Monday, December 9, 2013


I just checked and realized I haven't blogged in almost an entire month!  I've been busy, busy, busy! 
There are a few things I want to tell you about.
First, we had our first author's celebration before Thanksgiving break.  They were so excited to read their narrative pieces to a friend.  I've been using Lucy Calkin's brand new units of study for kindergarten.  Love it!

We also met our SMART goal today!  Our grade level goal is that 87% of our kids will know 100% of their uppercase letters, lowercase letters and letters sounds (including long and short vowels).  I started the year at 0%.  After LOTS of hard work by my kinders, we got to 90% today!  Tomorrow, my principal, assistant principal and I will get some pies thrown at us.  I will snap some pictures to share with you.  So proud of my kids!!

Also, my family is originally from Illinois and still have some family members close to Washington, IL.  That was the area hardest hit by the devastating tornado a few weeks ago.  Luckily, no one I know was affected but when Amanda from Mrs. Pauley's Kindergarten asked if I would donate to a fundraiser she was starting, I jumped at the chance.  You can check out all of the fundraiser packages by clicking on the picture below..

Also, my friend Erin is celebrating her one year blogiversary!
You can enter her TWO giveaways here:

Last, I noticed today I'm soooo close to 500 followers.
If you don't already follow me on Bloglovin', please consider doing so.  I'll do some flash freebies once I hit the big 500! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Winners and Guided Reading Part 3: The Emergent Reader

First, I want to announce the winners from my Blogiversary Giveaway!  Congrats ladies and a HUGE thanks to those that helped me with all the wonderful prizes. I just noticed I am only 12 followers away from 500 followers!  All I can say is WOW!

I also want to talk about what I do with Emergent Readers.  Those are kids who know at least 40 letters (upper & lowercase added together) plus at least 5 sounds.  I just tested my students on Friday and every single student is now an Emergent Reader.  I am so proud of them!

Step One:

I quickly give them 3 previously learned sight words.  If there is a word we will encounter in the book we are about to read, I make sure that is one of the words.  Otherwise, I just pick words the group is having trouble with.  I give them clues if they struggle (ex. "It has 4 letters.") so they don't make a mistake.

Step Two:  Book Introduction.
 I give the gist of the story, go on a story walk and talk about cross-checking.  Cross checking is the number one skill this group of kids needs to learn.  That is where they check the first letter of the unknown word with the picture.  For example, is the word going to be pony or horse?  They'll have to get really good at checking the first letter of the word.  

Step Three:  Read the Story
I ask the kids to whisper read the book to themselves.  I lean in and listen to them one at a time.  I like to give them different pointers each time they read.  

 I take a minute or two to talk about something that good readers do. 
One-to-one matching
Use picture clues
Get your mouth reader

Jan Richardson suggests covering the picture with a piece of paper and having the group try and read the words without visual cues.  This makes sure they attend to the words and not just guess.

Step Four:  Teach a new sight word.

I take time to introduce a word that was in the book that I haven't formally introduced in class yet.  These are the four steps I follow each day:
I have them close their eyes while I take a letter out.  They open their eyes and try to figure out what is missing.

Then they make the word on their tray.  Then they mix up the letters and remake the word.

The students will "write" the word on the table with their finger.

Lastly, they write the word with a dry erase marker.

Step Five:  Sound Sorts, Making Words or Sound Boxes (pick one)

I love how easy Jan makes sound sorts.
Level A:  Initial consonants
Level B:  Initial consonants and/or vowels a & o
Level C:  All short vowels
Level D:  Digraphs (initial and final)
Level E:  Initial blends

I talked about the procedure for sound sorts in my last post on guided reading so I won't go through it again.  If you need some sound sorting cards, you can check mine out here.

Jan also makes Making Words and Sound Spelling a snap to figure out with her guidelines.  I honestly haven't done a lot of these because my kids needed some more work with sound sorts. 

On the second day of guided reading, you use the same book and the same procedure but the focus is on writing.  I dictate a simple sentence usually using the same pattern as the sentences in the book.

Level A kids should get a 3-5 word sentences.  Level B kids get 5-7 words in their sentence and Level C, 7-10.  I have the kids repeat the sentence a few times while counting the number of words on their fingers.  I then draw a line for each word in the sentence on their paper before giving it to them.  I allow invented spelling but sight words MUST be spelled correctly.

