Friday, March 28, 2014

Ideas to Motivate Your Readers ~ Inexpensive Accelerated Reader Prizes

Welcome back to the Café!
Stay with me a minute, I do have some good prize incentive ideas for AR I want to share, but first please let me tell you a little about my week.
I'm so glad Friday is finally here. Anybody with me? What a busy week, and just let me say it's been really CrAzY! What should've been a 3 1/2 day week for students was turned into a whole week because of the snow days in January. And I really missed my teacher workday today. :-(
 I can barely find the bottom of my desk right now! Is it just me, or is everybody else super-organized during this time of the school year?
We took an exciting field trip this week 1 1/2 hours away, and on the way back home one of our activity buses decided to break down. Parents were picking up their kids at 4:30 and we didn't roll back on campus until 5:45! Hanging out in a gas station parking lot for an hour {waiting for a local bus garage worker to fix the bus} with a busload of first graders wasn't how I planned to spend the afternoon--AFTER touring the museum that day. Whew! 
The kids were champs, though, and they ended up earning 2 cupcakes for our Cupcake Compliment incentive {1 from a parent's compliment at the museum and the other from me for being such troopers on the l-o-n-g ride home.} Lunch time was @11:15 and the last bathroom break was.....well....too long ago to remember for a first grader. But surprisingly, nobody had to "go" {except me, but I wasn't going to dare start that chain of events} and no complaints of being hungry. It will definitely be remembered as a {fun} memorable trip. :-)
 Now...moving along to the REAL REASON for this post! Thanks for hanging with me as I shared about our exciting trip. Usually after the first semester or so I notice the kids really start to slack off with their AR reading. They don't seem to be as motivated and the AR point clubs with little incentives aren't doing the trick as much.
So a few weeks ago I introduced my class to the "AR Top Point Earner" prize board that goes up each Monday and the winner is announced on Friday. It's very simple, nothing fancy.{yet} I'll work on sprucing that up for next year. I figure spending less than $3.00 per week until the end of school will be well worth it~ if it means students are motivated to READ!
My prizes are mostly from The Dollar Tree or from the dollar sections at WalMart and Target. I also bought some things in bulk from Oriental Trading Company that I add to the prize board. Below are some of the prizes I've used the past several weeks.

I have been AMAZED at the response of students wanting to win these little prizes. AR testing has definitely increased. I think, too, that having the prizes on display in front of the class helps. {I have a small area of a bulletin board sectioned off for this}.

As I print my report for top point earners each week I notice the names at the bottom are now moving toward the top. And I'm mainly excited to see different students win each week! It shows they're really motivated to win, not just the top readers doing their normal reading routine.
I haven't had an exact tie yet, and hope that doesn't happen. If it does I would probably pull out some more prizes and let them choose or go shopping and try to find identical prizes. But...let's not think about that right now.

Thanks for stopping by the Crazy Critter Café. Hope you're able to use this to help with Accelerated Reader in your class! I'd love to know what you use to help motivate reluctant readers. {AR and reading in general}  Please leave your comments below. :-)
Have a great weekend!

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Go Fish Graphing with Slappy Hands

Happy Spring everybody!
 I'd better enjoy the nice temps this weekend because the forecast is calling for more sleet next week!?!? Maybe it'll bypass us this time. Not sure if I can handle more makeup days. :-)
 With the spring season comes up and down temps and POLLEN...and lots of it here in NC. Forget the car wash, I'm wastin' my time. Aside from the crazy temps and yellow allergy dust, one thing that doesn't slow us down during this time of year is going fishing.
Our class talked about signs of spring and things we like to do during this season. I created this Go Fish graphing activity~actually to use during Read Across America Day / Dr. Seuss' Birthday. But, you know how that goes...a thousand cute activities to fit into one day, then stretched out over one just doesn't all get done! So I thought this little fishing activity would fit in perfectly with our spring activities!
First I found some adorable little fish from The Clip Art Stand {found here}. Since I only created 7 rows for the graph, {DOWNLOAD THE GRAPH HERE} I made sure to count out the fish for each group before they began "fishing" so the numbers would match the graphing questions. I used 4 GREEN, 5 RED, 6 BLUE, and 2 YELLOW.
 I put each set of fish in a bowl {next time I'll be sure to get some fish bowls from the Dollar Tree}.
Kids used slappy hands {found at dollar stores, Oriental Trading Company} to take turns "catching" their fish. As a fish was caught, each student at the table would color a space for that fish. They sorted the "caught" fish by color. This helped them check their graphing data.
As a class, we answered the questions by looking back at our data. I also had the class create some of their own questions based on the graph. I was amazed at some of the questions they came up with!
I have to give Go Fish Graphing with slappy hands a "high five" {literally, haha}. Using slappy hands definitely made this simple graphing activity much more exciting!
I would love to make more graphs like this using different fish designs to place in the math center to reinforce graphing skills. I don't think the kids would get bored with this too fast.
Once we finished this activity I wasn't quite sure what to do with the used slappy hands. Kids kept asking if they could have them. Hmmmm.... 20 kids, 5 slappy hands. That could be a problem. Then I remembered the Class Dojo app has a, what I call, "random picker button".
I used that button to randomly select 5 students. If the chosen student's clip {I use the clip chart to help with behavior management.} was in green {ready to learn}, purple {great job}, or pink {outstanding}, they would be the lucky winners of the slappy hands.
Problem solved.

