Monthly Archives: April 2013

Anchor their learning!

I’ve been sitting on a blog post for a week — all about end of year assessments.  How these assessments can make us feel like we need to take steps backward or how much time they are taking away from our instruction.  It was turning out to be quite preachy and my soap box was so high I was having difficulty coming down.  So I decided to scratch that idea and focus on something that doesn’t get me so worked up.


Anchor charts!  I’ve used anchor charts in every grade that I have taught.  I will say, I’ve never seen my kids use them as much as this class has this year.  We start the year working on 1- 2 letter sounds a week.  We listen to songs, talk about the sound, and then create a list of words that begin with that letter.  The students are then able to use these anchor charts in their writing.  I draw “amazing” (to a 5 year old) illustrations for each word to make them easier to locate.  I have found that this makes writing time feel more successful for my students and they feel in control of their learning.  If they need to know how to spell a word, they will just ask – “Can I go look at the zoo words paper?” Or, “Is iguana on our i words paper?”

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We have anchor charts for every letter of the alphabet, several word families, shapes, rhyming words, action words, adjectives, and now long vowel sounds.  Many of our current charts do not have pictures to accompany the words.  With the long vowel charts, they are picking up on the patterns that make these vowel sounds long.  They are taking pride in their ability to read words without using pictures to help.

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At first I was slightly hesitant about the students relying on these charts so heavily and even considered taking some of them down after Christmas.  As you can imagine, they take up every inch of space I can find.  But I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t take away this tool.  And – I’ve come to see, that my students are still sounding out words.  They don’t always go look on the charts.  They are weening themselves from the anchor charts.  This makes my heart swell with pride.

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Filed under Literacy, Writing Workshop

All that Beauty – the Rainforest

This week we started our rainforest unit.  Automatically the children are engaged in lessons because of the wonder of all the animals and plants that live there.  Our focus standard for this week is K.W.7.  In kid language – it is “I can research about a topic”.

Every week we “unpack” a math and a language arts standard for the week. I already have the standard written in kid language – leaving the important vocabulary that they need to know (such as research and topic). We discussed what research means and how we do research.  We also discussed what topic means.  I am fortunate enough to have a class of investigators who ask questions all of the time.  This focus standard is a natural fit for them.


Through our shared reading time and unit time this week we explored the topic of rainforests.  Any time we read a book, listened to a song, watched a video clip, or researched on our iPads I reminded them we were researching.  We compiled a list of rainforest facts to use as jumping off points for our writing projects.  We discussed earlier in the week about how researchers ask questions and usually write down the answers they find.  In our journal center all week, we have been writing about what it might be like to go to the rainforest.  What might we see?  What might we do?  The journal entries became like first drafts for the book they began creating on their iPads yesterday. The students were able to choose what about the rainforest they wanted to research and learn more about.  Some students chose plants, others animals, even one explored the effects of deforestation.


As 21st century learners, our students are used to various modes of learning.  It is important to embrace many styles to address learners of all styles.  We use music, graphics, books, Brainpop clips, Magic School Bus, Google – – you name it.  And through all of these modes, my students are becoming researchers.  They are seeing that even with the technology we have – more “traditional” modes are still helpful and useful when we are looking for answers.

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Using our class generated list (correct spelling is important to Google)

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Beautiful rainforest books

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Fun songs!


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Filed under Literacy, Lower Grades, Uncategorized, Writing Workshop

Look for the helpers

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This blog is a result of me just having to grab my computer and type – type about dealing with tragedies that happen in everyday life and then carry over into the classroom.

With everything that happens in this world, we all need support.  We all search for answers.  Our students especially search for answers.  I hope that when I go to work tomorrow, none of my students will ask about the tragedy in Boston today. I hope that I won’t have to try to explain the inexplicable.  Why do bad things happen?  Why would someone do something like that to people who are just running a race?

When the tragedy happened at Sandy Hook, surprisingly, none of my students came to school with questions.  More often than not, our little guys are exposed to the news.  They see things, they hear things, they wonder.  So I came to school ready to calm fears and give massive hugs.  I squeezed my kids so hard that Monday, but answered no questions.  Not a one.

So tomorrow, I’m hoping for the same thing.  I’m hoping just to hand out hugs and not answers about tragedy.  But not every teacher will have that luxury.  If you teach upper grades, the bombings in Boston may be the hot topic of conversation.  And, being the literacy person I am, I have some book suggestions that could help with conversations.  Some are vague and can be translated across events.  Others are more explicit. I also can’t help but feel that this is the perfect time to revisit community helpers in primary classrooms.  Let’s reiterate the roles of police, fire, and rescue workers in our communities – and their valuable contributions, especially in times like these.

A book about friendship, loss, change – Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel

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Dealing with worrying – Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

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Poems dealing with loss – What Have You Lost? by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Violence and war – Why? by Nikolai Popov

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Helpful links:

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Filed under Literacy, Lower Grades, Mentor Text, Upper Grades

Mathematically literate… Say what?

