Monthly Archives: May 2013

Snippets 2

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Do you know the feeling of wanting to say something – but you have so much on your mind that you can’t get the right words out?  That is how I am feeling right now.  I want to blog – very much – but between keeping my students engaged these last 10 days, getting end of the year procedures checked off, and making a list of things I absolutely do not want to forget for next year – I’m scattered!  To reference the quote above – my fire is lit, bucket filled, gears are turning! So – here are just a few snippets of what we have been doing… image (17)

We started “balloon popping” today to count down the last days of school.  I got the idea from Pinterest and the kids seem pretty jazzed about it.  They noticed the balloons right away upon walking in this morning and wanting to know all about it.  Our first fun activity was “Stinky feet day”.  The students were allowed to take their shoes off whenever we were in the classroom.  This was a true motivator for many kids who have been struggling with self control the past couple weeks – and it was a lot of fun.  They just seemed comfortable.  We will “pop” into a new fun thing tomorrow morning… Will it be sit wherever you want?  Dance party?  They can’t wait!

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In trying to get my students ready for first grade – I’ve been pulling away gradually and getting them used to working more independently.  I love seeing them make a more conscious effort to be responsible for their own learning.  In the picture above, one student took control to check her work during a math rotation.  She felt confident in her answers, but before turning it in, she took out her iPad and used the number grid app to double check.  When bringing me her work, she said “I remembered I have that tool on my iPad.  Is it ok I used it?”  I answered with a resounding – YES!  The students use this often to practice counting fluency, missing numbers, and skip counting (all parts of building math literacy).


Next week, I’m closing out the year building some literacy in science with experiments (and journaling):
Exploding bags:
The classic Diet Coke and Mentos:
Sparkly volcanic explosions:
And maybe some Oobleck/Gak/Flubber:

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Rime and Reason

I finished the standardized assessment for kindergarten today and I am ecstatic!  While it was great to get to know another teacher’s students, I’m glad to be back with my own kids and our normal schedule. Before administering this assessment, we were given training by our assistant principle.  There are multiple sections to this assessment and a couple of them left us guessing… What is the point of this section?  What is it really assessing?  The conclusion was reached that we just needed to stop questioning it – and do it.  This assessment is a requirement of the county, we have to administer it – not pick it apart.  Honestly, that was very hard for me.  The last school district I was in we focused a lot on data and making sure we were appropriately assessing our students.  Yes, we gave standardized assessments such as benchmarks and state tests – but every other assessment was so carefully thought out.  Now, I think of every assessment in this way.  Which is the way I should? Right? Let me get to the point of this post – reviewing the book I posted a couple weeks ago in Straddling the Line. 51To7VhjTrL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX225_SY300_CR,0,0,225,300_SH20_OU01_ I think it’s safe to say I’m in love with the possibilities this book presents.  The author, Sharon Zinke, outlines lessons  (not just for kindergarten) that can be used to quickly work on decoding so a teacher can focus the most of reading instruction on constructing meaning.  The book  comes with a DVD that has printables to make any flash cards you may need and videos of the lessons being taught.  To me – the DVD makes it worth 14.99 (which isn’t bad to start).  I am a visual learner.  I like to see how it is done, then tweak it for my own purpose. Zinkes makes so many valid points (and affirming some of my own beliefs) – I can’t possibly list them all here with out copyright issues.

My wordle:

Here are some key points:

  • Reading fluency isn’t about speed, but rather about appropriate rate.
  • Even some fluently reading adults have trouble segmenting words into their individual phonemes (and I just assessed K students on this).
  • Our brains love patterns!  This is why we teach word families, onset,  and rime.  It is intuitive.  Our brain functions as a pattern detector, and we find it much easier to detect patterns than to apply rules (Goswami & Bryant).
  • Reading is all about constructing meaning.  Letters and sounds should be presented in context.  When students realize much more of the story can be found in the words and outside of the pictures, they learn much more about the grapho-phonemic cueing system.
  • Immersion rather than mastery is the goal (with the Rime Magic sequence).

I plan on trying some of the techniques with a group of emerging readers before the year is over and during the summer with an individual student.  So I’m going to hold on to my reading star and press forward! star

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A lightbulb – a ha – ray of sunshine moment

I had a moment today.  One of those great – wow – YAY! type moments.

