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Friday, February 17, 2017

The Friday Five: Must-Have Children's Books!

When I left the classroom, I had many people ask me if I'd be selling some of the hundreds (possibly thousands...?!?) of the books I had collected over the years.

I couldn't bear to get rid of a single book.  Instead, I created a library in our playroom at home.

The thought of somehow choosing just 5 of these books as must-haves seems impossible.  After all, a child can never read too many books!  Here are 5 that I read to my class every year without fail, and I can't wait to read them to Beckett!

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
I think Skippy is my spirit animal.  I love this siamese cat who thinks he is a chihuahua.  His books are lengthy but hilarious, and his imagination is the best!  When you are in the mood for reading a lively book and are ready to read with lots of silly voices - this is it!

No, David! by David Shannon
We have all taught - AND ADORED - a David, right!?  So mischievous but so precious and loving.  These books speak through the illustrations, and they're fabulous.  Kids love these books, but I do, too!

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Clever farm animals and sound effects?  Always a good time!

The Way Mothers Are by Miriam Schlein
I read this to my class before Mother's Day every year.  It's a beautiful book about a mama's unconditional love, and it means even more to me now.  It was published in 1993 and was part of my own childhood library.

I Knew You Could! by Craig Dorfman
A fantastic book about perseverance and self-worth!  I read this book to my class on the last day of school every year and never once made it through without crying.  It's a story that can apply to every human all throughout life - not just in childhood.

What books make your top 5?  I'd love for you to share!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fluency with Our Beginning Readers (& Updated Fluency Warm-Up Cards)

Traditional reading practices usually recommend beginning fluency instruction in the middle of 1st Grade.  It is typically at this time that accuracy shifts from taking all of the young reader's focus, and he or she can begin deepening comprehension and improving rate and prosody.  I don't think we should wait until that point to begin strengthening fluency, though!  

In the past decade or so, researchers and educators have realized that without fluency, comprehension (<--- the goal of reading) is nearly impossible.  Instead of waiting until it's a problem, let's tackle it from the very beginning of a child's reading instruction. Our youngest readers can begin strengthening the parts of their brains that are needed for reading fluently (working memory and the frontal cortex are both vital).

Fluency Warm-Up Cards are perfect for Pre-K, Kinder, and 1st Grade students!





I printed these 2-sided and made 6 sets so that each chair at my guided reading table had a full set in the chair pocket.  The students used these at least once a week to "warm-up" before the guided reading lesson.  

They are perfect for differentiating since they cover letter names and sounds, VC, CVC, CVCe words, words with blends, words with digraphs, and words with twin consonants.

I recently updated this product to contain more cards, and I also freshened up the graphics and fonts.  I decided to use animals on each card so that it is easier to tell students which card to find to use.  ("Find the card with the orange octopus" is easier than telling them to find the one with the blonde girl in a red shirt lol.)

I'd love to hear how you target fluency with your youngest readers!

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Friday Five: Quotes that Inspire

I'm linking up again with Tracy at the Caffeinated Counselor and Kimmie at Elementary Nerd to bring you another Friday 5!  This week we are sharing 5 quotes that inspire us - in the classroom or just for life.  While some may consider inspirational quotes to be cheesy or cliche, I love a good motivational phrase.  Here are my favorite 5 quotes!

This quote was in my email signature for all 10 years I worked in public education.  I actually mentioned it in a blog post a few years ago.  It is my most favorite teaching quote, and I worked hard to remember it every day.  It's so easy to get caught up in curriculum, academics, getting to lunch on time, etc., that the most important part of teaching - the soul of teaching - can get lost.  No matter how awesome my lessons might have been, I know my students would probably never remember them.  What they would remember is how they felt in my care, that they loved Kindergarten and felt valued.  This quote really applies to every human interaction we have.  People won't remember the details, but they will remember if they felt respected, cared for, and appreciated!

