Hello tired teachers! Or is that just me? I'm only on day 4 with my kiddos and I'm pretty sure I might fall asleep while typing this! It's worth it though, because it's the last day for the amazon gift card and book giveaway! Kathleen at Kidpeople Classroom is featuring this week's book, No More Noisy Nights. It's a cute story that promotes brainstorming how to be a problem solver (so important for all of our little ones).
As for me, I've been diving full swing back into my read alouds! Every time we have a few minutes to spare I've been pulling one out - just to get the kiddos into the love of reading. I have twins in my class this year and for their birthdays yesterday, their mom was kind enough to send in two books for our class to read! I hadn't read either of them so I was pretty excited to try them out. The one I want to talk about today is called The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.
This book is dedicated to all the perfectionists out there. This sweet girl has a magnificent idea in her head, but she just can't seem to bring it to life! She recruits her not-so-perfect dog to help her. She tries everything and she makes tons of creations, but none are quite right.
At a certain point, she considers giving up. She even loses her temper.
But the angrier she gets, the harder it is to make anything fit together. She realizes that the only way she can get it right is to calm down and work through it carefully. Of course her dog stands by for moral support. Finally, she comes up with something that is almost exactly what she wants. It's not quite the weight she wants, the paint isn't exactly the color she envisioned, but she's realized that nothing has to be perfect in order to be magnificent.
I think this book sends such a great message to kiddos. It shows them that their work doesn't have to be exactly as they planned and it doesn't have to turn out perfectly, but it can still be pretty magnificent!
I'm off to finish adjusting my plans, like we all do during those first couple of weeks, and then shortly after I think I'll just collapse right on the couch and snuggle up with my pups. If you're thinking of doing the same, you should! You deserve it! The first few weeks are exhausting for all of us!
Don't forget to visit Kathleen at Kidpeople Classroom for your last chance to enter the giveaway!
This week Kathleen at Kidpeople Classroom is doing her second Amazon gift card and book giveaway! This week the giveaway book is called The Day I Ran Away. Honestly, I haven't read it, but I just looked it up and it looks right up my kindergarten-loving alley! It's all about a little girl who recounts her day after having a tantrum. It seems like a great book to read to your kiddo when needing to establish a safe place for them when life just gets to be too much.
As for me, I'm switching gears to one of my professional resource reads. We had three professional development days last week and one focused solely on the new book our district is implementing. I am a reading freak so of course the training reminded me of one of my all-time favorite and coveted "teacher" books. It's called The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson. At the beginning of my career I spent hours and hours reconfiguring my guided reading. I just couldn't quite get it right! The set up and introduction to it was the toughest part for me. Jan Richardson lays out some very developmental ways to introduce your reading stations. I spent a summer a few years ago reading this book, implemented her ideas and I've never looked back! The key is to start with some "free choice" type centers in place of strictly academic centers during this time. Usually I keep my centers loosely reading based at the beginning, but very game like and simple (like my abc matching alligators). Keep rotations short and only start with one rotation a day. It's a pretty slow process (6-8 weeks before complete guided reading implementation), but it is SO worth it in the long run, especially with kinders. It helps with transitions and complete understanding of the routines required for a smoothly run Reading Center time. She also encourages keeping students involved in the process.
The pictures above were my students about halfway through the process - some academic centers had been added, but there were still non-academic centers integrated at that time as well. They were so engaged and excited about that time because they were able to run it themselves. Why? Because they were involved in creating the routines with me!
Don't forget to go and check out Kidpeople Classroom so that you can be a part of this week's giveaway! Stay tuned for next week's!
And just like that, we're back in school! I start screening with my kinders today. I'm excited for this new group of kiddos and to see what this year has in store for us. Since I'm back to work full-time, my Make it Monday project was actually made over the weekend, but who's really keeping track? Two years ago around this time, I wrote a post detailing how I made my easy lunch choice and attendance chart. That project took me hardly any time, was basically free and has made a huge difference in the organization of my mornings! Also, looking back at the pictures of it when it was brand new makes me realize just how well loved it is. It may need a little bit of a makeover now!
Similar to how I once felt about the chaos that was lunch choice and attendance, I now feel that way about my free choice centers. In the past I've always just let my students just pick where they wanted to go without limits. With some classes that works really well and with others... not so much. I was lucky last year and my students could have run my room without me 99% of the time, but I'm coming in prepared this year just in case!
I decided to have a limit of 2-4 students per center this year just to eliminate crowding which in turn eliminates a lot of conflict. I used the same exact materials as I did for my attendance chart. I got all these items for less than $10 at Target. How could we teachers live without that store, seriously? Don't ask how much I ended up coming out with. I can never leave with just what I intended to purchase!
