Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bright Ideas: Coffee Filters

It's time for a Bright Idea.  This month I tailing about coffee filters- I buy them at the Dollar Store not because I need them for my coffee maker, but because they are really handy in a classroom.

Whenever we are having a snack in class I just grab a stack of the coffee filters.  It is quick and easy and much more economical than a bunch of napkins or paper towels.

I bet you thought I was going to tell you all about some cutsey craft you could make with these?  Yes they are great for crafts too. I've used them to make Earth Day projects.
Believe it or not there are a lot of cute things you can do with coffee filters just go to Pinterest and type in coffee filter crafts.  You'd be amazed.

If you enjoyed my Bright Ideas post please consider following me on BloglovinFacebook or Instagram.  

Please visit the other Bloggers who are sharing Their bright Ideas.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Caterpillars to Butterflies

Sometimes I feel like my little kindergartners are caterpillars at the beginning of the school year, then as the year progresses they grow and grow and finally in spring they turn into butterflies AKA 1st Graders.

Can you tell how much I really enjoy this time of year.  We are in full swing to Spring in our room. Our caterpillars arrived last Wednesday and already they have doubled in size.  We are learning all about butterflies and plants and Earth day too.  Everything seems to be occurring all at once.  Our caterpillars from insect Lore arrived last week, they have tripled in size already.  This picture was taken on Friday.  They are much bigger than this now.
caterpillars, insect lore

To start I've been reading a few of my favorite books to the class.  You can all of these on Amazon.  I really like the Seeds of the Milkweed.  It is a fun, repetitive text that builds.  The book was created by a second grade class.
We have also been reading my latest emergent reader from my All About the Butterfly pack.  It is similar to the reader in my Look at the Butterfly pack, but the new reader has more text to read.  When I showed my original version to my teaching partner she thought it was too simple.  I had to agree.  When I made it a few years ago, it was just right for those kids.  The group I have now are reading machines.
This week we are working on butterfly mobiles.  This is also included in my All About Butterflies packet.  We watercolored all 4 pieces .  We will cut them out, attach the yarn and hang in our classroom.  They will look fabulous for open house next week.  I'll take pictures when they are assembled and share on Instagram and Facebook.
butterfly mobile
kindergarten science
We are also working on writing our own versions of the life cycle of the butterfly.  We are writing to picture prompts and then will assemble each page into a book.

This week we are also planting green beens and learning about ways to protect the Earth- We are so busy and the week is  only half over.  If you have other books about caterpillars and Butterflies, please share with me.  I'm always looking for new books.

Have a great rest of the week!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Why I Give Homework in Kindergarten

homework in kindergarten

You might see this and think homework in kindergarten, what has the world come to.  There are several reasons I give homework.
  • I am required to do so
  • It provides practice
  • It build routines.
  • Parents expect it

I'm Required to Give Homework
Our district has a policy that requires teachers to give homework.  However, it doesn't say how much or how often, just that we have to.  I am fine with that.  My children attended school in the district I teach in and rarely did I ever feel that a teacher gave too little or too much.

Homework Provides Practice
Homework gives my students practice on skills we have been working on at school.   Never do I give homework that contains skills we haven't focussed on.  I also use homework as a way to revisit skills that have been taught but might need a refresher. Homework also keeps the parents informed about what we are learning.

Building Routines
Homework builds routines.  Why not start at an early age having students get into the practice of coming home from school, having a snack then sitting down to do homework, read a book or work on reading fluency.  Homework should not take a long time, especially in kindergarten, but it should be providing students with practice.  Students should be practicing their reading, their writing and basic math skills. daily.  If we build in the expectation of having homework, they won't be so shocked when they move into the older grades and have homework.

