Thursday, December 8, 2016

Oriental Trading and the Holiday Season

WOW has time flown by! It seems like just yesterday my little bunch of Kindergartners walked through the classroom door for the first time. Now we are in full on holiday mode which is SUPER exciting.

I teach in a public school, so we cover all of the holiday celebrations. We are about to start our "holiday's around the world" passport project-- which is a favorite of mine. The kids always LOVE it and they learn so much!

We also have a very special friend watching over us throughout December! When we came back from Thanksgiving break, he was waiting for us on the ActivBoard! He even brought us the Elf on the Shelf book to read! After we read the book, we colored small pictures of an elf and voted on a name. It was a close call, but Sparkles was the winning name!

Each morning when they come into class, the kids find Sparkles in his new spot and write about it in their Elf journal. He usually leaves us a special message for the day. Sometimes, he brings us SURPRISES!

What has Sparkles left us?? This brings me to... Oriental Trading! I absolutely love EVERYTHING about this company... they have such great holiday products for very reasonable prices! You can check out their Christmas landing page  to find lots of neat stuff. I especially love all of their crafts! You can check them out directly by clicking here!

Here are some of the holiday treats that I grabbed for my little ones!

Prancing Reindeer Ornament Craft (4.99): I love to teach with themes ALL year, but I especially love them in December.

This little craft was perfect for our Reindeer week! During that week, we read all about Reindeer and then do a nonfiction report on Reindeer. This little ornament is a great craft to end our Reindeer week with! I also figured it would make a cute parent gift!

It is super easy to put together-- each of the pieces is self-adhesive and they come in little packages that are so easy to hand out! If you are looking for an easy craft, this is a must!

Gingerbread Doorknob Hanger Kit (7.99): The Elf is going to be dropping off these little kits at the end of our gingerbread week. We will be reading The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone. The kids will do their gingerbread writing activity and do gingerbread themed math and reading centers. The week will end with this adorable little craft! It is super easy for the kids to put together-- they come out so cute!

Snowman Ornament Craft (5.99) I LOVE all of the December holiday themes that I have built around read aloud books, but reading Snowmen at Night is my favorite! We spent this week reading the book and writing all about what we would do if we were a snowman at night! I wanted to end the week with a take home craft, since these snowman writing activities are going to be hung up until winter break! Oriental trading had a perfect, simple, and ADORABLE snowman craft stick activity for us to use! Of course, Sprinkles will deliver the craft! The kits include everything you need for the craft-- it is super easy to pass everything out! I can't wait for the kids to make them and bring them home!

Goldtone Jingle Bell Necklaces: (5.99)  The day before winter break, we have our Polar Express party! The kids wear their PJs to school, get their golden tickets, and we read the Polar Express book, then watch the movie! It is such a fun and memorable day for my little Kinders that I wanted to do something extra special this year. These necklaces will be given out with a "believe" tag as a take home keepsake for them! I saw the idea on Pinterest last year but it was too last minute to get it together! I am ready to go for this year! I will post pictures as soon as they are made. :)

Mini Holly Jolly Prisms (5.99): These cute little prizes were given out by our Elf when the kids had an extra great day. My little ones were so surprised when they came into the classroom to find them on their desks! I let them look through them to find their sight words when they choose the "write the room" activity at the word work center! So much fun!

Color Your Own Santa's Workshop (24.99): I saw this and I KNEW I HAD to have it. It is being delivered by our Elf and I am busting it out next week during our Gingerbread week! I am planning to have the kids decorate it with water color paint when they get to that center. When it is all done, the workshop will stay in our classroom library for kids to read in until winter break! I am so excited to see their faces when the open this box!

Disclaimer: This post may contain sponsored content, affiliate links or review products. Regardless of this these are 100% my own opinion. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

STEM and Mindware

September is over-- and WOW it flew by! My little Kinders have been busy learning classroom routines, exploring, and getting into the swing of things! My school has an AMAZING STEM program, and we will be starting that up soon. I started doing some STEM activities in my own classroom and they are just eating it up! It is so exciting to see how engaged they are and see the amazing things they come up with!

Speaking of STEM... have you guys heard of Mindware!? It is an amazing company that has lots of "brainy" toys for kids that are a perfect tie into STEM and so much more!! Even more than that, they have lesson plans that align to different toys and games! 

I am using some Mindware toys and games with my kiddos and they have been having a blast! I wanted to share them with you all, and hopefully you can try them in your own classrooms!

