Make Way for Ducklings!

Our ducks are hatching! Yep, little buggers are just as bad as the chickens - can't hatch during the school week but the second the weekend hits they're all about hatching! I'm actually glad it didn't happen at school though as one of the ducklings pipped on the wrong side of the egg and basically suffocated in the shell :(  One of the other eggs hatched overnight so we woke to a cute little baby. There are two more eggs that should hatch today and everything seem alright with them, so I should have 3 healthy ducklings to take back to school with me on Monday!

 Have to share this picture too, one of our little neighbors came over to show us the butterfly that decided to take up residence on her hand - pretty little thing sat on her hand for over 1/2 hour!

Oh yes, I have to share that I showed a video on Friday afternoon. I usually am not into videos or television at school at all, but my next door neighbor was out and her assistant leaves 1/2 hour before school is over, so I had my 20 plus her 25 at the end of the day! Time to break out a video! Luckily I had  picked up this 3 dvd set a few weeks ago since it had Splat the Cat on it so I quickly put it up on my Smartboard. My principal chose that moment to stick her head in my door and I was quaking, thinking - "Oh great, first time all week that she's come to my room and here I am showing a movie!" but I showed her that it had the captions and that we had read other books in the series and she was fine with it! The 2nd dvd in the set has  a bunch of duck related stories on it, so we will probably watch those on Monday to celebrate our new ducklings!

And, as promised, here is my freebie. I meant to post this last night, but my laptop decided to overheat on me so I decided to let it rest overnight. Luckily all seems fine this morning! In honor of our new little friends, I made an -ing game! I thought about making an -uck game but decided that could get dicey in the classroom lol. Just click here download it for free!

UPDATE: Another duckling has hatched! I got almost the whole thing on video, but right before he pushed his way out of the shell my camera card ran out of room :(  I will upload the videos tonight and share them tomorrow. Now we just need the last egg to hatch for our little duckling family to be complete. It is so incredible how the ducklings help each other out of the egg and encourage each other. Right now Ming and Ping are laying next to Ling's egg, peeping to him. They are just precious!

Week In Review

Ahh, sweet Saturday! I have been waiting all week for today! We got back from our trip at about midnight on Sunday and I jumped straight into work the next day. So I have been exhausted all week to say the least - vacations are supposed to be rejuvenating but 20+ hours of driving to get home was just draining!

Anyways, here's what greeted me when I returned:

Instead of having 1 sub for 5 days, my class had 3 subs and a class-size assistant:

1st Day: The sub had only taught middle school and above and was completely frazzled by a day in 1st grade. She was supposed to come back for the rest of the week but bailed out. Wuss.

2nd Day: No one would come in to substitute so the assistant from next door got pulled in and he terrorized taught my class for a day.

3rd Day: Very sweet older lady who apparently didn't have a clue what was going on. This could be because I left one set of lesson plans for 5 days rather than 5 days worth of individual lesson plans. It also could be because she was older than Methuselah.

 4th & 5th Day: This woman stuck it out for 2 days, so I have to give her kudos for that, but she left me a note that said:

Gertrude and Hildegard fought with each other all the time!
Bethesda was very disruptive by talking all day!
Iphram was out of his seat a lot and didn't complete any of his work!

Hmm...that sounds familiar...let's look at the note that I left for the substitute:

Gertrude and Hildegard should be kept apart at all times, otherwise they will fight all day.
Bethesda talks a lot. Ignore it as much as possible and tell the other students not to engage her.
Iphram has a medical condition. Expect him to be out of his seat a lot. He will probably not complete his work, but as long as he attempts it that is ok.

Do I know my kids or what?! Of course this just bears out my sneaky suspicion that substitutes usually don't bother to read the notes I leave. Next time I am going to insert something completely random and crazy into the notes like "Watch out for the aliens who come at 2:00pm, you should wear an aluminum foil hat to protect your brain waves." and see what happens.

So, anyways, my kiddos were a bit wound when I returned. They had to adjust to having me back, which included pushing all of my buttons to be reassured that I had come back the same way I left and that I had not suddenly changed all of the rules. We walked a lot of laps at recess this week, let me tell you! By Friday they had finally figured out that it was really me and all of our procedures and rules were the same, so hopefully next week will be better.

Oh! I got a new student too! He's a darling from another state. Apparently, in that state, it is okay to pour glue on your seat and on your nose. Not a dot of glue, a long line of glue that drips off the end of your nose by the time your teacher gets you down to the office. Throwing, hitting, putting up your middle finger and licking everything in sight is encouraged. Also in that state, you can apparently get straight A's for reading at a kindergarten level in first grade! Oh, and those pesky things like writing complete sentences? Apparently not applicable in that state - you just write down the first sound in a word and call it a day, no punctuation necessary and random capitalization is encouraged.

Does that sound snarky? I usually try not to judge other teachers/states, but when I get a report card with all A's attached to a child who is so far below grade level it's not funny, and I only have 20 days to try to get him ready for 2nd grade because I can't retain him as he's already been retained, well I get a wee bit upset. The only thing I can guess is that he was either really good at copying off his neighbors, or his teacher just wanted him the heck out of her room so she was going to pass him at all costs. The glue all over the chairs is rather annoying after all.

