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!


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