Friday, November 24, 2017

Making a Gingerbread House

I have been making Gingerbread houses with my kids for years. I would spend $50 on frosting, graham crackers, gumdrops, licorice, peppermint candy, ugh the list went on and on. I saved milk cartons from luch and splashed myself as I spent an entire planning period washing those cartons.  Then I would need a literal army of volunteers, and a gallon of frosting to get the graham crackers to actually stick to the cartons. One year, I even tried to use a glue gun to make the graham crackers stick! Then as a final insult, I'd have to figure out how to get all my little darlings on a bus without dropping, tipping, destroying their creation, or covering their coats with frosting.


This is what I dreamed they would make...

This was what they actually made...


Enough! One of my favorite saying is... if you're not having fun change something.  Well, I wasn't having any fun. To be honest, my kids just loved getting their sticky little hands on the candy. 

So I changed everything. Guess what? We are all having fun. Now  I spend $1 on brown paper pages and I pick up a bag of lollipops. I mean, you have to eat candy while making a gingerbread house. 
This year we will be making gingerbread houses, but we'll be using crayons,  markers, and colored pencils. We'll have scissors and glue and it will get messy, but the difference is - it's just paper. No need to have a mountain of Lysol wipes to scrub the hardened frosting off the table and floor. And, they look great!

I print out plenty of extra kits, and I let the kid's creativity develop.  I put on some holiday music and the kids all move about the room as they create their gingerbread master pieces. I actually get to walk around and chat as they create. Isn't that what we wanted in the first place? My kids take something home they are proud of and I actually leave school on time. If you haven't made gingerbread houses with frosting and graham crackers, you really should try it. But please remember to wear an apron, and have lots of extra cleaning supplies. But if you are like me,  You might like to try a paper bag gingerbread house instead
Check out some of my fun Gingerbread Resource





Friday, September 22, 2017

4 easy steps to getting your kindergarten kids logged into Google Classroom....FASTER

Trust me, I've been there.  You're so excited to get started on Google Classroom, you have amazing resources you want to share, your admin wants you to use it......... but the kids take FOREVER to log in.  #thestruggleisreal!!!





I have good news for you! I have also struggled with this same issue and I have some solutions you can use TOMORROW!!!

Tip #1
Use a QR code. Half the battle of getting your kids logged in, is getting them TO Google Classroom. Make it easy for you and easy for your kids use a QR code. All you need to do is add a free QR reader app to your device. ( You can download at the app store). Then create a QR code with QR code generator and boom your kids are where they need to be. Here's a link to a QR generator site.




Tip #2
Give them a Driver's License.  Type their name and log in information onto a card and keep it handy. I  keep my kids cards in a plasctic bag with their headphones. (Hint: make lots of copies!!!!) You get bonus points if you put the QR code right on the driver's license.   Click here. to get my logging in guide with free driver's license( it's editable!!!)

Tip #3
Make sure you use the correct font. Want to confuse a kindergartener? Show them the letter a or the letter g. Even our most competent kinders need a minute to learn what these letters are. No wonder it takes them 20 minutes to log in. Make sure you make it easy for your kids. Write their login in info in the same font. Most keyboards are in Calibri. Look closely at your keyboard, if it's all in capital like a laptop then use all capital. If it's all in lowercase like a chromebook then use lowercase.


Tip #4

Color code! The keyboard can be a confusing miss mash of letters with seemily no order. Give the kids a little help. Place a small sticker, or card at each row to color code the row.

Then make sure you color their login card to match. It honestly takes the sting out of looking for through the entire keyboard.



As teachers you know there are still going to be kids who will need a little extra help, but we need to perserverve. Our kids will be using keyboards their whole lives and it's our job to help them learn how to navigate it. Trust me, the first and second grade teachers will LOVE you if your kids show up next year able to log in. ( You might just get a thank you coffee the first week). You can grab my free complete guide to logging in here.

Need a little keyboard practice? Grab my keyboard resource here.

