Monday, March 21, 2016

Assessing in Kindergarten

Assessing in Kindergarten... made me want to pull my hair out sometimes. Can I get an AMEN?! I'm sure some of you may have heard of and see posts about ESGI. I've used ESGI for the past five years and I don't know where I would be without it! I thought I would share how I use it and how it saves me so much precious instructional time! We all know how time-consuming it can be to assess students in kindergarten because most of it is one-on-one.

Here is a sample of one of my students' report cards. This is one of 4 pages of our report card. This is the foundational page that we update EVERY 3 weeks because we also make copies of it to attach to the progress report. So you can get a little glimpse of how much I have to assess for ONE student and how long that can take.

Before ESGI, I would show my student a flashcard and have to find it on the report card, then mark if they mastered it or not. (Then I'd have to retest all the letters b/c who has time to sort out the cards they already mastered? NOT ME!) It literally took me FOREVER to assess... I did the same thing with sounds, popcorn words and numbers.

So now let me show you how I use ESGI to save a bunch of time! When you log in and click on a student's name, this is an example of what you would see under the "Pre-reading" tab. To begin a test, you simply click on "Test."

Since this student only missed one lowercase letter, it will only ask her for the letter she missed. Once she masters identifying the lowercase "d" (which she called b), I won't have to give her this test anymore. 

When you are finished assessing, you can click on "Test Result Letters" and this is an example of one of my students. I don't send this letter home, but I do use it to keep track of mastery to copy on to the report card I showed you in the first picture.

Another great tool that I love is you can print off "flashcards" with the letters/sounds they missed. (You can also do this with any other skill you assess on here such as rhyming words, popcorn words, etc.) The child's name would print in place of the blue boxes on each card, so they don't get mixed up with another student's.

One of my FAVORITE tools is the bar graph, I use this mainly for popcorn words. I can easily see what words my students are struggling with and it gives me a starting point for reviewing and reteaching words in small groups.

Here is another screen shot of when I click on a student's name under "Reading" for the popcorn words assessment.

Some other great benefits: YES! YOU CAN CREATE YOUR OWN ASSESSMENTS! I use ESGI mainly to assess: identifying upper case and lower case letters, naming letter sounds, reading popcorn words, identifying numbers to 20 and producing rhyming words. (The rest of the skills I assess I have to use assessments given to me by the school system). 

But some other skills that you can assess that are ready-made: identifying beginning, medial and ending sounds, identifying blends, blending sounds to make words, reading CVC words, addition, subtraction and shapes.

My awesome team-mate Ashleigh loads on the popcorn words each week so we don't have assess words that aren't taught yet. She's awesome and it saves us so much time to test little by little!

Any questions? Feel free to ask below! =)

The great thing about ESGI is that they give you a 60 day trial to use so you can get a true feel to see if it will benefit you in your classroom. Click on the link for a great video and to start your free trial!

If you use the promo code B2195 when you purchase, you will receive a discount of $159 (regular pricing -$199) for the initial year! So what are you waiting for? Go check it out! =)

Monday, January 4, 2016

A tour of my PreK Classroom

So if you're anything like me... You LOVE seeing pictures of other people's classrooms! Today, MNPS gave teachers a planning day. Because I finished my plans before break, that gave me all day to clean and rearrange my classroom. We dusted all the shelves with pledge (and it smelled amazing), moved the furniture around and swept underneath all the shelves (the floors never looked better!) and I organized our huge closet and my drawers. It looks fantastic now!

You'll notice my PreK room is not AS bright and colorful as my Kindergarten room. (This is not my choice. lol) We are "encouraged" to keep bright colors to a minimum and keep with neutral colors with some blues and greens. But my rainbow loving heart has an extremely hard time with this OBVI. 

So here's your tour....
My pathetic word wall to the left. It has housed my student's pictures and name's all year. (And nothing else. Definitely an area of improvement.) The library center and cozy corner. The cozy corner offers my students an area where they can go to calm down, be alone or read a book. I've made it a rule that only one student is allowed in there at a time all year, but thinking I may start letting 2 friends as long as they are reading.

