Monday, September 30, 2013

Strong in Math

I am seeing more and more evidence that my students this year are very strong in math.  I am a very linguistic person, and math really wasn't my thing in school.  I am the nerd who enjoys reading, is decent at writing and doesn't mind editing writing.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching math, it just isn't something I was good at in school, and Language Arts is more my thing.

Last week, my students proved to be better at me in math when they were able to easily make shapes from smaller shapes.  Meanwhile, their teacher was still manipulating the shapes (more than once) trying to turn them to make a new shape.  I know what I need to use, but it takes me a while to manipulate them to make what I want.

I have a student from a local university working with me this semester with the thought that she will student teach with me next semester.  She will be teaching some lessons this week, and a requirement of her teaching is that she give students a written pretest.  Her lessons will be on addition.  She gave students a sheet with addition problems on it and asked them to do their best.  I have not introduced addition yet (shame on me).

As I walked around while they were taking this pretest, I was shocked to see students counting on their fingers and actually figuring the problems out.  7/23 students had a perfect score! Tomorrow is the introduction to addition lesson.  I am interested to hear the thinking of these students who already know how to add.

Many of my students are struggling in Language Arts, but it great to see their success in math.  I am hoping my comfort with Language Arts will help me bring success to my students in this area!

What are your students' strengths?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Looking Back at Last Week; Moving Ahead for This Week

We've had a busy week!  It was a 5 day week, which was only our second 5 day week, so I had some tired kiddos by Friday.  We finished up our Nearest & Dearest unit, a unit about family and friends, and are ready to jump into Head to Toe, a unit about our body.  Week 1 covers body systems, and week 2 is about our 5 senses.

Here are a few highlights of our week:

We learned about 10 frames and practiced filling in a 10 frame with Froot Loops.  My kiddos rock at math!

We began using our MagnaTiles that I won over the summer.  My students loved using MagnaTiles to build and practice making shapes from smaller shapes.

Students are creating a class number book using the Book Creator app.  We walked around our school, inside and outside, and students took pictures of numbers they found using the iPad.  Each child is choosing a picture and adding it with a sentence about the number to our book.  We will then have the opportunity to publish our book.  They are so excited to be authors!

I am going to attempt my first project based learning piece of the year this week and next.  I have not done project based learning this early in the year in the past, so we'll see how it goes!

I could use your help:  How do you make saying a focus statement an automatic habit in your teaching?  I get wrapped up in the material and the schedule and, while I know it is best practice, the focus statements don't always happen. Your suggestions would be appreciated!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Candy Corn Fun {Freebie}

I spent my rainy Saturday working on a few things for school.  One of my creations was a little something I wanted to share with you as fall begins today.

Last spring I made packets for Valentine's Day and Easter for my students to practice math skills.  They loved these little packets (probably because they got to eat some candy when the finished).  When looking for coupons today, I saw that Target had a coupon for Starburst candy corn.  I picked up 2 bags and thought my students this year would probably enjoy some candy corn math.

My candy corn packet includes: graphing, measurement, addition and greater than/less than/equal to.  I'm planning to use this sometime in October.  I use snack sized Ziploc bags to make individual portions for each student.

Head on over here to download your copy!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

We Are Family (with freebies!)

It is a rainy Saturday here in NE Ohio.  A perfect day for cleaning, baking and school work.  A batch of apple bread is complete, apple dessert bars are next followed by dinner and another round of bread (debating a batch of apple to freeze or move on to pumpkin).  Last week's apple picking lead to a desire to make lots of apple goodies.

Our current unit is "Those Nearest and Dearest", which includes the topics of families and friends.  I created a few center activities for my students to use with a family theme in mind.

I was looking for a way for my students to practice counting objects to 10 in the math center and decided to use my bear counters.  Students choose a bear card and make a "bear family" using bear counters.  They all love using the bear counters!

You can get your copy of the bear cards here.

My second creation was a beginning sound sort (well, actually 2) with a family theme.  Students sort 9 picture cards by their initial sounds.  It was surprising to me to see who picked up on this quickly and those who struggled.

This activity is also a freebie here.

If you download these activities, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Off and Running on a Monday

Update: I wrote this post on Monday, but am linking up with Curious Firsties for their "Wednesday Wow" linky party to share my excitement!

I have a few things to celebrate after a very long day.

First, today we had the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education visit our building today. That title is quite a mouthful! I had the opportunity to present a group, including her, as well as other education leaders in our district and community, sharing ways I use technology in my classroom. I think this is the first time I felt relatively calm about speaking in front of a group. As another staff member said, "you just shared your story". I felt very comfortable talking about technology and sharing all the things my students have accomplished using technology.  

The group that was in the presentation then broke into smaller groups and toured classrooms. My students did a great job as our visitors asked them questions! They were engaged in their centers and were excited to talk about what they are doing in centers.

My next celebration is the progress a couple of my kiddos have made in the 3 weeks we've been in school. Our curriculum teaches letter sounds prior to letter ID. I checked all of my students on letter sounds before I started introducing them as prescribed by the curriculum. Many of my students only knew 6 or fewer letter sounds. In fact, there were only 4 students out of 23 that knew more than 6 letter sounds. Today I started retesting and found that the 2 kiddos I tested today jumped by about 10 sounds. Happy teacher- right here! The kiddos were pretty proud of their work too!

My final celebration was a happy ending to my day. Back in July while on vacation, I had the opportunity to see a mama turtle lay her nest. You can read about that here. Well, the nest hatched this week and all but one hatchling survived. The part that made my day was that the turtle coordinator, who I met on vacation, is a teacher and her class got to experience her doing the nest evacuation. Pretty cool stuff!

What do you have to celebrate in your classroom? I've love to hear about your celebrations, big or small!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Picking Apples

I am excited for fall; I'm not looking forward to what comes after fall, but I love the changing leaves, cooler temperatures (notice I said "cooler" and not "freezing with snow"), apples and pumpkins.

In the 8 years I have taught kindergarten, I have planned a trip to the apple orchard for my class and my teammates' classes who are interesting in going for six years.  Today was our trip for this fall.  All 4 classes who are part of my team were invited.  We had a beautiful fall day!  24 families joined us for brief instructions and an afternoon of family fun picking apples.

The orchard is about 15 minutes from our school. Families are responsible for their own transportation and the cost of the apples they pick.  I call the orchard ahead of time and set up the trip.  We send a reservation form home to get a head count.  Then, the day of the trip, we all meet at the orchard.

The trees at the local orchard, Stahl's Farm Market, are short enough that students can reach the apples.  The staff is very knowledgeable and friendly. They are very flexible and accommodating to the needs of our kiddos.  Today, our "tour guide" told the kids and families to sample as many apples as they'd like.  The kids had a blast!

Why do we do this?  I want my students to have some of the experiences I had growing up.  I want families to discover "hidden gems" in our area, and hopefully they will go back next season.  More than that, I want to encourage families to spend time together doing something fun that everyone can participate in.  Was this a success?  Absolutely!

Tomorrow we will be making applesauce!  Make sure you follow me (over there on the right) to see how our applesauce adventure turns out.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Have you used the Flordia Center for Reading Research website?  A colleague reminded me of the website this week for games and activities to develop literacy skills.  I have some games that I printed in the past; I have also used these to send home for additional help and enrichment.

The website is free to use and has a variety of activities in each category.  The ones I made are in brown mailer envelopes and are laminated.  They have held up to years of use.   There are activities for grades K-5.

When you go to the website, click on "for Educators" at the top left.  Next, click "student center activities" at the top of the menu on the left hand side of the page.  Then, choose your grade level.  Finally, scroll down and choose the category of games you need, download the PDF and print.

What other resources do you use for enrichment/intervention and "extras" to send home?

Monday, September 9, 2013


Today during our first day of "small group time" (intervention/enrichment), my WHOLE CLASS was on task for about 5 minutes!  It was an amazing and glorious 5 minutes.  They were so engaged in all the new things they were trying.  I was pumped that we got through our tight morning schedule, finished math in just over our scheduled amount of time and had time for this fun (and important) small group time.

Here are 2 of the favorite small group activities:

Magnetic rhyming

SMARTboard rhyming center (Lakeshore Learning software)

I'm looking forward to another productive and successful day tomorrow!

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Last night, I watched the documentary special, Teach, on CBS.  It is my understanding that the documentary was made to encourage people to go into the teaching profession.  I'm not sure that is what I got out of it, but it was certainly inspiring to me.  I then read a post by Christi at Mrs. Fultz's Corner today about her take on the teaching profession and felt a nagging to share my thoughts.

I saw a few posts on blogs and on Facebook about Teach leading up to the airing last night, and I had it in the back of my mind that I was going to watch it.  I sent my mom a text just as it was starting because she tends to like nonfiction television.

I watched Teach while working on things for school during commercials.  I was glued to the TV throughout the show because I was surprised how well I felt I knew those teachers who I've never met. Their passion for teaching and their students' learning was exactly what I want to be for my students.  I cried with the teachers and parents as they got their final scores back, and my heart broke for the little girl who the teacher had to keep going back a level to find her reading level.  For each child they profiled, I identified "that child" in my teaching career.  Though I am only in my 10th year of teaching, I've had ups and downs, highs and lows, struggling students and bright students, but they have all impacted the way I view my profession and how I help my students learn and grow.

My mom and I went shopping together today, and the topic of Teach came up.  Here was my mom's take: "I watched that show you sent me a text about last night.  That is exactly what you tell me teaching is like.  I could see you in those teacher's shoes."  I made me smile that watching that show helped her "get it" when I tell her about my day.

I frequently struggle with the amount of time needed to be the teacher I aspire to be.  I've been told on more than one occasion that I spend way too much time on school material.  I tell my students, "I expect nothing less than your best."  Is every student in my class going to aspire to be the next President or go to an Ivy League school?  No, they aren't, but I do expect them all to do their best and and I expect myself to do all I can to help them reach their potential.

As a kindergarten teacher, I see students grow by leaps and bounds throughout the year.  They come in, some having never been to school at all, unable to identify or write their names and by the time May rolls around, they are reading.  I had a student 4 years ago who struggled in all he did.  He eventually received IEP services.  I had him for 2 years and loved every second of watching him grow.  Was it a struggle at times?  ABSOLUTELY!  This summer, I received a message from his mom telling me that he passed the state reading assessment.  Yep, I cried; then I told basically everyone I knew because even though he is no longer in my class, he is still "my student", and I celebrate everything he accomplishes because I know how hard it was for him to get there.  Those are the moments that make me keep me going on a bad day.  His picture sits by my teacher area to remind me that every child can succeed, and that success looks different for every child.  I love my students, and they deserve only the best life has to offer.  It isn't always easy, but their smiles and learning are worth it!

Did you watch Teach?  If you did, please share your thoughts in a comment.  If you didn't, what keeps you inspired as a teacher?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  I'd also love to have you join me on this adventure by following my blog.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Five For Friday {September 6} with a freebie!

I'm linking up with Kasey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday.  It has been a busy 4 day week in my classroom.

Party Time!  We are having a party in our dramatic play center.  Thanks to my mom for helping me create the little cake (made from foam) that my students love!

We've enjoyed more time at labs (centers).  A favorite center is the puzzle center.

My students are loving reading.  Many of them are reading pictures rather than words, but thanks to HeidiSongs, students are picking up on sight words!

In my math center, my student were all about a little matching game I created using cute monster clip art.  Our current theme is "I Am Amazing! I Feel Fine!"  I read "Sad Monster, Glad Monster" and created a few monster themed activities to go along with the book.  You can download your own copy of the matching activity here.

We started writing in our journals this week.  Students really enjoy the picture making part, but they aren't fans of the actual writing part yet.  I am hopeful that they will love writing as much as my students did last year.

I'm off to finish watching the TEACH documentary on CBS then off to bed.  What are you up to this weekend?  Check out the other fun happenings this week at Doodle Bugs Teaching!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Math Journals

I have been thinking about doing math journals for the last couple years.  This year, I decided that it was time to stop thinking about it and just do it!  I've read many different ways of structuring math journals and types of questions to ask (thank-you Blogland!)  I decided to go with a post I read early in August from Kindergarten Kindergarten.

Thanks to the TpT sale in August, I scored the first nine weeks prompt for a steal.  After collecting some composition books on sale and some printing and cutting, we were ready to go.  I printed and precut all the prompts for the nine weeks.  Each prompt is in an envelope.  Students will be given the prompt each day to glue, using a glue stick, into the journal.

After figuring out some logistical things with our schedule, we finally started math journals today.  Below are some examples of different ways students answered the question.  Today's question: "How many kids are at your table? How can you show your answer?"

Tally Marks (Some of them are lovin' tally marks!)
Drawing pictures (most popular option)

Plain and simple, wrote the number (twice...not sure why twice).
For day one, I think we did a pretty good job.  The kids were excited about their new math journals and I'm hoping their enthusiasm continues.

Do you use math journals?  How do you incorporate them into your day?  How long do you allow in your schedule for the completion of these?