Sunday, January 31, 2016

Read Aloud Round-Up: February 2016

Happy Sunday! 
I wanted to quickly share a new monthly blog series that I started tonight over on The Elementary Chalkboard. Each month, I will post some favorite picture book picks and provide some ideas for how to use the read aloud books with your students! :) Fun, right?! Each month's list will include some seasonal selections, a notable nonfiction book, and a character education book. This month, I've included a one page *freebie* printable you can use with the character education book! 
To check out February's list of books, click HERE or on the picture above to head over to The Elementary Chalkboard!

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Language in the Classroom: Reading Integration! (with FREEBIES!)

Today, I am once again linking up with Nicole Allison, from Speech Peeps, to
 continue our series on Language in the Classroom! If you missed our other posts in this series, you can check them out by clicking on the links below:

This series is unique in that Nicole discusses ideas and activities for therapy sessions and small group speech classes, while I am sharing ideas and activities for language in the general education classroom.  This month, we are discussing an important subject for speech and language integration...
Language skills are the foundation for literacy skills! It is no secret that as classroom teachers, we should consistently be implementing language instruction into our classroom lesson plans. Let's take a look at a few ways to integrate language into our general classrooms for literacy skills. Here we go!
I am beyond BLESSED to work in the same building as Nicole from Speech Peeps. To say she is an amazing speech and language pathologist is an understatement. To say she "knows her stuff" when it comes to learning, child development, and language skills is not giving her enough credit.  She's brilliant! She's also as sweet as can be and super inspiring to work with day to day.   Before I met Nicole, I'm going to be totally honest and make a confession:
I didn't really think about the "speech teacher" or feel I had anything in common with her. I thought she was a professional that just sort of showed up in my IEP or ETR meetings and worked strictly with the kids on her caseload. I didn't think there was any way she'd have time to help a regular teacher or be a resource for me. 
WOW, was I wrong!
 AND, I was missing out on a bazillion learning opportunities for my students. 

Invite your Speech and Language Pathologist into your classroom. You AND your students will gain amazing perspectives and skills! 

Last year, I expressed some concerns that were taking place in my classrooms. I had students who were having difficulty explaining their ideas and thoughts at the carpet. They struggled to tell a story or share an idea. Their thoughts were disjointed and their sentences didn't flow or "make sense" at times. This, in turn, was really having a negative effect on their reading comprehension.  Your SLP is quite frankly a "language master" - so don't be afraid to collaborate and ask them questions! Chances are, he or she truly WANTS to work with you and your students. 

Nicole had instant ideas for me that we quickly put into place.  She came into my room and shared a language tool with my kids called the EET or Expanding Expression Tool. The EET is a multi-sensory approach to oral expression, and it really helped some of my struggling kiddos organize their thoughts. You can see Nicole and I holding the EET in the picture above. You can find more information about the EET on their website, by clicking HERE
Why am I sharing this with you?
I never would have known about the EET if I hadn't reached out and collaborated with our remarkable SLP.
Nicole and I also played Headbanz with my students. The kids had to speak in complete sentences and use complete thoughts as they interacted with their peers.

As we started to work on understanding and clarifying our explanations during whole group mini lessons, I started to see an improvement in my struggling students' reading comprehension skills and their ability to participate in discussions about the books we were reading both as a whole class and at the small group table. If you are seeing some speech or language weaknesses in your classroom, I urge you to reach out to your SLP and collaborate on ideas together. The results are worthwhile. :)
Every year, I have a few students in my classroom who come to me on speech IEP's or receive speech intervention.  The SLP pulls them from my room for their therapy session and they come back and join the classroom.  Again, I am airing my dirty laundry here, but I used to not give a great deal of attention to my kiddos' speech goals when I first started teaching.  Now, having had more experience with literacy instruction and definitely knowing more research than I did as a "fresh-out-of-college" graduate, I see how VERY important it is that I am aware of my students' speech and language goals. My students are in my classroom day in and day out - and I should be providing as much help to the SLP with these goals as I can.  I created this very quick "snapshot" page that I use to record the focus sounds and skills my speech students are working on with their SLP. In this way, I can refer to it and help my students on their goals during one-on-one time, small groups, and whenever possible within the whole group classroom setting.  By helping them with their speech and language goals, I am ultimately helping them with their overall reading and literacy goals, too. 

