Thursday, June 30, 2011

Building a Caring Classroom

I {heart} bucket fillers!

Teaching compassion and caring to little ones is so much fun (and very effective) when using this sweet and very clever book. If you haven't read the book, it tells all about how everyone has an invisible bucket that needs to be filled. When we do kind and compassionate things for others, we fill their "bucket" and share happiness with those who's lives we have touched. But, if we are uncaring, mean or inconsiderate of others and their feelings, we become bucket dippers. Bucket dippers take the happiness and joy from other people, and in turn, also take from their own buckets as well. 

In my classroom, my firsties did a great job using our buckets to remind each other to be thoughtful and kind to one another. I used a bulletin board and library pockets for each one of my kiddos. Each library pocket had a label with the students name and a picture of that super cute little bucket with the rainbow- colored hearts and stars pouring into it. I had an envelope with notes for them to write special words to their friends. Those notes were used to "fill" their classmates buckets (and mine too)!

We checked our notes on Fridays (while I was passing out our take home folders). It was a great way to end a week!

I plan to do this again but haven't quite decided how I want to display them. The buckets are so darling and the kids would just love their buckets. I was also thinking it might be kinda nice to have them in different places in the room as visual reminders to all the students.

Here are some great links that will help you on your way to a fabulous bucket filling classroom:

     Bucket Fillers 101   


Check out the First Grade Brain and her linky party for more fabulous ideas!

Helping Struggling Readers Through Intensive Reading Groups

"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
- Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

I couldn't agree more and is a thought behind much of what I do in my classroom and reading instruction. My guided reading groups are fluid and flexible. Most of the time, I organize my groups using reading levels but also meet with groups based on their need to work on a specific strategy, technique, concept or genre of text. I also find opportunities throughout the day (early morning, during independent practice) to meet with students and address individual needs.

While I am meeting with reading groups, my students go to literacy stations. My work stations are modeled using the Debbie Diller literacy workstations. I tweaked it just a bit to include the 5 components of Daily 5. My students enjoy their stations and each has educational value and the Daily 5 added a little more structure, organization and purpose to stations that I had in place already. I began reading about the Daily 5 last summer and wanted to see how it might fit in my classroom. It is a work in progress, so to speak.

As students are working through their station rotation, I am calling my groups and working with each of them. During this time, I worked with my team to structure the time that aides have with our struggling students. This is what we called IRG or intensive reading groups. The aides completed specific and data driven tasks with a group of students as part of a rotation. The students that are struggling were grouped and put into a separate rotation which was an hour long (the duration of my reading group time).
  • The groups meet with 2 aides, the reading facilitator and their teacher each day for 20 minutes.
  • This replaced their time in stations allowing for additional direct instruction in a much smaller group.
The students made huge gains. I mean HUGE and many students had two and three level jumps in a 9 week period. I was so excited that all the work that I had done with my team and my administrators to schedule the rotations and work out the kinks had lead us to a very successful intervention!

So much so that we are planning on using this strategy again this year. First and second grade will begin within the first few weeks of school and kinder will follow the second nine weeks. I am so very excited about this success and am just thrilled to see the progress that are students will make with this intervention placed earlier in the year and not just in my grade but in all primary grades.

My goal each day is to give students as many opportunities as possible to interact with text and reading. I utilize every minute that I can during the day. The intensive reading groups definitely speak to that. Reading is a reward in my room, whether it is giving them time to read independently or reading a story of their choice to them. Reading is part of my procedures as well. My students practice sight words and read books when waiting in line for the restroom and are allowed to take books to lunch and recess (as long as they are responsible with their book). I even have the students read when their might be an interruption by someone that needs me at the moment (an aide, admin, another teacher, nurse, etc.)

I am always reading new books and looking for new ways to add to and improve what I do in my classroom (you should see all the books that I am reading right now....a one woman library...ha!).

So.....what do you do? Time to share :)

Target and Their Wonderful Dollar Bins!!

I have had a great time reading all about the great finds that all the fabulous bloggers that I follow have been posting! There are some seriously hot deals out there and I am planning to go and check it out today!! So, Target here I come!!

What am I hoping to find?  Containers, containers, containers! Last year, I went all over town trying to get primary colored bins like the ones at Really Good Stuff. I am hoping to score a few more before school gets started.

I am also hoping to start pulling together my theme for the year. I have been wanting to do a monster theme but am still a little unsure. Our school theme this year will be Training Camp and will have a sports theme. So, I was also possibly considering a sports theme.....or a space theme could be cute too....hmmm...decisions,decisions!!

I'll be updating this post very soon....hopefully I will have tons to share! ;)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transitions Linky Party at Little Miss Kindergarten

Transitions can be the trickiest of the day and a clever teacher can definitely use this time to squeeze every last educational moment of the day.

Transitions, especially with the little ones, has to be modeled and practiced. Teaching them exactly what you want for them to do and showing them what it looks like (whether in pictures, acting it out or watching examples and non-examples) are essential to having successful and meaningful transitions. Once students have had several opportunities to practice the procedure is when the real fun begins!

