Monday, October 26, 2015


I've been using my Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharper for a couple of years now.  I love watching and listening to my students when they get a pencil back after I've sharpened it.  Their eyes bug out and I usually hear a "Whoa!!"  The sharpener is so easy and fast, I have said good-bye to my electric sharpener.

Now it is my turn to say, "Whoa!!" and for my eyes to bug out!  There is a brand new color and it is beautiful!  P-U-R-P-L-E!  

Isn't it gorgeous?!?  It comes with the handy-dandy table clamp, too.  This helps hold it in place but to be honest, I find it just as easy to hold the top with my fingertips.

The purple sharpener works just as easy as the other colors that Class Friendly Supplies offer.  

What I like best is the automatic stop feature!  When I used to use an electric pencil sharper, I would take the pencil out every couple of seconds to check to see if it was sharp enough.  Often, when I took it out, it would be uneven or sometimes the tip was broken and I'd have to start over.  I never have to second guess with this sharpener.  It stops when the tip is sharp.  End of story!  It takes only about 10 seconds per pencil, which is such a time saver!

Classroom Friendly Supplies is a great company to support!  How awesome is that?!?

To get your brand new pencil sharpener of your own, click on the graphic below.

You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Making Word Work count with Word Wallets

Sight word knowledge and practice are key to becoming fluent readers.  Some words simply cannot be decoded and kids need practice to remember how to read/spell those tricky words.  I give my students practice time during Word Work as part of The Daily 5.  I love providing fun ways to practice words like paint in a bag and watercolors. 

I USED to put a ring of sight words in the basket along with the activity.  Students would flip through the ring, find a word and practice it.  I noticed some kids spent a LOT of time flipping through the rings and others simply practiced whatever word was on top...regardless if they knew the word already or not.  These rings weren't the most efficient way of providing the practice my kids needed.

NOW I use a Word Wallet!  Each student starts with list one.  They practice those words during Word Work.  Every couple of weeks I check in and test students on the words.  If they show mastery of a word, I highlight the word on their list and they know to practice the unknown words.  If all the words on a list are mastered, they graduate to the next list.  Some kids move quickly through the lists and others move slowly. 

If you want to use Word Wallets, here are some tips:
1.  Keep a master teacher list for each child!  When I highlight a word on the student list, I also record it on my teacher list.  It makes guided reading lesson planning a breeze!

2.  Quickly write the student's name on the back of the list.  If a list is left in a Word Work bin, the owner can be found quickly.

3.  Send a SECOND copy of the list home so kids can practice the words at home with their family.

4.  Prepare all the lists for the year before the year starts.

5.  Buy extra folders when they are cheap!  I make plenty of extra folders in case I get any move in kids during the year. 

6.  Get a consistent parent volunteer to help you check in with kids.  When mine came I would just hand her my basket and she was ready to roll!  OR, set a consistent schedule and test a few kids each day.

Ready to try it?

The cool thing is that I made it editable!  You can program in what words your kiddos need to know!  Or, use my lists which are based on Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading.  The color words are also included along with the label templates to make your folder labels and a schedule template for testing kids.  You can grab it for yourself here.

Using Word Wallets really paid off for my students.  100% of my students met grade level expectation for sight words at the end of the year. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2nd Annual Blogger Bonanza Workshop!

I am so excited for the 2nd Annual Blogger Bonanza Workshop!  Last year was so much fun so we are doing it again.  For only $20 you can spend the afternoon with some of the talented Minnesota and Wisconsin blogger/teachers.  I hope to see you there so register today!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Opinion Writing...Kinder Style

My kinders' writing has come a long way.  A long, long, long way.  I walked around today during writing and I could read every single piece.  For me, that is a pretty good indication that my students understand what it means to be a writer and can create pieces for the reader to read.  SCORE!

We use Lucy Calkins and this trimester our focus is opinion writing.  To give my lessons some direction I have been using this book:

Each day I ask a question from the book and then give them time to write.  Today they wrote if they would rather be thunder or lightning.  Here is how we go about it...

1.  Think about which one they would rather be (their opinion...not a friends!).
2.  We brainstorm as a class some supporting details for each one.  
For example, we said it would be cool to be thunder because it is loud, we could shake buildings and we could scare people.  On the other hand, it would be fun to be lightning because we could light up people's houses, zap things and turn off the power.
3.  I dismiss the students and give them time to write. 
4.   I walk around and conference with students.  I LOVE this time.  It is a chance for me to see their progress and help them become better writers. 
5.  We use the editing checklist at the bottom of the paper for writers to use to make sure they have everything they need in their pieces.   
6.  At the end of the writing block they get to share what they wrote with a partner.  Today they shared with their locker pairs.

That's it!  If you want my writing paper, snag this FREEBIE by clicking on the photo below.

