Friday, June 28, 2013

First "School" Purchase of the Summer

I didn't mean to do it. 

 I went to Wal-Mart for gift bags and wrapping paper. 

 I was NOT planning on spending money on school.  

But, let's face it, I'm weak.  

I saw them and I had to have them.

  Scentos Daubers!!  

I have a slight addiction to Scentos.  

I hear admitting it is the first step towards recovery- I hope not!

It really doesn't take much to make me happy. . . 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Center Books: Read the Room/Write the Room

Yet ANOTHER center book I use throughout the year is our Read the Room/Write the Room book.  If you've miss the other center posts and would like to read them click HERE.

Read the Room/Write the Room is another repetitive book in nature but keeps the kids engaged and searching for new words every time they use the book.  The book is in ABC order with a few extra pages at the end (ing, sh, wh, ch & th). 
On each page the kids are searching the room for words that match the directions in each box.  

At the beginning of the year I print the cover onto construction paper and bind all the pages into a book.  They keep the book in their special center box and pull it out when it's their turn at this center.

I keep a special box of fun pens, pencils, markers and glasses that the kids use when working on this book.
I even keep the glasses from 3D movies and pop the lenses out.

I like this book because it requires kids to really look at the words in our room (especially the Sight Word Wall, which we call Popcorn words).

If you are interested in looking at this book on TPT ($3.00) click HERE.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Center Books: Popcorn Words (Sight Words)

Another Center book I use is a Sight Word book.  Just like my ABC/Fine Motor Skills book by Sight Word center book also has pages that are repetitive but the activities are diverse enough and hands-on enough to keep the kids interested in it all year long.  

Each sight word in the book has 3 pages of activities:

Page 1:
On the top of this page the kids trace the word using crayons, fun markers, pens, etc.  We make the rule that they  need to trace it 5 times.
On the bottom of the page they cut the word out, unscramble it and glue it back together again.

Page 2:
At the top of this page the kids use magnifying glasses and find the word as many times as they can.  The circle or color the word every time they find it.
On the bottom of the page they uses alphabet stamps to stamp the word.

Page 3:
On this page the kids cut out the scrambled sentence, glue it in order and then draw a picture to match the sentence.

Then the book will repeat these 3 pages again using another sight word.  The great thing about this book is you can put the pages in any order you want.  Here are the words included in this book:

Again, when working in centers some kids will get 1 page done and some will get 4 or 5 pages done. They work at their developmentally appropriate pace.
If you are interested on seeing in on TPT click HERE.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Center Books: Alphabet Recognition & Fine Motor Skills

Another center book my student's enjoy is our Alphabet Recognition & Fine Motor Skills book.  This book helps the kids work on recognizing capital and lowercase letters and also on strengthening small hands.  The great thing about these books is that once they are made they last all year and the kids can work at their own pace each time they get them out.  Some will finish 1 page each time and some will finish 3.  

On the first page of this book there is a capital letter with dots on it at the top.  The kids use alphabet craft punches and construction paper to punch out and glue 1 matching letter for each dot on the letter.  The bottom of the paper contains a variety of letters.  The kids use daubers to mark each letter that matches the focus letter. (On the A page they would find all the capital A's and lowercase a's and mark them.)

On the second page there is a lowercase letter with dots.  Again, the kids punch out and glue 1 matching letter for each dot on the letter.  The bottom of the page contains a variety of letters to trace.  The kids use pens or markers to trace the letter that matches the focus letter. (So on each page they would trace the capital and lowercase a's.)
The book then repeats itself with each letter of the alphabet.  Once the glue on the page dries the kids can also trace the letter and enjoy the tactile feel of the letter.  This book lasts all year in our centers and offers enough variety that the kids use it all year without getting bored.

We keep the craft punches and construction paper in tubs that the kids can easily carry to their work station.

I've recently added this book to TPT.  If you are interested in looking at it click HERE.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Center Books: Handwriitng/Writing

In my previous posts I've mentioned a few of my centers.  The rest of my centers are all what I call my "Center Books."  They are repetitious in nature but have plenty of hands-on varying activities to keep the kids learning and interested throughout the entire year.  I really like these books because once I teach them I never have to change them and they kids are engaged and learning every time they work in them.  

My center books are:
Read the Room/Write the Room
Popcorn Words (Sight Words)
Alphabet Recognition/Fine Motor Skills

Each student has their own box where they store their books:

I've posted about my Handwriting/Writing book before but in case you missed it, here is it:

One of my consistent centers is my Handwriting/Writing Bucket.  In the bucket are 26 envelopes (one for every letter of the alphabet!)  The kids write each of the words from the envelope into their dictionaries during center time.  
Their goal is to practice and perfect their handwriting but also to expand their vocabulary (hopefully!)

I've been using this as as Handwriting Center for YEARS and decided it needs an update for next year!

