Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Cutest Thing Under My Tree

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays with their loved ones and reveling in some much needed R&R. I'm halfway into my break and I feel like a new person.  Sleeping past 5:00 is such a treat!

I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family and there was a whole lot of laughing, gift-giving and merriment.  I have to admit, while I LOVE to give great gifts, the kid in me still also really loves to get gifts. There. I said it.  It just really means a lot to me to know that someone who love knows me knows me so well that they think of just the perfect gift (with the exception of the orange sweater from my mom - really Mom... orange?)  Anyway, my twin sister, Danni, is an avid, talented knitter. Every Christmas brings beautifully handmade mittens, socks, etc. that she spends a lot of time crafting.  While I always appreciate the time and love that go into anything she makes, this year she really hit a home run!  How cute is this scarf she made me?  I already have visions of me on the playground doing recess duty in my new cozy scarf.  It almost makes thinking about going back to school a little less painful to know I'll be all decked out. Almost. Thanks, Dan! 
I hope that the kid in you was thrilled with some heartfelt goodies this holiday season, too!

(Danni, if you're reading this, stop here.)  

To be honest, the scarf was actually the 2nd cutest thing under my tree. First place goes to my sweet Sally.  She likes to curl up near the heat register under the tree and nap amongst the presents. (And drink the water from the tree stand!)  She was and will always be the cutest thing under my tree...
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Business of Sugarplums (Freebie)

It's Sunday night, a week before Christmas and I'm gearing up for a fun and busy week at school.  We go all the way through Friday the 23rd and our administrators like us to keep things "business as usual" as much as possible to keep Holiday Fever at bay.  Try as we may, those visions of sugarplums sneak in and take over - there's nothing quite like the week before Christmas in kindergarten, right?  So, in an effort to merge business with sugarplums, I'm going to stick to my regular schedule and learning routines but do so in the holiday spirit with holiday materials.  I'm not planning any fluff, just meaningful learning, so I think I'm in the clear.  We're learning about many winter holidays and family traditions and I've created a bunch of emergent readers (you might recall that I'm a little obsessed with making my own since there are so few out there to meet the needs of our kiddos) and activities to use throughout the week.  I can use them for shared reading, guided reading and independent reading and I think the kids will really like them.  If you're looking for something to help get you through the week, here's an emergent reader starring the man of the hour, Santa.  I'd love it if you leave a comment and let me know how you're planning on surviving this crazy week!
(If you purchased the original from my TPT store, it is now updated to include extra goodies and you're entitled to a free download so check out the link at the bottom of this post.)

Focusing on other winter holidays, I also created a Hanukkah Emergent Reader and a New Years Emergent Reader available in my TPT store.

Get all three for the price of 2!
Have a great night!

Friday, December 16, 2011

He Did What??

     One of my favorite things about teaching kindergarten is reading the inventive spellings that the kids come up with. One thing I've noticed over the past couple of years is the replacement of "we" with the now popular "wii." Thanks a lot for that, Nintendo!  Well, this week I came across a sentence that should earn a spot in the Inventive Spelling Hall of Fame.
     One of our technology curriculum goals is to "Use a computer to draw illustrations to convey meaning."  So one of my kiddos (we'll call him Fred) has been working on a digital story about going out to eat with his family. Each page describes what a member of his family ordered for dinner.  I bought spaghetti. Mom bought chicken and broccoli. You get the idea...  Well I was already chuckling after reading the page where Fred wrote that his sister bought a booger (burger) when I got to Dad's page and did a complete double take!  He did what?? Fortunately, on second glance, I could see that the object on the table is clearly a S-A-L-A-D so I immediately knew what Fred was really trying to spell.  Otherwise I would have been wondering exactly where Fred and his family went for dinner!  Too funny!!!
    Now here's my dilemma...  I don't usually correct the kids' spellings because I want them to feel totally successful as writers.  Take a look at his work and tell me what you think.  Should I break my rule on this one and help him change it or should I send it home as is?  I would love some advice!
Have a great night!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Some Cheesy Math Stations

