Friday, July 31, 2015

AlphaBOOM: Learning the Alphabet Through Names

Hey guys! I'm linking up with Babbling Abby today to share my favorite alphabet activities.  My favorite way to teach the alphabet is by starting with the children's names.  They are so excited and motivated to read and write their name and the names of their new friends! Here are a few things we do during our name unit the first couple weeks of school.

The first day, we always read The Kissing Hand and make this predictable chart.  I love for my kids to see their names over and over those first days - great letter practice and it makes the classroom feel like theirs!

We also make "Star Names."  These are great fine motor and letter practice.

To make them, write your students names large, with ample space between each letter.  Get these star stickers.  You can find them at any office supply place.

I cut the stickers into strips so each child can only use one color.  The names come out much easier to read that way.  Then, I explain how to follow the lines and place the stickers closely together to make their name.  Most kids are able to do this independently, but this is also a great small group activity!  After we finish the names, I post them right by our carpet area, so we can refer to them throughout the year.

We make these fun BIG letters of the first letter in our name.  I draw the letter and add random lines.  I tell the kids to color each section a different color.

Once they are done coloring, we cut out the letter and I take their picture with it.  We use the pictures to make a class book that the kids LOVE.

These letters look really cool taped to the ceiling around the room (as long as your fire marshal allows it).  And it gives the kids something to look at during rest time.

Once we have learned the letters in our names and our friends' names, we also do a lot of letter sound sorting activities.  This is one of my kids' favorites - and it incorporates graphing, too!

Beginning Consonant Spin and Graph...the kids spin the spinner, identify the beginning sound, and write that letter on their graph.  This is a simple way to practice first sound segmentation and letter writing.  It usually starts as a small group activity, and then moves into a center after the kids become independent.  I have this game in my TpT store and it includes all the consonants except for X.

One other thing I like about this game is that a letter "wins" when it reaches the top, but none of the students lose.  They love predicting what letter will win and get excited to see it reach the top!

Thanks for reading through all these fun activities today.  I'm looking forward to reading everybody's alphabet ideas!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Welcome Letters and Kindergarten Assessments {Freebies}

As August quickly approaches, it seems like everyone's preparing for back to school!  We don't start school until late August but I am definitely in back-to-school mode.  I have a few freebies I wanted to share that will hopefully be useful to some of you!

My principal asked us to put together a welcome letter for our class to go with the back-to-school packets she sends out.  Here's mine...

When I was putting this together, I thought some other teachers might find it useful, so I have this blank template.  Just save it as a picture and insert it into a PowerPoint file to edit.  Insert text boxes and images to make it work for you.

I also wanted to share how my team does kindergarten assessments.  We pick a few afternoons in August and invite the students in for their assessment.  It only takes 10 minutes or so per student, and we set out books and coloring materials for the kids who are waiting.  We've also done this in the spring, during our registration.  The big advantage to that is not having to come in over the summer.  However, the information is not as useful because it's outdated by the time we start school.  It's worth it to me to give up a few afternoons so I can start my year off knowing where my students are and where I should focus.

This year, I put together a new assessment and I wanted to share it with you!  We do a very basic academic assessment to give us an idea of the students' current level and their most pressing needs.  It includes alphabet recognition, name writing, counting, and concepts of print.  All you need to complete it is a pencil, 10 counters, and a simple guided reading book that includes two lines of text per page.

If you think you might be able to use this with your students, click here for a free download.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kinder Tribe Linky: All About Me

I'm linking up with the new Kinder Tribe blog to share all about me!

I love teaching kindergarten!  I started off teaching K and after my second year looped up to first with my class.  That was a great experience, and I would definitely do it again with the right group, but my heart belongs in kindergarten!

Country music is without a doubt my favorite.  I am always listening to it and love going to concerts, too!  I just got caught up on the show Nashville and can't wait for the new season!

Colored card stock makes me so happy.  It brightens up any project and can be used for so many things in the classroom.  It was an easy pick for favorite supplies.

My students and I love reading Mo Willems books.  We especially like the Piggie and Elephant series, and the Pigeon books.  They are hilarious and also contain a lot of sight words - perfect for kindergarten.

Miss Kindergarten is definitely my favorite kinder blog.  She is so talented and has great ideas!

I love kindergarten because the kids' enthusiasm is contagious. It is so fun to teach every day, knowing they will be excited about what we are learning.  It's my goal to keep that excitement and passion for learning going strong, so they'll hopefully carry it with them throughout their school careers.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Five for Friday - July 17

I had a great first week of summer school and I'm excited to share about it while linking up for Five for Friday!

My summer school students are rising first graders who needed extra literacy practice.  We are working on their literacy skills and also incorporating a lot of science activities to keep things engaging and build their critical thinking.   

1. On Monday, we did a five senses exploration where they explored our "ocean sensory bin."  The bin included water, sand, shells, pebbles and sea glass.  I also gave them magnifying glasses to look at things up close but they preferred to spend most of their time with both hands in the sand and water.  I also mixed up salt and water to let them "taste" a little of the ocean.  When they finished, they wrote about what they found for each of their senses.   

