Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sneak Peak & a BOOST!

Greetings friends. I am back at in-service this week...lots of meetings and trainings. We have Meet the Teacher on Thursday night so I will post my final classroom pics this weekend along with pics from MTT. I know I *said* that I wasn't going to change my classroom theme but here's the deal. You should never listen to me. Haha! I'm crazy like that. 

Actually, I walked into a teacher store and fell in L.O.V.E. with these cute birds and the rest (along with a big wad of cash) was history. Oh, I love it so much.  I know there is always some controversy about cutsie rooms but honestly, I am a creative person and I need to be inspired. Having a child with sensory needs, I am always sensitive to make sure that my room isn't over stimulating but instead inviting and inspiring to myself and my students. Having a class family is super important to me so making our "home" livable is top priority. 

Here is all ya get today though. :)

I love my library! Like, puffy heart love it. 

Here is my front board and second group rug. 

Before I go, I had a few requests to bundle some of my similar products so I did and they have a nice savings too. Click the pics to see more!

Just in case you hadn't heard, TPT decided to hold a one day flash sale to help out all of the teachers going back to school right now. So, if you didn't grab anything last time, now's your chance to empty your wish list! Click here or the pic below to head to my store. Click on the "most recent" tab to see newly added products. Have a great HUMP DAY!
Love and virtual hugs!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fine Motor Fun Part TWO!

Greetings friends. I hope you enjoyed my previous post, Fine Motor Fun Part ONE. Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my blog or facebook. 

So, on to  part TWO. Most of these activities are ones you probably have in your classroom already. I don't think we always consider that fine motor plays such an important role in activities, for example: legos. I always start my year with strictly fine motor centers, but this is a focus all year in my classroom too. I think it is embedded in me because I used to teach in a Montessori school. When you really see the overall benefits (The BIG Picture) of building strong fine motor skills, you just become a believer of all this fun stuff. :) Unfortunately, most teachers have to tie an objective to everything that is done in their classroom. I get that, I really do. But there aren't learning objectives for important stuff like this. Maybe they should add a subsection under writing about fine motor. Wouldn't that be great! 

In this activity, students use the plastic tweezers to stack the teeny tiny dice. You really can choose any flat manipulative that can be stacked to do this. You could also add number cards to differentiate and have them stack that many dice. :)

This is a fun activity that you can probably get materials donated from parents. These are special locks that I got from an amazing OT, Marianne Gibbs, who writes the awesome website, writeoutofthebox.com.  If you ever have a chance to see her present, do She changed the way  look at kids along with my expectations for them. Anyway, in this activity students line up the correct letters to unlock the lock. You could easily do this by asking parents if they have extra locks and keys they could donate. Have a box with all of the locks and keys and have students try and figure out which keys open which locks. This sounds like a secret agent activity. :)

                                                                        I bought this rack at the Dollar Tree and a few rolls of ribbon at the craft store. Cut the ribbons and have students weave the ribbon in and out of the rack. They can create a pattern or just do random colors. This can be done with construction paper too but at the beginning of the year this activity is just perfect for my kids.

A cutting tub is a must for my classroom.  This is just another form of sensory play. You can put any kind of paper in the tub. At first I have regular small scissors. It's amazing to me how many kids struggle to hold and cut with scissors. Later, I will add fun zig zag scissors with different options. Students will stand around the tub and simply cut the materials in the tub. There are no lines to follow. They are cutting stuff just to cut it. The only rule is that they cannot cut anything outside of the tub and that they must keep all materials inside the tub. I think they like cutting tissue paper the most. Either way, it's fun and may not seem purposeful, but it totally is. This also relieves stress for some students who can't master cutting and that seems to send them over the edge. This give them an opportunity to practice without the stress of a structured activity with lines and boundaries. 

 Legos are so much fun. It is amazing to me how many students don't have legos at home anymore. Why is that?! It's so good for fine motor. If you want to differentiate it, there are several ways to put an academic spin on them too.  Give students number cards and have them build something with that number of legos or stack that number of legos. Have them sort by colors and then build. Let students try to build something based upon the letter or sound you just taught or to create a certain pattern.  There are so many ways you can use legos, sometimes we just have to think outside the box to justify it. :)

Gears are another fun way for students to use their imagination building whatever their heart desires. This is a definite favorite with my boys and super great for building fine motor muscles. 

