Sunday, January 29, 2012

Valentine Fun!

Looking for a cute valentine to give your students? Head on over to the Fabulous Finds blog where I just posted a fun idea for making your own heart-shaped crayons! It is super easy and I have the step by step directions and even a free template ready for you!

Also, if you're looking for some fun literacy centers for your students to do in February, I just added a pack of Valentine Literacy Games to my TPT store- just a few cute activities to practice the alphabet and sight words.

I'd love to hear what fun things you've got planned for celebrating Valentine's Day in your classroom!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More January Math Stations

January is starting to feel like a very long month! I just recently switched out our math stations from earlier this month for a new round of stations. Still lots of winter themed games and also a few fun Chinese New Year math games too! The best part about these math games....nearly every one is a freebie!

Station 1: Race to 100
(Students roll the die to see how many squares they can color in on their hundred chart. First player to get to 100 wins. A fun game and great for a week when we are celebrating the 100th day of school. Any old 100 chart you have lying around will work for this game.)

Station 2: Tic-Tac-Teen
(Students spin the spinner and cover up the teen number they spun on their little game board. First player to get three in a row (tic-tac-toe) on their game board wins. My students are using some cute X and O plastic table scatter pieces I found at Target to mark their game boards-and I am storing the pieces in a play-doh can. We are really hitting the teen numbers hard this month! This game can be found here.)

Station 3: Lantern Cover-up
(Students roll 2 dice and cover up the sum on their game board. First player to cover-up all their lanterns wins. This freebie of mine can be downloaded here.)

Station 4: Polar Pals Roll and Cover
(Students roll 3 dice and cover up the sum on their game board. First player to cover-up all their numbers wins. Using 3 dice is a great challenge! My higher kids are adding up the numbers in their head while my lower kids are pointing to each dot on the dice and counting up their total. This freebie from Mrs. Lirette's Learning Detective's can be downloaded here.)

Station 5: Spin a Character In The Mitten
(Students spin an animal on this darling spinner and then color in the graph with the appropriate color to record what animal they spun. This super cute game goes with the book The Mitten, and can be dowloaded for free here from Fran at Kindergarten Crayons.)

Station 6: Race to Trace
(Students roll the die and trace the number they rolled on their sheet. First player to trace all the numbers on their sheet wins. Super cute little polar bears on this game sheet too! I wrote the numbers 15-20 on a foam cube to make my dice. This fun freebie from Ketchen's Kindergarten can be downloaded here along with some other great winter math games!)

Station 7: Chinese New Year Counting Game
(Students pick a red envelope with a number word on it, and then match it to the corresponding picture and number cards. All of the picture cards are Chinese New Year themed. The free picture and number cards I made for this game can be found here.)

Station 8: Count Your Change
(Students pick a change purse, count the change inside, and record the amount on their sheet. Each little purse has a sticker with a letter on it for recording purposes. To give this game a little Chinese New Year flair, we are using little Chinese purses. Sorry I don't have a link to a recording sheet for you-I copied this sheet from a book of math games I have-but students could easily record the purse's letter and amount of money on a piece of scrap paper.)

Station 9: Snowman Button Counting
(Students look at the number on the snowman's hat and count out that many buttons to put on the snowman. This game was a hit! Kinders love anything with fun buttons. This cute game from Creating and Teaching can be downloaded for free here.)

Station 10: Snowflake Counting
(Students count our the the correct number of pom-pom balls to match the number written on their snowflake. I happened to find these foam snowflake cut-outs in the dollar spot at Target a few weeks ago.) 

Let me know how your math stations are going-I'm on the look out for any cute February stations I can use next month!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Celebrating Chinese New Year

This week my students and I are celebrating Chinese New Year! This is such a fun topic to teach about. Several of my students come from Asian countries that celebrate the lunar new year so they are teaching us about how their families celebrate (China is not the only country to celebrate this holiday).

I have decorated the room with some decorations I picked up in Chinatown. I have also had my students help me make some decorations. Today we made paper lanterns to hang from the ceiling (directions can be found here). Tomorrow we plan to make strings of red paper firecrackers (directions can be found here).

My students love the new additions to our dramatic play center. I've added a bowl of oranges for luck, and of course all of the plates and bowls are red for good luck too. I've also added some felt dumplings, spring rolls, and broccoli that I made and some yarn noodles (I do not sew-you can totally make this felt food with hot glue-directions can be found here).

