Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pick 3– Student DIY, Slides, Storage

Pick Three Pins is such a favorite link up of mine that I'm going to post even though I am presenting at our start-of-school PD today, doing Work & Mingle Night tonight, prepping for the arrival of students in five days, and am only nine days away from my daughter's move to the other side of the country. to live. NOT forever... please Lord above...  Some weeks in life are just FULL to bursting.

Thanks to Lisa and Marissa from Pawsitively Learning and Inspired Owl's Corner for this monthly link up. So many ideas to find! These are some Pin ideas I will use soon.

Thought this little student DIY idea was a good one. I send parent reminders home in various ways, but letting students make the reminder themselves and taping it into a bracelet is not something I've tried.. but I'm gonna. As long as supplies are at the ready there is no reason they can't do it themselves, and maybe they'll be more likely to remember, too. This idea comes from Mama Miss.

Deb over at Not-Very-Fancy made these Monster How-to slide templates. She uses them for her Meet the Teacher Night when there are things she wants families to do. But I downloaded the FREE template just to have to make whatever how-tos I need to. I love when there is a simple multi-use freebie to be had. Thanks, Deb.

I do various games and activities with cups. They are easy to make and the kids like them. Storage is a bit of an issue though, as the stacked towers fall down and don't fit in ziplocs too well. Ta-da– a cute, easy solution. I'll ask parents for Pringles cans this fall. This idea is from Hodges Herald.

Click to see lots more ideas on my Teacher Tips board on Pinterest.  

Now click on back to the Pick 3 Pins linky party to find more.

Hope your school start goes/ is going well!  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mini Home Visits... Drop Offs... Drive-bys

I have a million things I should be doing, but last night was such a high that I'm going to link up with Teaching Trio's Sunday Scoop today to share. I'm most excited about number 1 on the list. 

(Golly, that was not the font to use in there! You were thinkin that too, right? Fess up. We all become editors as we blog read. I mean, bloggers aren't real writers... Was I tired last night or what...)

Our school puts final touches on classlists as late as possible to catch as many of the new kids coming in as we can. Our Meet & Greet is this coming Wednesday, the week before school starts so Friday was the deadline... well, it was kindergarten's deadline because K families get a special packet that cannot be sent electronically.

For years I've sent home "The August Packet." It consists of

• a welcome letter to parents from me

• a request that both parents send me an email so I can just copy and paste CORRECT email addresses into my list. When I had to type them in myself I used to get most of them wrong. Well, lots of them. At least a few. Enough to make corrections annoying!

• a transportation form that tells me where kids go after school– child care, bus, or pick-up by who.

• an invitation to Work & Mingle Night– don't know what Work & Mingle Night is??? Mine is this coming Thursday, before school starts this year. Before school is the most useful time. I hope I can be ready. And not too frantic. Click on the photo below to see the post and some useful wording.

• my Ultimate Student Info Card that parents must fill out before they drop off their child on the first day. You won't believe all the info I get from one half sheet of paper. Yes, I will need extra copies for those parents who didn't do it and don't realize I'll hold their child ransom until I get it. And they all want their child back... at least on the first day of kindergarten. It is available as a free download if you click on this photo of it.

Freebie Kidpeople Classroom Ultimate Parent Info Card

• a first-day-of-school backpack checklist saying what students need and don't need

• my brand new Parent Flip Book! It is a template that you can use to cover any topic.  My colleague uses hers for curriculum night. Mine includes EVERYTHING incoming parents need to know. It says so right on the cover. Well, almost everything– lunch; snack; dressing for winter; field trips; my classroom behavior expectations; ways to support learning at home; spare clothes; and toileting details. (Do you know the word "toileting" is not real. It comes up with a red spelled wrong line. Let me tell you it is a real word among teachers of young children. Yep, it is.) The Flip Book also includes ways parents can contact me and a big welcome. To a great extent, it is the nitty-gritty of my philosophy of education. And yes, it is long, but if they ain't gonna read it at peak excitement for their kid's first school experience, then when are they gonna. They usually hang on your every word at this point in the year, and I take full advantage. A parent in the know is a parent ready to go. I just made that up.

