Saturday, April 26, 2014

HAVE-TOs and CHOOSE-TOs {a post about literacy stations!}

I've written about my Literacy Stations routine before (CLICK HERE or HERE for more info), but I recently implemented something new and am loving it!!  I have to share here because it's so great and allows my kids to be so independent.  You probably have your own awesome ways of running literacy stations already.....but in case something about that time of your day just doesn't run as smoothly as you'd like, maybe this will work for you too!
The inspiration for my Literacy Stations originally came from this book by Debbie Diller.

I have taken Debbie's approach and tweaked it to make it work for me and my students.  And, after attending Kim Adsit's conference this Spring, I added one of her great ideas to make it work even better!

This actually had been on my to-do list for quite a while, but while I sat at Kim's conference, the pieces all came together in my mind, and I knew how to set it up to work for me in my classroom.

For this year, I decided to use Kim's wording of "HAVE-TOs" and "CHOOSE-TOs".  I might change that up next year, but maybe not.  It's working well for us this year!  This is what our literacy station tubs look like.  The green tubs have been there all year.  These are where the students find their main activity (the HAVE-TO).  They don't have a choice with this one.  Whatever is in their tub for the day is what they complete.
The bottom, clear tubs are the new CHOOSE-TO tubs.  These tubs are filled with activities -- books, puzzles, sight word cards, etc -- that students can choose from when they have completed the HAVE-TO.

Okay....can I just take a second to talk to you about these tubs?  They are the best.  They stack so easily and close up completely so that they look organized and neat!  A HUGE PLUS in a Kindergarten classroom!!  Click the photo for more info.
If you're ever in the market for some great tubs for organizing, I would highly recommend these!!

Anyway...back to lit stations. :)

Currently, I have eight literacy stations in my rotation (done in the morning), and four math stations (done in the afternoon).  This is my shelf.  (I know what you're thinking.  You are jealous of my awesome 1970's orange shelves.  I know.  They rock.  Hee hee.  But, seriously, they are made sooooo well and will be in my room forevermore.  Embrace the orange!  Ha!)
The routine for both literacy and math stations is the same, but my math station groups are larger since I only have four of them.  Again, something that I am thinking of changing for next year.

Here is an example of a literacy choose-to.
And here is a math choose-to.  Each of the choose-to tubs are a little bit different to keep them engaging for the students, but just filled with simple activities -- sight word cards, letter/word/number games, puzzles, books, etc.
Check out these choose-to tubs in use!  As with everything in Kindergarten, we've had to go over expectations many times - choose only one thing at a time, put things away as soon as you finish with it, etc.
The kids are doing great and really feel like the choose-to activities are a special treat!

This set-up allows me so much more time during literacy and math stations.  When the class begins working, I check in quickly with each group, have students read sight words for me, and make sure that everyone has the materials they need.  Then, I am open for the rest of the time to pull students (and next year I'll hopefully figure out how to tie reading groups into the time and pull them while the rest of the class is thing at a time!).  The kiddos know where to put their finished work for me to look over at a later time, and they get right to work on their choose-to.  Our literacy station block lasts anywhere from 25-40 minutes, depending on the day.  

This system will definitely stick around for me next year, and probably for many years to come after that!  It's by far the best approach I've found, and it runs so smoothly without anyone in the classroom except me and my students.  No para-pros or parent volunteers.  This is soooo nice because it makes it really flexible.  I can run them at any time of day and don't have to depend on someone else to be in the room for support.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Do you use a similar approach or something else that works great for you?  Please share!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Five for Friday {April 25}

Here we go!  It's Five for Friday time!!

And...if I can just say...YAY for Friday.  That's all.

Okay!  Let's chat about my week!

1. Earth Day.  We didn't go overboard, but we did do a few fun activities together.  Talking about how to care for the earth tied in perfectly with the unit we just finished in science, so my kids were very engaged as we completed this graph and bubble map together.
 And we illustrated this cute student reader to put in our book bags.
 These activities all came from the "We Save the Earth" pack by Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten.

2. We completed an Earth Day craftivity to replace the bunny display we had up for Easter.  
The students colored the earth (these pages came from our science curriculum).
 Then, they wrote about what they could do to help the earth.  There were so many great (and adorable!) ideas.
 My teacher assistant (high school student that comes two afternoons per week) painted each child's hand to finish off their projects.

3. We began our Fictional writing unit this week.  Oh my, are my kids looooving this unit!  The stories they are writing are so great!
This little girl is writing about a princess.
I lovelovelove Spring Kindergarteners.  They are so confident and smart!  This guy's story is about a frog and a dog.  
And this one?  About the tooth fairy.  Melt me.  She has grown SO much this year!  

