Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Easy Readers... and a little confession

Hey Y'all!
Do you guys ever feel like you are holding back? As in not telling everything? I do. Man I write and write and then I edit, edit, edit. I don't want anyone to see my flaws. I really don't. But this year I've been working on being transparent. It's been hard and I am by no way as transparent as I wish I could be. I'm a stuffer.. you know something happens that you have an emotional response to and you stuff it way down so that no one sees. My stuffing is usually negative in nature. That is usually I am stuffing the stuff that would show my flaws or don't paint a cheery picture. If you are a stuffer then you know what the inevitable response is, right? You volcano!


Yep... only it's not a cat controlling things, it's all that stuff you stuffed way down. It will come up. So like the great stuffers before me I have learned to cope, manage, hide the real truth. Hince the word for the year being transparent. And I still feel like I've not said or been transparent enough. So I'm still working on that.

My confession today is that I want to bring things to TPT for teachers to use. I get caught in that stuffing cycle every time I bring out something new. UGH! In December I put together a set of Easy Readers that I use in my room. And I gave it to our reading recovery teacher and a first grade teacher with a struggling reader. They both loved them. But I still couldn't get the set posted. I worried that people would disagree with my "leveling" of the books. Or not be happy or worse yet, not be able to use them at all. So I procrastinated. And I got them up really late in December. I am currently working on January's set. Which made me think, you really should share what these are. Be transparent.

So here I am.... let me introduce you to my product and tell you why I made it. First let me get my disclaimer out of the way, I am not the be all end all text leveler. I am sure that some of these are too easy or too hard for the levels. I firmly believe that kids don't fit neatly into a level either! Yep, I love readers but at the same time, I struggle to get my kids to fit a level ___ perfectly. Sometimes they are too easy and sometimes they are too hard. Also my word choices fit my kids. I'm in an inner city, title 1, 100% free lunch school. Oh and we are in Arkansas. We are southern, and we probably sound funny to outsiders, but the language in the books tends to follow us.



Disclaimer over! Now lets break this down. I know that many of my team mates and teachers in my school wondered why I was going to all the trouble to create readers when our school has a book room. I love our book room. Lots of great titles in sets of 6. Yep, sets of 6. So what happens when you want to use a reader with 8 children who are on the same level? You don't right? Or at the very least that book doesn't get into their book box. That is  the first reason. I HATE working harder. I don't want to split those 8 children in to 2 different books because that is more work for me. If I make my own readers then I can make as many copies as I want, right?

The second reason that I don't like using book room readers is that we can't write in them. There is zero buy in for my students. I like to use dots for my bless their hearts learners who are still struggling with one to one correspondence. I have no way to add those dots to the store bought readers. This is what I am talking about... this is a page from my reader Santa's Coming level a reader.

 
See the little dots under the words? These are on my level a and level 1 readers (also has a version without dots). I am trying to keep the pages simple, clean, and easy to read. My bless your heart learners LOVED that they were "reading" the same book as my high flyers. I hear you crying foul! But it's true! The covers are identical, except on says level a and the other says level 2. That is the last reason that I make my own readers. I have watched my bless your heart readers loose interest in what is in their book box but want to "read" what is in a high fliers box. That right there, that part stopped last spring when I started making my own books with the same cover for all levels.

One more thing about my reading groups... the word work is NEVER centered on the book. I was told in some state training one year that your book should have the word work feature in it. Really???? I cringe every time I think about this! I never never never tie my word work to a book, well not intentionally. If we happen on something that goes with our word work that is gravy! I do have a set of book that have rhyming families in them and we use those to decode words and they are the exception to my never.

Let's take a look at the reindeer page across the readers.
Level A is first, Level 1 without dots, Level 2



I really love how these address the nosy rosy kids who want to be in other groups because they want to have all the books. Now everyone appears, at the cover level, to have the same book. But when you get into the text the kids are getting what they need.  You might not have this same problem. You might be looking for a way to stretch 6 books into 8. Or you might want bigger buy in. Or you might not have a well stocked lover level book room.

