2015 - Down River Resources
Howdy, friends.
It has been a busy month, as I am sure it has been for you too! Without further ado, let's take a peek at my classroom! You may notice an apparent theme... BIG NEWS AWAITS YOU THROUGHOUT!
Any guesses to the theme of the classroom yet? You guessed it! My Jedi-inspired classroom is the first of its kind. I have been dreaming of this day for about eight months. My first project towards my classroom was the action figure box photo backdrop! It is a vintage-inspired creation. My sweet mother made a Jedi rode for us to wear for our "First Day of School" pictures. The pool noodle lightsabers added a fun touch too!
Our "Back to School" bulletin board featured movie tickets with the names of the students enrolled. Many people thought I had a "Hollywood" theme going until they walked into the my Jedi-inspired room. 
Our school is in a low socio-economic area and most of our students are "at-risk." For several years, the administration has been very focused on raising student achievement in this student group and have been very successful. One thing, we do as a grade level is plan our unit really looking at our standards. Since I am teaching in the Great State of Texas, we use the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS.) This focus board will be the home of the documents we create to make sure we are hitting the necessary specificity and rigor of each standard.
The whole group area is designed for read-alouds and mini-lessons. Each morning after breakfast, the students join me on the rug as we go through our Fundations (Wilson Language Program) lesson. The beautiful posters on the right side of the whiteboard are for reading comprehension strategies. They were created by the talented Mrs. Melissa Dailey and can be found HERE.
Anchor charts will soon fill the red lightsaber bulletin board. Did you notice those lightsabers? I created them from plain borders and Scotch Expressions tape. It was so much fun creating them! The math word wall is for content-specific vocabulary that my students will need to know. As we learn new words, they will be posted on this board. The beautiful Ombre look for the word wall is created with scrapbooking paper from Hobby Lobby.
You can never have enough details! My handsome husband came up with adding lightsabers to the edges of these shelves. They will store supplies towards the back so they will show nicely. The book boxes are from the Target Dollar Spot (purchased four years ago.) They are always my most complimented storage boxes! They are sturdy and bright!
The focal point of the room, is the leader of the Galactic Empire, Darth Vader. The mask was a Goodwill find and the cape was created from tablecloths from the Dollar Tree. Krista Wallden's colorful speech bubble adds the perfect quote..." I am your Word Wall."
This shows you the transformation of the classroom and how the black butcher paper backgrounds really help the details POP! You will notice many similar details to keep the theme consistent (lightsaber borders, Ombre science word wall, etc.)
For the last two years, I have used the birthday straws as a special way to honor each student on their birthday. This year, they match the theme of the classroom wishing that the FORCE may be with the student on their birthday and always.
This most shocking detail to this reveal is that this year I am a....
I had the opportunity to work in second grade with a handful of the students I taught in kindergarten! I am looking forward to the new year and being reunited with some of my former kiddos. Since I am an early elementary teacher, I hope you will continue to stay tuned to the classroom far, far away, in Down River, Texas.
May your new school year be fruitful and the force be with you today and always.
Happy Teaching!

Howdy, friends!
I am so excited that you stopped by! For many of you this may be your first time DOWN RIVER! If so, I hope you find something that you are passionate about, get a chuckle from, or that you are curious about...there's a little something for everyone!
I live, teach, and create out of El Paso, Texas, known to my inner circle, which you are now a part of, as "Down River." You'll have to infer the meaning but it has a lot to do with geography and the origin of our local river. (Just sayin'!)
I have been teaching for 10 years and so excited to share my journey with you as I conquer the classroom in Texas (or try like heck to do so!) It is sure challenging at times, but I trust that this is my calling. I love reaping what I sow throughout the school year; that is really the beauty of teaching. It's a highlight! Don't you think?
I am thrilled to be a part of the Kinder Tribe, a group designed for Kinder teachers to collaborate and help one another. I am really looking forward to reading about more classrooms, teaching strategies, and meet all of the beautiful people, who are blessed to be called to teach. I am humbled to be among you.
I added an Instagram account this summer and am really enjoying to get to know more teachers from Texas and around the world, many from the Kinder Tribe. I try to keep it interesting in sharing my life through a creative lens. (It sounds enticing, doesn't it?! Check it out. If you are so inclined, follow me.
Click HERE to check out new collaborative blog, by kindergarten teachers for kindergarten teachers! There's many giveaways to enter when you get there by some creative tribe members near and far.
I hope you will come back and join me for my BIG classroom reveal, coming to a computer near you mid-August.
Happy Blog Hoppin' in the meantime!
Howdy, friends.
Thanks for joining me on this "Tell All Tuesday" hosted by Teach. Talk. Inspire and My Day in K. The theme this week is "If my life was a reality show, it would be called..." This is pretty fun as I have often referred to my life with the following title....
LA VIDA LOCA DE LAURITA (Yep, it is a story about my crazy life!) Growing up on the southern border, I have been influenced by novelas (Mexican soap operas...they seem way more dramatic than my General Hospital). In America, we use dramatic music while in Mexico there's a little more hands-on drama, based simply on observation....growing up the television translators would go out and that was the only option for "entertainment."
"Why did your name change to Laurita?" I know you are all asking yourselves this question. 
Many of my friends growing up would call me Laurita. Though I am a White girl with Polish roots, I love cumbias (type of music), enchiladas (delicious tortillas, cheese, and chile), and my Spanish speaking amigas (friends)...hence the name was given...Laurita (make sure you use your best Spanish accent too! Well, it was worth a try!)

