Saturday, January 31, 2015

Weekend Warriors: I {Heart} January

This month my Weekend Warrior friends and I decided to share our favorite Valentine ideas. Can you believe that it will already be February tomorrow!?! Crazy!


And I will admit I did share this idea one other time... but it's my favorite Valentine project... and a favorite of the kids and their families....so I just couldn't help but to tell you about it once more.

There you have it.... it's them! The kids!

It is those cute faces that I can't show you.... but believe me they're cute.... dressed up as the actual Valentine!

It is a vest/ sandwich board/ poncho style valentine!

In the middle is this poem:

I'm giving you a Valentine
Don't put it on a shelf!
It's one that you can hold and love,
I'm giving you myself!

Just click on the image below for your FREE copy:

For the "vest meets poncho" thing you need to draw a giant heart template. I used to cut two hearts out separate and tie them with yarn at the top.... more like a sandwich board.

I have more recently stream lined the process so that the hearts are connected as one....faster and easier!

Since the hearts are so large {I don't have the exact size, but they cover most of the child from the waist up} I use butcher paper. The kind on a big heavy roll {that I am lucky to have access to at my school.... hope you do too!}

Then I fold the pieces and trace.... sorry that I can't just let you borrow my tracer.... it's just a bit too big for that.

I pre-cut them.... it's too big for the kids to cut!


And now is the fun part.... decoration time!

This year we are doing a sponge paint - string paint combination.

Sponge painting you saw above and let me just tell you... I don't buy heart shaped sponges.... they are out there, yes, I know... but ain't nobody got money for that... it's called...buy sponges at the 99 cent store and cut them yourself.  Super ghetto... but they work just fine!

We started the string painting side today. They L-O-V-E it! I feel it is one of those old school kindergarten activities that you don't see all the time, but it is great for fine motor skills, plus it is FUN! {It does take a while since they have to do it one or two at a time.... but worth it!}

Here's an action shot:

Here's a finished one {minus the poem}... which may go on the other side with the sponge paint...
If you are new to string painting.... I think the trick is to have "handles" on the string that can't go in the paint.... although let's be real... they do {I end up changing the string every 3 or 4 kids} And to have a paint brush that can help get the string covered in paint....


Need more Valentine's Day fun? Check out my Valentine Mini Unit on TpT!

And P.S. It's on sale right now... in fact my entire store is on sale through Monday.


And of course stop by and see what all the other Weekend Warriors have in store for you!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Classroom Organization Blog Hop




As a proud member of Primary Powers I am excited to be part of this Organization Blog Hop.

That being said... I am not organized.

What saves me is having systems. As many systems as possible that help me fake being organized.

One other little piece of advice I learned somewhere in my 16 years of teaching is the phrase "O.H.I.O"

I don't know where it comes from. I did happen to visit Ohio, as in the state, this summer for a bit... but otherwise have no connection.

In this situation it stands for "Only Handle It Once"

I TRY..... not always successfully....but a true effort is made. If I get something in my hands that I have to deal with I do it and have closure.

Don't just walk it from one pile to another and then write it on your to-do list.....which gets longer and more intimidating.

This silly tip does truly help me.... but it isn't my main event here today.

Effective communication with the parents is a crucial.

I have had a "Take Home Tuesday" a "Friday Folder and even a "Weekly Wednesday Update" The weekly communication worked for upper grades - I sent home classroom work and updates from me.

But in kindergarten I feel that a weekly folder isn't enough.

Have you ever sent home that project you were so proud of. The one you prepped for over an hour and then you watched it get crunched down into the backpack :(

Or you see it on the field as litter after everyone has gone home.

I want my kids to get all their hard work {and mine} all the way HOME.... so they can read it, share it and celebrate it.

I want the parents in my class to get any notes, forms or homework assignments that I send too!

So I have a take home folder... that goes home EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

At first every day sounds like a hassle. BUT I have found that a daily folder makes it ROUTINE for the kids and for ME. 

I call it a briefcase... and I tell them that just like their mom and dad may have a briefcase that they take to work EVERY day... so do they. Now I will say the word "briefcase" is becoming similar to the word "typewriter." Right? But it isn't obsolete yet and it lends itself to a fun discussion when the briefcases are first introduced.

The top reason I love having these...organization!

I don't wonder if things get into the hands of the parents.....The parents are also part of this routine and they know to look in and empty the briefcase daily.

I am lucky to have several parent volunteers who help to keep this process working. Their number one job - empty any incoming paperwork and put these puppies in number order {you can see the number in the top corner of the side with the opening.

I explain to the parents that this "briefcase" is to come to school each and every day. If they have a note, money, order form, etc for me it must be in the briefcase as I will not be checking bags or lunch boxes.

