Surviving the first week of Kindergarten

Does the first week of Kindergarten have you shaking in your boots? 

You are not alone! I've been at this for a little while now so you would think it would get easier with time but I am here to tell you it does not! I still get anxious right before school starts. What will they be like? Will I remember what to do at line up time? What if I don't set things up right and I mess up the whole rest of the year? (sounds dramatic but that is really what goes through my head!) 

I sat down as soon as school got out and wrote down my first week of lesson plans to put my mind at ease. It has really helped with my worry so far! I wrote down the first five days, plans and procedures I need to introduce, brain breaks, classroom community building activities, easy morning work to get started with  and even got my welcome back gifts ready. My mind is officially at ease. 

I want to make sure I have a lot of fun and a LOT of books planned for the first week too. Here are a couple of fun crafts to go with the books I have planned. 

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. 
You can't skip this book the first week of school! Our focus will be all about names the first week (or more!). I put together all of my favorite books with some crafts to help teach all of those back to school procedures like cutting, gluing, and of course following directions. 

The Wheels on the Bus
This one is fun for a little first sound fun. The students change the words to match the first sound in their name. 

A My Name is Alice by Jane Bayer
Alphabet books are the best the first few weeks of school. A My Name is Alice Jane Bayer is the best! This is a fun activity to do after we read the book and they will make really cute self portraits to hang in the hallway the first week of school. 

Not only did I plan out the activities for these books but for lots of other favorites like Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, Rosie Takes a Walk by Pat Hutchins, No David by David Shannon, and Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. 

So now I don't have to feel guilty when I am floating in the pool this summer (just kidding, I never feel guilty doing that!) But honestly, I can relax knowing all I have to do is hit print when I get back to school. These plans can work for you too! Click here to see them in my store! 

Our FAVORITE Center Tools

What are your favorite tools to use during centers?  We have our favorites that hold up ALL YEAR LONG! As I get ready to start finishing up the year I can't help but reflect on some of our favorites. Most of these we introduced early in the year and they are still a favorite even this far into the year. 

Cut & Glue
What makes this so popular? Scissors of course but my students love being introduced to glue sponges. They are so amazing, I can not say enough about them! I make them once a year, add a little glue every once in awhile and that is that! I debated making these for YEARS before I actually got around to doing them and I will never go back. 

Simple directions: 
1. A sealable container 
2. A sponge 
3. Dump a bottle of glue on said sponge  
4. Seal it up! 

Our favorite center tools! There are certain tools that we use in our kindergarten classroom that last as favorites all year long! These Reading Street centers make for easy prep and high student engagement with a few fun tools. Cut and glue, sight word stamping, high frequency word little books, word searches, and more!

So simple right? The glue soaks into the sponge and then anytime you need a little glue just dab your paper right on the sponge and you get the perfect amount. I flip the sponges over from time to time and add a little glue about half way through the year. Other than that....nada! 

Even better? Papers don't stick together in our turn in box. I love that part!!

Word Searches
These are really popular with some of my students for one main reason. TWISTABLES! I always keep a container of these super fun crayons as an extra motivator for my students. They hold up amazingly well all year long. 
Our favorite center tools! There are certain tools that we use in our kindergarten classroom that last as favorites all year long! These Reading Street centers make for easy prep and high student engagement with a few fun tools. Cut and glue, sight word stamping, high frequency word little books, word searches, and more!

If I can't use Twistables I use colored pencils. Since we don't use those on an everyday basis either they can be a pretty popular choice too! 
Our favorite center tools! There are certain tools that we use in our kindergarten classroom that last as favorites all year long! These Reading Street centers make for easy prep and high student engagement with a few fun tools. Cut and glue, sight word stamping, high frequency word little books, word searches, and more!

I invested in some of these stamps a couple of years ago and I have never been disappointed with my purchase. I only had one set of stamps (that were very bulky and hard to store) before I found these on Amazon. My students flock to this station at the beginning of the year so I needed four sets to keep them happy. I don't need to have quite as many sets out now but they are still in use every day. These heavy duty stamp pads have lasted for years too. (I think I've had them 5 years!)
Our favorite center tools! There are certain tools that we use in our kindergarten classroom that last as favorites all year long! These Reading Street centers make for easy prep and high student engagement with a few fun tools. Cut and glue, sight word stamping, high frequency word little books, word searches, and more!

Write the Room
Permission to get up and walk around? Yes please! They love this center and other than putting up new words every week it is pretty low maintenance. I have a bucket of clip boards available for students to use during centers so they just walk around the room with one of those to write the words. We always draw a picture of one of the words (and be sure to include ourselves). I love seeing their pictures they draw each week and I know they are making a real connection if they are in the picture!  This is how I wish I looked on the beach with a crab. HA! 
Our favorite center tools! There are certain tools that we use in our kindergarten classroom that last as favorites all year long! These Reading Street centers make for easy prep and high student engagement with a few fun tools. Cut and glue, sight word stamping, high frequency word little books, word searches, and more!

