Monday, August 25, 2014

Pencil Talk

If you're a kindergarten teacher like me, I'm sure you've heard of Dr. Jean.  If you haven't, you need to check out her website like now!  She is awesome!  I've attended three of her workshops in the past and always leave with great new ideas!

One of my favorite of her ideas is Pencil Talk.  I pull this out at the beginning of every year and after my classroom kids have done it once, they beg for it over and over again.

 This is my Pencil Talk cheat sheet from one of her session books.  The song that goes with it is called Pencil Talk and is on her Totally Reading Cd 2.  If you don't have the cd, no worries, you can still do Pencil Talk without it.

The idea is to use an actual pencil, who would've thought.  But I actually do this activity on dry-erase boards.  In fact, I usually use Pencil Talk to introduce my students to using dry-erase boards and markers.

As with any new "learning tool,"  I let them play for 5 min.  So after going over the dry-erase board rules: dry erase markers only go on dry erase boards, etc; I pass them out and let them draw for a few minutes.

I've found that with any new teaching tool (dry erase boards, math manipulatives, etc), a few minutes of play time is absolutely essential.  That way, when play time is up, you can get down to the business of learning with fewer interruptions.

I may have given them a few extra minutes this time because I could tell some had never used these boards before.  When I started counting down for them to clean their boards off, they were quick to erase because they had enjoyed their drawing time already, and were ready to see what was next.

So the next thing I do is pull up a blank flipchart on my Promethean Board.  If you don't have an interactive board, a big dry erase board will do just fine.  In fact, I used a dry-erase board for this before getting my Promethean Board 7 years ago.

I tell the students to watch what I write on my board and copy it onto their boards, then I play the Pencil Talk song.  Dr. Jean just sings through the words (I think the tune is "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" but I could be wrong)

And while she's singing, you draw the marks that are out beside the words.  After a few verses, the kids catch on and start singing too.

Our dry-erase boards are a bit small, so I usually pause the song about halfway through so we can do a quick erase, and then I'll continue the song.  

I had bought new black socks to use as dry erase board erasers, but I couldn't find them.  A teacher friend gave me some white socks a few years ago and they worked great!  The kids put their hand inside and were able to easily erase their boards.  Then they put their marker inside the sock for storage.  But the white was so disgusting from all the marker residue and washing did not help.  So this year I bought black socks, but since I couldn't find them, we used tissues instead.  I ended up buying more black socks at Walmart this afternoon because I seriously have no clue where that first bag of socks is.

My kids love this because they think it's fun, they get to use dry erase boards and markers, and they get to sing a song.

I love this activity because it promotes beginner writing techniques:
  • writing from left to right
  • when you finish a row, you go underneath and back to the left
  • all the pencil motions are actual marks we use when writing letters
  • you are drawing representations of what you are singing/hearing
This activity is especially great for those who have had little to no print or pre-writing exposure.  My kids that are already writing still love it too because it's just fun.

Now they beg for it everyday.  So Pencil Talk has become a reward.  If we finish all of our work with little to no interuptions, and we get to do Pencil Talk.  And then we usually do it again just for fun.

I love that they love it!
That's why kindergarteners are so much fun!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Beginning of the Year Assessments

Whew!  What a week.

This past week I had car duty and conferences.  Now conferences are just on Monday, for everybody else.  But in kindergarten, we like be overachievers.  Instead of just meeting with the parents of our struggling students, we meet with every family.  So in addition to morning and afternoon car duty, where it felt like I was in a sauna, I met with 4-5 parents each afternoon.

This made for an extremely loong week.

But I did get some things accomplished!

The other kindergarten teachers I were busy giving our beginning of the year assessment.  It gave us some useful information to talk with our parents about during our conferences.

So I worked with a few kids each day to complete them all in the week's time.

The first page assesses:
  • Name writing
  • Identifying colors (I color the boxes in before giving the assessment with the correct color crayon)
  • Identifying Shapes - I write down exactly what the student calls each shape
The second page assesses:
  • Rote counting
  • Number identification 1-20
  • Writing numbers to 10
  • One-to-one correspondence (I usually put little stickers in the box before copying everyone's assessment, but I forgot, so I had to draw 10 circles on each assessment)

The third page assesses:
  • Identifying uppercase letters
  • Identifying lowercase letters
  • Identifying letter sounds

The fourth page assesses:
  • Identifying the letters in their name
  • Fine Motor Skills - holding a pencil, correctly using scissors, cutting skills, and coloring skills (I got in a hurry and didn't quite finish this one)
  • Extra Notes - this is where I make notes about any speech issues, behavior concerns, etc
I love this little assessment.  I made this about 8 years ago before I knew how to make anything cutesy.  So it's quite plain, but very helpful.  I still use it at the beginning of each school year to get a baseline of my student's academic abilities.  It definitely helps when I'm making lesson plans because I'll already have an idea of who knows what.

