Must Read Monday: Math Books


Happy Monday! It's summer so I hope no one has a "case of the Mondays." I'm partnering up with the Kindergarten Connection and Kindergarten Planet to bring you another edition of Must Read Monday. This week's focus is on math books.

In kindergarten, we spend a LOT of time on number recognition and counting. Some of my favorite books to introduce these skills are:

I usually read Chicka Chicka 123 the same week we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and we do a little comparison of the texts. 123 Peas is another cute intro to counting. And The April Rabbits is out of print (I think) but there are a few on Amazon from independent sellers still. In this book, the main character sees one rabbit on the first of April, two on the 2nd, 3 on the 3rd, and so on. On the last day of April he doesn't see any rabbits, anywhere. BUT, a hippo follows him home. Dun, dun, DUN...

I found this super cute book, Pick a Circle, Gather Squares,  about shapes we see in the fall. We read the book together, then made these super cute fall shape trees. The back of the tree has the number of each type of shape used (8 circles, 17 squares, etc)

We do activities like this throughout the year. We've made shape scarecrows, shape turkeys, shape sandcastles, etc. Thank goodness for die cut machines! 

If you haven't seen Math Start books yet, you should definitely check them out. They have books to cover nearly every topic. 

I was luck enough to have inherited a set from another teacher. They have topics for counting, adding, subtracting, the 100th day of school, capacity, size, time, etc. And they're not seasonal, so when the curriculum map changes, they can still be used! 

I hope at least one of these book is new to you or gives you some ideas. Swing by next week for books on cooperation. Now, head over to the Kindergarten Connection and Kindergarten Planet for more great math books!

Rock Your First Year of Teaching!


Are you new teaching? I remember my first year, I was in my classroom as soon as I could to start setting up. I know if I could do the decorations and room arrangement before PD started, I might actually have time to do all of things I didn't know I wouldn't know to do. (Does that make sense?) There is JUST. SO. MUCH. at the beginning of the year. But you can do it. We've got your back.

There is a whole community out here to help you get started and we've teamed up with tips for you to ROCK your first year of teaching. I'm linking up with Teaching with Crayons and Curls to bring you a few pieces of advice.

Over Plan Everything: I mean everything. If you have downtime, things get chaotic. That being said, if you do suddenly have downtime the first week or so of school, practice procedures, read aloud a favorite book, or review material. Plan on doing things like practicing how to get out and use markers, how to line up, how to hold scissors. Assume they know nothing (especially in primary) and plan to practice everything. 

Make sure you have a plan for what to do if lessons finish faster than you anticipate. It takes time to learn how long a lesson or activity will take. The longer you teach, the easier this will be. Early finisher tubs are great ways to keep the ones who ALWAYS finish early occupied and learning. They can also read (or look at a book for younger kiddos) independently or write/draw quietly. I have an arsenal in my classroom of "extras" just in case. 

Be Flexible: There will be surprises, teachable moments, an assembly you didn't know or forgot about, or you may have to call a class meeting. Always be flexible. Sometimes you may have to stop a lesson, go back, and start over. Sometimes you may have to address something important with you class. Sometimes someone throws up on the rug and the cleaning machine the janitor uses is so loud and distracting you can't carry on with the lesson. Be flexible. 

(If the throw up things happens, and it's bound to happen sooner or later, I've done several things. If it's close enough to recess, we may go out a little early. We may take a restroom break or color/read quietly at the tables. Have a plan. You just never know. Can you tell I've had this happen a time or two?) 

Listen to More Experienced Teachers: Usually, other teachers want to help you succeed. They may do things differently than you do and that's okay. But their experience has driven them to do things a certain way. Listen to and learn from them. They do things for a reason. 

Ignore Advice: Other teachers genuinely want to help you. You don't have to do everything everyone tells you to, but don't ignore it either. It may or may not be your style, but people give advice for a reason. Think about it. tweak it if you need to, but don't ignore it. 

Try To Do It All Your First Year: Teaching is like juggling 30 balls at once. I'm not trying to scare you—you've got this—but I want you to be prepared. Don't try to do it all your first year. Focus on engaging lesson plans, forming relationships with your students, data collection, documentation, and meeting your deadlines. Some schools require teachers to serve on committees their first year, some don't. Please don't sign up for every committee or event your first year. Focus on getting the hang of teaching while maintaining your sanity, then add in extra duties. 

