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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wednesday WoW! (and a tour of my new space)

Today I’m going to share one of the best parts of my week!

My Wednesday WoW is teaching KINDERGARTEN- and it actually going well so far! (Don’t worry- I am still teaching grades 2-5 in the mornings!)

I’m trained and certified in kindergarten through sixth, but the bulk of my experience lies in 2nd or 3rd grade, so I was a bit apprehensive about the little guys. I don’t know how many kindergarten teachers read my blog, but you all have my everlasting respect. Kindergarteners are SO active, and SO excited, and SO new to everything school that it scares me a bit! You have to teach them everything, and have so much patience!

My friends who do teach kindergarten, my new teammates, and my Title/ Reading Specialist friends (especially those over at Adventures in Literacy Land!) have been so helpful in giving me ideas for my afternoons.

I started my first day with the kids by reading a book together to tell them a little about me.

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I kept it really simple, but the kids really liked it. I just used a Google image search to find my images (which of course I wouldn’t do if I was sharing it, but since it was just for my room, it worked well & was for educational use!)

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Like most of their books, it followed a pattern that changed slightly on the last page.

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I also used it for some basic assessment- I could see if they noticed the exclamation mark on the last page, or if they noticed that “peanut butter” had two words instead of one, or if they noticed that the page with a picture of a camera said the word “pictures” which starts with p! I learned a lot about where my kids are from just reading this one book.

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Since then, I’ve been getting started with some simple letter-matching activities, lots of letter- sound correlation, and using the white boards and their writing notebooks to tie in writing as well. (Above, it says “I can skateboard”)

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I absolutely love the way our room is set up, too, especially the brilliance of using seat sacks. I never thought of using them in an intervention setting, because my kids don’t have as much stuff- but it is the perfect place for them to put their book envelopes while we meet, and it stores white boards so that I never have to pass them out.

When I want to pass out markers, I just have a little basket of markers and erasers and the “marker train” drives slowly across the table once. They have to pick their marker and eraser before the train passes them, and we clean up the same way.


The two teachers that set up this room also did an amazing job of making all of our resources for each group readily available. (Each group’s journals and name puzzles are in the colorful bins above.)


Plus, we have this incredible reference wall behind my teaching table- and a ridiculous giant gorilla in the corner. So fun, right?

IMG_3964  My kindergartners are so much fun. Exhausting, but so much fun- and I finally feel like I have a little bit of a routine going. It is definitely going to be a little tricky teaching them because I see them by class, not necessarily by reading level or skill need, but because they are kindergartners we keep moving from thing to thing very quickly and we fit a lot in!

I am so, so grateful to finally be full-time again, and to be stretching myself to work with a different age group. It’s new, it’s different, and I love that I have a chance to help these kids grow from the very basics of reading! It’s just exciting- especially now that I feel less overwhelmed!

So- my WoW for the week? I am finally settling into my new position, with the help of a super-supportive staff at my new school, and some amazing friends online and in person who have given me lots of tips and resources. As I find things that work, I’m excited to share them with you!

Before I go, a few quick notes- I posted over at Adventures in Literacy Land the other day about one of my favorite sessions at the National Reading Recovery Conference. If you are interested in digging deeper into data to really diagnose your readers’ needs, be sure to check out my post and a book recommendation!

finding a reader's story

Also, February Text Detectives was posted a few days ago, if you’re interested! They are perfect for our learning about Black History Month this week!

Hope you are having a great week (and not getting a cold like me)! Be sure to link up with Curious Firsties to share your Wednesday WoW!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Blogger- Classroom Organization Tips from KTeacherTiff!

Today I'm welcoming a guest blogger. She is so sweet, and I hope you'll take the time to check out her blog and the great resources she shares!

Hi, there! My name is Tiffany, and I have a little blog called KTeacherTiff. I'm so excited and appreciative that Luckeyfog has invited me to her space today to share some ideas with you! I teach kindergarten, but I'm here today to blog about something that all teachers need: organization.

If you are one of those teachers who is naturally organized in all that you do, I am jealous of you. I have to force myself to be organized. While I do manage to keep the immediately visible space of my classroom presentable, what's lurking behind the cabinets is a different story. Hello, my name is Tiffany, and I am a stasher. And so begins the story of my craft cupboard.

Whoomp, there it is. I know. The doors don't close all the way because the plastic tubs on the bottom stick out too far. There is about an inch of dust on the top shelf that I can barely reach. And there is a lot more hiding on that bottom shelf than this photo conveys! It is a disaster. My New Year's resolution was to finally clean this bad boy out. 

I have read several books about organization. Being organized is something that I crave, which is only slightly outweighed by my urge to stash. Some of the tips that I will share with you are influenced by my readings (see a post about them here), and others will just be my own two cents. It works for me!

