October 4, 2015


I'm poppin' in for a late as ever weekly rewind . . . Five For Friday . . . er . . . Sunday Night style.  We had a great week in first grade. Lots of learning and oodles of shenanigans. I even got hit with a new student on Tuesday (my 15th boy out of 24 total). Yes, I had nightmares and didn't sleep a wink the night before, but he is an absolute gem. I must have done something right in a prior life ;) Overall, this round was a pretty great run if you ask me.    

The kids were introduced to nouns this week.  We were all about sorting and identifying those people, places, and things.  Here are a few fun ideas if you are rolling into this grammar piece anytime soon . . .

Make yourself a pocket chart sort with real photos.
The kids loved playing with this throughout the week.
We completed our first Hunt The Room Activity.
This fall flavored Noun Hunt is a FREEBIE in my shop :)
It's editable too!  #teacherscore
Our BIG BUDDIES helped us make noun mobiles.
I like to teach that you can TOUCH a noun.
This ditty helps reinforce this tip:)
It's easy to pull off when you have extra hands one day.
I'll be honest . . . this is what my mobiles look like right now.
We ran out of time with our buddies last week and I forgot about them.
I have a date with these tonight when I watch my stories . . .
The Strain, Fear The Walking Dead, and The Leftovers.
This is what they will look like when I get done.
These will get hung later this week!
Beat the Clock is a glorified sort.
Add a timer to anything and your students will be engaged as all get out.
I'd toss a photo card under the doc cam.
They would have 30 seconds to copy the word under the correct column!

My kids did great with all the noun stuff that I tossed their way.  As I stated earlier, you can easily make these activities to run with in your room.  If you want a package that is all ready to go, I do have a Noun Pack in my shop.  It even comes with a free Noun Song from Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes :)

We continued our writing studies this week and rolled into the three kinds of sentences.  Stay tuned for more information on this one later this week.  I am going to FINALLY post the second installment of my writing series.  I am so close to finishing it . . . I think I can . . . I think I can :)

Obviously I am an absolute sucker for pocket chart sorts.  This one the kids wrote in the punctuation with white board marker and sorted it for the class. We didn't just identify the sentences . . . we WROTE them.  I believe this is key to really grasping the punctuation differences.  We picked a topic and wrote three related sentences.  We talked about how much the punctuation mark changes the sentence and it's meaning.  Of course, we picked Halloween as one of our topics . . . Mrs. Dolling isn't stupid ;)

If you want more activities similar to this, check out my Punctuation Has Personality pack.  It's filled with fun ideas that are kid tested and teacher approved :)  It comes with a full stop version for my Australia friends :)

I like to take my time in the phonics department at the beginning of the year. After we make our way through the alphabet review and handwriting practice, we spend a week on each of the short vowels.  This week was all about that wonderful short e sound . . . whole class activities and levelized within groups. Here are a few of the "out of the box" phonics actives we found ourselves mixed up in . . .   

Pen It In
This is just a word identification activity.
However, you add a smelly marker and it's a magical game for firsties.
I would call out a short e word and the kids would find/trace it on their sheet.
To keep it interesting we would exchange pens.
I would put on a music track and they would boogie around asking their classmates to trade.
It was a great team building and manners activity too.
You can use this idea for just about anything . . . SMELLY MARKERS drive learning :)
I still heart Wikki Stix.
This is an oldie, but a goodie . . . the kids love these things!
Each group received a "just right" set of words to build, trace, and write.
My hot shots wrote short e sentences too . . . Dolling is a bulldog ;)
We integrated music as well . . . thanks to Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes.
This Short E song was a hit with the kids.
Not only did we track and sing, but we hunted down all the short e words too!

If you are interested in low-prep and "out of the box" short vowel activities, games, and more . . . I have quite a few of them up for grabs.  Check these packets out HERE.  

