Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday

I am SO EXCITED I just had to share my news with you!!  If you are even just a tiny little bit familiar with the Early Education bloggers and TPT-sellers, then you have heard of the amazing Mrs. Deanna Jump.  Her blog, Mrs. Jump's Class, is one of the very first blogs I ever read and followed.  She also inspired me to get involved with creating activities for TPT after I saw her on The Steve Harvey Show one day. 

I checked her blog today, and found out that she is hosting a linky party called 'Book Talk Tuesdays' where she has invited bloggers to link up and talk about a different book every Tuesday.  It can be any book from any genre that we choose, and in the comments section there are already many teachers who have promised to link up.  I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE books.  Some may even say I have an obsession or an addiction, and I would have to agree with them.  I just can't seem to help myself from adding to my collection every year!!  So this linky party is PERFECT for me!!  I cannot wait to get started!  I've already been thinking about which books I want to talk about each Tuesday.  This is an awesome opportunity to learn about book choices, as well as getting me to go through my vast collection.  I hope you can either join up to share about your favorite books, or follow along each Tuesday as we discuss different books!!

Make sure to follow the link back to her blog (click on the picture above) and learn all about her 'Book Talk Tuesdays' and the other amazing bloggers and educators that are linking up for this literature extravaganza!! 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Reading Rainbows

YAY, it's FRIDAY!!!  This means that I only have 10 student days left!!!  Starting the Countdown to Summer on Monday, SO EXCITED!!!

Today I wanted to share with you something I've been doing this year with sight words.  A few years ago I came across a sight word tracking system that another teacher had created.  I can't find the original link or teacher, so if you're out there somewhere I give you serious credit, because I love doing sight words this way!!  (if you are the creative mind behind this, please leave a comment so I can give credit where credit is due!!)  The sight words are taken from the pre-primer and primer Dolch lists.  They are split up into different color groups, one color for each part of the rainbow (except indigo).  The students study the words in their color group, and when they are able to read all of those words they can color in the matching bar on the rainbow and move up to the next color group.

Everyone starts with a blank rainbow page that they keep for the entire year.  It's nothing that I created, just something I found one day a few years ago when I was surfing around.  I honestly don't even remember where I found it.  I think I did a sear for 'rainbow templates' and this one popped up.  Since it perfectly fit my needs, I have been using it for a few years.

I really like how the color words are printed right inside the bars of the rainbow.  My littles color in each bar as they master that group's words.  I start from the bottom of the rainbow, so the words in the purple group are the easiest and the red words are the hardest.  Every time I test them, I send home a letter to let their grown-ups know which words they know and which they still need to work on. 

The super-creative teacher who thought up the rainbow words activity typed up all these letters in Word and offered them up as a freebie that way, so I am able to edit them to fit my needs (again, I'm SO SORRY I never kept the original link!!) 

While I am working with individual students, the rest of their Guided Reading group will be practicing their words.  My kinders' favorite way to practice is to use their 'Sight Word Laptops' (I can't take credit for that idea, either.  Found it on Pinterest a few years ago and I made my own).  Each student gets a copy of their words as well as a sight word laptop and a dry erase marker and eraser.

Here are my Sight Word Laptops.  They are nothing more complicated than a file folder with a laptop graphic I found and added text to for the outside, and a piece of handwriting paper and a keyboard graphic on the inside.  Once I assembled them, I laminated them.  The students write their words on the handwriting lines and then type them on the keyboard.  They get sight word practice AND keyboarding practice. SCORE!!

I give each student a list of their words that they can refer to while they're using their sight word laptops.  Once I have assessed them, I keep track of their progress on a sheet I whipped up. 

I write the date I tested them on the side and highlight the date, and use that same color to highlight the words they know.  Once they have mastered a group they get to color that bar on their rainbow and I put it back up on the Reading Rainbow Wall.

This is a picture of my 'Reading Rainbow Wall'.  For some reason, I didn't take one in the very beginning of the year (D'oh), so this picture is from early January.  At the beginning of the year, everyone starts out in the purple group and has a blank rainbow on the wall.  They work at their own pace to learn their words, and every time they are able to read them all they move on to the next group.  You can see that, as of this January picture, most of my kinders were only in the first or second group of the rainbow.  Some of them still have not managed to move out of the purple group. 

Every Thursday (or at least ALMOST every Thursday) I assess each student on their words.  I highlight the ones they know and send home the letter to let their grown-ups know their progress.  I assessed them again yesterday, and I was AMAZED at how far they have come with their sight word recognition.  I LOVE to see the excitement in their faces when they conquer a color group, it never ceases to make me smile. 

