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November 25, 2015

A NEW November Round Up!


A NEW November Round Up from HeidiSongs!

Are you ready for a HeidiSongs Black Friday SALE?  Well, here it is-15% off– PLUS, a big photo round-up of all of the fun things that my first and second graders have been up to in November, and an update on how I’m enjoying my new job.


Krissie's Wedding

AND- I MUST mention that my wonderful daughter Krissie Butkus just became Krissie Patterson on November 15, 2015!  If you have ever called the HeidiSongs office and heard the words, “Thank you for calling HeidiSongs; this is Krissie!  How may I help you?” on the other end of the line, you were talking to my expert employee and daughter Krissie.  And that’s her in the picture above, photographed by Kristin Visk Photography.  It was a BEAUTIFUL wedding!


Krissie's Wedding - Kristin Visk Photography

I never would have thought we’d have the hashtag #NoLongerAButkus popping up on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but after TWO WEDDINGS this fall, we do!  Check it out if you want to see more of the fun family stuff.



How is the First/Second Combo Class Going?
So by now, my friends that have been following for a while may be wanting to know how I am enjoying teaching first and second grade after teaching Kindergarten for soooooo long!  It’s a question I get asked fairly often!  I actually am REALLY enjoying it!  (Truly!)  Of course it’s a lot of work.  But it’s definitely a refreshing change after so long, because it’s ALWAYS different.  There is never a day when I am always giving lessons that I have given lots of times before.  Every lesson is new to me, and as a teacher that enjoys learning new things, this challenges me in a wonderful way.

I really enjoy seeing the progression of the work of the children from first grade to second grade!  It’s really very interesting, because I have a couple of first graders that are just beginning to read (although most are very advanced in their reading skills,) all the way up through second graders that can read and comprehend well at the third grade level!  My job is definitely not dull!  So whereas I used to give the same differentiated lesson several times a day in small groups, that just doesn’t happen anymore.

At the same time, it can be TOTALLY frustrating due to the amount of work and time required. Occasionally, I run out of time to prepare myself super well for a lesson and realize that if I had just done one thing differently, my kids might have gotten it easily the first time around!  Now my mistake has cost the entire class precious TIME.  And there seems to be so little of it in the first place!  That’s time I would rather use doing fun and enriching things with them.  Booooo!

Lesson planning is just very time consuming for me in comparison to how quick it was for me when I taught Kindergarten.  I seem to be at school until about 5:00 PM nearly every night of the week!  In mid-October, I felt like I was JUST getting it down and under control… and then suddenly it was time to begin testing for REPORT CARDS!  Ugh!  I knew it was coming and that I should be prepping for it, but since I really wasn’t sure what assessments would going into those report cards yet, I was unable to do anything about it in advance.   Grrrrrr!

And OH… MY … GOODNESS!  Trying to figure out TWO, separate, brand NEW assessment and report card entry procedures with completely different software systems was almost enough to break my spirit!  BUT… I hung in there and got it done… FINALLY.  Praise the LORD!  My teammates on both grade levels are SO supportive and helped me at every turn, and my volunteers are an absolute God-send!  And my new principal is so incredibly supportive, that I have to say that I believe God’s hand was on my placement at this new school!  Thankfully, I knew that even if I made a mistake and didn’t get something finished, it would be alright in the end, because I was truly doing my best, and someone would be there to catch me if I fell.  I can’t imagine getting through this in any other way!  Now that I understand better how it all goes together, I will be ready for it at the end of the second trimester!

Now that it’s over, of course, I am ready for the holidays and excited to move on!  We are going to put on our Gingerbread Man Play in Dec.  I can’t wait to see how that comes together with first and second graders, after doing it with Kindergarten for so long!  Here’s how that looks if you are unfamiliar.  There’s a blog post on it here if you want to read more.



November Projects and Activities for First and Second Graders
Well, anyway, below are some of the neat projects we did in November. Below, you will see our Symmetrical Turkeys!  I taught both the first and the second graders about symmetry, and then we created the turkeys.


Turkey Stories

To make the turkeys, they all got a yellow hexagon pattern block glued just below the middle of a black piece of nine inch by eleven inch construction paper.  I told them that they had to glue the same thing all the way around the yellow pattern block, and showed them some examples.  It took some time and some trial and error for some of them, but they all finally got it!

When I did this in Kindergarten, we did it in small groups.  Only the adult was able to hold the glue bottle, and the kids chose which pattern block they wanted to use next.  The adult then put a tiny drop of glue all the way around the yellow pattern block for the kids to place a block on.  Then repeat until finished!  My first and second graders were able to do the whole thing themselves, though.  On the second day, you add the turkey features.

