Six Weeks Down: Counting Creatures!!

Well, I don’t mind telling you that it’s been a tough week, and Friday couldn’t have come soon enough!  I had to make a heart wrenching decision on Tuesday to put my older beloved dog “Hunny Bun” down due to congestive heart failure, as she was suffering greatly.  But knowing this didn’t help my broken heart at all; she was my baby, and she was born in our house!  Needless to say, the tears didn’t stop falling for a couple of days, and I keep finding them welling up in my eyes even now.  Luckily, the kids themselves are a good distraction from this type of grief, as is teaching itself!  And as hard as it is to force myself to get up in the morning and just GO and DO IT, it is much better if I do!  Just as I assumed they would, their bright smiles were the perfect distraction from a very difficult, emotional situation.

To make matters worse, my district seems to have gone DIBELS crazy, and planned a training for the afternoon of our weekly Compact Day, so I lost ALL of my prep time on Thursday afternoon.  And then I had to go to a training on Saxon Math all day on Friday, and will have to go next week on Monday, and Tuesday as well.  Mind you, we are in our third year of implementing Saxon Math, and are only now getting the training.  Also, our K aides do most of the small group instruction in math, while the K teachers do the small group instruction in language arts, but it is the teachers that have to go to the training.  Furthermore, the district math committee decided NOT to revise our benchmarks or assessments to match the Saxon text.  This means that if we actually follow the book, our students will NEVER hit their benchmarks on time for the first or second trimesters, because Saxon moves far too slowly in comparison to the benchmarks.  Our instructions are to supplement the text.  The end result?  We wind up supplementing more often than teaching from the text.  And now I get to spend three days away from my classroom hearing about how to use the text properly and about the wonders of Saxon Math.  When I told my students that I was going to be gone for three days and that there would be a substitute teacher, some of them looked like they were going to cry!  And even though I showed them on the calendar when I would be back, one precious little girl immediately told her mother upon dismissal, "Mommy!  My teacher is leaving and never coming back!!!" The end result of this is that I had to make sub plans for these three days in my “spare” time.  Ahhhhh!!!!!  There are few things that irritate me more than being out of my classroom for reasons like this.  And now I have the biggest challenge of all:  To keep my big mouth SHUT for three days in a math training, and NOT get myself into trouble by saying something stupid, like, "Saxon?  What's that?"

Well, if nothing else, at least I have some great instructional activities to share with you this week!

1.  Introducing.... Counting Creatures!!!!!

If you have been reading my blog for a full year now, you may remember me mentioning a cute set of worksheets called “Number Monsters” that I had enjoyed using since my earliest years of teaching.  These worksheets have been out of print for many years now.  But my memories of using these  worksheets in the classroom and how the children enjoyed them sparked the idea of making a set of worksheets that included some fantasy creatures for counting and numeral formation.  This idea finally came to fruition this week when this big project was finally completed and I was able to introduce it to my students!  They were just as excited about it as I had hoped they would be, and I can’t tell you how pleased I am at how the whole thing came out!  We decided to call it Counting Creatures, and it includes robots, creatures, dinosaurs, and monsters.  As you can probably imagine, the children are wild about it- ESPECIALLY the BOYS!!!

One thing that is really fun about it is that at the beginning of the workbook, I introduced each character with it’s own little poem and coloring page.  The children clap out the number of limbs or features that each character should have.  For example, Robot Number Two has two wheels, two arms, two antennae, two teeth, and two knobs.

A Counting Creatures Poem Page

The poem for number two goes:

“Robot, robot, number two,
How many wheels do you have on you?
One, two!”

Creature Number Nine has nine bows, nine legs, nine freckles, nine eyelashes, and nine spots.  Her poem goes like this:

Creature, creature, number nine!
How many bows make you look fine?
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine!

Anyway, I had some parent volunteers help me color, laminate, trim, and bind up a booklet of the Counting Creatures so the children could have them in book form and be able to read them lots of times.  You can watch the video of the children enjoying the poem here!  It’s also good for them to try to remember that seven claps, for example, is only SEVEN- not eight or nine!  This has been a tricky lesson for some of them who are still a bit unsure of what numbers represent.

I have been putting the numeral copying practice sheets in dry erase sleeves so that the children can practice tracing and writing their own numerals, and also finding and circling the correct numbers.

Soon we will also try to count and find the correct number of items, etc.  I am planning on getting some more of the dry erase sleeves so that I can keep more of these different worksheets at different levels handy, especially for the children who are ready to move on and don’t need to keep copying the numbers over and over.  I discovered that the Scholastic Book Club has them in the Bonus Catalog, so I was able to get a few more with my bonus points, so I was glad about that!

But besides the dry erase sleeves and the math activities, the funny thing is that the children keep begging me to give them more of the coloring sheets to color during their play time!  In fact, yesterday, the most popular “activity du jour” was coloring, believe it or not!  There were more children wanting to color than anything else.  I think I am going to have them graph their favorite creature next week.  So far, the boys seem to like Robot Number 2 best, and the girls like Creature Number Nine best, (because of the hair bows.)  So, I have decided to include one of the number formation practice pages for the nine and the two, plus two more for you as free downloads for you today, so that you can see for yourself how much fun they are!

