Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Favorite IPad Apps for School

     My school is a technology magnet school; which means we have quite a few gadgets and gizmos at our disposal.  Mine (and the kids) favorites are definitely the IPods and IPads.  There are so many apps available out there for education.  Some your basic boring, flashcard-like games; but on the flip side....there are tons of more open ended applications that lend themselves to a variety of things.  Here are a few  of my favorites right now:
#1 Kids Learn Sight Words 1-100 

     Ok, this isn't really open-ended per se, but it is better for sight word practice than just boring old flash cards.  There is a free version, and a pay version ($4.99.)  I would totally opt for the pay's worth it!!  Sight words are presented, one at a time; and you can click on the character for it to say the word, and then you also WRITE the word.  Practice both reading and writing, and there's no "Miss Curtis, what does this say?"  Then, to spice it up....every 8 or so words, there is a game to play with the words--concentration, hangman, etc.  Both the free app and the pay app are well worth your time and money!

#2 (LOVING THIS)  Screenchomp

     In a nutshell, this a recordable white board.  Best of all, it's free!  Use a plain white background, or you can upload pictures from  dropbox and ICloud, or take pics with your IPad camera.  Then, use their drawing tools to draw, make notes,  and doodle on the pics.  Even records your voice while you're drawing.  Then, you can share videos via their website, social media, or just upload it to your blog  (see my example below, starring the cutest dog in the world.) 

Confusing Envision math?  (Sorry, we use Envision math and they explain concepts in the most confusing ways.)  No problem, make a screen chomp of you working through a problem & post it to your website for your kids to get an instant homework tutor!
I'm interested to see how you could use this one in your classroom...

#3 Popplet  
     This one reminds me of a giant bubble map-- for all you Thinking Map teachers out there. Once again, 2 versions, pay and free.  Both versions allow you to upload pictures, and then brainstorm in "bubbles."  The pay version allows you to upload them online and work collabratively with other students or classes.  Inneresting...I love me some thinking maps, and an app that helps my little ones make their own is A.O.K. in my book! 

That's all for now....must get back to Olympic awesomeness!  What about you have any favorite apps to share?

And...classroom compulsion is having a giveaway...check it out

This is  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Birthdays in Rm. 128

    I wish I could say this is an original idea, but I've seen it before on *gasp* pinterest.  On their birthdays, I give my kiddos a little bag with goodies in it, along with a certificate, sticker, etc.  It's not extravagant by any stretch of the imagination, but they love having a little surprise on their special day!

      My goal for today was to get my  bags/ cards finished & organized....I accomplished it, in a round-about way!  First off, assemble birthday bags.  That would mean shopping for said bags & booty.  YAY shopping!  I hit the dollar tree to buy all the awesomeness that will go inside the bags.  See all the junk I found....(yes, I'm a horrible teacher--there is candy in there,) but I spent less than 75 cents a bag--that's pretty rad!  Now assemblage.  Putting these together is easier said than done with all my "helpers" aka hungry dogs.  I finally got them all put together and tied, and now I have one for each of my students.  All I need to do is grab one on the appropriate day.
There are a few other things I do to make them feel special.  I have a file of pre-addressed and stamped birthday postcards that I send them the week of their birthday.  This takes a little planning, but it's totally worth it when they come flying in the next morning to tell me all about their mail!  All you need to do is find some postcards (I get them at the teacher supply,) and write a little note on one side.  Then pre-address each one at the beginning of the year.  I write their birthdate on top of the card so I know what order to file them in.  I keep them filed by month in a little coupon holder I found at the dollar store (not the prettiest, but it does it's job!)  Each month, I note the birthdays and write myself a reminder on my lesson plans  to mail postcards each Monday of a birthday week.  Pretty easy. 

     The best part....making new friends in line at the post office.  Yes, buying postcard stamps today was quite an adventure.  Here's a shout-out to "crazy-stamp-hoarder-lady" know who you are.  You went around to 3 post offices this morning in the Heights and bought ALL of their post card stamps before me. Oh yeah, that meant I got the extreme pleasure of going to FOUR post offices today looking for stamps.  Almost as much fun as the DMV.  Almost.
Here are the fruits of my labor....

     And lastly, the illustrious birthday song.  I actually borrowed this one from neighbor at school (thanks Uno,) and the kids love it!  I have a poster of the song laminated, and the birthday kiddo gets to fill in the blanks with the first letter of his/ her name.  Then we all sing them the silly song.  So, if it was Kinley's birthday, the song would be "Kappy Kirthday Ko Kou."  The kids find this hi-larry-us.  It gets a little dicey if their name starts with a vowel, but hey--another teachable moment on vowel pairs! 
     Tell me....what do you do in your classroom to celebrate birthdays?

