Thursday, July 13, 2017

Back to School Freebies

Who doesn't like free?  In our family we have a saying Free is always within budget.
back to school freebies for the kindergarten classroom: start the school year off with some useful free names, calendar numbers and more.

With Target and Walmart putting out those school supplies so early, its hard not to pass up those good deals.  Let's face it those Target Dollar spots items are sometimes too cute to walk past. That's why I thought I'd share a few things today that are well within all of our budgets.  Free is always within budget- right?

Do you need name tags for the first day of school?  These name tags are easy to use. Just type your students' names, print and insert into the badge holder.
Free editable name tags for kindergarten.  Print and insert into name badge holders from Time4kindergarten.

Next up is calendar numbers.  These can be used for more than just the calendar. Last year I made an extra set and used contact paper to adhere them to my floor to create a line-up strip.   Print two sets to create a memory game.  
free chalkboard calendar numbers several styles to choose from
If you teach pre-school, Pre-K, TK or Kindergarten, this next Freebie is an absolute MUST HAVE!!!!!!  We all know our little ones have accidents.  It's even worse if they don't have a change of clothes on hand.  I now send home a ziplock bag with the note for extra clothes ready to go.  I then keep the clothes in a tall laundry basket from Target.  I bought it during back-to-school time when all the dorm room stuff came out.  It fits perfect in my hallway and it holds all the clothes. The kids, office staff and yard supervisors all know where it is, in case I'm not there.
Send home an emergency clothing kit request form to keep an extra change of clothes at school for unexpected accidents.

This next freebie. is similar to an emergency card, but I keep it in the classroom. We hand these out at Kindergarten orientation.  This gives some quick and very important information about a child that so often parents just forget to 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 one. 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 each day there after.  Often on the first day the parents make special arrangements to pick-up their child, then after that day-care will pick up.. Or, the child might not have any idea of who is picking them up and the parent didn’t bother to tell the child,
Free Download of student information card.  Great to hand out on the very first day of school or at kindergarten orientation.
I know some of you are still in planning mode or organizing so here are some labels to use on your center tubs,  I used the red for Language Arts and the blue for Math..  I printed on cardstock, laminated and then used double sided tape to adhere.
I use the Sterilite Large Clip tubs for all of my centers. (affiliate Link)


Starting out each year I begin with my six simple rules from Whole Brain Teaching.  If you haven't read the book- you should. and you can download my FREE WBT poster too.



Last is my Letter Naming Fluency Freebie- if you are new to my site I encourage you to sign up for my email list and you can try out several weeks of my Letter Naming Fluency pack for FREE.

Dibbles Practice at home- Letter Naming Fluency Homework

I am flying down Saturday morning to Anaheim for the week for the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference.  I hope to learn lots of great things, meet new people connect with old friends and most of all have a wonderful time.  You can follow my shenanigans- on IG and FB.
Have a great week!!!!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Why You Should Use Interactive Calendar Notebooks

Calendar time has always been a very important daily routine in my kindergarten classroom.  In fact if you ask any kindergarten teacher, I'm sure they will tell you that calendar time is one of those kindergarten foundational routines.  It is just something that almost every kindergarten classroom does. However, it can be one of those routines, that teachers find difficult to manage.
Calendar Math Journals: Use this Interactive Calendar Notebook to expand your morning calendar routine and make it interactive for all students.
I began Interactive Calendar Notebooks when I was tired of fighting the battle of getting all of my students to focus.  A few were paying attention while the others were playing with shoelaces, drawing patterns on the carpet with their fingers or asking to go to the bathroom, even though they didn't really need to go.  They were were bored.  It wasn't their turn to be the calendar helper.

I get a lot of emails asking me how I use my Interactive Calendar Notebooks so I decided to make a video that explains it little bit more.
So that is how I use calendar notebooks and here is the BIG reason WHY... By giving every student their own calendar notebook it gives every student something to be accountable for during calendar time.  Every students is now responsible for participating and following along.  They are now actively engaged in the learning process.  Students are no longer a member of the audience.  

They are learning a ton of math skills during calendar.  You are front loading math skills that you might be teaching later on in your math curriculum, but you are doing it ever so slowly, like with tally marks or addition using the dice or dominoes.  By the time you actually get to it your students will be whizzing right through it. 

