Friday, July 31, 2015

Do You Know About Jooners? It's FREE!

Ok, Some of us are already in school and some of us (me) are getting our rooms ready!  In the county I am in, our first day of school is August 6th.  

As you are getting ready for BTS and preparing your classroom, I want to introduce you to Jooners.

 Jooners
  click here to go to the website

Jooners is an online signup sheet that allows you to create, manage, and share your events from anywhere you have internet access.  You have the choice to sign up for an account or just click on the "Create Sign Up Sheet" without creating an account. 



Why do I need Jooners?  Well, you know that Fall Festival that is coming up?  How about a class party that is coming up and you want to be organized?  How about a book fair and you need volunteers?  How about if you want volunteers for your classroom and you want parents to sign up?  Get the idea?  Now think of other ways you can use Jooners to make your teaching life easier!  You can create your own from scratch or you can choose from the examples that are already made.  Notice that there is one listed for Parent/Teacher Conferences?    


The ones that are already made can also be edited to meet your needs.  I used it last spring for conferences and it saved me a LOT of time! 



Take a moment to watch the video to get more ideas.  Try it out and let me know what you think and how you used it to keep your classroom/event organized!

 Fabulously First





Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lexile, Guided Reading, & Topics Oh My!




Lexile, Guided Reading, and Topics Oh My!

Over the last year I have been so overwhelmed with organizing my classroom library.  It seems every month teachers were changing how they organized.  Going from guided reading levels, topics, and genres.   Last year I kept mine organized by topics: friendship, animals, winter, and holiday books.  It worked great for me, but my students had a hard time picking books for buddy reading during our daily 5 centers.  I taught them how to find the perfect book and we made anchor charts, but still the Charlie the Ranch Dog books were too good to pass up!  I can’t blame them, the amount of freedom was too much and temptation gave in.  I decided to dedicate a week to leveling all my books and placing them in guided reading level baskets. 

Here are some easy steps!

1.  Take all your books out and make a huge pile.  This will for sure bring your anxiety level up a notch!
2.   Download the app Literacy Leveler!  For the most part it had the majority of the books available for leveling.  The ones I was unable to find I used Scholastic Book Wizard!
3.  Start scanning!
4.  Mark with level!  I used garage sale dots on the back of each book and wrote the level.
5.  Place in baskets J  I went to the Dollar Tree and bought 25 of their large blue bins.  It took me three trips to three different stores to accumulate the 25, but well worth the savings!  I have heard you can order online however I do not think you can specify the color. 
6.  Enjoy your hard work before 30 little friends start book shopping!

Here are some pictures of the process.



















Monday, July 27, 2015

Guided Reading in Kindergarten

Hi!  It's Kay again from Sommer's Lion Pride with some Kindergarten guided reading tips!


I am currently rereading The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson to better prepare and plan for the year.  Here are some guided reading tips to get it up and running in your Kindergarten classroom, my take-aways from Chapter 1, which is all about preparation.




#1 - First and foremost, don’t rush it!

Before you can begin to pull small groups to your table for specific lessons, you have to make sure that your class is able to work independently for 30-60 minutes.  You will also need to introduce students to all of your literacy centers.  And that takes time.

We all know how our Kinders come into the classroom on that first day of school!  These little ones just aren’t ready to work independently yet for any length of time.  So ease into it!

Jan Richardson says that you should spend 6 weeks teaching routines and procedures.  During this time, you will gradually release responsibility to the students, as they work their way up to more sustained independent work.



#2 - Map out a plan to introduce your literacy centers to your students.

In the book you will find a week-by-week plan for introducing literacy centers during the first 6 weeks.  Jan recommends that you pull 1 group at a time, show them how to use a center, and give them a chance to work with it, while the rest of the class is working in groups with an activity that requires little direction from teacher.

As you introduce the literacy centers, don’t forget to teach your students all of the procedures and routines that go with each literacy activity.



#3 - Decide how you will manage centers during guided reading.

Here are some questions that you need to answer before getting started.

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How will you group your students?  (I will explore this more in my next blog post on Sommer's Lion Pride.)

Do students choose their own literacy activities?  Or are they assigned?  Will you have a chart of some kind that shows that?

