Dr. Seuss week is one of my favorites in the classroom (read about it here) and I'm sad I'll be missing out on it this year...so we brought some Dr. Seuss fun home this week!

Green Eggs and Ham Rhyme Match

My preschooler loves matching games so we pulled out my rhyming match cards that go with Green Eggs and Ham and have played a few games already this week!  Even for a preschooler, this game was so helpful in practicing our phonemic awareness and listening for rhyming sounds as mommy read the words!

Rhyming Hats

We read The Cat in the Hat.  Then, Cooper loved seeing how "tall" we could make the cat's hat by adding more rhyming words!

And then we Daddy came home from the gym, Cooper begged him to join our game!  So we played a family game of "pass the pen."

These hats are also great in the classroom for pass the pen, independent practice for stations or doing a carousel activity whole group!

Dr. Seuss Snacks

The best part about celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday at home this year will be the fun snacks!  My little guy is going to go crazy when we make these snacks this year! :)

All of these activities and much much more can be found in my Dr. Seuss packet.




I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was my first year teaching.  My parents set us down the weekend before and told us that my dad had taken a superintendent job almost 3 hours away.  And this daddy's girl, who had never been away from my parents longer than a week, bawled like a baby.  Like, the ugly cry.

And just about the time I got it together, it was time go teach first grade the next morning.  At some point in my trying-to-be-cheery morning at school, the rest of the staff found out my dad was leaving our district and moving away.  And with everyone around me knowing my life-changing news again, I bawled.  Again.  In front of my firsties.  And it was so noticeable that I kept getting asked by my sweet kiddos if I was okay.

As terrible as that was to deal with my first year teaching, I had no idea that would be one of the smallest personal battles I fought on the public stage of teaching kids.

Over the next 10 years of my teaching career, I received all kids of shocking, life changing news and battled through numerous personal struggles...all surrounded by 6 and 7 year olds.

It was in my first grade classroom that I fielded phone calls from nurses about test results.

It was in my classroom that I dealt with the eminent death of grandparents.

It was in my classroom that I quarantined myself from my teacher besties so I could pump and continue to nurse my baby for 13 months.

It was in my classroom that I cried tears of separation anxiety from leaving my baby boy each morning.

It was in my classroom that I learned my newborn niece passed away.

It was in my classroom...minutes before parent teacher conferences that I got a phone call that we weren't pregnant.  Again.

And the list goes on.  The list is even longer for many other teacher friends.

Receiving and dealing with shocking news isn't a teacher thing.  It's just called life.  But what is different for teachers (and many other professions) is dealing with the shock in front of 25 little people.

There's no place to hide.  There is no quiet office to run to and close the door.  The hallway is filled with teachers, parents and students. And walking to the car to have a good cry and leaving first graders behind to fend for themselves just isn't a real option.

The personal battles are real.  And for extremely private people like me, dealing with those battles on a public stage can be enough to send us over the edge.

So what do we do? How do we make it through?  And how do we find the joy of teaching through those personal battles?

Use teaching as a distraction

For me, teaching is a job where I have to be in front of kids teaching, managing and guiding. I can't sit back in a corner and feel sorry for myself and get lost in my sadness. I have to be busy making sure my classroom still functions. And the busy-ness is therapeutic for me. During my biggest personal struggles, the busy-ness of teaching is my sanctuary. It's my place to get lost from the stress going on inside of me or outside my classroom walls. Yes, there are moments when I break down--especially those initial moments--but for me they are short lived because of the little sweeties in my classroom that are so good at pulling me back into teaching mode!

That's the joy of teaching through the struggle.

Make Our Class Family Stronger

Life throws teachers curve balls...but life throws people curve balls too. And little people aren't exempt from that. The reality that I'm not the only one inside my classroom walls dealing with "stuff" is a comfort and a teaching opportunity to me. As a class family, my first graders and I have dealt with the hospitilization of a brother of one of our little friends after he was run over by their uncle. And he dealt with that at school. Another year, a little girl's sweet mommy died while on the operating table for a routine procedure. All while we were at school.