Download this FREEBIE "Speech Spotlight" recording page by clicking HERE or on the picture below:
You know ALL those assessments you give to your students? Those letter-sound assessments, phonics assessments, and even running records are VALUABLE information for your SLP.  If our students are struggling with the /sh/ sound, and have been working with their speech teacher for intervention, it's necessary that we pay attention to that sound on the assessments we give in our classrooms. Why? It helps them and you know if the interventions are working. Sure, they take their own assessments on our students, but we all know that the more data we have the better off we are to make informed decisions. It's also necessary to make sure these students are transferring the skills and growth they are making with the SLP to our general classroom setting - which is, ultimately, a big goal for the child!  If you are noticing a skill or sound a child is struggling with, you can also bring these assessments to your SLP and ask them for advice on how to help the child. 

I have students every year who struggle with the /th/ and /f/ sounds. Last year, Nicole was able to share some quick and easy activities and interventions she uses with her speech students for these sounds. By taking advantage of these ideas, I was able to not only help my students with their speech skills, but I helped them with their READING and WRITING skills as well. Why? It's all CONNECTED. :) If my students are having trouble saying the /th/ and /f/ sounds in their speech, they may also have trouble reading these sounds or they may very likely lack the confidence to read aloud in front of their peers - something I definitely do not want for any of my little sweethearts! :)

Are you in need of some quick, simple phonics assessments that you can use in your classroom to help monitor student growth? You might be interested in my ELA No Prep Assessment Binder! It's packed with lots of assessments from a variety of phonics patterns that will help inform you about the sounds and skills your students' have mastered.

Click HERE to check out the binder, or click any of the two photos below:

When we know what our students need to work on, small group is a perfect time to integrate various skills and instructional activities into our day! I love incorporating speech and language skills into my small groups, because even if the skill is targeting a focus sound that one child in the group is working on....

That's right! Because language and literacy are so closely connected, working on these skills benefits ALL students in my classroom. It strengthens ALL of my students' literacy skills. So, when I discovered a couple of kiddos in my class were struggling with the /th/ and /f/ sounds on their spelling tests and while reading aloud, I whipped up this little game called Thumb & Fish Sound Race!
(Don't judge me on the title of the was a little late when I created this haha!)
Here's how you play:
Cut and laminate the picture cards. A student picks a card and says the name of the picture aloud. Encourage and help the student by modeling the correct placement of the tongue when saying a word that begins with the /th/ sound. Over-exagerate it by sticking your tongue out between your teeth to show the child difference between the /th/ sound, and the /f/ sound, which requires us to touch our teeth to our lips. 

If the child picks and reads a picture that starts with the /th/ sound, he or she moves his counter to the nearest "thumb" picture. If he or she reads a picture with a /f/ sound, the child moves his or her counter to the nearest "fish" picture on the game board  The first child to reach the "FINISH" space WINS! :) 

Download this FREEBIE game by clicking HERE!

