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FAB Fonts!

Hi, Peeps!

I've had several teachers e-mail me and ask me where I downloaded the font I have used in a lot of my visuals, behavior incentive packets,, I wanted to post for all to see!  The font you see (re:  my behavior chart in my positive reinforcement post) is called "DJ Chunky."  Click the image above and it will take you to the DJ Inkers website.  They rock!  All of their fonts are super fun and unique!  They also have a fun Halloween packet of clip art, labels, borders, etc. Be sure to check them out!

So, Peeps...which websites do you use for fonts, graphics, or clip art?  Would love to hear about them!  Until next time...

The "Down-Low" on Digraphs!

Happy Thursday, Peeps!

I originally planned to blog at least two to three times a week...and wow...that has been pretty tough between teaching kindergarten, graduate school, and life!  But, I'm back...for a few hours tonight!

This week is fall parent-teacher conference week at my elementary school and although tiring, I just love getting to know my kinders' parents and sharing some good laughs! We have had so much fun looking at their writing over the past 9 weeks and noting their incredible of the many reasons I love my job!

Over the past two weeks, we concluded our letter/sound review and jumped right into consonant digraphs.  We started with the sh digraph and spent a few days on it...and then learned ch, th, and today, wh.  We are doing exercises similar to the exercises I mentioned in my initial blog posts (collectively brainstorming a list of words and then they create their own list with pictures...and read it to their pair/share partner).  I've also made additional graphic organizers for each digraph - you can purchase them by going to my TPT Store.  Check out the cheese, chick, chip, chicken (love the picture!), and Chuck E. Cheese (haha) below:

thief, thirsty, thermometer, and thermos

We are also "warming up" at the beginning of each LA whole group lesson by making a "window" (four squares) on our dry erase boards with words that start with each digraph we've learned.  These warm-ups have really been fun...I'm seeing more and more risk-taking and most importantly, more confidence!  See below (sheep, shop, chicken, cheese):

We have also been doing a lot of pair-share activities during whole group.  Each day, they pair up with a new partner and spread out all over our classroom and decide on a "note taker" and a "brainstormer." Once they choose their roles, they come up with as many __ words as they can (in the picture below, they were tasked with coming up with as many sh words as they could - I gave each group a large piece of construction paper).  One of their challenges is to come up with unique words that we have not yet discussed; I encourage them to whisper to their partner(s) during this activity because it's TOP SECRET until we regroup and share!  They loved this!  When we regroup and come back to the carpet, each group comes up to the front and reads the class their list.  One of the groups came up with 16 sh words!  They love these writing vocabulary/fluency activities...and, love reading their words to the class...again, building confidence!

I have 10 rotations in my daily literacy work station rotation. My kinders will go to 3 stations each day during the first hour (I feel like this keeps the stations "fresh") and I try my hardest to change them out each Friday...depending on what we're focusing on during whole group.  During literacy work stations, I pull my reading teams for small group guided reading  (I will talk more about my guided reading activities in my next post).

In one of their work stations this past week, I wrote letters on large pieces of construction paper, provided magazines, and tasked them with finding pictures that start with that letter...and, labeling them accordingly.  You will see in the picture below that one of my students used his th digraph to label the picture of the thermometer!  I was so proud of this student's "stretching!"

In the SMART Board work station, they can choose from various SMART Notebooks I've recently introduced in whole group.  Below, you will see the partners sorting pictures that start with t, h, or th (we are loving the dual-user feature).  Another group chose the Beginning Sound Parking Lot Notebook I downloaded from the Smart Exchange:

Below, you will see my kinders in the dry erase literacy work station working together to write sentences with ch words...they are relying heavily on their sight words at the moment...and that is great!  We talk a lot about how sight words are not just for helping us become fluent readers, but they also help us become good, solid writers!

In the station below, they made books that were all about their favorite digraph (note that this is completely different from Writer's Workshop in which they choose what they want to write about).  Below, you will see one of my kinders using her sight words to make sentences...andddd, she is stretching her words using her new ch digraph!  After they make their book(s), they read it to their station partner :-)

Each Friday, we have Show and Tell....and I e-mail the parents the night before and encourage them to have their child bring something that starts with the digraph(s) we have worked on over the past week.  Last week, they were encouraged to bring an object that starts with the sh digraph.  Below, you will see some of my kinders and their "dazzling digraphs!"  As you can see, one of my students brought shin guards, a sheriff badge, and Shamu...and one brought a seashell she was very proud of...and another student brought a transformer that transformed into a ship!  The class guesses the words before the "speaker" tells them what they brought...and I will often chime in, "Why do you think he brought Shamu?" (Because it starts with the sh digraph)!