*cupcake clip art was a freebie from
Thanks to Heather @ Heather's Heart, I've linked up with 4th grade frolics Made It Mondays...check it out..

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2 Bloggy Awards, Oh My!

Many thanks to Mrs. Livers over at Starring in First Grade and also Laura at Oh, How Pintearesting!  They nominated me for these 2 awards!

So, 7 random facts. I'm all sorts of random.......

1) I play roller derby in my free time.  This is my 3rd season with the Bayou City Bosses, and I love it....even though it causes me to be broken most of the time.  Between the bumps, bruises, blood, sweat, and tears....I wouldn't trade it for the world!
2) I have a twin brother, although we don't look anything alike.  Well, maybe a little, but last time I checked I wasn't 6'3" with blonde hair and blue eyes....

3) I'm love to cook.  In fact, my derby name Rachael Rayge is in homage to my fave celebrity chef...Rachael Ray :)

4) Speaking of Rachael Ray..this is my random claim to fame

5) I am addicted to gummy worms.  Whoa am I kidding...I'm obsessed with gummy ANYTHING!!

6) I can write with both hands.  I am a closet lefty, but prefer my right hand to write with. Although, it does freak my kiddos out when I switch hands mid-sentence.....mwuahahahahaha! 

7) Snoozing yet?!  I have the cutest dog in the world who doubles as my class pet.  Bertie is a toy fox terrier, and she comes to school with me almost every day :)

Here are the 5 blogs, and I'm going to follow Laura's example and combine them.
1. Sparkles, Smiles, and Student Teaching - sparkles AND a new teacher?!  LOVES IT!!
2.Ms. L's Whole Brain Teaching - I'm a huge fan of whole brain teaching.
3. A series of First Grade Events - looks super cute
4. Who's on First - lots of great information & ideas
5. First Grade Found Me - because first grade found me too
6one more...just because
6. Teaching with Moxie - her classroom theme will be owls; mine will be hooters :)

For receiving One Lovely Blog award, I have to:
1. Follow the person who gave me the award - already doing!
2. Link back - see first sentence or here
3. Pass to 5 bloggers and let them know that they have received the award.

For receiving the Versatile Blogger award, I have to:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated me - done
2. Include a link to their blog - Oh, How Pintearesting!, one more time,  And Starring in First Grade!...they each nominated me for this one *blushing*
3. Include the award image in my post - see above
4. Give 7 random facts about myself - see below
5. Nominate 5 other bloggers for the award
6. When nominating, include a link to the blog
7. Let other bloggers know they've been nominated

Friday, July 27, 2012

Newbie Blog Hop!

I love blog hops.......Thank you to Janis from Grade Three Is The Place For Me! for putting together this hop for newbies.
If you join, make sure you share:

1. What state you are in
2. Your current teaching position
3. Your teaching experience
4. When you started blogging
5. Share a blogging tip / blogging resource

1. I teach in Houston, TX. My school is a magnet school for technology, and this year we are starting the International Baccalaureate program.
2. I currently teach 1st grade, and am grudgingly the team lead.....grrrrrrrr  Luckily, I teach with some of the awesome-est ladies around; they keep me sane.
3. I have taught for 13 years.  I taught K-5 art for 10 years before, but I heart 1st grade the most :)
4. I started blogging last month....I must admit, I'm obsessed!
5. I'm still learning about blogging....I sadly, have no tips to share.  BUT I love hearing all the tips and tricks everyone has to share.  My only tip would be to ASK for help and advice....there are a bajillion teachers out there willing to help! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I am just about all IB'ed out after 3 days of a conference. Granted, we were in Austin....YAY!!   Between the food, derby, and 6th street experiences; I did actually learn a few things.  The program is more a method than anything.  It's inquiry-based and student-driven, BUT there is sooooooooo much that goes into it!  This is my 3rd workshop to participate in, and I feel like I've only just gotten my feet wet in the giant IB ocean.  If you've never heard of the program, I've linked their logo to the IB website for your viewing pleasure.   That was my IB sidetrack for the to the good stuff


Have you ever used this website?  It's a free web-based application that you can upload a picture, create a "mouth," and then record sound to make that mouth talk.  Simple idea, but WOW so many applications!
     My kids think this is HILARIOUS!  Last year, we studied how to research a topic; and they chose one animal to explore.  Their next task was to  write a "mini-report" on that animal and draw a detailed picture.   I snapped a picture of it and uploaded it to the website.  They did need help to manipulate the mouth-making tool, but then came the fun part.  They read their report into the computers microphone & VIOLA.....we made their picture talk!  You can take those files and post them to blogs, facebook, etc.

