September Means Apple Time! FREEBIE included

Those first 3 weeks of school FLEW by and here we are in September. That means APPLES! I spent a little time in my classroom today getting my math tubs ready and they are so beautiful and organized. I had to take pictures (that's what an empty nester does, take pictures of their math activities....sigh) 

So far our math tubs have been just a mix of materials to get to know the procedures. We now know how to use them and follow these simple rules: 

1. Get one math tub and keep the same one the whole time. 

2. Use a rug to keep all of your materials in one place. (I get my rugs from carpet stores. They will usually give you their old samples)

3. If all the tubs are taken, go join a partner (ask nicely to be their partner). 

4. Work quietly. 

5. Clean up quickly. 

That seems pretty simple right? It takes a little bit to get the procedure down but we are ready now! 

Here is a picture of the tubs. They are the red dishpans from Walmart. I bought them a little bit at a time so the $2 bucks a piece didn't sting as much as it had to. I have about 25 of these in my classroom and use them for all sorts of things. I like that they are large and any type of material will fit in them. I change out the numbers on them every year to keep them fresh and new. (I used Mod Podge to stick them on). 


A simple game of compare turned hands on fun by adding blocks. 

This tub has two purposes: Putting the numbers in order and writing the numerals. 

I put these write the room cards on a ring instead of hanging them around the room. 

Count and Clip: September Math Centers
Count and Clip. My students love the clothes pin activities this year! 

Number Puzzles: September Math Centers
This one is my favorite. Number Puzzles! 

Great fine motor and counting work!
This was inspired by an activity I saw my daughter doing at her preschool 18 years ago. I changed it up and added pom poms to pick up with tweezers after I took this picture. Great fine motor and counting work! 
Simple 10 frames with pony beads to build fine motor skills.
Simple 10 frames with pony beads. Again, fine motor and counting practice. 

Each activity appears once or twice to fill the 12 math tubs that I have available. I have 24 students so it makes for perfect pairs when math tub time comes. Usually they go to these activities after we have completed math journals. It's a short 5-10 minute activity time at the end of our math block (and always in my back pocket in case we have extra time!)

Save yourself time tip......
Yes I took these pictures so I could blog about this today but I REALLY took the pictures for my kiddos. I will print out each one of these pictures and put them in the matching bin. Instead of spending 10 minutes explaining each activity I can give them a quick run down and then they can follow the directions by looking at the picture. If they aren't using materials correctly (yes...that happens) they have to go sit down. The pictures give a clear expectation of what the activity should look like when they are done. 

Here is a link to all of the activities (and even more). See it in my TPT store by clicking HERE. There are quite a few activities that I haven't set up and a really fun 100's chart included too. I turned that into a FREEBIE if you want to try it out. 




Classroom Water Bottles

This has been an issue for me. I NEED my kiddos to be hydrated but the bottles from home can be a struggle. Some are too big, some are too drippy, some are too small and break easily (sounds like the three little bears...no one is ever happy!). So this year I decided I would take control and handle the water bottle situation so #1 everyone had one and #2 everyone had one that was the appropriate size. I thought this would be so easy but let me tell you...it's been a journey.

I started the first 3 weeks with the little sized disposable bottles. I just replaced them every week. Well....last week I decided enough was enough. I needed a permanent solution.

Enter Dollar Store...

My fears? They will break, they will spill, they will be hard to handle. I've been reassured from all of the blogs I have read that this works so I'm giving it a go. We won't know until we try! Here are the bottles I purchased and put name tags on today.


Aren't they cute? I had to mix up the colors because I couldn't get all of them the same color (bummer). The mix is kind of fun though! Pink and purple for the girls and green and blue for the boys.  The nametags are simple clear shipping labels from Avery. Here is my affiliate link to the ones I used.


Thanks for stopping in! I will let you know how this goes! 



What Are You Teaching? August 27


Just spent 6 hours in my classroom.....

Don't feel prepared.....

Welcome to the beginning of kindergarten!

Actually I do feel prepared, I just know there are a million things I would LIKE to do but we are not READY to do yet. It's hard to set your pace slow in order to get all of those procedures in place so we can FLY later. Patience is a virtue...patience is a virtue...

Here is what IS in the plans this week: 
Our word work this week is still focused on our letter of the week and new sight words.
Reading: This week we are adding in Read to Someone. I didn't really put that on the visual plans but we will use our group decodables and Reading Street Skills Buddy to introduce that routine. 

Centers: I am using centers from this Alphabet Centers unit I created last year when I had a few students who really struggled with alphabet recognition. They are still class favorites! 


Reading Street: Our RS unit this week is Plaidypus Lost. We have a really fun platypus to make at the end of the week that I am excited about. I am incorporating centers form this unit (click HERE) and using the book and Vocabulary Talks I created to introduce the Amazing Words. 

