Differentiation Station Creations focuses on Pre-K to second grade units, centers and games. I believe that differentiation should be made easy for every teacher, especially the classroom teacher. I am certified special education and regular education teacher.
Get kids excited about February with thematic word walls! Word walls in all shapes and sizes are a great way to enhance your print rich classroom. Help your kids build background knowledge by creating and using thematic word walls in your classroom. Create your own thematic word walls, check out Grab & Go: February Word Walls, create a portable word wall station, or have students create their own desk sized set of February word walls. Here are few ideas that you can use with your own kids! If you are still in need of more great ideas for February, check out my pinterest board Creative February.
Themes For February
Using thematic units, during learning, is a great way to engage your students. Thematic units help kids make and understand connections to the real world. Thematic units allow you to teach new vocabulary in a real and meaningful way. Here are a few themes that I like to use during February.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. A perfect time to learn about teeth, dentistry, and keeping your teeth healthy. Head over to the American Dental Association to see their resources and ideas for Dental Health month!
Groundhog’s Day is fun! Who can resist a furry round rodent that’s afraid of his own shadow?? Check out more ideas on my Pinterest board: Wintry Mix of Teaching Ideas.
George Washington & Abraham Lincoln
President’s Day is a holiday in the USA that celebrates the past and present presidents. It’s a great time to revisit and compare/contrast some of the great leaders of this country. Two favorites to compare/contrast are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
My son is crazy for all things sports! When I asked him what he would choose as a theme for February, he immediately said, “The SUPERBOWL!” There are tons of kids out there that would be uber-motivated to write about this football event. It is a perfect time to predict and write about their predicted winner.
One of my favorite themes is everything dinosaurs. Check out tons of pin-worthy ideas on this All About Dinosaurs board on Pinterest. Here are some more fun dinosaur activities:
An easy way to start with thematic word walls is to make your own! While it is tempting to create the word wall by yourself, resist the urge! A teacher-made word wall may be more aesthetically pleasing and much neater; however, students are more invested in charts that they helped to create.
Involve Your Students
Encourage your students to brainstorm together. Have them access their own background knowledge on a concept or theme. This allows you to assess student understanding of the concept or theme, as well as, to plan out the thematic learning for the future. When creating a thematic word wall, encourage students to identify all the words they know that relate to the specific theme. If students are unable to identify any words, or have not picked out the specific words required, aid them in coming up with the desired words.
Legible Word Walls + Pictures
To make the word wall most usable for your students, you may want to write the words. This will make all the letters legible and large. Involve your students, by having them illustrate each word or matching pre-printed/pre-drawn picures.
Use chart paper for large word walls that are visible around the classroom, or use regular-sized paper that can be bound into a “February Word Walls” book. Kids can then use the portable word wall book in the writing center, or it can travel around the classroom. Make multiple classroom copies of the “February Word Wall” book and many children can use them as needed.
Young children love to learn about the five senses and the sense of touch is a favorite. I can remember using a mystery box when I was in preschool. It was one of the my favorite activities! So I reached into my box of trash treasure to find the materials to create a new tactile mystery box for my own kids.
Tactile Mystery Box
What is a tactile mystery box? It is simply a bag or box that hides the contents from a child’s eyes. Kids will reach into the mystery box and feel the object(s) inside. The purpose of this activity is for children to rely on their sense of touch to identify an object.
Children are unable to see the object, so they must use their fingers to explore the contours of the object. It is a great time to identify descriptive words.
Identify Descriptive Words
Before kids begin to reach into the mystery box, help them build their vocabulary. Brainstorm words that can describe how something feels.
Touch & Describe
Start by introducing an object. It can be any type of object; however you may want to select different objects that will elicit a variety of different tactile feelings. Smooth, rough, soft, hard, slick, round, bumpy, prickly, and slimy are just a few of the possible adjectives that you want children to identify.
Children will begin to build a bridge of knowledge, by associating the physical feeling of the object with the descriptive words.
Classifying Through Sense of Touch
The first time the kids use the Grab & Guess mystery box, introduce 3-4 different objects and allow students to see and feel the objects. Then, hide all of the objects out of sight and place one of the hidden objects in the mystery box. Students can take turns putting their hands inside the mystery box and using descriptive language to identify what they feel.
Emphasize that all children should have a turn feeling the object, before the children guess which object is actually inside the mystery box. You can also switch objects for each turn, so that each child gets a different object to grab & guess!
Children can play “Grab & Guess” with a partner. It is a great way to build relationships and have children focused on teamwork. One partner will visually identify an object and secretly place it in the mystery box. The other child will put their hand through the mystery box and use their sense of touch to describe and identify the object.