The best part to this is you have a front row to a captive audience, you can quickly glance down to see who is understanding concepts and who isn't.  If you see that someone doesn't understand the ten frame model, you can quickly stop- reteach and move one. 

Here are a few pictures of what my calendar wall looks like. You can find these kits in my TpT store under Calendar Notebooks.  I have several kits and you can purchase them in a bundle with the notebooks if you'd like.Use calendar walls with  Interactive Calendar Notebooks to expand your morning calendar routine and make it interactive for all students. Use calendar walls with calendar notebooks to expand your morning calendar routine

Use this Interactive Calendar Notebook to expand your morning calendar routine and make it interactive for all students. Use this Interactive Calendar Notebook to expand your morning calendar routine and make it interactive for all students.

If you have questions you can always leave them in the comments or email me.  My contact info is above.

Have you signed up to receive my emails- I promise I won't spam your inbox, but I will send you free stuff, and who doesn't like free stuff?


Have a great weekend and stay safe.




Friday, June 23, 2017

Teachers Don't Have Summers Off

As a teacher it does get tiring hearing that phrase "oh it must be nice having the summers off"  Yes , it is nice, but I really don't have my summers free.  Sure I do sleep in past that 5:30 alarm clock.  It is nice to sleep till 8:00 or even dare I say maybe 8:45 AM but, my summers aren't spent watching Days of Our Lives, eating Bon Bons and lounging in my pajamas.  My summers are spent working.
The best teacher supplies on Amazon at the best prices

I spend a portion of my summer prepping for the upcoming school year, I may do this in my pajamas while I watch HGTV- I do like me some Fixer Upper.  But, the point is I'm working.  I am printing, laminating, cutting, organizing, prepping and planning for the next school year.

To do all of this I need supplies.  Thank goodness for Amazon Prime.  I don't know how I lived without it.  They had everything I needed to help me get ready for the school year.

I was in need of lamination and cardstock and Amazon had both.  I've looked other places and couldn't find it any place else for a better price. They have so many different colors of cardstock available.

While I was shopping, I also added some more storage bins to my cart.  The Sterelite Clip boxes are my favorite. I have 36 large ones that hold my centers and math program.  Then I have have a variety of smaller ones that hold manipulatives and such.  I may have bought a dozen more. These prices are the best.  I know as I have been buying them for years. Here is what my organization looks like.  I have an old wooden mail sorter that I keep them in.
kindergarten classroom organization using Sterilite clip boxes and a wooden mail sorter
At the end of the school year I also made a list of supplies I would need to stock up on for the next school year.  So, I ordered those too. magnetic tape was one that I always need.  This stuff I really like.  It works great to hold pieces to my white board.  I have even put it on things that are laminated and they still stay up.
Sharpies was another item on my list.  I like to have a variety of colors.  It has been a few years since I have bought colored sharpies and the ones I have now have dried out.

Although I have listed my paper cutter below.  I did not buy this today.  I actually bought it in September, but thought I would add it incase some of my readers are in the market for a new one.  It took a while to get used to the paper guide, but I like how it cuts.  The blade is sharp.

Please note that affiliate links are listed below. Any money I make from these links goes directly back to my classroom.




This last item I'm sharing becasue it is an AMAZING deal.   You get 6 of these cases if you need storage for centers. I used to use these when I scrapbooked.  They are sturdy and are bigger than the clip boxes.  Seriously, I think I need to go back and order these too. Who knows how long this price will last!!!

I'll admit it is dangerous to just be able to click and shop, but I love the convenience of it and the prices rarely can be beat.  I'll be back with more Amazon steals and deals before school starts.  Don't work too hard.  I may go try to enjoy the pool, if the husband is done mowing the lawn.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How Parents Can Help With Reading Fluency

Imagine it is the beginning of the school year, you've just assessed all of your kindergarten kids and guess what, only a few know some of their letters.  Are you surprised?  Not me.  I teach at a Title 1 school, so only my students who are coming to me from our TK classroom or Headstart will have letter ID and even then they have been out of school for 12 weeks so they may have forgotten some. My job is to have them fluent in letter names, sounds, sight words,  CVC words and nonsense words by June, ummm- OK- sure.
How Parents Can Help With Reading Fluency: Get parents involved at home for just a few minutes a night supporting their children on the road to reading success.
So why is fluency so important? Fluency is the bridge between word recognition and comprehension.  Readers who have difficulty decoding words will have a much harder time comprehending the text.   They will be spending all of their time focusing on the decoding rather than understanding the meaning behind the words they are so desperately trying to read.

