Monday, April 30, 2012

Lemonade Stand!!

Photo source (above):

We are having lemonade stand for our ENTIRE SCHOOL on Wednesday! I am so excited---and so are our students! You could have a lemonade stand in your classroom/school for a variety of reasons, most obviously - a fundraiser.

We are having a lemonade stand as a service project for other students and teachers in our school. We have been working SO HARD this year as preschool students to share, be kind, develop friendships, interact with our peers, communicate effectively, and build a sense of community. As the newest members of our school, our students will be in our building for up to 5 more years---our preschoolers are getting a head start on all that they have to offer Lincoln Elementary!

This project also serves a variety of other objectives and goals:
1. To make a plan and put it into action. One student told me as we were brainstorming, "Mrs. Powell, we need a blueprint for how to run a lemonade stand!"...that pretty much sums up my lesson in which I gathered their background information, and brainstormed how to make this happen!

2. Literacy: practice writing for a purpose, emergent writing---student centered---we own our work!
 3. Fine motor!!
(4. We will also be using gross motor/coordination skills when we pour the cups of lemonade
 for our customers!)
We also made flyers and distributed them to each classroom! My 4-5 year olds did an AWESOME job talking to the other teachers and even some students announced our event to entire classes over the classroom speaker system. One kind 4th grade class even cheered for my little friends!! My students were so proud!

So----whether it's for a fundraiser, a service project, or a fun way to work on fine motor, gross motor, and communication skills---you may want to consider having a lemonade stand inside your school, too!

We've done some of the leg work for you---just click on the links below for your FREE printables!!!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

SOS! SOS! Super Organizing Saturday - Assessments

It's Super Organizing Saturday once again! I have come to love these mornings this Spring...not too hot outside, a little chilly....not missing much if I stay inside and organize something! This's my assessment binder for basic concepts. That's right....we're talking about assessments on a weekend. I know, I know, I know....that's a heavy topic for such a fun day of the week. If you agree, you might need a large cup of coffee. I'll wait----you grab yours, and I'll grab mine!

Ok, I'm ready! Here we go! 

When I organize my assessments, I of course do not use manilla folders, hanging file folders, etc. If you've read my posts before, you've probably heard of my File Cabinet Rebellion of 2011, in which I ditched any and all file cabinets or file cabinet "accessories". I loathe file cabinets----and I LOVE binders! 

So, you see where I'm going with this.....and you can infer that I organize my assessments in a binder! 

Here is the beloved binder that holds all of my assessments. I was lucky to have my district supply me with everything that I needed. This binder contains:

My curriculum/State objectives....

Letter Identification assessments...

Letter/sound identification score sheets

Beginning sound assessment & score sheets

And much more! However, there are always those basic assessments that are not supplied by the district or curriculum - but are so necessary to early childhood. It is usually up to the grade level teachers, or individual teacher to create their own assessment and find a way to record the information every marking period or during progress monitoring. 

For me, I certainly needed to update my assessments/record keeping. I've taken the time to create these assessments based on my classroom needs---and perhaps they can work for you as well! All you need is a large 3-ring binder, page protectors, and a color printer. If these assessments work for you, feel free go grab them no cost to you! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spelling Center

Do you have a spelling center in your classroom? In Pre-K, I have an ABC Center---same thing, but leveled for my LITTLE friends and based on the alphabetic principle. I'm not sure how many upper elementary classrooms have a spelling center, but I sure would hope so! BIG kids like to move around and learn, too! Get your students out from behind those desks/tables and interacting with a peer, moving letters around, AND working on weekly spelling lists! Your kinesthetic/visual learners will be grateful!

This center can be a permanent station in your room, interchangeable with a cookie sheet, oil drip pan as a magnetic work space, on the side of a file cabinet, or in a little box that can be pulled off a shelf and taken to a comfy spot on the floor, etc. I made a spelling center for a fourth grade teacher last year, and was later told how much the students LOVED IT!

Here's some pics of how you can easily create an ABC Center activity or fun and cute spelling center, in which students can be social, free to move letters around and play with them, produce a product (recording sheet of their words that they made), and work on weekly spelling lists.

Here's the recording form that students can use to write the words that they have spelled! 
Younger students can practice spelling basic CVC words that they might be familiar with: mom, dad, cat, dog. They can also spell their friends' names. 

I have vocabulary cards in pocket charts in my ABC Center for such words so students can copy and re-create with magnetic letters. I'm sure you do, too! This activity is the same concept, but with different visuals---change it up! With your older students, replace simple CVC words or names of classmates with vocabulary or spelling lists! 

