Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to School Centers and How to Introduce!

School has officially started for a lot of you and quickly approaching for others! I have had a lot of people ask about my Back to School Centers and how I introduce them at the beginning of the school year. I absolutely love centers time with my students and I know it is their favorite time of the day! They get so excited and engaged with the activities that I swear I could leave the room and they would never even notice!

The skills included in my Back to School Centers are: handwriting, forming letters, beginning sounds, uppercase and lowercase letters match, sorting letters, building sight words, identifying letters, rhyming, simple sentence building, counting, counting out pictures, shapes, ten frames, ordering numbers, showing numbers in a variety of ways, building numbers, sorting, and SO MUCH MORE!!  There are 27 activities altogether!

Here are some pictures of a handful of the center activities included in my Back to School Centers (not all activities are pictured below).

Keep reading after the pictures to see how I introduce centers in my classroom!

Show numbers 1-10 by clipping the card with the correct number of clothespins.

Show numbers 1-10 in a variety of ways puzzle.

Count out the correct number of students to show the number on the bus.

Match the number to the ten frame.

Make number towers with unifix cubes.

Roll and remove! A fun game to play independently or with 2+ players.

Number Order Puzzles

Spin and Graph (multiple spinners to choose from)

Counting objects mystery picture.

Sorting letters and numbers.
Build a sight word.

Letter Hunt- Find and cover the matching letters

Clip the matching lowercase letter.

Match uppercase and lowercase letters.

Beginning Sounds Match

Sentence Unscramble

Rhyming Words

I forgot to mention that each center activity includes a kid friendly 'I Can' poster for independence while working on each center activity. These are life savers! I use these to introduce the center and I am always seeing my students refer to them when they get to their center.

Now it's time to talk about how I introduce centers in my classroom!!! :)
The next part has a lot of reading, but I wanted to share in detail how I introduce and run my centers at the beginning of the year. :)
I do both math and literacy centers together. I usually introduce my Back to School Centers right at the start of the third week of school. I wait a couple weeks because I really like for my students to get a chance to learn and practice our classroom procedures, rules, and expectations. They definitely earn these centers after all of their hard work!

Having kindergarteners and wanting them to stay in one place/area for 15+ minutes was always very scary for me!!! I couldn't wrap my head around how I was going to introduce everything and how I was going to do my procedures for centers! However, these hands-on center activities really had my students working the entire time, in one place, was organized, and really allowed for a fun introduction to centers! I like to place the center activities into individual buckets. I get these buckets from The Dollar Tree.
(Pictured above are some of my November Centers)
Inside the buckets are:
 - 'I Can' Kid Friendly Poster
- Center Cards/Activity
- Student Accountability Sheet
- Pencils and Crayons
- Any manipulatives needed for an activity

All of these things fit right inside the buckets perfectly! Everything is in one place and easy for the students to take out of the bucket and to put away. My Back to School Centers includes 27 different activities (16 Math and 13 Literacy). I do not introduce ALL of these centers to my students at one time! I couldn't even imagine!!! That would probably take the entire day!

Day 1 and 2 of Centers:
I introduce 4 centers at a time. I bring everyone to the carpet and show each of the 4 activities. When I show them these activities, I model how to do the activity, I act like a student (showing good behaviors and not so good), then let a student model for the class. That way everyone is understanding of the activity, procedure, and expectations. I model all 4 activities this way. Then, I place a bucket on 4 of the tables and split the students between the 4 tables and also have some go to my classroom library and classroom computers. (6 groups altogether). I walk through the center rotation about 5 times. No joke! It makes the students laugh after the 3rd time and really helps them remember!
The night before I introduce the first 4 centers and library/computers, I jot down my students names into 6 groups. These groups are mixed and they are not their actual centers groups. I do not have any specific groups right at the beginning of the school year, but the groups I jot down are the groups they will work with for a little bit of time. My main goal while introducing centers is just for the students to understand the activities, procedures, and expectations.
I have my students first start with 10 minutes at each center. 4 of the centers are at the tables and the students are working together on that center. The other 2 groups are at my classroom library and computers. When the 10 minutes is up, I have a song play in the background. This allows them to know that it is time to clean up the center (put it in the bucket the way they received it) and to sit quietly at the table/center activity that they are at. I tell them that it is important that we can hear the music and it really allows for a quiet clean up!!
Once everyone has cleaned up their center and are all sitting, I have each group point to the table/center they will be rotating to next. This really allows them to see if their group is on the same page and if not then they can help each other out or ask me! :) If everyone is good to go and knows where they are going I play the music again to allow the quiet transition (since I told them it is important to hear the music). Works like magic!! When the music stops, they are ready to dive right in to their new center activity. The first 2 days I have them work in their centers for 10 minutes each. I have them rotate to 3 centers each day which allowed them to get to all 6 centers after two days. We celebrate our hard work and success!

