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Let's Get INTERACTIVE: 3 Great Tips for Interactive Shared Reading

Let's imagine that you are ready to share a book...you gather all your students on the rug...they are all sitting "crisscross applesauce" ready to begin the story...just waiting for you to start...all eyes on you, smiles gleaming. They are so excited they can hardly contain their emotions. All directions have been announced and modeled.

They know that they will have such a "fun"tastic time interacting and taking part in Shared Reading for the day! They are ready!!!

Let's Get Interactive: 3 Great Tips for Interactive Shared Reading...a great ideas to involve your students in your shared reading! You will love all 3 tips!!
I remember those days...great memories and now that I am retired...I want all of you to have this same experience! YES...YOU! You can do this with these tried and true tips! 
I have had a few principals, get so involved when they observed, that THEY even began to participate...and said,

I wish my elementary reading experiences were like this!

So...drumroll please....Here you go:

3 Great Tips for Interactive Shared Reading!!!

1.  Get your students thinking about the books you use for shared reading:  Plan ahead and see which parts of the story you want to share can be integrated with participation in the story.  If you feel that the story won't work, then definitely assign your students predetermined "Thinking Partners" for shared reading that can change every so often.  Then
 sticky note parts of the story that they can make predictions and inferences, rethink metacognitively
( I am not sure if that is a word, but if not, I just invented it!!) and parts where your students can think about questions they might have at the beginning, middle and ending of the text.  If you have done the work beforehand, your experience will run so much more smoothly!

So...now...when you gather children onto the carpet, ask them to sit with their "Thinking Partner" and to be ready to Think, Pair, Share, which of course you have already modeled several times...I hope!! (Simply have children to their partner and chat about the parts of the text as directed by YOU!)

Now...these partners are ready to go...Don't they look happy?

2.  Use visual props to support reading Comprehension:  Now this tip is connected to #1.
In a small basket next to your reading chair, have visuals to support Reading Comprehension Strategies; such as, Visualizing, Cause and Effect, Questioning or what you might be wondering about right now and Making Predictions.  Then as you ask the question or want your students to share with their "Thinking Partners"...you simply hold up the sign that matches what you want them to do.  

While reading, you can also give each child a different part to play: The prediction Maker and they have the wand, The visualizer with the fake glasses or a pair of dollar store glasses, the Thinker, etc.

Later you will see students using the clouds and props on their own while partner reading or even reading to self!!! 

Here are some samples of some of the props I used with my kiddos and to make sure I am your BFF, you can find them HERE along with some other related Reading Comprehension resources.

              Making Predictions:                                                  Visualizing:



                        Cause and Effect:                                  Explain your Thinking or Metacognitive

Questioning or I Wonder: 

These props can be used with ANY Book!

3.  Using actual props from the text: Say What?  I LOVE dong this and so do all children.  It can even be fun to do at home with a story when reading with your own students or in a homeschool setting.  So let me explain:  

Take a book like If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff or actually any book in her series of similar texts.  

Look through the story to what items you can collect around the house or purchase them at the dollar store.  Then give students or partners and item you have pre-purchased. As you read the story to your class, have those students rise every time you read their item.  Imagine the fun of listening until their part comes!
After the story is read, see if your students can retell the story as a group using their props. 

One of my all time favorite books to encourage participation is: The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

The kiddos LOVE this story and in fact one day, a few years back, I invited my principal in for our Halloween Party and shared this book on the rug. At the end she screamed out in unison with the class, when I asked them to scream out what they thought the little old lady would do with all the items that followed her home!  PS...I always ask the students to scream, whisper, speak like a robot, a mouse, a baby or other ways when I want a whole class answer and it is the BEST!
They can't wait to hear what voice I will ask for to answer the question!!!
So to in order to use props for this story, you will need, shoes, a pair of pants, a shirt, a pair of gloves, a hat and a Jack-o-Lantern...                                                                         If you separate the shoes and gloves, there are 8 different props to give out to your class.  You can also add doubles of each item so everyone has a props or assign partners to each item.                                                                                    As you read the story to the class, they have to act out the parts with their props.  For example:  when the part is read,"the shoes went CLOMP, CLOMP."  the students who have the shoes make them walk...CLOMP, CLOMP! Just imagine the listening and participation that will magically happen when you share a book in this manner!  Can you read every single book this way? Probably not, but pick and choose those books that you can use this way and make it a "FUN Friday" activity...learning and fun. What more can a teacher ask for?

