Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Swap & Hop!

Hi ya'll! It's Jeannie from Kindergarten Lifestyle and I am lovin' being back at Kreative in Kinder! Today I'm going to give you a peek inside my Writer's Workshop!

The one thing I've learned about Writer's Workshop is that when people talk about it - they often mean entirely different things. Writer's Workshop can look completely different in classrooms depending greatly on the teacher's philosophy on teaching writing.... I know this because I myself have moved from one side of the continuum to the other throughout my teaching career.

Prior to about 3 years ago, I taught writing based largely on prompt writing activities. All the writing my kids did was in response to something I asked. I spent time modeling how to master the mechanics of writing (capitalization, punctutation, etc.) and the best way to "respond" to a written prompt. And yes this is a VERY tempting avenue - especially when we are faced with high stakes testing in which kids MUST write in response to a prompt.

However, about 3 years ago I was introduced to Lucy Calkins' Units of Study K-2 and that is when my own Writer's Workshop began to transform. 

Now coming from a teacher that was very prescriptive, it wasn't always an easy transition. However, I am happy to say that I am NOT the writing teacher I used to be. I'm not saying there's never a time for using prompt writing response activities. I think there is definitely a time and place for that sort of practice and reflective thinking. However, I do believe if we teach children to write the stories that are in their hearts and souls on a daily basis - they will be able to attack any response writing activity that comes their way. I have watched my students' writing grow by leaps and bounds. In fact, my kindergarteners write as well as the 2nd graders I used to teach (that is a bit embarrassing to admit). The style of writing instruction that Lucky Calkins' advocates really works!  So, I wanted to give you a peek inside my classroom during Writer's Workshop.

At the beginning of the year, I use LOTS of time pumping the kids up for this special time. I really make a big deal about being writers and how all of us are writers with stories to tell. I take reluctant writers and "prove" to them that they have amazing stories to tell/write. And, once they are empowered with that belief - amazing writers is exactly what they become!

I use music to signal nearly every part of our school day. And, Writer's Workshop is no exception. I use beautiful, calm music that the kids fall in love with. Many teachers use classical music. I do NOT because I find it tends to help little ones fall asleep to easy :0) So, I use soft music that is also catchy...These songs become the mantra of our Writer's Workshop time for the entire year.

In addition to music, I also turn half the lights out and use lamps instead - it really helps to set the tone for a quiet, peaceful writing time. And, it's a time the kids REALLY enjoy - they do not like missing Writer's Workshop time. :0)

 Kids choose their perfect writing spot.... We are usually laid out all over the room. They take their writing folders (or composition books during the last month of school) along with their crayons and pen to a place in the room where they sit or lay down to write. heard me correct! My kids write with pens - not pencils. The reason is two-fold.
1. I don't have to sharpen pencils :0)
2. The focus is on getting our ideas/stories on paper - not perfection. There is no erasing...or throwing paper away... we do our best work! If we mess up we draw a line through it and keep right on going!

The picture above shows our "showcase" at the end of Writer's Workshop. This is a time when the kids return the carpet and sit in a circle with their writing. Then, when we say "Showcase" everyone shows off their writing job! They are so proud of the writing they do - especially by the end of the year. After "showcase" comes the time when they "turn & talk" about their story with someone sitting beside them. 

**You may notice they are using composition books in these pictures. For the majority of the year they use basic writing paper (from the Lucy Calkins' Units of Study CD). However, the last month of school, I have them use the composition books. By now their writing has grown so wonderfully I want them to refer back to it during the summer and continue using the composition book during summer to write. It's sort of a rite of passage :0)Trust me, they remember those special stories they wrote the last month of school and it helps them take school memories home. :0)

Another way to allow them to take home those memories is to implement Writer's Workshop Portfolios from Day 1. I made this portfolio that is perfect for documenting student progress throughout the year AND makes a wonderful parent gift at the end of the year. It's like killing 2 birds with 1 stone (Gosh I hate that saying!)....Anyhoo - 
Click HERE to grab the portfolio for FREE!

I hope you enjoyed this peek inside our Writer's Workshop. Please leave a comment below and tell me about yours or any questions or concerns you have about Writer's Workshop!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Curriculum Changes...Oy!

So, my district announced yesterday that we are scrapping our curriculum and doing CSCOPE next year. Since I help write the kindergarten science curriculum and we just rewrote the ENTIRE THING three weeks ago, um I was a little upset.

