Saturday, August 1, 2015

All About Rhyming {freebies included}

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in THIS post how I would be taking a giant step forward in "stepping up" my sight word instruction this upcoming year.  Not that I need to "teach" sight words any differently, but offer continuous and hands on ways for my kiddos to practice them.  Another area I will be offering constant engagement is rhyming.  Rhyming is one of those fundamental areas skill areas that is a MUST for our sweet kindergartners.  Recognizing and generating rhyming words is one of the initial phonemic awareness areas we approach at the beginning of the year.  Rhyming then progresses to more of a phonological awareness approach once the kids start to work with rhyming word families.  In word families students are really focusing in on the letters that makes up that word and not just the ending sound as a whole.

One of the first places we work at during the start of the year is names!  You can easily combine your work with rhyming and names easily!  When calling your kiddos to line up or to the carpet simply call them by a nonsense rhyming name and the class will help to listen and decide who you are call.  So, I would say, "Mara!" and the kiddos would respond with, "Tara!"  Simple, yet effective!

Another great activity for the students solely listening in to the actual word ending is to play a listening game called, Take Out the Trash!  For this activity you will read a series of three to four words.  The students will listen for the word that does not belong!  They will tell you to throw this word away in the trash!  You can snag this freebie game printable by clicking below or clicking HERE.

Below is an adorable and one of those DUH why didn't I think of that games!  Anna from over at The Imagination Tree placed a set of rhyming items in the basket and had the kiddos come up and find matches.  And in a quick search I stumbled across a great song that Kathleen from Growing Kinders made up that would go along perfect.  She wrote, "A tisket, a tasket here is the rhyming basket.  Words that rhyme end the same. Let's play this fun learning game!"  She has the printable for the song HERE.

Another super fun game I like to play when studying rhyming words is to read rhyming riddles.  These really get the kiddos thinking and offer a fun way to generate rhyming words.  None the less we get to gain some critical thinking skills too!  This is a simple activity.  You will read the rhyming riddles and the kiddos will respond with the rhyming word answer!  You can snag this for free to by clicking HERE or on the picture below!

After the initial phonemic awareness has been built you can move towards more of a phonics approach to rhyming and start word families! Below is a simple and effective way to practice words families in a hands-on way!  Miss Kindergarten whipped up this word family center using......a Pringles can! {headed ti the the gas station now} You can read more about how she made the word family cans and snag her freebie recording sheet HERE.

Below is simple, cheap, and un-cutsey {sorry!} way to practice word families.  I grabbed these colored popsicles sticks from the Dollar Tree.  I wrote word family pairs on each stick.  The kiddos will match the pair that rhyme and then place them in the cup!  $1 center. #sold

I also snagged these snazzy ketchup and mustard cut-outs at the dollar tree! They screamed rhyming  match-ups!

I wrote the rhyming pairs on eat cut-out.  The kiddos will simply match the pairs and I win with another $1 center!

What I've noticed the most about my rhyming instruction is that I hit it "hot and heavy" those first couple of months...then it takes more a back seat as I teach segmenting, blending, word writing, etc!  So, I knew that was a no-go this year!  I would make it my mission 2.0 to provide meaningful and fun activities for the kids to practice rhyming throughout the year.  I will have one sight word and one rhyming activity per literacy basket throughout the ENTIRE year to keep the kids firm in these skills!  Below is a quick view of the activities I whipped of for the kiddos!  Because I will be continuing to place rhyming activities in my literacy baskets and use at small group for the entire year I knew I would be make A LOT of new rhyming packets so I decided to place them into an endless bundle!  If I need them, you get them free!  Once you purchase the bundle you get all of my future rhyming packets for free!

Up first are these ADORABLE Frogs on a log!  For the activity students will match the frogs to the word family log.  If you feel the students will have a hard time with this activity OR to cut down on students asking what the picture might be you can simply write the word on the back of each frog!  Students will then be able to self-check their work!

Rhyming dab it!  Hey, the party doesn't start until the teacher pulls out the dabbers! HA!  I have included two versions of this version like the one below and one where the kiddos will dab the rhyming pictures!