For students who SPEED through everything I had to make sure they were really taking their time with write the room. We added a "HAVE TO" do on the back of the page that they have to complete before they can take their walkabout. It is usually a handwriting page for some extra practice. They know if it isn't completed neatly they will have to meet with me later in the week to work on that letter. They work really hard to show me they know how to make their letters! 

Little Books
These are a fan favorite every week. Seriously. On Monday I know everyone is going to go for the little book and that's ok. Why? They keep it in their browsing box all week and it is EXTRA reading material for them to practice. At the beginning of the year I show them how to cut off the border around the outside of the little book and then cut it into 4 pieces (these are two sided for a total of 7 reading pages). They put them in order and staple in the corner and ViOlA! A little book just perfect for their little hands.  We use the colored pencils and Twistables with these. 
Our favorite center tools! There are certain tools that we use in our kindergarten classroom that last as favorites all year long! These Reading Street centers make for easy prep and high student engagement with a few fun tools. Cut and glue, sight word stamping, high frequency word little books, word searches, and more!

These 6 staples in our center routine make for SUPER easy planning. The first year I did these I kept thinking they would get bored but guess what? They don't! They love the consistency of the centers and there are always enough options that they aren't doing the same thing week to week. Our cut and glue centers have a bunch of choices (sight words, mixed up sentences, letter sorts and word sorts) as well as the stamping and word searches so there are always a ton of choices. I make a few new copies each week and I am DONE and DONE. Yay for not working too hard! 

These are our keepers for the year. I am ALWAYS on the search for more fun ideas for centers and pin as many as I can. Here is a pin for you to save this one for later! You can follow me on Pinterest HERE.

Our favorite literacy centers tools in kindergarten and 1st grade! We work these hands on activities into our rotation at the beginning of the year and classroom management has never been easier!  These ideas work for your writing, phonics, sight words, letter learning, reading, and phonemic awareness centers. A few materials and printables and your center prep just got a whole lot easier!
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If you would like to see the centers we use along with these tools you can see them HERE. I make weekly centers aligned with Reading Street stories that focus on weekly sight words, letters of the week, grammar skills, and have pages to use for our focus wall. 

Thanks for stopping by today! What are your favorite tools to use during centers? I would love to hear your fun ideas! 

Word Families and Guided Reading

Why teach word families?
Word families are groups of words that have a predictable pattern or chunk. These words have the same ending and they all rhyme which makes learning a new set of words easier on our beginning readers. Word families are an effective way to increase a student's ability to spell and decode many new words. 

Word families for struggling readers:
Learning to read can be a struggle! Each child is different and EVERY child has their own path to reading. Over the years I have seen a wide range of learners in my kindergarten classroom. Some come to me with a great background and cruise through the curriculum with no worries. Many come to me with out the foundational skills needed to be successful at first but by Christmas most are finding their way. A few need additional supports and are still learning sounds at spring break. Using word families can help these struggling readers feel success and gives them letter sound practice at the same time.

Guided reading routines: 
I have discussed effective grouping for guided reading on the blog before so I won't go into that today but if you want to read more about that you can click HERE. Once you determine your groups it is essential to come up with a strong routine. Routines are the best in kindergarten because everything else can fall apart but your routine is there to save the day! My routine for my lowest groups (those still working on word families) consists of these basic components: 

Letter Name/Sound Recognition: 
At the beginning of each lesson we review the letter sounds and their names. This is a quick review and is essential to retaining those names/sounds. It is easy to want to skip this first step if you are running behind but don't! 

Word Work: 
Using letter tiles (or magnetic letters) students need to build the words and practice the sounds individually before diving into a new word family. Using individual letters encourages blending and really serves as a great formative assessment to see who needs more help in this area. 

Create a word list: 
As you work with a word family make a list of all of the words in that family. This is a fun time to work with real vs. make-believe words too. Without fail a student will try to add "dat" or "gat" to the -at word family list. Great time to talk about real words and pull together a list of words. 

 Read, read, read! 
Read those word families in context. I have plenty of word family books in my library but I wanted some that my students could read, color, and take home (for some these are the only thing they have to read at home!). They love it when I give them a little time to color at the end of our guided reading group and sometimes if we have a few minutes before lunch this is a great 5 minute time filler too.

Here are the supplies you need to start a great word family guided reading routine in Kindergarten: 

  • magnetic letters
  • alphabet chart
  • flash cards
  • anchor chart (for word lists)
  • Word Family books 
I have a ton of BOB Books in my classroom and they are full of word families. My kiddos love checking these out for read to self in the classroom. Here is a link  to one of my favorite sets. This is an affiliate link for your convenience. 

For some consumable sight word readers you can see some examples of these in my store HERE. This bundle is at a VERY discounted rate until I finish the whole series so it is a great time to snatch these up. 

And of course word families are awesome in centers! Click HERE for word family centers and for a fun little BUILD A WORD FREEBIE you can click HERE. Enjoy! 

Thanks for stopping in today! 

Transform Your 100 Chart!

We have a new math program this year and it has a calendar component. I really like it but I will be honest, I haven't implemented all of it. There is a lot in the first year of a new program and that's ok...I will get to more of it next year. 

I don't know why I feel the need to come clean with you on this but I do! 

That's not the point of this post. What I really want to share is the awesome 100's chart that we created together from the calendar component. This is part of Everyday Counts from the Math in Focus curriculum. 

We started at the beginning of the year recording each day of school. It was a slow process! Each day was on a new color sticky note. Every time we finished a group of 10 we started all over again. We used this in our calendar routine to count every single day. Every. Single. Day. If you aren't familiar with a solid calendar routine this is a key component. It is really easy to want to skip these simple steps each day but let me tell makes a huge difference! 

We were SUPER excited to get to the 100th day! We had a huge celebration and I felt like we were at the end of a journey. Success right? I was quickly put back into my place when I had a guest teacher come in and teach a lesson and she asked my kids a simple question....what comes next? If you keep counting what comes next? What if you count by 10's? Ummm......we were all over the place. Some shouted out the right answer right away and others...not so much. I knew I needed to make a change and step it up a bit. 

Well the really awesome part of this hundred chart is that it is on strips of paper. I used the old fashioned accounting tape to put the stickies on so I decided to reimagine what I had on the wall so we could "keep going" and get up to the 180th day of school (that will really be a celebration!) 

How about a number line? We are moving into comparing numbers so a number line will be so visual for that. Yes! I asked my trainer what she thought and she agreed it was a great transition. So I did it! 

It is WAY up high at the top of our wall and stretches all the way across to 100. I made this decision with the class. I asked them what we could do to "keep going". I posed the problem that if we keep adding stickies we would run out of room on the board. They actually came up with the idea to put it all the way across a wall! We put a few lines together and I made sure they knew where each new line should go (11 after the 10....21 after the 20...). The next day they came in to a beautiful number line stretched all along the top of our wall! 

Now what? 
We keep going! 

We have new strips on our board that we use during calendar to "keep going". It is a much more visual way for them to see the pattern that continues after 100. I am really excited about this and so are they! We will add these to the number line (if I can reach that far!) as we go along. It should keep things interesting reaching up to 180!

How did I stick it to the brick wall? This is a HUGE problem in my room because I have all brick walls. I just figured out that HOT GLUE is the way to go. It sticks and doesn't fall down and when it is time to take it off it just peels right off. That is my favorite new classroom hack! 

That's that. Such a simple little change but I really think it will step up our calendar routine for the second half of the year. 

Here is another little routine I have put into place now that we have reached all the way to 100. I am using these 100 charts to hand out during calendar and students have them right in front of them to count and point. We count by 1's on Monday, 2's on Tuesdays, 5's on Wednesdays, 10's on Thursdays, and backwards from 20 on Fridays. Gotta keep it fresh! 

Here is a freebie for you if you want a clean new 100's chart :) 
That's all I have tonight. I have been very absent from blogging and it feels good to share a few things tonight. I guess I just needed something to be excited about! Have a great week teaching! 

Valentine's Day Stations

I did it. 
I figured it out. 
Finally the perfect Valentine's Day in the classroom! 
I'm not kidding! 
This day was so super easy to prep for and my students were engaged the whole day. It was still a big day with lots of craziness but it was the calmest craziest day by far! I know that will only make sense to a kindergarten teacher! 

Here is how it works. I did 100 day stations inspired by Marsha McGuire at A Differentiated Kindergarten. I decided it worked so well on that day I would try it for Valentine's day. Why not right? Valentine's day is always so crazy I just thought if I kept them busy it would help.....hopefully!

I made 8 stations and had them spread out all over the room. Students moved from station to station on their own with one stipulation. When they finished they raised their hand and I came by to check their work. I had a paper they could check off their completed stations and then they were free to move on to the next one. Some stations could only fit 3 students but some could fit up to 6. We had plenty of room for students to move around the room freely. 

