Friday, June 9, 2017

5 Ideas to Get Ready for Kindergarten

Kindergarten today isn't what kindergarten used to be...so we have to prepare our children to be students. Here are 5 ideas to get ready for kindergarten: the most exciting year of your life.
As we finish up one school year, it's inevitable to start thinking about next year. This is especially true of parents of "soon-to-be" kindergartners. As most know, kindergarten today isn't the kindergarten of the past. For good or for bad, the requirements are much more academic and much more high stakes. I get asked all the time about what skills an incoming kindergartner should have. I think there are 5 skills that can help a kindergartner be "on top of their game."

Letter Play
Kindergarten today isn't what kindergarten used to be...so we have to prepare our children to be students. Here are 5 ideas to get ready for kindergarten: the most exciting year of your life.

Students need to know some letters before they get to kindergarten. We simply can't wait until kindergarten to acquire these skills. However, I am not advocating for "kill and drill" letter activities. Play with letters. Let your child start with the letters in their name. 
1. Letter Detective - Find the letters around your house and in your child's community. If you are eating cereal, find the letters in their name on the box. If you are in a restaurant, find the letters in the name on the menu. If you are driving down the road, find the letters in signs.  
2. Magnet Letters - I kind of have an obsession with magnet letters. Putting magnets on the refrigerator really is a good idea. While you are making dinner, have them spell their name with magnet letters. While you are packing lunchboxes, have them find the letter "h" for ham or "w" for water. 
3. Compare Words - Using their name as the model, have them compare the letters in their name to another word. For example, using their name (Austin) and the cereal box (Puffed O's), let them see there is a "s" and an "u" in common. Helping them see similarities is important. 

Number Play
Kindergarten today isn't what kindergarten used to be...so we have to prepare our children to be students. Here are 5 ideas to get ready for kindergarten: the most exciting year of your life.

Knowing numbers will also give your child a boost in kindergarten. I don't think you need to be solving equations, but naming and recognizing numbers to 10, counting to 10 (or a little higher), talking about numbers is definitely recommended.
1. Count, Count, Count - How many socks do we have? 1, 2. How many chairs are at the kitchen table? 1, 2, 3, 4. How many steps is it to the bathtub? See what I mean? It doesn't need to be hard, just practiced play. 
2. Menu Mania - Use menus at your favorite restaurant to recognize numbers. Start with numbers in order. Can you find a 1? and so on. Then you call a number and ask your child to find it. This is a great activity for making sure they know their numbers. When you start this game, write the numbers in order for them to use as a guide. Eventually, they won't need your help.
3. Number Values - Making the connection between counting orally, recognizing the numeral, and understanding the value are four different things. You can increase their number knowledge with games dealing with values. What can find in the house that has a value of 3.  We have 3 bathtubs. We have two tv's. We have four lamps in the den. Another fun activity uses an ice cube tray. Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot often have seasonal ice cube trays and sometimes they have 10 ice cubes. Have your child make a snack by filling up the tray. He can have 4 pretzels, 2 cookies, and 4 blueberries. She can have 6 slices of banana and 4 blueberries. Of course, that doesn't have to be the whole snack, but it's a fun way to start.

Rhyme Time
Kindergarten today isn't what kindergarten used to be...so we have to prepare our children to be students. Here are 5 ideas to get ready for kindergarten: the most exciting year of your life.

Rhyming isn't just a game, it's an essential step in phonological awareness. Have fun with rhyming. I know there is more than one Hannah Banana out there. Rhyming is fun. 
1. Show me the Rhyme - A fun game to play with rhyming is "Show Me." Using things in your den or in their bedroom, ask them to show you a rhyme for objects you can see. Show me something that rhymes with chair (bear). Show me something that rhymes with soar (drawer). Show me something that rhymes with bug (rug). Make sure you are also playing with nonsense rhymes. Show me something that rhymes with "millow" (pillow). Show me something that rhymes with "ficture" (picture). 
2. Rhyming Families - Make as many rhymes as you can with one word. This is a fun car activity. One person starts the rhyme, "cat." Then, each person takes a turn and tells a rhyme in that family (bat, sat, fat, flat, mat, splat...). You have to decide if nonsense words are allowed.
3. Silly Sentences - This is a fun way to make a silly sentence. One person starts with "I see a ham" and the next person finishes the sentence with a rhyming word "on the ram." This is also a fun way to practice drawing, too. Wouldn't it be funny to see a ham on a ram.

