Friday, September 23, 2011

Cube Trains

Developing number sense is sooooo hard for some kiddos because it requires hands-on experiences with numbers. As primary teachers, we already do sooooo much of this but we need to provide daily experiences where they build and compare numbers and create visual representations of numbers to store in their minds. Throughout the year, we give various assessments where the children have to order numbers from greatest to least or from the least to greatest and several sweet little kiddos each year struggle with this...sometimes even those kiddos we think as having number sense do not do well on this because number sense comes down to place value and the relationships between numbers. Activities on the 100 hundreds board, estimating, and place value will help build this number sense.

Here is a little activity to help build number sense. We will use cubes to make the number trains. We talk about using the cubes to help us count better and faster. This means keeping them grouped in 10's and then counting on by ones (We talk about this not being the most helpful time to make patterns). Each child starts with a conductor train and players each take a card and build his/her train with that number of cubes. One player spins the spinner and if the spinner lands on more than the player with the longest cube train gets to add a train car. If the spinner lands on less than, the player with the shortest cube train gets to add a train car. Players continue until there are no more train cars. The players then spin the spinner to determine the winner. If the spinner lands on more than the player with the longest train wins. If the spinner lands on less than. the player with the shortest train wins.

We've played this game whole group this week and the kiddos love it!
Please leave me a heart note and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Letter Detectives

If you want to get your kiddos excited about words, all you need is a visit from the Letter Snatcher! OMGosh do my kiddos LOVE when he leaves us "mail". This is such a great way to work on ANY word study skill. The Letter Snatcher is a person who sneaks in our classroom and snatches letters from our words. He even gets in activities we have on our SmartBoard!

The Letter Snatcher writes us "mail" and in the letters from him there are always missing letters. It might be the initial, medial or final sound and sometimes it is an entire word. Later on in the year, he might snatch blends and digraphs or whatever skill we are working on. The "mail" is a great way to practice word wall reviews and cloze sentences. He will also leave us a package with the letter detective cards and magnifying glasses so we can hunt for the letters he took. The cards are put in a literacy center and the children use magnetic letters to finish spelling the word. I have also put the letters for the cards we are using in a pillowcase that we happen to "find" in the room like the Letter Snatcher lost those letters when he was snatching them.

If you are interested in helping your kiddos become letter detectives, check it out!

Here is a copy of the letter detective song.
letter detective song

Check out the pictures of our "mail"!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Because of You

I am dedicating my Sunday posts to sharing poems to inspire. Teachers often do not get the recognition for all they do and we know that our jobs are so much more than the lessons and curriculum we teach. We are nurses, counselors, parents, mediators, cheerleaders, and sometimes just loving arms where a child finds security and love.

My first group of First Graders are Seniors this year and like any first year teacher I feel as if I owe that class a HUGE apology because I didn't really know what I was doing. This past May one of those students came to see me. He told me out of all the teachers he has had I was his favorite. He told me that even when he was acting like a toot, he knew I loved him and expected better from him. WOW! My eyes filled with tears and my heart with a blessing. I knew God had used me in the life of this young man. At the time I taught him, I didn't know this but it was such a powerful reminder of the saying that they may not remember what you taught them but they will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel.

We get so caught up in the pressures that are placed upon our shoulders. Everyone focuses on the standards and tests that seem to dominate what we do in our classrooms. We need to remember that we can make a difference in a child's life. Because of each one of us, a child׳s heart can be touched if we remember to look with Eyes of the Heart.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bounce and Spell

The BEST student teacher in the world showed me this (I love you Megan!). This is an awesome way to orally practice spelling your Word Wall words. Each time I pull the balls out my kiddos cheer and have HUGE smiles. Today is the first time for my kiddos this year to bounce and spell and they did an awesome job. How you do it in your classroom is up to you and I have done it many different ways depending on my group that year.

All you need is a set of bouncy balls (Mine are from Target). We go over the rules first. We do only one person bouncing at a time and EVERYONE spelling and pretending to bounce. I have done everyone bouncing but then you have balls rolling everywhere when someone doesn't catch it (We even tried staying in our place when we lose our ball and getting it when everyone finishes but that was still too much time getting the balls back). We practice bouncing the ball with 2 hands, close to our body and no higher than our chest.. You learn very quickly who has good hand eye coordination! You bounce and say each letter of the word as you orally spell it. If the word is like, you bounce l, bounce i, bounce k, bounce e, and bounce and say like ( I have had kiddos when we are taking our dictated sentence spelling test bouncing a pretend ball before they wrote the word!).

Later on in the year after OODLES of guided practice, this is one of the choices for them to practice their words in ABC/Word Study center.

Sorry the picture is upside down.

