Sunday, June 10, 2012

To Loop or Not to Loop...

Well here it is on Sunday morning and I just opened my school email to find the answer to the question that I have been anxiously I going to loop with my class to second grade.  The answer was no.  I was very late in expressing to my principal that I would like to do this, mainly because I LOVE first grade, and my team.  Since discovering teaching blogs a few months back I have also spent an incredible amount of time purchasing units off of Teachers Pay Teachers, and making my own, so I am well stocked and organized to begin next year in first.  Mostly though, I love my team.  In eight years of teaching I have never worked with a group so amazing, and we truly make each other better teachers everyday.  So, the only thing that I am truly sad about is my incredible kiddos.  This class was very special, a true team in every sense of the word, and I am so very sad that I will not be able to spend another year watching them grow.  Especially my new speakers who came in without a word of English and are leaving meeting benchmarks that I never thought they would achieve in such a short time.  So, it was a bittersweet email.  Now, I can continue packing my room away in the most organized fashion possible so that all of the time and effort that I spent this year will be at my fingertips when I need it next year.  Fingers crossed that part of the magic was my Responsive Classroom background and ability to build relationships with my kids.  If that is the case, maybe next years group will be even better. :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Three Little Pigs

This week began tales of three pigs and B.B. Wolf .  Being a short week with the Memorial Day holiday, and having been ahead already on Science and Social Studies, I stole some of that time and did two blocks each day for fairy tales.  We began with James Marshall's version of the story, and as usual our story element four square.  In the afternoon I read Steven Kellogg's version, and had the students complete their own four square.  I used it as a comprehension grade, and at this point in the year I am thankful for any graded pieces I can find! 

For Wednesday we began our writing piece, "What would you use to build your house if you were the pig?".  I started by reading The Three Little Pigs (An Architectural Tale).  We added to our element chart, and then we brainstormed different materials that would be smart to use to build a house, and some that might not make the best choices.  The kids then went on to write about what they would use to build and why.  They then created their own illustration of their house to go along with the writing.  Here is the prompt page that I created.
Here is what it looked like with our houses all assembled. 
Next, we read my favorite version by Jon Scieszka "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs".  We then voted on who thought the Wolf was guilty or innocent (overwhelmingly guilty!) and then became newspaper reporters as we completed an activity from a cute packet from Amanda Terhune of  You can purchase the packet here.  Fairy Tale Unit.
We filled in the who, what, when ,where, why and how boxes with the information we wanted to be part of our article.  The kids had some very creative ideas of where they thought we should say the crime was committed, but they really enjoyed it.  Here is the end result.  (We also did the WANTED poster for the pig bad wolf from her unit)
Friday was our final day on this great Tale, and we spent it reading The Three Little Tamales AND the Three Little Javelinas.  My ESOl kiddos loved these, and my class immediately connected the Tamales to The Runaway Tortilla which we read this winter with our Gingerbread Man unit (yeah!).  We ended the unit writing a letter to the Wolf from the one of the pigs and creating our own pigs to go along with it.  
It was a great week, and we had lots of fun with the Three Little Pigs.  Next week it is on to Goldilocks, and our last fairy tale before school ends.  :( 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This week we spent our phonics and whole group reading blocks on the magic of Cinderella.  The girls loved it, the boys put up with it (unfortunately my library transfer request for Cinder Fella didn't come in). I promised them that I would make it up to them by dedicating the last week of school to a true modern day fairy tale...Shrek.  This did the trick.

As usual, we began our week with a four square organizer with the major story elements that we are studying - character, setting, problem and solution. This time we broke the character column into two sections, good characters and evil characters.  This really only became a problem when deciding where to put Cinderella's father, since in every version we read he was mentioned but never elaborated on.  We began with an original version, Cinderella by Kinuko Craft.  Some of the wording was a bit difficult and since I teach an ESOL class I had to explain a bit of vocabulary, but overall they enjoyed the story and the beautiful illustrations. 

For writing this week, I created a "How To" writing activity about how to get Cinder_____(enter student's first name) to the ball.  We first reviewed the sequence of events that occurred after Cinderella met her fairy godmother who then helped her transform ordinary objects into magical ones.  From there we had a mini-lesson review on how-to writing, which we have done a bit of this year.  I modeled using some elements that were true to the story, and some that I changed.  I then set the kids free to brainstorm their own objects to transform into magical elements.  We had pizzas, crayons, and dogs that were turned into various objects to help CinderCarlos (ex.) to the ball.  Funny how many students wound up with a batmobile like finale.  Here are the writing pages that I created for this activity.  

                                                                      Get it FREE here

We worked on the writing all week and it came out really great.  We didn't have much time to create an art activity to go with it, so we created a Reward Poster for our missing shoes to go along with the unit.  The version I created is here.

