Five for Friday (7/31/15)


Happy Friday, y'all! It's the last Friday of July, meaning school is right around the corner.

Wednesday, I linked up with Kinder Tribe for our first ever What Worked Well Wednesday. It's full of great tips and tricks that have worked in our classrooms. You can read my post here and check out the Kinder Tribe linky here.

Last weekend, we took a quick trip to Lake Tahoe (by quick, I mean, we were there about 24 hours). We only had three kids with us this time.

This is how we Tahoe.

This dude ate crab legs for the first time. He was COVERED in butter by the time he was done.

This week, we're heading to San Diego to see my mother-in-law—one last trip before school starts. 
We started school supply shopping this week. My kids have been asking for weeks (they've seriously highlighted their supply lists and everything), so we headed to the store and got busy.

My Teacher's Pay Teachers store got a facelift. That little banner there was not working for me. There's a reason I am not a programer or code writer. This was a reminder why. I nearly cried trying to get it uploaded. But it's all good now. Do you like it? 

Monday and Tuesday, my entire store will be on sale as part of the TpT back to school sale. Check it out while everything is 20% off!

Swing by Doodle Bugs Teaching for some more Five for Friday fun and join me tomorrow for Spotlight Saturday.

Teaching With Intention: Chapter 8 The Thoughtful Use of Time


Welcome back for our last chapter of Teaching with Intention, organized and hosted by the Kindergarten Smorgasbord. This week's focus is on the thoughtful use of time.

We never seem to have enough time in the day to get everything done, do we? We rush around all day trying to fit it all in, but is any of it working? Miller points out, "In our rush to try to fit everything in, we've forgotten that children learn by doing. And learning by doing takes time."

When we rush to meet with each child as often as possible, we end up spending more time "touching base" and less time actually teaching them something. We might scratch the surface in 3-4 minute check-in with a student, but we won't be making much progress. When we take time with 1-2 students each day and work deeply with them, we'll make much more of an impact than if we try to confer with the entire class each week.

So we have to ask ourselves a very important question: Is it better to quickly confer with each student every week, or dig deeper with 1-2, or even 3, students a day? Is scratching the surface with each student more important than developing deeper skills more slowly?

I don't know about you, but I would rather work closely with a few students each day and make a BIG impact, than work with as many as possible in a day and only develop surface level skills. As Miller states, "It's not about how many children we confer with in a day, but how deeply we teach and touch those we do."

How do we do this? Keep it simple. We don't need lots of copies, expensive tools, or a thousand anchor charts. What do we need to teach reading? Good books. Maybe a reflection journal or two. Others we can bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. And time just to read.

Don't have a big classroom library? Go check out some books from the school or community library. Parents are often willing to donate books as well. Don't have reflection journals? Spiral notebooks are $.10 at back to school sales or use notebook paper. And I don't know about you, but in our classroom, we are never lacking for someone to talk to; anyone can talk about a book.

Miller uses a super simple strategy for keeping track of student conferences. She has a 4x6" spiral notebook for each student in her class. When she confers with them, she writes the big ideas in that child's notebook. She may jot down things the student said, teaching points, areas of focus for next time, or anything else she deems important. She keeps them in a basket on her desk. When she is done recording in that child's notebook, she puts it at the bottom of the stack so she knows she's already met with that student recently.

Every few days or so, she lays them out on the ground and sorts them by which skills different students need help with. For instance, if several need help with inferring, she may group those notebooks together, put a sticky note on the front to remind herself, and rubber band them together. Then she focuses on those skills with those students in their next lesson.

That is such a great way to keep it all organized and such a simple piece of documentation if it is ever needed in a meeting, for parent conference, or for report cards.

How do you keep track of your student data?

What Worked Well Wednesday (7/29/15)


Hey, y'all! I'm linking up with the Kinder Tribe gals (and guys) for our first ever What Worked Well Wednesday. 

