Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Celebrations in Mrs. Colwell's Class!

I think we are fortunate in our school district, because we still have the freedom to say, "Merry Christmas!" and decorate our rooms and school with Santas, trees, and candy canes, etc!  We study the reasons behind all holidays and celebrations, but it's nice to not be censored in that way.  So, our Christmas party was a blast!  The week before the party, we wrote letters to Santa.  Of course, this was optional, but all of my students chose to do so.  We "mailed" the letters, and some high school volunteer "elves" wrote the kids back!!!  One of my teammates dressed up as Santa and went from room to room posing for a picture of him delivering the letters.  ;)  When the kids returned from P.E., I showed them the picture of Santa in our classroom and they FLIPPED!!!!  It was awesome!  Then, I gave them their personalized letter.  :)
Check out what this looked like...

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Our party was a blast!  We decorated gingerbread men cookies and ate them, we decorated snowflake ornaments, and played a snowman decorating contest.  Check out the fun...

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I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas or holiday season.  The holiday time at school is so magical, and I cannot believe it is already behind us.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sorry about the mess… we're learning!

I saw this cute sign on Pinterest, of course, and wanted to make it digitally. Click on any of the preview images below to download it for free.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

...but my Macbook is so delightful! And since we've no place to go... let's create, let's create, let's create! We are stuck inside here in McKinney, TX. The roads are iced over and the windchill puts the temp. at 7! We are NOT use to these conditions. ;) School was closed yesterday, and I spent the day on my computer making fun new products for my store! Check them out! I'm most excited about the Winter Holiday QR Codes, because my students will be using these next week! Click on the image below for more information.

The Candy Cane Senses Poem template is FREE!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Classroom 2013-2014

I spend so much time in my classroom, as do my students, that it's very important to me that my classroom is a comfortable, soothing place.  I'm so fortunate to have a large classroom with huge windows!  I repeated my owl and nature theme from last year with minor changes to improve functionality.  Check out my slide show from Meet the Teacher night created with the Animoto app!

Try our slideshow maker at Animoto.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Boggle on the SMARTboard = Working With Words

Something I know technology people would like to see us teachers do more, is to have our kids use the SMARTboard instead of us using it as pretty much a large T.V. screen. ;)  I'm often guilty of this, but I'm going to make a bigger effort to give the kids more opportunities. 

I think it could be fun for the kids to play boggle with this website as part of working with words at Daily 5:

I'm not ready to introduce this quite yet.  iPads will be next in my room, then working with words.  LOVE Daily 5!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

We Arrrrr Starting a Pirate Unit

This week begins our two week pirate unit.  We're reading children's books that include How I Became a Pirate, and Pirate's Don't Change Diapers.  These books can both be found on Tumblebooks!

Our curriculum connection is using context clues to determine the meaning of new vocabulary words.  New words are easy to find in pirate books!  There are so many great terms like shiver me timbers, ahoy matey,
We will also connect pirates to our map unit next week when we make the connection to treasure maps!

We're going to read this pirate poem as well!  Click on the image to visit my TpT store and download it.  :)

On Thursday, the teachers and students in first grade are invited to dress like a pirate!  This will make for a great class picture. :)

Of course, I have consulted Pinterest for pirate themed ideas.  Check out my Pirate pinboard.

There's a free app from Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates.
 Click above and then scroll down to #10 on the list.

Also, check out the Toontastic, Jr. app for story creating.  (See comment below.) 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Instead of Saying "I don't know."

Today, our school hosted a fabulous training from Seidlitz Education.  Our presenter, Valerie, was a great speaker and she taught us many valuable strategies for vocabulary development with all students, including English language learners.  She really made us think about how we teaching.  We were challenged to analyze the way we teach, and consider how much talking we do versus our students.  Our students, especially our ELL's need to talk and use the academic vocabulary more than us!  Yet, we, as teachers, have perfected the art of saying it all!

"Talking doesn't mean teaching!" -Valerie

We were given a copy of John Seidlitz's book, 7 Steps to  Language-Rich Interactive Classroom.  Step 1 is to teach students what to say when they don't know the answer.  I made the posters below to post in my classroom.  I am sharing them with you for free!  Click on the images below to visit my TpT store and download them.

