Throwback Thursday ~ Getting to Know You Activities

We've heard Google is throwing away Google Reader as of July 1st. We don't know why.
We don't ask questions. 
We just follow along.
So, just in case you wake up on July 2nd and your world has shifted because you can no longer find us or the other fabulous blogs you follow, you can follow us over at Blog Lovin' by clicking {here}

Now, that we are all up to date on that piece of business, let's take another step back in time this week with the fabulous Cara over at The First Grade Parade for

Here's a throwback from 
September 10, 2012

Building a class community is as important, if not more so, than all the reading, writing, and 'rithmetic we can cram. If we don't get along with each other, it can make for one extremely long school year, and we're NOT about to let that happen! Seriously, if Day 7 feels long, than we are in for a lot of grape feeding and fanning heartache come Day 177. But, fortunately we're off to a fabulous start! They are motivated, and kind, and they love to talk! A lot! Like us! So, guess who's winning this battle? Need a hint? Didn't think so...

We're spending quite a bit of time getting to know each other. What makes us tick...or tock...or scream...or shout...or run...or cry...or whatever. If we can make some personal connections with our kiddos and help them do the same with their peers, than we are making progress in the universe our tiny class.

One of our favorite ways to get to know one another is through our Meet Me Mystery Bag activities. For some reason, we need to add a dramatic Dun, Dun, Dunn to the end today...just sounds more mysterious...
 These activities are both for take home and in class. We've done it on the teacher side for years, and the mom side for a few...We love it, and our kids (biological and adopted from September-June) do too!

We provide each student with a Mystery Bag to take home and fill. We use brown paper lunch bags, but any type of bag would work. BIG Rule though...All items must fit in the bag. No elephants!

Upon return, we select a few each day to share and guess. We sit in a circle, talk about the categories and use our inferring skills to make some educated guesses as to who this mystery friend might be.  Could it be a boy? Or, a girl? Someone who speaks a different language, or can do a triple twirl? Enjoys the beach? Has 80 shells? Has been on a boat? Rode a goat? Oh, oh...I don't know! The possibilities are endless!

The Masked Magician (that's us...not masked...that's weird), is the controller of all Mystery Bags when it comes to guessing time. We reveal one item at a time, help talk them through a thought process for inferring and then we make educated guesses. They get it. 

If our guesser is successful, the person stands up and we all say, "Nice to meet you." 

If we have three failed attempts from the crowd, the masked magician says in an announcerish voice, "Will the real mystery friend, please stand up?" They do and everyone giggles until the masked magician puts them under a cease spell and we start again. 

We quickly go through each item, asking a few questions, giving the friend a moment to shine and share before we get down to writing. There is always a method to our madness.

To be perfectly honest, the number of bags we get through really depends upon the class. Case in point ~ We had a "friend" who had a class who could only make it through 3 at a time. But, then this same "friend" had another class who begged for more after the 12th one and we she needed a break! 

Once we've made it through all the mystery bags, we write. 

We set the items out in the order of the writing page, touch them, hold them high in the air, wave them round and round. Whatever we need to do to make sure we're all on this planet  the same page. With younger students, we go item by item, one at a time. With older students, we talk, they write. We do not spell for them. We encourage them to try their best. We want to see how they sound words out.

We also spend time working on a directed drawing of ourselves to complete our Meet Me bulletin board in class. 

 Controlling Moment...We do the cutting around each drawing ourselves. Just gives them personality, and avoids any scissor surgery that may occur with Firstie Scissorhands maneuvering the blades. Older kids could probably do the cutting themselves.
To extend our Meet Me activities, we play Find a Friend. We make it through a row a day, and they love getting up, moving around, and above all else talking!
To help our first graders, we bring them back to their seat between boxes, to read them together. After the first few, they are old pros!

We were in love with them doing this activity the other day all alone (after a few previous sessions). We could've stepped out of the room and it was Day 4...need we say more?!? 

Until one of our "special friends" figured out they could ask the teacher. Coffee break o.v.e.r. Well, we're sure you can guess what happened next. Flood gates, mad rush, stampede the teacher!!! 

So, as far as they are concerned...We do not know how to ride bikes, have never been on an airplane, cannot tie our shoes to save our lives, and forget about blowing a bubble...Nope, our tongues are broken. We know our secrets are safe with you. Please don't tell.

This week, we're putting our Meet Me activities in the bag with our last and first activity ~ Our I'm in First Grade Now! Little Book. They'll fill in the blanks and illustrate. We'll resume our coffee break.
 Our unit on TpT includes little books for Kinder, first and second grades. 