Here's a view of the coolest hanging lamp ever. (All the classrooms in my building have them!) Below is our dramatic play center. We are in the middle of a music-making study, so my para is a creative genius and made a "Center Stage" with red curtains for the kids to perform in. This also houses our puppet theatre to the left. The bulletin board picture shows the kids different problem solving skills. My para is going to add a title to the board tomorrow while I'm at CPR training. I'm excited to have the board to refer to when the kids may need some help with solving a social problem.

Block area. We post pictures of different styles of buildings for the kids. I actually have one who LOVES trying to build each one! He'll come get me from whatever I aim doing to show me his structures! I love it!

A better view of the block shelf and some more building photographs.

Gotta have a little literacy and social studies in the block center!

The Discovery center. Thanks to my awesome work friend Dana for the stump stools. The gray tote to the left houses or class worms. (Yup... and the kids LOVE holding them. Well most of them anyways... lol)

A view of our toys & games center.

The back of our math center.

Other side of our math shelf.

Another view of our word wall and some fun charts we have done! (They LOVE the Chubby Snowman!)

Art center #duh

Nothing exciting in the sand table right now, except... sand. (Need to switch out some fun toys for Jan!)

The kids listened to music and we "felt" the music as we drew. 
The next few photos are some examples of tallying we did before Winter break! I was so amazed at how well the kids did on their own with this! They came up with their own question to ask their classmates. Then they walked around the room with a clipboard and crayon, asked their peers the questions and tallied their responses. I had them bring it to me when they were finished and I watched them count their tallies and I wrote the numbers down for them. Then I asked them which had more/fewer. 

I love this question!

He did a great job!

This one asked how old my para and I were, so we wrote down our age since we are neither 4 nor 5! 

Before winter break, we had some visitors come in and talk to the kids about their musical talents. Before the visitors came, the kids helped come up with some questions to ask them. Ya'll... these kids are AWESOME! I didn't prompt any of these questions! They came up with them all on their own! 

The visitors would share with us their talent and perform something for the class. Then we asked our visitor the questions and I wrote down their responses. The kids loved this! (And I just realized I forgot to take pics of the instruments the kids made below this chart! Well shoot! Maybe tomorrow! *wink *wink)

You'll notice there is no clip chart or behavior management system in my room. That's because we have an amazing Social-Emotional curriculum we use called "Second Step" and we also use CSEFEL. The reason why....? Because we are teaching the children problem solving skills and self-management skills. I thought I would hate this... but actually, I love it. The kids are responding very well and I've seen them put the new skills into place! Plus, now that I have the bulletin board in dramatic play center, I can refer to that when needed also! It's great! I also have the benefit of seeing all the parents when they drop their child off and when they pick them up!

Sunday, January 3, 2016


So here we are, 2016! It's been a long time since I've even thought about blogging until recently. I have actually been thinking a lot these past few months on how much I miss teaching Kindergarten. And then I slap my forehead and remind myself how great my current job is.

As you may already know from my last post (back in May 2015) I got a new job teaching Pre-K in Nashville. I was psyched and so ready for a new adventure in my life. So I packed up my classroom of 6 years, wiped my tears after saying goodbye to some of my best friends and made the hour drive to my new home! (Well.... technically moving came 2 months later after I started teaching in Nashville. But that's not important!)

Anywho- I'm so honored to be a part of a Pre-K grant we have in Nashville. I get to work in 1 of the 3 "Pre-K hubs" in the district. If you are like me, when you think of public school Pre-K teachers, you envision maybe 1 or 2 pre-K teachers in an elementary school, right? Well, that's true for most of Nashville. But now we have 3 "hubs", which are school buildings filled with ONLY preK classrooms. So in my building, there are 10 pre-k classrooms. It's AMAZING. I love it. I get to work with so many creative, fun, friendly "experts" in our field! It's my dream job! My principal is so knowledgeable of early childhood and she really knows her stuff and encourages developmentally appropriate practices! Ya'll... I'm talking PLAY. These 4-year-olds actually get to play while they learn. I've been ranting and raving about how we need more play in schools for kindergarten-3rd grade. And now I get to do it!