On another somewhat unrelated note, in science, we started discussing matter and changes in matter last week...and, we made a class book about matter.  The students drew pictures of matter and wrote the corresponding word(s) of my kinders wrote ship!  As you can see, they are using their digraphs "around the clock," haha!  Love it.

Well, that's all for now, Kinder Peeps!  My bed is calling my name!  I hope you all have a "FABULOUS FRIDAY!"  We are wearing our pajamas tomorrow!

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

"The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." - Peggy O'Mara

I absolutely love this quote!  During my first semester of graduate school, I read Choice Words by Peter Johnston and remember asking my student teachers to go out and get it right away! If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so! This book is quite simple, actually...but really helps you reflect on the effects your words have on your children.  I have also encouraged my students' parents to buy it...a must read for sure!  So...I can't decide which I'm more passionate about: positive reinforcement or instructional technology?!  They both enhance the teaching and learning experience on so many levels...

Each year, I have tried new strategies I've seen here and there (I will admit, many from Pinterest, ha ha!), but I will have to say I have always used what I call the "SUPER System!"  Each day, students' clips start out on GOOD...and when I see students exhibiting "What SUPER looks like," I ask them to move their clip up to SUPER!  My kinders are very, very concerned about "getting to SUPER" throughout the day.  I take pictures of them sitting criss cross, raising a quiet hand, using walking feet, etc., photoshop the pictures by "cutting them out," and label each one with a simple phrase (ex: Walking Feet).  We review these over and over (esp. throughout the first few weeks).  If you are looking for a new "system," I suggest taking pictures of your students exhibiting these behaviors (makes this more meaningful to them - they like to see themselves represented!), embedding them in a PowerPoint, SMART Notebook, or Activ Flip chart, and reviewing it each day.  I like the phrases corresponding with each visual to be short and sweet (literally)!

You can download the behavior plan I give each child's parents at the beginning of the year as well as each "level" (shown above) from my TPT store by clicking my TPT button.  I printed them on colored card stock and took them to Office Depot to get them laminated (their lamination is the real deal and really lasts)!

I have also seen the "BINGO" board floating around on Pinterest and decided to try it out this year...and, this is by far the most popular incentive in my classroom!  I laminated it and have students go up and write their name on it when they are doing a SUPER job in work stations, guided reading, and the list goes on!  At the end of the day, I magically select a square and that student gets treasure box or lunch with Mrs. Reinhardt the following day!  I think the key to this incentive (and really any incentive) is referring to it frequently throughout the day to "keep it alive!"

My kinders also really like earning "Table Points" throughout the day...during my first year, I had bowls on each table and I would walk around and award beads for specific, positive behavior(s); however, after about ten"spills" I decided to change things up a bit - ha!  Again, when I "catch" a student or table group using their good reader/writer strategies, kind words, etc...they get to go up to the board and record tally marks next to their table color.  We count the table points each Friday and the table who wins gets to select/view a web cam of their choice (they love the animal cams on the San Diego Zoo website), treasure box, or lunch with Mrs. Reinhardt the following week!  Below, you will see one of my kinders recording tallies for her table (I think it is important to have them record the tallies - gives them ownership):

Alright, Peeps!  I want to hear all about what you're doing in your room!  I know you have some great strategies!  I think I better get to bed before I fall asleep on my computer...

Starting the Year the "Write" Way!

In previous years, I have used word and picture sorts to help students distinguish letters/sounds...but, this wasn't getting them "within word" and was limiting their creativity.  So, I decided to change things up...a lot.  We have spent the past few weeks reviewing letters/sounds by collectively brainstorming lists, making books (Matt Glover's bookmaking workshops have changed everything about the way I teach - his ideas are brilliant!), and using our slinky to "stretchhhhhh" our words.  As you know, students are somewhat hesitant to begin writing on their own because they do not know how to spell the words...and this is where persistence pays.  It takes them a few weeks to get out of this habit (frequently asking you to spell a word and getting frustrated because they don't know if it's spelled correctly, etc.) if you continue encouraging them to use the sounds they do know to "stretch" the word. I will admit, this is difficult at first, but with persistence and encouragement, they will begin doing this on their own...and you will see them taking more and more "risks" in their writing as they are not hesitant to write simply because they can't spell the word(s).

