Monday, August 1, 2016

Back to School Prayer

I have been keeping a list for the past month of blog ideas that I had. As I've collected these ideas, I thought I would make a blog series for the month of August. I'm pretty excited it. I hope to bring you some good ideas, tips, strategies and activities to get through this back to school time.
This first post is inspired by the #teachersthatpray series that Primary Polka Dots, Joy in the Journey and One Extra Degree had going on instagram and Facebook. I really tried to be intentional to pray for all the things they suggested each day. As I was having my quiet time last week, I was inspired to write a prayer for the new school year. I wanted to share it because I hope that you will find some inspiration for this new year from it.

Gracious Heavenly Father,
Thank for the opportunity of a fresh start this year. Thank you for the opportunity to do your work everyday in teaching. Be with the students you have placed in my care. Be with their families as they entrust me to teach and love their child. Help me to remember you placed that child in my room. You have a plan for that child and they are yours.
Be with my school family. Help us to uplift and support each other. Give us strength and let us be your light. Be with my administrators. Give them wisdom and understanding. Let us all see each other as you see us. Help me to remember everyone I come into contact with is your child.
Lord help me to put aside all the crazy that comes with school. Help me to focus on the things I can impact. My actions. My words. My response. Give me the strength and wisdom to let go of everything else. To focus on what is best for me, my family and my students.
Lord, I dedicate this year to you. I want to do my best work to glorify you. Let my fruits be yours. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Forgive me of the times I will fail you. Thank you for your grace that allows me to keep going. In your name, Amen.

What is your prayer for the new year? I would love to hear it! I'm praying for all of us teachers as we get ready to start a new school year and all the great things we can do for the Lord!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Using Technology In Centers

I am finally finishing up this series about using technology in small groups and centers. Today's focus is all about centers and some management tips.

This wraps up my blog series on using technology in small groups and centers. I hope to share a lot more tech ideas. I got to do some training with Google Classroom this summer and hope to use it this year in my classroom. I would love to hear how you are incorporating technology into your small group and center time. Leave me a comment! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Writing

This was going to be my last installment of the series I've been working about using technology in small groups and centers but I will have one more post focusing mostly on centers.  I hope to bring you more posts about technology. It is definitely a passion of mine. I strongly believe we have to engage our 21st century learners with whatever means we can and technology is not going anywhere. This post will focus on writing activities using technology.

The first activity I want to share uses two apps, Magnetic ABC and Show Me.  I have the paid version of the magnetic ABC and I think it is worth it. There are tons of picture magnets that kids can use for writing. 
I made a video of doing the activity. I hate hearing my voice on videos but I think it is the best way to show how this activity works. 

To check out one that a student made, click here. What I loved about this activity was it gave her a chance to change what she had written. It is important when writing to teach students to go back and read their writing. By having them record themselves reading their writing, it gives them some motivation to read over the writing. I would do this in small groups before moving it out as an activity for centers.

The next writing activity uses the app Pages. You could do the same thing in google slides but you wouldn't be able to publish it. (or at least not as easily).  At the end of the year I had my students pick a picture from the folder I had made in google drive. I just uploaded all my photos from my phone into a specific folder in drive and it made finding class pictures really easy. The inserted their pictures into the app and then wrote a sentence. When we were done, I could save it as an ePub file, email it to myself and add it to my iBooks. So now the book is on the iPad and they can read it. Here's another video that explains it a little better. 

I hope you can try one of these ideas this Fall as you start back to school and are looking for ways to incorporate technology into your small groups. My last installment of the series will focus more on technology in centers. Be sure to check out parts 1, 2, and 3 to get more ideas for using tech in centers. 
How do you use technology to work on writing?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Comprehension

I didn't forget about my series on the blog. I just have been busy this week. I started off the week at a Google Apps for Education training. It was really good and gave me a lot to think about. I'll hopefully be posting about this at a later date. I'm working on creating and updating some of my resources to be Google Classroom compatible. Hopefully I'll get access to it when school starts. It would be even better if I had more technology but that doesn't mean I'm not going to work on it with what I have. Anyway, today's post is about using using tech in small groups and centers with a focus on comprehension.
The activity I'm going to share is one of my absolute favorite activities I did with my kids last year. Retelling is a big skill for kindergarten. We practice whole group using a variety of strategies. I decided to try to do it with tech twist and the iPad. It was Dr. Seuss week and we had been reading The Cat in the Hat. I took pictures of the book with my phone and then used airdrop to drop them on my iPad. Then I had the kids use the app Show Me. (It is free from Apple app store but does have a paid option.) This is an interactive white board app where students can import pictures, take pictures, record themselves, and write. I made a video off an example using this app.