They will be able to read them when we're done. Independently. And with each other. But, not the teacher. We can't read. Nope not our eyes. They're old. Unreadable. 
Kidding. We'll read with every last one of them. Twice probably. 
Cuz now that we know them...
we kinda love them. 
They're ours. 
For better or for worse...

Here's what's included:
So we're curious? What do you do to get to know your friends?

~Now fast forward back to PRESENT DAY ~
In preparation for what mysteries await in the coming school year after summer,
our Meet Me Mystery Bag is on sale until this Sunday.
Early bird teacher catches the worm sale!

Click the pic to see it in our TpT Shop.

Before you go,
have you entered the June Mystery Box Giveaway yet?
Hurry...It ends tonight at midnight.

Good luck!

Be sure to head back over to The First Grade Parade for more Throwbacks!

Monday Made It, Mystery Box and Moms...

Today's post is brought to you by the letter
Yes, we grew up when Sesame Street was still one of the biggest kid shows on television...

We've been stalking reading everyone's Monday Made It posts for about a year now. 
We've made a lot of things...  
Well, maybe some things.  
Typically, we are pulled away or distracted in some fashion and our Monday Made Its have gone into the Make It When You Can stack stockpile. 

BUT, not today. 
Here we are!
And, we are so excited because we love this linky and 
sweet Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics

Here we are with a completed project for home.
And, we're chalking it up to a fun family one.

Several weeks ago, Mom had an idea...
Turn this bore of a door in our kitchen into a fun family chalking station.
Let's just say, we're not in love with painting anything larger than a coloring book and our heart skips a beat when we do not have numbers to paint by, but we can do it. For our kids...
Plus, this one was a lot easier than Christy's daughter's bedroom from a few months ago.  
She's still picking paint from her nails...

For this project, we grabbed
  Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Paint
Paint Primer ~ We used Kilz2 because we had it, but use what works best for your painting surface
Paint Roller
Super High End Paint Tray in the form of a Dixie paper plate 
(Just keeping it real. We are not painters, we warned you.)
We taped off all the edges where we would color outside of the lines. :) 
The existing paint on our kitchen door seemed oil based, so we applied a few good coats of primer to start. We had a little helper who joined in.  Once the primer was dry, we started with the chalkboard paint.
 "David Beckham" stopped by to check the progress. :)
About 4-5 coats later, we have a chalkboard door!
Amazing how a little chalkboard paint can change the whole look of this drab corner. 

 Of course the kids love it for drawing, writing and playing
 But we're not going to lie...
 When we said, "Mom had an idea" it was not 
purely innocent.
Amazing how a little piece of chalk can change the whole look of this job we call parenting. :)
Just 4 words parents...
Worked Like A Charm. 
And, you don't need a chalkboard door to do it, but it makes it fun. Kids love checklists!
We followed up with,
Wonderful Wednesday
Think About It Thursday
Fun Friday
Sizzling Saturday
Special Sunday
Magnificent Monday

AND, let us tell you...
The homework was done with no arguments,
Our kids are reading willingly,
Our Earth is being taken care of
Our laundry baskets are empty.
As of this moment. We all know how this hamper thing goes.
They giggled at the "Management" piece, but it got our point across.
They drooled over the prospect of iPad Time, and we relished in the NO COMPLAINING. 

Just yesterday, we thought we'd kick our summer off with a little reflection wall. Just moments after scribbling Summer Is... on the door, the sounds of chalk tapping in feverish response could be heard from the depths of the laundry room... 
What was found was NOT the intention of our Reflection Wall, but the husband took right to it.
Very funny. Very funny.  

Clearly, he missed the memo on 
"Things You Should Not Say to a Teacher Wife 
at the Beginning of Summer".
It was a fun family project that we will enjoy for years to come...
Or, until it needs a repaint. :)

By the way...
Have you entered the June Mystery Box Giveaway yet?
You don't want to miss it!
Click {here} to enter quick.
Winner will be announced later this week.
Our blog has been nominated for Top 25 Teacher Mom Blogs again this year. 
Woot! Woot!
We ended up in 6th Place last year, and would love a little help to make the list again this year.
Click the Circle of Moms button above to vote once a day until July 9th.
Thanks for your help!

Be sure to head back over to 4th Grade Frolics to check out more Monday Made It  posts.

Throwback Thursday

We're linking up with Cara over at The First Grade Parade today to bring you Throwback Thursday!
We love linkys that require us to copy, paste, and publish so we can continue throwing back a little summer ourselves.
Not to rub it in if you are still burning the midnight classroom oil.
Look at it like we do...
If you are still in school you don't have to clean your house!
That's what we've been doing.  
Unhoarding ourselves.