Trust Your Gut: You will get advice from everyone—even non-teachers. You are a smart, educated teacher. There is a reason the state granted your certification. Trust yourself and your gut instincts. Do what you feel is right for your students. Not every new idea, strategy, or technique will work for you and your students. You know your kids better than anyone else in the school. Do what is best for them. 

My first year of teaching, I got advice from everyone and their mother. And none of it was the same from person to person. One person would say, "do this", another would say, "oh never do that!" That's the fasted way to confuse and frustrate someone right there. When I threw out all their well meaning advice and did things the way I knew my students needed it to be done, we started having a blast. I was more relaxed and less stressed, which meant the whole class was happier. I was focusing on what worked best for them and me and we were ALL so much happier. And guess what? They were still learning! 

Trust me, you've got this. You have people out here more than happy to help you out. We ALL want to see you succeed. If you ever need a pep talk, just let me know. ;) Plan, be flexible, listen, and trust yourself. 

Now stop by Teaching with Crayons and Curls to see what other wonderful teachers have to say about rocking your first year. 

3-2-1 Weekend Warriors (Teacher Bio)


Hey there, y'all! It's time for Weekend Warriors! This is my first time linking up and I am so excited to share this month's theme: Teacher Bio!

1) As teachers, I think we all love colored pens. I have a collection at home, at school, in my purse, in my bag, in my suitcase…and no, my own children can't use them. They have their own!

2) I have worked with kids in some capacity for 15 years (daycares, church, special ed, soccer teams), but I have only "officially" taught kindergarten for the last 3 years.

3) At the end of the year this year, our schedules were so jam-packed that I brought back an oldie but goody: DEAR time. (Drop Everything And Read) For those of you youngin's this is essentially Read to Self, but with one key factor: EVERYONE in the class stops and reads, even the teacher. By doing this, teachers model good independent reading time by showing good independent reading. It took a little bit,  but they soon figured out that if I was reading, I would not stop and answer questions, or tie a shoe, or listen to their story about what their puppy did yesterday. We were ALL reading. And they LOVED IT. With all the craziness the end of the year brings, being able to drop everything and read was comforting to all of us. And they loved that I did it too.

1) We have five kids at home. Yes, five. We are a Brady Bunch with him having 2 and me having 3. They are all really close in age (14, 13, 12, 11, 9) and when we go places, we tend to bring the party with us. If they're hyper, we can be really overwhelming. And don't get me started on the after school schedules…

2) I just have to sing along with the radio. I can't just sit in a car and listen quietly, or not have music at all. I think I would die. I love car trips by myself because I can turn it up and belt it out in my off-key, terrible singing voice. (And I don't have to censor the songs with the bad words :) )

Travel anywhere really. I've seen most of the southern half of the U.S. and parts of the east and west coasts, but I would LOVE to go overseas and Europe is stop #1. I'm not picky, I'll go just about anywhere. My dream would be to visit London, Italy, France, Greece, Germany, Spain, you name it. With the Mr.'s job, we can fly free almost anywhere in the U.S. but not abroad and those ticket prices are a bit much for us right now. Someday we'll make it there. 

So that's me. Now it's your turn. Link up with us and share your 3-2-1 bio by grabbing the images below and adding your blog link!

Five for Friday (6/26/15)


Happy Friday, y'all. This week's been a doozie down here in Texas. You know, when it rains it pours. But my momma always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." So here's five nice things for this week. (Y'all I had to try hard.) 

I am loving these book studies I'm doing. I've been linking up with some fabulous ladies (and gentlemen) to read and discuss Teaching with Intention and Learn Like a Pirate. (I'm also trying to finish the Essential 55, but I keep getting distracted.) I don't think either of these books are changing my vision for my classroom, but they are definitely helping to define my vision. If you haven't read either of these yet, I highly recommend them. (That 1-click purchase feature on Amazon is dangerously convenient!)

At a PD last summer, we shared about our "special child." The child that is the reason you teach. The one you will never forget. The child that makes you a stronger teacher and challenges you to think creatively to reach him/her. I shared about my son at that time because he was the one still at that school, but really I have five.

This was from last year and they have all grown about a foot in height. But each one is so unique and special. Each has amazing strengths, their own, individual challenges, and a creative side that can leave me speechless. For instance, I walked into the boys' bedroom to find this yesterday: 

Can't say he doesn't know how to entertain himself...
Anyone else have Vegas on the brain? We're just about ready. The kids are all going to their gradmas' houses for the week, and Ben and I have the hotel to ourselves for 6 days!!! I will miss the kids dearly and I will probably be calling to check on them everyday. But they're bigger now and these grandmas have it under control. I'm sure they'll be fine (insert worried mommy voice here).