Build Stamina
Kindergarten today isn't what kindergarten used to be...so we have to prepare our children to be students. Here are 5 ideas to get ready for kindergarten: the most exciting year of your life.

One of the hardest things for kindergartners is attending to a task for longer than thirty seconds. You can help build stamina for their success. They need to be able to start a task and complete it without letting their attention wander. I suggest you set a goal with them. Use your microwave or phone timer for 30 seconds, tell them to continue a task for 30 seconds without stopping. After a few successful rounds increase the timer by 15 seconds. Some tasks to strengthen are coloring, drawing, writing their name, writing letters, looking at books, and putting puzzles together. One of the main goals of this task is working consistently and not talking or interacting with anyone else. It seems simple, but it's very powerful. The last idea is a tag-team to this idea.

Read to Them
Kindergarten today isn't what kindergarten used to be...so we have to prepare our children to be students. Here are 5 ideas to get ready for kindergarten: the most exciting year of your life.

I have done many blog posts on the importance of reading to your children. (See 5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading) It is such a powerful way to build a child who is eager, enthusiastic, empathetic, and engaged. There are a few important things to think about.
1. Quiet Listener - Make sure your child can listen to a whole book and not interrupt the reader. This is tricky because I would hope your child's kindergarten teacher would have engaging read alouds with appropriate think alouds, but there will be 20 other students listening, so you need to create a respectful listener, as well.
2. Talk about It - Talk about the book: What happened? What came first? Why did the character do that? Which character would you like to be? What is your favorite part? What would you change?
3. Read Many Kinds of Books - I know we want to read the books our children like, but we also need to expose them to many types of  books. Your child will definitely be expected to sit quietly for all the books the teacher chooses, so getting practice listening to books that aren't their preference is important.

I hope this list will inspire you to help your soon-to-be kindergartner get ready for an amazing year.

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For other great blog posts, check out these from the ladies in The Reading Crew.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cause and Effect for Early Readers

Teaching Cause and Effect to early learners can be as easy as understanding the relationship between rain and umbrellas. Students can create these statements in whole group, with a partner, and independently.
I actually had someone tell me early readers didn't need to know about cause and effect because "it was too hard to bring it to their level." I, respectfully, disagree.  It's not necessarily about the skill, it's about the approach.

Rain and Umbrellas...the easiest example
Teaching Cause and Effect to early learners can be as easy as understanding the relationship between rain and umbrellas. Students can create these statements in whole group, with a partner, and independently.

Kids know why they use umbrellas...it's either used in rain or in the bright sun. Provide students with picture cards and ask them to tell the relationship between the pictures. Lead them to use signal words "because" and "so." Let them discover the cause and effect BEFORE you call it such. As an added practice, students can use partner puzzles to talk to their peers and discover the cause and effect.

Make an Anchor Chart
Teaching Cause and Effect to early learners can be as easy as understanding the relationship between rain and umbrellas. Students can create these statements in whole group, with a partner, and independently.

Once they understand the relationship between the pictures, ask them to help you make an anchor chart. (You know I believe in Anchor Charts for everything!) They should help you create the poster and decide what the chart should include (with your guidance). The anchor chart can be recreated for a reading interactive notebook or an independent center.

Let them do it!
Teaching Cause and Effect to early learners can be as easy as understanding the relationship between rain and umbrellas. Students can create these statements in whole group, with a partner, and independently.

Students can use what they know about the relationships to create independent sentences. They can choose the pictures for cause and effect, then choose one pair to write a complete sentence with a signal word.

See, it's not hard, it's just strategic!

For a Sample Cause and Effect set, click the link or the picture below.

