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


5 Must Have Math Games for Kindergarten Teachers

Monday, October 26, 2020

 Kindergarteners learn best through play, so why not incorporate more games in class?  Games are a fun and engaging way to build important kindergarten skills.  You can use board games to help to reinforce academic skills while practicing critical social skills like taking turns and winning and losing as well as fine motor skills. Below you'll find a list of my favorite, must-have games for kindergarten teachers to use in their classrooms. Teachers can use these games for kindergarten centers, morning work, small groups, and more!  


In case you have administrators that are sticklers for "rigor" in kindergarten, I included standards you can use to support using these games during your center time.  Your state may also have standards for social skills like taking turns and getting along with others that these games definitely support.  Still if games are a no-no for centers, you can always use these during indoor recess or free time.


*All links included in this post are Amazon Affiliate links.  I earn a very small commission if you choose to purchase using these links.  This helps to keep the blog up and running.  I only recommend products that I have used and love. 


Shelby's Snack Shack

shelby's snack shack numbers game
Common Core Standards: KCC.B.4 ; K.CC.C.6
PA State Standards: CC.2.1.K.1 ; CC.2.1.K.A.2 ; CC.2.1.K.A.3

The object of this game is to collect the most bones from Shelby's Snack Shack.  In this game, kids use tweezers shaped like Shelby, the pug, to transfer bones from the Snack Shack to your dog bowl.  The player with the most bones at the end of the game wins.  This is a simple, fun, and engaging game that students can play in small groups without an adult facilitator.   

Students will need to identify numbers 1 - 5 and be able to do 1:1 correspondence to retrieve the correct number of bones while they practice taking turns and winning and losing. 


Hi Ho Cherry-O

Hi Ho Cherrio Counting Game
Common Core Standards: KCC.B.4 ; K.CC.C.6
PA State Standards: CC.2.1.K.1 ; CC.2.1.K.A.2 ; CC.2.1.K.A.3

The object of this game is to be the first to pick all the cherries out of your tree.  

Students will be subitizing or counting to get the correct number of cherries out of the tree.  The cherries are pretty small so they will also be actively using fine motor skills.  This is a fun, easy-to-play game that is perfect for math centers. Kids will also need to be using their fine motor skills to spin the spinner and collect the small cherries from the trees. 


Dominoes

Kids playing dominoes
Common Core Standards: KCC.B.4 ; K.CC.C.6
PA State Standards: CC.2.1.K.1 ; CC.2.1.K.A.2 ; CC.2.1.K.A.3

There are so many great games you can play with dominoes.  You can teach your students the traditional domino rules which are great for subitizing.  

Another fun and easy game to play is similar to the card game War.   The students lay all the dominoes out on the floor or table and turn them over so you can't see the dots.  Then each round each student chooses a domino to turn over.  The person with the greatest number keeps the dominoes and the person with the most dominoes at the end of the game wins. 

One more way to play with dominoes is to have students put them in order from least to greatest or sort them by numbers. 


Mini Muffin Match Up

Muffin Sorting Game
Common Core Standards: KCC.B.4 ; K.CC.C.6
PA State Standards: CC.2.1.K.1 ; CC.2.1.K.A.2 ; CC.2.1.K.A.3

There are a few versions of how to play this game.  Students will practice number identification, color matching, counting, 1:1 correspondence, and sorting while using their fine motor skills!  You can see from the photo that our version is well-loved both by students and my own children.  

This one is one of my favorite games because you can use the muffin manipulatives in so many ways.   I got mine with Scholastic Book Club bonus points years ago, but it is on Amazon, too.   To make it more challenging and add some extra fine motor practice, you can include some fun tweezers or tools like these from Learning Resources. 


Froggy Feeding Fun


Feeding Froggy Learning Resources Game
Common Core Standards: KCC.B.4 ; K.CC.C.6
PA State Standards: CC.2.1.K.1 ; CC.2.1.K.A.2 ; CC.2.1.K.A.3

This is another simple game that incorporates fine motor skills, number sense, and color differentiating.  Students will roll a dice with a number and a dice with colors.  They use their frog to "eat" the number of bugs they roll.  The person with the most bugs at the end is the winner. 


