Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Classroom Library & Lesson Plans

Hi friends! Okay, so I know I should be enjoying summer vacation, but I am so excited to get into my classroom to start organizing! Waiting another month will be agonizing for me, so I figured I'd get a head start working on whatever I can from home. Today I started working on my classroom library organization. I printed out my book basket labels and I also made matching stickers for the books, which will make it so much easier for the kids to keep everything organized! I'm thrilled with how these turned out!

If you like these, you can pick them up in my TpT store!

We also had our first PD day a couple weeks ago and it was so exciting to meet the other teachers I'll be working with! Since we're a small new school, there will only be four of us next year. We had a great time ordering furniture and materials, looking at curriculum, and planning out our daily schedule! Since I got my daily schedule, I was able to begin updating my lesson plan format. This is just a quick sample I made up and it will be more detailed once I get all the curriculum materials. I will post a complete version at some point when I've got the whole year planned out! If you're interested, you can download the template HERE

We have our next meeting in about a week, so I'm looking forward to doing some more planning and learning more details about my new school! I'll keep you all updated :)

Friday, June 27, 2014


I got a job!!! So the news is out and I'm throwing a SALE this weekend to celebrate! After a year off, I'm heading back to kindergarten! The principal of a brand new school contacted me through my blog and, long story short, I got the position! I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the founding team of this awesome new school! Everything in my store is 20% off now through Sunday in celebration!!!!!! Can you tell I'm excited?!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Math Centers Task Cards

I hope you're all enjoying your summer so far (those of you who are already out)! I'm sure some of you remember the Math Centers Task Cards I said I was two years ago! Haha. Well, I have FINALLY had the time to finish them and I'm SO excited about this set! I haven't been able to find anything else like this on TpT! I included over 330 hands-on tasks and I know kids will have so much fun with these! There are so many things to do and they're activities that can be repeated throughout the year so you don't need to change out stations and themes every week! Plus, I included the related Common Core Math Standard on each card to make organization and planning easier. I'm also making a coordinating set of printable games and recording sheets to make prep even easier!
I hope you love them! More fun stuff coming up and I have some big news coming soon so check back in the next week to hear the EXCITING NEWS!!!!! :D

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Goal Setting Checklist FREEBIE!

Hey guys! I just wanted to share a quick little post and freebie with you. A colleague recently shared this idea with me about students setting and tracking their own goals. I thought this was a fantastic idea and wondered why I hadn't thought of it myself. This is such a great way to empower students and hold them accountable for their own learning. I have had my kids use graphs to chart their own progress in reading, but I haven't actually had students come up with their own goals they want to accomplish.

There are lots of great ideas on the internet, which I've posted on my Pinterest board.
But there aren't too many products that are simple enough to use with kindergarteners. So, I was inspired to create a quick little freebie for those of us in the younger grades! I thought this would be a nice simple visual way to make goal setting a less daunting task for kindergarteners.

One way to use this would be to give each student a goal checklist weekly or monthly. Have students choose 3 goals from the picture sheet, then cut and paste their goals onto their goal sheet. At the end of the week or month have students check off whether they accomplished the goal or still need to work on it. Then they will choose new goals for the next month. You could have students tape their goal sheet to their desk or keep it in a folder. The important thing is that they are revisiting it frequently to monitor their goals and keep track of their accomplishments. You can also keep these for parent conferences or send them home to keep parents informed of their child's progress.

I'd love to hear more ideas for goals I can add to the chart. Please comment if there's something you'd like me to add. Click one of the images below for your FREEBIE
Also, if you're into the idea of having students set goals, check out this awesome student data binder from Mrs. Knight, which allows students to set goals and track their own progress! I love this!

That's all for now! Thanks for visiting :)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Growing a Kinder-Garden: Plants Unit {Freebies!}

This was one of my favorite science units that I did with my kids last year. Many of the activities you see here are part of my Freebie Plants Unit. The unit includes fun activities, templates, songs, crafts, book ideas, and a sample outline of lessons. Some of the activities and templates are not included in the unit because they were borrowed from other blogs. I've included links to those activities below if you'd like to use them.

We started our unit by reading the story of Peter Rabbit. Then we received an urgent letter from "Mr. McGregor" asking us to help him with his garden. This idea came from Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten. We decided we would have to learn more about plants so we can write back to him and help him. Then we created a schema chart of our prior knowledge. This cute chart was inspired by The First Grade Parade

Next, we learned about the plant lifecycle. We read some books and watched a Brainpop video. Then we learned a song about the lifecycle, which we acted out with body motions.

We also learned about what plants need to live and grow. We read "Once there was a Seed" and we sang the song "What Do Plants Need?" I found this cute little song a while back but I can't remember where it came from. If you're the author please let me know so I can credit you for it. Finally, we made these cute flap books. The front of the book was inspired by Mrs. Lee as well. 

Next we learned about the parts of a plant. We started with this video on Brainpop about the parts of a plant. Then we learned the plant parts dance called "Flower, Leaves, Stem and Roots" (similar to Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes). Finally, we made a poster and students made their own plant parts diagrams.

Finally, we were ready to plant our own garden! The kids enjoyed watering and measuring their plants every day and recording observations in their plant journals. We also went on a field trip to the botanical gardens and nature center as part of this unit. At the end of the unit, we decorated flower pots and brought our plants home as a Mother's Day gift!

I hope you have lots of fun learning about plants and enjoy the freebies!

Monday, March 24, 2014

ABC's and...Embedded Picture Mnemonics!?

