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I am a fifth-year Kindergarten Teacher in Stamford, CT. I spend lots of time thinking of new ways to help my students access the curriculum in a fun, engaging way! I recently started blogging about teaching tips and treasures!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Happy Donors Choose Day to Us!

Look what came today! We're going to be ready made for first grade with all these new math tools! Thanks Donors Choose!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Magnet Restructuring!

So, Toquam Families...

Last week you may have gotten a flier home stating to come for a meeting to restructure our school. Here's the scoop:

Bank Street @ Toquam has been passed down from generation to generation, but our staff is not trained in the Bank Street model anymore. We have some aspects of Bank Street that have carried over, and a lot of aspects that we are missing. As a result, we have been given this amazing opportunity to create a new magnet model for our school! We had some great ideas as a staff of what we would like to see, and we now have a Magnet Renewal Committee that is working on this project, along with our School Governance Council. We will be (and have begun) visiting schools all over CT and into NY to check out different models for magnet schools that might fit our needs.

How exciting is all of this??? I am on School Governance, and I also have a really huge interest in the magnet renewal, so today I spent the day out of the classroom visiting three awesome magnet schools in the Hartford area. It's so awesome to see different schools... very inspiring!

Next time you see a magnet renewal notice come home, please, please, please come out and check out what's going on - it is so interesting and the goal is to get information out to as many parents as possible. I would love for my class parents - being that you've got the youngest kids in the school and are the most invested - to really be a part of this process!

Thanks for sharing my excitement :-)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Day :-)

Hello Everyone!

We are working HARD in Kindergarten... as in, ridiculously hard! I am excited to say our students are making tons and tons of progress. We have had a whirlwind couple of weeks! Here's what we're up to:

Mystery Readers:
So far we have had three mystery readers! Our first was Mrs. Puccella, and the kids were super excited to see her. They had a great time with her, and Mrs. Puccella even got on the floor to read with them! The students loved having her here. Our second mystery reader was Jackson's mom, Mrs. Day. I don't know if anyone was as shocked as Jackson that she was here! :-) It was fun and the kids had a good time reading a new book. There is definite interest when the book is new and exciting for the kids! Our last mystery reader was Dr. Ligon. She came in this past Friday and we had an awesome time with her. She read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, since we're learning about the weather. The kids loved having her as well - they are having a good time with this mystery reader program! For those of you who have not sent a date to read, please send this as soon as possible so I can get you set up with a date!
Here's some pictures of the kids during mystery reading time:



 
During reader's and writer's workshop, we have been working on finishing up Eric Carle. We have been working on creating illustrations just like Eric Carle. Here are some pictures of our work:
 


 
We have been learning about the weather during science and partially during math, since weather is one of our daily routines. The students have been learning about different kinds of clouds, where clouds come from, and what we call the different types of clouds when we look up in the sky! We read the book "It Looked Like Spilt Milk" which talks about all of the different shapes that clouds might be. We then used white paper to make our OWN cloud pictures!
 




 
That's all I have for now! I will update later on, but wanted to make sure to get these up here for your viewing pleasure :-)
 
 
I might have given the kids a cute little April Fools trick to play on their moms and dads. I'm sorry... well, not really. It's cute!
 


Sunday, March 16, 2014

DRA2 - An "Info-Session" :-)

You may be wondering what in the world DRA2 is, and why I'm posting about it... :-)

DRA2 is the test we use in Connecticut that helps us understand your child's reading strengths and weaknesses, and determine how we're going to focus our instruction to meet the needs of our students. It is (in my opinion) a worthwhile, yet time consuming assessment. We give this test during "windows" of time, and the next window is the first time your kiddos will be taking this assessment... right after April "break". (Who knows whether we will have one at this point, as the decision is being made on April 1st!)

So, why tell you about this test? It's simple.... I believe parents are a huge part of how successful my students are, and in order to help them be as successful as possible, I need to give you more information on how to best help your children become better readers and retellers!

DRA2 - A "Breakdown" of the test:


1. The teacher (me!) introduces a leveled text to your child. It is something on their independent reading level.
2. Your child has to "picture walk" through the book and talk about what he/she thinks will happen in the story.
3. Your child will read the book out loud. While he/she is reading, I will take a "running record" - which means I'm checking off what he/she is reading, and writing down what types of errors he/she makes (to help inform my instruction).
4. When your child is done reading, I have to calculate the accuracy of his/her reading. As long as your child passed the accuracy with a few errors only, I will ask him/her to retell the story.
5. Your child will retell... and I mean, RETELL. He/she has to tell the characters, setting, and every single little thing that happens in the story. We are so used to summarizing that it's hard to get into the right frame of mind to do this type of retelling... but it's important for the kiddos to get used to it!
6. I will ask your child to make a connection to the text, give an opinion about the text, and other comprehension questions. I score your child's answers based on their reasoning and ability to give an answer to these questions.
7. You get a DRA2 score on the report card, and I get a good look at your child's reading strengths and weaknesses, to better assist me with teaching him/her!


A lot of parents are concerned that this is used to "track" children as they head into first grade, and will determine whose class they end up in. Although the scores help us teach the children at their levels, they are not used to determine classes for next year.

What can you do to help your child?

That's an easy one :-)

Read! Read! Read! Retell, Retell, Retell! Just talk to your child about the books you read at home, and the books they read to you - and he/she will naturally become better at reading and retelling.

