Today I wanted my kids to get really hands-on with our study of the days of the week and months of the year. I wasn't completely happy with just the quick YouTube video and reading the names aloud (though we did those activities as  well). So, I began to think about what I could do to make this lesson a little more interesting. That's when I thought about bringing play-doh into the lesson. The kids love to do play-doh spelling, so why not use it with the days of the week? So we did! Of course, the kids loved it. I am thinking about including a play-doh center with the months of the year next week. This will be hands-on, and help them become familiarized with the months. This activity actually saved my other-wise boring math lesson for the day (we don't do math centers on Mondays, so I was really looking for a way to spice up today's math time). What activities have you done with your kids as they learn the days of the week and the months of the year? I would love to hear!

   Upon returning from Thanksgiving break my class and I will be looking at how we are similar and different from others as part of our "Myself" unit. One aspect we will explore is feelings. To help think about our feelings and the feelings of others we will read Mo Willems "My Friend is Sad." It's a terrific children's story about a pig who tries to cheer up his friend, Elephant. This story is also a great way to discuss different emotions we have and what causes those feelings. In addition, as we see Piggie struggle with his friend's sadness, students begin to think about the feelings their own friends experience as well. It's great way to promote empathy, and begin a healthy discussion of the feelings we all experience. After reading and discussing the book my students will be given a "My Friend is Sad: Kind words to say to a friend" available here. Another idea (instead of doing the worksheet) to help students show how to be sensitive to their friend's feelings is to act out a situation in which a friend is sad and they have to cheer them up. Students could brainstorm phrases or words to use with their friends while you chart them on the paper. On a picture of Elephant and Piggie, students can write the phrases and words and then color in the picture. What activities have you done with your class to go with :My Friend is Sad"?

As part of our "Myself" unit we are exploring feelings. We actually won't be working on this until about two weeks from now, but I've already started to prepare for that week. Exploring emotions is not only wonderful as it helps students understand what they are experiencing emotionally, but to better understand those around them. We will launch this lesson with a reading of Glad Monster, Sad Monster to discuss what makes the monster feel the different emotions. This will help us link the feelings back to ourselves when I will give discussion time among partners to think about their own feelings and what makes them experience them. During writing time, my students will begin to work on a mini-book from Scholastic called "My Book about Feelings." I am guessing this will take about 2 days before it will be completed. Slower workers will need additional time. During our social studies time, they will work on drawing their different emotions using this worksheet. To top this concept off, I will be including a "finish the picture" center in my math centers this week (click here for the printable). How have you used this great book in your class? I would love to hear.

Blank Jigsaw Puzzle Template This week we are beginning to learn about the calendar (though we do calendar everyday, so a lot of this is review!). To begin, we will open up with a song about the days of the week. Youtube is a great source for songs. I will be using a song by the Youtube channel Kids TV 123 (if you haven't found this channel you should definitely look it up. They have great children's songs). We will also read a poem about things we do each day of the week, then I will ask students to find the first day of the week, the second day of the week, which day comes before....etc. In groups, my kids will then construct a days of the week puzzle. You could do this individually, or have them work on this with a partner. This would also make a terrific math center. I am using a blank puzzle template available here.  My TA wrote the days of the week together and is cutting the pieces (this particular puzzle would be too tough for first graders to cut). It is time consuming, but if you prep ahead and/or have an assistant to help, it's a great activity for the kids to become acquainted with the days of the week. What activities do you do with your class to enforce knowledge of the days of the week?

      Many of you already know that I use Understanding by Design to create my units. This week we are focusing on changes. Today's essential question is: "What things change?" To dig into this question I will first ask my students the question, allow them time to think, and then discuss. We will then read the story, "Frog and Toad-The Garden" to see how nature around us changes. This is actually a great extension of our season's unit when we learned how the world around us changes during the seasons. During writing time they will write about things that change around them. My hope is that they might extend their thoughts beyond gardens and discuss other changes around them (animals in winter, spring births, etc.). A center I am including at math time this week is to sequence the life cycle of a pumpkin. It goes along with the idea that things around us change, and ties into the concept of sequencing, which we've been working on in math. To get that activity click here.  For a spelling activity (not one I am doing but something that could work), kids could draw a garden and hide their spelling words. I hope some of those activities might work for you! How have you used the story "Frog and Toad- The Garden" in your classroom?

