Monday, March 31, 2014

Get the Beat to Count by 2s

As a teacher, I know a good way to teach almost anything is through music and rhythm-- our brain just works that way.  As a storyteller, I know the best way to get a group to join in with anything is by using an echo chant. So this is how I teach rote counting by 2s... think four count beat:

...and so on. As the kids learn it, you drop the echo and there they are, counting all the way up by twos.

When I first came to the district teachers were using the old "two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate" rhyme, but for me there were too many extra words, and the kids had a difficult time dropping them out. When I started saying just the numbers, the kids got it amazingly fast. We count all the way to 100 now as this particular pattern lends itself so well to that. That emphasis on the change of tens is a nice bonus... and the kids love being able to do it.

This little ditty of a learning chant can be pulled out of your mental pocket when waiting in line, getting out snack, anytime you have a minute. It is also a great way for kids to be the teacher– they love leading the echo. Very empowering.

One thing to note, I do sometimes use this rote counting technique while pointing to the number line or hundreds grid just so students see the fourteen and twenty as whole numbers, not broken up by syllable. Seeing the numbers they are counting, and the visual pattern they make, helps with all counting.

Give it a try! I bet your kiddos become two counting wizzes! Leave a comment with how it goes, and I'd love to hear other ways you do it.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Freebie! Not JUST Word Lists for K-5

My kidpeople do all sorts of word making activities in class, as do most beginning readers. We use dice, magnetic letters, letter tiles, cards, and lots more. We practice sight words, word families, science words, and any words we just want to know. It is important that kids have ample opportunities to make words in order to learn them.

Because the kiddos aren't always working on paper, there isn't always "evidence" as to what they worked on when they are done. This is fine most of the time, as the learning comes from that tactile manipulation of the letters, and the "snapshot" their brain takes when they see that word. And it is good because it saves on paper. But it also means there's nothing for me to check on afterwards, nothing for kids to take home to parents, and no clear way they themselves can look over their own progress.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Magical Monkey Dust

"Distract your brain!" That's what I say when kids come to me with a boo boo— the kind that you can barely see and is clearly not a lasting injury. In kindergarten we talk about how the brain works. Our brain can do lots of stuff at the same time, but it likes to focus on one thing. In fact it does its best work when we let it focus (this concept gets a lot of milage at work time). Sometimes, however, the brain works so well that it just keeps getting the message— the boo boo hurts, the boo boo hurts, the boo boo hurts... That's when I give a quick hug, and say to the injured and their entourage (you can never report a boo boo without a lot of help from friends) "Distract your brain!" I send them off to a new activity QUICK so the brain has something else to focus on. Works like a charm for "lite" boo boos.

Sometimes kids really do need a bandaid because they have broken the skin. And sometimes a boo boo needs more than a suggestion of distraction. So I have a special box of bandaids in my room.

It is a wooden box with a sculpted monkey on top and I got it for a buck at a garage sale. Whenever one of my kids gets an ouchy, owie, or boo boo, they know they are allowed to get a bandaid if they ask me first. The injury always hurts less once they are distracted with a visit to Boo Boo the Monkey.

Well, this fall I was shopping in Cost Plus World Market— love that store— and I found a little monkey snow shaker. I had no idea what I would use it for (eye roll from Jonathan), but I knew it was a Kidpeople thing. I collect monkeys and monsters, so it doesn't take much for new ones to find their way into my home or classroom. I brought it to school and set it near Boo Boo's box, just because monkeys go together. The kids liked that Boo Boo had a friend, and named the new one Boo-Boo-in-a-Bubble... we tend to name everything in our room.

Later in the week one of the kiddos came to me with a really nasty looking hangnail that had ripped down the side of their nail. Yikes! A true boo boo. No doubt IT needed a bandaid, so over to Boo Boo we went. The bandaid helped, but I could tell this was a biggie. Inspiration hit and I said, "Hmm, I think a little Magical Monkey Dust will do the trick." I picked up the monkey snow globe and "sprinkled" a little magic over that hurting finger.

Instant smiles! As the word spread quickly through the room, I knew I had a winner.

So now kids have a choice of remedies for what ails them. They can have a shot of Magical Monkey Dust, they can have a bandaid from Boo Boo, or they can have both. It is surprising how powerful Magical Monkey Dust is at making boo boos go away! Use your imagination and keep your eyes open for special "emergency kit contents," and I bet the magic works in your classroom, too. Please let me know if you try it, and share how you handle boo boos in your room.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

April Showers Bring What???

Whoot!  Whoot! A fun multi-curricular project for spring! This little gem is SO much fun!
Everybody knows April showers bring May flowers... but they don't know that May flowers bring more than pilgrims! Your kids will enjoy this funny twist on the old saying, and the craft that goes with it even moves with the help of a brad.

