Thursday, July 31, 2014

Funny Kid Friday- We're a Slinky

Hello to fellow teachers and friends who like a little laugh every once in a while.  Today is Funny Kid Friday and I have a triple giggle for you.

Before I can tell my tales, you need to know that I use a Slinky Dog to teach kids how we walk in a line.

A Slinky Dog makes a good visual for moving along while lined up, something that not all kindergartners know how to do when they start school.  I describe our class moving down the hall like a Slinky Dog does, and I pull it along letting it stretch out, and then tighten back up again. And like a Slinky Dog, we have to be careful not too spread our line out too far, or it won't work. We have designated spots in the hall where the line leader, or "Head," waits for the back, or "Tail" to catch up. It works pretty well. However, as kindergartners usually do, my kids have taken this quite literally over the years...

One day, one of our line leaders looked back and saw that the end of the line hadn't even come around the corner yet, so said, "Mrs. Wright, our Slinky must be broken because I don't see the tail."

Another day, one little guy in the middle of the line fell down (darn those loose shoelaces), and the two following him tumbled right on top. The next kiddo in line proclaimed, "Uh-oh, our Slinky got tangled up!"

And once, a mom on a field trip reported to me that her daughter told her that she couldn't come with us unless she knew how to do the Slinky. When she asked her daughter if this was a dance, she replied in a shocked voice, "Mom! You can't come on the field trip if you're going to dance! We only dance in the room!"

Are you ready to do The Slinky this school year?  Look for tomorrow's post when I talk more about getting kids from here to there by lining up.  Right now add your funny kid tale in the comment section or by linking up below.  Be sure to grab the button below and link back to this specific post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Poof! Bday Candles at School?

You read my title today and thought, no, we can't have candles in the classroom... except we can! My Wordless Wednesday photo features a very special flickering, LED, votive candle. It looks like a regular one, but you can blow this one out! Yep, one little poof and out it goes!
On *Poof* Off *Poof* On AGAIN!!
And not only that! You can blow this candle on again, too! It "relights" itself when you give another little poof. Ha ha– I am gonna have some fun using this with the kiddos. Imagine their surprise the first time we get it out!

The candle has a small master switch on the bottom that has to be turned on, but after that, a poof will turn the light on and off endlessly. The secret is that little black hole you see next to the "flame." And that's what you have to look for when you go shopping for this votive. I got mine at our fabulous local ACE store... but the helpful hardware ladies had no idea this candle was special this way. There wasn't even any indication on the box! Silly! I only knew because years ago a friend of mine found one. I've had my eye out ever since, knowing this would make birthdays fun in the classroom where candles were not allowed. Just imagine this sitting on top of the birthday cupcake :)

Hope you and your little buddies have fun with this new delight for birthday celebrations.

What special things do YOU do for birthday celebrations at school?

Thanks to Sugar and Spice for their weekly linky! Click to find more treats.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Literacy Development in the Storytelling Classroom

The book I'd like to share today is Literacy Development in the Storytelling Classroom.

Edited by Sherry Norfolk, Jane Stenson and Diane Williams, this collection of about seventy essays, written by storytellers and teachers, holds a lot of valuable theory, tips, activities, and food for thought for the classroom teacher. And therein lies a challenge for me– how can I suggest that storytelling be added to everything else already in our jam packed days?

I'll start by saying storytelling should not be thought of as an add on, but a valuable tool that gets at the heart of what we strive to do with students, regardless of the grade taught. We all know that learning begins with oral language. For most teachers I would be preaching to the choir by pointing out that oral language precedes reading and writing, and therefore children must be exposed to literate, clear, and expressive spoken word. As students grow they are continually building upon their language base by being exposed, in meaningful context, to more and more language. Research tells us children who are exposed to few words have a poor foundation for learning.

Children must do more than just hear the words, but be able to create mental pictures to create meaning. When children hear language within a story context, the cerebral cortex, that area of the brain in charge of higher neural functions, must create new neural cells and pathways in order to comprehend the story. This is an active process of actually growing the brain. Allowing students to hear stories is critically important and that can be accomplished through read alouds, to be sure. Our brains seek out and respond so well to stories that read alouds are a favorite part of the day for teachers and students alike.

