Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hold on for One More Day (tips for when your students are struggling)

It was Monday.  Four out of our five caterpillars had made their chrysalises and been in them since Friday.  Our little Allie just hadn't made it to the top yet.  I told my students that we needed Allie to make her chrysalis by Tuesday or we were going to have to set her free outside so we could transfer our other chrysalises over to the butterfly garden.  She could go eat leaves, get bigger, and find a branch or twig so she could make her chrysalis in her own time.  My students, being so sweet and caring, asked if they could read her a book for encouragement.  So they pulled up chairs in front of the cup of caterpillars and began reading.  We kept our fingers crossed that she would make her chrysalis by Tuesday afternoon.  Tuesday morning at 8:30, she was in her j shape.  By 8:45 she was wiggling and we all sat around the cup quietly watching her make her chrysalis.  The kids wouldn't let each other talk because they didn't want to scare her.

This got me thinking.  Sometimes we just have to wait for our students to shine.  We want them to "get it".  We feel pressured that they need to "get it" by a time frame set forth by others.

We have all been there.

When a student struggles, we need to ask ourselves some questions:

1. How could we present the information in a different way?  Could it be the language we are using? Would saying it in a different way help?

2.  Is there something impeding my students' ability to complete the task?  Is something getting in the way of my students' ability to show what they know?  Do they struggle with copying at a distance?  Are fine motor difficulties getting in their way?  Do they need more processing time or struggle with attention?

3.  Can you research another way to teach them the material?

I have a great example from this year.  I had a few students who were struggling with blending onset and rimes.  They were either guessing based on the first letter or getting stuck on the last letter and putting that in the beginning.  I tried everything I could think of to help them with blending.  We tried using our arm, using slinkies to stretch out the words, using elknonin boxes, using magnetic letters to take them apart and put them together, etc.  It just was not working.  I was so frustrated perplexed.

I had to pick up a book from the library for a friend.  While I was there, I walked over to the teaching section to look at their teaching books (I have an small obsession).  I stumbled upon a phonics book that changed everything! I can't remember the name of it right now, but when I do I will share.  It suggested that my students were struggling with working memory.  They were holding that last letter in their head, but forgetting the previous ones.  The book suggested sequential blending and it worked!!

Good Luck and Happy Friday!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Meet the Caterpillars

Please give a warm welcome to our friendly caterpillars: Sally, Allie, Thomas, Walter, and Splat.  They were super active today. Well, all of them except for Splat (named after Splat the Cat).  He is the one laying at the bottom.

How did the caterpillars get these names you ask?  We were taking time to observe the caterpillars today and it looked like two of the caterpillars were fighting for position on the side of the cup.  I hear the kids saying, "Go Sally!  Go Allie!" and one of my students looks over and says, "that is their names."  So we named all the caterpillars and I decided to write them down.

Then this happened:
Me: "Are we going to spell Allie's name with an ie or a y?"
Student: (Leaning in and looking at me very seriously) "You can figure it out. You just need to stretch out the word. Listen A-L-L-I-E... you hear an e at the end. So it is spelled with an e."
Me: (beaming with pride) "Ok, I will spell it with an e.  But, sometimes a y at the end of a word can sound like an e."


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Five For Friday April 17 (on a Saturday)

While I have only been blogging for a short time, I really feel like it has already made me a better, more thoughtful, and reflective teacher.  Last night I was excited to write this post about our week, got started, and then fell asleep.  Sorry for the delay!

This week started off with a bang when we found out that Go Noodle had POP SEE KO 2.0!  We were in L-O-V-E!!  I use Whole Brain Teaching for management in my classroom and the reward for the kids "winning" the scoreboard is extra Go Noodle videos.  I use Go Noodle throughout the day for brain breaks, but it is also great motivator as an end of the day reward.  If you don't use Go Noodle yet, you must go try it out!  You won't regret it.  
This week we learned all about butterflies.  We started off the week learning about symmetry by a symmetrical butterfly art project.  We folded our papers like a hamburger and painted one side.  Then we folded it over, pushed on our papers, and when we opened them up the magic happened.  Friends, a little teacher confession: if you are going to do this art project, make sure you add blobs of paint.  I painted mine as a model, opened it up and voilĂ ... nothing much happened.  Oops! 
The kids made their own head and antenna.  I love how they turned out!
 We read our non-fiction article about the butterfly life cycle. 

