Thursday, September 15, 2016

Scrambled Sentences - A Fan Favorite!

My kids love stations.  I love stations!  Done correctly, stations can be one of the most beneficial (and enjoyable) times of the day.  BUT some people make a case against stations - saying that they are chaotic and they require too much planning time.  The solution?  Consistency!  Choose a few staple stations and use them often throughout the year, just varying the difficulty and theme.  One station my kids LOVE is Scrambled Sentences.  I love them, too, because they are PACKED with great practice. 

My students love completing sentence scrambles of each thematic unit we cover!  This keeps the station fresh and exciting even though they are technically doing the same thing each week.  Students unscramble three sentences by reading the words to decide what makes sense, searching for the first word by the capital letter, and searching for the last word by the punctuation mark!  After they put the sentences in order, they write them on their paper.  Each paper has a self-assessment at the bottom so they can check their writing for a capital letter, a punctuation mark, and finger spaces between words. 

If things start to feel a little monotonous, there are some easy ways to mix it up a little!  You can throw the cards in a theme based sensory bin for students to fish out before unscrambling.

Or you can have students build sentences in a pocket chart - during stations or whole group!  I also like to laminate cards and put a piece of magnetic tape on the back so students can manipulate the words on the board!

There is another Scrambled Sentence option for students to work independently! I like to use these in a writing station or for morning work.  They could even go home as homework!  Students cut the sentence out, unscramble it, write it on the lines, and then they illustrate! The illustration adds a meaning-making piece which is great for students working on comprehension.

Have you ever tried scrambled sentences in your classroom?  What do your students think?

Click the image below to check out the bundle with over 30 themes!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Beginning Writing - Launching Workshop

Writing at the beginning of the year in kindergarten is all about building confidence.  The kids have to see themselves as writers - even when that just means drawing pictures or writing squiggles.  It can feel like a slow start, but it's so important that as we develop these tiny writers, we take our time to build them up step by step. 

I start early in the year by introducing the structure and purpose of our writer's workshop.  Kids learn what and why writers write with an emphasis on the fact that THEY ARE WRITERS!  They learn the structure of our writer's workshop.  Each day, writer's workshop consists of a minilesson, writing time, and sharing time.  During the minilesson, we look closely at a mentor text or writing example to learn a particular strategy.  The teacher models and guides students through practice, then releases them for writing time.  The number one rule of writing time is that students are working the entire time.  The teacher can take this time to do individual or small group writing conferences.  Finally, comes share time, where students share their work with one another and the teacher can highlight some things that went well. 

My writers use writing binders to store their work and to hold reference materials.  They can decorate their own cover, then slip it inside the front of the binder.  Inside the binder, we have charts, posters, and checklists that students can use to aid their writing.  They are placed in plastic sheet protectors to keep them in good shape for the whole year.  In the left pocket of the binder, students will keep works in progress.  When they have finished a piece, it moves over to the right pocket of their binder.  Students can always access these "finished" pieces and add more to them! 

To kick off our writer's workshop, the kids learn the process they will follow for writing in Kindergarten.  I emphasize four steps - think, draw, label, and write.  I leave this anchor chart or a smaller poster up in the room all year long. Also, toward the end of the year, we start working on revising by adding detail to their pictures and words. 

We start the writing process with thinking.  Students brainstorm a list of topics that are of interest to them - things they love and things they know a lot about.  These will serve as inspiration for their stories!  Students learn that before they can write, they have to think of a story.  We practice this with oral storytelling.  Students practice sharing opinions, facts, and narratives out loud to their peers.  They learn the importance of including details in their stories AND learn some crucial speaking and listening skills which are so important to emphasize at the beginning of the year.  The motto we take on for oral storytelling is LOUD AND PROUD! This teaches students that their stories matter! 

After learning to think of and tell a story, students get their first practice of putting their story down on paper - through pictures!  Before I ever ask students to write a story, I teach them to tell their story through drawings. They learn to draw the who, what, when, and where of their stories.  They learn to convey emotion through faces and colors in their drawings. They learn that their drawings represent their thoughts and are just as important as words. 

Here's a chart we make to teach students to put their best effort forward in their drawings.  They learn to color using appropriate colors, in the lines, and to fill up all the white space.  We leave the poster up all year long and remind students often to make three star pictures. 

After students have practiced thinking, telling, and drawing their stories, we start to dabble in writing.  A good place to start is with one word labels.  Students learn that labels help tell their story by telling what something is.  It's a great way to ease into inventive spelling and letter-sound correspondence without overwhelming.  We learn how to stretch out words by saying them slow like a turtle, listening for the sounds, then writing the letters that represent those sounds.  We practice labeling many ways before asking students to label their own drawings.  Remember, students will be at a different place in their writing journey!  Many of your students will be able to point and tell you what their label says, despite it being a squiggle or a random string of letters.  Other students will produce the letter that represents the beginning sound of their word, some will get the beginning and ending sounds.  What's important is that their writing is validated and that you are CONSTANTLY modeling  phonemic spelling and asking for students to engage in phonemic spelling with you! We do a LOT of shared writing outside of workshop time, too. 

