Friday, March 21, 2014

Winter Emergent Reader

I am so fortunate to be able to write about a fantastic product from my blogger-friend Bonnie Kathryn from Kinders and Beyond!  She shared her "Snow Much Fun" Winter Emergent Readers with me.

It is a fantastic pack for teaching sight words and thematic words for winter.  I will share how I used some of the materials in my classroom!

I have a projector/smartboard in my classroom, which is a fun way to do shared reading.  Here I have it projecting two pages of the class reader.  I like to give students turns to use a pointer.  

 We circle rhyming words and sight words, and then we go back and re-read for fluency. 

Of course, if you don't have a smart board, you can do these activities on a printed copy of the book.  She has provided color and black and white versions of the class reader.  I love that!  

Also in the pack are four emergent readers in black and white.  

The emergent readers are filled with just-right predictable text, and the font is just perfect for K/1 learners.

A wonderful addition to the pack is the write the room vocabulary word cards.  They are also available in black and white and color versions.  To conserve ink, I printed them full-size in black and white.

Then I printed them again in color, but I set my printer to print four pages per sheet.

This is a great way of still using color items, but without the ink cost!  In the picture below you can see the cards printed both ways.  You can use the cards as traditional write the room cards, or you can use them in a pocket chart for practice or for word work.

Some of my students need help writing basic sentences, so I created a sentence frame and had the students choose a word to complete the sentence.  They did word work with chosen word, and then repeated with new words. I highlighted the word "a" in the sentence so that it made it easier to remove for words like "boots" or "pants" which do not require the word "a".

 Stamping is always a good way of slowing students down so that they really focus on the spelling of the word.  It's also alphabet order practice, since the students need to find the letter stamps in abc order, and return them to their proper space!

I love this pack and I can't wait to use it again next year! To purchase this item, you can follow the link:
Winter Emergent Reader

 I encourage you to check out Bonnie Kathryn- Kinders and Beyond on Teachers Pay Teachers.  She has many fantastic products, including a shark and whale ELA and Science unit that looks amazing, and is on my wish list.  Check out the pin on Pinterest!

Thank you so much, Bonnie, for the chance to review your wonderful product.

Spring Cleaning 2014

I am on Spring break right now and I planned to do outings with my own children for most of the days, but it was important to me to spend one full day in my classroom organizing and purging.  I spent eight hours in my room and I'm glad that I did! There is still (always!!) more to do, but it's certainly better than when I started.

I renewed my love for my label-maker.

On the last day before Spring break, I organized my desk drawers again.  No matter how hard I try, it always gets messy over the course of the year.
For my day of spring cleaning my class I had no interruptions and I was able to purge 60% of my thematic resources that I've been collecting since the beginning of my career.  Before going in, I told myself that I was not going to print or prepare any classroom materials.  My day was going to be only for organizing and purging.  It was such a productive day as a result!  I managed to go through ten Sterililite monthly bins and condense down to seven, some of which are now only  around 1/2  full now!

In summer of 2013, my mom sewed curtains to cover up this storage area.  Now that it looks so organized, it doesn't really need to be hidden, but at least it's a lovely sight to see when the curtains are lifted up!

 Consolidating my month boxes allowed me to use the remaining extra empty Sterilite bins to store my math centers, since my previous bins were beginning to overflow.  I really only started to math centers this year.  Previously I've been doing mostly whole-group math with some pull-out, but centers are really the way to go to add differentiation and fun to the day.

 I also completely organized my math tool cart which was previously in a major state of disorganization.

I also labeled more of my teaching area cart drawers.  I keep this cart near the carpet and it stores calendar items, manipulatives we use often, and supplies I need for demonstration purposes like crayons, scissors, whiteboard markers, and the remotes for the Apple TV and projector.

I also reorganized my shelving area a bit.  I'm now using an entire shelf for my upcoming read-alouds, instead of storing them on precious counter space.  Up next on my plan is to replace the ugly magazine holders with some pretty ones.  

Next I cleaned up the kids' writing center. I organized and labeled the drawers. I still want to put pictures that match each label (for the type of paper inside) but I didn't want to spend time creating labels, as that is something I can easily do at home.

 I have to make-do with this shelf setup because there are two teacher desks in my room this year.  Next year there will only be one, so I will have a space for an actual writing center table.  

Next I took all of my students' extra school supplies out of the blue cupboard and organized them more neatly into bins that I had emptied out during "The Big Purge".  I labeled them and stored them in the hallway on some reclaimed shelf space.  Additionally, with the new available storage space I was able to put my out-of-use word work bins (the thinner ones) out of the way, instead of on the counter where they used to sit. 

It's amazing how quickly we as primary teachers can accumulate things.  But with the ever increasing availability of amazing digital teaching resources, and the amount of creativity that I am exposed to on pinterest and on teaching blogs, I just don't feel like I need to stockpile as many things as before.  It feels good that my boxes are no longer filled to bursting, and that the items I REALLY love are much more accessible and easier to find!  

Here is the counter that used to be piled with things at all times.  I'm loving seeing clear counters.  Let's hope it stays that way!

If you have any organization tips, I would love to hear them!  Please comment below.

Update:  A few days after my big spring cleaning, I headed over to Staples and picked up some nicer magazine holders.  Doesn't this make a big difference? I actually can't believe I put up with them the way they used to be!  Yikes!

I swap out my seasonal read-alouds.  Once they have been read to the children, they are added to the classroom library.  I like to maintain a level of "mystery" and excitement about some of my books, which is why they children can't access those particular ones until I'm finished reading them. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Teacher Tip: Paper Organization

I have been on a quest to organize my classroom for the past number of years.  Every year I'm getting better at it, but there's always room for improvement!

One of my summer projects was to make my binders more visually pleasing, and also make it easier to find what I was looking for.  I created these binder covers and labels and I've really been enjoying how my teacher area looks and functions as a result!  I liked making my own because then I could get as specific as I wanted to, such as with my Sentence Building Through the Year binder.

 Each curriculum area has its own color, so it's super easy to find my admin, science, math, social studies, and language arts resources in seconds.  I also have monthly/thematic binders (the colorful binders shown in the bottom of the "before" image).  I work much better with binders than with file folders.

Something that I discovered by accident is proving to be a handy organization tool for me!  At home we have a bunch of slightly off-white printer paper.  I tend to print most of my masters at home, because I have time to search for just the right printables, and that is also where I create my own.  Now that I have been doing that, I've been loving that I can quickly separate my masters from the student copies.

I used to use a yellow highlighter to mark off my originals, because in general the yellow doesn't show up on subsequent copies.  I might occasionally still do that if I happen to print something at school, but for now, I'm loving my new system!

I have WAY more resources than are shown in the above images.  One of my current goals is to go through my old resources and purge 60% of them.  Yup, I have way too many things in my hallway storage, and it's time to say goodbye, and hopefully send them to better homes!

I hope you've found this tip helpful!  Let me know in the comments below if you have any organization goals that you hope to accomplish before school starts again!  It's never too early to plan :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Leprechaun Fun

We had some St. Patrick's Day fun the other day!  I love reading Leprechaun on the Loose to my students.

 They always get into the drama of the story where Sidney, the main character, is the only one in the class who knows that there is a leprechaun in the room.  However, Sidney's attempts to save the class St. Patrick's Day party from the antics of the leprechaun results in Sidney making things worse, and the teacher and other students blaming Sidney for all of the disasters.  Sidney builds a leprechaun trap and ends up making a deal with the leprechaun.  The leprechaun tells Sidney were a treasure of party supplies is hidden in exchange for his freedom.

After we read and enjoyed the story, the students completed a story map in their reading response journals.  We've spent the last number of weeks learning about characters, character traits, settings, problems and solutions. This book is great for a response, because the problem and solution are all very clear.

 Instead of copying a lot of graphic organizers, I'm trying to minimize paper waste and use their notebooks as much as possible lately.

To create this four-square, I simply instructed the students to fold the page in hot dog style.  That created the vertical line.  The top drawing portion of the exercise book became the top two squares, and the writing line portion of the page became the bottom two squares.

When the students were finished with their story response, I informed them that they would be able to design their own leprechaun trap on a piece of blank paper.  I've done this a number of years in a row now, and the students love it!  Their imaginations go wild, and the seem to love the open-ended nature of the activity.  I've also learned that it is a great activity for fostering oral language.  Even my quietest students are eager to share all about how their leprechaun trap design would work.  Some students take it a step beyond and get artsy with their design.  This student constructed a paper ladder for his trap.

I give the students a few tips to think about.  "What is going to lure your leprechaun to the trap? How will he get stuck?  What will keep him from getting out?  What would make your trap different from someone else trap?  How will it be unique?"

After the students have designed their trap, they write about how it will work.  Next time I will ask the students to write it in a "How To" step-by-step format.

After they were finished they got a 12 by 18 sheet of construction paper and folded it in half like a greeting card.  They then glued the design on one side and their writing on the other.

Then they created a leprechaun to decorate the front.

 I happened to have some gold glitter paper in my art cupboard, and we cut buckles out of it to decorate the leprechaun hats.  So cute!

When the students were finished with all of their activities they were allowed to read or use whiteboards.  I love what one student decided to write about on his whiteboard!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our St. Patrick's Day activities.  If you would like to download my primary lined paper with checklist, you can find it for free here:

If you would like a fun St. Patrick's Day themed Measurement Center you can find it here: