Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Memorial Day...More than a Day Off

Memorial Day should be shared with our learners as a day of respect and honor, not a day off school.  Picture books, writing tools, and word work activities will help support this lesson.
I know we are all at that time of the year when we are DELIGHTED to have Memorial Day off of school.  In my part of Virginia we go to school until the middle of June, so Memorial Day is the "beginning of the end" for us.

BUT, we need to take a step back and realize it's bigger than that.
Teachers have a critical role in teaching the next generation about the true meaning of Memorial Day.  Seems this generation of students is more "me-centric" and the value of paying respect is being watered down daily.

We have to share Memorial Day with our students.  There are some great picture books available for this task.  The H is for Honor book can be "heavy" for some early learners, but choosing a few pages to share can be a perfect way of having this material.
Memorial Day should be shared with our learners as a day of respect and honor, not a day off school.  Picture books, writing tools, and word work activities will help support this lesson.
As a follow up to the books, I have created some materials to support writing about Memorial Day.  You know I love my 4 Square and this is an easy fit.  I also created a Memorial Day Vocabulary Card and writing paper.
Memorial Day should be shared with our learners as a day of respect and honor, not a day off school.  Picture books, writing tools, and word work activities will help support this lesson.
The FREEBIE also contains 2 word work ideas for Memorial Day.  The first is a "make it, break it" activity using the letters that spell "Memorial Day."  This can be a teacher directed activity, a small group activity, or an independent activity. The last activity is a Word Family flip book.  I chose the 
-ay family (Memorial DAY). Students can make the flip book and write about the -ay family.
Memorial Day should be shared with our learners as a day of respect and honor, not a day off school.  Picture books, writing tools, and word work activities will help support this lesson.

Finally, a teacher at our school has a son currently serving in the military in Japan.  Just recently he lost his best friend in his unit.  The idea of Memorial Day and showing respect is more important than ever.  This week she put this in our faculty lounge.  What a great way for adults to remember.
Memorial Day should be shared with our learners as a day of respect and honor, not a day off school.  Picture books, writing tools, and word work activities will help support this lesson.

If you would like the Memorial Day FREEBIE, CLICK HERE or the picture below to follow the link to my TPT Store.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Turn and Talk...and Then Some

nstead of trying to stifle 5-year-olds, embrace their conversations. Turn and talk...and then some. Let the children talk, but teach them to talk in specific ways about specific things.
I’m a talker!  Always have been, always will be.  My mother used to start parent conferences with, “I know Cathy talks too much, what else can you tell me?”  My very favorite high school English teacher used me in a vocabulary example, “Cathy is loquacious.” Yep, it means talkative. But, in the classroom talking is good...or it should be. Make sure they are talking about what you want them to talk about.  
nstead of trying to stifle 5-year-olds, embrace their conversations. Turn and talk...and then some. Let the children talk, but teach them to talk in specific ways about specific things.

Get them talking.

One of the best ways to let children demonstrate their understanding in the content areas is to let them talk.  Of course, controlling the talking is the secret they don’t have to know.  Here are a few conversations your students can have that will let you know just how much they know.

Good Noise

Years ago I had a teacher assistant who would complain every day about the noise in the room.  I would constantly tell her, “They are 5.  It won’t be perfectly quiet for long.”  I’d also say, “They need to talk to communicate their thoughts.”  I kept trying to tell her there was a difference between noise and good noise.

Turn and Talk Better

Instead of trying to stifle 5-year-olds, embrace their conversations.  Turn and talk...and then some.  Let the children talk, but teach them to talk in specific ways about  specific things.  We all do it, but do you know how valuable it truly is.  Make sure there is procedure for talking.  Make rules. 
   1.     Get a partner.  Make sure they know WHO they should be talking to.
   2.     Make sure they know what to talk about.  Set a purpose.
   3.     Make it mandatory that both partner’s talk.  Give roles:  the talker and the listener.  Each student gets a role on a popsicle stick.  They rotate holding the signs to share the talk.    You can also use the roles to have the students share their discussion with the class.
Instead of trying to stifle 5-year-olds, embrace their conversations.  Turn and talk...and then some.  Let the children talk, but teach them to talk in specific ways about  specific things.
4.     Make them justify.  Hold the partners accountable for the “because…” part of the statement.  They can’t just give an opinion or a fact, they have to back it up.