I had all the info written up from years of teaching kindergarten, but the flip book part was new. I compiled it as a reference packet that parents can and hopefully WILL refer to all year. I LOVE how it turned out.

It actually is purple, blue and green, not pink, blue and yellow. huh.

I got the template from Learning in Wonderland. You can get it, too, from TPT by clicking on the picture of mine up above. There is even a video tutorial to help you put it together. It is work to make everything fit the prearranged spaces, but it was a good summer task and I am so happy to have it.

• and last but not least, my letter to my new students. It has a kid friendly message designed to quiet the jitters and it has a photo of a wildly waving yours truly. You can download a completely editable copy to see what it says by clicking on the photo.

NOW to tell you the sweetest part, and why I'm really posting this morning. As I mentioned, we wait as long as we can to finalize classlists so everyone is included, so there isn't much time to get the August Packet to families in time for them to drop off their completed information and transportation forms at our Meet & Greet. To make sure it reaches them in time I do drive-by mini home visits and deliver the packets door to door. I don't actually just drive by. I stop. And get out VERY briefly.

Here comes Mrs. Wright.
I found this posted on the internet and it is MY car.
No, really. I mean, yes, really.
At least this person "got it."
I think I love him.
Plates are meant to be fun, right??

Our school is the most westward school in the district, on the edge of town where there are various subdivisions. It is pretty easy to group the packets by neighborhood to drop them off. I did tonight, with Jonathan dragging along playing chauffeur so I could just hop out. (Don't feel bad for him– he gets free haircuts. And we're an old married couple– what else does he have to do but be with his wife on a Saturday night no matter what she's doing.) If no one was home, I left the packet in the door, but going between 6 - 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night is a good time to find people.  I mean, come on, parents of kindergartners never go out on a Saturday night like kindergarten teachers and their husbands.

Honest to Pete, you would think Santa Claus was standing on the porch when they come to the door! Can the eyes of my new kidpeople get any bigger? The kids are thrilled, too. I got hugs from kids and parents alike! I had to refuse invites in, cups of tea and coffee, Sprite and pizza! I even could have had a beer. I didn't manage to dodge having my picture taken once or twice– darn it that iPhones are so convenient when I'm in work clothes from sorting out the classroom all day. Photos I don't want to see. Ever. I do drive a red vehicle but I'm not as round as Santa. Really. Just sayin. In case you're taking that analogy too far.

It takes just over an hour of my our time (Thank you, Jonathan. Remember– free haircuts) and I couldn't invest the hour any better. It is SO worth it! Everyone is happy and the stage. is. set. I gain a lot of info, too. I know our neighborhoods pretty well now. I greet former students out on the sidewalks. I see where my kids live and to a certain extent how they live. It lets me connect with my littles even before I know them.

In another lifetime, long ago, I used to do home visits. They seem to be a thing of the past now, but this little mini-version on the porch and in the driveway is better than nothing. It really makes me happy to be a kindergarten teacher, welcoming parents to school, and the kids to my classroom. I mean, a Mrs. Wright Sighting at your own house! Not at school. Where she lives. I get instant celebrity status. Among a small handful of five year olds. I thrill easily.

I know we all teach in a million different situations, but if you can swing getting out into your school community and connecting with kids and families even before they arrive at your classroom door, I HIGHLY recommend it. I was pooped, but happy, and so looking forward to seeing my new little darlings in a week's time. Even if "home visits" are not practical, I hope some of the things I mention from the packet are useful to you. Have a great rest of the weekend! Me... I'm starting to get that back-to-school high energy that makes me just. a. little. punchy. It's only gonna get worse.

Thanks for stopping by. Cliiiiiiiick on back to read more.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Resources and Freebies Galore!

So excited to have new resources and freebies for you today. Thanks to Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching for throwing her weekly Five for Friday linky party to help me share them.

1.  I'm starting with what I am super excited about doing this year with my kiddos. I think it is wonderful when the early years of education are cherished by families– kids grow and learn so much! I help families collect memories in many ways throughout the year, and this activity adds to that collection.

