Tag Archives: literacy

April Showers bring May Flowers

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If you’re like me – you’re wrapping up your Spring Break.  Or maybe, you’re just about to begin.  Or, maybe, you’re like some of my Georgia friends and Spring Break was week ago – before Spring had even started.  No matter your finishing point on the break scale, you may be searching for new and fun ideas to keep your students engaged these last few weeks of the year.  Testing is about to begin for upper grades.  Class schedules will be altered.  Recess plans may have to move from outdoors to indoors because of noise.  I’ve been using Google, Pinterest, and blogs to find creative ways to enhance our last nine weeks of school.

SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS!

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http://www.education.com/activity/kindergarten/science/

I also blogged about other fun experiments a couple of years ago: https://withliteracyinmind.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/snippets-2/

If you have them – iPAD PROJECTS

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http://iteachwithipads.net/2015/03/31/building-early-literacy-skills-with-ipads/

https://withliteracyinmind.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/kindergarten-and-the-writing-process/

http://barrowmediacenter.com/tag/kindergarten/

SHOW and TELL

This one is pretty self explanatory – create a schedule and fill some time blocks with Show and Tell.  The kids have been sneaking toys to school anyway! (Well, mine have!)

GUEST READERS
(featured below, my hubby)

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Again, create a schedule for parents, community members, or even other teachers.  My kids love being read to and when someone else comes in – it is extra special. You can easily create a google doc that can be emailed out for sign up.

RECYCLED CRAFTS/ MAKER SPACE

I automatically save tissue boxes, shoe boxes, and toilet paper rolls.  Let’s put these items to great use!  The Pinterest board below has so many great ideas.

https://www.pinterest.com/susanmomof5/kids-crafts-recycled-materials/

Aren’t sure what a maker space is?

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http://kindergartenmakerspace.blogspot.com/

NATURE WALKS

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We have a green way near our school as well as plenty of trees.  If you have the beauty of nature around you – and the parental permission necessary – take your kiddos for a hike.  Document your walk with iPads or other hand-helds, pictures, or science journals.

GO NOODLE

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It’s FREE, engaging, and FUN!
https://www.gonoodle.com/

HAPPY SPRING!

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Filed under iPads, Literacy, Read Alouds, Science, Technology

Goal Setting and Picture Books

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As the return from winter break approaches, I am thinking of how I can continue to motivate some of my reluctant readers and writers.  Before we said goodbye for the holiday break, I had conversations with a few of my students to see where their minds were at.  We talk a lot about our interests in the classroom and I try to provide as many resources as possible to supplement these interests.  And yet – I still have a couple students who have the knowledge they need but seem less than motivated to use it.  They are still relying on teachers and others to help with unknown words.  They still need a little hand holding.

I tell parents that January starts our “crunch” time  – meaning we really put to use what we learned those first few months. With the application also comes to relinquishing of responsibility from teacher to students.  More and more independence becomes encouraged and required of our sweet kinders.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drop them in to the deep end of a difficult assignment and yell “Swim!”.  But I do release their hands, little by little, until suddenly they find themselves accomplishing it alone.  For my littles who still aren’t ready, they stumble a bit.  They become frustrated and sometimes down right upset that “no one” will help.  Then….

The light bulb goes off.  The fire catches.  The connections are strengthened and extend beyond their wildest dreams.  They realize they are doing it – all by themselves.  And. It. Is. Amazing.

To help get us ready for the “CRUNCH”, I’m calling on a few of my favorite picture book friends:

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After reading and discussing what we would like to accomplish, each student will create a GOAL board.  I’m not sure of the format yet, but I’m sure Pinterest has tons of printables if I decide to go that route rather than using their iPads. Goals can be easily incorporated into data notebooks if those are a part of your classroom.

What’s your goal to make it through the CRUNCH?

Happy 2015!

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Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds

Once upon a story…

“Children need to be immersed in a listening and storytelling culture where their voices are valued and heard.” – Lucy Calkins

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From the beginning of my teacher training, I have been in love with and identified with the works of Vivian Paley.  Her books line the shelves of my personal library.  Repeatedly, I turn to these books as reminders of what my kinders are capable of and the importance of teaching them the ways they are meant to learn.

This school year, I am fortunate enough to take part in a literacy cohort just for kindergarten teachers in my district.  Upon entering this professional development, my expectations were cautiously high.  We all know that sometimes PD is just not what it should be.  Fortunately – I have hit the mother load of PD.  The instructors are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and realistic.  This is a PD worth writing sub plans for!

The focus of the class is literacy – with a heavy emphasis on play. Yes, PLAY!  It is alarming how PLAY has become a nasty four letter word in our classrooms.  Before we all start asking the “How can I fit this into my day with this assessment and that assessment, etc.?” question, let me share one of the best parts of this PD.  We embrace what is natural!  Play is natural – not something extra that should be fit in to our days.  Standards are being met through play – each and every day.  I know that we all know the benefits of play.  But should you need a reminder, or documentation to prove the benefits:

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We are given time during each session to read (no homework) from several different books that are ours to keep!
We are reading:

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The most recent session, we focused on storytelling and creating thinkers in kindergarten.  We were reminded that the standards (Common Core) are not what we teach, but where our students are heading this year. Storytelling a grand vehicle to get our students where we need them to be.  We started off with an activity that asked us to created characters for a story – any characters we wanted.

