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How to make a letter sounds mouse pad on Vistaprint

Hi guys!  Do you ever have an idea kicking around in your head for ages, but just aren't sure how to go about making it happen?  At school, my kids use some ugly cartoon mouse pads that the computer teacher gave me. I kept thinking to myself - what if I could make these more functional?  My kids do all sorts of word work on the computer, and they need easy letter sound assistance.  Well, this summer I finally figured it out, and I'm sharing it with you!

I stated by creating a slide in PowerPoint, and turned that into a JPEG.  I made 2 different options for that tricky letter X!

Costco is normally my go to when I am printing pictures, or for any other little projects I have.  I started out by using their website, but they wouldn't give me a preview of the mouse pad before I ordered it.  Their price is definitely cheaper, but I will pay more to make sure that what I see is what I get, and that's why I went over to vistaprint.com  There might be other printing websites that work just as well, but for this blog post, I'm going to show you what I did on the Vistaprint website. When I first got to the site, I couldn't find mouse pad listed anywhere in the drop down menus, so I just typed it into the search bar.

It immediately took me to this screen, and I selected the option to upload my own complete design.

I clicked on the "my computer" button, and added in the file from the place I had saved it on my computer. I normally save everything on the desktop that I am currently working on, and then I "file" the things away when I am done with my project.  

What I love about Vistaprint, is that they let you see the preview ahead of time, and they give you little safety lines to work with.  When you upload my design, it might say that it is out of the safety lines a bit, but it will be fine once you get to the next screen.
It took me a lot longer than I would like to admit to get the sizing right, and to make sure that the graphics were large enough that they would not blur.  Trial and error, and a couple hours later, and I got this final design to approve.

Once I approved it, I went to my cart to pay.  One of my co-workers told me about a Chrome plug-in called Honey, have you guys heard on it?  All you have to do is go to the Chrome web store (or just Google - Honey Chrome plug-in like I did).  You click the "Add to Chrome" button, and after it is installed, you get a little icon up by your web browser bar.

When you are in the check out of ANY website, you can click on the little icon, and it will tell you all of the coupon codes that they could find on the Internet to save you money!  It's a little hard to see, but in this next photo, Vistaprint has 7 different offers to choose from!

After I clicked on my Honey extension, I found a coupon for 50% off!!!! Vistaprint always has some good deals, so that's another reason that I like ordering through them.  After I ordered it, I was afraid that it wouldn't look as good as it did on the website, but I was so happy when I took it out of the bag, and it looked just like the preview!

If this is something you would be interested in making, just click on the link below, and you will find the picture of the letter sounds mat that I made, and you can upload it to Vistaprint!

Pineapple Summer Bulletin Board

Hello everyone! The summer countdown has begun!  I officially have 13 days left!  I feel half excited, and half panicky, trying to squeeze in all the last bits of knowledge that I can impart to them!  As the school year winds down, I am looking for quick and easy bulletin boards that we can do, and I've jumped on the pineapple bandwagon! 

When I saw these pineapple faces from Creative Clips I became immediately obsessed! I'm not ashamed to admit it, I jump on bandwagons like nobodies business, Whether it's Rae Dunn, or Fixer Upper, or Pineapples, I'm as basic as they come! : )

I love to use Krista Wallden's clip art for art projects, because she produces work that is nice and simple with clean black lines, but also contains adorable details that add so much fun and character to the classroom.  To create the art work, I took the black lines of pineapples, and blew them up in power point.  I gave my kids a couple different pineapple options, and I printed them up on card stock.

We started by outlining the pineapple in crayon to make the colors stand out a little bit more, and then we headed outside to do some water coloring.

Finally, the kids cut it out, and I put it on our bulletin board.  I love how everything pops on the black background, and I would love to do all black bulletin boards next year, but I'm afraid that it might make the classroom too dark.  Have any of you tried all black bulletin boards?

The center sign was made with some beautiful KG fonts, one of those being Pineapple Delight of course!  I made the sign below in power point and printed the PDF out in poster size.  I followed the directions on a Pinterest pin I had saved a long time ago, and it worked perfectly.  Here's a link to the tutorial:

I printed the sign, laminated it, and I'm going to be honest, my husband put it together while I was cooking dinner.  Attention to detail is not my strong suit : )

If you would like a copy of this sign, click on the link below, and good luck keeping your sanity as another school year comes to a close!

Kindergarten Early Finishers - Setting Up for Success

Finding activities for early finishers has always been a struggle for me.  For the last eight years, I came up with different plans every summer to address this issue.  Some ideas worked better than others, but I wasn't completely satisfied with any of my plans!

One of the biggest issues for me, was my limited number of copies.  I have absolutely no extra copies to use for early finishers, so I needed something that they could use, and then erase.  I also wanted something that I could introduce at the beginning of the year, and that students could complete independently the rest of the year.  Finally, I needed activities that would provide students practice with topics we had already covered, but that they would also find engaging and fun! With all this in mind, I created the Kindergarten Early Finishers Task Cards.

The inspiration started with these beautiful boxes from Michael's. Click on the links below the picture to purchase these boxes.

Photo Boxes from Michael's (Don't forget the use your coupon's!)
Photo Boxes from Amazon (Amazon has it in colored or clear)

I've used these boxes for an entire year now, and they are fairly durable.  I also have a rough class this year, that struggles to treat things carefully, so I'm even more impressed that they have lasted!

I broke the task cards up by months with an increasing level of difficulty in both Language Arts and Math. At the beginning of every month, I take about 10 minutes to introduce the new cards. Many of the cards are similar enough to ones the students have seen before, so the skills are easily transferable. I rarely have a students ask me how to complete the cards in a box, which saves me a lot of time!

I looked for storage options for an entire year's worth of cards, and also found these boxes at Michael's.  Both types of boxes are OFTEN 50% off, and then of course with a coupon, you can get them cheaper as well.

I originally found these boxes at Michael's, and I'm sure they still have them, but I couldn't find them online.  I did find them on Amazon though.

When students are done with their work, they can grab a box, and practice their skills.

My students' this year are obsessed with the memory games!

This project was a labor of love for me this year, and I feel like, in my 9th year of teaching, I finally found a solution to my early finisher's problem.  If you would like your own copy of this early finisher's resource, just click on the link below. You can buy the cards month by month, or you can save money on the year long bundle.

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!