Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Flexible Seating Accountability

So, one thing that I found tricky last year, when I piloted small-scale flexible seating in my classroom was accountability. Students would flip-flop seats; they would switch when students were out of the room for interventions or even the bathroom. When tardy students came in, they didn't know which seats were truly open, and which were temporarily vacated. It was tricky!!

Then I would have students who (for a short period of time) would lose the opportunity to choose their seat due to lack of responsibility. I wanted to place that particular student in an assigned seat, but it was difficult to do that without doing that in front of other students, which often embarrassed that student. I wanted a discreet way to place that student in an assigned seat.

I racked my brain ... how could I fix this problem??!! I read a TON of blog posts and articles about flexible seating... Then I stumbled upon an old blog post by Literacy Loves Company. In her post on Flexible Seating, she discusses her journey towards flexible seating, some of the specific seating options she uses, AS WELL AS how her students clearly choose their seat.

Be sure to check out her blog post (my inspiration) for these awesome table signs!!

This would fix my problem with seating accountability!! I decided to alter Literacy Loves Company's idea to fit my classroom!

Basically... there is a table sign on each table that is open for students to choose. This is simply a printed sign that is in a clear, plastic picture frame (I got these 5x7 frames at Walmart for 97 cents a piece!!). Each table is named - I decided to use shapes for my first graders; hopefully this will help solidify shape names and attributes for my kiddos.

Also on the table sign are six colored squares. These six squares correspond with the six available seats at that table. Students will have a clothespin with their name on it; this will be kept in their personal book bin, when not in use. In the morning, students will get their clothespin and clip it onto the table sign of the table that they would like to sit at. If I am selecting a seat for a student, I would simply let them know that I put their clothespin at a table.

SO! What do you think? Would this idea work for you and your classroom? Do you have a different idea to keep students accountable and responsible for their seat choices? What are your thoughts on flexible seating?! Thanks for reading!! :) 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Classroom seating!!

I am SO excited for some big changes in my classroom this year! We am going to be doing flexible, alternative seating. I tried out some ideas last year, and it worked so well with my kiddos, that I'm jumping in with both feet!

My students do not start until after Labor Day so I've got a ton of time, but I have been shopping around and pinterest-ing all summer to find some really cool stuff for my students.

I'll do a classroom reveal once it's all ready but here are some things that I am just too excited about that I have to share.

Last year, I crammed 32 desks into my room. Now my room is a decent size, but when you add in all the STUFF that we need for learning there is no space for 32 desks and chairs (not to mention a meeting space, guided reading table, library, coat rack, etc, etc, etc...?). This year, I'm using tables!! I've got six student tables, plus a four "islands". I've found that some students *need* an island every now and again!

Each day, my students will come in and choose a seat. There are a ton of different options, my hope is that they learn what kind of seat really works for them!! At the beginning of the year, I'll have their name tag in a spot each morning, this way they get a chance to try out all the different seats at all the different tables. It's a lot of teaching procedures and expectations, but SO worth it!!

Below is a breakdown of how my tables will work...

One table is a long dining room table that the legs have been shortened on. It will fit six students in regular chairs.

One table will be lowered almost all the way. Students will sit on wobble stools (These are sooo cool - wobble stool) or an upside-down crate with a pillow on top. The wobble stools are on loan from my district. They are pricey but so worth it. I've heard a lot of teachers get these with grant money!!

One table will be lowered most of the way and six students will sit on balls! I have been looking for cheap exercise balls, but they are so pricey. I found some very cheap, perfectly sized balls at Walmart. I'm going to try these out before I invest too much money into this idea!

One table is raised higher. It is our stand-up table. Students who want to stand while they work can go here. Only about 4 kids fit at this table.

The last two tables are so cool. I took extendable part of the leg off completely and covered the part that remains with a tennis ball. Students who want to sit here can sit on a cushion (very cool fruit cushions from 5 Below) or a Dollar Tree placemat (basically a place-marker for their bottom).


The other thing that I've found (for kiddos that need to move) is an exercise band tied around the chair legs. I found this long 6' one for $5 at Walmart, but cut it in two pieces! So two "Foot Bands" for $2.50 a piece, not bad!!


What are your great classroom seating ideas?? Are you trying out flexible seating this year, or have you done it in the past? Any advice? :)  I love comments!!

