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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!