What signal will you use when it is time to stop working, clean up, and rotate?  What do the students do when you give them the signal?

How do students move to the centers?  How do they access the materials for the centers?  Who is in charge of getting the materials?

What is the expected noise level during literacy centers/guided reading?

What should students do when they encounter a problem?

What happens if a students is being disruptive and not working cooperatively?

How will you organize your guided reading materials?


#4 - Here are some ideas for literacy centers at the beginning of the year.

I try to keep it simple!  Lots of opportunities to work with letters!





#5 - Use a timer!

This will keep you on schedule.  I have a few timers around my classroom so that I can always find one to set!






Saturday, July 25, 2015

Guiding Beginning Readers

Hi there, 
It's Jackie & Kylene from JK Curriculum Connection!
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Learning to read might seem easy but there are a LOT of skills and concepts that must be experienced for young children to be "on their way" as readers.

First, there are several concepts that beginning readers either pick up from experiences with books when they are very young or the skills must be explicitly taught if children did not have those book experiences.


Dr. Marie Clay was a pioneer in studying the behaviors of beginning and struggling readers. Through her studies in New Zealand, she developed the "Reading Recovery" intervention program.  She called the Concepts of Print "the rules of the road" and writes, "Teachers must teach so all children become knowledgeable about these essential concepts so they open doors to literacy."


The Concepts of Print include:

*Book orientation (front, back, where the story begins, page turning, etc.)
*Left to right directionality
*Return sweep (at the end of each line of print the reader returns to the left again)
*Text Knowledge: knowing that the text contains the story while the pictures 
support that text
*Understanding certain reading terms:  letter, word, sentence, top/bottom of a page, 
*Simple punctuation marks.
*One-to-one word matching

Here is a Literacy Center idea where children sort letter cards, word cards, and picture cards.  This "concept of print" activity can easily be made using index cards and media cut from magazines.  Different fonts and letter sizes may be used.  The letters, words and pictures aren't related across the board.  The students are merely looking at each item and deciding what category they fit under.  

Here is another Literacy Center activity which helps children focus on the concept of a word and word length. Use large pieces (9" x 12") of construction paper as the mats.  Write 2-letter, 3-letter, 4-letter and 5-letter words on 3x5 cards. (8 cards will fit on each mat.)  Students shuffle the cards and sort them  onto the correct mats. These are most likely not words they can read since they are really just attending to the length of the words. You can differentiate for ability levels by limiting the number of mats and cards a child uses at one time or challenge higher level students by making mats with words that are 7 or 8 letters! (It's also a sneaky way to get some counting practice in!!)

Supportive Reading Materials
With the right reading materials students can begin to read Early Emergent readers.  
Early Emergent Readers should have the following features:
*Strong picture support
*Controlled text
*Repetitive patterns
*Natural language
*Large print
*Familiar concepts
*Limited text on a page

*Wider spacing between the words


Here is a video of a 5-year old who has not been to school yet (but has been read to a LOT!) She is reading a supportive emergent reader.  Notice how she finger matches on each word. The text has small dots below each word to help with this skill. 

Beginning reading materials may consist of simple word phrases such as seen in the book above.  Other books have simple patterned sentences.  There should be strong picture support and repetitive patterns where only 1 or 2 words change from page to page. 


Here is an example of a beginning reader using a repetitive sentence pattern with a small change on the last page to provide just a little challenge!  Click {HERE} to download this FREEBIE. 


Reading Strategies

As children are developing their reading skills, they can be "coached" regarding the reading strategies they are using and should be using.  
Some of these strategies include:
1) Look at the picture
2) Get your mouth ready to make the first sound
3) Look for small "chunks" (letter pairs or word parts they recognize in a word)
4) Try a word that makes sense
5) Go back and read it again.
6) Ask "Does it sound right?"  "Does it all match?"  "Does it make sense?"

Here's a chart and cards with key visuals that we have found useful to use in the classroom.  There is also a black & white version to send home. Click {HERE} to download this file. 


Learning High Frequency Words
It is important for students to memorize/learn by sight a bank of high frequency words. These are words that occur most frequently in written material.  Words like the, are, as, and of are some examples. These often are words that may have no specific visual image connected to them but are needed to create the flow of natural language.

