Dance Party....Classroom Style!

I {heart} using music in the classroom. I really do. Now don't get me wrong...I can't sing. Oh no.. but I can download songs or upload CDs to this little guy pretty well.....

Last year I got this boom box from Donor's Choose!!  How awesome is that? Luckily, I had a random iPod on hand and I loaded it up for the classroom. My favorite part is that this thing comes with a remote control. I just wish the remote control had more options on it... I still sometimes find I have to walk over {Yes... actually walk over to the CD player... how lazy do I sound.... but you know, when you are working with a group or are just busy... it's nice to have the remote option!}

So I thought I would share my favorites....

These aren't in any particular order... I mean, how can you choose just one favorite?!

First up.....Justin Timberlake... oh yeah, this is for the classroom....

Okay...first up is Greg and Steve. Love them... I want to take my class to one of their concerts this year...never done it, but heard a neighboring school I am all over that now!  These are my two favorite editions {2 and 5 if you can't see them} of the We All Live Together CDs, but they are all great.

This Frog Street Press Colors CD is possibly my most favorite... but I already know I am going to say that about ten more times in this post.
A. I start the year with a colors and getting to know each other theme and we play these color songs every day! I even do a "Color Concert" for the parents at the end of this unit... they {both parents and the kids} love it!
B. See my name on there... oh, that's because everyone wants to borrow this thing.
C. I bought this CD when I was student teaching and heard my master teacher playing it...that was in 1998... so it's safe to say I have this CD memorized.

So while we are on the 1998 student teaching part of my life... let me share this baby:

OK for you newer teachers out there...this is called a tape. So maybe I took it too far and I have since bought this as a CD, but c'mon the tape makes for a much better picture and I just can't toss it for some nostalgic reason.

These songs are a bit "hokey" but kinders love that... and so do the bigger kids. I love using the continents song when we are doing mapping. There are also state songs {it's broken up into regions such as the Eastern Border of the United States} on here that I had my 5th graders sing .... and my kinders like them too.

No, kindergarteners aren't required to know all 50 states, but they love music and if it's on in the background while they are working.... guess what, they will learn most of their states. But if you like a little more a rock-n-roll feel, this one may not be for you. Otherwise if you click {here} you can download all or just some of these songs.

Next up is Raffi. I mean, it could be illegal to run a classroom {at least kindergarten} without Raffi, right? These are the only two CDs I own by him... I'm sure I need more.
Favorites on here...hmm, I guess, "Down by the Bay," "Must be Santa," and of course, "Willoughby Wallaby Woo." Those are just the ones that come to mind at this moment.

Oh how I love me some Heidi songs! L.O.V.E. I was even more thrilled when I got to meet Heidi last spring at the O.C. Blogger Meet Up! I have more of her sight word CDs than are shown. Actually, they are a staple part of my sight word instruction. You can read more about that {here}
But even though those sight word songs are amazing, my favorite Heidi purchase has to be the Language Arts song CD {which I bought with the blacklines} You need this in your life. The Halloween song, the Snowman Song, Seasons, Farm and the Zoo... Oh My!

About two years ago I went to the Handwriting Without Tears training... for Pre-K Readiness and the K-5 handwriting training. Then I went back for the Print Tool Workshop... so needless to say, they had me at Hello! It's a great program.
I use their CDs for certain songs, but I always say I need to explore and try out more of the music on these CDs. A favorite of my kiddos is the Rock n Roll version of "Where do you Start your Letters." {Just click HERE to hear a portion of the song} Another good one is "Sliding Down to the End of the Alphabet."

Then there is "Quiet Music." When my kiddos hear me play either of these two CDs they know it is quiet working time. I don't use these often... so it doesn't lose it's pizazz... and little kinders shouldn't be quiet most of the time... but once in a while these are playing and I don't have to ask them to be quiet, they know... if the Quiet Music is on, it's time to be quiet.
The CD on the left is a random purchase from Bed Bath and Beyond... you know how there is that display case playing music of a stream or random jungle sounds or something. Well one time for whatever reason I bought this is just soothing music, not sounds of nature, and it has worked magically for the quiet CD. Baby Mozart you can get anywhere (as in just download it) or I know Lakeshore carries it.

We have a short nap/relax time for the beginning of the school year right when we come in from lunch. It helps them calm down and make that transition back to the it's a long day in September for these little friends.

