Back to School: Ideas & Freebies

Check it Out!

This fall I have joined a bunch of amazing Canadian teacher authors to collaborate in creating a "back to school" eBook to help teachers get ready for their new class. As we are preparing for the new school year we wanted to be able to share with you some amazing Canadian creations. Interestingly enough, many of these products could be used by any teacher all around the world!

We have created a huge free resource, available at Teachers Pay Teachers, with at over 30 different authors participating. Each teacher author has added a page with a "back to school" tip, a freebie for you and a resource that you might find to be beneficial for your classroom. It is set up in a very user friendly way as it is divided up by divisions (primary, junior, intermediate and secondary). You won't be disappointed!

Don't worry, it is a forever freebie so if you "missed" this product before going back to school this year it will still be available for you to download.

Click on any of the images to get this freebie or click here!


Learning with Live Animals

A wide variety of animals provide engagement throughout the school year for a wide variety of expectations. Seeing science in action is a life long experience that many children will never forget. The social-emotional gains are tremendous as well. I remember being very hesitant to having live animals in my class at first. If you have concerns, I agree there are many that are valid, although I firmly believe (now) that the benefits outweigh the cons.

1. The opportunity to experience the life cycle
Most urban children never fully experience the life cycle on a regular basis like children in rural areas do. I firmly believe this is an important experience for children to know that it is normal.
No matter if it is a butterfly going through metamorphosis, watching ants live in their colony or watching chick develop from an egg in the incubator and then move onto the a farm these memories will last a lifetime!

2. Animals engage all children, especially boys
We are always challenged with finding authentic experiences for our students. Experiencing the life cycle is highly engaging for all students!

3. Animals provide authentic writing opportunities
Making predictions, describing observations, journaling and writing about the life cycle. There is a never ending list of authentic opportunities to write!

4. It  supports oral language development
Every parent tells me that they come home full of stories of the adventures that we have each day.

5. Animals help to develop empathy
Children see how small, fragile and vulnerable animals are. By watching them learn how to stand, walk, eat and drink they develop a new understanding of others.

6. Animals will help to calms your classroom
Have a loud class? Reminding them that the animals are like babies and have very sensitive ears will help reduce the volume in the classroom.

7. I have found it is the best way to keep students engaged until the end of the school year.
This was our classes biggest surprise at the end of the year. We had the chicks until the end of the second last week of school. All of our students were motivated and engaged in class until the end of the year due to the chicks. My students parents were shocked how they never stopped wanting to come to school like many of their older siblings!

8. You can always "borrow" a pet from a family!
Don't want to have the expense of a pet? You may have a family who will let you "borrow" their pet for a month (like a hamster). One year we had a family go away for a vacation and they let the class take care of it during that month. The class thoroughly enjoyed it and the family was very appreciative that their pet was being taken care of while they were away!

If you want to learn more about our adventure with Having Fun with Chicks in the Classroom!

Classroom Friendly Animals

Ants can be purchased and mailed to you from Ants Alive. I have used their "AntsWork" Gel Habitat and love it!
Butterflies {can be purchased in the fall from a local nursery}
Fish {beta fish are a great option from a pet store}
Hermit crabs {pet store}
Chicks {you'll need to find a local hatchery to purchase your eggs from. Ours were $20 for 12 fertilized eggs. We could only fit 8 in our incubator} 2 Weeks MAX as they quickly get too big and messy
Ducks {local hatchery} 2 Weeks MAX as they get quickly too big and messy
Hamsters {pet store}
Lizards {pet store}

What other animals have you had in your classroom that you're children have loved? How has it benefited your students?


Having a Blast with Koo Koo Kanga Roo on Go Noodle {QDPA Activities}

Go Noodle has been one of our favourite activities this year for QDPA or just helping students to self-regulate. Koo Koo Kanga Roo is our classes favorite Channel in Go Noodle. 
Often adults have trouble learning or staying engaged for long periods of time and kids need more frequent breaks as well! It has engaging characters and people who will keep your students begging for more fitness activities!

Class Favorites!
Rollercoaster was the very first video that we did as a class. Instant hit! Amazing buy in for engagement. The only think I would suggest is pre-teaching that you don't yell or scream at the top of your lungs because you'll miss half the song! 

Zap It! is another fun, engaging song. I like this song in particular to show reluctant participators that it is okay to not always be the best and that everyone is a beginner dancer at some point! Neil, one of the main characters, is really tired and doesn't want to dance but is "zapped" by Brian into some fun activities!

Dinosaur Stomp is always a hit as kids pretend to be dinosaurs!

Awesome Rainbows lets kids share with others their favourite colors as they dance along to the actions!

Pop See Koo  is likely the biggest fan hits of Koo Koo Kanga Roo. They are always doing a remix version of it that are only available on Go Noodle! Our students love it!

