Easter, Bunnies and Good Choices

The students are crazy for rabbits this time of year!!! We had a week of non fiction learning last week and we are learning with fiction this week.

Rabbits, Rabbits & More Rabbits by Gail Gibbons

One of the students donated this Gail Gibbons book to the class.  It is full of wonderful facts that are presented in a very primary way.  There were facts on almost every page that I didn't know.  I love learning with the students.
Bunny Facts
While we were reading the book I had the students make a can, have, are anchor chart.  Their writing is fantastic.  They love to sit and listen very carefully because I let them come up and write with the Scentos markers.

Bunny Facts

We started our research writing with a little bunny brainstorming.  They loved the new vocabulary word "rump".

 During our fact writing and labeling, they got to take Easter themed stickers and mark their capital letters and punctuation marks.
Spring Read Alouds
We are currently working on a character analysis of "The Grumpy Easter Bunny".  The kids wrote about how Hopper changed from the beginning of the book to the end of the book.  If you haven't read this book, you really should.  It really helped some of the kids to reflect on selfless behavior.  

Bunny Writing
 The kids were sad to hear that we don't have an egg hunt in first grade.  I told them that they could write a persuasive letter to me so that I would take it under advisement.  One student talked me into considering it if they fill their compliment jar.  I call that a win/win situation.  I hope that they earn it and I can add pictures.  You can find this writing craft for free here:   Bunny Writing
Whose Egg?
Egg Craft

 This was a super easy craft to brighten our hallway display.  The kids cut out an egg shape and glued paper over the egg.  After they glue the paper they flip it over and trim the paper around the egg.  I certainly wouldn't put this out without an academic tie so I had the kids write riddles that describe their egg and gave details about an animal.  Their friends had to guess what was in their egg.
Spring Unit
Spring Centers
The spring season wouldn't be the same without some spring centers.  These centers really helped the kids get ready for their SAT-10 tests.  Bunny ELA Centers

All About The Birds

Bird Watching
Recently we've seen a lot of cardinals on our school campus.  The kids were very interested to learn more about them so  I searched around until I found a unit on birds that Dirt Road Teacher wrote called Feathered Friends .
We started the unit by bird watching outside.  Not only did we see some birds in their own habitat, but we also learned how to sit and listen quietly.  It was great to have the opportunity to learn in nature.  After we went bird watching we filled out an anticipatory guide.  This allowed the students to reflect on what they thought they knew about birds.  Later they learned that sometimes we have misconceptions about things we really thought we knew about.  When the anticipatory guide was done and reflected upon, it was time to move onto a book.  One of the books that the unit suggests is "Feathers For Lunch" by Lois Ehlert.  This was a wonderful read that blended fiction and non fiction together nicely into realistic fiction.
Feathers For Lunch by Lois Ehlert

Once the students were totally into learning about birds I broke them off into groups and had them research non fiction bird books in order to make an "All About Birds" pamphlet.  They loved it!!! The pride that they put into their work was amazing.

If you are looking for something to teach this spring, I would definitely check out Feathered Friends.  It seems to delight the masses.

After I used the Dirt Road Teacher's unit we decided to do a product swap and invite our friends to join in.  It's a wonderful opportunity to give you all our feedback on someone else's work. For an opportunity to win some of these products and see other teacher's reviews, check out the links below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Behavior Round Up

Have you ever had one of those school years? One where you are counting down the days until you can start over again.  This is the year for me.  Now don't get me wrong I love my students.  I'm not wishing away my life or anything.  However, student behavior is wearing me out.  I have learned through blogging that we aren't in it alone.  I recently called out an S.O.S. on Instagram.  I told my friends that I need some new behavior plans.  The best part was that they didn't judge, they came to the rescue.

I went to the Dollar Store and purchased solar powered dancing bugs and needed a plan.
Behavior Incentives

                              More Time 2 Teach

My fellow Florida blogger Melissa from More Time 2 Teach had an excellent plan  Read it below.

I loved this idea and used it last week.  It was a hit with the kids.  Sometimes, with REALLY challenging behavior, I find that I just have to keep mixing up the behavior plans to make it work. So I'm using every one's suggestions.

