That Incredible Elf {FREEBIE!}

Are you struggling to make your way to Christmas break? We still have a full week and a day until it's time for break, so our elf on the shelf is pulling out all the stops! My genius teammate shared her idea of a magic mailbox with me, and I knew I had to have one in my classroom! 

To make the magic mailbox, I just wrapped a shoe box with wrapping paper. The shoe box that I had was one that the top flipped open, so I just cut the top off and wrapped both pieces separately. When I put the top back on, I left a little space so that you could slide a letter inside. If you have a regular shoe box, you can just wrap both pieces separately, and then cut a hole in the top.

In the morning, we received a letter from our elf, Jingle, telling us all about the magic mailbox. She told us that we could write to her and tell/ask her anything we wanted. (Of course, she made sure to tell us to use our best handwriting so that she can read it :)!) She even left us some sentence starters to get us going. 

My students were very creative with their letters! This one says: "Dear Jingle, Am I on the naughty list? I like my class. How do you make toys?"

This one says, "Dear Jingle, I did a lot of ornaments on my tree. Can you hang ornaments?"

I love that they are writing to Jingle and not Santa, because not one person wrote a letter asking Santa for a specific toy for Christmas! Phew!

Once we finished writing our letters, we mailed them in the magic mailbox! In the afternoon, I read all of the letters and wrote back to each student as Jingle! They were SO excited to see that Jingle wrote back, and can't wait to write to her again! What a great way to get my kiddos to care about writing the week before break! Click here to grab your own elf paper and sentence starters for FREE!
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All I Want For Black Friday Link Up!

Wow! I cannot believe that it's almost Black Friday! This school year is definitely flying by! I am so thankful for my family, puppy, students, and the amazing friends that blogging and TpT have brought into my life! Some of my friends and I over at The Primary Pack are teaming up AGAIN this year to bring you our 2nd Annual Black Friday Giveaway! We want to show you all how thankful we are for YOU this Thanksgiving! We will be sharing what's on our personal and classroom wishlists, as well as the most wish-listed items in our TpT shops! Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for your chance to enter to win the most wish-listed items from 27 amazing teacher authors!

Let's start with my personal wish list! Here are some things that I have been adding to my list during the year:
TJ Maxx Gift Card: What girl doesn't like to shop? TJ Maxx is one of my favorite stores because I can buy clothes, shoes, AND cute things for our house! 
Kate Spade Wallet: I feel like I am always asking for a new wallet, but they are constantly thrown in my bag, and in need of replacement! This Kate Spade one is super cute AND hot pink :) There is also an outlet by my house, so maybe I can snag it at a great price!

Wireless Mouse: Like many people, I am on my computer A LOT! Sometimes, my fingers get really sore from using my MAC track pad (#problems), so I think a wireless mouse would be a great investment.
UGG Slippers: I have a puppy, so I need new slippers. Enough said!

Okay, guys. There is A LOT on my classroom wish-list, but I narrowed it down to just a few to share with you all.
Writing Stations Bundle: This bundle is absolutely everything I need for my writing center to be engaging and meaningful for the ENTIRE YEAR! I love that it is super kindergarten friendly and has so many writing options!
Reaching Readers: I am always on the search for ways to reach my struggling readers and this new product looks amazing! I can't wait to get my hands on it!
Kindergarten Story Mats: I am also always on the search for ways to enrich my more advanced readers! These reading passages are a great way to practice reading comprehension!

Here are 3 of the most wish-listed items from my TpT shop, Teaching With Heart.
Back to School Night Teacher Must Haves: Whether you're planning for open house, parent visitation, or conferences, this product includes EVERYTHING you need! There are tons of EDITABLE forms, labels, and decor! 
Oh No! Sub Binder: No one likes making sub plans, but this EDITABLE product makes it super simple! Have your sub binder made and ready for whatever sneaks up on you this winter!
My Writing Office: Writers of every age can be independent workers with this EDITABLE writing office! Everything they need is right at their fingertips for reference! Monthly dictionaries are also included!
Drumroll please.... Check out this HUGE giveaway package you can win by entering below! There is a resource from almost everyone in The Primary Pack, perfect for all primary grades!! Good luck, friends and happy shopping!

Now It's Your Turn To Join The Fun! 

Just a few rules to follow and you're on your way:

  1. Download the images above!
  2. Add your personal holiday wishlist to the image titled "My Personal Black Friday Wishlist"
  3. Add your favorite sellers products from your TPT wishlist to the "My Classroom Black Friday Wishlist"
  4. Add your own products to the "For Your Black Friday Wishlist"
  5. Link up below to share your Black Friday Wishlists!
  6. Don't forget to enter our fabulous giveaway above AND visit others linked up below!

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What's a teacher to do with all of that leftover Halloween candy?!

We all know the teacher sayings about Halloween and how it gets our kids all out of control. But let's face it, whether Halloween is during the week or on a weekend, the first day back to school AFTER Halloween is wild too! Everyone wants to talk about their costumes and how much candy they got when you really need them focused on reading and math. 
So why not weave some Halloween into your lessons for a few days after? That's all your students want to talk about anyway, and I'm sure you have TONS of Halloween candy left over (unless you're like me and have a desire to eat it all!)! That's what I decided to do today, and I'm so glad I did! My students were engaged because it was a topic that they were dying to talk about. Instead of trying to squash it, I just let it run its course. Here's some activities that we did to get my kiddos working on skills that I needed to teach, but still give them that little taste of Halloween.

