KinderGals: July 2015

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Classroom Library: Level, Organize, Sort and Shop

How organized is your classroom library? It's one of those things that we MEAN to get around to, but it always seems to get pushed to the back of the list.  This blog post gives you some easy tips to organize your library. It shares apps and free files that will help you out!
Yep! That’s what my kitchen has looked like for most of the summer. (Wondering how I cook? Well, no problem there….I NEVER cook! Either I eat cereal, my son cooks, or I eat out! Not the best health plan, right?) So why did it look like that? Megan and Ginnny (my daughter in law) BOTH have new libraries to organize.
Megan changed schools AND grade level and Ginny changed grade level. I think we sorted, leveled, labeled and taped over 8,000 books!  (On Friday I did a periscope in Megan’s room about her library, hope you caught it.)
Here’s what we did…
  1. First, we found these two apps in our app store. Now the Level It app did cost, $3.99, but it’s a pretty good app, We were able to find levels on over half of our books by using these two apps. After downloading the apps, you just scan the barcode on the back of the books. It’s really pretty simple, just takes time.
2 As we found the levels, we stacked the books into piles…all the A’s together, all the B’s together, etc. Any book without a level--we put them in a separate stack.
3. We took all of the Level A books and sorted them, fiction and nonfiction.  We did that for each level.
3. Then, we organized all of our fiction books in these storage containers--by their level. You can get these free leveled tags in this blog post.
Slide34. Then, we did the same for our nonfiction books. Note to self: Look for more nonfiction leveled text! Each of the leveled books has a label that indicates the level.
Slide65. Then, we tackled that pile of books that we were unable to find the  level using either app. We sorted these books by their topic. We want our kids to be able to shop for books that are good fit because they are high interest, not just level! I always think about my little boys. They want so badly to read a book about dinosaurs or sharks or trains. But, there aren’t really any good non-fiction low level books on these topics. They can read these books by gaining information through the photographs, diagrams, and other illustrations.
6. Then we took each topic stack and sorted them by fiction and nonfiction. On each book we put a label to match the hanging tag. This makes it super easy to put the books away! On the nonfiction books we added a yellow dot and wrote “NF”. This will help the kids know to which area they should return their books.
Here’s what those labels look like. You can find the labels and tags here.
7. Then we took the books that fit into categories like Nursery Rhymes, Math Books, Rhyming, Science, Art, etc and organized them into this section. Now, this section is still under construction. We have moved the favorite characters and authors out. We are resorting the math books by standards to make them easier to use. You can get the math labels here as a free download.
8. This is the section where we organized our favorite characters and authors. Now, we know that this will probably change during the year as we get to know our kids. When we find someone that they are crazy about reading, we will move that collection into a tub and label them for ease.
9. Our last section is the books that are related to what we will be teaching right NOW. So as we come to a new unit, we go to the fiction and nonfiction topic areas and bring those books to display on this shelf. After teaching the topic, we return the books back in the bins and return them to their shelf.
Yes, we know….we are lucky to have SOOOOOO many books! I have collect books for 30 years and Megan has been collecting for 7! That’s a lot of books. On top of that, her school actually has a pretty good library for each room. As a matter of fact, we had more books than would fit. So we took the levels that we are thinking will be too easy or too hard and moved them to this hidden storage shelf. After the year begins and we complete our running records we will move books out as needed.
How Do Our Kids Know What, How, Where, When to Shop?
  • Book shopping is part of our morning routine.
  • Each day 1/5 of our class shops.
  • When it is their day to shop, I put this “shopping” list on the spot where they find their other morning work.
  • The kids look at the list to determine which book areas to visit, how many books in each area they should find, and when applicable which level.
  • I’ve made several different tags so that I can determine how many books I am going to let them shop for.
  • Early on, I might select some books for them and let them shop for a few. This will greatly reduce the amount of time they spend shopping. It about drove me crazy when after 20 minutes they only had 2 books in their bag. So I start them with the “shopping” list with fewer selections. I can also adjust the number of books in each area by changing the numeral I write.
You can grab the free shopping list below.
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Friday, July 17, 2015

Easy Interventions: What Do You Do When They Still Don’t Get It!

