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Organization! Does it come easy for you or are you constantly trying to organize? Organization is important because it CAN increase instructional time! This blog post shares my Top 10 Organization Tips that will be sure to save you time!
Organization Tip Number 1: Organize student materials for easy access.  Carpet Bags have changed my life! Since our kids do not have assigned table seating, the carpet bags are an organizational system that allows the children to keep up with all of their supplies.  In the morning the children remove their bags from the baskets and place them on their carpet squares. The carpet bags hold all of the supplies that we are use during any large group instruction.
Here are some of the items we store in the bags. Carpet bags can save you tons of time! For example, if we are going to use a tens frame during math, we invite the children to look in their carpet bags and get out their spiral bound working mats and their collection of counters! Wala! Just like that, they are ready to begin instruction.
You can read about all the individual items we keep in the carpet bags in this blog post
All of these items, except for the calendar, are in our Pack It! Learn It! unit.  You can find it here.
The Pack It! Learn It! unit, normally $15, is on sale for TODAY only for $8!
The calendar notebook, normally $20, is on sale for TODAY only for $10.
I'm not going to lie, sometimes it looks like this! But I'm telling you, it is worth it!
Organization Tip Number2: Label materials for kids! I used Erica Bohrer's farmhouse labels to begin. Then, I just took my camera and snapped a picture of the things that are inside of each tub. I added the pictures to the label.  This makes it super easy for the kids to clean up independently.
I also label my resources. These tubs contain the math activities I use for each of the strands. They include the activities for the Math Manipulatives and for the Small Group Math Activities.  These units can be found here:
Math Manipulatives Bundle This bundle is normally $60, but you can grab it today only for $30.
Small Group Math Bundle This year long bundle is normally $120, but it is on sale for $60 TODAY only.
Organization Tip Number 3: Take advantage of hidden storage to hide your clutter.  By adding a curtain to hang over the open shelving, I can hide all kinds of things!
Don't forget to use your closets wisely. Label items and place them in clear storage or put a picture on the outside.  It makes it easier for the eye to find the needed items.
Organization Tip Number 4: Organize your daily materials.  We have a drawer for each day. On Friday, we fill up the drawers with ALL the things we will be using the following week.  Then, each morning all we have to do in remove the items from the drawer and we are ready to go.  The second stacker holds materials that need to be prepped, need to be put away, or are ready for us to use! Volunteers can help by removing items from the To Make drawer. As they finish prepping, they just move the items to the Ready drawer. I use the Put Away drawer to hold the things I am finished using until I have time to put them away correctly. This keeps the items from being stacked around the room. You can grab these labels for free at the bottom of the blog post.
Organization Tip Number 5: Repurpose Items. Placemats are great to define work spaces. When the children are engaged in an activity with lots of pieces, a placemat helps them keep up with what is theirs and what belongs to their neighbor.  A baby shoe bag works great to hang onto the back of your easel. It can hold all of the things that you use while charting! And, a rolling laundry basket makes a great container to hold all of your big books!
Organization Tip Number 6: Have a Panic Shelf.  Really this shelf should be called the "No need to Panic" shelf.  This shelf holds all of the things that I use during large group time.  It holds a set of magnetic letters, calendar pieces, transition tools, helper supplies, etc!  No longer need to hunt for these items! They are right there waiting on you!
Organization Tip Number 7: Organize your classroom library! Making books easy for kids to find is essential to positive experiences while shopping for books. You can read all about how we make that happen in this blog post.  This blog post also has some free labels and tags to help you with your leveled libraries.  You can find our interest or topic tags here. They are normally $10, but you can grab them for $5 TODAY only!
Organization Tip Number 8: Find places for all of the small items! We love these storage containers we picked up at Wal-mart.  They are great for organizing all of your letter sets. These are our magnetic letters, but we also use the same kind of unit for foam letters, overhead tiles, etc. This makes it super easy for the kids to quickly find the letters they need to make words.  The other contain, the one with names, hold photos of each child. I take their pictures at the beginning of the year. Then, I reproduce copies of their photos and store them in the drawers. This makes is easy for the kids to make an All About the Author page in their writing. We also use them in other activities like counting, sorting, number combinations, etc!
Organization Tip Number 9: Rethink your seating.  Flexible Seating is a big buzz word right now! You can read about our take on flexible seating in this blog post.  When thinking seating, think storage at the same time.  We store our units in the sterile plastic tubs.  I took a few extra lids and cover them. Then, when we start a new unit, I simple remove the lid and add one of the covered lids! Now they make great seating options! OR how about paint buckets?! These buckets make great seating options and are great for storing things like headphones!
Organization Tip Number 10: label the areas in your classroom.  We have 5 areas in our classroom.  Each area contains different types of seating, different activities, and different things to look at! The kids rotate through the room spending one day a week in each of the 5 areas. This keeps the surroundings new and stimulating. We label each of the items that belong in the area. This helps kids get things put back to where they belong during clean up time!

