Saturday, September 3, 2016

Back to School!

Whoa! Thank goodness its September! I feel like a hamster that got caught on its wheel! August is always so crazy with back to school season!

This year I looped up from pre-k to K with most of my class. It made it so much easier to teach procedures and expectations, because 11 out of 18 kiddos already had our routines down pat and just needed a refresher! Of course, there is a down side to looping too - the kids have already heard all the songs, done all the dances, played with all the toys etc. So this year I really relied on Oriental Trading to help me change things up in the classroom! OT was kind enough to send me some products in exchange for an honest review - I've used everything in my classroom!

First up, an It's My Birthday Cape! In past years I've handed out the twisty straws with cute toppers, but I recently read that some of them can contain harmful chemicals. Rather than try to figure out which ones are okay, I opted to go with a birthday cape for the child to wear for the whole day. I had 3 birthdays during the 2nd week of school, and the kids loved the cape! It has a velcro closure, and sits low about the shoulders so it doesn't pull on their necks :)

ABCs Rubber Duckies - oh my goodness! Can they get any cuter?! Not only do I love them, so do the kids! I used these to help review the alphabet, then placed them in Letter Center for the kids to explore and they have had a blast trying to put them in ABC order, finding the ducks that spell their name and matching the ducks to different objects that start with the letter on the duck. I think I'll go ahead and buy a second set, so that we can use them to form even more words!

I love this All About The Number pocket chart! I added it into our calendar time, for a quick daily number sense review! The tens frame and tally mark part are dry erase, so each day I have students come up and fill them out according to our number of the day. One of the 1st grade teachers came in and saw it and loved it since her students last year struggled with "one more, one less" and this chart teaches that concept easily!

What makes playdough even more fun AND helps justify it to admin? Counting Mats! These are laminated mats so the play dough doesn't stick, and the kids love how colorful the mats are. These are also great conversation sparkers, so my students have been improving their vocabulary as they chat with each other about which mats they're working on!
For example, as this little sweetie was working on the #8 cookie jar mat, we talked about favorite flavors, times when we baked cookies and then worked on some number sense, counting how many cookies there were, how many were in the jar, how many were outside of the chair and how many would be left if some sneaky teacher ate 2!

Do you still teach 3d shapes? They took it out of our curriculum this year (which I found out AFTER I had gotten these 3D Geometric Shapes, grrr) I'm still going to use them, because while our Oklahoma standards only call for me to teach the 4 main 2d shapes, I feel my kiddos can handle more! These are great little manipulatives - and the box had more than enough for a complete set for all of my students! We're using them this week to learn sorting by more than one attribute!

And finally, this Following Directions Farm Game is perfect because next week we get to go on our first field trip of the year to the County Fair! It fits into my Farm Theme lesson plans so nicely, and I can use it in small groups and one on one! Not only is it great for the kids to practice following directions (put the cow next to the corn) it also helps them work on positional words! The thing I'm most looking forward to is getting my students talking after they have created their own scene with the cutouts. They're going to describe where they placed each figure and then practice giving each other directions based on the picture on the card!

Oriental Trading has definitely helped me start off the year on the right foot! I'm already looking at some more items to buy - my friend Kristen of Kristen's Kindergarten has been sharing some OT products in use on her Instagram page and has me saying "Oooh I need that!" lol!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shapes and Names and Glue

Are you back in school yet? We are! I looped up from Pre-K and got to keep 11 of my kiddos. I have a class size of 18 students - 8 girls and 10 boys. I wasn't 100% sure if I was doing Pre-K or K this year until a week before school started - so my room was in limbo all summer. It's still not 100%. but it's getting there. Friday was our 13th day and it was fabulous!

We've been talking about shapes this week in math (along with numbers and counting of course!) - specifically rectangles and triangles and the differences between them. My kids had a pretty tight handle on circles and squares, but they kept confusing rectangle and triangle, We've been drawing them on our Smartboard and dry erase boards, reading stories about them and singing some fun piggy-back songs about them:

Then I got out the craft sticks. I dyed them earlier this week since I could only find natural wood ones ($1.99 for 500 at Walmart!), and I wanted some color for this project!

I  divided the sticks into snack size baggies, added a tablespoon or two of rubbing alcohol and some drops of food coloring. Then I shook it all up, making sure the color spread evenly and spread the sticks on a baking sheet to dry.

