Centers 3 and 4

I'm back today to talk about Centers 3 and 4.

If you missed Centers 1 and 2, click {HERE}.

If you missed how I organize my centers, click {HERE}.

Here is our Centers Chart (without students' names as of yet):

And almost all of our centers are housed here:

Center 7 is not seen here because it is the Writing Center and Center 8 is not seen here because it is the Listening Center and those centers have permanent spots in our classroom.  You'll see those later this week (fingers crossed I'm on the ball).

I couldn't wait to start these.

Normally, I introduce these in small groups so that we all learn how to read the highlighted parts and we all learn how NOT to read the character's name when we see it.  

In other words, instead of Dog I see a duck, we learn to just read I see a duck.

You can't just assume the kids won't read the character's name when they start out.  

Or, you can assume, but then you're going to want to hit your head on the table a few times while you cry out, "Don't read the character's name!  That's just so you know whose turn it is to speak!!!!"  

But, like I said, I couldn't wait.  I have a whole year's worth of plays now for all levels of readers (hooray!) and so I just wanted to get started.  These plays help with fluency, reading, expression, etc. and, quite honestly, get the kids EXCITED about reading.

I blogged last weekend about how I failed miserably at introducing these plays whole class.

I mean, it was bad.  

It was good in that everyone was super excited and telling me they were ready to perform in front of the class (they weren't) and that it was the best day ever and this was their most favorite center ever . . . but it was mass chaos.

I also blogged last weekend about how I was going to rectify the situation.

And, by golly, it worked!!!!

I printed THE SAME play for all of my kids.  I printed 15 copies of the Cat's part and 15 copies of the Dog's part and split the class in half.

I put another copy of the SAME play under our document camera and half the class read (at the same time!) the cat's part and the other half of the class read (at the same time!) the dog's part.  I was wilding moving my arms around . . . directing which half of the class was supposed to read and then moving my arms to the other half when it was their turn.

We read the play three times and by the fourth time, they didn't need me at all.  And they got better each time . . . which proved practice makes progress.  And it was awesome for explaining that when my kids go to Plays, they are supposed to practice, practice, practice or, as I like to call it, REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE.

And -- with that -- the entire class learned how to read the highlighted part without reading the character's name.  And the entire class learned that it's back and forth . . . we take turns speaking and reading . . . and the entire class learned how to use expression and read fluently . . . and the entire class GOT IT.

It was MAGIC!

And it was super fun!

My kids are dying to be able to perform in front of the class . . . and now they can!  But only two plays will be performed because only four kids go to that center a day---so it takes no time at all!  

I loaned my copies to my teammie, Laurie, the next day and she had the same things to say.  She added, "WE HAD SO MUCH FUN!"

I KNOW!  I said.

Center 4:  Fishing

Fishing for Sight Words.

I blogged about this many moons ago {HERE}.

I've learned something major since then.


You don't need paper clips.  I used to use paper clips and the paper clips would fall off.  And then kids would come up to me and say we need four paper clips because four fish don't have paper clips.

And I would say Look in the tub.

And they would say But we don't know how to clip them on the fish.

Which was actually true.  First graders have a hard time using a paper clip as an actual CLIP.  They can use paper clips for spinners and they can use paper clips as things to untangle when they're supposed to be listening to you teach something valuable on the carpet, but when it comes to actually using it for its intended purpose, they don't have a clue.

I'm here to tell you:  FORGET THE PAPER CLIPS.

Just put a staple into your fish.


I took all my paper clips off the fish (which was actually kind of hard in some instances because my kids had speared the fish through the eye - really) and just put a staple into each one.

Staples don't fall off.

But they're magnetic.

It's brilliant.  I don't remember where I saw this life changing event, but thank you.

To introduce fishing, we sat in a big circle on the carpet.

I put the "pond" down (blue fabric that is as old as the hills) in the center of the circle and pulled four sticks (student names) to be our models.

We took turns fishing for sight words.

We learned to sit down when we fish.  