Writer's Workshop: This week we are talking all about tools! Here are the books we are reading to talk about how to use our crayons correctly, when to use a pencil, and how to care for materials. (these are affiliate links) 


Math: We are continuing on our Math in Focus journey. I am really enjoying this curriculum. It feels a little slow right now but thank heavens for that! We hardly have time to make it through our day so I am ok with a little slow routine building. A lot of talk about same/different and a whole lot of discovery with the numbers 1-5. I like that solid foundation. It has a fantastic calendar component as well and I am starting to get a good handle on that. Phew!  

Unit of Study: Alphabet  Our unit of study will become our social studies/science time once we are all done introducing the alphabet. For now every afternoon we use these activities to help us #1 introduce the alphabet and #2 introduce activities like cutting, gluing, listening to directions, coloring (properly) and writing. 
This week we are completing the letter H and I. That's all I could fit in! We will step it up with a couple more pages next week! 

That is our week. No eclipse this week, no days off to take my baby to college (I left that part out....this was me on Thursday)
We are smiling but we were both super nervous and ready to cry on the inside. She is doing great and starts classes tomorrow. I am so excited for her! 

So that being said....I am excited for a regular week! Have a good one!  

Fine Motor Success

Do you ever read a blog post and then just think.....oh man, I need to do that!

Yeah, me too.

All the time! 

I am an avid blog hopper and today's success is all thanks to Marsha at A Differentiated Kindergarten. You can read her post that inspired me HERE. It's all about fine motor morning work. 

I read her post some time last year and thought to myself I should put those together because they would be great. Well...fast forward a year later and I finally got around to it! I am kicking myself because they are so awesome!  I followed her directions almost exactly to set up my fine motor drawers. Right down to the drawers I purchased at Walmart. I had most of what I needed from scrapbooking, craft time, and just random things I have saved over the years. I went to the Dollar Store and bought about $13.00 worth of materials to get started and I bought the bins at Walmart for about $56.00. That was the priciest part of the project. 

The idea of fine motor morning work is to get kiddos working with their hands to build those muscles. This was success and totally worth the money.  
Small beads and tweezers to build letters. 

Straws and scissors. Building those skills! 

Hole punches from my scrap booking days. 

$1 playdough set from the Dollar Tree. Win! 

We are working these in after our initial morning work every morning. As soon as they finish they are able to go to their bin and get to work. It is making our morning routine a super productive time!

Here is an example of the morning work we use each day. You can see it in my store HERE
Right now they are all about introducing the alphabet and building routines. Later we introduce sight words, grammar skills, and sentence writing. 

Thanks for stopping in today! Again, check out A Differentiated Kindergarten for more great ideas for fine motor bins! 

What are you teaching? August 21


It's here! Eclipse week! Are you ready? Are you in school? We are and we are doing all kinds of fun stuff but we aren't allowed to go outside unless we have approved glasses (I couldn't get my hands on any). So we will be live streaming from the classroom and doing a lot of activities. I'm excited! I hope it's not too overcast tomorrow! 

Here are our visual plans for the week: 
Lots of fun stuff this week! Here is a QUICK run down (it's my bedtime!) 

Morning Work: Unit 1, Week 2. We are building routines! After morning work this week they will go to a fine motor bin with a partner. This is my first time using these so I will let you know how that goes! 

Read to Self: We will be using our curriculum pieces during our Read to Self time this week as we build stamina. We are up to about 5 minutes of undisturbed reading time. That's amazing!!  Our story of the week is We Are So Proud. 

I am also using a new product I created this summer to introduce our amazing words and vocabulary for the week. They are VOCABULARY TALK CARDS that get the students talking about the vocabulary by looking at pictures. I did these last week with our story and I LOVED the conversations I heard during this lesson. Here is a little peek: 
They pointed and talked about the pictures and then we got together and introduced the words each picture showed. I always struggle with new ways to introduce vocabulary to little ones, rather than just telling them. This was perfect! 

Writer's Workshop: In WW this week we will be introducing our notebooks. Students will get a bright shiny new notebook on Tuesday and we will talk about taking care of it all week. We are reading a lot of my favorite stories this week! 

Math: Math is going great with Math in Focus. I am very excited about this new curriculum. It has been easy to implement and provides a lot of opportunity for rich math conversation in the classroom. 

Alphabet Book: This week we will complete the E (elephant), F (fish), G (gumball), and H (Hippo) pages. 

Thanks for stopping in today! Have fun where ever you are tomorrow watching the eclipse...or not...sorry if you are out of the viewing area :( 

What Are You Teaching? August 14

It feels like FOREVER since I've done a What Are You Teaching? post. It feels good to be back in school! Here we go for week 1 of a brand new school year!

