Monday, December 5, 2011

Gingerbread Writing and Stations

Hey all- Do you use 6 +1 Writing Traits at your school? I had never heard of it til I moved to TN. But anyways, our school focuses on one trait a month. This month is word choice. So I have been teaching my kinders all about adjectives and being more descriptive with their writing. So this week I came up with a fun activity to do to really get the wheels turning for them!

Day 1: (Today) I baked some gingerbread cookies and brought in icing and sprinkles for the kids to decorate. I knew this would be chaotic with the whole class, so I put my kiddos in "Gingerbread Stations" this afternoon. (They were SOOOO excited when they walked in from specials. I told them it was a surprise and I gave them little hints throughout the day as to what it was! When I put on my Gingerbread apron... I think that gave most of them a good idea of what was going to happen.)

So here are the stations I used:
STATION 1: Number order puzzle
Mixed up gingerbread picture that they have to cut out and put the numbers in order to make the picture correctly. (I found this at as a FREE download!)

 STATION 2: Coloring
 just printed off some cute clipart I found online for the kids to color. I made the mistake of letting them use my markers... not even THINKING to remind them to put the caps back on. I am so glad I noticed before I went home today otherwise I would have had NO markers left to use for myself. (I LOVE that Gingerbread clipart!)

How cute is this gingerbread house coloring page?!

 STATION 3: Decorate a paper gingerbread man

I am a VERY crafty person (ONLY when it comes to kids) and I'm not afraid of using glitter and such with them. I showed them how to use a pinch of glitter INSTEAD of pouring it all over their paper. I still had a few who didn't listen... but whatevs! My floor gets vacuumed every night, sooo it's all good! =) They had a blast doing it too! I found the template HERE.

 STATION 4: Cookie decorating
Here is the cookie decorating station!

I made one... you know... for "an example"... haha (or just b/c I WANTED to!) 

 STATION 5: Computers

I came across this website through another teacher blog and was so excited b/c it has several different Gingerbread games for the kids to play... so no "I'm done" in the middle of decorating cookies! =) The website is:

I also had other ideas that I did not use...

*Read Gingerbread books
*Use playdoh and Gingerbread cookie cutters

So that's all I got done today for writing! OH! And I took a picture of each student with their cookie to use for Wednesday.

Day 2: (Tomorrow) We are going to review the 5 senses and talk about how the cookies looked/tasted/smelled/and felt. I will record their responses on a web (sorry- forgot to take a picture tonight! I'll try to remember tomorrow.)

Day 3: The kids are going to receive their own graphic web to choose 3-4 adjectives to write about their own cookie. (I'll let them use our web created as a class AND to look at their pictures so they remember what their cookie looked like. UPDATE 6/ 9/13-- I will post this on my teacherspayteacherstore BEFORE December of 2013. I am currently going through my old blog posts and deleting some really old/embarrasing posts since I've gotten better as creating and my old classroom pics are embarrasing!---- stay tuned!)

Day 4: The kids will put their web into writing... My gingerbread cookie is ______. My gingerbread cookie has ______. etc.

Day 5: Edit/revise as needed.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Update on my niece!

Hey all! So quick update on my niece! I just got off the phone with my sister who had to come home last night after 3 nights in the hospital. She couldn't take her sweet girl home just yet b/c they still have her on a respirator and a lot of other cords. So sis just called to check in on her this morning and found out that baby Sonorah is completely off the nitric oxide now and they are going ot take her off the oxygen completely today. If all goes well after that, she will be put in an incubator until she shows that she is able to breath completely on her own for a few days with no surprises. I'm so relieved--- our whole family has shared tears these past few days b/c we just want to hold her so bad. But we can't even touch her b/c she's not to be stimulated. (If we wake her up... she could try to rip off all the cords/feeding tube/etc.) So it's been really hard. We haven't seen her smile/cry/etc. yet. We're so anxious to get to know her, hold her ... all that stuff you can take for granted. This baby is very loved and has so many people praying for her. I appreciate the prayers! They are working! Now I'm praying she can get through today.... and continue to show improvements so my sis can take her home soon. That's all I know for now. Here is a sweet video of Sonorah and her daddy... I cried my eyes out (I was in the room when this happened... it was so beautiful.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just call me "AUNT JESS!!!"

