Happy Fat Tuesday!
As we “Read Across America” I wanted to do something a little different and also toss in some geography; so I thought it would be fun to learn about Louisiana and have a Mardi Gras theme day on a Friday.
My students have really enjoyed it in the past. It's another fun thing to do for March is Reading Month and a great way to learn about another state. Here are just a few of the things I did:
I kept it simple, just sending a letter home asking parents to please have their child wear something festive, purple-yellow-and green, or dress as a Mardi Gras-type clown if they wanted to. I also dress up. I've collected quite a few costumes over the years.
My students enjoy seeing me dressed up and it makes story time extra fun. Here I simply appliqued some Mardi Gras fabric cut out's to a black dress, added some gold and purple puffy paint around the edges, donned a feathered boa, a coin necklace, some beads, put on crazy purple, yellow and green socks, and a metallic mask and I was all set!
I have a Happy Mardi Gras note on their desktop with a purple, yellow and green Skittle waiting for them. They get to eat two Skittles and then we use the other one as a manipulative to play “I Spy” the number or letter for our first Table Top lesson. Click on the link to view/print the Mardi Gras note + a blank “I Spy” skill sheet. (You can fill in whatever letters/numbers that you're studying.)
I bought Mardi Gras necklaces at the local party store and the students got to choose which color they wanted. Since Mardi Gras is all about collecting necklaces they got to make an additional one out of dyed macaroni, incorporating a specific ABC-ABC pattern.
Their favorite centers were decorating a mask, using bingo dot markers to make a pattern, and doing a pinch and poke with a golf tee. Click on the link to view/print these Mardi Gras center activities
In the afternoon we played a few games. I tossed purple, green and gold coins all over the floor while they were at lunch. When they came back to the classroom they got to scamper around and find as many as they could and then sort them by color.
The one who found the most coins won a prize. Everyone got to keep 3 coins (one of each color); we identify these colors in Spanish.
We made several different patterns with the coins, counted them by 10’s to 100, and by 1’s in English and Spanish. We counted backwards from 10 to 0 and then "blasted off" to our lockers to put the coins in our backpacks.
Oriental Trading sells quite a few Mardi Gras items as well as your local party store.
As another math extension, they also played a Mardi Gras dice game. Click on the link to view/print the Mardi Gras dice game.
I bought a beanie-type Mardi Gras stuffed Jester and we played “Hot Jester” (Like Hot Potato) passing it around in a circle to music; when the Mardi Gras music stopped, the one holding the Jester was out.
We had our own Mardi Gras parade marching around the room and then down the hall to visit a few of the other preschool and kindergarten classes.
For writing/reading they completed their Mardi Gras page for our class book. Click on the link to view/print a Mardi Gras class book.
For geography/writing/reading everyone cut and glued their Louisiana book. We found Louisiana on the globe and state map and looked at books from the library. If you are a Gold Subscription member and want to make a comparison booklet using your state, drop me an e-mail and I will send you the clip art and pages for your state. Click on the link to view/print a Louisiana state booklet.
For story time I checked out books from the library on Mardi Gras and showed them photos that I printed from the web. Some books I recommend are:
During Show & Share time, we tossed the Mardi Gras jester back and forth. Whoever had the jester got to share what part of Mardi Gras day was their favorite.
The day went faster than usual. I gave everyone a certificate for participating; it seemed that everyone had had a Mardi Gras great time! Click on the link to view/print a Mardi Gras certificate
I like to feature authors during March is Reading Month. One of my favorite book series is the Berenstain Bears, by Jan and Stan Berenstain. The photo is courtesy of Amazon.com
This was my son Jason’s favorite “read to me” book before he went to bed.
Stan and Jan Berenstain wrote this successful children’s series together. It started with their first book The Big Honey Hunt in 1962. Previously, they had been successful cartoonists for magazines and adult humor books. Since then, they have produced more that 300 Berenstain Bear books, with 260 million copies sold.
Their son Mike was their inspiration and joined the writing team in the late 1980’s. He and his mother continue to write new stories, since his father’s death at the age of 82, in 2005.
I’ll sometimes follow up a story with one of their life-skill building videos. They are very short, usually less than 10-minutes, and teach a valuable lesson. My favorite is Messy Room. Click on the link to view this on U-Tube.
