Monday, July 27, 2015

Storage Seating

I am so excited to participate in Made-It-Monday for the first time!

I have been teaching for 16 years. I have taught a total of 6 different grade levels or programs. That being said I have acquired a lot of...materials. Yes, that's what we'll call it. At the end of last year I weeded some things out and either pitched them or donated them. But even with all that, I still have materials that need a better place to be stored.

Let me also add that I teach Kindergarten in a small room with very little storage. I have a closet and three under-the-counter cabinets. That's it. Last year I had 25 students and had to find room for a fifth table. My room was crowded - I will admit.  So for this coming year I have decided to get creative with my storage. 

I have seen the milk crate seats on Pinterest, but I wanted more storage than they could offer. I found my answer while pinning one night this summer. I followed a pin about guided reading and it led me to a picture of DeeDee Wills' classroom. Right there was my storage solution. She had made seats out of storage tubs. I could do that.

So I gathered my materials. I bought my tubs at Target. I found some tubs that had a recess in the top.

I bought my material and padding at Hobby Lobby. The padding was my biggest expense - but I wanted my Kinders to be comfy. (But I did use my 40% off coupon to save a little $.)

The hubby got the wood for me in the scrap bin at Menards - yeah, money saving hubby! My hubby cut the wood for me, but you could also pull the teacher card and ask them to cut it for you at the hardware store. We had a hot glue gun and staple gun at home.

I hot glued the padding to my wood boards so that it wouldn't move when I wrapped it with the fabric. I then laid it padding side down on the fabric. My hubby helped me staple the fabric down. I needed his muscles since I still have restrictions from my back surgery earlier this year. 

And voila! A seat for my guided reading table as well as a ton of storage since I made 5 of them!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Daily 5 - Chap. 8

I was very curious about Chapter 8 in The Daily 5: Second Edition by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. I have known about Daily 5 for Literacy since the first book came out, but Math Daily 3 was all new, so I was excited to read this chapter to see what it was about.

I loved the statement that The Sisters shared from Van de Walle and Lovin. Math..."is about providing tasks and activities that engage students in the mathematics they are expected to learn." Its not about specific content. In this chapter The Sisters also talk about how many math books do not provide the kind of mathematics problem solving and activities that result in deeper understanding of math concepts. I could not agree more.  I have not used a math book in the last two years.  We have a math series that we can use as a resource, but the work pages were way too easy for my higher students and did not meet the language needs for my ELL students. I have abandoned it in favor of hands-on lessons that allow the students to use lots of manipulatives to solve problems and aide their thinking.

The Sisters use the gradual release of responsibility method in Math Daily 3 just like in Daily 5. I, too, use this method, but I will admit mine is usually within one whole group lesson and not broken up like in Math Daily 3. The Sisters suggest introducing a new concept whole group, then a round of Daily Math, then regroup and review the concept further, then another round of Daily Math, and then a brief independent work time on the concept followed by a third round of Daily Math. I struggle with this set-up a little bit for Kinders.  I would fear that my struggling students would feel disjointed with this layout. I worry that their little brains would have a hard time switching gears that many times in a short period. I could see this layout working better in the second semester of Kindergarten than in the first. So many of my students are learning how to be a student that I am not sure they would be able to handle it. Even with I-charts and frequent review, in May I still had students unable to work independently in math centers. I need to ponder this more.

Presently, I do one round of Math Centers a day. I have 10 centers that last for two weeks. The 10 centers are focused on skills the students already know and the 10 are differentiated into three levels. I am not sure that Daily Math 3 had enough differentiation built into it. Differentiation is an expectation my district has so that each student has their needs met at their level. Letting students choose their own partners in Math with Someone, as suggested in the book, is an area where differentiation would be difficult. Students who are working on identifying numbers 1-10 would have difficulty playing the same games as students working on identifying numbers 50-100. The above level students would be great models for the lower students, but the above level students would not not be challenged. 

These are pictures of Math Centers in action in my room. I use a variety of activities that I have found on TPT as well as open-ended activities. When I counted up the centers between the three parts in Math Daily 3, the total was 8 - so my 10 is not that far off. My organization and layout is just different.

