Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November's Three Picked Pins

It's time to link up with my favorite Pick 3 Pins Linky. This month I highlight writers' workshop.

I've used the resource ideas from all three of these pins in the last month of school. I bet you've covered these concepts, too, but reviewing with a new anchor chart is always a good idea, so I put them in this post to use in November. Click on the images so you can pin or go to the sites.

My first pick comes from my friend Carolyn at Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together.

Labeling is such a good first step to get kindergarten kids writing with letters. I made an anchor chart like this one with my kiddos to demonstrate labeling.

The second anchor chart I made with the kids was this one.

Hearing the sounds in words is HUGE in kindergarten. We simply cannot practice it enough. This is just one of several ideas I used.  Thanks to Chart Chums for the idea. If you don't have Marjorie and Kristine's book, I suggest you check it out at their blog.

Third for me is this little baby... which is certainly not a baby idea.

Each year I sort of clench my teeth, grin, and get to it. I don't know why the whole partner thing makes me cringe, because once partners are underway it all goes fine. I just need to get over it as a teacher and trust the system- which for my district is the Lucy Calkins' Units of Study. This particular anchor chart highlights a good way to begin with partners, as no writing is involved. Instead the focus is on oral storytelling which is the true first step to writing. This anchor helps the kiddos a lot.  It comes from Nancy at First Grade Wow. I think Nancy gets the distinction of most generous blogger on the web because she has tremendous freebies. Absolutely check her out by clicking on the picture above.

This month I'm adding a bonus fourth pin because I am happy to have found it again just now... you really do need to puruse your own Pin Boards occasionally– eyeroll. I will use this in upcoming days as we focus more on telling the story well. No, my kinders will not be able to write like this, but having this example to use, either printed out or just for me to share orally at this point in the year, will help me teach details. I want to pin it here so I remember it in the next week or two. It comes from Hooty's Homeroom.

The whole pin includes a fourth level in the example.

Eventually when we circle back around to narrative writing in the later part of the year some of my kiddos will be able to use this four star rubric to give a boost to their own writing.

Well, those are my pins for the month. I hope you'll stop by my Pinterest Board by clicking below. I love Pinterest and use it quite a bit. I learn a lot from what others pin, so if you follow me, I'll follow you. Happy Pinning!

Head on back to the Linky Party and find more great ideas. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pondering Moments to Connect

I sat on the edge of the sandbox on a glorious Michigan fall morning last week. The temps meant we needed light jackets, but the sun was streaming down and the trees were on fire with their red and gold. We were full of vim and vigor as everyone anticipated the upcoming big candy Halloween night, so this outside movement break was even more necessary than usual if we were to get any inside work done. I sniffed the fall air and was glad at that particular moment to have this job.

As I sat, my kiddos stopped one after another to touch base with me. One showed me his new coat with special sleeve holders– an ingenious new invention for keeping sleeves in place when taking on and off coats. Another one needed to touch parts of my coat to compare with parts of hers, both of us enjoying the different textures and words we could come up with to describe them. Yet another told me a story about his brother Sam, which included his brother Ram and Blam... I'm not saying it was a true story. A couple more ran by talking about their costumes and wanted to know what mine was going to be on the big night... yes, I have one.

Even as I encouraged each little person to go on with their run and play time while they had it, it occurred to me that these brief three-minute check-ins were just as important as everything else in the day. Most teachers will tell you, and the research will back up the fact, that our teaching is based on relationships. The more we connect with our kids and the more they connect with us, the more they will learn their reading, writing, and arithmetic.

And yet our days are so hectic. The best of us have every minute planned, every activity and objective at our fingertips. We pace with the curriculum and keep records on our students at all times, especially the struggling kids.  In addition to reading groups, we carve out minutes for writers workshop, guided math, social studies, science, health, and don't forget special fun activities. We make sure informational books as well as the best storybooks are read everyday. We return emails on a timely basis and never miss a weekly parent newsletter. We turn in lunch money, complete forms, and run to committee meetings. We. do. it. all.

But sometimes I think the most important thing I do can also be the hardest to fit in– knowing my kids. MY KIDS.

