October 13, 2016

Ask Me About My Day!

I am super excited about these little cuties!  These "Ask Me About My Day!" jars are filled with meaningful questions that Mommies, Daddies, Grandmas, Grandpas, and other family members can ask their little darlings about their school day!  I plan to send them home with parents at conferences in a couple of weeks.  

Inside each jar are twenty-four slips of paper.  Each contains a question that will hopefully spark a conversation about school, friendships, learning, and help parents get to know their children better!  I know that parents (including me!) ask "What did you learn today?" and get "Nothing" or "I don't remember" in response.   We ask "How was your day?" and we get "Fine" or "Good."  I really think that these little slips could open up a whole new world of conversations for my parents and their children! 

I originally got this idea from Glennon Melton's blog post on "The Key Jar."  In fact, my original plan was to use the questions that Erin Waters and Glennon created.  As I read the questions, I found many of them a little too deep for my own six and four year old children.  So I combined the idea of the Key Jar with the lists of questions I have seen floating around Facebook that suggest what to ask instead of "How was your day?" and this is what I came up with! Examples of a few questions are:

"Who did you play with at recess today?"
"What is something you did that made your teacher happy?"
"Which part of your day is the most fun?"
"What rule was the hardest to follow today?"

If jars aren't really your thing, I think that the slips of paper would look cute in a paper lunch sack gussied up with the label on the front.  I also found that the labels fit just right underneath the lids of the jars!  

This file is a FREE download over in my TPT store.  If you find any new ways to store or cutesy up the questions, please let me know in the comments! 

EDIT:  If you are a parent, and not a teacher, just shoot me an email and I will be happy to send you the file! :) keepcalmandlovekinder@gmail.com

August 28, 2016

Reading Bags

One of my favorite tools to use with my students each year are these reading bags:

We take them out each day for different activities, including phonics, poetry, sight words, and much more!  The Reading Bags are just zippered pencil pouches that I bought at Walmart a few years ago.  They have lasted me about four years!  Let me give you a better look at what we keep inside.

We use the letter charts when we sing Jack Hartmann's "Learning Letter Sounds."  The kids use their "Reading Finger" (the witch finger) to point as they sing.  We also use these fingers to point when we read predictable books, poems, and pretty much everything else!  The highlighters are used for highlighting our Rainbow Words (high frequency words) and for coding chunks we know (more about this at the bottom of this post).  The purple sight word cards are part of our Rainbow Word program, which is from rainbowwords.com.  The stretchy snakes I use to teach students to stretch out words when we are spelling phonetically and also when we are listening for beginning, medial, and final sounds in words.  Throughout the year, I will also add our Saxon Phonics letter tiles to the Reading Bags as we learn each letter.

These Reading Bags make learning hands on and really help my students stay involved during whole group lessons.  I used to have students store these in their chair pockets, but last year I received a Donors Choose grant that allowed me to get Wobble Chairs.  I LOVE my Wobble Chairs, but the chair pockets had to go.  So, I tried having students store the Reading Bags in their cubbies, but found that we didn't use them as often because it was a hassle to have them leave their seat to get them.  It is MUCH better when they are on hand and ready to use!  This year, I am trying Command hooks under the table.  I will update you on how it works for us!

Click text under the photos below to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for the "Learning Letter Sounds" FREE Download and or to purchase the posters I use when we code our "chunks" in predictable readers and poems!

August 15, 2016

A Quick Teacher Tip!

Today's post is a quickie!  I am busy prepping my room for our first day, which is Friday!  I can't wait to meet my new little Kinder family!  One of the the things I do every year to keep my classroom easel looking nice and new is cover each side with lamination.  So quick, so easy, and saves me lots of clean up.  I only have to change the lamination about once a year, sometimes even less!  I hope that this little tip helps you in your classroom!

July 31, 2016

V.I.P. Table and a FREEBIE

One of the new ideas that I am so excited to implement in my classroom this school year is a V.I.P. table!  I heard about this idea last summer at the National I Teach K! Conference in Las Vegas, but I had too many other new and exciting ideas to get it going last year.  If you haven't heard of a V.I.P table, it is a good behavior incentive that allows students who exemplify good behavior to sit at the table and be the envy of everyone else in the class have special privileges.  