EEK!  Pull out some search and color activities with a rhyming focus and you have some happy kiddos!

This activity is called Sort the Deck!  For this center you either have the kiddos sort the cards into a bag or a basket.....or you can use the sort back at your guided reading table.  I also include two sets of cards.  One set has the rhyming word and then the set with the picture only like the set below!

How about these flower match-ups?  The kiddos will simply match each rhyming pair!

Rhyming clip it!  For this activity the students will clip the rhyming picture on each card.

Color, cut, and paste rhyming sheets are great for a center or for whole-group practice!

My teacher is giving me one of her paperclips to use? WHAAAT?  I still remember last year when I did my first spinner activity {yes, I guess I am a mean teacher like that} the kids looked at me in amazement, as if the paperclips were a trip to the moon!

I'm really giddy about these rhyming cut and staple booklets!  We are actually going to be working on these whole-group!  I have included two versions... the first version pictured below.  For this version the students will write in the missing rhyming word.  For the other version the sentence has been completely typed out so they become simple easy readers!

I had these adorable caterpillars in my sight word bundle and knew I would need them for rhyming too!  For these the rhyming word family is listed on the caterpillar head and then the kids will match the rhyming "body segments."

So, after I posted the sight word caterpillars I had a buyer email me and tell me about this awesome way she discovered to cut out the circles in a flash!  After she told me about it I literally logged onto Amazon at the mid-move at the movie theater and ordered it!  

I have a tendency to be a little behind in the crafy "times,"  but this thing is awesome!  It is called a circle lever punch!  I purchased the "extra large" one which punches out 2 inch circles.  

So, to cut out the circles in a flash I just cut off the excess paper on one side and then use the lever punch to cut out the circles!  So, if I ever need to make circles in a packet I will be using 2 inch circles so I can use this ;)  

The last activity is actually a brand new addition to the rhyming bundle {added 8/1/15}.  So, the endless bundle got its first update!  Whoop!  So, this activity is just adorable or maybe I am partial!?  For this one... the teacher will need to print just one garage.  You can print more, but it is full size and that is a lot of ink.  So, just one garage will work great.  The students will place the "family" name plate above the garage and then park those match family members' cars in the garage. ADORBS, right?

All of the activities I shared above are in my ENDLESS Rhyming MEGA bundle.  The endless part means that as I create additional sight word activities for my kiddos I will be placing them into this bundle.  So, once you own the bundle you'll own all the free updates too!  Also, this bundle is editable so you can edit the sheets to match your kiddos' needs!  I am offering a special "buy in" price of $18 for the rhyming mega...  during the 2015 Back to School sale {8/3-8/4} the bundle will be on sale for $14!

If you're interested in snagging it you can click below!

I will leave you with a couple of my favorite videos for teaching rhyming!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Big Box Curriculum YAY or NAY?

Hi.  My name is Tara and I believe TEACHERS do not need a BIG BOX curriculum for their students to be successful learners. I believe that TEACHERS do not need a BIG BOX curriculum to put them in a BOX and STIFLE their CREATIVITY, their PASSION, and their LOVE FOR LEARNING!

Wow.  I feel so empowered saying that, but at the same time my hands are sweaty and I'm getting heart palpitations as if I am about to share this post with teachers from around the world.  Oh wait. I am?  We will move forward and I will get over my own fears of speaking from my heart for the betterment of my fellow teachers! 

See that's me below!  I am a sixth year teacher {ohhhh six years...what does SHE know?}.  I have taught at the same {awesome} school with an abundance of resources and {fabulous} staff.  So, after all that why am I whining about getting to use some expensive curriculum that was purchased for me to use {shouldn't you just be grateful?} 

Well, I used that fancy curriculum for two years {was it really that long?} I used my nice, fabulous, pretty packaged, OVER abundant {boxes, and boxes, and BOXES} curriculum until I found a teacher miracle site called Teachers Pay Teachers.  What was so special about this site?  Well, you can tell right from the title, TEACHERS pay TEACHERS.  As I searched through the site I came across activity after activity that I knew would be perfect for my class.  It eventually came to the point that before I taught my BIG BOX curriculum lesson I would go check and see what Teachers pay Teachers had on that subject....and before I knew it I was relying on this site for TEACHERS more than my curriculum.

