Wednesday, December 30, 2015

back in the game

I don't know about you but my Christmas break is officially over Monday. But it's been a good break! It's been restful and up until yesterday, I had pushed any thoughts of work off to the side. It seems I always have school things running through my head - things to do the next day, a new idea to try, something I may have forgotten to do that day - it never seems to stop. So being able to push "stop" for a week and a half has been nice. But I'm also excited about seeing my kiddos again and getting back into the swing of things. I popped in for a few minutes on Monday to put my room back together after it had been painted the last day before the break. I still don't have anything put back on my walls but furniture is back in its place as well as rearranging a few things...just to give my room a bit of a fresh look. I read a great post by Tara West that got my brain back into school-mode. I can't find the post at the moment but she gave a few ideas of how to make the transition back to school a bit easier. One thing she suggested was rearranging furniture...just to change things up. I don't have copies made and I have a long list of to-do but thankfully Monday is inservice so I will be a busy bee getting everything ready for my kiddos coming back on Tuesday! It's going to be a great second semester!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

the next step in guided reading: chapter 7

Chapter 7 is the last chapter in The Next Step in Guided Reading. This chapter is about helping your struggling readers. What I love about this book is that it's applicable for grades kindergarten through eighth grade, as it says on the cover. What a struggling reader will look like will differ in kindergarten versus eighth grade but you can use the same strategies to help those kiddos. 

We all know that so many factors affect student learning. Things like home life or attendance are out of our control as teachers. But there are things we can control (behaviors, strategies and skills) and that's the focus of this final chapter.

 1. To give your struggling readers what they need, there are several things to consider. You have to analyze your teaching to make sure you're addressing meaning, decoding, fluency and comprehension. You need to analyze student assessments to see what the student is needing help with. Third, ask someone else to observe the student during guided reading and independent reading. I realize this last step may be not possible for all teachers but the reasoning is that fresh eyes and ears may see or hear something you've missed. And finally, after gathering your evidence, come up with a plan to help your struggling student(s).

2. The chapter then talks about targeting problem areas for emergent, early and transitional readers. This is where you figure out where the break down is occurring and implement activities to help with those areas. With each type of reader, there is a chart listing problem areas and actions to use for each. I like how thorough each chart is and the suggested activities. 

3. The third thing I learned is the importance of guided reading. Yes, intentionally planning for each of your guided reading groups takes time. And we all know how little time it seems we have. But it's worth it. I like how Jan Richardson puts it: "Changing the way you teach reading is not easy. There will be days when you will think you will never get it right. The good news is you don't have to get it right in order for guided reading to work. You just have to do it - and then reflect on your teaching and on your students."

Reading this book at the beginning of the school year is really perfect timing. As a kindergarten teacher, our first two weeks of school are staggered, with a few kids coming each day for half the day. This is our first full week of kindergarten starting this week, so it's just the right time for me to have guided reading on my mind and how I want to make it even more meaningful this year!

1. One thing I want to do differently is introduce guided writing into my guided reading groups. "By spending a portion of the guided reading lesson supporting students' writing, you can help students internalize a skill or strategy that has already been taught during writing workshop." This will take some planning on my part but I think it will be beneficial for my students. At the beginning of the year, this might look like learning the correct pencil grip and how to use the whole line to write on but I can picture it becoming so much more as the year progresses.

2. I also want to be more consistent in assessing my students. I have three guided reading groups and I differentiate among those three groups but I don't differentiate all that much within each group. And I need to. Just because one student needs to work on decoding doesn't mean the whole group does. So I want to be more aware of what each student needs this year. 

I don't have a Teachers Pay Teachers store (but hope to someday!) but I have found a few goodies to pass along!

This is a "Guided Reading Snapshot" that includes lots of ways to keep track of what each student needs to work on and also what his/her strengths are.
There are also lots of good resources on the Scholastic website. You can download a Home Reading Interest Survey to send home to parents and also a sample lesson plan.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

the next step in guided reading: chapter 5

 Chapter 5 in The Next Step In Guided Reading talks about transitional readers. You can learn more from Tobi on her blog, Teacher Talk with Mrs. Sadler!

