Friday, July 29, 2011

Once again...

Once again, I find myself blogging about shopping. Maybe this will stop once I actually am able to get into my new classroom.  But, for right now, this is what that new classroom looks like (before the custodians have cleaned it.  I'm sure it will be GLEAMING after that!):

I can't show you what the 150 boxes my 'stuff' is in look like, because they are still sitting in the gymnasium of my previous school (how do I phrase "former school"?  my "ex-school"? Somehow that ends up sounding like a relationship.  Which just goes to prove once again I have no

But I digress.  My wonderful brother helped me to trim the boards for my 'cube seats' this week, so I was able to "build" 3 seats.  Then, because I had seen the "U" shaped tables (forget kidney shaped---these are U's) , so I had to go get two more cubes from Target to finish the additional two seats I knew I'd need.   I had to go across town to the other Target  (NOT the one 1/8th of a mile from my house) because "my" Target was out of the cubes (it only had green).  So, I ran around town, thankful for a/c in the 105 degree heat.

As I drove by Borders and saw the "Going out of business" signs, I decided to go there BEFORE I went to Michael' know, in case all the deals were gone by the time I got out of Michaels.  I was ELATED to find....

20% off, and I had a gift card from my birthday!  Yay, me!  I also picked up a couple of gifts for Christmas, and a book for me...the 'other' me, not the 'teacher' me.  The one I forget about alot.
I then went to Michaels, and found what I needed along with... 2 games for .69 cents apiece!  I got a rhyming dominoes game that I intend to put magnets on and use on the board.  I also got a memory game that included a great mat---I'm going to make additional cards to use with the mat--it will help my kiddos know where to put the cards.  That is one of the most difficult things about putting a memory type game in a center.

I also got foam letters---"Teacher Style"---on sale for $3.49.   I have several plans for these (to be revealed later, once I have access to my "stuff"). 

My favorite find at Michael's---Two "personal" flannel boards.  I bought one alphabet, and one number board.  This will make a great center!

After more errands I won't bore you with, I picked up Bailey from the groomer's.  We went home, and with him conked out on the chair, I was able to complete my crate seats in peace.

Here is Bailey:

Here are the seats:

At least now I have one more task checked off of my list.   Sadly, my list just keeps growing!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Great Giveaways!

There are so many great blog giveaways going on right now---here are two of them!  It really IS Christmas in July!

The first is The Back to School Bonanza!  It is hosted on Erica Bohrer's First Grade site...and it involves 12 different giveaways from 12 fantastic teachers!  Check it out!!

The second giveaway is from Eberhart's Explorers....and it too is a great one!  Find Eberhart's Explorers here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Following Directions Center

One of the things I always have during center/workstation time is have a "Following Directions" center.  This center incorporates reading simple directions and building fine motor control.   Students follow the directions to complete a 'project'---using templates (I call them stencils), the students trace around the stencil and then cut them out.  They refer to the directions to know what to do, and when to do it.  

Why do I do this?  SOOOOOOOOO many reasons.
  1. My students need exposure to procedural text.   This is another example for them that reading has a purpose.
  2. My students need practice with eye-hand coordination and need a chance to build their fine motor control.
  3. We don't have a lot of time to make 'projects' in our day, and this allows the students time to do something they enjoy while at the same time working on essentials.
  4. Because the students are the ones tracing and cutting pieces, this keeps me from having to 'prep' a million things.
  5. It gives me good feedback on "the whole picture" regarding the child's development.  It is also true that a picture is worth a thousand words.
  6. These projects often are 'prompts' for later writing projects.
  7. Last, but not least, they can be differentiated!  We start with basic directions (rebus style) at the beginning of the year, and move towards more text and less picture support near the end of the year.  

Here are examples of directions from December, and then directions from the end of the year.

Gingerbread Man                                                                    


Okay, I've spent ages trying to figure out how to embed the scribd viewer so you can see the documents within this post.  Can anyone help?

Friday, July 22, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

Alright, those of you who know my name is Liesl may "get" the reference to "The Sound of Music."  For those of you who don't know, "I'm Liesl.  I'm 16 and I don't need a governess."  If you don't get that one, it just means I'm old a lot older than you.