Our little people are not exempt from personal battles. And how we respond to their personal battles models how they respond when we are struggling...or when their friends are struggling. To many of us, teaching goes beyond a textbook. We teach literacy and math, but more importantly we teach life. In 178 days together, one of us is sure to have some curve balls to deal with. I find the joy in the midst of my struggle to be the opportunity to show my kids how to gracefully deal with whatever "stuff" comes my way. It may not be appropriate to unload all the nitty gritty details on our little people, but it's okay for them to know we are feeling sad or upset and to see that we make it through just fine with the kindness and support from each other. That's what family is all about. That's what our class families should be about too.

And that's the joy of teaching through the struggle.

Having Teacher Besties

As a teacher, it's hard to leave my classroom in the hands of someone else. It's hard to release control. It's hard to justify writing sub plans when I have a cold or feel under the weather. It's so hard. But sometimes it's necessary. I was blessed to have a teacher bestie that wrote sub plans for me when my grandfather passed away. I am so thankful for a team of teacher friends who knew when I needed a mental break even when I was at school...when I needed to go find a bathroom and have a five minute cry by myself before heading back to my classroom.  I find joy in the midst of my personal struggles when I have wonderful people around me who can help take care of my daily teaching needs so I can focus on the "stuff" that matters...when many times those same teacher friends don't even know the details of our "stuff." That's a teacher bestie for you.

And that's the joy of teaching through the struggle.

I have a choice when dealing with "stuff" in the classroom. I can let my personal struggle get the best of me if I want to. I can be angry that I'm locked in a classroom with loud little people without any adult contact, the ability to process my thoughts in the peace and quiet, or the ability to even answer my phone.

Or I can choose To see the joy of teaching through the struggle.

"Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4



It took me almost 10 years to find my groove with phonics in my classroom.  If I'm being honest, I spent the first 9 years of my teaching career hating phonics and making excuses to just not teach phonics or spelling in my classroom...or so I thought!  Mostly, I hated scripted phonics lessons.  I hated reading thick teacher guides...so I thought I hated phonics altogether.

Then, after 9 years, it hit me!  There were pieces of our daily and weekly routine that were very much phonics and very much who I was a teacher too!  So, I spent some time combining our routines and a few of the "good" pieces from some scripted phonics lessons I had been trained on and came up with a weekly phonics routine that I makes me look forward to our phonics block (who woulda thought??)

I spend about 15-20 minutes on direct phonics instruction each day.  Of course, my kids get more work on phonics in guided reading and word work during stations...but this is our whole group phonics block time!  Here's a look at what we do each day....but if you are more visual, watch the video to see my routines here.

Mondays

First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Then, I introduce our new sound (3 minutes).  Let's say our new sound is long e as in ee or ea.  I show my kids pictures of our long e pictures and we say the word together.  My kids listen to see if the word has our focus sound.  They give me a thumbs up or down to let me know if the word has our focus sound.  If the word has our focus sound, we then listen for the position of the sound.  Is it at the beginning the middle or the end?  My kids touch their arms to show me the position of the word (see my video on this).

Next, we look at words that have our focus sound and sort them (2 minutes).  For our example focus sounds, ee and ea, I would sort the words into an ee and ea category.  At this point, we are really just focusing on looking for the focus sound and not necessarily reading it fluently yet.  I will read the word and then have them tell me where to sort it.  We sort it whole group.  Then, I can add the same sort into their word work station to do independently or with partners later.  Find the whole year's sorts here.

After our sort, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We have 3 words that decode each day of the week (except Fridays). You can watch me model slide, slide, slippety slide in this video.  We do this for each word.  We slide the first word together.  Then, I ask, "what long e pattern do you see in this word?" and call on a random student to answer.  Then, I ask that same student, "and where is the sound in the word?" and they answer beginning, middle or end.  Finally, we highlight the pattern in the word together.  We repeat this routine for each word.  This can be done whole group on the interactive powerpoint, or can be done as guided practice with each student having their own word list.

Then, we work on spelling with our break it down chant (3 minutes).  If you've seen my spelling video, you already know this routine.  It's available to view here, so I won't rehash in this post!  As soon as we finish decoding our word list, I tell my kids to get their dry erase boards ready and while we are transitioning, they practice writing our sight words on their boards or spelling words we've already learned for the week.  Once everyone has their boards ready, I introduce 2 new words  on Monday with our dry erase boards and our break it down chant.