2. We talked about jellyfish and made these little paper bowl jellyfish.  They decorated however they wanted and then added ribbons.  Super simple and they look great hanging from our ceiling!

3. We used this differentiated Ocean Animals book to practice our reading and introduce ourselves to a variety of different sea animals.  The kids were excited to have a take home book to share with their families.

4. Since the ocean is made of salt water, we did some explorations that focused on how salt and water work together.  We talked about how they put salt on the roads when it's cold and icy, and explored how salt can melt ice.  We used eye droppers to add colored water, so we could see the designs the salt made as the ice melted.  They loved this experiment!  We did it for about an hour, and they wanted to continue but we had to get ready for lunch.   (This idea came from The Artful Parent, but since I was doing it in a classroom, I gave each kid one tray with one piece of ice on it.  To make the ice, I just used whatever tupperware containers I had at home.)

5. We also did an experiment to show how water can move on salt.  The kids drew and cut out an outline of a fish.  Then, they added lines with glue.  We sprinkled salt on top.  After it dried, I showed them how they could wet their brush with watercolors, touch it to the salt, and watch it move up the line.  This was another popular activity.  I think it would be a really cool activity for beginning of the year, with the kids tracing their names.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ocean Book Review

I wanted to share some of the best ocean books I've found for kindergarten.  There are so many great choices out there, fiction and non-fiction, but these are a few favorites!

1. Atlantic, by G. Brian Karas.  This is a beautiful book, in both pictures and words.  It is written in a poetic tone, with the Atlantic ocean as narrator.  I love it for both the facts it shares and the romantic picture it paints of the Atlantic.

2. Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea, by Jan Peck.  This is a super fun book, and the first one I read to my summer school class!  It gives an overview of animals you can find in the ocean from the perspective of a little boy using his imagination in the bathtub.  The rhyming verse makes for a great phonemic awareness connection as well!

3. Hello Ocean, by Pam Munoz Ryan.  I love this book for teaching students how to observe using all five senses.  A little girl narrates and describes in rich language how she experiences the ocean using each of her five senses.  I used this to introduce a science lesson, where students had to observe our "mini ocean" (sensory bin) and write to describe what they saw, smelled, heard, felt, and tasted.

4. Eye Wonder: Oceans, by DK Publishing.  My favorite thing about this book is the way it teaches about ocean zones.  It has two pages that explain the three ocean zones.  Then, each following page about different animals includes a diagram showing which ocean zones you can find the animal in.  It helps reinforce the concept of the zones while students read about different sea animals.

5. I Wonder Why The Sea is Salty, by Anita Ganeri.  This book has answers to some of the questions your students might ask, like: Why is the sea salty?  What is sand made of?  And, how deep is the ocean?  It is a good way to answer curious minds with easy-to-understand language, and it also provokes students to think deeply about what they're studying.

6. The Pout Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen.  This has been one of my favorite books for a long time!  My students always love it and want to hear it again and again.  The illustrations and rhymes are so fun and the repetitive language makes it easy for kids to read along.

7. The Ocean Story, by John Seven.  I couldn't teach an ocean unit without including information on pollution and conservation.  The Ocean Story shares this information in a kid-friendly way.  Jana Christy's illustrations are beautiful, too!

8. National Geographic's First Big Book of the Ocean, by Catherine D. Hughes.  This is a great book which your kids will love.  It has awesome photographs and colorful, simple diagrams.  I love it for teaching about non-fiction text features, like the table of contents, index, captions, and diagrams.  It's also organized in a unique way - by the four oceans.  This helps students to internalize the concept of the different oceans and associate animals with the different geographical areas.

9. Bats at the Beach, by Brian Lies.  This is kind of a bonus book, because it's not so much about the ocean as the beach.  I just love all of Brian Lies' bat books, so I can't resist the opportunity to read one!  My kids squeal at the bug-snacks the bats eat, and we love spotting the inventive ways the bats act like people at the beach.  Definitely a must read for summer!

What's your favorite ocean book?  I would love to add more to my collection!

Saturday, July 11, 2015


So, I've really neglected my blog this past year.  During the school year, I'm so busy and then in the summer, when I have time to blog, I have so much less to blog about.  I'm excited for the next month though, because starting Monday, I'll be teaching half-day summer school.  I'm excited about the new unit I'm teaching - Under the Sea - and I'll still have more time in my schedule than I do during the school year.  Hopefully, that combination will help me to revive my blog.

You can check out my pinterest board for some of what I've got planned for my almost first graders this summer!  I have eight students who just finished kindergarten, and we are focusing on their literacy skills and science integration to prepare them for first grade.  I'm also planning on integrating a lot of art activities.

I'll also be posting a lot on my new instagram account.  So I hope you'll follow me there!  Stay tuned for more soon...thanks for sticking with me!
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