Monday, August 14, 2017

VIP Seat

I've been searching for a claw foot rub for my classroom for years. They are hard to find and really expensive. But last week I found this through a FB group I manage and got it for a steal! Painted it, going to add pillows and it will be my new VIP seat! Can't wait to add my VIP clipboards and pencil basket to it!! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Flexible Seating or Cute Classroom Design?

Flexible seating is such a hot topic right now. Everyone is looking for things to use in their classrooms to allow for this. As moderator of a few groups on Facebook I am able to see the questions and comments people have about flexible seating, so it really made me think? Is flexible seating being used for its intended purpose or is it just a fancy way of decorating your classroom? Here's my opinion, take it or leave it. I believe that flexible seating, in the truest sense of the word, means that students are allowed the flexibility to find an alternative to a traditional chair that will help them work and learn better. That's it. But many others don't see it that way. So many people are using rotations and sign up sheets to manage theirs, but is that truly flexible seating or is it just alternate seating that looks like flexible seating. Here's the difference: flexible seating should be just that; flexible. A student who needs to work standing up should be given that choice and allowed to do that for as long as the need arises. He shouldn't work standing up on Monday, then to yoga balls on Tuesday, etc... If he truly needs to stand up to work then he should be allowed that choice every day. Alternate seating is just having a variety of seating choices in your room that are not necessarily used for individual student needs. Group A stands on Monday, yoga balls on Tuesday, on the floor on Wednesday, etc... There is no individual need taken into account. I think that in order to call it flexible seating then students should be the ones responsible for the choosing of seats, otherwise its just another group rotation to manage. Like I said, you may choose to disagree, but this is how I see it and how I do it in my room. So, what does it look like in room 8?

Last year, through a generous grant from Donor's Choose, I was able to get several items to begin flexible seating in my classroom. I got 2 flower shaped tables that were low to the floor, 2 stability ball chairs, 3 wobble stools, and some wobble cushions. I added pillows, low stools, high stools, husband reclining pillows, and a standing table to have a space that would meet the needs of all learners. This year I am adding scoop rockers!

Since I got my things after the school year started I was fortunate enough to already have rules and procedures established, which made introducing the seating very easy! I started off by assigning seats. Then I would rotate the students through the tables each day until they had a feel for how each seat worked. Granted, I had 2 students who needed a certain seat so those were assigned by me. Once students figured out which one worked best for them, which was about 2 weeks, I let go of the reigns and gave free choice. It's amazing how they went to the same seat every day. Some worked better on the floor, some did better standing up, and some just preferred a regular old chair. It did not matter to me where they sat as long as they were able to work. For my students who I know need to move, I gave them first choice on the stools and balls so they could try them while working. We had conversations about how they felt, if they thought they worked better while using them, etc... Once we established their seat then it was theirs until it stopped working. I did have to change out a few seats due to behavior, but it really was a pretty easy thing to do. Interestingly enough, I found that only a few students really required a specific seat. To make it truly flexible they chose each day, and most went to the same seat. It was amazing to me how many students preferred a traditional chair. This year I will assign seats from the beginning of the year until rules and procedures are established before giving up the reigns. Then I will use my observations and try to help students find the seat we both think will fit them. Is there really a correct way? Probably not. It's all about what works for you and your class at that moment. Is it fool proof? Nope. Nothing is. There are tweaks that need to be made here and there along the way. Does it work? Absolutely. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that giving more flexibility and choice gave students ownership of themselves and the classroom and reduced our behavior issues drastically! You know, even my kinders are self reliant and love the sense of trust we give them in making their own choices. It makes them feel like they have a voice in the classroom and does wonders for building classroom community. I guess the only question left now is "How are you going to implement it this year?" 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Using Seesaw Learning Journals For Student Assessment

I know there are many of us who are using Seesaw Learning Journals as a tool for students to showcase their work and communicate with families. But, did you know it can also be a very powerful resource for student assessment? Yes! It is. And the best part is that you can choose to share the information immediately with parents to strengthen those home-school connections or you can save the information in private folders that you can access for report card information. I personally love sharing the information with parents because then they become partners in their child's education and they know exactly how they are doing and what they should help them with at home. So, how do I do it? Easy. I create my assessments in PowerPoint or Publisher and then save them as JPEG files. I upload the files to my teacher folder and then "copy and edit" a new one for each student! Simple as can be. If I want to share the information with parents then I tag the student and submit it to their journal. If not, I save it to my private folder that parents cannot see (this is a feature of Plus). If you don't have Plus you can do this by simply leaving it in your folder and not tagging students. Another thing I like to do is add a skill to each assessment. Then I can go and see which students are in the same level and can use this information for grouping! It's so easy!! Here's a picture of an assessment at the beginning of the year.
When I want to mark on top of the same assessment I just copy and edit again and choose a different color pen! I also date it with the color so I know when it was assessed. Another way I like to use Seesaw for assessments is to record my students reading and use the information to show parents how they are progressing. I have solid evidence of their reading and I can give specific information for the strategies they need to be working on.