Now on with the show...

The television crew of two would follow me in the summer as I balance sleeping around my husband's rotating shift schedule (new schedule every six weeks), taking care of an active 23 month old dog, writing curriculum for the school district in which I work, creating resources for my TpT store, and preparing to set-up the most awesome classroom I've ever had. Oh, and riding my bike. Did I mention, riding my bike?! (Doesn't that sound CrAzY?!)
Luckily for the two television crew members, they would have to shoot the scenes from the kitchen. This location has the least amount of things....um...I love to cook but do not do it often enough. The crew could not fit in my office due to the numerous textbooks and resources that are open.
Another great thing for the television crew is that I spend a large majority of summer days in my office writing curriculum, creating resources, and preparing for next school year, so they would stay in one place....they can see the office from the kitchen! WHEW! No need for cordless cameras here, ladies and gentlemen. (This show is really going to save the major television network on its budget!)
The more I reflect on this show, the more low-budget it seems. In fact, the REALITY of it is that they would sign a contract for one season (16 shows) and after one hour of filming me talking to the dog about strategies to reach the English Language Learner, it would be cheaper to pay out the contract than look like dummies for advertising such a flop of a show.
All-in-all, La Vida Loca de Laurita, was a win for the Williams family. We got a VERY large payout for starring in our own reality show.
It's my life. I love it. I love my husband, my puppy, and my work! And...you too. Thanks for reading. You should stick to the Kardashians though, really. Or Big Brother...is that still around?!
Happy Dreaming of YOUR Reality Show!
Howdy, friends.
I have been connecting with so many beautiful teachers in the last few weeks. I am so thankful for so many wonderful friends whom are also called "teacher." We belong to such an amazing group of people. Thank you for your continued friendship, whether in person, through the resources we share, or on social media. I love connecting with you.
I have recently joined the VERY large group of teachers who photographically document our lives...the good (classroom---on most days), the bad (D.I.Y. projects gone bad), and the ugly (smashed toes, mosquitos bites, and whatever else we've gotten ourselves into this summer!) Are you following? Click here to see me in action...biking riding, teaching, eating at Whataburger...you get the drift! I try and keep it interesting (but G-Rated), for your viewing pleasure.
I am working on a few top secret projects preparing for my big classroom reveal coming to you in less than one month! (AHHHH, I better get back to work!) In the midst of my work though, I have found time to shop around. I love Michael, JoAnn, and Wally this time of year. We are best friends during back to school season! I try and go a couple times a week, you know, to check the stock. This brings me to today's topic...
I teamed up with wonderfully talented Mrs. Stanford of Mrs. Stanford's Class and am participating in a July "ABCs of Teaching" photo of the day challenge. Today our challenge was L for "list." Check out the list I complied.
Do any of these things sound familiar? My sweet husband...bless his heart  (that's Texan for "poor, poor, poor, poor him,) he has all of these memorized, including the look on my face when I spot one of these things five aisles away!
See the other photo challenges and what other teacher's lists are...just search for #abcsofteaching on Instagram, it's never too late to join in on the fun, just start with the current day.
What are your "go-to's" when back-to-school shopping?
Happy Hunting!

Howdy, friends.

