Sunday, July 27, 2014

Back To School Sale!

It's just around the corner... Back to School!  Some are already even back... can you believe that?  

My favorite item has to be the Welcome to School Chalkboard Bulletin Board set shown here by Jennifer from First Grade Blue Skies!

Isn't it amazing!?  Seriously she can take any regular old thing and make it look so AMAZING!  (She's having a sale too so be sure to head that way as well!)  I have truly loved seeing them pop up on social media sites as teachers use them!  Be sure to tag #SimplyKinder if you share because I would love to see!  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Getting Ready For Parents - A Tip & Freebies!

Getting down to the nitty gritty of planning!  So here's a freebie and a tip to help you keep everything organized and clear for your parents!

The freebie first!   ABC's of Your Class!   Now not only does it look this great but it is editable!  I love this because it is completely customizable to any grade, any teacher or school!  It's a great thing to get ready over the summer for Back to School or Meet the Teacher Night!  {And did I mention it's free?}

Here is a sneak peek at mine.. you will have to download it to read the rest!

And now a tip to help you at meet the teacher night!  I color code my printed materials and staple them together.  The white copies are everything they can take home and the pink copies are everything that they must fill out and leave there.  

So there are 2 packets each family needs, stapled together and very clear as to what to do!

Because I do it this way... I don't make copies until about an hour before Meet the Teacher night so that I don't have ANY stray papers they may bring at the last minute and say give this to your families!  I will have a bin on my table to put them in and say to each student before they leave... "Did I get your green papers?"  

I just love my top green page because I feel like parents just all want to tell me about their kid!  (And I know as a parent I am super anxious to just lay it all on the table for them!)  It's really fun and insightful to read what they say about their children!  {But be warned... there is a always a story that will make you cry and always multiple that will crack you up!}  Love taking these home and reading them for sure!  This is also FREE in my RANDOM FREEBIE file about midway through!  

OK - back to planning!  A fun video to remind us of the reality of what is coming! LOL - love those kinder kiddos!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kid President Everyday Challenge!

I have been talking a lot lately about what I have learned as a teacher from my experiences as a parent with a child struggling to learn.  The other day I posted about how I took my behavior chart down and today I am going to share another with you and challenge you to do this as well!

With messages like below, it's so important!  I noticed as I was working with kids that they really don't do enough positive self talk to become truly happy people!  So me being the teacher I am... I decided I was going to do something to change it!  

(An image taken from pinterest, click image to see!)

We started watching Kid President EVERY SINGLE DAY!  This exact video.  

With messages like:
- It's OK to disagree but it's not OK to be mean
- Life is tough, but so are you
- I have BBQ sauce on my shirt too
- If you can't think of anything nice to say, you are not thinking hard enough
SERIOUSLY LOVE THIS KID!  These are lessons the kids to to speak in their sleep!  

Check out the full video below:

We started by watching it all the way through.   Then we would pause one a day (starting with the easy ones) and really talk about it.  We would come up with examples that related to the classroom and home.  These conversations literally took about 10 minutes tops and they made a huge difference in the long run!

After awhile (probably 2 months) my kids could recite the video.  I found it humorous but then I noticed the kids were saying these things to each other.  I will NEVER forget when a little girl responded to another who had cut in line "everything is going to be OK."  Of course I dealt with the line cutter, but my little girl who was upset really needed to keep things in perspective and realize it was going to be OK!  And I did not have to intervene... the other students did it and it was WAY MORE POWERFUL!

We eventually got to the more complex examples like the BBQ sauce one.  We really focused on  how we should not be pointing the finger at each other so much in life.  After all, "if you can't think of anything nice to say, you are not thinking hard enough!"  It takes time, but the lessons are so meaningful!

So I challenge you to do the same.  It will take about 3 minutes to play the video and then any discussion you have will be extra of course.  But the time will pay off in the end for sure!  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why I Took My Behavior Chart Off My Wall!

I shared with everyone the other day about the struggles I had with my own son and his ability to learn.  As you can imagine, this really began to shape the way I approach teaching and learning for all students in my class.  With this came some pretty big changed in my class and so I wanted to start sharing this with you and challenging you to do some of the same.

