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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Back to School....Already?

It is hard to believe that I am sitting at my desk in my home office, staring down the barrel at August. We are banned from school next week and I haven't been into my room/office yet at school and won't be allowed in until the week after next.  So what's a gal to do?  Just spend time making some great resources for you to use with your students I suppose.

I would love to be able to share some of those with you to help you get ready for your school year too. All the items here are from my "Back to School Line" and would be super to start off your year with to establish classroom routines.

The first item I want to share is brand new this summer. It is perfect for your emerging readers in K-1 and even for your struggling 2's or special ed students. This is a word sort of real and nonsense words.  The photos on the cards are colored back to school supplies.  They do not correspond with the pictures but are to enhance your Back to School theme.  These cards all include a CVC word, real or nonsense. The goal is for your students to be able to sort them into two categories....Real and Nonsense.  Two header cards are included to start off the sort.  I've also posted a monthly activity just like this for the entire school year.  And it will soon be bundled for cost savings to you.  But here is a sneak peek!

Oh...almost forgot to say that this could be a whole group activity with your kids sitting around the carpet with you, a small group activity at the reading table, a center activity, a super go to activity for that parent volunteer who needs something to do, or even for an older student tutoring your little people!  CAN YOU SAY VERSATILE?

                                                          Back to School Word Sort

Another super activity for Back to School is more versatile for a broader range of grade levels. I'm not kidding when I tell you I have done this activity with K-4 students, although it looks very different for each grade level.  This is part of my Making Words series, and depending on the grade level, depends on what the instructional focus is.  Take a peek:

                                            Back to School Making Words Activity

Five different lessons are included with this product.  All you need are your favorite magnetic letters. I prefer the red vowels and blue consonants and have included clip art magnetic letters to match.  I post those letters on the board and my students sit around me with this page on a clipboard and with a pencil. They manipulate the letters to create a word and then we all record that word on the clipboard. We all participate and we all get to move around too.  Depending on the grade level depends on what we work on while making words. K kids may focus on sight words, firsties may work on sight words and CVC words, 2's may work on blends/digraphs/endings, and 3's may work on multi-syllabic words.  This is hands down one of the most utilized activities in my classroom and once your kiddos know the drill, it is a perfect activity to leave for a sub. And if I tell you that they could go at it for 45 minutes, that would not be a lie! Trust me on this one. Plus your sub will love you.

My next activity isn't really a Back to School Item but it's a whole year long activity.  It is called "All But Seven".  It is a math game and included is the same game prepped for the whole year so I wanted you to have this right off the bat when school starts. It is a dice game and students roll two dice.  The goal is to cross off all the numbers before getting "7" seven times.  It is the most common roll of a pair of dice after all!  It's a fun go to activity that is easy/low prep and your students will be highly involved. It is perfect for whole group math in pairs and for centers too! The illustrations are just perfect for each month.  And September starts with of course, you guessed it, apples!  Take a peek if it sounds like something your kids can use!

                                                    All But Seven Math Activity

And just a bonus for checking out all the above. I have included a FREEBIE for you to use. And this can be used for any grade level. I have included again, my birthday coupons for you.  If you are looking for a cheap and easy "birthday gift" for your students, look no further.  You can copy the whole page, give students a choice of the three coupons, or use any other way you see fit!

So I hope you find some of these items useful for you this school year. I'm posting new products all the time and my store is growing by leaps and bounds. If you aren't following me, please follow my blog, Facebook page, and I'm not on Instagram too. And if you follow my TPT store, you will be one of the first to know when new items are posted.  So if you like what you see....come follow me there. You can really get a peek into my Intervention Office/Classroom by following me on Instagram.  My phone is always close by and I love to snap pictures so come find me there.   taryns_unique_learning

My best wish for you is to have a wonderful, stress free, and fulfilling school year.  Just continue to do what you do best.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Can't We Just Enjoy Our Birthdays Anymore?

Do you recognize birthdays in your classroom? Some of you may know that I am no longer a classroom teacher. I am an intervention teacher, which obviously means that things are very different, especially in regards to how I celebrate birthdays.  But when I taught kindergarten and first grade, we certainly did celebrate birthdays and in a BIG way!  Here are some of the things we did to celebrate and of course, feel free to use any of them you like in your room.  (While I am not quite a hoarder, I have not kept all of these items in storage and have let some of them go. I will do my best to locate  them to show you pictures....because I love pictures! )

1.  I had a plastic "blow up" birthday cake.  We always called the birthday kiddo up to the front of our group time and sang a birthday song to him/her.  My favorite was "Happy Birthday" by Greg and Steve. I can't remember what volume of We All Live Together it was on but I loved it.  We even had motions to go with it!  And of course, we all loved saying "Happy Birthday" at the end when the kids all called it out to the birthday kiddo.  My favorite part was taking my hand and swiping at the candles when my student blew them out as if my hand could extinguish the fake flames!

