Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a natural time to teach & learn about the meaning of thanksgiving, and what that means and can look like in our everyday lives. Modeling an attitude of gratitude is one of the most important gifts we can bestow upon our littles... learning to deliberately be being thankful for what we have and counting every blessing makes for happier people, and can lead to helping kids how to learn how to live their best life!  It's natural for them to feel it, it's just not always natural for them to say it. Giving them the language to use is vital. Not just to communicate it to others, but for them to identify those feelings within themselves. 
I love the sweet things they think of when they start thinking about what they're thankful for. It catches on quickly and hopefully they go home and share that contagious spirit of thankfulness!

I like to prompt them with questions and sentence frames such as these:

When you think of your family, what are you thankful for?
I am thankful for___________________________________.

When you think of things you need to live, what are you thankful for?
I am thankful for_______________________________________.

It really helps to define an area of life to envision. It breaks it down for them into smaller 
chunks so they can wrap their head around it and make it real. Giving them the opportunity to talk and share with partners is key. They need a chance to practice the language so they can try it out and save it for later too! Finding other times of the day to model this attitude of gratitude will help them see it in the context of other areas too! Even little things such as "It's so cold today! I'm so thankful we have a heated classroom to learn in!" It might seem trivial, but it matters! :o)

Our Thankful Headband is fun and meaningful little craft for your kids to make for Thanksgiving! Littles draw what they are thankful for on the feathers, color and decorate the headband, then attach to make their thankful headband! I love how proud they are of their headbands, and what a great conversation piece to take home and get their families involved with taking an attitude of gratitude!
(They can use their sentence frames to tell about their headbands too!)

Another great way to teach about gratitude is to read about it. It's a wonderful first step and conversation starter.  Here are links to some of my favorite books to teach and spark conversations about being grateful and thankful! (The picture is the link)


November Resource Round Up

November is one of my favorite months of the year to teach! So many kid friendly, naturally engaging things to do! The cooler weather helps my mood too! I just want to do all of the fun fall things! Here's a little round up of quite a few activities and resources that I have created for this season! Hopefully you can find something to have some fun with your kids and save you some time! (All of the pictures are clickable links)

Our Thanksgiving Uncovered is a large resource with LOTs of activities! Close reading, many writing prompts, story of Thanksgiving retelling story sticks, games, centers and more! This is the perfect resource for teaching all about Thanksgiving.

Our Thankful Headband is fun and meaningful little craft for your kids to make for Thanksgiving! They draw what they are thankful for on the feathers, color and decorate the headband, then attach to make their thankful headband! I love how proud they are of their headbands, and what a great conversation piece to take home and get their families involved with taking an attitude of gratitude!
Included in this resource:
•Elements to create a thankful headband
•What I'm thankful for writing prompt (great for early finishers!)

Perfect for using with:
• Instruction
• Literacy Centers
• Math Centers
• Math Stations
• Small Groups
• Sensory Play
• Self regulated work & play 
• Fine motor, busy box, or morning work activities
•Counting practice pages for follow-up, math stations, morning work, assessment
Included in this EASY TO PREP & EASY ON THE INK resource:
•10 Thanksgiving themed Pattern Block Work and Play Kit Cards
•10 Counting Practice Pages- one for each puzzle card
•Pattern Block Cards for playing as a card game OR for stuffing clear pocket stuff-able dice
•Spin It! Game Board for playing with a game spinner OR pencil & paper clip spinner
•“I CAN” statement card for displaying at center or station (2 options, whole sheet and half sizes included)
•Question prompts to engage little learners and promote inquiry and learning

I love to create invitations to play for little learners. It inspires curiosity, engagement and wonder to gather interesting items and place them in and inviting arrangement for littles to discover, play, work, and learn. I love how quiet and thoughtful they are at these stations. You can almost see their little wheels turning in their head. This little inspiration page has several resources, so the photo is not linked, but I'll add links to all of the resources below the picture. Products without links are coming soon! I just love this so much.

