Monday, February 27, 2017

Writing Lists

I love old fashioned, paper lists that I can cross off when I'm done with something.  It helps me bring order to a crazy day and quiet my mind.  Once I write something down, my mind is free to let it go, for some reason. 

My love of lists is one reason I absolutely loved this post by Rachel Stafford.  Rachel was a special education teacher, and used lists very successfully with her students for behavior management. She explains  how her approach was to break tasks down into small steps, so there would be no confusion what was expected from her students.  She also set positive expectations with students explaining that she couldn't wait to see how many happy faces were on their self-monitored lists.  She gave her students the power of the list.  She explained that adults do the very same thing.  Adults call these lists "to-do" lists- but it's really just a list that anyone can make to help stay focused on what needs to be done each day.  Click on the picture below to read her article. It's a great one.  


List writing is a wonderful skill for children to learn as they begin to feel comfortable hearing sounds in words and getting those sounds down on paper as letters and eventually words.  It's so exciting when children actually see that they can communicate by writing. "List Writing" isn't a genre of writing, but it's a practical way for children to see the importance of knowing how to get what they want to say down on paper neatly, so they can actually READ what they write down- and others can, too. And... it never hurts to remind them that they are in good company, writing lists! Some very important people write lists...

I like to introduce list writing with Frog and Toad's story, The List.   I wrote HERE about how I love to use Frog and Toad books for so many things.  Now is the time of year I begin reading these stories to my class.  The children are ready for stories with some more words/less pictures, and they get the subtle humor in the books. 

Here is an overview of the story from Amazon:
  • A List: Toad wakes up one morning and decides to write a list of things to do for the day. After writing the list and doing the first few items on it (wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, and go to Frog's house), he goes over to Frog's house and invites him to take a walk with him. During the walk, while Toad is crossing off "Take walk with Frog," a sudden gust of wind blows away the list. Frog tries to catch the list, but to no avail. As Toad can't remember what else was on the list, he and Frog just sit and do nothing until night falls and Toad suddenly remembers that going to sleep was the last thing on his list, which is what the two friends do.
When I taught my own children writing, we used to always warm up by writing a list of something - even when they were in upper grades.  It's a great way to get your mind thinking of different ideas.  In fact, I made a list of list ideas- how is that for a list!  You could use this list with any age, really.  Click on the picture below if you would like a copy. 

Here's how the activity looks in kindergarten.  After we read the story, I gave a topic to the kids (like farm animals, ice cream flavors, blue things, big things, small things...the topics on the list above!). They turned and talked to a friend about all of the items they could list for that topic.  

This sounds easy, but it's actually a very good exercise for the children to have to stay on topic and only list items that would fit the category.  I rang a bell after a minute or so and moved onto the next topic, so it was a fast moving activity. 

After we practiced a few times, I had to kids go back to their seats to write a few lists of their own. 
Some of them even illustrated their lists!  Once I ooohed and aaaahed about these illustrations, guess what everyone else started to do?! It was great. 

When we teach children to write, we're always trying to think of authentic ways to make writing important for them.  During free choice, my children love writing grocery lists on strips of paper I have cut for them.  They love taking orders and playing restaurant- (and if I use the REAL waiter/waitress pads, which I also LOVED when I was little, it is even so much better!  I got a whole huge pack of these at Sam's Club.).  

They love writing down lists for the animals they take care of in the vet center.  
They write lists of friends' names when they play school.  

They copy titles of books and write lists of books when they play library.  

Anybody who questions the validity of free choice for children has never spent time in a classroom with children during free choice time, because it is one of the richest academic parts of the day when you are five.  

When I think of what I want my children to be able to do, to be able to accomplish even as they graduate high school, I want them to be effective communicators, problem solvers, risk takers, and to be able to work well together in groups... THESE are great goals and exit outcomes for any student leaving high school, and these are exactly the skills developed during free choice time in kindergarten. 

Play in the classroom is a tangent I often drift off to because I am passionate about play for children ... (HERE is one post I wrote about the importance of PLAY in the classroom, and HERE is a post with more about my Play Every Day Prezi that I made about just that...)  It's important that  the people who make educational decisions, but are not in the classroom, understand its essential role in children's lives. 
Here's another quick side note about Frog and Toad books, I  made a Frog and Toad Prezi (free at my TPT store) that I use all the time in the spring when we are watching our eggs (and reading these stories!).  It has lots of videos of the stories, videos about frogs and toads, ideas, games, and charts to use if you are reading Frog and Toad, or having a science lesson about frogs and/or toads!

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Friday, February 17, 2017

5 For Friday and...How to... Eat a Lollipop!

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

Wednesday we had a pajama day! My children chose this as their class prize for all being able to TIE SHOES!!! YES!  Everyone!

Pajama Partner Reading

Every year our PE teachers have a contest to see which class in K, 1, and 2 can tie shoes first.  The prize is an extra PE class full of fun and games.  This is always a great chance to really stress the importance of tying shoes to families.  I send home lots of pleading, begging  helpful notes to parents with tips and encouragement to practice and practice and practice, and be patient, patient, patient.  The children want to learn so badly, but it does take some real fine motor control and patience, because it is not easy to do!

Anyway, we won!  One of my sweeties is out for a while, and I don't want him to miss our celebration in PE, so we will wait for him to return for that. We had a pajama party to celebrate in the meantime, because the class was so proud and exited.

I take NO credit for this win.  I did get out my sparkly shoes and cardboard shoes during free choice and work some with the children, but here is my secret weapon...

(His little tongue sticking out just says it all...)

My wonderful mother comes to read with the children each day during our center time (and write, and work on numbers, and just love the kids and get LOTS of love back).  Her patience is never ending.  I am in awe.  She made tying shoes FUN- and then, the contest was no longer impossible in the kids' minds, but it just had to be won! So... we did.

