2017 - Susan Jones Teaching

Beach Day: End of the Year Fun!

It's time the last installment of my Countdown to Summer activities! I have another whole day of FUN ready for you! To read about my other themed days, click the links below:
[Camping Day]
[Friendship Day]
[Sports Day]
[Memories Day]

Today, I bring to you an entire day of the beach:
All these activities are part of a fun new product I came out with for the end of the year called Countdown to Summer! This is a 5 day all-encompassing unit which includes lessons and activities for every subject area! There is MORE than enough for you to have boatloads of fun during the last days of school while still reviewing and learning!

I wanted to show you a little sneak peek of the new activities I included for Day 5, Beach Day:

Focus skill is place value
Students practice their place value knowledge by adding, gathering, and exchanging base 10 blocks to see how many cubes they get to build their own sandcastle!

Focus skill is beginning digraphs
Collecting seashells! Students play against a partner to try to collect enough words with beginning digraphs to fill all the seashells in their pail. First player to fill their pail, wins!

Focus skill is character traits and changes
I love the Scaredy Squirrel books. I think they are funny and smart at the same time! In Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach Squirrel prepares his own beach at home so he can avoid thee crowds at the real beach. Along the way he ends up needing to go to the beach to collect sand and devises a plan to get in and out without getting noticed. Students will laugh along with the story and answer some questions about Squirrel.

Also, no worries if you can't get your hands on this book! I wrote a short story about a boy and girl who head to the beach with response questions to focus on the same skills!

Focus skill is realistic fiction
Students create their own character, problem and solution when writing a story at the beach! We focus on realistic fiction so I remind my students that it needs to be something that could really happen at the beach! After we brainstorm some possible problems and solutions, students write their own stories to share!

Science/Social Studies:
Focus skill is making hypothesis and recording our findings

Students learn about salt water and buoyancy in this fun, science lesson! I bring in 3 eggs, some water, and salt and students make their hypotheses about whether the egg will float or sink in the regular water. Then, we see what happens to the egg with a little salt in the water. Lastly, we stir a lottttt of salt in the water and see what happens to the egg!

Students make their own little handprint beach scene for the art project this day! Their hands can create fish or jellyfish, while they can use their fingers to make little seashells along the beach.

I recently came back from a cruise where they used this banana dolphin as a garnish on some fruity drink and it was just too cute not to share! All you do is cut a banana in half and then cut the stem right down the middle to create a mouth. I put a little Swedish fish in the mouth and drew on some eyes with a marker. You can put blueberries or goldfish in the cup to make it look like the dolphin is coming out of the water!

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You can buy all the activities above as well as the other 4 days of fun in my Countdown to Summer end of year unit below:


Diphthongs Activities and Games

Diphthongs! What in the world is a diphthong!? I remember very clearly asking myself that question in my Foundations of Literacy class in college. Diphthongs can be tricky to read since the letters shown in these words don't make their usual sounds - the sound is an entirely new one that isn't necessarily represented at all in the word. /oi/ for instance. I spend the whole beginning of the year year teaching short and long vowel sounds for o and i, then you put them together and they make /oi/?!? Way to get tricky language!

Anyhow, I put together 6 new Print & Play Phonics Games to focus solely on those tricky sounds, diphthongs and I thought I would share a few with you up close:

In case you are unfamiliar with my Print & Play Games, all the games only require dice, crayons, cubes, a paperclip, and a pencil! They are designed for ease! I wanted teachers to be able to quickly print out a game from their computer and teach it so they can get back to efficiently teaching the other students in their classroom. The directions on the games are simple for students to understand and many of the same game-playing concepts are seen throughout all the games.

Spin & Sort:
 This game can be played cooperatively or independently as students simply spin the wheel and find an image with the matching diphthong sound. There are 2 different versions of this game with different sounds!

Diphthong 5-in-a-Row:
This fun partner game has students rolling the dice to find the diphthong image at the bottom of the page. Students must find a word with the matching sound in the grid and place their block there. The goal is to be the first player to get 5-in-a-row! There are some fun additions like skip turn or the ability to remove another player's cube that make this game a bit more challenging!