Finally, we introduce new sight words (5 minutes).  I love using Body Spell from Go Noodle for this!  It's perfect: I just type in our new sight words for the week (I have a suggested list of sight words in my phonics powerpoint pack) and the kids get to practice reading and spelling our sight words and have a brain break too!  I love it!

Tuesdays

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays look very similar to Mondays with minor changes.  Here's a look at Tuesday!

First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Then, I introduce our phonics poem (5 minutes).  I read it to them without showing them the poem.  Then, I reread the poem and students listen for our focus sound and I have them give me some TPR (total physical response) when they hear it.  For our example ee/ea sounds, when my kids hear that long e sound, they smile really big and put their fingers in their cheeks because I teach long e as the sound that makes us smile! :)  Next, I show them the poem and they look for our focus pattern with their eyes.  We highlight the focus sound words together.

Next, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We decode 3 new words from our word list for Tuesday.

Then, we work on spelling with our break it down chant (3 minutes).  During our transition to dry erase boards, students write our spelling words we introduced yesterday.  Then, I introduce two new spelling words with the same routine as Monday.

Finally, we do a sight word hunt (5 minutes).  We go back to our poem and reread it together looking for sight words.  I have kids come up to our interactive powerpoint and circle the sight words they see in our poem (new ones from this week and old ones).

Wednesdays

First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Then, we sort real and wacky words (3 minutes).  You can read about why I now LOVE using nonsense words in phonics instruction here!  We decode each word together and decide if its real or wacky.  If it's real, my kiddos open their hands in the shape of an open book--it's a real word we can find in a book.  If it's fake, they do the crazy sign around their ears! :)  Just wait for all the giggles!!

This is another activity that gets added to my word work station for partner or independent practice later on!

Next, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We decode 3 new words from our word list for Wednesday.

Then, we work on spelling with our break it down chant (3 minutes).  During our transition to dry erase boards, students write our spelling words we introduced yesterday.  Then, I introduce two new spelling words with the same routine as Monday.

Finally, we leave our dry erase boards out and play sight word I spy (5 minutes).  We do this whole group.  I say, "I spy a sight word with 4 letters."  The kids write a word with 4 letters.  If anyone gets it right after the first clue, they win a ticket (our school wide character reward system).  If no one has it, I give another clue...like: "I spy a sight word with 4 letters that has a 'c' in it."  We continue until I have at least one winner.  We play for about 5 minutes.  Once we've modeled this game several times together, we play it with partners later in the year.

Thursdays

First, we read through our phonics chart (2 minutes) ...either the alphabet chart, blends chart, or vowel chunks depending on our focus sound for the week.

Next, we decode our words--slippety slide style (3 minutes).  We decode 3 new words from our word list for Thursday.

Then, we review our six spelling words from Monday-Wednesday on dry erase boards (10 minutes).  We do a practice spelling test whole group on their dry erase boards.  This is another activity that we do whole group at the beginning of the year and as they learn the routine, they do a partner practice test with dry erase boards later on.

Finally, we practice our sight words in sentences.  Sometimes I show the sight word and have students use it in a sentence for me or turn and tell their partner a sentence for the sight word.  And some weeks, I have sentence frames already with fill in the blanks to decide which sight word goes in which sentence.  These are on my interactive powerpoints for each week.  Just know that some weeks I switch it up and have them give me their own sentence for the word instead.

Fridays

Everybody knows Fridays are crazy.  Teachers are ready for the weekend.  Kids are ready for the weekend.  And it's pretty much assembly day where I'm at too!  So, the best thing I did to help me be more successful and consistent with my phonics block was to do a phonics test on Friday at the beginning of the day and be done! :)  ...well, almost!  On Friday mornings, I have my kids come in and get our phonics poem for the week, at it to their poetry folder, and highlight our focus sound words and circle sight words like we did together on Tuesday.

You can read about my phonics tests and how I assess in this post.  And find my pre-made year worth of spelling tests that align with my phonics program in this packet.

And if you are interested in using my interactive phonics powerpoints, you can find the bundle and in my store!




Our preschool Sunday School class has been spending the last few weeks learning about God's power through the study of Moses! Here's a look at what we've been learning!

