Sunday, July 31, 2011

VistaPrint - FREEBIES!

If you do not already know about VistaPrint, you are about to be shocked and awed.  :)

VistaPrint is an online resource for all sorts of personalized items:  business cards, postcards, magnets, banners, stationary, window clings, brochures, t-shirts, name it, they probably have it.  The great thing about them is they frequently give things away for FREE!  Yes, I really do mean free.  When I first considered taking them up on their summer offer last year, I thought, "Is this a scam?"  But it's not...they are just that awesome.  I just put in another order last week during their summer sale.  I received (around) $150 worth of personalized products for my classroom and I only paid less than $30 to cover the shipping.  AMAZING!  They have quality stuff, too.  It takes some time to persoalize the items to your liking, but it is so worth the time and the cost of shipping.

If you're stumped as to what you could order, hop over to Jennifer's blog at Kindergarten Klassroom.  She too took advantage of VistaPrints great resources and she provides us with images of her purchases.  Thanks Jennifer!  :)

Here are some items that I personalized and ordered for my own classroom:

This is a huge magnet.  It is simply a decoration piece for the "100th Day of School" celebration.

I wanted to send these postcards out to my Kinders prior to the first day of school.  However, our enrollment was a little funky this year and I was not sure who was going to be in my class for sure, until the first day.  Oh well...I will save them for next year!

I am going to hang this banner up on the day of our Kindergarten Graduation.  This is a special day, especially because all the families join us in the celebration!

This was a lot of work, but I made brochures (bilingual, Spanish and English) that explain to families what their Kinders will learn throughout the year.  I gave some away at Open House.  For those families who joined us after Open House, I will hand them out during Parent / Teacher Conferences.

At the end of the year, my Kinders learn about writing invitations.  To make this writing experience more authentic, last year I started having my kids write invitations to their families that invited them to our Kindergarten Graduation.  The kids LOVED this!  Anyway, I ordered these from VistaPrint, although last year I just got some cheapies from the Dollar Tree and those worked just as well.

These are business cards, but we use them as our Classroom Library Check-Out System cards.  Whenever the kids take home a book from our classroom library, I fill out one of these cards, so I can keep tabs on who has what book and for how long.

This is my very favorite VistaPrint purchase!  The photo below is not the actual banner in real-life (I pulled the picture from the VistaPrint website), but you get the idea.  At the beginning of the school year before the kids arrive and/or when our bulletin board is in a transitional phase, I slap this banner up there!  My parents and family friends work for a local Sheriff's Department, so I was able to easily get my hands on some free caution tape.  I put the tape on the bulletin board with this banner and it looks GREAT! 

That's all for now.  Thanks for stopping by!  :)


As my husband and I were driving home from the Teacher Appreciation Day at Office Max, I totally got into "teacher talk" mode.  (Side note - My husband is not a teacher.)  I was telling him about how I just started using i-FANS in my classroom.  He was less than impressed and hardly entertained by my company, so I thought, "Ya know what, Amber, just blog about it.  Maybe somebody out there will care."  :)

So I previously posted about Cindy Middendorf and how much I love her, her books, her ideas, her seminars, etc.  She's great!  Anyway, in her book Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten, she talks about i-FANs.  What are i-FANs, you ask?  Well!  Let me tell you.  An i-FAN is simply colored index cards (one for each student in your classroom) with student names written on them; they are held together by hole punching the corner of each card and then joining them together with a metal O-ring (I found these at Office Max, but maybe your secretary can give you some).  This little creation becomes a portable, simple tool for recording on-the-spot observations.

Perhaps you all already do this (I am just starting my third year and I am learning as I go).  But I used my Math i-FAN for the first time on was a magical experience!  I loved going back and reading the notes at the end of the day.  I know these will help me plan my interventions, plan enrichment experiences, and when it comes to report card / PT Conference time.  I also created seperate i-FANs for Reading and Writing.

I will try to remember to take a picture when I go back to work tomorrow and add it to this post.  But I think you all can figure it out regardless.  Have fun!

Okay, so since last posting about i-FANs, I have taken a few pictures.  After re-reading my post, I realize I did not use COLORED index cards as I suggested to you.  Silly me!  Anyway, I really do think colored ones would be better (for locating names faster and for organization purposes).

I hung these guys using magnetic hooks on my metal shelf behind my desk.  That way they are not visible for those who should not be reading my notes, yet they are easy for me to grab when I need them.

Here is a close-up shot.  Easy enough, right!?

