Tips for Using Seesaw in the Kindergarten Classroom

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Teaching virtually and distance learning has forced teachers to use new technology and learn on the fly.  Learning to use Seesaw in kindergarten is a great way to go.  The Seesaw online learning platform is the simplest that I have found and it is absolutely perfect for kindergarten.  With Seesaw you can assign videos to watch, activities to do, and even send messages to families.  The interface is simple to navigate and kindergarten students can easily use it.  In this post, I share some simple tips for how to use Seesaw in kindergarten. 

text: helpful tips for using seesaw in kindergarten Photo: kid hands holding an iPad

Seesaw is NOT just for distance learning.

Seesaw is great for distance and hybrid learning but it's also a terrific tool for in-person learning.  You can use Seesaw for so many different things like setting up digital centers, a "recording studio", or having students take pictures and videos to show their parents what they are learning about in school.  There are many practical uses for Seesaw in the brick and mortar, traditional classroom.  If you're looking for tips for distance learning in kindergarten, you can read my tips here. 

Communicate with Families

screen shot of Seesaw messaging portal

The communication piece was my favorite part of using Seesaw in the classroom.  Sending messages to families is easy and it helped my families to be able to translate my messages into their native language.  Also, parents absolutely love getting a peek inside the classroom and students love to share their hard work. 

The first way I taught students to use Seesaw was to take pictures to share in their Seesaw journal.  Kids could take pictures and videos to explain what they did in class and specifically in centers.  As soon as they mastered this, they were taking pictures of everything!  They took pictures to share their morning work tubs, early finisher activity, writing samples, and more.  I would recommend setting it up so that you (the teacher) approve all posts before they are added to student journals.  This gives you the opportunity to review things so there aren't 20 photos of a magnet block tower or an accidental video with loud noises, etc.  

Using Seesaw in this way also helped to eliminate worksheets from centers because I could hold my students accountable for their work using evidence on Seesaw.  

Digital Centers

kid holding an iPad with a Seesaw activity including a polar bear

The next way we learned to use Seesaw was for one of our center rotations.  Seesaw makes differentiation easy!  Each day I assigned every student 2 "must-do" activities and then allowed students to choose an activity or a different app to do on our iPads.  These "must-do" assignments varied from student to student based on their needs.  I could give enrichment and intervention opportunities with the click of a button. 

You can create your own activities and assignments in Seesaw, use the free content on Seesaw or even purchase preloaded activities to use.  I have a growing bundle of Seesaw Activities full of kindergarten skills here in my TPT store.  

Set up a Recording Studio

Another fun way we used Seesaw was to set up a "recording studio" in the classroom.  We used a quiet corner of the room or the hallway for students to record themselves reading.  The students read their decodable books, lists of CVC words, or anything else they were working on in small groups.  Sometimes we set it up using a crate so the students put their book in the crate with the iPad on top so the camera could capture the whole book.  Other times, students set up the video so they could see themselves reading.  You could also partner students together to film each other.  

Recording reading is a fun way to practice and a great tool for teachers to see how students are reading independently.  You can use these as teaching tools to know what to work on in small groups and to show parents their student's progress.  

kid playing rhyming seesaw game on an ipad

Want to try a FREE Seesaw activity?  Click here to sign-up for my email list and get a FREE Rhyming Activity sent to your inbox today!

What other ways are you using Seesaw in the classroom?

100th Day of School Projects for In-person and Distance Learning

Saturday, January 9, 2021

 The 100th day of school is a fun celebration in many kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  This year distance learning and hybrid classrooms make these celebrations tricky.  But you do not have to give up your favorite 100th day of school projects!  You can add some digital options for your hybrid learners and still include all of your learners in your fun 100th day of school activities!  

kid hands holding an Ipad with a picture of a 100th day tshirt on it

This set of 100th day projects includes a 100th day t-shirt and 100th day hat.  Students will decorate shirts or hats with 100 things.  There are 3 options included for each project.  Teachers can send home a letter explaining how families can complete the design projects at home, print out the paper templates to complete at school, or use the digital options on Seesaw. 

Family 100th Day of School Project

blue shirt with 100 legos glued to it

You can choose to use either of the editable PowerPoint Tempaltes to send home to explain the design a tshirt or design a hat 100th day project.  Families will design a shirt or hat with 100 objects and then students will wear them to school on the 100th day.  You can even organize a fashion show so students can show off their hard work!

In-Person 100th Day of School Project

paper with letter explaining with 100th day tshirt project and an example tshirt with a bubble gum machine on it

If you prefer to do the projects all in person, you can use the printable templates in class.  You can have students design their hat or t-shirt with markers, paint, sequence, or any other materials you may have on hand.  The t-shirts will make an adorable bulletin board for the 100th day!  You could even have students cut out their hats and affix them to a sentence strip to wear.  