Grab my FREE complete kit for helping kids log in faster here.






Friday, September 1, 2017

Make learning fun with an all time favorite!

What's the one activity that always brings a smile.......Play doh! Who doesn't love play dough? I've never been able to resist grabbing some and giving it a squish. Kids are no different. They just love play doh and who could blame them? 


Play dough is my "go to" activity the first few weeks of the year. When we have "meet the teacher" or open house, I always have a small container on each desk so the kids can start playing while I chat with the parents. It's a true life saver. 
So let's use this strong attraction to sneak in a little learning. At the beginning of the year I love using these fun cards.  





I can easily differntiate for all my levels.  I use the simple "practice"  cards for those kids who need a little extra support. Click here for a free set of my practice cards



Using the play doh helps build finger strenght, and dexterity skills.  These skills are so important as our kids learn to write, draw, and use scissors.
I can let the kids explore letters, numbers, and shapes.  


I love using these because at the beginning of the year my kids need a lot of time exploring materials and at the same time I need them to  become familiar with the expectations of center time. Play dough is the perfect way to transition into a more academic center. (Just what my boss is looking for). So I make sure I add a "student objective" sheet so my intentions and goals are clear. 

Let's face it, play doh looks beautiful the first week, but you let the kids have freedom with playdoh and it won't be long before the play doh is one big grayish greenish mixed up mess. And although I have no problem with them mixing the colors, there is nothing like bright vibrant clay.

So my answer is, make it yourself. I have tried lots of play doh recipes but I've discovered the secret ingredient ....... Cream of Tartar. No, you won't find it on your fish sticks! You'll find this perfect little item in the spice aisle. If you are a baker, you might know Cream of Tartar if you've ever made an Angle Food cake. But there is something about this magic little ingredient that keeps the play dough smooth and the consistency just right. 

If you'd like a copy of my favorite play doh recipe and a set of play doh practice cards click here.


                    
I hope you are having a great back to school season. Remember to take care of yourself. Teaching little humans is hard work! So treat yourself to take out pizza Friday night so you can relax. 
You can see more about this center here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Boom Cards - The perfect answer to self checking technology in kindergarten


Have you heard about Boom Learning?  It. Is. So. Cool.  No more printing, cutting, or laminating. I love bright and shiny new laminated centers just as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, it can be a lot of work. Boom Learning is awesome. You can use it on your I pads, chrome books, laptops, pretty much anything that has a screen. The best news is this new resource is available at your favorite go to teacher stop. Teachers Pay Teachers!!!



It is a new platform that uses teacher made resources for your students. The students access “decks” which are basically digital task cards. Boom will give you reports about how many the kids completed correctly and how fast they finished. Each child in your class can work on the same deck or on different decks. This is a perfect way to differentiate in the classroom. All the kids can be working on Boom and they can all be working on different levels. Because in 30 years of teaching I have never had a class where everyone is working on the same level.
New ideas for ipads, and chrome books






Not sure you want to create a membership? No worries. You can download a free deck and use the Fast Play option. You will receive a pin that the kids can use to access the decks. But trust me, once you try it, or more important once your kids try it, you'll be hooked and want the full membership.   See it in action here




Once you have an account you can add your students. I teach kindergarten so I add all my kid’s names to my class and give them all a password.  Each student gets a cute little animal face.  They use that to log in.
How to collect data on Boom Decks


You can assign different decks to different students. When they sign in they go to their assignment tab and get to work. Once they are done, you'll be able to access their reports. The reports give you the number of correct answers and the time it took to complete the task. Seriously! No checking their work, you will get reports that show how they answered, I mean seriously this is awesome. This graph shows the questions my student got correct and incorrect and the average time it took to answer. It's perfect for progress monitoring, and RTI groups.
How to collect data on boom decks


Try a free deck here.
Teaching ten frames in math centers

 But be warned, once you try it, you'll be hooked!
Just to be completely clear, I've been on Boom for a year and have loved it.  Boom is giving me a free membership renewal to tell you about them. 
Try it, you'll love it! I'm adding more everyday. Make sure you follow my store so you'll be notified when new decks arrive.  Boom is adding features faster than I can check it out!! They now have sound and movable pieces. !!!
You can check out more decks here.




Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Biggest myths about Google Classroom and young learners

Let's talk about Google Classroom. Going digital in kindergarten and first grade can be a powerful tool for differentiatng your kid's learning.  
Big myth buster- you don't need to be a 1:1 school to do it.


Most teachers in the upper grades have been using Google classroom for ages, but it's not as popular in the lower grades. Not many of us have taken the leap to digital. I've actually heard people say you can't use Google in kindergarten (Gasp!) They couldn't be more wrong! 
Myth buster #2 Kindergarten students CAN use Google Classroom.
So how do you get started?
A little background. Just recently Google changed it's policy. You used to have to be part of a school district that adopted GAFE (Google Apps for Education). Guess What??? Not any more, you just need to have a gmail account and so do your students, that's bascially it. This opens the doors wide open for homeschoolers. It honestly could not be any easier. 
 All the kids in a GAFE district will have an "email" and password. I put email in quotes because it's not always an actual email. My kids can't send or receive messages. It only works on the school platform.  ( this is not always the case so check with your district). The older kids usually know their account and password, but you'll have to get your kids' info for them. My free driver's license is part of my "Getting Started with Google Guide" you can grab the guide here.


  I work in a large district and I can access my kids info through our district attendance site. Other possible ways include getting the information from a tech teacher, or IT department.  Usually it's the kids name and the school domain. example dlarsen@myschoolK12.org. The password is usually something associated with the student, like their birthday. Your tech person can get you that info. Don't be surprised when they doubt that your young kids can use it. Convincing people that young learners can use Google Classroom is the hardest part. See myth buster #2!


Once you have this information you can get started.

Setting up a classroom. 
Myth buster #3 Setting up a class is too technical.
It's easy, you can do it.  Please watch this video I created on getting started with Google. If you're like me, it's A LOT easier to watch someone do it, rather than read about how they do it. So go ahead and check my video it's part of my Google Guide you can access it here.


Are you ready to give it a try? Grab my Guide and you'll get my video, my driver's license, and shhhh.... a free Google resource to try. You can get the whole guide here.

If you're ready to start, you can access all my Google resources featured in this post here.




Sunday, March 26, 2017

The best hack for using glue in the classroom

Glue sticks. Those 2 simple words bring me both joy and aggravation. I have a love hate relationship with glue sticks. On the one hand I love the ease of glue stick, no more puddles of glue, no clogged tops. It seemed like the perfect answer. But they let me down. Lost caps, dried out sticks, sticks that get turned so much the glue pops off the stick never to be fully insertd again. Nothing can ruin a perfectly good day quicker than lost glue caps. They must be hiding somewhere with all the missing socks. 
Glue sponges, cut and paste made easy


I keep my relationship with glue sticks going because I just couldn't face the alternative- clogged liquid glue. I can't tell you how many hours of my life have been spent trying to soak those little orange tops. I ruined many perfectly good paper clips trying to excavate though dried out glue. 

Well my problem is solved. I can't believe I haven't tried this before. Glue sponges. I've seen these little buggers on pinterest for years, but I never actually tried to make them. I was a fool!!!!! Seriously, glue sponges are my newest favorite hack. They are simple to make, and they actually work! 

     Follow these simple steps and your life will be so much happier!






It's so easy I could just cry! I thought the kids would get glue all over themselves, but they don't a couple kids might need to wash their hands, but those are the same kids who needed to wash their hands after using a glue stick. I have learned that you might need to spray the sponges with just a little water now and again.  I add glue every couple of weeks, but that's about it. I suggest you use anitbaterial sponges. If you don't they might start to smell a little. But don't worry, you can always add a couple drops of mouthwash to the sponge and that works to kill any bacteria.

Now are you ready to have some fun? 
Grab these fun cut and paste activities......