Swinging on a Star Bulletin Board

So, summer is winding down - WAAAA!!!!! I have to admit that I am always kind of torn at this time of year. I LOVE summer and the flexibility it allows me with my children. There are days we don't eat dinner until 9p.m. and that's ok because.....it's summer!!

I love not knowing what day or time it is! One of the reasons I think I love not paying attention to time is because so much of our lives as teachers revolve around the time (down to the minute)..... It's such a sharp contrast to the school year..... It's simply refreshing!

However, as any good teacher.....I also love the newness that each August carries.... One of my favorite things to do is create a new bulletin board.

The very first thing I usually do when I get back into my class each year is the hallway bulletin board (I know most people leave that for the end, but to me that signal that they new year has begun so I do it first).......

Here is my bulletin board from last year. Our school theme was Space and Stars. In Texas, our students started taking a new high stakes test called STAAR and so the theme was in support of this FABULOUS new test (can you detect the sarcasm there?). Anyways, I wasn't really excited about the space theme so I played up on stars and came up with "Swinging on a Star".....you know......"Would you like to swing on a star? Carry moonbeams home in a jar?" You're right - I can't sing! But you get my drift, right?!

I loved the bulletin board and spent a long time making the swings. They were meant to frame the students' writing (since we are limited in what we can post in the hallway (long story).....

So, fast forward to May at Kindergarten graduation........oh it's so hectic!!! Parents were told they could take all their child's work......

Well, as I was still in the classroom taking pictures with kids and talking to parents - other parents began leaving.... Before I knew it - I had swings missing......you know kinder parents......they want as much as they can get to remember their child's kindergarten year......They took the swings :0( Oh no! I spent so much time making those swings........

Oh well!! I'm over that now (2 months later:0) But, my wonderful school has decided to continue the Space/Stars theme......uggghh!! I still don't like that theme so I want to continue on with my "Swinging on a Star" theme for my bulletin board --it still fits what we are doing, yet can be more geared to beginning kinders.......

Last year, I cut a meter stick in half - glued the 2 pieces together, painted it, and stapled a rope around to create the swing......It cost me a pretty penny. I am not willing to spend a ton this year......but I love the idea.....

So, my question for you creative teachers out there --

How can I create my swings this year?

Please help me! :0)

Number Fans Freebie

Hi Friends! I'm happy to be guest blogging over at Kindergarten Lifestyle today. Thanks Jeannie for having me! I know summer is sizzling but it is never to early to be thinking about the upcoming school year.   It seems that Kindergarten teachers have an endless list of things they are responsible for teaching; and one of the first on the list is number sense. When kids leave Kindergarten, they should have a strong, solid sense of number.   Number recognition is a small but important part of number sense. There are many ways to practice this skill with your students, and one good way is to have them use number fans. 
Number fans have been around for quite some time.  You may have seen many variations of this flexible and fun tool. They are simple, easy to make, and serve as a multi-purpose instructional tool. My students always had fun using them. I have created a printable number fan to help you reinforce number recognition with your students. I've also included pictures and ideas of how they might be used. Click here for your free set.  Directions for making number fans:
    Printable Number Fan
  1. Print a set of number cards for each child in your class. Printing them on colored cardstock works well.
  2. Laminate them and cut them out. (More capable students can make their own.)
  3. Punch a hole in the bottom of each card and assemble them in numerical order (place the question mark at the end).
  4. Use a brad or small ring to hold the cards together. 
www.teachthemath.comA few ideas for using your number fans:
  • Have kids display the number as you call it out. 
  • Have kids choose a number, compare with a friend's number, and determine which is larger.
  • Let children display a number that is one larger or one smaller than the one you call.
  • Have them display a number that comes between two numbers that you call.
  • Children can display the question mark card if they are unsure about the number you call.
Number Fan Note: With younger children, use only number cards 0-5. As your students' number sense continues to improve, add numbers 6-9 to the fan.  Use two sets of cards when you begin working with double digit numbers.  Although it's possible to display two digit numbers with just one set, it is best to put two sets together to represent doubles and larger numbers (i.e. you can't display the number 22, 33, etc. without two sets of number cards). 
www.teachthemath.comI hope you and your students will get lots of use out of these number fans! I've enjoyed being with you today. Please feel free to hop over and visit me at my blog Teach The Math. I would love to hear your comments on the number fan or ideas about how you teach number sense in your classroom. Thanks for reading along and keep on teaching the math!
Dr. Penny Messick is an Instructional Specialist with the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI).  She spent 25 years teaching K-2 and is a strong supporter of inquiry based learning.  She spends most of her days providing resources and professional development for elementary teachers across south Alabama.  Penny blogs at www.teachthemath.com.  She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Little Birdtales for Research Reports

 I have an awesome website to share with you today that will provide tons of great learning experiences for your students and help create memories that will last a lifetime. The possibilities really are ENDLESS!

The website I want to share with you is LittleBirdTales.

