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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Earth Day: Teacing Children to Love the Earth

Earth Day is just around the corner.  Spring is my favorite time of the year! I love everything outdoors, and after a long, cold winter it is great to get outside and enjoy our Earth. On many days, I find myself looking for excuses to get my kids outdoors, and Earth Day is a perfect excuse.  We have  full day of Earth Day fun! Here are some of the things that we have done in the past and will be doing this year with Megan's kids!
Planting flowers is an easy fit! We give our kids two different choices of seeds to plant. Once the seeds are planted the kids work in groups  to create a graph to show what we planted.
We also make pinecone bird feeders. After making the feeders, they cut and sequence the pictures to create a flow map. Using the flow map, the children write a "how to" piece. (Love that face!)
We created story problems for worms!
Using blue and green markers, the children color a coffee filter. Then, we spray it with a water bottle.  After drying the kids glue it down with their handprints. They write their Earth Day pledge and draw a self portrait.

We use different food items to represent various items that are easily composted. (It is like a trail mix.) I put each item in a paper bag. Then, using a food scoop, the children scoop a little from each bag to place in their individual paper bags. We carry this along when we take our Earth Day walk in the afternoon.  The kids write their recipe.
The kids use patterns to create flowers for their flower part books. Then, on the inside they sequence the pictures for "How to Grow a Flower". They use the cut apart sentences to match each picture.
We used this Earth Day song to  the tune of "Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush", to teach what plants need.
We created paper towel roll trees to store our Earth Day poems.
We used recycled materials to measure our Carbon Footprints.
We did a spin energy graph and a transportation survey graph. All of these activities are from our Earth Day unit. We recently updated the unit to include new layouts and clip art. We also added patterns for the flower pots and sequencing pictures for the bird feeder. If you already have this unit, you can get the updated version in your "My Purchases" section on tpt.
This year we are adding something new...a nonfiction book we wrote about Earth Day. This book follows the same format as our Guided Reading Monthly units. After doing the research and finding the photographs we write the text at 3 different levels. the goal is to be able to provide them with a text they can read and to create a text that I can use to teach the information.
We also provide pages for word work, phonemic practice (th at the beginning or end of the word), vocabulary (adding re- to words), nonfiction feature practice (index), and a writing activity (tree map and writing paper).

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Your Questions Answered! ABC's, Readers Theater, Organization, and More!

Last week I did a webinar, Literacy al' a carte, for Frog Street Press. If you missed it,  it's not too late. You can see the webinar here. Oops! I don't have the link yet, check back later and I will add it!

As part of the webinar, teachers were invited to submit questions. There is no way to answer all of them in this blog post, so I have picked a few. I will pick a few more questions for other posts in the future.

Here are some of the questions:

What do you do about kids who have trouble learning the alphabet?

I love Reading Recovery. When I was a young teacher we had a Reading Recovery teacher at our school. About once a month, she would come to our grade level meeting and share some strategies that she used as part of the program.  Now, let me say...Reading Recovery is a one on one program. So we have to do some tweaking to the strategies if we are going to make them work in the classroom setting.  Here is how I adjusted the ABC Book:
1. Test all of the children in your room.  At the beginning of a kindergarten year, children who know around 18 capital and 16 lower case, will be fine! You don't need an intervention. They will get the letters just by singing and playing games. Those children who know ZERO are not ready! They need time to come to school and be surrounded by literacy. These are kids that probably have limited exposure to text in their homes.  It is the children in the middle that will benefit the most!

2.  Using the cover above and the abc pages, make each child a book. You will want to first do this with just a few children. Trying to do this with a large number of children can become overwhelming.(There is a link for this free resource at the end of this question.)
3. Cut the pictures apart and...
put them in a baggie.

4.  Using the assessment, invite the children to glue in the picture for each letter that they knew. They can know JUST the capital or JUST the lower case! Still give them the picture. The letters that they do not know will not have a picture glued in. Now, give them 3 new letters that they do not know. Invite them to glue the pictures on those three letters. Mark these 3 pages with a sticky note.
4. Now it is time to read the book. If there is no picture, just skip the page. When they get to a page with a picture they point to the capital letter and say the letter, point to the lower case letter and say the letter, point to the picture and name it. If they are able to name one of the letters on the page with a sticky note, remove the sticky note.  Put the sticky note on another page without a picture.
You can get the directions and the abc book pages here as a free download. 