Later this week we will have a chopstick lesson and I will pass out red envelopes with a little treat inside. We will also try rice candy, fortune cookies, and almond cookies. Some years I get particularly ambitious and we cook up fried rice and drink tea for our little New Year's feast.

I've made two Chinese New Year games for my math centers. One is a count and match game and the other is an addition cover-up game. They practice numbers 1-12 and addition to 12. If you're interested in these freebies, you can download them here.

I hope you will consider celebrating Chinese New Year with your students. Even though the new year officially started today, the celebration traditionally lasts for 15 days, so you have plenty of time! I'll be back later this week with more pictures and some great book recommendations for studying Chinese New Year!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book-making Bliss!

Writing workshop has been so much fun these last few weeks! I'm not sure who has been enjoying it more- me or my students!

With the new year, I resolved to change a few things around during my writing time. My first priority was trying to squeeze a little more writing time into our day. So, I rearranged a few things in my schedule and was able to add an extra 10 minutes, so I now I have 40 minutes for writing workshop (30 minutes was just not cutting it before!).

Here's how I break up the 40 minutes:
-Mini-lesson (10 minutes)
-Check-in: students tell me what they're going to work on that day (5 minutes)
-Independent writing (20 minutes)
-Sharing (5 minutes)

So far, I have been able to squeeze in about 4 conferences a day while they are writing independently. It is tough though! Most of my conferences are running 4-5 minutes, which I hope to shorten a bit as I get a little better at it. I have been starting each conference with the student reading me their writing, and then jumping into my praise point and my teaching point, coming up with a plan with the student about how they can try out what I have taught them, and then jotting down some notes before I move along to the next kid!

Picking just one teaching point is really hard, but I know it is so important to stick with one thing until they get it. I'm trying to remember that I'm teaching the writer not the writing, so what I teach them now will show up in their future pieces. I really need a better record keeping system for my conference notes-I'd love ideas for that! One thing that has been helpful for me is looking back over my conference notes from the entire week. It has helped me get a big picture idea of what my kids need. When I saw that several of my kids had worked with me on going back to pages in their books and adding more details to the pictures or to the words I decided to focus a few of my mini-lessons on revision and adding details.

I have also been reading the most wonderful book about writing conferences.
Sit Down and Teach Up by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover is about how to conference with preschool, kindergarten, and first grade writers-and it is amazingly helpful!

The downside of this book is that it is only available right now as an iBook, so you have to have an ipad/iphone/ipod device to read it. Supposedly, they are working on making a PC version you can read on your computer, but no idea when that will come out.

The best part of this book is that it has videos of 15 writing conferences in it! Each chapter is set-up the same way. They briefly introduce the setting for the writing conference (classroom, student, etc.) then you can click on the video to watch the first part of the conference. Then there is time for you to think about how you might teach the student. Then there is a second video clip you can click on where you can see how Katie/Matt chose to focus the conference. Finally there is a write-up about how they decided on their teaching point and others directions they might have taken. It is some of the best PD I have ever had- especially since I can watch it laying on the couch in my PJs! The videos are just so fun to watch-and Katie and Matt are clearly awesome teachers.

So, in the last few weeks I've not only added on some additional minutes to my writing workshop and worked on improving my conferences, but I have made another MUCH bigger change. I am moving away from my students writing in their journals and have introduced book writing. I was honestly a bit terrified to introduce this to my kindergarteners just halfway through the school year. However, now that we are making books, and they are doing so well with it, I really wish I hadn't waited so long! When I taught first and second grades I always had my kids writing books, and I've even introduced it to kinders at the end of the school year-but for some reason I thought January might be too soon. is not!

I have to share some of my students' work. They are all doing so much more writing now that they have whole books to fill, and the quality of writing has really been elevated too since they are now writing whole stories instead of just 2-3 sentences on a journal page.

**Disclaimer** My camera isn't working so I photographed the students' writing with my phone which is obviously not the best quality :(

One of my students decided to write a story about his neighbor's cat (I can only assume so many of my kids wrote pet stories this week because I modeled a story about my dog last week!). He worked on this book everyday this week (I pre-stapled booklets for the kids with a blank cover and 4 inside pages).

