Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Interactive Notebooks

My first graders have spent the entire school year working in their interactive notebooks. I cannot begin to tell you what a wonderful experience it has been. It took two whole notebooks to cover an entire year's worth of reading, phonics, sight word, and grammar activities. They use their notebooks every single day. If they are not adding a new activity, then they are revisiting previously learned material. It's all at their fingertips! Such an important and valuable learning tool.

My students treasure their notebooks and really look forward to using them. I've blogged quite a few times about how they complete the left side of their books. We call it the creative side. I used to tell them what to do on the left side, but, a few months ago, they told me they were ready to come up with their own activities to show their creativity and to further interact with the material.

Today, after learning about a new phonics rule, one of my students thought it would be fun to choose one of the words that followed the rule and define it and illustrate it. We've been working a lot on how to use the dictionary, so I was thrilled with this idea. And so was the entire class. They did such a great job. And, they did it all by themselves. I busied myself with other things and, for 17 minutes, you could have heard a pin drop. I happen to know it was exactly 17 minutes because I always challenge them to finish within the time frame I have set. 

Here are some of the results...

They did a great job, huh?
This is just one of many, many fun activities we have completed all year long.

If you haven't started interactive notebooks yet, then I challenge you to get on the bandwagon. This is the time I started them last year. And then this year, I jumped in head first, and it was a game changer for sure!

Click here to see all the interactive notebook blogging posts I have written this year.

Click here to see all the interactive activities I have in my teaching store. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Short Vowels and Building Fluency

Kindergarten is working very hard, memorizing short vowel sounds. 
Short e and short i are definitely the toughest short vowel sounds!

During small groups, these short vowel mats continue to be a favorite activity.

Students take turns choosing words from the basket. They have to figure out the missing short vowel. This activity has tons of picture/word cards so we can play it over and over again and still not get any repeats!

You can find these short vowel mats here.

Here's a new activity that has quickly become a kindergarten favorite! 

Students read short sentences containing words they already recognize (sight words) or can decode, which builds their fluency. They are PERFECT for those who need to build their confidence in reading longer passages and/or stories. 

The (differentiated) recording sheets help me check for mastery. Students choose two, three, five, or seven sentences to write and illustrate. This gives them practice writing proper sentences.

There are 120 different sentences, so this is also an activity that I can use all year for kindergarten and with struggling first graders.

I store them in this cup from the Target Dollar Spot, making them easy to tote around.

I love this time of year in kindergarten! The children are engaged and eager to learn and, well, pretty much the opposite of when they first started the school year! LOL!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Work on Writing...for the whole year! Includes a GIVEAWAY!

Work on Writing is one of my students' favorite stations to visit. It is chock full of fun and exciting activities and offers lots and lots of variety. My students can pick and choose what they work on each time they visit and this makes them very happy. They get to choose activities that interest them and, because of this, they are motivated to do their best work.

My Work on Writing Station is incredibly easy to maintain and this makes me VERY happy!

This cart, that I purchased at Michaels, holds 10 of the activities my students can choose from. Most of the activities I change out monthly. Drawer one sometimes has a "must do" activity, which is usually a grammar game. I also use my Scoot games as task cards and put them in drawer one too.

Here's what was in the drawers when I took these pictures about two weeks ago...

You can read about how I use these notes in this blog post.

This comes from my Parts of Speech pack. You can read my blog post about it here. Students pick six picture/word cards from my labeled parts of speech baskets or from the ones hanging in the pocket chart, and write them in sentences.

This comes from my #1 seller, Writing Station Activities for Young Learners. I use all of the activities from this pack and from Part 2 at my Work on Writing Station, throughout the year. They are both filled with no or low prep activities that engage my students and help them get in touch with their creative side.

This comes from my Having Fun With ABC Order pack. I have all the cards printed, laminated, and cut out. There are so many of them, that I can put this out several times during the school year and my students always have new cards to put in order. You can never have too much ABC order practice! 

This also comes from my Writing Station Activities for Young Learners pack. It's always fun for me to see what the children choose to write about. The latest one that made me laugh, was from a little boy who had to choose between his classmates and his toys! He chose his classmates because they are always sweet to him.

This thank you note template comes from my #2 seller, Writing Activities Menu. It is also chock full of writing activities that are easy to prepare. My students love writing letters to different people. I love when they write to me! I always keep a sample of how to set up a letter inside the drawer, in case my students forget how to do it.

Children love to state their opinion, and these opinion writing sheets are always a big hit! You can find tons and tons of these templates in my Writing Right Through...packs. This one comes from the February/March pack. I also had My Opinion about Valentine's Day in the same drawer. 

This letter writing template for Valentine's Day also comes from my Writing Right Through February and March. These monthly theme and seasonal packs make it very easy to always have appropriate and timely writing activities at the ready.

My students LOVE making books! I always have one or two book making templates at my Work on Writing Station. This one comes from Writing Station Activities for Young Learners Part 2. You can read more about it here.

This book is from A Year of How To...Writing. You can read more about these books here.

This table is also a part of my Work on Writing Station. I keep a binder here with a copy of everything that is in the drawers. This way, my students don't have to open and shut each drawer until they find what they want to do. 

Each activity is numbered to match the number on the drawer and is kept in a page protector. This makes it very easy to change out the activities. 

If I have a "must do" activity in drawer number 1, as mentioned earlier in this post, I slip in a template I made that says "Must Do" activity. I forgot to take a picture of that, since I didn't have a "must do" activity when I took these pictures.

