Five for Friday: December 4th

So many fun things this week! I'm excited to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday! 

 We practiced self portraits this week to mail to my daughter at boot camp.  I was amazed at what a little directed drawing could do!  They did a great job drawing and adding to details to tell a little more about themselves!
This one was just a little too close to a certain book character for my liking!  This kiddo doesn't always act like David.....but maybe sometimes he does! 

 Sometimes you just have to spread out to enjoy a good book.  This is what most of my kids look like during Read to Self time.  I have to say, I wish they would keep them in their browsing boxes but as long as they are reading I am happy!
 This week was benchmark testing so I didn't have to do any progress monitoring this week (I should say I didn't GET TO do any progress monitoring....I love meeting with my kiddos).  So instead I took the chance to snap a few pictures of centers.  Geoblocks and Starfall are two of our favorites!
 Don't ask why I still have pumpkin sitting on my computer table!
 Do you use a Smartboard or Mimio in your classroom?  I love ours!  One of our centers today was a game on Turtle Diary.  
Last but not least this was our STEM project for the week.  We had to construct a house to hold all 3 little pigs that couldn't be "blown" over by the big bad wolf.  It was heartwarming to hear my kiddos remind each other they needed to use teamwork and cooperation in their group.
That was our week!  2 more weeks until Christmas break and about 3 until my middle little graduates from boot camp!  I can't wait to see her! Have a great weekend friends!

STEM Activities to encourage Problem Solving

I was thrilled to share some ideas today at Hello Sunshine Teachers blog about STEM activities.  Click HERE to see the post!  Happy Thanksgiving friends!

I'm Back.....Catch Up and a Freebie!

Oh my, let me tell you.  Life happens.  Sometimes people tell me they can't believe I teach Kindergarten, blog, create resources, and have a life.  Well all 4 of those things DON'T always happen all together.  It's been over a month since I've blogged or created so I'm feeling like a part of me is missing (cause I live for that fun stuff) but WAY MORE important stuff has been happening.  

Here's a little catch up :) 

November 5th my daughter joined the Navy and left for boot camp.  Holy cow it's still not real to me!  

So now my days are spent teaching Kindergarten and rushing home to check the mail (still waiting for our first REAL letter).  We got a form letter with her address on it but that's it.  It is NOT EASY to be a Navy parent and I give props to everyone who has ever gone through this!  It's killing me not knowing exactly how she is doing right at this very moment.  I have a lot of faith in her, just still a worried mom! 

I have had a ton to share about our Kindergarten days and I missed out on showing you all kinds of pumpkin fun but it's just too late to talk about all of that.  To make up for it I took my favorite activity from this week to share.  Here is a little preview: 
This is part of my Easy Prep Centers: All Set? You Bet! unit for November.  We used little tokens to build the words as we said them first.  
 Then students moved the tokens out of the way and wrote down the sounds.  My goal for this activity was to combine phoneme segmentation (which 99% of my kids have down pat!) and letter sounds.  Most of them are ready for this, but a few still struggle.  It really showed me who knows the middle vowel sounds, who needs help segmenting, and who has it! 

 Did I mention they loved it?  They asked if this was going to become a regular center.  I said, "Of course!"  How could I not? 

Here is a link to the FREEBIE.  Each month I have a whole set of ELA and Math centers just like this that can be printed out and ready to go in a flash!  With so much going on at home (or lack of anything going on at home) I haven't had the energy to plan as much so these have been a LIFE SAVER this month!
...and here is the whole set!
Hopefully it won't be a full month between blog posts next time but I honestly can't promise that right now!! Not until I hear from my sailor! Until next time, happy teaching!

Writer's Workshop: Getting Started!

I got to guest post on Kinder Tribe today.  I shared all my favorite links and ideas to get Writer's Workshop going in your primary classroom.  Don't miss it!
Click on the pic to see the post!

Sharing Sunshine No More Interruptions!

It's the 15th of the month and that means it's time to share a little sunshine!  
I'm linking up with Hello Sunshine teachers to share a tip that brings some sunshine into my day.....and it's all about bathroom breaks!
You just gave the best lesson of your life.  You are eagerly anticipating the excellent responses from students because you obviously had them all at the edge of their seats.  You are a rock star and you know it.  

