Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grabbing Differentiated Kindergarten's Flash Freebies From Your Phone

First of all I need to say, I am in no way shape or form a techie.   Anything I know about anything that has to do with the computer or my phone I learned from someone else, usually Maria from Kinder-Craze as she keeps me young and up on all the latest and greatest tricks.   Now most of you may already know this, but for those of you that don't, this is for you.  I’m going to take a crack at helping everyone that has had so much trouble downloading flash freebies from Facebook, because they're out and about on their phone. Granted, any freebie that your download on TpT is suppose to now be saved for you forever, but just in case that changes, something goes wrong, or the freebie is housed from somewhere other than TpT, here's another way to get them saved and downloaded.  (This also works for QR code freebies too.)  So that when the next one comes along, everyone will be ready.

Step One:  Before you do anything, you need to go to your phone and download a free app from Dropbox.  Dropbox is a free service that holds items that you download.   You will also want to sign up for it on your computer as well.  Click here to sign up.  Remember it's free. This is where you will store the products you download.

Step Two:  You're out and about and happen to see a free item on your phone that you would like to 'get.'  Click on the link that will take you to the product page.  (I'm using this 'forever freebie' from my Facebook page as an example.) 

Step Three:  On the TpT site, you will see the 'download now' button at the bottom of the page.  Click on that button.

Step Four:  When you do, you will see the product come up and, hopefully, there will be a gray bar at the top of the page that says 'Open in Dropbox.'  If you don't see the 'Open in Dropbox,' just touch the gray bar in the place where the 'open in dropbox' should be, and it usually pops up.  Click on the 'Open in Dropbox.'

Step Five:  Below you will see the prompt to 'save to dropbox.'  Select the 'save' option.

Step Six:  When you do, the document becomes saved to your dropbox account, just like it did below.

Step Seven:  Now when you go into your dropbox account on your computer, that same document will be there waiting for you.    See, you never have to miss another Flash Freebie again just because you're on your phone.  

And if you happened to have missed the freebie shown above, just click on the picture below to get it.  It's available amongst my 'Teaching with Cars Items.'  Go grab it up.

And be ready for that next flash freebie...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Printable Freebie for Getting To Know Your Students

I know a lot of you are getting ready to head back to the classroom.  Are you excited to get to know those little honeys you’ll be sharing a room with for the next year.   One of the easiest ways to differentiate for your class is by interest, and one of the easiest ways to get to know your student’s interest is by having you parents tell you a little bit about their children before their first day of school.
kindergarten parent interest inventory

I have offered you an interest inventory before, but it was kindergarten specific and in color. 

kindergarten parent interest inventory

Since I've had so many request for a general one in black and white, I decided to put one together that anyone can use.  So if you have first grade teacher friends or pre-k teacher friends that can use it, please send them over and have them download this one.

kindergarten parent interest inventory
Go ahead and click on the picture to get yours.

While you're there, you should take a look around.  I am actually having a HUGE sale on everything in my store today and tomorrow.  You're not going to want to miss out.  Just click on the button below to head to my store.
You can stock up now and get a head start on printing, organizing and planning.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Differentiated Kindergarten's Daily Schedule

By far one the most common requests I get on my kindergarten blog is for my daily schedule.  This has always been a bit of a strange request for me, because no two of my days of the week are exactly the same so I can’t really imagine how it could help someone else to see it.  But when I polled my Facebook users about their daily schedule, I got such a wide range of answers I can now kind of see how looking at a few different examples would be helpful, especially for those teachers moving to a whole day schedule or moving to kindergarten for the first time.

Seriously, I can't imagine trying to work in all that our kinders need to know into a half day schedule.  You teachers doing that are miracle workers.  I applaud you.  I don't think I could do it.  As it is, it's a tight schedule trying to get it all in.

As I mentioned, no two days of my schedule are exactly alike.  In a school with 19 classrooms and only one PE instructor and Art and Music shared by another school, scheduling can get hairy.  Don't get me wrong, I SO very much appreciate those specials, but there is no way we can create a schedule where specials are the same time every day.  That's just not possible.  So you have to focus on what's important.  (If you need to see an example of each of my days, just click on the picture below and you can download these to look at from last year.)  I like to keep these schedules around for the beginning of the year when I need a quick reference or in my sub folders for teachers covering my class.  Of course, nothing ever stays exactly the same from the beginning of the year.  You are always tweaking and changing things a bit here and there, but it will give you a place to start. 
This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom

For me, having my Daily 5/Whole Group Literacy time in the morning when kindergarteners are fresh and ready to learn is sacred.  I will give up almost anything as long as I can have that time the same time every morning.  That consistency is so important.