The first change I made was pretty major and a whole lot of little scary.

That's right.. I removed my behavior chart!

Let's start by saying my son was never a behavior problem.    That actually worked against us I think because if he had not been so mellow and easy going in class  that he may just have got services a little quicker.

That being said, I really started to think about what happens when kids don't understand.  What behaviors and mannerisms come out during this time.  What are the root causes to the issues that happen and what am I REALLY doing to help?

So with that... my behavior chart came off the wall this last school year!  It felt a little crazy; a little bit like what on earth am I doing but I am so glad I did it!

So why did I make this move?

I really felt as if I was quick to just call people out and have them go pull their card.  Someone was talking while I was talking... I gave a warning and then they had to pull their card.  They had to do the walk of shame over to the wall and their card had to be on my yellow pocket chart for the rest of the day.  But did I really give that child a fair chance to explain why they were talking.  Simply stated - no.  I would have a conversation with them after but the emotional damage and embarrassment was done and that really started killing ME inside.  And then to post it on the wall for everyone to see just seemed unfair.

So we started focusing on rules more!  I made these great rules to use in my room and we began to make that the focus.   Every day we would stand behind our chairs and my handy helper would point while the entire class recited the rules.  Every day... we never missed.  I started referring to my rules in my instruction.... I would say remember the rule and they all would repeat it.

I have posted these rules on my blog a couple times and I honestly just made them for me so this summer I cleaned them up and made them editable so you can change the words on them if you want.    These are the rules that I use for my own specific classroom that I have found to be effective but the file is completely editable so you can change the pictures to say whatever you want!  They also come with an emergent reader, graphic organizers, and writing pages that are all editable so you can make them match what you choose to do in your classroom!

One of the best pieces of the download above I went ahead an included in the FREE PREVIEW.  It's the parent note home.  I always did the calendar where I colored what color they were so my parents always knew what the day looked like but rarely wrote notes or explained what rules we had talked about that day. That's where this form came from.  So if I speak with a child about a rule, at the end of the day (or when we talk) they have to circle what rules we talked about.   I stressed to my families and kids it did not mean they were 'in trouble' but that we just talked.  This was hard for them at first but they eventually got it... we were just informing family what we talked about.  Parents were required to sign and send back the next day.  It was not a punitive thing but a learning thing.  

Again the above form is part of the freebie of my rules program in the preview option but you can really get rid of your wall clip chart with any rules program you use!

So what exactly did my behavior program look like?

At the end of every day each child got a card and there were 3 options.

- a orange card - they had a perfect & expected day
- a purple car - I picked a couple a day to get purple
- or a yellow - a rule reminder card (which is the form above)

3 options - that's it!  This came from a conversation I had with my friend  friend Callie at Teach-A-Roo.  She is the Clip Chart Queen and has a whole program that will help you be successful at it if you are not willing to take the leap with me.  The cards are a part of her program where at the end of every day she gives kids a card - like an award to take home.

At my school we had a school store and students traded those cards in for money to use in the school store (10 cards good cards (orange) or 5 excellent (purple) cards for $1.)  If you don't have a school store, you could easily trade in 10 for a treasure chest pick.  Kids just store their reward cards in a pencil pouch in their desk.  Kids then colored their calendar the color of their card for the day.

Next natural question is... did you have consequences?  YES, of course!  Consequences were always teacher choice which was most of the time 5 minutes lost of recess.  Felt crazy at first, but if the goal is AMAZING behavior, why do we post loss recess and call home on the wall?  I shifted my focus towards the positive and the kids knew it was my choice if need be.  We did a lot of talking how consequences would be fair and sometimes I let kids pick the consequences.  Those were WAY worse than anything I could come up with.  These were always done after I shifted focus in the lesson or after the lesson.  (As you become more positive - your kids do too and the need for this is less and less.)

I really began reflecting on what I was doing and where I was putting my focus when those behaviors happened. I goal was to make the need for consequence way less than it had been in previous years!

