Not A Turkey In Sight: Thanksgiving

Toiler paper roll turkey? Hard pass. It’s just not me.
I like to build lots of language into the activities we do. I also like to throw the religion piece in there.
In my classroom, Thanksgiving is all about thanking God for what we have in our lives. We take a solid three or four days doing Thanksgiving activities.

First, I create the word “Thank You God for” on individual pieces of paper. The students and I practice how to arrange the words of the sentence properly. We talk about how word make up a sentence. Then we think of something they are thankful for and place it at the end of the sentence. Afterwards, students do this individually with myself, and they learn how to take a picture with the iPad.

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They usually have to stand on a chair to get everything in the frame.

Afterwards, I put all their photos into the app SonicPics where they then record their voices. You can check out my PM class’ video here!

The next day, the students basically do the same activity only individually with their own set of small words. I ask them to do it on a 4×6 index card so the papers can easily be slipped into a photo book from the dollar store. Students also need to brainstorm their own idea rather than finding an item in the classroom. I also have some visual supports we practice with on the Smart Board.

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Here are a few examples of student work.

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Afterwards, the students can “read” the book together.

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During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, the students also practice a Thanksgiving poem.

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I came up with a nice keepsake idea. This way the students can take the prayer home and if they need help saying it at Thanksgiving dinner, their family will know how the prayer goes. Since we have also been practicing the sign of the cross, the students used yarn and cardboard to add one to their work.

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Gotta love me some Mod Podge! That’s the fancy glue we used to adhere the poem to the artist canvas. Also gotta love a nice Michael’s 50% off coupon because that stuff is pricey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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FrameMagic: All About Me

I love using two photography apps in the classroom: PicCollage and FrameMagic. It’s still the beginning of the organized hearing cats chaos, so my students haven’t gotten their hands on these apps yet, but it have been using them to document.

FrameMagic is GREAT for combining 2-30 photos into one collage-type photo. Bonus: I only need to store that one photo on my iPad, and it also takes up less room in my Photo Stream. Yay!

We read the book “The Best Part Of Me”.

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Then the students drew self portraits. Simple ones. Black marker, white paper, print your name up top, leave room for your teacher to document your sweet sweet quote at the bottom, spend one hour gluing them and making them all look pretty, kinda simple. I took photos of all the finished products, then used the multiple selection function in FrameMagic to make the magic happen.

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I threw each individual photo in the students e-portfolios! then deleted those bad boys off my device. They were everywhere they needed to be, so SEE YA LATER!

The students told them the best part of themselves while they were drawing, and I typed their quote as they worked. Afterwards, I took a picture of the best part of them they had verbalized to me earlier. Again, I used FrameMagic to collage the photos, and it think this will look great in the classroom.

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I’m Getting a Divorce (#kinderblog14, week 4)

Classic me, doing the #kinderblog14 challenge the first week and then petering out. I have a bit of a break at the moment. It’s been tough being a lady of leisure for the summer.

I sadly announce that I am getting a divorce from a very complicated relationship. One of the most challenging relationships I have experienced recently has been the one I have with a very important aspect in each and every school in our country. Some might say it has been put on the back burner due to all our technological advancements in society. Some might say we don’t even NEED this kind of relationship in schools anymore.

Yes, people. I am talking about the school paper supply room.

The paper supply room has caused me small to large amounts of rage on any given day since I’ve started teaching. We change it’s location, we buy new shelving, we throw in a stapler, a cutting tool, a glue stick here and there. But ALL IS LOST unless everyone respects some very important rules regarding the precious paper.

In no order of importance (they are all an 11 on the scale of 1 to 10) here are a few rules that coworkers need to obey:

THE LAST PIECE OF PAPER
When you take the last piece of white construction paper from the paper room, tell someone. There’s not a magic ordering fairy that will do that for you. And no, just because my students are “just in kindergarten” doesn’t mean we want your scraps to draw and paint on. Bring on the full size 8.5×14 people! The same thing goes for the photocopier. That red flashing light means it’s hungry. Feed it with some paper. It’s not difficult.

THE FIRST PIECE OF PAPER
Much like taking the last piece of paper from the paper room, when you take the first piece, don’t throw the clear wrapping onto the ground. The recycle is right there. You don’t even need to walk to get it in there. Maybe just a gentle lunge and a slight flick of the wrist will suffice. Gravity. Science. That kind of thing.

THE SCRAP PIECE OF PAPER
There are time when you find yourself in that in between situation from the previous two examples. You have finished cutting all your pieces and you are left with one, last, lonely piece of purple construction paper, resembling a triangle. Well coworkers, I have news for you. No one wants that purple triangle. No one. There will never be anyone who walks into the paper supply room and says, “OH PERFECT! A mangled kind of triangle sort of looking piece of construction paper! That’s exactly what that one student in my classroom needs.” That purple triangle needs to set up camp and find a home in the recycle bin. The sheer amount of energy it takes to find a use for that triangle, store that triangle, and keep it in its designated colour spot, is too much. It’s just too much output of energy for what you get back. It’s going into the recycle! Feel good about that! So help me God if I’m the one who walks into that paper room, and my 5’3 frame reaches waaaaaaaaay up to the top shelf to grab some fresh new purple construction paper, only to have a pointy, dangerous, eye stabbing triangle fall from its great height and directly into my eyeball.

