All About the Alphabet

When I hosted a little Coffee Talk a few weeks ago, one of the things a few of y'all wanted to know about was how I introduce the alphabet to my Kinder friends.  Instead of answering with a little blurb, I felt like this was a concept that deserved a lot more than just a little explanation.  So let's get started, shall we?!


Before I start, I think it's important for you to know that I wholeheartedly DO NOT believe in "letter of the week" alphabet instruction. Although letter identification and letter to sound relationships should be taught systematically and thoroughly, the sequence and spacing of instruction doesn't need to be drawn out.  We need our babies to crawl before they can walk and that crawling process shouldn't last for the majority of the year.  I mean shoo...we practically want them running by the end of the year, y'know?!

So let's move them from crawling to walking pretty quickly.  It can be done effectively without being rushed.  I've seen it year after year.  And year after year it amazes me each and every time.  

You know at the beginning of the year {in Kindergarten} our babies come in pretty much all over the board.  Some of our kids are reading chapter books...some of our friends can identify most letters of the alphabet...and some of our sweeties don't even know the letters in their names.  I always have a mild panic attack at the beginning of each year wondering how in the world I can possibly teach them all.  How will I bring my emergent learners into the same playing field as my readers?!  How will I differentiate learning so that my sweet & lows aren't lost and my high flyers aren't bored?!  The struggle is real! {and they all said AMEN}.

I feel like the alphabetic principle is the most urgent literacy skill to introduce and implement at the start of each school year.  Research has proven that the difference between good readers and readers who struggle is their ability to use letter to sound relationships to identify and read words.  If we're stuck teaching a letter of the week, how in the heck are we supposed to get them reading fluently and independently by the end of the year?  
At the beginning of the year, I tell my kids, "I'm having an ALPHABET PARTY and you're ALL invited!!!"  Naturally, I'm completely dramatic about this and the kids just go a little wild.  Then we have to tap the breaks thismuch.  I basically quote my Texas brother, Robert Earl Keen, and tell them "the road goes on forever and the party never ends."  We'll be using the letters in the alphabet forever and we'll need to be ready to party with them every.single.day.  Then we get the party started.

At the beginning of the 2nd week of school, I introduce the mnemonic strategies {motions/cues/pictures} we use for each letter of the alphabet.  The purpose of incorporating these strategies into our alphabet instruction is to help the kids make connections and improve their ability to remember the letter to sound relationships. When I first introduce these motions, I go through about 3-4 and then practice {always with the alphabet linking chart}.  Then 3-4 more...and practice them all again.  Then we practice those 6-8 a few more times and then brain break.  We switch it up a bit and then do a totally different activity and then revisit the linking chart and motions again.  I know how short those attention spans can be...especially those first few weeks.  We do a lot of introduction and acting out that 2nd week...and lots, and lots, and lots of practice.


I asked my little guy to help me show y'all what I'm talking about with the motions.  He does this in is class, too.  If you do watch this, let's keep in mind that this child is ALL boy.  Ohmydear.  There is no such thing as sitting still or keeping his hands out of his pants.  Bless his sweet soul.  #sorrynotsorry




Of course, we would've been doing this little exercise WITH the linking chart, but I was doing good just to get him to cooperate with me for that brief 3 minutes.  I didn't want to push my luck. #bribedwithcandy #noshame 

After we practice this for about a week during our whole group block, we incorporate it into our small group instruction, too.  This is when I do my explicit alphabet instruction and activities.  I formally introduce about 3 letters per week {following the McCracken order}.  I've followed the McCracken sequence for the last 13 years and it seems to work well with my kids.  

Here's a sample of how it all breaks down during small group....


