Monday, December 16, 2013

Can You Repeat That? Strategies for working with ESOL students in Kindergarten

I teach in Springfield, Virginia. 

16 of my 26 students speak another language at home.  6 of the 16 have limited English skills. 

This is pretty typical of the schools in Fairfax County. 

As our population changed of course I had to change the strategies I used to work with these children.  

One area I found challenging was Math. 

You would think that Math would be easy, numbers and counting are pretty concrete (and typically a higher performing subject than reading or writing).  But in our school system we ask the children to do a lot of talking about math

As you can imagine my ESOL students struggle with this!  They don't have the English vocabulary knowledge to be able to explain their thinking.  Often they can do the computation but can't explain how they got their answer, and on our assessment this makes them below grade level. 

I really struggled with how to help them.

Then at a meeting a colleague shared a technique I like to call, Repeat that.  Where a student will explain their thinking (correctly!  We don't want our ESOL students repeating mis-information!) and the teacher will call on an ESOL student to repeat what was said. 

It looks like this:

Teacher:  Who can explain how they knew the number was 10?
Aidan:  Well, I know that 10 dots filled on a ten-frame is 10.
Teacher:  Carlos, can you repeat what Aidan just said?
Carlos:  Ten dots on a ten-frame is 10. 

This allows the student to participate without the struggle of finding the words themselves.  It also helps model the math thinking so that at some point the ESOL students can do it independently. 

I also use that strategy to hi-lite the students who are not paying adequate attention in class!

This strategy has worked wonders for my group of ESOL students.  Not only do they hear the good thinking, but they practice explaining their thinking as well.  They get a sense of accomplishment that comes from participation in class conversation, and the confidence to try to share their own thinking next time. 

Now, who can repeat what I just said? :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Easy Kindergarten Thanksgiving Holiday Activities!

I love Thanksgiving!  Not only is it my favorite holiday in my own personal life, it is my favorite to teach about too!  In my Kingergarten class we do a ton of really cute Thanksgiving activities the weeks before the holiday.  I really try to incorporate our Thanksgiving activities with Language Arts for add some fun to reading and writing!  Here are some of my favorites!

I am Thankful Turkeys

This cheerful turkey decorates our hallway.  Every student writes on a feather, sharing what they are thankful for.  It always surprises me what my students are thankful for!  They are always so sweet and giving.  Check out the FREE feather outline HERE and the writing page HERE!

Hand and Foot Turkeys

These Hand and Foot turkeys are always so funny!  Students trace their shoe onto brown paper to make the head, and then trace their hands on the red, orange, and yellow to make feathers.  You really see who has good fine motor skills! Haha. 

Torn Paper Indian Corn

This is great activity we do after we learn about Squanto.  We talk about how Squanto taught the pilgrims to plant corn and how the corn they had back then was called Indian Corn. They use crayons to color the corn like Indian corn. To help with their fine motor skills we have them tear up green paper to glue on for the stalk.  This takes a while!  HERE is the free template!

Thanksgiving Food Graph

This is an easy way to introduce data and graphing to your Kindergarten class.  I printed out some quick clip art pictures of some Thanksgiving foods.  They chose the picture that represented their favorite thanksgiving food and we made a pictograph using the pictures.  Keep in mind the purpose of graphing in Kindergarten is for them to INTERPRET a graph, not create the graph.  So the questions you ask at the end are key.  How many more people liked turkey than pie?  etc.

Pilgrim Hats and Bonnets

These are a great accessory for all of our other Thanksgiving fun!  The kids love wearing the hats and bonnets around the school!


Thanksgiving Picture Frame

Take a cute picture of your little pilgrims and then print it out 4x6.  Print THIS template onto cardstock or contstruction paper and glue the picture in the middle!  This is a great Thanksgiving gift!

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite Thanksgiving school activities!  I'd love to hear about your favorites too! :)


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Teacher Gift Wish list - What Gifts Do Teachers Really Want?

But seriously...

Every year my room parents ask for my holiday wish list. Every year I feel as awkward responding to that email as I do as a 30 year old being asked, "what do you want for Christmas?" by my grandmother. 

So I know what Teachers DON'T want: 
  • anything smelly (candles, lotions, etc,)
  • Pretty much anything apple or teacher related (how many World's Best Teacher mugs does one need??).  
  • Ok, and this sounds bad.  But we really don't love the crafty things made out of crayons.  Sorry!


Teachers love:

  • cards with meaningful notes. LOVE. I have kept many over the years to re-read.
  •  homemade/store bought goodies (just be wary of allergies and preferences)
  • chocolate. LOVE chocolate!
  • coffee, travel mugs, etc.