That's it!

I start testing for 1st trimester report cards tomorrow so we will take a break from guided reading.  I'm excited to see where my kids are at but I'm really going to miss hearing them read.  It makes my heart sing to hear a kinder read for the first time!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Currently...November Edition

Time to link up with Farley!

**I hate laundry day.  I don't mind putting in the clothes but I hate taking them out.  It drives my husband crazy.  I'm trying to be better...

**My kids are reading rockstars this year!  I had 4 start the year as A readers and 16 at a Pre-A.  Now I'm down to only 1 Pre-A and the rest area at A & B.  I'm loving seeing their progress!

**My little sis is having her first baby in February and I'm throwing her a shower.  My theme is Ready to Pop!  Popcorn, cake pops, BlowPops, etc.  I just need to get the invites out soon!

**I hate drama but unfortunately have to deal with some at work right now.  Happy thoughts sent my way would be appreciated.  Enough said.

**I would love to have someone come deep clean my house!

**My yummy pin is from Serious Eats.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie.  YUM!

Link up with your currently here!

There is still time to enter my Blogiversary giveaway!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Guided Reading Part 2: The Pre-A Reader

Pre-A students are kiddos who know less than 40 uppercase and lowercase letters (added together) and less than 5 sounds.  They are in need of some heavy interventions to get them up to speed.  Outside of the guided reading lesson I have those kids run through a letter tracing book daily.

Our Title 1 teachers are taking our lowest kids and running through the book every single day.  A student traces the capital letter and says the letter name.  Then they trace the lowercase letter and say the sound the letter makes.  Last, they point to the picture and says the name of that.  It is important they trace with just their finger (not a pointer or a marker).

If a student knows less than 10 letters, they should begin by tracing just the letters in their name and the letters they already know.  Add more pages once they start to catch on.

During the guided reading lesson I follow Jan Richardson's plans from her book The Next Step in Guided Reading.  You can get her plans for free here.

I start with one of her eight ways of working with letters.  My lowest group did number 7 the other day.  That is where I say a word and they find the matching letter on the ABC chart.   It is a quick way to know which sounds are still tricky for them and which ones they have mastered.

I wrote in my last post
 how much I love these trays.  I attached the alphabet chart to the cookie sheet with contact paper.  I can easily take off the letters I don't want to work with before each session.

I also work briefly on letter formation (since most of my low kids have difficulty making the letters).  I STRESS starting at the top every single time.  Bad habits die hard though! 

Next, we move on to working with names.  I have one little guy who can write his name but can't name the letters so I work with just him on this.   
 I typed up his name and put it in a zipper pouch so he can use a dry erase marker to rainbow write it.  Inside the pouch are the letters of his name and his name puzzle.

 We run through the letters every day. 

The next step is to do one working with sounds activity.  I alternate between clapping syllables, recognizing rhyming words (thumbs up or thumbs down) and picture sorts.

For me, picture sorts sounded like a great idea BUT all those little cards stressed me out.  Plus, my picture cards were different sizes and I didn't have enough for a small group.  I finally just made my own that would fit in a baseball card organizer.

There is a very specific order for how a picture sort should be done.
1.  Say the picture.
2.  Say the sound the picture starts with.
3.  Say the letter that makes that sound.
4.  Put the picture under the correct letter. 

After working with sounds, we finally start to work with books.  I basically do echo reading with this group.  The big thing is teaching this group concepts of print.  I also work a ton on tracking print (one-to-one).

 The last part of the lesson is interactive writing.  We work together to write a sentence.  Then we cut it up and put it back together like a puzzle.

I struggle with fitting everything into one day so I do the writing part the second day.

If you are looking for some picture sort cards, allow me to show you my newest product.

I made picture cards for the following sorts:
1.  Initial Consonants (Pre-A & Level A)
2.  Medial Vowel Sounds (Level B & C)
3.  Beginning and Ending Digraphs (Level D)
4.  Initial Blends (Level E)

I have also included the pages for your own letter tracing book for your Pre-A kids.  A kind follower suggested I also add some letter cards to use as headings for the sorts and/or to organize the letters so I added them, too.  Thanks for the great idea Yvonnee!