     Well, that should pretty much do it.  I have guaranteed that my sister will never go to Target with me again. Ever.  Now keep in mind that this is the same sister that embarrassingly witnessed the theatrics in Target when I spotted the Halloween Boo-Mallows that would perfect for sorting and graphing.  "It's a kindergarten teacher thing."  I explained to her then, after my squealing had subsided.  She wasn't amused then, nor was she yesterday when we were in the same Target and I found Kraft's new "Tis the Chees'n" winter shaped pasta.  As I chuckled at the name and excitedly cleared the shelf not only for my own class but also for the other 3 kindergarten classes (I might have been dancing a little, too) she just ducked her head and mumbled, "A kindergarten teacher thing?"  I mean, come on - little snowmen, snowflakes, boots and candy canes.  How could I not flail around a little??  She rushed to the stationery department to put a little distance between herself and the "crazy kindergarten teacher" while I was already planning the math stations I could come up with.  So, I came home, scanned the pasta shapes and made a Graphing station, an Addition station, a Patterning station and a Spin & Count station.  If you are a fellow "dancing in the aisles of Target" teacher and would like to have some cheesy math fun, you can download the stations below the picture.  Have a "cheesy" evening!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Have You Seen This Great Freebie?

     Happy Holidays from 50 TpT sellers who have come together to create this book as a gift to TpT customers. Each page comes from a different TpT seller and includes a holiday teaching tip or activity and links to one or more freebies.  I spent 2 hours yesterday downloading so many great holiday goodies!  Download your own copy by clicking below the picture.  Many thanks to Rachel Lynette for putting this together!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

An After Turkey Freebie

Hi All!
     I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving with loved ones.  I just got back from a wonderfully gobble-rific weekend full of turkey, adult beverages and insane, middle of the night shopping.  This is going to be a quick post because I did not think about school all weekend so now I'm scrambling to be prepared for the morning.  I put together a quick writing lesson that I thought any of you who are also scrambling for some meaningful post Turkey Day activities might be able to use also.  We're going to brainstorm Thanksgiving  foods and then I'm going to have the kids draw and label what they ate on the big day.  Click below the pic if you'd like a copy.

Don't forget, Teachers Pay Teachers is having their big Cyber-Monday Sale tomorrow (use code CMS28) offering 10% off all purchases, with individual stores offering additional savings!  Click on the button on my sidebar to check out my store.  Everything is an additional 10% off and I have a lot of holiday/winter goodies!

Have a great day tomorrow!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Yummy Thanksgiving Freebie

     We're getting ready for our big Thanksgiving Feast on Wednesday and we've been busy learning about the holiday, making decorations, and planning the menu. For the past few years, we've made these adorable turkey cookies to gobble up for dessert.  The kids love them and they're a lot of fun to make.
    This year, to make the experience more meaningful and to foster our emerging reading and writing skills, I've created some new literacy materials to go along with the project. There's a full-color shared reading book with step by step directions that I'll read before we make the cookies, and pocket chart pictures and a recipe card for the kids to refer to as they are making their turkeys.  Then, there are 2 b&w versions of the student recipe book for the kids to complete and bring home after we've made our cookies.  (Both have pictures of each step for the kids to color, but 1 has words and the other is wordless so the kids can write the steps for the recipe - great for differentiation!)  If you'd like to have some delicious Thanksgiving fun in your classroom this year, grab the recipe kit by clicking below the picture and enjoy!  I'd love to hear how they turn out! Have a great night!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Enough Already!

