Pirates & Painted Palette - Classroom Decor on the High Seas!

Creative Teaching Press Painted Palette Collection

Every year the teachers at my school vote on a school-wide theme for the next school year. We're free to decorate however we want within that theme, which allows us to express our own creativity while still showing a unified front. This year we decided to combine two themes for the 2015-2016 school year - Oceans and Pirates!

My brain was already percolating with all of the classroom decor choices I need to make, along with bulletin board ideas, when Creative Teaching Press contacted me and asked me to be one of their Exclusive Bloggers for 2015. I love CTP because it is a family-owned, teacher-managed company. This year they are celebrating their 50th Anniversary!

Part of being a CTP 2015 Exclusive Blogger is participating in Blog Hops like this one, where I get to show you some of my favorite CTP items that I'll be using in my classroom PLUS I get to host giveaways for CTP products! It's a winning situation all around!

Back in February, at the EdExpo 2015, I was able to get a look at some of CTP's new items and I fell in love with their Painted Palette collection. I love bright, bold colors, which the Painted Palette has, but what I love even more is being able to pick and choose which colors to use so that I can have my color without it being overwhelming!

With my Ocean/Pirate theme, I'm mainly going to go with the Turquoise, Poppy Red and Blue from the Painted Palette collection.

I'm going to use these Painted Palette Library Pockets to create a name chart for labels, puzzles and other name activities for each student. 

The cabinets in my classroom are painted a turquoise blue, my reading area canopy is also blue and my reading pillows and the covers of my crate seats are also blue! All of this blue is very calming, so I feel confident that I can add splashes of the poppy red to liven things up without being overwhelming. The Painted Palette Ombré Poppy Red Herringbone Nameplates will be used on our cubbies and in our Writing Center. The Painted Palette Poppy Red 2" Letter Stickers will go on my word walls, and of course the Painted Palette Ombré Poppy Red Scallops Labels can be used as nametags for the first week of school (so much better than having to pin on a nametag!) as well as to label different supplies around the room!
I love how you can overlap the Painted Palette Ombré Scallops Borders! I think I'll have to play around with the different combinations to really get my classroom boards to pop!

How adorable would a bulletin board display be with these Painted Palette Blue Ombré Scallops Borders? I'll have a pirate ship for each student and during the first week of school I can take a picture of each student in a pirate costume and add them to the helm of "their" ship! I'm thinking I can even have parents help them create their own ship's flag at our Back to School night! 

And, the rest of the Painted Palette colors match my table colors! I have that ubiquitous rug with squares in 5 colors - orange, blue, green, red and purple. I can use these Painted Palette Pennants to make a Welcome banner  AND to create table flags with the students' names on them!
If your school is anything like mine, you're expected to switch out your bulletin boards on a regular basis. I love, love, love the new seasonal items CTP has!The best part of course is that they coordinate with the poppy red I'll already have up - so I can layer a Peppermint Candies Border over top of Painted Palette Poppy Red Ombré Scallops Border! The adorable forest animals are from the Winter Woodland Friends collection while the ornaments are from the 'Tis The Season Mini-Bulletin Board set which also has a boy and girl elf that could be used as a classroom management strategy. Just put together the elves as the class gets behavior compliments and when the display is finished, they get a small treat - like the Merry & Bright stickers! And, if you use incentive charts or reading logs, your students will get a kick out of the Peppermint Candy Hot Spots Stickers! The Holiday Chart Cards will be perfect for listing my standards next to our bulletin board displays, and I think I can even use them to create the covers for a class book!

Now, here's the most exciting part of this post! You can win $50 worth of Creative Teaching Press products!! And, if you hop over and see my friend Amanda at The Primary Gal, you can check out what she's doing with the Chalk It Up! collection AND enter to win her giveaway for $50 worth of CTP Products! Then keep hopping to check out more classroom decor, check out bulletin board ideas and get some organizational tips as you enter each of the 30+ giveaways! That's a lot of chances to win!

Congrats to the winner, Deirdre! I'm sure she'll love her prizes! If you didn't win, don't despair, you can purchase your own Creative Teaching Press products at many local retailers. Check out the store locater for a retailer near you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Best of luck to you! Now remember to get hoppin' to The Primary Gal for your next chance to win!

Mother's Day and Giveaway!!

Mother's Day Ideas

We made the cutest purses for Mother's Day this week! This was a TPT purchase from First Grade Schoolhouse and it turned out adorable, considering 4 year old hands cut most of it lol!
I forgot to take pictures until I had put most of them in backpacks already lol, but here's a good idea of what they looked like! I bought scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby (on sale so it was 29 cents a sheet! Two sheets per kiddo made this craft less than $15! I bought a few extra so that each child got to choose their favorite pattern for their mom - note to self, buy more papers with hearts for next year - those were the first to get chosen!

