Monday, December 4, 2017

A New Chapter, Monthly Drawings, and In Action Photos!

I have begun a new chapter in my life! After 28 years in kindergarten I have retired from full time teaching to pursue other dreams. I still have SO MUCH love & enthusiasm for teaching... so I plan to bottle it up, and pour all of that love, experience, and enthusiasm into writing and designing lots more activities and lessons to share! (My notebooks full of ideas are locked, loaded and ready to go!)
My sweet husband built me a beautiful new office to create in, and I feel more inspired than ever to continue to create!

I have done what you do! My kids are grown and out of college now, but I have been a working mom my whole life, in fact, this is the first time in my adult life that I haven't had a contract to teach full time. I know how hard it is, how much work it is to be a teacher and a mom, and a wife, and a housekeeper, and the list goes on... Lots of juggling, it was my way of life. I loved lots of it, but if I'm being honest, there were times that all that juggling got pretty exhausting. It is my sincere hope that the resources I have written and will continue to create will in some way save you some time, make your life a little bit easier, and bring some enriching activities to your classroom! It is also my hope that the tips, tricks and insights from my years in the classroom can offer some perspective and hope for you on your teaching journey!

My fork in the road came last February. I took the path that I had never traveled on. It was a leap for me. There was so much safety in doing what I had always done. The unknown can be a bit scary.
I feel stronger as a teacher than I ever have. I LOVE sharing what I have learned along the way.
I tell you about my new chapter because you have been my customers, many of you have bought
multiple products from me, and every time you decide to buy from me I am so flattered!
Authenticity matters to me. You have trusted me to create resources for you to use with your kids! To me there is nothing more important than that!! I appreciate your support, kind feedback, and sweet words more than you'll ever know.
Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Oh my goodness how I miss my little peeps!! Five year olds are so my people!
One of things I will be doing in this new season of life is substitute teaching- hopefully lots of kinder classes! I will be excited to use my new resources in the classes I am guest teaching in, but since I won't have a classroom of my own I would love to see "action shots" of my resources being used!
This is where YOU come in! I wanted to make it fun, and I love interacting with my customers, so
I would love for you to send me your "in action" photos of your kids using the materials within my resources! So.... once a month I will be holding a drawing to win a Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card and a little surprise! Just email me your pictures (no faces please) at littlebirdkindergarten@gmail.com for your chance to win each month! Winners will be announced here on the blog,  on Facebook & Instagram.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my new season of life. I have so much to share... and now I have a little more time to do it. I am so excited & and so grateful for YOU!
xo



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! littlebirdkindergarten@gmail.com

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





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Sunday, October 23, 2016

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!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

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!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Parenting Pep Talks - Best Practice Articles for All Year Long

If you read my last blog post, you probably already have a sense of how passionate I am about teaching kids about responsibility and emotional intelligence. I really, really, am!! 
So much so, that for over a year now, I have been writing parenting articles to send home each week with my students. I really believe that most parents really do the best they can, but as Maya Angelou put it so well . . . .



Back in May I wrote about "10 Things Teachers Absolutely LOVE" I got a lot of great feedback here, as well as on Facebook, so I know that my feelings resonate with a lot of other teachers who face so many challenges in the classroom. So many variables we cannot control. 
So many wishes, so many worries. So much hope.





Parents of today are: busy, stressed, over-worked, and sometimes distracted, but like parents of the past who parented in simpler times, they want the best for their kids.
It is my sincere belief that raising children in this technology filled – too easy to
be distracted life is one of the great challenges of our day. Being deliberate
about thoughtful parenting practices is imperative for our kids to grow, thrive and succeed. It has truly been a labor of love, frustration, concern and hope that I have written these parenting newsletter articles with the future of our families and country in mind.
From my 27 years of experience in working with under resourced parents, I have found that the vast majority have never read a parenting book, magazine, or attended any type of parenting class. What better way to reach our parents than in their child’s folder/backpack? :o)
We as teachers only have so much time, but we have so much to share.
The topics covered in these newsletters are written in a non-threatening format
in order to reach parents where they are at, from us to them as if we were sitting down together for a chat and had time to talk about everything under the sun (but don’t and can’t!) I cover modern topics such as technology, as well as character traits and behavior management. The articles are written with much thought and consideration for addressing common educator concerns with gentleness and respect for parents wherever they are at in their parenting journey.
Even if readers are well equipped, amazing parents and have all of this stuff down pat, validation is as sweet as honey when you are doing an important job that came with no instruction manual! Validation breeds confidence, confidence breeds
even stronger parenting and of course we all know the benefits of strong
parenting!

Writing this resource does not make me an expert parent! It does, however,
make me an expert of my own experiences of being a parent and a teacher for
many, many, years who has seen many examples of parenting over the years, the good , the bad and the well, you know. My husband and I have raised two sensitive, kind, and well educated young adults that I am so proud of.  :o)

An expert, no. A person who wants to help other people with the struggle, yes.
I have been a working mom/person my whole life. It is HARD to do it all. I hope to communicate through my writing the perspective of someone who has been there, but has also been on the side of seeing the adverse effects of the less
than desirable parenting behaviors.
I have written LOTS of close reading passages for little learners that I am honored to say have been used by thousands of teachers all over the country and
I like to think of this resource as close reading for parents!  :0)

Can I get an AMEN?!!



May parents read these articles and find inspiration, validation, understanding, and hope for the greatest, and most noble adventure life has to offer. Each newsletter also has an inspiring quote to go along with the theme of the passage. The newsletters are appropriate for parents of Pre-K through the elementary grades, and I’m quite sure even high school parents could glean a thing or two!
This resource provides 35 “Trending Topics”, simple, to-the-point, purposeful articles - (pep talks if you will!) one for each week of the school year, offering tips, advice, gentle reminders and inspiration for the most current parenting topics and dilemmas as well as a thought provoking and inspirational quote for each topic. Each article is written with thoughtfulness and respect for the difficult job that parents face.
Whether you copy and share as a stand alone Parent Communication OR copy on the backside of your weekly newsletter, you are imparting important information that parents may not have access to otherwise. 
The newsletters are not written in any particular order, or consecutive at all, they could even be shared as needed by topic (wink, wink!)

I began sending the articles home in my kids' backpacks last year. I received good feedback, and I think the ones that read them looked forward to getting them each week!
I know that some will not read them, but hopefully the ones that do, will find some comfort in knowing that I (we) care about, and understand the challenges they face as parents. 

If you decide to send these articles home to nurture and support your parents each week, let me know how it goes! Thanks so much!


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