2014 - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide
Howdy, friends.

I have been off the radar accomplishing many things that I have yet to blog about as time is always lacking!

I must update on the holiday meal that made my husband just about as happy as he was on our wedding day...long before he realized what a commitment it was to be married to a workaholic who doesn't have time to do mundane things like clean the house, cook, etc.

The other day, the husband came home from work and showed me a picture of a bacon-wrapped turkey. He laughed and joked about how cool it would be to make this. I am still unsure if he knew he could convince me to make it or if it was a joke...but days later, his bacon-wrapped dream became a reality.

After buying three packages of premium bacon (go big or go home!), we weaved the bacon carefully on cookie sheets. We stuffed the turkey with some of my husband's favorite stuffing (a recipe passed down from his maternal grandfather) and then placed it over the turkey, so it looked like this...

After about four hours in the oven, the turkey came out smelling like roasted pig...

My husband woke up with a smile from ear to ear when he smelled this bacon-wrapped turkey. He was so delighted that he took a picture in which we confirmed that I was the best wife ever. I mean, who prepares a 22 lb. bacon-wrapped bird for two people along with the fixings (mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.) Okay, the pumpkin pie was store bought...but, come on! Don't forget the Dr. Pepper with Pure Cane Sugar...it wouldn't be a Texas Thanksgiving without it!

The following day, my best friend came over to work on a project and we were able to get some bakin' in after the other bacon-filled day. We created some Star Wars sugar cookie using some awesome cookie cutters...I think they came out marvelous. Thanks, bestie for your help! I am a beast with cooking meat, but my baking skills need some improvement.

For the final report card on Thanksgiving at the Williams':
Bacon-Wrapped Turkey- A+
Pumpkin Pie- A+ (It was store bought, remember!)
Star Wars Cookies- A+ (However, the gold star goes to my bestie for cutting some gorgeous cookies!)

I hope your table always has plenty! Wishing you, your family, and your kiddos at school, the very best holiday season yet!

Happy Salivating!


Howdy, friends!

I want to celebrate your continued commitment to students around the globe...not to be confused with an oversized pumpkin! In celebration, I added a new $1 Steal to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Stop by today and purchase this 2-in-1 math center for just $1.00. This center is ideal for my friends in kindergarten and first grades. There are now SIX $1 steals so take a look!

I am always adding new resources for my friends so please make sure you are following my TpT store by clicking on the small green star under the store's name or you can always check out the latest on my Facebook page!

Thanks for your continued support and trust in allowing me to provide your classroom with quality resources!

Happy Browsing!

Howdy, friends!

September flew by! I would like to recap a portion of a unit I just finished with my kindergarteners on matter. I use the 5E Inquiry Model for Science Education in my classroom. It is a beautiful way to teach making sure that students can access the content. Being a Project GLAD certified teacher, I try to use a big book to activate prior knowledge and ENGAGE my students in the content. This big book is one that I created to correspond with the Texas science standards (TEKS). I wrote it specifically to meet the kindergarten TEKS K.5AB, but also meets the following:
  • K.5, 1.5 The student knows that objects have properties and patterns.
  • K.5A Observe and describe properties of objects...
  • K.5B Observe and record properties of objects…
  • 1.5A Classify objects by observable properties of the materials from which they are made…
  • 1.5B Predict and identify changes in materials caused by heating and cooling…
  • 2.5 The student knows that matter has physical properties and those properties determine how it is described, classified, changed, and used.
  • 2.5A Classify matter by physical properties…
  • 2.5B Compare changes in materials caused by heating and cooling.
    Matter: Science Big Book
After we read the big book, we did an investigation! Investigations are my favorite! I think my students can tell to...they get just as excited as I do. They behave and practice science safety at all times, as they do not want the consequence of sitting out during science time. On this day, we investigated how materials change due to heating.
Hershey Kiss in Ziploc to Observe Change due to Heating
We began the EXPLORE portion of our 5E lesson. Our investigative question was: How does chocolate change when placed outside (in the sun)? Scientists made predictions as to what they thought would happen to the chocolate. They had enough schema to know that it would melt, but we explored this concept anyway. We used Ziploc bags to hold our chocolate Hershey kiss. Fortunately, we were able to sit on a small concrete wall around the perimeter of our jungle gym that was covered by a shade.
Students Observe Chocolates Change
Scientists were able to sit in the shade while observing their chocolate which we placed in the sun. It was a breezy day in Down River, Texas, so scientists kept their shoes on the bag to keep it from blowing away.
After several minutes, melting is apparent.
 After several minutes, you could see the chocolate changing. One scientist described it this way: "At first, it was a triangle, then it started melting into a circle." Pretty accurate description in my book! He was making reference to how the shape changed. We stayed until the change in the matter was evident, before heading back into our classroom. 
Investigation Report

