Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Turkey Trouble Freebie

Fall is my absolute FAVORITE season! I love teaching young children as they observe the seasonal changes and look with eager anticipation to the holidays. Fall has become the season to give heartfelt THANKS, cherish time with friends and family, and for many… EAT TURKEY!

I’m sure that everyone is aware of Wendi Silvano’s book, “Turkey Trouble”… right? If not, order it today! Children of all ages love this story of a turkey’s attempt to disguise himself so as to NOT be Thanksgiving dinner. As my little ones like to say, “Mrs. Kane, this book is hilarious!” 

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share with you a follow-up activity to the book. The children disguise their own turkeys and write clues so that their classmates must use critical thinking skills to guess the disguises. It is a fabulous activity and it makes an adorable Bulletin Board too. The directions and the patterns are free at my TPT store. 
Last year, I shared a Thanksgiving Day Card that I have sent home to parents for many years. There is NOT a single parent that didn’t LOVE receiving this card from their precious little one. It is treasured for many years to come. I wanted to share it with you again this year. You may read about it on my blog: A Season of Thanks. The freebie may be downloaded from my TPT store.
I want to share my LOVE of children and teaching with other educators. If I make a difference for even one teacher, I will have succeeded. Wishing you all a wonderful Fall Season!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November Homework

Do you feel that you spend too much time attempting to find just the right homework for your young students? I do! Each month I seek to find the BEST homework to send home and it’s not an easy task! I want the work to be meaningful as well as review the class lessons.

I’ve found a variety of homework papers that focus on phonic skills or letter recognition, but my Daily ABC Program teaches these skills explicitly in class already. I want my students to actually practice READING at home under the supervision of an adult. I’d also like a little printing, coloring, and number practice to be included as well.

Last month, I created October Homework for Early Readers and it was very successful. Students practiced reading and printed words and sentences. That’s not to say that every page was perfect! For some students the reading was slightly too easy, and for others it was a bit too difficult. However, each page is intended to be completed with the help of an adult. Parents are asked to read to the children, listen to the children reading, and encourage BEST work. Some pages include discussions on various topics, such as nocturnal animals, and other pages have "FUN FACTS" for parent and child to read and discuss together. There is a place for a parent signature on every page.
Please do NOT believe that all my precious little ones have nightly support at home, because I don’t think any teacher is lucky enough to have 100%. Once the homework is returned it’s easy to discern if the paper was done solely by the child or if an adult contributed too. Is this fair to all my kids? Do the kids that have supportive parents gain a huge advantage?

Obviously, that’s a rhetorical question! Children with supportive parents that work nightly on reading and math skills obviously boost reading and math progress… and that’s wonderful! We WANT parents to assist with literacy and math development for their children. But what about the students that do NOT receive support?  What can we do to level the playing field and give every child the needed support that they deserve?

After sending home the homework and looking at the results, I may surmise that ten to twenty percent of my kids are not being supervised as they do their homework.  With 30 kids, this means I need to provide extra guidance to three to six students. Phew! Three to six students seems more reasonable than thirty! I may group these students just to give them an extra start on the homework during school time or I may even have them complete all the homework in class.  Of course, it depends on the child and the home situation.
October’s homework covered an array of topics: bats, owls, pumpkins, fall colors, and more. November’s homework touches on Thanksgiving, the Mayflower, Pilgrims, Indians, Veteran’s Day, scarecrows, hibernation, and nocturnal animals. You can take a peek at the entire set in my preview at:

What do you do for homework? Do you have resources that you think are fabulous? I’d love to hear what you think!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day Freebie

A-hoy Teachers! Hopefully everyone is enjoying a great Columbus Day celebration with a day off from our little ones!

Yesterday, my mailbox was flooded with ads from every place I’ve ever shopped! It seems that Columbus Day is a great day to buy anything from a new car to new shoes because of the “SALES!” 

So I thought that I would join in the tradition and place everything in my store 20% off for today only.

I also posted a Columbus Day Little Book Freebie as a “Thank you” to everyone for supporting my efforts the last two years. It’s been a learning “journey” for me …. I guess I can relate in some ways to Columbus!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Christopher Columbus

In 1492, three ships did sail the sea so blue.
The mightly ships set sail in Spain. 
They sailed through sunshine, wind, and rain!

As a teacher, I love Columbus Day but NOT because Columbus sailed the ocean blue! No, for a far better reason, we have Monday off! Yay!
I’ve been working on a Christopher Columbus Craft and Little Book with informational text for the last few weeks and …. I finally finished it late last night! I know it may be too late to use this year, but I am still excited to share it! 

