Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Look!

Everyone needs a new look now and again....and since there are new changes/adventures coming for me this year, I decided to change this blog, AND my classroom blog geared toward the students/families that I work with!

So---CHEERS to what's to come in the 2012-2013 school year!! I am loving this fresh new look!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weekend DIY stuff...

Surely you've seen the crate seats posted all over Pinterest. 
So have I, and I finally got around to making some this past weekend!! 

These will be so great at school. Can't wait! 

AND---I found this great idea shown below on... 

Seriously, Marsha at A Differentiated Kdg. has so many great ideas and printables!! I'm sure you already follow her blog, but if you haven't....go check it out. You won't want to miss it! 

Recently, she had a post about listening center organization---and I am totally doing it! 
You can see her post HERE

She is putting her Daily 5 listening to reading materials in a tote bag....the book(s), CD players, and pencils. Each bag is numbered 1-6, and includes these cute little tags she made for the Daily 5 Listening to Reading rules and expectations....

These are the bags I found ay Walmart. They were in a 3-pack for $6.00. Score! Pretty good deal, I thought. The picture doesn't show how bright the colors are, but they really are! 

You can download and print/laminate/cut the tags.
Stick them on a binder ring (or shower curtain hooks...because really, I happened to have a spare pack at home. Why the heck not use 'em?!)

And there ya have it....everything in one spot. Now I just have to remember to get some 3M hooks to stick to my wall for the totes to hang on. 

She also posted some leveled response sheets to go with the listening station stuff. 

And DONE! Didn't know I needed these bags until I saw it on Marsha's blog....and had to have it for obvious reasons! It took no time at all to get these bags ready. That's my kind of project! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Grid Games & A Manic Monday FREEBIE!

Classroom freebies

Today's Freebie: GRID GAMES!

It's nearly the beginning of the school year, and for you PreK-K teachers like me, don't you think it's amazing how we seem to forget just how little the children are in those first few weeks (okay, MONTHS) of school?! They come from all walks of life, all sorts of backgrounds and experiences...including no experiences, for some of them! 

So...let's bring them in, put them in a room full of 16, 18, 20+ other children their age and begin to form  a cozy little family! HA! Easier said than done, sometimes. 

There are a million little details, activities, games, and ice breakers that you will no doubt implement in order for you to get to know your students, and for them to get to know one another. One (of many) of my favorite ways to get children working together is to sit down and play a little grid game. If you are looking for a great small group activity in the beginning of the year, grid games are great for your youngest and most inexperienced students - AND play can be modified to meet the levels of your higher learners. As the year progresses, your students will be able to play these grid games in a center, at an independent station, in pairs, or other small groups. 

What is a Grid Game?
A grid game teach is a type of board game that teaches one to one correspondence, counting, numeral identification, and even work on addition. To play a grid game, children roll a game die, identify the numeral (or count the dots) and count out that amount of manipulatives. Each manipulative is placed over one picture in the grid. Each player gets their own grid mat. Children play until the whole grid is full. The first person to fill their grid wins/that round is complete. Continue play as long as time/interest allows.

Why Grid Games?Board games are the original turn-taking games, and a grid game is one form of a board game. They can be played without having to remember a lot of rules, they are fairly fast paced, and it does not take long to wait for your turn to come back around----perfect for little ones learning to take turns and build patience.

Go ahead and grab your grid game freebie here! I hope you give them a try if you haven't yet used them with your students. If you are know kids love these games, and it's nice to have different game mats to play with!   

Your students can practice counting, 1:1, number recognition, addition, and taking turns with this fun grid game!  There are 5 game mats with 10-frames & 5 game mats with 20-frames to use with your students' various abiltiies/levels.

These are great for a small group/center activity. Laminate and cut out game mats.

What you need: Printable game mats & 1-2 dice (either with dots or numbers). That's it! With the 10 frames, students will only need 1 dice; with the 20 frames, students can roll 2 dice and add them together if you choose.

Cover the spaces with glass stones, pom poms---anything small enough to fit inside each box. First person to fill up their grid, wins! Play again and again as long as time allows! :)  

Kindergarten Concepts & A Freebie!

Hey all! This is Jessica from Under the Alphabet Tree
I am so excited to be blog swapping with Keri today!

Under the Alphabet Tree

Today I'm going to be sharing with you an idea I got from my co-worker, Lisa! I was lucky enough to get new tables in my classroom my 2nd year of teaching! I started naming my tables by coins because my students had such a hard time with identifying coins. But since that is not a kindergarten standard anymore, I wanted to make some new signs that I can change out through the year to help reinforce some big standards that my kiddos NEED to have mastered before 1st grade!

