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:

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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.

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The last product I received was the KEVA Structures Pack:

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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:

Check out the other posts in this series for more first week freebies!


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!


How to Have a Successful First Week of Kindergarten - Day 4

Welcome everyone!  There is light at the end of the tunnel, only two more days left in your first week!  You are getting to know your students, and they are beginning to understand your expectations. The crying has stopped (hopefully) and your classroom is beginning to get into a rhythm.  Let's dive into day 4!

Today we are going to focus on the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  Most of your students will already know this book from preschool, so it will be a welcome and familiar sight!

We start the day off with some scissor skills during our morning work.  These pages can be challenging for some of your learners, but it is important to see who is struggling, and who has an incorrect scissor grip.  Identifying these students right away is so important! Every time you pass out an assignment that requires cutting, you need to visit these students first and make sure they have the correct grip.  If this is not fixed early, the incorrect grip will become permanent.  Trust me, I am speaking from experience, I cut like a leftie weirdo only using my thumb and index finger for most of my life : )  My kindergarten teacher actually apologized to my mom that she didn't catch it fast enough : )

Some students will get upset, and if they are really struggling, I do not make them finish the whole thing.  Like I said before, the first week is all about informal assessment.  The same is true for all the work that I am presenting to you for the first week of school.  The activities that I give you are not necessarily super challenging, and are right in line with the skills we want our students to come in with from preschool.  These activities help you to weed out the kids who don't have that very basic understanding of letters, numbers, or lack fine motor skills.  These children will need intervention early and often!  If you jump on small group work with these students starting the second week of school, you can quickly correct gaps that are missing, and catch them up to speed with the rest of the class.

After morning work, we practice our morning calendar routines, learn rule number 4, and color in our classroom rules coloring book.

We go over routines for when there is a visitor in the classroom, or when the phone rings.  I am also the Vice-Principal at my school, and there are often distractions and interruptions that I have to deal with concerning school site issues.  I have to work long and hard with my students to make sure they don't turn into wild animals when I have to put a lesson on pause for a couple minutes : )

After teaching some more routines, we do a number writing assessment.  Again, I am checking for pencil grasp, fine motor skills, and strength.

I check my procedures list, and see what else I need to work on with my students, and review some procedures that I have already taught.  I do this before and after recess.

After recess, we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What So You See?  We complete a predictable sentence, and story sequence activity together.

We also work on some Brown Bear patterning skills.  This is a great assessment to see how many students in your class already understand the concept of patterning.  Patterns are not technically included in the Common Core Standards, but they are an important skill.  If all of your students have this mastered, then you can move on, and not worry about teaching that skill.  Depending on the number of students who are missing the skill, you may need to revisit it either in whole class lessons, or in small groups.

Next, we complete a simple Brown Bear paper plate art project.  I have included a quick template for the nose and ears, and then I just attach some googlie eyes.

Here is a list of resources that you can find in this post:

Check out the other posts in this series for more first week freebies!


How to Have a Successful First Week of Kindergarten - Day 3

 Hola! I'm back again breaking down all of the activities I do with my students during the first week of kindergarten!  On to day 3!

Today's activities will be centered around the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  As you all know, this is a great book to use during the first week of school, not just because the kids love it, but also for the letter activities, and assessment possibilities!

We start the day off with some more fine motor skills and pencil practice.  Remember to circulate through the room, and look for correct pencil grip and strength, and correct as needed.

After our morning work, we meet back at the rug for calendar time, and to introduce rule #3.  We color the corresponding coloring page in this pack:

On day 3, I like to introduce classroom jobs and early finishers work.  I show them the classroom job board, and review who has what job.  This will be revisited at the end of the day when everyone needs to do their clean-up job.  The only people in my class who have jobs in the morning, are the calendar and attendance people, so I describe those jobs, and guide the students through them.  

I also discuss what they should be doing when they finish an assignment early. For the first two days of the week, I put book boxes on their tables, and just have them read out of those when they are done with an assignment. I have created this early finishers product, so that when students are done, they can go and grab a box, along with a dry erase marker or clothespins, and get to work on reviewing a skill independently.

Next, we complete a letter sound assessment.  The students look at the letter, and color the picture that has the same beginning sound.  Doing all 26 letters at the same time can be a bit overwhelming, so I split it up into 2 pages, and sometimes do the second page on another day.

Before lunch, we discuss where they should put their sweater when they do not need it anymore, so I do not have them lying all around the classroom, and the parents are not complaining that their child lost their sweater.

After recess, we discuss book care and how to put books back into the correct location in our classroom library.  I then read them Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and we do an upper/lower case letter match-up sheet.

I review another procedure from my list, remember, you can get the list for free, just click on the picture, and it will take you to the product:

Next, we move on to math, and with this assignment, I am getting a sense for the students number ordering and number recognition skills.

Finally, we complete a little Chicka Name Tree activity.  You can either use stamps or foam letters.  I prefer foam letters, but I didn't bring any home with me from the classroom this summer, so my example shows it with stamps : )  You could of course have them rainbow write their name with markers or crayons, or even use paint.

Clean-up and pack-up routines are reviewed and practiced, and then adios, time for home!  Here is a list of the products and resources that can be found in this post:

Check out the other posts in this series for more first week freebies!