Video segment about me, by the school district

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Friendly Letters

Teddy the Bear
Hi, everybody! I can't believe it's already March 8th. This has been the CRAZIEST winter I can remember. I grew up with a lot of snow, because when I was a kid I lived in Buffalo, but living in Maryland, I didn't think I would get so many days off for snow storms and so many two-hour delays. I'm not complaining! It's just super weird to only have two days of school in a week. I've definitely noticed a difference in my kids' behavior. It's harder for them to get through a full day when they're used to coming in late.

Last week, we read the book Dear Bear, by Joanna Harrison. It's such an adorable story about a little girl who is scared of a bear that lives under her stairs. I actually told my kids that I used to think there were monsters underneath my bed, and in my closet. The kids tried to console me and they told me, "But there really isn't, Mrs. Dudley, and you shouldn't be scared, because when you look there's nothing there." I thought it was really sweet how they wanted to make me feel better. The thing I love about this book is that the parents of the little girl ask her to write a letter telling the bear to go away. A pen-pal relationship develops, and the bear and the little girl become friends. At the end of the book, the little girl has a tea party and meets the bear, who turns out to be a stuffed animal. She isn't scared of him anymore, and invites him to come and live in her room. I love happy endings!

Dear Bear by Joanna Harrison

My children were so excited when I told them that the same thing happened to me when I was little. I told them that I wrote to this bear that lived in my closet, and that I still had him in my room at my new house. They asked me to bring it in the next day to school and I did. OK, I know, I'm a grown woman with a 24-year-old daughter getting married, and I still have a Teddy bear! Good thing I'm a Kindergarten teacher, right? I made this paper for all my children to write to Teddy about things that they would like to tell Teddy, and questions they had for him.

The next day when I came into school, I was so amazed to find that Teddy had written back! OK, maybe it wasn't a total surprise to me. This is the letter that Teddy wrote to the kids.

I put extra paper in the writing center along with more colored pencils and markers so that the kids could write more letters to Teddy the Bear or us, and they've been going like crazy. Well, that is when we have school!

I'm just curious: how is this winter going for you? I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

3 Easy Math Lessons With M&Ms

Involving all five senses is truly the way to get to deep learning. I came up with a few connected lessons that activate all the senses and get their whole brains working. M&Ms are a convenient, cheap, easily available manipulative that you can find in any grocery or convenience store. The colors really catch the eyes of the children, and when they know they're going to get to enjoy a few yummy chocolates when the lesson is over, it makes learning that much sweeter. I don't like to use absolutes when I describe my lessons, but ALL my kids were engaged in these activities. Here are 3 things you can do with one bag of M&Ms.


With a handful of M&Ms, students were told to sort them. Since it's so close to Valentine's Day, I like to use one of my heart sorting mats, like the one below. You can print it out and laminate it for all kinds of math activities.

The children were told they would be allowed to eat one M&M from each group when they were finished They were also asked to try and spell color words during the activity.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.MD.B.3 - Classify objects and count the number of objects in each category


After they sorted the M&Ms, I asked them which group had the most, which group had the fewest, and if there were any equal groups. Since each child had a different amount, it was fun for the kids to talk to each other about their different answers.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.C.6 - Compare Numbers


We read The M&M's Addition Book, by Barbara Barbieri McGrath, to introduce some new Math vocabulary, such as addend, sum, and equation.

I don't read the whole book to the students; I don't think it's necessary, and it's a little high-level for Kindergarten. I usually just read about a quarter of the book. This sets up the idea that we are going to use M&Ms for adding. When I do this lesson, I read the book while the students are on the rug, and THEN they do the first two activities. After that, we do addition, using two regular six-sided dice. I told the children to only use two different colors of M&Ms to keep it simple. They would roll the dice, and take the number represented on one die from one color, and the other die from another color, and add them together. This gave them lots of exercise in reading the numbers on the dice, counting out the candies, and then doing the addition. They barely notice that their lessons are being reinforced! You can use dice with numerals or dice with pips, depending on the needs of your students.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.OA.A.1 - Understand addition, and understand subtraction

Have a wonderful week, and happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ways to Make 10

Students Wearing Number Hats To Show Ways To Make Ten

Happy Sunday everybody!  I have off tomorrow and I'm so glad, because last weekend I went to a 3-day workshop and I really needed to rest this weekend.  It was one of the best training classes I've ever attended.  The presenter was Frank Kros from the Upside Down Organization.  The workshop was called Creating Connections, and it was all about presenting but with brain research totally at the forefront.  I love how Mr. Kros mixes factual information with games, fun, and realistic ways to take the knowledge that you've learned back to your job.

