Sunday, January 31, 2016

30 Questions for Parents and Children

First of all, I was SO excited that my 30 Questions Freebie was selected as one of the ten free downloads on Teachers Pay Teachers last week!!  I posted some more freebies to celebrate new followers and I loved getting feedback that showed that people really appreciated my product.   Years ago, I used to put a question, conversation starter, or quote of some kind in my weekly newsletter to generate meaningful academic conversations between parents and students.  Then, I made this product and started using it.  I send it out at our beginning of the year Meet and Greet and discuss it at our Curriculum/Open House night.  I read through all the comments about the product this week, but this one really touched me!

While I know that parents have meaningful conversations with their children all the time, sometimes kids do so much at school, they just don’t have the capacity to remember some of the specific things that happen each day! We want them to share all of the wonderful stuff that is going on in our classrooms every day, so these prompts are written from the teacher side to help jog students’ memories of what happened at school all day!  I’m working on some additional versions right now that will give parents more conversation starter ideas for the primary kiddos, but also planning on some questions geared toward the intermediate grades.
Click on the image to get my 30 Questions product freebie and be on the lookout for more versions in the future!

Friday, January 8, 2016

My Take Home Checkout Program

My magnum opus is nearly complete!!  This year, I received a grant from the Junior League of Las Vegas for a Take-Home Checkout Library.  I was ecstatic when I received it and immediately began book shopping!  I wanted students to be taking home books that were engaging and targeted for their reading level, so I started buying and leveling books.  I labeled the front of each book with these little labels.  
I also labeled many of the books with A.R information, if applicable, to go along with my school's new "World Series of Reading" program...maybe a future blog post on that!  With approximately 1000 grant books and hundreds more from my classroom library, it was a BIG job!  My living room, dining room, and office had tables, chairs, books, sticky labels, and boxes everywhere for about a month!!  My awesome seven-year-old niece was a fabulous helper during this time, sticking on labels and listing A.R. information…she loved it!
I had some furry "helpers" as well...
Spencer B. loves boxes!
I’ve done take-home checkout books in my classroom before with little black and white books, copied books, and a few extra books I had around.  But when I wrote this grant, I really wanted to be able to get books that were:  A. familiar (favorite authors, characters, subjects) B. various levels, from phonics and sight word readers up to chapter books  C. colorful and “real”.  I am so thankful to Junior League for funding this grant.  I’ve received other grants before, but I was SO excited when I heard this one had been chosen!  I immediately started ordering books from Scholastic and Lakeshore.  Sometimes, the hardest ones to find quality books for are my emergent readers, but I got some great sight word readers and phonics readers that they LOVE!  I was able to find Star Wars, Marvel, Pinkalicious, etc. at this level, so the kids were very excited to get their hands on those books!

I loosely leveled/sorted my books from A-E+.  The letters are just a guideline for me, but many of the books are leveled using the Fountas and Pinnell system.  Others are just “guestimated” by me.  My “E” tub goes beyond that level and has some beginning chapter books in there.  I will add one or two more baskets (F and G+) throughout the year since I still have some funds to spend and want to get additional starter chapter books for my established readers.  On my checkout list, my students are labeled with the letters that coordinate with the basket at their level.  Some have only one letter, some have two letters, and they will, of course, change throughout the year.  For example, on Tuesday, I have 3 kids that shop from the A basket and 2 kids that shop through the B basket.   I check out books Tuesday through Friday.  As they choose their books (five per week), they lay them on the table and I write the titles down in my binder.  Next, they load them into these fabulous pouches from Really Good Stuff (also part of the grant).  Then, they put the pouch of books in their backpack to take home.  It takes me about 5-6 minutes per day to do the checking out…the other kids are beginning a round of Daily 5 at this time.  After the checking out, I move right into my regularly scheduled reading groups.
My checkout log (top) and Tuesday pouches ready (bottom)  for the first checkout day!

Before students took any books home, the family had to sign a contract and return it to me.  I made a little card to put on the front of their checkout pouch (see above) with information as well. 

The first morning after I had checked out books to some students, one of my little emergent readers, who came to me knowing two letter sounds, walked over to our reading group table and said, “I love those books! I read them all two times last night!”  *swoon*


I’m so happy with how this program is going…I just wanted to share my joy with others!  Thanks!!  Have a wonderful weekend!