Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Embracing the Elf Activities

Hi everyone, I hope you are surviving the last few weeks before Christmas break with your students.  It is a hectic time for teachers as we try to keep our students engaged during the day and then work to finish all of our Christmas home projects at night.  Even though it is a tiring time, I love teaching during the month of December.  If your students are anything like mine there is a lot of talk in our classroom about the Elf on the Shelf, his or her pet reindeer or pet dog.  I like to capitalize on my students' interests when teaching.  If they are engaged it makes my job so much easier.  Here are some ways I have embraced the "Elf"


I am currently teaching data management and pictographs.  To help keep my students interest I decided to put cards with a picture of a boy elf, a girl elf and a reindeer pet in a brown paper bag.  Students take turn drawing the cards out of the bag and using tally marks to record their results.  The students then use their data to make a pictograph.

There is something about using the Elf that suddenly causes all my students to want to see who is hiding in Santa's Bag.

If you think the "Elf" might help you teach pictographs, you can get it here

Language Arts

If you haven't ordered the book "Memoirs of an Elf" from Scholastic you should.  My students love the story and it is a great book to get students writing about Elves and their adventures.  
I love giving students hashtags and having them write about the "Elfie" they made.  Below are just some that I have used with my class.

If you own the book and would like this writing activity, you can get it here.

To help your students write about the Elf and answer that popular question "How do you spell?", you may want to download this FREEBIE.
Hang in there, only ten more days until a much needed break!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rethinking Writing Prompts! Spice up your writing block!

Hello all!  Thank you so much for stopping by!  It's Hilary From Primary Planet!
Today I want you to stop for a moment and re imagine Writing Prompts.
Usually when I think of writing prompts, I think of a narrow, specific task that the students need to address. 
What if I told you that Writing Prompts could be fun, scaffolded, and engaging?  What if I even told you that your kiddos would ask for them during Writer's Workshop or Writing Centers (even your most reluctant writers)?

Let me introduce: Pick a Prompts and Story Starter Cootie Catchers!

Super Silly Pick a Prompt

First up: Pick a Prompts!

These are writing prompts that give the kiddos choice over what elements they want to write about.  These are perfect for substitute teachers, fast finishers, or the "I don't know what to write about " gang.  They have pictures with short, easy to read captions that scaffold your students writing!  These are great for ELL students as well!
Super Silly Pick a Prompt 

Your students choose one "prompt" from each section, then use them to write their story!

When I use them in my classroom we have a discussion before we write.  We read all of the choices and if there is something that they don't understand we clarify.  
I make a list of "key words" on my whiteboard easel, then let the kiddos turn and talk to  a partner about their plans for writing.

Then, the kiddos go back to their spots, circle their choices and write, write, write!
Sometime the kiddos make some modifications to help the prompt better fit their needs:
Super Silly Pick a Prompt
I also often challenge the students to use all of the elements!  My kiddos LOVE these and often ask for them.

If you would like to give these a try, I have a freebie in my store HERE!

If you like these prompts, but are trying to go paperless, I have several digital versions in my store as well!  They work with Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive!  You can find them here:

Up Next:  Story Starter Cootie Catchers

I have to start with: My kiddos LOVE Cootie Catchers (or fortune tellers if you prefer). You would think that they were somehow magical that is how much my kiddos love them!
What a better way to get them writing but to use a cootie catcher for a writing prompt!
These are similar to the Pick a Prompts as it has choices for Settings, Characters, and Plots.
Throw in that they are on a cootie catcher and it is magical!

Let me first say that folding Cootie Catchers with second graders was a bit of a challenge the first time we did it.  Yes, I almost tore all of my hair out, but I had a student who knew how to fold them on her own, so she was a great big help.  Let me also say, it was worth it!  The kiddos were enamored with them all day!  They asked to take them home as well!
These would be great for putting in your Writing Center for Writer's Workshop, fast finishers, or as holiday gifts (yes, they really love them that much!)

First, we folded them.  It was painful the first time we did this, the second time went much smoother.  I only had to refold a few of them!  

