Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chapter 2: Joy of Reading ...freebies!

With the focus on reading and language arts in the educational setting these days, Chapter 2: Joy of Reading is a must read for all teachers! Mariah breaks down reading and writing ability in stages. As Kindergarten teachers we see this year after year in our classrooms:

Stage 1- Pictures, pictures, and more pictures. These writers are making pictures of everything! To begin with they might be unintelligible but as they grow as writers people and places emerge from the scribbles. Remember to always ask, "What can you tell me about your drawing?" instead of "What did you draw?".
Stage 2- Letters appear all over the place. Random letters here and there without making any sense... except for the fact that the child knows that letters and words have meaning. Big idea!
Stage 3- 'Mom, how do you spell ...?" will become a constant. They now get that those letters need to go in a certain order and that they have sounds.
Stage 4- American novel is slowly in progress! These children know how to spell and have the grasp of some of the great concepts of writing.

Mariah has lots of great spaces in her home for her own children to write. Mine are slowly learning not to color on the walls...again. But my students have this great set-up in our classroom:

They have enough room for a group of students to work during our literacy centers. They have markers, crayons, colored pencils, letter stamps, magnetic letters, and direct access to all of our sight words. One of the student's favorite things to do at this center is in the green folders down on the floor.... free write!

I put together these folders for the students to use ALL year. Each month I add a cover for that month and more paper that is appropriate for their current writing. It's great for them to see what their writing looked like at the beginning of the year to now.

Mariah also places readers in stages:

Stage 1: Read to your child. As teachers, we know that this is SO important. Talk about the story, what happened, even the pictures. It all helps build comprehension later on!
Stage 2: Your child officially has a favorite go to book that they know word for word, right? Awesome! Have them "read" with you! Let them fill in the blank, letter search, or even word search!
Stage 3: They can read! The letter knowledge and phonemic awareness have clicked and they are ready to hit the ground running!
Stage 4: Reading to learn. This is the stage that is vital for students in school. Not only can they read and remember.. but the comprehend and learn from everything that they read.

In Kindergarten, we are working on moving students from Stage 2 to Stage 3. I do alot of work on CVC words, sounding out, and working with the children's phonemic awareness. CVC mats are excellent for these skills! Below is a new one that you can add to your collection and pull out at the beginning of the year:

Don't forget to leave a comment on any of this week's posts to be included in the giveaway on Saturday for Mariah Bruehl's newest e-course!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Playful Learning... Improve your teaching and a Giveaway!

The other day I posted about Mariah Bruehl's awesome new e-course Put-Ups and Put-Downs. She has been awesome enough to let me take a peek at her lesson and it's AH-MAZING! I'm loving it as I go through it! The lessons are awesome and the way the children speak and explain themselves are wonderful!

I thought I'd spend this week having a :

Last year, a lot of us bloggers read her book Playful Learning and learned a ton! I highly recommend this book! I'm going to be writing about each of the chapters this week starting with Chapter 2: Joy of Reading tomorrow. I'm really, really excited! I will have freebies each day too! If you want to add on, please leave a comment with a link for everyone to explore. Plus, even more great news....

Mariah has offered up a FREE spot in the Put Ups and Put Downs e course to the winner of our giveaway AND a FREE gift certificate for the winner to give to a friend! That's almost a $50 value! All you have to do is to leave a comment on any post from now until Saturday. I will pick the winner on Sunday! Make sure to leave your e-mail in your comment. You can even add an extra comment for each of these: following my blog, following my Facebook, and sharing or posting about this awesome opportunity!

Here are some of my favorite ideas from last year:
This came from Mrs. Coe, who was a guest blogger over at Teaching My 3 last year. I love how inviting it is to explore rocks plus it comes with non-fiction!

Creating Playful Spaces: Start with a NookCreating Playful Spaces: Start with a Nook
These nooks from Playful Learning's page are awesome! She talks about presenting old things in a different way will make children interested in them again. It's totally true!

I can't wait to share my freebies with you tomorrow! Don't forget to leave comments this week to be entered for the giveaway!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Countdown to Summer: E is for Experiements

The same day was also day E in our Countdown to Summer. We take a letter a day and do something themed. So far we've had: autograph books, bubbles and book marks, cookies, doughnuts, and.... experiments!!

I swear, I am such a science nerd sometimes. I love it! I love the kids reactions to exploring and discovery! One of my favorite experiments to do is called the Dancing Raisins. This idea came from another teacher on my grade level. 