This website allows you to create photo albums and/or picture books with narration. It's FREE to use and super simple. Here is how I used this website this year in my classroom:

Each year in my kindergarten classroom, we conduct an entire research unit on animals. One of the standards we have to meet is having the kids "present" their research. Typically they make posters, dioramas, book jackets, etc. This year was the first year I chose to try a ditigal storybook and I'm so glad I did. Check out our "Safari Research" presentation HERE.

Pretty cool, huh? This was a hit with the kids! I mean they NEVER got tired of seeing the animals they chose and hearing themselves and their classmates present their learning. It is still one of the most amazing activities I've done with my kiddos. It's very simple, but was a "thumbtack" to post all they learned about the various safari animals.

Something even cooler is that you can purchase the Mp4 download for $.99. (Of course you can view online for FREE anytime). That would be great to put in a listening center. Parents can also purchase the Mp4 as a wonderful keepsake! And, even as a teacher - I know I want to keep this to remember those sweet little ones - just hearing their voices brings back memories....:0) How special!

I am thinking of other ways I can use this wonderful resource.
*Books on Tape - well now Mp4 format. I never seem to have enough books for the listening center. I could totally read a book and download it as an Mp4 - and put in the listening center --- ANY book!
*Fluency center - kids can record themselves reading and listen to themselves.
*Retell center - kids can draw illustrations of the beginning, middle, and end of a favorite story and retell it.
*Writing center - kids can draw original pieces and narrate their stories - what creativity that involves!

Here is a quick video that explains even more you can do with Little Bird Tales (it's less than 2 minutes long).

I hope you enjoyed hearing a little about this awesome website and how you can use it with your students. Using technology in the classroom doesn't have to be tedious and difficult or take up lots of time. This site is super easy to use and we made our books in little 5 minute pockets of time....

In the comments below, please let us know your ideas for using this website's ditigal storybooks.

Blocks/Building Center Freebie

Ok, pre-k and kinder teachers: let me ask you a question. 
Do you have a blocks/building center in your room? 

Have you done away with it because is seems like too much of a "problem-center"? Do your kiddos not seem to know what to do there? 

PLEASE don't get rid of your block/building center....and if you already have PLEASE let me show you a couple ideas that will allow you to bring it back!

The building/block center has a very important place in any pre-k and kindergarten curriculum. Playing with blocks provides a wonderful opportunity for oral language development, hand/eye coordination, and spacial reasoning among many other benefits.

While this is indeed an important center, it can also be problematic. It can be a noisy center in which kids become off-task. Sometimes kids start playing with the blocks, throwing them, etc. Most of that off-task behavior is a result of not knowing/remembering what they can do there. 

I won't go on and on about modeling and practice, practice, practice - you already know that. I want to offer 2 super simple ideas to help make this center manageable and more enjoyable for you and the kiddos!

1. Here is a little "I Can" booklet you can model how to use with your students. Then, they will be able to refer to the booklet for ideas to keep them on task in this important early childhood center. It basically offers your students ideas to begin their block creations -- not an exhaustive list -- just ideas to get them started in easy to understand pictures.

I hope you like this FREEBIE :0) Click HERE to grab!

2. Also, something else I find really helpful with keeping kids engaged and focused during center time is having clear boundaries for them. Most of the time the kids WANT to follow directions.....but they are 5 and 6 and they DO forget. I have found that using "duck tape" boundaries really help them know where their center begins and ends. My kids have learned very well how to stay inside their "zebra stripes". All I have to do is glance at the floor and I have kids checking their feet to make sure they are in their center. It's a great visual!

I hope these ideas help!
Now, it's your turn! What do you do to help manage your blocks/building center? Let us know below in the comments :0)

Daily 5 -Setting the Stage

Welcome back for my reflections on Chapter 3....Yes I am a bit late getting this post together. I am so sorry. My dad went into the hospital last Tuesday with pneumonia - his O2 saturation is still not good....and well I just had to deal with life :0) Anyways, I'm back and ready to jot down some ideas for implementing D5 in my kinder classroom.

I will use the guiding questions/thoughts that Tammy from Live, Love, Laugh Everyday in Kindergarten set out.. She is so good at that! 

Now, I've told you before that I've done D5 in 1st and 2nd grade so although I didn't do it in kinder, I did naturally learn alot from using D5 for years - and that naturally bled over to my teaching in kinder. 

1. Establish a gathering place for brain and body breaks.

Check! Our whole group learning area is a big circle rug that looks like the ocean. It's beautiful and makes me smile :0) I call in the circle since it's ....a circle. (creative I know)

(hahaha - ignore the Easter eggs laying around the circle carpet)

I also believe in the importance of getting kids up and moving to re-engage their minds. It's about movement. I know when I sit too long in one place my mind starts drifting and it's so easy to become zombiefied. Simply getting up and moving causes your brain to wake up. I play lots of transition songs - just 2-3 minute songs that the kids can dance to, wake up their mind, and they feel ready to go back to learning.

