Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Freebie For You On My Birthday!!!!

It's my birthday gift to YOU!!!!
Listen, we all LOVE (can you hear the sarcasm in my voice) the oodles and oodles of overly frosted cupcakes we get when it's one of our kiddos birthdays.  They're giving us a gift from the heart on their birthday.  Awwwww . . . .  Believe me, if I could, I'd send you one from me with gobs and gobs of frosting that would stain your teeth for month and put you into a sugar high to bad it would take a week to come down.  But since no one has made an app for that yet, I made you this instead.

Nothing could make me happier than giving YOU a present on my birthday.  I've been trying to figure out a good way to do letter and letter sound recognition with an I-Spy (write the room to come later) and I put this differentiated activity together and thought I'd see how you like it.

It's an exclusive freebie for my facebook fans only, but I'm hoping my facebook buddies will give me a little birthday gift and stop back over and follow my blog while they're grabbing up this goodie from my birthday party.

Just click on the picture above and click on my facebook tab that says FAN FREEBIES.  Of course, you have to be a fan to get in. 

Please, please, please stop back and let me know what you think.  This is really the first of this for me, and I'd love some feedback to let me know what you think or, of course, if you have ANY suggestions or requests, drop me a note.

Thanks for sharing my birthday with me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Daily 5 BABY!!!!

That's right.  It's all kindergarten and all Daily 5 and it's coming to you at the end the month by means of a book study.  I have been reading and studying up on Daily 5 with my kindergarten neighbor, Kerri, for the last year.  But you know, kindergarten is just such a different beast.  So when there started to be talk about a book study for D5, I knew that I wanted in on it, but I also knew that kindergarten held some special challenges that we might not find in other grades.  Luckily, my pal Tammy over at Live Love Laugh in Kindergarten also knew it.

She's the hostess with the mostess for this kindergarten ONLY Daily 5 book study ready to take place at the end of the month, and our go-to gal.  So step on over and check out what she has in store.  She has all the details that you're gonna want to write down.

And as soon as possible, order the book!  You're gonna need it.  Of course, I'll be participating and hopefully putting a differentiated spin on things as we go along and including some freebies here and there. So look for my up-coming blogs as the study starts. 

I'm sooooooo excited about this, and I hope that you decide to join us by following along. Drop me a line and let me know what you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Differentiated Math Stations . . . and a Freebie

Hands down, my favorite small group activities to happen in my class are math stations.  They just run so smoothly, students are so engaged and to be honest, it's just plain fun.  While I've used Debbie Diller's book, Math Work Stations  to get me started, of course, I've had to tweak it a bit here and there to fit my own classroom. 

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

There are no more than four students at a station and depending on the activity, they either work in pairs, individually or as a group.  Because my room is so small, this has been the best system and number for me.  Groups are color coded to help with tiering but are very flexible.  I switch up groups and a students name may be on a different colored tag (that's why I laminate them) depending on the skills we are working on during a given rotation.

The way the colored systems works is that, if a station is tiered, inside the drawer students will find a corresponding bag or envelope or some kind of similar storage systems with their colored 'dot' on it. So for instance, a students who has their name on an orange tag will look for orange dot and use the materials from that envelope.  All the students who visit this station will do the same kind of activity, their will just be different materials to meet their level of readiness.

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

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

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

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

When they find the write the room cards, they will look like this:

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

Two other things I need to point out. Number one, you'll notice that I don't tier EVERY station.  No one has that much time. In fact, if you're just starting out tiering your stations, I would say just start with one or two stations being tiered.  See how it works for you and if everything is moving along, if your students are getting the gist of it, add more.  And number two: you may notice that station number 8 above is not a kindergarten common core standard.  You're right. It's not. But in order to make counting by 5s meaningful to my kinders each year, I explain that they need the skill of counting to 5s in order to eventually tell time.  It's a great motivator, but it also means that if they do it, I have to follow through with telling time activities. So that's why I introduce it (and money) to those kindergarten classes that are ready for it at the end of the year.