                                                    I love this one from Starbucks!

  • Gift cards (Starbucks, restaurants, Target, etc.). 
  • Acrylic cups with straws (who doesn't love those!!)

                                                    This Starbucks cup is really cool.

My best advice is to find out about the Teacher's hobbies. Does she love to read? Is he really into music? And then you can find a meaningful, but still economical, gift. 

                                       Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My gripe of the week - Why, yes. Your child IS a genius. Feel free to have him attend elsewhere. I hear private school is great.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Teaching Math in Kindergarten: Numbers and Number Sense Activities

Good intuition about numbers and their relationships.  It develops gradually as a result of exploring numbers, visualizing them in a variety of contexts, and relating them in ways that are not limited by traditional algorithms.

- Hilde Howden

Number Sense is probably the most important part of Early Childhood Mathematics.  However, even children who know their numbers and can count can have poor number sense.

Here are the hallmarks of number sense:
  • Sense of number - understanding that "three" means a collection of 3 objects/items regardless of size. 
  • Subitise- being able to recognize quantities of objects without counting.
  • One-to-One correspondence -the last word in counting sequence names the quantity for that set
  • Matching words and numerals to a collection  
  • Being able to name numbers in terms of their parts (part-part-whole)

Children who do not have a good sense of number will have difficulty using strategies to do more difficult computation quickly.  If they do not understand what 5 is and that 5 can be broken down to 3+2, 4+1, etc they will not be able to addition or subtraction quickly in their head.

Good sense of number is the opposite of memorizing math facts.  So put away those flash cards!  Instead use productive math talk and math games!  Here are some of my favorites!

Productive Math Talk about Math Thinking

Kindergarten students aren't used to talking about Math.  If you are lucky, their parents ask them to count things or write their numbers.  They are not asked to explain their thinking.  So that is my first strategy to improving their sense of number.  When you ask them to count or identify a number, ask "How do you know it is 5?"  At first you will get the predictable  "I counted" or "I knew it in my brain".  Totally normal.  But as students start really thinking about composing and decomposing numbers they will start to connect more strategies to their thinking like, "I knew that it was 6 because 5 and 1 more is 6".  As they hear you model YOUR Math Thinking more and more students start to make those connections, you will be amazed to hear the math thinking among your students!

One way I love to engage their math thinking is with Quick Pictures.  Quick pictures is where I show my students a collection of dots, either randomly grouped or within a ten frame.  I quickly flash the pictures, only 3 seconds, and then hide it away.  I then ask the students to identify the number and have them explain their thinking.  This really allows them to hear the strategies of others.  Of course, I start small with 0-5 on a ten frame and then add the larger numbers (I go 0-20).  I want them to really understand what the 10 frame is about and the strategies that make computation easier.  Check out my 10 frame Quick Picture Flash Cards HERE.  

I also use cards with "random" grouping of dots.  They aren't really random, but are placed in a way to encourage strategic counting (4 and 1, 3 and 4, 4 and 5) and produce great math thinking.  Check out my Quick Pictures Dot Cards HERE

Math Games

I LOVE math games.  They are the perfect way to have students practice their number sense in an engaging way.  They make great Math Station activities too!

Let's Build It

In the 3 different Let's Build It games (Roll a Staircase, Roll a Tower, and Build a City) children roll a dice and build different sizes of towers. 

Roll a Staircase

Roll a Tower

Check out the FREE Let's Build It game HERE!

Same Number (or Spin and Find)

I love this game!  These cards can be used for so many different games, and help the students improve their number sense and ability to subatise by identifying the different combinations of numbers.  Pairs of students share one set of cards.  One student chooses a card and the other finds a card that shows the same number. 

Same Number

Check out the FREE Same Number game HERE!  Here is the Spin and Find Spinner!

Fifty Chart

This game is super easy to put together - just a board a dice and cubes, beans, etc.  Students take turns rolling the dice and covering up (or coloring) that many numbers.  The first to cover all 50 wins!

50 Chart

The Fifty Chart game can be found HERE!

Guess My Number

This is a great way to introduce 10 frames.  Students work in pairs.  One student closes his/her eyes while the other rolls the dice and puts that many counters on the ten frame (or a 20 frame for your higher kids! Or even a 5 frame for your struggling students!) and says, "Guess my number!".  The other student counts and says the number.  Easy! 

Guess My Number

The Ten Frames and Number Cards (from Same Number - above) can be found HERE!  The Double Ten Frame can be found HERE

Domino Matching Tic-Tac-Toe

Students work in pairs.  They each have a set of colored cards.  They take turns placing a domino dot card into the board.  If they get 3 in a row, they win!

