Thursday, October 30, 2014

ESGI: My Assessment Life Saver! {GIVEAWAY!}

Ahh assessments...I hate the idea of having to do them. The word "assessment" just stresses me out. And they are coming up soon.... really soon!

Last year I learned about ESGI and that has literally saved my assessment life.

Spoiler Alert..... There is a HUGE giveaway for a full year's subscription to ESGI at the end of this post!

I have 26 kids in my class and that means my assessment notebook is fat... it is overflowing with papers. When a child sits down it takes me a good 3 minutes to get to their section of the notebook and then their page....and of course I have to locate the correct pen color...right? If you teach little ones I am sure you do the same, we color code so we know which trimester or quarter a child learned that sound or skill.

Ain't nobody got time for that. Seriously.

My other favorite was getting all the way home and realizing I didn't bring the notebook with me when I wanted to work on report cards or looking at data. Even worse would be if the thing didn't make it back to the classroom.

I triple heart ESGI.

It is all online and I can access it from home or school.

I can call a kid over and click click I am ready to assess.

When I first read about this I thought I am sure it is nice, but does it really cut down on my assessment time....and the answer is YES it does... by a lot!

Ok so a kid comes over and I have a screen that looks like this:
ESGI crayons and whimsy assessments kindergarten

And away we go... next thing you know we are done and I just click to the next one. I usually have the kiddos stand...they seem to prefer it. If they want to sit, no problem... but they wiggle around, standing and answering my questions. It works well for us.


ESGI crayons and whimsy assessments kindergarten


So when I have finished assessing that child the above is what I see. A nice organized summary of it all. Mind you this is just the "pre-reading" section. There would be more data if I clicked on the tabs on the top.

The tab you see that says "Kinder Report Card" is one that I created to match my district's exact specifications for certain things like sight words. The other categories are ones that were pre made by ESGI. You can mix and match.....use what they have already done and then customize your own when needed.

I would like to talk to you about the column to the right.... it's a gold mine!

First on the list "Class Totals Report" Here is a sample of that:

ESGI crayons and whimsy assessments kindergarten

On the far left you would see the student names, but I can't share that and some of these are just made up little people for the purpose of sharing with you. It shows you the child's baseline score {B} in blue and then in green is the most recent assessment. These are the same since I have only assessed them once at this point. And I am sorry that picture is hard to see here.... on ESGI it isn't an issue and you can print it- or send the data directly into an Excel document.

As I begin the adventure of "Assessments Round 2" I will be able to see what they started the year with and their current score at the same time. That is great when writing report cards or talking on the phone with a parent.

Moving on down on the list of features....we have Bar Graph Analysis:

ESGI crayons and whimsy assessments kindergarten

So by looking at this quickly I can see that 12 is the least known number in my classroom...and I am pretty sure that was the case last year. Hmmm.... note to self: teach twelve better :)

Clearly the number 12 is haunting me because apparently 12 kids recognize the numeral 12. Whereas 18 kids recognize 20.

But can we please talk about how handy this chart is?

Next up "Test Results Letter"
You can click and print and there will be a complete letter for parents that has specific information about their child. This is great for the times you assess, but aren't sending home a report card. This is like a mini report card.

The next button says "Print Flash Cards"
And once again at the click of a button I can have flashcards created specific to that particular student. These are great to send home!

"Print Pie Charts" does just that!
It will print the pie charts in a "Send home" or add to my assessment binder version. Here is what I got for my pretend student:
ESGI crayons and whimsy assessments kindergarten


Last up "View Untested Students" is maybe my favorite. Just click and it tells me who I need to test.  Hallelujah.... however you spell that... I can't think because I am so excited about this feature.

You know how a child will be absent and you don't assess them and write it on a post it note to do later that ends up who knows where and you sit down to work on their report card and think....oh yeah... I haven't done theirs yet...then you want to scream....right?

I just get excited talking about this because ESGI has made my life so much easier. I may not be the most organized human- but I think even this human.....whoever you are... would find ESGI a welcoming surprise in their life.

I am so excited to be teaming up with ESGI for a GIVEAWAY! Yes, a giveaway for a free year subscription to a new user!