I call this time "Music Appreciation" and we focus on the music of a particular composer. I will even read a brief history about the composer and show them some pictures of the person and some of the instruments being used. They love seeing a harpsichord because it is new for them! {Thank you Johann Sebastian Bach}

I guess this is also like Quiet Music time except they are on rest mats. I have downloaded a few tracks {and the great thing with classical music is one track can be 10 minutes long.} BUT I have also bought CDs at garage sales for a quarter.... I buy them, upload them and add that composer to our list.

Look at these random CDs:

And somehow Hap Palmer and Dr. Jean's CDs are missing...don't worry they are on the iPod. Click on either of their names to go to their sites. I love all of Hap's nursery rhyme songs. And we sing Dr. Jean's Zero the Hero song every ten days of school. In fact, I just found a free Zero the Hero download that matches the song {Here.}

Honestly, I could keep going. I love music and I am always amazed how much the kids learn as they sing. I love to use music for signals- like the clean up song, transition time or the quiet music. If a song has a direction attached to it, you don't have to talk nearly as much. There is so much to be said about the importance of rhythm and rhyme in the school day... not just in kindergarten... music wakes the brain up and helps make school FUN!

Music is a powerful tool.

Please share any other great artists or songs you know of... I love adding to my music library!

Guest Blogging and Clipboard Making

Today is a very exciting day! I am doing my first gig as a guest blogger. And lucky me... it is on one of my favorite blogs... Apples and ABC's. Sweet Michelle is just on her way home for a European vacation and the funny part is we are like two ships crossing in the the saying goes... since I will be Euro bound in just 48 hours!

So hop on over to Michelle's blog {just click on her button above} so you can read my post about how to make fun mini clipboards for your students. But before you go... here is a sneak peak:

And don't worry... just because I am in Europe doesn't mean I won't be posting.. I have many posts coming your way.

Happy Sunday!


Throwback Thursday... Takin' It Way Back

OK so I am going to try something new. Last week I posted about my teaching exchange that I did in 2004. I have had such a positive response to this and so many questions that I thought... I will do a little throwback to this time in my life for the month of August and today...which I realize is still July.

Basically I am going to share group emails and posts from my website from that time....oh yeah... I searched through so many files to find some of the highlights, embarrassing stories and teaching differences between here and there.....

So today is a throwback to September 2004. The start of my new school year of teaching 1st grade {Year 2} in Hereford, England:

O.K. I am continuing my Hereford 101 class…

I will pick up where we left off!  So, first off is some good news. The daily cake thing in the lounge has let off.  Did I tell you they were bringing in cake every single day?  And I think it was in my honor, but honestly, this girl can't have cake daily. Now it seems we are down to just tea, coffee and some digestive biscuits.  Yes, there is a cookie called the digestive biscuit.  Let's discuss how everyone has several cups of either tea or coffee per day and people will walk to classrooms to ask if you would like a cup.  Holy hospitality! Sidenote: They drink instant coffee! Luckily, I see workmen looking busy at my future Starbucks site. Work fast guys!

I have actually been teaching this week. They are very cute with their accents and uniforms. I think I have a great class- however, there are the usual suspects!  Namely,  S#1 (as in Suspect #1)  told me on the first day of school that I reminded him of the one-eyed  monster in Monsters Inc.  I just replied, "Thank you, I have always wanted  to be in a movie!" That quieted him down for a while because it wasn't the response he was expecting. 

One of them told me at the end of the day that she was worried all  summer that she wouldn't be able to understand me- she reports now that - it's okay! Overall, I am very, very happy with this sweet group.

On the first day of school they had to draw a picture of themselves- I suggested drawing themselves in a new dress, or for the boys in a new shirt and pants.  They giggled.  Weird...I thought, but moving on.... Later when I told Emily (my new teacher friend) that I had found a $20 bill in my pants that I can't use here- she told me that pants are underwear.  So Emily thinks I may be a stripper on the side and the children think I want them to draw themselves with no clothes- this could become a problem....trousers, I need to remember to say "trousers!"  Let me tell you what an eraser is called here- a rubber.  So several times a day I have children saying- I can't find a rubber, my rubber isn't working…. not much else to say about that.

Just for the record- there have been several spiders found in our classroom.  Sadly I make a 6 year old child (who does volunteer) deal with that- hey, as you all know, I have plenty to deal with at home!

I walked by some of the older children and heard them say- she is just so cool when she talks. So I have a fan club.  I will be signing autographs at recess- so pretty much that is the same as in the states. (wink, wink!)

As for the traveling part- Cardiff was great- most of you have heard about it.  This weekend I am supposed to go somewhere with my new fellow American teaching friend, but I may just stay here and recover from the first week.  Below is a picture of  us at Buckingham Palace last week.... and hopefully I will be back to London the following weekend.....

