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Welcome to kindergarten! Join me as I share my experiences in the classroom, my professional learning and reflections and my love of teaching. Teaching is an exciting journey - come along as I share mine!


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye Growth, Hello Light

 
It's time to share one final Slice of Life in 2013!  Join the gang at Two Writing Teachers for another Slice of Life Tuesday!
 


It's always hard for me to put my thoughts at the close of the year into words.  I've been struggling with a slice of life to share today.  Mostly, as this year draws to a close, I've been thinking about my One Little Word. 

In 2013, I chose the word:

GROWTH

Over the past year I have reflected a bit on my OLW but not nearly enough.

I've watched growth all around me...in my children, my students, my family, my friends.  I've grown myself in may ways.  It was a good word and though I didn't spend as much time with it as I would have liked, it's time to move on.

This year I have selected:

LIGHT

as my OLW for 2014.

I hope to be more involved in the meaning of this word.  I hope to do more things that bring light into my life.  I hope to bring light to those around me in whatever way I can.  I hope to let my light shine into new places this year.  I hope this year's journey is full of light in every way.  I hope to share the slices of light I find in the new year through my blog posts...I'm already looking forward to the March Slice of Life Challenge!

And so, with 2014 just a handful of hours away...I'm beginning to look for light.  Today I've seen it in the eyes of my children...in the smile of my husband...in the words of a friend...in the hope and promise that a new year holds.

Have a safe and happy new year everyone and may life's light shine brightly for you in 2014!

December Chalk-a-Bration!

It's time to join Betsy at Teaching Young Writers for another Chalk-a-Bration!  Quick, grab your chalk and let the poetry dust fly!



It's hard to believe that it's time to break out the chalk again!  Since it's pretty snowy and icy here in Michigan, I used my iPad for chalking this time around.



And three out of four of my children also got in on the chalk action!

 
Maddie is five and is still convinced that people should look like this!  We're still working on it...
 

Avery is only two so we will just call this "abstract art."

 
Matthew, who is 10, used the iPad also but his is a doodle board app instead of a chalk board app.  I just love this picture of Matthew and Dad having a light saber fight!
 
Emma was too busy using her new Kindle Fire to participate...maybe in January the newness will have worn off and she will be able to join in the chalk fun!  :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snow Day!!!

SNOW DAY!!

I had hoped and wished and prayed for a snow day.  We had enough snow...maybe.  It had been snowing - Friday night through most of Saturday.  I went out on Sunday to buy groceries and the roads in town were terrible so I knew the rural roads were worse.  That was a start.  It continued to snow on and off on Sunday.  That was a good sign too!  I posted on Facebook that I was hoping for a snow day...my friends were hoping too, but no one was very optimistic.

And then it happened.

We were eating dinner and I heard a text buzzing my phone.  I didn't get up to answer during dinner...it could wait until we were done.

As I started to clear the table, I remembered the text.  I reached for my phone and my happy dance began!  I read it out loud to my kids and we all cheered!  We all enjoy school, but still...

A SNOW DAY!!  WE WERE HAVING A SNOW DAY!!  NO ALARM, NO RUSH OUT THE DOOR IN THE MORNING!! 

And the best part?  Knowing about it the night before!  Am I right??

I have had a very productive day off too!  I spent the morning doing school work...I know, right?  But I did.  I have my math and Daily 5 chunks planned for January and February!  I fixed up my weekly planning sheet to fit with the adjustments to my schedule that I made two weeks ago (and it was about time too). 

I stirred up two batches of sugar cookies for school.  Each of my students will be rolling out and cutting cookies for each person in their house.  We will frost and decorate them and the kids will take them home for a family treat.  I mixed up three batches of my mom's frosting recipe to frost those cookies with too!

And, in and around all of that, I managed to spend time with my kiddos!  I mean, when they weren't busy watching movies, playing video games, reading, playing dress up and restaurant and dolls, and anything else their little hearts desired on this FREEZING snowy day.  It was a free-for-all kind of day, something we all needed.

I think the only thing that they didn't do today was play outside.  And I didn't blame them one little bit.  It's COLD out there (and they played outside yesterday while it was snowing).

