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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Friday, August 12, 2016

My #1 Open House Tip

Open house (meet the teacher, visitation, whatever you call it) can be very stressful. Think back to your open house from last year. If it was anything like mine, you're probably remembering tons of people coming in and out of your classroom at all different times, trying to introduce yourself to students, making sure parents get all of their questions answered, taking pictures of your kids, handing out scavenger hunt papers, telling people to sign in, and hopefully letting parents know what important forms and papers they need to take home with them. Did I mention open house was stressful?!
At the end of the night, everything is a blur. There are papers everywhere, you're not exactly sure who came, and you certainly have no idea who you need to send forms home with the next day. Well, say GOODBYE to this feeling, because you will not be feeling it this year! Do NOT let yourself be as stressed as you were last year. Say it with me, I WILL find a way to eliminate the extra stress that comes with open house. I mean, come on, we're already nervous enough about meeting everyone and making a good first impression. We don't need anything extra to worry about!
So here's your plan for this year. My secret weapon for open house... folders! Head on over to your local Walmart, Staples, Office Max, whatever your go to store is, and buy a box of 9x12 manila folders. 
Once you have copied all of your open house forms and other important papers, put them all inside. 
You can attach a cute cover photo like I did, but you don't have to. What you HAVE to do is label the folder with your students' names. Why? Well there's 2 reasons really. 
1- You will immediately know who you need to send papers home with the next day. Before you clean up to go home, just collect the leftover folders, and pop them into your students' mailboxes. No thinking involved!
2- You will know who came to open house. Parents have a lot to do at open house, and sometimes, forget to sign in. You'll get a sense of who was there by seeing which folders are left. (Yes, parents could have picked the folder up and put it down when they were talking,  but even so, at least you'll know to send it home the next day!)

This system is especially awesome for teachers who use flexible seating. If you do, you don't have a "home seat" for every student for their folder to be at. You can just put your labeled folders on one table, and parents can take their child's folder from the pile.
Need one more way that open house folders make life less stressful? Put a checklist inside each folder telling parents what papers need to be sent back to school, and what can stay home. You won't need to answer a sea of emails each morning because parents will know exactly what's expected of them. It's a win, win!

Ready to start making your open house folders? Click here to grab the editable checklist for FREE! Want a little more explanation? Click here to watch my Facebook Live about open house folders!
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fact Fluency Fun!

Fact fluency can be tough for little learners, especially since they are just learning the basics of addition and subtraction. Not only are we asking them to solve equations, but we're asking them to do it with automaticity! Poor little guys!
I have spent the last few years playing around with what works and what doesn't in the world of fact fluency, and I finally got to a place where it all clicks for me. Fact fluency is NOT one-size fits all, so we shouldn't treat it like it is. We need to meet our kids where they are, and not where we want them to start. Here's how I tackle fact fluency in my classroom.
My first job is to pre-assess my kiddos. They're not all going to start on +0 facts, because some of them are beyond that. Why would I waste precious time and have them be bored?! Remember, we need to be challenging our learners by meeting them where they are!
Once I pre-assess my kids, I know which facts they've already mastered, and which facts they haven't. So, I start creating their differentiated fact rings by giving them (1) any math fact sets that they have already mastered completely {all of the facts in that group} and (2) the first set of math facts that they did not master completely. Because of this, every fact ring will look DIFFERENT, and it's important to label them with names! {It's also really cute when all of their fact rings are hanging on the wall!}
To make this easier for me, I print each set of math facts on a different color. This way I know that +0 facts are the pink ones, +1 facts are the yellow ones, and so on. I print, cut, and hole punch ALL of the facts before we start working on fact fluency so that they're all ready to go when I need them. {Yes, it takes a lot of prep, but it is SO worth it!}
Before we start guided math every other day, we take our Fact Fluency test. I print the tests on the same color paper as the flash cards so it's easy for me to know who gets what test. My kids fold the paper in half and get started on the left side while I'm passing out papers and people are choosing spots to work in (the left side is the WARM UP). Once everyone is ready, I set the timer for 1 minute, and they flip over their paper and answer as many questions as they can. (The right side is the TEST) When time is up, they put their pencil in the air, and I collect the papers. Then we split into our guided math groups.
While everyone in my group is getting settled, they take their math fact rings and review their facts or help a partner review his/hers. Each time they get a new set of facts, they write the answer on the back of each flash card in pencil so that it's easy for them to check if they're right. This is a routine that I've built into my guided math rotations, and it has paid off big time!
Of course, they're not only learning their math facts through their fact rings. It takes a lot of hands on practice and exposure to really make them stick! 
These DIY GIANT number rings are a favorite whole group, small group, and independent activity! Students have a blast exploring the combinations for each number by changing the number card and the amount of "beads" on the hula hoop! By moving the beads around, they can explore the numbers that add to the given sum!
We L-O-V-E a good app! Undersea Addition is one of our favorite FREE math apps! You need to answer addition equations to reveal a secret picture... what fun! It even gets more challenging as you complete levels which is great for your advanced kiddos!
This Math Machine was a BIG hit in kindergarten this year! We did a lot of hands on practice with putting two groups together, and it really helped the math STICK! I just love when you can see their little wheels spinning!
We also explored addition and subtraction using our WHOLE BODIES! Our giant ten frame (made just out of masking tape) was the perfect way to talk about adding and subtracting within 10.
Do you notice a pattern of GIANT things going on here?! We couldn't practice addition and subtraction facts without a GIANT number line! I love that my kiddos can get up and MOVE!
So next time you think about Fact Fluency, don't forget to think about the FUN that goes with it! I love that I'm able to make both differentiated and fun for my students, and I think that's why we have so much success!
If you're looking for even more ways to practice addition and subtraction, I've got a whole other blog post for ya! And don't forget to check out our Meaningful Math Centers for low prep, differentiated activities! You can also find all of the Fact Fluency resources here!



