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Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday Music & More


Happy Monday everyone!  This week will be my second week of school, and can I tell you that I am so grateful for the CD "Kids In Motion"?  I always fall back on that music when I have a very active class.  There's a song on it called "Freeze Dance" where I have the children dance around with scarves and then I ask them to identify a letter when the music stops.  Therefore the active kids are getting out their wiggles and I'm still doing something academic.  It's also giving them a great brain break.  Another song that's really great for the beginning of kindergarten is "Show Me What You Feel."  It's so wonderful because no matter what class I try this with, they really get into showing emotions such as angry, happy, silly, etc.  Even kids who normally don't like dancing will act out the feelings in this song.  I think that it's very important for the kids to understand how to verbalize how they're feeling about things.  That makes solving conflicts and problems much easier.

I also read a book in my new Wonders reading series called Animals In The Park: An ABC Book.  I liked it, and the kids sat pretty well considering it was their first week of school.  Of course, the part that was really fun was doing the song "Animal Actions" from Kids In Motion, where the kids got to move like the animal that the singer indicates.  I have the children sit in a circle on the carpet.  I pick four students at a time to do each animal.  For the first try, the kids were being really shy until I got up and started moving like an elephant.  Then they were much more willing to try it themselves.

For science, I love the song by Dr. Jean called "Five Senses," which pairs perfectly with the book My Five Senses by Aliki.  I wanted to also have some guided reading books for science, so I made a complete set of them in color and black-and-white.  You can find them here on TPT.

Music is something that I truly enjoy using in my classroom.  I used the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams with letter balls to play a kind of "hot potato" game.  I bought the balls from Lakeshore, and each one has an uppercase and lowercase letter on it.  But really you could just use any kind of ball and just write whatever letter you choose on the ball with a permanent marker.  The kids pass it, and then say something that starts with that letter if the music stops while they're holding it.  If you don't want to write on the ball, you could also just show them a letter card when the music stops.

Please let me know if you use any of these songs, or if you have special favorites of your own for the beginning of the school year that you'd like to share.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back To School Sale August 4-5

300 × 250

I want to let you all know that I'm joining the big Back to School sale on Teachers Pay Teachers, and TPT is adding an extra discount as well!  You can get a total of 28% off all my products during the sale, so please browse my shop on Monday, August 4th or Tuesday, August 5th and see what you might want while the terrific discount lasts.  Here's a link to my shop:

Sharon Dudley's TPT Shop

Make sure to enter BTS14 as the discount code when you checkout to get the full 28% off.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seashells by the Seashore



I'm linking up with Deanna Jump's Book Talk Tuesday to discuss the book Seashells by the Seashore by Marianne Berkes.  I went to Myrtle Beach in July with my husband and thought it would be really cool to collect some seashells for the classroom.  I also purchased a collection of shells from a seaside shop - I think they were about $8.  I already have magnifiers in the classroom, and I was thinking this could make a really fabulous science lesson.  The kids can sort them by kind, size, or color as well as make observations about their favorite shells and how they are alike and different.


I searched for a book about seashells and found Seashells by the Seashore.  It just arrived yesterday, and it's going to work perfectly.  It has watercolor illustrations and counts up from 1 to 12.  I think this book is really cool because it's a story that kids can relate to and it also has nice facts about seashells.  The sister and brother in the story are collecting seashells for their grandmother's birthday.  I'm planning on using this book in August, when children's memories of summer beach trips will be fresh in their minds.

I did a previous blog post about the beach last year, and it includes some freebies if you want to take a look.

Earlier this summer I made an Ocean ABC Bingo game and a Warm Weather Writing Folders package that includes a beautiful folder with beach words.

I'd love to hear about your summer vacations, beach or otherwise, if you'd like to leave me a comment below.  :)

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.