Here, I've put this activity/station on a oil drip pan. You could use space on your wall, back of a bookshelf, cookie sheet----or anywhere, really! I love magnetic items compared to velcro. :) 

Here, only a few of the letters are shown---but with this activity you will get a large selection of uppercase, lowercase, and lots of vowels in order to spell a variety of words. 

Look! One of my preschool students has spelled "car"! Too cute!

I hope you can find this activity useful---and if you do not yet have an ABC or spelling center in your classroom---grab and oil pan and lots of magnetic stuff---it's an easy way to get started! You can build up from there!! Want it? Click HERE (or--see below for ways to get it FREE!)

**If you are a current follower, or a new follower, invite a friend to join/follow my blog, and you BOTH get this activity FREE! Just comment/E-mail me to let me know who you are and who you invited (or who invited you!).

Thank you for stopping by!! I'd love to hear about some upper elementary spelling centers/stations if there are any out there!! :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rhyming Rainbows

We've been working on rhyming a lot since Christmas break. We are finally ready to put our rhyming skills in action with this cute little Rhyming Rainbow cross-curriular project. Literacy+art = AWESOME! 

We broke this project up into 3 short sessions. Since I only have my little ones for 3 hours at a time M-Th, it sometimes works better to break it up into smaller chunks! 

Not only is this project cute, but it has an official objective as well----of course! 

I use Creative Curriculum GOLD. This activity meets objective 15a: demonstrates phonological awareness; notices and discriminates rhyme. We do not include CC Gold art objectives in our district.

(Common Core Kdg: K.RFS.2)

This is a great little spring activity! Get your rhyming pictures and raindrop downloads 

Here's how to make your own Rhyming Rainbow! 

1. Cut paper plate in 1/2 & paint rainbow colors! Of course, we tied in a mini-lesson about the colors of the rainbow and Roy G. Biv :) 

2. Cut out 3 rain drops 

3. Hole punch a hole in the top of the raindrop and 3 hole punches on the bottom of the plate. For extra fine motor practice and muscle building, have your students try operating the hole punch. They love this!

4. Tie a piece of yarn between each rainbow punch and raindrop. 

5. Give students a selection of rhyming pictures. For my students who are still working to master whether a pair of words rhyme, I decreased the amount of choices available. Students will glue a rhyming pair on each raindrop (front and back). 

Get your rhyming pictures and raindrop templates HERE


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Flower Power!

Here's a really versatile game that you can use this spring (or anytime, really) for working with letters/numbers for your Pre-K and Kindergarten friends! I saw this game somewhere---perhaps a teacher resource book, another teacher in our district, or from a website or blog. I really cannot remember where it came from....but I remembered the activity and wanted one of my own! If you can tell me where this activity/idea originated, I'd love to give that person/company credit.

Visit Home Depot and purchase 26 mini-terra cotta pots (approx. 3"), for just under $1.00 each!

Fill the pot with rice or dry beans (such as kidney beans or the like). 

Place a velcro dot on the front of the pot and PRINT all pages for a variety of ways to play the game! Want a less expensive way to play the game? Terra cotta pot work mats are provided for you! You can just print them instead of buying them.  

Here are all the ways to play!! 

Got some velcro dots? hot glue? popcicle/craft sticks? card stock for printing? laminator heated up? Now grab your car keys and head to Home Depot! You will be well on your way to making this fun game. 

Here's a Flower Power Addition and Subtraction FREEBIE!! 

Oh the power of flowers!! ENJOY! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

SOS! SOS! Super Organizing Saturday!

If you are getting to know me through this blog, or already know me in person, you have come to know that organizing is a hobby of mine. My guilty pleasure. It may be a bit geeky......but that's okay. I know right where all of my belongings are, it's aesthetically appealing, and I know right where all of my belongings are! (Yes, I said that twice-----it's important!)

As an early childhood teacher, I have lots of props and extras that keep things new and exciting for the students. Again, most of my things are theme related (Forgive me, Dan Hodgins----who is speaking in my home town today---but I am home cleaning my house!) If you have read Dan's writing, or listened to him at a conference, you know that he is not crazy about themes. He says we don't live in themes---so why would we teach in themes?

Well, I don't know. I kind of sit on the fence about this. I mean, I sort of do live in themes! When I decorate my house, I have a theme in mind----it makes everything flow nicely. The main living areas of my house have a country/vintage type look...with some modern accents. My paint colors coordinate, my accent pieces all tie in the same colors, etc. In my bedroom, we went for a more modern look---shabby chic. Again, the colors coordinate, my accent pieces are carry the same modern "theme" in colors, style, etc. Each of my children's rooms has it's own theme----my youngest son likes vintage license plates. His wall decor, bedding, curtains, etc. all reflect that theme and color scheme. My oldest son has gone with a "rock star" theme, and my daughter----it's pink, pink, pink with polka dots and owls. Themes, themes, and more themes!

