August 2014 - Susan Jones Teaching

Starting Writer's Workshop in First Grade!

This past week we launched our writer's workshop lessons!

I use my writer's workshop units throughout the year, but before we dive into small moments we talk about what Writer's Workshop looks like in our first grade classroom.

This poster is hanging in our classroom and we go through each of these bullet points throughout the first week!
-Lights off: My classroom is lucky enough to have tons of windows and we are able to turn down all the lights and still have plenty of natural sunlight to write with!

-Music on: This one little CD has allowed me to curb talking during writer's workshop more than anything I have tried in the past:

This little CD is one of a six-pack designed to help students stay focused during reading and writing. I had all 6 at my old school but unfortunately had to leave them all there! This was my favorite though, so I bought it again. I play it softly in the background and let the students zone out. If we get louder than the music, we have to turn it off and my kids get really upset! I am always amazing by how into it they are.

-Students at desks: most students sit in their seats during writer's workshop without any problems. However, I always allow students to find a quiet space at a center table or on the floor with a clipboard if they need it!

-Teachers with students: It is important for my kids to know the expectations for the adults too! During writer's workshop we are currently walking around and checking in with students. As time goes on, we will be able to pull small groups and individual students who need extra support.

Voices off/Feet in front/Sitting up straight: All self-explanatory, but we make sure to model, model, model what this looks like!

Brains working: Seems self-explanatory but this one, but this also takes a lot of modeling. I have students come up in the front of the class and show us what it looks like when our brain is working during writer's workshop. It is pretty funny. My kids scrunch of their faces like they are thinking really hard and then they start pretending to write or draw. I always have them show the many ways it looks when our brains are NOT working during that time (heads on desks, slumped down in seats, pencils on floor, etc.)

Neatest handwriting/Colorful illustrations: The neatest handwriting I am not too much of a stickler on at this point in time. It will come to my students as the year goes on and we are beginning Handwriting without Tears next week. The colorful illustrations however - yikes! I don't know what has happened to drawing, but I swear my kids don't know how to color anymore! I spent one whole class period talking about using many different colors from our crayon box and adding more detail to our illustrations! They are getting better though!

Those are the basics in room 102 and if you walked by during our writer's workshop block that is what you would see going on!

As for WHAT we are writing, we start simple. I want to know what my students can do at this point in the year and before we jump into the meat and potatoes of our writing units. I want my students to practice getting into the writing routine and building up some stamina.

We do this using activities from my Write from the Start Unit:

These sentence completion sheets are just one example of many included in the pack. I love them because it lets me see who can complete the prompt in a way that makes sense and it also allows my students to trace the beginning and see what good handwriting should look like before they continue. We completed this one and "Good Friends" (I can be a good friend by...)  on days 1 and 2 of writer's workshop.

Another writing activity we will complete is a picture prompt:
I will give students a sheet with a cartoon image and they are told to write what might be happening in the story. I also include some relevant words at the bottom for my students to reference. This helps get them started and not be held back by spelling and ideas, but instead it lets me see the basics of their writing. It establishes a starting point for each of my students to work from throughout the year!

I also include these activities at my writing center along with some mini-books that students can complete:
Now that my students know the routines and procedures of writer's workshop in our classroom, we will be able to seamlessly dive into small moments and start writing some fabulous personal narratives!

If you want more information about my writer's workshop units, I cover the following in my two bundled units below:
Personal Narratives
Informative Research Projects
Opinion Writing
How-to Writing
Writing Reviews
Realistic Fiction

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The First Week of First Grade - Activities and More!

My, oh my! The first week of first grade is OVER!

I swear, 5 years later and I still forget just how little and "new" to school 1st graders are. The growth is just so amazing and HUGE in first grade that all I can do is picture last year's class at the end of the year. I forget that when they come into 1st grade they are squirrely and wild and talkative and can't seem to follow any directions. 

Is this how it always is?!?!?!?

The answer is yes.

In between shaking my head and pulling my hair out, I remember that this is all part of the challenge! The great first grade challenge. Can these students turn into the straight-line walking, directions following, raising hands before we speak type of students that I dream of?!?

I am hoping the answer is YES!