We're not fly fishing.  I had them repeat that.  We're not fly fishing.

We get one fish at a time.

We read the sight word.  We help others read the sight word.

The End.

Later on, I'll ask them to use the word in a sentence or I'll let them catch two fish at a time and use both words in a sentence or I'll put out fish with numbers and we'll do math or I'll put out whales with long a words on them . . . you get the picture.

But for now, we're just keeping it simple.

The kids were thrilled with this center.  It's always a favorite.  I just laminated construction paper, die cut it, and then wrote sight words on the fish with a sharpie.

The fish are about . . . um . . . ten years old or so.  

It's probably time to upgrade, but I never make it a priority.

The staples were enough work this go-around.


I got my fishing pole from Lakeshore {HERE}.  But back in the olden' days, I had a dowel with a magnet tied to it.  Either one works and makes kids happy.  :)

And there you have it.

Now my kids are experts at Centers 3 and 4.


Five for Fraturday

Hello there, Saturday.


I saw this on Top Dog Teaching's Instagram and cracked up!  I was scrolling through Instagram while I was still trying to wake up this morning and it cracked me up.  I showed it to Steve and he laughed uproariously.

That means you roar upwards with laughter.

I caught a cough/cold/sore throat from my new students . . . new students = new germs or something like that . . . and after the longest day of professional development in the history of mankind, I took a Nyquil and was asleep by 8:30 last night.

And then I proceeded to sleep for thirteen hours.

This is true.

And I know that you can't do this because you have kids or a mother-in-law or soccer practice or baseball games or company from out of town or, perhaps, A LIFE, but I don't, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

And I apologize for bragging.

Steve and I took Murphie to the park, grabbed coffee and donuts, and now I'm back home.

I love Saturdays.

I love coffee.

I love donuts.

I love Saturdays.

We both have work to do today so we are going to do our work, and then reconvene this evening for a steak dinner and maybe a movie.

Nothing too exciting going on around these parts.

And I'm okay with that.

Murphie is in my spot.

That's my spot.

And I got up from my spot to use the facilities . . . and when I came back, she had taken it.

Or, overtaken it.

She is so spoiled that I let her stay in my spot and I squeezed in between her and Steve and was pretty much uncomfortable for the rest of the night which is why I went to bed at 8:30.

By the way . . . those blankets on the couch are THE BEST THINGS EVER IN ALL THE WORLD.  They are from Costco and cost about $12.  They are the softest things IN THE WORLD.  We keep buying more and say that we'll give them away as Christmas presents but, so far, we pretty much have one in every room now.

I bought a gray one specifically to match my office.

And yes, I know it's summer, but we have air conditioning.  And we are not afraid to use it.

My friend, Stacie, texted me the other day about her son's homework.  He's in third grade this year.

When I said "Text me a picture of it and I'll see if I can help", I held my breath and chanted:


Her reply:


Better known to me as:


I mean, granted, I have a K-6 credential, but I've been teaching first grade for 19 years and you lose a lot of this stuff if you don't use it.

And I really only estimate when I'm trying to figure out what a serving of Chee-toh Puffs or Cadbury Mini Eggs is and then I just inevitably give up because it's hard to estimate ounces, and so I end up eating the whole bag to save myself the trouble and the headache because, really, when you think about it, who cares?

Not me, that's for sure.

So I had to text my friend, Meghan, who teaches third grade, and we got it all sorted out.

And then I ate a bag of Chee-toh Puffs as a reward.

I'll be working on my Sight Words binder today so that we can start our Sight Word Fluency program this week!  :)  I'll be back later this week (hopefully!) to blog more about this.  

Have a happy day!


Centers 1 and 2

We are getting things done at school.

And by that, I mean we are starting to get into a bit of a routine!  Yeehaw!!!

Yesterday marked our first official day of Centers.  It went great and the kids were super engaged and I never even had to open the music box.  It was just the right amount of noise.  

