Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Few "Franken-storm" Freebies

     There's a hurricane brewing here in coastal Connecticut and they've nicknamed it the "Franken-storm" because not only is it hitting during Halloween, but it is also monstrous. We got a call today that school is cancelled Monday through Wednesday, then they'll update us about the rest of the week.  While it's nice to have a few unexpected days off, it's pretty stressful worrying about the storm.  So, before we potentially lose power, I thought I would get out a couple of quick freebies that you might be able to use this week.

     The first is a literacy station that my kids love.  All you need is a few cheap plastic jack-o-lantern pails and some dry erase markers. Using the recording sheet, the kids practice forming upper and lowercase letters on their pumpkins, then check them off on the sheet.  When they're finished, they simply erase their writing and the pumpkin is ready for the next group. How's that for some festive handwriting practice? You can grab the recording sheet under the picture.
Click Here for the Jack-O-Lantern Writing Station

     I also wanted to share the calendar cards I made for November.  The pattern that the cards create is a little more complex than October's ABAB pattern, as their are three different pictures that make an ABC pattern.  I also included special cards for Election Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. If you'd like a fresh set of cards for your calendar, you can grab a set below the picture,
Click Here For the Calendar Cards

   Well, that's it for now.  I'd love a comment if you grab one of the freebies (especially the calendar cards - let me know if you're using them so I can know if I should keep posting them!)

Have a great night and stay safe if Hurricane Sandy is heading your way!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Easy Peasy, Trick or Cheesy" Freebie

Have you seen these adorable Kraft Macaroni and Cheese's "Trick or Cheesy" Halloween shapes?  Ghosts and pumpkins and bats, oh my!
   I stumbled across them last year at Target when there was only one box left on the shelf - bummer.  I grabbed the box, but it wasn't really enough to do anything with.  So, this year, I've been stalking the pasta aisle waiting for them to appear.  Last week I hit the jackpot!  I did a little happy dance, threw a few boxes in my cart and continued shopping. After a few minutes, I went back to the pasta aisle and grabbed a few boxes for each of my 4 grade level teammates. Then, just as I was ready to leave Target. I went back a third time and grabbed myself a few more boxes to put away for next year, just in case.  The checkout girl looked at me a little strangely as she rang up my 14 boxes.  She must have been thinking, "Carb addict? Cheese Head? Shopaholic?" I just smiled and began to wonder if this is how hoarders get started?  (I think that we teachers are the original hoarders - I'm surprised we don't have our own TLC show!?!)
   I raced home and made a few games to put in my math stations that focus on graphing, making tally marks and using tens frames.  If you have the chance to pick up a few boxes, you can grab the freebie down below and have a little Trick or Cheesy fun of your own.

    Another way I'm sneaking a little Halloween fun into our curriculum (don't worry, I won't go on about how sad it is that we need to "sneak" fun into kindergarten...) is with a cute little emergent reader and math craftivity.
     The emergent reader is a cute little story about Frankie having a Halloween birthday party.  All of the spooky guests bring Frankie birthday presents that turn out to be the same gift - a brightly striped tie.  Frankie will be stylin' for sure.  We used the large book for shared reading and then the kids all got a small version to put in their books boxes.  The predictable, repetitive text allowed for even my most emergent readers to be successful at reading it independently.  After reading the book, the kids made their own Frankie and used colored strips of paper to make him a patterned tie.  It was a great way to do an informal assessment of the kids' patterning skills (although not in the CCSS, we still cover patterns and assess how well the kids generate and complete them for our first report card) and the kids loved it!  It was very telling to see which kids made a simple ABAB pattern and which kids created more complicated patterns.
     I'll send a free packet to the first three comments or you can pick up a copy in my TPT store.  You can also grab a free copy of the Trick or Cheesy math stations here.