I put a pile of each color in the middle of my tables and asked my students to use them to crate rectangles and triangles on black paper:

Once they had created their shapes, I handed out the glue. Yes, I had 18 bottles of glue going on Day 13 and NOT ONE accident or inappropriate usage! 

Check out how they turned out!

In the afternoon, we tackled our Torn Paper Names. I had written each child's name in pencil on a large piece of white construction paper. I allowed them to choose their own colors for this, so some chose only one color while others had two or more colors. Then they set to work, tearing the paper into pieces about the size of their thumbs.

This gave them a great fine motor workout, and let me see who will need more help in this area. Once they had torn a small pile of paper, I brought out the glue again! I know, twice in one day, I was feeling brave, but again, no accidents or inappropriateness - can I just say I have the BEST CLASS EVER?! I cut them out and displayed them in our hallway and I'm so pleased with how they turned out:

Now I'm off to plan my lessons for this week! Hope you have a great one!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

How To Use Oriental Trading Wishlists

Over the years, I've been blessed with supportive classroom parents. Those parents who don't mind sending in an extra box of Kleenex, or picking up some play dough when we run out. The ones who ask if they can buy something for our treasure box, or if we are running low on anything. Bless them! They make my job so much easier - saving me from having to run out to the store myself (and spending my own paycheck!)

Unfortunately, I've not always been the best at remembering what we need, or being able to produce a list right when parents ask. I've missed out on opportunities because I didn't have a way to quickly and easily communicate what our needs were. This year though, I have that problem solved!
I'm talking about the Wishlist feature over at Oriental Trading. I buy from OT for my classroom and my family all the time, so I know they have great prices and fun items. With their Wishlist feature, I can add items for my classroom to the list and direct parents straight to it. I included the link in my Meet the Teacher night powerpoint, in my Remind app announcements and also in our newsletter! One thing that I did was make a custom link - to make it easier for parents to type in the url and find my wishlist (just go to a site like or to make a short and sweet link that will be easy for parents to remember!)

This way, any time a parent feels like donating, they can go to the site and buy something for our class! I can also add things throughout the year, and remove items as we receive them. It takes just seconds for me to log in and add items to the list, and since the link never changes, I can leave it on my newsletter and not have to worry about it!

My wishlist is here, in case you want to see what I'm asking for currently. I received some free products in return for sharing my Wishlist with you. I use everything I mention in my classroom and always love OT products, and I know you'll love this feature, so I feel confident sharing this post with you!

I love their Rolls of Stickers - we use them as story starters - put a sticker on your page and write a sentence about it! I also give them to students who are working on task and following directions - they're great, inexpensive motivators.

This year I can't wait to use the Alphabet Rolls of Stickers! Look at this - a roll for each letter of the alphabet! There are 100 stickers per letter, so the possibilities are endless! As we study each letter, we will have a day where everyone wears the letter on their shirt! Another idea is to put the sticker on a sheet of paper and have students glue pictures that start with that letter in a collage!

The Mini Eraser Assortments are amazing! I've already used them this year! We had a sorting lesson where each group of students was given two big handfuls to sort. We then placed the erasers into pencil boxes. We keep the boxes at the front of our carpet as Fast Finishers activities - they sort them, pattern with them, and later in the year they'll use them to help with addition and subtraction!

I always do a Brown Bear unit at the beginning of the year - and check out all of the Brown Bear items Oriental Trading has! I love these 24 piece Brown Bear puzzles - just the right difficulty level for my students!

And the Eric Carle Animal Stress Balls are perfect for my friends who need some fine motor strengthening. I just hand them a ball and have them squeeze and play with it during calendar time or a read aloud!

I also have many items on my wishlist for my treasure box to use as small rewards. I love it when parents donate these items, because it saves my pocketbook and saves me from having to run to Walmart to refill the Treasure Box on Thursday nights! This Bubble Assortment drew gasps of joy from my students when I added them to the Treasure Box!

One of the items I'm really hoping some parents buy us is this Mega Stamper Assortment - it would be great for our Writing Center! Right now its on sale for just $16.98 for 100 pieces - think of all the stories that could start!

Can you just imagine the possibilities if you create your own Wishlist and get your parents (and PTA!) on board with funding some of the items you need for your classroom? It's great to pass the link on at church and on your social media sites too! Often times someone will be shopping for a birthday party or graduation, and need to buy one more thing in order to qualify for a free shipping deal or coupon code, and its so easy for them to just grab a little something from my wishlist!

Here's hoping that you have many generous parents this year who send a little OT goodness your way! I hope you all have a wonderful BTS Season!

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