Anyway, I've prepped as much as I can really. I've ordered business cards, a phone case, buttons, and t-shirts, printed my session handouts, organized a binder complete with handouts and itinerary, and booked everything. The countdown is on.

We booked our room through Ben's company's perks website and got 2 free tickets to Rock of Ages at the Venetian. I have been to Vegas to see family and do the local stuff, but I've never spent a significant amount of time on the strip or seen a show there. And to have a date night there is icing on the cake.

Now it's time to get something to wear! We have our last regular swim meet tomorrow, downtime (or crunch time) next week, 4th of July (which is also our oldest's birthday), and then it's go-time!

I hope with this trip, I will come back with some valuable to take my teaching and my TpT store to the next level, as well as make some lasting friendships. Whoever said teachers are lucky to have summers off never lived with a teacher. I have read, blogged, organized, and worked worked on PD and products all summer so far. And I am so excited to continue that learning in Vegas.

Are you going? What are you working on this summer? Have you had any lightbulb moments while reflecting his summer? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out Doodle Bugs Teaching to see what everyone has going on this week and stay tuned for tomorrow's Spotlight Saturday!.

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 4

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Welcome back! I'm linking up with the Primary Gal for another chapter of Learn Like a Pirate! This chapter is all about improvement focus vs. grade focus

Solarz writes, "When students focus on grades rather than learning, extrinsic motivation drives their performance." It's the whole "you behave and you get a sticker" mentality. When the focus is on the external motivating factor (grades, stickers, treasure box junk—I HATE treasure box junk) instead of growth and internal motivating factors, kids (and adults) get into the habit of learning it just enough to do well on the test or pass the class then forget it all. When the focus is on improvement, the competition comes from within. "Assessment and feedback, rather than a focus on grades, pushes students toward constant growth."

As a kinder teacher, I feel that I am constantly providing feedback. I work with small groups nearly all day which provides ample opportunities for feedback. What I need to work on is teaching my littles how to provide feedback to each other in kind, helpful ways.

Solarz explains how he handles behavior with feedback rather than consequences. Expectations are given and class rules are known. When there is a behavior issue, he follows 3 steps:
  1. a warning
  2. a behavior point
  3. a Work-it-Out ("think sheet" or "reflection sheet")
By beginning with a warning, calmly and as a teaching point, students have an opportunity to make adjustments to their own behavior without it escalating. A behavior point is a recorded 2nd warning. And a think sheet gives the student a chance to take a break, think about it, and plan a better course of action. When the goal is on improvement rather than punishment or consequences, students are able to make adjustments to their behavior while maintaining support from their teacher and without power struggles. Solarz says, " When you constantly provide feedback and stay aware of escalating situations, most problems can be prevented or caught early on so that they don't require a consequence." 

This chapter also discusses the value of closing the lesson and allowing reflection time for students. In his 5th grade class, Solarz used ePortfolios for students to explain their thinking and share what they learned. In a kindergarten classroom, I would need several aides to make that happen. BUT, exit slips or reflection journals could do the same thing, just on a more kinder-friendly level. 

In our classroom, we have a Super-Improver Chart (thank you Whole Brain Teaching). When a student has improved on something (using their words, mastering a sight word level, finally getting those math concepts, lining up without creating chaos—yes, I had THAT friend) they can add a sticker to their improver chart. When they get 10 stickers, they move up a level. This was our chart mid-year.

The kids and I both loved it. We focused on growing and competing with ourselves, rather than with each other. I plan on doing it again next year. It really helps me to look for what is improving (the positives) and not focus on what needs to be improved (the negatives).

What do you do to focus on growth rather than extrinsic rewards like grades?

Stop by next week for Chapter 5 and see what other bloggers have to say about this week's chapter over at the Primary Gal.

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 4


Welcome to Chapter 4 of the Teaching with Intention book study, hosted by the fabulous Kindergarten Smorgasbord. This week's leaders are Schroeder's Shenanigans in 2nd and Positively Learning. This chapter is all about creating classroom cultures that teach, support, and promote THINKING. (Cause we all know some people who need help with that, right?)

Debbie Miller focuses on three key ideas for creating a thinking classroom:
  1. putting our thinking on display
  2. the intentional use of language: and
  3. making thinking visible, public, and permanent. 

