Good-bye Rhymes - FREEBIE!

Hi all! Just checking in tonight to let you know 2 things.  First, call me a proud mama because my middle son won the school Science Fair tonight with his experiment on viscosity!

Second, I updated a freebie I've had in my TPT store forever. It was one of my first products, so it needed some revamping in terms of fonts and clipart. It's one of my favorite things though! It's 20 rhyming ways to say good-bye - everything from "Give a hug, ladybug!" to "Out the door, dinosaur!". I try to incorporate rhyming into as many parts of our day as I can, because its so important for my kiddos to hear it - especially my ELLs. To support my non-readers, each farewell has a matching image. I hang these by my back door, and as I dismiss, each child indicates which way they want me to say good-bye to them. The kids love these playful phrases and its another way to create that positive classroom environment! To grab your free copy, just click the picture!

Have a great Friday!

Top 10 Reasons to Stop At Ikea

For Spring Break this year we hit San Antonio, TX! It's about a six hour drive from us, but it has so many things to do! First up was Sea World, because they offer a FANTASTIC military discount (and to be real, with only a military salary, teacher pay and 5 kids, if we don't get discounts we can't afford to go, so I'm always super grateful to companies that honor our military service members like that!) My husband might be deploying this summer (something he's already dreading seeing as little Sullivan would turn 2 while he was gone and right now Sully is all about his Daddy - my husband hates to miss out on time when the kids are little, and since Sully is our last baby, a deployment right now would suck as in S-U-C-K) so we wanted to take a nice vacation during Spring Break in case he's gone this summer.
Here's Daddy and Sully with a shark!

But, anyways. We hit Sea World which was a ton of fun - Sully loves anything aquatic so we had a great time. Then Daddy and the big kids hit up Six Flags and I got to spend Mama-Baby time with Sully at the San Antonio Zoo which was AMAZING. Sully especially liked feeding the koi fish - I think, if I had brought enough quarters, he could have done that all day long lol! On our last day we stopped at the Alamo. On the ride to San Antonio I read aloud a few books about the Alamo so the kids were aware of the historical significance and even I learned somethings I didn't know before!
Sully eating popcorn at the Zoo!

Then it was time to strap in for the 6 hour car ride home. Except, I really, really wanted to stop at Ikea. If you've never been, you need to go! When we were stationed in Germany we went frequently - eating Swedish meatballs with ligonberry sauce at the restaurant and buying tons of fun, inexpensive furnishings. Now that we're stationed in Oklahoma, the nearest Ikea is 3 hours away in Dallas and I don't get to go nearly as often as I would like (that's probably a good thing!) But, on this occasion I convinced my sweetie and the kids that I had to stop at the Ikea in Round Rock, Tx.

Normally I could spend hours roaming Ikea, but due to the fact we still had a 5 hour drive ahead of us at that point, I cut my shopping down to just 70 minutes! I think that might be a record, and if so I would like a ribbon rather than a trophy please. So, here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Reasons To Stop At Ikea:

(disclaimer: I didn't buy everything pictured - some of it I already had from previous Ikea trips! I also am not an Ikea affiliate and get no kick back whatsoever from blogging about their products, I just like to share great ideas with you!)

These play tents would be great in a reading corner! (just hot glue the doors open so you can see what's going on inside at all times) Sully has the circus tent and loves it! And at just $19.99 its a great deal!

Need inexpensive classroom furniture? This table and chairs is in my Housekeeping Center and is the perfect size! My first one lasted 4 years of rough classroom use, so this summer I bought another set! The set with table and two chairs is just $19.99 so that's a steal!

 Can you beat $14.99 for an easel?? I think not!

 Speaking of art, $1.49 for a set of 6 brushes is amazing! 

 These peg boards and beads total $7.99 - that is a phenomenal deal compared to a Hobby store! And, its great find motor practice!

You cannot beat the prices for Ikea's wooden train sets. I picked up 3 extra sets of track because setting up the train track is great for teaching teamwork and engineering! Their basic 20 piece set is only $9.99, with additional sets as low as $6.99 for track or $3.99 for a 3 piece train!

 An abacus is a must in your Math Center as it demonstrates so many number sense concepts. At just $9.99 its about $10 cheaper than a similar one on Amazon!

 I love these ice cube trays! They're great for making fun shaped cubes for your sensory table! At just 99 cents, they're a guilt-free purchase!

