Friday, December 30, 2011

Technology (Reading and Spelling)

At my school, our classrooms have been blessed to have tablet pc's and LCD projectors in every room. In my classroom, we are using Saxon Phonics for reading and spelling. As a way to enhance my lessons with some engaging activities, I use Microsoft PowerPoint and an excellent FREE site: As a new letter is introduced for the week, we visit Starfall's website to see their cute, animated, fully colored two minute video for each letter we are looking at. (found in their section called "ABC's Let's Get Ready to Read." From their website: " opened in September of 2002 as a free public service to teach children to read with phonics. Our systematic phonics approach, in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice, is perfect for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Starfall is an educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children."

As students learn most of the letters, I begin to do Starfall story reviews from their section "Learn to Read". I take key words from the story and create PowerPoints for the class. For instance, previous to reading through Mox's Shop, I created a PowerPoint that I recorded my own narration over. Each slide introduced a key CVC word from Starfall's story such as a character's name or element from the story. I use this opportunity to also compare and contrast how animal characters in the story are fictional and different or like real animals that are well known to the students. 

Students have a kindergarten lined piece of paper in front of them. They see a picture and hear me say what it is in the PowerPoint and repeat it themselves. They then slowly sound out the word with me on the PowerPoint. As they say each sound, that letter appears on the PowerPoint slide eventually spelling out the word. We then blend the letters together and say the word again. The word disappears and students see only the picture. They then repeat the process themselves as they spell the word on the paper in front of them. The next slide brings the word back as a way for them to check their spelling. I do this with 9-10 words from the Starfall story. We then go to the Starfall site and view the story together.

The Starfall stories have so many child-friendly options. When you move your cursor under each word of the story, it highlights the word, so you can move along as quickly or slowly as you like. If the students can not read the word themselves, you click on the word and a child voice will read it to them. If you click on different parts of the pictures, they are programmed to do a variety of different things. At the end of the story, students are always given the option to vote on whether they liked the book presented or not. Also, the background wallpaper changes with the seasons. 

This website has tons of free and inexpensive download options and also allows for students to make printouts of things they create here. It also has a tab called "More Starfall" which offers an amazing amount of new things in a "Teacher Lounge". If you haven't seen or tried this site yet, I highly recommend you explore it in the New Year! I have used this site with many of the K-3 grade students I tutor and we all love it!

100th Day Activities

Teaching Blog Addicts (TBA) asked what we are doing for the 100th day of school. Here is a preview for you!

My students are really enjoying counting the days down until the 100th day of school. We have an animal roller coaster roaming the walls of our room as seen above. There is a new animals for each day we are in school. I am amazed that there are actually 100 different animals with no repeats. This set was found at Really Good Stuff. I had a bit of a back issue, so my wonderful friend (and parent in the class) Laura Huff of kind enough to come in every few days to put up the next few animals. She and I get a big kick out of watching the students exclaim in surprise when they see the new animals on the end of the coaster. Things got really exciting and tangible for them when we hit day 50 and they were told they were half way there!

The night before the 100th day of school, my students have homework. They are to choose 100 pieces of something healthy to bring to school for show and tell and snack. In our school, because of the prevalence of allergy issues, we do not mix and share snack foods. I do tell the students that they are not expected to eat all 100 pieces of their snack at once. They can snack on the rest later in the day if they like. 

My students are welcomed to school on the 100th day with a table setting that features a 100th day crown from Really Good Stuff and a special book. The book was created by If you go to their home page and look under products, you will see a tab on the right side of their page called "theme books". Here is the direct link to the item:,ProductName. They provided me with a cd I can use year after year. On their site, you can download this book. I found them at a conference I attended. Their products are very high quality and loved by parents. I have the students begin this book on the 100th day and we continue it until the next day. I let the students choose the pages they want to work on first. I have a parent prepare this book with the cool cover in a comb binding for each student. In this book, students have an opportunity to practice reading and writing the number 100 on each page. The book is made so that it is a hands on experience. There are things to cut and glue (such as money). There is a page to let the student draw what they will look like when they are 100 years old. They can draw and journal about what they'd like to eat 100 of. This is a terrific book! (by the way, they have tons of EXCELLENT theme books......I love them!)