Moses Exploration Stations

The first 15 minutes of our 45 minute class on Sunday mornings is devoted to exploration stations that connect with our big idea.  Our Moses unit is no different!  

Our unit anchor chart doubles as a velcro dot puzzle during stations time!

The top shelf in our library station showcases books about Moses that are easy for our little readers to grab and curl up next to a pillow and read!

Match is always a winner with my preschoolers! :)

Week 1: Baby Moses

Hands down, our favorite part of this week was our Float the Nile game!  It was great comprehension practice for our pre-readers and they loved getting to "float" their baby Moses! :)

Week 2: The Burning Bush

This week, we learned that God is powerful enough to use a burning bush to speak to us!

I wasn't sure how my 3 and 4 year olds would do with the traditional tissue paper craft, but they did so great!  Even my youngest boys were able to do this after I showed them one time!  And they LOVED this and kept begging for more pieces to cover their flames!

Week 3 & 4: The Plagues

We took two weeks to talk about the Plagues of Egypt...even though my SS curriculum guide says just one week.  It's just so much to pack into one week!  The first week, we talked about all of the plagues, but focused in on the frogs!

I totally thought I had frog stickers too and was in a panic when I realized I didn't.  So, at the last minute, I hole punched green construction paper for pretend frogs.  YA'LL... all the giggles!  It was like they had real frogs all over the table or something!  Sometimes our plan B's are just as good or better, right? :)

The second Plague week, we focused the stubbornness of Pharoah and the lengths God's power went to save his people...God will never give up on us!  We matched the pictures to the words.  I did precut the circles for them, just to make it faster.  And we worked on finding the first letter of the words to help us match the pictures!

Week 5: The Red Sea

We had so much fun with our red sea craft!  While I got everything set up, they colored Moses.  Then, I added glue stick glue to the "path" part of the picture and the kids each pinched sand on top.  We poured the extra back in the sand container and had our dry land!

Then, we used puffy paint (equal parts shaving cream and elmer's glue and blue food coloring) to paint the red sea walls on either side of our dry land!

Check out the sea wall on this one!!

Week 6: The 10 Commandments

Our last week of studying Moses, we learned about how God used his power to speak to the Israelites and to write on stone tablets with his finger!

They each chose 2 commandments to trace the words, cut, crinkle up and glue!

All of these crafts and many more activities can be found in my Moses Unit!



State history often gets shoved to the back burner in elementary school.  And that's a shame because our little learners need to have a good understanding of their place in the world!

I love teaching Arkansas history at the end of the year, but really it works any time of year.  I've already blogged about part of our Arkansas History unit with Me On The Map project and our 7 Continents song.  Today, let's take a look at some of my firsties favorite hands on activities and crafts!

Map Puzzles

When we were learning about our country, we spent our snack time cutting apart and putting our USA puzzles together.  This was a real challenge for some of my kids, but so SO good for them.

When they finished their puzzle, they glued it to our "Find My State" printable and added a star over our home state, Arkansas!

We did the same thing when we learned about our state!  Once laminated, these also made great station activities!

State Flag Craft

While we were learning about our state and its symbols, we made an Arkansas flag after studying its history.  We learned what all of the shapes and colors and parts of our flag meant.  Then, we used 3 simple shapes (that I precut quickly with a paper cutter) to make their on Arkansas flags!

My firsties really enjoyed this craft.  And it was really good practice on listening and following directions! ....especially when adding the stars!  And my firsties always seem to need a little extra help in the listening department! #canigetanamen

I think they turned out so super cute.  We just glued straws to them as the flag pole, but they also would make a great booklet cover for the Arkansas, Arkansas, What Do You See? booklet in my Arkansas packet!


3 and 4 year olds with free reign and no schedule to stick to? Nobody wants to teach in that classroom!  That's why I made a consistent schedule for my preschoolers at church, even if we are only together for 45 minutes a week!

Here's an overview of our 45 minute class on Sundays that's included in each of my Sunday School units.

And here's a look at each section of our morning!