So, the more I used the site the more I fell in love with the idea that TEACHERS are creating and helping other TEACHERS.  Basically the site translated to Teachers Collaborating with Teachers...and all administrators like teachers to collaborate right?  I fell in love with the site so much that I decided I wanted to create, share, collaborate, and connect with teachers!  I opened a shop, started this blog, and went to town!  I quickly realized that little ol' me was able to make a difference for teachers.  I would often get emails that said,
"This is exactly what I imagined the perfect reading curriculum would be like. Over the past 13 years, I have tried to tweak district curriculum to make it more fun, more meaningful and more appropriate for kindergarten but I was never as thorough and successful as Tara West has been with these units. After looking through the units I already know that I will be able to use everything, not just bits and pieces, so definitely worth the price!"

I started to realize that I was not the only teacher in this day-to-day struggle with myself... the struggle only teachers get.  It sounds about like this....

Every time a teacher reads that quote they chuckle to themselves and probably say, "Uh huh that's right!"  And thinking about that quote...why would a teacher need to "pretend" and be "sneaky" about teaching students meaningful material?  Well, remember that fancy BIG BOX curriculum that was purchased for them...well you have to use that!  If Rm. 10 is teaching an awesome Teachers pay Teachers lesson and Rm. 15 is teaching the BIG BOX curriculum then what happens?  Well, according to the following quote it is actually a GOOD thing to veer from your BIG BOX lesson plan, but after posting this quote on my Little Minds at Work Facebook page I received several comments that said they were not allowed to anything that was not IN the book.

Well, I feel that sometimes those decisions are made thinking logistically and not with reality in mind.  Let's say you are doctor {this is clearly a make believe and hypothetical story as I am a kindergarten teacher and not medically inclined to tell true medical stories} and a patient comes in very sick.  The protocol states you need to run basic tests like X-ray, blood work, etc before advancing the patient to the intensive care unit.  Well, you are using your doctor intuition {AKA basic knowledge} and you know right away this patient needs to go to the intensive unit.  However, your superiors said NOT to do that unless you followed protocol.  I mean that is a little dramatic story in this case because someone's live is on the line...but it's no different than we feel as teachers....that our students' educations are on the line.  When we forced to follow protocol {AKA BIG BOX curriculum} we are not doing the kids any favors.  What ever happened to balance?

Okay, I get it.  You are a TEACHER and you think TEACHERS know what is best for their students over BIG BOX curriculum. Yes and YES!  I will further my opinion on this matter with five exhibits below {wow I feel like a lawyer, now lawyer look at me!}  I was sure to choose stock photos from a photo database for these exhibits because I know you teachers would take a particular interest in them!

BIG BOX curriculum sets are just about unrealistic as the picture above.  My teacher friends probably already noticed what was going on this picture.  Ten students are working elbow-to-elbow at one standard size table.  They are also sharing ONE cup of pencils.  Also, on the table you will see a bowl of chalk, yet none of the kids are even acknowledging a bowl of CHALK on the table {Chalk AKA go outside run wild, drawing all over the playground}.  That scene just does not happen in the real world.  Just like BIG BOX curriculum expectations are just not doable.  The curriculum set says I am covering all of my 30 standards for the week, but I don't know if holding up a letter card is actually teaching the standard.  Or, how about the BIG BOX curriculum giving me assigned easy readers to read with my kids.  The books are broken down into three categories; on level, above level, and below level.  Well, I was just wondering if the company knew that my class comes in not knowing their letters and there is not an above level.  They don't know.  Basically...they can't know because it's not realistic.