Now, about tomorrow...

Do I smell another snow day coming my way?

Probably not, but if my phone should happen to deliver some most excellent news, I will NOT object!

I will also probably not be as productive either.

I guess time will tell.

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rememberance, Kindness, You & Me

 
It's Slice of Life Tuesday!!  Join the crew at Two Writing Teachers for this writer's treat.  Read a slice, write a slice, share a slice...join in the fun in whatever way works for you!
 
 
Today was one of those days when I just didn't have a plan for my slice.  Throughout the day at school I tried to use my writer's eyes to notice something, I tried to use my teacher eyes to notice something, but nothing struck me.  I saw plenty of "things" but nothing felt just right.  I figured that something would strike me at home.  With four kids around, there are plenty of topics swirling around me at all times, but even after dinner was eaten and cleaned up...I had nothing.
 
Then I turned on the computer and my topic landed in my lap.  As I read a blog I follow, I was touched.  I fell in love with an idea from a fellow teacher-blogger.  With the anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary approaching later this week, Greg Smedley-Warren from the Kindergarten Smorgasboard blog shared an idea of remembrance.
 
He told of listening to the radio and hearing a story in which the mayor of Newtown, Connecticut shared that the staff and families of Sandy Hook would like everyone to complete an act of kindness in remembrance of the lives lost on that horrific day.  Greg's idea was to spread the word to all of his teacher-blogger friends.  If everyone shares this idea with a friend or two and all of those people do an act of kindness, imagine how many people that could be! 
 
So my request to you?  If you read my slice, please commit to completing a simple act of kindness on December 14th in remembrance of the victims of Sandy Hook, and even better, every day.
 
 
 
 
Greg encourages us, as I do, to pass this idea along, share this picture, tell your friends and colleagues.  Share the message and let's honor the beautiful children who lost their lives too early and the brave teachers who gave their all to try to protect them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Cautionary Tale

Do you have teenagers in your house?  Have you been looking for just the right thing to teach teens to choose abstinence?  I've got just the thing for you.  Tell them my story.

The Backstory:  I have four children, ages 2-10.  We were excited about a long Thanksgiving weekend together and had plans to host family for dinner, get some Christmas shopping done, enjoy some down time together as a family.

And so, it begins.

Picture it: Thursday morning, Thanksgiving.  I'm standing at the kitchen sink up to my elbows in turkey preparations.  My 8 year old daughter trudges out from her bedroom looking pale and tired. 

"I don't feel good," she says.  Those words.  Those dreaded words.

"Go lay on the couch and watch TV for a little bit.  Maybe you just woke up too early," I told her.  Lovely.  I was grasping at straws, I know this, but I was cooking for 11 people.  This wasn't really happening, right?

Within an hour, she was (sorry, too much info) throwing up.

Flu: 1    Kids: 3

Picture it: Saturday afternoon.  I'm doing a little school work on the computer in the kitchen and look up just in time to see my 2 year old daughter, who is too young to tell me she doesn't feel well, throw up.  In the chair.  The BEIGE chair.  Lovely.

Flu: 2     Kids: 2

Picture it: Sunday evening.  I'm folding laundry, preparing things for school on Monday, taking part in the general "busy-busy" of Sunday evenings.  My 10 year old son comes upstairs from vegging out in front of a video game for a bit.

"I don't feel good," he says, rubbing his stomach. 

Lovely. 

"Here it comes," I couldn't help but think to myself.  Within an hour, he was throwing up.

Flu: 3     Kids: 1

Picture it: Monday, lunchtime.  I'm home from school with my son, letting him rest, and I think to myself (maybe my first mistake), "At least I haven't heard from the school today!"

Within an hour, my phone rings.  I glance at the caller id.  "School" it says.  Deep breath.

"Hello?"  (Oh, please don't let the 5 year old be sick!!!)

"I have your daughter in the office.  She just got sick in the classroom."

Lovely.  Another one bites the dust.

Flu: 4     Kids: 0

If you lost track...let me recap.

5 days.
4 vomiting children.

Lovely. 