Fun and educational ways to use transitions:
  • "I am thinking of"....This is a game that I play with my students where I make the statement I am thinking of and give clues to a concept that I am targeting for review. For example, I might say "I am thinking of a word that ends with a ch sound. This is where we go before recess." or " I am thinking of a way to make 6"
  • Music Wand: When I went to the Debbie Diller Summer Institute last Summer, I was introduced to this little beauty. It is one of my favorite ways to transition and I use it as a subtle reminder to clean up and change station. When it is time for the students to clean up, I chime the wand (slowly) 4 times. When it is time to switch, I chime the wand twice and the students begin their next rotation.
  • 1,2,3 Still Statue: The kiddos really like this one! As we are transition from one activity to another, I call out in a quiet voice..1,2,3 Still Statue! Students pretend to be the most interesting statue in the room (posing in all sorts of silly positions). I give my directions while they are frozen and when I have finished giving my directions, the kiddos unfreeze and make their way to where they need to be for the next lesson.
  • Word Wall Reading: As students are quietly moving to their destination or waiting for supplies, I start by saying a letter of the alphabet that is found on our word wall and begin reading the word wall words with the students from that point. Sometimes we read to the end of the alphabet and sometimes we find our way back to our starting point.
  • Power Points and Flip Charts: I have also done this with a PowerPoint and had sight words, our pictures for phonetic patterns, math facts and several reviews of concepts that we have been studying.
  • Music: My kiddos love to dance! They would move at record pace between lessons whenever the CD or IPod was turned on.They want to make sure to finish up quickly to have lots of time to dance, dance, dance!
I am also bringing in a few new strategies that I think are going to be so much fun for the kiddos.....( and some must sees as well)

(Oh my word !! This is soooooo cute and super fun!!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's official...I'm a Thistle Girl!!!

I finally did it!! I have a membership to Thistle Girl Designs and am on my way to getting a reseller's license!! I can't wait to start making super cute projects for you all!!
I have been lacking a little inspiration and I think that I may have just found it!!

I was a little hesitant at first but now I am so excited!!

The Book Whisperer Book Study Chapter One

"Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown, or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters- the saints and sinners, real or imagined- reading shows you how to be a better human being"
~Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer (p. 18)
Is this not the most wonderful quote?
I began reading before I began kindergarten. I can't remember a time in m life that books weren't around me or a day that I didn't have a book in my hand. My childhood was full of bedtime stories with my mom and dad, books as rewards for good grades and many, many stops to the library and bookstores. Reading was always very important in my family and my mother was an adult role model that instilled in me the importance and beauty of reading. My mom has always been a ravenous reader and as a child I was in awe of watching her with her huge, 500 page book in her lap and her fascination with what she was reading. I wanted to be like her. She is smart and chooses books that interest her immensely. She taught me that books can take you to other places, help you to understand other points of views, open your mind and educate you. I owe my love of books to her.

My love fair of books continued through my childhood and into my teens. I was very active in band, choir, academic decathlon, National Honor Society and I was captain of the color guard....not to mention, I worked two jobs as well! But no matter how busy I was, I always had a book with me and became gitty when someone asked me about my latest book. I always found time to read.

So, when I became a teacher, I wanted to pass this along to my students. My educational specialty is reading instruction with a minor in English (I am sure that did not surprise I had the ambition and the education but even with all of this, it was definitely more difficult than I thought it would be.

I knew how important my mom had been to fostering my love of reading. I remember looking at each of the students that I worked with (I started teaching as a Title 1 reading specialist teacher) and asked myself, who was their reading role model? What was their experience with reading? Is reading something that was treasured in their family? Did they understand the importance and purpose of reading?

The answer: no.

As I read this chapter, it reminded me of something that I use to do with my students. Something that I stopped doing due to the pressure to teach a large amount of content and testing requirements.  Something that is crucial to developing readers. I used to read with my students during independent reading time.I didn't read to them or listen to them read like in guided reading groups. I used to read my own personal book. They saw me as a reader of my own not just their teacher that reads to them.

As I began reading The Book Whisperer, I instantly connected to Donalyn and before I had finished chapter one, my view of reading instruction for this new school year changed. I was reminded of something that I have always known worked! As teachers, we always model everything that we want the students to be able to do independently to foster their educational experience....why would reading be any different?
Stay tuned for chapter 2.....
I loved the idea of Beth's wordle so I made one too! It is such a WONDERFUL way to explore main idea/details, elaboration, description, summarizing and a host of other creative here is my own wordle for chapter one...

Want to follow this book study? YAY! You can become a follower of my little blog and click on over to Thinking about Teaching to get the schedule, read her fabulous post, and join in the conversation! Feel free to leave comments and insights....I would love to hear your thoughts! :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Book Whisperer Linky Party

I am having a great time reading the book The Book Whisperer! If you haven't had a chance to read will love it!! You also have plenty of time to start before the book study begins next week :)

Thinking of Teaching was able to score a great interview with Donalyn Miller and is having a linky party to share some of our answers to the same questions that Donalyne answered. It makes for a fun read....

