Thursday, July 30, 2015

Back to Work

It seems that I've taken a bit of an unintended break through the month of July.  Other than writing about I Teach 1st back at the beginning of the month, I've kind of been on a hiatus. It has been a relatively relaxing month spent with family and friends.  I've had a little project in the back of my mind since school was out in May, and this afternoon, I finally felt like working on it.  It felt good to get it put together.

My kiddos love these little fill-in-the-blank books.  We used the animal characteristics books in the spring and the human body book last fall.  The seasons come up relatively early in our year, so I wanted to get this one done before we headed back.  Keep reading to try to a win a copy for yourself.

We work 2 days next week for some professional development then are off for a week before going back "officially".  I intend to get as much out of those last few days of summer as I can!

I made it with the option of having each season be its own book or put all 4 together in one book.  Have you used Kari Bolt's clipart?  If not, check it out; I just love her kiddos!

I'm sure you've probably heard; TpT is having their big back to school sale on Monday and Tuesday. Get your wish list ready to go; my shopping cart is full!

Comment below and tell me your favorite season and what you love about that season.  Don't forget to leave an e-mail address so I can contact you.  I'll choose a winner on Sunday night.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Teach 1st {Day 4}

I seems as if day 4 just kind of disappeared as it took me a while to write about it!  After leaving Vegas, we headed on a little vacation to the CA coast visiting Ventura and Santa Barbara.  My highlight was a gluten free bakery in Santa Barbara as I found out about 3 months ago that I have a wheat allergy that was causing all kinds of digestive issues.  We also visited Palm Springs and a quick day trip to the Grand Canyon before flying home from Vegas.  It was a whirlwind, but many happy memories were made.  Back to day 4...

I attended Jack Hartmann's session first thing that morning. I had the opportunity to attend his keynote 4 years ago, and this did not disappoint either.  It was fun to see teachers up and dancing/moving at 7:45am!  Two new songs I learned were "Connect with a Friend & Freeze" and "Pow Wow". I think my kiddos would love both of these.  I have the "connect" song on a CD I already own, so we will definitely be checking that out when I head back to school.  It reminded me how much fun my kiddos can have with his songs while still practicing some important skills.  I was reminded of lessons in sequencing such was with the Silly Rock Star Song or The Silly Pirate Song. I know that my kiddos would love to practice sequencing using these!

Silly Rockstar Song
I also attended a session with Shannon Samulski.  I had never been to one of her sessions, but they came highly recommended from other presenters, so I wanted to make sure I checked out at least one.  The session I attended was about connecting literature and math.  I loved her idea of a "math salad bar".  This way of organizing math manipulatives and materials was meant to give students the opportunity to choose their own manipulatives and tools to complete math work.

She spent a lot of time talking about performance tasks and how math isn't just about answering a simple question.  Many of these ideas were similar to what I heard Eliza Thomas talk about earlier in the week, but more resources and ideas were presented.  One site was Georgia's Math site.  Not only are there lesson ideas, but there are plans and assessments as well.  Using the free resources section of her website will give you many more ideas as well!

The rekenrek made from skinny dowel rods, popsicle sticks (fat ones) and beads used to count the coins Alexander lost throughout her reading the book Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday.

I hope you've picked up some ideas along the way and learn something new from my 4 days in Vegas at I Teach 1st.  It was a wonderful week of learning and chatting with other teachers, and I was so blessed to be able to attend with 2 teacher friends.  I would not hesitate to attend again!

Photo booth at the blogger meet up.  Holly and Rachel attended I Teach 2nd.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

I Teach 1st! {Jen Jones' Sessions}

I'm back with more from day 3.  Here is what my afternoon looked like.

Session three was with Jen Jones from Hello Literacy about developing critical thinking skills. Do you see a trend here?  I didn't realize I had signed up for so much on critical thinking until I starting writing these posts, but all of these sessions have been great and I think will really help my students.  Have you been to Jen's blog?  If not, you need to go there and read up!  So many great ideas I can't cover it all.  Between this session and the next one, I got a lot of ideas!  I stayed with Jen for my last session of the day, which was about vocabulary instruction.  I think this is an area where I could always improve.

Jen shared that the more you raise your own awareness and interest in words, the more students will be interested.  Encourage your kiddos to ask questions if you use a word they don't understand.  Capitalize on their curiosity!  The kiddos in Jen's school each have a vocabulary notebook.  They intentionally teach a new word each week.  Students record the word, definition (not in K) and a picture of the word.  Students can also choose to include other word they learn and want to add to their journals.

