Friday, November 28, 2014

If You Teach Writing...

Thanks to Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday linky. I am using it a little bit differently today. I have one great resource to share with any teacher who teaches writing, but I'll share five favorites from it.

There are soooo many blogs out there. Some we only need to see occasionally. Some we follow because we get things– admit it, sometimes the freebie is worth it. And some we follow because we really learn from what they share.

One of the most valuable blogs for me is Two Writing Teachers.

And if you teach writing, you need to know about this resource, too. This blog started out as the blog of just two teachers, but has grown to a team which includes Stacey Shubitz, Anna Gratz Cockerille, Betsy Hubbard, Beth Moore, Dana Murphy, and Tara Smith. I follow them through email so that I get fast notification of their almost daily blog posts. And I never fail to read them. It's like having a chat with a good teacher friend who is a very good teacher– the spark that keeps my teaching flame burning.

They post on a wide variety of topics under the broad heading of writing. It is very much based on Lucy Calkins and Teachers College work, but of course, that work is continually evolving and growing. Here are some of the posts I most value, but to get this down to a sample of just five was pretty much impossible and there is so. much. more.

1. The "Share" Time- a variety of structures for share time to maximize learning and keep it fresh Here

2.  You Just Don't Get It– I loved this post. I added these steps and language to my conferring kit  Here

3.  Back to School– a wonderful, must-have list of information for any time Here
And I'm going to let this be a double click topic. This post, Beginning a Year of Teaching Writing with Reflection, is on the back to school list, but it is worth checking out all on its own. Reflection and goal setting is important at the start of the year, but also good to do throughout the year as well, so I'll be coming back here multiple times. Here

4.  Top Five Lessons to Teach to Writing Partners of All Ages Right Now– okay, so having writing partners in kindergarten is a stumbling block for me. Even though over the years I have seen good things come from kinder partnerships, I need a little kick in the pants to get going each year. This is it Here

5.  Writing in Preschool: Scope and Sequence– I add this for my preschool friends and because I so wish all my kindergarten students came to me with this background! Good food for thought and very appropriate preschool writing activities. Also a downloadable Scope and Sequence chart is on this post Here

Something else that I must mention about Two Writing Teachers is their Slice of Life Story Challenge. Every Tuesday Two Writing Teachers invite you to write on your blog about your life, then post it within their Tuesday "Call for Slices" post. All the details can be found by clicking on the orange logo.

Participating with Slice of Life is a good way to prompt yourself to write and share publicly... well, I THINK it can be a good way to prompt yourself to write. This is another area where I need a kick in the pants, and even more so, a good dose of courage. I write and post on my blog pretty regularly, but this seems bigger, more personal perhaps. And more of a commitment. So... soon. Maybe soon.
Are there any other teacher bloggers out there who would like to take up the writing challenge with me?

I hope you will check out Two Writing Teachers and let me know what you find in the comment section below. I have certainly not been to all their posts and would love to hear what ideas resonate with your writing instruction.

Well, there you have it for this Friday post. I've been writing as I continue to clean up from yesterday, and now I'm off to visit just one or two stores on this Black Friday shopping day. Hoping the crowds will soon head home for dinner ;)  And then we're gonna start the Christmas house trimming. Click on back to Five for Friday to see what others are up to.

The post If You Teach Writing... first appeared on

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Connect with Students through eCards

Whoa. I wrote this post last night, but am only posting now, having just come from the airport. We had to pick up my daughter whose plane SLID OFF the RUNWAY upon landing! All are fine, thank the good Lord above. You never know what is in store on any given day, do you! The roads were HORRIBLE as we crept down the highway at 25 mph. Michigan winter fall weather at it's finest! WHAT is headed our way when WINTER actually comes this year?? Yikes.

Anyway, I am very happy to find a new link-up today! Thanks to Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Saturdays. I've been wanting to share a student connection idea. Research tells us that when kids feel connected to the teacher they do better in school. Luckily there are many ways to build rapport with students and families and I stumbled across one way with Blue Mountain eCards.

