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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Celebrating with Zero the Hero

Today, celebrating the 100th Day of School is common in many early childhood classrooms.  This blog post shares how we set the stage to build excitement every 10th day of school leading up to the special 100th day! 
To begin the year, I made a special Zero the Hero bag. I just used clip art to create an 8 1/2 x 11 picture. I printed it out and glued it to the front of a gift bag. I added curling ribbon to the handle! This is now our Zero the Hero bag! Every 10th day of school, Zero the Hero comes and leaves us a special letter and a fun math activity.
Here are a few of those activities:
For this activity, each child needs a dice, a pencil or marker, and a recording page. Invite the children to roll the dice. Now, they either count, or subitize, the set of dots. Next, they locate that set on their recording page and trace the corresponding numeral. Continue until all numerals are traced.
For this activity, each child needs 20 beads, a pipe cleaner, and a game board.  Invite the children to arrange their beads onto the tens frame. Ask, How many? Notice how they determine the answer. Do they count each bead, do they say 10 as they point to the first tens frame and then count on the remaining 10, or do they count by saying 10, 20?
Invite the children to arrange the beads onto the pipe cleaner. You may want to just use random colors. You may want them to create a pattern. Or, you may want them to make each set of 10 a different color.
For this activity, each child needs a marker or pencil, a dice, and a recording page. Invite the children to roll the dice. In the belly of the first Zero the Hero, the children make tally marks to match the number on the dice. Continue rolling and making tally marks to complete the recording page.
On the 40th day of school, the children make a sequencing hat. To make this, each child needs a recording page, scissors, glue, crayons, and a sentence strip. Invite the children to color and cut the numbers 10-100.  Next, the children will sequence the numerals onto the sentence strip. Once they are in order, glue the numerals to the strip. Staple together to make a hat.
For the Adding Dots activity each child needs a marker or pencil, 2 dice, and a recording page.  Invite the children to roll both dice. On the first row on the recording page, the children draw the face of each dice inside one of the squares.  Add the dots together and write the sum into the burst!
To practice place value, each child needs a few pretzels and some fruit loops. It helps to give each child a piece of construction paper for holding their supplies.  Show the children a 2 digit numeral. Invite them to show you how to build that number by using pretzels to represent 10 and fruit loops to represent 1's.  **Depending on the age and grade, you may want to stick to numerals 1-19.  It might also help to allow children to organize the fruit loops onto a tens frame and then "trade" them in for a pretzel stick!
On the 100th day, the children make these fun crowns. Invite the children to trace the numerals with a marker.  Cut out and staple to make a crown!
All of these ideas, and others, are from the Zero the Hero unit I wrote with my friend Kimberly Jordano at kinderbykim!
The unit contains easy to follow, picture directions for each of the Zero the Hero days.
It also contains the letters that Zero the Hero brings. These letters are placed inside of the Zero the Hero bag.
And lastly, it included the reproducibles for each of the activities. These are simple, no fuss activities!
Have fun celebrating our friend, Zero the Hero!


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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

EASY STEM Activities to Begin the Year

I recently joined forces with Kim Jordan to present at the I Teach K conference in Vegas.  Our session was about integrating STEM and Story Time. Here are some of my thoughts about STETM and some of the activities we shared.

STEM is an acronym for

What is Stem?
STEM is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real world problems.
During STEM children apply technology, engineering, science and mathematics as they make connections.
In story time STEM, we want the children to identify the real world problem in the story, and…use science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, to suggest possible solutions.
This also teaches text to real world connections.
There are 5 Steps in the STEM process:
1.Define the problem and research.
2.Design your plan.
3.Build your plan.
4.Test your plan.
5.Improve your plan.
One help organization tip is to create your STEM stash. Here is our we organized ours.
Here are some great EASY STEM activities to begin the year.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a great place to start with STEM activities because it is so easy. First, we want to be sure children can identify the problem in this story...the tree wasn't strong enough to hold the letters! That means, the STEM challenge becomes, "Can you build a tree that will hold all of the letters?"
Depending on the time of year, or the age of the children, invite the children to complete the recording page. You may find it easier to enlarge and talk about it together!
Another great place to begin the year is with Family! In this book, "If the Shoe Fits", the old lady is looking for a place for her family to live. It is a take off of The Old Lady Who Lives in the Shoe.  Again, we ask, What is the problem? In this story, the old lady can't find a house big enough to hold all of the children.  That means, the challenge becomes, "Can you build a house that is big enough to hold the kids?"
 Since family is usually an earlier unit for us, I wanted to keep it simple. I just used folded and unfolded index cards and invited the children to build a house to hold the Lakeshore Kids.
 This was a fun craftivity that we did to record our steps for the STEM process!
Another unit that I usually do in the fall is Farm. In this delightful book, Who Sank the Boat?, the animals get in the boat and eventually the boat sinks. The problem, the boat will not hold all of the animals, is defined. Then, the children are challenged to build a boat to hold the animals? To keep it simple, they had only foil. I used gutters (like you put on your house) to make places to float the boats.  On the back of the animals I taped pennies...the largest animal with the most pennies and the smallest animal with the least pennies.
 We made this fun craftivitiy to record the steps of our process.
 Another great book for farm is One Duck Stuck.  In this story the duck is stuck in the mud and the animals are trying to figure out how to get him out! This is a super SIMPLE way to make pulleys with young children.  I printed a farm scene and placed it on top of a piece of foam board.  The children used spools and toothpicks to make the pulley. Then, we tied pieces of string to the ducks, wrapped the string around the spool, and pulled!
 You can't do a farm unit and not visit the Mrs. Wishy Washy series.  In Wishy Washy Day, the animals are hiding from Mrs. Wishy Washy because they do not want a bath!  To solve the problem, how to keep the animals where you can find them, the children used playdough, popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners to build fences.  I gave them plastic animals to add inside their fences.
 Then, in our booklet, the children recorded the different STEM steps we used to solve the problem.
 Then, we made this fun Mrs. Wishy Washy to hold our booklets!