One poem is for the beginning of the year and one for the end. Each poem is about how tall the child is at the moment, measured by the string, and reflects on how much they grow in a year. You do the measuring in the first and last weeks of school. I wrote the poems and include a copy for kindergarten, preschool, and first grade. You'll need yarn in two colors, one for the beginning of the year, one for the end. I am making them FREE to download, so all you have to do is print on cardstock. Directions for an easy way to measure your students' height is included, too. To get this freebie simply click on the photo above. I hope you enjoy it! PLEASE leave love in the comments and PIN!

2.  For the last month or so I've been posting on start-of-year topics– from the first minutes of the first day, to anchor charts, to info cards, to getting parents involved on many levels. And there are freebies to download, too. I've made a special page to connect to all the topics and will be adding to this page as time goes on so all back to school ideas and freebies are easy to find. You can go there by clicking on the photo below. I hope this is useful to you now and in the future. Pin so you can come back as I add on, too.

3.  In one of my last posts I talked about Think-Talk Sticks and I mention them here again so you don't miss out on a useful freebie.

These little babies are going help my kidpeople think and talk during various points in our day– guided reading, writing workshop, and general discussion. I got the original idea from Two Writing Teachers and include a link so you can get their freebie. Click on the photo above to see.

4.  The folks from contacted me to ask if I'd share the news of their resource site with you. I checked it out and, whoa, there are many, many FREE resources here to help teachers teach sight words, phonemic awareness, and counting. Resources include video lessons and lesson tips, games to make, and word cards, too– word cards that are completely editable. You can add any words that your unique class is working on. And did I mention it's all free! There's nothing to buy and you don't need to give your name or sign-up for anything. I suggest you check them out by clicking the icon below. They are not compensating me in any way, just think they are a goodie to know about.

5.  And last, a little bit of shopping fun. If you have a Meijer close by you might want to keep your eyes open for these little babies.

Are you kidding me! Watermelon seed sticky notes! Jonathan had to hold me back before I bought them all– they are on sale! Bonus! If you teach from Lucy Calkins you'll know that small moment stories are like seeds in the juicy watermelon of life, and this is a big idea that kids really latch on to. I can hardly wait until we get to those lessons- I'm going to give each student a watermelon sticky to keep in their notebook to collect watermelon seed ideas for small moment stories. I bet everyone comes up with a few ideas just to use the notes– mwah ha ha, the teacher laughs gleefully. I love when little inexpensive notions translate into good learning for kids. These are fun and novel and the brain grooves on novelty.

Well, that's all for this Friday. Hope you are happy with your finds!

Oh, yeah, almost forgot. Click back to the linky for more great ideas.

All the Links for Start-of-School

I love starting school each year! There is nothing like the excitement of a new class... and nothing like the effort teachers put into it! This is a page where I collect the start-of-school ideas I use in my classroom. Just click below to go to the various topics. Be sure to check back as this post will stay updated with new links as I post them. 

Find some new, fun ideas and FREEBIES to help you and your kiddos launch the year by clicking on the titles!

Hope you found these helpful. PIN so you can check for updates!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Think–Talk Sticks and a Freebie Link

Okay, so I'm doing another post for Monday Wednesday Made It! I have little tool that could be useful in many classrooms, and now that Monday Made It is making it's move for the school year to just monthly, I don't want to wait to share. I call them Think–Talk Sticks.

These can be used lots of ways
This idea has two sources. I found it through Betsy Hubbard's post at Two Writing Teachers and she gives credit to Kathy Collins from The Educator Collaborative. Kathy originally used her sticks during reading. She has students place their stick near a character in a picture to talk about what the character might be thinking or saying. Betsy furthered the thinking by applying them to writing workshop. Betsy gives each of her students a stick to hold up when they are formulating their ideas and planning what to write, and then they turn it over when they are ready to share with their partners.