It has always been my philosophy to make learning educational and fun, so that each child will love learning, want to come to school, reach their potential and be their best self! 

Here are two fabulous authors whose books work great interactively with props:

There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Bat  With this story, you can have each childs stand every single time their item is read in the story or use this video below and YOU can be the OLD LADY! At the end everyone can YELL TRICK or TREAT!!!

Laura Numeroff Books.  She also has a classroom live on FB where she reads her stories and an education discount on her books on this site.

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More Great ideas!

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5 Easy Peasy Ideas to bring Fall into your Primary Classroom

Let's bring a bit of fall into our K-1 classrooms with these 5 Easy Peasy Ideas. I know you will absolutely LOVE all these ideas...especially #1!

For those who experience the true colors of all four seasons, it is hard not to agree that fall is the most colorful if not the most beautiful season of all.  Each season brings a different climate and colors...but fall...well is simply fall...vibrant colors all around...red, yellow, orange and brown leaves gently spin and fall to the ground, the air is cooler and there is an urge to be a child once again and jump head first into a pile of leaves.

With fall comes many teaching opportunities...so...I have decided to round-up 5 absolutely, positively great developmentally appropriate fall activities to support Kinders and Firsties .

So let's get started and "fall" right into these colorful ideas!

1.  Leaves: Leaves are everywhere during this season so let's rake them into some great lessons.
What can you do with a Pile of Leaves has so many great ideas from graphing leaves and creating leaf creatures to creative writing!

These ideas can be found right here... What Can you Do with a Pile of Leaves?

2.  A Fall Maze:  Enjoy this fun Autumn Maze activity while your kids practice their critical thinking skills as well as fine motor and visual tracking skills.  I remember how much I loved the challenge of completing a maze when  was a child.  Try this and other Kindergarten activities from Education.com.

3.  Seasonal Writing: Get your kinders writing about all the seasons with this fun and FREE resource. It is a great differentiated writing activity in that it includes pictures and ideas for each season that reluctant writers as well as any writer can use to motivate and support their ideas!

4.  Fall Crafts are always a great idea whether you are a homeschooler or teach in a classroom.  Let's not forget how important creating crafts can be for fine motor skills and to spark and inspire creativity in a child.  Remember it was Albert Einstein who said,"Creativity is the intelligence having fun!" 

5.  25 Great Books about Fall:  These books include some of my all time favorites. Red Leaf Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert is a beautifully illustrated book that describes the birth of a Maple tree. You do not want to miss out on reading this story with your kinders or first graders. Take a look at some of the other great fall books mentioned. YOu will be running to the library to grab more than a few of these titles.

There you have it 5 easy peasy ideas to bring fall into your classroom this year!  What ideas do you have for fall. Please comment and let us know...we would LOVE to hear from you!

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3 Tips to have a Back to School Night that will ROCK!

Make your Back to School Night Rock with these 3 tips that are sure to get your parents feeling at ease and ready for the school year!

Parents can't wait to meet their child's teacher on Back to School Night. They want to see the classroom and observe first hand where their child will be spending 6 hours everyday, actually, in some cases, more time than their children see their parents, if you figure each child sleeps about 8 hours at night.

And teachers...well....teachers may be a bit nervous because let's face it...it is a bit hard to stand in front of an audience of parents who only want the best for their child and you are it...you are their teacher!

I know with myself, I was always a bit nervous even after doing this presentation for over 30 years!

I always had some butterflies in the pit of my stomach and some jitters because I did not want to mess up and I wanted to present my best self no matter what...pressure on myself...absolutely.

Through the years I have come up with some easy tricks which helped me "get through it" and shine, shine, shine!

PS I am sorry if this is late and you have already had your Back to School Night, but just save this post for next year or I will post it again!!

1. I was a Responsive Classroom Teacher and being a teacher who used the  Responsive Classroom approach, we always started our day with a Morning Meeting, which included a greeting, sharing activity and  morning message.  That being said, I always had a message on my chart board or smart board as the parents walked in for the evening.

