Video segment about me, by the school district

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Caterpillar and the Polliwog

"The Caterpillar and the Polliwog" by Jack Kent
The Caterpillar and the Polliwog by Jack Kent is perfect for spring time.  I read the story several times using background music ("Waterfall Sounds - The Soothing Sounds of Ponds and Waterfalls" by Nature Sounds & Backgrounds).  The sounds really help the children to imagine that they are actually at a pond.  On the track you can hear insects, frogs, birds, water splashing, etc.  I use the props (see below) to retell the story and to give every child in my class a part to play.  I made multiples of some animals (such as fish and birds) so that I could bring the total up to 20.  Of course, you could always print extra props as needed.  Beside the sound effects, I place a large, blue tablecloth (as a "pond") on the rug and the children sit around it in a circle.  I fill a spray bottle with water and occasionally spray the children to heighten the experience of being at a pond.

The video for this (from "Owl Moon and Other Stories" by Children's Circle) is so adorable!  My children really loved watching the polliwog turn into a frog as he was waiting to see what would emerge from the chrysalis.  The thing I like the most about this video and book is that the characters have real personalities.  The polliwog is so curious, and the caterpillar is sort of prideful, and a little braggy.  The snail is indifferent, while the fish is very wise and confident.  When my children acted out the story, they really captured these traits.

Story Props Caterpillar and Polliwog

This guided reading book, which I just found in my files, matches really well with this lesson.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Frog Life Cycle Book

As I was shopping at Michael's Art & Craft a few days ago, I found some really neat punchers to make butterfly and flower shapes from construction paper.  They worked great as manipulatives to make patterns, and then the students glued them onto sentence strips.  Next, I made this butterfly strip as a way to quickly assess whether my children understand how to make a pattern.
Pattern Butterfly Long

This post would not be complete if I didn't mention a few songs to go along with the butterfly and frog activities.  "Butterfly Addition" and "Butterfly Subtraction" by Miss Jenny work really well with these butterfly headbands that I found at Target for just a dollar each.  Can you believe that my kids were mad today if they didn't get a chance to be the butterfly?  I told them that they would definitely get a turn on Monday.

Butterfly Song Activity

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Multicultural Cinderella and More

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated by fairy tales.  The Library of Congress sent me books in audio format because of my blindness.  I remember reading Grimm's Fairy Tales when I was about 7 years old.  I absolutely adored them!  They really made me think deeply about the story and about the world around me.  Today, as a teacher, I think it's important to read books to my students that will not only strengthen their minds but also help with their self-esteem and moral outlook.  These multicultural versions of Cinderella are intriguingly exotic and accomplish several goals at one time.  They express to little girls that beauty is not found only in someone's appearance but in their inner spirit.  The Rough-Face Girl and Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters do an especially wonderful job of talking about inner beauty.  These books can also be used to show different cultures and traditions.  All of the books that I chose for this carousel are beautifully illustrated and can be combined with with a globe to teach some great geography lessons.  I've noticed in the past that my kindergarten students were much more interested in looking at locations on the globe if the locations were linked to stories that they particularly liked.  My favorite of all of these books is Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story From China, because it's not just about a girl waiting around to get saved by a prince.  The main character has inner beauty; she is kind and compassionate and has those things returned to her at the end of the story.

I also found three songs that are particularly good if you're thinking of using these books.  "Cinderella" by Shauna Tominey is a rhyming song based on the traditional European version of Cinderella.  "Cinderella" by Kinderjazz is more of a free-dance kind of song where students could use scarves, wands, ribbons, etc. to exercise and dance creatively.  "Cinderella" by The Hit Crew carries a thought-provoking message: you shouldn't have to wait to be rescued by a prince; you can rescue yourself.  It's a very empowering song with a hip-hop sound to it.  I just bought it for myself, and I'm going to make a copy for my 21-year-old daughter.  All of these are available on iTunes.

Fantasy Real Graphic Organizer

This is a graphic organizer I made for kindergarten.  It doesn't use Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or other holiday characters.  I feel that it's important to begin to teach the difference between fantasy and reality in kindergarten without spoiling the magic of their family or religious traditions.  Let me know what your feelings are about this issue by leaving a comment below.

The Cat in the Castle Book

I also made this fantasy book which I believe is approximately equivalent to 5 or 6 DRA level.  It really helped my students learn how to read some challenging position words.  Both the boys and the girls in my guided reading groups told me they liked this book.  The book struck just the right balance between action and a romantic setting to appeal to everyone.

My students were always asking me if they could write fantasy stories, so I made a collection of fantasy objects, characters, and places that I put into a Fantasy Writing Folder that I'm also selling on TPT.  It helped my children so much that they started writing much more in-depth sentences and paragraphs toward the end of the year.  For pre-k, I just put up on TPT (and played today with students in my classroom) a Fantasy Alphabet Card Game.  At lunch the students could not stop telling me "P is for Princess!  R is for Rainbow!  T is for Treasure!  We love that game!"

A student playing the Fantasy Alphabet Card Game

A group of students playing the Fantasy Alphabet Card Game

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dynamic Dinosaurs

Cover of the book "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight"

Cover of the book "How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?"