Now, not to leave you empty handed after this long drawn out explanation of my tiered math station system, I made a simple little Giver Me Yer Treasure Game for you that is tiered and ready for you to put in your own stations.  Just click on the picture to get your copy.

I hope you like it and if you do, follow my blog, tell your friends to follow me and I promise, I'll keep making you great activities for differentiating in your own classroom.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Look what I found . . . Differentiated Reading Done For You and a FREEBIE!

differentiated mixed up sentences

The one thing I always hear when people start considering the process of differentiating their instruction is that they just don't have the time and they don't know where to start.  I know, believe me, I get it.  Tiering, compacting, flexible grouping, learning centers  . . . it all takes time.  If it didn't, everyone would be doing it and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

I'm always on the lookout for products that can help me out and free up some of my time by doing some of the work for me.  My problem is that there haven't been many things that I have found that are differentiated and 'ready to go.'  I always seem to have to tweak it somehow. Aggghhhh.  More work and that can be soooo frustrating.  Don't get me wrong 'easy to differentiate' is good and everything, but it still means I'm going to be putting some time into it.  Now 'differentiated' that's what I prefer. When a product is 'differentiated' it means (hopefully) the hard work has been done for me.   I'm please to say, I found one such product that has me so excited and my only complaint about it is . . . I want MORE.

I'm sure most of you know Krissy Miner, from her wonderful blog, Mrs. Miner's Monkeys.  Well, she's a superstar kindergarten teacher by day, but by night, she's a bit of a writer.  She's been working on a set of differentiated readers (notice I did NOT say 'easily differentiated') that correspond with some popular children nursery rhymes.  (Click on the picture below to take a closer look.)

Check these out, there are three different basic stories, and within each story, there are four sets of tiered readers (Levels 1-4), one wordless book and one 'big book.' 

Now I don't know how many of you use a reading series that offers those little predecodable and decodable books that you can have your kids read to go along with your weekly lessons, but they aren't particularly a 'good fit' for hmmmm lets say 60% of the students in my class.  They're either too easy  . . . BORING!!!!! Or too difficult . . . grrrrr frustrating! But these little gems from Krissy . . . I can give all my kinder readers a great fit that's equally engaging. 

I was able to do soooooo many great activities with all my different groups and these books this week. It was GREAT. I love it when I have more to do than there is time to do it in.  What a great dilemma!

I decided to use her book, The Funny Farm  this week because the surprise ending went great with my dinosaur theme and quite, honestly, my kiddos thought that was just the best coincidence ever. Here's a quick look at just some of the activities I did,  but like I mentioned, there was sooooo much more I could have done if only I had more time.


My kiddos LOVED pretending to be an author and having the opportunity to write the text to go with the pictures before having read he 'real' sentences.


My kiddos beg for 'guess the covered word' so I thought this would be a great opportunity to let them do it at their level.


Here's the thing that I think is a MUST for tiering activities, you have to offer equally engaging activities for all levels of readiness.  You can't have your struggling students looking over at your high fliers, frustrated that they can't do THAT activity or have your high fliers looking over at your struggling students thinking that THEIR activity is more fun.  I would never give my stuggling students a great I-Spy activity only to leave my highest students with a worksheet (I hate  traditonal worksheets by the way and you'll be pretty hard pressed to find one in my class-but I'll save that for another day.)  All levels need to be equally engaging and interesting.  And with these little readers, I was able to offer ALL of my students just that.

I also created a differentiated, companion mixed-up funny farm sentence activity to go with this book that you can pick up for FREE here as well.  Just click on the picture to grab it from my google docs.  And of course, it's "differentiated." 

Of course there are two other books in the series that I'm dying to get to use before saying to good-bye to my kinders this year, but I have to hope that Krissy and her buddies over at KinderReaders decide to keep working on these wonderful tiered readers over the summer so I can keep engaging my students with materials to meet them at their own readiness levels. 

