Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Hey Y'all! I hope you have a fabulous Halloween and that your students are incredibly well behaved for you. (Haha, don't hold your breath!) I'm having a 10% off sale in my store today and tomorrow. 

Trick or Treat!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Ways to Use Links in Your Classroom

If you are an elementary teacher, chances are you have links in your classroom. My first year as a kindergarten teacher I learned quickly that these colorful pieces of plastic can quickly turn from a math tool to a weapon of mass destruction! It's important to teach your kids (especially those in K-2) appropriate ways we can use links as learning tools to avoid the inevitable link-lasso-whack-in-the-face.

It's easy to say, "Well I just won't use them because my kids can't handle them." Yes, you can do that. But you'd be missing out on the opportunity to teach your students an important lesson: Just because we can, doesn't mean we should. You'd also be missing out on a really fun and engaging tool that can be used to teach a plethora of skills to our little learners.

Here are 10 ways you can incorporate these fun, little pieces of plastic into your curriculum:

1. Patterns

Links can be used to teach your students the concept of patterning. From AB to ABCD, links give you a wide option to practice with. You can have kids pattern with just the links or use a tray like the one in the photo. I purchased the tray in the photo from Lakeshore Learning. In kinder, most kids didn't need the tray but it's very beneficial for students with special needs. 

2. Building Numbers

For kinder and first grade students learning how to write numbers is an essential skill. Using links adds a tactile experience that many students need. I recommend giving students a model of the numbers you want them to build and having them recreate that number using the links. You could also have them place the links directly on the model for more support (see photo). I've made a PDF file with outlines for numbers 1-20, capital letters, lowercase letters and a blank ten frame. You can use these outlines in your classroom. I recommend copying them on cardstock, laminating them and you're good to go! You can pick the file up here.

3. Building Letters

In addition to learning how to write numbers, learning how to write capital and lowercase letters is a must for primary students. Similar to the "building numbers" activity, give your students a model of the letters you want them to build or ask them to lay the links directly on the model for more support. You can pick up the outline mats I used in the photo here. (These mats can also be used for play doh practice. Just make sure you laminate them first or you'll be sorrrrrrry!) ;)

4. Word Work

My friend Hannah teaches kindergarten and during her daily five time she lets her kids use the links to spell out popcorn words. Most do fine without a model, but they are good to have for differentiation purposes. They use her popcorn word wall to check their spelling. Fun!

5. Place Value

When teaching early place value concepts, links make a great tool. Use links to create strands of tens (connected links) and single links to act as ones. You can use links when modeling the concept of groups of tens and leftovers during whole group, small group or math stations.

6. Skip Counting

When teaching your kids how to skip count by 2s, 5s and 10s, links provide a nice visual aide. Group the links according to the pattern you are teaching. 

7. Sorting

I bought this nice sorting mat from Lakeshore ages ago. You don't need fancy, plastic mats like these but they are nice! Sorting can be done whole group, small group or during math stations. This can be an open ended task where you allow kids to sort their own way. You can also assign them a specific way to sort: by color, shape, size, etc. This concept can be taught during math or science (physical properties of matter).

8. Graphing

Place a set of different colored or shaped links in a bag. Ask students to count how many they have of each color or shape and graph them. (The tray was bought at Lakeshore.) Easy math station!

9. Incentives

Links can be used as a tool for tracking incentives. You can do this for good behavior, homework or attendance. Every time your class meets whatever goal you set, add a link. When you get to X amount of links, y'all get a treat! Easy and fun!!

10. 1:1 Correspondence

Counting with 1:1 correspondence is a basic but important skill to teach our little ones. For this activity, give each child a handful of links. You can call out a number or show a number to your students, then ask them to show you that many links. If working with numbers 0-10, using a ten frame is very beneficial. Have them layout each link in one frame of the ten frame and touch each link as they count. To differentiated for more advanced students you can ask them a question like, "How many more do I need to make a ten? How do you know?" You can also ask them to show you larger numbers.

10 ways to use links in your classroom and none of them involved forging plastic weaponry! Do you use links in your classroom? If you have any other ways to use links, please leave a comment below! I'd love to hear about them! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Yummy Halloween Treats, The Letter C and Sight Word Puzzles

Hey friends! We had an amazingly busy, but fun, weekend. Saturday we went to two Halloween parties. One was a Halloween party/Longhorn game watching party. The game ended up being delayed because of weather but we had fun anyway! Here's a pic of Jackson and I in our pirate getup:

I made some Halloween chex mix for the party. I kind of made up my own mix based on what I could find at the store. The mix was made up of 2 cups corn Chex, 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup caramel bits, 1/2 pretzels and a 1/2 cup candy corn. I mixed all that with melted white chocolate and got some yummy treats. I placed them on a Halloween dish in cupcake wrappers. Here's a pic of my crafty concoction:

Later that night we went to my husband's cousin's Halloween baby shower. It was so much fun but it was late and Jackson was tired, so we didn't get to play as much. It was more cranky, tired baby control for me. He hung in there though. :)

Sunday mornings I co-teach a first grade  Sunday school class at our church. We learned about how God made food for the Israelites by sending them quail and turning manna into bread. Then we got to make our own food and thank God for our yummy treat! My co-teacher made some yummy sugar cookies and we let the kids ice them and decorate them.

