Sunday, May 24, 2015

No Time Like the Present to Reflect and Plan! Freebie!

I have this feeling every year. You know, the feeling there is something you should be doing, then it hits you! You already did it! Yay you! The "hamster wheel" has slowed to a crawl, so you climb off and settle into an easy chair to reflect.  (unlike these two little guys who can't seem to FIND the easy chair--roflol!!!)
As you sip your tea, you think about what you did last summer that truly helped things flow better during your school days, your thoughts turn to the coming year, wondering...
For me, this has been an annual ritual.  I crave this time to think about how my actions in planning helped student focus, because FOCUS is the main trait we want to see in our students.  It relates to every aspect of our day.  Great focus leads to great things! Students with focus learn to respect their peers and work cooperatively.  After 20 years in a kindergarten classroom, I can say without a doubt, my most successful years were the years where students were able to stay focused.  So, every decision I make has to do with maintaining or improving how students may better attend to a task.
With this main goal, to help students focus, I begin to look for inspiration.  Some of the past projects that made a huge difference in daily focus are procedural, or helped to shorten transition time that eats away at instructional time.  The simple act of locating all student supplies away from our tables made all the difference in focus during math activities where crayons were all we needed! Some of the planning was helped along by searching Pinterest, but some just came to me as I sat thinking about the needs of my kids.  

From the crayon organizers (2012 summer project found on Pinterest)

To the bucket seats (2013 summer project)

To the word wall stands made from binders (2014 summer project)
ALL have had a huge impact on focus!
The crayon organizers did many things for my students.  They learned to sort colors and keep them organized which made using specific colors during math a breeze! No more waiting for students to locate the correct crayon from their own art supplies.  
Those wonderful bucket seats saved my sanity during small group time.  Students were suddenly able to sit up high enough to read and work with words without standing on their knees.  I placed big buttons around the edges of the kidney table for assigned seating during small groups too.  A life saver! Again, better focus!
Last summer, I decided to make portable binder word walls for each table.  These included alphabet, numbers with ten frames, and sight words for the entire year.  I smiled again and again as I watched my students use the resources that took no more than a couple of hours to design and assemble.  
What will I be making this year? You'll have to stay tuned to find out! 

 Now, a little about room design.  I am big on planning! I want to see it before it before it becomes part of my "roomscape".  For years I have used Power Point to design my classroom layout, simply from using the shapes tool in the program.  Here is a rendering of my current plan (not saying it won't change).
My thinking flows along these lines:
       1. Do I have the noisier center activities located in an area
            that students can move about without interrupting small
            groups, library center or writing center areas? 
            As you can see, there is a long area of floor space for 
            students to take the center tubs to, or they can move them
            to the tables while I work with a group.   
        2. Can students move about the room with few obstructions?
        3. Are supplies convenient for the intended use? 
        4. What system will I use when students need to speak to me
             during small groups? (I use sign language for restroom--
             sign the letter r, sign letter t for talk to teacher)
        5.  Are there charts in the room that I can reference to help
             students remember these cues?
The above are only five of the considerations in room design.  They are my top five.   
I highly recommend playing with the layout of the room, considering where you store materials and how readily available they are for their intended use.  It is the biggest time-saver/life-saver!
If you are not comfortable using Power Point to design your room,
here are links to three workable design apps.  They are very basic, but functional. 

If you would like to use the slide I am using for my "experimental design", click on the pic of my room layout and download the power point slide.  

Instructional design is a huge task, too huge to put in this current post.  I will leave you with this freebie, though.  It is how I think about what I loved this past year, and what I want to change.  It is purposely designed to first look at the big picture--a broad look at what worked/didn't work.  After I think about these general impressions, I begin to jot down ideas for each subject area, do a little research for more resources, pick and choose among the ones that make students think more, then begin the process or prep.  Maybe it will help to guide your thought processes as you plan too.  (click on the top graphic to download your freebie).

I have to grab an iced tea refill and do some more thinking. ;)  Remember to enjoy the time you have off, and try to stay off the hamster wheel as long as possible! :)

Thank you for reading this post! Love my followers :)
 post signature

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Strength, Perseverance and Caring...Thanks Mom!

What characteristics did you inherit from your mother? On this Mother's Day weekend, I hope you will think about what your mother's influence has meant in your life.  
My mother is the oldest girl of eight siblings.  Her youth was both joyous and difficult.  She helped to raise seven brothers and sisters during troublesome times, and as a result, is a very independent, self-sufficient person.  I never wanted for clean clothes, home-sewn dresses, or haircuts (as you can see, LOL).  There were continuous lessons on manners, and whether she knew it or not at the time, those lessons have helped me have strength for life's challenges over the past 50+ years.  I am thankful for it all. 

