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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Swap and Hop

Greetings everyone.  I'm Marsha from A Differentiated Kindergarten and I am so excited to be paired up with Mandy from  A Special Kind of Class  for this Blog Swap and Hop event. 

 It's kind of like visitng another teacher's classroom and taking over her class for the day.  I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous. I mean, yeah, I teach kindergarten and everything, but Mandy is a pro at making accomodations and finding ways for her kinders to succeed.  It's like preaching to the choir when I step into her blog and start talking about differentiating, but I hope you'll humor me. Many of you may already know about differentiated instruction, but I'd like to give a quick refresher just in case.

When we talk about differentiated instruction, many teachers focus only on tiering and responding only to the readiness levels of students, but DI (differentiated instruction) really asks instructors to consider so much more about their students.  In addition to readiness, it asks us to respond to a students learning profiles or how they learn best and their interests as well. 

I know what you might be thinking, "wait, I can differentiate my instruction merely by responding to my students' interests? But that's so . . . easy!"  You're right! It is one fairly easy way to differentiate, but here's why it's so important. 

Brain research tells us that when we respond to a student's interest, we are setting the hook . . . When we feed our students' interest, we give learning meaning and when learning  is meaningful, it has a tendancy to stick.  So in my own class, I take a lot of time to get to know my students.  One way I do this is by sending home an interest inventory to my students' parents before school gets started in the fall.  They know your students best and can really give you a heads start on getting to know what makes your kiddos tick.  If you'd like a copy of mine, feel free to click on the picture below to get it.

If you have ever read my own blog, you know that I have a tendancy to acquire very  "boy heavy" classes.  Call it luck of the draw or divine intervention, either way, it happens quite a bit.  One of my first years teaching kindergarten, I had three girls in a class of 25.  After about the first three weeks of teaching, I discovered I had a large population of students who where attracted to anything and everything with wheels.  This was the kind of class that, even if there weren't cars available to play with, they would turn other things into a car and pretend it had wheels . . . pencils, crayons, markers, pencil boxes, chairs even their hands.  They were 'driven' (no pun intended) by vehicles.

What do you do when you have a classroom full of gearhead?  Get real darn serious about cars, real quick that's what.

I have come to the conclusion, you can teach just about anything in kindergarten by using cars.

Of course, there are tons of books that you can offer your students.  Make sure you include some non-fiction and fiction.  The one below is a favorite because is a 'familiar' story line and I have the cd that accompanies it so my students with musical intelligences are especially fond of it.

Other simple ways are to use cars to sort

 and make patterns.

Need your own 'I can' poster for math stations and cars?  Just grab a copy of mine by clicking on the poster pick.

Of course, you can  also count cars. I never visit anyone's blog without bringing along a little gift and so here's one for you.  This activity addresses common core standards, is self-correcting AND tiered to meet the readiness levels of your various students . . . differentiation done for you!

You can play it with little toy cars or with the car cards I provide.

Cars are also a great way to let kinesthetic learners do what they do best . . . MOVE. If you use a little a little FROG brand painters tape on your floor you can practice writing your letters by 'driving' the cars over the letters.

It's a guarenteed 'ask for it again and again' activity.
And for those students who may have difficulty with mobility and getting on the floor, how about downloading a set of these FABULOUS highway letter cards from Making Learning Fun to use at a table or desk.  Click on the picture below to take you to the link.

They're absolutely FREE!!!

Of course, if you take that same tape (it's my favorite) and place a small piece with a letter written on the back, you can sort letters in your name, capital and lowercase letters or even short and tall letters.

If you'd like a set of these fun sorting mats just click on the picture to get your set.  Don't worry if you don't have enough 'real' match box cars for this activity.  I included a set of car playing cards that can be used for this activity as well. 

For your students who are beyond letter naming, how about working on a letter sound activity.

This one is tiered with self-correcting beginning letter sound cards and, for students ready to move on, there is are additional cards that will let them work on the sounds they hear at the end of the word.

Hey! Now we're differentiating in response to interest AND readiness levels. 

I've even used cars to help my students with nonsense word fluency.  When I drew some roads on a big piece of paper, wrote some nonsense words down, handed my kiddos a toy car and a timer, this literacy center became an instant favorite.

Sometimes, just spending a little time getting to know your students can lead to valuable insight and activities that will engage them, motivate them, allow them to enjoy learning and find success!   

I sure did enjoy visiting and hope you were able to get a little 'something' from my visit.  If you like what you see and would like to know more about how I differentiate instruction in my own kindergarten classroom, please stop on over, check it out and  follow my blog.  You'll get all the latest notices about freebies and resources for differentiating your own classroom.

