Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Heart Pocket Charts + Freebies

Sorry I've been away for a few days- I've been crazy busy the past few weeks. It just seems like there is so much to do and not enough time to get it done! I'm sure you all have no idea what I'm talking about! =) Anyhow I wanted to share some of my new favorite activities to do with my kiddos during whole group and literacy workstations. And to make it up to you for my brief hiatus lots of freebies!

Each week I focus on one anchor story- usually a big book with repeatable text. Some of the books we've read so far are: Pete the Cat; Brown Bear, Brown Bear; Lunch; From Head to Toe; and Go Away Big Green Monster.  We read this book over and over during the week. I also try to pull our focus star word from these books, and we create predicatble charts using sentences from the book (more on that in another post). We play a sentence scramble game to practice print concepts and word recognition. I cut apart the words of several sentences and each child gets a word (I write each sentence on a separate color sentence strip- and then I call up the kids by color "team"). The kids have to put themselves in order to make the sentence- the kids LOVE this!

These predicatble sentences are also great to add later to a literacy workstation for the kids to put together again and again. You want to know the best part?! I've created a few pocket chart sentences to share with you! All you need to do is print onto cardstock (a color printer would be fab!), laminate, and cut apart. I'm planning to put these in these awesome plastic photo keepers  I found (I'll try and post a picture once I get them all set!) but ziplocs or manilia envelopes would work well too! I hope you enjoy!

Have a great week!

Click on the book covers to see the pocket chart activities. Just as a heads-up the files look kind of goofy in google documents but if you download them they turn out fine!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Photo Story: Do You Want to Be My Friend?

A couple weeks ago our class was reading Eric Carle's Do You Want to Be my Friend? Awhile ago I saw a video that a kindergarten class had made to accompany the story and decided that it might be something fun for our class to do. I used photo-story (its one of the applications that comes standard on most pcs), and it was a snap to make. I'm trying to brainstorm some other books we can make into mini-movies. Any ideas? My kiddos loved being movie stars!

The video sometimes takes awhile to load...


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Teachers Got to Eat

So I hope you'll allow me to diverge from normal teacher-y things for this one post (and maybe a few in the future), but I wanted to share with you my weekend pursuits. It's been quite an exciting weekend for my family! I received a text on Friday at school that said: "Today is baby day!".  My older sister went into labor Friday, and after a nine hour wait at the hospital I got to meet my new (and only) nephew Weston for the first time. He is the cutest baby in the world (and I'm not bias or anything!).I love him so much already!

Anyhow...I love to cook, but I do it rarely because cooking for just me is no fun at all. Usually I just make a big pot of soup once a week that I eat for lunch everyday. However I knew that once my nephew was born I wanted to help out my sister by bringing meals once a week. I've been scouring pinterest for good freezer and crock-pot meals, and I finally got to make some today! I cooked for two hours and ended up with six servings of soup and four casseroles. I felt very accomplished! Here's a look at the final products (my refrigerator  and dishwasher are packed full!):

I found these great Hefty casserole trays at Publix. You can bake them in the oven and you can put them in the microwave! So perfect for when you are making casseroles to give to other people. I stocked up because there's always someone at my school in need of a meal. Plus these dishes are disposable so your lucky food recipient doesn't feel any pressure to wash dishes and give them back to you!

I made three recipes (click photos to go to recipes!):

Mexican Lasagna

Penne Pasta Bake with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
 Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup (this one just screams fall to me!)

I hope you all had a fabulous weekend and are refreshed for the busy week ahead!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Kindergarten Class Store

As promised- here is some information about my class store! But first some background: I decided to use a reward system for my behavior plan the first year I taught kindergarten. Basically the kids earned pennies for doing good things like neat work, helping clean-up, working quietly, bringing in homework, etc. They also lost pennies for breaking class rules. I always explained it to them that just like moms and dads have jobs- kids have jobs too. As kindergartners their job was to be a good listener, be a kind friend, and do great work. Moms and Dads get paid when they do their job, and in our classroom kindergartners get paid for doing their job. Every other Friday we open p our class store for students to use their hard-earned pennies. They love this! And I love the class store because it gives my students great practice with counting, identifying coins, making fair trades for nickels and dimes, making change, making good consumer choices, and spending/saving.

