KinderGals: February 2015

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Building Brain Power through Brainstorming and Discussing

Marcia Tayte tells us “when people open their mouths to speak, they send more oxygen to the brain.”   What are we doing to get our kids talking? Here are a few ideas….
Turn and Talk
I think we have probably all heard of  “turn and talk”. Whenever we want the kids to engage in conversation, we invite the children to turn and talk with their elbow partner. Lots of modeling was needed for our kids to learn how to engage in conversation on a given topic!!!
What is an elbow partner?
  • Elbow partners are assigned and they keep the same one all year.
  • Elbow partners sit beside each other on the carpet.
  • Elbow partners are cognitively similar.
Lean and Tell
  • They also use their elbow partner for “Lean and Tell.”
  • Lean and Tell is used when there is a quick response.
  • We use this instead of having our kids raise their hands to answer.
  • This allows for active engagement of everyone.
Marcia tells us, “students who have opportunities to brainstorm a variety of ideas with their peers without the fear of criticism or sarcasm are those who naturally improve their comprehension and higher-order thinking skills.”
Developing Families
Another strategy that Marcia talks about is using “families”. I love my family set up!
Here’s how I do it:
  • Each family has a group of kids who work well together, without playing.
  • Each family has all abilities.
  • Each family has a natural leader.
  • Spread out the children who are “talkers” or more active children.
  • Children work with their families for centers and any time we are doing group activities.
Each family has a meeting area. When I need them to get with their families, they know where to go!
Working With Partners
  • During Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop kids work with a partner.
  • These partners are based on running records for reading and rubrics for writing.
  • Partners are “close” to the same level.
  • New partners are assigned every two weeks.
  • Partners have their “private working area” in the same location as their partner working area.
  • This way, no one has to move when we transition to partner time.
  • We use this chart to help us keep up with partners.
  • We have one for reading and one for writing.
  • When I first started having kids work with partners, I was frustrated.  I would tell them to “read with their partners” but they were simply sitting side by side not engaged.
  • So that’s when we developed these two anchor charts. We spend a week on each chart. We model each technique and have time for them to practice right there in the lesson. 
  • Marcia tells us, “When students talk about a topic, they will understand it better because their brains not only mental process the information but also verbally process it.”
Here’s my summary….
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Which Teacher Would You Rather Be?

Slide3Wow! Just started reading the book, “Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites”  while on the airplane to California. This question, “Which teacher would you rather be?”, was asked on the second page! Makes me really stop and think about what kind of teacher I am and which kind I want to be.  Just by reading the book introduction, I am already feeling motivated and excited!
I think back to when I first became a teacher over 30 years ago. Do you recognize this machine? What color are the pages?
Why do the kids have the pages up to their noses?
Just like most teachers, I “ran” my fair share of dittos and more recently “copied” my share of printables.  Everything in moderation, right? But, I didn’t become a teacher to pass papers to children.  So why did I become a teacher, more specifically a kindergarten teacher? Because I love kids! I wanted to play, talk, interact…all things that are more difficult to do with a piece of paper between us.
I am so excited about this book study. It is a good reminder of the things I am doing right or things I “use” to do but have quit doing. It also promise to teach me a few new tricks!
Here are a few of the key points that I have already picked up, just from the introduction!
  • “When students are actively engaged in experiences with content, they stand a better chance of learning and remembering what we want them to know.”
  • “Worksheets and lectures teach lower level concepts.”
  • Teachers are gardeners.  “Every time students learn something new in their classroom, they grow a new brain cell, known as a dendrite.”
  • Lessons should “incorporate multiple modalities.”
  • “If students do not learn the way we teach, we must teach them the way they learn.”
  • “Every student comes to school with an inherent gift…it is the teachers job to unwrap this gift.”
This book contains:
  • Activities that “increase academic achievement for all.”
  • Activities that “decrease behavior problems by minimizing the boredom.”
  • Activities that “make teaching and learning fun for all grades.”

