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Once Upon A Time Before We Were Teachers

Childhood books and childhood pictures....what a fun wat to celebrate Read Across America!  My para-professional got this idea from our librarian and put this together (she is the BEST para-professional!).  This one board has been the area all the students and teachers alike have been gathered lately to see if who can guess which teacher is in each picture.  Some people have not changed much, some you can tell because they look like their children that we see everyday, and some have changed so much no one can tell who they are!  Names will be revealed to all at a later date.  We are even thinking that  on our Spring Fun Night, the parents can come in and guess who the teachers are for a contest. 

This little picture is me!  I adored Nancy Drew books and read every one that I could get my hands on.  Actually, I read almost anything I could get ahold of.  I LOVED reading and still do! 

Our staff and students alike have had the most fun with this bulletin board.  At any given time, you can find students staring up at the board trying to figure out which picture is their teacher or teachers standing around laughing at how silly we looked so long ago!  Hope you enjoy this half as much as we have!!

Anecdotal Records

Debbie at Rainbows Within Reach is having an organize your classroom linky party!  If you are wanting to get organized this summer, you will want to join in the fun!  All kinds of organization will be represented.  My organizational topic is anecdotal records.  :)

Anecdotal records...written records on how students are doing, notes on student progress or areas of weakness.  So valuable to me as a teacher on many levels.  I like to keep records on my students and how they are applying the skills they are being taught each week.  I want to know what they know and how they use their skills.  It also is a valuable tool when parents come in for conferences...especially when they just drop by and you have no chance to pull your thoughts together on that student -those are always a bit tough to be able to speak specifically about that student if you have been caught by a drop-in parent.  :)  But with my anecdotal record keeping, I am prepared for this and can demonstrate to parents exactly what their child is doing and when.  Also, very good for lesson planning too.  Here is my anecdotal notebook.  Love the blue!  My favorite color- I like it when I can find things to use that are more just plain.

Inside this notebook are several tools that help me stay organized to be sure I take weekly records on each student. I have laminated file folders where I stick colored labels with each student's initials. These are grouped according to grade since I service K-5th grades. I chose colored labels so the labels would stand out against the white paper they will be placed on later.  I place one colored label for each student on the laminated file folder.  I group the grades K-1, 2-3, and 4-5 so as not to have so many folders to carry in my notebook.  As I take notes on the students, I take off their label and place it on their own individual anecdotal record sheet.  The labels come off easily from the laminated folder.  When there is no sticker for that student, I know that I have taken records for that student that week (shown in this next photo-spaces without labels).  Helps me to be sure I get written notes on every student each week.

Besides my weekly anecdotal notes, I also like to keep running records all year on my students that are in first and second grades.  I will also keep running records on third grade students at the beginning of the year.  I have pulled these out before to show parents exactly what their child is doing in reading and what they still need to work on.  Very informative for the parent and for me as I choose what level of books we need to be moving towards.  I use Marie Clay's reading record form and keep these in a separate notebook, one per grade since adding a page for each student per week fills the notebook quite quickly.

I have these forms for keeping your running records data organized.  One form is to help you with classroom data and one form is for keeping individual data organized.  They can help you to see the progression of your class and each student.  Hope they help you and they are FREE!

This is what works for me this year to stay organized and informed on all my students.  I have used different systems over the years, but am liking this one this year.  Some people like to use Post It notes to keep their records.  But that doesn't work so well for me.  I either have to recopy onto the paper what I wrote on the note (an extra step I don't have time for) or stick the note on the paper and hope it doesn't get knocked off.  For me with this method, I am afraid I will lose valuable information on the students.  What is your system of record keeping and does it work for you?

Connections, Memories, and The Hickory Chair

Don't you just love those books that come along and touch your heart?  The Hickory Chair is one of those (okay, I have to admit, there really are many, many) that mean something special to me.  Making a connection to a story is important and is what we strive to teach our students.  If you have not read The Hickory Chair, you really should.  I was introduced to it while completing my master's program and now I teach it to my students and they can definitely connect!

