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March is coming and with it all things Seuss, as well as St. Patrick's Day and for some, Spring Break! This is a great time to get something fun in your sensory bins! I have multiple sensory bins - our large 4 person table, as well as smaller 1 or 2 person Rubbermaid bins. This lets me add sensory fun to a variety of center activities, thus increasing engagement AND helping to develop fine motor skills and provide sensory input!

Green eggs & ham in green rice & beans anyone? I love this one because the mix can be reused for St. Patrick's Day in just a few weeks! Add some props from your Dramatic Play Center and students can have fun subitizing while matching number cards with ten frames! Adding the different size beans means lots of options for additional counting and sorting once students have finished the activity too!

 I love it when I can differentiate activities in my sensory bin. In this case, the cards can be matched to produce rhyming pairs, or matched to CVC word cards. This way my high flyers can be moving on, while those that need it continue to get support with rhyming. Red rice from Valentine's Day makes a reappearance and is mixed with pompoms - students love using the pompoms to block funnel spouts or fill up a container with the pompoms and then see how much rice can still fit!

Our new favorite sensory bin filler is dyed Epsom salt. Epsom salt is inexpensive, and looks like shiny crystals when dyed. You dye it the same way as rice - a little rubbing alcohol and some food coloring! These happy little fellows have sums on their chests and match an addition sentence card, so students can have fun with sums to 10!

 

Want the activities? Click here to see them in my TPT store!

 St. Patrick's Day is a big deal in my classroom - we love having Silly McGilly visit! Here's he's made a rainbow of rice in our sensory table! Yes, it gets messed up immediately, but the kids love it and it's often featured when they write about Silly McGilly's visit!
 For this bin, I spray painted glass gems gold and then write on them with Sharpies. Some have letters and some have numbers.
 Students find the "gold" and match it to the correct mat - either finding the beginning sound picture that matches the letter, or finding the number on the pot of gold - but they have to go in numerical order, to make it trickier lol!
One of our favorite morning bins in March is pots of gold with play dough - they have to make "gold pieces" to match the number on the pot! Grab these St. Patrick's Day Sensory Bin Mats for FREE in my TPT store by clicking here.

We also write our letters in green hair gel - just add it to a baggie and make sure its completely closed! In this picture, Silly McGilly made a three-way match with our St. Patrick's Day Alphabet Match-Up cards - uppercase, lowercase and beginning sound picture, then he wrote the "S" in the gel!

Next up, Spring Life Cycles - are you raising any critters in your classroom this year? Check out this post for info on my favorite life cycle products for the classroom - including FREE Life Cycle crowns! 

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Have you see the adorable mini erasers at Target right now? I love the unicorns and pizzas! I've been hard at work making some activities to match, which was a struggle since we just moved to Okinawa, Japan!
This is the view from the seawall in Okinawa - gorgeous!

My husband is in the Army, so we will be in Okinawa for the next three years! Don't worry though, I'll still be teaching - no idea where yet, but I know myself well enough to know I'll have to have my own classroom somehow! In the meantime, I'll be using my 4 year old Sullivan as my guinea pig for all my ideas lol!

Some of you have been asking about more kindness activities, so today I'm sharing my February Random Acts of Kindness Calendar! Lots of ideas for helping to teach kindness in this month of love! Download it for free by clicking the picture!



And here are the mini eraser activities - they're perfect for February, but really the unicorn and pizza could be used year round! I had so much fun with these - I think the part-part-whole activities and the CVC word builders are my favorites!





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December is almost here, and with it, an opportunity to build your classroom community and encourage kindness among your students! Regardless of what holiday they celebrate, they can all get together to do kind things for others - and hopefully this free Random Acts of Kindness Calendar will be the impetus they need to start making being kind an every day habit!
 Display it in your classroom in full color!

Or send home this b&w version so students' families can follow along at home!

Either way you choose, these simple (and affordable) ideas will soon have your students acting less Grinchy and more loving! To grab your copy, just click the picture to download it for free in my TPT store!

