Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas for the Classroom ~ Get Your Class Newsletter Read at Home!

You've probably walked down this road school hall before...
You write a class newsletter...
To thoroughly communicate with parents.
You spend hours recapping all of your class events, providing important announcements and keeping all our students' families in the loop.
Then you send it home...
And hope...And possibly pray...
That families will actually READ IT!
But, they don't... 
Instead they show up at your class door and ask you questions to which you really wish you could respond with a polite, 
"Didn't you read our class newsletter?" 
But, you don't say that...Because you kind of can't...
Sound familiar?
We felt exactly the same way until we had a Bright Idea!
Like you, we spend a lot of time each week (usually after school hours), keeping our families in the loop. Our class newsletter is our "lifeline to class" and the way we see it, if we take the time to write it, it's extremely important for parents to read! So, we make a little game out of it. Somewhere "hiding" in our class newsletters, is a secret message. Sometimes they are silly...
Sometimes they are sneaky and reinforce our learning... 
But, bottom line...
They always get the message across that we need parents reading our class news. And, with our secret messages, they do. Why? Because we offer the kids a special treat (AKA sticker) if they bring their secret word back to class anytime during the week. And they do...If not the first day, they see their friends celebrating with stickers and want in on the action, so by Day 2 or 3 the secret messages are flying back into class. Shhh...

And, here's a super duper secret...We teachers actually keep track. Yep, we are those teachers. We mark every single secret message off on our class checklist so we know who's in the know and who's not. Then, parent conference time comes along when we really wish you could do respond with a polite, "Didn't you read our class newsletter?" Best teacher secret ever! Shhh...
For more bright ideas, please browse through the links below!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Student Dictionaries ~ Phonics Printables

We hit the classroom floor running at the beginning of the school year to help our students master their letter sounds. One of our favorite year long activities (No, that's not a typo...This lasts pretty much the entire school year for our class) for practicing our phonics skills is My Letter Sound Dictionary. We recently pulled it out to prep for the coming school year and noticed it needed a major metamorphosis. We are so excited about what emerged!

This unit got a major overhaul. The biggest change is that we've added mini word walls WITH pictures for all of the consonants and vowels. We love them! 
Our first grade friend Stephanie over at Falling into First has a great tutorial on how to DIY this little anchor chart stand that we made to hold all of the mini word walls in one place. So, the kids will just flip to the one they need and get to work independently. We love the "I" word! 
We make each of our students their own Letter Sound Dictionary and bind the pages together, but we have also had years where book binding combs are not in our budget, and a good old fashioned stapler (heavy duty) works just fine.
At the beginning of the school year, this is a whole group activity so we can teach procedure and expectations. But, as soon as they've got the hang of it, we incorporate this activity into our daily Workshop (centers) time. They use the Letter Sound Dictionary directions card to follow directions independently. 
Our beginning readers need a lot of picture support, so the mini word walls are perfect for them. They choose 5 words to read, draw and write in their own student dictionaries.
For our fluent readers, we give them word rings...Same words as the mini word walls, but without picture support. Differentiation is a must in our classroom, and between the mini word walls and the word rings, we've got all our learners covered. We make 4 word ring sets so there are plenty for each student to use their own. They just flip to the letter they are working on, read the words and chose 5 to draw and write in their books. To extend their sound skills, we have them go back and rainbow write (choose 3 different colors and trace on top of their pencil writing) the targeted sound anywhere they find it on their page. They love this part!
At the bottom of each page, we ask them to choose one of their words from above and write it in a complete sentence. This takes them some time, but in the beginning we work whole group to teach expectations and super sentence writing. For more support, we'd give them a patterned sentence such as, "I see the _____".
This unit went from just under 70 pages to over 100. It's got everything we need for sound success and independence.
If you've already got this one, please be sure to update your download on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Exciting news! Our Cali Pal Hadar over at Miss Kindergarten is hosting an amazing Try it Free Tuesday on her blog all summer long and today's "try it" is us!
You can give this activity a try by heading over to her blog and downloading our Try it Free Tuesday sampler. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back to School Customer Appreciation Freebie!

We cannot thank you enough for all of your Fluttering Through First Grade purchases & feedback during the Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School sale...THANK YOU!!
In absolute appreciation, we've whipped up a little Back to School Facebook Fan Freebie for you! 

It's our spin on Bingo...Played exactly the same way, but we like to make the kids yell funny things when they win...So, they have to shout 
"Back-to-School O" 
if they get four in a row.  

We've created 6 playing cards, plus 20 cut and play calling cards that will make an easy center, great vocabulary builder and meaningful word reading practice during the first few weeks of school. 

Just click on our "Fan Freebies" tab under Apps on our Facebook page...You have to be a fan (like) our page to access, then download and print. That's it!  
Thank you so much for fluttering with us. Feel free to share this post with your teacher friends so they can grab their copy too. 
The more, the merrier! Have a wonderful school year!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Crafting Quality Work for Michaels Create2Educate Sweepstakes!

Setting class expectations for quality work from the beginning of the school year is top priority in our class. But, this isn't our first teaching rodeo, so we know first hand that even 6 and 7 year olds can "mail it in sometimes". We struggle with them just going through the motions, not really understanding the importance of or having the self-motivation quite yet to want to present their best work...especially when the recess bell is tolling. Know what we mean?
The Problem Area...
When we left for summer break, we knew this corner of our classroom needed some help. We had an idea on what to do in this space, but we weren't exactly sure how to bring it to reality.
The Solution Spot...
Isn't Michaels the solution to most of life's teacher problems? 
So, when they asked us to create something for their big Create2Educate Sweepstakes you'd better believe your teacher plan books we were in!