Kim and I recently published a unit, Storytime STEM,  that contains these and other STEM Activities.
This unit provides lessons for you to incorporate a STEM activity with your read aloud. The first few pages give an overview of the steps you will need to take to successfully incorporate real world problems, identified in the literature, into a STEM activity.

There are 10 different selections of literature included:

The Three Pigs

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

If the Shoe Fits by Allison Jackson

The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler

Who Sank the Boat? By Pamela Allen

Aaaarrghh! Spider by Lydia Monks

One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root

Gorilla Loves Vanilla by Chae Strathie

Wishy Washy Day by Joy Cowley

Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman

For each book, there is a step by step guide to help you navigate through the activity. Color photos for each STEM activity are included as well. This will help “see” the activity in action.  Necessary recording pages, reproducibles, and craftivities for each activity are included.


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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Top Ten Organization Tips

Organization! Does it come easy for you or are you constantly trying to organize? Organization is important because it CAN increase instructional time! This blog post shares my Top 10 Organization Tips that will be sure to save you time!
Organization Tip Number 1: Organize student materials for easy access.  Carpet Bags have changed my life! Since our kids do not have assigned table seating, the carpet bags are an organizational system that allows the children to keep up with all of their supplies.  In the morning the children remove their bags from the baskets and place them on their carpet squares. The carpet bags hold all of the supplies that we are use during any large group instruction.
Here are some of the items we store in the bags. Carpet bags can save you tons of time! For example, if we are going to use a tens frame during math, we invite the children to look in their carpet bags and get out their spiral bound working mats and their collection of counters! Wala! Just like that, they are ready to begin instruction.
You can read about all the individual items we keep in the carpet bags in this blog post
All of these items, except for the calendar, are in our Pack It! Learn It! unit.  You can find it here.
The Pack It! Learn It! unit
The calendar notebook
I'm not going to lie, sometimes it looks like this! But I'm telling you, it is worth it!
Organization Tip Number2: Label materials for kids! I used Erica Bohrer's farmhouse labels to begin. Then, I just took my camera and snapped a picture of the things that are inside of each tub. I added the pictures to the label.  This makes it super easy for the kids to clean up independently.
I also label my resources. These tubs contain the math activities I use for each of the strands. They include the activities for the Math Manipulatives and for the Small Group Math Activities.  These units can be found here:
Math Manipulatives Bundle
Small Group Math Bundle
Organization Tip Number 3: Take advantage of hidden storage to hide your clutter.  By adding a curtain to hang over the open shelving, I can hide all kinds of things!
Don't forget to use your closets wisely. Label items and place them in clear storage or put a picture on the outside.  It makes it easier for the eye to find the needed items.
Organization Tip Number 4: Organize your daily materials.  We have a drawer for each day. On Friday, we fill up the drawers with ALL the things we will be using the following week.  Then, each morning all we have to do in remove the items from the drawer and we are ready to go.  The second stacker holds materials that need to be prepped, need to be put away, or are ready for us to use! Volunteers can help by removing items from the To Make drawer. As they finish prepping, they just move the items to the Ready drawer. I use the Put Away drawer to hold the things I am finished using until I have time to put them away correctly. This keeps the items from being stacked around the room. You can grab these labels for free at the bottom of the blog post.
Organization Tip Number 5: Repurpose Items. Placemats are great to define work spaces. When the children are engaged in an activity with lots of pieces, a placemat helps them keep up with what is theirs and what belongs to their neighbor.  A baby shoe bag works great to hang onto the back of your easel. It can hold all of the things that you use while charting! And, a rolling laundry basket makes a great container to hold all of your big books!
Organization Tip Number 6: Have a Panic Shelf.  Really this shelf should be called the "No need to Panic" shelf.  This shelf holds all of the things that I use during large group time.  It holds a set of magnetic letters, calendar pieces, transition tools, helper supplies, etc!  No longer need to hunt for these items! They are right there waiting on you!
Organization Tip Number 7: Organize your classroom library! Making books easy for kids to find is essential to positive experiences while shopping for books. You can read all about how we make that happen in this blog post.  This blog post also has some free labels and tags to help you with your leveled libraries.  You can find our interest or topic tags here.
Organization Tip Number 8: Find places for all of the small items! We love these storage containers we picked up at Wal-mart.  They are great for organizing all of your letter sets. These are our magnetic letters, but we also use the same kind of unit for foam letters, overhead tiles, etc. This makes it super easy for the kids to quickly find the letters they need to make words.  The other contain, the one with names, hold photos of each child. I take their pictures at the beginning of the year. Then, I reproduce copies of their photos and store them in the drawers. This makes is easy for the kids to make an All About the Author page in their writing. We also use them in other activities like counting, sorting, number combinations, etc!
Organization Tip Number 9: Rethink your seating.  Flexible Seating is a big buzz word right now! You can read about our take on flexible seating in this blog post.  When thinking seating, think storage at the same time.  We store our units in the sterile plastic tubs.  I took a few extra lids and cover them. Then, when we start a new unit, I simple remove the lid and add one of the covered lids! Now they make great seating options! OR how about paint buckets?! These buckets make great seating options and are great for storing things like headphones!
Organization Tip Number 10: label the areas in your classroom.  We have 5 areas in our classroom.  Each area contains different types of seating, different activities, and different things to look at! The kids rotate through the room spending one day a week in each of the 5 areas. This keeps the surroundings new and stimulating. We label each of the items that belong in the area. This helps kids get things put back to where they belong during clean up time!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Comprehension...Kindergarten Style