Day 3 and 4 of Centers:
On the 3rd day of centers, I introduce 4 more center activities. I do not put away the other 4 center activities from day 1 and 2. Instead, I add another activity to each table. Each table now has 2 center activities for the students to choose from and I still have my classroom library/computers as a rotation. Before I have them go to the tables, I explain that if they are working with both buckets that they need to make sure to keep the activities separate and do their best not to mix them up. I am really impressed with how well they do with this! They love helping each other out and there is always one that seems to take charge and make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to in their group :) Depending on how the first 2 days go, I like to keep each center rotation at 10 minutes for the first week with 3 rotations each day.

Where do I go from here?
I keep introducing about 4 centers to the students at a time every 2-3 days until there are 4-5 buckets at each table. It may sound a bit crazy, but I really do like to allow my students to choose from the activities they are working on. It keeps them engaged, excited, and gives them some independence. If I notice they keep working on the same activities when they rotate, I steer them to a different bucket in a fun way! :) Now when there are this many centers going on at a table, there is no way we can have all 4 or 5 buckets on each table! I have 4 shelves in my classroom that are designated for the centers buckets. Each table has a specific shelf for the centers buckets. By the time we run out of room at our tables and we need to place the buckets on the shelf, my kiddos have a good idea of the centers procedures. The only thing that changes is that instead of the buckets already being on the table, they just walk over to their specific tables shelf and pick the activity they want to work on. If they finish an activity before I have them rotate, they can clean up the center and choose a different bucket from their shelf to work on.

What if a student didn't finish their center work and it is time to rotate?
There are often times where a student does not finish their center activity and are kind of bummed out that they have to clean up. In order to keep the hard work the student has already done, I have a folder for each student and they place their unfinished center work in that folder. So when they come back to that center another day, they can pull out the work they have already started and finish the activity.

Now I know this was a TON to read!! If you took the time to read all of that... THANK YOU!! I really really hope that it can help you in some way or maybe give you some ideas that you can use in your classroom!

You can grab these Back to School Centers BUNDLED or separately (Literacy or Math). I also have these centers BUNDLED with my Back to School MEGA BUNDLE! Click on the links below to check them out.

Thanks again! :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

First Day of Kindergarten

That day is here for a lot of us and just around the corner for the rest! The first day of kindergarten!!!! Our to-do lists are multiple pages long and our heads are full of all the ideas and things we want to get done in our classroom! On top of that we need to start planning our first day of school! Ahhhhh!!
I remember when I first made my transition from teaching 3rd grade to kindergarten and having absolutely no idea what the first day of kindergarten should even look like!! I was incredibly overwhelmed and spent hours upon hours trying to find ideas. Even after teaching kindergarten for 5 years, I still forget what I do on the first day of school! There is so much growth that happens throughout the year that when the new school year begins, I like to refer to my first day of school plans. Thank goodness for those!!

Over the years, I have come up with some important things that I always like to include in my first day of kindergarten:
1. Make the day fun!
2. Create a warm, safe, and comforting environment for the students.
3. Begin routines, procedures, and expectations from the start. SUPER SUPER IMPORTANT!!
4. Include lots of hands-on activities.
5. Have lots of interactions with each other.
6. Play
7. Have FUN!!!