I am on Week 3 of the TpT Seller Challenge! Whew! I cannot believe three weeks of summer have already passed! I am very excited to finally (did I say "finally?" I meant "FINALLY!")  finish creating my masterpiece which I am sharing with you this week!
Before the unveiling I want to thank, Sassy Schoolhouse, from neighboring New Mexico, who edited this product. I love collaborating with other teachers, especially experienced teachers who are starting a TpT store! Check out her FREE calendars for the upcoming year!

The newest addition to Kindergarten Down River is the Financial Literacy for Young Mathematicians Bundle. Within, you will find exciting resources such as:
  • essential questions to drive your instruction
  • interactive lesson activities to build content knowledge on income, wants and needs, goods and services, saving and spending, and charitable giving
  • graphic organizers to supplement instruction on subunits  
  • writing prompts to extend the learning and formatively assess your students on how they are understanding the content vocabulary for this unit of instruction
  • scenario cards for subunits to help students critically think about the financial choices they are making to build their decision-making skills, in color and black and white (sold separately too)
Financial Literacy Scenario Cards
  • assessments for subunits to be used for formative or summative information
  • AND....my favorite: the folds and flaps component!
    • FOLDS AND FLAPS allows students to build their knowledge of financial literacy in their interactive math notebooks or in a "lapbook" (created with a standard file folder as shown below- sold separately too)
If the bundle is just TOO much awesomeness for you...I decided to split up the specialized components (Scenario Cards and Folds & Flaps,) to meet the needs of more teachers!
I am excited to share this new bundle and all of its unique components with you!
What do you think?
Howdy, friends.
I was checking out other great Texas bloggers today, in honor of SOCIAL MEDIA DAY 2015. I bet you didn't even know that there was such a thing?! Another frivolous fact I bring to you, my friends!
Marcy from Saddle Up for 2nd Grade is part of a group called the Weekend Warriors. They are a group of bloggers who share monthly education tips and tricks! This past weekend, they shared their 3-2-1 Teacher Bio and 65 other bloggers linked up. I am still learning all of the amazing things you can do with blogs, so bare with me! This should give you some personal insight into me and my classroom!
1. You will often find piles of papers in my classroom. I am not disorganized. I just have no time to put them away as I am always on my feet monitoring students or working in small groups.
2. I love bright colors in my classroom and on my body! You may remember my word wall from this past school year (See photo below)! My mom used to buy my sister and I bright colored outfits too. I was THE GIRL in the orange shirt and short combination on school picture day! I was THE GIRL in the flower-patterned dress for her First Holy Communion! (Luckily, I selected my own wedding dress so it was white! WHEW!)
3. I am a standards-based teacher. Want to be my friend? FOLLOW THE STANDARDS! I love tried-and-true activities, but if they do not match the standards, I will not be participating. This is the first lesson my colleagues learn each year. Laura is the rule follower. I am not ashamed. I do not mind if you choose not to follow the rules (just please shut your door.) :-)
1. I have a strong feeling of love and loyalty for my family. I love my husband of two years, who has been my best friend of six years. He keeps me centered, focused, and loved. He is committed, tender, and so intelligent...handsome as all get out too! I am so blessed to have a loving helpmate (he secretly follows my blog...I love you, honey.)
I love the family to which I was given! My mother and father are a beautiful example that love is the greatest of all things. My big brother is an excellent example of selflessness, always making sacrifices for his family (wife and 5-year-old daughter) around his crazy shiftwork hours.  My little sister is such and admirable mother of two adorable boys (4 month old and 2-year-old) and wife of a husband who travels for work.
In addition to loving my family, I am also devoted to preserving my family's history. I enjoy recording family stories of the past.
2. I serve a big and faithful God and through Him I have been able to use my gifts and talents to achieve all that I dreamed of in my career. My career dream was being an instructional specialist which I achieved last year. I decided to go back to the classroom this year and have a larger impact on a small group of students and their families. I want to continue living out my vocation as a teacher.
My bucket list mostly consists of traveling, since I am not much of a dare devil (cautious, call me cautious). I would love to able to travel to Poland and soak up the culture, food, and music. We are very much a Polish family! My dad plays polkas on his accordion and we love to make and eat Polish dishes. It's probably genetic that I like bright colors too...have you seen Polish art? Beautiful!
I hope this enlightens you a little more on la vida de Laura (the life of Laura). I had fun sharing.
Happy Googling (Polish Art...haha)!
Howdy, friends.