I'm not sure if I have spilled this tidbit about me before, but I am all about cats. I swear if I could have 6 or 8 of them and not be labeled as completely out of my gourd, I would jump on it in a second. Yep. I am just special like that  . . . and possibly showing my age a bit :P 

Anyway, I was out giving my old guys (Henry and Okay Kitty) their morning loves on Saturday when Henry tried to claw my eyes out.  I was all bent out of shape when he ran away.  After going back inside and working for a bit, I came back out to attempt to make peace with the cranky old man.  He wasn't moving much and then I noticed that my little sweet guy had a horribly misshapen bottom. OUCH!!  I rushed him to the vet and the found an abscess. Even thought it is pretty common, this momma cried a little when she had to leave him with the doc.  To make a long story somewhat short, my kitty is just fine. And, you can bet that he has been getting oodles of TLC today. But, his mommy is extra tired today as she was up most of the night making sure he was okay. Hehehehe . . . I am turning into a crazy old cat lady.

Meet Henry :)
He has been sitting by my husband on the couch most of the day.
(They like to watch football together.)  
The flash woke him up . . . he gave me the "look."

I have to go now. You'll understand why with one little sentence . . . I am rollin' into CONFERENCE WEEK at my new school. I gotta settle in for the week and screw my head on straight this evening. A good night's sleep is a must.

Have a great week all you alls.  I will see you again soon.  Thanks for taking the time to pop in for a little visit :)

October 1, 2015


So . . . I'm here with a little essential questions and learning target chatter. These two phrases are at the heart of common core instruction these days. It's all about pulling the layers back on that "deeper meaning." Well, I just so happened to have the opportunity to review a product along these lines from the one and only Carson-Dellosa!

Let me fill you in on a backstory quickly here.  I have always chatted about the standard that we are targeting and have asked thought provoking questions, but I have never provided it in written form.  I have always thought that posting these was a super cool idea, but I just never got around to implementing them in hard good form :) 

This all changed when I received Learning Targets & Essential Questions (Grade One) in the mail.  I'll be honest here and admit that I immediately thought to myself, "Can I really manage another thing right now?"  However, once I actually started using this product in my room, I realized that this product is a no-brainer :)  

The best part about this product is that it is a complete package kind of a deal. It requires almost no prep . . . other than opening the box and organizing the cards. There is NO cutting or laminating involved!!!  #teacherwin

The product covers all of the Common Core Standards in first grade and is broken down by strand.  The standard is also listed on each card (thank you, Carson-Dellosa . . . I didn't want to go look those up)!  The thing I like the most is that the targets and questions are back to back.  It's so nice to have ONE card with the standard and a great "higher level" question waiting for you on the other side.  

I didn't get the corresponding learning target pocket chart to display all of the cards, so I posted the learning targets in each individual area when I was teaching something . . . or when the kids were working independently.  It has been a VERY long day and I might not be explaining myself in a very coherent manner at this point (hehehehe). So, here are a few picture examples for you this evening . . . 

I incorporated the "I Can" or "I Know" cards into my lessons.
I posted this card to remind my kiddos to check their work for capitals & periods :)
It was a great addition to our sentence writing lesson.
I always lay out my work for the next day across this blue shelf at the front of my room.
It was so easy to slip a learning target on top of the stack of papers or game.  
The essential questions on the flip side are awesome as well!
I really liked what they asked the kids to think about.
The cards also helped me remember to slow down and take time for this critical component.
We all get rushed every now and again, but these questions are so important!
During reading groups I have had this learning target posted all week.
The kids read it with me every day.
We are working on building that phonics confidence when reading and writing :)

On a related note . . . I was looking back at my photos as I was putting this post together and realized that I missed out on catching a few of the other quick and easy ways that I incorporated these . . . duh, Dolling. My favorite way that I used these cards took no time at al l and added a little extra "common core" flavor to my centers.  I posted a learning target card in a pocket chart at various centers this week. The mommy helper, assistant, or I would address the target as the activity or game was being explained.  It was a great reminder for the kids and a few times I was able to circle back around after centers and use the flip side of the card to ask the related essential question.  

Overall, I really like this product. I will continue to use it throughout the year and in the future :) 

Alright, I am ALMOST out of here.  However, since you took the time to visit, I thought you might like to enter to win one of these.  Carson-Dellosa offers Learning Targets and Essential Questions for grades K-5 . . . and one big winner will get to pick a grade level set of choice!!!  Simply enter yourself via the quick and easy Rafflecopter below.  I will pick a random winner on Saturday afternoon, so get entered STAT. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me today.  I promise to be back soon with Part II of my Writing Series.  If I only had about 10 more hours in a day.  Then, I'd be absolutely GOLDEN (um . . . says every teacher in the fall trimester). 