Have a great night!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dear Professor “Dream-Crusher”

     Warning, this is going to be a long post with a lot of ranting, but I would love some thoughts about it if you stay with me to the end. (And there’s a great freebie!)  A little background before I get started…

     In the town where I teach, high school students do an internship for the last 4-5 weeks of their senior year. They can choose from participating local businesses and organizations and they work full time instead of attending classes.  It’s a great way for the kids to get their feet wet in the “real world” and maybe even explore a future college major or career choice.
     A few years ago, I was lucky enough to welcome “N” into my classroom as my first intern.  I knew N from years ago, when her younger brother was in my class and she volunteered to help during an after-school craft class that I taught. She even continued volunteering for years after she left our school, taking an extra bus and walking from the middle school.  Even at a young age I saw something special in N. She had a patient and supportive manner, a creative and contagious enthusiasm and a natural ability for working with young kids.  I lost track of N a little over the next few years so I was thrilled when she got in touch about doing her internship with me.  And the best part? She was planning to pursue teaching when she entered college the next fall.
     The time N spent with me that spring confirmed everything I had previously thought about her. That special young girl had blossomed into a phenomenal young lady, and her ability to inspire and connect with young children had matured into a true gift.  I was thrilled to be even a small part of journey to becoming a teacher.
     When N got to college, she excelled at so many things – she had As in all of her teaching classes, got involved in student government, joined a sorority and also developed a passion for politics.  I was (and am) so incredibly proud of her!
     Enter Professor Dream-Crusher. Dun dun dun!! Last semester, N took a class with this nimrod professor and he gave her a C and then had the insolence to tell her that she should “reconsider her major because he doesn’t see her becoming a successful teacher.” As a result, my sweet, sweet N is now second guessing herself about whether she should pursue her other passion (politics) instead of teaching. This is heartbreaking on so many levels that I don’t even know where to start.
     First of all, way to be unsupportive, Professor Cretin.  As teachers, we have a duty to encourage students, not kick them when they’re down. If N was indeed doing C work (which I find doubtful) you could have used your expertise to help her find her way, but instead you decided to shatter her dreams! Shame on you, Professor Dimwit!
     Secondly, I believe that the teachers that make the most impact on their students at any level, from kindergarten through college, are the ones that have a true passion for teaching.  If this misguided professor still had such a passion, I don’t believe he would have treated a student so insensitively.  So perhaps in this case, the student can inspire the teacher. Take a look at N, Professor I-Have-No-Business-Shaping-Young-Minds – that’s what passion looks like!
     Lastly, I feel it would be absolutely tragic for the teaching field to lose such a gifted spirit before she even gets started.  I’ve worked with seasoned veteran teachers who don’t hold a candle to N, and I even told my principal to keep his eyes open for her resume in a few years.

OK, end of rant.

     N, if you’re reading this, I have one wish for you as you’re on the path to discovering who you are and who you want to become.  I wish with all of my heart that you follow your heart.  Listen to what it tells you, and block out not only the voices of jaded professors, but also the well-intentioned voices of family and friends. Ignore even the advice of your #1 fan (me).  If you decide that your passion is teaching, then go full throttle! You can pursue your interest in politics by getting involved in local campaigns. If you decide that your passion is politics, then follow that path. You can always volunteer at a local school or youth program to share your gift with kids in need. Just make sure that it is your own voice that speaks to you the loudest!

     In honor of N, who from what I hear is currently obsessed with bees, I have a little Flash Freebie for you.

     If you leave a comment with some advice for N or you leave a comment letting me know that you, like N, are studying to be a teacher, I’ll send you my “Bee Responsible” Emergent Reader and Craftivity pack.  Be sure to leave your email and don’t dawdle – this Flash Freebie ends Monday night!
Love you, N!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Spooky Product Swap

Jessica over at Mrs. Stanford's Class is hosting another Product Swap and it was so much fun last time that I'm psyched to be swapping again!  This time, I'm paired up with my new friend, Jeannie from Kindergarten Lifestyle. The first thing I did was to browse through her store and choose a product to try out in my classroom. Jeannie has so many great things that it was no easy task, and she was very sweet in dealing with my indecisiveness and actually sent me a few things to peek at (thanks Jeannie)!

I'm really stepping up my Math Stations now that we have the basic routine down, so Jeannie's Hullabo-Boo pack was the perfect choice to take for a spin with my kids. I warmed up my laminator, got my printer humming and went to town.  The graphics Jeannie used are just adorable, and my kids were instantly excited to try the games, which I stored in jack-o-lantern pails for a little added "Boo" factor.

The first activity we tried was the Counting Clip Cards.  My kids LOVED this game so much that they even asked to play it during our free play time! Kids choose a card, then choose a spot on the card and count how many stars/circles are in that spot. They then find a clothespin with the corresponding number and clip the clothespin on that spot on the card. This game was not only fun, but also very nicely meets the Kindergarten Counting & Cardinality Common Core State Standard (CCSS) that requires our kiddos to "Count to tell the number of objects." Jeannie also explains in the packet how to bump it up a notch using addition.

