Monday, September 26, 2011

October Calendar Songs and Vowel Chart

Holy shamoley.  I have been busy!  It’s crazy how a new month sneaks up on you so fast!  I’ve heard your e-mails and requests for the new calendar songs, and here they are!

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Monday and Tuesday of this week we are in professional development in our district.  This morning we were “Google-ized” and learned about all of the fun Google apps we can use in our classroom.

This afternoon, we were in literacy breakout sessions.  In one of the sessions that I went to, they talked about this book:

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They showed a video clip from the DVD that accompanies the book of some guided writing.  In the clip the teacher had a great little anchor chart to help kiddos that were struggling to find the right vowel sound.  I knew instantly that I needed to re-create that chart!

So, here you go!  There is a large chart to hold up and a smaller one for kiddos to put in their writing folder.

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Hey, friends, leave a little comment when you download Smile They make me so happy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Math Centers–Week 2

Here are  my math centers from last week!  I kept it pretty simple again for week 2.  The children are getting really good at working together and staying on task! woo hoo!

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After we explored last week with unifix cubes, we practiced some simple AB patterns.  These pattern cards are from Jessica Meacham’s site.

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This one was a simple sort using foam shapes that I got from the dollar section at target.  I separated them into baggies for each child and they used tweezers to sort them into the right space.  Then they counted how many of each color they had.  If there was still time, they used their tweezers to put them back in the bag.


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This is a fun roll and find from Julie Lee’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear unit.  I just made the sides for the die on my computer and inserted them into one of my favorite teaching tools – the foam dice!  This one isn’t a “math” center per se, but it works well for learning how to share the die and take turns!

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The kiddos also explored (ahem, played) with pattern blocks.  Hopefully the playing part is all of their system when we go to really work with the pattern blocks! ha- wishful thinking!!

My last center was from Julie’s and Deanna’s back to school packet, but I forgot to snap a picture of it!  The kids counted how many kids were on a bus and wrote the number on their paper. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bus Graph

This post should be titled short and sweet, because that’s what it is!  Here is our little bus graph, which is a SLIGHT twist on Deanna’s busses.  We read Wheels on the Bus and played with our names with the song, and then made these cute little busses.  We turned it into a math activity by adding our bus numbers and making a graph.  (Yes, all of my kiddos ride the bus!)

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Just in case you are wondering….letters and numbers were cut using my newest favorite teaching tool – my Silhouette!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Are you behaving?

It’s a Saturday night, are you behaving?  Just got the kiddles tucked into bed and ready to sit down and watch a movie with the hubby.  So, yes, I am behaving.  No party animal here!  Maybe I’ll make myself a Chocolatini-that’s about as naughty as I get!

My kiddos at school are starting to figure things out thanks to lots of teaching of expectations and routines.  We are just in the transition of become an RTI-B school (officially – we’ve already done most things!), so we do a lot of positive reinforcement with the kiddos.

I started right away with “The Day the Monster Came to School” story – the kiddos loved it and can’t believe the monster would behave so badly!

We then talked about above the line/below the line expectations and completed this chart together.  I have it hanging up and many little kiddos still refer back to it.

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I also have the kiddos do a sort on their own.

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The pictures are from Board Maker – I got them from a friend and don’t have a digital copy to share. Sorry!  But, if you check with someone on your special ed team, they should be able to make some for you!

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We also did our class promise (I found the words here and thought they were perfect for kinders!)

I love their sweet little drawings, don’t you?!

I have also implemented the fabulous rainbow behavior plan that Julie Lee has created! This is the only picture I have – you can see it on the left.  You can also read more about it at Julie’s blog.

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Here is a pic from Julie’s blog:

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And for the little sweeties that just can’t seem to figure it out, this is my version of Lynda’s clipboard from Curls and a Smile.  I loved this idea when I first saw it.  I never liked having clip charts on display because others (especially parents) could see how each child was behaving.  I love the clipboard because it can stay private between me and the student and it can also travel with them to specials.

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I use the red note from Kim Adsit’s site.  You can download it here.  She has posted both a pdf and a word doc so you can modify as needed.  I modified mine slightly to fit our needs.  If I can find it on my computer, I’ll post it!  I print it on red paper so parents are sure to see it!

I keep track of the behavior throughout the day with the tracker from The Polka Dot Patch. I just love it!  It’s so easy to keep track of behavior throughout the day – great for when you need to go to those BLST meetings and have to have documentation of behaviors!  You can download it from Ashley’s blog right here.

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What is your best behavior management trick?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Adorable new family pack!

Kim Adsit has just put out an adorable pack that is all about families!  This came at the perfect time since next week, we are doing our “all about me” unit!

You hit a home run again, Kim!

Click over and check it out!