Hello my fabulous followers! =) (This is non-school related post tonight!) So my sister went into labor yesterday morning and had sweet lil Sonorah yesterday evening! That sad news is that she had some trouble breathing on her own, so they have a tube down her mouth and she is on oxygen. Last night she was on 100% oxygen and it was very scary b/c we were not told what was going on. My sister finally got to see her sweet girl after 9:30pm... (4 hours after Sonorah was born!) and started to feel a little better. Good news: She is down to 65% oxygen! They are "weening" her off everything right now.... and we aren't allowed to touch her since she has all those cords and tubes on her. (They don't want to risk stimulating her b/c she might try to tear off all the cords and such) So she has been pretty sedated. I went twice today to see her and I was so excited! The 2nd time I went with her daddy and he was talking to her and she started to open her eyes to look at him. I started to cry like a baby it was so sweet! (He got it on video too!) So I have been at the hospital the past 2 days supporting my sister and keeping her company. (She has not slept for more than a hour, crazy girl! But I understand... I can't sleep knowing that Sonorah is hooked up to all those machines.) I do trust that she is God's hands and will come out of this just fine. We just want to hold her soooo bad! She is so beautiful!

Welcome baby Sonorah to the world!!!! <3

We love you soooo much!!! XOXO
Aunt Jess

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Math Stations this week

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My kids LOVE math stations! They are so busy working that I have no problem working in small groups! We have some great stations from Lakeshore that have some wonderful manipulatives included! Here are the stations we did last week:
 I forgot to take a picture of it, but we have this station where the kids copy and extend the patterns. You could take it a step further and have them label the pattern.
One of their FAVORITES! They used the colored beads to create patterns onto pipe cleaners. It was also great for those fine motor skills =)
A Lakeshore station- they could sort the trains by: the size of the animals inside, colors of the train and the animals that were in the train. (Not pictured: They is also another set of cards for patterning!)
Lakeshore instant learning center: The kids used the foam shapes to finish the patterns. (They could also copy the pattern below.)
We just began our Numbers unit... so I just had them use the foam-dough to form the letters and quantity on the mats.

A puzzle where the kids can finish the pattern.

Next week we will have more centers to work on numbers 0-5! =)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Great quote =)

With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Word Attack Buddies

I've had a few requests for my word attack/reading strategy posters! =)  I created them after seeing a lot of other cute ones, but fell in LOVE with this clip art from scrappndoodles! =)

To add some more "cuteness" I cut around them and glued onto some polka dot scrapbook paper! =)

Leave me some love, if you like! =)

THESE CAN NOW BE FOUND HERE IN MY TPT STORE. =) They have been updated with a border and new font!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Explicit Direct Instruction notes

Hey ya'll!
Before school let out for the summer, our school administration gave us a book to read over the summer. It's called Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) The Power of the Well-Crafted, Well-Taught Lesson.  I KNOW... a mouthful right?! Anyways, like the big procrastinator I am, I waited until tonight to start reading it. It's actually REALLY helpful as a newer teacher to help me give my lessons some structure. I thought I would post a few things I highlighted each time I read and see if you wonderful bloggers have any input!  (Plus, when I type out my notes, it helps me retain the info better!) =) I'm a hands-on/visual learner! Can you tell?!)

The book began by giving 2 effective strategies that make teaching more effective:
1. When asking a question, always present it to the ENTIRE class before selecting a student to respond.
2. Then pause several seconds before selecting a student to respond. (While you are pausing, students don't know which person you will select, and they all start thinking about the answer in case they are called upon.)
As soon as I read #2, I was glued! It's something so simple as this little tip, that can change my whole effectiveness to the lesson! WOW! Moving on...

The book goes onto to explain how Checking for Understanding (CFU) is the backbone to effective instruction.
1. If you look at quizzes/tests, homework, etc. it's TOO LATE to modify your instruction.
2. CFU guarantees HIGH student success because you provide additional examples and reteach when necessary.
3. CFU allows you to confirm you students know how to do the independent practice/homework BEFORE they are asked to do it.