Anyway, I had to share a FANTASTIC giveaway---4th Grade Frolics is giving away a bracelet from Sophie's Beads--a Seuss bracelet.  Don't you love it?   When I jumped over to Sophie's Etsy shop, I quickly found several other bracelets I 'need'...a Jane Austen bracelet, and an Anne of Green Gables bracelet.  For those worried about my pocketbook, never fear---I will be passing on the info to family as ideas for Christmas presents.

If you haven't been over to 4th Grade Frolics, check it out here!

I did want to share my fantastic find today.  I went over to see my 'new' classroom yesterday, even though it will be two weeks before I can get in, and frankly left there a little discouraged.  Apparently I'm going from 'land of the new furniture' to 'land of the bits and pieces'.  Don't get me wrong, I'm VERY HAPPY about finding a great school to call home. but I realized I'm going to have to be creative about my storage.  You see, I have a LOT.OF.STUFF.

I was used to having one of these.....
A lot of things can be kept in here.

So, imagine my delight when I found THIS at Michael's today---It's usually $68.99, and it is on sale for $34.99. THEN, I had a 25% off coupon,  AND I got my 15% teacher discount.  SCORE!!!! 

And I picked up some of these (they are 12"x12")...normally $8.99, but on sale (before discounts) for $3.99.   Grab your 25% off coupon at

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trying to Share My First Document

Well, I'm officially trying to share my first document--we shall see how it goes.  I chose something simple, so that if it works, it will be easily useable.

I created a 'bug addition' center---I don't have pictures, but you can get the idea.  I used die-cut flowers from the local teacher's store (they were on sale for $1.00 a pack), but you could use flowers or leaves.  I then used one of the packs of stickers (found at AC Moore or Michaels---we don't have Hobby Lobby around here)---the bug collection.   I used two flowers, and split one kind of bug between them.  For instance, the ladybugs were split---two on one flower, four on another.  The students had to find the matching pair of bugs, and create and solve the addition problem.  This was the addition sentence they recorded on the sheet. 

These packages of bug stickers are still at our local AC Moore stores, so you may be able to find them and use them.  I don't have a picture of the actual package, but its the Darice sticker books (like these):

Buggy Addition

(and yes, I know caterpillars are a 'stretch' to include as a bug, but they were included in the sticker book.  Sad, but true.)  :)

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

I love books.  Can't get enough of them.  Ask my friends who helped me pack up my books at the end of the year this year--they'll emphatically agree.  I may have a problem, but so far as I know, there are no monthly meetings for this kind of addiction.

Clutter-Free Classroom is having a children's book linky party, asking for us to share a favorite picture book based on ILLUSTRATIONS alone.  I know this might be an unusual pick, but one of my favorites is King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood (the husband and wife team who have written other favorites like The Napping House).  If you aren't familiar with the book, you NEED to check it out!

The basic storyline is simple---King Bidgood is in the bathtub, and he won't get out.  Oh, who knows what to do?  When the people of the court take turns offering alternative activities (like having lunch or going fishing), the king responds with "Today, we 'lunch/fish/dance' in the tub!"  Each of these proclamations is followed by a two page illustration FULL of incredible detail---the fishing scene comes complete with worms, dragonflies, cattails...everything!  The faces of each character are drawn with such expressive detail that it leaves no doubt in the reader's mind JUST.HOW.MUCH each one is enjoying the experience (not).

So how do they get the king out?  The child is the hero (which my kiddos love)---the page boy just simply pulls the stopper out of the bathtub at the end of the day, and the king has to make a quick run for it....Glub, glub, glub!

This is a great book for discussion---and great for oral language development.  It also is a good way to bring in a social studies requirement---the difference between the past and the present (as you see the page refilling the tub with buckets of water). The only thing better than the book is the BIG book version---easier to see the phenomenal details. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Walmart, Target and Dollar Tree, Part Two....

So, the sessions with Shari Sloane sent me to the Dollar Tree in search of the fabric pencil cases she mentioned (she uses them to store center sets of ABC matches or number matches).  I did not find them, but DID find fantastic folders (of which I did not take a picture of)...they are plastic folders with 8 pages of plastic pockets inside them.  Not sure what I'm going to use them for, but grabbed a bunch---they'll be gone before you know it.

