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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Happy New Year!!!...Well, Almost.

To me, August is like New Year come early.  It's the time of year when I make resolutions to be a better, more precise teacher.  It's easy to get swept away in the power of Pinterest and Instagram photos, so I try to focus on THREE essential resolutions for the year.

I'll admit it-- this past year was not my very best.  I got married at a destination venue, my best friend got married a month after, AND the family decided to take a few side trips during the school year to Disneyland, Whistler, and Vegas! I lived from weekend social gathering to the next school break, not leaving a ton of extra time for me to explore and expand my practice.  That's just how some years go; I've accepted it.  But I vow to make this upcoming year even better!

I haven't decided which three resolutions I will take up this year, but one will certainly be to improve my organizational skills in terms of differentiating instruction.  I stumbled upon this awesome share of Miss DeCarbo's, and I can't wait to prep all my materials to fit! We use Nellie Edge's heart words so I'll have to alter her idea, but I am so excited about it!
Check her TpT Store out!




Miss DeCarbo's Sight Word differentiation is found here!


Friday, July 8, 2016

Read Well, Read Well!

Well, I'll be the first to admit that my reading groups did not hit their maximum potential this year.  I decided to spend some time pinning and reading up a little on some better, more invigorating ways to engage my kiddos this year! Thank GOODNESS Pinterest exists!

First, I needed a little refresher on Read Well since I've gotten a little sloppy in years.  Come to find out there were non-fiction booklets and an activity book that go with the curriculum that I have never seen in my life!
My goal is to search through my drawers and files for old laminated games we used to use during Walk to Read.  I have such a small group, there's really no reason not to split them into pairs or trios and work more intensively with them...but for that, I need independent work! 

All Students Can Shine has some great resources AND the perfect sequential order for these activities listed! Can't wait to run those off and keep them in a Walk to Read pull out! One Sharp Bunch also has some great RTI activities for those low kiddos.  I guess it all adds up, but usually our district offers some reimbursement for things like this, so I'll pay it forward this time.

Excited to re-vamp my teaching!!! Sometimes all it takes is some fresh new products and shiny new laminate!




Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pangs of Retention in Kindergarten



There are twenty-five little bodies packed into my all-day Kindergarten classroom.  I have seen five years of typical 5-year-old growth, have much experience with ELLs, and feel confident that my low performing students receive ample interventions and support throughout the day.  That’s why, as I sit across from Miguel’s apprehensive mother, I feel strongly about recommending retention for her baby.

It’s only Kindergarten.
He’s still young.
He won’t even notice if he’s held back.
It’s March, and he can only recognize a handful of letters and numbers.
He struggles at every activity, and I can safely predict that he will continue to struggle
drastically in first grade.

I know full-well that communicating about retention to a Latino parent can be different than a Caucasian parent because traditionally, teachers are very respected in Latino culture.  Many Latino parents simply trust that the teacher knows what is best for their child, much like a doctor is trusted to know the correct prescription for an illness.  I take this very seriously and only make these recommendations when I am certain that retention is what is best for the child.

Mom listens, agrees, and we move forward to make a meeting with the Guidance Team, which consists of our school counselor, school psychologist, reading specialist, ELL specialist, math specialist, Special Education teacher, and principal.   
When we meet, I present my assessments and observations.  I describe all the interventions the child has received in September.  All the teachers who work with the child speak on his abilities at this time.  I agree with it all, ready to wrap things up, and then someone speaks out on the negative effects of retention.


And then we don’t retain.


This infuriates me.  I group together with other teachers and grumble about it.  I shake my head about how we are failing this child.  I glumly imagine how much harder this kid’s life is going to be because he has not mastered kindergarten skills. I have kids leaving my class reading books and this one tells me 12/26 letters on a good day.  

Then I go home, and I start to read the research.




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Stay tuned for my post on CORElaborate March 20th to follow up on this topic.
 