Check out my Pinterest Play Dough Board for recipe ideas for the homemade play dough!And be sure to check out these fun resources in my TPT store to help make your December more merry!

  




Have a joyful December everyone!

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Veterans Day is a big deal in my home and my community. Not only is my husband currently serving in the Army, I am also an Army Veteran. My father and my uncle were also veterans. We live on a military base, and a lot of my students have family members in the military.  
 
This is my husband and I, right after we met during advanced training! He's been in the Army for almost 20 years, and we've been married for 19 years!

So as you can imagine, we celebrate Veterans Day in a big way! Here are some of the books and videos I use in my classroom, and a freebie for you as well! Affiliate links to Amazon are provided for your convenience.Enjoy, and don't forget to thank a Veteran!

Veterans Day videos:
The Poppy Song for Kids | Veterans Day Songs for Children | The Kiboomers - YouTube
Kibboomer's Veterans Day song - your students could easily learn this to sing at an assembly.

What is Veterans Day? What is Armistice Day? What is Memorial Day? Learn with our video for kids! - YouTube
Informative kid-friendly video about Veterans Day

Veterans Day: Soldiers Returning Home - YouTube
Video highlighting reunions of soldiers and their families. Well put together and a tear jerker! 

Veterans - Heroes in our Neighborhood - YouTube
 
Read aloud of "Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood" book!

I Still Believe - Veterans Day Song 2014 - YouTube
3rd Graders singing "I Still Believe" in honor of Veterans Day!

Great read alouds:



FREEBIE:

 Veteran's Day Songs & Reader - just click to grab this freebie!

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Are you a Target mini eraser fiend? I stalk that Dollar Spot every chance I can, hoping to snag some mini erases! My students LOVE them, so much so that they'll happily practice math skills all day long, just for the chance to work with the erasers!

When I saw the Halloween erasers this year, I just had to create some activities to go with them!
Find them here: Fall Mini Eraser Pack
 Ten frame mats and number cards for the jack o'lantern and black cat erasers!

 One mat for 0-10 and one for 0-20 so you can easily differentiate!


 Spiderweb cards from 0-10 for practicing 1-1 correspondence with the spider erasers!

 2 patterning mats for practicing AB, AABB, AAB and ABC patterns with the spider erasers!

 Need a fun pumpkin activity? Check out this Pumpkin Math FREEBIE!

And if you're working on graphing, you'll want to check out my Fall Graphing Pack:


 2 Count & Graph activities.

 4 Graphs with charts - slip them in a page protector or laminate for reuse!

 2 Roll & Graph activities - students LOVE getting to roll the dice and graph!

 4 Spin & Graph activities.
Tip: just use a pencil and paperclip to create a spinner!

2 Pictographs! Students color and cut out the pictures to glue on their graphs!


Want to grab a FREEBIE? Check out my Thanksgiving Dinner graph!

And finally, the winners of my Facebook contest for a Utopia 360 4D VR/AR Bundle were announced, but if you didn't win don't worry, you can still get these STEM toys at MyRetrak and use the promo code "Herding Kats" for a 20% off discount on your entire order!

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I'm so excited to bring you a new Superhero Alphabet Activity Pack! I've teamed up with Stephen Fite of Melody House Music to create resources that go along with his songs - in this case, his Supersonic Letter Sounds song that your students will be begging you to play over and over!

The pack comes with an MP3 of the Supersonic Letter Sounds song, so you can play it  for your students at your Listening Center or on your computer. There's also a WMV file to project on your Smartboard or Promethean board!. The WMV file includes the song with easily-identifiable pictures and the corresponding letter (upper & lower case) next to it. Check out this sample:

Supersonic Alphabet Slideshow preview - YouTube

Also included: 

 Beginning Sounds Clip Cards
My students LOVE these and they're a great SELF-CHECKING, fine motor work out! Three matching cut and paste worksheets included. 52 Cards total – 2 different pictures for each letter.
 
