Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Ramblings

It's been awhile since I last posted, and I have been super busy!  I can't believe how quick this summer is flying by.  After the school year ended, I taught summer school, and in the middle I managed to get away for a week to go to the: 

Conference in Las Vegas!!!!!

It was absolutely AMAZING!  I got to meet so many talented, dedicated, passionate teachers, learn new ideas and strategies, and meet some of the wonderful teacher bloggers that I follow.  

I was even invited to participate in a luncheon led by SDE with 11 other kindergarten teachers from diverse backgrounds.  They asked us some questions that are important to kindergarten teachers today, and we had a rich discussion about the qualities of an outstanding teacher, the resources needed to be successful, issues that are pertinent to kindergarten teachers today that weren't relevant in the past, and how well college prepared us for teaching.  

I was so energized after the discussion, and my eyes were opened to some different points of view and ways of thinking.  I wish we could continue to meet on a regular basis because I feel that I would really grow as an educator through these thought-provoking conversations.  One of the teachers said something that really stuck with me.  We were talking about the qualities of an outstanding teacher and she said "An outstanding teacher has an attitude of gratitude.  She realizes how lucky she is to be in this profession, to shape young lives."  I hadn't thought about things that way before, and I really like that outlook.  If we as teachers wants our society to respect us as professionals and believe that we are DIFFERENCE MAKERS, then we need to be GRATEFUL that we are doing one of the MOST IMPORTANT jobs in the world, and take on the responsibility with great care.  

Here are a few pictures from my trip:

I met a new teacher friend from California while at the blogger meet-up!  

My beautiful mother at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium :-)

We visited The Wynn on our last night and it was decorated so nicely inside.

While in Vegas, I managed to have some fun with my mom, who came along for the trip!  We saw Cirque Du Soleil, which was a phenomenal show!  I highly recommend it to anyone.  We played some slots (and video poker, which was my favorite) and checked out a bunch of the other hotels.  All in all, it was a great trip, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go!  I'm already crossing my fingers that I can attend next year because my idol, Ron Clark, will be speaking!!  I would LOVE to meet him!

Now that summer school is over, and I'm home from my trip, I'm working on my long list of  things to accomplish before this next school year begins!  I always have such a long list of goals for myself to accomplish, and I have a hard time just picking a few goals to focus on, so I end up dabbling a little bit in each one.  We shall see how many of them I can accomplish in the next three weeks!  Here is my list:
  • Create my own classroom website- any tips from those who already have one?  Is there a particular website you recommend to create it?
  • Read The Nuts & Bolts of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins, in order to be most prepared to implement the writing workshop model in my classroom this year. 
  • Watch the DVD that came with the Lucy Calkins writing program
  • Organize and de-clutter my classroom- this is a huge goal, and I have a lot of subgoals in this category
  • Read Developing Number Concepts by Kathy Richardson, and create developmentally-appropriate math lessons and centers based on her strategies
  • Organize my pins into more boards on Pinterest and create some of the ideas I have found
  • Create a new behavior management system in my class based on Rick Morris' Clip Chart Behavior Management System
  • Learn the songs and movements for Heidi Butkus's Sight Word Songs- so excited to try these with my students this year!
Okay, I could keep going...but I'm going to stop here before I get too crazy!  I'll update with some of the changes I'm making in my classroom for this year! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

U.S. Symbols, Door Decorations, Mother's Day, and Measurement- OH MY!

This post is long overdue, and I have lots to share! :-)  Let's see...where shall I begin?  

Back in February, I started a Social Studies unit about U.S. Symbols, because one of Ohio's Social Studies Standards is to understand that nations are represented by symbols and practices.  I used Deanna Jump's America Unit and Caitlin's (Kindergarten Smiles) awesome book covers for our Symbols Books.  It took us a long while to complete the entire book, including a table of contents page and the covers.  They are finally finished, and on display in my hallway.  Here are some pictures.  I'm so proud of my kiddos' work and so were they!  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the inside pages. 

Next year these will get done in a more timely manner. :-)

On another topic, for Teacher Appreciation Week, our school always has a theme, and it changes each year.  This year's theme was "Around the World."  We were asked to decorate our doors to fit this theme...at first I thought, wait- teacher appreciation week= give the teacher extra work?  But I thought of an idea and ran with it, and it turned out really cute!  Each student was given a passport.  He or she wrote "Child's Name's Passport to First Grade" on the cover.  On the inside they all wrote why they were ready to go to first grade!  Here are some pictures.