Right now you might be shaking your head and thinking I speed way too fast through the alphabet and my kids surely don't learn a darn thing.   I can assure you that they do!  Between targeted small group instruction and daily review and repetition of the linking chart & motions, my babies learn those letters & their sounds quickly!  In fact, I would say that 18 out of 20 kids have learned and mastered all of their letters and letter sounds by the end of October/early November and they definitely ALL know their letters/letter sounds by January {assessments}. There are very rare occasions when this isn't the case and in those instances there are usually medical reasons why retention isn't possible.

Let me just tell y'all my favorite success story from last year. One of my favorite successes of my 13 years in the classroom for that matter.  I had a lot of friends last year who struggled with letter recognition and letter to sound relationships.  It was pretty significant.  I had several friends who had little to no working knowledge of the alphabet at all.  They weren't able to write their names let alone identify them {or any of the letters in their names for that matter either}.  One little friend in particular...we'll call her Matilda Jane...was really struggling.  I was so worried about her.  She came into Kindergarten knowing only 4 capital letters...none of them in her name.  Matilda Jane was very shy and terrified of taking risks, so I knew that the familiar repetition of activities and instruction would help her to feel more comfortable in the learning process.  I saw her grow a little every day.  At first, I didn't see progress like I had hoped.  But then Matilda slowly started to come along.  She had mastered all of her capital & lowercase letters {recognition} and letter to sound correspondence by the end of October.  I remember that specifically because it coincided with our Book Parade and I had a special Halloween treat saved just for her for her amazing accomplishment.  

Reading was a different story.  It took a little bit longer to make those connections.  We continued to review the alphabet and those letter to sound relationships pretty much every day before guided reading and then applied that to making words and manipulating sounds.  At mid-year assessment time,  I was THRILLED to have her reading independently on a 2 {B}.  I mean, if y'all only knew how hard we worked to get there, y'all would've been just as proud of her, too!  By the end of the year, she was independently reading on an 8.  AN 8!!!!!  My sweet Matilda Jane!!!  She read so fluently...her comprehension was flawless...and she made the most amazing text to self connections.  She blossomed into such a great reader!!!  I'm not saying she never would've achieved that goal if her alphabet instruction was different, but I think it would've been a little bit more challenging to get there.

My kids use the motions with the linking chart until they've reached the point of automaticity with their letter to sound relationships.  I give each of my kids a quick alphabet assessment every Friday afternoon to make sure they are retaining and recalling the letters that are formally introduced during small group instruction and to see what they're picking up through repeated exposure.  The assessment is super quick.  I basically just call them up to the teacher table one at a time {while the rest of the class is occupied in Friday Free Centers} and then I have my kids go through a separate set of capital and lowercase letter cards and tell me the name of each letter and the sound that it makes.  I only give them about 3 seconds per letter because the goal is automaticity and I'm using these little assessments to guide my small group instruction for the following week.  If they are able to recall the letter and sound, I'll write down the date next to the corresponding letter on their check sheet.  If not, I'll just leave it blank and use that info to plan.

I also make sure to have lots of alphabet resources available in the classroom.  These are prominently displayed and/or kept in areas of the classroom that are easy to access.  I want my kids to become responsible for their learning and use these resources when they get "stuck".


Those desk plates are my favorite.  I love that they have picture cues for each letter. I keep a set of the letter books in my alphabet station.  This is in a pretty easy-to-access area in the classroom and the kids know they can use these as a resource any time they need.  

I have a million and one of these linking charts around the room at any given time.  I keep one in all of my literacy tubs, my kids keep one in their guided reading folders, and I have a small group set I keep at my teacher table.  You probably have them, too!  If you don't, or if you just want a new set, you can download it HERE.



I also love these anchor charts and so do the kids.  I will bring them out when I introduce a new letter and keep it displayed on my white board next to my teacher table.  After the week is over and the 3 letters have been introduced and reviewed, I add the letters to our alphabet anchor wall.  



So this is a basic little overview of how I introduce and sequence my alphabet instruction.  For the rest of the week, I'll be posting a little more about what I do to help my kids master this skill as well as some of my favorite whole and small group activities!!  

