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Teachers: You are NOT alone!

Dear Teachers Everywhere,

I know many of you are probably counting down the days until summer.  Don't Lie.  We've all done it.  Maybe this is the school year that has you questioning why you became a teacher.  You have THAT class this year.  Behavior problems.  Lack of parent support. Maybe lack of administration support.  You are up to your elbows in things to do and the list keeps getting longer.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

We as educators have all been there (and may be there now).  You feel over-whelmed. Not all of your students are where you want them to be academically. Maybe you aren't getting along with a team member.  Your evaluation didn't go as planned.  You have a parent that just doesn't have a nice word to say about you.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Maybe you raised your voice more today that you would have liked.  You didn't have the *perfect* lesson today.  You ran around trying to make copies because you used your conference time to call a parent or went to an ARD meeting.  You forgot to email a parent or team member back.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Perhaps you have a student (or three) in your class this year that leaves you crying at the end of the day.  You can't quite put your finger on why their behavior is the way it is.  You haven't made that connection yet.  You don't how to make it better and your patience is fading quickly.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Maybe you are considering staying at home next year.  You have new baby on the way or  You have supplemental income that will allow you to stay home.  You don't know the best way to tell your administration or team in fear that they will be "mad" at you.  You're juggling with the thoughts of should you stay or should you leave?

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Jealousy.  Tell me it doesn't happen in the workplace and I'll call you a liar.  It's sad....but it's there.  Teachers are trying to "out-do" another teacher.  Teachers are marching up to the administration to gloat about themselves or to make another teacher not look as good.  Teachers are bashing other teachers because they are jealous. Some teachers have yet to understand that by working together you could achieve more success than ever before.... instead of trying to compete against one another.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

To the first year teachers..... I'm sure you are about to jump for joy after completing your first year of teaching.  and you should. You are in the greatest profession out there.  Give yourself a pat on the back because I know this year wasn't your easiest!

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Guess What?!  Each and every single day that you step into your classroom... YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  You have a room full of students that absolutely adore you.  Many want to be you.  Some already think of you as the greatest influence in their life right now.  You were chosen to have this specific group students and you have to give them your everything!  A simple smile in the morning.  Greet them.  Let them share something special.  Look at them when they speak.  Acknowledge them.  It doesn't take much.  I know all of the stuff above happens in a school and sometimes we feel worthless.  We feel like we don't matter.  YOU MATTER.  You matter to your students.

I'll be the first to admit....Everything mentioned above is something that describes some point in my ten year teaching career.

So as you head into the last weeks of school.... the home-stretch I like to call it.... think of the reason we come to school each day.  It's not for the paycheck.  It's not to be overwhelmed or to see another teacher that we may not be the best of friends with.... it's for the kids.  Make every day count until the last day.

Just trust me when I say.... YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Teachers should support every other teacher.  We are the only ones who know how demanding, yet rewarding our job is.  No one else will understand a teacher.... except a teacher.  So teachers...... YOU GOT THIS!

Sincerely,
A teacher who has been there before!

Earth Day Freebies!

Can you believe that we are already talking about Earth Day?  Yes... the end of April will be upon us soon! 

Earth day is such a great opportunity to share all about our Earth, taking care of our Earth, recycling, and all things in between!  However.... some of these concepts can be a bit tricky for our younger friends!  



I wrote a post last year that has some Earth Day ideas for our younger students and you can check that out by clicking HERE!


Inside the post linked above you will find the freebie, as well as picture examples and ideas for your little ones!


Hope you had a great Easter!



Main Idea (for our younger students!)

Let me just say..... we've officially hit Spring Fever down here in Kinder-World..... please tell me I'm not the only one.  Every.Single.Day feels like the first day of school all over again!  I'm telling you.... this full moon and end of year crazy vibes has the kiddos forgetting every.single.thing that they had learned about following directions and behavior!  Can I get an Amen?

With that being said.... we still have 6ish weeks left which is still full of content and learning for these kiddos!

Down in Kinder-Land... we are about to hit the lovely and favorite topic of "Main Idea" in our reading plans.  You know.... that Main Idea that pops up in every state assessment in the older grades?!  The Main Idea that has kids just guessing an answer because they ALL seem correct?  Yep.... it's THAT Main Idea!

A few years back our campus took a CLOSE look at our state reading assessments in 3rd and 4th grade and really wanted to hone in on what questions were most often missed.  Guess which ones were most missed?   Yep.... the Main Idea questions!

SOOOOOO...... the campus got together and really wanted to make sure that ALL grade levels were exposing their students to this main idea concept..... even the youngest of the young!

