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.