2.  “Books That Make Kids Think”

I recently read a review of some new books in a publication put out by NAEYC called “Books That Make Kids Think,” and I am SO glad that I did!  The first book is called We Are in a Book by Mo Willems.  In this book, the elephant and the piggie discover that they are being read by a monster!  But NO!  It’s really just a READER!  The characters realize that they can play a trick on the reader by making him or say a funny word, if the reader is reading out loud.  This funny word is “banana.”  As the story moves along, Gerald and Piggie make the reader say “banana” several times and fall over crying with laughter at the funny trick they played on the reader!  Then they realize with dismay that the book will soon END- horror of horrors!

My class had SUCH a lot of fun with this book!  I had them take turns coming up to the front of the class to be the reader that would say the funny word, and each time a child did that, the whole class just roared with laughter!  We really had a wonderful time with it!

Another great book that makes kids think is called Press Here by Herve Tullet.  This marvelous little gem of a book is wonderful fun!  The first page asks the reader to press a colored dot, and when you turn the page, it turns into two colored dots, just like magic!  And so it goes- each time you press a dot, shake the book, tip the book to the side, blow on the book, or clap your hands, you find something new when you turn the page.  The children in my class just begged to get to come forward and push one of the dots, etc.  I highly recommend this book for any Pre-K, K, or first grade collection.

3.  Trying to Push Our DIBELS Scores UP!

This year, my district has switched over to the new “DIBELS Next” system of tracking student progress, and on Thursday all of the teachers wound up in a training session designed to teach us how to enter our progress monitoring scores.  Thankfully, there are only a few DIBELS tests that we have to give in addition to the myriad of assessments that we are already giving one-on-one in Kindergarten, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much!  Our first test is the “First Sounds Fluency” (FSF) test.  In this test, you tell the child a word, and the child has to tell you the first sound that he or she hears in that word.  The second test is simply a Letter Naming Test, but they only have to do this again at the end of February, so I am not worried about that one.

In any case, I figure that a little extra practice on the format of the FSF test couldn’t hurt, so I created a power point presentation for that purpose.  I found two pictures for the beginning sound of each letter of the alphabet and inserted them into my power point presentation, and mixed them up.  Then I started drilling the children, asking them, “What is the first sound of ______?” (insert the name of the picture on the screen in the blank, of course!)  While we did this, I had them stand up and respond using the Zoo-Phonics motions while giving the sounds to keep them actively involved.  I think that this extra practice really helped!  So far, half of the children that I have done the progress monitoring on have shown dramatic improvements.  Now the only thing I need to do is keep finding a variety of pictures, and also find pictures that begin with words that start with the /sh/, /ch/, and the /th/, since the DIBELS assessments include these sounds as well.

Sorting "Training Baskets" to Help Kids Focus on One Attribute

4.  Working on Sorting

Getting the kids to sort three ways is always tough, and this year is no exception- particularly since my group this year seems lower than usual.  We have been singing the Sorting Song from the Musical Math CD/DVD, and that certainly helps them to know that they need to sort by color, shape, and size, but the problem is that this year, they are simply sorting incorrectly.  So when they sort by shape, they are wanting to take the attribute blocks and sort them by both color AND shape, putting the red triangles in a pile, the yellow triangles in a pile, and the blue ones in a pile.  Then they put the red squares in a pile, the blue ones in a pile, and the yellow squares in a pile, etc.  So the basic problem is that we are having trouble focusing on just one attribute at a time.

To help the children get past this and focus on just one attribute, I decided to try giving the children something I decided to call “Training Baskets.”  I got some black baskets for sorting by shape, some white baskets for sorting by size, and some colored baskets for sorting by color.  Then I put some signs on them that said something like, “What size?  Big or little?” etc.  I decided that we would tell the children that the shapes would have to go into one of these baskets; they could not go into any extra baskets, so they could not create any “extra” categories at all.  So all of the triangle shapes, no matter what color or size, would have to go into the triangle basket, etc.  We’ll see if this helps them focus on just one of the attributes.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed!  Hopefully it will, and then we can take away the baskets and let them try it without those "training wheels!"  If anyone has any other suggestions for helping children with this, please let me know!  I already sent home shapes with instructions for parents to practice at home, and am planning on sending home a mini progress report on this next week.

5.  Read Aloud Chart for October

These are perfect resources for homework binders. Each month has a fun theme! They are a big help for tracking nightly reading activity for both parents and kids! They are available for purchase on our website, here.  Here is the October Read Aloud Chart as a free download! Enjoy!

P.S. Don't forget all our videos are available to STREAM on UScreen, FREE for the first 30 days! It's an awesome way to bring some EASY, active learning to your students during this time, and they can always cancel right before they are ever charged, like on day 29! Check out the info page on our website for more info!

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