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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Tortoise and the Hare

Hi all!  Today's post is about a classic:  The Tortoise and the Hare.  I remember this story from when I was little.  Since then, I've read many versions and done puppet shows for it countless times.  It's amazing how you can capture children's attention by putting puppets on your hands.  I use these to retell the story:


I particularly like this version of the book by Janet Stevens:


The expressions on the character's are really intense.  You can see that the tortoise is sad because of the Hare's bullying.  I also think this is a great book because you can really explain to kindergarten students how bullying makes others feel and how it looks when somebody is being bullied.  This version is also very cool because the animals help tortoise to get ready for the race by cooking him healthy foods and exercising with him.  It's such a positive message about working together.  Unfortunately bullying still happens, but reading about it and discussing it will teach the children how it affects people and ways to combat it.


I recently visited some friends of ours who have a tortoise, and they let me hold it.  It was so cute, and I even got to stroke its neck.  I really want one for my classroom, but I'm not sure if our county will allow it.

I want to make tortoise puppets this year with the kids, using paper plates.  Maybe something that looks like this:


What kind of pets do all of you have in your classrooms?  I would love to hear about them.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Club Ideas from Chapter 2

Hi all!  Here are my thoughts about Chapter 2 of the book The Literacy Teacher's Playbook: Grades K-2.  This is my second post as part of the book club run by Abbey Giombetti Bannon over at A Teacher Mom.

I think this book is really great for first grade teachers.  As a kindergarten teacher, though, I feel that the author doesn't focus enough on important details about kindergarten, which is where we have to spend a lot of time teaching children the basics of how to read and write.  I can see that the author's purpose was to write a book that could be useful to K-2 teachers, but it just doesn't do it for me.

The author writes a great deal about running records.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I have had SO much training on running records.  I already know what to look for.  She does mention that kindergartners should be working on retelling and answering comprehension questions orally.  She also says that observations are the best way to assess whether children are comprehending what they're reading.

There's nice information in the book about what teachers should be focusing on when choosing DRA levels.  For example, for levels 1 and 2 they're really not expecting fluency because the children are reading with one-to-one correspondence.  For levels 3 and 4 they're linking words together and starting to see more phrases in sentences.  And really beyond that, you can look for fluency.  As my husband was reading this book to me and I was thinking about my higher readers at the end of the year (levels 8 to 12), he pointed out that if they're reading with expression and fluency, their eyes are tracking ahead to look at the punctuation.  I thought about it and realized that he was right.  I've also noticed that my high group really does have a lot more expression and emotion when they read.

The author also reinforced the fact that turn-and-talks and think-pair-shares are helpful to improve students' speaking ability.  Every day, during my morning message, after about 3 or 4 sentences about what we were doing that day, I would put in an open-ended question for the kids such as "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go, and why?"  In the first few weeks of school I modeled doing this, and after about a month my kids would actually turn to a partner, ask the question, and answer the question in a really collaborative manner.  Let me honest about this.  I had 24 kids this year.  Most of my children were ESOL.  I usually had one or two who really had trouble with the turn-and-talk.  When that happened, I would go over and talk to that child.  Sometimes it was just that they did not have enough vocabulary to answer the question.  I found sometimes that if I stuck to subjects like toys, TV shows, and where they went the night before, it was easier for the kids to answer and talk about their feelings.  The problem is you can't talk about their favorite things for 180 days.  I'd be very interested in the kinds of questions that other kindergartners ask their kids during whole group sharing time.  I also attended a workshop this year where the presenter said that a good conversation between children should go back and forth several times.  I've noticed that I ask questions like "Did you have fun last night?", to which the children often just answer "Yes" or "No" and do not wish to elaborate.  I realized this last year and tried asking questions like "What did you do last night?" and got fuller, deeper responses.  If they responded "I went to Chuck E. Cheese," for example, I would respond "That sounds cool.  Tell me what you did at Chuck E. Cheese."