When I read about the sticks being used in these two good ways, I thought of yet another time when they might be useful and that is in group discussions. When I ask a question kids could show they were thinking of their answer, and then when they were ready to share, flip them over. I'm hoping it will increase student engagement by giving kids an action to show on the outside of what's going on inside their head. Some kids are always ready with answers, but others need a bit of help, and this would let students know what the expectation is. I would be able to say, "I see soandso thinking of their answer and I'll watch for him to let me know when he has it." And besides, think-talk sticks are fun and there is good purpose to pulling out a widget every once in a while– remember the brain grooves on novelty.

For all these reasons, I was all about the sticks. Betsy has a freebie sheet of the think and talk balloons– thanks, Betsy! You can simply cut them apart and glue them on either side of a stick. This being the season of extra hands available for cutting and a hot laminator at the ready, I decided to fancy them up a bit.

I happened to have black Post-its on hand, so I stuck the think bubble to the Post-it then laminated. I laminated the talk bubble, too. Hot glue worked well at attaching them to the sticks.

I didn't have any colored sticks at home, so a few seconds with some Sharpies and the sticks had color front and back. I color sticks like this sometimes because I like the uncolored stripe down the edge.

It was a lot of effort in cutting but I'm happy with them in the end. I'm not suggesting you do all this crafting, I sure don't usually when it comes to little sticks. I do encourage you, however, to click on Betsy's bubble page below to read her post and get her freebie. If you don't know about Two Writing Teachers check them out while you're there. This group of educators does a fantastic blog and I hardly ever miss it because I come away with new things to think about every time.

Click to go to Two Writing Teachers for the freebie

I bet if you make some of these you'll not only use them in the ways mentioned her, but in new ways, too. I love teaching tools that can be used over and over to stimulate student thinking. If you don't have time to make them now, Pin! Let me know in the comments what you think.

Trot back to Monday Made It. Find more stuff.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Scrounging in the Kitchen

Today I'm linking with Monday Made It from Fourth Grade Frolics and Teacher in the Kitchen at Not Very Fancy in First. Summer is usually my cooking season because I have the time to putzy around a bit. But not this summer. I thought I'd better cook something before the no-cook school season really takes over. I managed to think to take some photos while making dinner last night. Do you like Pasta Carbonara? Well, I didn't intend to make it, but that's what ended up in our bowls somehow. It was a stuff-Kathleen-can-find-around-the-house kinda carbonara. I do REALLY need to get to the grocery store.

Here you see a bowl of eggs, tomato, pesto, parmesan, and some basil... where's the rest of the basil... there was more basil... Unfortunately, you don't see bacon as we didn't have any... so carbonara it was not quite.

I managed to gather these things from the fridge, pantry, and garden... I use the term "garden" loosely. Four big pots, surrounding a post that has string attached to the top so the plants can grow up. This year I have tomatoes, basil, patty-pan squash, cilantro, cucumbers, lettuce, and corn. It does all right if I can manage to remember to water– a basic foundational concept of gardening... who knew...

This is a photo of the garden a spring ago

In this next photo you see cheese– queso blanco, also called bread cheese. This cheese is fantastic because you can brown it in the pan. It retains it's shape as it browns (if you cut it thicker than I did) and has the most divine flavor and texture. It goes VERY well with cherries and grapes. This package came from Costco where it is WAY cheaper than anywhere else. It doesn't really go with Carbonara, but then again, when does cheese not "go."

You also see our pasta bubbling away in the pot in the picture– no, I don't usually leave boxes on the stove. I just wanted you to see the package. To a great extent we have switched over to lentil pasta, made of beans, if you can believe it. It behaves and tastes like regular pasta– even my fussy youngest loves it. It is gluten free, but I buy it because it has fewer calories and more protein that regular pasta. This particular brand also comes from Costco and is also a good price. Gotta love Costco.

While the pasta cooked, I browned the cheese, chopped the tomato and basil, and whisked four eggs in a bowl. As the cheese got done I just set it aside to have as an appetizer. When I turned around it and most of the grapes had disappeared- poof! hmm...

Look at this delicious golden brown cheese. Yum!