Hey everyone! I know you're probably thinking "embedded picture what?" Don't worry, we'll get to that in a second. So I was recently reading some articles for one of my classes and it got me excited because it confirmed something I was already doing with my kids - don't you love when that happens? For each letter of the alphabet, I always have my class create a craft out of the letter. Apparently there's a name for this...well I'm sure you've figured it out by now. Embedded picture mnemonics simply means we form a picture representing the letter-sound out of the letter itself. Research shows that embedded picture mnemonics help children learn letter-sound relationships more quickly than other methods. Fun, simple, AND scientifically proven! So when the principal walks in and asks why you're doing arts and crafts, you've got research to back you up! Hah!! You can download the articles HERE and HERE.

I don't have pictures of all of them, but here are some examples. And of course you can find many other ideas if you search the internet.

A for alligator, B for bumblebee, C for cat, D for dinosaur, G for gum (this one isn't really an embedded mnemonic), I for iguana, N for nest, O for octopus, P for penguin, Q for queen, R for rabbit, T for tiger, and V for vase of violets. 

My class also sings this song every day during morning meeting. I made a chart to go along with it and we use body movements to match each letter sound. The kids love it! I'm thinking I need to update my chart using these embedded mnemonics!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reading Workshop Ideas & Freebies

Wow...March has been a busy month! As a student at TC, I've had the opportunity to attend all of the workshops offered by the Reading and Writing Project for free (though if you account for the insane tuition, I wouldn't exactly call it free)! The staff developers - Lucy Calkins, Kathy Collins, Rebecca Cronin, Amanda Hartman, Natalie Louis, Christine Holley - are ALL absolutely fabulous and I'm learning so much from them. I feel so lucky to be learning directly from the masters themselves! Below are just a few of the ideas I've gotten from their workshops.

Reading Goals & Assessment

Running records provide us with important data about where each child is and where we need to take them next. It's important not only to note the child's accuracy but also to determine which cueing systems she is using (meaning, structure, visual). If the child is using mainly visual cues then we know we need to work with her on using meaning and structure to figure out unknown words. Once we have our assessment data, we can create individual goals for students. Here's one simple idea for a goal sheet to help kids keep track of their own reading goals. Just write their goals on a post-it and when they master the skills, they can move the note over to the right side of the chart. Click here to download the Reading Goals Sheet.

One quick and easy way to assess comprehension is to use "stop and jot" or "stop and sketch." To do this, we simply pause at certain points in a read aloud and ask the kids to write or draw their thinking. The prompt should be related to a strategy you're working on with them. For example, when working on predicting, I would ask them to draw/write what they predict will happen next. You can also have kids add their notes from their independent books and collect the sheets for an informal assessment. Click here for the Sticky Notes Organizer.

Another tool I loved was this Reading Stamina Rubric. With this tool, students self-assess their own stamina during reading workshop. I would create a large version to hang in the classroom for an anchor chart and then have students keep copies in their reading baggies/boxes. You can grab a copy of my version of the Reading Stamina Rubric here.  
Readers Make a Plan

Buddy Reading Folders: When students are reading with partners, it is important that they have meaningful work to do and that they know what is expected. Rather than giving an assignment or task, it's better to provide a repertoire of activities that they can do repeatedly. This way we won't hear "We're finished" after two minutes! This partner reading folder was introduced to me by the lovely ladies at TCRWP. I loved the idea and just HAD to make my own version! You can download the Buddy Reading Folder here.

Anchor Charts: Here are some simple charts you can print out or make with your kids.

Word Solving Strategies

We talked a ton about reading strategies and different little tricks to help kids remember them. One trick I've used (which I know is not at all original) is the beanie baby reading buddies. For example, Lips the Fish reminds kids to get their mouth ready to make the first sound in the word. I know there are tons of these posters around the internet, but I just had to make my own set to match my polka dot theme! I'm planning to give each student a bookmark and clipping a paperclip on the strategy they currently need to work on. You can download my Reading Buddies Posters here.

Strategies for ELLs

Here are just a few random tips I've picked up for working with ELLs. One of the staff developers recommended the book Balancing Reading & Language Learning, and it has provided me with tons of useful info for ELLs.

Of course, these kiddos need to hear and use language a LOT in order to develop their English proficiency. So we need to make sure we are giving them plenty of opportunities to talk! We should encourage and praise their efforts, even if they aren't correct. Rather than pointing out errors, simply model the correct language. Rather than calling on one student to answer a question, we should elicit choral responses or turn and talk so that all students get a chance to respond. We should also incorporate topics and books that are familiar to them so they can successfully participate and contribute to discussions. Anyhow, here are a few activities for stimulating language development...

Oral Storytelling: This is a great activity to use during shared reading or guided reading. First, cover up the text with sticky notes. Then have the kids orally generate the story using their own words by looking at the pictures. After they read a page, we can pull off the sticky note and compare their "text" with the actual text on the page. This is great for oral language development as well as knowledge of story structure. Plus, even if kids can't yet read text, this gives them a chance to participate and feel like real readers!

Speech Bubbles: This little trick is great for shared reading or partner reading. All you need to do is draw some speech bubbles or thought bubbles on sticky notes and place them in the book. After reading the text, the kids infer what the characters are thinking or saying. 

Class Books: Creating class books or big books is also fantastic for ELLs. Predictable charts can be created in shared/interactive writing and then turned into a class big book. After writing, cut up the chart and give each child his sentence. The kids cut and paste their sentence onto a page and illustrate it. Then the pages are combined into a book and added to the class library. Here's a sample of a big book I made last year with my class. We created the text in shared writing and then the kids worked with partners to illustrate it.

Word Books: A super easy activity for vocabulary development is to print out some Google images related to a theme (e.g. families, food, animals). You could also use actual photographs taken in the classroom. Staple the pages together and have the kids generate the text for each page in shared/interactive writing. Then add the book to the class library!

That's all for now! I'm working on a guided reading post for next week, so check back for some more freebies ;)