Work & Play Cards Sizes & Positional Words
Natural Wonders Work & Play Posters

Close reading is a strategy to help kids engage closely with text. I love using close reading passages. I have written dozens of passages and created hundreds of activities to go with them. The language, vocabulary, stamina, comprehension and text feature skills they solidify from doing close reading are just amazing. When I write my passages I work hard to use interesting vocabulary, and engage little readers! These photos are from my Quarter 2 Close Reading Bundle, there are 6 passages and activities, this is from the Owls passage. They get so much out of annotating the passages! I include lots of tips and directions about this, but in short, you start slowly, doing it together, and they quickly get the hang of it and start finding words to annotate on their own! How cute is the annotation and pictorial representation for "parliament"? (All the heart eyes!!)
The   o w l   letters are from our Work and Play Cards Letters Kit.

Want to read more about Close Reading? Click here!  OR Here!

I love simple little math centers that I can add to my existing stations or add to a small group or
morning work tub. Our Turkeys to 10 Just Right Activities & Centers are so much fun! Simple to prep and easy for kids to play independently, with partners or in small groups. They're just right!

I hope this resource round up is helpful and gives you some ideas for fall!

Pattern Block Work & Play

I remember in my very first classroom one of the only things in my closet was a tub of pattern blocks,
they became the manipulative that I relied on the most and I found so many different ways to use them! I wish I had all of the fun activities to go with them back then! The littles love using them and practice so many skills along the way! They are so hands-on, developmentally appropriate and so good for the growing brain! 

I start out using pattern blocks at the very beginning of the school year, and we use them all year long. 
They provide rich exposure to lots of skills such as shape recognition, patterning, sorting, matching, problem solving, fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, differentiation, flexible thinking, and so much more. I change out my math stations regularly so that our theme or the season is integrated with math. 

Our Pattern Block Work & Play Card Kits are perfect for using during each season/theme for an independent activity, small groups ,or centers! Students can practice matching the shapes to fill the card, or play using the included dice,  game cards or spinner versions. Using the game elements makes for such a great partner activity to use for centers, math stations, even morning work! They LOVE it! To add an extra element of challenge you can require them to name the shape the drew, rolled, or spun! I really like using the games for partner activities. They help them learn how to take turns and play a game while working on their skills. Here are some ways they can be used:

• Instruction
• Literacy Centers
• Math Centers
• Math Stations
• Small Groups
• Sensory Play
• Self regulated play 
• Fine motor, busy box, or morning work activities
• Partner games

Teachers Pay Teachers links to resources:

Amazon Affiliate links to companion materials:
(Click on photos for link)


Using Comparative Thinking for Phoneme Mastery

We practice SO much on letters, sounds, phonemes everyday. Why is it that some of our kids still struggle after so many exposures? We know some of them just aren't ready yet. For some developmental reason, it's not clicking... yet. But it will. For others, the reason can be SO simple. They need opportunities to compare and sort sounds. I have found this to be the most solidifying experience for my littles to really master their sounds. Even those who aren't showing they're quite ready yet, may really benefit from this approach.

Let's take a look at the research. Based on the 2007 work of Robert Marzano he "reconfirmed earlier research that asking students to identify similarities and differences through comparative analysis leads to eye-opening gains in student achievement." (Harvey Silver, ASCD)

Although much research has been done on older students, why not use Comparative Thinking Strategies for the littles? It only makes sense. It is such a natural and early function of the brain...
We compare almost from birth, we know our mother/father, vs. not... As we grow we use more and more complex comparative thinking on a daily basis, dozens of times each day.

As Harry Silver's ASCD article outlines, even though our brains are used to making comparisons in our daily life, making the transition to using this type of thinking in school is not always the most natural for most of our kids. If we start early, it can lead not only to letter mastery as were referring to here, but actual pathways and greater metacognition and analytical skills for our learners to use throughout their lives.

I have taught Comparative Thinking practices to my kinder kids for many, many years. Being intentional about it will grow complex thinkers! Silver's article suggests setting distinct instructional goals such as strengthening memory, developing higher order thinking skills as well as other goals.

