Monday, December 11, 2017

Elf On The Shelf Kindness Challenge

If you're on my email list, you know that I've been having a battle with myself: to elf, or not to elf? (If you're not on my email list, let's be friends! Sign up here!)

I've been going back and forth since Thanksgiving trying to decide if I should bring the elf to our classroom this year. Two years ago, it was a HUGE hit. Our classroom was a magical place with special elf journals, a magic mailbox, and an elf that wrote letters back and forth to my delighted students.  Last year, our elf went back to The North Pole. (enough said)

Well, I've finally made a decision. My kids are going to earn our elf this year. How? I'm glad you asked! We've been a little C.R.A.Z.Y in room 23 the past week or so, so I've decided I want to tap into our kindness to hopefully help us simmer down for the last 10 days of school. Because what I DON'T want is for the elf to make us spiral into even more craziness. (Yes, I know, I try to promote the fun in kindergarten, but there's only so much a girl can take!)
So here's the plan. We're going to have 5 kindness challenges. One each day. And if we can successfully complete each challenge, our elf will come next Monday to join us for our last week before break. 
These aren't gonna be hard things for my kids to do, but some nice things we can do as a class to promote kindness and classroom community. I WANT them to be successful, so they can see that it feels good to be kind!

If you want to try this with your class too, click here to grab it for free! It's editable too, so you can add your own kindness challenges! Enjoy!

-Gina

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Letter Identification Intervention

Every year, I have a few friends who really get stuck with letter ID. While the rest of my class is cruising along with letters and sounds, I'm stuck on how to best help these kids. Sometimes it feels like no matter what I try (singing, standing on tables, hitting my head against the wall), it just doesn't stick!

I've finally found a few engaging and effective activities that have helped my struggling kids reach mastery with their letters and sounds. As happy as I am to share them with you, I'm also writing them down so next year, I don't forget what I did! (Trust me, it happens more than you think!)
#1: Salt Boxes: This one is just made with a pencil box and some salt. You can add food coloring to make the salt different colors if you want, or put card stock on the bottom of the container so a color shows through when kids write.

Connecting the visual representation of the letters to tactile learning is a great way to blend two different learning styles together. Try having students say the letter name as they form the letter with their finger in the salt.

If they're having trouble forming the letter, ditch the salt box, and trace over the letter with your hot glue gun. Then, your kids can just trace over the letter right on the card with their finger. You'll still tap into their tactile learning style because they will feel the hot glue as they run their finger over the letter.
#2: Play Doh Mats: Having kids roll out play doh and use it to form letters is another way to merge visual and kinesthetic learning styles. Using a play doh mat with an image that starts with the first sound of that letter will also help students practice the sound that the letter makes.

#3 Sorts, Sorts, and More Sorts: You can never do enough sorting letters and pictures (by beginning sound). We cut apart the letter and picture stickers in the top pictures for students to sort. (Stickers just make everything more fun!) If you don't have letter stickers, any cards like the ones in the second image work just as well.
#4 Differentiate: Find out what letters each student is struggling with, and focus on those letters. I create a home-school intervention program for these kiddos to practice their letters and sounds. They bring their pocket folder home each night to practice their letters, and then back to school the next day to practice with me. I have seen huge growth by personalizing their learning!

#5 Fun Songs: Learning is tough for some kids and can get frustrating really easily! I like to use fun songs to make learning more exciting and less scary! This ABC Song from Have Fun Teaching is my favorite!

#6 Interactive Technology: Last, but definitely not least, kids LOVE technology. Teach Your Monster to Read is a FREE website where you can differentiate levels for your students (First Steps for those kids just learning letters and sounds, Fun With Words for those who are ready for sight words, and Champion Reader for those who are ready for short sentences). It's fun, engaging, and PERFECT for your struggling kiddos! They won't even know they're learning!

Now I can relax knowing that these ideas are saved for next year! I hope you found a few ideas that will work for you and your class too!