BONUS ELA game Freida's Fruit Fiesta

Frida's Fruit Fiesta Game
Common Core Standards: RF.K.1.C
PA State Standards: CC.1.1.K.B

The object of this game is to be the first to fill your letter card.  

Students will use the tweezers shaped like Freida to move the letters from the fruit stand to their boards based on the letters they spin.  You could add rules that students need to say the letter sounds as well as match the letters to make it more challenging.  This is a great game for guided reading centers or even in small groups with students who are struggling with letter identification. 


pinterest pin for 5 must have games for kindergarten teachers

How to Answer Tricky Parent-Teacher Conferences Questions and Comments

Friday, October 16, 2020

 We've all been there.  Sitting at a parent-teacher conference and a parent asks a question or makes a comment and you have no idea how to respond.  And you sit there trying not to look like a deer in the headlights wracking your brain to think of a suitable answer.  Over the years I created some generic answers to pull from when faced with tricky questions (sort of like report card comments, but for parent-teacher conferences!).  Hopefully, these ideas help to prepare you to avoid those "I have no idea what to say" panicked moments and answer parent-teacher conference questions! 


teacher looking flustered with questions marks around her head


Be as prepared as possible. 

The best way to prepare to respond to parent comments and questions is to prepare a conference report for each student.  This way you have information and examples prepared to share with each family.  It helps to take the surprise out of things.  I use these editable parent-teacher conference forms in my TPT store.  If there are any issues or concerns happening in class, be prepared to politely address them with parents.  Try to put a positive spin on things so parents understand you are trying to help and that you care about their child. 



"He can do it all the time at home."

Remember parents always want to see the best in their children so be gentle.  Possible answer:  "Oftentimes, kids perform differently in different situations or environments.  I've also found that sometimes teachers and parents have slightly different expectations."  (Then model what you want Johnny to be able to do independently).  


If parents are still insistent that their child can do it.  You can choose to let it go or ask them to video their child.  It's probably not a hill worth dying on, so to speak.  



"She never acts that way home."

Again, remember parents always want to see the best in their children.  As teachers, we know this likely isn't true, but keep in perspective that this child is the parent's whole world.  There are a few reasons the child might not display the behaviors at home.  The biggest reason is likely different expectations. 


Possible Answer:  "I understand.  We often have different expectations at school than at home and that can be difficult for some students to ____.  "  Then give a concrete example of the expectation and what you need the student to do at school.  For example, if the expectation is that the students sit quietly to complete their work for 5 minutes at a time. 



"I don't have time for that at home."

Sometimes this is an excuse because parents don't want to work on school things at home, but often it's the truth.  As teachers, we need to remember that every family situation is unique and some parents are spread so thin that it is extremely difficult to find the extra time to practice sight words or math facts.  When I heard this response, I'd try to show parents a way to practice that takes 5 minutes or less and simply encourage them try their best. 


Possible Answer:  "I understand that time is precious and you have so much on your plate.  Learning ___ is very important to help Johnny to progress in ___ so any extra practice would be beneficial.  Do you think you could find 3-5 minutes every other day to practice ___?  I can send (these materials) home with you for extra support."


teacher looking confused with large white question mark


"How are you challenging Susie in class?"

As teachers, sometimes we forget that our higher-achieving students' parents want to hear about how you are challenging them.  This doesn't mean you have to have elaborate systems set up.  Parents just want to hear how you are differentiating to meet their child's needs.   


Before conferences, think about all the ways you differentiate to meet student needs and jot them down in a list.  Do you differentiate your math centers?  Use an app like Reading Eggs or ABC Mouse that sets up a unique learning path to meet each student at their level?  Are you doing guided reading or guided math groups?  These are all ways you are challenging children at their present levels.  