We used our sight words to write predictable sentences using some Halloween candy. We glued the candy onto our sentence, and practiced reading our friends' sentences. You could also make pages for a class book using your students' names! 

We used Halloween candy to practice putting spaces between our words, and counting the number of words in a sentence. NOONE forgot spaces between their words today!

We also practiced some beginning sounds! Each student chose their favorite candy, and wrote (or drew) a list of words that started with the same beginning sound! Not only did everyone present their lists to the class afterwards, but they also got to share what their favorite candy was and WHY. What great speaking and listening practice!

In math, we went "trick or treating" at a "friend's house." One student held the candy bowl, and pretended to be the person who was at home. The other student pretended to knock on their door and said "trick or treat!" The person holding the candy bowl told the trick or treater how many pieces of candy to take.
We did this for two trick or treaters. Then, the trick or treaters showed the math group their candy. As a group, we had to talk about and decide who had more candy, and how many more pieces of candy they had. This was a great way to teach this concept because they understood the real life connection. They are always talking about how many MORE things someone else has!
Then, we checked our work by lining up our candy and making pairs. This was by far my favorite candy activity!

So what are you waiting for?! Pack your extra candy in your school bag for tomorrow and have some fun!
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Blog Name Change GIVEAWAY!

When Amber and I agreed to be roommates for this summer’s TpT Conference less than a year ago, we didn’t know we’d be leaving Vegas with a new best friend. When The Primary Pack launched last October, we found ourselves surrounded by passionate, like-minded teacher bloggers who wanted to share their love of teaching with others around the world. All thirty of us collaborated together, and began to form bonds with new teachers that we had never met face to face before. The collaboration and ideas that were springing from a group of people whose only interaction was on the internet was in many ways more inspiring and energizing than any in-person teacher connections.
So when Teachers Pay Teachers announced the dates of their summer conference in Las Vegas, it was a no-brainer that many of us would choose to room with someone who they had only “met” in this online world. Amber and I decided to be roommates, and began to chat occasionally regarding the conference and hotel, but it wasn’t until the conference was right around the corner that we started to talk all the time. We quickly began to see how similar we were, and couldn’t wait to finally meet in person in July.
Meeting in Las Vegas for the first time was like seeing an old friend that you hadn’t seen in years. We became inseparable from the moment we met in the hotel lobby, and became closer and closer as the conference went on. No one would have known that just a few days before, we had never met in person! We kept joking that we were the same person, and we really were just two peas in a pod!
{Here we are with Erin Cobb from Lovin' Lit wearing our matching jean jackets as usual!}
Amber and I share the same passion for our kindergarten classes, our blogs, and bettering ourselves as teachers. It is so refreshing to find a best friend who is not only constantly inspiring you as an educator, but as a person as well. 
After our trip to Vegas, we decided to transform our blogs to better represent us as teachers. We bounced tons of ideas off of each other, and finally came up with new “brands” that really capture our personalities. We are SO excited to reveal our new names to you!
With the launch of our new blog names, we want to celebrate our story with you and YOUR teacher bestie! Here’s how you can help spread the joy of having an amazing teacher friend that you just couldn’t live without:

Join us on Instagram to share a picture of you and your best teaching friend using the hashtag #teacherbesties

Celebrate with us by entering to win one of the following prizes from some of our favorites!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don’t forget to let your teacher bestie know how much you appreciate them by sharing this post with them on Facebook for them to check out too!
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Easy and Cheap DIY Spinners

If you come into my classroom, you are bound to see spinners EVERYWHERE! I seriously use them for a million different activities every day (both math and literacy related!). One of the biggest reasons why I like these activities is that they are so engaging for young children. Give a child a spinner, and they automatically think they're playing a game! However, more important from a teacher's perspective, is that spinners allow for easy differentiation. Students can be working on the same activity, but their results can vary based on the content of their spinner. Here's an example from my classroom today:
This student is working on matching a numeral to a quantity and correctly tracing the number.
This student is doing a similar activity, but she is working with larger numbers, is matching a numeral to a quantity, and is practicing correct numeral formation on her own using a whiteboard.
So what types of spinners do I use? I LOVE the simple spinners that you can make with a pencil and a paperclip. They are usually found on worksheets, work mats, or in interactive notebooks. They are simple and effective! But sometimes, students are working with whiteboards, manipulatives, or aren't recording things at all. This is where my DIY spinners come in handy. These spinners are durable and require less fine motor coordination, so in the world of kindergarten, they're heaven!
To make these spinners, you will need:
Empty CD cases
Hot glue
Transparent spinners 

First, print your spinner graphic. Standard CD cases are about 5 inches by 5 1/4 inches, but I like to print mine a little smaller to make sure that I don't have to go back and trim anything off. The graphic should fit right under the little tabs on the CD case cover, but if yours is a little small, you can just secure it with a piece of tape.
Next, close the CD case, and hot glue the transparent spinner to the front of the CD case. I like to put one dot of hot glue in each corner because even though it's clear, you can still see it a bit (and my OCD doesn't like that!)
There are a bunch of different transparent spinners out there, but I like to use the ones without any pre-printed spinner circles on them because then I can control how many different segments my spinner will have.
And there ya have it! An easy, cheap, and DURABLE spinner! (See that hot glue? ARG!) I especially like that these are reusable. I have spinners for every math and literacy unit, and I keep them filed in the corresponding unit's binder. When it's time for the activity, I know just where to find them, and I can make the spinners in no time at all. I don't have to constantly be printing, cutting, and assembling!

