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!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Partner Talk Strategy

Hellllooooo teacher friends!  Yep - I'm still alive.  ;)

I am joining Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for her fun linky party:  Wordless Wednesday!


We frequently use a partner talk strategy called, "Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up," but sometimes we need to do something different to change things up a bit.  In comes "Parallel Lines."


Partners discuss the topic, then one line stands and bumps down one person.  Ta-da!  They have a new partner to discuss with just like that!  (Tip - I often give the kids a fidget or small ball to show whose turn it is to talk.  That definitely helps.)

What other strategies do you use for partner talks?

Thanks for stopping by!  :)


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Classroom Reveal and a FREEBIE!

To be honest with you, I am still setting up my classroom...despite the fact that I was in there (almost) every day after my floor was waxed this summer.  But...if I wait until my classroom is "done" before I show you photos, there will never be a classroom reveal.  So here goes!

Here are some "before" shots:


(That is my little munchkin in the blue chair.  He was such a good sport - not that he had any other choice - and came with me to my classroom...again and again.)


(I am in love with the beautiful wood floor!)




(This is a "before" shot of the coat room.)


Annnnnnd...here are the "after" shots:



(This is the entry from my classroom to our coatroom.  I chose to use the smallest teacher desk I could get my hands on and I stuck it in the coatroom.  No need to take up classroom space!)


(I covered the open closet shelves with window curtains that I found at Big Lots, so my kiddos would not touch the things I have in there.  So far, so good!)


(This is where my students' work will be displayed in the hallway.  I used laminated scrapbook paper and clothespins that I spray painted.)




(We have a school-wide character education curriculum that we developed and this bulletin board reminds us what Principle of Leadership we are focusing on each month.)





(At our school, all teachers are required to display their teaching credentials in the hallway for all to see.)


(Each classroom displays a high school graduation year banner.  My Kindergarten students this year will eventually graduate in 2027.)


(We are all required to display our schedule in the hallway.)


(I wanted to give parents and other visitors a chance to write and leave notes, if they so choose.  Since I have a window on our classroom door, I decided to call these "Window Notes.")


(We have a big focus on student attendance at our school, so every homeroom teacher posts our daily attendance data.)


(Sorry that this picture is so blurry, but it is my teacher mission statement.  Every teacher in our school is required to write and display one.)


(We are a partially-integrated Project-Based Learning school, so every classroom must display the details of the project we are currently working on.)


(This is still not done...but it will be our class schedule.  I have two columns for morning and afternoon.  All the cards are there in that pink basket.  I just have to start sticking 'em up with Velcro dots.)


(I found this rolling cart that I LOVE on clearance at Wal-Mart.  I was keeping my fidgets on it, but I had to move that box because it was becoming a major student distraction.  I also keep things like my "Pick Me!" sticks, Kleenex, stickers, stamps, etc. here.)


(This will be our Calendar Math area eventually, but it is currently nothing but a mess.  Ha!)


(Yuck!  Please ignore the ugly vent.  The pink stool is used when my kids are getting water in the hallway because some have a hard time reaching.  The box contains books that the kids can read after they are done using the bathroom.)



(We are a school that is implementing Responsive Classroom strategies and systems, including Morning Meeting.  This was our first morning message.)


(I had to move this purple basket, too, as it was becoming a huge student distraction.  *sigh*  Anyway, the tallest item in there is our "talking stick" that we using during Sharing Time of Morning Meeting.)



(This is our Word Wall - but I cannot find our high-frequency word cards.  So frustrating!  I don't want to have to make new ones, LOL.)


(Every year that I have been a Kindergarten teacher, my students have always decorated their coat hook tags on the first day of school.  That is what those card stock cut-outs were for...along with stickers, markers, and crayons.  The green and red cups were supposed to be used if the kids needed help.  In other words, if someone needs me, they reverse the cups, so red is on top.  However, I had to take away the cups because they were a big distraction and noise-maker.  *sigh again*  Perhaps I will re-introduce them later in the year.)