I kept the "easy" pages with the lines like you see in the pictures:

But I also added a little bit more challenging version where the kids have to use the 3 handwriting lines:

AND and even more challenging page with a writing component (kids pick one of the words from the envelope and write a sentence/draw a picture about it):

I also added some fun picture cards (8 for each letter of the alphabet):

And there are also labels for the envelopes to keep the cards in:

Once this center is set up it will last the whole year!  Love simplicity!
Next post will be:  Alphabet Recognition/Fine Motor Skills book.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Centers: Games, Magnets, Play-doh and Alphabet Work

Yesterday I started a series of posts on how I conduct my centers.  (Click HERE if you haven't read it yet.)  Two questions were asked from readers and I'll answer them quickly here before I talk about the subject of this post.

Question #1:  How many centers a day do I do?  Answer:  I do 1 center a day.  I used to do 2 but we recently started RtI (small reading groups) in my school and that took up 1 of my center times.  Very, very worth it!  I love RtI and how it helps ALL my students.

Question #2:  Do I take groups during centers?  Answer:  No.  Not in a tradition sense (like I did when I taught 1st grade).  I strongly believe that kindergartners are still learning how to organize their materials, time and bodies during centers.  If I took traditional groups I wouldn't be as available to "guide" them, give suggestions, and even referee squabbles that occur during centers.  I will, however, take individual kids for testing or sit down with groups who I know are working on a more difficult task.  I found myself frustrated when I tried to take small groups.  There were constant interruptions, kids not on task and real issues they needed my help with but I wasn't free to help them with.  Once I gave up on taking "formal" groups I found my centers went much better and I was more available to ALL my student's who needed my ASAP!  = )
 However, I greatly admire people who can take groups and keep centers running smoothly! 

Ok, on to today's topic:  Games, Magnets, Play-doh and Alphabet Work

I use purchased games for this center.  At the beginning of the year I'll put simple games out like Operation, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders and sometimes puzzles, etc.  As the year progresses I'll start adding educational games I've purchased through the years. Most of my games are Lakeshore games because they are super simple for kids to understand, sturdy, and work on important skills. 
Again, I believe kindergartners are still learning how to work in centers and how to cooperate with others.  This center lets them practice these important skills!  I don't ever assume kids know how to work with others so I give them lots of opportunities to practice!

Activities at this center vary but I only change it out 3-4 times a year.  Sometimes I will simply put a bucket of magnetic letters out and tell the kids to them in ABC order.
  Above you see kids working on matching kids pictures with names and writing their friends names.  This is my first magnet center and will last at least the first 9 weeks of school (or more).

This is a picture of Letter Recognition Magic Squares with magnets attached to the back.  HoJo makes tons of Magic Squares with a myriad of skills and my kids LOVE them. Click HERE to see a previous post about this topic.

The thing I try to keep in mind during any center is that it is OK for kids to work on the same center several times before I change it out.  Repetition is important to Kinders!  Don't get rid of a center too fast just because you think you should!  They don't get "bored" as easily as they think!  I keep an eye on my centers and switch them out when they can do it quickly and with little effort. . . that's when I know they are ready for a new challenge!

Super easy center!  Set out play-doh, put work mats in protective sleeves or laminate and you're done! 
 At the beginning of the year we work on building the alphabet with play-doh.  You can either make your own alphabet mats or you can find GREAT free ones all over the web.  Here's one from Home School Creations that is listed for FREE!
Of course TPT is full of great mats like these:
CVC Short Vowel Play-doh pack from Primary Possibilities
And even fun seasonal ones like this:  Halloween Fun Play-doh Mats by Over the Moonbow

The point is this center can last ALL year and you will never run out of skills for the kids to work on!

Alphabet Work
For this center, literally, anything concerning the alphabet works.  It's the one center I change out often.  Some of the activities include alphabet puzzles, memory, stamps, and of course all the myriad of activities offered on blogs and TPT!  Anything that involves the alphabet is fair game!  You can't be a kindergarten teacher without having tons of these activities!

Thanks for reading and congratulations on surviving another LONG post!  
Tomorrow I'll start posting about my center books!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I've mentioned before in one of my posts that I don't do Daily 5.  I like the organization and academic focus of the procedure but I started organizing my center method years ago and have stuck with it because it works for me. 

Our center time lasts 30 minutes:  5 minutes to get our supplies and get settled/20 minutes of work time/5 minutes to clean up and transition to our next activity.  

The number of centers in my room depends on the number of kids in my room.  I only have 2 kids in a center at a time.  I have found that this keep arguments/disputes down and work time/collaboration up.  This last year I had 24 kids in my class so I had 12 centers.  I know this sounds like a lot of centers but they way I organize it makes it SUPER easy.  

