Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quilts: The Whole Story

As promised I tracked down one of my little darlings from last year, and had her mom (who is a teacher at our school) send in her memory book from last year so you can see some of our other monthly quilt pages. Unfortunately you won't be able to see the complete quilt which in my opinion is the best part- so you'll just have to use your imagination for that! If you have no clue what I'm talking about check out my original post about class quilts here.

Just so you get the whole picture! This is the cover we made for our memory books- probably will work on making these a bit cuter this year but we were kind of down to wire at the end of the year. =)

August- as seen in the original post. If you do a kissing hand project I think this quilt page would be super cute with a little heart glued to the middle of handprint (especially if you do yellow handprints instead of red like I did this year!).

September- I let the kids make any kind of pattern on their tree using the red, green, and yellow squares. If you are making a quilt out of this one alternate gluing the tree on the left  and right. Trust me it looks better this way!

October- Love this one! If you are making a quilt out of this one alternate putting the bat on the top and the bottom so your quilt will have a more balanced look.

November- LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. We have the kids wear their paper bag vests we use for pow wows. The leaf is made by having your kids color on coffee filters with brown, red, orange, and yellow. Fold up and drip water on them to make the tie dye  effect and the let dry. Then we glued them to yellow paper and die cut them into leaf shapes. I know it sounds complicated but I promise it's not hard!

January- Unfortunately the kids got a little carried away when they were making their snowmen. I might reign them in a little for the sake of cuteness- although there is a lot to me said for self-expression! =) NOTE: I do not encourage my kiddos to draw on their name square, this particular example was a product of unsupervised sharpie use.

February- probably the least labor intensive of them all but so cute!

March- I like to take pictures of the kiddos eating green eggs and ham for their March picture. The four leaf clover is made similarly to the leaf on the November page except we just placed the outline of the shamrock on top of the trimmed coffee filter colored in green and yellow.

April- This year I'm planning on only doing the patterns on the name square and not on the bunny square.

May- I LOVE the way this one turned out! To get the marbled paint look for the butterflies line the bottom of a box or pan in wax paper. Squirt paint haphazardly on the bottom and just have kids place hands on top of the paint. You'll need to add fresh squirts every few kids to keep it fresh and not muddy looking! To make the quilt alternate gluing butterflies on top and bottom. 

So that's the completed quilt/memory book project. The last page of the memory book is a class picture with all the kids signatures. It really is such a sweet little gift for the kiddos at the end of the year. I hope you consider making these with your class. I'll keep you updated on any revisions I make to the process! I'm planning on adding a December page- December just got away from me last year, and I never got around to making one with my kiddos. I also teach in a school where lots of holidays are celebrated in December so I have to think on a quilt that is not too Christmasy. Let me know if you have any suggestions! 

Happy "Quilting"!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Two Birds, One Stone- Class Quilts

If you are a kindergarten teacher you are probably familiar with the  frantic end-of-the-year memory book making sessions...or maybe not if you don't have serious problem with procrastination like me. I'm not sure where the whole kindergarten memory book tradition came from but in May of my first year in kindergarten it caught me completely off guard. I frantically printed out pictures from our year and haphazardly glued them in a bare book a few nights before our end of the year party. The next year I was slightly more organized but only slightly. Then last year I knew I had to end the madness so I came into the year armed with a plan. The best part of my memory book solution was that it also served as a great hallway display monthly (also something that caused me great anxiety each month!)- two birds, one stone.

So each month each student makes a 12 x12 inch square featuring their hand print, their name, and their picture. I put all the quilt squares together to make a class quilt (so cute!) and then save the individual squares. At the end of the year we stack all the pages together to make individual class memory books. The parents loved them last year (really who can resist hand prints!), and the process was amazingly easy. I'm tweaking some of the quilts this year but for the most part keeping the project the same. I place the individual pages into a quilt made from scrapbook page protectors taped together.  I will not take credit for most of my monthly quilt ideas as I got almost all my inspiration from Kinder By Kim and Mrs. Shehan's Kindergarten. If you're considering making a class quilt you should really check out their amazing websites. Here's a peek at some of our quilts from last year (unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of them all- I'll try to track them down!):

This was August (last year)- each students' square features their hand print, their picture, their name (written by them), and a self-portrait.
This is my August quilt from this year- a little bit different. I think red hand prints kind of look like blood so I changed the format a bit.