In other news...T-minus 25 days until I present at the Minnesota Kindergarten Association Spring Conference!  I'll be talking about Guided Reading and how I've made it work in my classroom.  I'm so excited to meet the other presenters (Nancy Carlson, Pete Harry (THE Harry Kindergarten), and Shari Sloane).  Let me know if you're going to be there!  I'd love to meet you!  Click on the picture below to find out more and register if you haven't already.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Addicted to Kindergarten

We had Parent/Teacher Conferences Thursday night.  I don't especially love working until 8pm but I do like talking to parents about how much their child has grown since the fall.  At a conference about a student who has shown phenomenal growth, the parent mentioned how kindergarten teachers must see amazing improvements and how much fun that must be.  I said, "Yes!  That's why I'm addicted to kindergarten!"  We laughed but I realized it is true.  My name is Sara and I am addicted to kindergarten and there are a few reasons why.

Every Fall students come in at varying levels.  I had several students this year who couldn't write their name or even knew the letters in their name.  Now, those students are reading!  Amazing!  It's a huge high to report to parents that kind of improvement and to be able to witness the joy the student feels when they reach their goals. 

I also love that I get to help shape kids' minds about what school is about.  I work my hardest to show students that if they work hard, they will reach their goals.  Parents will often comment on how much their child has grown and how much they love school.  Love that!

I know other grade levels see growth in their students but I'm willing to bet not as much as a kinder teacher.  It is the reason why that I am still in kindergarten after 15 years and hope to continue for a good long while.  Are you addicted to kindergarten?  What do you love about it?  Please share!

I mentioned in my last post that I was asked to speak at the Minnesota Kindergarten Association Spring Conference in April alongside YouTube star Mr. Harry, children's book author Nancy Carlson,  and the amazing kinder teacher Shari Sloane!  Now you can see all the details and register for the conference.  Click below to find out all the details!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently February 2015 Edition

My favorite day of the month!

Our family has been working our way through the Harry Potter series.  Last night we finished book 3 and then watched book 4.  My girls are obsessed and are currently playing Harry Potter.

My youngest has had four cheerleading competitions this month plus practices.  I've spent every weekend driving around the Twin Cities.  I LOVE seeing her cheer but am grateful the season is now over and I can have my weekends back.  Isn't she cute?

Koo Koo Kangaroo is coming to our school this month and I'm so excited!  My team ordered some shirts and I'm on a mission to dye my shoes gold. 
The best part is that I get to perform Pop See Ko with them up on stage!  Can't wait!

We've been in our house for over 10 years now and it shows.  I REALLY want to get new floor and counter tops for our kitchen.  I can't decide between tile or wood (right now we have linoleum).  Anyone out there have any advice?

I got a SUPER exciting e-mail the other day asking if I would present at the Minnesota Kindergarten Association Spring Conference in April.  Me?  Sure!  I am speaking for two 75 minute blocks on guided reading.  I've spent a good part of today brainstorming and planning.  If you live in or around Minnesota and want to see me, Shari Sloane, Mr. Harry Kindergarten and author Nancy Carlson, click below to find out more!

Pageant Title:  Mrs. Tries to do it all
Yep, that's me.  I hate saying no and like being in charge.  Anyone else?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Currently-January 2015

Happy New Year's!  I was thinking the other day about how crazy it is that I've taught for 15 years now.  When I first started I asked a more seasoned teacher how long they have been teaching and being in awe when they said 15 years.  I thought they must have seen everything and know everything.   I've seen and heard a lot, but I am no expert!  I have started to think about what's next for me though.  Farley's Currently is the perfect way to reflect on what's next!

Listening...we're headed to the neighbor's house to ring in the New Year but first we're watching a movie the girls got for Christmas.

Loving...I am not as organized as I was before I had kids but once in awhile I get a HUGE case of organization fever.  Last Saturday I cleaned out our kitchen cabinets, my girls' rooms and just about everything else in our house.  Our donation bin and garbage was overflowing and I can breathe much easier!

Thinking...I LOVE my job but I also love a little time off to recuperate and have fun with my girls.  

Wanting...I really feel content in my personal life and with my girls.  Professionally....

Needing....January is a HUGE month in our house.  Birthdays, cheerleading competitions, a trip to Vegas, school events, etc.  Thank goodness for family and friends who can help out!

Yes...I was doing really well on the road to healthy eating and then BAM!  I need to get back on track!

Maybe...I have always wanted to help other teachers become better teachers.  I've taught some classes and lead a couple of book studies but I am getting the itch to do more.  I'm not sure what or how but I'm ready.  

I wish...I've told people that I would love to go into a school who needs help with Guided Reading or Daily 5 or anything!  Starting my Reading License will hopefully help me get on the right path.  Maybe this is the year!

Link up with Farley with your Currently!