For my actual lesson planning, I use planbook.com  Have you wandered over to take a look at their site yet?  I don't really have an other program to compare it to, but I do really like how planbook worked for me last year.  I was able to put in my weekly schedule and then attach my differentiated Daily 5 and Math Station lesson template to it.  So all the documents were in one place.  For me that was really important because I like to be able to keep it all together without having to sacrifice my differentiated station templates.  Without them, I would be lost. Another plus was that I was easily able to add Common Core Standards to my plans.  BONUS!

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom

So let's look at a typical day.  Here is a my Wednesday schedule from last year.

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom

Morning Work
Our mornings start with Morning Work.  I know that many people have different ideas about morning work and what 'works' for them.  This is the time when my kiddos come in and make lunch choices ( I use these cute little butterflies and bugs from Michael's for my lunch choices!), use the restroom, get a drink and then get some of their socializing and chatting out of their system while they practice a skill or an activity. 

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom

At the beginning of the year, I like to offer a hands-on, fine motor activity during this time.  Pokey pins are FABULOUS. If you don't know about them, click the picture and it will take you to a blog post all about them.  They are from Mrs. Miners Kindergarten Class.  Love, love, love Krissy Miner.

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom

But I never do the same activity two days in the row.   So I am constantly looking for new ways to get their brains primed for learning when they come in without shoving a worksheet in front of the them.   As the year goes on, you can add in a printable here or there if you choose.  I am very careful about the printables I choose to put out during this time, however. If there isn't a differentiated option, I won't use it.  If it isn't asking them to cut, color, find, or something active, I won't do it.

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom

I don't want kids sitting in morning work unable to complete the task nor do I want them so bored that they are done in a 5 seconds.  Make it meaningful!  It should engage them and get them ready for learning.

Whole Group Literacy
During this time of the day we are completing an interactive morning message, read aloud and introducing new skills, letters, sight words or word family.

Again, even though this is a 30 minute slot of time.  My students are not sitting the whole time.  We take a brain break about every 8 minutes or so.  That break may be spelling out sight words kinesthetically, or making words with placards.  Whatever you do, don't expect your students to sit for long periods of time without moving. You need to be creatively thinking of ways to let those little bodies move or they will be moving anyway.

Daily 5 
During this time, I am doing three 20 minute rounds of Daily 5.  If you would like to know more about how I set and run my Daily 5 in kindergarten, I have listed some of my most popular posts here.  Just click on the titles below to take a look.  

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom including Daily 5

Organizing Daily 5
Getting them from here to there-Getting your stations started.
Daily 5 at A Differentiated Kindergarten-This will show you all of my Daily 5 posts in order from newest to oldest. There are a lot of freebies in these posts so scroll through them.

This time is when the meat and potatoes of reading instruction, practice and skill building takes place.  I feverishly protect this time.  I know that it has built great readers in my class so I am very reluctant to change it. 

I like to take this short time in the morning to get my students moving a bit.  It breaks up the morning and keeps them alert.  I love Jack Hartman music, but I also add in some other tunes that are classroom favorites.  Debbie Derryberry and Bare Naked Ladies-Snack Time (I promise it's a kids cd.) are some other favorites.  We also practice our weekly poem during this time.  We learn one a week to put in our poetry books.  Also this year, because I finally have TECHNOLOGY, we are going to give GoNoodle a go!  

Whole Group Math
I use a small amount of time to introduce new skills and activities as a whole group.  Just like with whole group literacy, this time needs to be interactive.  One of the things that has help the most with this is by loading a zipper pencil bag with manipulatives that will help students practice and participate during whole group.  Sometimes we do this alone, sometimes with a partner, we turn and share with a partner and we talk about it.  Students need to be able to understand the why and how of math.  This is a good time to practice those skills. 

Here's another helpful hint for whole group work, keep yourself a classroom supply of clipboards. 

Math Stations
Love math stations!  Love love love them!  Math stations are interactive, high energy, fun and full of learning.  Students get plenty of time to practice specific skills that are differentiated to meet their level of readiness.  It is also a time that I can meet with certain groups of students to assess, review and instruct.  

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom including Math Stations

I have done so many posts on math stations, but here's just a few listed below if you are interested in checking out how I set them up and keep them going.


Just like it's sounds, my students go to lunch and then outside for recess.  I get to answer emails, choke down a quick smoothie and go try and steal a hug and kiss from my boys during their lunch break before my own students come sneaking back inside.

