word work is fun work

Sometimes I wonder if I like making teaching materials more than actually teaching with them. (Please don't tell me I'm the only teacher who feels that way!!)

I have way too much fun hunting down engaging teaching tools on Pinterest ... and I love putting them together!

I recently made two activities for my "Word Work" Daily 5 center. The first is a clothespin word family activity:

The second is a paint strip word family activity.

I got the (free!) paint strips at Lowe's. They already had that nice little square cut out and they originally come in 3 strips. I just cut them down to one strip, laminated, and then created a laminated strip of cardstock programmed with different onsets to slip through.

And then! I even created this very simple word family recording sheet (the box is for a quick sketch of the word).

If any of you out there would like a copy of the recording sheet, shoot me an email:
untenuredteacher at yahoo dot com

Oh and PS: The kids love these activities!

Target teaching tool

I picked up these animal action cards in the Target dollar bins over the summer. They're proving to be quite handy for teaching verbs to my kindergartners!! I pulled out a few for our "Action Words" chart:

They really love acting them out!

Understandably, this one is definitely my favorite:

a different kind of day

We have an all-day professional development meeting today, so that means no kids!!

I kind of relish these days as a welcome break from routine. I'll be honest though... I usually don't look forward to the actual content of the meetings. Unless I'm the one presenting, I rarely get anything out of it.

I have this absolute fantasy that our principal, in a magnanimous gesture, is going to let all of us go work in our classrooms for half the day. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

But in all reality? The most bestest part of a professional development day is ... going out for lunch!

Why lesson plans must be flexible

Earlier this week, I pulled out a rabbit puppet to use in a mini-lesson about prepositions. My kindergartners were absolutely enthralled, and because I was feeling a little silly that day, I put my hand in the puppet and said: "Hello! My name is Roger Rabbit!"
Amidst squeals of delight, one little kindergartner looked right into the rabbit's little button eyes and replied: "Hello! My name Julie!!!" and finished with an enthusiastic wave.
I totally lost it in a fit of giggles. And because these kinds of social skills are important after all, I decided in the spur of the moment that we could all use a little bit of practice introducing ourselves (especially remembering the "is" in "My name IS ____")!
So thanks, Julie, for the rabbit trail ...

College Week Pretend Photo

It's college week at my elementary school right now, and there are different ways we're supposed to promote this. (Like wearing your college hat, sporting your college colors, etc.)

This is a problem because I don't own ANYTHING that has the name of my college on it. Yes I was in undergrad for five years. No I didn't like my college very much at the time. (In fact the biggest problem I had with it was that it was in America -- but that's a whole 'nother therapy session blog post.)

Anyways, all the teachers were asked to submit a photo of our college graduation. But here's the thing. I didn't walk. I didn't have family on the same continent at the time, and it just seemed like a lot of hassle for a piece of paper. But I DID attend the graduation ceremony (since the then president of the United States was our speaker!!!!)


I took an old college photo of the day I accepted my teaching certificate and "photoshop-ed" (through picnik) a graduation cap on there.

Good enough? I sure hope so!!

Job Hazards for the Kindergarten/First Grade teacher

From mildly annoying to downright unsafe, here's a brief list of job hazards for the early elementary teacher:

1. Getting the "days of the week" song stuck in your head.

2. Being referred to every once in a while as "mom".

3. Cleaning up the occasional vomit and/or pee.

4. Paper cuts.

5. Bladder infection from holding it too long.

6. Getting covered in glitter and finding it on your person even days later.

7. Getting sick from school germs.

8. Getting the "months of the year" song stuck in your head.

9. Getting your hands covered in various spots of marker.

10. Getting knocked over from a spontaneous (and lovingly violent) hug. 

Whaddaya think? Did I miss any?

spending that kindergarten paycheck

If you're one of the five kindergarteners that sees me for Language Arts, you are always aiming for more happy faces than sad faces.

Each child has a laminated 3x5 card on their desk with two columns: one for happy faces, and one for sad faces. You get a tally mark in the happy face column if you follow directions and follow our rules. I hardly ever give out sad faces except in the case of open defiance.

At the end of our time together, you get one penny for your "bank" if you have more happy faces than sad faces on your tally card. When you have FIVE whole cents, you can pick a prize from our treasure box.