With regard to writing, I like the descriptions the author gave for narrative writing, opinion writing, and informative writing.  In my experience, kindergartners do the best at opinion writing because they can use "I like..." sentences and explain why they like that person, thing, or place.  I think they also do pretty well, with assistance, at narrative writing (drawing lots of pictures), but I think the most difficult thing for them is to write to inform.  I started making writing prompts (such as Fall and Winter) for my kids this year to help them write about different times of year.  I tried asking them to look at the picture and say what they could see, hear, touch, smell, or taste within the scene.  I also made a diary cover (you can see/download it below) so the kids could just write whatever they wanted in individual composition books.  They felt it was really neat because every day they got to write "Dear Diary..." and something that was special to them.



I'm actually at Myrtle Beach right now, and I think I'm going to collect some seashells so the kids can have real artifacts to examine with magnifiers.  I hope all of you had a great 4th of July and weren't affected by Hurricane Arthur.  The waves were really big here, and it was extremely windy!  My sister-in-law teases me that whenever my husband and I travel we bring bad weather with us.  If we go to New York, we bring snowstorms.  If we go to Myrtle Beach, it's a hurricane.

I would love to hear what worked in your classroom last year for collecting data.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

4th of July Sale

Hello everyone!  I wanted to let you all know that I've just put my entire TPT shop on sale to celebrate the 4th of July holiday!  Every product in my store is 20% off from now through Saturday (July 5), so come on over and take advantage of the discounts while they last.  If you've been to my shop before, you may notice now that I've put a lot of effort into creating great new products as well as improving existing products to give you the best quality possible.  There are also some really nice freebies there for you.  I hope you find some things you can use.

If you have any questions about my products or suggestions for new products that you'd like me to make, feel free to leave a comment here on my blog or contact me through my shop.  Have a great day!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Club Thoughts and Freebie

Hi everyone!  Abbey Giombetti Bannon over at A Teacher Mom started a new book club based on the book The Literacy Teacher's Playbook: Grades K-2.  I just finished reading chapter one, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.  I really enjoy doing book studies, because I love learning new things.
I had mixed feelings from reading the first chapter because the author puts a lot of material into the book.  It's hard to differentiate between K, 1, and 2.  Even within my own school, one class is doing things differently than another class.  So I was worried there wouldn't be enough information for a K teacher in the book.  When I started looking at the chapter as more of a springboard to help me come up with new ideas for my own class, it put me in a more positive frame of mind.

The chapter talks about taking running records, looking at reading inventories, collecting book logs, and evaluating engagement levels of students.  The idea that I want to start using more this year in my classroom is how to do some sort of picture survey to see what kind of books my kids love to read, or will be excited to read.  As I was thinking about that, I remembered that I had a picture survey that I made in pre-k which might help you to know information about your children, not just necessarily in reading but the overall child.



In the next couple days, I'm going to try and make a new version of this to gauge their interest in books (fiction vs. nonfiction, for example).  I know this survey will have pictures so that the children could complete the survey themselves.  I usually do ask my children what kind of guided reading books they would like me to make for them.  Inevitably, I get answers like superheroes, unicorns, and rainbows.  I already have those, and am very happy when students share that they would like me to print them out for them.  But I would like to go a little deeper and find out what genres they like, such as science fiction, comedy, scary books, etc.

For many years now, I've kept portfolios on all of my students and I'm a little obsessive-compulsive about it.  Beside taking running records, I keep extensive notes on things that the children tell me, dictated stories, photos from centers with captions, and one of my favorites, pictures of students holding a book and retelling important details from the story.  I normally audio-record students in whole group so that I can get what they said about the book word for word.  I do it with a tape recorder, but I'm sure you could also do it on your cell phone.  This really provides excellent evidence for whether your students can recall information, pick out the main idea, speak in a full sentence, and much more.  I often use this information with our special ed team to get help for kids who have extra challenges.  I also use it to drive instruction, to tell me whether the kids are remembering to talk about plot, character and setting when they describe what happens in the book.

Here is a picture of my retelling board that I hang in the classroom.  As the year progresses, the children get to read what they've said about stories, which is really cool to watch.