In order to have Centers run smoothy, I introduced one center a day and we all did that center.  All of us.  The whole group.  

Because I have a ton of kids, I needed to introduce EIGHT centers before I could really start centers the normal way.

So this is what we've been up to the last eight days in our class . . . although, this could be the longest post in the history of the world if I went into all eight centers so I'm going to blog about two centers each day until you're all caught up.  Unless one is super easy to explain, and then maybe I'll talk about three centers in one post.

Well . . . you never know, maybe I'll talk about four centers in one day.  I don't like to have rules.  I don't like to be tied down.

So, let's put it this way:  Read on and let's see when I decided to stop writing for today.

If you need to go back and see how I organize my centers, read this post about how I revolutionized my centers a couple of years ago.  :)

Here is our Center Chart . . . at the time, I hadn't made any center group cards with student names because we weren't ready to break off into groups yet.  But I just slide a card of names (four names on a card) into the slot next to each number card.  The numbers NEVER change.  I just rotate the name cards.

This is it in a nutshell:  I no longer make center cards with specific center names.  I don't have center cards that say "Play-doh" or "Pattern Blocks" or "Fishing" or "Blah Blah".  I just put whatever center I want in the tub marked number 1 and that's where the students go.  The End.

It has saved my life.  

I highly recommend it.

Center 1:  Play-doh Sight Words by Miss Kindergarten

I gave each kid a container of play-doh (you could also have kids share a container, but I didn't want any issues whatsoever and now I have so much play-doh, it will last me through the end of the year  until Christmas  until next Friday), I set a timer, and we just played with the play-doh.  Oh, believe me, it was so much fun.

First grade is fun, don't ya know.

When the timer went off, I passed out a sight word card to each child and demonstrated on my document camera how to fill in the sight word in play-doh.  I had copied the SAME play-doh mat on the copier in black-and-white so that we could all see how to do this.  I do it, you do it, I said.    

My kids went nuts for this center (they do every year).  Then I passed out various cards to each table group and let them have at it.  But we were ALL doing Center 1 that day.

And we all became Center 1 experts.

We chanted and repeated and echoed the following phrase before I passed out any of the play-doh:


I learned it was an important step in explaining the directions from past experience.

You're welcome.

Center 2:  Pattern Blocks by Crayons and Whimsy

Our math curriculum comes with individual bags of pattern blocks for each student, plus I own a few sets of my own.  

I gave each kiddo a baggie of pattern blocks, set a timer, and we played with the blocks until the timer went off.

Again, a ball was had by all.  First grade is so much fun and all that.  

I'm the best teacher ever and all that.

This is the best day ever and all that.

When the timer went off, I passed out a pattern block card to each child.  I had copied the SAME pattern block card in black-and-white so that we all had the same card, and I modeled how to cover up the cards with pattern blocks.  I do it, you do it, I said.

Once we got going, I passed out various pattern block cards to each table group and we had a ball, as I previously said.

A ball, I tell you!

We ALL did Center 2 that day.

And we ALL became Center 2 experts. 

Okay, this is where I'm stopping for today.

Come back soon and let's see what Center 3 and 4 are.

And maybe Center 5 . . . 


Five for Fraturday

It's about 2pm here and I just woke up.

Okay, not really.  My body woke up around 8am and the rest of me joined in about five minutes ago.  As in, 2:05pm.

I don't know where I was or what I was doing, but when I walked into the family room, I saw Murphie reading on her iPad.


We just went on a long walk -- which is just one of the reasons I love Saturdays.  :)

Picture day was this week and I had no clue what I was going to wear (but I wasn't stressing about it, either).  I ran into Target to get some soap (and about $100 worth of who-knows-what- because I certainly didn't have it on any list or anything) and saw this cute dress hanging up.

I said to myself CUTE! and kept shopping.

When I was ready to check out, I said If they have your size, get it.

They had my size so I just threw it in the cart and didn't even try it on.  I always try stuff on . . . but I threw caution to the wind when I threw the dress in my cart.