The Little Book contains a limited amount of informational text intentionally!  I believe that if we try to “stuff” too much information into our little one’s brains, nothing actually sticks! So, I’ve included the basic achievements of Christopher Columbus and his importance in history. There is a B&W version too.
My favorite part of this unit is the Craft! I’ve been making this craft for over 30 years, but I’ve remade it to include additional elements this year! 

Children “sail” their ships East to West, beginning in Spain, across the Atlantic Ocean to an island in the Bahamas. As they move their ships they count to 71 to mimic the number of days needed for Columbus to reach the West. My kids have always loved making this project!

This is the perfect unit for TK or kindergarten, and I added a few more pages with writing prompts for use in first grade too! You can check it out at at   Most importantly, have a FABULOUS Christopher Columbus day OFF!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

Bibbity Bobbity Boo Little Book and Pocket Chart Rhyming Activity

There is no denying that teaching activities and strategies change every year, but there are a few OLD favorites that NEVER change, even after 40 years! On the first day of school for close to four decades, I have taught my class the rhyme: 

“Williby Wallaby Woo, an elephant sat on you! 
Williby Wallaby Wee, an elephant sat on me!
Williby Wallaby Wennifer, an elephant sat on Jennifer
Williby Wallaby Wom, an elephant sat on Tom!”

 We pass a small elephant around our circle and “CHANGE” each child’s name by replacing the first letter with a W: Susie becomes Wusie & Justin becomes Wustin. The kids love it and it’s a great way to learn names beginning on the first day of school.

Bibbity Bobbity Boo is exactly the same tune and idea! Just pass around a CREEPY SPIDER or TOUCH EACH CHILD’S HEAD WITH A MAGIC WAND instead of an elephant! 

Bibbity Bobbity Bennifer, a spider crawled on Jennifer! 
Bibbity Bobbity Boo, a spider crawled on you! 
My kids love it even more than Williby Wallaby Woo!
Probably because of the rubbery spider!

I’ve created a Bibbity Bobbity Little Book to accompany the rhyme and a Bibbity Bobbity  Pocket Chart activity too! For the Little Book, the children read the text, print words, and select or color pictures of classmates to include in their book. 

 Students walk around the room, looking for the classmates who’s pictures are in their individual books. Once the classmate is found, he/she prints his/her “Bibbity Bobbity Name” in the Little Book. It’s really fun to watch the kids interact with each other as they walk around the room looking for their classmates! 

Once all the Bibbity Bobbity Names have been printed in the books, everyone READS! This is a great book to use a “magic wand” in lieu of a “reading wand” to track the text. For individual reading, provide “plastic or edible pointy fingers” to track the text. Kids love to track text using these pointy fingers!

Bibbity Bobbity Boo provides your students the opportunity to practice phoneme substitution in a fun way! I introduce this concept using my pocket chart. My pocket chart has always been one of my most effective teaching tools! 

The Bibbity Bobbity words are printed on large rectangles that are ready to cut out and laminate! All you need to do is place them in your pocket chart and begin! 
Every child in the group selects one or more of the 25 pictures. Begin reading the rhyme in your pocket chart, touching each word as you say it with a “reading wand” or MAGIC WAND!

“Bibbity Bobbity Boo! Can you find a.... “ 

The child that is holding the picture that rhymes with Boo, places it in the pocket chart and reads the rhyme again.

“Bibbity Bobbity Boo …. Can you find a.... shoe?”

Continue reading the rhyme until the pictures are gone! After modeling this activity, make it a center activity! My kids love to use a “magic wand” to track the text in the pocket chart. 

Bibbity Bobbity Boo, Happy October to You!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

October Homework for Early Readers

 At the beginning of every month, I struggle to find homework that seems appropriate for all my kids.  I want it to be meaningful as well as review the class lessons. I’ve found a variety of homework papers that focus on phonic skills or letter recognition, but I want my students to actually practice READING at home. Plus, I’d like a little printing, coloring, and number practice to be included as well.

It is because of this quest, that I’m excited to share my NEW OCTOBER HOMEWORK PACKET with you! My students read/print words and sentences, as well as sequence and write numbers. At the top of each paper is a place for a parent’s signature and a box to write the number of times the child reads the words and sentences. The pictures are fairly large and “simple,” making them easy and fun to color. So many worksheets have teeny tiny pictures that young children rarely enjoy coloring!