You might even want to use tabs to more easily locate each student's card.  I have not done that yet, but I am thinking about it.

How do YOU takes notes when informally assessing your students?  I would love to hear about it!  :)

Hot Off the Press: Reading Strategy Posters!

Sometimes I feel like I am telling my students the same thing over, and over...and over again!  (Probably because that's exactly what's happening.)  Anyway, don't fall into that habit when it comes to teaching your kids about reading strategies.  Pam at Can Do Kinders designed some Reading Strategy Posters that she is sharing with us all.  Yippee and thanks to you, Pam!!  :)

Creating a Cozy Library

Are you looking for an easy way to create a more inviting and cozy classroom library?  Here is an easy tip:  include baskets of stuffed animals.  I added stuffed animals to our classroom library this year and my kids love it!  Our school year started on July 11th and, of course, I had some little ones who were apprehensive about this whole Kindergarten-thing.  The stuffed animals were handy when it came to getting them into the room.  We read Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney on this first day of school and talked about how Llama Llama carried around a stuffed animal to make him feel better and then I offered them to my kiddos, too.

BONUS!  Keep an eye our at Kohl's Department Store, since they frequently carry inexpensive ($5.00) literature-based stuffed animals, such as Clifford, Llama Llama, etc.  You can check out what they currently have available by clicking HERE!  And to make it even better, your money spent goes towards a good cause.  Yay!  (Barnes and Noble also has literature-based stuffed animals, but they are more costly.  Keep an eye out for when they are sent into the 50% bins!)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gumball Machine Word Work Center

If you do not already know about Shari Sloane, be sure to hop over to her website NOW!  Her ideas are just awesome and the best part is...she shares!  :)  Under her "Literacy Centers" tab, Shari describes her Gumball Machine Word Work Center.  Click HERE for the PDF that she shares.

Mrs. I at Mrs. I's Class also uses this idea in her class.  She revised the document so that it suites her class better.  Click on the link to see what she shares.

I use this Literacy Center in my own classroom and it is defnitely a favorite.  My kiddos love turning the knob and fetching the "gumballs" (marbles).  They are supposed to read the word, say a sentence (to their partner) using the word, and then write the word.  Sometimes they need to be reminded of the oral language part of the task.

I was lucky enough to already have a gumball machine laying around.  (My parents bought it for me for Christmas when I was a kid and it was sitting in their basement.)  But you can buy these at Target, Wal-Mart, or online.  I use those flatter marbles that you can buy at Hobby Lobby or another craft store.

Other Notes:  I put gel pens in this Literacy Center.  Those gel pens really make this center a hit!  And in case you're wondering, the plastic cones are a classroom management technique.  If the students need me, they switch the cones, so red is on top.  I purchased those at The Dollar Tree.

Big Book Storage

Do you have an overwhelming amount of Big Books in your classroom and not enough space to store them?  Well, here is an idea that will keep your Big Books organized and within easy access for your students.  I purchased this rolling rack for clothes at Target (I want to say it was $10 or $20, but it was so worth it).  I also purchased clothes hangers with clips.  I prefer the kind that have rubber on the clips, since those grip the Big Books better.  Anyway, I put the rolling rack together as normal, but I did not include the top poles.  I have also seen teachers use tall laundry baskets.  I bet those work well, too.

Apples for Parents

Since I work at a school that operates on a year-round schedule, our school year has already begun!  Open House was this past Thursday and it was quite a success compared to my previous two years (third time is a charm, hehe).  In years past, I felt like my kiddos' parents would stand around and not know what to do.  So this year, I set up a scavenger hunt of sorts.  Click here to download the document for free at my TPT Store.  The parents picked up a to-do list and helped their child complete the activities.  Each time an activity could be checked off the list, they added a sticker to their paper.  Once the kids had five stickers, they came to me for a prize (piece of candy) and an apple (which I told them to give to their parents).

I am having the hardest time finding the site/blog where I originally downloaded the leaves document from, but Mrs. Meachum has a similar PDF you could download.  I photocopied mine on green paper.  :)

Teacher Appreciation Days at Office Max

I am apprehensive to post about this because I do not know if it is a regional thing, BUT...Office Max is having their Teacher Appreciation Days tomorrow (Sunday, July 31st) and Monday, August 1st.  You will receive a free re-usable tote and 20% off everything you can fit inside of it!  Also, they have free give-aways for the first 150 teachers, while supplies last.  Happy Shopping!

Hot Reads!

