Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Craft FREEBIE

Tomorrow I am going to be a substitute Sunday School teacher in my son's class. Since it will be the first day of advent, I decided to work in this craft I made last year. I was inspired by the Thanksgiving Story beads I had done for years. I thought, "Why not retell the Christmas Story using the same idea?"  You can make bracelets, ornaments, necklaces, or just retelling strings. All you need are pony beads and twine, leather, or ribbon. 

Here is a quick run down of each bead's significance.
1 blue for the land of Israel, the place of Christ's birth
1 white for the messenger angel who appeared to Mary
1 yellow for the taxes that had to paid in Bethlehem
1 brown for the stable where Jesus would be born
1 brown for the manger they laid him in
1 green for the shepherds in their fields that night
1 white for the angel who brought them glad tidings
1 white for the heavenly host who sang praises
1 black for the shepherds who made their way through the night
1 yellow for the star that shone in the sky
3 purples for the wise men who brought gifts fit for a king

I have all of the directions, story summary sheets, and a mini-coloring book to go with the bead craft available in this freebie from my store. You can grab yours {HERE} or on the picture below. 
I am linking up with Ashley Reed for her "Have Yourself a Crafty 'Lil Christmas" party. Click the button below to see more idea posts. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Animals' Santa by Jan Brett


Did you know that Jan Brett has a new book out for Christmas? It is called The Animals' Santa. It is the sweetest book! It is all about a hare named Little Snow. He wants to know if the animals have their own Santa. His brother and friends all talk about gifts they have received. They all have their own theories about who their Santa could be. Little Snow thinks they are all fooling him. The animals don't have a Santa, but around midnight they all find out who their Santa really is!

I love anything Jan Brett writes, and this one is sure to be a classic just like her other works! I created a book study to go along with this new book. You can check it out {HERE} or on the pic below. It is packed with meaningful activities that are directly related to the text.

Here is a quick, little Animals' Santa freebie for you, too! Click {HERE} or on the pic to download your copy. :)
I found this awesome video on Jan Brett's YouTube channel. She gives you a little tour inside of her studio. You get to meet the rabbit she used as the inspiration for her illustrations. Then, she does a step by step guide on how to draw Little Snow. I am sure you will enjoy it! 

Now, go grab your own copy of the book! You will LOVE it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Main Idea and Supporting Details

Do your students struggle with identifying main ideas and supporting details? Do they have a hard time summarizing? Do they ever just give name the topic (like Sharks) when asked for the main idea? Do they pick a random fact that they found interesting instead of the true main idea?

Main idea has been the bane of my teaching career! This is one of the hardest things for kids to master because it is so complex. So, I created a set of activities that deals specifically with this set of skills. I just listed them in my store. This will be ON SALE for Thanksgiving Day 2014. You can find out more {HERE} or on the pic below. The freebie below is also in the pack.

Here is a quick sample freebie for you, too! 
Have you seen all of the awesome videos on the Almost a Third Grader channel on YouTube? This teacher is AWESOME! You can view her channel {HERE}. This video clip is an awesome introduction to main idea and supporting details.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Thanks for reading my random ramblings! :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Executive Function: What Every Teacher Should Know

Executive Function is a growing buzz word in education. In my own school, I am hearing it more and more often. Our educational psychologist mentioned that we will all be receiving training soon. I knew that it sounded like something that could impact quite a few of my students. So, I did a little research of my own. I thought I would share my findings with you. I hope this will help you can get a jump start on helping this increasingly identified population, too. 

So, what is executive function? What difficulties do these students have? How can we help? Our school's brilliant educational psychologist explains it like this.
Imagine that your brain is an orchestra. All of the different processes you need for functioning in school are the various sections of the orchestra. Executive function serves as the conductor. It should manage the tempo or pace. It should cue and cut off certain processes with precision timing. However, if you have executive function deficits you may be expecting to conduct Pachelbel's Canon in D, but it comes out sounding like an orchestra when they are warming up to perform. Wouldn't that be terribly frustrating and discouraging?

