Monday, June 12, 2017

DIY Baby Activities

Oh, the daunting task of entertaining a busy toddler! I am constantly trying to find ways to keep my little girl busy, entertained and happy. 

Just last weekend we went to the toy store trying to find a new toy to keep her entertained. We bought this fancy little cow that pops out balls once you put them in at the top. We brought the new toy home and attempted to show her how to play. As I sat there trying to gain her attention she continued to grab my cup of coffee! We spent $15 on a new toy and all she wanted was my CUP!? Since that day I have taken a new approach to baby toys....DIY. 

I am constantly saving recyclables, lids, various cups, bowls and other "trash" to make new toys for my little bundle of joy! SO save your money and your sanity and search the house for your next activity to entertain your little one! Here are a few of my creations/discoveries.

Stay tuned each week for more ideas. 

Some of Me Moo's favorite toys!
Lids, puff containers, plastic Easter egg, Nutella container with penny's inside, tupperware

Me Moo playing with a bowl (Don't mind her bedhead).

  Playing with her homemade shaker
(Nutella bottle and pennies)

Me Moo's beloved bottle lid! She fell alseep clutching it.

Water, blue food coloring and oil double bagged and taped to highchair top.

 Balls and a muffin tin.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

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7 Steps to Positive Behavior Management

I will quote myself from a previous post...

"Gone are the "good ol' days", our kids now have standardized tests, persuasive writing, and sight words ad nauseum. I constantly see news segments and articles about the loss of recess, the stress on our kids and the lack of social-emotional lessons in the classroom. It is OUR job as teachers to sneak these things back in our daily routine.

Teachers are under so much pressure...but I don't need to tell you that. There is no need to list out all our stressors. I know all my readers are well aware. We are SUPERHEROES! Since we wear invisible capes, we can not only meet the academic, curricular and administrative needs, we can also meet the social-emotional needs of our students as well.  The good news is, with today's resources and technology, it's not as hard as you might think."

Each child is different. Each child is special, and each child has special individualized needs. There is no cookie cutter child. Let me say that again, THERE IS NO COOKIE CUTTER CHILD. This isn't your Mama's classroom, Homie. It's okay if you have a child who doesn't fit the mold or has different needs from the rest of your class. Your main objective is making sure EVERY child can learn, no matter their behavior.

So, how do you accommodate that special child's behavioral needs?! It is important to be firm and loving at the same time. The even balance can be hard at times, but if you stick with it....I promise the results will bring tears to your eyes.

I participated in a Georgia State University doctoral study for Positive Behavior Tactics and I learned a lot. Below are some suggestions. These are ideas I have implemented in my classroom and have proven to work.

1. Classroom Rules:
Make sure your classroom rules are developmentally appropriate. I have three rules. The rules are called the “We Care” rules: 1. Take care of yourself 2. Take care of others 3. Take care of our things. Keep it basic and black and white. Four-year-olds don’t understand the gray area. Every single rule falls under those three categories. Have the discussion with your class. “What does it mean to take care of yourself? How can you take care of yourselves?” Make sure your students understand your expectations and stick to them! Don’t let the rules change with your daily changing moods. If your children understand the rules and WHY we have the rules (“to keep you safe”) then they will WANT to follow them. Yes, I said WANT! Download my "We Can Rules"
(click image below)

2. Be Positive!
This one is so important.
“..Verbally acknowledge a child following a rule four times for every one time you remind a child who is not following a classroom rule.”
Look for the positive behaviors in your classroom, instead of constantly looking for the children who are not following the rules. For example, your students are sitting on the carpet listening to a story. You notice (or hear) a couple of students not doing what they are supposed to. Instead of saying “Bobby, you are not sitting crisscross applesauce!” You need to find that student who is sitting properly and say with extreme excitement, “Oh my goodness, I LOVE how Mickey is sitting SO still and quiet…WOW I am super impressed!” Quickly you will notice all the children check how they are sitting and self-correct.

3. Don’t give empty threats.
Don’t make any promises you can’t keep! “If you hit your friend one more time, you are going to the office!” Don’t say it unless you are going to follow through. Doing this is a quick way to teach your students that you are a push over and you don’t mean what you say.