If read alouds accomplish this growth, do we need to tell stories as well? Yes. There is a critical difference between storytelling and the read aloud, and that hinges on relationship. The more research we do on learning, the more we realize just how critical the teacher-student relationship is– good teachers intuitively know the value of strong relationships, as they see the results with their students. When we tell a story, as compared to read a story, we build connection through eye contact. When a teacher as storyteller looks the listener in the eye, the relationship is strengthened each time.

Listening to stories in my old classroom... well, except for one distracted by the camera
Oh, no, Kathleen, you can't mean that on top of everything else, you want us to memorize stories for our kids! To that I say, you already have! Think about fairytales and the important role they have in elementary classrooms, because so many language arts lessons come from them. You already know these stories! So when you launch a fairytale unit, tell the story to your students the first time, instead of just reading it.

Another time when you can purposefully use storytelling is during writers' workshop. Small moment writing is crucial to our writing instruction, and what is a small moment but a story from one's own life. You already know your story, so tell that story to your students each time, before you take up the pen to write it.
Listening to stories in my current classroom
But I've heard storytellers and I can't tell a story like they do! I'll say what I say to teachers who tell me they can't sing– the kids don't care. You don't have to tell long stories with hundreds of characters, twisting plots, and special voice inflection. Whether telling a fairy tale or a small moment story you are telling a story that is yours, and your students will love your story and you, just for the gift of sharing this way. Remember this is about building oral language and relationship. And besides, the more you tell on a regular basis, the better you'll get at it.

You can do it. You are a storyteller. And to help you further the goal, I recommend you read Literacy Development in the Storytelling Classroom.  It's a fast read because each selection in the book is just a few pages long and there are lots of used copies available on line to save a few bucks, too. This collection not only gives teachers a rationale for why storytelling should be in every classroom, it talks about great stories and great ways to expound on them. Tell to your class and you'll be surprised at the many benefits you and your students reap!

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Donna Washington, storyteller from North Carolina, recommended this book as a book club selection for my storytellers' guild. She did several storytelling sessions for students, and a teacher workshop for our district last year. She is also a featured writer in Literacy Development in the Storytelling Classroom. Check out her blog by clicking on her picture.

Thanks to Deanna Jump for her Book Talk Tuesday Link-up. Click to find more great books!

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Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm a Librarian!

We have our new Little Free Library up in our yard and I am SO happy to show it off in this week's Monday Made It linky!

I heard about Little Free Libraries last winter and knew immediately that I was gonna put one up... with Jonathan's help, of course! His design and carpentry skills were put to wonderful use to come up with our little library that matches our house. Isn't it beautiful! I am thrilled! It has a large bottom shelf to house books for kids and youth, and a shorter upper shelf to hold adult books. It is at a height that small kiddos can access. If you need to read a bit to decide if the book is for you, just have a seat on the big person or small person benches!

Special details of the library include small windows, which are not only fun but let in added light, and a door window which invites passersby to look in to see the selections. It has a very durable and sturdy design which I'm sure will be put to the test this winter, if it's anything like last winter.

THE most special Jonathan detail is the bracket that holds the library to the post... check out our wise old owl! And the book he's holding... yep, that is my yet unpublished story, The Fairies Come In... let's hope this doesn't end up being as close to published as it gets :)

An added bonus is that you meet lots of neighbors, old and new.

I decided to always keep a pen and post-it notes inside. Neighbors donating books can write a mini review and stick it to the cover of their book. Visitors can also leave us a note with ideas or comments. Some people have started to leave bookmarks, too. That has been the fun part in these first few days since we put up the library. See...

I also wrote up an info flyer so people know how our library works, as the small details of each Little Free Library are determined by the owners. For instance, we say it is fine to keep the book if you fall in love with it. In fact, we really hope that happens. And we spell out in a nice way that the books in our library need to be in pretty good shape. We're going to make a bookmark type flyer with some of the details, but for now we want everyone to get all the information. If you'd like to read ours, you can see/download it by clicking here.