Rest/Ball Words
We are mandated to give our kindergarteners a short break after recess.  I'm so glad we do.  At the beginning of the year,  I have so many that actually fall asleep.  Their little bodies aren't used to all-day everyday kindergarten.  But if they aren't tired and don't want to rest, they always have the option of practicing their 'ball words.'  I don't force them to practice ball words.  That's something they do because they want to do it.  They can practice with one other friend during rest, and it's also during this time that I will assess them if they want to try 'passing.'

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom including Daily 5

If you'd like to know more about our ball word sight word mastery system, I have done a couple of posts on these as well.  I have listed them below:

The incredible editable ball word sight word master system
Building enthusiasm for sight word study

Calendar Math
Many kindergarten classes do calendar and mine is no exception.  I used to hate calendar, but, ever since gave my students their own calendar books, it has turned calendar time completely around.  Calendar time is fun, interactive and engaging.  I like to get my students involved in leading calendar, too.  It isn't just about learning the month and date.  Calendar time is when we are introduced to new math skills and get a chance to practice them with a partner or alone.  By the end of the year my students are working with place value to 100s place, time and even money.  

This blog post has daily schedules for a kindergarten classroom including Calendar Math

My students get PE three times a week, 2-half hour sessions and 1-twenty minute session.  

We don't have a ton to choose from, but usually my students work on Raz-kids of ABC-Ya for math.  

Hallelujah for recess!!!!

Writers Workshop
This is NOT handwriting practice, this is writers workshop. They work on getting thoughts and ideas down on paper.  I usually start with a short mini-lesson and then students go off and 'write.'  Writing should be fun.  My goal during this time is to develop the desire to write and to get them to feel confident about writing.  We end each workshop with a few students sharing every day.

Snack, Pack and Science
My school is making every effort to add more and more science instruction into our day.  I tend to use the end of the day to do a short lesson, non-fiction book, video and then we do a hands-on activity each Friday.  

Here's an activity that went along with Kristen from A Day in First Grade's Force and Motion pack.  Click on the picture above if you'd like to learn more.

Then it's time to back and get ready for dismissal.


This is where I get take a deep breath and say a little prayer of thanksgiving for making through another day.

Remember, I don't do all these activities everyday and there are some activities missing from this day, but it does give you a general idea of my schedule.   Fo instance, many of you are going to look at my Wednesday and say, 'there isn't any time for play.'  You're right.  Wednesday's are a busy. Which is why it is so important to make your Literacy and Math stations engaging and interesting.  I do have three other days in the week where I have 'Learning Stations.' (I promised I will blog about these in the future.)  These are my play-based stations where students have more time for extended play and exploration.  Many of them are academic and differentiated, but if you asked my kinders, they are 'play.'  I also have show n' tell once a week, Art and Music.  If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment below.  I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Vegas Blessings: TpT 2014 Sellers Conference

I know you might be thinking . . . Not another Vegas post!  Yep, you’re right it’s another one. And if you are sick of seeing all the pictures and reading about the great week we all had, then by all means, you have my permission to skip this post.  I completely understand that it might be getting to be a bit much.  (But please start saving your pennies because I would love to see you there next year!) But if you have any interest at all in knowing how Vegas left my heart FULL and me feeling blessed then here’s my recap. 

Photo courtesy of What the Teacher Wants.  Maria from Kinder-Craze, Me, Mary from Sharing Kindergarten and Jodi from Fun in First Grade

I think the reason that everyone who attended Vegas is on an incredible 'high' right now is that for many months out of the year, teachers are confined to their rooms with their students and have very little, if any, interaction  with other adults.  Face it!  Teaching is a pretty isolated profession.  We spend our days with children because we love them and that is our calling, but most of us have very little chance to collaborate and work with other teachers.

Then comes the Internet and our world as teachers has suddenly become a million times smaller.  We can chat with like-minded educators, share our stories, our concerns and our daily happenings.  The Internet, blogging, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, yes, TpT has opened made the teacher world a much smaller place, more intimate, friendly and there is suddenly a feeling of community!   Unfortunately, for many of us, this community only happens in the cyberworld, but for those of us that were lucky enough to travel to Vegas last week, our cyber world suddenly came to life.  We were able to meet, speak with and hug on the teacher friends we have been familiar with only through the Internet.  It was incredibly surreal and amazing at the same time. 

I was so humbled by the amazing teachers I was able to meet.  Teachers just like me that were looking for ways to improve their own instruction, teachers who I have been reading and admiring for years and teachers who I have chatted with via email or Facebook and who I have called 'friends' but who I were just now meeting. 

