Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tips for Taking the Littles to the Lab

Our school has a computer lab where kindergarten students are expected to log in on their own with a a six digit student number. This is crazy since most of them cannot even read numbers and have never touched a mouse (the one used for technology) in their lives. What does a teacher do to hold on to her sanity, which is slowly slipping away?  Create a scaffold.
This works for me so don't go insane yet... there is hope.
First, I make a card for each student with their first and last name and their student ID#. I pop this up pretty big so they can see it with ease!  The number is placed in a grid so younger students have an easier time tracking it with their young eyes.  On the right side is the computer they are assigned to. Once they learn where to go you will love that they just come into the room and sit down quietly. Okay, that was a lie. This can all be done in Power Point or Publisher.
Notice that I have a boy or girl graph on the left side. I recommend changing that to a photo of each student to make this easier for buddies, (I am getting to that) the lab tech, and your poor sub who has to do this.
Are you with me so far? Once you have all your names listed in alphabetical order (by first name) with your student ID#s you are now ready to laminate. I prefer home lamination since it is thicker but do what works for you. Now cut all your cards apart and stack them. Mine even have a title card because that helps me know what I am grabbing. Here are a few extra cards I make. I also have a card with all my passwords needed for this lab! Old brain... 

Once you have all the cards you need and a few extras for new kiddos it is time to punch a hole in them and put them on a ring so you can find them! Right? I punch them in the upper left-hand corner and then use a ring to hole them all together. Does this make sense? 
Here are some pictures in "real life" of what they actually look like.

Why do you line them up by first name?
This is far easier to remember for you and your students! 
You can do this before you head for the lab.

Why do you assign them to a computer?
They know exactly where to go and it makes this process more systematic.

How do they learn how to log in with a million numbers to learn?
At the beginning I use 5th grade buddies who stand behind them and gently guide them.

Do you have them memorize their number?
Yes. I make this part of their HW and parents help them to learn this. It takes time for many children to achieve this. It is also their lunch number.

Here is a sample of what I send home:

I hope this has helped you organize your students for the computer lab. My students go there twice a week and  must also take certain assessments. This is a lot of screen time. Let me know if this helps you.

Do you want your own copy to use? Head for my FB page and grab my "fan freebie". You can edit this for your own class.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Back to School: A Night to Remember

I have been one crazy, busy teacher with the start of school. Kids have been moved around, parents have tried to hang out in the classroom, and kids have been crying. This is all part of the chaos of starting kindergarten. 
I gave each student their own name tag which they were thrilled to have but I had to remind a few to stop sucking on it. I guess they were not feeling all that comfortable yet. 
My students are adorable but I have my work cut out for me. Many of them do not know their colors and can't write their name. Does that sound familiar?
The paperwork at the beginning of the year makes me crazy and on top of this our staff decided Back to School night should happen as soon as possible. Yup, you read that right and I was the only one waving her hand to say NO- NOT YET. I am so not ready for this. 
Why am I freaked out? I have NOTHING on the walls. My goal this week was to keep everyone IN the room and happy. This is no easy task with the bolters looking to escape if the opportunity presents itself! One tried at recess.
Anyway I have a Power Point but my old teacher partner is back with me (can I hear an AMEN) and with two new administrators some policies have changed. OMG now I needed to go back and revamp this to reflect the changes. I had good intentions but every night I would come home and crawl onto the sofa and collapse. I was so wasted by all the stress. I am way too old for this job girlfriends.

If standing up in front a million parents makes you nervous, create a PowerPoint. I include all my talking points and use photographs to support this. I try to include a few pictures of my current students to keep parents more interested.
Some topic that I include are:
1. Photos of the administrators: some parents are new to the school
2. Dress Code with photos to clarify
3. Absences and Tardies/ start up and pick up times
4. Our homework policy
5. Our classroom rules
6. Parent Volunteers
7. Skills are students should have when entering K (in a perfect world)
8. School Policies and Discipline Procedures (PBIS)
9. Explaination of CCSS and what students must master
10. Testing and Data
11. Email Info

These are just the big bullets but you don't wait this to take anymore than an hour. Keep it short and simple and you can even give them a note taking guide if you want them to remember key points.

This year I added on to this with a parent information pack:
I did not create this on my own (I am not that smart friends). I got it from a blogger who is much smarter than I am. Click here to see it. There are zillions of these for purchase but I bought this one because Learning In Wonderland provided a video and a lot of well thought out options. This lady rocks. Check out her blog and give her a round of applause for her skills. I am so grateful to her.