My favorite Berenstain Bear book to read to my Y5’s is Inside Outside Upside Down.
The simple gist of the story is that Brother Bear gets into a box. Papa Bear turns the box upside down, takes it outside, and it accidentally gets put on a truck.
Why I Love it:
The rhyming text, and repetitive verse make it a perfect easy reader.
Since teaching spatial directions is one of my report card standards this is the perfect book for explaining those concepts.
How I Teach Spatial Directions:
Laundry Line Of Learning:
Spatial Direction Booklets:
This Berenstain Bear book can be read to even a very young child. My children enjoyed it as young as one. So if you have little ones at home, snuggle up on the couch, and grab a big old empty box from the basement. You’ll have some great quality time with your kids!
I remember one Christmas my daughter Kelli’s favorite thing that year was not playing with her new toys, instead, with a bow stuck to her little blond head, she crawled inside a box, rolled upside down, squealed… “Mama Mama!” and had the time of her life, much like the ending of Jan and Stan’s book: “Mama Mama I went to town, inside, outside, upside down!”
whether you're inside, outside, or even, upside down!
Click on the link to view/print a spatial direction certificate.
Happy Read Across America!
Here's what I'm doing in Michigan to promote reading! I wanted to write an article that would include lots of the fun things that I've designed that helped my Transitional Kindergartners and First Graders learn words. I even use some of these things with my Y5’s.
For my word wall I had a Garden Of Readin’ wall that was several pieces of lattice. It was a fun way to put up alphabetical word cards. These were not only the usual sight words, but had a place for the month’s seasonal words as well as color, number and calendar words.
I made the word wall a bit more fun by reviewing it daily in the dark. I’d pick a Popsicle stick with a student’s name out of the “garden basket” and that student got to use a lighted laser to point to the words.
I have packs of word cards that I laminate and use for games. I laminate them and make Memory Match games. Students also partner up and flip over one card at a time. The one who reads the card first gets to put it in their pile.
I’ll play “Slap” with them as well and sprinkle the cards on the carpet. I give each of my students a flyswatter and call out a word. They slap that card.
Sometimes I’ll flash a card from the pack I keep by my rocking chair. The first student to identify the word gets to hold it. The one with the most cards gets two M&M’s (Most words Memorized!) Everyone else gets one.
My students also gather in a circle and we’ll play “Word Down.” I’ll hold up a word and the first person reads that word. If they can’t they sit down and the next person reads it. Then I flip up another card and so on ‘til only one person is standing.
We play ABCDe-tective. I’ll hide word cards around the room and in the hall. If someone finds the card they read it to the class. If they can’t read it they give it to a friend that can.I put the word cards in a center for the students to make sentences with them. I challenge them to come up with a really long one. We write the longest one that they have come up with so far on the board and try to beat it.
I have several word card books: Popcorn Words has 70 FREE traceable popcorn words, a writing sheet and a poster + a blank set for you to make your own. I also have over 300 FREE Dolch word cards from pre-K through 3rd grade + more helpful things in my Dolch Word Help Book and Kindergarten Mini-Site Words includes 52 traceable word cards.
Elkonin Word Boxes are also helpful. Click on the link for 50 word templates + blank templates for 3, 4 and 5 letter words to make up your own.
I have a mystery letter of the day. I also do this with our number and shape of the day. They are posted behind the apples that you see on my board.
I have a WOW on the board each day. (Wonderful Outstanding Word!) Click on the link to print a FREE poster.
There are also directions for making a "Reading Survival Kit" as a little gift for your students and Zippy a reminder to be quiet poster.
I also have a Secret Word of the day. This is usually a word my students are having difficulty with. I’ll give clues about it all day and then during “Show and Share Time” I’ll ask who’s guessed it and reveal that turned over word card.
I’ll mix up a row of word wall word cards and “steal” one and see if my students can figure out which one is missing.
I’ll drop the word cards in a basket. We’ll sit in a circle right before lunch. Each student will choose a card and read it. I call this “Munch a bunch of words before lunch!” Crunch-Crunch!