There are 2 types of high frequency/sight words.  Some can be sounded out phonetically like can or it.  Since these words are highly used, they should become recognizable on sight rather than be decoded  The more words students know on sight, they more fluent they will become. Fluency aids in reading comprehension. Other words are NOT phonetic and can only be learned by sight,  Sometimes these words are called Tricky or Challenge Words (ex.the, said, have, and here). These words are not sounded out and must be learned through repeated exposure and practice. 


Sight words should be practiced until they are recognized immediately when seen. Here is a song we wrote to engage students in learning sight words. Also included is a Sight Word Bingo game with EDITABLE cards!  Click the link {HERE} to get this FREEBIE!


We hope you find these activities helpful when you start teaching your new class of beginning readers!


Graphics provided by Classroom Doodle Diva, Whimsey Workshop Teaching, and Educlips.




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Five Things to Keep In Mind on the First Day of School

Have you had it yet? Is it next week? Or still a few weeks off?

Hi, I’m Jessica from What I Have Learned. How many first days of school have you had as a teacher? Do you still get nervous at the start of every year?

I remember my first day of teaching my first year. I started my career in fifth grade. I had butterflies in my stomach that first day. I had planned everything the best that I knew how, but really I had no clue what I was doing!

In came 28 fifth graders, most of whom where pretty close to my size! I don’t remember exactly what we did that day. Most likely some name games, getting to know you activities, and team building games. Fast forward 16 years and I can tell you my first days start way smoother than my first first day of teaching!


Regardless of whether your first day of school is, next week or a few weeks away, you'll want to be sure you few key things in place.

First Thing in the Morning 

Have something for students to do when they walk in the door available on their desks so that you have time to greet each student and talk to parents.

 If you teach kindergarten and your school allows it, I encourage you to invite parents in and help their child get settled. Making a good home / school connection is important and one way to get a good start is on the first day when parents are handing their children off to you.

When my students come in the classroom, they find puzzle piece on their desks with a box of crayons. I don’t put anything else on students’ desks yet. You’ll find out why in a bit.

On the board are a basic set of directions. Students are to write their name on their puzzle piece in large letters (sometimes I’ll write their name ahead of time) and color the puzzle piece so that there is no white space left.


This puzzle piece is part of my Community Building Puzzle. We don’t put together the puzzle quite yet, but since the pieces are not colored, we are ready to put them together later that afternoon or if we have some down time later on in the week.

Seating Arrangements (or the lack of) 

I mentioned earlier that I don’t put anything but the puzzle piece and crayons on students’ desks. Why?

One, I let students sit wherever they want to on the first day. Shocking, I know. I do this because I don’t know the students yet, but for the most part, unless you teach kindergarten, they know each other. I want to see who students sit next to and choose to talk to. I want to sit back and observe how they choose to interact with one another. This gives me a pretty good idea of classroom dynamics and personalities. On the first day, students are usually so nervous that they don’t act out too much, but you can get an idea of the kinds of choices they make.

The other reason I don’t put things on students desks is that I want an opportunity to hand out materials myself. Partly so I can talk about how to use the materials and care for them, but also so that I can walk around and get to know the names and faces of each student. When I’m handing out pencil boxes, notebooks, folders, etc. I’m getting multiple opportunities to meet each student for a couple seconds as I drop of the materials I say each name every chance I get. By the end of the day I have all student names and faces memorized.

I also don’t want overwhelm students with too much stuff on the first day that we don’t necessarily need until later in the week. I hold onto supplies, like notebooks and folders, and hand them out as we’re engaging in the activity that requires that supply.

Play a Name Game 

There are tons of name games. Play one. Any one. Just do one.

As I mentioned earlier, every opportunity you have to say and interact with students names will help you learn them that much better. Once you learn their names, your brain can move onto other things, like figuring out their learning styles and personalities.

Name games also help students learn each others’ names. For smaller students, make it simple. For older students, make it more complicated. Either way, make it FUN!

Don’t Forget the Rules 

Go slow. Be deliberate. Very deliberate. Explain EVERYTHING. To the point where you think you’re going overboard. Every opportunity you get, go over how to do something both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Chorally repeat them. Model them. Practice them.