I will say I am not in favor of the weekly homework packet.  I know teachers like it because it makes their life easier,  BUT does it make the life of their students' or their parents' easier.  What happens when they get that packet and forget about it until the night before it is due.  There they are rushing to finish all of it.  I can tell you from experience no one is enjoying it.  How do I know this- well, when my daughter was in kindergarten we had the weekly packet.  I tried to be a good mom and set up routines, but my kid has always been smart and knew she could put it off.  There w'ed be Thursday night trying to finish it up.  Fast forward to first grade.  This teacher sent it home nightly.  At first I was annoyed, but then after a few weeks I saw the beauty of nightly homework. It didn't take long, it was just something we did after school each day, then back into the backpack it went.  It was building in a time we spent together reading, talking about school and giving her the opportunity to show me what she was learning. That stress of trying to finish it up and the tears of being too tired- mostly from me. were gone.

Parents Expect It
At least for me, my parents expect it. Although  I teach at a Title 1 school, my parents know that homework is part of the kindergarten routines.  I provide homework that my students can do mostly on their own.  My homework is formatted in such a way that the parents can help their child easily.  From time to time parents will come in before school or attach a note saying they didn't understand.  I make sure to stop and explain it to them or write it out in a note so they do understand.  I also make sure to check in with that student and go over what it was they didn't know how to do.

One of my parents told me they like the homework because it is helping them to learn to read in English too.  This just about brought me to tears.  To think that my little homework is also helping a mom, who in turn will be able to better help her child…

How Do I Get Students to Do Homework
I have about a 98% return rate on homework.  I believe the reason my return rate is so high is due to the nightly procedures.  I am the only teacher out of our five kindergarten rooms that gives nightly homework.  I also have the highest return rate.

Now, I will admit, that I go ALL OUT when it comes to homework, I want my kids to be excited about learning, I want them to rush home and show their families what they have learned.  To help promote this positive attitude towards homework and learning, I give my students a Kindergarten Homework Binder.  I've used binders for years, they last all school year and don't get ruined as easily as those paper folders.  I provide my students with flash cards for letters, number and sight words, an alphabet chart, a phonics chart and list of sight words.  I also provide them with a book bag for the week that contains 5 books.

Before I give these all to the kids, I talk about them.  I talk abut how important they are, how special they are and how they MUST take care of them.  Then after back-to-school night, where I give that same talk to the parents, I give them out.  The kids are so excited.  This year I had a little one yell "YES, FINALLY HOMEWORK" after I gave him his binder.

You can read more about my homework folders and book bags here
Homework Binders
Book Bags-Take Home Reading Program
Managing Daily Homework and Weekly Book Bags

How Do I Select Homework?
Up until last year, I had several resources I was pulling homework from.  Finally I decided to create my own.   I knew which skills I wanted to reinforce at home with my students.  Over the course of this school year, I have developed the monthly Kindergarten Homework.   These of course can also be using for morning work or bell ringers, whatever teachers are calling them.  I copy language arts on one side and math on the other.  This is their homework.  Depending on what we are focussing on I will also add one of my 1/2 page fluency sheets for letters names, numbers, sight words or CVC words.
These 1/2 pages require parental/family help.  Basically the student reads what is on the page, the adult circles the correct responses and signs at the bottom.  These sheets really help my students to improve.  For example when we are focussing on sight words; a parent can immediately see if their child is having difficulty reading the words.  Hopefully they will see this and take this opportunity to work with their child.

Several buyers have asked me if I would bundle my homework packs.  It took some time, but they are all bundled, with the exception of May.  I will include that in the bundle when it is finished.  Here's the good news for you.  I am offering this bundle for a limited time at a discounted price.  If you were to buy each pack individually that would cost you $40.50.  BUT for a limited time you can snag the bundle for $22. The regular price is currently $32, but that price will increase as soon as I add May.   So in a nutshell, this is a a steal of a deal!!!
kindergarten homework, skills for kindergarten
Also I am discounting my Fluency Homework Bundle

Whew apparently I had a lot to say about homework.  I hope your week is off to a great start.  Thank you for reading and following all the way to the end.  I'd love to hear your feedback.  I'm always open to new ideas and suggestions. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Last Chance to Win with Educents and a Freebie

EDITED:   The contest has been extended until Monday Night.  I'm so close to placing in the top 5 .

