Sunday, June 10, 2018

Confessions of a First Year Teacher - And That's a Wrap!

I cannot believe the school year is over! Overall, the year passed by quickly. There were points in the year that seemed to drag but for the most part I felt like it was all flying by at the speed of light. There were so many concepts and TEKS (Texas' standards set up for each grade level) that I needed to cover with my firsties. There never seemed to be enough time to cover it all while making sure no kids got lost in the shuffle as we powered through each different topic. (Became quiet the juggling act.)

I feel lucky that all I had to worry about, for the most part, was math. There was some time set aside for extra reading and AR testing with my homeroom class, but math was always my main focus. I still cannot believe that I am a math teacher. If someone had told my school age self that I was going to grow up and become a math teacher, I would have probably laughed in their face and encouraged them to seek psychiatric help. I struggled with math all throughout elementary, middle and high school. It wasn't until I reached college that I lucked out with a professor who was able to teach me the way I needed to be taught and I discovered that I actually liked the logic and absolute that is math.

As a kid who struggled with math I think it helps me understand my students who struggle as well. I had many moments this school year where I tried to find different ways to present a concept to reach a student who was struggling. It was a challenge but one I was excited to take on.

We did near pods and kahoots!, we did hands on activities and pencil and paper assignments. we worked in groups, partners and independently, there were scavenger hunts and musical clocks, we played games, worked in our notebooks and made a few crafts.

The one thing I found myself slowly but surely moving away from was the text book. The series used in my district is, from what I have seen, one of the more popular ones and I really hated using the it. I found a whole year of TEKS specific math units on TeacherPayTeacher that I really loved and I found myself turning to these units and using the different activities that were so much more hands on and kid friendly than the textbook.

As a kid I was a huge fan of the Little Miss and Mr book series. When I was looking for fun anchor charts to use for the geometry unit I stumbled onto these fun posters. I was a true nerd in my excitement. Thankfully, I didn't have to be an expert artist in order to create these freehand. My kids used post-its to draw real world items that had the same shape as each poster character. 


I think one of the hardest concepts to teach my kids was coins. We did a bunch of hands on type of activities. They struggled not only with identification of coins, specifically the nickel and dime but also trying to add mixed groups of coins. I ended up spending a little extra time than I originally planned trying to help them. We even worked more on skip counting by 5's and 2's which they were also struggling with. I tried the touch points strategy but my kids never really got the hang of it and it seemed to confuse them more than helped. I am holding onto the strategy to try with other classes later but I think I will concentrate on having them skip count and coin identification.
The other concept my kids struggled with more than any other was time. We started by learning time to the hour which. It went so well I thought wow!!! they have this in the bag. However, when we went on to time to the half hour it threw them all off and it even caused them to get time to the hour confused. One of the activities they seemed to have the most fun with was during this unit. I had 22 clocks in sleeves in a circle around the room, each student had their own dry erase marker. I played music on pandora and the kids calmly walked around until the music stopped and then they had to drop down at the clock their were nearest and write down the time the clock showed. 

I walked around the room and checked each clock. If the time was incorrect we had a quick talk about where the hour and minute hands were pointing and what the correct time was. I never removed clocks so there were no eliminations which allowed every student the hands on practice.


I think one of the most fun units of the year was graphing. We talked about every type of graph but we concentrated on bar graphs, pictographs and tally charts. Taking a page out of my mentor teacher  Mrs. Benson's play book the kids were split into groups of 4 and given a survey question to ask their classmates. Once they had collected the data they then had to create a bar or pictograph. Then they did the same thing in partner groups and finally each student had to write their own survey question, which I had to approve and I sent them to one of my hub teachers classes to survey that class. I allowed the student to decide whether they wanted to show their data as a bar graph or a pictograph. They obviously had key elements that had to be included on each graph (title, labels, key and data) but they loved being able to choose the type of graph they made and went to town creating some really awesome graphs. 

