Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Giving away the # BESTDAYEVER with Chevrolet and A Differentiated Kindergarten

What if you could give away the #BestDayEver? 

You know, it really IS better to give than it is to receive.  I really do believe that.  That feeling of paying it forward or awarding someone with a random act of kindness, more often than not, gives us a feeling that is as gratifying if not more than being the recipient.  So when Chevrolet told me about their #BestDayEver day of happiness, I knew I had to get in on the action.

If you could give someone the best day ever, what would you do?  Today, April 1st, Chevrolet is giving people all over the country the #BestDayEver, and they've invited me along for the fun.  While they're surprising folks all over the country in unique and fun ways, I get to find some deserving folks in our own teaching community to surprise with a #BestDayEver too.

So here's the question, if you could give someone in our community . . . a teacher  . . . administrator  . . . recess aide . . .  or school worker . . . whoever we see working with kids, the best day ever, who would you give it to and what would you give them?

So often, we never think about the people who we work with everyday as 'needing' anything, but, quite often, these are the folks who are so deserving of being recognized. 

For some great ideas about we could give the teachers to assure them the #BestDayEver, I went to the experts.  That's right, the McGuire boys had some great ideas about what they would do for their own teachers.

It's all about paying it forward and giving someone else the #BestDayEver.  Have a massage therapist come to school and give back rubs during during lunch, treat your classroom aide who loves theatre to a night out, fund another teacher's Donors Chose project, reserve a prime parking space right next to the door for someone who always has a ton of supplies to carry in each day, give a bouquet of gift cards to a teacher who consistently is digging into their own pockets for school supplies, give a teacher a substitute for a day so they can copy, laminate and prep for their class, have lunch delivered to your office staff, remodel a classroom or just have a nice hot cup of coffee delivered to a favorite co-worker. Get creative, think about what it would mean to someone else, nominate anyone who works with kids, and tell me what you would do to give them their own #BestDayEver.  

So how can you give someone the #BestDayEver?  Tell me who you would give the #BestDayEver and what you would give them in my comments below.  

I will be picking a couple of winners today, so don't wait.  Leave me your nomination right away and remember to use #BestDayEver in your entry. 

And in the meantime, stop over and check out all the incredible ways that Chevrolet is making today the #BestDayEver for people all over the country by visiting by clicking HERE  or the button below.

I can't wait to hear how you would make the #BestDayEver for someone you know. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” Chevrolet compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Cleaning Sale 20% Off Everything.

They tell me it's Spring.  You could have fooled me when I looked at a whooping 4 degrees on the thermometer this morning. (I'm not kidding.  It really did!)  But regardless, it's time to get rid of those wintery blues and start thinking butterflies, flowers and HEAT.

And to get you in the mood, I'm throwing a little sale of my own.  20% off everything and anything in my store.

That means that even my greatest and latest, I CAN DO IT MYSELF-Addition and Subtraction are on sale.  

I love having an activity that is completely independent and self-correcting, 

but more importantly, my kinders love these activities for math and literacy as well.

To see these and all my products, just head over to my store by clicking HERE.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Game Play, Freebies and Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Chapter 4

I’m a bit late but back to hook up to the Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites Book Study and Strategy 4 is all about games.
I love that research supports what parents and teachers have known for so long.  

Game play builds cooperative relationships, allows students to practice without pressure and teaches them how to follow rules and social norms, problem solving, develop strategies and  . . . Let’s face it . . . It’s just FUN.

I know when my students are motivated and engaged, learning is enhanced dramatically.

In my own house, the boys always have a deck of cards or board game out. 

While I love that Eric Jensen (Brain Research guru) confirms the importance of game play in brain development, my boys are the real experts that confirm for me that kids are engaged and learning during game play.

 So why wouldn’t I want those same things for my students.

Sometimes, games are just for the sake of playing games.  And other times they have a  objective this being addressed.

Here's just a few examples of how I use them in my own class, and I've added links to quite a few freebies that I have to try a few versions of these games in your own class.  

This is a game that was actually inspired my by boys.  The concept is the same whether you are using it to solve equations . . .

 . . . or practicing word work  . . .

 . . . or basic number recognition.  A card is turned, a problem is solved, word read or number identified, and then students search the mat to find the answer.  When they find it, they point to it and say YATTA!  If they are the first to identify the answer and say 'YATTA,' then they win the card.  

If you'd like to try a version of this game in your own class, just click HERE!!!

I couple of years ago I found these miniature sized Jenga block games at a store for $1.50 each.  I bought every one they had.  This particular one has nonsense words written on them, but I have them for letters, cvc words, addition and subtraction.  Basically if there is a skill to be practiced, I have a Jenga game for it.  

Hide and Seek Card Games
A simple concept of having one student hide a card (or cards) behind a picture, problem, number or word depending on the skill being practiced and having the other students guess where that card is located. 

Students make their guess by identifying, in the picture here, two rhyming words, the student that hides the cards, removes the cards guessed to reveal whether or not the guess is correct.

I use this game for number recognition, tens and ones identification, sight word practice or whatever skill they need to practice.

I seldom have a word work or math station this game isn't being used to practice one skill or another.  You can try this game out with an Easter freebie HERE from a couple of years ago called Bashful Bunnies.