Thanks again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daily 5 Chapter 3

1. Establish a gathering place for brain and body breaks. (Do you call your gathering place anything special? A few of my teammates did. Annie called hers the "Family Room" and Kim calls hers the "Learning Space." I need to come up with something better than "the carpet" lol!)

Mine area is "the carpet" too.  I never really thought about calling it anything else but maybe it's time for a new name.  My room has a terrible layout.  I have no wall space (it's taken up by windows, countertop, the kitchen etc.).  So I really only have the carpet area.  Maybe I should get the children to name it.

2. Developing the concept of "good fit" books (There are LOTS of examples of different good fit lessons in blogland AND Pinterest)

This is one thing I do have lots of, and that is levelled books.  I need to go through all my other books though and see if there are some others that I can level. I had a volunteer begin to catelogue them for me but I would like to organize them by categories and levels and put stickers on them so the children can return them to the correct box.

3. Create anchor charts with students How will these be visual in the room? Where will you store them? What about small spaces?

I do like anchor charts and I have lots of room to put them up.  I have will have one blind student though, so I will have to come up with something else for him.  Maybe something smaller with Braille for him to touch. (even though he can't read yet).

4. Short, repeated intervals of independent practice and setting up book boxes (How are you going to keep track of stamina? What will you use for book boxes? What are you going to put in those book boxes on the 1st day of school?)

I have the perfect boxes for book boxes and I'm going to have get some books into them for each of the children.  I need some Braille books for my blind student.  I got a new pocket chart from Really Good Stuff to celebrate success so I might be able to use that to keep of track of stamina.

5. Calm Signals and check in procedures (Do you already have a signal? How will you handle check ins?)

I don't really have a signal.  With only 7 children they don't usually get very rowdy.

6. Using the correct model/incorrect model approach for demonstrating appropriate behaviors. (Will you keep track of inappropriate behaviors? If they are not doing what is expected, then they are calling out for attention...what other ways can you give them some extra attention so that they can be more independent during D5?)
This is one part that I haven't done before and I'm looking forward to.  I think it's going to make a huge difference in how quickly we will get routines set and everyone on the same track.  I don't think that I'm going to get much inappropriate behaviour, I think I will just get short attention spans.  It may take us a bit to get set up (moving children in and out of wheelchairs) so I'm not sure if I could just call everyone back after 3 minutes.

Head on over to Live, Love, Laugh for more great ideas on chapter 3.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ice Cream Fun

The other day we decided to make ice cream.  Now I've never done this before and was quite curious as to how this would work.  We decided to make mint chocolate chip.  So we needed: 

Chocolate chips.

 whipping cream




 and the ice cream ball.

 All the ingredients went in one side and the ice and salt in the other.

 We sealed the ball.

 And rolled it,

 and rolled it,

 and rolled it some more.

 When we opened it......yummy ice cream.

I couldn't resist making some ice cream cone sight word games to go with our ice cream.  Each child
gets between 2 and 4 cones depending on how hard I want it to be or what sight words they are working on.  The ice creams with the matching sight words are placed on the table face down.  Each child takes a turn picking an ice cream.  They read the word and see if they have the matching cone.  If they do, they place the ice cream on the matching cone.  If they don't have it, they return the ice cream to the center.  The next child goes.  The first child to get 4 ice creams on each cone (or 3 or 2 depending on the number of children or the difficulty level) wins.  Click on each picture to go to my TpT store.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Daily 5 Chapter 2

I am linking up with Kindergarten Smiles for chapter 2 of the Daily 5 book study.  At this time of the year I give my students a lot of choice but at the beginning I run a pretty tight ship.  I'm thinking that I can/should give them more control towards the beginning of the year.  Here are my thoughts.

Even though we didn't do Daily 5 this year and I didn't touch on the "why" at all.  (I need to do that next year for sure), here is what my kids came up with when I asked them these questions.
 I just jotted down a few read alouds.  I LOVE books and I have about a million of them in my class.  I need to totally organize them and separate the ones that would be good in the children's boxes and those that I'm going to read as read alouds.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So much to do, So little time

Well, I have 2 weeks and 2 days left of school (not that I'm counting LOL).  I have report cards to finish, IEP's to update, the year end video to do, children's equipment to pack up and get sent out to their new schools........how to fit it all in, without having a meltdown.

I know I posted this video last year but I that you might like to see it again.  It's one of the songs that I put in my year end video.  The kids love it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Daily 5 Chapter 1

I'm joining up with other kindergarten teachers at

Live Love Laugh
for the Daily 5 Kindergarten book study.

I have not done the Daily 5 before.  I'm thinking about implementing it next year.  I took Tammy's worksheet for Chapter 1 and wrote up what I'm doing now and what I think I need to do for next year.  Here is my thinking.