What kid doesn't have a good sense of humor? Just Kidding is a great way to get a few giggles from your class and learn to chant at the same time!

This or That is a great way to see who can follow multi step instructions! It is always a great hit for self-expression in a group setting while dancing!

The Coolest Person Ever is a new song I cannot wait to use with my class this September! I know they will love it!



Birthday Celebrations {Acknowledging 5 years in K!}

Who doesn't love a party or some sort of acknowledgement of an achievement? I am celebrating 5 wonderful years in kindergarten! How kindergarten looks has changed quite a bit throughout these past five years. From half days, to full day/alternating days and now onto full day Kindergarten. I still love it just as much as I did when I started! 

In order to celebrate I want to share with you how we celebrate birthdays in our class. 

1st. During a whole group time we call our "birthday friend" up to the front. We sing "Happy Birthday" with lots of cha-cha-cha's! 

2nd. We sing "How old are you now?" to the tune of Happy Birthday and count up to the number and stopping when the birthday child yells "stop!" 

3rd. We sing "Bonne FĂȘte" to introduce some French in our class.

4th. We sing "Quel age as tu?"  and count in French stopping at "arrĂȘt!" 

5th. Our birthday child makes a crown! I used to use bulletin borders as crowns and the kids loved them. I then went on to making a blank crown which they would colour and design any way that they wanted to! I recently changed this up as I didn't want to worry about cutting them out and wanted my students to do it independently. I cut out strips of poster board and then let them choose from a variety of pre-designed crowns to cut and color. They can pick from a wide assortment of abilities!


10 Things K Teachers Want Parents to Know {Before School Starts}

1. We cannot wait to meet your child! Teachers are looking forward to meeting your child just as much as your child is excited to come to school (and possibly even more)! We love kids and want them to feel welcomed, loved and develop a love of learning!

1.  Backpack size. Make sure the backpack is big enough to hold their lunch container, a mail bag, a large sized library book or possibly two (they are always a hit) and a large bag of soiled clothes! I find many children's "cute" backpacks are never large enough and children are awkwardly carrying home numerous bags just to make sure  that their creations and/or belongings get home safely.

2. Buy Velcro shoes and set your child up for success! Teachers are very busy during the day. We wish we did have time to constantly tie laces that are constantly coming apart, but we don't. This will allow us to spend more time connecting, caring and teaching your child (socially, emotionally and academically) rather than with trying to teach your child independence. 

3. Teach your child to put their shoes on independently before they come to school. We don't expect that they have mastered the skill but when you have 30+ students in your class we greatly appreciate it when your child has some independence. The pure joy children have when mastering putting on their shoes is wonderful experience to see. Your child will beam with pride! It is a huge accomplishment to learn. Click here for tips on helping your child learn how to be independent with their shoes!

4. A large sturdy water bottle is a necessity! Many classes do not have sinks that are easily fillable by students with small water containers. Having one realistically large enough to last for a good portion of the day will help your child immensely. 

5. Please leave all personal belongings at home. Likely no, that Pokemon card that your child came home with was not traded for something else with parent consent. Many things get misplaced by little ones. When something gets lost it is devastating for us to see how disappointed and sad your child is. Please help prevent these mishaps and keep treasures, no matter what the size, at home.

6. Start the year with a spare change of clothes in a labelled ziplock bag.  All students have accidents at school. This is normal. It may be a painting accident, a mud puddle or even a bathroom accident.  We are used to these and are not upset when they occur. But we need a spare change of clothes to help your child.

7. Develop some independence in the washroom. Schools do have Educational Assistants who help toilet students with special needs but teachers can not enter the washroom to help your child. Practice these skills so that it is not something new. They do not need to be masters of it, but should be familiar with the routines (aka, know how to wipe and flush). A nightly bath routine will help ensure cleanliness! Knowing how to take clothes on and off is an important skill for them if they have had an accident.

8. Please label all of your Childs belongings. Backpacks, shoes, hats, mittens, pants, shirts, underwear, socks, snow suits and sandwich containers. The list goes on and on. Basically everything you send to school! You will be shocked but schools have a HUGE pile of lost and found  because children often do not recognize their own belongings or are embarrassed to admit it that something which was lost is theirs. Label using your last name to save your sanity if you have multiple children! 

9. Practice cleaning up at home. You may be shocked but by the end of the school year your child will be an expert tidy upper and helper of others! Start with some simple jobs like taking their plate to the kitchen sink at home. It might be a "grown up" activity that they look forward to doing instead of being reminded to always pick up after themselves after playing.

10. We are here for you! Have a question? We want to answer it! Don't be afraid to ask your teachers any question you may have. We are here to help.


Movement in the Classroom

Children love to get up and move. Especially when learning!

One engaging way is to make activities that get them moving, especially for your kinesthetic learners! Simply by being able to move, students can focus and engage more on what they are learning.

There are several factors 

Classroom Layout
Many teachers who are choosing to allow their students to move more throughout the day. By using the classroom layout to help differentiate to the needs of their students some teachers are allowing a variety of seating options in the classroom. This allows for a variety of kinesthetic needs and incorporates the option to be able to move while learning. These options may include, but are not limited to:

* large bouncy balls
* lower tables with mats to sit or kneel at
* tall tables for standing at
* stools
* small mats for children to choose where they need to sit for minimal distractions
* carpets for students to lay down on while working

Flexible Seating
Another way to incorporate movement is to allow flexible seating. Letting kids pick where they can best learn, within teacher directed guidelines, helps them to learn to regulate to be able to meet their own needs to help themselves focus and learn. Try googling flexible seating and you will get a variety of examples of how to set this up if you are interested in learning more!

Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are an engaging way to get students moving to search for a variety of activities. Any age group can participate. Pre-readers can find or search for items using images and older children can search for items using hints and/or problem solving skills.

Curriculum Activities {Literacy & Math}
One of my favourite ways of getting kids to get up and move during my literacy block is to have them write the room as it incorporates reading and writing at the same time. I find that it is important to engage my students in a fun activity so that they don't realize that they are learning because they are having fun! This is a personal favorite, for my SK students, because it is quick and easy and takes very little prep work on my part. Click here or on the image below to grab this freebie.

 Write the Room: ABC's

Before they can tackle a full ABC write the room I always expose my kindergarten students to similar but smaller activities. Usually I will post write the room activities around a holiday or a math related concept that we are working on. You can check out a variety of different write the room activities by clicking here or clicking on the image below.

Student Created Activities
Once the my students have become familiar with writing the room I will often give them the challenge of making their own activities on whichever topic we are learning and/or inquiring about at the time. Children will rise up to this challenge, when they are familiar with the routines, and do a great job at creating their own images and writing the corresponding words!

I hope these ideas help give you some ideas of how you can incorporate movement in your classroom throughout the school day!


Tips to help teach your child to put on their shoes independently.

Many children are determined to become big kids by practicing to get their shoes on independently. Most kids don't care if they are on the proper side. They just that they get the shoes on successfully! 

Here are some tips to help you on their journey to success.

1. Mark the Insides. I f they have trouble remembering which side goes on which foot, add a little dot or stickers to the inside of the sole to help them remember that they like to be friends and they go together.

2. Mark the Dominant Side. If they know which side is their dominant side, for instance which hand they eat their fork with, put a star on that shoe. It is a great reminder!

3. Comfort Level. Practise putting shoes on the correct feet (Does it feel comfortable? Is there a big 'V' when you put your feet together? If so, it means that your shoes need to be changed. Put the big toe of the shoes together, so there is no 'V').

4. Master taking shoes off before getting them on. Have your child bend down and undo shoes first before trying to put a foot in.

5: Watch out for the tongue. Make sure that your child holds onto the tongue of the shoe so it does not slide to the toe of the shoe and make it impossible for them to get on.

6. Develop a reward system. Reward each incremental step of learning with a small reward of your choice (sticker, cookie etc.). At first acknowledge each time they successfully get their shoes off. Then move onto getting their shoes on and finally ensuring that they are safe and secure on their feet!

7. Have a child show your child how to do it. Kids are the experts. They have most recently learned how to tie their shoes and they often are better teachers to their peers than we are as adults! Kids motivate each other in a positive way.

8. Keep practicing. It will take a long time to master independence. Start early with simple skills!

9. Stop helping. Sometime in our busy rush of life we stop the learning process. Many times kids need to learn simply by being forced to learn. Slow down, don't rush your child and give them the freedom to learn at their own pace.


Having Fun with Chicks In Our Classroom!

We started the idea of having chicks in our classroom from a friend who has done this several years in her classroom. She had an incubator that wasn't in use and we decided to give it a try.

We got the eggs in the middle of May. Having chicks requires 21 dedicated days to rotate the eggs three times a day, and if you can get the participation of your custodial to help out for an early flip and/or late night rotation of the eggs. Even though it wasn't much of an engaging activity in our classroom, we usually had one or two kids engaged, wondering and watching what was happening inside the eggs.

Our first day we saw this crack just before we went home. The next day we were excited to come to school with the lovely addition of two chicks who had hatched in the night!

We had the lucky opportunity of being able to have a data projector project the hatching of an egg during our school hours. It was captivating for all of our students. Although it can be a small process, the egg we watched hatch was helped by the other chicks who had already been hatched as they smelled the food and were hungry. It was a fascinating experience!

The chicks were squished inside the incubator! 

We originally had a dog cage prepared with chicken wire around it for the chicks to live in. We ended up visiting a local farm and learned from them to just use a large sized rubbermaid bin. It was much easier to clean out, transport to and from school (when required as we had one chick who needed extra support to learn how to walk), and helped reduce the footprint of space used in our classroom.