You can save your pennies until you get TEN whole cents. TEN cents will buy you something from the slightly more expensive BIG prize box.

All week, "Karen" has been telling me she's saving her pennies for the BIG prize box. But today she and two other students got their fifth penny.

When I pulled out the small prize box and the other two children picked a prize, Karen was torn. She broke down and picked something from the small prize box (even though she could see the big box right next to it.)

After she handed me all of her five pennies, she solemnly declared:

"Tomorrow, I will wait for a BIG prize!"

In related news, today is my payday. What should I buy?

Spectator Teacher

For two hours in the morning, I pull my four little first grade darlings into my classroom for Language Arts. For two hours in the afternoon, I do the same with my five adorable kindergartners.

But for that extra hour? I alternate weeks (between K and 1st)  helping my students in their general ed classrooms. Every. single. minute. is. torture.

It boils down to this: it's not fun watching someone else teach. Even if the teacher is FANTASTIC! The problem is, I'm typically in there for a social studies or science mini lesson - when the teacher is talking or showing something and the kids aren't exactly doing anything.

Which means my job is to sit there and be bored, or (more commonly) be on the "Sit up and pay attention" patrol. Annoying!

I wish I could keep my students with me all day, but I know that it's much better for them to be with their regular ed peers whenever possible.

Sigh. It's hard to do the right thing.

rules and regulations

"Gilberto" started on Friday. He was on his best behavior!! Will this trend continue? Let's hope so! He is a cutie patootie and the other first graders are glad to have him back.

Nevertheless, I'll be doing a quick reminder of our rules and reward system tomorrow. Most All kids need to be periodically reminded of our agreed-upon rules. You know, like every day for the first two weeks of school, after Christmas break, Spring break, and like.... the weekend.

stay or go?

That is the age old question if you're a teacher who's feeling sick: Do I stay home and get some rest so I can recover from this? Or do I go in to work anyway?

As teachers, we can sometimes believe that if we stay home and leave our students in the hands of an emergency substitute (no matter how good our sub lesson plans are), THE WORLD WILL END: chaos and mayhem everywhere! True or not, it can be a major hassle to be out sick.

I'm feeling under the weather. Not sick enough to stay home (no fever/stomach ache/headache) but coughing a lot, lethargic, and generally weak. So I soldiered on and went to school.

Today after a particularly loud sneeze of mine, "Brayden" asked: "Why you sneeze?"

"Because I'm sick."

"You should go home," he told me in all of his first grade wisdom.

"But if I go home, who will teach you?"


"The GYM teacher!"

There you have it, folks: next time I call in sick, I'll just tell the office to leave my students in P.E all day!

Around Town

Some things going on around our town these days:

*As of Monday, we're down in the double digits as our highs. After MONTHS of walking the dog in 88 degrees at 6 in the morning - our lows got down to the mid-60's. This must be what heaven feels like.

*I asked the kids what the weather was like today (when we all walked outside to the portable, it was sunny and 80 degrees). All of my kindergartners said COLD!

*I heard a rumor that Starbucks now has pumpkin lattes available for the fall season. Is this true?!? I need to know!

*Max and I are both feeling under the weather. Not sick enough to stay home, just sick enough to be uncomfortable.

*My student "Gilberto" hasn't started back with us yet. Something about enrollment papers and bus transportation issues. I have no idea when he'll show up!

*There are 22 more school days until my next three day weekend!!!

Avoiding Writing Nightmares

I hate teaching writing.

Don't get me wrong... I love to write, I just can't stand teaching it. This is my seventh year teaching and every single year my goal has always been to be better at teaching writing.

I'm happy to say, this year it might actually happen! We are doing writer's workshop, and here is my little board for that:

Two other things are making it easier for me this year. One: portable word walls/mini offices. I printed out the portable word walls from here and then used ABC stickers on top. I found the concept and resources here. (Ahhh, thank you, internet!). And since I only have nine students, it didn't take me long to make these:

The second thing that's making it easier is my visual rubric of what "good work" looks like. I sat down with the kids and I did three variations on the assignment "write about your house". They helped me label each work sample:

Now it's easy to refer back to when they say "I'm finished!"

What about you? Do you have any tips/tricks for making writing less painful?
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