Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Store Your Stuff!

Recently I posted about how I prep the TpT activities I create & buy, so I thought it would be good to share how I store my Literacy Stations materials.

I'll start with the before:

These file boxes aren't the worst way to store monthly materials, but they aren't the best way, either. On the plus side ~ they don't take up a lot of room in my work room. (We are super lucky to have tons of storage. Click HERE to see an old post that shows my half of the work room.) Really, hanging files are a pretty good way to store things. But... (see next picture)

Getting the files out to use with my guided reading groups was a pretty messy ordeal. I use materials I've made plus resources purchased from others on TpT. That's a lot of stuff to have to deal with when planning for my groups. (Click HERE to read more on how I plan for small group instruction.) So, I needed to come up with a better way to store things so that they are a little more user friendly.

Side note ~ zipper bags & a Sharpie are a MUST HAVE! I like to label the bags with the month they go with as well as the name of the activity. This is helpful when putting things away ~ I don't necessarily use everything in its "assigned" month. Differentiation, you know. ;-)

Anyway, back to my storage drama. Like I said ~ the hanging file folders were not a bad way to store the materials, but not so great when it came to using them. I bought these nifty containers that have locking lids at Target that are just the right size for holding a month's worth of activities. They are plenty big enough to hold any papers that go along with the cards. The containers are easy to use when planning my groups & sit neatly on the counter behind my table, unlike the file folders that spilled their contents all over the counter behind my table.

They stack neatly together & really don't take up much more space on my work room counter than the two hanging file boxes. 

What about you? How do you store your small group materials? Drop a comment to share your ideas and/or links ~ I'd love to get a peek at how you organize your stuff! Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Prep Time!

Do you dread prepping all the cute things you get from TpT? It can be a bit time consuming ~ especially if you print in color because you will want to laminate the items to protect your precious ink or toner. I have a Brother color laser printer that creates beautiful vibrant pictures. Toner can be is pretty pricey, so I always laminate. With my own laminator. To save a little bit of money I print onto cheapo copy paper instead of card stock. The savings isn't huge, but every penny adds up!

No, I'm not an affiliate of Scotch, but I do love their products. My trusty little laminating machine was a $23.00 bargain at Walmart a few years ago. I got my laminating pouches on Amazon. I've also gotten pouches at Sams Club, and Aldi. (I put them on my teacher wish list each fall. So far, no one has offered to purchase any, but I figure it never hurts to ask...) I have found that using 3 mil thick pouches are perfect for making sturdy materials when using regular copy paper. Really! I rarely use card stock any more ~ unless I'm printing in blackline on color card stock. 

To cut or not to cut? Back in the day (before I had my very own laminator) I used to cut out everything before running it through the school's laminator. I also printed onto pricey card stock and hoped for the best ~ Will the film stick? Will the cards hold up in the hands of five & six year olds? The answer was usually NO! Well, now that I have my very own laminator I DO NOT cut before laminating. Time saver!!  Check out the next three pictures...

If I'm not in a frugal mood I'll zip an untrimmed page through my trusty laminating machine. It does waste a bit of film, but ~ hey it is super quick!

I almost always have an "I'll deal with it later" pile of laminating or cutting sitting around (this is from my Hibernation Literacy & Math set). I do *minimal* cutting and fit one of my "I'll deal with it later" projects. No film wasted! I'll cut out my clip cards now & set the Hibernation cards aside until next January.

Because copy paper is thin & kinda see through I can cut more than one sheet at a time. Just be sure that the pictures are lined up.

I usually don't cut out anything before laminating. It really is true ~ print on regular copy paper & laminate using 3 mil pouches with your machine set to 5 mil & your materials will withstand the trials your little students put them through! Really!

Even though I use 3 mil laminating pouches I set my laminator to 5 mil. It's a little hotter & keeps my materials intact.

OK ~ you're probably thinking, "Yeah, yeah, this all sounds wonderful, but it's going to take FOREVER to cut everything out! My solution: get a second pair of scissors & recruit a cutting buddy. My hubby is a pro at cutting stuff for me. Cutting is mindless work and can be done in front of the TV, while chatting, etc. 

For anything ~ like the clip cards ~ that I want to make self checking I mark on the back of the laminated cards with a light color Sharpie. Yellow and pink won't show through the paper, but show up well enough for the kids to be able to see if they are correct.

I store everything in zipper bags ~ which I label with the name of the contents. When I'm ready for the kiddos to use the activity I pop them into one of my gazillion baskets or containers. I especially like the bright baskets from Really Good Stuff.

