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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Peek at My Week: More Back to School and Literacy Centers

What causes you the most stress with centers? I bet, if you are like me, it isn’t finding enough activities! There are tons of ideas out there floating around. So…you prep your centers and you are ready to go. They look good, you’re proud of them. You bring them out and…’s a disaster. I mean you feel like just crying. All that hard work, and it didn’t even work! I bet if you are like me, at some point you have felt that.  So what is it that makes centers so challenging? The Management!  So here are a few tips that might make your center time a little easier to manage!

  • •A center is never a new teach.
  • •Centers practice previously taught standards.
  • •Center activities have been taught in a mini-lesson.
  • •Sometimes an activity requires further explanation in a small group setting before it can become a center activity.
  • •Some centers are “have to” activities. These are activities that you expect all children to complete. These are the ones that maintain previous learning.
  • •Some centers are “can do” activities. These are activities that the children may choose from once they finish their “have to” center.
  • •“Can dos” are open ended and student led.
  • •“Can do” activities are modeled in mini lessons.
  • •Children may create their own learning in the “can do” centers.

Here are a few of the “have-to activities from this week.


We sorted the letters in our names.


We drew picture cards and then added detail to our pictures.


We found two pictures that started with the same sound. All these ideas, and that all important management component, are in this resource.

So here are some other things going on this week:


This week we are introducing the word family journal (for some kids this is just rhyming practice), practicing with the abc chart, and starting the book of lists.

We are still developing that all important stamina! They get tired out pretty quickly. I’ve added in some guided reading books. We aren’t going to pull some groups quite yet. But, we are going to use these whole group as read a louds and start that “Look at the picture.” strategy as well as introducing the concept of a label. This will be great for both reading and writing!


We are going to concentrate on those center time mini lessons! These are really super important. This is where we are laying that foundation for the rest of the year!


The kids are still free exploring some of the manipulatives.  I’,m just rotating them through these for now. We are pulling small groups to teach some of the basic games that will become our “can do” math centers. I love these easy to play centers! We are also doing some basic assessments…..I know, I was going to share those this week, but I just don’t have them ready quite yet! So excited to be partnering up with ESGI to get some math assessments to match the units Michele and I wrote for our small group math units! (You can find a link to them in my sidebar.)

Here are the resources I used this week to plan:



Have a great week! Be sure and hop over to Deedee’s blog to see what others are doing this week.

peek at my weekbutton 2015

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Little Scientist Wishlist

Every year we try to pick something to concentrate on. This's all about science. To be honest, science is an area that I might not feel as confident teaching as I do when I'm teaching  reading, writing and math! That's all the more reason to focus here, right? I have to really study to teach science. It isn't something that I was ever really interested in as a child.  My husband eats it up! So here's how the conversation often goes, "Andy, how does a star explode?" Andy's reply: "greek, greek, greek, greek." I then find myself on a science for kids website looking for an explanation, an explanation where I know all the words!
As we were developing our first science unit, The Scientific Method and Science Tools, we found that we didn't have all of the tools we wanted to explore. We had some, but others were either broken, missing, or there just wasn't enough of each one. So...enter Andy....again. He came to my rescue and helped me compile a list of everything I needed to order. I thought I would share the links with you in case you were looking for any of these tools.  It will make it easier than shopping all over Amazon!
My goals this year:
To instill a love of science in our little ones. They naturally love it!
To become more confident as a teacher of science.
To develop some super fun, informative units using the workshop model of teaching.
To do something that is challenging and rewarding!
To blog about our journey.

Happy Shopping!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Weekly Science Box: Easy Science Experiments!


If you didn’t read yesterdays post, STOP…..back up and read it first!  So here it is! Here’s what was in the box this week. The Mad Science Boxes had all the needed supplies to conduct the Gummy Bear experiment.


We want to teach our kids how “scientists really do it” using the scientific method. We made this anchor chart which we later posted in our room, but we also converted it to a smart board slide to use during our lessons.  As we introduced each part of the scientific method over the course of several mini lessons, we revealed that part of the anchor chart. Once the chart was fully revealed, we posted it in the room for future use.Slide10

Day 1
  • First, we named the problem in the form of a question: What happens to Gummy Bears when you put them in liquids?
  • Then, we invited each child to use words and/or pictures to show what they thought would happen. They made an hypothesis.

Day 2:

  • We conducted the experiment. I guess you could do the experiment while the kids watch,  they wouldn’t have been as well behaved if they were just watching!
  • CAUTION: Don’t, use these cups!!!!! I found these bathroom cups, CHEAP at Target.  All went well until the next day when we came in! The cups had leaked EVERYWHERE!!!


Here’s the experiment card the kids used to read each step. We want our kids to have authentic practice with nonfiction text. We want them to see that we read for a purpose. We have many reluctant readers, so it is our job to find ways to show them how reading is sooo important, beneficial, and fun!


Day 3:

  • Observe. What is happening?  We encouraged our kids to talk about their observations. They sometimes have difficulty getting their words and thoughts on paper, so we spend lots of time just talking!Slide15

After a lot of discussion, then we went to the paper to record.

Now, here’s a confession.  I did this experiment 3 times at home. I was trying to figure out how we could have the kids graph their data. So I kept doing the experiment, watching what happened and thinking what we could do. The gummy bear in the vinegar always disappeared by the end of the first day, the one in water was smaller, and the one in the baking soda water was the same or somewhat larger. This continued with the water one getting smaller and the baking soda one staying about the same. This.same.thing.happened.every.single.time!!!  THEN, when we did it at school we didn’t have the same results!!! At school, all 3 bears increased in size. WHAT!?!?!?! My husband is an engineer and quite smart about science so I called him in a little bit of a panic. He said it could be that different brands of gummy bears are made differently, but for whatever reason, this is what science is all about. So, we are setting up just one experiment (since we dumped the others) and seeing what happens over 5 days as the graph requires.


