Make the Letter...

I'm so excited that I FINALLY finished these alphabet pages!  I started this little project about a month ago because I saw that my Riley was struggling with identifying letters by name and in pre-school her tracing pages that were sent home showed that she was struggling with tracing.  We do a ton of hands-on activities at home.  We explore letters in all kinds of ways, make crafts, use sensory bins, sing songs...all the things but I thought why not make a sheet to help reinforce what she's learning in school and practice letter names and letter formation more directly.

So although it took me much longer to create these sheets than I thought (#momlife),  HERE THEY ARE and I'm in LOVE!

These sheets are perfect for reinforcing letter names, sounds, and letter formation.  With each sheet have your kiddos finger trace the letter by following the formation arrows.  Then pull out those Target mini-erasers or other small manipulatives and have them build letter.  Last, they can trace and write the letter. So simple and FUN!

And you are in for a TREAT because as I was pulling out all the things to take photos of this little project my sweet girl said, "Mom, I want to do this. Let's play school."  So, while I'm all little rusty and we are at home, here's a video of how I might go about teaching and using this little page whole group style.  And when we finished she even said, "That was so fun!" #win




An alternative Halloween TREAT idea!

Halloween is next week and if you're like me you might be searching for a fun treat idea that is NOT candy.  Now don't get me wrong I LOVE a good chocolate bar, but sometimes it's fun (and not to mention allergy safe) to change things up!

I grabbed a few party favor size play-doh packs, plastic spiders, and some AstroBrights round labels to quickly make these gifts for my daughter's pre-school class.  They were super easy to put together and after seeing her face when she opened them up I know they will be a hit!

Do you have any other fun candy alternative ideas?!  Share them with me.  You can grab the label HERE if you want to make your own.


Setting the Stage for a GREAT Day!

What are the first ten minutes like in your class?  
Is it calm?  
Is it organized? 
Are students engaged, socializing, and under control? 
Are your students happy?
Are YOU happy?
These are questions I like to ask myself to identify if I feel my morning routine is starting our day off in the right direction. And if I don't like the answers to the above questions, I know it means that I may need to tweak my morning routine.  Below I have given an example of what has worked for me in the past and I hope that it can help share some ideas for those that still may be working on getting their routine down.  Don't be afraid to change things if they're not working!

So, what has worked for me in terms of "setting the stage for a GREAT day?"  A clear, organized, easy routine, where students know what is expected and what to do. It consists of a...

We can't control what happens before our students arrive in our classrooms and the state of mind they may be in when they do, but we can control how they are greeted when the step foot into our rooms at the start of each day.  I firmly believe that a morning greeting can impact the entire feel for your day and I encourage you all to take the time to say good morning to each and every one of your students.  One way to do this is to stand at the door and make contact with each student as they enter.  Eye contact, a smile, and a warm greeting give you the opportunity to assess how a student might be feeling and help to strengthen individual relationships while building classroom community.  Make it fun by switching up your greeting style each day or let your kiddos CHOOSE.  You can grab this FREEBIE by clicking on the picture below.

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Morning To -Do's
Now that students have entered the classroom they need to know what to do.  If you're at the door greeting students, the students who have already entered need clear directions of what needs to be done and they need to be able to follow these directions independently.  An anchor chart which clearly depicts what to do seems to do the trick!  Below I have added a few examples of my favorite direction charts from Pinterest.  At the beginning of the year teach students the steps of your morning routine and practice, practice, practice how they are to do this each day.

Click to see Original Pin
Click to see Original Pin
The last step of a morning routine generally includes some type of student activity and for me, I like morning tubs.  Morning tubs provide an opportunity for students to socialize, play, be creative, and independent.  I like easy to assemble morning tubs that allow students the opportunity to explore, be creative, get chatty, and help them to feel calm.  In the kindergarten classroom I like them to be not so structured and instead leave them pretty open ended.  Basically morning tubs are hands on manipulatives which rotate through student tables each week.  If you want things a little more structured you can always add picture direction cards with prompts which indicate what exactly you want students try with the manipulatives.

So that about sums it up!  What does your morning look like?  Let me know in the comments below.


Setting Up Writing Folders

I have always taught writing through the writing workshop model and as a way to help students think of themselves as independent writers they are given writing folders at the beginning of the year. These folders house student work and are full of reference tools to help them become confident, independent writers.  At the beginning of each year I set up these folders for my students.  If this sounds like a large task you could always have students set up the folders with you, I just prefer to have them all in working order on day one.  So, what is in these folders and how do I prepare them?

I purchase 3-prong pocket folders from any big chain store like Target or Walmart.  I prefer the folders that have a plastic or thicker cardboard feel.  The extra cheap flimsy folders generally fall apart mid-year so spending a little more at the beginning is worth it. 

On the front cover of the folder I either (a) glue a writing folder cover sheet and label it with each students' names or (b) print students' names on shipping labels and stick this on the cover.  A lot of times I choose (b) as the labels hold up better throughout the year, but if you do choose (a) I'd say to cover the sheet with clear packing tape to protect it or laminate it then glue it down. 

 Inside the folder I place a variety of pages that are used to support student writing.  I find it easiest to place these pages in plastic sleeves to help keep them tidy for the year.

The first page in the folder is a writer's checklist.  If a student thinks they are done writing a piece I want them to be able to independently check off that they have completed these major tasks.

The following page is the "when I'm done" chart.  This page is an additional reference sheet that a student uses to make sure that they are completely done with a piece before moving on.  Sheets like this help students to not run up to me and say "I'm done, I'm done!"  Instead, they know where to look in their folders and check for themselves if they are really done.  If they are, they know to start a new piece on their own. 

In the writing workshop model students choose what to write about.  We don't generally give any prompts or specific tasks, therefore I provide students with an "I can write about" page that lists topics to get them thinking, as well as a "write from the heart page" which we fill out during the first weeks of school.  

Next up I include an alphabet chart, a blends and digraph chart, and a word bank with common words.  Students can refer to these charts for support and we use these charts during our mini-lesson time as a class. I teach students how to use these charts throughout the year.

And lastly I include a personal, working word wall. This page I do not put in a plastic sleeve because we add to it each week. Students write in words with a pencil during our word work/writing time. We do this as a class, never alone.

At the end of writing workshop students need to choose whether they are still working on a piece or if they are all done.  In each folder I label the left pocket "still working" in green and the right pocket "all done" in red.  I just use return address labels to do this.  This helps to organize student writing and provides a place to store their loose writing pages.  

Writing workshop is about providing students the opportunity to write like real writers!  That means that students need the ability to write on paper at their level and they also need to be able to grab paper to start a new piece as needed.  For that reason I provide a variety of writing sheet types and store these in the writing center in the classroom.  Students are able to get paper as needed.

All of the above pages are from my Writing Workshop Resources set which can be found by clicking the image below.  This set comes in handy because it includes everything I need to set up my writing folders and get students writing on day one.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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