I wish I was more like Mother Teresa and less like myself.  What an inspiring woman.  She has many quotes to live by, but I love this one about smiling.  It is shocking to me how many people do not smile back at me at the grocery store or in the hallway of the school building.  When someone does give me a smile, it actually lifts my mood.  Brain research has proven how important it is for babies to be smiled at, and they biologically desire to smile to express emotion.  It's true for adults, too - and smiling doesn't just help the recipient, but also the smiler!  I think the world would be a happier place if we all smiled more!

This was my favorite quote as a teenager, and it is the quote I included in my senior yearbook.  It is so easy to get caught up in what other people think about us, that we sometimes stifle our behavior or hide our true feelings.  I love the idea of enjoying life - including singing and dancing - without fearing the judgement of others.  Those that have seen me on a wedding dance floor already know that I'm pretty good at applying this quote to real life.  And luckily for me, Kindergarteners appreciated my singing even though it's not what anyone would consider accomplished.  ;)  

Sad, but so true, right!?  Ha!

Confucius nailed it with this one.  As an educator, I was so blessed to live this every day.  Going to "work" never felt like work.  I wish this for everyone.

This is a Bible verse - Proverbs 31:25. I found this verse when my mom was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, and it described her perfectly.  Despite the hardships and unknowns she was facing, she trusted the Lord, became stronger than ever, and did not let fear take away her joy for life.  What a beautiful verse for all of us to live by.

I'd love to hear your favorite 5 quotes (or even just your top one) - comment below to share!  And visit Tracy at the Caffeinated Counselor and Kimmie at Elementary Nerd to read theirs!












Friday, January 20, 2017

The Friday Five: Songs That Take You Back in Time

Isn't music just the best!?  I mean show me someone who doesn't like music and you've probably just introduced me to an alien.  Music is so amazing and truly has the ability to change your mood and lift your spirits.  Scientists agree.  This article was fueled by the author's curiosity about why hearing a song could bring back vivid and distinct memories.

It's called the "reminiscence bump," and it works for songs you heard during first experiences, memories, and feelings from your first 25 years of life (although I'd argue that it lasts longer, please say it lasts longer).  I always loved using music in the classroom, and I know my students always enjoyed having music on the background no matter what it was or at what time of day.

For this Friday Five, I'm sharing 5 songs that take me back.  Even as I'm typing this I still have no idea how to possibly choose 5, so I'll be as surprised as you at what you read next.  ;)

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
In 1st grade, three of my best friends and I created a dance and lip-synced to this song at the school talent show.  (Well I think it was 1st grade, might need a fact check, Mom.)  We were in our pajamas, used the Chipmunks version, and incorporated our sleeping bags into the show.  I mean it was pretty much the cutest thing ever.  I vividly remember it, and anytime I hear this song, it takes me right back to that stage.  Look at my 1st grade sass:


Wide Open Spaces
Really, any song from this Dixie Chicks' album will do it.  My mom, friend Brandy (carpool buddy), and I would belt out these songs on the way to and from school every day the second half of 8th grade.  I can't believe I'm voluntarily sharing a picture from 8th grade...


I've Got a Feeling
This song instantly fills me with happiness.  It was at the top of the charts when my husband John and I got married in July of 2009.  The DJ played it at the perfect moment - the dance floor was packed with all of our closest friends, hands in the air, heels kicked-off, singing and jumping all around us.  BEST. PARTY. EVER.


Get Low
Junior year of college.  'Nuff said.


I Love Little Nora
Yeah, so I'm about to get sappy.  I don't have a video link for this song because my Dad made it up and sang it to me as he rocked me as a baby and toddler.  Even though I don't remember being rocked as a baby (obviously), I do remember this song - the words and the tune.  It was always so special to me, and now I have changed the lyrics, and I sing it to my sweet baby boy Beckett.  My Daddy and I:

My dear friends Tracy at the Caffeinated Counselor and Kimmie at Elementary Nerd are joining me for this fun Friday link-up!  Be sure to visit their pages to see their 5 songs, and share yours by commenting below!