So...... what's the easiest way to teach Main Idea to younger students?

Our main goal for our younger students is to understand that there is ONE big theme with smaller components that fit within that theme.  We do NOT need to get technical with text just yet with our younger kiddos, at least not independently.  Whole group discussions are GREAT with your shared reading time allowing for students to hear and share parts of the text and to hear the vocabulary being used.

One of the best things I have found is to use what our kids already know!  THEMES they are familiar with!

I created these theme cards (Main Idea) with the smaller components (details) that fit with that theme that we can use and sort whole group and even independently!



The large title cards are the main idea..... the smaller cards are the details.  Each main idea has 4 detail cards that go with it!


Want to have a little fun or take it a step further?

Try this:


Students will have to find the two cards that do NOT belong with the main idea!  This is great for assessing, whole group challenges, or just a fun extension!


After using the sorting visual cards, students can use the templates/printables  to illustrate their own details.  They can choose to use the same four details from the sort.... or again, you can challenge your students to come up with one detail of their own that would also fit with the main idea theme. 


I have included a printable for each of the visual main idea/detail sorts as well as a blank one that students can use if needed! 

And last (but definitely not least!) if you are into interactive journals or want to spice up a literacy station.... I created two interactive templates that your students can do!


The pictures on the top of the flap are the details and students will be finding the main idea card to paste under the flap!  (2 different versions are included!)


Sooooo..... next time you get to Main Idea for your younger students.... remember:  it doesn't have to be so hard!  Visuals are key!  Getting our students to understand what Main Idea truly is.... will help them in the older grades when they do have to apply it with their text!


Want to grab all of this for FREE?! 


Just click the picture above.... or click HERE!



Happy Hump Day Teacher Friends!




Spring Break Challenge

The first two words of this titled post.... describe the glorious week that has just begun!  That's right... this Texas gal is officially on Spring Break!

February was probably one of the craziest months for me personally as I felt like I didn't have a second to breathe or relax.  Both of my children were sick at some point, one ending up with hospital care, two funerals in the family, 10 presentations at two different conferences that I presented, plus still teaching full time, trying to be a wife here and there, and of course a mom!  Let's just say.... I'm pretty excited for Spring Break to arrive!

I know my students were just as excited for spring break to begin..... BUT... I also know that research says when a student misses a week of structured learning, that they will actually lose some of their academic knowledge (which we already knew!)

Sooooo.... I created a little Spring Break challenge for my Kindergarten Kiddos!  Now... this is completely optional for them, BUT, it does come with rewards!



I created a one-week Spring Break Challenge calendar that has three activities per day.  These activities are pretty simple, however their parents must sign that they completed them.  AND to make sure that students *actually* complete the activities (this may come as a surprise.... but parents DO sign off on things their children never did!) Shocking...I know ;)   I have included an activity that must be completed and TURNED in the week they come back.

So while they have three activities a day, only one activity from each day will have a turn-in activity.

When my students return the following Monday after Spring Break, if they have anything signed off, they will of course get a prize or reward.   BUT I have offered the Complete Challenge for students who DO complete the entire calendar and turn it in on the next Monday.

Each student that turns in a COMPLETED calendar will receive the GRAND PRIZE from me!

For me personally, I am doing a Lunch Party with ME!  We'll eat lunch in the classroom, have a movie going, and have FUN!

You can of course come up with your own Grand Prize that fits your class and students!

A quick look at the calendar:




You can grab your copy of this Spring Break Challenge by clicking HERE OR by clicking on any of the pictures above!


Now.... off to relax (and probably get some work done!)

Planning for Small Groups!

Welcome to February sweet friends!  

Man.... January just slipped right in and back out again.  It seems like we JUST had Christmas!  

We are getting our feet pretty wet in the world of Guided Reading down in the world of kindergarten! We don't really start our full on guided reading until January, mainly focusing on small intervention groups during the first half of the year and building those important foundation skills to lead us into reading!

With different groups, different skills, and pretty much different everything for each set of students, I wanted a quick and effective way of planning and organizing this to help me run my hour of guided reading as smooth as possible!  (And I wanted to share this with YOU!)

Note:  This post is NOT about what I do in my groups as far as the activities, printables, etc...(that's for a whole different post!).... but this is just a quick overview as to how I plan for those groups!


I just wanted to share really quick these easy and effective printables/ideas to help you plan for your small groups.  


Materials:
- Binder
- Sheet Protectors
- Post it Notes (I like a variety of colors!)
- The FREE printables at the end of this post!