We all know that a big part of teaching is trial and error. Sometimes things work great the first time around, sometimes…not so much. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we thought we'd share out some things that worked well for us, and, hopefully, will for you too. 

One thing that helped me out considerably was color coding just about everything. I started with my guided reading books. I use Reading A-Z books so I can easily make new copies if one gets lost or damaged. But, finding the right level quickly can be tough. So…I used different colors of duct tape to keep each level organized. Pink is reading level A, purple is B, lime is C, etc. 

The ones that look like they are not marked are printed in landscape so the tape is on the side, not the front. It also made it easy for parents to know when their child is moving up reading levels.

I used the same type of idea for the kids' notebooks. We had a notebooks for science, math, and poetry. Keeping them all straight was tough before I started doing this. Now I put a piece of tape on the spine of the notebook so they know which color to grab: pink for poetry, green for science, and purple for math. Sooooooo much easier than trying to get some of my lower ones to read the word. (I want them to, but developmentally some are just not ready at the beginning of the year.)

So, those are my favorite time savers and tricks. Swing by Kinder Tribe and see what other amazing ideas are out there.

Must Read Monday: Just for Fun


Happy, happy Monday! (I can be this perky about Monday because we are still on summer vacation! Ha!) This week, our focus is on just for fun books. Honestly, just for fun books are my favorite! Sometimes, we need to read just for the fun of reading, with no strings or lessons attached. I feel like these books are the ones that bond our class together because they are usually silly and leave us all in a good mood.

There Was an Old Lady…books I LOVE the Old Lady books. You know, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell…there's a TON of them. We read these books all year long and the kids LOVE when I pull out a new version for whatever season we're in. (They think it's all for fun, but we really read them for story retell practice.)

Mercy Watson to the Rescue This is one we read toward the end of the school year, usually on a day when the big kids are testing and we're supposed to be quiet (yeah, right) all day. It's hilarious and full of colorful pictures. It's a short chapter book, but feels like a picture book. I let the kids lay down and get all comfy, and we can usually ready the whole thing in one sitting (unless they are REALLY antsy and we have to split it up).

If you haven't met Mercy yet, she is a pig the "only child" of Mr. and Mrs. Watson. The family wakes up one morning to find their bed is sinking through their floor of their bedroom and are afraid of falling through. Mercy jumps off the bed and takes off. Mr. and Mrs. Watson think she is going to get help, but Mercy is really on a hunt for some pancakes. In a hilarious string of events, Mercy does get them help, but not intentionally.

Tiger Can't Sleep I LOVE this book and I love doing the voice of Tiger. Tiger lives in a little boy's closet and keeps him up at night with all his noise making. The boy gets frustrated with all of Tiger's antics, but in the end, Tiger admits that he's afraid of the dark, so the boy lets him sleep in his bed. So cute and sweet!

I Love You, Stinky Face I think I love this one because it reminds me of my son. The child in this book is stalling bedtime (Jay does this ALL THE TIME) by asking Mom, "Would you still love me if…" I was a dinosaur, I was a swamp monster, I was a super-smelly skunk, etc. Sometimes, we just need a book to distract us and help us regroup. This is one of my go-tos.
What are some of your favorites? Link up with us at Kindergarten Planet or the Kindergarten Connection, or leave me a comment below. Next week's book list: Holiday books.

Five for Friday (7/24/15)


Happy Friday, y'all! Some of us are already heading back to school but I have 4 more Fridays until the kids start. Here's what's been going on…
I did my first Periscope on Wednesday. It was terrifying. I couldn't even watch the replay. I thought I would be okay but I was shaking. #maybemyoneandonly

But I did have some good tips that may make your life easier if you are an OCD but forgetful teacher like me.
So, when I was growing up, my dad collected dinosaur books. He had so many books, he kept a little notebook with every title he owned written down alphabetically and by author. I thought he was crazy at the time, but I find myself forgetting I own certain titles and buying them two or three times (especially when the seasonal books come out and I'm motivated by holiday excitement to buy another—I'm not the only one who does this right?).