     Ok, I get it.  Data drives instruction.  Knowing exactly where our students are is absolutely necessary to make sure we are meeting their needs.  I'll go so far as to agree that there is a need for formal assessments to collect such data, even in kindergarten.  It seems like lately however, there is an overabundance of these assessments.  When we are expected to do pre-assessments, post-assessments, formative assessments, summative assessments, random formal mid-unit check-ins (in my district we call them "dipsticks" which is somehow very funny to me) exactly when are we supposed to teach the skills we are assessing?  When did the measure of learning become more important than the learning itself?  What happened to good, old fashioned authentic teacher observation?  For instance...  The district's way: I should sit across a table from a student, let's call her Suzy, and have her count by tens to 100 so I could check off the little box on her checklist.   My way: I know Suzy has a solid knowledge of counting by tens because on the 44th day of school, she had a vein in her neck that I thought was going to burst as she excitedly explained that we only need 6 more straws to make our next bunch and that it would be our 5th bunch and that means it would be our 50th day of school.  Which tells me more about Suzy as a math learner and how well she understands the concept of counting by 10s?  Or...  The district's way: I'm at the table with Suzy again, and I have to flip through alphabet cards as she dutifully tells me the sound each letter makes.  Another check in another box.  My way:  I let Suzy share with the class the 26 page alphabet book she spontaneously wrote during Writers' Workshop that has a picture to match the letter on each page.  (It was a total masterpiece!) Again, I think my way tells me more about Suzy!
     Now, I realize that it's not always as clear as the picture that Suzy paints, and like I said before, I totally see the benefit of official checklists and formal assessment.  On occasion. When needed.  But I guess it is what it is and I'll continue to fill in the boxes and checklists.  But at the same time, I'm just going to be sure to keep my eyes open for the bursting veins and spontaneous masterpieces...
     Phew!  Thanks for listening to my rant.  Are you over-assessed as well?  I'd love to hear how it is in other districts.  I did find time today to do a completely "non-objective based, never-to-be-formally assessed" project that I thought I would share because sometimes you just need to break out the construction paper and glue and get a little crafty.
     We're having a Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday and since I always tell my class that they're a "bunch of turkeys," we're going to wear these adorable turkey hats made from regular birthday hats. Directions and patterns are under the picture.  I hope you and your little turkeys enjoy them!
Have a great night!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Am Not a Turkey!

Good Morning!
     Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and because it's part of our Social Studies curriculum, I try to squeeze as many math and literacy activities as possible into the weeks leading up to it.  Some of my earliest TPT listings are Thanksgiving activities and looking back at them, I've decided to update some of them.  (I'm also almost ready to post my new Thanksgiving Unit and I would love some proofreaders - see note below.) One of my most popular products is my "I Am Not a Turkey" emergent reader which is a great companion to the famous, "Turkey in Disguise" project.  I've just updated it to follow the format of the new emergent readers that I've been obsessed with making for my class. (Grab the Fall is Here freebie from an earlier post.)  Now there is the matching b/w student version, pocket chart pictures and three student worksheets in addition to the original large, full-color shared reading version. If you have purchased this emergent reader in the past, you are entitled to a free download of the new version - so hop over to TPT and grab your new, improved version!

Note: I'm looking for 2-3 people to proofread my new Thanksgiving Unit before I post it later today. If you have time to look at it in the next hour or so and get back to me with any thoughts or suggestions before 3:00ish, I'll send you the unit for free in exchange for your help.  Just send me a quick email if you can help me out - Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who offered to proofread for me - it's great to have such helpful readers!  Stay tuned this week for some freebies from the new unit!
Have a great night!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

50th Day Goodies

     I can't believe we're getting ready to celebrate the 50th day of school.  It feels like we just started!  We don't do much for the 50th Day (compared to the extravaganza on the 100th) but I like to do a few fun games during math time.  Help yourself to any that you might be able to use on your 50th day!
     First, we'll let the world know that we're 50 days smarter with some colorful badges.  I usually have the kids glue them onto a sentence strip to make a crown or punch a hole and add some string to make a necklace.
     Then, we'll play a game that's always a favorite - Race to 50.  It's played in pairs and each partner chooses a different color crayon to use.  Taking turns rolling a die (or 2 dice if you're kids are ready for that) the kids color in the number of squares on the game board that matches the number that they've rolled. How fast can they get to 50?  Be prepared for a noisy math time!
     Next, when we need to restore a little peace and quiet, we'll end the day with a search and color activity.  There are 50 shapes inside the number 50.  First, the kids color in the shapes according to a color chart (hearts are red, etc.) then they count and record the number of each shape that they've found.
     I hope your first 50 days have been fabulous!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Falling for Fall

