Monday, October 27, 2014

Trick and Treat Freebielicious Blog Hop - Come Fill Your Bags

Fall is upon is and that means it's time for some Teaching Trick & Treating!

That's right - I have teamed up with my Freebielicious friends again to share some 
teaching tricks and special free treats for you!  

For my trick, I've had ton's of people write and ask me how I get my sensory table pasta so bright when I dye it, so I thought I'd give you my little 'how-to.'  I'm not sure it's a big secret, but it seems to work perfectly every time I do it and my colors are amazing.

First you collect a variety of pasta.  Listen . . . I know expensive to purchase a bunch of pasta each month, but if you ask your parents to donate, they usually are happy to send is a box of pasta that costs them all of a $1-$2.  It's cheap, and they really DO want to help out if they can.  This is a simple way.
Get yourself some gallon size ziploc bags and dump your pasta in it so it's 2/3-3/4 of the way full.  Now put in about 1/4 C of rubbing alcohol.  This helps so the pasta doesn't get gummy (Who thinks of this stuff?  Really!  I mean who would guess.).  Now add your food coloring.  I personally use NEON colors almost exclusively.  You can mix the colors for some fun hues and the color just seems to be brighter.  I'm not shy about adding it either.  One or two drops?  Not for this girl.  I put in alot.  I mix and add and mix and add and mix so that I know it will all get covered.  And then I wait . . . and wait and wait . . .  Sometimes, I'll let it sit for a couple of hours until I think the color is exactly what I want it to be.  Now lay out some tin foil on a counter and dump the contents of your bag onto the foil and let it dry.  I let it dry over night and usually turn the noodles a couple of times to make sure it's drying clear through.  And that's it.

And as for a treat . . . 

I've included a little word family maze for you all.  This is a favorite of my own students and each week with each new word family, I have one of these for them to complete. Just click on the picture below.

 For this particular maze, just use a bingo dotter (or they can color the trick or treat bags) and have them follow all the ~ag family words written on the trick or treat bags as they help the witch make her way to the candy.

  You can find mazes just like these and tons of other word family activities in my Word Family Galore Packets.

Hop along to my next Freebielicious friend (everyone loves CupCakes) to see what her Trick & Treat is!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Celebration Time . . . Come' on! It's a Sale-abration.

I have a vague memory of starting a Facebook page a short time after I started my blog.  It was this very scary, very confusing undertaking.  I remember telling my husband when I reached 400 'likes', ‘I just don’t “get” Facebook.’  Fast forward two and a half years later and here I am celebrating 15,000 followers.

My blessing abound and the gifts I have gained from starting this blog never cease to amaze me.  But among those precious gifts, the greatest are the friendships and connections I have made with teachers and educators throughout the world. 

So in celebration, I’m throwing a sale on my entire store Sunday and Monday and if you come back tomorrow, I will  have a fun little freebie for you as well.  It's the least I could do for all my friends.

Thank you to all of you for ‘liking’ me and for the continued support, emails and friendships.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ingredients For Successful Word Family Instruction

It’s the thirty-second day of school.  Over half my kinders are ‘Top Bananas,’ I’ve introduced and we’ve reviewed over half the letters of the alphabet, they showing signs of segmenting and blending, they totally ‘get’ patterns, and I’m feeling like it’s time to introduce word families.  Since you all have had so many questions about this part of my classroom routine, I thought I’d show you a bit more about how I introduce, differentiate and maintain this part of my ELA instruction.  I’m going to warn you, this could be a long one so hang in there with me.