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The next step was to join with a partner and create a story with both of our characters.  This was challenging – and fun.  We then shared our stories out to other partnerships.  What a fun time!  So many aspects went into the creating of the story:

  • talking about story elements
  • the relationship between the characters
  • sequence of events
  • dialogue of characters
  • addition of props depending on setting and mood

How many standards do you see addressed above?  So many!  The speaking and listening standards are obvious – but many reading standards are also addressed.  We then highlighted the standards we thought were addressed during the activity.

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Our instructors then used their characters and told their story.  After they were finished, we extended the learning by participating some word activities using language of the story.  Again, we were asked to highlight standards we thought were addressed during the extension activity.  Boom – foundational skills!

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Our children are natural storytellers – with or without props.  How many times have you chosen to stop a child from sharing a story for the “sake of instructional time”? Instead of stopping her, incorporate her story into the lesson!  Doing what feels natural and right for our children can be challenging when the expectations are increasing and we are made to feel like what is natural and right does not mesh with academics.  Arm yourself with these benefits of storytelling:

  • Students attain meaningful vocabulary
  • Students are exposed to cultural diversity
  • They play with the sound of language as they repeat rhymes and chants
  • Ability to visualize increases
  • Ownership increases – students become emotionally attached to what they are listening to, in turn producing motivation for remembering and retelling
  • Students motivation to read increases
  • As students learn to tell stories, they hone oral language skills and build self confidence
    • Oral language skills developed through storytelling lead to better reading comprehension
      (Generative Theory of Reading):
  • Children must understand the point of reading is to make sense
  • Children must become confident of their ability to make meaning
  • Children must recognize that reading can be fun

  • When these 3 things take place – comprehension takes place

 

Go forth and tell stories!

Want to incorporate technology?  Check out this post by Matt Gomez:
http://mattbgomez.com/33-great-apps-for-storytelling-and-creativity/

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Snippets – Take 3

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Maybe I’ve used this before, maybe I haven’t, but either way – I’m feeling crazy busy.  I’m running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Between the beginning of the school year, more responsibility at work, and planning a wedding – most days I feel lucky to be dressed and groomed to go to work.  Hence, the lack of blog posts in the past month or so.  Scatter brain doesn’t make for the most coherent of writing! Ha!

So, I bring you some snippets of what we have been doing lately in the lands of Kinder and Tutor Town….

 

 

Celebrating International Dot Day

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 Using students’ voices and choices during tutoring

In my experience, the most successful tutoring sessions involve working on confidence and using activities the student feels invested in.   The smallest things, like paper color for flash cards, help students feel in control of their learning.  The student I tutor each week loves dinosaurs, so dinosaurs are on the top of his flashcards.  We keep activities varied each week to keep it interesting.

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Indoor hopscotch and “SWAT” a word on laminated butcher paper that has been folded in half

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Hidden sight words – white crayon and watercolor paint

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Personalized flash cards – We play Memory and Go Fish

Literacy Through Play

I began taking a kindergarten literacy class that discusses how we can incorporate more play into our school day.  The class is relevant and exciting.  We are not required to read outside of the class, but I have found myself reading the books on my own time.  More to come from this class!

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#Kinderblog14 Week 1

My friends over at Kinderchat have started their summer blog challenge.  This is the topic for week 1: Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed?  Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about? 

For me – the post I am always thinking about, yet have difficulty putting into words that aren’t overshadowed by my loud stomps up on the soapbox, is DAP: Developmentally Appropriate Practice.  My teaching career has seen 3 shifts in standards in eight years.  When I began teaching in Georgia in 2005, the standards used were called QCC’s – Quality Core Curriculum.  A couple years later, the QCC’s transitioned into the GPS – Georgia Performance Standards. And then came Common Core.

My questions regarding DAP and standards did not really begin to arise until I moved from fifth grade to first grade.  I was reading standards that were laughable to me.  Standards that expected six and seven year olds to be able to explain the historical significance of and positive character traits demonstrated by Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and a few others deemed important for that grade level.  Combine this with the expectation that students be able to name all seven continents and UNDERSTAND that they live in a city, state, country, continent… Well this left me reeling.  What knowledge of child development do standards writers have?  Do they not understand that children of this age are still egocentric?  To understand that someone has the same name can blow their minds. And we want them to understand a world that is not tangible to them just yet? I believe in global education.  I believe in students learning about places far away, people from those places, how we are similar and how we are different.  I do believe in global community.

Don’t get me wrong – I fully support there being some sort of “standard” for grade levels.  Goals that we want to reach.  Content that is important for children to learn at a particular time.  What I take issue with are standards that are completely inappropriate for students developmentally. So much of what is taught in the first few years of school is social.  That is why there is a poster you can buy about everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten. When I see students struggling with social cues or how to “do” school – the last thing I want to do is force an academic standard on them that they aren’t ready for.

