Friday, January 13, 2017

Writing All About Books 5 For Friday!

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

We are working on our All About Books in our Lucy Calkins Writing  Units.My kids are really having a lot of fun with it, but his year I just seem to have a LOT of children who just aren't developmentally ready for the actually physical writing part of writing. They just can't get down on paper what they want to, so anyone can read it.  

Other years, I've had several strugglers, but then I also had some who made me feel better.  This year's group has needed a lot more time building those fine motor muscles and practicing.

When I  take a deep breath, I can see such huge growth from September when they had even less idea of writing- but...  some days I just wake up at 2AM and think, "HOW CAN I GET MY KIDS TO WRITE NEATLY?"    Really- I  do that.  I might need more of a life. 

Anyway, one thing I tried that has made them think a little more about neatness, spaces, and rereading to see if 1. They can read it.  and 2. They didn't leave out any words,  is to give them each a "Teacher Name" for writing time.  Since they are writing All About books to teach others about something, they need to be teachers!  So I taped these new name tags over their regular ones, and I call them Miss Webb or Mr. Jones during writing time.  They love it!  I do a lot of modeling to show them how I (a teacher) need to write neatly so they can read it, and how hard it would be if I didn't leave spaces or didn't take my time writing.  

I also let them use the Spaceman Spacer (That I got from Kinder-Gardening's awesome Sight Word Sentence Construction Packet and just love!).  This paper is morning work- so they copy the sentence I wrote.  I know... that is old fashioned and whatever else- BUT it is really helping my kids understand HOW a sentence is supposed to look.  I figured out that the problem so many had was that they don't have enough practice writing correct sentences.  Copying mine has given them a lot of confidence as they write their own.  

I have also enlisted the help of their writing partners for this task.  Even when we do a practice write, like the paper above, I have them switch papers with a writing buddy to see if the writing buddy can read their writing.  They seem to try harder and "get it" when a friend is going to be reading their paper.  

Once the children feel like REAL TEACHERS, they get very serious.  This is an example from one of my boys who has come SO FAR, and I am so proud of him.  He wrote about "Rools" (Rules) and came up with some for our class to follow.  He used spaces and heard so many sounds.  He could barely hold a pencil for the first couple months.   I wanted him, and the other children, to see how their work can really be useful and used in the classroom.  So, I enlarged his page of rules and hung it by our door as the kids line up.  He was beaming from ear to ear.  
Be quiet.  Be good.  Do what the teacher says.

That about sums it up, doesn't it?! 
We brainstormed ideas that we could teach about.  The kids did well coming up with their first story idea, then they got in a rut- after only ONE.  So, we came up with some general topics, and talked about ways to narrow those topics down from there.  

I added this anchor chart to my Writing Prezi (in the Non-fiction section), so I can just put it up on the big screen and the children can look at it during writing to get ideas. If you have my Writing Prezi, you can bring it up on your screen, too!  

My final desperate attempt   helpful tip for teaching the children All About books came about when I realized that they didn't really understand HOW to teach something to someone.  If they were writing about Valentine's Day, the story might be, "I like Valentine's day.  It is fun." 

As the children write, I walk around and pepper them with questions about their topic... "Why do we celebrate Valentine's Day? What do people do on Valentine's Day? What is a Valentine?  What colors do you see a lot at Valentine's Day?  Who do you give the Valentine's to?  so they understand that their job is to answer questions someone may wonder about their topic, but still, this wasn't enough.  

SO to help us out, I enlisted the aliens from our toy area.  I explained that these aliens JUST landed and have  no idea about anything.  What is ice cream?  Is it hot?  Do you sleep on it?  How do you eat it?  Is there only one flavor?  ANY silly questions you can think of for a topic make the kids realize- HEY- these aliens don't know anything! 

I put four aliens around the room, so as the children write, they can see them and remember that those poor aliens don't know anything about what we have on earth! (We practiced pretending we were them holding up our arms saying "WHAT is a dog?  WHAT is summer?  WHAT is a color?..."


The kids LOVE the idea of writing to teach the aliens, so I'm taking it one more step, and printing out an alien picture for each of the children to keep by their writing area as they write- sort of a "pen pal" to teach.  I'm printing out lots of these so the kids can choose their favorite.  Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes...   

If you'd like your very own set of alien pictures, just click on the picture and you can download them!

Last week I posted in Pre K and K Sharing about how I love to use the Healthy Body Healthy Me packet that Dr. Jean and I made.  It's a great time of year to teach the children about their bodies and keeping their bodies healthy.  

This packet has two comprehensive Prezis with videos for each topic to teach and reinforce lessons. These are so much fun to use during those extra minutes you have each day- or as a lesson on its own!
This part of the Prezi is great for talking about emotions. I also use this when I'm teaching the children about adding details and feelings in their writing.
This part of the Prezi helps teach the children ALL about safety in different situations. 
We watch these videos a lot as reminders...
This is the second Prezi- full of our favorite shake breaks. 
The packet also includes Dr. Jean's songs Feeling Fine and Macarena Bones.  You'll hear your students singing these songs over and over.  They don't even realize all they're learning as they sing!
This packet is so much fun- the kids can't wait until we do our next activity.  They learn SO much about their bodies, it's amazing.  