The picture below is an example of one of the many exercises we do in class when reviewing letters/sounds at the beginning of the year (we have dedicated each day to a certain letter this year).  First, we collectively brainstorm words that start with the given letter (I like to use Lakeshore's alphabet tubs to get the conversation started).  Next, I model stretching words "using the letters/sounds I know" and each time, I use my slinky and "stretch" the word while simultaneously stretching the slinky.  I then model writing/recording the letters/sounds I hear.  After I have done this several times, I invite students to come up to the SMART Board and practice doing the same thing.  I praise them and make a big deal out of the fact that they stretched the word(s) on their own!  They then get their own chart to complete.  I encourage them to first draw a picture of the word and then do their "stretching."  As you can see by looking at the picture, they are becoming more confident and really beginning to take "risks!"  I have had several parents tell me that their child is wanting to create lists at home and teach brother/sister how to "stretch" it!

(iguana, injured (wow!), imagination, icicle, and Isaiah - a student in our class)

I have made a chart for each letter and you can download them (one for each letter) from my TPT store.

I am also introducing two sight words each week to increase my students' reading fluency and writing vocabulary.  I like to introduce each word with a collection of music videos I purchased from Curricu-la-la-la!  Please be sure to check our their kinders L-O-V-E the songs and animations...and most importantly, the catchy music videos really help them begin to recognize and spell the sight words on their own!

In our "making words" literacy work station, they can build their sight words using snap cubes, pipe cleaners and "sparklers," play dough, and the list goes on!  These activities are also a great way to build their fine motor skills.

My students also love to "race" their sight words.  I learned this from one of my Language and Literacy instructors at Texas can use magnetic letters for the "races," dry erase boards, or your interactive whiteboard.  The new multi-user IWBs make this possible!  Below, you will see two of my students "racing" the by dragging the letters with their hands.

So, are you getting your students "within word?" What kinds of fluency exercises are you doing with your kinders?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Back at Home...Again!

Well, I finally did it...and here I am!  I have been wanting to share my journey as a kindergarten teacher for the past three years...but just couldn't seem to find the time outside of graduate school and work!  I'm sure you can relate.

I taught kindergarten in Spring Branch ISD (Houston, Texas) for three years and truly had some of the best times of my life.  I got involved with the EdTech team and piloted interactive whiteboard technology for the district's kindergarten program...and discovered a new passion:  teaching primary teachers how to use technology in the classroom.  And, to make a long story short, in the fall of 2010 I was presenting at the district's annual Early Childhood Conference and a teacher raised her hand and said, "You know, you ought to pursue love this.  You are in your element.  Have you thought about graduate school?"  And to be quite honest, I had given it some thought here and there, but didn't really see myself going back to school for a while.  That afternoon, I went home and did some research...

Fast Forward to the Spring of 2011:

I found out I was accepted to the Instructional Technology (now called Learning Technologies) graduate program at the University of Texas in Austin...I was elated! meant that I would have to leave the classroom.  Was I ready?  Would I teach in Austin?  What would this "new life" look like?  Well, I told my principal about my new plans, got a new dog (one of my kindergarteners rescued!) found a house in Austin, and moved two weeks, as you can see, change, change, and more change!  Again, in between unpacking boxes and going to new student orientations, I would stop and wonder, "What was I thinking?!"

One of my graduate advisors encouraged me to submit my resume to the College of Education EC-6 program because they were needing supervisors for several cohorts that fall.  I interviewed and started supervising elementary student teachers in September...and wow!  This was clearly a change from teaching kindergarten!  I had one student teacher who was placed in a kindergarten classroom and I loved going to see her!  It felt like home to me...

Although I loved working with my student teachers, I missed being in the classroom more than anything and I knew I had to get back in the classroom...the kindergarten!  And to make another long, long, long story short, I accepted an offer this summer from Eanes ISD...and here I am...back at kindergarten...and in a FABULOUS district!

I am in the process of completing my graduate coursework (only one more class in the spring!) and as a part of my Teaching and Learning with the Internet course this fall, our goal is to become a participant in the Internet...and, this project is what has finally got me blogging (thank you, Dr. Hughes)!  As I mentioned earlier, I have been wanting to share my journey as a kindergarten teacher for a long time...and so it begins...