Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Oriental Trading Summer Stock Up

When Jill from Chevron and Centers let me know that Oriental Trading was looking to support some teachers this summer, she didn't have to ask twice to get me on board!

There are SO many things from Oriental Trading to use in your classroom. I was actually really surprised, in a good way, that they had so much! OT has definitely focused on education lately it looks like.

After narrowing by $400 cart down to under $100, here's what I had to grab for the new year:

Letter Bean Bags

I have been wanting these for YEARS but I am frugal and can never spend over like $10 on one thing for my room. But I am so glad that I FINALLY got my hands on these! There are a million ways to use these fun, kinesthetic toys to teach letters.

I pulled out my chalkboard table cloth and some chalk and made a toss game.  Students grab a bean bag and have to toss it right right so that it lands on the corresponding letter.

Money Math

This is a fun center game to help students develop number sense.  Numbers to 20 are included, with the numeral represented by the number word, number, dice, and tallys. Students link together the matching monkeys to prove their number sense!

And isn't this link nice?

It's a little different, and I think easier for my little ones!

Transportation Manipulatives and Going Buggy Tongs

Counters are a Kindergartner's best friend and I usually pick them up in the dollar spot.  I am always scouting for counters to engage my boys and these are PERFECT!  I am sure the intent of the tongs is not to pick up manipulatives, but I use it as an option for my students when they are working in math. You could also use them for a dice shaker!

Dry Erase Crayons
Who doesn't love a class set of crayons? Better yet - dry erase crayons! I haven't debuted them yet but I know my Kinders will LOVE these crayons as an alternative to our black Expos.

What have you used from Oriental Trading in your classroom? Have any ideas for me to use these materials differently?

Oriental Trading provided me with the aforementioned materials in exchange for sharing how I use their materials. Looking for a deal at Oriental Trading? Visit their coupon page for the latest in sales!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hair Gel Letters

Little ones love all things gooey. 

I love tactile letter practice. 


Put them together and you get hair gel letters. So easy.  

I got all my supplies from the Dollar Store and paired the center with letter cards that match my classroom decor because I am OCD like that. 


All you need is a bottle or two or hair gel (I chose blue because it also matches my classroom decor - so annoying right?), large plastic bags, and letter flash cards. 

Open the bag, and squeeze enough hair gel in the cover the size of the card that you are going to use.  Zipper the bag closed - because we all know what will happen if its not.


Then place one of the flash cards on the table and put the bag over the flash card.  Smooth out the gel so it covers the card.


Then trace! My kiddos love the feel of the gel moving under their fingers, and work spaces can stay clean!


When you are done tracing, switch cards and play again! Chevron letter cards are here for FREE!

If you are like me and like to have your kiddos use response sheets in your center, print off these babies and put in a clear write and wipe pocket or let each kiddos choose her/his own.

Besides gel, we also use shaving cream or soap in these bags. What do you like to do tactile letter practice with?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Gel Beads

Have you tried boba? Or bubble tea? I have not, but I've seen it...and the boba look and feel exactly like these gel beads which are SO. MUCH. FUN!

I was a little skeptical when I found these gel beads at the dollar store, but being one $1 I gave them a try. Now I can't stop finding new uses for them. And I hope you don't live by me because I bought out the stock of them at my Dollar Tree.  

I talked a little about how I use them in sensory centers but I had to go into more depth!

All you need to do is empty the packet of gel beads into a bowl of water and let it sit a few hours. Empty out the excess water and you're ready to play. One packet makes about 4-5 cups of gel beads. I have had mine about a week and they haven't dried out yet!

And then I just went to town putting them in centers for my kids. 

Throw the gel beads in a plastic container with some magnetic letters and let your kiddos go to town.  Mine use a response sheet to color the corresponding letter after they find a letter.


If you have any laminated task cards you can throw those in too! Just make sure that The gel beads are soaking or the cards will get soaked.  I put in some alphabet QR codes. The kids just find the card on the bottom of the bowl, pull it out and scan the QR. Then a video of corresponding letter to the picture on the card comes up. More on A to Z QRs here.


In my Dollar Tree shopping spree, I picked up some glass stones and write sight words on them. Putting the stones in the bowl of gel beads if a fun little sensory activity.


Again, I have my kids record their sight words as they find them. Here's the recording sheet I use.



I haven't tried this one yet, but I think the gel beads would be awesome for a measuring center. Or to explore the movement of water.  Measuring spoons can be used to scoop and move water and explore capacity.


Measuring spoons are also a good fine motor challenge in trying to get gel beads from place to place. Here is another way to explore capacity.

I am really excited to try this non-standard measuring center with my kiddos early in the year.  It really covers a lot (fine motor, measurement, sensory, fun) and helps develop prior knowledge for when we dive deep into measurement!

So I HAVE to know, what am I missing? What else could we use these gel beads for?!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Digital Danielson Documentation

If your district does Danielson, then you know about documentation. 


Keeping all your parent letters, lesson plans, student work, professional duties notes, and everything else happening in your classroom organized can be difficult. Then there is the issue of sharing it all with your administrator.

In this digital age, why not just keep it on your computer and share it that way? I for one have never been a fan of accumulating stuff. I rather take a picture, put it in a file and keep it tucked away.