Prior to investigating outside, we began the EXPLORE with our investigative question. We then made a list of materials and the scientists helped me write up the procedure we should use. I added some small visuals above the words so they could remember the words. After our outdoor investigation, we add our data. We measured the time it took for the chocolate to change with a clock. This tool is often used by scientists to measure time. (I always try to emphasize the process skills scientists use for conducting investigations.) It took 15 minutes for the chocolate to melt outside.

Happy Melting!
Howdy, friends.
The first weeks of kindergarten go by pretty fast, especially since every activity takes so long. By the time you know it, you are already handing out progress reports for the first grading period! That is currently where I am in my life as a teacher!

Wilson Fundations

In our school district, we use Wilson Fundations as the phonics program, though Fundations is a whole language program teaching many other reading skills. It is amazing how my students learn the difference between vowels and consonants early in the year! Also, I enjoy that the students have a keyword (the picture) to help them remember the letters and their corresponding sounds. I have seen the impact that the fidelity to the program has on students...in just a few short weeks my students will be able to read.
Wilson Fundations
Week 1: Letter t (top)
Week 2: Letters b (bat) and f (fun)

Reader's Workshop: Anchor Charts

During the first 20 days of school, all of the teachers at our campus create charts for Reader's Workshop as we establish routines and procedures. These are consistent in each grade level though each teacher adds their flare! My charts just happen to be colorful and have visual aids for students to remember what the text says. (This is also a great time to model a list in writing.)
First 20 Days Charts for Reader's Workshop
We keep these rituals and routines consistent through the school so as the students move through the grade levels, they are more proficient thus reducing the teaching time for them. In addition, many students move for year to year in our location, mobility rates in the area usually range from 18-25%, so this allows those students to know our procedures.


The first few days of writing, we talk about stories. I talk about the people we draw are the characters we see in the books we read. I emphasized the setting, where the story takes place, from the beginning of the year, as the students had a difficult time picking up that concept last year. It is now week 4 and the students know what the setting of a story is already! Yeehaw!

After the first couple of days, I started to get frustrated that the students were drawing characters that resembled marshmallows. Because of this, I did a directed draw. I modeled using the document camera and I showed the students the process I go through to draw a character. I focused on how characters can be changed to resemble boys vs. girls and adults vs. children, etc. This is a sample (1/4) of the illustrations from my kindergarteners.

The following day, the students applied the skill of drawing a person as they drew their families. Look the illustration on the bottom right, this student is still drawing a "marshmallow man" so he may need some additional support as the weeks continue. I love the variety of how the students see themselves and others. Look closely at the characters. Could you rate them by their complexity? Which picture is the most detailed (look at the features)? Which picture is the least detailed? Then, between the other two pictures, look at the characters faces. It is interesting to analyze these student samples. I look forward to sharing more as we progress.
Happy Drawing!

Howdy, friends.

I wanted to update you on my interactive notebooks. One of my favorite tips to offer teachers, especially new teachers, is how to make a cover last on a composition notebook! Throughout the years, my practice has been improved. I used to have the students glue the covers on the front or tape them with packing tape. The method I lay out below is much easier and holds up better!

All you need is...patience and... (It is actually a pretty quick process!)
-Students' composition notebooks
-Half-page cover that students have colored and made their own (this builds ownership)
-1 foam brush (any size works)
-1 container of Mod Podge glue (make sure it is one that dries clear)

Using Mod Podge on the notebook covers helps maintain the durability of notebooks
Step 1: First, dip the foam brush in the glue, be generous. Brush the glue in the middle of the notebook where the cover will be placed.
Step 2: Next, place the student's cover on top of the glue and hold in place with your hand.
Step 3: Then, while holding one half of the cover page, glue the bottom with vertical strokes. Be generous and pull the brush across hard to eliminate "bubbling." Then, glue the other half of the cover page with vertical strokes.
Step 4: Finally, paint a frame around the perimeter of the cover to seal the edges to the notebook. Lay out on a flat surface and allow to dry.

Note: I create my own notebook covers. (Two fit on an 8x11 landscape paper.) I use an outline font and black line clipart so the students can color in the letters and pictures. These are great to give to the students in the first few days of school as you are putting away supplies!

Happy Gluing!