EDIT:  Okay, I'm adding pictures of the folders, as asked:  :) 

I then made my way to Walmart---and hit teacher paydirt.  The Sterlite people have gotten the clue, and gone back to making their 'organizers' with 3 drawers.  I was frustrated last year that the only ones I could find had 2 drawers.  I use these to store glue sticks, crayons, scissors, pointers, 'marker socks' (black socks that hold white board markers and are used as erasers), etc. 

They have new colors, so I can 'retire' at least one of the purple ones, and each table will have its own color.

I also found the fabric pencil cases (I got 50), and smaller pencil boxes (for 47 cents apiece).    I also got 20 plastic pencil bags for the students' take-home folders (and do you notice Bailey in the background? I told you he was VERY interested in whatever I was putting on the carpet, as I usually don't put anything but his toys down there...).

Then I went back to Target.  I've already been several times (I live WAY too close to Target---less than 1/4 mile away), but these were new to me.

I got magazine holders (for organization of leveled books) in the dollar spot and more Dr. Seuss 'stuff'.  Then, I went back to the school supply section and picked up the 10 packs of markers for $1.00...both classic colors and 'bright' colors.  I also picked up some 24 count crayon boxes for 40 cents apiece.   As I went by the 50% off summer section, I had to peek---and found these cute fish counters.  They were supposed to be 'table scatter' for parties, but they will be great counters to go in my addition centers.

And then, I succumbed.  Target had the crates for $ I went to Joann's and got fun monkey fabric and packages of foam.   Now all I have to do is get the plywood at Home Depot, and some ribbon, and I'm good to go.   So, in other words, I now have a ton of projects awaiting me, and all I've done so far is...don't laugh...made flower pens.  LOL.  Oh well, I still have a few weeks of summer left, right?  Besides, I'm supposed to be relaxing....hah!

Walmart, Target and Dollar Tree, Part One....

Well, I think I have created a new version of Dr. Jean's "Pizza Hut" song---but this one is for teachers:
(the sad thing is, I've even thought of hand motions!)
Dollar Tree, Dollar Tree, Target and Dollar Tree
Dollar Tree, Dollar Tree, Target and Dollar Tree
Walmart, Walmart, yard sales and Walmart
Walmart, Walmart, yard sales and Walmart

My first "dip" into shopping this week was at the Exhibit Hall at iteachk in Las Vegas.  I was VERY frustrated that it didn't open first thing--they waited until Monday at 5:00 to open.  Let me tell you, there were 1200 frustrated kindergarten teachers rushing into that place at once.  I tried to do a 'once over' before buying anything, but soon realized that was impossible.   By Tuesday at noon, I told my friend Jenny Sue--"I can NOT go back into that place."  Some people have a problem staying out of the casinos in Vegas---I have a problem staying out of the Exhibit Hall. :)

So here is what I scooped up in Las Vegas (and spent over an hour trying to cram into my very small suitcase while Jenny Sue chuckled at me).
My 'goodies' from the half-off bookseller....two problems here:  One, the "old woman" is NOT a puppet as I thought, which means I will have to shove the little critters down her throat, and then make her 'throw up' to get them out again. Second problem--Bailey (my scraggly bichon) keeps trying to make off with the gingerbread man.  If you could see him clearly in the picture, you'd see he has a wet head--I had just rescued him from Bailey's mouth.   In fact, the entire time I was photographing these things, he was no further than 3 feet from me.  He kept eying the things I was putting on the floor...
Who me?  I'm not even LOOKING at your stuff, Mom...

From Resources for Reading (a source I love---they have great stuff, for less money than most!):  A giant timer (lets see if I can avoid breaking this one) and two sets of tactile letters (similar to the sandpaper letters, but with 'bumpy rubber')
From "Creation Station"--bingo markers in the colors I don't have (which I now HAVE to have, thanks to all the fabulous ideas Fran has shared over at Kindergarten Crayons and Julie at Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten), and yarn needles (5 for $1.00---and I can never find these).        
Children's books---one on pumpkins, 2 versions of The Little Red Hen (I do a lot with this story, and need more versions to compare to each other), Jack and the Beanstalk, and Jake Starts School.  I can't remember who put on their blog about this book---I think it was Fran---but I had to grab it.  These were at the half-off bookseller as well!