 Exhibit two.  I am sure that this picture does not need explaining, but I will explain anyway...well because the kids are adorable.  So, this teacher has SIX students.  Unless she hid the other 20 behind the camera {which I highly doubt because no five year old hides from a picture}. BIG BOX curriculum companies forget that the majority of us are teaching class sizes of 20+ kids.  So, when the lesson plans says, "Prepare these manipulates per students: 10 blue snap cubes, 10 red snap cubes, 10 green snap cubes, 5 paper clips {yeah paper clips this is going to go great!}, and activity cards 1.a-1.z.  You start to get the sweats and hopefully you are that awesome prepared teacher that looked thoroughly through your plans the night before so you could then take your snap cubes and paper clips home to sort them.  You see again the BIG BOX companies do not get it. They don't know.  Basically...they can't know because it's not realistic.

Well. Well.  What do we have here?  Exhibit three explains what BIG BOX companies are best known for {don't worry this isn't a good thing to be known for}.  BIG BOX companies are known most for what they do not have.  There isn't a packet in my shop that doesn't have a comment like this one, "This will be a great addition to my curriculum." That is an example of teachers searching for activities and ideas to fill the holes in their BIG BOX curriculum.  So, the school district purchased this very expensive curriculum and one of the perks was no doubt that "everything would be included" just "open the book and teach"  and "anyone can teach from this book."  Yeah.  If I taught straight from my BIG BOX curriculum I would be teaching about 15 minutes of material and the kids and I would be sitting there staring at each other for the other 45 minutes.  Well. that isn't going to fly because one kids don't sit for 45 minutes and 2 well you know ...  So, good teachers do what they have always done best...they go out on their own and find meaningful material for their students to use.  The forefront of that being...Teachers Pay Teachers!

 Why are you showing me a room of adults?  Didn't you say you teach kindergarten?  Yes. and exhibit four is the most mind-boggling to me.  You see BIG BOX educational curriculum programs are created and written by........ PROFESSORS!  {Got ya!  You thought I was going to say teachers!} Professor.  Teacher. all the same right?  Well, not so much.  The big difference being that professors teach adults...and I teach five year old children.  Unless you are a teacher you do not know the kids like we do.  Most people are completely "cool" with that.  They give high-fives to teachers or tell us, "I don't know how you do it, but thank you!"  However, those in charge of creating these BIG BOX programs do not know my kids.  They don't know that never "saw" their name until it was written on their table.  They don't know that they have never been to preschool and don't exactly know what it means to sit criss-cross.  They don't know that kids actually come to school and learn at all different paces.  Yeah,  BIG BOX kids are not ALL the same.  My kids do not fit in a one-size-fits-all box.

Exhibit five is clearly the most important.  You see the kids in this picture are "mine."  Yes, that is "N" and "E."  When they came into kindergarten last year I immediately took in what each student would need to be successful and we set forward in our day-to-day learning.  I did not rely on my BIG BOX curriculum to tell me that one would need extra assistance with math while the other would want to get me thrown into copy machine timeout from making too many copies of the "all about" booklets because they were #obsessed with writing.  You company could tell me that I would need to alter the way I taught letters in my below group because this student would have trouble with their b's and d's.  The BIG BOX curriculum didn't know that one of them would miss a week from school with the flu and need to catch up on addition. Not even my sister teaching across the hall would know my students like I did.  Why?  Because that is what teachers do...they LEARN, OBSERVE, and they TEACH. They recognize their students' needs and they REACT!  Teachers don't wait for a book to tell them to review short vowels...the see their kids' need and they review shorts {that usually means logging onto Teachers Pay Teachers and finding a fun and engaging lesson that reviews short vowels.}
So, you rambled on about why you don't care for a BIG BOX curriculum but you don't understand...I don't have a choice!  Well, teacher to teacher here is what I say.  Keep doing what teachers do best!  Teachers make a difference everyday.  If your tied to a BIG BOX curriculum {I will keep you in my prayers} you are NOT any less of a teacher.  You are doing the best you can do with the limitations set upon you.  However, I encourage you to dig down deep ...which probably won't be too far and muster up the courage to approach your administration with a set plan.  Of course if your suggestion is to throw the million dollar curriculum out the window they are most likely {never mind they will} say no.  Instead, be transparent...let your emotion for your students prevail.  Ask for possibly one week where you can try a new program ...and possibly throw in that they are welcome to come in and observe you doing these {awesome and fantastic teacher-created} lessons.
If you are not tied down to a BIG BOX curriculum {woohoo we all just did the disco move for you} then I encourage you to hop over to Teachers pay Teachers and browse the teacher-created resources.  There are 1,000's of awesome resources that range from free to paid. What I love even more about Teachers pay Teachers is the fact that because the resources are created by teachers they can be easily tweaked and even get updated!  Let's see if the BIG BOX writing curriculum will update their writing plans for FREE like Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills are doing.  Yeah. I am sure we just answered that.  I also wonder if the BIG BOX curriculum companies have feedback like this on their websites... {that was funny}!