In my room, two V.I.P. students will have access to smelly gel pens, fun pencils, and colored pencils.  They will also (I think, jury is still out) be able to use a staple-free stapler and tape for some work.  They have special chair backs that say "King of the Classroom" and "Queen of the Classroom."  They will also get to carry our stuffed class pets with them for the day.  

Here is a snapshot of what my table looks like:

I also will have V.I.P. brag tags for my two students to wear for the day.  I have included this file as a freebie for you below (just click the text below the picture to download)!

Do you use a V.I.P table?  If so, what are some challenges you face, or what are your favorite things about it?  If not, what is something new you are trying in your classroom this year?

July 30, 2016

Scissor Jail

This is a quick and not so fancy project I did today.  We all have those friends in our classroom who have happy scissor hands and get a little carried away cutting clothing, hair, or classroom items! In the past, I have told students that their scissors are in "time out," and had them lay them on my desk.  Today I made a "Scissor Jail" jar, where students can place their scissors.  Now my desk will be free of the scissor time out pile! Hooray!

First, you will need to decide on your container.  I will admit that earlier this week I attempted to spray paint a small Folgers coffee can and it did not go well.  Even letting the paint coats dry overnight in between (I used white first, then black), the tape pulled paint off the can and I did not get clean lines.  It was a disaster. I chose a short, squatty glass vase for my second try.

Then, you will need to gather your supplies.  I used black acrylic paint and "Frogtape" brand painter's tape. The frog tape is a tad expensive, but is also the best I have found.

Next, tape your container in sections leaving blank stripes in between.  I chose to leave thin stripes.  The wideness of your stripes is up to you!  Make sure you press the tape down as firmly as possible, sealing all edges.

Paint over the tape and allow it to dry (not pictured).  I painted 3 coats.  The first coat will look streaky if you paint on glass.  I let my paint dry about two-three hours. Once dry, peel your tape off carefully.  you may have some edges that are not perfectly clean.  The good thing about glass is you can use a fingernail to scrape some off the rough looking stuff off and clean it up a bit.

The last thing I did was add some large sparkly letter stickers to spell "SCISSOR JAIL."  You may want to use smaller letters, or leave it off, but this is what I had in my craft cabinet at school, so this is what I went with! If you have another tip for scissor control, comment below! :)

July 22, 2016

The Best Videos for Teaching Kids About Coins

If your students are anything like mine, mastering the names and values of coins is one of the hardest math skills they will face.  I start introducing this skill almost immediately when school begins during our calendar procedures.  We continually practice and review, practice and review, practice and review.  Our math curriculum introduces each coin one at a time and we practice and review.  We sing songs, say poems, read books.  I show them giant versions of the coin and we note the differences.  I give them a clue for each coin. For example, quarter's clue is "big," nickel's clue is "smooth edges," dime's clue is "little," and penny's clue is "copper brown."  We sort plastic coins and I also expose them to the real deal.  I implore parents to have them sort and touch as many real coins at home as possible.  I send my students to math stations where they practice and review, practice and review, practice and review.

Then comes time to test them on coins.  I am just sure that they will know the names.  I call each precious Kinder babe to my table.  It never fails that I have more than expected that will shout "PENNY!" for one of the silver coins.  *FACEPALM*  This year was by far the best year I have had with my students mastering names and values of coins.  We did all of the above methods, and I also added in the videos below when we had 3-5 minutes of time gaps in our day that needed to be filled.  I had a teacher friend recommend one of these, and I discovered a couple.  I need to add that one or two of these videos made me want to pull all of my ever loving hair from my head.  However, my Kinders LOVED them.  They BEGGED me to watch them.  I honestly think that it helped them with their mastery of the skill!  So, without further ado, my short and sweet list of the best coin videos for kids:

1.  "Coin Song"

2.  "Coins!" by ABCmouse.com

3.  "Money Song" by Jack Hartmann

May 13, 2016

Best Ever Salt Play Dough

This recipe is adapted from one that a grandmother of a former student made when she came into my classroom to make with my students.  Her original recipe involved cooking the play dough, so I have modified it a little to be no-cook.  The modifications don't change the fact that this dough is AMAZING!  It is super soft, and stores for up to six months in a air tight container!  Another plus is that you can add your own colors, scents, or glitter to the dough.  The possibilities are endless!