You can check out the retelling show me that my kids did here. I love that I can share links with parents and they can see what their kids have been up to in class. I send my weekly newsletter home through email each week. I only have had 1-2 families that don't receive it that way. I can include this link in my newsletter and parents can see it. How would you use this app with your students?
I'll be back in a few days after the fourth to finish up this series with information about writing and more information about centers. I  hope you have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Phonics and Word Study

While you are reading this, I'm at the beach. Hopefully having a great family vacation with my whole family. I'm sure we're having a wild and crazy time with three kids 5 and under. But it is definitely needed.
I can't believe I'm actually able to post two blog posts in a row. I've set my goal of posting once a week. If I post once a week for the next few months, I'm going to reward myself with a facelift to my blog. I have missed blogging. I enjoy having something to share and focusing on the content rather than getting caught up in the whole "business" side of the blog. There is so much pressure through social media to be a certain way and to keep up with the newest trends. When I couldn't keep up because of my sweet girl, I kind of gave up on blogging. But I am finding my groove again and I'm remembering why I started the blog to begin with.
Anyway, moving on from that tagent. This week I'm going to share a few activities to use in your small groups that have to do with phonics and word study.

The first activity uses the app Post-It Plus. This is a free app from Apple iTunes but I wasn't able to find the app on the Google play store. I learned about this app from the Apple Education event I got the opportunity to go to in April. It was a great training and I learned about several great activities. This app is used organize and sort information. The app is billed as a way to capture information from collaboration sessions and then share it. There are so many applications for education. You take a picture of the post its and then you can move the post its and create different boards.
In the small group, we had been working on short vowel words. I had post its with different words on it. The students took a picture of the post its and sorted the cards by medial sound. We did it with words but you could do it with pictures as well, provided the pictures are the size of a post it.

You can move the post its into several different groups within the app. Yes you can do this with the post its and not add the tech component. But technology offers a little higher engagement for students which gets them more into their learning. When I first saw this app, the first activity I thought of was a can, have, are chart. Once completed as a class using post its. Students could reorganize the information during a center and create their own chart. I plan to try this next year with my first graders. 
The ABC - Magnetic letter app that I talked about in part one can be used for phonics as well. You can use the letters to build words from a word family. What I liked about this, is there is a line magnet that students could use to underline the rime and onset of the words. Here's an example using the -ot family. 

You could also use the Doodle Buddy app like I suggested for the sight words for word work.

I really want using the iPad to be more intentional that just getting on apps and playing. But there are some great apps out there for students to use to practice skills that they need practice with. I use this time during small groups to show students specific apps that I want them to practice on. For example, there was an RTI group that I was working with that was really struggling with rhyme. I had this app Bud's Rhyming Words that I showed the kids and we worked on some games with. Then they knew when they were using the iPad during center time I wanted them to work on this app.
This is a paid app. It costs $3.99. But one of the things I like about it, is that kids can have their own username on this game and you can track what they are doing.
Here are a couple of other phonics apps that I like.

  • Montessori Crosswords - Fun Phonics Game for Kids to learn sound letters and alphabets ($2.99)

  • Alpha Writer by Montessorium - $4.99 - So this one is expensive but I like it because it has all the digraphs, blends and other vowel teams already in chunks for kids to work on.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Sight Words

I am brave to be posting something and then adding part 1. That means I'm promising at least at part 2.  But I'm passionate about this topic and I hope you can learn something. I had the opportunity to present at the East Tennessee Technology Association - Instructional Technology Academy yesterday.  It was my first time presenting to a group of teachers. Oh my. I was so nervous but so excited. I have tell you a story about when I was in fourth grade. For 4H we had to do a food demonstration. I demonstrated making a carrot salad and placed first in my class. So, I got to go on to "compete" with other schools in the county. Well, I got up to do my food demonstration and I was done in like 5 minutes. According to my grandmother, the carrots were flying and I was sitting down before it could settle. So I haven't quite lived down this nightmare speaking event. I tend to get nervous and talk really fast. The room filled up quickly yesterday and there were even people sitting on the floor. Then two of the teachers recognized me from my teachers pay teachers store. So, I sped through the first half of my presentation barely taking a breath. But hopefully, some of the participants got something out of it. I am going to attempt to break down my presentation into several blog posts.