Another way to use the Grab & Go mystery box is through free play. Students can put their own objects into the box. Even though the child knows what the object is, when they place the object inside the mystery box they are focusing primarily on their sense of touch. Without visual cues, they must rely on their sense of touch.
DIY Mystery Box
You can simply use a bag or box as a mystery box, OR you can create a container that kids will just need to reach inside. It is easy as dressing up the bag or box. By adding a few colors and pictures, it becomes something spectacular!
This particular version of a mystery box is made out of a Pringles can and a sock! It was so easy to make and kids LOVE reaching their hands inside of the sock. Here are DIY directions to make your own Grab & Guess box.
Long sock (I used my son’s old soccer socks)
Hot glue gun/glue
Paper to create signs on the sides
Cut the end off of the sock.
Pull sock over top of Pringles can.
Hot glue the sock to the back of the Pringles can. This prevents kids from ripping it off the can.
Draw a picture or words for the side of your can. Attach the signs to the sides of the sock.
Want more ideas for hands-on learning? Check out these posts with lots of hands-on learning ideas!
Back to school time always brings coconut trees and ABC’s to the front of my mind. It’s not because I love the island breeze, although I do. Back to school time is inevitably tied to the classic book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. I can feel the delight that surrounds Chicka Chicka Boom Boom activities.
“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!”
“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” is a fantastic rhyming book. The rhymes introduce the letters of the alphabet in an engaging way. Children are sure to remember the sing-song rhymes and the bright, vibrant pictures in the story. “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” is a fabulous read.
Want to take the story to a new level? Share this video where the story is relayed as a song. Catchy and sure to stick in your kids’ minds!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - YouTube
There are so many amazing activities to go along with the story. Here are a few of favorites that you should definitely check out.
The magnetic palm tree was my absolute favorite! I love that kids can hold each letter and interact with it directly on the tree. I couldn’t just admire it online, I had to create one two myself!
Pre-K Pages uses fake leaves for her leaves, which is genius. Low prep and quick! Unfortunately for me, I did not have any leaves handy at 4 AM (when I do my best crafting), so I had to improvise with felt & pipe cleaners.
‘Chicka Chicka Boom Boom’ Magnetic Tree DIY
Pre-K Pages has fantastic directions on creating a magnetic coconut tree. My trees follow the basic outline of her directions. Any can will work, as long as it is metal. I created two different sized trees.
Large Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree
This tree is made out of 3 jumbo sized coffee cans. Follow the directions on Pre-K Pages to tape them together. The best part about this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree is that all the pieces can be stored inside!
DIY Felt Leaves
The leaves for both trees are made out of felt. Follow these easy directions to create your leaves.
Large Leaves- Option #1
Cut out the leaves out of a large piece of green felt.
Glue a pipe cleaner in the middle of the leaf. 1 on the front and 1 on the back. (I used a light green for the back of the leaf to add contrast).
About 2-3 inches of pipe cleaner should overhang the end of the leaf.
Use an razor blade to cut an X in the middle of the lid.
Thread the overhanging pipe cleaners through the lid.
Optional: Glue a piece of felt over top the inside of the lid to cover the ends of the pipe cleaners and to hold them in place.
Christmas in July giveaway and sales are here! I’ve teamed up with Crayons and Cuties in Kindergarten, Tejeda’s Tots, Kelly & Kim’s Kindergarten, and Mrs. Payton’s Precious Kindergateners to bring you some deals, steals, and giveaways brighten your days.
Christmas in July Giveaway
Our first bit of excitement is our Christmas in July giveaway. And it is a doozy! You can win a plush Mo Willems character + the matching book. There will be 5 winners, so head over and enter our giveaway for Christmas in July today!
I’m teaming up with a slew of other talented teachers to bring you some fantastic dollar deals on Christmas in July Eve! Stay tuned for all of the $1 deals…
More Christmas in July Festivities
There will be tons of Christmas in July fun happening on July 25th, so mark your calendars. You won’t want to miss it! Stay up to the minute on all the happenings by following my facebook page and instagram account. There will be lots of fun for all!
By the end of July, summer fun tends to stagnate a little in our house. We need a little something to beat the heat and spark creativity. It’s the perfect time for Christmas in July! Check out these fun Christmas in July craft ideas that are sure to bring a little Christmas joy to the long hot days of July!
Why Christmas in July?
1. Beat the heat!
The heat continues to rise outside. The pool does not spark the same level of excitement as it did at the beginning of June, so July’s end has us all searching for something new and exciting to occupy our time. The kids and I long for something novel to capture our attention. Christmas crafts give us the perfect chance for creative fun indoors!