I’m also searching for variety. I want the homework to vary in some way, yet still contain the same skills. I’ve included pages about fall, pumpkins, bats, owls, Christopher Columbus, and Halloween. There are 20 pages of READY to SEND HOME homework!
These pages are also perfect for “morning work” if you prefer. Your students complete the pages in class, read them to a reading buddy, and take them home to READ to mom or dad. Mom and dad send them back with a signature and the number of times read. Either way, children are reading!

I’m hoping that these printables will boost your students reading abilities and make YOUR teaching life a little easier.  I’d like to give away 3 packets of my October Homework to the first 3 teachers that leave me a comment and their email address. I’d love to know what you think!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pumpkin and Scarecrow Brace Maps

In my last post, I mentioned that I LOVE brace maps and showed an example of my APPLE BRACE MAP. I hope you had a chance to make one with your kids! This month, it’s easy to guess that we will be making a PUMPKIN BRACE MAP and in November we will be making a (drum roll, please) a variation of a SCARECROW BRACE MAP! 



This illustration of a Scarecrow is not an actual Brace Map in appearance because it doesn't show the PARTS as well as the WHOLE. 

BUT... here's why it works: The children spread the parts out on the rug, label them, and then ... glue the parts into the whole! The children proudly carry their scarecrows home to show off to mom and dad!

Keep in mind, that a brace map illustrates visually to our young learners the concept of part to whole and whole to part. This concept is important for all future learning and fun to teach too! If you’ve never tried making BRACE MAPS with your kids, fall is the perfect time to begin.

Later on in the year, I'll share with you a Snowman Brace Map and a Flower Brace Map too! Kids will start thinking of their own brace maps before the end of the year!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Apple Brace Maps

Fall is here! It’s arrival brings a world of new activities that will engage our little ones! One of my favorite projects, although I must admit that I have several favorites, is the introduction of Brace Maps!

A brace map illustrates visually to our young learners the concept of part to whole and whole to part. This concept is important for all future learning and fun to teach too!

Apples provide the perfect introduction to a brace map because the components of an apple are easy to observe. For young children, concrete examples work best and “REAL” apples are easy to bring into the classroom.

You may want to begin your discussion by HIDING the apple, giving clues, and then revealing the apple for the kids to view. This tends to generate excitement for the lesson. 

Discuss the parts of the apple that are observable before cutting: skin, stem, leaf. Record the answers, and then cut the apple to reveal the parts inside: flesh, seeds, and core. 

You may want to draw a huge apple on red paper and label the parts of an apple with your class. There are also lots of books for young children that show the parts of an apple.

For the follow-up activity the next day, we review the concepts that were introduced and make individual brace maps … but in whole group!  We begin by cutting out an apple shape, stem, and leaf. I use “directed drawing” in lieu of patterns or dittos. My kids draw the parts using a black crayon and then color and cut. Next, I illustrate how to make the skin, flesh, and core. We will glue the seeds on later.

Depending on the time allotted for this activity, the children either put all their parts in their crayon boxes until tomorrow, or glue them on the 12” by 18” black paper. We would cut out the words and glue them next to our parts. Lastly, we glue the “real” apple seeds on the core.  As this is our first brace map, I draw the bracket with a white crayon.

As our study of apples continues through the month, we will refer to our apple brace map often. Finally, as a closing activity and an informal assessment, each child will create their own apple brace map to take home and share with the family.

Example of individual brace map.

This is the beginning of many more brace maps to come! It’s easy to guess that next month will be a pumpkin brace map!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Building Book

Today is September 11, 2015. It was fourteen years ago today that America was attacked and our innocence was shattered. The land of the free and the home of the brave was forever changed by the malevolent behavior of a group of individuals displaying depraved indifference for human life.

As adults, we were rocked by the violence and the loss of life that occurred on this horrific day. The disbelief that this violent attack could have occurred on our soil was profound. Families and friends rallied together in disbelief as the reality of the attacks came to fruition.

Children were exposed in varying degrees, depending on their ages and situations, to the enormity of the attacks. Did our children comprehend the atrocity of the attack? Did they verbally share what they were feeling or thinking with an adult?

Adults often write to solidify their knowledge of an event or subject, as well as to clarify their feelings and thoughts.  Children write for the same reasons. They want to share something that is personal and of interest to them. As an educator of young children for more than three decades, my goal is to provide my students with the tools to be independent writers. I want to know what my littles ones are thinking, learning, and feeling. 

Through the years, the five year olds in my class have stunned me with their abundant and insightful writing. Tales of frogs, butterflies, gingerbread boys, dogs, cats, owls, scarecrows, rainbows, and so much more have graced my desk and filled my heart with joy as I read their precious words.  