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Let's talk comprehension....
There are many things going on in a kindergarten class while we are teaching kids to read. A beginning reader is learning how text works, how to quickly read sight words, and how to use  strategies to solve unknown words.  The first several levels of guided reading provide little opportunity for comprehension.  Let's face it...there isn't a lot to comprehend in, "See the dog. See the cat. See the bird.  See the pets."
However, at the same time, we are also sharing many selections of text with kids through read alouds and shared reading.  THIS is where we can work on comprehension! Here are a few things to keep in mind...
To be a fluent reader, two things are happening:
1. Children are developing accuracy and automaticity.
2. AND they are developing prosody. Prosody is the natural rhythm that comes with good reading.
To develop prosody we need to read wide and deep. Read the same pieces many times and read many different pieces. AND we need to say rhymes, sing songs, and engage in rhythmic activities.
Retelling is evidence of comprehension! Here are some fun ways to teach retelling!
After reading The Three Bears, the children are using the flow map to retell the story. When teaching retelling, we want to teach STRATEGY over STORY. The children might never read The Three Bears again. BUT, they will read many other selections of literature where a character travels through the story as the setting changes. SO, if we teach kids that if good readers sequence the settings as they appear in the story, they can use that to retell! Now, they can use that strategy in many selections of text, not just The Three Bears. We are teaching children to be Strategic Readers!
Love these little half-page books.  Simply round off the top corners of the booklet. Add eyes, ears, etc to make a character from the story.  Attach Goldilocks, the character that travels through the settings in the story, with a piece of ribbon, yarn, or string.  Invite the children to draw the settings on each page of the booklet. Now, they can retell the story as they turn the pages and place Goldilocks to the setting! Here's another important nugget....there is no need for children to try to remember or guess the sequence of settings. Instead, we want to teach children to go back to the text to find the evidence to support the sequence! This means, the text needs to be available!
Another way to retell, use a flow map and invite the children to draw the sequence of settings.
Or, depending on the child or time of year, the children can use their words to retell the story. The Three Bears Activity is part of our Reader's Workshop Series. The bundle is normally $108, you can grab it TODAY only for $60.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider provides another opportunity to practice this strategy. In the nursery rhyme we all know that the spider crawls on the water spout, but there are many things a spider can crawl on. I went through my clip art and collected all of the things I thought a spider might crawl up.  I made each one into a necklace. Then, I collected a dollar store spider, made a sun, and made a rain wand.
I invited children to "wear" the various settings. As we repeat the rhyme (repeated reading develops prosody), I manipulated the spider, sun, and rain wand. 
You can then invite the children to select three settings for the spider. Draw the settings in each frame of the response page. Tie a spider to the paper using a piece of string, yarn or ribbon. The children can repeat their rhyme as the spider travels through the various settings.
This activity, as many as others, are included in our Retelling Unit. It is normally $12, but you can grab it for $6, TODAY only!
Here is a fun book that you can use to start the year! In this story, I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books, we teach the children to sequence the events of the story just like we taught them to sequence the settings. Once they have the events in order, retelling the story is super easy! I used a clip art image of an old lady's head. Then, I cut out the mouth and glued to the front of a bag. Cut out the mouth in the bag. Now, as you retell the story, "feed" the events into the mouth.
We made a smaller version in black and white for the children to use to retell.  Once you have finished the activity don't be so quick to send home the prop. Instead, place the retelling activity inside of their bag or box of books. Invite the children to use the prop to retell the story during read to self and read to others. You can grab the Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books as a free file below!
 

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Interventions...everyone is looking for them! My intervention session is always one of my highest attended conference sessions. This blog post shares some thoughts on intervention and shares a few of my favorites!
There are three simple questions to ask yourself when you are thinking about applying an intervention:
1. What do I want the kids to know?
These are the power standards. Not all standards need an intervention! Think about the most POWERFUL standards. Which standards are going to be built upon? Which standards are essential for success on future standards? These are the standards for which you plan an intervention!
2. How do you know if you kids have mastered the standards?
This means assessments! UGHHHH yet another test??????  Not really...formative assessments are ongoing! They are used to help you determine what you need to reteach, not teach, or think of another way! I wanted an easy way to keep up with all of this data! Wala! ESGI! You can do all of that right through ESGI!
For example, here is an easy way to assess the alphabet.  You simply use the ABC test! All you have to do is show the kids the screen on the device and ask them to name the letter. You simply click yes or no!
Then, it will give you information on individual children or on the WHOLE class! Good news! You can try it for free for TWO full months! What a great way to get all of you back to school assessments done quickly! Here's even better news... if you sign up for the FREE trial using promo code ADSIT, you are also entered to $50 Amazon Gift Card or the GRAND PRIZE of a $500 Amazon Gift Card! Just go here, use promo code ADSIT, and you will be registered to win!
3. What do you do if they don't master the standard?
This is where we plan the intervention! Here are a few easy to use interventions!
Love these alphabet intervention tub activities!
My friend Michele and I came up with 10 different activities for teaching the alphabet!
We made a folder for each child to hold their alphabet activity cards.
We collected the items they would need to complete the activities and placed them inside of a zipper pencil pouch.
Then, we made a 2 gallon bag to hold the folder and pencil pouch for each child. To decide which cards to put in the folder keep this in mind. The brain learns best when there is a 70/30 ration. This means that the student already knows 70% of the information and only 30% of the information is unknown. Therefore, the bag will hold activities for letters they already know AND for letters they are learning! (Just use your EGSI data to figure this out easy peasy!)


