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.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Books Introductions: Take 2

Book Introductions are so important. Here is another way of introducing a book for small group instruction combining reading, vocabulary, and a little word study, too.
 I've talked about book introductions in past blog posts.  My first post was 4 Book Introductions You Don't Want to Miss gave 4 ideas for introducing a book. Too often we skip the introduction and jump into vocabulary and reading, but the introduction sets the stage.

Here's another book introduction that combines the introduction with the vocabulary (and adds in a little bit of word study for good measure).
Book Introductions are so important. Here is another way of introducing a book for small group instruction combining reading, vocabulary, and a little word study, too.
You've "met" Mallory before. She was my model for the CVC practice in action "I Don't Know This Word...Now What?" She is such a hard worker and I love working with her. She is just starting a Level D reader. She struggles with reading accuracy and sight word recognition and automaticity, but her comprehension is wonderful.

Step 1: I found four short i words and four short o words from the text.
Step 2: I gave her a sort sheet (I have a stack of these scrap card stock papers, so I use them a lot.)
Step 3: I said a word. She had to decide if it had a short i or short o, then write the word.
Step 4: I gave her an very short introduction and asked her to use the other words to predict what would happen in the story.

Here's a video of the introduction. I know, I know I held the phone the wrong way...ugh!

Of course, this introduction isn't for every book. It just depends on the book, but I loved it and she did, too.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Kindergarten Fact and Fiction: An Article Review

Kindergarten: Fact and Fiction. Using an article by Mesmer and Invernizzi, one can make the argument for the importance of Kindergarten.
So last weekend I was going through my Twitter feed waiting for a session to start at the Virginia State Reading Association Conference, when I noticed an article tweeted by a friend, Laurie Elish-Piper. It was about kindergarten, so I was skeptical to say the least.

I truly believe kindergarten is the most important grade. "People" in education talk about how important a solid foundation is, but don't draw the same lines about kindergarten. The days of sand tables and nap times are gone and putting an emphasis on early learning is imperative. I have the highest respect for Heidi Anne Mesmer and Marcia Invernizzi, but I wasn't so sure about what they would call the "Myths" of kindergarten.

I am so excited to say: It is spot on!

MYTH 1: Kindergarten literacy instruction is teaching reading or pushing down the first-grade curriculum.

Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: "Kindergarten literacy instruction is responsively teaching young children the many facets that support their literacy development in many areas."

They do a great job of breaking down all the skills we teach in kindergarten that truly lay the foundation for learning. They also explain the not so subtle difference between the terms "literacy" and "reading." Students are exposed to "listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as motivation, comprehension and vocabulary."

MYTH 2: Kindergarten literacy instruction is developmentally inappropriate. 

Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: ""High-quality literacy instruction in kindergarten is developmentally appropriate and backed by decades of solid research."

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have said a million times with my arms stretched out wide "developmentally appropriate" is THIS range. What is development for one child is not for another. Should we always cater to the lowest common denominator? I don't think so. Do we have to differentiate? Absolutely. If a child is developmentally ready to pull up on the side of the couch BEFORE the baby book says he should, should we push him down? No. If a young child sits at a piano and starts to play earlier than his peers, should we tell him to stop? No. Likewise, if a child is ready, why should we stop. I think the biggest problem in the "developmental" argument is far too many people making decisions about what is and is not developmentally appropriate, have no idea what they are talking about.

MYTH 3: There is no time for play, fun, or socio-emotional development.

Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: "Kindergarten literacy instruction should be FUN and engaging.

Kindergarten should be engaging and exciting and fun. It should include repetition and practice. Students should be allowed to talk, interact, and problem solve in real situations. I won't talk about the utter ridiculousness of half-day kindergarten and the lack of time for conversation and problem solving. Here's a great quote, "Literacy itself is inherently social; it is sharing information, stories, and ideas."

MYTH 4: One size fits all.

Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: "Kindergarten literacy instruction cannot be the same for everyone."

The story of two kindergartners: One student needs actual instruction with letters and sounds to gain understanding and clear letter/sound associations. One student has been reading for a while and is reading chapter books. The only thing inappropriate about these kindergarten students is that someone deemed a one size fits all curriculum. We should honor their time and their abilities and give them what they need.

MYTH 5: More testing OR no testing.

Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: "High-quality literacy instruction is driven by certain types of literacy tests."

Tests, tests, and more tests. All tests are not created equal. Should we have tests, of course. Should we test EVERYTHING. No. Should we test with running records and benchmark tests to know exactly what the student knows and what they need. The first criteria for determining if a test is necessary should be this: What will be done with the results? If the results are not used for understanding the student and forming instruction, don't give it.

MYTH 6: Other countries are doing kindergarten more effectively than the United States.

Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: "Literacy instruction in the United States is challenging for a number of reasons."

There is no blanket answer for this one. The most important thing about comparisons is making sure we are comparing apples to apples. Other countries have other limitations on education, limiting who is educated, how they are educated and when they are educated. High success rates in these countries is based on the population they educate, not the whole population. We allow education for all and inherently we report all educational needs and results. Educators must look critically at results from these studies and make sure we are apples to apples.

In conclusion:

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this article. As I present to educators, administrators, professors, and people making education decisions...this article gives great basis for the "real" kindergarten. The kindergarten that is developmentally appropriate for ALL students. The kindergarten that is filled with quality in America. The kindergarten that uses assessments for real reasons and not just scores. The kindergarten that is filled with educational play and excitement. The kindergarten that has become the very foundation of all other learning. We can't dismiss it. We can't diminish it's value. We can't shrug it off. Mesmer and Invernizzi give all us "kindergarten enthusiasts" hope.

