Saturday, January 14, 2017

Magnet Letters: 6 Ideas for Success

Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.
I am a magnet letter junkie. It's one of the things on my list when I visit thrift stores. I am always gathering upper and lower case letters. One summer I even sorted all my letters and made student letter kits with tackle boxes. It turned out to be a bad idea because the plastic locking pieces on the tackle boxes were too hard for kinders to do by themselves, regardless, I love magnet letters. We use them throughout the school year. Here are 6 ideas for using them in your classroom.

Letter Sort

Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.
Using magnet letters for sorting is a perfect way to incorporate a hands-on tactile activity for students. Students can sort by color, consonant v vowel, capital and lowercase, in my name v not in my name, just to name a few.

Letter Match

Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.
As a beginning of the year independent activity, students are asked to match letters to the sound chart. The first activity was to match lowercase letters to the sound chart. It is also interesting to see how students have to problem solve with letters like u and n or letters like b, d, p, and q.  After two weeks of lowercase letters, students are given uppercase letters. This invites problem solving and conversations about directionality. After two more weeks using uppercase letters, students are asked to match upper and lowercase letters. This center is easily differentiated for all learners. Some students can be given a limited number of letters orletters from one line of the chart. Some students can be asked to make words from the chart, compare letters according to shape and formation or comparing words from the chart as same or different.

Sight Words

Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.
Sight word activities are always on everyone's mind. Students need practice reading, sorting, making and breaking sight words. Using the chart provided students can use magnet letters to create sight words. The upper and lowercase examples are provided, if the magnet letters are mixed. This is another easily differentiated center. Some students can have a bag with specific letters they will need, or even one word at a time. Some students can create the sight words and new words: making come and some, making look and book.

Word Families

Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.
Magnet letters can be used to make word family words. Using a mat with the word family or word family cards, students can add the beginning. Students can also be directed to use blends or digraphs at the beginning. One important part of this center is making sure students create the words and either read the words to an adult or write the words on a paper. One teacher I know gives students a small piece of paper (an eighth of a 12x18 paper) and they are asked to write a word on the front and the back and illustrate both. This is the "proof" the center was completed. Students who need a challenge, can be asked to write the word, a sentence and a picture. Another teacher has her students take a picture of their completed task with their name written with dry erase on the classroom iPad as their "proof."

Word Building

Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.
Making, building, constructing, creating...whatever verb you want to use...is a key to early literacy. Students need to be listening to the beginning, middle, and end of words and make connections from listening to sounds to representing those sounds with letters. Students can create the words in a CVC pattern. After creating the words, the students should write the CVC word.

Magnet Play

Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.Finally, students in my classroom had a bucket of magnet letters for their third and final center of the day. There are cards available for them to use. Some students will find letters, some students can reproduce parts of the word wall, some students will make words found in the room or create friend's names. This is the perfect way to end independent centers with magnet play.

If you'd like a FREEBIE, click here for a Magnet Letter Sample Set or click the picture below.

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Using magnet letters to create, build,  construct, deconstruct and make words is a valuable activity for all students. Here are 6 ideas for magnet letters.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Integrating Writing into Math Adds Up to Success

Integrating writing into math helps early learners make great connections. Here are 5 ideas for making sure your students are writing math.
 If you have ever met me, heard me speak, or read a blog you will know I believe in integrating. If it is all connected, it is easier to understand. You may, or may not know, math is not my thing. Not at all. Ironically, I am married to an engineer and have two sons who are very good in math, the oldest is in his first year as a high school math teacher, and loves it. BUT, if we can integrate math into other subjects, it's easier. Here are 5 ways to integrate math into writing.

Names
Integrating writing into math helps early learners make great connections. Here are 5 ideas for making sure your students are writing math.

The perfect place to start, especially in kindergarten. We are practicing their names throughout the day, why not talk about them in math. Analyze their names. How many letters are in your names. The perfect beginning math lesson is counting the letters in their name. Before gluing their names, let them compare their names: Who has a name that starts the same as theirs? Who has a name that ends the same as theirs? Who has a name that has 2 letters the same? Gluing their names on the graph lets them see who else has a name that is the same length or longer or shorter. Students can also use a bingo marker to mark all the letters in their name, then see what the overall letter winner is.

Anchor Charts
Integrating writing into math helps early learners make great connections. Here are 5 ideas for making sure your students are writing math.