I included this pack in my 20% off Blogiversary sale.  Check it out here.

Also, don't forget to enter my Blogiversary giveaway!  There are 4 $10 TPT gift cards up for grab plus some AMAZING products from my blogging buddies and I!

I'll be back to post about Emergent Guiding Reading groups soon!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

One year later...

It's here, it's here!  I started on my blogging adventure about 1 year ago!!  I have loved being a part of the blogging community.  I have gained so many new friends I wouldn't have met otherwise.  Plus, I've enjoyed hearing from followers like you!

 To celebrate I am throwing a HUGE giveaway! 

It is so big that I had to divide it into four separate giveaways!

All 4 winners will get a $10 TPT gift card from me as well as some awesome prizes!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A HUGE thank you to all my bloggy buddies who donated to my giveaway!  Also, thanks to Dancing Crayons for the cute numbers and to The Enlightened Elephant for the frame.

Also, my TPT store is on sale until the end of the weekend!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guided Reading: Part 1

A few short years ago I would typically start guided reading in the spring (March or maybe April).  No judging please!!  I really didn't think I could do much in terms of reading groups until then.  I cringe at that now :( 

Last year our school said that kinders needed to start guided reading in January.  We also got  a guided reading room so at least I had some resources to work with.  I was amazed at how much progress my kiddos made! 

This year I am proud to say that my guided reading groups have been in full swing for a few weeks now!!  Why did I start even earlier? 

Fountas and Pinnell (our school's guided reading guide) has said that kinders should be at a level D by the end of the year.  

My first thought was:  D?????? 

You MUST be crazy!!
 After a week or so of whining I figured I better get going!  I helped facilitate a book club in August where we dived into the Next Step in Guided Reading and got everything ready.  Here are some tips that have helped me. 

 I am using Jan's lesson planning sheets and her letters/sounds checklist (can you see it in the first bin on the left??).  I record the letters and sounds known for each group member on one side and then put the lesson plan in the other side of the sleeve.  I can quickly glance at these charts to figure out what letters I should focus on with each group.  The book can slide right in which makes lesson planning at home very easy to do.

  Jan does talks a lot about ways of working with letters and sounds.  After some brainstorming we came up with these trays.  I took a cookie sheet, put in the alphabet chart (I got mine from Lori Rosenberg's Learning Letter Sounds Pack) on top and then covered it with contact paper.  

I got my packs of magnet letters here.   I love that the vowels and consonants are different colors.

Anyway, when we want to "mix and fix" they bring up the letters they need and go to work.

My last tip has been a MAJOR time saver.  If you are familiar with Jan's book, you know that almost every lesson includes picture sorts.  The thought of trying to organize all those pictures made my head spin.  I bought some cheap baseball card organizers and put my pictures in there.  I admit that at first my cards slid right out.  I thought it was a big fail but then my love affair with washi tape paid off.  A little strip of tape at the top of each slot prevented the cards from coming out until I need them.

I also finally found a use for my little pocket chart.  I put all the cards I'll need for the day (I meet with 3 groups a day) on the top of the chart until I need them.

How do you organize guided reading?  I'd love to hear!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Creepy Carrots...again!

Last spring I fell in love with the book Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds.  Part of the reason was this video...

It is PERFECT for talking about all things illustrations related!  I blogged about this book before here.  I used it during my planting unit last year BUT since we don't celebrate Halloween in my school, I wanted to use it now since it is so creepy!

For only $2 my pack includes the craftivity, writing prompt and a fun CVC game my kids LOVE!  To snag it, click here!

Also, thank you to everyone who volunteered to help my celebrate my 1 year blogiversary!  I'm overwhelmed by the response and soooo grateful!  Stayed tuned for my BIG giveaway!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Road trip and a Blogiversary

 Guess who I met this weekend?  Give up?  The one and only Deanna Jump!  I heard from my bloggy friends Amber and LuAnn from

Kindergarten Rocks

that Deanna was headed to Neenah, WI for the Wisconsin Kindergarten Association fall conference. 
Then, I checked with my bloggy friend Erin from It's Owl Good in Kindergarten and found out that she was going too.

Road Trip!