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She also has tons of cute pictures of what she did in her daughter Megan’s classroom with this unit.  Too fun! Click on the banner below to go straight to the post!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Want a cookie?

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Have you heard of Ron Clark?  If you haven’t, wake up!  He was a Disney Teacher of the year and is now the author of 2 books (The Essential 55).  He established the Ron Clark Academy, and boy, would I love to visit and see him and his phenomenal teachers in action! (Click on the RCA in action video, and you’ll see why!) What?! A trampoline …  and to get slide certified??!!  Passion, high expectations, and relationships! Yes, sir!! Sign me up!

I was recently sent a copy of his second and newest book, The End of Molasses Classes.  I’ll have to admit, it was a page turner for me, and I found myself nodding my head in agreement so many times.  Throughout the year, I’ll share some quotes from his book, but for now here is a quick excerpt from the book:

Not Every Child Deserves a Cookie
By Ron Clark,
Author of The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers

Last year one of our new fifth graders was really struggling. He entered RCA below grade level in every subject and he was failing several courses. When I met with his mom she defended her son by saying, "Well, he made all A's at his other school."         When I told her that was shocking, she explained that he had done so well because he had a really great teacher. Urgh!

There is a misconception in our country that teachers whose students make good grades are providing them with a good education. Parents, administrators, and the general communiry shouldn't assume good grades equal high academic mastery. In fact, in many cases those teachers could be giving good grades to avoid conflict with the parents and administration. It's easier to fly under the radar and give high grades than to give a student what he or she truly deserves and face the scrutiny of the administtation and the wrath of an angry parent.

I have attended numerous awards ceremonies where practically every child in the class received an honor roll certificate. Parents always cheer, take pictures, and look so proud. I just sit there and think, Ignorance is bliss. Are these kids really being challenged, or are they only achieving mediocre standards set forth by a mediocre teacher in an educational system that is struggling to challenge even our average students? Yet, all of the parents look so proud and content.

The worst part about it, however, is that I am afraid most parents would rather their child get a good education where they received straight A's and praise than an outstanding education where they struggled and received C's.

At the beginning of every year, I give my fifth graders an assignment. They have to read a book and present a project on one of its characters -- specifically, they have to figure out a way to cleverly show such details as what the individual kept in his heart (what he loved the most), saw with his eyes (his view of the world), "stood for" with his feet, and held to strongly in his backbone (his convictions). I encourage the students to "bring it" and to use creativity and innovation to bring the body of the character to life.

Most of the students will bring a trifold where they have drawn a body and labeled the locations. Some will use glitter, and some will be quite colorful. I am sure in most classrooms the projects would receive high grades, mostly A's and B's. I, however, hand out grades of 14, 20, 42, and other failing marks. The parents and students are always upset, and many want an explanation.

I ask them to trust me, and I explain that if I gave those projects A's and B's, then the students wouldn't see a reason to improve their efforts on their next assignment. Some staff members have even said, "Ron, but you know what that child is dealing with in her home, and you know she did that project all by herself." I quickly tell them that society isn't going to make excuses for their home situations, and we can't either. If we make excuses and allowances, it will send the child the message that it's okay to make excuses for his or her performance based on circumstances, too. We just can't do it. We must hold every child accountable for high standards and do all we can to push the child to that level.

I recall giving one fifth-grade student a failing grade on her first project. She cried and cried. She had never made less than an A on her report card, and her mother was devastated, too. I explained that the low grade would be a valuable life lesson, and I gave the young girl, and the rest of the class, tips and strategies for receiving a higher score in the future. I showed them an example of a project that would have scored 70, a project in the 80s, and a project that would have earned an A.

I was pleased to see that her next project came to life with New York City skyscrapers that were sculpted from clay, miniature billboards that contained academic content, and streetlights that actually worked. The project was much, much better, and it received a 70.

As a final project, the students were instructed to create a time line that would contain a minimum of fifty significant dates in the history of a specific area of the world. The same young lady brought in her final assignment wrapped in trash bags. Removing it, I saw a huge, four-foot pyramid, a replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The student had made it out of cardboard and apparently had used sandpaper to make it feel like a real pyramid. It was beautiful, but it didn't contain a time line, so I told her the grade would not be passing.

She grinned at me, walked over to the pyramid, touched the top point, and suddenly three sides slowly fell open, revealing the inside. She had carved her outline on the inside, using detailed pictures, graphs, and descriptions of 150 major events. She even had hand-carved Egyptian artifacts and placed them throughout the inside of the pyramid, just as you would find in the tomb of a great pharaoh. She had handmade mummies that she had learned how to make on the Internet. She looked at me and said, "Mr. Clark, I have worked on this for weeks. I wanted it to be good enough. I wanted it to be an A." It was miraculous and spectacular. I looked at her, full of pride, and said with a smile, "Darling, it's an A."