4.  My students wrote some really cute sentences about the sun on our Brain Boost this week. 
 The sun is really hot.  I love it.
 The sun is hot and it hides up in the sky. (Another little one who has come SO far!  Such a proud teacher!)

5. These invites went home today!  AND I spilled the beans that we're following up our lunch with a little nail-painting party!  I can't wait to pamper these special girls!!
CLICK HERE to check out my Girls Only lunch from last year!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five for Friday {April 18}

Hi, friends!  Happy Friday to you!  

I'm linking up with Doodlebugs again today for Five for Friday!
Check out what we were up to this week!

1. My students helped me put together a fun package on Monday to mail to our Texas pen pals.  This was sooo fun and my kiddos LOVED it!  They thought it was awesome that they would be surprising their pals with a box full of Easter eggs!

 2. We did some writing about Spring Break early this week.  I love teaching writing, and writing at this point in the year is just the best!  They have grown so much and have become so confident!

 3. The finished product of our "Buggy Over Books" display!  I had the students color the letters.  I think that adds a really personal touch to the board.
 We completed book recommendations for the display.  I chose five familiar books and asked students to choose their favorite to write about.
 Pete the Cat was the overwhelming favorite (Of course!  EVERY kid loves Pete!), but a few students chose one of the other books.
 And the bugs.  OH the bugs!  They. are. precious!
 The bugs are from Doodlebugs' Spring Directed Drawings pack.

 4. We had some Easter egg fun during math stations this week.  Skip counting practice!  It was a hit!

 5. We wrote a pen pal letter today.  It will be on it's way to Texas soon!  And we got a letter from our Colorado pals today, so we'll write them back next week.  Pen pal love is such a fun part of Kindergarten!!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Product Swap Snapshot!! {and a GIVEAWAY!!}

Happy Monday!  I have the best way to start your week!!  

It's MY first day back from Spring Break.  I'm ready to see my kindies, but BOY was it hard waking up this morning for my 7:30 a.m. meeting...

ANYWAY.... I'm so excited to have been asked to participate in the Product Swap that Kimberly over at Funky First Grade Fun is hosting!  She is celebrating a new blog design (it's suuuuper cute!!) and was so sweet to invite me to the party!  
Have you been seeing some of these bloggers sharing about the products they were able to try?  Today it's my turn!
I was so lucky to be paired with Jennifer Tice from 
Her blog is so fun and I was excited to choose something from her TPT store that I could use with my class.  I knew right away that I wanted to review her Living and Non-living Objects pack.
We just finished a study on the Earth in our science curriculum, and after Spring Break we'll be diving into Living/Non-living.  I used some of these activities right before Spring Break to introduce our Spring study, and can't wait to use more as we work through this topic over the next several weeks.
In our last science unit, we learned what all living things need.  Jennifer included a super fun living/non-living sort in her pack.  Seriously, my students LOVED this!!
 I broke them up into pairs, copied the sorting sheets double-sided (living on one side and non-living on the other) and they worked together to complete the activity.  It was awesome to hear the discussions that took place and the science vocabulary that was being used!  A terrific formative assessment!
Most students were able to figure them all out correctly, but the mistakes allowed for some great teachable moments!
 This same activity could be used as a pre-test/post-test if done independently.

The pack also includes lots of fun riddles.  OH MY.....these were a MAJOR hit with my students!!  Some of them, I copied into this book (cover included in the pack).  We worked through a few of them together and will complete the rest over the next couple of weeks.
 These are really fun!
 This little guy included a chrysalis in his drawing....something we've never talked about in class!  Pretty sure he is now our "Butterfly Expert".  I never would have known without this activity.  I LOVE when things like that happen!

The riddles also come in sets like this.  I have these all copied and ready to go, but am saving them for later in our study.  I assembled little books (just plain white computer paper folded in half and stapled) and we'll cut these apart and glue them on the pages to create our own riddle books.  I just know that my students will love this.
Thanks so much, Jennifer, for sharing your product with me!  My students have loved these fun activities!  I can't wait to use the rest of them as we move through our Living/Non-living Unit!

NOW.....the GIVEAWAY!  Kimberly has great taste, and I know that this is going to be a great prize for someone! 
She's giving away a $50 gift card to The Vintage Pearl!  Someone will have so. much. fun picking out the perfect something from here!  I hope it's one of you!!

UGH!!!  For some reason I can't get the rafflecopter to show up here.  BOO! :(
I'll keep working on it.  In the meantime, head right over to Kimberly's blog by CLICKING HERE.  You can enter it there!!

And check out the other talented bloggers from the swap too!
Chalk Talk
Surfin' Through Second
A Teeny Tiny Teacher