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Back to School Assessments

Happy Monday!

It's the start of week 4 for me and it's officially time to get down to business!  The honeymoon stage is over (long gone!), the students are completely comfortable in the classroom, and we are knee deep into the curriculum now!  (with a few procedures and routines on repeat!)

I really (like Really Really) am ready to get to know each student on a deeper level (academically!).

 I have started pulling my kiddos back one-on-one with me during specific times in the day and I'm slowly but surely learning who is sailing through with ease and who is riding the struggle bus!  (Can I get an AMEN?!)

When I assess my new kinders (prior to any district wide testing), I don't use any formal or fancy assessment!  I just whipped up some simple (and student-friendly!) back to school assessments just to help me get the basics for my kiddos!   That pretty much includes (1) alphabet identification {capital and lowercase letters} (2) beginning sounds (3) Number Identification to 20 (4) color identification and (5) sight word recognition.

While I don't expect my students to master all of these, it definitely gives me a baseline and shows me what I'm workin' with!

Today was all about letter identification.   I created this simple form that includes all capital and lowercase letters (out of order!) as well as the same exact layout for the students in a colored version!

It looks something like this:


While I'm recording the student's response, the student has a color-coded sheet that is identical to mine.  I can easily say, "Read the orange row".   "Read the green row", etc......   
It is much easier than giving the students a complete white sheet... trust me (it's overwhelming!)

The color-coded lines help break it down and not seem so daunting while students are trying to show me their best!

If a student identifies the letter incorrectly, I simply just mark through it with the highlighter.  I write in the white space ___/26, and we continue with the lowercase letters.




I also created the same thing for the other areas of assessment that look like this:


(This is shown above in use!)
I have two forms (yes, they look the same!)  One is for letter ID and the other is for beginning sounds!



I included a color-coded identical copy (I say... read the red column/line.... read me the green column/line, etc....)

It breaks it up into small chunks of assessments and it's very student friendly!



This assesses the first 25 words and again, I give the students an exact replica of my teacher sheet, just in a more friendly version.  (Please read the green column, etc...)



It amazes me how many students come in NOT knowing their colors!  So.... just to make sure, I have this form as well.  The students receive the sheet on the right and just point and say the color!  


AND......

Just in case some of you are JUST now assessing (like me!).... you can grab these assessments for FREE!

Just click HERE!

Hope you all have a great week....


and if you have any questions on how to use these.... please let me know!

Fun with Decomposing Numbers!

Day 13 for me here.  Yes... 13 days of school already down.  I mean seriously, it literally seems like the first day was yesterday.  It's already flying by!

We all know down in Kinder-World that the entire first (and second, probably third, and even the 4th!) week of school is all about those precious procedures and repeating every single word until our throat hurts.

We are wrapping up week three here and I really feel that this week (even though shortened by Labor Day.... and I'm NOT complaining!) we are starting to get the hang of this thing called "learning".

Math is always one of my favorite subjects to teach because... well.... it's just so gosh dang fun and hands-on!  I LOVE (and I mean I really LOVE) seeing my kinder babies really grasp and understand math!  Teacher heart happy.... check!

In Math we start off pretty basic.... like REALLY basic.  We work on numbers 0 - 5 for FOUR weeks!  Building number sense and a good understanding of numbers is the main goal.... so I will take as long as I need in order for my students to really grasp this!

This week has been all about Decomposing.... and in this case... up to the number 5!

I wanted to share a variety of activities that you can use for decomposing....whether it be decomposing the number 5, 10... or whatever!  These activities can definitely be used for the larger numbers as well.

This chart gets created early on in the decomposing unit because it really gives students a visual of breaking down a number.


This chart stays hanging up in the classroom throughout the unit.  We create it as a whole group and as it begins to come along, the student's eyes light up with understanding!  All you need is POST-ITS!  


The first activity we always start off with (and it's a student favorite!) is making their decomposing bracelets!


All you need is pipe cleaners and pony beads!  
Since we are decomposing the number 5, they each get 5 beads.  

The best part of this activity.... I get to integrate literature!!!  

We choose from these books throughout the week:


As we read through the book and one of the characters "goes away", the students will move a bead on their bracelet...... decomposing the number.


Many of my students LOVE this activity and decomposing really begins to "click".... they even wear them the rest of the week! 


Another favorite activity is the "Dump & Decompose"

Depending on what number you are decomposing, this will determine the number of two-sided counters you will have in your cup! 
For us... it's still about the magic number FIVE!