                                                                        I think Tinker Toys may be a thing of the past, but as longs as I can keep from losing them, they will remain in my classroom. Kids create the most amazing things with materials like Tinker Toys. Think about what kids need to create something....their imagination (mind) and their HANDS. :)

As you can see, legos have ended up in every tub in my classroom. Haha. Note to self, go through the tubs. Trains is another favorite. These trains are pretty tired but are still going strong. I bought them Lakeshore Learning many moons ago. At the begging of the year, I just let the kids build and play. Later, they can put them in order and even spell words with them. :)

                                                                        Have you  heard of mobilos?  These things are awesome! Search them on amazon to see more pics of them in use. They are a great way to build objects that move like cars. Kids combine various shapes to create something. They can add tons of wheels too. They LOVE these!


You seriously can't go wrong with playdough. Apparently Mr. Potato Head has lost his hat in this tub. Did I mention I haven't really cleaned these out yet for the new year? :) Anyway, my kids start playing with playdough the first day of school. Yes, you read that correctly. Day one people! In each chair pocket, I keep one of the the small containers of playdough...the ones you can buy as a  party favor sold in bags of ten. This is a great go to if we have an extra five minutes of if an adult walks into the room and I need two minutes to answer a question. I have my kids get out their playdough and complete a task. Tasks can include: Create the first letter of your name, create your name, make five balls, etc. I also have this tub (below) with all kinds of cookie cutters, rollers, etc. that kids can use when they have free playdough time. I am pretty firm with procedures when we first start using playdough and my students know that if playdough is found in the carpet, they don't get it for a week. That may seem harsh but they take it seriously and make sure to follow the rules because the never want to lose playdough time. 

Have a blocks center is an important feature in a kindergarten classroom. Blocks teach children how to use their imagination, build things, work with others and share. Most importantly when children are building, they are using their HANDS.

                                                                                                                                                         I've had this fruit cutting set by Doug and Melissa for six years. You can find it on amazon and maybe in your teacher store or somewhere like Ross. Students match the fruit and vegetable pieces and put them together. Then they can use the wooden knife and cutting board to cut them up. This is a GREAT fine motor activity and can easily used in a home living center or just on your free choice shelf (which is where I keep mine). 

Do you notice Mr. Potato Head's feet in this box. Man, that guy gets around. He's out of control. I am going to have to go into school tomorrow and gather his pieces, which are apparently all over the room. Haha!

                                                                                                                                                         Speaking of the naughty little fella, I have a HUGE Mr. Potato Head and two small ones. These were garage sale finds that I have had for several years and my students love them. I like to use him when teaching feelings, parts of the body and senses. They are part of my free choice shelf and a favorite all year. 

I hope you got a few ideas or just realized that you are doing the right things in your classroom for the sake of good ole fine motor skills. Kids are coming to our classroom with more and more sensory needs. They don't know how to use their hands and their hand muscles are lacking in a major way.  No, fine motor skills is not on our report cards but this is something that can affect a child's ability to perform and even their behavior if they struggle in it. I strongly encourage you to read more of Marianne Gibbs' writing and her website. She is pure genius and will teach you SO much! 

If you would like to see more stuff like this, please comment below. It's always good to know what teachers find most beneficial. Have a great week. I can't believe I am starting my first full week back on contract tomorrow. Kids don't come until the following Monday but that means that this week is full of meetings and training. Oh joy. ;)

Love and virtual hugs!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fine Motor Fun! Part ONE!

I always start the year with fine motor centers. I find it so telling for my kinders. It really gives me insight as to who will need the most fine motor support when it comes to writing, cutting, and even gluing. 

A few years ago, my team and I each picked two different fine motor activities and made four of each of them. This gave each of us eight different activities to start the year with. We use these centers the first two weeks of school and our students have loved them. I have used them the past two years and have them ready for this year too without having to replace any of the materials. Easy peasy right? :)

When I uploaded all of my pictures, it was way more than I could include in one post so we are going to call this Fine Motor Part ONE. I will post the Part TWO on Sunday so make sure you come back! So, on to the ideas....

(Brace yourself, these aren't rocket science.)

Here is my basket of fine motor goodies I get out at back to school time. 

I put frisbees or place-mats under each activity. I find it gives students boundaries and a defined space so they know where they can work and keep up with their materials better. 

