Engage All Students in Writing with a Sound Bite

This past fall I had the privilege of attending a Reading and Writing through Inquiry workshop in Indonesia (love that traveling is a part of my job!). I first mentioned it in this post. One of the ideas our workshop leader presented to us involved sharing sound bites with students and having them write a story based on what they hear. I took so many notes during that weekend that there were a few learning engagements I completely forgot about. I am sure that has never happened to you…

Recently, I was asked to present at a conference my school was holding and I reviewed my notes from that workshop. This sound bite idea jumped out at me as this was a learning engagement I had yet to try.

I decided to give it a go and created sound bites in iMovie, using the sound effects the program offers. One sound bite was a mixture of jungle sounds, monkeys, rain, a waterfall, it ended with an alarm clock. When I played the sounds for my first grade class every single student was engaged. I have a few new students this semester and two of them speak very little English (aka, zero English). They were able to hear the sounds and draw pictures of what they heard. Then I helped them write a sentence or words that matched their pictures.

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Each story was different and showed student’s personalities. We did this engagement a second time and this time I connected it to our current unit. Which is learning about transportation systems. I used sounds of horses running, a helicopter, racing cars, walking, a train, etc (all found on iMovie and exported just with audio). Again, every single student was engaged.

Don’t you just love it when that happens?!



Telling Time in First Grade

Learning how to tell time. We’ve all been there.

Since telling time is something we do throughout the whole day I wanted to integrate it throughout all of my lessons. The way I decided to do this was by having my students create their own clocks and keeping it on their desks. Randomly throughout the day (at the beginning of a lesson, right before or after lunch, etc.) I asked the students to look at our classroom clock and mirror the time on their desk clock. Then they have to tell me the time.

When first creating our clocks I  used our classroom clock as an example  and explained how the numbers are placed in order around the circle, I used a template from this website (which I found on Pinterest!). Some students started glueing the numbers counter-clockwise, which I found interesting and made sure to correct quickly. The clocks were laminated and the hands attached with an envelope pin. Having each student color and decorate their clock gave them a sense of ownership and pride and they absolutely love having them on their desk. I thought it might be a distraction for them, but most of the time they forget they are there. Then they will randomly ask me if we can change our clocks as a class when I haven’t done it in a while. I started to encourage them to do it even when I don’t bring their attention to it.



Sidenote: I am currently teaching New Zealand’s math curriculum called, The Numeracy Project. If you teach this at your international school I would love to hear from you! It’s completely new to me and I am curious if other school’s outside of New Zealand are using it.

Favorite Reads Right Now

My students LOVE to read. I give them free time and they decide to grab a book instead of a toy. I fully believe that part of the reason is because I LOVE to read, and children are extremely perceptive… they pick up on everything! And since my kids are so young, they tend to love what I love 🙂 What? It’s true.

Since the beginning of the year my Kindergarten students have been dying to get their hands on any and all Froggy books. This is a series by author Jonathan London. The books are cute and funny, and every book has great illustrations. I encouraged the students to guess what was happening in the story by the pictures at the beginning of the year when they couldn’t read the words. Then I wouldn’t let them look at the books for a period of time. Is that mean? Ooooh, well. I told them they needed to learn how to read, before they “read” Froggy books. Once a week I would give them time to choose any book they wanted (you know, to keep their love for books going strong), and they always went for our Froggy series. Now, they are reading the stories on their own, it has been amazing to see them fight for the right to read their favorite books! A win-win situation for everyone.

My first graders (both girls) are huge fans of Junie B. Jones, and have recently started reading Rainbow Magic books by Daisy Meadows.

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What series or story types are your students interested in? Let us know!

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Guest Read Aloud in Melody’s Class!

While I was in Korea, I had the chance to visit Melody’s kindergarten/1st grade classroom. I was really excited to meet her students and read to them. I read aloud the story Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats. Afterwards, we filled out this fun story map that Melody had made. On post-its I wrote down what the students shared. We went through the title, characters, setting, problems, solutions and theme. It was a great way to get them discuss the different elements of the story. I was so impressed that they were able to answer all these including the theme!

Afterwards, we did a quick question and answer session with them. They asked me about Singapore and my students. We had some time left before lunch so we played with some super cold play dough as well. I’ve never taught such young kids before, so it was a lot of fun to be in their class. I always have a lot of respect for teachers that teach the younger kids!  I’m not sure I would have the energy and patience. Thank you Melody for letting me visit your classroom! You have an amazing class and I could tell that  you are making an impact in their lives. 🙂



                                         Photo credit to Melody.     