If you'd like the Full Cause and Effect set, click the link to my TPT store.

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Teaching Cause and Effect to early learners can be as easy as understanding the relationship between rain and umbrellas. Students can create these statements in whole group, with a partner, and independently.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Sliding" into Writing

Using old slides for story starters is such a great idea. So excited to share first grade teacher, Jessica Watts, idea for a fun writing lesson.
In January I told you about my visit to Bristol and the Classroom Makeover Winner, Jessica Watts. It was such a fun day and she was as excited as her students to use their "new" classroom set-up.

Jessica emailed me last week with this fantastic idea for an end-of-the-year writing lesson. Jessica was reading the book, Finders Keepers for Franklin to her class and she discovered they had no idea what film was (welcome to the digital age). She had to give them a "history" lesson so they could understand the book. Soon after, she was in an antique store and found some old slides. She purchased enough slides for everyone to use in a writing lesson.

First, Look at the Slides

Using old slides for story starters is such a great idea. So excited to share first grade teacher, Jessica Watts, idea for a fun writing lesson.
The students were amazed as they held the slides up the light. They were animated and excited to share what they were seeing with their friends. Once they all shared the slides, they chose a slide to write about.

Second, Write About It

Using old slides for story starters is such a great idea. So excited to share first grade teacher, Jessica Watts, idea for a fun writing lesson.
The students wrote about what they saw in the slides. They could create the whole story because they only had one slide to reference. Interestingly enough, some of the students had different stories for the same slides. They wrote about details by drawing conclusions, making inferences, predicting, and making connections.

Finally, Illustrate It.

The last part of the assignment was to illustrate for their writing. Jessica shared they were excited about the entire lesson. They even wanted to write again the next day. Wouldn't this be a fun center? Maybe even have a flashlight, so they can see details.

I am so excited Jessica shared this fun and exciting writing lesson with me and I got to share it with you. Bristol, Virginia Public Schools sure are lucky to have great teachers like Jessica. She took the opportunity to provide the students with valuable background knowledge and a new and unique writing lesson.

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Using old slides for story starters is such a great idea. So excited to share first grade teacher, Jessica Watts, idea for a fun writing lesson.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Character Traits and Character Feelings: What characters tell us?

Character Traits and Character Feelings have to be explicitly taught and practiced, so comprehension is enhanced and students can be successful readers.
This time of the year we are doing our summative F&P benchmarks. One of the most common questions is "How does the character feel when...?" AND...one of the most common responses is "happy."  Nothing can make a teacher feel any less "happy" than a student giving a quick "happy" as an answer. 

Teach Emotions

Character Traits and Character Feelings have to be explicitly taught and practiced, so comprehension is enhanced and students can be successful readers.Teaching character traits are important. We have used the chart on the right to show what traits are seen on the outside and what is on the inside, as well. BUT we can't stop there. Using this as a springboard, taking time to teach how the "inside" of the words (what he says, thinks, does, and feels) and what information we can gain from those "inside" emotions. We want to get frustrated with the students, but this is a great time to be reflective about our lessons.  I suspect we teach the difference between the outside and inside and collecting character traits, but we don't go any farther. It's one of those lessons we MUST explicitly teach. Using the words from the story, discuss the feelings from the character and what these feelings reflect in the "character" of the character in the story. Practicing this skill makes the comprehension conversation easy. 

Bear's Birthday

Character Traits and Character Feelings have to be explicitly taught and practiced, so comprehension is enhanced and students can be successful readers.One of the books I use with our intervention groups is "Bear's Birthday," a book in the LLI kit. This is an easy book to make sure we are explicitly teaching about how a character feels. We also take the time to "describe the character." My students were quick to describe Bear as big, furry, and tall. "NOOOOO, that's not what I needed. That's not what I mean.  Breathe. Think.  Reset. Next day, start over." So you know: Bear is excited about his birthday and decides to throw himself a party. He is very forgetful and needs to borrow several things from his friends (eggs for a cake, paper for hats, and balloons).  When the party is ready, none of his friends come to his house. He is sad and goes to find his friends. They are also sad because he never invited them to his party...because he is forgetful. Using this book to "describe" bear definitely provided an explicit lesson.