These were the two "teacher books" I got.  Kim Jordano's Take Home Books (I was inspired by Shari Sloane's fantastic session), and Dr. Jean's Highway letters.  I know that these are free online, but I've never used them, because I worry that my students practice forming the letters the incorrect way.  These letters have 'start' and 'stop' guides on them--and they are on cardstock, front and back (uppercase on one side and lowercase letter on the other).  I'm going to laminate these for extra measure, and I'm good to go!  This book was the most expensive thing I purchased, but I'm feeling its worth it.

The top set of books are some of the CTP books to go along with Kim's Take-Home Bags, and the ones in the next picture go along with Dr. Jean's songs.

My freebie!  I needed two more to make a class set of these, but now its one less to buy.  I these---they are wide enough for my pre-writers' huge writing at the beginning of the year (the boards are blank on the other side), and then by the last part of the year, they are able to use this side for writing sentences.  My kiddos LOVE them too!

My FAVORITE find of the conference---a gumball machine!  The vendor had it modeled to show that the little gems from the dollar store fit right in, and come out the slot.  She had labeled each gem with a sight word, and my mind quickly started envisioning all the possibilities.  I could use this as a part of a whole-group game---each person chooses a gumball to read, and if they get it right, they get a point for their team.  BUT, I can also put it in a center, and students have to write the words they get out of the machine.  And why stop with words?  What about letters?  Numbers??  I'm very excited about the possibilities here.  The only thing I DIDN'T like---and LEARN FROM ME, PEEPS---I got it back to my hotel room, and was taking it out of the box (to try and cram it in the aforementioned small suitcase), and read the infamous words on the bottom of the box:  Distributed by Greenbrier International.  Since this company is home-based here, I know what that means...DOLLAR TREE!!!  So, yes, I paid $3.95 for a dollar tree item.  But now I know to keep an eye out for them---and LEARN FROM ME!!!       

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kindergarten Jobs Linky Party

"Keeping Up With The Kindergartners" is having a linky party regarding how you deal with classroom jobs.  I handle jobs differently than a lot of folks.  Each Monday, I assign jobs for the week.  I have it worked out that each child gets a job every other week.  

Though its difficult to tell in the picture (I took this in the middle of December, so ignore the mess on the right side of the picture), the shooting part of the stars are our jobs, and the stars have the students' names on them.   On the left I have 'general jobs'---I only have 4 of these.  Teacher's Helper, Line Leader, Meteorologist, and Substitute.  The class loves to have a chance to be 'Teacher's Helper'--whatever I need help with, they get to do.  

On the right side, I have listed our 6 tables, and each table gets a "Table Captain" for the week.  The table captain gets whatever is needed for their table---getting out and putting away materials, passing out whiteboards, putting away journals, etc.  

This procedure keeps me from having to remember too many jobs (I'm getting too old for that!), and the students feel that they are all equally responsible for the jobs in the classroom (and everyone stays happy!).

Hi, My name is Liesl, and I have a center problem...

Sometimes I think there needs to be a support group for folks like me--"Hi, my name is Liesl, and I have a center problem."  Its not what you expect it to be-its not that I don't know WHAT to do for centers (or workstations), its that I'm constantly looking for new ideas to improve my centers.  I also do a lot of differentiation during center time, so I try to find ways that I can 'level' the activity at each center.  My goal for center time (both morning and afternoon times) is for students to be able to practice what we have been learning and using together in reading, writing and math.  I want most of the centers to be process based, as opposed to product based.  In this way, I can teach the process, and not teach the 'center'.  However, I want to change out the materials in these centers so that they stay fresh. 

This is my real problem.  This is my center board.

The top two rows are the morning centers, the bottom two rows are the afternoon centers.   For me, I like having specific labels on the center board that match the labels on each bin.  I'd take a picture of the bins, but right now, everything I own is packed up into a gazillion boxes as I move from one school to another.  One of my summer goals is for me to completely organize my center cards, and when I get that done, I'll show it to you.

Each year, we start simply, by introducing the way we 'do' centers.  Then, as the year progresses, the challenges increase.

These are a few pictures from the very beginning....

And here are some from the end of the year.  They are much more complex, and often more 'game based'.  Often my students don't know how to take turns and play games with each other at the beginning of the year, so we start off slowly.

 For now, I need to stop blogging and start packing for iteachk!