What to Include in Your Writing Center to Keep it FRESH all Year!

The school supply isles are stocked. The carpets on your campus have been cleaned. It's time to prep for Back to School! 

I like to get as many routine items prepared before school starts as possible. Plus, if I'm going to actually make something from my crazy large stock-pile of school related Pinterest boards, now is the time. Once class is back in action, I'll be very happy that I prepared as much as possible in advance. 

One thing I'm preparing in advance is my monthly writing centers. First, I made a list of the types of things I will routinely include:
  • thematic picture dictionaries
  • color paper (a different color each month)
  • themed pencils and erasers
  • crayons
  • writing paper
  • special writing utensils (varied from month-to-month)
  • resources related to our current writing unit

Thematic Dictionaries

I created a selection of picture dictionaries with REAL-LIFE pictures like you might find in nonfiction texts. I also suggest the clip art picture dictionaries in the any of the writing centers created by Kerri B

At the beginning of the school year I plan to display these picture dictionaries: Summer, Summer Olympics, Back to School, and Vacation.  In September, I'll add Apples, Johnny Appleseed, Community Helpers, and Super Heroes. Here's a peek at some picture dictionaries with REAL pictures from my TpT store

Color Paper

I plan on adding half sheets of colored paper each month. Kiddos are attracted to color! Use your campus copy machine to copy handwriting lines onto the paper. 

August/September - Yellow
October - Orange
November - Brown
December - Red & Green
January - Blue
February - Pink and Red
March - Green
April - Pastel colors
May/June - Neon colors

Themed Pencils & Erasers

Two words. Dollar Tree. 

Special Writing Utensils

I'll start out the year with standard #2 yellow pencils. But, let's face it, new is intriguing. Intrigue promotes engagement. Here are some writing utensils you can add to your writing center to make writing feel extra special:
  • Colored pencils
  • Pens
  • Markers
  • Glitter pens
  • Book fair writing utensils
  • Pens with color ink (other than blue//black)
  • Pencils with themed toppers
TIP: Don't start the year off with these items. Add or trade out a type of writing instrument monthly. If the items are in the center all the time, they lose their "special."

Dollar Tree

Writing Unit Resources

Don't forget to include anchor charts and student work samples from your writing units!


Other items to consider adding to your writing center are:
  • Blank mini-books
  • Magazine cut-outs
  • Holiday cards (at Christmas and Valentine's Day)
  • Post cards
  • Post-it Notes
  • Interesting pictures for inspiration
  • ABC chart
  • Blends and digraphs chart
  • Sentence stems
These ideas will help keep your writing center FRESH all year!

Flexible Seating Freebie, WBT Freebie and More!

Hi guys,
I've been out of school since the first week of June and I took the whole month off from being a teacher, which is very UNlike me! I didn't work on a single school related thing, and I'm very pleased with myself. Now that it is July 1st, I've given myself permission to ease into all things school related. 

In my preparation for my NON-themed, brightly colored, classroom with flexible seating I've whipped up a few goodies today. When I say "non-themed" I mean...

This past school I utilized a monster theme. The year before that I had a birds on a wire theme. And, the year before that I had an owl theme. Well, I'm themed out! I'm going simple. Or simply, "We're learning in here!"

And, if you love this super simple, clean design check out my Simple Classroom Job Cards HERE.
I am very much looking forward to a new school year. Last year, I didn't find much time to blog. But, I've got a new blog design in the works and I'm determined to hop back on the blog train and document the happenings in my first grade classroom.

Reading Strategy Videos on YouTube!

Memories Made in First is now on YouTube!

I've began creating reading strategy videos for the parents of my first graders. The first series of videos is called Strategies Beyond Sounding Out. Parents rely heavily on encouraging their children to "sound it out," because they are not familiar with other reading strategies. I wanted to empower parents to help their beginning readers at home! 

I hope the parents of my current students can utilize these videos over the summer and parents of future students will be able to utiize the videos too. 

So far, I've uploaded two videos.

The first video explains how to chunk words, or Chunky Monkey. Look for word parts (sight words, blends, diagraphs, common spelling patters, etc) to help solve words.
The second video talks about Skip It, or Skippy Scott...skip the tricky word, read to the end, and read it again.
These videos are also an excellent resource for novice teachers.

Please share these videos with your parents! And, don't forget to subscribe!!

This Volcano is Gonna Blow! (Procedural Texts)

If you are planning a reading unit on procedural texts, then I've found the perfecr website for you! artforkidshub.com has amazing teach-me-hoe-to-draw videos. The videos show an adult AND a child drawing creating an illustration. Some, but not all, of the videos have written step-by-step instructions that you can easily project.