Hmm...can't remember any actual learning that we did. I'm sure we fit it in there somewhere..maybe.

Oh wait! We did play with trash! There was a city-wide art contest in honor of Earth Day. The entries had to made from recycled, used trash. We spent a whole afternoon and the next morning cutting, gluing and pasting trash. Then I grabbed 9 people in our building - (custodians, assistants, teachers and cooks) to judge our creations and pick the top 2 pieces of art so they could be sent off to the city competition. Then I listened to the howling of the kiddos not picked for the next 30 minutes. I was the only teacher in the building who participated. I am still confused why the other teachers wouldn't want to have their rooms covered in trash, have to moderate trash arguments (I had that toilet paper roll first!) and calm the howling of the malcontents. Oh well, it was a load of fun for the kids. Here are the two winners:

A robot and a camping scene. Not sure if they technically count as "art" but the instructions were very vague. Camping girl had help at home with hers by the way. Still super cute though!

Well, Monday starts a new week, right?! So, next week we are going to....ummm....hmmm...maybe I should just go back to bed a while until my brain starts working again. I'm sure after a quick nap I'll come up with something!

I'm going to break the cardinal rule of blogging and come back tonight with a freebie, look for me then! Oh, and since I'm breaking bloggy rules anyways. here are some pictures of my beary good vacation!

Freebie Friday - Pigeon Craftivity!

I have a fun freebie for you today! You may know that Mo Willems is one of my most favorite authors. I absolutely love all of his books - especially the Pigeon series. My class has gone through all of our Elephant & Piggie books too - they are great for learning to read aloud with expression by the way! Anyways, when I saw that Mo was coming out with a new Pigeon book, I couldn't resist! I had it preordered and it came right before our vacation, so I didn't do much with it right away. Now that I've had a little time to recuperate though, I've made a free craftivity for it! Here's a link to the book on Amazon in case you haven't gotten a copy yet.


If you don't have any of the Pigeon books you'll definitely want to pick them all up - we do a lot with them in my class - they lend themselves well to creating class books!

This year our Student Treasures class book was "Don't Let the Pigeon Be A Substitute Teacher!" and the kids had to come up with ideas for why it wouldn't be a good idea for the Pigeon to be a substitute, some of their ideas were hilarious! 
Here's what it looks like:


So, yes I am a huge Pigeon fan! Check out the marionette I made for a class in college, he's a bit beat up after 5 years, but he's still super cute:

Anyways, I thought it was time to make a Pigeon craftivity to honor my favorite character! My daughter came up with the idea of including Duckling as well - he's a little cutie too!

Aren't they adorable?! Now, I love cutesie things like this, but I can't justify using class time for them unless they have a clear connection to some area of the curriculum rather than just "fine motor skills" or "art". So, I had to create some writing prompts as well so I can tie this into our writing time. I put it all together in one file so you can find the templates for the craftivity as well as the writing prompt papers for FREE at my TPT store! Please Rustle Up a Response below if you grab it - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I'm linking this up to Freebie Friday over at Teaching Blog Addict - head over to pick up some more freebies!

Writing Wednesday

Today I'm trying out a new idea for a weekly post. I decided to focus on writing because I really believe this is an area where we can all use more ideas and inspiration. It's also one of my favorite things to teach, mainly because I get to see my students' imaginations take flight!

One thing that often frustrates me is when I see writing time turned into handwriting practice or, even worse, writing that is overshadowed by the grammar/punctuation/spelling police. All of those things are definitely important, and they have their time and place in my classroom. That time is usually not during our writing time though! Does that seem odd to you? To me it doesn't. I believe that writing must begin as a free-flow of thoughts and ideas and that it can get bogged down in all of the rules. That's not to say that we don't occasionally use the editing process to perfect our pieces, but I hate to see the spark of creativity and excitement in a child dimmed by laborious rewrites.

I love invented spelling - it gives me an insight into the student's phonological awareness - can they "hear" blends yet? Do they differentiate between long and short vowel sounds? How do they deal with r-controlled vowels? All of their "mistakes" are great information for me to use to plan my lessons! Thus, most of my students' "finished" pieces often have errors. Depending on the student I might have them go back and fix capitalization or punctuation errors. I sometimes even point out a spelling mistake if it's pertinent to words we've already studied or a phonics rule, but generally, if they have complete sentences that make sense, I'll praise their effort, make a metal note of what we need to work on, and address it in a later lesson. In this way I've seen enormous progress in my students' ability to write and their enjoyment of writing is unhindered!

Anyways, every Wednesday I'll be featuring some of my ideas for writing. I hope you'll join in and share your ideas as well! To kick things off I have to showcase some writing that blew me away this week. In order to keep this real, I am not going to only show you the pieces written by my most brilliant student  (although I will occasionally throw those in because it's hilarious when he writes about "the Tree of Wisdom" and other awesome ideas I can't believe come from a 7 year old!) but I will share the work of my "average" students.