Teaching Adjectives

I was on Pinterest again a couple of weeks ago (I mean I am on it almost every day, but that is besides the point) and I came across this fantastic lesson on adjectives by Jennifer over at Rowdy in First Grade. For her lesson she uses a giant pumpkin  because it was Fall and close to Halloween. Well, in Korea there aren’t a whole lot of pumpkins (pumpkin carving doesn’t really exist here), so I decided to do this same lesson with an apple instead. It worked out really well!

First we came up with all different kinds of words to describe it, as shown by post-it notes…

(We don’t have bulk chart paper at my school so I had to be creative with taping together construction paper!)

Once we had all of our adjectives we took a simple, “boring” sentences, and we added in our adjectives! Then the students took turns writing their own sentences about a pet they have, or want. The kids loved it, even my kindergarteners were able to give some great sentences.

What kind of noun would you use for this kind of activity? Do you have a great adjective activity you like to use? TELL US through comments : ), yes we will keep asking for them!

Need a great Story Map? Look no further!

I recently found this amazing story map poster idea:

Pinterest brought me to this post on Growing Kinders, and Kathleen got this idea from Kim Adsit’s website. I just love sharing! The great, great thing about this poster is that you can use it again, and again— I love visuals. I love this! We read this book last week right before I did an art project with my little ones. If you have never read The Dot, I highly recommend it!

Any great poster ideas, or book recommendations? Share in the comments, we LOVE comments : )

Looking for a Lesson Plan Template?

Lesson planning is a key to a teacher’s success. No matter how much we hate to do it, it MUST BE DONE. I had to spend a lot of time at the beginning of this year editing and changing my template since I am now teaching Kindergarten and First Grade.

To give you a visual of what the first page of my template looks like here is a screen shot:

To download the template just click here: blank lesson plan!

To download a lesson plan designed for older grades, here is the template Jee Young used when she taught in Korea (Geared more towards readers and writers workshop style, with mini-lessons, also you will noticed science is missing from this lesson template. She would do a unit on Social Studies and then a unit on Science every quarter.)

I love that I can see the whole week on a page, to remind myself of what my students are learning in math all week, etc. Remember those crazy lesson plans you had to make for each separate lesson you did during your years as an undergrad? We all know how completely unrealistic it is to do that for every.single. lesson. you teach, but you need the meat of what you are teaching for the week laid out. The more planning the better, you know?

Something I really like to do as I plan is make a list of all the things I need to prep for the next week, and I keep a space for that at the end of my lesson plan, a “To Do” section as I call it. I always think of great ideas as I am planning, as well as “Oh, I have to make that handout/find it online.” And by the end of my frenzy planning time, I might forget all those ideas, or much-needed handouts. Writing it in my “To Do” list as I go is incredibly helpful.

Jee Young wrote a post on her personal blog once about how she likes to start all of her lesson planning on Tuesday or Wednesday and get them FINISHED by Friday so that she can enjoy her weekend. Well, depending on  your school, you may have to turn in your lesson plans two weeks ahead of time (like me!). I realize though, the better planned I am, the better teacher I am— because I am HAPPIER.

What are some things you do when you are planning to make yourself more prepared? Do you have your own fantastic lesson planning template you would be willing to share? Let us know in the comments!


p.s. I have already had a LOT of chocolate today :/


This might possibly be one of the greatest days of my life.

When you have two authors on a blog, sometimes new resources are shared and I just don’t notice (I am sure this does not happen to Jee Young, who notices everything!), or I find an amazing blog—share it— and then totally forget about it.

Well, today I was perusing around two apples a day, checking out links to other blogs that we have on our page, and I noticed a link to Jeannie’s Kindergarten Lifestyle Blog.  I am pretty sure I must have discovered and linked this website on our page at some point over the past six months or so, but I totally forgot about it!

All of this background story business is pointless. The meat of what I am trying to say is that Tammy over at Live, Love, Laugh, Everyday in Kindergarten had a brilliant idea to pool the resources of all these amazing pre-k, kinder, and first grader teachers, and dedicate a website for the sole purpose of sharing freebies with other teachers. A website ONLY for these younger grades.

I think teachers really are the BEST AT SHARING. And I am so so so so happy to have discovered this site! I will be a frequent visitor as I try to keep my head above water this first year teaching Kindergarten AND First Grade.

What’s that? Oh… you want the website?!


check it out, like them, follow them, do it all!