When To Introduce Word Families

Every year isn’t the same.  Some years it’s earlier than others.  Some years it’s later.  It always amazes me that some people know that on the 4th week of school they will start word families.  Until I have assessed, observed and watched my kiddos in action, I never know.  It’s part of the whole "instruct, assess and adjust" cycle which works great for me and for differentiating.  I do like it wait until I notice them easily identifying and supplying rhymes and patterns.  Even for those kids that don't have all their letters sounds yet,  if they can identify and supply rhymes and hear patterns, they seem to understand word families and eventually do very well with appropriate support.  It makes my heart soar when I hear a little exclaim in excitement, "Mrs. McGuire! I see an ~at family word!"
 Free Making Words Placards for Word Family Instruction

Whole Group Introduction/Instruction
I always introduce my word families the same way, one word family each week.  Using these placards (They're available for free by clicking HERE.) 
 Free making words placards

I give my students a chance to move around and see how the family has a pattern and when the initial onset changes the words change.  In the beginning, it's enough for us to take turns making the words with placards, but after a couple of weeks, I have students who are not holding the placards, write the words on a word family recording sheet as well.  
 kindergarten word family list

This gives them just that little bit of additional practice, and they love taking the list home and reading it to a parent.  (You can give them an extra homework punch or sticker if they take it home and read it to an adult and have them sign it.  Kinders love that kind of thing!)  If you'd like to get a copy of a generic word family recording sheet, just click the picture above.)

After this first day of introduction, the word family poster and cards go up on my wall and these become a central point of reference for my students during their word family study.  I can't tell you how often my students refer to these posters or the rings when they are writing and reading.  It's amazing to see how familiar they become with the families and how they can process new words by find the word family chunks within other words.  It's one of those 'ah-ha' moments that make all the rest of the 'oh my gosh will they ever get it' moments disappear!  I live for those moments.

 Kindergarten Word Family Instruction

(I also have a word family rings in case you don't have a huge wall for displaying all the word families.)

Then the rest of the week, I simply do some quick review activities during whole group ELA.  

One day we may do a group sorting activity.  I hand out several picture cards from different word family groups, and the students take turns coming up and placing them under the thumbs up or thumbs down heading in our pocket chart.  The other students give a thumbs up or thumbs down if they agree so that everyone stays engaged.

Another day I might hide different word family words in my morning message.  Students get to come up and circle the word family words they find.  

Get your students in a circle and have one person start with a word family word and go around the circle to see how far you can get repeating the initial word, plus all the words that have come after and adding a new word.  This one usually erupts in laughter, but it helps greatly with students who struggle with producing rhymes.

And still another day I might play a Simon Says type game where I call out 'if cat is part of the ~at family, put your hand on your head.'  Whatever I do for whole group, I try to incorporate movement of some kind, I keep is short and I make sure everyone is involved.  

That's whole group.  However,  the real meat and potatoes, the real practice comes during small group instruction and stations.

Small Group Instruction
Because I use a modified Daily 5 structure for literacy, my small group instruction is called 'Meet the Teach.'  This is the time when I do 'guided reading instruction' which could include on a typical day some letter instruction, sight word work, phonics/word family work and reading depending on the kids I'm seeing.  However, there is almost always  some kind of word family activity included with every group.

Here are just a couple of examples of the different activities we might do:

Mr. Munchy Mouth Sort-We use this handsome devil to sort out word families. I throw a couple of different families together and have them decide if it belongs to the word family that Mr. Munch Mouth is eating that day.  This is a classroom favorite and definitely keeps them engaged.

Word Family Hide 'n Seek- This can be played in small groups as you begin word work study, but it often becomes an activity that you can place in your stations and students easily play it independently with others.  Word cards are placed in a pocket chart and one student hides the 'hide-n-go seek' card behind a word family card while the other students try and guess where it is by reading the words on the cards to indicate their guess.  The student that guesses where the 'hide n go seek' card is located, gets to hide it next.

Show Me The Money:  This is simply where I offer different materials (chalk boards, white boards, magnets, or even paint chips) for students to use to write a word family word that I show them.  They hide what they have written and then when I say 'show me the money,' they reveal their word to see if they are correct.  

Thumbs-Up/Thumbs Down-I will say/show a word to my group and they use the thumbs up/thumbs down cards to indicate whether they are part of the word family.

