Video segment about me, by the school district

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gingerbread Bear

Book Cover of "The Gingerbread Bear"

Hi everyone. and Merry Christmas!  A wonderful friend came into my classroom last week and handed me The Gingerbread Bear by Robert Dennis.  She knows that I collect gingerbread books and couldn't have given me a nicer Christmas present.  My students were really enthusiastic about pointing out all the similarities and differences between this book and other gingerbread books.

I don't want to give away the whole story, but I want to tell you a few of the funny things that happened when we read the book.  The setting of this story is a national park, and there's a park ranger and his family that make and chase after the gingerbread bear.  Kevin asked "What's a park ranger?"  Giyhana said "You know, like a Power Ranger, except he's a Park Ranger.  Get it?"  After I stopped laughing, this led into a great discussion about what park rangers do for a living.  I thought this was really neat, because this usually wouldn't come up in a community helper lesson.  Also, my students this year are so ruthless when it comes to gingerbread stories!  They always want the gingerbread character to get eaten at the end, and that is so different from every other class I've had before.  When I asked them why, Matthew spoke up right away and said "Mrs. Dudley, you do know they're just cookies, right?"  Seriously, his tone was so full of concern about my "misunderstanding".  Like, why would I not want to eat a gingerbread cookie?

Two songs that would go really great with this book are:  "Goin' on a Bear Hunt" by Greg & Steve, and "Cool Bear Hunt" by Dr. Jean.  I just saw Greg & Steve at the NAEYC conference, and I actually got to talk to them.  I told them that I've been using their music for at least 20 years now.  They signed my CD's and shook my hand; it was really nice.

I just created a new package of writing picture prompts with word banks on TPT.  A freebie is also available that just happens to be about a polar bear.  After Christmas, I'm going to look for some nonfiction books about bears and I'll let you all know what I find.

I will be going to Syracuse this year for Christmas to visit with family.  I hope all of you have a safe and happy holiday!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Numbers 1 to 20

It's hard to keep my mind focused on academics when I'm worried about Christmas shopping and how we're getting to Syracuse this year to see the family, but I think I came up with some really cute stuff.

First of all, I love starting off math lessons with great literature.  The carousel at the top of this post shows my favorite number 1 to 20 books.  Research does show that children pick up more vocabulary when they are read to than during any other method.  I also truly believe in making math as fun as possible by incorporating games and music.  I found these really cool dice at EAI Education.  They are just so useful and versatile.  I think they're one of those "must-have" items for making math fun.  I couldn't believe how long my children wanted to play the game More and Less.  It's really like the card game War, but with each child having a die.  They just decide ahead of time whether they win by rolling more or less.  I pulled them in a group of 8 while a second group was in centers and a third group was doing a number book, and seriously, the game played itself.  They were very cooperative and into rolling and identifying numbers.  I also had bear counters there in case they weren't sure who had more or less.

Here is a freebie of what the children were doing at their seats while I was playing the dice game with my group, as well as another book that I'll be using next week while I play 1 to 20 Bingo with kids.  I just remade this Bingo game to focus on numbers 0 to 20, to go with Common Core, instead of my old Bingo that was 1 to 31.  I like this new version better because I have snowflakes in ten frames along with the numeral, so that the children can count to find out what the number is if they don't know the numeral says.

11 to 20 Winter Number Books

Harry Kindergarten has some great songs for 1 to 20.  I wonder if he knows how much he's appreciated.

Count To 20

Numbers in the Teens

Also, I found this really adorable video by Kids Classroom.  The video shows number balls rolling into place in a very easy-to-understand, sequential manner.

Number Rhymes for Kids

I'm really getting into these videos because the kids can see it, hear it, and dance at the same time.

Carolyn Kisloski just gave me the idea for a number fishing game that I'm going to start making today.  If you haven't checked out Carolyn's blog, you're missing out on some fabulous ideas.  Thanks, Carolyn!  You're the best!

I would love to hear what number games you're playing with your kids.  Please leave a comment below.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Funny Stories

Lego Person
For two years, I've served on the Lego Education Advisory Panel.  I love it, and it's a lot of fun.  When I found out that the Lego Education people were going to be at the NAEYC national conference here in Washington DC, I volunteered my classroom for them to come and see what an American classroom looks like.  One of the ladies is from Denmark.  Like the good teacher that I am, I let my kids know several times that Lego people would be coming later that day.  I let them know at breakfast.  I told them in the middle of reading.  Before lunch, when we were lining up, I said "Don't forget, the Lego people are coming after lunch.  Please make sure that you walk nicely into the classroom."  Sometimes my kids come back from lunch and they start tattling.  They'll say things like "Andy butted to the front of the line again!", "Josh stepped on my shoe!", "Nasya looked at me!", and, you know, a million other things.  So I really wanted to make sure that they understood that we were going to have visitors, and that they were just supposed to come in and sit on their letter on the carpet for math time.