1.) KEVA Brain Builders Junior (15.95)  Oh my goodness these are SO COOL and they are a huge hit in my room. The bag came with 20 KEVA planks which was the perfect amount for my kids. The set included awesome puzzle cards, which I hole punched and put onto a binder ring. The cards are fun and challenging... it was so exciting for me to watch the kids problem-solve and build different structures! I used the KEVA blocks during my STEM centers and the kids are also requesting to use them during play time! They have been following the cards, but I anticipate that they will start building structures without the cards too! 

In addition to STEM and play time, I used the KEVA blocks at my math centers for number recognition. As mentioned, Mindware has some great lesson plans that tie in with their products. I followed their number recognition lesson plan. I also had the kids MAKE each number out of the KEVA planks. So much fun! The possibilities are truly endless. 

You can grab the KEVA set that I have here  or take a look at some of the larger sets that they have by clicking here! I am so in love with these building blocks that I am planning on asking the PTA to buy even more for my classroom! 

Here are some pictures of the KEVA blocks in action!

2.) Pattern Play (29.95): This was another HUGE hit that I used at my STEM centers, math centers, and I am also putting out at play time due to popular request! This activity really encourages problem solving skills, mathematical thinking, anddddd since I had kids in groups... teamwork! It was interesting to see all of the kids interact and work through challenges. It really taught me A LOT about them as learners... which was invaluable at the beginning of the year.

Mindware had a fantastic lesson plan for color and shape recognition. This really helped me assess what students knew/ didn't know, which is super important in September. I called out a color/ shape, and students had to identify it! You can check out the lesson plan here

I plan on using Pattern Play all year long! Like the KEVA plans, the pattern play set comes with a set of numbered cards for kids to follow. The cards range in difficulty and really get kids to put their thinking caps on! You can grab the pattern play set by clicking here

Take a look at the pattern play game in action: 

3.) Qwirkle (24.95): This is a really, really, super fun group game that encourages strategic thinking, color/shape recognition, and higher level thinking! The game is a combo of dominos and scrabble, but with shapes and colors!

I introduced this game to my students one small group at a time. I wanted to teach all of them how to play, so that they could play without me throughout the year! We had a rainy day and the kids stayed inside for recess. When I came back, one of the kids told me that they took out the game to play! How awesome! 

Unfortunately, I didn't get time to snap any pictures because I was busy playing too! It is amazing how quickly 5 and 6 year olds can think! For those of you using the growth mindset, this is a MUST HAVE! It really encourages forward thinking. I plan on putting it out again this upcoming week and will get some photos of the game in action. Anyway, it is SO addicting that I actually brought it home to play with my family! Grab it here!

So...teachers and parents, head on over to Mindware and take a look at these products. They are totally worth it, and will really get your kids thinking!

This review is based strictly on my opinion. I was provided the sample free of charge by Mindware to provide my honest review. No other type of compensation was received. All ideas and opinions are my own. 

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

First Week of Kindergarten

Well-- it's a wrap! The first week of Kindergarten is officially over. I'm not going to lie-- it was totally exhausting. I am not used to waking up that early just yet! Despite that, I think that it was an awesome first week!

I would be lying to you if I told you that we already made tons of cute crafts and did lots and lots of activities. To be completely honest-- I spent the first four days (we started on a Tuesday) teaching and practicing the routines that we will use for the rest of the year. I think this is WAY more important than getting lots of stuff hung up on bulletin boards. I am going to share the procedures we have established the first week, as well as some of the activities we did!

Starting Morning Work!
1.) Morning Routine: My Kinders come in between 8:15-8:30. Drop offs usually arrive first, then bus students and morning care kids. When they come in, they unpack their backpacks, put any notes in the basket, put their lunch box in the bin, backpack in their cubby, binder in their mailbox, get their morning folder, choose their seat (flexible seating), and start their morning work! This is A LOT for little ones to remember! I spent all four days at the front table asking questions like "OK, show me where your lunch box goes... what's next?" I also walked around during morning work to make sure that they were writing their names on their paper and corrected pencil grips! By Friday, most of my little ones were able to do everything on their own! Monday will take some reminding, but they are getting it down!
2.) Morning Meeting: I play a morning song to signal that it is time to cleanup and come to the rug. When "Spread a Little Sunshine" by Jack Hartmann comes on, they are expected to put their unfinished work on the owl side (or finished work on the star side) of their folders, put their folders in their group bins, and come stand on a sit spot in front of the ActivBoard. Our class sizes are bigger than normal, so I am waiting on more sit spots! Kids without one just sit on the button rug.

