All posts by daisydesignstpt

Kindergarten teacher, theater instructor, dog lover, and bookworm.

Christmas in Kindergarten

How many of you are going NUTS this time of year fitting in all the awesome things you want to do?! *raises hand*

December is such a short month for school, but there’s SO much to cram into it. In Kindergarten, I swear crafts take 10 times as long, especially when you are one teacher to 19 kiddos that all need help. Sigh. Well, we were able to fit in a few fun things in spite of some Learning Checks and tests and trying to learn subtraction (who made these curriculum maps?! Learning a new skill in December is HARD!).

I am a firm believer in the importance of holidays in primary school. Kids are excited for Christmas, especially in Kindergarten. Even though time has been tight, it has been my mission to MAKE time for these special holiday goodies.

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I found these ADORABLE Christmas tree glasses in the dollar spot at Target to spice up my guided reading and guided math center and I’m telling you, the kids are dying to go to guided reading (the effect we always want, am I right?). I bought 4 pairs and it was totally worth the $4 investment.

IMG_1013Did you decorate your room for the holidays? I was shocked to find out how many kids did not have Christmas trees set up at home (there are no religious conflicts in this group of students). I felt like that was an experience I could easily give the kids. I used our old tree (kind of small from our apartment living days) and all my old childhood ornaments. We also cut out strips of paper (the kids voted on the colors orange, red, and purple) and I brought out the markers (best teacher ever!!). They are so excited to continue to add to our paper chain garland and it was super easy for me. It has turned into an early finisher activity and we continue to build our chain. I bump my head on it daily, but it is worth it.

Picture2This is from a previous post that I had to mention again. This has been one of the best additions to my holiday curriculum yet. Read the entire post HERE. Basically, I got out all the Christmas and winter books and wrapped one for each day to place under the tree. Everyday, we unwrap a new one and then write about it in our Holiday Book Journals, which you can download for free on my TpT store. Click the image above to see the full post and click the image below to get the journals for free.

Unwrap CoverAnd now for a pinspiration result, that I could not be happier with!

SnowflakesThese were fun and easy and super inexpensive to make. And we were able to discuss that no two snowflakes are the same. ūüėČ

More Pinspired photos coming soon!

Want more ideas for your Christmas classroom? Check out where it all started for me: Pinterest! The gals at The Teaching Two Step and I created a Pinterest board just for this occasion. Make sure you follow it for more great ideas!

Follow Amanda Smith @ Daisy Designs’s board Christmas in the Classroom Collaborative – The Teaching 2 Step on Pinterest.

Merry “Last Week of School Before Break” everyone! ūüėČ Amanda Daisy DesignsBUTTON BUZZ

Elf on a Shelf in the Classroom

Hi ya’ll! Amanda here, from Daisy Designs, ready to talk about Elf on a Shelf in the classroom!

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Do you use Elf on a Shelf at home? I know it is a HUGE trend right now and, honestly, I wish I could have had one when I was growing up! It is SUCH a neat idea and I love it when my kinders get excited to tell me all about their home elf and then see their excited faces when we talk about our school elf!

First of all, Elf on a Shelf, the complete kit with book and elf is like $40. Goodness. I was reluctant. I knew I wanted one but I was NOT about to spend $40 on an elf. I do not have kids at home, so this would not be something used the whole month everyday. It would only be used at school for the 15 days we have school… which to me… I don’t know… $40 is a lot of money! Then it hit me… These kids don’t know the difference between the “name-brand” elf and the dollar store elf. I mean, to them, they are all magic elves. So, thank you Dollar Tree! I snagged a cheap stuffed elf (I think mine is totally cuter and way less creepy anyway…), and borrowed a book from a friend who has the elf at home. WIN!

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Meet Alex the Elf. Well, that is his name this year. I feel like that is totally the most boring name for an elf, but that’s what the class voted on! I voted for Peanut, but no one listens to me… He is a little clumsy. Since I went with the dollar store elf instead of the name brand elf, he is a little top heavy. I will say, it is not as easy to keep him standing, or sitting, or pretty much anything. But I would say it was totally worth save $39.

