Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ways to Make Parent Volunteers More Manageable and Effective

Do you find yourself wanting parent help in the class but are too overwhelmed or don't know how to manage them?  Do you struggle with finding things for them to do with your students that are meaningful and helpful to you?  Is it hard to keep kids and parents focused on the task-at-hand.  I'd love to share some tips to help you implement volunteers in the class in a way that's easy for everyone!
parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers

First, decide what you need help with.  Is it copying, running a fluency group, or running reading rotations?  Once you come up with a list of things you need parents to do, send a form home.
parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers
Add caption
Then, set up a schedule. I like to e mail the schedule to my parents ahead of time in case I need to make any changes.  Once we're good-to-go, I print it out and put it an area where I can easily see it!
parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers

parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers
The purpose of having parent volunteers is to reinforce the learning that's going on in class or to differentiate your kiddos.  Don't give them a bunch of meaningless worksheets (totally guilty of this) or filler activities.

Here's what I have my parents do (I'm at a school with a lot of support, which does have it's own challenges.  But I've been at schools with no support so I get both sides):
Monday am: Run a small group working on sight words and phonics
Monday pm: Fluency-A parent will use the Read Naturally program and have the students do a cold read
Tuesday am: Run a small group working on grammar
Wednesday am: Run a small group working on comprehension
Thursday am: Fluency- A parent will have the students do a hot read
Thursday am
Thursday am: Run a small group working on anything from above or Social Studies, Science, or Art
Friday am: A parent will give a Word Study test to each of our 5 different  spelling groups. 

parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers
Our fluency set up complete with color-coded groups and a folder with all of the fluency stories

parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers

I use a little mailbox {Amazon Affiliate Link} to hold all of our weekly materials for the parent table.  When I plan for the following week, I add the materials I need to our volunteer mailbox.  Everything the parents need can be found there so you'll eliminate any questions.  Plus, if it's done ahead of time, you won't be rushing around like a crazy person the morning of.
parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers

parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers
I leave a Parent Volunteers note with my expectations.  It is important for parents to know what you expect of them and the students.  I expect that the parents will make sure that all students are working quietly, being respectful, and making good choices.  I leave that note out every.single.time so that they can read it.

On the other side of the note is another note that explains in detail how to run groups, how much time each group has, what to do with the word when it's done, and more!
Laminate it so it can be used all year!

My table groups are A, E, I, O, and U so I have laminated signs next to the note so parents can get those table groups in order.

parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers
front of the note

parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers
back of the note
I have a note for every type of volunteer so that parents can refer back to it if they need to.
parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers

parent volunteers, teaching, easy teaching tools, classroom volunteers

{Get the editable versions here}

Monday, September 28, 2015

5 Tips For Organizing Your Classroom With Washi Tape

Hi everyone! Happy Fall to all of you! It's me, Alisha, from Missing Tooth Grins to chat with you today. I have recently fell in a deep, deep love with washi tape. I've always been quite fond of it and I'm sure you have too! I am here to share some easy, quick tips with you on what I did in my classroom to help organize myself better with just washi tape!

What's so great about washi tape anyway?

My favorite part about washi tape is that you can take it off and it doesn't do anything to what it was on! It is a clean rip. No tears, no rips, nothing. Nada. Plus, you can write on washi tape. If I wanted to use normal labels or stickers, sure I could write on them, but I wouldn't be able to remove them very easily.

1. Organize Your Filing Cabinet

My filing cabinet is behind my guided reading table. I actually have two filing cabinets in my new school and I'm used to only having one. Plus, I have a ton or cabinets and drawers and closet space that I'm not used to having... So therefore, one of my filing cabinets was completely empty! What a blessing, right? So, it turned into my area where I keep all the small group materials I need. I kept opening up the wrong drawer during the wrong time though. Seriously, every day I would open the math drawer during reading and the reading drawer during math. It was so annoying. My kids just laughed because it was every.single.day. Anyway, enter washi tape!

2. Labeling Folders

In most my center folders, there's a "Must Do" activity and a "Might Do" activity. The "Must Do" is what they must do (weird, right?) and the "Might Do" is what they might do if they finish early. Not all my babies can read the Must Do and Might Do, so I color-coded it with washi tape. They know that whichever pocket has the washi tape is the pocket they must do. The one without the washi tape is what they might do. I know some of you are wondering why I didn't just tell them the left or right and that's because not all first graders can remember their left and right and also... I don't want to repeat that every day while I'm in small group.