2. Bring Christmas kindness back to our lives
Sometimes the giving spirit of Christmas gets lost amidst the ads and hoopla that are associated with the winter holiday time. I love the idea of setting a time that focuses solely on giving and kindness. It helps refocus our daily actions in a more positive way.
3. Creativity with a Christmas twist
Christmastime just makes me smile. I love the reason for Christmas, but I also love all of the traditions and fun that surrounds it. Creating ornaments and decorations is an integral part of our family celebrations. It allows all of us to gather together and get creative! The kids were so excited that it will happen twice this year!
4. Teach kids about delayed gratification
In the age of instant gratification, my kids tons of practice in patience and delayed gratification. The idea of creating fun activities and hiding them away for 6 months, is going to blow their minds! It’s great practice for them (and for me, too!)
Christmas in July Craft Ideas
Whether you are a DIY whiz or afraid of the glue gun, I’ve got you covered! Check out these fun ideas to make your Christmas in July so much fun.
DIY Christmas Crackers
My family loves Christmas crackers. It does not matter what is inside the cracker, the joy is in the anticipation of the mighty pull! You would not believe the excitement over a shoe horn…
I thought July would be the perfect time to create our own set of Christmas crackers. They are unbelievably easy to make and so much fun. There is unlimited creativity in creating these crackers. The first round of crackers included a joke and a Christmas eraser, but anything can go inside!
Toilet paper rolls or paper towl rolls cut in pieces
Some type of festive paper (wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, or child-decorated paper)
String or ribbon
Little trinket (eraser, decoration, ornament, sticker, etc.)
Optional: Stickers, glitter, or any other type of decoration
DIY Christmas Crackers:
Write a joke or special message on a small slip of paper. I used a post-it note.
Place the paper inside the toilet paper roll.
Put a small trinket inside the toilet paper roll.
Wrap a piece of festive paper around the toilet paper roll. Cut about 3-4 inches of extra paper on each end of the toilet paper roll.
Tape the paper in the middle.
Tie a piece of decorative ribbon or string around each end of the cracker.
Decorate the rest of the cracker, if desired.
DIY Christmas Streamers
Make your own Christmas streamers out of cheap materials. Cut up a plastic table cloth and tie it to a pony tail holder. Instant fun for dancing, running, and more!
Making ornaments is a tradition in our house. We love creating with salt dough, clothespins and more! By creating ornaments in July, we are able to take our time while making each ornament. The kids love planning out who will get each little treasure. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Salt dough ornaments are always a hit, so we decided to create some ornaments now to give to friends and family in December. Check out our salt dough fun. My all-time favorite is the kissing hand ornament.
As a child, summertime was a magical time. We went outside early in the morning and didn’t come back inside until dinner. I want my kids to experience that same magical, summertime outdoor play… Easier said, than done.
My kids get to choose one week of summer camp for the entire summer. The rest of the time, they are home with me. I love having the luxury of staying home with my kids in the summer; however, it does require some creativity to keep my sanity.
Limit Screen Time
We’ve all heard that too much technology can have a detrimental effect on the health and well being of children. One month week into summer, I feel the temptation to give into the temporary quiet of screen time. At the one month mark, the novelty of summer has worn off and I begin to hear the inevitable “We have nothing to do…”
This year I am going to be prepared! I’ve teamed up with Joe Black, from Nature Rated, to share some great outdoor activities to preempt the “nothing-to-do” summer comments. Can’t wait to get the kids into some outdoor play!
Let’s Get Outside
While I am a crafting fool, I recognize the importance of and joy in getting outside. I still love digging for worms with my kids, exploring in the woods, and spending hours catching frogs and minnows. My kids love to do all of these things, too. However, they often need a little direction getting an activity started.
Joe, at Nature Rated, understands this all too well and has put together an infographic with 15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature. From baking a blackberry pie to constructing a pond or insect hotel, there’s plenty of ideas for summer fun. Head on over to his site for step-by-step instructions on ways to get your kids outside this summer. Put these activities in your back pocket, for those “I’m bored” days!
Check out more ways to interact with nature over at Joe’s blog, Nature Rated!
Do you have more ideas for nature fun? I’d love to hear about them. Leave me a comment and let me know how you keep your kids excited all summer!
An outdoor enthusiast, Joe is the lead editor at Nature Rated; a website which rates and reviews the best outdoor gear for people who quickly want to know what to get. He believes in no fluff, to the point reviews, which help you choose the right gear for your next adventure.
Whenever daily life gets him down he heads to the nearest lake or river with his kayak and camera spending time recharging his batteries.