 During Morning Meeting we: 
  • Say the Pledge of Allegiance
  • Greet everyone (responsive classroom)-- right now we are just saying "good morning ___ "(child's name) but I will teach more greetings as the year goes on.
  • Read the morning message which includes the letter of the day and sight word we are learning about. 
  • Talk about the month and sing the "Month's of the year song"
  • Talk about the day of the week and sing the "days of the week" song.
  • Yesterday, today, tomorrow routine.
  • Count the days of the month so far.
  • Ten Frame # of days in school.
  • Active board days in school (place value and coins)
  • Weather reporters
  • Jack Harmann Alphabet letter sound song 
  • Sight word song (Heidi Songs DVD)
  • I have also been reviewing attention getters during morning meeting so that we can practice, practice, practice!
I have the kids run morning meeting throughout the year, but they are still learning the routine. I am modeling it for them with helpers so that they can eventually do it on their own!

Grab the math centers here!
3.) Math Centers: OK-- I use a math workshop model. That means that I teach a 10 minute mini lesson to the whole class, then pull out small groups during centers. This week (and probably for the beginning of next week) I just had the kids practice rotating and working quietly with their groups. We have 7 centers and the rotation does not change throughout the year-- so I wanted to establish the routine so that students could work independently. How did I start?
Click the picture to grab these!
  • I had kids sit with their math groups and do a "getting to know you" activity. My groups will change soon, but I wanted them to get to know who was IN their group for now so that they could help each other rotate.
  • I bought rubber wristbands from amazon so that I know WHO is in what group in case they lose their group. I have 22 kids-- so it is easy to do!
  • We practiced JUST ROTATING FIRST (every day). 
  • For the first two days, I put out ONLY manipulatives for the kids to get used to. I did have kids go on the computers to play a paint game on ABCYA to work on their mouse skills. I also had "counting fish" (ABCYA) on the ActivBoard for them to practice taking turns and using the pens.
  • Thursday-Friday I introduced the actual math centers they will be doing for the first unit.

4.) Launching the Daily Five! I LOVE THE DAILY FIVE! I think it is the best way to set up literacy instruction so that the kids work independently and I can take small groups. It is extra important to follow the launch plan that the sisters suggest so that you can get to the point where kids work quietly and independently without interrupting you. This week we launched Read to Self. We created our Independence Chart (sorry! I should have taken pictures!) We also graphed our stamina! I really hit hard on the "don't come up to me unless it is an emergency!" point. I have a little light from the Dollar Tree that I have on my table that serves as a "do not disturb!" It's hard-- but you have to really ignore the kids so that they get used to being on their own. By Friday, we had read for 5 minutes! 
5.) Yoga! I don't do a "normal" rest time in my class. I give the kids the option of participating in Cosmic Kids Story Time Yoga. It is AWESOME! My first year, I found that rest time tends to be where behavior problems arise and that most of the kids don't want to just lay there. If they do, they certainly have the option to just listen to the story (I put the yoga video volume on low and the kids do not talk!) To my surprise, almost everyone participated in Yoga and earned brag tags for trying it out! They loved it! 
5.) Following directions and learning names: We spent a lot of time learning names this week. We talked about what letters are in our names, how many letters are in our names, clapped out our names, and played name games. I read Chrysanthemum to the kids and we talked about how our names are all special. I prepped the name craft by having their names written in black sharpie on oak tag. I put paper out on the table and modeled how to tear the paper into little pieces and glue it to form each letter of their name. I was so proud of them-- they really followed the directions and I LOVE how it came out! Before I hung them up, they shared their project and something special about themselves.I leave these up for the whole year!
7.) Friday Awards: EVERY Friday of the year, I have a little awards ceremony at the very end of the day to celebrate special accomplishments. Before this, we discussed how not EVERYONE was going to get an award and that just because you don't, doesn't mean you didn't do a good job. I only give out 6-7 awards per Friday, but I make sure everyone gets a few throughout the year. I expected some tears from kids who didn't get an award, but I was so pleasantly surprised that everyone clapped and celebrated those who did. No tears!
Grab a copy by clicking on the picture!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Getting Ready for Halloween

Summer is by far my favorite season. I love going to the beach, relaxing, and spending time doing things that are otherwise overlooked during the school year.  However, summer is winding down and I am coming to terms with it. I have to admit, now that school is starting on Tuesday and I have purchased my pumpkin pie spice creamer from Shop Rite... I am getting pretty excited for fall to roll around.