  Because my mom met my needs so well, I have the sense to know when my students' basic needs are being met.  And, even when things I do to help, fail, I persevere until there is success.  I learned to care for others, and to care that I leave a positive legacy for my own family, and the students I teach each year.  

What will your legacy be? Now is a good time to reflect as we come to the end of another school year. 
post signature

Monday, May 4, 2015

Happy Teacher Week + Mother's Day Freebie

 If teachers EVER need a little note of recognition, this would be the week! 
Can I get an "Oh, Yeah!"??? 
Last weekend was state music contest for me.  I accompanied soloists as they competed for state level rankings.  It was a great trip, we have great kids and I got home Saturday before dark (four hour trip one way).  
But...look out Don Pardo, there is more! Tuesday night is Twitter Chat over at #TeacherFriends (hope you will join us--SIT Spots will be given away to a lucky winner!!!).  You need these!!!SitSpots
Wednesday is both Field Day and Baccalaureate, Thursday is our K awards assembly, and Thursday night is another music program! Whew! This is the story of EVERY teacher across this great country.  And, as I was telling my good friend Kristen from Kristen's Kindergarten, we teachers do this every year knowing we will be beyond tired.  Why? Because we want to make a difference.  And as difficult as our job becomes every spring, we know we will get to begin anew in August with a brand new group of amazing children.  For me, it is still exciting, so I'll begin planning for the new group in June-July.  Wanna know a secret? I am already thinking about it! 

Teachers Pay Teachers recognizes great teachers too, so they are helping us sellers celebrate with a two day SALE! If you use the coupon code, you can get up to 28% OFF! Just click on the pic to visit my store for some great deals! I have test practice resources, sight word slideshows, center resources, classroom decor and more!

And, because teachers are so aware of the mothers who brought us along, who gave us the encouragement and drive to achieve our goals, we also plan for Mother's Day.  Here is a sweet FREEBIE for you to edit with your student's pics.

 Mother's Day Photo Template FREEBIE "Owl" always love you!
post signature

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week is May-4-8, FREEBIE

Which teacher left a lasting memory in your heart? Was it a kindergarten teacher, a grade level teacher or a college teacher? Mine was a wonderful college history teacher. She made me see the possibilities!
Whoever it is (or was), I would bet the reason they made that lasting impression is because they saw the REAL you, were caring, provided amazing guidance for even the smallest things, and made your whole family feel like you were the most important student in the class! So many wonderful things are popping up for 
   One of the most beautiful things I have read in the past few days is on our very own Dr. Jean's site! She has nailed the current trends and pitfalls in education while highlighting what is really important when teaching from the heart.  Tell me you didn't just shiver when you read this! I love Dr. Jean's gentle heart.  If you want to celebrate a phenomenal teacher, she needs to be in your top 10!
For me, my hope each day as a kinder teacher is that my students will know I truly loved each of them.  It's that simple.  Smile every day should be at the top of every teacher's list, and after that:
*Listen to your students.  Give them the floor!
*Let your heart lead your lessons. Notice those 
  shy little birds who need encouragement.
*Be consistent.  Use logic and give them limited 
  choices (ones you are okay with). 
*Tell each child something POSITIVE
  Do you find yourself needing a small gift for a favorite teacher? Just put this in a 5x7 frame with a photo of your child in the little frame at the bottom.  I hope you will take time to thank your child's teacher.  I have two terrific, successful sons who are the product of good parenting and great teachers!
(this file is in power point so you can edit your own picture in, then print)
  I have included three options :)
post signature

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring Fun! Success in the "Home Stretch"!

 It's April 20 already??? I can't believe it is less than a month until my kinders leave the nest and progress to first grade.  
This is CRUNCH time! 
Assessments are underway, tests are just a week or two away and we are pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat on a daily basis.  Why? Because we have grown to love these sweet students in our charge, and we want them to succeed! 
There will always be standards and achievement testing, and we only have one shot each year at helping these youngest students feel successful!  Time to pull out all stops!
Let's begin with ELA:
This is the time of year we hit all sight words EVERY day.  Students who say they are ready to try, come to me to go through the sight words on ESGI.  (What? You haven't heard about ESGI? If you haven't, you need to sign up for a trial membership and be shocked at how much time you will save when assessing students.  Go on! Give it a try!)
This takes minimal time, and it gives me a lot of valuable information about what words are trending as difficult for my kiddos.  This data allows me to tailor the sight word slideshow and other sight word resources to cover the most difficult words for our whole group.  And, hearing the students chant the hard words gives other students the incentive to learn! 
What is in my arsenal of sight word goodies? 
The first thing we do every day is this slideshow that includes all of our words.  It is aligned to the order of words in our series, but it can be used in ANY classroom as a review of basic words every student should be exposed to.  This daily exposure to our words will eventually take hold (as it has in my own class), and students will truly know words by sight by year's end.  
Another must have resource for any kindergarten classroom is the series of Sight Word DVDs from Heidi Songs.  

