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An Introduction to the Alphabet

Early reading success can be attributed to early letter recognition. Introducing the alphabet through the first 26 days of school can help with that!


One of my fave subjects to teach is reading. I absolutely love our morning literacy time. When

I plan my year of phonics instruction out, there are basically three parts that it includes. There is

some sort of letter introduction at the beginning of the year, where I introduce every letter of the

alphabet. Once they have been introduced, then we dive into whole group phonics instruction, and

then once students are assessed, we add small group instruction.


Today, we're going to talk about the 26 day letter introduction. This begins the first full week of

school. I like to do this because I don't like to make assumptions about what they know.  This

way we can all start off on the same foot. Each day pretty much looks the same, just with a

different letter. Everything that I will be talking about you can find here.


We introduce the letter then add it to our "plate", which is our brain. We talk about how the letter

looks, and how you form the letter. I like to use the terms straight lines, big lines, little lines

and curves.
            Letter of the Day

Once the letter has been introduced, we move onto the sound of the letter. I introduce the sound 

of the letter using the picture for the keyword that is on the alphabet card. 

Letter of the Day

Once we have covered the name of the letter and the sound that it makes, we move to what

I like to call applying the skill. We make a chart with the keyword picture card, and we talk

about other words that we know that begins with the sound. I draw and label their words,

all while showing them that it does not have to be perfect. Then I have each student to 

come up and write the letter. I let them choose whether to write a capital or lowercase letter,

so that they are comfortable in trying. It's a great informal assessment.


Letter of the Day


Next up is our tactile letter. Nothing about this has to be fancy! This helps to reach learners

who are tactile learners. We pick a material to cover the letter with. Sometimes we do tissue

paper, other times I have them to tear construction paper to glue onto the letter. This is perfect

for fine motor practice. You can also use finger paint, noodles, glitter (eek!), cheerios or

pom-poms, etc. Whatever you have on hand really!


Tactile Letters

If we have time, we take a look at our alphabet reader. I love that the title is just the letter,

and the inside just has the word that matches the picture. It's a great way to introduce and 

review concepts of print and initial sounds. 

Pre-emergent Reader

At the end of our alphabet routine is an exit ticket. They trace the capital and lowercase letter,

and they color the keyword picture. It's a nice end to our lesson of the day.

Alphabet Exit Ticket

All of these activities you can find in the  Letter of the Day Introduction from The Phonics Diner

which you can find by clicking on any of the pictures, or you can click here.

  Early reading success can be attributed to early letter recognition. Introducing the alphabet through the first 26 days of school can help with that!

So let's recap for a moment. These are the activities that we do during our letter of the day

introductory unit:

  • Letter Introduction
  • Sound Introduction
  • Alphabet Posters (Skill Application)
  • Tactile Letter
  • Letter of the Day book
  • Exit Ticket

All of these activities you can find in the  Letter of the Day Introduction from The Phonics Diner

which you can find by clicking on any of the pictures, or you can click here. However, these are 

routines and activities that you can use with any alphabet curriculum. If you have never done a letter 

the day introduction, you should consider implementing it in your classroom!





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Early reading success can be attributed to early letter recognition. Introducing the alphabet through the first 26 days of school can help with that!


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5 of the Best Literacy PD Books


If you have been in education any length of time, you know how education trends change in no

time at all. Just like doctors need to be current on new procedures and surgeries and accountants

have to be current on tax laws, educators must stay on top of what is current in our field as well.

We all have to go to district mandated professional development, but a lot of times it does not get

the job done. It can all be vague information, and we're left with no clear way forward. Or even

worse, it is not relevant to us at all.


This post contains affiliate links, which means that I'll get a few cents thrown my way at no 

cost to you. This'll help me keep this old blog running!


This is why it is important that we take our learning into our own hands. I love to read current

professional development books because I am always learning and evolving as a teacher. This

helps me to stay current on educational research and trends. Below are my favorite PD books

all about literacy.