Domino Matching Tic-Tac-Toe

The Domino Matching Tic-Tac-Toe game can be found HERE!

Thanksgiving Roll and Color

This is the game we use to introduce game play in our math stations.  Students can work individually or in pairs.  They roll the dice and color that numeral.  Easy!

Roll and Color Thanksgiving Turkey

The Thanksgiving Roll and Color can be found HERE at A Cupcake for the Teacher!

Gingerbread Man Roll and Color

Roll and Color Gingerbread Man

This game is the same as above, except I have them work in pairs and use different colors.  The student with the most colored spaces, wins!

The Gingerbread Man Roll and Color can be found HERE at Kinzie's Kreations!

Race to the Top

Race to the Top
In Race to the Top, students work in pairs.  They take turns rolling a die (12 sided works awesome!) or 2 dice (and then combine) and color in that number on their tower.  The first to color in all 12, wins!

Race to the Top can be found HERE!

Race to Trace

Race to Trace

Race to Trace is a great partner game.  Students take turns rolling a die and tracing that number.  When all numbers have been traced, count how many you have in your color and see who wins!

Race to Trace can be found HERE at Kids Count 1234!

I cannot stress enough how important review and practice is for number sense.  They need to be practicing identifying numerals and counting every single day.  The most fun and engaging way to practice is games. 

What are your favorite Number Sense games?  I would love some links to yours!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Conference Reports

The first quarter conferences are coming up!

In our school system, we don't do report cards for 1st Quarter. So my team came up with a conference "report car" for the parents.

I jazzed it up and made it a fillable template so that you could easily fill in each student's info and SAVE AS.

So here ya go!

Here is a screen shot of the sample.  

You can get it HERE!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Kindergarten Sight Word Flashcards

Sight Words are a HUGE part of Kindergarten now that reading is so important. 

I am always looking for ways to ensure that my students learn the sight words, but also need something that is easy to document for report card time. 

So I came up with these Sight Word Flash Cards! 

Each student gets started with a ring of Level 1 sight words (taken from the Dolch Sight Words list for K and 1st grades).  I print the words on colored card stock and laminate them.  Then cut and place on a ring.  I color code the lists with the chart (so level one cards are white and the chart is white), this helps them remember what list they are on.  I make a big deal of posting the charts too! 

I have the students practice with each other, parents, teachers, volunteers, etc.  Then they "Test".  I mix up the words and have them identify that list of words.  If they can identify all the words on the list then they get the next list. 

After every 5 lists I have them do a spelling test!  I find that students often can identify the word but have difficulty writing the words.  When they can write all the words on a list then they get a star on the chart. 

It is a great way to keep track of who knows what sight words!

I have made 11 lists of sight word cards with documentation lists.  Check them out HERE!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fun with Names! Literacy Activities that Use Children's Names

A child's name is almost always the first word they learn to read.  

Their name is personal.  Special.  And unique to them.
So it makes sense that the first way to help students make those important literacy connections is to use their names.

Here are some great ideas!  We often read the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes to start our Names Unit.  It is a great way to start talking about names!

Fruit Loop Names

I wrote their names in pencil and did one letter at a time with white glue.  So cute!

Name Center

I taped their names to the side of my filing cabinet - instant name center!

Name Building Cards

Name Grids

I use these name grids to not only make the name building cards (above) but also for students to practice writing and counting the letters in their names.  Go HERE for the freebie!

Name Chart

During Math time we count how many letters are in our name and make a chart, sorting the students by how many letters there are in their names.  Then we build a tower with the same number of cubes and compare those! Here is the editable blank name grid.  It is a great way to integrate Math into your Language Arts themes!

I Know my Name 


I made one of these for all of my students.  It took a while!  I haven't quite figured out to make the form editable with a PDF.  So, if you would like one for each of YOUR students I can do that.  I charge $5 per class (no more than 30) and will send you a PDF copy of your class names.  Leave a comment with your email if you would like to set it up!

Dot Names

Students use the Dot Art stampers to go over my handwritten lines.  They look so cute!


Paper Square Names

I lightly write student's names with pencil on black paper.  I do one line of glue at a time and they glue on the paper squares.  I love how the bright colors pop on the black paper!

Q-tip Dot Names

Students use bright colored paint to make dots with Q-tips.  I have found that not only is this activity good for learning names, but it is a great fine-motor activity as well!  The students have to use their pincher grip.

These are some of my favorite Name activities. What are some of yours??

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Teaching Math: Patterns in Kindergarten!

Any Kindergarten teacher worth their salt knows that patterns are the back bone of a student's algebraic thinking for the rest of their school career.

