Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm a Proud Owner of the Only Pencil Sharpener You'll Ever Need

So, after seeing these pencil sharpeners on pretty much every teaching blog, I knew I needed to try one for myself.  Troy was nice enough to send me a Groovy Green to try out!

Maybe this is just my school, but we have the biggest problem with electric pencil sharpeners.  They never seem to last more than a couple days, and then everyone's stuck using those teensy tiny handheld sharpeners until someone breaks down and buys an electric again.  Not anymore!  Here's a few things I LOVE about my new pencil sharpener:

1. It sharpens even the cheapest of pencils (ahem..Dixon) to a sharp point.  See?
 2. It is quiet.  It is miserable to sit and sharpen fifty pencils, listening to the roar of the electric pencil sharpener and praying it won't break.   

3. It stands on its own and is light/easy to move.  (Although you can mount it if you'd like...it comes with the hardware.)
4. It's easy enough for kids to use it themselves.  If you watch the video, you'll see how the silver part slides in to let them know when it's done sharpening.  Obviously I'm not a good student, because I did not watch the video before I took the picture above.  Luckily, it still worked for me. :)

5. It's easy to empty the lead.

6. It's made by a teacher!  And I know we all love to support our fellow teachers! 

7. It is only $25, with free shipping.  If you can get some friends together, you can get an even better deal.  3 together are only $18 a piece.  If you can get your whole school on board, buy 36 for just $14 each.

8. They come in so many cute colors and designs.  Besides the green, there's pink, blue, black, red, and even a car sharpener.  How cute is that?
Car Sharpener 
If you've been thinking of buying one, I promise, it is worth it!  My students and I are loving this new addition to our classroom!  Go grab one now!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Shape Books and a Shape Walk

I've already posted about one of my favorite shape activities with one of my favorite shape books - Mouse Shapes.  But we've been doing a lot of shape work in my room, and a colleague loaned me two other great books I wanted to share.
The first is When a Line Bends, A Shape Begins, by Rhonda Gowler Greene.  It shows all the different places you can find a shape.  For example, "a square is four sides all the same, the boxes of a hopscotch game, a patch to cover up your knee, a present sent from you to me."  This book was fun to read over several days.  Each day, we read about a few shapes, and then looked for the shapes around our room.  The kids loved it and kept asking when we'd read more.  (We took several days because it takes a while to read, especially if you stop to find the shapes in your classroom.)

Circles, Triangles, and Squares, by Tana Hoban, is a wordless book featuring Hoban's photographs.  The photographs were of all different things, taken around the community.  The kids loved finding all the shapes in each picture, and it was interesting for me to see what they noticed.

After we finished this book, we took a "Shape Walk" around our school.  I gave each kid an index card with a shape on it.  We stuck to rectangles, triangles, circles, and squares.  Then, we went out with our vTech Kidizoom Cameras, which I can safely let the kids hold without worrying that they'll drop them and break them.  They are the best!
When someone found the shape on their card, they raised their hand and got to take a picture of it.   I had never tried this lesson before, and was a little worried kids might get bored waiting for their turn with the camera, but it went really well.  They were super excited and doing a great job making observations.  After they took a picture with the real camera, they used "imaginary cameras" to take pictures of the other shapes they saw. 

Here are some of the pictures they took.  We are going to turn them into a class book.  (I made them black and white to match the Hoban book.  Also so I can print them for free at school, ha!)

I think the Tana Hoban book may be out of print, but she has lots of other great, similar books you should check out!  The kids will love them!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Leaves Artwork

This past week, we talked about the upcoming fall season.  We read one of my favorite fall books - Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert, and made leaf animals of our own.


It's hard to see the pencil on the green paper, but they wrote the sounds they heard for each animal.  It was fun to see the creative way they put the shapes together!  In the past, we've used real leaves, but it's kind of early in the season for that, and when I've used real leaves, the pictures always end up being kind of a mess with leaf pieces crumbling off.  I thought these turned out much better!

We also worked on our fine motor skills with these tissue paper trees:

This was a great independent activity.  Students glued down a construction paper trunk and a few branches, then added the tissue paper leaves.  To make the leaves, I just cut squares of tissue paper.  The students used the eraser end of a pencil to wrap the paper around, then dip and glue.  Pinching the tissue paper around the pencil helped them practice their pencil grips! 