Toss all the word cards on the floor. Have your students tip toe in. They can only pick up a word card if they can read it. As they pick them up they read them. Then assemble in a circle. Have each child show their cards one at a time and read them. The rest of the students repeat what’s on the card. The student who found the most cards gets 2 M&M’s the others get one.
I’ll pick 3 cards my students are having trouble with, and play "Hot Cards!" My students sit in a circle and I turn on some zippy music. Three different students pass the 3 cards one at a time. (Start them at 3 different sections of your circle.) When the music stops whoever has a card reads it and is then out. Play continues ‘til there are only 3 people left. They receive 2 M&M's everyone else gets 1. (I remind them that M is for March and M is for M&M's (Most words Memorized so get busy!)
We graph our favorite words, colors, numbers, days, and months. (ages, birthday month, birthday day etc.)
Play 4 Corners with 4 difficult words. Play Simon Says with word cards. Simon says “Read this card.” Play Doggy Doggy Who Took Your Word? Each time you play use a different word card.
Put 4 cards in the middle of the carpet and play "What's Missing?" Read the word cards: all-are-an-and. Have students close their eyes. Take a word card away. Ask students to guess which card you took? Continue to add another card until you have 8 cards.
I'll pick a word from the wall and put that many dashes on the board and then set the timer. Students have one "Mad Minute" to ask me a letter. If it's in the word I'll write it in, until someone can finally read the word and tell me what it is. If the timer hasn't rung yet, I'll put another puzzle word on the board. Each day they try and beat their record of the most words that they solved in one "Mad Minute".
When we're waiting in line in the hallway I'll play "I'm Thinking of a Word" and then give them clues such as it has the letter a in it, or it ends with, or it rhymes with, or it has 5 letters etc.
I make up game sheets I call SCRAMBLE. I set the timer for 3-5 minutes. The student who can unscramble the most mixed up word wall words in that amount of time wins a prize.
Spill and Spell is a game I make for my students out of Popsicle sticks. It helps them to learn their names. They really enjoy this gift. You could also make them for your word wall words.
Gross Motor & Music
Instead of saying just the alphabet we’ll also say the phonetic alphabet and add a word for each letter.
We do actions for blends and digraphs. i.e. st - stomp! I have a helpful checklist booklet with this chant in it.
We "cheerlead" a new word: Give me a Y give me an O give me a U! What does it spell? Y-O-U – YOU! I’ll brainstorm with my students of how we can make the letters with our arms so we can fit in some gross motor movements.
We sing the vowel song to BINGO. (There was a class that knew their vowels and this is what they sang Oh! A-E-I-O-U, A-E-I-O-U, A-E-I-O-U, and they were very smart Oh!)
I have my students make Itty Bitty Books out of all of my word card flashcards for the various booklets and themes. They take them home to read and review with their families.
I have them do Table Top skill sheets where they do the following with their sight words: They see it, say it, trace it, write it, find it in a sentence and then underline it; spy it in a box and zap it! They enjoy these “fun sheets” and it builds their recognition skills, writing skills and self-esteem.
Click on the link for 61 FREE Sight word skill sheets + the 46 page companion More Sight Word Skill Sheets book, covers colors, numbers, days of the week, months, and question words like who-what and where etc.
Another different site word skill builder filled with skill sheets and covering 53 words is 76 pages long. Here they trace, write, color, cut, rearrange and glue the letters to make the words; involving all sorts of skills. My students enjoy this book because it's like putting together a puzzle.
Take Action With Contractions is another FREE book that's 62 pages long and chock full of activities to get contractions into your students' heads.
We think of rhyming words to go with our word wall words even if they are nonsense words. It's often a silly time. We'll start in a circle with the 1st letter of the alphabet for the word and go from a to z. i.e. at is the word. The first child starts and then it goes to the next child: at, bat, cat, dat, e-at, fat, gat, hat, i-at, jat, klat, mat etc. We do a lot of giggling.
I make skill sheets with groups of words all over them and make it into an “I Spy!” game sheet. I’ll call out a word on the sheet and students spy it and circle it. That student then calls out a word and the students find and circle it. The first person to raise their hand is the next one to be able to call out a word.
We alphabetize our words.
We do word finds.
We compare a word with another word.
We play “I spy!” and look for words inside words.
