Monday, January 19, 2015

What Will the Weather Be? Ask Our Meteorologist!

So we made a cloud in our classroom and the children loved putting this together. They learned how to fan fold paper which they loved doing. The results were so cute and now they are hanging in the window of our classroom.
My teaching partner Dawn made this adorable visor for the "meteorologist of the day" who gives us the daily weather report. They love it and it took her very little time to make. The visor came from Michaels and cost a dollar. It looks hilarious on our kids and they love it! Score. The weather journals are simple and another big favorite with our students. I do a guided drawing and a simple sentence under a document camera. We use twistables (crayons) which make them look so nice. The book on the right is an emergent reader that we are working on this week. It is simple but effective. I love easy stuff! 
I have been working hard on teaching my students how to work collaboratively and have been building activities for them to practice these skills. It has been challenging but the pay off has been huge and they are really doing a great job. We practice these skills frequently and they are making so much progress.
At this time of the year my students are working on counting, writing, and identifying teen numbers. I have been busy making games to keep them engaged and interested in practicing these skills. This is challenging but they are coming along... I love talking about those "mean teens" that are so hard to deal with.

This is another "write the room" activity back by popular demand to help my students build their academic vocabulary. They love taking their clipboard and searching for our wacky weather words. Enough for now. I hope you had a good break from school and now I am off to bed.
Have a great week of teaching and let's stay connected! What weather activities do you love to do?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Weather" You Want to Read This Or Not!

It was a busy week in my room as we opened up a unit on weather and started reviewing the seasons and weather. Try talking about the seasons when you live in southern California! We were laughing ourselves sick over this but we grounded in with lots of photographs from the internet and some great books. The biggest hit was making a child the meteorologist of the day! The kids loved this so much and we used this little number to record their thinking when they stuck their heads out the door: 

 I asked them how hot or cold it felt outside and what the sky looked like. They were so invested in answering me! We review this chart so the children have the academic vocabulary to do this. I posted these cards on a magnetic board within their reach so they can use bright round magnets to show their response!

Once our meteorologist has determined the weather we record it in our little book. I model how to draw the weather under the document camera and we write a simple sentence together. This provides an opportunity to talk about the conventions of writing. The students love this simple, little journal.
We had some much fun reading about snow and polar bears this week and the best part of the week was doing a blubber experiment where students put on a glove (filled with Crisco) and stick both hands in ice water. Oh my goodness this was hilarious and so much fun for them. We told them the polar bear is able to live in such a cold climate because of his blubber which keeps him warm. Let's not go there with my blubber. No wonder I am always hot.
My students cannot get enough of "Write the Room" activities and ask me for these all the time. I taught them how to do this during small group instruction where I could guide them. I let them use clipboards but I could see what they needed more help with. Now my head is spinning with ideas to keep their enthusiasm going!
We are still plugging away on beginning sounds but many of my students can do this independently so we are moving on to ending sounds and those CVC words. I have so many packets to support their learning that I can't wait to show them.
Have a great week of teaching... teach like your hair is on fire!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Open My Door... Come In To Explore

Happy New Year to all my teacher friends. I have many resolutions, including blogging more often but I swear life just rolls along at top speed for me. Here are a few things I have created that have kept me busy.

Wow, are you having trouble getting back into the swing of things? Two weeks and getting out of my pj's and putting on real clothes feels cruel and unfair to me. When that alarm went off Monday morning I felt tortured but was excited to be back with my students. Talk about mixed emotions.
I sent a winter packet home with my students during this holiday break and was anxious to see who would come back with it. I designed it to review many of the concepts that they need to move forward in the new year. Guess what? Most of them did the packet and did it well. We went over it on our first day back (or why bother) and it was well worth the time. It was a great teaching tool to review concepts and let them share their work. I recommend doing this if you are concerned that your students might lose ground over the break. My FB fans had mixed feelings about me doing this and I loved reading their reasons!

Here are some of the things I made to return to work to get started with a new trimester and new skills. I now build my own homework week by week so it is customized to the needs of my own students. This has made a huge difference! We go over it every Friday and it really gives me a huge sense of what my students can do independently! Wooza! It also lets me know if parents are supporting their learning! Talk about an old dog learning new tricks!
We are moving on to a new set of sight words now so I sent home the list for parents to keep and use with their child. Finally, I wrote a new emergent reader about snow using the sight words big and small. We are just starting a new unit on seasons and weather so this was a nice way to introduce snow and arctic animals. They loved this little book.
In top of all this blending sounds to make words is a skill that my students need to start working on. This can be so challenging for an English language learner and I have to pull out all the bells and whistles to teach this.

Don't I look organized... not so much. However this is set up for the kids to work on collaboratively in small groups of 4 once I have worked on it during guided reading. These are Open Court letter sound cards that I group to make simple cvc words. Students work on a mat to lay down the letter that makes the sound on the card, blend them together to figure out the word. We call this "riddle me" and my students will love this. When students help each other many of them acquire skills faster and it feels less threatening. Each team has their own set of cards and a recording sheet. Once they finish their set they will rotate to a new set of cards. Could be a disaster or the most fun in the world! I will let you know... pinky promise. Now off  to start my Tuesday! What are you doing in your room? Open your door and let me see...
Oh I almost forget... look what I got over the holiday break from my husband! It was the best surprise ever but I will let you in on a secret. Come a little closer. I think he was dying to own this but worried that I would not be too enthusiastic. The man loves me but he loves cars (a little more), just sayin'.