The thing I love about washi tape is how easy it is to readjust. You'll see that partway through making my chart I realized that I hadn't quite included all of my center choices. Luckily I was able to reuse the same pieces of tape rather than starting over and just moved them around. They still stuck perfectly!
I also ended up using a Sharpie Paint marker to label - it just had better coverage than the regular marker. I have free choice at the end of each day, so the plan now is to have students move their attendance magnet from their lunch choice over to this chart each afternoon in order to pick their free choice center. It'll bring some more organization to that unstructured part of the day and it will allow me to see exactly where each student picked to be that day. Plus I can use the same magnets for both procedures! It's all still a work in progress, but I'm pretty excited to implement it! Using this cookie sheet is perfect because I don't have a lot of wiggle room in my classroom and this will fit in just about any space!
Good luck to all of you going back to school this week as well. Love on those kiddos! Some are nervous, some are missing home and some can't contain their excitement! I know that our goal is to help them all to be happy to come back (or start for the first time) to see the faces of the teachers who care for them!
It's here! Kathleen at Kidpeople Classroom has her first book and Amazon gift card giveaway this week! To get more info about this week's giveaway check out her page. She has given a great review of this week's featured book. I think I'm going to have to get a copy for myself!
I'm floating through lesson ideas for my first few weeks of school and certain books come to mind such as First Day Jitters, Kindergarten Rocks and Making Friends is an Art. The book I most want to discuss today is The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. This book is so cute and is so helpful for when I start teaching how to properly illustrate and use colors that make sense.
I especially love this book because it is written to a child from the crayons' perspectives. It's a fun way to teach students how to appropriately treat their school supplies. The illustrations are great, too because they look at though a child could have made the pictures.
At the end of the book it shows what the child could accomplish in his illustrations once he learned how to use his crayons in the correct way. Every time I read this book my students are always so excited to go and create their own masterpiece afterward!
Don't forget to hop over to Kidpeople Classroom to sign up for this week's giveaway!
Hi All! I feel a little bit like I'm living my life through memes today. Friends memes to be exact. It's still my favorite show of ALL TIME and makes letting go of July a little easier.
Of course we'll all miss summer, but I'm getting that back to school itch, too. I'm ready to get into my new school, meet my team and my new sweet kiddos! So I'm riding the roller coaster all teachers do at the end of the summer. Ramping up for the new year, but a little sad to leave all that sunshine and extra time with my sweet fur babes. I mean just look at these faces!
But with the school year quickly approaching (my orientation is Thurdsay!!) I've become motivated to get everything organized for the new year. Our curriculum night isn't until a couple weeks after school starts, but it got me thinking about how up until this year I've prepped for Open House which was always the night before school starts. In preparation for new beginnings I revamped my Editable Open House product for TPT. Here are some glimpses of the big changes I made:
I made it an easier to read, cleaner format for parents. I also added station tents and a student activity to keep the kiddos busy while parents are getting to know each other and the teachers. If you're looking for an easy way to organize for your open house check this product out and don't forget about the Back to School sale today and tomorrow! Although I don't have to worry about getting anything together for a Curriculum Night/Open House just yet, I've been working like crazy to get my room together! I'm really excited with how it's all coming together. Stay tuned for the full classroom reveal! For now I'll show you a peek of some shelves my district was generous enough to gift me. They were old shelves from their art department so they needed a fresh coat of paint. They've worked out great for my library area! It's amazing what a little bit of paint and decorating can do.
Finally, I have some exciting news! Kathleen over at Kidpeople Classroom is doing a giveaway! Each week for the next three weeks she'll be giving away $10 Amazon gift cards and books to readers. Don't miss out on this fun opportunity! Today I'm going to do a quick review on a teacher resource book I've used in the past. It's called Sensory Integration and the Child by Jane Ayers. It's an older book, but it still holds up. It has been a life saver for me over the last few years! Many teachers have noticed a decline in fine motor skills in young children. We have also noticed more and more sensory processing difficulties. We work hard to strengthen those skills as much as possible in our classroom, but we need resources to do so! This book really opened my eyes to different things you can implement for specific behaviors you might see a child exhibiting. It also gives a great basic outline for what to expect to see at each developmental stage in a child's life. I gained so much from reading through this book (I'll admit I haven't read it cover to cover yet, but I've skipped around the whole book) and it has made a big difference in some of my students' abilities/coping mechanisms. I also realized that these accommodations are actually beneficial to all young students, not just those who have special needs. Shortly after digging into this book and books like it, I started making the switch to flexible seating in my classroom. This switch has been one of the best decisions I could have made as an educator. It'll take a while before I can fully make the switch to flexible seating (my husband will lose his mind if I drain our account on wobble stools and yoga ball chairs), but each time I add a new seating option to my classroom, I see continued improvement in attention span, focus and all around happiness in my students. I owe a lot to Sensory Integration and the Child and books like it. I suggest checking it out!
