Monthly Archives: March 2013

Autocorrect… FAIL!

We all enjoy reading those hilarious text messages that are a result of Autocorrect taking something mundane and turning into something wildly inappropriate.

What I’ve come to learn however is that it is not hilarious to see your students’ faces scrunch up at the red squiggly line or become frustrated when trying to read back something they have typed.

My kindergarten students use Book Creator on their iPads to publish their writing in book form.  Autocorrect is great for older students and adults when typing, but as a kindergartner who spells phonetically – autocorrect is just confusing.  They come to me for guidance to make “that line” or “new weird word” go away.  In their developing minds, they are spelling correctly by putting what they hear.

We spend our writing lessons stretching out words to record the sounds we hear and the students do this on their own in the writing center.  When creating their own books, they record their voices reading them.  They want their friends to be able to read them.  And how do kindergarteners begin to read?  Phonetically.  They read the sounds that they see.

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To keep my emerging authors confident – I turned autocorrect OFF!  They are no longer discouraged by the red squiggly line or confused by the “new” (albeit correct) words on their pages.

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There are many words that don’t follow the rules – and plenty of time to learn about them.  For now – we are going to concentrate on getting our ideas out into the world!

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Filed under Literacy, Lower Grades, Technology

If you give a student an answer…

She will probably ask another question!

Much like the animals in Laura Numeroff’s famous series – kindergarten curiosity is cyclical.  One question almost always leads to another… and another… and another. Spring lends itself to many different nonfiction topics.  The students are noticing the change in weather, the blooming of plants, and the activity of animals.  This week we are studying insects.  And the questions – they are a flowin’.

During our unit time, I give a pretty general overview of our topic and we brainstorm the specifics.  This week we have talked about the types of insects – which have wings and which don’t, their body parts, what an invertebrate is, etc.  Undoubtedly, there is always someone who just needs to know more.  I would love to spend all that time exploring and searching with them as a guide.  But some days – time can be issue.  This is where the reading center becomes my best friend.

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I use a special basket specifically for books that pertain to our current unit.  It can be a difficult task to find high quality nonfiction texts that my kiddos can read independently.  Right now it is completely full – all thanks to Pebble Books Publishing Company.  What I like about their books is that they are written simply, but can address both higher and lower readers.  The main text is written on levels ranging from 0.9 – 2.0 (AR).  The students can explore the captions of the photographs to learn more (and have their reading skills challenged).  I model how to read and use the characteristics of nonfiction texts to help find out the most information possible. My center groups are heterogeneously mixed so the students can read together. My students also use their iPads (yes, we are so lucky!) to read digital copies of nonfiction books from our reading series.  If only Pebble had an app!

Students use what they read and learn to create a response about their favorite book.  The Pebble books give them a text that is easy to understand and friendly to copy vocabulary from.  Students feel in control of their learning.  The end of center time is always filled with students wanting to share what they learned “all by theirself”.

This series could also be helpful when you need low level/high interest books for older students who struggle with reading.  I find them to be a little more informational than other series.

So, embrace your natural scientists and give the kids voice and choice in their learning of the world!

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Filed under Literacy, Lower Grades

My name is Skippy-Skippito (clap clap)

I am always looking for a great read aloud to use as a mentor text. One of the strongest visuals for beginning writers is a finished product that uses the writing technique you hope they will use.

In kindergarten, it can feel like pulling to teeth to get them to extend their thought process and put their ideas on paper. We see a lot of “I like my mom” or “I love my mom” or “I like pizza”. We have put “I like” and “I love” to rest. We are working beyond that in our classroom.

A privilege my students have is to go read their writing to the principal. The principal loves to hear their creative stories and see the progress in writing. Most of what they write is independent. That independence takes A LOT of front loading during writing workshop mini lessons. We work together to figure out how to stretch out words, put our thought on paper, and make those ideas more interesting. The students know how to rate their writing on a 1-4 scale (more on that in another post). They also know the principal loves to see writing that ranks at a 3 or 4.

As part of my mini lessons on extending ideas, I turned to my tried and true old friend Skippyjon Jones. I love him for many reasons – he is a Siamese cat with identity issues (thinks he is a Chihuahua), his imagination is out of this world, and the books are fun to read! I pulled out Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice because we were studying space during our unit time. The children thoroughly enjoyed the story of the kitty boy venturing to Mars and rolling around in spice (the cayenne pepper he used to turn his bed into the big red planet).

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After reading we talked about what the story would be like if the author just wrote that Skippy went into his closet – and that was it. What if we never learned about his chimichangos? Or if we never found out he saw an alien? Would the story still be as interesting? The answer was a resounding NO! We then discussed our favorite parts. I modeled adding to a simple 2 sentence story by asking the students what I could add or what questions they had.

As students wrote independently, I did have a few strugglers who just couldn’t get past one sentence. I would simply say – what would Skippy do? They would giggle and buckle down to try another sentence.

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I found this to be an amazingly rewarding experience. I know that whenever we find ourselves in a writing rut – we can count on Skippy to “bounce-ity, bounce-ity, bounce” us out.

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Filed under Lower Grades, Mentor Text, Writing Workshop

And so it begins…

“The greatest gift is a passion for reading.: ~Elizabeth Hardwick

Being a kindergarten teacher saddles me with a huge responsibility.  EVERYTHING they learn in my classroom is the foundation for the rest of their education.  I don’t know if you have set foot in a kindergarten class lately, but it is a lot different than how it used to be.  Yes – we have a kitchen center and a block center.  But intermixed with those developmental, social play centers are cubbies and spaces filled with academic activities.  At the end of this year, my hope is to have each and every one of my students reading.  Not only just reading – but reading and LOVING it! I know that a love for reading can carry you through the most difficult of subjects and school years.  Reading has always been an escape for me – from reality or to a new and different world where I can learn.  One of the most profound things I remember from getting my master’s degree was a quote that went a little something like this:  Books can be mirrors or windows. A book that is a mirror is a book we can find ourselves in.  A book that is a window is a book we can see others through.

I obviously have passion for reading – a passion for books.  Ask anyone who has seen me teach, has gotten an unheard of (seemingly random) picture book as a gift, or knows how I can spend my days during time off.  But even with my love of books, even with my passion for reading – I know that literacy means more than just being literate enough to read the words on a page.  Literacy is more than writing one’s name or thoughts.  Literacy spans ages, times, and subject areas.  Even Wikipedia defines literacy in terms of reading and writing – going as far as to break it down into visual literacy, semantics, syntax, and the like.  What about math literacy?  Digital literacy? Scientific literacy?
To create forward thinking, capable, inspirational citizens for the future – I, as a teacher, must create students who are fully literate.  Not only must my kindergarteners be able to read the alphabet, write their names, and write numbers.  They must also be able to read simple texts, write simple stories, and solve word problems.  They must be able to navigate their way through digital media and traditional books alike.

And we’re off!

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