Oh and here is "bonus" in all of this!! I can send these books home for the kids to KEEP!!! Yep that gets me excited over and over again. I can actually use them in my room and then send them home for the kids to keep forever! One of the first grade teachers at my school told me that one of my students had said that the only books that she has at home to read were Ms. Day's books. Think about that!! Title 1 school, kids who don't have access to many books, and they kept what we had worked with all year long! Melted my heart.

So there you have it, confessions from a stuffing volcano and my newest project. I really want each of you to be able to use these books in your rooms! I want to bless your students with a library that is theirs! Oh and if you are limited on paper to make books, I would like to suggest Donors Choose as a way to get that paper!!


Monday, December 28, 2015

Out with the old, in with the New TPT Sale!



WOOHOO!! Ring in the new year with new resources to support your teaching! I hope you can find something that you LOVE!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lions and tigers and assessments, oh my!

Hey Y'all!
I have a serious love hate relationship with assessments. Are you in the same boat? I love what I can learn from a good assessment but I HATE the time that it takes in kinder land. Y'all know what I am talking about. There is very little to NO group assessing. For my friends who teach older students, you guys might not get what I am saying here. 5 year olds tend to be some of the hardest kids to assess because, by nature, they learn by watching others. So imagine trying to have kinders build sets as a whole group. Even if you give them tools to do it on their own, they tend to watch others build before they start. That leaves a situation where you are questioning if the student knows what a set of 3 looks like or were they excellent at copying what someone else can do.  Frustration sets in because every little thing has to be one on one! Even with the best assessments they take days to complete because of the time frame.

And then that all changed for me.... I heard about a little website called ESGI.


 What is ESGI?
ESGI is only the EASIEST way to assess! No I'm not just saying that, nor am I in any way part of ESGI. I started using this form of assessment last year. I loved that I could open up any device that was connected to the internet and test. This year I am using it more than I did last year. I guess I was a little slow to warm up to all the features, but now that I get it I use it for everything. ESGI says that they save 400 hours of time in assessing. I'm not sure it does that, but I seem to fly through assessments now.

There are LOTS of stock tests from many wonderful teacher authors like Deedee Wills and Pre K pages. But the best part is that you can create assessments your self. My school requires that all teachers give common assessments that are co designed by grade level teams and the coaches. I don't mind these assessments so much but we have to give them weekly. UGH! That is a lot of time given up to individual testing. Now our team does a really good job of keeping these really short but they still take  lots of time. These common assessments are what really pushed me to use ESGI. It's so easy to take our team assessment and create them in ESGI.

How do you give an ESGI assessment?
This has got to be the best part!! I usually give these during transitions. Yep you heard me. I use my smart board and pull up what ever piece of the assessment I want to test. While my kids are cleaning up centers I pull 1 kinder over to the smart board and run through the assessment. The kids who cleaned up quickly aren't sitting around waiting for nothing, they are getting the most out of every minute of the day. I even take a iPad with us to the bathroom and do assessments while we are at the bathroom.

So I tested, now what?
This is a class summery page that shows where my class stands overall. Each student also has a page like this with individual scores. If you have been teaching kindergarten long you know that grades mean nothing to 5 year olds. But tell them that their goal is to have all green, no white, and they are instantly interested in their grades.


So now that you have kinders buying in, how about getting parents to buy in? You can print a parent letter that you customize to say what ever you need it to say AND print flashcards of the material that you kids need to know. And when it it time to re-test, you can choose to test all the material or just the items that were missed. Talk about a time saver!


Here is one of my favorite parts of ESGI. This is the history graph. My RTI team requires data to show if the kids are growing. Usually you are talking about pages and pages of letter naming sheets. Not me! I print out this page and slip it into the RTI folder. I love that I can see "jumps" in understanding as well as when we stall out.


You can also access the class totals report that will show you the first testing and the most recent. I LOVE using this to show growth! Super easy to pull my whole class at one time.


Now that you have buy in from both kinders and parents, it's time to form groups. This picture is showing one of my sight word assessments. See the grey and green areas? The green is what we know and the grey is what we missed. To get a quick list of who doesn't know a word, click on the grey area. Yep! It's that easy.