In order to organize all the evidence needed for Danielson, I started keeping everything in a set of file folders on my desktop. Each file folder in this system in labeled with what you should put in it (see picture 3). That makes it easy for you to stop guessing which documentation fits where.


When I save my newsletters, I drag and drop it into one of the folders. Then I have classroom environment evidence saved from something I am going to be doing anyway. Done.

When it is time to share your Danielson documentation with an administrator, simply give them the folders on a flash drive or upload it all to Google Drive.

That is where I keep all my files. 

Once it is in Google Drive you can access from anywhere and save files from anywhere too!


You can even download Google Drive to your desktop and drag your Danielson documentation there, then share with an administrator!


This is seriously the easiest way to keep your files safe, organize your digital evidence and be able to share it with administrators. Then again, I REALLY love Google Drive... it's just so easy to use once you get started! Get your own set of files here!

How are you storing your documentation now? Has a system like this worked for you?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sensory Centers

I have something to admit.

I move fast. I do multitask, and check things off my list and get things done. I want to get to goals on the most direct path. And sometimes I get wrapped up in that with my students. We move too fast through academic standards because some kiddos are ready.  But some are NOT. And all 5 and 6 year olds NEED sensory experiences to activate their little minds.

So this year, during every center rotation, I WILL have a sensory play center. I tried it out a little last year, but have really thrown myself into it this summer.

I found these gel beads (read more about that here) at the dollar store and was a little skeptic, but they WORK! All you need to do is empty the packet of gel beads into a bowl of water and let it sit a few hours. Voila! Marble size gel balls kind of like boba.

They are slippery, soft and just all around fun to touch.  My kiddos are going to love their plastic bowls full of gel beads, rocks and water.  Together we will explore how water moves around the gel beads, rocks, and sand. It's a fun little exploratory center!


Next up - a little hair gel, plastic bags, and letter cards.  Just put the hair gel in a bag, letter card underneath, and trace! More about that here. Fun for little fingers! Grab those letter cards for FREE here.


Seriously, what are these called? I Googled every possible descriptive word under the sun to find the name of the circle, snap building blocks and NOTHING! Yikes. So I am just going to call them table builders because they look like that little table in the pizza box.

Whatever they are called they are so much fun! In August and September I am going to use them as an exploratory center first and then incorporate some fairy tale STEM. Table builders snap, rotate, and have four different points to connect. They definitely require some strong fingers, so were working on building fine motor with this one!

Those little fingers are going to LOVE digging though these colorful pebbles to find their letters.  All it is here is decorative stone from the dollar store (or aquarium rocks), a pack of Dollar Spot letters, and a small bin.  Kiddos can dig with their fingers, pull out letters and color in the letter they found!  I use letter recording sheets like the ones below for many of my centers!

Letter recording options are included in most of my alphabet centers.  Students can choose the recording sheet they want and simply color in a letter when they find it. I hide these letter stones around the room for the kiddos to hunt for. Once they find them, they color in the letter on their chosen sheet.

Pick up all 20 pages of letter recording sheets here. Use them in any or all of your alphabet centers. You can print on color and put them in a clear write and wipe pocket too!

I love being able to give my kiddos a choice in their center work that won't put me over the edge. Especially at the beginning of Kindergarten - am I right?

So do you have the same problem of moving fast through the year? What are you doing to slow down? What sensory centers are you using?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

QRs All Year Long

My listening center used to be THE WORST. I hated it. I hated pulled the tape film from the wreckage after my little ones forgot how to work it. I hated the CD player being turned too loud by someone. The arguments over who got to control the buttons WERE THE WORST. Not to mention half the time they weren't on the same page as the reader.


Well. Problem solved. QR listening centers. You don't have to be 1:1 technology. You don't even have to have a cart. iPads are nice, but you really only need a couple of old iPhones - think about everyone who has upgraded and still has an old device. No more volume wars, easy scan and play, best of all - the reader in the video is usually showing the pages as he or she reads so my kiddos are following along!


I just print these pages that align with monthly themes, laminate the pages, and stick them in the library with the books. Those clean plastic wipe and write pockets work too. Or put them in a binder as the year goes on. All videos from YouTube are cleaned through Pure View or Safe Share so that your kiddos are safely watching the read around and not other content.


Now not ALL of the QRs link to read alouds, but most of them do. The ones that don't are supplemental resources to help explore a topic. So kids in the listening center are exposed to a variety of content both visual and auditory.


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/QR-Codes-for-the-Year-GROWING-BUNDLE-2518760            https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/QR-Codes-for-the-Year-GROWING-BUNDLE-2518760

Right now, I there topics for March, April, May, June, July and August. Each month I will add two more pages of QRs that fit with the month. AND this bundle is open for suggestions. Give me input on what you want showcased each month and I will do it! Yay!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/QR-Codes-for-the-Year-GROWING-BUNDLE-2518760      https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/QR-Codes-for-the-Year-GROWING-BUNDLE-2518760


Going this way with my listening center really saved it. And I am glad because I know the kiddos are excited to use QRs and this gives them the listening center I was always too frustrated to deal with!

Sometimes the read alouds get taken down off YouTube due to copywrite, so if that QR doesn't work the kids just mark an X on it.  I have no control over that, but I do update the videos as soon as I notice an issue so you will never be without a full QR set.

Get your growing QR set here - price goes up when it's complete!

What does your listening center look like? What would you like to see added?