Character Education: Teaching Kindness (FREEBIES)

I wasn't surprised when one of my highest attended sessions at I Teach K this summer was my Kindness Counts! presentation. Let's face it, teaching kindness and other character traits is essential if you want to build a positive classroom community and cut down on the constant interruptions due to discipline issues. Today I'm going to share a few tips and ideas from that session, to help you get your school year off to a positive start!

First up is my Kindness Playlist on youtube. Click the link to find 30+ teacher-approved videos that you can play in class to help teach your students Kindness as well as well as manners, resiliency and honesty!

For example, this episode of "Can You Teach My Alligator Manners?", focuses on the sign language for please and thank you and gives your students the chance to identify scenarios where the alligator is using good manners. The videos in this series are only about 2 minutes long, so they're perfect for Circle Time to introduce different concepts such a taking turns, sharing and being a good sport!

Sesame Street has an Everyday Super Heroes Club with videos, printable badges and more!
You can find the free membership materials here!

One of the things that has really changed my classroom community is instituting this "Saying "I'm Sorry" is the FIRST step" policy. Basically after saying sorry, the child has to ask the person they hurt how they can help them feel better. Sometimes its as simple as giving a hug, sometimes they request that the child not do whatever it was again, sometimes they ask the child to play a new game with them. It empowers the "victim" to decide how they want the other child to make amends! Daniel Tiger is a great show for social and emotional skills, and I'd often play it during inside recess or if we had lunch in the classroom because so many of the skills were applicable to my kiddos, and gave me a quick, singable reminder any time an issue came up - like the one for when a friend doesn't want to play with you which came in handy when friends wanted to branch out and play with other people.

Here are some of my favorite picture books that teach kindness and other character traits (affiliate links for your convenience) just click on the picture to see it on Amazon. These are great read aloud books that I love to use to teach about being kind and taking responsibility.

Another thing that I use in my classroom are these Kindness & Character Songs & Chants (freebie!)

One of the things that I started last December was a Daily Act of Kindergarten Kindness. It was wonderful! My students were so happy to do sweet things for other classes, our principal and even each other! It truly made a difference in my classroom, and I was disappointed that I had waited until December to start it! Well this year I decided to start our RAKs in September! We're going to start the school year off with a bang by doing a random act of kindness every day! Each of the acts is simple, most don't cost a thing (the few that do are inexpensive!) and require little prep, so they're easy to incorporate into your BTS lessons! I'm sharing the calendar with you all today: Random Acts of Kindness Calendar for September 2017.

And finally, I always teach about Martin Luther King Jr. in January. I think that's too late in the year as well. With the social climate these days, it just makes more sense to talk about these issues NOW. My Martin Luther King Jr. Pack has activities that are accessible for our young learners. It teaches the important concepts of changing the world through peace and love and that the change has to start with us.
Here are two of the activities included in the pack, easy for pre-k to 1st graders to understand!
 If we start teaching about tolerance, kindness, fairness, honesty, peace and most of all LOVE at the beginning of the school year, we will reap the benefits all year long! I hope you'll be able to take these ideas back to school with you to build your classroom community! If you have tips of your own to share on building classroom community, please rustle up a comment below and share them!

Incorporating STEM in Kindergarten

STEM Ideas for Kindergarten using Nursery Rhymes

I think my most popular session at SDE's I Teach K was my " Through Nursery Rhymes"! It's such a hot topic right now, but there isn't a whole lot out there for making it truly accessible in kindergarten. Today I'm going to share a little bit of that session with you!
One of my favorite ways to incorporate technology into teaching nursery rhymes is by using a Green Screen app!  I use Green Screen by Do Ink on my iPhone, it's $2.99 in the App store. Here's a quick clip of my son, Sullivan, reciting Baa Baa Black Sheep.

I simply hung a piece of green felt on my wall and googled a picture of a sheep in a field. Sully was totally not into being filmed (I bribed him with Dum Dums, if you look he has two fistfuls!), he hates the flash on my camera so even when I promise him it won't flash he tends to look away anyways. However, once he saw the finished product with the sheep behind him he was enthralled! He wanted to do it again and again and kept asking to do different rhymes to see what would pop up behind him! It works the same with students! They LOVE seeing themselves on screen, and putting together some video clips of students reciting nursery rhymes is a great way to start an Open House or Parent Teacher Conferences!

Engineering challenges can be hard in Kindergarten! Their little fingers may have difficulties manipulating the materials, so often we call in our 5th grade friends for help. However, I like to start the year with a challenge they can complete on their own so they have some experience before calling in older helpers. I find this gives them more confidence in their ideas, so its not so much the 5th graders leading the challenge as being directed by the Kinders. One of the easiest engineering challenges for Kinders is this Building a Tuffet challenge for the Little Miss Muffet rhyme.
This challenge requires just some paper towel rolls, tape, glue and construction paper, along with a doll or two to play Miss Muffet!
I have my kinders work in groups, but you could easily have them complete this challenge on their own as well. You can see that there were several different ideas for creating the "tuffet"!

Incorporating art into nursery rhymes is easy, but I always try to move away from simple crafts to actual process art. For our Tiny Tim nursery rhyme we used different sizes of bubble wrap to paint our turtles and the kids loved it!

Tying in math concepts is easy with some of the nursery rhymes. For example, for Hickory Dickory Dock we combine retelling with learning to tell time! I made this clock out of a cereal box and the mice from felt.  As we retell the nursery rhyme, we use a different clock face and change the time in the rhyme!

And of course we can't forget the Science aspect of S.T.E.A.M.! I incorporate a demonstration or experiment with each of my nursery rhyme units:

Like this demonstration on what fire needs with the rhyme Jack Be Nimble  - perfect for Fire Safety in October!
Or an experiment on gravity for Humpty Dumpty using sand, flour and marbles! 