Be sure and come back to follow along with the book study. Here is the schedule! To say I am excited is a little bit of an understatement!!
Kickin it in Kindergarten- Chapters 1 &2 (February 28th)
Mrs. Wills Kindergarten- Chapter 3 (March 7th)
Queen of the First Grade Jungle Chapter 4 (March 10th)
Fabulous in First Chapter 5 (March 14th)
One Extra Degree Chapter 6 (March 17th)
Mrs. Jump's Class Chapter 7 (March 28th)
The First Grade Parade Chapter 8 (March 31st)
In April, you will be visiting these girls for the remainder of the study:
Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Chapter 9 &10 (April 4th)
What The Teacher Wants Chapter 11 (April 7th)
First Grader At Last Chapter 12 (April 11th)
Erica's Ed Ventures Chapter 13 (April 14th)
KinderGals Chapter 14 &15 (April 18th)
A Rocky Top Teacher Chapter 16 (April 21st)
Mrs. Wills Kindergarten Chapter 17 (April 25th)
Little Warriors Chapter 18 (April 28th)
Falling Into First Chapter 19 (May 2nd)
Kickin' it in Kindergarten Chapter 20 (May 5th)
You can join in for whatever part you like! If you are not a blogger, that is OK! We will want you to join in on the fun. You can participate in the conversation in the comments. We want this to be a positive collaboration between teachers! The whole point is to encourage each other with inspiring ideas while still using research based best practice.
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to Save Ink!

If only there was an "ink" genie! You know, someone who would supply us with an endless set of ink cartridges. Since most of us don't have that....this post shares how I print full color pages and save ink at the same time.
Slide7Here was our problem….we wanted a way to teach the same non-fiction features and science or social studies concepts to ALL of our kids while still being able to provide them with text that was “close” to their  “just right” level.
So here’s what we did:
  • We looked at each month to see what we were teaching.
  • We picked 5 topics to fit our standards for science or social studies.
  • We wrote a non-fiction text at three different levels-intervention, on target and challenge- to fit each those standards.
  • We used the same pictures, the same non-fiction features, and the same science or social studies concepts in all three levels.
  • We created printables for practicing the non-fiction feature, word recognition, and phonics/phonemic awareness skills.
  • We created pages that provide our kids with the opportunity to practice the non-fiction feature in their own writing.
So….now the problem of printing….they are full color! Here are a few suggestions to help with that:
  • You can always print in black and white. There are many photography books that are specifically in black and white!
  • You can print the books in various sizes to fit your needs and ink restrictions.
I posted this some time ago to show how you can print pages in various sizes. Here is a review.
  • Pull down your print menu and select the page numbers you want to print. Then, click on multiple.
  • Then, adjust the numbers to print the number of game boards you want on each page. You can print 2 per page, 4 per page, etc.
  • The picture at the top of the post shows what it looks like when we printed the same book in all three sizes.
  • I print one copy of the challenge level large.
  • I can use the large version with my shared reading and as a way to guide discussion for the other two levels.
  • My friend Bert started printing her books on the 1/4 page. I was using the 1/2 page. So I tried her way! And… is plenty big enough! More ink, cardstock and laminating….saved!
We did bundle all the guided reading units it that is easier for you.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Calendar Time: Teach ALL Your Math Standards

Do you do calendar with your children? I remember when Common Core came out, the decision was made to remove calendar from our schedule because there weren't any calendar standards.  But, the calendar has never been about calendar standards in the first place! Calendar has always been about developing number sense.  The calendar is a tool, just like a pattern block or a ruler. It is something we can use to teach many concepts.  My friend Shari Sloane and I worked together to create an entire yearly curriculum to go along with the calendar. We wrote directions, plans, and standards for each component. Then, we made a calender notebook for each child. The children are actively engaged in applying the standards.  Here are a few slides to show you what we do! ***By the way, we did update the calendar from the original version. If you purchased on tpt, go to your My Purchase section and downloaded the updated version.
Higher order questions are used to guide discussion about each part of the calendar.Slide48Slide46Slide50
This is questions for just a few parts of the calendar. We wrote questions for each part! can you ask all those questions, do all those pages and it not take an hour!?!?!?!  Here’s what we do….
  • When we start at the beginning of the year, we are not doing every page.
  • Pages are added gradually over the months.
  • Each month they become faster at the pages previously introduced so it moves quickly.
  • We pick a few parts of the calendar to talk about each day. For example, on Monday we may really focus on the weather graph and how many days we have been in school. Then, on Tuesday we may focus on the calendar grid and the dice roll.
  • We don’t try to ask questions about every page, every day.
  • On the pages we aren’t asking questions about, we simply record the information and move on.
Like I said, this was one of my very first tpt items. So needless to say, it was in need of a major update. Here’s what we did:
  • We updated the look with cuter graphics and frames.
  • We also added pages so that we now have the pages for every month.
  • We added more song and book suggestions.
  • We also added the standards.
What is in the unit?
  • Pages for the calendar notebook—calendar grid, hands and tally marks, dice roll, weather graph, days in school, day of the week, temperature, clocks, months, seasons, days, name games for helpers,….
  • We also included pages with directions.
  • Higher order questions are included for the various parts of the calendar.
  • There are suggested activities for each month.
I know that calendar isn’t a common core standard, but that isn’t the point. The calendar is used as a tool to teach tons of number concepts!
Slide1 Slide3
One of my good friends, uses our calendar on her smart board (This is the older version! The new version is sooooo much cuter, Thanks Melonheadz!)Slide63
But…you can also use the notebook along with your more traditional calendar.Slide9
Have a great snow day to all my southern friends!
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Student Led Conferences Round 2