Another activity that the students LOVE is our dalmation dotting activity. I have an 8 1/2 x 11 black line master of a dalmation dog, sans his spots. The students use stamp pads and pencil erasers (new Ticonderoga work best, they don't break). The dalmation dog is drawn such that he has 10 areas for "dotting". The students place 10 dots on his right ear, 10 on his left ear, 10 on his face, and so on. Before they can go on to another area of the dog, they must count to check that they have 10 dots. I found small stamp pads at Michael's on sale. I save the stamp pads and pencils each year. I have used the same set for 8 years now and still going strong!

During the day, we also use a 100 spaced (10x10) grid. The students use fruit loops to fill in their grid before counting them by ones as they place them onto a string for a necklace. I love this activity because it allows for a lot of individuality. Some students just go right into and fill the grid up haphazardly with whatever fruit loop their cute little fingers touch first. Others will unknowingly let me see that they understand patterning VERY well by creating AB or ABB or ABC patterns....calling out, "I need two more purple ones!" They love snacking on the broken ones and somehow we end up with quite a few "broken" ones. I wonder why.....I love this activity because it allows them to count by 1's, 10's, 2's, 5's according to what pattern they made.

I also have a number of other fun things we do that day. Let me know if you are interested in any of my other ideas and I'll send them your way. Also if you'd like a copy of the dog, I can send that to you once we get back to school too.

One last item: in order to transition from one fun activity to another (or to clean up), we see if we can finish what we are doing before everyone counts to 100...sometimes, to move them faster, we count by 5's or 10's!

Have a super fun 100th Day!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Linky Party is having a linky party for the best 11 things about the Past Year.

Here are mine:

11. Favorite movie you watched: The Muppet Movie (a bit cheesy, but brought back fun memories)

10. Favorite TV series: I don't watch T.V. but I did enjoy watching through the old Get Smart series with my kids. They loved it too. We also loved checking out the Gomer Pyle, USMC series.
9. Favorite restaurant: Chipolte (mostly to go, but I love that our family can all get exactly what they want in their burrito)

8. Favorite new thing you tried: Blogging and the G cycle at the gym

7. Favorite gift you got: A great attitude from my son (that was really his gift to me) and it keeps on giving.

6. Favorite thing you pinned: brand new, still checking it out

5. Favorite blog post: my students just love seeing something in the room that has a picture of them with their 4th grade buddies in it!

4. Best accomplishment: Wow, how do you really categorize what your best accomplishment is? This makes me wonder about what I really consider as an accomplishment...Getting to the gym nearly every day since Thanksgiving.

3. Favorite picture:  the one means lots of my friends are hanging out again! Ha! Do you like the "guard dog" in the middle of the shoes?

2. Favorite memory: Two parents from my class are in the Air Force together and they brought a Black Hawk to our school for show and tell!!!How cool is that?

1. Goal for 2012: There are so many, so I'll cheat and put more than one: to be a more thoughtful person, continue to use my gym membership, and find a way to supplement our income.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Super Fun and Active New Year Idea

Do your students ice skate inside during the school day? Mine do! I am currently collecting shoe boxes and 200 count tissue boxes from the parents in my classroom for our upcoming New Year Winter Activity. I see that many people are looking for new ideas for the New Year, so I thought I would pass this one on. It has been a HIT every year.

Collect enough shoe boxes and empty 200 count tissue boxes so that each child can have two boxes for ICE SKATING! I actually try to get more, as the boxes break down and the child will need to switch out to get some good ones. Sometimes, our local Payless Shoe Source store will donate boxes to our activity.

Our kindergarten class, along with the other kindergarten class reserves our multi-purpose room for this activity. We have a parent tape down an "ice skating rink". Basically, a large oval with an oval inside of it so that if you stood two or three children side by side, they could "skate" along the oval track. They are not to go inside the middle center oval and can only "skate" in one direction so that no one gets hurt.