Remember - you don't have to know everything!

You do not have to have all the answers.  It's okay to say, "Let me check on that.".  If you don't know the answer, you can connect the parent with the person who does know the answer (maybe the reading specialist, nurse, principal, special ed teacher, etc.) or you can tell the parent you will ask and get back to them as soon as possible.  Be sure to jot down a note so you don't forget to ask. 

Need more tips for running successful parent-teacher conferences?  Click here to read more!


What other tips do you have for answering tough questions?  I'd love to hear them!

Disguise a Turkey Project with Digital Option

Monday, October 12, 2020

Disguise a Turkey project is a family favorite activity every year, but this year many teachers are teaching hybrid or virtually and it is tricky to allow all students to participate.  This disguise a turkey pack has print AND a digital option for Seesaw so all of your students can participate.  There are so many great, creative turkey disguise ideas out there and it's so fun to see what families come up with each year.  With the digital option, you don't need to skip it this year!


►►►You can click here to get the Disguise a Turkey Project with Printable & Digital Options. 


turkey trouble book, disguise a turkey craft, writing activity and laptop displaying Seesaw activity



How to Introduce the Activity

turkey disguised as popcorn with writing page


I always read the book Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano (Amazon affiliate link.) to introduce this project.  In the book the farmer is getting ready for Thanksgiving and turkey realizes he'll be dinner.  So the turkey tries out a lot of different disguises to hide from the farmer.  This is an adorable story and it starts to get kids thinking about what kind of disguise they could create.  


Then you can show kids the project.  It helps to show some past examples, too.  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 the Activity

directions letter, blank turkey craft and writing pages


This activity is very low-prep.  Just make copies and send it 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 turkey template page per student (I recommend copying the turkey 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 Activity

laptop displaying seesaw disguise a turkey activity



To use the Seesaw activity, 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 activity and directions (including an example and audio directions) are already preloaded, so all you need to do is click assign. 


Your 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 turkey. 


Don't forget to purchase your Disguise a Turkey Pack!


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


If you're looking for more family projects, you can read about my Gingerbread Man Disguise Project here

How to Use Editable Conference Forms for Virtual Parent-Teacher Conferences

Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Preparing for parent-teacher conferences can be overwhelming under typical circumstances.  Preparing for virtual conferences is a whole new adventure.  But, rest assured you can use the conference forms you've used in years past for virtual parent conferences, too!

parent conference glow and grow conference form

For the purposes of this blog, I will be referencing my Editable Parent Teacher Conference Forms (pictured above) however, you can use these tips with any PowerPoint file. 


Getting Started

To be best prepared for your parent meetings, you'll want to write  (or in this case type) a conference report for each student.  I like to use the Glow & Grow form from my conference pack for the beginning of the year in kindergarten.  This report form gives parents lots of positives and areas they can help to work on at home. Once you've created a conference report for a student, you can save it as an image file (JPEG or PNG) or PDF file.  This will allow you to share the form with parents via email and by sharing the screen in a Zoom call. 


How to Set up Your PowerPoint

So how do you do this?   It isn't too difficult, I promise!   First, because you will be making changes to the file, start with file-save-as and rename the PowerPoint.  


screenshot to show how to save and rename your powerpoint

Next, choose the form you want to use and then delete all the other slides in the PowerPoint.  


screen shot to show how to duplicate PowerPoint Slides

Then you will need to duplicate the slide you choose to use.  To duplicate the slide, click on the slide you want to duplicate, then choose edit-duplicate.   Duplicate as many times as needed so you have a blank form for each student in your class. 

Then, type up a conference report for each student in your class.   Include relevant academic information and social/behavioral information.  In kindergarten, both are very important to parents.  If you have been remote teaching, I know that social and behavioral skills may be difficult to comment on.  Try to focus on their participation, enthusiasm, etc. 

Once your reports are complete, you're ready to export to a different file type.  PDF files are easy to share and sometimes images (JPEG or PNG) are easier to upload to apps like Seesaw.  The file type is up to you.