Visual Lesson Plans - How I Fit It All In


  I often get asked how I'm able to fit things into my day and I'm hoping this helps give you an idea of how that looks.  Let's go ahead and start with the plans.  I'm fortunate enough to be able to help teachers plan for their days while pushing in to assist and mentor.  We talk a lot about "fitting it all in" and I hope this helps you to see what that looks like.  I tend to OVERplan because I'd rather have more than enough to get through the day(s).






Whew.

Now let's break it all down.

MORNING WARM-UP
Most kids are still filtering in during this time, so I like to give my kids something hands-on to keep them engaged while everyone is arriving.  When I'm working with teachers, I really try to encourage them to give students hands-on materials instead of worksheets.  While I do feel like those have their place in the classroom depending on the content, I feel like the morning time is a GREAT time to phase them out.  

Make It Monday 
Kids can use various mediums to make their names. Q-tips and paint, tear paper, white crayon and watercolor, or markers & crayons.  Each choice is placed at a different table.  When my kids come in, they grab their name cards from the pocket chart and then choose how they want to make their names. I write their names for them on a piece of construction paper and they go to town.  

Type It Out Tuesday  
As the kids come in, they can grab a "keyboard" and practice typing their names and the names of their friends.  Make name cards available to use as a resource.

I Wonder Wednesday
On Wednesdays we work in our "I Wonder" journals.  I display an "I Wonder" prompt on the whiteboard, we talk about it, and then they write/illustrate their "wonder" in their journals. This week's I Wonder prompt can be found on Wonderopolis HERE.


Creative Thinking Thursday
I've used draw starts since my first year teaching.  This is one of the components my first district used to identify GT students.  Draw starts are a great way for your kids to think outside the box.  Once they complete the draw start, they write about it.  These are great for collecting and keeping in student portfolios, too!


Find It Friday  
Students will search to find their names and the names of their classmates in a Wordle or Word Search.  If you're new to Wordles, see how I create them for sight words HERE.  
You can Google "Word Search Generator" to find a website that best fits your needs for creating customized word searches.


If you don't think a system like this would work for you, you could always consider rotating the activities throughout the week.  On Monday, table 1 does a doodle loop, table 2 does a sight wordle, so forth and so on.  Just an idea. 

Now let's break down my literacy/reading block.
I flexibly pull my kids up to teacher table for small group guided reading activities and lessons.  For my K babies, we're learning letters at the teacher table for warm ups.  You can read more about that HERE.


I'm using small group activities from my Guided Reading Phonics Activities Bundle for my first graders this time of the year.


Here's what we've got going on during our literacy rotations (literacy tubs and centers):


Pocket Chart:  I write out the first letters of the names in my class on a small index card and place them in the pocket chart.  I also create name cards for each student in my class.  You can read more about how I created those HERE.  I place the cards in a tub and then students work together to sort the names by first letter.


Writing:  In Power Point, I create a single sheet class roster with names and pictures.  I make sure to take a picture of each of my kids the first week of school.  Each picture is placed in the file and their first names are typed underneath their pictures.  Then I create a separate writing sheet.  I take all of those pictures and place them in a file going vertically then place writing lines next to each picture.  I place the picture/writing line sheets in a plastic sheet protector in the writing center.  The kids choose one and then practice writing their friends names next to the matching pictures.  They use the single sheet class roster as a resource.

Word Work #1
Name Baggies:  THis activity is from my Say My Name packet.  Students choose 4 name baggies assemble the names, and record.  They love this one. I keep this one in my literacy centers for two weeks and then move it over to the "fast finisher/anchor activities" after that.  I send them home with the kids at the end of the year.

Word Work #2
Name Sorts:  This is another activity from my Say My Name packet.  This week the kids will be using letter tiles and t-charts sorting by "letters in my name/letters not in my name". I have them choose up to 5 different names to sort through before moving on to their next activity. I have several sorts included in this packet, so this is a tub that I keep out for a couple of weeks to give my kids several opportunities to practice.

