Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Picture This...

     As kindergarten teachers, we know how important it is to give our kids lots of picture clues as they wander through the confusing world of words and sentences.  Using materials with pictures that clearly illustrate the text provides our emerging readers with the support they need to be successful. I’ve been on a mission for the last couple of years to find and/or make materials that do exactly that.  I had so many really adorable signs and posters that made my classroom look really cute, but that weren’t too helpful as visual aids.  So, I’m slowly replacing them with resources that are more supportive but just as cute.
     I’m especially excited about my new rules posters.  Like I did with my job chart last year, I tried my hand at some clipart and I love how the posters came out! The pictures show what the expected behavior is for each rule, and I think they will really help the kids connect with my expectations.  (And we all know that if we don’t nail it down in the first few weeks we’re in for a long year!)  I’m going to do the ol’ hang them on a ribbon trick and put them somewhere that’s easy to see.

 Adorable Classroom Rules Posters with pictures that really illustrate expectations.

   I just posted them to my TPT store if you want to check them out.  I’ll put them on sale until Friday so if you’re an impulse shopper like I am, you’ll get a deal.  I’ll send a free set to the first three people who comment down below!
Have a great night!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Class of 2026 - Yikes! (Freebie)

Howdy!  I'm just poppin' in for a minute to post a freebie. A lot of people have been asking for updated backpack tags to give the kids on the first day of school. Can you believe that the incoming kids are going to be the class of 2026! If you laminate the tags you can do a bunch of different things with them. (I punch a hole and add a binder ring to make backpack tags.) There are some other ideas down below. Just click on the pic if you want to grab a set. Enjoy!
Free Backpack Tags from Peace, Love and Learning
Have a great night!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Rewind Part 3 - Thinking & Talking About Books

     I'm back with the next Summer Rewind idea that I wish I had shared during the year but didn't.  Taking a look back at the year, I think one of the most important reading units we tackled was our "Thinking and Talking About Books" Unit. Sometimes there is such a rush to get our kids decoding, decoding, decoding that stopping to really think and talk about books is often put on the back burner.  This is such an important part of growing our little readers (especially with the new Common Core Standards), that I knew I had to beef up my unit this year. The CCSS expects you to provide prompts and support as students learn to sustain conversations, so I added lots of visual support for my little emerging readers and boy, what a difference it made!  The kids had the most amazing conversations about what they were reading, both with me during conferences and with their peers during partner work. Take a look and see if there's anything you can use to help your kids really deepen their understanding of the books they read and further develop their comprehension skills.

     During the unit, I tried to use really juicy books that were filled with things to think and talk about. (Some that worked really well were: This is Not My Hat, Chrysanthemum, William's Doll and Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon.)

     First we gradually built this anchor chart, adding the prompts as they were introduced one at a time.  The simple, kid-friendly icons were a great reference for the kids who couldn't access the text yet, and we used them for the rest of the year as visual clues.
Thinking & Talking About Books - Freebie from Peace, Love & Learning

     Once the kids had become familiar with the prompts, they practiced in partnerships.  Rolling the "Roll and Talk" cube, they used the picture clue that they rolled to launch their talk.  These conversations were so amazing and pretty funny to listen in on. I also gave the kids bookmarks with the pictures clues to keep in their book boxes and use during independent reading and they did a great job referring to them.
Thinking & Talking About Books - Freebie from Peace, Love & Learning

     Finally, once the kids were experts at really thinking about their reading, I transitioned some new Reader's Response sheets that reflected our new learning into the Read Along/Listening Station. I used a vertical hanging folder pocket chart to store the sheets, and the kids could choose which one they wanted to use to write about their thinking.
 Thinking & Talking About Books - Freebie from Peace, Love & Learning
All in all, I was really impressed with and proud of the work my kids did during this unit.  Their talks were both silly and sophisticated, in that way that only kindergartners can pull off.  I'm looking forward to tweaking the unit a little more and rolling it out again this year.  If you think you can use any of these resources, click the last picture above to grab the whole bundle.  Leave a comment if you have any ideas that I can add to my unit this year or just to let me know what you think . . .

Have a great night!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Bunch of Bradys and A Pair of Freebies

     OK . . . so this post is going to totally date me and I hope that at least some of you will understand the following Brady Bunch reference.
     My district is adopting a new Math curriculum to try to be more aligned with the Common Core.  We're switching from Everyday Math to Math in Focus.  Changing to a new curriculum can be a challenge for sure, but in the words of the Brady Bunch (a.k.a The Silver Platters), "When it's time to change you've got to rearrange."

     So, following the wise words of the Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy, I've spent a good bit of time this summer getting ready for the change by doing a lot of reading and planning how to rearrange my Math Stations to fit the new scope and sequence.  I'm still going to have 6 stations, one for each CCSS domain (The Counting Station, The Operation Station, The Tricky Teens Stations, The Data Station and The Geometry Station) and the favorite, The iPad Station. (You can grab my station labels by clicking on the picture.)