To keep this stress free I decided to take the masters to Office Max and let them do this. Smart, right? Wrong. So wrong. The girl took the pages out of sequence and had no idea what to do. She was so confused and kept insisting she could figure it out. She made a total mess out of it and I decided to go home and figure it out... flexible mindset. The video made it clear and once I figured out how to make my copier do a 2 sided page voila... my booklet came together.  Picking out the color palette was the best part of the project but not exactly difficult.
My husband is questioning my sanity since this took me most of the day. The poor guy does not see this as a masterpiece and a huge accomplishment. I do. I really love this but it would take a lot to talk me into changing it. Now I need a nap.
I better come up with a project for the walls. Fast.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Where Have You Been?

Hey there. Sorry I haven't been around much lately but I have been busy for the last few weeks trying to get my classroom ready for my students. The air conditioning is not working too well so it was rough in the heat but somehow I pulled it all together and thought you might like to see some of my projects.
The theme in my room is Pete the Cat so I did a board with shoes that have the names of our students on them. This is not quite finished but you get the idea. The banner looks really nice and brings out the colors in the room.

I have lanterns hanging over each set of tables and Pete is hanging off of them with a label. This is an easy way for children to identify where to go.

I redid the bucket seats that I made last year because they were used each and every day and were pretty filthy by the end of the year. I saw these fabrics in Walmart and could not resist them since they match the room perfectly. Each seat only cost 2.00 to redo and it was a huge improvement. I covered these right on top of the original fabric, using a staple gun! Easy.

My husband was sweet enough to make mini anchor charts for me and I have one on each set of tables for the children to use when needed. They are color coded to match the color of the lantern hanging above it. This makes it easy to keep all materials in the right place. The anchor charts are covered in duct tape as an inexpensive way to change up the color. I cannot wait to try these out.

I did a lot of reading on "discovery bottles" and made a wide variety of them for various concepts. I will do a whole post on this. Most of my bottles have colored rice in them but a few have colored popcorn which is another fun item to use. I think the kids will adore these and they took very little time to put together. Now let's not discuss what my kitchen looked like!  Be sure to hot glue the lid so nothing can spill out... not a step you want to forget!!!

I used Voss plastic (not the glass) bottles because they are sturdy and it is easy to remove the labels. I made a color coded label on top so students could identify them easily. Each bottle has a recording sheet to keep them engaged and they could be used with a partner. I made lots of them because they look so colorful and appealing. 

Our district has been providing PD on growth mindset and I made some things to hang in the room to support the ideas I want to work on this year. IKEA has beautiful frames in a variety of colors which will make these stand out in your classroom. They are just a few dollars. 

I also made some small cards that will trigger conversations at our morning meeting related to growth mindset. I think it is well worth the time to talk about these ideas and build understandings. 
Well that is just a hit of what I have created but part 2 of this post is on it's way shortly. 

How is your room shaping up? I have a tiny room with old furniture so it is nothing glamorous but I am hoping our students will still find it appealing. I cannot paint walls or furniture but we all do the best we can with what we have.
I hope your year is wonderful and you build a community of learners who work well together. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Can You Believe It?

Tpt is busy helping teachers get ready to go Back2School and one of  my Chalkie friends created this darling sale button to rock your teaching world. My entire store is on sale and guess who has a few new products? Yup, do not fall on your face.
Check these out girlfriend:
Click on a picture to "shop till you drop."

I hope you find some packets that will help to make your year easier. I work really hard to make these packets worth your money and filled with content that is useful for young learners. Please click right here for my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and remember all of this has been carefully aligned to the CCSS.
Have a wonderful start,
Fran Kramer 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Literacy Gems: Make Learning Fun

Can you believe it? I actually created another packet that I really love. How many of you have been making letter gems to use in your classroom? They are all over the internet. I decided to make a packet that used these gorgeous gems to make word work throughout the year more fun for the kids. As an extra bonus I threw in a few math activities just because... Do you want to check this out? Take a peek at this.

In this packet I show you how to make the gems with photographs to help support my directions. They are easy to make and hopefully you won't go crazy and make endless amounts... just sayin'.
I also give you advice about organizing these treasures (maybe I was a pirate in a previous life) so they will be easy to manage.

This packet also included cards (many, many cards) that provide students with word work practice that is more fun and more engaging than what I typically provide. Who knew it could be so much fun? Lots of skills are covered, from letter identification to cvce words. Sight words are included and building sentences is included too.

Many teachers have told me they like having related response sheets and I recommend using this for assessment purposes or homework. Good idea, right? Use them anyway you want. They too me a long time to create but I plan on using this packet throughout the year. I might have to make more sets of gems which are quick and easy to do my way. * This packet has word and vowel gems in case you need them. You can't have too many!

I am going to let my students use these gems and cards with a partner. I really believe that students grow faster academically when we allow them to use a collaborative model. These cards lend themselves to this and would make partner work so much more engaging. So if this "floats your boat" click on the picture below and it will take you right to the TpT mall so you can shop. Yup the sale is on until the end of today so what are you waiting for?


