Story Elements in a Snap (Snapchat that is!)

My students LOVE making videos of themselves! To add a little extra excitement to guided reading rotations, I let students summarize their learning in a Snapchat video. I do not share the video on Snapchat, instead I download it to my phone. That way, I can share it on Twitter which is "district approved."

So that I could post an example on my blog, I had my daughter (a first grader) summarize the problem and solution in the story, Franklin is Lost.

Happy snapping!

Use Wixie to Increase Engagement (Problem & Solution Lesson)

I teach first graders...six year old children who have NEVER experienced type writers, dial-up internet, an old-school library card catalog (I'm ancient and I'm not even 40 yet!).These kiddos were born into a world with smart phones, instant messaging, social networking, and personal technology. It's simply part of their culture. As teachers it is increasingly important for us to embrace as many forms of technology as possible. Children LOVE technology, they live for it. And, it's highly engaging, which is an important aspect of any lesson.

Recently, my kiddos used an application called Wixie during a lesson on problem and solution. The lesson was live broadcast to some teachers in my district. If you saw the broadcast and are interested in how to recreate the lesson, then this tutorial is for you! If you do not teach in my district, or have not heard of Wixie, I believe it is subscription based. Wixie works on desktop computers, Google Chromebooks, and iPads. My students love it and you should look into it!

The Student Activity

Students worked with a partner for this Problem Detectives activity. First, students scanned a QR code to access a recording of me reading a case file. Students who were capable of reading the selection independently had the option to read the text themselves, but noone did that because QR codes are fun! A "case file" is really just a short passage with a character and a problem. 

(I use Audioboom to make recordings and generate QR codes.)

I used four of the case files from a resource called Character, Setting, Problem, and Solution - The Bundle by A Year of Many Firsts. Then, I created some additional ones like the one in the picture. 

Students identified and discussed the problem and came up with possible solutions. Partners agreed on one solution to include in their product. The product was created on Wixie. 

One partner typed the problem and one student typed the solution. Then, students recorded a voiceover. One partner talked about the problem and the other partner talked about the solution. I like for students to record their thinking because A) sometimes it's difficult to tell what they meant to type, and B) primary students can typically tell with more detail than they can write or type. 

At the end of the lesson we listened to the case files and the student's reccordings. 

How to Create a Project in Wixie

If you're unsure how to create a project (like this one with file folders) for your students, here are the steps to follow:

1. Log in. Click "Creat or edit a Wixie project."

2. Click "New Project."

3. Click "Library" tab.

4. Search for stickers (clip art or pictures) that you need. In this case, I searched for "folders."

5. Click on a sticker to insert it onto the project. Use the green dots to adjust the size of the image. 

6. Click the "Text" button to insert a text box.

I inserted text boxes for the title, file folder labels, and "type here" boxes so students could just double click "type here" and begin typing. 

7. You can play around with font colors and add additional stickers to make the project more visually appealing. 

Wixie automatically saves all work. So, when your project is complete, assign it to your class. The next time they log in, the project will be there.

Assigning an Activity/Template

1. From the home screen, click the "Projects" tab.

2. Highlight the template you want to assign.

3. Click on the "Actions" drop down menu, then click "Assign." Your class list will pop up. You can choose to assign the project to the entire class or to select students.

Happy Wixie-ing!

Flexible Seating in Action!

Instead of the traditional classroom tour with pictures of an unused, immaculate classroom prior to the beginning of the school year, I'm doing a post about my flexible seating classroom in action! It's messy and it's AWESOME!

Our classroom seating options include:

  • 5 stability balls with legs (Amazon, approx $17)
  • 5 yoga mats (Five Below, $5)
  • 5 wobble discs (Amazon, approx $12-14)
  • 5 traditional desks
  • 1 floor table (legs removed from a rectangular table)
  • 1 high rectangular table
  • 6 stools (Aldi, $3)
  • 1 horseshoe table for guided reading & math
  • 4 fruit cushions (Five Below, $5)
The absolute BEST part of not having 25 traditional classroom desks and chairs is the space we have for games, activities, and demonstrations. And, the kiddos absolutely love having choices. In September the stability balls were all the rage, but in October the yoga mats reign supreme. 

We work anywhere!

I'll try to do a post soon on how I implemented the seating options from the first day of school, how we choose our seats for each activity, and what to do if you are going to have a substitute.

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! 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!