Hands it comes....."Can I go to the bathroom?" Is THAT what you were thinking about while I was working so hard up here?  Ugh.  EVERY. TIME.

I do not enjoy being the keeper of the bathroom pass.  I really really do not like being asked 50 times a day for permission to go to the bathroom.  We encourage independence in our Kindergarten classroom so I figure the bathroom needs to be a place we can make our own decisions.  I started using these bathroom passes a couple of years ago and they are the golden ticket to the bathroom! 
 I put a "boys" and a "girls" tag on a large bottle of hand sanitizer. 
Here are the rules:
#1 If I am not teaching (or giving directions) students may get the bathroom pass and put it on their nametag. 
#2 As long as they are responsible and respectful in the bathroom they may go whenever they need to.  

 We learn this procedure early in the year and it works for us all year long.  The hand sanitizer encourages them to get that "extra" little boost of germ protection but I do encourage and remind about washing hands in the bathroom often.  OFTEN!

That's how I save my sanity when it comes to bathroom passes in Kindergarten. If this has been a struggle for you I hope this helps.  If you have another solution leave a comment!  I'd love to hear your ideas! 

You can link up with Hello Sunshine teachers to share a little sunshine too!

What Worked Well Wednesday: SPINNERS!

After a long break from blogging because I've been completely OVERWHELMED (and my computer was broken!) I actually have something to share for What Worked Well Wednesday!
I found an awesome set of letter naming fluency pages from one of my favorite teachers.  After I downloaded it however I decided I didn't have the tools I needed to make the center and I didn't want to make a spinner.  Bummed right?  I will probably use this in the future, but for what I needed it just wasn't working.  

Then I remembered I had these........

They are plain plastic spinners with a really sturdy little spin thingy in the middle.  They are 4 x 4, so I created a little 4 x 4 template with some of the letters we have been working on.  I taped it to the spinner and we were ready! 
You can get a set of 5 for $3.79 HERE.
(disclaimer...I didn't buy mine there, I just did a Google search for you. 
Mine were free in something I got from somewhere...can't remember)

I made a quick table full of the letters on the spinner and filled in the extra spots with other letters.  

We started this activity by having students use one color to find all of the p's (that's our letter of the week and one we really struggle with!).  Then we switched colors with a friend and started spinning.

  I let them spin, say, and dab the letter for a little bit and then we put the spinners and dabbers away. 

Then we went to work! 
 We first read all of the letters we had just dabbed (I still don't know if this is the way you say/spell  that, but let's just go with it).  Then we went back and read ALL the letters as fast as we could.  

We topped it off by sending it home to go on the fridge so they could practice all week long.  Friday will be our last time to test letter naming fluency for the end of the quarter so I wanted them to be motivated to practice.  They loved this activity so I know they will! 

Bonus? Now it can be a center because I trained them to play it the RIGHT way!  Dabbers drive me crazy and this little training session will hopefully take care of the crazy dab fest that usually happens when I put these out. 
I think I will start using this strategy with my Letter Naming Fluency pages. You can see them in my store by clicking on the picture.

 That is what worked well for me this Wednesday.  What worked well for you?  Link up with Kinder Tribe HERE!

Making Sense of Math Journals

I have to use a math journal?  
How will I ever fit it in?  
I don't have time to use journals!  
Where do I start? 
What do we even do in our journals?  
These are just a few of the questions and concerns that come up when the math journal discussion is brought up.  Let's make sense of math journals once and for all! 

I have to use a math journal? 

You GET to use a math journal! They are excellent tools in implementing the Common Core Mathematical Practices standards.  Here is a quick overview of the standards.  
1.  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. 
2.  Reason abstractly and quantitatively. 
3.  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. 
4.  Model with mathematics. 
5. Use appropriate tools strategically. 
6.  Attend to precision. 
7.  Look for  and make use of structure. 
8.  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.  

