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)

Who doesn't love dinosaurs? This FREEBIE Emergent Reader is perfect to practice reading predictable texts and highlights the Sight Word MY. Also features color words. It's a great choice for repeated readings at home and school which will help build fluency in your youngest readers.

There are TWO versions of this book which allows for differentiation.

Select the one that best meets your students' needs OR mix and match the pages. The last FOUR pages in this book can either be included in the book or used after the book is completed/read. The “Write 3 Ways” refers to 1. Rainbow Writing the word (I ask them to say word, trace over with one color crayon and repeat the word. Then do whole process two more times using an alternate color each time.) 2. Use your finger to write the word in the palm of your hand or a friends’ hand, and 3. Use a dauber to stamp out the word on paper. Can use the large MY I’ve included.)

Click cover to grab!

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!

Here is a set of Math Emergent Readers...

On another note, John just added The Underground Railroad Clip Art to his 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 his 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!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Five Tips For More Effective Conferencing During Writing Workshop

"In the classrooms of some teachers, children grow in leaps and bounds, while in the classrooms of other teachers, children make only modest gains.  I am utterly convinced that the difference has everything to do with the two teachers' abilities to confer."

~From the wise Lucy Calkins in One to One


While I totally agree with her statement, I also want to say that finding my groove in conferencing has been TOUGH and sort of a journey of discovery. 

Here are some changes I've implemented over the years that have helped elevate my kids' writing and have helped me focus more on strengthening my focus on how I can best help my class.

1: Build Writing Stamina: 
Increasing their stamina gave me much needed conferencing time.  We do it for reading with success so I knew it was time to implement in writing as well. Simple fact: More time spent reading equals better readers.  More time engaged in writing results in stronger writers.  When did I have this revelation?  Not too long ago.  Read on!

While attending a Professional Development course, my supervisor simply said, "Spend the next twenty minutes writing about your favorite vacation."  About six minutes in, one teacher got up to go to the bathroom.  A few minutes later, another teacher closed her notebook and started reading a book.  Another finished, took out some yogurt and ate it.

After twenty minutes, (the duration we were told we'd be writing for) said supervisor wasn't too happy.  Were our kids taking bathroom breaks? Moving on when done to reading a book (During WRITING time). When kids were "done" did we let them get snack, move to game, etc?

She told us that when it's writing time, kids need WRITE.  Period.  No bathroom breaks, trips to water fountain, etc.  I wasn't too sure how it would work with my Firsties.


The next day, I explained how we needed to write and write hard during WW time.  Within a few weeks, our daily writing time was a 45-minute block.  I didn't think it would work but it's been a beautiful thing, my friends!  I play my music and they write.  If they are done (which we know they aren't!) before I can conference with them (or even if stuck) they simply start another piece.  Yes, that is clutch.  It is writing time so there are NO OTHER OPTIONS.  (I want to add that the "no bathroom" rule worked.  Amazing.  Has never been an issue.)

2.Expand Use of Roving and Formal Conferences 


             I use this form to keep track of my formal conferences.  (Click to Grab!)
Roving conferences happen each day during WW.  I do a quick walk around at the beginning, middle, and end of session.  This is a quick check-in that helps me assess what kids are doing/accomplishing and keeps them focused.  They KNOW it's only a matter of minutes before I come around so they write to produce. This is QUICK.  Sometimes I stop and highlight a gem, other times I may just say, "You're missing punctuation."  I can get through my class in record time.
Formal conferencing has been much trickier to fit in but ever since I have a M-F schedule, it's been smooth sailing.  I formally meet with every child twice a week and use the form above.  It's up to ME to stay FOCUSED for best results so recording is a must for me and keeps me on target with meeting their needs.  One problem I had: hard to meet 24 kids TWICE a week. (I manage to fit 6 kids in a day during WW time)  But I did figure out a way...
Increasing these opportunities for both was easier than I thought. Although I have "official" WW five days a week for an hour, we obviously write other days.  I use Family Journals, Filling Buckets (writing compliment to friend), Love Note Time (each week they write a letter to a friend, teacher, family member on fun stationary) to help with roving but mostly FORMAL conference opportunities. Family Journal time alone gives me the best opportunity to do this.  What do you do to carve out some extra formal conferencing time?  I'd love to hear it!
TIP: I take home and read the stories that are longer and pretty polished off the bat to give a quick read through. Saves TIME and makes my time with them more effective. Usually the advanced writers in my class...
TIP: I arrange my conferencing binder according to daily conferencing schedule so all kids for the day are grouped together. And although I use the above mainly for FORMAL assessment, I do, at times, use it for roving to jot down a note such as who had tough day, awesome day, offered super "gem" to class.  Helpful to have.

3. Focus on ONE Teaching Point

I have been oh-so-guilty of trying to fix everything at once.  Why do that?  It's ineffective and such a motivator drainer for the kids.  Zapped the energy of all involved.  Still, I battle the impulse to point out a list of things from time to time especially when it's later in the year.  The TP may not be the same as the one that kicked off WW that day.  It's usually individualized to writer/what's on paper.  After all, that's the beauty of the individualized conference! 

4. Use/Reflect on Your Notes!
If you are taking the time to write down notes, reread them before meeting again so you don't fall into same type of conference with your student.  Three years ago, I complimented  a child one day and she said, "You always say that to me."  Ugh!  It was a struggling writer so I went for the "easiest" compliment at the time.  (Spacing!) I surely wasn't helping her grow as a writer and I doubt she was eager to conference with me and my insincere compliment. Who doesn't love a good compliment?   Substance is a must!  (I started to take home her writing so I could give better feedback and set goals when we met again.)

5. Conversational Tone
I try hard to make this a time where kids are eager to discuss their progress and are eager to set new goals.  I feel much less stressed now that I've expanded my conferencing times as it gives us both time to breathe.  I LISTEN more to them.  I talk slower.  I feel that I'm not as "frantic" in my quest to "fix it all" and our meeting, with sheet above in front of me, allows us to chit chat a minute before we even look at their writing.  It's often during that first minute of chatting that the kids get a lightbulb moment for their next writing topic.

If you have any tips for me, I'd appreciate hearing them.  My WW program is always being tweaked!  Always a WIP! How about yours?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Two Great CDs for Writing Workshop

Do you play music for your kiddos during writing workshop?  I always do.  It truly sets the tone and soothes the soul! My first year (way too many years ago to count!) I played music with WORDS.  Um.  No.


It makes it nearly impossible for the kids to concentrate. You'll get bopping heads and lots of singing and disrupting the others. And then the kids will imitate you and the other teachers :)


So I soon switched to playing lots of classical music with Vivaldi's Four Seasons being my favorite.  But then this year, I was introduced to these gems:

I actually found the Beatles CD online for $1 including shipping.  How cool is that?  While I like the Beatles, I'm not one of those crazy fans that thinks all things Beatles are as good as gold.  But, this is BETTER than gold!  Magic!  The kids are transfixed and write, write, write, and write some more when this is playing.  Simply fantastic results.

Mentioning this to one of the parents, they sent in the Simon & Garfunkel CD above.  Again, love it BUT not for brainstorming or drafting stories.  It's much more upbeat.  It's actually a great motivating CD (first few songs) so I play this one when we are editing our work.  I'll challenge them to circle five silly mistakes that they want to change before the song is done.  Because of the tone and rhythm of the music, they tend to focus and look more intensely for their mistakes.  It's almost Rocky-ish as they race through their writing finding all of their errors.  It seriously has upped our game!

This year?  My friend, Kelly, swears I'll love her Grateful Dead Baby CD.  :)