How I Feel After Trimester 2 Assessments


I know this is an older video, but I have seen it a million times and it still cracks me up.  It's for real my life right now.
And that's ok.
Happy Sunday!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lazy Mid-Winter Break

I am sitting here, barely awake, at 11:11 AM on a FRIDAY.  Where the heck did my week GO?! I never sleep in this much, and I certainly don't feel like it should be the end of the week.  I was given this amazing gift of one week away from children so I could get my thoughts together, catch up on teacher blogging, read some inspirational literature...

...instead I watched reruns of Modern Family, snuggled with my dog, and blogged about some pictures my friends and I took.  I mean, really. (But if you feel like enabling my lack of professionalism, you can check out my new personal blog here.)

With TWO major upcoming weddings (mine and my best friend's), this is really the last week I had to catch up on gifts, swim suit purchases, and any maid of honor duties.  Plus also, the key to not getting sick on the Big Day is rest and relaxation...so I'm going to go ahead and give myself a pass for being lazy this break.

HOWEVER, I write only to tell you to please check in this upcoming month! As we near our zoo field trip, I will be posting some cool zoo-themed lessons (which is great, since my classroom is a Jungle theme).  ANNNNNNNNNND....my most favorite of all favorite lessons is coming.......

THE WEDDING OF Q & U.

Please stay tuned for some FABULOUS kindergarten fun!
xoxoxo


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Penguin Silly Reading!

If you're doing a penguin unit, I created these to help my kiddos practice reading those tricky sight words! They LOVE penguins so they have been super motivated to learn "this" and "here" sentences if we have penguins involved!

Click here for penguin Read and Draw homework and activities.  

4 pages of read and draw included...free!!

Pierre the Penguin


This was such a fabulous read to end our penguin unit this week! It actually made me tear up the first time I read it...I just LOVE penguins! The kids loved the story and were very engaged. 

After the read aloud, we brainstormed some silly outfits we might choose to put Pierre in if we were allowed to! 
Here's the writing sheet if you want to try the activity! Took us about 45 minutes to read the book, discuss, model the writing, and do it. 

Writing Template for Pierre the penguin here!

"Pierre will wear a phone and backpack!!!!" 

We are true Washingtonians! 


Or, if you're still wishing December was here, "Pierre will wear an elf costume."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lockdown!

Today is the day we tell the kids that while school is a safe place, sometimes, there are scary people who try to hurt you.  I have to give them the hard, sad truth that there are people with guns who make some sad choices to hurt others.  We walk through all our procedures of what to do during a lockdown.  We tell them where to hide.  We tell them not to open the door, even if someone says "It's the police!" We tell them to listen for not one adult, but two adults, to announce that it is safe to exit classrooms.  It's a pretty REAL conversation, and it breaks my heart.

However, it's better to be prepared and deal with a tough conversation than to be sensitive and unprepared! Here's a quick worksheet I developed to help the kids process all the things we talked about.  We have special safety latches on our doors, so I just hand drew in our locks on one of the worksheets.  I left that space blank, so you can draw in whichever lock you classroom has.

I'm currently working on a class reader about lockdowns to assist in the tricky conversation! Stay tuned!



Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Year Around the World

I'm Peruvian-American and my family has always had the best time celebrating New Year.  In Latin America, we have all sorts of crazy-fun customs and superstitions surrounding New Year! I decided to create a mini unit based on a few countries around the world and their traditions.  Turns out Latin Americans aren't the only ones with weird customs!

Greece

 The Greeks celebrate with a number of customs, but I thought the one we could translate best to Kindergarten world would be the smashing of the pomegranate! They say the first to cross the threshold of a house on New Year gets to smash a pomegranate.  The number of seeds that come out determines how lucky that family will be in the coming year!



France


In France, people eat something called King's Cake.  The cake sometimes has a plastic coin in the center.  The person who gets the coin is king for the day! I just bought some Sticky Buns from the grocery store and introduced that as King's Cake.  Inside one of them, I cut out a thin slice and stuck a plastic coin inside.  The kids had so much fun eating their way through the cake to see who would be king!
 