So here are my answers to the questions that were asked ....wait for it......wait for it......ok, here I go!!!

1) What is your favourite book (or series) from childhood?
I loved anything that I could get my hands on! I have always been a huge reader. When I was younger I liked The Bearstien Bears and Amelia Bedelia. As I got older, I enjoyed reading The Babysitters Club and the Choose Your Own Mystery books (I must have tried every combination possible!)

2) What is your favourite book (or series) now?
Now a days, I read just about anything that interests me.  Right now, I am reading Water for Elephants for entertainment and several professional books to get ready for the new school year. I have a great big stack of books that are sitting onmy nightstand at all times!

3) What is your opinion of e-readers?
I have a kindle and would REALLY like a Nook Color. I have mixed feelings about the e-readers because although that are super convient, I LOVE BOOKS! I love everything about books- the feel of the book in my hands, dog ears, cute book marks, the feeling of accomplishment when you turn the last adds to the experience of reading!

4) Finish this sentence: "On Sundays I like to..."
Spend time with my is the one day of the week that everyone is home :)

5) Describe yourself in 5 words!
Dedicated, compassionate, Mommy, sister, daughter

6) Hardcover or paperback? Why?
If it is a book that I am dying to read....I'll get it in hardback. Most of the time, I enjoy paperback books because they are easier to hold and are easier to carry in my purse.
7) Coffee or Tea?
If you know me than you know I {heart- a million times} coffee! I can't think of a better pair- coffee and books!
Now, it's your turn! Click on over to Thinking about Teaching to join in and read Donalyn Miller's answers as well!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wish List Linky Party with Really Roper

Wish list! I love wish lists! Especially now that I am going to a new grade and a new room. My wishlist is mighty long right now....

This awesome writing station from Really Good Stuff. My kiddos would love this (and so would I)!Really Good Writers Workshop Supply Station™

and I love these desk! Seriously! You can personalize it to your students needs. So cool!
Build-Your-Own Desktop Helpers™ without Sleeves - Set of 4
I am so sad that I had to leave this little beauty behind when I moved to second grade and would LOVE to get another one.....
Classic Birch Magnetic Write & Wipe Big Book Center

I am also going to be departmentalized and teaching ELAR (Reading/English Language Arts) so some new stations would be great too....
Word Study Classification Center              Build A Phrase! Sight-Word Puzzles
   Word Study Classification                                   Sight Word Puzzles

Reading Response Station
Reading Response Station

And this would make an AWESOME word wall....
Instant Word Wall CardsInstant Word Wall Cards
(maybe I can make something like it in my room this year)

I would love to have a great big gift card to Teachers Pay word, there are some amazing products out there!

and while I am wishing......

NOOK Color - The Award-Winning Reader's Tablet keeps getting better

and maybe some IPods too....
Apple iPod touch (3rd Generation) NEWEST MODEL

I could go on and on.....and on! Hey a girl can dream, can't she? ;)

Thanks to Really Roper for giving me a chance to have some fun "shopping"!!

Really Roper

Blog Stalking Linky Party

I started blogging in January and started my blog shortly after. It has changed the way that I teach forever!
There are so many amazing blogs out there and every single blog that I come across has taught me something new. I love them all for so many different reasons!!

If I have a technology question, I go to:

Ladybug's Teacher Files        Ladybug Teaching Resources 

I am loooking at changing the theme in my room so I love to check out:

As for all other things bloggie.....hmmm..... WOW...this is harder than I thought!!

There are so many talented grade level teachers that I just can't pick only a few! But I can give you a few places to look to check out some amazing teachers....

1. Check out my blog roll to see all the fabulous teachers that I am currently following.
2. Go to Teacher Blog Addict and search the amazing list of blogs by grade level!

Teaching Blog Addict

 Happy blog hopping....and make sure to stop by and follow me too! :)

The Book Whisperer Book Study and Giveaway

I just recieved my copy of The Book Whisperer and have already read through the first two chapters! If you haven't read this book, you will LOVE it! It is a very easy read and if you are a life long reader  (like yours truly), you will relate to Donalyn and her search of finding ways to foster the love of reading in her students.

Thinking of Teaching is hosting a book study on The Book Whisperer and is having a kick off giveaway for our book study! Go check it out and enter win a book bag with tons of goodies inside!

 Thinking of Teaching

Want to join along in the book study? Grab the TBA Book Study button and check out the full schedule of chapters and events for the book study!

I will be hosting chapter 4: Reading Freedom and I can't wait!

Happy Reading!!

Giveaway at Primary Inspired!

Good morning everyone! I just wanted to share a great giveaway that is going on right now! Have you ever wanted to get your kiddos more active during class? Here is a great way for your tactile/kinestic learners to have a blast learning their math facts!
The amazing Brenda at Primary Inspired is giving away a Math Mat to celebrate reaching 200 followers! Hurry over and check it out!