Review Disclaimer:  I participate in the Brand Ambassador Program for Carson-Dellosa and have received this product for free to review.

September 27, 2015


Holy End of September my friends.  Um, where in the WORLD did this week go? Things are still as busy as ever in the school department, but it's getting a bit easier.  My crew and I have found that sweet "rhythm" and we are officially on a roll.  Sure, we have a few hiccups along the way.  However, I must say that this is shaping up to be a stellar year :)  How are things going for all you alls these days?

I am coming at you with a "fashionably late" Five for Friday.  (Okay . . . so I am really pushing the limits on the "fashionable" thing as it's Sunday . . . but, I am going with it just the same).  Here's a quick rewind through our week.  

As many of you in primary experienced this week . . . Room 18 had apples on the brain. I was lucky this year as most of my kids didn't do the whole apple thing in Kinder.  That's all I needed to hear.  We pulled out all the stops.  From taste tests, graphing, and crafts to apple-themed science, math, and writing, we covered it all.  

We completed Apple Addition Stories
Their quality work blew my socks off :)

Linda Kamp outdid herself on this craft/write.
These look so good on our classroom sky wire.
Check this resource out HERE.
Apple Smiles were a must since I don't have any nut allergies this year.
She left one marshmallow out . . .
"Cuz I'm missing a tooth on this side, Mrs. Dolling."
Had to call in the troops for this one.
Thanks, mom . . . you're one in a million :)
We had to end it with a "show me what you learned" write.
Give a prompt and we're tappin' and spellin' like nobody's business these days!!!
If you are rolling into apples this week (a few of you might be hitting it after Mr. Appleseed's birthday), be sure you check out these awesome apple resources for 1st and 2nd grade.  

Now that we finished up our handwriting and alphabet review, we jumped into short vowel studies this week.  This 5 day run was all about that wonderful SHORT A sound.  We completed some levelized word work, had some fun with a no-brainer activity, and brainstormed some word families.

Brainstorm Follow Up - Point, Read, Act
The kids always pay close attention, because they want to be on "stage"
The AC in my classroom is not working properly.
It can get up to 85 degrees in our room in the afternoon as it's still hot here.
We beat the heat by making SHORT A FANS this week.
(Complete with oodles of short a words and pictures.)
Levelized Word Work
While some kids just sorted short a words,
my hot shots dissected a story and composed sentences.

If you are looking for more short vowel goodies to run with this month, check out my fun packets and my $$$ savin' bundle.  All of them have a unique "flavor" and come with a song from Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes :)

I had oodles of help from my bloggin' pals this week.  In addition to all that apple themed help, a few other sweet as all get out ladies showed up into our classroom this week.

The one and only Babbling Abby popped up in groups this week :)
I trained my babes how to use her work work pages.
They were a HUGE hit.
Thank you, Anna Brantley.
Your Spelling in a Snap Pack is outstanding.
They loved this Colorful Spelling activity.
Let's be honest . . .
The Moffatt Girls show up in Room 18 EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I think I have 80% of her resources.
These September Journal pages make my heart happy.
They are the perfect independent station.

I actually managed to work on my "second job" after school this week. Alright, so I had to come home every day and take a power nap first, but I actually worked on blog stuff until I went to bed most nights. It's a miracle . . . I found the strength hiding in my little toe.    

Just in case you were in the trenches this week and missed my writing 
instruction post.  It's a good one . . . I poured my heart and soul into this write up as writing is my absolute favorite subject to teach. This post is filled with lots of ideas and tips outlining quality writing instruction practices that have worked oh so well for over the years.  It even has a scope and sequence for the fall trimester.  Click on the image below to read all about it.  

I also managed to pump out my Sentence Writing Warm-Ups for October. Sorry for the delay on this set . . . I had quite a few emails asking when they would be posted.  Well, they are finally up - under the wire :)  This set was also added to the Growing Bundle.

