Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Thanksgiving Traditions from Mrs. Decatur's Little Gators

I decided to share how I celebrated Thanksgiving with my class and coworkers in the past! 

With my colleagues, hands down my favorite part about Thanksgiving at school is our potluck lunch! I look forward to it each year! {Chalkboard done by my lovely team teacher, who doesn't blog, but should}

The hospitality committee puts out a sign up sheet and everyone gets to choose their favorite dish to share with everyone else. I love trying other 'family recipes' its neat since most of us just share these dishes year after year with our own families. 

The administrative staff is kind enough to provide the turkey, ham, and drinks each year. It is such a nice time to just slow down for a few minutes & eat some yummy hot food with colleagues. 

The hospitality committee decorates and sets things up the morning before, so the rest of the staff can just pop in and leave their dish in the morning. We did a #thankful board this year, it was a super cute and quick way for the whole staff to connect since some of us rarely see the others because of scheduling. I  wish I would have grabbed a picture after it was completed. 

With my students, my favorite thing about Thanksgiving at school is making butter! Each year after our nonfiction Fall and Thanksgiving unit in November, we make butter. 

I usually show this short video of a reenactment of a Pilgrim churning butter. She is speaking french but its translated into English text & the kids enjoy it! 

You need several small containers with secure lids, I usually go with these 4oz glass mason jars. It just feels more realistic than plastic. I have done this with my class for the last six years, this is the first year we used a marble to help 'churn'. Honestly, it was loud and I'm not sure it made much of a difference anyways. I'll leave it out next year. 

You fill each jar about 2/3 full with heavy whipping cream & secure the lids.

Then its time to shake, shake, shake! I like to have my whole class sit in a circle on the rug while we shake. I make six jars of butter and start them every few kids. Each kid just shakes until they get tired & pass. It takes about thirty minutes, so by the end they each get to shake about five or six times usually.

It should start to look something like this after about ten minutes.

but you'll want to keep shaking until the sides of the jar are 'clean' and the butter is in a bunch on top of the jar or on the side. For best results, let your jars of butter in cool in the fridge for an hour or more before serving.

The best part is of course trying it out on a roll! The kids usually make weird faces which cracks me up because it is actually just regular butter..same flavor. Ha! 

Despite all the fun that Thanksgiving brings, my absolute favorite Thanksgiving tradition is decorating for Christmas before its even Thanksgiving! What is your favorite way to celebrate Thanksgiving at school?

Going Green: Reusing Paper {with Mrs. Decatur's Little Gators}

While Earth day may be over, I think it is important to continue to teach our kiddos about conservation and how it should be a lifestyle and not just a holiday in April! 

One of favorite things to do to save on paper is to take the HUGE pile of paper that ends up on the counter next to the copier (before it ends up in the trash can) and have my kiddos use it in our writing center to make books, write letters to each other, or write stories. It saves me from making a ton of copies of writing paper! I, of course, still make copies of writing paper for the writing center, but I like to have a variety of options for the kids to be able to create. They especially LOVE when I find extra colored paper copies! 

Now, I know that tidy tubs are no longer a novel idea, but they are a lifesaver when it comes to making sure our daily paper waste makes it into the recycle bin & not the trash can. 

Recycle Ranger is one of the favored jobs throughout the year, but really becomes popular in April! 

We keep our tidy tubs stacked up at the end of our group tables when they are not in use, the table leaders just place them in the center of the tables when they are needed. 

Here is one of our Recycle Rangers doing his part to help keep the Earth clean! 

Another thing I do in my classroom is to reuse anchor charts of parts of them at least! I know using post its is still using paper, but they are tiny little papers and really much less waste when you consider I have used the base of this chart three years in a row (two classes each year, that would have been 6 full sheets of chart paper had I not reused)! 

Plus the kiddos LOVE to write on post its and I LOVE it when they are excited to learn! 

Sometimes I just cut out and save parts of an anchor chart to reuse or re-purpose, (saving paper & saving time) the cute little guy was something I traced onto a circle map anchor chart last year. 

What do you do throughout the year to stay green in your classroom? 

Packing It Up! {w/ Mrs. Decatur's Little Gators}

Hey y'all! I seriously am in total denial that the summer is coming in HOT!

 My room is barely taken down or packed up, which is so unlike me! I like to take pretty much everything down each year even though this will be four years in the same room, same subjects, and same grade for me! I just like to start fresh each year while building on previous years do's and don'ts. You can tell by this pictures its the end of the year, stuff is falling off the walls and I am not bothering to put it back up! 

My holy grail summer tip is to make a "Summer Look Out" List in my phone because lord knows I will not be carrying around my planner/notebook/28 differ list pads while I am bopping around town all summer! 

Before I really get started packing up, I just walk around my room 'surveying' the goods! Each year is different. Some years I have a full prize box in May, some years, like is running super low! So I add "student prizes" to my look out list. So when I am at big lots on July 12th, I can double check to see if I really do need  those 12 packs of smelly highlighters!