This is a simple game that my kids had so much fun with! I also loved it because they were working on some important sound skills. I know it benefited their overall reading, speaking, and writing abilities.  It was also a quick, focused game that we were able to tie into our small group reading lesson during. You can find more little freebie activities such as this one in Nicole's TpT Store by clicking HERE.
This one is an easy one, people! :) We know that the more children read, the better readers they become. The more children write, the better writers they become. So, it makes sense that the more children converse and use their language skills orally in our classrooms, the better speakers and communicators they will be, too!  I always like to remind teachers in my presentations that I give at conferences that there is GOOD noise and there is bad noise. GOOD noise is the sweet sound of children having meaningful discussions with their peers and with their teachers. As general classroom teachers, let's not forget that holding rich discussions using the books we are reading in our classrooms not only boosts comprehension, but it boosts our students' language abilities, too.  Don't be afraid to let your students discuss, share, and exchange ideas.  Engaging, rich discussion boosts overall literacy skills. It helps students comprehend, make connections, analyze inferences, and increase questioning skills.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and feel inspired to embrace those speech and language skills in your own classroom. Don't forget to drop by Nicole's blog to read her side of this topic. She shares how she integrates literacy and language into her therapy lessons and small groups.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

3 Easy Ways To Connect With Your Parents Mid-Year!

This past weekend, I accomplished one of my "blog" resolutions for 2016: I jumped back onto the Periscope wagon! I have not held a broadcast on Periscope since the beginning of the school year - eekk! That is a long time!  In an effort to get back into the Periscope "swing of things," I started a new "series" or "Periscope show" this weekend.  I'm calling it 3,2,1: Tips, Tricks, & Fun!   

So what will this "show" be about? I will be presenting a variety of different topics designed for new teachers, student teachers, and teachers who just want to get back "to the basics."  Quick tips, easy ideas, and simple, "back to basics" tips, tools, and tricks that perhaps some of us have forgotten or brushed under the rug as veteran teachers.  After I complete the Periscope session, I will also blog about the details we discussed right here for you! :)

This weekend's Periscope session gave you three easy ways to connect with parents mid-year.  Here's the re-cap!  
Why are we discussing this topic "mid-year?" So often as teachers, we enthusiastically dive head first into a variety of ways and activities to connect with our families at the beginning of the year.  Your open house looks picture-perfect. The 'get to know me" letter you wrote is neatly typed and printed on cute, colorful paper.  You have set up your newsletter and entered each family's address into your e-mail group carefully. You are ready to make meaningful connections!

And happens. Suddenly, your overwhelmed with paperwork, classroom management, lesson planning, meetings, and conferences.  In the midst of it all, our relationships with parents can easily slip away and be somewhat "rushed" or "forgotten." January is the perfect month to regroup and remind yourself how important it is to keep those connections with parents alive and strong.  
 At the beginning of the year, I set out empty envelopes on my open house table. I ask parents to self-address the envelopes and place them in a pile.  Then, I put a stamp on each envelope and place them on my desk.  Throughout the year, I grab a few envelopes and jot a quick, positive reinforcement note to parents about their child.  "Johnny is doing a fantastic job on his spelling tests this month. I'm SO proud of him! He's rocking first grade!"
That, my friends, is all it takes to make a parent smile and feel good! In this world we live in, filled with so much digital technology, we can't deny that a personal, handwritten note from a teacher is SO special! It can mean so much more than any email or text you could send. 

If you have not gathered envelopes from your parents yet, I encourage you to sit down one evening this month and write the addresses of each family. :)  Place stamps on the envelopes and set them out on your desk.  Then, grab a few each week and start to make your parents SMILE! :)
 Do you use Class Dojo, Remind, or Twitter for your classroom?  If you do, I'm challenging you to let your families and students catch a tiny glimpse of your personal life once in awhile! Of course, let me remind all new teachers that this needs to be done in a PROFESSIONAL way. For example, sharing a nice picture of your family or a family pet is a wonderful way to accomplish this task!  Above is an example of a picture of my dog that I sent out to my families via Class Dojo during Winter Break.  The photo caption states: "Merry Christmas to all of my first graders and families! We hope you are having a wonderful day." Then, I had typed my name and the dog's name, too! This idea seems simple and silly, but your parents need to know that you are relatable and that they can see you both as a teacher and a human who loves their child and has their best interest at heart!
So often, parents WANT to feel needed and included in volunteer opportunities within your classroom. However, many work third shift or have family demands that simply don't allow for classroom visits and school hours. For parents who cannot come into school, help them feel needed by offering and asking for volunteer tasks they can complete at home! It helps you AND the parents!  One example of this is to ask parents to cut out lamination at home and return it to school. 