3. Reusing Manila Folders

As you can see, this folder has been used... But, I can use it again and again and again if I want to if I just use washi tape. Like I said earlier, it doesn't tear so might as well make it so you can reuse stuff and not have to keep buying certain things!

4. Labeling Your Supplies

There's nothing I hate more than when people walk away with my supplies. I've finally learned my lesson with my flair pens and have flagged them with washi tape so no one walks away with them! I even do this at home :) I have washi tape on my scissors, pens, sharpies, etc.

5. Creating Binder Clip Labels

I can always label my binder clips for whatever I need! I love how I can switch it out too. Labeling my binder clips helps so much when I'm trying to find something that I really, really need. You can use binder clips for so many things.

And that's all! I hope these tips were useful for you! What do you like to use washi tape for?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pumpkin Pie In A Bag!

Happy Fall Y'all!
(I always wanted an excuse to say that!  As a NY gal, we never say 'y'all!')

Today marks the first FULL day of Fall, so I thought it would be fun to 'serve up' an easy fall 'treat' that you can make with your students!
You may have read about it on my blog last October...if so...sorry for the 'repost!'
If not, grab some pumpkin, graham crackers and pudding...we're about to fill our bellies!

This is a perfect, easy, no-cook way to bring some 'pumpkin pie' into your classroom this fall, that also has your children be active participants in the process!

So here is your ingredient list & recipe:
I doubled this recipe last year because I had 17 kids.  This year I have 21...I guess I am going to have to go for triple...or smaller portions!

Before you get started here are some things to have ready:
*DOUBLE bag and use a good quality bag (freezer style would be best) for the cracker smashing and filling squeezing!  You will THANK me for this tip!

*Don't forget a can opener or open the pumpkin at home and scoop it into another container!  Nothing like 20+ eyes staring at you and a can with no way to open it!

*Have a tray...it will catch any crumbs that escape from a popped bag!

The How-To:
I started by having my kids take turn smashing the crackers!  You could easily do this step at home but denying them the chance to unleash some pent-up kid energy would be mean!
We used a meat tenderizer...a rolling pin would work as well!

Next you will measure out the pudding and milk into bags.  If making a double batch, use 2 bags...believe me...trying to conserve in one winds up making a HUGE mess!
Once the pudding and milk are in the bags, release as much air as you can and seal them tight.
Pass them around to be kneaded:

Once kneaded (it will begin to get thick), add the pumpkin:
 Seal them back up again and pass around for another round of kneading!
Once it looks like this, your filling is ready!

If you are a multi-tasker like me, you will appreciate this!
While they are kneading, 'sneak' to the table and put 2T of the crumbs into each cup:
Then snip the end of the bag and use it as a 'pastry bag' to fill up the cups.
(This could get messy!)

Here are all the cups filled with pumpkin pie!

The next part is optional, but no pie is complete without...
(Thank you Reddi-Whip for being so convenient!)

To make it even more 'authentic' and festive, I also like to sprinkle a bit of pumpkin pie spice on top:

And with your extra filling, don't forget to make some 'grown-up' size portions to bribe, butter, sweeten distribute to secretaries, administrators and custodians:

Now if you are going to a fall party this year and wanted to bring a tasty treat, this can also be made as a 'dip'!  Simply make the filling and scoop it into a bowl.  Add some whipped cream and spice on top and then have graham crackers around the side of the bowl for dipping!

If you are looking for some fun pumpkin crafts and activities to do with your class, 
be sure to check out this post:

Wishing you a fall filled with colorful leaves, crisp apples, cozy sweaters, football wins, yummy pies and pumpkin lattes!
Until next post,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

STEM Challenges for Young Children

Young children are naturally curious, creative risk-takers. We can nurture their natural instincts to question, build, and solve problems by offering them playful STEM challenges.

Click HERE to read all of our fun STEM ideas that you can use with your preschoolers!


Be sure to follow our Primary Pack Pinterest Board for more great ideas:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Building Confident Emergent Readers!

Hi friends! Kelly here from Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten! I hope that the school year is off to a fantastic start for all of you :) 

 Today I am talking about one of my favorite topics: 

Before I get started, let me just tell you that in no way do I have ALL of the answers for teaching reading. I don't think that is possible! All teachers have their own style, flair, and tips for helping their kiddos learn to read. Today I want to share with you some of the activities that I supplement in my classroom. 