I want you to have this amazing recipe!  Keep reading!

Dry Ingredients, ready to go!

Getting ready to add the wet ingredients!

What it all looks like before it's mixed together!

At first, the mixture will be really sticky and you will wonder if you did something wrong.  Don't worry!  It gets better as it cools!

I divided mine up into six nearly equal parts to color red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

My little helper, kneading the color in!

Just perfect for little hands!

All done!  So pretty!


May 10, 2016

Muffins with Mom

This year was the first year that I tried "Muffins with Mom" in my classroom.  I wanted to do something special for the parents of my students, because they contribute so much throughout the year.  Also, I knew it would mean a lot to my Kinder Darlings for them to be able to spend a special morning with their mothers.

Both of my personal children have invited me to a "Muffins with Mom" when they attended a local preschool.  I used my experience from that to create my TPT file, but I added a lot more!  I wanted to make this event really unique and make sure moms felt exceptionally appreciated and loved. 

We started preparing for this day a few weeks in advance, mostly because I am the antithesis of a procrastinator.  We made our Mother's Day gifts first, which the students would give to their moms at the event.  I used a commonly pinned idea from Pinterest, making "You are my Sunshine!" canvases for mothers.  I bought my canvases in bulk from Amazon

We painted the background first with tempera paint. After drying, I painted one of each Kinder's hands yellow with acrylic paint and placed them in a sun shape off to the side.  After the whole thing dried (about a day), I let the students copy the words "You are my sunshine!" onto the canvas with a fine point Sharpie.  I think they turned out adorable!

The next few days were spent filling out the Mom questionnaire,  making the mothers' crowns,  & doing the "If You Give a Mom a Muffin" activity (all from my TPT file).  If I had any grandmothers RSVP, I had students do the questionnaire and crowns for their grandmothers as well.  I made simple centerpieces for the table by cutting flower shapes with our Ellison die-cut machine and gluing student pictures to the center.  I then did finger print stamps around the picture and laminated the flowers.  I hot glued green pipe cleaners to the backs and put them in simple candle jars from Wal-Mart that were about $1 each.  I filled them with Easter basket filling that I had stored! 

The night before I spent about 45 minutes setting up tablecloths, laying out all the student items, and hanging the banner (included in my TPT file, and not pictured).  I also set up a quick photo backdrop outside my classroom door with butcher paper and a tissue paper banner that was left over from my daughter's weekend birthday party!  I went home and baked muffins for the number that had RSVP'd.  I was ready!  

The day of, I set out my muffins, poured juice into cups and had as much prepared ahead of time as possible.  

I talked to my students about how special Moms are and how much they do for us.  We shared at circle time how we had celebrated Mother's Day, and we read the story "The Night Before Mother's Day."

I told students that when their mothers arrived they would greet them at the door, take them to their seat, and give them all of the gifts we had made.  Then they would ask them what kind of muffin they would like and serve them.  Next they would serve their mother her juice preference.  If they had a grandmother, they would serve her second.  After all their guests were served the student could get a muffin and juice and eat with their guests.  The last step was to visit the photo booth and have their picture snapped!

I was so nervous about how it would go, since this was the first time I had done this event, but it went so smoothly!  It was a very laid-back atmosphere, and the students were so polite to their mothers!  I received so many compliments from parents about how wonderful it was and how appreciative they were.  I will definitely do it again next year! 

Also, here's a photo of my cutie and her Gigi {my mom} at her Muffins with Mom. I did get to sneak down to her classroom for a bit, but was so thankful my mom could be there with her, since of course, my Kinders needed me!  Aren't moms the best?!

