Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Doesn't it do you so much good to  look back and think about how far your students have come about this time of year?  I remember in the beginning of the year always thinking, "I would give just about ANYTHING for some 'I like________.' sentences. I will NEVER again complain about those sentences if my kids will just write one of them!"  

And then, somehow, day by day, lesson by lesson, those little darlings start writing real, live sentences, sharing their thoughts and ideas, experimenting with words and punctuation, and moving beyond those "I like..." sentences.  

My class now, is needing  a little help remembering when to use a period or punctuation mark.  They use them all the time. It's just that sometimes they are after every. single. word. 

And sometimes, they are just at the end of a line of writing, whether or not the sentence ends there or not.  
To start our little sentence recognition lesson, I wrote some sentences on a chart, without any punctuation.  I showed the children some of the different ways I have seen them experiment with periods.  I explained that I LOVED seeing those periods and loved that they were using them. 

But now, they were ready to learn exactly where to use them correctly.  We read this chart together and noticed where we naturally stopped, because it was the end of a complete thought.  We reread the chart and really paid attention to where we stopped.  I reminded the children that we had learned that a period means STOP.  That pause where we stopped when we were reading is exactly where the period should go.  It may be in the middle of a line, or even after one word in a line. That doesn't matter. What does matter is that a period goes at the end of a whole thought that says something.  I had different students come up and put a red magnet circle at the end of each sentence.

I always have the children answer questions and speak during show and tell in complete sentences. Every day they tell me, "The author writes the words." "The illustrator draws the pictures."  We review how they do this- and how they never just say, "Writes words."  They know that a sentences tells someone something in a complete thought. 

After we practice with our chart, I tell the children that I am going to read some groups of words to them.  IF it is a complete sentence that needs a period at the end, they need to push their hand out in front of them and SCREEEEECH (like a car screeching to a STOP!) so I know to stop. They LOVE this. Love. If it is just a group of words and NOT a complete sentence, they stay completely quiet.  You can also do a thumbs up for sentences, thumbs down if it is not a sentence- but it isn't quite as much fun.

I read several groups of words like:

I like to play
I like to
I like to play with
I like to play with my friends
We can go to the
We can go to the park
It is my new
My teacher is
My teacher is nice
Broccoli is
Broccoli is green

After all this practice hearing when to  use a period, it was time to show me their stuff, with a delicious little assessment.  The children each got six mini m&m's in a little cup.  I told them that the mini m&m's were perfect because periods are just miniature.  I showed them how a period is NOT a colored in letter "o" (which I see sometimes), and it is not a practically invisible pencil mark. Even learning to write a period correctly is a skill!

The first job each child had was to decide their favorite color mini m&m and eat it for "Period Power."  I only needed five periods on the paper I made.  The m&m's were now going to be periods.

I gave each child a paper like this: 
If you would like a copy, just click on the picture.  It's simple, but it's already made, so why not! 

Next, they had to read the paper themselves and put an m&m where a period would go, at the end of a sentence.

As they ate the "periods," they substituted a pencil period for the m&m on their paper. 

Later in the day, the children practiced making sentences and using a period at the end of a sentence with this game.  I have several of the links to different games on my Primary Writing Prezi, so I just click on one for us to use when I have a few minutes throughout the day.  This game is called Simple Sentences.

Have fun writing!  Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Magic of Dr. Jean

I feel completely refreshed today, because I just got to spend two days in the presence of someone who should be teaching a class for every single new primary teacher who graduates from college.

I have used and loved Dr. Jean's songs and finger plays since I began teaching. She has always been such a calming, joyful presence in my classroom, and she didn't even know it.  Every time we sing her songs or do her finger plays is a happy time for me with my students.  So to me, she equals happiness!
If you haven't used her cds or sung her songs- WHAT?!   Oh my goodness- get ready for happiness. Some of our favorites are Tooty Ta (of course), The Cool Bear Hunt, Bubble Gum, My Mother is a Baker, Banana Dance, Who Let the Letters Out, AND I just learned some new ones that I somehow missed.  I can't wait til Monday!

