Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Snap Cube Math Center Freebie

Snap cube activities are always a favorite of my students!  Students will work on counting and logic skills to create an various objects!  It's endless fun and our Thanksgiving set is free!

So basically what the students do is see the image and then try to copy it with the snap cubes.  You can see below this young man is trying to line the snap cubes up... strategizing how to get them to look like the sample shown.  

Eventually the students will begin to make the connection that they can count the rows, and copy the colors shown in the image.  Then making snap cube images (or words or numbers) will be easy as pie!  

This download is free for your students to work on ONLY in my Teachers Pay Teachers Marketplace!  

If you like this snap cube center, you will want to check out Sight Word Snap Cubes, Number Snap Cubes, and our season sets!  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Visiting a Local Dairy Farm - A great field trip for your students!

As a kindergarten teacher I have done many farms in my day!  Farms are a great place to visit any time of year because they provide your students with an experience to see how farms work, how animals help us, and it is a great hands-on experience that no literature book can provide!

I was so excited to be invited to visit Kerr Dairy this past week with the Diary Council of AZ and Blended Extended.  Kerr Dairy is a family run farm that has been around for over 100 years!  It has over 1000 cows that produce milk! This milk is used to make products that are shipped all over the US!  It was pretty amazing to tour the farm and listen to all of the options and opportunities this dairy provides local schools!

We were toured around the farm by several Kerr family members.  Below is Wes and he was our official tour guide for the day.  It is a working farm and so our experience was very true to what a farm life is like with tractors driving by right during our lessons.  

Because Kerr Dairy is a family run farm, they are able to really customize the tour to fit the needs of your students.  

The academic links for kindergarten visiting a local dairy farm are:
- observe and describe animals in local environments
-  observing using multiple senses
- communicating observations
- describing people who use science (farmers)
- describe how different resources and tools make life easier
- pretty much any literacy and writing standard you can incorporate through books

It was also very interesting to hear about all the options the older students have for academic links with a farm visit!  Genetics, nutrition, and the use scientific method to experiment with cutting edge farming techniques were all extremely interesting conversations!

We started our tour by walking through cow stables.  They are sectioned off by ages (or stages of life) in order to make sure they get the appropriate diets, care, and such.  We actually missed the birth of a cow by about 2 minutes!  It was really cool to see the mommy cow care for her baby and see the baby try to stand up for the first time!  

From there we got to go into the milk room!  There was no glass between us and the cows, no non-farming barriers to separate us!  It was really neat to be so close - so close we could actually see what was going on!  

Once the milk is collected it is stored in these giant stainless steel containers!  This was probably the coolest part of the whole day... we got to climb up and see the milk that had been collated that day!  This was not something I had been allowed to do at any other farm so it is definitely a special treat you can share with your students!

From there we got to go see the baby cows!  This is always a favorite part for students!  If you plan a trip to a dairy, ask and make sure the farm you select has this experience for your students!

You notice in the picture above that one of the cows is brown.  We all know it's inevitable as teachers that the students will ask "Is that a chocolate milk cow?"  This is another reason why Kerr Dairy is so fun because about 15% of their cows are this red color so they are all over the place!

Here is a short video for your students about milk!  It has many facts about farming and milk so if you are not able to visit a dairy farm you can still soak up the learning!  

Here is a great video with lots of facts about milk for first grade (maybe second) and above.  It's LOADED with facts too from the Arizona Milk Producers!

If you are looking for a great educational place to take your students, a local dairy farm is a great option!  

Have you been to a dairy farm?  Tell us where!  

Disclaimer: I was provided the opportunity to visit this farm with the Diary Council of AZ through a campaign with Blended Extended. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Classroom Thanksgiving Feast with Pilgrim & Indian Hat Freebie

November is such a great month!  One of the reasons why I love it so much is because it's a great time to have a classroom feast with your students!  It's a great time to learn about Thanksgiving and celebrate being friends and working together!

Let's be honest, a kindergarten feast looks nothing like the table above!  Not only can I not cook a turkey, but schools have so many restrictions on food and cooking now that this would be impossible!  So here is how we pull off a Thanksgiving Feast!  