Emotions

Character Traits and Character Feelings have to be explicitly taught and practiced, so comprehension is enhanced and students can be successful readers.
If we don't talk about emotions on the test and only on the test, we setting ourselves up for failure. Using an emotions chart can help students distinguish between happy and excited or sad and mad. Every skill we assess should include an I do, we do, you do phase...so we have to do this with emotions, as well.

If you would like the Emotions Chart, please click the words or the pictures.
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Character Traits and Character Feelings have to be explicitly taught and practiced, so comprehension is enhanced and students can be successful readers.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Compare and Contrast with Emergent Learners

Can Emergent learners compare and contrast? Of course, they can. With a step-by-step practice, the routine can be easy.
We are using Benchmark Universe in our school district and sometimes it's hard to get practice with our emergent readers. Our last unit was about Compare and Contrast. It can be an easy skill for students to TALK about, but we wanted to see if we could get them to write about it independently.
We Do.
I have said it before and I'll say it again, if you haven't done it together, don't ask them to do it alone. Make sure you take the time to SHOW them how to do it and HELP them do it, then they will do it. Monday, the Venn diagram was put under the document camera. The teacher discussed the Venn and students helped determine which objects were about the dog and the fish exclusively, and which items were about both. Tuesday, students helped recreate the Venn and interactively write one sentence about the dog. Wednesday, students helped recreate the Venn and interactively write one sentence about the fish. Thursday, students helped recreate the Venn and interactively write a sentence about both the dog and the fish.
Can Emergent learners compare and contrast? Of course, they can. With a step-by-step practice, the routine can be easy.
You Do. Part 1.
The next week, this becomes a center. To ensure students understand the process, the same Venn is put in the center for students to create independently. Students are asked to create the Venn with the pictures.
Can Emergent learners compare and contrast? Of course, they can. With a step-by-step practice, the routine can be easy.
You Do. Part 2.
After students create the Venn, they are asked to write 3 sentences: one about the dog, one about the fish, one about both. Students are encouraged to use the words on the Venn as a model.
Can Emergent learners compare and contrast? Of course, they can. With a step-by-step practice, the routine can be easy.
You Do. Part 3.
We have put this in the reading comprehension center for the next several weeks. The more practice students have with creating and writing about compare and contrast, the more the lesson will be meaningful.
If you would like a sample set, click Compare and Contrast Sample Set.
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Monday, May 1, 2017

Top 10 Plant Books for Emergent Readers

Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.
Who doesn't love the Plant Unit.  There are so many activities to do with students to truly engage their learning.  Students should be touching and planting and sorting and experiencing plants.  From growing seeds in a glove to growing grass in a cup..AND books are the best compliment to that unit.

Here are my Top 10 Books.

1. The Tiny Seed

There is no end to my love for Eric Carle and "The Tiny Seed."  There is so much in this beautiful book that can be AND SHOULD BE shared with students at all levels.  Not just lessons of plant parts and what a plant needs, but also lessons of what can help the plant and what can hurt the plant.  Lessons on birth and death and rebirth.  There are obvious connections to science, but this book lends itself to great lessons in math.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

2. Growing Vegetable Soup

This book is great in it's simplicity.  Some students have never imagined growing their own soup.  Soup comes out of a can.  This idea is exciting to them.  Go with it.  While introducing this book to a class I asked, "Does soup grow on plants?"  One boy looked at my sweetly and said, "Oh Mrs. Collier, I think you are so silly.  Soup doesn't grow on plants, real soup grows at the store."  Oh, if it was that easy.  This is another great book to revisit when you need to discuss fractions.  They cut the vegetables into pieces...and make "real" fractions.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

3. Eating the Alphabet

Mmmmm...along the lines of "Growing Vegetable Soup," this is a fun book to introduce students to some fruits and vegetables they've never seen before.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

4. Planting a Rainbow

This book shows all the colors of the rainbow in the plant world.  Ask parents, grandparents, community members to send in magazines (Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping).  Build a rainbow in your room with their cut-out pictures.  They can write about colors and plants.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

