Monday, December 5, 2016

Illustrating Poems

If you read this blog regularly at all, you will know that I LOVE poetry! When I was in high school I would literally "collect" poems I liked and record them in journals (one of my big regrets in life is I don't know what happened to those books). Poetry is something I integrate into my curriculum even with my Kinders. We read a poem every day for fluency practice. It's also great for vocabulary and building comprehension. Eventually we will write our own poems.

Because it's gotten "cold" here in Texas (50's is pretty cold for us). I decided to read Robert Frost's Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening with them. I asked them to illustrate this with as much detail as they could remember. You will see the horse shaking its harness bells, the woods, the fact that it was evening. I also liked the different ways they made snow-my babies have never actually seen snow in real life-they weren't born the last time it snowed at all here. 

Anyway, I was very impressed with my little poets! :)

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Santa Letters From a Character

Let me preface this by saying I'm not big on Santa letters. I think that's something that if a child has those beliefs they probably did a form of that at home. However, I was trying to come up with a reading response activity for a chapter book I had just read my kiddos. I read them:

This is probably my number one favorite book to read aloud. I don't choose to do it with every class because it's pretty deep and I want to make sure it's something that doesn't go over their heads. This is the most loving class I have ever taught. They tell me they love me on a daily basis (a sentiment which of course I return) and they tell each other they love each other all the time. Even with little ones, this is very unusual. So I thought a book about a rabbit who learns to love would be a great choice for them. We are going to compare it with the Velveteen Rabbit next week.

Anyway, I wanted to figure out a way to assess who really understood the theme of the story. So I had them write a letter to Santa from Edward Tulane, technically using the Depth and Complexity concept of Multiple Perspectives, but a little bit different way than they are use to. What would Edward ask Santa for? If you are familiar with the story you know that these answers were right on track. :)

I love seeing them apply concepts from a story in a different way! We read this book over several weeks and it's just so great to see that they really followed the story.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016


Many of my students have a very positive outlook on life. They come in smiling every day, ready to learn. Others take some convincing. I wanted to share with you some ways I have started adding some positive vibes our class structure.

This summer I read Todd Nesloney's post: about how he as a principal uses music over the announcements. That post stuck with me. I put together a playlist of upbeat songs (Walking on Sunshine, Pocketful of Sunshine, Mr. Blue Sky and even a little Justin Timberlake-Can't Stop This Feeling).  Did you know by the way, that if you are an Amazon Prime member you have access to thousands of songs for free?!? I did not know this. I made a playlist that I titled "Happy"and I play it every morning as the kids enter the class. My favorite response when we started doing this: "Teachers can dance?"-oh, yes they can! :) The students have really started to respond to it.

When I take attendance-I say their name and then I look them in the eye and ask them how they are doing today. I think often as teachers we multi-task-we can tie someone shoes, post our attendance and read an e-mail from a parent--all in a matter of seconds. I want to teach them to really connect with each other and give someone their undivided attention. 

And this week I am eating lunch with all my students-just because. I take 5 at a time outside to eat lunch with me-not as a reward or a privilege, but because I want to talk to them and make that connection. The kids just LOVE it!

We end our class every day with a hug, handshake or a high five. Dismissal preparation is usually the most chaotic part of our day. Students are being called to the office getting picked up early, I'm putting papers in folders and we are cleaning up the classroom. I want to make sure we end our day on a positive note. There are days the time gets away from me and I just want to line up and go-but they insist on saying goodbye properly. 

Those are just  few things I started doing to make our day more enjoyable. What are some of the ways you include positive vibes in your class?

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

New Uses for Feathers

One of my favorite activities to help promote creativity and thinking outside the box is to come up with new uses for everyday things. I introduce this with a pencil-we can write with it, draw with it--yes, but what else can we use it for? I use it to upsweep my hair, I can use it to open a soda can. Then I ask the students to do this with various objects throughout the year. If you try this, please do not get discouraged if they don't seem to catch on the first few times. If you do it consistency, I promise, you will have outside the box thinkers by the end of the year.