Roll, Read, & Tally:
This game is all about fluency. These sounds are hard and students need lots of practice decoding, reading, and re-reading these words! In this game students simply roll the dice, read the word they rolled, and put a tally mark next to it. Students play until one player get 5 tally marks in a row first!

I have 3 more games included in my Print & Play Diphthongs Games and I also added this unit to my Print & Play Phonics Games Bundle which includes 6 games for each of the following phonics skills:
Short Vowels (CVC)
Long Vowels (CVCe)
Long Vowel Teams
Consonant Blends
R-Controlled Vowels
and now, Diphthongs

You can see those games and download a FREE phonics game by downloading the preview below:

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End of the Year Memories!

At the end of the year we always created a memory book of some sort. I love to reminisce with my students. 180 days together is no joke and should be celebrated before they head off to their next teacher! Instead of just filling in a memory book on the last week of school, I thought another fun way to share our memories would be through an entire Memory Day!

All these activities are part of a fun new product I came out with for the end of the year called Countdown to Summer! This is a 5 day all-encompassing unit which includes lessons and activities for every subject area! There is MORE than enough for you to have boatloads of fun during the last days of school while still reviewing and learning!

Here is a little sneak peek of what I included for Day 4, Memory Day:

telling time to the hour and half hour
The main game included for this day is "memory" where students match the digital and analog times! However, with all the themes in this unit, I include a black and white, little-to-no prep activity as well which is shown above! This game practices the same skills as students race to fill their clock tower first.

r-controlled vowels
Students take a walk down memory lane with this fun memory poem. As they read it, they will try to identify as many r-controlled vowels as they can find. There is also a nonsense/real word sorting sheet afterwards that they can complete. This is set up exactly like all my phonics poems, so if you already own that your students will be very familiar with this set up!

Comprehension and connections
Students listen to Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and answer text-dependent questions using the read aloud one-page guide. There is also a reading response sheet for them to compel tee afterwards to show understanding of the text!

opinion writing
Students share their opinion of their favorite activity from their year. They must provide three reasons why it was simply the best!

Social Studies/Science:
Learning about our brain
This fun lesson has students learning all about their brains! Students learn a bit about the lobes of our brain before they complete a fun puzzle activity. Students will learn that in order to complete puzzles they are actually using their frontal lobe which is important for problem solving. After the mini-puzzles are put together, students must share a memory that is brought to mind by the image. This uses their hippocampus which stores long term memories!

Memory munchkins and a memory frame
I went super simple with this snack - Memory munchkins! I always provide breakfast on our last day of school and I would give each student one munchkin. We would go around in groups and before they could eat their donut hole, they had to tell their group all about a favorite memory of theirs. Since an entire breakfast isn't provided here, I went with 3-4 munchkins and provided a few guidelines to sharing their memories with one another! I also opted for a memory frame instead of a whole book since students would be sharing their memories all day long!

There are 5 days filled with lesson and activities total with the following themes:
The Beach

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You can grab all the activities seen above as well as 4 more days of FUN all in my Countdown to Summer unit seen below:


Sports Day: End of Year Activities!

It's time for another installment of my Countdown to Summer activities! I have another whole day of FUN ready for you! My past posts were all about camping activities and my second fun-filled day was all about Friendship. Today, I bring to you an entire day of sports:

All these activities are part of a fun new product I came out with for the end of the year called Countdown to Summer! This is a 5 day all-encompassing unit which includes lessons and activities for every subject area! There is MORE than enough for you to have boatloads of fun during the last days of school while still reviewing and learning!

I wanted to show you a little sneak peek of the new activities I included for Day 3, Sports Day:

Focus skill is addition and subtraction
This fun activity has students shootin' hoops and collecting points. Students throw their pom poms into the other player's baskets. Once all pom poms land in a cup they remove the cups to add up their total. Some spots are addition, while others will have students subtraction points. Whoever has the most, wins!

Focus skill is silent e
Students will complete a read the room activity that gets their blood pumping with physical activity! The print and play option (shown above) includes push ups and sit ups to achieve the same physical challenge.

Focus skill is close reading and comprehension
Wilma Unlimited is a such a great story of perseverance, strength and courage. Students read all about Wilma Rudolph and her journey before completing comprehension mini-books. I included a BUNCH of questions so you can pick and choose which pages to include and differentiate for your students.

