Saturday, May 2, 2015

Five for Fraturday and a Freebie!!  Hooray!  Not to mention we are also in the 20's on our countdown to summer break.  The sun is is supposed to be gorgeous - a high of 70!  It is Saturday and I am spending time with my boys.  My favorite farmers market opens for the season today.  We are going to the first annual Food Truck Carnival in my town tomorrow.  I am one happy lady right now!

As usual, I am joining the "Five for Friday" linky party hosted by Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching a little late.

I will start with my big, exciting news!  I have been commuting (minimally 30 minutes each trip) for the last six years.  To be blunt, I hate my commute.  I am a busy body, so sitting on my rear end in the car for at least 60 minutes each weekday seems like such a waste of time to me!  So one of my goals for this year was to find a position closer to home.

 (This is not the greatest picture - sorry - but this is a close up of the goals I have framed and sitting on my dresser.)

I am SO HAPPY to say that I was offered a position in my hometown!  Not only that, but I was offered my first choice (there were a handful of elementary positions open).  The school in which I will be working is 3 minutes from our garage to the parking lot.  Woo hoooooooo!  More than that, I have been told nothing but wonderful things about the school district, my new school, my future principal, the staff, the students, etc.  My interactions with them so far have proven this all to be true.  I will be switching from Kindergarten to First Grade and I am so thrilled for the change.  Life is good.

With all that being said, I am going to miss many of my cuties (and colleagues).  Here is a note one of my buddies wrote at home and brought to school.  <3

(Unger is a tricky last name for Kinders!  LOL)

My Kindergarten teammate and I were supposed to be given a sub this week, so we could get some PALS testing done.  When I write sub plans, I try to keep things simple, so I decided to have the sub do this fun directed drawing from First Grade Blue Skies.

Unfortunately, no sub showed up.  *sigh*  (Though, I am not sure why I thought one would as they usually don't.  Is this the case in your school district, too!?)  Anyway, I decided to still do the directed drawing with my kiddos.

We also read the nonfiction book, "Let's Look at Spring" by Sarah Shuette.  Of course, Mrs. Unger won't let her kids JUST draw, so I created a sheet with a sentence frame for them to complete.

"My bird is (adjective) and (adjective)."

It is nothing fancy, but if you would like to use it alongside the directed drawing from First Grade Blue Skies, you can snag it for free HERE!

My Friday nights have been looking a lot like this...

 ...and this!  I have been finding myself book shopping a lot more again, now that the weather is warming up.  Such an addicting hobby and collection, LOL!

We are wrapping up 2D shapes and moving on to 3D shapes (though the two go hand-in-hand).  I decided we should do something fun before the transition, so I took out this book - love it!

Then, just like the square in the book, my kiddos were given a square (we used scrapbook paper) and they could do anything they wanted with it (cut it, crumple it, rip it, punch holes it it, color it, whatever) in order to make it into something new.

Of course I forgot to take pictures of my students' completed work (though they are now hanging beautifully on our hallway bulletin board), but here is the example I created while giving directions.

(Don't ask - it is all I could come up with off the top of my head.)

Well, I hope you all enjoy your weekend!  I know I will.  Thanks for stopping by!  :)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Sunday Scoop AND Forming Groups

I am pretty excited because I just found a new-to-me linky party over at The Teaching Trio!  It is called The Sunday Scoop.

So here my scoop:

Today I wanted to blog about something that almost ANY classroom can do, which is to form groups in fun ways.  We all know the importance of cooperative learning, whether it be partner or small group work.  So why not make it a little more fun for our kiddos when we form those groups?  Here are some ideas that I use:

For the life of me, I cannot find the link to where I found the partner-picking cards pictured above.  If they belong to you, please let me know so that I can give you credit!  But these are the ones we currently use.

I just now found these FREE Disney partner cards!  I will be printing these this week for sure!  Thank you to the Disneyfied Teacher!  (P.S. This is a set for 24 students or less.)

Oo!  Oo!  I just found these ADORABLE and FREE partner-picking cards from The Bad Apple.  Thank you for sharing!  There are enough in here for 42 students or less - and, oh boy, I hope you do not have 42 students!

