Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What's Under Your Cape?

The minute I received the book What's Under Your Cape, by Barbara Gruener, I settled right down to dive into it.  Barbara writes in such an easy to understand way, that this book feels like you are having coffee and a wonderful conversation with a dear friend; a conversation with so many great points that you want to highlight and never forget.  I am so happy that I read this book now, before the start of the new school year, because I am so inspired by it to do even more character education with my students.
Barbara wrote a great post about how her book came to be here at Pre-K and K Sharing.
From Barbara:
Using the word SUPERHEROES as an acrostic, I'm sharing ideas in each chapter to provide ways to engage our little leaders in reaching new character heights. You'll find stories and strategies, ditties and dances, activity ideas and more, all things needed to help our students soar like superheroes. {Think Reader's Digest Condensed version of the Corner on Character paired with a Chicken Soup For The Soul format.} 
The Corner on Character

I'm linking up with Deanna at Mrs. Jump's Class for Book Talk Tuesday to share this great book!
When other people see my class and say, "What a character!" about one of my students, I am hoping that now it will mean that they can't believe the amazing character that my children have developed.  That's the way I am going to take it from now on, anyway.  So I will just say, "Thank you!"

Barbara reminds us that character is learned.  It has to be taught, developed, modeled, and modeled some more, just like any subject that you want your children to really learn inside and out.  We  model reading, writing, even cutting with scissors and how much glue to use. Children are always watching and learning.  They will imitate and learn what they see.  As teachers, we  have the chance to model some very important, life changing behaviors thoughout each and every day.

Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.

In the introduction of her book, Barbara mentions that she grew up working on a dairy farm and was a member of her local 4-H chapter. I have such happy memories of my own from my 4-H days!

Barbara devotes a chapter to each letter of the acronym "SUPERHEROES"and a character trait that each letter represents. This picture of her bookmark is from her post at Pre-K and K Sharing, and shows what she discusses for each letter.

 She begins with "Service," and explains that everyone feels needed while they are filling needs.

 She suggests so many fabulous  and doable service programs that can be implemented in a classroom.  Service projects don't need to be huge undertakings.  Teaching children to reach out to others from an early age is a gift that keeps on giving, farther than we even know.

With each chapter and each character trait, Barbara gives book ideas and activities to help teach the trait in the classroom, as well as some fun songs, poems, and ideas to reinforce the concepts.  I cannot wait to make more positive phone calls home, to set up a "Thank you note" writing station, and to put into practice so many of her other ideas.

She explains well how to help children really understand empathy. That's a hard concept, but sometimes I think children understand it better than adults do.

I love how she explains "Responsibility" to students, teaching them about choices, consequences, chores, and stakeholders.  She teaches children that the choices they make affect others. She reminds us to let children be responsible, so that they can be responsible.  I thought this picture went well with the Superhero theme!

She talks about the importance of encouragement.  I loved this chapter, because the importance of encouragement doesn't end with children.  She mentions how faculty and staff need to encourage each other and be supportive and proud of each other's accomplishments- or to be a supportive friend if things don't go so well.
I don't know why it is so hard for adults to be genuinely proud of and happy for other adults who succeed.  But it is.  I know how much it means to me if someone compliments me or something I have done.  It makes me want to do so much more. If one parent writes a thank you note or appreciates something that I send home with a child, I immediately think of more things I want to do.  The opposite is also true.  When you never hear anything about things you send home, after a while you start to rethink spending the extra time and money on everything that you do.

 I think as adults we sometimes are so afraid that someone will outshine us, and that somehow complimenting others will take away from us. I don't know what it is.  I just really wish we could stop being jealous or threatened, and be happy for each other.  And not stop there- but actually TELL other people why we are proud of them or what we admire about them.
I really believe that our schools would be such a kinder, more positive place if people felt better about themselves and realized that they do make a difference, and that difference is noticed and appreciated. You know how sometimes teachers have everyone in class write down one sentence about something they admire about a student, and then the student gets to keep the paper with all of those compliments on it? Years later, many of those students still carry that paper with them. I always thought it would be neat to do that with teachers and other people we work with each day.  I think it would mean a lot.  

