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Where The Wild Things Are

Happy Halloween to everyone today!  It's going to be a fun and crazy day!

Tammy,  at Forever in 1st and Andrea, at Reading Toward the Stars have both booed me!  You MUST go to their very fine blogs and visit them.


One of the rules of being booed is to share some October activities or books that you have been using in class this month.  On Tuesday, with Halloween almost here, I read them Where the Wild Things Are.  

This book is a favorite with kids everywhere of course!  Mine were no different.  We roared our terrible roars, gnashed our terrible teeth, rolled our terrible eyes and showed our terrible claws!  Fun times!  

We had just finished up an author study on Normal Bridwell of the always fun Clifford books.  These kids knew these books inside and out and how they were alike and different.

author study on Norman Bridwell

After reading Where the Wild  Things Are, we had a conversation about how this book was alike and different from the Clifford books.  At first glance you might think that these books would make a strange pairing for compare and contrast, but the kids got so into it and were able to think deeply about them and not come up with surface level comparisons.

bubble map

Almost immediately the kids thought of that there was one person who did both jobs of author/illustrator and that both Clifford and Max had bad habits.  I love watching and listening to these kids think!

For my older students, I read them The Great Pumpkin Switch.  This books sparks GREAT conversations about what students would do if they found themselves in the same situation as the boys in the story.  The boys accidently  smash the girl's pumpkin that she is growing and switch it out with another pumpkin that she didn't grow.  We talked about if it was right for them to not tell her and switch it.  On one hand if they tell, she will probably cry but they will be being honest.  If they don't tell, she doesn't cry but will gets rewards for a pumpkin she didn't grow.  We discussed both sides and voted.  Second graders mostly said they would be honest even if it made her cry.  My third graders (which happened to be all boys) and some second graders thought differently.  They did not want to make the girl cry so there was no way they were telling even if it was a bit dishonest.  I enjoy having these deep conversations with students and gaining their perspective on how they see the world!

Phonemic Awareness Assessment Wall

Assessment Wall

Have you heard of assessment walls?  Does your school use them?  This is a shot of our phonemic awareness assessment wall.  It is in my  room, which is centrally located to the kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  Assessment walls are great visuals for conversations between teachers on what skills need covering.  Our goal:  blank wall!

Assessment Wall

This is what my wall looked like before the cards went on.  I just equally divided the space up with ribbon.  The ribbon was so easy to work with- let it hang down, straighten and staple.  

I give our kindergartners phonemic awareness assessments at the beginning of the school year.  Then students who do not show mastery of the different phonemic awareness skills will go up on the wall.  

I numbered all the kindergartners in each class, giving each class a section of numbers in case new students move in.  For example Mrs. A. gets numbers 1-29, Mrs. B. gets numbers 30- 59, etc....  Then each student will have cards that are corresponding to their particular number.  You will need to have a key to the students and their numbers nearby for when teachers come in to check the wall so they can see what child the numbers represent.

assessment wall

As you can hopefully see in the above picture, student with the #2 needs instruction in syllables, blending phonemes, and segmenting into phonemes.  Some students only have a few skills that need working on and some have all 9 areas to improve upon.   We had only a handful of students come in needing help with identifying if words rhyme or not.  But syllables tripped up many students.  So that lets us know that we should have some conversations with the preschool teacher, Head Start teachers, and Parents as Teachers coordinator to try to get more help in that area for students as they enter kindergarten.

Keeping an assessment wall will help you keep track of who needs extra help and specifically on what skills.  We use this wall as one of the  pieces of the data that qualifies students for RtI.  When students master skills, their card is removed from the wall.  Besides assessing during RtI, I assess at the beginning, middle and end of the year.  I keep all this data organized in a data binder.

Kindergarten Assessment Binder to organize data

We got our ideas for our assessment wall from Karen Loman's book, Targeted Reading Interventions.  It is a great book and has helped us to get better at helping our students and tracking their successes.  Her book also details how to do a reading assessment wall which our school will also be doing.  But that will be another post another time!  

phonemic assessment wall

Compare and Contrast without the Venn Diagram

The Teacher From the Black Lagoon and the Principal from the Black Lagoon

We have been reading The Teacher from the Black Lagoon and The Principal from the Black Lagoon.  Two wonderfully funny books about how students sometimes hear how mean a teacher or principal can be and then their imagination runs wild on all the awful things the school staff does to students who get into trouble.

The Teacher From the Black Lagoon and the Principal from the Black Lagoon

There are several of these Mike Thaler books and the kids just love them for the outrageous things that happen: a teacher who eats half a kid to teach fractions and a principal who spanks with a 12 foot poisoned spiked paddle!!

After reading both books and doing some deeper thinking on Post It notes about what the student was experiencing, we moved on to comparing the two stories.  We used Post It notes for this too.  We put our similarities and differences on Post Its and stuck them on our planning board.

