phonics Genius, and it is great!  It's like personalized flash cards for each setof phonics you can think of.  Last week, we were working on vowel pairs, specifically "ee."  Guess what?  They have an entire set of ee flash cards, on top of a hundred more sets!  The phonemes are colored red to highlight it for the user, and the rest of the letters are black.  The app reads the word, and you swipe to go to the next word.  Great practice for some of my guys who are struggling with picking up different blends, digraphs, etc.  It should be still free until tonight.....go get it.  

Theres also a feature that you can record them saying the word to diagnose and document any articulation issues.  If you miss the freebie, I would say its totally worth the cost if you have to pay.  

H-app-y Sunday!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Online Collaborative Projects

Happy 3 day weekend to everyone!  I wanted to share a collaborative project that my class is participating in.  It's through an amazing online resource called
She has created an online database of projects that your kiddos can be involved in.  They are all different.....from sending in a picture of your favorite pair of shoes, to having a penpal from across the world.  I think that's my favorite part.....some are super simple & some projects are more involved.  I know what you're saying, "this is great in theory, but I don't have any time for things that arent tested on (insert state standardized test!)". Well.....
They don't have to take any valuable class time, per se.  The project I'm participating in is, "what's the weather like at your school today?"  I have a weather watcher of the day.  I keep track of it with a class list & a clothespin that moves down the list.  When that student comes in, they grab an iPad, take a friend to go outside & snap a quick pic of the sky outside, and come back in to use the kid journal app to complete their entry.  All during our morning announcements/ unpacking/ breakfast time.  No extra class time needed!  
    App shout out:  I love this app:  kids journal.  It does cost $1.99, but IMO its totally worth it.  
Simple kid-friendly interface.  They can very easily add a picture to their entry by clicking PICTURES not words.  This app is even successful for my non-readers!  For this project, my weather watcher uses the FREE weather bug app to find out the high & low for the day, and to check on whether it will be sunny, cloudy, etc.  
Then they open the kid journal app to take a picture.  Next, they sit down and journal about the weather.  My advanced students are writing independently, but I also offer a sentence frame for my less confident writers.  They are required to tell the high & low temperatures for the day.  Also what the sky will look like: rainy, cloudy, sunny, snowing (yeah, right!). Last, they have to add one more sentence of their choice--usually about what they would wear for the weather.  That's it....the whole process Thames about 10 minutes of morning time, and the kids are so excited about it!  
We are also going to get to Skype with another classroom to compare their weather with ours!  
What about y'all?  What sorts of projects are your kid-doodles working on?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Smart Collaborative Classroom

So, I've been an absent blogger lately, forgive me :(

School, life, and this labor of love I can finally share with you all has been a bit overwhelming these past few months.  Awhile back, I was approached to write a proposal to be one of about 20 classrooms across the nation to be a Smart Technology Collaborative Classroom.  First of all, I was amazed to even be asked to write a proposal.  Then, when I found out I was chosen.....mind = blown.  I kept it a secret because it was a huge surprise for my kiddos.  What is it you ask?  My classroom is going to be a model of how using technology collaboratively can boost student achievement.  My proposal included all of the awesomeness that Smart offers....3D document cameras, surround sound (its like a movie theater in my room,). Smart response clickers,, voice amplification system (like i need help in that dept,) a small group set of smart slates, Smart Tables, and of course the 4 new wide screen dual touch Smart boards.  im in full out Techie heaven right now
We were moved to a portable building for 2 days to allow for the install, and then came the magical reveal!  They walked into the classroom this morning & their jaws just about dropped!  It was like Christmas all over again, the air was filled with excitement!
Here are a few pics from my new improved classroom.  Please excuse the baroness of the walls....I literally had to remove everything from the walls & then put it back up in a matter of hours to be ready for us to move back into our classroom. 

So this is my latest project.  Be looking for lots and LOTS of technology integration ideas in the coming months.  Happy almost Friday!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Texas First Grade Teachers Conference!

What have I been up to these past few days...err....months?
Well, I'm busy with a surprise that I'm SO excited to share, BUT not just quite yet.  It's been a labor of love for the past few months, and it's being put into place this week, squeeeee!  I'll share on Friday....stay tuned!
Just as exciting, I'm in Austin for a first grade teachers conference since Sunday.  I love conferences!  Although its been difficult to be away from my kiddos, I come back energized with TONS of ideas.  I'll share a few when I get back home.  Anyone else out there at the conference???