Monday, April 20, 2015

Buzz into Spring

I have decided to link up with my buddies at Hello Sunshine and offer up some ideas about one of my favorite seasons- spring.

I love bugs!  Well, not in my hair or in my pants, but I think they are very cool everywhere else.  Some kids are super scared of bugs, and squeal when they are found in the classroom.  I think I bump up a notch when I pick up crickets with my bare hands and take them outside.

Spring is a natural time to learn about insects.  They come out in full force, ready to pollinate and eat my picnic lunch.  The kids are so excited when we start to learn about insects.  When the kids understand how insects like bees and ants can be helpful, their views seem to change.  All of a sudden, I see kids getting down on the dirt to observe the ants, and searching through the grass to find ladybugs.  I have always wanted to give them magnifying glasses to look at the ants, but I didn't want to run the risk of frying a few ants in the name of education.

I have decided to share a few of my favorite books about insects.  All of these books have been used in my classroom with much success.  Amazing questions are asked and connections are made after the books are read.  "Is the queen ant fed royal jelly like the queen bee?"  Seriously... a six year old asked that question.  Ah-may-zing!

Time for Kids is always a safe bet for the classroom.  The pictures are awesome, and the book is written at a level that primary students can understand.

I love National Geographic Kids!  The books always have plenty of non-fiction text features to point out and discuss.  We always talk about the importance of reading EVERYTHING on the page, since it helps with our understanding of the topic.  I try to trick the kids and skip over the text features, and they always catch me. 

I also love the fact that the books have a Table of Contents.  At the beginning of the year, I teach my students about the table of contents, and tell them how it will give a broad range of pages.  I always hold my arms out to show them the range is "this big" (like when telling a "I once caught a fish this big" story).  We then talk about the index (and we point to show that it's more precise).  So, when I flip open these books and say, "It has a table of contents," my students automatically open their arms and say, "Table of Contents".  Of course, you can imagine what happens next.... yep... it's a point with "index" being said.

Boys and girls both love Fly Guy.  With the addition of the non-fiction to the Fly Guy repertoire, kids are automatically drawn to these books.  The facts are great, and the appearances by Fly Guy add a little something.

I love this ladybug book!  It is written at an independent reading level, so the kids love to borrow the book and read it on their own.  The book is quite large, so it's a bit awkward to hold for a read aloud, but the photos are really cool.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My First Hello Sunshine Post!

Come on over to my new collaborative blog, Hello Sunshine!  It's my first post there.  Hooray!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

And the Winners Are...

And there were two other winners: Tracy and Suzy.  :)

Ladies, check your email boxes!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hello, Sunshine!

Wow!  There are such exciting things happening in my life right now.  Moving to a new school and a new job next year, and now for another announcement.

I am joining with some AMAZING teachers to write a collaborative blog.

The name alone perfectly describes these beautiful women.  They are devoted educators that have the most amazing ideas!  Can you tell these women are super cool?

And now for the best part.  With the launch of our new blog comes a bunch of goodies.  Hooray!

I am going to give away one item from my Teachers Pay Teachers store to two lucky people.  I am also going to give away a $10 Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate.

And, on top of all of that, the ladies and I have decided to give away a $100 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers.  I am kind of jealous that you all can win this.

Hop on over to my friend Cassandra's blog to enter to win more goodies!

Mrs. 3rd Grade

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Where Have I Been?

My word...

The last six months have been insanely busy.  There is a new elementary school being built in our school district, and I decided I needed to change jobs and change schools.  I have always wanted to spread my love of literacy and reading.  I've had the pleasure of influencing about 25 kids each year.  Now, I will be teaching 500 kids each year.

I am going to be a media specialist (librarian and technology) next year.  The past two months have been spent analyzing lists of books for our library, deciding on the supplies that are needed to run the library, and starting to create lessons.  This is all on top of my normal job.  Have I been a little stressed?  Maybe... but I wouldn't change it for the world.  I am SUPER excited for this new adventure!

Of course, I have been starting to think about how I am going to decorate my beautiful new library.  I want the library to be a warm, fun, inviting, and happy environment.  I made some quotes for my library.  They are formatted to fit in a 5" x 7" frame.  I found some awesome frames at Ikea.  They are colorful and they have plastic in the front so if they are dropped, there is no glass to break.  Hooray!

