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Monday, November 6, 2017

Wrapping Up Our Adventure With Jenny, Nate, and Ellary!

We are wrapping up our journey with the Kleins.  They have taken us from Iowa to Ethiopia, tugged at our heartstrings, and made us have real and meaningful conversations about accepting others.  The #KFkinders want to thank the Kleins for sharing their story and for all of you for following along with us!  Here is how we wrapped up our learning!

While we were checking in with Jenny, Nate, and Ellary via FaceTime, we learned a few facts about Ethiopia!
*Ethiopia has one of the largest populations of orphaned kids in the world (13% of the children throughout Ethiopia-4.5 million kids as stated on
*Ethiopia's national language is Amharic...check out this YouTube video we watched to practice saying family names in Ellary's native language!
*Soccer is Ethiopia's biggest is a picture of a new soccer complex that is being built in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa.

*Here is a picture of Jenny and Nate eating a traditional Ethiopian meal.  Notice there is no silverware!  Usually Ethiopians eat raw meat, but this platter had cooked meat. 

We were lucky enough to FaceTime the Kleins when they were hanging out in their hotel, but they weren't able to take us outside to show us the landscape and community due to WiFi issues.  Instead we enjoyed watching Ellary walk around (we asked them if she could walk yet!), babble to us (she wanted to tell us her own story!), and show off her Benton blue and gold (she had her first Benton shirt on!).
*We had so much fun watching their story unfold with pictures, FaceTime, research, and conversation.  The depth of our conversation revolving around poverty, adoption, and acceptance was proud of your #KFkinders and the beautiful hearts they have.

Now Jenny, Nate, Ellary and Lily are all home together!  Lily and Ellary have hit it off and are already the best of friends!  To finish off our journey with the Kleins, we wanted to officially welcome Ellary into the Bobcat Family.  We put together a little video of their journey and some interviews with the #KFkinders on what is awesome about being a Bobcat!  Enjoy!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Continuing our Journey with Ethiopia and the Kleins

If you asked your #KFkinder what they did at school today, they might have said, "I had music with Mrs. Galligan and we did our Halloween song again!" (check it out in Seesaw or Instagram!).  Or they might have said, "I did my October writing sample for my writing portfolio.  I really tried hard to write a whole sentence about what my favorite Halloween costume is!".  What I hope they might have said was, "We got to see pictures of Jenny and Nate (my sister and BIL that are adopting) and their first time meeting Ellary!".  Today we continued learning about Ethiopia and adoption, but we also opened up our discussion to what an orphanage is and the process of international adoption.

Jenny and Nate left Friday evening for Ethiopia with my other sister, Becca (which many of the kinders had last year as an associate in their Preschool room!).  They flew out of Cedar Rapids to Chicago.  From Chicago they flew to Washington DC.  And from Washington DC they flew into the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.  They are 10 hours ahead of us, so they got in Sunday morning, but it was Saturday night for us.  On Monday morning (Ethiopia time), they got to go to the orphanage and meet Ellary.  They were able to spend 2 hours with her to start the bonding process.  Ellary must have been waiting to meet Jenny and Nate as well because she took right to them.  You will see in the pictures that Becca captured that she is ready to have the Klein last name!  The emotions that they all must have been feeling were present in the pictures and opened up a lot of questions from the

There were so many questions and take-aways from the kinders.  I don't know what you all have done as families to raise such caring and open-minded kiddos, but WOW! they are so caring!  Here were some of the questions the kinders want to ask Jenny and Nate!
*Can Ellary walk?
*What did the orphanage look like?  Did it look like a daycare? <--- This was our closest understanding of what an orphanage is.  One of the kinders actually came up with this comparison after I have an initial description of one!  Isn't it amazing how much they understand when we allow them to control the learning!
*When will Ellary get to go home with them?
*What else are they doing while they are there?
*Are there any sharks, lions, birds, or elephants there?<--- We are really stuck on the animals that live in Ethiopia! 
*Does Ellary know any words?  Does she speak like us (English) or like something else (the native language is Amharic)?   