Oral Projects

Students love talking…so letting them choose what to talk about can help you focus their attention to details.  One year, I had a monthly family project.  In the middle of the month, I sent home a template due at the end of the month to be displayed for the following month.  For example, half way through September I sent home a pumpkin for the students to decorate.  It was due the end of the month, to be displayed outside our door for the whole next month.  We spent the day they were due letting the students describe their project.

Let’s talk Social Studies and Science

A great way to get students talking is to link the discussion to a social studies or science standard.

            Magnets – According to Virginia Standards of Learning, our kindergarten students needed to understand the laws of attract and repel.  It can be a tricky concept for 5-year-olds to express.  After magnet play with several types of magnets, including a brief explanation of North and South Poles attracting and repelling, students are put into pairs with “sandwich boards” made of red and blue construction paper with “N” and “S.”  They need to have a conversation with each other to determine something that would help them be “attracted” to each other.  They also need to determine something that would make them “repel” from each other.  They share with the class the things that would attract (donuts, candy, ice cream) and those that would repel (bees, snakes, spiders). 
nstead of trying to stifle 5-year-olds, embrace their conversations. Turn and talk...and then some. Let the children talk, but teach them to talk in specific ways about specific things.
            Reuse Something – Our kindergarten students also need to learn about natural resources to reuse, reduce, and recycle.  We always have a “reuse” project due at the end of the unit.  Students need to create something from something else that would typically be thrown away.  When they return their projects to the class, they need to tell the students what they “reused” and made into something new.  This student reused paper plates, a paper towel roll, an old CD (as the base) to create the game.

            President – What would they do if they were president.  I’ve seen it as a writing assignment for older students, but younger students can’t get their thoughts down on paper easily.  Let them talk about it.  You can have them dress up as a President for the Day.  They can tell you what they would like to do, if they were president.  Cupcakes for lunch every day?  Video games were mandatory?  You’ll love what they say.

Let them talk…use it wisely and it will make them wiser.

CLICK HERE for Talking/Listening Sticks.

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nstead of trying to stifle 5-year-olds, embrace their conversations. Turn and talk...and then some. Let the children talk, but teach them to talk in specific ways about specific things.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Have a Books to Movie Summer

Everyone likes the summer...but no one likes summer slide. How can we get parents involved without creating "summer homework?" Let's watch movies. A Books to Movies Summer might just be the answer.You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…
Summer Slide!

UGH!  Everyone wants summer…teachers need it to recharge, rejuvenate and redo lessons before they start again in the fall.  They look forward to sleeping without alarm clocks, lunches that last more than twenty minutes and reading “grown-up” books. Students LOVE the summer, as well.  They look forward to the free days, the sleeping late, no homework, no bus rides.  Until Day 4 and then the chorus of “I’m bored” can be heard around the neighborhood. And after a joyous summer, teachers are faced with the dreaded summer slide.   How can we avoid the boredom and the summer slide at the same time?

We need parents to help.  More and more parents are feeling hesitant about helping their child…they don’t want to do more harm than good.  AND they don’t want to teach their child something the “wrong way.”  Some parents also deliberately stay away from schoolwork and opt for a “homework-free” summer.  That’s where “A Books to Movie Summer” comes in.Everyone likes the summer...but no one likes summer slide.  How can we get parents involved without creating "summer homework?"  Let's watch movies.  A Books to Movies Summer might just be the answer.
Many children’s books have been turned in to movies over the years…some better than others.  The argument for which is better (by the way, the books are ALWAYS better) is an ongoing debate.  Engaging the family in this debate can only benefit the child.  Parents can look at reading a classic, like a Charlotte’s Web.  Taking the time to read the words of friendship, desperation, and loss allows a child to connect with those emotions words on a page and images in their head before they become the spoken word from a character in an animated or live-action film.  At the end of the each chapter, concrete discussions about what happens are the springboard to predictions and drawing conclusions and the what ifs of the story.  Discussions can include all the levels of Bloom’s without being directed by a “teacher” but by curiosity.  Parents might even want to keep a list of scenes from the story they want to look for in scenes in the movie.  At it’s very core, the commitment is a chapter a night.  At the educational level, it is book talks, inferencing, debate, summarizing, and so much more.  But at its broadest stroke it is family togetherness.  It is sharing in emotions.  It is building background knowledge for love, friendship, and loss.  It also becomes a family movie night.  The movie can be shared on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a box of Kleenex®, especially if they are watching Charlotte’s Web

Whether parents have access to cable, Netflix®, or their public library, this summer could be one to remember for the whole family…with a side order or no summer slide.