Last year our instructional coaches brought this book up, and something about it totally

captured my attention. A Fresh Look At Phonics by Wiley Blevins is worth its weight

in gold. My college was all about whole language acquisition. This means that I have had

to teach myself about phonics along the way. I bought this book over spring break intending

to read it over the summer, but I devoured it over that week. It was that good! It was also

the second time that I actually read a PD book from cover to cover. All 300+ pages of it.

Seriously, you will not be disappointed, because it includes actionable tips that you can

implement immediately!

Are you a teacher who is looking to improve their practice in literacy? Here is a list of 5 great professional development books to help you along the way!

The next book I have seen all over Instagram. The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo 

has been making the rounds. I wondered if it was really good, or if everyone was just jumping on 

the bandwagon. I finally grabbed it a few weeks ago, just to see what the hype was about. 

Y'all........I have to say, this book is totally the truth! It is set up by the goals you are trying to reach 

with your students. I love this because no matter where they are on the reading spectrum, you can 

identify a skill that they need to work on, and then you have a few strategies at your fingertips

that you can implement!

Are you a teacher who is looking to improve their practice in literacy? Here is a list of 5 great professional development books to help you along the way!

Small Group Reading Instruction by Beverly Tyner is another go-to for me! I was introduced

to this book by my friend Vickie Plant and I instantly fell in love. If you are looking for a book 

that details differentiated small group instruction, this is it. We're all given a reading program

to implement, but there's no real information on how to help your students with their reading

deficits. How crazy is that? Or you might get some PD or read a book, and even though it has

kindergarten, it really means 2nd grade and up. That doesn't help me at all! This book begins 

with what small group should look like, planning for small group, and then continues with 

the different stages from emergent all the way up to independent reader. You need this book

in your collection. You will find yourself referring to it again and again.

Are you a teacher who is looking to improve their practice in literacy? Here is a list of 5 great professional development books to help you along the way!

The next two books are by Debbie Miller. I love her! Reading with Meaning is all about

teaching comprehension in the primary grades. Key words here are the primary grades.

She takes you through a year in her classroom, where she leads her students into being

the very best readers that they can be. She uses the gradual release of responsibility model

and I love that she takes us along for the ride.

Are you a teacher who is looking to improve their practice in literacy? Here is a list of 5 great professional development books to help you along the way!

Next up is Teaching with Intention. I re-read this book in its entirety every summer. It is

not a literacy book per se, but it is all about your practice as a teacher, which is why it is

designated for K-5 teachers. The subtitle sums it up perfectly. It's all about defining your

beliefs, aligning your practice and taking action. Whereas the previous book followed Debbie

in her own classroom, this book takes you through her work as a literacy consultant, as she 

helps other teachers. I definitely recommend this book for any early childhood/elementary

schoolteacher. 

Are you a teacher who is looking to improve their practice in literacy? Here is a list of 5 great professional development books to help you along the way!

I absolutely love reading books and I buy them and sometimes they can fall flat and 

not be what I expected. This is not the case for the books listed above. I love them all

and I hope that you will as well! Click on any picture or here to see all of the books in one place

on my Amazon shop, and the individual links will take you to the individual books.




Are you a teacher who is looking to improve their practice in literacy? Here is a list of 5 great professional development books to help you along the way!

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6 of the Best Tech Activities for Kindergarten

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!


Looking to seamlessly integrate technology into your centers, but don't know where to begin?

You've come to the right place! There is so much tech that is available for little learners, but not

all of it lends itself to a great starting point. This post is all about how I use tablets, specifically

iPads in my classroom.


This post contains affiliate links, which means that I'll get a few cents thrown my way at no 

cost to you. This'll help me keep this old blog running!


Technology is last on the list when introducing centers into our class routine. When it finally makes

its appearance I've tried to make sure it's not just placeholders, but great learning opportunities.