It was also brought up that kids need to work on their listening skills.  I've learned that this can be especially evident when students struggle with phonemic awareness.  It isn't necessarily that they don't understand the topic/concept, but that they did not listen to what was said.  I see a lot of kiddos who can't differentiate between beginning/middle/ending sounds; frequently it is just that they need to listen more carefully.  We started doing directed drawing this year, and by the end of the year, the kids knew that they had to listen and follow directions carefully to make this work.  Listening is such a critical skill!

One idea I loved was "picture of the day".  On IG, Jen uses #vocabularypics to share pictures that would be great vocabulary builders.  She pointed out that pictures are informational text.  When you cross the street, you use pictures to tell you when to go and when to stop, for example.  When showing the pictures, she asks 2 questions: "What do you see?" (observation) and "What do you think?" (inference)  This gets students thinking about what is there and what might be.  I can absolutely see this in my classroom.  I've been on the lookout for things around me that could be used for picture of the day.

Another suggestion was asking questions that get kids to think.  "How" and "Why" question elicit much more critical thinking than "What" or Who".  Rachel Lynette has Would You Rather questions in her TpT store (a suggestion given in the workshop) that will help kids think about what they would rather do.  They then need to explain why they would rather do one or the other.  A great way for them to use their expressive vocabulary and explain their answer.

Analogies were focused on in both of Jen's workshops.  I can see this happening seamlessly in my classroom as well.  She stated that analogies help kids see relationship and think about how words are related.  Suggestions for analogies were: upper and lower case letters, rhyming words (pictures), sizes, shapes, and vocabulary words.  I think this would be great for "theme vocabulary" and also for reviewing basic concepts.

A way to get kiddos to take the time to explain is to prompt them with "because".  Jen has the word "because" hung in her room to remind herself and students to ask for more.  She also said to ask students "Can you explain ______?" instead of asking them to define it.  Defining it is a very basic skill, whereas explaining it takes some thinking.

These 2 sessions were great, and I look forward to implementing some of these ideas this year.  How do you help your students develop critical thinking and/or vocabulary?

Friday, July 10, 2015

I Teach 1st! {Day 3}

Here is a recap of Day 3 of I Teach 1st!

I started off my morning with Rebecca Solomon, another Ohioan, learning about how gross motor can improve writing and reading.  This was so interesting to me.  She stated that with her students, she has seen the correlation between balance and reading capacity and between running stamina and reading stamina.

Some ideas given were crab walking, ball tosses, a variety of balance and exercise ball activities.  A suggestion was given that in the first week of school, you have 3 cups (red, yellow, green) and toss each student a ball one at a time.  Sort their "sharing sticks" (or other name items) into the red, yellow and green cups according to how well students are able to catch the ball.  I thought this idea of sorting their sticks was a great, quick way to assess.

I can see incorporating some of these ideas in my classroom, but I'm not sure that being able to add in a gym time into my schedule.  I think this would really help my kiddos with their focus and to build their core, which is always something I see some kids struggle with in K.

This was sight word hopscotch as an example.
My second session was with Dan St. Romain about avoiding power struggles.  Boy did I need this!  It seemed as though many of the others in the session were in the same boat.  One of the biggest thing was "Don't show the kids attitude if you don't want them to display attitude."  The biggest way this happens is through sarcasm.  Saying things like "Do you want to miss your recess?" or "Are you going to need to move your clip?"are ways sarcasm works its way into the classroom and students then use it too.  He said a few times "Walk away from crazy", when someone is escalated and upset, you cannot reason with them, and they will say things out of anger that they don't really mean.

Another suggestion given was to provide a distraction for the student who was escalating.  This will help break the habit of misbehavior.  It is not rewarding a child for distracting them, but it is trying to recondition them to be more successful in the future.  By ignoring behavior, it will make the student less likely to escalate.  One of the best ways to prevent conflict is by strengthening your relationship with that student.  It is ok to ask your teammates/colleagues for help. Sometimes a student just responds better to another person!  This is a hard one for me sometimes, but it is oh, so true.

This post is going to get really long if I keep going, so I'm going to do another one with my afternoon sessions, both of which were with Jen Jones from Hello Literacy.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I Teach 1st! {Day 2}

I'm back to share with you what I learned during day 2 at I Teach 1st!

Day 2 started off with Matt Gomez with a session about inquiry-based learning.  I saw Matt last year at I Teach K, and was interested to learn more about his classroom.  This session did not disappoint!  It was so exciting to see someone else who loves project-based stuff, and someone who has the flexibility to do things that are right for his kiddos. Some of the things they did and were interested in were so cool.  Some of my take-aways were:

  • They learn more through the process than the product, so don't focus as much on what the product looks like as the process to get there.  
  • When you take videos, take them horizontally for easier formatting and transfer to editing programs.  His kiddos use cameras all the time and this is one of their lessons.
  • Coding can be done!  I wrote a little about this in my post about making video games.  I learned about some new apps and websites that I'm excited to try out: Scratch Jr., Made With Code,
  • Have students make videos explaining what they are doing throughout the process.  This can be done using still photos in an app or just by taking a video.  

