Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My One Little Word for 2017

Instead of doing resolutions, I do the whole One Little Word thing. I have done this for a while now. Some of my past words were things like: bold, forgive, heal.

I put a lot of thought into my word because it's something I will refer back to often. My "bold" year for example, I started volunteering to share my ideas in training our staff. When that voice started saying "that is outside your comfort zone"-I would think of my promise to be more bold and step up to the plate.

My word for 2017 will be JOY! As I am presented with options, I will go with the one that brings me the most joy. I will also do what I can to bring more joy into our classroom. That was one of my goals this year but I feel like I'm slacking in that respect. We are starting off our mornings dancing to songs like "Happy" and "Walking on Sunshine" --so that's a start. 

That's my plan for this year--to choose joy. :)

Do you have a One Little Word resolution this year?

Friday, December 23, 2016


I'm going to get up on my soapbox for a minute. I am a big fan of audiobooks! Now there are people out there who believe listening to an audiobook is "cheating"-that it's not really "reading". I do not agree with that. When I read I say the words to myself in my head-listening to a book is just hearing those words from a different voice. I actually LOVE to hear books read by the author themselves because I am hearing the book exactly as they intended those words to sound. The goal of reading is comprehension and whether that's listening comprehension or reading comprehension-does it really matter?

I think there's a place for using them in the classroom as well. I was thrilled to discover that my local public library let's you check out audiobooks with your membership. We have a listening station for our workstations and although I usually record books myself and have the kids read along with what they are listening to-audiobooks are also a big hit with the students.

I use to purchase my books. They give you a credit each month that you can use for a book and have sales throughout the year where a number of books are $4.95 each. I listen to them when I drive, when I shop, when I'm working in my classroom before school starts, when I walk my dog. My advice is to listen to a clip before you download it-some narrators just grate on my nerves and ruin the story for me.

  Some of my favorites to listen to:

I love hearing Sherman Alexie's life story in his own voice.

I would classify this under the thriller category. I think it was read with a lot of skill.

I'm a big fan of Alice Hoffman anyway, but this story is narrated by different people for the different voices. It's like listening to a play.

This is a book that has been out for a while but I think it was expertly narrated.

A quick easy read. Amy reads it herself-I love when she cracks herself up with her memories. Too many parenting related gaffes for me, but the SNL stories were great.

Don't knock audiobooks! It's a great way to read when you have limited time to do so.

Does anyone else listen to books? Have any suggestions for me?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

One Little Word with My Kinders

I have to admit trying to teach Kindergartners last week with the impending holidays was like Sisyphus rolling that rock uphill every day! :) Their minds were definitely not on learning and it was very hard to follow a regular schedule with parent activities and program practices. But I tried really hard to still do meaningful activities with them.

Every year instead of making resolutions, I choose One Little Word that I will focus my energy on incorporating more. I have chosen the words: grace, peace, joy in the past. I'm still deciding what my word will be this year, but I do have a pretty good idea of what I will make it. I knew it would be challenging but I asked my students to do the same. I had them sound out their word and then draw a picture of why they chose that word. Here's what they came up with:


Eating lunch-I know 2 words! :) But this little one is such a picky eater and rarely actually eats at lunchtime-so she definitely came up with something she can work on.

Good as in being good is what she told me.

This says "I'm going to bring the buddy home every day"-we have stuffed animals that go home with students who have a really good day.

I actually really liked both the illustration here and that "friendship" was his choice. This is a student who is known for saying mean things to his friends-so maybe him choosing this work is a really good thing!

Happy Family-I LOVE this illustration. I'm pretty sure the kid is in the middle.

So I was not disappointed. I think it's hard to come up with one word to sum up your resolutions and even harder for a 5 year old to do it.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gifts to Our Class....

Every month we write a class book that I copy for all my families. I think it's good for them to see the progress we are making month-to-month in our writing, plus I like to read what the kiddos write-I think they might want to share in that as well. 

For December we write a class book with the prompt "________is a gift to our class because......". Each student comes up and writes some sentences to describe what they like about their friends. And I write the last line for each student. I know the pics aren't the best because I covered up all the names-but hopefully you can get the idea.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gifts for Our Support Staff

I think it's important for our students to know and recognize the efforts of all the people who help us every day at school. We know all the names of the ladies in the cafeteria and address them using their names. I correct them when they just say "lunch lady". When we hire a new aide, my first question is to ask their name and introduce them my students. I read a quote years ago about how some people go their whole day without hearing anyone call them by their name. I want everyone to know they are special to us.

