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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Captivate to Motivate! Mad Scientist Friday

The brain learns by pattern, but seeks novelty! The brain likes to be stimulated. It is our job as teachers to "Captivate" our young have them sitting on the edge of their seats begging for more! When we have achieved that, the children are "Motivated" to learn! While science is a subject that most littles find interesting, it is still essential to build that level of excitement that will guarantee us success. This blog post explores part of our Fun Friday Celebrations--Mad Scientist Friday, and how we get it started.
At the beginning of the year, we place a box in the office that contains all of the essential items to become a mad scientist. We ask one of the office workers to deliver the box to our room. It is then that we start building excitement by asking questions like, "Who did the box come from? What is a lab? What do you think might be in here?"
When the kids just can't stand it any longer, open the box! Talk about the things that are in the box by asking, "What is this? What are they for? Who would use them? Why have they been sent to us?"
At this time, notice that each lab coat has a child's name. We made the lab coats with large tshirts. Use spray adhesive (it was messy) to attach the ribbon. Then, use hot glue to attach the buttons.
Each tshirt has a name tag. Megan took pictures of the kids with this "bad" comb-over wig. I purchased it from a party store to wear on Day 100. (My teaching partner dresses up like a 100 year old lady and I dress up like a 100 year old man!) We took the photos the day before and made a name badge for each child.  It amazes me that they don't make the connection!
To say they were excited, would be an understatement!  The box also contained goggled and surgical gloves that I picked up at the Dollar Tree and Dollar General.
To celebrate the fact that we are now scientist, we had a special "scientist snack."  I found these plates at a party store. They had a little bit of a lip around the edge. It made them look like Petrie dishes. We mixed green jello and lined up  the dishes on cookie sheets. We tried to pour the jello into the dishes and then move the tray to the refrigerator, but that was a disaster.  We finally figured out to put the tray in the fridge and pour the jello with the tray already inside. The trays stacked on each other by turning every other one landscape or portrait. We added the candy worms before the jello could set.
We found these popsicle molds at the Dollar Tree. We cut the "tubes" out. They were easy to cut with scissors.
Each "test tube" was filled with Test Tube Juice.
The following week our first Mad Scientist Friday tub arrives.  Inside the tub are all of the supplies need to conduct a science experiment.  While these experiments teach some scientific concept, the real reason we are doing them is to teach our kids the scientific process. What do real scientist do? What tools do they use? What is the scientific process?
This was our gummy bear experiment. You can read more about that in this blog post.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

4 Things EVERY Teacher Needs for Back to School

There are 4 things that every teacher needs to begin the year. This post shares those 4 things!
A Teaching Buddy
The first thing, and sometimes the most important thing, a teacher needs is to find a teaching buddy. What is a teaching buddy?
A teaching buddy is someone who supports you and lifts you up.
A teaching buddy listens when you need to vent and when you want to celebrate.
A teaching buddy shares the same teaching philosophy. That doesn't mean that you necessarily do all of the same things. It means you have a mutual understanding about best practices and how children learn.
Any teachers come to mind yet? I have a few in mind for myself!