A lot of times we are handed tablets and things with no real plan of how to introduce them into our

classroom. It often seems like there's nothing we can do but purchase apps. It can be easy for

students to just mindlessly tap the screen, and research has shown that it has also led to a decrease

in fine motor skills. I was so glad to find the following activities that allow true interaction with

the tablet.


Touchtronic

The first 4 activities involves the Touchtronic apps. I first heard of Touchtronic at a conference for

Kindergarten teachers. Needless to say, I was instantly intrigued. These activities contain pieces

that will interact with the app. So the students can actually choose their answer and place it

directly on the iPad in the correct spot! How cool is that? They have several games, from letter

recognition, letter-sound correspondence to building words.


Touchtronic Letters

They also have a version with numbers and the available apps include counting, addition, 

subtraction and even place value!

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

The numbers and alphabet are sold separately but they are most certainly worth the cost! Once I

introduced these, my students definitely loved them!

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

We also have the placeholders which are double-sided. Letters on one side and numbers on the 

reverse. It really makes placement so much easier, and my students know exactly where to look

for what they need.

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

In addition to the letters and numbers, we have the touchtronic spinners. They attach directly onto

the tablet, and the learning begins instantly! On the Sum Spin app, there are options for addition,

subtraction, or quantities with ten frames. 


Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

There is also a CVC word app, where students can practice initial, medial, or final sounds. In 

addition to the spinner, there is also a little ladybug that interacts with the apps. The first one is

Alphabet Street, where students can practice their letter writing. I love that they have to move the

ladybug down the street and legs appear as the ladybug "walks" down the street.

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

There's also a match the number game, and a match the sound game that you can use with the

ladybug. I love that the students aren't just clicking until they get the right answer! They have to

actually work on their activity.

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!


Osmos

I've been hearing whispers about Osmos the past few years, but I wasn't sure that I had a clear 

understanding of what its purpose was, and what it could do. Fast forward to this year, and I got to

see one in action. Needless to say, I was sold! 

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

That little red piece on top of the iPad is a camera, and the Osmo can actually "see" what the child is 

doing on the table. It let's them know whether they are correct or incorrect, gives them hints, and 

shows how they can adjust what they're doing.

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

I also love how the numbers app builds number sense. It has the little squares that look like dice,

and they also have the squares with the numbers written on them. Students can work on number

identification, then transition to building the numbers. They can use the squares with one dot on it,

or make combinations using the squares with two or five dots on it. There are several ways that

you can differentiate to meet the needs of your students.

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

Square Panda

So last year I heard of Square Panda. A colleague of mine had gotten one for her son, and shared it

with me because she thought that it would be great for my students. Of course I dragged my feet, 

and didn't look into it until this year. Now I wish that I had gotten it earlier!

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

I love Square Panda because once again, the students aren't mindlessly clicking around until they

"find" the right answer. They are actively interacting with the app, finding the letters, and learning

all about the sounds. There are also different kinds of apps within the Square Panda world so the

possibilities are endless!

Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!


These are some of the most interactive apps that I have found that work wonders in my classroom.

I've linked all of the things that I have discussed in my Amazon shop, at no extra cost to you. You

can find them here, or you can click on any picture. If you want to know more about how I run

centers, click the link!


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Finding great technology activities that are interactive can be tough, especially in Kindergarten. Your students will love these apps and activities that make learning more fun!

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Play in the Primary Classroom

Play in the kindergarten classroom


Play has always seemed synonymous with children, because it’s what they do. When students

come to school now, it seems as if the decision makers want to limit the amount of playing that

goes on in primary classrooms. It is also relegated to the outskirts of the day, where children are

allowed to play after they complete their "work". Today I want to advocate for play-based

classrooms, and explain why I believe that they are so important.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that I'll get a few cents thrown my way at no cost

to you. This'll help me keep this old blog running!

What is the definition of play?