So obviously it is really important that students have many opportunities to learn about and create patterns.  Here are a few of my favorites from my class!

Pattern Noodle Necklaces

Students string colored noodles in an AB or ABC pattern.

Position Patterns

Students use strips of paper to create a positional pattern (tall tall short/ vertical vertical horizontal, etc.).

Fruit Loop Patterns

Students create a pattern with fruit loop cereal and then transpose it onto a template.  Click HERE for the template. 

Sidewalk chalk Patterns

Students use colored chalk to create a pattern outside on the blacktop or sidewalk.  They then copy the pattern onto a sheet of black construction paper.

These are just a few of my favorite ways to teach patterns.  What are some of yours??


Seriously. Enough with the Kindergarten Teacher Bashing

The other day I came across this blog post.  It is from 2009, so it is on the old side.  But I was still shocked when I read it.  You would think someone who claims to be a teacher would have more respect.

As long as I've been teaching I've heard the worst comments about Kindergarten and the teachers who teach it.  Here are some good ones:

A trained monkey could do it. 

Really?  A monkey?  This one is down right insulting. 

We are just glorified babysitters.

Oh, man.  Clearly you don't know what babysitters get paid these days!  If I got even just $5 per hour per kid I'd be making $900 a DAY.  A DAY.  That would be more than $160,000 a year before taxes.  I will gladly babysit 25 children if I can earn that!

It must be so easy because you don't have papers to grade.

Before I taught Kindergarten I taught 3rd grade.  So yes, I brought home stacks of papers to grade at home.  I hated it.  But now I bring home journals to grade, pumpkins to cut out, projects to pre cut.  I am certainly not lounging at home eating bonbons while my upper grade coworkers slave over papers.  

Oh and you have rest time too? Sounds like the life.  

This makes it sound like they sleep for 2 hours.  I wish.  It is 25-30 minutes of "quiet" (how quiet can 25 five year olds be? Not very).  My kids can't read.  So I don't get DEAR time like the upper grades.  And my kids tend to have accidents (which then I have to clean!!) if I don't schedule in bathroom breaks.  My kids don't go to band, or strings, or chorus.  So it isn't a vacation time for me. 

I am used to hearing teacher bashing from parents, and other non-teachers.  But when I hear it from other teachers it really makes me mad.  You KNOW how hard this job is.  But becasue Kindergarten is so fundamentally different they assume it must be EASY.


Ask any 4th grade teacher ...

How many temper tantrums they had to deal with?  Probably zero.
What about bathroom accidents?  Probably zero.
Do you have to tie their shoes?  Nope.
Wipe their noses?  Nope.
Wipe their ...... ?  Nope. 

Guess who has two thumbs and does that EVERY DAY??  This girl.

I also can't count how many times I've heard how easy my job must be.  Blocks, painting and house all day - right?

Um, yeah.  NO.

I do mini lessons, I do reading groups, I do remediation and intervention and extension. I assess every unit.  All without bubble sheets or tests because my students can't read yet!  I spend 2 whole months doing standardized testing, out of the classroom with every student.

 I teach 25 babies how to sit still, listen, follow directions, and not kill each other.  All while teaching them the content that goes above and beyond what I learned even in first grade! 

I am constantly judged.  Either parents that have unrealistic expectations about content.  I'm either too tough or too un-structured.

And lord help you if you are young.  Never start teaching K as a 1st year teacher, they will eat you alive. 

At the end of the day I KNOW I am a good teacher.  I have learned you just can't make everyone happy.  So you do your very best.  Every day.  No one could ask more. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Writing


Today is Earth Day!

Need something fast to print for Language Arts today?

Here ya go!

Click HERE for the freebie!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easy Earth Day/Planting/Recycling Project!


Earth Day is coming up! 

It just so happens that it coincides with our Recycling unit.  Our school is trying to find new ways to go Green.  Here is my contribution:

The Toilet Paper Roll Seed Cup

They are super simple to make.  And all the kids have toilet paper roles at home, so everyone can contribute.  I ask parents to donate soil and seeds as well.

Here are the steps:

1) Take an empty toilet paper roll.  Cut inch long slits (3-4) in the bottom.

2) Fold the flaps over.


3) Push the flaps into the tube.  


4) From the top, press the flaps down so the tube sits flat.  

5) Now fill with soil and plant your seeds!


6) I put mine in a plastic bin.  It keeps them all together and I can move it easily to chase the sun in my windows!  I use popsicle sticks to label with their name.  

7) Watch them grow!  Be careful not to over water or the cup gets moldy.  Ick.

Once the seedlings are big enough you can transplant the entire cup into the ground/pot!  We usually send them home in a decorated tin can (look HERE for a tutorial!).