So in going with our Native American theme-we did feathers. This is what they came up with:

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Grit and Jump Ropes

I know-grit is one of those concepts like mindset that tends to get overused by educators and even sometimes in the wrong way.

I think this is a really good description of what it is if you are not familiar:

 I do believe that grit is one of those things children today are not necessarily being encouraged to develop. I had a friend whose little one would get frustrated learning how to tie shoes, so they  invested in all Velcro for him. A kid can't get to the next level on a video game and they are just given a new video game. They play Little League T-ball and can't hit the ball for the life of them, so they join another sport team. I actually had a parent tell me once (in front of the child)--"math is just not her thing".

So I make it a point to encourage the kids to take risks and keep trying even if it's challenging. I want them to never give up on learning how to do something-who knows what might lead to a future passion. One activity we do I stole from's Hour of Code resources where the students try to build the biggest tower with gumdrops and toothpicks. It is definitely something that proves difficult for them and the point of the lesson is to keep trying and not to give up.

Fast forward to last week. We went on the "big" playground (instead of our little Pre-K/K playground) because there were classes out during our time. When we got out there someone had left a jump rope. Another student and I swung that jump rope about 1,000 times giving everyone the opportunity to try it. I wouldn't say anyone was really good at it-some could get over the rope-our class record was 3 times. When we came inside I showed them a video of something that has always been awe-inspiring to me--Double Dutch. One of the students said "we should try that". And my response, as I always try to make it be was "sure". So I ordered a bunch jump ropes from Amazon and a book of jump rope rhymes and we have been working on our jump rope skills ever since.

Now some students absolutely gave up right away and went back to racing around the playground, something they are very good at already. But a few of them were determined to get better at it. I even found myself going back and watching more tutorials so I could figure out how we could get better at it.

Will you see us on the Double Dutch circuit this year? Probably not. But I think we are learning something in the fact that we are continuing to try. :)

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Our First Poems

We try to do a class book each month that I can make copies of and send home to our families. I see the growth in our little writers every day, but I think this way they can share in seeing the writing skills of our students grow. For this month we did our first poems! The students made a title, wrote adjective/food 3 x's and then summed up their feelings about the holiday with an ending sentence. I love to see them begin to make that connection between the sounds and the letters. Many of my students started Day One without knowing their letters and sounds at all--so the fact that many of them now know those sounds and can apply that knowledge to write is something I am definitely thankful for!

A Very Happy Thanksgiving
Soft rolls
good turkey
tasty corn
At my house everyone comes to eat.

Soft bread
Delicious Meat
Hot potatoes
Thanksgiving is fun.

Delicious turkey
yummy carrots
cut lettuce
My family eats.

creamy corn
good smelling gravy
very good chicken
I am very happy.

Super Fun Day
amazing lasagna
awesome turkey
cool mashed potatoes
My family always eats a lot.

Turkey Sanwich
real chicken
fire hot dogs
soupy sopitas
It is a party.

Happy Thanksgiving
good mashed potatoes
yummy broccoli
delicious bacon
I feel happy to eat with my family.

Turkey Day
good turkey
gravy mashed potatoes
tasty lasagna
On Thanksgiving I feel happy.

comfy meat
good pizza
healthy bananas
My family plays with me.

soft apple
hard chicken
red strawberries
My family passes out pies.

Lovely Day
delicious turkey
yummy peas
hard watermelon
We are having a lovely day.

Happy Thanksgiving
fried chicken
french fries
perfect turkey
I will have fun with my family.

Good Turkey
big carrots
soft potatoes
pumpkin spice
My family looks happy.

Happy Day
gooey cranberries
juicy turkey
yellow corn
My family is fun.

juicy turkey
good coffee
hot spaghetti
It makes me happy.

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