I am continuing to participate in the TpT Seller Challenge this week. Sellers are daring to dream and share their visions for their businesses with us all.

I am very goal-oriented and usually have many things I am working towards in my life. I recently had an experience that has centered my soul in so many ways, after achieving a long dreamed of goal. 

Professionally, it has been my desire to be an instructional specialist. This school year, that dream came true! I was given a promotion and served as a campus instructional specialist for a group of 35 amazing teachers and 600 beautiful students. Achieving that goal was certainly a blessing. I was so happy supporting teachers and working alongside them. I made a difficult decision to leave this special group of people and go back to my old school to work as a teacher, yet again.
I am overjoyed with my decision, though many people do not understand. In our society, we overall expect colleagues to go "up the ladder" not down it. With my new perspective on so many things, I have become more centered and feel a sense of peace with the "now" of my life. My three goals for "Kindergarten Down River" reflect this time in my life for sure. They are goals that I am meeting now, but want to continue meeting daily.
Goal 1: Live out my vocation. 

I want to do anything and everything that I am called to do. I feel called to teaching and sharing my gift with others.

Goal 2: Help other teachers implement standards by designing creative resources.

This corresponds with my first goal. I feel that part of my vocation is to help others in their mission field of teaching. The Internet, and especially TeachersPayTeachers, has made this a great platform for me to be able to meet this goal. Before, I could only help and support the teachers I would surround myself with; whether it be my three colleagues in kindergarten or the 150 teachers I would train for my school district. Now, my circle of influence has expanded dramatically because of this blog and my resource center on TpT.

Goal 3: Give my students hands-on experiences to my students that I would not otherwise be able to provide for them.

With the relationships I have built with other teachers, I am able to give my students a better education. I use a variety of instructional resources, including others' ideas from blogs and resources on TpT. My earnings as a seller supplements my instruction and allows me to give so many more opportunities to my students. I will continue to fund hands-on experiences that will enhance my students' learning.

Happy Dreaming!

Cupcake Comparisons Game
Howdy, Friends!
This summer, some TpT friends decided it would be fun to start a revolution...I do not know if they planned on how widely spread the participation would be...but it is blowing up the internet, Instagram, Pinterest, and all of the other things that I'm still learning! 
I am committed to completing the four weeks of challenges, which should be most beneficial to you, my dear friends. I will be enhancing current products and making Kindergarten Down River a comprehensive place to find the resources you need!
As part of Week One, I decided to give one of my favorite freebies a facelift! If you have not downloaded this great math center, do it! Right now!
Enhancements include:
-Colorful cover page
-Classy borders on pages
-Larger number cards better for cutting, laminating, and cutting again
-Easier to use recording sheets
Join over 700 other teachers are they implement this comparing number game in their classrooms. It is perfect for kindergarten and first grades throughout the year, or a great back-to-school center for second grade!
Enjoy the facelift! There's more to come...

P.S. Have you started following my NEW INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT? Click here to follow my journey as a teacher!

Happy Downloading and Following!


Howdy, friends!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Target Dollar Spot has your back to school baskets, stickers, pocket charts, dry erase boards, and so much more...I know most of you will not finish reading this as you are jumping in your car and headed to your neighborhood Target! (I do not blame you!)
For the rest of you...I'll tell you about how I use my favorite Dollar Spot finds...
I am always a fan of the storage options that the Target Dollar Spot offers, each year I add a few containers to my colorful collection. (My colorful storage baskets are the most complimented items in my classroom.)
The 8x11 baskets shown above are the perfect size for collecting papers, storing extra paper for writing centers, holding literary and mathematics center materials, or anything else you can think of. You can color code the baskets for the specific centers that they correspond with too!  
I love using the small stickers to place in student agendas to indicate to parents that their student had a great day at school! If there is no sticker in their agenda, I will write a note to their behavior that was an issue throughout the day.
Happy Shopping!
"No matter how much success you're having, you can't continue working together if you can't communicate." -Matt Cameron
Howdy, friends.
I greatly appreciate you joining me again as I continue to share my knowledge on the components of sheltered instruction. This is another installment in my new blog series. In the event, you missed last week's blog on making text accessible, click here.
We must teach students how to "be nice" and cooperate in our classrooms, but teaching them how to socially interact also helps the English language learner process new information too!
When planning for peer interactions, there are several key components we must remember. It is within these interactions that our students learn and grow, especially in their oral communication skills. The phrase "use it or lose it" helps us understand learning a second language. If we do not practice the language, it is difficult to maintain, much less improve.
It is important to provide frequent opportunities for students to interact with one another engaging in the content presented during the duration of a lesson. This is very difficult when first applying this to your practice, as it is natural for the teacher to do most of the talking. (Trust me, it was a hard habit to break, but keep pushing forward!)
Other than providing multiple opportunities to process content, we must be considerate as to how the students are grouped. Is this a whole group time during the lesson? If so, how can I build in opportunities for a "Turn and Talk?" It is important that we vary the groups to provide various linguistic examples for our students.
Once we have planned frequent opportunities to communicate in various groupings, we must also consider the appropriate amount of wait time a student is allowed for processing the information and their answer. I often see teachers overlooking this aspect in lessons. Teachers often generate a response or they call on the student who is ALWAYS raising their hand. (Guilty as charged!)