Here we are!  One of the best parts is that Deanna sat at my table for lunch.  She is so sweet and smart.
After coming home I saw she is coming to the Minnesota Kindergarten Association spring conference this year along with Eric Litwin of Pete the Cat fame.  Sounds like a date to me!

In other news, I completely missed my One Year Blogiversary!  I decided it was better late than never so I'm planning a big celebration!  If you would like to be a part of it, please fill out the form.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Science, Pigeons and Hot Dogs...Oh My!

Today was one of my favorite days of the entire year!  It was our third annual HOT DOG PARTY today!  We have spent the last 3 weeks reading books by my favorite author Mo Willems.  For our big finale we all make these adorable pigeon hats and head down to our cafeteria.  We eat hot dogs and watch 

This year was the best party yet because I have a parent who owns REAL pigeons!  They brought them in to show the kids.  It was pretty cool!

Last, but not least, Mo's new book came out today.  It was delivered to my house today and since my sweet husband was working from home, he drove the book to my school.  I was so excited to read it to my kiddos!  

In other news, I heard from a couple people they were interested in seeing what I do for
 Mad Science Mondays.  I put it all together for my newest product...
This pack includes directions for an entire year of Mad Science Monday experiments that are themed.  The themes are: 
September-School Rules & Tools
October-Apples, Fire, Pumpkins, Monsters
November-Five Senses
December-Gingerbread & Holidays
January-Winter & Space
February-Earth & Valentines' Day
March-Farms, St. Patrick's Day & Weather
April-Plants & Weather
May-Sun & Summer

The sheet can be simply used as directions for you OR you can send home the sheet at the end of each month so that families can have fun playing scientist at home.  The pack also includes a recording sheet that takes kids through the steps of the scientific method. 

As a bonus, the experiments match our science targets for kindergarten.  These are Minnesota's targets:

I can describe and compare with others the weather around me.
I can sort objects by human made and those found in nature.
I can sort objects by color, size, shape and texture and explain why.
I can record the weather and notice the changes.
I can identify the sun as a source of heat and light.
I can observe and compare plants and animals.
I can identify the parts of plants and animals including humans.
I can sort living and nonliving things.
I can name and describe living and nonliving things in it’s natural environment.
You can check it out on TPT here.

Still reading?  Leave a comment with favorite Mo Willems book or favorite science experiment to do with kids and I'll give away A Year of Mad Science tomorrow night.  Don't forget to leave your e-mail address, too!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mondays, Fridays and a Writing Freebie

I am loving Mondays this year!  Weird, I know but for good reason.  This year I implemented Mad Science Mondays!  Each Monday we do a science experiment that matches our theme.  The kids LOVE it!  Then I saw an idea on First Grade in Foxwell Forest for making our own lab coats out of white T-shirts.  So much fun!  We made them the other day by cutting down the front (from next to waist).  Then they wrote their name and the word Scientist on the back.
Aren't they cute?!  My kids can't wait to wear them each Monday! 

I am also loving Fridays!  We have a cart of iPads in our school loaded with good apps.  I check it out each Friday for an hour.  
Here are some of our favorite apps...


We have rocked the Daily Five this year!  It took only 3 days to reach our stamina goal of 10 minutes.  Then, we mastered Word Work in 3 days.  Listen to Reading was a breeze.  I most recently introduced Work on Writing.  I am trying something new this year and am really liking it.
I have 6 bins for Work on Writing.  Kids can use their writing notebooks to write what they want.  I used clear packing tape to attach their name card to the inside.  I ask them to write their name using the model on the top of the page they are working on.  I used clear packing tape to attach the card so they can flip the name card to the right page. 
 Then they are ready to write.
Each bin has the fabulously FREE cards from Kindergarten Smiles

I also made this card for my kids.

I haven't offered a freebie for awhile so you can get your own card for FREE by clicking on the picture.  It is also editable so you can enter the names of your kiddos in the box "our class."  I printed 6 of them on card stock and put them in a page protector.  Kids can write these words in their notebooks.

I wanted something else for the bins so I am also using the Deedee's Writing Word Stations.

So far I've just introduced lists and labeling, but my kids love it!  What do you put in your Work On Writing tubs?  I'd love to hear!