Go away flu bug!

Please share this cautionary tale with those teens who need a good reminder.  Cleaning up vomit is no fun, especially when multiplied by 4.  I can't think of a better form of birth control, especially for people who don't handle vomit well.  (MEEEEE!!!!!) 

I know, that teenager you talk to will probably say, "That won't happen to me."

Yes, it will.  Some time, some day, it will come for you too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Thankful Five









1.  I’m thankful for my family.  I am rich in this department!  I have four beautiful, healthy, happy, smart children and an amazing husband who I cherish every day!



2.    I’m thankful for my parents who raised me to believe in myself, to work hard and to enjoy life.  They set a good example for my siblings and me.  I know how lucky I am to be able to say that!



3.    I’m thankful to have a job in this crazy, difficult world we live in, but I am blessed to have a job that I love.  I look into little faces every day and hear things such as “I like your shoes” or “You are my friend” and I know that what they mean is that they feel safe here at school, in our classroom, with me.  I take this profession seriously because I know that I impact their young lives and I want that impact to be positive every day!



4.    I’m thankful for a caregiver for my children that I trust 100%.  I know that my children get the best care possible every day when I can’t be with them. She’s amazing and I can’t imagine, nor would I want, anyone else caring for my children.  We are blessed to have her in our lives.



5.    I’m thankful for this slicing community.  If it weren’t for you all, I wouldn’t share my writing.  I may not even write!  The feedback and connections that I have made here sustain my writing passion and encourage me on the days that the screen/paper is blank for just a little too long for comfort.  Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We Love Mo Willems!

We have been doing an author study of Mo Willems in my kindergarten classroom.  It is my favorite study of the year!  We LOVE Mo!  We've read pigeon books, Elephant and Piggie books, and all the Knuffle Bunny books and we just love them all to pieces!

We have been learning to use a lot of what we learn from him through our reading in our own writing.  To help with this, we created an anchor chart all about Mo.  We learned about direction lines, movement lines, thought bubbles, speech bubbles, big words=loud voice (and little words=whisper voice), and how Mo shows feelings with facial expressions (which we added to the chart after I took the picture).

We talked about each thing that Mo taught us and found examples of them in books.  Then, I began to see them pop up in student writing...and that's when it gets really exciting for me!  Check it out!

Oral story: When I went outside with my daddy we played catch.  He told me "catch" and it went over my head.

Do you notice the speech bubble coming out of Dad's mouth?  And can you find the direction line that follows the tennis ball?  Awesome!

Next, we had to get a little artsy!  Each child was given the choice of three projects and signed up to make either an Elephant, Piggie or Pigeon.  Here is the display in the hallway.  Aren't they just too cute?


We just love Mo Willems!  Do you?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Little Peanut Learns to Write

I have a sweet Little Peanut in my kindergarten class this year who is developmentally about 3.5 years old.  Yes, as you can imagine, in a classroom where we are in the early stages of writing, this creates a challenge.  Little Peanut knows a handful of letters and a couple of sounds, and he can recognize a couple of sight words.  Do you think he is a writer?

He is!

In September, he was struggling to hold a pencil.  He had very little muscle tone in his hand and didn't really understand what to do with pencils and crayons.  During writing workshop, we spent our time telling oral stories and learning to expand our stories to include important details and information.

In October, we made the shift from telling oral stories to writing them down.  Little Peanut began his writing journey by drawing a "collection of colors" (aka scribbles).   He could tell an oral story "with prompting and support" and could tell what each color meant in his story. 

In November, things still looked the same, except the pressure he was able to use when coloring was better.  He had gained a little muscle in his tiny little fingers!





While I was pleased that he had come this far, the road ahead still seemed long for Little Peanut.  I decided the next step/teaching point that would benefit him most was a few more drawing lessons.

I began by asking Little Peanut about his story.  It took a little while for him to understand that I didn't want him to orally label his picture (this is the sun, this is the water, this is the sand, etc.).  Once he did, he was able to tell me his oral story: I went to the beach with my mom.