Another idea is to start a Pencil Pal Club! I have parents sign up and volunteer to sharpen pencils at home and return the bag to school.  It helps me tremendously because neither I nor my students waste instructional time sharpening pencils during our school day. It also helps my parents feel included and a part of our classroom "team." If you would like to grab your own FREE Pencil Pal printables, along with an *editable* copy of the Pencil Pal letter to send home with your parents, you can find them by clicking HERE or on the picture above. 

And those, my friends, are my three easy tips for connecting with parents mid-year! I hope you found these easy tips or simple reminders encouraging and helpful! I can't wait to bring you more 3,2,1: Tips, Tricks, & Fun topics and ideas! 

Be sure to follow me on Periscope to catch my live broadcasts!
You can find me on Periscope @missdecarbo
Until next time-

Happy Learning,

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Our Snow Theme Week! An Integrated Week of Learning Fun!

Good Morning! I am so excited to be in Columbus, Ohio today for the SDE Ohio I Teach K Kindergarten Conference! I can't wait to meet lots of passionate teachers and share ideas and resources for science, writing, small group reading, and comprehension instruction.  I'll be back this weekend with pictures and a conference recap.

Today, I'd love to share what we did in my classroom during our "Snow Theme Week." Ohio did not let me down last week during our learning activities - we had lots of snow and plenty of COLD weather!  Here's a little peek into our week!
First, we gathered our schema together and brainstormed what we already knew about snow, ice, and of course - SNOW DAYS!  It turns out that we have A LOT of things we love to do on our snow days! We also worked on our inference skills using the fabulous Babbling Abby's Inferencing Investigators unit.  I use this unit every year and it is always a hit with my kids.  If you haven't checked this out, it's a must!
Do you know of this book?! Please tell me you have read this book! The Snow Glob Family is the cutest little story about a little family who lives in a snow globe.  We used this book as the kick-off for our snowy week narratives.  In the story, the little family wishes for a snow storm.  When the snow globe falls off the mantel one day, the little family gets their wish! 
After reading the book together, it was time to plan our own Snow Globe narrative stories.  We started by drawing what would happen in the beginning, middle, and end of our stories.  I think it's SO important to let kids use their artistic creativity to plan out their stories before expecting them to write.  They did a great job drawing detailed, engaging stories about their snow globe families.
Next, they got together with a partner and practiced orally telling their story to a friend. Of course, they had to speak in complete sentences and tell the story as if they were writing the book for their planning page. This strategy eliminates "writer's block" for many students. The students know exactly where to go when their pencil hits the paper!
We used Krista Wallden's cute, cute snow globe clip art set to decorate snow globes for the "toppers" of our narrative stories.  My firsties were thrilled to add cotton balls for snow to their illustration.  Oh to be seven again and be excited about cotton balls, right?! :) 
The kids did an awesome job on their narrative writing pieces! Many of them have started to add great detail to their stories.

Our snowy fun did not end with our writing activities. Now, it was time to build some snow houses for our Marshmallow Engineering Challenge! This is a great little STEM activity that you can use in your classroom. It is always a hit! The Snow House Challenge is simple: Design a "snow house" out of marshmallows and toothpicks. The catch? The house has to survive a big wind and snow storm the following day - so you'd better make it strong!! We had a lot of discussion about what characteristics would make a strong house versus a weaker house. I was LOVING the "science dialogue" my kids were engaged in!
First, they designed the blueprint for their snow house in their science notebooks.
I just love their little illustrations!
Then, it was BUILDING DAY! You literally looked like it had snowed in my classroom. If you could have only seen the amount of marshmallows that had rolled onto our classroom floor during our engineering day LOL!  It's okay though, because their beautiful little brains were busy and thinking, right?! :) I was loving it!