I find this research fascinating because I feel that it really brings validity to what we teachers already know. When kids compare, they learn. When we use the power of comparison in our classroom instruction, we bring an enriched experience to our learners that equips them well beyond the content we are currently trying to inform.

I have used Comparative Thinking strategies in every content area. Math, reading, writing, science and social studies, in my opinion, there is no more powerful strategy. Although I have been using them I my own classroom for years, I had never made a resource that was quite pretty enough to put in my store until now. Because I feel so strongly about using comparison when teaching sounds, I created a couple of resources that make this an easy, time-saving and super high yield resource that puts into practice the Comparative Thinking strategy for our littles to master sounds. Although what I exposed my littles to wasn't quite as pretty as these, I know they were able to benefit from the proficiency that resulted from comparison as a means of learning. I hope you'll give it a try too!
(I even use this strategy for teaching high frequency sight words, see below!)
*If you use McGraw Hill Wonders, I have created Compare & Sort Resources formatted for Wonders too!

Letter Sounds Compare & Sort Big Review

Fry's First 100 Sight Words Write the Room


The Likes That Matter - An Opinion Editorial

Let me start by saying I do not claim to be a perfect parent, I do, however, claim to be an advocate for kids, and this blog post is my opinion.

In my 30 years in the classroom I have learned a lot about kids and a lot from kids. They want to be loved & respected no differently than adults do. They remember meanness. They remember kindness. We are not raising littles that will forget. We are raising littles that learn what they live, and they will only be littles for a short time before they are grown up and acting out the life we have modeled for them.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world. It takes every bit of all you have 24/7.
These are trying times to be raising kids. Parents have so much to contend with these days.  My kids are young adults now, in their twenties.  We didn't have a computer until they were in about first and second grade. We didn't have cell phones until they were older than that. They didn't have cell phones until high school. I believe we had it easier in this regard, less distractions, ironically, more time because we were not distracted.

Social media was just getting started. I joined in a bit, just to monitor and provide guidance as needed for our teenagers. We wanted our son and daughter to know how to intentionally interact and exist on the internet, that seemed like it would be a part of their future. I was learning with them. I thought Facebook was such a great way to connect with my family and friends in other parts of the country, see pictures of little ones and share good times. I still think that. There is good. So much good. But... I've noticed a growing trend that as an educator, parent and human being, I find alarming, disturbing, and just so sad.

I remember first seeing it around 10 years ago when someone was showing a video clip from a late night  show where the parents would pretend to have eaten all of their kid's Halloween candy. Honestly, I thought it was awful. Mean-spirited, sarcastic, and disrespectful. Not only did they pretend to take the candy, they filmed them, at their worst. For a laugh. 

Fast forward 10 years and now those types of video clips are all over the internet. Thousands and thousands of parents filming their kids during all kinds of moments. Happy, cute, funny, embarrassing, sad, tantrums, and everything in between. Kids are cute. They say and do so many hilarious things! There is such a fine line here. 

So many views, so many likes. In some cases, dozens, or hundreds, or, viral.

Imagine a day in recent memory when you had a really bad day. You know those days, nothing goes right. It goes from bad to worse. You can't wait for it to be over so you can go home, curl up on the couch and be left alone. We all have those days.

Now think back, and imagine yourself during that same day. The stress, the pent up feelings you were fighting past, just to get through the day.

Now imagine someone you trust holding their phone up in your face, filming you. Maybe smiling, maybe laughing, maybe speaking sarcastically about what you should or shouldn't have done. Maybe not, maybe they're just filming you. At your worst. At your most vulnerable. At your most embarrassed.

Try it on for size. How does it feel. What does it teach?
Does it teach love?
Does it teach empathy?
Does it teach trust?

Emabarrassment and humiliation are undoubtedly the most raw of emotions. 
We feel belittled, exposed, we feel we don't belong.

How could anything at all ever be worth evoking those emotions to arise in our children?
The world will conjure emotions like that plenty of times in their lives, certainly without our help.

