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.

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 8 Empowerment

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Welcome back for chapter 8 of Learn Like a Pirate. This week's topic: Empowerment. 

We've been discussing for several weeks now about creating a classroom environment in which students are expected to lead. (If you're new to all this, start here.) But how do we make that happen? We empower them to do so. 

Solarz begins the school year by embedding student leadership and responsibilities in everything he does. "Let them know you expect them to take charge of these tasks." We've talked at length about how students can lead rituals and get the class's attention. Now lets turn our focus to taking charge of their learning.

Getting Passionate about Learning
Solarz uses Passion Time in his class for students to conduct self-directed research and projects. Topics must be approved by him and must be PHAT (Pretty Hard and Tough) questions. Solarz spends much time at the beginning of the year guiding students in developing PHAT questions, but as the school year progresses, students become much more adept at creating their own. 

He generally provides students 45 minutes to an hour twice a week to devote to their Passion Time projects. Students may work alone or with a partner on their projects but may only work with the each partner once a year. When students realize you care about them and their interests, it "heightens their motivation to produce excellent work" while "practicing the skills they need to be successful outside of school—researching, writing, planning, collaborating, revising, etc.—and enjoying the process.!" 

Of course there are steps to Passion Time:
  1. PHAT questions—approved by the teacher
  2. Planning
  3. Discover and Blog about it
  4. Wrap it up and share
  5. Peer feedback
Blogging about it would be a CHALLENGE in kindergarten, but student created books that are shared among the class could serve a similar purpose. They would still be able to create projects to represent their learning and share them among their peers, but on a more age-appropriate level. 

Other ways to create a passion for learning: Student created videos, time during or after school to create things of the child's choosing, and creating a safe environment that focuses on improvement and where making mistakes is okay.

How do you empower your students?

Stop by the Primary Gal and see what other bloggers have to say about Empowerment.

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 7 Assessment, Reflections, and Next Steps

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Welcome back for chapter 7 of Teaching with Intention. If you're just now joining us, the Kindergarten Smorgasbord organized this amazing summer book study. This week's hosts are Luv My Kinders and Famous in First, and our focus this week is on Assessment, Reflections, and Next Steps.

This chapter was super short, but the big idea is using that out loud thinking from our students as formative assessments to guide our instruction. We use formative assessments all the time, so often we may not even think about it.

Some ways we use formative assessment throughout the day:
  • Conferring
  • Listening in
  • Observing
  • Examining
  • Charting student thinking
  • Reflecting, sharing, and teaching
When we have all this info from our students, we are able to figure out which way to go next. Do we need to go back and reteach? Do we need to move more quickly? Did we miss a key point? By observing and talking with our students we can make those adjustments quickly. 

This is why I love guided reading and guided math. I can quickly figure out which students have mastered certain skills and which still need practice. For those that are rocking and rolling with a certain concept, I can dig deeper with them and challenge them to go farther. For those that are still working on a skill, I can provide more support. 

When reflecting on a lesson, ask yourself two questions:
  1. What did I learn from my students during the workshop?
  2. Where do I/we need to go next with our learning? 
Once you have those questions answered, you'll be able to prepare for the next step.

Be sure to stop by next week for empowerment strategies. 

All About this Kinder Tribe Teacher!


Hey, hey, hey! Thanks for checking out the brand new Kinder Tribe blog! Today, we're taking time to get to know each other. 

Experience...I've taught kindergarten for three years, but I've worked with kids for 15 years. I've worked with special ed students, in daycares, and with our church programs.

Can't live—it's a double-edged sword. I work on the computer all the time for school and TpT. I'm working on scheduling time to unplug. :-/

Favorite school supplycolored pens. Specifically, Ink Joy. I have them all over my house and classroom. The kids will be complete angels if it means they can use one of my pens.

Favorite book…I can't name just one. I have a favorite for each season or topic and I am always finding new books that I love. My favorite types of books are social stories and rhyming books.

Favorite blog…that's another tough one. There are so many talented teachers out there that I follow. When I'm looking for a little inspiration for the classroom, I tend to run across one of those three blogs above.

I love kinder because…they get excited about EVERYTHING! A bug in the classroom? You know they'll talk about that all year. A parent walks in unannounced? Highlight of the week. New unit on animals? It'll send them over the edge!  Everything is the BEST. THING. EVER! And they're hilarious. I find myself writing down the silly things they say almost everyday. There is never a dull moment in kindergarten.