A day late! I'm glad I found this linkup with Kathleen at Kidpeople Classroom. I love books (I've had my nose in one since the minute school let out) and love to share them with my students!
Once again a busy year flew right by me and I hardly had time to think! Once the wedding was over, I spent the rest of the year recovering, catching up and spending time with my sweet students. This summer I'm transitioning to a new district! It was so sad to leave my wonderful team and students, but I'm ready for the next chapter. As I was packing up my classroom and getting things organized, I came upon one of my all time favorite read alouds - The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen!
If you haven't read this you have to pick it up! It's such a fun story about a fish who is a "glum and gloomy swimmer with an ever present pout." I think the reason I love it so much is because of the repetition in the story. Students know what the Pout-Pout Fish is going to say after each of his friends try to cheer him up and they love to read along with me - especially for the sound effects! It's a silly book that keeps kids super engaged and sneakily teaches rhyming along the way. I read this book several times throughout the year and we always find a new take away at the end. It is the book that is most often picked by students when they get a chance to pick a read aloud. My copy is well loved with rough edges and a couple of tears on the book jacket. I've started collecting the other Pout-Pout Fish books and they're just as much of a hit! Deborah does a great job of teaching the importance of friendship and teamwork throughout her books, which is important for all of us to remember, right?
Until next time!
I am still shaking off that long summer hiatus! Even though I started back to school 3 weeks ago (which I can hardly believe) I decided to take a little break from the blog to focus on my students and wedding planning. Now that I have a lot of that planning behind me and a few weeks under my belt, I can slowly creep back into the hobby I love!
I was reflecting a little on the first few weeks of school and was thinking about how quick and easy my prep was for Open House this year! I don't know about you, but in previous years I would spend so much time preparing my classroom, thinking about my new students and all the activities I had planned, that I always forgot about Open House forms until the last minute! I would then scramble around, piecing together different forms and slap them into a packet just minutes before Open House began. Now I pride myself on being an organized person and teacher, but this was just one area I couldn't quite nail down until last year! I sat down, made a list and created my ultimate editable packet that had every piece of information I wanted in it. And thank goodness, because this year when it came time to prepare, all I had to do was edit a couple of things and click print! If you feel a little frazzled like me at the beginning of the year, this will definitely cut your prep time in half! Check it out in my TPT store!
Spring break is almost over and I can't believe it!! I feel like it was only yesterday I sent my kiddos off to enjoy some (not always so warm, but mostly sunny) weather. And it's always traveling at the speed of light from here until the end of the year. I'm excited to see my kiddos and I need to slow down time because sooner than I think, they'll be leaving me to become first graders! Recently I got a new phone (SO overdue) and was looking through pictures during the backup and realized what babies my little ones were just a few months ago. They all look so big and mature (relatively) now and it surprises me when I look back every year!
So although I'm never fully ready to let go of a break, I am ready to spend the last month and a half of school with my growing little weeds! It's always hard to let go of them at the end of the year - after 5 years it hasn't gotten any easier to part with a class! Luckily, I don't have to worry about that for a few more weeks.
I just found out about this fun link up with Oh Boy... It's Farley and thought it would be fun to give it a try! I'm a day late, but better late than never! Don't forget to check her out and post your currently, too!
Hey strangers! Life got crazy for a while. At school we've been gearing up for our standardized assessments, doing report cards and wrapping up 3rd quarter. This is my favorite time of the year because this is when my kinders really start flying!! At home, I've been planning my wedding! So sadly, my blogging got put on the back burner for a while. But I'm back! Lately we have really been working on writing neatly in our classroom. In previous years, I've focused a lot more on handwriting, but our new curriculum hasn't lent to that this year so it's been harder for me to fit it in. Plus my main goal for my kiddos is always to enjoy writing and to get thoughts on paper before really worrying about what the writing looks like.
I can safely say that handwriting is simultaneously my students' favorite and least favorite thing to practice. They love the activities, but hate having to fix their writing until it's correct. I hear a lot of "but this is so BORING!" That's why I make the activities as easy and engaging as possible. I also try to include repetition when possible so that it isn't so frustrating for students. Somehow as soon as animal sentences are involved in practicing, it's magically the BEST. THING. EVER! :) I also keep my activities short and sweet. Because the words they're writing are words that they can read, it's also independent! This means I'm able to introduce a handwriting section to my literacy centers. And doesn't everyone love new centers?