Also, no worries if you can't get your hands on this book! I wrote a short story about a young boy who wanted to be a dancer with response questions to focus on the same skills!

Focus skill is nonfiction writing
Students teach others all they know about some of their favorite sports. There is a graphic organizer included to help students' brainstorm their ideas and details before they write their paper.

Science/Social Studies:
Focus skill nutrition and physical activity
Students learn all about the 5 main food groups and how to eat a balanced meal. There is also a fun, physical activity challenge that gets students exercising throughout the day.

Students award themselves a gold medal for the end of the year and list reasons why they deserve it!

Some cheese balls and a small white cup make a fun and easy snack. Students simply decorate the cup to look like a hoop and the cheese balls are the basketballs.

There will be 5 days filled with lesson and activities total with the following themes:
The Beach

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Same as before, while I am still compiling and creating all these activities you can grab this unit for the early buy in price:


Get the Most of your Students' Writing

Writing in the primary grades can be a bit scary at times! Many of my first grade students are just learning to read and simultaneously I would like them to write a 3 page personal narrative with an opening, three details and a catchy closing. It isn't always easy, but writer's workshop is one of my favorite things to teach in first grade because the difference made in a year is remarkable.

I wanted to take some time today to share with you a couple tips for getting the most of your students during writer's workshop!

It is difficult to learn to write. It is even more difficult when you are forced to write about something you don't care or know much about. Using the writer's workshop model, I like to give my students the freedom to make their pieces personal. They get to write about what interests them... not what interests me!

When students get to write about topics that are personal to them, they have a much larger bank of ideas to pull from. Do your first graders talk a lot?! HA! Trick question - of course they do! Well, during each unit of study I have my students talk a lot. They talk to one another about their ideas. Their classmates ask them questions about their ideas. They tell their stories aloud to someone who is listening before they ever write a single word on paper. 

When writing personal narratives, I remind my students that during our morning meeting many students have already shared a personal narrative orally when they told us about their weekend. We may have asked questions to get more details about their story and voila! A first grade writing piece is already in the works. 

Now that being said, I do offer prompts from time to time. Some of my students have trouble brainstorming topics to write about, so I like to list a BUNCH of prompt ideas to get them started! This way, my students can still choose what they want to write about. If that still isn't working for a student... we sit and have a 1-on-1 chat to see if I can help spark any ideas!

Here are a few ideas that got my students thinking and conversing in the past:

When we begin writing in first grade, proper grammar and mechanics go OUT THE WINDOW. Now before you get all upset, don't worry - they comeback! I absolutely teach my students how to properly use punctuation and how to vary sentence structures. I teach them how to add details and spell words properly... but FIRST, I just want them to write. 

I find that when my students are so bogged down by their own questions (how do I spell this? does a period go here? how many sentences was I supposed to write?) their ideas often become stifled and the pages are left blank. When I encourage students to just write, write, write all their thoughts out on paper... that is when the magic happens! We can't revise or edit anything without words on the paper! 

During open house each year, I like to share this letter with the parents to help them understand what writing will look like for their first grade child. 

You can download a free copy of this letter and personalize it by clicking above.

The beginning of my writer's workshop block is spent teaching and modeling. Model, model, model. Many skills I teach in writing can be abstract and it may seem difficult for a first grader to actually apply the skill I am teaching to their own writing. 

I need to show them how to do it. For every unit of study, I create my own, modeled writing piece that I use throughout the entire unit. Every day my students are adding details, so am I. Every time my students are editing or revising, so am I.

I set up my paper to look the same as theirs and after I explain a skill, I show them how I apply it to my paper before they go back and apply it to theirs. While it certainly helpful for my students to see me apply these skills, I like to expose my students to other authors who have wonderfully mastered their craft as well by reading plenty of mentor texts.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements (personal narrative)
Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee (personal narrative)
I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff (opinion/persuasive)
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert (informative)
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late by Mo Willems (opinion/persuasive)
Frogs by Gail Gibbons (informative)
A Chair for my Mother by Vera Williams (personal narrative)
Red is Best by Kahty Stinson (opinion/persuasive)

I hope some of these tips can help you get your students to work to their fullest potential and enjoy writing along the way!