(Can you tell I am a little happy?)

I don't know about you, but sometimes I leave a  Professional Development training feeling like I don't do enough, don't teach reading or writing the correct way, and/or won't ever be able to fit everything into the day that I need to cover. I'm sad and defeated.   If I do a good job with writing, I haven't covered enough math.  If I have a great math day, I haven't gotten to read enough with everyone.

Well, here is the cure:  Spend some time with Dr. Jean.  Our Family Reading Partnership was able to have her come to our Kids' Book Fest this year to put on a concert for the children. I am not sure who loved it more, the teachers who were there or the children. I think it was a tie!

The bonus was that she did an afternoon of Professional Development for the Pre-K and K teachers in our district, sharing some of her gems.  When I say some, I actually mean one fabulous idea right after another. When she shared a song, she would follow it up with several amazing extension activities at all different levels to go along with it.  I couldn't write fast enough.

For one, quick example, after she shared "The Cool Bear Hunt," she suggested that the children could draw a quick little story map showing the different places they went on the bear hunt -and then retell the story to friends using a teddy graham! OH MY GOODNESS!  Genius!  The standards and skills that one activity works on are amazing- fun AND learning without even knowing it.

Here are my sweet teaching buddies with Dr. Jean doing Tooty Ta!
The even BIGGER bonus was that I was lucky enough to go to dinner with her and some wonderful friends.  I will never forget it.
After the concert today, we took a picture with attitude.   (However, I don't think the "I love you" sign language sign shows a lot of rap attitude... oh well. We tried. ) Somehow, Dr. Jean still looks great!

With the introduction of CCSS and APPR, and the testing that has accompanied these, it is easy to feel sort of defeated when you are a proponent of what are best practices for teaching children.

Dr. Jean knows that children have a lifetime to be grown up, take tests, and do worksheets and a very precious, small window of time to be a child.

That precious, small window is such a critical, time for children to experience things, wonder, play, learn with hands-on activities, sing, dance, read, paint, get messy, do finger plays, laugh, grow, and create and savor memories, doing what they are developmentally ready to do.
Finger plays, songs, stories and rhymes help children increase their vocabulary, sequence events, develop memory skills, stimulate brain development,  play with sounds and syllables, learn rhythm and rhymes, follow directions, practice listening skills, develop large and small motor skills, practice social skills and auditory language, as well as learn academic concepts.  Repetition is necessary for the retention of learning.  Why aren't we doing MORE of these activities?

Dr. Jean asked the teachers who had graduated from college in the last few years if they had learned any songs, finger plays, or rhymes that help children learn.  None had.  We are forgetting and ignoring what are the developmentally appropriate, best teaching practices for helping young children learn.

I just read an article about how academic stress is he number one concern parents have for their students in Singapore.  They have developed a Happiness Revolution Team to help parents think of ways to improve their child's mental well-being, helping parents focus on their child's social skills instead of just academics.
The grass is not greener. The high numbers that we see in test results in places like Singapore often come at the cost of happy, well-adjusted children. There needs to be a balance.

Primary children learn and remember by doing. They learn and remember by singing. They learn and remember by having someone spend quality time with them on real lap tops, as Dr. Jean said, not only computer laptops.  Yes, computers and technology are wonderful, but nothing can replace a real lap and the love a child feels learning on one of those!

Dr. Jean mentioned how powerful music was for memory and learning- and for memories.  These videos are proof of that.

I only wish every primary teacher would be required to take a class with Dr. Jean, to learn or to remember the joy of teaching children and the joy of how children learn best.  I feel so refreshed and re-inspired after spending time with her.

Her website is a true gift to teachers.  She has so many of her wonderful ideas on there for free.  Her cheers are magical.    I read her blog every day, because it always has so many "aha" ideas on it.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing my joy! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Five For Friday- April 25th

I am linking up with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching  for Five for Friday! Thank you, Kacey!

