10 October Centers for Math and Literacy!

Hi there!  Just wanted to let you all know what my class will be doing for centers during the month of October!  I have created my "October Centers for Literacy and Math" to save you some time with your October centers.  Be sure to click on any of the pictures, or the link to my store to learn more about this product.

Since I have a large need for letter naming order and fluency, I made a game called "Pumpkin Letter Matching."  In my classroom, I like to keep the names simple and not overcomplicate them so I can work with my small groups.  This allows my kids the time to work independently, and me the time to read with my kids.  

The next center is called "Black Cat Number Matching."  This is a similar center for math that focuses on number sense from 1-20.  My students are to take turns and match the quantity with the number.

I also created a sight word game called, "Help Wanda Find Her Cauldron."  The students roll the dice, and read a word.  If they read correctly, they can move the amount of spaces they rolled.  I leveled my sight words by color so that any of my students are able to play with each other.  They just know which level they can work with.  I have an entire blog post I did a while that explains how I level my sight words by color.    

I will also be using the same game, but with math facts as my playing cards.  This is very nice because my kids already get the concept of taking turns, and they just trade out the cards.  I printed my math facts on orange card stock to keep everything festive.

The next game I have is called "CVC word builder".  I have my students take a card and say the picture word.  They are to break the word down, and to bring it up another notch, they have to build the word.

"Shape Monster Builder" is probably one of my students favorite activities year after year.  This is such great way to get your little ones familiar with the characteristics of the different shapes.  They also like choosing the multicolored eyeballs!

Next up, I have "Make 10."  And that is exactly what the students are going to do.  They grab a 10 frame card, and use the frog manipulatives to make 10.  Then, they use their recording sheet to write an equation.

I made my "Pumpkin Patch Rhyming Game" because my kids love to make rhymes, and rhyming is such an important skill that helps build phonemic awareness.

I have two bonus centers included in the pack but I also made them free so you could try one literacy and one math center.  Be sure to grab my Race to Twenty" and my "Letter Matching Memory" Freebie

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

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Dear Policymakers and Administrators: Let Us TEACH!

Dear Policymakers and Administrators: 

It's time we face it, things are changing in the world of education.  Whether you are on board or not, there is no denying that the boat has been rocked.   Since 2010, teacher turnover has been reported at 20%.  Perhaps you think it is a good thing, because you are weeding out all the lazy ineffective teachers.  But in my world, I have seen highly effective and well trained educators leave the profession.  Teachers that care and still maintain high test scores.  Teachers that have mentored me when I was a new teacher, and guided me every step of the way.  Teachers that will ROCK your socks off.  The teachers that are leaving represent much of the value and experience in education.  At some point, you have to realize this affects everybody.

Teachers need to be treated with respect and we have to be trusted in order for things to move forward.  We are forced to attend Professional Learning Communities (PLC'S) to talk about things on a set agenda that have little to no impact on kids.  Of course we have real things that are pushed to the side so we can talk about whatever is already set on an agenda for us.  Although data is an important part of our job, let us meet about other things!  We need to talk about the safety of our children, discipline, and other logistical things that help run the school.

And let's talk about those district quarterly standardized assessments.  Not only do we waste taxpayer dollars on them, but we have to take away learning to administer those tests.  I bet the taxpayers wouldn't be so thrilled if they knew that.  I know of a district that administered 28 tests throughout  the year.  That is 28 days of instruction taken away from the 180 day school year.  That equates to about 16% of the school year spent taking tests.  

I have taught everywhere in the K-2 range.  In my experience with administering these types of tests, I would watch the kids as they guessed on the answers.  I couldn't help but notice them "check out" right in front of me.  (And I am not the type of teacher that lets kids "check out")  They can only take so much.  For something that is already developmentally inappropriate, you can not blame them.  So, is the loss of their educational days lost worth it?  

Teachers are forced to look at this assessment data in so many different ways. They are forced to read the data until their eyes dry up. Kids are labeled according to their test scores, and their names are put on data wall.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but teachers do not need a data wall to tell them which kids are not up to grade level. We know.  

Teachers are also expected to post four or more objectives for each subject every day.  And their lesson plan requirements?  Just see the wall!  Everything on the wall is expected to be in the lesson plan.  And then some!  We don't look at them.  Because they aren't for us, they are for you.  And although you have no idea what it is like to be with your students forty hours a week, and then go home and write these ridiculous things, they will be posted and ready for you whenever you decide to "drop by." This is not the best use of a teacher's time.   You are taking not only time away from our families during our non-contractual time but you are also taking away from our real lesson planning.  

Please give us the respect we deserve, and listen to us when we say, "You are going the wrong way!"  We are in the classroom, and you are not.  Sure you do your drive by's, but come into my classroom and teach!  And I don't want you to teach for a week, teach for a DAY! That is all it takes to realize that we are masters of our craft and we desperately need you to trust us as professionals.  Please don't lose your most valuable asset in education:  Teachers.
Respectfully yours,

I am not a veteran teacher, but I have been teaching long enough to know the difference between right  and wrong.  I refuse to be a player in this game.  I urge all teachers to think about what is really best for kids.  You have a brain, use it! Stick up for yourself when you feel something is not right.  Teachers are carefully being silenced, and we must speak up before our voices are no longer heard.  Be a leader.  Change the game. 

