Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yuck Soup - A Snack Activity Freebie

Have you ever read Yuck Soup by Joy Cowley? 

It's a great little book about some monster looking characters who make Yuck Soup!  They eat tires and all sorts of disgusting things!  The kids get a kick out of it this time of year.  

I love tying activities to book and so we make our own Yuck Soup every year.  We actually call it "Kindergarten Soup!"  

I send home a letter and ask each child to bring in their own item to contribute to the soup.  Everything must be prepackaged and not opened!  Each year I get different items and so it's never quite the same!  

Each person pours into the soup what they brought.  We say the pattern of the book "In goes some..." 

Then we mix it up.  

And serve up our snack!  

We follow up by making this fun class book that matched the Joy Cowley version!  

Each person documents what they brought and we assemble it into a book!

Sometime when I make these class books I will have the kids not color the pages.  I will collect them, copy a version for each student, and then send home to color.  This way the families can read the book at home and we can enjoy the original in class!  

This Yuck Soup activity is a freebie at Simply Kinder on TpT!  

This makes a great alternative to Halloween and also a great activity for Thanksgiving because it's about sharing!  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pumpkin Book Reports - Last Year's Pumpkins!

Pumpkin Book Reports are one of my favorite family projects each year!  And they are a free download so be sure to read to the end so you too can do this project with your students! 

Here's a sampling of the actual pumpkins I got last year!

I loved this one because it was the first time I ever got a tutu on a pumpkin!  So creative and such a great way to use resources you already have at home!  

 One of my favorite series of books ever! I was so excited to get a pumpkin for the book More Parts!  This pumpkin is like the typical pumpkins I get because it uses construction paper!

I just love this one as well!  This student of course read Cinderella and they did her pumpkin more as a family project.  Some teachers don't like when parents control the creative process but it does not bother me as long as they work together and the student is super excited about their project in the end!  
Green Eggs and Ham - a classic pumpkin.  I seem to always get 1 or 2 Dr. Seuss books every year!  I loved the toothpick with the little saying which was very creative!  

 This pumpkin was wrapped in tissue paper and then sprinkled with glitter!  Skippy was made out of foam pieces for durability!  Super creative and very cute in real person!
Last year I got lots of books that were not as well known which was fun.  We enjoyed reading those books together so we could understand the pumpkin character.  

I don't always read every book especially if it's a classic.  We just don't have time to read each and every book that day and so ones that I will most likely read during the year sometimes are not read.   
 This one was a little bit of an issue for this student because the parent used the marker as the medium.  The marker was rubbing off and so he was a little upset. If you are making these with your children, be sure to think of that.  To fix we presented his first and then at recess we traced it with my Marks-A-Lot marker.  
I love that this student did a Christmas book!  But I have to be honest, it made me wonder how many books this child has at home.   Knowing her though, I think she just really loved this book!  I love that it has a handwritten element on it as well.

Another book that was not as well known to the students in our class.  We read this book because we were intrigued by why the pumpkin had a whale on what appeared to be a bib.  So it was a great pumpkin to springboard into a good book!

Where The Wild Things Are.  Love every bit of the this pumpkin!  The wig, the bumps on his face, and the frown are all so perfect to add character to his pumpkin!   

I love this one because it was a nonfiction book report!  All kids love nonfiction books so it was a great way for him to share what he knew about sharks in a creative, artful manner!  

This pumpkin was a pre-made pumpkin character set I got at Walmart the year before.  In the Halloween section they sell kits you can stick right on the pumpkin.  So each year I buy a few for students who I know will not be able to afford to do a pumpkin or if the parents have some sort of circumstance that the parents are not able to do the pumpkin with them.  This particular pumpkin was made because the dad was in the hospital and I figured me doing it with the child would take a little stress of the family and the child would still have one to present!  

I like to give my families about 2 weeks to prep these and bring them in to class.  So now is the time to be planning this pumpkin project!  Letters and book reports are free in my Simply Kinder TpT store below:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planting Pumpkins in Kindergarten

It's that time of year... time to plant pumpkins in kindergarten!  Here are some tips, tricks, and lessons I have learned over the years to make this as easy as possible for all!

Let's start with what you need:  

You will need:  
- a medium size bag of potting soil  (one of those large bags is just too much soil)
- a medium sized pumpkin
- clear plastic cups (I like the half size cups because they are more stable)
- pumpkin cutting stuff
- Ziploc bags
- chart paper and/or cover from the chart paper tablet or newspaper or butcher paper

Two things to do ahead of time... write the names on the cups (I like to use Marks-A-Lot markers because they never smear and I am just snobby about my markers) AND put potting soil into the ziplock bags so it's easier to distribute them.  

