Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back to School Sale!

Just a reminder: My whole TpT store is on sale until Midnight on Monday (Hawaii Time)! Enter code BTS13 to get 28% off!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Old and New

I was in my classroom today.  It's still full of another teacher's things, but I took some time to figure out how I'll organize it. While looking around, it was easy to feel a bit depressed. Don't get me wrong- I just moved from a school I didn't like and I'm very happy about the move.  BUT, you see, that school was in a brand new, renovated building.  My new school is old. Typical U.S. school not kept up old. The adjustment is hard.  The thing about brand new is that it...shines.  'Brand new' smells new.  Brand new furniture is scuff free, scratch free, sturdy and ..... plentiful.  Brand new walls are painted all one color and they are smooth and clean.  Brand old, on the other hand, is plain and sad: broken furniture, 1970's dictionaries taking up shelf space, and holes in the wall; Water stains in the ceiling tiles, mismatched bookshelves, tape residue, and chalkboards.  CHALKboards. Ugh.

Still, I don't regret leaving 'brand new' for one minute. I will always be happier to be in 'brand old' than I was in 'brand new'.

A couple of things I wanted to tell you about:

My friend Sarah Lang started a blog called Lang on Literacy.  She is an elementary reading specialist in Wisconsin and their school district follows the TC Readers and Writers Workshop model.  She writes really well and has created some great, helpful posts.  Check her out!

On Sunday (8/18) and Monday (8/19), TpT is having a Back to School Sale.  If you enter code BTS13 you can get everything 10% off sitewide.  I am taking 20% off ALL items in my store those 2 days.  So if you enter BTS13 after buying anything in my store, you'll get an additional 10% off the discounted price!  Total Discount=28%!  I know that many of you have Wish listed my Math Assessments for K and/or 1st.  This might be the time to grab them so you can start the year off assessing and knowing where your kids are.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Baggies

I was finally able to move my things into my new school, though they will all stay in boxes until my new room is emptied by the teacher who is moving out of it.  I'm nervous about having only a week to get it ready, but I should be used to it.  I have moved rooms (not always to new schools) every year of my teaching career so the end of summer is always a major crunch time. One day, (next year, maybe?) I will have the luxury of prepping my room long before the year begins.....  someday...someday.

This post is not about that, though.  It's about book baggies!  I have been doing what I can to get ready for the year "administratively" and four things I've accomplished are
  • creating reading rubrics for first graders based on the Common Core reading standards
because, if you haven't guessed it.....I'm teaching first grade this year!  Wheeee!  I'm excited. I am really going to miss Kindergarten, but I am also ready for this new adventure!  I am not as nervous as I was at the start of the summer because I've realized that it's truly no different than pretending I'm just moving on with my students from the spring into fall.  I am new at this school, so I don't really know what they were learning last year BUT, hopefully, they were taught as they should have been.  :)

So far this summer already, I have met with my new grade level team twice.  That is a miracle in that I barely met with my last grade level team that often in a whole school year.  I have been craving collaboration for years.  In fact, it's the whole reason I started this blog two years ago.  You are all so inspirational to me and I am so grateful for your ideas and feedback. Thank you!  Now, I am thrilled to say that I may actually have a team of people at my own school that I can sit with at a table and work with together to create equitable experiences in our classrooms. In our summer meetings we were able to create our curriculum map as well as plan our field trips and we are talking of meeting once more to create our homework template. It is at this next meeting that I am going to present my plan for book baggies.  (Finally, I'm on topic! Sorry!)

Within my student book baggies, I plan to include*

While I've used most of the above before as a Kinder teacher, I created the rubrics to provide strategies for families to focus on when reading with their children at home. While my reading log with family instructions informs parents about how to read effectively with their child, the rubrics are checklists of things that we are working to master this year, in easy to understand language.  I haven't decided yet if I plan to laminate them so families can mark on them with dry erase to keep track of/determine what things are areas to focus on each night or not. I will talk with my team about it to get their feedback.  Please feel free to share yours!  I will also be able to use these rubrics to assess my students as I confer with them and do one on one reading assessments. Since they list all of the CCSS standards, it will be an easier way for me to determine their growth in meeting the standards throughout the year.

*All of the above items are available for download in my TpT store.  Most of them are free!  If you would like your own copy of any of them for your use, simply click the link to go to the store to download the item.