 I don't like to over buy during the summer or purchase things I won't end up needing. This especially relates to craft supplies, which are not provided by my school (think googley eyes, glitter, paint, chenille sticks). Sometimes I use it all up and some years I have plenty but I will not remember in the middle of the summer. 

I also like to add things that need to be replaced each year but are not your "standard" teacher supplies like dry erase or bulletin borders. Things like my birthday pencils, or calendar numbers.. some how I lost the "1st" and the "3rd" this year?!? So I will be on the lookout for a new set! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Welcome back to another month of Books Teachers Love! 

I picked "Farfallina & Marcel" By Holly Keller for my April read aloud. 

It is the cutest story of an enduring friendship of a gosling & a caterpillar. The watercolor illustrations are gorgeous & engaging. 

I love using this read aloud to integrate science into my read aloud. Its also just perfect for touching back on friendship in April. My firsties usually require a refresher on that one as the end of the year slowly approaches!

In the story Marcel and Farfallina meet and become friends, spending each day together at the pond. The book flawlessly describes the stages of a butterfly's life cycle through a story of friendship.

The end of the story is a great lesson on how you can remain friends despite life's changes!

Keep hopping to find even more fantastic April read aloud planning ideas & freebies below!
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Monday, February 22, 2016

Thinking BEYOND the text

 I am sharing about how I teach my kids to think BEYOND the text.
This week we are learning all about Abraham Lincoln. I am using these books for the first time this year & loving them. I am lucky enough to have a set of six in my classroom! They are part of our social studies curriculum kits but you can order one for yourself here on Amazon. However, you can use this lesson with any nonfiction text. 

When I introduce comprehension strategies for nonfiction texts, I like to start with determining importance and questioning. My first year of teaching first grade, I taught all week long about President's Day, Abe, & George! Read alouds, writing activities, stations, group work, video clips, Scholastic News  name, we did it. At the end of the week, all my students could remember was that George Washington had wooden teeth! #teacherfail 

Through trial and error, I learned that as a teacher it is important to model HOW I gather information as I read. As an adult, determining what is important as I read or skim a text for information comes naturally. It can be difficult to SHOW students how to do this. As I read aloud, I THINK aloud. I explain to students when I read something that I think is important my 'reader brain' makes a 'ding' to tell me to remember this information. 

 I discuss what a fact is and how it can help me think BEYOND the text I am reading and spark questions for further learning. We use the sentence stem "In the text it said..." to turn and talk about facts throughout the text, it helps to frame our conversations and helps my students to begin talking ABOUT the text. 

I made this chart to continue the lesson. Once we have chosen a fact, in this case we picked "Abe's family lived in a log cabin." We can FIND and PROVE this our book, plus kids have a ton of questions about life in a log cabin. 

Once we copy our fact down, we begin to discuss what the fact is prompting us to THINK about. Most of the kids started discussing who built the house, how it was much different from out homes today, and where the logs came from. 

After discussing our thinking, we move on to thinking BEYOND the text by asking questions about the fact we found IN the text. During this lesson a bunch of my students were very curious about how they could keep the logs from rolling around! They had great ideas on what the answer may be! We decided the student's would take this question home to search for answer with family & then return to school with their answer the next day! I love when a lesson sets my students up to want to learn more and it is a total bonus that they have a baseline to open a conversation with their family about our learning at school!
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Books Teachers Love {On the Same Day in March}

Welcome back to another month of Books Teachers Love! I cannot believe I am planning for March already! This year has been such a whirlwind! 

I picked "On the Same Day in March" by Marilyn Singer as my book this month. 
march read aloud, weather, on the same day in march,

Teaching in Texas sometimes makes it difficult to teach about weather and seasons. More than once I've found myself trying to help my students understand that leaves change colors and YES snow is real. Haha!
march read aloud, weather, on the same day in march,
On the Same Day in March will take your students on a world tour while describing the weather all along the way!


 I LOVE that the book covers three subjects in one read aloud, perfect for the short month of March!To set the stage I usually hang up my HUGE whiteboard map that I keep propped in the corner of my classroom behind the door, the kids never know what it is and are always so surprised when I pull it out and hang it up for the first time each year!

I usually read it right after Dr.Seuss celebration has ended and before I break out the St. Patrick's Day books.  
march read aloud, weather, on the same day in march,  
 I read the first page and show the kids where it says "On the same day in March..." and teach them to read that part chorally on each page. It just helps keep them engaged and following the text, its a bit longer than the normal read aloud I would select!

march read aloud, weather, on the same day in march,
Thinking about all the different types of weather in the different places sets the students up to practice drawing conclusions. We stop a TON during the read aloud to find places on the map & THINK aloud about how the weather is different all over the world. We use the thinking stem "I notice..." during the lesson to help frame our conversations.

  The kiddos love learning that people all over the world have different weather on the same day! Such a neat book to help expand kids thinking! 

To grab the book on Amazon, click here!
Keep hopping to find even more fantastic March read aloud planning ideas & freebies below!
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march read aloud, weather, on the same day in march,

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