Now that you've seen it, wanna give it a try? ESGI has a 60 day trial for FREE! Yep that is how I got started with ESGI. I did all my January assessments and my progress monitoring through February. And I realized that this was too good to give up! Testing on my phone, or a tablet, or on the computer. I can check children ANY time and ANY where. LOVE it!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Do you know about the easiest way to make posters and charts?

Hey Y'all!

This year I'm all about making my life easier. Yep, anything that saves time or makes the day go smoother is at the top of my list. I hope to share lots of these time saving tips with you this year. I hope that you share some with me in the comments or on twitter and instagram with the hashtag #alittlekinder

Today I wanted to share how I am making charts and posters. Anchor charts are the life blood of learning in kindergarten. Our youngest learners are great at sharing ideas and remembering details. But they struggle with recording this thinking. That is where we come in as adults or experts. Anchor charts are a great way to construct learning together. My littles give me the information they have learned through read a loud or already know and I record it on a chart. Now I am not the greatest at drawing and in the past I have traced clip art by using my smart board. But now I have a new way of doing things; an easier way of doing things.

Block poster is the easiest way to create my anchor charts. You simply upload the image and tell it how many squares you want. Then it works its magic. All I have to do is print out the image and glue it to my chart. Done and done.





I hope that you run over to block poster and that it is useful to you!



Sunday, December 13, 2015

Arkansas Kindergarten Conference.... Day 1

OMG!! I can not believe that it's here or better that I am here!! What better way to share it with you than in pictures...



This is from Kim's YeeHaw! wild about numbers session. I play a game call how many in my cup where we start with 5 counting bears and I hide some in a cup. Then I show the remaining bears and ask how many are in my cup. This is the same game but with the rekenrek. 

Writing with Deedee Wills. 



I think this may have been my favorite session of the day!! Getting everything done seems impossible but Kim really broke it down. 

Tomorrow is day 2 and my sessions deal with math small groups and reading. Can.not.wait!!!

For more pictures follow me on Instagram (@alittlekinder)




A Thanksgiving to Remember

This year for thanksgiving we took a little trip out of the country. We took a cruise on the beautiful Freedom of the Seas. Since we left out of Port Canaveral, we arrived a day early and the kids got to play in the ocean. It was awesome... my favorite part was when J decided that he was going to push AC into the water. Oh my oh my. Here are some pictures from the trip. 










Monday, September 21, 2015

How do you post your standards?

Hey Y'all

Each school that I have worked with have had different requirements on what gets posted for standards. I've had to post the standard as written. I've had to post the standard in kid friendly terms. I've had to post a standard and the learning activity that matches. That one my friends was a NIGHTMARE! It's only like I teach many standards with one activity or anything.

Let's be honest, there is not enough time in my day to write and re-write standards that hang on a wall. The standards don't always make since to kinder kids. But ask them to answer a question and most of them understand how to do that. I started using essential questions a few years ago to guide our learning. We would start a unit or lesson with a big picture question that we would work to answer. But yet again I was stuck writing questions to go with the standards. Not any more! I found these, or better these found me.
I got an email at the beginning of September asking me if I would like to take these little beauties for a test drive. I JUMPED at the chance. I had to see if these questions would work for me. When the box arrived I tore into it eager to get started. The first thing I did was watch two videos. The first is about the product itself. The second showed me ways to use the learning targets that I might not have thought of. Think of it like a training video




The box that these are stored in is VERY sturdy. The lid flips up so that it can't be lost. The box comes with the cards and dividers that are labeled with each section of the common core (both literacy and math). I was also sent a blue pocket chart that the Learning Targets fit into. It's nice that there is a pocket chart that is the same size and I don't have to fit it in to a pocket chart that it doesn't fit into.


I love the quality of these cards. They are nice and thick and the box is strong. I like that the card itself has the standard on it. This makes putting them away easy and it lets me know if I have the right card to go with the standard that I am teaching. I like the size of the card. They don't take up much wall space. Now to the big question... the questions. This is the part that I was most interested in seeing first hand. I like the questions, some of them are better than others. Some cards have 2 questions on them. This helps with really getting to the heart of the standard.