I was thankful for the fleetingly glorious fall day before the leaves lost their colors and winter gray set in. I was equally thankful for the time I had to talk to each of my kids. And I was especially thankful for the reminder that those few stolen moments of conversation and connection are what I must make happen EVERYday, as they are the crux of the matter.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ah, November, and a Throwback Freebie

I don't know about you, but for me the beginning of the school year is harder than the end of the year, I think. Although both periods of time are overflowing with things that must be done, not yet knowing the kids, or the parents, or my own schedule for the year; having to incorporate the constant changes in curriculum, at school, and in the district; getting the physical space set up and organized; doing biggies like curriculum night and parent-teacher conferences, along with the other 2.2 million things on the to-do list really stretches me to the limit in the first months of school.

I find that some things just have to go, and usually that means my blogroll reading and my own blog writing. Well... that's not exactly true, as I've been writing posts continually. in. my. head. Until I get to the keyboard and get them on the screen, though, they don't do anybody any good. So today I'm gonna share something timely for this week and a throwback from last year, in case you missed it.

As you put up your November calendar and get ready to teach about the change in month and season, have a little discussion about what happens in November, or maybe about what no longer can happen. Your discussion can be guided by this poem that I think has been around enough to be called traditional:

No green grass
No blue sky
No bare feet going by
No frogs
No bees
No more leaves on the trees

Each November I help my kiddos make a long list of the changes that have happened around them since we started school at the end of the summer. We then take our list and turn it into a simple book called The NOvember book.

Then at the end of the month, we give November a more positive spin and discuss all the things that CAN now happen because it is colder, and we call it The YESember Book.

You can also see a few samples of last year's November Book here. I can't show you any from this year because we are going to work on it this coming week.

I have the poem in pocket chart form and a template for the November and Yesember books as a little autumn FREEBIE for you. You can access the freebie by clicking on the image below. Hope you and your kiddos enjoy it.

Our district teachers have a report card writing day on Monday, so kids won't be in school. And then we have a district PD day on Tuesday. We won't see kids again until Wednesday, when they should be over their Halloween late night sugar blitz. Was that good timing on the part of the district calendar developers or what!!

Hope you enjoy the book and these crisp days of autumn. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pick 3– Student DIY, Slides, Storage

Pick Three Pins is such a favorite link up of mine that I'm going to post even though I am presenting at our start-of-school PD today, doing Work & Mingle Night tonight, prepping for the arrival of students in five days, and am only nine days away from my daughter's move to the other side of the country. to live. NOT forever... please Lord above...  Some weeks in life are just FULL to bursting.

Thanks to Lisa and Marissa from Pawsitively Learning and Inspired Owl's Corner for this monthly link up. So many ideas to find! These are some Pin ideas I will use soon.

Thought this little student DIY idea was a good one. I send parent reminders home in various ways, but letting students make the reminder themselves and taping it into a bracelet is not something I've tried.. but I'm gonna. As long as supplies are at the ready there is no reason they can't do it themselves, and maybe they'll be more likely to remember, too. This idea comes from Mama Miss.

Deb over at Not-Very-Fancy made these Monster How-to slide templates. She uses them for her Meet the Teacher Night when there are things she wants families to do. But I downloaded the FREE template just to have to make whatever how-tos I need to. I love when there is a simple multi-use freebie to be had. Thanks, Deb.

I do various games and activities with cups. They are easy to make and the kids like them. Storage is a bit of an issue though, as the stacked towers fall down and don't fit in ziplocs too well. Ta-da– a cute, easy solution. I'll ask parents for Pringles cans this fall. This idea is from Hodges Herald.

Click to see lots more ideas on my Teacher Tips board on Pinterest.  

Now click on back to the Pick 3 Pins linky party to find more.

Hope your school start goes/ is going well!  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mini Home Visits... Drop Offs... Drive-bys

I have a million things I should be doing, but last night was such a high that I'm going to link up with Teaching Trio's Sunday Scoop today to share. I'm most excited about number 1 on the list. 

(Golly, that was not the font to use in there! You were thinkin that too, right? Fess up. We all become editors as we blog read. I mean, bloggers aren't real writers... Was I tired last night or what...)

Our school puts final touches on classlists as late as possible to catch as many of the new kids coming in as we can. Our Meet & Greet is this coming Wednesday, the week before school starts so Friday was the deadline... well, it was kindergarten's deadline because K families get a special packet that cannot be sent electronically.

For years I've sent home "The August Packet." It consists of

• a welcome letter to parents from me

• a request that both parents send me an email so I can just copy and paste CORRECT email addresses into my list. When I had to type them in myself I used to get most of them wrong. Well, lots of them. At least a few. Enough to make corrections annoying!