When our chicks hatched this week, we were so excited that it translated into almost effortless writing. Gotta love when their enthusiasm for a subject blinds students to the fact that they are "doing work"! Here are some pieces that made me proud:
 This little smarty did a fabulous job of putting down her knowledge on paper and sounding out words like "intelligent", but you can see that she is still having trouble differentiating some of her vowel sounds.She is also behind on sight words like they, are and there, but she's coming along well since she joined us in January!

 This is one of my favorites because you can truly hear her voice in her writing!  I also love that this darling turned her paper over to finish her sentence! A lot of my kiddos start out asking "How many sentences do I need to write?" which is an indication that writing has been a chore for them in the past. My response is "As many as it takes to get your point across!" As you can see, she had some trouble with run on sentences. She's still using "and" to connect thoughts so I pointed that out and she attempted to correct it. But, she used quotation marks which is wonderful!

This little guy had a great time writing his chicken facts. He loves writing, but generally dislikes prompts, so this was a fabulous effort from him! As you can see, he's not really sure of apostrophes and he's missing some subject/verb agreement, so we'll go over those again in a small group with some others who are also having trouble with them.

I'll also try to share a writing related freebie each week. Here's a simple story element brainstorming sheet. We use these to plan out possible stories. It helps my kiddos remember the basic story elements such as setting and conflict, while providing them with a "map" of their story in case they can't finish it in one setting. There's nothing worse than having a great idea and forgetting it before you can write it down! I have also included the writing sheets we sometimes use. My kiddos love being able to illustrate their story and I love being able to see if their story matches their illustration - it gives me an idea of whether they had a clear vision for their story and whether they are able to sustain their focus as they write or whether they go off on random tangents. I hope it's useful in your classroom as well! Please Rustle Up a Response below and let me in on a writing idea from your classroom!

Story Elements Brainstorming Sheet

The Chickens Have Hatched!!

Whew! Day 1 back from vacation was a busy one! Our eggs started hatching over the weekend - despite my assurances to their caregiver that they wouldn't hatch on her watch heehee! For some reason the little buggers decided that day 19 was to be their birthday, although all the literature says chicken eggs need to incubate for 21 days! So, this morning we had 12 little chicks ready to greet everyone as they walked in the room.

Aren't they too precious?! As you can see we have several different breeds - and no, I have no idea what kind of eggs/chickens we have. Some came from a lovely man out in Braie, OK who raises chickens and ducks to please his 3 year old granddaughter. He saw my ad for eggs on craigslist and drove a whole bunch of eggs into town for me! We met up at a local restaurant's parking lot and then he invited my husband and I to join him and his wife for dinner, after which he picked up the bill! Talk about generous! The other ones came from another lady who was contacted by my old college professor who saw my ad, asked around for eggs for me and sent a lady with a dozen eggs over to my school! I am just floored by the support we received for this project.

As the day progressed I had to assist two more chicks from their eggs - they had completely cracked their shells but they dried too quickly and sort of got "glued" to the shell. Luckily with a little warm water and a damp cloth I was able to get them out and hopefully they will be strong enough to leave the incubator tomorrow. We did have one little chick hatch on his own today - while we were in the computer lab of course! Figures that he'd wait until we left the room!  We have 4 more eggs that have yet to hatch, plus later this week our ducks should hatch as well! We have had lots of visitors because of our chicks - during recess today I walked into the room to find both the reading and math coaches on their hands and knees in front of the brooder, cooing to our chicks. Wish I had a picture of that! The math coach cracked me up - she referred to our stripey chicks as "the ones wearing chipmunk outfits". We will probably names those ones Alvin, Simon and Theodore now!

One of my students also brought in two bottles of grass with "caterpillars" in them. They don't look like any caterpillars I've ever seen before, so I'm going to use that term very loosely lol. We'll see if they go through a metamorphosis. Another student caught a lizard and brought it in as well:

My classroom is like a small zoo isn't it? Unfortunately my sub last week threw out the sugar water for our butterflies because some soap got into it (how in the world that happened I have no idea!) and then didn't bother to tell anyone or let the students ask for more sugar from the cafeteria. Thus, 3 of our butterflies were DOA this morning :( In order to make up for this, several of my girls caught butterflies at recess and brought them inside. Unfortunately, their capture and transport techniques need some work and I'm pretty sure all of those poor creatures will be DOA tomorrow too. Thus our new policy of "Look but do not catch!".

In other news, you know you are a teacher when:
Your son breaks his arm while on vacation and one of the first things you think of is: "I wonder if they'll let me get a copy of his x-rays to show my class?"

Yep, my youngest fell off some monkey bars while we were in California, necessitating a 4 hour trip to the ER.  He broke his radius and ulna but has been remarkably tough about it. They put him in a temporary splint until we got home and he will be going to get a cast put on tomorrow morning. Poor little guy had some major misconceptions about how doctors fix broken arms - for the record they do not need to cut off your arm, cut open your stomach or give you shots. The x-ray machine also does not shoot lasers, no matter what your big brother says.

He really likes his splint though - all of the kids at school were very interested in it and he just soaked up the attention!

Here's one random picture from my trip, I could not resist stopping for this photo op:

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