Math journals (solving problems daily) give opportunities to practice each of these standards daily.  Too much for kindergarten?  NO WAY!  We reason with each other, discuss our problem solving strategies, and challenge each other when we disagree (respectfully).  There is nothing sweeter than hearing a 5 year old say, "I disagree agree with you because...."  Seriously, have you ever heard a 5 year disagree in such a nice way? 

How will I ever fit it in? 

 My math journal routine takes about 10 minutes.  Of course we can take longer if time allows but if we are pressed for time we can do it in 10.  I like to have 15 to 20 minutes for math journals. 

Where do I start? 

Start with routines.  Using the journal, opening to the next page, recording takes weeks to get the basics down but it's not difficult!  We spend about 3 to 4 weeks opening to our next new clean page in the journal, counting a handful of objects, and recording them.  During this time we discuss making clear pictures to represent our objects and the fact that we do not need to draw PERFECT pictures of our objects.  This is not art class or writer's workshop.  We can draw a circle to represent a counting bear or a square to represent a building block.  This takes a little time but they get really good at it! 

   What do we do in our journals?

We solve problems!  Every. Single. Day.  Sounds boring right?  Not if you get the students involved!  I write problems of the day for my students and  I include their names and their favorite things to get them engaged.  Here is an example.  My friend Emily loved playing dress up, so she helped me write this problem: 
The problems are printed on regular paper and students glue them into their journal to save time. (Can you imagine 24 Kindergarten students writing out that problem?  Oh my.....too much time!) 

This student was using the tally mark strategy to show their thinking.  They also circled their numbers to show the two groups of dresses.  The only thing missing from this picture is the total number of dresses, and I'm sure I discussed this with them after I snapped the picture!

Here is our outline of our daily routine: 
  • listen to the problem of the day
  • glue the problem of the day into your journal
  • draw a picture and write the answer to the problem of the day
  • (later in the year) write words to answer the problem of the day
 I have put all of my favorite story problems together for Kindergarten HERE and also a detailed outline of how I get things started.
I've included labels for your math journals and an editable page that you can write your own problems on when you are ready to start using your kiddos for the problem of the day.  

Do you use math journals?  How do you use them?  I'd love to hear about your favorite part of math journals! 

5 Ways to ROCK Your Next Observation

It's 3 weeks into school and your principal wants to do your formal observation.  Really?  We can barely transition from reading to math without someone bursting into tears and you want to see a REAL lesson?  No fear, you've got this, put on best smile and say, "Sure! When would you like to come in?"

Whether it's August or April observations always make me nervous.  ALWAYS!  I've been teaching 11 years, you would think they get easier but they just don't.  It's probably because I'm a perfectionist (not) and I want everything to be perfect (not really) but it just makes me feel like I am under a microscope.  Here are my top 5 ways to stop stressing and ROCK your next observation. 

#1 Prepare! 

Really, don't put this off to the last minute.  Think about what skills and procedures you want to highlight in your classroom.  What works really well for you?  Showcase that!  My students are really good at turn and talk by the 3rd week of school so I made sure to include that.  Is it a required lesson?  Put your own spin on it.  I taught a curriculum piece (sight words) from Reading Street but taught my own lesson to go with it.  I spent A LOT OF TIME thinking about it before hand to make sure I was planning something I was comfortable with and that we could be successful with.  

#2  Have what you need at your fingertips

I am the WORST about this in real life.  I need sticky notes?  Oops, they are sitting on my desk all the way across the room.  In real life I walk across the room and grab those sticky notes and just keep on going.  Don't let that happen during an observation because it will make you even more nervous!  Make sure the night before you have everything you need wherever you are going to teach the lesson.  This year I needed our class big book, sticky notes, prepared anchor chart, and a marker.  I put them all behind my easel so I wouldn't have to do the dreaded "search" right in the middle of my lesson.  (PS....this should probably happen every day, but we all know it doesn't!)