Happy Teaching friends!

Monday, August 3, 2015

What's New In My Store With A FREEBIE!

Hi there friends. I have been working on several products for my TpT store over summer break and I finally have a few to show you. This is Spotlight on Numbers which can be purchased in my TpT store. Take a look at these pages to get a sense of what is included. 
My students are addicted to bingo daubers and will do anything to get one in their little hands. Does that sound familiar. Daubers are beginning to show up in lots of places now but I particularly like the ones in Dollar Tree and at the Target Dollar Spot. I found Darice Bingo Markers in a Teacher Supply Store and they were fairly inexpensive. You can purchase them at Amazon too

Here are some photographs of this product so you can see  actual pictures in "real life." Students make their own Number Book which focuses on numbers from 1-20. It has been carefully aligned to the Common Core, just so ya know!

I thought it might be fun for you to have an actual page from this packet as a freebie and what page could be better than one with my friend Pete the Cat! Right! When you click on the picture below you will be able to download this document. Please do not forget to leave me a comment too. Thanks for being a friend.

If you would like to purchase this packet at my TpT store grab it while the sale is on right here. Thanks so much for doing so. 

Now if that looks great for Back to School work check out this related packet:
This is the Alphabet version of this packet and I open up the year with this packet. It is perfect for the beginning of the year. If you grab it today or tomorrow you can have it for just a few dollars while the sale is going on. Are you in? Click here to get this product.

Cheers to the start of another school year. Remember that they come in as preschoolers and go out as first graders. Don't forget to reassure them and let them play. School can be scary for many of them but they are lucky to have you as their teacher. Teach like your hair is on fire!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Life at the Target Dollar Spot...freebies on their way

Target Dollar Spot:

I can't decide if Target Dollar Spot is a friend to me or not. It is summertime and I should be relaxing. School will be looming in front of me in just a few weeks. But... I was in Target and the Dollar Spot was calling to me (once I grabbed a Starbucks coffee). I just glanced over. You know where you just sort of sweep the bins cause you are totally in summer mode and not ready to think about your classroom. I resisted the call to check them out.
The bins were pretty chaotic so I was even less interested in exploring them and hit the main part of the store first. I raced down the first aisle (those bins were calling to me) and slammed around the corner.  Believe it or not School Supplies had taken over the entire back end of the store. Who knew? Nothing was on sale that grabbed my attention so I made sure I didn't even slow down. But then I noticed  black charts hanging on a back wall. BLACK. I swear if they has been any other color... Yup, black pocket charts for $1.99. I was sucked right into the Target School Supplies drama. I was not leaving those in the store, no sir.  So I threw 2 into my cart and knew I was now hooked. OMG. Target has hypnotized me back again  and it's only July. Please insert hanging head in shame. Now I knew I was checking out the dollar bins. What else was I missing? I had to pay better attention.

In the Target Dollar Bins:

As I looked more carefully I found all kind of bulletin board cut-outs that I could use with the kids at the beginning of the year. Oh crap, the theme was crayons so use your imagination. I was hooked. I took the big crayons and made color labels for them and used a ring to hold them together. 

I am a sucker for alphabet stickers since I can use them for all kinds of projects during the year. Right now I am using them for large glass gems so my students can do some alphabet activities. I always need more for my water bottle tops too. Score! I even found talking bubbles that I think will be fabulous when kids draw self portraits and write words in these. 

Can you ever have too many giant dice? Let me help you. No. They get grungy from those sweet little hands that use them all year after wiping their nose or using them after recess. Iwon't even remind you of the ones with glue on them. You get the picture. At the beginning of the year my games are simple. I am just teaching procedures so nothing fancy. If you want the backpack freebie you can grab soon. I will link it soon.

I was really excited to see scented bingo markers for a dollar. They were in some new colors, different from the Dollar Tree version. Here's a trick. If they get too juicy blot them with a paper towel and remind your students not to push down too hard. Good luck with that!

I am addicted to these markers because I use them early in the year for many different activities. I am working on a new one as we speak! "Spotlight on Numbers" just needs to be edited but I am using it in September for beginning number sense. I think the kids will really like this one. It is one of those packets that can be used throughout the year as their mathematical understandings grow. 

I have other packets in my TpT store that teachers have really liked so here is a quick glance at some of the possibilities if you want to know... Click on the picture to get to my store.

I only bought a few sets of these foam blocks but I am going to put words on them so students can build sentences. I will keep them simple at the beginning and scaffold them with sentence strips where some students will just match the words up. It will be important to keep all the blocks the same color and package them in separate containers. Wait does that mean another visit to Dollar Tree?

I am not sure what to do with these crayons gel clings but they are too cute not to purchase. I was thinking of putting them in the widow of our recess door but if you have a better idea I would love to hear it. I haven't used this before.