For our classroom feast, we ask for donations of store bought items.   The list includes carrots in sealed bags, apple sauce, whipping cream, packaged ham and turkey, and popcorn.  We do breakfast in the classroom, so we save juices but you could easily ask for those as well.  Then as teachers we buy pies and cornbread.  

And yes, that's butcher paper on the floor!  Nothing fancy.  Easy set up and even easier clean up!  We plate the food.  Place the food on the butcher paper while the kids are working on something.  (Sometimes we will put all the students in one room while we set up the Thanksgiving Feast room.)  Then after we eat, we roll it all up and throw it away!  So simple and a great memory for the students and families who attend!

During our Thanksgiving time studies we of course learn about the pilgrims and the Indians!  Part of these activities include making items to wear for during the feast.  Each child makes a Pilgrim and an Indian and then that day they pick which they would like to go as!  

The templates for all of them are included in this free download from TpT!

I also have some Thanksgiving Poems that are a part of my Poetry Center for the month that also fit nicely into our feast!  So we start our feast by reciting poems!

These are two poems I have picked up along the way!  Made before the days of clipart, font, and borders!  

We also sing one of my favorite classroom songs.... The More We Get Together.  It seems just so fitting!  

And that's it.  Simple, fun, and very memorable for your students!  

Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 Gingerbread Exchange

We are excited to announce that this year Simply Kinder will be hosting a Gingerbread Exchange!

That's right, we will be hosting a Gingerbread Exchange for 2014!  

In a nutshell, your class will make gingerbread people and write letters or stories about them.  You will package them up and mail them to a partner teacher as a class set.  Your partner classroom will do the same.  So you will both receive a classroom set of gingerbread people and letters from the other class!  

Here's how it will work:

1.  Sign up and make the commitment to participate.  (Sign ups are now closed.)  Sign ups will only be available for a few days in order to have enough time to match everyone up!  

2.  Simply Kinder will assign you a partner class.  Your partner class will be in a different part of the US and have approximately the same number of students your partner classroom's class.  (Please allow some time for me to partner you up.)  

3.  Connect with your partner classroom teacher via email if you wish.  You can customize your project with your partner teacher directly if you wish!

4.  Make your gingerbread people.  Get creative and make them amazing!  Glitter, spices, and bows - the possibilities are endless!  Please make the number to gingerbread people requested so that each student in your partner classroom will get a gingerbread person to keep!  Because of this you may need to make some extras.  I have uploaded several free templates into my TpT store for you to use if you wish. 

5.  Have your students write letters or stories to match their gingerbread people.  Or you can do a class letter/story.  If you get a class letter, I would suggest copying it so each student can take a gingerbread and letter home to keep!  

6.  Mail your gingerbread people to your partner classroom by December 1st.  I like to do class sets so you can put all the gingerbread people and letters/stories in one envelop to save on shipping.  

7.  Receive your gingerbread people and letters for your class.  The goal is for each student to keep a letter and a gingerbread person!  

(Sign ups are now closed.)

If you have any questions, please comment below and we can answer them for you!

Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Things You Should Do If You Think Your Child Has a Learning Disability

There are five things you should do if you think your child has a learning disability (or the more political way to say it -  a learning difference.  This is an important post that you may not need now or that may not pertain to your family, but I assure you will will want these 5 tips to share with a friend who is struggling to make sense of what their child faces each day!

Google the symptoms.  
You can tell something is different with your child but you just can't put your finger on it.  Start looking at things in smaller parts and Google them!  For me, it was alarming that my kindergartener had zero phonemic awareness.  He knew only a few letters and could not blend which are common tasks for kindergarteners these days.  These were symptoms of the issue at hand.  So start with some Google searches and put yourself in the ballpark for what the issue could be.  

Start talking about it.  
Start talking to anyone who will listen!  You are not alone and you will want to identify some people who can help you figure this out.  This is so important because when you find these people, they will help you navigate the world to get appropriate help.  For my family, had I done this before I sought out independent doctor advise, I may have selected a different doctor.  So it's very important because it may ultimately effect your bottom line.  (If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to try something or a certain book to read, I would be rich!)

Join Facebook Groups. 
Doing a simple search on Facebook for groups can do a world of good!  This will connect you with others who have already walked a mile in your shoes!  If you are not sure what your child could possibly have, join groups for common diagnosis's for children today and read through what other families have to say.  Look for similarities with your child and theirs to find the right group for you.  In the search bar on Facebook, type in the keywords and select the ones that are groups.  Some may be closed groups, request to join and I guarantee they will welcome you with open arms.  

