Monday, April 30, 2012

Differentiating In Response to Interest . . . setting the hook!

We've talked about this before, so I know this is nothing new, but I LOVE the fact that when you differentiate you do so in response to your learners readiness, learning profile and INTERESTS.

Interest is the hook that pulls your learners in and gets them excited and pumped up to learn.  Of course, when your kinders start out in the year, you can't always know what their various interests are and it's not like they're capable of filling out a questionnaire.  So it takes time for you to get to know them, you have to actually have conversations and gauge what those interests are. 

I also make it a habit of sending parents an interest survey which gives me a bit of a head start and something to build off from once their child starts.  It's nothing fancy, but this is an example of what I used this year.


So based on this information and more so what I now know about my students and their interests, I can plan different units of study or themes.  Now I don't know about you but I'm not the type of teacher that will stand up in front of my class and say  (insert squeeky nasal voice here) "ok class, for the next 2 weeks we will be studying __________." I, like any other kindergartener, like to build up a little drama . . . anticipation . . . excitement. 

So since dinosaurs are scheduled to take over my classroom these next couple of weeks, I set up my HOOK! Now, I've been doing this little activity since way back when I taught Pre-K and it never seems to get old.  I think I must have my act down after all these years because it's never failed me.

This little tree is what is affectionately known as our Chika Tree.  At the beginning of the year when students are mastering their letter names they get to place their name on the tree when they reach their letter naming goal.  It's a standard fixture in our room.

And you know how kinders are, if anything is out of place or unusual . . . they notice IMMEDIATELLY!  There was a lot of 'what is that?' and 'where did it come from?' So of course we had to spend some time making our predictions and guessing.  In the end, we decided we had better put it back for safe keeping.

But later we noticed something had happened . . .

At first it was just a little crack, but by the end of the day, our egg had hatched a little dinosaur.  Egads! It was mighty exciting let me tell you. There was alot of talk about dinosaurs and who knew what and who liked which kind until someone (with a little subliminal help) asked if we could learn about dinosaurs.

HOOK  . . .  LINE . . . and SINKER!

Don't you love it when a plan comes together?  I do.  And in case any of you are starting a dinosaur unit soon and have never done a papermache egg with a dinosaur inside (I can't imagine anyone not having done this but just in case . . .), I have a few step by step instructions.

You're going to need a bowl for mixing, strips of newspaper, a small dinosaur, cinnamon, a balloon, flour, water and a container to stage your balloon while your plastering it.

Your toughest job in this whole project is getting the dinosaur into the balloon without ripping the balloon, especially if its a pointy little dino. 

Once you get it inside, blow the balloon up and get ready to stir up the paper mache paste.
You'll need about 1 cup flour, a couple of dashes of cinnamon (it just makes it smell better to me) and a cup and a half of warm water.  Mix it all up until you have a nice smooth paste consistancy.

I like to spread a little paste on the balloon then put a strip of paper on the plasted area and put more paste on top.  Keep doing this, layering and covering the entire balloon with a couple layers of paper strips.

This is what it will look like when it's done.  Place on top of some kind of container to let it dry.  It will take a good day for it to be ready to paint.  Then when it is dry, paint it any color you choose.  It's not like we really know what color the eggs were anyway. 

And there you have it.  If you're interested, I'll have more fun dinosaur activities through out the next couple of weeks.  Keep checking back and if you need some dinosaur literacy and math center activities, check out my TpT store. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Did YOU win? You still might be a winner.

A big thank you to all who entered the Top Teacher Giveaway Contest this week.  I drew a random number and the winner is   . . . .
Lynnette Albertson

Congratulations Lynnette.

And because everyone should be a winner . . . if you still want to get your hands on my I Spy With My Frog's Eye I-Spy CVC, CVCC/CCVC and CVCe Differentiated Word Work Unit I'm putting it on sale at discounted price until Midnight. Just click on the link above to get it.
Thanks to everyone who participated.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Differentiating Your Clipboard-A Check-up and A Freebie To Help You On Your Journey

In all the hoopla of the Top Teacher Giveaway on Tuesday (you have signed up haven't you?  Make sure you click here if you haven't) I didn't really get a lot of time to tell you about my guest blogging gig over at PreK+K Sharing. 

If you've jumped on the differentiation by clipboard bandwagon, "Good for YOU!!!" And if not . . .
Well, maybe you've been toying with the idea of differentiating, but just can't seem to wrap your head around it all . . .

instead of doing NOTHING, why not stop on over and take a look at how I show you how you can get started with a simple little tool . . . a clipboard of all things. There are tons of freebies to grab up.  Just click on the link above or HERE to get there.

And to get you started on the right path, I have a little ocean themed freebie . . . pick it up by clicking on the picture and PLEASE let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guidelines for Differentiating and the Common Core Along with A Freebie

As you begin to embark on your journey of creating a differentiated classroom or even if you are a seasoned instructor of differentiated instruction, it can sometimes be very easy to get bogged down by the details of tiering, flexible grouping, compacting and all the other strategies that you may or may not use to differentiate your instruction.  However, what you really need to do is just focus on three very basic principles to guide you  . . .