Do you use CSCOPE? I used it in my last school and I was not a fan. I am kinda heart broken. Why do things keep sucking my summer joy? LOL! Back from Oklahoma. No passing out or falling down. We had a great time. On the way home I made a to do list a mile long. I have a week and a half to go before I leave for I Teach K and Frog Street Press Splash. OMG! Just typing that is giving me anxiety. I haven’t been able to work on class themes in a few days which is stressing me out too. Dang you to do list! Haha! This is how I feel today. You are NOT supposed to feel like this during summer! 

And, get this! I am THREE episodes behind on The Bachelorette. Geez Louise! Ok, sorry this has no educational benefit today. I am kinda in a funk today and am trying to work up the strength to throw myself on the treadmill. I worked out yesterday and didn’t fly off the treadmill so odds are in my favor for tonight. I need a swift kick in the rear. J I need to finish my charts for my Writer’s Workshop Presentation. I am not sure why I didn’t just take the ones from school that are already made. Instead I thought I would make new fresh ones. Silly girl! 

Okay, I am going to go work out. Before I go, back to this CSCOPE situation. Do you use it? Do you love/hate it? I need feedback to make me feel betteror worse...or I don’t know. Haha! I will be back tomorrow with something hopefully meaningful in the teacher world. Have a great night! Love and virtual hugs!

Don’t forget..comment please. CSCOPE! Focus. J

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Math Stations Differentiated!

Hello from the lakes of Northern Michigan.  My name is Marsha from A Differentiated Kindergarten and I am so delighted to take a little virtual trip today to Texas to fill in for my kinder blogging pal Crystal and introduce you to my MOST favorite small group activity . . .  MATH STATIONS!  Ask any kinder in my classroom and they'll tell ya, 'Mrs. McGuire LOVES math stations."  There is just something about how smoothly they run, students are so engaged and to be honest, it's just plain fun.  While I've used Debbie Diller's book, Math Work Stations  to get me started, of course, I've had to tweak it a bit here and there to make her style fit my own classroom and the way I differentiate for my kinders. 

I use a base of nine different stations which students rotate through twice before I typically change them.  Even though there are nine stations available, at any given time, only six are being used.  Each drawer is assigned a number and the numbers 1-9 move down through the six groups of students I have.  I like this drawer system because it's neat and there aren't many activities that can't be stored easily in them.  Plus my students can manage retrieving and putting them back independently. BONUS!  The other HUGE addition to my stations I started this year, is to identify a 'materials handler' in each group.  These are the students who hand out and put away all the objects from an activity. No one else is allowed to grab or handle the materials unless the material manager gives them directions.  This has been a MAJOR help in eliminating fighting and bickering over who gets to do what.

There are no more than four students at a station and depending on the activity, they either work in pairs, individually or as a group.  Because my room is so small, this has been the best system and number for me.  Groups are color coded to help with tiering but are very flexible.  I switch up groups and a students name may be on a different colored tag (that's why I laminate them) depending on the skills we are working on during a given rotation.
The way the colored systems works is that, if a station is tiered, inside the drawer students will find a corresponding bag or envelope or some kind of similar storage systems with their colored 'dot' on it. So for instance, a students who has their name on an orange tag will look for orange dot and use the materials from that envelope.  All the students who visit this station will do the same kind of activity, their will just be different materials to meet their level of readiness. Also, the groups are not always necessarily one color.  Because everything in the drawer is coded, I could literally have three different colors of student tags working from the same drawer because they each would know which work was for them.  Kind of like 'oh my name is on an orange tag so the activities I can choose from are in the orange bag/envelope.'

Here's an example of what I mean.
If you look at my math station planning page for math stations it looks something like this . . .

You'll notice that each station has a place to indicate the 'core concept or skill' (one of the three guiding principals of differentiated instruction) and then there are three sections where, if the activity is tiered, I can indicate how.

So for station number 7 above, when a students arrive at that station they will find in their drawer three envelopes that look like this:

If the student's name is written on a blue card, they would grab the blue envelope, green card green envelope and so on.  In each envelope is a recording sheet for a common subtraction write the room activity.  The difference is that they will be looking for different cards that correspond with their particular recording sheet and tier.

When they find the write the room cards, they will look like this:
By looking at their recording sheet, they can see that they are looking for either the green, blue or pink bordered cards and corresponding see animals.  Surprisingly, they pick up this system very easily and it works like a charm in my tiny little room.

I want to point something important out to you. You'll notice that I don't tier EVERY station.  No one has that much time. In fact, if you're just starting out tiering your stations, I would say just start with one or two stations being tiered.  Also, when you introduce a new skill or new materials such as solid shapes or tens blocks, you'll need to give your kiddos some time to explore those materials initially.  I find if I make new materials 'exploratory' for a certain amount of time, then I don't see as much 'playing' when it comes time to really work with them.

