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Alphabet Mini Posters Freebie

 Learning the alphabet in kindergarten can sometimes be little tricky! A student of mine knows every letter sound, but when it comes to remembering the letter names... he gets stuck

 So I decided to take a different approach. I created alphabet mini posters and printed them out on card stock. We spread them out on the floor and he had to put them in a "train." We would sing the alphabet song each time we went back to the drawing board. 


Each mini-poster had a correlating picture to help him if he was stuck on the letter name. 

After he found the correct card, he would put it in our train. We started the activity by having him walk along side each letter, saying (or often singing) them in order as he went. 

We decided to make it even more fun... as he progressed down the alphabet we needed to keep things interesting! He thought it would be clever to hop backwards (so that he could look at the letters straight on) and sing his alphabet song as he went! So cute! 

Little boys are so funny, aren't they? He got a kick out of it.. and guess what? After singing the alphabet song 26 times (or more)... he was doing pretty well with letter name recognition!!

To wrap up, I wanted integrate a little bit of math for him. He's almost mastered counting to 100 and we have been working on using ten-frames to add and subtract! So, we organized the alphabet cards into "tens-frames" and figured out how many letters were in the alphabet. 

We labeled each row, counting by fives. 5, 10, 15, 20, 25... plus one more left over gave us 26! 

If you'd like a free copy of these alphabet mini posters, click on the image at the top to download them! Note: I printed these cards as "booklets" so that they'd print two to a page and come out a little smaller! :) Please use whichever size would be best for your students! Happy teaching!

Literature Circles

This week I had the AWESOME privilege to go into my friend's classroom and get a literature circle started! It was so much fun!! I first began using literature circles when I taught the 5th grade, gifted and talented blend. It was a HUGE change for me, seeing as I had always taught students with disabilities. But of course, it turned out to be awesome. In my 5th grade class, I had a chart created and posted next to our classroom library. My students needing enrichment would be given their role for the week and assigned chapters.

They were expected to complete their reading and their literature circle role BEFORE they came to group. My job was simply to observe discussions, the "discussion director" facilitated conversations! It was INCREDIBLE! Talk about kids taking ownership and responsibility for their own learning... and let me tell you... that was the year of book on tapes for me in the car driving back and forth to work! I had a hard time keeping up with all the different chapter books I had to read before I assigned them!! Ha! Click on the image above for a copy of the literature circle assignments I gave each child to complete before they came to group!

Now, when I moved down to 2nd grade... these assignments were a bit too complex for their little minds! So I modified it! I still had kids that were ready to have additional responsibility for completing reading outside of our guided reading group. But they needed accountability and a challenge to go with it. So I created reader's response questions to several book that kids could read and discuss at their independent reading level. To make things more fun, I even set up a kidblog account and had them blog their responses to each other.. but that's a story for another day!

So this week when I went into my friend's class, I taught the kids how to read the question before they read their chapters in the book. We chose the book Magic Tree House Dinosaurs Before Dark because it's a guided reading Level M (Fountas & Pinnell) and that is the independent reading level for the group. We discussed how good readers are detectives and need to search for the answers to the questions while they read! We also talked about how good readers will also come up with questions of their own to discuss with the group. 

The kiddos set off to read their chapter and record their responses. We gathered at the end, to discuss their answers. The collaboration was AWESOME. Before we discussed as a group, they shared their answers with a partner... using TEXT BASED EVIDENCE to support their thinking! If one partner noticed something the other one hadn't, they just added the details to the response sheet! They were so proud of themselves and I was proud of them too!

Thanks for stopping by! If you are interested in using these Magic Tree House Dinosaurs' Before Dark literature circle questions, click on the picture above!

Meet Frosty the Robot

So often we hear the term 21st century classroom and the importance of preparing children for the 21st century. Laptops, computer, ipads... our district is blessed to have so much but one piece of technology that changed my entire viewpoint as a teacher was a robot.