Here are some images from inside the "purses":

To touch on a recent debate on Facebook. I truly believe that Mother's Day gifts should be a priority - yes its the end of the school year and I had assessments that needed to be done, a library book to unearth (every year I lose at least one!) powerpoint slideshows to create for our celebration next Monday etc. This took time and effort and honestly I can see what some teachers don't want to put effort/money into projects like this because we don't all get a lot of support from families. BUT, I can tell you this - this is the first step to building a positive relationship with your families.

Remember occasions like Mother's Day and Father's Day, have the kids make mama something on Valentine's Day or if a kiddo comes in and says "It's my Nana's birthday today!" hand them some construction paper and let them have 10 minutes to make Nana a card! If you're making pattern bracelets and a sweetie wants to make an extra large one for her daddy, let her! Sure its a little bit of time/money/effort but I tell you that the dividends will be better relationships between you and the families in your communities!

You might say "It's the end of the year!" or "I'll never have these kids again!", but don't forget that parents TALK! And they'll tell each other about little things as well as the big things. So you will either have a classroom full of mamas with happy hopes next year or a classroom full of mamas who are dreading the school year and hoping you don't make their child miserable. Trust me, it is much easier to deal with parents who think you're a good teacher and to build trust and a relationship from there than to start off with the attitude "This teacher doesn't care, she never has the kids do anything fun."

AND, remember that we are here to MODEL for these kids what appreciation looks like. What it means to be kind and to be a good person. It doesn't take much money - and if you can't afford scrapbook paper for purses then get whatever you can scrounge up and just have the kids draw a picture and write a note. Something is better than nothing!

Case in point: I picked up my little man Sullivan from daycare on Friday after sending all my kiddos off with surprises in their backpacks and the admonishment to mothers, "Don't look until Sunday!". When I went into Sullivan's classroom, the first thing I did was check his cubby to see if they had him make me a Mother's Day craft. Sure, we can and probably will do something at home (my daughter is great at rounding up the boys for things like this!) but I have to admit that my heart sank a little when I saw that his cubby was empty. No surprise for me! I put a smile on and didn't say anything of course - but you can imagine how happy I was when his teacher said "Did you already get his craft?" and pulled a laminated paper from his top shelf - it was so flat I hadn't seen it! It's not much, just handprint flowers and a poem, but it means the world to me and I'm reassured once again that his teachers care about him and are giving him a positive environment while I'm at work!

So the next time you get overwhelmed with data and assessments and standards and you're low on funds/crayons/paper and you're tempted to skip doing some activity or craft for families, remember, this is the first step in your relationship with those kids, their families and that community!

Ok now that's done with, check out this video:

Can you believe that this was just their 2nd time playing the game! Look how quickly they already picked up those sight words!

I saw The Reading Game at the EdExpo in Atlanta back in February and I loved it. Simple, easy to implement AND the kids enjoy it! Nothing like trying to teach sight words when the kids are dragging their heels! But, with The Reading Game, my kiddos automatically wanted to try it...and then wanted to play it again and again! They loved "conquering" a set of words and getting to move on to the next level. And I loved that the cards were all organized by color/image/number so that I don't get them mixed up and everyone can keep track of what cards they were using. The books also have interesting stories - its not "See Spot run." that's for sure!

I used the game with my highest kiddos who had already mastered letter/sound recognition. With just a few weeks of playing the game a few times a week, they have quickly caught on to 10-30 sight words each! That's huge for pre-k! I showed it to my kindergarten coworkers and they loved it too - this is such an easy game that it's great for tutors, reading buddies etc. There are free pre/post game assessment checklists and class recording sheets as well so all that data is at your fingertips!

While you can purchase The Reading Game at many local retailers, the creators  have agreed to let me give away a copy of the game to one lucky reader!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below! And, if you have some Scholastic Bonus Points you're itching to use, you can also purchase The Reading Game from the Scholastic Bonus Points catalog!

Alright, so without further ado, here's your entry form:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Balloon Painting & Farm Sensory Table

We finished up our Farm theme last week, although our chicken eggs won't be hatching until May 11th (cross your fingers for us!). I took some pictures of two of our favorite activities last week:

Balloon Painting:

This was inspired by this pin, and I was happily surprised that a) this was a Pinterest craft that worked exactly like it was supposed to and b) my kids did such different things with it!

 I filled each of the paint trays with one main color and then several drops of the other colors. Note: don't over inflate the balloons or it will be hard to fit them into the paint!

 Some kiddos were just random with the paint and colors and just piled it all on top of each other.
 Some chose to do rows of splotches so that the colors didn't mix.

 This little guy figured out how to make huge balloon splotches rather than the smaller ones his classmates were making.

 The results were all unique - on some pictures you could see each individual paint splotch, while others had an almost tie-dyed effect!

The kids loved the novelty of painting with a balloon, and the pictures came out so beautifully that this is definitely a must-repeat activity! I'd call this a Pinterest-Win lol.

My kiddos also loved our Farm Sensory Table:
A little bit of Easter grass, a pizza pan painted blue for the water, a container of dirt and another of corn and beans made this just the right home for our Farm Animals!