     Assessments and Committee Meetings and Freak October snowstorms (17 inches in Connecticut in October?!?) - Oh. my!  It's been a little crazy around here but I'm glad things have settled down a bit so I can spend a little more time in Blog Land!
     Despite the temporary cameo appearance by some winter weather last week, we are enjoying a beautiful Fall here in Connecticut.  There is nothing like Fall in New England (I sound like a Board of Tourism commercial, but it's true!)  My commute to school keeps my in the car for about 3 hours a day and I can be a big baby about it, but not in the Fall.  Driving home from school on Friday I looked around at the lovely tree-lined parkway I travel on and it was just stunning!  How's this for a view to keep the commuter woes away?
     In celebration of the season, I thought I would share something autumnal.  One of the biggest struggles I have is trying to get all of our science and social studies content covered in such a tight schedule.  As teachers have been doing for ages, I often combine my math and literacy activities with this content to get it all in.  Since my latest educational obsession undertaking has been creating emergent books that even the most "emerging" readers can access (there are so few good ones out there...) I've been working on some that cover science and social studies themes.  I use a large full-color version for shared reading, a smaller black and white version for the kids to put in their book boxes for independent reading and another small version with missing text for the kids to practice writing the sounds that they hear.  Matching pocket chart cards go in a literacy station and comprehension and phonics worksheets come in handy for skills practice (and to give the kids something to work on while I'm trying to get my assessments done.)  Let me know if you like this one, I have some others I can post if you think that you'll use them!
Have a great night!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

For Sally and From Sally

For Sally . . .
     Many of you know that I have a sweet beagle named Sally who is just the BEST thing ever!  I adopted her about 4 years ago from an amazing rescue organization, Help Orphan Puppies.  (Who can resist Orphan Puppies?)  One of the best things about HOP is that they accept ALL puppies into the program, regardless of medical need, injury or special need. (To think that some rescues would not have accepted Sally because she is blind and considered "unadoptable" just breaks my heart!)  As you can imagine, this leads to some pretty big vet bills!  I just spent the day at a fundraising picnic with a bunch of HOP adopters and their furry friends.  It was great to see so many happy dogs and their "Forever Families" and raise some money for the organization that helps so many dogs (and their people) find the loves of their lives.  In honor of Sally, I am putting everything in my TPT store on sale from Sunday - Tuesday and donating all of the proceeds to HOP.  If you are a dog lover who would like to help, check out my store tomorrow!  You can also make a donation directly to HOP by clicking on the link above.

From Sally . . .
     As a shout out to all of you dog lovers (especially those of you who have adopted from a rescue) this freebie is from Sally.  I know I "humanize" her way too often (do you talk to your dogs and wait for an answer too or is it just me?) but I would like to think that she wants to say thanks for spreading love to the puppies in your lives.  It's an emergent reader called My Dog, and it includes a large, full color version for shared reading and a small, black and white version for independent reading.  Enjoy!
Thanks in advance to anyone who contributes to HOP by shopping at my TPT store over the next 3 days. If you make a purchase, please leave me a comment below so Sally and I can send you a "thank you." I'll post an update later in the week to let you know how much money we've raised.  

Have a great night!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thank You!

What a great way to end my week!  I got an email from Kristy over at Work Smart not Hard Teaching Kindergarten giving me an "I Heart Your Blog Award."  She has a great blog and it's awesome to be recognized by someone so talented and generous.  Thanks for the smile, Kristy!

Now for the hard part, choosing my favorites to pass the award along to. Many of my choices have already received the award, but here are a few more that I Heart...

Also, I'd like to send a belated thank you to Melissa at Hop Into My Life for awarding me the Versatile Blogger Award. (Do you all find it incredibly hard to keep up with blogging now that the school year has started?  It seems like I'm always behind on reading comments and getting new posts up - sorry!)  Check out Melissa's site, she has some really cute ideas!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pete to the Rescue!