 You could clearly see my influence when all 3 of my classes where creating their survey questions. I think about 75% of their questions were Star Wars related. I was so proud of my little firsties. ๐Ÿ˜„

The other fun graph activity my kids loved was the Lucky Charms graph. This activity was so successful with my student teaching class that I couldn't wait to try it out on my own class. The kids followed all the rules and we all had a lot of fun. Their favorite part was when I gave them the okay to eat the cereal after they had recorded their data. They were all so happy snacking, graphing and answering the questions about their data.

I had one observation this year. The principal was in my room for the most nerve-wracking 45 minutes of my life. We were discussing 3-d shapes while I had the kids working on a nearpod with their iPads. The kids were engaged and really well behaved. I scored very well on my observation thank goodness.

I was asked to come back next year (yay!!!!) and will again be teaching math to first graders. I may be adding in science this year if we actually are able to be split into teacher teams of 2 instead of 3 like this year. (fingers crossed)

Finally, I would like to thank Rosemary๐Ÿ˜˜. She kept me sane, well at least as sane as I can get anyways. Without her I would still be trying to figure out my RTI paperwork. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Confessions of a First Year Teacher - Too many weeks to figure out...

Okay so yes, once again, I let time slip by without posting. Seriously, between RTI paperwork, annoying drama with those who shall not be named and just normal teaching responsibilities I find the days, weeks, months passing at a speed faster than I can almost comprehend.

So much has happened since I last posted. We made it through Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is the eve of our return to school after winter break and honestly I could use another week or 2 off but alas, it's time to head back and anxiously await spring break.

Place value fun...

I borrowed another activity from my student teaching mentor teacher to help my kids understand place value and how numbers are represented in different formats. (standard, expanded and base ten block)  I broke the kiddos down into small groups of 5 and gave them each their own numbers depending on their individual achievement levels.

Redecorating a little...

After much inner debate and exhausting myself moving desks around into different kinds of groupings, formations, and old fashioned rows I decided to give tables a go.  I found I really prefer the tables because the room feels more open and I love being able to put down supply buckets at each table so the kiddos have easy access to what they need each day. Plus I think it encourages cooperative learning much more than the individual desks. 

I still kept 3 individual desks in my room because I do have some students that for whatever reason cannot handle being in a table group. They work better and my sanity is saved having them on their own. 

Creative Kiddos...

Each 1st grade student was encouraged to create a turkey in disguise at home with their parents/guardian. I read my class Turkey Troubles and then told them about the activity. They were all so excited to go home and come up with a disguise for their turkey. It was so much fun walking down the halls and seeing what all our kids came up with. 

I even joined in the fun and created two turkeys of my own. Star Wars themed of course. :D

Everyone looked forward to Thanksgiving break. The kids had the whole week off. We teachers had 2 days of inservice. Yay. :/  When we came back from the holiday the kids were literally bouncing off the walls and hard to get back on track. At times it felt like in the week they were out they forgot all our expectations for behavior and routine.

It was during the 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas that I seriously questioned my career choice. Add in some unnecessary drama that I somehow got brought into the middle of and it made seriously question and rethink some options for my future.


 Being the Christmas fanatic that I am I spent some of pre Thanksgiving break in-service time decorating my room for the best holiday of the year. I even scoured TeacherPayTeacher in search of fun holiday themed center activities and worksheets. I was determined to go all out. I remember as a kid loving when our assignments or classroom activities were themed for the current holiday. It was kind of magical to me and I wanted to give that same feeling to my students.

Snow Day!!!

Imagine my excitement when I woke up one morning and looked out my front window to see this.

It continued to snow the whole day. School was delayed until 10am for 2 days. 

Snow makes everything so pretty and magical looking.
My kiddos watching it snow from our classroom window. They were so excited.
We spent our shortened days watching videos and doing some skip counting math crafting. As usual, I shook my head at myself for being shocked at how messy 1st graders can be when cutting and pasting.

