I have been super busy trying to get as much ready for the beginning of the year as possible, because I am already stressing about being on maternity leave in November and December and I know I will need as much time as possible when we go back to get ready for that. I am just a *little* obsessive when it comes to my classroom and my kiddos, so I'm already worried about things that could go wrong, won't get done, etc.

As most of you already know, we use Beverly Tyner's small group model at our school and if I haven't said it before, I LOVE it!! It is amazing how well the kids read by the end of the year. For the first 26 small group lessons, we focus on letters (5 a week), so I've been making centers to go with these lessons. You can find letter sorts and a letter roll game here and you can click on the picture below to get a sound sorting freebie. Once again, these go with the order we teach the letters.

I also made some graphic organizers for each letter that I am going to use whole group when we introduce each letter. This pack includes large circles for each letter that you can use as the center of a large circle or bubble map and also student circle and bubble maps for each letter. You can click on the picture to get it from my TpT store for only $2.50!

I would love to hear from you if you are able to use the freebie and if you can, I would also love for you to follow my blog {I'm getting close to 500 and feel a giveaway coming!}.

For those of you who have taken maternity leave before, what did you do to make it as non-stressful as possible? I'm freaking out a little worried!
 In Pictures and In Words: Teaching the Qualities of Good Writing Through Illustration Study

I'm a little late to the party, but I'm linking up with Mrs. Wills for her book study of In Pictures and In Words this summer and let me begin by saying that I am sooooo glad I bought this book!! I read the first 6 chapters this past weekend while sitting by the pool with my girlfriends and was highlighting the whole time! Here are a few highlights:

Chapter 1
In her first chapter, Katie Wood Ray digs into letting us know why illustration study is so important in developing our little ones into writers. This was particularly interesting to me because in all of our common core trainings, we've been told that having children pay closer attention to illustrations and determine why they were used in the book will have a much bigger place now (I love it when things work out like that!!). This illustration study is important because in our classroom, children are surrounded by picture books, therefore creating these types of works is natural for our students. The chapter discusses the stance of teaching into illustrations instead of out of illustrations and showing children that image making and word making are valued equally in our classroom. One of my favorite points in this chapter is:
"If teachers are willing to make a composing connection and show children how an illustrator's decisions about pictures are a lot like a writer's decisions about words, she forms a bridge of understanding that nurtures children as both illustrators and writers."

Chapter 2 
Chapter 2 discusses building stamina with our children. This is something I'm guilty of having an issue with in the past. With more and more being expected in kindergarten, I often feel rushed to get everything done. This is something I definitely want to be more aware of this year. I need to work on giving my children time to sit and work on something everyday, over days and weeks instead of wanting my little kiddos to get done quickly. I really want to work on letting my children engage in more book making rather than individual writing pieces that are different everyday and ones in which I tell them the topic.

Chapter 3
In this chapter, we are encouraged to see writing and illustrating as parallel processes. Katie encourages us to not teach "one correct" writing process, rather let the children work through and develop their own process and writing and illustrating. She also discusses guiding children in discussing the the decisions illustrators make and how they affect the book. I really want to do a better job of delving into these types of conversations with my class this year. I also want to encourage children to share their thinking when they illustrate and to share their decision making process.

Chapter 4
Chapter 4 discusses teaching our children to read like writers. We need to really make an effort to discuss the author and illustrator of the story, use their names throughout reading and when talking about decisions they made when writing or illustrating, and also model our thinking in front of our students. I am often guilty of starting a story and quickly mentioning the author and illustrator and never going back and mentioning them again. This is another thing I really want to work on as well.

Chapter 5
In chapter 5, Katie discusses how we can teach the elements of good writing through looking at illustrations. When children understand that both the words and pictures create meaning in a story, it makes such a big difference! I want to do a better job this year of getting children to really think about their illustrations this year when they are writing. In the past, I've been guilty of not really making a big deal out of their "picture," because I was so focused on getting them to write words. I'm anxious to read the chapters on teaching different techniques of illustration because one thing I'm worried about is that so often my children come in not being able to really "illustrate" much and are constantly telling me they don't know how to draw whatever it is they're trying to create.

Chapter 6
Chapter 6 deals with the writing workshop in our classroom. This is definitely something I need to improve on, because last year (since everything was little crazy with inheriting kids from 14 different classes in October), I didn't even have a set writing workshop time (shame, shame...I'm embarrassed!). I'm excited to begin the year in our writing workshop really getting into illustration study and I'm even more excited to let the kids take a bigger role in this as they study illustrations, rather than listen to me tell them about them. I'm also anxious to get back in my classroom and dig through my books to see which ones will be best for these studies. I would love to hear what you plan on using to get your kiddos working on illustration study!