                                                   Grab it here

I did create a template for creating our own carriage which I ran out of time to use, but I am including it here.
                                                  Carriage Template

We continued reading various versions of the story throughout the week.  Not as diverse as I had hoped, but our school library was a bit limited.  I am hoping my wish list materials will be here in time for next year's unit.  We worked on our writing daily, and I purchased a great unit from First Grade Fabulous Fish.  I purchased the unit on Teachers Pay Teachers at:

We wrote about what we would wish for from our Fairy Godmothers and also used her ABC order to practice our alphabet skills.  The kids loved the colorful vocabulary cards as well.  I used them in my classroom writing center.  I also purchased her entire Fairy Tale unit as well at:

which was WONDERFUL.  Great activities for literacy stations and especially templates for the Writing center.  Here is our version of her Fairy Godmother writing.
Finally, after a busy, action packed well in Cinderella-land, we wrapped up with our hallway display. 

Not quite as fancy as our Jack and the Beanstalk unit, but still not so bad.  :)  Next week, on to the Three Little Pigs!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Let the Fairy Tale Adventure Begin!

This past week has begun my absolute favorite part of the school year (and no, I don't mean the countdown to summer vacation :).  We started a seven week unit on fairy tales!  We have seven first grade classes, and so each of us teaches a different fairy tale each week, so that we can share materials and have all versions available to our kiddos in the classroom library and big book stations.  The only problem with this approach is that at Library resource this week I discovered how much my students love fairy tales as well when they went looking to check them out, but the teachers already had them!  I quickly put in a wish list for our librarian to hopefully order additional copies for next year.

My class began with my favorite tale - Jack and the beanstalk.  I purchased "Once Upon a Time (Fairy Tales for Little Learners)" from  Here is a link directly to the package on  It had a great way to introduce the unit with colorful charts which described fairy tales, folktales, and fables.  We always focus on four key elements when reading fairy tales:  character, setting, problem and solution.  We create a four square chart for the original version, and continue to add to the chart in different color marker for each version that we read.  It can get a little busy, but I have found that it works better for the kids to see all of the information in one place.  We spent the week reading a variety of different versions.  Here are a few that we have read:

The base of my writing and phonics activities came from a site I found on pinterest.

We completed the ABC order beanstalks and also our very own books "_______ and the Beanstalk".  I stapled three empty pages onto each book and focused on the writing mini-lessons that we had done on beginning, middle, and end as a reference.  I found it was helpful to the kids to have an idea of what should go on which page.  It also prevented the three sentence "I'm done!" culprits from trying that one.
We did our mini-lesson on Monday, and for the rest of the week the kids had writers workshop to work on their stories.  I cut it a bit short this week because I was very ambitious when I came across yet ANOTHER incredible art activity on pinterest....

This one is from  We began this on Monday and did a bit each day before finally finishing on Thursday. Once I had finally displayed all of our hard work the walls outside room 501 looked pretty amazing if I do say so myself!

Next week, it's on to Cinderella!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Introducing Mrs. Norton!

Hi all! I am a first grade teacher in Richmond, Virginia. I have been teaching for 8 years now, after becoming a career switcher from the corporate retail world. I feel lucky every day that I am so in love with my job. It is also my hobby, and there is no better scenerio! Last year, my husband and I brought home the loves of our lives, our twin boys Tyson and Gabriel from Ethiopia. I was worried that becoming a mom would dampen my enthusiasm for teaching, especially being with such young children all day, but I have found the opposite to be true. I have recently discovered teaching blogs, and after becoming a certifiable "addict", have decided to try one out myself!

My perspective is a bit unique in some ways. I teach an ESOL class where I collab for about 30 minutes per day with an ESL teacher. This year I have two brand new speakers, and 12 Spanish speakers overall, out of a class of 19. Transiance is always an issue at our school. Many of our students have parents that are incarcertated, seperated, illegal aliens, or are dealing with things at home that I hope my own children never have to dream of. We have severe behavior issues, but amazing kids, and I love my school and my students wholeheartedly. I am certain that I am a Title One Teacher for life.

I have been trained in an approach called Responsive Classroom, and it is the guiding principal in my classroom, and how I teach. I believe in it fully. One of my goals this year is to become a certified site coordinator for Responsive Classroom so that I can lead trainings and hopefully convince some of my peers that it is an incredible approach which minimizes discipline problems through building relationships with students, giving students academic choice, guided discovery and the four key elements of morning meeting (along with a few other factors...). I would finally call myself a master teacher at classroom and discipline management, and am working hard to add that title to all subject areas as well. Enjoy my blog as I am sure it will be a work in progress. Thanks for stopping by! :)