So how can you use this baby in the classroom? I swear to you, I’ve had him for 4 days, and behavior is DEFINITELY different in my classroom. We have been using our elf for writing activities, graphing activities, and he brings them treats, which I will get to later.

How to Use an Elf in the Classroom:

Change his handwriting.
I’m using a curly-q style hand writing because the kids will DEFINITELY tell that it is my handwriting otherwise. I was scouring Pinterest for elf ideas and was surprised at how many wrote in the regular hand writing! My kids would not be fooled.

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Don’t FORGET. You can’t forget to move him! Like you have room for another thing to remember to do everyday up there in your busy brain… but seriously… if you’re going to do it, you have to keep up with it.

You are going to give your kids treats this time of the year anyway, so make some of them from the elf! Mine brought them stickers the other day (which I forgot to snap a picture of). He was covered in Santa stickers and the kids LOVED earning them on their behavior sticker charts.

Picture2In this picture, Alex brought us Rudolph band-aids from the North Pole. You’d think he brought cash money the way the kids were acting about these band-aids. And since there are only 10 in a box, (well, 9, since Alex fell on the way up to hanging by his tag) they didn’t fake injuries to get them. They are saving them for “real” emergencies.

And don’t forget… elves have tiny elf ears. It hurts them if the class gets too loud. (Quietest day ever).

Also in this picture is something I took the time to do: held my kids accountable. Remember, it isn’t “you” talking… It’s the elf. If you have specific kids who need reminders (like the Sariyah on this list), they’ll remember it more coming from a stuffed elf. Seriously.

I haven’t had any students TOUCH the elf yet… but poor Alex fell today (clumsy guy). I had to think quick on my feet. My kids were panicking (and a few were laughing… they’ll get a note from Alex tomorrow…). I mean, I can’t touch him and pick him up to put him back. So he stayed there. In the middle of the floor. Fortunately I had a peppermint life-saver, which of course save lives and are elf vitamins. When he wakes up from his nap, he can take his vitamin and feel strong again tomorrow. My kindergarten logic worked and my class was totally okay with it. They were also pretty funny tip toeing around him so not to wake him up.

Picture3Life-savers save lives, people.

OTHER IDEAS:

I have some plans for the upcoming week to do with clumsy Alex. Here they are!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_1 Alex will give the kids Christmas pencils!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_2 Alex will ride our toy train and bring Polar Express!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_3 Alex will be taking a nap in the tissue box.

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_4 Alex will bring marshmallows for hot chocolate!

misstiina_csh_zerotonine_5 Alex will bring his favorite Christmas movie!

I hope these ideas help you with your Elf on a Shelf planning for your classroom. It has certainly made a difference in their behavior the past several days. Too bad he has to leave after Christmas, am I right?!

Amanda Daisy Designs

Unwrap the Gift of Reading

Hey ya’ll! Amanda from Daisy Designs here with a GREAT idea for your classroom or home!

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This week I began what I call, “Unwrap the Gift of Reading.” I selected enough Christmas picture books to read every single day which we began on Monday (December 1) and gift wrapped them. They are placed under our classroom Christmas tree and everyday we unwrap a new one to read. The students get SO excited to see what we unwrap next. My class of kinders this year is overall pretty attentive during read-alouds, but I will tell you, the past 3 days have been glorious! They are paying attention, they are excited, and they are definitely enjoying the gift of reading.

Here’s a picture list of the holiday books I selected to put under the tree! Some were easy ones I already had on my shelf and others were ones I found at the public library. Comment below with other Christmas/holiday book ideas! There are so many amazing books out there!

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Another excitement factor for this holiday treat, is our Daily Holiday Book Journal! Everyday, we log the date we read the book, the title of the book, and a drawing of our favorite part in the story. It is fun, engaging, and doesn’t eat up a ton of time in the day. I am a fan of ongoing projects. I love to say to my kinders, “Okay, get out your Holiday Book Journals and log the book of the day!”

Right now, in my store, Unwrap the Gift of Reading Holiday Book Journals are FREE!

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Click the above image to get your download! Included are enough pages for the entire month of the December. We are obviously not in school that many days, so I only printed 15 days worth.