They had to make a prediction about whether or not they thought their house would survive the snow and wind storm the following day. We talked about the different reasons for their houses "surviving" the storm.
Finally, it was CHALLENGE TEST day! I brought in my not-so-powerful hair dryer, plugged it in, and started to blast their little snow houses with air.  Cue lots of delighted squeals and shrieks.  I wish I had a video of our hair dryer moment.  Some kids were holding their partners hand in anticipation, waiting to see if their house would not tip over or fall apart.  Others had their fingers crossed, and one little guy whispered, "Oh please, God, just let my snow house not cave in." LOL #meltmyheart
That afternoon is now on my list of:
Top 10 Cutest Classroom Moments Ever!
GREAT news! All of the snow houses survived the storm.
Yay!!! It was a great day in first grade!
Do you want to try this activity out in your own classroom? You can grab the above pack for FREE in my TpT store by clicking on the cover page above or clicking HERE.
We used my See Think Wonder Write pack to brainstorm and learn even more "snowy" facts!  In the picture below, I pulled up the photograph of icicles for that day's See, Think, Wonder, Write activity.  Many of the students thought the picture was one of frozen dinosaur bones haha. We completed the week with additional "snowy" photographs from the pack, including a glacier, a close up of a snowflake, and an iceberg.  I love the integration of science and writing!  You can check out this complete pack in my TpT store by clicking on the photo above or clicking HERE.

Here is a list of additional snow-themed books we read and enjoyed throughout our week:

We also learned about Chester Greenwood and additional "snowy" animals in our Winter Interactive Writing Passages notebook during our small groups. 
Of course, a week in our classroom is not complete without lots of SINGING! :) 
My January Just Print Fluency Pack contains five adorable winter songs. We love filling up our room with the cheerful, happy sound of singing!  
Thanks for stopping by to learn about all of the fun we had during our Snow Week.
I'm so glad my kids had a blast last week, but please don't tell them I'm already looking forward to some sunny summer days. ;) 

Happy Learning,

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My One Little Word: Love

2015 held some of most wonderful and cherished moments and memories of my life so far. It would be easy to look back on my photographs from the past year and feel a sense of sadness that it had to come to a close. However, I know that one of the great beauties of life is that it does not go backwards - it goes forward - and God has some amazing plans for the future!  Today, I'd like to share my "One Little Word" (or OLW) for 2016 with you, and share my hopes and plans for living out this word to the fullest in my professional and personal life.

The word I chose for 2016 is love. This powerful little word is the exact word I want to describe all areas of my life this year. We are grateful for the love we easily feel in our sunniest and most cherished moments in life. In our moments of sadness, weakness, or challenge, love is the word that brings us back and keeps us strong.  It is truly a word that deserves our attention and focus! :) 

School Life: The Love of Learning
As busy teachers, it's so easy for us to get wrapped up in the chaos and hectic schedules of our jobs.  We have report cards comments to write, conferences to schedule, reports to read, data to collect, assessments to grade. Oh, and I did I mention teach?! ;)
This year, let's make it a priority to stop and slow down every morning before that first bell rings.  Let's remind ourselves that above all the paperwork, the data, and the lesson plans, our students need to first feel love. Let's keep in mind that it's perfectly acceptable to throw that worksheet into the recycling bin and use that extra 10 minutes to sit on the floor with our kids and sing, dance, chant, laugh, chat, and love them. They are the reason we walked into our first education class in college. Let's be sure to remember that our love for kids and our love for those precious little people we are helping to grow are the reason we open our classroom doors every morning. <3 