I make up “Easy Reader” booklets for them to trace-write-color-cut and glue. Then we read them as a whole group. They enjoy collecting these booklets and sharing them with their families. One of the most popular "Easy Readers" that teachers pick is the "I Can!" booklet.
I have also designed counting, color, spatial direction and shape booklets for each theme. The repetition of each booklet in the series helps a student recognize the format and words. Many of my Y5's can read these booklets by the end of the year because of the simple repetition.
Because students recall the familiar directions the teacher is freed up to do other things. As students work independently, a teacher can help students one-on-one or do assessments. One of my Y5's personal favorites is the color booklet.
I do 3 of these booklets through out the day. My students enjoy them and take only 5-7 minutes to complete one, depending on the booklet. It’s great as an independent center activity, home-school connection, something for students to do when they complete other work, or something for your sub. folder.
Calendar time is also another place I incorporate reading. I incorporate reading words during calendar time. The days of the week and the months are part of our word wall. I have a fun class book that my students make that gets the months into their head. It's called Rhyme Time Movin' Through The Months and they LOVE reading and making this book.
The other booklet they really enjoy is There Was An Old Lady. This is a spin off of the original as my old lady has a different twist. My students feed her the months as we read the story. I've also written one for colors, numbers, shapes and letters. My students enjoy the manipulatives I pass out. We sequence them as well as pop them into the various old ladies' mouths, learning the different concepts and report card standards as we go.
Whenever I give them a free choice book that they'd like me to read it's usually an "Old Lady" booklet. I've made these 2 on a page so you can run off copies of these booklets so your students can each have one to take home and enjoy reading to their families.
Students also practice their writing skills and learn to read the month words by making a Very Hungry Student booklet, they especially enjoy the rhyming text. There's even a page for classmate's autographs.
I also get my parents on board by sending themed-word and picture cards home each month with an "I'm So Cool Calendar!" A letter of explanation tells them how to use the pictures and cards and the calendar provides a way for them to keep track of the words their child is learning. It's a great home-school connection as well as self-esteem builder.
Get Parents On Board:
I have a program that I call RAH RAH. It stands for Read At Home. I hang a megaphone that I bought at The Dollar Store from the ceiling and put a poster listing all my students' names on a wall in the hallway, so that everyone can see how well my students are doing. A letter home asks parents to read to their children a few times a week and then to X off a monthly-themed piece of clipart and send back the signed note.
It has been extremely successful. I think it was all that some parents needed for that extra push to read to their child at night, and see the important value of making the time to do that. Click on the link to view/print your FREE RAH RAH reading logs. Click on this link to print RAH RAH #2 A FREE poster, letter, bookmarks, etc.
I not only want my students reading, I want to build their vocabularies. I need parental help for that and send a monthly list home in my students' Take Home Folders. Monthly Vocabulary Lists
I read lots of alphabet, color, number and themed books every day to my students. I use puppets and magic to make things exciting and to help them become lovers of books and life-long learners. I have a book with 260 teaching tips of how to make storytelling more fun. It's chock full of great ideas to help make your story time educational as well as a much-looked forward to, time of day.
I have my students practice writing their name by sending "I love you" grams and leaving them in silly places once they get home. You could extend this idea by having your students choose a word wall word that they are working on and sign it on the back.
I use stuffed animals and Beanie Babies to help my students remember reading strategies. They "Chunk with the Skunk", "See with the Bee", "Make a Sound with the Hound", "Check the Vowel with the Owl" etc. I’ve made these into posters and bookmarks and a bulletin board. You can find these things in my FREE 136 page A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That Book complete with word wheels and skill sheets!
We have older students come in and be Reading Buddies with my little ones. They work with them one-on-one and sometimes just read together flopped down on mats or simply chill out in a corner on a bean bag. Everyone looks forward to this once a week-end of the day time.
I have a week of Camp Read Away where I let my students read in the dark with a flashlight in a tent for 10 minutes at the beginning or end of our day. I have now collected 10 tents. (More details in another article!)
The entire school has DEAR Time (Drop Everything And Read), where we get to go out in the hallway with a book, plop down in front of our lockers and read for 10 minutes after announcements during March is Reading Month.
To build self-esteem I give ABCDe-tective certificates after students are able to read a specific booklet. Click on the link to see a sample.