Well, before I even start, let me tell you that TONIGHT I will be having dinner with Dr. Jean.  YES. I. WILL.  She is coming to our little town for our 3rd Annual Kids' Bookfest, and because she wanted to have dinner with me I am on the Family Reading Partnership committee, I am going to dinner with her tonight.  I am PRETTY SURE this will be one of my favorite five next week.  Pretty sure.  It may be all five.  You just never know.  

We had a great week!  Here are some of my favorite parts...
The Vet Center made its appearance for Free Choice Centers. We have Free Choice (the activity formerly known as PLAYTIME) for about half and hour each day.   I put away the Grocery Store for a bit and switched it up with everything a good vet needs.  This week the cat and dog beanie babies had check ups.  Next week, it will be something different.  I found some great vet scrubs at the Salvation Army and bought lots of 20 cent pads at Walmart for writing prescriptions, appointments, notes...  

I love how he was just waiting for calls for appointments. 

Happy Earth Day!

We finally went on our Earth Day Nature Walk on Thursday. It rained on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It was only in the 50's and windy, but our adventure was described as the "best thing EVER" so I think it was a complete success. 

I used this fabulous Nature Scavenger Hunt from  No Wooden Spoons.

This is a great hunt, because it has some common things on it that the kids can easily find and feel successful right away. If fact, we BARELY got outside the doors before the kids started finding things and sticking on stickers! They would have had some of it done before we left the room, but I told them that the morning glory flowers, their green leaves, and any dirt, spiderwebs and/or ants in our classroom would not count since it was an OUTDOOR HUNT.  But it is that easy- you can even find some of this nature inside... It's a wonderful activity for spring- anytime you feel like you the kids need some time outside-  not just Earth Day!

I stapled a little strip of stickers to each paper so the children didn't have to use a pencil to mark off what they saw.  They only had to stick on a sticker.  We found everything except a fern and a butterfly. I think it was too early for those.  OH wait... we also did not find a CLOUD.  Can you believe it?  If you ever want to schedule an outside event, just have me schedule something for that day where I am trying to have clouds in the sky for the children to look at- then you are guaranteed a perfect blue sky with not a cloud in sight!  This was the exactly same beautiful, perfect sky we had on White Day when we were supposed to see shapes in clouds.  But... I am NOT complaining. I'll take it!

This week we read Birds written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by his wife Laura . I just discovered that she was his wife, and it made me love the book even more.

 We had so much fun painting with feathers.  I had the children make two different kinds of pictures. 

I wrote a post about it here if you would like to see more or if you would like a copy of the paper I made for the children to use for their feather painting.  We had a ball!

We looked at different birds on my Bird Nest Prezi to decide just what bird may make which designs in the sky.

We also  colored this  Types of Birds Easy Reader from Debi Forsyth.  It is free at her TPT store.  
The kids are fascinated looking at different birds.  I have seen lots of birds with their mouths full of twigs and grass for nests. It's a great time to make a bird nest kit!

I also posted about my Mother's Day gifts for this year.  I am so excited for the moms to get their special books and candy bars!  If you would like the links to the free downloads for the Hershey MOTHERS bars or the M&M MOMS packages, you can get them here. 

Finished Product

The children are writing stories about why their mom is the sweetest to go along with the candy bars.  Here are just two of my many favorites to share...

This little guy is SO sincere and sweet.  He took such a long time with his mom's hair, and then told me that is exactly how it looks when she blow dries it. I think it hit home because  I can totally relate. Thank goodness for straighteners...

She said, "I can't live without you mommy because you are so special."  I have a feeling this may be her mom's favorite gift that she may keep forEVER!

Finally, I was the winner of these wonderful Good Karma Art Jars from Casey Jane at Wiggling Scholars.  They are so pretty- hand painted and personalized. 

 Thank you so much, Casey!   I will be putting some Hershey hugs and kisses in the big jar for me  the kids at school.  I can't decide what fabulous things I will put in the smaller jar for home.  She is such a sweetheart.  Casey put in some extra fun chevron goodies for me that just made my day!  Stop over and follow her blog!

Here are a couple other fun pictures that made me smile this week-
 This little guy's dad took the time to send me a picture of his first "haircut."  SO SWEET!
Have a FABULOUS weekend! 

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