This packet contains 75 LEVELIZED pages :)
It's quick and easy writing instruction for your WHOLE class.  

I was digging through my files yesterday and started pulling out stuff for the new month.  Well, I came across two fun freebies that I will be using within the next couple of weeks and figured I would share.  (You deserve a little something for your visit today . . . hehehehehe!)

Noun Read the Room FREEBIE
Don't care for my words . . . no prob . . . it's EDITABLE :)

Flip Flop Facts with oodles of Halloween Flavor.
Math.1.OA.3 will never be the same :)

Alright, this girl is out.  I have to get back to that "real job" right about now. My plan book has some HUGE holes.  Enjoy the rest of your Sunday my friends. Thanks for visiting :)

September 25, 2015


Happy Friday, y'all . . . we've made it to the weekend!  It's time to kick our feet up, knock around in our jammers until noon, soak up some family time, and cruise around some blogs for some fresh ideas ideas!  

I am here today to talk to you about Spectrum Phonics from Carson-Dellosa. I don't know about you, but I still run a paper-pencil station during reading groups.  Although the other stations are filled with guided reading, writing, and language arts games, I also like to provide differentiated phonics and various reading/spelling practice in one of the rotations.  I am always on the lookout for resources to keep my kiddos working on those newly learned skills.  

I don't use too many hard goods for my paper-pencil practice these days, but I like to be able to grab a book from the shelf to help me hit a broad range of skills from time to time. Let's face it . . . sometimes it's just easier than digging through those digital files. Spectrum Phonics (Grade 1) is a book that does just that for me . . . it's now a part of my resource arsenal.    

As soon as it arrived in the mail, I immediately brought it to school and made it mine via a BIG black Sharpie.  As I saddled up to the copy machine, I was a little worried when I opened it up and saw colored pages as they don't always make for the clearest copies.  However, my worries were squelched after the first copy was made . . . things looked just fine :)

See . . . it looks nice :)
Crisis averted.
As I thumbed through the book, I was able to find sheets that fit the needs of all four of my groups.  My range is fairly broad right now.  However, I was able to find initial consonant and short a goodies for one group, mixed CVC work for another, blends for my third collection of kiddos, and vowel teams for my hot shots (ee/ea).  I was able to make all of my phonics work to shove in my independent work folders from one little book.

Pages for that medium group.
Pages for my "hot shots."
These will come into play for the rest of the crew later this year :)
We all know that differentiation takes forever.  However, Spectrum Phonics was quick, easy, and rather painless.  I know that will be using many of the pages this year . . . as the different groups cycle through the phonics progression. There was only one thing that I didn't care for, but it isn't major. A few of the sheets were too easy . . . well, didn't require much work on the student's part. I want more "bang for my buck" if I am going to give a worksheet.  However, it is only a few pages of the book and I just won't use these particular pages. No harm. No foul.  

So there you have it . . . my thoughts on Spectrum Phonics (Grade 1) from Carson-Dellosa.  Thanks for taking the time to visit me today my friends.  I will be back on Sunday or Monday (at the latest) with the second installment of my Building Solid Writers in First Grade blog post :)  Big hugs and enjoy your weekend my friends!

Review Disclaimer:  I participate in the Brand Ambassador Program for Carson-Dellosa and have received this product for free to review.

September 21, 2015


My all time favorite subject to teach is writing.  It even edges out math in my book.  I absolutely love the whole process.  Watching the kids progress throughout the year keeps me coming back for more.  It must be my journalism degree talking here . . . I've always loved to write.  And, I must say that the challenge of teaching kiddos to love writing too downright excites me.  It's all about "selling the sizzle" of drafting quality sentences.  If you sell YOUR love of writing and really talk it up as you toss new things out there . . . the majority of your kids will follow your lead.  I promise. #marketingintheclassroomworks

As I think about teaching writing, I want the process to be engaging, meaningful, and fun.  Writing . . . FUN?  Yes.  I have found that making writing fun is the key ingredient to building awesome writers.  It's those giggles that keep kids tuned-in and begging back for more. Keep reading to learn my recipe for writing success in first grade.

