Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Life at the Target Dollar Spot...freebies on their way

Target Dollar Spot:


I can't decide if Target Dollar Spot is a friend to me or not. It is summertime and I should be relaxing. School will be looming in front of me in just a few weeks. But... I was in Target and the Dollar Spot was calling to me (once I grabbed a Starbucks coffee). I just glanced over. You know where you just sort of sweep the bins cause you are totally in summer mode and not ready to think about your classroom. I resisted the call to check them out.
The bins were pretty chaotic so I was even less interested in exploring them and hit the main part of the store first. I raced down the first aisle (those bins were calling to me) and slammed around the corner.  Believe it or not School Supplies had taken over the entire back end of the store. Who knew? Nothing was on sale that grabbed my attention so I made sure I didn't even slow down. But then I noticed  black charts hanging on a back wall. BLACK. I swear if they has been any other color... Yup, black pocket charts for $1.99. I was sucked right into the Target School Supplies drama. I was not leaving those in the store, no sir.  So I threw 2 into my cart and knew I was now hooked. OMG. Target has hypnotized me back again  and it's only July. Please insert hanging head in shame. Now I knew I was checking out the dollar bins. What else was I missing? I had to pay better attention.



In the Target Dollar Bins:

As I looked more carefully I found all kind of bulletin board cut-outs that I could use with the kids at the beginning of the year. Oh crap, the theme was crayons so use your imagination. I was hooked. I took the big crayons and made color labels for them and used a ring to hold them together. 



I am a sucker for alphabet stickers since I can use them for all kinds of projects during the year. Right now I am using them for large glass gems so my students can do some alphabet activities. I always need more for my water bottle tops too. Score! I even found talking bubbles that I think will be fabulous when kids draw self portraits and write words in these. 



Can you ever have too many giant dice? Let me help you. No. They get grungy from those sweet little hands that use them all year after wiping their nose or using them after recess. Iwon't even remind you of the ones with glue on them. You get the picture. At the beginning of the year my games are simple. I am just teaching procedures so nothing fancy. If you want the backpack freebie you can grab soon. I will link it soon.



I was really excited to see scented bingo markers for a dollar. They were in some new colors, different from the Dollar Tree version. Here's a trick. If they get too juicy blot them with a paper towel and remind your students not to push down too hard. Good luck with that!



I am addicted to these markers because I use them early in the year for many different activities. I am working on a new one as we speak! "Spotlight on Numbers" just needs to be edited but I am using it in September for beginning number sense. I think the kids will really like this one. It is one of those packets that can be used throughout the year as their mathematical understandings grow. 

I have other packets in my TpT store that teachers have really liked so here is a quick glance at some of the possibilities if you want to know... Click on the picture to get to my store.
  

I only bought a few sets of these foam blocks but I am going to put words on them so students can build sentences. I will keep them simple at the beginning and scaffold them with sentence strips where some students will just match the words up. It will be important to keep all the blocks the same color and package them in separate containers. Wait does that mean another visit to Dollar Tree?




I am not sure what to do with these crayons gel clings but they are too cute not to purchase. I was thinking of putting them in the widow of our recess door but if you have a better idea I would love to hear it. I haven't used this before.





Isn't this banner adorable. This is such a great word for kindergarten. If you believe you can do it, you can... right? That goes for us too. So BELIEVE.





So that's it for now and if I have some DIY projects finished in a few days I will be happy to share them with you.
Target is not my friend. I am so sorry but I could not resist. I will do better. Hehe.
Happy Shopping!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Should Kindergarten Teachers Be Reading This Summer?

Every summer I promise myself that I will clean closets, catch up on friendships that I sadly neglect, and do some professional reading that is essential to staying on top of educational trends. Here is my beef. Often books have suggested grade levels (k-5) and kindergarten is mentioned in just a few places. The information is great but not for our "littles" and I get frustrated by this since it rarely changes my teaching practices or relates to my classroom experiences. We often hear that "kindergarten is its own animal" and I find this to be so true. What is out there for kinder teachers that is worth reading during your precious summer weeks? Here are my top picks for you:

GENERAL BUT AMAZING READS:
This book is huge and expensive but it looks like it is a terrific resource for learning aboutflexible reading strategies. It is laid out in a very simple, powerful way. Goals are clearly stated. What are you working towards? Skills students need to practice are provided and finally, specific strategies for getting there are offered. It is set up almost like a "cookbook" and you can look up topics that you need more help with. Levels are clearly provided and there is plenty at the emergent level for kinder teachers to use. Teacher tips are also included. I know I will mark this up with post-it notes and use it as a reference in the classroom. You will love the format... Buy this. This should be given to all teachers who are responsible for teaching reading at the elementary level.