Cover: "My Neighbor's Cat" (the print is hard to see)

Page 1: "My neighbor's cat comes to my house."

Page 2: "I like to pet my neighbor's cat."

Page 3: "My neighbor's cat almost came into my garage. My mom warned my dad."

Page 4: "My neighbor's cat is always messy."
(Can you see the mud puddle in the pic and the arrow showing the cat walked through the mud?)

Here is another story by one of my students. She wrote about her dog-and shocked me by writing this entire book all in one day! She did agree to go back and add some more details to her pictures and words though before moving on to her next book.

Cover: "My Dog"

Page 1: "My dog likes taking a bath. I make it overflow."
(Am I the only one who think that overflowing part is hilarious?
I love how you can even see the water spilling out of the tub in the picture)

Page 2: "My dog likes getting combed. I was trying to find him. I was surprised."
(Can you see all the labels she included in the picture?)

Page 3: "My dogs likes to lick me. I giggle."
(LOVE that she included a speech bubble of her laughing)

Page 4: "My dog likes playing with his toys."

These are 2 of my higher students, but even my more average and lower students have embraced book making and have done a great job. I promise to post some writing samples from some of my more struggling students later this week so you can see that too.

I encourage you all to be brave and shake up your writing workshop time as well-if there are changes you want to make just jump in and try it! If you're looking for resources to help with your writing workshop, these are some of my favorite books about writing with young students.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Snowman Shake

Here's a fun little game students can play to practice sight words (or alphabet letters for those kiddos that still need that). I got this great idea from another kindergarten teacher and my students love it. To play Snowman Shake, you need a snowman container, 2 blank dice, and the recording sheet.

The snowman is easy to make-just peel the label off a creamer bottle and draw the snowman's face on with a sharpie. If you can't find a creamer bottle or something similar to use, you could probably just draw a snowman onto a plastic cup for this game.

To make the dice-I used little foam cubes from Dollar Tree (I got a huge pack of them earlier this year and love that the foam makes such quiet dice). I have also used little wooden blocks from my classroom before to make my own dice since those blank dice at the teacher store can be pricey! Then, I just write the sight words (or alphabet letters if that is what my students are practicing) on the sides of the dice with a sharpie.

To play, students take off the snowman's hat (the lid) shake the 2 dice inside of the snowman and roll them into the little basket. Then they record the sight words they rolled on the recording sheet. Click on the picture below to grab a copy of this sight word freebie.

If you would prefer a copy of the recording sheet with alphabet letters click here. Or, for a blank copy of the recording sheet that you can write your own words on, click here.

I hope your students enjoy this game as much as mine do! Something about shaking up the dice inside the snowman makes this game endlessly appealing to 5 year olds! Even though we're now moving on from our study of all things winter and snow to begin learning about Martin Luther King and Chinese New Year, I'll leave this game out  as a literacy center for the rest of the month.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sight Word Practice

Before I had teaching blogs and Pinterest to give me 101 classroom ideas...I have to admit that not all of my literacy center ideas were cute. I mean, this is before I even knew you could buy clipart...scary, I know!

So, this is the type of thing my kinders would find at our word work center:

Yes, it is as simple as the directions look. I put this sheet in a plastic tub with a magnetic dry erase board, a dry erase marker and eraser, a ziploc bag of magnetic letters, and a ziploc bag of notecards with sight words written on them.

Then, students would pick a sight word card out of the bag and follow the directions on the paper. For example, if they picked the word "the" they would then take the letters "t" "h" and "e" out of the bag of magnetic letters and do these steps on their magnetic dry erase board:

1. mix the letters "t" "h" and "e" up
2. make the word "the" from the magnetic letters
3. mix the letters again
4. make the word "the" again
5. use the dry erase marker to practice writing the word "the"

Then they would pick a new sight word card and repeat all over again for the new word. Really, it was that easy! Of course, now my students expect elaborate and creative games with darling little pictures all over them to match the current season...but sometimes I still make them play this game anyway!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dollar Spot Deals!

If it costs a dollar...and they sell it at Target...then I just have to have it. Seriously-I cannot walk past that dollar section without putting at least one thing in my cart! They MUST have a teacher working for them developing these products-and I must be their targeted demographic because I just love the cute things I find there. Check out what I have found in the last few weeks (yes, I have some restraint, these items were bought on 2 separate trips!)