(I love that our whole group carpet is an oval, which is perfect for Morning Meeting, but it is a little too small for 25 Kindergarten students and 1 teacher.  We are learning how to sit on the very edge!  The bean bag was to be used by our "Leader of the Week" only, but...I also had to put that away.  Maybe I will bring it back later...)


(Ah...here is something else that had to be hidden for now.  Have I mentioned that I have some extremely challenging students in my classroom this year?  I will re-introduce the exercise balls later in the year.  Our table captains will have the option of sitting on these, instead of chairs.)


(These frames are still empty, but will soon be filled by our "Classroom Code of Cooperation," or classroom rules.  We already wrote our code together, but I have to create the subway art version to go in these frames.)


(I created this voice level chart, so that it aligns with what we wanted at our school.)


(If you have followed my blog in the past, you may remember our "Share Chair."  This will be used a lot during Sharing and Reflection time of our Writers Workshop.)


(On these two bulletin boards, I have displayed our "Leadership Roles," or classroom jobs.  The students' name cards go below the jobs.)


(I cannot believe I am showing you this, but this table will eventually be one half Writing Center and one half Computer Center, if all goes to plan.  For now, it is a place where I am throwing things that I need to hang and do.)


(The black bin is our "Book Hospital," the pink tubs have seasonal and holiday books, and our big books are hung on a rolling clothes rack.)


(I have two laundry baskets from Big Lots and two pillows that students can choose to sit in when they are reading.)


(Here is my still-messy and still-not-organized-or-labeled classroom library.  To the far right on the floor, you can see our "conflict carpet.")



(Families put school supplies in grocery bags at Open House.  I still have to go through some of them, as you can see.)


(This is the area where I keep random stuff.  The blue mini garbage cans are for when students are cutting, they just put the paper scraps in there, instead of getting up and walking to the big garbage can.  I have a "Lost and Found," pails for sharpened and unsharpened pencils, our "Boo Boo Basket," and our "Tattling Turtle.")


(I am waiting to find time to get to a color printer, because I have to print my students' birthday pictures before I can stick 'em here.)




(I am hoping to put our Literacy Work Stations rotation cards on those damask memo boards, but I am not sure if it will work.  *fingers crossed*)


(Thank you to my mom for helping me make the curtains for my shelves!  I could not have done it without her.  Believe me...I tried and failed.)


(This is our Writers Workshop area - though it is an incomplete mess now.)


(That trophy will sit at the table of our "Leader of the Week."  I will also identify why they were selected on the "You rock because..." frame.)


(Here are our "sponge activities," which are things children can do to sponge up any extra minutes, if they finish early.)




(I stuck plastic plates on the wall and attached velcro, which will hold my students' photos.  This is how I will form, display, and, as needed, change our Guided Reading groups.)





(These are our Math Workshop work station tubs.)


(My students' photos will go in that black pocket chart soon.)




(So if any of my kids end the day on "pink" on our behavior clip chart, they receive one rhinestone to put on their clothespin.  After they obtain five rhinestones, they get to choose a reward card to redeem when they want.)


(This is our school-wide color system that we use for behavior checks.  I used a clothespin clip system.)


(My kiddos with lunches from home put their lunch boxes here in the morning, then this basket gets carried to the gym during lunch.)




(Here you can see our dismissal clip chart, dry erase board to record dismissal changes, hallway passes, and "HALL" poster.  We are also required to display our lesson plans, which is why I have a clear page protector hanging from the wall.  I will slip my lesson plans in there.)



(I assembled these for each staff member.  I say "assembled" because I found the freebie printable online.)

So that is it!  I hope you enjoyed my classroom reveal.  If you have any questions about anything you see, go ahead and leave a comment and I will write back as soon as I can.

Yesterday was my 30th birthday.  I am trying my best to embrace the fact that I am no longer in my 20's, but it is not easy!  Anyway, in an attempt to celebrate, I am sharing this freebie with you.

It is a questionnaire that you can set out at Open House or, if your Open House is over, you can just send it home in the students' folders (which is what I am doing, since I forgot about this form at Open House).  If you would like to snag this freebie, click HERE to visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

As always, thanks for stopping by!  :)