I attempt to make every single lesson engaging.  I teach Kindergarten so if it's not engaging you can just throw everything else right out of the window.  When planning for an observation lesson though I make sure that I include whole group, partner work (turn and talk),  small group, and independent practice.  It's a MUST that we state our objective (throughout the lesson) in our district so I am sure to include that right on my anchor chart so that I don't forget.  Let's face it, if you are nervous you forget things!   I also start the lesson with an engaging activity and refer back to lessons we have already had (to show that we have some background knowledge).  Of course these are all best practices and if they are not part of your normal routine it will looked forced or fake. Be sure you are including things your students have experienced before!

#4  DON'T tell your kids you are being observed.  

Really, it's not necessary.  I honestly don't make a big deal about it.  Our principal is in and out of our classroom on a regular basis so it is not unusual to see her there.  I had a teaching partner a few years ago that would tell the kids they were being observed.....please no.  They don't need any added pressure either!  If you have your routines and procedures in place it shouldn't matter if the President of the United States is at the back of the room watching you. 

#5 Relax! 

Really.  Most principals are not out to "ding" you on your evaluation.  Just be yourself and show how much you enjoy teaching.  Your rapport with the students will shine through if you let it.  If you have prepared before hand you don't have anything to be nervous about.  A couple of teachers and I  had a conversation in the lunch room (yes....I eat there sometimes) about observations and how that ONE kid will always raise their hand and give a totally off topic response.  That's OK....that's real life too.  It happens daily in the Kindergarten classroom and you just nod and smile and keep going in real life right?

Here is the outline for my latest observation.  It went pretty well and I'm thankful I did the extra thinking and planning to make sure I included all the elements I needed.  The lesson went so well I've included it in our weekly routine (for now) because the kiddos seriously won't stop talking about it.  I'm going to run out of sticky notes soon!
  You can see where I have added "a" and "to" to our anchor chart for this week's lesson.  
You can click on the lesson plan to download it!
Now I am curious. What is your favorite "off topic" question/comment that happened during a formal observation.  My favorite......I was looking for an answer about sounding out words (or something like that) I get, 
"Tomorrow we are having donuts for breakfast!"
No...I wasn't serving donuts for breakfast the next day. I have no idea what she was talking about!  
Share your favorite in the comments, I'd love to hear them!

Five for Friday September 11

 It was a LONG fun Friday.  Lots going on in Kindergarten this week!
 We spend the first few weeks of Kindergarten reviewing the alphabet to get a handle on all the letters.  We use Reading Street in our district and after the 5th week of school we go back and have a letter of the week.  We create these posters together to focus on first sound fluency. I love making these with the kiddos!  This week my favorite was mud and muck! 
 We've been talking about COOPERATION this unit and have covered cooperation at home and at school.  This week was all about cooperation in our community.  I used this great resource from First Grade Schoolhouse.  It was a perfect resource to hang in the hall to share our knowledge of community helpers!  I love how it filled our work wall in the common area.
 We had some parents come in and share their jobs today to finish off our week about community helpers.  It was fun to see the excitement from our 2 classes of kinders as these parents shared a little about their jobs.  We had a highway patrol officer (we got to hear the siren!), physical therapist, school district secretary, and a fireman share about their jobs.  We focused on asking good questions (if you've ever been in a kinder classroom questions vs. stories is a struggle!) and they did a great job!
 I left school today with my plans DONE!  I love my Erin Condren planner and the tip about sticky notes from Tami at OH so Blessed.  She CHANGED MY LIFE with planners!  I love how they look.  Now I need to work on my subject tabs and date tabs.  I refuse to write in my planner.  Is that weird? it's not. 
My last Five for Friday doesn't have any pictures but it was PURE MAGIC today!  I tested ALL of my 47 Kindergarten students on Letter Naming Fluency (UPPER and LOWERcase) in one day.  WHAT?
I said.....
Just kidding.  It is a big deal though!  It is so difficult to give this test.  And keep track.  And keep motivated to keep going.  And to not lose your sanity.  
ESGI to the rescue!  
I'm trying it out and today I was SOLD on their product.  You simply sit with your student and flash through all the letters and answer "yes" or "no" if they answer correctly. When you are done there all kinds of resources to print out.  Flash cards for students to take home, student reports, and class reports.  Now I know where to spend our precious time.  PURE MAGIC!