We all have them….kids we have tried every trick we know and yet they STILL don’t get it! So, what can we do? Here are some things that I think about:
  • First…we have to do formative assessments! How else are we even going to know who knows what they need. I’m not talking about those tests on Friday. I’m talking about ongoing, day in and day out, assessments.
  • Next…we need to think about how we have already taught the standard. Have we taught it in large group and small group? Have we thought about interests and learning styles? Have we engaged the kids? Are we using research based best practices?
  • Then, lastly….we have to think about who to use the intervention with. Do you ever call kids to your table and think, “Oh, this isn’t going to be good.”? Sometimes I think we use interventions on kids who aren’t even ready for it! So we need to think…do kids have the pre-requisites? Use interventions on the kids who will benefit most!
Here are a few interventions you might find helpful at the beginning of the year:
What do we do when they don’t know the alphabet?
  • First, run copies to make this book and the clip art pictures. These are a free download. Scroll to the bottom of this post to grab this FREE download.
  • Staple the pages together to make a book and put the clip art pieces in a baggie.
  • Now, glue the pictures in for all the letters they know, capital or lower case.
  • Then, invite them to read the book to you by saying each letter and naming the picture. They only do the pages with a picture.
  • Add 3 new pictures for them to work on. As they learn these, add more.
Detailed directions are also on the download.
Here’s one more….What do we do when they are the ONLY one who still doesn’t have a skill?Slide61
I made a bag for each of my kids and these simple task cards.
Simply drop the card in their bag if they haven’t mastered the skill. Now, if you have 4 or more kids who haven’t mastered a skill you wouldn’t want to put those cards in a bag. That is enough kids to still call for small group. 
I have a parent volunteer who helps me with this. In the morning she just stays for about 15-20 minutes and goes through the bags with one kid at a time.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday…Setting Up Your Math Centers (A New Freebee)

Here’s a post I did last year on setting up your Math Centers! I did add a freebee…so keep reading!
It seems that we all give our language arts block lots of attention and time and it seems that often math is something that happens very quickly in a large group setting.
So what if we gave math the same degree of attention in planning and time as we do reading, writing, centers….?
The biggest hurdle seems to be in the setting it up and managing the workshop time.
So here are some of our tips to manage and operate Math Workshop:
1. Start off with a mini lesson.
*The lesson follows a predictable pattern.
*Active Engagement
*Repeat the same words for each part of the workshop every day.
*Keep it short and sweet, like 10 minutes sweet.
2. After the mini lesson we move to our math centers. I run 5 centers:
*Number and Algebraic Thinking
*Number and Operations
Each week we plan a “Have-To” activity for each of these 5 areas.
What is a “Have-To”?
*Something that everyone has to do.
*A review of previously taught standards.
*An activity that they have done something similar in the past.
*It is NEVER a new teach, only a review.
Here’s how they rotate with their “family” or group. One area each day. We use plastic shoe box tube 6o store the “have to” centers—one set for literacy and one set for math.
Slide8When they are done with the “have-to” then, they chose from the “can-dos”.
What is a “can-do”?
*Songs Books. (I have made a lot of Shari Sloane’s School is Cool songs and Get Ready into little music books.) I put a cd pocket on the back and burn just that song onto the cd. So it’s like a listening center of math music.
*Math Books. I pull all the math books out of my collection and divide it into 5 tubs. That makes a tub for each of the 5 areas.
Scroll to the bottom to grab this FREE Library Label download.
*Games that have been taught.
We store the “can-dos” in these 3 drawer stacks. There is one of them in each of the 5 areas to hold the choices.
While the kids are working in their centers, I pull small group.
*I pull children from each of the center areas to come to my table.
*I look at what standard I am teaching, then group the children according to where they are on that particular standard.
*So…these groups are fluid…constantly changing depending on what standard I am teaching.
*This is where the new learning occurs.
*It may reinforce what you did in your mini lesson or be an activity for a different standard in the same strand.
My friend Michele and I decided to write units for each month to help us with our small groups. We wanted to  be sure that we could do one activity and just modify it to meet the needs of all of our kids. LESS WORK! We finished two units this summer because we knew that we would be busy with the beginning of the year.
UPDATE: We did finish all of the units this year!
3. Share Time. Here is where we come back to the carpet to review what we did that day during math. It is also the time when I build my anchor charts to review what we did in our mini lesson.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

