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Ready For The Common Core??

How are you feeling about the Common Core?  Have you been trained, feeling ready to tackle it?  Or do your feelings run more towards a little nervous for yet another change?

I am feeling a bit nervous and I always want more information to combat that feeling.  I have spent some time this summer learning about the Common Core.  I found a few resources for us that will hopefully help tame that nervousness that some of us may be feeling.  

  The above  picture is from  Tulare County Public Schools in California and is a great resource.  This site provides half page reference sheets which define each CCSS by grade level.  The bookmark identifies essential skills, concepts, academic vocabulary and question stems relevent to the standard.  I especially appreciate the question stems and prompts that help us to understand exactly how to use the standards. 

Tennessee is a great resource with its Teacher's Reading Toolkit.  They have compiled a lot of information like teaching strategies, lesson plans, and assessments.  This site even unpacks the standards for you, providing a lot of important information that will help you to understand the standards and how to teach them.

I found a couple of books that look to be good common core resources too.  Lucy Calkins helped write Pathways to the Common Core:  Accelerating Achievement.  Anything by Lucy Calkins is great!


Besides needing resources to help me understand and teach the common core, I also needed a way to track what I had taught and how the students performed on common core assessments.  So I made some tracking sheets that met my needs. 

I didn't just want a sheet that stated the standards.  I needed a way to track how many times I taught the standards among other things.  So I have included in each pack places to write notes on the standards and the dates when they have been taught.  This is a good way to document for yourself and your administration when and how often you taught each standard.  I also included a space for you to record if you gave an assessment on each standard and what percent mastered the standard.  It will be a great way for me to keep myself organized and to have documentation all in one place of what I have done!  If you need this kind of tracking just click on the picture and it will take you to my store. 

I hope this compilation of resources will help you teach and document the common core.  Hopefully with a little less nervousness about it too!  :)

Fine Motor Development

It is early to start thinking about the next school year, right?  But I know a lot of you are already thinking about it and gathering ideas!  Seems our teacher brains have a hard time shutting off and truly relaxing sometimes.  I am always on the look out for ideas I can use to help my students.

We have some students coming in this next year that we know will need some fine motor development to help them get ready to use that pencil and to be able to write.  Always seems that we have a few, don't we?  

Here are some ideas that you can use to help those incoming students that need a little extra help with this.  First, we like to use colorful scarves!  We practice holding them in our fingers similar to a pencil grip and using big movements.  We practiced up and down lines, swirling and curves, and completing big circles.

 We also practice these basic movements on paper.  Some students aren't quite ready for writing letters yet.  They may not have had experience with writing and the movements needed for that.   The thought is to practice them in large movement first then move to smaller movements on big paper then scale down to regular paper and writing their names.  Here is an example of just basic lines on big paper.

Another tried and true way to build up fine motor strength is to use lacing cards.  These are easy and fun for the students to do.  

A really fun way for students to build their fine motor strength while working on their name is to use tongs to pick up pom pom balls.  It is important to me that as they do this, they lay the pom poms on their letters in a way that follows the correct path of movement for letter formation.  

Have you seen the gel bags on Pinterest?  Gel bags are another good way for students to practice fine motor skills.  They are very easy to make.  Just take a baggie and fill with hair gel- the cheapest you can find.  Then you can mix in food coloring and/or glitter.  I just put in a couple colors of glitter in this one as I didn't want it very dark.  Students can practice shapes, lines, letters, etc... as they move their finger over the top of the sealed baggie.  I went a step further in mine and put in a couple of smooth buttons.  I want my students to practice manipulating the buttons around.  I also slip a paper with their name under the baggie so they can practice moving the button with their finger over their name for another way to practice fine motor and learn their letters in their name all at the same time.

Our Class Name Book

I know many of us like to make class books.  This is one that I recently made with a group of students in summer school.  They happened to be working on learning the letters and the order of those letters in their name.  But class books at the beginning of the year don't have to be only about their name and how many letters.  

I love to add photos of my students to class books.  Just makes them a bit more personal to them.  And who doesn't like looking through books with all of your friend's photos in them?  Such fun!

Making a class book at the beginning of the year is a great way to get your year started and a great way for students to learn about each other.  Older students could do one that tells about themselves rather than just their name and how many letters.

Do you do a class book at the beginning of the year?  I would love to hear about it! 

What Is My Letter??