The dress is super comfy and flowy.  I was a little afraid that it might appear as if I was pregnant . . . but after several assurances from Steve that I didn't look pregnant and then telling people when they said I looked cute that I hope I don't look pregnant! I was told the dress didn't make me look pregnant.

And the fact that I'm practically considered too old to be pregnant might have helped, too.

But honestly . . . $24.99 for a dress that I didn't have to try on and that I instantly loved is a good day in my book.

It's also a good day in my book when you throw a Take 5 candy bar in your cart, as well, because you know the dress will cover up any weight gain you might possibly gain from a candy bar.  Or two.

We worked on a little bit of grammar this week -- beginning sentences with capital letters!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE A Teachable Teacher's Grammar Cut and Paste pack.  This was perfect for a little practice at their seats.

I introduced plays this week.  I couldn't wait.

I usually like to introduce them in small groups.

But I couldn't wait.

So I paired up kids (all at the same time -- the whole class was in pairs) and it was CRAZY.

Crazy good and crazy exciting. but very very very crazy.  Let's all be glad an administrator didn't walk in.

I had a brainstorm earlier today (on my walk with Murphie - bonus!) and maybe you've already thought of this, but I'm going to reintroduce plays on Monday.  I need a DO OVER.

I just finished printing THE SAME PLAY for all of my kids.  I'm not making them into folders.  I just stapled them in the corner.  And, because I have HP Instant Ink, I printed them in color.  But you could print in black and white and then hopefully the gray highlight will be easy enough to see or you can "manually" highlight the parts.

Anyways, I printed the play All About G from the Kinder pack.  It's an easy play, but I want everyone to feel successful and we'll work on expression and fluency.  And yes, you can have fluency and expression with this play.  Trust me.  And you can use movements, too.  

There are two characters, a dog and a cat.  

So I printed 15 copies of the dog's part and 15 copies of the cat's part and I'll pass them out on Monday.  And half the class will read the dog's part and the other half will read the cat's part.  But we'll do it ALL TOGETHER so that everyone GETS HOW TO DO IT.


You're welcome.  I'm glad I went through the chaos to help you out.  I'm a giver, don't ya know.

I don't have a picture of this one, but I received an email this week from a parent of a little girl I had in my class YEARS AGO.

I'm talking 15 years ago!!

And now the little first grader is a senior at Purdue University in Indiana and she is an Elementary Education major and wants to be a teacher because, apparently, I inspired her.

Say what??

I say all the time that I don't think I taught my first few classes anything and I certainly hope that their second grade teachers taught them to read because I, for one, did not.

I mean, I was just drowning those first few years.

So this email was a huge relief!  This student of mine GOT INTO COLLEGE.



It was THE BEST email.  I dug up my class pictures from my handy dandy files that I keep on all my school stuff and I found the little girl right away.

She looked adorable.

And I looked . . . frazzled.  And young.  And like I didn't know what I was doing.


That's my five for this week.  How was your week?


All About Me

I have almost made it to the end of week two.

I am still loving my class.  They are eager and sweet and excitable and hyper and calm and chatty and quiet . . . and that's just in the first fifteen minutes of the day.  :)

I think I'll keep them.

For homework this week, my team and I kept it light.  Last week was gobs and gobs and gobs of paperwork for the parents to fill out and then we (the teacher) have to separate it into seventeen different piles and alphabetize it all and cut off things and unstaple things and it is the worst homework ever in all the land for the teachers, but that's just my take on the whole thing, and neither here nor there.

So for our first official homework assignment, we always start out with our All About Me books every year.

I got this idea from my good friend, Christina at Mrs. Winter's Bliss, who gave me permission to put it on TpT as my very first product ever.  At the time, Christina was not blogging or putting any of her amazing creations on TpT, but now she is.  If you're not following her, you should.   People, she's good.  And she knows what she's doing.  :)

So . . . my first blog post about this All About Me book is {HERE}.  I was all afraid and embarrassed and nervous and I had no clue what I was doing as far as the whole TpT thing went so it makes for a fun read if you've got time.  


