Monday, March 30, 2015


This year my class is SO fascinated by non-fiction text. They can explain many of the non-fiction text features that make it so, but I still hear...Mrs. Harrington, is that really "REAL STUFF?" Whether it is a trip to the school media center to browse the non-fiction books, or reading our Scholastic News Magazines, or a close read of informational text…they are in awe! And as a teacher, I am in heaven…because they are hooked! Teaching Kindergarten and First Grade has its challenges and among them are finding cool, interesting, non fiction text that is at a level where they can feel successful as readers. Like many teachers, if I can't find exactly what I need for my students…then there is only one thing left to do - CREATE IT!  Just a few weeks ago, St. Patrick's Day was upon us and among the excitement of that little, green, leprechaun fellow...I decided to feature something else that was just as exciting and intriguing…and well, GREEN! So, I introduce my friend praying mantis. There was a quiet, collective gasp as I projected this picture of him on the screen in the front of the classroom….you might say I had their complete and undivided attention (and that my friends, doesn't happen every day in paradise!)
I followed up with a few more photos and a little discussion, then gave them a short & sweet close read about this fascinating creature. The students were anxious to get their hands on the information and off they went to read. After reading, I asked for them to turn and talk about something that they learned. I could hear things like "It said it can be green BUT it can be brown too" and "I read it eats its prey head first" (ewwwww!) and "It got its name because it looks like it is praying!" 
The discussion lead to another task which was rereading the information to answer
questions about the praying mantis. I've taught them to find the evidence in the text with a yellow crayon. I like to call it "buttering" which is better known as highlighting; but for Kindergartners and Firsties, I make the analogy - "it's like when you butter toast." So, off they went to read the questions on the front of the flip book, reread, butter the evidence, and write the answer in their own words.
Talk about being busy…and super engaged! WOW. I SO love that!
Do you have a special way that you like to share non-fiction/informational text in the classroom?
We would love to know your secrets and tips of how you hook your students and get them excited about ….the "REAL STUFF."

--teaching, laughter & friends all around; this is paradise found...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Place Value Fun

I am SOOOOOO excited to be apart of this blog.  I love learning from and working with each one of these teachers.  Any who........this is my first blog post for this collaborative blog and I am choosing to write about a very cheap (because you know us teachers love cheap and free) 3-4 day math lesson. 
We have been busy working on Place Value over here in my paradise and this  is a FABULOUS, fun, easy, and engaging way to get your kiddos just as excited about it as mine were.  All you need is index cards, Chex Mix, Cheerios, and pretzel sticks.
The kiddos glued the cereal onto the cards to create a number.  Then they counted up their hundreds, tens, and ones and wrote the number on the card. {We had previously learned how to count tens and ones with this AWESOME song by Teacher Tipster.  If you haven't heard it it is a MUST have for place value lessons!!!!}  Of course they wrote with pencil first, checked their thinking with their shoulder partner, and then traced it in marker so it would stand out.

Then we gathered up the cards and played Quiz, Quiz, Trade with them. {It takes a day for the glue to dry before you can do the next step in this lesson.} The kiddos each chose their favorite card. Then they stand up and walk around to some math music.  When the music stops they need to pair up {I call it Sticky High Five}. Then each set of partners takes a turn quizzing each other. They have to count up the hundreds, tens, and ones that have been glued on the card. The other partner then coaches them and praises their efforts. At the end they thank each other and turn to me with a thumbs up sign so I know their partner team is ready to go on. When all eyes and thumbs are looking at me, I start the music again and play continues.

Then the kiddos go back to their teams and work together to put their cards in order from least to greatest and greatest to least. I allow each team to visit each different table to practice ordering all of the cards. This gets them up and moving while exposing them to ALL different number cards.

At the end of this 3-4 day lesson, the kiddos work together to glue the cards from their team on a large strip of paper and label it with the least number and the greatest number.
This lesson is a HUGE hit in my classroom each year that I do it.  I am sure your kiddos will love it too.  If you are interested to see one of the ways that I introduce Place Value to my kiddos you can check out this reader The Place Value House in my TPT store!
It includes a reader and 2 different activities/games for the kiddos!

