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New Year, New Resolutions!

Linking up with "The Third Wheel," on this last day of 2014 to share goals for the new year.  I'm really excited to spend quality time with my own kids, watch my kinders grow this spring, and add to my professional repertoire this year!
Aside from all this I am SO EXCITED to announce that I will be a part of a NEW collaborative blog with teachers from across the country AND abroad! 
Our new blog, The Literacy Ladder, will focus on all things literacy with a emphasis on ELA Common Core connections in the elementary grades.
Check out The Literacy Ladder HERE:
To celebrate our launch we are hosting a BIG TPT Giveaway with $24 in our own products and 5X$10 in TPT Gift Cards! 
Be sure to follow us and enter to win!


Happy Holidays!

Before I wrap up the 2014 holiday season and pack away the Christmas trees I thought I'd take a little time to reflect on some of the holiday activities I shared with my Kinders.  I wish I had made more time to blog while it was happening because we had so much fun while learning 21st Century concepts and applying the Common Core!
Our Gingerbread Unit on engineering involved designing new houses for the Gingerbread family and decorating our child-sized house! 
To culminate the unit, students decorated their own small house to take home!
Our second holiday unit was on Santa's Economics.  Students learned all about wants, needs, consumers, producers, goods, and services in the context of Christmas.  Each Kindergarten class on my team worked to develop a stand and we sold reindeer food to the first graders at our "Reindeer Food Marketplace" in the cafeteria. 
All our students learned so much about consumerism and economics and, most of all, it was fun! 
And it wasn't just fun for the kids, either!   It gave me chills when one teammate told me, "You know, I thought this project was way over the top at first, but these kids get this stuff.  This is the most fun I've had teaching all year!"
I can't wait to work on this unit over the coming year to have it ready for other teachers next Christmas! 
For now, here are a few shots of our project...
The advertising team made posters...
...and hung them in the first grade hall.
The production team formed an assembly line and produced 80 bags of reindeer food in under one hour!
No assembly line is complete without quality control!
Our sales team set up shop in the marketplace!
The sales team worked hard to sell as many bags as possible using our school-wide rewards as currency.
"Team N" sold out of reindeer food after issuing coupons!
Why didn't we think of that?!?

 I hope you and those you hold dearest have had the happiest of holiday seasons!


December Currently

It's hard to believe that December is here!  We have assessments, field trips, culminating experiences and after school activities scheduled to fill almost everyday.  I'm excited to try out some of my own new units on engineering and economics in the midst of this busy season!
To give a glimpse of what I'm up to this week, I'm joining with Farley at "Oh' Boy 4th Grade," for her "December Currently" linky party.
I'm always working to provide my kinders with opportunities for meaningful, student-centered play that is also tied to our themes and standards.  This week we are kicking off our holiday centers with a new class project - a gingerbread house!  I salvaged a large appliance box from a local store and used it to partition off our dramatic play area.  For today the center included some copies of large candy clip art and a roll of white wrapping paper.  As the weeks progress I plan to add more with which to decorate!

My students were the quietest during play and explore centers today!  (This is normally NOT the case!)  They were so focused on their project and intently worked on decorations for a solid 30 minutes with relatively few problems.  I truly believe this is a testament to the fact we make time for social learning and play as often as possible... these kids may be of the 21st Century, but they still need to play!  :)
Check back later this week for more gingerbread play ideas AND to see how our house is evolving!



Joining with Play to Learn Preschool this week in sharing wish lists for Black Friday!

Among lots of fun clipart for inspiring my new product ideas, I have "wish-listed" plenty for my own classroom use!  Here are a few:

And now, what do you need to add to your wish list, you ask? Here are my newest Christmas-themed products... just in time for the holiday season!
NGSS and Common Core Aligned Unit for First Grade
NGSS and Common Core Aligned for Kindergarten
Common Core Aligned Unit for Kindergarten and First Grade
NGSS and Common Core Aligned Unit for Kindergarten


Sunday Spotlight

It's time for another "Sunday Spotlight" with Countless Smart Cookies! Be sure to head over to her blog and read all the spotlights!
This week I am spotlighting one of my newest theme-based units, "A Feast with Friends."  This unit includes 4 Common Core aligned activities and an extended response assessment.
 This unit, (along with all other November products) will be on sale for 20% off from Sunday through Wednesday!  Grab last-minute activities, assessments, and calendars, or stock-up for next year!

I'd also like to spotlight a fellow TPT-er, "revidevi!"
 To create a new NGSS science unit for first grade, I bought one of her clipart sets.  It was the perfect addition to my unit! Her clip art sets are SO cute and very affordable! 
Be sure to check out her store!


You Oughta Know About... My Classroom!