The first Little Free Library appeared in 2009 and the project has grown to over 15,000 today! That's a lot of books and a lot of reading! It makes my teacher heart sing! The Little Free Library organization has a great website where you can find out about how they work, where they are, how to get one, and people's experiences. I encourage you to click on their icon below to read more.

You can also see a video report on LFL by clicking below.

Well, that's all for now. I'm bound to post on it again. If you have questions be sure to leave them in the comment sections.

Now click here on Tara's Fourth Grade Frolics button here to find more great stuff.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Funny Kid Friday, Finding Bargains, and Classroom Nooks

Happy Funny Kid Friday and Five for Friday! Laughs and tips and pics of the room ahead!

1. I have more than a month before kids come back to school here in Michigan, but my mind wanders toward the classroom more and more. I'm thinking room set-up today– some things to keep from last year, some things to tweak. This week's Funny Kid Friday story came to mind as I thought about my classroom.

I use a long, taller-than-the-kids shelf, which runs about four feet out from and parallel to the wall that is closest to the classroom door. It forms a sort of coat hall, with an entry at either end. I well remember proper coat halls from my own elementary school days back in the time of the dinosaurs. My makeshift one works pretty well to keep the backpacks, coats, and boots contained within a designated space. However, my happy feelings about the coat hall are not always shared by my students, apparently, as one day a mom shared this story with me–

Last night at bedtime prayers, little Miss S. prayed,

"Please, God, give us more room in the coat hall."

Her mom said she almost lost it right there in the middle of the prayer, and it's a good thing I was out of sight of the kids when she told me, because tears were running down my face. I guess our little miss learned at an early age that you take all problems right to the top Man!

Don't forget to link up your funny kid story below!

2. There are certain nooks of my classroom that I really like... like my coat hall, even if it could be a bit bigger. Here is a photo of another area that I love.
My library nook in my classroom
Jonathan installed a "fireplace" for me in the classroom library! When I moved to the school that I'm at now, we went on the hunt for a mantle that would fit and we could afford, which was not easy. When we finally found it, Mr. J put a facade in the middle opening, using floor tiles and black foamcore. I arranged some logs, LED twinkle lights for embers, and an old bookend for a grate. I plug it in every morning and the kids love to gather in the chairs or on the floor in front, usually with books. This spot gets a lot of attention from visitors who love the welcome feeling, to which I reply, "It is my second home!"

3. Another nook in the room is over in my block area, where my wooden block animals live.
Wall storage becomes classroom decor
These zoo animals have chunky dimensions that go with classic unit blocks. They are pretty classic themselves. I like them so much I wanted storage that would show them off, entice the kiddos to use them, and provide easy access all at once, and I think I found it. I used two by twos, painted the same color as the wall, to make perfect custom shelves. The animals became decor, as well as building accessories.

4. When thinking about pretty much anything for my room, from toys to storage, I think first think Garage Sale, Baby! I know there are people out there– surely not teachers– but other people who would never go to garage sales. I am here to tell you that those people are missing out, because from these humble sources I've found some of my best treasures. One example is those fine wooden animals I show off up there in number three. When  I asked the lovely woman how much she was selling them for, she answered "five dollars." I truly thought she meant five dollars each, and although that is a good price, I debated a couple minutes, wondering if I needed all of them. When she realized what I was thinking, she said, "No, five dollars for the whole set..." then she went digging in the box and found four more to add to the four in my hands! All EIGHT for FIVE DOLLARS!!!!!  Man, I was doing the HAPPY dance. It was THE find of last summer. WHOOT!

And THIS summer, Jonathan and I pulled up at a garage sale and before the car was even fully stopped I was up the driveway and claiming this!
This photo is not of the one I got at the garage sale, as I already broke it down and hauled it to school, but mine is just like this one sold on Etsy, except my particular one has more accessories and another level. Beautiful, right? I looked at them many times, but this one is over two hundred dollars. What did I pay at the garage sale, you ask?  TEN BUCKS.  I was doing the happy dance so much this time I almost peed my pants.  I can hardly wait until this is set up in my classroom and kids are playing with it.