For now, let's think only about number one.  As a new teacher, you may or may not be handed a textbook to guide you through your early days of teaching.  Remember, a textbook is just that, it is a GUIDE.  It is not your curriculum.  It is not your core concepts or essential skills.  Your common core standards and objectives are the essential skills on which you need to focus. These are the skills that your students need to master, not necessarily what is in your textbook..

So for instance  . . . Common Core K.OA.5 indicates that kindergarten students should be able to fluently add and subtract within 5. 

Here is a little activity that addresses that very standard AND addresses the needs of your kinesthetic students that need to move.

Of course it's free because I know how to take care of my peeps.  Just click on the picture to get it.

Remember that your learning goals need to be clear.  Struggling learners need to feel they have the facts they need but are not overwhelmed by disconnected content, fluff or EXTRA material.  Likewise, advanced learners need to be challenged.  Once you have your objectives and standards identified, you can tier your activities up or down to meet the readiness levels of all your learners.  If you'd like to see what the above activity is like tiered click on the picture below.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


It's Giveaway time and you are not going to believe this!  Over 20 items up for grabs from AMAZING bloggers all over the USA!  It's Top Teacher's Giveaway Galore!



to enter and include your email before APRIL 27th and from me you could win:

   I Spy With My Frog's Eye-A Differentiated Word Work Activity by Marsha of A Differentiated Kindergarten : " This is a differentiated I-Spy activity which includes 16 pages of CVC, CVCC and CVCe activities that are tiered to help you meet the readiness levels of all your students." (K-2)

While you are here, make sure you follow me through Google Friend Connect, Facebook, Teachers Pay Teachers, and Pinterest.  

Then stop by these great BLOGS, look for this same post and enter to win their free products with them!
(Please note there is a link to the product and blog, you will want to visit their blog to enter.)

Making Words with Blends by DeAnne of First Grade and Fabulous: "Making Words is a great activity to work on phoneme isolation, segmenting sounds, and blending sounds to make words. This packet includes Blends (with both short vowels and long vowels with silent e. You will find ten different making word directions which include their own recording sheets." (k-2)

Dolch Sight Words for Kindergarten by Lidia Barbosa of Kid’s Reading Activities: "Sight word cards in a fun theme. Use them in a center, small group or on your word wall. A word sorting activity is included." (K)

  Center Signs in Spanish by Lidia Barbosa of Kinder Latino: "These are 24 colorful center signs in Spanish. It includes two sizes. One full page size plus small cards for your Centers pocket chart." (K)

  Adding 3 Numbers Pack by Melissa of Dilly Dabbles: "Pack full of activities to support instruction on adding three numbers with sums within 20." (K-2)

 Baseball Antonyms by Sally DeCost of Elementary Matters: "This is a game to practice antonyms. It has a baseball theme, and can be played like "Old Maid" or like "Concentration". It can be played with a pair of children, or a whole reading group.." (1 - 3)

 Compound Word Magic Square for Grades 3, 4, & 5 by Heather of HoJo's Teaching Adventures: "This is a great fun puzzle where students need to match 24 compound words together. You will get three different puzzles with this item."(3-5)

  Interactive Student Notebook by A Teacher's Treasure: "The ultimate alternative assessment & differentiating tool. Students will become creative, independent, reflective, thinkers, readers and writers. Students will be able to express their own ideas, process, and or apply the information and skills learned in this class. This notebook serves as a live journal, personalized textbook, and working portfolio. Engages learners of all learning modalities & multiple intelligences." (4-12)

  Vocabulary Detectives 2 by Ruth of Teacher Park: "Run weekly vocabulary contests! As your students read their books, they fill out the Vocabulary Detective cards and put them in the Detective Jar. Have a drawing at the end of the week for the winners!" (4-6)

  Alphabet Writing: Quick Prompts From A to Z by Erin of Small Types: "Get students' pencils moving and their creativity flowing with these short alphabet-themed writing prompts. Students can write notes to friends, make lists, turn alphabet letters into main characters and describe the details in fictional adventures--All corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. (Includes five prompts for each letter to suit different levels and interests.)"

Fun on the Farm by Brian of Hopkins' Hoppin' Happenings: "Here is a fun Farm Packet for primary grades. It includes Farm Rhyming Words - The words used are actually from the book Country Morning by Christine Lynn. Read more about it on my blog. It also includes I Have Who Has Dolch Words, Addition and Subtraction Center. You can use them as concentration matching, go fish, etc. All, but the I Have Who Has, has a work sheet and an answer key to go with it! I hope you enjoy!" (K-2)

Geometry Fun: A Supplemental Unit by Mandy of Mandy's Tips for Teachers: "This 77 page packet includes vocabulary cards, a student dictionary, three games, two sorting activities, two creative art projects and a short assessment." (2-4)

 Busy Teacher Forms by Michelle of Teach123 : "Fourteen forms to help busy teachers." (K-3)

Farm Math Work Station Activities numbers 11-20 by Mandy of A Special Kind of Class: "Seven math work station activities including, subtracting, counting, number recognition, number matching, measuring and 2 adding activities. Includes response sheets and answer keys." (K-1)

  The Three Frogs by Arlene of LMN Tree: "This is an ELA Guided Reading and Writing Unit for Grades 1-2. It includes a complete lesson plan, Word Study, Make and Take Book, Graphic Organizers, Story Sequence Writing Activity, Phonics Worksheet, Writing, Chant and Activities.