I encourage students to bring winter clothing such as hats and scarves and mittens. They put them on, slip on a pair of shoe box "ice skates" and head for the "rink". I know Christmas is over in January, but I play Christmas music anyway. You could use any music you like. We have the girls skate around for about 5-10 minutes while the boys are over at tables coloring in winter coloring pages and eating muffins and drinking hot cocoa. After 5-10 minutes, I fade the music and the girls and boys switch places. They are usually needing a rest after skating around for that period of time. It is fun, but tiring. Our Principal and Vice Principal always pop over to skate around and do silly twirls with the kids. The children LOVE this!

Toward the end, we clear the "skates" to the side and line one class up on one side of the "rink" and the other class up on the other side. I pour "snowballs" (white cotton balls) into the center of the rink and count to 3. The children rush to the center, pick up "snowballs" and proceed to throw them at the kids on the other side. They love this snowball fight and no one gets hurt! It makes for awesome pictures. For privacy, I did not post any pictures of this activity as I do not want to post pictures of my children here. However, I can promise you that if you stand at the center end of the rink, you will get fabulous shots! When we feel they have thrown enough, we ask each child to pick up as many snowballs as they can and return them to my bag. I save them for the next year. Generally, the snowballs can handle being used for about two years in a row and then they become kind of ratty and pulled out.

At the end of the activity, we check the bottom of the tissue boxes for box tops, take those off and let the children stomp down all the boxes. We then put them in the recycle bin and head back to class.

If you have any ideas for how to make this activity more fun, I'd love to hear from you!

Happy New Year!

Liebster Blog award

I got the Liebster Award!!! Now, I'm passing it on!!!

I was given the Liebster Blog Award for new bloggers!
Thank you, Jennifer at  for giving me this award!
Now, it is my turn to award other new bloggers with this award!
Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Thank the giver and link back to them.
3. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
I get to name 5 others new to blogging! WOW!
Here are the ones I chose:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

New Year Resolutions

livelovelaughkindergarten is having a linky party asking us to talk about any New Year resolutions we have. Until last year, I have never really considered being serious about making or keeping any New Year resolutions. Last year, on Christmas, I made my first resolution: to go the entire year without drinking soda. I have officially gone 365 days without drinking a soda...and no longer care to do so. I don't want to list too many however, here we go:

Here are my resolutions:
1. Focus on the positive each day
2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day

1. Organize my teaching books that are on the shelves behind my desk.
2. Create a monthly theme unit

1. Try to post at least 2 times a week
2. Create a fan page on Facebook

Happy New Year!!

Kindergarten Art Ideas

Though today is Christmas and these projects were made for Christmas, you can either file this idea away for next year or adapt it for any upcoming holiday such as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.

For this project, copy any picture you'd like onto a transparency. I have used pictures that are 7" around. Have your students color them with PERMANENT markers (water color markers will just rub off). Encourage them to not use the same color side-by-side. Find a spot with a light color (such as yellow) to write their name in a dark color. I then cut poster-board circles the same size. Then I lightly crinkle aluminum foil squares (about 8" square) and wrap those over the poster-board circles. I then glue the colored transparency right onto the aluminum wrapped poster-board. Trim any excess overhang.

Important note: If your markers do not color the transparency well, let them dry and go back over them later. The darker you color each segment, the more beautiful it will look up against the crinkled aluminum.

Some other ideas to do with this:
1) punch a hole in the top and tie a ribbon through it to hang it up.
2) make two and put them together so they can be double-sided.

New Year's Art Idea

As the lights twinkle on the tree for a few more days, some of you may be thinking ahead to projects for the new year. As a teacher, I am always thinking about what type of project I should have ready to go for decorating the class with a new season or holiday approaching. Here is a fun idea I had that you may like.
A number of years ago, a friend drew this outline for me. I enlarged it to about 5 inches tall or so. I print out two for each child on card stock or construction paper. I then invite our 4th grade buddies to our room to work on these with us. The children first decorate all of the "snow child" with crayons, markers, and colored pencils. They draw a hat, a jacket (and maybe a scarf), pants, and snow boots. My student gets one and the 4th grade buddy gets one to do. I have the 4th graders encourage their kindergartener to make patterns for the jacket and hat and use details such as checkers or stripes. I then supply cloth pieces, sequence, and small jewels for them to decorate their person with. I ask the students NOT to decorate a face. While they are working, I go around the room and take a close-up picture of their face. I then print out the pictures on my Epson Picture Mate (wallet size). I cut a circle around the child's face and then have them glue their own face to the "snow child". For the purpose of privacy, the next picture is the completed project without the pictures glued on yet.