You could also choose to send the paper templates home for families to design if you are worried families are not able to purchase extra hats or shirts for a project. 

There are writing page options included. too.  Have your students write to tell about their design and why they decorate their project this way. 

Digital 100th Day of School Project

student sitting and holding an ipad in their hands.  The ipad shows a 100th day project to design a hat with 100 things.

If you prefer a digital option, there are 2 Seesaw activities included.  One for designing a t-shirt and one for designing a hat. Students will love moving the items to decorate their 100th day project.  They can add their own pictures, draw, or use the clipart provided to create their designs.  

These options are perfect for a 100th day of school center or for your virtual learners.  You'll be able to include everyone in the fun with your 100th day of school projects!

Click here to get your 100th Day of School Projects today!

Successful Sound Walls in the Kindergarten Classroom

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Are you like me?  I heard all about using sound walls in the classroom and how great they can be but I had ZERO time to learn something new let alone implement a new phonics strategy in my half-day kindergarten classes.  My principal was persistent about us trying sound walls in kindergarten and the results were impressive.  At the end of the year, all of my students were able to engage with the sound wall during our writing block.  They were experimenting with new spelling patterns and actually spelling their sight words correctly.  Making the shift from a traditional word wall to a sound wall is worth it and it doesn't have to be overwhelming (I promise!).  

With Successful Sound Walls Mini-Course you'll be ready to implement a sound wall in your kindergarten classroom in no time at all.  Take the stress out of making the switch and learn how to implement a sound wall today!

successful sound wall on a portable file folder with a writing paper with a picture of a dog

What is a Sound Wall?

In a traditional word wall words are sorted alphabetically by the first letter in the word.  This makes a lot of sense to us as adults, but scientists have found it doesn't make sense for the way kids learn to read and spell.  Our brains are programmed to process sounds and to talk, not to read and write.  The sounds come first and the print needs to be explicitly taught.  So sorting words by their sounds comes more naturally to our students and it works best for the way their brains are learning.  

sound wall lesson plan template page and sound cards for p and s with teacher themed succlents

Do I have time for a Sound Wall?

Yes - you can incorporate a sound wall with what you are already doing in the classroom.  If you are ready to try sound walls but you aren't sure exactly how to use them with kindergarten students - Successful Sound Walls is for you!  I created this course for busy kindergarten teachers to share how I implemented a sound wall in my kindergarten classroom.  I share example lesson plans, lesson plan templates, and all the printables you need to create a sound wall in your classroom today!  There is even a portable sound wall option if you are low on space, teaching digitally, or just want a small version for your students' writing folders.  

teacher on a computer screen holding up the p phoneme card

Where can I learn more?

You can learn more about Success Sound Walls here.  Or if you are ready to jump in - you can purchase the Successful Sound Walls mini-course here.  Because this is a brand-new course, it is launching at an incredible price - ONLY $19!  Hurry the course cart closes on January 17th! 

How to Use Picture Writing Prompts to support Beginning Writers in Kindergarten

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Teaching beginning writers is a big challenge and in kindergarten, it's even more challenging because kids come to school with all different ability levels.  Some students show up and they can write a full sentence and some can barely write their names.  Then teachers have to somehow meet all their needs at once.  Using picture writing prompts is a great way to support ALL levels of beginning writers.

picture writing prompts with animals and sentence starters

Writing is hard.  It's the hardest academic skill teachers ask of kindergarten students.  Writing requires kids to use everything they know about letter sounds, put them together to make words.  Then get those words on paper with proper spacing, punctuation, and capitalization.  It's a lot.  This makes teaching writing a challenge, too.  Thankfully, differentiating writing assignments doesn't have to be complicated. 

How can pictures help beginning writers?

Thanksgiving  picture writing prompts with sentence starters showing a parade and kitchen table.

If you have students who are reluctant to write, pictures help to give them ideas to connect with and motivate them to get words on paper.  The pictures take the "I don't know what to write about." excuse away and it gives them a specific topic to write about.   Adding a sentence starter makes it even easier to decide what to write about.  When students only have to write a word or 2 to complete the sentence, it sets them up for success.  If they are able, you can push them to write a second sentence, too.  Scaffolding support is a great way to build confidence in beginning writers. 

Pictures also help kids who don't enjoy drawing.  They can still add their own details but the majority of the illustration work is done for them.   After all, not all authors illustrate their own books. 