In this sweet story, the boy loses his grandma (I know-sad, but ends sweet).  The family looks for notes the grandma left for each person.  My grandma left notes in a lot of her things too and we got to find them and read them after she had passed away, so the students get to see a real personal connection for me to this story.  Then then made their own connections.  Here are some of their sweet connections the students made.

Students also got to compare how Gran in the story was similar to their grandparent and how they were different.  Lots of talk about grandparents was happening!  They would love that!

We also did cause and effect with this story.  What books do you use in your classroom, not only because they are good literature, but also because they have a special connection for you?  I would love to hear about them!

No Passive Partners

 Looking at the ceiling, wiggling in the carpet, staring at another group...Is this what you sometimes get from partner reading?  Me too!  Until I started holding the students accountable for time spent in reading together.  I wanted my students to get all they could out of their reading time and I like for them to read in partners part of the times.  So I needed to find a way to have the partner who wasn't doing the reading not only get engaged, but stay engaged.  I call this No Passive Partners.  I like for each child in a pair to have a responsibility, a job if you will.  One reads and the other one listens because they follow up on what the first one read.  Of course, you must model, model, model so the students can see what it should look like.  One reads and the other one follows up with what they learned or remembered or questions they had about the text.  This also sparks conversations between students about what was read.  With practice, my students have gotten very good at this and know every time we partner read, they both have a job to do.  I think they get so much more out of the texts this way.  Linda Hoyt suggests putting stop signs (Post It notes) in the book where you would like for the partners to stop and report what they remembered, learned, etc...  A lot of times, I just ask the kids to stop at the end of each page or each 2 page spread, which ever is appropriate.  Now my partners run smoothly and the students gain better understanding of what they just read.  Here are some bookmarks you can print on cardstock and have the students take with them to remind them of what they can tell their partner when they aren't the one reading. 

I Love Chocolate

I am so excited!  I got to be a guest blogger today at Kreative in Kinder.  Crystal has wonderful kindergarten ideas to share so be sure to hop on over to her blog and check it out! 

We missed two days of school this week due to snow and missed our Valentine's Day parties.  :(  But we got to make up for that today!  Last week to get ready for Valentine's, we did a whole unit on a poem called I Love Chocolate.  Who doesn't love chocolate and especially around Valentine's Day??   First we practiced reading this short fun poem.  It has some of our sight words in it and we also found rhymes. 

Another fun activity that we like to do with poems is writing them on sentence strips and rebuilding them on the pocket chart.  Students can use the chart to help them rebuild the poem if they need to.  Then as they get more practice at it, you can then have them rebuild the poem with individual word cards.  I like for activities to be multi-leveled and differentiated so all students can succeed.

After having learned our poem, we made it individual by taking out the word chocolate and putting in a food that we like.  We colored a person cut out to look like us and put the food in our "tum".  The kids got very stylish and some even drew on earrings and necklaces.  This little one's favorite food is broccoli!!  I just adore that she picked that food!

Our miniature books of this poem and the individualized miniature books will go into our familiar read baskets so we can continue to enjoy reading them. 

Do your students enjoy the books they make even more than the regular books you place in the baskets? So much fun to see them enjoy their work and watch them read. It's what it's all about!! :)

Compare and Contrast of Folktale Wolves

          Whew!  We finally finished up our folktale/author study.  We learned so many things about folktales and did so many comparisons and had a lot of fun along the way.  I posted before about our first folktale in this unit and you can find it here.  Our first folktale was Three Little Pigs.  We then moved on to Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears-all retold by James Marshall.

          For each book, students had to prove whether the story was really a folktale or not.  They got really good at finding the evidence for this before the entire story was even read!

          Here is the document for proving whether a story is a folktale or not.  You are welcome to use it if you have a need for it in your classroom.

          Another activity that we did was compare and contrast the wolves from The Three Little Pigs and Red Riding Hood.  This was the favorite activity that we did for the students.  First we compared and contrasted the wolves in a Venn diagram.  The Smartboard makes my Venn diagrams look so nice, but unfortunately that picture wouldn't load for you.  After filling out our Venn diagrams, we then wrote in paragraph form about how the wolves were similar and how they were different in the folktales.

