Monday, February 28, 2011

Can you tell me how to get...

...good reading strategies??

We've been talking about reading strategies all year and my kids have gotten pretty good at using them.  In fact, we keep tallies on the board when the kids say "I predict...", "I can make a connection with..." or "When I use my picture clues, I see..."  When they get 10 tallies in any of the categories, we stop what we're doing and have a dance break.  {Usually a HSM song since they're pretty much just super fun.}  I started the tally count to encourage them to use their reading strategies but I figured a visual cue might be just as helpful.  I didn't want to use Cars or Toy Story 3 or anything else that would be out of style in a few years so I wanted to choose something more timeless.  And what's more timeless and classic than Sesame Street?!  So...I created these posters and hope to have them around for a good number of years.  :)

Elmo is visualizing Dorothy swimming around while Bert & Ernie make predictions about Rubber Duckie.

The Count is summarizing a story {as he loves to count, even ordinally} and Big Bird is using his picture clues to tell what is happening in the story.

Zoe and Elmo are making connections to her family while Grover uses his imagination to become Super Grover!

Telly always asks questions {even if it's because he's worrying} to find out more about a story.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tooth Fairy take-away.

I promised you a Tooth Fairy...and here she is!  We did a 2 week dental unit and I needed a break from what we've been doing.  Plus I had these adorable tooth-fairy printables in my file {from Mailbox Magazine, I believe} and I was tired of looking at them year after year.  As I typically do, I needed a way to extend the "worksheet" into something different and I think I came up with a great idea!  :)
After discussing how many teeth the kids have, we used sponges to paint the teeth currently in their mouths.  I cut incisors, canines and molars but you have to look closely on some to tell the difference.  If students were missing teeth, they left spaces where their big teeth hadn't grown in yet.

Then we turned their teeth loss into a math problem!  We're learning to add and take away in math so I thought this would be a great integration lesson.  The kids wrote 20 {for baby teeth} subtracted the number of teeth they lost and came up with a total of teeth in their mouths on that day.  We wrote the subtraction problem on a tooth {vertically like 2nd graders!!} then attached the tooth to a piece of yarn which hung from the Tooth Fairy's pocket.  THEN we enticed the Tooth Fairy's visit by turning that math into informative writing.  Science, math and writing in one activity??  Yes please!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sight Word Land.

I found a Candy Land sight word game on Mrs. Cooley's blog and LOVED the idea!  I, of course, had to change it a little to adapt it to my class.  I wrote sight words on the back of each card and students have to read the word before they can advance to that colored space.  I differentiated the game by creating 2 levels.  I wrote initial sight words from the beginning of the year {and those that can be sounded out phonetically} on cards with only one color space for  lower level students and harder words {those which can't be sounded out phonetically} on cards with two color spaces for higher students.  I saved the character cards for question words that we haven't technically studied yet since they have the best pay-offs in the game.  I want students to take responsibility for words they don't accurately read during the game so I created this recording sheet for words they need to practice at home.

George and Abe.

After studying George & Abe for the last two weeks, we created the presidents to display with our writing.  I found this George Washington craft on Mrs. Carroll's blog The First Grade Parade and just had to try it out.  They are adorable!  The students brainstormed things they learned from the various stories we read {fiction and non-fiction} and each wrote a sentence or two of their choosing...with a little encouragement from me for them to come up with original ideas.  ;)
"George Washington had hippo teeth because he lost all of his teeth."

"George Washington was a leader in the war."

My favorite fact about Abraham Lincoln is that he liked to play practical jokes and make people laugh. My students always remember the story about his muddy footprints on the ceiling! My second favorite fact is that he wasn't all that organized so he stored important papers in his stove-pipe hat. Which is where I came up with this display idea...

Ta-da!  Our papers are in Lincoln's hat too!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blogging buddies.

My current projects either have paint drying, glue to finish sticking or are otherwise just not finished.  But cute George Washingtons, Abe Lincolns and the Tooth Fairy will be showing their faces by the end of the week!

For now let me just say that I am ECSTATIC about Mrs. Lee's Community Helper unit.  She didn't have her recording sheets available for download but she emailed me EVERYTHING last night.  This is what it's all about, folks.  Sharing sharing sharing.  These are teachers that get it.  Yes we would all love to make more money, but no we aren't all about selling every little idea for a few pennies.  Maybe that's why I feel like I want to go out for a coffee with all of my new blogging buddies.  I feel like we should really be real life friends.  :)  Thank you, Mrs. Lee!  I can't wait to use your centers with my students in a couple of weeks.

And while I'm at it...Mrs. Smith's Dr. Seuss unit and Mrs. Martin's St. Patrick's day units will be premiering soon as well!

Is there such a thing as a virtual Starbucks?!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Staggered Entry.

That's what we call the beginning of our school year when the students ease into the full-time school schedule.  And that's how I feel about this post.  :)  Staggered....random...entry.  Just a few pics I snapped today at school to get some topics started.

This is our diversity display that we made for MLK this year.  In years past I'd gone into the whole race thing, but I really started to feel like kindergarteners didn't see color in themselves until we pointed it out to them in this lesson.  (Not quite the point that Dr. King was trying to make, I'm pretty sure.)  So this year I focused a lot less on how things used to be and a lot more on what the kids could do to make their world a better place.  They created this "Celebrate Diversity" poster by cutting out pictures from magazines.  We talked about diversity not only in skin color but also hair color, age, etc.  I think it turned out pretty well!

Then they each expanded a standard worksheet (not originally mine) where the instructions were to draw a picture of their dream for making a difference.  I had them cut off the border and add a sentence as well.