This is a product that I think most teachers will really like and use. The quality is high, very high actually. The font used is easy to read from a distance. I also like the words used. I know that seems silly but the wrong word choice could have killed this product for me. The words used are perfect for the vocabulary of 5 and 6 year olds.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Getting Interactive in Kinder!

Hey y'all!

Do you use interactive notebooks? Have you thought um nice idea but that's really a big kid thing? Does the teacher next door, down the hall, or upstairs use interactive notebooks? This post is going to have two purposes. The first is to share my experience with notebooks and why I like to use them with little kids. The second will be to share with you my thoughts and feelings about a Carson Dellosa product for note booking. Let's get down to  it then!

I remember my first exposure to interactive anything. They were foldable and my 3rd grade child at the time brough home this hot mess that was supposed to help her review and be ready for the state benchmark exam. Hot mess DOES NOT adequately describe this "thing". I remember seeing it and thinking that it was a waste of her precious time and how dare the teach waste this time! Oh man did I eat some humble pie that year. I missed the whole point and only saw the product. I missed that my child had to use anchor charts from MONTHS ago to find her information. I missed that my child was actively engaged in something that most kids hate- studying for a test. I missed it completely because all I saw was a hot mess and got upset. Yep I got upset. Being a teacher doesn't make you the best parent, funny how we morph into a 3 headed monster when it's our own kid. So upset, disappointed me took a day off from my classroom and meet with her teacher. I wanted to see for myself how this folded hot mess was really going to be valuable and I was lucky enough that they would be making yet another one on that day, this time for math. Boy oh boy, I got 'um now! And I headed off to her classroom ready to "got ya" at every turn. I had a notebook and was ready to collect actual evidence that this was not the way to review children for the test.

I know what you are thinking, had I lost my mind? Really you went that crazy? Yep, not my finest moment but let me tell you what happened when I got to her room. All those little learners packed into a small carpet area were excited. I really thinking that it was taking all that they had not to be jumping up and down or running with wild excitement. Y'all I couldn't believe that every child, even the one my daughter said NEVER paid attention, was sitting up on their knees ready to learn how to make this hot mess and get started looking for the answers. The teacher (let's call her Ms. X) was softly speaking as she showed them how to fold and cut a green piece of construction paper. Then she explained that in a second they were going to return to their desk and they would fold and cut together. And before I knew it they were off, watching and doing until the green paper no longer looked like paper but resembled the hot mess that had come home a few days ago. But here is where it got good. Ms. X turned on a over head projector (and no this only happened in 2007 so it wasn't THAT long ago) with numbered sections. She explained that in each of the numbered section on their folded paper they would need to find the answer. She reminded them to use their brains, use their neighbors, use the text book, and use the anchor charts.

At this point, I braced myself. I just knew the got ya moment was about to happen! Chaos, crying, whining, yelling... everything I pictured happening did not! The kids quickly got started. They knew from before to label and write the "question" from the overhead into a section and start finding the answer. The child closest to me leaned over to the friend on his left and said " hey number 3 looks like what we did at halloween. Remember we had candy?" The child on the left answered back" yea and we had that anchor chart... let's go find it!" These two children hopped up and went to a clothes rack with charts on hangers and started looking through. When they found what they were looking for they found a spot on the carpet and started talking about it. They invited another child over to help them.

Oh my, humble pie... I was wrong. WAY WAY wrong and I knew it. Ms. X slid over while I was watching and asked if I had any questions. I think I stuttered out something about procedures and how I didn't think that my K kids could do this, and she whispered an answer that rocked my whole thinking. She said this isn't my idea. In a staff meeting the kindergarten team presented a project that they had just finished on life cycles and they had used foldables. Jaw on floor. Mouth catching flies! I couldn't believe my ears and since my face showed every thought, Ms X giggled and said something like that was my reaction too. And she glided away to help a group that appeared stuck.