I suggest,  it's fair to ask ourselves, whose "like" matters the most?

Is it the video gone viral because watching it for a moment will entertain lots of people we don't know, and will never know, and prompt them to also make a "funny at someone else's expense" video?

Or,  is it our child. Is it the quiet, private "like" of our child because they know that their vulnerability, their pride; their feelings are safe with us. We will not expose, embarrass or disrespect them by selling out their privacy. We will not humiliate them by putting a camera in their face when they are just trying to grow up and learn how to be a good human.

When we show empathy, we teach empathy.
When we show love, we teach love.

I wonder what my kids would be like as adults today, if we would have put a camera in their face during their unflattering moments. What would any of us be like? Would we have deep seeded feelings that would be revealed in our relationships? What about teachers, or parents or doctors? Would they possess the level of empathy we would expect them to in order to compassionately and competently carry out their jobs? I wonder if the late night show hosts would think it as funny on their own kids?

I've read the comments. Many are sarcastic if anyone tries to defend the child. Or they say things like:
"Can't anyone have fun without the perfect parent police butting in?"

The answer is no. Not because people are the perfect parent police.
Because kids are human and the price is too high.

We want our kids to learn to laugh and not take themselves too seriously, but  that is not what they learn when they are the butt of a joke, particularly in front of a camera.

Our kids, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, all of us deserve to have kids who have been raised to be loving, respectful people. If you think it doesn't matter, visit a school, visit a playground, see how kids are treating each other these days. At a minimum it is dismaying, and many times it's straight up shocking.

Our kids will only know better if we teach them better.
It starts with modeling, it starts by putting our phones down. We don't need a video of everything.
We don't need to share everything. I know some will think I'm taking this too seriously, "it's just a joke".

I have known a LOT of kids. Happy kids, angry kids, needy kids. One thing I know is that every kid deserves to be respected. Whether they are having a good day or a bad day.

They need us. They need us to model love, and kindness, and respect, and empathy.

And we all need the quiet "like" that will happen in their heart and mind when they know
we have their back, and we will never sell our place in their corner for a view or a like.


How To Line-Up Invitation to Play

We all know how the first few weeks can be rough! I don't know about you, but lining up is quite a foreign concept to most of the littles who have walked through my door! There is this sweet unawareness that comes with being a new kindergartner! As endearing and innocent as it is, it's our job to help them along and learn how to be a school kid! I have found as with every other classroom/school procedure that it works best when I break it down and speak their language. Meaning that we talk about it, we practice it, we read about it, and we act it out! Here are a couple of ideas for establishing foundations for learning how to line-up:

• Talk about it: As with anything else, meaningful discussion goes a long way in getting them on board with whatever you are doing. If they know the why, it's much easier for them to understand the reasons we do things. I always explain that when we line-up it helps us to be able to move as a group of people from one place to another in an organized and safe way. I use my felt board and model what a line looks like and facilitate conversation about how much easier it is to go all together to the cafeteria or playground when we are in a line. I use my Duck Tails and Bubbles Anchor Chart as a model too. We talk about how "duck tails" help us remember to keep our hands to ourselves, and how "bubbles" help us to remember to be quiet so that we won't disturb other classes as we walk by.

• Read about it: I have been reading The Line Up Book by Marisabina Russo. It is simple, engaging
and physically shows what a line is. Another cute book about a line is The Line by Paula Boss. It's cute for a discussion about lining up because it leaves a lot of room for discussion. The kids really love both books!