So, I wasn't originally planning on sharing these (hence the fact that you can see my lovely tan carpet).  I sent the pictures to Costco (Have I ever told you how much I love Costco?) and the pictures were $0.39 each.  What a fantastic deal!

Since I am in such a great mood about this new experience, I am going to share my pictures with you.  Simply download them from the google drive, send them to be developed, and frame them.  SO easy!

Check back later in the week, because I have an awesome announcement and a little giveaway.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

DIBELS on the Brain

When the Middle of the Year DIBELS benchmarks roll along, I will have been the DIBELS coordinator for my school for a full year.  My word, have I learned a lot about these tests in the past year!

I always have known the skills tested were important for kids to be great readers, but I didn't really know more than that.  DIBELS tests are meant to look at the "Big Ideas In Early Literacy" (indicated by the National Reading Panel's report), which are phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with text, vocabulary, and comprehension.  I always send this link to my parents so they can understand first of all, what is DIBELS, and second of all, why the skills the  DIBELS tests assess are important.  That was a tongue twister!

Since I started teaching, I have always had my students complete bellwork.  They have been trained from day one to follow the morning procedure, and then get started on their bellwork.  During this time, I take attendance, hear random stories from my students, and pull students for RTI.  Before I begin a new type of bellwork, I always walk them through the process so they can feel comfortable doing the work independently.

I start my kindergartners with first sound bellwork, because I want to give them practice hearing the first sounds in words and they also get some extra phonics practice because they have to write the letter as well.

The kids cut and glue (which is an important skill on its own) the picture in the correct column.  Before they get started, I go over all of the pictures at the bottom.  I ask if there are any questions.  After the questions have been answered, if a student needs to know what a picture is, they have to ask their neighbor.

The back side was formatted so the paper could be double sided.  There is a space at the bottom because the kids cut it off on the other side.  I'm weird about saving paper.  Again, before I get started, I explain all of the pictures, and if the kids have any questions after my explanation, they need to ask a neighbor.

We then transition into the vowel challenge bellwork.  We use this bellwork through the rest of first quarter and the first few weeks of second quarter. 

 It steps it up a bit, because it moves from just writing the first sound to writing the vowel sound to full phonemic segmentation.

The front side of the paper looks exactly the same as the first set, so the kids already feel very comfortable with the format.

I also have them sort by short and long vowel sounds, which is a common core standard.

The move from writing the medial sound...

to full phonemic segmentation.  Again, the pages are formatted so they can be copied double sided.

 It has the kids use their letter sound knowledge and the spelling rules we have studied.  We start with simple CVC words, and then move into CVCE words and then even tougher words.  We always check our work before we start our day, and I love how I can see the light bulb illuminate, and then hear, "Mrs. McCleary, I see a phonogram!"  If I had a quarter for every time I heard that, I wouldn't need to work; however, it is SO incredibly rewarding when the kids make those connections.

When we begin entering words into our spelling notebook (which will happen in two weeks), I change the bellwork again.  We start working on DIBELS skills for the middle of the year tests (nonsense words, letter naming, phonemic segmentation, first sound fluency).  In my opinion, the kids need to understand that nonsense words won't make sense when they sound them.  This is kind of an odd thought when we always ask them, "Does that sound right?"  So, I want them to understand the words don't make sense.  I have seen my scores increase and my students' reading skills improve since I've started using them.

So, I combined DIBELS skill practice with the kids practicing their spelling words.  I teach at a Spalding school, so the lists are aligned with the kindergarten spelling lists.  Even if you don't teach at a Spalding school, the words come from the Ayres list of high frequency words, and the extra practice will be beneficial for your students.

This is the front side of the page.  The format does not change through the end of the year.  The sentence at the bottom of the page becomes more difficult as the year progresses.

This page format is used on days one through three.  The kids "rainbow write" their spelling words twice.  They add the missing letter, and they copy the sentence.  For the higher kids, I am going to have them write their own sentence using the words at the top of the page.  As the year progresses (the third set of bellwork), all kids have to write their own sentence.

Day four is a word scramble.  I let them work with a neighbor to unscramble the words.  The kids have a blast and really learn to work together well.