I also give them bookmarks as incentives and to praise their efforts. I designed 8 reading ones in the 60-page March Apple Bytes newsletter packet. As a fun center activity, why not have your students design a bookmark for Read Across America or March is Reading Month.
Give them a 7x3 piece of white construction paper and have them create something unique. This is a school wide activity for us. Each teacher submits the best two from their class and then the school votes on the best one from each grade level. Prizes are given and the bookmarks put in a frame in our atrium.
Via a newsletter I let parents know that I want to know how their children are doing with their "I'm so Cool Calendars". When students can read all of the Easy Reader Booklets, or are "Most Improved" or can read all of the Word Wall Words or have done other milestones, I award prizes, stickers and certificates + lots of genuine verbal praise and encouragement.
I post all of these things in my monthly newsletters. I think it helps motivate parents to help their child shine a little brighter.
I make it as FUN and as stress-free as I can, through all of the above and promoting a positive "can do" attitude in my students that empowers them. I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading and hope my enthusiasm is contagious.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. As always, if you have something that’s working for you and your students, I’d love to hear from you.
As you're reading across America this month I wish you a magical and safe journey!
A fun idea we do for March is Reading Month is have a Cat in the Hat Day! Most everyone comes dressed in black, red and white which is pretty easy for our school because those are our school colors.
A lot of our teachers take 10 minutes out of the day and have their students make an alternating red and white ABAB patterned Cat Hat to wear, but the big finale is we all assemble outside where our principal somehow manages to climb on the roof of our school and reads a page out of the book!
You may not have a principal as wonderful, wild and willing as ours, but nevertheless planning a day around Seuss's famous cat is a rather easy and fun theme day to spark marvelous memories for a child and motivate students to read.
Here are a few things that I do:
Get parents involved:
I want my parents on board and I find that if I have some sort of contest going on that often helps. I send home a letter letting them know that March is Reading month and that I'd really like them to make some quality time to read with their child. Just a few moments right before bedtime is a rewarding experience for both of them.
I read a study while I was in college where they surveyed all of the inmates on Death Row in the early 80's and discovered that one of the things they all had in common was that none of them had ever been read to as a child! Hmmmm something to definitely think about.
The challenge for them is to read as many books as they can, write the name of the book on their Cat in the Hat-hat and see how tall they can make it! At the end of the month we'll display the hats and give a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize for the tallest hats. (Most books read!) Click on the link to view/print the letter and hat stack.
I dress up:
You don't have to, but my students always enjoy my costumes. They are really easy to make. Here I just drew the cat on a piece of white felt with a black marker and then outlined it with lots of black puffy paint around the edges.
I glued it on my black jumper with "no sew" fabric glue. I did the same thing with the red felt bow and his hat stripes and red puffy paint. I wrote Cat in the Hat with white puffy paint around the hem of my jumper and then wore a blouse. I scrunched up a piece of red felt and knotted it with red ribbon to make my bow tie. I hot glued 4 red poker chips together, wrote the letters R-E-A-D on each one with black puffy paint and added white puffy paint details to make my pin.
My Cat in the Hat necklace is a Christmas ornament hung with black 1/8th ribbon, and my hat is from Oriental Trading. You can't see them, but I have red and white striped socks on, and black-red- and white comfy oxford-looking slippers. Tah Dah! I'm all set. If you can't draw, trace the cat from a book, enlarge it and use tracing paper to apply it to your felt.
Theme your lessons:
Everything I do that day is themed around cats and hats. Because of Seuss licensing and copyrights I can't share. I simply scan my book and buy coloring books and stickers to make my lessons. We review the at family and make a hat slider. Click on the link to view/print the templates and directions. Cat in the Hat Skill Sheets + Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat -at family slider
I designed 2 games that we play in the afternoon in lieu of Free Play Center Time. Again because of licensing I can't give you the template for the spinner. I made Stack The Hat from stickers, which you can do; Or make a copy of the cat and Thing 1 and 2 from your book.
Use my photo as a guide. I've included the cat, which I drew as well as his stacked-hat playing piece. Students roll the dice and try to get the red stripes to complete his hat, but watch out for those naughty things. If you land on them, you'll have to put one or two of your stripes back in the Baggie!
