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Colorful Carnations!

Hi everyone! I'm taking advantage of this 3-day weekend to get caught up on my to-do list!  My husband and I spent all day cleaning yesterday, and I threw out my back out vacuuming! #officiallyold
 Today I'm taking it easy, and cleaning up the office/desktop, and wanted to share with you the project my students and I did for our science fair this year.

Every year our school has a science fair.  The students work individually or in pairs to complete an experiment.  We display them all in our cafeteria for classroom walk-thru's, and parents viewing.  Pre-K and Kinder do group projects because if we sent something home, it would just become a parent project (although I kind of feel like that's what it becomes regardless of the grade anyway : )

I've admired these color changing experiments with flowers or celery for a while, and decided that this year we would tackle the project.  I started by grabbing some white carnations and food coloring at Vons.

I also purchased these large test tubes from Learning Resources. Check them out HERE. I was pleasantly surprised with how wide the opening were, and how sturdy the containers seemed to be.  They are perfect for kindergarten!

We added about 10 drops of food coloring to each vial.  I only had the red, yellow, green, and blue food coloring, so we had to mix some of the colors together to get the orange and purple.  This provided us with an excellent opportunity to discuss color mixing again, and we brought out our favorite color book:

Miraculously, no one spilled any of the food coloring on the carpet, cabinet, rug, or their clothing, so already the experiment was a success! I cut the flower stems back a bit, and the students placed the flowers into the vials.

We recorded our hypothesis' which ranged from - the flowers will change colors, nothing will happen, and to the inevitable - the flowers will explode (why is this always a hypothesis when we do science experiments?!?! #iblamecartoons)

I put the science fair board together and recorded our materials, procedure, and hypothesis'.

I believe I took this picture after 48 hours of the flowers soaking in the water.  They started to change around 24 hours after we put them in the water, and the flowers actually lasted over a week!  During our experiment, the yellow and orange changed color the most, and the purple absorbed the color the least.  I would be curious to see if anyone else got different results. 

My kids loved this experiment, and they kept bringing their parents in to show them the flowers and talk about what was happening, so that made it even more worth while for me!  If you would like a copy of the forms I used for my science fair board, just click on the picture below!  I hope you enjoy doing this with your students, and let me know how it comes out!

Valentine's Art Freebie

Today I wanted to share with you a simple and easy Valentine's day craft.  I was searching on Pinterest for some cute projects for the kids to do, and I saw  a beautiful art project that had the student draw lines over a heart, and fill in the lines with patterns.  I thought that the concept was awesome, but drawing lines can be tricky for kinder kids, so I created an easy template for them to use.

We started out by coloring the outside borders of the squares.

I showed them an example that I did, where the inside of the heart had two colors in an alternating pattern, and the outside square had another two colors, also in an alternating pattern.  We talked about doing it the same way as I did, and we also talked about other options that they might choose.  I didn't put a limit on what they could or couldn't do.

After we finished coloring our squares, we got to painting! I love that my room has benches right outside my windows so that I can get students working on the painting outside while others are still finishing up their coloring in the inside, and still keep an eye on them.

At the beginning of the year, I ask the parents to send in some old t-shirts for our art projects.

We let the paint dry, and hung them on our bulletin board.  I love how they look with the black background, and I love all of the different choices that the students made.

If you would like a copy of this simple art project, just click on the link below!

Thanksgiving Turkey Craft

Looking for a quick and easy Thanksgiving craft for your kids? One that helps them remember the true meaning of the holiday?  Head on over to the Kinder Tribe, and snag this freebie!

STEM Resources for Kindergarten

Hi guys!  Recently I had the opportunity to review some new STEM materials from a company named MindWare. MindWare is a division of Oriental Trading that focuses on brain games and has wonderful resources for STEM lessons. They also have a section on their website with free teacher lesson plans that go with their products!  My review of their products is based strictly on my opinions,  I was provided the samples free of charge from the company to give my honest opinions.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

This first products I received were the KEVA Brain Builders Packs:

Image result for keva brain builders

I decided to put this product in my early finishers area, and it has been a hit!  These blocks are always in high demand.  The students started out looking at the cards that are included in the pack and building what was shown.

Now they are challenging themselves, and seeing how they can expand on their ideas, and make them  even larger!

I also received the Brain Builders Pack that is for ages 7 and up.  The activities looked really fun, and a bit more challenging, so I gave the pack to the second grade teacher, and they have been working on these activities during their early finisher time as well.

Image result for keva brain builders

The last product I received was the KEVA Structures Pack:

Image result for keva

This set includes 200 planks, and is great for STEM activities!  I love the simplicity of the planks.  You can do some very basic activities with them, but also really challenge your students to make complex structures.  When I received this box, I let all of the teachers in my school know, and so far, I have done a lesson with them, and so has the 4th grade teacher, and our 6th-8th grade science teacher.  I love that one product can be shared across so many different grade levels!  The science teacher has requested that we buy a couple more boxes, so I will definitely be asking our principal to order those in the near future.

I decided to do a very simple project to start out our STEM activities for the year.  I broke the students up into groups of 3-4, and simply asked them to build the tallest structure they could.  I had them sketch out their designs first.