When do you Check For Understanding?
-After telling the students the learning objective, ask them to tell you what they are going to learn.
-After giving a definition, ask students to state the definition in their own words. Ask them for examples, or provide examples and ask them to select which one meets the definition.

CFU tips:
-Don't call on hand wavers.
-Call on students at random.
This is the only way you can measure if EVERYONE is learning.

Use sticks with the student's names on them to randomly select non-volunteers. After calling on a student, put the stick BACK in the cup each time. (That way they stay engaged b/c they could be called on again!) Also include a few sticks that say "Teachers' Choice" so you can look around and make a strategic selection! =)

Then they gave us an easy way to remember how to CFU.

Teach first
Ask a question
Pick a non-volunteer
Listen to the response
Effective Feedback

Teach first. They go on to say that when you ask questions BEFORE you teach (like asking "Who knows what a platypus is?") you are not really measuring the effectiveness of your teaching. Instead, you are assessing the existing background knowledge of your students.
When you CFU, your students can answer correctly because they are applying the information you just taught them. 

Ask a question. When you CFU, always ask specific questions about what you are teaching. Don't ask students if they understand. (Because they probably don't want to identify themselves OR based on their opinion- they could think they do understand... when in reality, they don't.) So don't ask students their opinions of whether they are learning. Ask them SPECIFIC questions about what you just taught. That's the A in Tapple! =)

Pause (aka: Wait time or Think time) provides time for ALL students to think of an answer, even if they aren't called upon. While you are waiting, students don't know who will be called upon so they are more engaged in mentally preparing an answer. Remember that the rule here is to present the question to the WHOLE class and then to pause, giving everyone time to think of an answer. (If you call on a student first before giving the question, the other students tune out. They're off the hook. They don't need to THINK of an answer or even listen to the question.)
                How long should you wait before selecting a student?
                    Pause atleast 3-5 seconds. If you are asking a challenging question, wait 8-10 sec.
  • During the "wait time", walk around the room and repeat the question a couple times. Even "stir the sticks" as you get ready to pull one. This will signal to the students to get ready with an answer.
  • Another wonderful technique is to "pair share". This is great during the initial phases of learning new information. You tell your students to discuss the answer with their neighbor so they will be ready to respond to your CFU question. For example, you say "I'm going to select one of you to tell me ___________. But first, turn to your neighbor and discuss ________ so you will be ready when I call on you."
  • During pair share, your students are:  practicing pronouncing and saying new vocabulary AND using them in sentences. (Great for your low and ELL kiddos!) It also provides extended wait time for your Higher Order Thinking questions. (HOTS questions) If you float around the room during pair share, you can ensure that everyone is on task and have a feel for how much time is needed for the kiddos to compare their answers.
Pick a Non-Volunteer. (This is when you could use the Popsicle sticks.) Helps you find out if there are students who don't know the answer. Their general rule is: Call on at least 3 kiddos each time you "TAPPLE".  If 3 students respond correctly, it's likely all your students are understanding. If 2 or 3 random students are confused, you don't need to check any further. The class hasn't learned it yet.

Listen very carefully to you student's answer. Ideally, your students will always have the correct answer to your CFU questions, but sometimes they won't. What you do next depends on what you hear- you think about the answer, decide if it's correct, partially correct, or just plain wrong.

Effective Feedback. The last step of your CFU where you provide 1 of 3 types of tailored, effective feedback:
  1. echo
    • when the student response is correct- restating of the correct answer.
      • "That's right, Susan, all sentences start with a capital letter!"
  2. elaborate
    •  when the student response is tentative or partially correct- elaborate and paraphrase to reinforce the correct answer, which benefits the student who answered AND the rest of the class
  3. explain
    • actually re-explain, when student answers are incorrect.
      • don't make a big scene out of it, instead say "Listen carefully because I am coming back to you."
      • If the 2nd student DOES have the correct answer: echo and elaborate a little to reinforce the correct answer, then go RIGHT BACK to the first student and ask them the question again.
      • If the 2nd student does not have the correct answer= RETEACH!
        • After you RETEACH, go back to the same 2 original students, ask the same CFU question and then call on additional students to reinforce the content.
Students are never let off the hook. They always have to respond correctly (even if we need to hand-feed them the answers.
When students give an incorrect answer, don't say "No, that's wrong." and move on to another student... Instead ask students to explain or justify how they arrived at their answer.
Avoid the trap of calling on volunteers to get the right answer.