Using glue guns in K!
Above you will see the building of a project.  Students were told to make the tallest structure you can with popsicles and hot glue.  Some of the mouths dropped when he said that the kids use glue guns.  The more I thought about it, I thought, heck yeah, I'd let them do it.  We'll see how that goes; we're going to need plenty of ground rules and small group learning to introduce that.

The second session of the day was about increasing reading and math fluency with Jodi Southard from Fun in First.  Fluency is something that I think is a struggle for my kiddos, especially when our curriculum that we are to follow does not really do much to address it.  I was looking for new ideas to help with this.

Some of the ideas to help build fluency were:

  • Choral reading to provide support for students who are shy or struggling.  
  • Echo reading to help students hear it fluently the first time.
  • Read it like a... (monster, robot, underwater, etc.
  • Use songs: song books for reading and make up songs for strategies in math to help them become more fluent.  HeidiSongs would be great for this to build sight word fluency.

I had two ideas that I really liked.  The first one was to label thing around the room using complete sentences.  Instead of just writing "clock", write, "Can you tell what time it is?".  I think this would work for my kiddos the second half of the year, but the first half it would just be too much.  I'd love to have them make the labels.  The other thing I really liked was writing notes to the kids on sticky note and stick them at their seats periodically.  They are going to want to read this and will take the time to decode or use resources to do so.

My third session was about developing mathematical thinking with Eliza Thomas.  I was looking for more ways to get my kids to think mathematically and be able to talk about their thinking.  I loved her phrase "purposeful eavesdropping", which is simply what all teachers do, listen in when kids are collaborating.  Instead of just listening in, though, you are listen specifically for who "gets it" and for any "ah ha's" that you can share with the class.  When students give an answer, ask "Is there another way?"  This will get them thinking and help them realize there is more than one right answer.  She also suggested using cuisenaire rods to help show combinations that make a number.  I had some of these (not sure where they are right now) but had no idea what to do with them.  So smart!

This was an example another teacher sent of the cuisenaire rods being used in her classrooms to make sets.
In addition to just thinking mathematically, we want our kiddos also be able to talk about explain how math works.  Using vocabulary throughout the day and asking "Is there another way?" or "Can you explain your thinking?" will encourage them to do so.  She also talked about incorporating multiple skills in one project.  The website suggested for great ideas for these types of projects (with standards attached!) is  Once you are there, you go to "3-Act lessons. It looked like there were some great lessons on there that would be fun to try out with my kiddos and get them thinking.

The final session I attended today was also with Eliza Thomas and it was about math mentor texts.  I was so excited about this one because I know I can be better about using literature in math.  I think it will be easiest to make list so you can easily see the books and the idea(s) for each book (all links to Amazon).

  • Memoirs of a Goldfish/Memoirs of a Hamster:  If you haven't read these, they are cute!  Her suggestion to tie in math was to have them write a math story of themselves (numbers about me idea) or a math memoir of the year (favorite things learned in math, strategies used, etc)
  • Duck! Rabbit!: Make and analyze a graph showing which character you think it is.
  • 1+1=5: There is an example of this book below.  Students could then write their own problems and make it into a class book.
  • 100 Snowmen: The story tells about the adventures of snowmen and in the end, all adds up to 100.  She suggested using this on the 100th day and having students string 100 beads on a strong (10 of each color, alternating 2 colors- ex: 10 red, 10 blue, 10 red, 10 blue, etc).  Then, as you read the story, the kids "act it out" using their bead strings.  They could then write their own story.
  • Matherpieces: This book uses classical art to introduce math concepts.  Students could look for math in their environment, take a picture and teach someone about the math they see.
  • 12 ways to get to 11 (suggested by another workshop participant)
  • Amy Axelrod books (also suggested by another workshop participant) for a variety of math concepts.

This session was small, so she asked us where we wanted the focus to be.  Most people asked her to incorporate math and writing, which after listening to her presentation, seems like it will be a great way to get more writing into my day!

Looking forward to day 3 tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Teach 1st! {Day 1}

I am attending the I Teach 1st! conference this week.  I chose I Teach 1st (even though I teach K) because I had a "high ability cluster" and thought that I could find some different ideas to help challenge them.  I also thought it would give me a new perspective since I never taught first and would help me learn more about how to better prepare all my students.

