Sunday, January 28, 2018

Using Technology in Kindergarten with Boom Cards

Let me guess? Your district wants you to come up with ideas to integrate technology in your classroom.  You received a cart full of Ipads or Chromebooks for your kindergarten class but other than a couple of free web sites you have no idea what to do with them.  As the push to use digital resources in elementary school gets stronger, you are going to need more than a couple free websites to engage your kids and increase their engagement.
I have 2 words for you. Boom Cards. Boom Cards are digital task cards. 
technology in kindergarten

It's a digital take on an old favorite. Boom cards take task cards to a whole new level. They are interactive, fun, and wait for it......self checking! Yes! Just what every teacher has been asking for, self-checking digital resources. But in the words of every goofy TV commercial - that's not all.... Boom collects the data! Seriously, Boom collects the data and provides you with reports on your kindergarten student's rate and accuracy. You can see not only which answer they got incorrect, but you can see how they answered incorrectly.

Data, that four letter word. It can bring you to you knees. But data doesn't have to be complicated. If we use data as it's intended - to make decisions about our next step in teaching.  It can be extremely powerful. Data has received a bad rap lately because we are sometimes asked to take data just for the sake of saying we take data. If we use that information to help kids become better readers then I'm all for it. This is where Boom comes in. Boom takes the data on accuracy. We can easily go back and see which question the kids got incorrect and we can see their mistake. Do they struggle with vowels? Are they missing the ending sounds? This information about our kids' thinking is so helpful when making our plans. 

cvc word,

Honestly the best part about Boom Cards is my kids love them, I mean, they really love them. It must have something to do with the dings it makes when they get their answers correct- I don't know, but my kindergarten kids have been begging for more.

 Guess what? So have their parents. It's easy for parents to use as well. Boom cards even work on your phone! Homework has never been easier.
Oh one more thing.....Do you have kids with special needs?  ESL kids? Well Boom has a sound feature - it's basically like sitting one on one helping your with individual vocabulary or reading instruction. Think of the implications for math? Now you can assess your kids' ability to complete the math in a word problem regardless of their reading ability. Your student's simple click the speaker icon to hear the problem being read to them. Differentiation? Done!

When you purchase a Boom deck from Teachers Pay Teachers you receive a free 3 month membership. After 3 months you have a choice. You can purchase a membership for $9. That membership gives you $5 worth of points to buy extra Boom decks. (So it basically costs you $4 for a year.)  If you don't want to buy a membership, you can continue to use your decks. You just sign in using your "fast pin".  Each of your decks are stored in your library. 

 Want to give it a try?  Grab a free Boom deck here. 

Grab my newest $$$ saving bundles here 


Monday, January 15, 2018

New ideas for teaching handwriting

Teaching handwriting to kindergarten students can be challenging. Beginning writers need to not only identify letters, they need to be able to write letters  automatically and with fluency.   Teaching handwriting is so important in kindergarten because it's a strong predictor of quality writing in the upper grades. 

There is extensive research that states that explicit instruction of handwriting is required for kids to master the mechanics of writing. Reproducing letters quickly and effortlessly is a critical skill our kindergarten students need.  When a student says a letter, learns to make the strokes of the letter, and attaches the sound to that letter, it helps them put all the critical pieces together, motor, phonological, and visual. Before we had technology, teachers had to accomplish this by sitting one on one with a child. But technology has changed all that!

Using flipped lessons help provide the nesessary direct instruction. Writing letters correctly takes substantial repeated practice. Our students need to identify the letter by name and memorize the formation. Sure, some children come to us already able to write their name. But many students arrive with limited handwriting skills. We can use technology in our classroom to help those students become successful.

Flipped lessons provide our young learners with videos that can do the teaching for us. Using flipped lessons for letter practice helps kids because they hear the repeated verbalizations while they are writing. You can literally "talk them through it".  

It's easy for our kindergarteners to use. All we need is a QR reader on our IPads ( free from the app store). Each lesson has a worksheet that has a QR code. The kids simply scan the QR code and they are brought directly to the video. The video provides that critical direct instruction.  The worksheets can be used at school or they can be sent home for homework.

Things to consider when teaching handwriting
Should we teach upper or lowercase first? 
The uppercase letters are often easier because of the straight lines, but kindergarten students see primarily lowercase letters while reading. When using flipped lessons you can teach both at the same time. 

What order do we teach the letters?
 Believe it or not A is one of the hardest letters to master. There are diagonal lines which are so difficult for kids. You've seen that child's first attempt at the letter A. It  really looks like an H with a bridge.  Not to mention the lower case looks nothing like the upper case. So give the students a break and start with easier letters like T, and F.

How easy is it to make a letter? 
Are there straight lines, curved lines both kinds of lines??? When practicing letter formation keep this in mind. I like to teach letters like c, and o, at the same time.

We need our kindergarten students to master handwriting so they can focus on the higher level skills they'll need when reading and writing.

Using flipped lessons has been a life saver for me. and my kids.  Click here to grab a sample of how flipped lessons can transform how you teach handwriting.

You can make your own flipped lesson with an app called Explain Everything. Don't have time? don't worry, I have it for you. If you haven't tried flipped lessons before you can try a sample here

You can grab the full resource here

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 for 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 lifesaver. 
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 differentiate 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 strength 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.