Thursday, August 18, 2016


Rules and procedures.  Procedures and rules.  It seems that’s all we do in kindergarten during the first weeks of school!  But the remainder of the year is disastrous if not! 

We use manipulatives for our work with our adopted math program, Investigations, and before we delve into serious work, we introduce one material a day, let the children explore with it, and set up the procedures for math stations.  Each child then completes a page in their Journal for Math Materials, our KinderLit version of an interactive notebook.    

During our whole group instruction, we show the class the material for the day and go over the simple rules we have for using the materials: 
  1. Take care of the materials.  Do not throw them, put them in your mouth, or take them home. 
  2. Do not bother another child’s work. 
  3. Put them away in their correct tub and back on the shelf.
We discuss what can be done with each type of manipulative and then we give the children a chance to explore with it at a math station.  

We usually have 4 - 5 math stations during math time, at which the children work on specific tasks.  After an appropriate amount of time (about 10 - 15 minutes at the beginning of the year) we give a signal to indicate they are to clean up and stand behind their chairs.  They point to the next station and when everyone is ready, the groups move and settle in to work.  

The first material we introduce are pattern blocks because they are so colorful and fun to use!  Here are some children exploring with these blocks. 

Here’s our schedule for introducing these materials: 

Each day we begin at whole group time to discuss the rules again and then work at the stations. 

Day 1 - All stations have trays of pattern blocks and we give the children about 5 minutes to play with them.  Then we all line up behind the teacher with our hands behind our backs, walk around the room to inspect what others have done, and then return to our stations to continue exploring.  This “parade” will inspire new ideas to try out at their own stations again and is repeated each day!  

Day 2 - Half the stations have pattern blocks and half have the new manipulative of unifix cubes.  Half-way through the time, we give a signal and the children change places to work with the other manipulative. 

Day 3 - Half the stations have unifix cubes and half have the new manipulative of buttons.  Half-way through the time, we give a signal and the children change places to work with the other manipulative.  

Day 4 - Half the stations have buttons and half have the new manipulative of color tiles.  Half-way through the time, we give a signal and the children change places to work with the other manipulative.  

Day 5 - Half the stations have color tiles and half have the new manipulative of geo blocks.  Half-way through the time, we give a signal and the children change places to work with the other manipulative.  

After the stations are completed each day, the children get their Journal of Math Manipulatives from their cubbies and work on the appropriate page for the new item introduced that day.  

You can make up your own interactive notebook for math materials or purchase ours - we’ve done all the work for you!  Materials included are unifix cubes, buttons, keys, pattern blocks, color tiles, spinners, teddy bear counters, geo blocks, dice, dominoes, and a blank page to create your own.  And it's on sale for 20% off through Sunday, August 21!  

Each manipulative has two different formats as well as a page of clipart for the children to cut apart for their journal.  
Read more about this journal by clicking on this photo:


Pre-Kindergarten - 1st Grade Classroom Tools
Have you signed up for a free 60-day trial for ESGI yet?  If you sign up before Sept. 30, you will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card to TpT!  Click on the above button and check it out!  You can read more about the benefits of using ESGI in our previous blog post by clicking here
In that post, we promised to give you suggestions for classroom management while you are working one-on-one with a child at the computer.  Here's just a few: 
  1. Stations, such as the math ones described above, keep the children working on a task while you are working with ESGI
  2. Many of our KinderLit books lend themselves to the whole class working on a page at the same time.  After modeling the collage for the page, you are free to pull one child over to the computer while the others work on their KinderLit book page.
  3. If you are lucky enough to work at a school that provides tablets to the teachers, you can use ESGI on it.  While the children are at recess, you can stand off to the side of the playground and assess a child in a minute or two!  Tablets are so portable - just don’t do it while you’re on recess duty! 
  4. During our station time, we often lead a group at our guided reading table.  The children love to do partner reading which allows us to take one of the children to the computer to work on an assessment on ESGI.  When station time is over, so is the assessment for each student!
Anyone have more ideas?  Please share your suggestions in the comment section below! 

Happy Teaching!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Your Newest Back-to-School Assessment Tool

Tired of spending hours and hours and hours assessing your students?  Then dealing with all those papers for each child?  And having to enter the results on a class tracker?  Use your computer mouse to do it all!
ESGI, which stands for Educational Software for Guiding Instruction, provides teachers with the greatest time-saving program for assessments.  Here’s how it’s done.

Spend a minute at the computer with each child and just use your mouse to record their responses to one of over 200 preloaded assessments.  Or create your own!  All you do is click on the Y or N and the software does the rest!
With one click of your mouse discover data such as which 
sight word is the least recognized by your class, which letter is the most recognized, or what percentage of your students can rhyme.  Plan your individual instruction or whole group lessons based on your reports. 
That mouse of yours will be indispensable to you!  Click and print out personalized parent letters in English or Spanish to send home as often as you want.  And don’t forget to print off practice cards, name practicing papers, name tags, and much more!
Your administration can track data with just a mouse for your entire grade level - a great help for determining class placement.
Why don’t you use your mouse right now and click on this icon to read more, watch a video all about ESGI, and try it free for 60 days.    If you sign up for the free trial, you'll be automatically entered into a drawing to win one of ten $50 TpT gift cards!  Just in time for those back-to-school assessments! 
Concerned about managing a whole class of students while you are working with just one at the computer?  Be sure to check our next blog for suggestions and ideas!
Lisa:  The students are coming!!!!  And my room is finally ready!  I started with this: 
And ended up with this: 
I have 21 students so far and 4 work tables with seating for 6 at each.  The tables are color-coded and the children call them by name.  Here’s a close-up of the “Green Table.”  
Can you see the red, yellow, and green sections on the far wall in the first picture above?  That’s our DIBELS wall for posting their progress in three different sections of the test.  Here’s what my DIBELS wall looked like during last school year:
The majority of my students do not attend any preschool so I have to start the year off teaching them to recognize their names in print.  That’s where my check-in cards come into play!  Each morning the children find their name cards and place them in the hanging pocket chart.  It’s also a quick and easy way for me to take attendance.  For the first few days they also wear the lanyards too until I learn their names.  Then the name cards become letters, words, numbers, etc. for them to wear!   

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my room would look this neat every day?!!  
Start the new school year off by winning a $50 gift card to TpT!  Fill out this rafflecopter form for a chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Magic Play Dough for the First Day of School

Linda:  Last week my grandchildren and I made new play dough in my kitchen.  It reminded me of an activity I did with my kindergartners on the first day of school.  Each child received a small white ball of play dough which, when manipulated, would designate the type of year we would all have.  If the white changed to a color we’d have a great school year! 
Of course when I made the play dough, I poked my finger down into the center, added a drop or two of food coloring, and covered it up again.  Sometimes it’s just too easy to trick kindergartners!

Step 1:  Roll a white ball about the size of a ping pong ball.

Step 2:  Poke a hole with your finger and add a drop or two of food coloring.  Close up the opening and put the ball in a baggie with a copy of the poem. 

Step 3: The Children squish their play dough and watch it change colors!  

I added the short poem explaining the process so the parents would understand why their children were bringing home a small ball of play dough.  Click here to receive a free copy of the poem.

Lisa:  If you have never made your own play dough, check out our blog post from January for the recipe and photo directions.  I love this play dough!  My class uses it at centers and stations but I only have to make a batch two or three times during the school year.  Be sure to add the cream of tartar since it acts as a preservative.  

Have a fantastic first day!