Word Work #3
Build a Name:  This is another activity included in my Say My Name packet.  The kids build their name with tactile letters or letter tiles, write it with a pencil, stamp it, rainbow write it, and decorate it.

Word Work #4
Mystery Bags:  Students assemble scrambled letters inside of a mystery bag to find out who the mystery student is.

Art
Name Craftivity: This is another activity included in my Say My Name Packet. Kids put together the craft template and stamp their names.  The activity can be differentiated based on student needs.


Sight Word Station
The sight word station has a variety of activities with which the students are familiar and they will choose an activity to do giving them an opportunity to practice spelling/identifying/reading their sight words.  These are some things from which the kids can choose...









Now let's move on to Phonics and Poetry...

When the kids come to the carpet for whole group phonics, we start with a poem and a chant for a warm up.  These warm-ups/chants are pretty quick and don't take too much time, but they get the kids settled and engaged with a quickness.  I keep the Name Chant out all year long and when we're done with the names, sight words take their place.  

You can download the Name Chant (for free) below.
After we've warmed up, we do a quick whole group lesson.  That's where the direct, explicit instruction takes place. That is necessary before moving onto independent practice.  I have to teach before I can expect them to do.  All of the independent activities pictured above are in my Short Vowel Ventures - Short A packet.



Now let's talk about Math.  

For Math whole group on Tuesday, we'll be making a Name Graph.  I love Julie Lee's from Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten.

You'll also notice that I warm up with our Number Line Prompts.


Let's break down the math tubs.  I incorporate name recognition here, too.

  Math Tub #1
I place a set of student name/picture cards in a tub and then have my kids choose 10.  They count and graph the names on a recording sheet and discuss the data with a partner.

Math Tub #2
Name Measurement - I place a set of student name/picture cards in this tub also.  The kids have to choose their own name plus 4 more and use the manipulatives labeled on the recording sheet to measure the names they chose.  They will use their own name card to record the data on the recording sheet.

Math Tub #3
Choose It.  Build It.  Add It - Students choose two name cards, count the letters in each, and then build matching snap cube towers.  If the name has 7 letters, they build a snap cube tower with 7 cubes.  On the recording sheet, students will write the names and color in the number of cubes they used to build their tower.  Then the kids will take the number of letters in each name and add them together (write an equation).  They can combine their snap cube towers to correct their work.  You can download your recording sheet for free HERE:


Math Tub #4
Name Frames - one of our favorite activities!  The kids will use the letters in their names to fill the frame and then determine the amount needed to make 10 altogether.  It's a FREE download HERE.


Math Tub #5
If you're familiar with mine & Abby's Science units, you know that we're all about cross curricular content.  This is a great way to bring science concepts into the math setting.  This activity is called Magnified Math and students have to use science tools (the theme of the week) to find solve equations or find numbers hidden in a picture.  

Math Tub #6
Science Tools Tally - this activity brings science tools into the math setting.  Students have to roll a die, identify the science tool, and then tally the amount they roll.  Simple, easy, and meaningful.

Math Tub #7
Lab Coat Capture - this is a fun partner game (math with friend) where players get to practice 1:1 correspondence and identifying numbers that are more/less.

Math Tub #8
Good Citizens are ONEderful - again with the cross curricular content, only this time the focus is social studies.  This activity compliments our study on good citizenship - the first SS TEK we cover here in Texas and I'll pretty much take any chance I can get to reinforce the importance of being a good citizen.
And then we finish out the day with Theme...aka - Science and Social Studies.  Here's what that looks like visually, but you can take a closer peek in the plans.  Just download them HERE.

Whew!!!!


Hope this helps you visually see how I try to fit it all in!!! 

Building Relationships & a ONE DAY ONLY Sale!

