Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School Craftivties-Freebies

During the first full week of school we have 4-6 students a day for testing and orienting them to school. I like to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and do this project.
This link has a detailed post about this project.
Click here for the free sentence frame.

For the first full day with all my kindergarten students, I plan to read The Kissing Hand and do this project.
I have already cut the pieces and glued the wiggly eyes on and organized all the pieces in these kits.
We will do this project together, one piece at a time.

Here is the link for the raccoon pieces. I found them (for free) at TpT in Leilani's store.
I made the writing pages (free), just click here for the link.  The students can draw pictures or cut and glue the pictures provided.

If you plan to read Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten and need a follow-up student activity, visit Peace, Love and Learning. The link to the back to school project is here.

I hope these ideas help you as you plan for the very special first day of kindergarten!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Classroom Photos

For the hallway display, I will print the student names on clear labels and place the labels on the sea animal cut outs.

View from the door

Calendar board, literacy center tubs, and student classroom library books

Calendar board
Tooth graph from Erica-free here.
Birthday cupcakes purchased here.

Wish Fish

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree-pinata with foam sticky letters!

Small Group Area
 Supplies and student mailboxes

Student Work Display

Student Work Display

Math Tubs

Teacher Area on flat file

Reference Board

Word Wall

Whole Group Teaching Area

Teaching Cart

Treats for Open House
The toppers can be found here
and here. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hot Glue, Tape and Magnets

It is so disappointing to spend hours and hours decorating your classroom only to return to school the next day and find most of it has fallen on the floor. Here are some things I have used that have been successful at avoiding that situation:

Stikki Clips-these are plastic clips with a blob of wax on the back. You would use one or two at the top and the same number at the bottom. This was all I used before we were able to use hot glue and it holds very well. You twist it to remove it from the wall.

Blue 3M painter's tape- the best tape I have ever used. It works very well on painted cinder blocks. I use this to put things up and space them correctly, then I go back and use hot glue, but it works well without having to reinforce with hot glue. You can find this at Home Depot (use the solid blue, not the kind with words written on it).

Sticky Tack- use plenty and press hard.

Hot Glue-I have found 2 kinds, hot and cool/cold. It will come off easier if you make lines of the glue and not blobs. Try a small area to test if it will remove your paint. You can use a paint scrapper or a staple remover to get the glue off. If you use your fingernails they will be very sore the next day.

Magnets-they are great for hanging things from the ceiling. If you have tiles with metal brackets then magnets are a way to hang things. I like the magnets pictured above. They are very strong and fit perfectly on the metal brackets. These magnets are purchased 4 in a pack. Before I discovered these magnets, I used the silver metal hooks on round magnets. I found them at Walmart in the hardware department.

Hooks are great to use when you need to display things that need to be removed often. I hang my dismissal information on a hook with a ring. Pictured here is our specials schedule flip book which changes daily. Removal is very simple and clean.

Use a binder clip to hang things you do not want to punch holes in. I use these with my charts. I have two clips and binder clips to hang them.

I have been working in my classroom this week and will have photos soon (if everything stays up)!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Drawing Pictures

Every year I have a couple of students who stand out for drawing amazing pictures. You know those students-they draw hair that flips and bow shaped lips. Do these students just have this special talent? Has a parent or another adult taught them how to draw? Do they just have great mental images and super fine motor skills?
I must admit I am not very good at drawing. I do not have the special talent. I do have good mental images but terrible fine motor skills. When I examine my daughters' drawings, I think it must be talent and practice. They even went through a "learning to draw phase" using videos from YouTube. They all draw way better than I could ever draw.

In my class we use the writing process and the students begin with a picture so they can get ideas from it to write. The last few months of the school year, my students were drawing less and less (but they were still able to write fantastic sentences). Sometimes when they came to me for conferencing, there was no picture at all. They were always surprised when I asked "Where is the picture?". They simply forgot to draw one. I would send them back to draw a picture and they would come back with a circle and some lines for legs and arms. It worried me and I began to wonder why they stopped drawing pictures. Did they just did not want draw anymore?