Julie from A First For Everything directed me to her blog where she posted her behavior plan.  It's a great idea and one that we should all check out.

Amy from The Unique Classroom posted a book review for a fabulous book that helps you to teach students to take ownership of their behavior.  I can't wait to buy this book!!!

The Garden In My Mind

Emily from Fourth Grade Rock Stars said
Amy from Fun In Room 3 suggested

I especially liked Amy's idea, because her name is Amy, no really because it builds intrinsic behavior.  My favorite!!!!

Below are some more ideas from my Instagram friends:

The Inspired Owl's Corner came up with the cutest class reward system using cupcakes.  Check out her blog to see what it is all about.
Reward System

Reading Readiness for First Grade

Getting Ready for First Grade

First grade is an amazing year for children.  It is awe inspiring to see how they grow from emergent readers into budding chapter book readers.  I am teaming up with some fantastic teachers, My Mommy ReadsKeeping Up with Mrs. Harris and FunInRoom3 to create a four part blog series to help you prepare your kindergartner for first grade reading readiness.  Below you will find a step by step process of the phonics curriculum that I teach my first graders and tips on how I taught my own children to read.

There really is no magic bullet for learning how to read.  My number one tip for parents is to dedicate 30 minutes each day to read with your child.  Teach your children to love reading.  Make sure that you get a variety of books from fiction to non fiction.  My number one tip for teachers is to explicitly teach a phonics curriculum each day in class.  That brings us to my portion of the blog series.

My all time favorite phonics book for teachers is "Phonics From A to Z".  It explains the whys and hows of phonics.  It has every phonics rule and how applicable each one is to the English language.  It also has lists of words for every phonics sound.  There isn't a year that goes by that I don't reference it for words to teach my students.

I taught all three of my girls to read with BOB books.  I think that they are a must have for parents.  These books are so wonderful because they start at the very beginning of the reading process.  Each book builds on the next.  These books make children feel very successful. Caution! Please don't confuse these books with the character easy reader books.  There are several publishers who make these books and usually number them for beginning reading and up.  I have found that they aren't always leveled properly and could leave a child feeling very discouraged.

This is the order that I follow for phonics instruction in my classroom.  As a teacher I can't assume that my students have all of their foundational skills.  If you are working with your kindergartner, they should know all of their letter sounds including short vowel sounds, some long vowel sounds and beginning blends.  If you aren't sure where your kinder is, just start at the beginning and see where their needs lie.

Short A
Short E
Short I
Short O
Short U
nd, nk, st, nt
sh, Th.
bl, cl, fl
silent e
sl, sn, so
ch, th
str, spl, scr
ai, ay
double vowel teams
e, ee, ea
ow, oa, o
i, igh, y
ir, er, ur
ou, ow
au, aw
oi, oy

The average class spends a week on each sound with the exception of silent e and double vowel teams.  Silent e usually takes two weeks of explicit teaching for the average first grader.  Some gain the skill with ease, others need reinforcement in guided reading.  You will see with the list above that I teach the double vowel rule explicitly and then support it with other letter pairs afterwards.  If you are a parent teaching your child these phonics skills, I would work at the child's pace.  If they have the sound and are ready to go on then don't hesitate to move forward.

A Typical Week of Phonics
If you are a kindergarten teacher  and your class has mastered your phonics skills consider moving on to the first grade list.  Below is what a typical week of phonics instruction looks like in my classroom.

Monday- Introduction of sound.  Explicit instruction of sound and words that contain the sound.
Tuesday- Review the sound through explicit teaching.  Children will build words with the sound.  They use letter tiles, white boards, magnets, etc.
Wednesday-Review the sound through explicit teaching.  Children write the word in sound boxes.  Research has shown that this helps aid the early learner in remembering the spelling pattern.
Thursday- Review the sound through explicit teaching.  Children play board games where they read words that  contain their sound from the week.  Phonics Games
Friday- Review the sound through explicit teaching.  Phonics assessment.