2.  Right after that, I used an "Interactive Chart" that was shaped like a birthday cake.  It simply had the traditional birthday song on it and students would use sentence strips with names on it to interchange the names. But on a birthday, the birthday kiddo had his/her name on the chart and could use a cool pointer to demonstrate one to one correspondence, top to bottom, and left to right progression while we sang. These charts seem to have gone by the wayside, I've noticed in recent years but boy do I love them. I'm old school" that way...if it works, why not still use it?   I still have a ton of them in my basement for storage.  I even pull them out occasionally and take one or two to school. But as for the birthday chart, my friend Sandi, is also old school and she has my Birthday Chart so I can't show you what it looks like at this time. Sorry. However, here is a storage tidbit on how I store the charts and I did so in my classroom the same way!

3. Next, I had a "birthday box/gift".  It was simply a two piece box that was wrapped in birthday paper, soap opera style!  You know what I mean?  The lid was wrapped separately from the bottom so it could be opened again and again without truly unwrapping.  It was filled with trinkets and the students could pick one out of the box with his/her eyes closed!  (Baubles, bracelets, pencils, super balls, galore were in there for the picking!)

4.  Next a birthday read aloud was picked.  I had a ton of picture books that were based on a birthday theme.  The birthday kiddo could pick from the pile of birthday books for the morning read aloud and we all enjoyed the selection of the day.  Some of my favorites are pictured below but there are so many new ones that have come out since I was in the classroom.

Wow! I actually found them in my basement.  I'm very organized so I'm not really surprised.  However, I have so many books that are in shelves and in boxes that I am really glad I could find them for you.  I will post a bibliography too in case you are interested in gathering some for your school year too!  Check back soon.

5.  Finally, part of our daily work that day was to create a birthday book for the birthday kiddo.  The birthday kiddo's job was to create a cover for his her book, decorating it anyway he/she wanted to do so.  The other students would write a "friendly letter" following the proper format, with the date, salutation, body, closing, and signature.  I actually had a "friendly letter format" sheet on which the letters were written.The letters were all included in the book and were bound with the GBC comb binder for the birthday kiddo to take home at the end of the day.  And let me tell you, some of the letters said the sweetest things.  Also, you certainly could tell a huge difference in the quality of writing in a September Birthday Book versus a May Birthday Book.

This had me thinking about teaching in our "modern world".  We have cut so much of the "fun stuff" out of our daily routines due to the expected rigor and testing schedules.  But little people have enough time for "life" down the road and it's still important in my eyes to keep some of the fun and special moments from childhood in place.  Birthdays are one of them and every one of them is truly a gift and can never really be guaranteed.  I know...I'm getting a little mushy.  So my vote is to keep the special day, well....special!  No cupcakes, no food treats, and the likes for your allergic and/or diabetic kid.  They really aren't necessary. These ideas are not food related and are curriculum, they don't just take away from the curriculum. So my vote is to keep on celebrating the birthday!

In honor of my Birthday proclamation, I am including a link to a new FREEBIE that I just posted.  It is appropriate for any elementary birthday kiddo and I hope you like it and can use it.  The freebie is a sheet of three birthday coupons, Again, low prep, fun, and FREE! I hope you might consider using it in your classroom this year.  Simply print the black line version onto colorful paper. You can give your student an entire sheet or you can have him/her pick the coupon of his/her choice. That is up to you!   And of course, should you choose to accept this mission :)  I would greatly appreciate a rating and feedback in my TPT store.  I hope you enjoy!

FREEBIE ALERT! Download Birthday Coupons......CLICK HERE

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Top Ten Sing-A-Long Books....Helping your Students Make that Reading Connection

My last blog was about my "Ah Ha" moment when I realized the connection between singing and reading.  So I promised you my top ten list of books that are Sing-a-Longs, which turned out to not be an easy task. I did realize a few things along the way.