My students LOVE these, and they will sing when they take an assessment--just to help them recall our words.  With requisition time here, you may be able to convince your admins to buy you a set! You will not be disappointed.  
As you can see, my plan involves slideshow chants, singing the words, and finally WRITING the words.  
For writing the words I use this read, write and stamp set.

If you must give an end of year benchmark assessment, this is a great review of all components of the assessment.  Students practice letter naming fluency, first sound fluency, nonsense word fluency, and phoneme segmentation fluency in a fun way.  I use this a few weeks before actually giving the assessment.  It takes some of the mystery out of it while helping students build fluency.

For Math, we use a lot of Harry Kindergarten videos, and other youtube resources.  
One of my most favorite videos is another 
Heidi Songs DVD called Musical Math.  
Heidi sells cds too! But for my classroom, the dvds with the songs and visual cues really work! 

Now, for the fun! We have a center that everyone runs to.  It's our monthly featured "Magic Writing" Center.  In this center, students practice tracing and reading familiar words in context.  The fun part is the use of white crayon followed by water color wash over the top.  This is known as color resist...something my art teacher taught us many years ago.  It is a well known process, but not so well-known to kinder kids! They go bananas when they try it for the first time.  To introduce this fun center type to you, I have marked my April and May centers down to $1 for the remainder of April.  Try them.  You'll see what I mean! lol
                                May teaches the life cycle of a butterfly!
  Don't forget to stop by my TpT store for the Spring Reader FREEBIE 
Thank you for stopping by!

post signature

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ta-DAH!!! The wait is over! Educents-Launch-Giveaway!

Big, BIG News! Educents is opening their MARKETPLACE!  How does this affect you?  Not only do they have the AMAZING deals they offer on a daily basis, you can now purchase items from SELLERS STORES every day!  Over 500 sellers have stores in the Educents Marketplace now! Can you believe it?!? 500 ways to SAVE!!!

As part of the big Educents LAUNCH, several sellers are joining in to bring you a sneak peek at a FREE product offered in their new store, as well as hosting a giveaway for $50 worth of Educents Credits.  You can buy a LOT of educational materials with that kind of money!  Because there are  several groups of bloggers who are joining the LAUNCH, you have the chance to win SEVERAL ways!
The forever FREEBIE from my store during the launch is this super cute wall display for Spring Writing! Just laminate, cut out and hang! The banner looks great when hung with a pretty ribbon.  I included a writing paper template for your students to use when showcasing their best writing too.

After you check out my Educents store (and FREEBIE), be sure to check out some of the other stores listed below too.  And, of course, make sure to enter for your chance to win $50 in Educents credits too.
Educents Marketplace $50 in Edubucks Giveaway #1 - Kindergarten  
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a Product of your CHOICE from my store! What is your favorite purchase from Educents past or present? 

post signature

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

View our "Resume"! #TeacherFriends Twitter Chat is Ed-Amazing!