Today we're talking about something that's near and dear to my heart as both a teacher AND a parent...parent/teacher relationships!!!  But before we get started, let's get some housekeeping out of the way.

TODAY ONLY (August 22), Teachers Pay Teachers is having a back-to-school BONUS sitewide sale! You might want to snag some of those items on your wish list before the sale expires at midnight (EST).


Just be sure to enter the promo code ONEDAY at checkout to get your discount!!! 

And here's a quick little shopping tip.... 

If you're looking to see if I have something you might need, you can always type keywords in the "Quick Find" bar (pictured below).  For example, if you're wondering if I have any Apple themed resources, you can type in "apples" and the products I have relating to that keyword will pop up.



You can also browse through the Custom Categories tab on the left hand side of my store.  This is a great way to search based on specific concepts/skills, thematically, subject area, etc.  


Now let's move along with our regularly scheduled programming, shall we?!




Establishing and maintaining relationships with parents!!!

When I first started teaching about 14 years ago, I was a very timid and insecure 23-year-old.  I was unsure of  myself as a teacher and I was nervous as all get out about talking to parents.  I remember being asked (by several different parents) on meet the teacher night my first year, "how old are you?!?!" I remember thinking how they must have thought I looked too young to be teaching their babies.  Oh, how I wish I still had that problem. 
#grayhairdon'tcare #crowsfeet #wrinklesfordays

I remember being so scared to tell parents about their child's behavior...would they accuse me of lying?  Or say I didn't know how to handle my kids because it was my first year in the classroom?  
I walked on eggshells when it came to important conversations.  I wanted to seem competent.  I wanted parents to love me.  I remember being terrified to talk about the "hard stuff"...low test scores, struggling learners, etc.  I wanted to bypass those conversations and talk about all the cool things that were going on in the classroom.  Being a professional is tough! 
 #thestruggleisreal

That first year in the classroom taught me SO much about myself as a teacher...both professionally and personally.  I learned to put on my "big girl panties" and deal with it all.  For me, it was all trial and error.  I made a lot of mistakes and there are situations I wish I could take back and do-over.  But without those experiences, I wouldn't have learned and grown...both personally and professionally :) 

Since that first year, parent/teacher relationships have always been important to me...even the hard conversations.  I'm even more sensitive to these relationships since becoming a parent myself.  
My goal as a teacher has always been to have strong relationships with my parents.  I know some of the girls I've taught with think I'm nuts for having hour long conferences with my parents.  I just can't stop talking. I love building those relationships!!!  

To this day I'm still great friends with SO many of my former parents.  I even had a few of my parents drive from Dallas to Houston when I got married 12 years ago!  Every year I get Christmas cards from many of my former families and I love keeping up with them all on Facebook, too.  Really, they've all become part of my family.  Part of who I am as a teacher.  And I love them to pieces.

I'm definitely no expert when it comes to these relationships, but I think it's an important conversation to have and I wanted to share a few little tips I think  (in my own experience) are really important for establishing and maintaining them.



1.   Making deposits before taking withdrawals
Oh goodness is this important!  As a parent, I don't want the first thing out of my teacher's mouth to be something negative about my kids.  Trust me...I know they can be a handful, but ohmiword...hearing the bad before the good would sure make me wonder if they see anything good about my child at all.   Every parent's wish is for a teacher to love their child and see the good in them {or maybe that's just my wish??!!}.  I always try to keep that in mind.  Every student is someone's child. 

Every year we have our sweet little stinkers.  We really want to nip their not-so-desireable behavior in the bud before it gets out of control and our first line of defense is to pull clips/call parents/send home notes, etc.  I'm not saying any of that is wrong, but if that's the first conversation our parents have with us, we're probably less likely to bond.  That could make for some really awkward and tense conferences in the future and it could put our parents on the defense if other situations arise throughout the year.  Until you're able to have positive communication with your parents, try and find the best in every student and focus on that.  Make a deposit before taking a withdrawal.