Fine motor activities are so important for young children. If you follow my blog, you know that I am a huge believer in learning through play. Almost all of my learning activities contain some hands-on aspect, so that children are able to access information through kinesthetic learning.
So, I was delighted when I was asked to review the book Fine Motor ABC. Fine Motor ABC is an amazing book written by Stacie Erfle, MS, OTR/L. Fine Motor ABC includes an alphabet themed activity for every letter of the alphabet and each activity is designed to strengthen fine motor skills.
WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SPECIAL?
Let’s face it- this is the age of easy accessibility. Need an activity to practice fine motor skills and the alphabet? Just search Pinterest and instantaneously find 50 amazing activities. I feel confident in knowing why each of these activities is valuable in building foundational literacy skills. While I know the importance of fine motor skills, I am not an occupational therapist and I don’t have confidence in knowing the “WHY” behind each of these fine motor skills.
Fine Motor ABC immediately spoke to me, because it addresses the WHY of each foundational and functional fine motor skill.
Each letter activity is laid out in an appealing and easy-to-use format. There are 5 consistent parts to each page.
Upper and lowercase letter
Picture with the letter hand sign
Rhyme that explains the activity
Action picture of the activity
Easy-to-understand explanation of the skill and its’ importance
HOW DO I USE THIS BOOK?
When I used the activity with my children, we viewed and interacted with each page. The page is perfect for young children, because it is well laid out and not cluttered. Since the format is the same on each page, my kids were able to anticipate the structure of each page.
Identify the Written Letters
The first thing we did was to identify the letters at the top of the page. We spoke the letter name and then traced the upper and lowercase letter with our fingers.
Then, we practiced using our hands to form the letter in sign language. As we traced and created the hand sign, we were repeating the letter name and the sound that it makes. Pairing the repetition of letter name & sound with the kinesthetic movement and a picture, allows kids to access the information through visual, kinesthetic, and aural learning.
Read the Rhyme
Next, read the engaging rhyme. Every rhyme is catchy and includes a word that begins with the targeted letter. Kids are not only practicing literacy skills through rhyming, they are also identifying words with the targeted beginning sound.
The picture reinforces the rhyme and provides children with a visual picture of how to perform the activity. The pictures are clear and explicitly show each task.
The last component of each page is what makes this book so special. At the bottom of each page Stacie provides a concise description of the specific fine motor skills that are addressed in the activity; as well as, the importance of attaining this skill. Priceless!
This book allows parents and teachers to feel confident in helping children develop fine motor skills. As you move through the alphabet, children are building literacy and fine motor skills. As the educator, you can feel empowered to know what to do to build fine motor skills, how to go about it, and WHY the skills are important.
GET YOUR OWN COPY OF FINE MOTOR ABC
Head over to the Skill Builders website to check out Fine Motor ABC! Fine Motor ABC is available as an e-book and in print. Keep an eye out for the new books Gross Motor ABC and Sensory ABC. These books should be available sometime this year!
I received Fine Motor ABC as a gift from the author. This review is written with my own opinions. I shared this review, because I found the book valuable and think it is a great resource for parents and teachers! I’ve used my affiliate link to connect you with resource, but it may be available in book stores or libraries.
Want to win your own copy of Fine Motor ABC? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below or on my Facebook page. This contest runs from 4/4/17 to 4/11/17.
Portable word walls are fantastic. They help make words accessible to students in so many ways. Kids are able to physically hold and the words or word lists and the words can travel with them. Many of the children that I have worked with over the years, have difficulty copying words from the board or across the room. By using portable word walls, children bring the words right to their work space. I wanted to create a portable word wall station that is quick and easy to make. While also being space saving and user-friendly in the classroom.
What is a Portable Word Wall?
A portable word wall is a set of words that is available for students to use right at their work space. Portable word walls can take many forms, but the main benefit is that it brings the words to the student! Check out this post with some of the portable word walls that I use with my kids.
Why Use Portable Word Walls?
There are many reasons to use portable word walls, but my primary reason for using them is that students are able to physically interact with the words. Allowing students to use some type of portable word wall brings the words right to their work space. Some children have great difficulty in copying words from a distance, so this eliminates the stress and error of copying from across the room. It is easier for students to focus on the specific words when they are right in front of them.
DIY: Portable Word Wall Station
Now for the DIY! This word wall station was inspired by the science fair. Every year, I can’t wait for science fair season. I love exploring hands-on science with my kids and (I confess) helping them create the display for the science fair. I do dread discarding the tri-fold board after the fair is over, so I had to come up with an idea to reuse the tri-fold science fair. Since I am crazy for thematic word walls (and my husband is tired of seeing me ruin the walls), I decided to make a portable word wall station. Check out this easy DIY: Tri fold Portable Word Wall Station!