Spinner Games
If you know anything about my class, you know we use spinner games.  While many people only think of 'Bump' as a game played with dice, if you add a spinner, you can give a total ELA twist.

Or add some equations and make 'Bump' a bit more challenging.

Spinner games that are played like the traditional 'War' game are another favorite for building math skills.

You can even play a 'Four In A Row' game with dotters and spinners for identifying tens and ones.  (Who doesn't love spinners AND dotters?  They don't even care who loses or wins!) If you'd like to try on a differentiated spinner game for size, just click HERE  and HERE for a couple of freebies to wet your whistle.

Games With Fun Manipulatives
You can take any normal game up a notch and make it that much more engaging just by adding different and interesting manipulatives.

This isn't your average BUMP game!!!! (Get the egg trays at Walmart and free playing cards to go with HERE!)

The picture is horrible, but the game is FUN!!!! Want to play a little Spider Bite?  (There's a free card version HERE!)

How about some place value practice?  Easter Monsters Love to Race is differentiated so your students race to 30, 50 or 100 using tens and ones manipulatives and it's FREE so click HERE

Students love it, because it's fun.  I like it because it's so darn versatile.  Practice words, shapes, numbers . . . or several skills all at one time.  

And those are just a few fun way, I use games in my own class. The one question I always get about games is if students get bored having the same kinds of games.  I can't speak for everyone, but, especially in kindergarten, students like games that are familiar, fun and at ones they can be successful.  Just by changing the skills from time to time or creating a new theme or using an interesting thematic manipulative, you can give a familiar game a brand new life.  And the best part about using games that are familiar is that your students become very independent when they play them.  They don't need an adult to supervise or manage it.  They can do it!

I hope you'll take advantage of some of the free games I have included links for above.  I can't wait to read all the other posts about this great strategy.  Remember to head over to Katie's blog Queen Of The First Grade Jungle to see all the other great posts about this strategy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites! Chapters 1 and 2 Bookstudy

I’m jumping on the Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites book study train this week a couple of days late, but I’m still delighted to be taking the time to re-energize and re-affirm my feelings and philosophies about teaching that start to get a bit hazy around this time of the year. 

This book is a perfect fit for me, because so much of what it speaks to is what I believe about kindergarten, what is developmentally appropriate, and what is key to differentiated instruction.  It seems to be a happy marriage between all the foundations of what defines me as a teacher.  Lord knows, these are things that often get lost in the busy hustle bustle of planning and meeting CCSS but what is, nevertheless,  so important.  I really think it’s going to be just the ticket to my teaching motor going for these last 3 ½ months of school.

Elizabeth Peterson from Kickin’It in Kindergarten has the honor of starting the study off with Chapters 1 and 2 and even provided us with a handy dandy organizer to keep us focused. 

Strategy 1:  Brainstorming and Discussion

This chapter and this strategy speaks volumes to me, because I am constantly very self-conscious about the amount of ‘yakking’ that goes on my classroom.  I have often walked into other classes and thought, ‘What the heck, it’s so quiet in here.’  I’m not saying that my classroom is out of control noisy, but I can pretty much guarantee you that, most days, if you walk in there is going to be some yakking going on.  We work in pairs, groups, station teams, partners and collaboratively all the time.  

Friends, we talk! 

Think~pair~share? Yep.  That's a given.

Brainstorming . . . you betcha . . . We love making lists.

Classroom leaders?  You know it.  What teacher doesn't love an assistant.

But even so, I think there is more I need to do.  I really think I need to let go of my Bloom's favorites and expand my higher order questioning.  I also need to 'butt out' and let discussions go a little further than I let them currently go.   Please tell me that I'm not the only one that hurries their class through discussion times, because I'm rushing to get to the next thing?  I need to let it go and not be a slave to the clock everyday!  I just HATE being late, but I will get over it.

Strategy Two:  Drawing and Artwork

I think perhaps that in kindergarten, we present our students with more opportunities to express what they know through drawing and artwork than in other grades simply because at the beginning of the year especially, they can not yet write sentences or demonstrate their understanding with written words.  

In my own classroom, students are identifying characters in a story they listen to, illustrating math problems and telling stories through pictures.
Snowmen Pattern by First Grade Blue Skies

We make connections to poems in our poetry books by illustrating a familiar or 
This art activity inspired by Deep Space Sparkle.

use similar techniques as an illustrator to reflect on a favorite book.

During learning station time (These are not literacy or math stations but more open ended exploratory stations that I offer a couple times a week.) there are generally different kinds of creative materials available for students to use to create as they wish.  Sometimes these end up being elaborate stories of knights with swords other times it maybe an illustration of a future playground.

For students who don't always know 'what to draw' I also like to put out doodle book pages.  

These are starters give students a general idea of where to begin and let them 'finish' the picture.  I absolutely adore these books and have several that I use.  

Here are a few of my favorites.  Just click on the title to find out more about these books.

I know that I'm not doing enough though. 

 I really somehow, someway want to beef up my STEM (and now STEAM) activities and incorporating that ART component would be so AMAZING to me.  I also know that offering these creative opportunities are so important to my students who have a learning profile that favors spatial learning. 

So that's the first two strategies!  I'll be back with my reflections on the next strategy this weekend when Deedee hosts.  It's gonna be a good one:  GAMES!!!! I'm all over that one let me tell you!


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