Reading Comprehension and Close Read Passages

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wondering what to do with your top readers to challenge them?  I had that problem, so I made these.

Kids love learning about animals so I made these informational text reading passages.  They are challenging enough (even for my way above grade level readers) but still accessible to my above grade level kiddos.

I have used them in two ways.  Most of the time I will use them as a close read activity.  I read aloud to them once.  After reading it we talk about any new facts we might have learned or I ask them if there were any words they didn't know.  Then I give them each their own copy and we go back into the text and reread it again.  This time they annotate as we read.  They underline the key facts and circle words they don't know.  When that is done, we discuss what we have read and define any words we don't know.  I then send the kids home with the passage and the two pages of comprehension questions.

The other way that I have used this is as a cold read passage.  I simply send it home along with the comprehension question pages and I ask the kids to read it to themselves first, then to reread and annotate, then to read it to their parents.  The parents can help with any questions the kids might have.  When the student is confident that they understand the text, they will then answer the written questions.

My top readers absolutely LOVE these!  Since we live close to both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park, my kids feel like animal experts already.  Before each exercise, I will ask them what they know about the animal we will be reading about.  They usually know a lot, but I have fun facts hidden in the text about each animal and they always tell me that they learned something new after doing the exercise.

You can find these at my TpT store.  Just click on the photo to take you there, or visit my store and browse around.  I'm always adding new resources so be sure to follow my store if you like what you see.

I hope you can use these in your own classroom as well.  I teach kindergarten but only use them with my kiddos that are reading around a 2nd grade level.  They are good for 1-5th grades so share this post with your upper grade buddies as well.  They would be a great supplement to an animal science unit.


Saturday, March 28, 2015
Metamorphosis should also be called "The Long Wait."

Well, we just had our Open House last Thursday evening and our caterpillars finally went into the chrysalis stage.  We thought it would NEVER happen.  We watched those little caterpillars eat and eat and grow and grow for the longest time.

Here is our science table.  We always have something living to observe.  Right now we have a daffodil (which has just about run its course), some ladybugs, and our butterflies (in the chrysalis stage).
Kindergarten hands on science center

Now we are off for two weeks for Spring Break so I had to send the little guys home with a steward.  One of my very enthusiastic little boys is taking our caterpillars home for the break.  He will care for them and bring them back to school when break is over.  It was so cute because he left the room singing this song as he was carrying the precious cargo out the door.

If you like the metamorphosis song, you can purchase a similar one at Susan Paul's TpT store.  She has many other great songs.


Thursday, March 26, 2015
Remember how I said that I have a love/hate relationship with tempra paint?  Well, here is the love part.  Aren't these absolutely beautiful?

Cooperative group art project

art fund raiser project idea

school and classroom fundraiser art project idea

All You Need Is Love Heart Project

To make these I simply drew a heart on a large piece of construction paper.  This year I cut each heart into 6 pieces and then numbered each piece.  Every child chose a piece to work with and painted their little hearts out (ha ha).  When they were all done, I reassembled the hearts and then laminated them (because everything looks better laminated- am I right?)

These fantastic pieces of art will be auctioned off during our school's Spring Fling.  The proceeds go directly to our wonderful PTA.  I have them hanging in our classroom right now.  The kids are so proud of how they turned out.

Building Reading Fluency and Expression

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

If you look at the picture on the right,  you might recognize the Readers Theaters that my kiddos are holding.

They are from the very talented Kristin Oldham from A Teeny Tiny Teacher.  I follow her blog (if you don't, you should- she is hysterical) and I was fortunate enough to be in her session at the Southern California Kindergarten Conference last February.

She presented her Readers Theaters and it was a "make and take" session.   Who doesn't love a "make and take"??  I sure do!!

Anyway, after hearing how her kiddos love these and how she uses them as a center during her literacy block,  I knew that I had chosen the right session!  I happily cut and glued and made 10- yes 10!- readers theater plays.  I was in teacher heaven when I left.

I must confess... I initially attended her session just to see her in person, so you can imagine my happiness when her session turned out to be so valuable!

I almost asked for a photo with her, but then I thought about how celebrities are always getting asked to take pictures with fans and I didn't want to be "one of those fans," so I didn't... Maybe next time.

My kiddos are LOVING these!  They actually beg to get their hands on them (even the super shy kids) and I'm a hero when I say that we have time for them today.  (Who doesn't love being a hero? Right?)

So far, my kids are using the easier levels, but I've purchased the more advanced levels to challenge my higher readers.

What I love about these readers theaters is that they are for two kids- and only two kids.  Each child is engaged because they aren't sitting around forever waiting for their part.

I stress that when they read it, they should sound like they are having a conversation with the other person.  It should sound natural, not like they are reading from a script.  The kids practice reading it over and over until it is time to perform for the class.

So, the bottom line is this... if you want to build fluency and work on reading with expression, then hop on over to her TpT store and grab some of these AMAZING readers theaters.  She has them in all different levels and is always adding more.

Thank you Kristin!!  You can be sure that I'll be back for more!

And no, she did not ask me to endorse this product.  This is a 100% genuine endorsement (as are all my posts).

Printing on Scrapbook Paper

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Here's a fun tip that I use to keep my learning centers and games organized (and cute).  I look through my old scrapbook supplies and I find sheets of patterned paper that have white on the back side.  I print the activity on the white side of the paper and when I cut it out and put it in a center, it is easy to see what pieces go with what game.  The kids love it because it makes the activity look more like a deck of cards.

It's a really easy and really inexpensive way to spice up your learning centers and help with classroom organization.  If one piece gets separated from the others (which happens all the time in kindergarten), it is easy for the kids (and me too) to find the center activity where the piece belongs.