Meet Frosty, our friendly classroom robot!!!

In my last 1st-2nd grade loop, I had a student with an acute kidney disease. She was in and out of school each fall and once flu season began... forget it. It was too dangerous... one stomach bug would land her in the ICU for days. We set up a plan for a home-tutor to come to her house and do one hour of "tutoring" a day to keep her caught up. The rest of her work was on her own.. but let's be honest. Is a seven year old really self-motivated enough to do a full days work on her own? NO WAY!

So.. in a meeting with our school psychologist, principal, and assistant superintendent, someone suggested we contact our Monroe #1 BOCES technology department and try to utilize the VGO Robot that was being trialed in schools. I couldn't believe it... instead of bringing my student to school, we would bring school to her!

Just before Christmas, we introduced Frosty to the kids. (Note: not a great idea with heightened excitement of Santa and winter break looming for enthusiastic second graders... I would wait for a smoother transition time in the future!) Everyday for our math workshop, our friend would call in on Frosty, the lights would flash and the camera would flip open. She had an ipad at home with an app that would connect to Frosty.  I'd move Frosty with a little remote up to the rug for our mini-lesson before we split off into our math workshop. Frosty would go to each center, including her guided math group with me for small group instruction. She'd have all the resources and materials (that I had previously sent home) to play games at centers with her classmates.

I can not even begin to tell you how many times my eyes would well-up with tears and I would watch this child, who was not able to come to school due to poor health, gleefully interact with her friends across the screen of a robot. In first grade, I had tried to connect her with her peers via Face Time on my iPhone, but it was very difficult with the poor cell connection we had in the classroom. (One time I had my observation while she was Face Timing in for a guided reading group... that was a SIGHT FOR SORE EYES.. but a story for another day! Haha!) It was finally happening, she was loved and included though she could not be there. What a gift.

One would think that 2nd graders would be highly distracted by the use of a LITERAL robot in the classroom... but it amazed me, how quickly it became the norm. When it was time to go to specials, we'd roll Frosty onto the cart, and pull her on down to music or library or whichever special area class we had that day.

If you're interested in hearing more, I have linked the video made by BOCES about our student, VRO Robot named Frosty and how it all worked in our classroom!

What about you? Do you have any cool technology that's helping improve the education of your students? Link up your blog posts here!

Food Critics

While I am LOVING being on maternity leave for another year... I do miss the classroom! I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to do some tutoring on the side this year to keep me, "in the loop," so to speak! I am tutoring one kindergartner, a few second graders and a third grader PLUS a doing writing group... which is AWESOME because it's basically a guided writing group for AN HOUR a week! AMAZING! I never had that much time for direct instruction with one group of kids at a time in the classroom!

This week during my writing group, I decided to modify a lesson I used to do in the classroom for descriptive writing. Each child became a food critic in order to emphasize the importance of using JUICY DETAILS in writing. To begin, each child was given a plate of food. (I had previously checked to make sure there were no allergens for students in the group).

Each plate included a few kidney beans, cucumber slices, butterscotch morsels, a frosted animal cookie, shredded cabbage and a few golden graham cereal squares. When I handed them the plates, the kiddos had the most excited and bewildered looks on their faces!

I explained how we were going to be "Food Critics" for the day and our job was to give an opinion , along with three words they would use to describe each food. We reviewed how we can use each of our senses to come up with descriptions of each including what the food looked like, smelled like, tasted like, felt like or sounded like when they bit into it!

Each child did a GREAT JOB coming up with their opinions and then using descriptive language to paint of picture of each food. Words like green, GROSS, slimy, crunchy, sugary and more were used with great expression!

After we finished tasting, I read aloud The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. We looked for ways the author used descriptive language to paint a picture of what the characters were doing and feeling in the story. We also noticed how the pictures supported the descriptive language. The children made many discoveries as we read. It was also a teach-able moment for visualizing and how reading and writing really have many connections!