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Friday, July 8, 2016

DIY Giant Number Bracelet

I'm not a worksheet person. When it comes to teaching math, hands-on manipulatives are a must have for me. Especially with my little guys, do they truly understand a concept without learning through manipulatives? 
Before we use any manipulatives for the first time {or complete any activity for that matter}, I always model for my students, and do some guided practice as well. Whether I'm teaching in my small groups during guided math, or I happen to be doing something whole group, those are two things that I always do. Unfortunately, it's really tough to model or do guided practice so all of the kids can see with small manipulatives. Sure, you can use an overhead projector to show students how to use the materials, but it's often hard to see, and it's much different than using the actual thing.
One of my favorite manipulatives to use when decomposing numbers and teaching addition are number bracelets. I was introduced to these from Tara West of Little Minds At Work. When I would show my kids how to use the number bracelet to explore combinations that make a specific number, it was really tough for them to stay engaged because they were looking at such a tiny object. They always wound up "getting it," and the activity always went fine, but something was definitely missing.
This summer, my mentor from my old school was SO excited to share an idea with me, and let me tell you, it blew my mind! She shared that she was going to make a giant number bracelet to use to introduce number bracelets to her kids. Right away, I knew it was a brilliant idea and I HAD to see it! And now that I've seen it.. I knew it was too good to not share with you too :)!
Here's what you'll need:
-a hula hoop
-a pool noodle
-a serrated knife
-a tape measure
-a giant binder clip
-a marker
First, measure the pool noodle lengthwise. Make a mark every 2 inches. {Measure as many segments as you would like depending on the number you want your number bracelet to go up to. For 10 segments, I used about half of the pool noodle.}
Once all of your marks have been made, cut on each mark with a serrated knife. 
After you have cut all of your segments, cut a slit lengthwise on each segment so that you can open it.
It should look like this.
Then, open up each segment, and place it on the hula hoop. Don't stretch it too much; it should completely close around the hoop. {Again, put as many segments as you want on your hula hoop. I put 10, because I want my students to decompose numbers to 10.}
When you have all of your segments on the hula hoop, print, laminate, and cut the number cards. Hang them from the hula hoop with a giant binder clip. {I got mine at Staples.}
Now, your giant number bracelet is ready for students to use! Looking at it here, it's showing that 5 and 5 make 10.
Students can slide the segments over the top of the hula hoop to change their addends. This one shows 3 and 7 make 10.
Once they're ready to work on a different number, just change the number card, and take off as many segments as you need so that your number bracelet represents the new number! And that's it. Easy as pie! 
Want to see the number bracelet in action? Tune in today at 1:00 EST on Facebook for a Facebook Live Giant Number Bracelet demonstration! If you can't make it, no worries! You can catch the replay!
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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Confession: My Classroom is Noisy {& A Measurement Activity}

I always thought that one sign of a great teacher was a quiet classroom. I was envious when I walked through the hallway and saw students working silently at their seats.  I would close my door when my class got too loud, because I didn't want it to look like I had terrible classroom management skills. 
The other day, I looked around my classroom while we were doing a measurement activity, and realized they were being pretty noisy. I gave each of my students a strip of paper, and told them to choose a partner. Their task was to each make one cut on their strip of paper to create a total of 4 strips (2 from each partner). Then, the partners were to use what we've learned about measurement to put the strips in order from shortest to tallest OR tallest to shortest. It didn't matter what they decided, as long as they came to an agreement and labeled their creation correctly. 
I got ready to ring my bell and give a reminder, but as I was walking over to the bell, I heard one of my kiddos say to his partner, "No, that one's not taller. You need to align the bottoms." I realized that they were talking MATH! I listened a little closer, and realized my whole class was engaged in math talk. They were noisy, but they weren't talking about recess, what they were doing after school, or their pet hamster. They were doing exactly what I wanted them to do, and they were getting their work done. 
This might sound like a great narrative story, but it really happened! I've been thinking about WHY my class needs to be quiet, and I really have no answer to that question except that I've always thought that it meant the teacher had good classroom management skills. But do we really want our students silently doing their work, or do we want students engaged, using problem solving skills, and working collaboratively? My answer is the latter. So, I've decided to spend less energy worrying about how noisy my classroom is, and more energy supporting them in the kind of talking I want them to be doing. I've come to the conclusion that it's OKAY for my classroom to be noisy (although I might have to remind myself of this from time to time :)! )

I don't often do #realtalk on here, but here it is! I'd love to hear your thoughts! Want to save this post for later? Pin the image below!