This year I decided to jump on the clip-chart band-wagon. I also love this behavior management system but it's just a little overwhelming to try and do clips and coins. Sooooo in a desperate teacher moment I created the "penny fairy". Just so you know I really try to make a habit of not all out lying to my kids. I've gotten very creative at dodging the "Is Santa real?" question. Anyhow- so the penny fairy visits our classroom at night when all the kids are gone and drops pennies into the jars of kids who she's seen doing a good job during the day. I told the kids that sometimes us teachers get so busy teaching and doing stuff that we just don't see all the good things that kiddos do. So the penny fairy comes at night to reward kids that didn't get to clip-up or get pennies for making such good choices. Okay- I know a little crazy but boy is it working like a charm! Of course I'm getting paid back for my little deception now. Every time my kiddos find a pieces of trash or a misplaced crayon they proclaim it a "clue" to finding the penny fairy. I've caught a few of them huddled in the bathroom investing a promising lead. =) Haha- I guess I asked for that.

Now for the nitty-gritty:

Where do the kids keep their pennies? Each of the kids in my class have a baby food jar with a spray-painted lid where they keep their pennies. If you are uncomfortable with having glass in the classroom you could also use those little Glad portion cups (they come in packs of 8).
When is the store open? I open the store every other Friday. This gives the kids enough time to accumulate pennies. The kids usually have from five cents to twenty cents in their jars by store day unless they've saved up.

How many kids shop at once? We usually allow 3-4 kids to shop at once. In the beginning of the year they need help with counting their money and actually buying things. While some shop I either have my kids doing some sort of seat work, watching a movie during rest time, or doing a free choice.

What kinds of stuff do you sell in the store? Where do you get your class store items? I have all kinds of things in my class store- mostly little trinket items. Popular items with my kids are novelty jewelry, pretty pencils, cool erasers, little party favor games or balls, stickers, party favor sunglasses, etc. One year my kids were really into sports trading cards so we had a lot of those.You'll get a feel for what your kiddos like. My first year I opened the store I spent about $25 dollars at Party City to stock they store. Most of the items from my store come from parent donations. I ask parents to send in extra party favors from birthdays, happy meal toys, and anything they want to pick-up from the store. Once the parents see how excited the kids are about the store they are more than happy to send in stuff. I

How much do items cost in the store? The items in my store cost from one cent to twenty cents. You'll have to just guess for your first store set-up but then after you see what the hot items are you can price based on what the hottest items. If you want a general idea- pencils are two cents, plastic rings are five cents, cheapy party favor glasses are twelve cents, glitter pens are eighteen cents in my store.

Where do you store all the stuff? All the items are grouped together by price in Tupperware tubs. I got two cheapy $2.99 packs from IKEA, and it was enough for all my stuff. Each of these bins are labeled with prices. On store day all these containers get put out on the table arranged from cheapest to most expensive. On non-store days I keep the bins inside a large five drawer Sterlite container inside my storage closet.

Here's some pictures if you're a visual person:

Alternative storage? I saw this great idea on Pinterest (click on the photo to see the original post). I wish I had room to actually do this:

I hope that helps answer some of your questions about our little kindergarten economy. =) Let me know if you have any other questions.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Daily 5: Make it Your Own

Yesterday I offered some advice about daily 5. I forgot another very important piece of advice: Make Daily 5 your own. I'm a strong believer that all teachers are different, and their teaching styles reflect this. What works from me may not work at all for you. As much as I love "The Sisters" (the D5 gurus) their model of D5 may not work for you. Make it your own! I promise you'll be a much happier teacher girl when you let go of the "right way" to do Daily 5 and find the just-right way for you!