How they are different and how they are the same

Then I took their thoughts and typed them (to save time).  The next day, to check their thinking and comprehension, I handed out the differences and they had to say which book the comparison came from and we placed it on the chart.  How the books were the same went in the middle.  

Teacher from the Black Lagoon and the Principal from the Black Lagoon

I needed a new way to do comparing and contrasting.  I was tired of the Venn Diagram and the T-chart.  I get bored with doing the same things and need to change it up.  This picture took no time to make and it was very motivating for the students.  As soon as they walked in and saw it, they were all over it- what is this, what's it for, did you draw that???  They now think I am the best artist!  But I did come clean and tell them all I did was trace it on the Smartboard.  I think they still think it took lots of talent and that's okay with me!

We Are Wild About Reading & Not AR!

Wild About Reading...this was our first theme this year for celebrating the love of reading.  This is also our first year in a lot of years to go without Accelerated Reading (AR).  I have posted previously on my feelings about AR if you want to read those posts to understand how we got to the place we are at now, just click here.

We have decided to celebrate the act of reading and the love of books through real life reading and not through incentives or test taking.  My committee decided we would hold a celebration (where everyone participates not just those that earn points) 4 times a year- once a quarter.  

It was left up to each individual teacher how much they wanted to do in celebration, but we provided ideas on how to promote and celebrate.  We provided the theme of Wild About Reading and asked if the teachers had any decorations that they wanted to put up in the hall it would be great.  We were thinking of hanging some vines from the ceiling for a jungle look and putting fake plants out in the halls.  But let me tell you, the excitement took hold of everyone and the halls have looked like I have NEVER seen them look!

We had jungle vines across ceilings, almost every door decorated to the maximum, and art work EVERYWHERE celebrating books and reading!  Classroom teachers, Title 1 teachers, art teachers, paraprofessionals...all caught the buzz and got involved.  Our door, as you can see was decorated like the Wild Things.  Others' doors had trees, vines, monkeys, giraffes, tigers, snakes, bananas. You name it, it was there!  It was the coolest thing to walk down the halls and see everything in celebration of reading.

Teachers got to plan how long they wanted to celebrate and what activities to do.  Some did Mystery Readers, where a mystery guest showed up to read a book to the class.  Others did crafts to go with a special story.  Classroom parents sent in special snacks to go with the theme (animal crackers, zebra cakes).  Themed bookmarks, jungle book read alouds, book sharing were also ideas given.  Teachers and students were also encouraged to wear animal prints-fun!  And our celebration just happened to be the same day that book fair opened- great books were everywhere!

One big hit of the day was getting to read in the hall (yes, this is a great motivator, because when does a whole class ever get to read in the hall?).  Kids brought blankets and stuffed animals and were allowed to spend time in the hall reading books.  Which is what this day was all about- real life reading!  Some of the younger students even read their books TO their stuffed animal and enjoyed that so much.

We have not completely settled on our theme for our next celebration, but teachers are already asking what it will be so they can start on their ideas now.  I LOVE it when the whole school pulls together!  For me, this is what celebrating reading is all about!

Monster Craft and Writing

monster craftivity

I just love the book Go Away Big Green Monster!  Fun and colorful!

monster craft and writing

I discovered a quick little YouTube video on this book.   If you click on the book above it will take you there.  Check it out!

It is a great book to go teach colors with students.  Kids love the cut outs on the pages too.  Then I discovered another Monster book, Glad Monster, Sad Monster.  

monster craft and writing

Glad Monster, Sad Monster teaches students about more colors, but teaches them about feelings too.  It also has monster masks that can be taken out of the book and used by the students.

monster craft and writing

These fun books inspired me to create a craft and writing to go along with these books.  I love to build projects around great books.  

craft and writing to go with Go Away Big Green Monster and Glad Monster, Sad Monster

What a fun way to brighten up  a classroom with a bunch of colorful monsters hanging around on your walls!  Click here to be taken to my store.

Literacy Library

Book Index

Our school has been blessed with having multiple copies of lots of different books.  We house them all in our Literacy Library.

Lit Library where we keep all our books

Years ago, we made a decision to do away with reading workbooks and we were allowed to spend some of that money on ordering books.  

where we keep all our books

We bought matching bookshelves and lined the walls with them.  Each set of books is kept in cardboard magazine boxes.  My paraprofessional typed up book labels for each box.  On the side of each box is a library pocket and card.  Teachers just sign the card when they want to borrow the books from that box.

where we keep all our books

The books are organized by approximate grade level.  By having access to the Lit. Library, teachers can have so many choices of reading materials for their students.  It helps to have a range of levels to choose from so that we can better match up the right books to our students for those years that you may have students far behind or far ahead of grade level.  

where we keep all our books

We keep track of all our books in a notebook.  The books are listed in alphabetical order with the book level also listed.

Book List

A couple of tables and some chairs sit in the middle of our Lit. Library.  We are able to hold parent meetings here when needed.  This room is close to the office so it makes it convenient to be able to use this room as a conference room as well as a Literacy Library.  