Ready for a mouthful? According to JGR Martinez, this describes a 21st century learner of mathematics:

“Students need to learn to use language to focus and work through problems to communicate ideas coherently and clearly, to structure arguments, to extend their thinking, to understand their own thinking processes as well as others, and to develop flexibility in representing and interpreting ideas.” (2001)

As teachers of 21st century learners, and of the Common Core, we are responsible for preparing our children to be mathematically literate. It goes beyond learning the algorithms and naming numbers, beyond identifying colors and filling in formulas, beyond building shapes and patterns. Being mathematically literate means understanding the processes, understanding the vocabulary, and having a conversation about math in the world. I believe mathematical literacy extends beyond just numeric literacy.

In kindergarten, what this means to me, is that I need to introduce math vocabulary early. Even the words that seem too difficult for them to grasp. Although we are laying the foundation in the simplest of terms, it is never to early to start introducing “big kid” words for them to learn. We transition to higher level vocabulary through out the year in language arts and reading seamlessly. And math is no different.

This week, we are reviewing 3D shapes. For some students, this can be confusing because 3D shapes may look just like 2D shapes to them. We began with a poem I grabbed from the blog Lil’ Country Kindergarten. This is a great introduction because it already gets them thinking about 3D shapes being “fat” not “flat”. Then we moved on to the “big kid” word of dimension. I held up two shapes blocks, one 2D and one 3D. We discussed the shapes and how they are similar or different.

You gotta love those kids who just see into your mind and know just what you want to hear.

“Well, to me, one looks like a box. You can put things in a box but not in a plain old rectangle.” Ding Ding Ding!

We then could move into talking about dimensions meaning describing how long, wide, or deep something is. 2D shapes only have 2 dimensions – long and wide. 3D shapes have 3 dimensions – long, wide, and deep.

Our lessons continued throughout the week. I included Tana Hoban’s Cones, Cubes, Cylinders, and Spheres.


Bringing literature into math helps the students make connections across subject areas. We are expected to be able to read and write: during reading, during writing, and even during math (and science and social studies). Her book is great because it is wordless nonfiction showing real world examples of these shapes. Students can make connections between what we are talking about and their everyday lives. They then can translate the mathematical vocabulary elsewhere. Can we say literate? 🙂

I realize now that this post may sound like I’ve stepped on a soap box. But I am passionate about literacy and how it should transcend every subject area. Using literature in every subject can help create literate learners (of every subject matter).

Here are some great resources for math literacy:
Shape poem:

Building math literacy in kindergarten (fun games):

From the Mathematical Association of America:

Journal of Mathematics Education: 8.Bobby_Ojose_–_Mathematics_Literacy_Are_We_Able_To_Put_The_Mathematics_We_Learn_Into_Everyday_Use-1

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Filed under Literacy, math literacy

Springing forward! Snippets of Inspiration

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~ Harriet Tubman

As I’m enjoying my coffee on my last day of Spring Break, I’m finally in a place to put all of the ideas down into this blog. I don’t think it is uncommon for teachers to continue “working” on their breaks – I even count all those pins I’ve put on my classroom antics Pinterest board. The point is – – – I’m still looking for inspiration, everywhere. And although it has been nice to spend time with family and relax just a smidge, I’m ready to go back to my classroom tomorrow. I’m ready to see my kids. I’m ready to hear all of their stories and see the excitement in their faces as they go on and on (and on). 😀

I’m ready to finish this year with a bang!

I’ve compiled a list of what is inspiring me right now – what I’m reading, who I am blog/Pinterest stalking, and what is just generally making me want to do more.

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Common Core Unloaded is a great blog that I’m getting idea for my literacy block from. The author asks you to think outside the boxes that education and policy place on us – and listen to your students. It goes hand in hand with my personalized learning obsession and the next two people I follow…

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I found Kathleen McClaskey researching Personalized Learning one day. She does a lot of blogging and sharing ideas on scoopit. com. And then I found her on Pinterest! I repin just about EVERYTHING she pins. She is innovative with ideas and is helping me bring EdTech in my own classroom to another level.

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Lisa Welch and Wanda Richardson are my heroes right now! I gush about them constantly to coworkers — wishing we could knock down some walls and combine. My mentor, Kristi Meeuwse, and I share kids frequently to try and get the same benefits they do in their Learning Garden (which is multi-age and multi-level). Their BUDS acronym really resonated with me over this break. I would give anything to be able to hear them speak and visit their classroom.


Last, but certainly not least in my book – my nieces are inspiring me. I spent the better half of my Spring Break with my sister and her children. We welcomed a new baby into the family just before Easter. Staying with my sister and seeing the excitement in the big sisters faces (Ruby and Libby, 3 and Olivia 6) was an energizer. Olivia is in first grade and she is exploring animals in her classroom. She is able to choose which animal to research but has guiding questions for her research. She has access to technology – but not in the way my students are fortunate enough to. With my teacher iPad, I introduced her to Book Creator. Her eyes lit up and she began creating. In the span of under an hour – she created her own book.

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The twins inspired me with the use of the Mr. Potato Head app. What started as showing an app they could manipulate on their own became an idea for free writing in my classroom. Inside the app, you choose the potato head to create and then you can place him/her in a scene. To me – this equals writing inspiration and illustrations for student created books.


I am thankful for these inspirations – they keep me focused and determined to make some changes and make a difference.

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Filed under Literacy, Technology