If you would like some ideas for Charlotte's Web, CLICK HERE or the picture below.


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Thursday, May 12, 2016

4 Sight Word Ideas for Emergent Readers

Word wall words, sight words, whatever you call them...emergent readers and writers need them. Here are 4 activities (personal word walls, word wall phrases, word wall games, and word wall activities in centers/literacy work stations) to help make these words automatic for your students.
I won't drone on about the importance of sight words.  I believe even the earliest learners can be taught to recognize sight words...even before they know the letters.  I, personally, don't want them to think of the words as parts (l, o, o, k).  I need them to think of the words as a whole.  That's why we call them "sight" words.
Word wall words, sight words, whatever you call them...emergent readers and writers need them. Here are 4 activities (personal word walls, word wall phrases, word wall games, and word wall activities in centers/literacy work stations) to help make these words automatic for your students.
I actually had a teacher say this to me..."Why would you put word wall words in the first 9 weeks of kindergarten. They don't even know their letters. I can't teach words until they know all their letters." Please, please, please say it's not so. Please expose them to how letters work AS they are learning them. Sight words are not usually decodable, so they don't have to know the letter/sound relationship to know sight words...they should be known by SIGHT.

Here are 4 ideas for making sight words (word wall words) meaningful and easy for all students.
Word wall words, sight words, whatever you call them...emergent readers and writers need them. Here are 4 activities (personal word walls, word wall phrases, word wall games, and word wall activities in centers/literacy work stations) to help make these words automatic for your students.

1.  Personal Word Walls

In a recent post on Virginia is for Teachers, I talked about personal word walls.  This is a great tool for students.  This personal word wall is Jamie's.  He is a struggling reader and this personal word wall is focused on just the words he has been introduced to through his guided reading lessons.  We introduce 2 word wall words per week in kindergarten and up to 10 words a week in first grade.  That can be overwhelming to a struggling reader.  By using a personal word wall, we reduced Jamie's sight words to "critical" words introduce directly in guided reading. He is able to manage a fewer number of words. As part of small group instruction, we read his word wall at the beginning of each lesson.
Word wall words, sight words, whatever you call them...emergent readers and writers need them. Here are 4 activities (personal word walls, word wall phrases, word wall games, and word wall activities in centers/literacy work stations) to help make these words automatic for your students.

2.  Sight Word Phrases

Sight word phrases are an easy way to get students to use the words in context, not just in isolation. Having a phrase section on the word wall can help them practice the phrases as they read.  AS a word is added to the word wall, we try to make phrases with existing word wall words.  In the example above, the teacher adds these phrases to the left side of her word wall.  Students are directed to use them in writing and in centers. I want to blog about Word Wall Mistakes, but I don't know how to do it without posting pictures of awful word wall practices, and offending some people...one day.
Word wall words, sight words, whatever you call them...emergent readers and writers need them. Here are 4 activities (personal word walls, word wall phrases, word wall games, and word wall activities in centers/literacy work stations) to help make these words automatic for your students.

3. Sight Word Games

Sight word games are a fun way to help the students practice their words.  The Roll-a-Word game can be played independently or as a team.  Independently students can roll the dice and color a square to build  a tower.  When they roll one word enough times to make a tower touch the top, they are done.  Adding a quick tally lesson, the class can tally which words make the tower each day.  At the end of the week, you have have a sight word winner.  If you want it to be a partner game, each student will need a different color crayon.  Each student will roll the dice and color a square with their color. Whoever colors the square that reaches the top, will be the winner.  The Fluency Races are especially fun.  Students roll the dice and read the column as fast as they can. They have to start over if they mess up, but they think it's fun.  Make grids with frequently confused words.  Words such as have and has, or in and on can trip up students.  Playing with these words can create automaticity with these words.
Word wall words, sight words, whatever you call them...emergent readers and writers need them. Here are 4 activities (personal word walls, word wall phrases, word wall games, and word wall activities in centers/literacy work stations) to help make these words automatic for your students.

