Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Bunny Blog Hop

A Tisket, A Tasket, Freebies for your Basket!

Several phenomenal teachers and bloggers are joining forces for an amazing bunny blog hop!  As you follow us along the bunny trail, you will visit some of your favorite blogs and discover a few new blogs too!  Each with a fabulous freebie just for you!

Thank you for hopping on over to my blog! 

Recently, I completed a second post featuring my Classroom Makeover Series  complete with my "All in One Word Wall" bundle (scroll down below).  I gave my Word Wall a heavy duty makeover.  For my Funny Bunny Freebie, I knew I had to create some "Use-Them-Anytime" activities to share with you all.  They are perfect for grades kindergarten to grade three.

The first part has five sheets that can be copied and placed in a literacy center.  The second part has six additional activities you can print out ahead of time and use them for Word Work in your literacy block.  Check out this Scavenger Hunt.

Working on Alphabetical Order?  This activity can be used over and over again.

These activities include rhyming, digraphs, writing sentences, vowel teams, using question words, and syllabication--OH MY!

 So here they are...

Enjoy my "What Do I Do With My Word Wall?" Freebie by clicking HERE!

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!  If you are new to my blog and liked what you see, don't forget to follow me.  A Tisket, A Tasket, next up with a Freebie for your Basket is Susanna from Whimsy Workshop.  Hop on over!

Just in case you didn't join us from the beginning, here is an ordered list of all the participating blogs.

Stephany from Primary Possibilities
Sally from Elementary Matters
Lory from Fun for First
Linda from Primary Inspiration
Nicole from Mrs. Rios Teaches Second Grade
Brian from Hopkins' Hoppin' Happenings
Liz from The Happy Teacher
Jennie from JD's Rockin' Readers
Sarah from Learning is for Superstars
Teresa from Fun in K/1
Nikki from Teaching in Progress
Faith from Kindergarten Faith
Renee from Fantastic First Grade Froggies
Amy from Happy Teacher Heaven
Leah from Learn with Leah
Nicole from Teaching's a Hoot
Kristy from The Phonic's Phenomenon
Rich from Mr. Giso's Room to Read
Susanna from Whimsy Workshop
Amy from Motivate to Learn
Lola from Preschool Wonders
Kimberli from Mixing the Next Batch

A Hippity Hoppity Spring Time Craft

So, due to lots of snow days, one hurricane day, 100th Day and Valentine's Day (on the SAME day), my traditional winter craft simply did not get done this year.  I usually use three recycled cans to make adorable snowmen and snowwomen wind chimes with the kids.  Come March, I still had loads of cans taking up my back table.  So, a new craft was born--spring bunnies.  We do have snow on the ground, but I thought this idea would be more appropriate.  We recently read an informational text article in a big book on cottontails during a finding the main idea mini-lesson, so it was perfect!  They came out really adorable, so I wanted to share.

First, I gathered three cans (of different sizes) for each student.

Second, my firsties sponge-painted all three cans (outside only) using either a white or a pink acrylic paint.  It has to be acrylic or it will flake off!  They dab, not rub the paint...

Third, we took the smallest can and added two eyes, two ears (cut from foam board), a pink pompom for the nose and two white pompoms for the mouth part.  I used hot glue.  The kids were in charge of passing me the add-ons.   Of course, the paint dried first. It took a day, overnight.

Fourth, I got a nail and hammered it through each can in order to make a hole in the can's center.

Fifth, we used a heavy twine and strung the cans together.  At the bottom we tied a wooden bead so the string would stay.  At the top, we made a loop to hang the wind chimes.

Check out our recycled can, bunny farm.  These are some bunnies!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Diary of My Word Wall Makeover

This is my second blog post in my "Classroom Makeover Series."  After making significant improvements in my Mathematics Center for my first "Classroom Makeover," I had easily decided to go on to making over my supply cart.  One afternoon, however, I came across an old blog post (2011) on Word Walls inspired by the great Debbie Diller.  In Chalk Talk: A Kindergarten Blog, Mrs. Larremore sports her word wall with insightful recommendations based on Debbie Diller's Work.  Having incorporated this great blog find with some research of my own, my goals for this makeover included the following.

               1.  Improve the Location:  My prior word wall was located pretty far away from my four groups of students' desks.  In addition, I even had a rolling chart stand, an easel and some other furniture blocking parts of the word wall.  I know what you are thinking.  This is a big "no, no."

