A Fun Activity For Learning Letters/Sounds

I have to share something super exciting for me - my class is doing amazingly awesome in learning their letters and sounds! Right before our break I did an ELQA assessment (our district adopted ELQA for our pre-k classes) on all of my kiddos. ELQA assesses upper and lower case letter recognition, rhyme recognition and production, letter sound knowledge as well as receptive and expressive vocabulary. Not only is my class on target, I have some pre-k kiddos who will make their kindergarten teachers weep tears of joy!

As I was assessing letter and sound recognition, I could tell that one activity we do is having a huge impact! Many of my students would look at a letter and shout out "B is for Braylon!" or "P is for Parker!" and were then able to make the corresponding sound. This all ties back to a power point show I made at the beginning of the year to help us learn everyone's names and to help everyone recognize at least the first letter of their name.

I took a picture of each of my kiddos in front of a black board with the alphabet card with the first letter of their name:
As an example, this is my son Tommy, so for him we would say "T is for Tommy, turtle and toothbrush /t/ /t/  T."

At the beginning of the year I only had my students' pictures in the show.  I have several kiddos whose names begin with J, K or L but we would do each of them the same way "J is for Jack, jam and jellybeans  /j/ /j/  J." followed by the same thing for Jace and Joslynn.

Once we knew all of our freinds names and were starting to pick up the 12 or so letters in the show, I started adding pictures for the other letters. I started with my sons because my students are familiar with them, then added my assistant, Ms. Davis for D. Inevitably though, I had letters that I couldn't match up with anyone.

That's when I took pictures of just the alphabet cards and then added a cartoon character to the picture on my computer. This is HoHo from the cartoon Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. I tried to use cartoon characters that my students were familiar with, which meant a bit of stalking Nickjr and PBS Kids. So we still had each of the students' slides, but now we had a slide for every letter of the alphabet!

We watch this on the Smartboard at least once a day - sometimes more often if we have a few minutes of transition time to fill. This, combined with letter activities from my Alphabet Letter Sounds Pack and my Alphabet Emergent Readers was really helping my kiddos recognize letter. But, seeing the same pictures can get boring after a while, and some of my kiddos were starting to "tune out". So I decided to throw in some random, seasonal friends to renew my students' interest:

Santa and Olaf were added, as well as Frosty, the Grinch and Rudolph!

My students LOVED these new characters, and were once again enthralled for the whole 3or so  minutes of the show.  Obviously once we come back in January,  Santa & friends will have to move on, but in their place will be Tacky the penguin! I'll be updating the show throughout the rest of the year as well - I'm thinking a groundhog, Cupid, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for February, leprechauns and Dr. Seuss characters in March etc. 

So there we are - a fun way to expose your students to letters and sounds,  but the key is keeping it fresh throughout the year. The great thing is that it takes just a few minutes to add in another slide or delete old ones, so keeping the slide show updated is not a big chore, yet it really makes a big impact!

Why Have An Elf On the Shelf In The Classroom?

How to Make an Elf on the Classroom Shelf Educational! 

There's been some controversy about the Elf on the Shelf. There's some question as to the benefit of having one in the classroom. I decided to post about what our elf did in the days prior to our winter break - check it out:

In order to get an Elf in our classroom we had to write Santa and persuade him to send us one:

Santa sent him the next day - wrapped up in an icy cold box. The children immediately deduced that the box had to be from Santa because it's cold at the North Pole (and our Oklahoma weather was warm at the time)!

He picked some fun hiding places around the room - and the kids were always so excited to find him each morning - it really set the tone for the rest of the day to start with that enthusiasm!

You can see that he chose to hide by the letter "I" - coincidentally, that is a letter many of my students didn't know when I assessed them. By the end of the day, that statistic had changed :) 

The day that he chose to hang out on our Reading Center canopy, the number of children who chose that center skyrocketed, and they came back all week, even once he had moved to another place! The children explored so many of our books and had great conversations comparing books, "reading" them to each other and having my assistant read to them!

His hiding place on our Smartboard speaker wasn't as inspired - he slipped down behind the board twice! The kids were convinced of his magic when he managed to get himself back up while we were out to recess though!