The first 2 posters in the download have 4 questions that my team has decided to focus on in first grade.
The rest have all 6 questions from the book and our training with different colored borders. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

4 Back to School Freebies

I've been making posters and decorations for my classroom like crazy!  I thought I should share some of the simple little things I've made in the hopes that someone else will like them and want to use them in their classroom.  :)
They're all FREE... my favorite price!  ;)
Click on the images to visit my TpT store to download them for free.
Here's to a great school year!

The reward menu is a word document, so you can edit it and make it fit your needs.  We use popsicle sticks as compliment sticks in a token economy system.  Take it and tweak it!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Virtual Postcards from Virtual Trips

Imagine your students emailing home an epostcard from a virtual field trip!  Use Google Earth and interactive virtual field trip sites to journey to a place you've been reading about or studying.  Then, have students use images from that location to "write" home about what they have seen and learned.

Check out the app called PhotoCard by Bill Atkinson.  It's FREE!  You can even record a voice message to go with it!  E-mailing is free.  If you want your post card printed and mailed in a hard copy, there's a less than $2 fee in the U.S.  Not bad!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Differentiated Spelling Lists - How I Manage

It took me until my 7th year of teaching to be ready to tackle differentiated weekly spelling words.  Now that I've had 2 years of success with it, I'm never going back!  I've gotten the most positive feedback from parents about the spelling words I give their children.  They appreciate that I find out where their child is and challenge them.  Too often we choose spelling words based on where the curriculum or standards say our students should be.  This leaves about a third of the class bored and wasting their time, and a third of the class lost, confused, and frustrated.  I've figured out a system that works for me to reach the needs of all of my students.  Hopefully my system will give you some ideas or get you thinking about how you might be able to work this into your spelling program.

My team does weekly spelling lists.  Typically we shoot for 10 words a week, however, the number of words depends on the students' needs.  For many struggling spellers, we will choose only 5 or 6 words that all have the same spelling pattern, vowel sound, word family, or phonogram.

So how do you know what words to give each student?

I give a pre-test on Fridays after I give the post-test for the words we studied that week.
Here's the Pre-test and Post-test paper I copy front to back and cut in half for weekly tests.  Feel free to download it from my EdWorld Exchange store and use it in your class!

How many groups do I make?

I typically have 3 groups.  I call them List A, List B, & List C.  Sometimes I have students do so well on their challenge words that I have to make them their very own list.  If I have one student on a list all by themselves, I will typically just name the list with the student's name.  I had a student two years ago that was so advanced in spelling, that I used 7th and 8th grade science terms!  It was awesome, because he was challenged, which he and his parents loved, but he was also learning advanced vocabulary terms.

Where do I get the words for the different spelling lists?

List A - word families, short vowels, words that incorporate the phonograms we are studying in class, in some cases I use sight words, RTI goals, istation data, etc.

List B - on grade level words either from Spalding Spelling, our district curriculum, or MY FAVORITE SOURCE:  Sailing Through First Grade  (This teacher has got it going on!  She has regular and challenge word lists that include related words and sentence dictation suggestions for the entire year.  It's the best spelling list resource I've found; especially for FREE!!!!)

List C - vocabulary words from content areas, ie. geometry: sphere, cylinder, rectangular prism, animal classification groups:  mammals, reptiles, etc.

How do you keep the different lists straight?

I use a table in a Word document.  I update the words, and move the students' names around from week to week as needed.  I post this table in the classroom so students know which words to practice during Daily 5.  You're welcome to download this template and use it to organize your spelling lists.

How do you practice the spelling words?

Students practice writing, stamping, and building their spelling words independently or with partners during Daily 5.  We also send home the spelling words on Monday as part of the weekly newsletter and homework.  We include a list of fun and different ways to practice spelling words to keep things interesting for practice at home.

I also use Spelling City for fun and easy online practice and printable handwriting practice pages.  It's super easy to create the weekly spelling lists and print already made handwriting sheets for each spelling list.  There are interactive and engaging games that students can access from school and home. It's free to set up and account and create spelling lists.  Some of the games require a premium account, but I have never found the need to pay; there's plenty to do for free!
To save me the trouble of typing up or writing all the spelling lists for each child's newsletter, I just print the handwriting paper and send it home on Mondays.

You get a link to your own home page to make it easy for parents and students to access.
Check mine out here:  Link to your Homepage:

I also use shared sentence writing practice each week.  I model writing each word in a sentence on the SMARTboard, and the students practice proper handwriting in their handwriting books.  They help me sound out and spell each word, and we talk about and note spelling rules.  We also discuss capitalization, punctuation, and parts of speech.  It's a great way to incorporate phonics and grammar all in one daily routine.