The kids walk in class and put them here:

After the parents or aide {or ME...during my lunch} empty them and put them in order the fill them with anything ready to go home. I also have 5th graders that sometimes pop in my room during their break to help out.
 Or a close up shot:

I have tried this a million ways, but I am happy with just my three tabs in back... my favorite is "extra copies."

You know when a parent says... do you have another picture day form? or who knows what they need... and I think... hmm, I probably have that in one of my 18 million piles... well now... all I do is....
take a peek in Extra Copies.. and it saves me time and makes me appear a bit more organized.

The daily folder may seem like a lot of work, but I have found it much more effective than a once a week type of thing with the little learners.

So that is how I organize my home to school connection!

Now hop on over to my friend Jaime at Bright Concepts 4 Teachers

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter Pattern Block Math

Are you strapped in and ready to go? I don't know about you, but vacation ends in 48 hours for me.

It was fun while it lasted.... and although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed, I am also glad to see my class and get back in to the routine.

For the last 2 months I had the same item on my to-do list. Sitting there... and never getting done.

And finally today it is crossed off :)

winter pattern blocks crayons and whimsy math kindergarten


Yes- finally the Winter Pattern Block set is done. And yes, the Spring set now will sit on my to-do list!

Why do I do this? Why do I let it linger for so so long? I started these forever ago. Really... I mean, I even posted 6 weeks ago on Instagram saying I was working on them. So....here we are just 2 short weeks officially in the winter season and they are done! I'm sure we will all sleep better tonight, right?

This set includes the following winter items:
*hot cocoa
*igloo
*mitten
*penguin
*scarf
*sled
*snow angel
*snowflake
*snowman
*snow shovel

And don't even talk to me about a pattern block polar bear. Oh it was attempted.... remember the part where I have been working on this for a while. He just never really looked like a polar bear!

What is new this time is that I made them all available in black and white too.

This had been a request for some time..... so I made it happen {And yes, I do plan on going back in my other sets including Fall, Ocean and Zoo and adding black and white pages.... but at this rate, you may be looking at 6 weeks until I get to it!!!}

I printed out one of my black and whites today. I had thought it could be good to have the kids each get their own copy this way and they can trace in the shapes after they complete the item... but that is on the difficult side!

However, I also thought you could print it out and laminate them just like the color ones. I may mount them on a color piece of construction paper to group the cards by difficulty - just like the color ones already are.
Pattern block penguin winter shapes crayons and whimsy kindergarten math
And I went ahead and just colored in the pattern block shapes before laminating!

I still prefer the color version.... I like me a little color and design.... but I get it... color ink is pricey! So it's your call.

I also want to point out.... which if you are thinking, um, Christy, I already know that- sorry.... but it is just important for me to make sure people take into account that most of these designs can be done in many, many different ways.

So although I offer an "answer key" - it is only just one possible answer.... And my key matches the "use" section that I provide.

So maybe you want to use these instead:

With my pattern block sets you always get 4 levels of difficulty... the lavender one shown above is the hardest... just the outline and no clues!

Another idea is to use one of the easier versions, but when they finish each item the student is to remake the penguin or whatever it may be again- while looking at the one they already did.

This is perfect for early finishers!! 

Oh, you are done... great! Let's make that penguin yet again!
penguin pattern block crayons and whimsy kindergarten math
And you know what....this is good for them to see and understand how the shapes fit together in different ways.

And real quick....while we are on the subject of early finishers. Do you know how you have those same 3 kids that are ALWAYS the first ones done? 

Well, what I find when using pattern blocks is that sometimes you will be surprised who you are early ones are. Yep, spatial awareness skills are a bit different than other math skills and so your "usual suspects" may still be working and 3 new players will be the ones to finish first....and very proudly, I might add.

And last thing... not sure if you can tell in my pictures above.... but I have wooden pattern blocks. I also have the plastic ones which I assume are the more common way these days... but I inherited a set of wooden ones and I LOVE LOVE LOVE them.


Look how thick they are.... if I had a plastic one here I would take a picture to compare the two. But on the off chance you are in the market to get new pattern blocks you may want to go wooden. I found some HERE, but I can't be sure these are the same as mine. What I like, is how sturdy, thick and easy they are for the kids to use. The plastic get the job done too... 

And yes, those are Jamberry on my nails... and you probably already know... but yes, I am obsessed
with them and yes, I am a consultant and yes... I can help you if you want to try them out or learn more :)


Anyway, this little pattern block ditty is on sale until Sunday night for 20% off!

If you are heading back to the trenches on Monday morning like me. I wish you luck and I wish you the time in the morning to make a Starbucks run... you'll need it! Or I guess I am speaking for myself.... it is better for everyone if I have my coffee!