• Practice it and act it out: So much grace and patience is required when learning how to be a big school kid! It takes a lot of practice and it's so easy for them to forget, but with all of the discussion, practice and concrete experiences they will quickly remember and it will soon become habit! The practice comes everyday when we go places and practice using our "duck tails and bubbles" and say our little rhyme to help us remember. I post one of the anchor charts near the door and sometimes just give a little point as we walk out the door. We even have posted the anchor charts at a few spots in the hallway to serve as little reminders when there are lots of bodies and movement in the hall.
Creating a little "invitation to play" can be SO helpful for the littles that have never been to school and need a little more concrete practice. Here are the elements I used to create this provocation:

The Line Up Book by Marisabina Russo
Duck Tails and Bubbles Anchor Chart (from our Classroom Management & Behavior Anchor Chart Bundle)
random figurines ( I used some wood animals, bear counters, monster finger puppets)
black beans for another object to line up
washi tape to create a couple of lines
a white board, marker and eraser for doing a pictorial representation of a line )if they wish)

I'm sure you'll think of other great items you have on hand to add to your provocation! If you create a line up invitation to play please keep in touch and let me know how it goes or send me a picture or two!

Link to resource:
Classroom Management & Behavior Anchor Charts & Slideshow

Here are links to a couple of books I love about lining up!
(Just sharing ... I am not affiliated with Amazon!)


5 Tips for Teaching Number Sense & Number Talks that Impact Learning & Engagement

Around the back on the railroad track, you made a 2 just like that! Solid foundations in number sense are prerequisites for any math learning! We sometimes think they have it when they come to us because they can count a little, but when we get to know them a little better we learn that they don’t understand that a 2 = 🍎🍎 (Am I right??!!)

We can’t assume they have it, so skipping over deliberate instruction and practice of number sense is not an option! I start at the very beginning of the year with math talks at calendar, and math workshops, using my Number Sense Anchor Charts to support instruction & scaffold at labs. They offer multiple representations and pneumonic rhymes for writing the numerals.

Here are some tips for teaching number sense to your littles!

1. Start at the beginning. Even if kids come to school and can count, it doesn't mean that they have
a solid foundation in number sense. Sometimes they can fool ya, but it doesn't take long to see the gaps. When I say start at the beginning I mean assume nothing. Assume they don't know that a
a 2 = 🍎🍎 ... even if they do, it won't hurt them to hear how you talk about numbers and make sense of the numerals and quantities. Starting out on the same page is SO important. Using the same language and them hearing you articulate math talk is key - from the first day of school.

2. Use TPR ... all day long! TPR (total physical response) makes ALL the difference in solidifying number sense. They REALLY need to show those numbers on fingers. I even show them how I use my thumb to hold down fingers I don't need when I'm showing how many.  For some of them it's a new skill just to learn how to manipulate their fingers!

3. Talk numbers all day long, not just during math instruction. Make a point to mention numbers during every content area in some way. "Here I  have 3 books that we are going to read today! Let's count them! 1, 2, 3! Show me three fingers!" .... etc. Inserting it naturally in LOTS of conversations will make a huge difference!

4. Build in a Number Talk time into your calendar time EVERYDAY. Starting on the very first day of school and everyday there after, we talk about a number, until we make it all the way to 10. Then we begin to talk about operations beginning with addition. I use my number sense anchor charts and we talk about each thing on the chart. We count each representation, we say the pneumonic rhyme to learn how to write the numeral, we draw it big in the air small in the air, and on our hand. They turn to their partner and tell a sentence about the number.... so they have to use that number in their sentence. (At my house we have 2 dogs.) Then their partner has to give them an "I heard you say sentence. (At your house you have two dogs) As they grow and begin to learn more numbers, I add
little questions or challenges. I encourage TPR between the partners when they are talking numbers as an added way to solidify number sense.

I do not post my number anchor charts on our calendar math talk board until we have learned them. Our "number of the day" is something we do together, so they become a partners in the reason the numbers are posted on the board (very impactful!) vs. having them already there and they just become another piece of text around the room. Even after we get to 10, i still do a number of the day.
I do almost a drum roll approach to see what it's going to be (extra copy of the anchor chart turned upside down)... they get sooo excited! I usually do it in a riddle kind of way. "I'm thinking of a number that we have 4 of in our classroom, they are long and tall, shaped like rectangles and we go
in and out of them"... I tell them they cannot shout out, they must hold their thinking in their brain, and then they turn and whisper to their partner their predictions. Capturing their engagement and attention for our number of the day is so much fun and really starts our day out right, not to mention all of the schema we are building! (Find our Number Sense Anchor Charts here)

5. Invitations to count and practice number sense. There are soooo many ways to do this! Math workshops, labs, centers, small groups, etc. Whatever works for you in your classroom, just make sure you provide opportunity everyday. Practice is essential. Using any hands-on manipulatives you have. Using theme related objects is a fun way to integrate and make it new and fun each week.
As you  observe them at their workshops watch to see if they are beginning to count with accuracy, touching one object and saying one number. If not this is the time to model for them and provide a hand over hand to scaffold for them.