Another way that I incorporate STEM ideas in my classroom is through our center materials. I have so many different types of building materials from blocks to magnetic tiles to 3d shapes to natural wood pieces to plastic cups! You'd be amazed at what the kids can build with these materials! However, while I was at I Teach K this summer I saw a great, new product at a booth and had to have it!
Meet BlocksRock. This product was created by a group of 6th graders! It comes in a handy, zippered carrying case for easy clean up and storage. It includes 2 levels of cards along with a bell. There's a free app that extends the fun even more!
This is me with at the BlocksRock booth at I teach K with their incredibly friendly staff!
Angie from BlocksRock was gracious enough to allow me to try a set out for myself. I brought it home and started playing it with Sullivan. Since he's only 4 and his spatial awareness is still developing, I allowed him to build at his own pace rather than racing against me.

He loved being able to ring the bell when he was finished! Initially he played for 20 minutes straight, which was awesome for a 4 year old's attention span! We've played with the set several times in the past month and I can already see a big difference in his ability level. We started with the Level 1 cards and he is now able to easily complete the Level 2 cards and even some of the Level 3s! 

Here's a picture of what I built with the app!

I took my set to my first day of in-service training and soon had all of the teachers playing it too! Our 3rd grade teacher is using some leftover grant money to purchase some sets! You can buy them either through the BlockRock website or on Amazon (affiliate link) There's a discount for buying 2 sets, and if you buy 5 you get a set free! These are perfect for after school Science Clubs, STEM Nights or even in your classroom Block Center! I honestly can say that this product can go from Pre-K all the way to at least 5th grade in a classroom setting. Not only has Sullivan played it, but my 10, 13, and 18 year old kiddos also tried it out and enjoyed it! I even got my 18 year old to put down her phone for a full twenty minutes to play it with me!

Want to win your own BlocksRock set AND your choice of one of my Nursery Rhyme STEM packs? Enter this Rafflecopter drawing for your chance to win! 

Three ESSENTIALS For Math Center (FREEBIE)

Setting up Math Centers in Kindergarten

At my Fun-tastic Games & Activities for Building Early Math Skills session at SDE's I Teach K in Vegas I presented about some of my favorite Math Centers. Oriental Trading Co. was generous enough to sponsor some giveaways during the session for items that I use in my centers, so I wanted to give a shout out to them, they always have great, inexpensive materials for my centers! Today I'm sharing a little bit from that session, to give you some math center ideas for kindergarten that will help save you time and make your Math Centers more engaging this school year!

One of my biggest Aha! moments was when I realized that it was way easier to change the CONTENT of a Math Center rather than having to teach a whole new set of rules/procedures each time because I changed the activity. Today I'm sharing the 3 essentials for my math centers - I change up the themes frequently, and differentiate the skill level or content, but once I teach my students how to use these essentials, I'm set for the year! I can change the look of the games and my students' engagement is renewed, yet I'm not wasting time teaching how to use new materials!

#1 Dice
I love dice because they're so versatile, and you can get so many different kinds - dice with numbers, dice with dots, dice with shapes, dice with 6 sides all the way to 20! Once I teach my students the rules of using our dice (shake once, roll gently, keep dice on the table) we are good to go with whichever dice fit our game! One of the first games I introduce is Roll & Cover. I love this because depending on the mat and dice you use, students can be practicing one to one correspondence, number recognition, shapes recognition, addition or subtraction! When we introduce addition, students play with 2 dice, adding them together and finding the sum.
 Later in the year, my students play with 3 dice, adding them all together for sums up to 18!
When we introduce subtraction, the game play changes slightly so that they roll the dice and subtract the smaller number from the larger number and find the difference.

We also use our dice to play Ten Frame Fill-Up! In this game, each child rolls a dice an places that many tokens onto their ten frame, filling them from top to bottom, left to right.  The first one to fill up all 3 ten frames and reach 30 wins!
For all of these games, we just use dice and tokens from Oriental Trading Company. They have these round, colorful stacking blocks that are perfect to use as tokens - they come in a ton of colors and with 400 to a pack, there's enough to even split a pack with a teacher friend!
 We also use Geometric Dice from Oriental Trading to play Roll & Cover with shapes, and even Roll & Graph!

#2 Dominoes

I also love using dominoes in the classroom - they're great for one to one correspondence, subitizing and more! They're inexpensive so I've even had some luck with asking parents to donate a set or two to the classroom (in case you need ideas for a Wishlist!). My students love my Domino Math pack too!
 Creating number bonds is easy with dominoes!
We also use dominoes when comparing numbers!
I use them to help students learn vertical addition as well!

#3 Playing Cards

Playing cards are a must-have for Math Centers because there are so many no-prep games you can play with them! Go Fish is an easy game for number recognition for example. (I get my playing cards donated by the local casino, so that's why there are holes punched in the cards.) You can have your students sort them, place them in numerical order, even create 2 or 3 digit numbers! 
I love using playing cards for fact families. Just draw two cards and the students write the addition and subtraction equations to match! Using the cards means that if students get confused they can count the shapes on the card, so it supports my lower students.
Comparing numbers is easy with cards as well - just remove the face cards!

With these 3 inexpensive items, you'll easily cover all your Math Skills throughout the year! Your students will also love getting to "play" with dice, dominoes and playing cards, so they'll remain motivated and engaged during centers - it's a win-win! All of the above games can be played easily with a whiteboard and dry erase marker, but if you'd like to grab my Math Bundles to make it easy on yourself, you can see them here: Math Centers for Dice and Playing Cards  and Domino Math!
Visit my store and grab this Roll & Cover Sampler pack for FREE - perfect to go with The Kissing Hand!

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