A center from A Differentiated Kindergarten on TPT.

A center from Tara West on TPT.
Patterning cards I found on the internet.

Bear patterning cards from Scholastic.

Addition center created using dominoes and sandpaper numbers.

Another center from A Differentiated Kindergarten.

A ten-frame center from The Kindergarten Smorgasboard.

Open-ended center with peg boards - excuse my finger.. 

Open-ended center with transportation manipulatives.

I wish The Sisters had put some Kinder specific suggestions in this chapter like in many of the Literacy Chapters. I found myself asking "How would this work in Kinder?" a lot. How does Math Writing look in Kindergarten? How do students write about Math when they cannot write words yet? How would I design this portion of the Math Daily 3 to meet the needs of non-readers and writers? I find myself wanting visuals and examples. I know my Kinders could draw pictures to show their thinking - but what are they looking at or using in order to do this?

As you can see, this chapter raised a lot of questions for me. It has made me think of my classroom, my teaching, and my students - which is great. It's when our thinking is challenged that we grow and learn. Even as teachers our learning is never done. What works one year may not work for the students the following year. Teachers have to learn to adapt each year to the new group of students. I have a lot of thinking to do!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Teaching With Intention - Chapter 5

With each chapter that I read of this book, I come to the same conclusion - Debbie Miller is phenomenal. What I amazed the most by is the succinct language she uses with her students. She so clearly explains the purpose of things to her students - the what and why. This is my big take away from this chapter. I need to train myself to tell my students the what's and whys of each lesson. I would be modeling how to articulate thinking to others. I also need to begin using the word scheme

I am also going to be making myself a laminated file folder come August. I absolutely must have one to ad to my repertoire of anchor charts. I like to mix it up throughout the year so that students don't become bored. I use Venn Diagrams, Tony Stead's RAN chart (similar to KWL - but I like it better), Can/Have/Are charts, Story  Element Charts, and Alpha Boxes.

I earned my Masters in Literacy in 2013. I learned so much. The professor of my Multicultural class, a wonderful lady named Barb Mallinger, taught us a new way to do Venn Diagrams which helps both ELL and struggling students organize their thinking. Instead of circles, which inevitably are too small in the middle, she recommends using squares so that the middle can be of equal size to the outer sections. She also suggested that when first doing this, provide students with some beginning topics to think about. This made such a difference for my Kinders who struggled with language. It really helped their thinking hone in to particular parts of the story.

The bat above me is an example of Tony Stead's RAN chart or Reading Analysis of Nonfiction. It is similar to a KQL, but I find it more user friendly for Kinders. The first section is "What We Think We Know." My students either draw or write what they think they know - in this case - about bats. The second column is "Yes, I Was Right!" This is my favorite part. After doing the first column, I read nonfiction books about the topic. The students then have to look and listen for their thought to be proven true through either the illustrations or the text. This part really keeps the kids in tune. If their thought is proven true, they get to come up and move their post-it over to the second column. The third column is "New Things We Learned." After reading Chapter 5, I want to bring in some of Debbie's concepts. Next time I do this chart, I want to put the new learning on another color post-it so that we can connect our thinking. So excited to try this! The last section is for questions we have as we learn about that topic. If a student has a thought that is never proven true, their post-it stays in the 
first column. As we read we discuss why that thinking was not accurate. And because I teach Kinder, I sometimes allow that student to revise their thinking on a new post-it - but the first post-it still stays in the first column.

The graphics and headings of this Can/Have/Are chart are from Deanna Jump's Spider Unit. I again want to bring in Debbie Miller's concept of connecting our thinking so will again use a new color post-it the next time I do this. 

I LOVE reading several versions of traditional folktales to compare and contrast story elements. One of my favorite to do this with is the Three Little Pigs. There are so many fun versions out there that have some unique twists, characters, or settings. I chose not to do problem and solution in this particular chart as that was not my focus.