I'm so excited to link up with other bloggers at Jasmine McClain's blog, Buzzing with Mrs. McClain, for my very first blog hop!
Be sure to follow all the links and check out what "You Oughta Know" about this month!
For my post, You Oughta Know About...
My Classroom! 
I strive to run an organized and efficient Kindergarten classroom. (With room for play and fun, of course!)  This summer I added a few things to my management system that have made a big difference!
1. My whiteboard is the hub of communication and information in my classroom (aside from the Smart Board). My "CHAMP" icons and schedule cards are on magnets so that I can easily adjust them each day or each learning block.  My Daily 5 posters are kinder-friendly and easy to understand.  (Grab them for free here!)  I also have a set of mini posters just for me, "The 7 C's of Teaching," to remind me of my responsibilities to these 21st Century kiddos!  (Grab them for free here.)  The small red pocket chart is used to spotlight our learning targets as they change throughout the day.
2. I also have a bulletin board that runs the length of the room.  The largest section is for learning targets.  Small pocket charts hold the target/standard cards for the week (or unit) so that I can readily access and display them as we transition throughout the day.  Beyond the word wall and birthday displays is the job chart.  I have 24 students and 24 jobs.  (Sounds crazy, I know!)  Students have one job per week and we rotate throughout the year.  Giving each student a job has had such an impact on our classroom community!  Some jobs are small and others are more popular, but when all students have ownership over the way the classroom runs they learn to work together and take responsibility for the good of the group!
  3. My favorite bulletin board is the one next to my desk!  I created this tree a couple of years ago and have added to it each year.  It serves as a place to post important information, student gifts and drawings, and words of inspiration about education. 
Plus, it's super cute (if I do say so myself)!
I can't wait to share more about my classroom and look forward to hearing about what you have added to your classroom to make it more efficient, more organized, and more fun!

Thanks so much for hopping over to my blog!  Be sure to visit all the other November "You Oughta Know" bloggers!   


The Travel Agency is Open!

Since we finished our News Project with the production and sharing of a class news broadcast, we have shifted our focus to a new theme for play and explore centers. 
This month's theme is "Travel."  It is the perfect fit for our current Social Studies units on Christopher Columbus, Maps & Globes, Pilgrims, Native Americans, and the first Thanksgiving. 
These centers give students the chance to make modern day connections to our history lessons.
At the dramatic play center students are encouraged to help each other plan trips and vacations.  Using a form I created, some computer keyboards, and plenty of brochures and maps, students work together to plan trips. 
This center even spawned an impromptu transportation center when one student set up the "airline," checked tickets, and served refreshments!
At the writing center I provided blank brochures that students can use to create their own informative writing and drawing piece.  On the computers students explored a program called Map Maker 2.0 that I found on the Mr. Nussbaum website. With this website students can use various paint tools to explore and color different maps.
At the bock center students are encouraged to create a dwelling or mode of transportation.  I have been struggling with this center since many of my boys seem to "get stuck" only creating spaceships, rockets or other flying vehicles that warrant they should run around the room pretending to blast each other.  While I believe this play is completely okay at home, it's not the most appropriate for school.  So, I devised a planning page for the block center.  The result was a focused, planned time with blocks during which a few of my boys drew elaborate plans, carried them out, and then worked to sound out words to write about their creation.  WOW!  They didn't even realize they were engaged in engineering, problem solving, planning, AND literacy!  Score one for this teacher! 


Wordless Wednesday

It's Wordless Wednesday so I'm linking up with Miss DeCarbo and sharing a photo from my class today!
Our new play and explore centers opened today!  We had so much fun with the News Project and I was so excited to share what I had prepared for my Kinders.  Today our class Travel Agency opened for business!
I am really focusing on play and exploration along with child-centered, project based studies this year.  If you are a lower primary teacher, how do you incorporate play?  If you teach in the upper grades, what are some ways you use student choice and/or projects in your instruction?


November Currently

Linking up with "Oh' Boy 4th Grade" again for a monthly
"currently" post!
*My family is starting a new tradition for Thanksgiving this year! I have created a "Blessings Tree" in our living room 
Every day this month we will each think of something for which we are thankful, write it on a leaf, and add it to our tree. 
My girls are really excited and thoughtful  about it. 
My husband likes the idea, too, but I did get a bit of an eye-roll when he saw me putting up a bulletin board in our house.
"You can take a teacher out of the classroom, but..."


That's a Wrap!

This week we brought our News Project to a close with the final production of a news feature on our field trip to Fall on the Farm
First we worked together to edit our photos and videos in Windows Movie Maker on the Smart Board. 
Photo taken by student photographer.
The set crew set up the news desk and created a sign.  The camera crew planned the positioning for the final videos.  The reporters created their scripts.  We filmed our last two segments from the news desk to open and close our news show. 
At the end of our Books Alive Party we proudly played our News Project DVD for parents to culminate our project.  The parents were impressed, the kids were eager to share, and I was so proud.
Through this project I learned as much as (or more than) my students!  In the end this project wasn't even really about the news. It became about so much more!  It was about technology and teamwork, imagination and creativity.  It provided a way for ALL students to participate regardless of academic ability.  This project embodied 21st Century Skills and covered Common Core while involving play and exploration. 
I learned it IS possible to bring Kindergarten into the 21st Century while holding true to core beliefs about the developmental needs of Kindergarteners. 
WOW!  This opens so many doors for my instruction... "What's next?" you ask?  TRAVEL!  Whether it is "Over the River and Through the Woods," across the Atlantic to the New Land, or to a family dinner in the next town over, Thanksgiving is a time for travel.  So, our dramatic play center will be transformed into a travel agency, the writing center will become a source for travel brochures, the housekeeping area will be the place to pack everything for a journey, and the block center will be a transportation factory.  I can't wait!