Friday, March 18, 2016

Five for Friday March 18

I'm linking up with Kacey for her wonderful Five for Friday.  Thank you, Kacey!

My husband and I  just finished watching Season 4 of House of Cards this week.  W.O.W!  An episode or two of that show, and you feel so much better about any mistakes you've ever made in life- because they really don't compare.  Anyway- the  day after we finished, this was a page in one of my group's guided reading books- and I just had to smile to myself.
Here we go with Five for Friday!
Here we go!

Each year, we are so lucky to have bagpipe players come to play for us up and down the halls for St. Patrick's Day.  It's very quick- just up and down the halls- but it makes such an impression. One of my student's fathers plays. They go around to several local schools as close to St. Patrick's Day as they can.  If you know anyone who plays, they may be willing to come to your school if you ask.  The kids love it.  I do, too. 

Here is a plant update for you!  I sent home the beanstalks and the Silly Hair People with the kids on Open House night on Wednesday, so they had a better chance making it home than on the bus.  This is the growth after about a month, just to give you an idea.  HERE is my post all about Jack and the Beanstalk and the activities we did to go along with it.

Everyone got a golden egg of their very own to go with their beanstalk.  That's why Easter is a great time to grow these!.

Here are our morning glories!  They are climbing their little hearts out.  Again, this is about a month's growth.  I am hoping they will be in full bloom for grandparent's day in May.

These ALWAYS amuse me.  When I show the kids their hair updates, I always tell a story to go along with their expressions.  They love it.   I am thinking I should have cut the top rim off the cups.  Next year...

Most of my girls wanted little barrettes for their hair, before they gave haircuts at home.

My class had so much fun with this activity that I wanted to share it with you.  I posted all about my Words with Friends writing and shared the book I made for it HERE.

It's a great activity for working on questions and using question marks in writing.   I work with a little girl after school who lives near me, and as we were reading we came to a question mark.  I asked her what it was, and she said, "It's just a little mystery."   I LOVED that explanation, and now I can't NOT think that every time I think of a question mark. 

Another way I like to have my students practice writing questions is whenever we write thank you notes.  I have my kids write thank you notes a lot.  Not only is it great writing practice (and they must be neat so the receiver can read it!) , but it's a life skill that so many people no longer have.  My hope is that even one or two of the kids remember our lessons about writing a thank you note when someone does something nice for you.  You can write to the band or chorus after they put on a concert, the lunch ladies if they serve a meal your class really likes a lot, the custodians for keeping the school clean, bus drivers for keeping the kids safe every day... The possibilities are endless!

This week, my kids wrote thank you notes to the leprechauns for their surprise visit!  I loved seeing them add those  question marks in the letters all by themselves. 

I wrote about some ideas I love to do to go with Good Job, Jelly Bean- and some other fun Easter activities HERE.  Here are some of the things we did that are in that post-
 This cute letter to the Easter bunny paper (with a surprise bunny tail left as a surprise!)-
These sweet little bunny necklaces-

Our bunny hats and "If I were the Easter bunny" stories-

I found these little chocolate carrots (CHEAP- Palmer chocolate, so they were only $1) that I bought to save for when we do some activities with The Carrot Seed after Easter- so go get some if you want them! The won't be around when I actually want to do my lesson with carrots after Easter.

I found these cute pictures from Miss Lee that will be great for sequencing the story.

The Carrot Seed Summary
"How to Grow a Carrot" would be a great book for the children to write using first, next, then, and last. 

I always read The Carrot Seed and Tops and Bottoms together. 

This art project from Art Projects for Kids   really shows how the root vegetables grow underground.  It would be great to use with  both these books!  Don't you love the colors?

Here is another fun activity from Along the Way!
Thank you for stopping by!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Words with Friends!

My class had so much fun with this activity that I wanted to share it with you.  We are working on writing neatly (for an audience to be able to READ the printing), leaving spaces, rereading to be sure what is written makes sense, and using punctuation marks.   To practice question marks, I wanted the kids to be able to practice writing questions to friends. I thought Words with Friends Kindergarten Style would be a fun way to do that- and it was!

We began on the rug, brainstorming good questions to ask friends .  This was a great start for the kids, so they were thinking what they wanted to learn about their friends.  (Do you have any pets?  What is your favorite dinner?  What is your favorite game?  What do you like about school?  What color do you like?  Can you skip? What holiday is your favorite?) I wrote  several question words on the board to review and to use for reference:  What, Who, Where, When, Why, How.  We also reviewed how to write a question mark.