Free Phonics Materials
I've put together a freebie pack of short vowel sounds just for you.
 K to 1 Reading Readiness Pack
Free materials for 1st Grade

Please welcome Amy our guest blogger for the next essential part of 1st grade reading readiness.  I met Amy through Instagram.  I love that I get to see what she's doing in her class through pictures.

Phonemic Awareness
Hi everyone! Thank you Amy for allowing me to be a guest blogger! Let me introduce myself. My name is Amy. I’ve been teaching for 9 years. I taught kindergarten my first year and have been teaching 1st grade for the last 8 years. I absolutely love seeing the growth that happens in first grade. It is amazing to see first graders become fluent readers and writers.  My post will be dedicated to phonemic awareness. Students must have a strong understanding of spoken language before they are able to understand written language. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear the sounds that make up words, see the relationship between sounds and rearrange sounds to create new words.  It is truly one of the building blocks for foundational reading skills. Before phonic skills are taught, it is essential to teach phonemic awareness skills. Phonics instruction is based on a child’s ability to segment and blend sounds that he or she hears. My school follows the MacMillan/McGraw Hill California Treasures Language Arts program. It includes a daily phonemic awareness activity. In addition to these activities, I will share several other activities that I use to teach phonemic awareness. One of my favorite books to teach phonnemic awareness is Phonemic Awareness by Creative Teaching Press. There are so many different activities and games to teach phonemic awareness. The book has activities based on the different levels of phonemic awareness.
One of the activities that my class loves is the Draw-a-Rhyme Story. I have done this activity as a collaborative drawing on the whiteboard with each student drawing a part of the picture. Recently, I had a few extra minutes and gave each student a piece of paper to draw their own. I read the rhyme aloud.  They orally told me the underlined word to complete the rhyme as they drew that part. Below is an example of the clown Draw-a-Rhyme. 

Another one of my go-to resources for quick phonemic awareness activities is this flip book by www.kidzcanlearn.com. It is another resource that I use if I have a few extra minutes. Each card on the flip book has a different prompt with many different words to use. For example, the page below says, “Do ____ /_____ rhyme? What rhymes with ____?” Another page says, “ Do ____ /____ have the same ending sound?

I often ask my students to tell me the sounds in words. I have them hold up 1 finger for each sounds they hear or say. An example is to give them a word such as cat and ask for the sounds they hear in the word. They should say c-a-t and hold up a finger for each of the soundsin cat. One of my all-time favorite classroom tools are my whiteboard paddles by www.kleenslate.com. I’ll be honest, my teaching partners mother – in- law invented them, but I would love them all the same if that were not the case!!  I use them for everything! When students are ready for phonemic awareness activities that are not completely verbal, I use these boards. I tell them a word sound by sound and they write it or I tell them the whole word and they will say the sounds and then write. I will also say a word and have them draw aquick picture of the rhyming word.

Mrs. Harris has the next part of our blog series.  You won't want to miss what she has to say about sight words!!! Check her blog out>

Test Prep

What have we been up to lately? Test prep.  Oh boy.  My number one goal for prepping the kiddos in my class is to teach them to love tests.  I tell them that there is nothing to worry about.  The world will certainly not end because of the test.  We make it into a game and pretend that The Tricky Test Makers want to beat us!!! Never fear though,  The Tricky Test Takers would never let that happen.  The kids really go for this!!! The next thing that I do is make sure to cover the material well with the students so that they feel prepared and not overwhelmed.  It's important to make the material fun and hands on so that the kids are engaged while learning.  Last but not least, we have to teach the kids in first grade how to take a standardized test.  1.  Sitting still for a long while. 2.  Bubbling in.  3.  Taking breaks when they need them without disturbing others.  4. Checking their work! It's best to get through the basics before you teach the kids the serious test taking strategies.

I found this fun Parts of Speech item from A First For Everything to help prepare the kiddos.  It helped us to review nouns, verbs and adjectives.

They loved that it was hands on.  I love that it came with charts so that I could review the skills with the kids first.  There's nothing like being able to print and use something when you are super busy.