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. 

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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Alphabet Centers in Kindergarten

In July my mind starts turning to the beginning of the year and I start thinking about the alphabet. Yes. The alphabet....(you might be thinking beach, I'm think ABC's)

I remember that all of my brand new, bright eyed, bushy tailed kindergarteners are going to be bursting with excitement to start learning to read but a lot of them will not know their letters. Like even one. The best way to get them the exposure they need is LOTS and LOTS of hands on stuff. Here are some summer finds that have me pretty excited.
I don't live near a Target so when I get to go it's a pretty big deal. I was visiting my sister in San Diego and I guess we just happened to hit her Target right when all the school stuff came out. I can usually resist but this time I could not. I mean....look at all of that alphabet goodness?

How am I going to use all this stuff?

Alphabet Magnets
I have metal doors in my classroom so magnet stations are easy peasy. These even come in zip lock bags (lets see how long those last!) so I will just leave them in there for now. I will provide my students with an ABC chart and then their job will be to put the alphabet in order. If you have spied these at your local Target you will notice that "I" is ice cream (ugh) "E" is eraser (really?) and "O" is orange (obviously not teacher created ). Hey...atleast there isn't a giraffe for G! I will still use them though because it's all about exposure. The odds of you messing up a kid for life with a picture of an ice cream cone are slim to none.

Alphabet Sorting Clips
I love having my kiddos use clothes pins in the classroom because it works on a skill (in this case the alphabet) and fine motor skills at the same time. I think these will be a good fit because they are nice and wide so (hopefully) they won't fall apart too soon. The cheap ones from Walmart always do but they are like a dollar for a million of them so I don't worry about it. These were 3 whole dollars so I hope I didn't waste my money. Ha!
I created this matching alphabet to print and laminate to use in this center. Students will match up the capital letter to the lower case letter. It gives them a little help too because the colors match. Plus it's pretty :) You can get it for FREE by clicking on the picture below.

One complaint??? This was annoying....
I got two V's and no K! If anyone in the kindergarten world out there has an extra K and would like to trade me for a V I would be forever grateful! 

Felt Alphabet Letters 
What am I going to do with these? You'll have to tune in later. I think I just came up with a plan but I have to run to my classroom to get a few things first. I'm kind of excited about it so it will force me out of my PJ's to go get what I need. That's a win win.

So the rest of my alphabet centers are discussed HERE in a blog post I did last summer. Below are a few sets I have that I find very useful during the first month or so of school to create really hands on alphabet centers. It's all about exposure! Thanks for stopping by today! 


If you would like to pin this post for later, here you go!

FabFitFun Fun!

Raise your hand if you are a sucker for subscription boxes. Yes? No? Well I am not. I can usually resist the allure of fun mail with awesome stuff in it but this one is just too good to pass up. First off, it's just 4 times a year. So it doesn't get old and you don't get tired of another monthly bill. I can handle quarterly.
Second of all it's a great value. You get over $200 of products for the $49.99 fee every 3 months. And it's all great stuff! Last, they personalize it to you. My daughter and I both get a box but we both get different things customized to our likes/dislikes.

Isn't the box fun? My husband even called me when it arrived to tell me I got a really neat box in the mail. He's not easily impressed so I knew exactly what box he meant!

Here are all the awesome things I got in the summer box.

My favorites are the Michael Stars scarf, the amazing water bottle and the Cargo_HD Bronzer. There is also some great eye gel and sunscreen that will come in really handy this summer!

You can get $10 off your first box HERE. You won't be sad I promise!

Refresh, Rejuvenate, Revise!

Sweet summertime is upon us and it is that wonderful time of year that I have time to sit down and revisit some of the resources I use in the classroom. I take a little time to myself to refresh first....that's important! Then I tackle a couple of resources. This summer I am working hard on all of the centers I have created to go along with Reading Street. 
When I started back in kindergarten 3 years ago I was greeted with boxes and boxes of Reading Street material. Can you say overwhelming?? Well for me it was and I had to really take my time through the curriculum to figure out what worked best for me. Here is one way that I organized the small group books. Instead of keeping the low, on level, and advanced selections in separate boxes I put them all together and labeled them with file tabs. 
It made it much easier to grab the whole group each week instead of searching in 3 different places. Plus it took up a lot less room in my closet! 
All 36 weeks fit in 3 of these Sterilite bins. You get them HERE. (Affiliate link)

In addition to storing all of those materials I needed something to organize their scope and sequence with my style of teaching and create a few things for a focus wall. I started creating weekly units and it was fun, they were helpful, and my kiddos loved them. I went ahead and finished all 36 weeks and that was that! I had all of the teacher created materials I needed for centers. I put them in binders and I was good to go! 
Click on the pic to get the binder labels FREE
 Well... fast forward 3 years and I've learned a lot more about these units and have incorporated new things each time I teach a new story. I am spending my summer revamping all of these centers with bright new posters (some are staying the same but some needed a do over!) and some printer friendly objective pages because I know not everyone has access to a color printer at school (and if you are like me you might just prefer the clean look of black and white!). I am also including a craft for each week so you can send home a fun reminder of the story.

This wasn't just a cosmetic change. I also changed up a lot of the centers that maybe needed a little more....direction. Don't get me wrong, I love what I made the first time but some of them need a more hands on approach to the learning. 
 I went back and made sure I had a little book included in every story. When I first wrote these units I didn't always include a little book but those are my kiddos favorites! I know I need to make a full set each week because every single kid will pick that center! Plus it gives them a little book to put in their browsing box  and practice their sight words throughout the week. Win win! 

This is how I will be spending my summer or at least the month of June. Check back for updates and if you want to pin this for later here ya go!