I just cannot resist cute little felt play food. I have even tried making my own (of course I can't sew so I have to use glue). These adorable little cake slices and cupcakes are sold in 2-packs and you can also find the little felt baskets in the dollar spot too. You absolutely must head over to Pre-K Pages to check out the cute printables Vanessa has made to go with these cakes to help you turn your dramatic play area into a bakery-I am SO doing this next month around Valentine's Day.)

Just when I thought nothing could be cuter than those cupcakes... Sushi! Oh my-now do I have to have my kinders create a sushi restaurant in the dramatic play area too?

So much cute stuff for Valentine's Day! Foam hearts, little plastic heart boxes, and heart mini clothes-pins. There were so many valentine items in the bins I could hardly decide what to get. I will be working on finding ways to transform these items into math and literacy center activities!

I have an owl obsession so I could not pass on this cute little owl bag and the little owl post-it notes.

So many erasers! There were more but I just had to say no! 5 packs is enough for one teacher...I think. I am going to use the fruit, veggies, and sweets to have my kinders sort healthy/non-healthy foods. Karen at PreKinders made a great freebie sorting page for these erasers. I think it would be a great activity next month when we are studying dental health and learning about what foods are healthy for our teeth. I am saving those apple erasers for next fall when we study apples. And the last eraser pack has polar animals (penguins, seals, etc.) so I need to find something to do with those asap!

Ok, this is a terrible photo, but this is my favorite Target find. They have been selling these little metal mailboxes at Target each winter for several years now, and 3 years ago I bought a class set. BEST DECISION I EVER MADE! If you see these at your Target you have to snatch them up for your class. I store all my little mailboxes in a big tub in my closet and then I put them out every February when I introduce letter writing and we have our mail theme. We have a little class post office and I tape each kid's name onto one of these mailboxes so they can write each other mail. We then keep our mail station running for the rest of the school year and it is SO much fun! I will take pics in a few weeks when I set it up for this year. It really looks cute and the kids love it.

I know I should ask if you have found any awesome deals lately...but I just don't want to know. I don't have the budget for any more Target purchases this month. Tell me next month!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mitten Activities

This week we read the book  The Mitten by Jan Brett. We also did some fun mitten themed activities to go along with the book. I think the students' favorite mitten activity was sewing up their own paper mittens with yarn.

Beware: this can be very challenging for kindergarteners! I had the mittens precut, with one staple in the corner to hold the two pieces of paper together. I also had all of the holes already punched in the mitten and a piece of yarn tied to the first hole.

One little tip that will make this activity SO much easier for the kids is using very thin yarn so it fits easily through the holes. Also, putting a little piece of masking tape around the end of the yarn, so that the end of the yarn doesn't unravel and goes through each hole easily, is definitely recommended.

Something new I tried this year, was doing this activity in small groups-and it was a lot more successful that way. I really can't believe that I used to just let the whole class loose to do this independently all at once. By doing it with one table at a time, I could model for the kids how to thread the yarn through the top of the hole only, pull all  of the yarn through the hole, and then move onto the next hole. I could also keep an eye on everyone to make sure they were doing it correctly since I only had 5 kids to watch at a time. Everyone's mittens turned out really well!

While I was sewing up mittens with one table at a time, the rest of the kids were kept occupied with coloring and cutting out all of the animals from the story (you can get this page of animals from Jan Brett's website). Then, once all of the mittens and animals were done, we reread The Mitten, and the kids put their animals into the mitten as it happened in the story. Very fun! They loved the idea of taking their mittens and animals home to retell the story to their families.

We also had a mitten themed activity going in the pocket chart this week. On sentence strips I wrote: "The _____ went in the mitten." Then I printed out the animal pictures and word cards (from the blog 1+1+1=1) and students put them into the pocket chart and practiced reading the chart. (Sorry the photo is so blurry-that's what I get for taking the pic with my phone instead of my camera!).

We also did some mitten activities during math. I gave each student a mitten cut-out and we practiced measuring it with lots of different manipulatives (pennies, paperclips, links, cubes, etc.). Great measuring practice and lots of hands-on fun!

I know there are tons of great mitten ideas out there. I have seen them popping up all over blogs and Pinterest these last few days. I'd love to hear about any fun things you do with the book The Mitten.