 I think that we can help students feel more confident about drawing. The illustrations can sometimes be a stumbling block when it comes to the entire writing process. In an effort to spice up their illustrations, I plan to teach drawing mini-lessons sporadically throughout the school year. I did this a few years ago, mostly with animals. I always tell them that they do not have to draw this way, but this is one way to draw it. I would never want to stifle their creativity. I would have them draw the picture, step by step, two times on a dry erase board and then on a piece of paper. They knew to complete the picture with scenery.

I bought a book several years ago that has step by step instructions for drawing pictures. But my favorite place to find the most simplistic instructions is from this website:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Common Core

Last year we were asked often about how our teaching was different using the Common Core standards instead of the state standards we used the previous school year. I really was not sure how to answer the question. When we were told we were changing to the CCSS, I really did not give it much thought. Our state had changed the standards a couple of times in the past 20 years. I knew pacing guides would change, but I was still using the same teaching manuals and materials. I guess it was in February that I realized just how much my teaching had changed. I did not realize that Common Core standards were not only changing what I teach, but also how I teach. Thankfully, my school system provides awesome professional development so this transition has been easy.
As a reflect about my teaching last year and plan for next year, these are just a few differences:

1. Types of Text for Whole Group Reading
 I had so much fun looking for informational texts to supplement my basal book for the week. These books are read differently than when you read literature. When I think about most of the reading I do at home, it is mostly to gain information. Teaching students how to read these books and strategies for comprehending informational text has been the most significant change to date.

2. Listening and Speaking
One of the keys to a great lesson is having every student actively involved. We use response cards and dry erase boards to answer questions. Everyone is participating. The participation now will include more student discussions, sometimes in groups, pairs (turn and share) or individual. I will need to provide lessons about what a good listener looks like (anchor charts and lots of modeling). I know the students will be still actively involved, either as a listener or a speaker, but it will look and sound differently.

3. Depth
"There are fewer standards so your students will have a deeper knowledge about the concepts/topics."
We heard similar statements and I was able to reteach standards many times and teach them a different levels. The "prompting and support" phrase gave me the confidence to guide and support my students through their learning. I was able to provide more scaffolding and not feel as if I was making a lesson or an assignment too easy.

4. Pacing
I did not feel as if I was rushing to get everything taught, especially with mathematics. I was able to slow down and allow the students many opportunities to develop a better understanding. In Kathy Richardson's Developing Number Concepts books, she explains that when children work with a task multiple times they will get more from the task. This means that the first time a student does a task, they are just learning how to do it, not really getting much from it other than that. Instead of teaching a concept and then moving on, we spent more time on a concept and practiced it many times in meaningful ways.

These are just a few changes and I know there will be more this year (close reading, accountable talk)!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Assigning homework to Kindergarteners is a balancing act.
I want to create assignments that are important, but do not cause too much stress for the parent and child or take up a lot of their family time.

 I try to accomplish these goals:
- practice skills that I have taught, but are best practiced with an adult
- help parents to understand the skills their child is learning during the school day
- establish a homework routine 
-take no longer than 5-15 minutes

I have assigned homework daily, weekly, and monthly. Last year I assigned it weekly along with a study guide and reusable sheets with a dry erase marker. This year, the students will receive a monthly calendar and reusable sheets with a dry erase marker.

The calendars look like this:

And the reusable pages look like this:

I send them home laminated and in plastic sleeves taped at the top.
The student will use a dry erase marker to complete the written assignments.
Parents initial the box when the activity was completed and then return the calendar at the end of the month.
The only thing I have to copy is the monthly calendar for each month.

I made calendars for each month and will post the rest of them in August (free).
For the September-May calendars I included the high frequency words for the week in the date section. If anyone is interested, I can include an editable version so you can customize the calendars.
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