" I literally have no idea where to begin. I think you may have helped save my guided reading groups, especially those that are still struggling! Thank you so much for all the effort that you placed on this amazing bundle, and for making it affordable and endless. I cannot even describe to you how helpful that is for me. I will also be purchasing the first grade so I can push my advanced kiddos."

 I encourage to head over to Teachers pay Teachers this back to school season and see what your fellow teachers are up to!  Oh yeah and here's to some teacher-made power!

If you are a fan of BIG BOX curriculum programs {oh golly I really hope I dind't upset anyone...I don't like when people are upset at me} please know that these are simply my opininos and again I am not in your classroom to see you rocking the heck out of these lessons.  Again, I never judge either way...teachers receive enough judgment as it is.  Do what is best for YOU and mostly your STUDENTS!
And last but not least...I personally want to thank you for  making the dedication to teach.  Teaching is NOT easy, but is by far the most REWARDING career there is.  I will leave you with this.....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Back to School Blues Sale {and freebies!}

So... I LOVE summers!  Although, every summer I pick up the worst habit of staying up late and sleeping late the next's a cycle!  So, I am back to the days where my mom would make me go to bed early to "prepare" for back to school.  Well, I think I'll start that new routine tomorrow! ;) HA!  You could say I have a slight case of the back to school blues, but I know it will come and go and before I know it will be summer once again.. {Yeah, I'm trying mind tricks}

I am teaming up with a group of wonderful gals from Freebielicious to throw a little back to school blues sale!  If you have wishlisted a few goodies this summer now is the time to grab them for a 20% discount!  You will also have a little time to prepare those goodies before your little ones come!

 - - - - - 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Below I will share a few packets that are life-savers for your classroom!  First up is my new KinderLiteracy program!  I mean there was that one summer I made an entire reading curriculum! Say what?  What IS KinderLiteracy?
*KinderLiteracy is teacher created - - I don't sit behind a desk and pretend to know what kindergartners are capable of...I'm in the trenches right there with you!

*KinderLiteracy brings the JOY back to teaching -  - I have had the best time teaching my close reads the past two years and that is not going to slow down with these units.  I can't decide what I love the best...the kids loving to learn during close reads, or the fact that I am still learning during our close reads!

*KinderLiteracy is the whole bag of chips and dip - - I can not stand to have my affairs in disorder... I have included everything I can think of you'll need for the week!  I want these units to bring sanity back to teaching and inevitability your life too! So, included is complete {meaning lesson plans, printables, pieces, etc, etc} for whole-group reading, poetry, writing,  and a weekly craft along with a weekly skill check.  These lessons are based upon REAL books you most likely already have in your classroom.  The lessons are based upon themes!

A lot of you already own my close reads so I get a lot of questions about the differences between the two...basically what I can say is that KinderLiteracy takes my original close reads and BEEFS them up...big time!  I have added such detailed lesson plans that you can easily leave them for a substitute!  I've also included poetry, writing, skill checks, and so many options for daily independent follow up.  So.....they are kind of the same? if you do own my close reads then I am giving you $25 to spend in my store...just shoot me an email and we can discuss how that works >>

KinderLiteracy is also a growing bundle which means until I get all the units added you are saving OODLES!  If you'd like to snag 35 weeks of COMPLETE reading/writing instruction for the 20% off {so $40} you are getting 1 week of instruction for $1.14.......yeaaahhh try to find a big box curriculum offering a steal like that....okay now that just made me laugh out loud! You can view the units below!