For Mother's Day, I wanted the children to do something special for their mom's while also working on their important kindergarten skills.  I found this adorable Mother's Day Gift Book from Deanna Jump.  Can you tell how much I LOVE her ideas??  Here are a few pictures of their adorableness.  I hope their moms loved them and had a few laughs as well! 

The covers with portraits of their moms.  I was really happy with how they turned out.  The only change I will make for next year is to buy thick ribbon to tie the book together instead of the thin, stretchy string that I used.

This one makes me laugh- especially the speech bubbles in her picture!  I hope her mom laughed too. ;-)

 I love how simple children make things.  So cute! :-)

My last topic for tonight is about Measurement.  One of the last Kindergarten math standards that we have yet to cover is:
K.MD.1 Describe and compare measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight.  Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.  
I introduced measuring the length of objects first, and students explored measurement using connecting cubes.  I called them Unifix cubes in my worksheet, though I know they are technically connecting cubes because they connect to each other on all 4 sides.

The students worked with a partner to measure some objects in our classroom.  I explained the directions and let them have at it.  I was excited to see that all the students really *got it.* They remembered to line up the very edge of the object with the first cube, and they worked really well with their partners. Here's a copy of the recording sheet I created to go along with the activity.  Underneath are some pictures of my kinders actively engaged in their learning. :-)

Measurement Unifix Cubes

These students were measuring the height of a book.  I taught them that they could make a long link of connecting cubes and then break it off at the end of the object, or just count up to the end of the object and stop.  

Whew...I probably broke some blogging rules about putting wayyyy too much in one entry, but I had so much to share and didn't know what to leave out!  I promise I will do better about blogging more regularly and keep my posts shorter ;-). 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Long /a/ and SUPER E Smartboard FREEBIE!

It's been a while since my last post.  I definitely wanted to update sooner, but I've been so busy!  Being a 2nd year teacher (1st year in kindergarten) makes for a lot of work to make and plan everything for the first time.  I wouldn't trade it for the world, though!  :-)  I love what I do, and seeing the excitement on the children's faces as well as their immense growth throughout the year make all those really late nights totally worth it!  Let's just say I've consumed way more Dr. Pepper to get me through the days this year than I care to admit.  I have some big plans to get back in shape this summer...

This week we are focusing on long /a/ words, and our friend, SUPER e was formally introduced!  My kinders have known about SUPER e, but we didn't spend a significant amount of time talking about it until now.  They are LOVING the SUPER e song that I found on youtube.  

I am just amazed at how well my kinders are picking up on long vowels.  It's crazy to think that some of them came in not being able to identify all of their letters and many of their letter sounds, and they are now reading and distinguishing between short and long vowel words and their spelling patterns!  

I am interested to know how many of you teach long vowels and super E in kindergarten.  What other phonics skills do you address?  How much time to do you spend teaching the letters of the alphabet and their sounds?  

The following slides preview the Smartboard activities I created for this week.  They are FREE to download at my TpT store! 
If you do download, please provide feedback!  I'd love to know how I can improve or how they worked for you. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bulletin Board Display and I've been TAGGED!

The following bulletin board display comes from Christie Lamb's Spring Fever Unit on TpT.

The kids had fun writing what they would put inside the easter eggs and where they would hide them if they were the Easter Bunny.  They thought the chicks were so cute!  I love seeing my kids' faces light up when they see their work displayed in the hallway.  I wish I had more bulletin board space, but I make do. :-)

On a completely different topic, I have to share a funny conversation I had with one of my kindergartners today.

Student:  (walks up to my desk with a serious look on her face) Miss Murray...I'm feeling really burned out.

Me:  (pause to take in what she just said) What do you mean by that?

Student:  Well, from being in school so much, for more than 100 days.  It's hard to be in school that long.

Me:  I know, it's hard to be in school for a long time.  But, guess what?  The year is almost over, and then you'll be on summer vacation.  Plus, school is fun!  You get to learn all kinds of new things! (Hoping my little pep talk was enough to satisfy her.)

Student:  Well, will you please just let the nurse decide if I feel good or bad?

This cracked me up!  It was all I could do not to laugh!  Kids say the funniest things!  I thought to myself...girl you don't know what's ahead of you!  

Okay, now I've been TAGGED!  This is the first time I've been tagged and I'm so excited!

Here are the Rules:
* Post these rules.
* Answer the 10 questions that the tagger posted for you.
* Create 10 questions of your own to ask the people that you're about to tag.
* Tag 10 people and link them with your post (and let them know they've been tagged!)

