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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Loving Kindergarten!

If you had told me about 3 years ago that I would totally be loving kindergarten I would have laughed in your face.  My ideal grade at that point was second or third.  I had always felt scared of kindergarten.  It was so....basic.  They don't know anything.  How do you even do that?  Where do you start?  I couldn't be bothered.

Last year, I was a Building Sub in an inner city.  I had been in that school for a few years but never really inside the classrooms.  It also happened to be the toughest kindergarten group they had in a long time.  I don't want to go into details but it was TOUGH.  Many props to my amazing colleagues who were involved in that grade last year!  Despite what was going on, I loved it.  I mean, I really, REALLY loved it.  I was definitely right about most of them coming in as a blank slate.  What I was wrong about was how AMAZING that was!  Okay, some background knowledge (letters, numbers, etc) would be nice but still!  I was enthralled with the workings of a kindergarten classroom.  To watch them grow and see how MUCH they learned by the end of the year was incredible.  

I'm in a different district this year but I have found myself loving every second of my 40 minute time with my kindergarteners.  I get so excited to think about what we're going to work on next.  I spend hours scouring the internet for ideas to enhance their learning.  I feel this huge sense of pride when I see their growth and their eagerness to soak in everything we do.  In all of my years of working in education, I have never felt this way before.  I will of course teach anything I am offered and see the positive in all grades, but kindergarten is starting to dig a special place in my heart.

Anywho, this is what we did today!  We read "The Park" from the LLI kit.

After we read the book (I was so proud because they can read it to me!  Yay!), we retold the story using pictures.  For every LLI story, I go onto Microsoft Word, find clip art that matches each page, and print!  They have to put the events in the right order and use the correct language when retelling.

Normally, this is done in their journals.  We've been doubling up groups during this testing window, so this example came from a student from another group who doesn't have a journal with me.  Not the best but you get the idea!  After we retell and glue the pictures down, we do the "write about reading" part of the lesson.  For this part, I try to pick the one that they could possibly spell on their own.  I chose "slide" because I had just briefly introduced "magic e" the last time we met.  They were able to spell "slid" AND when I asked if they noticed something, one student said that it didn't say "slide" it said "slid."  Don't you love when it falls into place? Haha.  I told him he was right and went on to talk about "magic e" again.

I tried to use examples that I could physically explain (okay so "hope" was a bit hard lol).  They loved it.  Their personal favorite was then I changed "cap" into "cape."  They told me I was a superhero.  They're right ;)  This particular group had some long vowel/short vowel trouble.  I will have to see what my group remembers!

After that, we started our CVC Short "a" book I made!  They loved it!  It was great to talk about how we would know which word comes first (capital letter), what would come last (punctuation mark), and point out our sight words!  You can pick up your copy at my TPT store here.

I hope everyone had a happy hump day haha!  Two more days until Friday!  Wahoo!  Keep checking back because I'm hoping to post on my Groundhog Day plans tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wishing I Could Do More...Bringing the Jellies to the Kids

I'd like to start this post by saying my 5 fourth graders are so sweet. They try so hard. They really, really do. They are always excited to be reading and working with me. We have recently been working on "You're a Jellyfish!" from Reading A-Z.  The text is a bit difficult for them, but the interest level is perfect.  They loved it!

They were asking me SO many questions about jellyfish!  Unfortunately, my time is very limited with them (40 mins a day) and my job is to provide specific instruction.  In other words, I can't dive much deeper into the story than we already were (ugh so frustrating when they're so eager to learn!).  During our first day, I mentioned to them that our local aquarium just emailed me to let me know that you can now touch a jellyfish there!  I showed them the message I received and the two or so photos provided.  WOW were they excited!  They immediately asked if we could go.  Sadly, that's just not possible.  I told them that I was taking my son there soon and would take as many pictures and video as I could.  When I told my husband about this, I also told him I wish I could take them.  I would SO take them!  It broke my heart to see how excited they were and that there wasn't much more I can do than what I already promised.

As promised, I took photos and video of my son with the jellies.  I TRULY hope my son reflects on his childhood when he gets older and realizes how lucky he was.  I may not be able to do a whole lot for my kids in terms of taking them a million places, but I need to remember (and I hope they do too) that there are many children who don't get to do the things he does get to do.