  Writing Center by Caitlin of Kindergarten Smiles: "I created these activities for my students writing center. They are all independent and fun! These can be used throughout the year (more than once). Activities range from name writing, to writing the globe, to sight word writing, to much, much, more!" (K-2)

  Writing Lists by Nicole of Teaching With Style: "This set of 10 lists is perfect for using during Daily 5. In my classroom, if students choose Work on Writing, they can work on their story from Writer's Workshop, start a new story, write a letter to a friend, or write a list. " (K-3)

  Digital Clock Sorting Game by Jennifer of Best Practices 4 Teaching: "This product allows students to sort digital clocks by 'quarter til', 'quarter of', 'quarter after', etc. Students will quickly see the pattern of the times and commit it to memory! In 2 days, all of my students had learned this concept using this sort whereas the lesson in our math kit totally confused them!"

  Synonym-Antonym Rap Packet by Abby of Third Grade Bookworm: "This packet is full of activities for a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom studying synonyms and antonyms. Students will enjoy the Synonym-Antonym Rap, partner game, buddy reading activity and other printables included in this set. Wrap it all up with a cute class book template that can be used with other units in the future!" (2-3)

Early Elementary Science - Human Body Unit with Literacy Math by Lisa of The Lesson Guide: "This Early Elementary Science based Anatomy Unit will teach students about the Human Body (inside and out) with colorful graphics and diagrams using a variety of Literacy and Math skills. This unit includes Measurement Skills, an original Poem with a Get Moving Analysis, Information/Facts about each Body Part with Vocabulary, Templates for students to create a nonfiction book about their body, Full color pictures of body parts and locations of body parts, a Classification and Math graphing activity with Critical Thinking Analysis, a Unit Project/Human Diagram, a Word Wall Classification activity with Phrase Cards, Resources and more!" (K-2)

  Building Popcorn Words by Krissy of Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business: "This product includes weekly cut, build, and glue activities that follow along with my Monkey Popcorn Word Fun Unit as well as the Treasures series word list (which includes many Dolch and other HFW as well). It also has center materials that students can build the words in a pocket chart." (K-1)

  Scooping Up Story Elements by Tonya of Super Second Graders: "This is a fun way for students to pick story elements to plan out a story. Students will pick a card from characters, setting, and plot and record then on the recording sheet. Students will use the chosen element to create a story. Students will have a blast getting to create fun and whimsical stories. " (1-4)

  The Answer is… What’s the Question? Math Task Cards by Michelle of Making It As A Middle School Teacher: "28 numbered cards that leave the level of difficulty and specific math skill to be assessed up to you! Some students may only do basic operations, while other students may be required to do more advanced skills and give more details for their answers. Two student response options are also included!! Use for early finishers, have the whole class complete in Round Robin style, or use as a center. Pull out specific cards or use all 28 cards." (5-8)

  David Shannon Author Study by Mary of Sharing Kindergarten: "This is an 80 page author study using the books of David Shannon. It features 8 book. Each book title has a reading comprehension game, answer key, and writign prompts with it. " (K-1)

  Candy Land Long Vowel Game by Mel D of Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations: "This unique game is one of over 50 games I have to offer! Over 18 pages of long vowel words are on "look-alike" Candy Land cards. All you need is a game board & game pieces. Print, laminate & cut & use for years to come. These games can be used during Daily 5, tutoring, literacy stations, Daily 5 Math, RTI, ELL, Title 1 groups, homeschooling & more! The possibilities are endless!" (K-3)

A Not So Wimpy Resource: Fractions, Decimals & Percents Using Money by Kathie of The Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher : "This resource is great for differentiating instruction. Help struggling students, or those who have a difficult time with math concepts, understand fractions using money. This resource includes an info sheet, practice sheet, flashcards, and a bingo board." (3-5)

Sight Word Snap Cubes by Jennifer of Empowering Little Learners"Looking for a fun new center for your kids? How about having them make the sight words with Snap Cubes! Use these cards to have your students count out blocks to create the letters and form the pre-primer sight words! Then they count how many cubes it took to make the words! Two recording sheets are included (one where students just count the snap cubes, and another where students count and write the word.)" (K-3)

Again, comment your email on this post to win my product before APRIL 27th.  Winner will be announced on April 28th!  

And then hop on over to these great blogs to enter to win their free products too!  

OH!!!! AND IF YOU WANT SOME GREAT FREEBIES... I'm guest blogging today!


If you've ever wondered how you can differentiate with a tool as simple as a clipboard, you need to follow me on over to Pr-K+K Sharing  on Tuesday where I'm guest blogging today!

You never know what kind of freebies you might find there too.  Come on over and check it out. I'd love to hear what you think.


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