One of the kids favorites...Bend It! Here the kids use pipe cleaners to bend to form each letter!
Another favorite...Roll It! The kids use the playdough to roll the letters.  You can grab the playdough letters free in this blog post! The blog post also shares the other activities! The Interventions bundle is normally $24, but you can grab it for $12 TODAY ONLY!
One of my favorite abc strategies is this alphabet book idea adapted from a Reading Recovery Strategy.  You can grab this book as a FREE FILE at the bottom of this blog post.  Use this cover to make an alphabet book for the child.
These are the pages that go inside of the book.
Invite the child to cut apart the pictures and put them inside a baggie.
Using your ESGI data, add pictures to the pages that contain the letters the child is able to identify! They don't have to know BOTH the capital and the lower case, just one or the other.  Once the pictures are added, it's time to add the new learning.  Select 3 more letters that you would like for the child to learn. Glue pictures on those three pages.
Now, it is time to read the book.  As the child reads the book, skip the pages without the pictures. When they get to a page with a picture, invite the child to point and name the capital and lower case letter and the picture. If a child doesn't know the letter, you model reading and have the child copy you.
As the child learns a letter, add another picture to one of the pages that do not contain a picture!
This strategy works best when the child reads you the book EVERY day!
 
Here's the most important part...who uses the book?  I mean, how do you decide for which children will this strategy be the most successful.
Some children, those knowing around 18 capital and 15 lower case (just an example), do not need to do this book.  They will learn the alphabet through your regular activities of songs, charting, games, etc!
Some children are not ready, yet! The children that do not understand there ARE letters and they have names, are not yet ready! They need time to just come to school.  They need to sing, hear stories and engage in printed text. However, this is often who we try strategies with! If a strategy isn't working, the child probably isn't ready for the strategy!
This intervention works best with the kids who know a few letters---maybe around 7! These children will learn the names of the letters quickly!
 
 