The week before Christmas Break...

Christmas Around the World - Each 1st grade teacher choose a different country to present. I choose Germany, mostly because of family origins. I created a powerpoint with some of the traditions practiced and or that originated in Germany. Then I played some German Christmas songs and we created Tannenbaums while eating ginger snap cookies and candy canes. 

Parent Gifts...

After we finished with Christmas Around the world I kept my homeroom class and we did not rotate out classes for the rest of the week. I had my kiddos work on crafts to give their parent/guardian for Christmas. We had a lot of fun watching Christmas movies while I worked with small groups on their crafts. We made silly Christmas picture frame ornaments and paint swirl Christmas ball ornaments. 

The kids loved swirling the paint around the Christmas ball. I gave them a choice of 2 to 3 different paint colors. We tried glitter too but it didn't show up very well in the paint. Once each ball drained and had time to dry over a couple of days I put the topper back on and tied a red ribbon to the topper and the kids put it along with their silly picture frame ornament into a gift bag and took it home to give to their parent/guardian. 

On the last day of school before we officially were on winter break we had a Polar Express Day. The kids were allowed to come in their pajamas and bring their blankets. I put out snacks I brought and some of the kids brought in snacks as well. We provided them with hot chocolate and then we spent the majority of the half day watching the Polar Express movie. We then had a book exchange where each kid brought in a wrapped book and picked another student to exchange with. I also gave them a stocking filled with trinkets and candy. By the time the kids left at 12:30 I was exhausted and ready to collapse. I love Christmas time but even I was ready to leave it behind and just crawl into bed for the next 2 weeks. 

Tomorrow it's back to school. Monday is an inservice day and then the kiddos come back Tuesday. Is it bad that i'm already counting the days until spring break?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Confessions of a First Year Teacher - Weeks 5, 6, 7, & 8?

I know, I know... It has been several weeks since I posted but umm Hi! First year teacher here and prone to becoming overwhelmed with all the lesson planning, parent teacher conferencing, fire safety assembly, field trips, surprise cupcake parties, grading and first ever report cards.

I experienced and survived my first parent teacher conferences. I am so fortunate to have been able to hold the conferences with my team mates. They were both awesome and it made the process far less stressful and intimidating.
Fun with Pumpkins!

We had another field trip and let me just say I slept really well that night. We took all 5 first grade classes to the pumpkin patch. It was an adventure for sure, a bit stressful but I didn't lose any kids in the corn maze. However, it might have been a close call. Close your eyes and picture just my class of 21 kids. We come out of the corn maze into the pumpkin patch and they all scatter in 21 different directions with only one Mrs. Ogier wishing she could clone herself. I did have a very sweet and helpful parent show up and help me corral my kiddos. Without her I would have seriously lost my mind a couple of times. I took advantage of excitement surrounding the field trip to have students practice their subtraction skills under the guise of creating their very own patchwork pumpkin. Students rolled a dice twice, subtracted the smaller number from the larger number, looked on the pumpkin to find the difference and picked whatever color they wanted to color that one spot on their pumpkin.

Just the facts!
I feel like the school year is speeding by quickly. Halloween is already upon us and the 2nd progress reports of the school year have already gone home. We have introduced fact families and students created fact family neighborhoods for each teacher. (Fact Families of Ogier Avenue, Saavedra Lane and Vazquez Street)

Future house builders?

We have also started base ten blocks. I introduced the base ten blocks by reading a story about how a house is built and then giving each table group a random number of base ten blocks to build their own "house". After they built their house I had them count how many longs (tens) and how many units (ones) they used to build their houses. Finally, we discussed the total value of each groups houses and compared values.