Next, we talked about how important it is to be able to see the things in his picture that he is talking about in his story.  I used a sticky note to demonstrate how I would draw the picture of his story (based on what he had told me about already).





We talked about each element and I asked him to draw the picture again himself.  Little Peanut picked up a brown crayon and got to work drawing the sand.  I walked away.  At this point, I wanted Little Peanut to be independent again so that I could see how much learning he had taken on after our work together.  I may have watched over his shoulder from time to time as he worked, but he didn't know that.  :)

When he finished, he proudly raised his hand and showed me this masterpiece:

In this picture, you can now identify two people (Little Peanut and his mom), the brown sand, the blue sky, the yellow sun and the waves in the water.  Talk about a difference!

I asked Little Peanut to read me his story again.  I was curious if he would tell me the same story or if he would alter it.  He said:







Little Peanut still struggles but he is making great progress and he has such a good attitude about it!  Today, I had the opportunity to do some planning with him before he began to write a new story.  We talked about remembering to draw all the important things so the reader could understand the story.  Because he still needs support with his drawing, that is what we did.  He told me his story and what he wanted to draw and I drew it on a sticky note.

He was excited to get started!  He is writing about his mom driving him to his grandma's house.


It looks like he's off to a great start!

He has drawn the road, the beginnings of a car and the beginnings of a house.  I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings for Little Peanut!



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We Are Blooming!

I absolutely love to watch my students learn and grow!  I know, there probably aren't any teachers out there that wouldn't say the same thing, but this year it just keeps smacking me in the face!

I have a student teacher that does a wonderful job.  She knows what she's doing and what to expect from students, where to support them and enjoys what she is doing.  It's been fun to watch her grow and learn as well this year!

Because she is so capable, I have been able to really sit back and watch my students.  Yes, I see behaviors in some of them that are less that desirable and its often hard to sit back and let her handle it without jumping in to help, but I see her growth when I do so I know how worth while it is.  The best part thought is watching the students really begin to shine.  Last week they were engaged and in love with literacy and math tubs...and I was able to watch it all unfold in front of me.  The flowers in my kinder garden are really beginning to bloom!  Take a look!

You will notice two levels of letter work below - first identifying a letter in an apple card game and then writing letters in sequence.


 Next up, more letter work.  First, students place the magnetic letter over the picture of the matching letter.  The next level is matching the letter to the beginning sound of the word/picture.  Finally, some students are beginning to spell color words.

 

During math tubs we have been playing a roll a number and write it game, counting by tens and writing the numbers in order, playing a roll and color activity to practice dot patterns and




 And more literacy tubs...we are working on identifying and writing letters.
 

We also practiced identifying beginning sounds of words/pictures and a roll a sight word game where we identified the word and practiced writing it.


The difference in what my students are capable of doing now versus the beginning of the school year when many didn't know any letters or sounds or numbers is just amazing!  I'm awfully lucky to be able to do this job I love!

Giving credit - I used activities from the following:

The Common Core Diner by Greg Smedley-Warren at Kindergarten Smorgasboard
Apple Letter/Sounds Game, Making Words and More, & All About Bats by Caitlin Clabby at Kindergarten Smiles
Lunchbox Letters by Alessia Albanese at www.mrsalbanesesclass.blogspot.com


Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Chalk-a-Bration!

It's Chalk-a-bration time!

I was hoping to take my students outside for a little chalking fun today.  But...it's Halloween and it's Michigan so that means it's raining!  We made do with black paper and brand new pointy chalk instead!  Check it out...I love that some of them added words too!








 
Join Betsy at Teaching Young Writers for more chalk-a-bration!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gone Astray




Join the Two Writing Teachers crew for more slice of life stories!



Can you figure out my riddle before you get to the end? 