Then, we take some time to explore them with our partners and tell stories!

Then, we go back to our writing spots and using the special paper, get drawing and writing!

My heavens!  These kiddos wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more!  They actually groaned when I told them that Writer's Workshop was over!  Even my kiddos who do everything they can to avoid writing!
If you would like to try these, I have a freebie (it is Halloween themed, but it would be fun to try out!) HERE

Now in my room when I say "Today we will be writing to a prompt" the kiddos all cheer!
Of course we still do some of the old, test style ones as well...
but you can probably guess which ones they prefer!

If you are looking to spice up your writing block, you can find these products by clicking on the pictures, or here in my TpT store:

These are the links to the bundle, but you can buy them separately as well!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

HOMEWORK! To Be or Not to Be? That is the Question!

"Homework remains one of the biggest challenges and concerns facing teachers today," author Nancy Paulu told Education World. "Many teachers say they have a hard time creating meaningful and appropriate homework assignments and getting students to complete the assignments successfully."

     The Great DEBATE!  To give Homework or NOT??  What about the idea that kids need some “down time” after spending all day in school?  What do some kids do when the homework is too hard…..or too easy?  It’s  always challenging to plan Homework that meets the needs of each student. 
      Here is an idea we created that helps connect families with school. What’s great about these assignments is that they build classroom community while also increasing oral and written language!  A Win-Win!

How does Write and Share work?
   Each student writes their homework and brings it in to share with their class. Through sharing, they get practice in speaking aloud, other students get practice in asking questions about what they wrote, and everyone learns a little bit more about each other!  That’s why it’s called WRITE & SHARE.

   WRITE & SHARE was created to replace that old familiar Show & Tell. As first grade teachers, we knew our students enjoyed sharing about their own things. But after a few months (ACCK!), we noticed that the items they selected began to look a little ragged and torn. It seemed they had quickly just rooted around in their closet and pulled out any old thing to bring!

      We weren’t seeing any real connection to our curriculum either. Yes, they were sharing but this concept REALLY needed to be expanded to include some family involvement and some academic skills. So.....we put our heads together and developed a year-long homework program....and called it WRITE & SHARE. There is a wide variety of topics that children write and share about....seasonal, holidays, math, science, etc. 

     Parents tell us they look forward to the varied assignments that they do with their child. Teachers tell us how valuable this is for their students. Others liked it and wanted it in their Kindergarten or 2nd Grade classrooms so we expanded it to both those grades also....adapting them to fit the skill levels of those grades and standards. So now there are 3 levels of WRITE and SHARE! The world is a happy place!  

Check out what one of our customers had to say about Write and Share!
"One of my better purchases last year! I loved using it for homework and then letting my students have time on Fridays to share from the Author’s chair. Even my most reluctant writers were sharing by year’s end!"

Here’s a few FREE samples for you to try.  Click {HERE} to link to the free sample at our JK Curriculum Connection website. (P.S. There are some other fun freebies there also!) 

Click {HERE} for the Kindergarten product at our TeachersPayTeachers store.
Click {HERE} for the 1st Grade Write and Share!
Click {HERE} for the 2nd Grade Homework Write and Share!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Postive Notes AND a Giveaway!

Hey everyone!  
I'm Amy from Cahill's Creations

I'm here to share my ideas on how to become even more positive in the classroom.  This year, we decided to be EVEN MORE positive than last year!  So, we finally decided to say goodbye to the clip chart.  We realized that it really wasn't helping the negative behaviors.  By the end of the year, we were JUST using the chart for positive choices and behaviors.  

We've turned the clip chart wall into a bucket filling wall!  We've been in school for 3 weeks now and we're seeing great success so far!  We're hearing kids talk about other kids in a more positive way.  They are recognizing their friends as being bucket fillers and we love hearing them!  Our ultimate goal is for the class to build a community of caring kids working collaboratively together.  We are spending more time talking about positive behaviors and building friendships than ever before.  We are also talking more about how we can celebrate our differences in a positive way.