-Gina


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Revamping Guided Math

I've been writing this post in my head for a while, but have been putting off writing it down on the blog because I thought it showed failure. But then I realized that I want to make sure I share with you the real side of teaching, not just the highlight reel

My hope for this post is that it shows you that it's okay to try something and then change it... even half way through the year. Teaching is all about doing what's right for your kids, so if something isn't working for them... fix it! {And I apologize if it gets lengthy!}

I started the year how I do each year with guided math. Here's the format that I found has worked for my class every year so far (and I now stress the SO FAR part): one group meets with me, one group works on the computers (we used to have a program called SuccessMaker, but now we use a free website called happynumbers.com), and two groups go to math stations. 

This format "worked" for a while, but when we came back from Christmas break, I realized something was wrong. I knew I was meeting the needs of all of my kids because of the activities I was choosing and how I was differentiating, but I still didn't FEEL like I was meeting the needs of all of my kids, because I just wasn't seeing them enough. 

In the past, I was able to meet with all 4 groups in a day. With our schedule this year (and the fact that I have 5 groups because of large class sizes), I can only meet with 1 or 2 groups a day, so there were some kids I was only seeing once a week. Even though I knew they were making growth from looking at their work, I didn't feel like I knew them as mathematicians.

And I could see it in my kids. My kids weren't engaged. They wanted to do math with me. I was leaving my table A LOT to redirect kids. I was dreading teaching math. I didn't know what was going on since "my guided math" had always worked great.

So I made a change. I split the kids up into smaller groups of 3 and chose the most engaging, open ended math stations that I could. This may be the most important part. I needed the math stations to be open ended so that no matter how many times my kids went to a math station, they could have a NEW, meaningful experience there. So no, I don't change out the stations often. (We've actually been using the same stations for 3 weeks now) There are no matching games. We use a lot of dice, a lot of spinners, and a lot of playing cards. This way, they can never say "I've already played this game," because the game will be new each time they play. Here are some of our favorites:

*Let's Go Fishing: Students choose 2 fish cards to create an addition equation to solve. They can use the fish bowl mat and manipulatives to help them solve the equation. Differentiate by splitting the cards into different baggies (1-5 number cards and 1-10 number cards)

*Spin and Color: Students will use a pencil and a paper clip to spin the spinners. Two versions: spin an equation and color the sum OR spin the sum and color the matching equation. Make it reusable by putting the mats in a sheet protector and having kids spin and COVER instead of spin and COLOR.
*Drop It, Build It: Students will drop 2 manipulative on the playing mat, and add the 2 numbers together. They will cover the sum on the picture with a pattern block.
*Race To Add: Students will play this board game with a partner. The partner will read the equation, and the student will answer with the sum. The partner can check the answer in the bottom right hand corner of the card! Differentiated for you- green cards are sums to 5 and blue cards are sums to 10!
*Playing Card Subtraction- Students will choose 2 playing cards and make a subtraction equation to solve.

We also use our iPads as one of our stations (which are engaging themselves). Kindergarten Game Show allows me to differentiate for my kids and have them play games that focus on the skills they need to work on.

While the kids are engaged in their math stations, I have one small group with me. I introduce them to a new concept, we do some guided practice, and I get them started on some independent practice. Then, I leave them to work for a bit, and I go around the room and work with the rest of the kids. I give support to some kids, and extend the learning of others. My students can not WAIT to show me the work that they've done. 

By doing this, I'm able to see each one of my kids each day, whether or not they are actually in "my group." I have seen SO much growth in my kids since we've started this "new" guided math format, and I now feel that I really know each one of them as mathematicians! I hope I've given you some ideas you can try in your classroom too! If you want to give these math stations a try too, you can find them here!
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful for YOU!

Do you celebrate Friendsgiving? This year I am having a virtual Thanksgiving Potluck with some of my teacher besties! We have so much to be thankful for, and we wanted share our blessing with you!
We created a FREE Classroom Cornucopia of our best selling resources! These are some of our favorite classroom creations that can be used throughout the year. Here's a taste of everything we shared in our Cornucopia...