For some reason when you sit around all day in your pajamas, the mess starts to bother you a ridiculous amount little. 
So, while we're digging through cupboards and smuggling old toys from our childrens' bedrooms for fear they will want to keep them, here's a little Throwback Thursday post for you...

**************************originally posted June 11, 2012*************************

We wait ALL year for this night!
We can't believe it's finally here! 
We're excited. 
We're nervous. 
We're exhausted. 
We're anxious.
But most of all...
We are so very, very grateful to have a Date!

We've got our new dresses. 
Our badly neglected toes get a much needed pedicure pick me up for the BIG night. 
We're primped and ready.
Still a little nervous.
Definitely still exhausted...

Our limo arrives...
 {Weird.  It's disguised as a minivan.} 
We grab a quick bite at our favorite tradition, The Cheesecake Factory.
Same order for the past 10 years ~ BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad to share, no cilantro, dressing on the side.

We chat, laugh and enjoy a hurried meal,  before heading off to the BIG event. 
What event you ask?
Well, Prom of course!!
We mean...
Prom for Teachers
AKA~ Open House

We prepare for weeks upon weeks to open our classroom doors for just one short, blissful hour.
 The kids are bouncing off the walls with excitement to "tour" their families around the class.

Here's some highlights from our evening ~ 
Don't worry, our Date was G Rated :-)

We would be lying if we told you it was this spic and span every day.  
 This is truly, as good as it gets folks!  
We have become the Ultimate Shovers!  
 Just don't open a single cupboard or door. 
 Our class has been engulfed in Habitats and Africa for the past many weeks.  
    This board has been a labor of love for many years.  Once we wrapped our heads around what it was we wanted to do, we pillaged all the supplies we could, begged, borrowed, and bought the rest and Viola! Our Habitats of the World Bulletin Board~We save all the pieces from year to year, so it goes up quick nowadays! We brainstorm facts from each habitat and have our friends create "Flip Facts" to post up on the board. 
 On the shelf below, we display their "Habitats Around the World" books which are a collaboration of writing and art from each of the habitats we've studied.
We cover each table with a festive piece of fabric ~ Some old school sarongs from back in our "Spring Break Days", but we promised a G Rated date :) 

Each table has a silk tree in the middle to add some height and keep with the habitat hoopla.

On their desks, are their Art Portfolios, African Swahali Counting Books, Rain Sicks, Animal Reports and Dioramas. 

A few fab dioramas.  They really got into it! 

 Apparently, the jackrabbits' fur was obtained from the family cat.  
{Not too sure how much the cat enjoyed it, but we sure do!}  

Then and Now Writing
At the beginning of each year, we have our friends write a "Then Letter" to us describing what they want to learn in first grade.   Come May, just in time for Open House, they write a "Now Letter" explaining what they have learned this year. We adore seeing the growth from beginning to end and it becomes a crowded corner during the evening. The kids are beaming from ear to ear about their wonderful writing. We spend time after all have left to really read and enjoy these lil' of our favorites.

"Pocketful of Memories" 

We created this activity as a way to keep them darn busy while we assessed for report cards fondly write about our favorite first grade memories. 

We created the pocket whole class and one pencil project and writing.  Then, we set all the supplies out on the tables on several occasions, and let them go to town~The beauty of the end of first grade! I.n.d.e.p.e.n.d.e.n.c.e.

We created 6 different writing prompts that our friends could write and draw about. Here's one...

For the front of each writing piece, they cut and glue pieces to create pencils, complete with the year 2012, which some opted to color for pizazz. 

 What we love the most?  This activity is like the Energizer just keeps going and going.  Long after Open House, our friends are now competing for how many pencils one pocket can hold!  
Who are we to stop them from writing?!?

Update ~ 
This product was updated for 2013 and redesigned for K-5, with multiple writing templates and options.We added our K-2 K-5 Pocketful of Memories End of the Year Craftivity to our TpT Store if you're looking for something to keep those little minds busy as you wrap up the year!

Speaking of wrapping up...yikes, our curfew calls!  Thanks for hanging in for ALL the details of our BIG night! 

It's just like Cinderella because when the clock strikes 8:25am tomorrow, it will all begin to disappear. The Prom will be over.  The dance floor will be empty. The carriages will ride off into the sunset and we will be left, just the two of us, to sweep the glitter off the floor. Again. And, we will smile the whole time because...

The countdown is on! 
We see the light! 
The end is near!!
We had a fantastic Date!

5 for...What Day Is It?!?

We know we're in June...the sixth month of the year...

 We're pretty sure we're well within the 5 for Friday "Slacker Grace Period", so we're linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching once again.