Ok, so I hope I got your gears moving a bit and have you thinking about differentiating your math stations.  By all means, if you have questions, stop on over to A Differentiated Kindergarten and check me out and in the meantime, I never go 'visiting' without bringing a gift, so below, please find a differentiated tens frame/number recognition activity for you to use this fall with your new batch of kiddos.  If you decide to download it, I hope you stop on over to my blog and leave me a comment of what you think.

Thanks for making my visit a pleasant one.

Thanks Marsha for posting! I LOVE your ideas! I am such a visual learner so these picture are perfect. I am just saying hi from Oklahoma. Nothing tragic has happened this week and that has been fabulous. J We are having a great time with family and if it were up to my kiddos, we would stay another week but I need to get home so I can get ready for Frog Street Press. J Here are the units I posted yesterday. More to come soon. Have a great (and safe) weekend. Thanks again to all of my guest bloggers while I am chilling with my family. <>< Crystal

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Math Centers: Number Sense

Hi Friends! This is Katie King from Queen of the First Grade Jungle! I am so lucky to be guest blogging for the WONDERFUL and oh-so-sweet Crystal!

I wanted to talk today about Number Sense!! And if you can stick with me until the end, you will get a great freebie!

Let me give you a little back story that goes with this post--- as primary teachers I am sure most of you can relate to this little tidbit.

Summer of 2011 I am sitting in a math training. The big, scary 4th and 5th grade teachers are complaining because we little bitty primary teachers gave them kids who can't do ANYTHING.

(Just so you can follow along PT- primary teacher and IT- Intermediate teacher)

PT: Wait. I am confused. Aren't their MAP scores great?

IT: Well, yes.

PT: Don't they do a fabulous job on the State Testing?

IT: Ummm, you are right.

PT: Well then, do tell us what we  can work on please?

IT: They  know the processes and the procedures, but they have no number sense.   They can figure out about any problem given a large amount of time, but they are not automatic.

ding, ding, ding- Upper Grade Teachers-1 Primary Teachers- 0

After I consoled my bruised ego, I realized they were right. I was guilty, OH-so-guilty, of having my kids follow our math program, but not giving them enough time with numbers to develop a strong number sense.

And then I discovered...

I realized my kids needed time to play, time to discover, and time to talk! They needed to explore these numbers!

After installing Math Work Stations, I feel so much more confident about my students going on to the next grade level.
NOW, my kids work with numbers. NOW, they have a strong number sense.  NOW, I feel confident sticking up for myself to those Big, Bad Intermediate Teachers :)

Here are a few of the Math Work Stations that I love so much!

If you are lucky enough to have technology is your room, these two very similar math games are fantastic! I love that the students have to rely on the mental 100 chart that they are building to find the hidden objects/friends. These games are definitely classroom favorites! Click on the pictures to check them out:



I wish the picture below was better, but the little girl is playing a beginning of the year game where she draws a card out of a pile. She begins counting on from that number. SO essential and SO easy to adapt for any time of the year (pull in skip counting, even and odd, counting backwards).

This little girl is playing Number Line Squeeze. She and a partner are having great Math Talks with language like "greater than" and "less than."

 Speaking of greater than, less than talk- that gets us to my freebie I made for you all!  I feel that this game is a great way to develop math language and work on your students' number sense at the same time. Click on the picture below to go to my TPT store to collect your freebie!

I hope you enjoyed my Math Work Stations and walk away with at least one new idea!  I ALWAYS enjoy the chance to ramble on about my passions! If you haven't dropped my blog, please take a minute to do so, I would LOVE to have you!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study Chapter 2...kinda

Greetings friends! The kiddos and I made it safely to Oklahoma in one piece. So far, no mishapshallelujah! J I love spending time with family. My brother and sister-in-law have five kids so together we have eightoh fun times. Tonight I took all of the teenagers to see The Hunger Games. Wowzers! That was intense! Now I have to read the second book. My son has read all of them is loved them. I am hooked. Though, you wouldn’t have wanted to sit by me in the theater. I am one of those weirdos with my hands over my mouth, jumping out of my seat or gasping in astonishment.

I haven’t answered my questions for the Daily 5 book study this week because I left my book at homeoopsie! I will edit this post in a few days though with my reflections on this week’s chapter. Make sure you hop over to Caitlin’s blog, Kindergarten Smiles, and link up for this week’s reflections. I have enjoyed reading them. I hope you are enjoying this book study. When we are done with this, I am going to make a few things (freebies) for all of us that will help with carrying out the D5 methods. Yay for that!