Since this is their new exhibit, the gift shop had sooo many cool jellyfish stuff!  I bought my son a stuffed one and seriously had to stop myself from buying them for my 5 students!  What I could do was buy them these cute pencils.  I also purchased a book so that they can peek at some more colorful photos of jellies.  I plan on my son using the book after this so it justified things a bit more financially lol.

 I meant to go and print off some pictures for them (still might) but numerous Sunday errands got in my way.  So for now, I made this.  I figure it would give them some pics and have them jot down what they've learned as well.  Plus it'd be cute to hang up for a bit before having them take it home!  Thinking of making a basic fact sheet as a freebie for you guys :)

Can someone explain to me why I feel so guilty that they don't get to go and they're not even my children?  I guess, as a teacher, they still feel like my children and I still want them to have amazing experiences.  If you can't bring the kids to the jellies, bring the jellies to the kids!  I hope I did that and can put a smile on their faces :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Peek at My Week--Linky Party!

This is my very first time linking up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for their "A Peek at My Week" linky party!  Exciting!  Here it goes!

I have another full week of school (unless snow ruins that) and it's still crazy!  We're still testing which means I'm juggling 12 groups this week.  It's hard keeping track of 12 different stories!

I plan on filling my 4th graders in about my aquarium trip (more on that tomorrow).  We've been reading about jellyfish so they're super excited to see the pictures and video I took!  Wait till they see their surprises!  Here's a quick fact sheet I put together using some pictures we took on Saturday.

In Kindergarten, I plan on continuing our "Short a" lessons and using this awesome CVC book I created!  Interested?  Check out my TPT store here to pick up your own copy!  I was going to wait until all 5 short vowel books were done BUT I'm too excited!  A colleague of mine started using the book on Friday.  She and her little ones loved it!  Can't wait to start it!

Looking forward to doing some more work on vowel digraphs with my 2nd graders.  They've been doing pretty well!  I love seeing them use the strategies we're learning!  This is part of my Vowel Digraphs/Talkers packet!  Click here to purchase!  Fantastic tool!

I hope everyone has a happy Monday!  Please keep checking back this week...I have lots of fun stuff to share!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Vowel Digraphs/Talkers Activities Packet

Oh  my goodness!  How on Earth could I forget to share this amazing packet I created!  If you are looking for some fantastic Vowel Digraph/Talkers posters, games, and worksheets (I was!) then look no further!  It all started with my Diphthong Cuties that you may recall from a previous post.  I took that idea and RAN!  I have since created Vowel Digraph Cuties, revamped my Diphthong Cuties, and I am almost finished with my R-Controlled Cuties!  I couldn't be happier with the result (I lied I totally wish I created some nonsense word versions of the activities and still might).  Best of all, my students LOVE IT!  They (especially the activities) really help reinforce the concept to my students.  Having the Cuties posted under their spot in the Word House also provide a great reference point for those who are struggling.  

Here's what's included:

*Features AI, AY, EA, EE, OA, OE, UE, UI
*My Vowel Digraph Cuties graphics created to help students get a visual of what the sound each “talker” makes
*Vowel Digraphs “Talkers” mini posters     
*Pocket chart sorting activity
*Spin and Read game
*Memory game
*Worksheets (Missing Vowel Digraphs and 3 levels of Fill in the Blank)

Want a better look at the Cuties?  Here's the best view I can give without actually giving them away!

 My second graders' favorite activity is the "Spin and Read."  They could have played it over and over!  They were so proud of themselves when they were able to decode a word they had some trouble with.  I loved seeing them become more confident with their decoding skills!  Here's a peek at what we played:

Students must spin the spinner to see which Vowel Digraph card the will be reading off of.  They will then read the next available word on the card.  If they get it right, I cross it off and give them a bingo chip.  If they get it wrong, I don't disclose the pronunciation and leave the word.  As with all games we play, I allow them one "save."  That pretty much means I will help them as best as I can without actually giving them the answer.  I use this as a teaching moment.  In this case, I would use it as an opportunity to remind them of some of their decoding skills.  After that, they're on their own lol.  I also do it because there are some students in my groups who definitely need the extra hand.  I don't want them to get extremely discouraged when their peers are breezing through.  I try to remind my students that they're really playing against themselves, not each other.  Their goal should be to do better than what they did the time before (we often do games twice).  They actually really love that challenge!  And we all know they never forget how they did during a game...even if they haven't played in awhile!