Request school testing.  
You should do this immediately!  There is no harm in having a true learning difference ruled out. Put it in writing and hand deliver it to your school's office.  In that letter, request exactly what your concerns are using the following categories:  a learning disability (cognitive testing), occupational disorder (gross or fine motor issues), speech disorder (which can include processing language not just mispronunciations), and/or social emotional (if they have trouble coping with things.)  There are others but these are the main ones that pop into my head.  It is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that if you request testing they have to do it.  But what happens sometimes is the team meets and the "group decides" that it is best to wait for testing.  Do not let them talk you of testing!  There is no benefit to waiting for services but huge emotional harm can be done if a child with a learning difference is left in a classroom without services.  You have an opinion and your opinion counts in that meeting; stick to your purpose and just get the testing done now!    

Seek outside help.  
Let's face it, the only person who is truly looking out for your child is you (or your family).  Sad to say, but schools deal with budgets, staffing hours, and tons of children who need services.  Although legally the school has to provide you with this service, the sad truth is that it does not always happen in the best way for your child.  This is why I highly recommend seeking your own professional opinion.  Start with your regular doctor.  Tell them something is different with your child.  Don't let them brush over the topic and don't let them tell you the school should handle either.  Whatever that next step is, take it.  For my family it was seeing a developmental pediatrician.  He was able to test my child and provide us with some results to take to our IEP meeting.  For me, I considered this a step to becoming more informed on what my child was facing so when my IEP came around I was able to say XYZ needed to be done for him.  

Now with that being said, there is also a law that says if you are not happy with your child's school evaluation, you have the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation.  In this instance you would request (in writing) that your child have an outside evaluation from a third party.  This is typically done after they do an in-house evaluation I believe.  And from what I understand you don't have to give a reason for doing so but this is not an option my family chose to do.  We paid for our outside evaluation ourselves.  But if you are interested in this option, you can definitely good Independent Educational Evaluation and find help!  

There you have it!  Five things that you should do if you think your child has a learning disability.  It is so frustrating to be a parent and not know how to help your child and these steps will help empower you to advocate for your little one!  

It's never too soon and stick to your purpose!  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Trick & Treat Blog Hop - No Candy At School

It's time for some teacher Teaching Trick & Treating and I have a special treat for you so your students don't bring Halloween candy to school!

That's right - I have teamed up with my Freebielicious friends again to share some 
teaching tricks and special free treats for you!  

My treat for you is this fun little flyer to send home to remind students to keep their Halloween candy at home!  Click the image to download it from my Random Freebies file on Teachers Pay Teachers!  

And my trick goes along the same lines!  Kids get SO MUCH CANDY during this time and they never eat it all.  So I always ask my families to donate any treats their students won't eat to our class for incentives.  I usually get a good amount of candy and trinkets to either put in my treasure box OR have in my cabinet to pull out when needed!  

Hop along to the next Freebielicious friend to see what their Trick & Treat is!

Kinder Alphabet

Sunday, October 26, 2014

8 Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Their Time Off

My family is getting ready to take our annual family trip to Disneyland. This time of year, I tend to go off on a rant about why it is okay for teachers to take time off.  

Let me start by saying this post is not intended to encourage teachers to use their time off irresponsibly.   In schools today teachers are often highly discouraged from using thier earned/granted time off and I just feel that there is a part of it that is wrong.  Each school and district has it's own designation of sick, personal, or time of days allotted each year and I am only trying to suggest that if teachers need to use a sick day they should or if they want to use a personal day they should as well.  In no other profession I know are people given a benefit and then told they cannot use it.  I feel like we work with children and so by nature we are kind hearted people and I feel like by discouraging teachers to use time off is taking advantage of the fact that teacher genuinely want what is best for students!

That being said, here are the reasons why I take some of my days off every year for family vacation and why I feel it's okay for your to as well!

1.  Because my family is more important than my career!  Does that mean my students are not important?  Absolutely not! But it does mean my family is important too and I strive to have a good balance of home and work and you all should too.  The quaintly of education you provide to your students is not determined by who works the most hours!