Today is the big day.  It is the last day of the big Educents giveaway and the last day of the Educents Followers Contest.  Who doesn't like to win.  The store with the most followers wins $250.  This is something I can use, I mean who couldn't.  With two kids in College, this would buy like 1 textbook.
All you need to do is click that picture below, then click the little heart.
Educents, Time 4 Kindergarten, Freebies
THEN Grab my Latest Freebie.  It is a way to say THANK YOU.  These would be so cute hanging in your classroom for Open House or use at the beginning of the year for Back-to-School Night
It is currently only available at Educents.  You will need to scroll to the bottom of my page to find it.  PLEASE be sure to click that orange heart first.
All About Me Mobile,kindergarten, Open House, Back to school

All About Me Mobile,kindergarten, Open House, Back to school

In other news we've started our life cycles unit on plants and butterflies. I hope to post pictures tomorrow.  It is a beautiful sunny day here in northern California.  I plan to get outside a bit before the allergies kick in. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Have You Entered to Win?

Have you entered to win?  There are only a few days left to enter to win $50 from Educents.  This is the time of year when money is tight, or maybe you are already planning for next year and want to get a jump start.  Enter and you just might be picked.   Also, I have reduced the price of my April No Prep Just Print packet.  It is on-sale for only $4.

Can you do me a HUGE favor- can you click over to my Educents page and follow me.  It would mean a lot.  I'm hoping to gain up to 200 follower by Saturday.

Time 4 Kindergartem EducentsApril, No Prep, Kindergarten

Educents Marketplace $50 in Edubucks Giveaway #1 - Kindergarten

A few other items of business.  Hopefully all of you who have requested to join my Pinterest Teacher Board have done so.  If no and you want to know more about it, you can read about it here.
Pinterest, Time 4 Kindergarten

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pinterest for Educators: Let's Collaborate

pinterest for educators, teachers on pinterestHas Pinterest changed the way you teach?  It has for me.  Pinterest has opened up an entire new world to me in the last 3 years that I have been using it.  Next in line after Google, Pinterest is my go-to when searching for something.  Whether I'm searching for new science ideas, classroom decor inspiration or perhaps a new cupcake recipe, Pinterest is the place.  Searching is so simple and the results are never ending.

Do you remember the good old days when you would bookmark a web page because it had something you liked.  Just the other day I watched a family friend bookmark a webpage.  I honestly didn't know that people still did that.  I'm a visual learner, so for me when Pinterest first evolved, it was a dream come true.  I no longer needed to remember what website had that great idea.  Just scrolling through my boards and looking for the picture did the trick.

Fast forward to 3 years later and here I am with 89 boards,  6,300 pins and over 6,000 followers.  So, what does this all mean to you, well I have decided to open up one of my boards and have my readers be part of it.
The rules are simple.
1. Only pin ideas about teaching and education- centers, crafts, science, reading, math…
2. No product pins

If you would like to be a part of this board, just follow me on Pinterest, then email me at with your pinterest user name and email address so I can invite you to the board.  Please put PINTEREST in the subject line of your email.  I can't wait to see all the great ideas you have to share.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saving the Notes and Pictures Students Give Me

My students are always bringing me letters or pictures they have made for me.  The question is what do I do with them.  Years ago I would tape them to the wall or put them on the bulletin board behind my desk.  This created quite a clutter mess.  I needed a solution and decided to make their special notes and pictures into a book.  I needed a place to keep all the notes and pictures students give me.
Keep all your notes from students in a binder
I took a 3 ring binder and added some plastic sleeves.  I made a cover and now I have all my Love Notes in one place.

You can download an editable cover for your Love Notes here.

