Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Daily 5 Station Rotation Management

I've spent some time this summer re-thinking how I manage my students as they rotate through their Daily 5 stations.  I've used a variety of methods, and I'm hoping this is THE ONE to keep things simple this year.   My Kindergarten students do one station a day for four days a week.  The stations that I use are Listen to Reading, Read to Self, Word Work, and Work on Writing.  Read with a Partner doesn't always happen in my class because of our time constraint {I teach half-day Kindergarten}.  But I have high hopes to eventually be able to do it!  I do not have Work with the Teacher as a listed station because I pull different students each day, depending on what I am working on in our small group time.

My groups for stations always stay the same.  I teach them that this is their FAMILY...and you don't choose or leave your family.  :)  Because I want to have students at all levels in each of the groups, I don't typically start these official groups until the second or third week of school.  We do stations, but I "hand-pick" them for their activities in the beginning so that I can learn their personalities and abilities.  So far, after 3 years of doing it this way, it has worked great!

These charts will go around the room where the station activities are located.  The names are printed on card stock, laminated, and a velcro dot put on the back.  Each day, I will move the names to the next station around the room.  The velcro dots will make it easy to change them.  You could also laminate the signs and write on them each day.   My students stay at their station/activity for the full 20 minute time.  If it is something that they finish early, they have several choice "Can Do" stations available for them.  The 20 minutes usually gives me time for 2 small groups to come and meet with me.  It's worked great so far!

How do you run Daily 5 in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

To access this resource, click on any of the photos above, or click HERE.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Flexible Seating in Kindergarten

Flexible seating seems to be all the rage right now in education, and for good reason.  I have been a long-term fan of alternative seating.  My Kindergarten class has used only ball chairs {see this post} for the last several years.  But alternative seating, although great, is still not flexible.  I have always been fine for students to choose to stand, or sit on the floor with a clipboard, if they preferred.  But I did not offer official, flexible, alternatives.


This is my first year to try flexible seating.  I'm thankful to have a Principal who is fully on board.  He didn't even ask why...just gave the green light (and even a little funding!) to go ahead.  I have the summer to put my "plan" together.  I posted the plan on Instagram, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it actually rolls out.

A few of my thoughts/concerns/questions are the following:

  • Will Kindergarten students understand choice?
  • How can I help them decide on their best learning environment?
  • Should I offer choice at the beginning or start with rotating assignments?
  • Will they leave their things all over the room?
Here is what I plan to buy this summer.  I'm looking forward to shopping and putting it all together now that I have the budget approval!

Station 1:  4 flip top desks and colorful plastic chairs
I saw these chairs and Costco, and they seem sturdy enough.  At $14 each, they seem like a great deal.  Plus, they are lightweight so that the students can move them around, if needed.

Station 2:  Regular circular table w/ 4 of my current ball chairs
These chairs have been amazing over the last few years, and I only expect that to continue.  I wish I could post a link for the exact ones that I have, but I've been told they have been discontinued.  But there are many other great options out there!

Station 3:  Rocker chairs w/ lap desks and/or clipboards
I've seen so many people posting about Big Lots having these, but my store has yet to have them.  Fingers are crossed, though!  However, Amazon has a pretty good deal on them.  I just want to be able to choose my colors so that I can be sure they match my classroom color scheme.  I'm so picky that way!  I am also planning to find the lap desks at Michaels.  They are only $6.99, which isn't too bad.  But I'll either be using coupons or watching for a sale! I will also be getting some more pencil supply caddies to help corral the supplies.  I'm still planning for students to have their own canvas zipper pouch with their pencil, scissors, glue stick, and crayons.  But markers and colored pencils will go in these caddies to go around the room, as needed.

Station 4:  Regular circular table w/ tall legs for standing
Every year, I have a few students who prefer to stand.  This is an easy fix - just raise the legs of our existing student tables, and VOILA!

Station 5:  Regular circular table w/ short legs for sitting on the floor with pillows
This is the main one that I'm unsure about, but we will see how it goes!

Bonus:  Another bean bag chair, loveseat, or two other types of chairs.  I already have one bean bag chair, and the students really love to read on that one.  We will see what I can find!

I'd love to hear your thoughts or questions.  We can work through this together! 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Arctic Room Flip

Vonda here!

My Kindergarten class and I just finished up our Polar/Arctic Animal unit.  We had so much fun learning about the animals, their habitat, and how they survive in such extreme conditions.  I've been wanting to do a Room Flip all year, and this was the perfect time to try it out.

For some reason, the video wouldn't play on the blog.  So sad!!  To view the video, just check out our Instagram page, @teachertipsandtidbits.  Here are the details:

Igloo Entrance:
I love having two daughters that are so willing to help me with fun projects in my classroom.  My middle school daughter did this igloo entrance all on her own.  It's just several rows of paper chains hung together to make an igloo.  She put snowflakes from Dollar Tree on it, too.

