Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Do You Know?

We give our incoming Kinders a screening in the spring to get a little glimpse of what they know & to make dividing them into classes a little easier. But, while it is helpful for making up the class lists, the spring screening doesn't give me an up-to-date picture of just what my little newbies know. I wanted a quick way to check on some key skills as early in the school year as possible. Because beginning of the year kindergarten is so calm and orderly crazy and hectic, I created a set of quick checks that were quick & easy to do. Really, each quick check only takes a minute or two per student & can be done while the other kiddos are working independently. (Stuff like playdoh, manipulatives, coloring ~ simple activities that will keep them engaged for a little while.) If you are lucky enough to have an aide enlist her to  help! Our teaching assistant is super fast & gets so much done while I am working with the rest of the kids. This year I will have a student teacher from day one. Guess what she is going to help me do! 

Because incoming Kinders are all over the place as far as exposure and what they can do I like to  do some simple checks after the first few days of school. We are still getting to know each other & naming colors, drawing a person, and sorting are usually pretty low-stress for the students. They generally are able to fly through these checks. The only things I laminated were the pages with color because I wanted to protect my "toner investment" ~ everything else is printed onto card stock or regular copy paper.

I like to keep a check list of the students' developmental skills. Most of the time they are right on target, but it gives good data if you need to seek RtI for anyone.

Pick whichever format works best for you ~ pages or cards. Some children are easily overwhelmed by a page full of numbers, so looking at one card at a time might help them to be successful ~ or at least a little less nervous. 

If you want to see how high they can count you can write it in the corner of the top record sheets. Once I've heard a kid count to 100 a couple of times, I declare them able to count to 100, so I like to  keep track of how high they can count. Time saver at the end of the year!

Use the page as is, cut apart for cards, or give your students little picture cards to count. 

I do check the kids on solid shapes just to see if anyone know what they are. I usually get one or two who know some of the 3D shapes. **Even though my set includes a picture page for solid shapes I usually use actual solid shapes.

Some kids know all their letters, and others, well not so much. Like counting to 100, once a student has correctly named all the uppercase & lowercase letters I declare that they know all of them. As the year goes on & the skills get harder it saves time when testing my kiddos if I don't have to listen to everyone name letters.

If you find that your students get overwhelmed by a sheet full of letters, you can use these letter cards. The cards are also great for a quick review ~ keep them handy & pull them out to review with all of your students, a small group, or one little cutie.

Technically you could use the same pages from above, but I like to have a separate set for each skill. When I'm ready to do a quick check it's handy to be able to grab everything I need. 

Each quick check is clipped together as a set, making your life easier! Be sure to attach a master copy of each record sheet. That way if you need to progress monitor students you can quickly make some more sheets as needed. 

I happened to have this Rubbermaid storage container. (I tried to find a link to purchase it, but couldn't. Maybe it's no longer available. This container from Sterilite might be a good alternative.) Anyway, I have this container that fits all of the quick check materials AND, my clipboard. It's sooo difficult (at least for me) to keep everything organized at the beginning of the year ~ and maybe later in the year... Knowing that everything I need for BOY quick checks is all in one place makes me happy. 

When I'm ready to check my kids on their skills, I grab the materials from my bin and get started. This data sheet is included with my set. The name fields are editable, but I couldn't figure out how to rotate the editable fields for the top part. Maybe it's not possible (does anyone know if you can rotate editable fields with Adobe?) 

Get this editable student record sheet when you subscribe to my newsletter! Click HERE to get it now.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Store Your Stuff!

Recently I posted about how I prep the TpT activities I create & buy, so I thought it would be good to share how I store my Literacy Stations materials.

I'll start with the before:

These file boxes aren't the worst way to store monthly materials, but they aren't the best way, either. On the plus side ~ they don't take up a lot of room in my work room. (We are super lucky to have tons of storage. Click HERE to see an old post that shows my half of the work room.) Really, hanging files are a pretty good way to store things. But... (see next picture)

Getting the files out to use with my guided reading groups was a pretty messy ordeal. I use materials I've made plus resources purchased from others on TpT. That's a lot of stuff to have to deal with when planning for my groups. (Click HERE to read more on how I plan for small group instruction.) So, I needed to come up with a better way to store things so that they are a little more user friendly.

Side note ~ zipper bags & a Sharpie are a MUST HAVE! I like to label the bags with the month they go with as well as the name of the activity. This is helpful when putting things away ~ I don't necessarily use everything in its "assigned" month. Differentiation, you know. ;-)

Anyway, back to my storage drama. Like I said ~ the hanging file folders were not a bad way to store the materials, but not so great when it came to using them. I bought these nifty containers that have locking lids at Target that are just the right size for holding a month's worth of activities. They are plenty big enough to hold any papers that go along with the cards. The containers are easy to use when planning my groups & sit neatly on the counter behind my table, unlike the file folders that spilled their contents all over the counter behind my table.

They stack neatly together & really don't take up much more space on my work room counter than the two hanging file boxes. 

What about you? How do you store your small group materials? Drop a comment to share your ideas and/or links ~ I'd love to get a peek at how you organize your stuff! Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Prep Time!

Do you dread prepping all the cute things you get from TpT? It can be a bit time consuming ~ especially if you print in color because you will want to laminate the items to protect your precious ink or toner. I have a Brother color laser printer that creates beautiful vibrant pictures. Toner can be is pretty pricey, so I always laminate. With my own laminator. To save a little bit of money I print onto cheapo copy paper instead of card stock. The savings isn't huge, but every penny adds up!

No, I'm not an affiliate of Scotch, but I do love their products. My trusty little laminating machine was a $23.00 bargain at Walmart a few years ago. I got my laminating pouches on Amazon. I've also gotten pouches at Sams Club, and Aldi. (I put them on my teacher wish list each fall. So far, no one has offered to purchase any, but I figure it never hurts to ask...) I have found that using 3 mil thick pouches are perfect for making sturdy materials when using regular copy paper. Really! I rarely use card stock any more ~ unless I'm printing in blackline on color card stock. 

To cut or not to cut? Back in the day (before I had my very own laminator) I used to cut out everything before running it through the school's laminator. I also printed onto pricey card stock and hoped for the best ~ Will the film stick? Will the cards hold up in the hands of five & six year olds? The answer was usually NO! Well, now that I have my very own laminator I DO NOT cut before laminating. Time saver!!  Check out the next three pictures...

If I'm not in a frugal mood I'll zip an untrimmed page through my trusty laminating machine. It does waste a bit of film, but ~ hey it is super quick!

I almost always have an "I'll deal with it later" pile of laminating or cutting sitting around (this is from my Hibernation Literacy & Math set). I do *minimal* cutting and fit one of my "I'll deal with it later" projects. No film wasted! I'll cut out my clip cards now & set the Hibernation cards aside until next January.

Because copy paper is thin & kinda see through I can cut more than one sheet at a time. Just be sure that the pictures are lined up.

I usually don't cut out anything before laminating. It really is true ~ print on regular copy paper & laminate using 3 mil pouches with your machine set to 5 mil & your materials will withstand the trials your little students put them through! Really!

Even though I use 3 mil laminating pouches I set my laminator to 5 mil. It's a little hotter & keeps my materials intact.

OK ~ you're probably thinking, "Yeah, yeah, this all sounds wonderful, but it's going to take FOREVER to cut everything out! My solution: get a second pair of scissors & recruit a cutting buddy. My hubby is a pro at cutting stuff for me. Cutting is mindless work and can be done in front of the TV, while chatting, etc. 

For anything ~ like the clip cards ~ that I want to make self checking I mark on the back of the laminated cards with a light color Sharpie. Yellow and pink won't show through the paper, but show up well enough for the kids to be able to see if they are correct.

I store everything in zipper bags ~ which I label with the name of the contents. When I'm ready for the kiddos to use the activity I pop them into one of my gazillion baskets or containers. I especially like the bright baskets from Really Good Stuff.

As for the "I'll deal with it later pile," I will deal with it later... Those hibernating animals & penguins can wait until Christmas break!

Do you want the Beginning Sounds Clip Cards for FREE? Just click HERE to subscribe! Thanks!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Guided Reading Groups

My guided reading groups have gone through a series of changes to get to where they are today. I have to say that I am pretty happy with how they have evolved. A great part of my happiness has to do with the fact that the amazing DeeDee Wills & Deanna Jump have created a fantastic guided reading product. Their Guided Reading Small Group bundle is what I use to teach my differentiated groups. (Check it out HERE.) I also use the activities from my Monthly Literacy Stations bundle. (Check it out HERE.) I have four guided reading groups of 3 - 4 students each, meeting with each group twice weekly. I do wish I could meet with them more than twice weekly, but our schedule is so crazy that's all we can fit in. 

