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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sneak Peek at Some Back to School Ideas (lots of pictures and a freebie!)

 As hard as it is to believe, summertime is coming to a close.  My classroom isn't completely done, but below you can get a sneak peek.  Guess what my color theme is? I love the black and white because it goes with everything...and, yes, I know my writing board is potentially hazardous, but our writing and some resources will be added to break up all the zapping dots!  It makes me so happy to have my classroom look inviting (without overload) to the students who enter AND to me. 
 If you've been following me at all this summer, you probably know one of my big undertakings was to organize and manage my RTI data in a much more organized fashion.  For letter i.d. and sight word (Dolch Word) assessments, I have used A Differentiated Kindergarten's Top Banana/Ball Word program.  This itself is a VERY motivating program for students to advance in their learning, BUT my tracking system was less than desirable.  I am so relaxed realizing that I am ready for the year with my new system that will make this whole process easier, more organized, AND save time. Please click here to read more about it (and the Top Banana/Ball Word Program from Differentiated Kindergarten!) in another blog post.  It really is going to make my recording and managing of R.T.I. kids and just assessments overall SO much easier.  Below, you will see these banana candies I found at the dollar soon as students know all of their letters and sounds, I will give them their certificate from the Top Banana kit as well as a small plastic baggy with these cute bananas, letting them know they are a Top Banana (stay tuned for the label I may or may not get to making for it!).
Marsha's Ball Word kits all come with editable, printable certificates as well...but I found these rubber balls at Party City that I will keep in this plastic container as an incentive to keep on going! I am going to let them choose a ball every time they achieve (can read) 3 of the 11 Dolch lists.  I just love bouncy balls (probably as much as the kiddos do!) and know (well, hope!) that the variety will keep them reading and learning all yearlong!

Here are my gifts to either send or give to my students at Open House (I haven't decided yet??!!), but, either way, they are going to LOVE them.  These little creatures I got at the Dollar Tree (4 in a pack, by the way!) grow AND change color in water.....tell me the little darlings won't love these?? I just look at them as an analogy to the students we get and how much they grow and change through the year with us.  I updated this freebie to have this new version of "growing" into a prek/kinder/1st grader and it can be found as a freebie with my Jitter Glitter letters here or by clicking the picture below).  You can also use those sponge capsules that also grow in water and can get almost an entire class worth for just $1 (I think its 18 to a pack!). I splurged this year--ha ha--although the truth is I just can't bare to do the same thing 2 years in a row! FAVORITE new addition to my classroom is my new job chart that I got from Mel D at Seusstastic!  I love all of her ideas and products!  I shrunk her job cards to 2 pages per sheet (always saving ink and space ya know?).  I chose the jobs that suit my classroom (EVERY child will have a job EVERY day!) and will laminate this bad boy and use clothespin clips with student pics to switch around (which will even be a job for someone!).  It is a lot to introduce all of the jobs, but, in the end, it is SO worth it because it helps your classroom run so smooth BY THE CHILDREN.  Talk about building community! 
One of the last things I need to do is prepare my MONKEY Books!  I started doing these organizational notebooks years ago and will NEVER go back to any other home communication system.  The only thing I DO change is what they look like (of course!). Hmmmm......

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It's Now Editable==>You Asked for It For It, You GOT It {and a sticky freebie!}!

My newest product is flying off the shelf (well, flying through cyberspace I guess I should say) and I have had many requests already to make it EDITABLE to ensure that you can still implement my organization strategies for assesing and recording letter id/sight words.  You can input the words from your reading program or the words your school system is required to teach in the correct order that you teach them.  It makes this kit much more versatile and teacher friendly which is what Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business is all about, of course!
If you want to read more about this easy to implement and organize and great for R.T.I. product, click here to go to my LONG post that will tell you everything (and probably MORE) than you want or need to know.
I also want to share an oldie, but goodie freebie that I just made some improvements to.  It is a packet entitled "Top Secret Gluing Techniques" and includes a song and activities that will allow you to take out your white glue without cringing (all the while saving your money and sanity from buying and wasting so many glue sticks!)....over 40,000 teachers have downloaded and used it in their classroom.  Join them by clicking the pictue below to grab my freebie!

Be sure to follow Mrs. Miner's Kindergarten Monkey Business or LIKE it on Facebook (both available in left sidebar) so you never miss another FREEBIE or informative article.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Effective Letter ID/Dolch Word Assessment System- Easy to Use and Implement to Raise Reading Scores

Dolch words...we hear them referenced a lot, but do you really know what they are and their importance in conjunction with your classrooms? 
Most of us have a list of words that our students need to "know" by the end of the year, but where did that list get generated from?  A mandated program? A committee of grade level teachers? Maybe just a generic list found on the internet somewhere? I know I have had a list generated from each of these places at some point during my career and obendiently taught whatever list was handed to me. BUT, I knew there were words missing from each given list and I knew that my students would need more to meet the literacy standards society is asking of 5 and 6 year olds now. That is when I started researching what I could do differently and how I could extend beyond "the list" as well as allow for differentiation.

First off, for those unclear, Dolch Words are a list  of 220 "service words" that must be quickly recognized in order to achieve reading fluency.  It has the most frequently used words in our English language and make up as high as 70% of any general text.  This fact alone is why the Dolch Word lists are so important to teach children from kindergarten to third grade. 