Over the past 9+ months an amazing little concept has gradually become a phenomenon! #TeacherFriends Twitter Chat will celebrate our one year anniversary in June, and we could not be more humbled at the incredible response we have received from Top "Celebrities" in the field of education.  We like to call them "Edu-Celebrities". 
Our whole concept was born last summer when my friend Debbie Clement of Rainbows Within Reach had a brilliant EUREKA moment, then contacted myself and Kristen Poindexter from Kristen's Kindergarten.  She proposed  we begin a  chat format like no other--one that would feature top notch educators sharing in meaningful, helpful, uplifting discussions that would resonate within the broader teaching community on Twitter.  But more importantly, she proposed we be the vehicle of introduction to Twitter for numerous educators who had not yet taken the Twitter plunge! 
As "Newbies" ourselves to this format, we brought in Kim Vij from @EducatorsSpin to develop a framework for inviting other newbies to Twitter.  Her expertise on Twitter brought a fresh perspective to our little group of moderators.  Hence, out of this collaboration, our EB Chat (early bird) was born.  So we now offer Twitter "support" beginning at 8:30 EST every Tuesday, then transition to the actual Edu-Celebrity chat at 9:00 EST.  I would like to say it is running like clockwork, and for the most part it is, but just like our students, we will never cease to learn! 
Teachers new to Twitter have come to us over the past few months lending their own important perspective to the topics share each week.  We have grown so much in the knowledge of what really works in education as we gain new friends and continue our chats.
Our list of guests and current topics in education  are becoming an incredible resource for educators because every chat is archived on Storify.  For a sampling of our chats click on some of the photos below to visit sessions from previous guests.
Dr. Jean FeldmanDebbie ClementDeanna JumpDr. Mary HowardImage HTML map generator  
  From guests such as Steve Spangler (of Ellen Show fame), to Heidi of Heidi songs, Kristen Poindexter (Shell's National Science Teacher of the Year), Debbie Clement and her amazing "quilt" story-song books, and many more, our list of Edu-Celebrities has grown.  To see all chats, go to
We are so proud to bring these weekly PLC experiences to you at no cost! And we are certain you will take rich learning experiences away from each chat, and possibly a prize from our amazing sponsors.  
To follow our  moderators and become part of our #TeacherFriends happenings, click on the pics below!
Our Moderators:
Debbie Clement, ModeratorKim Vij, Co-ModeratorKristen Poindexter, Co-ModeratorMaggie Hufstedler, Co-ModeratorImage HTML map generator
  Join us tonight as we chat with Edu-Celebrity Kayla Delzer about Tech in the Classroom! 
Remind will be giving away PRIZES! 
Just type #TeacherFriends in the twitter search bar to see the chat.  We recommend for viewing the chat and observing retweets and direct messages to you!  
post signature

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Home Stretch Intervention Tools That Work!

"Do you realize that school is over in just a few months--less than 3 to be exact??? Yikes!!! Where did the year go?!?!"
If you are having this type of stress as I am, you have realized time is passing quickly, and there are still sweet students who have far to go before the last day of school.  I know, we have only just passed mid-February, but throw in some snow days and spring break and you soon realize the actual number of instructional days are limited.  Extremely limited when you also think about assemblies, test days, field days and more! 
(get a grip Maggie-go to your happy place)
So, what's the game plan? How do we maximize exposure to letter and word recognition in order to help students be READY for end of school assessments and first grade? I have a three step approach that is helping my lowest tier students make serious gains in letters, sounds and sight word recognition.  I do use my own resources, but you could adapt what you may already have to this plan.  
Each day, I rotate my lowest tier through three critical, must-do stations/centers.  The first station is our student computer station where I have our alphabet and sight word power points ready to go.  I like to partner students at this station because it becomes slightly competitive, more fun, and it keeps them on task.  My alphabet slideshow states the letter, the sound it makes and the object name for each letter. 
Letters and Sounds Slideshow Center 
Students chant this along with the recorded voice two times (the slideshow loops until students hit the escape key, and my students know to do this at the end of the second round).  Students immediately begin our sight word slideshow, and at this point in the year, I have added short sentences that use each word to help build fluency.  
 Sight Word PPT Slideshow Aligned to Journeys 2014            Sight Word Slideshow Aligned to Lessons 21-24 in Journeys

After this slideshow station is completed each morning, students move to the second station:  a group led activity where students draw a card from the game bin, make the word with gems, then find and color the word on a recording sheet.  
 The activity above is from my February-March Sight Words Set
At the end of this activity, students read the words off the recording sheet to myself or my A+ tutor.  If we are not available, they may read the sheet to a student who knows all of the words.  They are allowed to stamp the paper and get a sticker from the sticker bucket after they have read the words.  

The last station they must go to is my group table, and this is during rest time every day.  We work on the letters, words and fluency sentences individually.  This must be a daily activity for it to begin to stick! We locate the letters on the alphabet chartlet, put the chartlet letters in order, write the letters, locate objects that also begin with the sounds and much more.  The set I use can be printed as chartlets that you can cut apart and bag for students to use when doing the aforementioned activities at the small group table.

 For math counting and fluency in all four genres of the common core, we use our daily math journals.  Research proves that students must be immersed in hands on "authentic" response activities in order for learning to stick.  If they "do" they will learn! We are using numbers in the teens currently, but here are some photos of student work from last month.  Kids can make the responses their own, so this means the students are in charge of differentiation.  They can cut and glue shapes to represent groups, or dab them with paint, or draw and color...the possibilities are unlimited.  One little guy traced his hot wheel cars! 

 You can find these journals separately or as a bundled product in my store for up to 28% Wednesday and Thursday!

Good luck with the rest of your school year.  Remember to smile every day because you are the bright spot to their success in learning!
post signature