5. Flower Garden

This is one of my favorite books for teaching drawing conclusions, predicting, and inferring.  Throughout the book you wonder why they are buying the materials for a plant box.  It also shows a garden in a unique place...a window sill.  Most students have never thought of gardens like this.  They can write about what flowers they'd plant in their window...and why.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

6. The Apple Pie Tree

You may have introduced this book in the fall.  It's the perfect book to show the changes of the seasons.  I also LOVE the illustrations...Shari Halpern is amazing.  That being said, revisit the book!  Reintroduce the book.  Show them the book again and ask them to look at the book with a different set of eyes.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

7. It's Pumpkin Time!

This is another revisit!  Don't put the pumpkin book away in November...just transfer it to the plant bucket in your classroom library.  When they see it a second time, they pay attention to the plant life cycle not just the pumpkin becoming a Jack O'Lantern.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

8.  Tops and Bottoms

This book is another discussion about where food grows.  They are quick to tell you they would NEVER eat roots or leaves or flowers for that matter.  Oh, how surprised they are!  They are delighted that Bear is tricked by Hare, as well.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

9.  I'm a Seed

This is a cute book about 2 seeds;  a marigold and a mystery seed.  As the book progresses students will see how different the plants are and start predicting what is growing.  This is also a wonderful easy reader that can be tackled by young students.
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

10. If You Plant a Seed

Before I read the book I knew I would love it.  How can you not love a book written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson?  I was able to meet him a few years ago at a conference and he is as generous to teachers at conferences as he is to students reading his books.  This book goes far beyond the life cycle of a plant.  He wants students to know sharing with your community always provides a greater reward than imagined.  The students were captured by the story and I even had someone gasp at the aftermath of the struggle.  "Oh no, what will happen now?"  Exactly what we want our students to ask...if we don't share, what will happen?
Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

These are my suggestions.  I hope you enjoy the books, but more than that I hope they inspire and capture the heart and minds of your students.

If you'd like a Sampler Set for my new TPT set, All About Plants, CLICK HERE!

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Want to grow readers and thinkers for spring? Here are 10 books about plants to help.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Teaching Sequencing with First the Egg

Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing.This is such a cute book. The text is deceivingly simple and so are the illustrations. BUT, the book can be as complex as you'd like to make it. This book was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2008. 

Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing.
On the surface, this book is a list of sequences..."First the egg then the chicken." The simple text and accompanying simple illustration can be read by even the earliest of readers.  It covers life cycles of the frog, butterfly, and plant. This book can also serve as an introduction to the writing process, "First the word, then the story. First the paint, Then the picture." Finally, the book ends with the cycle it started, "First the chicken, then the egg." 

The words tell a two-point sequence: egg-chicken, tadpole-frog, seed-flower. BUT the illustrations tell a three-point sequence: egg-chick-chicken, tadpole-polliwog-frog, seed-seedling-plant.

Here is a video read aloud for "First the Egg."

Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing.




This book is obviously all about sequence, but the students can read the book themselves because there is heavy picture support. Using pictures will also help your students create a sequence.

1. Two-Step Sequencing

Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing.
Using the provided picture cards, students can each have a picture and find the partner that creates a "first-then" sequence. As partners the students will collaborate on the sequence, the sentences, and the illustrations.

Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing. 2. Three-Step Sequencing

Using the provided picture cards, students can find their partner in a "first-last" scenario, but they will have to collaborate on the "then" part of the story.

3. Writing Process

Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing.Using the pages "First the word, then the story," students can practice with sight words. Students can choose a word, write a sentence, then write a story. This can be a fun way to practice sight words at an independent center.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I have.

If you would like a First the Egg FREEBIE, click the title or the picture below.

Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing.
Follow our blog hop and make sure you click on the rafflecopter link...you know you want all these books. My rafflecopter word is FIRST.


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Using First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as a Mentor Text for sequencing, teachers can make connections with 2- and 3-step sequencing and writing.


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