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

the next step in guided reading: chapter 4

Chapter 4 in The Next Step In Guided Reading is about students in the early reading stage; reading levels D through I. You can learn all about this chapter from Beverly on her blog!

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

TPT sale!

I don't know about you, but I go back to school Monday. Kids come the following week so it gives us a week to prepare for a new year. I'm excited about it! This summer has been good and I know this school year will be good. If you haven't heard, Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Back to School sale August 3-4! I already have my cart ready :)

From top to bottom:
Back to School Social Stories Bundle 1 - there are six different bundles, with three stories in each. They cover EVERYTHING you would need to talk about with your kiddos! This bundle has stories about playground safety, walking in the hallways and cafeteria monitors.

BAT Book for Kinders - this is full of early finisher activities! I don't know if I'll use it right away but it has lots of good activities! Maybe a good enrichment idea as well.

Sight Word Fluency Readers - fluency readers to practice those sight words!

First Day of Kindergarten - lesson plans and routines for the first day

Good Morning Kindergarten Morning Work - morning work is that time when kiddos can work independently and get themselves together for the day. I want my morning work to be meaningful and I think this will help me do that. Plus it's a growing bundle so now is the time to buy!

Interactive Alphabet Books - I think I'll use these in small group and possibly intervention. A good resource for those kiddos that need extra practice.

Read Trace Glue and Draw - this is another growing bundle! It's good sight word and fluency practice.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

chair pocket success!

It took me two days but my chair pockets are finished! I am so pleased with how they turned out! I like the hodge podge-ness of them :) What took the longest was cutting the fabric. I was a little concerned with the length - I didn't think to measure how long the backs of the chairs are but all I had to do was fold up those pockets that I felt were a little too long. I ended up buying four different curtains at a local thrift store to make these. I had enough material to make nineteen chair pockets - I wanted a few extra. The total cost was about $30 - which is cheaper than the pillowcase route I was originally going to go. I really think these are going to be a big time saver. No more having to go through table buckets to find your journal (and sometimes knocking the table bucket over) or me having to make sure I move journals to the correct bucket should I switch one kiddo with another :) This is a definite summer project and I'm glad I'm done! One more thing I can check off my list! 

If you didn't see my other post, click here to grab the chair pocket tutorial for yourself. 

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

chair pocket success…almost

I'm not finished with this project but it's well under way. I'm halfway through and need to get more fabric but I'm super excited with how my chair pockets are turning out! I had posted an easy idea with pillowcases but I then realized how expensive that would be :) So I took a deep breath and decided to sew a set of chair pockets. I was nervous - the tutorials I looked at seemed complicated but I found the above tutorial and thought, with a name like that, I would give it a try. After making one, it really is pretty easy! I can just picture how these will look in my classroom and they're going to be really cute :)

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Monday, July 6, 2015

getting organized

A new school year is like a new year (as in January 1). Just like in January, I find myself making teacher resolutions :) I consider myself a fairly organized person but want to do a better job with keeping paperwork organized. I found these super cute labels for the drawer I just emptied out by putting those supplies in my new teacher toolbox! My drawer organizer is a bit bigger so I have space on either side of my labels but oh goodness, how cute are these?!

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

the next step in guided reading

I'm excited to be participating in a book study of the book, The Next Step in Guided Reading! I'm about to enter my third year of teaching and want to always learn how to be a better educator. It'll be a little while before my I post about my specific chapter but I've heard good things about this book and am excited to learn how to be more successful with guided reading. It amazes me how my kindergarten kiddos can go from knowing a few letters and sounds in August to reading by the time May rolls around. I find it so fascinating how the brain processes all of that! So stay tuned and search for #guidedreadinggals to see what the others in this group have to say about the book!