Here are some tips:



-Make a positive phone call home to each of your parents/guardians the first few weeks of school. This establishes a good connection with your parents and starts the year off on the right foot.  Don't email.  CALL.  Call a few different parents each day so that you aren't trying to fit it all into one afternoon.  If you're worried about getting "stuck" on the phone in a long conversation, preface the conversation with, "I know you're busy and I don't want to keep you, but I just had to call you and tell you how much I love having Susie in my class!  She is always so happy and I love the way she takes the initiative to help without being asked.  This is going to be a great year!  I just wanted to let you know!!"  



-In addition to a phone call, send home a handwritten "thank you" card to each of your parents the first few weeks of school.  I've done this for years and always have parents tell me how much they loved the gesture.  My thank you cards read something like this....
"Dear Mr. & Mrs. Carroll, 
Thank you so much for trusting me with Landon.  He is such a sweet boy with so much potential and I can tell this is going to be a great year.  I am so excited to watch him grow this year.  He is so kind to others and has such neat handwriting.  He loves to participate in our group discussions, too!  Thank you so much for giving him such a great foundation and preparing him for our year together.  I'm looking forward to partnering with you this year and if you ever have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please contact me at (123)555-5555.  This is going to be a wonderful year!
Sincerely, me"
I always try to include something specific about their child in the note (handwriting, participation, etc.).

- Keep a "behavior sheet" for every student in your class.  At the beginning of the year, organize these into their portfolios.  Carry around a clipboard with blank labels.  When you notice something great about your kids, jot it down on a label and stick it on their "behavior sheet".  These behaviors could be ANYTHING...works well with others, helps without being asked, very attentive, always positive, etc.  Notice the good and jot it down.  When you want to make a positive phone call home or send home a quick little "happy note", you'll have specific examples of things to include in your conversation :)





2. Be Accessible
An "open door policy" can mean a lot of different things depending on where you teach.  As teachers we definitely want to establish boundaries.  It can be distracting for our kids when there are too many visitors and it can definitely throw off a routine and cause interruptions in our instructional time.  Make sure those boundaries are set, but also make sure that parents know they are welcome.  If your school doesn't allow parents in the classroom, this might manifest itself by way of phone calls and conferences.  I personally give parents my cell phone and tell them "if you can trust me with your child for 10 months, I can trust you with my phone number.  I may not get back to you right away if I'm spending time with my family, but if it's an emergency I will contact you as soon as possible."  This sets boundaries in a nice way, but also lets them know I'm there for them if they need me.  Of course, this doesn't work for everyone, but it's something I'm comfortable with and it works for me. And I always want my parents to know that they can contact me about anything...if they're unsure about something, have a question, are upset, worried, etc.  Whatever it is, I want them to know they can contact me about it.  I personally prefer phone calls because tone can't be read through an email and so many things can get misconstrued and taken out of context.  HOWEVER, I also know that email is important for documentation purposes.  




3.  Be Upfront
Don't be scared to talk about the hard stuff.  You're not doing anyone any favors by tiptoeing around the hard to have conversations.  As always be professional and kind, but by all means, be upfront.  Parents need to know if you have concerns and you need to tell them exactly what your concerns could mean for the future.  They most certainly don't want to be blindsided by anything.  If your sweetie is bullying his friends, let your parents know what you see so they aren't in shock when he is sent to the principal for something really serious.  If your sweet baby is struggling in various academic areas and isn't on track to be promoted to the next grade level, let your parents know before the last day of school.  Nobody likes to be surprised!!  




4.  Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!!!
I don't think I can stress this one enough!  I've always had great relationships with my parents, but there have been a couple of times when parents have been upset with me (happens to us all!) due to a misunderstanding or miscommunication.  Parents are the best advocates for their kids and I always encourage them to do just that...advocate for your babies!!!  Heck...I'll advocate for mine because I know no one else will.  All that to be said, the better the communication, the less you'll have to worry about anyone misunderstanding.  Here are some things I've found that really help keep parents in the loop.