Get Your Students to Produce Quality "How To" Writing

Hello and welcome to my blog!  This month's Bright Ideas post will find you a few quick tips for producing quality "How To" writing from your students.  Be sure to check the linky directory below to read over 100 other "Bright Ideas" from other fantastic teacher bloggers!

"How To" writing can be very challenging for children if they are not able to connect it to real life.  If they are unable to identify it's purpose, they will struggle.  One way to divert this problem is to create a "real life" situation and let kids actually explain what happened.  This allows them to think through the process, talk about it, and finally write about it.  

For my Firsties, I brought the kitchen to the classroom with simple recipe all kids can understand.  We made trail mix.  It is easy enough to write about, yet still requires step-by-step directions.  We used M&M's, raisins, and peanuts.  I did not want to use too many ingredients because we just wanted to get the concept of a "How To" writing. 

In the above picture, you will see an excellent graphic organizer for the "How To" writing.  I had my students draw detailed pictures first.  When they were done drawing the pictures, I let them write their sentences.  Before their sentence, I have them "write it out loud."  This really helps them with their complete sentences.  I also emphasize using the correct verbs and materials/ingredients.

My kids loved using this real life experience and writing about it.  When you are able to create meaning for your students, they have more motivation and they show ownership of their writing.

Be sure to visit the Bright Ideas Link-Up below to see more posts from over 80 fantastic bloggers.  

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

Know Your Students: Five Ways to Check for Understanding in Your Classroom

Here is a perfect scenario for you:  
1.  You teach a lesson. 
2.  The kids listen carefully and soak up every detail.  
3.  The kids are excited to apply their new learning
4.  Each kid aces the test!  It's a victory! 

We all know that almost never happens.  At least with me.  Checking for understanding has to be constant.  It doesn't always have to slow down the momentum of the learning.  Checking for understanding has to be presented in a way that is fun for the kids and you will have their buy in.  My kids love these parts of the lesson, and they have so much fun showing what they know.  

1.  The first one is a big one for me in my classroom.  When you have your students discuss something, you want to make sure you are proctoring.  If you have not been proctoring the room, you will quickly find out that the conversations are not as authentic as you think they are.  You will also make sure you are REALLY listening to your kids when they are talking.  Because they know if you are not! When you are listening, you can check to see if a student is really getting the content you are teaching.  When I check for understanding using partner talk, ask questions, reroute conversations, and I add important details that the students are missing.  

2.  Letting your students move to show you what they know is so important because they are releasing that energy and they are able to use their brain and their bodies at the same time!  We all know how important kinesthetic learning is important to the learning process, so use it when you are checking for understanding!  Here are a few of the ways we use our bodies and motions in the classroom.  

  • Sign Language for multiple choice questions.  Teach your kids A, B, C, and D.  When you have a multiple choice question, you can tell them to put their answer close to them, and when everybody has an answer you can have them hold it high.  I always figure out who has it and who doesn't.  I never call a student out that doesn't have the correct answer, but if I have a few kids that choose the wrong answer, I know the next steps to take in my instruction will be to address why the other answers would be incorrect.  I will definitely have those kids in my mind and engage them in my instruction for the rest of the lesson. 
  • 4 Corners.  Put A, B, C, D in your classroom and use the corners for the multiple choice questions. They go to the corner they think is the answer.  I made a modification to this one because I noticed the kids that didn't get it would just follow the other kids around.  I made them all commit to an answer by writing it on their white boards or a sticky before, and they had to go to the corner they committed to.  I create a risk-taker friendly environment in the case they were wrong, it was okay.  
  • Close Your Eyes "Take Off Touchdown".  I will read a question, and they close their eyes.  I will go through the question and the answers, and if they agree with an answer, they will stand up "Take Off" really quietly.  I will them prompt those who "Took Off" to "Touch Down." The trick is they have to close their eyes until all answer choices have been read.  This REALLY works and gives me a chance to record things in my checklist.  The best part is that no kids will ever know who picked what.  When I read the answer, they are to remain neutral and not tell other kids what they picked.  
  • Make things up as you go.  I am always thinking of a way to get a total physical response from my kids.  If you keep it in mind, you will be surprised how many times you can actually get your students in motion.

3.  Don't just use your desks and the carpet to check for understanding.  Use the ENTIRE room!  One thing I always like to do is gallery walks with anchor charts.  I have my students work together to create informational pieces of something we are learning.  They use an anchor chart to show what they know.  When all groups are finished, I let the kids peruse the room.  The trick is to give your kids a sticky note (with their name on it), and let them add or ask questions for the other groups.  They can put the sticky notes right on the anchor charts so you can see what they think or how well they are understanding.    You can also have them do this for a desk gallery walk for individual projects, and have them visit each student's desk.