Word Family Memory Match:  Played just like traditional memory but with your word family pictures and cards.  This too often becomes and independent station after a few weeks when students 'get' the rules and routines of playing it. 

Stations/Independent Work
Each of the activities in stations/independent work are initially introduced in small group or if it has a response sheet component to it, I use my document camera to practice filling it out with my students.  I want to make sure that students understand the procedures and expectations well before I just put them in their stations.

In my room where I use a Daily 5 that is modified, I actually have 2 Word Work stations.  Word Work Station 2 is dedicated to sight word study and fluency (letters at the beginning of the year), and Word Work Station 1 is dedicated to Word Families and Phonics.  This is where I will put all my word family activities, rhyming activities, digraph, blends and the like for students to use.  There is usually one or two 'must do' activities and then many many things that they can choose to do after.  By keeping these activities familiar and by only changing the skill or word family, students feel incredibly successful here.  They have practiced the activity with me first, they understand the work, they can manage the materials and, because it's differentiated, it's challenging but not frustrating.

Ok, so here is what my Word Work #1 (Word Families/Blends/Digraphs/Rhyming Work) stations look like in my room. 

Each drawer contains a different activity. There's a sensory bin activity on the top as well. I had mentioned before that some activities move from small group to stations so you may find the Word Family Matching game here, Word Family Hide and Seek or the Word Family Card Games that are available for each short vowel.

Additionally, there are some other options as well.

See-it, Say-it, Write-it:  These are self-correcting mats and cards that allow students to look at the picture, make it (with beads, magnets or a play-doh stamper) and then write it.  Once they have accomplish that, they simply open the card to see if they are correct.  Changing up the materials they use from beads to play-doh to magnets, keeps this activity fresh and fun.

Write the Room for Word Family Words:  Nothing says kindergarten engagement like write the room.  Students travel the room in search of word family cards and record their answers on their sheets.  If I don't want a lot of paperwork lying around for this activity, I simply laminate the sheets or place them in a laminate sleeve.  

I don't like to use a ton of paper pencil activities for stations.  But if I do, I want it to be a bit more interactive than just your typical 'work sheet.'  These printables that I include in stations, hit the mark.  I always introduce these for the first time through using my document camera and complete them together so everyone understands how they should be used. 

I Spy A Word Family:  These tiered I-spy sheets have students searching with magnifying glasses for word families hidden in the picture. 

Word Family Maze:  Students use bingo dotters to get from one picture to the other by dotting the word family words.  Who doesn't love using a bingo dotter?  Haven't met a kinder yet that doesn't.

Morning Work/Homework/Printables
And when you just need a response sheet, morning work or homework, I use the following.  I introduce these the first week of work families by having students follow along and do them with me as I complete them using the document camera and that seems to help greatly!!! 

Word Family Slide:  Students make a word family reader by cutting and sliding an onset slip in front of the word family rhyme.  They read the words to a friend who signs the back of their slider.  It's a nice item to send home with students so they can read to their parents.

Color, Count and Write:  Students color and count word family words at the top of their paper and then graph that many words by writing them on the graph below.  It's differentiated so that students that need that support of writing their letters correctly have it.

Say, Make and Write Word Family Words:  Students cut and glue word family words and then write them next to their corresponding picture.  My students always need more and more and even more fine motor practice so I love using this one whenever I can.

Independence and Differentiating
The key to keeping these stations and activities independent is having your students be familiar with the activities and procedures.  I have 22 weeks of short vowel word families (and there are also CVCe and Digraph sets as well) and they all have very familiar and understood activities.  This makes my life infinitely better when working with small groups and makes my students feel successful.  'I can do it myself,' is a phrase that is music to my ears.  And they can do this all by themselves.  Even when it comes to tiering an activity, my students know how to find the one that is intended for them.  They don't have to search around or waste time.  I have organized my tiers by color and their Daily 5 name tags indicate which color they should use.  It's so simple and they totally 'get' it.