I took away LISTS of great bulletin board ideas, service projects that I want to do with my class, books to add to my Amazon cart (ut-oh...) and ideas to go with those books. I have new little songs to sing, and a renewed focus for my school year to teach and model character traits whenever I can.

Here is a post I wrote with some of my favorite Character Education books that I like to use in my classroom.  Barbara has lots of other great ideas that she includes in her book, too- so I will have more to share once that order comes in... (sorry, Jeff... but it's an investment in the future Superheroes of the world!)

I put together some Character Education videos that I liked.  Just click on the picture below if you would like a copy of this Prezi.  It's free.

I also made a Prezi about the Power of One- which I kept thinking of as I read Barbara's book.
If you would like a copy, just click on the picture below. 

You can get a copy of Barbara's book here. It is such a perfect summer read, because it will inspire you to help your own Superheroes in your classroom grow to be even more super!   I can't wait to get started.
Thanks for stopping by! 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Word Families and LOTS of FREEBIES!

I am linking up with Laura, at Where the Magic Happens,  for our Digging Into Next Year series.
This week's topic is Word Study.  I thought I would go back and share one of my favorite ideas to start the year and introduce some word families.  

Cat Cookie day  is favorite of mine, probably because it is another one of the my children's favorites. It's fun any time of the year.  "Cat" is always a word the kids are proud that they can write.  It is fun for Halloween black cats, too. You could just make the frosting black and be all set!

Here is the "recipe" if you would like it.  (Don't get too excited- it isn't an old family secret or anything.) Just click on the picture below!  I make some copies for the children to look at as we make the cookies, then I send a copy home with each child with his/her cat cookie picture stapled to it.

The children follow the directions and make their own cat cookie.  I take a picture of each child with the cookie before it is eaten. I make a poster for the classroom and send a copy of each child's  picture home stapled to the recipe.  Making these cookies is a great lesson about following directions, carefully spreading the frosting, using a plastic knife ( not licking the knife...), and counting. Most of the children have never spread frosting.  One little boy said, "This is the second time I have used a knife. The other time was with our butter!"

We do lots of "at-tivities" before we make our cookies. (Sorry- I couldn't resist...)
I have a box of Word Family files.  In each file, I keep the activities that I to use for teaching that word family, as well as photo-copies of the titles of the books I use for that word family. For example, here is a look at some of the things in my "at" file: 
(I have Word Wall Roll games for each word family made and ready in each file.)

I like to  copy the cover of the books I use and slip them into the folder, so that way I don't forget what ones work well.

I also keep copies of the activities that go with the book inside the front cover of the book, so that if I pull a book, the activity is right there with it.  This is so helpful if you need a quick sub plan, or have an unexpected chunk of time to fill, because the activity is right inside the book. For example, these were a couple ideas I had in the front cover of Only the Cat Saw that may be great for another day:
Only the Cat Saw is a sweet story with beautiful illustrations.  We had great conversations about what goes on outside when we are asleep, or what we think happens inside the school when we are gone!  (Hmmm- that's a good question!)  Here is a sample of the inside of the book to give you an idea.  The text is hard to see, but father is singing to the baby, and mother is giving the little girl a bath and only the cat saw... the beautiful fireflies.  (This also starts the heated debate whether they are called 'fireflies' or 'lightning bugs.')

There are so many fun cat books to use in the classroom!  Here are some of my favorites:
We read Millions of Cats to begin our Cat Day.  I like using this book because the illustrations are black and white and SO detailed. It is a little different than lots of our read aloud books.  I am always surprised how much the children always love this book, because it is harder to see the illustrations in a group on the rug.  Today, I showed some of the illustrations on the Smartboard after we read the book, just so we could take a closer look.

