Saturday, December 13, 2014

Freebies and $ Store Finds for the Holidays and Beyond

I'm writing today to share some Dollar Store Finds and some freebies to get you through the last few days before Winter Break!! Yay!! And I'm linking up with Primary Powers FaLaLa Link Up for Holiday Freebies to let people know.  Thanks, Guys! Many of my little tips– and Freebies– are not just for the holiday season, but will take you into the new year, too.

1. I love those sensory tubs that everyone's making these days. I decided to make one to practice sight words. I bought a couple bags of white shredded paper at the dollar store and then threw in ten little foam cut-out snowmen on which I wrote sight words. The kids had to dig through to find these little guys and when they did, they wrote the words on a list. It took them longer than I thought it would I'm happy to say, and they were very good about not making a mess. I'm going to change this activity up a bit for the coming winter weeks– adding some silver tinsel and numbers on snowflake foamies.

Over time it fluffed up so much I had to take some out!
You won't need as much as you think.

To make this activity special next time Jonathan whipped up some new list paper, and I have them here to share with you.  There's snowflakes, a snowman, and a new plain border. Click on the picture below to download this little Freebie.

Also, don't forget that my freebie list paper on TPT has lists for games, toys, and presents– rather useful this time of year, too.  If you don't have it, click on this picture to get it.

2. Also at the dollar store were some fun plastic candy canes. They came six to the package and they look quite real.  There were lots of giggles when I handed them out as tappers for reading group.

And a large candy cane is just a dollar, too. I didn't take a picture in class, but here it is from the catalog. (I didn't know Dollar Tree HAD a catalog, but they do and when you order, it comes to the store for pick up.) They are sold as lawn ornaments, but they make a great teacher pointer.  I loved the gasps when I used it to read our poem this week.

3. Also at my dollar store was a larger than normal selection of puzzles. I stood there looking at them when an idea came to mind.  I grabbed a baby seal puzzle, and wrote word wall words on the back of each cardboard piece. I put them out on a tray, picture side up. As each child took a piece, they all read the word and wrote it down, then figured out where the piece went in the puzzle. It was a hit and a good cooperative activity. And OMGosh, I was lucky enough to find a Frozen puzzle to use after break!!! Be still my beating heart. Will they be able to let it go together?.. Has there EVER been a Disney hit as big??

4.  And lookee-lookee what else I found!  I can't go through the dollar store without stopping at the teacher section. I nabbed three new magnetic spinners! Do you have any of these? I have a couple from a catalog that I spent WAY more than a dollar on... and here they were for a buck each.  I use them on the white board as they are intended, but actually I find them more useful as spinners in center activities.

I take a piece of paper with sections drawn on it, and then write what they are spinning for in the sections-- numbers, letters, words, colors, shapes, etc.  Place that paper on a magnetic, wipe-off lapboard.  The magnet in the spinner holds the paper very well.

I include two very SIMPLE spinner templates to download here. It will just save you a couple minutes in setting them up. You can add anything you want to the sections. Click on either pic above to grab them.

5.   And now for one little last heehee.  Did you know we are missing out on FORTUNES?  I was in a local chain drug store and saw these for sale.

They are pipe cleaners twisted into links to make a chain... nothing more.

And they ONLY cost $2.99. I cracked UP!  So get your kindergartners into a production line, folks! Kindergarten craft is now going for big bucks and there is money to be made!  hee.

Now click on back to find more FREEBIES!  And have a great weekend!

The post Freebies and $ Store Finds for the Holidays and Beyond first appeared on

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Funky Christmas Tree for Monday Made It!

Happy Monday! So glad Tara is doing Monday Made It so I can show off my Funky Christmas Tree!

One year I was looking at some great artsy tree ornaments and I got to thinking it would be fun to have a tree in the kitchen, and a non-traditional tree at that.  Our kitchen is black and white with bold primary colors, and I wanted  to match the mood of my cheery kitchen. One thing lead to another until I had a loose plan, then off to the hardware store I went, and with Jonathan's help, we constructed my Funky Christmas Tree.  Ta-Da!

The Funky Christmas Tree!

I made it several years ago, so I can't give you an illustrated tutorial, but if any of you are interested in how I put it together, here are enough directions to get you going. I took a two inch diameter, four feet long dowel and a bunch of pencil thickness dowels, too. I also picked up a round wooden plaque.

We drilled a hole through the base and a hole up into the trunk. Then using a bolt we attached the "trunk" to the base. Jonathan drilled some of the bottom of the base out so it could stand flat on the floor. I painted the whole thing white.

We cut the pencil dowels into pieces, seven sets of four each in sizes ranging from 3.5" to 10". I wrapped them in cheap green tinsel tree garland, securing the end of the garland to the end of the dowel with a green thumbtack.  The thumbtack also gave a nice finished look to the end of each "branch."