When they go to a station, they know to look for their 'color.'  By color, of course, I mean the color tag that their name is written on for Daily 5 stations.  These colors may change weekly depending on what we are working on, but they have gotten into the habit of checking so that when they come to a station, they simply look for the item (I usually use envelops or pencil cases) that has their color and know that this is their activity.  This way, I can have three students at three very different levels working on the same activity.  

For instance, I may have three students working at write the room for word families.  One student may only be writing the onset to match the picture and make the word.  Another students may be writing the complete word.  And another student may be writing the complete word to complete the sentence on his/her sheet.  Each student is engaged and working on their own level of readiness.  It's a good thing, and it makes word family word work successful in my kindergarten class.

If you have questions about word family word work, please don't hesitate to drop me a line, and don't forget, I also have digraph 

and CVCe word families 

that go along with the 22 different weeks of short vowel word family work.  I hope you'll check them out.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Custom T-Shirt Mega Giveaway from Freebielcious

Every once in a while,  the girls at Freebielicious discover a really awesome product for classroom teachers that is so amazing, we just have to share it with you! Today is one of those days! Get ready because we are hosting a super cute giveaway for custom classroom t-shirts from We will be giving away a class set* of custom t-shirts to THREE lucky Freebielicious fans! Isn't that amazing? 

These are NOT your average t-shirt designs. The people at ClassroomFaces are so creative, they found a way to print a collection of drawings from every child in the class on the set of t-shirts, to create a truly custom design! Nobody else in the world will ever have a t-shirt exactly like the one your class designs. The website may be called "Classroom Faces" but there are SO many more options for children to draw than just their face. Sample designs on the website show creative ideas using student handprints or drawings of the school mascot.

Since the Freebielicious girls are such good friends, we designed our very own set of Classroom Faces t-shirts. We enlisted the help of our talented friend (and fellow Freebie gal) Nikki from Melonheadz to create custom drawings of each of our faces.

The finished t-shirts were absolutely ADORABLE! I absolutely love my new custom Freebielicious t-shirt from Classroom

About Classroom Faces

Creating a class set of t-shirts featuring your students drawings is easy. Each child just needs to create a simple drawing. To create t-shirts with one-color ink on a solid colored t-shirt (like ours) each child needs to draw their picture using a fine point black marker. The ClassroomFaces website has downloadable templates that you can use to guide your students. Full-color illustrations on a plain white t-shirt are also possible. Look how cute these t-shirts are! 

Extra Savings for Freebielicious Fans

Freebielicious fans that order a class set of tshirts can save $1 on each tshirt and receive 1 free teacher tshirt with their order using promo code FREEBIE14. Orders must include 15 or more paid shirts to qualify and must be postmarked by December 31, 2014

Enter to WIN a Class Set of Custom Classroom Faces T-Shirts

Now that you have seen how ADORABLE these t-shirts are, it's your chance to try and win a set for your classroom. The wonderful people at ClassroomFaces are graciously giving away a class set* of custom t-shirts to 3 lucky Freebielicious fans! Each set is valued at over $250. Stop by the Freebielicious blog for your chance to WIN! 

*Up to 24 tshirts will be included in each prize pack. Winner can choose to order a class set of traditional single-color tshirts or tshirts will full-color illustrations. Additional t-shirts can be purchased for $11 or $13 (depending on t-shirt size and style). Shipping is free for winners that live in the US. If a winner requires shipping outside of the US, the winner is responsible for shipping costs. (Shipping to Canada costs between $5-$20 depending on weight and location). 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Stitch Fix #10 Is All That And More Plus . . . A Giveaway, too!

I love all things fall and Stitch Fix has not disappointed me with any of their fall selections for my #9 nor #10 fix.  This fix was all that and more.