Immediately making color, shape, and number posters makes the students invest in their classroom. Make sure they are helping you write the names using interactive writing and calling on students who have known letters or letters in their name. Make sure you teach them to use the anchor charts you create. If you need ideas check out my blog post for Anchor Charts.

Thinking Maps
Integrating writing into math helps early learners make great connections. Here are 5 ideas for making sure your students are writing math.

Thinking Maps or pre-write maps are perfect for math themes. Bridge maps are probably my favorite for math skills...it shows relationships and analogies. The two in the picture above are with measuring tools. They are presented in two different forms (basically because one year I didn't have much wall space). The circle map is perfect for coins or numbers. If you put a numeral in the middle, you can allow students to draw or write representatives of that numeral in the circle map. A brace map takes apart objects...and a clock is the best lesson for this. I could go on and on about maps.

Poetry
Integrating writing into math helps early learners make great connections. Here are 5 ideas for making sure your students are writing math.

I also love my Poems of the Week, and integrating math in this area is a great way to explain concepts. I have a few examples above, but a poem about tallying is a great introduction to this very difficult concept. During the time unit, we also use "Hickory, Dickory Dock." During our weather unit we also use "It's Raining, It's Pouring," but that's integrating Science...oops. My favorite story about using the penny poem (above) is all about Abraham Lincoln. Well, not necessarily Abe. So, we start with the penny poem at the beginning of the year and every. We say it every day during calendar and I ask the same questions every day: Who is on the front of the penny? Who is on the back of the penny? What is a penny worth? One day I noticed a struggling learner raise his hand quickly. He seemed to pulse his arm and really wanted to answer. This was very unusual, so I was quick to ask him, "Sam, who is on the front of the penny?" "COPPER BROWN!" he said excitedly. Yep, go back and read the poem.

Writing
Integrating writing into math helps early learners make great connections. Here are 5 ideas for making sure your students are writing math.

Finally, here are just a few writing examples with a math slant. During the 100th day of school, students get a paper with a giant 100 on it for their weekly squiggle. They have to make something with the 100. I have had amazing ideas (a snorkling boy, a family with an umbrella, a school bus) and the one in the picture says, "The boy is hanging the clothes." We also wrote our names with syllables, counting them on the Tree Map. In the math center, students had to stamp each car of the train with a picture, then they will write a sentence using ordinal words.

Just write, write, write...all day. All the time. Every subject.

If you'd like a FREE Integrating Math Set, click the link or the picture below.

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Integrating writing into math helps early learners make great connections. Here are 5 ideas for making sure your students are writing math.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Small Group Instruction: What will your students need?

Having materials handy is a great way to make sure small group instruction is about reading, not organizing.
Small Group Instruction time is precious and should be guarded at all costs. At our school, daily small group instruction is a non-negotiable. In order to get to 3 groups daily, you can't waste any time. SOOOOO, what will you do to make the most of the time you have?

Have Their Supplies Ready

Is there a better store than Dollar Tree? I don't think so, I got these "pencil buckets" at Dollar Tree in a set of 3 for a dollar. What a deal! I have 6 buckets made up for my guided reading groups. When students are called over to small group instruction, they bring their books with them and I put a pencil bucket in front of each student. The buckets contain anything they could possibly need during the lesson at their fingertips. Here is what is in the buckets.
Having materials handy is a great way to make sure small group instruction is about reading, not organizing.

Dry Erase Markers and Boards

Typically dry erase boards are too big or bulky. I made these dry erase boards and laminated them so they fit in to the pencil cases (1 1/2 inches by 8 inches). These dry erase boards have dotted lines on one side and are blank on the other side. Sometimes I want lines, sometimes I don't need them. I also like the dry erase markers with an eraser on the top from Dollar Tree.
Having materials handy is a great way to make sure small group instruction is about reading, not organizing.

Magnet Letters 

Some groups might need magnets for sorting capital and lowercase letters, spelling sight words, creating word endings or word families. If different groups need different letters, I will put them in snack size Ziploc bags to be switched out. The activity to the right is a sight word activity I adapted from Jan Richardson. Students use the magnet letters to spell the sight word. We may even do a few rounds of mix and fix with those letters. Finally, they put the letters spelled correctly on the table.  I set a timer for 30 seconds. Students are directed to write the word, underline it while they read it, and repeat it. They are not supposed to "spell" the word, I want them to think of this sight word as  a whole. At the end of 30 seconds, they count the number of times they write the word and circle it on the card. I record this time on my lesson plan. The next time we do this activity, they will race against themselves.
Having materials handy is a great way to make sure small group instruction is about reading, not organizing.

