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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

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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Day of School Tips With a Freebie to Help Implement!

There is so  much to explain and go over the first few days of school, you NEED to be able to get your students' attention quickly and this is the best way I've found how to do just that....its kind of like a NO FAIL management technique because the students LOVE to do it as much as I love the results. 
You have to show them how to do a monkey face:
  • they need to pull their ears out (not off like my boy above seems to be doing!)
  • and blow their cheeks out like a "quiet" monkey (I know it's hard to believe, but these little monkeys WILL, without a doubt, try to make monkey sounds with their lips closed tight)The "Monkey Face" makes them stop touching anything AND makes them stop talking, so it is a must-do for any primary grade teacher, especially in the first few days.  I also use it to walk down the halls for the first few weeks, until it is engrained in their brain that we walk down the hall quietly and without rubbing the walls (uh, gross).

One of my other favorite tips to begin the year is the use of stop signs for stopping points in the hallways.  My school is really big, so all of our specials are quite a walking distance, so I put stop signs at different points along the way.  The line leader needs to stop there so we can regroup, make sure everyone is with us and prepare to embark to the next stop sign.  I shared my stop signs a long time ago, but I am relinking them just in case you'd like to give this management technique a whirl as school gets back in session!  It really helps with getaway lines, gaps in the lines, and any other malfunction that could possibly go wrong in a line (ha ha--now that could be an endless list!)
My last tip for the day is to OVER PLAN your first few days.  You can never have enough stuff for them to do and will probably never get to all of it..but, not knowing your incoming students, you are making plans that may not work for this particular group and you need to be sure to have a back up plan ready to go at all times.
Going back to school can be overwhelming for even the most experienced teacher.  Every year, I fret over making the first day memorable, successful, as well as exciting for the children.  I have found what works perfectly for me and put them neatly into a kit for new first grade teachers whose plates are overfull or for veteran teachers who want to get out of the rut of doing the same thing over and over each year right here.  EVERYTHING you need is packed neatly into this kit of lesson plans that will allow you to put your energy elsewhere and RELAX because your first day is planned!  It includes individual work, whole group lessons, hands on activities AND simple, baseline assessments all related to first day of school books I recommend(but can certainly be done without these particular books!).  I want to give this gift to exasperated teachers who deserve to spend time focussing on jsetting up their classrooms, getting familiar with their curriculum and getting to know their new students rather than planning meaningful, academic activities...Relax and consider it done! And, honestly, you will find that by thte time you add your must dos and setting up your expectations, these plans will get you through WAY more than your first day.  It includes:
*reading lesson and follow up activities
*writing lesson and follow up activities
*math lesson and follow up activities
*art activity
*extension activities
*beginning AND end of year SIMPLE baseline assessments
*Brain break ideas and activities
*bulletin board letters to create headings to display work completed from this kit
*MORE directions than you will ever need
*video links to recommended first day literature
and MORE!
This purchase will buy you more than lesson will buy you peace of mind AND time as well.  You can relax knowing that you are ready to roll with extensive first day (week!) plans all READY to GO!  I also have a set like this for kindergarten:


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Simply and Frugally Preparing Student Birthday Gifts A Year in Advance {freebies, too!}

Summer is the time we say we will get all that "extra teacher stuff" done and, if you are like me, summer is half gone and you've gotten little to none of it done.....for good reasons, of course! Trips to Vegas, spending time with our families and friends and RELAXING!  Just when I start to relax and think "ahhh, its summer" all these thoughts, ideas, and "must dos" come rushing to my brain and I come across a BARGAIN that will totally allow me to quickly, cheaply check one of my to dos off my list...(I LOVE bargains and they totally inspire me and get "stuff" done)
my birthday bags!
I (okay, who am I mom) prepares my birthday bags for me every summer.  I  (she) make(s) enough for the whole class, plus some of course for those students who enter later in the year. That way they are ready to go and I don't have to panic when a child enters my room with their brand new birthday outfit and button singing, "it's my birthday!" and I've totally neglected to remember that day was any different than the rest.
So, I've done the same thing for years now because it was easy, the kids love it and it didn't cost very much! Go ahead and click on the link and you can read all about's great, it works....
Click here to read this old post and grab these student birthday freebies!
At Toys R Us, these chalk sets are on sale for 38 cents (from .99) BUT they are also B1G1 1/2 off!  Even better, I went to, ordered 24 sets (for a little over $8!) on their site to store pick up, paid with Paypal and then picked them up at my leisure later in the day right at their customer service desk. Woot woot!

Then I had to get cracking on some "chalky-type" birthday labels....and this is what I came up with:
You can grab the google doc to print them onto Avery Shipping labels 10/sheet here or just
print onto paper and use clear mailing tape to attach to the chalk!
 While you are at it, you might want to consider purchasing this bundle exclusively from Freebielicious girls sponsored by Educents to get ready for school!  It is 73% off original prices and includes over 1200 pages of Back to School here for more information about it!
Click here to get more information!