So, I picked them up from lunch, brought them back to the classroom, and told them "Ok, the Lego people aren't here yet, but we're going to start math."  We read our math message, and then our visitors arrived.  I was shaking hands with one of the people, and Jesus stood up and said in a very affronted tone "They're not made of Legos!  You said Lego people were coming!"  'Oh my gosh,' I thought, as I realized my mistake.  I had been saying 'Lego people.'  Poor Jesus!  I said "These are the Lego people.  They work for Lego Education."  He said "But they're just... They have bones and blood and stuff!  They're just humans!"  My guests thought it was funny, and I learned a valuable lesson.  When I told my husband this story, he laughed for a solid five minutes.  He said it was one of the funniest stories I ever told him!

Washington Convention Center
...until Thursday, when I went to the NAEYC conference.  Ok, you all know that I'm totally blind, so when I go to these conventions I need a sighted guide.  I also take my cane with me.  I have a dear friend, a pre-k teacher, who also likes going to conferences, so she offered to take me this time.  First you have to understand that my friend, Tracie, is really bad with maps.  She will tell you this herself.  A couple years ago, we couldn't find the parking lot that we left her jeep in.  I mean, we walked around for 45 minutes trying to find the vehicle.  This time, she said we would absolutely not get lost trying to find the car.  We parked in a lot two blocks away from the Washington Convention Center.  Both of us really hate DC.  When you ask people for directions in DC, for some reason everyone you ask isn't from the area - maybe understandable since there are a lot of tourists.  :)  There's also a great deal of construction.

We had a great day at the conference (more on that in another post) and thought it would be very easy to get back to the jeep which was just on 7th and New York.  We were on 9th and L Street.  Ok, you guessed it, we got lost!  I was trying to be oh-so-sweet to one of my best friends, saying "It's ok.  We'll find it.  Remember, you wrote down the streets that it was on, and it's next to that restaurant The Fringe."  So, Tracie shouted out "Oh!  I see the restaurant.  The awning is the same."  Then, "Oh no," she said.  "It was a truck."  I didn't really understand what had happened, but I just smiled and said "Let's backtrack.  Let's go to the doors of the convention center and walk the two blocks to the parking lot that's next to The Fringe."  We walked halfway back, and she said "I see my car."  Oh, I was so happy!  She said "Oh, we just have to-- Watch out Sharon, the pavement is a little uneven."  Oh my gosh!  It was like walking through a mountain range.  I said "Are you sure this is right?  We didn't come through this way before."  In a very soothing tone, she said "It's ok, honey.  I can see the car.  We'll be there in 2 minutes."  Then she told me "Umm, I just need you to step up on this ledge.  It's really very tiny, but there's a lot of water in the gutter and there's a truck blocking this area."  I trust my friend, so I got up onto this ledge.  I'm a little ploofy, so it was challenging, as a blind person, to squeeze onto a 2-inch ledge.  Then she told me we were going through a hole in a fence.  The pavement was really rough again, and I heard the sound of a jackhammer.  I heard her say something about having to climb a fence to get out.  "Where are we?" I said.  "Are we inside of a construction site?"  I suddenly heard men calling to us pretty anxiously "Ladies!  You can't be in there!"  Tracie kept walking us forward.  I pulled on her sleeve.  "Tracie, I think those men are talking to us.  What's happening?"  I started feeling very nervous, like if I took one more step the ground beneath my feet was going to explode.  Tracie, in a very lady-in-distress voice, started yelling back to them "I just need to get to my car.  It's right there!"  The construction men said "There's no way out!  You're in a live construction site!"  I almost started to cry.  We must have looked a pitiful sight.  The men helped us out, and we did get to the car.  At that point, Tracie said "Don't you think that was better than last time?  It didn't take us as long!"  I laughed and said "It's never boring with you, Tracie.  And how dangerous was that, really?"  When I told my husband that I had almost died, he thought that this story was even more hysterical than the last.  The next day, when we were walking on the correct side of the street, the men recognized us and yelled "Much better, ladies!  You're doing great!  Keep going!"  I swear, I felt like I was on that old-time "I Love Lucy" show.