He always left a note, sometimes in his hiding place like when he was on the rocket, sometimes just under a table or on a chair. Finding the letter was part of the fun! And his letters always mentioned classroom behavior - positives & negatives (without naming names!) and encouraged kindness and following procedures.

He also always sent a present:

The kids loved this notepad and special pen! They practiced writing their numbers, letters and names in their spare time all week!

These "magic spheres" helped reinforce that 3d shape term, and encouraged sensory exploration! Note that putting a lid on the box was not a good idea - they soon turn moldy without the air circulating!

The kids loved this "Gift of the North Pole" and used their inferring skills to figure out that the white powder must somehow turn to snow! Although it was too squishy to create much with, they enjoyed scooping it into our buckets and making small towers!

He also brought us 2 floor puzzles - Llama Llama, and Pete the Cat! Coincidentally, my kiddos were ready to move on to puzzles with more pieces and these are 2 of our favorite book characters....
He also left us red and green crystal growing kits! Following the directions, measuring the amount of water and observing the results was all great fun (and hit some key concepts!)

I'm so happy Chippy came to visit us - and that we were able to incorporate so much learning into his stay! I've also created a set of 24 notes for an Elf to bring to the classroom! This pack comes with a writing paper with lines and space to draw, and the Elf Request letter pictured at the top of this post. You can grab Letters From An Elf in my TPT store!


Last Day Before Winter Break! (freebies)

We had a fantastic day on Friday - our last day before our 2 week Winter Break!

I handed out my teammates' gifts: hand sanitizer with a cute saying from my creative husband. Grab the free tags here!
In the morning we had an assembly where my class performed my new favorite Christmas song! It's "Santa's Coming" by Bounce Patrol - they are children's entertainers from Melbourne, Australia. They have some AWESOME youtube videos for shapes and letters that you should check out!

We also had an Ugly Sweater contest for the teachers. Here was mine:

 We all tied for 1st place based on the applause from students :)

Next some of us got together to perform "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" as it has Oklahoma roots! I got "voluntold" to be the hippo, but I think I rocked it :)

Once we got to the classroom, we kept the holiday atmosphere going with Holiday Goldfish sorting & patterning during Math:

We sorted first, then each student had to create an AB and AABB pattern before getting the green light to start eating! Grab the sorting sheet here.

 This little cutie decided to build her pattern all around the paper!

At the end of the day we had our party. I had asked parents to send in sugar cookies, icing, sprinkles and small candies. First we created our Christmas trees using sugar cones (oh wow, is that a 3d shape we're getting hands on practice with?!)

Each child got their own container with frosting, their own M&Ms and a spoon to use for licking spreading.
 Big thanks to Maria at Kinder Craze for the inspiration!

Next we decorated our sugar cookies! I allowed my kiddos to explore the materials as much as they wanted:
This little guy loved the sprinkles - and using a whole container on two cookies might be a bit extreme at home, but during a holiday party it's perfectly fine!

This "Grinch" cookie was simultaneously sweet & scary!

The funniest part was that most of the children refused to eat their creations - the decorating was all they were interested in and after licking their fingers they were perfectly content to forgo actually eating their sugar-laden creations. Luckily I had some ziploc baggies so I could send all that sugar home to be consumed during our break! (muhahaha!) 

Now I'm home, getting ready for the holidays with my own 5 children - and planning for all the fun we'll have in January at school - I love penguins!!

Elf on The Shelf & Gingerbread!

This week we've had a lot of fun with our Elf on the Shelf! We watched the dvd of An Elf's Story on Monday and wrote letters to Santa asking for an elf for our classroom. Since my littles are just 4 and 5, I gave them a template for their letter to help them out - I think they are fabulous!

This is a picture of ME (on the left) drawing a picture of the elf on our Smartboard! And yes, that's about how my elf looked - I always tell my kids that I'm not the best at drawing, but I still TRY my best lol. 

