Thursday, June 27, 2013

Common Core Curriculum Maps, Zoo Phonics, and Pinterest, Oh My!

I've been "off work" for the summer since the end of May.

This means I've been...

1)  ... in my classroom six times, moving furniture,  re-papering bulletin boards, and planning changes.  Oh, and killing ants.

2)  ... attending professional development regarding K-12 science education.

3)  ... catching up on my education-blog reading.

4)  ... familiarizing myself with this book:

A quick-scan of units 1-6 in May had me a bit perplexed.  While I appreciate thematic units with art, music, and science integrated, I couldn't find phonics-specific information, and wondered why suggested stories/literature weren't more current.  Part of me is a traditionalist, so Mother Goose and her nursery rhymes have always been included in my class library, but there is a wealth of newer poetry, artwork, literature and music for children available too that teachers shouldn't ignore (I've got your back, Pete the Cat).  New-to-service or new-to-district teachers who follow these ELA maps will need to ask their grade level partners if they'll follow a letter-per-week model,  c-v-c unit instruction, or complete immersion.  Traveling around thanks to Uncle Sam (Dear Husband has retired from the Army), I'm flexible with change because I've had to be: despite state standards, NCLB, Race to the Top and the Common Core, no two districts have been cookie cutter in their implementation of curriculum.  My suggestion to new teachers?  As you swim through materials or create your own bank of resources from scratch, ask questions.  Lots of them.

With all of the relocations, I have had a trusted stand-by, thanks to a former colleague in Alaska.  I've used Zoo Phonics (since the 1990's) in the four different school districts which I've taught, because it's a program that works well to not only teach letter sounds but to help differentiate for the needs of my students.  Many children enter kindergarten with letter name and sound knowledge, so slogging through twenty-six weeks' worth of the alphabet can be boring and redundant.  For those kiddos with little to no print awareness and/or low phonemic skills, Zoo Phonics is an engaging introduction to letter names and sounds that includes a body motion to help facilitate whole brain/body learning.  Students at all levels of phonemic awareness enjoy the fun factor, and are able to employ the elements of animal identification, story, sound and motion in the first two weeks of school and as they develop their reading and writing proficiency throughout the year.  Watching strong readers and their early-emergent classmates interact, share, and choose to partner with one another when writing, exploring word work activities or enjoying books in the class library using their shared Zoo Phonics references is a strong affirmation for me as a teacher as I work to create an inclusive environment where students learn not only from me but from one another. 

By the way, Zoo Phonics didn't ask me to promote or praise their program, no sir-ee Bob.  I've just seen it work in Alaska, New Mexico and Kansas, with general education kids, English language learners, students with special needs, and especially those who are articulation-challenged.  Watching a student who can't produce r, l, w, y, t, or s sounds verbally *still* be able to write words, thoughts and sentences by indicating a body motion or finding the necessary animal on a Zoo Phonics chart is a powerful thing to witness. Barring a hearing loss or auditory processing problem, students can hear and discriminate between sounds even if they can't produce them. 

5)  ... creating Pinterest boards for units 1-6 from Common Core Curriculum Maps.

If you'd like to take a peek at the boards (or follow them), you can find them here:

Unit I: A Colorful Time with Rhythm and Rhyme

Unit 2: Tell a Story, 1, 2, 3

Unit 3: Exploring with Friends in the Neighborhood

Unit 4: America: Symbols and Celebrations

Unit 5: The Great Big World

Unit 6: Wonders of Nature: Plants, Bugs and Frogs

I'll continue to add to them this summer.  


Thankfully, my summer hasn't been all work and no play: today I'm going to go out to lunch with a friend!  On a Thursday!  

The little things really are the big things with teachers, aren't they?

I hope your summer has gotten off to a wonderful start!  What are your plans?


Don't forget to vote for my blog over at Circle of Moms (click on the badge) daily until July 9.  I appreciate your visits, and love to share what I know and do with other early childhood professionals, teachers and families!  Thanks for scrolling down the list, finding my smiling face, and returning the love by clicking on the heart:


See you back here tomorrow when I ask your opinion about artwork suggested in Common Core Curriculum Maps.

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