My new class... I can't wait to get to know them more and see them grow and learn!

Getting back into the swing of things has been a bit more challenging this year since I look like this:
**technically I am 34 weeks pregnant now and my belly is probably even bigger**

But alas, we are still trucking along! Here's some of the fun we had this week:

The first day of school we took out some buttons and starting graphing. It gave me some time to get paperwork sorted through and also let me see who could sort and follow directions easily. I offered this graph up on my blog for free last year!

We read The Kissing Hand and talked about our 1st day of school feelings. They ranged from happy and excited all the way to scared and "really mad." Craft idea from Kindergarten Days. These little racoons and sentence stems will be the first student decor up on our big, blank walls!

We also completed quite a few activities from my First Week Fun unit, including this mini-book about our new class!

We started a few, easy centers to get used to the routines and procedures during center time:
 CVC cards with magnets and recording sheets - made them a long time ago!

Color match up freebie by Smitten with First!

Roll, add, and color from my Apple Math unit.

We also had a bit of coloring fun in math with this great book from Steve Harpster! This was an easy after-lunch, let's relax and color and review some simple numbers to 10 type of activity!

Last, but not least, we brainstormed some of the fun we had over the summer and then I let my students write their first story of the year. No rules or organization, just write about some of the things you did this summer. This is also in my First Week Fun pack.

Phew! I'm tired again just looking at everything we did this week. Next week, we will start the real learning! Phonics, reader's workshop, writer's workshop.. etc!

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Classroom Pictures!

I love the chance to take a peek into classrooms around the world so I thought I would take a minute and share my classroom with you!

My classroom walls are a bit bare now since I save a LOT of my wall space for student work and anchor charts we make together, but I can show you how it all begins!

I am SO lucky to have a large classroom. If you have followed my blog for the past few years, you will see that I used to have a teeny-tiny room in Las Vegas. I am spoiled here!
This is the view from my exterior door.
You can see part of my classroom library which is separated both by genre and level. I also display seasonal books on the display bookshelf. Those switch every two weeks or so!
Reading posters: Free from Teacher Wife

Directly to the left of when you walk in is my half set-up math station. Each tub holds our math centers which change throughout the year. They consist of games from these two following units:
Print and Play Math Games:
These are all black and white games used with dice and spinners (EASY!)
First Grade Math Centers for the Year:
These centers are in color and laminated to keep throughout the years.

 The top is not finished yet, but will hold more math manipulatives and games that I will want to grab quickly! 

Walk past the bookshelves and you see the second half of the room!
My student desks and where we do our seated work.
Those back cabinets around the sink will eventually become our word wall. We only put up words as we learn them throughout the year. I like it on our cabinets because we do our writing at our seats so it provides easy access for students to find the words they need!

 Look left to see our computers, more windows, and our writing station in the right corner!
The cabinet on the left holds tons of guided readers and phonics games.
The alphabet is from my Primary Decor Pack.

 But if you kept walking straight you would see this little hallway which leads to the main building (door on the right) and a big ole storage closet (door on the left)

 Close up of our word work station!
Display bulletin board with binder clips held up by push pins to easily switch out papers AND not put holes in them!

 Now, let's turn back around and look at that writing center!

Inside the tubs are prompts from my Beginning of the Year Writing pack and will be replaced throughout the year with my Writing Through the Seasons prompts.
Sight word practice: Free from Kindergarten Smiles

Look to the right and you see our bathroom, small whiteboard and cubby area.
I use the small whiteboard whenever we are in our seats.

  Now look back towards the exterior door! More windows, behavior chart, my "turn it in" bin (the stinkin' poster fell behind the cabinets) and folders/take home bin.
Underneath the windows is where I store ALL our math manipulatives.
Behavior chart: Primary Decor Pack

Meeting area and calendar space! I use lots of that wall space above and below the boards for anchor charts and student work!

Last, but not least, my teacher space! It needs some sprucin' up, but that is the last thing I tackle.
Notice my owl painting that a STUDENT made for me my last year in Vegas! I love, love, love it and display it every year!

Well that is all I have for now and as we work in the classroom over the next month, my room will look a lot more VIBRANT as it gets filled with student learning.