By this, she simply means thinking out loud, sharing our thinking processes with our students, and encouraging our students to do the same. Using phrases like, "Did you notice…," "So what you're thinking is…," "What leads you to believe that?" helps students articulate what their own thinking process is. 

Miller says, "Teachers who put their thinking on display are teachers who are present. When we're present, we're tuned in to our thinking and responsive to what's going on in the classroom and the world; we're actively seeking truth and understanding. We make our thinking visible to show students what we want for them; we're showing them how being curious, thoughtful, and reflective enhances and enriches who we are as active teachers, learners, and citizens of the world." If that's not a good enough reason to think out loud, I don't know what is. 

Miller goes on to say how as a new teacher, she was so busy managing the classroom and keeping the kids busy, that she didn't have the time to stop, reflect, and model her thinking with her students. She says, "I used to think it was a luxury to be curious, thoughtful, and reflective. Now I know being curious, thoughtful, and reflective is a necessity." 

It is not enough to say good job, or even "What a thoughtful conversation we had today." When talking with our students we have to be specific about what it is that was good or thoughtful. When a child is trying to explain or respond to something, we can encourage his/her train of thought by saying things like, "Keep going," "What else?" or "Tell me more." 

Think anchor charts showing the thought processes that go into developing a conclusion. In her book, she shows an example of an anchor chart constructed to show how their thinking of The Harmonica changed over time. This is a great way to pull the invisible thinking process out and make it visible and concrete.

As a kindergarten teacher, I make TONS of visuals for and with my students. Our thinking goes down on chart paper nearly every day. But what I need to work on is verbalizing the process that it took to get to those conclusions. I'm good at voicing the conclusion, but not so much on the process. Except math—math is all about the process. I also need to work on supporting them as they learn to verbalize the process. Five year olds have a hard time with metacognition, but if we make it a focus in our classroom, it can quickly become a skill they can use for a lifetime.

As I read, I visualized having a thought parking lot in my classroom—a place where students can write their thoughts down on a sticky note and post it to the parking lot. We can gather our thoughts and elaborate on them as a class later or refer to them as needed.

What did this chapter make you think of? What lightbulb moments did you have? Please share out in the comments!

Tune in next week for Chapter 5 and see what everyone else has to say over at Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and Positively Learning.

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 3

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Welcome back for Chapter 3 of Learn Like a Pirate! I'm teaming up with the Primary Gal for this summer book study linky. This week's chapter is about peer collaboration.

I think the goal in every grade level is (or should be) for students to be able to work together collaboratively without issue. This can be hard for many (MANY) students, but it is an essential life skill. The sooner children learn how to be respectful collaborators, the easier their working relationships will be in all areas of their lives (think soccer fields, youth groups, family, etc.).

Solarz gives several strategies for teaching children how to work together, how to problem solve conflicts, how to get others' attentions, and how to differentiate between active leaders and passive leaders.

In case you're wondering, active leadership is "when someone actively tries to influence others' behavior," such as speaking directly to them or directing them. Passive leadership is leading by example and others choose to follow them. "Passive leadership shows respect while encouraging others to follow suit." In this chapter, Solarz provides examples of how he encourages his students to lead, saying things like, "Please make sure that everyone in your group understands what to do before you begin," and, "Please check your neighbor's paper to see if the first four steps are done. If not, please help him or her catch up." I love these prompts because they guide students to support their classmates so that no one is left in the lurch.

He discusses "Responsibility Partners" quite a bit in this chapter as well. Responsibility partners work together as a team, not necessarily splitting the workload, but thinking together so that each partner understands what's going on. Partners keep each other on task, talk through problems together, work collaboratively, and share responsibility for success and struggles. Solarz says, "Our class is not about winning as individuals, its about winning as a team." I cannot begin to describe how much I love this. As a class, we learn together, we grow together, and we take care of each other. We are a family, a team, a unit.

At the end of chapter 2, I was still really concerned about handing this kind of responsibility over to 5 and 6 year olds. I still have some reservations, but I am beginning to see how I can implement this in my classroom. I usually have about a third of the class born leaders at the beginning of the year, a third is borderline, and a third needing lots of support. Given the strategies provided so far, I'm thinking the top two-thirds could be well on their way to owning this type of class structure fairly quickly and being excellent models to the ones still working on these skills.  