Day five is a word search.  I was hesitant to use it at first; however, once I teach the kids how to complete a word search, they really do a great job.  I let them work with a friend on this as well.  They love it, and they LOVE to find hidden words that are not on the list.

Start with this set.

This is really the second set (now).  I went back and created the file with lists 1-5.

This is really part three now. 

Plus, if you go to Facebook and "like" my page, you will get this fan only freebie with the benchmark goals for kindergarten through third grade.

Thanks for stopping by! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'm back...

Wow!  Life has been very busy this school year.  We are already done with one quarter, and our fall break is coming to an end.  I overheard a mom talking to her friends while I was watching my girls at gymnastics the other day.  She said, "I think two and a half weeks for Fall Break is too long.  One week is more than enough."  Obviously, she is not a teacher.

I've been trying a bunch of new things in my classroom this year.  I have read a bunch of PD books, and I am integrating some of those ideas into our curriculum.  I am SO happy that I changed it up, because I feel my students are better readers and writers even this early in the year.  I'll be sharing out some of those ideas within the next few weeks because I am in the process of taking pictures.

Last year, I did the Karate Sight Word program with my students.  I had an aide for the first 30 minutes of the day, so she tested the kids.  It was a dream.  Well, this year, they added another kindergarten class and our class sizes went down, so we don't have an aide.  I still have the same number of students; however, one of the kinder classes is down to 20, so there's no hope for an aide.  Bummer.  So, I had to get creative with my time.

This year, I am having the sixth grade buddies test the kinders.  We practice during the week, and then the kinders read the phrases to their sixth grade buddies.  I modeled what fluent reading sounds like to the sixth grade buddies, and they let me know how their kinder buddy did while reading the phrases.  Since we are a direct instruction school, we don't have centers for reading, so I had to get creative.  So far, it has worked really well.  

Another thing that I have been doing differently is incorporating Fry's phrases into our day instead of just the words.  I read a few books by Timothy Rasinski (I LOVE his books), and he talked me into changing my paradigm.  I am talking like I'm his BFF or something.  If I ever met him, I swear I would kiss him on the lips because he has made me such a better teacher.  Plus, he's at Kent state, which is like 30 minutes from my childhood home.  

Anyway, in the book The Fluent Reader, Rasinski talks about how it's important to teach the kids sight words in their phrases.  Recent studies on reading indicate that word reading practice have a beneficial effect on students' word recognition skills. We all know the importance of kids being able to read high frequency words so they don't have to spend valuable brain power decoding these words.

Reading words in isolation may cause some kids to believe that reading "... is simply about identifying individual words," leading to word-by-word reading in some children (Rasinski, 2010). Some researchers believe that "...phrase is the key component in gaining meaning through written text." Timothy Rasinski's research has shown that "...helping students learn to read in phrases will improve their reading fluency and overall reading achievement" (Rasinski, 2010).

Finding a way for the kids to practice their Fry's phrases independently has been my major project over the past several weeks.  I am really happy with the way everything came together.  I made six different sets of the Fry's phrases.

The first set includes pages that have students write the focus word, cut and paste it in a sentence (that includes the Fry's phrase), write it in the same sentence, write their own sentence using the word, and draw a picture of the sentence they just wrote.  Since my school uses Spalding, I made a version that uses Spalding phonograms, and I made a version that just uses letters.

All of the six sets include flashcards that I have formatted to be cut in half, with one half being sent home and one half being kept at school.

All six sets also include a way for the kids to practice reading sentences that include the Fry's phrases.  The first set includes five phrases (written in two different sentences per page), and the other sets include ten phrases.  The first set includes only the smiley paper that focuses on fluency.

The other five sets include the smiley paper that focuses on fluency, and another option that focuses on the number of times the sentence was read.  The kids tally in the speech bubble.

 Sets two through six contain the "Finish the Phrase" sheets instead of the cut and paste sheets.  The kids will fill in the blank for five sentences, and then write three sentences using the focus words in the box.

Have I mentioned how excited I am to be using these?!?!  With a little bit of training, the kids will be completely independent when using them.  What valuable bellwork or filler for the kids!

If you are interested in checking them out, click the links below:

I also bundled them together to give you the most bang for your buck.

And, if you hurry, you can save even more, because everything in my store is 20% off!

Click on the picture, or click here.

I'll be sharing some more of my new things over the next few weeks.  Have a great day!