I tried to break this post down into manageable chunks for you.  It outlines my writing instruction/lessons for the fall trimester.  I have carefully crafted my process throughout the past nine years and I continue to build on it with every new crew that walks in my door.  I am not saying that this is the end all in writing instruction.  However, it is a process that has proven to work very well for me . . . time and time again.  In addition to my outline, I have included a scope and sequence for fall writing instruction at the end of this post.  

For the first 3 weeks I ONLY focus on letter sounds and handwriting.  Their printing can always use a little quite a bit of polishing and you have to take the time to figure out where your new crew falls (ability-wise).  I have found that the familiarity of the alphabet works like a charm when kick starting the writing process.  It's a great way to get into the printing routine and you can embed a spelling element into the mix -- the perfect start to encouraging kids to use their skills to sound out words.  Let me explain this a bit more.

During the first week or two of school, I introduce one new letter a day.  I like to use Zoo Phonics in conjunction with my instruction.  The kids just seem to get the "moves" and it helps those sounds stick for your strugglers.  Once we get to the letter Ee, we start tapping and spelling words with the letters we have practiced thus far.  It's amazing how many words you can spell with only the first few letters of the ABCs (bed, dad, bad, cab).  By spelling a few words every day, I am guiding them into the solo sounding out stage.  My goal is to create a safe environment that encourages the use of phonics skills when writing.  By the time we hit week three of instruction, I hit the kids with two letters a day to help speed up the process.

Now, by the time that you wrap up the alphabet, you have spelled oodles of words and helped get the kiddos into the routine of sounding out words.  It's glorious I tell you.  But, the perks don't stop there.  I am a stickler for quality work and neat printing.  Well, alphabet review takes handwriting to a whole new level. (My buttons pop when I look at my kids' work these days . . . they have grown SO much in one short month.) 

If I can say anything here, it is GO SLOW now to GO FAST later :) I have handwriting packets in my shop (Rock Star or Baseball themed), but you don't need these to run quality handwriting instruction and spelling practice - ruled newsprint, cut in half, works great too :)

Focusing on this stage is only needed if kiddos were not introduced to sentence writing in Kinder or the majority of your kids walk in not able to construct a basic sentence.  The first few weeks of school always includes copying some brainstormed sentences from the board, but sometimes you need EVEN more.  

Let me explain my situation this year.  My kids walked in on day one and about 3/4 could not draft a basic sentence. I didn't realize that writing wasn't a priority in Kinder at my new school. Needless to say, I had to quickly re-think my plans and scale way back. That's when I introduced the basic copy stage during the second week of school.  It worked well and was the perfect "crutch" my kids needed to find their footing when writing.  Here's my thoughts on this one.

Begin by posting simple sentence frames on the white board or under the doc cam.  Brainstorm ideas to complete the sentence and record them on the board. Invite your kids to copy the frame and complete it.  If your kids aren't accustomed to copying (or haven't done it before), I suggest writing the sentence on their desk in white board marker.  After a few of these, back off and only give the brainstormed piece (they have to transfer the sentence starter).  Finally, have them transfer the two parts on their own.   

The copying stage at its best.
This is the perfect Monday write . . . we do it 2-3 times every month :)
After a few times, my template doesn't include the sentence starter.
Snag both Weekend Templates HERE.
In addition to simple sentence frame copying, a daily sentence warm-up is a great way to help your babes familiarize themselves with sentences. These can be used as morning work, a "ticket to lunch," or as a transition piece.  

Here's how this looks in my room this year.  Every morning when the kids walk in the door, they find a half-sheet with a simple sentence on their desk.  This sentence is highly decodable and is filled with sight words. I ask my students to copy the sentence twice. This not only helps reinforce the idea of complete sentences, but it also works on capital letters, punctuation, and finger spacing.  In my mind this is a LEVEL 1 WRITING TASK (Entry Level Writer) as they are still just copying.  