Here are my latest classroom themes too. I am currently working on Apples and Farm. They should be posted tomorrow. Then on to the other 14 themes, haha! (click the picks to see more)

Have a great day! Get to book study hoppin!

Kindergarten Smiles

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Math Centers 101

Hi! I'm Mary from Mrs. Lirette's Learning Detectives.  I am thrilled to be guest blogging for Crystal!  She asked me to share a little math with you today.  Confession: When I was in school I absolutely despised math.  Now, for some reason, it is one of my favorite things to teach!

When I started teaching kindergarten a few years back, I knew I wanted to utilize math tubs.  I had 20 students so I wanted to have 20 different math tubs available.  20 at one time?? Yes, let me explain.   I taught whole group math on Mondays and guided groups with specific station activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Wednesdays and Fridays were reserved for what I referred to as "Tub Time."  It was a specific 30 minute block where my kids were able to review past concepts, build on current skills, or explore with manipulatives.  I wanted these tubs to be engaging, fun, and beneficial.  It was also a time when I could pull a small group or an individual for reteaching if needed, or just mingle around the room to observe my students in action.
At the beginning of the year I would place specific tubs in front of each student.  By the end, my students were able to freely choose which tubs they wanted to work with.  We would rotate or swap tubs every 5 minutes so that we were able to work in about 5 tubs each day.  This timing worked well for my class because it encouraged my kiddos to get to work right away, therefore eliminating their time off task.  Plus, these tubs were meant to be quick review lessons or exploration activities- not lengthy assignments.

A lot has changed since that first year!  In the beginning, I put so much thought and planning into my tub activities.  I'll be honest...sometimes I even went a little overboard.  :)  I had specific cutesy activities for each season and I spent so much time cutting and laminating!  We've all been there, right? By the end of the year I realized that the tubs that were the most popular were the basic ones that required few pieces and little planning time.  Phew!

Here are some examples of a few "staples" that stuck around.

  • Connect-the-dot pictures are great for number order.  You can find a huge selection of free ones on the internet that range in difficulty.  
  • Pattern blocks are also wonderful!  You can provide templates (also many free ones on the internet) or challenge students to create their own pictures, numbers, etc. with the blocks.  
  • Beads and string are great for patterning!  You can usually find large beads for pretty cheap.  I prefer the wood ones and shoelaces.
  • You can find the racetrack numbers and shapes at  Print and add a race car or two!
  • I found this Vtech handheld math game on clearance for $4 at Wal-Mart a few years back.  Well worth the batteries it runs through each year!
  • A geoboard and a hand full of rubber bands make for an exciting math tub!  You can provide picture cards for the kids to duplicate.  The number 7 is pictured but I found a great variety of shapes and designs for free online.  I shrank them down to card size and I add different cards to spice up the tub throughout the year.
  • These shape puzzles came from the Target Dollar Spot last year.  They look simple but they are really quite difficult!  You have to have a good grasp on shapes and spatial sense to work them quickly.
  • These lacing cards also came from the Target Dollar Spot {love that place!}.  It always amazes me how difficult lacing is for 5 year olds.  You can even challenge your students to lace a shape or number into the rectangle board.
The activities mentioned above usually are available all year for my students to work with.  I do have other tub activities that I change out seasonally or when we have successfully mastered a skill and are ready to move on.  Some of these include Roll and Cover games and Count and Clip games.  Both are favorites with my kids!  They love to predict what the next theme will be.  :)

Here are two "Star Friends" activities that I created specifically for math tubs this year. 

You can grab your own copy of these activities by clicking on the pictures above.  Add a few dice and counters for the Roll and Cover game and a handful of clothespins for the Count and Clip game and you are all set. {To make the clip game self-checking, just add stickers or dots to the back to show the correct answer!}

I hope I have given you some inexpensive ideas on how to fill up those math tubs in your classroom!  Thanks to Crystal for letting me share a little on her fabulous blog!


I have taught kindergarten, first, and second grade!  I absolutely love what I do and enjoy creating and sharing my ideas with others.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vacation is Overrated! But, classroom themes Aren't! :)

Vacation is so overrated! Now, usually I am all gung ho to pack up (packing is my favorite..for real!) and hit the road but this week has me rethinking.