In a truly 4-seasons State, we decorate our house according to the seasons. I have fall decor and dishes, winter/Christmas, summer, etc. In school, we are able to see and talk about all these changes in weather. It is a great part of who we are in Northern Michigan. We see the leaves changing colors on the trees, the snow, the new growth that spring brings, and the beautiful summers. Each of these changes brings on real life experiences that our students live in their every day lives----camping, boating, raking leaves, building igloos in the snow, planting and gardening, etc.

AND----some students may never get to experience family vacations to the ocean, quality time raking leaves and talking about the science behind the color changes, planting a garden or flowers at home, etc. It depends on the family's priorities, likes/dislikes, income, ability to travel, level of education, etc.

So - basically, it's this in my mind: If students are living through so many changes that bring up a variety of related topics and interests, then we SHOULD explore them in the classroom. And if students are NOT  experiencing some very interesting topics (such as a trip to the ocean, or the antarctic) then I should be able to "take"them there through a deep thematic unit of study in my classroom. Some educators say why? I say, WHY NOT?!

We teach children to read, to use their schema, their life experiences, their imagination, and create a movie in their mind. What if you are reading about the Arctic? Most children have never been there, maybe some have seen a few clips on Animal Planet, maybe a couple have seen a penguin in a zoo, but really---what other background information do they have? Probably not much. UNLESS----a certain teacher has given them opportunities (even if it's manufactured in the classroom with plastic toys and props) to explore the Arctic in a multi-sensory, cross-curricular study in the classroom. And really, isn't cross-curricular just a form of thematic study?

So again, I say....Themes---why not?! And if you do, or will in the future, how will you ORGANIZE all your thematic items and props. Think back to your first couple years of college. You probably had a class that made you create a "prop box". Mine probably looked like a joke back then....but here's my sophisticated version, and my current organizing system for thematic props.
I simply use various size clear totes with lids and a label! 

I also put a materials list on the inside of the lid.
If there are consumables that get ruined or used, I can easily remember what I need and re-stock! 

I also jot down an idea of how I used the materials previously.
If it works, and the students like it, I'll do it again unless a better idea comes along!

Do you teach in themes? If not, I'd love to hear your reasons for or against it. 
What storage solutions do you have?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Parent Communication: It Works For Me! (& the 5 star blogger challenge)

As an educator, I firmly believe that parents and families should remain an integral part of their child's education. Communication is HIGH on my priority list ALL. THE. TIME! As teachers, you all know how important and beneficial parent communication can be, and we all know how hard it can be to accomplish sometimes.

It really takes a lot of time and effort to build a positive rapport with your students' parents and families. With all the pressure that is upon teachers to reach school/district goals, monitor student progress, maintain data records, attend meeting after meeting, after meeting, do extra curricular work (the list goes on and on!)---it is often difficult to make the time, and have the patience and endurance to maintain parent communication (beyond a weekly newsletter and occasional post cards in the mail). However, if you make it part of your daily grind, and open up new venues to parent communication, you can be entirely successful----which in the end, benefits your students in a multitude of ways!

So....briefly, here are a few "old school", and STILL effective/necessary means of parent communication. Keep old school techniques alive!

  • Weekly newsletters---WITH a few photos of students in action!
    •  not bi-weekly----there is important information to report on each week! I recommend weekly newsletters no matter what the grade level. 
  • Positive Postcards (select 6 students/month)---keep it short, sweet, and to the point. They are pleasant pats on the back via snail mail! Your families will love it! 
  • Positive Phone calls home---every now and again, call a student's parents and brag about something great you noticed about their child!
Now, how can you do even more great things in a "techy" way? Here are some techniques that I use. I'd love to hear what you think of them----and if you have a technique that I should know about and try!