Each year at about this time I sign up for a couple months of membership. I use it to send eCards to families for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, New Years Day, and if I'm lucky, a stay home snow day, too. A membership is just $3.95 a month, so for eight dollars I get all these cards, and more, too, as I share with family and friends, as well. My students and their parents are so surprised to find an email from Mrs. Wright in the Inbox on a holiday.

Blue Mountain has many cards to choose from, but my favorites are the animated eCards. Sometimes the little animations run all by themselves, sometimes the kids get to click on things. There are also a couple that come with some games to play. Great fun! One family told me their little one would have watched it a hundred times if they had let him. My class and I have special connections to fairies and there are some great ones at Blue Mountain.

To see what I mean, just click on the picture below. It will take you to my favorite Christmas card.

I'm signing up with Blue Mountain this weekend and setting it up to go out on Thanksgiving Eve. I'm debating on the one below or a talking Pilgrim Chipmunk who will deliver my own message in a squeaky little voice. Kids will be so happy to find it that night or when they wake up. The Thanksgiving Parade isn't the only fun thing on the screen this holiday! Click on it to see.

Hope you find this a fun way to connect with and spark your students' enthusiasm for school... though we K teachers are lucky because it's a rare kid who doesn't LOVE Kindergarten!

Now click on back to Head Over Heels to read some other Student Sparks! And have a great rest of the weekend!

Oh, and if you liked this post, cruise around a bit on my blog home here and consider following, please. I am very close to 200 hundred followers and am planning a little party... stay tuned :)

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Entertainment Edition

I'm linking up as I LOVE to do with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

This has been SOME WEEK! But I'm not going to tell you about it because as I write this Thursday night, there is still one MORE day to GO! When I finally wrap this week up I'm going to need some entertainment, and I'm thinking you might, too. So here are some great videos. I've been saving these favorites, but it is time to share. Some cool, some for the kids, some funny! Hope you enjoy! Get ready to Pin!

1.  I'm starting off with something funny! There are lots of parodies of the song All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor, but this one is just for moms! Love it! I'm putting a link to it in my parent newsletter this week.

2.  Here's one for the kids! The Beatles help them learn the words yes, no, stop, go... This Beatles fan loves it. Totally worth adding to your classroom Pinterest Board... You DO know that one of the best ways to collect  videos for the classroom is by pinning them, right? Then with just a click to your board you can watch 'em.  Simple.

3. This is Amazing and Delightful! Irish kids singing and performing When I'm Gone in Irish. I thought about saving this one for you until St. Patrick's Day, but couldn't wait. You can save it until then to show your kids, if you like. Who knew plastic cups were musical instruments... would be fun to introduce that idea to the kiddos!

4.  This is Hysterical! I laughed so hard. I have two younger, identical twin brothers and when they were growing up, O.M.G. the trouble they would get into. What one didn't think of, the other one did. Naughty, naughty. I think they are the reason I went into teaching... if I could survive being the big sister through the shenanigans of those two, I could handle anything a class could throw at me.

Now this guy and his friend are NOT my brothers. But this IS about being naughty, and if my two had thought of it, this COULD be a RobbieDave story. It makes me miss them way out in Colorado. Enjoy this chuckle!

5. I bet you wouldn't think that a kindergarten teacher from the Midwest would have an ounce of interest in the trends of NYC, but truth be known, I love The Big Apple, and I do have a couple ounces of fashion interest... remember I'm the one with the Hello Kitty shoes, the red fringe cowboy boots, and the monkey hat. Fashion statements, every one.

Ever since I was little, NYC held some big fascination for me. My first trip there found me moving in for the summer while attending Bank Street College. I remember walking On Broadway on the upper west side humming the tune and thinking I had really arrived. Upon graduating, and before kids came on the scene, we considered taking up residence. I still like to keep an eye on the city.

Watch what's happening in New York and you'll know all the trends. Whether it's animal hats, particular prints, or the latest accessory, if people are wearing it on the street there, you'll see it on the street of Small Town soon.