Alpha Boxes are another thing I learned about in my Masters program. I thought they may be too hard for Kinders, but actually do great when used with the whole group. I always tell my students that we will NOT have something in every box and that is okay. As you read non-fiction texts about a topic, in this case owls, you add the students' thin kings to the letter that it corresponds with. I like to draw a quick picture next to as well just to make the learning more visual. You can also use different colors each day as a way for students to see the volume of what they have learned. 

In my Chapter 4 post I talked about wanting to write down the question prompts that Debbie Miller uses. I am also going to jot down some notes for myself to use as I model making my thinking visible and phrases which will help students connect their thinking and create mental files of all their learning.

Be sure to check out the posts for this Chapters Hostess and the post from the coordinator The Kindergarten Smorgasboard. 

The Kindergarten Smorgasboard

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Daily 5: Chapter 3

Once again I am joining a great group of teacher bloggers to discuss The Daily 5: Second Edition by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser - lovingly known as The Sisters. Today's chapter is Chapter 3: The 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence. This chapter is all about creating, teaching, and fostering students to work and learn independently.

Chapter 3 has been my favorite chapter so far. It made me:
     1. Nod my head in agreement 
     2. Say "ohhhhh" as little light bulbs of new learning went on
     3. Feel just a wee bit proud that I am doing many things to help my students become  independent learners 

The head nods started on the first page of the chapter when The Sisters were telling about the three different memory systems: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I feel that if there is one major idea that needs to be taken from this chapter, it is this:

"When information is stored in more than one of these systems, the memory is improved. Memory stored in the kinesthetic system evokes the longest lasting memory. To activate this system, teachers can provide kinesthetic learning experiences so children hear and feel the behaviors expected of them. Over time, this movement is stored in muscle memory and becomes part of students' default behaviors."

This statesman had me nodding my head over and over. This statement packs a punch. When we help students store things learned in muscle memory it is huge. Muscle memory is what allows a student to write their name without thinking about each letter, to know that the word "the" will always be t-h-e because they have written it frequently in authentic writing pieces, it's what helps older students learn how to drive a car without thinking about each minute step. Muscle memory helps to create automaticity!!! I could go on and on about the importance of muscle memory - but I won't - let me just say though - IT'S A BIG DEAL!!!

As I was reading about the first steps, 1: Identify What is to be Taught and 2: Set a Purpose and Create a Sense of Urgency, my first "ohhhhh" moment came at the end of step 2. I think I do a decent job of creating a sense of urgency in my students to become better students, but I need to work on creating a sense of urgency with more specific purposes - to become a better reader, to become a better writer, etc. if I did this, I think my Kinders would be better able to articulate the reason behind an activity - to be able to answer the question of "why should I do this?"

My next head nod came with Step 3: Record Desired Behaviors on an I-Chart. I liked how The Sisters shared that brainstorming correct behaviors may not be the best route for young learners as it makes the lesson go too long. Many times I find that when we brainstorm good (or even negative) behaviors my students end up saying the same things over and over, with maybe just a slight word variation. Also, for some of my Kinders this is their very first school experience, so they may not even know what behaviors are acceptable and which are not, so The Sisters suggest telling the students the positive behaviors and discussing each one. I also like how The Sisters encourage you to gradually increase the expectations each day - not all of them at once. So much easier for little ones to digest and learn. At the beginning of the year, my class and I make a behavior anchor chart using the books No, David!  and David Goes to School by David Shannon as mentor texts. You can find many examples if you go to Pinterest and type No David anchor chart into the search bar. But after reading Chap. 3, I realize I want to create more specific anchor charts with visuals for my literacy and math areas. Here are two anchor charts I use each year. They both come from Kim Adsit's Reading Workshop Unit 1. The book bully one gets used all year long in my classroom.

Step 4: Model Most-Desirable Behaviors and Step 5: Model Least-Desirable Behaviors,Then Most Desirable Behaviors Again talk about modeling, modeling, modeling, and practicing, practicing, practicing. While reading step 5 I had an "ohhhh" moment as well as a "oh, thank you" moment when The Sisters spoke directly about kindergartners at the beginning of the year. They said, " These young learners need time to find out what school is all about, and showing them incorrect behaviors can be confusing." THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I know the importance of modeling and practicing, but I had given up on having my students model the incorrect behavior. My students who have a harder time resisting silliness always wanted to model the incorrect behaviors - not to learn the correct ones, but to get the biggest laughs and it would create this awful domino effect of everyone wanting to be silly. 