Next up, is my ENDLESS guided reading mega bundle!  I hope had a chance to view my virtual guided reading presentation this past summer!  If not you can view it 

The mega bundle is bursting out the seams!  The  bundle has well over 2000+ pages. Included in the mega bundle you will find 32 weeks of EXPLICIT guided reading step by step plans.  This means you'll get the lesson plans, books, poems, writing templates, and more!  Even better is that the easy readers are differentiated with an on, above, and below version.  If you are unsure if these plans will work for you then you can download FREE week HERE!   Below is a look at the plans, poems, and easy readers!  If the plans do not work for your classroom perfectly you can easily edit them with the editable version of the plans which are included.

Another great activity included in the bundle are my writing strips!  These are easy to implement and carry so many benefits!

 However, one of the best features is that it's endless!  This means ANYTHING and EVERYTHING new I make for guided reading goes into that bundle.  If you own that bundle you snag it for free!  For example, last summer I posted this awesome back to school guided reading packet...all bundle owners grabbed it free of charge...score!

I get a lot of questions from those that own a few of the packets, but would like in on the mega big deal- just email me at! Interested in snagging the mega bundle 20% off?  Click below!

Ah shucks you teach first grade and was really hoping that I'd have a first grade version too....well you are in LUCK because I do!  You can also snag the First Grade ENDLESS Mega Bundle by clicking offers all the same great endless benefits and 28 weeks of instruction!
Another great must-have for the new year would be my phonics program, KinderPhonics!   KinderPhonics is teacher created for teachers!  I have written a very extensive blog post HERE.  This phonics curriculum is made up of three units; Letters A-Z, Letters to Sounds, and Sounds to Words.  The program is well thought out and does not ask for unrealistic measures from the teachers or the students.  The program is flexible and can work in place of or with your current phonics curriculum.  A brief description of each unit is included below.

Unit One: A brief introduction to the alphabet.  This unit dedicates on day per letter.  Phonemic awareness skills covered in Unit One:  rhyming, syllables, and single sounds..all covered under the RF.K.2 Common Core State Standard.

Unit Two: A review of the alphabet with a focus on handwriting and letter sounds.  Two are dedicated per letter with a review day at the end of the week.

Unit Three:  An introduction of more rigorous phonics skills.  Dedicated one "week" per skill. Skills included; short vowels, long vowels, mixed vowels, digraphs, blends, and more!

Below you will find a few snapshots of the resources found in unit one!

You can view a FREE sample of KinderPhonics HERE.  If you love what you see and are ready to build a strong phonics base with your kiddos you can get the units for 20% off!
If you would like to grab KinderPhonics on sale you can click below!

And now for a couple of additional bundles/packets you might like!

I recently released a couple of new ENDLESS bundles.  There is just something about continuing to get free packets after your's kind of like the money tree our parents told us about, but with TPT packets! HA!  The sight word ENDLESS bundle was posted with 9 packets, but already had THREE additions in the first week!  You can snag it on sale for 20% off HERE or click below!

Rhyming is one of those areas we hit so HARD at the beginning of kindergarten, but this year it is my mission to continue to work on rhyming AKA word families throughout the year!  I just knew I would need an ENDLESS bundle to keep up with my new rhyming word addiction too! ha!  This endless bundle currently has 10 packets in it and will grow very soon!  The bundle is on sale for $12 and you'll get any updates after that for FREE....ummmm #STEAL!

Below is my newly revised Problem of the Day packets...also known as Common Core questioning jars!  The packets have been completely updated with an option to make them interactive using math journals!

I have also posted a couple freebies you might just need for your back to school season!  Click below to grab them!  First, up customizable name mats!  I like to use these for fine motor activities like play dough, fuzzy poms, etc.  We also use our dry erase markers to practice our names!
                                    Click below to snag the FREEBIE! 

Also, how about a book of poetry great for your classroom library and FREE? Well, sure thing!  You can click below to grab those as well!

My entire store will be on sale through Monday, July 25th!  Click below to shop!

Have a great week my sweet, sweet friends!