The table signs are a great tool to help teach kindergarten skills in every day situations! These will be great in calling by tables to come to the carpet, to line up, to earn points for following directions or to call attention when need be! These can be switched out easily if you hang them from some fishing wire and a paper clip! I will slip mine into a sheet protector and hang from the paperclip... like pictured here:

They can easily be switched out through the year! The barrel of monkeys you see pictures above were used to reward tables who were following directions as a whole! When they earned 5 monkeys, they got a prize from the treasure box. But when you download my freebie, be sure to check out the last few pages because I created some small pictures that match the table signs. You can tape them on your whiteboard, and mark the tables with tally marks as they are modeling good behavior! =)

Some rewards you could use could be:

5-10 minutes of free play at the end of the day
First dibs on computers
Read with a friend
Prize from treasure box
New, fun pencil and more!!!
I am sharing my table signs FOR FREE with you and in return I hope you follow my blog! I post freebies all the time! 

Table Signs

I also just opened my TPT store recently! I just posted my student's organizational S.T.A.R. binders last night, so be sure to check them out!

Now, if you have any other ideas of how my signs can be used, please be sure to share by commenting! And if you have any other suggestions on skills that can taught towards the end of the year, be sure to let me know! I always welcome suggestions!

Thanks so much Keri for letting me post on your blog!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Volunteers in the Classroom & A Freebie

 I always need a helping hand. Don't you?! However, we don't always want lots of helping hands IN the classroom all the time. It's like taking your 2 year old to your classroom to get some work done on the weekend. Work is the last thing that happens! Anyway, here are a few of my tips & tricks for incorporating helping hands in (or out!) of your classroom, that will hopefully help you kick off the beginning of your school year!

For me, one of the most important beginning of the year MUST-DO's is figure out a way to gain parent support and participation---volunteering! In my school and classroom, there are a variety of ways for parents to volunteer. 

Here's a few ways that volunteering can happen. You might be familiar with....
1. In the classroom - parties, events, literacy stations, etc.
2. Field trips
3. Library
4. Mentoring
5. Donating supplies

Additionally, there are other ways that parents can volunteer. When you are a busy teacher/mother/wife/team parent/committee member, etc. you have to pull out all the creative stops to get parents on your team and assisting you throughout the year. How can you not? You simply cannot do it all---though we do try all too often! Feel free to delegate some things to ready and willing parents. 

At the beginning of the year, at open house, or on the first day, I send home a volunteer "Help Wanted" form. You can get it HERE. I explain to parents that I simply want them to fill it out and return it---even if they do not think they can volunteer. Something might come up during the year---a day off, a great field trip, a special project that I might need their help just never know! 

Some parents work full time and think that they do not have time during the school day to volunteer, which is completely understandable. I've seen more than my fair share of mothers whose first born is entering my classroom and a school setting for the first time and it breaks their heart that they think they are going to miss out on being able to help with school related things. For this, I have a solution: help from home! 

Helping from home is a great way for working parents, stay-at-home parents with younger children, or parents with no vehicle/transportation, for example. I love being able to find a trustworthy mom/dad that I can send home a bundle of laminated items, a quick note that says when I need it back, and a gallon size ziplock bag to return in all! It's a big step being able to let it leave your hands and hope you get your beloved laminated items back---but once you find just the right will never regret it! Tell parents just tuck the kids in bed and cut away while watching their favorite TV shows---just like we do! :) 

You can also have parents help from home by: 
  • Stapling reproducible books
  • Sawing full length pencils in 1/2 to golf pencil size (You know there's a handy dad in the group somewhere!)
  • Cutting dry erase boards out of shower board if you are making a classroom set
  • Making slanted dry erase boards out of shower board & PVC pipe
  • Packaging up materials for individual students for crafts/projects---so that each students has all necessary pieces in one spot. 
And lastly....if you still have a FREE CHOICE dramatic play time (I really hope you do!), consider inviting/scheduling a parent to come for that time of day (OCCASIONALLY!). Have a specific job/plan for them while they are there. For instance, you have a group of students that love the block area, and choose to go there all the time. They love the matchbox cars and blocks---but you haven't yet seen them take it to the next level and build ramps. Bring in a dad who might enjoy spending some time in the block area, getting down on the floor, making car noises, and showing that group of students how to build ramps, ask questions, predict, create, test, and re-create. 

Bottom line...KNOW your students' parents just as well as you know your students! Know their careers, interests, hobbies, talents, schedules and levels of willingness to participate and volunteer in whatever form! Utilize them in your classroom or for your classroom needs in any way that benefits you, and is a win-win for everyone! 