Happy Spinning!
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Sight Word Success!

Over the past few years, I have tweaked and tweaked how I teach sight words to my class. I have finally found a "program" that my students and I absolutely LOVE! It is engaging, differentiated, goal oriented, and most importantly, SUCCESSFUL! I hope you'll come away from this blog post with some ideas that you can use in your classroom right away!
Are you an elementary school teacher looking for ways to increase sight word fluency? This blog post has tons of easy to implement sight word games and activities to help your students master their sight words!
Before any sight word instruction begins, I assess my students on our district's 30 kindergarten sight words to find out their baseline. I always have a range of kids, from some that know 0 sight words, to some that already know all 30! That probably sounds scary, but I actually love it this way! It allows me to help each of my students set individual goals, rather than one generic goal for the whole class.
Once I have my baseline data, I create an individualized sight word "program" for each of my students. This is not as hard or as scary as it sounds! The short of it all is that we have 30 kindergarten sight words in our curriculum, but I am not going to waste time having my students practice the words that they have already mastered. I start by sending them home with the first set of sight words that they did not master. Their sight words get sent home in a mini pocket folder which gets sent back and forth from home to school each day. 
The students unpack their pocket folders each morning, and leave them in a bin. 
During the first 3-4 minutes of guided reading each day (while my students are doing their warm up), I pull out their pocket folders and test them on their words. If they get the word right, I put a check mark on the back of it. If they don't, I don't do anything. These same words will stay in their pocket folders until they have THREE check marks on the back of each word in the set.
What do these sets look like?  There are 3 word cards in each set. My team has found it beneficial to use words that can make a sentence (Ex. I, see, the). However, depending on your district's sight word list, you may not be able to make sets that make sense like that. That's okay! I would still stick to around 3 words in each set, though. 
Each page comes with directions for the grown ups to cut out the sight word cards and practice them in ANY order with their child. By doing this, we can make sure that the child isn't learning the word in the order that is necessary for the sentence :)! Each day, when I test the student at the beginning of guided reading, I make sure to mix up the words as well. 

Once a student masters a set of sight words, they receive a piece of their sight word display. This year, my theme is "Our Sight Words Stick." Each student designed their own gumball machine, and they receive a gumball (colored dot sticker) each time they master a set of words. Last year, my room was jungle themed, so each student had a palm tree, and earned coconuts for each set they mastered. It doesn't really matter what you use, but it's nice to see them so PROUD of themselves! (On a side note, I would never do this if each student had the same goal. I don't like students to compare themselves to one another. I ONLY do this because they are each working toward their own individual goal :)!)
So, what happens to the sight word cards after they master a set? This is my FAVORITE part! Their sight words get hole punched and put onto a sight word ring. Each student has their own ring, which allows me to differentiate their word work time during Daily 5. 
When my students go to word work during Daily 5, they take their individualized word ring and choose from the word work options (white boards, wikki stix, letter stamps in playdough, magnetic letters, rainbow writing, and letter beads) how they want to build the words on their ring. This is such an easy and effective way to differentiate, because I can have one of my kiddos working on the first set of sight words, while another one is already working on the first grade words! 

Regardless of what sight words each student is working on, I do introduce 3 sight words whole group each week. This way, even if students are still working on letters and are not ready for sight words yet, they are still being exposed to the words. We find these words in our morning message, notice it in books that we read during shared reading, and my students are always finding the words in their own read to self books!
We also build sentences with these words during one of our guided reading rotations. Each week, we work on one sight word book that corresponds to the 3 words that I introduced that week (this may or may not be the group of sight words that a student is working on independently). The students cut and paste clip art to complete the sight word sentences. These little books then go into their read to self bins, and they are always SO proud to read them! [You can buy these sight word books in my teammate, Jen's, store here]
The last, and probably my FAVORITE [okay, I am too indecisive to pick a favorite!] part of our sight word program is our sight word chants! I made up little chants and movements to incorporate some whole brain teaching into our sight word instruction. It is amazing to hear my students chanting these little poems or songs when they are trying to write the word! I tried to explain them as best as I could, but if you would like a visual, feel free to email me and I'd be happy to send you an embarrassing a video of myself :)! Click on the picture to download them for FREE from my TpT store!
Want to try this sight word program yourself? Everything you need to get started can be found right here! I hope that I've given you some ideas that you can use as a jumping off point in your classroom! Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments below, and I'd be happy to answer them :)!
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