And here is the best part.... everyone can win even if you don't end up being the winner winner.... because first time users to ESGI who use the code B7722 can get $40 off! Yep, a full year of ESGI wonderful-ness for just $159 {instead of $199}

If you click the image below you can watch some videos of teachers using the program to make it make more sense for you.


Good luck! I wish you could ALL win because every kindergarten teacher needs this!!!!!

Here's the deal- if you have already signed up for ESGI you can renew yours for $40 off using the code B7722 when your go through the renewal steps.  And if you have a free trial going on already use the same code for $40 off!

Those of you who are brand new to all of this.... please enter below. You need to GO HERE to get that trial set up as part of your entry below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Finger Painting and Describing Pumpkins

This is one of my favorite October boards and activities. And I just had to get a quick post in before the month ends..... although pumpkins in November can work too.


Anyway, I love this board because the kids artwork is so true to kinder and because the kids use the board throughout the month.

First of all, they each finger paint a pumpkin. There is not traced shape or anything at all. The goal is for these pumpkins to be as different as possible....to help us later brainstorm adjectives and because so many of the other projects I do with them require templates and all that... and as cute as those turn out sometimes I need some good old fashioned kindergarten-ness!

The adult will ask them before they start painting, "What kind of pumpkin do you want to make?" The goal is here is that they may start using adjectives... and again, getting themselves ready to share later on when we create the graphic organizer.

{Quick fingerprinting side note: I use white paper that is made especially for fingerprinting so it is shiny and slick. I also put a bit of starch in the tempera paint to help it be easier for the kiddos to use. I also have a one hand in the paint rule... I know... not as fun...but one is more than enough!}

Okay... so after we paint the pumpkins I have an adult cut them out and display them with the circle title "pumpkins."

As a class we come back and take a look at our patch and I ask them to describe to their neighbor where their pumpkin is on the board. Again, trying to get them to warm up and start using the vocabulary I will be looking for in a minute. This doesn't 100% work because some will say, "It is the one with my name on it." And well.... they are right.

Then we go around and give describing words and I write and staple as they tell them to me. Later, I added the green yarn. And voila....it is done.

Now we start to use the board. Some kids who were early finishers would sit back by the pumpkin patch and write a sentence using at least one of the new adjectives or describing words. On a sentence strip on the ground I had "My pumpkin is ________" and asked them to complete the sentence.

Then the following week there wasn't any frame- they could just go and write.

And then finally in a directed group with me we wrote pumpkin poems:


The poem is:
Pumpkins, pumpkins!
I like pumpkins!
________ pumpkins, __________ pumpkins!
________ pumpkins, __________ pumpkins!
I like pumpkins!

Enjoy your last few days of October!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Classroom Library Organization

This October weekend is all about organization! If you missed yesterday's post about organizing files and all your stuff just click HERE and for today we are talking about organizing your classroom library.

Again, these are my tips for a kindergarten or first grade room. I like to organize my library by theme and topic. There is no wrong way to sort your books.

I keep leveled books that I use for reading instruction separate - we are just talking about the classroom library. My students each have a book box of their own. These house their class made books {which will go home about a week after they are made to allow for time to practice reading it in class first} and leveled readers that we worked on at the reading table previously.

First, I want to just share my opinion. I know a lot of people say kids will mess around in the library, they aren't really reading {or looking at books for our pre-readers} and therefore they find the library a heart ache that is difficult to manage.

So this post will start with more of a management twist... and we will slowly get to the organization part.

Besides a lot of modeling to what library behavior should look like- I feel that a variety of books will change all of this.

You can't set up your library at the beginning of the year and expect to be done for the year.

I also know that a lot of teachers keep their read alouds separate from the library itself. Once in a while, I will keep a book to the side so I can surprise them with it, but then after I read it I always put it in the library - yes, even if it is a hardback book.

The kids are always excited to get to look at and/or read a book that I have read to them. I realize the life of the book may be a bit shorter with them handling it, but I want them to handle it and enjoy. I can get a new one every few years.

I try to change something every Friday.... sometimes it is every other Friday.

