Saturday, August 30, 2014

Teamwork Time!

In order for our kids to have authentic learning experiences, they need to be able to collaborate with each other. Its not always in our nature to want to work with other people, so before we can have our kids collaborate on group projects or activities they need to LEARN how to do that! This week we did a couple of teamwork activities in class. Throughout September I am going to try some other ones, or even repeat some and see how our problem solving abilities have changed as we have been a class for a longer period of time. Here are the ones we tried this week:

Two on a Crayon:

What do you do: Two students have to hold one crayon, at the same time, and draw a picture. The catch? NO talking! 
Purpose: we can't always have our own way! Sometimes there has to be some give and take! 
Class Discussion: Who was the leader? Were you able to take turns? This year, as with the other years I have done this, my kids can quickly point out who were the leaders, and even admit if they kind of took over the picture!

One Piece at a Time:

What do you do: Pass out a floor size puzzle pieces to each student. Some kids will get two and you will have to remind everyone that it is okay if not everyone has two! :) As a class look at the picture and decide where to start. If kids have pieces that they think go in that area they can go in the middle of the rug to put them together. 
Purpose: The point is we really can't argue or tell other people what to do, but we can each contribute as pieces of our class puzzle! :)

The Marshmallow Challenge:

What do you do: During some training this summer we watched the TED talk about the Marshmallow Challenge, and then proceeded to do the challenge. Check out the talk and instructions. Then proceed to spend 20 minutes watching your kids get to work. BEST 20 minutes EVER!!
Purpose: Well, besides trying to build the tallest tower, its really about working together. And none of my groups actually made a tower that stood, but I learned so much about my kiddos watching them work. When we talked afterwards about how it went, I shared with them the Learner Profiles and Attitudes I noticed. I picked one for each group.

Table 1: Creativity. Oh. My. Word. The two boys at that table got to work. One of them is one of my wigglers, but this activity was right up his ally! If one idea didn't work, they tried a new one...and they were some pretty creative ones!

Table 2: Communicator: This group was great a communicating with each other... both positive and negative thoughts! Most of their communication had to do with wanting the other person to share or follow their idea! :)

Table 3: Independence: I guess even in teamwork we have our independent thinkers! :) This group didn't work together too much until the very end, they barely even talked, but they did work well by themselves!

Table 4: Enthusiasm: This precious group LOVED the learning process. The joy and laughter they shared while they worked was contagious! These kids worked, laughed, and then worked some more! Their tower almost stood up, and they didn't once argue the whole time! :) 

I learned a lot about my kiddos just from these 3 activities! I can't wait to do some more activities in the next couple of weeks! Check back for more updates!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five for Friday: Not Just Surviving...but Thriving!


Oh. My. Word.
I love my class. 
They get along. They work hard. They listen to stories.
Things I do not take for granted. 

1. The kids made the sweetest self portraits after we read The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.
You can find out more of my favorite back to school book here!

2. We started our math stations! We did some review stations to get into the routines of workshop. The kids did great and had fun playing the math games!

3. This week I did several team building activities to help the kids get used to working together. Today we did the marshmallow challenge. It was SO interesting to watch! See this post for more info on our teamwork activities!

4. This week I finished my reading strategies pack! There are lots of different options for posters, student cards, and bookmarks! Please check it out here.
Reading Strategies Posters, Bookmarks, and Student Cards

5. I needed to get back on the meal planning track so I am not frantically trying to figure out what to do the night of! I decided that if I had the same type of food each day of the week it wold help me stay on track a bit better, but there is still a lot of flexibility. I veered off course tonight, but so far it is working well. My husband even started dinner one night because he looked at the plan!
*I realize that the paper totally clashed with the border. Poor planning on my part.
*I also realized I spelled spaghetti wrong. Go easy on me... its back to school time! ;)
You can get a copy here! There is a ink friendly version too!