Thanks for taking a look inside my room!

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Poetry Freebie!

I like to incorporate poetry as much as possible into our weekly routine and an easy way for me to do that is during our phonics block.

After we learn a new sound, I will give my students a poem to practice reading and identifying that sound:
These are the steps I follow when my students get a new poem:
1.) I read the whole thing aloud while they track the print.
2.) Students echo-read each line after me.
3.) Students whisper read the poem to themselves as I walk around and listen.
4.) Students read independently and circle all words with the sound we are studying.

*While most of the poems in our poetry journals are phonics poems, we add in plenty of holiday poems throughout the year as well and circle rhyming words, different punctuation, and other fun things we might be studying!

In order to keep these journals all year long, my friend Lindsey from back in Vegas showed me this trick that helps me prep my journals before the year even starts!

I snag these 3 pronged folders from Walmart (for only 25 cents a piece). Then I roughly count out 20-25 pieces of paper and put them in. Whenever my students receive a new poem, they just use their glue sticks and glue their poem right on top of a blank piece of paper. We use both sides of the paper so at the end of the year we have a journal of 40-50 poems!

I used to hole punch each poem individually and have my first graders *try* to put them in the prongs and it just became a huge waste of time and I would run around like a crazy teacher trying to help everyone.

This way is MUCH easier. Also if you are preserving your glue sticks like we try to, I teach my students to glue "an x inside a rectangle" on the blank page and put their new poem on top. Six quick strokes and voila their poem is in!

The -an word family poem you see above is part of a phonics poetry pack that I am working on, but while I am finishing I thought I would offer that poem for free! Just click below and download the preview to snag the poem:

You can see the rest of the phonics poems here:


Meet the Teacher!

I am linking up with one of my favorite bloggers, Stephanie from Falling into First, for a fun linky party :)

That's me a few weeks ago at my baby shower :)

Before I start my Q&A, here is a little about me!

I started teaching 4 years ago in Las Vegas, NV where my husband and I lived after college. Those three years in Vegas were some of the MOST FUN years we have had thus far. There was lots of this:

Alas... all good things must come to an end and we knew when we settled down and started our family, we wanted to be back here in Massachusetts where I was born and raised (and where we met).

So we traveled cross country for the second time and landed back here on the Northshore!

Parker and I got married September 20, 2013 and it was perfect.


Now, I am back teaching in Mass. and instead of pool parties, mountains, and late night fun... there is a lot of this:
Babies and bumps and diapers and toys!

Parker and I are SO excited to welcome our baby boy, Theodore "Theo," anytime in the next 6-8 weeks. We are ready for a wholeeee new adventure and years and years of fun times to come!

Now onto a little Q&A:

Even while pregnant.... yes... I still have my one coffee per day. Doc allowed, so no judgments please! This mug explains my life perfectly:

Other things I love include trashy TV, laying in the sun, reading, and TPT-ing!

A stay-at-home momma! I don't even have Theo yet and I am already dreading going back to work after my maternity leave. Thankfully, Parker will be the stay-at-home daddy so I can live vicariously through him... and also I will make him send me lots and lots of pictures and videos while I am at work.



"Please leave all the covers off the glue sticks!"


I would invite Bruno Mars to perform! Superbowl performance Part II please!


 Movin' and a Groovin' 

To have my hair done at all times. That's a superpower right?!
I am hair challenged and throw it in a bun or ponytail all day, everyday.


"Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Dr. Seuss 


R-E-S-P-E-C-T! -Aretha Franklin
When I've had a few drinks, I tend to think I have a realllllllyyyyy good voice ;)


Morning person! I would love to wake up at 5am and be asleep by 9pm each and every day. I get so much more done in the morning.


My favorite resource in my shop is my Close Reading Bundle! It has all four of my seasonal bundles in it and my kids love them! I use them in small groups all year long and I saw so much growth last year.


Some of you might not know this, but I was on Wheel of Fortune 7 years ago!
That's me in the middle standing next to my celebrity partner, Jeff Probst!
I won $6100 and had a BLAST!


Now, make sure you head back to Steph's blog and meet TONS of other bloggers:

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