The traditional definition is what one does as a form of enjoyment or recreation, rather than a

serious activity. This may be somewhat true for adults, but it is not the definition that I would

use when it comes to children. Play can be complex, but the simplest way to define it is what

children do on their own. They come up with their own ideas, and they are free to create their

own rules. Oh, and play from the perspective of children is a serious activity.

Types of Play

Children engage in many different types of play! The one that quickly comes to mind is

fantasy play. We see them play "make believe" when they pretend they are at a restaurant,

and they take the orders of others, etc. During this time, they begin to role-play, using what

they know from their schema (what they already know). They automatically assume the role

of the waiter/waitress, cook, cashier, etc. They do what those roles are assigned to do

without anyone having to tell them.


Another type of play is what I like to call "on the playground" play. Others may like to call it

"horseplay" or "roughhousing". This type of play involves gross motor skills, as well as body

contact between a few children. They love to run after each other, playing tag, swords and the

like. Lately the pendulum has swung to where we do not want children to engage in this type

of behavior because we think that it will go too far. The truth of the matter is that sometimes it

will escalate to a point where it has gotten out of control. It is during this time that children

learn self-restraint. They learn what it means to go too far. The only way that they will learn how to

control impulses and recognize social cues  is during play.


Playing games with different types of rules is something else that children love to do. When

children engage in this type of play, there is a some sort of logic involved, as well as order.

They learn to cooperate with each other, resolve conflict and learn what it means to lose

and/or win at something. They learn how to handle disappointment during this type of play

as well.


Constructive play is what my students like to do during blocks, play dough, etc. This kind of

play is considered to be open-ended, and has implications for STEM work as well. As they begin

to form questions, then their imaginations begin to work as they try to solve the problems that are

before them. Children who do not have opportunities to play often struggle with STEM work,

project-based learning and/or design challenges. They attempt to solve an issue, but they are

unable to adapt their thinking to new situations.

What does the research say?

It seems as if more and more children are enrolling in school without what used to be pre-requisite

skills. Play helps children to engage in conflict resolution. Inevitably something will happen where

children will disagree on what they need to do, and there will need to be some type of compromise.

This is the perfect time for them to learn how to handle these types of situations. They learn when it

is ok to adjust their expectations or position, and when they need to stand firm. Through this type of

play they also develop emotional regulation. This helps them to learn to avoid overreacting, and

they regulate their own desires by developing strategies through play such as heroism, fearlessness,

friendliness and the like.


Creativity grows through play as well. Pencil and paper work will never foster creativity. When

children are unable to participate in balanced play, then we stunt their development. All we have to

do is look around our classrooms and schools to see what the ramifications of this is. When you skip

developmental skills, it leaves deficits that can remain with the child as they grow up.


What about academic rigor?

It seems as if every few years there are standards that are pushed back to the previous grade.

Children are required to learn academic content at a faster pace and earlier than ever. At the same

time we are skipping over educational milestones.


Rigor. That can be a scary word in an academic setting, but what does it really mean? I don't have

the perfect definition, but luckily someone else does. "Rigor is creating an environment in which

each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at

high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels." This definition comes from

Barbara Blackburn, the author of Rigor Is Not a Four-Letter Word.


Psychologist Lev Vygotsky introduced the concept of the zone of proximal development. Simply

put, this zone is the difference between what a learner can do with and without help. He believed

that when little ones play, they are operating at the very edge of their zone. Most children

feel comfortable with play because it is something that they have been doing since birth. During

this time they do not struggle with drawing, writing, speaking, listening, social skills, reading, math,

etc. If it is a concept that they haven't mastered, they don't let their lack stop them from

participating. In operating at the edge of their zone, isn't that considered learning at high levels,

or what we call rigor? I believe that it is.


Work first, then play?

Some people might say that play is something that children can do after they finish their work. I

remember hearing over and over in college that play was the work of children. It wasn't until years

later that I actually understood what it meant. Play is the one area where children do not have to be

told to learn. Play comes naturally to them! During play, they are actively moving towards a goal.