2. Develop the concept of "good fit" books.

I definitely use the shoe lesson the Sisters offer in their book. The kids so enjoy seeing me flop around like a loon in my husband's work boots and they love trying on their classmates' shoes. It really gets the message across that we are all different and what fits me may not fit you.....and that's OK. Here are some books I use when teaching about "good-fit" books along with the Sisters' shoe lesson:

"Those Shoes" is a story about a boy who wants a pair of shoes so bad he tries to wear a pair that doesn't fit him at all. This is a wonderful story to use to demonstrate to kids that we need to choose books that "fit" us. Kids often want to read books that their friends read - even if they are way too hard....this is a perfect book to calm that and help us focus on what WE as individuals need. 

"Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes" is just a super fun story that is perfect to read the first week of school. It will allow you to make lots of connections for when you begin teaching the shoe lesson. Kids love shoes - so it's a great way to engage them quickly!

"Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes" another fun "shoe" book with Pete the Cat.... again a perfect book to read during the first week of school.

"Dog in Boots" is a story about a dog who wants shoes like those from "Puss in Boots". He finds some great shoes, but they don't let him do what dogs do. They don't fit his purpose. This book is a must have when teaching about choosing books based on your purpose for reading.

3. Create anchor charts with students How will these be visual in the room? Where will you store them? What about small spaces?

I am so lucky that I have a nice size room to teach in. Believe me, I used to teach in a broom closet...and with no windows! So, I really love the bigger room with lovely windows! When my kids enter my kinder room the walls are bare because our learning needs to be created as we go. This also means I do not store anchor charts. I give them to the students at the end of the year. Just like we build our room together, we take it apart as well. 
 Now, there are times when I get a chart started before they enter the room for time's sake. But, the kids watch/interact as we "build" each anchor chart because there's a lot of learning and muscle memory that goes into seeing the chart made, hung up, and referenced to time and time again. Usually our anchor charts stay up all year long. Sometimes, I've noticed that some charts become obsolete and take up valuable room when we need it for other charts. So, I love the idea that Marsha at A Differentiated Kindergarten suggested - when they have hung for so long - take a photo and create a reference book. Then you can re-use that space (especially important in tiny rooms) and yet kids can still access those anchor charts. Thanks Marsha - great idea!

4. Short, repeated intervals of independent practice and setting up book boxes (How are you going to keep track of stamina? What will you use for book boxes? What are you going to put in those book boxes on the 1st day of school?)

I use book boxes like these from Really Good Stuff: Durable  Book And Binder Holder With Stabilizer Wing & Label Holder™ - 12 Pack

Their book boxes contain guided reading books they've read as well as other books they choose. It also holds their writer's workshop folder, crayons and pen. It basically is a store-house for all their personal learning materials they need throughout the day. 

5. Calm Signals and check in procedures (Do you already 
have a signal? How will you handle check ins?)

I use music for all my transitions. In fact, more times than not there is some form on music going in my class. The only time I don't have music playing is during our whole group lessons (and even then I have music incorporated throughout the lesson). What can I say? I'm a music lover!

I do have a set of bells just like the Sisters use (I bought them years ago when I first started Daily 5 in second grade.) I do use them, but I have found that using the music on my computer (itunes) works better....and is just "me". I'm not a super quiet person so me using quiet bells seems a little out of place. :0)

6. Using the correct model/incorrect model approach for demonstrating appropriate behaviors. 

My plan for addressing incorrect behavior is first to have a preventative outlook.....lots and lots of repetitive practice for all. I love how the Sisters talked about modeling, then have kids show correct behavior. But they don't stop there. They then allow a child who likes to act out - act out!!! Show that incorrect behavior! Next comes the beauty - have that same student show correct behavior. This is so important for a number of reasons. First, it helps you know whether that student truly can demonstrate correct behavior. It also shows others he can do it. It shows that student, he can do it and the good feelings that brings. It also provides muscle memory for when you correct him.

If I have one that simply struggles even with continued practice, I work one-on-one with that student to learn the needed behaviors. It may seem like I'm neglecting other kids, but trust me you will waste alot more time and learning if you don't address that child's needs. I have set up individual behavior plans for children that need extra, extrinsic motivation. This is also where relationship becomes ultra important. Most kids will do what you want IF they know you love them (and they are capable). I also work on motivating all my students. I want everything we do to be SO fun, they can't wait to join in. No plan works 100% of the time. You go with the flow, you take into account the particular child, and the particular group of kids - and you go from there. This is one thing that makes teaching such a difficult job! :0)

I am LOVING this book study. I'll be honest. I am not 100% sold on doing D5 in kinder. I believe what I will do will be a combination between literacy workstations and D5. There are things that still concern me about doing strict D5 in kinder - interaction and developmental activities being part of my concern and not having enough time for a true Writer's Workshop. Currently, my centers (which are really Debbie Diller-style workstations) work really well. I see amazing things from my students and I kind of feel.....why mess with something that works. And this is why we study things, right?.....to determine if something is right for us....:0)

That being said.....I adore this book study and anyone can benefit from the discussions that have spawned from it.