Archive for September 2014

Labels here, labels there, labels, labels everywhere!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

We are  s l o w l y  beginning Writers Workshop this week.  Deep breath in and out.  I am used to a more structured 'brainstorm and write' system of writing but am excited with the flexibility WW allows.

I began with a labeling lesson.  We talked about how labels can help explain something in a picture and how even though it may be hard for us to write words, we are super good at drawing pictures and we can add words to our pictures.

   Please excuse my lame-o anchor chart!! We took turns coming up to the chart to point out items we could label.  Who would have thought this makeshift picture could produce over 30 labels!  (No one believed my 'dog' was a dog, they, in fact, decided it as a cat)

I demo-ed how to label things using post-its.  I sound spelled window, chair and... NOAH! One of my students was super surprised when I stuck a label on his forehead.  Then total pandemonium ensued!  I put bowls of POST-ITS and flair pens out on their desks and let them go to town labeling our classroom.   It.Was.INCREDIBLE.  When the 15 minutes was up, my room was littered with over 60!! labels (I only have 14 littles!!).  Here are some of the highlights...

 3 shelves


Art Easel
Pete the Cat, Wall



Poem (courtesy of Ashley over at One Sharp Bunch)

My personal fave.... cubby

As the next lesson in my Writers Workshop, we will do a little review/warm up with ONE post-it each to label and then draw a picture and add some labels to the picture.

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A Peek at September Centers

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Here is a little looksie at what we have been up to in Kindergarten this week...

This week's theme is LETTERS with the beloved anchor text, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin.  We sampled a few delicious alphabet cookies from Trader Joe's, sang the campfire tune "I Said a Boom Chicka Boom" (mousey style is our  fave!) and worked on some of the following centers...  (disclaimer- they are NOT cute centers, but they are getting the job done)

Chicka Chicka Stamp and Color 

We colored in the palm tree then stamped out the letters of our names with large alphabet stamps and scented ink pads.  We were not sure if all of our friends' names would fit on the sheet which begged the question... Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, will there be enough room? 
ps- you should see the "after" picks of my room.  It looks like 5 stamp pads EXPLODED all over the tables, chairs, FLOOR, oh yeah, and their  faces and hands.  Ahhhh!  

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Pick-a-Letter, Draw-A-Picture

Pretty self-explanatory... Pick a letter off the sheet pan and then write the letter on the sheet and draw a picture of something that begins with that letter.  

Fine Motor Lacing Center

I love the simplicity of these- no prep and helps build those fine motor skills!  I put out a box of lacing/sewing cards and a pile of laces and ta-dah!  Simple center!

Math Match

 We use Singapore Math and our focus this week is the number '3' and the concept of "the same" and "matching".  Easy peasy matching center.  Students work in pairs; one picks three pattern blocks and arranges them on his/her half of the Math Mat.  Then, the other must match the design the first student created on his/her side of the mat. Then they switch! 

I will be back soon to post about last week's apple centers and projects and next week's name centers!  Have a great week!  
PS- anyone interested in the basic templates as freebies on TPT?  Comment below and I will post them this weekend! 

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Bright Ideas: Velcro- a LIFESAVER!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Somehow I always seem to miss the BRIGHT IDEAS link up party :(  Well, even though I can't be party of this wonderfully helpful linky, I'd still like to share my Bright Idea with you!

Okay... my bright idea is insanely simple, cheap and effective- what more could a teacher want?!  We all have that student (or five!) who never has a pencil.  Every activity becomes delayed by 3 minutes because there is a mad dash to the pencil bin or asking 14 other classmates for a spare pencil.  UGH.SO.ANNOYING. I came up with a simple solution:  stick one side of a Velcro dot/square to the desk and wrap the other side around a pencil! 

When the student is done using his/her pencil they just stick it back on the desk Velcro dot.  TA-DAH!  Problem solved.  I usually put two Velcro dots on either side of my kiddo's desk and then give him/her four or five pencils with Velcro dots on them.  I swear, it has never been an issue again once they get the Velcro dots.  

PS- I also did this for one of my littles this year with his pencil case.  It fell off his desk at least six times a day.  No joke.  I slapped 6 Velcro dots on the bottom of his pencil case and match up six to his desk and bye-bye to scrambled pencil cases on the floor! 

Hope these {simple} ideas help you!  What are your BRIGHT ideas?!  Comment  a link to your post below! 

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Reading Snapshot: Daily Five!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's been awhile since I have done a Reading Snapshot but I wanted to post this before it becomes a distant memory.  As most of you know, I switched not only schools, but grade levels as well! I can now happily say #iteachk :)  This post is a bit of a throwback from when I taught first grade and I hope to use a modified version of my system later on in the year with my new kinders.  

This is the board that was at the front of my meeting area.  When introducing the D5 at the beginning of the year (through almost Thanksgiving!), we would focus on only one or two areas at a time.  This picture shows us about three weeks in when we had established our stamina for Read to Self and were working on building our stamina for Read to Someone.   We kept the "Read to Self I Chart" up as a reminder and also the stamina building graph for Read to Someone. 

These two photos are of my actual set up which dictated most of the system I had developed in my classroom.  Each leveled group in my class had a color.  The students would keep their materials (folder, notebook, and what books we were currently reading) in the bin.  The vertical shelf was tucked into the corner of my classroom library and hosted bins of "comfortable" books (Mo Willems, Dr. Seuss, Read Alouds, Chapter Books), paper for Word Work or Work on Writing, pencil cases, highlighters, crayons, and magnetic letters/magnetic whiteboards. This way everything the students needed was easily accessible, and more importantly, did not involve them needing me to stop what I was working on to get it or assist them.  