- Parent/Teacher Conferences - I'm not talking about the conferences you're required to have 3-4 times a year.  I'm talking about the conferences that are needed to discuss pressing issues....behavior, academic concerns, bullying, etc.  Be proactive and set-up conferences when you feel there's a need. 



- Weekly Newsletters - Let's be real.  Our students aren't always forthcoming about what's going on in their classrooms.  I know when I pick up my boys at the end of the day the first question I ask is always, "how was your day?!?!" or "what did you do today??!!"  The answers are always "fine" and "nothing", LOL!!!  But it's SO true!!!  Being a parent myself, I always want to know what my kids are doing when they're not with me.  What are they learning?  What can I do at home to help them be more successful in the classroom?  Are there any special events/birthdays/activities coming up?  A weekly newsletter keeps them in the loop and aware of what's going on.  I email my newsletter to my parents and include a section for "What We Learned This Week", "What We're Learning Next Week", "Upcoming Events/Birthdays/Activities", "Important Reminders", and "Kids Say the Darndest Things".  


-Simply Circle - This is an EXCELLENT platform for communicating with parents!!!!  If you're not familiar with Simply Circle, you must check it out!!!!  




5.  Love Their Kids
If you do nothing else, LOVE their kids.  Even the babies that are hard to love.  Love them.  Be kind to them.  SMILE at them.  Praise them.  Compliment them.  Hug them.  Make them laugh.  Listen to them.  Love them, love them, and then LOVE THEM SOME MORE.  When you love them, they love you and in turn, so do their parents.  I have LOVED my boys' teachers to pieces because I know they've loved my boys.  I hear what my boys say about them.  I hear how my boys feel about the way they're treated.  They have LOVED their teachers and because of that, I have loved them, too.  
If you can and if you feel comfortable, here's a tip...


-Spend time getting to know your kids OUTSIDE of the classroom.  Attend dance recitals, baseball games, church events, etc.  You can't attend every single event for every single child, but try to attend at least one.  Send home a little survey or questionnaire at the beginning of the year asking your parents for a schedule of their child's extracurricular activities/events.   Just an extra little something to show you're invested in WHO they are...not just who they are in the classroom.  And ohmiword, the look on your kid's faces when they see you at THEIR event?!?!  Priceless!!!!


And just remember that sometimes, no matter how much you communicate...how much you praise...how much you LOVE their child...some parents might not see eye to eye with you and/or your teaching philosophy.  Sometimes they want what you can't give.  Sometimes they don't want what you're giving.  But as long as you have their child's best interest at heart....and as long as you are doing everything you can to give their child every opportunity possible...that has to be enough :)  
Just remember to be positive and professional in every situation and take every experience as a learning opportunity.

What are some things you do to establish and maintain parent/teacher relationships?!  I'd love to hear more!!!

Social Studies & Such

Hey y'all!  Is everybody surviving the back to school rush?  My boys know who their teachers are and we're meeting them tomorrow night so they're all kinds of excited! (ME TOO!!!!)

Lots of things have been happening behind the scenes here that have been keeping me unexpectedly busy (that's life, right?!), but I wanted to pop-in real quick to tell you a little bit about my newest resources for my K & 1st teachers.



After we released several months worth of Science plans in the Spring, we received lots of emails asking if we were planning on creating a similar Social Studies resource filled with detailed lesson plans and cross curricular suggestions and ideas.  I loved that idea and quickly got to work laying out an outline for the school year.  I went to our state standards (in Texas we use TEKS) and worked on aligning those standards with the national social studies standards for K-1.  Many of the standards for K-1 overlap in certain areas, but I thought it was important to make sure that these resources were separate to target specific grade level objectives.  So unlike The Science Of resources that are a K-1 combo, these social studies resources for K-1 are separate



 So for those of you that have been emailing asking if social studies is ready, well now it is!  The first unit anyway :)    Sorry for the delay and thank you for your patience and understanding!!!