Have a great day of teaching!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Getting to the Core of the Gingerbread Man and a Freebie... Run As Fast As You Can!

Our kindergarten classroom has been so busy with gingerbread learning and making our parent gifts. On top of that, we have report card conferences this week too. The children have been working on making their frames using pasta I dyed myself and added glitter to. It was a giant hit with my students. They took their gift making project seriously and did a beautiful job. We hole punched the top and tied a matching pipe cleaner across both sides so it could be hung up! They turned out so beautifully! The kids are thrilled.

Now what is going in the frame? Hold on to your hat. Remember I live in Southern California. My partner and I dressed each child in a hat and scarf and put a snow scene into Power Point and made it a background. The pictures are fabulous and my students look like they are standing in the snow. I LOVE HOW THESE TURNED OUT BUT IT TOOK FOREVER TO DO. I have twins and took their picture individually and together... They look precious all bundled up.

This was my version of  a "write the room" activity I taught students in small group. I wanted to be sure they could do this effectively. For the students who needed more support, I modeled how to make each letter for the beginning sound and they were much more successful. My top group did this more independently and I just put all the cards on another table for them to walk over and get. They loved it. At the bottom of the page I had them draw their favorite character, in a setting. It keep the early finishers engaged and they had so much fun doing it. 
We have been reading stories and comparing and contrasting them (yup I am on my Common Core game) and the kids cannot get enough of that bad guy... "the fox". So I made some games to reinforce the concepts we are working on but I used all GBM images. They loved me for this! I also had them do a ton of collaborative and partner work, practicing oral language and academic vocabulary. They did such a great job with this.

Students had a great time with this sight word game and helped each other with them. They placed them into a graph to record their work. This provides some accountability. Each child used a different colored marker and you could feel the enthusiasm around the room. They were so engaged in their work and I actually let them talk to each other! Woohoo!

This is an emergent reader I made several years ago that has the children practice writing numbers and reading some simple repetitive text. They had to draw the buttons on each gingerbread man that matched the number and it was a great way to access their number sense. If you want a copy of this you can grab this right here. Leave a comment and let me know if you liked it! 
The gingerbread play dough was a giant hit this year. I let them use this with ten frame mats I made and it was a great independent center. Try it and I bet your students will love it too! I'm going to add gingerbread cookie cutters this week.
Here students worked together to do a syllable sort using gingerbread pictures. We went over these pictures before I released them and they felt so successful doing this with their teams. The team captain (strong academic student) helped to guide them and those that needed more support got it from others in their group. I love the idea of students teaching each other.
We do a lot of guided drawing in my room so I loved using this Jan Brett video where she shows children how she draws the gingerbread baby. My students were so enthralled with this. It was great fun.
Our students love doing projects with their families and this time we sent home... you guessed it- the gingerbread man. They brought them back on Friday and were so proud of their work. They are so adorable and one family added music and lights to this! Oh my!
This is a flow map I created for my pocket chart. It is to retell the story and is a great performance based assessment to use in kindergarten. It connects directly to my little retelling reader that they use when making their bracelet. The focus is on the gingerbread man being the main character. 
Spinner games have been a big hit in my room this week so I created a variety of them so they can review important math and literacy skills. Students did these with a partner and I differentiated them depending on their needs. 
I would come back and share my activities for our special Gingerbread Activity Day but this is a good peek at the fun we are having. What are you doing in your room before winter break? I am trying to keep them busy and engaged in learning fun!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gingerbread Fun On the Run...

Our school does not celebrate Christmas. Yup, read that again. We have children from a variety of religious backgrounds and some do not celebrate this holiday. What do we do to make the last few weeks fun and packed with learning? I do a whole gingerbread unit that my students adore. There are so many books available now to buy that change up the characters, setting, and even the problem. Here are some that we are going to enjoy this week! See if you have them in your collection!

I have worked all weekend on making gingerbread play-dough for my classroom and this is my favorite recipe. It makes my kitchen smell yummy.
and it looks like this...

Try it. It only takes a few minutes and you just throw the ingredients in a pot and stir until it thickens. My students will love this!

Here is a "sneak peek" at one of my math stations for this week. My students need more practice writing numbers and working collaboratively so ...
These spinners will rock their world. I will be back with so many more ideas tonight! Gotta run as fast as I can.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Who's Ready to Shop Until They Drop: My Recommendations

Are you gearing up for the sale TpT is having? What is on your wish list? I am going to have to get a grip and get myself under control for this gigantic extravaganza!
You can save a whooping 20% in my store but even better is when you enter in the TpT promo code and save even more! It all adds up when you are loading up with items for those cold winter months. So snuggy up in your jammies and here are some of my favorite items:
Here are the best of my emergent readers that are the core of my guided reading program. My students love these and look forward to each new one. They are well priced and with them I have made individual cards to build in your pocket chart for large group instruction.

If you do not have an elf in your classroom now is the time to buy this and use these packets. My kids have had such a blast with these activities and the their favorite activity was the jingle bracelet they got to make for counting by 2's. Did you know the elf is Pete the Cat's best friend? Yup it's a fact (or a story I made up) that added some fun to the elf drama.

I do a huge unit on the Gingerbread Man at this time of the year. I love reading a variety of stories and this is the perfect time to compare and contrast 2 pieces of text and meet an important CCSS standard. Right? I have a great emergent reader with a retelling bracelet so that you hit a few more standards. I also focus on story elements as part of this unit. I cannot wait to use this again. 

I have never been able to find emergent readers for Hanukkah with accurate information so I decided to create my own. These are two different readers that provide a teacher and student version. Both readers are interactive (one uses velcro) and engaging for young students. One focuses on math concepts and the other on vocabulary and beginning sounds. I used this K-1 and the children really enjoyed them.

This is a huge winter packet with emergent readers, dominoes, retelling activities and math concepts. It is filled with games and pocket chart work to keep your students busy during those cold months. They get their own version of  The Jacket I Wear In the Snow and The Mitten.

This is an emergent reader for MLK's birthday that is Common Core aligned and perfect for young children. I used it in many different kindergarten classrooms and the children got so much out of it. It is about setting goals for yourself so that you can be a scholar. Ready to rock it out. Click here to go to my store.

Busy and Almost Dizzy

Have you been crazy, busy this week? I have so much going on in my classroom. We are heading towards report cards and conferences and I really struggle with comments that don't sting but need to be addressed. I think I have learned over the years how to take the "bite" out of anything but still getting my point across. Even so, it takes me hours to do this. We were off for Thanksgiving but gave out our conference slips just before leaving. Yikes... no one will even remember there is a conference so I came up with this: This is just a "friendly" reminder so I don't sit around waiting. Will it work? I will let you know.
I tried to use other hw that some of the very best bloggers gave me. So much of it was amazing quality and finally it gave me the confidence to create my own. Why? We work at a very different pace because our kids are ELL's. We need to build their academic language along with the Common Core. I also use Open Court with a very specific phonemic awareness framework. I don't give a ton of hw either. I want the kids to get a break and spend time with their family.

So here are some of the things I created for this unit and they are all aligned carefully to the Common Core.
I always post the Big Idea and Essential Questions because you want to refer to these and make your students aware of them. Ask them, "Did we answer this question?" "What do we know now?" "Has this changed our thinking?" 
This is a great visual to keep near your calendar. It can be done quickly and easily by the "meteorologist of the day." Clothespins are used to mark the type of weather and the temperature. The graphics really help support your student's understandings.

Here are 2 little books I made to reinforce the sight words we are working on right now. Our students confuse he and she frequently and I am hoping this will help them practice this language. I love trimming books with washi tape just to jazz them up a little. This is a version of paper dolls for weather! Okay don't judge.
I needed to add some math activities to this and I love using these weather frames for practicing counting and writing numbers.I also made umbrella cards with raindrops to 50. We need to practice these for sure!
I like to have my students practice working in collaborative groups and this is an activity for that purpose. I will make a recording sheet for them to use and share with the class. Our students need lots of opportunities to present in front of the class.

That's it for today. I have to finish this weather packet but I got a lot of activities made over this break in spite of having a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family and shopping more than I should have.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Together We Are Better

Our district has a Thanksgiving Unit of Study that kindergarten teachers implement during this time of year. It is the story of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag working together to reach common goals. We open up the unit with collaborative activities in groups of four but I will talk about that in another post. Here is the pictorial I made to help the children retell the story. If you are not familiar with this GLAD strategy I recommend learning more about it. It is great for ELL's. Each title and picture has velcro so that I can hand out the pieces and make the learning more interactive!
The Mayflower is on a stick so a student can show the journey the pilgrims took. All of this helps to build oral language.

To help support this unit I made a few extra activities I thought my students might really enjoy. There is a lot of new content vocabulary they need to know so I made a separate set of cards just for this unit. We can refer to it as we travel through the unit and it will help support their writing. I attached all the cards and it is a mobile that can be moved around the classroom. What do you think?
We are continuing to work on syllables and I thought they would love to do this in a pocket chart as drum beats. I better look for those musical instruments that I packed away. I thought it would be fun to stay with the Native American theme here.

Here is another version of our pocket chart sight word game but this time I am hiding a wetu behind one of the Wampanoags. I better think of a good chant for this before tomorrow!

This is just a simple math game 0-10 showing a variety of ways to express a number. I thought it would be fun to do this on the sails of the Mayflower and add Pilgrims and Wampanoags to the pictures. 

There is so much more I could add but I have too much to teach in just five days so I think I better stick to just these few but I also have a packet that I use during this time with great little emergent readers: I made this last year but I love many of these ideas

Both of these are available in my store if you might need a little extra for your math and literacy stations. Click on each picture to find them. What Thanksgiving activities do you love to do? 
Have a great week of learning!