That was my first exposure to interactive anything and after I picked my jaw up from the floor, I started looking for ways to incorporate interactive books, notebook, and foldables into my classroom. Lucky for me Dr. Jean came to my town and talked about making interactive pieces WITH kindergarten kids. And my love for them grew! Now I am constantly on the look out for things that could work in our notebooks. Things that hook the kids into learning. Things that I teach the procedure one and we use with all kinds of learning.  That leads me to the second reason for the post, Carson Dellosa's Interactive Notebooks.

I am part of Carson Dellosa's Brand Ambassador team and we get to try out products and give our thoughts on them (two of my favorite activities by the way ;) ). So when I saw that one of the products that I could use and talk about was the kindergarten level interactive notebooks I jumped at the chance. These books come either as language arts or math. I have TONS of ideas for literacy so I opted for math.  Let's talk about the facts first then I'll give you my thoughts.

There are 96 pages in this book. That are divided by common core state standards areas. That is one section is counting and cardinality and another is geometry. The table of contents also shows that there is a section called "reproducible". This section is the blank or editable section of templates. There are also several pages on getting started, what interactive notebooks are, and how to plan or organize these pages.
Here are two pages from the book. The top one shows a programed page by Carson Dellosa. The bottom page is one from the reproducible section. Each of the programed pages has a title and some interactive piece. The pages from the reproducible section do not have a title, but contain information on how to use the page. Each of the programed pages has a facing page in the book that includes sections on introducing the page, creating the page, and reflecting on the learning. This could be used to format you lesson plan. Although the page is listed in counting and cardinality section there in no where that actual standards are addressed.


I use composition books as our interactive notebooks and this picture is to show how a page compares in size. There is a section in the front of the book that talks about choosing the right kind of notebook. In this information Carson Dellosa states that "the pages in the look are formatted for a standard one subject notebook" (page 5). The books lists pros and cons to spiral notebooks, composition books, and binders with loose leaf paper. They even list a tip or two for each kind of book so that you can better choose what works for you.

So I started this with a story, yep it really happened too. I mentioned that I had spent a TON of time searching for things to use in our interactive notebooks. What I didn't write about was the trial and epic failures that I had a long the way. In this book, there are some pages that would have made my life SO much easier! One example would be the whole pro and con section of what kind of notebook to use. Man would that have made things go better and the tips are great! For me to stay with my comp books, all I have to do is reduce the page size when copying AND the tip gives me a suggestion of what to set the copy machine too. There is a grading rubric in the front section that gives a standard format for grading your interactive notebook pages.

Let's talk about what I wish first and then end with what I loved. There are several things that I wished for as I was looking through and working with this book. The first was to have actual standards on the teacher page. I feel that most of the pages cover more than one skill and knowing the intended skills would have been great, rather than me guessing. Since most districts require us to put specific standards I wish that this book had done that too. The second wish that I had was I wanted more. I wanted several options for each skill. For example on the counting objects 1-5, I would have liked several pages that we could have used to build up to 5. Many of the pages felt more like a "chapter review" rather than learning pages. I wished for both! My last wish is one that probably only effects me, but here it is. I wish that all the cut lines were dotted. The book uses dotted lines for folding, big bold lines for cutting, and a medium weight line for separating sections. This was a huge confusion when we started because the pages we had done prior were all pages I had created and used dotted lines to cut.

Let's talk LOVE.... I love that this book is something that I could give to a partner teacher who had never notebooked in her classroom and she would know where to start. I love that this book answered most of the questions that I had when I started and you don't have to go hunting or fail to get the answers. I love that this book has a large number of blank or template pages. I think someone more advanced in note booking would see these as a huge resource. They are my favorite part of this book. I love the rubric and planning guides. The less prep work I have to do means I have more time for planning and being ready.

Final thought... while I think that this book will appeal more to beginning note booking teachers. There is value in this book being in every note booking classroom. Don't overlook it because it appears one way, it really has pieces that everyone can use.


** I am a Carson Dellosa Ambassador and the materials for this review were sent to me at no cost to myself. The ideas and opinions expressed on this blog are my own and are not necessarily the thoughts or opinions of Carson Dellosa.


