Friday, September 28, 2012

Creating Better Anchor Charts


Have you ever wondered if your anchor charts are meaningful learning tools? Well, I did.  When I saw this book, Smarter Charts,  I knew I had to read it. Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz guide you as to what to put on the chart, the language to use, how to get your students to use them, as well as, how to draw simple chart visuals.


An easy to read book, the first section begins with What Do I Put On My Charts?.  Sometimes, less is more, especially in creating Smarter Charts.  
Go here to see another comprehension chart.
When I made this chart, I knew that I needed to teach characters but wanted visuals to help trigger who can be a character.  It heavily relies on the visual literacy of my students as well as the reading schema that we had created together.  In planning this chart, I made the heading ahead of time and had selected the images prior to our lesson. Together, they recalled the character name as I wrote it for us.  This chart was frequently used in our room especially when I asked about who is the character in the story.  I always had a few kids turn their heads towards the chart.


The next section discusses how to help students use charts independently.  I have learned over the years, that manufactured or teacher made charts can be beautiful; at times, they can be visual clutter if they are not used.  This section teaches you how to teach children to use the chart instead of asking you for assistance.


This chart was created because I had many students coming up to me during Writer's Workshop stating, "I'm done!."  Our rule during Writer's Workshop is that you are never finished.  Apparently, I understood the rule but a few of my students did not.  This chart helped them know what to do next.  It contained icons (the pencil and coloring image) from other class made charts as visual reminders.

Source: midlandisd.net via Michelle on Pinterest

Finding space to hang charts can be tricky.  But if we want kids to use them, they need to be displayed in ways that children can access them.  Dedicate a space for your charts.  I only hang a few but keep most stored on a clothes rack similar to this one. I've also have kept my charts all on the chart pad and students flip to the chart that they needed.  



When is is time to retire a chart?  That is one of many questions that is posed in the last section of the book.  I found this section to be the most thought provoking.  It had never occurred to me to revise a chart instead I've always just retired it, as in, throwing it away.   Leaving white space for revising or adding to the chart gives the chart a new life.  


My students' writing improved because of this chart.  I could have made it better had I included student examples written on large post its or an exemplar from a student who was doing this skill well. Instead, after a while, it was recycled because it became dingy and ugly.  I learned other constructive ways which would have allowed for this chart to "live on."

  
Now, that I've read Smarter Charts I know that I will be creating better anchor charts.    


Visit my Anchor Chart Pinterest Board for some anchor chart making inspiration.  Remember to tailor them to fit the needs of your students. Better yet, visit ChartChums the blog by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz to see their charts in action. You'll love it!

This was a 
post because all of the images used were from previous posts.  To read more about the anchor charts click on the links provided with each image or go here.

Happy Teaching and Learning!



Friday, September 21, 2012

Flashback Friday v.1

For the next few weeks, I will be featuring a few of my favorite posts in a series called,
This week, I'd like to feature one of my earliest posts.  I have a bit of an owl theme this year, so this post seemed fitting.

Wild About Owls


Fall is the perfect time to study nocturnal animals.   We read Owls by Gail Gibbons.  The kids were fascinated by the names of the owls.  Their favorite owl was the Elf Owl.  To help them understand the vocabulary word elf, I showed them a picture of a Keebler Elf

For art, the students created these wonderful looking owls using tear art.  Here are a few upclose.  I love the texture and detail that tear art creates.


What I love about this project is that it meets the needs of all learners.  This picture below was created by one of my students who is mainstreamed into my classroom for part of the day. 

I think they look absolutely beautiful!



Happy Learning and Teaching!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Snack

We made our first snack of the school year.  This was a perfect opportunity to introduce "How to" writing which is part of the Common Core standards. 

To make your own, you'll need:
graham cracker sticks
apples
grapes
Alpha bit cereal (I found it at Target)

Here is what our chart looked like in the beginning.  Unfortunately, there are no photos of the end product.
Along the way, the students used descriptive language to tell me what to write.  For example, put 2 grapes on the coconut tree.  Or add 3 apples on top of the tree trunk.

It was a wonderfully delicious snack and a perfect way to end the second week of school.

What are you doing to teach how to writing?  Share your ideas.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Alphabet Exploration

After four days of minimum days, our kinder students will be going to school full time.  The afternoons will be hard for some but I hope to make school exciting enough that they will not even realize that they are at school.  This week, I will introduce Word Work.  I am going to keep the tasks simple; with the intent of having the students explore the alphabet.  Like you, I have students with all, some or no letter recognition.  

To differentiate, a variety of tools will be available for them to use. 
Play Doh Letters: On Monday, I plan to introduce magic play doh and teach my students how to roll snakes to form letters.  They will have letter stampers available as well.

ABC Fishing: Students will go fishing for magnetic letters using these fishing poles, I purchased from Lakeshore Learning.  These will serve double duty. I am using them for math, too.
Letter Beads: Students can practice their fine motor skills while finding the letters in their name.  Letter beads are a year long word study choice in my classroom.
Alphabet Matching: Alphabet puzzles, alphabet games and pocket chart letters will be used to help students identify, sequence or match the alphabet. 



Connect 4 ABC:

I created this game to help my student with letter recognition and fluency.  I plan to play this with my class using the document camera; me versus my students.  Eventually,  I will add it into our Word Work centers.  My proficient students will be able to play the game with my monitoring.  I tested it out on my kindergartener at home and he loved it.  You can purchase it from my Teachers Notebook shop for $1.

Here is a freebie for you to try with your students.  The alphabet is in order so that students can sing the alphabet if needed to identify the letter.



What do your literacy centers look like?  Do you have any favorites?

Happy Teaching and Learning!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Classroom Pictures 2012

Here is a mini-tour of my classroom.


Although, not a new portable, the room did get a major facelift with new carpet and a fresh coat of paint.   Instead of a theme, my primary colors are light blue, lime green and hot pink.

Room from the front door
This is how the room looked like after school. Not bad.

My wonderful aide made the tissue paper flowers.  

Teaching Area
The calendar area is a work in progress.

This is a "new to me" book shelf.  
Focus Wall
As you can see, we are learning a lot this week.
I hope to share more about the first week of school soon. In the meantime, I shared a Pete the Cat inspired first day of school certificate for my Facebook fans because it's all good.  Grab your now to tuck away for next school year.

Happy Teaching and Learning!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summer

Summer is officially over.  How did I spend my summer vacation? I spent it being a full time momma.  Usually, I have had the luxury of daycare to take care of my son at least half time.  Not this year.

Here are a few of my favorite resources that I used to prepare my little one this summer for kindergarten.  I loved these products so much that I plan to use them with my students at school.

Annie's Sight Word Watches
These are great!  My son loved to color and wear the watches.  I loved that it reinforced his reading skills. The only help, he really needed was to cut out the watch. I highly recommend these.


Penmanship practice was a part of our day.  We used Pamela's Alphabet Practice Pages.  Prior to this, he was not interested in learning how to form letters correctly.   Somehow, the graphics piqued his interest.  Each page contains both the "just right" amount of practice and variety with stars showing where to begin.  As with all penmanship worksheets, the only thing I needed to do was monitor him to ensure he was completing the correct strokes.

This along with our weekly trips to the library, gardening, and play encompassed most of our days.  Overall, it was a great summer of family time.  I am now ready to get back into "school mode."  Here is a sneak peek of my classroom.

I moved into a portable classroom and with the help of some amazing staff, I was able to get my classroom ready in less than a week.  It did not really feel like my classroom until I had my library up and organized.

Just in case you are wondering.  I am teaching kindergarten.

Happy Teaching and Learning!