So that's me. Thanks for reading this far. Stop by the Kinder Tribe blog to read about some other amazing kinder teachers and have a great day!

Tell all Tuesday: My Dream Classroom


Happy Tuesday, y'all! Welcome back for another Tell all Tuesday, hosted by Teach Talk Inspire and My Day in K. This week's topic: My Dream Classroom. 

Now, when someone says "dream," I am a go big or go home kind of dreamer. So, if we're talking my absolute dream classroom, I'd have to start here: 

This is a school in Japan and it's one big open space. Kids can explore all over the place and move as they need to. Trees grow through the building and children are able to climb them without all the adults panicking. There are some safety nets, but children are allowed to explore and take risks while building gross motor skills and core strength. 

I love the natural wood and earthy feel of the classrooms. The classrooms are open air and children are free to roam. 

One article states: "So, as kindergarteners, they're bound to run off in a huff or out of excitement once in awhile. Don't you have to contain them? According to the principal, no, you do not. 'If the boy in the corner doesn't want to stay in the room, let him go. He'll come back eventually…because it's a circle.' They leave and they come back, it's a natural process." 

Because of the design of the school and the school's philosophy, they produce very athletic and active kids compared to other kindergartens. Their students run an average of 2.5 miles a day.  The picture below shoes one child's path in just 20 minutes. 

Now, I'm not moving to Japan any time soon, but I LOVE  the freedom and child-centernednes of this school. How does this apply to our traditional American classrooms? I know this style is way outside the box, but there are some practical ways we can utilize these concepts in our classrooms. We can start by letting them have some fresh air, a little freedom to make choices and coach them in handling the consequences, and give them room to practice gross motor skills. We can use natural materials in our rooms such as wicker baskets instead of plastic tubs. We can hang their work with simple strings instead of fancy clips. And we can eliminate a lot of the flash and bling which is distracting for littles, and focus instead on creating a calming, natural environment. 

Maybe I'm weird, but this would be my dream classroom. I may not be able to make this happen state-side, but I can use some of the elements from this school in my own classroom. 

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to check out some of the other dream rooms. 

Must Read Monday: Rhyming


Mondays in the summer are so much better than Mondays the rest of the year aren't they? I LOVE teaching and I love being with my littles, but there is just something about Mondays, don't you think? This Monday we're talking about rhyming books. 

One of my FAVORITE rhyming books is Hiccupotamas. In this book, the hippo gets the hiccups which disturb his friends around him. At first, they become upset, then they decide to help. In the end, his hiccups are gone, but his friends end up with them! The rhymes are forced in this story and they are HILARIOUS. My kids are always either really entranced or laughing out loud. It is such a fun read aloud. 

Dr. Seuss is a classic example of rhyming books. We spend a whole week on just Dr. Seuss in March, but one of my all-time favorites is There's a Wocket in my Pocket. We focus on using your imagination in your writing when we read this book, then we do a "What's in your pocket?" craft. 

I also use Mr. Brown Can Moo to talk about onomatopoeia. The kids were ALL OVER this book and one reading resulted in sound words in EVERYTHING they wrote (whether they needed them or not lol). 

Giraffes Can't Dance is a super cute book I just found. Gerald the giraffe wants to dance with the other animals, but he finds out he moves to a different beat. Once he discovers his song, he becomes the best dancer around. It's a great starting point for discussing being nice to those who march to a different beat and being patient with yourself in finding your rhythm. 

In the spirit of back to school, Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten is a classic back to school rhyming book.

Room on the Broom and Five Little Pumpkins are a couple of my favorite Halloween rhyming stories.

And while I'm on holiday stuff, let's not forget 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving. Told like 'Twas the Night before Christmas, this story depicts the saving of the Thanksgiving turkeys by a colorful class of kids. It's worrisome for a moment, so give your class a heads up before you read, but it has a happy ending so there is no need to worry. (I had twins one year that were very upset at first—disclaimers are your friends!) 

I hope I introduced you to at least one new book. Stop by next week for our just for fun books. Now swing by Kindergarten Planet and the Kindergarten Connection for more great read alouds. 

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