{2013 note: I was traveling with another teacher who I no longer keep in contact with so I thought I shouldn't use photos of her without permission}

Click HERE to keep on reading and see Throwback Thursday: Teaching Abroad Edition 2!

Classroom Numbers and a Quick Organizational Tip

So this is the project I have been busy with lately:

It was inspired by this Pinterest find:
Thank you to Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy who is the source of this pin... although they say they found it on Pinterest too!

Ok so it is genius, right? On a future post I will be explaining how I made my "Class List in a Frame"... not that it is that tricky.... but stay tuned :)

But this thing will help save our 'lil old Earth of ours. My plan is to have three of these babies (currently only one has been made!)

This is what I have been using forever:
OK so I don't usually aggressively cross out each name when using these check offs... just keeping their names on the down low... but please don't think I have anger management issues. Now I have a big, fat stack of these puppies. I type it up in September {cross my fingers my class list doesn't change too much throughout the year} and run off about 100....or more. It is a regular 8 1/2 11 (or A4) paper cut in half.

What do I use them for?.....ahh everything! When doing a craft or handprint art I cross off each child as they come to the center. When doing an assessment I may write the score for each child next to their name to make the inputting on the computer go faster later AND I know who is done being assessed. I tape one of these puppies inside the cupboard near my clip chart and tally every time a child ends their day at the very top of the chart {those sweet friends who end up on the very bottom are recorded in more detail in another place.} For homework, for permission slips, for who has had a turn on the computer... and I could go on and on!

The ONLY thing I didn't like about this plan....was the amount of paper used... but that was why I tried to use each sheet twice as shown in the picture above in black and green (or even three times.) That is also why I want different colored pens for my framed version... what if you aren't ready to erase one check off before starting another? It makes me smile to think of the paper I will be saving.... but I will probably still keep a small stack of paper check offs on hand.

Notice each child has a number by their name! I think most people already use student numbers... but just in case... here's my thoughts on it all.

I assign the students a number in September and use it all year.  The idea is from Rick Morris and he has so many practical ideas to make your organization and management run better. I have seen him present multiple times and every time I leave with a new great idea.

Back to the numbers... I don't want you to think I am like the DMV or the post office and solely use numbers all day like the kids are robots or machines... that is no fun and no way to run a kinder {or any} classroom. That being said, the numbers help with EVERYTHING.

When I taught older grades I even had numbers for the behavior clip chart:
1. I can use the same clips every year
2. It can make the chart more discreet which I think can be more appropriate in some grades. Have you ever had a parent tell you that their child has come home and reported who moved their clip where? Well, this cuts down on this.

In kinder we are working on recognizing our names and statistically I think we have a better chance of them finding their name rather than a numeral they may never have seen before.

I also think that Rick Morris may have suggested the check off list be solely numbers... but I have parents and other people that use the check off lists and they won't know who has which number. Plus these little check offs help ME to learn all the numbers, too. {Quick Sidenote: The more you commit to the number thing the faster you'll learn the numbers... if you do it only half way you will never learn them and hate this whole plan.}

This little jar is a gem.... I use this puppy to call on students or play games. It is right up front and I use it daily:
{Just bought this can at the Target Dollar Spot}

Numbers facing up is for when I want a bit more "control" over my random choice and numbers facing down...well, you get the idea.

That's it for today... I will give you the low down on how I made the "Class List in a Frame" soon!

Ten Things I've Learned From Teaching

So I had told myself just yesterday I was going on a diet. Not a real diet (although after Vegas its not a bad idea)..... but a linky diet. I love linky parties {too much!!} but  I have all these other ideas I want to share, so I said I would be linky-free for a while. You know how that goes...when you say no more brownies, but then somehow a brownie finds its way into your hands the next day. Same thing here... because I HAVE TO be part of this linky...
A. I {heart} Miss Kindergarten
B. I love this linky

So here we go...10 Things I've learned from teaching hosted by the lovely Miss Kindergarten. Warning: She said "the funnier, the better" but I have a feeling I may be sneaking in some serious ones too.

1. It's Okay to say, "I don't know." 

I don't know everything and I think it is okay to say so in certain situations. I think when I started teaching I was so worried about being this all knowing being in their eyes. Don't get me wrong, you need to exude confidence and knowledge most of the time...but I think it is good to show them you are human.