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week.. Don't Forget About Your Paras! {FREEBIE & GIVEAWAY}

It's time for Teacher Appreciation week, and I can't help thinking that I couldn't do what I do without the help of my classroom paraprofessionals! I am lucky enough to have a wonderful paraprofessional with me for the morning, and another amazing paraprofessional with me 3 days a week for an hour in the afternoon. They run a small group, help me with students who need a little extra attention, and provide extra instruction for a few of my kiddos who need more one on one practice. They are TEACHERS!
Don't forget to celebrate your classroom aides/paraprofessionals during Teacher Appreciation Week! Grab these FREE tags now, and find out how to make a simply, inexpensive gift to go with them!
Instead of waiting until the end of the year to thank your classroom or school aides, why not include them in Teacher Appreciation week?! One of my favorite simple, inexpensive, and DIY gifts are these little Mason jars filled with reusable ice cubes and some Crystal Light! I got all of the items at The Christmas Tree Shop (if you've never been to one, you NEED to find one!) and attached a little tag. It's nothing huge, but just a little token of my appreciation to some of the people who help make my classroom run smoothly. 
Don't forget to celebrate your classroom aides/paraprofessionals during Teacher Appreciation Week! Grab these FREE tags now, and find out how to make a simply, inexpensive gift to go with them!
Want to snag these tags for FREE? Click here to download them now!
Don't forget to help us celebrate YOU this Teacher Appreciation Week! Enter below to win a $25 TPT giftcard!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kindergarten Screening FREEBIES!

Do you hold a kindergarten screening or "roundup" at your school? Our kindergarten screening is an exciting time of year when parents come to register their child(ren) for kindergarten in the Fall. In my school district, we have the students come to the schools twice, once for screening (more of the academic testing to find out where students are), and once for visitation (more of the get to know you, welcome to kindergarten things). This year, we're changing it up a bit to hopefully find out more useful information that will be helpful to us as we prepare for next year.
Get ready for back to school with a  kindergarten screening or round up! Check out a new twist on kindergarten screening and grab 2 FREEBIES- letter ID assessment and handouts for parents!
In the past, our screening has consisted of capital and lowercase letter identification, the Bracken, screening by the school's speech pathologist, and some informal looking through and maybe reading books. We found that the most helpful part of this screening was the letter identification, as it really helped to separate students who are coming in with no background knowledge from students who have a strong literacy foundation already. (This does not mean that the students who score low on the letter ID are doomed, it's just helpful for us to get a sense of where our crowd is at). Click the image below to get your FREE letter identification resource!
Get ready for back to school with a  kindergarten screening or round up! Check out a new twist on kindergarten screening and grab 2 FREEBIES- letter ID assessment and handouts for parents!
Over the years, we really didn't find the Bracken to provide us with earth shattering information, but we have been seeing more and more students start kindergarten with lacking fine motor skills and social skills. Because of this, we decided that we really wanted to focus on those two areas this year.
To change things up this year, we are first going to have students come for kindergarten screening. Parents will complete the registration paperwork as we work with one student (4 per time block). We are going to be assessing a few different things: Letter ID, name ID, letters in the name ID, name writing, and fine motor skills via drawing a self portrait and cutting it out. We want to get an overall picture of each child before they come into kindergarten so that hopefully we can provide them with some fun activities to strengthen any of these areas over the summer. This by no means means that students need to start kindergarten being rockstars in all of these areas, after all, that's what we're here for! We would just like a little clearer snapshot of students than before. Here are two of the handouts that we will be giving to parents at screening. Click on the image to get them for FREE!
Get ready for back to school with a  kindergarten screening or round up! Check out a new twist on kindergarten screening and grab 2 FREEBIES- letter ID assessment and handouts for parents!
Now here's the part that I'm super excited about. Instead of our traditional visitation (mock morning meeting, split into groups to draw a self portrait and write their name, practice bus ride), we are going to hold open play sessions. Parents will sign students up for a time, and they will just play with a few other students who are signed up as well. We will be there to watch, take notes, and play as well, but our main focus here is to see the kids interact with each other. Do they share? Do they throw a fit when it's time to clean up? How do they transition from play to a story? I am hopeful that this will provide some insight into the social and emotional piece that we don't often see come out until a few weeks into school, and then it explodes. If we can get any information from this informal play session, it will allow us to more evenly place students, and get more information from parents and preschool teachers before the school year starts. 
So here's my question for you. Do you do a kindergarten screening? What are your favorite parts? What do you want to change? Do you have a favorite blog post or resource that you go to for tips? Please feel free to leave comments and links below!
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