It said something like this, "Good Evening, I am so glad you were able to come in this evening to take a peek at your child's classroom. 

  • Please stroll around the room and take a look at some of the work you child's has completed in this short time we have been together.
  • Find your child's seat and read the letter that was written especially for you!
  • Please write a note to your child and we will start our evening after the announcements! Welcome!

Easy peasy and it gives you a bit of time to walk around and chat informally with the parents for a few minutes....breathe....ahhhhhhhhhh!

2.  Before we actually got started, I explained briefly how we were a Responsive Classroom and had a Morning Meeting every morning and that We were going to have a brief meeting tonight to show parents how this approach worked.

  • I would then ask parents to talk to the other adults at their table. 
  • Say "hi" and introduce yourself and share something about your self.
  • After a few minutes, I would ring my chime, which is the "attention getter" I used in the classroom and they were to stop chatting and look at me.
  • Sometimes I would set up that when I rang the chime, they were to move to a different partner and chat with them...but that is up to you and how you feel your parents might respond.
This was always an ice breaker and the parents always began to chat and laugh and have a good ole' time.  Sometimes I made a funny comment like, "Ahhh...now I understand why I have so many chatty students in my class this year!"  They would all get a chuckle out of this!

I would then ask them to share something that they learned about one of the adults at their table or about someone with whom they chatted.  Usually a few would share and if not, I would start and share! 

3.  Now we were ready to really get started and all of the parents were relaxed and ready to hear what Room U-1 was all about!! 

I would always start by saying, "YOU (the parents) are the most important person in your child's life and you know them better than anyone so it is important that WE work together as a team and make sure there is an open communication between home and school to ensure your child receives the BEST education possible!    

I would also make sure to have all the important information in a hard copy in a folder with their child's name...My classroom Brochure with all the important info was right on top along with district information and a few house keeping details.

Then I had a Power Point which had everything and anything that I felt was important for parents to understand and know about their child's classroom and teaching philosophies.  

Having a Power Point was fabulous because everything was written on it with cute pictures etc.  It helped me stay on topic and impressed the parents. I had visuals set up to support the slides and everyone was laughing and totally felt at ease.

Granted...some years were better than others, but these 3 tips will make your Back to School night Rock and maybe add a little sparkle to your night!

Have a Sparkling Year!!!

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5 Organizational tips to Keep your Classroom Running Smoothly Throughout the Year

Flash Back....it's late August...actually to be exact, August 28th...I just found out, I will be teaching first grade!  That was the BEST and maybe the worst day of my life...I may be exaggerating a bit, but...School was starting in a few days, new teachers had 3 days of orientation and I had a classroom that looked pretty much like this:

So...what did I do?  I sat down and cried and thought,"How am I ever going to turn this into the classroom of my dreams?" Then off I went to my first new teacher orientation.  

I came back to my bare classroom and noticed a handwritten note on my desk, which read,"From confusion comes wisdom!" (Confucius) Well...that did not really help much because I felt confused and overwhelmed the whole entire year.  Instead I  thought, "Confucius has never been a first grade teacher so what does he know???" 

But actually he did know something...in fact...he was absolutely correct from my confusion and lack of having time to organize correctly, I learned a ton and I was never, ever disorganized again during my entire teaching career. 

So, I would like to share with you a few important organizational "take aways" from my first year that stuck with me my entire career...with a few tweaks here and there!

1.  Always make a list of what you want to do or change, what worked, what didn't work and what you need to get together before school starts. My first year I was not able to do this and I felt like I was playing catch up the entire year! 

  • It really doesn't matter if you have to change things up a bit during the school year.  If you find that something is not working for your class, change it. That is OK! 
  • Remember each class is different and as teachers we have to adapt to the needs of our students. One year I changed my desk location about 6 times before the first trimester ended.  The kids had so much fun trying to guess where my desk was going to show up the next time they walked through the classroom doors.  It was like a scavenger hunt!