Rambling train of thought here: Kindergarten begins to lay the foundation for academic success. This model of class structure develops a class full of leaders who take initiative for their learning and are respectful citizens of their school family. Shouldn't that be the basis of our education system? Shouldn't we focus on this heavily in early childhood so that, by the time they are in content-rich classes, they take responsibility for their school and their learning? Shouldn't we teach them at a young age how to be respectful and responsible collaborators? And shouldn't this be an ongoing endeavor throughout their school years? 

As scary as it seems from the teacher's perspective to have a student-led class in kindergarten, the results could far outweigh our own reservations. When I have provided project-based learning experiences in the classroom, my students have taken the resources I have provided them with and ran with it (not literally, that would be unsafe). Imagine what they could do if we provided a classroom they were responsible for running. We already have classroom jobs, why not take it a few steps further? 

What do you think? How do you feel about creating a student-led classroom? Does it scare you or excite you? Are you thinking, "Oh, heck no!" or "I can't wait to start?!" Let me know in the comments below.

Tune in next week for Chapter 4: Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus. 

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 3

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Welcome back for Chapter 3 of the Teaching with Intention book study, organized by the fabulous Kindergarten Smorgasbord. This week's hosts are Surfing through Second, The Learning Chambers, and Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching. I love it when I'm reading a professional development type book and I keep thinking, "Yes! Yes! Yes! That's so true!" Yeah...this is that book.

Chapter 3 focuses on classroom environment, and begins with the story of Katy. Katy was a new teacher who was overwhelmed with stuff--stuff that was left over from another teacher, the kids' stuff,  and her own stuff. All the "stuff" made it hard to focus in her room and the classroom was so cluttered that she and the kids couldn't think or even move!

She had a vision for her classroom and her teaching and she wasn't able to create the kind of learning environment she envisioned because of all the stuff and demands on her time. Her teaching demands made it tough to get the environment under control, but the environment hindered her teaching.

Raise your hand if you can relate. I won't judge, I've been there. In my first year, it wasn't "stuff" that inhibited our learning environment, but I did struggle with keeping the vision I had prior to the first day of school. My naivety coupled with district time demands and unexpected student behaviors threw that vision out the window. Year one was all about survival, as it is for many new teachers. Thank goodness it gets better!

So what do you do when your vision for your classroom and your current state don't match up? You fix it. Like, now.  

Clear your space. Start fresh. Sort, purge, give away, whatever you need to do. Clear off all the surfaces. Empty whatever you can out of the file cabinets. Move all the furniture to one spot and get ready to take stock of what you have and how you want to use it. Just as you did when you walked into your first classroom for the first time, think about every little detail and how you can use what you have.

Create your vision. What would your ideal classroom look like? Comfy pillows? A class meeting area? Partner areas? Centers? What do YOU want for your classroom and how can you get it there?

Now, take a reality check. We may not all have a spacious classroom with huge windows, a loft, and an aide. But what can we control? What do we have that we can use? Can we trade another teacher for something we want or need? Can we group desks if we don't have the tables we want? How can we make this work? Then get busy!

My favorite part of this chapter is the discussion on Passion Places. When Katy was reorganizing her room, she had a discussion with her students about her teaching beliefs and her hopes for their learning. This discussion turned into one about passion. "One child defined it as 'what it is you like, love, and cherish; what it is that makes you, you.' They wanted their classroom to reflect their passions in some way; they wanted opportunities to explore them and share them with one another." These fifth graders had some insightful ideas about passion. My favorite is:

So long story short, the class and Katy decided to organize the room into Passion Places, that is areas of the room that housed books and materials that focused on their passions: science, social studies, writing, math, music, art, etc. In the kindergarten world, these are "Centers 2.0." I absolutely love the idea of housing books and artifacts in the different center areas passion places of our room. And calling them "Passion Places" instead of centers is right up my alley. What an amazing way of highlighting our learning! (I'm seeing anchor charts and book bins in every center Passion Place.)

Now, the room doesn't have to be "finished" when the kids walk in the door on the first day of school. You should have procedures ready, places to house things, and a vision for how your classroom should look, sound, and feel. But the "stuff" on the walls should grow and change with your kids and their needs. An empty word wall and places to hang anchor charts could be ready to go, but your students' work and anchor charts created with your students will soon fill in the empty spaces. When your littles walk in the first day, the room should say, "Welcome! There is plenty of room for you here! We're going to make this place our home."

What are your thoughts on this? How do you make your classroom a warm, inviting place where you can do your best thinking?

See what others have to say about this chapter by checking in with the sponsors above, and don't forget to stop by next week for Chapter 4!

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