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

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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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