Let's get specific!
I am also learning that I need to be VERY specific when I give instructions. This subtraction practice worksheet was my classes daily math activity. At the start of every day students come in and find some sort of activity to complete before we start our lesson.  On this paper the middle section the student was supposed to draw a picture to reflect the word problem. Apparently, this student took my "Simply draw a picture to go with the word problem" instruction as a creative challenge to simply draw whatever picture they wanted. :P

Yoda Says!

I "installed" a duct tape number line on the floor in my classroom and to practice subtraction solving skills using a number line we played Yoda Says. My students thought it was hilarious and were so excited for their turn to get their Yoda card and hop along the number line.

Crazy Red Ribbon Week

This past week was Red Ribbon week and each day was a different theme. One of the days was crazy hair day and we had so many imaginative crazy hair styles.

We also had Hawaiian shirt day, college gear day, twins day and costume day. Friday was by far one of the craziest days I have had so far. Not only were the kids allowed to wear their halloween costumes to school, we started the day with a math rally, PTO opened the snack bar at the end of the day, 2 of my students parents sent goody bags of candy and toys for each kid and I had a parent show up with cupcakes for the whole class. To say the kids were excited is an understatement.

 I dressed up as Chewbacca, of course. However, some kiddos thought that I was a bear and wouldn't stop hugging me because I was so "soft and fluffy".

Never a dull moment in 1st grade!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Confessions of a First Year Teacher - Week 4

The first half of this week was exhausting and stressful. At one point I had the principal in my classroom for about 30 minutes because of some behavior issues. To say I was in panic mode is an understatement. My inner Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls, See video --> and insert hubby or Cassie for Mommy.) had a mild freak out and felt like I probably looked like a bumbling idiot. At one point the principal asked if she could add something during my lesson. Who am I to say no? Once she left the classroom I wanted to crawl into my supply closet and hide while going over and over my instruction while she had been in the room and dissect every second.

Thankfully, by Thursday, the stressful element in our teaching hub was gloriously absent the rest of the week and we were able to breathe a little easier and get work done. I was most thankful that the principal did not need to come back into my classroom to monitor behaviors. PHEW!!!! And as I kept dreading, she never called me into her office to tell me I was a teaching failure. :P

I found a helpful tool at the beginning of the year and the kids seem to respond well to it. helps keep track of the noise level in the classroom. My kiddos know to watch the screen to self-monitor their noise level. This is especially helpful during centers/work stations or when I have them all doing partner work.

This week we also had our first field trip of the year. We took the whole first grade to the local high school on Friday for their pep rally. When I was a kid field trips were magical, exciting and fun. As a teacher it is a whole different ball game. I never once thought about what it was like for the teacher to have to keep track of a classroom full of students on a bus and then at the location we were going to.  In the back of my mind I was constantly trying to keep track of all 21 of my homeroom kids while also trying to make sure they were not jumping around or falling off the bleachers. Overall, it was a lot of fun and I loved seeing how excited my kids were during the pep rally.

My day was made on Friday when I found this in my school mail box. One of my students' parents made a Teacher Survival Kit for myself and his other two teachers. It was filled with some great things, such as, tissues, chocolate, tylenol, nail file, cool stickers, chap stick etc. It was unexpected and sweet. 

The math art project for this week is one I don't think I will do next year or if I do I will wait until later in the year. It took way too much time and my kiddos were not ready or skilled enough yet to be able to create their own addition sentences. They all needed extensive help filling in several of the sections and it took way too much time for me to go to each student individually and help them. With about 65 students it became a headache to get finished. They turned out cute but another teaching learning experience for sure. 

 A lot of new learning experiences this week. Not my favorite week but it wasn't a disaster. Deep breath... Moving on to next week and making it better.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Confessions of a First Year Teacher - Week 3

Whew week 3 was crazy.  How is it possible that a short week can feel so much longer than the regular week. So much stuff happened this week! I'm entering week 2 of my first cold of the school year. That's been super fun.  Some of the other happenings this week I can't elaborate on because of privacy issues and because it's just not really something I feel that should be shared. Let's just say this particular event added a layer of stress to the school day for not only the teachers and staff but the kiddos as well. However, we are figuring out what needs to happen to make it work. I love my team! Working together for the kids and helping each other. I seriously do not know what I would do without them.