4.  Sight Words in Centers

Having a sight word component to centers makes the centers strategic, as well as independent. Each week the Art Center and Poetry Center are centered around the poem of the week from the week before.  The poems are familiar.  They circle word wall words and color in yellow.  The ABC Center above was an activity with in/on.  The Dry Erase Center is set up with sight words and phrases. Students can practice writing.  

Writing, reading, manipulating, building, breaking and doing whatever else I can think of at the moment is only making your emergent reader a better reader.  I hope these ideas help.

Click the link for Sight Word FREEBIE or click the picture above.

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Word wall words, sight words, whatever you call them...emergent readers and writers need them. Here are 4 activities (personal word walls, word wall phrases, word wall games, and word wall activities in centers/literacy work stations) to help make these words automatic for your students.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

4 Vocabulary Roadblocks to Avoid

4 Ideas for Building Vocabulary - Anchor Charts, Text Gradients, Diagrams, and Acting It Out can help Emergent Readers make clear connections avoiding comprehension roadblocks.
As this year is winding down, we are thinking about things to change or add for next year.  One of the biggest roadblocks in reading is vocabulary.  I originally posted this on Adventures in Literacy Land. I'm hoping these ideas make you rethink vocabulary instruction in your room next year.

Anchor Charts/Prediction Posters

I am a big fan of Anchor Charts.  Done the right way, anchor charts are invaluable to your students. Anchor charts can be pre-made but must also allow for editing, if an unsuspected word misunderstanding occurs.  Pre-assessing a book for vocabulary roadblocks is a must.  Pulling out words you believe will create "comprehension potholes" or "run the story off the road" are a must for a successful Read Aloud. Before reading a book, introduce words to your students out of context.  Talk about the meaning.  Demonstrate the meaning.  Discuss how this particular word might be in this book.  You may even want to read the sentence from the story.  Preparing for vocabulary can help students spend time on higher order thinking than on the meaning of a single word.  One type of anchor chart is the Story Map.  Words from the story, both common and new, can be written on post-it notes given to the students before they read the book.  Students will predict if the words belong on the map in provided spaces:  Characters, Setting, Actions (verbs), Things (nouns) and New to You.  If they encounter a word while reading that needs to be moved on the chart...they can easily be moved.

Text Gradients

I actually LOVE text gradients.  Typically, text gradients are used in the upper elementary but every kindergarten teacher has tried to get her student's to use words more descriptive than small or big.  The famous "said is dead" refrain is heard in every first grade class.  So, let's talk primary text gradients.  A wonderful way "add color" to writing is using paint strips.  (I live in fear of paint strips eventually costing money.)  The paint strips can be put in library pockets in the writing center and students can take a color strip to make their elephant "enormous" or their ladybug "tiny."

Diagrams

Providing students with diagrams is a great way to introduce vocabulary that is both familiar and unknown.  When studying about bats, my students were excited to learn bats had thumbs.  They look very different from our thumbs, but they are still thumbs.  They were also intrigued by the membranes in their wings.  We compared the membranes to duck's feet.  We even found out turtles, otters and some reptiles have webbed feet.  Diagrams draw the student in and help them write about animals and make comparisons.

Finally, Act it Out

When we were preparing to read The Knight Before Dawn, I introduced some words to the students before we read.  One of the words was "precipice."  I needed to relate Jack dangling from a precipice on the castle tower to the students in my class.  First, I showed them pictures of large cliffs in the desert or on mountains. Then, we went to the playground.  The only cliff they really knew about was the playground equipment.  One at a time, the students went to the edge of the playground equipment and they yelled, "I AM ON THE PRECIPICE!"  Then they were allowed to jump off the "cliff."  Trust me they all knew what a precipice was and when Jack was hanging from the precipice they could anticipate his falling!  That's the power of vocabulary!

These are just a few ways you can make sure to introduce children to wonderful vocabulary words they can use to write, make connections, and understand.

