Friday, September 28, 2012

Maps and I am LOVING TPT!

This week I taught about Spatial Sense and Maps.  Learning about the students city, state, country, and continent are always very confusing for them.  I thought this idea from Pinterest would help the students understand better.  We read Me on a Map and then each day we talked about one of the circles.  I have always used a Core Knowledge lesson plan to teach maps with so I just incorporated this circle activity into the lesson.  I also LOVE using Google Earth to show the students a real picture of what I am talking about and Brainpop Jr.
Photo of Circle Map

This activity did seem to help the students understand the difference.  

 Here are some of the items I recently purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers.  I think I am officially a TPT addict! 

I have always struggled with teaching writing to my kiddos.  I knew this year I wanted to focus more on writing especially since we moved to the Common Core Standards.  Since I am using Daily Five I am able to add a mini lesson of writing everyday!  I have already noticed a difference in the students writing so far.  I purchased Writing through the Years Unit 1 because it seemed like it would be perfect for what I wanted.  The unit does use a writing workshop format, however I just use the mini lessons that come with it for the mini lesson during Daily Five.  We have been working on labeling our drawings and I am so amazed by how well the students are doing with this.  
Photo of writing through the years

 The week before last we started teaching the season of Fall to our kiddos.  I found this wonderful book and I knew it would be perfect to have my students add to their book box. 

 A few weeks ago we talked about Johnny Appleseed.  I have always taught a wonderful lesson using a Core  Knowledge lesson plan, but this year I wanted to add to it to make it better.  I found these awesome craftivities at TPT and I knew they would be perfect.
The students loved making Johnny Appleseed and his tree.  Also, the hats turned out super cute.
Photo of Johnny Appleseed Craftivities

 Calendar is always a tough concept for 5 year old's to comprehend.  When I found these amazing papers to go with calendar, I knew I needed them.  There are so many concepts that the students need in them.  This is probably one of my favorite things I have purchased.
Photo of It's Calendar Time
 I went ahead this week and printed all the calendars for the rest of the year.  It does take a lot of paper to print, however I do feel it is worth it!  There are so many concepts being covered in these that I look forward to filling them out every day.  I know my students love it too because they are heart broken when we skip a certain part one day because we are running behind.  They want to complete the whole page every single day.
 Photo of Calendar Helper

 The last one I am going to share is actually one that I created.  Every year I have had the students write their name, draw a picture of themselves and write their numbers.  The paper I have always done it on, I personally didn't really care for it because the line for the name was to little.  If a student had a big name, it wouldn't fit.  So I decided to create a new one that I could use and show the growth of my students.
Photo of My Book

 Thanks for reading my post!  I hope you found some new things that you haven't seen before and try them out!

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Saturday, September 22, 2012


This year is going so fast.  I can't believe Friday was already our 30th day of school.  I have been so busy and bad about writing posts.  I think I need more time every day.

I am excited to share with you an idea I came up with for one of our Florida standards for Social Studies.
Describe and give examples of seasonal weather changes, and illustrate how weather affects people and the environment. 

Last week we were talking about Fall.  It is difficult in South Florida to have the students completely understand what Fall is when it is still 90 or so degrees outside everyday and the trees always look the same.  

I usually have the students decorate trees with tissue paper for the different seasons.  This year I decided to use a small plate to make the trees instead of a big plate.  The students painted the 4 trees.  Then over the week the students made a tree with tissue paper to represent the different seasons.  Then I had them glue their trees to construction paper.  Then this is when I thought I came up with a bright idea! :)  I found a palm tree online and printed 4 out for each student.  The students colored and cut the trees.  Then they glued the trees to the other side of the construction paper.  We labeled the trees for the north with the correct season and then labeled the trees with up north and down south.  We discussed that trees look different in the north during the different seasons, but in Florida they always look the same.  Then we discussed the weather according to the season for up north and down south.  Here is a picture of one of my students completed projects.   
Photo of WOlfelicious Seasons

I think the students did a great job and they now have a better understanding of the seasons. 

I did think up another idea that I would love to create and complete with this project, however I haven't because I haven't found the time to create it yet.  I would like to create a project that the students dress a person/stick figure for each season.  I would also have them dress the figures for up north and down south so they understand the weather changes better.  I think this would really help the students understand the different seasons.

Well, thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my season idea.  I hope your school year is going well. 

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kindergarten Common Core

Have you seen and/or heard of this book?
Well, if you are a kindergarten teacher you will want to take a look at it.  It has a large collection of worksheets and activities for teaching the Kindergarten Common Core.  Yes, that is correct.  I said Common Core.  A book that includes over 600 pages of worksheets, activities, and posters that help teach the Common Core Standards.  Tons of materials right at your hands for teaching these new standards.  Doesn't it sound awesome?  I can't wait to check it out and so should you. 

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

10 Ways to Spice up Read Alouds in the Classroom

10 Ways to Spice up Read Alouds in the classroom

The beginning of the year is such an exciting time of year.  We get to know our new students, set the routines/expectations, and begin opening the minds of the little people before us.  Before long, we will be all settled in and looking for new ways to refresh ourselves so that we can keep these little people entertained and excited about learning. 

We all know the importance of read-aloud time in the classroom and if we have been teaching long enough we may have fallen into routines that need a little spicing up.  So today’s post is all about how to spice up those routines and keep read aloud time fresh and fun.

  1. Read a book on the ipad
  2. Dress up as a character in the book
  3. Mystery Guest Reader
  4. Listen to a book on tape and pause it to model think-alouds
  5. Use props
  6. Sing a book – Some books are to songs like I Know and Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly by Nadine Bernard Westcott.
  7. Invite the Skyping Reading Tutor to read a book to your students
  8. When predictable pattern books repeat, stop and let the kids chime in.
  9. Enjoy some fresh air and read a book outside
  10. Have kids draw pictures from the book of things they can visualize happening.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these and how they can spice up our read-alouds.