Whisper Phones

I keep whisper phones in the buckets. Whisper phones are used differently in different reading groups. For my earliest learners, using the whisper phones helps them really "hear" themselves. Sometimes, students need to be reminded to read in a quieter voice and whisper phones are perfect for this. Whisper phones can also be used to help students with fluency, voice inflection and intonation. I think they are under-used in small group. I ordered some whisper phones from Really Good Stuff and I also had a teacher's boyfriend make some for her with pipes and duck tape.
Having materials handy is a great way to make sure small group instruction is about reading, not organizing.

Decoding Strategy Cards

I also have a quick review of strategy cards in the pencil buckets. These cards might be "sound and slide" or "get your mouth ready," like in the pictures. Students need specific practice with using strategies so they can apply the strategies when they need them in reading. All of the decoding strategies are taped to the desk for quick referral, but students need controlled practice for using there strategies.
Having materials handy is a great way to make sure small group instruction is about reading, not organizing.

Strategy Buckets

The buckets also contain a pencil and a spacer. The spacer can be used when writing or used as a pointer, if needed. Sometimes I add cards for sorting or word family cards.  It just depends on what I need.

Having the materials ready makes my small group instruction go smoothly without wasting time passing out materials. I should also let you know, I typically have buckets that are the same color. I don't want to have arguments about who has what bucket or what color.

I hope this is makes your guided reading time go smoothly.

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Having materials handy is a great way to make sure small group instruction is about reading, not organizing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

President's Day in Kindergarten

President's Day activities can be fun with kindergartners.
Before we know it, it will be President's Day.  I'm sorry. Our kindergarten curriculum starts introducing the role of our president in the fall. As we teach the students the Pledge of Allegiance, we also introduce our president. Students need to know the president is "the leader of the United States of America." Of course this is just a rudimentary understanding, but it's their first exposure to the president. This year will be interesting because the election has certainly had polarizing effects on our country. Students will undoubtedly hear about the president before President's Day, because the Inauguration will be in January. I truly believe it is my job as a teacher to teach about the role of president without my personal opinions ever coming into play. So, with that in mind, here are a few activities for President's Day.

Books

President's Day activities can be fun with kindergartners.
There are many books published about President's Day. Some are very in depth, some are just about Washington or Lincoln or about both. There are many choices for teachers. The book above is my new favorite. This Little President is published by Scholastic and I love it. I'm sort of a sucker for the four line poem (I've blogged about this before). This book contains a 4-line poem for each of the presidents. One of my favorite things about this book is that it isn't just for kindergartners. I would think this could be a fun activity for older students, either guessing which president matches the poem or making an additional 4-line poem to compliment the first. That being said, I would only share a few of the poems with my students and not try to read all of them.
Poetry and Art
President's Day activities can be fun with kindergartners.
My 4-line poem for the week is called Presidents. Our state standards require me to teach about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Trying to keep the poem short and not focus on either the poem focuses on the job of the president: to "make America good for me and you." I know, I know...think like a kindergartner, not an adult. The poem focuses on names, sight words, and a basic understanding of the job. During week 1, students read the poem for understanding and fluency. Week 2, as described in earlier posts, I move the poem to the poetry and art centers. This art center is a choice center: students can choose to make a George Washington poster or an Abraham Lincoln poster. The George Washington poster allows the students to paint cherries on the tree. The Abraham Lincoln poster allows them to create a log cabin and glue on a real penny.  It's a big decision. If you would like the Sample President's Day Set, click the highlighted link or the picture below.

President Can Have Are

President's Day activities can be fun with kindergartners.
I like making a President Anchor Chart and the can-have-are chart makes the most sense. It's interesting to get their ideas about what belongs on the chart. It's easiest to make an anchor chart to look like Abraham Lincoln's hat.

Other Activities

There are many more activities I use in my classroom. We have vocabulary cards, a secret code using beginning sounds, and easy readers with sight words. The entire set for President's Day is in my TPT store.  The entire set is 42 pages and contains: President Definition Activity in both full-color and black and white, 3 poem alternatives, poem concept of word order activity, a sort, pieces for art activities, small poem for art activity, 4 sight word readers, counting by 5 and counting by 10 activity cards, 30 vocabulary cards in both full-color and black and white, an ABC Abraham Lincoln activity, a February Secret message sheet, and two word making activities.  If you are interested in the full President's Day Set, click the link or the picture below.