Current Score: Vacation 0 Crystal 0

So, let’s recap. My family rented a cute little lake house on Lake LBJ last week. This is the second time we have chosen the lake vacation. You see, hubs is a big ole sissy and won’t fly, doesn’t like to sit in a car for hours on end (imagine that) and cruises are questionable, lol. So, we go an hr and a half away to a lake house. This makes my family laugh because we are not really outdoor people. I mean, I LOVE to swim and go outdoors but we don’t hunt or fish (well before this week) and prefer more of a city life. I know, shocking! I bet you thought all Texans wore cowboy hats and packed a shot gun. Nope, not us! Here is a view of the lake. Isn’t it so pretty?
Anywho, back to drama. We got in late afternoon Monday night so I just unpacked us and got us settled. I like to not live out of a suitcase for the week. J Tuesday we went the nearby park about two minutes away for a good ole swim. I totally wanted to get a tan this week. So, I laid out for about 30 minutes reading my Us Weekly magazine, getting caught up on all my Emily from the Bachelorette’s gossip. J I went over to the table to get on my lake shoes so I could get in the water and all of the sudden I started feeling weirdeverything in slow motion and my breathing was getting shallow. I tried not to panic and sat down. Then, my hearing started to go out and my vision too. Everything went yellow. I called for my husband who was in the water with the kids. He came over to me and I told him something was wrong with me and to call 911. He did. I seriously had one of those, I’m going to die moments. I even told hubs he may have to do CPR on me and he better do it, haha. I wasn’t in my right mind at all. The ambulance was there within five minutes. I was amazed how fast they got there. As long as I sat still, I didn’t pass out. They tried to get me to stand and bam my vision and hearing went out again. So they flopped my butt on the stretcher. They tested my BP, sugar level, EKG, pulse ox, etc. and all were great. They usually are. We came to the conclusion that I was most likely dehydrated. Dang! I am sure that if they hadn’t gotten there as fast as they did I would have had a full-fledged heat stroke. So, for the next three days I stayed indoors, completely traumatized by this event. Hubs said that I would eventually have to go outside and drink something other than water or Gatorade.  I was thinking, crap, am I going to need therapy after that?

Current Score: Vacation 1 Crystal 0

Oh, and we made the biggest smores ever. So yummy!

My sister and her three kids and my parents came down for the weekend, the last two nights of our vaca. I decided to venture outside. Something about having my parents made me feel better. Not that hubs wasn’t awesome at taking care of my but I needed a bigger security blanket. Guess what, I didn’t die! I didn’t pass out or anything and it was so fun!

Well, the fun didn’t stop there! The next morning I made a bowl of cereal and went on the back patio to eat it. We had a beautiful back patio. I sat in a chair that no one had sat in all week or else we would have known that it was broken. So, I sat down and flew completely back on the hard concrete! Luckily, it wasn’t against the house and I didn’t hit my head. I did however bruise my back and tailbone. Geez Louise. Someone put me in a bubble already! My parents and hubs freaked out. I tried to get up, soaked with cereal an freezing cold milk..all in places that cereal and milk don’t belong, ehem! I took a shower and had a little convo with God. Seriously, what the French fry yo? Why was my vacation trying to kill me?

Current Score: Vacation 2 Crystal 0 (BIG FAT ZERO!) Haha!

It hurt to sit (obviously) so I wanted to go float in the lake. Hubs didn’t really plan on doing that on our last day, but he didn’t let me out of his site. I now had a human bubble. It was sweet.  He said I needed a helmet. I said I needed a do-over! This vacation bit the dust. kids had fun fishing which they had never done before. Of course they didn’t catch anything because we have no clue what we are doing but they were able to fish from the back of our house and they thought that was cool. They loved the paddle boat too. Everyone got some exercise on that thing. I never got on it. With my luck, it would sink! No. Thank. You! 

We ate some good food and I got a little tan so I guess overall it was pretty good. Since I was held up inside, I did make several new classroom sets. I now have requests for 18 more themes. My goal is to do 2 a day until I am done with them all. They all have the same things in them. Here are my latest. You can click on the pictures for more details. Some are on sale right now. Make sure you follow my facebook because when I post them to TPT, I put them on a 50% off sale for the first 24 hours. J

So, where are you going for vaca? Have a great story to tell? Someone please tell me that I am not the only one with all this good luck!!! Have a great week. I am headed to Oklahoma to visit my brother’s family this week with the kids. I am seriously praying nothing goes wrong. Hopefully this week will be peaceful. If not, I am not leaving the house for a while. LOL. This week I have a few cool posts scheduled for Math Centers that include great pictures and freebies. I will also post for the D5 book study. 

Again, please tell me about your vacation drama so I feel better. Seriously, who does this happen to...ME!!! 

Stay tuned and come back often. Love and virtual hugs!!