Howdy, friends. Sorry for the delay in this post. My husband has made about 75 calls to the cable company since we moved into our new house and still we have yet to receive a good solid signal. Shockingly, my husband still is sweet! Our internet issue has made blogging tremendously difficult! But... I have a stockpile of lessons and activities coming your way in the next few weeks to make up for it!

Last week, I really started focusing on scientific inquiring and investigations. This is something that is a newer nugget of knowledge for me to initiate in my classroom. I have always had my kids speak and draw pictures, but writing can be a daunting task, especially for someone who has never had a class on "How to Teach a Kid to Write!" Needless to say, my students are always excellent authors because I model writing so often and we practice daily. In kindergarten, the student expectation in our district is two sentences! That's not so bad!

Field Investigation: Bumpy Seat

We focused on the five senses and how we use them to conduct investigations. We did an investigation each day to explore our five senses. We went on a listening walk and heard our assistant principal's high heels clicking on the tile floor. We also heard boxes dropping on the floor as new textbooks were being delivered. The scientists thought this was pretty neat. Then, we traveled to the playground where we heard the coach's whistle, basketballs bouncing, and children screaming while playing a game.

The following day, we explored my favorite sense, touch (texture- the way an object feels). I read a small children's book, I Touch, about a small child touching soft, hard, and gooey things. This text introduced the scientists to the describing words we used and activated prior knowledge as they related to the small child touching a teddy bear, blanket, cereal, etc. We discussed that we use our hands as a tool to identify texture and I wrote the investigative question on our chart paper (see photograph of chart paper on easel below): How can we describe objects on the playground?

Field Investigation: Smooth Bridge
Then, we went on a field investigation to our playground. We felt the BUMPY metal seat and the SMOOTH bridge, along with the ROUGH rock wall around the perimeter of the jungle gym, and the HARD plastic slide. It was amazing how quickly the scientists built the academic vocabulary since they had a sensory experience. At each object, I said, "The ____ (object) is _____ (describing texture word). The scientists repeated after me. This helped them achieve the goal of describing the playground using texture words.

I did a lesson last year with objects in the classroom (blocks, Legos, books, etc.). It surely did not have the same results. THIS LESSON WAS A BIG IMPROVEMENT. Plus, these field investigations helped me continue teaching safety rules so when we go outside later in the year to observe the patterns of movement, weather, and organisms, there are no problems as the expectations have been taught and practiced.

We came back into the classroom and washed our hands (continuing to practice science safety.) Scientists gathered back on the rug to debrief after our investigation. We repeated the question together, "How can we describe objects on the playground?" I posted a sentence stem. *This is the first time my students have seen a written sentence stem (they have used oral sentence stems so they have a little experience with how they work. I highlight the words they will need to copy as a scaffold for my students.

Together, we decide that we will write about the slide. I model how I would use the posted sentence stem to write my own sentence. I copy the word "The," emphasizing that the sentence begins with a capital letter. I place a finger space and write the playground object that I would like to describe, "slide". I copy the word "is" after placing a finger space. Finally, I select a texture word from the word bank at the bottom of the chart, "hard." I show the students how I use my finger to create another space and write my final word and add a period which signifies the end of the sentence.
Normally, I would take down our shared conclusion so the students do not copy it, but I left it up for additional support for my struggling students... plus this is the first time doing something like this for them. I handed each of them a strip of paper to write their conclusion and turned them loose!

Independent Conclusion: The ____ (object) is ____ (texture describing word).
It was so exciting to see how the conclusions came out. Look at the photograph on the left. This really was a great formative assessment to show me what the students learned during our science lesson.

The first student wrote, "The hard is" (That student read it, "The slide is really hard.") The second student copied my conclusion. (This is why it should be removed. Only a sentence stem should be left up.) The third student wrote, "CTYD s in in." (That student read it, "The wall is hard." CLICK HERE TO HEAR THE SCIENTISTS READING THEIR CONCLUSIONS!

I look forward to seeing what these scientists come up with next investigation!

Happy Scaffolding!

Names Chart
Howdy, friends.

It is the second day of kindergarten in Room 109. The students are remembering to push in their chairs and use their walking feet. Hooray!

Today, we focused on our names as we continue some basic "Getting to Know You" activities. Our sweet librarian came in to save the day, since I still have a small voice, fighting a cold, and read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. The kids really enjoyed the story and the librarian does such a great job reading it with expression and gestures. During the story, they learned the word "dreadful!" I forget how almost everything we do is new and exciting to them!