Routines and Procedures
The next thing that teachers need at the beginning of a school year is effective routines and procedures. More classroom disruptions come from lack of procedures than from misbehavior.  Here are a few of our favorite routines and procedures:
Establish ways to get their attention quickly. These are a few of my favorite.  Effective use comes from repeated practice. That first few days of school, I'm a little obnoxious! I will use one of the catch phrases right in the middle of an activity. At that time, I can talk about what I see and what I want to see.  By the end of the first week, they have them down pat!
Kids get tired of hearing our voice. Sometimes nonverbal reminders are best. I use the Mr. Potato Head, the Snowman, and other such things to encourage children to clean up.  When it is clean up time, I turn on the music. The kids know that means to clean up. If they get cleaned up before the music is over, they earn a piece. We are trying to build the Mr. Potato Head, etc. 
Another nonverbal reminder I use is our Target Rule Reminder. When I am working with kids on the carpet, there are several rules that I want to establish, one of them being not to yell out answers.  If a child yells out an answer to a question that I asked, instead of giving a lecture, I simply remove one of the clip art bugs.  Remove a bug the first time and EVERY time someone yells out an answer. No need to say anything, just remove the clip art picture, they get it! This quickly changes that behavior! Be sure to have plenty of pictures. You don't want to run out! Slowly reduce the number of pictures you are using as your class interrupts less.
Developing a team attitude is the best way to develop a community of learners. Instead of children working to achieve trips to a treasure chest, we work together for special rewards. When we are doing the right thing, whatever you want "the right thing" to be, we earn happy rocks. When the jar is full, we celebrate with a special activity.  The good thing is that we do plenty of special activities anyways! Let's say you were going to go outside and practice writing letters with sidewalk chalk as one of your PLANNED activities. The jar is full. Guess what just became the reward? "Hey guys, you are working so hard and helping each other! We filled our jar! Today we are going to get to go outside and write with chalk! Won't that be fun!?" See how easy it is to reward little ones! No need to sugar them up or make countless trips to the dollar store.
These ideas are from this unit.

Assessment to Collect Data
My principal once said during our preplanning, "The main goal for the first day of school is to get them here, get them fed, and get them home safely!"  So true! I'm always a little anxious that they are going home to the right place!
During that first week of school we are also getting to know our kids as both people and learners.  We are establishing relationships with and between the children.
But, shortly after that first week, we begin to think more deeply about what we need to be teaching--to the whole class, to our small groups, and to individual children. To do this we must use effective formative assessments. We must decide where the children ARE and where we need to take them.  There are many ways to collect this data, but I love ESGI.  It not only makes assessments easy, it also makes building my instructional groups a snap! Here are some of my favorite features:
There are tons of tests already available. But, I can also make your own assessments and share them with my team!
The assessments can be easily conducted right from an ipad. As the children are working in centers, I can walk around and ask the children the letters. As they respond, I click "yes" or "no".
Once the assessment is completed, it lets me know how the child performed.
By conducting these assessments during the first weeks of school, I can establish a baseline. This helps me measure growth instead of proficiency.
My favorite feature...the bar graph. This graph easily shows me which children have mastered a standard and which have not. I  can now use this to help me form my small groups for instruction. 
Did you know that you can try ESGI for FREE for two months! What a great way to get your formative assessments going! If you decide to buy, you can get $40 off of the yearly cost simply by using my code, "ADSIT". Click on this link to get started on your free trial!
A Research Based Curriculum
Now that we have a teaching buddy, have established effective routines and procedures, and have collected our data...we are finally ready to teach! Deciding what and how to teach can be very confusing. Social media has changed the way that teachers collect curriculum.  We find things on Pinterest, on Teachers Pay Teachers, on blogs, and on Facebook & Instagram. 
Be a discerning shopper of ideas.  Just because it is on social media doesn't mean that it fits in with your philosophy of teaching. It also doesn't mean that it is based on sound practices. When you find someone who shares your philosophy, follow them on all of their social media accounts. 
When it comes to resources that are provided by your school--use them! Why not? You have them, they are paid for, and they are pretty easy to implement. However, be cautious! Use your resources to support the standard you are teaching.  Become a resource based not resource driven teacher. Think standards first, then resources. Also, ask yourself, "Do my kids NEED that activity?" Use your formative assessments to determine if an activity needs to be shared with the whole class, or would it be more effective to use the activity with a small group of children who are experiencing difficulty with the standard. 
The workshop model of teaching is an effective way to deliver instruction.  I have discussed that in many posts. You can read one of those posts here.
Developing an anchor chart during your mini lesson helps remind the kids what we they are learning. It helps them make connections to prior learning. It helps children see the big picture with all of the related concepts collected onto one chart. The charts are used as a reference tool by both the teacher and the children. These charts are from our Reader's Workshop and our Writer's Workshop units.
 The goal for literacy and math centers is to be able to pull small groups! The big question? What are the other children doing while you are with a small group?  The beginning of the year is a time to develop independence in centers. We spend time introducing "how to do centers." What are the routines and procedures for this part of the day? We establish anchor charts that we display around the room to remind the children of the expectations.  One mistake I made...pulling a small group before I had developed independence! Don't worry about pulling a small group for 6 weeks! It may even take 8! During that time, spend time moving around the room. This is the time to develop that independence. When you can stand back the WHOLE center time, then you are ready to start pulling small group. These charts are from the Literacy Center Units that I wrote with my friend Deanna.
Kids love to play games. Keep the games simple! If you are spending more time teaching the game than teaching the standard, the game is no effective.  Introduce the games in your small groups. Play WITH the children until they are able to complete the activity independently. Then, move the activity to centers for repeated practice.
 Don't spend all of your time developing tons of games so that you can differentiate. Plan activities that are easily differentiated! For example, in this game the child is making combinations for the number 4. She is hiding some bears under the cave and placing some bears in front of the cave. Then, she records the combination on the recording page.  Other groups can use this same game! Simply change the number of bears to match the number combinations they are learning.  These games are from the DI Easy as Pie Math Units I wrote with my friend Michele.
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Activities to Develop Early Math Understanding