So I relish the almost weekly reports by Bill Cunningham. I love the man. I've never met him, of course, but he is just so full of personality and knowledge on his topic, how can anyone not enjoy him. He knows fashion like no one else. Who else has been watching fashion for well over half a century? I saw the documentary on him several years ago and he is a character, a true thread of the fabric that makes up the city, out on his bike in all sorts of weather, camera in hand, seeing people with that special eye.

A weekend treat for me is to catch his New York Times piece, On the Street. It is a video slideshow with commentary that only Mr. Cunningham can do. Just marvelous! I love his snaps of ordinary people as they go about city life, and how he puts those pictures together.  I'm on my way to NYC in a few weeks with my daughters for a long weekend of Christmas shopping and as I always do, I'm keeping an eye on what Mr. Cunningham is up to. I'd love to catch a glimpse of him at work. This Michigan gal will never be in front of his camera, but I'd sure love to see what he sees. For my last piece of entertainment, click on his picture below and catch three minutes of his stuff. Love ya, Bill!

Scoot on back to Doodle Bugs and see what is going on with Kacey and the rest of your fellow teachers. And have a great weekend.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Sunday Scoop on Dr. Jean!

Thanks to Teaching Trio for this fun Sunday Scoop linky!

Well, there's nothing too exciting about my three Have-tos and my two Hope-tos.  Pretty self-explanatory. But let me tell you about my Happy-to!

Lookie, Lookie who I got to visit!

I knew of Dr. Jean before blogs even existed, I think!

Some family business took me home and it just so happened that Dr. Jean was in town nearby, so I bopped in and said hello.  If you haven't been to one of her conferences, you really gotta go because it's a treat. You'll hear about early childhood education at it's finest and walk away with no less than a million ideas to use with your kiddos. I just sit there grinning and appreciating the fact that I get to work with young children... and writing down notes as fast as I can, of course :)

If she's not coming your way you can still check out her blog. She is one of the most faithful daily bloggers and I get ideas every morning to use in my day. She has ALL sorts of resources on there, too. Spend a little time gathering treats by clicking on her button below.

And if you don't know Dr. Jean videos you can check her out here on my Pinterest Brain Break Board.

This is one of my kids' favorite brain break videos. They make up all sorts of new verses featuring other fruits and veges, usually getting inspired at snack time. They've even added an egg that goes "cheep" though I don't think we've had eggs for snack :)  I find my Pinterest Board one of the best places to store hand selected brain break videos. Pin away!

Now scoot on back now to The Sunday Scoop!

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Freebies, Pets, and a New Liebster Link-up

Happy Friday! I'm linking up, as I LOVE to do, with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. Thanks, Kacey!

1.  Calling all Liebster bloggers! If you accepted a Liebster Award there is a new link-up for you! When I first saw a Liebster Award on a blog, and then later when I was nominated for one, I went looking for info. After I did the work of accepting, I thought, hey, other people are going to wonder what this is, and how to find bloggers who have it, so let's gather info and bloggers together. If you're curious, click on the award to find more info. And if you are a Liebsterer (is that a word?) then be sure to link up to find new readers.

2. In my long career as a teacher I've had just about EVERY kind of classroom pet: rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, turtles, newts, frogs, crabs, anoles, even snakes, to say nothing of visiting baby squirrels, raccoons, and opossums... no, the kids didn't get to touch those very adorable, but WILD critters. I really like animals, so much so that a friend jokingly calls me St. Kathleen of Assisi.  And I very much believe in having kids learn about animals in hands-on ways. HOWEVER, kindergarten is not what it was years ago... she says needlessly. And no matter WHAT, pets take extra time and expense which now must go to other things. So this year, as we embarked on the pet unit, I went to the pet store with EASY in mind.

I was thinking hermit crabs, but when they told me that the substrate had to be completely emptied and changed weekly– cha-ching– and the temp had to be at least 75 degrees all the time (what classroom is above 62 these days?) and maintain high humidity... well, I changed my mind.