I always have a hard time with the soil because how do I "entertain" the other kids while I am helping the kids at my soil bag.  Dirts flying everywhere... kids are getting restless... just not a good plan.  Finally I got smart and I pre-measured the soil for the kiddos and they get their bag ready to go!  

I usually still like to do this activity outside because it can get messy but either way I use chart paper and the cover from a chart tablet because it's free, I didn't have to remember to bring it to school, and it's sturdy enough to roll up and throw away when we are done without breaking!  

So now we are ready to open our pumpkin!  Cut like normal and pull off the lid.  I usually cut ahead of time.. but don't pull it open until I am with the kids because they LOVE the "ooooh" and "ahhhh" that comes with the mystery of opening a pumpkin!

I like to sit in a circle to do this.  We pass the pumpkin around 2 times:  once to just look (so they can record their findings) and a second time to get some seeds.   (A picture from when I did it at my desk which is effective but sitting in a circle is how I like to do it now.)

Now that we have our seeds we are ready to plant them.  My students always use my Let's Plant Pumpkins Interactive Reader and so they are fully versed in the directions before they get to this stage.  They follow the directions... fill have the cup, drop in seeds, and then fill up the other half of the cup.  
Let's talk about seeds.  I used to be the teacher that gave everyone one seed to each child.  A few years ago I thought to myself.... why?  So we plant multiple seed AND we make sure there are few seeds near the edge so we can really see them grow!  I don't have pictures of this year but I will add them as the plants we planted this year grow!  

Once you plant the seed you put them into containers so you can easily take them outside for sun.  I like to do this into several bins so each day 4-5 kids will get to take them outside and feel apart of the experience.  I really like to use my paper tray baskets - they are just the perfect size so during this week I will often move whatever I am storing in them.  The goal is to put them in so they don't move around.   For this reason I don't do them by table because if they can move in the basket they will tip and spill.   

I use extra cups if they don't fit into the baskets snuggly... you don't want them to spill when moving them outside each day.  And you of course want to plan extra plants too so if you get a new student or if any don't grow you can replace them after school.   

Once you have them all in the basket... then you water them.  I feel like watering them is something that needs to be taught and it's too chaotic at that time to allow students to do that part just yet!  

Everyday we take the plants outside to get sun.  We look at them only in the morning and in the afternoon.  My classrooms never had any natural light so this is a step you may not need to take.  

We let the plants grow until they sprout big stems and need to be transplanted.  That usually takes a full week and one weekend. Sometimes we just find a safe place for them over that weekend.. but sometimes I take them home depending on how sensitive they have been to grow for us.  

Planting pumpkins in my class is done along side our Let's Plant Pumpkins Interactive Readers!  This  is a great little download that walks you through each step of the process and concepts that planting pumpkins teaches!  

You can of course pick up this little treasure to assist you in your pumpkin planting experience!

I have done a few things I wanted to share with you that have not worked so well! They are my planting pumpkins Pinterest FAILS!  They get a 404 stamp from Simply Kinder! 

We have all seen that pumpkin with the hundreds of sprouts sticking out.  "Just throw in some soil and the pumpkin will start sprouting right in your pumpkin."  Yeah... did that.  Pumpkin was smelly and rotting and most likely a health concern for a classroom!  We had to throw it away and move on! It became an lesson in what a pumpkin does when it rots instead of what a sprouting pumpkin plants! Oh and it smelled!!!  No bueno.  Am I alone here?  Has anyone got it to work?

The other Pinterest Fail for me.  Saw in Pinterest is where they planted seeds in these little cups.  The seeds began to sprout and the kids took the seeds out and dissected them.  Yeah that never happened in our class either.  The soil got dry and old from watering... how much do you water a tiny tiny plant?  Maybe I did not do it right?  I don't know but that lesson got trashed and we moved on!  

So there you have it!  Planting pumpkins in kindergarten can be easy and fun when planned and executed correctly!  This is what has worked for me.. but by all means do what works for you!  

Tell us about it!  What tips do you have to share with us?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Custom Class Shirts You Will Love!

I am so excited to share with you some amazing custom class t-shirts that I know you will adore!!!   

Aren't they adorable? The kids draw their little faces, you send them in, and they print the shirts!  