How to Export your PowerPoint to a PDF

Screen shot to show how to export file to a PDF
screenshot to demonstrate how to export a PowerPoint to a PDF

When your reports are complete, you are ready to save and export them.  To save the files as a PDF, choose file-export and then set the file type to PDF (this is the default on my version of PowerPoint).  Make sure to save the file in a location that you will be able to find.   Next, you will want to save the pages of your PDF individually so you are able to send reports to families without breaching everyone's confidentiality.   


How to save large PDF as individual PDFs

screen shot to show how to save pdfs as individual files

Getting single page PDFs from your large PDF is fairly simple.   You can use this free (once per hour) website:  freepdfcoonvert.com/split-pdf and upload your PDF.  First you upload your PDF.  Then choose As separated PDF and click the green Split PDF file. Then you can download your files.  You'll need to rename them and then you'll be ready to share them with your families. 


How to Save Individual PDFs on a MAC

screenshot to show how to open a PDF in preview

If you do not want to use the website, this way is a bit more time consuming, but it works.  On a MAC, you'll need to open the PDF using Preview NOT Adobe.  


screen shot to show how to save a pdf as individual pdfs


When you open the PDF in Preview, you'll choose file-print and when the print screen comes up, you'll need to choose the page you want to save, and then in the lower-left corner, you'll select save as a PDF.  


how to rename pdf files

Then you can name the file your student's name and choose a location to save it.  You'll repeat these steps for each student. 


How to Save Each Page as an Image

If you want to save the pages individually as images, you can choose file-export-and then choose your files type JPEG or PNG.  For this, either file type will work.  


screenshot to show how to save PowerPoint as images


Choose a file name and location where you will be able to find the images.  I like to use my desktop.  Also, be sure to select save all slides and to set the height to 2999 to get the best resolution in your image. 


screen shot to show how to rename files


When you open the folder with your images, you'll need to rename each image to your students' names.  To rename the image, right-click, and choose rename.   Now you have images that you can attach to emails to send to your families.  You can upload these to Seesaw or Google Classroom, too.  


Now you are all set to share your conference reports at your virtual parent-teacher conferences.  Hopefully, this helps them to feel a little bit more "normal".  


Best wishes for stress-free conferences!


3 Tips to Prepare for Stress-free Parent Teacher Conferences

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

 Meeting with parents during conference times can be intimidating for any teacher especially when you don't feel like you have the most positive news to share.  But parent conferences do not have to be overwhelming or stressful.  These tips for how to prepare for parent teacher conferences will take the stress out of preparing for conferences and have you confident and prepared on conference day. 


1.  Prepare Conference Forms for each Student

Glow and grow conference forms and sign up sheett


Prior to conferences, write up a conference report for each of your students.  Include positives and areas for growth.  When you list strengths as glows and concerns as grows it keeps everything in a more positive light and shows parents that you truly care for their child.  For example, if a student calls out incessantly his grow could be, raise hand more often.  Or if a student is always in other people's personal space, her grow could be to respect other's space or stay in your personal bubble.  Wording things in a positive way sends a message that you are there to help, not put a child down.  


2.  Send Home a Preview Question Form


pre-conference parent questionnaire form


The best way to be prepared and curb your anxiety is to ask parents what they'd like to discuss before the conference.  A few weeks before conferences, send home a simple questionnaire to find out what concerns or questions parents have for you.  Then use this information to prepare for your parent meeting so you do not get caught off guard with a random question you did not anticipate.  

I have a FREE pre-conference form here in my TPT store.  Give it a try - it just may help you to build your confidence going into conferences. 


3.  Make a Folder for Each Student

color code conference folders


To help keep all your handouts, forms, etc. organized create a folder for each of your students.  This way when you have back-to-back conferences all you need to do if grab the next folder to find all your information.  A simple manilla folder will do, but you could opt to use pocket folders and send them home with parents so they can review the information at home.   The folders are also helpful for parents who are unable to attend in person, so you can send the folder home with your student so parents still get all the information you wanted to share. 