2.  Because vacation is expensive.  My family goes to Disneyland every year.  I am not going to pay  to go to Disneyland and go when the rest of the world is out of school.  The lines, the weather, the events in the park are all factors on when we decide to go.  It's expensive and we want to get the most out of our experience.  We strategically go a certain time every year, and it has yet to fall around  major spring, fall, or summer breaks.

3.  Because teachers often work 10-12 hour days.  Teaching is exhausting and we deserve a break too.    I put a lot of time into my classroom all year long.  Any teacher will tell you planning for a substitute is probably more work than just staining in the classroom and teaching!  It's okay for me to take some mental health time and for my students to have a substitute!

4.  Because it's good to get a break.  I love my students and I love teaching but that does not mean that if I take a day or two off that I love them any less.  It also does not mean I am any less effective of a teacher.  I would argue having a balanced life makes me more effective!  But those who do take time off are often made to feel bad for doing so and it's not right.  We are more than just teachers - we are parents, spouses, siblings, etc.  Sometimes you just need a break!

5.  Because my schedule as a teacher should not always dictate the plans of the rest of my family.  My children do go to the school in which I work.  And my husband cannot always take days off around my scheduled breaks.  Sometimes when we go on vacation we go with other members of our extended family or with friends.  Everybody has schedules to juggle and just because I am a teacher does not mean that my schedule overrides theirs.  It's a give and take and if I am able to schedule something during a break, I of course will.  But if not, then we do what is best for my family overall.

6. Because your time off is a benefit offered to you and budgeted into their business plan.  FTE is what an employer pays to have a Full Time Employee (FTE) on staff.  It calculates your benefits including medical insurance, your sub days, and other fees they pay to have you employed there.  Employers allot a higher price per FTE than that person's salary to cover all the costs of employing that person.  In other words, although your salary is $40K a year, it actually costs the district $65k (not a real number) to employ you.   Businesses plan for you to use your time because it is a benefit just the same as they plan for you to use your insurance.  Part of me wonders if  there is anything they can do about it because it is a benefit.

7.  Because school budget issues have changed over the years.  Does your district have this problem?  Essentially, many districts only allot so much money for substitutes.  Often by the end of the year, all the sub money is gone.  Teachers are then forced to split classes instead of getting subs when they are gone.  So many school districts highly discourage you to use your time unless it is absolutely necessary.  10-15 years ago did we ever roll our eyes at teachers who took time off?  I don't remember this.  It was the crash of the economy (IMO) that put strain on school budgets to the point that they had to start cutting back and watching what they spend.  So they cut back on how many sub days they give schools but did not cut back on the amount of days they give teachers. So essentially they are saying you can have 10 days off each year if you need but we will only provide you coverage for 6 of them.   Guilt factor kicks in and the mindset starts to change that we cannot use our days!  

8.  Because I don't plan on retiring as a teacher.  Many districts will only allow you to trade time off days for retirement points.  Just being honest, I don't see myself in the public education system for the next 22 years let alone in the same district that long.  I just feel as if there is something else out there for me in education.  And who is to say in 22 years when I have enough points to retire that this option will still be there.  

There you have it - why I feel it's OK for me to use my days off as a teacher!

For the last 9 years and through 3 school districts I have taken up to 3 days off every November to go to Disneyland.  Although I have had many conversations with administrators and other teachers about why they feel it's not okay to use my time off, it has never effected any of my evaluations or any of my test scores.

I am not trying to tell you to use your days irresponsibly.  I always have a bank of days to use when necessary.  And I am by no means saying take 100% of your days each year.  The districts I have worked in either have no distinction on why you are out or have a portion of the days designated as personal days.  Even though we have these personal days, many teachers choose not to use them and they do not roll over to the next year.  And I am not calling in sick and going to Disneyland - I am honest and upfront about what I am doing.  We all know people who do this (and many of us pass judgement on them).  They don't always like it but it has never been held against me.  I am hopeful teachers are able to be honest and upfront as I have been.  Just because it's discouraged does not mean it is not doable.  We as teachers should not feel guilty for taking 3 days off to spend with our families!

What happens where you work?  Are you allowed to take your time off?  Do you feel it's okay for you to do so?  
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