We have a wonderful curriculum that provides books, small group ideas, instructional transition activities and more! Planning is a breeze b/c we are encouraged to use the curriculum to fidelity because the research behind our curriculum has shown how effective it is. We do 6 week studies on things like:
  • buildings, 
  • trees, 
  • clothing, 
  • reduce, reuse and recyling
  • exercise
  • balls
  • music making
  • boxes
  • pets
  • roads
  • bread
We also use a "Beginning of the Year" study the first 6 weeks and a "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" unit the last 6 weeks of the school year.

So if you're any good at math, you might be thinking "How on earth do you teach all of those units in one school year?" Well... we don't! We figure out what the children are interested in and use the kid's interests to determine what unit we'll dive into next! So after I finished the beginning of the year study, I thought about how great it would be to do the buildings study since they were doing a lot of construction in the front of our building so we could take walks outside while the weather was still nice and see how it changed as the year went on. I also thought trees would be fun with the leaves changing colors in the fall. So I talked to the kids about it. I told them the things we would investigate and the fun activities we could do. Then they each got to vote on what study they would be more interested in. Buildings won, so that was our next unit! The kids had a blast on our walks around the building and watching the different construction vehicles in action!

My dad, who's an engineer, came in with a hammer and nails, screwdriver and screws, wrenches and more! He showed the kids how to work all the simple tools using scrap wood from his garage. He even brought in some toy construction vehicles for the kids to play with in block center, left a small level for them to use and some orange cones to warn their classmates that they are hard at work! We made "blueprints" in our journals of what we would build in block center, and Ms. H (our para) painted boxes with the kids and made different buildings.

Some great activities we did was after reading The Three Little Pigs! Out in front of our building, I grabbed some straw (or hay!), an old brick and a stick. I passed the materials around and asked the kids what they think was the most "sturdy". We made predictions and tested them out by pretending we were the big, bad wolf and "blew the house down!" They had a blast. So I put the materials in the Discovery Center for them to examine and play with during centers.

I also printed off some characters from the Story on a Three Little Pigs unit I bought off TPT (I'll link it here later!) and put some velcro on the back for the kids to practice retelling the story in library center. (We did this in a small group first. And before the small group, we acted out the story with puppets I made!) The kids did AWESOME!

So during center time, I noticed the kids LOVE the music center. So I decided to do the music making study next! We have had a BLAST with this! We've made jingle bells with sparkly pipe cleaners and bells, guitars with old tissue boxes and rubber bands, and shakers with empty paper towel rolls, tissue paper and beans. My AMAZING para changed out our dramatic play center by adding some red curtains to a big wall, and putting the words "Center Stage" in yellow above it! She brought in her son's musical toys so the kids could pretend they were in a rock band or symphony!

I posted musical words all around the room that I found online. (I'll post that link also, later!) Then our music teacher gave me the idea of sorting the words by the type of instruments they fall under. So made posters for "strings", "percussion" and "wind". The kids love to refer to the posters as we are reading stories and listening to music. Our music teacher has been letting us use different instruments each week such as a banjo and bells. I brought in my sister's old guitar and let the kids play them during centers. They LOVED it! I hope to find some next instruments when we return this week! =)

Something that I personally love is that we are not allowed to use worksheets AT ALL. We incorporate the learning through games and their play. So I'm going to make it my goal the rest of this school year to post some of the ways we do so... in hopes that inspires other pre-k and kindergarten teachers to do the same in their rooms!

To assess, we use an app on the ipad (which is part of our curriculum). The app allows us to record video, voice, take anecdotal notes, take pictures, and more! Once we get the learning documented, we are able to go into this app, attach the learning objective that's being met and then SCORE IT! The best part is that the app gives examples for each level so we can have a "level playing field" when scoring out kids.

The only downfall is that it's A LOT OF WORK. Like.... we need to be doing it every single day and sometimes I find it hard to teach and get the good, quality data. (I know... I'm preaching to the choir! I struggled with this in kindergarten too!)

Some other wonderful things about my current job? We have a garden! And the kids helped plant everything in it. Every class has an hour time slot each week, where we split the class in 1/2. The teacher takes one group down to the garden and our "Plant the Seed teacher" does a mini garden lesson and then breaks the kids into garden centers or a fun garden activity. The centers are things like "watering plants, potting station, library (they can grab a garden book and blanket and read anywhere in the garden, art (painting or sidewalk chalk), journals and digging. The kids get their hands dirty and they love every minute of it! When the clean-up bell rings, we gather under the gazebo and sit on the hay bails and sing our Plant the Seed song. Then I meet my para 1/2 way and we switch groups. (Her group stays in the room and works on social-emotional skills with our school counselor. It's a fabulous program.)