I am definitely someone who likes to plan ahead-- so here I am, thinking about my Halloween party! If you teach elementary school like I do, then you KNOW how big of a deal the classroom Halloween party is! It can be a stressful time for teachers, especially if you don't have any room parents. Whether you have room parents or not though, Oriental Trading is WHERE IT'S AT for AMAZING halloween prizes, decorations, games, and costumes! 

What am I getting from Oriental Trading for my party? Check it out!

1.) Candy Corn Owl Magnet Craft Kit: 12 for 5.99: I always do several crafts for fall/Halloween with my kindergartners and this one was just so cute and simple that I couldn't resist! The nice thing is that no glue is involved-- the pieces are self-adhesive which makes for no sticky fingers! This is a perfect little project for the kids to take home and parents to hold on to. I am SO excited to do this with my students! I am planning to use it as a station during our class party since it is so easy to do! I am going to make one myself and leave it as a model. Click HERE to take you to this adorable product!
2.  Color Your Own Halloween Masks 12 for 5.25-  This is another PERFECT and simple Halloween activity that I plan to use as a station during the party! You can have students color in their masks with markers, or choose to use water color paint like I am going to do! After the masks are completed, I wanted to have a monster mash dance party! I love that this is another activity that my kindergartners will be able to do independently. Click  HERE to take you to the masks!

3. Fall Bowling Set- 9.99 I couldn't resist this adorable candy corn bowling set. It is something that I can keep for years to come and I KNOW it will be a big hit! This will be another station at the classroom party and it is something that the kids will be able to self-monitor (or I can have a parent volunteer stationed there!) I also want to tie it into math by having the kids count how many candy corn pins they knocked down! Click HERE to go to the bowling set!

4. Ghost Dartboard- 7.99 This is another super cute station game that I am so excited about! It comes with orange and black balls to throw-- it will be a ton of fun to use! The dartboard comes totally put together and is really great quality. I am planning on using this for years to come. I am going to make little numbers to stick on the board for the kids to earn points towards a prize! Click HERE to take you to the ghost dartboard.
5. Jack-O'-Lantern Beanbag Toss- 14.99 Another AMAZING Halloween station! It comes with the  beanbag toss board and adorable little candy corn beanbags that are perfect for my kids to throw! I love that it has points on the board in order to make it a game and I plan on having kids earn a prize at this station! This game, like everything else, really great quality and something you can keep for a long time! Click HERE to take you to the beanbag toss game!
6. Monster Beanbag Toss Game- 11.99 This is my final station and a game that I totally couldn't resist getting! The monster theme is adorable and it comes with beanbags too-- I know it will be another huge hit. I'm sure I will be using this for years to come! Click HERE to take you to the monster beanbag toss game!

7. "Boo Boo Bunch" Mini Halloween Yo-Yos 2.75/dozen: I have some Halloween prizes left over from last year, but I knew that I would need more. Yo-Yos were a big hit with last years Kindergartners and I am sure that this year they will love them too! If you aren't giving out "prizes" for games, you can also include them in Halloween/ fall treat bags or hand them out as a little gift from you! Click HERE to take you to the yo-yos!
8. Construction Worker Vest 4.25- This last item on my list serves two purposes. The first is as an extra Halloween costume. I have a tool belt in my classroom and some boots that we use for dress up already, so this went perfectly. I always worry that someone will come in without a costume so to avoid tears I keep a few extra on hand. When we are done with Halloween it is going to go right into my dress up bin for the kids to use during play time! Click HERE to take you to the vest!

1.) Head over to Oriental Trading and check out their AWESOME Halloween costumes, decorations, and prizes. Add lots of stuff to your wish list! Post your list on your class website or include the link in the newsletter you send home! I know that parents of my students are always asking what I need for class parties, and this is really easy and convenient for everyone! If you need some inspiration, check out my wish list!

2.) Keep an extra costume on hand, especially if you teach little ones! Sometimes parents get busy and forget, or simply cannot afford to buy a costume for their child. Regardless, every child should have the chance to wear a Halloween costume-- especially if your school has a Halloween Parade like mine! Oriental Trading has lots of different options at lots of price points. 

3.) Keep kids busy by using "stations" instead of whole class activities. Halloween is SUCH an exciting day for kids and teachers want their parties to run as smoothly as possible. I have found that having kids rotate through stations keeps them engaged and having a great time! 

4.) If you are like me and cannot give out any food, head to Oriental Trading to check out some really adorable and super affordable food alternatives. 

