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.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Organizing Our LLI Kits

LLI is an amazing Tier 2 intervention at my school, but it comes with LOTS of "stuff." This post gives some organization ideas for this great program.
I teased you earlier this week about this post. I love using LLI for our Tier 2 interventions, but when you first get those 8 boxes that come in the mail...it can be overwhelming. Did I mention I am blessed with both Green and Blue LLI kits? Yep, 16 boxes came in the mail. I am very aware of the cost involved with this program, so I wanted to make sure we were using all the components.  In order to use them all,  you have to know where everything is, right? Then, I need to organize all the student materials...and my lesson plans. It's a lot to organize, even for me and I like things being organized. This post will show you MY organization ideas.
LLI is an amazing Tier 2 intervention at my school, but it comes with LOTS of "stuff." This post gives some organization ideas for this great program.

Book Storage

After taking the time to put the labels on the file folders and the books in the folders I needed something to organize the books.  They certainly weren't going to fit back in the 3 boxes they came in. I hunted around my school and took bins from somewhere else that weren't really needed (yes, I "acquired" them). The books were put on shelves that were easy to reach, easily accessible, and easily refiled. The Green System fit in 9 bins and the Blue System fit in 12 bins.
LLI is an amazing Tier 2 intervention at my school, but it comes with LOTS of "stuff." This post gives some organization ideas for this great program.

Lesson Storage

This is the perfect time to talk about the lesson that go along with each book. I'm a note-taker or doodler. I wanted to be able to write on the lesson plans and add notes with vocabulary or strategy that may not be listed, so the next time I used it, I'd remember. I couldn't exactly write it in the spiral book AND I wasn't the only one using the kit, so I couldn't keep the lesson book with me at all times. I tried to copy the lessons I needed and quickly discovered this was a terrible waste of time. I carefully "unspiraled" the spiral editions with the lessons and decided to run it through the feeder part of our copy machine. I'd have a copy of all the lessons, ready to go. It sounds easy, but the "shiny" paper in the lesson book made it a chore, but it was worth it. When the lessons were all copied I re-spiraled the book (yes, I did). I took each lesson, put it in a sheet protector and filed it in the file folder. **TIP: I also labeled the sheet protector with permanent marker with the lesson and the level because the sheet protector covered the file folder label. In the picture above, you can see the binder with a master copy of the lessons, that way if someone needs a new copy, it's easy to access. I write all over the lessons, highlight the language I want to use, and it's all in one place.
LLI is an amazing Tier 2 intervention at my school, but it comes with LOTS of "stuff." This post gives some organization ideas for this great program.

Student Storage:

I also needed to figure out where to put all the student's materials...because there seems to be a lot of student materials. I bought a couple of 3 drawer bins because each group would have 3, right? I like this, but then I had to take a group bigger than 3. The drawers have their writing books, the student readers, a pencil, a highlighter, and boxes for word cards (that's coming in a minute). Everything is in the drawer they need, then I don't have pass out anything. The only problem with this storage idea is the room the drawer takes up on the table when we're working, so you have to decided exactly where the drawer will be. We put the drawer on the empty seat between them. I also added a group without much warning and I didn't have another 3 drawer organizer, so I decided to use plastic magazine boxes. Their writing book, student readers, and word card boxes are kept in the boxes. I have separate pencil holders that contain a pencil, highlighter, scissors and a pen (for editing). I pass those boxes out at the beginning of our group. When the students come into the class, they take their drawer or box to the table, pull out their word bank box and I set the timer for one minute for a speed read.
LLI is an amazing Tier 2 intervention at my school, but it comes with LOTS of "stuff." This post gives some organization ideas for this great program.

Group Storage

I also needed a way to organize lots of groups. I found the 31 file boxes fit the LLI kits the best. The file box can store 5 lessons at a time, perfect for a week of lessons. I have also used individual file sorters. A fantastic special education teacher in our building is using a file cart for her group storage. She hangs the files she needs on the top and then using the drawers at the bottom for the writing books, word boxes, or other materials.
LLI is an amazing Tier 2 intervention at my school, but it comes with LOTS of "stuff." This post gives some organization ideas for this great program.