We created a name chart and compared each others' names. They found this activity to be pretty interesting, it also helps me continue assessing them in their counting skills. The chart took awhile to make, but I did a few names at each sitting so by the end of the day we were finished. We made some basic generalizations about our names because everything is a learning experience even these fun activities!

Many procedural routines were reviewed and practiced today with specific feedback: lining up and exiting the building during a fire drill, pushing in chairs, and rules for playing a language building exercise I play with my kids. (I will have to feature that on the blog sometime. The students I have had in all grades love it!)

ENGAGE: BrainPop Jr.

In the afternoon, we reviewed what the study of science is and watched a BrainPop Jr. video, "Making Observations." It was great to engage the students more into the depth of what scientists do. The video used a lot of academic vocabulary and previewed the science tools that we would be talking about in the "explain" part of our lesson.

EXPLORE/EXPLAIN: Tool or Toy? Sort and Science Tools Tree Map

After the video, we explored the topic with toys and tools. We also played a game with our sorting cards. (These sorting cards come from the wonderful Kindergarten Kindergarten.)  Each student received a card. They had to come up to the front and tell their peers what was on their card, if they thought is was a tool or toy, and why it is a tool or toy. The students really took off during this activity! They were engaged and everyone was using the sentence stems. The words they expressed were pretty amazing. This is the first time they are speaking in an academic content area. Here are a few rationales that were memorable...goggles are for protection, a doll is something you play with, a stuffed animal is for cuddling, a balance is used to see if something is lighter, "the pinchers help you pick up things". The "pinchers" are tweezers! For the record, there was not one item that was mislabeled by these kindergarteners! Is that not amazing?!

Science Tool Charts

Then, we created a Tree Map to organize our tools into four categories. I had the science tool sorting cards printed (these came from our StemScopes subscription) but wasn't too sure how I wanted to use them in the classroom. I got to thinking, it would be cool to put them into a Thinking Map. I played around with the cutout pieces and after two rough drafts came up with the Tree Map featured in the photograph above. Fortunately, I have enough brain power fighting the common cold to think through this stuff!

My kindergarteners are amazing, did I mention that yet? They knew what the word "collect" meant. I am really going to have to challenge them with higher order thinking skills and academic vocabulary. This is something I naturally do, but the "big words" I am used to using with kindergarteners are not "big enough. For instance, I was going to use observe as a word to put into our Cognitive Content Dictionary, but that's out of the picture. I wish kindergartens could take a STAAR test?! Okay, be careful what you wish for! Right?!

The science tools chart was very easy for them. They actually helped me categorize the science tools using these four verbs: collect, observe, measure, record. I look at this chart and think to myself, "This would have been a cool chart in second grade and here my kindergarteners are doing this." This speaks volumes to the Pre-Kindergarten teachers and families! I am very impressed.

That's enough bragging on the new bunch of buckaroos. They are students with great potential and I am eager to continue creating a positive classroom culture that will allow them to grow in their intellect.

Thanks to my faithful readers. To any kindergarten teachers that haven't covered science tools yet, I would highly recommend these two charting activities. I did not do either of these last year, I took a different approach. I think these help them start thinking like scientists quicker and will allow me to use the process skills in a most efficient way.

Happy Observing!

Howdy, friends.

Happy First Day of School to most of my friends! Happy Second Week of School to my other friends! I started my new school year with 13 buckaroos. Parents filled the hallways at our elementary school and new shoes worn by eager students squeaked on the tile floor due to an early morning downpour.

Despite the rainy morning, my kindergarten students were ready to listen and learn. We quickly ate breakfast. After opening 50 breakfast items, we cleaned up in time for our Good Morning Song, sung by none other than me.

What I am failing to mention is that I have sick since last Friday with a very sore throat and head cold. I slept 16 hours yesterday in preparation for today! I am so glad that I did!

As we gathered on our colorful rug, we discussed feelings. Each child had the opportunity to select from "excited," "okay," and "nervous." As you can tell by our data, most of the classroom was feeling pretty good about our day. (At the end of the day, we revisited this graph.)

We followed our graphing activity by a tour of the school and got to meet our principals. Then, I read "The Kissing Hand," to the kindergarteners. (I have never read this story to my class before! Shh! Don't tell anyone!)

The kids liked the story and they learned what a raccoon is and the palm of their hand. One student knew this animal was raccoon! We have no schema of raccoons here. I was about 22 before I saw my first one!

The students got to create a hand puppet of Chester, the raccoon. They loved this activity. Out of all of the things we did today, this was their favorite. (I have never made a puppet with my class before! Shh! Don't tell anyone!...it seems like this is a year of "firsts" for me as a teacher--perhaps my lucky 7!)