Thumbtacks finish the ends off neatly

We drilled holes in the big dowel, then glued and pushed the pencil sized dowel pieces into the holes. The glue in the hole held the garland in place on the branches, too.

Next we took two rope lights, one red and one white, and secured them to the top of the dowel with duct tape, then we wrapped them tightly around the trunk, going around the spots where the branches came out. The rope lights actually helped the dowel branches stay in place.  We kept wrapping until there was just the cords down at the bottom. They did not reach the base. We then took a short extension cord and plugged in the two ends. We drilled another hole in the plaque, near the trunk, to feed the extension cord through. Then Jonathan routed out a groove under the plaque so the cord didn't make the plaque tip. I think instead of routing the groove, though, you could put little feet under the plaque so it would stand above the floor enough to let the cord come out freely. Or you could just let the cord come out on top of the base. We finished by wrapping the base of the trunk in silver tinsel garland, which covered the ends of the rope light and extension cord connection quite well.

To decorate, I hit IKEA for inexpensive ornaments-- clear glass bulbs and metallic pompoms. I alternated in various AB patterns (true to my kindergarten skills) as I hung them on the tree.  I put a favorite tree topper angel on top, which hid the ugly duct taped rope light ends.

She's a little bit funky, too

As to the base, sometimes I place little red shoe ornaments around the bottom, and sometimes I place these hand felted elf shoes there. I sort of have a shoe thing...

Gotta love elf shoes!

This year I'm wondering about the new chalkboard ornaments that I picked up at my favorite Ace store. I tell you there is chalkboard everything... they even came with chalk.

Chalkboard ornaments–
what'll they think of next??

And to think I didn't see it on Pinterest first!!! I'm not sure if Pinterest existed five years ago... did it? As much as there is ever original thought, this is mine :) I welcome you to Pin, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Hop on back to Monday Made It. There are some holiday goodies there this time!

And here's a little P.S.  In last Thursday's post to the Pick Three linky which you can find HERE I posted a Pin of a holiday refrigerator door. I did indeed do it for our staff lounge fridge this weekend. I conveniently wasn't in school today, so I can innocently act like I had nothing to do with it tomorrow. And luckily, I don't think any of my colleagues read my posts regularly... on more than one occasion I've been happy of that :)  Here is a pic before I added the word bubble that said "10 more days!" He's the countdown snowman, I guess!

Hee Hee! the little teacher elf said
as she decorated the staff lounge!

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Oh, Brother! Funny Kid Friday and Letter Writing

It's FriiiiiiDay!!And even better, it's Funny Kid Friday! I have a story for you, just as soon as I tell you about one thing, which ties in with today's tale.

In one of my last posts I told you about my new TPT resource on Letter Writing.

It comes with early writer stationery, a planning sheet for students, and some anchor charts to help you teach the format of letters.

My kids really love our mini-unit on letter writing and you can find lots of tips on how I do it on my earlier post– click here. There are tips in the packet, too.

It's also on SALE right now and through the weekend for 10% off. It is just a small resource with a $2 price tag after the weekend, but every little bit helps. I think you'll find it worth the price. Hope you'll check it out by clicking on the pics above.

Now here is my funny kid tale for this month. As I've pointed out before, writing a letter to someone else does require you to get the recipient's perspective to a certain degree. You have to think about your relationship with them and what you already know. Most kindergartners realize that you wouldn't say the same thing to your pen pal, as you would to your teacher, as you would to your brother. Most, but not all.

One day during our letter writing unit, I rolled over to R. (I always sit in a rolling chair when I confer so I can be at eye level with the student.)

Me- Hi R.  Who are you writing to?

R- My brother.

Me- Oh. Can you read your letter to me?

R reads-  "Dear S, Where do you live?  Who is your teacher? Love, R"

Me- R, where does S live?

R- With me.

Me- Yep. And isn't Mrs. B his teacher?

R- Yes, she is!  (shocked that I knew his brother was in the class across the hall...)

Well, at least he got the 'Love' part right! No doubt big brother S got a kick out of it, and even more so, his parents.

It you have a funny kid story from classroom or home life, click on the link-up button below, and grab my button up top to link on back. Or you can just leave it in comments!

Hope you have a good grin and a great weekend!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pick 3 Pins-- This is a GOODIE!

Ooo, what a fun linky!  Pick 3 Linky is hosted by Lisa at Pawsitively Teaching and Marissa at Inspired Owl's Corner. On the 3rd of each month teachers share their top three Pinterest finds to share for the month ahead. What a terrific idea! Thanks, guys!

I LOVE Pinterest and love seeing new ideas there. So to have this one big source to see some top rated pins is really a treasure. Here are my THREE... so hard to choose, so hard to choose, there are so many.