               2.  Make the Words Uniform:  My prior word wall words (purchased from a teacher store that shall remain nameless), were in many different colors with the words all trimmed according to the shapes of the letters.  This did not appear to be uniform, and was in fact a bit distracting to the eye.

               3.  Add a Picture to Reinforce Letter Sounds:  My prior word wall obviously had both upper and lower case letters, but did not have a picture to reinforce initial sounds.  I teach first grade, and not all of my young readers arrive knowing all of their letter sounds.  Since I add words to my word wall starting the first full week of school, having pictures along with my letter headings would be more effective to ALL learners from day one.

               4.  Increase the Space and Create an Organized Grid for My Word Wall:  The organization of my prior word wall was not balanced, visually.  It was measured according to how much space I needed for each letter.  For example, I had a large space for "W" because I knew I would have a lot of "w" words to put up.   This was due to a limited space on my bulletin board.  By creating a grid with electric tape and by moving my word wall to where there's more space, I knew it would be easier for my kids to use.

               5.  Utilize a Solid Background:  My words on my prior word wall were placed on a busy fabric.  This was definitely too distracting for my first graders.  

SO, with these goals in mind, I'm almost embarrassed to show these two before pictures of my word wall.  If you look closely, you will see it in the distance. 

Note that the ribbon border above was added right after I came across the blog by Chalk Talk.  I was so amazed at the difference it made, I kept on going with the improvements.  The brain definitely sees better with borders.  

First, I removed all the store bought visuals from my cabinets.  I couldn't remember the last time my students used many of them.  Second, I purchased a bunch of this electrical tape and started measuring with my tape measure.

I decided to make a 2 by 12 grid in order to create 24 boxes for 24 letters of the alphabet.  I added the last two letters, Y and Z, at the bottom.  It looks a little bit like jail, I know, but boy does it look organized!   

Third, I went to work searching for the perfect font, frames and clip art to make my my letter headings and word wall words.  I trimmed, cut and laminated away.  Lots of words, words, words!  I colored the whole word yellow when it began with a vowel for easier recognition.

After this, my fourth and final part of this makeover was the most exciting.   I put up the letter headers and the words we had added so far.  Right away, you can notice the difference.  I decided to incorporate the headline, midline and baseline into each word to encourage my first graders to not only correctly spell, but to also correctly write each word with accurate letter formation.

Look how nicely the vowel "O" and its words stand out in yellow.

It was quite the project doing the tape work around my pull out drawers.  I even cut the letter headings, too and removed some hardware...shhhhhh.  Notice how the columns made with the electrical tape draw your eyes to each letter and its words so easily!  It's amazing how our brains work.

I decided to add a section for "Y" when it is used as a vowel.  Too often we just say "sometimes y" when we chant the vowels, but my new word wall offers a visual to reinforce the fact that "Y" serves as a vowel when it sounds like long "e" or long "i."  Check this out.

Last but not least, my finished product was ready.  My new Word Wall is right next to my students' desk groups and is most definitely easy to read.

To get the colorful letter headers, a "Word Wall" banner (not pictured) and the words included in the pre-primer to third grade Dolch List (plus more bonus words that I use), head on over to my TpT store by clicking here.  

Some Word Wall Suggestions for You to Consider

How does your word wall measure up?  You may want to consider the following.

•Do you have BOTH upper and lower case letters displayed in alphabetical order?

•Do you have your VOWELS in a distinct color in order for them to stand out from the consonants?

•Do you (for Pre-K and K) have examples of environmental print up such as cereal names, fast food names, road signs, candy bars, etc.?

•Do you for (Pre-K and K) have the student names on the word wall to help them learn the sounds?

•Do you have appropriate high frequency words displayed in which you hold students accountable for BOTH reading and spelling them?

•Do you have your word wall displayed in your whole-class teaching area for easy visibility?

•Do you have your word wall low enough (for the younger grades)?

•Do you have an interactive component to your word wall (can students take the words off easily with magnets, Velcro etc.)?

•Do you have a grid with borders for each letter and its words?  Remember our brains are programed to "see in borders!"

•Do you have the words large enough, in black, and on a solid background without patterns or loud borders?

•Do you have interesting vocabulary words in addition to high frequency words in grades two and up?

•Do you (for grades Pre-K to grade one) feature a picture to accompany each letter to foster phonics?

•Do you have tools for word work nearby (pointers, wands, magnetic letters, letter tiles, etc.)?