It's great to use stories that the kids can act out as you read.  The illustrations are so colorful and the topic is very stimulating for the children.  My pre-k students were spellbound!  I think both of these stories would also work wonderfully for kindergarten or first grade.  Here are two writing prompts that you can use after you read the book.

Dinosaur Writing Prompts

The song "Dinosaur Boogie" by Dr. Jean is fabulous for getting your students up and moving and teaching them dinosaur facts at the same time.  "5 Big Dinosaurs" by Jack Hartmann counts backwards from 5 and has a really rockin' beat that you can use as a fingerplay or as a subtraction song where 5 children ("dinosaurs") stand up in the front of the room and you take away 1 "dinosaur" each time the song tells you to.  "Dinosaur Hunt" by Aaron Glassman is pretty similar to "Going On A Bear Hunt" or "Going On A Lion Hunt."  It reviews position words and fits in perfectly with any dinosaur theme.

I also used large plastic dinosaurs and snap cubes to teach the concept of height and length.  We estimated how many blocks we thought the dinosaur would be, and then measured the actual height or length.  If you're working on patterning and have dinosaur manipulatives, here are a couple of fab pattern worksheets.

Pattern Dinosaur

If you're interested, I have a new Dinosaur Unit on TPT that contains guided reading books on multiple levels as well as worksheets that cover a variety of kindergarten-level and pre-k-level skills.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shortcake Giveaway

Recipe sequencing card for Blueberry Shortcake

Instead of a contest, I'd like to give away a new product that's tasty, cute, and academic at the same time!  I will send my Shortcake Sequencing package to anyone who completes the following steps by Saturday, April 14 at 5:00pm:

1. Follow my blog
2. Follow my TPT store
3. Post about this giveaway on your blog

Make sure to leave a comment on this post saying that you completed the 3 steps, and also type your email address so I can send the file to you.  I hope you like this step-by-step blueberry and strawberry shortcake activity!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fun Farm Freebies

Doreen Cronin is hysterical!  If you have not read any of these books with your children, you are missing a fabulous, fun-filled story time.  My kids crack up, whether they're pre-k or kindergarten.  The book that started the whole series is Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.  This book is such a great springboard for having your children write letters to Farmer Brown, to each other, or to you about what they would like in their classroom that they don't already have.  Duck For President provides a really timely social studies link about the electoral process.

For guided reading, I've used the following two books as a science/reading integrated experience.  We read the books and then use them as models for making their graphic organizer (also available for download below).  I have used these books and this graphic organizer for their independent writing time and as a science center activity.  My children really feel independent when they can look back in the books and find the answers for themselves.  If you like this type of thing, I just put up a brand new Farm Animal Unit on TPT that's packed with 141 pages of terrific guided reading books, graphic organizers, games, and writing experiences.

Things at the Farm Living
Things at the Farm Non-Living
Farm Graphic Organizers Living Nonliving

My post would not be complete if I didn't share with you some really fun farm songs that'll have your kids dancing and "moo"-ing all over the room!  "What Word Makes Sense" by Jack Hartmann is really cool because the children have to fill in a line of the song with a rhyming word.  Here's an example: "There's a cow whose name is Sue.  She eats some grass and then says ____ (moo)."  "Down On The Farm" by Greg & Steve is just a kid-pleasing song.  They really get into saying the different sounds that the animals make.  Finally, Dr. Jean, my favorite artist, does a song called "Color Farm" where the children spell the color words of the animals in the song.  If you've never heard this song, it's so wonderful for teaching color words in an upbeat, active manner!

Enjoy the farm freebies!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Life Cycles and More

Spring is a time of growth for lots of living things, and there are so many wonderful stories and factual books about this subject.  I love comparing and contrasting books with my children.  I use simple Venn diagrams to record my students' responses on 8.5"x11" paper, then turn that into a large poster board with the students' names and what they said.  You can use these responses to show comprehension growth over the school year. The students also love seeing these Venn diagrams in Science Center and reading what they and their classmates said.

"There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Chick" by Lucille Colandro

I also use books such as There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Chick by Lucille Colandro to teach sequencing and to compare this story to other versions in the "Old Lady Who..." series that we've read.  My students love announcing to me "Didn't you know, Mrs. Dudley?  This book is like that clover book!"  And inevitably, someone else says "Or it's like that lady who swallowed some snow and stuff!"  Then they all start talking and telling me how it's like about eight other "Old Lady Who..." books.  You see, I collect all of them and I love when the children make text-to-text connections.  So, I just let them talk about it with a partner until the excitement dies down, and then I pull out the real objects from the story and see if they can tell me which object she swallowed first.  I use real objects because it's the best way for young children to learn new vocabulary words.  It's also so much more meaningful when you can use your five senses to touch, see, smell, and even taste things that you're learning about.  After the children experience the real objects, you can place these pictures in a center, with velcro or magnets on the back, and have your students sequence them.  You can also have them cut them out and sequence them on sentence strips.

Old Lady Swallowed Chick Sequence

Two really cool songs about chickens that I found are both available on iTunes: "Little Baby Chick Chick" by DB Harriss and Melissa Hooker and "Chicken Dance" by Kids Sing.  They're both loads of fun.

If you need life cycle sequencing cards for frogs, chickens, ducks, plants, or butterflies, check out my Life Cycle Package on TPT!