Good luck using this in your classroom if you decide to do a little "slappy hand" go fishing! I'd love to hear your comments about how you use this!

Thanks for stopping by the Crazy Critter Café! 

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day fun ~ Lester the Leprechaun writing & Shamrock Sums math

Welcome back to the CrAzY Critter Café! I think I'm finally getting over the time change - lovin' these longer days!

This past week we got a head start on some St. Patrick's Day activities. The kids had a BLAST drawing their own leprechauns. {This cute drawing idea is from First Grade, Blue Skies HERE.} Their drawings were of "Lester the Leprechaun". We used Lester to begin a creative, narrative-style writing.

Kids used the Story Starter cards from my St. Patrick's Day Pot O' Gold pack to choose a setting card {Where?} and one or two action cards {What?}. They recorded this on their Lester Leprechaun Story Planning page{also included in the pack}. They then created their "Sloppy Copy". Once I conferenced with each student, they wrote their "Neat Sheet", final draft. These were some really cute stories! I was so proud of my kids for their hard work and creativity! Check out these adorable leprechauns!
Students also worked on the Shamrock Sums activity with their table teams . They used a 120's board to check their work on adding ten to a number. Using the boards as a visual really helped them see when adding ten to any number, you'll go down one space on the chart.

I'm so excited to use activities from my Pot O' Gold pack this upcoming week! {and probably continue into next week, too} I'll use the Itty Bitty I Spy sheet at my word work center.
Thanks for stopping by the Crazy Critter Café! Hope you have a great St. Patty's Day!
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Complimentary Cupcakes & Class Dojo

Happy Monday everybody! The sun is finally shining and it was nearly 75 degrees here in NC today! Can you tell I'm ready for some warm weather? Talk about having spring fever!
I think the kids are feeling the same way. They earned their last brownie for the pan Friday, so I was up early this morning making fresh brownies. Now, why I didn't do it last night, who knows. I'll blame it on the time change this weekend. :-) Setting clocks forward one hour sure did throw me for a loop. Hopefully by the end of the week we'll all be back in the swing of things.
We've been doing brownie points since the beginning of the year and I thought it might be time for a fresh idea. I showed them my Complimentary Cupcakes from my Teacher's Bag of Tricks pack on TPT. We voted to either keep brownies or switch to cupcakes. They voted to switch! {Maybe it was the colorful cupcakes that won them over.} See the pics below of our brownie pan --now converted to our new complimentary cupcakes pan.
The sweet treats are attached to Velcro. The rough side is attached to the pan, so whenever I switch my treats, I'll just need to remember to put the soft side on them. This makes the pan more versatile, without having to create a new pan each time we want a new sweet incentive.
As the temperatures rise, it's usually the same with some misbehavior. The kids have been together for 7 months now and are having less patience with each other. I started using Class Dojo this school year and that helps keep them on track. Friends at school have used it and raved about it. So I thought I would give it a try.
Again, with any kind of technology, I'm moving forward at a snail's pace and I gradually introduced myself to Class Dojo back in September. I wanted to start out very simple, so I began by having one goal for the week in order for students to get a treat / prize. I think it was like 5 points by Friday and the students earned the treat. That worked okay while we all got adjusted to this new, exciting technology.
 By the second nine weeks, I created a chart {see pics below} and began rewarding students each afternoon before dismissal. This was now our "Dojo Time". They loved it! A few weeks ago I bought a plastic container with small drawers to keep some of my little Dojo treats in. Each afternoon I use a class roster to record the number of points students had that day. If they made it to a "reward" level I'll put a check beside their number. It makes it easy for me the next day to notice who's been rewarded. I reset my class points every Friday. Exception: when we were out for the snow days in Jan. / Feb. I would carry the points over until the next week. This allowed some students to earn treats they may not normally earn in one week, which gave them a boost to work hard the next week.
Our points only go to 30 {for now}. Remember, I had to start s-l-o-w. We'll adjust the points as students start earning more {and I make sure I'm giving more}.  I call this our Dojo piloting year. :-)

Good luck with classroom management in the upcoming warmer months. Spring is right around the corner! 
Thanks for stopping by the Crazy Critter Café! :-) 

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Math Fact Fries and Freebies

Welcome back to the Crazy Critter Café! What a week it's been- just when we thought spring was coming we get another "snow" day {freezing rain, actually}. I'm so ready for some warmer weather!