Step 6: Place Students Around the Room and Step 7: Practice and Build Stamina did not bring any major revelations for me. I did, however, like the statement, "...we never let a timer or clock manage children's practice time." I will also confess to something - I usually don't introduce Read-to-Self until later in my Kindergarten year when most of my students can actually read books. I know and teach the three ways to read a book, but the investment just isn't there for them until they have books they can read. I will explain this further when the book study discusses Chap. 5. 

Step 8: Stay Out of the Way is the hardest thing for me. I LOVE talking with my students during our rotations. I like to check in to see if there is anything important I need to know, see if they can explain things to me, and put out fires that inevitably happen at the beginning of the year. I need to stay out of the way more. It will be so hard though. I recently saw this chart on Pinterest and thought if we created this type of chart in the first few weeks, there might be less fires to put out and I can stay out of the way. This is from Kathy Griffin's Teaching Strategies. She calls it her What if... anchor chart. 

Step 9: Use a Quiet Signal to Bring Students Back to the Gathering Place is straightforward. I have a beehive chime hanging over my small group table which I painted myself quite a few years ago. 

Step 10: Conduct a Group Check-In; Ask, "How Did It Go?" is something that I don't do and that I want to do. I do think it is funny though that The Sisters talk about how younger students may still be in the egocentric stage and will always rate themselves highly. Yep! That's kindergartners for you! But I think as the year goes on, with practice and many discussions, some Kinders can get the hang of this. 

Wow - sorry to go on so long, but I sure did like Chapter 3. 

If you'd like to read more teachers' thinking, be sure to visit this chapter's hostess, Whitney Rippy,as well as check out the posts of all the teacher bloggers who have linked up. And a thank you to Brenda Frady for organizing this book study.

              Primary Inspired

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Daily 5 - Chapter 2

I was asked by Brenda from Primary Inspired if I would like to participate in a book study on The Daily 5  - 2nd Edition. I was stoked and of course said yes.  I am recuperating from major back surgery in April and let's just say this is not the summer I had envisioned - but I will make the most of what I have. Life got the best of me last week and I missed out on Chapter 1, but I am raring to go with Chapter 2.

I teach full-day Kindergarten. This coming year will only be my district's second year having full-day Kindergarten. For my first six years with the district I wore a few different hats. I taught half-day Kindergarten, Kindergarten Extended Day - an at-risk literacy program, and reading. When I began with the district in 2007, Daily 5 was just just coming on to the scene. I read the 1st Edition in Jan. Of 2008 and attempted to implement some of the ideas, but I was really just getting my feet wet. Eventually, I implemented Daily 5 in half-day Kindergarten. I am excited to read this 2nd Edition to see how the Sisters' thinking has evolved. 

Chapter 2 is all about our core beliefs. The first topic is trust and respect. We work hard at the beginning of the year to learn routines, rules, and how to show respect. My students learn how to trust me to guide them on this journey we call school. This past year I had the privilege of teaching a little girl who had never been in school before nor had she been around large groups of children. Her excitement and wonder showed me what school looks like when it is completely fresh. 

In Kindergarten, we work on routines and rules for a lonnnnnngggg time. We discuss, practice, and repeat things daily so that the students understand the expectations I have for them. No two years are ever the same. I tweak things every year as the chemistry, make-up, and learning curve changes each school year. We also get to know each other and create our class community - the second topic in Chapter 2. I make an effort each year to learn the names of my students' siblings, pets, and interests. This year I had to up my football knowledge as one of my boys looked forward to discussing the game with me each Monday. It's little things like this that say a lot to your students. It shows them you care and that they matter. 

Choice, the third topic, is one that I will admit to struggling with in Kindergarten. This past year I had 25 Kinders with a wide range of abilities. I know that I had students who were capable of choosing their literacy center each day, however, I also had a large group of students who struggled with this daily. I do like how the authors speak now of only giving the choice between two things in the beginning. I realize I could differentiate choice as I do other things in my class. For those capable, they could choose from the 5, but for those who need more guidance, only two or three choices could be given.