How many students do you have that could be described in these terms? Of course, not all of them have executive function issues. Some people are lazy. Some people are messy by choice. These students do not wish to be so. They have a real disorder. Here are 3 quick examples for various ages.

Adult: I have a precious friend who has a learning disability. She also has issues with executive function. She is always a day late and a dollar short as they say. Crisis mode is her standard operating procedure. We once showed up to help her move to a new house. She and her husband were in an argument. She had not only not packed a single thing yet, but she had even forgotten to purchase the moving boxes. Nothing was packed, and it was moving day! Some other crisis or distraction had taken priority all week. 

Teenager: My own daughter has A.P.D.. You can read her story here. She also has some minor struggles with executive function. We have been able to overcome most of them, and I am so proud of her. Before she learned her coping strategies, when she was given a project in school, she would not know how to begin or divide up the task into smaller tasks. Her notebooks were a mess! She didn't know how to file anything because she could not decide where it belonged. 

Child: Whew, I might could write a book here since most of my experience is in 2nd grade RtI or Inclusion! We all have students who blurt out or make impulsive decisions! Students who when asked to write or problem solve, could stare at their blank paper endlessly. Do you have any students who cannot keep track of their pencil or folder for even five minutes? Do you have students who can spell a word right on the spelling test, but then misspell it in a sentence on the back of the test paper? How about students who have to solve the math fact every single time because they cannot recall the answer from memory? If any of these sound like a student you know, you might want to read on. :)

Wow, that is a wide variety of manifestations! Here are a few more detailed examples of things to watch out for:
A few students may struggle with ALL of these, but most of them will struggle with a few. ADD/ADHD or even misdiagnosed ADD/ADHD kids may have issues with inhibition/impulsiveness, emotional control, and self-monitoring their behavior. LD kids may struggle more with working memory, self-monitoring their thinking, and planning and organization. So, what do you do if you suspect EFD in a student or someone you know?

How can teachers help? Here is a list of recommended strategies that could positively impact all of your ADD, ADHD, LD, Autistic, or EFD students. Many of them are easy fixes, but the benefits are far reaching!
In the 21st century classroom, more and more focus is on independent or group work, problem solving, trouble shooting, and creativity. All of those skills are exceedingly difficult for students with executive function deficits. They can thrive with LOTS of guided practice and explicit directions for problem solving. You cannot assume that they understand how to implement strategies just because you taught the strategy. They have to be shown when it works, how it works, when it doesn't work, and have lots of opportunities to prove that they have moved the strategy from their flawed short term memory into their more reliable long term memory. In today's fast paced, rigorous curriculum, lots of time spent on one skill is a luxury we don't often have.
Here are some real world applications that I have tried and found to be successful at home and at school:
- Directions: Over-simplify them--the less confusion the better.
-Checklists: Make a personalized check list if necessary. (name on paper, everything answered, capital letters, punctuation, etc.)
-I have actually turned some students' desks around so that they could not access the storage under the desktop. They could not "play" inside the desk. I gave them the materials they needed for each individual task. In my small groups, I don't pass out pencils, scissors, or glue until they are needed. That way that don't lose them or get distracted by them.
-For my daughter, we create a pacing calendar when she gets a new project. We start with the day before it is due and work backward. We list every task that must be completed and schedule them on the calendar. (Purchase poster board, take notes on subject, introductory paragraph, rough draft, conclusion, draw illustrations, etc.) At first it was tedious, but now she can do these things automatically. 
-Brain break videos, Go Noodle, or even a hook/warm-up activity are great for helping students "switch gears" in their thinking from reading to math. 

If you would like to find out more about executive function, you can watch this video from Harvard University. It does an outstanding job of explaining the importance of strengthening executive function skills in young children.


I hope this has been helpful to you! I would love to find out if your school is also discussing executive function and if you have any tips to share!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day

Today at my school, veterans of all ages will walk the halls and be serenaded by the sweet sounds of primary school age children singing ballads of gratitude and respect. It always makes me weepy to hear their little voices singing "God Bless America" while veterans of all ages smile and try to hide their own tear filled eyes. It only takes a moment to say "Thank You", but it can mean so much.