4. Be proactive.
Plan for bad behavior. I have learned that ALL is possible. If you have a child who has a hard time sitting and paying attention on the carpet, give them an active job to do during carpet time. One year I had a child who wanted all the attention on them. So, I let that child be our DJ. Every time we played a song, that child’s job was to press play. He felt a sense of responsibility and he took his job very seriously. If you know that two children might not get along, don’t sit them by each other. 

Use a picture schedule that the students can manipulate as the day goes on. Make sure you incorporate bathroom breaks and brain breaks into your picture schedule as well. It helps children behave when they know what to expect each day. On days that we have an assembly or other schedule changes, we sit down during our morning meeting and change the schedule to fit that day. I used Cara Carroll's FREE picture cards. There are 100+ cards! JACKPOT! Download them by clicking image below.

5. Teach students social problem-solving skills.
Teach your children how to solve their own problems. In my classroom, I have a poster with problem-solving ideas. Teach them what they can do when a friend takes a toy. Teach them to stand up for themselves and use their words instead of their hands to communicate. Vanderbilt's Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning has TONS of resources for primary aged children. Check their website out by clicking image below.

My favorite resource is the problem-solving cue cards. If you introduce these as a lesson, model the behaviors listed and use teachable moments to reinforce, your students will be problem solving independently in no time! Click the image to download!
6. Hold your students accountable.
Remember to try and stay as positive as possible. Give them an incentive so they WANT to behave. I like to use whole group behavior rewards. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest. Here are some of my favorites that have shown success in my classroom: (Images are linked to their creators for further reading and explanation)

I love the ten frame concept!

I use this but cookies, when it's full we get a cookie party!

My kids LOVE this one!

It's also important to keep track of behavior daily and communicate classroom behavior with parents. When I first started teaching at my school, teachers had the old fashioned traffic light. I love the updated version that allows students to move up. It really helps me focus on positive behavior throughout the day. It is my personal goal as a teacher to get every student to pink at least once. Here are superhero themed ones I made and use this year in my classroom. Don't forget the communication calendars to go with it! The students LOVE it!

7. Get to know your students. TALK TO THEM!
This one is most important. Get to know the families and the students. There is no such thing as a “bad child”. Children misbehave because they are reacting to certain situations in their life. "The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways" (I have this framed by my desk). Change, stress, lack of sleep, and more can lead to bad choices in the classroom. Perhaps they have been conditioned to behave this way. Your job is to teach them how to act in social situations. They may be able to act that way at home, but if they are going to succeed in the social world, they need to learn what is socially acceptable, and what is not. I tell every student that I love them and I care about them. Most people (adult and children) just need to know someone cares.

Don't let the stress and paperwork of teaching let you forget the reason you went into teaching...the kids! Our kids need social/emotional lessons like never before. Don't let these important life skills take a back seat in your classroom. Don't forget, you are shaping the future. Go get em! 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Journey to the Land of Math Journals!

Every August, I have these grand ideas for the upcoming school year (Yes, in Georgia we start school in August). I get so excited to implement the new things I have learned. This year, it was math journals AKA interactive notebooks. This summer I trolled on Pinterest and Teacher's Pay Teachers in search of all the best ideas for my kinders.

It's September and we have been in school for some 30 odd days. Our math journals are going great! The kids LOVE the fact that they have their own journal to write in. They take pride and ownership of their journals. The kids call them their superhero journals because they have superheroes on the cover (our class theme). 

Check out my journal labels on TPT

Right now at the beginning of the school year, we are using the journals as review and practice. The children complete a page after each lesson to solidify the concept taught. So far we have covered numbers 1-10 and shapes. Creating a solid foundation of  number sense is really crucial at the beginning of kindergarten. That's why I created this number of the day activity for numbers 1-10. 

Next, we are going to dive into composing and decomposing numbers. I plan on creating another Number of the Day sheet to use once the kids have outgrown the one previous mentioned. Stay tuned for more on Math Journals. I plan on blogging and documenting my progression as I journey into the land of Math Journals. 

