Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Hi everyone!  I hope you're all having a very wonderful Easter.  Many shops are having sales right now on TPT, including mine for 20% off all products.

Since we're on Easter break, I was able to make a new product that I'm very proud of, called Writing Picture Prompts - Fantasy.  My students liked my spring writing prompts but were asking me for things like dragons, unicorns, princesses, 3 Pigs, etc.  All the research says that things are much more motivational when the ideas come directly from the kids themselves.  Hence the new writing prompts!

Ok, enough about that.  I want to tell you a little about my trip.  Poconos Stream is a destination honeymoon/couples resort.  Everything is especially designed with couples in mind.  The rooms are huge, and some of them have pools within your own suite.  Ours also had a champagne tower, star ceiling, tanning bed, steam room, sauna, and circular bed.  The pool area that was not in our room had beautiful waterfall jacuzzis.  There are all kinds of games during the day, as well as night-time entertainment such as comedians, beer tastings, trivia, and more.  The wait staff is so nice, you feel like you're a millionaire.  There was one waiter who was so sweet to me.  Each time he put down a dish, he told me exactly where he was placing it.  This was so nice for me, because most waiters don't even talk to me.  They ask my husband "What would she like?"  I asked our waiter if he had ever worked with blind folks, and he told me that he did work at a camp for kids with all kinds of disabilities.  I wish more sighted people knew that they can speak directly to a blind person.  Anyway, it was an absolutely fabulous trip.

I'd love to hear if you did something special for spring break!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Easter Inspiration

"Pete the Cat: Big Easter Adventure" Book Cover

This is an EGGcelent book!  Ok, I'm sorry, but it is about Pete the Cat helping the Easter bunny with eggs, so I couldn't help the pun.  We can't use candy this year at my school :-( so I decided to have the Easter bunny wrap a gift and leave it with a note for my students.  They had written letters the day before to the Easter Bunny, asking him to stop by our classroom.  Here are different levels that you can use with high, middle, or low kids.  Choose the paper that is right for your class.

I also wanted to do some patterning with my children, because I really think it helps with problem solving and logical thinking.  You're probably thinking "But it's not in Common Core, so why do it?"  I don't entirely agree that patterning should have been taken out of the kindergarten curriculum in the first place, and I know they still teach it in pre-k (at least in my school system).  We sang a song called "Everybody Do A Pattern" by Dr. Jean.  The song uses clapping, snapping and stomping, so it's very kinesthetic for wiggly kinders.  Then the children made different patterns by using pastel-colored, laminated eggs that I made the night before.  If you don't feel like cutting out paper eggs and laminating them, simply use the plastic eggs that you can buy in any grocery store around this time of year.  I think that would probably be better for the children anyway, but I just didn't have time to go to the store that day.  As an assessment to see if the children understood the lesson, I used this paper:

I also sent home these two different levels of sight word board games.  My higher students got the first grade board game, and my on-grade-level and below-grade-level students got the kindergarten board game.

Easter Sight Word Board Game - First Grade
Easter Sight Word Board Game - Kindergarten

I'm going to the Poconos this week for a little rest and relaxation.  I would love to hear what all of you are doing with your students for Easter this year!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dear Diary

Diary Books
Hi all!  It's been a while.  I just finished a Lego Education presentation for Rainbow Station.  It went really well.  I wish I could present more.

I was doing a unit on writing letters in Writing Fundamentals, and I remembered that I had some books about diary writing.  I wasn't sure if Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin would hold the students attention - it's a pretty long book.  I was so pleasantly surprised, though, when we read it.  My kindergarten students got the jokes and were entranced by the worm character.  I thought that if the book worked, I would make diaries for all of my kids simply by putting the following cover on a composition book.

The funny, marvelous thing is that before I even mentioned my idea to the kids, they started asking "Can we do what the worm's doing?", "Could we write stuff like that?", "Can we have diaries?", and "Can you make us diaries?"  I thought for a second, and said "Well... I suppose, if you'd really like to write in diaries, I could make them for you if you're really good."  This was really one of those moments where I just wanted to shout "Yes!!"  I played it cool, though, and continued the week with Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Fly.  By the time I put 24 covers on composition books, my students were bursting with excitement to write!  I realized that it's important for my assistant and I to have diaries too, and to show the students what we are writing in them.  Here is a sample page from my diary that I showed my students to get them started.

I'd love to hear what you're doing for writing!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Introducing Subtracto!

Hello everyone!  I've been a little sick with asthmatic bronchitis and some lower back pain.  It's been challenging to keep up with everything while feeling a little under the weather.  I wanted to share some fabulous, kid-friendly subtraction books that really explain the concept of taking away.  You see, many of my children were confusing addition with subtraction.  So, I thought bringing in an element of language arts might help the children to understand that when you take away, there's less of what you started with.  I've also been using songs, Duplos, and other manipulatives.  Some of the song titles that I especially like are:

"Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed" by Twin Sisters
"Five Little Hot Dogs" by Dr. Jean
"Five Little Crabs" by Dr. Jean
"Roll Over" by Jack Hartmann

They're all very catchy songs, and they can use either their fingers or manipulatives, whatever you prefer.