Finally, to wrap up each child was given a piece of paper with a box to make a sketch. They were given the opportunity to write a personal narrative (something we've been working on) using JUICY DETAILS and descriptive language, just like we used while we were critiquing the food! The kids got really into their writing, and we verbally discussing how they were using "juicy details" to paint a picture in the reader's mind! I was *SO PROUD* of them! :)

Click on the picture below to download the freebie documents I used for my kiddos!

I am also attaching some pictures showing how I implemented this activity in small group stations in my classroom last year. Our foods were mangoes, dill pickles, garbanzo beans, artichokes, lentil chips, and gelato!

I had parent volunteers, including my wonderful mother-in-law come to help facilitate a few of the groups so I could circulate and check-in with each kiddo! You will notice that with a whole group, I had plates and forks for kids to bring with them from station to station. Each food was clearly labeled for the kids to record on their recording sheets, which I did not need to do during my small group tutoring session!

Either way, large group or small group, this activity was a HIT and I HIGHLY recommend it for bringing writing to life for your kiddos!

Punctuation Takes a Vacation?!?

How many times a day do you remind your students to check for punctuation?

"Is that the end of your sentence?"

"What goes at the end of a sentence?"

"Do you need a punctuation mark?"

"Have you used your writing checklist?"

And so it goes. I often like to teach a mini-lesson where I read aloud a piece of writing that does not contain any punctuation marks. I read the entire piece without taking a breath and then fall over when I run out of air. This is a visual reminder to children, the importance of punctuation! And they think it's really silly!

However... the punctuation reminders never seem to end in my classroom!!!

Enter Robin Pulver and the Punctuation Takes a Vacation book.

The wonderfully talented children's author that focuses many of her books on grammar and the writing process! Punctuation Takes a Vacation is a fun, silly book that teaches children the importance of using punctuation in the writing process. The kids quickly catch on to the point that life without punctuation is a MESS! Check out how we used this book to remedy our problem!

To begin, I read the book Punctuation Takes a Vacation as our read-aloud for our mini lesson. I read the letter from Mr. Wright's class very dramatically, emphasizing each punctuation mark that was in the incorrect place. The kids loved it... and it really hit the point home of the importance of proper punctuation use!

Next, I did a demonstration on the SMARTboard of how to make edits and revisions to a writing piece, including punctuation with pages from the book.

After we completed the mini-lesson, the kids were put into groups to work collaboratively to solve each post-card from the book. They needed to figure out which punctuation mark wrote the letter and replace the missing marks! 

 The kids loved the challenge! They used a different color for each punctuation mark!

We were able to explicitly review the concept of the period, the comma, the question mark and the exclamation point!

Finally, the kiddos were sent off to write their own stories using the punctuation marks reviewed today! The writing paper had a checklist at the bottom to remind each child to, you guessed it, USE PUNCTUATION!

If you'd like this freebie, click on the picture above! Hope it can be helpful for you!

Meet the Guided Reading Crew and their Strategies, Too!

Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE routines. But sometimes, it’s important to switch things up… be a little more creative! In guided reading, there are so many different strategies that I want to cover and I was having a hard time getting the kids to tell the difference between certain strategies like retelling vs. summarizing or background knowledge vs. schema! I decided to come up with a group of characters that I could use while I modeled the strategies in our mini lesson that would transfer over to our guided reading groups!

Meet the Guided Reading Crew and their Strategies, too! Let me introduce you to my friends…

Questioning Quinton: His job is to teach kids to ask questions while they read. Did you know that the best readers are ALWAYS asking questions? Some great words to get you started are WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW? It is so much fun to wonder while you read!

In this guided reading group, my students were reading at a Level G so we read Lola at the Library. Students took a picture walk through the story and asked questions before they read (and continued to ask more questions as they read). Their questions were recorded on their graphic organizers and then checked to see if their questions had been answered within the story!