When to call on volunteers:
  • to expand the topic or
  • provide an additional way of looking at something
    • HOTS questions! 
This is a fantastic teaching strategy b/c if you call on three students and then ECHO three times, your class just hear the answer SIX TIMES!!! The general rule is that is takes 16-24 repetitions to transfer info into long-term memory.

The CFU chapter ended with the best way to CFU.... can you guess what it is???

If you guessed whiteboards, you are CORRECT! =)

Benefits of using the whiteboards for CFU:
-allows you to check everyone at once
-allows all students to work on the problem
-all students are ENGAGED
-if you see multiple wrong answers, it signals you to RETEACH.

They ended on a note to say that when you see a student that has the wrong answer on their whiteboard, call on those students to hear their thinking on how they got to their answer.

So when using whiteboards, pull sticks and have several individuals justify or explain their answer. Every student should be able to successfully explain his or her reasoning by applying the methods you taught them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

GREAT website!

So I have spent the evening watching every single one of these youtube videos on

If you have not checked this website out yet, you MUST! He has all sorts of great ideas for motivating your students, managing and dealing with behaviors, and fun little activities to help you teach while keeping it fun and educational!

You will NOT be disappointed!!! =)


Friday, June 3, 2011

Math Stations Party =)

I am sooooo excited about this Math Work station party! I am waiting til tomorrow to purchase the book (payday! Yippee!) and have been catching up online! I have loved the first 2 chapters so far! It's a bit reassuring b/c I have been doing math centers, and although I have A LOT of room for improvement, I have already got the routine started! 

I have to admit, I was slacking on doing my math small groups my first 2 years, but I plan on doing a much better job next year (with thanks to Debbie Diller and her great advice in this book!) 

My areas to improve:
 Model MORE before putting our materials in the stations.
Model how to correctly get the centers out and how to put them away.
Label my bins and baskets
Make my centers into STATIONS (looove this idea!)
Less worksheets and more hands on activities

Areas of strength:
Staying consistent with my math whole group and math station time =)

Here is how my stations worked last year...

Each child was put into a group of 3-4. Then they were assigned an ocean animal on one of my green tubs. In each of my tubs was an activity that went along with whatever math skill we were working on that week. I had a lot of problems with some kids getting work finished quickly- so I would send them to an "anchor tub" to work. It was usually a game or activity we have worked on previously in math stations.

But I love Debbie Diller's idea of having a place for each station in the room. So I will definitely be changing this up and using these bins for recess centers next year.

I have most of my manipulatives sorted in these bins, but want to purchase smaller bins from the dollar tree for some since there is a lot of extra space in these ones. I plan on labeling them as well!

Here are the anchor tubs, along with all our Lakeshore instant learning centers that we use from time to time.

My calendar/whole group area:

I do my small groups on the carpet b/c I don't have a kidney bean table. All my small group materials are kept in the green drawers and the small white ones as well. 

Close up of my calendar: We do this daily before math to review all of our skills each day. My kiddos were number wizards! =) They loved to tell time, name the coins, count the days of school, etc. Math is an exciting time in our class! B/c I LOVE math! =)

We use these flash cards to review number patterns. (I also have 10 frame ones to practice number sense.)

Were I keep our play coins for counting the days of school.

We use these links to practice place value during calendar time. We also make patterns with them! =)

Well, here is my answers to the checklist =)

  1. Materials used by the teacher first, then placed in the station: Yes, but I could do a better job modeling it several times before putting it in the station!
  2. Materials do not change weekly, but rather changed to reflect the students learning objectives:  I could do a much better job with this!
  3. All students go to stations daily:  YES!  Yay!
  4. Materials are differentiated: Whoops!  Need to work on this.
  5. The teacher observes work or meets with differentiated math groups: I will definitely work on it this year!''