Word Box Storage

Finally, this is my favorite storage tip. A little background: I hate word banks in ziploc bags. They get lost in the books or in the drawers, they get mangled and crunched, or they are too easy to get lost all together. My first plan was travel soap boxes, but I needed 50 of them. I needed a more cost effective solution, so I went to the best place for brainstorming: Dollar Tree. I found these "snack boxes" that were the same size as soap containers, and they were typically 2 for $1. However, they had a "special" set that were 3 for $1. BINGO! The only problem was they only had 2 sets: 6 total. Did I mention I needed 50. When you have been a teacher for 28 years and married to the same man for the last 25 years, he isn't really surprised when you say you need to go on a road trip to as many Dollar Tree stores as possible...he just drives. I found 50 boxes at 3 for $1. Score on the boxes and the husband. ANYWAY, I love these boxes. They are easy to find, keep the words organized and are user friendly.
LLI is an amazing Tier 2 intervention at my school, but it comes with LOTS of "stuff." This post gives some organization ideas for this great program.

Lesson Plan Storage

Finally, I use a 3 inch binder for most of my groups lesson plans. Each group has a divider with all the lesson plans and a separate tab for each student. Behind the group tab, I have the lesson plans with the current week on the top. I made up a lesson plan skeleton sheet that includes 5 days per sheet with Even and Odd alternating days. I plan 5 days in advance, but I don't date them until I pull that group. (I'm sad to say I get pulled for meetings or testing and I my lesson plans had too many arrows and forwards. Behind the student tab, I file their plot sheet and all their running records. 

I hope these ideas will help keep you organized. The program is awesome and I don't want the frustration of "too many materials" to make you shy away from it.

If you would like a PDF of my lesson skeleton, CLICK HERE or click the image below. It's not perfect, so if there is anything you think I should change or add, I'm up for suggestions.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How will you survive December?

Have you asked yourself that question three times today? Never fear, here are 6 ways to survive until winter break!
Have you said this to yourself already? Kinders are especially excited this time of the year...and it isn't going to get better.  They have something new and exciting to tell you every morning: "Mrs. Collier, we put up our tree last night." "Mrs. Collier, you won't believe where our elf was this morning." "Mrs. Collier, we went to my cousins this weekend and had a party." "Mrs. Collier, Mrs. Collier, Mrs. Collier." You know the drill.  How will you survive?  Here are 6 tips to help.
Have you asked yourself that question three times today? Never fear, here are 6 ways to survive until winter break!

Keep the routine. Everything in the early childhood classroom depends on routines and expectations. When they know “what” you want, they’ll give it to you. BUT, when you change all the routines and expectations…expect chaos.  It’s not their fault, it’s yours.  Oh, I’m sorry…that was blunt.  I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s the truth.  I talked to a colleague last week who said, “I’ll never survive until Winter Break, they are already crazy.” Having had my own children and twenty plus years in the classroom in December, I thought I knew what she meant.  She proceeded to tell me she knew she wouldn’t be able to “get much out of them” until after Christmas.  Wait…what?  After Christmas? Do you have 3 weeks to waste, I don’t.  So I asked, what do you mean? Well, I’m not even going to try centers or reading until then, they can’t focus. Please, please, please tell me she is the only teacher in the universe who thinks like this. I found myself wondering what her class would look like over the next 3 weeks, if anything would be gained, or if they would all melt down into a crazy spiral of counting minutes until the end of each day culminating with the teacher all but canceling the holiday party as a consequence to lawlessness. Then, I decided I didn’t want to know.  Don’t do it.  Keep a routine.
Have you asked yourself that question three times today? Never fear, here are 6 ways to survive until winter break!

Keep them busy. This goes hand in hand with the routine.  Students who are busy (and I mean “Good Busy”) don’t cause problems.  This is one time of the year, I ok with an “I’m Done” Box.  Typically, writing in journals, reading independent small group books, or self-choice reading as my “go-to’s” for this time of the day, but I think a great activity could be writing and making Christmas cards for people in your building who don’t typically get them (secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, lunchroom monitors, cafeteria workers). I think, they should have to write a sentence or two before being allowing to draw or color.
Have you asked yourself that question three times today? Never fear, here are 6 ways to survive until winter break!
Read Holiday stories with a purpose. Read Alouds are a must and a pet peeve, all at the same time. They should be an integral part of your day and your lessons, but so often teachers use them to throw away time.  Connect, connect, connect. There is nothing that says we can’t read fun holiday books, but know why we are reading them.  Yes, I do understand students should be allowed to listen for enjoyment, but a great read aloud lesson can be both: enjoyable and meaningful. If you are going to read it, make the most of it. Can we talk about how the elves in “The Wild Christmas Reindeer” are the same and different as the elf in “The Little Elf?” Can we make a rule chart for Teeka about how to train reindeer?
Have you asked yourself that question three times today? Never fear, here are 6 ways to survive until winter break!
Write with voice.  What a fun time to write sentences with excitement? Even kinders can write sentences with voice when it comes to Christmas. “Do you want a doll? Yes, I want a doll! Do you want a truck? Yes, I want a truck! Do you want a top? Yes, I want a top!” Easy and certainly “entry-level” excitement and voice, but it’s a start. First and second graders could elaborate. “Yes, I want a doll because I love to play house. No, I don’t want a truck because I have too many. Yes, I want blocks because you can never have enough.” Adding voice “words and phrases” like, “Oh, no!  The hot chocolate spilled.” “Wow, that is a big plate of cookies.” Wouldn’t this be a fun writing lesson? (I know I never post about math, but could you use flyers for an adding and subtracting lesson?)
Have you asked yourself that question three times today? Never fear, here are 6 ways to survive until winter break!