I hope these two stories bring you a little bit of laughter.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Solid Shapes

Book Cover of "Captain Invincible and the Space Shapes"

Every year, I struggle with my solid shape unit.  I can't find books or songs, and I also feel like manipulatives and fun games are virtually nonexistent.  I just purchased the book Captain Invincible and the Space Shapes by Stuart J. Murphy from  It is a totally awesome book and perfect for any unit on solid shapes!  The story is about a boy who is a space captain along with his dog, Comet.  I told my kids that I had a special treat for them, and when I presented it they were thrilled!  They'd been asking me for space books for so long, and it felt fantastic to find the perfect book for them.  The book is really in the style of a comic book, but very appropriate for kindergarten.  Captain Invincible has to overcome many dangers and obstacles, and he uses solid shapes to get rid of the threats of the poison gas and galactic beast.  Seriously, my kids were spellbound!  They've asked me to read it every single day this week in math.  It's also great for beginning/middle/end and comprehension questions.  By the end of the book, you find out that Captain Invincible is a little boy in his bedroom, using his imagination.  His whole family comes in, in their pajamas, and they just want to get a little sleep.  In writing, we are currently working on list-and-label books.  This story really inspired my children to start writing their own books with little word bubbles.

After a lot of searching, I found a song called "Solid Shapes" by Miss Jenny.  There's also a wonderful YouTube video by Harry Kindergarten called 3D Shapes I Know.  My kids walk around the centers singing that song - it's SO cute!  Since I've never been able to find any good games, I made my own Solid Shape Bingo.  Again, I couldn't find any worksheets that I liked, so I made my own solid webs.  Here's a sample freebie that you can use:

If you want a whole set of products like this one, ready to use, take a look at my Solid Shape Unit on TPT.

I would really enjoy hearing about what all of you do for solid shapes, and I'd be very grateful for any advice or pointers that you'd like to leave in a comment.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Social Studies Saturday

I could just kick myself!  I thought of this really fantastic idea for Halloween too late to do it that day.  You know how excited kids get about wearing costumes to dress up as all kinds of different people.  Since there is such an intense focus right now on writing, I thought "Why not have my kids look at picture cards for community helpers and other jobs such as magicians, clowns, and jugglers, and express what they would like to be through drawing and writing?"  So, I made a Community Helpers & More Writing Folder.  I chose pictures of things that the students are always asking me how to spell, such as "princess", "magician", and "fire fighter".  If you'd like to take a look, I'm selling it on TPT for $1.00.

Being intensely anal retentive reflective and thoughtful, I realized that I could use the writing folder that I made at any time.  The kids LOVE talking about pretend play.  Then my businesswoman side came out, which is very rare because I'm a kid at heart.  But I thought "I have tons of really cool community helper stuff that I can put in one package."  I'm really proud of the stuff I make because it's on the kindergarten level and has a lot of picture support that allows my ESOL population to be successful with matching workers to their vehicles, tools, and clothing.  It's hard to put this in words, so here's a freebie that shows the kind of thing I'm talking about.


I also just put up on TPT a really beautiful Community Helper Package that I think would be useful in any pre-k or kindergarten classroom.  There are guided reading books for emerging readers, writing prompts, graphic organizers, and some very nice day vs. night worker materials.

Here are three songs and their artists that I use all the time for community helpers.  The first one is really funny and sort of a rap style.  The second one is just sort of teacher-ish and it brings the kids back together after looking at pictures.  I used it for one of the videos for my National Board social studies lesson.  I'd have to say the third one is very jazzy and sometimes my favorite.  If you like jazz, it will definitely put a smile on your face as well as your children's faces.

"Community Helpers" by Shawn Brown
"Community Helpers" by Mar Harmon
"Community Workers" by Bubbly Vee

I know this is a weird place to mention the carousel up top, but they are my absolute favorite community helper books, with beautiful illustrations and rich content.  They would really help make any community helper unit a snap!  I also chose a lot of the books because they show people with disabilities and of various races and genders.  Please let me know what you're doing for community helpers!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Spectacular Sorting Ideas & Freebies

Boy, I am tired today!  I feel like I've run a marathon.  Well, I did go to my school's Halloween dance on Thursday and all of my little kinders wanted to dance with me.  So I guess that's similar to a marathon.

We started a new unit in math this week: sorting and classifying.  I feel that I'm teaching this unit very concisely.  The books from the carousel above really helped to bring home rules about sorting and classifying.  In the past, when I've asked my students what sorting was, they've told me "You know.  You put the red ones with the red ones.  You put the yellow ones with the yellow ones."  This year, when I ask them what sorting is, they're telling me that you can put similar things in a group.  Yes!  Why am I so excited?  Well, on our mandatory quarter test the students have to be able to look at a group of objects and know how to sort them by the sorting rule.  They also have to sort and then tell which group has more objects and which has fewer objects.  I made this paper specifically for that purpose.

Another reason I made this paper was that a friend bought me these sorting rabbits for Christmas.