So have you tried Student Led Conferences yet? This is Round 2 in Megan’s room.  You can read about the first conferences at this post on Blog Hoppin. So when Megan started thinking about how she wanted to do the conferences this time, here were a few things she thought about:
  • She wanted to have more conferences going on at one time.
  • She wanted the children to really take charge.
  • She wanted the conferences to focus on what she was teaching and the routines in which they were taught.
So we thought about the different areas of the day, which ones would the children be able to explain to their parents, and which ones would the parents be able to take home and REALLY use to help their children.
Then, Megan made a series of instruction cards to set up centers for the children and parents to move through.
Our first station was for morning work. We wanted our parents to know why they might not necessarily have lots of  “paper” coming home. In the morning we don’t want to  reproduce tons of worksheets that we will have to grade later. So…we do our picture sorting and our journals in the morning.  At Station 1 the children taught their parents how to sort their picture cards.
While some children were sorting the cards, other children were doing a “blind sort”. Children doing the “blind sort”, have completed the picture sort accurately the day before. (This may take several attempts over the series of several days.)So now they are going to sort using the same sounds, just different pictures. Can they apply what they know to new words? We do the blind sorts as a cut and paste so that we can save them as documentation. They do one sort each day.
We came up with an easy to use system to keep up with where the kids are.  On the front of their folder, we listed all of the sorts. We circle the sort they are working on. After they have developed an understanding of the sort, we have them do a blind sort. Once they can do the “blind sort”, we cross it out and circle the next sort.  Each child is sorting pictures that are just right for them. Some are working on beginning sounds, some blends, some vowels.  Everyone is “spot on” for what they need. In the directions, Megan tells the parents to notice the front of the folder to see where their child is working. Once they are proficient on the picture sort, they move to the blind sort, if not they repeat that same picture sort again the next day.
In station 2, we had the children show the parents the carpet bags. By this time, I am sure you know about the bags. WE blog about them LOTS! And that’s because we just love them!
The carpet bag holds all of the things that we use for our whole group teaching, all of which occurs on the rug.  These items along, with others are a great time saver! (This is our Pack it Learn it unit.) This time we wanted to focus on just a few of the items in the bag.
In Station 3 we wanted parents to see how we differentiate our math.
As we are learning number combinations, the children each wear a necklace. We punch out the combinations where they are already fluent. So now, when the children get to the station, they look down at their name tag and know which number they need to practice. 
So the children taught the parents how they look at their name tag to decide which number combination they need to practice. Then, they taught them how to play one of the games we played last week using that combination. (This is the DI: Easy as Pie Series.)
In station 4 we wanted to show our parents ESGI. Have you heard about it? OH MY WORD! It is an amazing system that provides assessments and tracks all the data for you!!!
Megan wanted to show her parents how she was using the data to help her children set goals. Oh my! To hear those kids explain it to the parents…priceless! We hung the goals in the cubbies. (I got this idea from my great friend Bert Holt!) We use ESGI as our assessment tool.  To learn more about it go to ESGI. Type in "adsit" as the code to save! You can try it free for two months, but be sure and use the code in case you decide to purchase later!
At station 5 we wanted to spotlight writing. Megan is working on non fiction writing. She taught the children the strategy we use for helping children determine if they are an expert on a topic. You can see that video clip here.
So each child shared their writing folder with their parents. They demonstrated their understanding of non fiction text, how to determine if you are an expert, and then how their record their thinking through words and illustrations. (This is from our Building Writers Unit.)
At our last station we wanted the kids to teach their parents how they are developing number and operations. (We used the games from our Math Attack Series.)
The children taught the parents how they found their pocket, looked to see what they needed to work on, and then played the game.
This is a copy of the front of the pocket. We use library pockets, and stand are them up in a basket. This makes it easy for the kids to find their pocket. The front of the pocket is our tracking system. We know where each child is working, and and so do they!
So, how did Megan manage all this? She set up a schedule for 6 parents to come during one of the following times: literacy centers, math centers, reader’s workshop, or math workshop. She picked times when the kids were all working independently. Instead of calling a small group herself, she kept herself free to monitor both the other children and the conferences.  It was a crazy, tiring day, but soo worth it!
Have you tried Student Led Conferences? What were your success? What were the challenges?  Megan is planning for one more round of conferences in the spring so we would love to hear how you have used them!
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