Video segment about me, by the school district

Monday, April 29, 2013


"Grandfather Tang's Story" Book Cover

Hello, everyone!  Do you ever get the feeling that if there were just two more hours in the day, you could get everything done?  I've been feeling like that a lot lately.  I want to be the best mom, the greatest wife, the most fantastic teacher, and a terrific blogger at the same time.  I feel like pulling out my hair!  I don't know how some of you amazing people can blog every couple of days.  I really wish I could.  I'm sorry.  That was my rant for the day.

Today, I read this fabulous treasure, Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert, with my kindergarten students.  They really made a lot of connections to Transformers.  Using tangrams, a grandfather and his granddaughter make different animals out of shapes to represent a story about fox fairies that can change their forms.  The boys in my class, especially, were really psyched over the chase scenes in this story.  The interesting thing is a lot of the children thought that the two fox fairies would make up by the end of the book.  I asked them why they thought that, and a few said "Well, because they're friends, and sometimes friends just fight for a little while."  It's interesting that they don't realize this when they're arguing, but they can realize it when you're reading a story to them.  Hmmm.

I made a paper with tangram shapes on it, which you can use with your students if you don't have real tangrams to use.  What I did was print this out on different colors of printer paper (yellow for goldfish, green for turtles or crocodiles, blue for bluebirds, orange for lions, etc.).  Then my students cut out the shapes, arranged them for about ten minutes, then glued them in the animal form that they liked.  "Did this activity work?", you might ask.  Well, I have to be perfectly honest.  For most of my students, I'd have to say yes.  There were a few who kept saying "How do I make a fox?" or "How do I make a bunny?".  I kept telling them it doesn't matter if it looks like the animal in the book.  Just make it the way you want your fox to look. I think if I would have started by having them play with the shapes, and then read the book second, it might have brought about more creativity than the children trying to replicate what was in the book.  If any of you have done this, or something like it, with your students, please let me know how to reach those few students who say they can't do it without help.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Amusement Park Writing

Book Cover of "Tickets to Ride: An Alphabetic Amusement"
I'm so excited about this post, because I simply love roller coasters.  The anticipation, the stomach-dropping fear, and the spontaneous laughter when you shoot down the tracks at high speed feel so awesome!  You might say "Why do a post about amusement parks?"  Sounds a little strange, right?  But it all started when I got back from spring break and my kids were talking about what fun they had at Six Flags and Kings Dominion.  Actually, they couldn't stop talking about amusement parks.  We spent about two minutes doing a turn-and-talk, and then every single child wanted to talk about their favorite ride.  It was just one of those times when I knew I wasn't going to get to what I actually had planned for that day.  Then I stopped and thought "Wow!  They are so into this!"  So I asked them "Hey guys, would you like to write about amusement parks?"  They started clapping, cheering, and shouting "Yes!  Let's write about amusement parks!"  I knew I didn't have the materials for that day, so I told them to give me two days, and that we would do some special amusement-park-centered projects.

The first thing I found was the book pictured above, Tickets to Ride: An Alphabetic Amusement by Mark Rogalski.  This is an alphabet book, but it also has lots of hidden treats in it.  There's a highlighted animal and a concealed number in each illustration, and a surprise map at the end.  This is to timely because I'm teaching about maps right now in social studies.  I really enjoy showing the kids maps about things they care about, such as parks, zoos, and fairy tale maps.  I think it's so much cooler than showing kindergartners maps of their state.  I've tried doing state maps, and the kids just don't understand and don't care about what they're looking at; it's too abstract.  I notice with picture maps they really get into them and even start asking each other really great geography questions.

There's a song by Jack Hartmann called "Roller Coaster Ride" that offers an opportunity for your children to role play going on a roller coaster ride.  The song really tells you what to do, step by step, and the kids will catch on quickly because they've been on roller coasters before.