Isn't this banner adorable. This is such a great word for kindergarten. If you believe you can do it, you can... right? That goes for us too. So BELIEVE.

So that's it for now and if I have some DIY projects finished in a few days I will be happy to share them with you.
Target is not my friend. I am so sorry but I could not resist. I will do better. Hehe.
Happy Shopping!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Should Kindergarten Teachers Be Reading This Summer?

Every summer I promise myself that I will clean closets, catch up on friendships that I sadly neglect, and do some professional reading that is essential to staying on top of educational trends. Here is my beef. Often books have suggested grade levels (k-5) and kindergarten is mentioned in just a few places. The information is great but not for our "littles" and I get frustrated by this since it rarely changes my teaching practices or relates to my classroom experiences. We often hear that "kindergarten is its own animal" and I find this to be so true. What is out there for kinder teachers that is worth reading during your precious summer weeks? Here are my top picks for you:

This book is huge and expensive but it looks like it is a terrific resource for learning aboutflexible reading strategies. It is laid out in a very simple, powerful way. Goals are clearly stated. What are you working towards? Skills students need to practice are provided and finally, specific strategies for getting there are offered. It is set up almost like a "cookbook" and you can look up topics that you need more help with. Levels are clearly provided and there is plenty at the emergent level for kinder teachers to use. Teacher tips are also included. I know I will mark this up with post-it notes and use it as a reference in the classroom. You will love the format... Buy this. This should be given to all teachers who are responsible for teaching reading at the elementary level.

I love this author and have read this book in the past. It is filled with great ideas for building reading skills in your classroom and to teach with intention. This is an easy read but you will want to highlight great ideas and share your thinking with your teacher friends. Teachers have done book studies if you want to get some additional insights into this wonderful read. This is another great read for a new teacher. She talks about classroom environments and authentic teaching which makes me reflect on my own practices

The whole world is reading this book and it looks like a great one. Teach Like A Champion is all about providing powerful techniques for teaching that can be put into place tomorrow. Many of these reflect expectations related to the Common Core so it might be well worth reading. It is not on the top of my list but I own it and want to check it out. This would make a great book study for an entire staff, including the administrator. This book is a great catalyst for having important conversations about the climate of a classroom and getting kids on the path to college. We all want that for our students.


This book was written by Carolyn Kisloski and Dr. Jean Feldman. My copy was sent to me by Dr. Jean as a gift and she even signed it! (insert bragging tone of voice). Both of these ladies are amazing and if you don't get any other book purchase this one! It is filled with great ideas, beautiful photographs, and extensions on activities that are all about student engagement. I got it a few days ago and find myself half way through the book. If you have been teaching for as long as I have you might be familiar with some of these ideas but many offer a new "twist" to make learning even more fun! Both of these talented ladies have blogs that are well worth checking out: Dr. Jean and Friends and Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together. As I am reading this I am constantly calling my teaching partner to discuss an idea. I am not going back to school without making some of the suggested materials. Buy this book if you are a kindergarten teacher and thank me for the suggestion! If you are going to Vegas it will be there and you can grab a copy. 
This book is well organized and Common Core aligned. You can skip around for ideas that you need to meet your own classroom needs. These two "cooks" have built a great restaurant so go in and grab a bite!

I bought this book last summer but somehow I looked it over but did not really get into the nuts and bolts of it. However, during the year it often clarified a Common Core standard and cited many examples, supported by photographs. It is so well done that I really recommend purchasing it. This would make a great one for a book study. Check it out. If you are confused or anxious about implementing the CCSS in kindergarten, this is your go to reference. Buy it.

So we all own Debbie Diller's book, Math Work Stations but what else is out there that promotes student engagement and builds independence? This is a great book because it is full of ideas that are Common Core based and simple to make. You might be familiar with many of these ideas but once again the author puts a new twist on it. I love that they are organized by standard and make it easy to differentiate since it covers K-2. Some of these ideas remind me of  Math Their Way and the oldies of kindergarten know how powerful these ideas are. Check this out. 

This is a well known author in the field of literacy and this makes a great "go to" reference when you do not understand a Common Core standard. It is well organized and written in easy to understand language. Sharon Taberski provides the gist of each standard and what must be considered when teaching this. I don't know about you but I need the quick and dirty version of each standard so that I have some sense of what to do. She provides possible questions to ask students. This needs to sit on my teacher desk at all times. You need this if you are teaching the CCSS in kinder. Trust me.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Even if you only get to one book that can make a real difference in your teaching. I love reading with another teacher friend and having a discussion over an iced coffee at Starbucks. Are you on my page? Professional development is important but we all know that we deserve more time with our families. Take that family vacation and build memories. Have a wonderful summer and I hope I see you in Vegas! Look for me.
What are you reading?