Sorry for the longest post ever!! I'll be back later this week with more from the book :)
We just got back from my doctor's appointment and we are having a girl! We were a *little* shocked because everyone has thought this baby was a boy!
Giving us the thumbs up that she's a girl!
To celebrate, I'm having a flash sale today in my TpT store (click here to see my store). Everything will be 20% off until midnight.

I'll be back tomorrow with my thoughts from the first chapters of In Pictures and In Words...you can click here to read see more information on this awesome book study at Mrs. Wills' blog.

Thank you so much to everyone who has voted in the Really Good Stuff Contest! I appreciate it so much. If you haven't voted, tomorrow is the last day to vote and I would REALLY appreciate your vote! (you can click on the picture above to vote).
I'm off for a long weekend in Destin with my girlfriends from college...I had to miss our trip last year when my husband was in the hospital, so I can't wait!
I just checked my email and was shocked to see that I have been nominated and am a finalist for Really Good Stuff's Education Blog Award! I was shocked, especially considering the other blogs nominated are soooo good (Chalk Talk, Kindergarten Crayons, Miss Kindergarten, and Kindergarten Lifestyle). These blogs are some of my favorites! I would love if you could take a minute to vote for me by clicking on the picture below. You can vote all this week (starting today at 10:30) and voting ends Friday. Thank you so much to everyone who voted and congrats to Miss Kindergarten for winning!!
 For helping me out by voting, I've got two more freebies for you. We use Beverly Tyner's small group model at my school (which I LOVE if I haven't mentioned before!!) and for the first 5 weeks of school, we do alphabet lessons that introduce all the letters of the alphabet. I "fixed" some of the centers I used for this and you can get them by clicking below (I have them broken up by the letters included in each week). I hope you are able to use them!

Also, congrats to Danielle...I will be sending you your packs! Have a great week everyone :).
If you're anything like me, you start thinking about the next school year as soon as you close your classroom door the last day of school. I am working on some center activities for the beginning of school as well as some other things, but wanted to let you know about a few things I already have. Click on the pictures for more information. :)
Cut and paste activities and a sight word game

Freebie!! Cut and paste letter sorts

Matching lowercase and uppercase letters

I use these cut and paste activities for morning work at the beginning of the year...abc game also included

This is a freebie on google docs. I actually don't use this until the end of the year, but thought I would share for my 1st or 2nd grade friends. :)

In honor of my 100th post, I will give the 2 alphabet packs and the sight word pack to 1 lucky follower. Just follow my blog and leave a comment telling me what you're doing this summer to get ready for next school year (or maybe you're still de-stressing and keeping your mind off school for a while!). I have a huge stack of old files waiting on me to go through them....I am determined not to have so much stuff this year {especially since half of what's in the files I don't use!}.

I would love to hear if you are able to use the freebies or if there's anything you need for the beginning of the year :).

We got back from the beach this past weekend, and I have been in common core meetings ever since! Monday and Tuesday our county had meetings for us to become more familiar with the Language Arts standards {kindergarten used these last year, but 1st grade will be using them next year also}. Today, a group of teachers from my school met to meet about the math standards. We are working to develop lessons for Florida's CPALMS website, which basically is the central location to get standards and resources. The state is trying to get more quality resources and lessons, so we will be busy this summer getting some things together. We are still trying to determine if you will be able to get to the lessons {they're all free} if you don't teach in Florida. As we were going through the K-2 standards today, I was wondering what other teachers who used the kindergarten common core math last year struggled with the most. I would really like to make my lessons correlate with standards that my blog readers need resources for or help with. Any suggestions on what standards you would like addressed would be very much appreciated.

Did you use common core last year? Are you using it this year and if so, what did/do you think? 

I have been looking for these for what seems like FOREVER!
Scentos Markers....you can see their website here
I saw them on a couple of blogs and had the hardest time finding them in our town (we only have dollar stores and Wal-Mart). I emailed the company to ask them where I could get them and I got a response SUPER fast and they were extremely helpful and nice! The markers are so cute and they come in a variety of scents. I can't wait to use these with my class because they always love anything that smells (I've gone through numerous boxes of Mr. Sketch markers this year!).

I also found these:
These don't smell, but I really liked them because I hate getting chalk on my hands. We actually used these this weekend with my niece because my whole family is here:
I probably won't be back much this week to blog because we'll be here the whole week, so I'm trying to soak in every minute and hopefully I can lower my blood pressure for this little surprise:
We're having a baby!! I've been wanting to share the news for a while, but wanted to wait until I was further along. We were definitely surprised, but we are very excited. This picture was from one of my first appointments {9 wks.}, so our little nugget is much bigger now {I'm 18 wks.}. At my last appointment Friday, my blood pressure was elevated, so we would appreciate any prayers to help get it lowered before the end of this month because I definitely do not want to be on bed rest!

If you're wondering where to get the Scentos, they were located in the toy department at our Wal-Mart. Hope you all have a great week {if it's your last few days, enjoy your kiddos!}.
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