March 28, 2016

Literacy & Math Activities for Spring Centers

My Spring Literacy & Math Centers Bundle got an update last year, and I realized that I completely forgot share it with you! Last year, I spend a lot of time updating my centers, so I must've just been a busy bee and forgot to post all about these activities. :) 
No matter what time of year it is, students can always get more practice on syllables. It is such a hard skill for them to grasp! This April Showers Syllable Sort will help students clap syllables all the way up to 4 syllables in a word. 
Addition seems to come easier to students than subtraction, so I knew I wanted to make another center activity to work on simple subtraction. This game is a BUMP game....have you played these? The kids loved them!! If they get the subtraction word correct, they put a block on the answer. If they get a card with that answer again, they get to double up their block and stay safe. However, if they only have 1 block on the number, and their opponent rolls the same answer, they can be bumped off that number! 
Even though time and money aren't a standard in Kindergarten anymore, I still introduced it some and worked on it more with my high ability students. The activity lets students match the price tag to the card with the coins on it.
Telling time can be a difficult concept, so we mostly worked on telling time to the hour. This game does however include cards to the half hour. Students simply grab a card, tell the time, then roll the dice and move around the board game.
Blends are another concept I introduced in the Spring in Kindergarten. This activity lets students match up the beginning blend, word, and picture or any variation of the 3 that you decide to put in the center.
Spring time is when we started hitting word families hard. I wanted to make something that I could easily differentiate for students. This Spin-A-Flower game comes with 3 letter and 4 letter word families, so you can easily distribute worksheets based on the reading ability of that student/group. Students simply spin a word family, find a flower with that word family in it, and then color it.
These are just a preview of some of the activities in my Spring bundle, there are actually 11 different activities with many of them having multiple ways to play!

If you have some students that still need help reading simple CVC words, grab this FREE real/nonsense word sort.
A response sheet is included to hold student's accountable for their work!

March 20, 2016

Spring Teacher Blogger Retreat - Weekend in Review

The Teacher Blogger Retreat in French Lick, IN is always a fun filled weekend. I love this retreat because it is less overwhelming than the TPT conferences. It's a combination of TPT creators, bloggers, and teachers that want to get together to share ideas, build friendships, and inspire each other. The French Lick Resort & Casino is GORGEOUS and historic! I only live about 2 1/2 hours from the resort, so my husband and I have been there a few times on our own to enjoy the hotel, casino, restaurants, and other activities. 
Look at all of the teachers that came this week - over 200 of us!!! 
This weekend could not be possible without Holly Ehle! She is the mastermind behind this event and does an AMAZING job every year. The amount of teachers that attend has basically doubled every year since she started and it's all because of how much fun, yet relaxing she makes this event for teachers. 
The theme of the retreat this year was Passion.  Chad is SO talented and made this AWESOME video to kick-off the retreat! 
We started the morning off with a team building activity and discussed what our passion was. Each table got a letter to write their name and passion on. Once they were all put together, it spelled out: Take Your Passion and Make it Happen. After that, we did some professional development and got to choose 4 sessions we wanted to attend. There were a variety of topics to choose from. Keri and I did a session on collaborative blogging. We gave tips on how to join a collaborative blog, things to consider if someone wanted to start a collaborative blog, and some blogging basics. I had to snap a picture with my girls Lisa and Amy from All Y'all Need! I met them a few years at my 1st TPT conference and they are just the sweetest ladies. I really enjoyed hanging out with them over the weekend. 
Like last year, we did a "teacher tool swap" where we were split into grade levels and did an exchange of our favorite teacher tools. I receive this cute notebook and these double sided markers from Joelle at A Place Called Kindergarten. Then at the end of our day, we got all of this swag from some amazing sponsors!!! Thank you so much to ESGI, Astrobrights, Vera Bradley, Digi by Amy, Creative Clips, Udderly Smooth, TeachersPayTeachers, GoNoodle, The Pencil Grip, Kwik Stix, Creative Teaching Press, and Erin Condren for supporting teachers!
We always have a Saturday fun night at this retreat. Last year it was a pajama party and this year it was 80s themed! It was a lot of fun trying to pick out an outrageous outfit to wear. The troll bow was actually a bow my mom still had from when I was little. This year we had a photo booth, which is always a fun time!
Top left: Keri & Kim were some of my roomies from the weekend. We had lots of laughs together!
Bottom left: Erica is a friend I follow on Instagram, so it was a lot of fun to meet in person!
Bottom middle: I met Vera, at the TPT conference this Summer and she is SO nice. It was great to see her again!
Right: Keri and I took over the photo booth. We weren't ready for the last picture, so you can tell we are a bit surprised. LOL!
I had to grab a picture with all of my collaborative blog friends from The Elementary Entourage! I love all these people and it's always fun when we are able to get together! How hilarious is Greg as Richard Simmons?!
 If you have a chance to make it next year, you definitely want to put it on your calendar!