In this activity, students are taking apart and putting together nuts and bolts. Shown are ones made of rubber  but I also have ones from the hardware store too. 

Here students will take some form of chopsticks (you can usually get the kid ones free at a local restaurant) and pick up the large pom poms one at a time, sorting them into the ice tray squares. You can also use small pom poms and tongs too. This is an easy way to differentiate fine motor activities. 

This is a very simple activity where students use a baby spoon to scoop out one bead at a time into the bowl. 

I think this activity is a student favorite. To be honest, I was a little nervous about doing something with toothpicks but for the record, we have never had an injury. :) To set up this activity, buy salt shakers (I bought these at the Dollar Tree) and have students put the toothpicks in the holes one at a time. Easy but fun. 

This spooning activity is similar to the one above, but this is a more confined space. Getting one bead at a time out is more challenging with this activity. I purchased these at the Dollar Tree also. Most of the activities are very inexpensive. 

All you need is pipe cleaners and buttons for this fine motor activity, which you probably already have. Students just string the buttons on the pipe cleaner. As you can see, they are still in a hot mess formation from last year. Haha!

You can find all kinds of fun tweezers and tongs on Amazon just by searching "Fine Motor Tweezers".  In this activity, students will pick up one bug or insect and transfer it from one bowl to another. Then, they can transfer them back. 

These are mini tongs. Students can pick up one fish at a time and put it into a bowl. You can change up the containers and size of the objects to differentiate for your students. 

Lacing is always a great fine motor activity. You can buy lacing sets at any learning store or you can make your own by using cardboard, poster board, or laminated cardstock. Punch holes in them, add a shoe string and wha la. Lacing fun! 

My kids LOVE to do puzzles. I have tons of large floor puzzles, but these small puzzles are super fun for them to do too. I bought these at the Dollar Tree for..you guessed it..ONE DOLLAR! I bought these at the beginning of last year and they are still going strong. 

I think this is my favorite activity.  I have several of these mini whole punches. You can use a regular one too. The kids won't know the difference. Cut up some copy paper and let them punch until the sun goes down. They LOVE it and its so good for their little fingers!

Tops are a great way to build up strength in those writing fingers too and they aren't noisy! Bonus love! Kids love trying to see how far they can get them to go. You can give them a frisbee to keep them working in a small space, or let them loose on a table or floor space. Either way, instant fun. 

I set these activities (plus more to be shown in Part TWO) out all over the room, spreading them out to ensure that every student has their own space. I tell students that they can work by themselves or with a partner. They have free choice. I pull names by random draw (I use name popsicles in a stick cup) and they can choose their station. I set a class timer after everyone has chosen an activity for ten minutes. Then, we clean up and return to the carpet and pick names again. Students are not allowed to go to the same activity twice in a day. We will do this several times as long as they are participating and engaged. 

Since this is their first "center" experience, students are using this time to practice working together, staying in one place for a certain amount of time, and properly cleaning up ("restoring our work" is the vocabulary I use in my classroom).          

My students always love these fine motor activities. By doing this at the beginning of the year, it gives me more free time to spend time with my  kids too. I can walk around and participate in whatever conversation I choose or can sit down and participate. These activities are not just for building fine motor stamina (which is so important) but they also help build relationships and unity for our class family. There is no pressure for any assignment, nor is there a wrong answer. Students aren't challenged academically (yet) they are just given time to adjust while still participating in meaningful learning.    

I hope you enjoyed reading my Bright Idea today.  As a reader, I find so many great ideas in this hop. If you enjoyed this post, please check out Kreative in Kinder on Facebook, Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest

So, don't stop here friends. There are more Bright Ideas to be found. Hop on over to check out these great posts....                             

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Writer's Workshop Freebies!

Greetings friends. Happy Sunday. I go back to work tomorrow {unofficially}.  I have a ton of stuff to finish in my room before I start training on Thursday. Oh blessed staff development. We have a love/hate relationship. You know!  

This week I had the privilege of guest blogging for my sweet bloggy buddy, Hadar, at Miss Kindergarten. She is the cutest thing eva and I love her. 

I was so excited to share about my love for Writer's Workshop and a few freebies too! Head over to her blog to grab these goodies!!. 

Remember, you need to head over to Hadar's blog to download all of these goodies! Love and virtual hugs!