 And... this cold, rainy weather makes me want to just come home, get on my fuzzy pj pants and socks and relax. So in order to avoid cooking dinner {I really do enjoy cooking} we swing by McD's and grab the boys some happy meals. I knew it was for a reason because I finally found a good use for those adorable, miniature happy meal French fry containers. They look like they should belong in a play food set or something.
But, instead of a play food set, I've created a math center / cooperative group idea: Fact Fries. There are several addition and subtraction facts I printed on yellow paper--the "fries". Click HERE for a copy of the math facts I use. I'd recommend printing these on cardstock for durability. {I'll choose a few facts to begin with for the center then rotate other facts for the next week.} For the True/False labels I just typed it, snipped it, and taped it to the container.

Students look at their fries and decide which container the fact will belong - True or False. I have manipulatives at the center so students can work out their facts and prove their answers as true or false. Once the fries are in the container, students will complete the Fact Fries recording sheet where they'll record their equations. You can also get a copy of this sheet by clicking HERE. A good idea would be to have a sheet for students to check their equations before recording them unless it's an assessment-type activity.

A few other ideas for this center would be to hot glue a few marbles in the bottom of each container. This would help keep them from tipping over so easily. I know that sounds silly, but I tried this with a little tin pencil holder--glued about 5 marbles in the bottom and it's sturdy! Who would've known? Or, glue the container on some sort of "tray" to keep it sturdy. {Otherwise this center will take for-ev-er as the fries keep dumping out and then students have to figure out which container it was in.....etc.....etc... Visualize that one.}

So get hoppin' through the McD's drive-thru and start collecting these cute little containers! I'm sure you'll put them to good use!

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Monday, March 3, 2014

I Spy Bottles with Sight Words

I came across some more Fiji water bottles in my cabinet today and it reminded me I need to start working on some more I Spy Bottles! My goal was to make thematic ones this past summer, with colored rice to match the holiday/season. Ha! That idea was quickly gone once September came around. But the kids have enjoyed using the ones I have in the Word Work center this year.

 The pic below shows one bottle of a set of three I made. Inside the bottle are small items and little strips of sight words printed on cardstock {and laminated for durability}. I searched all of the junk drawers and the kids' toys for little things - anything- that would fit in those little bottles. The Dollar Tree was also a good place to find stuff. Pennies, Nickels, Dimes, toothpicks, silly bands, birthday candles, paper clips, little frogs, plastic rings, old keys.....etc. I also bought some sequins to add some extra color.

FYI- when you make your bottles don't forget to write down what's in each bottle BEFORE adding the rice. I learned that the hard way and those little things don't come out of the bottle as easy as they went in. :-) Add the rice last and leave some room for shaking the items. You'll have to play around with this to decide what you think would work best for your bottle.
Once you have your bottles like you want them I'd suggest hot-gluing the cap on. I added some ribbon just to fancy it up a bit. I used numbers on the lid so I'd know which bottle went with the correct I Spy Sheet.
To dye the rice I found a few ideas online and pretty much combined some of those ideas .
You'll need:
~ a large bag of rice {I bought a 5 lb. bag and used what I needed}
~rubbing alcohol {a few tablespoons}
~liquid food coloring {@10-12 drops depending on the color you want}
~disposable bowls and spoons {unless you don't mind the dye getting on them}
What I did:
~put alcohol in bowls, then add drops of food coloring
~add rice until it's coated well {I didn't measure the rice, but there wasn't any liquid left in the bowl}
~pour the rice onto aluminum foil or waxed paper and spread out to dry {if you pour out liquid, I would suggest adding more rice to soak it up}
~ store in a container {obviously dyed rice isn't for eating, so please don't eat it}
This recipe for dyed rice seemed to work well for me. There may be others out there, but this made some very colorful rice. Looked so pretty spread out on the counter and worked just fine for the I Spy Bottles.
Good luck if you decide to make your own. Start saving those water bottles!

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Up and Running!

Welcome to my blog!  It's finally up and running....sort of.  I'm taking baby steps here. I'm sure there's going to be lots and lots of tweaking along the way with a slow start.
I've been teaching first grade for 14 years and learn something new everyday. My goal for this blog is to share ideas with other teachers. Some days teaching can be very CrAzY. You know....the days when it all seems to go backwards beginning with the minute your feet hit the floor? Just can't find the right clothes to wear, hair won't get in place, can't find your other shoe, forgot your earrings, forgot to pack your lunch, get to school and the cycle seems to keep going...? Yeah, you know those days. It seems to keep right on until your head finds your pillow that night. Whew! So, at the Crazy Critter Café we'll just call it a day and share those memorable moments with fellow teachers {that really do understand}. Welcome to the Café!