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I love when I get to present a full day session.  Today, at the I Teach K Conference in Vegas, I am presenting a full day session called DI for the Little Guy! This session is packed full of easy ways to differentiate your instruction without having to plan TONS of activities. DI isn't about planning all of those activities. It is about providing opportunity for each child to work at a level, rate, and interest to ensure success.  When we establish centers and implement the workshop model of instruction...differentiation can occur with little extra work from the teacher. Here are a few of the ways that I share in the session.
Formative Assessments
Formative Assessments are the backbone of Differentiated Instruction! Yet, who has time for yet another test! There are many ways to incorporate formative assessments right in your teaching!
One way is to select an instructional focus for each week. That doesn't mean that this is what you are teaching, it means that is what you are looking for evidence of! For example, if you have chosen rhyming as your instructional focus, look for children playing rhyming activities, doing a rhyming activity at your small group, or reading a rhyming book to the class. If you notice YES, they can rhyme, record it on the spreadsheet. You can grab a variety of DI forms at the bottom of this blog post.
If you are looking for a way to document easily and quickly, just use your phone and snap a picture. It is easier to SHOW parents than to try and explain the standard!
Of course my favorite way to collect Data, ESGI! I love that ESGI will quickly make your instructional groups! It saves me tons of time and makes it really easy for me to know just the right thing to teach to each group! Good news! You can try it for free for TWO full months! What a great way to get all of you back to school assessments done quickly! Here's even better news... if you sign up for the FREE trial using promo code ADSIT, you are also entered to $50 Amazon Gift Card or the GRAND PRIZE of a $500 Amazon Gift Card! Just go here, use promo code ADSIT, and you will be registered to win!
Reader's Workshop
In Reader's Workshop, one thing we want to develop is that kids see themselves as readers. In order to do that, we use this anchor chart to teach children there are many ways to read a book. Let's talk anchor charts for just a minute: Some might look at this and say it isn't an anchor chart it's a poster. I can see why they would say that. BUT, here's the truth about anchor charts:
  • Anchor charts bullet the new learning. Kids are not deciding what is written, the teacher is.
  • Anchor charts are used by both the teacher and the students as a reference.
  • Anchor charts are made with kids.
WAIT, put on the breaks. This chart looks like it was made at the dining room table. AND it was! I have issues with my handwriting and rewritten chart, to make them look nice, are not the answer. Children lack ownership of rewritten charts. They don't have an interaction with that chart! Here's what I do. I make the chart ahead since I know my bullet points. I display the chart and cover up the sentences. Each day we do the reveal! I lower the paper to show today's teaching point.
Since this chart has 3 bullet points, that means it is going to take me 3 days to cover the content.  The first day our mini lesson is all about reading a book by telling a story you already know.
The second day we learn all about reading a book by looking at the pictures.
And the last day we learn that we can read a book by reading the words.
Now, it is time to shop for books.  I pull out all of the books used in the previous 3 lessons. These are the books the children were using during the active engagement part of the lesson. I spread them out on the floor and let the children shop! The each select books from all 3 categories so that they have around 6 books. Then, we put the books in their "book baggie".
Now that they have their book baggies, the next series of lessons teaches the children what to do when it is time for them to go and read independently.  The books in their baggies are swapped about every two weeks. As the children begin guided reading, these books can also be added to their bags.
Of course, before any of this can happen this anchor chart will help you establish the expectations for large group instruction. You can grab the pieces to make this anchor chart at the bottom of this blog post. All of these items come from our Reader's Workshop Series. The bundle is normally $108, but you can grab it TODAY only for $60.
Writer's Workshop
This is a great blog post on how to establish Writer's Workshop. Our Writer's Workshop Mega Bundle is on sale TODAY only. It is normally $35, but you can grab it for today only for $20.
Literacy Centers
And here is a blog post that will share exactly how we do literacy centers to build independence so that we can pull small group for differentiated instruction! You can grab the Literacy Centers for the Year Bundle in Deanna Jump's Store. It is normally $105, but you can grab it for $42.
Math Centers
Here is a blog post all about establishing math centers that help children maintain their learning in centers while you pull for small group differentiated instruction. There are several math resources that can help you. You might want to check out the DI Small Group Bundle. It is normally $120, but is on sale for $60 TODAY only.  Another useful resource is the Math Game Pack Mega Bundle. This will give you math games for the WHOLE year.  It is normally $75, but you can grab it for $40 TODAY only.  And lastly, be sure and check out the Math Manipulatives Bundle. It is normally $60, on sale today only for $30.
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Spring...the time of year when the teacher's energy is down and the kid's energy is UP!  BUT...The busier we keep them, the easier it is for us.  Here are some of our favortie fun math center games that we use to channel that energy for the positive.
Racing Rabbits
Here's how you play:
  • Create a board game with 3 columns.
  • Make 3 game pieces. I made these rabbits by opening a paper clip to a 90 degree angle. Then, I taped it to the back of the card to make the rabbits stand up.
  • Give the child a dice.
  • Invite him to roll the dice.
  • The child moves the rabbits that many spaces.
  • He can move one rabbit ALL the spaces, OR he can split the roll between the various rabbits.
  • IF you want to take it to the abstract level...invite the child to record the equation to show how he split the roll. 

Measure Me
 Here's how you play:
  • Create a set a seasonal cards.
  • To pay this game, the children work with a partner.
  • One of the children lay down on the floor.
  • The other child uses the cards to measure the height of the partner.
  • On the recording page, the children draw a person to represent the height of the first partner.
  • Repeat with the other partner.
  • Finish the recording page.

Let's Take Turns
 Here's how you play:
  • Create a game strip with a different clip art image in the center square.
  • Make ONE game piece. I used the paper clip again to make the girl stand up.
  • To play this game, the children work with partners.
  • Invite one child to sit at each end of the strip.
  • The first child rolls the dice. Then, he moves the game piece that many squares TOWARDS himself.
  • Now, it is the other partners turn to roll the dice.  Then, she moves the SAME game piece that many squares TOWARDS herself.
  • The goal is to see who can get the game piece off of their end of the game board.
  • Want to change the standard? Just change what the children do with the dice.  You can give the children two dice. Roll the dice and add or subtract the dots. Move the number of squares indicated by the sum or difference.