I drained the cooked pasta but, and this part is crucial, I did not rinse it as it needs to stay very hot when I put it back in the pot and add the raw eggs. You mix the eggs into the hot pasta very quickly and very well so they cook with the heat of the pasta. The first few times I made Carbonara it kinda freaked me out to be adding raw eggs, but they really do cook in the hot pasta... and cook to just the right consistency. Then I added a generous amount of parmesan and kept stirring.

Because I thought it would be boring without the traditional bacon, I added the tomato, basil and pesto, and mixed it in. A generous amount of ground pepper and a bit of salt finished it off. I probably could have scrounged up a few more spices from the pantry, but I was hungry.

It was a gooey, cheesy delicious mess. YUM.

Where are the photos of this scrumptious concoction, you ask? Well, our bowls of pasta looked and smelled so good that we ate it all up, and I didn't think about the camera again until after the dishes were done! A food blogger I will never be!! Jonathan said I could take a picture of his round belly, but I'll save you all the sight :)

BUT WAIT! As I go to download the photos to add to the post I find...

That DH of mine is naughty, naughty! He took a photo of the empty pot and didn't tell me. So you don't get to see his belly, but you do get to see his happy face... I guess that's happy... it looks like he's about to bite somebody...

BUT WAIT AGAIN! What else is on the roll... (do digital photos come in rolls...?)

OMG.. a missing finger!

Somebody take the camera away from that man! sigh.

There you have it. Pasta Carbonara the throw-together way. I highly recommend a little experimentation in the kitchen. The older I get the fewer recipes I use and the braver I get at just winging it. Jonathan says it's because our taste buds are dying that I can get away with it. If you stop by, I promise to use the cookbook.

Now click on Deb's  Not Very Fancy in 1st  button here to see who else is sharing some cooking ideas.

And click here to go to Monday Made It! Thanks, Tara.

See you around!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Soggy Campfire Tales

Sometimes you get to do fun things... I am a storyteller– as in professional storyteller– when I am not teaching, reading about teaching, planning for teaching, assessing my teaching, prepping materials for teaching, and making the classroom just right for teaching. In other words, almost never. But that doesn't mean I don't love it. In this phase of my life, though, about the only people who get to hear my stories are my kindergartners... except for at one special backyard annual event, which happened tonight.

A classic scene of campfire stories

Stories 'round the campfire began as dusk was falling. What a lovely scene.

We heard a story about a lost bear... with the grandparents of the lost bear in the audience, which lent an important perspective. Clouds gathered and the wind started to blow.

We moved on to why Beetles are Bald. Leaves that we hadn't noticed were starting to turn swirled around our heads, landing in the fire that leapt up and crackled away.

We heard a classic scary story remembered from youth camp days about a mysterious black velvet ribbon. The story picked up pace as the velocity of the wind increased, thunder rolled in the distance, and a smattering of raindrops fell.

That didn't stop us. "It's going to blow over" was our mantra as umbrellas came out.

A not so classic scene as umbrellas went up

Stories continued with some thrills from piranhas, stingrays, and caimans. And more rain.

Cozy under umbrellas
as the rain fell and the tellers did tell
We tried to keep the marshmallows under shelter so the s'mores weren't soggy.

Our last story was a read aloud rendition of a Christmas story written by an eight year old teller. Good thing it was laminated. As much as we wanted to keep going, we were all getting soaked, so we squashed down the borrowed umbrellas, grabbed the s'more fixins, and put out the fire... just as the rain slowed enough so people could scurry to their cars and down the sidewalk home. All the beautiful weather we've had here in Michigan this summer, and this. one. night. it had to rain. sigh.

As midnight approaches and I sit here writing this, from the open deck door I smell the wet earth mingled with smokey fire pit, and hear the quiet shush of the rain, now gently falling. This will be a memory of summer. I thank all the neighbors and guild storytellers who joined in, Gertrude, my neighbor and fellow teller who helped host, and Jonathan who readied the backyard. We'll do it again next year and hope for more than just one hour of fun.

The post Soggy Campfire Tales first appeared on

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