Accountability is another tough one in Kinder. Not all Kinders are created equal - just as in any other grade - and even in May, I have students who struggle to work, choose a spot, or work cooperatively during our Literacy Centers. They don't always have the maturity or understanding that is needed. You can't force flowers to bloom, you can just tend to them carefully until they are ready. Sometimes, they aren't ready until first grade and that is okay.  My district does not have transitional kindergarten. The span between my youngest and oldest kinder was 14 months. There is a HUGE difference in those 14 months. So it's important to meet your students where they are at and grow from there.

I was fascinated by the 20/80 concept spoken about in Chapter 2. It made me reflect on my own teaching this past year. I know I do not reach 20/80- where I was teaching 20 percent of the time and my students were practicing it 80%. It takes a while to build up the stamina to do this. When we begin learning the rotations, they each last for about 5-10 min. and we make it through 2 at most. By the end of this past year of full-day kinder we made it through 3 rotations of 15-20 min. There was a break between 1 and 2, and then 2 and 3 were back-to-back.

Finally, transitions. In Kinder we are moving and grooving much of our day. I try to keep a balance between active and quiet, love using songs as breaks, and change the venue between floor, tables, centers, etc. throughout the day.

Ha! I didn't think I had  a lot to say about Chapter 2 - but as I wrote this post and reflected, I actually did. Just like my students, I am constantly growing and learning. I hope you enjoyed reading this. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Also, be sure to check out Ciera Harris' Chapter host post. You can find her at:

Adventures of Room 129

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Teaching With Intention - Chap. 4

Once again, I am joining in the Book Study fun with The Kindergarten Smorgasboard. Life got a little crazy last week and I missed out sharing about Chapter 3, but as I read I fall more in love with this book with each chapter. Debbie Miller is an amazing person - I am in awe of her. 

This chapter was about establishing a culture of questioning and thinking in your classroom both at a whole group level and at an independent level.  

I know that I don't do this enough, I'd like to get in the habit of doing it daily. I let my students see my thinking the most when I am modeling writing. Sometimes I feel like I am putting on a show - like an actor doing a monologue - but I have learned to just let that weird feeling go. In the beginning of the year, it usually is just me talking, but as my students figure me out, they soon want to join in my thinking game and they soon start to express their opinions, make suggestions, or sometimes just follow my thinking and nod in agreement, and the. I at least know they're with me.

When I do read alouds that I have read each year for several years, I find that I put my thinking on display much better. It's like sinking into your favorite chair - familiar and comfy - so it makes displaying your thinking so much easier. A newer book - no matter how many times I have pre-read it to myself - is much more difficult and something I need to work on.  You can think you are prepared and can plan to strategically lead your students, but sometimes my students veer off the path I had intended. That's okay, I try to go with the flow and learn from the path they take me on.  

In Kindergarten, I think that encouraging students to show their thinking is a gradual, scaffolded process. The thinking that is shared at the beginning of the year is vastly different than the sharing in April and May. The growth students show is amazing! 

As to encouraging my students to show their thinking, there are some things I think I do well, and definitely others I want to improve on.  I love to learn as much as my students, so I am always looking for ways to tweak things or do things better. 

I love discussing books with my students. Read alouds are my favorite times of my day.  I like to see the excitement on my students' faces as they show their investment in a story, hop up and down on the floor waiting to share their ideas, or my favorite - when their really into the story and a pivotal event happens - and they react with "oh, no" or "uh-oh."  One of my most memorable moments came just this past year. It was one of the moments that showed me positive thinking and persistence pays off. It was February and in northern Illinois it's quite a snowy month. We had just finished reading The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler. It's about a little girl who wants to build a snowman. Her family doesn't believe she can. The forest animals end up helping her build the biggest, best snowman ever. I often forget to talk about the theme or lesson of a book, so I was proud of myself for remembering. I asked my students what lesson the author was trying to teach us. One of my little girls said, "Little people can do big things." My teacher heart was filled and I felt accomplished when to my surprise, one of my little boys says, "Aw man, I thought it was don't give up, keep trying." Teacher heart runneth over! And don't worry, we talked about how a book can teach us many lessons and that there isn't just one right answer all the time.