1. When in doubt, throw it out. I don't like to be wasteful, but is there really a need to hang on to the baggie of six foam letters or the three extra foam crafts in the hopes that I will one day need them? I think not! So I made a rule, and I suggest you follow it too: if you haven't used it or thought about it in over a year, get rid of it.

From that hot mess, I made a throw away pile, and the "what are you even doing in this cabinet?" pile. I found magnetic letters, a die, a roll of foil, and stamps hiding in there.

2. Use sturdy, pretty containers for everything. I like for things to look pretty. If it's pretty, then I want to keep it looking that way. Do you have any idea how many items I was storing in plastic baggies? I was using them to store pom-poms, glue sticks, yarn, buttons, glitter, craft sticks, and the list goes on. No wonder things fell on my head every time I opened that cabinet. There is absolutely no good way to organize plastic baggies with these types of materials.

I already had quite a few glass/plastic jars handy. I had been promising the hubs I'd get the jars on the left out of my house since April, so this was the perfect use for them. You can get these super-cheap at Hobby Lobby. Plus, you can always find a coupon for 40% off one item from there. The jars with the green lids are from this tasty Argo tea. My local Martin's (Giant) carries it in the organic/health food section. I bought one once simply for the container, and it turns out the tea is delicious! These are perfect for my colored rice and pasta.

 I dug up a few more jars and decent-looking containers from my closet, and was good to go. When you are excited about organizing something, do not rush out and purchase a million containers until AFTER you have sorted through everything and know exactly how many/what sizes you will need. It will save you money!

3. Label everything. Make it pretty, too. Again, if you like to look at it, you will want to keep it looking nice. Aside from that, seeing the labels will help to train your brain to put everything in its place! I found a cute editable freebie here

4. Be creative with storage. I was drowning in yarn. Some of it was nicely wound in the original skein, but I had this massive, tangled blob. So off to Hobby Lobby I went. These plastic paint buckets are very inexpensive. This is about as simple and non-crafty as it gets, while still managing to be cute.

Step one: Drill a hole.
Step two: Add some ribbon

They're cute, right? And they really work! The beauty is that you no longer have to search for the end of the yarn. Tip: untangle it before putting it in the buckets. I pulled about half of the blue out before it tangled and I had to fix it. Not a big deal, but untangling it now will save you a step later. This would also be cute with multiple, smaller balls of yarn. I cleaned my local Hobby Lobby out of these, but I plan on making more!

5. Take a picture of your area once it's organized just the way you like it. If you ever let it slip, looking at this photo will give you motivation to go back and make it nice again. Seriously, man. This is truth. Just tonight, I looked at an old photo of myself from when I was working out regularly and I tell you now, I am getting back on the wagon tomorrow. Visuals give you something to strive for.

Just to recap--Before vs. After:

Oh, it's so much better. I may or may not have left this cupboard open for an entire day last week just so I could look at it. 

I hope that I have motivated you to go and do some organizing and purging in your own classroom this week. You will feel so much more productive and free! Next up for me, will be what I lovingly refer to as "the scary drawer." What area needs an overhaul in your classroom? 

Thank again to Luckeyfrog and to all of you readers for having me today!

Seriously, how great is that before-and-after? I always struggle with staying organized, so this was inspiring. Hope you check out more from Tiffany at  KTeacherTiff!

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop- Get Kids Moving (And Still Learning!)

Today, I’m so excited to be part of a blog hop of great ideas- not products, not freebies, but just fantastic teaching ideas!

I don’t know about where you live, but we have had many MANY days of indoor recess lately. With having gym only one day a week, my kids are really getting antsy!

As a reading specialist who helps our struggling readers, I seem to see a decent number of kids who struggle with sitting still and/or focusing on the task at hand, even without the cold and snow keeping them inside.

Here are 8 ways to get kids moving to keep their brains active:
  • Math Fact Exercise!
    Skip counting is such a valuable skill, and can be ramped up for kids of all ages. Of course, you can count by 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, etc., but what about starting at 14 and adding ten more? What about counting by 3’s when you’re learning multiplication, or by 25’s when you’re learning about money? I have my students stand and do some kind of exercise while we skip count- jumping jacks, touching their toes, jumping in place, etc.
  • Brain Breaks
    My kids really enjoy the Just Dance videos on YouTube! I have a whole Pinterest board of brain breaks that get my students up and moving for 3-5 minutes, and it really helps them focus for the next hour. A kindergarten teacher I know even does the Cupid Shuffle, so her kids are counting and having to remember left from right. My kids especially love GoNoodle for LOTS of fun, interactive, and free brain breaks!
  • Vocabulary Motions
    As a bonus, tying some movement to the definition really helps my kids remember the word meanings. In my classroom, the students help me come up with a motion for the words and we run through them quickly every day. You can read more about my vocabulary routine here.