So although there is no guarantee that you are always going to find booty when you go out "sale-ing," you're never going to find treasure if you don't at least drift by those garage sales and skim over the wares. I HIGHLY recommend it! Look for me on Saturday mornings!

5. Okay, it is late Thursday night as I write this and I really gotta get to bed... so because Five for Friday is supposed to be about random things, I'm just going to say I'll have a little surprise for Made It Monday, and you are gonna want to stop by then. Jonathan and I have been very busy on a special project which I bet you find inspirational.

Thanks, as always, to Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday!  Click the button to find more great ideas.

AND I hope you'll grab my Funny Kid Friday linky button here and then link up below to share YOUR funny kid story. Do YOU have a coat hall???

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Farmers' Market Day!

The only thing I like better than reading books is writing about books– especially books that have good teaching points for us teachers. Today I am talking about Farmers' Market Day, written by Shanda Trent, and illustrated by Jane Dippold.

First of all, this delightful book makes a great extension to a field trip to the farmers' market, or an introduction to harvest or healthy eating. All the wonderful happenings in and around a farmers' market are found in this book, from vegetables, to honey, to kittens. There are even prompts on the dos and don'ts of a farmers' market.

The little girl in this book is on a mission to spend her money, and oh, what fun... and mishap... she has along the way. But you won't hear of the mishaps in the text of this story, but in the details of the illustrations... a bit of a story within a story. What better way to call readers' attention to details than by soliciting answers to the question, what else is happening? The illustrations not only hold more of the story, but they are colorful and kid friendly, too. Even the endpapers hold teaching points for the teacher to draw out. I love fun endpapers.

I'll let you in on a little secret– I've known Shanda for over twenty years! We have lots in common, including the writing bug. I remember hearing the drafts of this story years ago, and saw her attention to and debate over each and every word of the rhyming text. What a delightful result to her years of work! I am happy to say that more from Shanda is coming down the pike, too. So after you fall in love with this book, keep your eyes open for the next ones.

And there's more! Farmers' Market Day is published by Tiger Tales Books. If you click here on their icon you'll find some follow-up activities to the book.

While you're there, be sure to cruise around the site. Not only will you find more great books, but several accompanying teaching guides, and interviews with authors and illustrators.

Whether you have students who have never been to a farmers' market, or a group that frequents them on a regular basis, you'll have fun as this book leads you on a little explore.

As always, special thanks to Deanna and her Book Talk Tuesday. Click here to find more great books!

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Easy Peasy Classroom Wreath

I sat in my kitchen the other day looking at the wreath on my backdoor and thought to myself– duh– I should make one for the classroom door!
Easy-to-make ribbon wreath
This is about as easy to make as can be– if you can tie a knot, you can make it. And you can easily get it done in a day.

1. Gather together favorite ribbons. Choose a color scheme, and mix em up– solids, stripes, dots and patterns. It's all good in the end. They have adorable printed ribbons now, so if you have a classroom theme of owls, or apples, or whatever, keep your eyes open and pick up a roll or two. I am a black and white nut, so I went through my ribbon bin and found all sorts left over from projects. It's a good way to use up smallish lengths. I used about ten different patterns in the end, though maybe about seven rolls worth total– it depends a bit on the widths you use.

2. Pick up a wreath frame– styrofoam or lightweight material. The wreath in the photo is eleven inches across. You can find both the wreath and ribbons at your favorite crafting store– be sure to clip coupons and check the sale bins.

3. Cut ribbons so that they give some nice "tails" after being knotted. Most of my tails were about four inches long, so I got a nice fluffy look. I can't tell you how long to cut your ribbon pieces because it depends on how wide your wreath shape is. Experiment a bit until you get it as you like it. Be sure to notch the cut ends of the ribbons in an inverted 'V' shape– it will stop fraying and give a more finished look.

4. Tie your pieces on, using just a simple knot. Keep the ribbon smooth in the back to cover the wreath mold. Randomly stagger where the knots line up on the front so the whole finished wreath has an overall even look.