I was reminded of a lovely moment I happened to catch when my now 13 year old daughter was only 7 years old. We were visiting with some extended family for a holiday. The family jokingly referred to its oldest member as the "old bear in his den". He was a bit of curmudgeon when the house was full of company. When he retreated into his den, you did not disturb him. However, no one had informed my little one of that policy.

She dared to boldly enter his study and she looked around at the pictures of bomber planes he flew during WWII and all of the medals he had received. I was just about to tiptoe in and retrieve her when she walked right up to him as he sat in his recliner. She said, "I wanted to tell you that I heard about you. I know that you stopped that mean old Hitler from killing people. Daddy said you flew 22 missions in those planes in your pictures. I just came in to tell you that you were brave and I love you for it." Then, that sweet little thing leaned in and kissed him on his cheek. She skipped right out of the bear's den and never even saw the tears flow down his cheeks. I did though.

Later, the bear came out of his den. He told jokes. He drank eggnog. He even danced with a certain seven year old girl. Everybody was whispering to each other saying, "He sure is in a good mood today." or "What's gotten into him?" Someone even thought that maybe the eggnog was spiked. I did not say a word. The bear was just feeling joyful about being appreciated for his service.

I hope you take a moment to appreciate the men and women you know who have served their country.  A text, an email, a phone call will just take you a moment, but it could mean the world to them. Happy Veterans Day!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bear Says Thanks! Free Mini-Unit

I should probably have titled this post, "Bear and Jenn Say Thanks!". This time of year focuses on gratitude and thankfulness, and I am so very thankful for all of you! Your business, feedback, comments, pins, and reads mean so much to me. I wanted to find a way to give something back to you to show my appreciation. As I was going through my Thanksgiving books, I saw Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. This sweet poem is full of great concepts for the season: friendship, gratitude, sharing, and thankfulness. I whipped up a little mini-unit to share with you all. I hope you will enjoy it! The unit includes a close read on brown bears, a thankful list activity, a personal response activity, a sequencing/retelling activity, and a rhyming center using words from the text. Click {HERE} or on the picture below to download your copy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bats at the Beach {Freebie}

Our school will celebrate Book Character Day on October 31st. All of the kids will dress up as their favorite book character. It will be cuteness overload! My little man is not a big fan of fiction books. He was determined to be an animal. I told him that if he could find a book with animal characters that he enjoyed, I would make a costume for him. He picked out Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies. So, I made good on my promise. I bought him some sweats and a toboggan from the Dollar Store. We borrowed a life jacket from a friend. He already had the swim trunks. I hot glued some foam ears onto the toboggan. The only thing I had to order were the bat wings. I found those here on Amazon. We both love it! 

We also love the book! 

The illustrations are just so detailed and fun. The longer you look the more little touches that you notice!
The rhyming text has a pleasant rhythm. It is chock full of rich vocabulary!

I whipped up a little freebie for you to go with this book. It contains a Venn, optional cut and paste clues, and an answer key. I hope you enjoy it!  You can grab this freebie by clicking {HERE} or on the picture below. 


Check out more book recommendations on Deanna Jump's blog {HERE}. :)


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Word Building Activity

I have seen several activities with Cheez-its and activities with these 3 compartments plates, but I decided to combine the two as a culminating task for my short vowels unit. 

I used the same plates that I also use when I teach part-part-whole during addition and subtraction. I want them to understand that just as equations have parts of a whole so do words. To make the plates I bought several plastic plates at the dollar store. I used some leftover letters from my scrapbooking mama days. Then, I applied mod podge over the top of the letters to seal them down. I have all different styles of lettering and the kids love to use different ones each time we practice. 