Simply Social Studies is similar to The Science Of... in regards to the detailed lesson plans, book suggestions, cross-curricular connections, vocabulary cards, craftivities, and anchor chart ideas.  And just like The Science Of..., you can use as much or as little of each lesson as best fits the needs of your class!!!



The first unit of Simply Social Studies is all about citizenship. The first unit of  Kindergarten Social Studies focuses on being a good citizen while the First Grade Unit dives deeper into the concept of good citizenship.  Both the Kindergarten and First Grade Unit 1 resources include vocabulary cards and discussion questions for each lesson.  I like to keep my vocabulary cards on a ring so that I can carry them with me and use them during transitions and whatnot.



Detailed lesson plans include objectives, vocabulary, ELA & Math extensions, as well as a "materials needed" list for quick reference...



...and each lesson also includes an optional review/assessment printable that can be completed in a whole group/small group or independent setting.


Just like in The Science Of resources, book suggestions are also included for each lesson in the unit as well as anchor chart suggestions and accompanying craftivities.  While book suggestions are included, they are by no means necessary for the success of the lesson.  That to be said, I do feel strongly about including read alouds in your lessons (whatever books you choose!!!) to help your kids make deeper connections and build a more authentic understanding of the content.  


And as usual, cross curricular activities and suggestions  for further skill & concept implementation.


As the year progresses, more Simply Social Studies units will be added...as well as four mini-units!!!...so be on the lookout for those.  

Here's what that will look like...

Kindergarten (to be added)...
Unit 2:  Alike & Different
Unit 3:  Community Helpers
Unit 4:  Basic Needs & Going to Work
Unit 5:  On the Map
Unit 6:  Where We Live
Unit 7:  Technology & How We Live

First Grade (to be added)...
Unit 2:  Families & Communities
Unit 3:  Basic Needs, Wants, & Family Provisions
Unit 4:  On the Map
Unit 5:  Where We Live
Unit 6:  Inventors & Inventions
Unit 7:  Basic Economics
Unit 8:  Technology at Home & Work

Mini-Units for K&1 (to be added)
Mini-Unit 1:  Choosing a Leader (Elections & Voting)
Mini-Unit 2:  Thanksgiving History, Customs, & Traditions
Mini-Unit 3:  Holidays Around the World
Mini-Unit 4:  Celebrating America

And unfortunately, I don't have completion dates available NOR do I have plans for a growing bundle!  As I've learned over the last few years, life is just TOO unpredictable and I would hate not to be able to fulfill a commitment on time!!!  

Have a FABULOUS day!

The GRAND PRIZE FINALE! An Insta-Hop GIVEAWAY!!!

The Back to School Bash 2016 has been so much fun! Thank you to everyone who has joined us this year. BUT...it's not over yet! We have one final chance for you to win! When we say win, we mean WIN BIG! Anyone needing some updated technology for your classroom? I give you the B2S Bash Grand Prize...



Yes! This is real life!
Yes! This could be in your classroom very soon! 

But you have to enter first! Here's how you do it: 

1) Begin the insta hop by locating @stepintosecondgrade on instagram. You will want to begin with Amy so that you collect the letter tiles in order. Each blogger will link to another letter. Click on the letter and hop to the next location. As you hop...

a) follow each blogger 
b)  collect each letter

The letter tiles look like this....



2. The letters will reveal a question. (Don't worry...the letters go in order so you don't have to unscramble a thing!) 

3. Once you have figured out the question, hop on over to any of our blogs to enter the Rafflecopter to win! You will be asked to answer the instaHOP question! 

You only have 24 hours to enter, so go get your hop on! ;) 

 Yep! That simple! So have you finished your hop? 

Enter below: