My 2-and-a-half-year old son loves to see what’s in the Teacher’s Creatures Letter Bags I bring home from school. Some days we have mini lessons on the bed or the deck, where I am the “teacher” and he is the “student” (he loves that part). Today we looked in Patrick the Pig’s bag, which (Brady noticed) has “prepples” on it (that’s pretzels). He was very good at “getting his P sound ready” as he eagerly awaited the removal of each item. He kept the items in the hat on his lap and took them out a few at a time to play with on the arms of the chair. He paid for the pizza with the penny, wrote on the paper with the pencil, and tried not to poke himself with the pin. The pig and the panda then proceeded to eat the pizza under the palm trees. It was a perfectly pleasant moment with my mostly pleasant (but always precious) little guy. (If you look closely, you will also see some pea-colored paint on the chair from a previous project!)
(if I may borrow the phrase made famous by Mr. Rogers!) My first graders are kicking off the school year by meeting my long vowel puppets and building five Long Vowel Neighborhoods. After they meet a puppet, my students spend the next several days “building” houses using words that follow a certain long vowel rule like “silent but bossy E” or “two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking”. We generate a list of words on the board then my students write the words on their own paper copy of the house. When the book is complete, they take it home to read with their families. I display my own (dry erase, laminated) house in the classroom in The Long A Neighborhood for future reference. And I must say, it’s always a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
I have always stored my puppets in a green pocket chart and covered them with alphabet flashcards until introducing the creatures one by one to my students. Each time a puppet is revealed, I remove the flashcard that covers it so only the puppet is visible in the pocket. Two problems: one is that my puppets are not labeled with the letter they teach, and two is that the puppets don’t stand out very well on a green background (especially my green friends, Sydney the Snake, Frazer the Frog, and Iggy the Iguana). This year I solved both problems with one set of custom flashcards. I designed the flashcards to be the width of the pockets on my chart but to extend above the top of the pocket. Then I sweet talked my talented husband into illustrating one picture for each letter of the alphabet. Above the picture, on the front of each card, I added an uppercase and lowercase letter in my original handwritten font “Get Real”. On the back of the card I added the letters, but not the picture. Now, after I introduce a puppet, I flip the flashcard over and display the puppet in front of the card inside the pocket. This way, each puppet sits below its corresponding letter and shows up nicely on a white background. It was one of those “why didn’t I think of this eight years ago?” moments. Better late than never.
Today, on the fifth day of school, we met Thai the Tiger. We learned how she taps her claws as she waits patiently to catch her prey for lunch. We discovered the items in Thai’s letter bag and each of my first graders had to spell one of the items in their journal. Learning to write the letter T was a nice break for my kindergarteners after the much trickier letters (M and S) that we studied last week!
Yesterday I met the new kindergarteners who will be in my class this year and saw some others who are younger siblings of children I have already had the pleasure to teach. I was so happy to see the excitement and anticipation emanate from these kids as they embark on a new adventure. Today is the first day of school. I am all prepped (of course), up early, and ready to get to class! I feel so fortunate to be able to say, year after year, “I love my job!”
Make laundry fun with my featured kit for September: The Laundry Basket. You can create a laundry list of words, hang tiny clothes on a line, count loose change, sort baby socks, and read some related books.