4 Easy Steps: Reader’s Workshop Mini Lesson--Video Clips and Freebee

Hey Guys! I thought I would share a few video clips today of a Reader’s Workshop Mini Lesson that I did in Megan’s room last year.  I hope that seeing the video will help you see just how easy it is! Here are the 4 steps, each with a video clip, for a Reader’s Workshop Mini Lesson. Oh….and remember that these lessons are short and sweet. They should only last 10 minutes!
readers workshop 1
First step, connect to prior knowledge. This gets all of the kids in the same place! They are all building on whatever you taught them yesterday in your mini lesson and not on something you taught them last week. By using the same words each time the brain knows what is coming! “The brain learns by pattern, but seeks novelty!”  Here is what that looks like:
readers workshop 2
Second step, teach the new concept. It is important that we remember to model exactly what we want the kids to do. During modeling we want to share our thinking. Tell them how you figured it out. What were you saying in your head?  Share it all with them! Then, show them how it will look when it is their turn. Here is a video clip of that part:
readers workshop 3
Third step, active engagement. This is where the kids have their turn. Here are a few things about active engagement:
  • They practice whatever you taught them RIGHT on the carpet. We don’t want to send them off to their seat or another spot to practice.
  • This will be a time when you are seeking 100% engagement, so use elbow partners instead of asking for kids to raise their hands.
  • You will “listen in” as the children are talking. Ask yourself, “who is getting it? Who do I need to call to my small group for further practice? Was the lesson effective or do I need to think of a different way to teach this concept?
Here is what that part looks like:
readers workshop 4
The final step, Link. Here is where we remind kids of what good readers do. We are basically restating the standard for the lesson. Then, we want the kids to turn and repeat these words to their partner. This helps to build that academic vocabulary.  I usually build my anchor charts during the Link. When I first started Reader’s Workshop, I would build my anchor charts during the teach portion of the lesson. Then, I found myself forgetting to do it! This way I remember and it is a good way to restate the standard one more time!
Here is what that part looks like:
Here is an anchor chart from the first unit we teach, Blasting Off! At the beginning of the year, it is important to teach the expectations for the mini lesson. So…since we are thinking Back to School, scroll to the bottom to snag this FREE We are Ready to Learn Anchor Chart.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Setting Up for Differentiated Instruction

Several years ago I did a one day seminar named “DI for the Little Guy”.  So, how excited was I when I was asked to do it again in Vegas. So I did a little sprucing up and it’s ready to go.
I remember when DI became a buzz word. I had a really hard time trying to figure out exactly what it was. This wasn't because I couldn't do it in a kindergarten classroom, it was because I was ALREADY doing it in a kindergarten classroom. Chances are you are too! Just because of the age of our learners differentiation occurs naturally. DI isn't a list of activities that you do! It is the WAY you conduct business! It is how you deliver instruction. Here are a few things I think about....
How do you group your kids? Here’s my thinking.
I want groups that work well together. Groups that are mixed abilities, mixed gifts, mixed personalities, some leaders and some followers. I think which children will work well together and not play? They wouldn’t necessarily choose to play with these friends. But,when it’s time to work, they get it done! I call these their “families”. They go to math centers and literacy centers with these kids. Anytime I want them to work on a group project, these are the kids they work with.
But, what about instruction? How can I work with these mixed groups of abilities and plan activities are that differentiated? I don’t! These are not their instructional groups. Here’s what I do:
  1. Conduct formative assessments on the standard you are teaching.
  2. Group children according to the results.
  3. As kids are working in centers, go to each area and “collect” the kids you want based on these results.
  4. After you are finished, they return back to their center group area and you pick your second group.
My kids know they have a family group, but they do not know they are in any other groups. My instructional groups aren’t named like when I was in school. Remember? Red birds and Blue birds? That’s because these groups are always changing depending on which standard I am teaching! 
We are also talking about how to differentiate your centers. Here’s my thinking:
  1. Centers are used so that children can work independently while you pull small group.
  2. Centers provide for maintenance of previously learned materials.
So here’s what I do:
  1. I developed 5 center areas, one for each of the math strands.
  2. I put a “have to” activity in each area that is a previously taught skill.
  3. The “have to” activity is an activity they have done before, just maybe with a different manipulative.
  4. Once they finish the “have to”, there are “can dos” that are more open ended where each child creates learning based on their own knowledge and interest.
Another thing we are talking about is getting kids with their “good fit” books.
Here’s what I am thinking:
  • I want kids to have books that are at their right level.
  • I want the kids to be able to read about what they are interested in.
  • It takes kids a while to be able to determine if a book is at their right level.
  • I DO NOT want book shopping to take FOREVER!
I have a huge classroom library. And I want kids to have access to all of those books. You can read all about my classroom library organization here. So here’s what I did:
  • They may choose books for the “topic tubs” to place in their bag of books. That means if they love dinosaurs they can go to the “dinosaur tub” and select a few books (you can determine how many books they can select.)
  • Until they are able to look through the topic tubs to select books that are their right level, I give them a little help here.
    1. At one time I just put all the “A’s” in a tub, all the “B’s” in a tub, and so on. But it took them forever to choose books this way.
    2. So, I took all the “A” books and put them in piles.
    3. Each pile has 6 books.
    4. All 6 books have the same topic.
    5. Any books that do not fit group, are all put together and placed in a “surprise” pile.
    6. Each pile is placed inside of a ziploc bag.
    7. Now, the kids just choose one bag with 6 books.
    8. Easy Peasy!
Here are some tags to put on the tubs for your leveled books. You can find these in a free file at the bottom of this blog post.
This year Megan is moving to 2nd! We are a little nervous and a little excited for her to start this new journey. So in addition to all of our other library areas, we created a new year that has leveled books. This is a picture of her leveled fiction library. We also made another area with leveled nonfiction books I just forgot to snap the picture. We are planning a post for next week on how we set up our entire library.