I know I'm early for President's Day, so make sure you Pin this for Later:
























Fun Facts about President's Day:
1. President's Day isn't really a holiday. It was originally designated at George Washington's Day to celebrate and honor our first president. Richard Nixon decided all presidents, including himself, should be honored and celebrated, so he changed the name unofficially when he was in office.
2. If you look up the correct spelling you'll find Presidents Day, Presidents' Day and President's Day. Basically, they are all acceptable. If you are celebrating all presidents, there should not be an apostrophe. If you are celebrating a president, like George Washington, it could be with an "apostrophe s." AND finally, if you are celebrating two presidents, like Washington and Lincoln, it could be with a "s apostrophe." It is suggested you pick one spelling and stick with it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Warm Up Winter with Penguin and Pinecone

Penguin and Pinecone is a great story of friendship. Using sequencing activities with this story gets students engaged with these new friends.
So excited to link up with my blogging friends know as The Reading Crew. Nothing can warm up your heart this winter like a good book. Ok, maybe a good book and a cup of hot cocoa. I recently happened upon this book and it's definitely a heart warmer. Penguin even knits his new friend a scarf.

As you wander through the posts, be sure to jot down each blogger's mystery word. It is the verification you need for the entries in our giveaway. The words will be BLUE, so hopefully you won't miss them. 

This story lends itself to a sequencing activity or five.

Beginning, Middle, End

Penguin and Pinecone is a great story of friendship. Using sequencing activities with this story gets students engaged with these new friends. Students can use the three-piece puzzle to create the beginning, middle, and end of the story. The three-piece puzzle can be divided into a six-piece puzzle, if you would like. When students are illustrating, don't forget the scarf.

Transition Words

Penguin and Pinecone is a great story of friendship. Using sequencing activities with this story gets students engaged with these new friends. Students can make an anchor chart for transition words. The anchor chart in the picture below was on Pinterest, but the pin didn't lead to anyone's blog. If I knew who to credit, I would. Students can retell the story with the help of the anchor chart. Students can complete the sort independently or as a group. As a follow-up activity, ask the students to write a summary of the story using new transition words.

Paint Chips!

Penguin and Pinecone is a great story of friendship. Using sequencing activities with this story gets students engaged with these new friends. I love paint chips. You know I do. (If you want more details about how to use paint chips in your classroom.) This is a new idea: sequencing. Put the transition words on the paint chips for help when students are retelling. They can also be used as a group activity, by passing the paint chip for the next student to tell the next thing in a story.

Sequencing Spinner Game

Penguin and Pinecone is a great story of friendship. Using sequencing activities with this story gets students engaged with these new friends. This is perfect for a small group retell of a story. Using a paper clip and a pencil, students will spin the spinner and tell the part of the story they land on. If they land on the "then" space more than once, they an tell a new details about the middle of the story.

FREEBIE for Penguin and Pinecone

Penguin and Pinecone is a great story of friendship. Using sequencing activities with this story gets students engaged with these new friends. Everyone loves a freebie, right? If you haven't guessed by now, the key word for my post is SCARF. The freebie includes the sequencing puzzle, the transition word sort, paint chips you can sort and two spinners (one black and white and one full color). CLICK HERE for the Penguin and Pinecone Sequencing FREEBIE or click the picture above.

I hope you enjoy the hop...such great bloggers and books. I also hope you enjoy Penguin and Pinecone.

Take a Chance to Win

For our link up, we will be giving away a copy of each book featured in our posts. That is a total of 16 books and valued between $100a nd $150. You can see all of hte great titles in the link up images below. Excited? We are! We hope you'll pay attention for the mystery words on each post as you can't win without them! For my post, I chose the mystery word scarf.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Independent Task Boards...Let's Get it Done

Giving students ownership and independence in completing tasks is a true gift of a great teacher. Here are 1-step and 3-step independent task boards.
You know that student. The one that won't get anything done without you. A new teacher at our school has this on lock. This teacher came in against tremendous odds: she was taking over a class mid-year, oh, and did I mention this class was our self-contained class for students with autism?

Lisa C is amazing! She knows these students and tries to give them what they need. She is also eager to ask for help, if she needs it. She created task boards for her students. Using these task boards, she helps her students make great choices and be successful.

1-step Independent Task Boards

Giving students ownership and independence in completing tasks is a true gift of a great teacher. Here are 1-step and 3-step independent task boards.
Lisa's students need to find success quickly and sometimes, that's completing 1 step at a time. These 1-step tasks can go a long way to build success, trust, and independence. Students who need these tasks get to choose their reward. The rewards are laminated with velcro dots on the back. There are even blank cards to create their own reward.