When I'm finished with each assessment, it goes into my assessment tub.

 When I meet with each family, I just pull out the entire folder. I keep all assessment throughout the year in this folder.  Then at the end of the year, I take all the folders out, and tuck them in the back of a filing cabinet.  This way, if a student is having any academic trouble in first grade, I can pull out my folder if I'm called to a meeting with the first grade teacher.  I will keep the folders in the filing cabinet until the students go to 2nd grade.  Then I switch them out for the next class that's moving on to first grade.

If you're interested, this little assessment is available in my TpT store for free.  Click here to download a copy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I love birthdays!

Who doesn't love a good birthday?

Well yesterday, this sweet boy turned 5! 

And since this was the first classroom birthday of the school year, I thought I would share how I celebrate each child's special day in my classroom.

First, I like to have everything out and ready to go the afternoon before; I hate rushing around in the morning.  So I laid all of his birthday items out before I leaving the day before.

Going clockwise, the items are: a birthday book, a birthday straw, fun birthday sunglasses, and a birthday sticker.

I love this birthday book!

I printed one copy of the cover, the birthday boy gets to color this page, and made enough copies of the other page for each student in my class.

Click here to get a copy yourself!  Oh, and did I mention it's free?!

The download includes two color covers, in case you don't have time for your birthday kiddo to color their own.

Black and white covers for the birthday kiddo to color their cover, these are the ones I use.
There's a girl version and boy version.

And then the page for each student to complete.

I had my students draw a picture in the frame of what they wanted to give the birthday boy for his birthday.  Then I came around and wrote what they were drawing on the blank.  Students signed their name at the bottom.

Next up is his birthday sticker (from Creative Teaching Press) and his birthday flower.

I love these little flowers for several reasons. First, I make them in the summer and then write my kids' names and birthdays on the back at the beginning of the year, so they are a ready made birthday treats because the prep work is already finished.   

Check them out here!

 (swizzles straws from Walmart - 6 to a pack)

 (print off the flowers and laminate)

 (I tape the straw the back of each flower and then write my kid's names and b-days on the back)
 (Voila!  Finished product, cute and ready to go!)
BTW - I put rice in the container to hold the straws in place, it works awesome at holding the straws upright and makes it easy to move straws around!

They also make a nice little decoration for your classroom.  
And they are just stinkin' cute if I do say so myself!

Here is my treasure box and some fun birthday glasses I picked up at Old Navy forever ago.

My treasure box is a sturdy cardboard chest from Hobby Lobby.  I painted it metallic gold and hot glued jewels onto it.  My kids love it!

I made this thing before I ever got my first teaching job, so it is over 9 years old and is showing its age.  Several of the jewels have fallen off and I've just been too lazy to glue them back on but that doesn't bother the kids at all.

Usually, my birthday kiddo will bring in cupcakes as a treat.  So after we are all good and sugared up, we sing to the birthday kiddo.

We sing regular Happy Birthday or the Happy Birthday Cha-Cha (you just twist your hips as you say cha-cha-cha after each line of the song).  I let the birthday boy pick which version he wanted, so we all sang the regular Happy Birthday song.

Then he got to pick a treat out of the treasure box!  He picked play-doh and the other kids were dying to see what he picked out.

Time to work on our birthday books!
Here's the birthday boy hard at work on his cover page.

Even though it wasn't their birthday, the other kids got really into their pictures.  They were asking the birthday boy about things he liked to play with and what his favorite colors were.  So thoughtful!

If you've ever taught kindergarten, you know that the beginning of the year includes a lot of one color stick figure drawings.  I can't wait to see how they improve as the year goes on.

When the kids were finished, I put all the pages together into a book.  Sometimes I tie the book together with ribbon or twine, but this was the last half day of our transition into kindergarten and our time was a little limited.  So I just stapled the corner of the book.

I love this robot picture!

And this treehouse!   How cute!

My kids loved celebrating the birthday yesterday.  So of course they were thrilled when they found out that today was another birthday!

Two birthdays in a row!

Today this sweet little girl turned 5 as well! 

Now all my classroom kiddos are 5 (or 6).

Our next birthday isn't until September 19th and I am just fine with that.  

Two birthdays the first week we stayed all day at school was quite enough thank you.

Do you have any great ideas for celebrating birthdays in your classroom?  I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Meet the Teacher!

Over the past several years I have become a teaching blog stalker follower.  This is real professional development folks.  Seeing how real teachers do real teaching in their classrooms.  I learn so much and get great new ideas from all the blogs I follow.  They also make me excited about my job each and everyday.  So today I decided to do a fun linky with Stephanie over at Falling into First.  It's time to meet the crazy cat lady behind this blog!

