Friday, November 27, 2015

One Holiday Down...

Well, somehow, someway, I managed to make it through Thanksgiving with my first graders in one piece! Tuesday was all about Thanksgiving from the first bell to the last, and although I was ready to drop by the end of it, it was completely worth the effort. A couple of my moms volunteered to assist with Thanksgiving- themed centers in the morning, so for 2 1/2 hours the kids rotated to 6 activities. The favorites by far were: 1) This amazing free math activity from Blair Peterson's TPT store:

Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner

... and 2) origami turkeys, led by one of my volunteers!



It was basically 2 1/2 hours of organized chaos, but the kids had a ton of fun. After we finished with centers, it was time to feast! My parents rocked our potluck with loads of yummy donations, and the kids were thrilled to show off their handmade placemats, origami turkeys, Pilgrim hats, and Native American headdresses. My parents waddled home with full bellies while my class unwound with Thanksgiving songs and the always classic, "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving." As the kids giggled at Peppermint Patty and the "wah wah wah" of the grown-ups' voices, I felt happy knowing that some things are timeless. By the time the movie ended, my class had to go off to PE, then pack up to dismiss for the day!

I was ready to put my feet up and call it quits after such an exhausting day, but that wasn't about to happen... I had to finish packing because one of my long time dreams was coming true the next day... a trip to CAMBODIA! I've been longing to see the famous temples of Angkor Wat (and the Laura Croft: Tomb Raider temple!) ever since I moved to Japan five years ago, and now it's finally happened. On Thanksgiving morning, I got to watch one of the most beautiful sunrises I've ever seen:



After the sunrise, I took part in a bike tour through some of Siem Reap's famous temples. My favorite might have been Bayon temple, famous for its many faces of Buddha:



Although I'm having a lovely time crossing off a bucket list item, I must admit, it's difficult spending my favorite holiday apart from family and friends. I haven't been able to spend Thanksgiving with my family since moving to Japan, but my friends and I typically have some kind of "friendsgiving" dinner. I'm looking forward to Christmas when I'll be going stateside for a visit for a week. The distance is challenging, but I'm thankful for the support and encouragement I get from my loving parents and siblings back home as I spend this holiday halfway around the world. I don't know what I would do without them.

I've still got a couple days left to explore Cambodia, and I have a full itinerary planned. I already know I'll be completely beat come Sunday when I'm back in Japan working on lesson plans for December! My classroom Elf on the Shelf, affectionately dubbed, "Ernie the Elf," by my class a few years ago, will be making his annual appearance next week and I can't wait. "Ernie" always finds a way to make things interesting in the classroom! I just put together this math activity, "The Hungry Elf," to go with my subtraction unit:



I'm planning to introduce it to my students next week after they meet Ernie the Elf. I made 45 word problem cards with take away and missing addend situations. The kids are going to use whole cookies and bitten cookies to act out the word problems and find solutions! For example, the problem in the picture above says:

Frank left some cookies for Santa. Ernie the Elf snuck in and took two of them! Now Santa has 3 cookies. How many cookies did Frank leave?

Students can act out this problem by using 3 whole cookies to model the cookies that Santa has left, and 2 bitten cookies to model the ones that Ernie the Elf took. Then, they can count all of the cookies to find that the missing addend is 5; Frank left 5 cookies. The missing addend problems include a mixture of "start unknown" and "change unknown" situations.

I'm going to have students work on this as a partner center so I can match my stronger readers with students who need extra reading support for the word problems. You can check it out in my TPT store by clicking the image above or by clicking here!

Should be ready to go in my classroom this week! I'm also introducing my Elf on the Shelf: Ways to Make 10 center this week. For my PreK and kindergarten teachers out there, you might want to check out Elf on the Shelf: Counting to 10! One holiday down... is it January yet? :) Hope you've had a happy Thanksgiving and find time to get some rest before the break is over!


Friday, November 20, 2015

My First Post!

Hello there! My name's Erika, and I'm a first grade teacher living right outside of Tokyo, Japan. Although I'm in the Land of the Rising Sun, I work at a US school and all of my students are American. I came here with a two year contract, planning to put in some time and head back home with a little teaching experience and a lot of travel stories... and 5+ years later, I'm still here! I fell in love with all that Japan has to offer, but even more, I fell in love with the job. My first graders keep me constantly challenged. I learn just as much from them as they do from me! 

I would be happy to stay in my classroom and continue exploring Japan for many years to come, but an officer and a gentleman came along and swept me off my feet. Kevin and I recently got engaged and due to his career, we'll be leaving Japan next year to return Stateside. I always knew it would take something big to make me leave my firsties... and any guy who will dress up as a banana for you is probably a keeper :)



I also teach English to Japanese elementary school students part- time, and Kevin stepped up to help me out with a Halloween event that we held a few weeks ago. As 6'4" American banana, he was basically a celebrity! My eggplant costume was a hit, too. His quote of the night, "Now I know how Lady Gaga feels. She wears weird outfits and everyone wants to take her picture." He didn't seem to mind hamming for the camera too much!

Speaking of my engagement, my students' reactions cracked me up:

"I have some big news, everyone. I'm going to get married!" *Shows ring*

Silence and blank stares, then...

"Aren't you already married?"

Gotta love six year olds. After a few days the news started to sink in and I overheard students talking about it here and there. "Can you believe she's getting married?" and "I can't wait for her wedding!" Then the following week, a little sweetie came bounding into the classroom in the morning, big smile on her face, and presented me with a ring... in her words, "to match your other one."



Aaaand I fell that much more in love with my job! First graders bring joy to my heart. They are so open, trusting, and ready to engage in learning in a way that is almost infectious. I love the growth that you see at this age; at the beginning of every new school year, I'm always shocked by how much they still seem like kindergarteners, needing you to guide them through every step of the journey! I don't know what I'll do when it's time to leave Japan to start my next adventure... but for now, I'm happy to be giving my heart to my kiddos. 

Thank you for stopping by to check out my blog! I'm planning to post weekly updates about my classroom and all of the madness that goes along with being an elementary school teacher. In the meantime, I'll be getting ready to welcome Ernie the Elf, our classroom elf who visits every December! Some of my kiddos still need that extra practice with ways to make 10, so I just put together this holiday puzzle center that I'm planning to include in my winter holiday centers. Check it out in my TPT store, Little Owl's Teacher Treats! Maybe I should try making it through Thanksgiving first...





Thank you for visiting!

Instagram: @LittleOwlsTeacherTreats



Christmas Center Activity: Santa Face

Alright teacher friends. I know we're not even halfway through November, but I've already got one eye on the winter holiday seas...