Organizing Your Time Freebie

With Spring Break coming to an end, (boo!) it's time to start thinking about getting back to school.
I am a list person. Always have been. When I am looking ahead to the school week ahead  I like to have a single page calendar that I can lay out my week on. I use one color pen for home stuff, and another color for school. It really helps me organize my thoughts and keep track of everything going on. I refer back to it during the week and usually keep it in my purse or school bag so that I can cross off or add to. I created a new one to use and thought you might like it too! It's Rae Dunn inspired for all you Rae Dunn fans out there! Hope your first week back is a good one!!

Here's a quick link to my shop, so you can grab the
Week-at-a-Glance Printable Calendar FREEBIE!

Parenting Literacy

Parenting Literacy. . . . what is it?  My definition of parenting literacy is:

Parents who possess the awareness and skills to thoughtfully 
and intentionally raise their children to be:

• Aware of themselves and the world around them
• Emotionally intelligent, and physically healthy
• Of a happy disposition ready to learn, grow and thrive

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? Any of us who are parents know it is not. Parenting is the best, hardest job there is. So much to do. So much to think about. All. The. Time. It never ends, but as some would say, that's what we signed up for, right? As teachers we know what we see. We see it all, the great, the good, the mediocre, and the downright ugly. We have such a unique perspective. Many of us are parents, so we truly know the struggle. But... since many of us are parents, we know that it takes self-discipline, selflessness, patience and self introspection to try and get it right most of the time.
 So many things we would like to share and instill in parents of our students, but there is no way we have the time to do it.

After many years of seeing examples of amazing parents and just as many examples of not-so-amazing parents, I wrote a school-year-long series of articles for teachers to send home each week with their students. With the hope that every now and then parents who might need a dose of parenting literacy will open up a back pack to find some parenting inspiration! I know you can't force it, but with the weekly consistency they might just look forward to knowing that their shot of parenting literacy is coming each week!

I have heard from hundreds of teachers and several administrators that their parents are pleased to be given some support and the struggles they face. I love to think of these articles as "Close Reading for Parents"! The articles are not progressive - send them home out of order if you need to in order to address certain issues as they arrive. It's never too late to start! Parents would appreciate getting them any time you start sending them home!

Close Reading for Valentine's Day

What better way to insert some academics into Valentine's Day than a close read? Another opportunity to interact closely with text, and a highly engaging topic make for lessons strong enough to stand up to an evaluation! Kathy J. told me she used the Valentine's close read with annotations for her evaluation last year (on Valentine's Day) and she rocked it! Good job, Kathy! My only question is, what were they thinking scheduling an evaluation on Valentine's Day?? Sounds kind of awful, but Kathy made it work! The truth is, it's all in the presentation, and even when they're super excited and full of energy we can always find productive ways to make the day a day full of learning!
This close read is part of my Close Reading for Kindergarten & First Grade February March Edition.
Also included are passages, writing prompts, vocabulary cards and write the room for Groundhog Day, President's Day, and St. Patrick's Day.

Anchor Charts for Little Learners & a Freebie

One of my favorite ways to teach is through the use of anchor charts. There are sooo many different ways to use them! It is so helpful to have them to refer to during instruction, either when introducing a new concept, or when spiraling around to re-teach or review.  They can be a great "memory jogger"! They are also great for interventions or tutoring. They provide context and reference for the person who is providing intervention to refer to.

Sometimes when time allows it's fun to get creative and make an anchor chart, but it's also pretty nice to be able to print one out and have it ready to use, post or put up on the smart board or doc cam.
There's really no right or wrong way. The goal is to support instruction and scaffold learning, so whatever you have time for will work just fine.

For basic concepts I really like to use pre-made charts. They are ready to go, they can be used at centers as reference, and they even become part of my decor.

For content, I like to have the elements already glued on my chart paper, and then the kids and I can build the chart together. My close reading resources all have elements that are ready to print and go for each passage. They make it super easy to prep the day before and then work on the chart with the kids. I have also found that this is a great activity for a sub day! It's easy to prep and can take up a good chunk of time. The sub can re-read the passage with the kids, ask some of the questions and/or review some of the vocabulary. They can then work on the anchor chart together based on what they have read in the passage. Following up with one of the many writing prompts completes the activity.
The subs I have left this for have loved it, and I know that my kids are doing something purposeful while I'm away! (Example below is from my Spiders Close Reading Resource)

Anchor charts really are versatile! Here is a fun little freebie for you to try during science!
This anchor chart focuses on writing like a scientist does. Try using during a lesson, then post it in your science center to remind students when they are working independently! (CLICK on picture)

Here are links to some of my most 
popular print & go Anchor Charts!