I used a form found in Brooke Brown's STEM pack from TPT.  After we discussed what we wanted our structures to look like, we started to put our plans into action.  I gave each group 40 planks and put no limitations on how the structure needed to be completed.  I was amazed that each group had a different thought process!

After they built their structures, I went around and measured them with a ruler.  The one that had just a single line of planks was obviously the winner, and the one that was done on the carpet did not survive : )  After we measured, we talked about strength, and I got to have some fun by going around and lifting up the tables to see if the structures would survive disturbance.  The one that was highest fell over, and the other ones survived.  This obviously lead into a discussion about having a sturdy base, and also about forces that might rock a building, like our California earthquakes!  This also lead to a discussion about building codes, and how we have to make our buildings stronger in California to withstand environmental factors.

STEM is such a huge initiative in all of our school's right now, and with good reason!  I'm glad that more and more resources are coming out to help assist us in implementing these lessons.  I also very much appreciate when a company is thoughtful enough to include teacher lessons plans that go along with their products!

Here is a link to all of the lesson plans that go along with the MindWare STEM toys:

Thank you to MindWare for giving me this opportunity!  My kids continue to love using these materials, and I love that they can be used for so many different STEM challenges throughout the school year!

How to Plan a Successful Staff Meeting

Hi guys!

   I survived the first week of school, and I am actually writing a blog post on the first weekend!!! I'm not going to lie, I feel pretty proud of myself : )  As you guys know, I wear a couple of different hats at my school.  I am the Kinder teacher, but I am also the Vice-Principal.  Balancing both of these jobs can be stressful at times, but my love for organization and efficiency usually helps to keep me sane.

   As part of my Vice-Principal duties, I am in charge of staff development.  I have a lot of freedom to set the agenda, and decide which direction the staff should be moving in.  This can often be stressful, because I constantly question if I am leading them in the right direction.  I do my best to stay up to date with educational trends while at the same time understanding where our school is now, and what steps we need to take to move forward.  With all that being said, I decided to make some worksheets that would help me narrow in on my goals for the school year.

    I decided on three main goals for the school year.  My goal is to inform teachers about these goals, let them know where they can find resources, and follow-up with them at each meeting in regards to their progress towards these goals.  The first thing that I needed to do, was to clearly state my goals, and clarify the specifics about what I wanted to achieve, so I made a SMART goals worksheet. I did this on my own, but it could easily be done as a whole faculty as well.

The three goals I decided on, were developing a growth mindset in our students, STEM implementation, and student data tracking.  I wrote down exactly what I wanted to achieve within those subject areas, and what I wanted us to achieve as a staff by the end of the school year.

Next, I thought about how I was going to break up the information into bite sized pieces for the faculty to try one month at a time.  By breaking everything down into small chunks, the faculty does not get overwhelmed, and is more likely to be on the same page.

After that, I made a worksheet that I could use for each faculty meeting.  This form reminds me to give the teachers the reminders they need, the praise they deserve, and helps me to stay on track with my goals for our school.

I hope that these forms can be of some use to you as you plan your professional development for the year.  Leave a comment below, and let me know what your faculty goals are for the year!  If you would like a copy of these forms, just click on any of the pictures above or on the link below:

How to Have a Successful First Week of Kindergarten - Day 5

Alright guys, we made it!!! It's the last day of the first week of kindergarten!!! That means, it's almost, the first weekend of the school year!  Long naps will be had, and wine will be consumed!!! : )  But before we can get there, we need to finish up our last day, with some activities using the timeless - Rainbow Fish!

I'm sure just about everyone has this book in their classroom library.  It's a great way to talk about friendship and sharing!

We are starting the day off with some more scissor skills, and assessing which of our students need assistance with their grip, and which ones need some strength training to be able to hold their scissors properly.

Calendar procedures will follow, and our last rule will be introduced.  The students will color the corresponding coloring page, and then we will return to the rug to review procedures, and introduce any that have yet to be covered.

At this point, I have usually covered all of my big topics on the procedures list.  It varies class by class, but I am usually just reviewing procedures at this point.  Every class is different, some years, we have practiced lining up and walking in a straight line until I am blue in the face.  Other years, we need to practice cleaning up immediately after the bell has rung, and some years, I don't need to repeat practically anything!  Every class is so different, and I wish all of you an angel class this year
 : )

Today's assessment is on shapes!  We will match up the shapes to everyday objects.

More routines and procedures occur before and after recess, and then on to The Rainbow Fish!  We will complete a sight word matching activity, that will really give me a sense of who can match-up letters and see patterns.

This is followed by a number matching activity, which is also giving my valuable information into my student's beginning number recognition skills.

Finally, we will be completing this art project that I found on Pinterest!

Isn't this so cute!!! You can find the instructions, and a link to the project here:

Clean-up and pack-up procedures are reviewed and practiced and BOOM, you did it!!! You survived the first week of Kindergarten!!  Now go enjoy that well deserved glass of wine and 8pm bedtime!!!

Here is a list of the resources found in this post:

Fine Motor Freebies

Hi guys!  I'm taking a pause in my back to school blogging series to talk about hand strengthening activities that can increase your student's fine motor skills!  Head on over to the Kinder Tribe blog, and you will find some fine motor freebies to use with your students!