I love this author and have read this book in the past. It is filled with great ideas for building reading skills in your classroom and to teach with intention. This is an easy read but you will want to highlight great ideas and share your thinking with your teacher friends. Teachers have done book studies if you want to get some additional insights into this wonderful read. This is another great read for a new teacher. She talks about classroom environments and authentic teaching which makes me reflect on my own practices


The whole world is reading this book and it looks like a great one. Teach Like A Champion is all about providing powerful techniques for teaching that can be put into place tomorrow. Many of these reflect expectations related to the Common Core so it might be well worth reading. It is not on the top of my list but I own it and want to check it out. This would make a great book study for an entire staff, including the administrator. This book is a great catalyst for having important conversations about the climate of a classroom and getting kids on the path to college. We all want that for our students.

SPECIFICALLY FOR KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS:

This book was written by Carolyn Kisloski and Dr. Jean Feldman. My copy was sent to me by Dr. Jean as a gift and she even signed it! (insert bragging tone of voice). Both of these ladies are amazing and if you don't get any other book purchase this one! It is filled with great ideas, beautiful photographs, and extensions on activities that are all about student engagement. I got it a few days ago and find myself half way through the book. If you have been teaching for as long as I have you might be familiar with some of these ideas but many offer a new "twist" to make learning even more fun! Both of these talented ladies have blogs that are well worth checking out: Dr. Jean and Friends and Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together. As I am reading this I am constantly calling my teaching partner to discuss an idea. I am not going back to school without making some of the suggested materials. Buy this book if you are a kindergarten teacher and thank me for the suggestion! If you are going to Vegas it will be there and you can grab a copy. 
This book is well organized and Common Core aligned. You can skip around for ideas that you need to meet your own classroom needs. These two "cooks" have built a great restaurant so go in and grab a bite!

I bought this book last summer but somehow I looked it over but did not really get into the nuts and bolts of it. However, during the year it often clarified a Common Core standard and cited many examples, supported by photographs. It is so well done that I really recommend purchasing it. This would make a great one for a book study. Check it out. If you are confused or anxious about implementing the CCSS in kindergarten, this is your go to reference. Buy it.

So we all own Debbie Diller's book, Math Work Stations but what else is out there that promotes student engagement and builds independence? This is a great book because it is full of ideas that are Common Core based and simple to make. You might be familiar with many of these ideas but once again the author puts a new twist on it. I love that they are organized by standard and make it easy to differentiate since it covers K-2. Some of these ideas remind me of  Math Their Way and the oldies of kindergarten know how powerful these ideas are. Check this out. 

This is a well known author in the field of literacy and this makes a great "go to" reference when you do not understand a Common Core standard. It is well organized and written in easy to understand language. Sharon Taberski provides the gist of each standard and what must be considered when teaching this. I don't know about you but I need the quick and dirty version of each standard so that I have some sense of what to do. She provides possible questions to ask students. This needs to sit on my teacher desk at all times. You need this if you are teaching the CCSS in kinder. Trust me.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Even if you only get to one book that can make a real difference in your teaching. I love reading with another teacher friend and having a discussion over an iced coffee at Starbucks. Are you on my page? Professional development is important but we all know that we deserve more time with our families. Take that family vacation and build memories. Have a wonderful summer and I hope I see you in Vegas! Look for me.
What are you reading?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Grab a Teachable Moment In Your Classroom...

Have you ever brought a pet to your classroom? I can't think of a better way to engage young children in learning. They will be full of questions and this provides an authentic opportunity to learn about an animal. It's a great way to take a break from your standard curriculum and have some fun.

My teaching partner brought in her leopard tortoise for the class to see and touch. They were speechless with happiness to see an animal up close. We seized the moment to explore the life cycle of this animal and just a little information about her.

We learned that a tortoise hibernates like a bear and Daisy had just started to move around to let her owners know she was awake and hungry! 


We talked about how you have to care for a pet and what to put in her habitat to keep her happy. We learned what a leopard tortoise needs in their environment and what they like to eat. Who knew hibiscus flowers were on their list of tasty treats! 

Students could gently touch her shell but we explained the need to wash your hands just to be safe. They loved watching her move around and were fascinated when she ate the dark leafy lettuces in her habitat. 


When we took her outside for recess she loved moving around the blacktop but when Mrs. Schurmer spoke to her gently she turned immediately and moved toward her voice. We were all amazed by this.




I loved listening to the children talk to this little creature in a gentle, loving way. Most of them do not have pets and home. They have never seen a reptile close up. They were filled with questions and natural curiosity about her.


We suggested learning more about this interesting creature and I promised them I would have some special activities to go along with learning about the leopard tortoise.

When we got back in the classroom we built a bubble map with information we already had about Daisy but as we learned more we added on describing words. We watched several short videos on the leopard tortoise and talked about our new learning.  We learned that this reptile often lives to be 100 years old! Amazing! 

Here are some of the materials I put together for the next day. We watched another video on You Tube and created a short Power Point with general information. It was just enough to hold the interest of a young child...

They loved reading this informational text and learning the word "herbivore." It was fun for them to do a simple report (we did it together) based on all that they had learned. Hands shot up and students could not wait to share what they knew.




Many students wanted to continue writing so I created this paper. I did a guided drawing lesson to teach students how to draw a tortoise so they could do this along with their writing. This was a huge hit with them. 

This is not part of my curriculum but it was well worth it to take a break and seize the moment to teach our class about caring for a pet and information on a tortoise. Next week she is bringing her gecko to school...

Do you have a class pet? I am thinking about getting one for next year since the children loved this so much. Any suggestions? Let me know if you want any of these materials. I can post them.



Sunday, May 24, 2015

It's "Bean" A Long Time



We have done a great deal of planting in our classroom recently which was part of a Common Core unit that I wrote with some of my teacher friends for our district. For the first time I got to actually try out my own materials and see how they worked out. This is the Greenhouse I came up with but my friend recommended trying this with corn seeds instead of Lima beans. I found out she gave me great advice! We sprayed a paper towel with water and put these in a baggie that I attached to the back of this little house. The kids loved coloring this in and were so excited to hang these in our window. We crossed our fingers because I have not had much luck with this in the past.




My teacher friends who are amazing gardeners told me to soak the beans or corn first to get the germination going. This was fun because the beans really puff up and the kids are shocked when they observe them the next day. They loved looking at this using a magnifying glass and drawing what they saw. Great activity for you to try next year or even in a summer program.

Here are the corn seeds growing in the Greenhouse and here is a clear cup with a few seeds. Obviously the soil makes a real difference. We also planted beans in soil in clear cups but I helped the students place the seed along an edge so they could see the root system! This was really great to observe. 

 The beans that we germinated on paper towels did not grow at all and only a few grew successfully in the clear cups. I was more disappointed than the kids. We do not get enough sunlight where our classroom is located. I had to check my reaction at the door because the kids were thrilled that anything grew at all! They loved watching it and checking daily for changes. Me, I think my thumb is black.

My teaching friends at another school made their greenhouse like a garden label and put the kids pictures in the middle. They stuck it in their bean plants and got fantastic results. Okay, I am not too green with envy. The idea is clever and would be so cute for Mother's Day. I love when people reinvent a great idea!

These are the observational logs we made in our classroom. I did not have the kids fill them out daily but only when we could record a real change. We did this as a whole group while I asked questions and did a guided drawing. This was a great activity and I was able to build in lots of labeling and academic vocabulary.


Here are some of the books I read to go along with this unit. We also watched a bunch of videos on YouTube that were about growing beans and corn. Next year I think I have to put these outside in the sun to get better results. Looking back we might have over watered some of our plants since the spray bottle was so exciting to use. Just sayin'. What do you like to grow in your room?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Special Events and A Freebie to Boot



Our school does a Parent Volunteer Tea as a thank you to all of the parents that work endless hours in our classroom. I could not run my program without them. They make countless books for me, trace pieces for art projects, and work with children to help them gain confidence and be successful learners. I have so much gratitude for the moms and dads that come through my door each week, filled with enthusiasm and energy! 
I wanted to do a few special things for the tea but I had very little time to pull this off. Here are some simple ideas if you ever get stuck and need "quick and easy" solutions. Any candy in little clear bags with a topper is appealing and easy to throw together. I had tons of skittles so here is what I put in a bright colorful basket (Dollar Tree is my friend). If you want the topper you can grab it here and use it for any special event. It says, "You are better than any treasure found at the end of the rainbow." Leave me a comment if you like this and tell me what you are using it for!

My daughters were in town for Mother's Day (so special for me) and suggested making shortbread since this takes very little effort and the results are gorgeous. We used Barefoot Contessa's recipe and then added a little flower on top to make it look special.
I used candy melts from Michael's for the flower since they would harden (set-up) easily and I just added a hit of pink. The center is just a tiny circular cookie decoration that are bigger than sprinkles and are also available in Michael's. The bags are quick and dirty to use since the ribbon is already woven through the bag and this made it so much faster to wrap!

Mother's Day turned out to be so special in our classroom. We have a grandparent who is a photographer and she came to visit for an entire day. She set up the lighting and backdrop with the help of her daughter. She brought a vintage desk and red apple... The kids were fascinated (so was I).