Now . . . not all of my kids copy.  I have about seven "hot shots" that get a similar sheet that asks them to add details to an existing sentence (i.e. make it better).  I consider this a LEVEL 2 WRITER (Emerging Writer).  These have helped tremendously in the past few weeks and I will continue to move kids through the levels to help accommodate their writing growth.  My goal is to have every kiddo in my class to a LEVEL 3 WRITER (Developing Writer) by spring.  This top level asks kids to draft detailed sentences of their own using a word bank.  
They really take pride in their work when doing these.
And, the best part . . . they feel successful when writing :)
If you want to implement a daily sentence piece in your room, here are a few ideas. You can write a sentence on the board and have the kiddos copy or add to it - one group simply transfers the sentence and your hot shots can add more details.  You can also quickly make a template on your computer with a sentence and a lined font (I like Fonts4Teachers).  It's pretty easy to just keep changing a template - especially in Power Point.  Now, if you are looking for a packaged product that is all ready to go, I do have a series of Monthly Sentence Writing Warm-Ups.  Each collection contains 75 total practice sheets spanning three levels of instruction.  It's already levelized for you.

NOTE: If you have kiddos who walk in the door writing simple sentences, you can jump right into this stage after about 3-4 weeks of school.  A little copying is grand, but you don't need much. I typically start in on this instruction toward the end of the alphabet review.  

I'll be honest . . . I don't like to "hold hands" for too long when it comes to writing. So, as soon as I feel that "trust" fall into place . . . we jump on into drafting our own sentences. 

Alright, so basic sentences.  I begin with pocket chart lessons.  We talk about the WHO and the WHAT in sentences and use article, noun, verb, and punctuation cards to build a basic sentence together.  

I like to incorporate movements into writing instruction whenever possible. The kids so buy-into what you are dishin' and it keeps them giggling.  Here's my take on the who (subject) and the what (predicate).  You can totally make little posters of YOU with strange faces . . . all you need is a cameraman who will only laugh a little and Power Point :)

Once we have built sentences together in the good 'ol hanging chart, it is time to start letting the reins out a bit.  I suggest guiding them through the process via a shared writing experience.  However, I do believe that pushing them a bit at the end of the lesson is a good thing.  My caution would be to not hit them with too much too soon as the little guys tend to shut down on you. I strongly suggest that you provide a "safe" and manageable way for your cuties to tackle one  sentence on their own. (Remember - go slow to go fast.)  

In my room, my kids are given a silly sentence starter (or the WHO) and the volunteers helped come up with the WHAT.  Now . . . I should tell you that I like to make is a bit wild and I think that is the key element here.  Laughter and emotional involvement drives attention.  How outlandish you want to get with this so needs to match your style.  However, I do strongly suggest adding a little bit of silly for the little guys . . . they love it :)

Okay . . . so sometimes I get VERY silly.
However, the kids were eating out of the palm of my hand during this entire lesson.
I like the magic number of THREE when it comes to shared writing - sentence style.  Two is just not enough practice and four often leads to disinterest (you can't always hold the "sparkle" for that long).  So, the kids help me draft two sentences together.  The third, well, you guessed it . . . they are on their own.  I have found that it's just the right amount of push. 

Be sure to highlight their work right off the bat via an Author's Chair. Not only does it create additional buy in, but many of the kids also love sharing their work. It fosters a sense of pride . . . just what you need when you are honing little writers :)

During the basic sentence stage, the kids are doing a lot of writing during centers.  I provide a sentence starter and they finish it.  They also work with subject and predicate cards in centers.  They add the missing part to the sentence.  

I do want to say that there is NO BRAINSTORMING happening on the board at this time . . . they tap and spell. #youhavemadskillskids

Alright, so I am stopping here for now as it is time to make dinner (hehehe).  I will be back this weekend with PART 2 of this post.  The next four stages are listed below.  
  1. Punctuation and Kinds of Sentences
  2. Drafting Detailed Sentences
  3. Paragraph Writing
  4. Other Types of Writing

If you are looking for other ways to build better sentence writers in your room, I have put all of my ideas into a ready to go SUPER SENTENCE WRITERS PACK. It's a little "out of the box," but the kids always get a kick out of the lessons and activities included in this one. You do not need my pack to use the process outlined above :)  

Thanks for taking the time to visit me. I will see you again soon.  Have a great night.  I am off to rice cauliflower . . . hopefully, I won't rice my knuckles this time.  #dollingdoesdinner


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