Gone Astray

You elude me
Hidden
My eyes open wide
A thousand thoughts
Swirling

You're chased away
By worry
Stress
Children and work
Extinct

You vanished
The hours stretch
Or rush past
Still I wait
Anxious

You evade me
In the midnight hour
Where you are concerned
I have no power
Gone

So come Mr. Sandman
Bring quiet to my head
Don’t be my enemy
Sleep
Be my friend

Now that my youngest is two, there aren't too many sleepless nights.  You have to understand - this girl would NOT sleep in her crib until she was about 14 months old.  She would sleep fitfully for short bursts in her carseat, but would not lay down in her crib.  We tried everything from rocking her to sleep, rocking her almost to sleep, laying her down awake, a constant routine, changing up the routine...nothing worked.  She had to sit in her car seat, which we would rock, and cry herself to sleep.  At this point, we would EVER-SO-CAREFULLY carry the car seat into the bedroom.  This child wanted a bottle in the middle of the night until she was almost one year old.  She was not an easy baby and sleep was not our friend until she was about 1.5 years old.  

Luckily, we are out of this dreadful routine and are sleeping soundly every night.  Except one night last week.  I went to bed at 11:30...too late, I know, but it happened.  Here is the line-up for the rest of the night:
12:30  feverish five year old climbs into my bed
1:00  finally fall back to sleep
2:00 I got a text - yes, a text! What?!  Ugh - sat us straight up in bed in surprise!
3:00  luckily, I didn't see this hour!
4 o'something  feverish daughter can't sleep, doesn't feel good
5:00 finally fall back to sleep
5:45  worst sound in the world echos in my bedroom
ALARM CLOCK!
6:00  dragged myself out of bed
7:00  leave home to attend staff meeting
In case you didn't notice, 3:00 was the ONLY hour I didn't get to experience during this night.
And that, my friends, is where this riddle poem was born.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celebrate!

Join Ruth Ayres for her first office CELEBRATE this week link up!
Share a celebration from your week - big, little or anything in between!

Discover. Play. Build.

I thought that I would be celebrating my daughter's quick recovery from whatever nasty little bug has been going around.  She was out of school on Tuesday and Wednesday but was able to return for the end of the week.  That changed this morning, however, with she woke up with a fever again!  Boo!

So...I decided to celebrate something else!  This morning I also woke up to an email - with good news!  As I read the Teacher's Notebook newsletter this morning, I stumbled upon one of my own creations!  They selected one of my products to list as a freebie item of the week!  I had submitted it for review a couple of weeks ago without a lot more thought, knowing that there are probably hundreds (at least) of submissions each week.  It was a delightful surprise on this cold rainy Saturday.

If you'd like to check it out too, click here.  My "Monster Roll and Color" is the first freebie listed!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Week in review 10-18-13

A Week in the Life of My Little Monsters:

We made applesauce with the apples we bought at the cider mill last week!  This was a culminating activity for our 5 senses science unit.  We enjoyed the smell of the apples while we chopped them and while they cooked in the crock pot all day and the sound of slicing and chopping the apples.  We touched the apples while we cut them into pieces and we used our sense of sight as we watched them cook down and darken throughout the day.  Finally, we used our sense of taste to try the applesauce!  Yum!




So much great concentration when chopping the apples into little pieces!!

Literacy Centers - unfortunately, I didn't get pictures!  We played letter soup - the kids had to spoon up a magnetic letter, say the letter and the sound.  Also, we used bags with hair gel sealed inside to practice tracing letter cards and we practiced letters and sounds by jumping on the letter or sound on our classroom rug that was named by the teacher.  Finally, we used a spinner with capital letters and tracing sheets with lowercase dotted letters to practice our letter writing skills/uppercase and lowercase letter matching skills.

How about a little math tub time...

This is from The Common Core Diner Math and Literacy Pack by Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasbord

Based on an activity from Debbie Diller's Math Workstations book

Ten frame number match game from Teacher Tips by Susanne Terrell
 
 
From my Monster Count the Room set

And our beloved guided drawing lessons!  This week we practiced people, faces, moving people, houses, cars, cats, and dogs.  I only snapped pictures of the people, but how cute are they?





For more info about this week's units/activities, check out the following awesome creations!  Click on the picture to take you to the Teacher's Pay Teachers link.
Common Core Ten Frame Math Activity   The Common Core Diner!  A Common Core Aligned Math And Lit     Monster Count the Room



Coming next week:

Bats, bats, and more bats!  Fall math tubs!  More drawing lessons!