As for the "I'll deal with it later pile," I will deal with it later... Those hibernating animals & penguins can wait until Christmas break!

Do you want the Beginning Sounds Clip Cards for FREE? Just click HERE to subscribe! Thanks!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Guided Reading Groups

My guided reading groups have gone through a series of changes to get to where they are today. I have to say that I am pretty happy with how they have evolved. A great part of my happiness has to do with the fact that the amazing DeeDee Wills & Deanna Jump have created a fantastic guided reading product. Their Guided Reading Small Group bundle is what I use to teach my differentiated groups. (Check it out HERE.) I also use the activities from my Monthly Literacy Stations bundle. (Check it out HERE.) I have four guided reading groups of 3 - 4 students each, meeting with each group twice weekly. I do wish I could meet with them more than twice weekly, but our schedule is so crazy that's all we can fit in. 

Planning for my groups is so easy with the Guided Reading Small Groups sets ~ I keep all the materials needed for each level in a binder & just pull out the things I need for each group. As I said earlier, I include activities from my Literacy Stations bundle that fit with the lessons &each group's needs. For this group I've included a fun Crack the Code activity & CVCe activity from my Basket of Long Vowels set (see it HERE). We used it today & the kids loved it! They had fun figuring out the mystery word by naming the first letter of each picture name. 

To keep myself on track I have created this simple planning sheet. I complete one sheet for each group - the top half is the first time we meet & the bottom half is for the second time we meet each week. To keep track of student progress I use a simple check mark system as we do each activity. There is a section for quick comments. Kiddos who need more extensive comments are noted in their individual folders. Grab an updated, editable copy of this form HERE.

I am lucky to have a small class of 15 Kinders, so my guided reading groups only have 3 - 4 kids each. Using running records & classroom data I was able to place them into four leveled groups. Each group has its own basket. In the baskets I place all the materials I will need to teach each group. (It is evident from this picture that I like wooden clothespins ~ I use them every day!) Some of the cards are from Deedee Wills' Small Group Sets (check it out HERE).

To keep everything handy I have a three drawer unit to my right that holds things like white boards, tap lights (for tapping out syllables & phonemes), word & letter cards, whisper phones, etc. The group baskets are sitting on a stack of magnetic letter cookie sheets. The pails in the green basket hold things like extra clothespins, my "office" supplies, and witch fingers for pointing to words. The yellow basket holds student supplies.

Here is one of the cookie sheets in use.They are from Dollar Tree & are the perfect size to use at our table. I used Sharpie to write the letters on them to make putting the letters back after use easier. The cards are from my January Literacy Stations. We use the cookie sheets at the start of every guided reading group. Depending upon the group's needs we may work on letter naming or sounds, spelling CVC words, or sight words. (I keep extra letters in one of the drawers shown above if we need more than one of a certain letter in a word.)

While I'm meeting with my groups the other students work in pairs at our literacy stations. Click HERE to read about some of the activities the kids do at our stations. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Five for Friday ~ February 3rd

It's February! January went by in a flash! Not that I'm complaining ~ I prefer warm summer weather to cold winter weather. But, I really can't complain about the weather because we've had a mild winter here in Indiana. It's been cold, but we've had so little snow that it's felt weird talking about polar bears & penguins. But, since it is winter we have gone ahead with our snowy themed units. If you live where you don't have snow & cold, what is it like teaching about chilly topics?

We spent last week learning all about hibernation. I love it when we get to spend time talking about animals. (The kids do, too!) I was impressed by how much they retained ~ the kids were able to tell these fact for me to record!

After reading lots of books about hibernating animals & watching some really good videos on You Tube my darlings were able to do some nonfiction writing. I was pretty happy with their work.

 "Bears sleep in winter because food is scarce."

 "The groundhogs go to sleep in winter and wake up on spring."

 "Groundhogs are mammals. The groundhog sees a predator." The label says "whistle."

You may be done with your hibernation studies, but you may want to check out my Hibernation mini unit. It contains lots of materials for you to use when learning about hibernating animals. 
Check it out HERE.

One thing I love about kindergarten is the love my little students share with me. I spend more waking hours with these little children than their own parents during the week & I feel it is important that they grow to trust & love me as much as I love them. One of my little cuties made this cute picture for me. (I'm not exactly sure what animal it is supposed to be, but I really like it!)

I joined up with a bunch of teachers to participate in a Valentine exchange. We needed to create valentine cards to send to our pals all around the country. My kiddos created these darling heart trees with Q-tips & paint. I hope our pals like them! 