We gathered everything we needed in 1 2 3 trips. It's just how we roll...We might have done it on purpose, but told our husbands it had to be done that way, per Michael (he runs Michaels, we believe, maybe not...shhh). 
Here's What We Got...
Unfinished Wooden Frames
Glitter Blast Spray Paint 
Mod Podge Paper (the polka dot roll in the back)
Blue & Green scrapbook paper
Clothespins 
(We cheated and snagged them from the bargain bins...they were cute and done...Check!)
Glass Jar
Decorative Filler (the plastic diamonds...we know...getting better)
Adhesive silver glitter stars
Adhesive multi-colored jewels
Green glitter pencils


We're transforming that blah corner in our classroom into a Quality Corner this school year!
We created 4 frames by spraying them down with this amazing glitter spray...Honestly, how did we not know about this before?! We didn't think we'd need 1 can per frame, but we did. Or, maybe we just enjoyed spraying glitter all over the place because we were told that we had it all over our face. And we didn't wash it off...
We absolutely love the shades of green and blue. They match our classroom decor perfectly!
Once we had them all painted, we enlisted a little helper to trace the inside of the frames onto posterboard. When we cut, we cut about 2 inches away from the traced line, so we could cover it with the polka dot paper and still have a border around the edge for hot gluing to the back of the frame.
We love the polka dot back boards! We just used glue stick to adhere the mod podge paper, even though it's mod podge paper. That's how we roll. Then, we hot glued the clothespin to the middle of the polka dot paper. Super easy!
We added some adhesive stars (reinforced with our glue guns) and voila! Quality Corner frames complete! We ended up making 4 of them so we can find multiple kids doing top quality work this school year and hang their work in our Quality Corner.
You may be wondering how we're hanging these wooden frames up in our classroom? And if your classroom walls are like our classroom walls, they reject anything that goes by the name of Tape, Staples, Mud, Mortar, Gum or Glue...and at least 5 dozen more things that don't stick to classroom walls. 
We originally thought we'd just use the good old sawtooth hangers and sneak into class on the weekend to slap some screws in the wall. But, we won't be doing that because it's wrong and damages our classroom walls LOOK what we found! 
Command Velcro Picture Hanging Strips
We are entirely too excited about these, but we bet you are reading this and getting really excited too! You may want to brace yourself for this next sentence...They stick to the picture frame and then to the wall and velcro to each other. V-e-l-c-r-o. No damage. No wall rejection. Amazing! We will be adding these to our class donation list this year for forever.

So, you're probably wondering...Now what Ladies?
Well, here's what's worked for us...
We challenge our students to present their best work possible by making it a sort of game...to them.
We call it our...
 
We teach them what the word quest means for starters. :) Then, we challenge them regularly to print their neatest, dot their i's, cross their t's, remember their punctuation, and always strive for quality because it's a class quest!
This year, we'll be using 2 incentives to get them to present their best quality class work. First, we made Quality Quest pencil tags that we will use whole class when they need a whole class motivator...In other words, when the work gets terribly sloppy whole group, we'll pass out our Quality Quest pencils and start searching for Clean Christys and Tidy Tammys. If you've never tried just handing kids a glittery pencil and challenging them to a quest, you must. It does wonders for their motivation! 

As they work, we will pass out gems. If we put one on their desk it means they are doing their very best work...Top Quality! They can add their jewel to our class Quality Quest jar. Once it's filled, we will reward the entire class with something simple and small, like extra recess or free time. Think of it as a gem jar for neat work!

As we grade class work or catch kids questing for quality in the moment (more likely for us), we will snag a few of their papers to display on our glitter frames in our Quality Corner just by clipping the paper to the clothespin. We have 4 Quality Corner frames, so everyone should get a turn during the week...That's our goal...

And, that's our secret tip for you...
Everyone does and needs to get a turn in our class. 
Yes, even the Messy Marvins and Sloppy Sallies who never ever print neatly and have everything on the floor instead of inside their desks...Find that one letter "g" or whatever it is that they got great and give them a chance. Sometimes they just need that little pick me up and they're on their own quality quest in no time.
 You may be wondering how we adhered the label to the jar? We just printed a label from our computer and used Mod Podge and a paintbrush our finger. Yes, we were lazy and didn't want to wash a brush. What?! That's how the Cave Teachers did it! :) It dries clear and shiny and we love Mod Podge!
We added a few adhesive jewels (reinforced with the hot glue gun) to the outside of the jar too just to make it more enticing. 
We created the pencil tags on our computer, punched a hole in them and tied them with $1 ribbon from Michaels. The pencils were from their Bargain Bins, 5 for $1.50. Score!
So, guess what? 
We didn't just craft our hearts out for nothing. No! We did it to get you motivated and crafting for your own classrooms and Michaels is here to motivate you even more! 
All you have to do is follow the directions below...
We'd love to see your back to school projects too. Be sure you're following us on Instagram @fluttering1st and let us see your class crafts! Use #create2educate and #sweepstakes with all your pics and tag @MichaelsStores too. 

The BEST part...They'll be giving away a $50 Michaels gift card just for crafting along...1 winner each day through August 15th. Plus, us Craft-a-holics can enter as many original back-to-school projects as we'd like! So get crafting, post your pics, have fun and good luck!
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