I did (and STILL do) believe in this book and it's one of my most favorite things to do and something I just can't give up.

Once all of our books come back and I assemble them,
they'll go into this basket.
They're so special, they have their own basket.
And their own storage.
And their own Silhouette Cameo labels.

My book.
And it's so fun to read it to them.
They get to know me a little.
And they get to see my expectations for
their first homework assignment.

The parents help their child create the book at home and then I get a volunteer or two to glue the pages to construction paper.  I laminate the pages and then get a volunteer or two to cut them out.

GET A VOLUNTEER.  Even if it's a sixth grader.

I do all the binding because I happen to be really good at the binding machine (seriously - ask anyone, it's practically a gift) and it doesn't take me any time at all.

Once they are all bound, I share a few books a day (which is HUGE and all I'll hear is Are you sharing All About Me books today?!!!  When?  Can we do it now?!). And then once I've shared all the books, I put them into a center.

I mentioned this on my other post about these books, but it's worth saying again.


Because if you just put all the books into a basket and put that basket in the class library, you will have a MOB OF CHILDREN climbing over one another to get to the basket.  And you might hear cries of But I want to read my book, she has my book, it's my book, give it to me! or I said I wanted to read Mrs. Oldham's book, you said I could and now you're hogging it! or You broke it!  All the pages just came apart!

Or, possibly, maybe, I don't know . . . maybe a bookshelf might tip over.

Just saying.

It's not like it happened to me.


Stop looking at me like that.


Writing Center

It's cooling off around here and we were able to get all of our recesses today!!

Which was terrific, considering it's only the sixth day of school and my kids have no clue about the schedule of our day whatsoever at all.  

I'm still taking it very very very slowly . . . we are mostly learning how to line up, and go back and forth between the desks and the carpet area.

Today, we added in a practice fire drill because why not?  Whyever not?  Sure!  Let's do that, too, I said.  All hunky-dory and happy-go-lucky and not in the least perturbed.  


Anywho, I want to show you the little update I did in our Writing Center.

It's pretty much the exact same as the last couple of years except that I added Lori's writing vocabulary cards from her Writing Through the Year units for a visual display.

It's a VISUAL DISPLAY!  (Does that sound as good as I'm trying to make it sound?)  

Even my fancy camera (that I do not know how to use) can't really get rid of the glare, but you can get enough of an idea.  It's ribbon.  And mini clothespins of which I am obsessed with at the moment.

I printed Lori's cards at 75% because the area between my windows is super small.  And I needed these cards to fit because I had it in my mind of how I wanted it to look.

Here's how I wanted it to look:

And that's her writing board.
I can't tell you how many times I have drooled
over her board.
So I had no choice but to copy be inspired by her.
Check them out {HERE}.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my new Visual Display.  Lori's pack also offers the cards compiled together on a page . . . so last year I printed those out, laminated them, and kept them in a binder.

But wouldn't you know . . . my kids never really opened the binder. 

Instead, I would get do you know how to spell St. Patrick's Day?

And I would reply, as a matter of fact, I do, I'm a super speller, don't ya know.

And then I usually walked away because I love to mess with children and make them chase after me.

No no no.  Just kidding.  I would say Look in the binder!  PLEASE!  

Now I'm just hoping this Visual Display will do the trick.

And I already have a FOOL PROOF plan on how I will remember to change the cards each month.  


Here it is:

A long time ago, I blogged about how I organize my calendar numbers and cover ups.  You can check it out {HERE}.

Well . . . I just put the Writing Vocabulary Cards in the calendar box by month.

And when I go to change my calendar (which I never forget and I don't know why that is, but I just never forget to change the calendar, and it has nothing to do with being closer to summer every time I change the calendar, either) . . . but when I go to change my calendar, I'll see the writing vocabulary cards and that will trigger my brain to change out the writing vocabulary cards on the Visual Display.