I made booklet for each student.  Then, I modeled how and where they would write their question on the paper.

I had the kids partner up and sit across from each other at the tables.  The person across from them would be their writing buddy who they would be writing to this round.  Each child had a different colored pen. (This just made it easier to see who wrote what this time.)  Once both of the partners had their  questions written, they switched books, read the question, and answered the questions on the bottom part of the paper. Then, they switched back and read the answers.   Simple and fun!

After all the partners were done, I had the kids on one side of the tables shift down one seat.  (It reminded me of "speed dating" scenes in movies...)  The new person across the table was the new partner for the next question!  

We did three rounds of question writing, which took about 20-25 minutes, just so you have an idea.  I felt like that was a perfect number of questions/answers for them, especially for our first time. 

It was interesting to see how when a friend can't read someone's writing, they work a little harder to make it neat- because it matters!

If you'd like a copy of my  Words with Friends, just click the picture below.  I made a few different writing pages.  I made 3 copies of the first writing page, then stapled those pages with the cover to make booklets for the kids to use. I also included a full page writing paper, because I'm going to have the kids write longer letters to friends for another activity someday soon.

Have fun, and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Five for Friday March 4

I'm linking up with Kacey for her wonderful Five for Friday.  Thank you, Kacey!
Here we go!

Here is another one of my bulletin boards.  I love this saying.  And... how simple is it?!

Here is a fun activity from Dr. Jean (Or Dr. Jean-yus... if you will...)

It's so easy and so beneficial for the children.   Everyone chose a favorite color paper- (or white).  I showed them how to first fold a "hotdog fold" (the long way), and then a "hamburger fold" (the short way).  When they opened the paper, they put a number in each section:  1,2,3,4. 

Then, we basically had a spelling test.  I said a sight word, and they had to decide if it had 1,2,3, or 4 letters in the word, and then write the word in the correct box.  Ta-da!  

I heard the kids quietly spelling the word after I said it and counting the letters as they spelled it. It was fabulous!  They did great spelling the words, too.  It seemed like when they were focused on thinking how many letters the word had, they were more free to know they could spell it correctly. 

We'll be doing this a lot more for great practice. 

I also love her idea  of using this for math! You could turn it over and do math on the back.  Once the children fold the paper, they can show four ways to make a number- the numeral, tally marks, ten frame, dots, set of objects, number facts...

The best part is that it takes zero preparation.  Just grab some paper and pencils if you have a few extra minutes, and you're good to go!

These are the types of ideas we have in our books Dr. Jean's Reading Recipes and Dr. Jean's Math Recipes.  They are ideas we use all the time that work, are fun, and are easy to prepare and use!

PreK Bundle (2016)
This week I sent home my version of our writing celebrations.  Our school uses Lucy Calkins for writing.  Part of her program involves writing celebrations  in the classroom.  I  choose not to invite parents in for writing celebrations for several reasons. I don't want parents comparing the students' writing in my class.  Parents don't know the struggles some of the children have had to get where they are- and they don't see the growth that the children have made who came into my class knowing NOTHING- and can now get sentences down on paper.  Their writing may not be as "pretty" as some of my other students' books, but to me, they are masterpieces. I don't want the child or the parents to feel they are anything less.

I don't want parents to feel competition about their children's writing.  That isn't ever the point.  Each child is special, individual, and is developing at his/her own perfect pace.  My job is to keep parents informed about their own child's progress. I know for me, if I went to a celebrations for my daughters at that age, I'd see series of their books written.  My son, however, didn't love writing.  He always did great in school, but writing wasn't a strength, and I would have compared his writing to others in the class. I know I would have.  And instead of praising his accomplishments, I think inside I'd feel he needed to do more.  I don't ever want that for my parents.

We celebrate in the classroom, and the children do such a kind, sweet job encouraging and supporting each other as we share our completed stories.  The kids actually seem to be very in tune with which children have worked hard to get where they've gotten because it doesn't come as easily to them.   They are so precious as they praise each others' stories, neat printing, and illustrations.  I love these moments.  Our classroom celebrations are informal and happen when I see we are all at a great point to share.