We shared a meal in the cafeteria together. One student said, "This food is great!" That is encouraging news! After lunch we finished our puppets and cleaned up our areas in time for Physical Education.  We had an inclement weather day due to the rain so the students were inside for P.E., which did not seem to bother them since they were reviewing rules, etc.

We came back to the classroom and created a circle map. One student knew exactly what we were creating. He said, "You are going to write words in the circle!" Yeah, buddy, that's exactly what we are going to do! Hooray for your Pre-K teacher!

As you can see by the predictions we collected today, I have a lot of work to do with my little scientists! I can't wait! (I integrated a Texas English Language Proficiency Standards-ELPS- into this lesson with 1.A Use prior knowledge and experiences to understand meanings in English.)

We then began our "Graph of the Week" today with the question, "How do you get to school?" We practiced our friends' names by asking them, "Name, how do you get to school?" The students responded with the sentence stem, "I get to school by..." The kids understood quickly how to complete their thoughts using the sentence stem. This is very encouraging! (This is just one way that I emphasize the Texas ELPS- 2E- Use visual, contextual, and linguistic support to enhance and confirm understanding of increasingly complex and elaborate spoken language.) Today, we just built our graph by collecting data from each student.

After our math session, we went back to our graph we started this morning about how we felt on the first day of school. Students were able to vote on how they are feeling now that they have been in school for one day. As you can see, the data shows that most of the students are very excited about their new year. This is also a good formative assessment to let me see which students may need additional support in their transition to kindergarten. I was also able to formatively assess their counting skills as we counted our data.

 I am going to get some sleep now and recover from a full day of kindergarten!

Happy Sleepin'!


P.S. The best news of the day--not one kindergartener cried! WOO HOO! (This is another first)
Photograph Courtesy of School District
Howdy, friends!

I hope everyone had a good week! I had a busy fun-filled week. I am so happy to be back with my colleagues and have been fortunate enough to make some new friends (shout out the newbies at my campus- Ms. G, Mrs. L, & Mrs. R!)

This week, I had the honor of listening to our new superintendent of schools, who was selected this earlier this spring, address the instructional staff. He was filled with energy and excitement wishing us all back to a new school year. For many of us, this was the first time we heard him speak in person. He is often being interviewed on the news. So...the photograph with tons of people was just one of the convocations that was held on Wednesday. We are a BIG district! You will see me, stunning brunette in the millionth row.

As you may have read in a previous post, I was extremely busy with this doing staff development for my colleagues. I was able to meet great kindergarten and fourth grade teachers as I gave a math training. Then, I was welcomed at my campus and had the pleasure of presenting with several master teachers to our colleagues back at our campus. We led a training of the use of foldables in the classroom. I hope to write more about this soon! Stay tuned.

I was also able to squeeze in my classroom preparation time (mostly after trainings 'til the janitors kicked me out! I started with a clean slate (see photos on the left side) and ta-da, after one week of preparation, my room turned into a colorful classroom! It's amazing what a little color can do...and in just a little more than one day....some eager new kindergarteners will add even more color to the classroom! I was able to meet about half of them at our Meet and Greet day on Friday. The kiddos I met are great and so are their families. I am looking forward to a great new school year. Take a peek around my classroom...
Each year, I change the style in my classroom. I do this for my sanity. I do not like looking at the same things year after year. I use many of the same things, I just organize them in a different way. I usually make a few trips to Hobby Lobby, Michael's Arts and Crafts Store, Dollar Tree, and Target to buy some items to make my room unique and organized (well, just a little bit more organized.) That is my continuous goal: being more organized. (If my husband is reading this, he is nodding along. He might hear this a few times each week.)

For the past three years, I have been very committed to making an eye-catching word wall. Most classroom have a focal point, where your eye goes as soon as you walk into the room. My focal point is always my word wall. I will be creating a post soon to show my word walls from past years so you can see the transformation. Stay tuned!

Here's to you, teacher friend! May your year bring you and your students much fruitfulness and lots of color!

Happy Teachin'!

Howdy, friends.

On Monday, August 18, 2014, I began my seventh school year as an elementary school teacher (eleventh year in education). It is amazing how quickly the years add up and now how they start meshing together in my memory. I still have a way to remember what grade a former student should be in for the new academic year and how their smiles change with new or lost teeth. While I have been preparing my classroom for a new bunch of buckaroos, I have been responsible for three training sessions this week. I will highlight the first training today.