I hope I've inspired you to make your word wall more student friendly.  Let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's Mr. Giso Making "Room to Read" Pick #7

Mirror Mirror
By:  Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by:  Josee Masse

I've had this brilliant book standing upright on my desk at school for the longest time, just waiting to share it.  Being Daylight Savings time and all, means I enjoyed an extra hour of sunlight today.  As a result, I'm feeling extra productive, so here it goes!

Mirror Mirror a Book of Reversible Verse is just one of over 80 books for children by Marilyn Singer.  Singer entertains the age old saying that there is more than one side of a story.  The topic of each page is a familiar fairy tale.  Each poem is paralleled in what Singer refers to as her "reverso."  Simply put, a reverso is a poem read from the bottom up using meaning altering punctuation and capitalization.  This puzzled verse is the perfect style for letting the reader know the two points of view each fairy tale has to offer. It has definitely given this reader a new perspective.  

In this "reverso" of Little Red Riding Hood, we are presented with a poem on the left in which Little Red Riding Hood is telling us her story of "picking berries to eat-."  She "mustn't dawdle," as her Grandma is at home waiting.  On the right, you find the reverso. 
The Big Bad Wolf spies Little Red Riding Hood trespassing in his "hood."  She is his "juicy and sweet" treat "picking berries to eat."

What's perfect about this book is that both poems are presented on each page.  You don't literally have to read the poem from the bottom up to get the double meaning--it's done for you.  The illustrations by native Canadian Masse offer the perfect visual for the reader.  Just as each poem is split in half, so are her illustrations.  We get both points of view in her vibrant, bold and fairly tale-like paintings.  For adult readers, her artwork brings back the fondest memories of childhood.

Some of the classic fairy tales covered in this book include Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Ugly Duckling, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk and  Hansel and Gretel.  Both the poems and the illustrations work hand in hand to inspire children to step back and realize that perhaps the Three Bears were just as scared as Goldilocks, and that maybe the Prince could have used a few hours of the sleep that his Sleeping Beauty took for granted!

I can see middle or high school English teachers using this book with their students accompanying a lesson on writing original "reverso" poems.  Obviously, it's a great read aloud for children of all ages and a great gift for a child to add to his or her bedtime book collection.  Scroll down to my book picks to order it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Diary of My Mathematics Center Makeover

An itch for spring cleaning combined with the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics put me to work throughout the month of February.  My goal was to give my Mathematics Center a makeover consisting of the following.

               1.  Updated Content:  The Common Core requires that I teach some new terminology and concepts such as the associative property of addition, and that students utilize a 120 Grid as opposed to a Hundred Grid, for example.  Also, some concepts are now deemed no longer appropriate for the first grade.

               2.  Less Clutter:  My bulletin board in my center-- although colorful and rich in appropriate content-- was very busy.  I found that my students rarely used the visuals without me prompting that helpful content was up on the board.  Furthermore, the table had hardly any room for the students to write on it or use it for centers.

               3.  Better Storage:  I wanted to be able to house more manipulatives in an organized, uniform way that was easy to identify where each manipulative was located.  I wanted a clean look.

               4.  More Usage:  I wished for there to be a way for my students to access the information on the bulletin board other than trying to see it from their desks or getting up and down, and up again, to find what they were seeking.

The results are finished!  Check out these two before pics.  I loved the center as is but wanted it to be even better.  Notice the busy bulletin board and crowded table.

Mathematics Center Before

Table Before
Here is my Mathematics Center after...drumroll please...

New and Improved Mathematics Center

One of the things that you may notice is how I tossed the mix and match bins and bought matching bins.  This made the same amount of "stuff" look less cluttered.  Here you see my find at a local Big Lots.  Gotta love those closeouts!  By creating labels for the bins, everything has a spot and everything is easy to locate.

Each of the posters you see on my bulletin board is now copied and laminated multiple times and stored in our Math Tool Box.  This way if someone wants a money or greater than and less than poster, they can just take the visual and bring it to their seats.  In the Tool Box are my new colorful 120 Grids, too.

I also updated my Estimation Station which includes a jar, a binder to record past estimates (for students to use for strategy purposes), record sheets for student estimates and a bin in which students place their completed estimates.

I also made a banner for the Math Center and used colorful clothespins and ribbon to hang it.

All the posters, labels, banner, 120 grids, estimation materials and more are featured in my newest item.   I cleverly titled it Common Core All in One Math Center.  You can click here to get it.  Now that my Mathematics Center has had it's makeover, I'm off to tackle the supply cart--the Mathematics Center's neighbor.  Wish me luck.

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