Kidpeople are now the proud adoptive parents of three guppies– two females and one male– and a snail who is probably more fun to watch than the fish at the moment. With any luck, however, the guppies will do what guppies do, and we'll have lots of baby guppies in short order. I got the special floating nursery so the laws of the sea won't rule– you know, bigger fish eat the smaller fish, even when the bigger fish just gave birth to the smaller ones.

Years ago I had guppies and it just so happened that the bowl was at home during break and on our kitchen table when Mama Guppy delivered! The four Wrights spent all dinner mesmerized as we watched this wonderful glimpse of live birth. These little specks, all eyes with a tiny hair of a tail, and more like mini-tadpoles than fish, started zipping around the tank, all naturally searching for a place to hide. Guppies are "livebearers" and they give birth to dozens of "fry" at a time. It is REALLY neat to see. I'm so hoping the kidpeople and I can catch this spectacle again. And if not, there are various videos on YouTube to watch. Caution: some of those videos have commentary not suitable for kindergartners.

Here's what our new Guppy habitat looks like:

Purple rope lights wrapped around the bottom and at the back
of the bowl make for nice effect.
The snail is right on the front of the bowl, and you can see one of the guppies outlined nicely. All of them dashed to the front of the bowl when I got out the camera... figures I have hambone fish! Floating on top is a water hyacinth that I rescued from my pond before the first frost came. I don't know how long it will last in the bowl, but it saves me buying other water plants for a while. Competing for attention is the small castle in the bowl- the kids tell me mermaids live in it. Who needs fish when you can have mermaids! Let this year's pet adventure begin!

3. In case you didn't see my post earlier this week, I have a new FREEBIE up on TPT. It's a goodie for November– a poem for the pocket chart and TWO different class books for the kids to contribute to. Lots of classrooms make "No" books in NOvember, in which kids list things that are no longer around when we reach November. For example, "No leaves on the trees," or "No more sandals." Well, I included a template for this "No book" just to make things easy for you. Then I went one step further and gave November a positive spin by making a template for a "YESember book," where kids can list all the things that they CAN do in November that they couldn't do before, such as have Thanksgiving, wear sweaters, and jump in leaves." Click on the book cover below to download this Freebie from my TPT store!

NOvember and YESember class book FREEBIES!

4. AND if you choose to teach the words No and Yes to the kids with the help of the books, then I have a silly game for you, too. Do you remember the old jumprope rhyme about the train?

Engine, engine number nine
Coming down Chicago line
If the train should jump the track
Do you want your money back?

And then the player has to say, yes or no, and it continues like this:

Y-E-S spells yes
And you are out!


N-O spells no
And you are out!

Well, I turned it into a kindergarten spelling game. All the kids sit in a circle with both feet pointing in. It is a tight circle, and as I'm sitting in the circle, too, all the toes are hard to reach. I use my long handled tapper to reach everyone around the circle.  We go around the circle with me tapping each shoe and saying the rhyme. The one tapped on "back" gets to answer yes or no, and then I continue tapping as we end the rhyme, and the "out" toe gets pulled back from the circle, to the moan of the outed player.
Engine, Engine Number 9 game

They sit there getting out one by one, each one thinking they've lost, because that's how most games go. Here's where the game gets interesting. I continue tapping until we are down to just the one last grinning player, then ask, "So who won?" Everyone shouts the last child's name, of course. Then I say that in THIS game everyone who gets OUT wins! Now there are shouts of joy, except for the last fella who thinks he's lost afterall. But the game's not over yet! I repeat the rhyme one more time, taping this one last toe with every beat, until he is also out, and a winner.

I point out that sometimes "out" doesn't mean you're the loser, and there's always a way to let everyone win. I surprise them all by whipping out a Skittle for each child. Whoot! We never get a prize when we win games in class! I end up with a happy, winning crew, all of whom can spell NO and YES quite well!  

5. Okay, it's not officially Funny Kid Friday, but it is Friday, and I do have a tale to tell from this week, so I share... minus the link-up.

Click to find more!

Do you have any "Factoid Boys" in your class? I hate to sound gender biased, but most years I have a couple little boys who just latch on to random facts in the biggest way. They tell me details about black holes and volcanoes, and all sort of interesting science-y stuff. Girls can do this, too, of course, but over the years it has been mostly boys, and so a teacher friend and I refer to them as Factoid Boys.