Please leave me a heart note and let me know what you think. Happy Bouncing!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sound Box Hop and Stretchy Snake

Today we met Stretchy Snake. Stretchy Snake is one of the Beanie Baby Decoding Strategies. He helps us to s-t-r-e-t-ch out our sounds and then blend them back together. We have been working on sound boxes during Word Study time and today we made our sound boxes for the learning rug. For some reason, they LOVE watching you do this. We then practice stretching out cvc words as we hop into the sound boxes. This is great for your kinesthetic learners (plus those kiddos who can never sit still like to use ALL of the energy God gives them (hahaha). This is hard for some kiddos who want to put all the sounds in one box but they soon realize they have to hop one sound for each box. They then hop "out" of the boxes and say the word. Later, after lots and lots of practice, this activity will be one they can choose from during Word Study centers. They even come and use the sound boxes during Writing Workshop. Later on in the year, we will add another box when we do words with blends. When you do sounds like sh or ck, those are 2 letters working together to make one sound so you only hop into one box for that sound.

Meet Stretchy Snake
Our Sound Boxes

I hope your kiddos are happy to hop! I love heart notes because they encourage me to share more so please one! I would LOVE for you to follow me too!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

From the Heart....Building Your School Family

Our School Family is built and centered around being a helpful heart.  When I first came across Conscious Discipline 5 years ago, I loved how it fit in to what I was already doing. Then I become even more excited several years ago when I learned about being a bucket filler. Conscious Discipline is built on the foundation of everyone being safe and for so many of the at-risk kiddos I teach this is HUGE for them because of the homes they come from.  In Our School Family, my job is the Safe Keeper.  The kiddos ALL have School Family jobs but their FIRST job is to help me keep everyone safe.  We have a Safe Keeper's Box where they put their hearts every morning (The hearts are just wooden ones I spray painted red and then hot glued their picture on). 

Oops! I see my foot! :)

I introduce the Safe Keeper box by reading Treasure of the Heart by Alice Ann Miller (BTW-This is a great book for Writing Workshop to teach the kiddos about writing about things that are important to them). I talk about how they are each a treasure to me that I want to keep safe.  We talk about ways to keep each other safe and usually write these on a big heart.  We then learn the Safe Keeper's Song.  This is from one of the Conscious Discipline cd's.  The cd's are AWESOME and so wonderful about reinforcing the things you are teaching the kiddos.  If you haven't checked out the site go NOW!!!

In the morning this is what we do: when they come to me with their hearts I say to them "(child's name), It is my job to keep you safe." The child answers me back by saying "It is my job to help you keep everyone safe." We even talk about this being a commitment, which is a promise from our hearts. This is great to hold them accountable throughout the day because you can remind them that they made this promise.

The next way we use hearts is not Conscious Discipline but ties in nicely with it.  We talk about using our heart words.  Heart words are words that show someone you care about them and respect them.  We talk about those words and how and when we use them.  With interactive writing, we write those on hearts and post them in the room.  We really work on celebrating each other when we use those words and I am amazed at how quickly they learn to use these words with me and each other.  I have even had parents talk to me about how much more polite and respectful their child has become. Here are the heart words for Our School Family: yes ma'am, no ma'am, please, thank you, you are welcome, excuse me, I am sorry, I forgive you, you did it and way to go.

Another way we use hearts is by talking about being a Bucket Filler.  We read the book and talk about how being helpful and kind fills a bucket and how by being hurtful and rude is being a bucket dipper. We talk about the best way to fill a bucket is by being a helpful heart (This is what all of the promises (rules) of Our School Family are centered around that we did the first week of school). We have a bucket that the children get to help fill by noticing the kind and helpful things others do.  We call this adding a helpful heart to the bucket.  The helpful hearts are heart shaped beads from a craft store. We work hard all year to fill the bucket and at the end of the year we use the beads to make bracelets.  When the bucket gets full, we empty and fill it again. When the children notice a friend doing something helpful and kind they go to that child and say "(child's name) I am going to add you a helpful heart for tying my shoe." or "I am going to add you a helpful heart for remembering to use your heart words when you accidentally kicked me." The child that is having a helpful heart added for them answers back "Thank you for noticing that." and the child adding the helpful heart answers back "You are welcome." They even add hearts for me! Today, one of my sweet little kiddos added me a helpful heart for reminding him to sit criss cross so he could keep his friend beside him safe. Too sweet!

I really wish I could video and show you what this looks like because it is one of the sweetest and most amazing things I have ever seen.  There are times I have tears in my eyes because of what they say to each other and just the bonds it builds between all of us.

Here is the book I use to introduce the Safe Keeper Box:

I would LOVE to help you do this in your classroom so if you have any questions please ask! I would love a heart note letting me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eyes of the Heart

It is so easy to focus on others faults and negative behavior despite having so many ourselves.  And it is so easy to do that with our kiddos and then vent our frustrations to others.  Yes, it is better to vent with each other than take our frustrations out on the kiddos but I know I can do better to vent those frustrations and then maybe ask for helpful suggestions on ways to help me help that kiddo (although, sometimes we just need to vent!). 