Alphabet Match-Up Cards 
 
26 Upper & 26 Lower Case cards combined with 26 Picture Cards. Easily differentiated, so your students match upper case to lower case or letter to beginning sound picture. As a challenge, your students can arrange them in alphabetical order!

“I have __, who has __?” Cards
 
27 cards for a whole group activity featuring letter sound and visual recognition.Easily differentiated so you can play all year - start off with letter recognition i.e. “I have C. Who has F?”  and progress to letter sounds i.e. "I have /c/. Who has /f/?"!

 Write the Room
This set includes 26 cards and 2 different recording sheets so you can differentiating according to student ability and the time you want the activity to take. If your students are starting out learning their letters or your center time is short, only place a few cards around the room. Advanced students or a longer center time? Place all 26 cards out and give students the corresponding sheet! They'll love have to find all of the cards and figure out the beginning sound!

This pack is now live on both in my TPT store and on Stephen's site, so be sure to check it out! There will be more collaborations coming in the future - Stephen Fite has some AWESOME songs that my students always love. We all know that music and learning go hand in hand, and I'm so excited to be able to create activities that go along with Stephen's songs!

 
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Recently I was contacted by ReTrak, a tech accessories company, about their Utopia 360 Augmented and Virtual Reality Bundles. I agreed to try them out, and let you know what I think of them.

First up was the 4D+ Dinosaur Experience. My 4 year old, Sullivan, LOVES dinosaurs, so we just had to take a look at this pack!
 It comes with a VR headset and a deck of augmented reality flashcards. 

The app is free to download, you just input the code that comes with the cards to use it! The neat thing is that once you download the app and enter your code, the device does NOT need to be hooked up to wi-fi to work! This means that if you get some old iphones or android phones donated to your classroom, you can use them without having to log them into your school's wi-fi (I know that can be an issue at some schools!). I just downloaded the app at home on my old iphone and then used it offline at school! NOTE: you may have to remove protective cases. I have a large Otterbox case on my own iPhone and it was too big to fit into the headset, which is why I dug out my old iPhone.


You can also use the app and cards without the headset, if you have an Ipad or tablet. The advantage of going that route would be that students could share the device, thus allowing more than one child to have a turn at a time. I still love the headset for the immersion quality (Sully was hilarious to watch as he tried to reach out and "pet" the dinosaurs!) but in a classroom setting, the iPads might be a better option, simply because setting up and putting on the headset is really something an adult has to help with, whereas students should be able to manage the iPad app independently.

Here's Sullivan interacting with the iPad app. It really is as simple as opening the app and placing a card in front of the camera!

4d+ Dinosaur Augmented Reality Flashcards - YouTube

Next up we tried out the 4D+ Animal Alphabet Zoo:

 
Again, the pack comes with the headset and cards, but the neat thing is that you can purchase the cards separately as well, so if you buy one set, you can use the headset with  different packs of cards! As you can see, Sullivan gave it a thumbs up!

4d Animal Augmented Reality flash cards - YouTube
What I LOVED about these cards is that not only do they show an animal for each letter, there are also interactive food cards. If you place the correct food card next to the animal, it will move to the food card and 'eat".  Here's a video of the Queen Bee and flower cards.

So not only can you use these cards in your alphabet lessons - each card has a large uppercase letter on the back, as well as the animal picture, letter and animal name on the front - but you can also use them as a science lesson as you discuss the eating habits of different animals! As you can see in this next video, Sullivan knew that horses eat hay, but he didn't know that hay is dried grass!
4D+ Animal Alphabet - YouTube

These packs (along with another one for Space!) are available at Amazon (affiliate links provided above) and also at Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Brookstone and Staples. I have to say that the quality of the app is top notch - using the cards with the iPad was simple and fun for Sullivan. The headset was a bit trickier to use, and we had to adjust it to make sure it wasn't blurry. Its not a high-end VR headset, but it doesn't have a high-end price tag either! Sullivan liked it well enough, but complained that his eyes were tired after about 15 minutes of sustained use. I tried it myself (and of course my older kids had to try it out too!) and we all agreed that for limited use it was fine, but sustained use of the headset (15+ minutes) did start to cause eye strain. Luckily, using the iPad solves that issue and honestly, with pre-k and K students, I think their attention would wane faster than their eyes would strain, so it wouldn't be an issue.