December is such a fun month. It's right after a major assessment time and it's a short three week month. It's the perfect time to enjoy the move into winter with some fun new focus. Both kids and adults are in a special mood that really only comes this time of year. Love it!

Wintery Fun for the Staff Lounge!

I'm going to do this for the staff lounge! This weekend I'm sneaking in to put on the decorations. I've taken measurements and I'll have everything ready to go.  So if one of my colleagues happens to be reading this– shhhh– mums  the word, both before it goes up and after.  I want to remain a little SECRET elf.  Hee. 

LOVE the background!

These are going up! I haven't decided how we'll make the snowmen-- there are SO many cute ones, just click to see on my pinterest board– but this is how we'll do the background for sure.  Blue paper, a couple shades of tissue, glue, and white paint. The cotton ball snow mist is a nice touch, too. Just gorgeous. Some fine motor practice with scissors and brush is a bonus, as well.

You can do a lot with this idea!

Golly, I love binder clips! There's so much to do with them! This little photo idea turns them into great game pieces. I'm going to make a set to use at school, and won't they be fun to take home at the end of the year. And any little characters my kiddos make-- like snowmen, for example-- could be stood up and played with this way. Easy, versatile, and CUTE!

Well, I don't know about you, but now I'm going to go hit every one of those linkys in this party! I love to PIN!  Yippee!!!!

The post Pick 3 Pins– This is a GOODIE! first appeared on

Monday, December 1, 2014

Let's Write to Someone! A New Resource

This is the time of year when I do a writing mini-unit on letter writing. We know it is important to teach children about many genres and purposes for writing, and in writing letters, kids practice many kindergarten writing objectives– talk about real world writing for a real audience! There are many different elements you can pull into a letter writing unit, making it as simple or elaborate as you choose.

I introduce several common letter formats throughout my unit, showing how formats change with the purpose of the letter. Is it a conversational letter, a thank you letter, or an invitation? I come up with ways for the kiddos to practice writing all of these. We write to a pen pal from the kindergarten in another building, write letters to our principal, and invite our big buddies to a reading time. We write love letters and thank you notes to family members. A good time for thank you notes is right after a school break when kids spent extra time with family. It doesn't need to be a thank you for a gift, but can be words of thanks for a fun activity that the student enjoyed.

Some years I also ask parents to help their child choose an out-of-town family member or friend to write to, and ask that they send in their address. I suggest that parents contact this person ahead of time so the person is ready and willing to write back in a timely way. This activity gives us reason to learn how to address an envelope. We also pull down the map to see where the letters are going, tying in a little social studies. We write the letters in school and put them in our office mail bin. (One year we took a great field trip to the post office!) I try to time it so the kids can meet the postal carrier on his daily stop. All of our regular mail carriers have been willing to talk for just a few minutes about what's going to happen to our letters next. Within a week or two my kiddos bring in the letters they got back and after reading the messages we post them for all to see. Just looking at all the different correspondence is a real education for kids, and a huge motivator to write more.

You can write to a Disney character and receive back a postcard.

Walt Disney World Communications
P.O. Box 10040
Lake Beuna Vista, FL  32830-0040

Sometimes our class writes a group letter to the President and we get a letter back from him, too.

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
After our letter writing unit is over we continue to find people to write to. Some years it is to our resident fairy... on very small paper! And sometimes one of our fairies writes back! Class mascots can also be recipients of student letters.

There are many objectives that kids work on when letter writing, one of which is writing for an audience. You can't say or ask the same thing of your big buddy that you would of your cousin, or your grandma, or the principal. It takes some thinking and trying on of perspectives to get it just right. I have a funny kid story about that. I'm saving it for this month's Funny Kid Friday which posts this week, btw. Don't know about Funny Kid Fridays? Click on the button at the top of the page to go to archives for a guaranteed grin.

Another element to consider is the writing stationery you'll use. There are many kinds of stationery available on the market. You can find it in different sizes and with different themes. My favorite kinds for early writers are those that allow space for illustration, allow students to make or color their own border, and give designated lines for specific parts of the letter- date, greeting, body, closing, and signature.

After the unit ends I keep our writing center well stocked with stationery so letter writing continues. Just like with our mini-unit on list writing, kids need and want to practice the skill long after the official teaching is over. I ask parents for donations of stationery and we usually get a nice variety. I make sure the writing center is stocked not only with paper, but also old cards, envelopes, and one cent stamps from the post office. These real stamps are cheaper than many stickers. I also put our class mailbox into use and add a new job to our job board- postal carrier. This person is in charge of checking the mailbox and delivering the mail during free choice time. All these details make letter writing fun all year round.

Oh, and don't forget the end-of-unit writers' celebration. Look what we do, using red licorice shoelaces! Everyone knows how to spell these two words by the end of the unit. Great fun!