Emily from Polka Dots Please shared a Tooth Word Bank that can be used for writing folders, anchor charts, or a creative writing center. There are pictures to match every word so little writers feel inspired and supported! (This is a BONUS word bank that is not included in the original set!)



Alisha from Missing Tooth Grins shared Winter Main Idea Passages. These main idea passages are designed for the winter months and help your students understand and practice telling the main idea and supporting details from a short passage. They are consistent, easy to use, and require no prep!



Jessica from Mrs. Stanford's Class shared Post It Note Reminders! These easy to use sticky note reminders are a great way to keep notes home consistent in your classroom. All you need to do is print the template, stick the post its, and print again. Have them stocked up in your drawer for your next writing checklist! Parents and students will love the consistency these checklists can bring to your classroom! Teachers will love the convenience! 



Katie from Simply Creative Teaching shared Place Value Exit Slips from her Math Exit Slips for every Common Core math standard! You can grab exit slips for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade! They are designed to be completed in 5 minutes or less and there are 4 to a page for quick and easy printing. 
Kelly from Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten shared Kindergarten Reading Comprehension Stories that are so much fun for emergent readers! Students read a text with CVC words and sight words while using the tracking dots to point to the words as they read. Students color a star or symbol at the top of the page each time they read. Four comprehension questions are included (multiple choice and fill in the blank). Additional practice is included on the bottom of the page with CVC words or seasonal vocabulary.


Diane from One Giggle At a Time shared her best selling Joke of the Day Set! It's her favorite part of every school day, and it has been rated by her firsties on the Top Ten List of Bests in her classroom for years! Every day of the school year, her class starts the day with a joke, a fact, and a question to ponder together. It is a great way to join together to share some giggles, some deep thinking, and a little each other. Joke of The Day set includes daily cards that can be printed out or a Smartboard version that can be displayed on the screen each morning as the students come in. 



Amber from A Smiling Teacher shared Editable Sight Word Lists! 
They make it easy for teachers to differentiate sight word and spelling practice while giving your students choice! The pack includes 15 word work activities that require little to no prep and can be used with any spelling or sight word list! Students loves the variety of choices and teachers love that students are working on words that are just right for them! EDITABLE word lists are included and make it easy to personalize learning! 


Elyse from A is for Apples shared differentiated reading logs! They are the perfect way to hold students and parents accountable for reading at home while also making it fun! Students color in a picture every time they read a book, and you can choose from over 20 recording pages to meet the needs of all your learners!


Gina from Teaching with Heart shared Work on Writing. You can easily create ENGAGING and MEANINGFUL writing center activities for your kindergarteners or first graders! The pack includes lots of activities so you and differentiate and scaffold to meet the needs of your students!

We are so thankful this year and happy to share our Classroom Cornucopia with you! You can download the whole 43 page pack here or click on the picture below! Happy Thanksgiving Friends!



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Sunday, October 23, 2016

DIY Flip Chute

If you haven't explored a flip chute yet, you have GOT to try it. They are super simple to make, and can add so much FUN to any subject area! 

Here's the basic concept: Using a double sided index card with information from ANY subject area, students read one side of the card, put it in the flip chute, and it comes out showing the other side of the card. My mind has been SPINNING with all the different ways this can be used in the classroom... vocabulary words and definitions, addition/subtraction equations and answers, pictures and beginning sounds.. if you can name it, you can pretty much think of a way to use it with a flip chute!

This week, I'm planning on using the flip chute to practice initial sounds. I will give my students some picture cards with the initial sound written on the back. They will look at the picture, say the word, and say the initial sound.

Then, they will put the card into the flip chute, and can self assess when the card comes out!

Now that I'm sure you have so many ideas too and need 192 flip chutes for you classroom, it's a good thing that they're easy to make! Here's a step by step tutorial of how to make your own:
1. Get an orange juice or milk container and cut off the front and back flap.
2. Fold in the other 2 flaps and tape them down with packing tape.
3. Cut two rectangles on the front of the container. One rectangle about 1" from the top, and the other rectangle about 1/2" to 1" from the bottom. The rectangles should be about 3 1/4" x 1 3/4".