Here's one that my little firsties did last year...her animal was a giselle....
If you work with the mouth tool, you can get the mouth better defined.   I love it just the same!

How do you think you might be able to use this in your classroom? 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Daily 5: Chapter 5

     This chapter, for me, is getting about letting go of control & letting my kiddos take responsibility for their own actions.  Up until now, the work has been more independent—easier to manage.  At this point, we will be at a make it or break it stage.  For my firsties, working cooperatively is always more “exciting.”  Even if they are on task, they tend to get a little more “active.”  In comes the daily 5.  With practice, I feel like this task will help my students grow into independent and more self-sufficient readers!
                The first step the talk about is introducing the concept.  A routine that has become familiar by now, the I-chart.  The difference in this skill is that the students should have at least 6 days of being introduced to this skill.  Day 1 is all about the EEKK!!  I love that they relate this to a story about spiders—something most kids can relate to.  It’s teaching how to sit with your partner during this time….Elbow to Elbow, Knee to Knee….EEKK!  Another part of this section is what it sounds like to read with a partner.  Students get to try a shouting voice & see just how successful that would be in this situation; epic fail.  Then they practice their whisper voices to realize that noise level is the only way to make this a success in a classroom of 20 + kids.  

                Next, they talk about holding both partners accountable for this reading time.  In the past, this is definitely what I’ve struggled with in my classroom.  If it’s not “their turn” to read; my students are pretty much uninterested.  Getting away from that “all about me” attitude; both partners have a job!  One is the reader; the other gets to summarize what was read at the end of each page.  This is definitely going to take a lot of practice and modeling.  The idea of both partners being engaged and accountable with make all of that worth it!! 
                Now comes the different ways they can choose to read.  Day 2, introduce the “I Read, U Read” method.  Pretty straight forward; they take turns reading.  And then another way to read: Read 2 different books.  This is a foreign concept to me; as I’ve always thought that would be too much information for them to process.   .  Another mantra, “I keep my book closed.  When you finish, I check for understanding.”  Again, rules & accountability for both partners.  Now my favorite part: choice.  The students get to choose how they want to read.  Of course, now more stamina building practice. 
                Day 3 brings into play conflict.  Something 6-7 year olds are not experts in yet; conflict resolution.  It is up to us to teach them methods to resolve problems independently without name-calling, getting physical, etc.  “Let’s Make a Deal.”  “You pick a book, I pick a book.  We read yours first, then we read mine.”  “See, we made a deal.”  Sounds simple, but this is definitely a behavior that needs to be practiced.  
graphic from

                EEEkkk….Day 4 is what really makes me nervous.  Up until now, I’ve chosen spots for the partners.  Using my spidey-teacher-sense; I’d have placed them around the room in proximity to me, based on the behaviors I expect to see.  Now *gasp* I teach them how to choose their own spots.  Another step in being responsible and independent; they choose a spot they can be successful in. 
                Day 5 is all about choosing a partner.  More independence.  They need to learn the correct way to communicate effectively they need a partner.  The biggest hurdle I can foresee, is them  understanding this is not a popularity contest & they don’t need to be with their best friend.  My favorite, the only acceptable answer when someone asks to be your partner is “Sure, thank you.” 
Finally, Day 6: being a coach.  Teaching them how to not just blurt out a word if their partner is stuck.  Teaching them use the word attack strategies we’ve practiced in class to help coach their partner.  It gives specific examples on what they should ask.  Do you need a coach or do you need time? 
The last part of this chapter is on Listening to Reading.  This is already engaging for most students; so I think all the practice we’re going to need with this strategy is appropriate vs. inappropriate behaviors in the listening station.   There are so many options for this nowadays with technology.  The old tried & true CD player, tons of computer sites that offer read alouds, and mp3 players that have stories pre-loaded.  Possibilities are truly endless.  

This was a looooooong, but useful chapter.  Lots of good information.  I really enjoyed how each behavior was outlined and expectations are clear.  Like always, practice, lots and lots of practice.  

the too cute graphic about how ways they can read came from Becky over at dots & spots ....check her out!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Finally...Back to School Scavenger Hunt/ QR codes part deaux

I've been working like a mad woman to finish this.......I love the book, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, for a first day read aloud.

     If you're not familiar with this book; it's  about Chester Raccoon & he doesn't want to go to school. His mom assures him that he'll love school.  Even better, she has a secret for him--the Kissing Hand. She takes his hand, and kisses his palm: "Chester felt his mother's kiss rush from his hand, up his arm, and into his heart." Whenever he feels lonely at school, all he has to do is press his hand to his cheek to feel the warmth of his mother's kiss.