All of our parents kept telling us how thrilled they were that their children were able to enjoy this experience. It was all they could talk about when they came home at night. I will admit, it was the best way to end the school year. There never was a day that the children were not excited to come back to school. Many kids were upset that they couldn't come if they ever were sick for a day. 

Sometimes the end of the year can drag on for children and even us adults. Not this year! We timed it that we were able to send the chicks to a farm with only four days left of school. Even after they left, they were still the most engaged in learning I have experienced in my teaching career. Which I know was a direct result in their interest in the chicks. This is an experience I would love to do again, if possible! 


Reading Objects to Teach 1:1 Correspondence

Being able to read with 1:1 correspondence is a developmental progression which I always teach through play. Quick and easy!

I am sure you have many tricks up your sleeve about how to teach 1:1 correspondence (also known as tracking) but I thought I would share what I have found to be very effective in my classroom! Children must know that one object is one thing before they can understand that one word is a word.
This is such a basic yet important skill. Students need to be able to have 1:1 correspondence before they can read or even have the ability to count objects. In order to develop this skill I get out four random toys that have nothing to do with each other or that contrast each other which the child can easily label or identify (e.g., pencil, crayon, truck, car, varying colors of crayons). This is especially important for ELL learners or students with special needs as I don't want them actively processing the name of the object. I only want them to focus on the task of pointing to an object as they label it.

Introduction & Diagnostic Assessment
While sitting across the table from my student, I place the 4 objects on the table in front of them spaced approximately 12 inches apart from each other. Ask your student to identify what they see to assess what they naturally do on their own. Most students will do this without touching the objects although sometimes you will come across a child who will point at the object while identifying it. Either way, praise them but if they already can touch the object and label it at the same time I tell them that they may already be experts at the game we are about to play!

"Reading Objects" Lesson
When we start the lesson I tell my students that they are reading and describe how it is exactly how we read words.

"We read from left to right, touch the object we are "reading" and identify what it is."

Now, correctly model how to identify each object while pointing at each object with 1:1 correspondence. Making sure you are modelling for them the left to right progression to support their basic reading development (which likely will backwards for you). Next have them do exactly what you just show them and practice repeating this until they have mastered this skill. This is the point where you need to be actively enthusiastic about their correct answers to gain their "buy in" of the activity.

Repetition To Reinforce The Skill
Some students may need to practice this 4 to 5 times a day, for multiple days, until they can do this independently. Once they can, repeat this skill by moving the objects so that they are now spaced 11 inches apart. If they can transfer their tracking skills in this new situation continue repeating this over and over, inching the objects in small increments, until the objects are essentially a "finger space" away from each other which will represent the space between two words. I'll play this with the targeted students a couple times for a couple days, only if needed. Some students will only need to do this activity twice to retain the concept! Obviously, there are students who will need to have this skill reinforced multiple times for them to retain it!

The next step: Introducing words
From here, I introduce simple guided reading books or sight word books which have dots under the letters to reinforce the 1:1 correspondence. I do not focus whatsoever on any other reading skill or strategy. The dots help students develop the concept that they need to "bounce" their fingers like a ball from word to word (aka, from one dot to the next) instead of sliding their fingers under the words or placing their fingers in random locations. There are a variety of different books or resources you can get to help support this skill! If you are interested in what I use in my class you can check these!



Movement & Dance Song List

Young children need movement, and a lot of it! Dance is great to burn off extra energy and to help them focus. We use dance as a transition activity to help accommodate slower students and motivate them to finish an activity quickly to join in on the fun!
Our Favorite Dancing Songs!
{In no particular order}
A Pirate You Shall Be We had a pirate inquiry and this song engaged our students the most as a result!
I Like To Move It Just Dance version with kids
I Like To Move It (Original) from the Madagascar Movie
The Gummy Bear Song
Despicable Me
Shake It Off
I'm Gonna Catch You (rhyming song)
Five Little Monkeys (always good for a giggle from the kids!)
The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)
What Makes You Beautiful
Dinosaur Stomp
Everything is Awesome!
If You're A Kid Great Series to learn to follow directions
If You're a Kid (Halloween Remix)
If You're a Kid (Earth Day Remix) Not extremely engaging but great to introduce ways to help save the earth!
We Are The Dinosaurs
Antelopes Loves Cantalopes by Splash 'N Boots
Can you feel the rhythym on the street? by Splash 'N Boots (Unfortunately, I cannot find an online link to this song but it is well worth it to find your own version somewhere)
Shoes by Splash 'N Boots
Helpful Tip: I created a YouTube "Dance" favorites list within my own YouTube account and we can now always quickly access these videos to play on our data projector.

My hope is that you can find some great new songs from this list! They are tried and true in our class.

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