This week for homework, we're sending home a "sample" that we made up for you, of how a DRA2 looks for the kids and the teacher. Have your child read the simple book we're sending home, and practice retelling it to you. We are giving you a sheet to help you determine the details your child should have in his/her retelling, and the comprehension questions at the end that will help you figure out if your child was understanding what he/she was reading. Please use this as a guide to help YOU understand what we're looking for! The book we're sending home is considered "on grade level" (a DRA 4) by the end of kindergarten.

Let me know if you have any questions about this assessment! I'm more than happy to answer them, and I'm hoping I was helpful with this little tutorial :-)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

This Just In!

Our kindergarten show is on 6/12! Mark your calendars!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Conferences/Volunteers

Just a quick note...

So far, I have had 11 responses for conference times! I actually had 12, but one of them did not have a name on it. We found it on the floor! If someone sent in their sheet and did not get it back with a time circled today, please let me know... I have it. Otherwise, I will wait for your responses! Thank you for being so quick! :-)

Re: Celebrity Readers....
Please do not tell your child that you could possibly be one of the readers! I think it will be SO cute to see their reaction when their moms and dads come into the room. Thanks :-)

So far, for celebrity readers, I have had 6 responses. Again, I thank you for your quick response, and will be sending home a note tomorrow to sign up for upcoming Fridays! The week of 3/17 is conference week, so I may just have a teacher come and do that Friday because I know that 12:40 doesn't work for a lot of people!

ONE MORE THING.

I started the "ball word" system of learning sight words in the classroom as sort of an experiment to motivate the kids.... and BOY is it working! So far I have at least one student who has gotten through 6 of the 11 lists. That is HUGE for kindergarten! Please congratulate your son/daughter and make a huge deal over their accomplishments.... not that I need to tell you that! ;-) I just watch their faces when I test them and they pass a ball word level, and become a "champion" - it's really priceless... and I want to make sure they keep on going!

Look for a note tomorrow, re: conferences. Thank you!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What a whirlwind week!

I have to tell you, having almost two weeks off has officially done me in. I don't WANT another snow day. I just want to be in school!

In any case, even though we had two weeks off, I hit the kiddos with tons of new information the second we got back! Their poor heads are probably exploding with teen numbers! :-)

Here's a recap of our week:
Math:
We introduced a morning routine of actually having a morning meeting again. This was actually taken out of our schedule because there is no time, but I'm finding more and more that we need the skills taught during morning meeting more than ever. We learn the days of the week, months of the year, and lots of phonics skills and new words from our morning message. We learn how to greet one another and how to share... skills that are so important and can be taught in a more informal setting than during classwork. We are also learning new decoding skills... and wow, does my class benefit from that! In one week, we have learned the skills of: get your mouth ready (attend to the first sound of a word), STRETCH the word (we call it sounding out), and go back and reread the sentence once you sounded out the words (for comprehension).
That's just the meeting, guys!
 After that, we have been doing teen numbers 'til we drop. We are working on composing and decomposing numbers... basically, what adds up to ten? How many tens and how many ones does the number have? It is our goal to be able to recognize that the teen numbers have a ten and "some more" ones, depending on the number. We worked on this all week!! We also introduced a "Rainbow to 10" which is pretty cool. You will see it on the homework next week, and it helps the kids find adding combinations to 10. It looks like this:
http://acupcakefortheteacher.blogspot.com/2013/01/rainbow-to-10-freebie.html

Reading and Writing:
We have been working on the parts of a story, and identifying loosely linked events within a story (details) to give the reader more information. During writing, we worked on adding details and then giving feedback in an author's chair setting. What that means is that the students made the story the absolute best that they could, then read it to the class. The class gets to give positive and constructive feedback. I introduce it as "one FABULOUS thing your friend did, and one thing that can make the story even BETTER". It is interesting to see what our kiddos can do... they really process that feedback and give reasons for why they made their illustrations a certain way, or why they didn't include a certain thing in the story. This shows me they really are thinking out their stories and giving the best details that they have. In reading, we have been doing something similar. We are working on the reading process daily, but our minilessons this week were focused on reading strategies like previewing the text, questioning before, during and after reading, and retelling. Our students are doing great! I am looking forward to getting them ready for their DRA test... which usually begins right after April break!

What is a DRA, you ask?

Well... basically, the DRA is a test that will show how your children read. It will show whether they know sight words, how their concepts about print are (tracking print, 1:1 correspondence, attending to punctuation, etc.) and how their decoding skills are. In order to be on grade level, your child has to pass a DRA level 4. The ceiling for DRA testing for kindergarten is an 18, which is where the students are expected to be at the end of the year in first grade. I will talk to you about DRA's at conferences, and can't wait to explain them to you further if needed.

I forgot to tell you all! Before I overwhelm you with information, of course... we have had SUCH success with the ball words in our classroom! In reality, a kindergartener in Stamford is only expected to know 55 sight words... but our students who have passed the baseball, soccer ball and basketball words have already surpassed that! Currently, we have 15/21 students who know ALL of the baseball words (Dolch list 1). There are 11 Dolch lists with 20 words each, which make up the first 220 most common sight words in the English language. In order for your child to read fluently, they need to master all of these words... plus more to come! Learning to read is mind blowing, isn't it? Please continue to practice with your child. I will be sending home MANY papers for you tomorrow re: volunteering and conferences. I will do a paper form for conferences this time, as I didn't have much luck with attendance last time using the electronic version. In addition, I will be sending home a "cue card" for reading strategies to help your child at home... ie: get your mouth ready, stretch the word, check the picture.... etc. Please check it out!

I will see your kiddos tomorrow!