Simple, quick, but fun project!  Now, I'm off to get all our activities ready for Apple Week!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

All About Me Unit

I wanted to post about a few more All About Me/Names activities my class has been working on.  We made these self-portraits that turned out great!
I cut out the pieces of the body, and my assistant cut the hair (with the kids sitting beside her and explaining what it should look like).  The kids did all the gluing and coloring.  I'm really impressed with how cute they look!
 I hung them up around the room, with our Chrysanthemum name activities.

We also finished up our Star Names.  I always love how these turn out!  And it's great fine motor work!!  My advice for the stars is to make sure and spread out the letters - write them big, with space in between.  And, I only put one color of sticker at each table.  The names show up more clearly if they're done in one color, and kids are less tempted to use a different color if they don't have them at their table.
Next week, we're moving onto fall, leaves, and then apples.  What are you studying in your class?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Five for Friday - Week 3 (With a Little Freebie)

Here's my weekly Five for Friday link-up with Doodle Bugs!  We've had a great third week of school!  (TBA visitors, my freebie is under number one.)

1.  This week our focus letters were M and T.  (We do lots of activities with the whole alphabet, but focus in on 2-3 letters each week.)  For letter M, we read some of my favorite mouse books!

And then we made these Shape Mice, which also integrated our math objectives...

I let the kids choose each shape they used, so some turned out more "mouse-like" than others, but they are all super cute.   A little freebie: If you want the recording sheet I used, just click here.

2. Another fun way to practice M and T was our Spin and Graph game.  The kids loved seeing if M or T would win, all while working on handwriting and beginning sounds!
3. We've been working on Habit 1: Be Proactive this week.  Our guidance counselor taught a great lesson, using a stoplight to help students remember to stop, think, and then go.  The kids loved it!  It's hard to see in the picture, but the kids labeled the circles "Stop," "Think," and "Go."
Another part of being proactive is being aware of your feelings, so you can express them in appropriate ways. We've been reading books by one of my favorites - Todd Parr.  We read The Feelings Book and The I'm Not Scared Book.
Then we made our own little thumbprint feelings books.
 Simple, but the kids liked it and it helped me see who had a good understanding of feeling words.

4. We did another thumbprint activity, because we had to decorate our letter O's for the alphabet exchange.  We put 8 legs on each thumbprint to make an octopus.  (This was a great informal assessment to see who had one-to-one correspondence.)  My goal this weekend is to get the envelopes ready to send.  My kids and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our letters in the mail!

5. We ended our week with some fun If You Give a Moose a Muffin activities.  We did a taste test with mini-muffins and made this graph.  (I made it sideways because I realized we'd only done vertical graphs so far, and they need to experience both types.)
As you can see, Banana Nut was not very popular, haha!  After graphing, we made a class book with our own versions of "If you give a moose a...."  I loved seeing their creative ideas!
If you give a moose a cake, he'll want icing.
If you give a moose a hot dog, he'll want chili.
If you give a moose a ball, he'll want a pair of shoes and leg warmers. (Love this one!)

If you give a moose a shoe, he'll want laces.
 Thanks for reading!!  How was your week?  Link up with Doodle Bugs to share!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Writing a Class Mission Statement in Kindergarten

As part of The Leader in Me program, each classroom at my school has a class mission statement.  It is supposed to be student-generated.  And I will admit, I was totally skeptical about how that would go in kindergarten, especially at the beginning of the year.  But the process was way smoother than I expected, and I think my class came up with an excellent mission statement.  So I thought I'd share our process.

We wrote our mission statement about 8 days into the school year.  This gave me enough time to talk a lot about why we're at school and how we care about each other and work hard every day, etc.  I introduced our mission statement by talking about how we are "on a misson" at school.  I asked the kids what our mission was.  What did we come to school for?  They generated this list:
-to learn
-to read
-to play
-to go to centers
-to have fun
-to think
-to do art
-to write
-to make new friends 
-to paint
-to be good listeners
-to walk quietly in the hall

Then, I helped them group the items, like learning, thinking, reading and writing went together, painting and art went together, etc.  I told the kids that we needed to come up with a mission statement, so when someone asked us why we came to school, we could tell them.   I asked, "Do you think you would remember to tell them all these different things?"  They of course said "Yes."  Haha, so I said, "Well I don't think I will remember all these things, so let's try to narrow it down a little bit."