I want to know how you would suggest integrating readers theater in the lower grades.

1. Readers Theater is a fun way to practice working as a team.  It is a great way to develop prosody.
When I write my reader's theater scripts, I make the different characters each have a different level of text. This allows me to make teams that work well together! It also puts some of your leaders in each group. And most importantly, all kids feel proud and successful!
2. We print the scripts black and white using the booklet option in the print menu. Print a booklet for each character. Use a highlighter to highlight his parts. 
3. Depending on your printer, it might print back and front without you doing anything! Some printers will tell you to flip your papers to print the other side.
4. For the kids who aren't quite ready for a script, I use these character cards. The kids hold the cards as they role play the story. It is like an oral "readers theater"! 
You can find my Reader's Theater Bundle here.

How do you organize all of your props that you use throughout the year?

Organization is something we are all always working on. One organization tip for the classroom is my Panic Shelf.  This shelf holds everything I need during the day. It will have the things I use all year such as my calendar supplies, but it also hold puppets and items that I will use that day. I also keep a sets of puppets, like the Five Little Ducks, on the shelf to use during transitions.
 I tend to store my things at home in our garage--sorry kids park in the driveway! Each of the stacks represents about a month of teaching. Once a month I load things in my car and take it to the school to swap things out. The brain is constantly seeking novelty. We need a way to rotate materials so that things are always new! These tubs store center props, class d├ęcor, teaching resources, puppets, etc.
My husband made me these bags to hold the large anchor charts/posters, etc. It holds the things that are too large for the tubs.  I hate rolling or folding the charts! You can also use the XXXL Ziploc Bags. I pick them up at Target.

I follow your blog and love your resources. I have rearranged my room to have different zones. I was wondering what your schedule looks like.

I love your Simply Science units. Will there be more?

Yes! I started off thinking I could keep up with these! These require tons of research and thought. It's not something I can do when I'm tired or when the grandkids are around. I have to use all of my brain power. I'm hoping to have some more ready to go for next year! I have already written three units--The Scientific Method and Science Tools, The Sun and Other Stars, and The Moon.

What are your favorite free resources?

  • There are sooooo many free resources available. There are free things all over social media--on blogs, pinterest, facebook, tpt.
  • If you go to kindergals on facebook and click on the "like" button, you will be able to see a "fan freebee" folder. Click on the folder. There are lots of free things there.
  • Click here to go to my free folder on tpt!

Will you post the link to the resources in today's webinar?

Here are the resources I used to plan the webinar. You can click on the ima

These are the books that I used in the presentation. You can click on the title and it will take you to amazon.

If you didn't see your question, put it in the comments and it will get bumped to the top of the list for the next post!

Be sure and check out Frog Street Splash! Watch this video! You won't want to miss this fabulous and fun conference!
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

St. Patricks Day Activities

Just a quick post to let you know a few of the resources I have available for St. Patrick's Day!
It's always more fun when you get to work on a project with a friend. Kim Jordano and I made Label It! Units for each season.  The kids can either do the craft project, or you can quickly reproduce the printable for immediate use!
Last year I updated my Hooray for St. Patrick's Day Unit. I added a rainbow brace map, rearranged the directions for easier use, and updated all of the clip art! You can see the activities here using the older clip art images. The games are the same, they just have a much better look!
You also might want to check out the super cute idea by Kim Jordano. She has a leprechaun move into the room. To see how, click here.
I also update the St. Patrick's Math Game Pack.
If you never downloaded any of the updates, be sure and go to your "my purchases" section and get the newer version!
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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Free Webinar: Literacy Fun for Early Learners

Frog Street Press began in 1989 when a group of teachers wrote adorable jingles to familiar tunes to teach concepts such as the alphabet, colors, numbers, shapes and nursery rhymes. I'm sure many of you are familiar with Frog Street Press.  But, just how familiar are you? Here's a little test to determine just HOW LONG you have known them, see if you can answer this question. When the Frog Street alphabet books first came out in 1989, how did you assemble them? If you said, you had to color and cut out the pages and then bind together with rings, you were right! That was a long time ago and Frog Street is now so much more than alphabet books, but that is how I first found them. 

Since then, I have presented at the annual Splash Conference several times. When they recently contacted me about doing a webinar for them, I jumped at the chance. So here it is! A free webinar, professional development available right in your own home or school!