1.  I'm a classic kind of gal!  I love songs that have withstood the test of time.
2.  I like songs that remind me of my childhood.
3.  I use songs in the classroom that have worked every single year with my students, or pretty darn  close to it.
4.  I like a song that tells a story.
5.  I  like to use chants, jump rope chants, and movement along with books.
6.  I personally love music. My guilty pleasure is just about anything from the 70's. But I love many types of music. I often have music on in my classroom, while I'm creating, while I'm entertaining, and in my car. I have Pandora on my IPAD, XM/Sirius in the car and various songs running through my head often times.
7.  Certain songs remind me of certain friends, experiences, and stories.  I often times snap a picture of my dashboard radio display and text the song listed to the friend it reminds me of on a regular basis.  Sweet Home Alabama- Katie, Word Up- Amy, Oh What a Night....well  you get the idea!
8  So if I love music that much, why not take advantage of that?  Some of my students may be just as in tune to music as I am. Why wouldn't I incorporate music into my curriculum in any way possible?

So drum roll please...take a peek below and see if any of your favorites made the list.  But please do so at your own risk. If you are singing them in the produce department while grocery shopping, it's all on you!

Yes....just as I thought I had gone through my whole collection of sing-a-longs, I found a few more. So consider this a "Buy Ten, Get Three Free". And I truly could've kept going. But I will refrain!

So what is your favorite sing-a-long?  I would love to hear from you as I'm always looking to add more to my collection.  Please comment below with your favorites!

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Singing Reading Connection

Have you ever wondered how your kiddos can remember the lyrics to every song they ever heard but they have a difficult time remember sight words when reading?  I have always been amazed when kids sing songs on the radio, word by word, and it truly made me wonder.  Just how can I utilize this auditory skill and bring it into the visual world for my struggling readers?  This was definitely a big "ah ha" moment for me about eighteen years ago.

So how did I act on this revelation?  I began a new strategy and created an "I Can Read" Notebook for each of my students.  At the beginning of the school year when supply lists were published, I asked all of my parents to supply a large binder/loose leaf notebook.  I'm no longer in the classroom but think the request was for a two inch binder if memory serves me correctly. Of course, when teaching firsties, you have to instruct them on how to properly open and close the rings....because "OUCH".  I know you know what I mean.  This notebook became the source of my morning/wake up work, every single day.

Each morning when my students trickled into our classroom, they found their "morning work" on a stool, right near the door.  After hanging up their things, wishing friends good morning, that stool was the first stop of their academic day.  Students picked up their paper and headed to their seats to get started. This paper always consisted of poem, song we learned prior to front load the lyrics, a finger play, a nursery rhyme, some repeated lines from a book we read,or a jump rope chant typed up on it, using all different types and sizes of fonts so students would learn the fancy "a's and "g's". Often times, the poem/song also had to do with a skill or concept we were learning about at the time. (Below you can see two of our pages used during our map unit.) Each page always included the author's name and sometimes included a picture to color, or a blank space for students to illustrate what the poem was "mostly about".  By the end of the school year, students had 180 pages that could be read.  Besides just coloring the page, students were told to try to read it first, find sight words and circle them, look for word family words, rhyming words, blends/digraphs, or any other skill that was appropriate for my students at the time. Sometimes it was a directed request and sometimes student chose on their own based on what they wanted to work on that day. We always did a shared reading of that morning's selection, incorporating finger pointing to stress one to one correspondence and the left to right sweep. We often had a class word hunt to try to find certain word wall words, rhyming words, or whatever else we were working on before closing our notebooks for the day.  Also, during silent reading time, our notebooks were always an option to read for my students. At the time, I too kept a notebook with my masters organized with monthly dividers, which I suppose now a days, would be electronic. So how well do I think this strategy worked?  Well let me tell you!  Years later after my students were long gone, when often coming  back to visit, many students told me that they still had their "I Can Read Notebooks".  So I really feel as if I got a lot of bang for my buck and students cherished this activity.

In addition, to support my newest revelation, I went on a mad hunt to collect books that were published versions of songs for children. Over the years, I have collected quite a stash and many more have become available for purchase.  Each book could be "read" independently by emerging readers and did wonders to boost confidence in my students. And these are often the most beloved books by my students, which is obvious by the condition these books are in due to the hundreds of hands that have loved on the books.

My next blog entry will include my top ten FAVORITE sing a long books, so be sure to stop back to see if any of yours made the list!  Ten is going to definitely be a challenge!

Until Next Time,