Developing Early Math Concepts doesn't have to happen on a worksheet! Math concepts can be taught through play, songs, and art! This blog post shares some ideas on using dendrite producing activities to teach early math concepts.
Graphing is a great tool to help children organize data for analysis. While graphing might not be a "standard" by itself, graphs are used to make sense of number. For this fun back to school graph, the kids made a fun face using wiggly eyes and pompoms. They used yarn to make long or short hair to match the length of their own hair.  In a later activity, I gave each child their face. One by one, they added their face to the graph. As each child added their face, we talked about how our data was changing.  (I saved these faces to add to their end of the year memory book along with their first day of school picture!)
Another great "first" math concept is sorting. Sorting is essential in many number standards. The kids need to be able to sort for counting, comparing, adding..... For this fun activity, I used a collection of cute kids clip art and a sorting mat. We talked about ways to sort--boys and girls, long hair and short hair, pig tails and no pig tails..... The real challenge is in coming up with the sort categories. Encourage children to generate sorts while you model how you select categories.  Is it more important to sort a few kids many ways, or to sort many kids a few ways? No need to provide the kids with large number of clip art kids....the power is in how many different sorts they can generate.  For extra fun, use actual photographs of the kids in your room! Be sure and scroll all the way to the bottom. I have add a fun, free animal sorting activity for you to use with your kids!
How long have you been teaching kindergarten? Do you remember when we didn't give them pencils until after Christmas? Or as long as they knew the names of the letters they were ready for first grade?  Those days are gone!  Kindergarten curriculum has become more rigorous and is standards based. But, does that mean that we have to throw out all of the things that are based on appropriate practices? Does that mean we can't sing, or paint, or dance?  Does that mean that we need to get kids in desks and start pushing worksheets disguised as printables or no prep activities?   We can still dance and sing and all of the other fun parts of kindergarten, because that is how kids learn best!!!! How do we do it? We need to look at our songs and activities and be sure that the standard is clear and evident! "Five Little Goldfish" is a perfect example! (sang to the tune of Five Little Speckled Frogs) What is the math standard? Is it counting, is it adding more more, is it addition, is it number combinations for 5? You decide! Then, as you sing the song, simply add in the words to link it to the math standard! Easy Peasy!
We always chart our songs on poster board using sentence strips. Putting them in a pocket chart always ended up in lost pieces!  The fish and the numerals are attached with Velco so that they can be manipulated.  Now we need to decide on our language arts standard. Is it print moves left to right and top to bottom, is it there are spaces between words, is it author's craft, is it some word we can read really quickly (sight words)? Once you determine which ONE concept you are going to teach, use your interactive chart as a shared reading while you explore the wonderful world of print!
I'm at Frog Street Splash again today! These are the items I used to plan the session ABC's and 123's.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Math Manipulatives-Revisit