Depending on my mood and how much coffee I’ve been able to consume that morning, any one of the above situations can throw me into a fit of rage for roughly 17 seconds. I’m really good at self regulating and getting over it, and I will promptly clean the paper supply room each time I have a few minutes. However, since I voluntarily clean and tidy the room during each visit, people become accustomed to this. Then it becomes EXPECTED! Therefore, I am getting a divorce. I am divorcing the paper room.

“Change Is Good” (#kinderblog14, week 1)

Aca-scuse me? Change is NOT good. If I had even a nickel for every time someone has told me that this past school year, I’d be floating on my private yacht on the Mediterranean Sea. And I live in The Canada, people.

Next year, I am moving to a new school. This. Frightens. The CHEESE RITZ CRACKERS out of me. I am a creature of habit through and through. I am ok with SOME change, but I would say I am even a creature of habit when it comes to the things I change in my life. For example, I can change what kind of cereal I eat in the morning, but when changing to a different kind of cereal, you better believe I’m going to eat it every single morning until that box is empty, without fail. Consistency, people. Consistency. And routine.

The best way I can describe this past school year is by using the word “turbulent”. I wasn’t myself. My friends and family noticed and ultimately got the eye of the storm for most of my “turbulent” school situations. As the school year continued on, it was clear these situations were isolated to my job. My #kinderchat friends were there to support me. My family was there to support me. Food was there to support me. Not going in to school to work on the weekends was there to support me. I loved my students, loved my grade, loved my families, loved everything that had to do with anything I had control over in my classroom, but it was the cloud up above that was affecting me. You all know the cloud. It’s the one that holds all the “outside the classroom” storms.

I am moving to a new school by choice. Why would a creature of habit CHOOSE to change their life so drastically, you might ask? (Ahem, YES this is a drastic change and you can’t convince me otherwise). I am making this change for MY HEART and not for my head. It has taken a year of tears and reflection for me to ultimately realize that my heart is the most important aspect to my job as a teacher. (Oh my goodness, cue the corny I KNOW). When it came down to a choice between two job options, one was clearly for the heart and one was clearly for the head. The weight that was lifted off my chest and shoulders after I had made the right decision was so great, I felt like a new person.

I learned a lot this past school year. I didn’t learn how to blog with my students, how a robotics program works, or how to teach my students how to code. I didn’t learn new science experiments, new ways to teach measurement in math, or how to best empty a water table full of smooshed up jelly-like water beads (you really gotta just go full force rubber gloves on that one). I learned how to be me as a teacher, while letting others find their way.
I learned that change for the heart is good.

3 Literacy Activities for Struggling Students: Starting Now

The two month countdown has begun. I only have so much time left with my students to help them learn as much as possible. As per usual, schedules have been crazy (what DOESN’T happen during the last few months of school?! Motion to move Mother’s Day to the end of January please and thank you) but I have been making a huge effort to work with my weakest group of literacy students every single day on top of everything else. Confession: I didn’t want to say “weakest” so I sat staring at my iPad for a good 20 minutes trying to reword my sentence or say it differently, but I can’t. So. Yea. There’s that.

In order to do this, I knew I would need to be organized. My grade partner and I pow wowed about what we could do for those students in need. I had come to the immediate conclusion that it’s too difficult for those students to do literacy activities that work with the whole alphabet. We needed to get it down to 2 or 3 letters and work our way up from there.

Here are three literacy activities you can do with you students tomorrow to help them out.

1) Highlighter Letters
I created a document with two different letters in a whole bunch of circles. I put about 6 of each letter on the page. The photos below are from me practicing with a group of students learning the difference between C and K. I wrote each letter on a separate sticky note. We practiced before starting, saying the letters out loud and noticing one letter had all lines and one letter was just a curve. After reviewing both the letters, I hid the letters behind my back. I pulled a letter out and asked the students to say it. We did this about 6 times. On the 7th time, I asked them to colour in the correct circle with a highlighter. They. Loved. It. Then I showed them the next letter, and they coloured it in, and so on and so forth. After a few times of them colouring the circle in with a visual aid, I placed the stickies in front of them and verbally asked them to colour in a letter. This scaffolding really set them up for success. It was very important for me to have ALL the students say EACH letter EACH time. If not, they would just be matching the letter, not recognizing and saying it.

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2) Sticker Letters

I used the same templates as the Highlighter Letters activity, and changed it to using stickers. I am obsessed with those, what I like to call, “garage sale stickers” from Wal-Mart. You get 300 in a pack and they are only a dollar! They’re like the kind of stickers you see at garage sales, because people use them to mark prices on items. I use them for pretty much everything else in the classroom. Bonus: fine motor practice. Woot!
I wrote out the two or three letters on two sheets of stickers, and practiced and modeled the same way I described in the previous activity. And again, they loved it.