The packet includes the poem to print and cut for your pocket chart, the craft sheet with the poem and its parts, a fill-in-the-blank copy for poetry journals or center work, and a bookmark. Although the craft works best if copied on cardstock, no color ink is needed. You can print the bookmark in color, or black and white so your students can add the color.

There's even a fun fact sheet to help with a science mini-lesson so kids know what kind of bugs they are talking about.

I include the directions for a funny little prop seen here. I use it to introduce the lesson.

The kids will love it, and it will bring a smile to parent faces when it goes home.

This kind of project is one of my favorites. It combines oral tradition, language arts, science, and craft for fine muscle practice.  I hope to share a lot more of these. Look for activities that combine multiple kinds of learning under the tag Multi-curricular.

Librarians and storytellers might find good use for this, too.

Click on the photo below to link to my store so you can get it. Hope you LOVE it! Let me know what you think-- we SO appreciate comments and feedback. THANKS!

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List Paper FREEBIE

Yippee!! We have our first Teachers Pay Teachers Freebie up for grabs!

Usually somewhere in the year I do a little mini-unit on list writing. I find the best time to do this is right after our first writing unit in the fall. Little newbies find the expectations of writing rather rigorous, even if they know letters and words coming in. It is a complex task to hear individual sounds in words, link that sound to the proper letter, remember to look for sight words in the room, and then keep track of just what they were trying to say in the first place!

To change things up for a week or two I break out the old list paper. It is a refreshing change of genre, has real life use for kindergartners, and frees them up from trying to write a whole story. We look at all sorts of lists-- to-do lists, gift lists, book lists, shopping lists, to name a few. This kind of writing asks kids to organize their ideas by the one category they are writing about. They can then concentrate on writing the letters heard in just one word at a time, with no need for a whole sentence.

List writing provides students with lots of success. They feel productive as the list fills up quickly. I've seen many students get really excited when they can still read the list the next day! This is a big accomplishment for kids who often forget what they wrote after they got five words on a line. One little guy this year made a birthday gift list for his mom. On the title line he wrote Mom's Birthday Presents like this, "mom bd pst." Then he wrote slippers "spr," book "bk," and dog, "dg." (hmm, I had to wonder exactly who wanted the dog...) The next day he got out his list, grinned broadly, and proudly read to me, "Mom's birthday presents.  Slippers, books, and a dog!" Then he started adding to it.

And the other great thing about lists is that they can be used all year. I leave out a supply of list paper in the writing center and all sorts of lists are generated as the kids write and write and write-- having fun even as they practice stretching their words. It catches on so well that on occasion when I say to the class that we will be doing this and this and this today, a student will hop up and say, "Mrs. Wright, I'll make the list!" It's nice having secretaries :)

The best list paper has just a seed of an illustrated idea because it can grow so many different lists. Paper with a picture of wrapped packages at the top, for example, can generate birthday wish lists for students, family and friends, Christmas lists, gift lists so thank yous can be written, and shopping lists to use when buying presents. Lists with toys at the top can help generate wish lists, itemized lists of games kids own, games their friends own, games to play on the weekend or vacations, favorite toys, toys at school in the classroom, indoor recess games, after school care games, things to do with the babysitter... you get the idea. I put out plain list paper, too, and sometimes the kids illustrate their own. For the most part I don't want kids drawing at this time, but writing-- think of a word, stretch to write the sounds they hear, repeat. Practice of exactly the skill they need, useful to them, and FUN.

So, Jonathan and I created some list paper with room for a name at the top, a little illustration to get them going, and a line for the title of the list. The rest of the list is full of lines for writing. There are two lists per page so you get a double bang from one sheet of paper, while keeping the paper format long. And Jonathan's illustrations are original and adorable, if I do say so myself :) The freebie includes eight different list papers.

If you haven't done list writing yet this year, you can do it now. And if you have, these can spruce up your list paper supply. I hope you and your students enjoy these little writing sparks! Just click here on this preview to grab it.

Please, please, please leave feedback. It is really important as we are just starting out!  Thanks!

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ding! Humm! Toot! Getting Kids' Attention

There are lots of ways to get kids' attention in class. Teachers are always sharing sayings, motions, and claps, and I love learning new ones. They are fun, and great for helping kids focus.

I also have numerous devises that help kids attend without saying a word. I gathered these quasi instruments together for this photo, but they are kept in different places around my room-- spots where I usually am when I need kids to be quiet. They can all cut through the classroom chatter in an instant, especially as we practice a quiet response when I introduce each one during the year. And a bonus to a brain compatible classroom is that they are nicely melodious as they do their job.

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