So what exactly would it look like when I have that situation?  Our lessons are filled with many different components.  Say little Johny was being disruptive during a story - I would go sit on the other side of my carpet closer to him (student were trained to just move their eyes with me.)  I would become more engaging by acting crazy as a character in the story.  We would stop and remind ourselves of a rule as a class - never calling out that student but reciting as a full class.  Children generally want to please you and so it began to be the tone that I expect you to sit and be respectful!

One trick I used I posted about a few months ago called passing the positive.  Here I just took an object and the  kids passed it to the person I saw doing something good.  So if there was a student with an undesired behavior - I would say oh thanks Johny for sitting quietly, please pass the fish to Amy who is sitting on her bottom.  You want to see all of your kids fix themselves to sit on their bottoms super quick... definitely try this strategy! The kid with the fish at the end of the day got a treasure chest pick. This NEVER got old and the kids would be so excited to have a chance to hold the fish each day even if they did not have it last!

Now what about when a student is being defiant or out of control.  We all know that planning and management is KEY in your classroom - whatever works for you works for you!  Reflection again - is this part of my lesson too long, is that student not engaged, is the partnering off?  Don't be afraid to change your lesson in mid stream - things don't go as planned all the time and tell kids that so they become empathetic towards you and a part of the experience.    This strategy can also be used to divert the other kids attention if there is an issue so you can deal with what you need to without causing any embarrassment.

And that's ultimately the thing for me... we don't want children to feel embarrassed for things that are out of their control or call attention to poor choices in front of others.  Often times these types of behaviors are a coping mechanism for being uncomfortable for many reasons like not understanding or being afraid.  .We should never want them to learn anything from that negative or embarrassing experience but learn through the positive experiences.  Some will probably argue with me over that statement I am sure but when it's your own child acting a certain way because factors are not ideal for them to be successful it may be a little different (home life, academic understanding, hunger or whatever it may be,).  We want them to learn from the positive not the negative experiences that happen in our care!  And by no means am I saying students don't make poor choices but I want my modeling to be of positive interactions.

Now - did I have the students who would have outbursts and need to go sit at their seats.  Yes - but those students often had bigger issues we needed to address.  As a matter of fact, two of those students this last year were eventually placed in self contained classrooms.  The key here to think about is the misbehaviors could be indicators something is off!  This is so important especially in the early years as we are often told to wait for testing - there is no magic age a learning difference kicks on so if they have an IEP or not if they are showing indicators of certain issues we should provide those accommodations as a part of our differentiation!    To not give kids the benefit of the doubt that something else is going on is so not worth the cost of losing years of interventions and I think that's where I ultimately am coming from!   Can I get an AMEN?!

I know this all sounds crazy and very Mary Poppins to you... but I swear it's not.
Take the leap.  Pull that public statement off the wall!  It will all work itself out!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Magic School Bus Science Kits!

I seriously am in love with these things and I brought them to Vegas to show all my teacher friends how we are missing out on this amazing resource in our classrooms!

My love for these started at home.  I had a homeschooling friend who emailed me and said... "Hey Jen, have you even thought of getting those Magic School bus Science kits for Braedon?"  The come across Educents all the time and I have seen them but never really looked into them but I was definitely intrigued.  So I ordered a set of 4:  Weather Lab, Nature, Microscopes, and a Slime Lab!

I was SHOCKED when the box arrived.. talk about excitement!  Each set comes in it's own box shown above!  Over 40 activity cards that start with basic science safety, supplies you would not be able to find at home like tubes, a thermometer, stuff to make your own compass, and a science journal are all included!   Everything fits nicely back into the box when we are done and so I had one happy camper who was excited for science!!!  (Now that's what I am talking about!)

So I started to think... this stuff would be AMAZING for school!  The items included in the kit are SO DURABLE and meant for little hands!  My kids could so easily do these activities in a center without breaking the items.  Now - some of you are saying.. but wait.. we don't do science centers!  I know, I know.  But if you paired these activities with a writing journal in your writing lab you would be gravy!  You are giving your students first hand experiences with weather so they can then go and write words and sentences about it!  Amazing!