I want to go back into Chap. 4 and write down all the questioning and leading prompts that Debbie Miller shared. Putting these prompts on cards near my rocking chair and on a paper in my lesson plan book would really help me increase the frequency and the depth with which I use the prompts.

The thing I would like to improve the most is what I like to call "dinner table conversation." I had the wonderful opportunity in my Masters program to watch videos of Debbie Miller in action.  She teaches her students how to sit in a circle and share their thinking without raising hands, without being called on, just like a family sitting at the dinner table. I have come close the last couple of years - my students had the capability - but we spend so much at the beginning of the year learning how to raise their hands, that I couldn't get them to break the habit during discussion time. This year I am going to make it happen. If I do, I am going to video tape it and share it.  Cross your fingers!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Teaching With Intention - Chapter 2

The thing I liked best about this chapter is that it made me think - about my teaching, my classroom, my students and how they all are an integral part of my beliefs and philosophy. Being able to articulate your beliefs and philosophies is no easy task. I have taught a total of 16 years and I find that my beliefs and philosophies are not static. They have changed as I have grown as a teacher.

My Beliefs and Philosophies Presently:
  • Every student is unique. From their looks to their experiences to their learning styles, from their ideas to their senses of humor, every child is different. And that is GREAT! 
Celebrate your students' learning diversities!
Don't you just love these adorable faces!!!
  • Since cookie cutter students do not exist, no packaged program is going to meet everyone's needs. I must find what works best for each student to help them grow as both a learner and as a person. I like when Debbie Miller says. "Real life is not scripted. Neither is real teaching."
  • Learning needs to be fun - period - no need to say more on this one.
  • It's okay to make mistakes. Each year my heart goes out to my students who break down when they make a mistake. So when I make a mistake, I like to actually point it out to my students so that they learn that even adults make mistakes and that the world will not fall apart when they do. Then we brainstorm on how I can correct my mistake or if I can't, what other choices do I have. 
  • My classroom is designed for my students - not for me (although it does make me happy), not for parents  - but for my students. It needs to be a place that they enjoy coming to for 176 days out of their year. 
  • When I teach something new I like to make it as concrete or tangible as possible. I like to use manipulatives, models, and find read alouds that aid in the teaching of the concept.
  • Getting to know your students is crucial for them to feel comfortable and to be willing to take risks. I send home a "Getting to Know You" sheet to parents at the beginning of the year that asks lots of questions: siblings, pets, favorite food, favorite song, and so much more. My kinders think I'm magical because I will use the names of their sibling or pets in a conversation and they have no idea how I know. Haha!
  • Patience and persistent are key to a successful year. Just as students are all different, so are their learning rates. Some find their wings in October, while others may need until February to take flight. 

  • My door is always open. Some teachers fear their principal or administrators coming into their rooms. I welcome anyone in my room. I have a saying I use. "Come on in because I am always doing what I am supposed to be doing." There is always some type of teaching or learning going on in my room. Sometimes I am the teacher and sometimes the students are. We may not always be "textbook" learning though - sometimes we are learning to be a good friend or a good person. I have had board members stop in to stay a few minutes and then hang out in my room for half an hour as they listened to students sharing their "little books." I read Greg Smedley-Warren's post before I began mine and I like how he is going to challenge himself to teach with his door open this year. Go for it Greg!

Something to Grow On:
I like to share with my students that it is great to learn new things. Some things that I would like to work on or develop are seamless transitions to maximize learning, a thoroughly cohesive curriculum with clear purposes, and finding the best way to blend traditional teaching with technology since we are now all teaching digital natives.


Be sure to check out the posts of the hosts for Teaching With Intention - Chapter 2:

Mrs Dailey's Classroom              Photobucket           The Primary Gal

and of the book study coordinator:

The Kindergarten Smorgasboard