You may be wondering why you should take your valuable time and spend an hour with me. Here's why....In this session we are going to talk about the impact of games, stories, songs and chants on developing literacy. We use all of these, everyday. After this webinar, you will have new tools and ideas on how to get the most from those activities. You will be able to  make the routine activities so much more powerful in developing literate children.
Every wonder why we do the things we do? For each component, we will look quickly at the WHY before I share lots of easy, "ready to do tomorrow" ideas you can use in your classroom. Ever had to defend why you are playing games? This webinar will give you all the words you need to support this practice.
Then, I will share some popular books that you are sure to have in your library as well as a few that might be new to you! You will know how to use these stories to develop strategic readers in fun, hands-on activities. The really cool part is that many of these strategies, activities, ideas can easily be applied to many of your favorite pieces of literature.
 And lastly we will look at the role of music in developing literacy. Be sure and check out this post about including music in the classroom. 
Her is the actual write up for the webinar on edWeb. Are you ready? All you have to do is to click on this link  and you will be ready to go! Hope to see you soon!
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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Five Reasons to Use Music in Your Classroom

Have you ever heard a teacher say, I don't sing with my kids? I know I have. It is usually because we feel that we lack the musical ability to sing! Believe me...I know how that feels.  My younger sister was an opera major in college. Now, you might think it runs in the family, but she got every bit of musical ability in our family! When I get in my classroom and shut the door, my kids think I sound like an angel. I once heard it referred to as the mommy singing voice--the kind of voice you use to sing to your babies. Well, let's all find our inner mommy voice and get ready to sing!

As you can see there are many reasons to sing with kids, these are only a few of the many that are supported by research.

Here are a few ways I can bring music into my classroom.

1. Interactive Charts

Along with the ideas mentioned above, interactive charts can effectively:
  • make the text to talk connection.
  • develop concepts of print.
  • be used as a shared reading.
  • become an independent center.
  • transition kids from one activity to another.
See More Interactive Charts (here).

2. Puppets

Along with the ideas mentioned above, puppets can effectively:
  • encourage participation.
  • integrate other art forms.
  • increase attention span.
3. Music Books
Along with the ideas mentioned above, music books can effectively:
  • develop text to sound connection.
  • integrate music with other content areas.
  • become an independent center task.
  • develops concepts of print.
I am sure we all have our favorite musicians, I know I do.
Shari Sloane
I love Shari Sloane. She is from the Midwest, so she sings so clearly that it is very easy to understand her. She is also a kindergarten teacher! That means, she gets it! She knows what we need to teach. You can find her music on iTunes or on her website
Jack Hartmann
I also love Jack Hartmann for totally different reasons. I think he has cool beats and rhythms. He is a true musician, not a teacher. He is great about seeking out teachers to see what they need, what is current, and how we teach it! Be sure you check out his utube channel. He has tons of his songs on there...for FREE! 

A few years back I approached them both about making some music books to accompany their songs. They both gave me the go ahead!
Here's What I Did...
  • First, I made the books in power point and saved them as a pdf.
  • These can easily be convert to smart board slides. This makes it very easy to use these for your large group transition times.
  • I also wanted to put these books in my I would need to print them. 
  • As you can see in the photo, I have printed the books small, put a sticky cd pocket (I picked them up at Office Depot.), and burned the individual song to a blank cd. 
Printing Music Books 
Here's a quick tutorial on how to print the music books so they are smaller, just right for their little hands.
1. First pull down the file menu and click on print.

2. Click on the properties button.

3. You will see this box.

4. Click the "2 in 1 Printing" box. Click "ok" and then click "print".
This way is preferable because it will adjust automatically for landscape and portrait. This is great if you are printing a document that may have some pages landscape and other pages portrait. But, if you do not have this option, here is an alternative way...
1. After selecting "print" in the file menu, click on the multiples button.

2. Select how many pages you would like for it to print on each piece of paper.

3. Since this option doesn't automatically adjust, you will need to click on either "portrait" or "landscape" so that your pages fill the paper. Look at the difference in the last two slides. See how the second way fills the page?

I just recently updated all of my Jack Hartmann music books.  For a limited time, I am putting all of the books into one bundle and discounting the bundle to $30 (it would normally be $46). Of course, the individual titles are also available. 

Here are the links to my Shari Sloane Music Books. For a limited time, I have discounted the two bundles to $12 each (they are normally $15.)
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