Integration is as easy as PB & J!

Are there ever enough hours in the day? I don't know about you, but for me, the school day flies! I almost always have too much planned to get through! Integrating content areas helps SO much! If you can nail several standards in one activity, then why not? Not to mention the value that it brings to learning! Kids learn best when they can see connections, and when they have time and opportunity to
process, work through, and apply learning in different ways. That's when the magic of transfer happens. It's also when they learn how to learn...

It's kind of like peanut butter & jelly! What's peanut butter without the jelly? Dry and a bit boring! What's jelly without the peanut butter? Sweet, but slippery, nothing to hold on to! Together though...
magic! They bring out the best in each other! They make the other more than they could have ever been on their own!  The same could be said to be true of integrating content areas! Science... cool and interesting, but to read, write, and talk about it makes it come to life! So much to cling to... to much to build on! So much to think about and so many connections to make! Viola! The magic in learning is tying it all together!

For me there is no better way to teach science than to integrate it with reading and writing skills. I love building several mini lessons around a meaty close reading passage, essential questions and lots of  follow up discussions, writing activities and oral language opportunities. I feel best about my instruction when I do this because I know that I am providing my kids with great materials, but
also I am scaffolding adventures of how to be a learner. No surface learning here. The learning that occurs is deep, meaningful, and lasting. I am always amazed at the number of times throughout the rest of the school year that kids bring up notions, discussions or facts from our integrated
science lessons. I'm also always impressed with the growth that occurs in their writing, oral language,
general stamina for paying attention, comprehension, and general abilities as students.

Although I love making all kinds of materials for early learners, I love writing and designing these
meaty lessons the best, probably because for me they are the most fun to teach! I have always loved
teaching in units vs. the fragments that some adoptions inherently bring. The richness it provides to the classroom environment cannot be understated, and is timeless in pedagogy. Although we all have slightly different state standards that we teach by, some Common Core, some not, one thing remains the same. We all teach young learners. Essentially, the basic skills each must learn to be prepared for future learning are largely the same, the path to get there, largely different.

In my nearly 30 years of experience, I have seen many, many adoptions come and go in every content area. The expectations for instruction and use of those materials varies from administrator to administrator, but I have found that most all respect an integrated, thoughtful approach drenching students the deep learning that only integration of content areas can bestow. It's not instead of the
purchased district adoptions, it's with. Teachers Pay Teachers resources can be friends with big box
adoptions, remember it takes a village!

I have been writing close reading resources for many years, and they are still my most popular to date. The feedback I get from teachers is why I keep writing more! I have been working on creating new close reading resources that provide an even deeper learner experience. The resources are filled with many lessons and activities that could be used for comprehensive activities such as research projects, but my personal favorite are mini lessons. They are easy to fit into lesson plans that are already packed with "have-to's"!

If you try out activities and think of it, please send your in-action pictures to me for a chance to win
a monthly drawing for a Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card!

Below are a few of my favorite resources for integrating science!
Happy integrating!! :o)


Miles On The Tongue: First Steps to Literacy

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” ~Ludwig Wittgenstein
When it comes to teaching there really are no truer words. 
Our classrooms are becoming more and more global, diverse and cosmopolitan.
As much as things change, some things still hold true. 
All learners must have multiple opportunities to speak: talking, singing, reading,
 saying, telling ---- all contributing means to “miles on the tongue” also known as fluency when speaking.
The ability to speak fluently cannot be underestimated in its pre-requisite value both before and as learning to become a fluent reader. It is estimated that children need exposure to approximately 30,000 words a day by the time they begin school to be fully ready to learn. (Both quantity and quality of words matter).

You can imagine how different households offer different opportunities for language, or not so much. A second language learner who has been exposed to rich language interactions at home, in his native tongue is much more prepared for school, and for learning a new language.

Fluency in the first language equals preparedness to learn a second language
successfully at school. We have all known every kind of learner in our classrooms, with every kind of background. It is staggering to think of the vast differences our students come equipped with. Language skills that have developed enriched vocabularies, critical thinking skills, and abilities to relate to others, or alternatively, depravation that cannot revel in any of these competencies.

