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Big Update to November Pack!

I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week. I need to go buy my bird. Last year I kind of forgot to take my frozen turkey out of the freezer until the day before Thanksgiving. That really was nothing compared to some of my other holiday disasters. If you want a pretty comprehensive list of what not to do, check out this old post. It's all funny now...kind of.

Ok, so in the midst of all things holiday, I decided to spruce up my November Printable Pack. It was the first of my monthly packs and I originally made it about three years ago. Man, Ive learned a LOT since then! If you own the pack, please, please, please go to your "My Purchases" tab and grab the new version. Besides having updated fonts and graphics, it's also has several new activities and a free sample of my Homework, Seat work, and Class work pack for November.

Here's a peek at the updated pack.

These are just the thing to carry us through the last few days before the holiday break. They definitely add some holiday fun without losing your academic focus.  Enjoy!

Bright Ideas Round-up!

It's been almost a year since the Bright Ideas link up started and in that time thousands of great classroom tips and tricks have been shared by some of the best bloggers I know. I joined the party a bit late, but it's quickly become one of my favorite blog posts and I so look forward to it every month.

The month we're all taking time to look back at the ideas we shared since the start in a special Bright Ideas Round-up. What a great way to catch up on any ideas that you might have missed!

Click on any of the pictures below to read more about each idea.

In this post, I shared an idea for quick morning messages I use to greet my kids each day:

I found a way to use up some extra math manipulatives in this post:

This one was my favorite. I blogged about using your current class to welcome you new students:
 And finally, this post has bunches of ideas for task card use and storage:

Below you will find links to the rest of the Bright Idea Crew who are also highlighting their posts for you. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in for some inspiration!

Rigor: The Buzzword worth the Buzz

I know you're tired of hearing the word rigor. I am too, trust me. But I had a bit of a lightbulb moment in my classroom  the other day and all of a sudden I just kind of "got it".

So far this year my word work rotation has been pretty much what you what you would imagine it to be. Much of it consisted of cards that I had printed, laminated, cut, sorted, and organized for the kids to use. The kids then read, matched, ordered, and grouped those cards and recorded their answers. At first glance it seems like they learned the skill and we moved on. Then I was smacked in the face with the reality that maybe they didn't master it as well as I thought.

What happened? Well, for two months of word work the kids had a contraction activity mixed in with the rotation. In classic center style, they matched up the two cards that made the contraction and wrote the new word. And it seemed like we were pros! Then I gave this assessment. (It's part of this CC Assessment Pack).

I was pretty confident that the assessment would show mastery of the skill. I was wrong. When it came to actually applying the skill in context, they really struggled. One of the main goals of learning contractions is that students will use them in their writing to improve sentence fluency. That's exactly what I was expecting them to be able to do in this assessment and it didn't work out so well. 

It didn't hit me right away where things went wrong and then shortly after,  I was sitting with my small group working on the Fall See-it Centers. I realized that this type of activity really bumped up the level of rigor. I know that word has been way over-used and no one wants to hear it, but I'm coming to the conclusion that there might be something to it.

In these activities the kids aren't just sorting cards with words into categories, but they're actually searching the picture for words that satisfy the criteria. For example, my kids actually have a hard time with rhyming words for some reason. However, in a center with matching cards they almost always get it right. Why? Because they can easily match up the spellings for words like rake and cake, sing and ring. Of course, not all rhyming words are spelled the same, but most are and matching them up isn't so hard. But in the See-it Center, they have to go into the picture and find the rhyming word. So as they were looking for a word to rhyme with "flake", they were searching the picture and saying two words together until they found a match (or two!). To me, it really showed a deeper level of mastery and one where they can't accidentally get it right. 

Just for good measure, each See-it Center has a math page as well. Again, the kids have to use what they see and work on a higher level than just sorting and matching.
Now, don't get me wrong. There is value in the traditional sorting and matching center activities. It's a great way to introduce a skill and practice it for the first time. But I think we need to bring it up a level and try it in context before we can feel that the kids have mastered the skill. All of the team leaders met the other day and the same conversation creeped up again - each grade level is frustrated that they're re-teaching skills they expected the kids to learn in the grade before. Of course we all taught the skills and the kids learned them, but I started to think that maybe the level of mastery wasn't we thought. I'm thinking that more authentic practice might be the key to deeper understanding. Just my two cents...

If the See-it Centers look interesting to you, I've linked them all up so you can check them out. The first one is a freebie!

Super Student Display Idea

Happy Saturday, my friends!

Just popping in to share an idea I posed over on Owl-ways Be Inspired.

My fellow owls and I blog about fun ideas for first, second, and third grade. Today I posed about the project below including helpful links and a freebie.  Pop over and see what we've got goin on for you over there!

Informational Text Turkey Craftivity

This idea has been rolling around in my brain for a couple of years. There are probably a billion unfinished ideas rolling around up there, for real. I finally sat down and brought this one to reality and it feels so good! This circle turkey book doubles as a great reading activity and a super cute hallway display or bulletin board. You can choose just a page or two or all six to make the activity book. The book then attaches to half a paper plate that the kids color to look like turkey feathers. Staple the book to the plate, add some feet and you're done!