May 9, 2016

To My Kinder Darlings

Dear Kinder Darlings,

Eight days. That's all that is left of our time together. How will eight days ever be enough to hug you and laugh with you and assure you that you are the best and the smartest in the world? Don't get me wrong, I am counting down the days until sleeping in, cartoons with my kids at home, and ice cream and swimming with just as much anticipation and jubilation as you. Except, there is also this lump in my throat. There is a little twinge of pain in my full, full heart. You see, this year, you were mine. I loved you and cared for you and laughed with you and sometimes wanted to pull my hair out. Just like my own children. And now, it is almost over. Now you belong to your parents and next year., another teacher. The next thing you know, you will be graduating from high school and I will be but a distant memory. But, YOU, dear students, you will always have a home in my heart.

This time of year is bittersweet. I can almost taste the freedom and adventures of summer. I am also filled with pride because you have come so far. You have learned to tie your shoes, to say "excuse me" instead of pushing, to read CVC words, and to start sentences with an uppercase letter. You mastered your rainbow words! You counted to 100! You learned to work independently and be a good friend and resolve conflict. Yet, I am scared to let you go. Did I do enough? Did I work enough with you on adding detail to your writing? Did I make you feel important and smart every day? Did you really understand how to solve those math story problems? Do you know how much I love you? Eight days is not enough to be sure.

At the same time, eight days will feel like an eternity. Because you, for some mysterious reason, have suddenly forgotten that hallways are meant to be quiet and that it not okay to scream your head off indoors. For the love of all that is good and holy, WHY must I repeat myself a thousand times a day about little tiny things we have been doing for 158 days of school? I feel like I have used the words "stop" and "don't" more in the past month than I did all school year. "Stop spinning in line. Please sit on your bottom. Are we being good listeners? Is this how Kindergarteners act in the library? Don't glue your crayons together. Stop poking your neighbor. Scissors are only for cutting paper!" But I think I know the reason for all of this.

You see, I think that God knows that goodbye for the summer has the potential to rip my heart out. I think maybe He causes you to act like wild animals so that it distracts me from the fact that you aren't going to be mine anymore. Kindergarten is over. Next year you will see me in the hall and you will wave and smile, and maybe, if I'm lucky, give me a hug. You will have a new teacher to love, and I will have a whole new set of Kinder babies. Next year at this time, I will be writing their letter and crying tears over their departure. Right now, though, my tears are for you. I want you to know that you are kind and you are brave. That you are outstanding readers and mathematicians and scientists, and beings.  I want you to know that you will always always be my Kinder darlings, forever five and six in my heart. Now, go on. Grow up. Be great.

Your Kinder Teacher

April 13, 2016

Going Buggy in Kinder

When it comes time for spring, I am always excited!  I love the warmer weather, I love how the "light bulb" comes on for my Kinders, and I love the thematic units I teach!  One of my favorites this time of year is my insect unit.  I use Deanna Jump's Insects Math and Literacy Fun and Caitlin Clabby's Insects: Math, Literacy, and SO Much More! Both of these units have some really fun activities that my Kinders LOVE!

My favorite activities from Deanna Jump's unit are the Bugs Eye View and Candy Insect activities.

Caitlin Clabby has the cutest writing activity in her unit.  My Kinders loved it!

Two crafts that I do every year that are always a big hit are paper plate butterfly life cycles with noodles and coffee filter butterflies!  These are always a favorite!

I also do an insect take-home project every year that I turn into a hallway display in our main hall.  I LOVE this project so much! I want to state that I cannot take credit for this original idea.  One of my fabulous teaching teammates shared this idea with me!  I start by sending home a parent letter and a recording page.  I have both of these available for FREE right now in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!  (Just click the word "FREE" and it should get you there!) After I receive the insects and recording pages back, we paint some butcher paper at our tables.  I squirt blue and purple paint on the paper and let the Kinders go to town with some sponge brushes.  This is the MOST fun!    

Once the paper dries I trace each kiddo's hands three times (or however many it takes to get around 100 handprints).  Then I (and all the wonderful helpers I can find) spend hours cutting all those handprints out.  Once I am finished I use green butcher paper to make stems and leaves in the hall and start stapling handprints up willy nilly.  I finish by stapling our insects onto the flowers, and the flying insects above!  Some of the insects I leave in a plastic bag to keep their parts intact, or if they don't have another way for me to staple them to the wall.  Ta-da!

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