Besides being a great service for people like me who don't like to shop, Stitch Fix is just plain fun.  It is seriously like Christmas every time I see that package waiting for me.  The anticipation of finding out what might be inside is excruciating.  I'd love to rip it open, but I always wait until I have the time to really enjoy finding out what my stylist picked out for me.

So without making you wait any longer, let me show you what treasures my stylist chose for me this time.

First up was this Shea Thermal Cowl Neck Top.  I grabbed this item up first, because the color called to me.  I love the olive color and it suits my coloring.  I couldn't wait to see how it fit.  My stylist had suggested wearing it with jeans. . .  

 . . . or a pair of leggings.  I prefer the look with leggings (don't mind the wrinkles from being in a box).  It was long enough that it covered all the 'essential' areas,  and the piece is also so comfortable.  I could totally see myself wearing this in kindergarten.   I knew this one was definitely a keeper.

The next piece my stylist picked was this Zoey Mixed Material Watercolor Print Top.  It didn't really do it for me when I saw it in the box, but, as with all my fixes, I like to give the clothing the benefit of the doubt and try them on.  You just never know, right?  Well this piece surprised me.  It's actually very comfortable and a fun piece with lots of detail.  I feel like I could pair this with dress pants or a pair of jeans and it's something a little 'different' from what I would normally pick for myself.  

This Crissie Knit Textured Sleeved Moto Jacket was next.  I don't know what a 'Moto Jacket' is exactly because, as you know, I'm not into all that fashion jargon, but whatever it is, I love it.  I had asked my stylist to send me a jacket.  I was thinking a little something more traditional, but this piece is so fun, I love how it feels, the colors once again are perfect for me and it looks great with a casual pair of jeans. 

I also found this Garren Geo Knit Raglan Top in my box.  If I can't have fall colors, then please give me black. Thank you very much.  This top is going to be so versatile for me.  I can wear it with a skirt or pair of slacks to work, or pair it with jeans and boots.  And it is SOOOOOOO soft.  

Finally, I had asked my stylist to consider sending a pair of jeans that had a different cut other than the two pair of 'skinny' jeans that I wear non-stop from them.  When I pulled out these Kate Boyfriend Jeans, I wasn't quite sure if they were what I had in mind.  They were long!  But wait, my stylist said, they are meant to be cuffed!  Seriously?  Cuffed!!??? I hadn't worn cuffed jeans since I was little when I would get the very much coveted hand me downs form my older and just a bit taller cousin.  I wasn't sold on it, but, again, I took my stylist's advice and tried them with a pair of slings . . .

What do you think?  They're cute.  A little loose fitting compared to the skinny jeans I've been living in, but in the end, I decided I had to have them.

So there you have it!  Another great fix, and I'm keeping it ALL.

Don't know about Stitch Fix?  Well, let me give you a quick run down of how it works.  It's really quite easy.   For $20, a stylist will take your size, preferences and style profile into account as they pick out five pieces of clothing for you to try.  If you decide that you love any of the pieces they send you, your original $20 goes towards your purchase (win-win!!) and anything you don't want, goes into a pre-paid envelope and is returned to Stitch Fix.  If you decided you love everything they send you, then not only do you get to add your original $20 onto your purchase, but they give you a 25% discount off your order as well.  

You decide how often you receive your fixes and you also decide the price range.  It's so fun, so easy and a great way to get unique pieces that no one else will be sporting. 

I love it so much, I'm having a giveaway so that one of you can get started on your own fix.  All you have to do is enter below for your chance to win.  In the meantime, you should check out Stitch Fix.   Just click HERE.   You can create your own style profile and link up a style board if you have one on Pinterest.  That's a great way for your stylist to 'see' what you really like.   

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And because I just know you want to increase your chances of winning, you should head over to blogging pals, Maria from KinderCraze and Mary from Sharing Kindergarten.   They just got their latest fix and are doing giveaways too.


I know you're just gonna love checking out what they found in their own Stitch Fix box.


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