Dance.  When all else fails…dance!  One of the songs on GoNoodle is “Happy Merry Everything.”  It’s not much of an organized dance, but it’s got a great message. It doesn’t just celebrate everything, as the title suggests, but says things like “Don’t be greedy,” “donate old things” and “start a foundation.” It isn’t specifically about the holidays, but you can enjoy the dancing frogs.  A quick You Tube search turned up “Christmas Freeze Dance” and “Crazy Santa Dance.” If you can spend 2 or 3 minutes transitioning between activities and dance…you may get their attention in a good way.
Have you asked yourself that question three times today? Never fear, here are 6 ways to survive until winter break!

Finally, only the essentials count: chocolate, coffee, and Christmas cookies.

So, don't be like Santa and fly by the seat of your pants, you'll regret it.

If you'd like a free Christmas word card just for fun, CLICK HERE or the picture below.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Inferences for Primary Students...Believe it or not!

Learning standards across the country are "upping the game" for all students, including our earliest learners. This post gives ideas for teaching inferences to those early students. Starting with pictures and ending with words can just be the key to reading comprehension.
Inferences?  Seriously?  In Kindergarten? Absolutely!
It's just a matter of making it meaningful to five-year-olds...and you can.

Use Mentor Texts

I'll be the first to admit I use Magic Tree House books a lot.  I mean, like A LOT.  I know.  I think they are the best books.  That being said, the first time I thought about teaching my kindergatners about inferencing, it was completely by accident. That's right...by accident.  We were reading The Knight at Dawn and Jack was hanging from the castle precipice and the students were hanging on every word.

"Jack felt his fingers slipping.  Then down he fell.
Down through the darkness.
SPLASH!"

And that was the end of the chapter.  "Oh, no!  What happened to Jack?" I asked.  "He fell in the moat!" a chorus of kindergartners yelled. "How do you know that?" I asked again.  "The book said, splash," answered a student.  I continued, " What if it said THUNK?"  Another student chimed in, "Then he would have fallen on the ground." Yep, that's what it's all about.

Look at a little

Learning standards across the country are "upping the game" for all students, including our earliest learners. This post gives ideas for teaching inferences to those early students. Starting with pictures and ending with words can just be the key to reading comprehension.
Let's look at pictures first...no text.  When the students were listening to the story, they weren't focusing on the text, they were focusing on the story.  Likewise, using pictures is an easy way to start a lesson about inferencing.  Using a portion of a picture, ask the students what they know FROM THE PICTURE. Who is in the picture? When did someone take the picture? Where is the picture taken? How does the person in the picture feel? All of these questions make students look at a picture critically, not just on the surface. Once they have thought about the picture...expand the view.

Look at a lot

Learning standards across the country are "upping the game" for all students, including our earliest learners. This post gives ideas for teaching inferences to those early students. Starting with pictures and ending with words can just be the key to reading comprehension.
Show them the whole picture. Ask them the same questions again. Ask if they could tell a better story.  Using several sets of pictures and LOTS of oral practice, the students will be making inferences all over the place. Inferences are all about what the text makes us think, not about what is in the text.

What are the clues in the text?


Finally, introduce students to making inferences using text.  Using 3 sets of clues and 3 pictures, students can use the text to help decide which picture the text describing. Each of the hats could be used in the winter.  Each of the hats could be used to keep your head warm.  BUT, if the hat is the same color as a snowman's nose...there is only one choice. The words don't say it, but the inference does.

If you'd like a FREEBIE sample set of Inferences for Primary Students, CLICK HERE.

If you'd like a full set of Inferences for Primary Students,click the picture below or CLICK HERE to visit my TPT store.


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Learning standards across the country are "upping the game" for all students, including our earliest learners. This post gives ideas for teaching inferences to those early students. Starting with pictures and ending with words can just be the key to reading comprehension.