Sorting Bunnies with Hat from Learning Resources

There is something so magical about pulling rabbits out of a hat.  Ok, maybe it's just me, but I love unique manipulatives.  Some people collect shoes, some people collect purses.  I collect all types of unusual math manipulatives.

I found a video on the internet about sorting and classifying that's just so cute!  I love the woman's Indian accent.

Sorting and classifying songs are hard to find, but I spent a while researching and I found these and bought them from iTunes:

"Socks in the Dryer - Sorting" by Jeff Johnson
"Sorting Socks (Sorting by Attribute)" by Judy and David
"The Sorting Song" by Heidi Butkus

In years past, I've used:

"Make a Group" by Jack Hartmann
"Color, Shape & Size" by Jack Hartmann

If you know of more sorting songs, please tell me about them in a comment!

This week I also sorted by size with bear manipulatives and plastic pumpkins that I found in a variety of places.  I have a freebie on TPT for coloring pumpkins by size.  And here is an apple size sorting paper:

I'd love to hear about what all of you are doing for sorting and classifying this year!  If you can, leave a comment below.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Color Mixing and Freebies

Book Cover of White Rabbit's Color Book
Hello everyone!  I'm doing my color theme right now at school, and I don't think any color theme is complete unless you bring in some science and talk about mixing.  Most of you know about the book Mouse Paint - I've done a previous post about that book.  But there's a book that I think is also super cute: White Rabbit's Color Book by Alan Baker.  My kids also noticed right away that this book is very similar to Mouse Paint.  In fact, I didn't even ask them the question.  They just started blurting out "Wow!  Mrs. Dudley, did you know that this book is just like that other book, Mouse Paint?"  I just smiled and said "I wonder how that happened?"  And then the kids giggled because they knew I planned it.

The night before I read the book to my class, I made this sheet where the kids have to color the final rabbit in each row to show what the rabbit looked like after dunking himself in paint each time.

I also have this new color series of books that I made and posted on TPT:  Interactive Color Guided Reading Books.  I've been using them in the class and they've really helped my students learn their color words as well as their sight words.

As I was thinking about this post, I remembered that I had made a color mixing guided reading book, once upon a time.  So this morning, I searched and - sure enough - I found it.

It's so funny to me that I have so much stuff I actually have to start cataloging what I've already made so that I don't make it again!  Do any of you have to do that?

Since we're all going crazy with Common Core right now, I thought I would also put in the language arts standard that I think relates best to this topic:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.3:  With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

Does anyone know if cause and effect is anywhere in the kindergarten reading Common Core standards?  It seems to me that that's actually what color mixing would be, but I couldn't find it.  Maybe it's in the first grade standards?

Please let me know if any of these freebies are helpful.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Counting Core Comparing Numbers

I'm not sure if there's a place that any of you know of to find mathematical concept books.  Since I didn't know of one I researched many number books and found these to be more specifically about comparing.  The Common Core standards that I'm doing right now are:

K.CC.6:  Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.

K.CC.7:  Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals.

If your children already know numbers 1 to 12, I found that giving a pair of students twelve-sided dice really helps them to discuss which number is more and which number is less.  Tip: If your students don't know numbers, it's better to give them cards where they can count groups of objects.  I made this ten-frame comparing book that works really nicely to clear up any misconceptions about more and less, and to show them how to represent numbers in several different ways.  I hope you enjoy this freebie!

I also went looking on the internet for helpful videos and found these:

There's a really cute song by Miss Jenny called "Alligator Greater/Less", from the album "We Love Math".  It matches perfectly with the concept of more and less.

Finally, I really enjoy using technology in my classroom and these web sites are free and easy for kindergartners to use: player.html?movie=sfw42183

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Writing Fundamentals

I feel like I'm coming back to a long-lost friend.  I don't know why, but I have to say that after 22 years of teaching, this year has been the most overwhelming.  Friends, why is this happening?  Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Is it Common Core?  Is it that we're testing way too much?

Anyway, we started Writing Fundamentals this year and I've been pulling my hair out.  I'm desperately trying to understand how to get kindergartners to write more.  In my struggles, I made up a couple new papers that you all might like.  The book that inspired me was Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk.

The book really stresses that you should write about what you know.  I really appreciate that message.  I mean, it's more motivating to pick your own topics, and you can picture things better if you know the subject matter.  So I thought, why not make up some papers for what you love, what you dream about, and what makes you happy.  These are all topics that my students really got into.  They couldn't wait to go back to their seats and write!