And guess what... I have teamed up with my Freebielicious friends for an exclusive offer and a HUGE giveaway for our readers!  Isn't that great!  We were so excited we had one of our resident artists Nikki from Melonheadz Illustrating sketch our little faces so we could have a group shirt!

Why I Love These Shirts

Ok.. I am not a t-shirt gal... I never have been.  There is just something about the shape of my body that they make me feel so uncomfortable!!!   I discovered this company about 4 years when I was lured into the cuteness of the shirts at the national teaching conferences in Vegas.  BOY was I pleasantly surprised!  There is something about the fit of these shirts... I don't feel like they are stiff or stuffy or like I am drowning in a shirt like I do in most other t-shirts I have tried to wear.  Just being honest here... I LOVE THESE SHIRTS and I know you will too!  I have several kindergarten shirts (and a cool night shirt) from them and I love every one of them!

Exclusive Discount

All Freebielicious fans who order a class set of t-shirts can save $1 on each tshirt and receive ONE FREE  teacher t-shirt with their order using promo code FREEBIE14. Orders must include 15 or more paid shirts to qualify and must be postmarked by December 31, 2014.

Enter to WIN a Class Set of Custom Classroom Faces T-Shirts

Now that you have seen how ADORABLE these t-shirts are, it's your chance to try and win a set for your classroom. The wonderful people at ClassroomFaces are graciously giving away a class set* of custom t-shirts to 3 lucky Freebielicious fans! Each set is valued at over $250. Stop by the Freebielicious blog for your chance to WIN! 

*  Some Fine Print- A class set of shirts is defined as up to 24 tshirts will be included for each prize pack. Winner can choose to order a class set of traditional single-color tshirts or t-shirts will full-color illustrations. Additional t-shirts can be purchased for $11 or $13 (depending on t-shirt size and style). Shipping is free for winners that live in the US. If a winner requires shipping outside of the US, the winner is responsible for shipping costs. (Shipping to Canada costs between $5-$20 depending on weight and location). 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Brain Breaks Old School & Kindergarten Style!

Teachers have been doing brain breaks since.... well... forever!  Developmentally younger kids need movement as a part of their every day instruction but many teachers have eliminated the traditional movements songs because of the lack of academics.  

Brain breaks are so important for our students.  Movement gets the blood flowing, following the directions gets the brain strategizing, and singing and dancing adds an element of fun most kids will love!  Students are also using several senses which is great for those struggling learners!

Ideas seem to be popping up all over the place these days and it has had me thinking... wait a minute... we kindergarten teachers have been doing this stuff forever!  

So I posed the question on the Simply Kinder Fanpage about what old school songs we used to do in kinder that add movement to your instruction and the list grew, grew, and grew!  Fingerplays and songs and nursery rhymes galore!  It was exciting to remember these from my earlier teaching days and childhood that I had forgot all about!  There was way too many for one post so this is the first in a series all about brain breaks you can do in the classroom using the music we have available to us on YouTube!  

So topic number one is...

This is the topic that started it all for me.  After some reflection, I realized I used to use a lot more music in my kindergarten classroom.  Eight years ago every transition had a song, every calendar element had it's own song (and in Spanish), and I worked in songs throughout the day to help the students focus.  As our world shifted more towards a more academic environment, we eliminated many of these songs out of our days because they weren't seen as being "academic enough."  If not directly told, guilted into eliminating them for the lack of reading, writing, and math tied directly to them.  

So here are some great little songs from the 'old school' kindergarten days that will get kids up, moving, and exercising their brains to be ready to learn!  (More than 10 because I will add to this list as I find them so we have one place with all the amazing videos!)

Shake Your Sillies Out

Listen and Move


Icky Sticky Bubble Gum

I'm Going on a Bear Hunt (nonfiction style)

Tap Your Sticks

We Are The Dinosaurs

Slippery Fish

Banana Song

If You Are Happy And You Know It

Hokey Pokey

Put Your Hands Up In the Air

BONUS:  Greg & Steve Concert Clip with lots of them!  (This is just great!)

All of these songs have either dances or motions to them.  In lieu of posting random videos of peoples' children I went with the songs that were edited and more commercial looking.  You can search these songs on YouTube and find tons of children doing the movements that go along!

Let us know... what "old school" songs do you remember from your earlier years teaching OR do you remember doing from your childhood?  Can't remember the name... sing it in the comments and we promise to sing them aloud when we read them!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Collecting Data In Kindergarten - Making It Work!