2. Music is the key.

I would always say I wish I lived my entire life to a soundtrack like in the movies...for example: The opening scene of Definitely, Maybe with Ryan Reynolds {LOVE that movie}  Even as I am grabbing some cereal in the market or watering plants... or doing anything... I wish I had a soundtrack that was always choosing appropriate tunes.  It makes life happier...or scarier.... or more sad....but life is amplified with music. And I believe music in the classroom is the same... it can be powerful. I actually have a blog post coming soon all about music.

3. Our bodies are made to move!

This ties in with #2 but our bodies are made to move, jump, run and be active... not just when we are in elementary school... all the time. These office jobs and life styles of the modern person lead to a lot of sitting still...but all of us need to get that blood pumping and move! I am not even talking about exercise... I mean that is under the same umbrella here, but it's a whole different conversation. The longer I have taught the more and more I see the importance of movement. I try to get my kiddos up and active as much as possible.

4. Make fun of yourself!

If you don't...someone else will. I think in my first few years of teaching that I took myself way too seriously. I guess as you are learning you are nervous about messing up and you want to do well...right? Now as I am approaching year 15 I am okay with laughing at myself......oh, and there is plenty to laugh at.

5. Walk Away.... It will be there tomorrow!

Does this happen to you?  Every time I am about to grab my keys to go home I find another project or thing I "must" do.  Stop it! I have learned this, but still need help implementing it. Just leave, go home - it will be waiting for you tomorrow! And these aren't things I need to teach the next day - it's always all those other random things that just accumulate or at 4:00pm I decide to reorganize my classroom library. Stop it!!

6. It takes a village.

You are not an island ...even though it can feel that way being in your classroom alone most of the day. Be sure to thank the custodian and office and all the others at your school who help. You couldn't do it without them. Same thing about the other teachers... help each other, work together. Sometimes I feel people think this is a competition - uh, no...we all have the same goal here let's do it together!

7. Get your hair done

Here's my funny one Miss Kindergarten... but seriously... get your hair done, have cute clothes and feel good about yourself. Why does this make my top 10? Because:
A. The kids may not know the difference between a "w" or an "m" but they notice when I am rocking the no make-up, I just rolled out of bed isn't pretty {at this time I remember Rule #4 above} I have had them ask me, "What is wrong with you today?"
B. I believe when you feel good about you then you are happier and it will rub off on the little guys.
It isn't a fashion show, but I do think there is something to be said for this.... and Sidenote: This is another one that I know... but don't always DO!

8. Sleep

If I have slept a full night's sleep I am more likely to say, "Oh sweetie, remember we have to roll the glue stick down before putting the lid on. Let me show you." If I was up on Pinterest all night and went to bed at 3:00am it may sound more like, "How many times have I gone over how to roll down a glue stick?" So you see... sleep is good...or at least don't skip your morning coffee.  It isn't their fault I'm a pin-a-holic!

9. Find the good in every child

OK so let's be real... there is always one ...or more friends who I call the "usual suspects" ...who really give you a run for your money. It's like they learn how to push your buttons and have done extensive research on what makes you tick! How do they do that? I have TRIED to always find the endearing and good in them. Not just surface characteristics, but I take the time to put myself in their shoes - what is their home life all about? What makes them act like they do? I honestly feel that this insight helps me to build a relationship of respect and helps both the child and me {and the parents.}

10. Change is good!

People like the same thing...even me. I have two orders I get at Starbucks... that is all. I eat the same Weight Watchers frozen lunch several times a week {just ask any teacher at my school and they know the Chicken Enchilada Suiza is mine} but I try to change it up in my class. If you deliver the same lesson in the same way every year you get stale... you may not realize it, but you do.

Don't get me wrong... I use last year's plan book to guide my planning {but not just write in the same's a jumping off point!} AND I have my favorites that I do every year because they are near and dear to my heart. But other stuff I CHANGE! Plus, you learn about yourself when you change!!

Change can be scary... but it is okay. A while ago I went from first grade to fifth grade. What?!?! I was so nervous I can't even tell you!! And the short ending is I LOVED 5th grade and stayed for four years. And now I am back in kinder and one day {not yet I hope} I want to move again.

I know we are supposed to have 10...well I sometimes break the rules (That could be on this list too!)
but #11 is short and sweet.

Smile, relax and enjoy! We have a great job as teachers...don't let the other things get in the way of why you are in this profession.

Link up with Miss Kindergarten too! And if you don't have a blog I would LOVE for you to share some things you have learned in the comments below!!


Kindergarten Teachers Take Over Vegas!

I had so much fun at the I Teach K Conference earlier this week. The BEST part was putting voices to all the people I have met through blogging.