I knew my class would be obsessed with the How to Draw a Volcano video, but it did not have the written instructions, so I had to create my own based on the video. I typed up the steps and glued them to sentence strips. In class, I placed the strips in a bucket. We played Main Idea Mystery Bag. Students drew sentence strips out one at a time. We read each detail and tried to guess the main idea. After 3 strips, a student guessed, "volcanoes!", but I pointed out the strips did not contain facts about volcanoes so the main idea couldn't be JUST "volcanoes" and we continued on. It took us 6 out of 15 strips to figure out the main idea was how to draw a volcano. After the class figured out the main idea, we ordered all 15 strips and read them. 

The kiddos were eager to give it a try, but we watched the art for kids hub video first. This got them super excited. When the video was over, we read the sentence strip again, one at a time, and created our volcano illustrations!

Later, I posted the steps on chart paper and we displayed our work in the hallway to show that we could, in fact, follow the steps in a procedural text. 
This next picture shows the volcano we created to show the main idea and details of the expository text about volcanoes. We wrote the main idea on the mountain and details on the lava strips (orange paper). This kiddos wrote the main idea was, "volcanoes erupt."

Presidential Sized Learning

Hey friends,

I've been sooo exhausted that I've all but abandoned my little ole blog! This school year has been the most stressful of my 13 years in the classroom, and I'm just pooped when I get home. But "they" say one of the best ways to relieve stress is have a hobby, so I'm trying to get re-energized by getting back to one of mine. 

Whoever determines when holidays are going to be celebrated sure packed a short month FULL of things to learn about -  Groundhog's Day, President's Day, Dental Hygiene Month, and Valentine's Day! 

We are busy gearing up for some presidential -sized learning in social studies this week!

My class  loves to sing, so I just keep composing new ditties. Call me Composer KaSandra ;-) That's how this packet of resource got started. I was just going to write some songs...HA! I finally called it quits at approximately 70 pages including 3 original songs, detailed lesson plans, directed drawings, writing prompts, anchor chart materials, visual aids, and activities. We will be putting it to the test this week and I plan to update this blog post with pictures of my class in action later this week. Check it out HERE.

Here's a sneak peek at one of the songs!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Day

Teachers, I know you will agree with me, to keep your sanity the week before Winter Break you will do whatever is necessary! I'm trying to keep engagement high and off-task behavior low by having a daily theme for the rest of the week. Today was Rudolph Day

We are learning about adjectives and rhyme & rhythmn in our poetry unit. I made sure to fit our learning objectives in with my theme. I got in some nonfiction too, just because I thought first graders would love this book about Reindeer. 

The original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is poem by Robert L. May. I was worried that this poem would be too long and I'd need to split the reading into two parts, but the kiddos were glued to it. We stopped twice, once after the first few pages, and once again at the end of the story, to discuss the words the author used to describe Rudolph and we added them to our anchor chart. 

We used a short poem about Rudolph, printed poster size, during shared reading. We identified rhyming words and "found" the rythmn by clapping the beat. I forgot to snap a pic of the poem, so I'll insert it later. 

We also learned about reindeer by reading A Day in the Life: Polar Animals - Reindeer. Then, we made a tree map to display our learning. We split into three teams - can, have, are. The can-team recalled things a reindeer can do. The have-team listed things a reindeer has. The are-team had the trickiest job, but they figured it out and did a great job! The are-team focused in on what reindeer ARE hunted by. Our goal was to stick with evidence from the text and NOT add our own opinions about reindeer. 

dig with theie hooves
swim in icy water
sleep standing up
warm air with their noses
travel with (other) reindeer

heater in the nose (the text said their special noses can heat up the cold air)

good swimmers
hunted by polar bears
hunted by people
mammals that have babies (we adapted this answer from what the student actually wrote)

The last hour of the day (after math & specials), we did a quick reindeer craft and watched the 1964 classic about Rudolph. I adapted this craft from I saw on Pinterest. The original can be found HERE. I changed the antlers, added hooves, and used a red pom pom for the nose. 

Speaking of Rudolph, last week during Creative Cookies (an after-school club), we made Rudolph cookies.

Tomorrow is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Day. Thursday is Polar Express Day. Friday is half day, but we are going to learn about snow and Frosty the Snowman. 

Christmas Tags for Teacher Gifts

(insert "The Final Countdown" tune, circa 1986 by the band, Europe)...

It's the FINAL COUNTDOWN to Winter Break! Four point five class days to go...

Today I went shopping for my Secret Santa gifts. Of course, I came home and made gift tags for them all. If any of your Secret Santa or teacher gifts include a snowman, trail mix/nuts, wine, or markers, then these tags will work for you too!

Click HERE to download the tags. 

Merry Christmas. Enjoy your time off!