They were allowed to start gluing their pattern blocks after they finished writing about turkeys one Wednesday afternoon. They they finished their turkeys the next morning after they completed their math papers for that day.  So basically, I squeezed it in as best I could.  I seem to do a lot of this kind of “squeezing” in order to get some fun projects in!”  I did the same thing with their scarecrows below.


Turkey Stories Wall

I got my centers going for my kids this month!  I was able to manage sending the first graders to independent centers while I worked with the second graders.  I have three different “Mini-Centers,” that one group goes to in pairs. (There are two kids from that same group at the Circle Center as shown below, two more kids at the Square Center, and two more kids at the Triangle Center.)  Then, I have another group of first graders go to the iPad table, where there are six iPads to use.  After about twenty minutes, they all switch.  The kids that were at the Mini-Centers go to the iPads, and the kids that were at the iPads find their names at the Mini-Centers. (After school, I rotate the signs so that they would go to a different Mini-Center station the next day.)   It works great!

In this case, my second graders get to join the first graders whenever they happen to finish their assignment.  If they don’t finish their assignment, they just don’t get to go to their center that day.  I wish we had more time to do them, but we just don’t.  I feel bad about it, but most have accepted it as something that goes with being bigger second graders.  One of them complained quite loudly about it at first, but he has (mostly) given up.


Sight Word String Ups

Below is a photo of one of my centers, in which one of the first graders started with the geoboards, and the second graders eagerly joined in just as soon as they could.  My second graders really have NOT outgrown the desire to use manipulatives like these geoboards, even if they don’t seem to really serve an obvious second grade standard.  I am still confident that these types of experiences, along with the language and social interactions that are generated along with them as they are used, serve a valuable purpose in a child’s education.  And anyway, isn’t it okay to let them have some fun when they’re done?  



Working on Math Fluency
We are getting better and better at our math fluency!  Both my first and second graders are working on it!  On the bulletin board below, each child has his or her name on a clothespin, and gets it pinned to the highest addition fact he or she has mastered, (assuming that the child mastered all of the previous facts as well.)  My class of very advanced first graders are working on quick recall of the addition facts in which one addend is six, also known as the “plus sixes.”  My class of wonderful second graders just finished the “plus tens” are working on quick recall of the subtraction facts in which one subtrahend is two, also known as the “minus twos.”

By the way, I got REALLY lucky this year and received a grant for a 12 month license to use the website ReflexMath with my whole class FREE!  This has turned out to be absolutely AMAZING!  Most of the kids just BEG to practice their math facts because they love it so much! They are supposed to be on it for a minimum of three times a week for about 20 minutes each time in order to achieve fluency.  The kids can sign in at home and use it there free of charge as well, and many of them are doing that!  It can be used on their website or with an iPad app, but it is definitely pricey.  Their math fact fluency has totally SHOT UP since we started practicing with ReflexMath, and it’s the easiest thing in the world for ME!  I am so grateful for this grant!  I just HOPE that my principal or district purchases it for all of us next year!  It can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, or addition.



Math Fluency Chart

Teaching First Graders to SPELL the First Hundred Sight Words
I have to say that I don’t know if I have EVER been more grateful for my own collection of sight word songs than this year!  I found out at the end of this trimester that the children needed to pass a SPELLING TEST on the first hundred sight words, with the beginning of the year benchmark being just 35 of them.  Thank GOD we have been using my Sing and Spell DVD’s to practice our spelling words every day with the first graders, and so they didn’t just cram and memorize them for the test.  They KNOW them!  A couple of my first graders got approximately 95 words spelled correctly!

I am going to do a post on this to tell you more, but I am really excited about the applications of using Sing and Spell in first and second grade!  Here’s a clip below if you are unfamiliar.  Just playing the two songs for the homophones “there” and “their” together has been a HUGE help to both the first and the second graders, and there are so many examples of words like this in our collection of songs that you can do this with!  Here’s just a few:  to, too, two; we’re, were, where; there, their, they’re; for, four; off, of, etc.  Click here to download a list of all of our sight word songs listed in alphabetical order, with the CD/DVD that they are on with it.






Guided Drawing
Below, you will see what happens when you teach first and second graders guided drawing!  We did my Thanksgiving Guided Drawing project near the beginning of November, and it just came out so well!  In August, I had expected all of my new students to be familiar with guided drawing. But most of them said that they had never done it before!  I was very surprised!