Exploration Stations

I have 3-5 exploration stations set up around our room each Sunday.  The ideas and signs/task cards are included in each of my units.  Because I teach preK, I keep the stations very simple.  Two of my stations are the same all year long no matter what we teach.  This helps my preschoolers know what to expect and to always have something familiar in our classroom to come in to.  The other 1-3 stations are specific to our unit and are easy to explain or explore on their own.  Many are role play activities, building blocks tasks or matching games that they are already familiar with!  This gives my littles time to play their little hearts out and get out some of that energy before it's time to sit and listen.  But it also introduces them to some ideas and concepts from our lesson that we will be learning about later in the morning.

You can read more about specific stations for my units in this post.

When it's time to transition to our Bible Time, we sing....
Clean up, clean up, 
Everybody everywhere
Clean up, clean up,
Everybody do your share!


Attendance

During clean up, I lay out foam circles in a semi circle shape around our Bible Time area on the carpet.  These are our "sit up ons" where kids will sit.

After we are cleaned, I count down from 10 and kids find a sit up on to sit on.   Then, we do our attendance sticker chart to see who is in Sunday School.  We sing...
Everybody outta go to Sunday School,
Sunday School, Sunday School,
The men and the women and the boys and the girls,
Everybody outta go to Sunday School!
{when we get to the men/women/boys/girls part, they raise their hands when it gets to them...boys raise hands when we sing boys, etc...}

Then, we read each child's name together as they come up and add their sticker to the chart.

When we have added everyone sticker we transition to Bible Story time by remind them to sit criss cross applesauce, mouths closed, ears listening, and we get our hands in the air and chant together...
Open them, shut them,
Open them, shut them,
Give a little clap!
Open them, shut them,
Open, them, shut them,
Put them in your lap! {whisper}


Bible Story

Once our hands are in our laps we are ready for our Bible story.  I use the bible story booklets/posters and script from our units to tell our Bible story adding as many motions as possible to keep my little friends engaged!  This story itself is no longer than 5 minutes just because of our little attention spans! :)  And I'm repeating a LOT of the information multiple times!

When we finish our story, I immediately start asking, "Were You Listening?" questions.  I ask it in a silly voice and they just love trying to answer my questions!  The questions I use are all in the lesson pages of the Sunday School units if you don't want to think of your own! :)

Prayer Time

It's super important to me to teach my preschoolers how to pray and why we pray.  So we transition to prayer time, by first chanting...
God is listening, God is listening,
To every word I say.
God is listening, God is listening,
Every time I pray!

Then I ask, "Who has something we can pray for this morning?"  I ask each kid to share something (if they have a prayer request).  Then, we chant,
Our hands we fold, our heads we bow,
So we can talk to God just now!

And we pray!

Games & Activities

After prayer time, I ask my kiddos to bring me their sit up ons and head to our table.  We do a game that we need to play whole group together, or a cut and glue activity or coloring page together.  I have suggestions for each lesson with our units.

The best thing I've found to work during this time for my preschoolers is to play music while they are working.  If we are playing a game altogether, obviously we don't.   But if they are coloring or gluing, I choose a kids' bible song that goes along with what we've been learning...like "Who Built the Ark?" during our Noah's Ark unit!  The music is perfect for keeping them on task!

Bible Verse Practice

When we are finishing up our activity, we move back to the carpet in front of my pocket chart that holds our unit Bible Verse.  If I have friends that aren't finished coloring, I usually give them the choice to finish and come join us when they finish.  I have the black and white bible verse cards from our unit on the pocket chart.  The color cards are in my hands.

I point to each word as we read our verse and do the motions together (included in the units).  We read it 2 or 3 times and then we match the words.  I pass out a black and white word card to a friend and he/she brings it up and matches it in front of the color card it matches!  Then we reread the verse.  We do this until we have matched all of the cards.



Once we've matched all of the cards, we read the bible verse and do something on each word.  Here are a few examples: (We usually do at least 5 ways!)
1. Clap on each word as we say it.
2. Pat your leg on each word as we say it.
3. Touch your nose on each word and say it in a tiny mouse voice.
4. Claw your hands on each word and say it in a big bear voice.
5. Stomp on each word.
6. Jump on each word.

We practice the same verse all unit long and then they get a treat if they can say it at the end of our unit!

When we finish our Bible verse, we grab our papers and line up to leave!  If we have extra time before we leave for Children's Church, I will ask them our comprehension questions from our story again!

Find these routines and specifics for each Sunday School Unit in my 2 Year Curriculum BUNDLE!



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