On night #1 my hubby and I went out to dinner with Hadar from Miss Kindergarten and Kristin from A Teeny Tiny Teacher. And if you want to laugh you can read Kristin's break down of the whole evening {Kristin's link}. Here we are after eating dinner at a place literally called "A Hole in the Wall" which was suggested by a taxi driver.
That's me {in some weird lean over pose?}, Kristin and Hadar.

Day 2 included some pool time. We had a the Venetian. How fancy is that?
Top row: Melissa from Lesson Plan SOS, Kristin from A Teeny Tiny Teacher and Hadar from Miss Kindergarten Bottom Row: Stephanie from Falling into First and me! {The photographer is Kelley from Teacher Idea Factory}

Sadly this is the only picture I have from that.... and let me be honest, when I say "we" had a cabana... what I really mean is that Kelley from Teacher Idea Factory, Stephanie from Falling into First and Melissa from Lesson Plan SOS were the cabana coordinators who graciously allowed me and Mr. Crayons and Whimsy to join them.

That night was the blogger meet up....again... wasn't too good about taking pictures {don't ask!} So I snagged a few of these from What the Teacher Wants. Rachelle and Natalie were the hostesses of this event and they did an ah-mazing job! Unlike me, Natalie was great about taking pictures so if you go to their Facebook page or blog you'll see a ton more...including Deanna Jump with Elvis! We were in Vegas so what did you expect?
Whoa there... that's a full house of bloggers and followers!

These are all the bloggers at the meet up! Holy cow that is a lot of fun in one place. Can you see me? It's ok... I can barely see me...but I am dead center under Deedee Wills and behind Hadar.

Here is me, Rachelle from What the Teacher Wants, Melissa from Lesson Plan SOS and Kelley from Teacher Idea Factory.  If you are wondering how did I get in a picture with all these ladies... the answer is, I'm not sure, but it was AWESOME to meet them!

Did I mention there were prizes. Oh yes, there were! And we had a HOT table because there were so many winners :)
 Here is me, Krisin and Hadar when we found out we won! 
Kristin and me!

Then a bunch of us went to dinner together and it was so fun to get to know everyone better.
Back row: me, Melissa from Lesson Plan SOS, Stephanie Falling into First, Kelley at Teacher Idea Factory, Tania from Journey of a Substitute Teacher
Bottom Row: Hadar from Miss Kindergarten and Kristin from A Teeny Tiny Teacher

And last good byes... we have Kelley, Stephane and me... and apparently Michael Jackson made the shot too!

Next thing I knew people were off and it was done...what? I want more time with these awesome new friends! But, I got to hang out with this guy {who luckily hit off with Mr. Teeny Tiny and Mr. Kindergarten who he spent most of his time with so it was nice to have one night with him}
It was F.U.N.
Stop by What the Teacher Wants to hear about everyone else's trip.

I hope to be back there for the 2014 shenanigans! I hope you can make it there too!

Favorite Pins Friday

Last night I got home from The I Teach K Conference in Vegas. Oh my... it was fun... I hope to share that with you all soon. Today I am linking up for the first time for Cara Carroll's Favorite Pins Friday.

I love this ribbon word wall idea from Asheigh's Education Journey... the best part is that this adorable word wall is up and ready to go in her room already. I love all the color and I love the idea of clipping the words on with clothespins! Easy....and cute.

I also love these letter tubs from Momma's Fun World. A. adorable and B. Very organized. Now she bought the tubs, but I am thinking there is some salsa I buy that comes in this exact same tub. I mean, how long will it take me to eat 26 tubs of salsa? Right? If you go to Momma's website she gives the link to get these labels, too. I have something similar to this already in gross paper bags that are all crumpled up... this is so much better.

I love this one from Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy  because it will save the Earth from so many pieces of paper that I use just to cross off student names. Hello...why haven't I seen this pin sooner? All you need is a class list, a frame {just saw some perfect for this at Ikea} and a Vis-a-Vis marker.

Now people... this next one is so not on the diet it isn't even funny... but I want one of these raspberry cheesecake popsicles now!! Not sure I'll be able to make these... as in I really think it may be too difficult for my ability in the kitchen... but we will see.

And another "not for the classroom pin".... if you read my last post or if you know me you know this sums it up. Right now my fingers are crossed to get a good trip in before summer ends...
 {This quote I love is anonymous and this image was uploaded to Pinterest by Kakai B...this is as close as I can get to an original link for this one}

That's it my friends...short and sweet today.

Thanks for stopping by. Hop on over to The First Grade Parade to see some other great pins.

Teaching Abroad... Just. Do. It.