I wanted to share with you some of the ways I implemented what I learned at his workshop in kindergarten this week.  We are told over and over again by experts that moving is one of the keys for learning.  I've often heard presenters say this in the past, and I think "I have my kids moving.  I use music, dance, and games to teach content."  But this time I really internalized everything that was being presented.  I reflected on how, when we ask questions to the students during whole group time, we're usually talking to one student while the rest are just listening.  Why do we do this?  I think because it's the way we've done it in the past, and it's the way that we were taught.  This week I tried having them draw on whiteboards ways to make ten, instead of just having one child show it.  It worked beautifully, and my assistant and I could really see which of the 28 students got it and which had no clue.

Another little movement activity I did was based on the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors."  Instead of saying "Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!" you say "One, two, three, math!"  When you play with a partner, you both put up a certain amount of fingers on one hand, and you can add up the fingers.  My kids loved it, and they told me I was the best teacher ever!  Even my lowest ESOL kids got it.

Another thing I tried was having the kids use sticky notes as exit tickets, and they stuck them on the door so that everyone could see different ways to make ten.  It worked beautifully in the workshop with Mr. Kros, and I think it would work a lot better in my classroom if I use the right sticky notes.  I used old, cheap sticky notes that weren't quite sticky enough on the back.  So the kids were complaining a little bit that their notes weren't staying on the door.  Live and learn!  I told the kids that teachers aren't perfect, and because the activity didn't go as well as I thought, it would just make me a better teacher.  Nathan, a really cute, curly-haired boy in my class, said "Mrs. Dudley, don't worry.  I think you're still the best teacher I ever had."  They always say that, and I think it's so funny because in most cases I'm the ONLY teacher they've ever had.  :)

JiJi, a co-teacher at my school introduced me to this YouTube video, and since brain research says that music can really engage and stimulate learners, I added this to my repertoire.  Take a look.  It's really adorable!

The song is about numbers going to a party, so I thought to bring it home I could use party hats so that the kids would have to find a partner who, together with their own hat, would add up to ten.  I made an anchor chart in case they got stuck.  Here it is:

And here is a paper that I used with my students to give them opportunities to show and write different ways to make ten.  I used 2-color flip chips so they would have a manipulative to work with.

We took a walk down the hallway to show and tell another kindergarten class how we could make ten, and it was really enjoyable.  Yesterday I gave the hats to that teacher, and her kids came and did the same thing for my class.  Each pair also got to say the numbers, so even more practice and repetition but in a really active manner.  Think about all the opportunities for movement!

I'm wondering for what other subjects I could do the matching party hats.  What do you think?  Write me a comment below and share your ideas.  It's always so nice to hear from you.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Maryland Sellers Giveaway!

Hello everyone!  I wanted to let you all know about some great giveaways involving Maryland TPT sellers starting today, January 17 and running through January 24, hosted by the terrific Cheryl at Techie Turtle Teacher.  She has done a ton of planning and organizing for this giveaway, including several ranges of grades, so that everyone can benefit!  Please feel free to check out the Maryland Sellers Giveaway starting this Saturday.  You can also directly access the K-2 Rafflecopter giveaway using this additional link.

Enjoy the giveaway, my friends!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Multicultural Gingerbread Books

Season's greetings everyone!  I hope you're all having a restful and happy vacation.  I think most of you know that I have a fascination with books that have similar themes.  I think that the gingerbread story is one of my top favorites.  It's so wonderful how every culture has their own version of the story.  I've been doing research this week on even more multicultural versions of the story, and they're displayed above in the carousel.  I did further research by asking the cutest little Russian boy that I saw about half an hour ago if he knew the story of the Kolobok.  He told me that it's a roll, like a gingerbread boy, and that his grandparents read him the story.  I was thrilled to find out that it really is a popular story with Russian children.  I haven't read The Runaway Tortilla yet for this year's students, but I think they'll adore the sassy little tortilla.  It takes place in Texas and the kids will really get into the Spanish words as they learn about another part of the country.

The kindergarten team at my school decided to compare and contrast The Gingerbread Boy with The Runaway Latkes.  We made sure that they had a strong foundation with The Gingerbread Boy by retelling the story and singing Jack Hartmann's song "The Gingerbread Man," which is basically the same story.  We then looked at the cover of The Runaway Latkes and predicted whether they would get eaten or not.  Next we read the story and discussed what was unique about each book and what they had in common.  We took dictation, noting each child's name along with what they said on a smaller Venn diagram.  Then we made a larger poster version over the holiday break.

Venn Diagram to Compare Gingerbread Stories
We let the children taste gingerbread cookies and latkes.  Susan, a retired teacher from our county, was kind enough to come in to school for the whole morning and make latkes for all five of our kindergarten classes.  The children were able to see how the latkes were cooked, smell the delicious aromas, find out why latkes are eaten during Hanukkah, and finally taste them.  Our students were so into the experience that they begged for seconds!

I would love to discover more versions of the story, or how you use them in your classroom.  Please feel free to leave me a comment below.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Magic

Playing Bells
Happy Holidays, everyone!  I don't know about all of you, but the last month has been very intense for me.  There has just been a lot of testing.  So, I'm not going to talk about the testing but I will talk about some fun things that really lifted my spirits and made my students very happy.  Hopefully you can use some of these ideas if you're still teaching before Christmas, or even afterward in the long month of January.