But keeping a notebook with all my book titles in it was just too much. I'd have to take it everywhere with me cause you never know when you'll walk by a display at Target (after spending $30 in the dollar spot) and see a book you just LOVE but can't remember if you have it. BUT I do carry something with me all the time…my phone. 

So, I created a Google Sheet on my computer, typed in all the books I own (well most of them), and downloaded the app to my phone. And presto! I have it all at the touch of my fingers.

I can sort them by title if I need to find one quickly:

I can also sort them by author. So if I know I have several Jan Bret books, but I can't remember which ones, I can pull her up quickly and check. You could also add fields for reading level or even genre or teaching point and sort them that way.

I created a couple extra sheets as well for the I Can Read books. Not that they couldn't go with the others, but it works better for me to have them separate. I don't usually use them as read alouds (although I have at times) so keeping them on a different page made sense for me.

I also made a page for my wish list. I always see new titles I'd like to get, so by putting them in the spreadsheet, I can find the title and author quickly when I get to the store.

This is what it looks like on the phone: 

It's small, but it's easier to work with than using a notebook I have to carry around everywhere.
Another tip I shared is how I keep my centers and copies organized. I have a binder for each month that I keep hard copies in of each thing I use.

I put each thing in a sleeve for easy viewing and group them by theme. So in August, all the first day of school stuff is together. All the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom stuff is together. All the Chester stuff is together. You get the drift. 

If it's too big to fit in a sleeve (like construction paper) I just punch holes in it and slide it in.

I make a couple extra of everything just in case. You never know when a water bottle is going to spill, a student is going to make a mistake with it and needs to start over, or a scissors accident is going to take place and they need a brand new one. So extras it is! 

But I hate throwing away extras. So I keep them. Almost all of them. And I file them in plastic file holders for next year, or emergencies. Cause you never know….

Each bucket has a label with what's inside. 

And there are lots of times we don't get to a certain thing and I have an entire class set of leftovers. If that happens, I file it away and when I'm planning the next year, I can use that set without having to make more copies. 

Why use the buckets instead of a filing cabinet? Well, have you ever moved rooms or schools? Have you ever had to empty a file cabinet and try to keep it all together? I have. This is MUCH easier. It's already done for me. I just have to pick it up and go.
Okay, now that we're all organized for back to school, let's talk lesson plans. I have a couple freebies for you if you haven't already snagged them. 

First is my Tens Frames Freebie. You can use them to count using erasers, play dough, etc., or you could hang them up with your calendar and add a sticker a day as y'all count the days of school. There are multiple color choices so they should work with just about every classroom color scheme. 

Start introducing centers with these FREE Back to School Play Dough Mats.

If you read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom at the beginning of the year, you'll want to do an ABC Scavenger Hunt to find the letters in the school or classroom. Place the letter cards around the school and go on an alphabet hunt to find them, learning letter names as you go. This set includes capitals and lower case letters for a matching game, and "Aw coconuts" cards as well. (Directions are included.) 

And of course, you'll have to assess them on their letters and everything else the first few weeks. This Kindergarten Beginning of the Year Assessment Pack has everything you need to get the ball rolling. 

But we want them to take ownership of their learning as well. Start them off right with their very own, kinder friendly, data binder (or folder, you know, whichever works for you). 

Now if you are a blogger like me, and you've been doing all of these challenges this summer, maybe you're needing a good tool to keep it all organized. I did. So I made a calendar to keep track of when I posted/blogged/tweeted/instagramed/etc. Maybe you'll find it helpful, too.

Whew, that was a busy post. I hope I left you with at least one resource you can use for this upcoming year. Please let me know in the comments if any of this was helpful to you.

Swing by Doodle Bugs Teaching for some more Five for Friday Fun!

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