Once we have gone the full five days, we will complete our graph….


And write our conclusion.Slide18

We already have the science boxes ready for this week. Next week, we will share that experiment with you.


This is the unit that we are using to teach the scientific method. (It has the gummy bear experiment.)

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Mad Scientists: Set the Stage to Engage!


So what do you do when one of your dearest, best friends, who just happens to be a teacher, comes to your house for a week? YOU MAKE THINGS! It all started on the way home from the airport when I told her I wanted to make some lab coats for Megan’s kids. Next thing you know, she is on pinterest! We didn’t use a coat that we found, but looked at several different styles and then created the style you see.   Here’s how we did it:

  • We purchased men’s small (and a few medium) tshirts, black ribbon, black and gray buttons, spray adhesive, and hot glue.
  • We cut the ribbon and used spray adhesive to stick it to the shirt. (I got the easy job, I cut!) We didn’t want to cut the tshirts. Mainly because that would have been more work, but also because then the fabric might be in the way when they are actually doing experiments.
  • Then, we hot glued the buttons along the ribbon.

We found the gloves at Dollar General and the goggles at the Dollar Tree. Now I should make those both plural! I think we went to 5 different Dollar Trees to get enough goggles,  even sending a friend of mine to look in her town. AND we went to 3 different Dollar Generals to find enough gloves! We spent 2 full days shopping and making! (We also made sailor hats for Ginny’s room. I’ll share those another time!) Oh, and earlier in the week while Kathleen was working in Megan’s room, she snapped pictures of all the kids wearing a mad scientist wig! I used the pictures to make nametags for each of the kids.


Then, the big day had arrived. We kept it a secret all week! Thursday morning, we packaged everything in a brown box so that it would look like it came in the mail. We packed up the SUV, (with 2 babies in tow), and headed to Megan’s room. To say she was surprised, would not hardly do it justice. (And yes, that’s Matthew! The boys were really good!)


The kids LOVED them! They were so excited and so thankful.


Who can have a mad scientist party without some mad scientist food? We found some shallow plates at the party store. Kathleen made jello and we filled them up. We added the worm right before we went.  I found some of the containers for making popsicles at the Dollar Tree. My son cut them out for me to make test tubes. We served up some science potion!


And then, just like that, I had to take her back to the airport. We laughed and joked that if we lived close it would be crazy, but soooo much fun! Miss you bunches, Kathleen.Slide1

So now what? Each week I am packaging up a Mad Scientist kit for Megan and Ginny. Each kit will have all the things they need to do an experiment that week. Want to know what is inside? Check back tomorrow and you will see what was in the first Mad Scientist Kit!

Slide8Thanks to my sweet friend Hope Wheeler King who coined the term, “Set the Stage to Engage!”
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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Peek at My Week—Back to School & Printing Booklets

We are just finishing up our first week of school. I’m excited to be working with Megan’s former teaching partner to share a peek at my week. Week 1-Procedures, Procedures, Procedures! We worked on establishing our rules and procedures. We also got our reader’s and writer’s workshop going! These are simple lessons! The kids “worktime” was only about 5 minutes. During reader’s workshop, we spent time exploring books in the various areas of the room. Each day they went to a different area. If you want to read about how we organize our book area, you can find that post here.  During writer’s workshop, the kids were mainly drawing pictures, some were scribbles. Some were using random letters, and a few were using some letters purposefully to label their pictures.  Woo Hoo!
With the extra time in our day, due to shorter workshop times as we develop stamina, we did a few crafty type items. The kids love this and it helps to keep them busy! We are doing our centers a little differently this year. One of the big changes is that we are doing a mini lesson using the workshop framework.  It was amazing to watch the kids really “get it” as we practice each procedure.  I’m excited to be pairing up with Deanna Jump to write a series for centers with mini lessons, have to activities and can do activities! I love working on projects with others! It is great to brainstorm, discuss, and plan together.
During Math, we taught a few games, but we spent most of the time introducing all the manipulatives. We want to give them time to “play” so that when we get ready to use them in a lesson, they will be ready!
This coming up week we are going to do some assessment to see how they are doing.  I will share those with you next week.
You can download the plans here!
This past week while my friend Kathleen was down to visit, I was finishing up the Back to School guided reading unit. How excited was I when she shared how she has organized the units to use in her classroom.
If you’ve seen these units, you know that there are 5 different nonfiction books and each title is written at 3 different levels. Kathleen showed me a great way to print them! Here’s what we did:
  1. First, select the pages for one of the books. You will need to print one book at a time.
  2. Then, click on booklet.
  3. It will print 2 pages per piece of paper.
  4. When the printer stops, you will turn the pages over and feed them back through the printer again.
  5. This will print two pages on the back of the paper.
  6. We only laminated the page with the cover.
  7. The other pages are white copy paper, just like a real book.
  8. Lay the pages flat and, use a along neck stapler to staple along the bind.
  9. And look! You have a real book!
  10. Less paper, less ink, less time!
Kathleen has been printing her books and organizing them into notebooks along with the lesson plan and the practices pages for each book.
You can get the slips for the binds here.
Thanks Kathleen for sharing those with everyone! This makes it easy to find the units quickly.
Here are the resources I used to plan for this week:
peek at my weekbutton 2015
Now, jump over to DeeDee’s blog to see what others are doing this week!
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