    It's a really sweet book, and lends itself beautifully to first day conversations.  I had talked about earllier doing a scavenger hunt after reading this book.  I finally finished!!  Here's a sneak peak of it, but you can find it in my Teachers pay Teachers store (button to the right on the bloggy bar.)

     Basically, we'll use the iPods with a QR scanner app to find the codes; which will lead us to Chester's next clue.  We start with this clue, and the kids should work together to figure out we need to go to the library to find the  next clue.  Once we get there, they'll search for the qr code, and I'll choose one kiddo to scan it--which should show us Chester's next clue.  The TPT pack has 11 slides total.  I am super excited about this....I think the kids will love it!  It's also a great way to take them on a tour of the school; without making it soooooo boring.
These are the QR codes that will be posted in different places for them to scan using the iPod app.  There are plenty free apps available; just search for "free QR scanner." 

Here's the link to my first post about QR codes in the classroom; just in case you missed it.

there are usually not stars on QR codes...I just covered my personal info
So excited about this one!  Happy coding :)  Here is a poster I plan to hang on my door @ meet the teacher night.  With QR codes, they can instantly have all your contact info in their phone!

Oh yeah, here's some of my favorite back to school books.....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Handy Parent Communication

     I have another communication solution via technology.  This one makes sending little reminders sooooo easy!  Rather than writing notes in agendas, or making a million copies.....try Remind101.
     This is a web-based gadget (you can get an app on the iPhone, but not an Android yet.)  You sign up for a free account, and they assign you a faux-phone number.  You pass this along to your student's parents & they text "subscribe" to that number.  Then, you can send reminders via text to your parents without giving out your personal cell number.  The message shows up as "a note from Miss Curtis,"  making the number anonymous, but  still no question as to who it came from.  They've also added a feature so you set up reminders ahead of time.  This is great; you can actually plan ahead & not have to worry about it the day before a big event like a field trip, class party, etc.  Set up groups to send messages out, or just send out individual notes. Can we say parent conference reminders?! 

     I am just in love with this service.  I don't have to wonder if Little Johnny made it home with his note; the reminder goes straight to the parents, no middle man.  I'm interested to see if y'all can come up with any other exciting ways to use this tool. QUESTION:  How would you  put this to work in your classroom?

     So........Save a tree!  Text that reminder instead of wasting your time and energy on writing little notes home :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rainy Days= Surfing the web

keep reading to learn about the dojo
     So it's been raining literally all day here in Houston.  Rather than swimming through the streets; I've chosen to stay home, read, and bake.  Big day, I know.  Reading, you know it's all about the Daily 5 and The Mockingjay (don't judge me.)  Baking, I've made pita and chocolate expresso brownies.

     Now for the most important part; the surfing of the web.  I found the neatest website: The Clever School Teacher.  You can find the button on my nav bar, and I''m sure I'll use it quite a few times this year.  We all know how awesome (grrr) I find basals to be.  I am all about using engaging trade books to get my kiddos excited about the skill we're learning.  I've always had literal brain farts when trying to find that perfect book to illustrate a skill.  This site has a plethora of trade books categorized by strategy, etc.  Soooo exciting!  Now, rather than picking my brain & trying to remember what book I used to teach that skill; I can do a quick search and come up with dozens of recent books.  Talk about a time saver! I am just giddy about the possibilities.
     Check it out!
One of my other faves:

Class Dojo

     This was a classroom management Godsend last year.  Basically, you set up a free profile; listing each student & assigning them to a class (helpful if you're not self-contained.)  You then choose behaviors, or add your own that you'd like to reward and discourage.  The students can earn points by displaying the behaviors you've chosen, but also lose points in the same manner.  It keeps a running tally for as long as you like--I usually reset it each morning.  The icons for each student are little monsters *new feature--students can login and create their own avatar (mine loved this!) 

As you add and take away points, there are noises & little numbers appear in the corner of their avatar (either red or green.)  They offer free apps for iPads, iPods, and Android phones.  You can take your classroom management on the road, easily awarding & taking away points in the hallways etc.  I kept it up on the Smartboard most of the day & the kids can see quickly if they need to change their behavior.
     I forgot the best part: DOCUMENTATION.  You can create these handy graphs of each students behavior for the week--it details, by day, what they did well & what they struggled with.  The best part *drum roll please* you can email these files as a .pdf directly to the parents all in one fail swoop.  LOVES IT!!  Just the fact that parents can see a detailed account of the positives their child earned, and not just the negatives. 

     I urge you to try this out next year.  It's super easy & they are constantly adding new features.  Click the logo below to try it for yourself....I hope you'll love it as much as I do!