  • E-mail newsletters to parents who would rather read a digital copy
  • Blog for PARENTS! I am new to blogging for an audience of educators, but I have blogged for the  families that I work with for 2-3 years. I continually get a lot of positive comments about my weekly blog posts regarding our classroom happenings for a variety of reasons: 
    • Parents can see their child in action via pictures posted
    • Parents get to see various games, activities, experiments, and other learning opportunities in our classroom
    • Songs and YouTube videos are posted for parents to become familiar with the songs we use in the classroom and an opportunity to snuggle up with their little one for a few moments and watch a video of our focus story of the week. ---They can hear first hand what we've been working on and share it in a quality manner with their child! 
    • Videos of re-tellings and other student work is posted.
    • Grandparents and extended family have access so they can stay current on their relative's school experience and support them, interact with them, and ask specific questions about school. Grandparents LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being able to do this! 
  • Text a quick photo/comment to parents if you have their cell phone number and are comfortable doing so. I typically do this on occasion if I have a student that is the child of a colleague in our district. They appreciate the occasional mid-day update or special achievement that is shared! 
  • E-mail notes to parents (a digital version of the positive postcard)
AND----for my new FAVORITE techy means of communication, utilize a QR code that links to your blog!! I recently presented this idea (as well as other uses/activities of QR codes for student use) at our district's Professional Development day---and it was well received by teachers K-12! I immediately got great feedback from various grade levels regarding how they were implementing the QR codes in their classroom. AMAZING! Here's how I use it...


 I created a QR code that is linked to my classroom blog for parents. I enlarged it on the copier at work, and hung it in the hallway where the parents wait for their child to get dismissed at the end of the school day!! I am always seeing these little codes on everything---particularly products that are marketed in magazines, in stores, on flyers, brochures, etc. I thought it was clearly a great marketing tool aimed at a digital audience---generation X, if you will. I immediately thought that I could use it as a marketing tool as well. I was "selling" parent communication and an active involvement in their child's education. 

I tend to serve younger parents, from said Generation X, and they sure love their techy devices! Don't we all?!?!?! While they wait for the bell to ring, I noticed most parents were browsing Facebook, texting, or doing something similar on their smart I gave them something valuable to look at while they wait for their child----and hopefully they find something intriguing that sparks conversation with their little one! All you have to do is scan the code!! 

Want a QR reader of your own? It's easy! Go HERE! Save it as a .jpeg and be on your way!! 

I hope that you have found this post to be helpful. These types of parent communication techniques work for me. I currently have just over 60% of my families following my blog regularly---to me, that's pretty good!!

Stay tuned for more helpful hints AND - link up with the

I cannot wait to see what everyone has in store. 

There are certainly some very talented educators out there! 

Thank goodness for technology!!! 

It's tax season---did you file YOUR taxes on time?

Well, the deadline was midnight last night. You know what I'm talking about. Did you get your taxes done on time? Some people enjoy budgeting, and crunching numbers---and maybe you did your taxes as soon as you had your W2's and all your other info. Others, enjoy the thrill of procrastination and an opportunity to play chicken with the post office clerk to see if s/he will close the window before you hand over your envelope.

 If you love numbers and finances of that caliber THAT much you are:
  A. Not in the right profession
  B. Not reading this blog anyway!

Me? Well, I did (wait, no, my HUSBAND did) get our taxes in quite some time ago. And me? No, I don't love numbers and finances so much---unless it requires me to go shopping with that big tax return! Yeah, right....probably not gonna happen!

I'll just stick with the cute little numbers that I get to use with my Pre-K friends. And maybe you can benefit from it, too! Read on....and grab some FREEBIES!

Last week, one of my Pinterest inspired math board was featured on TWO blogs: Make Take Teach, as well as on Live2Learn! If you haven't checked these two great bloggers out, please do---after you are done here!

Thank you, Pinterest! I found a version of this board online....
And thought that I could make one for my classroom. I wish I would have found it (and time to make it) earlier this year! Although not all the categories will be used for preschoolers, I put them on there to be sure that I had my differentiating bases covered! I have students who are able to add small sets of numbers using manipulatives, and I bet they could try to write it out with my help. Other students will benefit from all the counting, visuals, and hands on work with moving the counters (magnets). And this is the second year I've had a couple of preschoolers that can read above a Kindergarten level. It's amazing!! They will benefit from seeing the number words spelled out under the numeral.
Isn't it so Pinteresting?!

Here's a closer view. ..

Want to make one of your own? Here's the materials I used:

Oil Drip Pan (Walmart $20)---magnetic and fabulous for EVERYTHING!
(I also have one in my Math Center and ABC Center)

Scrapbook Paper

Glass Stones with magnets on the back

2 Ten Frames

Chalkboard Vinyl

Super 77 adhesive

Art paper on a roll (butcher paper)

The K teachers in my building made their own as well---and they all look so different! There are many ways to do this and make it work for you and your students. Drop me a line if you make one and post it on your blog! I'd love to see it!!

So---there's my Math board. And if working with bigger numbers is just too taxing on your brain (like it is for mine)-----pop on over to my Teacher's Notebook shop and grab a couple of FREE DOWNLOADS that are a lot less stressful on the brain than your personal finances! Click the link ^ or the photos of the games below! 