I also keep my Shared Journals at this station. The children can choose to write in any journal. I have 16 different journals, so I switch them out during the year, only keeping 10 out at a time.

In the picture, you can also see my monthly vocabulary picture/words for writing. They are included in all my Writing Right From...packs. The children use these words at this station and the Writer's Notebook Station, where all their writing happens in their notebook. 

So, there you have it! My Work on Writing Station is a popular station in my classroom. It's easy to keep it stocked with engaging and meaningful activities. There is lots and lots of variety and it always contains something for everyone.

Would you like to win one of the products mentioned in this blog post? Just leave a comment below, telling me which (non-bundled) pack you'd like to win. This same giveaway is also on my facebook fan page and Instagram. Feel free to enter just here or everywhere! 

Good luck everyone!

Giveaway is over! Thanks to everyone who entered!
The winner is...

Check your email!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

House of Sounds

Check this out!
It's called House of Sounds and it is so much fun.
It's made by Lakeshore, one of my favorite companies to get educational materials for my classroom.

Lakeshore asked me to try House of Sounds in my classroom and write a review for it on my blog. Needless to say, House of Sounds quickly became an integral part of my daily routine in my kindergarten classroom.

House of Sounds is exactly that! 
A house! 
With doors that open and shut!
I am a huge fan of anything children can manipulate because it keeps them engaged and happy.

Here is a view of all 4 sides of this adorable house.

Here is how I use it...

I use House of Sounds during my whole group reading instruction. I have the house sitting on the table and my students are sitting on the carpet. I call one child at a time to open a door, reach inside, and choose an item (without peeking!) 

They hold up the item.
Say the the name of it.
Segment the sounds.
And then blend them back together.

For the rhyming door, my students choose an item, say the word and then give a word that rhymes with it. Then, they call on a few other students to supply a rhyming word, as well.

It'a a whole lot of phonemic awareness practice, packed into a very short period of time. I actually have a checklist that I use each day to check off who has had a turn to make sure everyone gets an equal amount of turns. I had to, because they ALL want a turn. Every single day!

Look! The roof even opens for easy access into the house!
There are 30 fun toys inside. You can even add your own items!

House of Sounds has made my daily phonemic practice so much more exciting and engaging for both me and my students.

Click here for a coupon to Lakeshore, good through March 31, 2015.
It's 20% off any single non-sale item.

I highly recommend House of Sounds for your classroom too!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kindergarten Stations (Pictures and Links Included)

I get asked a lot of questions about station time in my classroom. 
What does station time look like? 
What stations do you have? 
What do the children do at each station? 
How do your students know which station to go to?

This blog post should answer these questions and more. It's long, it's got lots of pictures, and lots of links to the activities I use. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the LONG read!

Station time is my favorite time of the day! I change how I run stations pretty much every year because I am always evolving. I get bored of the old way, figure out a new way, and so on, and so on. When you've been teaching for 20 years, you gotta change it up and keep it fresh. At least I do!

I think I love my station procedures the best this year. 
But, then again, I'm pretty sure I say that every year! LOL!

I teach kindergarten and first grade reading/writing, but this post will just be about kindergarten. I have 18 students and I have 5 stations, so each group has 3 or 4 students. I have 2 top groups and the other 3 groups are a mix of on-level and below level students. I did this so that my below level students will benefit from the wisdom of my on-level students.

These are my 5 stations...

My teacher station is where I meet with small groups. We practice our sight words, phonological/phonemic awareness skills, read leveled readers, and work on writing. I meet with 2 groups Monday/Wednesday and 3 groups Tuesday/Thursday. On Friday, I pull students who need me the most.

At the phonics station, the children use open-ended, hands-on activities, activity sheets, and interactive notebook activities.

Here, you see my students enjoying CVC Clip It Cards. There are 100 of them and it comes with an answer key, so this activity is very independent. 

In addition to these cards, my students also work on activities from my Ultimate CVC Pack.

These activity cards are also a big part of my phonics station!

I also use these activities, as well: word sorts, building words, CVC word booklets, literacy skills printables, pocket chart activities, little books, flip books, and learning mats. Variety is the spice of life!
My students really enjoy these sight word mats. They build the words, write the words, and write sentences, as well. Sometimes, they write a sentence and forget to use one of the words on the mat, but that's okay with me!

There are so many different ways to use these mats. My students choose the materials they want to use. Dry erase markers, letter tiles, letter beads, or alphabet magnets. They also practice writing their words on white boards or paper. I have lots of sight words books that I put out at the station also. You can find some of them here, here, and here. Using play-doh to help practice sight words is always a big hit. I also use these sentence puzzlesdice activitiesreproducibles and sight word games. Having all of these activities on hand, means I never have to scramble to set up stations.
My budding writers have lots of opportunities to practice writing letters, words, and sentences. In this photo, my students are writing color words.

This fun activity comes from my top seller, Writing Station Activities for Young Learners. This pack is loaded with writing activities that kindergarten and first grade students can work on independently. Writing the Room is always tons of fun too. I didn't snap any pictures, but my students did this color words write the room FREEBIE when they finished I Can Write Color Words. At my writing station, I also use these write the room activities, labeling sheets, and writing station activities.

My students thoroughly enjoy visiting the library. Relaxing with a good book is always tons of fun!

My students use these cards during station time. After a few days of using them, they were able to switch to their next station without help from me. I have cards for Monday/Wednesday and cards for Tuesday/Thursday.

Station time is my favorite time of the day because the children are always eager to head off to their station and work collaboratively with the children in their group. 

And I get to be the GUIDE ON THE SIDE!

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