How does one become fluent? With practice- just as if you were learning a foreign language, you need to practice to become fluent.  Reading is no different.  Children need to practice reading and reading orally helps children to become fluent readers.  Having parents help at home in the process from the very beginning helps set the foundation to a successful educational journey.  If I can send my kids off to first grade reading fluently at grade level, then I know I've given them the skills they need to succeed as readers.  They won't be struggling with the decoding,  they will be focussing on the text and their parents will have helped in the process and hopefully will continue to help in the years to come.

Alright back to my first week of school and my kids who I've just assessed. So now what?  Where do I begin? I start at the beginning and I include the parents in the process.  Luckily for me our back-to-school night is usually the second week of school.  This gives me the opportunity to explain my expectations to the parents of how they will be helping their child at home and how it will only take a few minutes of their time each night. I start with the Letter Naming Fluency Homework.
Letter Naming Fluency Homework: improve your Dibels Scores
Here is how it works- as the child reads the letters the parent circles the letters read correctly, then they sign it at the bottom.  

This paper does two things 
1- it tells me if the parent is helping their child at home.
2- it is letting the parent know what their child needs help with. 

If the child know all of their letters but doesn't know all of their sounds- I send home the First Sound Fluency Homework it is the same format. 
First Sound Fluency Increase your Dibels scores
Once we've gone through our alphabet for letters and sounds, which is our first trimester we move onto sight words. However, depending on the class, I often start sight words sooner becasue they are ready for them.  Last year I had many students on sight words in the first trimester becasue they knew all the letters and sounds. Sight words is the same format.  

My parents are familiar with it and know what to do.   My students love it becasue it is easy for them.  In the beginning it starts out with the words we have already been learning since the first week of school- I, like, my...
sight word fluency:Increase you students reading fluency
By then end of the second trimester we are ready for C-V-C words.  If I still have some students who need sight word practice they might get both for homework. Being that it only takes a few minutes to do both half pages parents don't seem to mind.

Although some of these programs are listed as 25 or 36 week programs obviously  you couldn't do all programs end to end in a school year.  What I do is skip pages in between.  I might do page 7a,7b and 9c, 9d in a week just to give variety.  You can go as fast or as slow as you need to.  You can have students on different pages as needed as well.  Make it work for you!
C-V-C Word Fluency:increase your students reading fluency with nightly homework
Last in my series of nightly reading homework comes the Nonsense Fluency Homework.  My kids love these.  This really shows me if they have phonemic awareness or not. Can they really read cvc words without sounding and blending each letter? 
Nonsense Word Fluency: Increase your Dibels scores
Now some of you might be thinking well, my kids don't have people to help them with homework or their parents are just signing it.  Yes this happens and here is how I address this.  For the parents that just sign it or if I think they are just signing it.  I assess the kids.  Kids are honest and will tell you.  "My mom just signs it I don't actually read it"  #kidstellthetruth 

I call the parents and let them know that I can see they are working at home with their child each night and I really appreciate it.  Then I tell them, that when I am assessing their child at school it isn't transferring.  They aren't able to show what they know at home at school, and ask them to spend a few more minutes each night working with their child.  i offer a few more examples of how to work with their child.  Most parents are receptive and are willing to put in the time.  Of course they won't admit they haven't been working with their child. Some might say they didn't understand what to do, but the majority will step up.  

Now for those few who don't have someone.  I either pull them aside  a few times a week, get a volunteer or sometimes I have had another student in class be their peer buddy.  It only takes a minute, that is the beauty of it.

So, if you like what you see, you can grab all 5 of these in a big bundled value set in my TpT store.
Building Reading Fluency Bundle for Kindergarten: great for creating that home to school connection or use in class for RTI
Still not sure-  Sign up for my emails and receive a 3 week sample of the Letter Naming Fluency pack to try out with your classroom.
Need more proof, here are what a few teachers
who used these products have said.