Disclaimer: This post may contain sponsored content, affiliate links or review products. Regardless of this these are 100% my own opinion. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kindergarten Classroom Setup

I can't believe I am actually saying it, but I am finally done setting up my classroom... it felt like I would never be finished! I'll be honest with you-- Pinterest was definitely not my friend this month. Every time I thought I had everything ready, I found another really cute idea that I just had to make happen!

Just an FYI, we are doing a flexible seating set up this year. That means that I have provided lots of different options for my Kinders and they will get to choose their own seats throughout the day. We have: yoga mats, clip boards, scoop chairs, bean bags, and "sitting" table, pillows, comfy chairs, yoga balls, regular seats, and crate seats! I am hoping to add more options as the year continues.

So, as per your requests, here is a tour of my classroom!

I am so excited to meet my new Kinders-- I can't wait for them to see their classroom and for them to try all of the different seating choices!

If you are doing flexible seating in your classroom, check out my flexible seating launch kit for everything you need to get started! Click the picture below to take you directly to the product. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

I don't know about you, but I try not to think about how much I spend each year getting my classroom ready! Teachers everywhere spend tons of money out of their own pockets to get ready for the school year (and throughout the year too!) That's because teaching isn't just a job to us, teaching is not just something we do... it's who we are, and we do what we need to do for the kiddos who walk through our door.

Mid-way through the summer, I start to shop around and think about what I need. And you know what!? I  LOVE Oriental Trading! They have the cutest classroom decorations and prizes that the kids just adore, all for reasonable prices!

Luckily for us teachers, Oriental Trading has a fantastic program where you can create a wish list to share with parents! I know that every year, parents always ask what I need for my classroom and it's hard for me to think on my feet and give them an answer! With the wish list, you can simply share the link and parents can go online and purchase items off of your list! It's amazing, and so simple!

I included a variety of different items and different prices (from cheap, to a little pricier) in my wish list! Here are some of the things that I put on my list!

1- Inflatable green flocked chair: I have a flexible seating plan with my kindergartners. That means that they get to pick their own seat in the classroom! There are yoga balls, clip boards, bean bags, pillows, scoop chairs, etc! I am always in need of new and fun seating options and when I saw this, my heart was so happy! It's only $20.00, which is a super reasonable price for a chair this size and I know my kids will LOVE IT! I put a pink one on my list as well! Get it here!

2. Jumbo Playing Dice- a dozen for $7.50
I don't know about you guys, but I use dice in my classroom ALL OF THE TIME for math centers, games, etc! When I was thinking about what I needed for my room this year, this is something that came to mind! I have smaller dice, but these jumbo dice are perfect for little hands. Get them here!
3. Read to Self Phones- a dozen for $15.99
I LOVE WHISPER PHONES! They are great for fluency and the little ones love hearing themselves read. In my classroom, I have a set of 6 that I use for my guided reading and RTI groups. However, I wanted to have a set to leave in my library for my Read to Self center. I adore the different colors and love how many come in a set! These are a must for any K-5 classroom! Get them here!

5. Fun Shape Word & Number Swatters- One set for 11.99
There are so many different things that I plan to use these for! Searching for sight words, numbers, math center games, etc. The possibilities are totally endless! Get them here!
6. Neon Top-Loading Dry Erase Sleeves- $11.18 per dozen
If you use centers in your classroom then these are a must have item. I love that they are reusable and it's a lot easier than laminating worksheets and they work significantly better than putting pages in a sheet protector (I have found that those don't erase well!) I have a set already, and it would be great to have another! Get them here!

7. Owl Cutouts: Oriental Trading has TONS and TONS of adorable cutouts, letters, borders, etc. to make those adorable Pinterest-worthy bulletin boards! All of the Kinder classes in my school are a different "animal" and we are... you guessed it! The owls! I use little owl cutouts like these for bulletin boards, my job chart, to mark cubbies and mailboxes, and name tag necklaces for the first week of school. I can never have enough of them! Get them here!

I definitely suggest getting on to the Oriental Trading website and creating a wish list of your own! It is perfect to share with parents on Meet the Teacher Night or Back to School Night! You can also post a link to your Wish List on your classroom or school website. This way, you can keep it updated! 

It is easy to go on Oriental Trading and find a million things that you could put to good use in your classroom! Treasure chests with prizes, pencils, book boxes, classroom supplies, decorations, playtime toys, and even cute stuff to make a cozy reading corner. If you are in need of a little extra inspiration, you can check out my wish list by clicking HERE

Disclaimer: This post may contain sponsored content, affiliate links or review products. Regardless of this these are 100% my own opinion.