Lately we have been exploring personalized learning and using voice and choice.  My previous post talked about the students scheduling their day and having choice about how to accomplish the task.  I have seen how this personal investment in learning can transform students thinking about different subjects. They carry this ownership and voice outside of my classroom walls.  They begin to see their learning environment everywhere.  The extension and application becomes apparent to them.  Mattie is one of those students.

Mattie is a very creative child – albeit sometimes shy and reserved.  Ever since my Skippyjon Jones lesson she has taken off as a writer.  She will write and write and write – if you give her the choice.  Which is what is happening in my classroom.  Writing time is all of the time.  If the writing block is over, that does not necessarily mean that Mattie’s time to write is over.  She writes pages and pages.  She wants to share with her friends.  And – she wants suggestions!  How can she make it better – – – all that dreaded editing, she wants it!


So this morning, Mattie brought in pictures of her guinea pigs for Show and Tell.  She brings her pictures to the front of the room.  In her shy, sweet voice she says: “Um, Ms. Gay.  I have something else to share before the pictures.  I wrote a poem that I want to read to everyone.”

Cue tears, heart leaping, extreme burst of pride in Mattie!  She has taken her personal journey in learning, carried it home, and used it at a time many kids wouldn’t.  She is invested.  She has ownership.  She is a learner!

Here is Mattie, reading her poem (which I had to record a second time due to background noise), that she wrote “all by herself”!



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Straddling the line

It is always about this time of the year that I’m trying to remain in one world – the world of today, these last 20 days of school, with these students.

But – my mind always wanders to NEXT year… How can I do things better next year?  Change this arrangement?  Amp up this lesson?  Remember to do this!

I’ve agreed to tutor 2 students over the summer – so I’m also in that planning mode.  Pinterest has become my best friend.  It is always nice to find new ways of reviewing and remediation of the same subject matter.  I even created a separate board for tutoring.


I’ve also started doing some research for how to better help my struggling readers.  All of my teacher friends know that sometimes – no matter how many tricks we have up our sleeve – we can feel at a loss trying to reach a child where he or she is.  I’ve seen so much growth with my kids this year, and being intrinsically competitive,  I’d like to have more tricks (more growth) for next year.  So I bumped up my latest amazon order to free shipping with this book – I’ll let you know how it is.


We have moved into survival mode in my classroom and we are trying new things to keep us engaged and following classroom procedures.  We recently starting creating our own daily schedules.  She saw it in another teacher’s classroom and it is great to make this progress with personalized learning.
Check out my mentor’s blog about this:

choice checklist

I’m so glad we started it!  The students have so much ownership in their schedule and their work.  The students are practicing being first graders by working more independently, and having only one teacher available to help,  while I pull small groups to help or assess for the end of the year.

So if you’re like me -straddling the line between this year and next…
Between days like this

20130506-183105.jpgand days like this

20130506-183056.jpgFind some inspiration – from a colleague, Pinterest, or just taking Amazon’s recommendation.

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Filed under Lower Grades

Little Engines

I’ve been listening to my little ones read out loud for a week straight now so we can complete running records. I can probably regurgitate every word of some of the leveled texts. What I have loved most is hearing and witnessing all the growth of my readers! I wish I could take all of the credit – but luckily I have an amazing assistant, supportive parents, and amazing apps on the iPad to help me scaffold my guided reading instruction.

The saying of the Little Engine that Could kept popping up in my mind today while listening to them read. “I think I can! I think I can!” Many of my students are taking risks and pushing themselves because they think they can. Their intrinsic motivation is really paying off! With the leveled readers we have on the iPads, they can explore texts above their level by having it read to them. By listening repeatedly to the same story, they can become more fluent readers and then try these texts on their own.

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Our reading series offers an app with the leveled readers loaded on to them. Students can explore all of the kindergarten level texts. There are also a few higher level texts we have access to because they were samples. Using choice, they are able to select books for their own bookshelf – and again listen to books as a preview before reading. They love going to the library to select what interests them.

Using their voice, they are able to tell me when they feel ready to read a text aloud to me. They feel in charge and this has made a great difference! I use all of these observations to impact my guided reading groups and lessons.



More and more I am seeing how voice and choice empower even the youngest learners. We think we can! We know we can!

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