I will probably still keep the binder at the Writing Center in case kids need to look up words from past months . . . we'll see.

And that's that.

And it's dinner time now.

And I made a lasagne.

For real.  From scratch.  On Sunday.

Everybody check the sky for pigs.

And then get out of the way.

Because I really did cook.


Five for Fraturday


Happy Happy Joy Joy!

SLEEP!!!!  That's what I did to kick off the weekend.

This pic was taken on Monday in my teammate's classroom.  It was the day before school started and it was a teacher prep day.  

BJ's provided pizza, pasta, and salad for our lunch that day and then later that afternoon, our principal went from classroom to classroom pulling an ice chest on a cart, delivering ice cream drumsticks!  

I'm telling you, the day before school starts can be so stressful, but lunch from BJ's and ice cream drumsticks can sure make it bearable!

I whipped up this sign for my kids to hold while I took their first day of school pictures.  I kept it simple this year.  And I made extras for parents who wanted to use them as the kids settled in on day one.

For the first time ever, I just relaxed and a had a really low key day with my new first graders.  Most often, I'm trying to cram all the new rules and routines and this is how we this and this is how we that into their little heads that I can't stand myself by lunch time.  

So for the first time ever, I just took it easy.  We read a ton of books, talked about gold tags (in a simple all you have to do is make good choices and I will give you one kind of way) sang songs, danced, and made a craft.

When I asked if they would all come back the next day, they all said they would.  ;)

My class is sweet, sweet, sweet!!!!  And our kinder teachers did an AMAZING job because they just get it.

And here's how I know my class is sweet.

Teammate 1:  a student wouldn't follow the directions of wait on the playground before school starts and, instead, followed her to the teacher's lounge where he said he wanted to hold the door open for her.

Hmmm.  A gentleman or a stinker?

Teammate 2:  a student poured her entire water bottle into her pencil box so that she wouldn't have to work.  Picture floating crayons, pencils, scissors, glue, and gold tags . . . 

Hmmm.  A thinker or a stinker?

Teammate 3:  a student wouldn't come in the classroom after lunch and, instead, sat in the shade of a tree by her classroom.  When she told him to please come inside, he said, "I QUIT."

Hmmm.  I think we have all wanted to say that at one time or another . . . 

But I have not had any of that!  So that's how I know.  You generally know on day one, don't you think?

Our Parent Information Night was the third day of school (nothing like extra stress the first week) and my teammates and I kept this simple, too.

I always do some sort of a treat for the parents as a thank you for attending, but it usually involves me buying cellophane treat bags, putting things into it, tying a ribbon, etc.  This was WAY easier.  I used hot glue to adhere the label.

I had some extra bags of popcorn left over so when I got home from Parent Info Night, I had wine and popcorn for dinner.  Which is one of my favorite kinds of dinner.

I had sign ups for volunteers at Parent Info Night and I plan on using these fun bags for the parents who can't help in the classroom, but want to help at home.

My teammate came up with this idea and I ran with it.  I "designed" the bags on Vista Print and used Command Hooks to hang them on the back of my desk.  As you can see, the back of my desk is not super pretty and I'd like to fix it somehow and/or buy a brand new white desk, but whatever.  It's the back of the desk.  It will live.  I will live.

I have a Homework Helper, Book Doctor, and two Help at Home bags.  My teammate already put a pencil box inside each one with tape, scissors, stapler, staples, paper clips, etc.  I haven't gotten that far yet, but I plan on it!  :)

We are dying where I live.

We even had to miss recess the last couple of days.  Which is really sad for first graders when you're trying to get them into the routine of we stay all day, but we get lots of recesses---it will be fun, don't worry!  

We started Go Noodle RIGHT AWAY.  

Because it's so hot, and because I made it to the weekend, and because I just finished the first week of school, I am giving myself the day off.

I have a ton of shows to catch up on and I plan on staying inside, in pajamas, doing NOTHING.

If you knock on my door, I'm not answering.  Just saying.