Are your math manipulatives collecting dust? Ours were! Michele and I teamed up to create some activities that would put the manipulatives to use! Here's a blog post that shares all the different activities we made for each manipulative.
Today I am in Dallas, TX at the fabulous Frog Street Splash! Guys, if you have never been to this shindig, you need to put it on your bucket list! It is full of fun and learning! I am presenting a session called, Making the Most of Your Math Manipulatives.  Here are some of the ideas I am sharing in that session.  Be sure and scroll all the way to the bottom so that you can snag a Counting Bears Math Game for FREE!
 If you are looking for ways to use colored tiles to teach any math standard, read this blog post!
 See how we repeat the same, or very similar games, but change the manipulative to create a new game! No time is wasted learning new activities. All the time is spent engaged in learning! Be sure and scroll to the bottom to snag one of the Counting Bears Games as a free download!
Unifix cubes, linking cubes, or multilink cubes....they can all be used to teach any math standard. This post shares some of our favorites.
Pattern Blocks are a staple in any classroom.  This blog post shares easy print and go activities to put them to use!
Here are the resources I used to plan this session.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

3 Easy Tips to Fit It All In (Day 3 in Vegas!)

There are a few questions that teachers are constantly seeking to answer? How can we keep them quiet in the lunchroom? What is the best way to dismiss kids in the afternoon? And, how do we fit it all in? I'm still waiting on the answers to lunchroom behavior and dismissal, but I do have some ideas on how to fit it all in.

1. Think Science or Social Studies First.

One of the Social Studies units that we teach is "Community". As part of our standards, the children have to be  able to identify the helpers and things they use.

In this Label a Firefighter activity the children are learning about the clothing a firefighter wears to protect themselves.  In language arts, we are learning about labels. We are learning that authors use labels to help the reader! Now we are covering social studies and language arts at the same time! Time saver!
2. Plan Activities That Can Be Used More Than Once.
During our Thanksgiving Unit we read our recipe to make Turkey Soup. Recipes are a great way to teach procedural text-part of nonfiction text.  As we were reading the recipe, we counted the vegetables to make the soup.
The next day, during math, we revisited our soup pots.  I divided the children into small groups, depending on their number sense. As I called each group, we counted or added the vegetables. This saves tons of prep time. If you are spending more time prepping than the children are doing.....
3. Teach Games and Activities that Can Be Recycled.
Plan activities that can easily be adjusted by changing the clip art and the standard.  Our kids love the spin a graph activity. They simply spin the spinner, tally the results, make a graph and analyze the data.  I can repeat this same idea throughout the year, changing the clip art and the number of columns. No time is wasted teaching the children a new activity! All the time is spent learning the new standard. 
This race game is another idea that can be used over and over. To play, the children roll a dice. They move the firetrucks towards the house. They can move one firetruck the whole number, or split the number between two firetrucks. You can race children to school, squirrels to trees, etc.  If you want to make it more challenging as the year progresses, invite the children to write the number sentences to show how they split the number between the firetrucks. Here are the resources I used to plan this session.
I am doing two other sessions in Vegas today. Here is a little about those sessions.
For the Love of Reading
This post shares some of the retelling ideas that I shared during the session. Be sure and scroll to the bottom to grab the retelling activity for Snake Supper.
First, I made a puppet from a sock--keeping it old school right here!!!  I cut a slit in the sock to make the mouth. I found clip art animals to match the characters in the story. After laminating the animals, I taped them to a piece of fishing line.  As I tell the story, I feed the animals inside the snake.
Now, it's the kids turn. They made a snake from a craft stick. They colored their animals and glued them to clothespins.
As the children retell the story, they clip the animals to the craft stick! Grab the color and black and white animals at the bottom of this post! Here are the resources I used to plan this session.
How Did You Get That?
Thinking and Writing About Math
In this session, I shared how we use glyphs. You can read all about it in this blog post. Here are the resources I used to plan this session.

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