This week I introduced the magic of 32... 32 degrees that is. I explained that's the temperature at which water freezes- even the dew on the grass in the morning freezes and become frost. I told them that it was supposed to get down to that in the coming nights, so every morning when they get up they should quickly look out the window. They might see the ground is white and it won't be snow, but frost.

I was pleased with my little enrichment lesson that wasn't in the kindergarten curriculum, and was about to move on when my favorite Factoid Boy's hand flew up. This little guy rarely puts his hand up, preferring the blurt-out method of discussion, so I felt I had to encourage this and called on him. And what did he say?  "Now, we REALLY need to discuss Farenheit and Celcius."

It is kindergarten I'm teaching, right???

Click on Five for Friday for more fun!

The post Freebies, Pets, and a New Liebster Link-up first appeared on

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kindergarten Report Cards

This week I am ALL ABOUT REPORT CARDS, which in my district are five pages long for kindergarten.

How long are yours? Share in comments!

Back to Sugar and Spice for Wordless Wednesday and more great stuff.  Thanks, Christina!

The post Kindergarten Report Cards first appeared on

Monday, November 10, 2014

NOvember-YESember Books Freebie!

Linking up with Monday Made It to share a quick November FREEBIE.  Each year my class, like many elementary school classes, reads the poem November, an old traditional favorite.  In my class there is a slight variation and we learn it like this:


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

(Our variation is to substitute frogs for birds because we have lots of birds that stick around.)

Anyway, like many classrooms, we make our own list of "nos"– things we can't do in the cold, or things that disappear with the season. We then turn this list into a book. My class did a great job this year. Here are some of my favorite pages:

Lined up for ice cream–
she's a kid after my own heart!
I'm not sure I could draw myself riding on a bike so well... and yes, she does have wild curly hair

I guess bears are grumpy on the way to their den

This one took me a minute... duh...
g'Wahj Sales"

Kid drawing and writing is almost as fun as kid tales! Love it! I really emphasized with them that they needed a setting... no little figures floating in space out of context, please, and they all delivered.

Now I'm going to wait a couple weeks until they've lived through November a bit and do a second book with a positive spin... Our YESember Book! It will be fun to talk about all the things we DO get to do in November that we don't do in other seasons.

The template for the book in the photos up there is an old one I made a long time ago and it needed an update. So I asked DH Jonathan to polish it up and while he was at it could he do a YESember book to go with the NOvember one.  AND he also did a pocket chart version of the poem, just to save us teachers some time. This is super simple, black and white, just print and go. Click on the book covers to get to the FREEBIE!  And have fun with it.


Now cruise on over to 4th Grade Frolics and see all the other cool stuff teachers have made. And be sure to leave Tara some love for this great linky! I always find great stuff here– teachers are a creative bunch.

The post NOvember-YESember Books first appeared on

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Celebrating the 50th Day with Halves

Time flies in school, doesn't it? I'm linking with The Teaching Trio and their Sunday Scoop to share what's up... and a plan for the 50th day of school.  Here are my have-tos, hope-tos, and happy-tos for this very day.

The three "have-tos" really don't need any explanation do they? The have-tos of teachers are pretty universal.

The two "hope-tos" are also pretty self explanatory.  The only debate is whether to see Laggies, Big Hero 6, or Interstellar... if I get to see one at all.

And here's a YIPPEE as I get to do my one happy to-do right now! I love sharing ideas... and ideas that I haven't seen anywhere else.  For many of us whose school year started after Labor Day, this week holds the 50th day of school. Wow! I can hardly believe it. I love the 50th day because of the great opportunity it provides to learn about the 1/2 fraction... and oh, yeah, to have "half a party." Why halves? Because we are half way to the 100th day, of course! Here's a little learning fun to do with your kiddos, and all it takes are a few things from the grocery store.