The other game is called On A Roll With The Cat in the Hat! Students partner up like Thing 1 and 2 and work in pairs. If a child rolls a 1,2,4, or 6 they can move their playing piece forward because they are behaving like the fish and 2 good children in the book, but if they roll a 3 which spells the 3 letters in C-A-T they must move their playing piece backwards 3 spaces because people who are naughty in life generally are not successful and don't move forward.
Likewise with a roll of 5, which spells T-H-I-N-G, you'll find yourself losing a turn, for children who don't make wise choices need a time out. The first student to hop through all of their hats and reach the cat is the winner. Click on the link to view/print these Cat in the Hat games and directions.
If you do decide to do a Cat in the Hat Day I hope it's simply Purrrrr-fect!
1-2-3 Come Celebrate Wacky Wednesday With Me!
As you continue March is Reading Month, Why not plan on having a Wacky Wednesday next week. It' one of my favorite days. See if you can get your entire school involved to make it even more fun. It’s one of my students’ favorite Seuss books.
Here’s how to go about being wacky.
Send a letter home to parents explaining the day, and asking them to help their child dress as wacky as possible. Give them a few suggestions.
Our entire school is involved in March is Reading Month so we have a panel of teachers that get together to think up ideas for the whole school to take part in all month long. Wacky Wednesday is one of them. Your wacky day doesn’t have to fall on the 2nd. It can be any Wednesday in March.
Students come to school dressed wacky. One pant leg is up, one is down, T-shirts are backwards or inside out, plaids are put together with stripes. Hair is spray painted several colors or perhaps teased. Girls may have one braid and one pigtail, or perhaps their ponytail sticks out of the side of their head.
Underwear or boxer shorts are worn on the outside of your pants, buttons are buttoned wrong, and neckties are knotted or tied around your forehead. A person can wear two different colored socks, or a sneaker and a boot. Orange can be worn with pink and purple and stripes look marvelous with polka dots; the wackier the better. Each teacher sends their wackiest students down to the atrium to get their picture taken for the school newsletter.
Wack out your room:
Besides dressing wacky, rearrange a few things in your room. I take all of my chairs away and put them in a line in the hallway. My students have to sit on the floor UNDER the tables of course. All of my posters are upside down, and just like in the story I've used poster putty to have a shoe walking up the wall. My clock is upside down, their calendar says October, our alphabet starts with ZYX and ends with ABC. Use your imagination and have fun! I challenge my students to find all the things that are wacky in our room.
Plan some wacky activities:
On their desks are new desk name cards. Their names are spelled backwards and I’m no longer Mrs. Henderson, but Mrs. Nosredneh. It takes a bit of time, but soon they find their new wacky name card.
They also don their new nametag so that I can remember what to call them through out our wacky day.
Instead of greeting them “Good morning!” and saying “Hello!” to them. I say “Good evening!” and “Good-bye!”
Instead of walking forward they must walk backward. They really LOVE this one and it’s a great gross motor movement that’s not as easy as it looks.
I also give them an FYI that when I say “No.” I mean “Yes” only for the 1st hour of class. Their Table Top lessons are numbered from 10 to 1, and we do all of our counting that day in reverse.
We also say our alphabet in reverse. I read our morning message backwards.
For story time we read Dr. Seuss’s Wacky Wednesday of course, but I also have several other books that I read that my students really enjoy: Gerald McBoing Boing, Seuss; Topsy-Turvy Day, James; and Silly Sally, by Wood. I laminate the various characters in Silly Sally, pass them out to my students and we sequence them.
As I’m reading Wacky Wednesday, I hold up the book so that my students can find the things. I enjoy this book because of the “can you find?” aspect of it. It’s a great skill for students to practice and this one really sharpens their observation skills. It’s also a counting book. “… if you can find the last 20 wacky things you can go back to bed.”
I make an overhead of the last 2 pages and we circle the wacky things as my students find them. We keep a tally sheet so we know we have found all 20. I toss a plush Cat in the Hat at the end of the day and the child holding the cat gets to share what their favorite thing was that they did on Wacky Day.
As they file out of the door on the way to their bus, I wish them a “Good morning!” and wave “Hello!”