Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Want Fluent Readers? (Freebie, too!)

It helps!  Really!  A natural fit for Daily Five.  I let the kids pick a stuffed friend to read to and they'll read for an hour straight if we had the time.  For my emergent readers, these animals are the most patient listeners! After the kids meet with me during guided reading, they get to read all of the books in their reading bag to a stuffed friend. 

I often include Read to A Stuffed Friend in my Tic-Tac-Show What You Know Reading Program.  The whole class loves to grab a buddy and read away.  Grab the recording sheet if you'd like.  It holds them accountable but doesn't take long to complete. 

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Toss-A-Ball: A Quick, Fun Way to Practice Sight Words

I bought a bunch of plastic Ping Pong balls at Dollar Tree a few years ago and wrote some sight words on them.  These happen to be green and red but I have orange, blue, and hot pink too. 

I keep them in baskets around the room.  At any given time, I pick one up and call out a child's name.  Once they look up, I toss a ball to the child.

The child says the word, spells it, then says it again.  Then I say it and we ALL spell it together.  Yep, it's that simple.  Effective and fun!

A few tips before you try this:

1. Tell the class that ONLY the child you call on is allowed to touch the ball.  If they miss the catch and it rolls onto the floor, no one is allowed to make a mad dash or scramble to get it.  The called upon child is the only one allowed to get up and get it.  Worked perfectly!  They are mindful of the rule which allows us to play at any given time.

2. The balls are plastic and if a little pressure is applied, they will dent.  I took the time to let each child feel the ball before we started and I had a few available that I allowed to be squeezed.  I did this AFTER the first child ruined a ball.  Since then, no more ruined balls.  Do it before you play and I bet you'll be dent-free!

3. Use a Sharpie to write the words but then dab a bit of clear nail polish over the word so it doesn't wear off.  Works great!

This really has helped my kids with recognizing words and especially spelling them/applying them into their writing.  Sometimes I throw one and move on but other times, I have a Toss-A-Ball Marathon and everyone gets one.

It sure is fun teaching the little ones, isn't it?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Holiday Emergent Readers

While I have lots of emergent reader books in my classroom, I only have a few children who must have the predictability of the text at this time of the year.  Because I only have a couple of kids, I get to send home lots of the readers in their reading bags that the kids can reread/practice at home.  Some of my teacher friends are afraid the books will disappear into a black hole.  But honestly, they all come back.  Even if one or two went missing, I feel it's just the price you pay to get those kids on the road to fluency and mastering sight words.

Is your school allowed to send home your readers?  Until recently, I thought all schools were given the green light.  Nope.  Not so. My sister is forbidden to.  She teaches Kindergarten and to send home emergent readers for all of her students, I suppose, could be risky.  Too much potential loss?  Me?  I just have one or two kids this time of year. But her students are all at the emergent reader level.

So, that's why I started writing them...she needs them!  Grab your freebie in my prior post.  The latest two she requested are Hanukkah and Christmas readers.  I LOVE the art I found for the Gingerbread Book.  Too edgy for her little ones?  Not sure but I know my two firsties will get a good laugh. 

These smart cookies beg you to eat dessert...as long as it isn't them!
I print two to a page to save paper.
Have a happy day!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Freebie Emergent Reader (Dinosaurs with Color Words)

Freebie and Dinosaurs...perfect together!


Click cover to grab!  Two versions to select from or mix and match.  (Uses color words, too.) I never have enough FUN readers for my emerging readers so I've been working on a few that I've put in my TpT Store. (My selection is a little worm/dated pics.) I love that they can take them home and practice fluency.  No more worrying about having books returned on Mondays.  They keep these! My Dinosaur is super cute so download and share with your students!  Enjoy! 

Two versions...pick or mix and match. 

These last 4 pages can be included in book or used as follow-up.

Here is a set of Math Emergent Readers...

On another note, John just added The Underground Railroad Clip Art to our clip art store. Love it!  He's such a history buff that I'm never surprised to find out he's working on "another history set" for our store.


Have a great day!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Streamlining Words Their Way

I know many of you are WTW experts out there.  Kudos to you!!  Seriously!  This post isn't for you.  It was written for those of you who may feel a little frustrated with the program or looking for a way to streamline it...

I seem to have a love/hate relationship with this program. I do a ton of word work in my class- what first grade teacher doesn't? But managing parts of the program has proven a challenge for me. For the last three years, Word Study WTW homework has been "required" to be given.  I know, I know...not really how the program is designed. 

On top of that, despite clear directions, the parents didn't seem to follow through or understand what to do.  It came back a mess and done any which way.  That's not how my other HW came back.  Ever.  I finally realized it came back the way it did because I wasn't vested into the HW the way I should have been....I didn't believe in it.  I didn't want to send it home but had to.

This year, I've streamlined a bit and am NOT required to send home.  I already feel a huge sense of relief on so many levels.  One thing I HATED was that we used a black marble composition book.  I feel asking my firsties to write on those tiny lines is unfair. 

So, I had them write on proper paper and glue the page in book.  Wasted time.  This year, here's what I'm doing:  Booklets.  Already made for the year.  Each week is only a 2-sided sheet of paper.  (Feel free to grab it on first pic.)


Day 1: Introduce, cut, sort.  TIP: No more having kids write initials on back of each cut out.  Instead, teach them to use a crayon and run a line down the middle of the sort. (Tip courtesy of my son who said that's what his teacher did when he was in first grade.)  I modeled and remodeled for some.  Every child has own color.  After 12 kids got a color, I decided to have the rest of the kids use TWO colors together.  In the first week, we had five wayward pieces on the floor and getting them back to the right owner was a snap.
This is the back of a sheet but you can see the words through it. 
This child was assigned the green crayon.

Here's a double line.  So much faster than writing initials, isn't it?
I have them write the words in the journal.  Then they must use a colored pencil to retrace the letter combinations/rules of the week.  All words go into a baggie.  TIP: Only give half a sheet if kids are overwhelmed with words.  Can always give other half another day. Also: if more words than spaces, that's fine.  That's all I make them write down.  No biggie.
Day 2 is always various sorting activities.
Day 3 is sorting and then completing the top half of the second page in booklet: sentences.  ( I only make them pick one word per header.)
Day 4: Sort and then apply new combinations to new words which is the bottom of the second page. For now, I don't care if they are made up words as long as they follow the pattern.
Day 5: I have small group dictation which I use as my assessment.  The words I select are NOT the words they cut out.  Again, I'm looking to see if they can apply rules/combos to new words.  And my biggest change?  They DO NOT glue words into book this year.  This way, they get to re-sort over and over again until I feel they have truly nailed it. 
Hope it helps someone out there!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Student Reflection for Conferences (Freebie)

Although it feels like school just started, conferences are right around the corner.  Actually, a bit closer than that!  While officially they start next week, I have my first one in about two hours!

I always open up my conferences with a reflection piece from the kids.  It's a short form but insightful.  Feel free to grab!


A while back, I posted about how I ask my students to reflect on their work every day.

I have to thank My Classy Collaboration Blog for this.  I saw it on Pinterest which led me to her blog post.  Love it! My district is big on Teacher Reflection and to include the kids- no matter how young, makes sense.  At the time, she didn't offer it for sale so I made my own.  Check out her TpT Store because she was planning to offer it in the future. 

Have a great day!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

EASY and Meaningful Way to Record 100 Days of School

We've had 34 days of school so far.  It's amazing to think how much the kids have learned and grown in such a short amount of time. (Me, too!) Each year, I count the days by bundling craft sticks in a place value pouch.

Then I saw this on Pinterest:

(It was just a picture, no link. Not sure who gets credit.)
Can I say how much I LOVE counting the days on Ten Frames?  LOVE!  I thought about making one but my room is so tiny, I don't have the space.  So, I came up with a compromise:

It's simple.  It's small at 8.5x11. It's perfect for my room.  Maybe yours?  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finally Creating Clip Art Again...

and it feels good to get a few more sets out there...



The credit really goes to John, though!  I may tinker with color and design but he's the real artist here at Dandy Doodles!

Math Tool Kits: Huge Timesaver!

If you teach primary math students, you know just how many manipulatives your students need/use.  How many times have you passed out counters?  Too many, I'm sure.  Cubes?  Don't get me started! 

Sometimes I felt like I was spending more time gathering and handing materials out than I was teaching the actual lesson.  I would spend a good chunk of my lunch hour sorting, bagging, distributing.  One colleague suggested that I have the kids get them.  But when I did, it took even longer and I felt it wasted too much precious instructional time.  My solution?  Math Tool Kits!

I used media bags that I had: lucky break there!  I decided to reinforce the sides with some Duct Tape.  The bags are sturdy and fit nicely inside their desks.
What's inside at the moment? (most in individual baggies or small craft bags)
*Wipe-Off Tens Frame (reverses to two of them with room to write equations)
*Dry Erase Marker and Eraser
*20 Unifix Cubes (2 different colors)
*2 dot dice, one number die, and one 7-12 die 
*twenty counters
*Number Cards
*Greater than/Less than symbols to use
*Twenty Pennies
*Ten Frame War Game
Number Line and Hundreds Chart (even though on desks, this is helpful sine they are on carpet area a lot.)
What WILL go in there?  Clock, more money, deck of cards, etc.  Whatever the kids need and will use often. Some will come out, too.  For example, I need the cubes for games this unit but some of my kids will never need to use them for counters again.  So, eventually, tool kits will all look a bit differently. 
Of course I still need to pass out some tools from time to time but knowing that they have the basics they need and use often really has helped with my time management while giving my students access to the tools they need all day long.
If you're considering them, go for it!  You won't regret it!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Few Bargain Goodies

Don't you love when you find something in Michaels that's totally unexpected but yet oh-so-perfect?  That's how I feel about these clip on flowers (that match my room!) that I just had to have:

They were only 17 cents each in the 80% off bin. Do I need them?  Nope.  But won't they look cute clipped around the room? 

And I can never resist zebra Chinese Food boxes, can you? :)

Since I can't find the glow bracelets I bought back in June and school starts on Thursday, I grabbed three cans to make:

How bright and shiny are my students on the first day of school? Bright enough that I have to wear big sunglasses to protect my eyes!

I usually go into Michaels needing one or two things and come out with a ton of stuff.  Not today. White cardstock was the only must-get item on my list and I was in a bit of a rush so the damage above was only 5.24.  But when I do hand over half a paycheck, do I fret?  Nope...I just come home and look at this...

And it's all good!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two Fun Biographies for Younger Students

I'm always looking for cool/high interest bios for my class.  Look what I got today!


These books, written by Abby Colich and published by Capstone Press, would be great to introduce Text Features or to use as mentor All About Books.  Here are some pages inside:

(Sorry for sideways shot.  I like the Fact Hound/secret code in
each book.  It's just Capstone's site that allows you to enter a code (WAY too long!) and see what pops up.  Basically, author websites.  I can see my kids dying to see what the code leads to!)

Are you familiar with Grace Lin's books?  I admit I'm a recent fan having only having read them in the last year.  While I haven't read her Newbery book, I can tell you that her picture books and early readers are wonderful!  Great Mentor Texts!  Each time I read one, I feel that Grace has personally invited me in to take a peek into her childhood.  My students give them two thumbs up, too! My two favorites are The Ugly Vegetables and Lissy's Friends which is a fun read aloud for the beginning of school with a friendship theme.  Here are some pics of her books... my first Pic Monkey creation!  Hey- you gotta start somewhere!

Also offered in the series: Jeff Kinney, Dav Pilkey, Shel Silverstein and Barbara Park.  (Did you know she recently passed away?  Sniff, sniff.  Sidenote: If you teach third-fifth grade, read Mick Harte Was Here.  Not only is it my favorite Barbara Park book, it is one of my top five all-time books.  Try to listen to the audiobook.  AMAZING. A must for this age group.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Great (and easy!) Field Trip

While I haven't started school yet, I know many of you have.  Looking for an easy field trip?  Go to your public library!!  It's free and I bet it's pretty close to your school. 

September is the perfect time to schedule a trip since it's Library Card Sign-Up Month.  You can bring your little ones, take a tour, listen to a few books, and have them leave with their very own library card!  A proud moment and a big accomplishment!

I tell my Firsties that my family...well, we're pretty smart cookies because of these:

Many of my students tell me they use their parents' card but I make such a big deal about owning your own card and explain to them that it's the most powerful card they will ever own.

I heart my kids' signatures above.  Both got their cards when they were four with lots of fanfare that included pics.  But having two parents as School Media Specialists will do that, I suppose!

When I started to do author visits in schools, I needed a song about library cards.  Could I find one?  Nope.  But no problem! Grab the one my son (who was in third grade at the time) wrote for me and share it with your class.  We put it in our poetry binders.  If you bring your class to the library, they can sing it for the librarians!



Friday, August 15, 2014

Grab & Go Word Work Center (Freebie)

UPDATE: While I no longer use these, leaving this page up in case you are interested.  I have also linked to a whole free Make-a-Word product.  Enjoy!

A few months ago, I thought I needed these:

Turns out, not only didn't I need 30 CD Cases, I lost the receipt and couldn't return them.  So...they've been sitting on my table at home annoying the heck out of me. But yesterday? Inspiration struck!

Nothing earth-shattering but I'm happy with the outcome: Grab and Go Make-A-Word Centers.

I'm a huge fan of Make-A-Word Activities in my classroom.  We do a few together in September before I start giving one weekly as part of their Tic-Tac-Show What You Know Board each week during Guided Reading.  Many of my Firsties regularly make 50+ words from the given word/phrase.  If the word contains an "S" well, hot diggity dog!!  Plurals galore!  That's the jackpot in Make-A-Word land!

While I give one sheet a week to the kids, I'm now going to have them in a basket for the kids to grab and make more words when they finish their work, during Free Time, Meet and Greet time in morning, etc.  If they grab a phrase/word they've already used, no worries!  They probably have progressed and can use more letter combinations to make bigger/more words now. 

You can grab free editable labels  and click on the pic below for the free September/October Packet.

I'm going to have a recording sheet available (check back soon!) AND teach them how to care for the cases/letters inside.  I've already cut out the letters and placed them inside the cases.  When they open up the case, they will have to make the word (as the title appears on the case) and when they're finished, remake the word to make sure letters aren't missing as they go back in the case.  I'm going to have extra letters available as replacements in a small bucket.  I think it's going to be a hit!  Fingers crossed!