I love to store my activities in gallon Ziploc bags.  This allows me to simply change one bag with another and place it in my Math or Literacy Tub.

I hope you found this little hint helpful.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Tempra Paint

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

UUUGGGH... I hate tempra paint.  Don't get me wrong, I love giving my kids the opportunity to paint.

In fact, I have 2 easels right outside my door and paint smocks hanging on racks next to them, it's not the painting that I mind, it's the clean up.  I hate (yes, that's a strong word, but I mean it) hate cleaning paint cups and lids.  Brushes I don't mind so much- go figure.

I have figured out an easy way to keep my paint cup cleanup easy, I just line the cups with cheap sandwich size Ziploc bags.  When it's time to clean out that color of paint, I simply remove the top, pull the bag out, and drop it in the trash.  Easy peasy.

tempra paint tips

Then I look at the lid and groan.  I so hate cleaning all the nooks and crannies of dried on paint on the lids.  I've tried soaking them before scrubbing- still a pain.  I've tried scraping the dried paint first- still a pain.

I've been teaching kindergarten for WELL OVER 10 years now and I've yet to find a good method for cleaning those lids.  Does anyone have any suggestions for me?  Please- I'm begging you!

Leprechaun's Lunch

Friday, March 13, 2015
Look what Silly McGilly brought for us... a magical leprechaun lunch!

math and science measurement fun

He left bags of pudding, milk and spoons.  All we had to do was record our observations, mix and enjoy!  The kids were amazed watching the white powder turn green right before their eyes.  They even discovered small pieces of gold in the green pudding- yes, they found gold!  (Don't you love their imaginations?)

After tasting this treat, I asked them if they liked it or not and we graphed the results.

You can grab the directions for mixing your own Leprechaun's Lunch here.  It's a great math and science activity.  You can pre-measure or have the kids do it, depending on time.

measurement and math fun

Leprechaun Mischief

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Look what just arrived in the mail!  Or should I say "who" just arrived?  Well, it's Silly McGilly and he's courtesy of A Cupcake for the Teacher.  She hosted a giveaway on her blog and I won!

I'm so excited to bring this little guy into my classroom.  My kids have been wondering when the leprechauns were going to visit our classroom (they have already been in other rooms) and everyone is on the lookout on the playground for the little guys.  Well guess what kiddos... the leprechauns have arrived in Room 12!  Let the fun begin!

I know this will be a springboard for many math, science and writing activities.

No Children Were Harmed in the Making of This Graph

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I went to a lot of really great presentations at the SCKC and I came away with a lot of great ideas.  The conference was only a few days ago, and I'm busy, busy, busy sifting through my handouts and making things for my classroom.

I think one of the most funny (and thought provoking) things I heard was from Vanessa Levin.  She mentioned a few times that, "none of the kids in her class were harmed in the making of this ___."  After laughing and nodding,  it caused me to step back and think, is it really the process or the product that is important?  Some of the time, a great product is the goal, but for the nitty gritty every day lessons, it's really the process that matters the most.

So, I spent Friday and Saturday at the conference, Sunday at Disneyland with my coworkers, then when I returned to my room on Monday, it was not only a new month (calendar change) but Dr. Seuss Day (green eggs and ham).  Talk about feeling unprepared for the day!  I had everything prepped ahead of time, but in the rush of starting the week, I couldn't find my cute Green Eggs and Ham graph!  Yikes!! So I had a parent whip this up as the eggs were cooking.

It isn't as pretty as my other one, but the kids don't care!  They were thrilled to taste green eggs and ham and to graph if they liked it or not.  It is hanging on my blackboard (yes, I still have one of those in my room) and tomorrow we will revisit it and discuss the data.  It's not pretty, but it got the job done!

I had to remind myself that the process in this case is more important than the product.  Thank you Vanessa Levin ( for reminding me of that! That is such an important thing to remember!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015
I don't know what kind of staff you have, but mine is FANTASTIC!  No really, they are!  Not to brag, but every teacher is amazing.  I would put my own kids in any of their classrooms (really, I would!)  And to top it off, we all LIKE each other.  No really, we do!  We are all friends.  Isn't that kind of amazing?  I have worked at places where some people just tolerated other people because they work together.  I have worked at places where people are downright mean to their coworkers, but at my school- it's like Disneyland... it's really magical.

So, now for the reason for this post...

My staff had the opportunity to go to the SCKC in Pasadena.  Since we teach at an all Kindergarten school, all the teachers were encouraged to go.  All but one managed to make the trek to Pasadena (she had other commitments that weekend and opted to stay behind and hold down the fort- which was no small feat because our principal came along too!)

The conference was amazing.  We had such a great time in the sessions and one of the teachers even went with me to the Blogger's Bash dinner.  It was so much fun!  Since we were all the way in Pasadena and the conference ended on Saturday, we thought it would be fun to go to Disneyland on Sunday.  Not all of the teacher could make it due to other commitments, but a handful of us could... so off we went.  Our custodian and bilingual aide even drove up for the day!  See, I told you we ALL like each other!

Here are some photos of our day.

It was so much fun to hang out with the people that I work with away from the daily grind.  We laughed all day.  We ate tons of junk food.  We ran (walked really fast) from ride to ride to ride (just like little kids).  Did I say, we laughed all day?  I love my coworkers!  I wish everyone would have been able to come along to join in the fun.  Oh well, maybe next year.

As you can see, the wait times were amazing and we went on every ride in Disneyland that we wanted to (some we even rode twice).  It was a rainy day, so that helped with the crowds.

That was my staff's Disneyland adventure.  And yes, I realize how very lucky I am to work where I work and with whom I work.  And believe me... I appreciate every moment- from the big ones like a day at Disneyland, to the little things we all do for each other each day.  Life is good.
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