Story Retelling Bulletin Board

Don't forget to visit some of the teachers contributing to the book review.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Meet Me

Since it's Monday, I'm doing a Monday Meet Up with The Teaching Tribune.


I think this is a great way to meet other bloggers and pinners.  Here are my answers to the fill-in-the-blanks.


I also wanted to let you all know that I just started a collaborative Pinterest board for pre-k and k games.  If you'd like an invitation, leave a comment with a link to your Pinterest page.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Behavior Management System

Stacked trays for behavior management slips

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!  A co-teacher and very good friend of mine told me I should do some blog posts about organization.  Since this wonderful teacher got me into blogging and TPT in the first place, I really had to take her advice.  She always seems to know what's really hot and what's not in the teaching field.

Years ago, when I was taking my Master's degree classes, my study group was talking about behavior management.  I had read about a system with colors to let young children know how they behaved each day.   It was based on a stoplight system with green meaning "go", yellow meaning "caution", and red meaning "stop".   I liked it, but I felt that two of the colors were negative while only one was positive.  I added blue and also added descriptions in English and Spanish to every card.  I also designed a mini-poster with faces so that children could understand a little bit better what color they received for that day.

Behavior management mini-poster

I sent home a letter at the beginning of the school year, explaining the behavior system and how their child will receive a colored slip of paper with a description every day.  I print the behavior slips on colored paper and cut each page into 6 slips.  This really works for me.  It's fast, it's easy, the students understand it, and the parents do too.  I store them in stacked trays (pictured at the top of this post), which you can buy from Lakeshore Learning.  I love those trays because the colors match.  I'm really into matching.

Ok, so over the years I've tried many different ways to display the children's names and what color they're on at any given point during the day.  I've used a rack with the children's names and a blue, green, yellow, or red card.  That didn't work because sometimes children would move their card to a different color.  I also tried a system on the board with faces, but if I stacked the faces on top of each other it was too tall for the kids to reach, and if I had them side-to-side it took up too much of my board space.  Anyway, the method that works best for me is to use a cookie sheet and square tiles with magnets on the back of them.  I bought the square tiles from Michael's arts and crafts store, and I put their names on them using sticker paper.  In pre-k, I used student photos on the tiles.  I applied colored tape on the cookie sheet itself to indicate each behavior color section.  Students can move up and down depending on their behavior, and the cookie sheet is so convenient.  You can take it with you in the hallway, out to recess, and even on a field trip.   You don't have to hold it flat, either, because the magnets stay firmly on the sheet.

Cookie sheet and name tiles for behavior management
If you'd like to take a closer look at my Behavior Management System, I have it on TPT.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Mother's Lap

Book Cover of "On Mother's Lap"

Hi all!  I found this treasure, On Mother's Lap by Ann Herbert Scott, among my Mother's Day books and decided to use it this week.  You may ask why it's a treasure.  Well, I think it has a great lesson, that a mother's love is all-encompassing and there is always room on her lap.  This book is especially good for any little one in your classroom who has a new baby sister or brother.  We forget sometimes, as adults, that it can be difficult for youngsters to share.

I also like this book because you can have your kids rock "back and forth, back and forth," as you say the words in the story.  It's kind of funny, because I'm talking about different movements and motions in science right now.  So I added a new graphic organizer page to my Motion and Matter set that includes a rocking chair.  The kids really made the connection between science and reading.  If you're interested in looking at this science pack, here's the TPT link.  These graphic organizers are really wonderful to use as assessments for science.

Ok, so here are some freebies.  I use these pictures to teach the lesson and to discuss different types of movement:



I also used scarves to have my children simulate "around and around", "back and forth", "side to side", and "up and down."  Some of the songs that I used were "The Freeze" by Greg & Steve, "The Body Rock" by Greg & Steve, and "Spin and Stop" by Music Together.

Last, but not least, for comprehension I used this graphic organizer to see if the children could notice details by choosing which items Michael took with him on Mother's Lap:



I hope this post is helpful!