We started our 'How-to' books this week. I wrote a post HERE about all the different things I do to teach writing How-to books.
I always start by introducing our transition words.  Then, we order some sequencing cards and tell a story to go with them using the transition words.   This gets the children used to telling a "how to" story. (We use the Lucy Calkin's writing program, and she doesn't use these transition words, but I do because those are the words we use to retell stories, so it fits perfectly that they would use them in these books.)

I wanted to think of a fun way to introduce writing 'How-to' books that I could model and we all could do together.  Since it was a FUN day, I decided we should teach someone how to eat a lollipop.

I have a bag of small size Tootsie Pops, just in case an emergency fun idea like this 'pops' up.

We had to review all the steps of eating a lollipop, by... eating a lollipop.  We talked our way through each step.  I modeled writing the simple steps we talked about using the transition words, as some of the children modeled the actions:

FIRST, you pick your favorite color lollipop.

NEXT,  you take the wrapper off the lollipop.

THEN, you lick and lick the lollipop until it is gone.

LAST, you throw away the trash.

I used these pictures of the children with the following day's lesson, to review  the steps and have the children order them just like we did with the cards, before they continued writing  their books. It was a great reminder, and they loved it. 

You could also make a class "How-to" book with the photographs and writing, and laminate it.

I just drew some quick illustrations to go with our words as the children helped me decide what we would write for each step.  For this modeling, I didn't have the children come up to help write. Sometimes that gets too time consuming, and the children are quick to lose interest.  I have a very busy group, and I need to always assess carefully what my goal for the lesson is.  Today it was for them to talk through the story with me and understand how to tell and write it sequentially using the transition words.

I  took the opportunity to work on the 'ck' digraph a little and explain that we may use words like pick, lick, and stick in our writing! We could have said, 'Last you put the stick in the trash,' to use the word 'stick.'   I love to teach digraphs authentically when great opportunities arise.  The word 'trash' was perfect for the 'tr' blend and 'sh' digraph.

Then, with a little lift of sugar, the children headed to their seats to begin writing.  They did fabulous! I didn't leave our sample up, so they didn't copy my papers.  They were familiar with the ideas and were welcome to use them, but they had to plan what they were going to say and write it themselves.

Here are a couple samples:

 (the tongue licking it!!!)

It worked well to have everyone write about the same topic for our first how-to book.  They could help each other if they needed to, and were very familiar with the steps.
To go along with our 'All About Books' and 'How-To' books, I just posted my new packet of QR Codes for Nonfiction Books. You can get it HERE.  I needed some nonfiction stories for the children to listen to during center time.  They are a lot trickier to find than fiction books!

This QR Code packet has given me another way to immerse the children in nonfiction text.  It's been great for them to be able to hear some different nonfiction stories and see the features as they listen to these books on their iPads.  They are also reading nonfiction during private and partner reading time.

Here are the books included in the packet:

Here is a simple, quick little activity we did on the rug yesterday morning.  I made a crown for 'The King of ing.'  We have been finding 'ing' in so many of our words.  I had one child at a time come up and add 'ing' to a word on the poster, while they wore and were 'The King of ing.'  I have other posters to use different mornings, so everyone has a chance.  I like to divide these lessons into several smaller lessons to reinforce the skill. 

Here is another packet of MORE QR Codes to use for listening centers that I just finished a little while ago.  

My children LOVE to use QR codes. I use them all the time for a literacy center.  This packet features stories from eight authors because I also love to do mini author studies, so my children are really familiar with different authors and their styles.  Here are the stories included in the packet.

The children feel so smart and ARE so smart to know about these great authors. We often refer to different techniques that the different authors use as we write our own books.

So, since the children love the stories so much when we read them, I wanted them to be able to hear the stories over and over again- which gave me the idea to make Author Study QR Code Books.

I have scanned all of the videos through ViewPure to remove any advertisements or distractions. Please check the sample QR Codes to be sure ViewPure isn't blocked at your school.  If it is, many times the IT person at your school can easily unblock the site for you if you ask (or give them cookies or donuts...).  

I print the QR Codes out with the author cover page, and the children can choose an author packet to use for center time.

I have also included a biography page for each author in the packet.  We talk about the authors and learn about their lives, and then I send this page home with  each child so parents know who we are learning about in class.


My Author Prezi is also a huge part of our studies.  I have included a link to that in this packet as well.  As we study a particular author, I show the videos of that author throughout the week on the Smart TV.

It is so rewarding when the children hear a story and connect it to an author we have studied!  I am pretty sure I hear angels singing.  "That picture looks like an Eric Carle drew it!"  Or when the children write a story along the same lines as a particular author.  My children LOVE Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and  I get lots of variations of this book after we read it and they hear it a few times.  I get The Question Mark BookThe Period Book, and Quotation Mark books with lots of talking going on in the story and quotation marks everywhere!

Image result for exclamation mark amy krouse rosenthal activities
The last section in this QR Code Packet is Favorite Familiar Stories.  I included lots of nursery rhymes and stories that SHOULD be familiar to children.  Unfortunately, these stories are not so familiar anymore.  Having the QR Center allows the children to listen to the stories many times and be able to retell them, since many don't have stories read to them over and over like children used to.

I also have these QR Codes with Writing Prompts. 

Sometimes I use the prompts as a quick little activity or assessment after a center- or as a whole group activity.  They also are fabulous activities to leave as sub plans!  This packet has the QR Codes for making into books, as well as the QR Code on the writing prompt so you can send the story right home with the children!  They LOVE that. 

Thank you for stopping by.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Search This Blog