I hope this helps kick start welcoming parents into your classroom! Any way that we can help parents get involved and stay involved is welcomed for the greater good of our little learners!

I'm DO YOU gain parent support and volunteers? Any tips & tricks for me? Leave me a comment; I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Banners, Banner, Everywhere!

I just got with with a custom order for Kari, a 7th grade math teacher! 
These were just too cute, and I had to share! 

This one says: Smartie Pants   :) 

This one says: Super Stars   :) 

I had a lot of fun making them, and I am certain they will go great with her black, red, and white color scheme! It's little things like this that make our classrooms not only cute, but inviting and aesthetically appealing to both the teacher and the students who look at the same walls for 180-something days each year. 

Way to go, Kari, for making your students' learning environment a visually appealing place to be! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Christmas in July!

Classroom freebies

It's like Christmas in July! I know everyone is gearing up for back to school---and the cash and credit cards and getting extra exercise in the process. I heard something on TV last week that has stuck with me. It was a commercial of some sort, and a teacher was referencing how much money she spent on her own classroom. But, then she said:

"I may be depleting my future, but I am not depleting the future of our children."

Profound right? And exactly how we feel! We rarely stop to think twice about how much money we spend on our classroom and students because it's for the best! So, as you are shopping like crazy for your back to school supplies, enjoy all of these freebies from Manic Monday---think of it like Christmas---in July...and all year 'round!

Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Not Rushing Summer, But....

I've got some great new Christmas clip art----SO CUTE!

Here's one little irresistible guy...

So tell me, what concepts do you typically teach in
 December and January?

 Please leave a comment and let me know! :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

E-Readers Vs. Books in Print

I came across an article in TIME magazine regarding E-readers and how they can actually impede a child's reading skills. I was intrigued. I mean....E-readers are everywhere, and even the youngest of learners use them! I know my own children have LeapPad Tablets, and enjoy using Grandma's iPad whenever the opportunity arises. A preschool student last year said to me, "Mrs. Powell, I don't use a computer at home....we have a tablet." Well, well, well....fancy for you, little one! 

On top of that, I had a parent laugh at me when I handed out cute little book marks with a quote about how children become readers on the laps on their parents. Really....outright laughed...and kind of scoffed...stating something like: "I can't believe teachers still hand out book marks with all the technology we have these days!" I was stunned. Really? And how do you suppose a child SHOULD acquire their language and literacy skills? Solely from an electronic device? I think not. 

Photo borrowed from (IRONIC?!)

In a technology driven era, one can hardly deny that iPads, Leapfrog, V-tech, and other devices are not a prevalent part of a child's daily reading---provided they DO spend time reading at home and that the parents make it a part of the child's daily reading!! (I won't even think about the children who might not be getting their daily dose of book time this summer....okay, I am thinking about it, and it breaks my heart!) 

Electronic devices are a great supplement to a child's leisurely reading...but it cannot replace human interaction, communication, and questioning. In fact, researchers are finding that it impedes comprehension to a great degree. As teachers, we know that can happen...and we know how to use technology for purposeful, productive learning. However, parents may need our help and our professional recommendations. Check out this article from the NY Times

Here are a few key points from the articles: 

  • Using an E-reader causes parents (or the device) to spout too many directives. "Turn the device this way, click here, don't hold it like that!"
  • There are too many sounds and animations---it distracts the reader and significantly reduces comprehension. 
  • Parents are less likely to ask questions about the story...rather on an E-reader they will say: "show me, good job, go to the next one..."---meaningless chatter reduces comprehension
  • E-reader stories/apps rarely relate to real life. They are not relevant to the text to self connections! 
  • Choose wisely---on an E-reader, choose a book that has less bells and whistles---not too much to click on (few animations, less chatter or game like stories)
While there is not a ton of research out there, it is ongoing and there will be more, I am certain. The research that is out there is very consistent in saying that books in actual print/on paper---are still the #1 source for developing a love of reading, and all the core skills that are involved with becoming a good reader.

I've made a mental note to bring up this topic occasionally in my newsletters and classroom/parent blog throughout the year. I'd like to feed them tidbits of researched information and offer ideas for finding a happy balance between technology and print. It's going to be pertinent for educators to help parents understand what's important & why technology doesn't always win out---no matter how glamorous it may seem! 

I LOVE technology, don't get me wrong....and I implement it even with my youngest of learners....but I also feel that it is my responsibility to figure out a happy medium---and pass along that knowledge to parents and families so that we can continue to make great strides in the success of each child! And for your non-readers, or those that do not like to read....we can't deny that flashy technology isn't a great hook! It IS! Just be careful in the extent in which you use it. 