Does your school have anything like this or does each teacher keep all their books in their own classroom?  I would love to hear how your books are organized!

Character Changes and A Freebie

Character Changes...Getting students to think more deeply about a text than just at the surface level.   I don't want my students to just learn about the beginning-middle-end of stories, although that is the first step.  But I want them to think and connect with the characters within the text and how the characters change.  Some characters are not the same through out the story, but events happen to them and the characters change because of these events.  I also want them to learn to provide evidence of their thinking.

So to help my students learn this I created this Character Changes Foldable.  My second and third graders read books where the characters went through a change in character traits from the beginning to the end.  We discussed these and what events (evidence) from the stories caused these trait changes.  I will have to say that I was very pleased at how perceptive these students were to the traits and what caused the characters to change!  I LOVE it when I can get my students to engage at a deep level with our text- one of those yeah, you are getting this and you are good at it feelings!

The students started out listing common, surface words like mad and sad.  But I was surprised how quickly they were able to move on to descriptives like worried, nervous, freaked out, lonely... One student who deeply fears reading in front of others but will participate in discussions about thinking is the one who came up with "freaked out" for the character who was a new kid in school that loses his class and doesn't know where to go.  This student was a new student to our school this year.  Don't you know he connected deeply to how the character felt in our story?  

If you want to use this Character Changes Foldable with your students, you can download it free.  Just click here to be taken to my store to get it.  

Freebie Fridays

The Magical Product Swap


A big hats off to Jessica Stanford for organizing our product swap once again so you can see what all those wonderful items would look like and how they would be used!  If you click on the button above, it will take you to all the other blogs that are participating in the swap!

My partner is Karla Banks from over at Life in Special Education.

Life In Special Education
After you read about Karla's great game boards here on my blog, please head over and check out her wonderful blog!  Karla will be reviewing something from me for you to see too!

Karla has an adorable collection of game boards!  They are seriously cute!!  Very bright and colorful and the students will find them engaging.  I really loved working with them!

These are just some of the card designs- different colors and designs.

And more card designs!  You get so much variety in this item. :)

These are Karla's cards once they are cut and glued together- easy peasy!  She includes so many different fronts and backs that you have almost an endless amount of combinations that you can put together!  You just print, cut on the lines and glue the fronts to the backs.  If you are a little like me and want your cards to line up worries.  The cards are the exact same size.  Just use your paper cutter for the easiest of cutting and put on some glue.  

Because Karla's game boards are blank, they can be used for almost any subject and any grade level.  The games could be used in centers, tutoring, indoor recess, morning time for review, etc.. Some ideas to get you started on what could be included on the cards are:

  • sight words
  • rhyming words
  • ABCs
  • math problems
  • vocabulary words
  • cities and states
  • state capitals

You can write right on the cards if you wish since Karla included backs.  Or you can do like I did and type out what you need and glue that right onto the cards.  You are ready to go!

Now I am sure you can think of many ways you could use this item in your room!  In honor of the product swap, Karla is offering 20% off her TpT store and will even give away one of these games to one lucky person who leaves her a comment!  How great is that?  Click here to be taken to Karla's store.

Karla Banks

Now after you get done here, go visit Karla and see what she is up to with one of my items!  We are so glad you stopped by!

Life In Special Education

Seasonal Theme Words, a Freebie, & Word Games

Do you use theme word walls in your room?  You know the ones...You write words that go with the theme or season that you are in.  Some teachers write them on chart paper and switch them out as units or seasons change.  

Kids love theme words and will often use them in their writing through-out the day.  And unlike your regular word wall, can be switched out easily.  They just kind of add some energy and pizzazz!

You are more than welcome to grab these 2 personal word walls if they interest you!  Just click here and please consider following my store if you don't already.  :)  Thanks so much!

For more fall and Halloween word fun, here are a couple of fun games that go with those seasonal theme word walls.  

Go Fish and Around the World

Kids love to play games with words and using themed seasonal words makes it even better!  I have included 2 Go Fish games and an Around the World game.  One of the Go Fish games uses easier fall words and each set of words are color coded and picture themed together.  This differentiation helps to ensure that each student can be successful, which is important to me.  The 2nd Go Fish uses more difficult words and each card is picture and color themed the same to challenge them a bit more.  

For the game Around the World, all the seasonal words from both Go Fish games are used.  You may also know this game as Popcorn.  Kids absolutely LOVE this game!

Go Fish and Around the World games

Go Fish and Around the World

Go Fish and Around the World

Are you and your students gearing up for Halloween?  Bats, jack-o-lanterns, and ghosts!  When we move a little closer to the end of the month, this pack might be just what you need!  It is set up the same way as the fall seasonal games.  Students enjoy playing games...We just don't have to tell them they are still reading while playing!

Go Fish and Around the World

Go Fish and Around the World

Go Fish and Around the World

Go Fish and Around the World

Freebie Fridays

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