Questions Marie asked me:

1.  What is the one item in your classroom that you could not live without?

I can not imagine living without my Smart Board.  I use it every day, many times throughout the day!  My students complete a Daily Calendar Book each morning as part of morning meeting, and I model how to fill in their books on the Smart board.  I create interactive literacy activities on my Smart Board for literacy centers and whole-group activities.  My students watch the Decorah Bald Eagles every day on the Smart Board.  My list could go on.  I LOVE this amazing piece of technology!

2.  What is the last "teacher book" you purchased?

I recently purchased two math books after attending the Ohio Kindergarten Teachers' Conference and getting some wonderful math ideas from the presenter who swears by the practices in these books.  I plan to spend some time this summer diving into these books and creating the activities in them.  I have already used some of the ideas and they have worked so well with my kinders!

3.  How long have you been blogging?

I've only been blogging for a couple weeks, so I'm a newbie!  I'm still experimenting and learning how to upload my documents and make my posts look cute like all the amazing bloggers I follow!  All of you inspire me!

4.  What is the best teaching advice you have ever received?

The best teaching advice I have ever received is to keep it fun.  Teaching is stressful and tiring and requires a lot of patience, and if you don't keep things fun and exciting, you'll get bored and so will the kids. 

5.  Do you have any big summer plans?

I'm so excited to be attending the 2012 National Kindergarten Teachers Conference in Las Vegas this summer!  My mom is going to come with me and we'll check out all the cool sites while we're there!  I'd love to meet up with some fellow bloggers while I'm there- let me know if you're interested!

6.  What do you give your students at the beginning of the year?  Do you give them a goodie bag?  What's in it?

My students come to school with their parents the night before the first day of school to check out their new classroom and meet me!  I give them all a treasure hunt paper, and they go around the classroom with their parents and search for the items on the page- their table spot, coat hook, attendance chart, etc.  I've never done a goodie bag for the students, but I'd like to do something fun like that for this upcoming school year.  

7.  Do you have plants in your classroom?

No, I would probably forget to water them regularly!  At the beginning of the year I had the students plant their own bean plants inside a wet paper towel in a plastic baggy so they could see the roots as their beans grew.  

8.  Do you remember who YOUR favorite teacher was?  Why were they so memorable?

Yes, I remember my favorite teacher very well.  Her name was Mrs. Ruh and she was my 2nd grade teacher.  In fact, right before I graduated college, I went back to my elementary school to visit her and shadow her for a day.  I wanted to remember what it was that made her my favorite so I could try to be that way for my students.  She was a very nurturing teacher, and I was a sensitive kid, so she eased my nervousness about being at school.  She truly cared about each of her students, and I felt that from her.  She is just the way I remember her!

9.  What is your go-to lunch that you pack for yourself?

Store-bought chicken salad with Ritz crackers, or a Lean Cuisine frozen meal.

10.  What is the hardest part of your job?

I would say two of the most difficult parts of my job are staying organized (I hate when things are out of order, but I haven't quite created my ideal organized classroom yet), and finding enough time to fit in everything I want/need to teach each day.

Ok, now here are my questions!

1. Do you assign homework to your students?  How many days each week and what do you assign?

2. What is your organization system for sending papers between home and school?  Do the students have two-pocket folders, a binder, or something else?  I'm looking for a better approach next year and would love new ideas.

3.  What is your favorite "teacher" book that you've read?

4.  How do you teach sight words to your students?

5.  Do you teach guided reading groups during literacy centers?

6.  What is one way you incorporate technology into your teaching, besides having students use the computer to play a game?  I'm looking for some new unique ideas!  If you don't have anything to share for this, it's ok. :-)

7.  What is one blogging tip/secret you have for a new blogger?

8.  Do you utilize parent volunteers in your classroom?  If so, in what capacity?

9.  Do you teach half-day or all-day kindergarten?  Which do you prefer?

10.  What are your favorite student websites to use with your kids?

Bloggers I'm tagging!

Deeanna @ Golden Gang Kindergarten

Vickie @ Mrs. Plant's Press

Mrs. Blakely @ Kindergarten Tales

Vanessa @ Kinder Love

Katie @ Kindergarten Simplicity

Jennifer @ Herding Kats in Kindergarten

Angela @ The Daily Alphabet

Caitlin @ Kindergarten Smiles

Pam @ Can Do Kinders

Mrs. Kazanjian @ Mrs. Kazanjian's Kindergarten Blog

I'm excited to see what these bloggers have to say!  It's so much fun to share and connect with other teachers! :-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Letter Yy Smartboard Freebie!