More often than you would imagine, a child will share a piece of writing with me that leaves me speechless, as I realize the magnitude of the words on the paper. Such was the writing that Justin shared with me on a beautiful blue-sky day in September.

Re-writing his words for you to read would diminish the meaning of his work. You need to view his work, and see each letter that he independently sought to hear and then to print successfully to communicate his thoughts to the reader. His work is not profound, but it is personal and telling.   At the tender age of five, his words illuminate his disbelief that a nefarious act of this magnitude was possible.  
The Building Book : #1 Bad people drove air planes to... #2 destroy the city and kill... #3 the people they want to kill... #4 the grown-ups to.

Justin’s writing communicates an event that is deeply troubling to him. As his teacher, I take great pride in teaching him the skills necessary to share his thoughts in written form. Perhaps more importantly, I acknowledge that he is capable of sharing his ideas on paper and provide him the time and freedom to try. 

Consider the difference in Justin’s writing had I provided him with a “prompt.” Would asking him to share his favorite animal or what he did on summer vacation inspire him to write? It may provide analysis of his writing skills, but it would not allow him to write authentically.

Children will write for the same reasons as adults if given the opportunity to do so. The children in my classroom are writers without limits. Our mantra is: If we think it, we can say it. It we can say it, we can write it.” Learning to write opens a new form of communication for a young child. Just as he learned to speak with practice and praise from his parents, so will his writing rocket with support and guidance from his teachers. Providing him opportunities to take risks, and spread his wings, may determine how far he will soar.

Justin is a freshman in college this year and there is no doubt in my mind or heart that his  writing will continue to enlighten us all.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Friends Are Special

Ahhh .. February in Kindergarten! It is a heavenly month to behold! The children are seamlessly moving from activity to activity, much of the chatter is meaningful and context based, and there is a flurry of writing and reading everywhere in the room! Is it a miracle? Is it luck? Could it possibly be my teaching? 

At this moment in time, I’m not sure the reason is as important as the outcome:  My room is filled with young readers and writers excited to come to school each day to learn new concepts, and interact with their peers. I venture to say that it is my favorite month of school!

To celebrate the joy that February brings, I created a little friendship book that I thought you would enjoy sharing with your students too. It’s called Friends Are Special. The kids love this book because I xerox their small school pictures for everyone to use!
 Friends Are Special Freebie
Each child will need a B&W or color copy of their school picture, plus copies of 3 more friend’s photos. I’ve learned through experience NOT to allow the children to choose the 3 friends. Feelings always get hurt! 

This book can be completed in small group, reading centers, or whole group. I actually prefer to do it in whole group as I enjoy seeing and hearing the conversations between the children. 

Once the books are copied and stapled together, and you have made copies of the school pictures, you are ready to go.  As I pass out each book, I also give each child his/her own school picture. The child glues the picture on the last page of the book. The children begin to color the front page, and I pass out three friend’s pictures to each child. The children glue one picture to each page in the book.  
The procedure for each page is the same, but only do one page at a time and then begin the procedure over again:

In whole group, read the words in the word bank and discuss the meanings.
Each child finds the friend that is pictured on the first page. 
Ask the friend how to spell his/her name or allow the friend to write the name. 
Ask the friend to help choose the words from the word bank that best describes him/her.
Repeat with pages 2-3. Page 4 is  completed independently.
The kids love making these books. I always provide extra copies of the books and pictures. I place them in the writing center after we have completed the activity as a group. It is the favorite writing center of the entire year!

Enjoy the month of February with your precious little ones! It you decide to give “Friends Are Special” a try, would you please leave me a comment on my TPT store? Your comments are my only way of knowing if my ideas are helpful to you and your students. Happy Teaching and Happy February!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

For the LOVE of February

As teachers of young children have you ever wondered why February has so many special days considering it is the shortest month of the year!  I’m not complaining, but there’s even two holidays in the month of love! All together February 2015 will have only eighteen school days but at least four “special” days: Groundhog’s Day, 100th Day of School ( for some ) Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, and Valentine’s Day! Whew! No wonder it’s my favorite month! 

Each month, my kindergarten kids make a “cute” calendar to display at home. Last month the calendar was a mug of hot chocolate with real marshmallows. This month it’s a Teddy Bear holding a huge heart. With each calendar, I send a note to the parents asking them to help with basic standards, such as reciting the days in a week, months in the year, and recognizing numbers to 30, 40, and beyond. These are important skills to practice, but what I enjoy more is the feedback that I receive from the parents:

“My child loves bringing home the calendar each month! We have a special place that we hang it and cross off the date each day. When the end of the month gets closer, we start predicting what next month’s calendar will be! “

Another parent mentioned that she saves the calendars from year to year and uses them for decorations. If I’ve taught siblings in the family, then there are two calendars side by side!