About halfway through the week one of my little guys came to me and said "Where's the farm guy?" Once I clued in that he was thinking the table should have a farmer, I was able to go and grab the farmer figure from Block Center to put in the table. It's amazing what the kids think of that as a teacher you say "Duh! Why didn't I think of that!" And really, why DOESN'T the farm animals set come with a farmer or two??

As a final note, look how stinking cute my neighbor's hallway display is!
Those are handprint caterpillars and handprint butterflies - adorable!

This week we're doing an Ocean Theme - wait till you see what's in our Sensory Table for that! Plus we're taking down all our Spring crafts to do an Ocean hallway display - which will be a great preview for next year since our school theme with be "Seas the Day! Children arrrghh special!" at our school! Its a combo Ocean/Pirate theme! Does your school do a school-wide theme? Do you know what your theme will be for next year? Rustle up a response below and tell me your theme (or what you wish it would be!)

10 of the Best FREE Kindergarten Language Arts Videos

Last week I posted about my favorite FREE Math Videos for kindergarten. This week, its time to look at Language Arts videos!

Again, if you don't have YouTube access at school, check out this tutorial to learn how to download the videos at home so you can transfer them to your work computers! I do this even though we have YouTube access through a filter, because you can't always count on the internet being up!

Now, I don't believe in sitting the children in front of a video and calling that learning, but I do believe that using a fun song or showing a funny clip can help engage them. Normally I try to intersperse the videos throughout the day, so that we're not sitting watching videos for more than 5 or so minutes at a time. 

Let's start with alphabet videos and work our way up:

KidsTV123 has a bunch of phonics songs (and some great math ones too!). This song focuses on the letter names, but there are several pictures for each sound. It's a great one for calming the kiddos down and getting them to focus. My kiddos now ad lib their own lyrics "A a a a a is for Alex and apple A a a a" lol! At the end of the video I pause on the scene with all of the letters on the screen, get out a pointer and have students come up to the board to point out a letter, make the sound and say a word that starts with that letter. Sometimes a kiddo will come up and say the same letter, sound and word as the person before them did - this is OKAY! That's where they are in the learning process - give them a few weeks and they'll soon be able to think of a new word for that sound or choose a different letter on their own!

This song focuses on the letter sounds and again is a nice, calming song, great for after recess! I put it on and by the end everyone is ready to focus on a story or lesson! Your kiddos need that transitional time to switch mental gears.

If you need something a bit more energetic, check out this "What Do The Letters Say?" video which is a parody of the ever popular "What Does the Fox Say?" song. We throw in some simple dance moves - crossing the mid-line with arm pumps, doing shoulder shrugs, arm circles, toe touches etc.

When you're focusing on an individual letter, there are some great choices:

Sesame Street has "podcasts" for each letter of the alphabet. These are each about 6 minutes long and contain some great old clips (I remember some from when I was little!) plus lots of new content! There is nothing like watching Cookie Monster eat the letter of the day! The use of humor makes the letters "stick" in students' heads better - we tend to remember things that evoke an emotional response!

I love the Have Fun Teaching videos because they identify each letter as either a vowel or a consonant and they include tons of letter sound repetition! 

Hooked on Phonics has some free videos on YouTube, including this rhyming one. I like this one because it focuses on the pictures without confusing the kids with the written words so that they have to concentrate on the sounds.

This video from Jack Hartmann will get your kids up and dancing while they learn their vowel sounds!  I love how the chorus has students crossing the mid-line by tapping their knees and patting their heads.

Once your kiddos are ready to read, you'll appreciate these next ones:

There are a TON of sight word videos on YouTube. Some, like the one below from Have Fun Teaching, feature just an individual sight word, while others, like this Harry Kindergarten one, cover several sight words in one song.  You can choose what works better for your class!

If you're going to focus on one word at a time, I recommend coming up with some dance moves and having your students up and moving while they watch the video. This will make it much more effective than just sitting still watching. If you're not good at dancing, think about an exercise move - toe touching, shoulder shrugging, knee tapping etc. Come up with a set of moves for 2 letter, 3 letter and 4 letter words so that you have some moves ready to go. Also, ask you students to get involved - they can come up with routines for individual words and that will help everyone in the class learn the words!

ELF Kids Videos has a ton of educational videos on YouTube. This one introduces a ton of consonant blends with great picture support and a chance for students to repeat each blend. At the end of the song I would pause on the screen with all the blends listed and have students use a pointer to select a blend, say the sound and name a word that started with it. 

This is a fun song for teaching digraphs, my kiddos always enjoyed it, although it can get stuck in your head, so beware lol!

This is a great story video for giving your students a hook to remember the sh, th, wh, and ch digraphs.

Alright, I'm cutting myself off here, that was more than 10 videos! Again, please support the people who make these videos by subscribing to their YouTube channels and checking out their websites! 
Did I miss any of your favorites? 
Rustle up a response below and share it please!

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