I was responsible on Monday for delivering a staff development workshop for the Division of Academic's Math Department for my district. I was so fortunate to work alongside about 24 of the brightest kindergarten teachers in the district's family. My mission for the day with my peers was to walk them through the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards (TEKS) that were revised in 2012 and will be implemented this year. As we looked at the TEKS, we perused the new textbook adoption, Pearson enVision MATH 2.0. This will be our first year using this resource. We also looked how we meet the TEKS using the Pearson text according to our district's curriculum documents. WOW! After typing all of that, I realize how much that is!

The day flew by! There was time to look through the TEKS and textbook and even begin planning our first week in kindergarten teaching real-object graphs (K.8BC). I shared with the teachers how to incorporate a graph per week in their classes. I shared with them how five minutes a day can help students delve into data analysis. We also talked about backwards design and how it can be used in a graphing unit. I will share more on this next week!

As we studied the various resources, we built a bar graph together. Each group talked to their team about the more useful district curriculum document for planning. Below, you will see a graphic organizer for a math subunit. This document allows teachers to see what the focus and supporting standards are for our subunit while integrating the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS--strategies we use to assist all students, especially our English Language Learners).

Graphic Organizer- District Curriculum Document
Below, you will see the Clarifying Document. This document allows teachers to plan the subunit using big ideas, essential questions, and academic vocabulary. It address the content knowledge teachers need to have to understand the concept and possible misconceptions students may have so they can be address in the context of the subunit.
Clarifying Document- District Curriculum Document (They usually come without the creases!)
After the table team discussed the documents and their purposes in lesson planning, each person was asked to vote on their favorite document. I handed out one Post-It note per teacher. Each group came up to the graph with their notes. One by one, each teacher used a sentence stem to make their selection. I modeled how this would look and sound like in my kindergarten classroom.
Teachers chose their favorite curriculum document.
I said, "Alight, everyone listen as Sarah tells us what her favorite document is." Sarah tells the group. If she uses a complete sentence, I leave her alone and thank her. If she just says the word, I tell her: "Sarah, will you please use a complete sentence to answer the question? My favorite document is...?" Then, Sarah continues. If she does this correctly, I give her specific praise: "Sarah, you did an excellent job telling us your choice using a complete sentence."
As the table groups come up to the graph, I think aloud as a mathematician. I say, "Oh, I notice that there are a lot of teachers selecting the category of..."
We finished this graphing model and I was able to see that the clarifying document is the most useful tool for the 24 kindergarten teachers at the training. On Thursday, I will be doing a similar training for a group of fourth grade teachers. I look forward to reporting the results and seeing if this trend continues or if it differs in other grade levels.
Happy Graphing!

Howdy, friends.

Since I have been providing teachers with resources on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT), I have encountered many friends who have no idea how a basic program that rewards buyers works on the site. (I didn't really know myself until I was on the opposite side of the store front.)

TpT announced today that there will be a One Day Boost Sale on Wednesday, August 20, 2014, to help teachers have one last chance at a great deal as we all are back to school already or very soon.

Kindergarten Down River TpT Resource Center

As you click on your favorite items and add them to your carts and wishlists, I wanted to advise you of a program that TpT uses to help support their buyers and sellers: TpT Credits. Please continue reading to become informed about this program. If you do this before the sale, you will be able to have some credits to put towards your purchases on the day of the sale.

If you click on dropdown menu "My TpT." (It is located to the left of the Log Out button.) As you hover over "My TpT" the dropdown menu will appear on your screen. Directly underneath "My Account," you will see the "My TpT Credits" link. Click on it and you will see a screen that looks similar to the photograph of it I added above.

My TpT Store
Look in the above photograph. Do you see the green link, "Provide Feedback?" If you click on it, it will take you to your purchases. Click on the thumbs up icon to provide feedback on your paid purchases. This allows you to earn the TpT Credits.

Happy Providing Feedback and "Wishlisting" Before the Sale!


Howdy, friends.

Yesterday, I shared with you the way I typically communicate with parents when I see them face-to-face; however, we know that in reality we do not see many of our students' parents on a regular basis. Depending on who picks the child up from school or they ride the bus or daycare van, you may never see the parents. If this is the case, I have tips for this scenario too.

