Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snowman brace map

This month we have started our snowman unit.  We have read many books, watched movies, and looked at pictures.  After gathering information, we began documenting it.  We created a brace map after reading Lucille Colandro's "There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow."

We used some parts from the book and others from our background knowledge.  After creating the map, we used it to compose sentences.  We also added "and" and "he" to improve our sentences.

For each sentence, we decided what we wanted to say, counted the words and spaces we would need, and chose the words one-by-one.  The words were on the bottom of the easel (sentence strips with magnet tape), ready to be used.  I called on kiddos to find the words and we read them as we added.  We used our big spaceman in between words and a marker for the periods.

The next day the easel was set out for centers.  Small groups of students worked together to create sentences.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

November: Thanksgiving book

I am LOVING these books!  Last month our thinking map book focused on Thanksgiving.  Every year, the kinder team continues the tradition of a big feast for our students and their families.  We buy all the food (with donations), cook all the food, and serve it to our 130 kinders and their families.  My job was potatoes.   Three hours, 2 gallons of milk, 14 sticks of butter, and two large boxes of instant mashed potatoes from Costco later....and I had enough for 400+.  We also served turkey, gravy, stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and apple juice.  It it always so much work but SO worth it when you see the kiddos with their families.  Many of our kids haven't ever had a traditional Thanksgiving (predominantly Hispanic population) so it's a wonderful first experience.

Before the feast, we had a unit on Thanksgiving to learn all about the holiday and history.  We started with a circle map to show our prior knowledge.  I introduced the topic, let them pair/share, and set them to work.

 Next, we used a bubble map to describe turkeys.  Adjectives are tough for the kids to understand, but this sentence frame helped a lot.  The bubble map was perfect for us to write a simple sentence.

Then we made a brace map to show the parts of a turkey.  I took this opportunity to teach some higher-level vocabulary.  We drew the turkey step-by-step and found the vocabulary word to match.

We used a tree map to sort the different food groups we could have for Thanksgiving dinner.  

We used a simple flow map to show the story of the first Thanksgiving.

The double bubble was perfect to compare and contrast the pilgrims and Native Americans.  We used a book (One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by G. Hennessy)

The multi-flow map was a great pre-feast way to finish up the maps.  We talked about what we had to do before our feast, and what would happen after it started.  It was a nice way to let them know what to expect and what work went into making it happen.

Last but not least, we wrote a sentence to show what we learned.  I love the kinder spelling!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

October Science

I realize that I am far too behind on this post but this year has been one of those "keep your head above water" years.  Going from early bird/late bird to AM/PM has been a big adjustment and I feel so behind all the time!  Anyway, here is the fun we've been having in our room in the past month.


Our school is all about Thinking Maps this year in an effort to begin the preparations for CCSS.  I decided that in addition to the daily maps that we use, I wanted to pick a topic and go deep with it using every map.  Since it was October, pumpkins were an easy choice.  After all 8 maps, writing, and a table of contents, our pumpkin books were born!

We used a sponge to paint the cover and give it a composition book feel.

 We completed the table of contents last, by cutting and gluing.

 Our circle map organized our prior knowledge.  The kids did this independently as a starter to the unit.  This friend knew that pumpkins could have faces, seeds, and lines; and could be yellow or orange.

Next, we worked in small groups to make the bubble map.  I cut open a pumpkin and gave them a chance to explore and talk abut what they noticed.

Later, we compared and contrasted a small orange pumpkin and a large white pumpkin.

Then we used some cut-outs to organize information about pumpkins.

We read a book about the life cycle of pumpkins and then drew the sequence.

We cut open another large pumpkin in half, from top to bottom to look inside.  We talked about the different parts.

We thought about what makes pumpkins grow (seeds, soil, water, sun) and what happens after it grows (it can be a jack-o-lantern, pie, or toasted seeds).

We took what we knew about pumpkins and related it to other things.  A pumpkin is the color orange as an apple is the color red, as a strawberry is the color red, and as grapes are the color purple.  The kids chose fruits and veggies to use.

 Finally, we wrote.  The students started with a picture, labeled it, and wrote one or two sentences.

We are currently in the process of a similar book for Thanksgiving...stay tuned!