Blogging Life: The Love of Our Profession
Six years ago, I felt pretty alone in the teaching world.  I had transferred schools. I was finding my place again in a new building, a new staff, a new school culture. I was just three years out of college, and I was thirsty to learn, grow, and push myself as a new educator. But I had left my colleagues behind at my old school, and instead of the first grade teacher across the hall whom I chit chatted with 100 times a day, there was nothing but a brick wall across from my new second grade door.  So, I started this little blog. And suddenly, I felt pure love and passion again as a teacher. :)  When I found out I was pregnant early this school year, my little blog was one of the first things I neglected. Not intentionally - but when "morning sickness" sets in around 2:00pm every day, running to the computer to blog about a new sight word idea is the last thing your body is telling you to do. ;)  Part of my New Year's Resolution is to write more blog posts for y'all! :) Sharing ideas and resources with teachers - with YOU -  is truly a love of mine! <3

Personal Life: Slowing Down to Cherish Those I Love
Ahh....this one is my most important resolution this year!
I have always been a go, go, go person. I'm constantly running from one task to the next. I have always found myself rushing off from one event to another, and signing up for more "committees" and "extra jobs" than I truly  had time for. (Do you know someone like this? Are YOU that person, too?) This year, I'm dedicated to slowing down so that I can cherish God's love and my family's love. Sometimes, I think we are so busy and rushed, that we don't slow down to appreciate all of the love around us. God has so beautifully blessed us with the gift of pregnancy and a little bundle that we can't wait to meet!  I can't even imagine all of the love we will feel when we get to meet him!  This year, I will take time to push aside "to-do" lists. I will say "no" to extra events that take me away from family time, and I will be okay if something has to wait until the following day to be completed - because we will be right here, loving this little bundle, and loving God for his beautiful blessing! <3

I have so many exciting plans and ideas for this blog in 2016! I have a list of teaching tricks, tips, and teaching goodies to share with you. I have pictures to show you, books to recommend, and strategies to send your way. I have Periscopes to plan (Yes, I am determined to get back on there and hang out with you all!), products to help you prepare, and Facebook chats to collaborate.  It's going to be a GREAT year! Please be sure to follow me not only through my blog, but on my social media channels at the top right corner of my blog, so that you do not miss out on all that this coming year has to offer for your teaching journey in 2016! 

Thank you for reading my "one little word" commitment for this New Year. :) What is your One Little Word for this year? Share it with us below in the comments. I always read every single one and I LOVE to hear from you! <3

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Updated FREEBIE Brain Break Cards & Celebration Sale

Happy New Year my friends!
I can't believe we are about to ring in 2016.

To help you celebrate, I've updated my Brain Break Party Cards {FREEBIE} with 2016 clip art - YAY! These are super fun to use.  Just cut out and place in a jar.  When your kids are in need of a brain break, you can pull out a card and have a kiddo scan the QR code to reveal the brain break to the class!  The breaks are easy-cheesy and only last a minute or two.  These would be a fun way to mix things up and celebrate the New Year on your first day back from winter break!

I've also included the same cards without QR codes if you are lazy like I am and don't always want to scan something do not have access to a QR scanner! ;)
To grab these cards for your classroom, click HERE or click on the picture below to download them for FREE from my TpT store.

While you're in my store today (or tomorrow, when you're lounging around all day in your PJ's like I will be!), enjoy 15% off EVERYTHING in my shop! It's a great time to stock up on some resources that you may need for the month of January!
Click HERE or click on the button below to check out this quick, two day sale!

I've posted my WINTER Edition Interactive Reading Passages - YAY!!
Today is a great day to grab this new pack because of this special 15% New Year Sale! :)
I'll be back later this week to blog more about these passages and how I use them in my classroom.  These paired passages are perfect for small groups, RTI, and mini lessons!
Click HERE to check it out or on the cover pic below.

I'll be back this week with a little FREEBIE passage for you and some information on vocabulary and context clues in the classroom! :) 
For now, I am headed to the grocery store to stock up on some yummy snacks for New Year's Eve tonight and make a (pathetic) attempt at a couple Pinterest recipes. ;)