Saturday, August 13, 2016

Back to School With ESGI

As I say goodbye to summer vacation and welcome the new school year I am very thankful to be starting the year with ESGI.

back to school with ESGI
This year we will be trying something a little different with our kindergartners. In the past, we assessed our students before school started then placed them into classes.  However, not all students would come to our assessment days so we would have to randomly place students into classes.

This year, we will be assessing students the first three days using ESGI, then we will build our class lists.  With the help of our support staff we will be able to assess all of our students rather quickly. We will assess each student on the following skills:

  • Letter ID  and Sounds
  • Number Recognition 0-20
  • Counting to 20
  • Basic Shape Recognition

While students are being assessed teachers will be working with the students. During this time the teachers will be observing their cutting and coloring skills as well as their group interactions and social skills. Once each student is assessed we will be able to print out results and do our best to make balanced classes of students.

Why use ESGI?
It's fast-It's easy to use- no papers to shuffle- no flash cards or manipulatives to carry around. Everything you need for assessment is on the screen. All questions are recorded with a yes/no format.  Either the student got the answer correct or they didn't.

If you haven't tried ESGI- Give it a try- You can sign up for a FREE 60 day trial. That is what My teammate  and I did a few years ago at the start of the school year.  Then after using it to monitor our students progress we shared it with our assistant superintendent.  She loved our enthusiasm and we had data to prove how much time we were saving.  She bought it for all kindergarten teachers in our district.  Now, it is what we all use.

I can't tell you how simple and easy it iss to use.  It comes with a ton of pre-made assessments or you can make your own.  My teammate and I are now in charge of making all of our district assessments which of course we make in ESGI.

Another fabulous feature is the parent letter.  This letter tells the parents what skills their child knows or doesn't know.  We actually print this letter out and attach it to our report cards.  We love it becasue it is available in Spanish. You can edit the letter as well.
ESGI data report parent letter from ESGI
ESGI also offers teachers the ability to print individualized flash cards for students. For example if I wanted this particular student to work on number recognition I could print out just the number flash cards they did not know.

back to school with ESGI
So what are you waiting for?  Click the ESGI icon above and sign up for your free trial use the Promo Code B928.  New trial members will also be entered into a raffle to win one of ten $50 TPT gift cards.

If you decide to purchase ESGI use the Promo Code B928 for a discount of $40.

Test it out then show your district how wonderful it is. Be sure to tell them how much time you can save on assessing students and actually spend quality time teaching if they were to purchase the program for you.  After all, in the end isn't that why you are there, to teach?

Have a great weekend!!!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Back to School Tips and Freebie Day 5

Happy Friday! My summer is quickly winding down only a few days separate me from my first day back. 
Back to School Tips and Freebies, Student information card. This is the final freebie in a week of free downloads to start your school year off.

Todays Tip and Freebie is quick. This is a student information card. It is similar to the emergency cards.  However, we hand these out at Kindergarten orientation.  This gives some quick and very important information about a child that so often parents just forge too tell us.  For example, the name on their Birth certificate may be Michael Ryan Smith; however, the child has never been called Michael and doesn’t even know that Michael is his real first name.  This is something that the teacher needs to know from day 1. You could be sitting there playing guess who this child is.  Believe me I’ve been there it isn’t fun. 

It is also important to know how the child is getting home the very first day of school and then from then on.  Often on the first day the parents make special arrangements to pick-up their child, then after that day-care pick-up might kick-in. Or, the child might not have any idea of who is picking them up and the parent didn’t bother to tell the child, because this isn’t their first rodeo and they just forgot. To download just click the card.  
Student Information Card- Hand out at kindergarten orientation day.  This is great to have on the first day of school..  I keep on a ring next to my phone
I hope you have enjoyed my week of freebies.Be sure to go back and download all my other freebie from this week.  Also, I know there was an error in the Emergency Clothing Kit- I fixed the error and uploaded the new version, it is now available in my TpT store. I head back to school on Monday, so if I seem to be MIA you'll know why.

For those of you still on summer break- ENJOY!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Back to School Tips and Freebies Day 4

Happy Thursday, today I’m teaming up with the I Teach K-2 Blog Hop. It is also Day 4 of my week of Tips and Freebies.  I have shared this tip several times before but it is one of my favorite tips and time savers. It is worth sharing again, especially if you are a brand new teacher.
 On the first day of school have your nametags ready and placed outside your classroom door.  Don’t wait and try to put them on inside the classroom.  Let the parents do the work for you.  I place a pocket chart outside my door holding all of my nametag lanyards.  There is a note that explains exactly what to do.    This way when the students enter my classroom I am able to greet each student by their first name.  “Good morning Mary, Welcome, it’s so nice to meet you”. Being able to “know” their names also helps to calm some of their fears.
***Have extra blank nametags for last minute student enrollments

Now for my Freebie.  I've made up these nametags that will fit into the plastic lanyard badges.  You can buy these at Walmart in the office supply section.  Just click the picture below.
 Back to School Nametags Free Download & Editable
We've put together a big giveaway just in time to start the school year off!
Enter below to win one of our 3 $50 gift cards.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Back to School Tips and Freebies Day 3

Today I’m back with another back to school Tip and Freebie.  This tip and form will save you time and if you don’t already do this, you’ll wonder why didn’t I think of this- just saying… I’ve been doing this for a few years now and it comes in handy unfortunately and it saves so much time. 
Back to School Freebies Day 3: Emergency Clothing Kit
This unfortunately always happens in my room because we don’t have a bathroom in the classroom.  You know what I’m talking about.  The potty accident.  So, rather than sending kids to the office and having them call home and wait for a change of clothes, we have them keep a spare pair at school.  They are kept in a Ziploc bag in a laundry basket in my hallway, clearly labeled.  So when the accident happens, I call the office to let them know I’m sending the child up to change, and I’ll need a custodial clean up.

The Ziploc bag with the wet clothes is then placed in the child’s backpack and parents know to return another clean change of clothes.

Here is your Freebie for the day. Just click the photo to Download it from mu Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  Make sure while you are there that you follow my store to be notified when I release new freebies and products.  If you don’t already receive my newsletter, you can also sign up for that too, at the top right side of my page.  I promise I don’t send out newsletters very often, but when I do I almost always include something free.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Freebie Number 4.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Back to School Tips and Freebie Day 2

I'm back with Day 2 of My Back to School Tips and Freebies.
back to school tips and freebies: calendar numbers not just for the calendar
Today Tips is all about Calendar Numbers.  I use them for many different things in the classroom.  When I first started teaching I bought all those cute thematic numbers that needed to be changed out each month- you know the ones that had school houses or apples for September, pumpkins for October and son on.  Those were great until one went missing.

A few years ago I started making my own calendar numbers.  Soon I was using them for other things around the classroom.  Calendar numbers soon became floor markers for students to stand on. I also place them in pocket charts for students to sort the numbers in order. Another teacher at my school used my numbers in a pocket chart to identify her students lunch card ID's.  She used another set for her students numbers on their book boxes.

TIP:  I use a Large craft circle punch that I found at Michael's- Don't forget the 40% off coupon and teacher discount--- to punch out the circles.
back to school tips and freebies: calendar numbers not just for the calendar

I hope you enjoyed todays Freebie- If you have a suggestion on how to use them, please leave it in the comments below.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Back to School Tips and Freebie

Are you ready to go back to school? Maybe you are already there.  I have 1 week left before I have to officially be back so I am making the most of it.  We have a week of family vacation time planned at the Lake Tahoe.
Back to School Freebies from Printable resources to start the school year.

So here is my quick tip and Freebie for you.  It is no secret that I have a HUGE classroom library. It rivals our school library on some levels.
classroom library with cushions tables and pillows making it a comfy inviting place for students to enjoy books.
My library gets a lot of use and my books are well loved. Therefor I needed a system to keep my kids from bringing me books that had torn pages, ripped covers, writing or other issues. I created a book hospital.  This is where books can go to be repaired.  Students simply place the books into the basket.  This eliminates the need for them to tell me.  I can assess the book later.  

When parent volunteers are working in the room, I have them repair the books using book tape and a special swing arm stapler.   Just click the picture below and you can download the sign from my TpT store.  

Book Hospital: Students place damaged books into the book hospital basket for repair.
I will have more tips and Freebies all week. Keep coming back!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

5 Tips For a Successful First Day of School

The first of school can be chaotic for your kindergarteners, their parents and for you, especially if you are a brand new teacher. I have 5 tips that can help you have a successful first day of school. 
Start the first day off school of right with these 5 tips to help you have a successful year.
Different teachers have different feelings about this… Here is how we do it at our school.  Parents do not enter the classroom on the first day. We found that we couldn’t get them to leave, children started to cling to parents then it created a chain reaction one would start crying and others would think oh they are crying I should be crying too..  We tell the kids to turn and wave goodbye to their parents as they enter. We invite parents into the room at pick-up time. 

Tip # 1 Name-Tags
Place name tags outside your classroom door for parents to place on students before they enter the classroom.
Have your name-tags ready and placed outside your classroom door.  Don’t wait and try to put them on inside the classroom.  Let the parents do the work for you.  I place a pocket chart outside my door holding all of my name-tag lanyards.  There is a note that explains exactly what to do.    This way when the students enter my classroom I am able to greet each student by their first name.  “Good morning Mary, Welcome, it’s so nice to meet you”.  Being able to “know” their names also helps to calm some of their fears.
***Have extra blank name-tags for last minute student enrollments

Tip #2 Starting Your Day
Have math manipulatives on the tables first thing- this creates a welcoming environment for students who may be hesitant or afraid.
Start the day with table activities. I always start out with math manipulatives such as pattern blocks, linking cubes, bear counters and puzzles.  Students see these as fun activities and may feel more comfortable entering the classroom. 

Tip #3 Snacks
Be prepared to have extra snacks on hand for those who may not bring one the first few days of school
Have extra snacks. Believe it or not, not all parents know to send food to school with their children.  I buy a box of Ritz crackers or have Goldfish crackers already to go in ziplock baggies.  I keep them aside and them hand out once I see who needs food. 

Tip #4 Over Plan
Over plan- its better to have too much then not enough
Plan too much. It is too hard to guess how much you will need those first few days. Sometimes you have too much, but what you never want is to not have enough.  It's ok if you don't get to everything, you can just push it to the next day.  Also books, songs,  and movement activities are great time fillers. Also have all of your materials ready to go in the order you need them and easily accessible.  Kindergarteners can't wait for you to run back to your desk to grab materials.

Tip #5 Establish Rules From Day One
Begin your class rules form the first day.  Whole Brain Teaching Rules are simple and these posters are Free
Don't be afraid to establish rules and boundaries from the start.  From the moment you invite students to the carpet to sit, let them know the expectations for sitting.  They won't know unless you tell them.  I actually have a poster that I use to show my students just how I want them to sit.  Then I invite my students to see if they can sit like the students in the poster.  I try to make it a game.  1-2-3 sit  great!!! let's try again  I also use many of the techniques from Whole Brain Teaching such as Eyes and Hands.    These are really the only classroom rules I have and use.  You can grab my Free WBT posters in my TpT store. The book

Whole Brain Teaching Free Posters available for Download at Teachers Pay Teachers
Here is a poster I use. It is from my Back to School Rules set on TpT You can download the poster by clicking on it or you can purchase the entire set from my TpT store. Enjoy!!!
Rug Rules Free poster to demonstrate how to sit on the carpet
Back to School Rules create your classroom rules with this poster set

I asked the members of my Teacher Facebook Group to share their tips for New Teachers and here is what they said.  IF you would like to our group click the picture
Join the Teacher Facebook Group share ideas, ask questions and connect globally with other teachers
Jen Jarvis To make a list of things to accomplish- bathroom, lining up, sitting at the carpet, introduce yourself (I always make a PowerPoint with pictures- golf ball, book, my dogs, football, me and my husband, a tent, etc) so they can guess what I like and learn about me, let them introduce themselves, learn how to "play at recess," read a few stories, and plan a few activities- which may very well get pushed back to day 2

Rosey Aldana Krauel Don't take any routine, no matter how small it may seem to us, for granted. Some will come in with preschool experiences but for many others, this is the first time in a school setting.

Katie Griswold Cafeteria routines and procedures!! A make or break.... how to hold a tray with two hands... how to open milk... I get a tray from the cafe and set up a pretend lunch line with food from my kitchen Center and we practice.... usually I can snag a real milk and spoon pack and ketchup packets from the cafeteria for our pretend lunch line.

Sandy Johnson Procedures procedures, procedures and more procedures. Be waaaaay over planned. Expect to be exhausted beyond belief for the first month. Welcome to the BEST calling ever.

Kelli Hadley Mccarver In between learning all the procedures Etc have something memorable planned. Fun activity that they won't forget. Our teachers go on a school hunt looking for "who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?" The office, lunchroom, nurse station etc all participate as they learn the school.

Sabrina Terry BEFORE the first day talk with parent or guardian about how their child will get HOME FROM school. Have tags pre made (laminated) and put them on their backpacks and tell parents you are doing this so please DON'T remove them. On these tags (Google get home tags) put how they get home bus#--, car, walker (terrifies me), etc ALSO add their name and teachers name. This way anyone in your school knows where that child belongs after school or before school. And when you leave your room you can look at each child's backpack and know where they go. If a child has a change from that tag I tape a sticky note to it with the date on it. This lets me and anyone else in the school know what that child is doing. I am terrified of misplacing a kid because of changes. 

Marcy Pollinger Di Eduardo Take it slow... Don't plan for more than you all can handle. Your pace will be slower those first few days... Don't stress yourself out by trying to jam too much in. Have a morning and afternoon playtime.. If you're full day.  Model model model your expectations... Don't just tell them... SHOW THEM!
Oh yeah... Have fun!

Tamara Morrison Patience, parents have lots of concerns of leaving their child. Make things simple and don't expect miracles. Be stern kids need to know you have rules from day one. It's the best job in the world you will love it.

Join the Teacher Facebook Group share ideas, ask questions and connect globally with other teachers
Join the group, and share ideas, ask questions and make new friends.

Keep checking back I have several other back to school Freebies to share and tips to help get your year started off smoothly.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Creating a Writing Center in Kindergarten

Setting up and creating a successful writing center in kindergarten takes time and practice.  The writing center in kindergarten in something that is always changing.  In the beginning it might start out with play-doh, rice or sand  and as time moves on it will eventually move towards the end goal of traditional paper and pencil.
Creating a Writing Center in Kindergarten: How to set up from the beginning of the school year
I teach writing whole group and small group.  I do a lot of whole group instruction in the beginning mostly through my morning message, then moving into the writing block.  I try to make it fun and interactive, demonstrating the importance of neatness, reminding my students that there is to be no "scribble scrabble" when coloring.  The very first piece of writing they do in a self portrait.  We do this on the first day of school.  This is a great way for me to assess their writing abilities.  I can tell a lot by their self portrait.

The majority of my students enter school with very limited experiences using crayons, pencils and scissor.  Very few can write or recognize their name.  This is where our writing center begins. We start with the very basics; tracing and cutting lines and coloring inside shapes. All of these skills are carefully demonstrated and practiced.

Next we begin with introducing letters and numbers through play-doh, stamps, rice, shaving cream and such.  The kids love it and it is great for those kids who have sensory needs too.  Of course I am also introducing name writing at this time. We do several activities that involve rainbow writing using the large crayons.
 Include play-doh at the writing center to build foundational skill

By now we are probably into the middle of October early November and we have moved on to writing our first names and letters of the alphabet as well as the numbers 1-10 using proper letter formation.

Items in our writing center have changed as well.  We are now adding sight words weekly to our word wall.  Although we still use play-doh, rice has been replaced with white boards, magnetic letters, letter beads and other word building materials. First we were forming letters, now we are making words, next we will be writing sentences. Remember, we must first build the foundation before we can create strong writers.
Use play-doh to build sigh words in the writing center
By the way- I have the BEST play-doh recipe in the world
Kindergarten Sight Word Wall: Creating a writing center in kindergarten
In my writing center you will also see our Monthly Writing Center Word Wall.  It has two purposes.  It is great for working with my English Language Learners as it serves as a picture reference for building new vocabulary.  Later when the students are writing more independently they can refer to the monthly word wall when they need help spelling a word.
This is from my September Writing Center
Writing Center or Writers Workshop Station for August and September.  Includes 90 picture vocabulary cards
This is from my January Writing Center
January Writing Center or writing stations with winter themes  67 vocabulary picture cards
My students also have journals.  In the past I have been fortunate enough to find them at the .99¢ Store
primary lined journals from .99¢ Store
This year however, I have decided it would be cheaper to print and make my own.  Also, I haven't been successful in finding the journals.  I did hear that some people have been finding them at the Dollar Tree. You can order then online but you need to buy a case of 24.
primary lined journals from Dollar Tree
In the journals we first begin with drawing pictures.  I'll give them basic prompts.  Draw a picture of your family.  Draw a picture about a pet you have or wish you could have.  I then take it once step further and encourage them to write the names of their family members if they know them, becasue sometimes they do.  If it is the pets they are writing about, then I tell them to think about the pet and say the name of the animal.  What sound do they hear, what letter is that, try to write that letter.  Remember, it is baby steps. At this point, I'm not worried about writing on the lines, I'm not worried that their dog looks like a big blob of mud.  I'm looking to see if they can tell me what their picture is about and if they attempted to write. 

As my students move forward in writing and I want to teach more specific skills or move some students ahead or work more closely with students,  I will make writing part of my center rotations.  Instead of meeting with me for reading, students will meet with me for writing. This is when I will give targeted instruction on specific skills.  I more than likely have already modeled these skills during my daily morning message, but this brings it to a different level.  There are now only 5 students,  so those who don't normally participate, just might take the pen.  After we review a few skills, we next review the vocabulary words on the monthly word wall.  Next I give them the prompt and tell each student to think of the sentence they are going to write.  They then take turns saying their sentence aloud.  I want them to get into the habit of saying what they intend to write.  I believe it will help them to not leave out any words.  For my ELL students (or others) I will give them a sentence frame, but ONLY if they need it.
Teaching kindergartners about spacing between words using the Space Man
Students can take words from the word wall as needed when they are writing or pull out their sight word list.  
*When students need help spelling a word-
-If it is a sight word- They ask someone else in the group to help them find it on the word wall.
-If it isn't a sight word- I teach them to segment it and write the parts they hear.  I also make sure to tell all of the adults who help in my room the same rules.
As the year progresses their knowledge of sight words has grown. so they are now able to write them and their ability to form a sentence has also improved.  

One idea that I have found that truly motivates my students is the "share out" piece.  After they have finished I invite students to share what they have written using the Elmo.  They love to see their work displayed on the big screen TV.  However, there is a catch.  They must demonstrate they have tried their personal best, not rushed through their work.  Their drawing must have some details relating to the prompt.   Of course all students get to share at one point during the week, but it is important to show off the ones who really put forth the effort first.  This raises the bar for the others.  Their work doesn't have to be the most beautiful. Just pick the ones that you as a teacher can point out what makes them shine.  What you want is for all students to want to share their writing, so they will try their best in hopes that you will pick them next time.

Each month the expectations increase the sentences change from the I likes, I haves and I cans to the I went to...  Remember what I said before about the foundation, you have to start from the bottom up. Even if some of your kids come in knowing some letters and sounds, it won't hurt them to review  those in order to bring everyone else up to speed.  Build that strong foundation in the beginning giving them lots of opportunities to write in many different ways.  Writing doesn't always have to be with paper and pencils.  Those foundational beginnings with the the play-doh and the dry erase markers will carry over.

I hope that you find something useful to get you started in setting up your writing center for the new year. 
This is my Writing Center Bundle for the Year which can be found in my TpT store. It has 9 months of thematic vocabulary cards and writing papers to help jumpstart your writing center. 
Writing Centers or writers workshop stations for Kindergarten. A years of writing centers and thematic monthly word wall vocabulary cards. Add some fun to your writing center with these Monthly themed word wall cards and writing papers.
I would really like to see picture of your writing center and share them with my readers. Also, be sure you are subscribing to my newsletter as I have a few things I'll be sending out soon that you won't want to miss.

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