Monday, June 20, 2016

That's A Wrap: My Kindergarten Year

Yes I am still around but it has been a crazy year with a teaching partner out on medical leave and lots of littles who needed a program and activities to meet the standards and keep them engaged. It was a tough year but now that it is over I can catch my breath and share those last few days with you! How did I manage? I had lots of help from amazing parents, a principal who provided as much help as she could grab, and a few friends who came out of retirement to lend a hand when they could. It was a stressful, hot mess but I survived to tell the story. I even had one sub that the kids fell in love with that we are hoping to hire this year. That is another story for another time. Basically I learned a lot about myself and how hard I am capable of working when necessary. So here are some ideas I came up with to bring the year to a close.
We had a beach theme on our final day together and wrapped it up with "Finding Nemo" which I loved move than the kids. It is adorable. "Finding Dory" came out the day after school ended which was such a bummer. I made the sign that you see above for each student to hold and a parent snapped a picture. The frame is from Ikea and only cost a couple of dollars. It was cute to give this final shot to parents. 
I also made an autograph book with each child's picture on it with a line for a signature. The kids went nuts over this activity and had so much fun with it. I was shocked that they thought this was so great. I was going to give them each a beach ball but at a dollar each I really did not want to spend so much money on this. So if money is an issue try this idea! I posted the template on my FB page so go check it out.

We had a variety of centers related to our unit on ocean life that I created for that special day. This was ocean bingo and they loved it. I had them cover each creature with an glass gem. This is always a great unit to do at the end of the year. I made tons of games, centers, art activities, and little books to help them build knowledge. We watched some excellent You Tube videos and their are amazing non fiction books that are available too. I mainly used the Capstone series on ocean animals. We even learned how to draw these creatures using Whimsy Workshops units that I just adore. Please check them out in her store. 

We did a huge study on sea stars and on the last day they used magnifiers to find the sight word on each fish and record it. Then they got to color this in. Did you know that sea stars come in all colors of the rainbow? What is it about those magnifiers that make little students so excited? They loved this activity too!
Now I realize that if I was really on my game I would have filled this tub up with sand (staying with the beach theme) and had them dig for sight words. However, I really could not get sand that easily and decided popcorn would still make this activity challenging and fun for them. Picking up the sight words with tweezers made this activity twice as hard and a recording sheet was provided for those with more capability. There was no mess and students had a blast doing this center. 

 This activity was the favorite for the day. I grabbed a huge tub, filled it with water, and added light weight plastic balls with cvc words on them. Yup, no random activities on my watch! The more capable kids got sentences which I wrote using a permanent marker. I threw some in with the cvc words too. Students fished out the balls using little nets and read the words to me. They loved doing this but I did it outside my classroom door to avoid a possible water disaster. Now I want to buy a million of these plastic balls for all kinds of activities! Right?

Each student got a certificate of completion and a matching necklace which I created using beads from Dollar Tree. As I handed out each award I had a parent put this necklace around each child. This was the highlight of their day.

I would never have survived this year without the amazing parents who helped me. I was so lucky to have them. It made me realize that I had to ask for help and depend on others to run a successful program. I think we pulled it off... I hope so.

The room is packed up. It took about a week with many helping hands. I hugged 51 children goodbye, I talked about first grade, I bought all of them bubbles and best of all I hugged all the parents. I closed the door and walked away. Another year is over. It had so many challenges but it ended on a happy note. Goodbye kindergarten. I will be back in August. I will be rested and ready for the next group. My eyes were filled with tears. The end of each year is always bittersweet.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Be Inspired

Look around your classroom. Are there things you wish you could change? Are you tired of the same old activities? Be inspired and come check out some new activities that will make you the best teacher you can be in 2016. Dream, reach for the stars, set your goals, and teach at the top of your game:

Grab your bags and head on over by clicking on this picture. Happy 2016! Cheers to you.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Learning About Kindness and Being Fair

It has been a  crazy few weeks since winter break (desperate for another vacation) and we have been working on a variety of projects related to the seasons and weather. On Friday I took a break and focused on Martin Luther King Jr. This is an important leader and I like to stop and spend time on this. I remember Dr. King as a child growing up in Baltimore and his words had a huge impact on me and the world I lived in.
I think I own every childrens' book written about this great man  but this is my favorite, by far. It is written authentically but in terms a young child can understand. When I was a Common Core coach I did a close read with first grade students using this text. It lends itself well to a cause and effect map and children are able to find evidence to support their thinking with ease. I recommend purchasing it for next year or adding it to your library now. Check it out here on Amazon. 

I really like this video and have used it for several years. If you want to check it out just click on the picture to watch it. We all love Reading Rainbow... right? It might have been the only time my class was quiet all day!

Then we talked about what their dreams are for the future and what goals they would like to achieve by the end of the year. This is a little book  I love to use for this purpose and one that the kids can really relate to. If you want to purchase it for next year you can grab it in my TpT store for just a few dollars. My students loved this reader.

We had a great day, filled with important conversations about kindness, being fair, and standing up for what you believe in. It was well worth the time it took to do this. I even squeezed in a hit of writing just because we need more work on this.

I love 3 day weekends. Don't you? 

Martin Luther King Jr Story Read by LeVar Burton Reading Rainbow Stor...

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflecting On All Things Gingerbread before 2016...

 Wow, I am so late to the party but I have really been trying to take a break and enjoy my winter break. It has been fantastic and I have loved every second of it. Before I can wish you a Happy New Year I need to show you some of my December pictures and all the fun we had during the last few days.

I love doing a Gingerbread unit each year and comparing the characters in each version, talking about the "bad guy" and how the events can differ from story to story. It is so much fun to change my voice and stop right before the fox gobbles up that yummy cookie! Each year I buy more books and add to my crazy collection. These are just a few favorites that I have purchased.
I always love to send a gingerbread man home for families to decorate to their hearts content. The kids love to bring them back and show them off to the class.  The parents adore this project and it fills your classroom with such cuteness. Try it!~

If you are on this blog you know how much I love making a sight word game for each theme that I teach and I won't disappoint you... here is another one. I think the chant was "Gingerbread, gingerbread... you are so sweet, run from the fox, or you will be his treat!"
 I made some new math centers this year and one was all about reading a ten frame and recording the number. I started off teaching this in a small group and the kids loved using a clipboard and working with a partner to record their answer. I now make one of these for each theme I teach. This one focused on teen numbers.

 This is an oldie but goodie just for reviewing numbers and practicing their formation. I have the kids use the eraser on the back of a pencil to make the buttons by dipping it in an ink pad. This makes this activity so much more fun for them. I love when math and literacy can be merged.
 We are working on beginning sounds so I started off with an easy version of this using an Open Court sound/ spelling image in the corner of each card. For the child who still cannot figure out the beginning sound for the picture this is a great scaffold to ensure they are successful.

 When will my students get tired of these fishing poles? Never. I cannot imagine them not loving anything I put in this sensory table for them to fish out. I should have filled it with something like colored rice to make it more exciting... next year. This is just another beginning sounds game that has them color in the letter on a response sheet. The sight word coloring sheet is just another way of getting to those color words and the kids still love this activity.

 This was a new activity for me this year. Students had to cut and paste pictures into this grid that begin with the sound being focused on. Some of the pictures are wrong so it makes the littles really think! I introduce this in my guided reading groups but eventually the kids do this independently. I can adapt this for students who need additional practice by just changing the image to something that reflects the theme we are working on... hello winter.

Yes life must include playdough so we added in our favorite kind. Gingerbread playdough rocks and the kids loved using it. I also showed them how to make their own gingerbread man and they loved doing this. They were so adorable.

 After a bizillion centers we finally had our Gingerbread Activity Day and our parents came in to help with the different centers I had. They did an amazing job with all the kids and we ended our day by going outside to eat gingerbread cookies. Most of the kids loved them.

 So it was a great week. The parents were so sweet and helpful and cleaned up all the mess with me. I hugged the children good-bye and set the room up for January. All gingerbread things were put away for another year. A new calendar went up. I turned off the lights and left earlier than usual and was ready for that much needed winter break.
I will be ready for 2016 and a new set of goals for my students. I got to spend time with many friends that I love, family that I cherish, and finally read a book and got some much needed sleep. Now it is time to build new memories...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cyber Smile Sale on TpT... Grab Some Goodies

TpT is having a great sale today and tomorrow. Now you can stock up on all those materials for the winter months and save some money. It's a win- win for teachers! Don't forget the promo code today: SMILE so you can get the full 28% off. Have fun and fill your cart with happiness. If you want some of my products you can find them here:

How cute is this picture of me? It makes me smile because both of my girls looked like this and so do the cousins. I love old family pictures.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Turkey Leftovers From My Classroom!

November has been such a busy month for us. At this time of the year I am assessing students to get ready for report cards but it is also the wonderful season of fall and I love teaching about the Wampanoag culture and reading fun stories about turkeys and Thanksgiving. This year I did a billion and one activities but I will only hit the ones I loved or better yet- have pictures of. We grew seeds in the backyard of my classroom and this time a mom had the kids help her put soil in about 5. How smart was she? One of them is bound to grow and several did! This is an early picture and I cannot wait to see what the pumpkins look like this week. We talked about decomposing and the kids never get tired of watching these. If you have never done this promise yourself you will try it next year.
Whatever concepts I needed to teach during these weeks had a picture of a Wampanoag or pilgrim. This was a simple math game where they just counting the dots on each card and recorded it and I ran it on old scrap booking paper and distressed the edges with brown ink to make it look old. The kids really liked this activity and it was a great formative assessment. Does anyone know how to make a 5 without reversing it. Nope.

We played lots of sight word games with cards and spinners and showed different ways to make numbers using an image of the Mayflower to spice things up! All of these were a big hit with the littles.

Here is a fall fluency chart we worked on to build their confidence before going to a little reader that matches this text. We built the sentences in a pocket chart with a matching picture and talked about adding "s" to show more than one. This is a great strategy to use when teaching new vocabulary.

We made a variety of maps and labeled them as we completed our Social Studies unit on working together. I also teach the children top, bottom, left and right while we complete this activity.
At this time of year we are working on story elements and we sorted character, setting, and event in a pocket chart. Some students found this challenging but we worked on it together and students had to support their ideas when they placed the picture in the chart. It was a great activity to do and I will keep working on this...
I love teaching guided drawing which then leads to their writing. This was so much fun and provided an opportunity for me to teach about the pilgrim children, what they wore and the jobs they did to help their families. We also talked about their clothing and compared many things to then and now. The kids did these on clipboards sitting on the learning carpet and loved their results!

I love providing these mini anchor charts when I asked students to write independently. It makes them so much more successful since it triggers their creativity and anchors their thinking. How cute are these 2 drawings? I love this age.

This year I was not interested in sending home the same old turkey for families to decorate so I decided to do a thankful plate. What are you thankful for as we approach this important American holiday? My students and I talked about gratitude and I sent this plate home with a note to the parents offering suggestions for making this. They knocked it out of the park! They were SPECTACULAR AND I CRIED OVER EACH ONE... NOT EVEN KIDDING. Parents really worked hard with their children and were so creative. I just took a few pictures but all of them were amazing. Their words were so beautiful and the family photos were so special. This was not my idea but I have had many friends on have done this and now I am trying to decide what I can do for the winter holidays that will be more meaningful. My students were so proud of their work that we ended up showing them to the principal. You have to try this project!

As Friday rolled around I was starting to fall apart from all the projects, activities and the mess. The kids love all headbands so I came up with this super simple one and when I modeled how to make a turkey feather you cannot imagine how much they loved this activity. It was silent in the room as everyone got to work trying this new "feathering" skill. Kids helped each other and now I realize why we have to release kids to do things on their own... yup it is painful.

This simple little turkey is so kid friendly. I walked them through the process and curly the feather on a pencil was the best part of their day! It felt magical to them and I loved their enthusiasm. I think they are so adorable and full of personality. These went home for the holidays.
I hope you got a few ideas for next year and now we are on to The Gingerbread Man which I love. I think I own every book possible for teaching this story and the kids never get tired of it. Check back soon and I hope your turkey day was filled with family, good times and memories that will keep you warm in the winter!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Snapshot Of Our Room

Hi there,
I have not really disappeared but I have been missing for a few weeks. The year started off with a bang and I have been really busy planning activities to keep an active and chatty group of children busy and engaged in learning. This is no easy job as many of you well know but I have given it my best shot. Here are some photos of what has been going on in September and October...

September was all about apples and exploring their understanding through both Science and Social Studies. We saw lots of  You Tube videos on Johnny Appleseed and the life cycle of an apple. I made several apple readers that they loved too.
 I am all over subitizing and practicing it with my students. This has really made a difference in their ability to recognize the number of dots on dice when playing games. I made a Power Point where I click through the dots at top speed and they love "racing" to tell me the answer. This has been so much fun and can be changed throughout the year depending on our theme. It is really building number sense quickly.

 I introduced a variety of sight words but used apple images to help to build their academic vocabulary. This game was a huge hit but I got tired of playing it (the kids were fine with it) so after about a week I had to change it or go nuts! Yup,it's all about me!
 I cut up a variety of apples and read stories about apple orchards so naturally we labeled a picture but mine is super simple to cut apart since not all children have mastered this skill yet. No one got a hair cut that day so I felt in control of the whole situation. They are so cute that I put them up around the room. We also did a guided drawing of an apple which they loved.
 Yup, Chef Kramer showed up with her crock pot and showed the children how to make applesauce from the apples our parents had sent in. I only added a little sugar and some cinnamon and it was a big hit. Most kids loved it but some would not even touch it which surprised me. How do you handle students who refuse to taste something. I try not to make a big deal of it. No one likes to be forced to eat something. Right?
Our school does not celebrate Halloween in any way. We don't read about witches, ghosts, zombies, or Frankenstein. However, I do a huge unit on Autumn and a lot of science around the life cycle of a pumpkin. Here a just a few pictures of what we did and I have many other activities that the kids loved. Many of them come from my activity packet that is in my TpT store: Click on the picture and it will take you there: It has lots of great activities but the best is a retelling bracelet with a matching little book for the life cycle of a pumpkin. My students wore that bracelet for an entire week! 
Parents sent in lots of pumpkins and we naturally did a Bubble Map to describe it both inside and outside and they loved it! I threw it together quickly just using graphics from Susanna at Whimsy Workshop because her clip art rocks! She has made me gorgeous graphics that my students adore.
 I also made a fluency chart with my Sparkle Reader called I See a Pumpkin that is also available in my TpT store. Click on the pictures to fly over there.
 We practiced important but basic skills with simple games I created that made learning more fun.
 On our Fall Activity Day the moms came in to help and the children made a pumpkin mosaic using beans and pumpkin seeds. They loved do this project.
There is so much more to post but now I need to work on other projects to get ready for the week ahead.  Look for more pumpkin fun later in the week.
Have a great week of teaching.