Sunday, November 27, 2011

An After Turkey Freebie

Hi All!
     I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving with loved ones.  I just got back from a wonderfully gobble-rific weekend full of turkey, adult beverages and insane, middle of the night shopping.  This is going to be a quick post because I did not think about school all weekend so now I'm scrambling to be prepared for the morning.  I put together a quick writing lesson that I thought any of you who are also scrambling for some meaningful post Turkey Day activities might be able to use also.  We're going to brainstorm Thanksgiving  foods and then I'm going to have the kids draw and label what they ate on the big day.  Click below the pic if you'd like a copy.

Don't forget, Teachers Pay Teachers is having their big Cyber-Monday Sale tomorrow (use code CMS28) offering 10% off all purchases, with individual stores offering additional savings!  Click on the button on my sidebar to check out my store.  Everything is an additional 10% off and I have a lot of holiday/winter goodies!

Have a great day tomorrow!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Yummy Thanksgiving Freebie

     We're getting ready for our big Thanksgiving Feast on Wednesday and we've been busy learning about the holiday, making decorations, and planning the menu. For the past few years, we've made these adorable turkey cookies to gobble up for dessert.  The kids love them and they're a lot of fun to make.
    This year, to make the experience more meaningful and to foster our emerging reading and writing skills, I've created some new literacy materials to go along with the project. There's a full-color shared reading book with step by step directions that I'll read before we make the cookies, and pocket chart pictures and a recipe card for the kids to refer to as they are making their turkeys.  Then, there are 2 b&w versions of the student recipe book for the kids to complete and bring home after we've made our cookies.  (Both have pictures of each step for the kids to color, but 1 has words and the other is wordless so the kids can write the steps for the recipe - great for differentiation!)  If you'd like to have some delicious Thanksgiving fun in your classroom this year, grab the recipe kit by clicking below the picture and enjoy!  I'd love to hear how they turn out! Have a great night!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Enough Already!

     Ok, I get it.  Data drives instruction.  Knowing exactly where our students are is absolutely necessary to make sure we are meeting their needs.  I'll go so far as to agree that there is a need for formal assessments to collect such data, even in kindergarten.  It seems like lately however, there is an overabundance of these assessments.  When we are expected to do pre-assessments, post-assessments, formative assessments, summative assessments, random formal mid-unit check-ins (in my district we call them "dipsticks" which is somehow very funny to me) exactly when are we supposed to teach the skills we are assessing?  When did the measure of learning become more important than the learning itself?  What happened to good, old fashioned authentic teacher observation?  For instance...  The district's way: I should sit across a table from a student, let's call her Suzy, and have her count by tens to 100 so I could check off the little box on her checklist.   My way: I know Suzy has a solid knowledge of counting by tens because on the 44th day of school, she had a vein in her neck that I thought was going to burst as she excitedly explained that we only need 6 more straws to make our next bunch and that it would be our 5th bunch and that means it would be our 50th day of school.  Which tells me more about Suzy as a math learner and how well she understands the concept of counting by 10s?  Or...  The district's way: I'm at the table with Suzy again, and I have to flip through alphabet cards as she dutifully tells me the sound each letter makes.  Another check in another box.  My way:  I let Suzy share with the class the 26 page alphabet book she spontaneously wrote during Writers' Workshop that has a picture to match the letter on each page.  (It was a total masterpiece!) Again, I think my way tells me more about Suzy!
     Now, I realize that it's not always as clear as the picture that Suzy paints, and like I said before, I totally see the benefit of official checklists and formal assessment.  On occasion. When needed.  But I guess it is what it is and I'll continue to fill in the boxes and checklists.  But at the same time, I'm just going to be sure to keep my eyes open for the bursting veins and spontaneous masterpieces...
     Phew!  Thanks for listening to my rant.  Are you over-assessed as well?  I'd love to hear how it is in other districts.  I did find time today to do a completely "non-objective based, never-to-be-formally assessed" project that I thought I would share because sometimes you just need to break out the construction paper and glue and get a little crafty.
     We're having a Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday and since I always tell my class that they're a "bunch of turkeys," we're going to wear these adorable turkey hats made from regular birthday hats. Directions and patterns are under the picture.  I hope you and your little turkeys enjoy them!
Have a great night!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Am Not a Turkey!