Cause & Effect Chloe: Her job is to help kids figure out the cause & effect while they read! If Chloe kicks a soccer ball in the net and scores a goal… why did she score a goal?
Cause: I kicked the soccer ball
Effect: I scored a goal
Cause and effect is fun because you get to figure out the reasons why different things happen!

Schema Sophie: Her job is to teach kids to build off their schema while they read. You may be wondering what schema is? Your schema is similar to your background knowledge, things that you already know! When you are reading and using your schema you may say things like…
*That reminds me of…
* I’m remembering…
* I can relate to…

In this guided reading group, my students were reading at a Level M so we read Strega Nona. Students activated their schema with the thinking stems listed above…
I’m remembering….
I can relate to…
That reminds me of…

Visualizing Violet: Her job is to teach kids to visualize while they read. Visualizing is like making a picture in your mind while you read! Do you like watching movies? Violet does too! Today while you read your book, try to make a movie in your head of what you’re reading! Sometimes it helps to close you eyes while you make a picture of what is happening in the story!

Connections Carter:  His job is to teach kids to make connections while they read. Do you know what traits, feelings or actions are? Traits are ways to describe people, like Carter is kind. Feelings are how a person is feeling, like Carter is happy! Actions are things people do, like Carter play basketball. When you make connections to characters in a book, you can connect to traits, feelings or actions!

In this guided reading group, my students were reading at a Level K so we read If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Students drew a picture of themselves and the main character (a pig) and made a connection to a feeling, trait or an action from the book!

Inferring Izzie: Her job is to teach kids to make inferences while they read. Did you notice she is am dressed as a detective? That’s because to make inferences, you must look for clues! Inferring is when you find clues or evidence in the story to figure something out! For example, if she is carrying a magnifying glass around (clue or evidence), you would think she's  probably a detective (inference)!

Retelling Reagan:  His job is to teach kids to do a retelling after they read! Retelling a story is lots of fun! You have to remember different elements of the book such as the characters, setting, problem and solution to RE-TELL what happened! Sometimes it helps to write some of the main ideas and story elements down while you read to help you remember!

In this guided reading group, my students were reading at a Level N so we read My Great Aunt Arizona. Students did a sketch of the main events after they finished reading while we verbally reviewed what happened. Next they wrote out their retelling using the transition words: first, next, after that and finally.  

Author’s Purpose Ada:  Her job is to help kids figure out the Author’s Purpose while they read! I have to tell you something else, Ada loves pie! That’s how you can remember what an author’s purpose may be:
P: Persuade
I: Inform
E: Entertain

In this guided reading group, my students were reading at a Level L so we read Sharks! Before we read, we discussed the three purposes an author would have to write a book: persuade, inform and entertain (PIE). Then students read the book and drew the conclusion that the author’s purpose for this book was the inform!  

Summarizing Sebastian: His job is to help kids make a summary after they read! I have to tell you, his job is one of the hardest! When you write a summary, it can only be a few sentences… and a lot of stuff can happen in a book! It’s important to only find the main ideas and important details when you write a summary!

Predicting Paige: Her job is to help kids make predictions while they read! Do you like science experiments? Paige loves science experiments AND reading because you can make predictions during BOTH! A prediction is a guess (using clues or evidence) about what is going to happen next!

In this guided reading group, my students were reading at a Level H so we read Elephants on Board. Students took a picture walk through the story and made predictions before they read (and continued to make more predictions as they read). Their predictions were recorded on their graphic organizers and then we reviewed if the predictions were correct or incorrect at the end!

Background Knowledge Brayden: His job is to teach kids to use their background knowledge when they read! Does anyone have any idea what background knowledge might be? It’s things that you already know! For example, if you are reading a Henry & Mudge book and you have a dog at home, you have some background knowledge about what it’s like to have a dog for a pet!

If you are interested in adding these kids to your classroom roster, click on the image below! Hope these ideas can be helpful to you and your reading instruction!