School districts often have policies in place to provide teachers with direction with ESL/ELL or Dual Language programs. For instance, all science instruction in my district is taught in 100% English, regardless of the grade or the students' arrival to the United States. Clarifying key concepts in the students' native language is not an option for me, but could be at your district.
By encouraging your students in peer interactions, you are allowing students to have a deeper understanding of the content. I do not feel that I had a very good grasp at peer interactions until this year. A few months ago, instructional specialists from the district were in my classroom daily. They were watching my practice, but also providing feedback. Increasing peer interactions was my goal through the process and I can say that it has greatly improved student achievement in my classroom. It did take another set of eyes to help me see the areas for improvement. We are all on a journey!
I hope you find these tips useful! Look for more on peer interactions in the future.
Happy Planning!

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” -Albert Einstein   
Howdy, friends!
I greatly appreciate you joining me again as I continue to share my knowledge on the components of sheltered instruction. This is another installment in my new blog series. In the event, you missed last week's blog on focusing on the language, click here.
Have you ever began choral reading and the class is barely murmuring? This has happened to me many times, especially as a new teacher. The students start off strong with the word "the" and then slowly taper off as the text becomes very content-specific with complex words.
Text is often times too difficult for English language learners to read and comprehend, but "watering down" the text is not the this answer to this issue. We must find ways as teachers to make the text and other resource materials accessible for all students so that all of the content concepts are left intact.
We can start activating students' prior knowledge as discussed a few blog posts ago and using some of the strategies lists below. I love emphasizing the main components of text before reading, including the author, illustrator, and the clues the illustrator gives us about the text on the front cover.
As we begin to read text, I want my students to understand the text and have metacognition as we go along. Metacognition is something that teachers learned in college, but I do not see students learning this skill in the classroom. I like to give my students the example of sitting and church. Often times, the priest or the pastor is talking our minds wander off. It is hard to focus. (Any kiddo that has been to church, can identify with this!) When our mind wander off, we are not thinking about our thinking.
In reading, we must often "STOP AND THINK!" I tell my students that after a few sentences or at the end of the paragraph, we need to "Stop and think!" (I hold out my hand like a stop sign and point to my head while saying this! It gives the kids some visual support as to my expectation!)
After reading, there are so many things we can do to help students process the text. I wrote down one strategies for the two text types: informational and literary.
My favorite strategy that I like to use when making text accessible whether in a book or an anchor chart is the quick sketch. I am not nearly up to the standards of many of my peers in their sketching abilities...but I do try my best and no stick figures are aloud...though my people often go without their necks.
I have used the Quick Sketch in my kindergarten, first, second, and fifth grade classroom and it truly has a place for all students, especially the English learner. In second and fifth grades, I would teach my students to draw a quick sketch that summarizes the paragraph so when answering comprehension questions they can look at the margins for clues as to where the information is. If you are taking a state test, this can save a lot of time! Students do not have to reread the entire passage! This is a big benefit for timed tests! 

I hope you are enjoying this blog series as much as I am! It reminds me how many little things teachers do for help all of their students. I often say that teachers have a toolbox full of their go-to strategies.  It is my hope that through this blog you can add another to your toolbox!
Thank you for your continued commitment to your students, especially your English language learners.
Happy Reading!
For more on sheltered instruction, check out my other posts.
Background Knowledge
Meaning with Realia
Focusing on Language
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