Coming into my third year teaching kindergarten, this issue feels more important than ever.  If you google kindergarten news stories, several different opinions pop up. Huffington Post has pages upon pages of stories about kindergarten success and concerns for early childhood practice.

My main concern is for the children I teach.  I teach CHILDREN.  Yes, I am a kindergarten teacher, but I teach CHILDREN.  Yes, I am expected to teach the common core standards for my grade level, but I teach CHILDREN.  At the end of the day, I find the responsibility of being a child’s first teacher – showing them how to get along with others, guiding them as they explore and learn things at their own pace, providing a safe environment where a love of school is grown – to be the most daunting. Yes, I want them to learn how to read.  Yes, I want them to learn how to count and use numbers.  Yes, I want them to learn about history and science.  But more importantly, I want them to LOVE doing those things.  I teach CHILDREN.  Children are people too.  The foundation of my teaching philosophy is that a child will know I love him and see him as a person first.  With that knowledge comes a connection.  And with that connection comes learning.  Standards or no standards.

[Off my soapbox now]

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As the pages turn…

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Around this time last year, I posted about ending the year with a BOOK!

This year, I have found myself automatically gravitating toward books that leave the impact of making memories.  At first, it was completely subconscious – I chose a book I love and had not yet read aloud for one reason or the other.  And later that same day, I chose another book.  And the next day another… Looking at the selections – left on my easel for students to enjoy – I realized there was a theme.

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Thoughtlessly, I was plucking books from my shelf that captured my mood – nostalgic, retrospective, idealistic, hopeful, inspired, and that bittersweet feeling of finishing a chapter in life.  Our year is coming to a close – and while summer looms on the horizon filled with trips, family time, and a small moment to breathe – I’m not quite ready. My year has been challenging.  Challenging in all the ways you don’t appreciate at first.  Challenging in all the ways that exhaust you.  Challenging in all the ways that remind you why you love your job. When I’m left without words of my own, I turn to the words of others.

Our last books of school:

Our Tree Named Steve

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zwiebel and David Catrow

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The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka

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Someday by Eileen Spinelli and Rosie Winstead

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The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammel

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Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

For our end of year celebration:

(We read First Day Jitters on the first day)

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Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg and Judy Love

And some I can’t help but read once again:

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Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow

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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

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Kindergarten and the Writing Process

“Writing might be magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a process, a rational series of decisions and steps that every writer makes and takes, no matter what the length, the deadline, even the genre.” – Donald Murray

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Say what you will about Lucy Calkins – especially since her mass marketed writing program has been released.  I hold firm to her (and my) foundational beliefs about the writing process.  All children can be writers. We meet writers where they are, capture them with great literature, and inspire them to find the writer within.

The not fun part is when the writing process gets “put upon” students.  It is presented as a series of “must do” steps just to feel that a piece is complete. It can be daunting and disheartening, especially to our youngest writers.

So how do we present these steps to our emerging readers and writers?  I prefer to model the different phases of the process.  You will not see a step by step guide to the process in my classroom.  There is not a poster of the process as a cycle (which is my preference – a piece of writing can always be returned to if the writer chooses).  I teach five and six year olds and the walls of our classroom are filled with anchor charts they have created. You may see a check list of things to remember.  You may see rubric of what our “best work” should look like.  But you will not see “THE WRITING PROCESS” laid out on our walls.

Throughout the year, we build on our writing.  We begin with labeling, progress to simple sentences, and finally (hopefully) we write multiple sentences with details.  We emphasize adding details – both to our drawings and our writing.  We use graphic organizers (brainstorming), 4 squares (rough drafts), iPad apps and paper (publishing).  We read our writing out loud – to a friend, to a teacher, to ourselves.  We check our sight words with the word wall.  We ask each other questions (editing/revising).

The last two weeks, we have been exploring the ocean and all it offers.  My students this year are very interested in animals and habitats.  We started a project this week that allows us to put two of our favorite things together – research and the iPad.  Using the “plan” below, students began researching an ocean animal of their choice.

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Students used library books, Pebble Go, Brainpop Jr, and other sources (each other) for research.  I modeled adding information to the plan after reading or listening to research.  We learn early on that copying every word from a book or the computer is a big NO NO.  We learn that we must use words from our own heads, not another author’s words.  If we write it, we need to be able to read it!  Not to mention that whole plagiarism thing!

Once the plan was complete, they showed a teacher what they had.  We had conferences about how to use the information in the best way. They could choose an app to make their project or actual paper.  Many students chose to create a paper book about their animal.  Either way, what they produced what meaningful to them – and they learned about the writing process along the way.

Here are some examples, still works in progress:

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This student opted to leave his planning page in his book.  He thought it would make a great table of contents!

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These are writings that I know the students will return to again and again as they learn more.  They have asked to not take them home yet – just in case! Wonderful authors in the making!

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Filed under iPads, Literacy, Lower Grades, Reading Workshop, Science, Technology, Writing Workshop