1. Our children today are very technology driven, by reading a book on the iPad we can speak their language.  You will notice that their eyes will light up and some of the bells and whistles attached to the books make them entertaining.  Sometimes there is background music and different parts of the book that reveal more information.  It is so much fun to explore these books and if you follow free apps, then you can usually get them for free.  Perhaps your school has purchased RAZ kids, if so then you can download the learninga-z app for free and have access to all of their books.

2. Dressing up as a character from a book is not a new idea, but it is certainly an idea to spice up a read aloud.  Anytime a teacher decides to get out of his/her comfort zone and act a little silly, the kids will always respond in a positive way.  Now if you tell the story with the accent that you would expect that character to have, then you will have a ton of applauds from your students.

3. Guest readers are always a way to add excitement to read aloud time, but when you have a mystery guest reader the excitement can last even longer.  During the morning announcements you can announce that today you will have a mystery guest reader and give clues for them to try to figure out who it could be.  The mystery guest could be another teacher, an older student, an administrator, or a parent.  You can keep the kids in suspense for as long or as little as you would like.

4. During read aloud time we like to model strategies that children need to embed when they are reading.  One way to do this is to have a book on tape or CD and pause it when it is time to model the strategy.  This helps for the kids to see that this thinking is happening in your head and are not actually words in the book.  Also, the voices on the recorded books are always very animated and exciting to listen to.

5. Using props always gets kids attention.  For example if you were reading the book Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman, then you could use a go sign and a stop sign that you make.  You could introduce the signs at the beginning of the book and then when the word go comes up you could have a student at the front of the room hold up go and when stop is said you could have another student hold up the stop sign. 

6. You may not have a great singing voice, but none is required when singing to children.  They love to hear the adults in their life sing.  I can’t help but naturally sing to books like I Know and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  You will instantly see kids faces light up and they will want to sing right along with you if they know the words.

7. I have heard that the Skyping Reading Tutor does an amazing job when she volunteers in the classroom via Skype (o.k, this is my shameless plug, I love reading books to kids and being a guest reader and yes, the Skyping Reading Tutor is me.)  You can check out an example of a skype read aloud session here

8. Kids like to take part in their learning and read alouds are an important part of their learning.  You can have kids read the predictable pattern part.  They will be excited when it is their turn to read or memorize.  They can even do it in different voices and play with fluency.  You can have them read it in a soft voice, an old person’s voice, or a super loud voice.  This adds a whole new level of excitement.

9. Sometimes just changing the location of where you are reading spices up the read aloud experience.  So you can go outside, or read in a different area of the school, you can even combine classes with another grade level teacher. 

10. Last, but not least, you can have the kids illustrate pictures that they think the illustrator drew in the book or that they think the illustrator would draw if there were pictures.  As a class you can talk about some things that kids drew as a recap of what happened in the story.

It is my hope that you received one new idea that you can utilize when you are trying to spice up your read aloud time.  So, pick the one that you like best and try it out.

About the Author
Joanne Kaminski, a.k.a. the Skyping Reading Tutor volunteers in classrooms all over the world and shares her passion to motivate children become a better read.  She was a classroom teacher for 3 years in an inner city school called the Milwaukee Academy of Science and then received her Masters as a Reading Specialist.  She held the Reading Curriculum Coodinator’s postion for 6 years.

Joanne currently owns her own tutoring company and teaches kids from all over the world.  She has her own blog at  She is currently writing a series of blog posts called 31 Days to a Better Reader that is a fantastic tool for parents to implement with their children.  If you find that it is useful information feel free to pass it along to parents in your newsletter or at conferences.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teach, Okay!!

Today I decided to try to take a quick video of some of the different teaching tools of WBT.  My students saw that I was holding my phone, but I don't know if they realized I was video taping them.  Please excuse the shaky quick clips that I have taken.  I just thought it would be great to have you get a glimpse of my classroom and see how the students are learning. :)
Photo of Powerpix

The first video you can see is of the rules.  Since day one of school this year my class has practiced these rules.  We have discussed what they are and how to follow them.  

The second video for you is the video of my students practicing the PowerPix from WBT.  I absolutely love the Powerpix and the Teach, Okay method!  My students are understanding the concepts and I couldn't ask for anything more. It is really cool to watch them answer the questions and really know what they are talking about.  The greatest thing about Teach, Okay is that I get to watch and see who is understanding and who isn't.  I can then pull them aside if they are not understanding and help them understand the concept.  I am very proud of my class and the progress they have made so far.  We recently just added the switch part so some students are still catching on to that but I see them trying and really "getting" the concepts. 

How is your school year going so far?  Are you using any part of WBT in your classroom?

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

SIW Update

This year I am trying out the Super Improvers Wall from Whole Brain Teaching.  

At the beginning of the year I had the white stars placed throughout the whole board.  I soon realized that yes, it looked good, but the students were not able to reach their stars.  If the students couldn't reach their stars to place their stickers on then I didn't think it would motivate the students as well.  I ended up moving all the stars lower so the students would be able to put their own star on.

Last week was my first week implementing this wall into my classroom.  I had to test the students on their alphabet knowledge again for mid-terms.  If they improved from the beginning of the year, I gave them a star.   It was so cool to see how excited the students were to add a star to their star.  I can't wait to have them add more.  I do think this is going to be a great motivator.  

Photo of SIW

Have you started using your SIW?  How is it going?

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Monday, September 3, 2012

And the winner is...

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway!!

Drum roll please.

And the winner is...

Patti Brooks


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