Another thing I just tried yesterday was a lesson on labeling.  Another teacher in my building, Lauren, found this idea on Pinterest.  You write the body part labels in front of the children as they shout out parts of you that they want labeled.  I also asked them what letter the word started with, since this is the beginning of the year.  One little girl even knew how to spell "foot".  It was really fun, and the students went back to their seats with a Body Parts Folder that I created, and proceeded to make their own labeled drawings of their bodies.

Oh, I almost forgot that I used the songs "The Body Rock" and "Body Talk" by Greg & Steve as engagement for the activity.  They worked really nicely to prepare the students for a lesson on body parts and the labeling activity.

I'd love to know some ideas from all of you for early writing.  Please leave a comment below.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Super Shapes with Freebie

I can't believe it's been weeks since my last blog post!  The beginning of school this year was a little hectic.  You see, our school was switching over from carpet flooring to tiles, and the classrooms were not quite ready the week that we went back.  I have to say I actually had chest pains worrying about getting my classroom done in time for our kindergarten orientation.  Seriously!  Am I obsessive-compulsive or what?

So anyway, Monday is going to be my 14th day of school, and I wanted to share with you all some things that really worked thus far.  We started off the year with positions and shapes.  The books in the carousel above are some of my favorite shape books ever.  I have previously blogged about two of the books, Mouse Shapes and Grandfather Tang's Story

Four songs that worked really well for me this year, where the students can practice drawing the shapes in the air while they're learning about them, are:

"Waltz of the Triangles" by Newbridge Education
"I'm a Circle" by Jack Hartmann
"I'm a Square" by Jack Hartmann
"Circles" by Miss Jenny

I really listened to my students this year talking about what they like.  Robots seemed to be something that they were interested in.  Also, my class is very boy-heavy.  So, taking that into consideration, I cut out shapes and had the students create their own shape robots.  You would not believe the creativity!  The children were saying their robots were space aliens, vampire robots (I have no idea!), Barbie robots, and princess robots.  I really thought this was a great project to do at the beginning of the year, because it really got my ESOL students talking to each other about their shapes, what they were creating, etc.  I was also able to find out who could say the names of the shapes that their robots were made out of.  Here are two examples of the robots that they made:

I just gave each student a Ziploc bag of a variety of shapes.  Another teacher in my school just put the shapes on the table without giving each child a bag.  The one tip that I have for you is to keep the activity to the four basic shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle) because you can still make a great person-like creature with them.  The Common Core State Standard for this project was:

CCSS.Math.Content.K.G.B.6:  Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes. For example, “Can you join these two triangles with full sides touching to make a rectangle?”

Finally, here is a freebie that you can use along with this robot project, to make a connection to reading:

I hope you like this freebie and can use it with your kiddos.  I'd love to know what you're doing for shape projects!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dancing Dudleys

Hello all!  This is a little snapshot of my life.  I don't know if you can tell out there in blog land, but I LOVE dancing.  I dance with my kids in my classroom, and I ballroom dance many times each week.  This is my husband and I performing at our summer showcase performance at our dance studio in Jessup, Maryland.  I hope you like it!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Concerning Cats and Freebies

"Bad Kitty" Book Cover

Hi everyone!  Do you ever feel like you really want to blog but your life is just so intense and crazy that you don't have time?  Well, I have one more week of summer school, then one week off, and then regular school starts.  Summer school has been pretty nice, though.  We have 22 kindergartners who are going into first grade, and we split them so they can receive more attention.  So really, my highest amount of kids at one time is 12.  This allows me to have full conversations with the children and find out unique things about each and every one of them.  Many of the children told me that they had pets at home, and how much they enjoyed taking care of them.  We did one complete day about dogs, another complete day about horses, and last week we did a day about cats.

I looked through my things for a funny book about cats, and found Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel.  Summer school is overloaded on boys this year, and they really loved the naughtiness of the cat.  See, in this alphabet cat book the owner runs out of cat food and tries to substitute A to Z healthy foods.  Kitty reacts badly, performing a complete list of bad A to Z actions around the house such as clawing curtains and hurling hair balls.  After that, the mother comes home with A to Z appropriate foods for the cat, who is so grateful that it carries out nice A to Z actions around the house.  I would definitely use this book over two days, because it is a little long to read in one sitting.  But if you're looking for a great alphabet book which is humorous, this is it!

I made a guided reading book to go along with the cat theme, focusing on position words.  Now, you may think "Why would kindergartners who are going to first grade still need position words?"  I was surprised too!  But I found that some of my ESOL children did not know the words "between" or "above", for example.  The book also helps them to see it in context.  Here it is:

During our morning message, we also talked about cats and what the students would do if they had one.  I made sure that every student was able to express their idea, in a complete sentence or two.  Then we used this paper to write about our ideas:

I didn't use it last week, but there's a great song by Dr. Jean called "Kitty Cat Position Scat" that completely ties in with position words.