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Asking Questions: A Reading Strategy FAN FREEBIE

It has been more than a hot minute since I've taken the time to post here.  I could make excuses, but really I just had other priorities for awhile, and that's totally okay.  Since I've last posted I've...

  • Moved into a new house
  • Spent a year working in the curriculum department of my school district
  • Had the most perfect baby boy :) - Beckett
  • Resigned from the school district to spend this year staying at home with my babe
  • Embarked on a mission to not buy any clothes, jewelry, or shoes in 2017 (I'm blogging about it here)
  • Really missed both teaching and blogging about education!
As I came to dust off the blog and get to writing again, I realize I still had a few draft posts I had never finished or published.  SCORE.  Feels like Christmas again.  Thanks to those of you who are still following this blog 2 years later; hope you enjoy this post about an awesome reading strategy that includes a fan freebie!!


My students always loved Reader's Workshop time.  And I loved that we no longer taught "learning-to-read" before teaching "reading-to-learn."  Both types of reading instruction can (and should) come before students can read independently.  They can engage in deep, meaningful reading experiences and learn to use the comprehension strategies that they will use for their entire lives!

One strategy we worked on every spring was asking questions before, during, and after reading.  We did this first as a whole group during our mini-lessons.  When my students were ready to record their questions independently, I gave them this recording page for them to use during both read-alouds and while reading to self.




You can grab this student recording sheet for FREE on my Facebook page. 

Make sure to like the page, and then you will have access to the "Fan Freebies" link!  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

SuperKid News + Count, Tally, & Graph FREEBIE PACK!

Well, hello there! Our 3rd snow day [in Texas!] this year seems like the perfect time to dust off this 'ole blog here and play some major catch-up! So where have I been!? Oh ya know, just having a blast with my precious SuperKids. ;)

We have been so busy and time is flying. I can't believe that we only have 60 or so days left this year. SAD FACE! I want to share some of the highlights from our classroom these past few months.

 In December, we learned about holidays around the world and read lots of Gingerbread Man stories! Our own gingerbread man, Gingy, ran away!! He sent us postcards from around the world. He's quite the traveler. ;) Luckily, he came back to us right before our Christmas break.
We also baked our own giant gingerbread man cookie.  We didn't give him eyes until after he was baked, so this one couldn't run away!
We celebrated both MLK Day and President's Day and made fun art projects.
We had a huge celebration on the 100th day of school.  My students' favorite part?  Working in a team to build a structure using 100 cups!

In math, we worked with shapes, solids, and learned to measure!  Ways to make a hexagon is always a class favorite!
 We also learned about money and had a blast making our coins talk using the ChatterPix free app!
We worked with force and motion, and the students collaborated to build machines that could move different objects!
 We've done lots of cooking (every Friday), including these adorable Oreo penguins!
We practiced interpreting maps and worked cooperatively to create our own maps of our imaginative towns!
For Valentine's Day, our Kindergarten Cares Club created Valentines for the residents of a nursing home and some sweet kiddos delivered them.
During our Valentine's party, we had a blast with our classroom selfie stick
My favorite 1st Grade teacher and I presented at a science conference about engineering in the classroom.  SO FUN!
And the ultimate highlight of the past few months in the SuperKid room - using our new GREEN SCREEN!  Oh-my-goodness have you ever used a green screen!?  It's such a blast.  I have this green screen and use this app.

After learning about different landforms, each student chose 1 to "live by" and then described how life is affected (diet, clothing, activities, etc.) in that environment!  They shared their information via video!
We've also used the green screen for lots of "just-for-fun" videos.

If you made it through all of that, I now have a new freebie pack for ya: Count, Tally, & Graph!  It's in my TPT Store and IT'S FREE!  I hope you'll enjoy it and leave feedback!  :) 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Count-Tally-Graph-Just-print-and-play-1747019

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Count-Tally-Graph-Just-print-and-play-1747019

Thanks for letting me playing catch-up!  I promise to check back in soon this time.