I know I need to change a lot for next year.

What does my literacy block like right now?  I do a large group (well how large could it be with only 7 children)  lesson on the letter/blend/word family that we are working on.  Then I have small groups work with my educational assistants on sight words while I pull aside the children one at a time to read to me (their sight words) and pick a book to take home (they also read this to me).  I also have literacy work stations that we do on an inconsistent basis.

My biggest challenges for next year will be in implementing the 5 areas with only 7 children.  I'm also trying to figure out how I'm going to do some of the areas with the different needs I have.  For example:  how do I do "read to self" or "read to someone" when the child can't talk? I think we will have to do a lot of "internal voices" and augmentative devices.   I will have one blind students: how do I teach him to read?  Do you learn Braille like a sighted person learns to read?  I have enrolled in an on-line course called "Introduction to Braille".  I'm hoping it will give me some insight into what I need to do to support this child's literacy development.  I will also have 2 new educational assistants (new to me).  Will they be "on board"?  Will they need to learn, like the children need to learn? Where do they fit into the areas?  I have three children that will need assistance.  Who should they help?  How do they help without interfering?

I'm really looking forward to this method because I would like the children to have more control.  The following year they will return to their home schools and many of them will not have the support that they will be getting in my class.  I have to teach them to be independent.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ice Cream Alphabet Match Freebie

Summer is on the way.  Here is a simple alphabet match to get your child ready for kindergarten.  Simply match the ice cream to the correct cone.  Click on the picture to head on over to my TpT store and grab it for free.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

HUGE give away

Mrs. Miner's Kindergarten Monkey Business is having a HUGE give away and I'm part of it.  Among other items you could win my entire store.  That's right, my WHOLE store.  That's over $300 worth of teaching products just from me.  There are many other sponsors too.  Head on over to Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business to see all the sponsors and goodies you could win.  Don't forget to enter while you are there.

Mrs. Miner's Kindergarten Monkey Business

Friday, June 8, 2012

The day after open house

What a long day yesterday.  Wow.  I had a meeting in the morning with my current team, a meeting at lunch time with the teachers, a meeting before the open house with my new team and then the open house.  Boy was I a tired camper last night.

But I must say that I am totally pumped about next year.  My kids for next year are so cute.  But then I'm probably a little basis.  My mind is spinning with how I'm going to run things, what kind of things I'm going to have to adapt and how I'm going to incorporate braille into my program.  Will I be able to do the Daily 5 in Braille?  How do I teach a child to read in braille?  This is new territory for me. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

I also have a really big favour to ask.  I've been nominated for a blog award.  The prize money is $200 and I'm going to donate it to the Sunlight Foundation, which grants wishes for children with disabilities and their families.  They have granted wishes to several children in our school.  So if you could head on over there and vote for me, I would really appreciate it.

Vote for my blog here!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Open House

Tomorrow is open house.  I can't wait.  It's the day I get to met all the students in my class next year.  Since most of our students only stay with us a year, I usually get a whole new bunch each year.  Two of students for next year have already been at the school but in other classes and the others are all new.  With them, they bring a wide variety of abilities and skills.  I know that they will be teaching me next year too.  I have not worked with students without any sight and I have not had a full time nurse in my room in a few years.  I will also be working with two new educational assistants. 

I think it will be a year of firsts and of new experiences.  I'm looking forward to it.

What type of students are you getting next year?  Do you get the same students for several years?  I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Book Study

This summer I'm joining in with a few of my teacher bloggy friends to do a book study on the The Daily 5 and CAFE.  I'm just starting to read The Daily 5 and I'm really enjoying it.  While I read, I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to do some of the components of the program with my students.  For example, how does a child that can't talk do "read to others".  I know I can program some augmentative communication devices with pages of a book, but will it be authentic? 

For all of you out there in special ed., have you tried Daily 5?  I would love to hear from anyone who has experience with this program.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

You Know it's Summer Vacation when....

I'm joining a Kindergarten Lifestyle in her new linky party, "You know it's summer vacation when...."  Head on over to her blog to see other great quotes.

Kindergarten Lifestyle

 Since I'm up at 5:30 every morning it's very rare that I can stay awake later than 9pm.  That makes it
hard to watch movies or any show that's on later in the evening.  I usually fall asleep and miss the end of every show and movie I start watching.  I'm looking forward to staying up past 9pm.

Don't forget to head on over to Mrs Lirette's Learning Detectives for Day 2 of the 15 Days of K.  Today's guest blogger is Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business.


Friday, June 1, 2012

The 15 Days of K

I am so excited to be the first blogger in the 15 Days of K celebration over at

So head on over there to see my post.