There are so many amazing and wonderful first day of school ideas. I wanted to share with you my first day of school plans in hopes that I can give you some new ideas or help a new teacher who may feel as overwhelmed as I did my first year! Here they are:
Most of these activities can be found in my TPT Store and some are for FREE!! Click on the pictures to check them out!

If you are interested in reading about what I do the rest of the first week, you can check out my post from last year all about the first week of kindergarten HERE. There are FREEBIES included in that post too!

I hope you enjoy my first day of Kindergarten plans! Something so important to do at the beginning of the year is to really start the year off with practicing routines and procedures. I can't tell you how important this is. By having routines and procedures practiced and set in place from the beginning of the year, it really helps with behavior, classroom management, and also creates a safe and comfortable environment for your students. I have learned the hard way of not having these set in place from the beginning of the year!

I hope you all have an AMAZING and FUN first day of school with your students. It is so much fun meeting them and they will love you to pieces from the start!

Happy Back to School everyone!!! :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Year Long Thematic Units Plan and BUNDLES!!

Hi everyone!! I hope you are all having an amazing summer! I can't believe how fast it has flown by and that we are already in August!! I don't know about you, but I start to get the jitters a little bit around this time of year and do my best to hold off on the Back to School shopping! But who am I kidding??? You can find me roaming the $1 Target spot section, Dollar Tree, or Walmart almost daily!

I have been working extra hard on updating all of my thematic units! As many of you know, I absolutely LOVE using thematic units in my classroom. I can't say enough wonderful things about them! They are my absolute favorite thing to teach during the school year and over time I have created thematic units to go along with each week of the entire school year!!

I know that sounds crazy, but my students and I just can't get enough of them!!! I remember two years ago when I had a student who had a not so good home situation and was really having a hard time at school. This student was very quiet, shy, did not participate, did not do their work, acted out, and showed little to no emotions. Getting this student to the classroom was a daily struggle and I remember praying that I could bring a smile to this childs face or give them something to look forward to.
I created my first thematic unit (Apples) and the Monday after this unit was over something happened that I never thought I would see. This student came running into my classroom with the biggest smile on their face and loudly guessing what we would be learning about next! With tears in my eyes this student gave me one of the biggest hugs that I will never forget when I told them we would be learning about scarecrows. From that moment on, I knew I had to keep this up! Never again for the rest of the school year did that student struggle coming to my classroom. This student smiled throughout the day, participated, was so excited to do their work, made tons of friends, and left every day without forgetting to give me a hug and a smile. I sparked an excitement and interest in a student that I never thought I would be able to reach and not to mention an excitement and eagerness to learn in all my other students.

Some wonderful things I love about thematic units are:
- The crazy amount of common core standards you can teach in just one unit!
- The fun and excitement that students have throughout each unit.
- Students are highly engaged with the fun, hands-on, and interactive activities provided.
- Gives a variety of learning for the students
- Allows students to draw connections from the real world and understand how to make connections.
- Makes standards exciting as well as provides a huge VARIETY of activities for the standards!
- Creates a community of learners
- Gives a great flow of the standards and learning throughout the school year
- Allows teachers to integrate all subjects
- Makes learning FUN!!

...and so much more!!!

The list goes on and on and on! Last year I made a year long plan and when I recently went back to it, I decided that it needed a major update. I mean MAJOR update!!! I wanted to share with you all my updated Year Long Thematic Unit Plan. Click HERE  or on the pictures below to download the file:
I am also so excited to share with you all that I have bundled up my thematic units by month with a 25% SAVINGS per each monthly bundle! Click on the pictures below to check out the bundled monthly thematic units!




Here are the Back to School Bundles and Fairy Tale Bundles as well!

The Back to School Teachers Pay Teachers SALE starts tomorrow!!! The sale is August 3-4!! Everything in my store will be 28% OFF!! Make sure to use the promo code: BTS15 to get the full 28% OFF!

Not only are these thematic unit bundles already 25% SAVINGS, but the Back to School TPT SALE will give you an addition 28% OFF!!! 
**Don't forget the promo code: BTS15

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading all about my units! I hope you enjoy!! :)
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