Okay, here is another way my students find partners or groups:

This is an old picture from when I first bought these goodies on clearance at Wal-Mart last summer, but now I have them in a plastic container in my classroom.  I like using these because the we can easily form partners or even groups of three or four.  The kids simply close their eyes, pick a bracelet from the container, and then find the person or people that have the same color.  TIP - If you teach primary kids, tell them to keep these out of their mouths! Agh!  My little ones are always tempted to eat them, LOL!

We also use simple framed puzzles to form groups.  The ones pictured above are 16-piece puzzles, which obviously do not work.  I found mine at The Dollar Tree and they have 3 pieces, 4 pieces, and 5 pieces.  I have a WHOLE BUNCH of these, so that I can be flexible with my groupings.  Anyway, I put all the puzzle pieces in a bag, the students close their eyes and pick a puzzle piece, then on my cue they find the frame in which their puzzle piece belongs.  Once their puzzle is complete, they know who their groupmates are.  Easy peasy - lemon squeezey!

Here is another strategy that we use often and requires no materials:  Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up.

It is pretty straight-forward.  I say, "Stand up" and my students stand.  I say, "Hand up" and my students put one hand in the air.  I say, "Pair up" and then countdown from 10 to 0.  My students have 10 seconds to find a partner, high-five his/her hand, and sit down together knee-to-knee, eye-to-eye.

I have a Pinterest board called "Collaboration and Cooperative Learning" and I pin similar ideas here.  If you are interested in more ideas, follow my board and check back as I pin new ideas!

How do YOU form partners and groups in your classroom!?

Well, my boys will certainly be waking up any minute, so I better scurry along.  Enjoy your Sunday and thanks for stopping by!  :)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Five for Fraturday - Dictation Stations

I am late for the party (as usual), but better late than never!  Seriously though, I am impressed by all of you teachers out there who actually manage to STAY AWAKE long enough on a Friday evening to blog.  After a long school day (which was not exactly a cake walk), a 3-hour long SST meeting, another hour to pick up and prepare our classroom for Monday, and finally another 1/2 hour drive home, I.was.exhausted.

Last December, I was given a calendar with inspirational quotes from a colleague who was my Secret Santa.  This one could not have come at a more ideal time in my professional life.  Hopefully more to come on that!  *fingers crossed*

Anyway...moving on to the world of Kindergarten!  My current school district uses Fundations, which if you are unfamiliar, it is a phonological / phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling program.  Of course, we are always reminded to use the program "with fidelity," and I do.  However, I am always looking for ways to spice things up for my Kinders.

One of the elements of the program is what they call Dictation.  Essentially, I say a CVC word and my students are to write the word on their whiteboards.  We do this often and, I cannot lie, the excitement of having their very own whiteboard is fading away.  So this past week we did Dictation Stations.

In one station, my students used Wikki Stix to build the word.

In another station, my writers used old school chalk, a mini chalkboard, and an eraser (haha) to write the words.

So I bought these big dry erase stickers at Walgreens, of all places, and I have yet to stick them to my small group table, as I had originally planned.  Maybe because they cost a pretty penny and I only want to use them sparingly...for now, LOL.  My kiddos loved them!

We ended up spraying more shaving cream on the table after this picture was taken.  Tip - If you are going to expect your students to write words in shaving cream, give them LOTS of it!  I am strict about the "one finger only" rule, so they stay pretty clean.

This station had two steps.  First, my students segmented the words by saying the sounds in the CVC word as they moved the beads across the pipe cleaners.  Second, they wrote the word on paper using "rainbow writing" (each letter is a different colored marker).

I recorded a video of my students in the last station, but forgot to snap a picture (without student faces).  But anyway, I have these ginormous paint sticks (purchased from Wal-Mart) that I painted to look like big pencils.  The students used these "pencils" to sky write the word in the air, then write the word on their mini dry erase whiteboards.

What are some of the different ways you make writing words FUN in your classroom?!  I would love to hear your ideas!

As always, thanks for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sponge Activities - Not A Single Moment Wasted!

Two blog posts in one weekend!?  What is happening here??  Well...I should be meal planning for the week to prep for grocery shopping, but my boys are still sleeping - so I am taking advantage of this moment to bond with my coffee and computer.  :)

I was shocked when I realized that I have not yet written a post about my sponge activities, so here goes!