We learn to draw a cat after we read the story.  I have them draw as many different cats as they can on one page! It is a fun activity that lets the children practice details and lots of creativity. Andertoons has a cute page to teach how to draw a cat. We do an interactive writing activity to practice drawing a few cats before we head off to experiment with our own.
Cartoon Factory has this one:
Here is a little Youtube How To:

Square Cat is another sweet book.

This is a good book for making connections with Spookly the Square Pumpkin when we read that soon- and an easy idea for a square cat craft.    Here is a review from Amazon:
Eula is the only square cat in town. Everything that normal cats do is hard for her -- she can't get her square paw into mouse holes, she can't wear her favorite circle skirt, and all of her friends are round! Eula is sad until her two best friends show her just how well a square cat can fit into this round world.

We did a little "chunking" with the "at" blend.

We made this little "at" cat.  I have had this for EVER. I got it from an old Mailbox magazine years ago.  It is a really fun little activity, and the children love making it. 

Next, I found some fabulous  word family freebies for "a" families at TPT!  There are so many wonderful things out there!

This Word Family of the Week "at" Family Book FREEBIE has LOTS of activities from From the Pond's TPT store- and is perfect for "cat" day! It is the freebie part of their big bundle of Kindergarten Writing Books from their TPT store.
Kinder Kids Fun has free Word Family Practice Sheets for the at, ap, et, ig, ug families.  Here is the "at" sheet.  It's a great little quick beginning letter sound activity- and some "at" words to read! You could make these into a book for each child to make.
Word Family Practice Sheets Pack 

The Word Family Sliders FREEBIE at Julie Van Alst's TPT store are perfect for practicing word families and chunking words.  She has sliders for 18 word families.
Word Family SlidersWord Family SlidersWord Family Sliders
I Heart Literacy has a free Word Family Short A Onset and Rime Cards set which includes the following families: -at, -an, -ap, -ag, -ad, and -am. These have great pictures and would make a great center.
Word Families- Short A Onset and Rime Cards
Amanda Cole made these cute little Word Family Rotating Houses!  They are really clever, and the kids would love them. This freebie includes a house for "at" and "an."
Word Family Rotating House FreebieWord Family Rotating House Freebie
Latoya Reed has a wonderful "at" Word Family Mini Pack freebie with 14 activities in it!  

at word family mini packet
Katie Mense made a great Dinosaur Literacy Word Family Center freebie!  The children use magnifying glasses to find the hidden word family word on each bone, then record it.  My kids will love this center! SO much fun!
Dinosaur literacy center, word families (Revised!)

Valerie Downs made a Smartboard Interactive Lesson for Word Families that is free at her TPT store.  The children can write in the beginning letter to finish the word. This picture is the "an" family, but it also includes -ap, -at, -en, -et, -ig, -it, -og, -op, -ot, -ug, and  -un.     I haven't tried it, but it looks like fun!      
Word Family Beginning Sounds
K is for Kinderrific made this cute Write the Room Freebie. You put the bubblegum words around the room ready for the children to find and record.
Write the Room FREEBIE  (-at word family)Write the Room FREEBIE  (-at word family) Write the Room FREEBIE  (-at word family)   
My Chunky Monkey Prezi is FREE at my TPT store.

 It has links to some fun word family and blend games and videos.  It is the preview to my Beginning Reading Prezi.  I also bundled my Beginning Reading and Writing Prezis. I use these almost every day!

Here are the upcoming topics for the rest of July and August!  

We will be having a HUGE give away in August at our Diggin' In Grand Giveaway and TPT Sale, with over $300 worth of prizes. I will keep you posted!

Thank you for stopping by and checking meow-t! (My son actually has this shirt... and he pretends he doesn't get MY sense of humor...)

Go get some freebies.  They could even make Grumpy Cat smile!

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