This is my second year now teaching first grade, and I have found that I really need to bring in a TON of my own activities, printables, and resources to meet all of my students needs. Our district using a reading program, and we have readers, workbooks, and all that, BUT I still feel like it's not enough! My goal over the summer was to create some basic phonics based activities that I could use with my students when I introduced a new sound or skill. I want my students to not just learn to read, but to LOVE to read… that is my ultimate goal! 

We definitely spent the first couple weeks of first grade reviewing sounds/alphabet skills. Check out some of my favorite alphabet tips here: 

Now we are really getting into the fun part of reading: putting sounds together, blending, and starting to read confidently! Each time a new phonics skill is introduced to my students, I like to have them make a "foldable" of that sound/skill: 

I LOVE these foldables because everything they need is on one piece of paper. They get to practice a phonics skill, as well as their sight words! We have done a lot of these already and my students know the routine. They can almost do them independently! First, we fold the reader and do our highlighting together. We then read each sentence outloud either whole class, or in our small group. During this time, we practice tracking and make sure that we are pointing to each word as we read. 
Next, students need to read their foldable 3 times. They color a happy face each time they read! Finally, they get to write all of the words from the word family or phonics skill on the back of the reader: 

We also use these readers for partner reading too!


I am a BIG fan of partner reading! In my classroom, it happens frequently and sometimes for only 5 minute intervals. I like to get my kiddos up and out of their seats. This is how I choose partners: 
I use "milk and cookie" partners! Each student has their name on either a cookie, or a glass of milk. I got these cut outs at the dollar tree. I shuffle them around and pull a cookie and a milk glass to be partners each time we are getting ready to read. My kids know that they will have a different partner each time. As soon as they are given their partner, they find their partner and find a quiet space quickly. They sit "knee to knee" with their partner on the floor, and don't start reading until everyone has a partner. When everyone is in their space, I start the timer. My kiddos alternate reading to each other until the timer goes off. I usually only set the timer for about 3-5 minutes. Later in the year we will probably add a little more time! This takes a lot of practice, but it's really rewarding! My kiddos love helping each other, and I love walking around and listening to them read. :) 

This year we've also been working a lot on rhyming words and word families. Word families really help students to make connections when they are reading. I created another foldable for my students that focuses on each short vowel and word family combinations. 

On each foldable, students fold on the solid line and cut the dotted line to make the flaps. We also highlight the word families. 
Under each flap, students can glue pictures OR draw their own pictures that rhyme with the word family on the flap: 

Here is what the inside of the foldable looks like when they are all finished: 

Another great tool that I am using for my emergent readers are my comprehension minis stories for short vowels: 
We use these whole class or in small groups. My students start out by highlighting and reading the vocabulary words. Then, we read the story and highlight the words as we go. Next, we read the story again together fluently. Finally, students read the story independently. 
When we are finished reading, students answer the comprehension question, and write a sentence of their own.  The last step, is drawing a picture to illustrate the story. I don't have them do their picture until after I have checked the sentence that they wrote. 

Here is a close up of what each phonics story includes: 

Some of my students are already reading fluently and independently and I want to ensure that they don't become bored! Differentiation is key when we are working on reading skills. At this point in the year, I have about 7 fluent readers who get to come over to our small group table and compact out for a challenge comprehension story. 

These stories are similar to my phonics comprehension stories but are a bit more challenging. New vocabulary words are introduced, and students need to find the main idea of the passage. My fluent readers complete these pages completely on their own and feel so proud of themselves! I have themed these stories by season, and have new ones for them to work on each month, so it makes it a lot of fun too : 
Sight words are HUGE in kindergarten and first grade, and I like my students to not only practice reading their sight words, but writing with them as well. This is part of our daily morning work routine: 

Another thing I am trying to remember this year is to let my emergent readers have fun!! My kids love building words with magnet letters or letter tiles during small group time: 

Teaching reading can be both challenging and rewarding at the same time! I love that there are constantly new ideas and practices that emerge to help children grow in their reading confidence. I always strive to change things up for my students and bring in resources that really meet the needs of each class. I am always ready to learn new tricks or tips to enhance my reading curriculum :) 

Thank you so much for stopping by today! Happy reading!

Here are some of the products that I mentioned in this post: