Saturday, January 9, 2016

Reflections on Student Success

As we begin 2016, we also completed our first semester of kindergarten on Friday (hard to believe!).  I've been thinking a lot about what contributes to my students' success.  I wanted to share 5 things with you that I think have made a difference in their learning.

1.  Small Groups
We use a "detailed lesson plan" curriculum in reading and just adopted Eureka Math (EngageNY).  I feel that small groups really help me to get to know my students and best meet their needs, so I've decided that it is important enough to figure out how to make it work with what I am given to use.

I meet with my 5 reading groups daily for about 11-12 minutes.  During this time, everyone else is working at reading centers.  They rotate to each center daily.  I have 4 math groups, which I also meet with daily.  I teach the core lesson during my small group and use the other math centers to review previously taught skills.  Fluency practice is done full group.

2. Games
My students love games!  Anything I can get them to practice using a game is a positive.  Our favorite game is the many versions of Spot-It that we have in our room.  We use the alphabet and numbers/shapes ones most frequently during small groups.  I also just purchased Super Genius from the same manufacturer (BlueOrange).  This one really made them think, but in the end, they loved it!

I've also found that games are a great way for students to work on critical thinking skills.  I've added more games to different centers to engage students not only in academics but in social skills as well.  I've learned that I really can't go wrong with a game!  I plan to do a more in depth post soon to share more about some of the games that we play on a fairly regular basis.

3.  HeidiSongs
I have been using HeidiSongs for 4 years, and the results have been amazing!  Our curriculum uses a sight word list that is not Dolch or Fry, so it is difficult to tell you about the results, but my kiddos are so strong in sight words thanks in big part to these DVDs.  They sing and dance their way to learning new words on a daily basis.  I fit these in daily as I clean up from breakfast.  I have to wash tables and usually have to clean up whatever they dumped into the sink that shouldn't be there (this gets better after the first few weeks of school).  My kids know how to manipulate the DVDs and I can call out words for them to sing along to.  Our principal purchased 3 DVDs for each teacher in our building last year after seeing the successes!

4. "Teacher Technology"
I am a better teacher thanks in part to TpT, Pinterest, Instagram and Blogs.  These resources provide me with ideas on a daily basis and encourage me to be a better teacher.  With fresh ideas and learning about strategies that work, my students learn more as a result.  Thank-you for all the ideas and inspiration!

5.  Kids' Interests
Last year I started asking my students "what do you want to learn about?"  Incorporating their interests whenever possible has lead to more learning, in my opinion.  For example, one of my students this year wanted to learn about unicorns.  I thought 'how am I going to make this work?'  This past week when we learned about winter and cold weather animals, the narwhal, "unicorn of the sea" made an appearance and that student was thrilled!  I tell the kids: "I included this activity..." or "We are learning about this..." because _____ asked to learn about it.  They have much more buy-in and think it is cool to see who wanted to learn about it.  Even if it is just something added to a center, I think the kids backgrounds and interests make a different in their learning.  

When you think about your teaching, what has made a difference for your kiddos?


  1. Thank you so much for the shout out, Amanda! I'm so glad that my DVDs are making a difference for you and your students! LOVE IT! :)
    Heidi Butkus

    1. Thanks for making my life a little easier every morning! :)