I have been reminiscing lately about my teaching abroad experience. I think it has been on my mind as one of my friends is getting ready to move to South America for four months..... It was the scariest, hardest, most exciting and best experience I ever had. I want EVERY teacher person to live abroad, hence why I felt it necessary to borrow Nike's slogan...but c'mon ... Just do it!

Let me back up. In the fall of 2003...yes that long ago... I applied to the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. Just to see what would come of it. I never expected to get an interview... I did. I didn't expect anything, but next thing I knew in the summer of 2004 I flew to Washington D.C. to meet the teacher I was exchanging with and to meet all the fellow Americans getting ready to hit up classrooms around the world.

From there I was off to England... let's be honest a big chunk of us were off to England because of our lack of a second language. But we weren't close to each other...once you were in the U.K. it was every teacher for themselves. Now if you read this blog often you know I am a big traveler...that's now... but then I had been to only Canada and Mexico. I got on that plane hoping my new "head master" (aka principal) would be at Heathrow Airport holding a sign with my name on it. She was.

We drove the 3 1/2 hours to the small town of Hereford where I was to teach "Year 2" which is first grade at St. Thomas Cantilupe Primary School. It was such a different life. Now some of it wasn't different because it was England vs. America... plenty of it WAS because of the difference in culture, but it was also different because Hereford is a small town and I had never lived in a small town, regardless of the country. And it was a Church of England school and I only had experience teaching in public schools. And it was English weather... and well, I am born and raised in Southern California... I put on a sweatshirt if it dips below 70.

So I wasn't used to the quaint town and the rainy weather. Places closed at 5:00pm and it seemed there was endless rain.  And oh yeah, I didn't have a car... we Californians live in our cars and now I didn't even have one. In London, I am a big fan of the tube and I even like the double decker red buses, but in Hereford we just had a regular bus that stopped running early in the night. So as you can see.... lots of changes for little ol' me. Not to mention that I didn't know one single person in the country except for the handful of other Americans in the same boat as me who were sprinkled throughout the country. So yes, were there days that I thought, "Oh my...what am I doing here?"

But there were other days I was planning my next trip or feeling empowered by this new life I created for myself.

Yes, I would have chosen to be placed in London if I could have, but in hind sight I am glad I wasn't afforded a choice. In the end I spent many weekends in London and since then spent two whole summers there- so I got my London fix and they took good care of me in Hereford. See, the way Fulbright works is you tell them everything about you and your teaching position and they match you with someone. You don't choose the country... never mind the city. I know, a bit scary to relinquish that much control. Again, just do it!

Every so often Fulbright would have a get together for all of the Americans to attend. I looked forward to these to hear how everyone else was "getting on." (I'm using my "British talk") and to just hear other people going through the same things as me... both the good and the bad. I want to point out there were all kinds of people...young, old, married, single, with kids... everything. So I know some of you were thinking, I can't... I have kids or my husband or wife's  job...etc. Yes, it may be a roadblock, but I was staggered by the amount of teachers who were bringing their families with them and who would report that their kids were loving their new schools. What a fun experience for those little ones! {There was only one incident I recall of a teenage boy who was missing his high school life back home, which is understandable, and he did fly back to the states after a while in England to live with his aunt. His parents and younger siblings stayed in the U.K.}

This experience made me such a better teacher. There are so many things that we teachers do the same...because a 6 year old is a 6 year old no matter where you are. But there are so many things they do differently and I learned so much.

This is my class celebrating Thanksgiving with me. Obviously, not a holiday there so we were all at school that day. It was probably the most patriotic Thanksgiving I have ever had, but it was sweet the thought they put into it for me. I wish you could see their cute faces... but please observe the ties.

One of my favorite stories is how after changing from their "P.E. kits" the  first week of school they formed a single file line with their ties loose around their neck .... Yes?? I wondered... Oh, the line was for me to tie their ties. When they found out I didn't know how, they were in just as much shock as me. For the record, I learned pretty quickly.

The other part of this experience that was amazing is how much I learned about myself. That sounds so cheesy or cliche I can't stand it... but it is true. There I am living in a stranger's house {while that same stranger was living in my apartment} with no friends or family nearby. I made friends and I traveled and I learned so much! For me, part of what made this experience so special was doing it all on my own, but now I am interested in doing something similar again with my hubby by my side.