I want the kids to know that words need a vowel part and a consonant part to make a whole word (with a few exceptions like I and a, of course). So, we will sort our Cheez-it Scrabble Junior crackers into consonants and vowels. Then, we will use them to build whole words. It will be so easy to differentiate! Bobby Sue can build 3 letter words and Jimmy Lou can try 5 letter words. 
See, easy cheezy! :)

This will wrap up our short vowel study. I just finished my short vowel study bundle. Yippee! You can check it out {HERE} or on the pic below.
Hope you can use this idea! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Short A (Freebie, too)

Am I the only one with RtI kids who know their consonants, blends, and digraphs, but are completely bumfuzzled by vowel sounds? Please tell me I'm not alone. :)  Whew! These babies need some serious intensive work on their vowel sounds. So, we are working our way through the vowels in my room. I normally would have just bought something on TPT, but most everything I found was just for CVC words. Now, I do have some babies who need that, too, but many of my tier 2 sweeties can handle more than that. So, I am introducing my vowel series today starting with short a!

This set includes several centers and games and a decodable reader with comprehension questions. Again, many of the words are beyond CVC --like branch, trash, and graph. You can check it out in my store by clicking {HERE} or on the pic above. 

I am so excited about this activity that I just had to share it with you. It's called Roll a Rime. The kids roll one die to find out which rime to add to the onset. Then, they decide if they have made a real word or a nonsense word. They color their answer by a code. Easy breezy mac and cheesy for you and fun for them! You can snag your freebie {HERE} or on the pic below.
Thanks for your time and interest! Y'all mean so much to me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

5 TPT resources that I am LOVING in my RtI classroom

One of the things I love best about Teachers Pay Teachers is finding amazing resources for my room from gifted educators! I can't make all of the resources I need. There aren't enough hours in the day. Also, some people are just flat out more talented or creative or tech savvy than I am. I will gladly spend a couple of bucks for resources that will benefit my RtI kids. One thing I am not a fan of on TPT is the search engine. It isn't that effective. Sometimes it is hard to find just what you need. So, I am going to share 5 of my most recent purchases with you. Maybe you didn't know they existed, but you might like them, too. They are amazing! I wouldn't share them with you here if they weren't tried, tested, and successful in my room. So, here we go! {I feel a little like David Letterman doing a countdown, but these are in no particular order.}

1. One Breath Boxes by DK Coleman
We are working hard on both sight word memorization, phonics, and fluency in RtI. These packs combine all of those skills. The goal is to be able to read all of the words in the box in one breath. I bought the sight word pack {HERE} and the short vowel pack (pictured above) {HERE}.

2. Any game made by Angelia -Extra Special Teaching is a HUGE hit in my classroom! The kids love them so much that they don't even realize how much phonics practice and data collection is going on. Here is one that I just printed and was getting ready to cut out. The kids take turns drawing a card and reading the bubble (real/nonsense CVC words because we are working on short vowels right now). If they are correct, they keep the card. Look out for the dreaded POP card or you lose all of your bubbles and have to start over! They are always fully engaged when we play any of these games!
3. Interactive Math Notebooks from Lucky Little Learners are the hit of my math small group time! Every skill I needed to practice..she thought of! Look for the bundles in her store. You are going to want them all! My RtI kids often need math presented a little differently and they also need a lot of review. So, we do a quick walk through our pages and refresh our memories from time to time. One of my sweet ones calls his notebook his "diary of math secrets". LOVE it! 

4. Listening Activities for Common Core - Listen Up! by Fluttering Through First Grade
One of the main barriers for effective learning for many RtI kids is their inability to listen, think, and process auditory information. You may remember that I am a mom of 2 kids with Auditory Process Disorders. Also, I recently took a class on LD kids and they mentioned that verbal mediation is often lacking in kids who struggle. Verbal mediation is how you converse with yourself in your head. Things like thinking through multiple steps, repeating directions, and sorting through possible decisions are examples of verbal mediation. The teachers that I serve often say to me, "______ could do better in class if he/she could just listen to me." So, once or twice a month, we are using these activities as auditory therapy. We are already seeing some changes! :)
The kids get a blank picture. There are two levels of directions. Beginning level (my tier 3 kids) get the one step directions. Intermediate level (my tier 2 kids) get the two/three step directions. You read the directions aloud ONE TIME and only ONE TIME! They have to focus, listen, think, and do exactly what you said. I have noticed and documented some interesting behaviors during this time. I have students who can do this flawlessly. Then, there are others who are trying to see other children's papers. Some others have to whisper to themselves over and over until the task is completed. (Color the flying ghost green. Color the flying ghost green.) This speaks VOLUMES about their working memory, verbal mediation, or auditory processing issues. However, they just think it is a Fun Friday game though. :)

5. Dolch Speed Read All Year by The Primary Techie

These are the coolest Dolch word Power Points that I have ever seen! You can choose the month or theme that you want to use. Then...
You choose which list of Dolch words you want to display. All 220 words are in every file. I can switch lists from group to group. INSTANT DIFFERENTIATION! YES!
The words will appear 4 different times (in a different order each time). The first time is slow. The second is a little faster. The third is very fluent. We call the fourth time through the lightning round!
One other thing I love and appreciate is that the font is different in each round. The kids have to recognize the same word in a different style print. I don't know of any regular flashcards that can do that! Do you?
In between rounds, there is a quick and cute animated message for the kids. They get to giggle and breath before the next round. 
The kids always crack up after the lightning round when all of the characters have swirly/twirly eyeballs! Even my most reluctant readers can't help but participate! My kids are finally starting to understand that sight words really are "see it and say it" words. No pauses or sounding out allowed! 

Many thanks to these wonderful sellers who created such fantastic resources! I am indebted to you each day! If you know of any other homerun hit products for RtI kids, I would love to hear about them!

**I received no compensation or free products in exchange for these reviews. All of these products were purchased (and adored) by me. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

BIG Birthday Sale!

Yep, tomorrow I turn the big 4-0! I am so grateful for every day and every blessing! To celebrate, every single item in my store will be 40% off ALL day on October 7th! You can visit my store {HERE}!

Now, I am off to make some birthday dinner plans for tomorrow's festivities! :)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Happy Fall, Y'all! {FREEBIE}

I love fall! I love pumpkins, brisk windy days, long walks, and comfy sweaters! However, I do NOT love sitting through two days of Professional Development on what used to be my fall break. I guessed that my teammates won't either. So, I figured that some meeting munchies might make us all feel a little better about being at school! 

Each little bag contains this fabulousness from This Silly Girl's Life . OH-MY-WORD, Y'all! The peanut butter M&Ms, chocolate Chex, and pumpkin spice kisses all blend together into a seriously yummy fall treat! {Click the link or the picture to get the recipe from her blog.}

Maybe you have some teammies who need some fall cheer, too? If so, feel free to snag these gift tags {HERE} or on the picture below. 
Now, I am off to read on my screened in porch and later I'll enjoy a campfire and s'mores with my family. Happy fall, y'all!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Click, Clack, Boo! FREEBIE

If you are looking for a cute book to read on Halloween, I have a few suggestions and a freebie for you! I got the Scholastic Book Club flyer in my mailbox at school last week. They are now offering Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin in paperback. I LOVE Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. So, I ordered a copy. It is a great way to revisit Farmer Brown's farm and see the Halloween party that the farm animals put together. I made this comprehension scoot activity for my kiddos to do on Halloween. I am thinking that I may post the cards around the room, turn out the lights, and have a flashlight hunt for the questions. THANK GOODNESS HALLOWEEN IS ON FRIDAY THIS YEAR!  Can I get an amen?!?  Click HERE or on the picture below to snag your freebie. Feedback is always appreciated!
Here is a cute read aloud of the book if you haven't heard the story before.



I have two other favorites to read the week leading up to Halloween. The first one is  The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams. I love the repetitive, rhythmic text. The kids always enjoy it, too.
My other favorite is one that is older, but I had never heard of it until last year. How I missed this book by two of my favorite author/illustrators I do not know! It is an amazing way to introduce point of view. The narrator tells of the scary sounds and sights on Halloween night, but the illustrations look totally harmless. It isn't until you reach the end of the book that you realize that the narrator has been a mother cat hiding with her kittens under the front porch. They were scared by the trick or treaters coming to their house to get candy. 
I have book studies available for both of these titles available for purchase in TPT shop. You can view them by clicking on the pictures. 


Have you read all of these? What are your favorite books to read at the end of October?

Head on over to Mrs. Jump's blog for more book chat recommendations!