If you would like a FREEBIE with 2 of the activities, CLICK HERE or the picture below.
I also have Vocabulary Gradients in my TPT store.  Click the image, if you are interested.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Betsy Ross: A Kindergarten Standard (for the last time)

That's right...Betsy Ross is being removed from our Virginia standards in K..  As a matter of fact, if I'm reading it right, she will be removed from our elementary history standards all together.




BUT, we still have this year...and I've had teachers ask for resources to teach about her.  Soooo, here's a few resources about Betsy Ross.
TPT FREEBIE for Betsy Ross.  Ideas with poetry, writing, and books about this famous American.
First, much of story of Betsy Ross has been disputed at one time or another, but there is no definitive evidence either way.  I tell my students how hard it is to verify our history because there weren't camera phones, 24-hour news channels or the internet in 1776.  I also make sure they know this is what we think happened.
Betsy Ross is one of the famous women in American History. Her story has long been disputed, but there is no evidence to the contrary. This blog post provides ideas for bringing the historical figure to life in your classroom.







There are many books on the market, but my favorites are:
Betsy Ross is one of the famous women in American History. Her story has long been disputed, but there is no evidence to the contrary. This blog post provides ideas for bringing the historical figure to life in your classroom.
It is important to have a list of facts you'd like them to know, because inevitably they focus on how many times she was married.  Each of the books portrays the same basic ideas about Betsy.
Betsy Ross is one of the famous women in American History. Her story has long been disputed, but there is no evidence to the contrary. This blog post provides ideas for bringing the historical figure to life in your classroom.







Every kindergarten teacher knows the value of song.  I am willing to go out on a limb and say every teacher has made their own songs to familiar tunes to help their students learn about a skill or standard.  I made up this song about Betsy Ross to the tune of "London Bridges."  It's a 3 minute way to review her throughout the year.
TPT FREEBIE for Betsy Ross.  Ideas with poetry, writing, and books about this famous American.
Betsy Ross is one of the famous women in American History. Her story has long been disputed, but there is no evidence to the contrary. This blog post provides ideas for bringing the historical figure to life in your classroom.







The same rule for songs can be applied to poems.   I believe in a 4 line poem.  We have a 4 line poem as our Poem of the Week.  The poems are read and discussed each day.  We pull out beginning and ending sounds, vowel sounds, rhyming words, word families, and so much more.  The following week the poem is in the poetry center and the art center.  This helps promote understanding and review skills.
TPT FREEBIE for Betsy Ross.  Ideas with poetry, writing, and books about this famous American.
Betsy Ross is one of the famous women in American History. Her story has long been disputed, but there is no evidence to the contrary. This blog post provides ideas for bringing the historical figure to life in your classroom.







Finally, we HAVE to write about it.  One of the easiest ways to engage emergent writers is the "new and improved" 4 Square.  Students can write basic sentences that mimic the poem or students can provide details from their learning.
Betsy Ross 4 Square writing idea from Cathy Collier at www.cathycollier.com
Betsy Ross is one of the famous women in American History. Her story has long been disputed, but there is no evidence to the contrary. This blog post provides ideas for bringing the historical figure to life in your classroom.







Here are a few facts about Betsy Ross.

  • She was born in Pennsylvania.
  • She was 8th of 17 children.  (Oh MY!)
  • She was married 3 times.  (John, Joseph, and John)
  • She had 7 daughters.
  • She did meet George Washington in 1776 or 1777.
  • Her husband's uncle, George Ross, was on the Flag Committee.
  • Like many upholsters at the time, she made and repaired uniforms for the Continental Army.

Betsy Ross is one of the famous women in American History. Her story has long been disputed, but there is no evidence to the contrary. This blog post provides ideas for bringing the historical figure to life in your classroom.







This video is produced by the Betsy Ross House.  It's a cute video featuring Betsy Ross herself...hehe.


I hope this gives you some ideas to share Betsy Ross with your early learners.  I think she's an exciting character in the history of our country.  I'm kinda sad she's being removed.

I have created a FREEBIE to go along with this post.  CLICK HERE or on the picture below to get this FREEBIE from my TPT Store.
TPT FREEBIE for Betsy Ross.  Ideas with poetry, writing, and books about this famous American.