How we react to our kiddos when we see those behaviors teaches them how they will react to others when they see that behavior.  I NEVER believe in making excuses for hurtful and disrespectful behaviors but in teaching them a more helpful and respectful way to do things.  We often are so judgmental with what our eyes see instead of looking with our hearts to not only what we can teach our kiddos but also ourselves. I wrote this poem to always remind me of that and I hope it helps you stop and think if you are looking with your eyes or with your heart.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rhymes Send My Head to Bed

As we were playing a game, one of my little firsties was just having a HARD time finding who was her rhyming buddy.  All of my other kiddos were being so helpful to help but not be a mother hen and tell her cheat her brain.  She finally said "Ms. Price rhyming hurts my head!" One of my other witty little kiddos replied "Yep, I bet Ms. Price is tired too and wants to go to bed!" Ha ha true! I do feel like what else can I do to make these little ears be able to hear rhymes??!!!???  I know most will get it but for right now I am pulling out some more games to help.  The first I want to share is a hands down favorite!  All you need is a copy of the song and rhyming word cards.  I wrote mine on sentence strips and then laminated it and added velcro(I love Velcro!) kiddos learn to obsess love Velcro too!  Here is a copy of the words of the song (I think it is sung to the tune of Do You Know the Muffin Man but since I cannot sing who knows what I am actually singing it too...hahaha)
Do you know two rhyming words,
Two rhyming words, two rhyming words?
Do you know two rhyming words?
They sound a lot alike.
______ and ______ are two rhyming words,
Two rhyming words, two rhyming words.
______ and ______ are two rhyming words.
They sound a lot alike.
I attach Velcro to the backs of the cards and then to the blanks on the song poster....and they LOVE this!
Here is a picture and the cards. You need to make 2 copies of the cards.
The next 2 activities are simple.  The first is just an "I have...Who has?" activity and the other is just a sort.   The cards are cut out in pairs so they are either sorting the 2 words as a rhyming pair or a pair of words that don't rhyme.  This is very basic for those sweet little ears that are just now figuring out rhymes.
I would love for you to leave me a heart note and tell me what you do to help your little kiddos rhyme.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Morning Greeter

This is one of my favorite School Family Jobs and it is just too stinkin' cute!  As my kiddos come to the room in the morning they stop at the door.  The child who is the greeter comes to stand at the door and puts on the greeter apron.  He or she then says "Good Morning _______" and the child being greeted answers back, "Good Morning ________".  Then the greeter asks, "How are you today?" and the child being greeted answers and asks the greeter how are they doing. The greeter then asks, "How would you like to be greeted?"  We usually have 3 choices of ways to be greeted and you could do more.  I always try and have a non-touching one for the kiddos who don't like to be touched and one way is ALWAYS a hug.

I have at my door the sentence stems for the kiddos to remember what they need to say(This is great for your ELL kiddos and all kiddos because it is great practice learning to speak in complete sentences).  Underneath that are the pictures that represent the different ways to be greeted.  I went to Hobby Lobby and picked out lots of the cute wooden shapes.  Later on in the year the class can come up with a way to greet that represents that shape.

Here is a picture of some of the shapes we use and love.

If you don't want to buy the shapes you can use these icons.

frog greeting: children jump up and down and say "Have a hop, hop, hoppy day!'
heart greeting: a hug
five greeting: high five
butterfly greeting: butterfly handshake, lock thumbs, extend fingers like butterfly wings, flutter up and down
butterfly graphic by Scrappin Doodles

greeter reminders

Here is how it looks by my door.
Keep checking back for more posts like this about Conscious Discipline! I would love a heart note letting me know what you think.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wish Well Circle (and Conscious Discipline)

There are 2 things that have impacted my teaching and shaped my beliefs about building a School Family.  One was meeting and listening to Ruby Payne talk about teaching children of poverty.  The second was learning about Conscious Discipline.  If you want to learn more about Becky Bailey and Conscious Discipline click on the link.  I could write page long blogs about Conscious Discipline and the way it has transformed my classroom and the way we ALL interact.  I know many teachers use a moving/changing your color type of system and if you are interested in moving away from that just email me and I will be soooo happy to talk to you about it! (This is my 12th year of teaching extremely at-risk students and I have never used that system but have amazing results in my classroom. And I am not putting down that type of classroom management but I have completely changed what I do and say....and it was VERY HARD to re-learn what you say to kiddos...especially the "I like the way I see __________ _________!)

Okay, back to the point of this post.  One of Our School Family Jobs is the "absent student helper".  This child gets to substitute for the child that is absent and also gets to help with the Wish Well Circle.  The Wish Well Circle is a pizza pan with all of our names and a big heart in the middle.  When that child is absent, we move his/her picture to the middle and sing a song to let that child know that even though they are not here we are thinking about them and wishing them well (They love to come back and ask if we sang a song about them!).  When they return to school, the absent student helper gets to welcome them back with a butterfly puppet and a welcome back kiss (and we talk about all of the silly places we get the kiss such as our elbow, ankle, shoulder, wrist but never our mouth because of germs...and this is great for building vocabulary for your ELL kiddos).  They love all of this.  Just imagine that child knowing that even though they are not at school we are thinking about them and wishing them well!  Too cute and sweet!

Here is a picture of the wish well pizza pan (I put the songs on the back so the absent student helper and I can remember them!)

Here are the songs and a picture of the butterfly puppet.
So, I say good-bye and am wishing you well!  I would love to get a heart note about you using this in your School Family classroom too!