Bats and Spiders

We started with bats after we finished up with the pumpkins.  Our short unit included watching videos from United Streaming, looking at pictures online, reading books, and group discussion.  We mapped out our thinking as we went along, and finished with some group writing.

We regularly use a circle map in place of a KWL.  The red is what we already knew and the blue is what we learned along the way.  We recorded our questions on another chart.  What I love about thinking maps is that not only does this capture what we know, it also has the frame of reference: how we know what we know.  When my kids offered answers and suggestions, I asked them where they got the information.  They said TV, computers, the zoo, books, and seeing things.  I love that "I just know" is no longer an acceptable answer!

Next, we wanted to classify the information we found to further organize it and make sense of it all.  We used a tree map to do so.

 The tree map is a great tool for writing because it transitions smoothly to simple sentence structures.  From this, my kiddos were able to easily compose sentences that would have otherwise been too difficult to write by themselves.

I wrote some of the key words on sentence strips and asked kids to come up, pick the words they needed, and write the detail to complete the sentence.  They wrote them as the tree map was posted on the SMARTboard.  One friend even came up with his own sentence, which he added.

After we explored bats for a few days, we moved on to spiders.  We made a new circle map and used it in the same way.

My favorite comment from this one was, "We step on them!"  Yes, many people do step on them- but more importantly, I was getting real-life examples of their background knowledge.  They were making connections to their lives and building their schema.
Now that we had information from several sources about both topics, we were ready to compare and contrast.  For this, we used a double bubble map.  We pair/shared things we remembered talking about.  When someone offered a piece of information, I asked them where it should go.  Understanding the placement of information here is key.  It shows me that they understand (or don't) that some information only pertains to one of the creatures while other information related to both.  We also added the verbs so that writing would be a breeze later.

We composed this paragraph over the next couple days.  I put key words on the bottom and called on kids to come up and drag them to the top to create sentences.  We read through it over and over, and I added pictures to help.  As a text, this is WAY above my students' reading levels and would normally not be considered a grade-level-appropriate text.  However, because we spent so much time with the information and composed it from what we found, the kids could absolutely read it when we finished. 

I love color coding so we also went back and colored the capitals green (because that is where the sentence starts to go!)  The next step would be revising to improve the flow and structure.  I'll wait a little longer before introducing that though :)

I have now done a few units in this fashion at both the beginning of the year and the end.  They are great for teaching informative writing.  My newest discovery though is that they also (miraculously) align quite closely to the structure of a performance task on the CCSS tests!  I am on a committee for my district and I'm also participating in Writing Project 2 at UCI, so I have been talking about the Common Core a lot!  I have looked at some of the sample performance tasks and they have a very similar format to these units.  First a video or article is given to the students and they can take notes.  Then there is a class discussion about the topic and student are encouraged to use a graphic organizer for the information.  Then students may be given one more genre on the topic.  Finally, they are asked to take that information and write about it.  I am thrilled that my kinders (the first guinea pigs to be tested in 3rd grade and all the way through) will already have experience doing this type of activity!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

WW with reading connection

In the past two weeks we have turned WW up a notch.  My kiddos have been doing well with labeling and I wanted to go further to enhance their writing.  I saw a super cute anchor chart from Reading and writing and decided to add some more elements.  I introduced a new story element every couple of days.  I recorded the elements on the anchor chart and focused on them in my own writing during my mini-lesson modeling.  Then I invited my kinders to practice incorporating those elements in their own writing. 

Our WW starts with a mini-lesson, 10 minutes of quiet writing time, and ten minutes of writing time they can use to work with others.  I also use those last ten to conference.  Lucky for me, I have my RtI support teacher in there with me, so we can both pull kids.  Unfortunately, those ten minutes of conferencing were only productive for the kids conferencing.  The other 28 at their seats were talking, playing, and definitely off task.  I had a few super stars who kept working, but most of them had reached their limit.  I needed a way to make that time productive for everyone (so that I could actually conference and not be a police officer!)  We had been using the anchor chart to guide our writing, and I wanted them to continue with that during the last ten minutes.  We practiced with some Author's Chair time:  I picked a few students each day who shared their pieces and we gave positive feedback.  To my pleasant surprise, my kids were saying things like, "I like the way you used characters" and "You did a good job showing us your setting."  I was THRILLED.  They were using the terms without me even prompting or asking them.  Once I saw that, I knew I could use this to my advantage.  Our last ten minutes soon transformed into buddy sharing time.  My kids paired up, found a comfy spot, shared their writing, and with the help of a mini-rubric, discussed what went well and what they could add.  It was AMAZING to walk around and hear their conversations.  They were talking about adding trees as details in the setting.  They were stretching out words to incorporate in their writing.  They were using everything I had hoped they would and they were productive the entire time.  Once I saw that, I didn't even want to pull them for conferencing!