Sending daily notes home is something we love to do.  This year, our goal is to be more SPECIFIC with the notes and with the kids.  We want to let the kids know exactly what they're getting a warm fuzzy for.  We want to build positive behaviors by using very specific language.  In turn, the kids will start using the same language and be able to articulate that with their parents.  When that happens, we feel it is a success!

"You can put a warm fuzzy in your bucket for cooperating with your group today!"
I even created stickers too!  You can use AVERY 5160 labels for printing.  I was so excited when I found Astrobright labels on Amazon Prime!

Enter a Giveaway for a chance to win a $10 gift card to TPT.  Did I mention there is a ONE DAY SALE on Monday, August 22nd????  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 18, 2016

STEM? In Kindergarten? Are You CrAzY?

  STEM activities are all the rage.....and for good reason.  They get our kids thinking and creating and problem solving and actually ENJOYING the learning process!  If you aren't familiar with STEM yet, yourself and your students a favor and learn about it!  I love, love, LOVE the direction STEM is taking our classrooms!  But, STEM for little kids??!!!


  Today marked the completion of one week in my Kindergarten classroom......and we did our first STEM activity.  It. Went. GREAT!  I never would've thought Kindergarten kids could handle STEM activities......until I tried it  They proved me wrong.

  Take a peek at this video that shows a teeny bit of the lesson.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

What does your classroom say about you

What does your classroom decor say about you?

Anyone that is reading this blogpost is most likely either a teacher or a parent. And most teachers are also parents. Everyone can relate to taking your student to their classroom for the first time. One of the first things you notice as a parent may not be the teacher, or the other students but the classroom itself.
What kind of teacher did my son/daughter get this year? Classroom decorations go a long way to communicating what kind of a teacher you are to both parents and youngsters.
So when you are putting together your classroom what do you want it to say about you? Are you strict? Fun? Energetic? Boring? Are you "with it?" (Do you know what is popular with the kids in the age range that you are teaching?
Decorating your classroom with popular cultural icons can go a long way to making that important first connection with your students. And having inspirational posters and posters on behavior is one of the key components to any good classroom management plan.
So all that said, are you ready?
My sister Hilary Lewis has been teaching 2nd grade for over 20 years and this year ended up moving to a new 3rd grade classroom with only 2 years left before retirement! We joined forces over the summer and came up with some classroom decorations in the style of Minecraft called Blockcraft Kids and Pets that will make your life easier and hopefully help make those all important connections.
With the TPT site wide sale and 28% Off everything in our stores, now is the time to find some amazing new decorations and organizational stuff for your classroom! Take a look at some of the decor we created:

Name tags that are individualized can make kids feel special!

Labels that go with the theme brightens up your spaces and helps with organization, not just for you but for anyone that is volunteering or helping in your classroom:

And for classroom management it helps to post character traits that are important to classroom culture, for all kids and parents to see:

And inspiring those kids to learn is one of the biggest parts of our job as teachers. Here are some inspirational posters from my store too!

Good luck with setting up your own amazing classroom this year! Make it the best year ever! So that your students look like this:

And not like this:

I found some great tips from Edudemic on how to help young children feel safe and more at ease in the classroom:
  • Have group activities where children are encouraged to decorate the classroom together.
  • Install a large bulletin board and encourage student to bring photos of their family and pets to pin on the board. Children should also be encouraged to bring and share items of cultural significance to display.
  • Hold an orientation early in the school year where parents are invited to the classroom. This will serve as an icebreaker and help the classroom environment feel less strange."
Have the best year ever!