When our elf arrived on Tuesday - in a freezing cold, gift wrapped box - the kids quickly jumped to the conclusion that the gift MUST be from Santa! I love it when they can make connections like that! We read the story and then voted on a name. We went with what we knew this year and named him Chippy, just like in the movie lol.

Chippy balanced on top of our Smartboard speakers on Wednesday....and got knocked down TWICE when I bumped the board. Luckily he righted himself when we left the room each time, but I told him he had to start choosing safer hangouts!

Chippy doesn't play tricks on us, instead he brings us things for the classroom. On Wednesday he showed up with "magic spheres" that expanded in water - great for getting that 3d shape practice, plus the kids loved exploring them in Science Center so they were a sensory treat as well!

On Thursday he brought us notepaper and a special pen and asked us to write him letters! As kids had time throughout the day they were allowed to get a note and practice writing their name or Chippy's name or any letters around the room. The special pen made it even better and they all took turns to use it :)

On Friday he brought us  Pete the Cat and Llama llama floor puzzles for our puzzle center! He also hung out on top of our Reading Center canopy - much safer!

I'm not sure what he'll be up to on Monday, but you can find great science ideas at Dollar Tree ;)

We also spent the week creating this bulletin board display:
The kids collected the sticks during recess and we talked about graduated order and how the sticks are lomg on the bottom of the tree and get shorter towards the top.  The ornaments were made by patterning holiday scrapbook paper and the snowflakes are handprints!

We're keeping the Gingerbread them going too - we've read several versions of The Gingerbread Boyas well as Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends .

 We tasted Gingerbread too:
Not only had most of my kiddos never tasted a gingerbread cookie, most of them took their cookie's head off in the first bite!

We love matching our ten frames and numeral cards from my Christmas Ten Frames pack - those little gingerbread cookies are too adorable and the kids can't get enough of them!

We're also still working on our Gingerbread Math Readers:
I love introducing the reader in the pocket chart since it helps so much with Print Concepts. Many of my littles come to me with zero knowledge about reading and doing pocket chart stories like these help us nail down print directionality, and one to one correspondence between spoken word and printed word.

This next week we'll be finishing up our Gingerbread Unit, making a TON of handprint crafts and somehow squeeze in a visit from Santa, a class party AND a performance at our final assembly of the year! I can't wait!

Gingerbread Factory! (Freebies!)

We're going into week 2 of our gingerbread unit and we have been having so much fun! Take a look at the transformation of our Dramatic Play Center:

When I told my students that we would be transforming our Dramatic Play area, they came up with a list of items that they would need. Top on their list was a sign (they love reading this Environmental Print freebie). I drafted my daughter to make it for us and the kids were thrilled with it!

We added some simple cooking items from Walmart and the Dollar Tree, to convert our regular kitchen. The key to this was to provide real items - the engagement level shot through the roof when real bowls and wooden spoons were used versus the toy plastic ones.

The recipe book is also a must - the kids loved learning about following a recipe, and I love that they come over to have me taste their creations and say "I put some vanilla in this one!" or "Does it have enough cinnamon?" We are really expanding our vocabularies!

 Over the course of 3 days we rotated everyone through the center at least once so they could "bake a gingerbread cookie":
We used sequins, buttons, pom poms, stickers and lots of glitter and glue! Once we had all made a cookie, the cash register came out and it was time to purchase those cookies! Now we choose and pay for a cookie and then sit and eat it at the table while the "waitstaff" hover nearby, pushing more cookies!
We'll keep our factory open for another week - making more cookies and having a ton of fun ordering and paying for them! The best part about the center is hearing the interaction between the children and I'll often hear them break into song (we're practicing this Gingerbread Cookie song for our concert) or start reciting the lines from one of our Gingerbread Readers!

Come back tomorrow to see what we've been doing in math with our gingerbread theme! 

Now, on to the freebies!

First, the 2014 Winter Holidays Tips & Freebies Ebook is out! My contribution is on page 26 :) This is a must-grab because there are 50 pages of tips and freebies!

Next, a flash freebie for the next 2 hours! My new Gingerbread Rhymes pack! I had to use these adorable little gingies and what better way than with some rhyming practice?! Go grab it now and remember to leave some feedback love!

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