They shake and "dump" their counters and then they decompose.


In this example... it shows that the number 5 is decomposed into 2 and 3.  (2 red counters and 3 yellow counters)

We shake and "dump" again, questioning each time (is it the same as last time?  what is different?  is it still 5? etc...)

Need a quick activity (and some fine motor skills thrown in the mix?!)

Just grab some popsicle sticks and clothespins!


Simply move the clothespin and decompose!  

This is a great hands-on activity to use as you create the post-it chart from earlier in this post!


Do you need an activity to get your students up and moving?

I found these ADORABLE little bowling sets at the one and only DOLLAR TREE (I grabbed a few packs!) and immediately thought about decomposing numbers!   
~ The pack does have 10 pins and 2 balls!

The great thing about the bowling activity.... you can use it for decomposing TEN... or any number less than that by removing the pins!


I set up the five pins... and I also give my students a dry erase board and marker (but this is totally up to you!)


I make a template on the dry erase board and then have my students roll the ball!

The number of pins knocked down represent the first number and the remaining pins that are standing represent the second number.

The students then just fill in the boxes with the two numbers!

After that student has a turn, the next student goes!  This is great for whole group or small groups!


One of my favorite decomposing activities.... is getting LIFE SIZE!

I picked a package of yellow and red paper plates at the Dollar Tree (I go a little crazy in that store!)
and these plates represent the two sided counters that we already are familiar with and use in the classroom.


Our classroom is half tile and half carpet!  These tile squares are the perfect place to set up a life-size FIVE FRAME!  (you can do a ten frame as well!)



Use the plates to show a visual of decomposing within a five frame.

While not all students can do this at the same time, I made these little Five Frame pages that will allow students to use the small counters and represent the same visual as shown on the large five frame.


You can grab this little FREE five frame sheet by clicking the picture above or by clicking HERE.

The font in the activity from Babbling Abby!


Last.... but definitely NOT least.... you have to have FOOD involved with Math!

I made these little picture mats using Krista Wallden's clipart!  I grabbed some goldfish... and WAH-LAH... we were decomposing!


I give each student 5 fish... but again, you would give the number that you are decomposing!

We start off with all five fish in the water....


As we decompose.... we move "some" fish to the cave!


Again... I want the most exposure to writing the numbers as I possibly can... so they get to write on their tables with dry erase markers.... and yes... they absolutely LOVE it!  (it comes right off with clorox wipes!)

So..... there you have it!  Our week of decomposing the number 5 (but you could EASILY do this with decomposing 10!)

I'm off to bed.... ready to rock Friday tomorrow!

Happy Teaching friends!!!










Don't Be a Lunch Monster {freebie}

It's 8:00 at night... and I'm pretty surprised that I'm still awake!

It's the end of day 3 of the first week of school, and I must say.... so far so good!  I have 18 little kindergarten friends with a HUGE variety of personalities!  I forget how little and dependent these sweet babies are at the beginning of the year.... but they are making progress!  Slow and steady....

I haven't taken a lot of pictures.... well.... you know.  Kindergarten is tough folks.

I did want to pop in tonight real quick to share with you an activity that I created (last minute Sunday night!) to help reinforce the lunchroom/cafeteria rules with my new friends on the first day of school!

When I saw Krista's set of the little adorable monsters... I knew I had to do something with them.... and out came the Lunch Monsters!


Before lunch, we walked through the cafeteria and looked at the table that we would be sitting at.  We practiced walking through the lunch line and how to sit in our chairs.  We discussed the do's and the don'ts.... but the cafeteria is a scary place.  Ha!

I introduced (Don't Be a Lunch Monster!)


I just printed these little guys on cardstock and put magnetic tape on the back!

We discussed what a Lunch Monster is and what a Lunch Friend is.

We sorted the cards to match the title and read the Lunch Monster poem!


Here is what you also find in this little freebie:






You can grab the Lunch Monster FREEBIE by clicking HERE or on the picture below:



Even if you are well into school.... it never hurts to reinforce these rules!  Perfect for back-to-school, after long weekends, after extended holidays, and whenever!


Happy Teaching....

this girl is off to bed!

Reading/Decoding Strategies {free!}

Sunday afternoon.  While the past 8 or so Sundays I really haven't even noticed that it was Sunday, I have a feeling that is all about to change.  This is my LAST Sunday to think that way, as I go back to work THIS Thursday {insert little sobs and sad faces}.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my summer, even if it did FLY by.  While I spent the first half preparing for the I Teach 1st conference and other professional development conferences, the last couple of weeks have been somewhat relaxing! 