Have questions- I'm just an email away.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

End of the Year Clean Up Time

It's that time of year when teachers are cleaning up their classrooms, packing up and saying so long kids. Many teachers, like me, like to get a jump on next year.
end of year classroom cleaning, the best tools to get the job done

What does that mean, it means cleaning all the dirt and grime off of everything that has accumulated over the last nine months of school.  How do those crayon containers manage to get that dirty?  Have you ever wiped the edge of a table? Let's talk dust- isn't it amazing how much dust accumulates over the course of a school year on your desk? How is that even possible with all the things piled on it as a protective layer.  Yuck?

So the big question is where do you begin?  My first reaction is to close the door and run screaming,  because seriously I have way too much stuff.  My second gut reaction is to pull the fire alarm or pray the maybe it will all just vanish becasue the cleaning fairy will have come- that really did happen one time-  not the fire alarm, but the cleaning fairy. It was Open House and a parent came in to help me clean things up and wipe things down.  #loveher.  I've tried to keep those areas clean since then.

So back to where do we start.  Pick one area and work on it until you are satisfied with it.  Don't move about the room working in different spots.  This will cause you to just make big messes in all areas. This is my to do list for the summer, some of which I have already completed

  • Organize class library: Add new books- take out old ones, add labels to missing books (done)
  • Organize math program into containers (done)
  • Organize Literacy program into binders (done)
  • Go through math shelves-purge math centers no longer use
  • Go through file cabinet-purge
  • Craft drawers- purge the unused items
  • Housekeeping/dress-up downsize items
  • Teacher manuals resource books purge
As I work I use my tables; one is the donation table, one is the dumpster table and one is to give to someone or someplace specific.   Once the area is clean, I wipe it out with a disinfectant wipe.  Then I put the items I'm keeping back and admire my work.   

So that takes care of the inside of my classroom clutter, but then there are the items that the kids use that need to be REALLY cleaned, like the table caddies , the scissors and other containers.  People are always asking how to get crayon off, even our custodian was saying he couldn't get it off my floor, then I showed him the Mr. Clean magic eraser- and like Magic- it erased the crayon.  The dishwasher will not melt the crayon off of your containers.  It may disinfect them, but they will still LOOK dirty.  I soak mine for about five minutes in hot soapy water.  Really that isn't even necessary, but might as well get the washing party started.  Then I wet the eraser and start wiping away the crayon- rinse and wipe more if necessary.


Scissors, glue tubs and even glue sponges have all been washed in the dishwasher and are all waiting back at school.  Glue sponges I did wring out in hot soapy water a few times by hand first just to get all of the glue out before running through the dishwasher.  My chair pockets came off the last week of school, were washed and they too are back at school.  When I return in August.  I won't have to clean anything, and I didn't have to bring it home for the summer.  I did it all the last week.

So what tools do you really need to clean your room

Mr. Clean Erasers

  • containers
  • dry erase boards
  • floors
  • walls
  • helps to remove label residue 

Windex

  • mirrors
  • window

Kids and Pets (find it at Walmart in the cleaning section



Goo Gone and a Scraper

  • remove labels
  • remove tape
Now it is your turn- Do you have some tips to share for cleaning your classroom at the end of the year?  I'd love to hear them.  I'm always on the lookout for anything that can save me time and keep my classroom clean in the process.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

How To Use Smelly Markers As A Sensational Incentive

Scentos Smelly Markers are Magical!!!  If you want to motivate students to work faster, to write neater or do their personal best, dangle the carrot of the smelly marker when they finish.  For some reason students are willing to work for that scented happy face or star drawn on their paper when they are finished.
The magical incentive of the smelly marker: How to use Scentos markers in your classroom to motivate students to work quicker, harder and quieter.
Here Is How I Do It
Once I have explained the assignment and send my students back to their tables. I retrieve a Scento's Smelly Marker from my desk.  Each day I change the incentive.  Of course I'm always looking fore everything but my students don't know that.  Once students are seated I tell them what I am looking for.  It may be I am only marking the first 10 students who are done, or perhaps only those who have the neatest handwriting, or they must have ALL of their math problems correct on the first try.  This helps to eliminate those who are trying to be the first ones done.  Little do they know everyone gets something on their paper with the marker.  I want all students to feel successful.  Even if they are the last to finish.  Just last week I had a student who was so proud to get that star becasue he finally finished a paper.  Something he never does.  He kept showing everyone his paper and saying "I finished it!"  I don't think finishing would have meant as much without that big smelly star.
Scentos Markers: the Magical classroom incentive to get students to worker harder, quicker and quietly
Another trick I use is the quiet game.  If they are quietly working I will put a tally mark on their paper with the marker in the corner.  If they make it to five they can draw their own star with the marker when they have finished.  If it is a short assignment I may just put 3 dots on their paper, you get the idea.  Either way, they are working hard for the opportunity to use those markers.