**Tomorrow I'll post about how I plan to hold students accountable for their seat choice!**

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Number Talks

During the 2014-15 school year I was able to participate in a book study about Number Talks. It was amazing. I'm going to give you a quick intro to what I learned during the study, and how I've used it in my classroom since then. I really wish I had a video to show you of my students doing a Number Talk but I didn't take ANY video of my teaching last year!? I will try to link some youtube videos that I have seen of Number Talks in action!

Anyway... Here is the book: 


The newest version is $60... but you can get older versions for a lot cheaper! The newest version comes with a DVD (maybe the older ones do too?) which really helped me to understand how to facilitate a Number Talk. 

So the idea is that you, the teacher, facilitate a discussion with your students about math. The key to facilitating this is to give your students the language to use during a Number Talk and then to back off and let them discuss. Teach students the framework of a Number Talk, including hand signals! 

Hand Signals that I use:
I'm still thinking about the math = fist by their heart
I have an answer = thumbs up by their heart
I have more than one strategy = hold up fingers by their heart
I got the same answer (me too) = this is ASL for 'me too', make your hand into a "Y" and move it from your chest outwards

Teach students the phrases you want them to use including vocabulary: solve, sum, difference, addend, count on, count all, 

Teach students the names of tools and strategies that will help them to get to the answer. At a 1st grade level, many of my students worked hard to solve it in their head by the end of the year, but during the year, we learned how to use and later visualize tools like a ten-frame, rekenrek, abacus, counters, etc. 

Topics can range from numbers/numerals, number identification, addition, subtraction, patterns, or anything else you might want to focus on in math (reminder, I teach first grade, so my experience is doing Number Talks at a lower-el level, but you can absolutely do these with any grade). This book actually gives you ideas for LOTS of Number Talks with your grade level, which I think is so helpful. 

So.. here is a video that might help you to see what a Number Talk might look like:

This video is a little quiet, but it does a really nice job of showing a Number Talk.

Here is another good video from YouTube:

At the start of my school year, depending on my students, I will start by showing them 5-frames or 10-frames and asking them to subitize the dots. My goal will be for them to use strategies besides counting all. 

Once my school year gets rolling, I will write more about Number Talks and add some video from my own classroom. 

Feel free to comment with questions or remarks about Number Talks!!

I'm back!

Hello!! Apparently I took a little break from blogging, FOUR years?! A lot has changed in the past four years but not my love for teaching 1st graders. This year I'm hoping to get back into the tech-side of being a teacher that I used to love: blogging, classroom website, student tablets/apps, etc. 

I'm going to work to revamp my blog a little bit, but I have completely forgotten how to work this thing. I'm sure Blogger has changed a bit too. But it's like riding a bike, right? 

Let me fill you in on a little bit about me, now! 

I turned 30 just a few weeks ago!! Woo hoo! I'm not big into numbers so the only reason it bothered me (a little bit) is that S, my hubby, is 2 years younger, so he is still a youthful twenty-something ;)

My ADORABLE baby girl just turned one! How can it be, one already?? She's amazing, and I absolutely love being a mom to Little Miss. It is the greatest thing that has happened to us. 

I have not been on my TPT site as a seller in a long while... I just went through today and made everything FREE. I know there are things that need to be updated but I figure I'll get to that later this year :) 

I'm looking forward to the upcoming school year but I'm also a little apprehensive. I'm so grateful to be continuing to teach my favorite grade, FIRST, but there are a lot of other changes happening. My grade-level team is changing a little, which always makes me anxious (not sure why, in 7 years, I have only once had the same team of teachers to work with); we are also getting a new principal and secretary! Woo, big changes!!

What kind of changes are you excited/nervous/anxious/apprehensive about for this school year?

Leave me a comment to let me know!! :) Hope you're having a great summer!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Assessments, Assessments, Assessment!!!

Are you in the midst of crazy amounts of assessments?! We are too!! I also try to create my own tools to save time, and I'm here to show off some of these tools, along with some of my ideas!

At my school, we use the Fountas and Pinnell BAS Tests to assess reading levels, so I've created a few templates to use along with these for a couple reasons: to save time, paper, and energy!!!  

These templates I created to match the Foutas & Pinnell BAS Assessments but can really be used by any teacher for running records. 

