Shark Week Blog Hop

It is finally here!! Welcome to SHARK WEEK!
What better way to celebrate shark week than with freebies?  I am thrilled to join Luckeyfrog's Lilypad and Digital Divide & Conquer on this amazing blog hop. This hop never disappoints!

Click on the pic to "catch" this FREEBIE!
Now for the fun part! You get to keep going! Link up with
to keep going on this hop!

TDQ: Text Dependent Questions Chapter 1

I am really excited to be participating with Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten in this book study! It came at a perfect time since I just finished my reflections on The Morning Meeting Book.  What luck right?  This book study comes complete with a FB discussion group, I love that extra collaboration!  I will be quick with my thoughts, the real action is happening there!

Question 1: Nancy Frey states that students must be given the opportunity to struggle a bit. How comfortable are you with giving students the space to struggle? 

We are all about independence in kindergarten! I work really hard to foster independence in the classroom and that takes oodles of patience at the beginning of the year. For some it comes easily but others need that extra guidance every step of the way. I'd like to say that I am extremely comfortable with letting them have a little of that productive struggle but I know myself too well. It will still take an extra reminder to myself probably on a daily basis to not jump in there and finish conversations for them. Just like any good routine though, I think that habit will grow over time.

Question 2: Douglas Fisher states that incorporating Close Reading can be a messy process. How comfortable are you in trying new practices in your classroom? 

This one I can say without a doubt that I am very comfortable trying new practices. Not without some research though! Summertime is the perfect time to read a few new PD books (like this one!) and make those important decisions. I always ask myself: Is this something I want to try? What will it look like in my room?  What do I need to do to implement this? We can use this "vacation" time (haha right?) to put new things into play because we have the time to plan.  

Question 3: Discuss how you currently go about the process of selecting texts to read in your classroom Do you think your process will change as a result of this book study? 

I am almost too embarrassed to answer! When I read the question my initial thought was, "Because I like it....". That's not really the only aspect I take into account but I couldn't come up with any solid reasoning behind why I choose the books I do. This will be a focus for sure! 

The last bit is about any A-HA moments you might have had in the first chapter. I just wanted to highlight a line from page 20 that really resonated with me.  "Close reading is social learning at its best".  That to me is the BEST reason to keep moving forward and grow this part of my literacy block.

Are you intrigued? You can grab the book HERE and get started. Don't forget to join the Facebook group too and participate in the ongoing discussion. Deedee has all the links on her blogpost HERE. Thanks for stopping by today!

The Morning Meeting: Morning Message & a planning FREEBIE

Hello friends! This is the final week for The Morning Meeting and it is all about the Morning Message.  This is the fourth and final component of the morning meeting. If you would like to see my reflections on the first 3 components see them here: Greeting, Sharing, and Group Activity
This chapter lays out the purpose for the morning message (which I love examining the purpose first...otherwise why do we bother?).  Morning message is meant to: 
  • Build community through shared written information
  • Develop and reinforce language arts, math, and other academic skills in a meaningful and interactive way. 
  • Eases the transition into the rest of the day and builds students' excitement about the day's learning. 

Shared Written Information: 
The morning message is just that...a message written to the class to convey information about the day. I love, love, love that it is a thoughtful way to build community. Students are addressed as a whole group, no one is left out, and everyone starts their day on a positive "note". Of course in kinder they won't be reading these right off the bat but later in the year I know they will be ready for that! This  year sometime after Winter break they started reading the problem of the day without me. I loved seeing their independent reading skills come to life before my eyes and this is just another opportunity for that! 

Reinforce Content:
The letter to class is a way to bring content into the morning meeting. Focus on science, math, language arts, you name it! Whatever your class is working on you can include those things in the morning meeting. I am already thinking about how fun our Wednesday messages will be with Wacky Wednesday (our science/unit day)! Planning it out will be key for sure (and I'll get to that in a minute!)

Ease the Transition into the rest of the day: 
We are BIG on enthusiasm at our school. It is actually one of our "Attitudes" that we focus on throughout the year. Our enthusiasm for learning comes from activities like this. My favorite idea from this chapter was on page 182, "Morning message gains its power from the interactions it generates-teacher communicating with students and students communicating with one another..." That is the key and one of the main reasons I started reading this book in the first place! I wanted that start to our day that creates an environment that fosters open communication in a loving and kind way. That really is the most important thing we can do for our class! I hinted at planning a couple of paragraphs ago and I've been giving this a lot of thought. I want a place I can plan out my morning meeting so that I am ready to go and not struggling to think of things to do 2 minutes before the bell rings (do I know me or what??).  The end of every chapter has a lot to choose from as far as sharing, group activity, and morning message goes so it should be pretty simple to make a plan. Here is what I came up with:
I know I won't really need a spot for the greeting but I thought a place to write some reflections about how the greeting is going would be nice. I will write in the name of the sharing activity and group activity and jot down the morning message in the spaces provided. The only thing this will "add" to my weekly planning will be writing out the morning message. I will definitely want to have those written down on chart paper before the week begins. 