I purchased some bells at a conference and then completely forgot about them.  I do things like this ALL the time because I have too much stuff and I'm just a little ditzy.  Organized, but ditzy.  So I took them out and placed them on the shelf in my classroom, and wow!  When I started playing "Doe, a Deer" and "Jingle Bells", teachers would come in from other classrooms to see what was happening.  The music teacher came in.  Now, the funny thing is I believed he was one of my students, and thought "Oh my gosh!  I have a prodigy on my hands!"  After he played the song, he said hi to me, and I have to say I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn't one of my students.

These bells are SO easy to play.  My students started picking up how to play "Jingle Bells."  You just tap the top of the bell and it rings.  It's a little more challenging to play them as a completely blind person, because of course I'm doing it by ear and not by the color coding at the top of each bell that also matches the disc you can buy.  But it worked beautifully and my assistant, who also plays the flute, played "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "The First Noel."  I guess the great thing about these bells is even if you're not musically talented you can look at the screen and just follow the colors.

Another really nice thing that happened was a little girl who couldn't count to 8 came over and played the scale with me.  I showed her how to count as she tapped the bells, and the second time we did it she counted by herself.  She doesn't have much English, and this is the first time that she's counted to 8 and back down again with the bells.  Sometimes music really does act as a bridge to other subjects.

Sight Word Christmas Tree
We practiced sight words with this Christmas tree that I made a few years ago.  But if you didn't see that post, here are the ornaments again if you'd like to make the tree.

I also laminated it and added velcro to it so the children could play with it in ABC and Word Center.  It's really amazing to see children who know their sight words use this tree to help those who are having a little trouble.  If you'd like to purchase some easy-to-use sight word coloring sheets, take a look at this product.  I used them all week and the kids said they were super fun.

We were also working on solid shapes and I found that using real objects is so much better than using pictures.  It's just more hands on and the children can actually roll and slide the objects to see how they move.  I think there are so many things we have to do that are just flat; it really excludes those kinesthetic, 3D learners.  I sat the children in a circle and assigned each child a 3D shape.  Then everyone sorted the real-life objects.  Here is a free solid shape book where the kids can color each solid shape on its own individual page.

The last thing I'd like to tell you about is a really awesome solid shape video where a girl, with help from a fairy, is decorating a Christmas tree with solid shapes.  It talks about faces, corners, and angles, and it's really perfect for kindergarten.  It's just so festive and it's a fabulous connection between the holidays and mathematics.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

50th Day of School

Hi everybody!  I wanted to tell you about a really cool day we had at my school.  We celebrated the 50th day of school.  Ok, I know, you're probably thinking "50th day of school?  Most people celebrate the 100th day of school."  I've celebrated the 50th day for the last two years and found that it's really helped my children understand the higher numbers in more depth.  I think that counting by fives and tens really is the basis for so many skills that our students need for mathematical concepts later in life.  It's really essential that we give them a firm foundation in kindergarten.

I dressed as a 1950's girl!  I got the costume from a Party Store right before Halloween, and I danced to a swing song by Elvis Presley with my husband.  We discussed how life was different in the 1950's (sock hops, soda shops, how people dressed) and even made root bear floats with our kiddos!  Here is a great video that we showed.  Thanks Stephanie for bringing it to my attention!

My class has also been learning about sorting and classifying, so I combined sorting with grouping by tens by using Fruit Loops to count to 50.  I used the following paper, laminated, and the children placed the Fruit Loops on top of the appropriate colors.  The great thing about laminating the sheet is you can use it year after year.  In the past, I've had them paste the Fruit Loops onto the sheet using marshmallow fluff, but I think that method is just too much sugar.  It's healthier with just the cereal.


I also made the following 50's chart where the children can trace the dotted font to help them understand how to make the numbers.  My students are constantly making numbers backwards.  I know that this is age appropriate for kindergarten, but my county does expect them, on standardized tests, to be able to write the numbers.

Two super songs that I found on Songs for Teaching are:

"Rockin' to 50" by MMMKids
"The Counting Creatures" by Ron Brown

I had the children hold up a plastic hundreds chart, but of course we only used numbers 1 to 50 so that they could see the numbers as we sang the songs.

One project that I loved doing when I was a girl scout (many, many years ago) was making paper chains.  I have several kids with fine motor problems this year, and I thought it would be oh-so-nifty to combine counting to 50 with patterning and the fine motor practice.  My blue and green tables, for example, used blue and green strips.  Each table made their own chain and we hung them up in the hallway along with the 50th day of school projects that my kids made.

Now my kids are super excited about doing the days in school chart that we've been using, and they can't wait for the 100th day!  I think I'm going to do this every year now.  It was so much fun!  Do you do anything special for the 50th day of school?  I'd love to hear about it.  Write a comment below.