Number Line Races
 Here's how you play:
  • Create a number line 1-20.
  • Collect tiny pieces to place on each numeral. I used clip art pictures.
  • Make a gardener game piece. I used the paper clip to make it stand up.
  • Invite the child to put the gardener at the beginning of the number line.
  • Then, he rolls the dice and moves that many spaces on the number line. He removes the clip art piece on that numeral.
  • The object of the game is to collect all of the clip art pieces.
  • Let's say the child rolled a 5. He moves 5 spaces and removes the clip art piece on the 5.
  • He rolsl again. Let's say he rolls a 3. Now, he must decide if he wants to move forward three (5 + 3) or backwards three (5 - 3). If he picks to move backwards, he would remove the clip art piece on the 2.
  • Invite the children to record the number sentences that match their moves.

Number Line Mystery
 Here's how you play:
  • Create a deck of cards.
  • The deck has 4 suits (pots, kites, birds, and umbrellas).
  • For each suit, make a card without a numeral, and cards with the numerals 1-10 (or 20).
  • Lay the 4 cards without a numeral in a column, face up.
  • Shuffle the remaining cards and lay them facedown, in an array by placing 10-20 cards in each row.
  • Invite the first child to turn over a card.
  • Then, the child looks at the card, finds the row with the same suit, and then looks at the numeral on the card to determine where it belongs in the row to make a number line. 
  • Remove the card that is in the space and lay down the child's card.
  • Take the new card and repeat the process.
  • If you want to see further picture directions, this blog post has detailed pictures!
All five of these games are from the Spring Math Game Pack.
You can also grab a FREE number line game for back to school in this blog post.
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 How many different ways have you tried literacy centers? Does the management of literacy centers cause you nightmares? Do you struggle with making activities meaningful AND independent?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, here's the good news---you are not alone! Literacy Centers provide us with the opportunity to call small groups while the children are engaged in independent activities.
Here are 3 Easy Steps to develop effective literacy centers!
Mini Lessons
Each segment of our day begins with a mini lesson. Literacy Centers aren't any different! Our literacy centers section of the day is 60 minutes. The first 10 minutes is a mini lesson. We have are 2 different kinds of mini lessons. The first type, procedural mini lessons, is essential. The first month of the year is full of procedural mini lessons. We cover topics such as: What do you do when you are finished? How do you work in a group? What do you do with your work?  Each of these are individual mini lessons as we build independence! When I first tried literacy centers, I covered too much in one lesson and the children weren't applying the procedures. Now, we learn something new each day, AND the kids practice!
The other type of mini lessons is when we are teaching a new standard/concept.  These activities introduce the NEW learning. New learning does not occur in centers...centers are intended to practice the things we have already learned! These mini lessons also introduce the types of literacy centers.
An important part of any mini lesson is active engagement. This is the time for the children to practice the new learning.  It is a great way to determine if the children have mastered the new learning as well as to determine if your lesson was effective! It will let you know if you need to spend an additional day on this concept, or if you need to pull a few children to your small group table for further instruction.
We spent some time scripting out our mini lessons. This ensures that we have spent time thinking through the best way to teach the new concept as well as what we expect from the children during active engagement.
Have to Center Areas
To get started with centers, we divided our classroom into 5 zones-writing, alphabet, phonemic awareness, word work, and reading. We created a sign for each of the areas. These signs match the images on the center assignment board.  Each day, the children visit ONE of the 5 zones. This means that by the end of the week, they will have visited all 5 areas.
In each of the areas there is a "have to" center. These activities practice and maintain our prior learning.  They are NEVER a new teach! In order to ensure independence, MOST of our kids need to have mastered the standard AND participated in a similar activity during large or small group.
Each "have to" has a recording page.  This enables us the check their work.  It is also a way to hold them accountable. When the children finish their center, they place their recording page in a designated basket. Since I am conducting small groups, I can not check their work during centers! At a later time, I can quickly check the work in the basket. If a child has rushed through the work, they do it again! I tell them, "Do it nice, or do it twice!"
What about the children that never seem to know what to do?  You know you have explained it, so why don't they remember? We can't introduce 5 new centers on Monday and expect the kids to know what to do on Friday! That's why very similar activities have been used during large or small group time. The "I Can..." cards are a great visual reminder of what is expected in that "have to" activity.  We teach our kids to ask the others in their group how to complete the center. If none of them seem to remember, they can ask the kids who worked in that area the prior day.
Here are some other examples of "Have to" centers. In the writing center they labeled a fall picture.
In the word work center, the children used the letters in "snowflake" to make little words. Invite them to make each of the "little words" on the recording page. Ask yourself, "Could I make that word using the letters in snowflake?" On the recording page they mark either yes or no.
In the alphabet center they used a picture dictionary. Using the little book, the found the page in the dictionary to match the letter on each page. They selected a picture on each page to illustrate and label.
In the phonemic awareness center, the children sorted the pictures by one or two syllables. Then, on the recording page, they colored either one or two circles.
In the reading center the children made this fun turkey. It reminds us to get our mouth ready. Then, the children read their little book. On each page we marked the beginning letter for the noun. This reminds the children to get their mouth ready by making the sound for that letter.
Another fun craftivity for the reading center was making these cars. We used the cars to read our little book of cvc words as we looked all the way through the word.
Can Do Centers
So far, all's good. The problem occurs when the children all finish at different times.  Ever tried ringing a bell and having kids move to the next center? We did and it was a nightmare! We were rushing our deliberate learners and stressing out our struggling learners.  If we truly believe in differentiation, we learned that we also had to look at the differences in their rates of learning! So.....for each area we developed some "can do" activities. These are centers that you "can do".  They do not have recording pages nor am I checking them! These are quality activities that keep the kids engaged!
As we introduced each of the "can do" activities, we added cards to remind the children of their choices in each of the 5 areas.
These cards are displayed in each area.
For each of the "can do" choices, we developed scaffolding charts. These charts are displayed by the resources to remind the children of the things we learned that we could do with the materials.
 We wanted to get some cards posted early, but soon replaced them with these cards that have MORE ideas of things to do with the resources. At the bottom of each chart it says, "think of your own idea."  We always encourage children to take charge. Children who create their own learning are working at the highest level on Bloom's taxonomy.
Developing and Introducing literacy centers is hard work! But, we found that using these 3 steps, we were the most effective.  Our biggest suggestion....slow down! Take the time to teach procedures and new activities. If you have any questions, just let me know by leaving a comment below!
All of the items in the post are from...Year Long Bundle of Literacy Centers.
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Academic Vocabulary...what is it? Why is it important? How can we have a systematic approach to teaching it?  Ever ask any of these questions? We can take a few minutes to explore these questions.
What is it?
Academic Vocabulary words are the words that we use to engage in conversations about academic topics! Makes sense, right?  These include the words that we use while teaching reading and math.   Academic Vocabulary words are Tier 2 Vocabulary words. This means that these words are content specific and should be taught as needed for comprehension and fluency.  Research has shown that nearly 80% of comprehension in nonfiction depends on the child's ability to understand the vocabulary. 
Each week, we look carefully at the content we are teaching in literacy. We made word cards for each of these words.
Then, we created a "word wall" that would hold just the literacy vocabulary words.  Each week we add our new words.
 
