Thursday, January 26, 2012


...books!!!! I can never get enough!  Between Scholastic Book Clubs and Amazon, I can't stop spending.  I will always appreciate a good picture book, but now my obsession has moved on to readers for my kinders.  This year I decided to introduce some of my young readers to our school-wide reading program, AR.  At first, it was tons of work...sending home leveled books weekly (everyone gets different books!), reading one-on-one with students to check for fluency and understanding, and helping them one-on-one with the quizzes.  Not to mention the organization factor of rotating and tracking the books.  The kids were also a little hesitant to take quizzes unless asked to...but now, things are really turning around.  Before we even walked in the door today, I had kids begging to take quizzes and working out who would get to go first.  They love it!  They are also taking home multiple books and bringing them back the next day, ready for quizzes and asking for more.  And with all the 100% scores I've been seeing, how can I say no?!  I am SO proud of them and can't wait to get my next order of books for them to devour! 

P.S.- AR's new website feature that gives a link straight to Amazon to buy the books may lead to the eventual max-out of my credit card :) Plus, letting kids take quizzes on the iPad with the free app is the coolest thing ever!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Making every minute count

At the staff meeting today we talked a lot about making RtI more effective.  I definitely want to make the most of every moment, so it got me thinking.  One thing that came up (that I've also been thinking about lately) was the concept of over-teaching.  In other words, teaching something the kids already know.  This seems to happen the most in whole group lessons.  So what might be an effective lesson for the lows/mediums, the highs aren't getting stimulated.  I differentiate a lot throughout the day and most of our instruction is in small groups to prevent such a thing from happening.  Unfortunately, there are still some of those pesky minutes where there isn't enough support/resources/time to really make the lesson completely effective for every student.  In my own class, I have a wide range of students and am constantly incorporating ways to provide interventions for the lows and challenges for the highs.  Even so, within each small group there is still a range of skills and abilities.  Every day my team and I show a PowerPoint that I created and regularly update.  The presentation has letter naming, sounds, sight-words, numbers, and counting.  It's an easy way to make sure we cover each essential skill every day, a great review for those who need continuous reinforcement, and an important part of our routine to come together to sit and review.  Unfortunately, there is no way to differentiate when everyone is looking at the same thing and saying the same things.  As the year progresses, I am seeing a wider range of needs because more and more skills are added to the curriculum.  While some still benefit greatly from the presentation, others are bored and not engaged.  I don't blame them! Just because one student doesn't know numbers to twenty doesn't mean they all don't.  So I stayed late (which isn't too surprising) to revamp my teaching and start fresh tomorrow.  I tried to use things that I have already implemented at one time or another, but aren't a part of the regular routine.  I have four student laptops in our room, plus an iPad (I'm addicted to technology in the classroom and blow my own budget to get more!), so I will use these for my lowest students.  I already set these students up with the laptops with a modified version of the PowerPoint that includes narration.  I will continue to use those, while my mediums watch a new and improved presentation that is more challenging.  For the highs, I will use clip boards that these students already have.  I originally got a tub of clip boards for these students to use when they finished work early.  The clip boards have challenge activities and a phonics reader.  We haven't really used them lately, but I think it will be the perfect thing for them because I can select specific activities for each student and they can work independently.  With all three groups working independently, I will (hopefully) be able to pull kids and work on specific skills.  So what used to be a time when everyone did the same thing, will now be a time when we have focused skill instruction.  Amazing how much thought goes into just 15 minutes of time!  I'd love to know any helpful suggestions to make our time more effective.  Any ideas?

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Like School: literacy pack

I put some more stuff together for this mini-unit for all the reinforcing fun.  I have used the reader, the flip book, and a worksheet in my own class, but added some more worksheets and some word cards for sentence building.  I think it will be some good independent practice for a review.  With DIBELS going on, I need as much independent work as I can get, so that I can pull kids for testing.  The kids especially like these because after using the books, the sentences are familiar and make them feel oh-so successful! A perfect attitude for testing season :)  Get it here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

CVC playing cards

Here's number two: CVC cards to play games and practice blending.  Testing starts tomorrow so as a fun break, I thought I might make some cards to play games with the munchkins and lighten the mood.  I am going to use them in small groups in Memory games or a more guided activity where the kids will have to match my cards.  I'll keep one set of the words and pass out the other.  Then I may read each word, or give clues like "rhymes with," "looks like," or "is used for."  I want my kids to get more comfortable with blending and I know a fun game is a good place to start.  We have practiced nonsense words, but I think using real words for this game will help us not only blend, but review vocabulary.  With my ELLs, they need as much practice as they can get with words like "cot" and "cap."  If you'd like to play too, get the cards and game suggestions here.

Reader freebie :)'s my first freebie file!  It's a simple emergent reader that's short, fun, and a great model for what I expect from my students.  With the local writing assessment this month, we were reviewing like crazy about writing.  And what's a better way to learn how to be a great writer than to read?  The book reviews our high-frequency words and shows how easy it is to apply them to something they are all familiar!  My kids also always love a book that they can color and understand right away.  With a familiar topic, even my lows were surprising me with awesome fluency!  My team also used it in class and sent it home for further reinforcement :) To download this treasure, just go to my TpT page here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Get ready...

So I finally caved... part of the fun of teaching is the sharing and "borrowing."  I love that I have a job that not only encourages my creativity, but appreciates it.  I also love that I work at a place where I can put all my crazy ideas to use and refuse to go home at a decent hour.  I am more than lucky, so it's time to share my ideas/madness with all the stressed out, exhausted, yet still amazing teachers out there! Worksheets, PowerPoints, SMART lessons, and more to come!!