Handmade First Grade - Home
I'm not sure how common this is, but at our school first graders are expected to exhibit a science project at the science fair.  It's a lot of fun and a lot of work to scaffold firsties through the scientific method independently.  The hardest part of course, is coming up with a testable question.  To help get students ready, I make sure all of our science activities follow the same format throughout the year following the scientific method.  The first and second grade level teams worked together to create some handy graphic organizers students can use for each step.  As we get closer to the science fair, we review/emphasize the scientific method with a couple of brainpopjr. videos.  Then we use some of the graphic organizers, first with a whole group project, then with small group projects, and finally with their individual projects.  Going through the process a couple of times in class in groups before doing it on their own at home really helps prepare the students for this pretty tough assignment.  The pictures below show our science wall.  
     I modeled the steps after the visual provided in the brainpop videos using these awesome free(!!!) anchor charts from Barnard Island on TPT. 
     Each step has a graphic organizer for students to fill out.  The ones on the board are filled out by the students during our whole group project.  This year students asked "What is faster, a snail or a turtle?"  Yes.  We had a very slow motion race using our class pet and a snail someone found outside at recess.  
Small group project - students wondered if our class pet turtle prefers lettuce or carrots.  Horrible truth they remain blissfully unaware of - his actual preferred diet consists of our "pet" goldfish, fed to him after school hours...
Conclusion reached by one of the group members following the experiment.  

Science Fair Success!  These are my students visiting another first grade classroom during the science fair.  Of course I forgot to take any pictures in our own room that didn't feature the kid's faces.  Fortunately all the primary classrooms use the same approach!  You can see the same graphic organizers from the science wall are used on the students' individual science fair projects.    
PictureSilkworms on the document camera. That zoom is pretty amazing!
Class 1C is raising silkworms!  Silkworms are a great project to learn about life cycles because they are fairly hardy and they go from egg to larva, pupa, moth and new eggs again in about six weeks.  Raising silkworms is a popular hobby here in China, especially for children.  I get my silkworms and mulberry leaves from a friend who raises them every year.  If you are interested in raising silkworms, you can order them and a food supply online. The silkworm shop delivers both worms and food to locations in the USA.  They also have a teacher resource page with lesson plan ideas and great books (nonfiction and fiction) you can order for your class!  Best of all, you can save your own silkworm eggs in the fridge and you are ready to go again the next year.  The silkworm shop also sells mulberry seeds so you can grow your own food supply.  

This picture shows the silkworms in the middle of molting.  Silkworms shed their skins four times before spinning their cocoons.  On the right side of the leaf, you can see two silkworms that have already molted (for the 2nd time).  On the dried up leaf to the left, you can see a silkworm that has just molted and is hanging out next to his old, dried up skin (note the size difference).  At the top of the leaf, you can see two smaller silkworms who haven't gone through their molt yet.  If you look very closely at the one on the right, you can see that it is in the process of shedding its old skin!!!!!!  The black dot to the lower right is it's old face hanging down.  This really blew the kiddos' minds!  

I'm thinking about purchasing this great clipart to help me make some activities to go along with our project.  Life cycle diagrams, observation organizers, All About Books, measurement activities, writing promps... more ideas than time :)  Available from Teacher Laura on TPT!  

This week we reviewed fact and opinion using this adorable packet from Leah Chamberlin.  Using the classic story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this packet includes a sorting activity, board game, survey and bar graph and quiz.  It was a fun review that helped us to get ready for persuasive writing this week!  Plus my lovely and talented T.A. taught an extension using a story where Goldilocks is a bear and the "bears" are people to review comparing and contrasting with Venn diagrams.  

Next we were ready to begin persuasive writing!  I used this super fun activity from Chelsie Schell. First the students eat oreos while they study this anchor chart.  Then they get to pick their favorite super power to write about!  The writing frames in this packet provide the perfect scaffolding for firsties and how much more fun can you get?  Cookies and dinosaurs with super powers?  The kids barely knew they were learning! :)  Fun Fact: Oreos are apparently vegan and can be consumed by kids with dairy allergies.  

I have two great resources for helping to teach nonfiction text features.  The first is this amazing FREE set of anchor charts.  My students refer to it constantly.  Get it from Aimee Salazar here.  I also use this handy FREE booklet from The Wise Owl Factory.  It asks students to go through actual nonfiction books to find different features, then record what they've found.  Easy to differentiate by just printing different/more/less pages.  
After we've finished learning about the features, we are ready to write our own All About Books!  I put together a packet a couple of years ago to help students write these types of books for the first time.  It has worked really well in my classroom and is my best seller on TPT!  On sale now :)  
Below you can see what it looks like inside by checking out some of my most adorable student work.  

I don't know about your class, but mine sure has a HUGE range of math skills!  Some of my students are still struggling with addition and subtraction within 20, while others are quickly mastering multiplication and division.  This makes differentiation during math time an absolute must.  This fun little game helps reinforce addition and subtraction within 100 using students' understanding of place value.  One student reads the equation to their math group aloud, then shows the group the card.  The others decided if the equation is true or false.  The student who read the card then uses a number grid to check if his group is correct.  Time for the next student's turn!  By using the true/false format, this game practices the skills for THREE different math standards (1.OA.D.7, 1.NBT.C.4, 1.NBT.C.6).  Plus my kids love it!  Teacher tip - its more fun when you get so say true or false in funny voices :)  The three different colors are three different leveled groups.  The beginning group (blue) uses only multiples of ten within 100, the intermediate group (yellow) uses different values in the ones place within 100, and the advanced group (brown) uses multiples of ten within 1,000.  Get it here.  

This anchor chart in our classroom was put together using a great FREE resource from Yomaida England and one I purchased from Learning with Lindsey.  I love having great visuals for all learners, but it is especially helpful for my English language learners.  I especially like the chart of different closings students can try to end their letters.  We are writing letters to a first grade class in my hometown Seattle.  This is a great connection to our social studies unit -communities around the world.  

This is how I organize my writing wall.  The writing process posters came free from The Teacher Wears Prada (I changed them a little - Brainstorm into Pre-Writing).  The Pre-Writing frame came from the Learning with Lindsey packet mentioned above.  The illustrated standard came from Teacher Galaxy. Under each writing process poster, I put a sample and a quick checklist printed on a post-it so students can self-assess their work before heading on to the next stage of writing.  How to print on post-its you ask?  Just ask the geniuses over at Writing Fix.  Seriously changed my life!  I LOVE printing on post-its and the students do too!  Of course I changed the original format from Writing Fix to make it a little more firsty-friendly and with more fun fonts :)  

However, when I was looking for friendly letter frames I couldn't find exactly what I wanted.  I wanted something with cute with dashed lines that wasn't seasonal or holiday oriented.  Since I couldn't find what I wanted, I made some myself!  There are three frames for different levels, as you can see in the baskets above.  I let the students self-select (with occasional guidance).  The "easy" paper has wide spaced lines and help with formatting the letter.  The "hard" paper has more lines for longer letters that are closer spaced together.  The "super hard" paper has even more lines and does not have the handy indent to show students where the closing should go.  This means students need to remember how to indent the closing and signature on their own.  They can also write letters that are longer than one page, since they can put the closing wherever they want.  On sale now at my TPT store! 

PictureOur class project - the Leaku!
A little while back I created this 3D poster as a fun and creative culminating project for animal classification.  Students got to create their own animals and then classify them!  Guiding questions (Does your animal have fur? Feathers?  Does it lay eggs?) helped students to classify their imaginary animals.  By doing this project, students reviewed animal classification, inferring diet from tooth shape, habitats and adaptations, and interactions with plants.  This project makes a great end-of-unit review and/or a performance assessment piece.  My students loved it!  Now available at my store!

Sorry about the gap between postings!  Between Christmas, Chinese New Year, and getting married :) the blog got a little dusty.  But I'm back with a super fun social studies project!
My class this year is at a much higher English level than in previous years, which means that we can go a lot deeper into the content in the time we have.  That leaves me planning extensions to most of my units.  To dive a little deeper into our economics unit, I used this great book from Miss Nelson over on TPT.  We learned about wants, needs, goods and services.  To follow up on what we learned, I put together a project for my students to demonstrate their understanding.  Students decided if they would rather provide a service or produce goods when they grow up.  Then they used these frames to put together a poster about their idea.  This project is on sale now at my TPT store.  

This young genius listed "taking risk" as a skill you need to be an artist!
You should buy this rocket house. It can go fast, it's cool and it's on fire! Plus it's only 4 million RMB!

This is the year my portfolios get serious....ly cute!

I will confess that I have made portfolios for the past two years, and they were not very cute.  I thought they did a good job of demonstrating growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, but they were very spartan and honestly, there was a LOT of room for improvement. And improved they have!  For starters, they are already put together and its still the first half of the year :)  My goal is to have a standards-based, student driven adorable keepsake.  To put them together, I purchased some black matte binders and of course, some amazing products from Teachers Pay Teachers!


This packet comes with a little worksheet/assessment for each of the Common Core first grade math standards.  Best of all, the standard is ON the assessment.  I simply copy, hole punch and ask the students to complete it as evidence they've learned what we are working on.  When they add it to their binders, they check off the standard that they have provided evidence of mastery for.  An easy way to know I can provide quick "at-a-glance" evidence of each student's progress on the standards.  It makes me feel so organized!

English Language Arts

This packet is similar to the math one, but it has an activity/worksheet for each of the language arts standards in first grade - including speaking and listening!!!!  It also comes with checklists of the standards in student friendly language, which I put in the binder for students to check off when they have added evidence to prove they have met the standard.  I'm using some of the included activities and combining it with other cute evidence (like vowel owls!). 

Checklist from My Common Core Collection,
Falling Leaves Verb Endings from Over the First Grade Rainbow


I'm supplementing the writing part of my portfolio with these super cute writing prompts from Anna Brantley.  I am including published writing pieces from different genres throughout the year, and I would also like to have a quick response to a prompt for each month of the school year to track student growth. 

Binder Dividers


To divide my binders by section, I made these!  They turned out so well I put them up for sale in my TpT shop.  Get your own here!

Student Involvement

The best part so far has been how excited my students are about their portfolios!  They've started bringing me work they are particularly proud of and letting me know they would like it included in their portfolios.  Now I all I have to do to encourage neat handwriting is let students know that if they try their best, it could be a portfolio piece.  I know that student involvement is supposed to be crucial to portfolio success in theory, but its so amazing to watch it put into practice in my own classroom! 
* Bonus Teacher Tip - I require students to put their portfolios away in ABC order by first name.  Fun practice that is convenient for the teacher!

My students learn to read in English and Chinese at the same time!!!! They have to work so hard but it will all be worth it someday.
I LOVE this fun and FREE activity from Sheila Chako and my students did too!  It was a great wrap-up after six weeks reviewing short middle vowel sounds.  They had to brainstorm different words for each vowel and then record them under the feathers.  There's even a cute little read aloud to go with it, and a word hunt activity to extend so the kiddos can learn from each other.  I actually did this back around Halloween time and my students actually BEGGED me to allow them to work on their owls for their Halloween party instead of watching a video or playing games.  Tricked 'em into learning again!!!
It was easy to differentiate for my higher level readers - just change the feathers!

Handmade First Grade