Monday, September 27, 2010

Scholastic Book Orders

image Each year we excitedly participate in Scholastic book orders.  Scholastic is an educational publishing company that has been around for about 90 years.  The company is focused on encouraging children to “learn to read and love to learn, helping teachers carry out their important jobs and supporting parents in their role as their child’s first teacher.”

Scholastic sells quality children’s literature at very reasonable prices.  Purchasing books through one of our Scholastic book orders or at the book fair, which is held during the fall festival in October and again in the spring, is a fun way to build a very affordable home library for your children.  Because most are paperback, many books cost less than $5.00, and some books are only $1.00.  In last month’s book order, a number of children purchased one of our classroom favorites, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, for only $1.00 and now they can read a familiar favorite at home every day.  Many of the books featured in each month’s packets are ones we have read in class or in the library, making the characters and storylines familiar to your children.

I currently send home Firefly and See-Saw book packets, which cover the age range from PreK to first grade.  Most students can read the Easy Reader books in these packets, and all stories are written with our students’ interests in mind.  In the spring, I will begin sending home Lucky packets instead of the Firefly ones, as student interests and abilities move to higher reading levels.

Along with picture books, the book orders you will receive throughout the year also sell inexpensive games and puzzles.  Sometimes there are computer software games or learning activities available also.  Club Leo, which will be sent home in October, is an order that provides Spanish-language materials. 





Happy Reading,



Friday, September 17, 2010

Morning Messages

Each morning during our Morning Meeting, we read a message.  The message is a letter written by the teachers to the students.  It is a chance to work on developing language skills as we share news and announcements.  A great advantage to this is that it occurs while we are still together as a whole class—before students start working on their individualized work in and out of the classroom.  We use this time and space to talk about events in our day, introduce or review vocabulary, discuss a content area concept, or practice a skill.  There is always an interactive part to our message.
Below are some pictures of the most recent messages in class.

100_3906    100_3904   100_3903

Sunday, September 12, 2010

IXL Math Review




Product Description

In searching for a fun SmartBoard compatible activity to play during our 10-minute math sessions, I recently found the website IXL.  IXL is pronounced “I excel” and it helps kids excel!  The site is set up to allow educators and families access to math skills practice activities for their children.  It currently has skills sections for Pre-K through 8th grade math levels and announces that higher levels are coming soon.

What first caught my eye with this program is that activities are broken down and organized by concept.  I was looking for an activity that would allow us 10 minutes of practice and engage my students who can only count to 3 and my students who can count past 100 and do small addition problems.  The kindergarten section has 21 different areas ranging from “Numbers and Counting up to 3” to “Geometry.”  The first grade section has 18 different areas ranging from “Counting and Number Patterns” to “Probability and Statistics.”  Each section has a variety of activities for students to complete.

We currently play the games as a whole class, with students taking turns coming to the SmartBoard individually to complete one of the questions.  Students love giving each other feedback and support as each takes his or her turn at the board.  As students become more familiar with the site, it will be added to the available activities students can choose when they are at the classroom computers.

We use the site as a class and do not track student progress because our district encourages the use of other software for monitoring student growth.  Parents and teachers can, however, register and use the program as a tool to monitor the progress of their children.  The site is able to track student answers and automatically increases or decreases the difficulty level of questions as students answer correctly or incorrectly.  Their member’s section promotes that the site offers “Immediate feedback and question-specific explanations to solidify understanding of each concept.”  Reports can be emailed to parents and teachers on a daily or weekly basis, which provides for easy monitoring of student activity and progress.

One of my favorite aspects of this site is the instant feedback.  If a correct answer is chosen, students will see a green box with the word Correct! in it.  If an incorrect answer is chosen, the correct answer will appear in the pop-up box and students can click a button for an explanation, which compares the incorrect and correct answers, helping students see why their answer is incorrect.

Parents can join the site for $9.95/month or $79/year.  Teachers can purchase a classroom code for $199/year for up to 30 students.  The price increases for additional students, and schools may request a quote for a site license also.  If you are looking for detailed reports that show how your child or students are progressing in specific areas and in their grade levels, then this will be a great program for you.  If you are looking for some easy online math practice, it may not be worth your money to purchase a license.  There are many other sites that are free, but that do not track progress and create reports, which will offer math skills practice also.

Are you ready?

Click here to choose a level and try IXL yourself and here to determine the membership level that’s best for you.


As a bonus, here’s a link to a free 30-day trialimage


Happy mathing,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reading Strategy—Making Predictions

One reading strategy that we work on a lot at the beginning of the year is Making Predictions.  It is important to make predictions about what we are going to read so that we can get our minds ready for new learning.  Predictions are the link between prior knowledge and new information. 

When we predict what will happen or what characters might be in a story, we are setting up expectations for our reading and learning.

To practice this strategy, one of the books we read this week was Baaboom! 

Baabooom book

We looked at the cover of the book and named the characters, and then discussed the title (read with excitement because we see an exclamation point).  We made predictions about what might make the sound ‘baabooom’ and why it would do that.  We then looked at one of the pages in the book and checked or confirmed our original predictions and then predicted what would happen after that illustration.

Baabooom book page prediction

We then started to read the story.  We stopped part way through to discuss the events and make a prediction about how the story would end.  Check the pictures below to see our predictions.

At home, ask your child to retell the story and let you know if his or her prediction was correct.