I can tell you that my heart sings the loudest when my little strugglers write a front and back page paper, fairly neatly, with spaces and sight words spelled correctly.  I love the beautiful books my higher students create, too, of course.  Those are the ones we show to prove the kids can write, but actually, I  think lots of those students would be writing pretty nicely just by picking up what we do in our interactive writing.  They don't need a lot of individual work at this point.  Of course they could write more sentences, explain thoughts deeper, or add more details.  But they're five.  They are doing great with quick conferences and pointers.  I know how much of my time, patience, and teaching went into the having those other students complete a writing assignment and smile because they know it's good.  Those are the celebrations I collect.

ANYWAY, I decided each family needed a celebration this week, so I copied a sample or two of our beginning writing from September and November, and then one from last week.  I stapled them together with a little celebration paper on top and sent them home.

Here are some of my masterpieces!

The first sample is from November.  The second is from this week or last week.  The most recent writing for a couple of them is about a chameleon, because we read lots of books about chameleons this week...  and because that's such an easy word to spell... :) HA!

      I want to be blue cause it is my favorite color.

      I like black because it is camouflage in the night.

Here is my celebration cover if you'd like a copy to use for your class.  Just click the picture.

Here is a simpler half-sheet copy.  
Here is a quick writing assessment I did this week.  We do a writing assessment at the beginning of the year for different genres, and then again at the end of the year- to save.  BUT, meanwhile, I like to see exactly what areas I need to focus on with each student. 

We are working on Opinion Writing now.  During one of our Writer's Workshop times, we brainstormed reasons why we liked summer and why we liked winter. Then, for writing, I spread the kids out all over the room and gave them this prompt:  What season do you like better- summer or winter?  And why?  Give me 3 reasons. 

They wrote for about 20 minutes all by themselves with no help at all from me.  

During lunch, it took about 10 minutes to check each of my student's writing for different skills I wanted to see if they had taken on independently.  It was SO TELLING for me.  I loved it. Here is my high-tech data...

Some of my higher writers did it all.  They really have taken on a lot. 

Some of my higher writers have taken  on a lot of the foundational skills, but didn't really answer my question and didn't give me three reasons.  This was interesting to see.

Some of my struggling writers would not let themselves be done until they came up with three reasons.  I loved that.  They really worked hard to answer my question.  This little one could not write more than a squiggle in September.  He would not leave the table until he came up with "build an igloo" WHICH he spelled all by himself! YAY!

And as always, I was just amazed by all of them when I think where they started.  These two didn't know any letters or sounds when they started school this year.  I am so proud of them.

I love how he came up with 3 reasons!  I was thrilled with this.  

I just wanted to share this idea in case you want some "data" of your own for writing.

While we're talking about assessments, last week, I began to assess my students for our 30 week report cards. Instead of having to set aside hours of assessment time, I was able to call my kids over during any extra moments I have during the day, and assess them right on my iPad. ESGI is easy, paper and mess FREE, and fun for the kids.  I have the data handy to use at home or at school because it's right online - all organized, and never lost or misplaced!

Look at ESGI bringing the country together!  Can you believe it?!  I KNOW!!!

ESGI provides so many great assessments- or you can easily make your own to fit exactly what you need.  

One of my other favorite parts of ESGI is the time-saving extras it provides for teachers.  This time of year, I print out sight word flashcards to send home with my students each week if they still need help reading and writing them.  I keep one set at school to use for RTI when I have a few minutes or if I have another adult available to work with a student.  The kids can even work with each other with the flashcards! Here is a sample of flashcards for one of my students.

ESGI provides parent letters that you can print, with exactly what areas need to be worked on at home! Talk about a time saver! Here is a sample parent letter for the Letter ID assessment.

You can also edit the letter to parents.
As the year goes on, there are more and more benefits of ESGI.  If you want to learn more about ESGI and to get a free 60 day trial of the software, click here and try it out for yourself! Our district bought the subscription for our grade level.  It's so easy to show your administrator the benefits of ESGI.  We are encouraged to use more and more technology, so this fits perfectly into that, too.

I posted ALL about the benefits, bells and whistles,  and some examples of what ESGI offers HERE.  If you like using it and want to purchase the program, you can use my special PROMO CODE B1119 and receive $40 off your purchase for the first year. The price is usually $199 a year, but with the promo code, it will be $159 for the first year. Check with your administration because they may be able to purchase it for you. They can use the code and get it for $159 for the first year, too.  It's a great time of the year to try it out!

So, just remember- everyone loves ESGI.  There is no debate about it! 

Thank you for stopping by!  Have a wonderful weekend!

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