The next game we tried ended up being the class favorite. The CCSS that involves decomposing numbers is a tricky one for many kinder-kids, and this game introduces the standard of "decomposing numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way" in a fun yet meaningful way. Using the number sentence cards provided, the kids have to decide which number mats to put them on.  Because it was are first attempt at this tricky skill, I added some dominoes as well, and the station became self-differentiating. The kids who needed the visual of the dots leaned towards the dominoes, and the kids ready to stretch themselves gave the number sentences a try. One of my admins came in during math time and saw this game and was impressed with what the kids were working on so early in the year (I owe you one for this, Jeannie!)

Another activity that the kids LOVED was the Patterning Cards. While patterning is not included in the Kindergarten CCSS (was anyone else surprised at this?), Jeannie points out that identifying and extending
patterns are critical skills for children to solidify for further math and science learning. 
The first team that tried this station challenged themselves to complete all of their pattern cards before time was up and they did it!  This set the stage for all of the teams to try to do the same, so it was a bonus lesson in teamwork and working cooperatively,

Now that we've tried all of these great games, they'll be available for the kids to use in our Math Stations for the rest of the month. I love when I find a great product on TPT that fits my needs without me having to reinvent the wheel! I also love when the kids love a product so much that they choose it during free play - anything that trumps the blocks station must be pretty awesome!  When I told the kids that a teacher friend gave us the games, Sophia, my little class mother hen, suggested we write a Thank You note, so we did!
Be sure to check out Jeannie's store to find this and other great products. Jeannie's got this gem on sale, so hurry and grab a copy and your class will thank you, too!

Jeannie chose my "Bee Responsible Emergent Reader and Craftivity Pack" for the swap and you can read her post here.  We're teaming up for a quick giveaway and 3 lucky winners can each win a copy of our swap products. You can enter down below - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Happily Ever After Freebie

My little sister is married!  Or, to quote the Justice of the Peace, "Mawwied." (She had the JOP start the ceremony with the famous "Mawwiage" quote from The Princess Bride, one of her favorite movies.) It was a picnic in the park wedding and it was just perfect!  My Dad was feeling great and was able to walk Deb (aka Squeebie) down the aisle, which is something we were worried about.  I hope you'll indulge me and take a peek at some pics of the day. If you make it to the end of the wedding gush, there's a freebie for you... 

We got to the park early to set up the red gingham extravaganza. Squeebie went a little crazy with the details (a girl after my own heart). Even the cheeses on the cheese and cracker plates were labeled with little gingham signs. It really set a very classy yet casual tone.
So pretty!

Then, off to the hotel to help Squeebie get ready. The attire was super casual - jeans required.  (I think this broke my Mom's shopaholic heart just a little bit.) Once again, Squeebie went a little psycho and individually glued over 800 crystals onto her blinged out Chucks, but how cool are they?

That's some serious bling!

Squeeb and Mom ready to leave for the park.

Everyone was ready when we arrived and Dad walked her down the aisle. With everything we've been going through with Dad's health battle, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Dad rockin' the tuxedo tee!

It was such a great day and I think everyone had a great time.  It might have something to do with the 266 jello shots Squeebie made. Yes, 266!  

Deb and Tom are off to Ireland for a 10 day honeymoon. (I'm soooo jealous Squeebie, if you're reading this, feel free to bring me back anything silver and Celtic.)  As a wedding gift, I put together a little "Now & Later" bouquet with a little something for the honeymoon (now) and a little something for a weekend getaway on their first anniversary (later). I filled the vase with red Now & Later candies and added some finishing touches. Squeebie's not the only one who can go a little overboard with gingham!

Thanks for reading along.  I'm just so happy for Deb that I wanted to share!  Now, on to a quick little freebie. I'm making my own calendar cards this year because I was really bored with my ancient set.  I'm going to incorporate a pattern each month, starting pretty simple and getting more complex as we go.  This month I went with a simple ABAB pattern with jack-o-lanterns and ghosts.  I'll try to post each month's as I make them, and you can grab them for free!
Click here to download.
Have a great night!