Glacier Walls {not pictured, but in the video}:
The trickiest part of the room flip, but also the biggest WOW factor when the students walked in, was the Glacier Walls.  I took white plastic tablecloths from Dollar Tree and taped them to my ceiling lights that hang down just a bit.  When the students were in the room, they were surrounded on two sides by white walls, white lights, and snowflakes.  They thought it was the COOLEST thing ever!

Polar Animal Ocean:
Those same two daughters really come in handy when I need stuffed animals to go with our theme.  They were great to let me borrow all of their Beanie Boos for the day.  I used blue plastic tablecloths, also from Dollar Tree, to make an "ocean."  All of the students got to bring their own stuffed animal for the day.  If needed, their animals could join mine in the ocean for a bit.

Arctic Art:
As you all know from The Day the Crayons Quit, our poor white crayons hardly get used.  So the students were pretty excited when I pulled out simple black paper and snowflake foam glitter stickers from Michaels.  Easy peasy, and they loved it!

Polar Animal Snacks:
No theme day is complete without a fun snack.  I made polar bear marshmallows to go with our hot chocolate.  The students also made polar bear ice cream cups.  Finally, we had blue "icebergs" {aka blue jello} to enjoy.  Thankfully they had Gym class next to run off that sugar!

This was definitely not my last Room Flip.  I'm already working on ideas for one for our Ocean theme and our Farm theme.  Comment and let me know if you you've ever done a Room Flip!  Let's share ideas!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Do-It-Yourself Stitch Fix!

Katy here!

Teachers, I love Stitch Fix as much as the rest of you.  If given the opportunity, I would schedule a fix for every month of my career.  The beauty of Stitch Fix is that lovely clothes, perfectly on trend, fitting like a glove, arrive on your doorstep every time you schedule a fix (which can be as frequently or as infrequently as you like).  They have GREAT teacher options and really take your shopping concerns to heart as they curate your box of beautiful clothes.

I love it.  In fact, I love it a little too much.

I love it too much for my meager teacher budget.  The clothes are good quality, which means they're not cheap.  And you're paying for the expertise of the stylist in addition to the clothes.  Plus, it takes a little too long for my liking.  If I scheduled a fix today, the soonest it would arrive at my house would be 19 days from now.  So long to wait!

So in true teacher form, I thought I'd try a DIY version of Stitch Fix via Amazon Prime.  Call me crazy, but I figured I could spend a decent amount less by DIYing my own Stitch Fix and thanks to Amazon Prime's super-fast shipping, my DIY "Fix" could be here in just 2 days.  Plus, if none of the items in my DIY Fix suit my fancy, I can return them all for free (no $20 styling fee) via Amazon Fashion's free returns policy.  This was a win-win situation.

How did I DIY my own Stitch Fix?

First, I spent a good hour or two on a Sunday night browsing Amazon for items that I would hope to receive in a Fix.  I chose a pair of work-appropriate pants, a work-friendly top, a pair of earrings, a dress, and a kimono for summer layering.  Basically, I only wanted pieces that would serve me in the classroom!

Here's what I went with:

Now, one difference between my DIY Fix and Stitch Fix is that I have to pay for the items up front.  That can be a problem if you tend to forget to return things, but then, Stitch Fix would pose the same issue.  I made sure to order items that offered free returns and free Prime shipping.  Total cost up front: $113. 28, about half of what buying a full Stitch Fix would cost, even after their 25% discount for buying everything in the box.

Bottom line:
Ordering my own DIY "Stitch Fix" was quicker, cheaper, equally convenient, and just as fun as the real thing.  It took a little more time on Amazon to browse and select my options for my "fix," but that in itself was fun for me on a Sunday night. :)

HOWEVER, nothing that I ordered was just right.  The kimono's print pattern was skewed really bad on the seams, the turquoise blouse had really long bra-revealing arm holes, the pants had that gap in the back, and the dress was super short.  Even the earrings were too small!

So in the end, all of it was returned.  Stitch Fix wins in that department.  Surprise, right?  I know... wishful thinking got the best of me!  At least I got a full refund, so there was no harm done.

If you're really trying to save time, then Stitch Fix is the way to go.  If you're trying to save money, you'll probably have to take more time shopping the clearance racks.

Thanks for taking a little diversion from our normal teacher talk with me!

What do you think about Stitch Fix? How do you curate your teacher-clothes wardrobe?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ZOOM IN - Making Thinking Visible in Kindergarten!

I love using Visible Thinking routines with my Kindergarten class.  If you are not familiar with the Visible Thinking concept, you MUST jump on board!  Here is the amazing book that started it all.

The website has so many great resources for explaining the routines, using the routines, and even watching the routines in action.  I can't say enough about how great these are for getting our students to THINK...not just regurgitate information.

A couple of weeks ago, we planted seeds in egg shells in order to use them for this specific activity.  Typically, we plant seeds with our students to watch them grow, track growth rates, etc...  But this time, I really wanted them to dig into them - pun intended!  After two weeks of growth and journaling, it was time to really have some fun.