With school coming very soon,  I, (like most of you!) have been up at school preparing my classroom and setting up everything making sure it is ready for all the new kindergartners that will be walking through the doors in two weeks.    Although setting up the classroom is important, I can't help but plan and think of the content and activities that will be coming to life in a few weeks!  One of these things.... READING! 

I know... I know.... Kindergartners do not start the year off reading (for the most part!).... BUT, if we don't hit the ground running pretty soon after DAY 1.... I'm losing precious time to turn these sweet babies into readers!

While many strategies, activities, and ideas are floating around classrooms everywhere, there is something about the famous animal decoding strategies that absolutely stick with young readers.  After presenting a few PD sessions on reading and literacy, I have found that MANY teachers are unaware of these precious little strategies.... so I decided to write this post so that we can dive a little deeper into these wonderful strategies for new readers!


These reading strategies are typically called "Decoding Reading Strategies" as they are used for helping our new and young readers into decoding unfamiliar words.  

Many teachers that I have spoke with over the past year during conferences had absolutely NO idea what these were or had ever heard of them.
I felt the need to share :)


Throughout my ten years of teaching, I have seen a HUGE variety of readers, from brand new, right on target, and advanced!  One thing many of these readers have in common is they often guess unfamiliar words, don't even try, and often give up while trying to read unfamiliar text. 

These decoding strategies offer a variety of ways to help our young readers determine what these words are.  

Let's break it down!



"Lips the Fish"

This is one of the first strategies that I introduce during small reading groups.  
I do NOT recommend throwing all of the strategies out at one time.  Just like any other content that we teach, we do it gradually and in small steps!
These strategies are no different :)

I usually focus on the strategy for a while, allowing students to really grasp just what the strategy is wanting them to do with the text.  After focusing on the strategy for a few group sessions, I will then introduce the next strategy.  


Along with Lips the Fish, I also introduce "Eagle Eye" as one of the first strategies.  

"Eagle Eye" is teaching students to look at the pictures for clues to help them read the unfamiliar word. I introduce this as one of the first decoding strategies as well, because often with our new readers, many of the books are very predictable with little text, usually allowing the pictures to match the text.  



Meet "Stretchy Snake". 

This is also a great strategy to introduce as one of the first strategies when students have mastered their letter sounds.  
Stretchy Snake will have students sounding out and stretching out the sounds within the word, then blending the sounds back together. 



"Chunky Monkey" is one of my favorites... and not because he is so darn cute!  

I love when students are reading an unfamiliar word and use this strategy.  Chunky Monkey allows for students to find familiar words within the unknown word to help them decode.  Students get so excited when I remind them to use "Chunky Monkey" and they find the familiar word!  



"Flippy the Dolphin" is geared for our readers who have mastered letter sounds and are a little more aware of the different sounds that vowels can make, as opposed to just the short vowel sounds.  

Flippy has students flipping the vowel sound to see if it makes the word make sense.  

I like to eat "cake".   (Say the word cake with a short /a/ sound and a long /a/ sound).  Which vowel sound makes sense?  

Often our students will see a vowel and read the short vowel sound first, unless they have a comfortable understanding of vowel patterns.  


"Trying Lion" ....sometimes seen as "Tryin' Lion"
reminds our students to keep trying.  
Often our students will say "I don't know" and they give up.  This strategy tells our students to keep trying and try to find a word that makes sense, without giving up or asking for help. 


Last, but certainly not least, 



"Skippy Frog"

Sometimes our students will sit on a word for far too long, leading to frustration!  
Skippy Frog will allow our students to "skip" over the word and continue reading the remaining text in the sentence.  After students finish reading the sentence, they can determine if other words from the sentence or text gave clues to figuring out the unknown word.  If not, I will often assist my students and then they can re-read the sentence using the correct word.



I use these strategies daily in my small reading groups and really encourage my students to learn the picture/name and strategy to help them become successful independent readers.

Do you send home reading book bags or book folders with your students?  

I send home books with my students (the same books that we focus on in small groups), which gives them the opportunity to share and practice their skills with family at home!

Included in these folders, parents will find these same strategies in a bookmark form!


Often as teachers, we practice and preach in the classroom, but fail to give our parents the same information, leading to confusion at home when parents are working with their children. 