I am a 30 year old, 17 days till I'm 31, kindergarten teacher.  This is my 9th year teaching (3 in Transitional First Grade and 6 in kindergarten) and I'm in the middle of my third week back to school.  

 We started in July... 

I teach in a school system that follows a modified year round schedule.  So teachers went back to school July 22 and students followed on July 24.  Starting in July isn't fun, especially when everyone around us is still enjoying summer.  But the 2 week Fall Break, 2 week Christmas Break, and 2 week Spring break make me feel a little better about it.  That and a whole lot of Cherry Coke.

I teach in Tennessee which is one of the most beautiful states I have ever seen, or lived in.  And I've lived in quite a few places, the woes of a military brat.  Spring, Summer, and Fall are all wonderful.  But I do have a little issue with Winter, we don't get along and are not usually on speaking terms.  The only thing that makes Winter manageable is a good snow day.  Growing up, I never had a snow day, I never even lived in a place where it snowed until my family moved to TN.  But for the most part, I love living in TN.


Cookies, Cherry Coke, playing piano, figure skating, running at Disney, my fur babies, sleeping in, reading, watching movies, pineapple, Autumn, and swimming.

An ice skater with Disney on Ice!

Organized, OCD, Sarcastic 

"Oh no problem, you can totally drop your kid off by the gym because you're too lazy to drive through the car line, don't even worry about the fact that there's no one there to watch out for your child and make sure they don't get hit by a car," said no teacher ever!!

 Walt Disney
I went on a behind the scenes tour at Disney World.  Walt was such a fascinating man!

It probably change every day depending on what mood I'm in.

Soaring above the Earth and getting a bird's eye view of God's creation, amazing!

My new fav is, "The only difference between try and and triumph, is just a little umph." 

"I Want it That Way" - the Backstreet Boys

Depends on how early I have to get up the next morning.  
During the school year I typically go to bed between 9:30-10:00 so that I can get up the next morning and run before school.  During the summer, I tend to stay up way too late reading a good book and then running later in the day.

hehehe, this is so me!

I love these schedule cards!  Like most of the items in my shop, I created them for me because I wanted to use them in my own classroom.  I had been using a different set of schedule cards for the past few years, but this year I decided I wanted to make some with really easy to read text and a cute simple graphic so my kindergarteners would be able to read them as well.  The other set I used was not editable, so I couldn't add my own cards for things like classroom parties or additional subject areas.  These just work perfect for me. Plus I've become slightly obsessed with clip art.  It just makes me happy!
Here are some pictures of my schedule cards in action!
I just put magnets on the back and I can easily switch them out on my magnetic board.  (I keep the extras in a little mesh basket) Right now I'm teaching my kids how to recognize each picture so that they know what we have going on each day.  

Last year there was a little boy in my room who would constantly ask when lunch was.  One time, a little girl in my room said, "hello, read the schedule...we have phonics and reading before lunch."  Cracked me up!

One of my favorite parts about my schedule cards is this...
I made the little chalkboard editable,  so you can type your own name onto it.  It's the little things that make me happy!

I started college with the intention of becoming a nurse.  My mom is a nurse and loves it.  I guess I just saw how passionate she was about it, so I decided I would be too.  And I was, for 2 years.  I was even an ambassador for the School of Nursing at my college.  Then one day, I realized I wanted to be a teacher, I think I had secretly always wanted to be a teacher, I was just afraid I wouldn't be any good.  (In college I was in a sorority, and whenever I saw my sisters who were in the teaching program, I was secretly jealous of their teacher bags and cute portfolios)

Finally I decided if a teacher was what God meant for me to be, then I didn't need to worry about being a bad one.  
I was worried about telling my mom because I thought she would be disappointed.  
But it was my friends who took it the hardest.  They actually staged an intervention in the middle of the school cafeteria and told me all the reasons they thought I needed to be a nurse and not a teacher.  It was a bit dramatic.
 But they finally came around and realized that I was supposed to be a teacher, and now they say they can't imagine me as anything else.
Now go check out some of your blogger favorites and some new bloggers, maybe you'll find some new favorites!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Word Wall Update!

As I walked out of my classroom at the end of last year, I looked around and thought I was content with how everything looked and was organized.  Of course everything was packed up and it looked like this...
But I was happy with my posters, anchor charts, behavior chart, etc.  So I thought that when the time came to set everything back up, I would just put everything back where it belonged and leave everything on the walls alone.

Boy was I wrong.

Sometime during the first week of summer, I decided my room needed an overhaul, like yesterday.  When I took a moment to stop and think about it, most of my posters, borders, and bulletin boards were several years old.  And due to my one wall that is almost completely windows, all of those things were looking a bit faded.  I guess I just hadn't noticed because I had forgotten what they originally looked like.