My binder is definitely nothing fancy.... but helps me keep everything in ONE place for my groups!


When I open my binder, I keep all of the extra copies of reading logs, planning pages, etc....

I place sheet protectors in my binder to easily place the printables inside of!  

The first thing I will see is my group listings that show the group and what students are in each group.  

I place the sheet inside of the sheet protector, then place the post-it notes on top of the sheet protector.  Groups will definitely change throughout the semester and instead of having to complete re-write an entire group sheet, I can easily just change the post-its that need to be re-written!
(And.... adding a pop of color doesn't hurt either :)


Behind my group listing sheet, I will have a lesson plan for each group.

I place the sheet inside the sheet protector and use a dry erase marker to write the week and group number.

I place TWO post-its inside of the skills box, (1) for new words/vocabulary for the particular lesson(s)   and (2) for the skills that we will work on during the lessons.

I also write the book being used and level, and then I make notes after I meet with the group.



I can easily see each group throughout the week and the skills that will be used!  



Inside my binder you will also see RTI - Data sheets.  I place the sheet inside of the sheet protector and then I can write the student's name and subject (if you are doing reading groups, math posts, or just an intervention group!)

I have the page set up for 3 weeks, because after 3 weeks of intervention, we should be taking a look at our student's progress and making the necessary changes in our plans as needed! 

On the post-its, I write the skills that will be focused on (beginning sounds, blending sounds, etc...)  Then the bottom boxes will be for results (8/10, 70%, etc...)  You can easily write on the sheet to keep in student file OR use a dry erase marker and then take a picture for student files.  

***I do NOT do an RTI sheet for every student.... just those that are below level ***


While this is just a QUICK overview, (and I focused on Guided Reading)... you can easily use these for any subject that you teach in small groups! I do plan on coming back soon to share guided reading in much more detail!  

In the meantime... you can grab these printables (for FREE) by clicking on the pictures below!




Hopefully this can help you plan a little easier.... or just have some useful printables for what you already have in place!

Until next time....

HAPPY TEACHING!


The Alphabet - Up Close and Personal

Is this a blog?  Am I blogging?

It's been well over a month since my last blogging adventure (I apologize for that!) but with a few SDE conferences, the holidays, and everyday life as a mom, wife, and teacher.... blogging somehow got put on the backburner!

November and December were both packed full of conferences, starting with the I Teach 1st Conference in Nashville, followed by the I Teach Pre K, I Teach K, and I Teach 1st in Baton Rouge.... where I had the most AMAZING time presenting to hundreds of teachers.... eagerly awaiting Christmas break! 

As we reached Christmas break, most of my time was spent with the family at the deer lease, soaking up the last few weeks of deer season.  We also had a pretty good Christmas too, even though it was our first spent without my father-in-law. (Although I'm sure Christmas in Heaven... is a sight to see!)

New Years came and went so quickly because I was back to work on January 2nd!  A couple of work days and my students were officially back this past Wednesday morning!

I kinda had one of those panic moments this past week.... something like this: 
"Oh my goodness... half the year is gone.... where are my students academically?  How much did they lose over Christmas break?  Will they get where they need to be in the next 5 months?"  Something along those lines..... (which happens every.single.year at this point!)

For us to really kick it into high gear.... my students MUST know their letters and sounds for the alphabet.... like HAVE to know it!  Much of the first semester is spent building this foundation of reading; mastering letter identification and sounds, working on blending sounds into words, segmenting words to isolate the sounds, etc.... 

At one of my conference sessions last month, I presented all about the ALPHABET and this led me to really sit down and write a post.... getting up close and personal with the alphabet and just exactly what this may look like in a PreK/Kindergarten classroom.

So here we go....



If you are a Pre-K or a Kindergarten teacher.... then the alphabet is something that you could probably teach in your sleep.  We do it year by year, day by day, and this is one of our goals for our students to master throughout the school year.  Even though the alphabet seems like a pretty simple thing to teach, we always have students who struggle to master letter ID, beginning sounds, often leaving us (the teacher) wondering what else we can do for our students!

Is your current alphabet curriculum working for you and your students?  Here are FIVE tips to think about when teaching the alphabet:

What order are you teaching the letters of the alphabet?  Do you start with A and go to Z.... do you pick and choose what you feel your students need help with the most?  Do you use a researched method of letter introduction? 

This is something each and every teacher who teaches the alphabet needs to consider! 
While the old and familiar method of teaching ONE letter a week seemed to be the way to go.... it's a proven fact that this is no longer the most successful way to teach the alphabet to our students.... for a couple of reasons!