Finally, it's time for students to practice crafting sentences.  It is still very early in the year and these beginning writing experiences are introductory - allowing students to view themselves as writers and get their toes wet.  All of these strategies and rules they have learned in these five weeks will be elaborated on throughout the year in their genre writing and reinforced through shared writing experiences and independent practice.  As students are learning about writing sentences in writing, they are also learning to read sentences in reading!  They are learning the difference between letters, words, and sentences among other important concepts of print.  ALWAYS do your best to connect across the curriculum.  When my students are learning to write a sentence, they learn that if they can think it, they can say it, and if they can say it, they can write it.  Writing is NOT a silent time in my classroom.  Students are whispering words, stretching sounds, repeating, and rereading!  This is what writing in action looks and sounds like!  We go through introductory lessons on using the word wall, spacing words with finger spaces, starting with capital letters, ending with punctuation, and there is SO SO SO much modeling.  In the end, students are crafting simple sentences which THEY can read and that match their labeled pictures! 

I cannot emphasize this enough... the most important thing for students to learn at the beginning of the year is that they ARE writers and they have stories worth sharing.  Ignite that fire and you will see tremendous growth throughout the year.  And there is absolutely nothing better, nothing that makes this kindergarten heart smile bigger, than the pride on my little writers' faces when they are sharing their work! 

Everything I talked about in this post is available in my Beginning Writing unit.  It can all be adapted for first grade just by digging a little deeper and stretching a little further.  It's also available in my Writers' Workshop Bundle (which also includes units on opinion, informational, personal narrative, and how-to writing!)  Click the images below to check them out!


Grab the alphabet chart from this set for FREE! Color or b/w!  Print it as is and put in kids' writing binders.  And you can even blow it up using print settings and create a large anchor chart to hang in the room.  Just click the image below to download!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Christmas in July - Freebies, Sale, and a Giveaway!

You guys.  I love Christmas.  Like, I live and breathe Christmas.  YES, I'm one of those people who starts decorating in November and I just might indulge myself in a Christmas movie or 12 in July.  So I'm super excited to be joining with my I Teach K-2 friends to bring you a Christmas in July celebration! :)  Hop around the links at the bottom of this post to grab freebies, shop our sales, and be sure to enter to win one of the awesome raffle prizes! 

I don't know about you, but for me - June is all about relaxation, and July is when I start preparing for the next school year.  I wanted to take some time to share with you some activities and freebies to use in your classroom at the beginning of the year!  

We know that our Kinder kids come to us at the beginning of the year at crazy different places, but I have found that one area in which they all have SOME experience - is colors!  I like to use that to my advantage in those hectic first few weeks of school.  Click here to read about using colors to introduce literacy and fine motor skills!  Click the image below to grab my color red print and go pack for FREE to try in your classroom!  If you and your kiddos love it, you can view the big bundle here

Here are some more freebies to help you get your year started off on the right foot! Click the images to download. 

Let me help you prepare for the year with a sale! My whole store (even yearlong bundles) will be 20% off from July 6-9.  Be sure to grab these items now at a savings to get them prepped for the school year!  

Here are some of my favorite items that will help you start your year well! 

And don't forget to enter the giveaway below for the chance to win some really awesome prizes! I can hear the flair pens and straw tumblers calling from Amazon and Target ;)

Click around below to grab all sorts of K-2 freebies and fun! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Fever (lots of freebies!)

I hope the weather has been as lovely in your neck of the woods as it has in mine!  The sunshine is definitely working to chase away my winter blues!  Wanted to share a few resources and freebies for Spring! 

I just whipped up this Scrambled Sentence station.  My kids LOVE Scrambled Sentences because they play like a game, but they are PACKED with K-1 skills.  When they are themed, they hit on content.  Then there's capitalization, punctuation, fluency, comprehension, decoding, sight words.... all rolled into one easy prep activity! YES, PLEASE! 

You can grab the spring set for free! 

If your kids love Scrambled Sentences as much as mine, you might check out the bundle! 

We usually cover Weather in March or April.  I combine weather with seasons and clouds!  Kids do lots of observing and they love being able to apply their learning to the world outside those classroom walls.  I haven't snapped any pictures yet, but here are the many activities in our weather unit

There are tons of awesome songs and videos to use with your weather unit.  You can grab a FREE list with youtube links by clicking the image below! 

Easter is right around the corner.  It is so early this year, which makes March a really packed month.  I know we have all discovered the joy of the cheap plastic Easter eggs and the magic powers they have to make kids extra engaged in the same stuff we've been doing all year ;)  If you need some recording sheets to go along with your Easter Egg activities you can grab this freebie! 


These are the activities the recording sheets go with: 


I also whipped up some Free Literacy Activities for your Easter Celebrations. 

And once Easter and Spring Break have come along, it won't be long before Earth Day!  I really think it's important for kids to learn how to take care of things.  Especially in Kinder and First, we are constantly trying to help them understand the importance of taking care of our classroom... that translates out into the world as well!  Here are some activities we do for Earth Day (week)! 

You can grab them here

Alright! Sorry for the choppiness today! So much to do in Spring and so little time! ;)  And that doesn't even include plants and insects! Phew!