Data collection for kindergarten!  We are ready for this!  Kids learning at a nice pace and they are ready to take some ownership in learning and ready to see those gains.

So let's start with the why. This may seem like a very basic question but sometimes we need to really go back to the root of things and realize we are required to complete tasks in the classroom because they serve a purpose.  That purpose is student growth in this situation!

Data collection can be daunting, time consuming, "a waste of instructional time", and so many other things.  We can't go there because in today's day and age it is a requirement so we must make it work for us!  It is important because it leads you directly to your next teaching points and provides proof your students are learning!  So it is extremely valuable to you as a teacher and is something you should embrace with open arms because it will make your job easier!

Schools often dictate to use what testing resources we have to use.  So I encourage you to embrace those assessments, look for the positive in them and use that data to drive your instruction.  The easiest way for me to do that is through a simple Excel Spreadsheet!  That's it.  Type the students names down the column, add the row titles for dates or specific content, and begin to see the trends almost instantly with a pencil and a clipboard!  A little time consuming upfront but in the end it will payoff immensely!  That's tip number and it's so simple you just need to start.

Another thing I do in my classroom that makes huge impact is building those skills into my instruction.  Today's game is fluency and automaticity.  For kindergarten right now that means practicing letter fluency with these Free Letter Naming Fluency practice pages!  You can easily add into your daily or weekly routine and see result fairly quickly.  (There is also a free nonsense word fluency freebie as well for our first grade friends or those ready for blending!)

I don't post this without opening myself up to some debate... "practicing for the test is not appropriate" and all those arguments we all know.  I am not practicing for the test.   Letter naming fluency - the ability to recall letters quickly shows automaticity.  This is not a test... it is the test but it is not the test!  Does that make sense?  

For me... I relate it to riding a bike.  I don't teach a child to ride bike by giving them 100 activities that include a bike, are about a bike, or in the bike family of activities.  I teach a child to ride a bike by putting them on a bike.  So simple right?  Same thing... if my goal is automaticity... and I want kids to read without processing what they are seeing.. then I am going to teach them and have them practice how to do this.  We do this with letters, we do this with shapes, we do this with numbers, and we pretty practice the theory of automaticity with everything at our age range!  Just because the official letter test is in this form does not mean it is not a valuable instructional tool as well.  Teaching is a passion... go with what you think is right and with what you are required to in your school!

Kindergarteners are also ready to track what they learn!  We do this within reason and with lots of support with my Free Monster Data Book!   Posted for free with tips and tricks because I understand how difficult this is to accomplish in a kindergarten classroom!  I have lived, I was required to do it, and to be honest... I was required to do other things that rocked my beliefs as a teacher!  (I eventually quit that district and followed what was in my heart but that's a whole other blog post!)

So these are easy to use graphs the kids can manage to help track their data on a level they understand.  They don't have to be perfect, they will not always be the most accurate, but they build accountability with students for learning and show growth on an individual level that cannot be matched by any other program IMO.

Above picture is tacking how many letters they know specifically.  I check the letters they gained, they go back and color only those in... support them with that at first.  This allows them and you to focus on the next best letters to do in small groups because it is so clear!  (In the above picture I would probably do z (because most kids know that letter already and it's easy.)  What would you do?

We also track our DIBELS progress monitoring.  We do one a month as needed.  Students who don't need this graph, we just leave it blank in their book!  If bringing the data to the forefront for a student is not going to help them... then why do it?  (Although it does make a great parent resource.)  

Again... free Monster Data Book!  With tips and tricks... you can't go wrong!

Last resource I use for data tracking is Checklist Assessments.  This is an organized list of the standards that I personally track in my classroom.  They are spreadsheets by concept that and I literally with have a pencil and clipboard and check off when I see a child knows the letter or number or whatever on that list.  

Look at the above checklist that are a part of my Kindergarten Checklist Assessments... I can see exactly what children to call to my small group table to work on writing the letter B!  It's amazing!  I do pencil so that I can circle and erase if I need to call attention to a certain cell on the spreadsheet!  Beginning of the year kinder... useful data to collect is letter sounds, letter names, shape names, letter identification, counting to number, and colors.  (Click the link to see those.)

Checklist Assessments for Kindergarten

And then after students accomplish a whole line of data... I highlight their name so that visually I can let go of that child for that particular skills set.  (You can see that in the picture below.)  

I know this topic can create some frustration on our part because we just want to teach. I would love to hear your concerns, what you do, and any comments of encouragement you have if you use data in your classrooms!  Comment below!

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