     In case you haven't heard, this week is the Global Education Conference which consists of free conferences all week. The conferences are conducted through blackboard, and attendees consist of educators around the world. I definitely want to be a part of this event and hope that some of you will too. Click here to sign-up for free. I am still deciding which conferences I'll take part in, but I would love to hear from those of you who plan to "attend" any of the virtual conferences as well.

     Guided reading is huge in the younger grades. I remember being terrified of it when I first started teaching.   I didn't want to make a mistake. Over the years I have definitely modified what I do in my groups and how I go about it. In this post I will explain what I do in my guided reading groups.
     To begin, I, like so many other teachers, use the Daily 5 in my classroom. It's absolutely the best thing I have ever tried in terms of literacy. For anyone who is not familiar with the D5, I highly suggest you look into it. As a brief on the D5, it essentially includes read to self, read to a partner, word work, work on writing, and listening to reading (a listening center). The D5 does not dictate what you teach, but sets up important routines to help you teach during literacy time. You teach a mini-lesson, then go into a D5 rotation. Many teachers have to modify based on available time in their class, and whether or not they have a listening center. I actually call it Daily 3 in my class. I don't have a listening center, and we do writing together, therefore I do three mini-lessons and three daily 5 rotations. Other teachers have modified in different ways to fit their needs.
     While my kids are working on a Daily 5 activity, I have a handful of students in the back working with me (no more than 6 students). We begin by "warming up our brains" with a book they read the day before. I have them whisper read it. Then we go on to some sort of practice on words. This could be sound isolation, reconstructing a sentence, writing sentences, or working on letters and sounds. This would depend on which group I am with and what their need is. After working on words or letters and sounds, we go into our new read for the day. This ensures that each day they are reading something new. We do a walk-through of the book where we make predictions, and I point out any unfamiliar words. We will normally echo read or choral read our new book, then discuss it. This is where we might underline word families we are working on. Afterwards I have them whisper read the book. To conclude, we go back and focus on the unfamiliar words in the story. I have them take a crayon and underline the word then color the corresponding word in the picture. This helps them to focus on the meaning and help them to remember it better. All of this takes about 25-30 minutes.
     I hope some of you might find this useful. I am also curious to find out what the rest of you do in your own small groups. If you don't mind, please share your own small group strategies and ideas.

      Today I thought it would be great to share my own lesson plan format. This was something that took me a while to figure out on my own. I'm not talking about how to design a lesson, but finding the routines that will work for me. Every time I change grades, this proves to be the challenge as well. The format I am proposing (and the one I use) could be used for first or second grade. When you have the basic format it makes it so much easier to just plug in all the details. Here's the format I use (times would have to be adjusted for your own school schedule):

8:00-8:10 Carpet time : Phonics

8:10-8:35 Daily 5 rotation 1 (I work with a small group)

8:35-8:55 Calendar (5 minutes), morning message (10 minutes), read aloud (5-10 minutes)

8:55-9:30 Daily 5 rotation 2 (I work with a small group)

Lunch/Spanish class

11:00-11:20  Daily 5 Rotation 3 (I work with a small group)

11:20-11:30 Writing mini-lesson

11:30-11:55 Writing

11:55-12:05 Math warm up

12:05-12:15 Calendar (usually a math video of colors, skip counting, etc. Just a review)

12:15-12:25 Math mini-lesson

12:25-12:55 Math centers (I work with a small group)

12:55-1:15 Social studies /Science activity

Having a formula to use truly helps to keep you to not only stay on schedule, but give your kids the needed routine to make managing your classroom successful. I hope you can find this useful in your own classroom.

What I Eat To Feel Great Part 1: The Genesis of My New Diet

         This started as a podcast episode, but I just had to turn it into a blog post as well. To preface, I am not qualified to give a...