Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Teacher's Christmas List

Inspired by Courtney at Swimming Into Second
Graphics from Diane J. Hook

1. A sick detector: I'd like to have one at the entrance to my classroom, instead of alerting for metal it would set off an alarm when a student had a fever, stomach virus, or symptoms of the flu. I love to see my kiddos every day, I wish they'd leave their germs at home though. :)
2.A homework machine: will someone/something please review and log my homework for me?!?!
3. A bathroom break: let's face it, lunch is only 35 minutes and if you have recess duty every day like I do, there's no time to relieve yourself.
4. Howler's from Harry Potter to send home to parents: I can tweet, write newsletters, post on websites and information still never seems to get to everyone's homes... (totally borrowed this from Courtney!)
5. A desk elf or monkey: I just can't seem to help my kiddos keep their desks clean this year...
6. A never-ending budget: Who doesn't want everything they could ever need for their classroom??!!?
7. My own personal laminator
8. A copier that never jams!
9. A printer that always works!
10. A Mac!!!! Or maybe just an iPod. I'm definitely a mac girl and I love all of the educational tools (garage band, imovie, etc) and apps that typically come standards on most macs. I also just think macs are easier for students to learn to use and are deceptively simple. Who doesn't love clicking and dragging?!?! I'd love to have my whole school running on macs, sorry Dell :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Wrap-Up!

Finally made it to Christmas, or really "winter" break! I'm excited to just read, sleep, and eat good food more than anything else. I had a 3.5 day week this week and it just seemed like a marathon. I dunno about anyone else, but my firsties seemed to have an incredible amount of energy this week that was directed in the most random places.  Every year, I finish the last few days of school before break with Polar Express activities. Who doesn't love a little Chris Van Allsburg?!?! First I read the book, and we practice summarizing by completing the activity below. I then add student pics, laminate the summaries, and wrap with ribbons so that kids can take them home and give them as gifts to their parents.

**Polar Express Summary Gifts**

The following day, we watch the movie and compare and contrast it to the book.  My students are always SO impressed to learn that the book was written far before the movie lol. 

We also finished our reindeer gifts! This was the first year I tried this little craft and I think it turned out much cuter than I expected to. Note to self: next year I will NOT wear a white sweater when painting and stamping student feet in BROWN paint! Somehow, I managed to get away unscathed, but I may not be as lucky in the future...

This year, I had a really tough time figuring out what I wanted to give my students as gifts. I typically buy a $1 book from Scholastic and give that to everyone, but I just wanted to give something a bit more meaningful and memorable. As I was shopping in the grocery store, I saw a simple pack of bells...
I was able to buy the bells from Giant in 6 packs. The assortment of colors was very festive! I put all all of the bells in a reindeer gift bag and told my class that last year, I had written to Santa. I wanted to know if the Polar Express was really fiction. I went on to say that I came home recently and found a bag of these bells on my doorstep with NO note attached! My class went crazy! They just knew that Mr. C (Santa) had left 'em on my doorstep to teach me that the story was nonfiction and that he really does exist. When I shook the baggie of bells and my class could hear them, they were thrilled. They reminded me that only "believers" could hear the bell. I then let each student pick a bell from the bag (with their eyes closed). It was one magical afternoon! I also gave each student 2 homework passes, but they paled in comparison to the reindeer bells.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Craft

So this year, I'm trying a new holiday craft/gift. With the help of my classroom aide, high school aide, and myself I am going to attempt to complete the craft below. Many teachers make hand-printed wreaths in my school, but I think the foot is darling! :)  I'm seriously hoping that this is non-denominational enough (although I do not have any students this year that celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.). I also do a polar express train summarizing activity (pics to come soon) and sometimes I do a hand-painted poinsettia for Las Posada.

I'm planning on creating just the Rudolph from the piece above and mounting onto green construction paper. I am substituting red glitter along w/ a red bingo marker for the nose so that I can laminate the project. After laminating, students will add the googly eyes. A poem to go with this project is included below and was found at

Join the fun, share your ideas over at:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holidays Around the World

My favorite unit is fast approaching: Holidays Around the World! I just love teaching about different cultures and their traditions. :) Below is a copy of my passport that I use when teaching this unit. Students complete the cover, and we use Google Earth to visit each country. We call it "skydiving!" I usually visit 1 or 2 countries per day.  If you'd like a file that can be edited, feel free to email me:

Happy blogging!

Passport front cover

Passport inside pages

Chestnuts Roasting...