How will you be helping your students further their reading with "just right books" homework this year? If you have a blog post about it, please link to it in your comment!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Primary Science


 Saw this picture used as someone's cover photo on Facebook today and thought it was great inspiration for a science project this year. Our district has an awesome science curriculum, so I'm not about to create a unit around this, but I thought it would be fun to give each table group half an egg carton cut the long way and assign one student to plant one seed in a depression of the carton each week, giving all a turn. Ideally, over the course of 5-6 weeks, each plant down the row of the carton would be in a varying stage. Such a great visual for the plant life cycle, I'm thinking!   Any idea what plant is pictured? I thought it might be neat to do a flowering plant for an added stage. What are your thoughts?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How-To Writing, Freebies

Our How-To writing unit has come to a close. We spent more weeks on this than I had allotted on our curriculum map, but, in this new model of teaching (for me) where I have half of my 52 students for less than 10 hours per week total, I realized my planned timeline was an unrealistic timeline for this unit.

Teaching students to write How-To stories is challenging and I believe this is due to the fact that breaking down an activity and explaining how to complete it requires a higher-level of thinking.  Developmentally, asking a kindergartner to take another's perspective is already challenging, but then, asking them to imagine that the person they are teaching does not have the level of knowledge that they do about a particular activity is even more of a challenge.  I have learned to have more realistic expectations of what my students can do and, as a result, I've found myself nothing short of astounded at what they can accomplish with guidance.

Here is the writing process chart we used during our unit:

You can download the pages my students use to compose their how-to books for FREE here: Part 1 and Part 2

It's always fun to see what the students choose to write about.  They choose topics they truly feel they are experts in and I love that this unit empowers them and allows them to feel such pride in themselves. This chosen topic made me feel especially proud of myself:

How To Write A Small Moment Story  Written and Illustrated by Julien    Room 105 Publishing

Materials List     You will need...  a pencil, a eraser, and paper

You need to think about what you are going to write about.

Plan it out so you know what goes first next and last.

You need to write quick sketches.

Add words so the reader knows what you are saying.

Add labels so the reader know what your stuff is.

Add details so your story looks good.

About the author    Julien. He lives in Seattle. He is 5 years old. And his birthday is August 17.

This last sheet is a "translation page" I add to stories that may be difficult for the reader to read.  This one was pretty clearly written, but I "translated" it just in case.

This is the display I created for the how-to stories.  The photos below are poor quality, but I hope you can see how I highlighted some of the topics with arrows and labels.  I love how it turned out!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Self-Assessment Rubric: Writing

Self-assessment rubrics are all the talk in my school district these days.  I have always done a version of them, but have always hesitated to use a rating system related to good (smiley face), okay (neutral face) and bad (frown face) because I don't ever want my emergent writers to think they are only capable of "bad" work.  During a semi-recent Pinterest suck adventure, I found a rubric for coloring that made a lightbulb go off:

This inspired me to create this writing rubric with the students, foregoing the smiley, frowny, neutral faces used above and focus on the stars instead:

Prior to sending them off to do their independent writing,  I talk with my students about the type of writers they want to be while referencing this chart.  We review how, in order to be 2 star writers, we need to do what one star writers do, too, and in order to be 3 star writers, we need to do what 1 and 2 star writers do as well. 

I have noticed my most conscientious students using the chart to evaluate their work and decide if they are really "finished" or not. Of course, I also have students that don't use finger spaces or correctly use caps and lowercases, but still tell me that their paper is a 3 star paper when I ask them what they think. ;)  It is kindergarten, after all. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Word Tackling Strategies

We spent February and last week working on decoding strategies in Readers' Workshop.  We're moving on to Nonfiction book exploration now.  Before my brain completely switches over, I wanted to share a freebie I created for my students to keep in their book baggies to help remind them of the strategies we learned. I also want to give credit to P.S. 11 in Chelsea, where I visited while in NYC in January, for inspiring me to use this format and to include this list in student book baggies. This chart shows a number of strategies we worked on in our classroom that are included on the sheet.

This chart is another that we generated in a minilesson:

Click on the image below to link to the free download in a pdf file:

And click on this image to access a .doc version you can alter to fit your own needs for only $2:

Are there any additional strategies you teach that I might add for future use?