• a transportation form that tells me where kids go after school– child care, bus, or pick-up by who.

• an invitation to Work & Mingle Night– don't know what Work & Mingle Night is??? Mine is this coming Thursday, before school starts this year. Before school is the most useful time. I hope I can be ready. And not too frantic. Click on the photo below to see the post and some useful wording.

• my Ultimate Student Info Card that parents must fill out before they drop off their child on the first day. You won't believe all the info I get from one half sheet of paper. Yes, I will need extra copies for those parents who didn't do it and don't realize I'll hold their child ransom until I get it. And they all want their child back... at least on the first day of kindergarten. It is available as a free download if you click on this photo of it.

Freebie Kidpeople Classroom Ultimate Parent Info Card

• a first-day-of-school backpack checklist saying what students need and don't need

• my brand new Parent Flip Book! It is a template that you can use to cover any topic.  My colleague uses hers for curriculum night. Mine includes EVERYTHING incoming parents need to know. It says so right on the cover. Well, almost everything– lunch; snack; dressing for winter; field trips; my classroom behavior expectations; ways to support learning at home; spare clothes; and toileting details. (Do you know the word "toileting" is not real. It comes up with a red spelled wrong line. Let me tell you it is a real word among teachers of young children. Yep, it is.) The Flip Book also includes ways parents can contact me and a big welcome. To a great extent, it is the nitty-gritty of my philosophy of education. And yes, it is long, but if they ain't gonna read it at peak excitement for their kid's first school experience, then when are they gonna. They usually hang on your every word at this point in the year, and I take full advantage. A parent in the know is a parent ready to go. I just made that up.

I had all the info written up from years of teaching kindergarten, but the flip book part was new. I compiled it as a reference packet that parents can and hopefully WILL refer to all year. I LOVE how it turned out.

It actually is purple, blue and green, not pink, blue and yellow. huh.

I got the template from Learning in Wonderland. You can get it, too, from TPT by clicking on the picture of mine up above. There is even a video tutorial to help you put it together. It is work to make everything fit the prearranged spaces, but it was a good summer task and I am so happy to have it.

• and last but not least, my letter to my new students. It has a kid friendly message designed to quiet the jitters and it has a photo of a wildly waving yours truly. You can download a completely editable copy to see what it says by clicking on the photo.

NOW to tell you the sweetest part, and why I'm really posting this morning. As I mentioned, we wait as long as we can to finalize classlists so everyone is included, so there isn't much time to get the August Packet to families in time for them to drop off their completed information and transportation forms at our Meet & Greet. To make sure it reaches them in time I do drive-by mini home visits and deliver the packets door to door. I don't actually just drive by. I stop. And get out VERY briefly.

Here comes Mrs. Wright.
I found this posted on the internet and it is MY car.
No, really. I mean, yes, really.
At least this person "got it."
I think I love him.
Plates are meant to be fun, right??

Our school is the most westward school in the district, on the edge of town where there are various subdivisions. It is pretty easy to group the packets by neighborhood to drop them off. I did tonight, with Jonathan dragging along playing chauffeur so I could just hop out. (Don't feel bad for him– he gets free haircuts. And we're an old married couple– what else does he have to do but be with his wife on a Saturday night no matter what she's doing.) If no one was home, I left the packet in the door, but going between 6 - 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night is a good time to find people.  I mean, come on, parents of kindergartners never go out on a Saturday night like kindergarten teachers and their husbands.

Honest to Pete, you would think Santa Claus was standing on the porch when they come to the door! Can the eyes of my new kidpeople get any bigger? The kids are thrilled, too. I got hugs from kids and parents alike! I had to refuse invites in, cups of tea and coffee, Sprite and pizza! I even could have had a beer. I didn't manage to dodge having my picture taken once or twice– darn it that iPhones are so convenient when I'm in work clothes from sorting out the classroom all day. Photos I don't want to see. Ever. I do drive a red vehicle but I'm not as round as Santa. Really. Just sayin. In case you're taking that analogy too far.

It takes just over an hour of my our time (Thank you, Jonathan. Remember– free haircuts) and I couldn't invest the hour any better. It is SO worth it! Everyone is happy and the stage. is. set. I gain a lot of info, too. I know our neighborhoods pretty well now. I greet former students out on the sidewalks. I see where my kids live and to a certain extent how they live. It lets me connect with my littles even before I know them.