September- picture inside apple die-cut, apple tree hand print with patterns, and name.

October- name with pattern, bat (so cute- right?), and picture.

I couldn't resist showing you our full October wall- it's my favorite. We do conferences in October so we really go all out. The owls are our "Whooo" Are We Owls. The kids write clues for their parents and then their pictures are hiding under the owls. The pumpkins on the fence are actually glyphs.

January- snowflakes, name, picture on the face of the snowman (didn't love it but it was kind of cute), and hand traced on paper to look like mittens). This one was one of my least favorites but it was still cute.

Obviously this is our February quilt- name, picture, and heart handprint.

I'll try to track down pictures of some of our other creations. The November one is precious. This really is such a fun project. It was so cool at the end of the year to look at all the pictures from each month to see how much the kids have grown. The name portion of the quilt is like a little mini-assessment of your kiddo's name writing (so maybe this is a three birds, one stone project!).  Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for all the comments- it really makes me happy to hear what y'all think!

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Now that I've been teaching for five years I'm finally starting to get in a groove. I've learned the hard way what works and what doesn't. And with each year I add to the tools in my teacher toolkit. Here's some things that I've discovered over the past five years that have made my life way easier:

1) Label Everything! My kinders have no trouble putting away supplies because I make it painfully easy for them. For pre-readers it is really important to have pictures as well. A new thing I've tried (with success so far!) is adding stars to the bins that are open to my kiddos during free choice. It really cuts down on the kids pulling out things that I don't want them to AND I  threaten to pull off the stars and "close" the bin if they go wild and crazy with a particular bin.

2) I found these great number mats at Lakeshore. They are a bit of an investment but totally worth it! My kiddos have to stand in alphabetical order when we go to lunch. They each have a number that puts them in this order. The problem being that a good part of my class don't recognize or know numbers over 10. Here's my solution: The first day of school I spread these mats all over the floor and write the kiddos numbers on their hands. They find their number and memorize the picture, and we have pain free lunch line order from there after! Woo Hoo! I use the number mats for the first couple weeks and then phase them out when the kids are ready. Sidenote: Every year at some point whoever is number five is MIA, and I call out, "Who is 5?" and half the class raises their hand! Haha- they think I'm talking about their age. Love it!

3) Backpack Hooks were the bain of my existence for my first few years in kindergarten. For some reason my backpacks just could not get along- throughout the day I was constantly hearing, "So and so moved my backpack!" or "I can't find my backpack!" Solution: names on the backpack hooks! Why didn't I think of this earlier? Plus as an added bonus when I need to sneak something into my little ones' book bags I can find it easy peasy lemon squeezy (do your kiddos say this- I'm not real sure where it comes from!).

4) Picture Prompts: This goes back to the whole having pictures for non-readers. I try to make my kinders as independent as possible, and clear step-by-step instructions (like the ones below for our morning routine) make it possible for all my kiddos to be instructional.

5) Floor spots: Every class is different but I have come to value the greatness of individual spots on the floor. My lakeshore rug is perfect- the squares are just the right size for my kinders. This year I've decided to try labeling the spots with letters. We pass around a cup filled with Popsicle sticks with letters written on them to pick our spots each morning. This way my kids aren't tied to one particular spot, but if I do want one of my special friends to sit somewhere specific I can remove that particular stick and hand it to them. It's working great so far. I also drew arrows on the letter spots to show my kiddos which way to turn when we do turn-and-talk.

6) Labels, labels, labels are the best thing ever invented for teachers! I use them for everything. I recommend  the Avery 5160 and 5163 (I have the numbers memorized because I use them so much!).

I have lots more but I'll save for another post! What are your time savers that help save your sanity during the school year?


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meet Me: Photovisi style

Confession: I'm one of those people who subscribes to the whole "A picture is worth a thousand words." philosophy. I take lots and lots of pictures in my classroom because I think it really lets the parents get a glimpse at what their kids are up to in our classroom. 