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year Odds and Ends!

Happy New Year!  I'm excited for a brand new year!

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Here are some things I've been working on and wanted to share.

Here is my new bulletin board for back to school.  It seems like a Valentine's Day bulletin board, but actually, it's going to be our new theme for the new year.

I'm teaching my kids one of my favorite little poems:
Every time we do a Random Act of Kindness or any time one of the kids does something kind or loving, we're going to remember and say this poem.  I want them to always keep it in their hearts- and years from now remember it and remember learning it in kindergarten.  That would make me happy.

Next, I made a Winter Prezi that is free now at my TpT store.  I use it a lot in the winter for those extra minutes we have in class- and for a lot of teaching.  I added a section for Groundhog Day and Valentine's Day with videos, songs, and stories for each.  I keep adding to it every time I find a good video.

We always do a lot with snowflakes- from snowflake sight words to studying snowflakes for science. I included lots of links to interesting sites that teach all about snowflakes.  It is really fascinating- and the children love learning something different like that!
I used this Prezi all the time during snack before Christmas.  I put on carols for the children as they ate or worked quietly.  It was perfect.  I love the carols that play in the fireplace.  I made a fireplace background and added a YouTube video inside to make it look like a real fireplace.

HERE is a link to my post alllllllllllllll  about snow with lots and lots of ideas and freebies, in case you missed it!


I sort of enjoy January when we get back to school, because the rush from holiday to holiday is over. The beginning of the year goes so fast from Halloween-to Thanksgiving- to Christmas!  Plus, the beginning of kindergarten is busy with letters and sounds, letter formation, beginning writing, and classroom expectations.  By January, we settle in to some real learning.  

Our district uses Lucy Calkins for reading and writing.  We've been using the writing program for a while, but are just beginning the reading program this  year.   I just made a Super Reader Prezi (free) with the Reading Super Powers she talks about in her program.

This is part of my Beginning Reading Prezi that I use all the time.

I  don't know what I'd do with out my Reading and Writing Prezis during my teaching.  I don't have a lot of wall space for anchor charts, and after a while, the walls get so cluttered with "words" that I don't even think the children know where to look or what they are looking at!  I love to use my Smart TV as a wall chart space that I change to fit what I'm teaching.  I can show a quick video to reinforce a concept, or zoom in on one particular anchor chart and reteach those concepts,  then leave that chart up during our reading or writing time.   Here is a picture of what is on my Writing Prezi:

I keep adding to both Prezis as I find another great video or chart.  I just added more to my nonfiction section, because that's what we're working on when we go back in January.

Finally, I love to start the year with some quick assessments using ESGI.  I  wrote earlier about how I use ESGI in the beginning of the  year.  It's a great tool to help get to know the children and have data to guide your instruction and create resources to help students both at school and at home- all on my iPad, easy to access whenever and where ever I need it- and no paper mess!  (That's key for me!)

This time of year, my favorite parts of ESGI are our sight word assessment and the ability to create flash cards for each student to reinforce the words they miss.  I keep a set of flashcards at school to use for RTI, and I send home a packet of words each week for students to practice at home.   It's so easy for me, because I just have to hit "print" and the professional looking flashcards are printed (with each child's name on top- so they don't even get mixed up!)
I can also print out a parent letter for each student which explains exactly what each child needs to work on at home.  

Our school doesn't send homework in kindergarten.  We send books to read each night, but not paper/pencil  homework.   I send the flashcards on Friday along with some games or ideas to do with the flashcards so it's fun for families.  For example, set a timer and see how many words the child can get in a set time.  Time the child to see how quickly he can read the cards, then, do this again and try to beat that time!  (They love contests!),  Keep piles of "yes" and "no" words.  See if the child can get all the words in the "yes" pile!  Hide the cards around the house and have the child find each card, then read them to you (or write them ) as she finds them.   Put one word on each stair and have the child read each stair as they climb to the top.   There are so many fun ways to play with flashcards!

My other favorite this time of  year is the name tag generator. The students are now working on first and last names, so I make several sets of names for practice. I use them for seating, but also for the children to make rainbow names, find sight words or chunks in their names, and as a matching game with pictures. 
(This is a sample of the first names on Table Name Plates.)

There are SO MANY other benefits EGSI offers.  We all need to show more and more data, it seems, and ESGI makes it so easy to do!  Not only easy- but useful!  Sometimes it seems we collect data for the sake of collecting data- but the information I collect on ESGI is what I use to guide my instruction with each individual student each day.

ESGI has a great explanatory video with all the details.  This Intro Webinar (17 minutes) is a very thorough explanation of the program.  If you want to learn more about ESGI and to get a  free trial of the software, click here.

ESGI has really changed my life in the classroom. 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. 

It has made me actually enjoy assessments now, because I know I'm not going to be wasting time. It's quick and neat. The results and data are easy to see and use, and the materials for RTI are already made for me!

So- go ahead and give it a try FREE for 60 days,

I wish you all such a beautiful, healthy, happy year!  Thank you so much for stopping by!
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