Since then, we have done guided drawing about every other week, starting with my No, David! project, moving through my Farm Animal Guided Drawing, my Halloween Guided Drawing, and some other little things I made up on the fly.  Once we finished the actual drawing, I passed it out for them to do the coloring if they finished an assessment early but needed to give a classmate some time to finish his or her test.  As you can see, we had to do a LOT of tests, because these are colored beautifully, LOL!  Click on the links for free downloadable instructions for all of these.  We’ll be doing my Christmas Guided Drawing soon, I know!  If you want more, just put the words “Guided Drawing” into the search box on this blog and you’ll come up with lots more (all free.)  I also keep a Pinterest Board on Guided Drawing where I post all of the, plus other people’s ideas.


November Things: Pilgrims

An Easy DIY P.E. Obstacle Course!
Below is a photo of my Dollar Store Obstacle Course!  I had been working on collecting supplies that I would need to do this with my kids for P.E. for a while.  I got the cones in the picture below at the Dollar Tree, plus some hula hoops for the kids to step into, and a rope for them to step around.  (The rope is not pictured.)

I finally found some bamboo sticks in our garage to use for the hurdles.  Of course after that, I realized that I could have used pool noodles!   (Also, I think that we could have used chairs instead of cones, but oh well!)  The kids went under the first one, and then over the rest of them.  To get this set up, I just told each of my nine first graders to all grab a chair and bring it out to the playground.  We found a spot in the shade, and I started putting it all out.  You can see a quick little video of the whole thing in action here!


November Outside Activities

My kids ABSOLUTELY LOVED this, and it was the easiest thing ever, for me!  They just kept running and running through it, over and over in a big circle!  Once I had it set up, all I had to do was make sure that each child waited for the child ahead of him to get a reasonable distance ahead before starting the course.

Now I only had my nine first graders with me because my second graders were busy doing P.E. with the other second grade teachers, but I have done this with a full class before at my old school!  To include a full class, just set up TWO obstacle courses and split the class in half.  Have half of the kids line up at one course and the other half at the other.  Then have the two groups race each other.  OR, just let them run and run and run!  No winners, no losers.  Ahhhhh……


November Outside Activities

Fall Scarecrows Bulletin Board
Below is a photo of our wonderful fall Scarecrow Bulletin Board!  Oh, I Iove how this came out!


Scarecrow Bulletin Board

We used that crinkled, shredded paper that goes in gift bags as a filler for the “hay” that would be used to stuff the scarecrows.  You can see the product here, but I do want to mention that I got mine at the Dollar Tree!  I have been very careful this year to NOT insist that the children’s artwork be done “just so,” because I want to encourage their creativity.  So I gave them LOTS of colors to work with, and some scraps from an old wallpaper sample book for the patches.  My volunteer Ms. Cohen helped cut up all of the pieces, and some other parents helped trace the hats and pants in order to cut down on the time needed to make them.

I am not able to give them very much time to complete these things, so we tend to start them one day, and then I collect the unfinished projects.  Later, I pass them out to have the kids complete the projects little by little as their other required work is finished.  It’s a nice way to motivate them to finish their work!


Scarecrow Bulletin Board

Walk-A-Thon Sponsor
Below you can see a wonderful banner that went up in front of my school, since I was able to make a donation to our school’s Walk-a-Thon!  I didn’t realize that there would be a banner!  WOW!  I love it!  Our HeidiSongs logo is also on the back of the Walk-a-Thon t-shirts, too.  I’m so proud!  


Ekstrand Walk-A-Thon

Thanksgiving Feasts
Finally, here is a photo of the first graders’ Thanksgiving feast!  All of the first graders had a big feast together, which was lovely.  I’ve never done it this way; I’ve always done one by myself in my room.  But I love the way this one came out, with all of the room moms and volunteers working together to make it happen, and keeping the mess in the cafeteria!  My kids came dressed as pilgrims, and some of the other classes came as turkeys, pilgrims, or Native Americans.  It was special and fun!

My second graders went to a different feast in the morning, put on by the second grade team.  It was a potluck in which many of the children brought a special dish that represents their family’s heritage.  The food was AMAZING, and the kids were so excited!  I’ve never had a feast like that before, either!  WOW, I’m learning a LOT this year!


Thanksgiving Dinner!

Here are my first graders and me below.  Notice anything unusual about their smiling faces?  LOL!


Thanksgiving Dinner - Class Picture

Okay, caught you yawning!  But I had fun writing this.  I hope you are having a wonderful fall, and if you are on vacation this week like I am, then have a fantastic one!  And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends in the USA!


PS. DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE SALE! Use the code STUFFING2015 for 15% off your entire order!! Today through Monday, Nov. 30th 2015!


HeidiSongs Black Friday Sale!


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