Number sense is essential to any and all future math learning, so starting out with solid instruction and hands-on practice to provide a concrete foundation will be an invaluable building block in their math schema! Find our Number Sense Anchor Charts for Little Learners in the shop to help you guide your young mathematicians!


Inspiring Kindness

We hear it all the time. Be kind. Kindness matters. Pay it forward. It's on posters and social media and hashtags and t-shirts. Good! Thank goodness it's being talked about! How, though, do we get our kids to DO IT?? Kindness can be a personality trait, an adjective, but for our kids to do it, we must teach them that it's a verb. Kindness is displayed in action. That can mean words or it can mean an act, but it should be an action word.

Conversations everyday with our students are imperative. To teach, to provide context and example.
Shining a light on what is good, and kind, and what we want to see repeated. Anything, really, can set the stage. It might be something that happened in class, the playground, or in the cafeteria. Anecdotes that provide a connection and some schema for what we are talking about. Characters from books we read make great talking points for teaching about character. What was their point of view? How do you think the other characters felt about that? So powerful.

I love using quotes too. They can be fantastic conversation starters. "What do  you think _____
meant when they said that? What could that mean for us in our classroom? For you at home?".

I have created a set of Farmhouse Growth Mindset/Kindness Posters that can be used as charming decor, but also serve as terrific talking points and reminders for classroom culture! If you pick these up and display them in your classroom, please send me a photo so I can share it on Facebook and Instagram!


FARM Round Up

Somehow, for some reason, some things just get old after teaching them a few times! If I ever get to feeling this way I usually will try to perk it up a bit with a new resource or a new approach! At any rate, when I do it always seems to come out on the great end for kids anyway since they love the activities and it makes it a deeper learning experience for them!

There are SO many great classroom titles to  use when teaching about Farm... and by the way, honestly teaching the farm theme never gets old for me! I love it. Maybe it's my farm girl roots, or my love for Fixer Upper or anything chippy, cute or born on a farm!  It lends itself to so many fun classroom activities and centers!
I love getting out the farm animals and putting  them in the block center, and seeing all of the creative ways the littles build their pens, etc. Creating a sensory lab or station with corn, beans, some little farm animals and craft sticks makes for some wonderful imaginative play!

I always try to use natural ways to get kids talking and "putting miles on their tongues" as we learn about a new topic. I use this little reader during the entire unit as something to do when finished, as
a small group activity or a time filler to take out and read together when we have a minute or two to fill! They love being able to read it, and I love giving them lots of opportunities to practice reading behaviors and oral language! At the end of the unit they LOVE taking their books home to read to their families! It's so fun to ask them the next day what mom and dad thought of their reading... sweetest smiles! So proud! 

Another fun activity for a farm unit is Write the Room! There are sooo many amazing reasons to write the room! Do you do it in your classroom?
Write the Room is one of my go to centers for each theme! I love how they get so good at it and when the theme changes they go to town on the new cards! I also love how they use the words in their everyday writing! They remember where in the room the cards are and love recalling them to use!
It's so quick and easy to print the cards, cut and place them around the room. All you need is clip boards, pencils and copies of the response pages!

If you've used  any of my close reading resources you  might like this fun 
learning a little more in depth about the farm animals. The facts they pick up and
are able to write and report about are pretty impressive. The passages, as with all
of my other close reading resources, are original and especially written for little learners.
They are packed with vocabulary and literacy skills that build thinkers!

Check back often, I have more farm activities in the works and can't wait to share them with you soon!