If you'd like to venture into the world of Seesaw Assessments but don't know where to start I have a Seesaw Assessment Pack in my TPT store that will get you started! In this packet you will have JPEG files for upper and lower case recognition, letter sounds, name writing (with and without lines), 2 and 3 dimensional shapes, colors, number recognition and writing and sight words. See the preview below!
 Basic Skills Assessments for Seesaw Learning Journals

I hope you enjoy using this resource. You'll love the ease of using Seesaw for assessment!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sight Words That Make Sense

 Last year I really noticed that my students were struggling to grasp their sight words, so I did a LOT of research into best practices, programs, strategies, and new ways to teach them that would help them master them quickly and effectively. My team and I decided to go with differentiated sight words lists. I started searching for lists but just couldn't find what I wanted. Some came close, but none really fit what I felt gave my students the words they needed in the correct order to be able to write sentences from the start. So, my team and I decided to create our own list that makes sense. We started with the most basic words that kindergarten students need to write sentences and went from there. Each list has 10 words and is color coded. These words are from our district's list of required words.
The first 10 words are the words that all kindergarten students need to be able to know in order to write simple sentences and that you will find in most of the predictable books. They also fit into all of your beginning of the year themes (All About Me, Brown Bear, My Body, Friends, Apples, Fall). They just make sense.

So why go to all the trouble to do color coded lists? Well, we all know that our students come to us on many different levels. I had students this year who already knew how to read, so it seemed silly to have them working on the words "I" and "my" when they clearly needed more difficult words. So, this makes perfect sense. The second week of school I assessed each student to see how many words they knew and used that information to determine the list they would start on. I then sent home the list on color coded paper for them to use for practice at home.
Student Assessment of Sight Words
My students have found so much success by using words that they want to learn instead of eing forced to only work on the ones we are teaching. It helped improve their reading and writing! The set will be available in my TPT store very soon!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

ABC...easy as 123...

It's so much fun teaching Kinders to write their letters, isn't it? If you're lucky you've got one of those Zaner Bloser handwriting books that your school bought you and you can just teach them to your heart's content. We weren't so lucky at my school so we had to get creative and think of something easier and faster than using highlighters on lined paper. So, I created these handy dandy handwriting practice pages. My kinders love them! There is a line for the capital letter and a line for the lower case. They can trace and then write. Once they write the letter they have 6 pictures to look at. They find the 3 pictures that begin with the sound that the letter makes and they color them in. It's a simple activity that can give you some great information about their phonemic awareness ability. It could be a good formative assessment for letter formation and letter sound knowledge. You can grab it here at my TPT store! (click the picture below for the link to the item in my store)

Building Number Sense

The first couple of weeks in kindergarten we work on learning our numbers and building number sense. We use lots and lots of manipulatives to do this. We count everything, play counting games, count daily, do math journals to practice number writing, and just immerse ourselves in daily number practice. On Friday we had a "no break day" and we needed a fun way to get up and move while working on our math, so we turned our colored rug into a giant graph and did a team building activity to practice counting sets of numbers up to 5. I placed dry erase boards with numbers on them at the top of the rug and gave each table group their own box of manipulatives. The task was to work together to count out one set to match each number 1-5 and bring them to the rug to place in one of the squares under that number. Once the task was completed we had what looked like a giant graph of manipulatives that we could then count. 

Another fun activity to practice number sense was a domino sorting activity. I found these chip and dip trays at the Dollar Tree and placed colored dots for numbers 1-6 in each space. I then gave the students the box of dominoes and told them to count the dots and place the domino in the section that had the correct number. I didn't remove the dominoes higher than 6, I just told them to place them to the side. That was just additional counting practice for them. They really enjoyed this activity. Very little prep and lots of time of the floor. Perfect kindergarten learning activities!!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

There's a PLACE for us....the tens place, that is

It's that time of year again, the time we kindergarten teachers absolutely cringe thinking about...teaching place value. I don't know about you but I really think it's THE hardest concept for kinders to grasp. I've been doing a lot of researching and seeking of information to find ways and theories behind it to help me teach it in a more effective manner. I decided to be intentional with everything I did this year while teaching math to make sure students get it and enjoy it at the same time. So, I started with Calendar Math. Each day we do Daily Depositor and Paper Clip Collection where we teach place value. I honestly just did a lot of repeating of information. I also made one minor but huge change to my setup. I extended my hundreds chart to make it a 120 chart so they could see the extended pattern beyond 100 (which is the only 3 digit number on the 100's chart). Just seeing the numbers and counting to 120 has made big difference. They are extending their thinking beyond 2 digit place value, which is helping them to understand it better. I also did DAILY PRACTICE of the teen numbers in the fall when we were teaching number recognition. Each day we had a number of they day. We would write it, tally it, fill in the tens frame and write the number sentence to go with it. We did this every day in math journals for 2 weeks. By the end of the first week they were really getting it. Fast forward to this week where we are really breaking down the teen numbers and teaching the tens and ones. I decided to use the same thinking about teen numbers as I did with the 100's chart and extend their thinking beyond the teens in the hopes that it would help them better understand the concept. Each day in math journals we do a number of the day and it successive counterpart (11, 21, 31). I printed out tens frames onto Avery labels and gave each student 6 labels per day. We highlighted the group of ten and then put a label under the group. I started with 11. The students placed one label (group of ten) under the 1 (tens place) and then drew the extras in the ones place. We then counted using subitizing. Since we know that a filled tens frame is ten we don't have to count. We just touch it and say ten then count on from there to 11. We did the same thing with 21 and 31 to show that we are just building the place by adding one more group of ten. Here is a picture of what they look like.
During math workshop time we built upon this by building numbers beyond the teens using cube trains for our tens and buttons for our extras. I wrote a number and the students pulled in the correct groups of ten and extras. Then we counted each place and I wrote the number again emphasizing that, "43 is 4 groups of ten and 3 extras". The lights came on! It's amazing how helpful it is when we stretch just beyond the standard to teach a concept. I hope you find this helpful. You can get these pages and the coordinating labels for FREE in my TPT store under the listing PLACE VALUE FREEBIE FOR MATH JOURNALS. Click HERE for the link.