We did the same thing for our math vocabulary. 
We created a separate word wall for the math words. 
What is it important?
Academic Vocabulary words are the words that children need in order to talk about their learning. If children are to engage in peer to peer conversations about their learning, knowing and understanding these words is essential. HOWEVER, some words are more important than other words. These are the words for which we want kids to develop a DEEP understanding. Not all words will be taken to this level.  We asked ourselves, which vocabulary words are used in standards that grow over time. For example, it is essential that children have a deep understanding of the word "add".  They need to have a mental image of combining sets! This means that it is important for teachers to create a streamlined list of words to focus our instructional efforts.
What is a systematic approach to teaching academic vocabulary?
1. First, pick a word. Once the WHOLE list of words have been identified, we want to narrow that list down to the MOST important words.  Then, we select one literacy word and one math word for each week.  These are words that the children already know. The vocabulary word has been used in instruction for a few weeks. Now, we want to take that word to a deeper level of understanding. 
2. Next, develop a linguistic representation of the word. According to the work of Marzano, children need to generate a linguistic representation of the word. This is often referred to a "definition". But, it is very different! Children are not remembering a definition given by the teacher. Instead, a discussion among the children develops this linguistic representation.
3. Last, the children draw a nonlinguistic representation of the word.  Marzano tells us it is important for the children to draw a picture that illustrates the word.  I think, the children draw on their mental image of the word. Their ability to draw a representation of the word is evidence of their mental image!
While these charts can be produced with no prep by just writing on a piece of chart paper, Megan created this reusable vocabulary chart. She laminated the chart. Then, each week we use post it notes and paper to show our learning. Here's an actual lesson...
Megan posted the word "vowels". The children already know the word! It is time to develop that deeper understanding.  After the discussion about the word, we used interactive writing to record our linguistic representation of the word.
Then, we gave each child a piece of paper to draw their understanding of the word. This is the nonlinguistic representation.
Here's the completed chart.
To extend the learning, each child has a Vocabulary Journal. Here they work independently to record their own linguistic and nonlinguistic representation of the word.
 