Look at all those colors!!!  I even have a friend who has mastered all of the color groups and I had to scramble to come up with some more words for her.  She has passed the 'Sun Words' and is now working on the 'Grass Words'.  If she keeps up, she'll be working on 'Cloud Words', 'Flower Words', and 'Pot o' Gold Words'.  I am SO PROUD of how far they have come this year with their sight word recognition, and I just HAD to share it with the blogging world!!

I would LOVE to hear how you tackle sight word recognition in your room!!  I hope you all have an AMAZING weekend, and if I don't get a chance to post again this weekend, know that I will on Monday!!  :-)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Creative Clipboards!

Happy almost Friday everyone!!  Is it just me, or do the days seem longer the closer we get to summer break??

Today I wanted to talk about clipboards.  I use them A LOT in my room.  We use them when we're on the rug, but we also use them when we are working on our Daily 5 language arts rotations and our Daily 3 math rotations, as well as taking them outside to do work in nice weather.  I use them so much that I have a class set (which I will have to add to next year, since we are getting the overflow from a neighboring school that is going through remodeling).  For me, it is cost effective to get the wooden clipboards that are only 97¢ at Wal-Mart.  However, versatile they may be, they are not the most attractive tools we use.  So, I went scrolling along in Pinterest and I came across a VERY Pinteresting idea.  Cover them with Duck Tape!!

I don't know if you've noticed, but Duck Tape has come A LONG way from the early days of the thick, silver tape they were famous for.  Nowadays, there are so very many different colors and designs it can be a bit overwhelming!!  I went shopping around at various stores, and found different designs of Duck Tape in every store from Wal-Mart to $5 & Below, and the prices stayed pretty much the same. I wanted to find patterns and designs that would appeal to boys and girls, so I ended up buying quite a few different rolls. I did find a few different types, and decided to try them all out.  Here are three different types that I tried (I'm sure there are other types out there, I just haven't found them yet!).

The sparkly silver roll, pictured on the far left, is kind of like one giant sticker with a backing that needs to be pulled off before it's used.  This was helpful because I could put the tape right up against the clipboard to measure it out, without having to fight the sticky side.  Of the three kinds I used, this one was the thickest.  That made it a bit hard to work with around the edges and corners of the clipboard, but it still turned out very nicely!  However, I was only able to cover one clipboard before I ran out (I covered the front, back, and sides).

Next I tried the 'traditional' roll, which is the roll pictured in the middle.  The tape on these rolls is thick enough that it can, at times, be tricky to cut.  I spent a lot of time juggling the roll and the scissors while I cut the pieces, so it would probably be helpful to have someone hold the tape while you cut it.  I was able to cover two clipboards with this type of roll.

Finally, I tried the roll pictured on the far right.  This type of Duck tape comes with it's own 'slicer' so you don't have to mess with scissors.  It also has little tabs that hold the edge of the roll, so that it doesn't fold over and get stuck together.  Also, the tape on these types of rolls in considerably thinner than the other two.  I would compare it to the clear packing tape used to tape up shipping boxes.  This roll was super-easy to use, and I was able to cover four clipboards before I needed a new roll.  I think, of the three, this is the one I liked the best.

I think it helps to start out with different types, until you find the one you like the best and are most comfortable with.  I did not try any generic or store-name brand tape, so I cannot give an opinion on those.  Growing up, my mom always said there were some things you just had to pay a little extra money on.  I feel that Duck Tape is one of those things, especially since I want these boards to last as long as possible before I need new ones.  So far, I have gotten two years' worth out of the first batch I made, and I plan on using them again next year!!  I just keep adding new patterns and designs, and I have created a class set of unique, kid-friendly clipboards that they all enjoy using.

I would love to hear about how you use clipboards in your classroom!!  :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

FUNdamentals of Sentences

A few days ago I posted about the Sentence Detectives activities I use in my classroom.  I use them during Word Work time as part of our Daily 5 rotations.  My students walk around the room, find the words that match the pictures on their response sheet, and write them down.  They then illustrate the sentence they wrote, and use our symbols to code the main parts of a sentence.  They look for the beginning of a sentence to start with a capital letter, the punctuation at the end of the sentence, the subject and the verb.  Once they find these elements, they are to use symbols to code them in their sentence.  Sometimes their sentence is missing a capital letter or ending punctuation, and if that happens they must correct the sentence before coding it.  We have practiced this again and again during whole group, and now that they are more comfortable with it they are working independently.  Here are some samples of the work they are doing with the Sentence Detectives activities.
You can see where this student coded their capital letter and ending punctuation, but couldn't seem to decide which word was the subject and which was the verb.  The illustration almost matches the sentence, but is missing the dog.