Here is the rubric I made for them to keep track of what they should include.  They could check each thing as they went and when they met with a buddy.

Here is a sample from one of my little friends.  He is low academically, but LOVES writing time.  The smile on this kid's face when he gets to share is priceless.  His picture shows he has a long way to go, but I'm still thrilled with his progress.  He has characters, he has labeled them (with letters), his characters have feelings, he has a rainbow to show his setting is outside, he added eyelashes to his sister (details), and wrote letters on the bottom to include the "words" of his story.  He is incorporating all of the elements (showing he is understanding what is expected) at his level (showing it is meaningful for him).

 This friend is my resident illustrator.  His character is another boy at his table, and his setting is our classroom (we have bears on the windows and walls for the PM class).  He labeled his picture and used the label to write a sentence.  I met with him later at conferences and he added more details and words to his sentence.  He is ready to write words and is definitely using his time productively.

This is the work of another friend ready to write words.  He has included happy characters (spiders and a friend), in a setting outdoors (with a sun).  He has labeled parts of his picture and incorporated that label in a sentence.  I love his kinder spelling!

After seeing these results, I wanted to take the opportunity to reinforce the terms and elements when reading.  I wanted to use our anchor chart to show how most stories we read can also serve as a mentor text. 
 I created this chart to mirror our writing anchor chart and highlight these story elements when we read in class.  We used If You Give a Moose a Muffin as our first mentor text with the chart.  I read the book to the class and afterwards, we pair/shared answers for each element.  I wrote their answers on post-its and stuck them on in the appropriate places.  It worked perfectly!  I laminated the chart so we could also write on it with dry-erase markers.  We have used it a few times and it's been a great tool to reinforce the vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bubble Maps and WW

What an exhausting and wonderful week!  Back to School Night really drained me with the wacky schedule, but we made it through another successful 5 days.  This week our focus was on bubble maps and what writers write. 

We worked on bubble maps all week long as a class.  Since we just started with HM, each day we did a bubble map based on the letter of the day (apple, banana, cow).  Thankfully for us, the Mobile Dairy Council came so we had a lot to say about the cow!  We ended the week with our first Big Buddies day, when our big buddies helped us make bubble maps about ourselves.  Those kids were SO adorable!  The big buddies interviewed the little buddies and they worked together using pictures and words to describe my kinders.  Here are the results.

 This is a great example because the big buddy used all adjectives (yay!) and my (kinder who is an ELL with Speech services) suggested "curious."  Love it!

 I love this one because it really shows the big buddy's opinion of his little buddy.  So sweet!

I love the pictures in this one.  We talked about drawing pictures so that the little buddy could "read" it later.

This one is great because my kinder wrote the words first (experimenting with letters) and the big buddy translated it.  Such great teamwork!

Next week is the dubble bubble, which we will of course use to compare big and little buddies.  I can't wait to see the results.

What do writers write?

This week's anchor chart was about genres.  I collected some from around the house and school, and posted them on the chart.  Then we worked together to label them (a previous lesson).  Afterwards, I chose one to model.  I made a menu.  When it was time to write, I put out post-its, blank paper, and paper bags.  The paper bags were the most popular.

The next day I chose the book.  I also took the opportunity to use a mentor text.  We looked at our HM big book, Mice Squeak We Speak.  We first looked at the front cover, noticing the different attributes.  We saw letters.  Some letters were the author's name, so I wrote my name in the same place on my book (a folded piece of construction paper).  We also saw letters that made the title, which I wrote too (bigger and in another color like the anchor text).  The biggest part was an illustration that showed what the book would be about.  My title was "The Day the Cow Came" so I drew a cow.  We also noticed a border which I added to fancy it up.