In the meantime over the summer, I'll keep a look out for other great 'differentiated' materials to help you all on your journeys toward a differentiated classroom and pass along any other great gems that I find.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who doesn't love a differentiated freebie for kinesthetic learners AND a giveaway?

My kinders have been begging me for a new 'dino' themed write the room activity to I had to whip something up this evening to appease before we completely finish up our unit this week.  Of course, I LOVE these activities because the allow me to differentiate in response to the learning profile of my kinesthetic mover and shakers.  I also try to make sure I tier them for those students who need a little extra time to complete the task versus those who are writing like lightening.  Everyone gets the benefit of getting to move around, practice writing words they can read in our room/hallway AND are neither bored because the task is too easy or frustrated because they can't complete the task. 

kinesthetic dinosaur write the room differentiated

It's really a popular activity in my classroom and I hope you find it useful as well.  Of course, once they complete the sheet, they have to read it to a friend.  (This also helps my students who sport interpersonal intelligence and just can't get enough of chatting it up with others.  This way, they actually have a specific REASON to be yakking and that's all good for me.) So go ahead and click on the picture above to grab yours. 

If you actually use this, I'd love to hear from you so drop me a note in my comment box if you get the chance.

I also wanted to give you a heads up on a GREAT giveaway you're not gonna want to miss.  Mel over at Suesstastic Blog is having a 1st Blogiversary event.  Over 45 PAID items from her blogging buddies (me included) and a bunch of her own items.  It's super easy to enter. 

Go ahead and click on the button above.  You're not gonna want to miss out.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stomping Out Subtraction and A Differentiated Freebie That Meets Common Core

A while back when I first started this blog, I put out a freebie and instructions on how to make a floor-sized 100's chart/numberline. 
 It's a great resource and I'm not sure how many of you were able to actually make one, but I use mine ALL THE TIME. 

I can't imagine how I could engage my kinesthetic learners more than by using this ONE tool.  Yes, it takes up some room, but luckily we are in a school that encourages creative use of space.  My students are well trained and know the routine and expected behavior for hallway work and at this time of the year, it's seldom a problem.

We've been working crazy on subtraction problems lately.  This is a simple game that I'm adapting this week to coordinate with my dinosaur theme.

The student standing is the 'stomper.' He or she shows the other players a number sentence which they record and figure out on their own.  Once they have the answer, they show it to the stomper.  The stomper then 'stomps' out the problem moving along the number line to find the answer. 

This week I'm adding some cute recording sheets and dinosaur hats from the dollar tree to get them into the dino stomping mood.

I got mine like the ones above from the Dollar Tree.  If you click on the picture it will take you to the link or just hike on down to your local Dollar Tree and pick a couple up. 

If you'd like to get a copy of STOMPING OUT SUBTRACTION which is tiered for you to meet the different needs of your students and addresses common core standards, just grab it by clicking on the picture below.
and if you're thinking that a floor-sized number line would be a GREAT summer project.  Then click below to get a copy of the printables and instructions needed to make your own. 

Have fun stompin'

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Pointy teeth=carnivores" I couldn't say it better myself.

This is truly my favorite time of the year to teach.  I love introducing my kinders to all the wonderful characteristics of the different kinds of dinosaurs.  I am always amazed at how much they know and what they retain.  It's mind boggling.  As I started getting my supplies around for this years dino fun, my just four year old, MaGill, told me in no uncertain terms that "pointy teeth equals carnivores Mom!"  Seriously?  I couldn't have said it better myself.  So of course, when I mixed up my salt dough for this weeks activities, my own boys had to participate in making dino teeth necklaces too.

Here he is . . . " See the pointy Mom?"  Yep, it's pointy.

It's a blast making these simple little necklaces each year for my kinders and they love it. It will be especially appealling for your students with spatial and naturalist intelligences.  And lets just face it . . . they all think it's pretty cool to be sporting a dino tooth necklace.

You'll need a simple salt dough recipe.  You can either opt for the kind you can bake or just use the air dry method which is what I use.  It's simple and the neckace usually dries in 3-4 days.