In another lifetime, long ago, I used to do home visits. They seem to be a thing of the past now, but this little mini-version on the porch and in the driveway is better than nothing. It really makes me happy to be a kindergarten teacher, welcoming parents to school, and the kids to my classroom. I mean, a Mrs. Wright Sighting at your own house! Not at school. Where she lives. I get instant celebrity status. Among a small handful of five year olds. I thrill easily.

I know we all teach in a million different situations, but if you can swing getting out into your school community and connecting with kids and families even before they arrive at your classroom door, I HIGHLY recommend it. I was pooped, but happy, and so looking forward to seeing my new little darlings in a week's time. Even if "home visits" are not practical, I hope some of the things I mention from the packet are useful to you. Have a great rest of the weekend! Me... I'm starting to get that back-to-school high energy that makes me just. a. little. punchy. It's only gonna get worse.

Thanks for stopping by. Cliiiiiiiick on back to read more.

Like this post? Catch 'em all by clicking

Friday, August 28, 2015

Resources and Freebies Galore!

So excited to have new resources and freebies for you today. Thanks to Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching for throwing her weekly Five for Friday linky party to help me share them.

1.  I'm starting with what I am super excited about doing this year with my kiddos. I think it is wonderful when the early years of education are cherished by families– kids grow and learn so much! I help families collect memories in many ways throughout the year, and this activity adds to that collection.

One poem is for the beginning of the year and one for the end. Each poem is about how tall the child is at the moment, measured by the string, and reflects on how much they grow in a year. You do the measuring in the first and last weeks of school. I wrote the poems and include a copy for kindergarten, preschool, and first grade. You'll need yarn in two colors, one for the beginning of the year, one for the end. I am making them FREE to download, so all you have to do is print on cardstock. Directions for an easy way to measure your students' height is included, too. To get this freebie simply click on the photo above. I hope you enjoy it! PLEASE leave love in the comments and PIN!

2.  For the last month or so I've been posting on start-of-year topics– from the first minutes of the first day, to anchor charts, to info cards, to getting parents involved on many levels. And there are freebies to download, too. I've made a special page to connect to all the topics and will be adding to this page as time goes on so all back to school ideas and freebies are easy to find. You can go there by clicking on the photo below. I hope this is useful to you now and in the future. Pin so you can come back as I add on, too.

3.  In one of my last posts I talked about Think-Talk Sticks and I mention them here again so you don't miss out on a useful freebie.

These little babies are going help my kidpeople think and talk during various points in our day– guided reading, writing workshop, and general discussion. I got the original idea from Two Writing Teachers and include a link so you can get their freebie. Click on the photo above to see.

4.  The folks from contacted me to ask if I'd share the news of their resource site with you. I checked it out and, whoa, there are many, many FREE resources here to help teachers teach sight words, phonemic awareness, and counting. Resources include video lessons and lesson tips, games to make, and word cards, too– word cards that are completely editable. You can add any words that your unique class is working on. And did I mention it's all free! There's nothing to buy and you don't need to give your name or sign-up for anything. I suggest you check them out by clicking the icon below. They are not compensating me in any way, just think they are a goodie to know about.

5.  And last, a little bit of shopping fun. If you have a Meijer close by you might want to keep your eyes open for these little babies.

Are you kidding me! Watermelon seed sticky notes! Jonathan had to hold me back before I bought them all– they are on sale! Bonus! If you teach from Lucy Calkins you'll know that small moment stories are like seeds in the juicy watermelon of life, and this is a big idea that kids really latch on to. I can hardly wait until we get to those lessons- I'm going to give each student a watermelon sticky to keep in their notebook to collect watermelon seed ideas for small moment stories. I bet everyone comes up with a few ideas just to use the notes– mwah ha ha, the teacher laughs gleefully. I love when little inexpensive notions translate into good learning for kids. These are fun and novel and the brain grooves on novelty.

Well, that's all for this Friday. Hope you are happy with your finds!

Oh, yeah, almost forgot. Click back to the linky for more great ideas.

All the Links for Start-of-School

I love starting school each year! There is nothing like the excitement of a new class... and nothing like the effort teachers put into it! This is a page where I collect the start-of-school ideas I use in my classroom. Just click below to go to the various topics. Be sure to check back as this post will stay updated with new links as I post them. 

Find some new, fun ideas and FREEBIES to help you and your kiddos launch the year by clicking on the titles!

Hope you found these helpful. PIN so you can check for updates!

Thanks for stopping by!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...