You will need:
Tall, see through container

1) Fill the container with the Sprite. Most of the kids could guess what was clear and bubbled :)
2) Show the kids the raisins and have them hypothesis what will happen: Sink or float?
** This was an awesome chance to see who remembered all that we had learned about sinking and floating!**

3) Drop the raisins in and watch!

Excuse the silly masks :) Just wanted to make sure my kiddos' faces are covered for the picture. They were really, really excited about being able to guess and share!

I was listening to their guesses. Several of them were pulling out bits of information about oxygen, air, dehydration. It was awesome!

Two words: blown away! They thought it was great when the raisins start to "dance". They kept calling out, "Ms. Gibbons! It's wiggling!!" Cuteness to the extreme! 

We sat and watched for awhile. They loved to see the raisins sink to the bottom, float to the top, and repeat over and over. Even though I've done this activity several times, I still love it and look forward to it for the countdown!

I'm linking up!
dollar store teaching ideas linky

P.S.- Don't forget about my giveaway to kick off your summer. You only have one more day!

Teachable Moments = Awesome!

We all have them and we love them! I had one with my students on the playground this week. It was so great! We have been learning all about butterflies, plants, caterpillars, and life cycles. The kids have really, really gotten into it this year!

At recess on Tuesday, they discovered a beautiful butterfly... or so we thought. After researching it's actually a Luna Moth:


It was beautiful! But sadly, several of the boys on the playground decided it would be a good idea to make it fly... by throwing wood chips at it. Teachable moment #1: Discussing how to treat living things of all sizes. Definitely an eye opener for some of the kiddos.We discussed this as I took the poor thing to the other side of our chain link fence and put it on bushes to hang out and (hopefully) recover.

Not 3 minutes later I heard my name being called... only to find (surround by kinders) this:


Cute little guy... just hanging out in the wood chips.. until half of the Kindergarten decided they wanted to swing. Anyways, I got to rescue him as well.. after teachable moment #2: wood chips and rocks both do damage to living things.

What is your favorite teachable moment?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Remember this?

Do you remember way back to last summer... relaxing around the pool... soaking up the sun... sipping lemonade... and reading professional learning books? Yep, that's right. We are teachers and we rock it even in the summer! Last year we looked at this book:

I L-O-V-E-D this book by Mariah Burehl and even implemented some of what I read with my classroom AND my own children. LOVE IT!

I just got an awesome e-mail from her and guess what! She's done it again! She has a new course called Put Ups & Put Downs. It's all about teaching children about the power of their words. I grabbed this great clip from her page:

I can't wait to sign up! I hope to see some of you join me too!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Giveaway ends on Friday! Don't miss out!

Don't forget that my awesome giveaway to kick off summer ends on Friday at 8:00. I am so excited to be giving away one copy of Tabitha's books... your choice of which one! It's being sent as a PDF so it can be put on any e-reader or computer. Click on her picture below to go back to the original post and leave your comments to enter.

Tabitha Freeman

Plus, if you check out my Facebook page, there's an extra bonus!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Funday!

We had an awesome day today! It was a truly family fun day as we spent the whole day at the Renaissance  Festival in Fairburn, Ga. It was a blast! Plus, I have a bit more sun now too. We got to see jousting, knights, eat a turkey leg, and even see the king and queen. It was great!

On top of all that though, I am really excited to show you my two newest items that I just uploaded.

I made these great centers so the students can show their learning of measuring that we've been doing lately. But I also made sure that they are more boy friendly. Not that my boys have complained or anything this year, but I have definitely had a LOT of cutesy kind of things. I know they'll love these!

Don't forget to link up to the my current giveaway of Tabitha Freeman's book!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Meet T.R. Freeman! Summer Giveaway!

Finding new authors is such a joy! It's always great to enjoy them during my off time from teaching. So with summer vacation just around the corner, I wanted to introduce you to one of my newest and most favorite authors: T. R. Freeman. I have read all of her books and each one is amazing! I recently chatted (Facebook messaged) with her and thought that I would share her interview with you.

Image of Tabitha Freeman

How did you begin writing?

I think I must have been born with a pencil and paper in my hands! It was something I always enjoyed, for as long as I can remember.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Always! Though I could have never even imagined that I would be blessed enough to be successful enough to make an actual career out of it. I have been very fortunate to be able to live my dream.