Finally, I've been thinking more and more about Common Core and writing for the beginning of the school year, so I created an ABC folder with hollow letters, dotted fonts, pictures, and words.  I'm really satisfied with the way it turned out.  Let me know what you think.

What are you doing to get ready for school, or what new products have you created for the upcoming school year?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell, and Freebies

Book Cover for "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell"

Hello everyone!  Have I ever told you that I am obsessed with matching things?  Clothes, furniture, and, yes, teaching stuff too!  I'm going to the beach today, and I had an idea to do a beach post.  So, here it goes.

On Monday, at summer school, I'm going to read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell by Lucille Colandro.  I'm going to bring some shells back from the beach, some sand, and whatever other treasures I can find.  I really believe in connecting real life objects to books that we read in the classroom.  I'm going to use these retelling cards to help the children name the objects in the story as well as the order in which the old lady swallows them:

I've noticed that when I use these cards, the children are more attentive during the story and it gives them a chance to stretch their legs by getting up and putting the card on my magnetic whiteboard.  After we finish that, to really check for understanding, they'll do this worksheet:

To stay with the beach theme, I want to sing "Five Little Crabs" by Dr. Jean.  You can purchase the album that this song is on by visiting the Songs for Teaching web site.  I also made these crabs with numerals on them to add a visual component to the experience:

Songs for Teaching also sells a really great album by Jack Hartmann called "I've Got Music In Me", featuring a song that counts up called "Five Little Fish".  Here's another freebie for you: fish with numerals on them.  This file is in black-and-white so that you can print it on any color of paper that you like.

I don't know how many of you still have water or sand tables, but there's an excellent toy from Lakeshore called Sift and Find Alphabet Shells:

I've used these shells both in sand and out of sand, and the students really love them.  They can find letters in their name or their friends' names, or words that relate to the beach (crab, sand, fish, clam, wave, castle, water, etc.).  As another way of helping your students practice beach vocabulary, you can use this word search that I made:

I hope you like this beachy post!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Super Sight Word Bingo

Playing Sight Word Bingo with my students

Hi everyone!  I don't know if I mentioned that I'm teaching summer school this year, but today I have off for the 4th of July.  I know, you probably think I'm crazy, but I really wanted to teach summer school because I only have ten children in each group, I get to teach reading (which I love), and it's only 4 days a week.  Beside all of that, I really wanted to buy hardwood floors for our living room and dining room at home.  Our rug is disgustingly old!

Anyway, I started thinking about the children I have in my summer school class who don't know all their sight words.  So of course I'm going to be using all the modalities to try and really get them to feel, see, and hear them before they're off to the land of first grade.  We've been singing "Popcorn Words" by Jack Hartmann and "Singing the Word Wall" by Dr. Jean, and having a good time writing sight words in sand.

My "Sight Word Bingo" game

This week, I made a really beautiful Sight Word Bingo Game.  I decided to make it so it would be beneficial for the lower kids, the middle kids, and the higher kids in the summer school class.  I used 30 of our kindergarten sight words and 10 more from first grade.  I also thought of complete sentences that would use each sight word, to help the children to make connections to the real world.  To flesh out these sentences I added words such as "cat", "dog", "fish", etc. that are easy to sound out.  I tried it out this week with the kids, and they really enjoyed it.  Ok, you might ask me how I know they enjoyed it.  Well, the second day that I pulled it out, they started yelling out "Yay!  Bingo!", "I want to be blue!", "I want to be red!".  I was really pleasantly surprised because I thought it would be difficult to get the kids out of centers.  I think adding the color choices to the player boards helps them to become engaged from the start of the game.

Please let me know what you think about this game, and any suggestions you have to make it better.  Solid Bingo is coming soon!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

First Week Picture Books

I was so excited to find the Picture Book Linky Party at DeAnne's blog, First Grade and Fabulous.  I read through so many wonderful ideas, I didn't even know if I could add anything to this linky party.  I reflected on it for a long time, and then I thought that with Common Core being on everyone's mind it might be helpful to link some of my favorite picture books to Common Core standards.

"The First Day of School" by Patricia Relf

So here we go.  The First Day of School by Patricia Relf is one of my favorites because it shows the fear that sometimes five-year-olds have.  It's also told from Elizabeth's point of view.  It's great for linking with kindergarten standard:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.6:  With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

and first grade standard:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.6:  Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

I also like this book because I think it's more realistic than other first day of school books in my collection.  Elizabeth has some bad things happen to her in the course of the story, but when she makes a new friend the day seems much better.  It's also important to me to choose books that show a diverse population in the classroom, and this book fulfills that nicely.

"Kindergarten Rocks" by Katie Davis

Another picture book that I like for the first week of school is Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis.  This book is hysterical!  The conversations between the kindergartner and his sister and exactly like the conversations that my students have with their siblings.  Here's an example:

"Jes, Rufus is scared I might get lost."
"You won't."
"But what if I do?"
"You won't."
"But what if I forget to make a map and I get lost then?"
"You won't."
"I might."
"You won't."
"But what if I do?"
"I'm not that lucky."

You see what I mean?  So, the Common Core standard that I would use for this book would be:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.1:  With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

The first grade standard is the same as the kindergarten one, except without prompting and support.

If your students are particularly observant, they will see that the boy is saying one thing (that he's not scared about going to kindergarten), but in the illustration his face does show that he's scared.  You can ask questions to your students to get them to reach this conclusion, such as "How does the boy look in this picture?  Do the words match what he's saying?  Tell me about it."

I can't wait to continue to read more posts in this terrific linky!  Let me know if you have ever used these books, and what you think of them.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Peek at my Room

Kristin (aka Little Miss Glamour) is hosting a terrific Classroom Setup Linky Party, and I thought it would be a terrific opportunity for me to answer people's questions about how I find things in my classroom as a blind teacher.

First of all, I think it's really important that the children know where everything is, and that they can easily take things out and put them away.  For example, I have purchased boxed items from teacher stores that are impossible, even for an adult, to fit back into the box.  It's very frustrating for the students, and annoying as an adult to have to spend ten minutes trying to fit pieces perfect back into a wooden box to slide the lid closed.  What I do now is just take the materials out of the store-bought box, and put them in a plastic bin that is also color-coordinated to go in a particular center.

Math Center with Green Bins
ABC Center with Red Bins
I just started color-coordinating my centers this year.  It has really helped with having the students put bins back in the right place.  I also made the signs for each center with the corresponding color, so that if the child did get confused they could just look up at the sign and match the color to the bin.

I don't have pictures of my classroom 20 years ago, but I was not as organized then as I was today.  I do remember that back then I had a dramatic play center that the kids really loved.  With Common Core, it doesn't seem like there's room anymore for dramatic play, and that makes me a little sad.

This is my writing center, and it's a thousand times better than it was 20 years ago!

Writing Center

I hope I don't make enemies here, but I took the crayons and colored pencils out of the writing center because they have them in their chair pockets anyway.  What I did that works really well for me is to put white boards with dry erase markers in writing center, as well as Magnadoodles, electronic writing toys, chalk, and chalk boards.  I did this because every year I found that if I had too many utensils in writing center they would end up on the floor, in the wrong bins, and just making a total mess.  So, I told my children that if they want to write with their colored pencils or crayons, they can do it at their seats, and if they want to write with chalk or dry erase markers they go to the writing center.  This worked SO much better for me.  I added  some electronic writing toys this year, and my kids would go ballistic when it was their turn for writing center, which was a dramatic turnaround from previous years when they weren't so enthusiastic about it.

Since I touched on children writing at their seats, another thing I found that really works for me is having chair pockets so that the students can just pull out their scissors, crayons, ABC folders, etc.

Table with Chair Pockets
I wish I could have made these chair pockets myself, but I am not talented at sewing or making crafty items. But I do think it would be a great business for some adventurous teacher.  These chair pockets cost a fortune when you buy them from teacher stores.

I have done library center in so many different ways in the past, including a swimming pool, a tree house, and a tent, but the one that I love the most is what I had this year, which is just making the library center look like a miniature version of their living room at home, complete with plush chairs, coffee table, etc.  Now my children flock to the library center as much as they would pick science center.

Library Center
I think I like it the best because instead of all the bells and whistles, the focus is more on sitting down with a beautiful book and being comfortable.  I just wish that I could also offer my kids tea and cookies.  :)  The children's "laptops" I just purchased from Target, and they are really sweet additions because the children play games that are differentiated already for them.  If they need help with letters, they play a letter game.  If they need help with rhyming, then they play that game.  When I buy toys for my students, I really try to think "Can I use this item immediately without much bother or fuss?"  To me, that's what makes a truly great investment, when I don't have to do anything else to the product.

I'm so glad that I found Kristin's linky party today.  If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Throwback Birthday Post

I came across this lovely Throwback Thursday Linky Party so I thought I would-reintroduce my old post about birthdays.  I'd like to highlight my free Birthday Folder on EdWorld to go along with that post, because this folder gives your children opportunities to write about their birthdays.