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

small group space

I've just wrapped up working in my classroom! I've spent a few hours each day this week unpacking and getting everything ready for my next group of kiddos. I was there a full day today but I'm done! Just about :) I have a few things I need to do but they can wait until later. I'm going on a missions trip in two weeks and really wanted to have my room ready so I could come back and enjoy one more week off before school officially starts. It's such a relief to have things done! I'm super excited about my small group space. I was going to make seating - with some inspiration from Pinterest - but instead found exactly what I had been looking for! These stools are technically side tables but they're sturdy and I love the colors! I need to have my table raised just a bit so my kiddos have leg space but oh goodness, I just love it! My other improvement are these adhesive dry erase circles I found on Amazon. They're called wall dots - something that would've been helpful to know as I searched and searched online before I found them :) I like them for two reasons: one is that I won't have to pass out dry erase boards and second is that the dots mark the space for each student. I used duck tape last year, dividing my table into six sections. I'm hoping these dots will last all year :) *fingers crossed*

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

teacher toolbox

I've wanted to make a teacher toolbox for at least a year. But I could never find the right organizer and other things came up…and it just never happened. Until today. I went to Lowe's yesterday and found an organizer and then found some cute editable labels and I now have my very own teacher toolbox! I'm super excited with how it turned out! And I have two empty drawers - I'm not sure what I'll use them for but I like that I have options :) And I love the different patterns of the labels - there are several other versions available for free on Teachers Pay Teachers but I liked this the best. The font I used is KG Shake It Off. 

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

chair pockets

I have two big DIY projects this summer: small group seating and chair pockets. I've been looking on Pinterest for ideas on both of these. I think I'll go with the paint buckets for my small group seating. I like the idea of crates but I wonder if they wouldn't be tall enough for my kindergarten kiddos. I'll tackle that later but am going to start working on chair pockets. I didn't have them this year; instead, each table kept their journals, etc. in a tub on our counter. I like my tubs - I found super cute chalkboard labels but bunting that I've put on them but it takes time to move them to the front of the counter when we need them and then kids are tipping them over and ugh, I'm ready for something else! I love the idea of chair pockets but not having to sew them. So, I was beyond excited to find a no sew alternative! I'm going to go thrift store shopping to see if I can find of bunch of pillowcases for this project. I want to possibly find some thick pillowcases that will be sturdy. I'm excited about how easy this is and can't wait to get started!

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Sunday, May 24, 2015


Summer is here! I'm ready for the time off and the time to regroup. As teachers, we know we'll still be working this summer. After my room is cleaned, I'll be getting it ready for my next group of kiddos. I love the freshness of a new school year. Everything is clean and new. So what do your summer plans look like? I have a few trainings I'll be going to and will get my room set up and organized. It was my first year in that room so it's pretty much taken me the whole school year to figure out where I want things and to start going through things that I inherited from the previous teacher. I feel much more prepared when my room is organized :) I'm also taking a missions trip - that will actually wrap up my summer. My goal is to have everything ready before then so the last week I have off can just be relaxing! Happy Summer!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

tpt sale!

I've been waiting for a Teachers Pay Teachers sale! There are several things on my Wish List I've really wanted to buy but was hoping I could get on sale…and I did! And it's really great because most items are already on sale PLUS you get to add the promo code on top of that PLUS TPT credits if you have some! I found some great CVC stuff and a huge guided reading product! I also bought a story starter bundle…that will grow each month! I was especially excited about that one because I was able to buy it now but have new writing prompts added each month. 

Some of my other purchases:

Friday, January 2, 2015

blends and digraph freebie

I'm making a goal for this year: to blog! Eventually, I want to be one of those extremely creative teachers who make and sell products on Teachers Pay Teachers. Eventually :) But for now, I just want to work on consistently sharing good things I find and what works in my classroom. 

So I'm passing along these great freebies from Mrs. Lemons! I found her original post about two years ago and immediately downloaded the posters. But then this week I couldn't find the file and realize I hadn't pinned it on Pinterest either (what did I do before Pinterest?!). But then after much looking I finally…finally…found what I was looking for!

Not all of my kindergarten kiddos are ready for blends and digraphs but some are. We've talked a little about them off and on but once we get back from Christmas break, I'm going to start talking about them more. I've already backed my posters on teal paper and just need to laminate them. I originally thought about making a cute bunting with them to hang at my small group table but these posters are too big - something to think about for next year though :) Instead, after we talk about a blend/digraph, I'm going to run a string above the bulletin board at my small group table and hang that poster on the string. 

Click here to go to Mrs. Lemons blog and download the posters for yourself :)

~ Amber