Now for the Big News! To help you with your letter unit, I'm posting a NEW letter writing resource on TPT! (This is a rare event, folks, as I am about blogging but not so much selling. Take note!) It includes tips and activities for the unit, anchor charts, a half dozen types of my favorite stationery, a template for a postcard, and a student letter planning sheet. Over the years of letter writing, I've found it useful if the kids plan what they are going to say in their letters. I don't have kids do a planning sheet every time, only towards the beginning, and they don't need to do a lot of writing for it- no sense in writing the letter twice. After they get used to the format they can just refer to it– I keep a couple laminated copies if kids want to fill it out with wipe-off markers. I've found since using the planning sheet for some reflection before we start to write, our letter writing quality improves.

The unit is on sale just in time for TPT's Cyber Tuesday! I reduced it 10% off it's $2 price, and with the TPT additional 10% discount when you use the code, it makes nice savings for a very small price on a sweet little resource. My April Showers cross curricular mini-unit is also marked down now. We can dream of spring, even as we gear up for snow, can't we? You'll find my TPT store is smaller than most- with the majority of items being free, so if you haven't checked it out, now is the time to do so. You'll find free list papers there to supplement your list writing unit and a hand washing packet which includes a song.  Click on the image to go there.  AND don't forget to use the CODE on everything in your cart! There's nothing worse than clicking the done button on your purchase and then realizing you didn't enter the code for the extra discount! Ugh.

Now click on back to Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching with Dianna to find more great finds on TPT during this Cyber Sale.  Have fun shopping!

For most of us it is just three more weeks until winter break and the holidays. Hope these weeks are happy and productive!

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Friday, November 28, 2014

If You Teach Writing...

Thanks to Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday linky. I am using it a little bit differently today. I have one great resource to share with any teacher who teaches writing, but I'll share five favorites from it.

There are soooo many blogs out there. Some we only need to see occasionally. Some we follow because we get things– admit it, sometimes the freebie is worth it. And some we follow because we really learn from what they share.

One of the most valuable blogs for me is Two Writing Teachers.

And if you teach writing, you need to know about this resource, too. This blog started out as the blog of just two teachers, but has grown to a team which includes Stacey Shubitz, Anna Gratz Cockerille, Betsy Hubbard, Beth Moore, Dana Murphy, and Tara Smith. I follow them through email so that I get fast notification of their almost daily blog posts. And I never fail to read them. It's like having a chat with a good teacher friend who is a very good teacher– the spark that keeps my teaching flame burning.

They post on a wide variety of topics under the broad heading of writing. It is very much based on Lucy Calkins and Teachers College work, but of course, that work is continually evolving and growing. Here are some of the posts I most value, but to get this down to a sample of just five was pretty much impossible and there is so. much. more.

1. The "Share" Time- a variety of structures for share time to maximize learning and keep it fresh Here

2.  You Just Don't Get It– I loved this post. I added these steps and language to my conferring kit  Here

3.  Back to School– a wonderful, must-have list of information for any time Here
And I'm going to let this be a double click topic. This post, Beginning a Year of Teaching Writing with Reflection, is on the back to school list, but it is worth checking out all on its own. Reflection and goal setting is important at the start of the year, but also good to do throughout the year as well, so I'll be coming back here multiple times. Here

4.  Top Five Lessons to Teach to Writing Partners of All Ages Right Now– okay, so having writing partners in kindergarten is a stumbling block for me. Even though over the years I have seen good things come from kinder partnerships, I need a little kick in the pants to get going each year. This is it Here

5.  Writing in Preschool: Scope and Sequence– I add this for my preschool friends and because I so wish all my kindergarten students came to me with this background! Good food for thought and very appropriate preschool writing activities. Also a downloadable Scope and Sequence chart is on this post Here

Something else that I must mention about Two Writing Teachers is their Slice of Life Story Challenge. Every Tuesday Two Writing Teachers invite you to write on your blog about your life, then post it within their Tuesday "Call for Slices" post. All the details can be found by clicking on the orange logo.

Participating with Slice of Life is a good way to prompt yourself to write and share publicly... well, I THINK it can be a good way to prompt yourself to write. This is another area where I need a kick in the pants, and even more so, a good dose of courage. I write and post on my blog pretty regularly, but this seems bigger, more personal perhaps. And more of a commitment. So... soon. Maybe soon.
Are there any other teacher bloggers out there who would like to take up the writing challenge with me?

I hope you will check out Two Writing Teachers and let me know what you find in the comment section below. I have certainly not been to all their posts and would love to hear what ideas resonate with your writing instruction.

Well, there you have it for this Friday post. I've been writing as I continue to clean up from yesterday, and now I'm off to visit just one or two stores on this Black Friday shopping day. Hoping the crowds will soon head home for dinner ;)  And then we're gonna start the Christmas house trimming. Click on back to Five for Friday to see what others are up to.

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