So, we now that we know the importance of them, how do we teach 220 words to our students when we already have a list we are responsible for (not to mention the bazillion other learning targets we have to implement)? 

Well, let's start by saying that , no, not every kindergarten student will necessarily learn all 220, but there are many that are able to, so we need to provide the opportunity for them to do so.  My friend Marsha from Differentiated Kindergarten has a masterful framework and organizational techniques that will get you jump started like it did for me and have you wondering why you never did this before.  It's called her Ball Word System....

Marsha says:

 "I originally created ball words because I had a very very boy heavy class that needed something to engage them in learning their sight words. This class ranged from students who knew zero words to students who had mastered 30-40 words or more before they entered my doors. I knew I needed to challenge everyone at their own level of ability or I would have huge behavior issues. I didn't want boredom from the advanced students nor did I want frustration from those that were struggling. So, by placing the different level of sight words (there are 11 Dolch Word lists) on different balls, everyone could be doing the same ac
tivity at their own level of readiness."
-Marsha Moffit Mcguire

 I love the premise behind the Ball Word system and hence I love THE Ball Word System and, as if I have to tell you, so do my students.  They would much rather talk about balls than Dolch ANY day of the week and, quite frankly, so would I.

I am going to share with you an organizational system I have used to check and assess where students are and which "ball drawer" (a.k.a. which Dolch list) they should be working in (as you read Marsha's posts, you'll see that she has a self serving station so to speak where children find activities that correspond with the current list they are working on achieving in separate, ordered drawers, which has inspired me to do the same).

I start out the year assessing my students for the alphabet and then move through the Dolch lists in order for us to know where they are working. I always complete these mini assessments during Read to Self time or Daily 5 time.

I will start assessing the first week of school:
  • Do a letter i.d/Dolch List assessment. Once the student has missed six (letters or words) I stop the assessment recording on the recording sheets that I finally created for myself to be more organized. You can see below that this child has mastered all his letters, therefore I moved onto Dolch Word List 1 (a.k.a. baseball words in Marsha's framework).  I checked off all words he knew and continued onto the soccer ball words until Scotty had missed 6 words altogether and then I stopped the assessment.
  • Now, I create 6 "flashcards" for each of the letters/words that they missed right in front of the student discussing things they notice as I do it.  Example: "What do you notice about the two words he and we?" or "This word is tricky, but it helps to remember that "there is no A in they",
  • Next, I staple the 6 cards together, write their name and the date on the front binding edge. (I use blank white notecards, but you could even precut regular paper or use any type of small paper that you have available...the key would to be to keep it the same all year whatever you may choose).

  • I send home a list of the words each student is working on with a note letting the parents know.  On the back of the list is a place for parents to sign and return when they think their child is ready to be assessed and move on.  This signature serves as a bypass for students to be assessed before they get the 4 hole punches in class because, as we all know, there is never enough time in the day to get to all of our students.

  • The student places his/her stack of cards in his/her book box and knows to practice them whenever they get an opportunity.  They will be working in the drawer that contains activities that go along with the list they are on (see more about this further down this post).  However, if they have the last 6 words on the list, I  tell them to work in the drawer of the next level up.  When they practice with someone (me, another adult in the room, or even a friend who has already achieved the level being worked on) they get a hole punch on a card that they read correctly and quickly.  Note: The KEY to this is that students are reading all of these words "by sight" and quickly, so cards only get punched when they are read on the first try and automatically.
  • Once a student has 4 holes on every card, s/he puts the stapled cards in my "I'm ready to move on to the next level!" basket.  I made a simple sign for you to use in 3 different sizes, depending on the size basket you want to use. 

  • The next opportunity I get, I will assess those words and then continue on through the list(s) until the child misses another 6 and start the process all over again.  Every time a student can fluently read an entire list, they receive a certificate (included in the ball words sets from Marsha). 
  • I added the 95 Dolch Noun lists this year to my assessment kit.  These are the most common nouns that show up in childrens books, so I thought....hmmmm....not a bad idea! I'm actually really excited to add them because, looking at the lists, I can see how knowing these words on top of the 220 Dolch sight words could really push my readers along even more quickly.

This organizational system seems like such a no brainer approach, but it took me a couple of years to perfect it and make it work for both my students and I.  I finally also figured out a much easier way to record their progress and I FINALLY got around to making a neat sheet and other organizing tools that I would like to share with you so you can start your Dolch List assessing right away.

 I copy enough of the ball word assessment recording sheets back to back for each of my students.  I write each of their names on them in alphabetical order, 3 hole punch them, then place them in my assessment binder.  It is SO easy to find the student sheet I need and all the info is RIGHT THERE.  Also, on the back, there is a small area for you to record things you notice for your next word work lesson with this child.
Of course, students will have a letter sheet (that works the same exact way as this one) to complete before we start on this one. Marsha has a program called Top Banana which focuses on just letters and letter sounds here.

Of course, I have given you plenty of information to implement this system on your own, but, since I have it all created for myself and READY to GO in pure Monkey Business fashion, I decided to house it at TpT in case you want to make your life easier.  Don't forget that my kit aligns perfectly with Marsha's Ball Words program as well!
(there is an editable spreadsheet, so you can use this kit with your own words in whatever order you choose!) 
 Be sure to be following MMMB because I have been collecting hands on activities to put in the leveled, INDEPENDENT drawers that are specifically aligned with the Dolch lists and will be giving you more information about that in a future blog post.
Click here find out more about this

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