Even though December is one of my favorite times of the year for teaching, it's also the time of year when students seem to be the most distracted! Santa's on the way, reindeer are coming too, Hanukkah is near, latkes will soon be eaten and menorahs lit! Visit the website below to view a real fireplace with AWESOME sound effects. My students love to write with the fireplace on and read near the fireplace too. Just having it on seems to calm us down keep us focused!

Blazing Fireplace

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wompanoag for a Day!

Every year after we study the Pilgrims and Wompanoag attire and ways of living, my students just LOVE to turn into a Wompanoag for a day. I usually make the headbands out of sentence strips then we write a sentence or just copy some of the symbols they used to communicate by writing. I staple the sentence strip so that it fits around their tiny heads. Then they cut out and feather (make tiny cuts) in brightly-colored feathers made out of construction paper. I drew the feathers on paper and then copied them onto construction paper. Students just have to cut and "feather" their feathers. How many feathers can they put on their headdress? The SAME number as their age. This keeps things consistent, fair, and organized. :) See pics of our headdresses below.

In writing, we write a leaf cinquain. First we write on a template, then we copy onto paper or type them if we have time. Next we glue the writing onto a giant leaf template which, I usually hang from our ceiling. Super festive! Here's an example of a student cinquain below:

Orange, Brown
Falling, Swirling, Floating,
You jump in them.

I'll try to upload my template next, but I make it so that lines are placed on a page in the exact places students need to write. So they're all centered. This helps the students understand and visually see the pattern of a cinquain. Of course, showing examples from years before on my document camera is extremely helpful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wonderful Website

Just stumbled onto a new website that is completely irresistable.  Do you DOJO? Click the link below and find out how you can virtually reward students for positive behavior and provide consequences for negative behaviors. For free, you can enter your class and have bar graphs and data that are constructed FOR you...less work, yay!!!!!


I can't say I'm ready to implement Dojo into my classroom this year, because my behavior plan is solid plus, my students and parents are used to it. I currently use a basic (green-yellow-red) stoplight behavior plan coupled with reward tickets for positive, "bucket-filler" behaviors. I'm actually thinking of entering my various table teams (desk clusters) into Dojo and then setting a goal so that the teams can work towards lunch with teacher, etc. I usually just write tallies on the boards for small group goals/rewards but this is SO much more visual, fun, and easy to manage (I won't have to worry about the janitors erasing my tallies anymore :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

VOTE for Books!

Even though this isn't a big election year, I can't help but notice the plethora of political propaganda that seems to surround me. Midterm elections were held last year and I was desperate for a way to get my students involved in the elections and teach them about our voting process. I assigned a book report/book talk titled: "Vote for books!" Students had to self-select a book, read the book, and then  complete a graphic organizer I found in a mailbox book which, was just 3 blank stars. On each star students had to write one reason why someone should read their self-selected book. To keep up with political propaganda, we even made book campaign posters! This is a great assignment that leads right into persuasive writing and could easily be adapted for all elementary students (K-5). It's definitely something to consider as the 2012 elections get closer and closer...check out the pics below!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Leaves, Fall!

So, I finally wrapped up my Fall/Autumn unit this week, and then it snowed today! Actually, it still is snowing here in PA! I have to admit the weather this school year had made for some really interesting weather graphing! I bet my firsties will be ready to learn about Winter on Monday already. :) Below I'm including one of my favorite fall activities/lessons. I usually read Fall, Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall and then my firsties use fake (look alike) leaves that I usually buy from Dollar Tree to either classify the leaves or make leaf animals, people, and other fun stuff! The lesson is a great way to introduce various types of leaves/trees and encourage students to identify them. This year most of my girls took the creative route and my boys decided to classify, interesting...anyways, here's some pics of our finished activities below.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hello Teacher Friends!

Hi everyone! My name is Ashley and I'm a first grade teacher in PA and a Phillies Phanatic. :) Three years ago, I finished my M.Ed. and accepted an offer to teach first grade. Although I had a ton more experience in the intermediate grades, I took a big leap of faith (in myself) and jumped into the primary world. Hence, "Free Fallin Into First."

Last year, I discovered some of your blogs from a co-worker of mine and while they have been extremely helpful (especially when in a pinch), they have also been incredibly inspiring and collegial. The morale here in the blog world is high and I've enjoyed the supportive community that you all have created. With that said, I have decided to take another leap and join the blogging world. I'm hoping that someone out there might be able to benefit from my ideas, stories, and freebies as much as I have benefitted from yours! Here's to giving back and learning something new!!!! :)