Then, we sequenced the life cycle and added the pictures to our butterfly's wings.  
 One thing I am really trying to hit hard before the end of the year is retelling.  It is so hard to break a book down to its most important parts, summarize it, and share it without extraneous information.  Especially when it is an epic story such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar.   We focused on beginning, middle, and end with this story so I used the anchor chart below.  I like to use Fairy Tales as a structure for retelling and use Goldilocks for beginning, middle, and end.  Friends, I love Fairy Tales.  I love the structure, the easy reading comprehension, and they are so motivating.  But I digress.

We decided as a group what parts of the story fit best into the beginning, middle, and end and then together we summarized the story.  The next day, we closed our eyes and visualized each part.  After visualizing each part, we stopped and drew/wrote (and labeled!) our visualizations.  Here are some examples of my students' work.
Guess what was delivered at 2pm on Friday?! Caterpillars!!!!!!  We had to do a "silent scream" because well, there was no better way to react to these teeny tiny caterpillars or end our week ;)
Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Five for Friday

I am just loving these links parties.  Such a good way to meet and connect with new bloggers.  Teachers are the best...seriously!

My little conductor had so much fun finding his Easter Eggs.  I put one M&M in his egg and a couple of Annie's Bunnies thinking I would out smart him and he wouldn't eat too much chocolate.  Well let me tell you, he quickly figured out that there was chocolate in those eggs.  He sifted through each one finding the M&M and leaving the bunnies on the floor for the dogs to enjoy.  Guess he outsmarted me! Love that kid!
Friends, this is my new favorite Easter activity to do in my classroom.  Had I known this would have been such a hit, I would have bought peeps in every color and continued this experiment over multiple days.  I got this fabulous idea from Simply Kinder and I am so grateful!  You would have thought I was dressed in an Elsa costume making ice castles the kids were so engaged.  We made our hypothesis about what would happen when we mixed blue and yellow peeps together in water. The kids guessed correctly (we had just done color mixing for St. Patty's Day) but that didn't stop us from having fun.  Each kid got a peep to explore using their five senses... lucky ducks.  

I love teaching weather and the kids love learning about it!  I have a bunch of non-fiction weather books that I put in my bookshelf that spark so many questions.  Each day we have been meteorologists observing the weather.  It is so fun to go outside and use our senses to observe.

 More weather... 

First, how the clouds make rain. 
(Next to hypothesis it says: A guess you can test.  Thank you Dinosaur Train)

Then, all about clouds.  This year we used puffy paint (cotton balls are so last year).  
I love those non fiction books, but there is just so much information.  This year I cut through the clutter by making my own articles.  We were able to read closely and get our questions answered. 

These articles and experiments are found in my weather unit

Happy Friday!!

Friday, April 3, 2015


I am linking up with Farley from for her currently for April.

Listening: I am listening to the Today Show talk about underwater babies.  These pictures are just adorable!! I love this idea and it makes me think I need to take my little conductor swimming this break.  

Loving: Today is my first day of spring break...Phew!  We finally made it.  

Thinking: It is so nice to drink my coffee while playing on my computer.  It's the little things :)

Wanting:  On of our friends, who is a teacher but also has a patio business, is installing a patio in our backyard.  It looks ah-mazing! It is shaping up to be better than I could have imagined.  I can't wait to hang out on the patio while Josh and the dogs play in the backyard.  

Needing: I have been working on a weather unit for the past few weeks and test driving it in the classroom.  I am ready to put the finishing touches on it so I can save it for next year and move on to butterflies and plants.  

EGGS-plain your name:  I love going to brunch with my teacher friends and chatting about new ideas for the classroom.  Omelets and coffee are quite the inspiring duo for us.  I toyed with a lot of different ideas from my love of fairy tales and books to my name, but Kindergarten Coffee Talk was the right fit for me. 

Wherever you are in your spring break journey, I hope it is relaxing for you! 
Happy Friday,