Monday, January 28, 2013

Monthly Must Haves

There it goes...January floating off around the corner, just when I was getting used to it. I had almost warmed to the snowy, wet weather especially when an occasional snow day blew by. Oh well, time to get prepared to greet the next month right? Oh, and what a saucy, little month it is as it pops out of holes looking for shadows and runs around spreading love germs everywhere:D
So, what do you do to get ready for each month? Do you have some go to resources? I do. I thought I might share with you a few of the great finds from TPT that help me to prep for each month.

I love this packet for many reasons. She differentiates each morning work assignment which saves me work. I have a few students that need to have their work tweeked here and there to make it doable. I appreciate that she has already taken care of that for me. I also like that it is specific to first grade, so I know that I'm hitting my standards in both reading and math. Yes, reading and math skills on one sheet. Great! It reviews and previews skills so I'm able to check what they have retained, reteach when necessary, and do a bit of formative assessment on skills we are about to cover. Any assignment that allows me to hit so much at once is a time saver making it a definite monthly pick for me.

This year our RTI coaches had to split time between S-Teams and RTI instruction. Yes, we had certified teachers who did our Tier 1 instruction for us. We were so lucky, but not anymore. So, I started the year wondering what I was going to do. A little research led me to these packets and I never looked back. The activities stay the same and are aligned with the AIMS Web assessments, which is what we use. The words and graphics change to add variety, but the repetitiveness of the activities means my Tier 1 students can focus on the skills not on the rules of the games. I have seen real improvement using this tool. Some of my Tier 1 students came in barely reading on a kindergarten level and are now reading at a beginning first grade level. Huzzah! I like when things work.

What does she love about it you ask? Well, she gushes about all her center work being done and planned for a whole month for one. She likes that the activities stay the same each month but the graphics and skills change to match that month's theme. It makes explanation of centers so easy and ensures that the students are practicing skills not game rules. Finally, she likes that the games review the skills in a challenging way that pushes but doesn't discourage. She's made a believer out of me and I have added that to my monthly cart. I can't wait to try it out!

So what about you? I would love to hear how you prepare for each month. If you have any great finds, don't be stingy. Pass the tips along! I'm always looking for ways to maximize instruction while saving time. Besides, I'm just a sucker for fun, cute activities. So, please share...really!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Writing in Kindergarten

As I was walking down the hall this afternoon, I was stopped by one of our wonderful Kindergarten teachers. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: Hey, when are you going to do a writing workshop thing after school?
Me: That'd be great. Just need to find a good time.
Her: I wanted to start up writing workshop with my kindergartners. Where would I start?

Good question. I firmly believe that it is never to early to get children writing. I love to write and find the creative outlet very rewarding. I also love teaching writing.

So, where to start in kindergarten. Well, you can't bake a good cake if your ingredients stink, so start with quality ingredients. I would start with handwriting. As I tell my firsties, "What is the point of writing it if I can't read it?" Depending on your class, you may work on handwriting until Christmas or beyond. That's okay. Start your writing workshop with journals. They can draw pictures or write or both (driting). Be sure to encourage picture details because that will translate into writing later. Then work on handwriting.

When your class is ready to move into more formal writing, start with sentences. Yes, sentences. You can have the most wonderful thoughts, but if you can't express it in a good sentence it is bunk. So, teach your little angels to write an amazing sentence and illustrate that sentence. When they knock out a super sentence, then they will naturally begin to add more. As they do, be sure to insist upon quality for each sentence they write. Teach them to have that writer's mentality. Words are our tools, and we must use them well.

For those of you that like to follow a format, I hope you've come across Debbie at Sailing Through 1st Grade. She has a great format called, whatda know, Super Sentences. She debunks the mystery of the perfect sentence by giving students a formula to follow. I used them this year with my firsties. They were struggling with expanding sentences. I wasn't used to having this problem and was baffled. I stumbled across this product and thought why not. Not just one light switched on but a whole stadium full. They finally got it. So, check them out! She offers several freebies on her blog. You can find them by searching for super sentences on her blog. If you get sold on them, feel free to stop by her TPT store. She has created formats for the entire year each with a different topic or theme. Just click the picture below to take you there.


When you work on revisions, look to common core for guidance on what to focus on. You might have different expectations for each student, but remember to keep expectations high. Good luck with your writing. I hope this helps!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reading Street Frog and Toad Freebie

I'm not going to make a long post tonight - still in the throes of lesson planning. I will finish and have time to enjoy my evening. No really I will!

Next week my class and I will be reading Frog and Toad Together: The Garden  which (for those of you with Reading Street is Unit 3 Week 4). I've made a little sort to go along with the poem Grandpa's Garden. Nothing fancy, it just has them sort the words from the poem. I hope you enjoy this little freebie!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Here We Go Again!

We started back this week - just two days. I'll be honest. At first I was grumbling as much as my oldest.

"Why can't we just be out the rest of the week? It's just two days!!"

But after two days back I discovered my teaching muscles were a bit flabby. I was glad to have the short week to transition before jumping in whole hog.

I eased back into the daily grind with some help from First Grade Wow. We delved into her Happy New Year unit and Smitten with Mittens unit and had a great time. Both of these units are free I might add (all of her stuff is...and it is sooo good!), so click below to grab them for yourself.


Next week we are going to jump into learning as usual. Here are my I can's for next week. The background paper is from The 3am Teacher and the fonts are from Kevin and Amanda (Firefly Castle and Spicy Sushi Roll) and Rowdy in Room 300 (Rowdy Pirate - too cute fonts).

I'm a little scared. Am I ready to rush in where angels fear to tread?? I will add a few new "I cans."

Have a great New Year!