So here is my library.
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy

Close up of the right side:
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy
And now the left:
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy
{Typically the top 4 spots are for four different themes or types of books: in this case, nocturnal animals, apples, spiders and pumpkins.  On the bottom are our class made books and books donated by students on their birthday. Right now my autumn and fall books are down there too because there are so many topics this time of year and since we haven't made that many of our own books yet.}

Ok.... so as you saw above on the display this week I have all my Halloween books. They just arrived. Yep, the kiddos haven't laid their eyes on any of those books. On Monday they will be thrilled to have a whole new selection.

Last week the display was all about pumpkins and looked like this:
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy

Then instead of putting them away, the pumpkin books are moved over to the shelf:
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy

They will probably be accessible to the kids for about 3 more weeks. Then they will be back to the book shelf until next year.

It is possible, depending on time, that they will even change which bucket they are in over their time in the book shelf. Just like in your favorite store...they move things around to keep their customers interested. Your students are your customers!

Inside each book is the matching sticker to make sure the kids can put them away in the correct spot:
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy

I buy new {and used} books ALL the time. So I don't want it to be too hard to maintain my system. Don't get me wrong it took a LONG time to get all the books sorted and labeled, but now I don't want it to be that the new books aren't included or that I am reluctant to buy new books because it will be a pain to get them labeled and ready to go. No way!!   Everything is in one pouch like this:
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy

Inside are sheets of pre-printed labels ready should I buy another pumpkin book or whatever it may be. In addition there is one laminated label on a black piece of construction paper. These are put in the slots for each area of the library {and sometimes I take it to the side of the display so the kids know what goes there}

A lot of these labels I created myself. But once you make one set you can easily go in and edit it to make another one. That being said, I almost died and went to heaven when I found this resource by Jessica Meacham. Um...THANK YOU!  When you go to her link, scroll all the way down and click where it says "download labels" and enjoy!

I know I am spoiled to have such a nice piece of library furniture.  It is from Lakeshore I adore it!
But even without this you could get plastic bins at a discount store and use these. They don't even need a shelf. I used to have bins on the carpet.

Last comment, I am lucky to have a fairly large room these days, but in the past my library shared space with our morning meeting area. This seemed to make sense since no one would ever be in the library when we are meeting as a class, yet when we are away it will have plenty of nice carpet space to spread out. It also can be nice for mini lessons or introducing new themes. So even if you have a small room, you can have a fabulous library!

The classroom library should be an integral part of every single classroom. I really feel changing it up and keeping it fresh for your little ones will make the library a more engaging place for our little friends.

In an upcoming post I want to share more about how I utilize the book boxes and leveled readers.... but man, this has already been a long one today!
classroom library organization crayons and whimsy Weekend Warriors
Remember Weekend Warriors will be back the last weekend in November with a new theme and lots of great new tips from me and my WW friends!

And LAST chance to get in on this Educents bundle. It is $100 worth of goodies to last you the whole year all for just $29.99 and I am so proud to be excited to be included. Check it out!


Want more organizing tips? Check out some of these:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Organizing October {Weekend Warrior Style}

This month's Weekend Warrior theme is Organization....
Well, let me start by saying I am not the best at organizing- but that being said, having certain underlying systems in place allows me to perhaps on a day to day basis be a little last minute.

This filing system has worked well for me in both kindergarten and first grade... and yes, during my upper elementary days I did things a bit differently.

Let me start by saying some of these files aren't pretty. Oh no...I warn you now, this isn't a pristine, super neat system. It is "organized" and it does work for me.... and it is a little messy. Just keepin' it real :) Keep in mind this is Year 16 for me.... and that equals a ton of stuff.

I have a two drawers to a filing cabinet devoted to monthly or theme files.
crayons and whimsy filing organization
I have decided this picture doesn't really show you what I want it to. Things are color coded by month. September has a few colors going on {hence why this is a bad picture} but October is all orange. It seems early in the year monthly works... but later that isn't the case. So in the spring I have a color for "Insects" and another for "Zoo" or whatever else I may teach.

Space is tight so there is no room for large items or extra copies. I avoid extra copies like the plague. Don't make that many extra anyway...right? Just save paper...besides I don't know about you, but our budget is tight.

I know, I used to have the "just in case" attitude too, but I don't. For me a class set equals 28....26 kids plus two more and that is it. I usually use one to model and then I have just one extra. They can use an eraser to fix any mistakes.