Don't forget Educents has launched a new part to their website- The Marketplace. I am thrilled to be a part of this new adventure.  You can check out my new store front and enter to win $50 in Edubucks.  Also click the little heart to make sure you follow me.  While you are there, make sure you grab my Freebie.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Educents Marketplace Launch and Giveaway

Have you heard of Educents? I like to think of it as Groupon for educators.  Educents has been huge on the home-school scene for quite a while now.  Over the past year I have worked with the two owners Kate and Kaitlyn and they are two fabulous people.  They, like me are California girls.  I had the pleasure of meeting them in person, last summer in Las Vegas and then again Tuesday at their amazing office in Oakland.  Lets just say I want to work, Their team is creative, energetic and full of amazing ideas.

Educents has launched a new part to their website- The Marketplace. I am thrilled to be a part of this new adventure.  You can check out my new store front and enter to win $50 in Edubucks.  Also click the little heart to make sure you follow me.  While you are there, make sure you grab my Freebie.

Hamilton Buhl Flex-Phones

I love having technology in my classroom, but the noise from 6 Chrome Books, 7 iPads and 2 computers can be LOUD!!!  Headphones are a must.  The problem is it is hard to find headphones that withstand the abuse from kindergartners and that can fit their little heads.
Hamilton Buhl headphones, flex-phones for children
While I was in Atlanta in February, I found these AMAZING headphones form Hamilton Buhl.  When  they asked me if I wanted to test and review any of their products, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.  They sent me two sets of their Flex-Phones. My students love them, they don't pinch or slide down.  They are made from a single piece of EVA foam.  There is no worries of those ear covers coming off-You know what I'm talking about, the kind that are virtually impossible to put back on.
Hamilton Buhl headphones, flex-phones for children
I love that the headphones are available in different colors, they are currently available in red, blue and black.  Another feature to these headphone is the Snap-On Size Adapter.  This is great for smaller children.  It helps to keep the headphone snug on their head, but not tight.
Hamilton Buhl headphones, flex-phones for children
They are called Flex-Phones for a reason.
Hamilton Buhl headphones, flex-phones for children
The sound quality is fabulous and most importantly it never reachers over 85 decibels, this is to help protect developing ears.
Hamilton Buhl headphones, flex-phones for children
Along with the headphones, they sent me the Universal Wireless Induction Speaker for Mobile Phones.
Hamilton Buhl wireless induction speaker.
No wifi configurations, wires or pairing is necessary.  All you need are 3 AA batteries.  Just set your phone on top and the induction system amplifies the sound.  This is great if you want to take music outdoors and don't want to carry your CD player.  The small device makes your music easily portable.  

Hamilton Buhl has so many great products, but by far those headphones are my favorite!!!  I can't wait to order more for my classroom.

IF you are interested in these headphones they can be purchased directly from the company on Amazon.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How Much Money Do Teachers REALLY Spend?

I remember my very first year teaching.  I didn't have a lot of money and I had inherited a classroom full of stuff.  However, it didn't have a rug, and I didn't have the money to buy one.  I somehow managed to convince the manager at the local Walmart to donate some money towards the rug.  I'm not sure if it came from the store or out of his own pocket.  I'm thinking he felt sorry for me. It was Memorial Day and there I was with my 3 year old and my 5 week old baby trying to gather a few things for my classroom.  His generosity helped to provide my 33 students a warm and soft place to sit. Without that carpet, we would have been sitting on the hard, cold tile.

Years later I still find that I am spending a lot of money.   Over the years I have had thousands of dollars either donated by myself, our local Education Foundation or Donor's Choose.  When I sat down to do my taxes this year, I looked at what I was buying, where I was shopping and what was it all for.  This is just a partial list of everything I have bought.

I depend on places like The Dollar Tree, The .99¢ Store, Walmart, Costco and Target for most of my supplies.  You might wonder why would someone need so many things.  I'm here to tell you why.