Good Morning!
     Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and because it's part of our Social Studies curriculum, I try to squeeze as many math and literacy activities as possible into the weeks leading up to it.  Some of my earliest TPT listings are Thanksgiving activities and looking back at them, I've decided to update some of them.  (I'm also almost ready to post my new Thanksgiving Unit and I would love some proofreaders - see note below.) One of my most popular products is my "I Am Not a Turkey" emergent reader which is a great companion to the famous, "Turkey in Disguise" project.  I've just updated it to follow the format of the new emergent readers that I've been obsessed with making for my class. (Grab the Fall is Here freebie from an earlier post.)  Now there is the matching b/w student version, pocket chart pictures and three student worksheets in addition to the original large, full-color shared reading version. If you have purchased this emergent reader in the past, you are entitled to a free download of the new version - so hop over to TPT and grab your new, improved version!

Note: I'm looking for 2-3 people to proofread my new Thanksgiving Unit before I post it later today. If you have time to look at it in the next hour or so and get back to me with any thoughts or suggestions before 3:00ish, I'll send you the unit for free in exchange for your help.  Just send me a quick email if you can help me out - Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who offered to proofread for me - it's great to have such helpful readers!  Stay tuned this week for some freebies from the new unit!
Have a great night!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

50th Day Goodies

     I can't believe we're getting ready to celebrate the 50th day of school.  It feels like we just started!  We don't do much for the 50th Day (compared to the extravaganza on the 100th) but I like to do a few fun games during math time.  Help yourself to any that you might be able to use on your 50th day!
     First, we'll let the world know that we're 50 days smarter with some colorful badges.  I usually have the kids glue them onto a sentence strip to make a crown or punch a hole and add some string to make a necklace.
     Then, we'll play a game that's always a favorite - Race to 50.  It's played in pairs and each partner chooses a different color crayon to use.  Taking turns rolling a die (or 2 dice if you're kids are ready for that) the kids color in the number of squares on the game board that matches the number that they've rolled. How fast can they get to 50?  Be prepared for a noisy math time!
     Next, when we need to restore a little peace and quiet, we'll end the day with a search and color activity.  There are 50 shapes inside the number 50.  First, the kids color in the shapes according to a color chart (hearts are red, etc.) then they count and record the number of each shape that they've found.
     I hope your first 50 days have been fabulous!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Falling for Fall

     Assessments and Committee Meetings and Freak October snowstorms (17 inches in Connecticut in October?!?) - Oh. my!  It's been a little crazy around here but I'm glad things have settled down a bit so I can spend a little more time in Blog Land!
     Despite the temporary cameo appearance by some winter weather last week, we are enjoying a beautiful Fall here in Connecticut.  There is nothing like Fall in New England (I sound like a Board of Tourism commercial, but it's true!)  My commute to school keeps my in the car for about 3 hours a day and I can be a big baby about it, but not in the Fall.  Driving home from school on Friday I looked around at the lovely tree-lined parkway I travel on and it was just stunning!  How's this for a view to keep the commuter woes away?
     In celebration of the season, I thought I would share something autumnal.  One of the biggest struggles I have is trying to get all of our science and social studies content covered in such a tight schedule.  As teachers have been doing for ages, I often combine my math and literacy activities with this content to get it all in.  Since my latest educational obsession undertaking has been creating emergent books that even the most "emerging" readers can access (there are so few good ones out there...) I've been working on some that cover science and social studies themes.  I use a large full-color version for shared reading, a smaller black and white version for the kids to put in their book boxes for independent reading and another small version with missing text for the kids to practice writing the sounds that they hear.  Matching pocket chart cards go in a literacy station and comprehension and phonics worksheets come in handy for skills practice (and to give the kids something to work on while I'm trying to get my assessments done.)  Let me know if you like this one, I have some others I can post if you think that you'll use them!
Have a great night!