So I worked like a busy little bee all summer make things and laminating things for my classroom, so that when July came, I would be ready to redecorate my room.

I will do a complete classroom tour soon!  Even though I've been back in school for 2 weeks already, I am still tweaking a few things.  Stay tuned.

So today I'm going to share a little bit of my room and one of my biggest overhauls of the summer.  

My word wall. 
I've been using this word wall, which is actually 2 bulletin boards that sandwich my Promethean Board, for about 5 years.  I knew that I wanted to condense down to just one board and wanted to make sure that it was in a location where all students could see it.  I also wanted something different, in terms of words and header cards, I just couldn't find exactly what I wanted. 

So what do you do when you can't find what you want?  
You make it yourself.
So I did.  

I spent some time this summer and created 2 Word Wall sets that include header cards and editable word cards.  The 2 sets are completely the same except for the background.  One set has a crayon scribble background and the other has a cloud background.

Each set comes with large header cards (with beginning sound pictures and without) and medium header cards (with beginning sound pictures and without)

I teach kindergarten, so I decided to use the set with the beginning sound pictures.

I also made editable word cards with different colored borders.  I hate buying a set of words, printing all of them, and then not using some because we don't teach those words.  So I made all the word cards blank and editable so that everyone can type in the words they need and use the font they want.

I also made sure that words beginning with the same letter had different colored borders.

I really love both sets of word wall cards, but I went with the cloud version.

Next came the printing and laminating.  Which was a breeze thanks to my new laminator "hot stuff."  I seriously love that thing.  It's even light enough to carry back and forth from school.

Here he is laminating my new center cards.  Yes I am laminating while sitting on my bedroom floor. Doesn't everybody laminate that way?

I had picked up this awesome coupon organizer from Walmart during my last grocery shopping trip because I thought it would fit my word cards perfectly.  And I love the colors!

 It came with little divider tabs, letters on one side and months on the other.  I could definitely cute these up, but that is so not a priority at the moment.

After cutting everything out, it was time to sort by beginning letter.

I forgot to mention that the font I used was "Miss Kindergarten" by KG Fonts.  I love KG Fonts and they are a free download on TpT for personal use.  I just love this font!

I also made some matching digraph mini headers.  

My kids always get so confused when they are looking for a word on the word wall that begins with a digraph.  So I made these little mini headers to go under the letter header, to help remind the kids which 2 letters make the sound.  I'm hoping this will help.  Especially with th words and sh words.

Phew!  There are more w words than any other beginning letter.

I slipped the digraph mini headers down in the letter sections with the words that began with the same letter.  I'll put the digraph headers up when I introduce a word with that digraph.

These cards fit so nicely in my new coupon organizer!!  This makes my OCD very happy!

Here are the word wall header cards I chose.  It's a little difficult to see the cloud pattern but it's so pretty.  In addition to the beginning sound pictures I added to some of the header cards (there is a complete set of header cards without these beginning sound pictures) I also added a short and long beginning sound picture for each vowel.

Header cards - check
Word cards - check

Time to start working on the actual word wall board.

First stop was Hobby Lobby.  I bought some great sparkly ribbon for 50% off.  I actually used the thinner version of the lime green ribbon on the top in the picture.

This was the worst part, and took forever because I had to get it just right.

You can even see my measuring tape pinned to the board on the far right so that I could measure my horizontal ribbon stripes.

So glad that parts over!

Oh this word wall makes my heart happy!!

Where do I even begin...the bright colors, the sparkle, the new chevron border, the perfectly spaced grids, not to mention my new and improved reading center, Book Nook, right in front with my awesome chairs from Target and my new rug from Big Lots.

I purposely changed my word wall to a different board so that I could put up seasonal writing activities on the board in front of my writing center, Write Site.  I also wanted it to still be easily viewed from the students' tables and Write Site.  As an added bonus, it is now in front of Book Nook, so I added some fun pointers so that my kids could practice reading the words while they are at Book Nook.

Another view.  And look!  We added our first popcorn word to our word wall today!

If you've seen my blog before, you may know that I am slightly obsessed with bulletin board letters.  So of course I had to use some of my new ones to label my Word Wall.

It's the little things that make my heart happy.  And this is definitely one of them!

I also used my new Subway Art Rule Charts on my calendar mtg board.  (They are FREE!) I just attached them to some sparkly chevron scrapbook paper.  Right now they are being held up by magnets, the whole board is magnetic, because I'm not positive I'm going to keep them that way.  

Oh and can you see my new schedule cards on the left.  Those make my heart happy too! 


 Stay tuned for a classroom tour coming soon...