Please head over to my TPT store to pick up your own copy of Vowel Digraph Cuties! I'm sure you won't be disappointed! And if you are...well...haha just let me know why ;) Don't forget to keep stopping by because I will be posting my Diphthong Cuties packet soon. Hopefully my R-Controlled Cuties won't be too far behind! Enjoy!

P.S.  Any thoughts on me adding a nonsense word version of this game to the packet?  I'm thinking it would be great to play after they play the regular version and get the hang of it.  I think it'd be a good informal assessment as well.  I'm feeling generous too so one of you lucky folks who voice their opinion just may find yourselves with a free packet ;)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Five for Friday

It's been awhile but I'm linking up again with Doodle Bugs Teaching for their great linky party!

On Saturday we celebrated my niece's 3rd birthday!  She loved her Minnie Mouse cake that Auntie made her ;)

So much time off!  Monday we had off for MLK Day, Tuesday was an Early Dismissal because of snow, and then Wednesday was a Delay!  Plus, our groups are all swapped out and we're alternating between our groups and other teachers due to testing.  Oh AND Wednesday we had an assembly which canceled two of my groups.  Will I ever see my kids? 
Finally bought the font and graphics I've been holding out for on TPT.  Super happy with them!  Working on some cute CVC books for each short vowel.  Here's a peek at the cover!

Another proud Mommy moment this week.  My son came up to me and said "You know R comes after Q!"  I almost cried lol.  My mom (she watches my kiddies during the day god bless her) told me that he's really getting into the educational things I have posted around the house.  He especially loves his Letter of the Week chart.  She said he was standing in front of it saying "H is for..." and listing everything.  Mommy is totally slacking in that department!  I had such big dreams for it!

I'm pretty sure the last time I did this we went to the aquarium too haha.  Excited to be going to see the fishies and the meerkats tomorrow!  Haven't been since October so my son is going bananas!  He's also excited for the Touch A Jelly exhibit!  I'm excited too because my 4th graders are reading a Reading A-Z book about jellyfish.  I told them about the exhibit and that I would take pictures and video.  They're so excited!  I wish I could take them!  I feel blessed that my children have these opportunities! 

Enjoy your weekend!  I know I will!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Say It, Move It, Write It

I posted about my CVC Word Activities last week.  It's one of my favorites.  I love that students have to identify each sound and be able to tell me where that sound is (beg, middle, end).  Their favorite part, of course, is using the markers to write the word!  I like this part because it allows me to see who needs more practice with writing neatly on the lines.  I really want my students to start NOW with writing letters correctly and neat.  Getting them in the habit now will hopefully help down the road.  Click on the pic below to find it at my TPT store!

Here are some pics from our activity yesterday!  I've been storing the cards in a mini pocket chart to keep track of which ones we have done.  We don't get to do all of them in one sitting so I want to make sure we aren't repeating the same ones over and over!

I'm looking forward to using the wipe off cards from the packet as well.  They are great tools!  I have other ones and I like to either do them all together or pass them out while I'm doing running records :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thomas Train Cake & Minnie Mouse Cake

No :( I hope I didn't lose you guys! I never posted a winner to the contest because no one entered! So sad :( I know on my end I need to step it up lol. It's sooo hard with work and two little ones! Here's a fun post for you!

As I mentioned in my previous post, my son turned 3!  We had a Thomas themed party (of course) which meant Mommy had to make a Thomas cake.  I really don't like store bought cake and can never justify dishing out all that money for it.  I always like to take on the challenge of making it.  Now, I'm not saying I make these beautiful masterpieces haha.  They are definitely homemade!  With that said, they are yummy and always a hit!  I needed an idea so I started searching Pinterest a few months in advance.  I wasn't really feeling most of the cakes so I came up with my own.  Here's what you need:

 I never ended up using the sprinkles, orange food coloring (totally thought it was brown haha), or blue sparkle gel.  I went a different route than what I originally planned.  You will also need a rectangle cake pan (make 2) and a 9 inch circle pan (make 2 and cut in half).  Another great thing to get are the cardboard pieces they sell in the cake section.  Mine came with 3 in a pack.  This cake used two taped side by side.

Here's the bottom layer.  1 rectangle cake with 1 circle cake cut in half and placed on each side of the rectangle.  You will also need to shave down the top of the rectangle cake.