Keep in mind those areas outside the classroom, like the playground, bathroom, hallways, etc. How do you want students to behave in those areas? Teach. Model. Practice. Repeat.

Cooperative Learning Activities & Icebreakers 

Plan a lot of them. Plan more than you will need. You never know when you might have a little extra time to throw one in. The first couple days / weeks of school are all about learning how to get along together in the classroom. Use every opportunity to build community and teach students how to get along with one another. It will pay off in the long run, later in the year.

Some of my favorite cooperative learning activities are highlighted in a blog post on What I Have Learned.

Bonus: Favorite Books 

Below are some of my favorite books that walk you through setting up your classroom for the first couple weeks of school.  The below links are affiliate links.

Keys to the Elementary Classroom  I have used every year since I first started teaching.  It is filled with awesome suggestions on how to set up your classroom, create a daily schedule, and what to do during those first few weeks.

The First Days of School is a great book for, wait for it, the first days of school!

Reaching All by Creating Tribes Learning Communities  has excellent cooperative learning activities for all grade levels.  It's much more than just cooperative learning activities, but those are what I use from it.

Are you an experienced teacher?  What tips and suggestions do you have for the first day of school?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Getting Students to Talk about Math....Missing Addends


Good Morning!  I am Terri Izatt from KinderKapers, and I am excited to be blogging here today.  I am the kind of person who loves to see all my students merrily and actively moving about my classroom learning in very hands on and creative ways.
Today I want to talk about math and developing number sense in students of all ages.  I recently attended a class where we learned ways to cognitively guide our math instruction.  I was so excited to learn that many of the things I was already doing, were just that.


We were taught (or reminded) that students come to school with a great deal of informal or intuitive knowledge of mathematics and we can use that to build mathematical understandings.  Given the opportunity students can work their way through a given task or problem and gain understandings as a result.  This requires both time to work on solving the problem and the chance to discuss the thinking behind their solutions.  As students listen to each other they can even increase their own understandings as they first, explain their own thinking, and second, listen to someone's different thought process.
Number Talks
This can begin with a task as simple as dot cards or ten frame quick match.

When you ask a student how they knew there were 7 or 8 or 12 dots on a card, they have to think about their thought process.  What did they do?  Did they see any patterns?  Did they do anything to stay organized or count quicker?  When you ask, "Did anyone do something different?", or "...see something different?", students begin to realize that there is more than one way to approach a problem.

Being able to see ten frames in your mind is a skill that will be so helpful as students need to compose and decompose larger numbers.  One thing I like to do is a game of 10 Frame Quick Draw.  I will hold up one (or mask one on my smartboard) for just a few seconds and then the students need to draw dots that match the 10 frame I showed.  As time goes on, I show it for shorter amounts of time and let them play with partners.  My favorite question to ask is, "Which did you count....the circles or the spaces".  Once again, students have to slow down and think about what they did, and they get to see that not everyone thinks the same.

We should have students solve problems not to apply mathematics, but to learn new mathematics.  Tasks or problems can and should be posed that engage students in thinking about, and developing the important mathematics they need to learn.  When designing a task we should begin where the students are, be sure the engaging aspect of the problem relates to the mathematics the students are to learn, and it must require a chance to talk about and justify their answer and methods.

Try this task:  If we start with ____ (you pick the number) ______ (cubes, dinosaurs, shark teeth) and I hide some, how many did I hide?  Have the students tell you how they plan to solve the problem without actually telling you the answer.  Give them time to think about about what they need to know and what they want to do, and then justify their methods.  Then they can check their methods and see if they can get the correct answer.

Now this math task, becomes a game, a game you can play in any season (just change up the manipulative), a game you can differentiate on many levels (just change the number of manipulatives you use).  I love it and it is one of my favorites.  I could call it Missing Addends,  but I usually try to find a name that matches the manipulative I am using.   This time of year, it seems that shark teeth would be fun.  I created these recording sheets to go with some shark teeth I picked up at Amazon.com and I called the game Shark Attack.
Using a recording sheet can help students to keep track of their thinking, especially as they play multiple times.


Giving the students sentence stems and a math talk work mat will also help them to be able to explain their thinking.


You can pick this up along with other versions in my TpT store.  Your students will have fun with this all year long.