In this example, you can see where the little coded the sentence and then realized it needed a capital letter at the beginning, so he corrected it.  The illustration matches the sentence perfectly.  Using this student product, I can see that he has the parts of a sentence down but still needs some practice with letter formation.

This kinder has all of the parts of his sentence labeled correctly and drew the correct illustration.  When I sit down to conference with him, we will talk about remembering to color our illustrations and to try and use as much space in the box as we can for our drawings.

This one has it all!  The sentence is written and coded correctly, with very nice letter formation.  there is a matching illustration that shows lots of detail.  This little is ready to move on to more complex sentences.

Last one.  This friend has written the sentence correctly and drew a matching illustration with lots of detail.  When I conference with her, we will do some more work on subject and verb recognition, since that seems to be giving her trouble.

All in all, my knders ROCKED this independent activity!  Luckily for me, I made several different response sheets for each packet so they can continue their practice!

Finally, I wanted to share with you my hand-drawn sketch of how I want my room to look next year.  I made sure to do it in pencil, since I may change my mind between now and then!

I hope you have a Happy Hump Day!! 

p.s. - I only have 13 more student days!!  :-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Look Ahead...

Happy Tuesday!!  I hope your day is a terrific one!  Have you started the count-down to the end of the year yet??  I know I have!  There are 14 more days until the last day of school in my district, thanks to all of the snow days we had this year.  Our student's last day of school is June 13th, and teacher's last day is June 16th.  As crazy as it sounds (and yes, it is a bit crazy), I have already started thinking about things I want to do next year.  I have drawn out a map of how I want to rearrange my room next year, and have started thinking of activities I can do in the beginning of the year with my littles.  I know that this year isn't over yet, but I also know that if I post about what I want to do next year then I am holding myself accountable for actually doing it!!  Once I have things implemented next year, I'll be posting about how it actually went compared to how I envision it working out.  :-)

  This is the first year I have done the Daily 5 and my kinders LOVED it!  I started later in the year and have been taking many notes for how I want to do things differently next year.  I have been thinking of new ways to organize supplies, activities for my kinders to do with their 5th Grade Buddies, and how to do the Daily 3 for math.  I have been making TONS of lists and trying to keep track of all my ideas...I need to come up with some sort of system for all those notes.  But that's a post for another day!

  One of the things I want to do differently next year is to kick off the Daily 5 (and the Daily 3 in math) during the first full week of school.  This means I will need simple yet engaging activities to provide during their rotations.  I don't know about you all, but the first six weeks or so in kindergarten are a bit of a blur for me.  So much time spent on setting up routines, rules, and procedures and lots of modeling and practice.  I tend to forget sometimes that I ended the year with littles ready for 1st grade and now I'm back at square one again!!  :-)  Part of our Daily routines will be having them work independently while I am working with a group.  Since many of them are still learning what it's like to be at school all day, the activities I provide in the beginning of the year are simple ones that do not require much direct supervision.  This is a PERFECT time to use some of my 'Color Your Own Match-Up' activities.  I'll let you in on a little secret about me...I am OBSESSED with all things Crayola!  I found these little gems on clearance at Wally World and HAD to have them.  To justify the expense (though they were a STEAL at $5 a piece!!) I created a whole slew of activities where I would get to use my little treasures when I made the samples.  :-)

  During our Daily 5 rotations in language arts, I will be having my students create and use various puzzle-piece matching activities.  Everyone will start with the Beginning Sound Match Up pieces and move on to the Rhyming Words Match Up pieces as they are ready.
For the Beginning Sound activity, there are two puzzle pieces per letter.  One half has the upper-case letter and the matching half has a picture of something that begins with that letter. 
  Students would start out by coloring their pieces during Word Work time.  It seems that, inevitably, every year I will have a few students who only care about being the first ones done.  This means they will often rush through assignments, especially coloring things.  They have a tendency to color every picture the same scribbly blob, sometimes so you can no longer tell what they were originally trying to color.  Next year I am going to try and encourage ALL of them to take their time and do their best work, and I have sketched out a few ideas to help with this.  First I will show them the pieces I colored and discuss with them their opinions and thoughts.  We'll work together to create a class web about 'What Good Illustrators Do" and refer back to it throughout the first few weeks of school.  There will be a coloring contest where my kinders get their work judged by their 5th Grade Buddies.  So many ideas came from just one little activity!!

  I colored a sample set of all of the pieces in this activity and then took pictures of the pages so I could project them up onto the SMART Board.  I want to have a whole group discussion on their honest opinions of the pages I colored.