Overall, I think these packs are a fun STEM addition to any classroom! Not only would they expose your students to new technology, the Animal Alphabet set can also reinforce letters/sounds while the Dinosaur set also shows the dinosaur bones, which could be a great lead in to a unit on Paleontology! 

Retrak was kind enough to offer to sponsor a giveaway for THREE bundles! Just click to enter the giveaway on my Facebook page here.


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I wasn't surprised when one of my highest attended sessions at I Teach K this summer was my Kindness Counts! presentation. Let's face it, teaching kindness and other character traits is essential if you want to build a positive classroom community and cut down on the constant interruptions due to discipline issues. Today I'm going to share a few tips and ideas from that session, to help you get your school year off to a positive start!

First up is my Kindness Playlist on youtube. Click the link to find 30+ teacher-approved videos that you can play in class to help teach your students Kindness as well as well as manners, resiliency and honesty!

For example, this episode of "Can You Teach My Alligator Manners?", focuses on the sign language for please and thank you and gives your students the chance to identify scenarios where the alligator is using good manners. The videos in this series are only about 2 minutes long, so they're perfect for Circle Time to introduce different concepts such a taking turns, sharing and being a good sport!

kisscartoon io Can You Teach My Alligator Manners Episode 4 Please and Thank You - YouTube

Sesame Street has an Everyday Super Heroes Club with videos, printable badges and more!
Sesame Street: Everyday Heroes Club Song (with Aloe Blacc and Elmo) - YouTube


Daniel Tiger - "Saying I'm Sorry is the First Step" SONG - YouTube
One of the things that has really changed my classroom community is instituting this "Saying "I'm Sorry" is the FIRST step" policy. Basically after saying sorry, the child has to ask the person they hurt how they can help them feel better. Sometimes its as simple as giving a hug, sometimes they request that the child not do whatever it was again, sometimes they ask the child to play a new game with them. It empowers the "victim" to decide how they want the other child to make amends! Daniel Tiger is a great show for social and emotional skills, and I'd often play it during inside recess or if we had lunch in the classroom because so many of the skills were applicable to my kiddos, and gave me a quick, singable reminder any time an issue came up - like the one for when a friend doesn't want to play with you which came in handy when friends wanted to branch out and play with other people.

Here are some of my favorite picture books that teach kindness and other character traits (affiliate links for your convenience) just click on the picture to see it on Amazon. These are great read aloud books that I love to use to teach about being kind and taking responsibility.
 

Another thing that I use in my classroom are these Kindness & Character Songs & Chants (freebie!) 

One of the things that I started last December was a Daily Act of Kindergarten Kindness. It was wonderful! My students were so happy to do sweet things for other classes, our principal and even each other! It truly made a difference in my classroom, and I was disappointed that I had waited until December to start it! Well this year I decided to start our RAKs in September! We're going to start the school year off with a bang by doing a random act of kindness every day! Each of the acts is simple, most don't cost a thing (the few that do are inexpensive!) and require little prep, so they're easy to incorporate into your BTS lessons! I'm sharing the calendar with you all today: Random Acts of Kindness Calendar for September 2017.

 

And finally, I always teach about Martin Luther King Jr. in January. I think that's too late in the year as well. With the social climate these days, it just makes more sense to talk about these issues NOW. My Martin Luther King Jr. Pack has activities that are accessible for our young learners. It teaches the important concepts of changing the world through peace and love and that the change has to start with us.
Here are two of the activities included in the pack, easy for pre-k to 1st graders to understand!
 If we start teaching about tolerance, kindness, fairness, honesty, peace and most of all LOVE at the beginning of the school year, we will reap the benefits all year long! I hope you'll be able to take these ideas back to school with you to build your classroom community! If you have tips of your own to share on building classroom community, please rustle up a comment below and share them!