We made a cover for the vocabulary journal.
Then we made the vocabulary journal pages. We created a space for the children to record their linguistic and nonlinguistic representation. Marzano also tell us the importance of the children rating their understanding of the word.  While young children usually color the smiley face, this begins a practice that will be used in the other grades in our school.
At the end of the lesson, I asked the kids, "Do all words have vowels?" I invited the children to be on the lookout for words without vowels. During the day, as they found the words, they were to record the words on the chart. Did they find any? At first we might say no, but the children recorded all of the "y" words. What a fun way to introduce "y" as a vowel!
You can find all of the vocabulary word cards, the pieces to make the chart, and the student journal in this Academic Vocabulary unit.
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How much time do you spend getting the kids ready for large group instruction? Passing things out, collecting supplies, "finding" the items needed, etc.....If you find yourself spending too much time just getting ready, this blog post shars one of my favorite ways to save time!
We love our working mats spiral bound book! I was recently in Adam's room (TeachersLearnToo), where I saw my working mats book in motion!
Here's what I did....I took all of the math mats, that we use for large group instruction, and bound them together into a book. I made a book for each child.
On each page, I added an animal clip art in the bottom right hand corner.  I use this for quick reference. For example, since there are two different mats with tens frames, I can direct the kids to the page with the double tens frame, the page with the "spider".  This helps those children who lack the vocabulary "tens frame" and helps children to double check to see if they are on the right page. 

The children keep their working mat book inside of their "carpet bag" (link below with more information). In the carpet bag, the children also have a pencil bag. You may wish to have children add a collection of counters into a Ziploc storage container to tore in the pencil bag.  In Adam's room he has a storage container. Each drawer contains a collection of erasers. As the children were coming to the carpet, Adam invited them to select one of the drawers.
The children gathered on the carpet with the container of erasers. Then, they turned to the double tens frame using the animal clip art to double check that they were on the correct page.
Adam was conducting a lesson on decomposing numbers 11-19.  He displayed the numeral 11. Then, on his smart tv he modeled how to decompose the numeral onto the double tens frame.
The children used their erasers and their math mat to decompose the numeral. He continued to model with several numerals. After modeling a few times, he displayed another numeral and invited the children to decompose the numeral independently. Be sure and read all the way to the bottom of this blog post where you can grab the double tens frame FREE.
The working mats also include a collection of graphic organizers. These organizers can be used across the content areas.
Adam had read "The Cat in the Hat" and "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" to his class.  He drew a Venn diagram on a piece of chart paper.  He modeled how he could point to the circle on the left and say something that happened in "The Cat in the Hat".
He invited the children to do the same thing. He continued to model by pointing to the circle on the right and telling something that happened in "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back". Finally he modeled how to point to the section in the middle and say something that happened in both stories. For each section, he invited the children to repeat his words as they pointed to the correct section on the Venn Diagram.
Finally, he invite the children to slide next to their elbow partner and think of other things that happened in the stories for each section of the Venn Diagram. Be sure and read all the way to the bottom of this blog post and you can grab the Venn Diagram for FREE.
We absolutely LOVE our working mats book. But then this happens! Does that look familiar? I prefer the spiral binding over the comb binder. But the constant uncurling drives me crazy!
My friend Kathleen Conn, went with me to Adam's room.  She shared this super smart idea and got to work fixing ALL of Adam's working mat books. Here's what she did: First, put hold glue on a pony bead.
Then, she glued a bead to each end of the spiral.
No more uncurling!!!
The working mats are from the Pack It Learn It unit. You can find that unit here. If you want to see more of the contents of this unit, this blog post has a full listing of the other items included.
 Be sure and grab this unit quickly! There is a sale in my tpt store!
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Math Mats are a great way to teach ALL of the number standards using the SAME game! Just by changing the cards, you create a new game specifically designed for each individual student.  After making the game boards, all you need is a collection of counters. There are so many cheap things that we can use as counters! We found these cute little valentine owl erasers at Target. We also found these valentine hearts at the Dollar Tree.
Here are the ways that we can use the SAME game board!
Invite the children to look at the dot configuration on one of the cards. Then, they count sets to match the dots. Repeat on each game board.
Invite the children to look at the numeral on the first card. Count  a set to match the numeral. Repeat for each game board.
Determine the number combinations for each child. For example, some kids may be working on combinations for 4 while others are on 6, etc. After deciding which number you want them to work on, give them cards with that number. Invite them to put the numeral on each game board. Now, show a different combination on each card. 
Addition can also be taught with the math mats. Give the child a collection of number sentences. Invite them to place a sentence on each game board. Use the pieces to solve the equation.
Finally...Subtraction. Just like addition, give the child a collection of subtraction sentences. Invite them to use the counters to solve the equation.
You can grab the Valentine game board at bottom of this blog post as a FREE download.
The dots, numerals, and fact sentences are part of the Math Attack Units. These units have the game boards, pieces, numeral cards, and a nifty record keeping system. There are two bundles of games.
 