Looking for some conference forms to keep yourself organized?  Click here to check out this pack of editable conference forms that has everything you need for successful conferences


pin for 3 tips for stress-free parent conferences


What other tips do you have for running successful conferences?


 

3 Tips for Keeping Kids Engaged in Developmentally Appropriate Activities During Distance Learning in Kindergarten

Thursday, September 3, 2020

 Keeping the expectations for distance learning for kindergarten developmentally appropriate is a constant struggle and the screen time required only compounds the issue.  How can teachers keep instruction and activities age-appropriate while delivering content through a screen?  When districts mandate an exorbitant amount of screen time for remote learning for kindergarten kids, the only control a teacher has is how to use that screen time.


girl showing paper to the computer for distance learning

Distance learning expectations are different everywhere, but keeping 5-year-olds (and in some cases still 4-year-olds) in front of an iPad screen for 3+ hours a day hurts my teacher soul.  We know that's not what's best for little people.  But it's mandatory, so teachers have to be creative in finding ways to keep their students actively engaged in appropriate tasks.  


Last spring I wrote about the things that worked well for us during distance learning in kindergarten.  You can read more about that here.  But that was spring when kids started the year in person and we could do all the fun, developmentally appropriate activities to help build important motor skills. 


Keep kids moving.

2 girls jumping

Get them up and dancing.  Practicing numbers?  Use a fun video and get up and move.  Or send them on a scavenger hunt to find 2 spoons, or 3 markers, etc.  You can do some exercises like jump 5 times, do 2 sit-ups, hop 3 times.  Be creative and get them moving.  Kids need to move so giving them a purpose is helpful to keep them engaged and on task in a meaningful way.


Give them paper-pencil tasks when appropriate.

pencils paper and scissors

Don't forget what you learned in your child psychology classes in college.  Kids need developmentally appropriate activities to help them to develop important executive and fine motor skills.  Imagine a surgeon who never developed fine motor skills like using tweezers or cutting with scissors!  Fine motor activities should not be optional.

Listen, kids need to learn how to use writing instruments.  They NEED to use a pencil and crayons.  From a developmental standpoint, they need to continue to work on improving fine motor skills.   Sure, their parents might be working on these skills at home, but not all do.  Many kids come to kindergarten without being able to write their names let alone hold a pencil.  There is no digital replacement for this.  Kids need paper-pencil tasks.  

distance learning choice board

I know that some teachers are not permitted to send papers home (I'll keep my opinion on that to myself...) or they can only send what the entire grade level across the district sends home.  Somehow you have to get pencils and crayons in your students' hands.  Be creative, send craft "kits" home or cut and paste worksheets.  You could even send them home via email for parents to print out if they are able.    In the spring, we used choice boards like the ones pictured above. It helped to give kids options for motor practice and kept some assignment choices away from the screen.   


Take brain-breaks that do NOT require a screen.  

Give kids 15 minutes to grab a snack, use the restroom, do some exercises, take a cat nap, etc.   Get them off their devices to give their eyes a break.  Put them in your Zoom waiting room and walk away from the computer, get a fresh cup of coffee and a moment to breath.  You all need a break from the screen. 

Gonooodle is super fun for classroom brain breaks, but the kids need a break from their devices not just academics.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying abandon the fun videos and dances.  Just You can incorporate them during your live teaching time instead.  


What other tips do you have for keeping distance learning engaging and appropriate for kindergarteners? 



What are Boom Cards and other Frequently Ask Questions about Boom Learning

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
In this age of distance learning, teachers are looking for easy solutions for students to use at home to practice and learn skills independently.  So what are Boom Cards ™?  Boom Cards are perfect for remote learning for students of all ages.  If you're like me you may have heard of Boom Cards before distance learning but never tried them because it was one more thing on your plate.  Now that I've been using them,  I will definitely continue to use them in centers when we return to the traditional classroom.  This blog post will cover some frequently asked questions about Boom Cards so you can see if they'd be a good fit for you, too!