So that's it! Originally I said I would wrap up this book next week but I think I'm ready to move on. I am going to get started on the other two books I bought at the beginning of summer, The First 6 Weeks of School from the Responsive Classroom and also 80 Morning Meeting Ideas by Susan Lattanzi Roser. These both will help with my planning and focus on how to implement once school begins. 

Next up on my reading list is TDQ: Text-Dependent Questions by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. Their names are sounding familiar to me...anyway..Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten is hosting a book study not only on her blog but in a FB group too. How cool is that? Here are the details:
Link up on FB HERE
 AND.....I am still planning on reading a few more before the summer is up. I have to squeeze it all in now otherwise it would never happen! 

Thanks for stopping by today! Remember you can keep up with on Instagram as Learning with Mrs. Langley and FB too. 

The Morning Meeting: Group Activity

What are you reading this summer?  I have been enjoying The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete & Carol Davis. Here are my reflections on this engaging professional development book!

Hello friends! I really hope you are reading The Morning Meeting Book along with me or I in some small way have inspired you to go out and read this book because let me tell you, I am L-O-V-I-N-G this! This weeks chapter was no different. I was nodding my head and highlighting away as I read! This week was all about Group Activity. You see my reflections on Greetings HERE, and Sharing HERE.

Group Activity: Building Whole-Class Identity.  
Can I get an amen? 

Isn't that what we strive for every single day? A unified group that has it's own unique identity? Students that will stand together through thick and thin? Support one another? Oh gosh...I'm getting all weepy but really! That's what we all want!

This chapter outlines the purposes of the group activity (the 3rd piece to the morning meeting) pg. 133. 
  • Contribute to the class's sense of community and group identity
  • Foster active and engaged participation
  • Encourage inclusion and cooperation
  • Can help students learn the value of persistence and practice
  • Strengthens academic and social skills
Community. As I was reading through each section in this chapter I started thinking about the songs, chants, poems, and activities that we do in our classroom. They DO unify the group! I have a shared space with a half wall between our extension teachers room and mine. We each have our group for half a day and then switch at lunchtime. We can hear each other and what's happening next door all day long. When her group sings, my group hums along.  When my group does a chant, her group does the motions. We have those shared moments that happen throughout the day but I never thought about how much that really contributes to our class's sense of community.  More of that is a good thing! 

Participation!!!! We have a little "thing" we do (I think I got it from a Whole Brain Teacher video) to make sure everyone is ready. I ask the class, "Who participates?" and the whole class answers back, "EVERYBODY PAR-TIC-I-PATES" (they say participates in little sections because it's such a long word...that's why I typed it that way!) I LOVE that the group activities will encourage this as well! 

Inclusion.  Gosh, isn't that what we are all wishing for too?  I can be a little competitive (the people that know me are reading this and thinking, ya think?) so making sure my group activities aren't competitive will be my main focus. "Group activities should be cooperative, not competitive, in nature" pg. 135

Persistence and Practice. We have been discussing EFFORT the last couple of years in our district and fostering a growth mindset in our classrooms.  I love that group activities can show the group that persistence and practice pay off! This will be a great reinforcement of what I tell them ALL OF THE TIME!

Strengthen academic skills (and don't forget the social skills too!). I did get a tiny bit overwhelmed when I started thinking about all of the "extra" stuff this will be adding in but I was reassured when I got to this section. Don't reinvent the wheel (as my principal would say)! You already have things within your everyday curriculum that will work as group activities. Include those too!

The BEST part about this book (besides the abundance of inspiration) are the "Fine Tunings" at the end of each chapter plus the lists of activities to try. They don't leave you out on a limb searching for a something to grab on to! Hooray! The fine tunings answer questions you might have like, "What if I have a lot of ELL students?" or "What if my class gets out of control". They give great advice for those what ifs that come up in any classroom.  The activities are all super engaging and fun! Some of them I've heard of before and some are new and I can't wait to try them all (ok...maybe not all, they won't all work for primary, but hey..I'm always optimistic!)

Thanks for stopping by today! I will be wrapping up this book next week and then moving on to another PD book. That's what I love about summer, I get to chose what I read! So what are you reading this summer? I'd love any suggestions you might have!