On a new piece of paper, I drew a stick figure and asked the kids to think about our list as we went through each part of the stick figure.  I pointed to the head and asked what we used our brain for.  We listed thinking, learning, reading, and writing up there.  We labeled our eyes for looking, our mouths for speaking, and our ears for listening.

I added a heart to our stick figure and asked, "What do we want our heart to do at school?"  They said, "Beat."  Obviously, they are just too smart!  I asked what they wanted their heart to feel at school.  They said: happy, love, happy to be with friends, being nice, making new friends. 

And we labeled our feet for walking and running and playing.  Because I wanted to include leadership in our mission statement, I mentioned how they used their feet when they were the leader, to show everyone else what to do and where to go.   So we added the word "lead" by our feet, too.

So finally, we went back up to the head, and I told the kids we needed to pick the most important word for each thing, so we wouldn't have too many words to remember.  We picked "learn, listen, love, and lead."  The alliteration makes me way too excited, but I swear they came to these words *mostly* on their own.

We go over our mission statement each morning during Morning Meeting.  We point to our head and say "learn," ears and say "listen," heart and say "love," feet and say "lead."  I also made this little visual aid (that coordinates with our college sports theme).
So, there you have it.  Sorry this was kind of long and lacking in pictures.  I forgot to take pictures of the lists we made at school.  But if you've thought about writing a class mission statement, be brave!  They can do it!  I hope this helps :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Five for Friday: Week 2

Happy Saturday!  I am linking up to share 5 random things from my second week of school.  I am still loving my class!!  They are such good listeners and can actually follow my directions without six thousand reminders.  We're getting so much great work done!

1. We worked on names a lot this week.  I gave the kids each a baggie with the letters of their name mixed up inside.   They had to put it in order, and count to see how many letters they had.  (This was a follow-up to reading Chrysanthemum.)   After they figured out how many letters they had, we made this class graph:
This gave us a great opportunity to talk about most, least, and equal.  

2. We started to talk about feelings, so we read another one of my favorite Kevin Henkes' books - Wemberly Worried. After reading, we did a shared writing about Wemberly's worries and our worries:
One student said she worried about getting sucked into the vacuum cleaner, haha!  Then, we did an individual Wemberly craft and writing.  This super cute idea is from Mrs. T.  We painted and wrote first.  Then, added the Wemberly face the next day.

 3. We also made our first class book, focusing again on our names.  Each student colored in a big block letter and then I took their picture with it.  Each picture made a page in our ABC book, with a sentence like "B is for Beckam."
I put the colored version of our book in our classroom library, but I also made several black and white copies that the kids can read at their tables.  It is always such a popular book.  They love that they can read it independently.  

4.  Our school is doing a new thing this year to encourage kids to think about college.  Each classroom has a college and we have a schoolwide theme around all the college sports.  It's really fun.  Our class is the Georgia Bulldogs, so I made these inserts for our take home folders.  Our folders are red with plastic inserts in the front, so they perfectly match UGA's red and black.
My sister, who lives in Georgia, sent us this little mascot.  He sings "We Will Rock You" and dances.  He's an incentive for the whole class.  If they all work together and line up or come to the carpet quietly, we will watch him sing/dance.  They LOVE it!

 5. We started to talk about the 7 habits this week.  We are focusing on "Be Proactive" (Habit 1).  To start, we read Proactive Pete, and talked about all the proactive things he did.  The kids also made take home versions of the book to share with their parents.  I have a few boys who are obsessed with superheroes, so they are loving this theme.  I'm thinking about making some sort of cape or something to recognize students who are exemplifying each habit.  I'll let you know what I come up with!  (Update 8/22/15: Franklin Covey has asked that all 7 Habits products be removed from TpT, so this product is no longer available.  So sorry!)

That was a pretty long five.  If you stuck with me, thank you!  Now go over to Doodle Bugs and link up your five!
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