 Things were moving along at warp speed for us, and then just like  getting clotheslined in a vicious game of Red Rover, it was 
School's GONE
Summer's ON!!
We got these as an end of year gift. Best gift ever! 
They're from Pier 1 Imports. Run...

A lot of people have asked what we're most looking forward to about summer?
Ummm...Everything that has nothing to do with school?
No, seriously...
Do you really want to know?
The thing we are most looking forward to about summer is...
NOT packing school lunches

To end our school year, we decided to go with the theme of 
"Being Tired" for the last full week of school. 
It seemed most fitting.
So, we had Sleepover Week!
This is one of the kiddos' favorite weeks of school...Probably because they get to wear pajamas and lay around on the floor all week they get to hammer in all those first grade skills for one last week of hard, hard work.  
They each brought a bedtime buddy to school on Monday who slept over for the entire week at school.
We cautioned them not to bring someone they would miss at home come bedtime. We are willing to do a lot of things for our class, but meeting parents at school around bedtime to gather their beloved snuggle buddies is not one of them. 
On Tuesday, they brought their favorite bedtime book and a snack that a bear would eat. This kept things pretty healthy. Bears don't eat donuts. Or, brownies. Or, cupcakes. Well, unless they raid your picnic, camper or local trash can, but our bears would never cause that type of mischief. So, we ended up with snacks like raspberries, blueberries, teddy grahams, and goldfish crackers. They enjoyed their stories, snacks and snuggle buddies.
 Wednesday was Teddy Bear Picnic Day. They brought their picnic baskets and blankets and we lunched and lounged in the grass together. A few of our girls took to the concept immediately and chose to use the cucumbers from their lunch for relaxation purposes. 
Thursday was PJ Day! They were allowed to wear their pajamas to school (no slippers) and bring a blanket or beach towel and pillow. We learned on the floor that day. Crazy fun for them and it is absolutely amazing how well they work with the threat possibility of being sent back to their seats if they cannot handle the floor. Amazing... 
We also had our school wide Reading Celebration that day in our Multipurpose Room. Each year, those kids who have met our reading goal for the school year are invited to a special movie. 
All sleepovers have a movie, right?  
After the class had their sleepover and all had left for the day, their buddies went crazy at their own sleepover! 
So much for that "our bears won't cause mischief theory"...
Our class was greeted to a stern warning in the form of a poorly printed red sign on our classroom door which read, 
"Beware of Bears and other Bedtime Buddies!" 
There were construction paper paw prints on the door too.

When they entered, they were shocked to find their buddies had their own sleepover during the night! They giggled and giggled to find what their buddies had been up to. Some were reading. Others were taking a dive in our sticker tub. Once they gathered and cleaned up after their buddies (no maid service in our class), they wrote about it...Of course. :)

It was a fun, exhausting week.
And, just as suspected we were tired...
And, still are...
Father's Day was our last gift making session for first grade. 
We just cannot send them into summer without recognizing good old Dad. 
This year, we made key chains out of Shrinky Dinks.
Super easy! 
You can cut any shape out of the Shrinky Dink film, but we used our Sizzix machine to cut a scallop shaped tag for each student. 

We used the rough style of Shrinky Dinks, so the kids used colored pencils to draw and write on them. If you use the slick style, they can use permanent markers, such as Sharpies. 

We followed the package directions and baked them at 325 degrees.
They curl up mid cooking and give you a mini teacher heart attack  because you have NO time to redo these gifts if those curls don't settle down, 
but then they must sense your anxiety because they flatten back out and life is once again restored.
We grabbed a package of rings and clips from the craft store and attached the finished projects.

They decorated their own gift bags too by drawing a picture of Dad and themselves, and gluing it to a colored construction paper background. They glued it to the front of a good old brown lunch bag and attached a handle to it with 2 pieces of construction paper, one thinner than the other and glued down the middle. 

We gave them all the lunch bags we didn't need anymore because did we happen to mention we don't have to pack any school lunches for 104 days of summer? 
We're kind of excited about it...
We are official Middle School Moms... 
All of our boys graduated from 5th Grade this past week. 

In an effort to relax and get into the full swing of summer, the two of us handle things just a little differently.

Here's how Christy relaxes...
She heads to the Lake.

And, here's how Tammy relaxes...
She got a puppy.
Meet Jack...
Her new summer "job". 
He's crate training and learning that 4:15am is not an appropriate time to wake up for the day...especially in the summer.
So much for relaxing...But, he's worth it.

Be sure to head over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to read more fabulous 5 for Fridays...or whatever day it is... 

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