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Back to School Labels

Hi everyone, 
It is Jane Feener here again to share some labels that I have been making for my class as part of my back to school preparations.  Do you like to label everything in your class?  I sure do.  I just find for me it makes everything run a little bit smoother.
Do you use a math workshop model in your class?  I have been experimenting with it now for the past couple of years.  I am still learning and working on improving how it works in my classroom.  I know different teachers have different acronyms they use but I like to use the MATH acronym.  This year I have invested in scrapbook paper storage containers from Michaels.  I got them on sale which was a bonus.  I used a smaller tub last year but I found I could not always fit all the materials I needed in them.  Here is what they look like.  I still have to finish setting up the T and H tubs.  My M tub is for "Math Facts".  I will put games and activities that help my students master their addition and subtraction facts in this container.  I usually change them out each week and I also try to use seasonal activities to help keep my students engaged.  This math tub contains a Welcome Back Bump game made by Sunny Days which you can download on TeachersPayTeachers (TPT) for free here.

The A tub contains math activities which students can complete independently "At their desk".  This is the one area of Math Workshop that I struggle with because if this activity is not something your students can do independently they will be at the small group table interrupting the small group lessons.  I will be focussing on creating independent activities complete with answers keys and help cards to hopefully solve this problem this year.  My first unit is Patterns and if you teach patterns you might like to give it a try as well.  You can find it here.  If you would like these Math Workshop  labels for your containers you can download them here.

Have you heard about Tidy Tubs?  I love to have students create something to show their learning, however, this can be a messy endeavor in the classroom.  I am not sure where I learnt about using tidy tubs, but if it was from one of you please let me know because it has been one of the best things I have introduced into my class.  I bought four clear plastic tubs (shoe box size) and I printed off my tidy tub labels and hot glued them on to the side.  Every time we do any kind of activity that requires cutting paper my helpers jump up and run to get the Tidy Tubs.  They place them on each group table and as students work they put their scraps in the tubs instead of on the floor.  At the end of the activity the helpers empty the contents of the Tidy Tubs into the paper recycling bin and place them back in their designated spot.  If you would like a copy of the Tidy Tub labels you can download them here.

How do you manage your word work?  I have found what works best for me is to use a storage cart with each drawer labelled so that students can easily find the materials they need.

If you would like to give it a try, you can download my labels here.  I hope some of these labels might help you with your organization as you prepare to head back to school.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Homework Calendars

Hey everyone! 

I'm Amy from Cahill's Creations and I'm here to talk about homework in kindergarten.  

As a kindergarten teacher, I've always given packets of homework.  This year, I've decided to change the way I give homework.  After a lot of thought and careful research, I realized that minimal homework is best for kindergarten kids.   I do like to give some homework, mostly to keep parents in the loop of what we are learning and to keep them involved.

So, here we go!

I've created homework calendars.  Each day the kids will have an activity to complete that should not take them long to complete.  I'm really excited to use these calendars in my classroom this year!  
I think it'll be a lot less work for me as well as for parents.  It's also something that is extremely easy to modify and adjust as needed. 

Homework should be completed as a quick review of skills learned.  I also like the idea of homework helping kids to learn responsibility and time management.

How do you give homework in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your ideas!
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 27, 2016

{I'm So Excited About} BRAG TAGS!

Sometimes you come across something "new to you" in education that just gets you all giddy!  This has happened to me with Brag Tags.  I cannot wait to implement this system this year in my Kindergarten Class!  I just know that my kindergarten kids are going to LOVE Brag Tags!

 What in the heck are Brag Tags?

Brag Tags are a reward system set up in your classroom.....without the need for an expensive treasure box!  Kids work to earn a variety of Brag Tags.  They will want to earn them all, so behavior and motivation improves. When students meet a goal, such as learning to write their name, doing homework, or even having great lunchroom behavior, the kids earn a  Brag Tag.  Teachers can set up their own system for wearing the Brag Tag necklaces, but I plan to let my kids wear them on Fridays and any day that they earn a new Brag Tag.  The set of Brag Tags that I created is designed especially for Kindergarten Kids, so I know that my students will want them all!

To get started, you just need a set of Brag Tags and something to attach them to, such as the cheap-o ball and chain necklaces off of amazon.  Some people laminate the Brag Tags, but I plan to just print them on card stock.  I am pumped and ready to get started with my new little kinders!

Want to give your kids something to brag about, too?  Give them Brag Tags!

Have a wonderful summer!

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