    Now it's your turn! Link up with

    and share your ideas!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Summer To-Do List

  1. Plan my writing lessons for next year 
  2. Read my 2 novels that I purchased LAST summer but never got to! 
  3. Read Debbie Diller's new math book and re-read her small group and lit center books.
  4. Go to the gym atleast 3 times a week.
  5. Take Gus Gus *my dog* on a walk when I don't go to the gym.
  6. Put air in my bike tires and use my bike! haha
  7. Visit my BFF in Alabama.
  8. Get a new dress for my college BFF's wedding this July.
  9. Spend more time with my friends and don't be a home-body!
  10. Work on my tan! ;) 
  11. Keep up with my landscaping around the house.
  12. Paint my ceilings.
  13. Touch up my patio furniture.
  14. Powerwash my house and deck.
  15. Stain the deck. 
Okay.... this is enough- I'm stressing myself out! haha =) Head over to the Littlest Learners blog to join the linky party and share your summer to do list! 
I am really looking forward to the summer! I'm going to Florida on Wednesday and I'm soooo excited! 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Addition game and Building Beavers

So we lucked out with the past few storms! The worst of them hit south of us, but we still had a lot of rain that caused some flooding,  power outages, roof damange and TONS of trees down. This picture doesn't even do the storm clouds justice.... they were scary! =(

But thank the Lord we made it through! 

We have been learning how to add in math this month and here my kiddos are after learning how to play Go Fish- addition style. We got this game idea off of Shari Sloane's website:

She has a lot of great printables so check her out!

Our school district requires us to post our standards in kid friendly language and I'm finally starting to get the hang of it. Here is our standards we are planning to cover this week!

Last week we talked about the main idea of a story. We created a web about what we learned after reading Building Beavers.... they did a GREAT job!

The next day we compared and contrasted a beaver's home to a people home. They laughed at me b/c didnt' make my boxes big enough for my large handwriting! hehe

I fixed up my writing center this week... I added our word family posters and moved our writing materials shelf closer! They love it!

Other than that, we have been busy little bees and they are working hard! I'm so sad for this year to end in 3 weeks, but really looking forward to starting off next year with a fresh start! It will be my 3rd year teaching and I have SO many great ideas to do that i have to keep a notebook so I'll remember! =) I can't wait!

(I apologize that some of the photos seem blurry- I left my digital at home so these are from my cell phone!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring is in full swing!!!

I can't believe all the storms we have been getting this spring in TN!!!! We've had 2 really bad storms with high winds enough to damage my roof. Tonight and tomorrow they are predicting severe storms with high chances of tornadoes.... which is no fun when you live alone with no basement!!!! I want my mommy! ;) Please say a prayer for all of us in the south that are in the storm's path this week! 

Before the storm hits and most likely takes out my power, I wanted to share a few pictures of some fun spring activities we have been doing in kindergarten!

After spending a week learning about plants and seeds, the kids were able to plant their own seeds. They are growing fast and the kids are so excited! Next week I'm going to let them paint some little flower pots to give to their moms/grandma/aunts, etc for Mothers Day! (We have a lot of kiddos that don't live with moms, so I try to remind them that even thought they don't live with them, they may have someone in their lives that is like a mom...)

Anyways... here a pic of our plants on Friday last week! (We were out of school today for power outages due to the storms last night.... this has been one crazy spring)!

When learning addition I let them color a ladybug, and glue black dots on each wing. Then we wrote our addition sentence on yellow squares to glue on the bottom. 

Back to our plant unit.... we read Eric Carle's "Tiny Seed" and then labeled and glued the parts of a plant and what a plant needs to grow as a fun craft! They loved it and worked so quietly as they glued! 

A little assessment for our landforms unit. Each day they drew the landform we talked about in a corner of the paper.

Our rigor and relevance for the month! They wrote their own addition stories! They turned out so cute!

Our writing after reading "Spilt Milk"....

During our dental health unit I had dental words in their writing center and some of my kiddos did a great job writing! =)