          Also as we read each folktale, we filled out our comparison chart.  This allowed us to see the many similarities and differences between the three stories.  I loved when we filled out the connections area and the students were figuring out how one story reminded them in some way of one of the other folktales.

          As you can see, we did a lot of work with this unit, but learned a lot and had a lot of fun with it too.  The kids decided that we can learn a lot of good advice from a folktale to keep us safe (see the theme part of the chart). 

Table Top Twitter- Part 2 with a Twist

          I have posted about Table Top Twitter before.  Students like this activity as it is open ended and they can interact with everyone that they wish to interact with and express their own opinions.  If you missed my earlier post, Table Top Twitter is a way to have students interact with authentic writing.  You can choose a passage from the book they are currently reading and place in middle of a large piece of paper.  The passage you choose should spark the students to want to express their opinions and ideas.  As they write about their ideas, the students read what other students are writing and expressing and they interact back and forth.  But all communication should be in writing.  I like to have several tables going at the same time and students can move between the two conversations.  You can choose to have the same passage on both tables or have 2 completely different conversations going on at the same time with students moving in and out as they choose.  That was part of the twist this time that we did Table Top Twitter.  The other part of the twist was I also included an opinion with the passage in order to get their communication going.  Our after school book club had been reading Out of My Mind about a handicapped girl.  One (fake) opinion stated with the passage was that the girl did not belong in regular education classes.  It was wonderful to see the students argue (on paper) that this girl DID belong and should be allowed to participate.  Does a teacher's heart good to read things like that!  :)

Retelling Freebie!

          Last night was just one of those nights!  I had planned to offer the retelling freebie last night with my Wide-Mouthed Frog post.  But the computer was not cooperating with me!  Does this happen to anyone else???  So frustrating...Anyway, if you could use the retelling activity that I used with the pop-up book, The Wide-Mouthed Frog, I would be happy to share with you.  You can read about how I used it in the post below this one.  :)

Wide-Mouthed Frog Retelling

          One of my students' favorite books is The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner.  It is a super fun pop-up book about a frog with a huge mouth.  He meets different animal friends and asks them what they like to eat.  One animal he meets is an alligator who likes to guessed it- wide-mouthed frogs!!  The kids, of course, just absolutely love it!

          We practiced retelling each other the important parts of the story first.  Which is really hard not to retell everything, because hey, the whole book is important to them!  Once we got that down, we do a quick sketch of the three important parts.  Then we wrote about each part retelling about the wide-mouthed frog.  Take a look at how they did.  :)

He has a big mouth.  He (alligator) eats frogs.  He (frog) jumps in the water.

He has a big mouth.  He eats frogs.  He jumps.

          I also want to mention that Kaleigh over at Kaleigh's Klassroom was so kind as to award me the Liebster Award!!  She is too nice!  Go on over to her blog and check out her great ideas.  She is new to the blogging world and could use some new followers.  :)

Working with Words- Freebie!

           Working with words: stretching them out, counting the sounds, clapping syllables....  This is something I have my struggling readers do each week.  The students seem to really like working with the words and the sounds that they hear.  It is fun to watch them work through the steps and how their facial expressions change when they see the numbers.  They can tell when something doesn't seem right (yay for that) and you can see them shake their little heads when they have tried to clap out the syllables, but actually had counted the sounds instead.  I love that they notice this and back up to correct it.  :)

          Here is what our chart looked like when we started putting all the skills together.  Just to get to write on the chart was a huge deal to them.  It's something different than regular paper, so hey, this must be fun!

           Then after having had all that fun on the chart paper, the students then get their own grid to work with at the table.  If you would like to have this chart, click on the picture below!

          And finally here is the grid after students have worked on it.  As they work each word, I love how they start noticing the numbers can be different for how many letters and for how many sounds a word has.  Another thing they get excited about is how many syllables there are and that most of the words they work with only have one.  When a two syllable word pops up, that is cause for excitement amongst the troops!

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