How do you give the tests?

I have taught the kids to listen for their list title, List A, B, C, etc. and then the number.  For example, I will say, "List A, #1 is fish.  List B, #1 is shark.  List C, #1 is washing."  Then I'll start over for #2 and so on.  We start with the posttest to cover the words the kids have been working on all week.  Then, I preface the pretest by telling the kids that they're not expected to know these words, so it's ok if they have to just sound them out and try their best.  I also have the kids label the top of their test with A, B, or C to make it easier for my high school volunteer to grade for me.  ;)  I'll use their pretest to decide which list of words they should work on the preview week.

Again, this system works for me, and I have seen success from the kids and gotten positive feedback from parents.  If you also use differentiated spelling lists, I'd love to hear how you manage it!  Please leave a comment and share your ideas and advice.  Thanks!

20+ Science & Social Studies Apps for Kids

I recently taught a training about the first grade science and social studies curriculum in our district.  It forced me to really focus on those subjects that are often pushed to the bottom of the priority list after reading, writing, and math.  I decided to put some time into gathering some app recommendations for K-2 science and social studies.  I admit that there are a few that aren't specifically made for science or social studies, but they're SUCH great apps that they can be used across all subjects and grades!

Hope you find some apps that will work for your class!

Most of these apps are FREE... at least for now!  The apps that aren't free are marked with their current price.

1.  What's that, Little Sherlock? - Notice details on objects & good observations.

2.  Discover USA - Learn about our country's landforms and US symbols in 10 different states.

3.  Seasons and Weather - seasons and weather changes
Identify various weather situations in different seasons, and learn about appropriate clothing and activities.

4.  Bill Nye the Science Guy - I'm a longtime fan!  Visit Bill Nye's lab, play games, watch video clips, and try science experiments.

5. Go Nini - Make healthy food choices & learn about the importance of active play.

6. Shout Science! - A comic storybook app for young readers about scientists & scientific discovery. It consists of three narrative biographies that take place during the Scientific Revolution in Europe.

7. Fotobabble - Take a picture of anything, such as an animal or a historical figure and add animation & voice recording.

8.  Animoto Video Maker - make a slideshow of your pictures from a nature walk, etc.

9.  Dentist Office - Act like the dentist and clean the children's teeth.

10.  The Four Seasons - Raise awareness about our natural resources through an animated and interactive children's storybook.  Great for Earth Day!

11.  Google Earth - An essential tool in education!  Take virtual field trips, visit the locations of animals, landforms, landmarks, etc.

12.  Recycle Hero for Kids - Learn about recycling and taking care of our environment by playing this adventure game.

13.  Haiku Deck - Haiku Deck is the simple and fun new way to create stunning presentations – whether you’re teaching a lesson or explaining what you've learned.

14.  Educreations - An essential app!  This app gets my top choice for elementary students.
Educreations turns your iPad into a recordable whiteboard. Creating a great video tutorial is as simple as touching, tapping and talking.

15.  Tellagami -  (rhymes with origami) is a quick and easy way to create and share a short story called a Gami.  Create an avatar, add your voice and animations, and talk about something you've learned.

16.  Skitch - Add labels to images to create diagrams.

18.  Barefoot World Atlas - $4.99  (I caught it when it was free.)

20.  Count Your PeasThink about what you eat and food choices. Make art while you learn about food! 

21.  Geo Walk (3D world fact book) - 2.99

22.  A Heart Pumping Adventure (storybook on the circulatory system) – 2.99

23.  Scan - Free and easy to use scanner for QR codes.  Create research projects or scavenger hunts for your students to learn about animals, the human body, etc.  Check out my example of using QR codes in with animal research HERE.  Or Texas & U.S. symbols research HERE.

24.  American History Time Line - $0.99  

Check out another list of science apps created by a homeschooling mom.  :)

For a list of 12 more science apps visit Best Apps for Kids by clicking HERE.

Check out the list of apps for science compiled by the Appy Mall's Appy Store.

National Geographic has many more apps for kids.  Check them out.

PBS Kids has MANY apps; some of which are free.  The Sid the Science Kid series is one of my favs for my kiddos!  Check out the list of all their apps HERE.