A special thanks to Ketchen's Kindergarten for all her FREE math journal resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. Visit her store by clicking below!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Brain Breaks: The Key to Mental Stamina and Retention

Kindergarten is not what it used to be. Kindergarten has certainly evolved since I was five. I'm showing my age, but I was a kindergartner in 1990. The time of The Letter People, Lisa Frank, "real recces", neon shoestring bows, slap bracelets, and a really cool splatter paint accessories. The most exciting things I can remember from kindergarten were my teacher's blue mood ring, ice cream Fridays and closing my eyes on the swing. Man, those were the cool ol' days.

Kindergarten in the 90s

Gone are the "good ol' days", our kids now have standardized tests, persuasive writing, and sight words ad nauseum. I constantly see news segments and articles about the loss of recess, the stress on our kids and the lack of social-emotional lessons in the classroom. It is OUR job as teachers to sneak these things back in our daily routine.

Teachers are under so much pressure...but I don't need to tell you that. There is no need to list out all our stressors. I know all my readers are well aware. We are SUPERHEROES! Since we were invisible capes, we can not only meet the academic, curricular and administrative needs, we can also meet the social-emotional needs of our students as well.  The good news is, with today's resources and technology, it's not as hard as you might think.

Let's start this journey with "brain breaks". Brain breaks are an easy and fun way to bring excitement back into your classroom. What are brain breaks? Brain breaks are short mental breaks that allow children to get out of the seats. Brain breaks are crucial not only for positive behavior in your classroom but also for academic performance. Let's be honest, I have taken several brain breaks while writing this posting!!

We all know that exercise is important, but did you know it also makes you smarter? Brain breaks not only cure the wiggles, but they also increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and increases the birth of new brain cells! Julie U. Adams from the Washington Post states:

"...children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active..."

Brain Break Time!

Now let's talk downtime. I long await the forty minutes when my kindergartners go to specials. I will just sit still for a couple of minutes and decompress. Some days, I don't have that time because there is SO much to do. On those days with zero downtime, I hurt mentally at the end of the day. Can you relate?! After a long day at work, I can't wait to get home, sit in front of the tv (with my dog Brantley and cat Poppins) and drink a nice hot cup of tea. We NEED that downtime!

Brantley and Poppins need downtime too. 
Well, guess what?!?! Kids need that downtime too! Hallie Smith, MA CCC-SLP from Scientific Learning explains:

"...brain researchers have discovered sets of scattered brain regions that fire in a synchronized way when people switch to a state of mental rest, such as daydreaming. These “resting-state networks” help us process our experience, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, regulate our attention and emotions, keep us productive and effective in our work and judgment, and more..."

I know, I know...but what about time. We never have enough time! Well, I have good only takes 2-5 minutes! Once you notice the benefits of break breaks, you will FIND TIME! I mean think about the time it takes to get your students on task. Just replace that wasted time with brain breaks!

There are lots of ideas and resources for brain breaks! The following are my suggestions:

1. GoNoodle
My favorite resource! You can create your own account here. Once you create an account you can earn points. Once you have 10 points your avatar (champs) grows stronger.
2. YouTube
You can also create a YouTube account and create playlists. There are so many resources on YouTube. You can check out my playlists to get you started. Why not learn while you dance?!

3. Turn and Talk- Don't most all students love to talk. I do a lot of "turn and talk" in my classroom. You can turn and talk about anything!

  • Morning Meeting: When all of your students have an "important" story to tell, but there isn't enough time. "Turn and tell your partner what you did this weekend."
  • Story Time: I will have my students turn and talk before a story to make a prediction, during a story to reflect, or after a story to discuss their favorite part. 
  • Lesson Review and Formative Assessment: I also have my students turn and talk after a lesson. "Turn and tell your partner about the difference between living and non-living animals."
  • Writing Workshop: Have students talk about writing is so important. "Turn and tell your partner what you are going to write about."

So are you going to use brain breaks in your classroom!??! Do you already use brain breaks in your classroom? Share your favorite ideas, resources and strategies below! I would love to hear from you! 

Washington Post:
Scientific Learning:
Brit + Co:
Abrams Learning Trends:
Ruby Bows:
GoNoodle: www.gonoodlecom