Planning for my groups is so easy with the Guided Reading Small Groups sets ~ I keep all the materials needed for each level in a binder & just pull out the things I need for each group. As I said earlier, I include activities from my Literacy Stations bundle that fit with the lessons &each group's needs. For this group I've included a fun Crack the Code activity & CVCe activity from my Basket of Long Vowels set (see it HERE). We used it today & the kids loved it! They had fun figuring out the mystery word by naming the first letter of each picture name. 

To keep myself on track I have created this simple planning sheet. I complete one sheet for each group - the top half is the first time we meet & the bottom half is for the second time we meet each week. To keep track of student progress I use a simple check mark system as we do each activity. There is a section for quick comments. Kiddos who need more extensive comments are noted in their individual folders. Grab an updated, editable copy of this form HERE.

I am lucky to have a small class of 15 Kinders, so my guided reading groups only have 3 - 4 kids each. Using running records & classroom data I was able to place them into four leveled groups. Each group has its own basket. In the baskets I place all the materials I will need to teach each group. (It is evident from this picture that I like wooden clothespins ~ I use them every day!) Some of the cards are from Deedee Wills' Small Group Sets (check it out HERE).

To keep everything handy I have a three drawer unit to my right that holds things like white boards, tap lights (for tapping out syllables & phonemes), word & letter cards, whisper phones, etc. The group baskets are sitting on a stack of magnetic letter cookie sheets. The pails in the green basket hold things like extra clothespins, my "office" supplies, and witch fingers for pointing to words. The yellow basket holds student supplies.

Here is one of the cookie sheets in use.They are from Dollar Tree & are the perfect size to use at our table. I used Sharpie to write the letters on them to make putting the letters back after use easier. The cards are from my January Literacy Stations. We use the cookie sheets at the start of every guided reading group. Depending upon the group's needs we may work on letter naming or sounds, spelling CVC words, or sight words. (I keep extra letters in one of the drawers shown above if we need more than one of a certain letter in a word.)

While I'm meeting with my groups the other students work in pairs at our literacy stations. Click HERE to read about some of the activities the kids do at our stations. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Five for Friday ~ February 3rd

It's February! January went by in a flash! Not that I'm complaining ~ I prefer warm summer weather to cold winter weather. But, I really can't complain about the weather because we've had a mild winter here in Indiana. It's been cold, but we've had so little snow that it's felt weird talking about polar bears & penguins. But, since it is winter we have gone ahead with our snowy themed units. If you live where you don't have snow & cold, what is it like teaching about chilly topics?

We spent last week learning all about hibernation. I love it when we get to spend time talking about animals. (The kids do, too!) I was impressed by how much they retained ~ the kids were able to tell these fact for me to record!

After reading lots of books about hibernating animals & watching some really good videos on You Tube my darlings were able to do some nonfiction writing. I was pretty happy with their work.

 "Bears sleep in winter because food is scarce."

 "The groundhogs go to sleep in winter and wake up on spring."

 "Groundhogs are mammals. The groundhog sees a predator." The label says "whistle."

You may be done with your hibernation studies, but you may want to check out my Hibernation mini unit. It contains lots of materials for you to use when learning about hibernating animals. 
Check it out HERE.

One thing I love about kindergarten is the love my little students share with me. I spend more waking hours with these little children than their own parents during the week & I feel it is important that they grow to trust & love me as much as I love them. One of my little cuties made this cute picture for me. (I'm not exactly sure what animal it is supposed to be, but I really like it!)

I joined up with a bunch of teachers to participate in a Valentine exchange. We needed to create valentine cards to send to our pals all around the country. My kiddos created these darling heart trees with Q-tips & paint. I hope our pals like them! 

We haven't had much snow (I don't think there was any measurable snow in January), but it's been pretty cold so we've build a number of cozy fires in our fireplace. Hubby & I enjoy sitting by the fire to play Scrabble while sipping on glasses of wine. (Riesling is my favorite.) Even though I prefer warm temperatures, I do enjoy sitting by the fire. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen many pics of my fireplace ~ most likely with a glass of wine and/or with my little dog Macie. (Not a follower? Check me out @kinder_doodles on Instagram.)

Groundhog Day! On February first we made these cute little "weather predictors." The kids loved their groundhog puppets and paper plate burrows. We made them on Wednesday so they could look for shadows on Thursday morning. Of course, February 2 was bright & sunny! January was nothing but gray (seriously ~ the most dreary gray cloudy month of all time). The one day we needed no sunshine it was bright, so of course the kids saw shadows. Oh, well ~ this is Northwest Indiana, so I really don't expect spring to come early groundhog or no groundhog. 

Thanks for spending some time with me! Now, hop over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to visit some more awesome blogs. 
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