Enjoy your day! I hope it was a very un-taxing Tuesday! :) 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Super Organizing Saturday! ---Printable Games

It's Super Organizing Saturday----and I mentioned on my FB page that there would soon be a tip for how to store all these cute little printable games that are flying around Teacher's Notebook (TN) and Teacher's Pay Teachers (TpT).

So, here's one *TIP* for storing your printable games-----but first. Guess where it came from?!

Yep----one of my favorite teacher supply places----the Dollar Tree! 
So you know it only cost $1!
What could it be that costs a dollar and can store my games in a really great way? 

A shoe box? Nope---too bulky.

A basket? Nope---they don't have lids.

A zipper pencil pouch? YES! 

I love using these zipper pouches to organize my printable games. They are just the right size for most things that I make or buy on TN and TpT. The clear pouch allows you to cut to size the cover page of the printable game so you know what is stored in the pouch. Don't let those cute cover pages go to waste! 

Then, put all of your game pieces inside---voila! Sleek and neat storage that does not take up much space. Perfect! 

In the bottom 2 pouches, you can see that there are not cover pages. The tiny cards on the left are labeled upper/lower case matching games for St. Patricks' Day.

The one on the right are story pieces for retelling Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I need to make a cover page for this! 

Also---because most of my games/activities are theme related, AND I store most everything in themed binders....these can go right the corresponding binder---like this! 

Want to know what ELSE you can use these zipper pockets for? Storing vocabulary cards! I am always changing out the vocabulary cards in all of my pocket charts throughout the room - at the ABC Center, the Writing Center, the Library Center, etc. Storing my story or themed related vocab cards in individual zipper pouches allows me to easily grab and go. No digging in a box or envelope, or rubber banding cards together. 

Again, throw it in the themed binder - and everything is on one neat and tidy space! 

Please click HERE if you want to browse around my shop! 

To become a Facebook fan and stay current on tips, games, and what's happening with The Sweet Life of Teaching, click HERE! Invite your teacher friends and continue to help this blog grow! 

PS - the Letter Match and Easter Egg Rhymes are FREEBIES at my shop! Go grab 'em!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On the Right Track with Numbers!

Ever since Christmas, I've been watching my 5 year old twins play their new Leap Pad tablets. They LOVE them! They come in handy in the car on long trips, or when a little down time is needed. We definitely monitor the amount of screen time that our kids have (and really, mine would rather dig in the dirt than sit in front of the TV most of the time anyway!). 

However, when they do play their Leap Pad tablets, I can't help but notice how drawn they are to the math apps on there (K-2 level apps). More than that, the concepts they are working on are strikingly amazing for typical 5 year olds. They start basic, but every level they reach, opens the door for more challenges. Specifically, my daughter LOVES the cooking/baking game. Today, I heard the game say "slice the bread into three thirds".....Fractions?! Really. I thought I was going to have to help out....but NOPE! She did it on her own lickety split! 

Another game that they adore is a number sense game----there are different scenes (space, etc.) in which random numbers are floating and they have to pull them down and put them in order smallest to largest. When they first got this game nearly five months ago, that concept was REALLY hard for them. Now, they totally get it and are quite quick with it. Amazing! 

Don't worry---I'm getting to the point here. 

Anywhoooooo----the point of this is not to dote about my cute little loves, but rather how quickly they acquired the skills (as most kids do) with a TECHY device! Technology sells---and kids buy into educational concepts through fun, flashy technology. Oh, how I wish I was about to give away a Leap Frog Tablet---but alas, I'm not. 

I wish, I wish, I wish I could click my heels together three times and have such devices for the students in my classroom. Since I don't, I had to think of an activity that I could change up the levels (differentiate) for my students, while still building number sense. There are many activities to do this (and store bought ones are expensive)----so for now, here's what I've come up with.

This activity can be used in a variety of ways, and would fit in well with your little ones who love trains, or within a transportation unit, or just because! Take a look....

This is not a good picture, but you can get the idea of how to print the pages and laminate them end to end form engine to caboose.

Using a visual timer (ie: sand timer), students will race to beat the clock to arrange the numbers in a variety of ways:

By 1's... (or 5's, or 10's)... 

By 2's/Evens or Odds...

Or by ordering random numbers smallest to largest. 

You will get numbers 1-100 with this game---so it's completely flexible for you to give your students the numbers they need based on readiness/skill!

 Print a few train track mats for a small group or for your math workstation boxes, have pairs of students work together, or use for independent practice. 

Like this game? Please let me know in a comment!
Have a bunch of Leap Pad tablets to donate to my classroom?! I'll take 'em! LOL 

Click HERE for this game!