I made a quick visual lesson plan so you can see all of the activities and books I am reading this week to introduce Daily 5 and Writer's Workshop this week. I'll follow with links and ideas.

Morning Work: 
After our morning meeting students go to their seat and complete this morning work.

This is the 5 minutes a day I check their home/school folders, take attendance, and put out fires (aka help fix bad moods). I also use these to introduce the alphabet the first six weeks of school. We introduce the page and then students can work for a few minutes independently (baby steps!). When they are done they raise their hand (great procedure to get in place day 1) and I come by to check their work (include a little praise) and then they get to go to a fine motor station until every is done. I'm going to blog about my fine motor stations later this week, I'm still setting those up!

Read to Self:
This week we are introducing Read to Self by reading wordless books together. This week my job is to convince them that they are already readers! I think our first couple of days last week gave them a good start but I really want to hit it home this week. Here are some affiliate links to the books we will be reading this week. I blogged about how I use these HERE. This is truly one of my favorite lessons to teach in Kindergarten!  


Daily 5 Word Work Station:
We will introduce the simplest of centers this week to get our routine down. I add pictures to our center boxes so students can see exactly what they need to do in the center. I also include a white board and a dry erase marker so they can write the alphabet if they finish early. Here are a couple of examples of the pictures. All of our centers are just gobs and gobs of letter practice. 
 You can get this center HERE along with  some other great letter recognition activities. 

Reading Street: 
Our first story is The Little School Bus. I'm excited about our centers because I spent most of June revamping them. I made new activities to go with each story and some crafts too. We start pretty simply with some letter naming activities for A,B,C,D, and E, a little rhyming activity and a comprehension page to introduce character. Later in the week we will do the school bus activity shown here: 
You can see this unit in my TPT shop HERE.

Writer's Workshop: 
This week we will be introducing the very beginning steps of Writer's Workshop. I will read Look! Look! Look! to get them looking at ME while we are at the rug. It's a great book for that! The next couple of days we read Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa Partners to talk about how we sit with our partner and share our story before we go back to our seats. I also read Too Much Noise, one of my all time favorites because it is really good for group participation. 


Math: 
I am really excited to start our new curriculum Math in Focus. I help pilot it last year and our district just adopted it. It's really nice to get a fresh new box of learning materials and this one is especially good because it's not super overwhelming! 2 Teacher manuals, 2 big books, and some work books. It's very hands on and incorporates a lot of collaborative learning. I can't wait to see where it takes us! 

With any math curriculum you still need that handwriting practice in kindergarten. We will be using Daily Math Review as our warm up (or cool down) in between activities. It includes a lot of writing instruction for the numbers 0-5 in the beginning and then moves on to 6-10 and beyond. It also gives students a chance to count and solve problems in an easy 5 question format. 

Phew.....almost done! 

Unit of Study: Alphabet
Our unit of study will become our social studies/science time once we are all done introducing the alphabet. For now every afternoon we use these activities to help us #1 introduce the alphabet and #2 introduce activities like cutting, gluing, listening to directions, coloring (properly) and writing. 
This week we are completing the pages for C,D,E, and F. 

That is our week! We had 2 1/2 days last week that were mainly just a mix of trying to sit at the rug and taking bathroom breaks. If we can get more than that done this week we will be winning! 

Back to School 2017

Are you ready for back to school? I am! Actually, we already had our first day of school and we are just about in full swing. It was a great first 3 days of school and I know next week will be even better as we begin to build some routines. Here are a few of my favorite things from the first day. 

You are "of-fish-ally" in kindergarten! 
I had a spot ready for every student with a water bottle (super important!), gold fish, coloring page, and this year I added a little pencil box with manipulatives inside. It went great! I was able to answer parent questions, calm nervous kiddos, and keep everyone in their seat while we got our bearings in the first 15 minutes. Everyone enjoyed coloring this page from Creative Lesson Cafe and I am keeping it for their portfolios. Oh, they enjoyed the snack too! You can get the labels for free HERE!


Morning Meeting
I wanted to start the first day off right with a morning meeting so I could get that routine rolling. I liked adding this question to the end of our morning message. We read First Day Jitters first to show that even teachers can feel nervous on the first day. Most of my kiddos said they were happy or excited but a few were honest and said they were sad or nervous. We only had 2 cryer's this year, so most of them really were just happy or excited! 