Monday, July 20, 2015

Routines and Procedures Tips

I know it is only July and I don't start teaching until after the Labor Day weekend but already my mind is going over how can I improve the way my class will run in the upcoming school year.  After teaching almost 20 years, I am always changing and looking for new ways to improve how my classroom is managed.  One of the first books I bought on classroom management was "The First Days of School" by Harry Wong.  What stuck with me after reading that book was the importance of having routines and procedures for everything that happens in my classroom.  I developed my routines right away but in the first few years I really didn't spend enough time practising those routines. Now I know better.  I will spend the first few weeks teaching and practising the routines and procedures to my students and worry about getting the curriculum covered later.  I will share some of the tips I have learned about introducing routines and procedures and would love to hear about what has worked for you.


1. Visuals, Visuals, Visuals!


One thing I have learned is that it is not good enough to just have the words on your charts but visuals can help students understand what is being asked of them in an easier way.  I also have a visual schedule and I find students hardly ever ask me the question, "What do we have to do next?".
Morning Routine
  This was my Morning Routine chart from this past year.  Students would enter the class and follow the pictures.
Number 1  - Put your bookbag and lunchbag in your locker.
Number 2.  Bring in your agenda and homework and put it on your desk and if you are ordering recess or lunch put your order in the blue cafeteria bag.
 Number 3.  Start bellwork or morning work.
Number 4.  When finished your bellwork sit on your sit-spot at the front of the class and read until your teacher is ready to start (my class has a Hollywood theme so I have the girls sit on popcorn clip art and the boys on movie clappers clip art which I have taped to the floor.
Number 5.  Calendar time at the SMARTboard.

End of Day Routine
This was my End of the Day Routine.  See if you can figure out the steps to how we go home at the end of the day in my classroom.   You can make your own morning and end of day routine anchor charts by using this product.

Another set of visuals that I have posted in my class are our  class rules.   In the first few weeks we review these daily.  I often get my student of the day to read them to the class each morning during our morning meeting.  After our Christmas and Easter break I will review them again for about a week after the holiday.  It is amazing to me how much they can forget in one week away from school!
Class Rules Visual Reminders

2.   Model, Model, Model!

When I am introducing any new routine in my class I always explain to students the rationale behind the routine or procedure.  I then model to the students how the procedure looks.  For example:  when teaching the students how to line up I always get a few students to line up for the class.  One behind the other, hands to their sides, quiet voices, etc.  Next, I will always get a few students to come up and line up and they will show the other students what you shouldn't be doing such as standing side by side, swinging their arms and shouting.  My students love being the ones picked to show how not to behave!

3.  Be Consistent!

If there is one thing that I have learned about teaching routines and procedures is to be consistent.  Some days I feel like they are never going to figure out the routines but if you spend the time during those first few weeks going over and over what you expect, I promise you it will lead to a well-managed classroom.  My Morning and End of Day Routine charts were taken down at Christmas time because we were decorating the class and I forgot to put them back up right away and my students followed the routines for the rest of the year no problem because we had consistently reviewed that chart on a daily basis in the first term.


4.  Engage, Engage, Engage!  

Try to look for ways to make learning routines and procedures interesting for students.  When I taught grade 5, I would always pass out a booklet outlining the class routines and procedures on the first day of school.  I would tell the students that it would be their only homework for the first two weeks was to read over their booklet.  Each day we would discuss a procedure in the booklet and model it.  I also told students that at the end of the two weeks on the Friday afternoon we would be playing a game of Routines and Procedures Jeopardy.  The students loved playing Jeopardy!  It did take me some time to make the first game the first year but then I had it to use for the next 13 years.  An answer under Procedures for 200 points, might be "The number of pencils that need to be sharpened for morning work" and then the student would say "What is 2?".  They would then get 200 points for their team.  

This year for my grade 2 students I wanted something to help students learn the rules so I decided to make a coloring booklet and some crowns for them to wear.  I am going to get them to wear their crowns everyday for the first week of school so that they can point to the visual on the crown and explain what it means for how to complete independent and group work in the classroom.  If you think it might help you in your class you can get it here.

School Rules
To my friends who are going back to school in the next few weeks, I wish you a great school year!