If you are looking for some units of study to help you teach first grade writing, I have compiled ALL my writer's workshop units in this huge, money-saving bundle:
It includes lessons, graphic organizers, templates, and much more for the following types of writing:
- Personal Narratives
- Informative Writing
- Opinion Writing
- Writing Reviews
- How to Books
- Realistic Fiction
- Poetry
- Getting Started with Writer's Workshop
- Yearly Writing Prompts
- Author Celebrations
**it will also be updated with every new writing unit I ever come out with free of charge!

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Keep Students Engaged at The End of the Year!

Keeping my first grade students engaged during those last few weeks of the year is always a challenge. A fun one, but certainly a challenge. 

The sun is usually shining, the warmth makes my students start to yawn in the afternoon, and all they can see is another vacation looming in the near distance. Completely understandable right?! I feel the same way those last couple weeks!

The last days as a teacher can be pretty bogged down with report cards, cleaning, meetings, and all sorts of things that pull you away from your room. It can often feel like the last days with your class can slip away all too quickly. 

Well I wanted to share a few tips to help keep your students engaged and learning during the last few days together! These will help you all enjoy your final days.

At the end of the year I like to have entire themed days. That doesn't happen that often in my classroom, so it is such a fun way to break the everyday mold and try something new!

Some of the themed days I have done in the past include:
-  Sports Day
- Friendship Day
- Let's Make Memories
- Beach Day
- Camping Day
- Game Day
- Food Day
- Ice Cream Day

On each of these days, we still learn/review all the subject areas but every activity ties into the theme! For instance, on camping day we read stories about camping during our reading block, we catch fish and add them during math, and we build our own tents during science! We eat themed snacks and make themed crafts. It's such a nice break from the ordinary!

Here you can see a little look at a few activities we do for a couple of the days:

*the above activities are all from my  fun-filled Countdown to Summer unit.

Your students are used to you. They are used to their classmates. They are used to their routine. Let them know something new and exciting will be happening soon!

Before the last 5 of school days begin, I give my students little hints about what kind of days we will be having in the classroom and let them guess! When they get to school in the morning they can see if their guesses were correct!
^ leave out these materials (toothpicks, paper, play dough) and have students guess what they might be building ^

Give them the following hints:
We use this outdoors.
It provides shelter.
It can protect us from bears!

Some of your kids will guess that we are building a tent and that tomorrow may be CAMPING day! The more you can reel them in and excite them, the easier it is to teach!

Nothing beats boredom like getting up and getting moving! There are numerous studies to show that student engagement and learning increases with the use of daily movement (read more here or here), so use that research to your advantage!

^^hopping on one foot in the great room while completing a place value activity^^

On camping day, we go for a nature walk outside and experience our 5 senses. On sports day, we complete a physical challenge seeing how many different activities we can complete in just 3 minutes. On game day, we play lots and lots of games that have our blood pumping and minds working!

Blow up a beach ball and write sight words, math facts, phonemes, etc. on it! Have students stand up and pass it around while practicing all sorts of skills. Anything that gets them out of their chairs, does us all a favor at the end of the year.

You know it's coming. They know it's coming. Use summer to your advantage! I like to make an entire themed day all about the beach (if you aren't near a beach - make it a water or pool themed day). We use pails and shovels to search for seashells and simultaneously review digraphs:

We read the funny book, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach and we write realistic fiction stories about family vacations at the beach gone all wrong! Whatever you know your kids will be doing over the summer, use it! Reel them in with the FUN that is summer!

As I mentioned before, it can be easy for your last days to slip away with all the extra tasks you are given as a teacher during the end of the year. Try to hold onto the fact that these students are yours and yours only for the next week or so. Next thing you know, you blink and they are onto middle school, graduating high school, or (gasp!) getting married and having kids. Treasure each and every one of those little kiddos and remind them of all the fun you had together!
In fact, I like to dedicate an entire DAY to our memories! We make memory picture frames and draw our favorite memories from the school year inside. We play the game, memory, and review all different math skills. We practice some fine motor skills and make friendship bracelets and trade them with another classmate. Anything to help cherish and enjoy our last bit of time together as a class.

I hope you can take some of these tips and really make the end of your year extra special! All of the activities in this post are contained in my Countdown to Summer unit. If you'd like to see more about that unit, just click below:

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