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Simple Sort

It’s embarassing I didn’t come up with this one sooner. I cut a piece of paper into 12 pieces and wrote each letter 6 times. I also like to include a happy face drawing in the top left hand corner, Handwriting Without Tears style, so there is no confusion regarding upside down letters. We practice, flip them all over, and then sort them one at a time. This is a great reinforcement activity to do either after or before any of the above mentioned activities.

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It was super simple for me to snap a photo of each student’s work and put it into their Evernote e-portfolio right after. I also commented on their strengths and difficulties during the activity. I have even had parents ask for copies of the activity to do at home, which I sent easily in an email.
If you would like the template from the first two activities, please DM me and I will send them to you.

QR Codes in K: Capture the Voice

The following activity was my first successful attempt at using QR Codes in the classroom. You can use QR Codes in many ways but I specifically wanted to use them to capture the voices of my students explaining imaginary people they created.

The students practiced verbally explaining their people throughout the entire process of our culminating task. This was important, because if you leave practicing how to speak in a second language until the END of your task, you’re pretty much hooped. Practice is essential.

The students planned their people out, painted the backgrounds, drew their people, painted their skin and clothing, and drew and painted the finishing details.

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When they were all finished, they looked beautiful. We then added the QR Codes.

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Here’s how we went about it.
I used the app “Croak It” (on my iPad) because Audio Boo wouldn’t allow me enough storage unless I upgraded my account, which I wasn’t about to do. Croak It’s set back was that each student was only able to record for 30 seconds. This is where the oral language component gets differentiated. I had some students who could explain their person’s name, eye colour, hair colour, shirt colour, pant colour, and shoe colour in 30 seconds. I had other students who could only do one or two of the above. The 30 seconds was kind of nice as a teacher as well. Limiting the recording time to 30 seconds means this activity was relatively quick, and couldn’t drag on and on.

Create a Croak It profile, open the app, and do a test recording. It’s simple to use, and once you have the hang of it, you can fly through it with the students. My students like to do one final oral practice, then we record right after that.

After they have recorded their Croak It, title it with their name, and email the URL to yourself. I did this because I teach half day K, and I wanted to have a place to keep all their URLs just in case we didn’t have time to record and make the QR Codes in one day. Huge shocker, we didn’t have time. *detect the sarcasm*

The next day, we used the app “Zappy” to create our QR Codes.

Open the email containing the student’s URL.

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Copy the URL by holding your finger down on the link and selecting “Copy”.

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Open your QR Code creating app and select the URL option. This way when you scan the QR Code, it will lead you to the Croak It site containing your student’s recording.

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Paste your URL in the text box by holding your finger down and selecting “Paste”.

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After you tap “Go”, your QR Code will be created.

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I imagine at this point, fancy people could print directly from here. However, for personal and professional reasons, I needed to make it look perfect. Therefore, I emailed the QR Code to myself by touching “Share” and doing just so. I also included the student’s name (big orange mark) in the email subject line to limit confusion.

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I created a Word document of boxes with each of the students’ names and then inserted their QR Code into the proper box. Print, cut, glue on artist canvas, and presto. The codes are ready for anyone to scan. I included a few directions on the bulletin board so people would know what they are and how to use them.

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They are beautifully hanging in the hallway. I took this picture with less than half of them completed, and they’re still fabulous.

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Kindergarten Assessment: Quick & Easy

I recently shared an assessment template with my PLN on Twitter. I’ve had lots of requests to have the template sent to other teachers, as well as a few questions about how it works.
I give full credit to my good friend and coworker @mllekmn who shared with me this is how she does some assessment in her 4/5 combined class.

Here is what the template looks like. This specific template is to assess which students know what about patterns in math. The subject, unit, and outcomes are at the top of the page. This specific outcome is about identifying, reproducing, continuing, and creating a pattern. In each box there is the student’s name and then 4 bullets. Each bullet is a part of the outcome (identifying, reproducing, continuing and creating). Knocking it down to one word really simplified the look of this document, which I love.

I had a finger paint centre happening in the classroom. The students were asked to create patterns for me. This would allow me to understand where my students were at the start of our unit, before we went into any specific patterning activities.

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After student work had dried, I quickly went through the finished products and checked off who would create a pattern.

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It is clear this student above can create their own pattern. I found their name on my document, checked the bulletin off, and then stamped the date next to that bullet to let me know when that student had achieved that specific section of the outcome.

To take it a bit further, I wanted to be able to refer back to this document and know what student mastered which outcome with which activity. I flipped my document over, and quickly scribbled down the activity they did that showed me they achieved that outcome. I stamped the date next to my scribble writing so that there was correlation between the front of the page and the back of the page.

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When this math unit is completed, I hope to have many checks on the front, many dates stamped on the front, and many scribbled boxed off activities on the back.
With all the student work nice and dry, I added page protectors and cardstock to a duo tang to create a class book of examples of patterns they created.

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I also threw a sticky note on the front so we could tell which book belonged to the AM class and which book belonged to the PM class.

If you would like me to send you the template, DM me on Twitter.

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