In Kindergarten, one of the biggest questions that I hear at the beginning of the school year is usually, "When do we get to plaaaaaaay?!"  Over time, my students learn that we play while we learn.  (I mean, who doesn't consider writing letters in shaving cream on their desks "play?"  I sure do!)  But there are occasions when my students get to "just play" - or at least they think it is just playing.  We call them sponge activities.

When some students finish their required task in advance, they are allowed to pick a sponge activity to "sponge up" the extra few minutes before the entire class is ready to move on.  Here are the sponge activities that we have in our classroom this year:

* number magnets on a magnetic board (Students can sort by color or number, put the numbers in order, add, subtract, etc.)

* file folder games (There are many games on different topics.)

* step-by-step drawing books (for our budding artists)

* puzzles (for our spatial learners - simple wooden ones as well as more challenge puzzles with many pieces)

* matching cards (I found mine at The Dollar Tree.)

* Find-It games (I have one that I purchased at a garage sale, but I now also have others that I made myself.  Students find number and letter beads in the bottles full of rice.)

* lacing cards (in the pink bucket - great for building on those fine motor skills)

* wooden shoe (Ours is kind of hidden behind the pink bucket, but the kids can practice tying shoelaces on it.)

* read-with-a-puppet (My students grab a puppet and a leveled reader, then either read to it or have the puppet read.)

Of course, each of these sponge activities is taught and modeled to the students, so they know my expectations.  As each activity is taught, a card goes up on the damask memo board.

Do you use sponge activities in your classroom?  If you have other ideas to share, I would love to hear about them!

As always, thanks for stopping by and enjoy what is left of your weekend!  :)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I'm Not Afraid of My Words! (and a FREEBIE)

Happy Saturday!

Do you use a Writers Workshop model in your classroom?  We do and I absolutely love it!  I especially value (and try my very best to replicate) the work of Matt Glover...

...Lisa Cleaveland...

...and Katie Wood Ray.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you a tool that we use during our Sharing and Reflection time (the third part and tail end of Writers Workshop).  We refer to it as our "I'm Not Afraid of My Words!" poster.

During Individual Work Time (the second part of Writers Workshop), most of my time is spent working with small groups and/or individual students.  However, I often like to walk around the room and look for someone who really took a chance, sounded out, and wrote a challenging word.  I ask the student to share his/her work during Sharing and Reflection time - and I have never had a student say "no."  Most of them love the extra attention!

The student in the spotlights gets to sit in the Share Chair and show his/her work.  I then lead the class in a very brief discussion about the challenging word that he/she wrote.  We add his/her name, the kid spelling, and the conventional (grown-up) spelling to the poster.   Finally, we celebrate the student's braveness with a silly-bration.  (If you are unfamiliar with silly-brations, check out Teacher Tipster's ideas below.  The kids love them!)

So - what does your Sharing and Reflection time look like?  What tools do you use?  I would LOVE to hear your ideas!

Oh!  I almost forgot!  I updated the "Stretchy the Word Snake - Short E" cards in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  I added dots and arrows for our tactile learners to touch when they say the sounds and then blend those sounds to read the word.

If you are a new friend to "Stretchy," you can click here to learn about him.

Feel free to stop by my TPT store and snag them for FREE by clicking HERE!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Stretchy the Word Snake - Updated FREEBIE!

Hi there!  My Kinders are working on blending letter sounds together in order to sound out CVC words.  So I thought it would be a great time to break out my good friend, Stretchy the Word Snake!

(If you are unfamiliar with him, you can read about Stretchy the Word Snake in an older post HERE.  But basically you print these cards on card stock, cut them out, then slip them into those sliding pencil cases.  The students pull out the pencil case drawer to reveal the word only at first, read the word, then pull the drawer out more to reveal the picture and check to see if they read the word correctly.)

Anyway, when I pulled this activity out of the cabinet, I realized it needed some updating.  I added dots (black for consonants and red for vowels) and arrows.  I will teach my students to point to the dots as they say the letter sounds, then drag their finger across the arrow (from left to right, of course) as they blend the sounds together to read the word.

I updated short "o" and short "u" at this point.  You can find them for FREE at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Enjoy!

Click HERE for short "o."

Click HERE for short "u."

As always, thanks for stopping by my little piece of the blog world!