Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Should Kindergarten Teachers Be Reading This Summer?

Every summer I promise myself that I will clean closets, catch up on friendships that I sadly neglect, and do some professional reading that is essential to staying on top of educational trends. Here is my beef. Often books have suggested grade levels (k-5) and kindergarten is mentioned in just a few places. The information is great but not for our "littles" and I get frustrated by this since it rarely changes my teaching practices or relates to my classroom experiences. We often hear that "kindergarten is its own animal" and I find this to be so true. What is out there for kinder teachers that is worth reading during your precious summer weeks? Here are my top picks for you:

This book is huge and expensive but it looks like it is a terrific resource for learning aboutflexible reading strategies. It is laid out in a very simple, powerful way. Goals are clearly stated. What are you working towards? Skills students need to practice are provided and finally, specific strategies for getting there are offered. It is set up almost like a "cookbook" and you can look up topics that you need more help with. Levels are clearly provided and there is plenty at the emergent level for kinder teachers to use. Teacher tips are also included. I know I will mark this up with post-it notes and use it as a reference in the classroom. You will love the format... Buy this. This should be given to all teachers who are responsible for teaching reading at the elementary level.

I love this author and have read this book in the past. It is filled with great ideas for building reading skills in your classroom and to teach with intention. This is an easy read but you will want to highlight great ideas and share your thinking with your teacher friends. Teachers have done book studies if you want to get some additional insights into this wonderful read. This is another great read for a new teacher. She talks about classroom environments and authentic teaching which makes me reflect on my own practices

The whole world is reading this book and it looks like a great one. Teach Like A Champion is all about providing powerful techniques for teaching that can be put into place tomorrow. Many of these reflect expectations related to the Common Core so it might be well worth reading. It is not on the top of my list but I own it and want to check it out. This would make a great book study for an entire staff, including the administrator. This book is a great catalyst for having important conversations about the climate of a classroom and getting kids on the path to college. We all want that for our students.


This book was written by Carolyn Kisloski and Dr. Jean Feldman. My copy was sent to me by Dr. Jean as a gift and she even signed it! (insert bragging tone of voice). Both of these ladies are amazing and if you don't get any other book purchase this one! It is filled with great ideas, beautiful photographs, and extensions on activities that are all about student engagement. I got it a few days ago and find myself half way through the book. If you have been teaching for as long as I have you might be familiar with some of these ideas but many offer a new "twist" to make learning even more fun! Both of these talented ladies have blogs that are well worth checking out: Dr. Jean and Friends and Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together. As I am reading this I am constantly calling my teaching partner to discuss an idea. I am not going back to school without making some of the suggested materials. Buy this book if you are a kindergarten teacher and thank me for the suggestion! If you are going to Vegas it will be there and you can grab a copy. 
This book is well organized and Common Core aligned. You can skip around for ideas that you need to meet your own classroom needs. These two "cooks" have built a great restaurant so go in and grab a bite!

I bought this book last summer but somehow I looked it over but did not really get into the nuts and bolts of it. However, during the year it often clarified a Common Core standard and cited many examples, supported by photographs. It is so well done that I really recommend purchasing it. This would make a great one for a book study. Check it out. If you are confused or anxious about implementing the CCSS in kindergarten, this is your go to reference. Buy it.

So we all own Debbie Diller's book, Math Work Stations but what else is out there that promotes student engagement and builds independence? This is a great book because it is full of ideas that are Common Core based and simple to make. You might be familiar with many of these ideas but once again the author puts a new twist on it. I love that they are organized by standard and make it easy to differentiate since it covers K-2. Some of these ideas remind me of  Math Their Way and the oldies of kindergarten know how powerful these ideas are. Check this out. 

This is a well known author in the field of literacy and this makes a great "go to" reference when you do not understand a Common Core standard. It is well organized and written in easy to understand language. Sharon Taberski provides the gist of each standard and what must be considered when teaching this. I don't know about you but I need the quick and dirty version of each standard so that I have some sense of what to do. She provides possible questions to ask students. This needs to sit on my teacher desk at all times. You need this if you are teaching the CCSS in kinder. Trust me.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Even if you only get to one book that can make a real difference in your teaching. I love reading with another teacher friend and having a discussion over an iced coffee at Starbucks. Are you on my page? Professional development is important but we all know that we deserve more time with our families. Take that family vacation and build memories. Have a wonderful summer and I hope I see you in Vegas! Look for me.
What are you reading?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Grab a Teachable Moment In Your Classroom...

Have you ever brought a pet to your classroom? I can't think of a better way to engage young children in learning. They will be full of questions and this provides an authentic opportunity to learn about an animal. It's a great way to take a break from your standard curriculum and have some fun.

My teaching partner brought in her leopard tortoise for the class to see and touch. They were speechless with happiness to see an animal up close. We seized the moment to explore the life cycle of this animal and just a little information about her.

We learned that a tortoise hibernates like a bear and Daisy had just started to move around to let her owners know she was awake and hungry! 

We talked about how you have to care for a pet and what to put in her habitat to keep her happy. We learned what a leopard tortoise needs in their environment and what they like to eat. Who knew hibiscus flowers were on their list of tasty treats! 

Students could gently touch her shell but we explained the need to wash your hands just to be safe. They loved watching her move around and were fascinated when she ate the dark leafy lettuces in her habitat. 

When we took her outside for recess she loved moving around the blacktop but when Mrs. Schurmer spoke to her gently she turned immediately and moved toward her voice. We were all amazed by this.

I loved listening to the children talk to this little creature in a gentle, loving way. Most of them do not have pets and home. They have never seen a reptile close up. They were filled with questions and natural curiosity about her.

We suggested learning more about this interesting creature and I promised them I would have some special activities to go along with learning about the leopard tortoise.

When we got back in the classroom we built a bubble map with information we already had about Daisy but as we learned more we added on describing words. We watched several short videos on the leopard tortoise and talked about our new learning.  We learned that this reptile often lives to be 100 years old! Amazing! 

Here are some of the materials I put together for the next day. We watched another video on You Tube and created a short Power Point with general information. It was just enough to hold the interest of a young child...

They loved reading this informational text and learning the word "herbivore." It was fun for them to do a simple report (we did it together) based on all that they had learned. Hands shot up and students could not wait to share what they knew.

Many students wanted to continue writing so I created this paper. I did a guided drawing lesson to teach students how to draw a tortoise so they could do this along with their writing. This was a huge hit with them. 

This is not part of my curriculum but it was well worth it to take a break and seize the moment to teach our class about caring for a pet and information on a tortoise. Next week she is bringing her gecko to school...

Do you have a class pet? I am thinking about getting one for next year since the children loved this so much. Any suggestions? Let me know if you want any of these materials. I can post them.