.... from a small rural school in Elbert, Colorado.

A good teacher is surrounded by MANY great teachers! Thank you to the great teachers at my school and out in blogland!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Kindergartners READING & WRITING at the Beginning of the Year! Part 2

My kindergartners read and write and LOVE IT!

Let's talk about READING today.  On day 1 of kindergarten we begin with our first big book, "I Like Me" and have lots of fun with it.  The students do what their good at - getting up on their feet and acting it out.  We focus on comprehension and using our "Eagle Eyes" (StrategiesPosters” by Hope King, free on to look at the pictures as a reading strategy.  My students get a little paper book to take home that they can read.  We have a blast reading it together a couple times during the day as they color it.  Of course they don't really know what they are doing, especially if they don't have one-to-one tracking yet, but they use the pictures and their "Eagle Eyes" and feel like a "Million Bucks".   For the past 2 years I've used a free book off of TPT called, I Like School (free at TPT from – Can-You-Read-It-Yes-We-Can) but it doesn't matter what book you choose. In this book I write in the word I, with a yellow highlighter, on the blank lines, so they can trace it or just leave it alone, depending on their abilities. 
Day 2 - first month we do the same: shared/close reading, guided reading with little paper take home books, and lots of read-alouds. Our beginning reading strategies include "Eagle Eyes" and  one-to-one tracking, using all different pointers on big books, our chart writing, the wall (projected books), little books, poems, and anything else we can find. We begin having fun with phonological awareness, playing sound games with; syllables, rhymes, alliteration, and more.  At the same time, we are beginning to learn a few sight words: I, a, am, can.  "Knowing a few words" is the key to understanding concepts of print, as the students learn that words have a space on both sides, words are read left to right and top to bottom, and words are made up of letters in a special order.  Through our reading (and writing), we are learning letters and their sounds at all different rates, based on the students' abilities.  By the fourth week, it is usually time to introduce another reading strategy called, "Fish Lips" (I can use my fish lips and get my mouth ready to read by making the first sound of words).  This is important because, by now, there are a few students that know their letters and sounds and are ready to read with beginning phonics.  It is also time to model for all the students what you can do when you know your letters and sounds.  During this first month everything is wrapped around FUN, without boring worksheets.  Magnetic letters, individual white boards, sand writing, letter fishing, magic boards, mini chalkboards, and more are used to practice letters and words in context.  Lots of acting, role playing, crazy voices, masks, video, and pictures are used for comprehension.  There is no stress and the students are praised for every baby step, even if they are very slow.  Students are told over and over again, all they know how to do and what good readers they are becoming.  There is no homework and parents are informed weekly of what we are working on and what to expect and not expect.
Second month and beyond we continue the same as above, refining our reading strategies, building phonological awareness, beginning phonics, and adding more and more reading strategies.  At this point the students are beginning to show their many different levels of learning, so they are grouped differently and work on what they need (not what I want).  I begin using leveled little books (not paper) and our at home reading program begins. I now have a helper (parent, grandparent, community member) come in every day to listen to each child read his/her book and then take it home.  Again I have a handout for the parents that explains what reading strategies we are working on, and what ones we are not yet ready for (Stretchy Snake - sounding out words).  It is awesome!  The students get to pick their own "real" book out of their leveled bin to read and take home. (I'll explain in a different post how to set up an at-home reading program; purchasing the books, forms, and how to get the help). Students publish their own little books (more on this in the writing post) and read these to everyone. 