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I like February for so many reasons.  It's the time of year that you really start to see the fruits of your labor--not just academically but also socially. The kids have developed deeper relationships with each other, they have learned to depend on each other, and developed a few friendships that will take them into adulthood. (It's also the time when you are tired of cold weather, flu, and being inside, but trying to stay positive! haha)
Here are some of the fun activities we do during February to celebrate Valentines Day!
Heart Measurement
This is a fun craftivity for teaching measurement! After making the paper doll, the children use various items to measure "how much I  love you."
Want to use fewer pieces? Just make the arms shorter or make the measuring items larger. Instead of using pennies, just quarters!
Segmenting CVC Words
This is a fun activity to bridge from phonemic awareness to phonics. First, I gathered a small group of kids at the table. I gave them each one of the cards with the 3 heart animals and 3 hearts.  To play, I show them a picture. The children segment the phonemes and push one of the hearts onto the game board to represent each phoneme. To move the idea to phonics, give the children a little book. Invite them to glue a picture into the book. As they segment the sounds, the write the letters to represent each sound.
Making CVC Words
This is another fun way to build cvc words. Give the children 3 circles, a dice, the game board, and a recording sheet. Invite the children to roll the dice. Take one of the circles and move it up the first column of letters that many spaces.  Repeat for all three columns. Now, write the 3 letters on the recording sheet. Read the word.
Sorting Stamps
To play this game, I found this fun stamp clip art. You could also use real stamps. Give each child around 15 stamps. Invite them to think of different ways they can sort the stamps.  It is better to give them fewer stamps and encourage them to think of many ways to sort.
Comparing Names
To play this activity, give each child a booklet like the one above. Invite the kids to write their name in the first row of boxes.
Now, they ask another child to write their name in the second row of boxes.  Circle whether the name is longer, shorter, or the same length as your name. They loved being able to walk around the room!
Racing Hearts
To play this game, the kids need 3 heart game pieces, a game board, and a dice. Each child needs their own game, it is not a partner game.  The child rolls the dice. Now, they move the hearts that many squares. They can move one heart all of the moves, or they can split the moves between the hearts.
Nonfiction Guided Reading
We love our Nonfiction Guided Readers! The kids are killing it! Notice how we printed in black and white! Photographs are beautiful either way! You can read how to print them as a booklet for easy assembly in this blog post.
Various Levels of Text
To make the book, I created text at 3 different levels.  Each level has the same photographs and uses the same nonfiction features. We use these books for strategy lessons.  This means, we aren't working on decoding, etc. I'm not concerned about a perfect fit. I just don't want it to be too hard! We are teaching our kids how readers use nonfiction features to gain information!
Nonfiction Features
After reading the book, the kids have an opportunity to apply the new nonfiction feature. In this case, the kids are learning how to use a table of contents. They cut the pages to make a little book. Staple. Then, they number the pages and create a table of contents.
Word Work
We also use content from the books to practice some form of word work. Here the kids are taking the letters in valentines to build different word family words. First, they find the letters to make the chunk. Then, they use the remaining letters to see if they make a new word by placing it in front of the chunk.
Writing
We also use writing as a way to practice the nonfiction features. Here the kids are writing text using questions!
Guided Reading Text
Each of our Monthly Guided Reading Units has 5 titles. The February Guided Reading Unit has three books to use around Valentines, a President's Day Book, and a Groundhogs Book.
Who Has More
This is a fun game to use during math centers.  To play, make a deck of cards and a game board. The game board needs a more and less spinner, and a square for more and a square for less. To play, each child turns over a card. They compare for more and less and place the card on the game board.  The child with "less" spins the spinner. If it lands on more, the child with more gets both cards. If it lands on less, the child with less gets both cards.
Measure Me
The kids love playing this game. One child lays down. The other child uses the mail trucks to measure the length of his body.  On the recording page, they record how many it took. Then, they trade places!
Roll Count Compare
The kids love this game! To play you need a game board, unifix cubes, a dice, and a board with a more and less spinner, and boxes for more and less.  The first child rolls the dice and counts out that many unifix cubes (all one color). Then he places the cubes on any squares on the game board.  The second child rolls the dice and counts out that many unifix cubes (a different color than his partner). Put them on the game board. The children continue taking turns until the game board is full. Now they can each collect their own cubes and compare for more and less. Spin to see who wins!
These ideas are from the Valentine's Math Game Pack
 
You can grab this fun Roll, Say Keep game as a freebee below! To play, make a game board with 6 squares. Put a dice face in each square.  Make a set of cards. I made 3 sets--numerals, letters, and sight words.  Select a set of cards and place them on the left side of the game board.  Put 6 of the cards on the game board.  Invite the children to roll the dice.  Look at the game board and find the dice face that matches the dice.  The child "reads" the card in the square. If they can read the card, they remove it from the game board and place it on the right side of the board.  Add another card into the blank space. Continue until all of the cards are moved to the right side of the game board. 
 
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