The results were gorgeous and parents loved them so much. The children told me their mom opened their card and started to cry. Wow! What more could I ask for? By the way this generous lady did this all on her own dollar and refused to let us pay for a thing. She then invited the teacher next door with medically fragile kids to come in and get their picture done. She got beautiful results snapping many pictures and working to get the perfect one. I AM BLESSED TO HAVE THIS GRANDMA IN MY LIFE. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Where Did The Year Go?

I cannot believe how the year is flying by right under my nose. Here we are in May and I am slamming past Mother's Day and moving right along trying to plan for closing out the year. This has been one crazy, demanding year for me with Common Core and a new teaching partner. Whew, it makes me reflect on how lucky I am to be a teacher but how little down time there is.
This is Teacher Appreciation Week across the country and it forces me to stop for a minute and acknowledge all the amazing teachers that have influenced my life in so many important ways. Teachers who have encouraged me, stretched my thinking, tried to organize me, enlighten me, and just plain love me for the mess that I am.
Kindergarten teachers are the mostly loving, generous people on the planet. There, I said that out loud and I mean it.  When I attend conferences I am flabbergasted by the kindness of my peers. Everyone loves "their kids" and spends endless hours prepping and planning to give our youngest learners the best and most engaging activities to make learning powerful. We have a huge influence on our littles and their attitude towards school. If you are reading this I am sending you a huge cyber hug and I want to thank you for being there for our students each and every day.  You know who you are. You are loving, kind, generous, fast on your feet super heroes. Your students could not do without you. I appreciate all that you do.
Teachers Pay Teachers (they rock in my world) has decided to participate in Teacher Appreciation Week by throwing a sale so you can grab some of those amazing products you have had on your wish list forever. Oh I see you jumping up and down at your computer! The year is coming to an end and you better keep your eye on the prize and grab a few winners to wind down with. What? You are teaching summer school? Holey Moley you are one dedicated educator. That's all the more reason to grab a few goodies that will make the last few weeks easy, breezy and some that will make your classroom so much fun in the sun. What about a camping theme? I don't know about you but I need easy at this point. So here are a few of my favorite little printables that are minimal work if you want to pay attention: My friends love this little number. Click on the picture to grab this kindergarten memory book. Your parents will love it and bet yet so will your administrator!


This is one of my favorite pack and go summer goodies. It is a simple review of both Language Arts and Mathematics. It is learning "on the go" and the campy theme keeps it fun. It has been carefully aligned to the Common Core and is a perfect addition to a summer program with kinder kiddos. You can even send it home for the summer with your little ones to keep their skills sharp as they enter first grade. The next group of teachers will love you! Click on this little picture to zip line over to my little shop for this hot number.



Do you own my Sparkle Readers? If you have enjoyed them you might want to grab this additional one that is beachy. Yes, it has the dots under the text to help young children with tracking. Click on the picture to swim on over to my store.

 You loved the first Camp Common Core Pack and Go Set so much you asked for more so I split up the Language Arts and Math and gave you two more packets for your summer journeys! No summer slide on my watch:


Remember to use the promo code Thank You to save an additional 10%. Grab my stuff for even less than imaginable!
Check these out by just clicking on the picture and sailing over to my store! Have fun shopping and I hope we meet each other in Vegas in our flip flops! Woohoo! Have a great rest of the year and stay connected.
Much love,



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mothers Are Magical

Mother's Day is right around the corner and this year I decided to try something a little different. One of our grandma's is a professional photographer and I asked her if she would be willing to take a picture of each student for a Mother's Day card. I loved the idea of it being in sepia and looking like an old fashion picture. She was so sweet to agree to this and bought a "brick" backdrop to use. I think these will be sensational. Now what do I use for a card? I thought about this for a long time and came up with this:

I knew these papers would be perfect for this kind of picture so I bought both and luckily they were on sale. I was rolling along when I found this little number on another aisle...


I decided to add a little pizzazz to the card and make it look a little more antiqueish (okay not a word) but you know what I am sayin'

 I made this for my students to cut and paste on their card but they can do this any way they want to. I will try not to be a total control freak but I will show them some samples like this one:

The picture will go on the other side (right) and the set comes with an envelope they can decorate as they please. I will share some of these when they are finished but I think parents will love these. What are you doing for a Mom gift?
If you need a card I have one you can grab if you would like. It looks like this and allows your students to do a bit of writing too. You get a little bang for your buck as the saying goes. It can be downloaded in my TpT store. Just click on this picture. While you are there check out my end of the year memory book. I can't wait to send this home.