Next Confession: I love Blogger...I really do. However one thing I'm not super thrilled with Blogger is that its not the easiest to post large quantities of pictures. I used to do my class website on my mac using iWeb. It was great because it had this fabulous album capability where I could dump all my classroom pictures into neat little albums for my kindergarten parents to see. However I couldn't update my website at school and it was just a big hassle so I decided to switch to Blogger. And I'm happy with the switch EXCEPT for one thing- What am I suppose to do with all my pictures? I'm certainly not going to upload them one at a time to my posts.

Solution: Photovisi! I found this fabulous FREE website where you can literally dump your pictures and it makes these really beautiful collages out of them. You simply choose a collage, upload the pictures you want to feature, press a button and "Presto Chango" you have a beautiful new collage! You can even add text and change the background image if you want! So cool!

Here's the link if you want to check it out (and you should!): Photovisi ! And in an effort to kill two birds with one stone I thought I'd introduce you to me using photovisi!

Things I Love!

Just a tip: when prompted to download your collage don't push the large green "Download" button (it links to some other page!) but the smaller blue text that says, "Click here to download your collage.." Hope you have fun with photovisi!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let the Fun Begin: The Beginning of Daily 5 in Kindergarten

I'm kind of a by-the-book kind of girl (well at least about things I want to do) so when I read in The Daily Five book that you should start Daily 5 on the very first day of school I just accepted it. So last year I dutifully filled my book boxes, printed out my stamina chart, and got ready for day one of read-to-self. But I admit I was skeptical. Really kindergartners reading? And surprisingly it went really well! I was so pleased- each and every day my kiddos were reading longer and longer. I loved hearing them say at the end of a practice session: "But I'm not finished reading yet!" By the end of the year my little readers were reading for 30-40 minutes every day,  and it was heaven! So this year I typed up my first day lesson plans excited for a new year of Daily 5. And you know what? It actually went pretty well. After seeing what kinders can do I'm just itching for us to get to long work periods and to have real conversations about books. We're not there yet (we got to 4 minutes today) but I have big dreams for this class. I know we'll get there!

So are you on the fence about whether or not to do read-to-self with your kinders? Jump in- you won't regret it! Are you not so sure about starting the first day? Do it- set the expectation the very first day that in this classroom we read EVERYDAY, and we are ALL readers!

I'm definitely not an expert but I thought I would share a few things I do for my first days of read-to-self. Your kids can do it!

What lessons do you teach the first few days? The first few days I really focus on good habits of readers. We review the expectations for read to self everyday with motions: Read Quietly (put finger over lips), stay in one spot (hold up one finger), read the whole time (make your hands into a book- palms together and facing up), get started right away (tap your imaginary wrist watch). The other big lessons I teach over the first few days is 3 Ways to Read a Book. This is super important for kinders because more than likely on your first day of D5 one of your little ones will cry, "But I don't know how to read!" Validate all kinds of reading: 1) Read the pictures. 2) Read from memory. 3) Read the words. We focus on each of these ways of reading the first few days. I use big books to model each way. The kids begin to really feel like readers the first day, and I LOVE that! Excuse the ugly anchor chart...I'm making a new one with picture prompts soon!

What do you put in their book boxes? I do not open my classroom library until the 2nd or 3rd week of school. I really want my kids to get to know how to take care of books, how our library is organized, and how to find/put back books. So for the first few weeks of school I place books in their book boxes. Because my first few lessons with my kiddos focus on the three ways to read I try to make sure to include books they can practice the different kinds of reading with.  For read the pictures I put in some great books with awesome pictures (favorite characters, I Spy!, and animal non-fiction are big favorites in my class). For read from memory I put a copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or The Three Bears (check out your upper grades guided reading room for multiple copies!). For read the words I include very easy books with one or two words for page. I trade out books every day or so (just swap books from each book box) to keep the kiddos interested. Oh see the little dots on the bottom of the boxes? I use these to call the kids to put their boxes up. Eventually I'll use these to group the kids for leveled reading groups (They are velcroed on!).

How many minutes should you expect the first few days? 2-3 minutes the first day is a big victory! We practice for two sessions, and we always celebrate gains in our reading stamina. The kids get so excited to see their "reading tower" grow on our stamina chart!

I hope that helps! How do you manage Daily 5 in your classroom? What works for you?