So....As I mentioned yesterday I decided to try out a rotation system for my daily 5 block so that I can give my little budding writers some small group attention. Eventually I hope we'll move to a whole group writing workshop but right now it's a little overwhelming. So last night I did some brainstorming, and this is what I came up with: I'll break the kids into five groups (ability based), and we'll do three workstations a day. One will be a writing stations with teacher assistance (I have two teacher assistants but a parent helper could be work too!), three times a week they'll meet with me for reading, and the last work period will be either a choice (listen to reading, read to self, read to someone, word work, work on writing) or computer. Here's a look at the rotation chart I made (you can click on it to see in google docs):
 Will this work? I have no idea...but I'm going to dive in next week and see how it goes. I'll let you know if this idea is a winner or not. How are you making Daily 5 work in your classroom?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Daily 5: Slow and Steady Wins the Race + Freebie!

Okay I'll admit it...I've been chomping at the bit to really get Daily 5 going in my class. I've tried to be patient as my little readers build their reading stamina (or make their reading muscles stronger as we say in my class!). We're finally to the point that we've dropped my second read-to-self practice session as we are now reading 15-20 minutes per session (Yippee!) and have replaced the second session with literacy workstations. Hooray! Not a full Daily 5 model yet- that will take a few more weeks but we're getting a little closer every week! So right now I'm at the point where I'm slowly introducing word work and other daily five options. Right now my schedule looks like this:
  • Reading Mini-Lesson + Read-to-Self (20-25 minutes)
  • Phonics Lesson  (10 minutes)
  • Literacy Work Stations- Students work at one of 5 stations (20 minutes)
  • Writing Mini-Lesson + Work on Writing (30 minutes)
A few points...I don't do this whole block all together. We do the first three and then break for snack and recess. My little ones are still at the point where they declare they are starving around 8:00. So trying to get anything out of them without a snack break is near impossible. I'm hoping to slowly push our snack time to 10:30 (we eat at 1:00- crazy, right?!) so we can fit in a whole literacy block. I'm brainstorming on how to break into smaller writing groups so we can give more attention these first few weeks when little writers need so much one-on-one help. I'll let you know what I come up with! Oh well- back to the point- word work options.

During the literacy work stations period we've been doing computers (gotta love STARFALL!),  independent word work (practicing the stations we've already introduced in a teacher group), introducing two word work options with one of my assistants, writing with my other assistant, and introducing a reading option with me. So far we've learned done geo-board letters, Popsicle letters (we made our names),  letter beads (we strung the whole alphabet on pipe cleaners!), pattern block letters,  matchbox cars on letter highways, and letter sorts. I've been working on introducing our pocket chart center this week.
Word Work: Sorting letters on alphabet mat and using pattern blocks to make letters (check out the alphabet materials on !

Writing: Last week we worked on writing our names. This week we've been practicing counting words in sentences and drawing "magic lines" ( a la' Kidwriting!). We use whiteboards to make it more fun!

Making our names with Popsicle sticks!

Stringing alphabet beads in ABC order on pipe cleaners. The alphabet strip is actually from the bordette section at schoolbox. It came with like 20 in a pack for $3.99. They make great alphabet references for word work and writing stations!
A couple years ago I bought a bunch of Sterlite five-drawer units. I'll admit that these drawers have sat labelless for the past three years. This summer I finally got around to making labels for my word work options. If you've made it through my jabbering above, I wanted to offer a freebie. These are the labels I made for my drawers. Just click on the pictures to download them in google docs (For some reason google docs won't let me upload it as a word file. If you have trouble with these- just leave your email in a comment, and I'll send them to you in word format!).

Sometimes people ask me for advice on how to run Daily 5 in kindergarten. My biggest advice? Adopt the tortoise philosophy: "Slow and steady wins the race." Take time to enjoy the beginning steps of reading and writing in your little ones. Come November you'll look around and you'll be amazed at what your little ones can do.