This little man got it! He wore a construction paper yellow crown the whole day :)

Denmark
 


 In Denmark, the custom is to throw your old plates at the door for good luck.  We obviously couldn't do real plates so I chose a few kids to have fun throwing paper plates at the door.  Then everyone got to tear apart paper plates at their desks.  There really was no point to the tearing of the plates, but the kids LOVED IT.  Just goes to show how much fun kids are having if they're breaking stuff! :)


 The Danes also literally jump into the New Year at midnight by jumping off of chairs.  This one was a bit riskier, but what's life without a little risk?  The kids did great.

 Afterwards, of course, we debriefed about the traditions and talked about if they made sense to us.  The kids recorded their experiences during writing.



Peru
 I'm obviously biased, but this day if my favorite.  I set aside a whole day for Peruvian New Year. Wearing yellow is the big thing!!
 The kids also received a print out of grapes, which are supposed to bring you luck.  (For real, we all go under the table and eat 12 grapes at midnight.  In Kindergarten, I just make them pose for a picture).
 
 We also put pennies in our shoes for good fortune, and beans in our pocket to ensure 12 months of good food.

The last thing is to walk around the "block" (or in our case, the school) with a suitcase (or in our case, with backpacks).  You do this to ensure 12 months of good travel.  At the end, we got in our class photo!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Christmas Around the World: Ukraine, Australia, Brazil

Week Two of Holidays Around the World was a hoot and a half! I bought some Insta-Snow here on Amazon.com for a fun sensory center! When I bought it, it was only about $10 and was on Prime.  It looks like the price has gone up since then, so I would recommend waiting until Christmas time next year to purchase.  It was well worth it!!!! I made two tubs full and still have about half a jar left for next year.  If you store it in plastic gallon bags, it lasts FOREVER (which is about a month, in Kindergarten).  We used it most of December.  I threw in some plastic animal toys and the kids had a blast.


Ukraine & Russia

  
I am very fortunate to have many students who are Ukrainian this year, so I was able to ask their families for some inspiration! We colored in Babuska dolls (I just hand-drew some on paper for the kids to color).  Then we made some out of scrapbook paper!  I had a high school helper trace the dolls shapes and cut them out for me, so all the kids had to do was glue on the faces and draw on eyes and a mouth.  They got to pick which paper they liked best and really enjoyed this activity.  I laminated them all and added some glitter so the kids could add them to their parents' Christmas gift bags.


I had a parent make us Trubokchi, which is like a horn with a sweet cream filling inside.  As I've said before, cultural learning is best approached by FOOD, in my opinion! The kids have a hard time remembering the names of countries and the different symbols that go with each Christmas celebration, but they have no problem remembering the food we eat. 

Meanwhile, we watched The Story of Babushka on YouTube.  Really great animation.

 Another parent donated a bag of Ukrainian candy for us to taste.  These tasted a lot like Zotz!

 Australia
I cannot possibly continue this post without giving you a link to this musical gem on YouTube.
Aussie Christmas Music is just the best.  The kids were laughing the whole day listening to it.  Our favorite was, of course, 6 White Boomers.  We sang it all day.

The story goes that reindeer would overhear in Australia's heated Christmas, so Santa trades them in for 6 elderly kangaroos! I WISH there was a children's book about this!!!
 
 I just google image searched "6 white boomers" and I found this guy.  I enlarged it and copied it for the kids to color.  I even made some extra kangaroos for the kids who wanted to be accurate.


 I also have this gem, which is one of my holiday favorites.  It's a picture book that tells the story of a wombat that is only looking for carrots.  He keeps getting into it with Santa's reindeer, who also want the carrots.  It's very cute!

You can find it here from Amazon.com.