Lastly, they had some take-away's that weren't exactly questions!
*I bet the orphanage workers really love Ellary and will miss her when she goes home with Jenny and Nate.
*Nate looks like a funny guy, he makes lots of faces and seems silly (they really pegged him...he is a bit of a character!).
*Jenny looks like a nice mom!
*Mrs. Fisher has big feelings too (my eyes were a little misty when showing the pictures and having this talk)!  We also talked about how happy feelings sometimes make us cry and that is okay!  We even had a few kinders with tears in their eyes...they are really digging this journey!
*Lily looked so excited when she got to FaceTime Ellary...that was their first time "meeting" too (Lily stayed back in Atkins with my oldest sister, Tracy, during this trip)!
We ended the conversation ready to pick up the next time we can connect with Jenny and Nate, either with FaceTime or pictures.  Isn't it amazing the power technology has!  It allows us to feel like we are right there with them!  We are excited to ask Jenny and Nate our questions, and hear more about the community Ellary is from!

One underlying theme with this whole experience is the power in storytelling.  Through story, the #KFkinders are able to travel to Ethiopia, learn about international adoption, open their eyes to what a third world country is, understand and accept differences in the world/people/communities, and realize how different families can be; but love is what binds us together.  I encourage you all to have a conversation with your kinders tonight or tomorrow about all of this and see what they can tell you in their own words!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Jolly Phonics Practice, Resources, and Extension

Hi all!  Tonight in your kinder's folder there are a couple of resources for Jolly Phonics practice at home.  I know you all have watched our videos on Seesaw, Instagram, or Twitter.  I'm sure your kinder is singing these songs at home.  And I'm sure you feel very apprehensive to try and practice these sounds at home because you might know what some of the sounds are, but you aren't exactly sure on all of the sounds.  I CAN HELP WITH THAT!!  Here is what you have in your kinder's folder tonight! 

This is a packet that has a quick explanation of what the sound and action is for each letter or digraph.  Teaching phonetic spelling and using phonics to decode was something I don't remember being taught as a student.  If you were anything like me, this was a pretty foreign concept.  Here is a quick crash course in the Jolly Phonics curriculum.  It will have a picture and action that is associated to each sound.  These actions and pictures will go with the songs that we have shared on social media, and the flashcards that came home with your kinder earlier this week.

Actions Link

The second packet is an even quicker refresher on each Jolly Phonics sound/action.  I usually put this on my fridge to review sounds/actions when I was working in the kitchen and the first packet I used more when we were practicing together in a more intimate setting before reading his Take Home Book. 
Actions Packet Link

Lastly, there is a handout with a some progressions outlined for using the Jolly Phonics sounds.  You can read through these progression and gain some ideas on how to use the Jolly Phonics flashcards your kinder brought home with the activities listed.

Jolly Phonics Progression Activities Link
Let me know if there is anything I can help support your learning at home...I am happy to help!  This year has flown by so far.  I am excited to talk with you more in depth at Parent/Teacher Conferences on Wednesday, November 15th and Monday, November 20th.  More information about signing up for these conferences will be communicated next week!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Virtual Reality with Google Expeditions

Your #KFkinder might come home tonight and say, "I went to Ethiopia today!".  Now before you totally write them off and send them off to Crazytown, THEY DID GO TO ETHIOPIA!!  Miss Upah brought in the virtual reality goggles from Grant Wood AEA and introduced us to Google Expeditions (find the app with THIS LINK).  This is a free app you can use on your device to virtually visit places around the world from the comfort of your couch (or classroom).  Today we visited Ethiopia.

Now you might be wondering why we went to Ethiopia, well let me tell you a little story!  My sister Jenny is two years younger than me.  She married my brother in-law Nate and together they have adopted my niece Lily.  Lily was adopted from Iowa and joined our family 1 1/2 years ago!

Jenny and Nate have always wanted a big family so they have pursued international adoption as a way to give Lily a sibling.  They started this adventure 3 years ago and we are so excited to send Jenny and Nate off on Friday.  They will travel to Ethiopia, meet Ellary for the first time in person (they have been sent pictures of her), and finish the legal process of officially adopting her and bringing her home to Iowa!

It is my job as your kinder's teacher to open your kinder's world to new experiences and break down the walls of our classroom.  But I also need to build up your kinder's abilities within empathy and building emotional connections, so when I was planning what virtual reality lessons we would have in #KFkinders I wanted to pull these three concepts together.  I have been very open with the class on why we are "traveling" to Ethiopia with our virtual reality goggles.  They have heard Jenny and Nate's story.  This has helped us dive deeper into understanding and accepting that all people, families, and communities are made up differently.  Each of us are different.  Each of our families are made up differently.  Each community we are part of or visit will bring unique aspects.  What is important is accepting those differences and accepting each other.  Never have I had such an authentic conversation with 5-6 year olds about this topic, but what a great lesson!

So...what's next?  As I mentioned, Jenny and Nate leave on Friday to finish their journey of bringing Ellary home!  They will be over in Ethiopia anywhere between 1-21 days.  It is still unclear what their entire day looks like as far as appointments with the government, the orphanage, and the embassy; but we are going to try and connect with them via FaceTime.  We have looked at Ethiopia on a map, we have pulled up pictures, and we have taken the virtual reality tour; but now we are going to see exactly where Ellary is from.  When they come home, Jenny and Nate are going to bring Ellary and Lily to Keystone Elementary to share their story with us.  They will be bringing along some videos and pictures from their stay in Ethiopia.  And the best part is the kids get to meet Ellary and Lily!  It will be a great way for us to really wrap up our learning about Ethiopia.  I can tell you we started with very little prior knowledge (myself included!), but I have a feeling we will all be at a different level of understanding after this all wraps up!  And isn't that the point, to open your eyes to a different way of life?!?!?!  I am so excited that your kinders will be along for this journey with my family. 

I have no idea what the timeline is for if/when we can connect with Jenny and Nate while they are over in Ethiopia.  They need to get over there, settled in their temporary "home", and then figure out where the best place to connect with WiFi is.  Once we have this all figured out, I will make sure and communicate home some take-aways we had from the meeting!  Stay tuned!!  Until then, Lily will be waiting for her sister to come is a picture of Lily with her cardboard cut-out of Ellary.  It is her favorite "doll" to play with!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Proficiency Scales

Hello All!  Can you believe we are already into October and have had 35 days of school!!  It is amazing to see all of the routines that were once hard for our #KFkinders are now easy and part of our every day structures!  This is great because it allows us to maximize our time together.
You have probably noticed a few papers that have been coming home in the past week that have performance levels stated on them...these are called proficiency scales.  What proficiency scales do is break down the super confusing language that is used in the Common Core for the standard, and give me, you, and your kinder actual performance behaviors at each level of that skill.  The standard is divided up into 4 different levels.  These levels are designated with stars and with the labels, "Level 4-Next Progression", Level 3: Meeting Standard, Level 2: Progressing, and Level 1: Area of Concern".  Those "levels" aren't as important as the performance and behavior descriptors that are outlined for each level.  When I sit down and observe a kinder working, or look at a worksheet/activity they have completed, or assess them one-on-one; I am using these proficiency scales to determine what level their skill is currently at.  Many times I will comment on what I observed, other times I will talk about what your kinder is currently doing and what we all need to focus our efforts on next.  You might notice that their levels can float from a 1, to a 3, and then back to a 2...this is just because they are constantly learning, evolving, and applying skills in new ways.  Please make sure to take these skills, read what performance behaviors your kinder is currently working within, and then take a gander at where they are going.  The next level should provide you with a road map for goal setting within that standard/skill area. 
If something doesn't make sense or you have any questions about anything on the proficiency scales...please don't hesitate to ask!  This is my first bout  with using proficiency scales with performance behaviors outlined and I want to make sure they are serving a purpose for not only me, but you and your kinder as well!  These scales are designed to help our efforts!  I do want to be intentional in saying OUR efforts, because this is a total team effort.  Kindergarten is not the Kindergarten of yester-years.  Kindergarten is HARD!  We are asking these 5 and 6 year old's to do amazing work, apply isolated skills to continuous text, and give tremendous effort each and every day.  Please remind your kinder each day that they come home that they are doing an awesome job!  It is pretty awesome to look into the classroom and see a future round of farmers, doctors, teachers, nurses, accountants, construction workers, etc. 
Here is a link to copies of each priority scale we are using in Kindergarten this year.  Please use them at home to support your kinder!  If you need any further resources to help practice skills at home, please don't hesitate to ask...I've got a whole file cabinet!!
Proficiency Scale Link