     Well, after two and a half weeks of school, I am really getting to know my class well and their strengths and challenges are emerging.  They are VERY energetic but they are also very eager to learn.  One thing that is definitely going to be a focus for us this year is fine motor practice. Pencil grasp, cutting skills and control while writing are all over the place and are going to need some work.  Going hand in hand with this is the biggest pet peeve of many a kindergarten teacher - shoe tying.  Not one of my kids this year can tie their own shoes.  Care to guess how many shoes I tied yesterday?  I actually counted.  23!  I am not a fan of velcro shoes because I think every child should learn to tie their own shoes, but boy was I wishing for some yesterday.
     So, I decided I needed a plan to motivate the kids to learn to tie their own shoes.  Enter our current obsession - Pete the Cat!  Capitalizing on my class's love for all things Pete, I came up with Pete's Shoe Tying Club.  I'm going to send home a note from Pete inviting all of the kids to practice tying their shoe at home so they can join his club. When the kids can show me that they can tie their own shoes, they will become a card-carrying member of Pete's Club!  A certificate with their name will go up on the Pete's Club wall, they will get a membership badge and they will get to choose a new pair of fancy shoelaces.  I hope Pete will be the champion I need him to be so I can sing, "I love your tied shoes, I love your tied shoes..." If you think Pete can help you out with the Curse of the Untied Shoes, grab your kit below.
    If you have any tips to help my kiddos learn to tie their shoes, please leave a comment to help me out!
Have a great night!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Giveaway Winners

Just a quick post to congratulate the winners of my "Life is Good" giveaway.  Congrats to first place winner Allison from Room Mom 101 who will receive a custom made classroom sign.  For second place winner Tessa from Spotlight on Kindergarten and third place winner Kelly B - a set of pencil buckets are all yours.  Just send me an email and we'll set up arrangements for you to get your prizes.  Thanks to everyone who entered. I appreciate your kind words and the time you spend reading my blog.  Stay tuned for some cute freebies in the next day or two...

Friday, September 16, 2011

A "How-To" And A "Ha-Ha"

     First, the "Ha-Ha."  One of the things that makes me laugh the most is when one of the kids sees something with their unobstructed, five-year-old view of the world and then says something so completely unfiltered and true.  For example...  Last weekend I got my hair colored (a few too many grays have been popping up lately!) and cut, but it was really just a trim and barely noticeable.  One of the girls in my class noticed the change however and asked me if I had gotten a haircut.  Pretty impressed with her observational skills, I told her that yes, I had.  After a sweet compliment from her, one of the boys (who is super literal, btw) standing nearby chimed in, "You did?"  He looked and looked at me, trying to see a difference then said, "What did you do, just cut out the white ones?"  I was rolling on the floor!  Note to self - don't go so long before heading to the salon next time!
    Now for the "how-to."  I promised a little tutorial on how to make the sign I have on my classroom door.  (Click here to enter my giveaway if you'd like a chance to win one for your classroom - you have 'til Sunday.)  
     It's super easy.  You can do it in Powerpoint or Notebook software (and probably a bunch of others but these are the ones I know).  I started by inserting a shape, a big black circle in the middle of my page.  Then, I added a text box with a large font with the word "kindergarten."  Just make sure you have the text box formatted as "no fill" and the background will stay transparent.
     Then, I changed to a smaller font and added a text box for each child's name - the quickest way is to choose a color for your first name (let's say pink) and cut and paste it three or four times so your font size stays the same.  Then change the name in the duplicates so you now have four pink names.
     Change one of these to your next color and repeat.  You can rotate the text boxes and scatter them all over the circle. (I had to play a little to get them evenly spaced.)
     When I had those all positioned I went to even a smaller font and using the same cut & paste/color change trick as above, I added "kindergarteny" words like reading, crayons, recess, etc. Scatter those and ta-da!  All done.
     Then, save your page as a jpg and you're ready to print.  Make sure that you save it with a high resolution if you're planning on blowing it up to poster sized.  I had mine done at Walmart - who knew they made posters in their one-hour photo centers?  It was only 10 bucks and totally worth it I think!  If you give it a try and have any questions, let me know, I'd be happy to help.  I'd love to see a picture when you're done!   Happy Creating!