Our 8 stations: 

  • Lego Table: students tried to create a heart with red Legos
  • Stacking Cups: students used tiny plastic cups to stack a creation
  • Valentine Bag: students created their own bag to collect Valentines (from Simply Kinder)
  • Gumdrop: students created 3D shapes with gumdrops and toothpicks
  • Conversation Hearts: graphing station
  • Dot Painting: Dot painting page from A Differentiated Kindergarten
  • I Love Book: sight word book from Jennifer Heir
  • Listening Station: our regular listening station with a Valentine's book
  • Bingo 
The one HAVE TO station was the Valentine Bag. I needed everyone to complete this station so they would have a bag to collect their Valentine cards in later in the day. I allowed 6 at that station at the time. The messier stations only had 2 or 3 spots available like the Lego table, Stacking Cups, and Gumdrop station. The Dot Painting station was really popular and I had 4 of those spots available. It was full the whole time! 

We started our stations as soon as we got into the classroom. It took me 20 minutes or so to explain all of the centers and then we got to work. At 10 o'clock I stopped everything and we had a "Heart Healthy Breakfast" (which I did not take a picture of!) Student brought in muffins, yogurt, fruit, and water bottles and we had a heart healthy little snack in the middle of our day. So much better than sugary cupcakes! 

After snack we got right back to it and worked for a little bit until it was time to exchange Valentines. We set up our bags and got to it. 

This needs to be said......
...I told my kiddos to fill out the TO and the FROM on their cards. took a little time to hand out cards but it is seriously SO SWEET to see them carefully handing out every single card to just the right person. They thank each other, they are kind to one another, and it is simply one of the sweetest things you will ever witness. I know it is popular to tell your students to only fill out the "from" to make it easier but I love doing it this way. It is quite possibly my favorite day in Kindergarten! To make it a bit easier the fast finishers can help their friends that aren't quite done yet. 

Why am I blogging about this AFTER Valentine's day? So I will remember next year! Save this post so you can try it next year too! 

Thanks for stopping by! I hope your Valentine's day was fabulous. Obviously ours was awesome. I hope to make it just as special next year!

What Are You Teaching? January

It's January and we have been back one full week. It was a LONG week. It was a BUSY week and a TIRING week! We were focused on getting back into routines and just surviving. We did it! It's time to dig in and get to work. What are you teaching this week?

We are on Unit 4 Week 2 in Reading Street. One of my favorite stories, My Lucky Day! It is an adorable story about a fox and a piglet. This unit has a lot of fairy tales in it and it is our focus for new IB unit "How We Express Ourselves". It's always a fun one!

For our centers we are using this set:
It has objective posters to keep me on track and "paper centers" (that's what we call them) for the kiddos to complete during the week. Some of our favorites are cut and glue, stamping, and write the room.

This unit also includes a really fun craftivity to go along with it. It is free HERE!

For our "hands on" centers we have some fun Little Red Riding Hood activities. I created these over break to kick off our fairy tale unit. 
CVC word blending cards for small groups
Sight Word work mats for independent time
CVC Building Mats for independent time

We will be reading a new Little Red Riding Hood book each day and comparing the characters, setting, problem, and solution. I love reading fractured fairy tales! They are so much fun! 
Here are a few we are including. 

I won't get to all of these this week but I should be able to get to most of them by Friday and then finish them up next week. We will also explore Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs in the coming weeks. We are playing with the idea of writing our own "fairy tales" during Writer's Workshop but I will have to get back to you on that one. It will be a new venture for me for sure! 

So what is in your lesson plan this week? If you do any fractured fairy tales I would love to hear how you use them! Thanks for visiting today! 

Christmas Handprint Calendar Freebie

Many moons ago I made handprint calendars with my class to send home for Christmas. They were a ton of work, copying/pasting to get the calendars on the right pages, and the handprints take some time. After leaving full day kindergarten and going into half day....I just knew I would never be able to manage 48 sets of handprints so I never even considered doing them again. 

Well this year was the year! 

Full day kinder and only 24 students....woohoo! 

In the last 12 years so much has changed when you create something new and when I set out to make these again they were super easy. I didn't have an original to look at so I had to find poems to go with each month but I think I have it pretty close to what we did back then. 
Even better? I thought printing them was going to be a mess but all I had to do was put them in the copier in order and copy 1 to 2 sided and they were perfect!  I had all twelve months done and copied in no time (copy on cardstock) 

Here is a peek at two of the handprints we did yesterday. I will share all of them once we get them done but that won't be until next week. I need to do 4 handprints a day to get them done on time. I may have to call in reinforcements! 

Handprint Calendar February
February....super simple, just two handprints to make a heart

Handprint Calendar March
March....a little more complicated. You need 3 colors to pull off the leprechaun look

Handprint Calendar March
They all turned out really cute! 

Handprint Calendar March
A simple little smile to complete the leprechaun.

Want to make one? Here you go! I added them to my TPT store today. Seriously, if you are still in school this week you could get them done in no time!