My heart was and still is SO full.

Was it fun?  Absolutely.  Whenever you get the opportunity to hang with 'friends' it's going to be fun.  I was lucky enough to get to room with one of my bestest blogging buddies, Maria from Kinder-Craze.   She is so incredibly smart, and I love collaborating and working on new ideas with her.

It also felt a little bit like seeing family.  Annie Moffatt has been my cyber pal for years now, and we had never met in real life until Vegas.  She is just as lovely, humble and sweet as she seems on her blog.  I just adore her.  I am definitely claiming her as my other sister and making myself an honorary Moffatt Girl.

But mostly . . . it was just fun!  My Freebie friends are the best.  Jennifer, from First Grade Blue Skies, is just as smart and funny as she seems on her blog.  Honest.

The blessings of Vegas continued when I was able to meet teachers who I admired and followed for years.  Do you know Deedee Wills the hardest working kindergarten teacher ever?  Like who doesn't right.  She is so gracious, giving and witty.  And Deanna Jump is as down to earth as your next door neighbor.  Her opening statements at the TpT conference left an audience of 800 teachers crying, laughing and totally inspired. 

It was a blessing to be present for that first ever TpT conference and to hear the words of our founder Paul Edelman.  His story confirmed what everyone already knew about him.  As once a teacher himself, he is committed to empowering teachers.  He has given teachers wings and opened up a whole new world of collaboration between teachers throughout the world.  We all have benefited from his vision.   

Finally, working with the Freebielicious girls in our I Teach K booth was amazing. These ladies are the best of the best in the teacher world, and I get to call them my friends.  Together, we all share a common goal for Freebielicious; to provide quality FREE products for teachers and their students.  But the greatest blessing we had was meeting and speaking with all of you.  Thanks to everyone and anyone who stopped by.  You will never know how blessed we are by your support and friendship.

Love you Freebie Girlies!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back To School Panic Time and Something That Could Help Your Own BTS Planning.

I am officially in panic mode for Back To School.  When you walk into Office Max, Walmart, Target or wherever and this is what you see, it has a tendency to send chills right down even the most seasoned teacher.  I'm raising my hand to say I'm in terror mode and need to get going on my 'to-do' list.

I know none of you could possibly have this problem, but most nights I can't see the top of my kitchen table.  I have 4 or 5 or 10 projects going on at one time.  

"Sorry boys, I know it's raining out but we will be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out on the deck again today.  Mom STILL hasn't cleared the table."  I'm the only one right?

And I'm so bummed that I didn't buy more of these little green tubes last summer because now I have spent half of this summer obsessed with searching for them online, and I can't find them anywhere.  (Why do you deny me Big Lots?  I love my green daily planning/word family storage totes! ~sniff, sniff)

The big 'to-do' I absolutely need to get off my list is to move all my thematic totes to my house! (Shhhh don't tell my hubs.  If I'm lucky and really sneaky, it won't figure out that I've turned our storage room in the basement into my private school room until hunting season when he goes looking for his gear.  By then, I'll have squatters rights to the space and I'll be home free.)  I really just need more space for my kinder friends to move and by getting a couple bookcases full of these out of the way, I won't have to give up the important stuff like sensory tables and dramatic play.  

But that's just the beginning of my back to school to do list.  There's so much more. My head is just a spinning.

So what about you?  Are you in your Back To School panic mode yet?  Well, maybe I and the girls from Freebielicious can help you out a bit. Once again, the girls have teamed up with Educents to bring you some instant downloads that will get your year off to a fabulous start.  This packet is loaded with fabulous products for back to school including book studies, craftivities, classroom prep packets and content material to get you ready.  There are 23 instant downloads in all.  You just HAVE to check them out.

Of course, I’ve added one of my most favorite new products to this pack that I know you’re just gonna LOVE.  It's part of the second generation of Word Families Galore!  

Word Families are one of my most popular products and this second generation is even bigger than the first packets. Here's just a few of the items you'll find in it.

For a limited time it and 22 other products from the Freebielicious sellers will be bundled and offered to you for $34.99 from Educents which is 68% off!  Twenty-three products for your kinder and first grade classrooms and over 1200 pages of materials from some of your favorite teachers!  It's a bundle you are sure to LOVE!

If you'd like to get more information on Back To School and the products offered in this pack, take a moment to take a peek at some of the other teachers featured in this bundle and their preparations for back to school as well as their featured item in this bundle.



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