1.  It is taking 26 weeks (that is TWENTY SIX weeks people!) to get through the entire alphabet with our students. 

2. If we want our students to become beginning readers sometime throughout the school year, this method will only hinder them from reading sooner.

3. Some of our students come in already knowing and are familiar with some of the letters in the alphabet.  We are only holding these students further back by taking another 26 weeks to get through the alphabet.

4. A typical school year is 40ish weeks.  If we are taking 26 weeks to teach the alphabet, then we only leaving ourselves (and our students!) approximately 14 weeks to master the art of reading!   And we all know that in those 14 weeks (3.5 months!) ... we have the beginning of school, the end of school, and so many other factors that will limit us the maximum time of those three months.

So.... you know the order that you are teaching the alphabet... but now what?!

Teachers should be introducing and teaching the letter and sound together.  Students need to be identifying both so that they are relating to each other in the child's brain.  This connection is an important step towards reading!
Even if you are not specifically teaching the alphabet in your lesson plan today... your students still need to be exposed to the alphabet EVERY.SINGLE.DAY! 

This doesn't have to be a formal lesson on the alphabet, but it should be included in your day:

Examples:
- Morning Meeting/Calendar
- Literacy Stations
- Word Wall activities
- Songs/Chants
- Entering or Exiting the classroom
- Fast Finisher activities
- Transitions

If we want our students to be successful... that last thing we want or need to do is confuse them!

When planning the order of the alphabet to teach, be sure similar letters are not taught together,
such as:

b/p
d/b
m/n
q/p


Let's take a quick look at what research says about the alphabet!



Do you do this in your classroom?

Research suggests teaching the lowercase letters FIRST because they account for 95% of the text that we read, leaving only 5% of text for capital letters. 

I can definitely see the reasoning behind this as well, because most students come in developmentally only writing in all CAPS, and then we are spending a chunk of time reversing the bad habit of only using capital letters. 

Personally, I teach both capital and lowercase together so that students can visually see and make the connection between letters... but I also agree with the research behind this fact!

Do NOT spend an entire lesson block teaching the alphabet.  It should be quick and painless! 

Here is an example of an Alphabet lesson:

During this 10 - 12 minutes, the mini lesson should include:

1.)  Identifying the letter and sound

2.) Identifying the letter within text (great for your shared reading book, sentences, morning message, etc...)

3.) Producing the sound for the letter (teacher will model, students will produce sound)

4.) Writing the letter

The activities that you include per step should also alternate from lesson to lesson, giving students a variety of opportunities to learn and master the letter. 




It is hard for our students to master the letters of the alphabet, without first mastering the letters in their name.   Have you ever (or still have) a student that still cannot master or successfully identify the letters within their own name?  It happens all.the.time.

This is where all of the amazing NAME activities you see on Pinterest and online can come into play!



When you are planning your brief alphabet lessons, literacy stations, small group activities, etc...  keep this research tip in mind!  Our students should be learning the alphabet through play (yes PLAY!), writing, fine motor activities, and songs / chants / motions!

Did you know that when content is put to lyrics or musical form, it is 90% more likely to be retained?!  Trust me... we sing A LOT in our classroom!



That's right ladies and gentlemen.... the letter a week has GOT TO GO!  It's not just me saying it.... this is research based.... classroom tested!
With the diversity of our students and the ever narrowing curriculum that we are having to teach, we don't have time to waste!  26 weeks is TOO long to teach the alphabet to our students!



Sooo.... you may be already doing this in your classrooms (or you may be having a mini panic attack right now because you aren't).

DON'T WORRY!  Do not go back to school on Monday and re-vamp or change everything!  If what you are doing is working.... don't change it.  However, if you see students struggling or not mastering these alphabet concepts sooner, then you may want to gradually tweak what you are doing and try some of these researched ideas out in your own classroom!

Not sure where to start?

If you need to pick an order to teach the alphabet in.... consider one of these:


This is favorite among educators because it has been around for a while!  The order will begin with teaching the letter M, followed by S, F, and so on, then concluding with the letter E.


Another order:


This is one of the popular Montessori methods, although there are a few out there with little tweaks in the order!

Again, your district may already have an order for you or if you lucky and get to choose, try one out throughout a school year and see how your students adapt or find success within that order you are teaching.


Are you teaching one letter a week?  Maybe you are transitioning into trying two, maybe even three (gasp!) letters a week?  Below are some examples of how to introduce and teach the letters when doing multiple letters a week:


This example is introducing and teaching two letters within a week.  This will get you through the entire alphabet is approximately three months, or 13ish weeks.  (still a lot better than 26!)