I made a brand-new amusement park writing folder with all of the rides and treats that the children could think of.  I was extremely happy with the way it came out, and decided to bundle it in a Warm Weather Writing Package on TPT.  Here are a few samples of what my kids did with the amusement park folder:

Finally, I thought it would be really motivating for the children to also have their own guided reading amusement park book.  Here it is.  I hope your students love it as much as mine.

Let me know if you like these ideas, and I'm also really interested to know what your children are writing about!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Integrating Spring

"Hopper Hunts for Spring" Book Cover

I'd like to start by thanking Linda at Primary Inspiration for hosting her Primary Math Linky Party.  What a terrific idea!  My contribution to the linky party is this integrated post featuring several freebies including addition bunnies.

I love using the book Hopper Hunts for Spring because it can tie in math, science, language arts, and writing all in one beautiful spring package.  The story itself focuses on a young bunny's confusion about who "Spring" is.  I think this book is fabulous for starting discussions with your class about the spring season.  I try really hard to encourage higher-level thinking by asking open-ended questions such as "What do you think Hopper is thinking?", "What kinds of things do you like to do in the spring?", and "What would you see, hear, smell, and taste in the spring if you were a bunny?".

For writing and art, I'm going to have my students use these differentiated spring cut-up sentences that they can also illustrate.

I've taken a few classes this year that say it's really important to use sentence starters for ESOL children.  Since my class is almost entirely ESOL, I've really embraced sentence starters throughout this school year.  Here is an example of one of them, with a picture word bank.

Spring Writing Prompt by Sharon A Blachowicz Dudley

Even though Common Core has taken time and money out of kindergarten, I still think that a short calendar time is important.  I still use my calendar and I use different songs to represent special times of the year.  Some songs that I will use in April are:

"Five Little Bunnies" by Mar Harmon
"5 Little Bunnies" by Joanie Calem
"Celebrate the Spring" by Jack Hartmann
"It's Spring" by Tiana

I feel that my children focus much better when we sing and dance to bring us all together on the carpet and to transition between subjects.  I think all four of these songs give details about spring that some five-year-olds aren't yet familiar with.  They also provide a nice baseline to make connections between the book, what they're writing about, and what they're hearing.  The bunny songs are nice fingerplays for those students who still don't have one-to-one correspondence - I still have two in my kindergarten class who are having trouble with this.  It's still good for the other children in my class because they can focus on the rhyming parts of the song.

I'm going to cut up these addition bunnies, laminate them, and put them in my math center for further practice.  My children are going to use manipulatives of their choice from the center to check their answers.

Please let me know which ideas you like from this post.  Your feedback really helps me to decide what to write about next.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Visit from the Secretary of Education

The Secretary of Education is a really cool guy!  Ok, so this is the story.  A few weeks ago, I was asked to be on a panel with Arne Duncan.  I couldn't believe it!  I kept thinking "Something bad is going to happen.  I'm going to get the flu or get into a car accident, or maybe Arne Duncan will just cancel."  But the day came and I wasn't sick, we didn't get into a car accident, and one of my sweetest friends even did make-up for me (I can't do my own make-up, being blind).  So, before Arne Duncan arrived everyone was very nervous and reading over tons of articles about new education initiatives that President Obama is trying to make happen.  I kept focusing on early childhood articles, because I believe with all my heart and soul that universal pre-k is a fabulous idea.  I just can't believe there are people out there who disagree and say that it's a waste of money to provide more pre-k education throughout the country.  The eight panelists from my school were very honest in the discussion.  We told Secretary Duncan that sometimes we feel like there are so many new initiatives and so much to do that we're constantly playing "catch-up."  Sometimes living in the Washington D.C. area, I meet people who actually say they're sorry to me once they find out I'm a teacher because they  think it's not a very worthwhile profession and that we just babysit all day.  I think that this needs to change and that people in the general population need to realize how important early childhood education is.  We all know that very intelligent people decide to go into teaching because it's their passion and their dream, not as an easy way out or because we lack talent for other jobs.

The video above is an abbreviated version of the discussion.  Below is the full video, if you're interested in watching it.  Let me know what you think.