  • Chart Paper Brainstorming
    Can you let your students make a list of something? Maybe it’s proper nouns, words with short o, ways to make 10, factors of 100, or comparing and contrasting with a Venn diagram. Give each group markers, a piece of chart paper, and a section of the floor. Working on the floor always helps my class with the wiggles, and they all love to participate!
  • Tall-Middle-Small Spelling
    Have your kids practice spelling their words by thinking about where they sit on handwriting lines. For “tall” letters, like t or b, they reach hands up high. For “middle” letters, they put their hands on their hips. For “small” letters, they touch their toes. You can also have kids sit in pairs and “spell” a word with their finger on the other student’s back, and see if they can guess the word.
  • Scoot! with Dance Breaks
    Need students to get a lot of rote practice with something, or need to formatively assess their understanding? Put each problem or question on one card, and one card on each desk. Then, have the students stand and “scoot” from one desk to the other after 30 seconds or so. I sometimes turn on music and let them dance when they’re finished- makes it easy for me to see when most are ready to move on, and they get the wiggles out! (You can find lots of ready-made games like this by searching for “Scoot” or “task cards.”)
  • Phonics Dance
    This is a program my school purchased, and it gives kids motions and chants for lots of common phonics patterns that they will encounter in reading. I love the way it makes phonics “stick” for my students- but it also gives them a chance to move!
  • Read/ Write/Solve the Room
    Sometimes the simple act of turning an assignment into a scavenger hunt by having students find words/ math facts/ questions posted around the room can make such a difference in how well my students can sit and focus afterwards- and they’re still getting the practice!

  • Geometry Challenges
    Give your students a challenge to make a certain shape somehow with their bodies. They can use their fingers, their arms, their legs, or their entire torso- but somehow, can they make a square? A trapezoid? An isosceles triangle?  Making geometry interactive is so much fun!
Love finding ways to get my kids moving AND learning!

Next in the hop, you’re headed to Matt of Digital: Divide and Conquer, who’s sharing a simple tech tip for your classroom!

Digital: Divide & Conquer

You can click to some other bloggers here:

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Currently, Sale, and Freebies Galore!

Wow! Can’t believe it’s already February. With so many snow days this year, January has flown by!

currently feb14

Listening- To the husband’s music. We are currently having an “Internet party”- haha!

Loving- I’m headed to the National Reading Recovery Conference for a few days! I am SO excited that the district found a way to fund us going.

Thinking- This week I’m missing 2 days due to the conference, and we’ve had so many snow days/ delays/ holidays/ etc. that a full week of school is going to feel odd!

Wanting- Another day. My husband is on second shift, so the weekends are really our quality time together. I miss him during the week, and this weekend is cut short by a day because of my conference.

Needing- Ideas for kindergarten, please!!! I was just moved to full-time to teach kindergarten Title I groups in the afternoons, but it’s been awhile since I last worked with kindergarten. Please share some favorite resources, activities, and things I can do!

2 Truths and a Fib- The fib is Disney. I LOVE going to Disney World and have been many times… but my husband never has been, so I can’t wait to take him. As for the others… I ate monkey food on a tour of a zoo commisary (and it was just like a bad granola bar), and my husband is an improv comedian (and darn funny, if I can say so myself).

You can link up with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade.

In other news… I love football! Sadly, my team’s not in the big game this year, but I’m still having a TpT sale to celebrate the Superb Owl. You can check it out here.

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(oh my goodness- just realized I spelled February wrong. Oops!!!)

Unfortunately, I have not finished my February Text Detectives pack yet (sorry!). I will continue working on it early this week, but my time will be somewhat limited because I’m attending the National Reading Recovery Conference! (So excited!)

Today is the last day of the Loving Literacy blog hop, so be sure to hop through and pick up your freebies! It starts here and you can find my post (and freebie!) here.

My other collaborative blog, A Class*y Collaboration, is also hosting a Sweets for the Sweet link-up for free samples of February printables for your classroom.

Tomorrow (Sunday), I’m also part of a big blog hop all about Bright Ideas for the classroom- no products, just great ideas for your class!

Finally… one last thing. Be sure to check my TpT store and Facebook page tomorrow night. I’m going to try (if I can!) to get at least a couple of Text Detectives posted for you to use this week until the whole pack is done!

This week has been crazy- accepting a new job, starting a math group at my old job, preparing for a conference (and sub plans) at the last minute, a random “cold” day in the middle of the week, a two hour delay, and participating in lots of bloggy fun… but I am SO blessed! Hope you are having a great weekend!