These are our "Heart People" that we made using a glyph.  It took me a while to buy into glyphs and how they're actually an academic task, but I'm really starting to see them as a way to display information instead of just an isolated craft, especially when we use the directions to read information from each others' projects!
Here's a closer shot of one of the Heart People.  My kids also wrote sentences using "Sparkle Words" (details) so the Sparkle Fairy would come and visit them.

These winter friends contained facts we learned while researching polar bears and penguins.  The polar bears are actually books that have pages underneath.  We created a class chart as we read about polar bears and students used those vocabulary terms to write fact sentences.

After we read about penguins, I showed my students March of the Penguins in short snippets throughout the course of the week.  I've used this video for 3 years now and my kids are amazed every time that these are "REAL LIFE" penguins!!!  As they watched the video, they took notes in a Circle Map, a graphic organizer from Thinking Maps Inc which we use in our classroom regularly.

Each student then chose 1, 2 or 3 words from their Circle Map to write about (assigned by me, based on ability) and then put those words or ideas into full sentences.  Students who were assigned multiple sentences had extra bellies pre-stapled to their penguins, making it into a flip book.  We then painted the penguins using Q-tip dots.

These are snowpeople we created after reading Lois Ehlert's Snowballs.  I got this idea from my neighbor, Mrs. Love, whose done it for years.  Although I will admit that the project itself was a bit of a headache (I may get out less items to choose from next year!) the projects in the end were adorable.  Like always, I also extended the project with writing.  The kids wrote what kind of snowperson they'd made and what materials they'd used to create the clothing and accessories.  We also use "snow paint" to make the fluffy snow around the snowpeople.  My dear friend Mrs. Sink taught it to me and I love love love it!  You mix Elmer's glue with shaving cream so it's sticky but still nice and fluffy and then...voila!  Snow paint that literally fluffs in 3-D from your artwork!

One of my beginning of the year activities is - like most kindergarten teachers! - to read Chica Chica Boom Boom by Bill Martin.  The students tear paper strips to make the trunks, cut slits in the leaves to have that palm tree fringe and write their name dancing up the tree using different colors of crayon.  I used to keep this display up inside my classroom only until our Curriculum Night, but I decided I love it so much that this year I put it in the hallway and am leaving it up all year!

I also wrote each students' name on a coconut when I got my original class list so they'd see it on Open House night while trying to find their classroom for the first time!  The flowers hanging from my doorway also help and have become my definitive decoration.  You can get them at Party City and it's the whole rod is just hot glued above the door!

This is another beginning of the year projects that I keep up all year.  We read a lot of stories about starting school, making new friends and being a good friend.  We also talk a lot about being yourself and accepting people who they are.  Then we read A rainbow of friends by P.K. Hallinan and create our own rainbow of friends!  The t-shirt is a reproducible (not originally mine) that I cut out and help students glue under their heads.  I provide circles of various colors and allow the students to choose whichever color they think best represents their skin tone.  Sometimes they choose accurately and sometimes they couldn't be farther from reality...but I let them choose whatever they want!  Then I help them glue down their yarn hair.  We keep the display up all year and refer to it in our weekly class meetings.  We also read our answers aloud to help get to know each other before I hang them up.

 This is my discovery table.  It's part of our provided school furniture for kindergarten and I haven't really used it much in years past (mostly because I didn't know how!).  The sand was too messy, the rice had a weird smell, the pasta was too noisy...I couldn't get past the items IN the discovery table!  Then I had an epiphany...pom poms!!  They are quiet, soft and make zero noise.  I bought the shovels at the dollar store and my students love visiting this literacy center.  At the beginning of the year, they just had to scoop a letter and name it.  As we progessed, they named the letter and the sound.  At this point, the students name the letter, say the sound and write down a word that begins with the word on a piece of paper to hold them accountable for their learning while at that center.  I also have this table near the Word Wall for students who may still struggle with coming up with a word for some letters.  I think I got the letters from my friend Mrs. Belk when she moved away (we miss you, Friday DJ!!) but I'm sure you can find them at any teacher store or probably even the dollar store.

As Harry Wong said, "Effective teachers can be defined with a single word...they steal!  Those who beg, borrow and steal good techniques are teachers whose students will achieve."  Happy looting.  ;)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Giving credit where credit is due.

Hello "readers"...if there are any of you out there yet!  This is my teaching blog!

Like many teachers feel at times, I've been in a teaching rut...the same ideas, the same lessons, the same feelings about the content (topics I love and the ones I'd rather skip over)...and then I discovered educator blogs!  I am excited about teaching like I haven't been in a long time.  I'm making new games, changing my instruction to meet learners at different levels and, most often, smacking myself in the forehead and saying "Why didn't I think of that?!"

I've come across and started using so many amazing activities and management techniques that I can't even remember everything I've seen and am finding myself going back to the same sites again and again.  {see "Teachspiration" on the right for my top favorites right now}  I keep sharing these ideas and explaining how my students are responding with excitement and better focus so I've been reposting, emailing, facebooking and tweeting every fun thing I've found.  These ladies are the idea creators...hence, where credit is due.  And then I realized...

All of those strategies I'm sick of using may be new to someone else!  I create new activities, centers and craft projects all the time.  Maybe I can help students I've never - and will never - meet just by sharing my ideas with others.  Teaching is not about hoarding your ideas, it's ultimately about the good of the students. And if bettering education is as easy as sharing, providing and giving away my strategies...why haven't I started before now?!

This may be a short lived or highly successful blog, depending on reader response and the impact it seems to be making.  It'll be slow-going at first and I'll add ideas as I figure out how :) but for now, come along with me as I keep my students interested in learning by first being excited about it myself.
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