Would you like to win all of the SWAG that we received from our awesome sponsors? You can enter below: a Rafflecopter giveaway

See more posts from other teachers that attend the retreat!
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March 13, 2016

Beyond the Pencil: Expanding Student's Writing Tools

Let students use other writing tools than just pencils
Do your students use pencils for ALL of their class work? I'm here to tell you to a few benefits of letting students use more than just a pencil and how it can change your student's writing for the better.

What are the Benefits of other Writing Tools?
No Erasing: By allowing students to only write with pencils, (typically with an eraser) students know there is always an option of erasing when they make a mistake. I notice some students become more concerned about the perfection of their work and not just the free flow of ideas in their writing. I've noticed that students write more when they sit and "just write" instead of worrying what the writing looks like. I know, I know, you may say that students need to worry about punctuation, spelling, transitional words, etc. Yes, there is a time and place for that, but there is also a time where students should be able to just write freely. 

Catching Mistakes: More importantly, when students don't have the opportunity to erase, I get to see where they make their mistakes, what work they completed that day, and what they may need to work on. I can then do a mini-lesson for a small group or the entire class if I keep seeing similar mistakes or concepts that they didn't seem to get. I don't always see that if they bring me work that they've already edited quite a bit. 

No Pencil Sharpeners: Need I say more? :) Seriously though, you won't have to hear the pencil sharpener or mess with sharpening pencils every morning before class. No more tiny pencils getting stuck in your pencil sharpeners or double sided pencils. No more emptying shavings. 

Less Arguing: Even if we provide students with the same brand of pencils, they always find something to argue about. They want the taller pencil, the biggest eraser, the pointiest pencil, etc. When students are giving a lot of options to write with, there is less arguing. There is always something fun to write with! 

Variety: When was the last time you grabbed a pencil to write with? I can say I hardly ever use a pencil, why?, because they are BORING! I grab an ink pen, marker, flair pen, etc. I like to write with something colorful and smoother. So do our students! 
Other Options for Writing Tools:
-pens
-markers (fat & skinny)
-highlighters
-colored pencils
-crayons
-pencils without erasers

Colored pencils are great because they write like a pencil, but are a bit more fun to write with. Students get the feel of a normal pencil, but they will take their time since they won't be able to erase. 
Practice money skills with this Monster Money bundle.
Writing with crayons can help their fine motor skills and also teach students control. Since crayons write a bit "fatter", they'll have to be more aware of their writing space.
Students practice writing letters based on what they roll. Add crayons to help their fine motor skills.
Skinny markers are probably my favorite to let students use. They glide on the paper, are consistent, write small and exact like a pencil, yet add a fun pop of color!
This editable sight word writing makes practicing sight words more fun. Skinny markers are a great way to let students use something else to write with that mimics a pencil, but add a pop of color!
Students don't have to worry about sharpening a pencil, having an eraser, or it being too tiny to write with. They last a long time too!
You'll be surprised how many students will pick pens to write with. I think they feel like a grown-up using a pen.
Easter graphing and tracking sheet.
Pens have the same benefits as skinny markers and are another great option.
Remember, that this doesn't have to be a switch for your entire day if you don't want to. You may find a time when you still need students to write with pencils. I'm just saying to give it a shot and see if you see some positive results! Giving students some freedom and choice and be good!

If you are looking for more writing tips, you can read about my new post: Do you Want Your Students to Love Writing?