I then tape the projects together on the back of their "hands". I alternate a kindergartener and a 4th grade buddy all the way across the back of my room. The entire project ends up looking like a string of paper dolls.The children LOVE to see these hung up with them as they come back from a long break at Christmas without seeing their buddies. If you'd like a copy of the "snow child" template, please contact me and I will send it to you.
Happy New Year!!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Developing Oral Language in Kindergarten: taught by Mrs. Huff

The pretty, green Christmas tree sparkles at night time.

The sparkly, green Christmas tree sparkles at the night time when I am home.

The shiny, big Christmas tree sparkles next to the cute, white snowman.

The fat, enormous Christmas tree sparkles in the sunlight.

The trees waiting to be read by parents at our Christmas party this week!
Here are some examples of a special writing project my class participated in that I know has definitely had an impact on the way they are learning how to talk.

For as long as I have been teaching, I have been interested in the concept of developing the oral language of the little people I spend my days with. In my earlier days of teaching, I found myself so excited that students would respond to what I planned to teach them about. I am still excited when I see that they want to engage with the concepts in each lesson. However, I soon realized that even though students were engaged and students responded, they did not often respond with "much". Answers were usually given in short and fragmented thoughts. Almost never did a student respond to a question or give a comment in a complete sentence. Even if they did, there was generally just a list given of what the student knew.

Over time, I began to study and evaluate my students for how they respond to me. I listened to how they speak to each other. I wondered if they were developmentally ready to learn how to expand the way they talk. I wondered if the development of oral language in a young child was simply the coincidental by-product of the classroom environment. If I spent most of my time accepting simple short answers in an attempt to quickly move through my curriculum and get to the next subject, I soon realized that I was actually training my students to respond like autobots with little attention given to critical analysis of thought and attention to descriptive detail.

I began to experiment with expectations and realized that a student can rise to the level you teach them at. When I do not model how to expand with description what I am saying, I get a regurgitation of lists of facts from my students. When I express myself with more expansive description and prod my students to do the same, they are able to do so. I do realize that while a student will rise to the level you teach them at, not all students can rise to the same level. As a result, I alternate how I ask my questions with some students. For some students, I may request their answer in a complete sentence and ask them what else they would like to tell me about their answer. Another student may be given a cloze sentence to complete in which they add their own descriptions, but I place key concepts into the verbal sentence for them.

Imagine my excitement this year when a writing teacher placed her child in my classroom and expressed an interest in helping to teach my students in kindergarten how to become better writers. Mrs. Huff  has spent hours each month bringing a writing theme into my classroom. She has taught my students in-depth about what adjectives are and how they can be used to make your writing more interesting to read. She has taught them how to love to create a picture and choose exact adjectives that accurately describe their picture and then learn how to write those words onto their paper. She has brought in beautiful literature that matches our theme and is full of adjectives as a model of expressive and interesting writing. This month, for Christmas, she brought in a Christmas tree picture and had them decorate it the way they wanted to with crayon, sequence shapes, glitter, and glue. She had an open sentence printed in a cute star font that said, "The___________, _____________ Christmas tree sparkled________________.They then brain stormed words that would describe their tree. These were written on the board for them to use in their writing. They were then asked to choose two words to describe their tree and wrote those on their paper themselves. They then dictated the rest of the sentence to Mrs. Huff or me and we wrote what they said on the last line. Some of them really got into the descriptive part of it and said, "The beautiful, tall Christmas tree sparkled in the dark forest while I was asleep." Truthfully, some of their comments were basic, but when asked for more description, they really loved getting creative to add more detail.

A very special Thank You to Mrs. Huff for your constant attention to my growing writers who are becoming more interesting speakers! Please visit her blogspot for some more wonderful Writer's Workshop ideas! You can see her work at

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