Don’t forget to comment below with books you might use with your class or your family this year for the holiday season! Can’t wait to discover new holiday books.

Happy holidays!

Amanda Daisy Designs

Kindergarten Writing: Thanksgiving Style!

Hey ya’ll! Amanda from Daisy Designs here!

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Today I feel like I need to take a moment to bring to you some teaching strategies for writing in Kindergarten. It is one of the hardest things to teach, in my opinion! I will be adding images to this blog post later today as my phone is on the fritz and that’s where all my awesome pictures are! Looks like I’ll be going to my classroom today to snap some new pictures. Come back later to check them out!

As with any grade and any subject, you will have a TON of varying levels. In Kindergarten those levels are even more different. You’ll have students that cannot form any letters at the beginning of the year and you’ll have some that are writing full sentences right from the get go. Here are some different types of writing activities that I use in my classroom to get kids writing, no matter what level they are!

1. Sentence Starters:
These are all over TpT, free and paid, from multiple sellers for multiple topics. These are no-prep, print and go sheets where students get the practice of forming letters by tracing the beginning of the sentence and practice their independent writing by writing in their own ending. I think about these as early “writing prompts.” I also like using these with our new sight words. If we are learning “can,” use a sentence starter with the word “can” in it! Great practice for writing and reading those tricky sight words!

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2. Cut and Paste:
There are a lot of ways to use a cut and paste system. I have also found all over TpT free and paid resources that are no-prep from multiple sellers. Most of the time, there is a full sentence to trace, write on their own, and then cut and paste in the correct order. This is great practice for getting those words in order and getting¬†students really looking at the structure of the sentence, whether they realize it or not! I also have used cut and paste where students cut words out to finish a sentence. I love these! This gets students reading the sentence and finding the missing word, usually with help from a picture. For example, “I see a ___.” followed by a little picture of a cat. For a more challenging activity, I use cut and paste sentences to make books, usually in Science or Social Studies. Students cut words out and with guidance can place the words in the correct order. Some teachers may not consider this a writing activity, but in my classroom, it is. You see, it gets students forming sentences, not just reading them, and that is definitely a writing skill!

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3. Luck of the Draw:
Making a writing activity into a game is always a fun idea for the classroom. I take a stack of flash cards (usually index cards or Post-It notes that I wrote on) with words we are working on. Students take their cards and move them around to form a sentence. They then write their sentence and illustrate it! The way to make this a successful writing activity for 5 year olds, is to limit the number of cards within each student’s stack. I usually pick only ONE word that would change within each sentence. The adjective in each sentence is the most fun to change. For example, “I see the ___ turkey,” and providing multiple cards to draw out to describe the turkey. The noun is also a great one to change: “I can go to the ___” and providing multiple cards for the place! I recommend putting the changeable words in a different color that way the students who are struggling reading the words can figure out more easily which words need to switched for a new sentence. This is also a great activity to differentiate. For my students who are struggling with specific words, throwing those words in gives them a fun way to practice them. For my students are performing higher than the others, I make their sentences more elaborate: “I want to see the ___ and ___,” or “I like the ___ and ___ turkey.” My kiddos love when I give them flash cards.

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4. Brainstorming Graphic Organizers:
Kindergarteners ‚̧ Anchor Charts
They do. My kids love for me to get my big chart paper out because they all love to contribute to the class’s idea chart! Here is something I have learned this year: make them appealing. Simply making a list on a big sheet of paper is boring and hard for them to read later. But making your chart paper look like an ear of corn and every corn kernel is an idea to write about? Gold.

5. Fill in the Blank Charts or Sheets:
We all know students will using fill-in-the-blanks for the rest of their academic career. Start now, people. It isn’t always easy. For Kindergarten, I like to start by making a chart where everyone gets the same sentence and the same blanks. We then get to write in our own sentences. For example, “____ is thankful for ___.” Seriously, write that 20 times so each of your 20 students can fill in their own sentence. Now that we are in November, I can have students go back and write down their sentence after we make the chart, but this is a great chart to continue all year round! Even in the beginning of the year: “___ felt ___ on the first day of school.”