5. I tied a thinner ribbon loop at the "top" of my wreath so I had something to hang the wreath from, then tied my final big bow on top of that, leaving the loop sticking out. Choose one special wide ribbon for the bow. A nice contrasting color works well, as you see the big red bow on my otherwise black and white wreath. This final one you tie in a bow with multiple loops, not tails like you did with the rest.

Hope you have fun with this project.  Your finished classroom wreath will be cheery and beautiful. I'm off to do one for my classroom now. Happy Start of School!

Special thanks to Tara at Fourth Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It linky. Click on the button and head over for some great ideas!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Funny Kid Friday– Glue Sticks, Oh My

It's Friday... Friday, Friday, Friday. Today is Friday Day... Friday Day! (Does anyone else remember that song?) And Friday means my Funny Kid Friday and Doodle Bugs' Five for Friday link-ups!

So here we go!

1. Check out these shoes!!!!  So happy to be a K teacher who can get away with Hello Kitty shoes!
The shoe-sion-estas!
And the only reason I found them– at Target, no less– was because I was shopping for my soon to be five year old niece. I found a pair for her, covered in pink sequins, and happened to walk around the corner on the off, off, off chance that there were some for older "kids" and there they were! I usually wear a seven and a half and the biggest size they had was a size six, but they fit, even a little loosely. They were a huge hit with the niece and that made them a huge hit with me. Just wait until the day I wear them to school... I truly will be the Queen of Kindergarten! Run, don't walk, to Target and grab yours... on sale for SIX bucks! ONLY kindergarten teachers can get away with shiny sequin Hello Kitty shoes :) Yesssss!

2. So I was out in Colorado visiting family this past week. My dear brother, knowing that I like antiques (aka reused stuff, aka castoffs, aka junk), took me to this great store. I had very little space in my suitcase for purchases, and told him so, but in we went anyway. And there it was! The Black Thing. At a price I couldn't pass up. I knew it would go wonderfully in my black and white kitchen... no matter what it was. And as my brother said, what a perfect souvenir of my trip to the Rockies... not! It must have been meant to be because it fit in the suitcase just fine wrapped in several layers of dirty clothes. Love it!
The Black Thing– The perfect souvenir from Colorado, yes?
3. Sometimes you meet the nicest people on airplanes. On my recent gallivants I met a retired first grade teacher, from Michigan no less. Retired or not, she was on top of the current issues, and we got along like a house on fire. And then I met a single dad looking for ideas on how to help his three year old daughter get ready for preschool... nope, nothing to share there on that two hour flight... ha. And then on the last leg, I sat next to an 18 month old and his mom and dad. How nice to be reminded of how all my little kiddos start out. "Car!" he squealed in toddler-ese, which was the perfect proclamation looking out the window as we cruised on into the Motor City. Delightful.
I actually rode in this Frontier ram airplane
4. Can you believe the weather in Michigan! It is usually well up into the 80s and 90s and HUMID, but this has been our weather thus far.  LOOK at that dark orange line... absolutely WONDERFUL. Yessss!

5. And now for my Funny Kid Story! One day, we were doing a center project with glue sticks, and one little guy twisted up the glue stick all the way- a full tube of glue about to be wasted.
This was not a first time for this impulsive kiddo, so when he saw me, he guiltily and silently handed it over. I sighed and said, "Oh my," as I began to slowly twist and push the glue stick back into the tube.

As the rest of the kids looked on, one of them said, "Mrs. Wright, what does oh my mean?" I paused, then said, "Well, people say oh my when they are surprised... for a good reason, or... for a not so good reason."

The guilty glue twister looked at me and said, "My mom says, oh sh*t."

I told this story to my teaching colleagues and at future staff meetings we heard Oh my several times :)

Now it's your turn for some fun. Grab my button below to link your kid tale post. Be sure to link back here so everyone finds our stories. Oh, and as with many linky parties, let the rule of three apply (comment on three of the other linkies.) Or, as one of my teacher friends did last week, just leave your kid story in the comment section, instead.

Don't forget to go back to Doodle Bugs' Five for Friday link-up to see what other bloggers are up to.

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