I really think it's important to ask your students what motivates them.  So I did, and my students told me again that they would like me to do some of their subtraction papers with robots.  "Ok," I thought.  "Robots.  I can work with this.  Thank goodness they didn't say zombies!"   I discussed with my husband how my students seem like they get the concept when we're doing it whole group and small group, but when they go to do the worksheets, they clearly start adding instead of subtracting.  I asked him what we could do with a robot theme.  Here's the difference between men and women.  My husband immediately said "Removable arms."  He told me I could tell stories about arms getting blown off, exploding, and I thought "Wow, awesome!  Perfect!  Why didn't I think of that?"  Seriously, I think little boys (and big boys) just love dramatic battle action scenes.  Meanwhile I think more about cute little robots doing a dance.  Anyway, here's what we came up with:  Subtracto!  With removable arms!

Subtracto the Subtraction Robot!
Hopefully Jesus will not say "What?!  That's not a robot!  That's just cardboard and stuff!"  (see my Lego post)

So after we use Subtracto in whole group and small group, their seat work is going to be a robot-themed worksheet:

Last year, I made this robot guided reading book, and it was such a hit that I'm going to use it again to go along with Subtracto.

I would love to hear if any of you have songs or ideas to go along with the robot theme.  Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you're working on.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dice Number Freebies

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day!  I'm going to Washington, DC tonight, to a wonderful chocolate-specialty restaurant called Co Co Sala.  I've never been there before, so wish me luck!  I hope it's delicious.

I wanted to share with you that my children were having a little trouble with addition.  Alright, to tell the truth they were having a LOT of trouble with addition.  So, I reflected on my teaching and thought I needed something a little more motivating than what I was doing.  I start off my math lesson with a little bit of calendar, then I do a math message on the whiteboard where I talk about what we're going to learn for that day.  Then I give the children a problem to solve together.  That always works fine, because the kids turn-and-talk and my smarties always help the kids who are really confused.  I made a slideshow for the computer, for addition, using dice.  I thought this way the kids could count the pips and also see the numbers.  On one slide they have to guess the answer, and I don't tell them whether they're right or not until they see the following slide with the answer.  I also had kids explain why they thought the answer was right or wrong.  This was done whole group.

Then I had my class divided into three groups: centers, table work with dice, and a group with me with large, foam dice.  Some of my group still need practice writing their numerals.   I mean, I get papers back where the number is upside down, backwards, etc.  I also use manipulatives to show the different equations when they're working with me.  When they're at their seats, each child has two dice and these papers:

I also placed this mini poster on their desk to help them write their numerals when they're not with me.

Addition Dice Poster by Sharon A Blachowicz Dudley

Enjoy these freebies, and let me know if this works for you.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Science Sunday: Valentine Flowers

Hi all!  I just got done doing my science fair project.  We took yellow roses and added blue food coloring.  I know this project sounds really simple, but my kids were really into it and the predictions they made were outrageous!  I got answers such as brown, purple, black, everything under the sun!  Two kids made the prediction that the flowers would turn green, but I think that only happened by accident.  I guess we need to read Mouse Paint and some of those other great color-mixing books again.

Anyway, the science fair is on Tuesday, and I thought that since the kids really got into observing the changes in the yellow flowers, why not use white carnations with red food coloring to change them pink for Valentine's Day?  Here is a prediction sheet so that your kids can predict what they think will happen if you put red food coloring into the water:

I also used 20 drops of food coloring and clear cups so the children could see the colored water as well as the stem of the flower turning that color.

If you have any great Valentine science ideas to share, please leave me a comment!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Science Sunday: Aquarium and Zoo

"My Visit to the Aquarium" by Aliki
For my Science Sunday post today, I'm going to be talking about trips to the zoo and the aquarium.  First of all, I found this totally awesome book about a family going to the aquarium called My Visit To The Aquarium by Aliki.  I never even knew this book existed - what a find!  I knew Aliki had written a terrific book about the five senses, but you really have to check out this book.  It's so super-cool because it's realistic and filled with facts and detailed pictures.  I think the narration style of the book also allows children to feel like they're really going along with the characters on the field trip.

I wanted to provide a link for you to take a virtual trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, in case you don't have an aquarium near you.  The main page displays colorful photo samples of many varieties of animals at the aquarium, which you can click on for more pictures, information, and videos.  From the main page you can also narrow it down to only show you animals that meet certain requirements such as features (beak, fur, scales, etc.), colors, or where in the world they live.

I just made a brand new product on TPT for $2.00 that includes aquarium, zoo, pet, and farm writing folders.  It's a great way to integrate science with reading and writing, which I'm especially fond of.  I don't want to forget about science, but I also want to give my students unique opportunities to write about things connected to the real world.  I don't know about your kiddos, but mine love ANYTHING to do with animals!

"My Visit to the Zoo" by Aliki
A second book that Aliki has written is My Visit To The Zoo.  I like it for the same reasons I liked the aquarium book, but I wanted to mention that the people in this zoo book are very multicultural.  I think it's very good for our children to see themselves represented in books.

Here is a link to a virtual tour of the National Zoo.  The web site offers really interesting facts about animals, shows you maps of the trails and exhibits at the zoo, and even has live webcams so you can see the animals moving around in real time!

I'd love to hear about other virtual tours that you do with your kids.  Please leave a comment below.  :)