4. Cut 2 strips of cardstock. One strip should be 10 1/2" x 3 1/4". The other should be 7" x 3 1/4".
5. Fold in the top and bottom of both strips about 1" to make 2 flaps on each.
6. Tape the top flap of the long strip to the top of the top rectangle cut out on the container. Pull the cardstock through the flip chute, and tape the bottom flap of the strip to the bottom of the bottom rectangle cut out on the container.
7. Tape the top flap of the short strip to the bottom of the top rectangle cut out on the container. Pull the cardstock through the flip chute, and tape the bottom flap of the strip to the top of the bottom rectangle cut out on the container.

8. Cover with decorative duct tape, contact paper, or washi tape, and you're ready to start having some fun!

Want to give it a try with letters and sounds? Click here to grab a sample of my picture cards and letter cards from my Let's Learn Letter Sounds pack for FREE. Just print them back to back and you're good to go!

I already have an ongoing list of ways I'm planning to use flip chutes in my classroom, but you can never have too many ideas! Share your ideas below in the comments!

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Monday, October 10, 2016

FREE October Math Station!

I am deathly afraid of spiders. In all seriousness, it's uncontrollable and to the point that it's embarrassing. So when I saw these webs and felt spider stickers in the Target Dollar Spot, it was very odd for me to walk over and check them out. But in the back of my mind, I couldn't stop thinking of how perfect they would be for a math center. So, very unlike me, I bought them all!
We're working on one to one correspondence and numbers to 10 in our classroom right now, and let's be real, counting can get a little boring. So I'm constantly looking for different things for my kids to count, and ways to keep it exciting. Here are two ways we're using these webs and spiders in our room:
The first math station we are using is Spider Match. For this center, my kiddos pick a number card and read the number. Then, they put the matching number of spiders on their web. They love getting to use new supplies, and I love that they are practice one to one correspondence and number recognition!
The second math station we've been using is Order The Spiders. My kiddos put the numbers in order, and then build each number with the spider stickers to check their answer. This one's a fan favorite because I hide the number cards in a sensory bin!
Want to use these math centers in your class but didn't grab the supplies at Target? No worries! Click here to get the spider numbers and printable web mats for FREE! Then, use your choice of spider rings, plastic spiders, spider erasers, or spider stickers!
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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Controlling Those Voices!

I've always struggled with showing kids that they don't need to SCREAM at the person sitting right next to them, or that they can talk to the people at their center, but they have to use a whisper voice. My kids have always seemed to have an all or nothing view of talking in our classroom; they would either SCREAM or be completely silent. And let's be real, it was usually screaming.
It drove me absolutely CRAZY, so it was my mission this summer to figure out how to teach my new kinders about their volume in a kid friendly way. As much as I kept telling my kids to whisper, they really had NO IDEA what a whisper was!
I stumbled upon the book Decibella and Her Six Inch Voice on Pinterest, and could not believe how perfect it was to teach KIDS about the different voice levels. 
After reading the book, we talked about the different voice levels for a few days, Then, we brainstormed times when we should use each voice. We talked about what it would look like and sound like, and why it was important. Then, they got a chance to make their own decisions and draw pictures or write words of when they could use each voice level.
Six voice levels is a lot for kinders to wrap their heads around and remember, so I knew we had to break it down a little bit. I decided that the voice we would be using most in our classroom was our 6-inch voice, so I figured we should really focus on that one. We talked about what a 6-inch voice sounds like, practiced using our 6-inch voice, and talked about when and why it's important to use it. Then, we created ourselves and thought about one time during the day that we should use our 6-inch voice.
After lots of modeling, practicing, and more modeling, they worked towards earning their 6-inch voice badge. They were so proud of themselves, and I loved that it was something they could take home and talk about with their parents.
Now that we are masters of our voice levels, it's important that I let them know what type of voice they should be using throughout our day. This voice level chart hangs on our whiteboard, and is the perfect visual reminder. We are by no means perfect yet, but I sure am happy with our progress!

Click the image below to head to Polka Dots Please, and read all about her classroom management tip!

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