SAVING Conference Week!

Hooray! It's time for February Parent/Teacher conferences!  Why so excited you ask?  In kindergarten our February conferences are a time for celebration.  This is the time of year that parents start reporting all the great things that are happening with their kiddos!
"They are reading everything!"
"They are so excited about reading!"
"I can't believe how much they have grown!"
Those are the comments I look forward to hearing this week.  I enjoy getting together with parents and celebrating with them.
Now, don't let me mislead you.  It is still a huge undertaking.  Yes, P/T conferences are A LOT of work.  Joyful work but still exhausting.  By the end of the week I can hardly speak in full sentences.  I always feel sorry for the 4pm conference on Friday!  I have 45 kiddos this year (2 sessions) so that's a lot of conferences to schedule.  
Here are a few tips for getting them ready!
 This gets me all set for the actual week of conferences.  To get ready to meet with parents I put together our Weekly Work Packet (I do these every week) and include a write up for each student so that I can stay on track during the conference.  To squeeze in 45 conferences in one week I have to stay focused! 
Conference Report with DIBELS goals...
Blank Conference Report
 I created these with our DIBELS goals on them so I can show parents exactly where their child is in terms to our end of the year goals at this point (there are also December goals included for those early conferences).  I made a blank page too for teachers who use other forms of assessment. 

Tonight I sit here getting ready for our big week ahead. 
I'm all set!
 When are your next set of conferences?  I've got you covered with forms and reminder notes.  You can click HERE to get them free.  I've offered these for the last 2 years and they are my most popular download.  I love hearing from teachers that they are helping get their conferences organized.  That's half the battle!

Spruce Up Your Anchor Charts

Anchor Charts are a great way to create a visual representation of the learning happening in your classroom.  We refer back to our anchor charts in the weeks/months to come, use them as writing resources in the room, and they just make the classroom look great!  
Here are 4 easy ways to make get more bang for your buck when it comes to anchor charts! 

1. Plan!  Plan out your charts ahead of time.  I had to go back and remake these charts because they were a MESS when I made them with the kids.  When I plan them out ahead of time I never have to go back and redo them.  You can read about how I plan out my charts for Daily 5 here.

2.  Use colorful markers.  I always mean to buy some great chart markers but it just never happens.  A great set of markers might make your day but they really aren't needed.  I made both of these charts with a simple set of Crayola markers.  The key is to use different colors to highlight areas of your chart. 

3. Use pictures to represent class ideas.  This is important especially for little learners.  When I started teaching younger grades I could hardly draw a stick person.  Don't be afraid to try it out and give your students the example of trying your best even if it's difficult. I can't draw trains, but I tried!
 4. Make them interactive! One of my favorite ways to engage students is to use an anchor chart and some sticky notes.  At the beginning of the year I introduce this sight word chart and students put a sticky note next to the word they find in their books during Read to Self time.  Later in the year I give them a larger sticky note and have them write the sight words they find.
That's how I spruce up my anchor charts.  How do you use charts in your classroom?  Share your tips in the comments below!
Thank you for stopping by today!  Here is a little writing resource FREEBIE to create personalized writing offices for your students to use in addition to your anchor charts!
Writing Offices FREEBIE! Click HERE

Sight Word FUN!

Last year I saw a great post from Heidi at Heidi Songs about using her sight word videos with white boards.  It was a big hit with my kiddos last year and today I decided we were ready to try it with this group.  They LOVED it!  It's a super simple activity that gets them connecting with the videos in a whole new way.    
 Total engagement......very little effort. Win-win!
 To keep them from writing/erasing/writing/ get the idea....I simply didn't give them an eraser and told them not to erase with their fingers.  We wrote each word one time and we kept going until our boards were full.  That gave us about 13-15 songs which was a full 20 minute activity.  They were sad when it was done!  I gave them a tissue when we were done to erase really quick (handing out erasers drives me crazy, a quick tissue for each pair makes for fast clean up). 

If you don't own the videos you can get them HERE.  I also have the alphabet videos which we use at the beginning of the year.  There are a ton of engaging videos to get you singing and moving in your classroom.   We can't get enough of Heidi Songs in our classroom!

How do you mix things up in your classroom?   

Alternative Seating in Kinder

It was my turn at Kinder Tribe to share what works for me in the classroom! Click the pic to see my post!

Math Monday! Easy Prep Math Tubs

Math tubs are by far one of my favorite things I've implemented since returning to Kindergarten last year.  I wish I had known about these when I taught first grade!  I've blogged about these before but after doing a quick prep Sunday afternoon to get them ready for the month I just had to share.  Seriously....if you aren't using math tubs I encourage you to consider them!  

I have this great shelf my mom bought me a few years ago and I originally used it as a library.  I bought the red dishpans at Walmart for about $2 each.  They are super durable!  I have had them for about 6 years now and they will be able to withstand many more years in Kinder.  I labeled them with my Cricut (I do have to re-label them every year).  

I attached the numbers with Mod Podge.  They start to peel by the end of the year but that just gives me a chance to switch out the colors each year if I want. :) 

The bins are large enough to hold whatever I want.  I can throw just about anything in there to create a math tub.  At the beginning of the year I just fill them with blocks and other manipulatives to train my kiddos.   Now we can put activities and partner games in our math tubs for extra practice.  

When do I use math tubs?  I use them for my "early finishers" during our math time.  Students that get done and have the concept go to a math tub and work with a partner.  This gives me extra time to work with students that need the extra one on one time.

What do I put in there now?  Here is a little preview of my centers that will be available for the rest of the month for my kiddos.  YES....I said all month!   I switch them out at the beginning of the month and never.think.about.them.again.   Seriously.  Easy peasy right?
  I got the large dice at the Dollar Store and I use a random mix of manipulatives for all my games.  If you don't have traditional "manipulatives" you can use anything!  Pennies, beans, name it!  

These are my saving grace!  Our math tub time comes at the end of the day and it is a wonderful time to let them "play" and just be little. I enjoy watching them work with partners, play a math game, and just be a little silly too.  We don't have enough of that in our half day program!  

If you would like to see my Easy Prep centers you can click HERE. There are also great ELA centers included too and more options for math if you need more than the 4 I've highlighted here.  They have saved me on more than one occasion!  

I hope your first day back (if you had kiddos today) went great!  I had a GREAT day!  I missed my kiddos so much (and they missed me that's a plus!)

2016 Goals and Plans: Writer's Workshop

Happy New Year!  What better way to start the year than by making some goals and plans? 

I have SO MANY goals!  It is easy to get ahead of yourself when starting anew each year.  We all have those lofty goals every January that we are SO MOTIVATED to reach.  For about a day.....  You know what I mean: 

  • I will lose 10 pounds a week until summer so I can wear the bathing suit I fit into in high school (measurable? yes,, NO!) 
  • I will save money, pay off all my debt, and do something to treat myself every month (measurable? maybe, attainable...probably not!) 
I can make a goal and turn around and forget about it faster than you can lose the attention of Kindergarteners when the phone rings.  I am taking a different approach this year.  I have plenty of professional and personal goals and I refine those on a daily basis but as for today my goal is to just be.  Be present.  Be happy. Be aware of other peoples feelings. Be there for my family. Be there for myself.  

Maybe because my children are now grown (almost) and I find myself worrying more about EVERY. TINY. THING.  Honestly. My anxiety is through the roof on most occasions.   This year I just want to enjoy everything.  Enjoy my wonderful little kindergarteners I have this year and not waste a moment with them because before you know it we will be saying good bye.  Enjoy my moments with my daughters because our time together is more and more limited every day.
Family time is so important! 

More time enjoying each other!  And more ART!

That being said.....GOALS!  Specifically Writer's Workshop goals! 

Here are some of my professional goals in the classroom: 
1.  Keep up with my conferring during Writer's Workshop.  This is the MOST IMPORTANT part of WW in my opinion and it is so easy to get side tracked.  Especially when you teach 2 half day sessions of Kindergarten with NO PREP and NO BREAKS.  When they are so nicely writing quietly in their little spots around the room it is super tempting to use that time to prep the next lesson, clean up the last one, or just take a drink of water for heavens sake!  So to reach this goal here is my action plan: 

  • Prep my math lesson each day after school (math comes right after WW) sometimes I find myself getting out the materials or "finding" stuff at the end of writing time.  That takes away from my conferring time!  If I set aside a time after school it should only take me 5 minutes each day to be READY! 
  • Keep my notebook out!  I am forever putting stuff away.  I don't like things out, it clutters my space and my brain!  If my conferring notebook gets put away it is easy to "forget" a day and then fall behind, and then forget about it the rest of the week.  This is REAL teacher talk here.  I hate to admit it but it's pretty easy for me to get lazy sometimes! 
  • Confer with 3 students a day (this will get me to everyone in a 2 week cycle).  I get OVERWHELMED when I try to get to 6 each day (x2 classes that's 12 a day folks!)  Then something happens and I miss a group and I'm scrambling to get to the kids I missed the day before.  Can you say anxiety?  So I find that if I stick to 3 a day I can reasonably get to all of them in a 2 week rotation.  It is LESS STRESS for me and I can spend quality time with every single one of them.  If I try to get them all in a week I end up doing less conferring in the long run.  I don't know why, but it's true. 
Those are my goals for conferring during Writer's Workshop after the new year.  This will help me with my ONE LITTLE WORD too!  If I can be less stressed about rushing around from kid to kid then I can BE more present with each child and enjoy the process!  Hooray! 

Don't forget to link up with Ashley at Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and Angie at Lucky Little Learners for #2getherwearebetter.  Because honestly, we are!