Which is your favorite book that you've written?
Oh, no, I can’t choose! That would be like picking a favorite child! They are all my babies!
What are you reading right now, other than your own work?
I read any and everything! I try to read two books a week—a classic YA book and a completely new read, in any genre. It’s hard to find the time to read, but as a writer, your talent and skill really suffer if you don’t make reading part of your job.  
What inspires you to write?
Any and everything. People at the grocery store, a broken taillight on the car in front of me at the stop light, the chicken that I left in the oven too long last week, a ridiculous reality show, or even the squirrel that managed to get into my house through the basement crawl space. Very unconventional or pretty normal things that you would never imagine offer sparks of creativity—those things offer the most inspiration. Our everyday lives. The greatest stories stem from the very real world around us.

Do you ever base any of your characters on people that you know in real life? 
Oh, definitely. To be a great, readable writer, you absolutely have to write what you know.

Who are your literary idols?
Oh, wow! I have so many…Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, Ann M. Martin, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, Erma Bombeck, Margaret Mitchell, Poe…the list just goes on and on and on.

If you could send a message to the young adults who read your stories, what would it be?
Read as much as you can! No matter what your passions and dreams, reading will excel you to levels you never thought possible. Find your favorite books now, and then in twenty years, sit down and read those favorites again. Books are the only things that can stop time and let us fully unfold into ourselves. There is no greater adventure.

I loved, loved chatting (ahem.. messaging) with her! She is even offering up a free e-book version of one of her books for you! Check out these awesome titles:


You can click on each one to read up on them or check out her author page here.

So, how do you win your very own copy of one of her books? Earn one entry for each below:

-Leave a comment with the title of the book you would like plus your e-mail address in case you win :)
-Follow my blog
-Follow my Facebook page
-Follow Tabitha's Facebook page
-Follow my Teachers Pay Teachers page
-Post about this giveaway on your blog

**Very important! Please make sure that you leave a comment for each of your entries on this post. I would hate for anyone to miss out on this super awesome giveaway!

This giveaway will close on Friday, April 26th at 8 pm. I will post the winner on Saturday. Good luck!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Five on Friday!

I still have time!!! I have 37 minutes to get it written and posted! Here are my 5 for Friday.. just random happy thoughts from today:

#1- I am so happy and thankful for all the law officials in Boston! I'm not going to turn into a political debate at all. Just that it's good that they apprehended the suspect for justice and everyone is safe!

#2- I am so happy for our Countdown to Summer... today was COOKIE Day! Loved having one of my sweet friends bring in our treats today!

#3- So excited because next week we will be going to the zoo! My students can't wait and neither can I!

#4- I can't wait for this weekend because my little guy will be playing his second T-ball game tomorrow and he is so excited!

(I now feel bad that I don't have his picture on my computer yet to share of my Big Leaguer!)

#5- My husband and I are looking forward to Sunday because we are going to the Renaissance Festival just south of Atlanta. I have never been and am looking forward to it!

Look out for two REALLY, REALLY big posts next week! I am planning on a giveaway AND an intro to a summer learning project :)

I linked up at 

Have you?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Share and Share Alike: How to have kids sharing and discussing like pros!

Our Literacy Coach has been showing us these great clips this week of a teacher in Washington. Now, while we teaching Kindergarten and this awesome lady teaches 5th grade, our grade level has definitely found some new strategies to use for next year.

I love how she has the small groups get together and work together to vocalize and work out what they want to say before they get to whole group sharing.... Oh and the oral summary! Love the kids who could accurately quote from text too!

I looooove the hand signals!!! Check out the freebie at the bottom of how I'm going to use this next year!

She is one of my new heroes for making ESOL kids feel included, have self esteem, and differentiate for them without them even doing it! Love, love, love that!!!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I really hope that you take a moment to watch these quick clips!

Click the picture to grab your freebie!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kindergarten Math Exploration = Organized Chaos

Organized Chaos. I swear that sometimes that pretty much sums up my day... BUT I love it :) Today we continued exploring as true mathematicians. I think that this really helped my kiddos understand the concept of capacity. It all started with this activity sheet that one of my team members found: 

It is an awesome exploration activity for the kids to really get a grasp on capacity of objects... without using water *shudder*.
They had to make a guess of which container would be the largest capacity. I did make this differentiated for the different tables. Some of them had two that looked pretty close and others were made to be rather easy to tell.