If her initial project hadn't been an F, she never would have walked in with that pyramid. That child is about to graduate RCA, and she is ready to compete with any high school student across the country. She knows what high expectations are, she understands the value of a strong work ethic, and she knows how to achieve excellence. If we continue to dumb down education and to give students A's and B's because they "tried," we are doing them a disservice and failing to prepare them to be successful in the real world. That young lady couldn't walk into an elite high school and compete with a glitter-filled trifold. However, she can walk into any high school with that pyramid and her overall knowledge of how to achieve that type of excellence and stand high above her peers.

I often bake cookies for my students. I tell them it is my great-greatgrandma's recipe and that she handed it to me in secret on her deathbed. (Okay, a stretch.) As I pass out the cookies, the kids who are working hard receive one with delight; the students who aren't working as hard do not. Parents will call and say, "Mr. Clark, I heard you gave every child in the class a cookie except my child. Why are you picking on my child?"

Why does every child have to get the cookie? The parents claim that I will hurt the child's self-esteem. Has it really gotten to the point that we are so concerned with our children's self-esteem that we aren't realistic with them about their performance and abilities? If we give "cookies" when they aren't deserved, then we are telling our young people that they don't need to work hard to receive rewards. We are sending a message that the cookie will always come. That is why we have so many young people in their twenties who have no idea what it means to work hard. And that is why they are still looking to their parents to provide support (and to give them the cookie).

I tell my students who don't receive a cookie that I will be baking cookies the following week. I tell them that I will watch them until that time and that if they are trying hard they'll earn their cookie. It is shocking to see how much effort kids, regardless of their age, will display to get a cookie. And when it is earned, it means something. The students will glow with pride, and they will explain how they are going to eat half the cookie then and save the other half for later. Also, it tastes better than any cookie they have ever eaten, and it sends the message that with hard work comes rewards. If parents and teachers are just rewarding our kids without cause, we aren't teaching the value of personal effort.

We all need to teach our young people that not everyone deserves a pat on the back just because we are attempting to make everyone feel good. Giving praise that isn't earned only sets up our students for more failure in the long run.

If you are a teacher who wants to increase expectations but is afraid of the backlash from giving failing grades on assignments         that will cause your parents and administration to freak out, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself When you         give an assignment, show your students beforehand what you expect. Show a detailed description of what would earn a failing grade, a passing grade, and an outstanding grade. Share that with your administration as well to make sure it meets their approval, and then make your parents understand the expectations. Letting everyone know what is expected beforehand will leave no opportuniry for complaints after the grades have been given.

If you are going to give rewards, such as cookies, let the parents know the classroom behaviors that will earn the reward and the behaviors that will not. When students are struggling, let the parents know specifically the areas that need to be addressed. If the child still does not meet the criteria, you have been clear about your expectations and therefore negative conflicts can be avoided.

The above is an excerpt from the book The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers by Ron Clark. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2011 Ron L. Clark, Inc \

Are you ready to go out and grab your copy?  Want to read another excerpt?  Check out advice for parents and teachers {here}.

Let me know if you find yourself nodding in agreement (and if you want to join me! Winking smile)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Math Centers and random things…

Holy bananas! The first 10 days of school went so fast!  I’ve had so much fun getting to know my new kinders, but I sure am exhausted!

I don’t have much for you here…just a few randoms and our math centers from last week!

Here are the sweet little handprint puzzles!  The card is from Kim Adsit’s site – it’s a free download!  I had the kiddos decorate the envelope too.  So sweet!

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We started out with colors and shapes and used Julie Lee’s Brown Bear unit a lot! One of my favorite activities was this glue practice sheet!  The kiddos loved it (despite some tired hands, and some blobs of glue!)  I might have to do another one again soon…

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Here’s a quick and easy one for the color blue…

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I used my 3/4” circle punch for the “blueberries”.  Super quick! Click on the picture below to download!

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Our first go at math centers! We had 3 “real” centers and a couple of exploration centers.  Before we did the dice rolling independently we did an activity whole group, so everyone got practice and learned the rules for rolling the dice!

The brown bear pages are from Julie Lee’s brown bear pack.

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1. Roll and write: this was a little challenging for some, but I really got a good picture of who could and who couldn’t write their numbers!

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2. Dice roll and dob.  I just used a plain die and used a sharpie to add the shapes. (We used bingo dobbers)

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3. Counting and one-to-one correspondence.  I worked closely with this group – again it showed me what kind of beginning skills my little guys have.

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4. This one is a lakeshore counting box – The Candy Jar – great for beginning centers and practicing number ID and one-to-one.

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5. We had to do some exploring with unifix cubes before we started patterning with them this week!!

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