This is going to be a quick post, because I need to get to bed, but I wanted to share my latest Smartboard files with you that I've been working on.  Below you will see what the slides look like.

I also created a worksheet to go along with the Consonant Cluster Blends slide that looks just like the Smartboard slide, so students can complete it on the carpet with clipboards while one student manipulates the Smartboard.  If you'd like a copy of it, leave a comments and let me know!  I will upload it as well.

I have lots more to share, and I promise to update tomorrow!  I'm excited because I was tagged by Marie Cote (The Hands On Teacher) from www.cotesclass.blogspot.com to answer some questions and then tag some bloggers to answer my questions!  I will respond to my questions tomorrow. :-) 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Decorah Eagles Journal Freebies

Well...spring break is over for me!  It was nice to have a chance to get a bunch of things done and cross off items on my to-do list, but I missed my kiddos!  I'm excited to find out how many students observed the Decorah Eagles over spring break and if they got to see any of the eaglets hatch!  Scroll down to my first blog post if you need explanation about what the Decorah Eagles are.  Now that the eaglets have hatched, we will be observing them closely on the webcam!  I created an observation journal cover as well as a journal page that I'm going to use with my students.  Here's a screenshot of what they look like.  If you like them, copy the link under each picture into your address bar to download them for FREE at my TpT store!



I've been busy purchasing some new units on TpT for my literacy and math centers, and of course laminating and cutting to get them ready!  I just LOVE all of the amazing activities that are created by some wonderful teachers!  All of you inspire me and get my creative juices flowing!

Here are the awesome center packs I bought recently.  I can't wait to use them in my classroom!

I just LOVE DeeDee Wills' writing work stations!  She creates a new packet for each month, and my students get so excited when a new work station packet is unveiled.  Go to www.mrswillskindergarten.com to get this packet!

 Christie Lamb's Spring Fever unit has the cutest graphics, and many engaging math and literacy games!  The games are challenging and keep kids interested!  She doesn't have a blog, but here's the link to her TpT store.  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Christie-Lamb  

Another download from DeeDee Wills!  www.mrswillskindergarten.com 

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Because I'm starting this blog mid-way through the school year, I wanted to share a preview of something I create each week for my SMART Board, and if I get positive feedback, I'll be more than happy to upload all of the SMART Board lessons I have created for free! :-)

At my school, we still teach one letter each week because many of our kiddos still need to learn their letters and sounds.  As the year continues, we spend less time focusing on the letter, and more time with other phonics skills.  Next year we talked about introducing one letter each week until winter break, and then moving to 2 letters per week. 

On this slide, in the top right corner, there is a link to the Starfall page that teaches letter U, as well as a link to a video on Youtube that teaches letter U.  If you've never checked out the havefunteaching videos for each letter, you should definitely do so.  My kids love them!

At my school, we use The Phonics Dance to teach children the letter sounds, as well as common phonics "hunks and chunks" that children need to learn, such as ch, sh, th, wh, ph, oo, or, ar, ow, ou, ing, ed, etc.  I love this program because each phonics chunk has a chant with hand motions to go along with it, and we recite these every day.  I introduce the phonics chunks whenever it seems appropriate, such as when we learn a new sight word that has one of the chunks.  The slide above is a great way to reinforce the phonics chunks we've learned.  

Each week, I include a relevant poem in my SMART Board slides that we practice each day.  The next week, it goes in the poetry center for my students to glue into their poetry notebooks and illustrate.    

Please leave feedback if you download it and like it.  Let me know if you have any suggestions for me!  I will gladly upload all of my SMART Board documents if anyone is interested. :-)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Decorah Eagles Webcam

I am officially part of the blogging world!  I have been stalking following about 20 Kindergarten blogs throughout the year, and I've been wanting to start one of my own.  Well...spring break has arrived and I finally have time to get one up and running!  Thanks to Kelly from Kelly Avenue Designs, I now have a super cute blog that goes perfectly with the monkey theme I have in my classroom!

To get started, I'll share something that I've been doing with my kinders for the past couple weeks.  I've been hooked on a live webcam of a bald eagle's nest in Decorah, Iowa.  The webcam shows a mom and dad eagle and their 3 eggs that are going to hatch any day now!  I decided it would be a great authentic learning opportunity for my students.  The exciting part will come once the eaglets have hatched, but my kinders have been SO excited about watching it already.  I'll be having my kids create an eagle journal to write their observations in each day, once we get back from spring break.  Here's the link to the live webcam if you're interested!


Do any of you already watch this webcam with your students?  If so, have you created any activities to accompany it?  I'd love to hear your ideas!