 Due to the roundness of the top of the cake, I couldn't do what I originally thought.  In my crazy mind I envisioned a flat surface with the train running around a lake.  Well that didn't happen because if I shaved the top part of this cake it would have been weird.  My wonderful hubby saved the day by just shaving down a track!  It was genius!  Don't tell him I just said that ;)

Tada!  I made everything green like grass.  The train track is made up of pieces of the chocolate bar and black sparkle gel in a tube.  I crumbled chocolate chip cookies and put them on the sides of the cake like dirt.  It was yummy!  Since my son loves M&Ms I wrote his name out in them and used them as the cargo Thomas was carrying.  Everyone loved it AND it was yummy!  Now, onto my niece's cake!

My niece (who turned 3 exactly a week after my son) was having a Minnie Mouse party.  They asked a local bakery how much a Minnie cake would be and they wanted a RIDICULOUS amount of money!  I offered to make the cake because my son had a Mickey Mouse party the year before and I made his cake.  This was his cake:

So easy!  You need a 9 inch circle cake pan, a 6 inch circle cake pan, and a cupcake pan.  I made a funfetti cake with rainbow chip frosting.  I dyed the frosting blue for fun.  I had my wonderful teenage cousin make the cupcakes.  They have a regular Oreo and 2 tiny Oreos.  If you liked that, wait until you see Minnie!

 Don't you love it?  The pink and simpleness make me happy lol.  It seriously couldn't be an easier cake to make!  At first, they wanted me to make it black.  I advised against it because BLACK FOOD COLORING STAINS.  Avoid it folks!  The pink was bad enough lol.  We opted for chocolate frosting.  The hard part was she wanted a strawberry banana filling.  I never made a cake like that before.  It was tricky.  I used banana pudding and sliced up fresh strawberries.  Use it to "frost" the top of the first layer.   I had to quickly put the top on, frost it, and REFRIGERATE it.  Otherwise it would have fallen apart!  The next part that was tricky was the bow.  Boy was I making it wayyyy too complicated.  Turns out, hubby saved the day again!  He said to use cupcakes.  I grabbed two cupcakes, yanked the Oreos, refrosted, stuck them between the ears, and piped on the circles and the line.  I feel like an expert now!  Like I said before, it's totally homemade and you can tell BUT it's always a hit! 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

CVC Activities

Sorry everyone! If you're still there! As I briefly mentioned in my last post from forever ago, there had been a lot going on here at home. Hopefully you haven't left me!  I have a surprise for you that I will get to in a minute :)

First off, I'd like to share that my not so little boy is turning 3 on Saturday!  Madness!  I can't believe he'll be 3.  Mostly because he acts like he's 5 compared to other 3 year olds I know haha.  Second, DRA and AIMS Web testing has begun and our Reading Lab is going to get nuts!  Happy news with that is one of my low students has moved up 2 DRA levels and will be tested even higher.  So proud! Now, onto what you really came here for.

I may not have been blogging, but, I have been creating many, many things! Here's the first.  You can click here to purchase it from TPT or read on to find out how to get it for free!

I created this specifically with my Kindergarteners in mind.  We were given copies of "Say it, Move it" mats but I wanted to spruce things up and make it just a taddd bit more exciting.  First thing I did was to make a long list of CVC words that I could easily find clip art for.  I then created cards for each word.  One side has the picture and the other has the word.

Each student (I have 5) gets their own "Say it, Move it, Write it" mat, a dry erase marker, and of course bingo chips (or something small to move).  I will show them a picture on a card.  They will say the word then move each chip saying each sound they heard.  

The first time I did this, I just did this part.  I wanted to see how they would do.  They did great so the next time we did the activity we added the writing part.  They love writing with the markers so they really enjoyed it.  They also did very well!  I wanted to take this even further so I created card sets for missing beginning, middle, and end sounds using those words. 

 This is a great tool to laminate and have on hand.  I have several things like this.  It's great to be able to pull out cards if I'm in need of an extra few minutes or working one-on-one with a student. I have these cards planned for Friday. I'll let you know how they worked out!  In the mean time, in honor of my big boy turning 3, I will be giving this product away to 1 lucky follower!  Comment below on how you would use this in your classroom.  1 winner will be picked randomly.  Please leave an email as well!  Contest closes by 5PM Eastern on Sunday, January 12, 2014.  The winner will be announced either that night or the following day.  With that said, I'm off to bed.  The coffee I got last night wasn't decaf like I had ordered so I didn't sleep!  Ah!