You can find it in my tpt shop here.  Gobble Gobble!

Halloween Happenings

Halloween on a Friday? Yes, Please! Can we arrange the calendar so that happens forever? k, thanks.

We have a lot of fun on Halloween. I kind of give in on this day. I mean, how much are we going to learn when we're draped in Christmas lights and superhero capes? 

One of the cutest traditions is when the pre-k kids come trick-or-treating. Seriously, cuteness overload! My kids were so excited to be the ones handing out the candy. Adorable.

Every year, my team dresses up together. We're now up to 12 teachers, so choosing a theme that all of us can get on board with and find costumes for gets a little challenging. We went with hippies this year. Easy and fun. I made those little Tic-Tac gifts for them. Cute free printable for those can be found here.  And I treated myself to the cutest coffee cozy ever! It's handmade by the one and only Squirrels. Who also sells them at her Etsy store.

The highlight of the day is classroom trick-or-treating!  I ask each parent to send in 18 treats and then I put them out in different buckets and baskets and the kids trick-or-treat around the classroom. Isn't that what Halloween is all about as a kid? Getting a big bag of goodies to hoard?!

 This idea was from another teacher on my team. I thought it was genius! She had each kid come dressed as a vocabulary word. They came through and had to tell how that word related to their costume. If you have kids who don't celebrate Halloween, this might be a fun way that they can participate in the fun of the day by dressing up because it's an academic activity. Maybe? Depends on the parents for sure...

So that was Halloween in our room. And afterward I was exhausted. I fell asleep for 2 hours when I came home! Woke up in time for the few trick-or-treaters we had. I got a little nervous because we don't usually have many kids come knocking, so a few days ago we started picking at the candy we bought. I scoured the pantry to see what I had in case we ran out of candy. I came up with packs of gum, Jif singles, microwave popcorn, and Keurig K cups (something for mom?) Luckily, it didn't come down to that.

Hope your Halloween was happy! Bring on the turkeys!

Tardy to the Halloween Party! {updated freebie}

Oh, this little blog of mine has been woefully neglected lately. I think it's partly because I tend to put off writing a post until I have some grand idea with a billion artfully staged pictures. And then that never happens and then way too much time passes between blog posts. So a great idea that someone might like never even gets posted at all. Well, I'm hoping to change that a bit. I don't teach in a Pinterest-perfect classroom, so to hold off posting until it looks like I do is a little crazy, right?

I've actually been giving myself a lot of slack lately. In the past if something bubbled during lamination, was cut crooked, or wasn't "just so", I'd find myself re-doing it. I would laminate everything. Like EVERY. THING. It's like I was protecting all my classroom materials from some infectious disease. Ok, I know I work with little walking germ factories, but was the lamination going to save us from doom? Nope. Maybe everything didn't need a shrink wrap haz-mat suit after all. So if it's something I'm using once, like a scoot game, scavenger hunt, pocket chart activity, or bulletin board title, it gets a lamination pass. It feels a little naughty at first. A little wrong. You know what else it feels like?  It feels like freedom, people! It feels like time saved. It feels smart.  And I can definitely use my materials again next year, even without the lamination. But the way things change in this profession, I keep finding that I what I use from year to year changes anyway! {But that's a whole 'nother post}

I'm hoping from this point on to post a little more frequently. Maybe a little more imperfectly. Which may turn out to be a little more honestly. So, who wants to join me in celebration of imperfection? Let's just be real, right? <end rant/step off soapbox>

Moving on...

In the "just in the nick of time" category, I updated my free jack o'lantern glyph with a little writing extension and it came out so cute! We are paired up with a 5th grade class for book buddies. Once a month we meet, read a little, and usually complete some type of activity together. This month we used the glyph and it was perfect. The fifth graders helped my kids make the glyph and then guided them through writing a little Halloween autobiography.

At the time, we just wrote on index cards, which was fine. But then we ended up leaving our projects with our buddies to hang in their hallway, which bummed out my kids a little. Honestly, it bummed me out too because it had a naked bulletin board that was the perfect spot to hang them!

So, the next day, I had my kids make the glyph again. It was a much faster experience this time because they had a little practice. Just to change it up a little, I tweaked the objects on the glyph a bit and I added a writing extension page.  This time I had the kids switch glyphs and write about each other using the glyph as a guide. Then we mounted it on black paper. Super cute!

I know it's getting down to the wire for Halloween projects, but this is something that can easily be done in one day. Or in my case, once a day for two days! lol! Get the glyph with the writing extension for free here!

We also finished up our storybook pumpkin character based on Crazy Hair Day. I think he came out awesome! My room moms painted the pumpkin head and then each kid got a popsicle stick and some pipe cleaners, feathers, markers, and other random craft objects. Then the moms helped give the pumpkin some hair implants. One talented mom made the body for us. I love him!

We're almost at the end of Halloween week. Hang tight my friends and say a prayer of thankfulness that Halloween is on a FRIDAY! Yahoo!

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