Need inexpensive finger puppets (who doesn't?!)? Check out this set of 10 animals for just $4.99! I bought this plate holder to use as a fun display/storage for them too, it was just $3.99 and will keep my Puppet Center neat while allowing my kiddos to find the puppets they want easily! The other set of puppets came with the cardboard castle "stage" and was only $4.99

 These carpets are awesome and only $14.99! I have the first one on the rack in my Block Center and it helps keep the noise of falling blocks to a minimum at the same time as encouraging some pretend driving on the "streets".

 Don't you love these frames? Just 99 cents and I can put them at tables to hold "I Can" cards at center time! I only wish they came in more colors! (hint, hint Ikea peeps!)

This set of forest animal cookie cutters will be fabulous in our Play Dough Center and was only $2.99!

Okay, so technically that was 12 things...they were all so great I couldn't cut two out! Sully also ran off with the little mice I bought - super cute, soft plush mice in gray, brown and white - I grabbed them with a vague idea of using them for 3 Blind Mice or some such. Sully loves them though, so I will let him keep his "mousies". At just 99 cents each they're worth every penny of seeing him play with them so sweetly!

So, if you happen to be close to an Ikea, now you have an idea of what to look for while you're there!

Using Call Backs After Spring Break (FREEBIE!)

As much as teachers look forward to Spring Break, I think we equally dread going back afterwards. We know that routines and procedures will have to be retaught, because for 9 days our kiddos have  been allowed to stay up late and run wild. They'll come back to us full of stories of their break (even if its just a retelling of their latest video game adventures). Many of them will also come back over-tired, emotionally drained (for those flipping between divorced parents over the break) and just not all that keen on sitting still and listening.  Rather than dread that first week back, plan to reteach procedures and introduce some new Call Backs or Attention Getters.

Call backs are only as effective as the teacher using them. If you use and reuse the same one all the time, it loses its effectiveness. If you feel silly saying it, chances are the kids will pick up on that and respond less enthusiastically. And of course, if you're bored, the kids will definitely be bored! So with that in mind, its important to find several call backs that you feel comfortable with, and rotate them so they don't get stale. To help you out, I've compiled a list of my favorites:

Just click on a picture to download them for free!
Special thanks to Fun For Learning for the cute frames & backgrounds!

Leprechaun Fun & a Freebie!

Silly McGilly came to our classroom this week and the kids loved him! Of course they made the inevitable connection to Elf On The Shelf, but they liked the fact that we could touch the Silly McGilly doll. Many of them had never heard about leprechauns, so they were thrilled with the idea of a new magical character. The instructions in the book say to place the doll on the windowsill if you want Silly McGilly to visit, so that's what we did:

Our window blinds are permanently closed (because they're so old that opening and closing is now beyond their capabilities) so we set Silly down underneath the "L" for leprechaun of course! There he sat...until Silly McGilly played a trick...

 Like bringing us a new rug and tablecloth for our Housekeeping Center!

 Or making a Rainbow of Rice in our Sensory Table!

There were shiny gold pieces too (glass gens spray painted gold) that were labeled with upper or lower case letters or numbers!
I made special mats to hold our "treasure" and depending on who went to the center, I changed up our "game" by asking them to find all of the letter gold or number gold depending if they needed more help with number recognition or letter sounds. This is just one of the ways I try to differentiate my centers so that I can get some targeted practice in for each student, no matter which center they choose to play at!

Silly brought us some new St. Patrick's Day Roll & Cover games as well, along with some beans that had been painted green on one side and left white on the other side. These replaced our usual counters and one student was the white side while the other student used the green side.

We made some leprechaun hats, but Silly thought they were for him, so he shrank them to make them fit! He left us some pencils in a rainbow bucket to make up for it though.(inspired by this pin)

 He left us some pot of gold mats for our Play Dough Center too. The kids had a lot of fun making the correct number of "gold pieces" to go into each pot!

 He left us some baggies of "magic green gel" to go with our St. Patrick's Day Alphabet Match-Up cards. He even found the 3 matches for "S"!

The most fun though, happened when Silly left us this note:

Silly hung out in the lounge until the kids went to breakfast, then he snuck outside with his rocks.

 Silly left the "special rocks" all over our playground! (I made a pasty dough of baking soda, green food coloring and water and hid gold coins inside, inspired by this pin)

The kids had a blast searching for them - the rule was, once they found one, they brought it back to where the Silly McGilly doll had been placed inside a shallow tub with a bottle of "water" (aka vinegar).

Once all of the kids had found a "special rock", we poured the "water" over the rocks, and they started to fizz! The kids were super excited and we got to use some great vocabulary like "predict", "dissolve", and "reaction"; as well as "Wow!" "Gold!" and "That is so cool!"