We let them decorate the cover of their Bible verses book and one of the kids did this:

The jack-o-lantern says, "In God even us pumpkins trust." How cute is that?! 

Sunday afternoon I went to tutor my nephew Hank. We worked on the letter C and the sight word "go". Hank is almost 3, so he is still really young and hasn't had many of the early experiences that aid in comprehension but he is very bright and ready to grow as an early reader. 

We worked on our letter C page by using "Do a Dot" markers I bought at Lakeshore. He LOVED this because they were easy for him to hold and not as strenuous as tearing paper. He then identified pictures that began with the C sound and identified capital and lower case Cs. We also read a little C book. I'm working on 1:1 correspondence with him as well as using the picture as a guide for decoding unknown words. 

I brought a big book that I created for him. I am doing a mini version of the shared reading with a big book that I used to do with my kinder kids. We did a picture walk, discussed what the book would be about, what he knew about Halloween (prior knowledge) and I modeled using a pointer to point to my words as I read. 

Hank REALLY wanted to use the pointer so of course I let him. We practiced reading it together and he pointed to the words as we read. Then he got a smaller version of the story in black and white and used the "Do a Dot" marker to "butter up" his popcorn word "go". This little book will be added to his book box so he can read the books to his mom, dad, brother or sister. 

We have learned about 3 sight words so far, but still need a lot of repetition for him to master them. I'm going to make a modified version of my sight word puzzles to practice with him. In my sight word puzzles pack, the kids work on 8 words per page. I'll modify his to make it four or five. Here's a sample of how the puzzles work:

Easy enough for little ones but a great way to reinforce sight word recognition and spelling. My old district came up with their own sight word lists for K-2 using the building blocks and four blocks curriculum but didn't do just straight Dolch or Fry's sight word lists. What list do y'all use for sight words? District made or a standard one like Dolch's or Fry's? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear how other people do it! 

Happy Monday! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five for Friday with a sight word freebie!


Hey friends!! I'm excited to link up with Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday!! Here's what's been going on in my neck of the woods...

1. The bump arrived!! If you follow my blog you know I'm pregnant with our second baby. I'm pretty sure it's a boy, but we don't know yet. I'm about 15 weeks pregnant right now. 

2. We figured out what we will be for Halloween! My husband, son and I will be pirates! Here's Jackson practicing his pirate "ARRRR!"

3. I created a 100 club bulletin board set and tried it out in my office. This will be part of a math unit I'm working on for my kinder friend Hannah.

4. I finished working on my Halloween and fall big books! I'll be using these when I work with my nephew Hank. My kinder friends are using them for their shared reading with a big book time. They came out really cute thanks to Creative Clips clip art. I love her stuff!!

5. I made a freebie just for YOU!! This is a sight word center where the kids put the puzzle pieces together to create a fall picture. They then record the sight word for the matching picture. See the picture below. I'm working on making a whole set of these for the kinder and first.

You can pick the file up here. Have a great Friday!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The letter B, measuring with pumpkins and a Halloween write the room freebie

Hey friends! So my internet isn't working, apparently my modem died and AT&T is going to send me a new one. Not fun but luckily I have a super cool neighbor who is letting me borrow his wi-fi for the evening! :)

Alright, so my little nephew Hank and I have been working hard reviewing capital letters and learning lowercase letters. He is definitely the youngest child I've taught, so I'm in the learning process with him. He is very bright but he isn't even three yet, so I'm trying to make sure I'm not pushing him too far too fast. I've definitely noticed that he needs to strengthen his fine motor skills so we are going to start making letters and words out of Play Doh soon.

I'm experimenting with his ABC book, for A I let him color it in, for B I let him tear paper and glue it in the B and for the C we are going to use dot paint markers. Coloring is still kinda messy for him, tearing was way too difficult for him...I'm thinking the dot markers are going to be a nice medium because he will have to hold the marker and workout his hands but it will also leave cute dots for a nice tactile experience when rereading the page. Live and learn! Here are some pics from our last session:

Here is the "B" page. Remember he is not even 3! So he rocked it! Next time we will use the "Do a Dot" art markers I bought from Lakeshore.

Hank circled the pictures that start with B (yay phonemic awareness!) and then circled the capital and lowercase bs only.

Here we worked on the popcorn word "big". I read it to him, traced it and wrote it for him. He had to find the word big and butter it up with yellow crayon. He did a great job at that!

After we work on a word I write it on his flashcards (those are supposed to go with him in the car so we can review his popcorn words) and the yellow card is a piece of popcorn that goes in his popcorn word bag that you can see below. When I taught kinder I would give my kids those little popcorn bags to put their words in. They loved it! I think I got the bags in the Target dollar bins, but it was ages ago!