I introduced the ZOOM IN thinking routine to the students.  We used our Science Notebooks throughout the process since I am trying to teach them the art of documentation.  It's a process...a very slow but worthwhile process!  The intent of this routine is to show students how much more you can learn when you just dig deeper.  We take a 1st look, 2nd look, and 3rd look.

"3 sprouted"
"I saw tiny leaves."
"I saw stuff that's interesting."

For the 1st look, a carton of egg shell seedlings was put on each table.  They could only investigate with their eyes and in their seats.  We had some great discoveries, even at this early stage.

For the 2nd look, we ZOOMED IN a little closer.  This time, the students could pick up an egg shell seedling, break it apart, touch it, feel it, and really "dig" into it.  There were even more discoveries.

For the 3rd and final look, we used magnifying glasses to really ZOOM IN!  The students noticed root hairs that they had not noticed before.  Some saw veins on the leaves, even though the leaves were so tiny.  It was fascinating to hear their thinking expand!

Visible Thinking routines are definitely NOT just for older students.  These Kindergarten students rocked their thinking!

If you would like to use the labels in your interactive Science notebooks, just click on the picture below to download!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Target Dollar Spot Math Stations

That Target Dollar Spot just gets me every time!  I found these adorable fox and cupcake erasers not too long ago, and immediately a fun and easy math station came to mind.    Because we work a lot with what makes the number 10, I wanted my sweeties to have some more practice with that.  The students look at the number on the tree, put on that many counters, and write the combination.  The cards can be cut apart and laminated, as shown, so that they can be erased and used again.  Or, you could leave them two per sheet, as printed, and slide them into page protectors.

Just in case you aren't able to find the cute fox erasers, I also included some small wolves to cut out and use.  This pack include the vertical and horizontal 10-frame format.

Although 10-frames are a concept we need to master, some of my Kindergarten students are still working on 1:1 counting.  With this part of the activity, they can do just that.  This would be great for a preschool student, as well.  The students may group them like the first photo, or line them up like the second photo.  I always love seeing how their thinking is processing and how they organize their work.

Click here for the fox/forest counting set.

I created the same identical stations using the cupcake erasers.  They were just too cute to pass up!  But again, I've included some paper cupcakes in case you need them.  

Click here for the cupcake counting set.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Polar Animal Fun

Hi there,

Vonda here!  Each year, my sweet Kindergarten students get their first run at doing a book report during our Polar Animal theme.  They always do even better than I expect them do, and stink if I don't learn something every single year.  I love it!

To do these reports, I offer a variety of non-fiction polar animal books.  I have my own personal stash, but I definitely hit up the local library, too.  Each student gets to choose a book, and I encourage them to choose an animal that they do not already know a lot about.  They really do impress me with their willingness to learn something new.  Now, note to self, make a list of the book title that each child took and where the book is from in case someone misplaces it {not that I learned from past mistakes or anything!}.

Each child takes home their book along with the report form and explanation note included in this kit.

This is a great time to teach my students proper oral presentation skills like don't hold your paper in front of your face, speak clearly and loudly so we can hear you, know your information before you start to speak, and much more.  These are such grown up skills, but they are READY to put them into practice!

After the reports are all completed, and we've lots of new information about these amazing animals, it's time for a snack.  This year, I kept it super simple because I have some severe food allergies in my class.  The students LOVED the "icebergs" {blue jello}.  Of course, they thought the "polar bear" was just too cute to eat.  But they managed! 

We did quite a few other fun things during our Polar Animal unit.   I first took a couple of ideas from Reagan Tunstall.  The class had some great ideas about what we should pack in our suitcase for our Antartica trip.  My favorite was the "paper penguin."  Of course, the students had to tell me why they chose a specific item.  "Mrs. Morga, we HAVE to have a paper penguin as a decoy so that the real penguins will come up to it.  Then we can see them close up."  Would you say this little guy is the child of a hunter!  *wink*

We also did the blubber glove experiment.  This isn't anything new, but the students love it every time.  They are always amazed at how they can't even feel the icy water through the blubber glove.  NOTE TO SELF:  Help them so that ice water doesn't go into the top of the bag, ruining the blubber glove concept.

In one of our non-fiction books, we learned that a penguin can go up to 120 days without food.  So I posed this question to the class:  "Why would a penguin need to go that long without food?"  We put all of our ideas up, then set to the task of proving or disproving our ideas.  Yes, Kindergarten sweeties are ready for this level of research.  Here are the original ideas:

  • I have to sit on my egg.
  • I eat a lot of food at one time.
  • I have to swim a long way to get food.
  • God made me that way. {This is probably my favorite!}
  • I take a long time to digest my food.
  • I see a predator.
  • I can't see very well.
  • There is not enough food. 

They split up into groups {be sure to have at least one great reader in each group} and took some of our nonfiction books to gather ideas.  They decided that the following are not true, based on the books that we had available:
  • I can't see very well.
  • There is not enough food.
  • I take a long time to digest my food.

If you want a penguin-themed Valentine's box, check out this post.