Sunday, November 27, 2011

Math for December - Freebie!

Gingerbread math journals are free to my faithful followers! Please comment if you download them =)

I also just added my Christmas math to TN. 

Since I am so new to the game, please remember I always love to hear from you! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Word Sorts almost Free!

I have been playing with my new Christmas digital stamps and found that these trees were just begging to be made into sorting activities. I lack the license (for now) to give them away for free, so I put them in my shop for a whopping 10 cents! I'd be glad to customize the word family or sounds pages for you!

Stay tuned, I have been working on a Christmas math pack that has me quite excited!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

But I am NOT thankful for...

Okay, my first linky party! How fun! Because we are trained teachers, I'm going to follow protocol here. I'm going to start with a positive, offer two things for which I'm not thankful, and end on a high note!

1. I am so thankful for my job and [mostly] everything that comes along with it - colleagues to laugh and joke with about the happenings of our crazy days, children with no two personalities the same, hugs and band-aids and learning, creativity and organization. I love it!

2.  I am so thankful for coffee. It warms me up on the inside and the outside. One sip of a pumpkin spice latte and I know that fall is here! 

3. I am not thankful for traffic on the way home from school. I like to stay after school and work, but some days the thought of being stuck in 5:00 traffic in Dallas trumps my need to label clothespins with letters or organize that drawer that has been bugging me. 

4. I am not thankful for painted cinder block walls and a "blue painter's tape only" rule. My word family posters fall down at least once a week because that blue tape just won't stick! However, we are not allowed to use anything thing else on the walls. Do you think teachers at my school are more interested in following that rule or having posters that stay up? We'll keep that to ourselves. 

5. I am thankful for coming home after a long [but fulfilling and wonderful] day of work to my four-legged children. Licks, licks, licks all around! I will take this opportunity to brag: 

6. I am thankful for all of you blogging teachers! You have inspired me in major ways and make me such a better teacher! Thank you so much for having sharing hearts and a passion for what you do. 

Isn't it great to rant and rave!? Link up here!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Texas Unit

Every year, my school continues the (much-loved) stereotype that Texas is a state of desert-dwelling cowboys and cowgirls by hosting a Dad's Night with a western/fall/Texas theme. All of the teachers are responsible for putting up a fabulous display in the halls and were also required to have a 3-D scarecrow outside their room. The Kinder team decided on our own little theme for our hall display, appropriately titled "Lone Star Literature." We based all of our projects on some fabulous children's books.

We read Rattlesnake Dance and made rattlesnakes, Bubba the Cowboy Prince (a fun twist on the Cinderella story) and made cowboys and horses, and Armadillo Rodeo and made armadillos. We learned about several Texas symbols and made Texas flags and bluebonnets after reading Texas Alphabet and L is for Lone Star.

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There are so many great books out there about Texas! 

The snakes were made from a paper plate. the kiddos painted them, then cut in a spiral. They made a pattern using die cut rhombi. Rattles were made using pony beads or beans. Armadillos were simply made out of two shades of gray construction paper. Each class's armadillos were slightly different. My babies used texture brushes and black paint to decorate the shell. Another class painted them with a glittery black. The ideas for the snake and armadillos came from April Larremore's  AMAZING Texas Unit. 

Our horses were peeking their heads out of the fence! These were made without patterns by taking the students step-by-step. They were asked to cut out an oval, rectangle and two triangles. The manes were made using cut yarn. My two fellow kinder teachers did this as strictly following oral directions, I chose to demonstrate each step (thus the difference in horsey appearances)! 

Cowboys and Cowgirls in my class were made with die-cut boots and hats, patterns for shirts and pants, and the rest was up to the kinders. I gave them glittery horseshoes and stars to use as belt buckles and scrapbook paper for the shirts and blue construction paper for the jeans. Another class made "rhinestone" cowboys by adding some bling for the belts! 

Finally, we made torn paper texas flags with die-cut stars and fingerpainted bluebonnets. 

We divided up major display components, and my class made the cacti. We traced around the kids on green butcher paper, finger painted with green tempera to make the "texture" and added toothpick spines. 

We made these lovely desert sunsets by using liquid water color and adding a black construction paper cactus.

In centers, students made word family bluebonnets using strips of green paper, die-cut blue circles and white colored pencils. They wrote sentences about Texas using our sight word is on this scaffolded page. I will put this page in my Teacher's notebook shop as soon as I can find it... it is lost in Mac world. I really need to go take my classes at Apple on how to use my computer! 

I cut strips of blue, red and pink felt and the kids made hat bands using foam stickers. I got the hats for $1.29 each from US TOY/Constructive Playthings. 

It is part of the Dad's Night tradition for the kids to make veggie soup following a trip to the Farmer's Market. Parent volunteers come in to help the kiddos wash and prep the veggies. This poem, Mix the Soup, from Scholastic's Sight Word Poetry Pages, was perfect for the week. 

Finally, this brings us to how I made my 3-D scarecrow.... 

My dear sweet father came in for Dad's Night, and together we became living scarecrows! My kids looked at me that night  like they didn't know who I was!

Wow! What a unit.... now on to Christmas! 

Best Practices in Curriculum and Instruction

I so much enjoyed my first graduate class - Curriculum Design and Evaluation, and want to share some of the big ideas I took from the course.

  •  Do more with less!
What do I mean? Go deeper.


Read one book several times over the course of a few weeks, as opposed to reading it once and moving on to something else. Explore the book inside and out. Retell it in various ways. Discuss it, respond to it, analyze it. Develop a rich experience rather than a superficial one. The students will be engaged in higher order thinking skills and will remember the content.  

Instead of providing several practice problems, provide a few meaningful ones. One word problem in which students have to read, choose a strategy for solving, choose the correct operation, solve the problem and show how they came to their solution tells you a lot more about a child's thinking than a worksheet full of addition problems. 

  • Do not rely solely on published materials!
Why? Although publishers will often claim to "meet the Texas standards," they are not designed solely for Texas. Nor are they designed solely for any one state. With the exception of very few published curriculums (such as CSCOPE), purchased materials may include your state's standards, but ALSO include standards from other states. For example, Texas materials also include Florida, New York and California standards. 

What to do instead:

Based on the wonderful research model of Margaret Kilgo, (if you don't know her, research her!) follow these steps:
1. Identify the goal/objective/standard/student expectation.
2. Identify the verbs to indicate the depth of thinking or doing expected from the student.
3. Identify the nouns for the level of complexity of the concepts.
4. Identify the vocabulary expected to be understood.
5. Ensure the lesson you teach and the practice opportunities meet the student expectation!