All of that being said, good instruction for second language learners
is good instruction for all. Making sure that little learners have multiple opportunities
at school to become fluent with their oral language is just as, or possibly more
important than all other instruction. It is sometimes forgotten, sometimes assumed they already have it,  and sometimes just misunderstood, but it truly is the foundation to which all other learning can occur. It is imperative to deliberately plan for and provide opportunity, time and resources to help bridge the gap for many of our little ones.

I met with parents of my students last week at conferences. I needed the assistance of a translator with every single conference this time. I am always 
surprised at how they don't think they can help their child to learn language just because they can't speak English. I encourage them to read books in their native 
language and talk to their children as much as possible. All of the same things I 
encourage with my English speaking parents. They are surprised to hear how important a role they play. (I wish I could have talked to them 5 years ago!).

I have many little books that I have written in a very predictable way, to facilitate
oral language practice for my kids. I am slowly making them pretty enough to share
with you! I have two so far, but have many more in the works.
It is my sincere hope that your students can put many “miles on their tongues” with
my Oral Language Practice Predictable Readers. I wrote them with every little learner
in mind! 
In my nearly 30 years of teaching both English speaking and second
language learners, there is no greater joy I have found in the classroom than
observing students achieve more oral language proficiency than they started with. The comfort, the repetition, the oral language proficiency, and confidence that is gained
and then realized again at home when practicing their little books is truly priceless!
(Not to mention the valuable literacy skills!)

We use our little books all the time. I teach my kids to practice pointing to the words (and looking at the pictures for clues, wink, wink!) every time they read, so they are always practicing good reading behaviors. After reading at school several times,
(whole group, small group, partners, to self) they take their book home to share. I recommend to them that they put a little star (asterisk style) on the back every time they read it, and try to fill it up with dozens of little stars! I place extra copies of each predictable reader in our Browse Box for
students to pick up and read in the classroom when they are finished with work or at centers etc. They love it! 

                                Pumpkin, Pumpkin Oral Language Practice Reader

                                  Brown Bear, Brown Bear Oral Language Practice Reader

                                   Hello Farm! Oral Language Practice Reader

                                   Fish, Fish, In the Ocean Blue: Oral Language Practice Reader

If you are lucky enough to have students come and visit you when they are in third grade, you will be so glad you spent the time it took to intentionally plan oral language activities! There is no greater reward than hearing a hesitant kiddo become a proficient speaker!

Literacy Anchor Charts for Little Learners

I love using anchor charts in my classroom! I love having information so ready and easy to access for my kids. It is so much fun to see even my little kinder kids so adept at knowing where in the classroom to find the information they need!
I us my Alphabet Sense Anchor Charts everyday for instruction and review. I also post them around the room for "writing the room" (they LOVE this!) The smaller version is great to have in the writing lab on a ring. They can find the chart they are looking for and use it much like a picture dictionary, but in a super kid-friendly way!

When my kids are doing letter work at their seats one of my favorite things to do is to display the
PDF of the letter we are working on up on the Smart Board! Seeing it really big is so helpful for the kids and really brings it to life!
It is so great being able to print out extra copies whenever I need it! (Hello HP Instant Ink!!)

When I teach vowels I find it very frustrating and confusing when long and short vowel sounds are mixed together, so she I created these anchor charts I separated the long and short vowel sounds on their own anchor charts! This has been SO helpful for helping my students to listen for and hear the differences in the sounds! (All are included in my resource).

Writing the room is a big part of our center time. They love the opportunity to look and find letters we are working on and write down the words that go with the picture. After all, walking around with a clip board is a very grown-up and official thing to do! (#hot-stuff)

My newest anchor charts are for teaching the tricky digraphs (ch, ph, sh, th, wh). I have always explained to my kids that a digraph is a "super sound" because it is when 
one sound + one sound = a new sound. I created anchor charts in the same style as my Alphabet Sense Anchor Charts to provide continuity when teaching these sounds. I love using them and they are really helpful to provide pictorial representations of each sound.

In this resource I have also included picture cards for sorting, and practice pages for students to apply the skills they are learning. One of the practice pages engages students in looking at pictures to pronounce and listen for the sound, with an open-ended space for them to draw and write about the illustrations that have that sound. The other practice page provides several pictures to cut and sort by the sound or NOT the sound. (They love this!)

I have also included the smaller version of each anchor chart, which I like to use in the writing center, laminated and on a ring (just like the Alphabet Anchor Charts). Write the Room recording sheets are also included!