On the first day of school, we always highlight the number 100 on the number grid, which we use to mark off our days of school. I tell the kids when we reach the 100th day we will have a party to celebrate. And then I highlight the 50 on the grid and say that on this day we will have a smaller party, a "half party" because we will be half way to 100.

When the 50th day comes, I teach the one half fraction in lots of fun ways. I start by folding a 100 grid, like the one we use to count the days, exactly in half. How many squares are on this side, and how many on the other? Wow, it's fifty on both sides making them equal and exactly half of the grid and half of 100.

Then I show the kids a paper cookie I've made. I ask one of the kids in the group if they'd like half of it (to pretend share.) They always says yes, so I rip it into two very UNequal pieces, and hand the child the smaller bit. Everyone protests, "Hey, that's not fair– you took the bigger one." I say, "But I broke the cookie in "half", didn't I?"

We then discuss what equal means. I divide another identical cookie, making sure it IS equal this time. I use a fake paper chocolate bar, and the play kitchen pizza to demonstrate further. I even put a group of eight little magnets on the board and discuss how to divide them in half.

Then it's time to write the fraction. I write a two on the board because we are making two parts. And then I write a line and one on top of the two because we are talking about one of those two parts. This is called a fraction and we call it "one half."

The party comes next. Here's the stuff you'll need:

I give each student a napkin and instruct them to cut it in half– and put half down to put their food on. Kids pair up and I hand a snack size Kit-Kat bar to one partner and a large graham cracker to the other. Then I ask each to watch the other as they break their treat in half so they can share. (Note both of these foods are scored for easy breaking!) Are the parts equal? If not, you didn't break it in half.

I also give them six Skittles and watch as they divide those into two equal parts on their napkin. Then I pour each student a half glass of juice or water, stopping a few times as I pour to ask if I'm at the half way point yet. (No, the glasses are not completely cylindrical, but it's close enough for the kids to get the idea.) A half glass of juice, one stick of Kit-Kat, half a cracker, and three Skittles is not much of a party... but then it is a Half Party after all.

This introduction to fractions, reinforced by hands-on learning and treats, really makes an impression on kids. Each year, from the 50th day on, I hear "half" and "equal" used as everyday terminology. Math at it's finest!

Do you celebrate the 50th Day of School? How do you do it?

Head on back to the Sunday Scoop by clicking here. Thanks Teaching Trio for a great linky!

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Find Liebster Bloggers!

If you landed here, you are lucky because you're about to find some great teacher blogs! All the teacher bloggers on this page have a Liebster Award.

What's a Liebster Award? Well, a Liebster can look like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Or even this:

There are lots of different designs and new ones being made by bloggers all the time, but it's not what it looks like that counts. Here's some of the info I've gathered about the Liebster Award:

Liebster is a German word that means dearest, lovely, cute, beloved, and welcome- not a bad group of adjectives to have associated with your name. 

It's been around since at least 2010.  

It is an international award, as you can find posts written about it in German, French, Italian, and Spanish, as well as English.

At the time of nomination the blogger is "new," in that they have fewer than 200 followers.

It is not an award that you win, per se, but rather a recognition given by bloggers to other bloggers for work well done. 

If nominated, the blogger must answer questions about themselves and their blog, nominate bloggers of their choice, and ask them the same or new questions. Bloggers link to their nominators and nominees. Although it is some effort, through the process you learn about new teachers and are discovered by others. In the blogosphere, it is an appreciated, welcoming gesture! 

The Liebster Award is certainly not just for teacher blogs, but most of the bloggers on this page are teachers. And although they all had less than 200 followers at the time the award was given, many have more now, and for good reason.

Whether you are a teacher or a teacher-blogger, click on the buttons below to find Liebster Award recipients, new teacher tips, and perhaps some new friends as well!

If your blog received a Liebster Award be sure to link up your blog below. If you haven't placed a Liebster Award icon on your blog yet, feel free to grab one from up above- these are all in common use and have no copyright that I can find. No need to place and link a specific button from this page to your blog, but you might link the Liebster Award on your blog to this page, so people find more info and Liebster recipients. 

While you're here be sure to check out some of your fellow Liebster bloggers. Spread the word!

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