Video segment about me, by the school district

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!