Here’s a peek at February’s Teddy Bear:

 February Calendar for Kindergarten

A few months ago, I started making the calendar markers for the month too. It’s fun to have it all prepared before February arrives!

I hope your February will be filled with LOVE and many BLESSINGS!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Groundhog Day

We all know that young children love making predictions. It gives them a sense of empowerment and challenges them to make connections between events, facts, or stories. If the prediction happens to be correct, their sense of accomplishment is heightened. 

If you watch a young child making a prediction, it’s as if you can actually ‘see’ the gears in his brain engaging! Predictions encourage children to ‘think about’ and analyze stories or situations. It is a powerful tool that activates new synaptic connections at any age. 

All teachers encourage children to make predictions and back up their opinions. You will often hear a teacher in a primary classroom asking, “Why”, countless times in a day to check for understanding and analysis.

As educators, we know that the human brain “turns on” when it feels challenged but “turns off” when it feels threatened. Good teachers attempt to create activities and lessons that stimulate the human brain without shutting it down. Often times there is a fine line between the two that teachers struggle to determine.

One of my favorite writing samples from the last 3 decades is from a Sunday school teacher: She asked her class to write a few sentences explaining why we celebrate Easter. One little boy wrote: “This is why we celebrate Easter because Jesus came up from his grave and if he sees his shadow he will go back in!”  Do you see ‘why’ it is so important to ask “WHY?”

Groundhog Day offers the primary teacher opportunities to engage their students in predictions, surveys, research, and graphing, just to name a few. My kids love to predict if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow on February 2. I’ve included a FREEBIE for you to create a classroom graph showing your kid’s predictions as well. 

I also have a Groundhog Day product in my TPT store with poems and pictures that you might enjoy.

As I live in SO CA and we need RAIN, I hope Phil WILL see his shadow and we can have 6 more weeks of winter! I’m sure that’s NOT the desired outcome for teachers in other states!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The 100th Day of School Celebration

The Big Day is finally here and it’s time to CELEBRATE! 

Over the past 3 decades, I’ve created, modified, and recreated my 100th Day of School activities. As I grew older.. I meant to say .. wiser, my 100th Day of School Celebration evolved into a well organized and exciting time for my fabulous kids! 

There is one caveat however! I ask six parent helpers to help with the celebration, or if I don’t have enough parents than I ask 6th grade students to help with the day. (They love to help!) 

You can see the 6 tables in the picture.
I create 6 teams of 5 students each, as I have 30 students. 
There are 6 activities created for the day:
   1. 100TH DAY COLLECTIONS     2. 100TH DAY MUNCH     
    3. 100TH DAY NECKLACE     4. 100TH DAY TALLY MARK RACE                5.100TH DAY SELF PORTRAIT       6. 100TH DAY HATS 

The children always stay at the same table with the same parent helper. Important note: The teacher (me) does not have a team. I am always FREE to take pictures or help with any issues. I love it!  

Each TEAM completes activity one, then waits until I give the signal to begin activity two.  By not having rotations, I can control the allotted time for each activity by observing the teams. If an activity is taking too long, I tell the parent helper to speed up the team, or if the activity is going too fast, I help the parent helper to slow down the team. When all the students have finished an activity, we take a 2 minute break and sing and dance, “The 100th Day of School” song, and then begin the next activity.

I also give points to the teams throughout the day for ANYTHING! I just want them to feel like a team and earning points is always a good motivator! I make tally marks on the board so everyone can see the points.

I also lay colored butcher paper on each table according to the team’s color. If a child should complete a task early, she/he may draw a picture on the butcher paper.

There are lots of wonderful 100th Day of School books to choose from, but my all time favorite is: Mr. Wolf’s Pancakes, by Jan Fearnley. 

I’m sure my activities and stories are similar to the same ones that you implement in your classroom. If you are interested in viewing more of the activities in my 100th Day of School Celebration Unit, you may go to my TPT store: Kindergarten with Susie.The 100th Day of School is one of my favorite units and one that my kids remember fondly too!

I would like to give away 2 of my 100th Day of School products! But … I am so new to social media that I’m not even sure I’m doing this correctly! If you will leave me a comment and your email, I will pick 2 winners on Tuesday evening. For all of you wonderful social media wizards and incredible teachers, my warmest thanks for your efforts to support me! You can’t imagine how much I appreciate your kind words and knowledge.