If you would like to read the entire article...and give it to everyone you know, here it is.

6 Myths About Kindergarten Literacy Instruction by Heidi Anne Mesmer and Marcia Invernizzi.

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Kindergarten: Fact and Fiction. Using an article by Mesmer and Invernizzi, one can make the argument for the importance of Kindergarten.

Monday, March 6, 2017

5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading

5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading... one of the best gifts you can give your child.
This is my favorite advice to parents. Create a LOVE of Reading and you'll never regret it. I am heartsick when I hear students say they don't like reading. I think they are just reading the wrong books and they are just one book away from finding a love in reading. We have to help them find that book. Here are 5 ideas to create a LOVE of Reading that will stand the test of time.

It's Simple Math

5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading... one of the best gifts you can give your child.That's a reading joke (hehe). But, one of my favorite quotes is, "Readers are born on the laps of their parents." It's soooo, soooo true. When we snuggle and add reading, we share a love of reading. Children will associate reading books with that snuggling and love. We can share funny stories like "Pete the Cat" by Eric Litwin and let them giggle. We can share friendship stories like "Chicken Sunday" by Patricia Polacco and teach them the value of true friendship. We can share stories of sadness like "I"ll Always Love You" by Hans Wilhelm. We can even share nervousness like "First Day Jitters" by Julie Danneberg to prepare them for life using books. It's a great way to share love.

Let them Listen...to you read.

5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading... one of the best gifts you can give your child.Let them listen to you! Sometimes when our children start to gain reading skills we tend to make them read everything, but they need to hear you read. They need to understand things like voice (how should that dog sound when he's talking) and intonation (making your voice show the ups and downs of language that can be shown in just text). They need to hear you read breathlessly when you are reading about a race and they need to hear you whisper when they are reading about a quiet time. Their first reading experiences sound like robots, but when they hear you read with expression, they will, too. You will get a kick out of hearing them read with your expression, before it becomes their expression.

Let them "read" it first...to preview and predict

5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading... one of the best gifts you can give your child.Before you read, have them look at the book. They can preview what will happen by looking at pictures. If you want to share the fun of a specific part of the book with them, let them look at the pages up until a certain point, then tell you what they think will happen. When you discuss the book before they know the answers, you are helping them predict and draw conclusions. You are their first teachers, so using words like "make a prediction" or "what do you think will happen" will give them such a head start on reading. 

Have Fun...when you read

5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading... one of the best gifts you can give your child.Why not make a schedule for family book time.  Monday is the start of a new week, so start it with a new book. Tuesday can be "Where are we going to" day. Pick a destination and dive in. Read about the zoo, the ocean, or the mountains. Wednesday can be all about "when" did the book takes place. Choose a book about the morning or the night, or maybe a book about the summer or the winter, or maybe even something that happened long ago or maybe way in the future. It could be fun to explore the "when" of books. Thankful Thursday can build a capacity for caring in your child. What are we thankful for? Read books about food or houses or pets or families. Friday is such a relief. It's a good time to relax and choose a pre-read book to read again. It makes the reading easy and they can even help you. Being creative with books, makes reading fun.

Reading is a Reward

5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading... one of the best gifts you can give your child.
One of the WORST things I've ever heard is: "I have to read when I'm being punished in my room."

WHHHAAATTTT???? 

Say it isn't so. Don't make reading the punishment. Please, please, please make it a reward. Why would we ever want to associate reading with punishment? You have had a fantastic day, let's read a book before your bath AND after your bath.



I hope this gives you ideas about creating a love of reading. It could be one of the best gifts you give your child.

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5 Ways to Create a Love of Reading... one of the best gifts you can give your child.





Sunday, February 26, 2017

100th Day: A School-Wide Event

Want a new idea for 100th Day? Here's a fun school-side idea.
I know, I know...I'm late again! The problem with "special days" in school is I think of things at the last minute, and then I like it, and then it's too late to post it.

But this time, I'm going to post it anyway.

First and Second Grade

Want a new idea for 100th Day? Here's a fun school-side idea.
We decided to have a 100th Day School-wide Idea. There is a bulletin board on either side of the student bathroom outside our school cafeteria.  I posted the title: "How many words can you make out of GREAT BRIDGE PRIMARY? on a Friday afternoon. Monday morning, I added 10 words to the board. First and second grade students received a hand-out with the same question. Tuesday morning, I added 10 more and added 10 more each day until the 100th day of school (ours was February 21st). On the 100th day, I added the rest of the words. Students who completed the paper, were given a homework pass.

Kindergarten Alternative

Want a new idea for 100th Day? Here's a fun school-side idea.
I thought the idea would eliminate most of our kindergarten students, so we sent home an adjusted assignment for K. They needed to write 100 letters or words. The explanation told students if they wrote each letter, upper and lower case, they would be more than half-way there. They could write color words, shape words, word wall words, names in their family, and more.

Students were also allowed to dress up on the 100th day...as 100-year-olds. They were super cute, but I don't have pictures, sorry.

This was fun. If you'd like to download and save this 100th Day idea for next year, click the link or picture below.
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Want a new idea for 100th Day? Here's a fun school-side idea.