So that's what Daily 5 looks like right now in my classroom. How's it going in yours?  What are some of your kids favorite word work centers?

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Magnetic Letters: A Second Lease At Life

When I moved to kindergarten I was gifted five sets of magnetic letters inside plastic craft boxes (you know the ones people use to store embroidery thread?). I had a lot of great plans for these little letters but despite my best intentions they never made it out of their plastic home more than a few times a year. I just couldn't figure out a way for my kids to keep these organized. Everytime I peeked into a box there were h's in the f box, and u's in the n section. It just about drove me crazy!

This summer I decided that my little magnetic letter friends needed some more love. They also desperately needed a new home. Now we are all living happily every after...AND my little letter friends are coming out to play 1-2 times a week. Check out the solution that turned it all around:

 My magnets now live inside this drawer system that I got at Home Depot. The vowels all get their own drawer while most of the consonants "bunk" with another consonant. I used scrapbook letters to label the drawers and then to make them really stand out I put a dot label inside of the drawers to give the appearance of white background. Now it's easy peasy to find and put back letters.

A real problem with my old letter system was that all the b, p, q, d were always getting mixed up. As far as magnetic letters go d and p are the exact same, and q and b  are the same. In my new system I placed these "magnetic twins" together. Notice I marked the d/p letters with two dots on the curves and I marked the b/q letters with one dot for easy identification. The letters also have these dots on them.

So what do my new little letter friends like to do when they come out and play? Make words of course!! Every Tuesday we do a sight word mix and fix activity with our letters. I simply pull out the letters for the 2-3 sight words of the week. I have these awesome magnetic sheets from Really Good Stuff (I don't think they sell them anymore but little cookie sheets would work just as well!). I have enough letters and magnetic sheets for the kids to work in partners. I pass out the sheets and one partner mixes and then the other fixes. Then they switch. On Wednesday the letters come back out again to practice making our word families. I work with ten kiddos at a time while the other group finds sight words in their take-home story of the week. We make our word family stem and then practice adding different letters to the front to make new words. We're having so much fun with our magnetic letters this year! I hope your little magnetic letter friends can come out a play more this year too!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Patterns, Patterns Everywhere!

Patterns are one of my favorite things to teach. Partly because the kids pick them up so quickly, and partly because there are just so many fun things to do with them! I've been teaching patterns for two weeks (in addition to lessons on writing numerals), and my kiddos are experts! Here's a look at some of the fun pattern activities we've been doing.

Read These:

Definitely my class's favorite! We love to read this one over and over. Each page spotlights a specific pattern and all the illustrations on that page illustrate the pattern. The kids love finding all the patterns! Definitely read this one!

Do This: We use all kinds of things to make patterns! Erasers from the Dollar Store, manipulatives from Lakeshore, fruitloops, snapcubes, counters, basically anything you have around! We also love making people patterns (boy, girl; teacher, girl, girl; standing, sitting; etc.) and doing motion patterns (clap, stomp, stomp).

Make This: I LOVE these! We make these after reading Pattern Fish. The kids make patterns with crayon and then do watercolor over them. Use white reinforcers as eyes. They turn out so cute!

We also make pattern keychains for our bookbags. I don't have a picture of the ones we actually make but these are a pretty good example of what they turn out like minus the basketballs at the end. Use lanyard for easy stringing!

Make a class book based on Mary Wore a Red Dress- ask parents to dress their kids in some sort of pattern shirt. Take a picture and have students identify the patterns to finish the predictive sentences. It could also be fun to make a variation of Pattern Fish or Pattern Bugs- maybe Pattern Dogs or Pattern Cats?

Use These: 
I found "eraser pods" at dollar store. They are so perfect for pattern work!

 Checkout This: I've seen so many great things on Pinterest about patterns. These are some of my favorites (click on the pictures to go to the original source!).

Happy Patterning!