    The last part of the day is all about interventions. What do you do when you have tried everything you know? Here is an easy ABC book idea that I adapted from Maria Clay (the Reading Recovery Founder).
    Here’s what you do:
    1. Have children cut apart of page of clip art pictures, one picture or each letter. Put these in a baggie.
    2. Reproduce the ABC book.
    3. Now, abc test your child.
    4. Every letter they know, capital or lower case, have them glue the picture that matches that letter.
    5. After you have in all the letters they know, add pictures to three more letters they need to learn.
    6. Put post it notes on those three pages.
    How to Use The Book:
    1. Invite the children to read the book to you.
    2. To read the book, they turn to each page. If there is a picture on the page, they point to the capital letter and say the name, point to the lower case letter and say the name, and then name the picture.
    3. If there is no picture on the page, they skip that page.
    4. When they get to the pages with the post it notes, if they do not know the letter you point to the letters and name them.
    5. If they DO know the letter, remove the post it note and hold on to it.
    6. After they finish reading, put the post it note you removed on a new letter.
    You can get the abc book as a free download in this blog post.

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    Wednesday, July 8, 2015

    Setting Up for Back to School and FREE STEM Cards

    Have you heard of my Back to School Seminar? Everything is about getting ready to go back to school. Whether you are a new teacher or one that has been teaching 30 years or more, there is nothing as magical or exhausting as the first day. Sometimes you just survive! Here are a few of my favorite ideas. Be sure and read to the bottom to find a freebee.Slide11
    First things…get started setting up the environment.
    1. One thing we like to do is to take pictures of our kids with their families during Open House. Now, the term “family” means different things to different people. So, in this case I am defining it this way… “Your family is whomever comes with you to Open House.” 
    2. Collect some frames. I got mine from the dollar store.
    3. Print the pictures and add them to the frames before that first day of school!
    Parents love to see their photos in your room. It also shows that you “have it together”!  It is easier to handle difficult situations with parents when they think you are fabulous. Use that time during those first few encounters to show your “fabulousness”!
    Slide14Next: getting ready to teach. Here are some of my favorite ideas for organizing for teaching.
    Writer’s Workshop Writing Folders
    Here are some things to keep in mind when setting up storage for writing folders.
    • Make a hanging file folders for each child. Their actual writing folder is stored inside the hanging folder. Why?
      1. This makes it easy for kids to “find” their folder. Nothing wastes time as much as kids looking through their desk to find their folder!
      2. It makes it easy for kids to find their folder without having to dig through a pile of folders. They just find their name on the hanging folder, reach inside and pull theirs out!
      3. By placing them in hanging folders they can easily be moved from one plastic storage tub to another.
      4. Use three tubs so that when it is Writer’s Workshop time, you can spread the tubs into 3 different locations in your room. Now, all of your kids will not be going to the same location to find their folder.
      5. Also, by having them in 3 tubs, you can differentiate! Place the children who have similar writing abilities in the same tub. Now, provide paper that best fits their needs and abilities. Now as the children learn, you can easily differentiate by moving their folders!
    • Use one color of hanging folder to house the children’s writing folders. Use another color of hanging file folders to house paper and tools. This way the kids know where to look for what!
    Want to know more about organizing for Writer's Workshop? Check out this post for details!
    Then, I think about getting reader’s workshop started. Here is the first question we want to answer: “Can all kids read?” If we say reading is bringing meaning to the page, then the answer is yes. So, when my 18 month old grandson picked up “Old MacDonald” and said, “eieiei moo moo”, he was reading!
    I want the kids to see themselves as readers from the very beginning! So I do a series of mini lessons about the different ways we can read.  After these 3 different lessons, the kids do their first book shopping from the books that we used for active engagement during these lessons.
    Want to know more about Reader's Workshop? Check out this post with details and video clips.
    Now it's time to think about getting literacy centers started. One thing I will share is about being sure that you have a balance of centers for reading, writing, and word work. Make a list of your centers and divide them into these three areas. Are they balanced? Often when we think of differentiating, we only think about “What level are they?” But, the WAY in which children learn is also part of differentiating.
    Want to know more about how we set up literacy centers? This post has all the details!
    And today’s freebee is this set of STEM cards to use in your block center. I made an Engineering Book for my block area. As the children created their structures, I take a picture. Later, I print them out and have the kids tell me about what they constructed.
    I also made some cards that the kids can use to sort items. I don't put all of the cards in the block area at one time. I will put just one set at a time. For example, I might just have the transportation cards this week.
    I also use these tasks cards. They ask the children to build certain types of structures. These are great for our STEM days!

     I also made this "idea" card. This provides them with ideas of things that they can construct.
    And lastly, I made this "How To" book. Here I have my kids tell me the steps they took to build their structures.

     They are great for STEM!
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