Each kit comes with from what I can tell over 40 activity cards.  Take a peek. 
Activities include:
making clouds in a bottle
making rain
making a wind vane
building a weather station
greenhouse effect
making a thermometer
making a tornado
making a pinwheel
creating a rainbow
making a swirling snake (wind)
creating your own weather chart
using the sun to read time
making a compass (to see which was the wind blows)
making water disappear

With 40 activity cards you can see that not every activity has a hands on component to it which is great because you teach these things in slow steps your students will understand!  

Check out this experiment below.  Have you ever been asked "Mrs. Kadar, what happens to the rain on the ground?"  Insert your own name of course.  =)  I have a million times and I tell the kids 'oh it evaporates.'  So with this activity we mark the water in the circle and actually see it disappear over time - drawing a circle around the original puddle with your Scentos markers.  Then in a followup activity we explore clouds through a sponge... and how when the sponge gets more and more water in it, it will start to drip (or RAIN!)  The activities are so simple and yet they create that meaning for the kids! 
This is making learning so much more meaningful for kids!  And these kits are perfect our classrooms!  For kids like my son who struggle to learn, this is paramount!  

They will need a few minor adjustments because the activities are made for one instead of several.  For example, the wind snake you are given one but it's just spiral on a piece of paper.  Many of the activities you will do as demonstrations and then they can journal about them very easily based off what the class as a whole experiments on.  

Overall... as a parent and a teacher these kits get an A+, an Exceeds, and two thumbs up!  

Educents runs these kits often and so right now you can get a full years worth, I believe it's one kit mailed at a time to you at 50% off!!!!  It appears that these ones don't come with the boxes (which to be honest if you had 12 of them it would take up some room in your storage area if you have that.)  From what I can tell all the kits are in different combinations so this may be a good way stock up on science curriculum that is hands-on, meaningful, and fun!

Happy Science Everyone!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Never Run Out of Tissues Again - A Bright Idea!

It's Bright Idea time again... and I have to admit.. this is totally not my Bright Idea but one that was shared with us at school one day and SO worthy of sharing with the world!!  We all work with so many amazing teachers who don't blog or share on social media but is too cool not to share with the world for her!

Does your school provide tissues?  If you are like my experiences in school it's very limited and then we move towards donations.  Then we eventually move towards... go get some toilet paper in the bathroom or the ever so popular (and hard to break) using of the sleeve... ewh!

So... why not put that toilet paper right in your room?  And guess what - it fits on a paper towel holder!!!  Two whole rolls!  How cool is that?  LOL.  So I headed to the local Goodwill and bought the cheapest one I could find!  It's missing the top and looks a little funky but hey...!  And toilet paper is so cheap (and I bet many schools will give it to you for free too!)  Super Bright Ideas right?!

To see other Bright Ideas from more teachers click the links below!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Amazing & Free Sight Word Ninja App

I am just in love with the Sight Word Ninja app... I had to officially share with you all!  Totally free and all of your kids will love but especially your struggling readers!
I used this app in my classroom last year with just my personal iPhone.  I had zero technology so this was honestly my only option to integrate technology!  So I would put a student at my small group table on the side or on the floor so I could monitor them.  My son Braedon LOVES this app too!  As a matter of fact, my almost two year old likes to slice the words and at this point I don't care that can identify the words or not... he is playing with words and that is all I care about!
But being honest.. I did not know about all the features this app had until I had time this summer to really go into the settings!   So to get in you have to do a 3 finger password.  

This is where you can really customize the app to what your class needs!  

From what I can tell from using the app:
Difficulty - the speed at which the words fly through the air.
Random Playback - words repeating
Game Duration - how long the game lasts

But it get's better:

You can select the grade level!  How cool is that?!  But wait....

You can go into each level and select what specific words you want to include!  I just think this is amazing.. I can customize what words we are practicing for the week!!!  How cool is that!

Kids just absolutely love slicing the word they hear!  It's a great play on a very popular game they already play for sure!  This app gets an A+ from me!
This is GREAT for your struggling readers because when you use technology reading becomes multisonsory!  Click here to see an article on why iPad's are good for the dyslexic brain - but don't let the word "dyslexic" stray you from reading it... multi sensory is good for ALL STRUGGLING READERS dyslexic or not!
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