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality

I apologize for my brief hiatus from the world of blogging. As I was explaining to someone the other day- just like how March and April are crazy times for accountants, August and September are crazy times for teachers. I've been busily adding names to things in my classroom, writing first day lesson plans, preparing for parent night, and going to LOTS of meetings. That's all in addition to the best part of pre-planning: relishing the last few days to go out to lunch (what people do this everyday?) and catching up with all my teaching friends!

Tomorrow is the day. Twenty little kindergarten kiddos will be marching through my classroom door to begin a crazy 180 day journey. Going into my fifth year teaching I thought that I would be done with my first day jitters, but every year that seem to sneak right back in the night before kindergarten. And I know as I lay my head down to sleep tonight questions will be swirling around in my head: Will anyone cry? Will they get along with each other? Whose parents will pop in for a peek during the day? Will they have a good time? And on and on and on it goes.

Hopefully in the next few days I'll be able to share what's actually happening in our classroom! For now I'll leave you with a few pictures from my friend Tiffany's room (so super cute!). She teaches first grade, and I LOVE her classroom! Take a look:

And a bonus freebie! I printed off the letter highway cards from Making Learning Fun. I put them in sheet protectors and in a binder. Here's the cover I put on the front of the binder (download in Google Docs):

Wishing you a great first day of school!

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A lot Like the First Day!

You know where I was on the last day of summer...at school! =) It may sound crazy to non-teachers but I know my teacher friends understand. As much as I love the kiddos there is something about working in the classroom when they aren't there that is so satisfying. I have to admit I really like going in the summer because I have exclusive rights to the laminator, color copier, and die cuts- no waiting in lines for me! It doesn't hurt either that during the summer I can still wake up sans alarm clock, sit and cuddle with my kitty for a few hours, and roll into school around noon during the summer. Oh well- back to the grind next week!

I wanted to give y'all a peek of what I've been up to this week. While I didn't do a whole lot of changes overall but I did a complete organization overhaul and added a few new Pinterest inspired touches! Let me know what you think!

My new classroom quilt- I will admit the main purpose of this display is to hide the one brick on the wall that is inexplicably a different color than all the rest. However it also serves the dual purpose of showing off my kiddos super star work. I'm planning on putting student names in the upper part of each square and then there will be space to place a 9.5x11 piece of work (landscape oriented) on the bottom section!

Wondering how to use all those word cards I posted yesterday? This is what I'm doing with mine. I've decided to do my calendar time completely on the SMART board but I still wanted my kids to have a reference place to look for days of the week, months, colors, etc.

My finished Behavior Bees- aren't they fun? I'm thinking we'll review them each time we leave our classroom.

From the left: the first board features our schedule (see cards in yesterday's post!), job board, lunch menu, and specials calendar. The second section of the board is our workstation rotation chart- It's the Debbie Diller one from Really Good Stuff. One side is the math work stations and the other is Literacy Work Stations. The 3rd board is my Common Core Standards board. I bought Deanna Jump's standards (super cute!).

A closer look! The board on the far right I'm going to use for giving instructions for group projects.

Not a great picture but this is my listening center organization inside my teacher easel. Each bin has a walkman, headphones, and an instructions sheet (check it out in yesterday's post). Children choose tapes and books from the pocket chart on the back of the easel.

I'm so proud of my focus wall! I've been looking to do this for awhile and I'm just tickled with how it turned out. The sections are: Days of School, Poetry focus, Read Aloud, Teacher Helper, Movement cards (from Kid's Yoga Deck), Math words, Class behavior, Data (I use the clipboard math activities from Lakeshore), mystery bag, name game, word family, and star words. Whew- that's a lot of stuff! I'm so excited to put it to use this year!

My newly organized math shelf. The bins on the bottom I will use for math workstations. In the small drawers on the top shelf I placed math game materials: dice, spinners, game pieces, timers, etc.

Supply bins are a constant struggle for me. We'll see how this idea from Pinterest goes! Anyone have a fool proof way of keeping supplies in their proper places?

Check out what I found at the Dollar Store today: Parts of speech cards and a pack of 4 spinners! Score!

I have a super busy weekend ahead: Antiques Road Show (long story but I'm so excited!) in the morning, Mom's b-day celebration, and sister's baby shower on Sunday! I'm hoping to still get some school things done though while my creative juices are flowing. What are you working on in these final days before the kiddos?

Happy Weekend!