Thanks so much for sticking through to the end of my LOOOONNNNGGG post and WELCOME TO PARADISE!!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Busy Being Awesome

Thinking outside of the box to keep your students engaged and successful can be a difficult task but I have found some unique trinkets that do the trick!
During each transition or activity I randomly choose 3 or 4 popsicle sticks that are labeled with each student’s name.   The names are not announced and are only seen by me.  I then observe the selected students during the activity.  If the student is on task and completes the activity he or she is rewarded with the trinket of the day.   If the student is off task and does not complete the activity, the student is not named and the trinket is saved for the next activity.   The trinkets remains on a student’s desk until someone else is rewarded.  All the trinkets are turned in at the end of the day.

This trinket is actually a tea bag holder.  I found this at Cracker Barrel for $1.99!!  Cracker Barrel also has some super cute holiday themed salt and pepper shakers for .99 each!  These are all ceramic but seem strong and well glazed, I have not had anything chip yet.  I also purchased some glowing eyeballs during Halloween that change colors.  They sit flat on the desks.  I use them during independent work time.  “I like what I SEE” reinforces on task behaviors and cuts down on the talking and interrupting others.  If a student works off task they can loose the eyeball.  For Patty’s Day I have used some large coins from the Dollar Tree painted gold, and for Spring I found some golden Easter Eggs at Walgreens.  They are perfect for a “Eggcellent” job.  All you have to do is add a little slip with a joke or complement and it will be such a treat!
These trinkets are not your typical brag tags or stickers.  But the rewards are the same.  They are fun and inviting.  The next time you are shopping think outside of the box and look for some unique trinkets that would work for your classroom!

Trinket Ideas & Rewards

Themed salt and pepper shakers
Small stuffed animals
Carnival Bead Necklaces
Scented markers
Colored pencils

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Love of Reading

One of my favorite moments in paradise is reading. I love to read in bed, on my special chair, on the plane, by the pool, and especially on the beach. Teaching children to love reading as much as I do is one of my very favorite parts of being a teacher. I think the ticket to falling in love with a book is to find the perfect book to hook your readers. Some of my personal favorites for such an occasion are any Piggie and Gerald book by Mo Willems (actually anything by him is great). Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is a very special book that melts any teacher's heart. (Pretty much anything by Polacco is amazing, as well.) I also love, love, love Kevin Henkes. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse and Owen are two of my most loved children's books. The list could go on and on. I think the thing that really gets my kids are the voices I make to bring to life the characters in the story. The more dramatic the reading the better. So fun! 

Kids just want to relate to books. Some kids get into the imaginary stories that take place on the pages, while others are intrigued by facts and information. There are so many different genres to explore and to love. It amazes me to see kids completely change their minds about types of books. They may start off telling you that they only read nonfiction. Next thing you know you are introducing Mysteries to your class, and they catch the mystery bug! Showing my students to look wider at reading is another favorite part of teaching.

Another paradise moment for me is watching kids read. It has changed through the 17 years that I have been teaching. I started off in first grade where kids were swatting words with word swatters onto the pages of Big Books. As the kids got a little older in 2nd grade, where I have spent over a decade, the children started reading longer books. Now in 2015, many of my students were reading on our iPads. I don't know how many times I have bickered with fellow teachers about the power of iPads. I know holding a book in your hand is a gift, but holding 100 books at once is priceless! The other great thing about reading on an iPad is how you can change the font to meet the needs of older eyes or to make the font more pleasing to a child with Dyslexia (that really works!). The iPad allows students to use tools like highlighting and note taking, right in the book! I still love reading real books, but for me there is no substitute for iBooks!

Anyway you are reading, whether it is in the bathtub or snuggled up under your desk (if you are a kid... or if you want to hide from your family!), all that really matters is that you are READING. 

So read with or to a friend...

Read with a prop... 

Read from your book basket...

Read on your iPad...

Or Read in a comfy spot...

Until our next moment in paradise...