Let's talk comprehension....
There are many things going on in a kindergarten class while we are teaching kids to read. A beginning reader is learning how text works, how to quickly read sight words, and how to use  strategies to solve unknown words.  The first several levels of guided reading provide little opportunity for comprehension.  Let's face it...there isn't a lot to comprehend in, "See the dog. See the cat. See the bird.  See the pets."
However, at the same time, we are also sharing many selections of text with kids through read alouds and shared reading.  THIS is where we can work on comprehension! Here are a few things to keep in mind...
To be a fluent reader, two things are happening:
1. Children are developing accuracy and automaticity.
2. AND they are developing prosody. Prosody is the natural rhythm that comes with good reading.
To develop prosody we need to read wide and deep. Read the same pieces many times and read many different pieces. AND we need to say rhymes, sing songs, and engage in rhythmic activities.
Retelling is evidence of comprehension! Here are some fun ways to teach retelling!
After reading The Three Bears, the children are using the flow map to retell the story. When teaching retelling, we want to teach STRATEGY over STORY. The children might never read The Three Bears again. BUT, they will read many other selections of literature where a character travels through the story as the setting changes. SO, if we teach kids that if good readers sequence the settings as they appear in the story, they can use that to retell! Now, they can use that strategy in many selections of text, not just The Three Bears. We are teaching children to be Strategic Readers!
Love these little half-page books.  Simply round off the top corners of the booklet. Add eyes, ears, etc to make a character from the story.  Attach Goldilocks, the character that travels through the settings in the story, with a piece of ribbon, yarn, or string.  Invite the children to draw the settings on each page of the booklet. Now, they can retell the story as they turn the pages and place Goldilocks to the setting! Here's another important nugget....there is no need for children to try to remember or guess the sequence of settings. Instead, we want to teach children to go back to the text to find the evidence to support the sequence! This means, the text needs to be available!
Another way to retell, use a flow map and invite the children to draw the sequence of settings.
Or, depending on the child or time of year, the children can use their words to retell the story. The Three Bears Activity is part of our Reader's Workshop Series.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider provides another opportunity to practice this strategy. In the nursery rhyme we all know that the spider crawls on the water spout, but there are many things a spider can crawl on. I went through my clip art and collected all of the things I thought a spider might crawl up.  I made each one into a necklace. Then, I collected a dollar store spider, made a sun, and made a rain wand.
I invited children to "wear" the various settings. As we repeat the rhyme (repeated reading develops prosody), I manipulated the spider, sun, and rain wand. 
You can then invite the children to select three settings for the spider. Draw the settings in each frame of the response page. Tie a spider to the paper using a piece of string, yarn or ribbon. The children can repeat their rhyme as the spider travels through the various settings.
This activity, as many as others, are included in our Retelling Unit.
Here is a fun book that you can use to start the year! In this story, I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books, we teach the children to sequence the events of the story just like we taught them to sequence the settings. Once they have the events in order, retelling the story is super easy! I used a clip art image of an old lady's head. Then, I cut out the mouth and glued to the front of a bag. Cut out the mouth in the bag. Now, as you retell the story, "feed" the events into the mouth.
We made a smaller version in black and white for the children to use to retell.  Once you have finished the activity don't be so quick to send home the prop. Instead, place the retelling activity inside of their bag or box of books. Invite the children to use the prop to retell the story during read to self and read to others. You can grab the Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books as a free file below!

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