The following day we opened the book again (we read it much earlier) and took note of what we saw.  Pictures, letters, and little dots.  So I added an illustration for my beginning, words to tell the story, and one of those little dots at the end.  Yep, I introduced periods to kids that can't all write their name.  Our team usually reserves periods, space, and capitals for DECEMBER.  It was a brave (and some may say foolish) thing to do, but I stand behind it.  A third or more of my class added periods in their writing that day. PHENOMENAL!  I was so excited.  For those who were ready, they soaked it up.  For those who weren't, they will hear it a thousand more times before June.  I realize now that work samples would be great to post, so I'll update with some next week.  Yay for WW!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Anchor Charts and Circle Maps

Surprise again!  Friday afternoon (before the long weekend, just before school started), my principal pulled me out of a meeting and told me that I was changing rooms and grade level.  I had spent the entire summer excitedly planning for a combo- a challenge I was eager to take on, and preparing my new room, and all was for not.  That afternoon, I took down the bulletin boards with tears running down my face, and packed up my stuff to put into a room that was already occupied.  I am now sharing the room with a teaching partner, teaching twice as many kids in a day, a day without a real break, and it's been a whirlwind.

I basically powered through that three-day weekend, staying busy to not only get everything ready, but also to avoid sitting still long enough to really feel upset.  I kept repeating to myself, "It is what it is," and soon enough, the room was ready and so was I.

The first two weeks of school have been exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating.  My new partner has been wonderful, and we're making quite the team.  My big focus this year is Writers' Workshop, and our school's focus is Thinking Maps.  Both have been amazing!  Here are some samples of each...

Writers' Workshop

We started on day 1 for this one.  I am using Jennifer Jacobson's model and loving it so far.
No More, "I'm Done!": Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades

We start with a mini-lesson, model, write, and conference.  One part that I love is the "Quiet Ten" time which is ten uninterrupted minutes of writing- for the students and me.  We've made two anchor charts so far, and I think I'll aim for one a week.

This is one that I copied from Laura at  I wrote the title beforehand, but brainstormed with the kids before writing the "rules."  Since making and posting the chart, this has become my students' mantra...and they are absolutely coloring better than any other first-week-class I've had!

This is our second anchor chart.  We talked about thinking of ideas, drawing a picture, and using labels to tell about your picture.  I asked students to look at my picture and think about what they noticed.  Then we stretched out the words to hear the sounds.  I chose a few students who I knew would be able to write letters, and others who I knew needed help.  My partner helped those who needed it.  The post-it notes worked really well because I could take them off and let my partner use the chart for her kids.  Later we posted it with all the labels.

Next week we will talk about what writers write.  I plan to bring in a number of things for examples and label them on our new anchor chart.  I will post it soon :)

Circle Maps

Our school's big focus this year is Thinking Maps.  I use a flow map every day for our schedule and each student has a personal one for rotations.  They are MAGIC!  Our implementation plan is to introduce one map a week, but we can also use the other maps during that time.  The goal is that by the end of the week, the kids know the specific map of the week, how to use it, and how to draw it.  We used circle maps all week.  Our first was about Pete the Cat, then Froggy, then me, and we ended the week by making one about ourselves.  Here are some samples (unfortunately in black and white).

All the kids had "Bobcat" because that is our school mascot.  I love how this student not only drew the paw print like me, he also added claws!

 This friend has some definite fine motor issues, but also a lot of clear ideas.  He told me about his car and how it was broken in a crash.  He drew as he told me and although it isn't the happiest memory, it is something important to him and shows that he understands what the assignment was.

This was done by one o my higher friends, and as you can see, there is more detail in the pictures.  I love that the kids included all parts of their lives...breakfast, family, wonderful!

Next week we move on to bubble maps.  I'm a little worried since not all of my kiddos can draw a circle let alone several, but I'm sure it be great.  This past week and a half has well-exceeded my expectations so I'm excited for more!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My classroom

Surprise!  Not only did I get a room change, I'm also going to teach a K/1 combo!  I'm thrilled at the opportunity/challenge and have been working hard to get my new classroom ready.  It just so happens that I student-taught in that room years ago, so I'm even more excited to return.  As a combo class, I have run into a few challenges, but with the help of pinterest, my family, friends, Classroomlibrary, and DonorsChoose, it's almost ready.