I had a website while  I was there called "Christy's Life: An American Teacher in England." Sadly, it is all gone now. I had paid the one year subscription for my URL and now it has vanished into the air - I didn't get to save it all either {So annoyed at myself} But I also had a blog... sadly, it was barely maintained because I had the site. Why have both you ask? Well, back then in 2005 people had to sign up and have a blogger account just to view a blog...this wasn't going to happen for most of my family, so I got a "real website." In hind sight I'm disappointed because the ill maintained blog is up and running and the very cool website {if I do say so myself} is gone... Here's the blog: Christy's Blog {creative name, huh?} Best part, I can't access the blog...I've tried every email and password I know.

The other thing is this experience opened up the world of traveling to me. Now I have been to 35 U.S. states and 34 countries on 5 continents. It's like a disease... I love it. During that one year of time there there I traveled A LOT! There were weekend trips to Amsterdam, Denmark, Portugal, Germany and more. I had my mom visit for a trip to Austria. I had the whole family come over for a Christmas in London {see below} and New Year's in Paris.
I had other trips to France, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Sweden, Spain, Scotland... some alone and some with friends.  All of these wonderful things because I put myself out there and said... maybe...I'm not sure...OK...I guess I will try this.

This is a collage of photos from a trip with my brother and sister in the summer of 2005 right before I came home from the year away.
A few more quick facts: Fulbright offers exchanges for part of a school year if a year seems too long, but I recommend that amount of time so you can go through the full cycle of emotions from..why did I sign up for this? To... this is the best thing ever! And you are still paid by your home school, which is good because if you are in a public system you will still earn a year towards your retirement {the bad part is when you do the currency conversions.}

Oh and as for what I missed at home... not much. I was so worried that by being off of U.S. soil for 365 days I would miss too much. What if my friends did fabulous things without me? What about weddings and parties?  But no, I emailed and got cards in the mail from people back home {how often do you get care packages from your local friends now?} So in a way I "talked" with people even more. And when I got back... it was ALL the same, sadly, it was like I never left. The only thing I didn't know were some of the songs on the radio. I remember going to a wedding shortly after my return and everyone was singing the new Kelly Clarkson song. I had no idea who she was because I missed her season of American Idol. Honestly, don't worry about missing things.. you will be gaining so much more.

Fulbright is a wonderful program, but there are other ones out there too. And there are plenty of opportunities to teach English around the globe. So I urge everyone to look into it. It will be a roller coaster of emotion and you will come out in the end a stronger and better person {and teacher.}

If you are still with me on this long post. The best part of my travels abroad is that it indirectly led to me meeting my husband. This is a picture of us at our wedding in the South of France.

This was a long one today... sorry, but as you can see I have a lot to say on the topic.

Just do it!

Balanced Literacy...part Three {Writing}

I've been chatting about balanced literacy on my case you missed it I talked about reading in the classroom  {here} and the at home connection {here.} Today I am going to continue the Balanced Literacy chat with a focus on writing.

First up,

Shared Writing {Teacher and students write text together}
*Provides modeling of writing styles
*Provides modeling for concepts of print {spacing, punctuation, capitalization, etc}
*Helps make connection between letters and sounds/ builds spelling knowledge
*Opportunity to plan texts

Shared writing can look different at different grades. I think traditionally it is looked at as a way to build letter sound knowledge and concepts of print....but what else you ask? I think this is a good time for a teacher to model his/her inner dialogue. You can show the kiddos out loud what you are thinking as you write. This is a crucial part of shared writing in my book.

In my opinion, shared writing needs to be done at a brisk pace so you keep your cuties engaged! And if you look at this as a mini lesson, don't try to cram too many things in there- what is your focus? Word choice? Sentence expansion? Letter/sound development?

After we write something I usually put up on a bulletin board or sentence chart. They use it in their journal writing (some do so by 100% copying it which, if I'm honest, used to bother me, but if that is where they are, then that is okay!) to read the room and to just make our room a more print rich environment.

Independent Writing {Students write independently}
*Develops independence
*Strengthens spelling knowledge
*Develops writing strategies

Bottom line, practice makes perfect and they just need ample opportunities to write!

In my classroom this includes:
-class books
-writer's workshop
-word work
and MORE

What can they write?

I have put together a writing center start up kit called "Get it Write." You can check that out at my TpT store {HERE.}

Have a great weekend! I'll be back to talk about Word Work soon.


Let's Talk {Again} About High Frequency Words

Today is about high frequency words.  Back on January 31, 2013 I did a post about high frequency words and that is our topic for this Throwback Thursday Linky with Cara Carroll:

I think that high frequency words are SO important for our kindergarten and first grade friends that every year I am looking to change up my approach and make it even better. So just recently I was re-reading this post myself... so I thought it was the perfect one to share. And I have a feeling.... you will see yet another post about this soon as I finalize some of my plans for this coming year. 