4.  I know a lot of students that have tablets.  I worked in a Title school and students still had a tablet. Get those things in the classroom! There are so many apps that students can use.  There is actually a free website out there called "Poll Everywhere."  You sign up, and a few minutes later, you have your own code where you can have your students text an answer and it will show up with a graph on the your computer! This is the same concept we used when I took a class from the wonderful Jennifer Jones from Hello Literacy, she had us text an answer to a number.  When we finished texting, she was able to pull up a graph with all our answers categorized with a percentage!  I thought, "How clever!  That is a great way to check for understanding with students!"

5.  Lastly,  get a set of easy assessments that align to the skill you are teaching.  There are so many resources on Teachers Pay Teachers for you to look through and find something that fits you.  I made a set of Math and Language Assessments for my class, and I use them all the time.  They are 5 questions, and most of them are multiple choice.  It takes me about five seconds to grade the multiple choice ones.  This gives me direction as to how I can bring my kids to the next level, or if I can even go to the next level.  If you would like to learn more about my Math and Language Assessments, click on any of the pictures, or the link here.

Checking for understanding will always remain an integral part of each lesson.  If you make the best of it, your kids will love to show what they know.  They will also be more willing to admit what they don't know! 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

Follow Education to the Core: Emily Liscom's board Free Educational Resources on Pinterest.

Reading Strategies Posters and a FREEBIE!

Just wanted to share something I use with my kids in my classroom.  I tend to keep things simple, and I have narrowed down my reading strategies to several I think that stick with kids in the primary grades.

The strategies I use for not being able to read a word are:
Sound it out.
Look for a base word.
Chunk it.
Try a different sound.
Read on.

The strategies I use for not being able to clarify the meaning of a word are:
Read on.
Use picture clues.
Use context clues.
Use your background knowledge.
Use the text features.

Click on any of the pictures or the link to my store to learn more about these Reading Strategy Posters!

I designed posters for my kids so they could refer to them when reading.  Each one of them is different they can remember the different strategies and their uses.  I have made a set of black, white, and black and white posters.  Click on any of the pictures, or the link to my store to find out more.

I also make sure to laminate the strategies for each student onto a strategy folder.  Be sure to click on the picture or the link to my store for the free download.

If you would like to read more about how I teach kids to use their strategies, be sure to visit my blog post, "10 Things You Have to Know When You Teach Reading."

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!
Follow Education to the Core: Emily Liscom's board Free Literacy to the Core on Pinterest.

Print and Go Resources for Journeys!

Just wanted to give a little shout out to Angie Neal from Fall Into First!  If you have not seen her Journeys Resources, you absolutely must check it out.  My students have fallen in love with her activities, and they have truly made our reading block such a special time.

Each unit has so many activities for word work and writing and there is also an interactive journal section!

My kids love the picture card activities included in the pack.  They use the cards to help them understand the text, and write a simple sentence about it.  I can see this strategy has really helped them to improve their writing.

We also love the interactive journal piece because it is so closely aligned to the skills they are learning for the week.  They interactive journals can be such a blessing because the kids are really involved in what they are learning.  

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Be sure to follow Angie on Teachers Pay Teachers to stay posted on upcoming bundles! If you would like more ideas and resources from Angie, you can follow her blog, Fall Into First, or Pinterest!

Community Helpers Learning: A Great Choice for Primary Students

Let me just start out my saying that my kids had a phenomenal week learning about communities and community helpers.  I used my Community Helper's Unit this week, and it was an absolute blessing to have so much into one unit.  My firsties were able to read (with a little help) about all the community workers at their level.  They were able to record their findings in their graphic organizers. At the end of the week, they were able to produce a nice writing piece on the community helper they chose.  If you would like to find out more, click on any of the pictures, or the link to this product in my store.

The mini books come with 11 pages of different community helpers.   This book comes in both color and black and white.  You can have your kids cut it out, or you can just leave it as is.  When I am pressed for time, I just send mine home and I tell my kids they can put it together with their parents or guardian.

Now, for the fun part: My kids were able to choose the community helper they are interested in.  They cut the separate parts and glued them on to colored paper.  We avoided construction paper because it was not as sticky as the multicolored paper.  I chose bright colors to use, and I am so glad I did because it made my bulletin boards look great!  All the community workers available are in the description.  Here are a few! 

Here is a fabulous center for you to just print, laminate, and cut!  Students have to match the community building to the community helper.  

And finally, our beautiful bulletin board display.  This activity really made our week.  My kids are so proud to see their writing craftivity hanging on the wall.

To generate thoughts, I have put together a few graphic organizers that hit several skills.  My students were able to compare and contrast, identify the 5w's of a community helper, write instructions on how to be a community helper, and use verbs to describe a community helper.  Be sure to grab these free graphic organizers in my store by clicking the link or the picture!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

Follow Education to the Core: Emily Liscom's board Free Writing to the Core on Pinterest.
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