The first two pages are standard running record form, with the addition of a strategies box at the bottom, the final page has boxes for teachers to record accuracy rate, fluency rate, and comprehension scores. 

This template specifically matches the Fountas & Pinnell BAS Assessments for the levels A-K and this template matches the assessments for levels L-Z (due to changes in the comprehension scoring). 

What I do then is the following... I created a binder with a page of my template for each student. I record the running record on my template page - including marking strategies I noticed students using, rating a fluency score, calculate the accuracy and self-correcting rate, and noting the student's comprehension. 

I then keep a copy of the F&P running records for each level A-Z in my binder as well. I refer to these pages for the specific questions for comprehension and the calculations for the accuracy score. 

Please contact me with any questions, this turned out a bit more complicated sounding then I intended...! Please check out my templates and leave me a rating if you purchase/use them!

Have a great Friday :-) Amanda

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Word Work Ideas

Hello friends!! It's been a long time! 

I never anticipated the HUGE change I would feel when moving grade levels. At the end of last school year, I had second graders.. second graders who were almost ready for third grade!! Fast forward through the busy but lazy summer.... I meet my new (WONDERFUL) class of firsties - but they seem to be a bit more like Kindergarteners!! This all translates to me, feeling a bit crazy! 

I absolutely love my first graders, I love teaching first grade, it's just taking a while to adjust. 

Anyway, my firsties seem to need a lot of practice with word work. I've set up stations and a rotation for my kiddos to use during my guided reading time. Each rotation is about 15 minutes, with about 4 students at each station. 

My rotations include:

  • Read to Self
  • Read to Buddy (or "stuffed buddy" - they love this!)
  • Listen to Reading - Listening center and Computers on ABCya or Starfall
  • Wikki-Stix
  • Magnet Letters
  • Salt Boxes
  • Letter Stamps
  • and most recently PLAY-DOUGH!!!!
So my post today is to walk you through the recipe that I used to make my play-dough!

Ingredients include: 
1 c. White Flour
1/4 c. Salt
2 Tbsp. Cream of Tarter

1 c. Water
1 Tbsp. Oil
1 tsp. food coloring

Combine all ingredients in a pot on medium heat and stir. 

It will start looking nasty and clumpy [yes, that's the technical term ;)] It kind of smells at this point too! 

It will only take 3-5 minutes before it starts to clump into one solid ball.

Turn out the ball of play-dough onto a floured table-top. Knead the ball to work out the stickiness; use floured hands. The color will lighten up.

Each "batch" made one large ball or two orange-sized balls of play-dough. I made three batches [purple, green and blue] and separated each batch into 2. 

I packaged each ball into a separate zip-lock bag. I am looking for the *PERFECT* sized containers to store these in; ones that are easy enough for 5, 6, and 7 year olds to open and close on their own. Students will use play-dough to spell out their spelling and word wall words. This play-dough is "edible" but NOT tasty... so hopefully to deter students from snacking while they spell!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Being handy!!

So, my latest project... 

Started with an awesome garage sale find ($20 for the bench and bins w/ casters):
I sanded down all the surfaces with an orbital sander so that the paint would take. 

Then, I painted the bench with a textured grey spray paint, and then again with a solid grey paint. Gave it a great texture which will hopefully keep dents from showing!!

 Then... I painted the boxes blue!! I left the insides their original color (pink/purple) because you wont really see it!
Enlisted my wonderful hubby to help with the construction parts.. :) Using OSB we made an "H" frame to fit inside each box... this frame will hold the cushion up to the top of the box. Hubby is cutting with a Circular Saw:

And I am cutting the slots with a Jig Saw!

 Didn't take any pictures of the upholstering process, but I basically upholstered (with foam, thick ugly fabric and thinner cutsie fabric) a rectangle piece of OSB. These cushions fit right inside each bin, and is supported by the "H" frame. *Also, used a hole cutter (drill with a giant circular drill "bit" on the end) to cut two holes in the back. 
I plan to use this in my computer area, the 2 monitors, keyboards and mice/mice pads will be on the bench top, while the towers will be tucked underneath. The holes in the back of the bench are for the cords to pass through. 

I just LOVE it, but what do you think?? Any crafty blogger friends out there?