I used to have a random ten of this activity and eight of that.... but then what? When the next year  arrives I may not even use the thing.... and if I do, I usually just copy what I need without counting what is leftover in the file leading to EVEN more excess and thicker files that just won't fit. Don't do it!

Also, for anything that I do as substantial unit I have a "Miscellaneous" file...always.

crayons and whimsy filing organization
The main reason is because I may download a freebie or get another new activity from a coworker and I don't have time to be making new files every second. Plus, maybe I am not going to really use it. If it ends up being a part of my program then it will earn its own file the following year.

I also try to follow the same rule of thumb as I do in my closet. If I haven't used the file in two years it is out....okay maybe three years at the most. But why save it? In this day and age there are so many wonderful, engaging lessons out there- and as I add to my program I need to get rid of too! And again, if you are in your first 5 years you may have the space and luxury to just hang on to it... let me tell you that is a dangerous habit and will haunt you at year 16 like me.

 Separately.... I have another filing cabinet with files that are skill based:
crayons and whimsy filing organization alphabet
So in kinder my alphabet files are used daily. I know... I need to deal with these.... they are a mess. The bottom picture shows you a snip it of what is inside them.

I highly suggest you don't put the files in the order you teach them. Right now I follow the Houghton Mifflin letter order and in the past I have used the one suggested by Handwriting without Tears...or whoever. That will change - but alphabetical order won't... also a sub or volunteer may not know the order you cover them, but they know the alphabet {hopefully!.}

I used to include other things in these files- for example, I traditionally cover M when we are doing monsters so I have a few monster based activities. In the past this would possibly end up in the letter file.... If their purpose is practicing the M sound then they go in the M file, but if it is a seasonal monster activity it goes in seasonal file.

When I taught first I also had a file of every vowel combination like "oi" or "ay" etc.

Lastly, I have boxes for big stuff.
crayons and whimsy filing organization
I keep them under a table. There are ALWAYS two of them under there. I just had September and October under there..... then just last week I just swapped it out and have October and November under the table.

Nothing is worse than packing up the September box on October 1st and then finding more things to put in there. So the previous month stays out until about half way through the following month.

I am lucky to now be able to house all the boxes in my classroom, but in the past these were in my garage at home... not my most favorite plan, but it worked.

So here is an arial shot of what is in there:
crayons and whimsy filing organization

We got big stuff.....stuff I buy at the Target Dollar Spot..... samples, like my cornucopia craft that I just don't want to get pressed down in a filing cabinet.

Buried under this all are some large envelopes. Some of my "not file friendly" things are in a big envelope and it lives in the box- such as my Turkey Hats-
crayons and whimsy filing organization turkey hat
This is an example of a time that I do have lots of extras {despite what I said above... I never copy extras, but I do cut extras for projects both so they can have enough choice in color and to account for mistakes....cutting mistakes require a new piece as opposed to writing mistakes that require only an eraser}

So lastly, I will show you my math drawer - that also needs some help. Hey I warned you... I am not the neatest so I apologize if you want super perfect files.

Math is a by concept kinda gig.

Again, don't file by chapter of your current math series...these come and go. If you need to you could have a section of files devoted to the chapters of your current adopted program, but your main files for centers should be by concept. If you are looking for something you will know what skill it covers, but you may not remember if that is chapter 10 or 12!
crayons and whimsy filing organization
So I am aware that time is no longer a kindergarten math standard and technically patterning isn't found in the common core, but that is another conversation. Point is... these need some updating as we make the common core transition.

The tags I got from someone out there in the blogging world...but I can't remember who...it was about three years ago. I am about to make new ones that are Common Core aligned and will share them with you. I just printed them out and glued them on construction paper.

I keep all my math manipulatives in another cupboard. Obviously things like unifix cubes and pattern blocks are out where the kids can get to them. But other things such as number flash cards or dice in bottles are in one cupboard FULL of all math stuff. If a math center requires a certain spinner or dice it is filed with the game {I un-tape the dice to be flat in the file}

And I think that is a wrap....doesn't cover it a lll... that would be impossible, but you get the general idea, I hope!

Check out some of the tips of my Weekend Warrior friends and stop by tomorrow for some more organizing ideas!