We haven't had much snow (I don't think there was any measurable snow in January), but it's been pretty cold so we've build a number of cozy fires in our fireplace. Hubby & I enjoy sitting by the fire to play Scrabble while sipping on glasses of wine. (Riesling is my favorite.) Even though I prefer warm temperatures, I do enjoy sitting by the fire. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen many pics of my fireplace ~ most likely with a glass of wine and/or with my little dog Macie. (Not a follower? Check me out @kinder_doodles on Instagram.)

Groundhog Day! On February first we made these cute little "weather predictors." The kids loved their groundhog puppets and paper plate burrows. We made them on Wednesday so they could look for shadows on Thursday morning. Of course, February 2 was bright & sunny! January was nothing but gray (seriously ~ the most dreary gray cloudy month of all time). The one day we needed no sunshine it was bright, so of course the kids saw shadows. Oh, well ~ this is Northwest Indiana, so I really don't expect spring to come early groundhog or no groundhog. 

Thanks for spending some time with me! Now, hop over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to visit some more awesome blogs. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


This isn't the first post I've written about play. Allowing children time to play is something I feel very strongly about. In this day and age of rigor (I really dislike that word) & testing many higher-ups have pushed play out of the school day. I am fortunate to work in a corporation that supports Kinders' need for play. More & more research is being presented on the importance of play. Which, when you think about it, it's crazy that play is even a topic of discussion. They are LITTLE KIDS for crying out! Why is their need for play even something that is up for discussion?? Anyway, today I was reading the current issue of Reader's Digest & found a quote by a psychiatrist named Stuart Brown about play. That quote plus the fact that my students are always asking me to take pictures of their block structures they build during playtime prompted this post.

If you follow me on Facebook you may have read some of the many articles I've shared on play. Click HERE to check out my page. Type "play" to search for some really good articles. 

These are our 100th Day cups. I left them out & they have been played with every day since last Wednesday. Today a little boy brought a stuffed dog named Roy to school for his reward. (We use tickets to help with behavior ~ ten tickets earn a reward coupon for things like bring a stuffed animal to school.) These cuties all worked together to create this home for Roy. 

I'm not really sure what this is supposed to be, and yes they aren't using these math manipulatives in the "correct" way, but what they created was pretty cool. I like the symmetry & the collaboration that went into making this. 

Block builders. These boys can be seen in the block area almost daily building all sorts of structures. This is the first year I've had kids combine Lego & other smaller building toys with the big blocks. They make different types of ships or rockets, etc. and then build cities for their ships.

My classroom also has a kitchen area, puppets, stuffed animals, puzzles, games, play doh, coloring books, and things like lacing cards & beads to string. During play time there is no technology ~ all play is kid powered. We play every day for about 20 - 25 minutes. It's a time that is as valuable as the time we spend on literacy & math. What about you? Do your students get to play at school?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

100th Day 2017

Yay! Today was the 100th Day of kindergarten! (And, it was the first time that it occurred on on the actual 100th day ~ no snow days to postpone it this year!) As always, the kids had a great time, but what was a little different was the fact that it wasn't as "party" as in past years. Today was late start Wednesday, and the book fair! Throw in the fact that our day is chopped up into a bunch of little slices of time didn't allow us time to have a bunch of parents in to run our activities party-style. But, as I said, the kids had fun. (Plus, they didn't know any different...) Here are some pictures of our fun day. 

I was impressed by by the cute, creative tee shirts the kids & their families created. lol I noticed the day count chart by the calendar still says "99!" This photo was taken before we had our morning meeting. 

The kids had fun creating structures from red solo cups. They were excited when I told them that we can keep them out for playtime. What a fun & cheap STEM activity!

What does 100 look like? It was fun comparing bags of 100 items. I enjoyed listening to the students as they described different aspects of each material. As an optional activity I asked parents to take a pic of their child with a collection of 100 large items. I put them into  a slideshow for the kids to watch as they ate their 100 piece snack.

Flash forward 95 years! The Kinders has fun imaging themselves as 100 year olds. Their portraits included glasses, gray hair, and even a few wrinkles. Once they created their pictures they wrote about what they would do when they are 100. They have some good ideas! 

Get this forever freebie in my store HERE.

It took a while, but the kids did a great job moving through the ten plates of snacks. They carefully counted out 10 of each item onto their plates. I stood at the end of the line and dumped everything into the paper lunch bag they had decorated for their special snack. This year I was able to find ten yummy treats that  were safe for nut allergies.Our school nurse gave me a list from "FARE" a website about food allergies. It's surprising how many good tasting things are available.

The kids had a great day & I'm super tired. :-) How do you celdbrate the 100th day of school?

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