Happy Long Weekend!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Favorite back to school books

Back to school and I have a love-hate relationship. I love routine so its hard when we are not in our set schedule yet, but I love some of those books that help us get to know each other, celebrate who we are, and also teach us to get along! :)

The Color of Us by Karen Katz:

We have a really diverse school so I love this book because of the way she describes the different shades of people! :) I like to buy the multi-cultural faces and have the kids pick the color that they think fits them. Their pictures are always so precious! 

The Best Part of Me:

I read this book for the first time this year! It is such a neat book written by students who describe their best body part! :) It uses black and white photos of their favorite part as well as the words in their own handwriting. Precious! So this year my kiddos wrote about their favorite part. It was very informative to watch the kids sound out words or think of the reason why that is their favorite part!

How to Fill a Bucket:

I have used this book every year I have taught! It is a wonderful way to help kids understand how mean words and actions hurt and how important kindness is to others. This year we made a big bucket anchor chart with kind things to say to others. In the past, I have also had a little bucket that we work together to fill up by doing nice things to each other!


Another favorite book! While we read it we tear off a little piece of a paper doll each time we hear a put down. After we finish, we try to put the person back together... but they don't look the same because the put downs did hurt them inside. Then I glue it to a bigger piece of paper and we promise to say and do kind things to each other! :)

How to Lose All Your Friends:

I pull this one out after we have been together for a couple of days and we need to start talking about teamwork and problem solving. We always read the book and afterwards I tell them that it is a horrible book to keep in our room so we make our own book about how to keep our friends! They work with a partner on a page. It always turns out SO cute! :)

We will be reading lots of other books, but these are definitely my go-to books! :)

We have been doing a lot of community building this year. I decided to go slow with academics so we could focus on each other and being friends. We have been sharing our All About Me bags. It is fun to see what the kids are bringing in to describe themselves. Then they get to call on three kids who ask questions. At the beginning of the year we practice asking questions a lot. We start with the basic 5 and then try to move to more 'thick' questions. If we can get the kids to be inquirers about each other, it is easier for them later on to use the skills they learned now!

Two days left this week! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Even inquirers needs a peek at what is going on during the day! Every year my kids really appreciate having a daily agenda so they know what to expect. It also saves me a lot of time having to remind them what comes next. Its also been a huge help for some of my kids who need that extra routine and schedule to be able to focus on learning. Some years I have even had an agenda checker--that friend that checks off the picture after we finished it!
My agenda has varied a lot through the years. For a while we had to have it go in a circle, starting at 11 o'clock. Then we were allowed to have it as a flow map and last year I had our day going vertically down my board. Well, this year I made some new circular agenda cards and I didn't it like it vertical, but it looks FABULOUS going horizontal across the top of my board!

It fills in that kind of unused space and I love it! I have some room to write more detail underneath. I am contemplating using a thin border or tape to section it off, but for now I will leave it the way it is! :)  I normally don't put times down so I can make teacher adjustments as necessary, but occasionally if our schedule is different or we have an assembly, I put the time up as a reminder to me!

Daily Agenda Circle Signs

These agenda cards are available at my TPT store! Go check them out! If you buy them and need some of the wording changed for your schedule feel free to email me at and I can make those adjustments for you!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five For Friday: Back to School!

I am wiped out! Only three days of school, but its been a crazy week! It started with Back to School night on Monday, where I met most of my kids. School started on Wednesday and I had a great three days with my kids!

1. One of the most exciting things this week was that Alex started preschool! Is he not the cutest boy ever! :) Thankfully he started on one of my workdays, so I was able to drop him off and then meet Will and the boys for lunch afterwards. He wouldn't tell us a thing about it, but that is was "inpsychable"... his new made up word! What am I going to do with him! He goes two days a week and loves it! :)

2. I don't think my desk will ever be clean! I need to start pulling groups so I will be forced to clean if off! After 3 days I am ready to be in our normal schedule. I think the kids are too! We will spend this next week slowly working into our read to self and word study time, as well as continuing to build community!

3. My new favorite part of my room! I got the big oil pan at Walmart for $12. I can't wait for my kids to start their word building station!

Daily Agenda Circle Signs
4. This year I could not get everything done before school started! I didn't make my new agenda signs until last night, but since we aren't really on our normal schedule yet, I don't think it mattered too much! They are for sale in my store. Check them out HERE!