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Lessons

Well hello to a new batch of #KFkinders families!  I have had the best start to this school year.  Usually I feel like I am herding cats all day for the first few weeks of school (as you can imagine in Kinderland) but this year has gone SO smooth!  Thank you for preparing such responsible, caring, safe, and respectful Bobcats...I have enjoyed the first few weeks with them!
This year in #keyrocks we have decided to pilot a phonemic awareness program written by Michael Heggerrty, Ed.D.  You will hear me reference this program as "Heggerty lessons" throughout the school year.  It really prepares kinders with different phonemic awareness skills to be prepared to manipulate, segment, and blend words with ease.  This will help them become fluent readers and writers!  We are currently working in week 2 of the program and the kids are already rocking these skills!  I am excited to see how this translates to our  everyday routines, Guided Reading, Writer's Workshop, and our formal assessments such as the state mandated FAST testing of early reading skills.  Such an exciting time to have a #KFkinders in the trenches!  Thank you to the #bentoncsd administration for supporting this request to implement this program.  A couple of teachers from #keyrocks went to a professional development training last year that highlighted this program.  They brought the idea back to Mr. Junge too possibly use it in Kinderland, and now we are piloting it this year!
To give you a better picture of what is included in this lesson (because the term "phonemic awareness" is not a term I use outside of education...fancy jargon!) I have recorded a typical lesson for each workstation group.  This is just one of the lessons we do throughout the day, so this is not the whole lesson...just a taste! Click on the links below to watch your #KFkinders in action!
In these lessons you will notice that we were focusing on letter names, letter identification, letter sounds, rhyme repetition, beginning sounds, blending words together, final sounds, segmenting and (breaking) words.  You will notice that we do some fancy things with our hands when we are identifying beginning/ending sounds (we swipe our hand from left to right because that is how we read and write words, then we target either the beginning or the ending sound to identify it).  With the blending and segmenting words, we use our hands to either put the parts together to make a compound word (blending) or use them to identify the parts of the compound word (segmenting).  Please feel free to do some of these activities at home.  Good times that I like to fit these skills in are when I am cooking (or when Mr. Fisher is...I am no rock star in the kitchen), driving in the car, or before bed when we are tucking each kiddo in!  Find a couple minutes here or there to fit these skills into your routines and your #KFkinders will benefit greatly.  Doing them at school and home helps generalize these skills and allows them to transfer them to other settings and situations.
If there is ever anything you would like to touch base about, please don't hesitate to email me or pop in! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Nonsense Words vs Real Words

Happy Holidays!
As the winter break quickly approaches, I wanted to take a minute and explain the purpose for this skill within our curriculum and your kinder's learning progression to becoming a fluent reader and writer.  

Nonsense words are exactly what they sound like...words that are made up and have no meaning.  Real words are exactly what they sound like...REAL words!  We are practicing both kinds of words to work on the skill of blending sounds into words.  You might be asking, "why would you practice on words that don't make sense?" and that is a great question.  When we practice on nonsense words, we are controlling a sight word vocabulary students build up and focus solely on the identification and blending of sounds into words.  If you would like more information on why we use nonsense words, here is a link for a great article that might address more of your questions!

There are three different phases your kinder will go through when reading these words.  We talked about this progression at conference time revolving around the standard 
RF.K.3 : Apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills
The three different phases your kinder will work through while blending sounds to make words are:
1.) sound out letters letter-by-letter and then attempt to blend the sounds to make a word
2.) start breaking words into the beginning sound and the ending chunk (onset and rime) and then blend it into a word-this is more of an efficient way to blend words
3.) blend the word in your head and read it as a whole word-fluent readers (like you and I) read new and familiar words this way

We are going to administer our winter FAST (the state assessment we are required to give all students) within the first two weeks of January.  There will be an additional test we administer this time around that includes a 1-minute timing of nonsense words.  We have been working on this skill during our Guided Reading lessons and our workstations, but I wanted to give you all at home the background information and an additional resource to support this skill at home.  Coming home tonight in your kinder's folder there will be a sheet of CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words that are easily broken into onset and rime.  Please use these alongside of your Jolly Phonics flashcards and your sight words.  You can have your kinder read all of the words to you, you can time them (1-minute) to see how many they can read, or you can partner read them...just keep the focus on blending the sounds into words!  No need to chart this work or return the is a resource for you to use for your house!

Lastly, it is important to keep the academic skills a focus during the holiday break.  Your kinder has worked so hard these past few months to make huge gains in their learning.  Please enjoy your time with family over break, but enjoy some "lap time" listening to your kinder read to you, have them write stories and share them with family members, and continue to probe math questions with number sense (numbers 0-100)/writing numbers 0-20/beginning addition and subtraction concepts.  I attached an additional reading challenge to the nonsense words sheet to help spice up reading practice with your kinder.  Please feel free to use some of the ideas listed on this challenge! We will hit the ground running right when we get back in January!  Please let me know if there is any way I can support you and your kinder!--Mrs. Fisher

Resources to look for in your kinder's folder!
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