Here's one that I've used:
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup luke warm water
Mix your dry items together in a bowl.  Little by little add the water until it becomes a dough like consistency.  I knead it until it's nice an smooth.  If it feels to sticky add a little more flour . . . too stiff a little more water.  I then roll the dough into little one inch balls, stick them in the refrigerator and use them as I need them in my learning centers over the next week or so.  Simple.

I talk to my kiddos alot about the shape of dinosaurs teeth if they are carnivores or herbivores (triangles with a point vs. flat square teeth).  I always let them choose which one to make but I've never had any other them choose a tooth other than a pointy carnivore's.  So I demonstrate how to roll it in a ball then flatten in out and kind of pinch to make the pointed end of the triangle.  When they're happy with it, I put in on a discarded piece of laminate  or tin foil and poke a hole through the end for a string. It will be hard in about 3-4 days and ready to wear once it has a string.

And remember . . ." pointy teeth equals carnivores!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Playing Palaeontologists . . . And A FREEBIE!

My kinders are totally 'diggin' studying about dinosaurs.  One of the highlights of our learning centers is my 'other' sand table (I told you sometimes I have to break out two because there's so much I want to do). 
I know many of you have a difficult time justifying your dramatic play and sensory/sand table to your administrators, but I feel blessed NOT to have that problem. 
This particular center appeals to my naturalist who love to deal with dirt, dust, sand or any other natural products as well as to my kinesthetic learners who love to move and touch and this particular activity is a favorite of logical intelligences who like to figure things out. 

I made a bunch of these 'dino stones' for my kinders.  The stone is just a concoction of sand water and plaster of paris that dries rock hard.

It's my kinder palaeontologist's job to discover what is buried in the rock using craft sticks, paint brushes and safety goggles of course.

It's fascinating watching them go to town on one of these little rocks.  They work and work and work . . . digging and brushing until they get a glimpse of any sign of 'something.'  The rocks are JUST hard enough to keep them engaged and occupied for sometimes up to 20-30 minutes but not so hard that they become frustrated and quit. 

If and when they are able to release the dinosaur from it's stony sleep, they get to keep their prize. 

So you want to make your own 'dino stones?'  It's easy and I have some step by steps to show you how. 

First here is everything that you're going to need:

A box of plaster of paris (you can get it at Home Depot for like $6.00 I think)
Some little toy dinosaurs
Rubber Gloves
Little mast (optional)
9 oz paper cups

Make sure you check out the label of the plaster paris for warnings about fumes/dust and all that important stuff.  I have never had a problem with plaster of paris but I always wear gloves.

Before you get started, get your paper cups and dinos out and make sure that they fit.  Some Dixie-type cups are too small for the dinos.  That's why I choose the 9oz ones.

You can use any kind of container to measure, but just remember, you will need 2 parts sand to one part plaster of paris and one part water.

First mix the plaster of paris and water together in your mixing container.
Careful not to make alot of dust by just dumping it in.  Kind of take it slow and easy.

Next mix in the sand.

Once it is mixed up, go ahead and fill your cup so it covers up your dino.
You can see his little head popping up (help me . . . help me!)

Once they are all covered up, leave them alone for 1/2 day or so to start drying out.
Once they start to set up . . .
you can peel the cup off from it. . .
And then let them dry for a couple of days until they are good and hard.
Make a couple dozen of these, one for each child, and let your little paleontologists have a ball.

Oh yeah . . . and a freebie.  Because so many of my teaching pals love a good old fashion I-spy and have requested I expand my I-spy horizons to include math concepts, I now have an addition and subtraction version of I-spy for your ocean theme.  Click on the picture below to get tier one on this freebie which addresses common core standards for math.

If your interested in other items like this, please check out my TpT store (you can click on the link below).  There's actually a sale going on right now through May 8th.  TpT is giving you 8% off with their TAD12 code and everything in my store is an additional 20% off. 

Thanks for stopping by...


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