 I took the cover of the book and free-hand drew the wombat and a carrot to create this mystery coloring picture with teen numbers.  


 Our craft was making sunglasses! I had the high school helper trace and cut out all the glasses out of cardstock for me.  The kids decorated them with Christmas stickers and taped a Popsicle stick on!


Brazil

I bought some Panetonne for the kids to taste on Brazil day.  Really, no one liked it much (including me.  Latin Americans LOVE this stuff for some reason, but I have always hated it!) THIS KID was the only one who really loved it, so he got to take home all the leftovers! 1 Panetonne is PLENTY for the entire class.  I had more than half leftover.


video

We "played" a Brazillian game very similar to Secret Santa, called Amigo Secreto ("Secret Friend.")  Usually the game is played throughout all of December, but we boiled it down to a 30 minute writing chunk! I carefully assigned each kid to one student in the class.  I whispered to them who their Amigo Secreto was, and their job was to write them a nice note.  Then at carpet, I read them aloud and revealed who the secret friends were.  In this video, I included only two examples since I have to say their names (only first names).  

Christmas Around the World: Isreal, Greece, Sweden

Holy moly, the days have FLOWN by and I am suddenly super behind in my blog posts.  Ah, well, you can always tuck away this knowledge for next year.  I did learn that this Holidays Around the World unit is very labor intensive, despite my attempts to pair it down.  I think next year, I will definitely choose 3 or 4 countries to focus on and leave it at that. 

NEVERTHELESS, looking back at the pictures, the kids really had a ton of fun and learned a lot.  This is what Kindergarten is all about: loving school, inspiring curiosity about the world, and having the time of your life!

Isreal

Here you see the kids posing with their marshmallow dreidels!  I found the recipe on Pinterest.  I kept it simple and only did marshmallows, chocolate kisses, and pretzels.  Most of the chocolate kisses fell off or were eaten before this photo... :)
Marshmallow Dreidel Recipe Here!

I also read Patricia Polacco's book below.  It is quite wordy and long, so I broke it up into two parts, but the kids seemed to really enjoy the art and story.  It does not take place in Isreal, but rather has Ukrainian roots, so it was an interesting way to tie in the holiday and another country.


Greece
The Greeks believe that a small goblin called the Killantzaroi can sneak into your home through the chimney and causes mischief, so they light fires every night leading up until New Year to keep the creature away.  I kept this as basic as I could, but it was so much fun to teach the kids about it.  


They created fire torches during center time and posed for this picture attempting to keep the Killantzaroi at bay!

Sweden

 In the past, I have made Sweden & Norway a two week long mini-unit.  Scandinavian culture surrounding the holidays is WONDERFUL.  This time, I boiled it down to two days.  The boys all made Star Boy hats at the carpet...

 

...while the girls sat at their desks, making St. Lucia crowns.  (I have a high school helper who comes in regularly, so she helped the girls, while I helped the boys.  All the materials were pre-cut and the kids were only in charge of gluing everything on.)
 
 I made a St. Lucia emergent reader you can find by clicking on that link!  The kids can color it in and share it with their parents.  I also made a St. Lucia Big Book (GLAD style) you can download here for free! Print, laminate, and bind it yourself.

 The kiddos just look adorable with their little hats.
 I am ALL ABOUT teaching culture through food (who doesn't remember food they like?!) so I had my mother-in-law make me Spritz cookies and I made FAUX-lefsa.  Last year, I had a parent whose family makes real lefsa every year, so we got to taste that, but this year, I was pressed for time. 
I KNOW it's not the same thing, but my intent was to just expose the kids to something similar.  Don't hate! I grabbed some whole wheat tortillas (one bag was more than enough).  I sliced each tortilla 4 ways with a pizza cutter, put on some butter and cinnamon-sugar, and popped it all in the microwave for 1 minute.  The kids loved it, so I call that a win.

Of course, no holiday party is complete without hot cocoa, so we included that as well :)