Monday, December 11, 2017

Elf On The Shelf Kindness Challenge

If you're on my email list, you know that I've been having a battle with myself: to elf, or not to elf? (If you're not on my email list, let's be friends! Sign up here!)
I've been going back and forth since Thanksgiving trying to decide if I should bring the elf to our classroom this year. Two years ago, it was a HUGE hit. Our classroom was a magical place with special elf journals, a magic mailbox, and an elf that wrote letters back and forth to my delighted students.  Last year, our elf went back to The North Pole. (enough said)
Well, I've finally made a decision. My kids are going to earn our elf this year. How? I'm glad you asked! We've been a little C.R.A.Z.Y in room 23 the past week or so, so I've decided I want to tap into our kindness to hopefully help us simmer down for the last 10 days of school. Because what I DON'T want is for the elf to make us spiral into even more craziness. (Yes, I know, I try to promote the fun in kindergarten, but there's only so much a girl can take!)
So here's the plan. We're going to have 5 kindness challenges. One each day. And if we can successfully complete each challenge, our elf will come next Monday to join us for our last week before break. 
These aren't gonna be hard things for my kids to do, but some nice things we can do as a class to promote kindness and classroom community. I WANT them to be successful, so they can see that it feels good to be kind!
If you want to try this with your class too, click here to grab it for free! It's editable too, so you can add your own kindness challenges! Enjoy!
-Gina

Use the image below to pin it for later!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Letter Identification Intervention

Every year, I have a few friends who really get stuck with letter ID. While the rest of my class is cruising along with letters and sounds, I'm stuck on how to best help these kids. Sometimes it feels like no matter what I try (singing, standing on tables, hitting my head against the wall), it just doesn't stick!

I've finally found a few engaging and effective activities that have helped my struggling kids reach mastery with their letters and sounds. As happy as I am to share them with you, I'm also writing them down so next year, I don't forget what I did! (Trust me, it happens more than you think!)
#1: Salt Boxes: This one is just made with a pencil box and some salt. You can add food coloring to make the salt different colors if you want, or put card stock on the bottom of the container so a color shows through when kids write.

Connecting the visual representation of the letters to tactile learning is a great way to blend two different learning styles together. Try having students say the letter name as they form the letter with their finger in the salt.

If they're having trouble forming the letter, ditch the salt box, and trace over the letter with your hot glue gun. Then, your kids can just trace over the letter right on the card with their finger. You'll still tap into their tactile learning style because they will feel the hot glue as they run their finger over the letter.
#2: Play Doh Mats: Having kids roll out play doh and use it to form letters is another way to merge visual and kinesthetic learning styles. Using a play doh mat with an image that starts with the first sound of that letter will also help students practice the sound that the letter makes.

#3 Sorts, Sorts, and More Sorts: You can never do enough sorting letters and pictures (by beginning sound). We cut apart the letter and picture stickers in the top pictures for students to sort. (Stickers just make everything more fun!) If you don't have letter stickers, any cards like the ones in the second image work just as well.
#4 Differentiate: Find out what letters each student is struggling with, and focus on those letters. I create a home-school intervention program for these kiddos to practice their letters and sounds. They bring their pocket folder home each night to practice their letters, and then back to school the next day to practice with me. I have seen huge growth by personalizing their learning!

#5 Fun Songs: Learning is tough for some kids and can get frustrating really easily! I like to use fun songs to make learning more exciting and less scary! This ABC Song from Have Fun Teaching is my favorite!

#6 Interactive Technology: Last, but definitely not least, kids LOVE technology. Teach Your Monster to Read is a FREE website where you can differentiate levels for your students (First Steps for those kids just learning letters and sounds, Fun With Words for those who are ready for sight words, and Champion Reader for those who are ready for short sentences). It's fun, engaging, and PERFECT for your struggling kiddos! They won't even know they're learning!

Now I can relax knowing that these ideas are saved for next year! I hope you found a few ideas that will work for you and your class too!

-Gina

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Revamping Guided Math

I've been writing this post in my head for a while, but have been putting off writing it down on the blog because I thought it showed failure. But then I realized that I want to make sure I share with you the real side of teaching, not just the highlight reel

My hope for this post is that it shows you that it's okay to try something and then change it... even half way through the year. Teaching is all about doing what's right for your kids, so if something isn't working for them... fix it! {And I apologize if it gets lengthy!}

I started the year how I do each year with guided math. Here's the format that I found has worked for my class every year so far (and I now stress the SO FAR part): one group meets with me, one group works on the computers (we used to have a program called SuccessMaker, but now we use a free website called happynumbers.com), and two groups go to math stations. 

This format "worked" for a while, but when we came back from Christmas break, I realized something was wrong. I knew I was meeting the needs of all of my kids because of the activities I was choosing and how I was differentiating, but I still didn't FEEL like I was meeting the needs of all of my kids, because I just wasn't seeing them enough. 

In the past, I was able to meet with all 4 groups in a day. With our schedule this year (and the fact that I have 5 groups because of large class sizes), I can only meet with 1 or 2 groups a day, so there were some kids I was only seeing once a week. Even though I knew they were making growth from looking at their work, I didn't feel like I knew them as mathematicians.

And I could see it in my kids. My kids weren't engaged. They wanted to do math with me. I was leaving my table A LOT to redirect kids. I was dreading teaching math. I didn't know what was going on since "my guided math" had always worked great.

So I made a change. I split the kids up into smaller groups of 3 and chose the most engaging, open ended math stations that I could. This may be the most important part. I needed the math stations to be open ended so that no matter how many times my kids went to a math station, they could have a NEW, meaningful experience there. So no, I don't change out the stations often. (We've actually been using the same stations for 3 weeks now) There are no matching games. We use a lot of dice, a lot of spinners, and a lot of playing cards. This way, they can never say "I've already played this game," because the game will be new each time they play. Here are some of our favorites:

*Let's Go Fishing: Students choose 2 fish cards to create an addition equation to solve. They can use the fish bowl mat and manipulatives to help them solve the equation. Differentiate by splitting the cards into different baggies (1-5 number cards and 1-10 number cards)

*Spin and Color: Students will use a pencil and a paper clip to spin the spinners. Two versions: spin an equation and color the sum OR spin the sum and color the matching equation. Make it reusable by putting the mats in a sheet protector and having kids spin and COVER instead of spin and COLOR.
*Drop It, Build It: Students will drop 2 manipulative on the playing mat, and add the 2 numbers together. They will cover the sum on the picture with a pattern block.
*Race To Add: Students will play this board game with a partner. The partner will read the equation, and the student will answer with the sum. The partner can check the answer in the bottom right hand corner of the card! Differentiated for you- green cards are sums to 5 and blue cards are sums to 10!
*Playing Card Subtraction- Students will choose 2 playing cards and make a subtraction equation to solve.

We also use our iPads as one of our stations (which are engaging themselves). Kindergarten Game Show allows me to differentiate for my kids and have them play games that focus on the skills they need to work on.

While the kids are engaged in their math stations, I have one small group with me. I introduce them to a new concept, we do some guided practice, and I get them started on some independent practice. Then, I leave them to work for a bit, and I go around the room and work with the rest of the kids. I give support to some kids, and extend the learning of others. My students can not WAIT to show me the work that they've done. 

By doing this, I'm able to see each one of my kids each day, whether or not they are actually in "my group." I have seen SO much growth in my kids since we've started this "new" guided math format, and I now feel that I really know each one of them as mathematicians! I hope I've given you some ideas you can try in your classroom too! If you want to give these math stations a try too, you can find them here!
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