During my "life" as a teacher, I once had a mother of a student who was the "breadwinner" of her family. She worked a regular 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. job. Daycare picked up the child each afternoon. This doesn't promote communication as there an opportunity to talk. This is where I had to step out and take a little initiative. I would, at least monthly, call her cell phone and we would talk about her child's progress. (You can use the FREE Parent Contact Log to keep track of your communications with parents.) This mother was struggling as the wife of an abusive husband. There are so many times when teachers see these situations, but there's few opportunities to make an impact. I kept the lines of communication open with Mom and she willingly spoke to me each time on the phone. She was always so happy that I called her and was thinking about her child's growth and progress. Those 15 minutes I spent on the phone could have minimize my piles in the corner of my classroom, but I made a choice.

Parent Contact Log
The papers will be there years from now in my room (I am a busy girl!), but the children will not. I only have them for a short period of time. I want to light their little candles, so when they are grow big, they can light the world! That's today inspiration for new teachers and us "old dogs!"

P.S. The mother reported at the end of the year that she started taking the son to church and their whole world has changed.

Happy Inspiring!


I have been working diligently to create resources that will help K-2 elementary teachers with the newly revised Mathematics TEKS (Texas). There have been so many things added and deleted. In addition, who realistically has time to sort through all of those TEKS! (#nerdalert: I love doing that on the weekends and late at night...it's like college work to me! #loveit!)

The whole idea behind the Down River Resources store is to support teachers, especially those from
Texas, in mathematics and whatever else I conjure up to use in my classroom. I have a list of the TEKS and all of the resources I have created  that correspond and am only a few shy of having resources for all of them (I do already if you count the Kindergarten Math Notebook).

This is the latest of the resource packs from the new TEKS and it will help support me and others in kindergarten and our friends in first grade teachers too. In my district, we only spend five days on teaching coins. Our grade level chose to teach one coin per day last year and on the last day review all five coins. This was not nearly enough time for students to proficiently recognize the coins, nor are there enough resources to spend additional time practicing; hence, the idea behind this bundle. If my grade level needs it, I am sure others across Texas do as well.

Realistically, you only NEED about 10-15 pages to teach the standard in the allotted time, but this pack helps provide you with enough resources to use for small group instruction and tutoring. There's enough here to use some for homework too. In addition, there are also five engaging centers that this bundle comes with so you can use one per week, for five weeks or a week's worth of centers. My favorite are the coin puzzles. My students always love puzzles! (UPDATE: Now that I have been using this bundle for a few years now, I have found even more benefits. I start introducing the coins slowly throughout the year...so when my five-day unit comes up on the calendar...I am not scrabbling to get my students to proficiency. There are enough printables to do this!

I hope this bundle helps you as much I know it will help me!

Happy Preparing!

Howdy, friends.

Yesterday, I shared with you the most impactful way that I communicate with parents through our weekly note. If you missed it, click here to get caught up. Today, I will be sharing with you the a few of the secrets to my face-to-face communication with parents.

Parents come from all walks of life, just like our students. Some are very knowledgeable, have advanced degrees, and are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. kind of people. Others, are teenagers that are trying their hardest to fulfill their parents' dream, sometimes their own dream, of finishing school, as their parents take a large role in the raising of their child. Each year, I have a mix of these parents, each one has something that makes them marvelous! I try to find that in each of them. All of these parents truly want what is best for their child. Most know how to create that while others need support. Believe it or not, I believe that I help families, not just the students who walk through Room 109 each year.

There are good days and bad days in my classroom. Sound familiar? I hope so. It doesn't matter which day it is, I talk to each child's parents daily when they pick them up from school, after shaking their hand. In a later part of the series, I will talk about my written communications with parents too.

Most of the conversations are one of two types. Positive conversations are the norm for most students in my classroom, especially the sweet girls who do everything they possibly can to be helpful in the classroom. Optimistic conversations occur sporadically for other students and there is at least one of these per student each year. Read the following:

Positive Conversation

Me: "Hi, Mrs. So-and-So." Handshake exchanged.
Parent: "Hi, Mrs. Williams."
Me: "_____, had a great day today. She was helpful to her friend who was having a rough day and she learned a new science word today, repeal. Ask her about it tonight."
Parent: "Wow! Great news! Thanks, Mrs. Williams. See you tomorrow." Looking at the child, "Tell Mrs. Williams, thank you."

Optimistic Conversation
Me: "Hi, Mrs. So-and-So." Handshake exchanged.
Parent: "Hi, Mrs. Williams."
Me: "_____, had a great morning. He was well-behaved and polite with his tablemates. As the day progressed, he chose to talk while I was teaching. We talked about what he was doing and why it was inappropriate. We came up with a plan of how he can share with his friends appropriately next time he has something to say."
Parent: "I'm sorry to hear that. ____, what happened."
Me: "I would appreciate it if you could reinforce the appropriate behaviors at home and if it happens again provide a consequence."
Parent: "Yes, we will have a talk at home. Thank you for brining it to my attention. What do you tell Mrs. Williams?"