What are Boom Cards ™?

What are Boom Cards title image for pinning with girl holding and iPad with rhyming boom card



Boom Cards are self-correcting digital task cards hosted at Boom Learning™.    There are decks for all different grade levels peek - high school and all different subjects! 

There are multiple-choice options, fill in the blank, sorting, and more! You can find decks to practice counting, adding, phonics, spelling, and almost anything else you can think of.  The possibilities fo Boom cards are endless! 

What makes Boom Cards™ so great?


With Boom Cards you can assign decks of cards to the whole class or to certain students which makes differentiation super simple.  If most of the class is working on blends but a few kids are still stuck on short vowels, no problem!  Just assign the decks they need to practice.

Boom cards are self-correcting.  So, your students get instant feedback.  This is great for centers or in a distance learning model where students are working by themselves. 

If you have an account, you can get access to reports about who is logged in, what decks students completed, how long it took them to complete, and their results.  There is a TON of great information in the reports section. 

What do I need to use Boom Cards™?

F for Fish Beginning Sounds Boom Cards fro Boom Learning
To use Boom Cards, you'll need an account at Boomlearning.  There are free accounts and paid accounts depending on what you would like to be able to do as a teacher.   You can give students log in information or use the fast play option to assign cards.  Using the fastplay link, you can link Boom Cards in your SeeSaw or Google Classroom accounts for your students to play (one less login for families).  Or you can choose to use the app and student login information.  

For young students, you can use pictures for passwords which keeps login a bit easier.  

What do students need to use Boom Cards™?


Students will need some kind of device and their login information or a fastplay link.  You can use Boom Cards on a Smartboard, iPad, tablet, Chromebook, laptop, or most other devices (even a phone!).

Where can I get Boom Cards?


You can get Boom Cards on the Boom Learning platform or purchase them on Teachers Pay Teachers.  There are many great FREE decks out there but there are also decks for purchase.  For most decks, you can try a free preview before you purchase to make sure you like the deck.   

Kindergarten Math and ELA boom card bundle cover


In my Teachers Pay Teacher's store, have this free deck for counting to 10.  I also have Boom Cards for Kindergarten skills in both math and ELA (especially phonics).  You can check out this money-saving bundle here.  

Do I need the Internet to play Boom Cards™?


Yes, the Boom Platform and app both require the Internet to use. 


I hope that helps to answer any questions you may have about Boom Cards™.  They are an awesome digital tool to use in the classroom!  If you are looking for more tips for Distance learning in Kindergarten?  Click here to read my top distance learning tips

Must-do Back to School Organization Tip for Busy Teachers

Saturday, July 25, 2020
Back to school time can be overwhelming for even the most experienced teachers.  Staying organized is a great way to relieve stress and feel confident about going back to school.   Back to school organization is critical to set the stage for the school year, especially for busy teachers.  Save yourself time and energy with this time-saving must-do Back to Schoool organization tip!

The best thing I ever did to improve my back to school organization, was to create student information cards.  These cards keep important student information all in one place (not online) to make life easier.  I always had parents fill the cards out at Kindergarten Orientation or Back to School Night and I kept them on a ring beside my desk for easy access.  I color-coded the cards by class to keep things visually organized, too.  


Organize important student information with these easy-to-use, editable student information cards today!

What is a Sound Wall and How Can It Be Used in a Kindergarten Classroom?

Thursday, July 23, 2020
Maybe you've heard about a sound wall from your literacy specialist or while browsing a Facebook page.  And you've seen other teachers making the switch from a traditional word wall to a sound wall but you aren't entirely sure why or where to start.  Maybe you're still wondering what is a sound wall?  Then this post is for you.  Here you'll learn some of the basics of what a sound wall is and why you should use it in your kindergarten classroom.  

Learn all about what a sound wall is and how to use a sound wall in the primary classroom.

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