Technology is definitely a passion of mine. I would love to have a class set of iPad for my students but the reality is that I have 1 iPad, 1 iPods, 2 computer and an interactive white board. So I do the best I can. I love using the iPad during my small group time. I really wanted to work this past year on doing more with technology than just putting kids on apps and on websites. I wanted them to learn to create things using technology. By using the iPad during small group time, I am able to teach students to use different apps to practice skills and create with them.
During small group time, I tend to focus on sight words, phonics/word study, comprehension and writing. If you haven't read, The Next Step in Guided Reading: Focused Assessments and Targeted Lessons for Helping Every Student Become a Better Reader, you need to. It really helped me to focus my small group instruction. On this post, I'm going to share a few ideas for sight words.
The first app I like to use is ABC- Magnetic Alphabet for Kids. There is a lite version that is free and the paid version is $1.99. I paid the $1.99 because I wanted lowercase letters and some pictures. This app is available on the apple app store and on google play.
It is a simple app that works just like magnetic letters. There are different backgrounds to choose from and other pictures.
We use this app to build sight words, find missing letters in sight words and unscramble them. These sight word routines can be found in The Next Step in Guided Reading. (Read my post about these routines here.)

The next app is Doodle Buddy for iPad.  This app is free on iTunes. I wasn't able to find the exact same app for android but there are similar apps. It is basically just like a white board. But I like to change things up and this allows students to chose what colors they write with and the medium they write with. There are also stars and shapes they can use to illustrate sentences. So we practice writing sight words and writing sentences with our sight words. 

The last activity I wanted to share using the app Show me Interactive Whiteboard.  This is a free app on iTunes and I wasn't able to find this exact app in the google play store. There are other interactive white board apps. For this activity, you have cards with the sight words that you are working on. Students pick a sight word, take a picture of it, then write the word and record themselves using the word in a sentence.  This is what it looks like. 
You can check out the show me by clicking here and hear the sentence that she said. I didn't have any of my class doing this activity saved so my niece who is going into first grade next year did it for me. She loved helping me with technology for my class.  The kids love this activity because after they each get a turn to record a sentence, they like to listen to each others' sentences. 
After students have practiced these activities in small groups, you can move these activities into centers. You can even move the magnetic letter app and sight word routines into a center. I have my students in partners for centers. They can "quiz" each other by removing letters and scrambling the words. 
I made a handout for my presentation that has a list of all my favorite apps I use with my kids. I'll be honest, a lot of them are paid apps. But I have found you get what you pay for with somethings.
If I can get my act together and utilize nap time appropriately, I'll be back next week with part 2 of this series. We're going to the beach with my family so I'll need to get on it and get  a post scheduled. I would love to hear how you use technology in your small groups, leave me a comment with your favorite apps and activities. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Finding the good in the difficult

Blogging has definitely taken a back burner this year. This whole being a working mom is hard and I have not adjusted as well as I would like. Of course, it doesn't help that my child doesn't sleep through the night consistently yet. It seems that I have used blogging this year, to help me process some of my bigger issues. So here I go again. I'm going to be as honest as I can be.
I have one of the best classes I have ever had this year. Sadly all my husband has heard is me complaining out the things that go on outside of my classroom.  As teachers we are faced with so many challenges that are beyond our control. I love the school I work at. I think the teachers there are great and work hard. But I see them everyday beaten down by systems that we can't control. More testing. More mandates. More policies that don't seem to have the best interest of our students at heart. I love my students and I love being there for them.  But this year I have felt strongly called to be there for my fellow teachers. I have worked at trying to improve morale and be a positive light in the school. I am blessed to be able to maintain the prayer list at our school. Almost my whole school joins together in prayer for each other and shares our prayer concerns over email. It is such a privilege to me that I get to facilitate it and it is totally a God thing. He called me to this role. He calls me to send out encouraging emails to my co-workers.
This past week as a staff we endured some difficult things. We were told some things that weren't true about ourselves. Lots of us felt guilty about things that we should never feel guilty about. I have been processing this all week. I have gone from sad to mad and back again. I know that we can't be the only group of teachers to beaten down in this way. So here are the conclusions I have come to in this difficult time as teachers.
What is clear to me is that God is present in all things. One of his names is El-Roi, the God who sees, and he sees us.  He sees you when you give that child a hug that no one else wants to hug. He sees you when you listen to a child tell a story over and over. He sees you when you bring dinner to a co worker who is going through a rough time. He sees you when you are having a rough day in your personal life but you put a smile on your face for your students. He sees you when you sit down to grade papers or plan lessons after providing your family a meal and everyone is in bed. He sees the excitement you have when your student who has been struggling all year finally gets it. He sees that coffee your bring your co worker when they have a hard day. He sees you when you share the treats you bake with your fellow teachers. He sees you fighting everyday for your students.  The great thing is God sees us as we really are.
Not only does God see but our co- workers and students see it too. I want to challenge you this week to uplift one of your co workers. Show them you see the little things that they do that are meaningful. Show them you believe they are so much more than how the world sees them.
 Some days it feels like our education system is crumbling around us. But we keep on for our students and we need to keep on for each other. We need to encourage each other. We have to lift each other up. We have to stick together.  Be a light in your school!