The new Common Core standards really emphasize writing, so I know that in 2013 I'm really going to be spending a great deal of energy helping my children to be brilliant, creative writers.  I've definitely noticed that talking about birthdays is something that my students have always been really into, hence the idea of using this writing folder.

I'd love to hear your ideas about how you're going to get your students to write this year!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Capturing Calendar

My Kindergarten Calendar Kit

Hello all!  I was away at a gaming convention for a week, and it really inspired me to start working on my children's comic book game.  Well, after having a week's vacation I had to come back to my favorite pastime: stalking blogs.  I was really excited to see that Castles and Crayons was doing a Schedule Spotlight Series #2 - Calendar Linky Party.

I do not do my calendar first thing in the morning.  I have my calendar at the beginning of math time, which is usually later in the day.  Since my kiddos get a little tired in the second part of the day, I try to do a lot of movement songs during calendar.  I usually start with a song by Jack Hartmann off the CD "Rhythms and Rhymes for Special Times".  This CD has a different song for each month of the school year, focusing on holidays during that month and special things you see, hear and do.  I love using this CD because it keeps things new and fresh, and it really gives the students some information about each month in the year.  My kids also really enjoy Jack Hartmann's song "Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow".  I have the kids use hand gestures, as well as feet and head, to show "today" (feet together), "yesterday" (left foot and left hand out, and look to the left), and "tomorrow" (right foot and right hand out, and look to the right).

I also have the calendar helper move the card to the correct spot and use a pointer to show the right spaces. The calendar person usually switches every week, along with the rest of my jobs.  I also have somebody working the CD player, which I started this year, and actually the students are really great with  it.  They only need to know two buttons: play and stop.  I usually have them stop the songs to ask pertinent questions such as "What numbers are the 'neighbors' of today's date?", "Is 19 larger or smaller than 10?", and "How many 1's are in that number? How many 10's?".

No calendar time would be complete without doing Dr. Jean's "Macarena Months" song.  With the new Common Core standards focusing more on writing, I added a song where the students air-write the numbers, called "Chant and Write", also by Dr. Jean.  I've also noticed that so many kindergarten students write their numbers backwards, so this song really helps them to see it, hear it, and feel it.

I'm looking forward to hearing what other people do for their calendar time.  By the way, is anyone else working summer school this summer?  I am so excited to be going back in July!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Princess Post

Book Cover of "There Was an Odd Princess Who Swallowed a Pea"

I can't believe how quickly time goes by!  There are children in 6th grade who are graduating from my school on Thursday who I taught kindergarten to.  I also just had my 44th birthday.  I still mentally feel like that young girl who was so dreamy-eyed about going into teaching.  Physically, though, it's a little harder to stand up after bending down to tie shoes or squatting to hear what one of my little kinders is urgently trying to whisper to me.  You know what I mean?  I do try to savor those beautiful moments, though.  One of my students told me, in a card, "You are my love."  Only in kindergarten, right?  :)

Anyway, for my birthday I got this unusual version of "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a...":  There Was An Odd Princess Who Swallowed A Pea by Jennifer Ward.  It's very funny and perfect for my class.  Both my boys and my girls love anything to do with fantasy and also things that are humorous and a little strange.  Be warned!  This princess does swallow people, including a witch, a queen, and a prince.  I'm going to try it tomorrow with my kiddos, along with the original song "There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly".  They love that one!

I'm also going to use this graphic organizer of things in the story and things not in the story:

Since this book also has really nice recap on every page of what's been swallowed so far, I think the story lends itself to a sequencing paper:

The following day, I'm also going to have the students do their own little fairy tale story using my Fantasy Writing Folder.

I only have one week of school left, and our county curriculum has actually ended, so I'm really just trying to improve my students' writing and creativity.  I'd love to hear what you're doing in your final days of school (or, if you're in another part of the world, what you're doing currently with your students).  Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

End of Year Certificate

Hello, bloggy friends!  I wanted to link up with Linda Nelson and her great linky party...

...and share with you this certificate that I use at the end of the year.  I noticed that this certificate really makes my students feel very proud and happy about what they feel is their best accomplishment.

I also make a class book by taking each student's picture and putting in the sentence "I am an expert ____." (mathematician, climber, reader, etc.)  The students in the past have come up with so many wonderful accomplishments, things that I would have never thought of.  One student told me she was an expert shoe tier.  And I could have kissed the child who told me they were an expert problem solver.  Wow!  Don't you love those kids?

I'd love to hear your wonderful ideas for the end of the year!

Oh!  I almost forgot.  I wanted to let all of you know that Education World has started a really cool, new online teacher store.  It's very similar to TPT, but there's a special feature to align products to Common Core standards.  You can click here to get to my teacher store at EWE (EdWorld Exchange).