2.  Make sure your classroom supplies are organized before your kiddos come bouncing through the door that first day.

  • I am not saying that everything has to be in an obsessive order nor does your room have to look like a Pinterest promotion., but let's make sure that it does not look chaotic and cluttered. 
  • You need to leave some things for you and your class to do together so they feel welcome and take ownership of the classroom. 
  • I am talking about supply and material organization. Where do the pencils, erasers, paperclips and markers go?  These need to be ready and available without rooting through the piles of "stuff" in various places. 

For this reason, I always labeled EVERYTHING!

I put all these items in shoeboxes or baskets with labels and categorized accordingly. 

There was a space or place for everything:  games, supplies of all shapes and sizes, Guided Reading materials...you get the idea. I always added a label with a picture and word, which is two-fold; first, you can easily see where the supply is located and second, the room is labeled for emergent readers to read the room!

3.  How about those closets, shelves, math supplies, Phonics' games and all the "things" you need to get to quickly for a lesson or even when an idea pops into your head and you need a manipulative quickly as well as when your colleague sends a child with a note that says,"Do you have the Telling Time Bingo Game? Can you send it with Johnny?" These need to be ready and available without rooting through piles of "stuff" in various places or thinking, "I just saw that somewhere...now where was it?"

Organize the games according to categories 
on shelves or in a closet.      

These are math baskets before the labels were added!

Then cover the shelves with these colorful tablecloths.  The tablecloths are simply hung from a tension rod and tacked so you can lift them up and grab what you need and doesn't it look a bit clean and organized?  I think I heard...YES!!!

4.  Next up...organize your reading books or classroom library "nook."
Over the years, I have used different spaces for a reading area, but there is one common thread.  All of the books are in bins or baskets and organized into specific categories that meet the needs of MY STUDENTS.  The way you categorize your books can be completed in many different ways or you can use a few different ideas, but it is important that it works for your class.

Here are few ideas that I have used over the years:
This reading area looks extremely inviting and the kids love to read and work in it.  

To the left and right of the tables on the white shelves were the classroom library books, which were arranged and labeled in this way; ABC's, numbers, colors, easy readers, chapter books, specific popular authors, general nonfiction, animals, space, biographies, Dr. Seuss, insects, weather, seasons as well as popular book characters like Arthur, Clifford and other popular book characters. 

This worked best for my first graders because they had favorite topics and authors they enjoyed reading about over and over gain.   

FYI: The designated classroom "Helpers" cleaned this area up at the end of the day and this is a product of their great independent organizational skills.

The Shelves behind the table under our"reading buddies," housed our NightlyReading Books that the students took home each night to read.

5.  Room organization is one thing, but thinking about communicating with parents can also be classified as something important that you need to have organized and ready to use the first day of school. 

If a problem arrises, who wants to be shuffling through papers and looking for parent contact information...NOT ME...It is better to be proactive and ready!

It is also important to think about how you want to communicate with parents and keep an open positive line of communication between home and school.  There are plenty of apps out there created for parent communication, but not all schools are ready to use apps.

  • To keep this at bay, it is important to have a Parent Communication Log that houses all important information about each child and their caretakers.  This one binder can be a life saver as you talk and chat with parents, you can print out e-mails, 3 hole punch them and keep all of these for future reference.  It can also be a place to jot down notes and reminders about conversations and dates these took place.
  • Newsletters are also a way to stay organized and keep the lines of communication open. These weekly or monthly newsletters will keep you organized as you think back on the week or next steps in your lesson planning. Parents LOVE hearing about what is happening or going to happen in their child's classroom.  These can be completed in a digital or written format.

Getting these ideas organized at the beginning of the school year will help you stay focussed and be present in your daily teaching life.

Here are three resources that support parent communication and will keep you calm and ready to go!

    you get organized for the Back to School Frenzy, I don't know what will.  Classroom Organization Binder TN

3.  Editable Newsletters to Make Parent Communication Easy  These will make your life so much easier and organized! TN

I know I have only given you about 5 organizational ideas to start the school year off on the right foot and there are so many more, but as long as you have these 5 ideas and organizational strategies in place, you will be less stressed and have the best school year yet!

BTW: Did you notice a common thread throughout?  Labels, binders, checklists, containers and baskets...you can never have enough!

Have a great year and don't forget to ORGANIZE!!!

PS: Here is a link to some other resources you might like!  

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