For the first half of the year, depending on the class, I rarely hold my students accountable for center work. That's when I'm laying the foundation for their love of learning, understanding routine and teamwork. That's not to say I'm not observing and taking notes. I certainly keep track of their skills, I just don't like to introduce the requirement of turning in work until we've gotten our routine down and we're flowing really well. Generally at the beginning of 3rd quarter I start asking students to gradually turn in center work to me to be checked. Once students are used to doing this, I introduce work folders (which by this time of year they LOVE because it makes them feel very responsible and old - they almost feel as though they've earned it).
Here's what we're using right now in our classroom to work on our handwriting:
Creative Writing Journals
These are the best addition to my centers by far! As mentioned previously, we've switched our ELA curriculum this year. There are so many great things about this curriculum that I appreciate and there are a lot of improvements I notice with my students' work. The one thing I miss is the love of creative writing that I saw when I used Writer's Workshop. Our writing now is more focused on reading response and although we do work on creative writing, I like for my students to have an outlet to do it more often so I gave them these journals and told them that as long as they wrote, I didn't care what it was about. I love what they're coming up with! Handwriting isn't the main focus here, love of writing is, but a little practice doesn't hurt anyone!
To hold us accountable, we use center "Work Folders." I use the same system that I used in Writer's Workshop. The green side is for unfinished work and the red side is for work that is ready to be checked and put into take home folders. Inside their folders they can practice writing word family words that we work on as a whole class during our morning meeting. This allows them to us a model to help them with their handwriting. This system works really well for me because it doesn't require having a tons of "turn in" baskets at their centers and it consolidates where all of their work is. Plus it's perfect for early finishers who need something to do!
This is an example of one of the handwriting activities we use in our classroom right now. My students are not only practicing handwriting, but they're also practicing fine motor skills, sight words and reading fluency. I love these sheets! You can find them here in my TPT store.
Last, but certainly not least, we practice handwriting using interactive writing in our classroom. This is the perfect opportunity for me to really see what areas to focus on with my kids' writing.
I've started diving into some sensory research recently. I have a student who has some OT needs, but since he's not on an IEP, there's unfortunately not a lot we can do for him in the way of extra services. Thankfully I'm surrounded by fabulous colleagues who are far more knowledgable on the subject than I am, and they've given me some great resources! I think a sensory diet is great for all students, so I'm excited to get started implementing some of the things in this book! I had already purchased a weighted lap blanket/belt which we call our class "lap buddy" for another wiggly kiddo - and from there I just can't stop! There are so many benefits to having these resources in the classroom.
We're working hard as we jump headfirst into addition! I'm using some of the Math Investigations materials to get my students started - the resources they provide are great and the kids love the games. I hope to expand my addition activities soon, but we're off to a great start. And again, my sweet little ones never cease to amaze me - the picture above is of three of my girls who opted to reorganize our math centers and check for dried out markers during clean up. I love watching them take responsibility for things around our classroom. Especially when it's unprompted!!
As we approach the midpoint of 3rd quarter (WHAT??) I try to push the readiness for first grade a little harder. With our new ReadyGen curriculum, our kiddos are expected to be able to fill out graphic organizers independently (or with some guidance) by 1st grade. So we're starting to dabble in doing our own graphic organizers together. I modeled and then created a copy for my students and they did the work alongside me. My kids felt like "big" kids because they see this kind of work displayed in the 1st grade hallway when we go through. Although, it took us quite a while, it was stressful for some and I think we'll stick to sharing the pen for a little while before doing our own again!
We're using weather for our next study in informational text! We've got glossaries to refer to, word webs and anchor charts. The sharing of the pen on the left chart is what I love MOST - it helps the students have ownership in what's up in the classroom AND it helps me to see how far we've come in phonemic awareness. We're excited to get started on some weather experiments in our room this unit!
Okay primary teachers - who's with me when I say we're forgetting about the most important part of our day...play?! I'm making a conscious effort to incorporate free choice in our day EVERY day and not just when it "fits in." I have been completely guilty of leaving it out when I'm trying to fit all the district requirements in, but I was forgetting that this is a KID requirement! All of you reading know that play is such an imperative part of a child's development and a strong connection to how a child learns. I love seeing my students sprawled out on the floor using puzzles, blocks, play-doh and all the fun stuff that's not out in the classroom all the time anymore. The rich conversations (social and academic) that I hear during free choice amaze me and I am reminded that it's an opportunity for me to get to know my students in a completely different way. These boys were creating a castle/fort for a mouse this day. And had an elaborate trap planned for when it got inside. A little morbid, but very creative!