The 12 centers I had this year where:
(Game center could either be a Lakeshore game or something I've made or bought from TPT)
(Magnet center depends on skill I want them to work on.)
*Play dough
(At the beginning of the year they work on letters.  At the end of the year they work on word families.)
*Alphabet work/Spelling Work
(Beginning of the year is alphabet, end of the year is spelling.)
*Read the Room/Write the Room
*Fine Motor Alphabet Work
*Popcorn Words (sight words)
*Alphabet Art

It would make my post WAY to long to explain it all in this one post so I'm going to take the next few days of posts to highlight each one.

Some of them need little or no explanation like Listening, Computer, and Reading. They don't require any maintenance when it's time to switch centers.  Once I set up the center at the beginning of the year they are done.

A few of the centers like Game, Magnets, Play dough and Alphabet Work need a little maintenance when it's time to switch but doesn't take my anymore than 5 minutes to switch the games out.

Tomorrow I'll highlight a few of the activities I use in Game, Magnets, Play dough and Alphabet Work.

The rest of my centers are books and I'll highlight those later this week.

Phew. . .if you survived that rambling I'm impressed!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Quiet Work Music

One of my favorite, yet VERY simple, ways to help kids work quietly is to play music.  We use "quiet work" music when writing, practicing handwriting, writing our numbers to 100, or any other project that needs mental concentration.  

I'm pretty picky about the quiet work music I play..  Sometimes I try out new songs and if it doesn't work it gets nixed right away.  I have 2 simple rules with the music I choose:

1. It has to be soft music.  If the music is too rowdy the kids get rowdy.  Totally defeats the purpose.
2.  The kids have to like it!  I know they like it when they quiet down and listen to it.  If they try to talk over it I know it's not the song for us.  

Every class is different in the music they enjoy.  It's a year by year process.  One year I had a group of kids that LOVED the Curious George soundtrack.  This year by class adored the Beatles!
I have a classroom ipod and my "Quiet Work" playlist changes every year.  What worked for one class might not work for another class.  In the end the process and routine is worth it because they do settle down and work- even if it's only for 10 minutes it is a blissful 10 minutes and they get more work done!

Some of my FAVORITE work songs are:
Let it Be  by The Beetles
Yesterday by The Beetles
Somewhere Over the Rainbow  by Katharine McPhee
Landslide by the Dixie Chicks
Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) by the Dixie Chicks
All the songs on Jack Johnson's Sing-a-Long and Lullabies CD 
Kindergarten Wall by John McCutcheon

By the end of the year the kids are singing along softly to the songs while they work.  It's adorable!

I also have a playlist of classical music (mostly soft piano music) that the kids enjoy too.  We even play it when creating art projects. . . I tell the kids it "wakes up and inspires" our brains.

Do you use "quiet work" music in your room?  If so, what songs do your kids enjoy?

Saturday, June 8, 2013


So back in MARCH I started this blog post about our pirate week and I'm just NOW getting it finished and have put it on TPT.  
Hello, my name is Michelle and I am a procrastinator!  =) 

Well... better late than are some of our activities from Pirate week.

We used this book to guide our learning for the week:

We made inferences as to what the pirates where saying in the book and also what the pirate vocabulary meant and made posters as the book taught us the "real" meaning of each word:

After learning the true meaning of the words we completed some papers to reinforce our learning:

We finished our unit by having a Pirate Day. We went on a treasure hunt, made pirate maps, and drew pirates:

We also engaged in some pirate writing activities but I didn't get pictures of that and obviously it's too late now!  Oops!

The kids LOVED learning how to talk like a pirate and were really engaged in learning "Pirate Vocabulary." A favorite of theirs. . . learning that "booty" meant treasure.  I thought maybe the thrill of hearing me say "booty" would die down as the week went on but nope!  They giggled every time I said it!  = )

If you're interested in my Pirate Pack check it on on TPT:  just click the picture!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Clipart Challenge

Several fabulous clipartists and bloggers have come together for an amazing Clipart Challenge hosted by Primary Possibilities!  Each blogger is featuring a clipartist and a product they made using that artist's images!  This is a great way to discover new clipart creators for your summer creations.   So keep reading and following the linky at the bottom to head on to the next post!  You may even pick up some freebies along the way!

I had the honor of creating a new product using clipart from Dancing Crayon Designs. 

 I was so excited when I saw their clipart and had a REALLY hard time deciding which ones to use because they were all so great!  Click on the following links to check out some of my favorites or click on the pic above to check out all their clipart!

Warm Fuzzies (these are ADORABLE!)
Background pack (On my wishlist!!)
Fun Frames (so many uses!)
Bean Seeds, Bean Sprouts and Seedlings (would be VERY useful for a plant unit!)
Monster Mail Stamps (cute, cute, cute!)

In the end I picked these two clipart packs to create this new (FREE) product for my classroom and for you all, of course!

I made 6 math games/centers using the clipart focusing on the skill counting 0-10.
Here are some images from the pack:

But hey, it's FREE so download it now for FREE and you can see and have it all for FREE!  
(Did I mention it's FREE?)
Click HERE to download it now!

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Freebie Fridays