6. Primary Journals:
This is definitely a great one to try! Depending on your class, you can begin using a journal at any time throughout the year. With my current class of kinders, I needed to wait till after the first 9 weeks. But other classes were able to start earlier and some haven’t started using them yet! This all depends on your group. I sometimes use journaling as a center or as a morning work activity. Students write about a topic and illustrate. I usually start out our journals with a sentence starter that I write on the board that way they can copy for a bit and then independently finish their journal entry. It is certainly a process to get them thinking independently on writing and using a journal is such a good way to get them excited! They get to write about whatever they want (most of the time…) and they love looking back at the things they’ve written about earlier in the year. Also, can you say NO-prep?! “Get your journals out, class, and write about your Thanksgiving meal!” Easy as pie! ūüėČ

7. Fun Publishing:
I LOVE to publish my students’ writing in a lot of different ways. In primary grades¬†specifically, crafts are always great! They get kids excited, it works on listening and following directions, and it helps with fine motor skills. When writing about what you are thankful for, write each thing on a colorful turkey feather! Then make a cute turkey to glue them onto! Next week after Thanksgiving, students will be making a brown paper bag table where they can recreate their Thanksgiving feast in words and drawings. We can’t wait!

There are certainly MANY more activities to try with your class, but this is just a short list of some tried and true writing activities that are working in my classroom down here in sunny Florida (that’s right… it is STILL very sunny this time of year). Comment below with your favorite strategy from this list or comment below with another strategy/activity that you love to use! Can’t wait to hear from you!

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Manic Monday!

Some Mondays are exciting. Some Mondays are dreadful. Some Mondays are just MANIC. ūüėČ

I LOVE the link-up I found over at Classroom Freebies, a great blog that shares and posts about free downloads and free ideas for teachers of all subjects and grade levels. Every Monday, they host a linky where bloggers can link up posts about their freebies! And since we at The Teaching 2-Step have so many fantastic bloggers, we of course have a supply of freebies up our sleeves! I’m starting this party off right, with a forever freebie from my store, Daisy Designs.

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We are starting subtraction in the coming weeks in Kindergarten, which always means I need to whip out a Kindergarten favorite: Pete the Cat! The book¬†Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons¬†is my favorite book to use to introduce subtraction. In the book, Pete is wearing his groovy yellow coat with four buttons and as he is walking along, his buttons pop off one by one! The freebie I created and am supplying below is the wonderful and groovy Pete with a tens frame as a coat! Use some buttons as manipulatives to re-create the events in the story! Don’t you LOVE combining math and reading?!

Picture1Click the image above to go straight to the link and make sure you leave a comment! I’d love to meet some of the 2-Steppers out there!

Keep on the watch for more Manic Monday freebies from your friends at The Teaching 2-Step!

Sincerely,

Amanda Signature

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Hi there ya’ll! This is Amanda from sunny Florida! There’s a short bio on the first post, but I thought I’d do a brief introduction to get things rolling today. I am a Kindergarten teacher in central Florida as well as a theater and dance instructor at a local community theater for all ages (including adult)! I love my jobs more than I can describe and today I’ll be posting about my very favorite topic: how to make Kindergarten the best year for a child, socially, emotionally, and academically.

We’ve all heard “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” right? It is certainly something to chuckle at, but there’s some truth behind it! Think about all the things a child learns in Kindergarten! If you are not familiar with the expectations of a Kindergartener, I’ll ellaborate:

1. Learn more rules than you’ve ever known existed.
As a five year old, there haven’t been many rules for you yet. You know not to say the “potty words” and that pulling the dog’s tail might get you a spanking (or a nip on the hand by the dog…). But when you enter the classroom full of bright colors and loud children, you are expected to learn: how to sit on the floor properly, how to use the bathroom in the classroom, how to line up, how to get lunch, how to raise your hand, and SO much more.