Classroom Reveal

Hey Y'all!
What a week! and a WAY too short weekend. We start school Monday. I currently have 18 littles on my list for this year. I am super excited about the promise of a new year but I am also scared to death! You would think that BTS would get easier and easier, but nope I'm just as nervous today as I was the first day I stepped into my own classroom.  I did a periscope earlier and here it is...

I hope that I didn't make you too sick. I tried to pan really really slowly! So how about looking at some pictures of my room? Here goes...


This is the view from the door. I LOVE this view of my room! The bright colors just make me happy. You can see my teacher table and area in the back, and the carpet area, and calendar area.

This view is also from the door. The littles  put their backpacks on the left side of this photo. And the library area is the pink rug are. 

This is the backpack area. The pockets are from IKEA and will hold the little's change of clothes. 



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Common Core Assessment Record Book

Hey Y'all!
It's been CR.A.ZY here getting ready for back to school. I've been working in my room, setting up new procedures and things I want to try this year, and meeting some of my new little ones. I also have some super exciting news to share. This year I am going to be bringing you all some reviews of some Carson Dellosa products. I get the opportunity to be an ambassador for Carson Dellosa. This post is the first of my reviews. 
The product that I am going to share with you is the new common core assessment record book. Let's start with the basics. These record books are grade level specific. Since I am a kinder teacher that is the book that I am looking at. Let's talk about the book construction itself.  The cover is a medium weight glossy stock paper with a spiral binding.  It's 8.5 x 11 in size. There are no tabs or marking on the side that would note or mark where different sections start or end. What I like: I like the size and thickness of this record book. The ones we are issued at school are ginormous! As in so big that it do not easily fit into my teacher bag. This book with fit beautifully.  


Let's move to the inside of the book. The first page (shown in part above) is broken into several sections. There is a book plate area to enter your personal information, a table of contents, and a "how to" guide. I wanted to show you this section because I find it very helpful to understanding how this record book could be used successfully in a standards driven classroom. Yes I know we all teach to standards but we are not all assessing and recording grades that way. Many districts are still asking letter grades.  This chart shows that not only do I have a place to mark a "grade" by nine weeks, there is also a large area for me to keep notes on how that child is progressing. Some differences in this grade book compared to a traditional grade book: first the students have a column that is theirs. The standards are listed down the left hand side of the two page spread. There are 4 squares per standard that you can mark progress and date of assessment in. 

Now let's flip over to one of the sections... Counting and cardinality. This section is set up like all the other sections in the record book. The first page of the section is a list of the Common Core standards for that section, in this case counting and cardinality. There is one complete standard per box and the standard is listed on the left hand side of the table. If a standard has several parts it is contained within the one box.

The facing page has a crosswalk showing what pre K would have introduced, if the child attended an academic pre K, and shows where counting and cardinality fits into what first grade will be learning. In the case of counting and cardinality, kindergarten is the only grade where these standards are taught but in the crosswalk these standards are tied to first grade base ten knowledge. 


So there is a walk through the record book. Can we talk about my personal thoughts? Well I guess you can't tell me no, so on we go. My initial reaction to a standards based record book was "not something that I can use". We are forced to use a letter system with our kinders, which doesn't necessarily line up with the standards. I was stumped as to how this might be useful in my teaching life, then I spent some time with this record book. Here is what I'm thinking. I still have to teach to the standards and I have to show that my children mastered specific standards. This record book would be a helpful tool in showing this to parents as well as keeping my notes in one place. I love the construction of this book, but I wish that there was some kind of tab that would allow me to flip quickly between sections. I can fix that easily enough so it wouldn't stop me from buying it. I am looking forward to using this as a way to really know what my students are doing. I love that the book is set up so that one student has a column to record their scores in. This will allow me to copy, cut, and paste their scores onto our conference form. I think that this is the direction that we need to move in education, that is, we need to stop giving letter grades and start really looking at the standards and how our students stand up to those standards.

*I am a Carson Dellosa Ambassador and the materials for this review were sent to me at no cost to myself. The ideas and opinions expressed on this blog are my own and are not necessarily the thoughts or opinions of Carson Dellosa.