Each day, parents count on speaking with me about their child's day, whether it is positive or "optimistic." If they are on their cell phone, they politely ask for a minute from the person they are communicating with, to speak to me. If they are stopped by a friend's mom, they tell them they will return after they talk to me. Parents are creatures of habit once you form the routine with them.

These conversations create a special bond with each family. One mother told me, during one of our many conversations, "Let me know when you are having a baby! I would love to plan your baby shower!" (I only know this parent from being their child's teacher. We do not text or aren't friends on Facebook.) That is the power of communication! P.S. No babies on the way. I hope the offer will extend for another year or two!

Every now and then, I will have a parent who is distant and wants to stand by a corner and wait. I do not allow their child to run a small distance to them, parents must come to me for the dismissal of the child. They might get a little upset the first few times and if they are visibly upset, I will tell them something about how their child's safety is the upmost importance to me and this is one way that I am keeping them safe for them. (They usually digress when it is put into perspective.)

It  does not matter the grade level I am teaching, I still create parents as partners using this technique. I have done this in fifth grade too, though I would usually only see one or two parents daily. I hope this gives you a new perspective on face-to-face parent communication for your new year. This is another way that parents and I create a partnership of expectations each year.

Stay tuned for more on creating parents as partners.

Happy Contemplating!


Howdy, friends.

If you are just joining us for Part One of the "Creating Parents as Partners" series, please check out the series introduction from yesterday, August 10, 2014.

After my dad's recovery, he began chemotherapy to kill cancerous cells that spread from the massive tumor the doctor's removed last August in an emergency surgery. It took me about nine months to get to a chemotherapy appointment with my father. Nine months. Sound familiar? No, no baby here. Just a school year that was interfering with family time. My father wasn't too happy that I was joining him at the appointment. I ask many questions and inquire about my dad's current status, goals for the future, etc. But, wouldn't you?! It was this appointment that brought me even closer to the realization of what I had been doing for years in my classroom without even knowing it.

As the back door slammed, all of the patients let out a sigh of relief. The doctor arrived at the office. As soon as he arrives the four patients awaiting the "juice" (as my dad calls it), can start the long two hours process of watching all of the fluids slowing drip into their ports that were surgical implanted in their chests. The doctor's face lit up as he walked into Room 1. "Oh, Laura! How have you been? We miss you!" the doctor exclaimed.

My dad's face lit up too. He is a proud father and loves when he hears nice things about his eldest daughter. The doctor asked some questions about where I was teaching and told me how the parents miss me. Later, when he returned to check on my father, he made one important statement. He said something to this effect, "We always knew what was going on when my child was in your class. You sent home that weekly note to tell us what he was learning and how we can help at home. We don't have any idea what he has been learning since he left your class."

WOW! A very informed, well-respected oncologist liked something the, at the time, 24-year-old teacher was doing and impacted his whole view of the education I provided for his child and the other students in my classroom.

So...here is the lowdown on the weekly note he was referring to:

Every week, on top of the weekly homework packet, I place a note that has a small paragraph about something that happened the previous week or that is happening in the next two weeks for families of my students. Then, in the boxes, as you can see below in the photographs, I list each subject for the upcoming week. This is where I inform parents about what their children are learning that week. It gives them the heads up on homework and a direction to support their children at home.

The photograph on the left shows a September version with the Fundations box with the letters we are learning that week. By April, as seen in the photograph on the right, there are more sight words, etc.

I feature a "Coming Soon" box where parents can count on me informing them about important dates that they might need a babysitter (such as when school is on an early release schedule or there's a parent night.) I ALWAYS inform my parents of events as soon as I know the final date. The school sends out great notices but always the week that the event occurs, so parents have a small window of time to make plans to attend. At most events in the past year, my class had the highest parent involvement and I believe this is why!

Things change often so a monthly calendar is usually not as easy to maintain for me. There are too many changes that I would have to send so many updates that parents would get the calendars mixed up. I stick to this weekly notice that I staple on top of their child's homework packet. Parents become routinized and except the notice and homework. If their child doesn't have it, they immediately contact me because they know that this is how this system works in my classroom.

If this prestigious doctor was impressed with this way I communicated with parents, don't you think most parents would appreciate knowing what is happening at school? Tomorrow...more on ways I build parents as partners in my classroom.

Happy Thinking!

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