This DIY is very simple. All you need is a tri fold presentation board, word walls on metal rings, and some plastic hooks with adhesive. I used 3M Command Hooks.
Gather all your materials.
Lay out the portable word walls on top of the tri-fold board.
After the word wall rings are spaced evenly along the board, simply attach the plastic hooks to the board.
Place a title on the board. Get mine for free here.
You are ready to use your word wall station!
Word Walls for Your New Station
Thematic word walls are engaging and will boost student vocabulary AND can come in a variety of forms. Check out some of the word walls that I use with my new portable word wall station. My collection of word walls includes both word lists and word cards. Use my word walls with your new station, or create your own- Just make sure to get your kids’ hands on a portable word wall!
Thematic Word Lists
Check out a post about my thematic word lists here. Get them from my TeachersPayTeachers store here.
Want to make a Mini Anchor Chart Stand to hold word wall lists? Check out this post with clear directions on how to create a tabletop anchor chart stand.
Thematic Word Cards
Check out a blog post that shows the word cards in action. Get a free sample to try out here.
These free leprechaun activities are sure to make your St. Patrick’s Day a magical time! Prep them now and you will be all set for some St. Patrick’s Day learning fun. What is more magical than leprechauns, pots of gold, & rainbows? Use these free leprechaun activities to get kids excited about learning math with leprechauns!
Free Leprechaun Activities
I have two freebies to share with you! These free leprechaun activities are great for young kids, because they involve lots of interaction and hands-on learning. Kids learn best through “doing”, so these activities are sure to be a hit! Get your free leprechaun activities here.
Leaping Leprechauns Subtraction Poem
Close your eyes and picture a leaping leprechaun. The picture that comes to my mind is a joyful, mischievous being- not unlike both of my spirited kids! Poetry is the perfect medium to convey the whimsical nature of the leaping leprechaun.
“Five” as a Benchmark
I love using addition and subtraction poems based around the number five and number ten. Five and ten are the perfect benchmarks for young children, because they correspond to the number of fingers on one and both hands. Children easily pick up that they have 5 fingers on one hand and 10 fingers included on both hands. It is a natural and real-world way to get kids comfortable with 5 and 10. By consistently working with fives and tens, you are helping kids create a solid mathematical base. Through the years, I’ve created a ton of “FIVES” based poetry that you can use with your kids. See more blog posts with “Fives” poetry in action here. You can get the “Fives” poetry packs here.
The poem begins with 5 leaping leprechauns. In each stanza of the poem, the leprechauns encounter St. Patrick’s Day themed items. At the end of each stanza, one leprechaun leaves the poem. It’s a really fun way to explore the theme of leprechauns and reinforce counting backwards and beginning subtraction.
The poem comes in both color and black & white, along with pictures to use as visual cues. Write the poem on sentence strips and use in a pocket chart, display with a document camera, or just read it aloud. Use the pictures to sequence the poem, identify matching words in the poem, to retell the story, or put on a ring for a quick and easy St. Patrick’s Day word wall.
Leaping Leprechauns Number Line Activities
The next free leprechaun activity is one of my absolute favorites! Kids need to move. This math game is perfect for getting them up and moving, while they are involved in meaningful learning activities. This pack includes numerals to create a large “walkable” number line, as well as, small number lines to use at their seats.
Build Number Sense With Movement
Kids are able to actually move up and down the number line by moving their bodies. It is a great activity for kinesthetic learners and young children, because they are able to experience the placement of number lines by moving up and down the number line. They are building number sense by physically interacting with the number line. Priceless.
Leprechauns are all about magic, so use it! This pack also includes large and small focus wands. Focus wands are really great for directing focus to a specific numeral. The hole in the wand directs the student’s eye to the targeted numeral. It is especially useful with children who have difficulty focusing their attention.
The large and small focus wands fit the numerals on the large and small number lines. One student can demonstrate on the large number line, while the rest of the class completes the same activity on the personal number lines. It is a great way to keep the class engaged! This blog post explains exactly how I use this set.
More St. Patrick’s Day Learning Activities
Leprechauns are so much fun! Hope you found some ideas that you can use with your own kids. Looking for more St. Patrick’s Day ideas? Check out some other St. Patrick’s Day resources here.
There are so many uses for the cards in this set- use for memory, “WAR”, scavenger hunts, or anything else you dream up! Save some egg cartons to use as ten frames and kids can draw a card and build the number on the ten frame. See the egg cartons in action here. It’s a great way to make ten frames concrete.
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