First Day Name Project
This is my FAVORITE back to school project! My mentor teacher showed me this about 12 years ago when I first started kindergarten and I still love it every year! This was the first year I got to actually take part because (long story) I've shared 2 half day classes with another teacher and she always did this with them but I got to enjoy the fruits of her labor. We went full day this year (no more sharing two groups) so I got to do it this year! It wasn't as easy as I remember! I blame it on a clogged glue bottle but the instructions are pretty simple: 

  • Trace each child's name on black or white paper in pencil. 
  • Prepare small pieces of rainbow construction paper. 
  • Trace the first letter of each child's name with glue and give them a red piece of construction paper. 
  • Students tear tiny pieces to cover the glue. 
  • When students finish their letter I have them raise their hand (good teaching moment on the first day) and I come by and trace the next letter with glue and give them the next color (orange, yellow, green, blue...) 
  • Have some bins with manipulatives ready for them to use if they finish fast! 


I love the result! We hang these in the hallway and they stay there all year. We usually do white paper but went with black this year. I love how they turned out! 

Ok, last but certainly not least...I got this cute "Happy First Day" treat from one of my sweeties. It was SO GOOD at about 3:30 after the first day of school when I was totally exhausted and totally forgot I was on a diet. Oh well....every delicious calorie was worth it! 

What are your favorite activities to do on the first day? There are so many options! Our first day went great, I hope yours does too! 

Here are all of our favorite Back to School Rules and Procedures to introduce in the first few days! 

And some FREEBIE labels too!


Classroom Library

How do you organize your classroom library? I keep mine in bins according to subject, author, and interest. It makes it really easy for my kiddos to shop for books and go right to their favorite spot to find a book. Today I am going to answer some questions I get every year about my library! 

 #1 Where do you get your books? 


EVERYWHERE! Seriously! I get my books from the teacher's lounge when people change grade levels and leave the books they don't want in there or when people donate to the school. I have to say that's probably where most of my books have come from. Don't ignore free boxes. Go through them and pick out every single book you might think a kindergarten student will find interesting. 

SCHOLASTIC...I always send home Scholastic book orders. Every. Year. Regardless of how many orders I get I do what I can to order through them. They have great prices on the most popular books. 

PTA....Our AMAZING PTA gets us books every year through our school book fair. I always get the newest popular books from them.

OLD CURRICULUM....sounds strange but when they start clearing out old curriculum "they" tend to box everything up and put it in a room some where. Those old small group books might not fit what you are currently using but they work great in any classroom library. 

I BUY THEM...it hurts, but yes. I have spent a bit of my own cash on books throughout the years. Not so much anymore though. I buy Dr. Seuss books from Walmart when they are cheap every March. I've taught 12 years so this didn't happen overnight. Now that my kids are grown I have brought all of their books to school too (except for the original Olivia book...my daughter won't let go of that one). 

 #2 Where do I find those book boxes?


I didn't go out and spend a bunch on these either. Yes, I bought all of them, but not all at once. The small book boxes are from Really Good Stuff. I started buying 12 of them every summer about 5 years ago. Now I have plenty to hold my thousands of books. I just make sure I order blue or green every year and my colors stay consistent. These are SUPER QUALITY. I don't think I will ever have to replace them in the 20 years of teaching I have left in me. Not a split, crack, or ding in any of them.

The red bins are just dish pans from Walmart (the large size). I didn't buy these all at once either. About 6 years ago I decided I wanted them for my classroom library (before I got the green and blue bins) so I just bought one every time I went to Walmart (I visit there often!) It doesn't sting quite as much when you add 2 or 3 bucks to your bill over a stretch of 6 months. A mental game? Yes...I realize that! But it has paid off and they too will last forever. All of the cheap bins I have purchased from the Dollar Store or the cheaper bins from Walmart have split and cracked easily. All of these bins are here for the long haul! 


#3 What about your shelves? 

I was pretty lucky to move into a room that had matching shelves. They were not dark blue like this though...they were all different colors. I like to paint everything one color so I can pull everything together in my room. I painted all of my furniture this color a couple of years ago (except for my nice wood shelves). Pick a color and go with it! It makes your room look like you had a plan. 

I've been fortunate to have some shelves donated to my room that work great for my library. Never say no to donations. Even if you aren't sure you can use them! 


#4 How do you organize them? 


THAT was an undertaking! I spent a summer walking around my room creating piles of books that went together. The most frustrating part of that was the pile of books that didn't match anything but for the most part I came up with about 50 subjects I could group together. I made some labels to keep them organized and viola! Organized books! It's easy peasy for me to put them away each week and after a little training my kiddos can too. If this works in kindergarten it can work in ANY grade! 
I made these round and also rectangle depending on what type bins you have. These are only a buck in my store! Yes! One dollar! See them HERE.

So I hope this helps inspire you to organize your library this year. Here is an example of how my kiddos shop for books each Monday to pick a selection of books for their own browsing boxes. Whatever books are left on the table at the end of shopping time I put back in the book boxes around the room. By the end of year I don't have to do any because they all know how to put them away on their own. They really take ownership over their classroom library!  

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