The kids took turns playing in the resulting green sludge, fishing out the gold coins! Each child took home a "lucky coin" from Silly McGilly!

I overheard one little sweetie say "I love Silly McGilly!" and another agreed with her "He's so nice to do all of this stuff for us. I wish we could do something for him!" So they decided to draw him pictures at our Writing Center:
Here's Silly outside the house while my student is sleeping in her room.

And here's Silly at the beach, swimming in the ocean. Love the belly button! My kiddos have recently begun tracing various objects when drawing, thus Silly's perfectly rounded head and rectangular body lol!

All in all, it was one of the most fun weeks we've had - and the best way to launch our Spring Break vacation! If you'd like a copy of the St. Patrick's Day Sensory Table mats, just click here to find them for free in my TPT store!

Writing on Windows - Behavior Management Strategy

Are your students as squirrely as mine are getting?! Between snow days, rainy days, and cold days, there hasn't been a lot of opportunity for my kiddos to get outside very often the last 2 weeks. I've had to pull a few rabbits out of my hat to keep them quiet and still in the hallways - especially while waiting in line for the restroom. Inevitably, while I'm watching the kids in the hallway, the ones in the bathroom start playing. When I go in to hurry those kids along, the ones in the hallway start talking. It was a vicious circle and I was the only one not having fun. You know you gotta change it up when you start dreading a routine part of your day!

So, I brought along a box of our Expo dry erase markers and those little magnetic dry erase marker erasers that you find at Target's $ Spot. The kids were of course curious about why I had markers with me. The first time, I just got out a marker and started to write letters and words. Then I showed them the little eraser (they generally have to erase their dry erase boards with a sock) and how it could erase the marker right off the window so that our custodians never know that we're writing on the windows! (I did test the markers on an inconspicuous area first - and I've only tried Expo brand, so make sure yours erase cleanly off glass before doing this!)

My kids were enthralled! Next, I invited the two kids with the best line procedure to come and write on the window with me. You guessed it, next thing I knew that line was as silent as tomb and you'd think all of my students were standing guard duty in front of Buckingham Palace!

Now, each time we go down the hallway, I bring along the box of markers! I choose 4 students - 2 girls and 2 boys - and then call out letters, sounds, numbers or words. The great thing is that I can differentiate so that I can focus on what each group needs to practice as they come up to the window. Generally, since they ALL want a chance at the window, I can call homogenous groups, and have my lower kiddos practice writing their letters while my higher kiddos might write word families on their turn. If you're not lucky enough to have huge windows, try taking along a dry erase board or two any time you're in the hallway for an extended length of time. Its amazing how novelty will totally engage your kiddos and prevent those behavior problems!

Inside the classroom, I've brought out our magnets. This summer, when my district was purchasing items for my new pre-k classroom, they had me make a wishlist. Then they started to cut things from the list. Finally it was down to "Here's what we bought you, we know there's still stuff on your list but the money's almost gone. Is there anything left on the list that you really can't live without?"

And I fought for my magnets! In the end I got the entire set of Magnet Discovery Centers from Lakeshore Learning. I also got the Magnet Cars and a set of 12 Magnet Wands. If I had to go back and choose again, I'd make the same decision! My kiddos love them, and are making so many great connections!
I have to tell you, my first inclination was to set out 4 wands at the Science Center and put the other 8 up. I only let 4 kids go to the center at once, so why have more wands out that that? Well, I'm so glad I put the extra wands out! The kids have discovered that putting the wands together creates a stronger magnetic force and that's led to all kinds of interesting experiments. This little guy was using 3 wands put together to "push" the purple wand across the table!

Finally, have to show you what happened last Friday! We had snow. Lots of it (well at least for Oklahoma). But of course it began snowing AFTER school had started, so we still had a full day. Parents were coming by the droves to pick up their kids early and by 3pm I only had 2 little girls left. The 1st grade teacher down the hall was down to one lonely kiddo, so she asked if her student could come in and play in my room.

For the first few minutes our new friend wandered the room, trying to take it all in. Then she spotted the Castle Blocks and her eyes got big. "Can I play with THOSE?" she asked. Of course I said yes, and she spent the next 20 or so minutes building. In fact, when they called down from the office to say that her mom was there to pick her up, she refused to leave until she had used the very last block. I just loved how creative she was and loved the proof that these blocks are engaging for bigger girls too!

I'm off to create some St. Patrick's Day magic! Have a great week!