5. My little raised bed is never watered and getting pretty weedy, but at least there are still things growing. We have been enjoying our basil and tomatoes! We occasionally get some beans too, but those never took off that well. 

I'm linking up today with Doodle Bugs Teaching Five for Friday Linky Party!

Monday, August 18, 2014

All About Me!

I'm Linking Up with Blog Hoppin' Teacher Week!

When we start our IB unit Who We Are, we are going to focus first on ourselves and how we are each unique and special. Last year I did the all about me bags (I used this great freebie from Fun in First Grade with my kids and we really enjoyed it! I can't wait to do it again this year!

Here are the 5 things in my bag this year:

Dinosaurs are my life now! I have two boys at home-- Alex (age 3) and Liam (age 1)! They have definitely helped me understand how to teach boys better! We had a great summer and they keep life at home quite exciting!

My kids learn quickly that Mrs. Plunkett needs her coffee! My brain starts after I have had my first few sips. I love this cup too because it says coffee in so many different languages! Both my husband and I grew up overseas and would love to go back somewhere so it also represents my love for all things international! 

I grew up in Japan! My parents are missionaries there and have been serving there for 30 years! First grade was one of the years I spent in the states so it is kind of fun to be teaching that grade! I love having lots of Japanese things in my house and we eat Japanese food on a regular basis! My boys love seaweed and my kids get used to all the crazy foods I bring to school! Can you guess what this little thing is used for? 

Teachers carry whistles... But so do coaches! My husband has coached football, basketball, and soccer! I rush home after school so he can get off to practice! During the day he stays home with the boys. I love the quality time my boys get with him and how he sets such a godly example to them! This year he is not doing football because he is starting classes to get an Masters in middle grades education! I am thankful for that! Coaching takes up a lot of hours! 

My hobby this summer has been reading! Sometimes I do more crafty things, other years it's cooking, but I have really enjoyed reading a lot this summer! This is the stack of books I have NOT gotten to... Including the many books on my iPad that I want to read too! Unfortunately with school starting up, my reading stamina has dropped a bit, but hopefully I can be a good weekend reader! ;)  (You can find my list of books read at my personal blog

Something that I really can't put in my bag, but wish I could is my Bible! My faith is definitely one of the most important things about me and the Lord has brought me through some really rough times teaching! Last week in my small group we were reading verses about work and this one really stuck with me so I made a little poster to remind myself that everything I am doing is for the Lord!

Its easy to get overwhelmed by all that we are asked to do as teachers, but I think I can keep the best attitude, work the hardest, and love those kids best if I keep my focus on the Lord! Feel free to download a copy of it too!

What would you put in your bag?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five for Friday: {Birthday Edition}

I am linking up with DoodleBugs Teaching's Five for Friday Linky Party!


It has been a crazy week! Not only have we headed back to school for inservice and workdays, but it was my birthday week too!

1. I love using technology in the classroom. Last year our school provided us with 5 classroom iPads plus I had 2 from Donor's Choose so I had a lot of kids able to use them in a variety of ways last year.
 I posted some ideas for managing iPads and listed a bunch of my favorite apps.
You can click here to find the post!

2.  I grew up in Japan so decided that we would eat Japanese for my birthday. We had gyoza, udon, edamame, and lychee. My sister made a coconut cake for me too. :)

3. I never get to blow out my birthday candles anymore! We celebrated a day early because we had back to school night for Alex's preschool on my birthday. I can't believe he is going to start school. It felt funny being on the parent end of the back to school night. 

4. Check out this freebie at my TPT store! Some cute bookmarks to pass out to your kiddos on their birthdays.
Birthday Bookmarks

5. I decided on a new teacher bag this year. I got a Zip-top Organizing Utility Tote and a Fold-n-File to put in it from Thirty-One Gifts! I love how I can stick my files in it and I am hoping that it keeps me really organized between school and home.

 I am ready to sprawl out on the couch and do NOTHING! My list will have to wait til tomorrow... :)