How can sentence starters help beginning writers?

winter themed picture writing prompts with and without sentence starters showing a boy building a snowman with writing tools

Sentence starters are great for kids who have a difficult time sounding out words or getting their words on paper.  When kids are just beginning to get words on paper, giving them the first few words of a sentence can go along way to ease their frustration.  One option is to put the sentence starter on the board for them to copy, but developmentally, not all kindergarteners are able to sit at their table and copy from so far away.  Another option is to give them a paper with traceable words or even to give them a paper with the sentence starter already on it so they simply have to add words to complete the sentence.   

How can I support confident writers?

What about kids who are capable and confident writers?  You can choose to give them a blank paper with just the topic or to give them a page with a picture prompt and let them write.  I like to include a sentence writing checklist or rubric to keep them focused on mechanics a the beginning of the year and then progress to content as the year goes on.  Having a checklist on every page helps students to self-check and holds them responsible for writing complete sentences. 

5-star sentence writing checklists and reference pages

This 5-star sentence writing checklist pack is in my TPT store.  The visuals can help students to be more independent with their writing and gives kids the tools they need to write complete successfully.

Need an easy way to differentiate writing assignments?

Create monthly writing journals that all have the same cover.  Inside the journal can be different for students based on their needs but everyone feels included during independent writing time.  If you prep the journals at the beginning of the month, you're set for 4 weeks at a time.  

Have a student working on letter formation and letter sounds? Put that in their monthly journal.  Kids ready to write stories independently?  Their journals can have blank pages ready for stories.  Kids who are in between?  Give them picture writing prompts with or without sentence starters.  

Want to try picture prompts but you don't have the time to create them?  I've got you covered.  This Mega Bundle has prompts for the entire school year!  Each pack has 3 different levels of picture writing prompts and a blank page included with a sentence writing check list on each page.  There are cover pages to create monthly journals, too. Click here to check it out. 

Disguise a Gingerbread Man Project with Digital Activities

Monday, November 9, 2020

Family projects are a fun way to engage families in the learning process and with many teachers in hybrid or distance learning models, this is more important than ever.  This Disguise a Gingerbread Man project was designed with flexibility in mind so that teachers can engage all of their learners.  This pack includes printable and digital options with 2 different premises.  Teachers can set up a "Best-dressed Cookie Competition" or a more traditional challenge to create a gingerbread man disguise so that he won't be eaten. 

►►►Click here to get your Gingerbread Disguise Project with printable & digital options!

gingerbread man disguised as Santa with screenshot of dress a gingerbread man activity

How to Introduce the Activity

gingerbread boy book with a paper gingerbread man disguised as Santa with writing prompt

Choose a version of the Gingerbread Man story to read to introduce this project.  We always did a whole unit on the Gingerbread Man story in December because we weren't allowed to celebrate Christmas but gingerbread still felt like the holidays.  The stories are engaging and they are a great way to compare texts, versions of the story, practice retelling, sequencing and so much more!  I'll link my favorites here (all the links below Amazon affiliate links.  If you are a Scholastic Book Club member, check there first for the best prices!).

After reading, you can show your students the project.  It helps to show some past examples, too.  If you have trouble coming up with ideas or you've never done this project before, just Google "gingerbread man disguise project" and you'll find lots of inspiration.  You'll want to give families plenty of time to complete the project, but not too much.  I found that giving families 2 weekends is just the right amount of time. 

How to prep this project

3 pieces of paper showing a parent letter, gingerbread template, and writing page for gingebread project

This activity is very low-prep.  Just make copies and send them home (or you could choose to complete it in class)!

-Type up your letter to families for directions (or just tweak the one included in the pack) and make sure to include a due date.  

-Make one copy of the letter and one copy of the gingerbread person template page per student (I recommend copying this on cardstock).  

Choose which writing page template you'd like to use and make a copy for each student as well. (You can choose to send the writing part home for parents to complete or you can complete that together in class. )

You can choose to connect the pages with a paperclip or staple them.  Then you send it home! That's it.

Using the Seesaw Activities

To use the gingerbread man disguise Seesaw activities, you'll need a Seesaw account.  You can sign up to get a free Seesaw account here.  It's is a great, easy-to-use platform for both in-person and distance learning.  

Then all you'll have to do is click the Save Activity Link and save it to your library.  Then you are ready to assign it for your students.  The activities and directions (including an example and audio directions) are already preloaded, so all you need to do is choose which version you prefer and click assign. 

In the first activity best-dressed cookie option, our students will use the move tool to "dress" their gingerbread person and then write a persuasive writing piece to tell why they should win the competition.  

In the second disguise a gingerbread person option, students will use the drawing tools to create a disguise and then can use the pen tool or the text tool to write their sentence (or story) about the gingerbread person. 

Don't forget to purchase your Gingerbread project here!

I'd love to see the finished products - be sure to tag me on Instagram @teachingexceptionalkinders!

If you are looking for more family projects, you can read about my Disguise a Turkey Project here

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