Well, isn't that what work is? Vygotsky believed that the entire purpose of education is to provide

experiences that are within their zones of proximal development. He thought that this would build

on their strengths. Since his time, the definition has been updated and expanded. This zone now

includes the area of learning that develops when a student is supported by a teacher or a peer with

a higher skill set.

What does it look like in a public kindergarten classroom?

I know that we have constraints as to what we can do. I'm sharing with you a peek into my

classroom so that you can see how I try to incorporate play into our day. Now, a lot of what I do

is play-based. This means that it has an element of play, but our centers do have teacher directions.

For more on how I begin learning centers and integrate sensory tables into our routine, click the

links.


There are two centers that I have incorporated into my classroom in the past few years as I have

tried to make a shift to developmentally appropriate practice. First up is dramatic play. It is

something that had been on my heart, and after visiting other school during our time as a Leader

in Me school, I noticed that other schools had dramatic play areas in kindergarten classrooms!

This definitely piqued my interest and I desperately wanted to have one in my room as well.

Kitchen Dramatic Play

Our dramatic play area is nothing special, just a corner/area that I created in my classroom. It is 

awkwardly placed, but it serves its purpose! The farmers market stand I got from Target. I have also

linked it in my Amazon store if you can't find it at Target. 


My students rotate to this center just like they do the writing center, pocket chart center or any

other center that is on their rotation for the day. When I initially incorporated this into my class,

I thought that I would change it out every month, and have thematic tasks, such as post office one

month, dentist office another, etc. Life got in the way, and I realized that the dramatic play area was

just as I'd started it. There's a cash register, table, shopping cart, farmer's market stand, kitchen, and 

a washing machine complete with an ironing board. There's also a bin filled with grocery items and 

plates, spoons, forks and cups. Oh, and a tent is in that corner as well. 


Guess what? My students do not care that everything stays the same. Because their imagination

provides all of the different scenarios that they need. It is amazing to me what I hear coming from

this area. My timid students are no longer shy, the students who hate to speak up in class are leading

the activity. Speaking and listening standards? Covered. The hidden curriculum of social skills and

interaction? Covered.

Kitchen in Kindergarten

I also have a STEM center in our rotation. This center uses a mix of activities from Pocket of 


Learning centers, so that they only have one set of materials to use. It gets them use to the idea, and 

I've found that an overabundance of materials starting out can overwhelm little ones. Especially if 

they haven't had then opportunity to be in this type of environment before. So we start small, and 

discuss expectations, then model and practice. Once I feel that they are ready, then I add more and 

more things. It has worked out great for my class. 

Kindergarten STEM

I get asked all of the time how I'm able to "get away with all of this in my classroom". Let me tell you

that question truly makes me sad. It is what is developmentally appropriate and best for our little

ones. The first thing that I tell teachers is to be armed with research. We can always share our 

opinions, and we know what's best, but administrators respond to research. I always strive to have 

a research based classroom. The first place that I would start is the book Purposeful Play. I have also 

linked it here, just click on Professional Development Books


Sometimes we don't get the chance to explain why certain activities and centers are in our rooms,

especially if it's a walk-through or observation. When they are taking in a quick birds-eye view of 

my classroom, I want it to be understood immediately what my little friends are doing. 

Balanced play is just as important in the primary classroom as balanced literacy. When children engage in purposeful play, the implications are endless!

I now have these posted around my dramatic play and STEM centers, so that anyone can glance

at them and know exactly what my students are doing. Click on either picture or here 

to grab this for your classroom.

Balanced play is just as important in the primary classroom as balanced literacy. When children engage in purposeful play, the implications are endless!

Balanced play is just as important as balanced literacy. It is what primary children require and 

if anyone has spent a winter with indoor recess, you know exactly what I mean! We must 

provide the students that come through our classroom with what they need, giving them

new opportunities to expand their creativity.


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Balanced play is just as important in the primary classroom as balanced literacy. When children engage in purposeful play, the implications are endless!
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