These little desks were pure MAGIC for my D5 set up.  The students pulled them out and could work independently on them for Work Work (picture 1) and Work on Writing (picture 2).   

I kept the materials that I used for the Word Work in these little containers.  Since I needed them to be totally independent I used my Wiki/Playdoh Sight Words and Letters Pack to keep the routines consistent.  They also loved the hands-on, tactile aspect of the activities. 

Each week we learned 6 new sight words, so I would put the new laminated word cards in the bin along with the record sheet, Wiki Stix,  Playdoh and letter stamps (they were a constant in the bins).  We would also keep some of the previous weeks' cards in there for review and practice as well.  

Now for the nitty-gritty, see if you can follow me... I am fortunate enough to have always had an Assistant Teacher in my classroom.  My literacy block was 60 minutes, so this model was based on 3 concurrently running stations, each station lasted 20 minutes.  Station One was teacher led small group phonics instruction,  Station Two was small group guided reading, and Station Three was independent Daily Five work.  My students would circulate amongst all three stations during the 60 minutes in their leveled group.  I would switch on and off with my AT on who would teach guided reading/phonics each week depending on what the kiddos needed.  The D5 Station always stayed the same.  Since we only had 60 minutes, 40 of which were spent with a teacher, I adjusted D5 a little; each day the students chose ONE option and stuck with that for the full 20 minutes.  

Students working at my group doing guided reading with our WhisperMaPhones.  You can read more about this post here.  

And some small group phonics work. 

Now, while Station One and Two are teacher led Station Three, aka D5, is completely and utterly independent!  And that takes PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!  I usually started introducing the modeling behaviors and stamina builders of Read to Self the second week of school, Read to Someone mid-third week, and practice those through week four.  Week five was Word Work because at that point we had accumulated enough of a sight word vocabulary to work independently  for 20 minutes.  

I would sit at my kidney table, my AT would be at a group of desks, and the D5 would be independently working in my library.  They could either Read to Self/Read to Someone on the bean bag chairs or take one of the mini lap desks and work on Word Work, Writing, or grab an iPad and Listen to Reading.  

Practice makes perfect!!! 

I know the main premise of the Daily Five is student choice.  We discussed how each day the students could choose whatever they wanted, but they could only do each option ONCE per week.   This way I ensure they were hitting each of the goals and not just always choosing the two most popular, Read to Someone and Word Work.  To help keep them on track I created this checklist.  It is a FREEBIE in my TpT Store.  Woo hoo! 

And, of course, since it was first grade and we always had a huge continuum of readers, our hallmark reading rule was.... 

And there you have it!  I miss my D5 routines but am super excited to implement these in a meaningful, developmentally appropriate way in Kindergarten later on in the year.  

Up next, how I organize my READNG BINDERS/planned for three simultaneous reading groups phonics, guided reading and Daily 5 activities each week.   

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My Whisper-Ma-Phone

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Then he grunts, "I will call you by Whisper-ma-Phone" 
for the secrets I tell you are for your ears alone
Down slupps the Whisper-ma-Phone to your ear
and the old Once-ler's whispers are not very clear,
since they have to come down
through a snergelly hose
and he sounds as if he had smallish bees up his nose 

-The Lorax

Last year, I ordered the WhisperPhone Select for my reading groups in the hopes to create more meaningful guided reading group activities.  At times it can seem quite repetitive or boring to just take turns reading aloud over and over and over again.   We have affectionately dubbed the WhisperPhone our "Whisper-ma-Phone" after the contraption the Once-ler uses in The Lorax.   It does have seven hoses but they are not "snergelly" in the least and I certainly hope I do not sound as though I have "smallish bees up my nose" when I speak through the phone! 

I use the Whisper-ma-Phone in two ways- Free Choice or Teacher's Choice.   For 'Free Choice' I put out bins of leveled books at the children's appropriate reading level.  Each child can choose his/her own book and read at his/her individual pace.  Since I am "keyed" in to each child, I simply turn the center dial to face the child I would like to listen to.  This creates a private two-way communication between that student and I.  I can ask them questions, listen to their fluency, or whisper praises or encouragement in their little ears.  

The second option is "Teacher's Choice" in which we all read one book together.  There is an option on the Whisper-ma-Phone that allows everyone to conference in together.  I typically do not use this option as it can get a little confusing with five or six children all listening to each other read at once!  I still will conference in with each child individually as I do with the "Free Choice" option, but I also am holding the book to read along, so I can provide more direct guidance or help if necessary.  I use this option more when we are increasing the difficulty levels of the texts so the students have more support.  

The little readers love the Whisper-ma-Phone.  The individual phone they hold to their ear allows them to hear themselves reading.  It is excellent for fluency practice and they love, love, love to hear themselves read! The hoses also expand out quite far so the littles can spread out and choose their own spot.  A lot of times they choose to sit in their cubbies and read from there while I sit at my horseshoe table and listen in.  

The Whisper-ma-Phone has been a huge hit in my classroom.  I try to use it at least once a month for some "down" time in reading.  The most IMPORTANT part of the Whisper-ma-Phone....

CLEANING IT!!! I give each child a sani-wipe after we finish a session and tell them to scrub, scrub, scrub! :) 

I also keep a few individual Whisper-ma-Phones in my Daily Five area for "Read to Self".  I find these help to keep the little readers focused and less distracted by  fellow "Read to Self"-ers in their area.  Of course, the bean bag chairs don't hurt!  I will do a more detailed post on how I run my D5 activities later on! :)

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