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I think my most popular session at SDE's I Teach K this summer was my S.T.E.A.M.ing Through Nursery Rhymes! It's such a hot topic right now, but there isn't a whole lot out there for making it truly accessible in kindergarten. Today I'm going to share a little bit of that session with you!

One of my favorite ways to incorporate technology into teaching nursery rhymes is by using a Green Screen app!  I use Green Screen by Do Ink on my iPhone, it's $2.99 in the App store. Here's a quick clip of my son, Sullivan, reciting Baa Baa Black Sheep.


I simply hung a piece of green felt on my wall and googled a picture of a sheep in a field. Sully was totally not into being filmed (I bribed him with Dum Dums, if you look he has two fistfuls!), he hates the flash on my camera so even when I promise him it won't flash he tends to look away anyways. However, once he saw the finished product with the sheep behind him he was enthralled! He wanted to do it again and again and kept asking to do different rhymes to see what would pop up behind him! It works the same with students, they LOVE seeing themselves on screen, and putting together some video clips of students reciting nursery rhymes is a great way to start an Open House or Parent Teacher Conferences!

Engineering challenges can be hard in Kindergarten! Their little fingers may have difficulties manipulating the materials, so often we call in our 5th grade friends for help. However, I like to start the year with a challenge they can complete on their own so they have some experience before calling in older helpers. I find this gives them more confidence in their ideas, so its not so much the 5th graders leading the challenge as being directed by the Kinders. One of the easiest engineering challenges for Kinders is this Building a Tuffet challenge for the Little Miss Muffet rhyme.
This challenge requires just some paper towel rolls, tape, glue and construction paper, along with a doll or two to play Miss Muffet!

I have my kinders work in groups, but you could easily have them complete this challenge on their own as well. You can see that there were several different ideas for creating the "tuffet"!

Incorporating art into nursery rhymes is easy, but I always try to move away from simple crafts to actual process art. For our Tiny Tim nursery rhyme we used different sizes of bubble wrap to paint our turtles and the kids loved it!

Tying in math concepts is easy with some of the nursery rhymes. For example, for Hickory Dickory Dock we combine retelling with learning to tell time! I made this clock out of a cereal box and the mice from felt.  As we retell the nursery rhyme, we use a different clock face and change the time in the rhyme!


And of course we can't forget the Science aspect of S.T.E.A.M.! I incorporate a demonstration or experiment with each of my nursery rhyme units:

Like this demonstration on what fire needs with the rhyme Jack Be Nimble  - perfect for Fire Safety in October!

Or an experiment on gravity for Humpty Dumpty using sand, flour and marbles! 

Another way that I incorporate STEM ideas in my classroom is through our center materials. I have so many different types of building materials from blocks to magnetic tiles to 3d shapes to natural wood pieces to plastic cups! You'd be amazed at what the kids can build with these materials! However, while I was at I Teach K this summer I saw a great, new product at a booth and had to have it! 
Meet BlocksRock. This product was created by a group of 6th graders! It comes in a handy, zippered carrying case for easy clean up and storage. It includes 2 levels of cards along with a bell. There's a free app that extends the fun even more!
This is me with at the BlocksRock booth at I teach K with their incredibly friendly staff!
Angie from BlocksRock was gracious enough to allow me to try a set out for myself. I brought it home and started playing it with Sullivan. Since he's only 4 and his spatial awareness is still developing, I allowed him to build at his own pace rather than racing against me.

He loved being able to ring the bell when he was finished! Initially he played for 20 minutes straight, which was awesome for a 4 year old's attention span! We've played with the set several times in the past month and I can already see a big difference in his ability level. We started with the Level 1 cards and he is now able to easily complete the Level 2 cards and even some of the Level 3s! 

Here's a picture of what I built with the app!