3-Step Independent Task Boards

Giving students ownership and independence in completing tasks is a true gift of a great teacher. Here are 1-step and 3-step independent task boards.
The picture above what waited for one of her students on an ordinary morning. The student needed to complete the worksheet from the day before, before he could start his day. She used a student created task board and 3 small post-it notes. The tasks are simple, name, paste, basket. He know exactly what he needed to do without lots of discussion or direction. He also had everything he needed available to him: the glue and extra pieces in a small container.

To get started...

I have a starter set for you for free. The link has several 1-step task cards, 3-step task cards, and rewards. Click the picture above or this link to get the FREE SET OF TASK CARDS. Lisa is such an amazing teacher and I look forward to working with her in the new year. 

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Big 3: Primary Writing Can Be Independent & Successful

Students who are taught from the beginning to self-check, will be able to easily analyze their own writing quickly. Using the BIG 3 is an easy way to hold them accountable for capitals, spaces, and end marks.
I have debated and drafted and debated and drafted and tried to determine the best way to teach our earliest learners about writing "must-haves."  I landed on my BIG 3.  Students are asked to look at their writing critically and make sure they have all the necessary mechanics of good writing. But, when you introduce and practice the BIG 3 in  a a whole group, before you expect it in their individual writing, you can guarantee good results.
Students who are taught from the beginning to self-check, will be able to easily analyze their own writing quickly. Using the BIG 3 is an easy way to hold them accountable for capitals, spaces, and end marks.

Anchor Charts

I have definite thoughts about anchor charts and I am more than clear about the explicit nature of anchor charts.  They must be created WITH, BY, and FOR the students.  Then, the students must practice using the anchor charts. After these steps, the anchor charts have meaning and depth and students use them easily.  The BIG 3 anchor chart can be constructed in one of two ways.  The teacher and the student can interactively create the chart over a few days (as pictured on the cover image) or the class can construct the chart with pretyped words and interactive writing combined.  Students should also be given a writing folder sized anchor chart for personal reference, as they are writing. When anchor charts are used consistently and taught HOW to use the charts, students own the chart and the task at hand.
Students who are taught from the beginning to self-check, will be able to easily analyze their own writing quickly. Using the BIG 3 is an easy way to hold them accountable for capitals, spaces, and end marks.

Sing it!

Anyone who has spent time in a classroom knows that if early learners can sign about it, they can learn it.  As a matter of fact, they can sing it before they understand it.  It is incredibly important to make sure they have connected the meaning of the song with the action.  There are hand motions to the song:

Writing a sentence is as easy as can be (One hand "holds a pencil," while the other is opened flat to mimic the paper.  As the student sings the song, the pencil writes on the paper.)
All you need is the BIG 3 (student holds up 3 fingers)
Capitals to start (both hands stretch up as high as they can, bouncing as the student sings)
Spaces in between (two hand come to shoulder height and push out from the sides, making spaces)
A period to stop, if you know what I mean. (Bring 1 fist across the body and stop it on the other open hand.)
Writing a sentence is easy as can be (repeat earlier motion)
All you need is the BIG 3! (repeat earlier motion)
Students who are taught from the beginning to self-check, will be able to easily analyze their own writing quickly. Using the BIG 3 is an easy way to hold them accountable for capitals, spaces, and end marks.

Predictable Sentences

Students will practice the Big 3 independently with predictable sentences.  As they practice the sight word sentences, students can check each sentence for capitals, spaces, and end marks.  This is a wonderful guided writing practice because it's controlled.  
Students who are taught from the beginning to self-check, will be able to easily analyze their own writing quickly. Using the BIG 3 is an easy way to hold them accountable for capitals, spaces, and end marks.

Journal Writing

I've used these rubric writing journal covers with students for both journal writing and/or morning work. Students writing each morning will look at the rubric from the day before and remind themselves of the Big 3.  Having the daily rubric on the cover, let's students know where they can make sure their attention is going when they write that day.  On Friday, I would send this weekly writing booklet home to be celebrated with their families.

Using the BIG 3 with early writers is a great way to get students involved in their own writing.

CLICK HERE for a free sample of the BIG 3 Journal Template.

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Students who are taught from the beginning to self-check, will be able to easily analyze their own writing quickly. Using the BIG 3 is an easy way to hold them accountable for capitals, spaces, and end marks.