I like to change up the the color-flavor-smell of the marker I use as each student has their favorite,  including this teacher.  I love the raspberry and the black licorice.

Using the Scentos markers is such a quick motivational tool to use in my classroom, that when I forget my students actually remind me.  If you haven't tried it I suggest you do.  You can find them almost anyplace, Walmart, Target, Michaels, Grab a pack or two and have fun.  If you have other ways you use them in your room, leave them in the comments below.  I know there are a bunch of great ideas out there, these are just a few ways I use them on a daily basis.

Also be sure to follow Scentos on Facebook and Instagram, they do lots of giveaways and share some great ideas of how to use all of their products.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Wonderful World of Plants in Kindergarten

It's Spring time and that means it is time to start teaching my class all about the wonderful world of plants.  I gathered the supplies I needed over the weekend; plastic cups, a large bag of soil and green bean seeds.  I'll soak the seeds overnight before we plant them.  This is an old farmers trick snd it seems to really help the seeds take off and sprout much faster.
All about the wonderful world of plants.  2 Freebies to jumpstart your unit of plants for kindergarten
Below are (affiliate links) to many of my favorite books that we will be reading.  I like to have a variety of fiction and nonfiction books available for my students to read and browse through during our plants unit.

We will also be reading the book Tops and Bottoms and sorting the vegetables using the cards from my plants pack.  Below is a picture of a sorting activity we made last year  of what plants need.
Plants vocabulary cards for anchor charts and sorting
Plants vocabulary cards for anchor charts and sorting
Well if you made it this far, you may want this little FREEBIE. If you have a nice big window you can plant seeds in sprout houses. All you need are cotton balls and small ziplock bags. Print the spout houses on construction paper. Let the kids decorate them. Soak the seeds overnight.   Wet the cotton balls, then squeeze out the excess water. Add a few seeds with two cotton ball to the bag, zip it closed. Tape the bag to the back of the sprout house. Then tape it to the window. Watch the seed sprout in the bag as the bag creates its own water cycle. You can grab your own copy here.   This is a fun activity if you want to compare how plants grow in dirt versus the bag, or if you just don't want to mess with dirt.
Free sprout house for planting seeds to watch them grow.
Lastly, here is one more Freebie for you.  Once you have planted your seeds and you have watched them grow, have your students write about the process.
 How to grow a plant FREEBIE

Happy planting!!!!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why Teachers Need Their Teacher Tribes

Teachers, take a close look at your colleges, do they want the same things for your student as you do?  Do they share the same passions and interest for teaching as you do?  I'm sure they truly do care about their students and teaching or most of them wouldn't be doing what they do.  But, do they (really) have that underlying craving for teacher engagement like you do.? I know you do or you wouldn't be here reading this right now.
Teacher Engagement at the French Lick 2017 Blogger Meetup
There are two types of teachers;  those that teach and those that TEACH (Teachers Engaging All Children Happily).  It means they are excited to engage their students.  For those of us who TEACH, we need more from our professional developments that our district offers.  We don't need another PD day where we analyze DIBELS data or look over yet another adopted curriculum.  We need to be inspired by others who are like minded.  We need to be surrounded by other teachers who feel the same way about teaching as we do.
T.E.A.C.H Teachers Engaging All Children Happily
This is why I am willing to travel 2,500 each way across the country for the weekend each year, just to be with other educators who are just as passionate about teaching as I am.  The weekend puts me in a room filled with other teachers who aren't afraid to "Think Different" be different and teach differently all to engage the students.  

This past weekend.  I connected with educators from all over the United States and Canada, sharing ideas, swapping stories and laughing a lot.  It is important for teachers to find their tribe, if you can't find it within the walls of your school, look elsewhere, perhaps another school, online in a Facebook group or message board.  Wherever it is, know that there are others like you that feel the same passion you do for teaching.  Don't be discouraged by those who you work with, close your door and do your thing.  Do what makes you happy.  Remember, a happy teacher makes a happy class.



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