I started off the morning the keynote from Todd Parr.  He was funny and "real".  It was a great way to start the morning off!  I also got a few books signed. :)

The first session of the day was with Cara Carroll from First Grade Parade.  This session was all about reader's workshop.  Cara talked a lot about how her room runs and it gave me some ideas for my own classroom.  One of my favorites was her "old friends" books.  This is a tub of books were the familiar reads go.  Even the nonreaders are able to read from this bin.  I also liked the "birthday book". Students have the opportunity to donate a book to the class library for their birthday.  The child holds the book and Cara takes a picture of them then puts it in the book as a bookplate and has the child sign the inside of the book. These books go to a special bin in her classroom library.  So cute!  I thought it would be great to read the book to the class or have the child read it to the class if they would like to.  Cara wrote a post about her day, you might want to check it out here with some freebies!

My second session of the day was with Reagan Tunstall from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits.  This session was about writer's workshop and building writing portfolios.  She shared the mini-lessons she does each month and the seasonal ideas she does each month.  I loved how she pulled in important things happening in other subject areas of her classroom into her writing curriculum.

While I loved all the ideas and can't wait to try to incorporate writing more into my art (we don't have an art teacher), science and social studies, I really liked what she said about mentor texts in writing.  The slide below shows how she uses a mentor text throughout the week.  The first read is "for fun"; just the enjoyment of the story.  The second read is "notice it"- students share a reaction to the story.  It could also be that the teacher took note of a reaction from the first read and shared it with the class; I think this would be particularly helpful the first few times we tried this!  The third read is "name it"- students give a name to the strategy.  While it might be called "alliteration", give the kids the chance to own it by naming it themselves.   Last is "try it" where students try that strategy in their own writing.

The third session I attended with also with Reagan.  This one was about science.  I am not very good about science outside of reading books and an occasional experiment, so I thought this one might help.  She suggested Peep and the Big Wide World (YouTube link) for videos to teach a variety of science concepts.  She also shared that she purchases her lab coats from Mr. Disposable.  Her suggestion was to pull the verbs for your standards then think interactive.  We had the opportunity to do a make and take with her magnet pack.

This was something I thought I could use in my classroom, and it would work with my kids.  It seems like it would be easier and more efficient for my style of teaching and how my classroom runs.  I'm looking forward to trying something like this.

My final session of the day was with Donna Whyte, and it was about critical thinking.  Her "big idea" was to create a thinking, you have to stop giving all the answers.  The "bouncing ball theory" was mentioned several times- bounce the question back to them and make them think!  She gave an example of a question matrix, which was something I've never heard of.  It was basically just ways to ask questions that make kids think rather than simple questions that they have the answers to immediately.  I think this would be great for my building as a few of us have had discussions that having a few questions in the back of your mind ready to go makes you more likely to use them.  We also talked about having a mini chart (just for the teacher) somewhere that he/she could refer to with 5-7 questions that you could "fall back on" when you need a higher level thinking question.  I'm thinking these could be used for that too.

While this session was a topic that shouldn't necessarily be funny, Donna did a great job keeping us engaged (especially since it was the last session of the day) with real-life stories where this applies.

I had the opportunity to hang out with Mary Amoson from Sharing Kindergarten during a session- so much fun!  I love how down-to-earth she is and easy to talk to.  I won a prize from Kim Adsit at the teacher meet and greet tonight. My friends I am traveling with and I saw Cirque du Soleil's Mystere show tonight, which was awesome.

It was an amazing first day, and I can't wait to go back for more tomorrow!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Teacher Top (My New Blogger Shirt!)

The awesome folks over at A+ Images offered bloggers a free customized t-shirt about a month ago.  I immediately jumped on it because it sounded like fun!  I knew I wanted more than just my blog logo on it, so I went on the hunt for an image/saying I liked.  Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten had the perfect shirt for me.  I chose a couple of my favorite fonts and was off to design.  The graphic I used was from the A+ Images website. Missie was awesome at communicating what would work and what would not and getting my shirt on to production.

It is difficult to tell in the photo below, but my shirt is a purple color.  Purple is my favorite color, and it matches the purple in my blog button found on the back of my shirt.  I so appreciate the option of "women's fit" when it comes to t-shirts because it fits so much better!

Front of the shirt
Back of the shirt
As much as I love my shirt, I think these "kid designed" shirts are even better.  Classroom Faces shirts allow your students to draw pictures of themselves then the designers take what the kids drew in make it into a t-shirt.  These would be so much fun for an end of the year gift for kiddos!

This is an example off their website.
I'm looking forward to meeting the A+ Images crew in the exhibit hall!  Thank-you so much for my comfortable custom shirt!  Have you ever made customized shirts for yourself/staff or your students?