Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weather Units

I will be using the Weather Literacy Unit for the story Mayday! Mayday! by Chris L. Demarest. I included activities for the book, some lessons about rescue workers and many more about weather. All of the Literacy Centers have weather clip art. Here is the link for the Weather Unit.

I also made some Mathematics Centers with a St. Patrick's Day theme.
Our next book is Messenger, Messenger and I am planning a community/neighborhood theme!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


We concluded our Shapes Unit by using simple shapes to form larger shapes (K.G.6). Our school recently purchased the Investigations Math series to use as a resource. It had two great lessons for this standard and we did both of them this week.
The first lesson was the 'Fill the Hexagon" game. In pairs the students used pattern blocks and a work mat to create hexagons using combinations of shapes. I used a spinner instead of dice. One student would spin and place that pattern block anywhere on the mat, but could not move it once it was placed.  They continued to play until they filled all 6 hexagons (they could use the yellow hexagon once).
The second lesson involved Geoblocks! They loved them!

First, I let them explore with the blocks (see why in the 5E model below), then we gathered in a group and passed a basket around so that each student could get a block. Each student told something about the block (number of sides, vertices, name of shape).

The student put their blocks into the middle of the circle and I used the blocks to model how to "match faces" which made smaller shapes become larger shapes. The students went back to their tables and "matched faces."

For this Geometry Unit I used the 5 E's model to plan my lessons (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate). By adding some time for students to explore (explore) the materials before beginning the lesson (explain) helped with student discussion as I explained the concepts. As an example, when we focused on the cone shape, I put a small cone and a small circle in a baggie and partners touched, experimented with, and discussed both shapes before we made an anchor chart about Cones (K.G.4.) After we analyzed the shape (explain), the students provided examples of real-world objects that are shaped like cones. To provide support, I had a powerpoint of pictures of cone-shaped items. The students were given play-doh to create the shape (elaborate) as I monitored (K.G.5). Students shared and explained their shapes during a "museum walk" (evaluate). This lesson framework really engaged the students and the discussions were full of details and descriptions because of the student exploration prior to the lesson.
We are moving on to Operations and Algebraic Thinking!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Here are some answers to some questions I have received about the center post below.

1. Do the students rotate to all the centers everyday?
Yes, they will visit all 4 centers everyday for 15 minutes. I meet with all students during guided reading/small groups everyday.

2. Do students choose the activity at the Reading & Word Work Centers?
No, not yet. Last week I organized my centers this way and the students had a hard time with choice. I am sure that if this was a skill I worked on at the beginning of the school year as the Sisters suggest in the Daily 5 book (stamina, etc) that the students would have been able to handle making choices. We don't have time to stop now so late in the year and work on this. What I saw with my students last week: students moving from one activity to another in the center without completing or staying with one activity the entire 15 minutes (created more clean up), wasting time looking through all the choices, and some students actually not knowing what to do.
So, for now, I am making the choice for them and maybe later they will be able to choose. That is my goal, I think that student choice naturally differentiates student work and that is what I really want for my students.

I even considered creating a "planning sheet" or a "contract" where the students would mark, color, or circle their choice daily for the week. But I do not want to make copies of anything. I also thought about making a chart where students could make a choice by placing a clothespin beside their choice at that center for the day in the morning during arrival time.

3. How do I know what the students are doing at the center (if they are not choosing)?
The blue and green cards at the reading and word work centers have student names on them and those names are rotated daily so that the students complete all the activities for the week. Some of the activities have paper to use (stamping, write the room, etc.)  so there is some accountability. I am planning a center wrap-up session daily after center time for students to discuss the different activities.

I have 4-5 students at each center, but each student is participating in a different activity. Some of the materials are difficult for several students to use at the same time (pocket chart, big book easel, magnet board). As they experience these activities a few times independently, I think it will be easier for them to share and take turns and I can allow them more choice.

4. Can you share the center chart pieces?
Sure, I can! I can share the Literacy Center strips and Math Tub cards, and the green cards for the activities at the Reading Center. I can't share the word work activity cards because of the clip art I used on the cards. Click here.