I love getting new little students when school begins!  Most are excited and maybe a little nervous.  And some will come to us not knowing one single letter in their name.  For some, if they haven't had any exposure to letters and print, learning the letters of their name can be a little difficult at the beginning.  And for some learning is just a bit difficult.  One way that I have found to help remedy this is What Is My Letter cards.  If a student is having trouble learning a particular letter, write it on the card and stick it on their shirt.  Whenever other students and teachers see this student during the day, they are prompted by the card to ask the student the name of the letter that they are learning.  It works wonders because of the repetition of naming the letter over and over all day.  And the student gets lots of positive attention all day!  :)

I do go to the extra step of also writing the letter on the student's hand.  That way they can look there to see what letter they are working on.  I am afraid if they only have it on their shirt, they will be learning the letter upside down from looking at it that way all day!

Another activity for learning letters in your name is to build them on a name mat and then write them.  Print the student's name and cut the letters apart.  Mix them up and then the student rebuilds on the mat.  You can place a name model above the name mat at the beginning if needed.  Keeping the name mat in a plastic sleeve saves on paper too so it can be used more than once.

I have made you the name mats and What Is My Letter cards if you can use them.  I made name mats with 2 different amounts of boxes so you would have one for long names if needed.  Here is what they look like and you are welcome to grab them for free! 

Reader's Notebook Organization

When students come to my table for reading, I like everything neat, organized and easily accessible.  Saves me and them  a lot of time that otherwise would be lost to noneducational activities.  You know the kind:  where is that?  where did I put that the last time, I know I've seen that around here somewhere, etc...  :)  So I try to keep everything I can in these notebooks.  I can just grab the basket and hand them out.  

I like to keep different colors for different groups.

Here is what I have inside my notebooks.  What I put inside depends on what level the students are reading at and what they are ready for. 

I like to keep pointers in my notebooks as well as a pencil pouch.  For my younger students, we keep our ABC cards in there.    For the older students, see the very first picture at the top of this post, we keep sight word cards. 

I like to have an ABC chart or consonant cluster chart in the notebooks too.  We take just a minute to read these.  They are good to leave out when the students are reading to refer to if they have a problem with how letters should sound.

 We do a lot of phonemic awareness and use Elkonin boxes sometimes for this.  I like to keep them in plastic sleeves.

Do you keep Reader's Notebooks?  What do you keep in your notebooks?

Letter & Number Rice Activity

What kid doesn't like to dig in stuff and find hidden treasures?  What if those treasures were the letters in their name?  That might be motivating and fun!  I filled a small container with rice for this, but you could use beans, sand, or even pom pom balls.  Then hide the letters and watch them dig!  I had some students find and match the letters of their name on a sheet.

You could also use this same basic activity in several other different ways.
~   match capitals to capitals
~  match lower case to lower case
~  match capitals to lower case
~  match letters with pictures that begin with the same sound
~  match numbers to numbers
~  match number problems to the number answers

This picture (above) shows the activity as matching the letter with the picture with the same ending sounds.  The possibilities are almost endless!

I have made you the activity sheets to go with this.  There are 2 capital letter sheets, 2 lower case sheets, and a number sheet.  Grab them if you can use them!  


Name Fun and a Freebie- UPDATED FREEBIE!

During summer school this year, I needed a fun activity for some students to learn the letters in their name and the order of those letters.  I came up with this shirt and button activity for them.  

UPDATED:  Click here or on the picture above to download the pattern to make this name person!

Students practiced cutting skills, colors, letter identification and order with this project.  It looked so cute too.  

Along with learning their names with the buttons for the shirt, students can practice their name and their friends' names in the pocket chart.  

Spin your way to learning ABCs

Another great way to work with letters is to play Spin, Say & Write!  Students spin a paperclip to see which letter they will land on the most.  Each time they land on a letter they say the letter or letter sound to reinforce that letter in their memories, then they write the letter in the boxes.  

You can click the pictures above or here to check out this fun, printer friendly activity!

Can you believe how fast the summer is going already?  I know, we don't really want to talk about that!  But whenever you ARE ready to think about that, you can grab this freebie if you would like!  I made some reading posters for you and you can download them if they are something you could use.  :)  If the posters are something you like, please take a moment to follow me on TpT.  I would appreciate that so much!  Enjoy!!

I have linked up with Kreative in Kinder and some other top notch blogs for International Blog Hopping Day!  Be sure to click on the picture and go visit the other fabulous blogs and grab your freebies!!

Free Resources