So here ya go... the Original post from January starts now:

Let's talk high frequency words! or sight words, popcorn words, star words.... or whatever you call them! In my room we refer to them as "Fish Words."

They are important and they are in the Common Core Standards. To quote, in the kindergarten standards it says:

CCSS ELA-LiteracyRF.K.3c Read Common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does)

Some people will make a distinction between sight words versus high frequency words. So it may anger those people... but I use the terms interchangeably...don't be mad, please!

My school district has a list of 50 high frequency words. The idea if for the students to know 25 by the end of kindergarten and all 50 by the end of first grade.  We work hard so that most of them do leave kindergarten with all 50!

So let's get down to the real question..... what do you do for your students to learn these words? Here is my Top 10... but still not complete....list of fun ways to learn the sight words- unlike David Letterman's Top 10, these are not listed in any particular order:

1. My favorite tool is Heidi Butkus' Sing and Spell CDs... oh my word! The kids just L-O-V-E these songs! There are several volumes of CDs- I think I own about four of them. I have made this book to go with the songs:

2. Another thing I do is each time I introduce a sight word (once a week in the beginning of the year and then twice a week) we vote on a symbol to put around that word. The few first words I always make the decision (a rectangle around "the" and an arrow that can "see" both ways under see) After that, the kids vote. I post them on the wall. This picture if from early in the year:

Here is last year's popcorn version:

I used to buy cut outs to write the words on (like the popcorn pieces at the top for decoration) Now, I just die cut them or trace from one set of the bought version and cut out the others to save on money. I used to try of a way to make this cuter and do it on the computer with one of the fonts I am obsessed with.... but I think it is best keeping it "old school" and just hand writing these.

Sometimes the kids will suggest something like "a unicorn" and I have to guide them to make another choice since they would be too tricky to draw all the time.

When do the kids use these symbols? ALL THE TIME! When they get any paper or make a class book the first thing they do is be a "word detective" and hunt down these words! We have a long talk about not writing in library books, but other than that, anywhere they see a "fish" or "popcorn" word they need to put the correct symbol.

3. I have a center for early finishers where they get to practice the words we have done so far. They love doing this.

Sometimes I run off a bunch just to have ready and then if we add new words before I make a new set then they can just add them to the paper (like how "you" is added to the top one.)

4. We stamp the sight words - on paper or on our hands! (2 or 3 letter words fit a bit better)

5. I will use these "magic tubes" (they are test tubes I order from Steve Spangler Science). I've seen other teachers do this same concept with sand instead of water. Can you "see" the word "see"? Why is there glitter floating in that water? It's a short answer: because glitter is fun!

 I sort the letter beads in a box I got from Michaels. There are 2 letters per section, although I will say that putting "E" and "F" together wasn't the best choice I've made:

6. We play a game where we write the "fish words" on a neighbor's back.  In the beginning of the year I do this same concept with letters and numbers. They know who their carpet partner is and sometimes when the phone rings or another adult comes in the room for whatever reason I just say, "Turn to your carpet partner and write a fish word." Then the other person has to guess the word!

7. Sight Word Search - Well, let me say that getting the highlighters out is a BIG deal in my room. Why is it so exciting... I guess I too like to highlight with multiple colors. This is done with an adult and a group of about 6 students. They each start with one color highlighter. The adult announces the word to search for and they look for that word in each column. They have learned the words "row" and "column" and are good at searching. We all pass the highlighters to the right and get a new word... etc, etc.

8. And then there is this super easy-peasy idea. We have been asked to use less paper- our budget has been cut and so that means less copies! So this little idea is great because it is 1/3 piece of paper per child. And to be honest- you could probably do it just as effectively without photocopying anything at all. I write the fish word/ sight word...whatever you call it.... 5 different ways... some weeks with markers, sometime with colored pencils and usually at least one line of the letter stamps. The students have to just copy the word to look exactly like mine. EASY! and great practice for them!

 Usually my sample (the one to the right) has to be on display, but this little friend takes it down.... problematic if another child wants to use this center... but worked out better for the picture.

9. Another fun game is "Fishing for Sight Words" and it is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

10. Play dough! No pics of this one! But we roll the play dough in spaghetti strings to spell out the words. And I've been eyeing {THESE} at Lakeshore for a while.

What do you do to help your little ones learn sight words?

UPDATE: I have also created new Sight Words Lists that are on Teachers Pay Teachers. It uses Fry's top 100 words. I plan on using these lists this school year!
You can click {here} to check them out!