How do you teach Letter Recognition?

It is SUMMERTIME and time to relax but I know you can't help but start thinking about it. Back to school time. Kindergarten teachers everywhere are resetting their clocks for a whole new batch of students who will be anything but independent. Some come to us ready for action, don't get me wrong, but for the most's an uphill battle.  3 weeks or so of training and we are a well oiled machine but let me tell ya, you have to mentally prepare for those first 3 weeks!

Today I am focusing on Letter Recognition. It's that first big assessment we give at the beginning of the year and our first real focus in Kindergarten.

Hands on Learning

We start with a lot of hands on activities. If your kiddos have little to no experience with the alphabet then they need to manipulate those shapes. Buckets and buckets and buckets of ABC's get the job done!  We use alphabet charts to match up the letters, magnetic letters (just to 'play' with!) and alphabet gems to put in order.
The ABC chart pictured is from The Kindergarten Smorgasboard

 And don't forget the playdough.....


NOTHING is better in kindergarten than a song or two about the alphabet! Here are a few of my favorites!

I love, love, love Heidi Songs! I've blogged about how I use them to teach sight words here but at the beginning of the year I use them to teach not only letter recognition but letter sounds as well. You can see them in Heidi's store HERE. I have the original videos (with Heidi in them) and now the new animated set. The kids love both!

Dr. Jean-Alphardy Song
We sing the Alphardy song EVERY SINGLE MORNING the first 9 weeks of school.  I'm telling you, it does the trick! I have the MP3 version and I play it and show an alphabet chart on the big screen. We have motions to go with each letter. 


In the "olden days" (that's what I refer to the time when I taught full day) I used to do a craft every afternoon the first 6 weeks of school to highlight the letter of the day. After 26 (or so) days in school I had the whole thing covered! The end result was a fabulous ABC book my kiddos got to take home.
The bonus was as we did each craft I was teaching my kiddos all of those important skills like cutting, gluing (only a dab!), following directions, and assessing them on things like shapes and colors. I've never found a way to fit this activity in to half day but this year I am going to do it! I will find a way!

I took all of my old file folders down and found my favorite craftivities and put them into one digital file. Here it is!
Click HERE to see it in my store!
Every letter has a cut, glue, color, draw, listen, follow directions, count, dab, or learn something new activity. 

That's how I start the year teaching introducing the alphabet and getting my kiddos past that first big assessment. What do you do to teach letter recognition at the beginning of the year? I'd love to here from you! 

Thanks for stopping by today! Here are some links to the products listed in this post as well as some other great alphabet activities!  

The Morning Meeting: Sharing & a FREEBIE

Welcome back friends! It is time to share a little bit more about The Morning Meeting Book and this week we will focus in on Sharing. You can read my reflections on the first part of morning meeting, Greetings, HERE. I don't know about you but when I started this chapter I was quickly thinking of all the horrors that come with SHOW AND TELL! This IS NOT that! Thank heavens.  It's all about conversation and we are SUPER conversationalists in Kindergarten!

THE SHARER:  The purpose of sharing during morning meeting is to get students to know each other a little better.  Last week we talked about the greeting (so they can learn their classmates names) and the next step would be to share.  I cringe a little thinking of the long stories that will creep in and I may never get a moment of teaching time in the day but there are solutions for that too!  The whole idea behind this sharing time is to clear, concise, and to the point. 

THE LISTENER: Even better there is a huge focus on what the LISTENER should be doing too. I've already been doing all of this at different points of the day (Writer's Workshop, sharing after Math Journals, and Reading time too). It takes a full year of reminders and mini lessons on how to be a respectful listener when we introduce this a little at a time. My goal is to use morning meeting so we know right from the start how to be a good listener.

I love that the suggestion is to do around the circle sharing first with little ones and then move into partner sharing.  The third type of sharing is dialogue sharing (when students pick their own topic) but we will need to ease our way into that one. My mind is already swimming with ideas for around the circle sharing for back to school and I am going to write them all down so I am ready for each day and won't have to plan on the run ( know it's a running race the entire month of August!)  Our first unit is on families around the world so it will be a great time to share more about our families during morning meeting.

My biggest take away from the chapter was the section on generating effective questions. We REALLY struggle with this in Kindergarten because everything is about ME, ME, ME and never really about YOU. I made this poster as a reminder so students will have a visual cue to ask a question instead of me saying "Is it a question?" eight hundred thousand times next year. :) 

Grab the poster HERE

What were your take aways from the chapter? Have you ever implemented morning meeting before? I'd love to hear from you! You can find me on Instagram @learningwithmrslangley and on Facebook too.  Thanks for stopping by today!