I teach kindergarten and lets face it, their fingers are EVERYWHERE!!!  Having hand soap and hand sanitizer is a must.  Kleenex is always needed, it helps keep their fingers our of their nose.  I could ask the custodian for a large industrial roll of toilet paper, but kleenex is just easier.  We are usually given 1 box a year but let's be real 1 box lasts about a week.  Paper towels are on my list- yes, we have the big rolls in the machines, but are the absorbent?  No, they are not.  Baby Wipes, we use them to clean our hands after art projects, to clean tables, to clean dry erase boards and sometimes to wipe faces.  Clorox Wipes are a necessity; tables get dirty on a daily basis.  We only have custodial services every other night.  Class room tables need to be cleaned daily and during cold and flu season even more.

Lets look at some of the other things I buy, I choose to buy Teacher Resources.  We are working on Common Core with outdated text books.  If I can't find what I want, I make them.  For this I need Cardstock and Printer Ink.  I wrote several grants for iPads, but I needed Kindergarten friendly iPad cases and headphones.  I use batteries for various classroom items.  My stapler broke as did the pencil sharpener that I had, so I needed those.  I could walk to our office every time I needed to sharpen pencils or staple something, but let's be real, I don't have that kind of time.  I do a lot of work with white boards.  There just aren't enough white board markers for every teacher to have a class set, so I needed to by my own.

Copy Paper is always an issue. We never seem to have enough.  I don't feel that I copy a ton of stuff, but I am big on making books for my kids to read.  This is why I buy copy paper.  I also want my kids to be proficient writers and want them to love writing, so I buy Journal Notebooks.  We have a ton of newsprint, but most teacher will tell you they hate newsprint.  This explains why our supply closet has shelves of it.  You can't erase it because it tears easily.

Looking at that list you might think, how can all that add up to over $1000.00.  Trust me it does, it adds up quickly.  It is easy to toss in a box of kleenex or a pack of lunch sacks into your cart and think, oh it's only a few dollars.  Well, those few dollars add up over time.

As a tax payer you might be thinking why aren't the schools buying what the teachers need.  Trust me, they buy us crayons, construction paper, staples, paper clips, pencils, erasers and glue.  These are the basics that we need, we can't function without the basics, but we have been known to do so on occasion.   There just isn't money to buy the extras like art supplies, storage containers or basic classroom items such as carpet, pocket charts and calendars.

What about the PTA?  Our PTA does what they can, but we are a Title 1 school, We can't ask our families for money; they really don't have it to give.  I depend on our local Education Foundation and Donor's Choose for items like iPads, a learning carpet, cubbies, listening centers and literacy and math manipulatives.  Without donations, my classroom would be barren.  I'd have tables, chairs and the adopted curriculum.  I am very greatful for all the donations I have received over the years.  They truly help to make my classroom a wonderful learning environment.

Continuing Education:
There was a time when conferences were a yearly option.  Each teacher would have the opportunity to attend a big conference sometimes even two.  Now, If I want to learn I must pay for it myself.  For the past two years I have attended The I Teach Kindergarten Conference.  Did I have to go, No, but I wanted to learn from the professionals, meet other teachers and bring back new ideas to implement in my classroom.  Conferences aren't cheap and unfortunately to attend a good conference I must travel.
Some people might look about my classroom and think, well you do have extras, like decorations, fabric covers for tables and counters and bulletin boards, matching stools and tables in the library.  Yes, I choose to buy the fluff stuff too.  I spend a lot of time in my classroom and I want it to look nice.  I want my students to want to spend time at school too.  My classroom is my home away from home.

Speaking off home, how many of you take things from home because you need it in your classroom?  Yep, that's me. I've been known to take cleaning supplies, an old computer and a few bookcases.

I am officially on Spring break and just sent out volume 1 of my Time 4 Kindergarten Newsletter.  You can sign-up to receive it too.  The sign-up is at the top right of my page.  For those of you who have already joined, I hope you enjoyed your free emergent reader about butterflies.  Have a great week.

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