Alrighty, moving on to measuring with pumpkins!! My friend Hannah used my Halloween measuring packet to measure with pumpkins. They did this whole group on Monday. Once the kids do it together, they can then work on a similar measuring game from the packet in a math station. She said they really enjoyed it! Here are some pics:

And a freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeebie! :) I've made some snazzy write the room pages to add to your literacy center or daily five time. There are two versions: 1. simple old write the room with beginning sounds or 2. write the room: nouns (for the older kids 1st or 2nd graders). 

I hope you can find use for these pages. You can pick the file up here. Alright, off to bed! ;)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2 year old super genius, freebies and a flash give-a-way!

Happy Fall Y'all!! I loooove this time of year. It really is my favorite, Christmas is a close second. I love pumpkins, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and fall leaves (even though in Texas our leaves stay green and don't fall off until January). I'm so excited to go trick-or-treating with baby Jackson for the first time. Well, we went last year, but honestly how much fun can a 1 month old have trick or treating? This year he will actually get to excited!

Alright, down to business. A week ago I started tutoring my 2 year old (23 month old) nephew Hank. He is SO adorable and he is ridiculously smart. He knows all of his capital letters and their sounds and he isn't even 3 yet. I remember teaching kinder and my most struggling students barely knew any letters at all. I'm so excited for Hank and so are his parents. 

We've been doing 30 minute sessions where we are reviewing letters and sounds and starting to associate lower case letters with the capitals. We started by playing a game called "Gobble Gobble". It's similar to other games like "POP" or "Oops" whatever you want to call it really. You cut out all the cards and put in some cards that have a turkey on them. Each player takes turn pulling out a card and saying the name of the letter and it's sound. If they get a turkey, they have to jump up and say "Gobble, gobble, gobble" and they lose their cards and start over. The person with the most cards at the end is the winner.

Here are the cards if you want to use them for a center or small group activity. Kids LOVE jumping around like turkeys...but of course as a teacher you know this already! :)

After we warmed up we worked on capital and lowercase letter A. He knows capital A no problem, it's the lowercase that tricks him up, especially how different fonts can make the a look so different. We are starting off basic, same font for a while but once he has more exposure to different lowercase letters I'll start exposing him to the funky fonts and teach him how to decipher.

Here he is working on the A practice page. Now that I know more about his fine motor skills I think he can tear paper easily enough to wear we can tear construction paper and cover the A to make it a more tactile experience for him. This day he just traced it with a chubby crayon, keep in mind he is 2! Not 5. He's just a smarty pants.

We are also working on learning sight words. We called them "popcorn words" in kinder so I'm keeping with that tradition. I made him a little A book with two words per page and a simple picture. The sight word we learned this day was "an" and I had him go through his book and circle the lowercase As, then we went through and put "butter" on the word "An". We didn't have a yellow crayon so we used orange. I used to tell my kids to "butter up" their popcorn words by coloring them in yellow. I also made him a piece of popcorn with the word "an" on it that we are keeping in a little baggy for him to practice with at home. 

Hank also worked on a page where he circled the pictures that started with A and then had to circle all the capital and lowercase As. The lowercase was hard for him. Especially the Q! It was a good learning experience though as we started learning the different formations of letters. I talked with him about how Q has a tail and a doesn't . 

To wrap it up we played a letter sound game I bought a Lakeshore. I picked some lowercase letters that look very similar to capitals to help him associate them easily. He was able to tell me where the pictures went according to their beginning sound. Ummm he's awesome. I know! I gave his mom (my big sister) a CD with rhymes because I also want him to start learning how to rhyme, we will get into that later down the road. I'm so excited to get to teach this little brainiac! 

Here are the A pages I made. Next week we are working on B. I'll post those for free too if you want to use as send home work or small group intervention for kids in your class. As we work through the alphabet I'll tweak things here and there but I'm planning on making this a huge ABC/Sight word unit to share with y'all down the road. Hank is my little guinea pig! :)

Alright, flash give-a-way! I just finished a Halloween themed measurement unit for my kinder friends. This unit covers Common Core math for kinder (K.MD.A.1, K.MD.A.2) and the Texas TEKS (K.7A, K.7B, 1.7A,1.7D). Here are some pics:

These math stations would be great to use that week of Halloween. Kids love anything and everything Halloween!! This unit was created for kinder but could be used in a first or second grade room as a review of basic nonstandard measurement skills. I've included picture visuals for directions and vocabulary posters. You can pick it up in my TPT store here. I'm also giving away one of these units to the first reader who comments on this blog post! Good luck!! (If you don't teach kinder-second, you can choose my monster mash writing unit instead which works for grades 1-3.)

All blog comments get sent to me for approval first, so you won't see your comment pop up right away. I'll announce the winner later today! Happy Wednesday y'all! :)