2. Learn how to make friends and keep them.
Let’s be real, this is still hard for adults. It is human nature to be selfish and it is hard to make compromises sometimes in order to be a friend. Think about how hard this is for someone with only 5 years of life under their belt! A lot of kinders go through the first years of their life with no other children to interact with. Some go through with very little interaction with a friend their own age. It’s kind of difficult to go through the day without either A) crying over something another kid did or said, B) hitting said other kid, or C) giving up on the day, faking an illness, and being sent home after a trip to clinic. Well, kindergarteners haven’t really figured out option C yet, so as a teacher you’ll only have to deal with A or B. Too bad, huh? Option C is SO much easier. ūüėČ

3. Learn how to read.
This is pretty broad, of course. It’s not likely a child will learn how to read everything in Kindergarten, but I put it this way for a reason. At orientation this year, I had a form that asked the parents to write about their child. One question on this form asked them what their goals for their child are for their year in kindergarten. All but one of my parents wrote, “Learn to read.” Thanks for the specifics, people. I’m not a miracle worker! But I am so lucky that this year I have a group of kids who are so eager to learn how to read. They are so excited and take our reading block very seriously. But that’s just part of it. Sure, they¬†want to learn how to read, but there’s the letter naming and sounds to work on first, then there’s phonemic segmentation, print awareness (oh my gosh, which way is left??), and don’t even get me started on sight words!

4. Learn to add and subtract with the numbers you just learned how to write and count with.
Yep. Most kids go to Kindergarten already knowing how to count. I was thinking about a friend the other day who is teaching her toddler how to count objects and how cute he is when he throws his hands in the air and yells, “threeeeeeeee!!!” But several of my students come in not knowing the difference between an A and a 2 when I show it to them on a page. Not only are Kindergarteners learning how to write numbers and count with them, later this year we will tackle addition and subtraction. How many times in Algebra did you say, “Oh! I just add?!” Yes. Your Kindergarten teacher says, “You’re welcome.”

5. Take ALL THE TESTS!
Phew! There are a lot of tests these days! Kindergarteners do not care about tests, especially in the beginning of the year when most of them don’t even know what a test is. They start to care though when they put two and two together (see item number 4 on this list) (addition pun, #sorrynotsorry) and see that these tests are really important that they do well. This is overwhelming, stressful, and can totally ruin a child’s relationship with school¬†forever.

Alright. So now that you see a little slice of Kindergarten, you might be asking, “Holy cow… how do I help these kids?” I’d like to say it’s easy, but it is the hardest thing you might ever do. While you take on these daunting tasks, I have a short list of threeeeeeeee(!) helpful hints:

1. Make sure you repeat yourself every 10 seconds of everyday.
Don’t worry about it taking the kids an hour to do something after you’ve explained it to them, shown it to them, and DONE IT for them. As long as you are ready to say the same thing over and over and over and over and over again, you’re kids will do fine.

2. Make things fun!
We are SO lucky to live in the Pinterest era of teaching. We are less than a month into school and I have gotten almost all of my activities and center ideas from Pinterest. The more fun you make something, the more the kids will enjoy learning. I know a lot of people may disagree with me on this one. I can just hear someone saying, “But life’s not always fun” as I write this. But seriously, folks. They have all those tests and rules to follow all day long. Our job is to create a life-long love for learning. It won’t happen if you don’t make things enjoyable. Fun does not always mean easy. Fun activities are often-times the most challenging for the students and can be the most rewarding when they succeed. And let’s be real here, the happier the kids are, the happier YOU are!

3. Love them.
As simple as it is, showing the kids that you care about them can have the most profound impact. I mentioned earlier that some kids go through the first years of their life with little to no interaction with other children. The same can be said for their interaction with adults. Some kids see their parents for a mere two hours a day after they get dropped off at morning care at 5:30am, go to extended day till 6pm, and go to bed at 8pm after their supper and bath of course. Although their parents love them, some students only see and feel that affection for a couple of hours a day. YOU are the one that is constant. Smile at them, even when you want to scream. Hug them back when they throw their arms around you and never be the one to let go first. You never know how long they need that hug.

BONUS TIP: Coffee.

Kindergarten is a long and strenuous year for us all, but I would not trade it for the world. I cried more times the first week of school than the kids did (seriously). But everything they learn this year sets them up for success (or failure) for the rest of their academic careers. Keeping in mind the simple hints I gave but never forgetting the importance of their progress, you will have a great year in Kindergarten and so will your students.

Sincerely,
Amanda @daisydesignstpt