I took my set to my first day of in-service training and soon had all of the teachers playing it too! Our 3rd grade teacher is using some leftover grant money to purchase some sets! You can buy them either through the BlockRock website or on Amazon (affiliate link) There's a discount for buying 2 sets, and if you buy 5 you get a set free! These are perfect for after school Science Clubs, STEM Nights or even in your classroom Block Center! I honestly can say that this product can go from Pre-K all the way to at least 5th grade in a classroom setting. Not only has Sullivan played it, but my 10, 13, and 18 year old kiddos also tried it out and enjoyed it! I even got my 18 year old to put down her phone for a full twenty minutes to play it with me!

Want to win your own BlocksRock set AND your choice of one of my Nursery Rhyme STEM packs? Enter this Rafflecopter drawing for your chance to win! 

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One of my biggest Aha! moments was when I realized that it was way easier to change the CONTENT of a Math Center rather than having to teach a whole new set of rules/procedures each time because I changed the activity. Today I'm sharing the 3 essentials for my math centers - I change up the themes frequently, and differentiate the skill level or content, but once I teach my students how to use these essentials, I'm set for the year! I can change the look of the games and my students' engagement is renewed, yet I'm not wasting time teaching how to use new materials!



#1 Dice

I love dice because they're so versatile, and you can get so many different kinds - dice with numbers, dice with dots, dice with shapes, dice with 6 sides all the way to 20! Once I teach my students the rules of using our dice (shake once, roll gently, keep dice on the table) we are good to go with whichever dice fit our game! One of the first games I introduce is Roll & Cover. I love this because depending on the mat and dice you use, students can be practicing one to one correspondence, number recognition, shapes recognition, addition or subtraction! When we introduce addition, students play with 2 dice, adding them together and finding the sum.
 Later in the year, my students play with 3 dice, adding them all together for sums up to 18!

When we introduce subtraction, the game play changes slightly so that they roll the dice and subtract the smaller number from the larger number and find the difference.

We also use our dice to play Ten Frame Fill-Up! In this game, each child rolls a dice an places that many tokens onto their ten frame, filling them from top to bottom, left to right.  The first one to fill up all 3 ten frames and reach 30 wins!  
For all of these games, we just use dice and tokens from Oriental Trading Company. They have these round, colorful stacking blocks that are perfect to use as tokens - they come in a ton of colors and with 400 to a pack, there's enough to even split a pack with a teacher friend!

 We also use Geometric Dice from Oriental Trading to play Roll & Cover with shapes, and even Roll & Graph!

#2 Dominoes

I also love using dominoes in the classroom - they're great for one to one correspondence, subitizing and more! They're inexpensive so I've even had some luck with asking parents to donate a set or two to the classroom (in case you need ideas for a Wishlist!). My students love my Domino Math pack too!

 Creating number bonds is easy with dominoes!


We also use dominoes when comparing numbers!


I use them to help students learn vertical addition as well!


#3 Playing Cards

Playing cards are a must-have for Math Centers because there are so many no-prep games you can play with them! Go Fish is an easy game for number recognition for example. (I get my playing cards donated by the local casino, so that's why there are holes punched in the cards.) You can have your students sort them, place them in numerical order, even create 2 or 3 digit numbers!

 
I love using playing cards for fact families. Just draw two cards and the students write the addition and subtraction equations to match! Using the cards means that if students get confused they can count the shapes on the card, so it supports my lower students. 


Comparing numbers is easy with cards as well - just remove the face cards!



With these 3 inexpensive items, you'll easily cover all your Math Skills throughout the year! Your students will also love getting to "play" with dice, dominoes and playing cards, so they'll remain motivated and engaged during centers - it's a win-win! All of the above games can be played easily with a whiteboard and dry erase marker, but if you'd like to grab my Math Bundles to make it easy on yourself, you can see them here: Math Centers for Dice and Playing Cards  and Domino Math!

Next blog post will be about teaching kindness and character traits to your students - something I think we all really need to focus on!
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