In the classroom we are learning strategies to help us solve math problems. I made these little signs with different strategies for my kids to reference. They are particularly fond of using objects, drawing a picture, and counting on fingers to help them. I introduced them to number lines and how to use them to solve addition problems, I think with a bit more practice some of them will really like that strategy.

We are also studying doubles facts at the moment, as you can see by the mini posters hung up next to my strategy posters. My kids really love the hands and spider doubles. :P

I found this game called race to the board. It is meant for number recognition but I made it an addition game. Two teams, each member of each team takes a turn finding the sum of an addition problem I have written on a card. They have to figure out the sum and then find the answer on the "board" before the other team. The kids absolutely loved this game. I plan to use it for subtraction and add more numbers when we move into sums within 20 as well.

I pulled an activity from my time with Mrs. Benson during student teaching. Rainbow to 10. I had my kids fill in their paper and glue it into their math journals so we can reference it when needed.

I also gave my first test Friday. One of my team members helped me create a clicker test. The questions are displayed on the smart board like a power point and the kids have clicker remotes they use to answer the questions. They seem to feel like its a game and I don't have to sit at my desk grading 65+ test papers because the program grades and scores each student for me, all I have to do is print the report.

My kiddos blew my socks off! They did really well overall. I do have some that will need some small group instruction but I was anticipating it. Another successful week in Mrs. Ogier's class.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Confessions of a First Year Teacher - Week 2

Adorable sign my friend Cassie
surprised me with.
At my school students start transitioning to different teachers for different content areas in 1st grade. I teach math exclusively to 3 classes of 20-22 first graders. My team consists of myself along with 2 other teachers. One teaches Science, Social Studies and Phonics, the other teaches Reading and Writing. It makes the day go by so fast! Each of the three classes, while all 1st graders, are filled with unique students and although I teach the same lesson to each of them, sometimes I have to modify how or what I present to each group, because what has worked for a previous class group doesn't always create the same connections with my current group. I am learning quickly how to modify in the moment. Classroom management is also something I am having to modify for each group.

Classroom management seemed to be the theme of my 2nd week. It is one of the things I struggled with during student teaching and it's no different now in my own classroom. It can sometimes be challenging to find something that works for each of my 3 groups of 1st graders. What seems to work for one group has no affect on another. Most of the behavior issues are typical of this age group (Chattiness and trouble staying in their seats).

I pulled out my teacher voice this week and I think I took some of my kids by surprise because Mrs. Ogier is "so nice and sweet". I didn't yell but I was very serious and expressed my disappointment in some of my students. We are only in the 2nd week of school and I am hopeful that as the school year progresses they will come to understand what I need and expect from them even more and a lot of the behavior issues will sort themselves out.

10 Frame Friends, my student's first
math project.
My homeroom class is full of some characters. One day this past week they were on fire learning about sets and using a 10 frame to make 10. I smiled at them excitedly and told them how proud I was of how smart they all were. I looked at them and said "You knocked my socks off!" Most of them looked at me in shock and then looked down at my feet. (I was not wearing socks as I wear BOBS most days.) One of my students smirked at me and said "Mrs. Ogier, you weren't even wearing any socks."

I laughed and said "Well, if I had been they would have flown across the room because you all are just so smart." He giggled and now almost every day one of my students will ask if they blew my socks off today. This week was awesome! Now bring on the 3 day weekend woohoo!

I was so excited to hang out my first student work in the
hallway outside my room.
In case you were wondering, I did my attendance correctly every day this week! 

I did learn something this week though, when you have 65-70 students projects that require me to cut out lots of little pieces are probably not something I will do on a regular basis. :P