5. Pocket Chart Activities:
I just make them. They are similar to the centers I make for my Literacy Units. I purposely wanted to stay away from making these on the computer. Even though my handwriting is not perfect like a computer font, I still wanted to use my own handwriting on the sentence strips. When I was looking through some old files (before computers) I found some handwritten math plans from a presenter at a math training I attended many years ago. It was so refreshing for my eyes to see actual writing instead of computer fonts.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Last Saturday I woke up and was dreading my "after pay day" trip to Sam's. I would be purchasing all the card stock, laminating film, and ink cartridges to create all the centers for the month. Then I would spend hours making the centers. I just could not do it anymore-it was too expensive and time consuming. I decided to simplify the centers for myself and for my students. I LOVE the Daily 5, and have organized my centers based on the Daily 5, but more like the Daily 4.
I teach 4 reading groups and have 4 centers during Literacy Centers. Best of all, they are worksheet free!
Here is the chart:

I blurred the student names, but they are listed beside each center rotation. The students will rotate every 15 minutes to each center:
1. Computers
2. Reading
3. Word Work
4. Teacher
I decided not to do a writing center. We have writing workshop daily and in 15 minutes they would not have enough time to even get the materials out and get started before it was time to clean up and rotate. 
At the reading center, there are 5 activities that they will rotate through each week: read/write the room, letter detective, big books & charts, pocket chart, and read books.
At the Word Work center, there are 5 activities that they will rotate through each week. Each student has a word bank and will use it to make words using magnets, play-doh, stamps, paint dots and markers.

Here is the rotation chart for the Reading Center. One day the student will use the pocket chart, the next day, he/she will read the big books, etc. and will have a chance to do every activity at that center each week. I will move the name cards down and the bottom one to the top.

Here is the improved classroom library:
Some pocket chart activities:

This is the Word Work Rotation Chart. Every day the students will use a different material/tool to create words. I will rotate these cards left to right.

This is how I have organized the materials. The student will take the drawer completely out and use the materials with a word bank.
Here is the board for the magnets. It is an oil drip pan that I put on the bathroom door with velcro.
The students will clip their words from the word bank with the clothespins (fine motor) and then spell the word with magnets.
 Here is how the students will use the dot paint to spell words:

As for the Math Centers, this is the rotation chart:
The students work with one math tub or use the computers every day-they do not rotate. The tubs have several partner games to play (Math Their Way, Investigations, Grid Games, +1, -1, add two dice, etc.). I will put the tubs on tables and call students from the centers for Math Small Groups.

I have been using the Calendar Notebook in my classroom. Each student has an individual notebook and I use mine on the document camera. In an effort to encourage more math talk, I am returning to the calendar wall.  I found my old calendar things, but need to remake a lot of them (tomorrow!). I will post about it when it is complete!

I will still make the Literacy Units and Math Center Packets to complete the reading series, but I wanted to be honest and let you know that I have changed how I use the centers. It is possible to use the literacy centers that are in the units without copying the recording sheets. The students can write the answer in the crayon color instead of coloring a picture, or they can fold a paper in fourths and make a dot using a crayon to match the color of the card and then write the answer in the squares (front and back). I also have some other ideas for graphic organizers and I will share them later.
My room looks so different now:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writing Freebie

My students (and I) love writing! We write everyday in response to reading where a topic is assigned, we use our math journals to record and label problems and topics of study, and we spend 30 minutes everyday just writing (after a mini-lesson) during writing workshop. My students use the writing process (ideas, rough draft, conferencing, final copy, publishing) to write about topics of their choice in journals. The journals have been 20 blank pages of copy paper stapled together with a cute cover from Kindergarten Rocks!. The students draw one one side and write on the other, then we conference, I edit their writing and they rewrite it on "fancy paper." Most students are now writing 2-4 sentences on one topic. 
My problem was the journal paper. They were writing more sentences and I really needed the sentences to be on lined paper because it was hard to edit. My mom and I were discussing this last week and we came up with a solution- create a special editing paper to put in the journal instead of blank paper. If you would like to try this paper you can get your FREE copy here.
This is what it looks like in a journal. It has 4 dark lines for the students to write on and then a dotted box underneath for editing.
I ran out of "fancy paper" last week, so I made plain paper books for the students to write in. They loved bookmaking and I plan to do more of it. They wanted their books to be placed in the reading center and these books are the go-to books that every student likes to read. I prefer the one page fancy paper and so I have a binder with plastic sheets to place these writings. The binder will be kept in the reading center. If you need fancy paper and planning sheets for opinion, narrative, and informative writing, I have made a "Fancy Papers for Student Writing" packet. Here are some of the pages included:

Here are some activities we are doing this week in reading:
We are moving on to 3-D shapes tomorrow!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Celebrating the 100th Day

Our 100th day of school was last week and we had a great celebration. Here are some photos of the activities:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Brother and Sister Bunny Unit

Just in time for the big sale tomorrow! I plan to use this literacy unit when we read Max Takes the Train by Rosemary Wells. It includes many writing and center activities for Max Takes the Train, Bunny Cakes, and Max Cleans Up. I decided to create this unit about the characters/books instead of a theme.  The next literacy unit will be Weather for Mayday, Mayday!

Friday, February 1, 2013

TpT Sale

I will be participating in the TpT Super Sale on Sunday. I hope to have the next unit ready by then!

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