So we made handprint angels! The students painted their hands and then added a face (we did boy faces for our male helpers and girls for the females). I bought frames at the Dollar Store to frame them and wrote on the back "You are an angel-Merry Christmas". We gave them to the custodians, aides, cafeteria staff and crossing guards.

 Of course, I forgot to take pictures, I only have this one-they came out really cute! And I think the gifts were appreciated.

Did your kiddos make anything for staff gifts this year?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Reading Challenge

I know I'm not supposed to admit this--but I don't like reading. I know, crazy, right?!  I'm a slow reader, my mind wanders so I tend to have to reread passages-it's just not fun for me. I know that it enriches my life, so I make myself do it. I also get a feeling of accomplishment every time I finish a book. I post what I read on Goodreads-really just for myself to track my reading. Last year I read 58 books so this year I made my goal 60. I am almost there! I wanted to share some of the books I have read recently that I liked.

This book was on my list for my student book club for 3rd-5th graders. I LOVED this story! It is set in Maine and the story revolves around blueberries. The main character strikes up a friendship with a migrant blueberry worker. It's a sweet story about friendship and working towards your hopes and dreams. 

I saw this book on several "best of" lists. I put off reading it because memoirs are not my favorite thing to read. But I've been trying to include more non-fiction into my repertoire so I gave it a try. It's a story about a woman who recently lost her father. She works through her grief by rekindling a passion for falconry. It's extremely well-written and really touching. Not light reading by any means, but I think worth the effort.

I really like mysteries. It helps me finish books more quickly because I want to find out whodunit. Now I am hard to impress with mysteries because I usually figure out the ending. I liked this one. It's about a girl who was in charge of watching her twin sisters one day and when she turned her back they disappeared. It's years later and she is set on untangling the web of deceit to find out what really happened.

This is another book from our upper grade club list this year. It's a story about a boy whose grandfather is dying and he requests a miracle from a circus performer at a very odd circus he visited as a child. The boy is on a quest to save him and in the process finds some kindred spirits at the circus.

I did not know going in that this book was about zombies. It was on a list of books that have surprise endings. Now I'm not usually into zombie stories, but I ended up liking this one. I think especially because one of the main characters was a very dedicated teacher (yes, she taught the zombies). It does have an interesting twist. I saw a trailer for the movie they made from it and I'm very curious to see if they kept that ending.

We have 17 days off for our Winter Break this year! I'm going to spend some of those curled up with a book.

Read anything that you have liked recently?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I Don't Do Cute....

I participate in a forum for Kinder teachers on Facebook and this time of year means everyone is looking for ideas of "cute" activities they can do with their students. Yeah, I don't do that. We do crafts, but they are authentically-100% the student's work. When I look at pictures on Pinterest and other places of activities that teachers are sharing I can see that the teacher probably cut out all the pieces and the student glued them together. To me, that's not allowing a child to express their own artistic vision-not teaching them how to truly be creative. In my class, I model for them what to do and then send them back to their seats to do it themselves. They will ask "what color do I use for this?" or "can I put this here" and my response always is--you are the artist.

 I wanted to do something fun and crafty yesterday. We made handprint wreaths! The kids traced and cut out their own hands and glued them to the outside of a paper plate. Some wanted to decorate with berries and flowers-which of course, I had no problem with. I loved watching the intensity in their faces as they figured out how to cut around the fingers they drew. The outcome is an authentic craft that the students were very proud to take home and show their parents and that I'm sure the parents will still very proudly display. Every one was different from the others. It probably won't end up on Pinterest but I'm ok with that! ;) 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Using Board Games in the Classroom

I did a lot of shopping over the Thanksgiving break-too much shopping! :) I found some games on sale from Amazon and I purchased a few to make workstations. I like using games in the classroom because I believe it teaches the students a lot about playing by the rules, good sportsmanship, etc. I don't think many get this experience at home because they will say things like "he's cheating!". I ask-"how is he cheating?" and the answer is "he's winning!". Even teaching them ways to decide who goes first I feel is giving them tools, because otherwise they would spend their whole rotation time arguing about it.

So here are 2 of my creations. My students still struggle with vowel sounds, so I put the vowels all over the Candyland board and then put pictures of CVC words on the cards. They draw a card-for example-fox and then move to the letter /o/.

We also did sight word Twister! The words are on the mat and the spinner. To make this more challenging I might use vocabulary words and put the meaning on the spinner.

We had the joy of standardized testing all week this week. Fill in the bubbles and everything. It was an exhausting week for all of us so I was glad we could add a little fun and novelty to our workstations.

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! :)