These bookmarks allow for parents to also be aware of the reading strategies that we practice in the classroom, giving a consistent pattern and routine for my students.


While I have the posters on the wall (as they are introduced!), I also print the same strategies and place them on Popsicle sticks, putting them into a bucket!  This is great to use during small groups!


So... if you are NOT using these decoding strategies (which are proven through research to aide in reading with new readers!), I highly suggest you look into them for your students!

This is the set that I will be using this year.... and they are FREE :)

Feel free to use the posters, bookmarks, strategy sticks, or pick your favorites!

Just click on the picture below :)


Just remember...

DO NOT introduce all of the strategies at the same time.  It's overwhelming, and you will probably find that your students will struggle with remembering them while reading!

DO introduce them 1-2 at a time and really allowing time for your students to focus on them while using them with text.

It really helps when students are reading and come to an unknown word and I can simply say "Eagle Eye" and students will understand the strategy, implement the strategy, and successful read the word!

Just give it time.... you will see a difference!


Happy Teaching :)


Meaningful Morning Work

I've been browsing Social Media and I've seen SO many beautiful classrooms, teachers prepping for the back-to-school craziness, and some even already with their students back in school!

It's that time....  Time for the sweet smell of brand new crayons, students showing off their new backpacks and meeting new friends, freshly sharpened pencils, and the big smiles on our new student's faces.

We as teachers plan and prep most of the summer, getting our classrooms ready to meet and greet the faces for the new year, planning the first day lessons, and making sure our students will have the best welcome into the new year.

After that... things get kinda fuzzy.  Some teachers are already planning well into the school year, but for most teachers, we take the first week on with a vengeance, and then proceed with caution the rest of the school year when it comes to planning and prepping.

When I begin to plan my weeks, I begin with the first part of my day.... morning work.  This year, students will have a ten minute window in the classroom from first bell to tardy bell.  I *REALLY* want to make the most of every single minute with my kinder babies.... and Morning work should be NO different!

So often I'm still running around in the mornings, preparing activities for the day, grabbing me a snack and drink, fighting traffic to get there on time, getting my OWN child ready for class, talking to a parent, and whatever else gets thrown our way in the morning! I'll be the first to admit that my students are often left sitting at their tables for morning work and I'm saying.... "Share your favorite thing from yesterday" while I run around to finish preparing   #guilty

I can also add to that guilty statement... that I will run some copies of busy work.... and they will usually find themselves in the trashcan at a later time.   Please tell me I'm not alone with this morning work pattern.....

Well that is about to change in my classroom!

Morning work doesn't have to be boring and filled with fluff to pass the time!  It's time to make the most of our mornings!


I started creating a few activities that I wanted my students to be using the first few weeks of school and realized I had a created a complete packet!  

This will be a project that will be growing throughout the year! 

Introducing "Meaningful Morning Work ~ Volume 1 {Back to School}



I wanted to show you some of the activities that you will find in this pack that are perfect for kindergarten and first graders!


Simply place these sheets into a dry-erase pocket or laminate!  Give students a dry erase marker and they are on their way!

The Alphabet boxes ~ All you need in magnetic letters!  Students will fin the opposite letter (capital/lowercase)  Multiple versions are included for a variety that your students can rotate through.



A variety of name activities are included as well! 

This activity dives deep into student names.... fun and engaging!


A variety of beginning sound activities are also included!  



Lots of Number activities are included in Volume 1 as well.  I have a variety of levels that are included, starting with tracing numbers, sequencing numbers, building numbers, comparing, and more!



We can't forget about Fine Motor fun!  So many of our students still struggle with fine motor development.... which is why I will be including fine motor skills throughout each Volume!

This month is all about basic tracing!   A variety of fine motor pages are included!


I also included puzzles for students this month for sight words and math!





This "Meaningful Morning Work" pack has over 70 pages of math, literacy, fine motor, and name activities perfect for Back to School!


A few tips and tricks:

~ Copy onto bright colored paper (I use Astrobrights!) for an extra pop or color!

~ You can laminate the pages or place into dry erase sleeves!  

~ You will need: alphabet letters (capital and lowercase), dry erase markers, and that is it!


I have the Back to School packet posted (ON SALE!) 

BUT....

If you would like to buy the Growing Bundle, you will receive the remaining packs as they are uploaded!

You can check them out below:






So.... it's time to get rid of the fluff in our mornings!  Make the most of our mornings... even if you only have 5 minutes!  Set the tone for the day when students first enter the classroom!  


Happy Teaching!

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