  I'll ask them if it looks like I took my time and tried my best to stay in the lines.  Someone almost always points out the times I wasn't able to stay in the lines, so we talk about if that's okay or not.  On the SMART Board, I show them examples of trying to stay in the lines compared to ones where there was nothing but scribble-scrabble and they discuss which ones they like better and why.

I point out how I tested each color before I used it so that I would know if I really wanted to use that color or not in my picture.  I explained to them that testing out the colors first helped minimize my mistakes.  We talk about where a good spot to test a color would be, like 'empty white space' on the front of the page, or anywhere on the back of the page.

I show them that I did not use just one color in my pictures, and that I tried to be as creative as possible.  We talk about how the artist of the clip art has provided us with a blank canvas, and challenge each other to try something original and use as many colors in one picture as possible.

Most of the students will say that they want to take their time and do the best coloring they can, and it is always interesting to see the different color combinations and designs they come up with.

I wanted to make this activity available before summer break started, so that you could have time over the summer to color your own.  I will be coloring another set myself, since my darling furbaby Isis knocked over a glass of soda onto the set you see in these pictures.  Her tail is a dangerous thing, and my nephew refers to it as 'a weapon of mass destruction!'.  It's a good thing I enjoy coloring!!  :-)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Sale!!

Happy Memorial Day everyone!!  I would like to thank all of the brave soldiers out there who fight so hard to keep us free, including many of my own family members.  Today is a day to remember all of those who gave their all to preserve the security of this wonderful country of ours!!

In order to show my appreciation, I am throwing a 15% off SALE in my TPT store.  EVERY item is on sale through midnight of May 27th.  Come and check out some of the great new activities I have been working on, and pick up a few freebies while you're there!

Need some Word Work activities to use during Daily 5 rotations or center time?  Check these out!!

This is a packet of three word work activities that I created to go along with our fourth quarter study of the animals of the world and their habitats.  There is an activity to pick a CVC picture card and find the matching word on their recording sheet, an activity to roll a cube and identify the CVC picture and then fill in a box on their recording sheet, and a Concentration-type CVC game that could also be placed at a pocket chart center.  If you download the preview, you can see a glimpse of what is included in the packet.

Believe it or not, my kinders are working on identifying the five main parts of a sentence, including that it must have a beginning capital letter, ending punctuation, a subject, and a verb.  I created a Write the Room activity where they crack the picture code in order to write a simple sight word sentence.  They are then to illustrate the sentence, which shows their understanding of the sentence.  My littles then diagram the sentence by using our 'stop light' symbols to show the main parts of the sentence.  This became such a HUGE hit in my room, I created a second packet (and am working on a third!)

I hope you take a few minutes to hop on over to my TPT store and snag some activities!  Have a great holiday!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Hello to all my faithful followers!!  I must apologize for not posting in FOREVER, but there have been lots of changes going on that I have been trying to handle.  Moved houses (but now have internet access!!!!) and learned that our school will be getting lots more teachers and students next year, and have been trying to get my kiddos going with the Daily 5 for reading and the Daily 3 for math!  I am setting goals for the summer, and one of them is to post AT LEAST every other day, with a main goal to post every day once school starts up again.  I have to thank all of you awesome readers out there who have stuck with me these past few weeks, and what better way to thank you than giving you some freebies!!!

The first freebie I have for you is one centered around ocean animals.  During the fourth quarter in my district, kindergarten focuses on the animals of the world and their habitats.  We spend about a week on each habitat, except for the ocean habitat.  That one gets two weeks, for two reasons.  1) There are TONS of animals that can be found in the ocean, and 2) Our most favorite field trip of the year is to a local aquarium, and the littles become OBSESSED with all things ocean!  This is a quick assessment I used to determine if my littles understand which animals live in the ocean habitat, and if they can make a connection between the ocean animals and their habitat.  I want them to be able to tell me that ocean animals are best suited for their habitat because they have certain physical features, like fins or gills, that allow them to flourish here as opposed to the forest or desert.  I have used this as a quick reading, science, and writing grade!

My next freebie for you is one that I use during math groups to help determine if my kinders understand the Common Core Standard K.OA.3; 'Decompose numbers that are less than or equal to ten in more than one way'.  It is a quick assessment that can be used in a small or whole group setting, where students must draw a given number of marbles in a jar and then color some of them one color and the rest a different color.  They then record the numbers of each color, and I have them verbally tell me the number sentence (e.g. - if they drew 4 blue and 2 green, they would tell me that 4 + 2=6, and some of them would then give me the 'turn-around fact').

I hope you are able to use these freebies in your classroom, and I hope that you continue to check back with me for new products and ideas!  Tell your friends and colleagues to come on over and follow my blog!!