For the past two years I've been working on matching my shared/close reading books to 9 different concepts and all of the common core ELA standards.  I'm now working on fine tuning these to sell on (TPT).  My first - third concepts, "No One is Just Like Me", "Color Words Tell More" and "Sequencing is Easy Using Numbers" are for sale now for $4.00 each.  They each contain 32 pages and at least 4 weeks of instruction covering all of the common core ELA standards.  The rest (all 9 units) will be for sale within a month.  Download the preview and let me know what you think.
Have Fun REAING!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Kindergartners READING & WRITING at the Beginning of the Year! Part 1

Kindergartners READING & WRITING at the Beginning of the Year!  Part 1

Reading and Writing at the beginning of Kindergarten is FUN!
I start reading and writing the first week of school and my kiddos LOVE IT!  The reason kindergartners want to come to school is to learn how to read and write, so why wait? They start out so excited and passionate.  I use a balanced program where the students learn to read and write, communicate, become phonological aware and phonetic experts all together.  I don't do the traditional, one letter a day or week, and when you know enough to spell a couple words you can finally read and write a simple, "The fat cat sat on a mat" book using 100% phonics.  That is boring, and we are not the only ones that know it.  By the time the students have learned 26 letters and all of their sounds and filled out 26+ worksheets, they are no longer excited about reading and writing. 

This is why there are so many articles floating around the internet on topics such as, "Report: Requiring kindergartners to read - as Common Core does - may harm some".  This is one article that really got me thinking.  My class is not like this at all.  We are not worksheet based, do not sit at the tables all day, and actually learn to read because it's fun.  I think the kindergartners are able to learn (all of the standards easily) in a fun environment where teaching is direct, but interactive.  Kindergartners naturally LOVE school, and I think that if we can keep that, these children benefit.  I don't believe it's "when" these children have to learn, but rather, "how" they have to learn.

We learn so much about reading when we write and about writing when we read!

I finally found an article to debunk the previous one, called,"No Time to Lose: Common Core critics are wrong about whether kindergarten reading goals are harmful." The standards in kindergarten are not too much and for most students are EASILY and QUICKLY met.  Our problem is with the curriculum.  Most complaint comes from the over-use of worksheets and drill and kill.  It doesn't have to be that way.  It can be fun, with the right kinds of books (throw the phonics readers away) and with a good balance of play.  

Next time I will share how ALL of my kindergartners learn how to read and write EASILY and ENJOYABLY by the end of kindergarten and LOVE IT.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Did you make a calendar with your kindergartners this year?

I did and it was wonderful!
It was the first year that it worked beautifully.  I printed the full calendar and bound it together with the binding machine at the beginning of the year.  At the end of each month I passed it out to my students and we filled it out together. They used the classroom calendar as the model. 

Image result for the kissing hand
 I used the filled out version for August and we circled and put a star on the first day of school and my birthday. YEA!  They thought that was great. We had read, "The Kissing Hand" that first month, so our art was just a simple hand print (using the giant stamp pads from Lakeshore) with a heart sticker in the middle.

At the end of September, the students were looking forward to seeing their calendar again.  This time the students tried writing their numbers to ten.  Some needed help, but that was okay.  We marked our special days again with stars and did our hand print art. This time it was a leaf, but the ideas, when googled, are endless.

When October and November came to an end, the students wrote their numbers to ten again and had a blast stamping their hands and making a pumpkin and turkey.

By the end of December most of the students were able to write their numbers to twenty, so that is what we did for it, along with January and February.   The hand prints were turned into Santa, a snowflake, and the cutest penguin ever. 

Image result for handprint artImage result for handprint artTo end the school year, we filled in the whole calendar for March, April, and May.  The hand prints turned into 4 leaf clovers, flowers, and butterflies.  I am so sad that I didn't take more pictures, but I will this year.

My 2016 - 2017 SCHOOL YEAR CALENDAR with Art is ready.  It is on sale for $3.00.  I developed this for all grade levels; PK - 6th.  The monthly pages come in three versions: completely filled in, 10 or 20 days blank, or completely blank.  This makes it easy to individualize each class.  There are cover sheets for each grade level along with an art page.  Click here to go to my TPT store to check out the calendar.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I'm Back! Let the Summer Begin!

After 25 years of teaching K - 3rd grade, and 11 of those being in Kindergarten, I've learned a few things.  I think it's time to share, and summer is the best time for that.  It's truly about, "Let's move it --- to learn it!" 

It might take a little bit for me to figure this out again, but before long, I hope to be adding pictures, freebies, and lots of helpful advice.  Of course. this will cause me to follow many other amazing teachers out there, and I can't wait to get started.