Oh...and if you are still a teacher that hands out book marks (it's not a bad thing---I'm doing it again this year!)....go grab your download HERE (scroll all the way down)! Hand them out proudly!! 

Add a ribbon and cutsie them up even more! Like in this Pinterest photo

Thoughts? Experiences? Let me know what you think....I'd love to hear from you! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I finally found some time to get my craft on yesterday afternoon! Nothing huge, but something that I've been wanting to get to for a very long time. Have you seen on Pinterest all the ways to display objectives? There are some mighty cute ways, I do have to say! 

The one I like the best is using photo frames---a little scrapbook paper in the frame, and using dry erase marker on the glass to write and erase objectives as needed. 

I know that not all schools require objectives to be posted (my district does not---yet!), but many schools do require it. I have been posting objectives in my classroom for 2 years, and I think that it is good teaching practice. With all the accountability these days, it keeps me focused, my lessons relevant and on track, and my students on top of what our daily/weekly objectives are (in kid terms). 

Additionally, it gives my administrators a quick glance at what concepts we are working on---and that should they walk around, they see exactly that in action. Parents, too, can see what is in store for students if they browse around my room, as well. 

In the past, I have simply used a whiteboard made out of shower board and PVC pipe from Home Depot. You know, all that makeshift jazz. It worked....but it always kind of bugged me how much of an eye sore it was. Thank goodness for Pinterest....I am really excited to hang these in my room in the fall and use them to post my objectives!!! felt really good to get a little crafty---it's been too long! 

PS---thanks to the parent that gave me a $25 gift card I was able to purchase the frames, dry erase markers, and stickers with no out of pocket cost to me! YIPPEEEEE!!! I feel so great when I use my students' gift cards to purchase something new and great for our classroom! :) 


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Freebies: Manic Monday!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

I'm linking up with Manic Monday again! 
Feel free to grab a ton of great freebies from some very talented bloggers!! 

Have a fun Monday printing and downloading!! 

Classroom Newsletters

Classroom newsletters are such an important part of communication between home and school---bridging the gap! Young children have such a hard time expressing (and pulling out the important info.) about what they accomplished, learned, and worked on each day/week at school.

You know how it goes...

Parent: what did you do at school today?

Child: play

Parent: What did you play?

Child: blocks with Tommy.

Parent: What was the best part of your day?

Child: Lunch and recess. Oh, and snack time!

Painful, right?! To avoid the communication barrier between parent and child, I put out my newsletters weekly--on Thursdays (because my Pre-K's do not attend school on Fridays). Some of you are cringing right now, I know. But I like to give a a nice summary about what we've been working on, how the classroom environment has changed (i.e.: what's going on in the developmental play centers, stations, themes, etc.), and what's coming up in the next week or few weeks.

I think that weekly newsletters are SO important for a variety of reasons...thus, my goal is 2-fold: to inform, and to educate. Educate what?---the parents! A trickle up effect----helping give the parents dialogue and specific information and questions to ask in order to have a meaningful conversation about their child's education, WITH their child!

I'm a mother of three elementary aged children, a wife, a full time teacher, a blogger, and seller on TN and TPT (mostly TN, though) where, oh WHERE, do I find the time? Honestly? After 8pm (that's when the kids go to bed) on Wednesday evenings. Sometimes this makes for a late evening, depending on what else is going on....but it's quiet, I can reflect on the week, and find a few relevant pics of the children in action in the classroom.

I've seen a lot of pre-made templates on TN and TpT and have had some inquiries as to what I put in my newsletter. So, I thought I'd share! I simply use a pre-made template on my Mac. I've made my categories and plug in my information. What's included?

  • Week in Review
  • We also learned...
  • Important Dates
  • Contact Info
  • 2-3 Photos
  • Kids Speak! 
Not too many's only 1 page so that it can be read quickly----short, sweet, and to the point. I love the Kids Speak! category. Kids say the funniest things----whether it be a comment, inference, prediction, using background knowledge, or simply just a funny statement....I love to remember the moments that keep us laughing. I include 2 students' photos each week with their quotes. SO FUNNY---or so touching that they've recalled important concepts and shout it from the rooftops!! And, when I pass on my newsletter to my administrator each week, he often comments that he looks forward to my newsletters, especially the Kids Speak! section, and how it is often the highlight of his week. 

Additionally, I use my classroom blog (not this blog for teachers. A different blog for parents) keep parents informed and share tons of photos about what we are learning weekly. About 60% of my class follows my blog---so I know information is getting out there between all the various modes of communication.

If you want to view my newsletter, CLICK HERE. Also---feel free to leave a comment...I'd love to hear how often you publish a newsletter and what do you include?