Challenge 1: Organization

I'm keeping my kinder tables from last year because extra desks are a rare commodity.  While they will work great with my kinders, my first graders won't have a place to keep books, journals, etc.  To solve this problem, I went to my local handy man (my dad), showed him a picture of what I wanted (Lakeshore's Mobile Student Work Organizer) and in less than a week, I was rolling in my brand-new, freshly painted, custom piece of furniture!

I love that not only did I get a FREE piece of furniture (minus the present I got for my dad) I also got to customize it.  I asked him to put pegboard on the back because it's a perfect space to put another center area!  Why waste space?  I began noticing all the pegboard in my classroom once I was moving furniture and was so excited that I found all these new places to put pocket charts and supplies!  I also love that I got to paint it :)  I put my new piece next to the back door (backpacks are outside this door) so when my firsties come in from lunch, they can easily grab their textbook/journal/etc. quickly and easily.  Yay!

Challenge 2: Organization/Seating

My next part of organization was all about the chairs.  First, I wanted to create chair pockets to have a special place for my kiddos to put their reading books and writing folder (both things they will need throughout the day).  I like the idea of chair pockets because it means less little feet running around looking for things and inevitably distracting everyone else.  Moments away from purchasing all the expensive durable fabric, I found an outstanding idea on pinterestThe Frugal Teacher was genius enough to use stretchable book covers as chair pockets!

I quickly went to Target (who was having a sale on book covers) and purchased 33 LARGE covers of various colors.  The kinder teacher in me wanted all color-coordination and I was lucky enough to find just enough to give every table perfectly matching (and washable) pockets!  LOVE it!  

My second challenge with seating was not enough- big surprise, right?  Sarcasm aside, I needed a plan.  I found Miss Kranz's directions for crate chairs.  I got the crates at Target ($3 sale), and fabic and padding from Joann's.  Then I got my local handy man (dad again) to get MDF and cut it for me.  He also helped me use the staple gun and assemble them.  In a couple hours- six new and cute chairs!

My plan for the table with crates is to use it as a center.  I can use the crates to store supplies and keep that big table open for kids who need extra workspace.  I can also pull the chairs from this table for extras on the carpet :)

Challenge 3: Supplies

We LOVE Crayola's Twistables at our school and are starting year 2 with these amazing crayons.  I like the Twistables because they last forever (I'm still using them from last year and they have lots of color left), they rarely break, and they are self-sharpening.  Gone are the days of broken crayons that "don't work anymore" because they are down to the paper!  The only problem I had with them last year was the packaging.  It is made of thin plastic that tore easily when eager five-year-old fingers needed crayons.  Suffice it to say, they did not look good and were falling apart before the year was over.  I needed something more kid-friendly.

I looked around but didn't find anything I really loved.  Seeking that coveted color-coordinated room, I decided to make my own.  I got felt, felt stickers, Velcro, and fabric glue from Michael's.  The rest was a simple stitch down the sides and across the bottom.  I removed the sticky backing from the stickers (with tape) and used the fabric glue to adhere them to the top.  The Velcro was easy because it was already sticky!  I'm hoping these will hold up better, and am curious to see how they do!

Challenge 4: Dry-Erase

Unfortunately, I do not have an entire class set of whiteboards for my students.  Last year I used page protectors with worksheets inside.  I liked them because we could save paper and I could essentially customize the "whiteboard."  This year, I wanted to step it up a notch and did with the help of

I changed mine a little, using half strips along the sides to cover less of the papers.  I also left the top open to slip papers in and out.  I plan to fill these with a name writing practice page on one side, and letter writing on the other.  Both are super important at the beginning of the year and things that we practice A TON.  I put a stack in a tray on each table along with dry-erase makers (thank you, DonorsChoose!) so that when kids finish early, they can take out their pocket and practice away!

I also made more with different duct tape for the teacher tables.  Those will stay at the small group tables to be used for review, etc. and won't get mixed up with ones at the tables.