Want to try three letters a week?


This will move at a pretty fast pace.... but with appropriate planning and activities, your students will master the alphabet in 7-9 weeks.... leaving much of the school year for valuable time to teach and really dig into other areas of need!


Another big question/concern:
Assessing students for progress on the alphabet!


What assessment system do you use?  Do you flip cards and document the correct/incorrect responses?  Do you fill in a graph for letters? sounds?  A simple check list?

If you are looking for a quick, time-saving way to assess your students AND get your data immediately.... I highly suggest you look into ESGI!

ESGI is saving teachers HUNDREDS of hours in assessing their students!

Interested in a FREE 60 day trial?  Head on over to ESGI and sign up for FREE!  If you want to use the whole year.....

Trust me.... teachers everywhere are PRAISING E.S.G.I for saving time AND giving teachers valuable data on their students!



After assessing your students, not only do you know where your students are and where they need to go, but you can use your results and data from ESGI to help you plan and teach your instruction for the alphabet!

Are you looking for alphabet resources?


These three resources are used in my class every week throughout my alphabet instruction!


Alphabet Write the Room is a student favorite!  (and mine!)  Want to see students engaged and up on their feet?  You NEED this!!!

I have included 10 cards for each letter of the alphabet and a recording sheet for each letter!  You can grab the pack on sale now by clicking the picture above or HERE.



Alphabet Tongue Twisters.... yes please!

Again... my students LOVE these!  I have included a color poster for each letter as well as the matching b/w version for your students to get interactive with!  Throughout learning the particular letter, my students will highlight/color the letter throughout the tongue twister, count the number of words, highlight sight words, and much more!  These posters are a must have!!!!!

Click the picture above or HERE for more details!



This is a JAM-PACKED bundle filled with everything ALPHABET!

There are letter sorts, letter writing, intervention notebooks, play-dough cards, tracing cards, stations, and more!  This pack is perfect for your small group interventions and activities that focus solely on the alphabet!  

You can check it out in more detail by clicking the picture above or HERE.



This little alphabet chart is in poster-size in my classroom and we go over it DAILY!  I also include student sheets in my small group bucket and use as a warm up to small groups!  We chant each day, (A, /a/, apple..... B, /b/, bear.....etc.....) through the chart!  It really allows my students to make a visual connection with a picture and the sound/letter. 

You can grab this chart for FREE by clicking above or HERE.


Whew!  That was A LOT..... but I hoped you can take something back to your classroom with you as you start the second half of the school year!  

Just remember.... don't go into your classroom and make a complete change tomorrow!  Find what works best for you and your students and go from there!  Baby steps.... get you success!

As always.... please contact me if you any questions!!!!

 Happy Teaching!



Merry GRAPHmas with Reindeer!

See that title..... that's right... we about to head into my FAVORITE month of the year!  DECEMBER.... here we come (full of high-energy kids who completely forgot the classroom rules after Thanksgiving break... but that's ok!)

I absolutely love THEME teaching... and the holidays are the perfect time to do that and incorporate your favorites themes with the content you are teaching.  Teacher heart happy....check!

This week in Math we started our graphing unit down in kindergarten, and we decided to make this week all about REINDEER!  So needless to say.... we were going to be graphing about some reindeer at some point in the week!  We have all seen the typical graphs.... "Have you ever seen a reindeer? YES/NO".....  But I wanted something fun and maybe a little non-serious for this particular graph!  We were going to graph "Our Favorite Reindeer"!

Oh.... don't worry... they didn't have eight choices!  I narrowed it down to three and we of course had to include the one and only Rudolph, and then I added Comet and Prancer to the mix as well :)

In order for my students to get to know the other "not-so-famous" reindeer, I created these little posters to help us get to know more about our three choices!  (otherwise EVERYONE would choose Rudolph....right?!)  ;)






After learning about our three choices, each student had to select their favorite based off what we knew about them.

I created this anchor chart with the students and labeled the graph as we went through it together!



What do you know.... Rudolph is the winner :)

We went through our graph, naming the title, our three choices, what was our DATA that we gathered and our results.

After doing this whole group, each student then created their own (and yes... a themed craft for the win!) little reindeer graph!


I hung all of their graphs and our class graph outside of the classroom, along with "Merry Graphmas"  Lol!  


You can grab this craftivity, the reindeer posters, AND the Merry Graphmas letters by clicking any of the pictures above or HERE!

And yes..... its FREE :)


Have a great rest of the week :)

Next week's theme..... Gingerbread!!!!!!!!



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