When you are reading stories at home, before starting, ask your child to look at the cover.  Discuss the title and illustrations and have your child predict who the characters will be and what will happen in the story.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Important Literacy Terms

Every month throughout the school year, I have parents or other family members ask about the literacy terms I describe in weekly newsletters, student agenda notes, and in conferences.  I define these terms throughout the year in various ways and today while doing some personal reading (blog surfing), I found a post that describes these important terms in a very readable, understandable way.

teach mama: the skinny on important early literacy terms

I found this post at teach mama under the heading the skinny on important early literacy terms.  It was posted on her site on May 10, 2010, and originally posted (by the same person) on ABC & 123 on April 5, 2010.  Because I can never be sure how long links and posts will last, I have also copied the text and a link to a pdf file here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

the skinny on important early literacy terms
Originally posted on ABC & 123, 4/05/10:
We, as parents and our children's very first teachers, can begin to support early literacy development as soon as our kiddos are born. Many of us do this already and don't even realize how much we are helping to build a solid foundation of learning for our children.
Talking our way through diaper changes and feedings, through trips to the park or the grocery store, we give our little ones their first unwritten lessons on language and learning. By reading books, reciting rhymes, and playing games with our toddlers, we take this learning a step further, and the possibilities for sneaking in lessons here and there are endless.
I thought I'd provide ABC and 123 readers--and now teachmama readers--with a list of Literacy Terms That Every Parent Needs to Know as their children approach reading and step into preschool. This list is hardly complete, but it includes the basics without the Reading teacher jargon that is sometimes tough to get through. In the next few weeks and months, I'll spotlight these topics and more in greater detail and provide ways that parents can support their children's learning in these areas.

Literacy Terms Every Parent Needs To Know:
  • Comprehension: a complex process in which a reader interacts with a text in a specific context in order to construct meaning. Specific comprehension strategies should be taught and can be taught even before a child can read. Such strategies include making connections, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance, and synthesizing.
  • Decoding: the process of figuring out a new word in a text. It's really just deciphering text into understandable words.
  • Fluency: the ability to read orally with speed, accuracy, and expression while comprehending a given text.
  • High Frequency Words: are the words that appear most often in texts. Thanks to Drs. Dolch and Frye, we have age-leveled lists of these words beginning from the simplest in Kindergarten to the more difficult in upper grades.
  • Phonological Awareness: the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sound units in words. It is one component of a comprehensive reading program and the precursor to solid literacy development.
  • Phonemic Awareness: one component of phonological awareness. The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words.
  • Phonics: an approach to teaching word identification that emphasizes letter-sound correspondences and their application to reading and spelling. The goal of phonics is to help children learn and apply the alphabetic principle--the understanding that there are systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken words.
  • Sight Words: are words that do not often follow phonics rules, so emerging readers should learn them 'by sight' in order to read them quickly and accurately.
  • Vocabulary: a term used to describe the words that one must know in order to communicate with others, both orally and through print.
Want to have this sheet handy? Want to learn a little more? Feel free to download the Literacy Terms We All Need to Know as a pdf to use as an easy reference. It includes these definitions, some in more detail, along with a few other words to know. Want to know how to take these terms a step further? Check out 'teachmama topics' on the sidebar for activities and games that to develop these areas with your little ones! Still have questions? Email me! I'm happy to help in any way I can!
And that's it for today--we had a busy Mother's Day weekend, and we have a busier week ahead, so I may pull out some oldies but goodies this week!
Thanks to teach mama for her wonderful website, which is full of inspiration for teachers and parents alike.  Please visit her at teach mama to see what her family is up to.
Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Three Little Pigs and a visit from Mrs. Halloway

Mrs. Halloway came to visit our class today.  She was supposed to come and teach a lesson so I could have extra time to assess students, but I was so excited about the possibility of observing another kindergarten teacher that I stayed!

Mrs. Halloway taught a literacy lesson using the story The Three Little Pigs.  She read a book, students listened to an audio story, and then they retold the story in a variety of ways.  They used props, picture cues on a chart paper, and tried retelling the story from memory.

Look at how engaged everyone is!  We had so much fun working with Mrs. Halloway, and we’ve asked her to come back any time.



Happy Reading,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What We’re Reading – September

We unpack a new box of books for our classroom library each month.  On September 1, we found many books that fit our “All About Me” study – books about the 5 senses, our bodies, and families.  We also found many books about transportation and others about animals.    Introducing new books each month allows students time to get used to the classroom routines without being overwhelmed with the number of books we have, and it increases motivation as students look forward to the newest books to join our classroom.

Along with the books for the classroom library, we have been reading many books throughout the school day.  Below are a few of our favorites:

In celebration of Grandparent’s Day, we read Abuela by Arthur Dorros.  This is a bilingual story of a girl named Rosalba and her Spanish-speaking grandmother, (Abuela), who takes her places in the city. The story's illustrations use a rainbow of festive colors that suggest the colorful South American roots of Rosalba and her grandmother. Abuela is a literal and figurative flight of fancy into Rosalba's imagination, taking the reader into this young girl's favorite places in New York, including the Statue of Liberty. Abuela comes with an index of over 25 Spanish words and phrases, which has been motivational for the Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking students in our class.  The Spanish-speakers have enjoyed helping others learn some of the vocabulary in their language.


FIELD TRIP!!!  We are taking a field trip this month to see the play “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”  This will correspond to many of the literacy strategies we have been practicing, and we will use our knowledge of the story to talk about drama also.  Our favorite part of this story, and others by the same author, is that it is a circular story.  This story could keep going on forever as one thing leads to another in the adventures the mouse has.  By the end of the story, it’s almost like we are back at the beginning…




The Cat and the Monkey’s Tail is one of our new big books in our shared reading activities.  We read this book while working on the comprehension skill of predicting.  Throughout the book, we predicted what the monkey would have to do and who he would need to visit to get his tail back.  The Cat and the Monkey's TailWe learned that not every prediction is correct, and that it’s okay to be wrong in our predictions.  The most important part about making predictions in our reading is that we are thinking about the story and making logical guesses as to what will happen.  We now know what will to the monkey, but you will have to read this book yourself to find out!


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