And one of my favorite parts of my school week is our Global class. Nashville's Global Education center provides a 30 minute lesson for each class in our building to teach multi-cultural lessons. We've done zumba, learned to play Djembe drums, learned a song to sing with a berimbau, learned about Native American culture and got to play with their toys, their drum, sit in a teepee and more! It's a wonderful program and the children love it!

I cannot say enough great things about my school!!! Everything we do is so beneficial for these children and they WILL be ready for kindergarten! And I can say that after teaching K for 6 years in a low-income area! I wish all kids could go here!

My goals for 2016:
-Post small group ideas, transition activities and center activities we do to inspire others to incoporate learning through play
-Work harder in changing out my centers and making them relevant to our unit of study each week
-Be more consistent with teaching activities EVERY DAY
-Be more purposeful in interacting with the kids during play and have high-quality conversations to build their language skills and vocabulary

Well if you made it through this whole post, I appreciate you! Let me know if there is anything you'd like to know in my next post!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR! Hoping 2016 is the best year yet!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bittersweet News

Hey all! I'm back with some bittersweet news! I'm so excited and happy to announce that I'm finally moving to Nashville to live closer to my family and teach Pre-k! I'm psyched to go back to Pre-K and have some fun with the little ones! I will miss teaching K, my AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, PHENOMENAL team and my Smith family.

Today I turned in my macbook, the rest of my keys and said my last goodbyes. I've been waiting to post because I'm not sure if I'll be posting anymore on this blog or not.

I had to leave my ginormous, beautiful classroom with the perfect furniture behind. <3
I had to leave 4 amazing, talented, sweet women I can call my forever friends <3.
Ashleigh- We've been neighbors for the past 5 years and I have loved watching you becoming an amazing mommy to your sweet, adorable boys! I admire you so much friend!
Amanda- I know you will be amazing at your new school and I hope you're so happy there! I will miss your sense of humor and your baby is such a lucky little girl! <3 You are making a wonderful momma!
Bethany- I can't even begin to tell you how much I will treasure the memories of our Zumba nights, walks around town, quoting Madea movies, laughing so hard our bellies hurt and all the random times we hung out outside of school. You have been such a wonderful friend to me!
Candy- It was so hard to hug you goodbye. You have been such a great friend and I appreciate your wisdom, kindness and the comfort you provided on the hard days. Our team was (and IS) so lucky to have you. I will miss you so much!!!
And to Rebecca and the teacher they hire in my place- You are going to love being part of such a wonderful team! <3 I can't wait to hear about all the fun you guys have next year!

5 car loads of my teaching stuff home and lots of tears...

But NOW for the happy.... I could not be more thrilled about moving to Nashville, teaching Pre-K and being so close to my family.

I get to spend all summer with these beauties I call my nieces.

Not only the summer, but now because I will live so much closer to them (like hoping less than a 20 minute drive)  I can come over any day of the week, rather than just on the weekends!

I'm so blessed to have been part of such an AMAZING school that has been a SCORE prize winner, a Reward school 3 years in a row that is doing what is best for the kids. I will miss seeing my past students' every day, but I know they are in good hands!

I love this picture collage Ashleigh made me... I will treasure it forever friend! <3

I know this is a sappy post, but I really hope I am able to post some fun Pre-K stuff next year. So excited for my next adventure! Happy Summer Break friends!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I have, Who has #s to 20 freebie!

Three posts in one weekend??? Yeah! I come with another free download for you today! This is something I put together after I taught all the numbers to 20 to review. My kids were obsessed and we played it 3 different times and they wanted to play it again and again!

 This game could also be used throughout the year for a quick review game for identifying numbers to 20! I also have 2 recording sheets for numbers 1-10 and 11-20 you could use in a center or whole group after teaching numbers to 20. They can be used to identify numbers, count and write the numeral. I hope you can find this useful in your classroom!