CCSS Math Station Labels from Peace, Love & Learning

     The big "changing and rearranging" is trying to figure out which games and activities should go into which stations and when they should be introduced.  Everyday Math was a spiraling program so the objectives were kind of all over the place from day to day.  Now, we'll have units focusing on connected objectives and I think it will be A LOT easier for the kids.  I've been trying to align it all and it's slowly coming together. I would love to hear thoughts from anyone who uses Math in Focus - leave a comment if you have any advice!
     One new activity I made was a set of basic Play-Doh mats that I can use in the Counting station and the Tricky Teens Station.  In honor of embracing change, Math in Focus and the Brady Bunch, you can grab the set as a freebie by clicking on the picture.  "Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na . . ."

PlayDoh Number Mats Freebie from Peace,Love and Learning

Have a great night!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Half-Way Day

     Today is officially "Half-Way Day" for me - exactly one half of my vacation is over. Cue the dramatic music . . . This summer is going too fast! I have more to do! More sun, more sand, more bananas! (The first person to comment with the name of the book that inspired the last sentence can choose any item from my TPT store as a prize . . .)
     So, to drown my sorrows, I decided to go shopping and, oh the horror! I walked into Target and saw the most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. It was . . .  the Back to School display. Aaarrrggghhhh!
     I was surrounded by markers, crayons and lunchboxes and I have to admit, it made me twitch a little. Then I noticed that the 24 count Crayola crayons were only 50 cents, so I got over my melancholy and picked up 10 boxes. You can NEVER have too many Crayolas!
     I continued my Half-Way Day shopping extravaganza at the Dollar Tree and Walmart.  Boy, let me tell you - Walmart has really upgraded the selection of teacher goodies in their Back to School section. Look at some of the terrific things I picked up:
     These great Scholastic pocket chart activities were only $5.97.  They focus on very basic alphabet and number matching skills and I think they'll be perfect to use when introducing Math and Literacy stations in the beginning of the year.
     These were the big score for only $2.97.  Also from Scholastic, I think they'll be great to use for Word Study - I only wish they had more!
     I have a couple of these already in my classroom, but for $8.97, I couldn't resist one more.  They also had a 27 pocket version, but I don't think I have a big enough wall space to hang it, so I passed it by.

All in all, the great goodies I found made it a very happy Half-Way Day after all.  I hope you had (or will have) a Happy Half-Way Day too, whenever yours is.  Have a great night!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Rewind (Part 2)

Hooray! The heat wave here in the Northeast has finally broken and it's a beautiful summer night. I am sitting on my screen porch with a beer in my hand and my dog at my side. I am one happy camper! (Oooo - camping --> campfires --> marshmallows --> s'mores. I should make s'mores!)

If you read my last post, you know that this summer I'm looking back at my year and writing about some things that I meant to share but didn't quite get to. Last fall I posted some pictures of my classroom and over the year I received a bunch of emails with questions about how I made the table skirt for my teaching table. I absolutely LOVE the way it came out and it was super easy to make. I picked up a few of the storage ottomans at Target during the "Back to College" sale and I think the finished project changes the whole feel of my classroom and makes it seem very "homey." (And the bonus is that you can stuff a whole lot of crap in the ottoman seats when you need to do a quick clean-up!)

If your creative juices are flowing and you want to give it a try, pull out your sewing machine and follow this quick "how-to." (If you're not a sewer, I hear that you can create a hem by folding the fabric and using a hot glue gun!)  Enjoy!

Peace Love & Learning - How to make a Table Skirt

Peace Love & Learning - How to make a Table Skirt

Peace Love & Learning - How to make a Table Skirt

Peace Love & Learning - How to make a Table Skirt

Peace Love & Learning - How to make a Table Skirt

Tip:  If you have an overzealous Fire Marshall like I do , you know they break into hives when they see any fabric in the classroom.  I treated my fabric with a spray called No-Burn Fabric Fire Gard, and it passed inspection!

Have a great night!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer Rewind (Part 1)

    Ahhhh. Summer Vacation. I love, love, love teaching, but I cherish the time off each July and August. I really think a break from lesson plans, assessments, staff meetings, demanding parents, etc. lets us recharge and regroup and get ready to hit the ground running in September.  I've been out of school for almost 3 weeks and I feel like a new person!

    This year was an especially tough one for me.  I faced a pretty significant medical crisis in February, and then it took awhile to get back to full speed.  I worked extra hard to make sure that my class didn't miss out on anything, and we ended the year in great shape.

    My poor little blog suffered with just a handful of posts because of everything I had on my plate and I feel like there were so many things that I didn't get a chance to share!  So, here's my plan - I'm going to hit the "rewind" button this summer and post some things from the year that I wished I had written about at the time. Hopefully you won't mind the randomness of it all, because I think there might be some things you can use for the upcoming year, so stay tuned . . .

    I'll leave you with a quick freebie for the first "rewind."  I do a cute little activity to "bookend" the year and give the kids and their families a look at how much they've grown in kindergarten.  On the first day of school, I have the kids draw their self-portraits and label them with their names.  Then, I tuck them away in a safe place. (I always tell someone where I'm putting them so I can find them in June!)  On the last day of school, I have the kids repeat the activity and then glue both portraits on a big sheet of construction paper.  They get the biggest kick out of looking back at the first day portraits and noticing what a difference a year makes!  You can download both templates below the picture.
I'd love to hear if your summer vacation is off to a great start, too!