First Grade Brain Juice

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The first day of school will be here soon and so the planning begins. The first day is so crucial. I want my new firsties to have lots of fun but we also need to spend time learning our rules and procedures. We begin our day with a welcome and then we spend some time learning to unpack. We talk about our schedule for the day (they all just want to know when lunch is) and now the first hour of our day is GONE. 

We then move into our Scavenger Hunt so we can make First Grade Brain Juice. We need to switch our brains from kinder brains to new and improved first grade brains and this stuff can make that happen! (The kids LOVE this activity and they talk about it all year.)

We begin our scavenger hunt with a letter from Brian the Brain. The letter welcomes the kids to First Grade and provides them instructions for our scavenger hunt. Attached to the letter is Clue 1. We read the clue, discuss the riddle and try to figure out where we should go. Once we agree on the answer to the riddle we use our iPads to scan the QR Code to be sure we are headed in the right direction. 

When we reach Location 1 a bag filled with one ingredient and the next clue is waiting. As we travel through each clue we are collecting all the items needed to make our First Grade Brain Juice and the anticipation is building. 

Clue 7 leads up back to our classroom where students will cut-and-glue the sequence of our hunt.  (This allows time for me to prep the Brain Juice.) When it's time to drink our juice, I encourage them to drink it fast because if it starts hurting (brain freeze) it is working! - I LOVE First Graders! 

The kids have a BLAST with this activity and I am thrilled because we learned about important places in the school - I can now send them down the hall to the bathroom without worrying they will be lost. 

In the afternoon, we finish this activity with a graphing sheet included in the packet. Click on the picture below to check it out!

I had a request for a Second Grade Version click on the link to see it! 

B.E.E. Folder

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let's face it, keeping a class full of first graders organized can feel impossible - but IT CAN BE DONE! When it comes to students managing their space, I am NOT a hand-holder and I refuse to dig papers out of my students backpacks, desks or folders. I am not trying to sound harsh but there are 25+ kids and only one of me. For that reason, I teach my students how to become independent, responsible and organized using B.E.E. (Bring Everything Everyday) Folders.

I spent some time yesterday putting together my students take home folders and wanted to share with you what these look like in our class. 

Each student is given a 3-ring 1 inch white view binder.  I put this cover page in the front sleeve so parents have clear directions on how to use the binder. 
The color code on the front matches our behavior chart. 

Inside the binder students have several things:
1. First, a zipper pencil pouch (they provide their own) to keep their Buzz Bucks. We use Buzz Bucks as a classroom reward system. Students earn $1 for every green light, $2 for blue lights and $3 for purple lights. Students earn $0 for yellow or red lights. Students use their money to shop from our Treasure Box on Friday. The prizes are sorted based on the cost of the item. The "coolness" determines the cost. :) 
I do not replace lost/stolen Buzz Bucks. Students know they are responsible for keeping them safe and their zipper pouch is the place to keep them.

2. Directly behind their zipper pouch is a page protector with their Weekly Homework Calendar and Weekly Newsletter copied back-to-back. Here is an example of what our first weekly homework calendar and newsletter looks like. At the end of the day, students color the box on their Homework Calendar to show what color light they earned. I have a space for behavior notes if needed and parents can look at the front of the folder to see the behavior color code. 
We send weekly homework calendars to allow students/parents more flexibility. 
This page stays in their BEE folder for the entire week.

3. Next is a laminated Handwriting Helper. This is copied back-to-back on cardstock paper. This stays in their folder at all times for quick reference. We use Spalding handwriting and it is very specific so this a helpful tool for parents and students to use when working on homework. 

3. Next students have their Sight Word List in a page protector. I have 20 Frye Word Lists that students progress through at their own pace. The list stays in their folder to practice nightly as part of their reading homework. When students are fluently reading the list of words, their parents sign the bottom and return it to school. They read the list to me (or a parent helper) I write the date they passed the list on the page pictured below and slide their next list into their page protector.  
Students are SUPER motivated to pass their Word Lists because they earn $5 in Buzz Bucks for each list they pass!

4. Finally the back pocket has their Decodable Reader or Take-Home Reader envelope. I have found the most reading growth occurs when I provide students with books at their reading level rather than asking them to choose a book from home. We copy and send home our Journeys Decodable Readers for students. Most weeks have 4 readers to accompany the story so students get a new decodable reader each day. 
I don't want to copy and staple these books every year so we store them in a manila envelope to keep them safe. The label on the front of the envelope provides instructions for parents and let's parents know that the book is school property and needs to be returned. 

AND that's it! 

That is how I keep my first graders organized and responsible for their own materials. Yes, there is a little prep-work involved and some training with students (and parents) but year after year I have helped my students become organized and taught them to INDEPENDENTLY care for their work using this system.  

I have posted our BEE Folders on TpT if you think this is something that could help your class. I included an editable cover page, the Sight Word Cover Page, all 20 Frye Word Lists, Buzz Bucks in $1, $5, $10 and $20 denominations and an editable Take-Home Reader label. 

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