After they made their guess, I wrote their hypothesis on the table so they knew what they had said. Then they began filling up their containers with cubes.

It was so great to see how excited they were about using their math tools and showing their thinking. It was awesome!

Some of the groups worked together better than others, but they all definitely showed growth on how to work in a group! They loved working with their tables and explaining their thoughts. You could see so many of them shine!

After they figured out how many went in each, they wrote the number of cubes on a sticky note and stuck it to the container. Then they put the containers in order from lowest capacity to highest capacity.

There work today was so amazing! This is a definite redo lesson for next year! I'm even going to adapt it for a math tub activity for next week! How do you teach capacity?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pollen: Living or non living? Freebies and a winner!

You know the old adage of 'You learn something new everyday'? Well, I really did today!

It all started with taking my class outside for a quick sanity break scavenger hunt for living and non living items on the playground. They used a simple T-chart (freebie below!) and then we shared our learning when we came back inside.

 They had a ball sharing too! I had each student draw one of their pictures from out side on a sticky note. Then we discussed and added their sticky note to a poster size t-chart. You can grab at least one freebie below ;) *wink* *wink*

(This is part of my living and nonliving pack that you can grab here. Psst.. it's free too!)

Anyways, my new learning for the day? Is pollen living or nonliving... which do you think? Google it and see what you find out!

PLUS.... Congratulations to Rachel for winning a copy of my new Very Hungry Caterpillar Literacy Centers! It's on it's way to your inbox now!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thinking Through Non-Fiction: Kindergarteners and Complex Text

As our pumpkins turn into readers, we have moved from learning 'how to read' to learn 'how to read to understand'. Since the hinge of Common Core is for them to be able to successfully read complicated text... what's more complicated than non-fiction? Seriously, you have pictures, captions, technical jargon even. So, we have worked this year on learning how to think like a reader AND to be able to share that thinking.

This week we've started our learning on Seeds and Plants with the theme of how things grow and change. It works really well in the spring along with life cycles of tadpoles and butterflies :)

Here's my anchor chart to begin with:

I love a good KWL to be able to record your thinking. I forgot to take a picture after the kids share what they already know. They had some amazing knowledge! One of my very sweet and timid kinders, was able to tell me that seeds start out small and grow into bigger plants. I love the range in answers too. One of my high flyers told us all about oxygen and carbon dioxide. The other students listened to him so closely that I know they learned from him!

Tomorrow, we're going to write our questions on what we want to learn or know before we read. I can't wait to hear what they come up with!

Another great proponent of understanding non fiction is being able to write about what you know. We are using our writing time now to research about animals. It helps the students sooo much! I always remind my students to "think like a reader" and " what would you want to know if you were reading this." They've heard it so many times now that they are finishing my sentence as soon as I begin and even telling their friends! Here's the great chart that we're using (from my awesome grade level friends!):

I can't wait to see how there writing turns out! How are you getting your kinders to understand complex texts?

New Stuff!

I get so excited about new things that I just have to share :) I am really excited about this awesome new planner that I found at CVS last night. It's not usually the place that I buy binders but it was so pretty that it just had to come home with me. It's great for all the different parts of my life too-- including blogging and kids!

I'm really excited about how it differentiates between my schedule versus my husband's and kid's schedules.

Plus I can break down my days by morning, afternoon, and night. Love it :) Not sure why I never thought of this before myself actually.

Don't forget to visit my blog post about my giveaway to leave your comments to enter to win my new literacy centers:

I am also excited about my new pack that I added to my TPT store:

Both packs are now one! You can click here to go straight to it. Plus you save money by getting both together! Nifty right?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Read All About It! Very Hungry Caterpillar Literacy Pack! (Giveaway too!!)

Wow! I have been blown away at all the interest in my Very Hungry Caterpillar Math Pack! I decided that I should put together the activities that I used for literacy too. I've listed it up on my store but wanted to give everyone a sneak peek of the great things that my kiddos have enjoyed!

If you'd like to win a copy for yourself, you can have one entry for each of the following. Make sure that you leave a comment with your e-mail for each of them. I will pick a winner on Tuesday (2/16) at 8:00.

1.) Leave a comment with your favorite type of literacy center.
2.) Follow my blog
3.) Follow me on Facebook
4.) Blog about this giveaway
5.) Share my post on Facebook about this giveaway
6.) Follow my TPT store

I can't wait to see who wins! I love to giveaway just as much as like to win myself. It's so exciting!!