If your students are anything like mine (which I am sure they are), they will often ask you, "Teacher, can I read that book that you read to us during story time?"  What I used to do is go fetch it from behind my desk (which takes time) and tell them, "This is one of Mrs. Unger's special books, so be VERY careful!"  I am a little over-protective when it comes to the kids reading books that I have purchased with my own money.  Well...I have gotten a lot better about sharing, haha!  I even have a special spot in my room where I display books that I have read during story time.  I use a sign that says "Mrs. Unger's Hot Read!" to help "advertise" the book.  You can find it at my TPT Store and download it for free.  Hopefully you can edit it and change the name...still not sure how TPT works.  I am afraid the fonts and formats aren't downloading the same as they look on my computer.  You'll have to let me know what it looks like on your end!

Help me please!

I am going BONKERS over here!!  More often than not, when I try to post a comment on other people's blogs, it does not give me the "Name/URL" option for identificatin, even if I am logged in and even if I am already a follower on that person's blog.  When I try to sign in using my "Google Account," it asks for my log in and password (which I provide), and then it asks me to type in a word to check that I am not spam (which I do), but then it brings me back to the Google log-in page again!  Round and round in circles.  So frustrated.  Any advice or tips??  What am I doing wrong?

Zero the Hero!

Our first "Zero the Hero" day was a success!  My students and I celebrated with Zero the Hero every tenth day last year, but I made some changes and additions this year that made the celebration extra special.  Here is what we did.

It is a good thing I was into drama as a kid because I was able to use those skills when I oh-so-enthusiastically introduced Zero the Hero.  I was going to purchase a Zero the Hero puppet online, but then decided I could make my own.  He turned out even better than I had imagined!  I simply took a puppet from my classroom (zero cost) and used puffy paint to draw the numeral "0."  Then, I found a cloth bag in my classroom, ripped the stitching, and VOILA!  Zero the Hero had a cape!  I used puffy paint again to write "Zero the Hero" on his cape.  (Sorry about the staplers in the picture.  The cape kept curling on me and I wanted it to lay flat when drying.)

Anyway, after I introduced "Zero the Hero," I asked some volunteers to take turns flying him around the classroom, while we listened to and sang the song "Zero the Hero Rumba."  This is from Shair Sloane's awesome CD "Get Ready!"

We then enjoyed a snack from "Zero the Hero," which were gummy candies in the shape of "0"s.  Some other ideas include Fruit Loops, Cheerios, onion ring chips, etc.

Finally, the kids went back to their desks and I handed out their calendar binders.  Their binders include a "Zero the Hero" page, in which they color the "Zero the Hero" clipart and the number.  I cannot seem to locate this document on my flashdrive (or the site that I got the document from), but if I find it, I will be sure to share it with you!

Math Mailbox

I wish I could give credit to the person who gave me this idea, but I honestly cannot remember!  I have read so many professional development books, attended so many teachers' conventions, used so many ideas from teachers' blogs, and subcribed to so many education websites that I can never remember which ideas come from where!  Nevertheless, this one is worth sharing.

Every day, our Math lesson starts off with a Problem of the Day, which is always a quick review of some sort.  Fridays are extra special though, since we check our Math Mailbox for a letter that day!  Every week, a letter "magically" arrives to our classroom from various senders.  Sometimes the senders are real:  the principal, my husband, the students' future first grade teachers, etc.  Sometimes the letters are really written by me, but the kids especially love letters from:  Santa Clause, my cats, The President, etc.

Every letter contains a Math related question that provides a review of a topic the kids have already learned.  For example, we focused on shapes the first two weeks of school (I work at a year-round school that starts in July).  My cats, Sushi and Roscoe, "took pictures" of some of their cat belongings and "wrote a letter" to my kiddos.  I read the letter in class and showed them the pictures.  The question was, "Can you tell us the shapes of our things?"  The kids looked at the photos and identifed the shapes of the cats' food bowls, toys, kitty bed...even their litter box!  The students laughed at that one!  :)

I bought the mailbox (see below) at Menards for under $10.00 and the letter sticks can from The Dollar Tree.  I wish I would have taken the time to be more creative when I decorated this mailbox, but I bet you will do a better job decorating than me!  (If you post pictures, let me know.  I would love to see your own Math Mailbox!)

Anyway, I hope you use this fun idea for Math review.  I bet your kids will love it!  The looks on their faces when they check the mailbox will be priceless!  Have fun!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Awesome FREEBIES are a few clicks away!

After a long day of Kindergarten (Day #4 of Week #1) and a long night of grad class, I should be in bed already.  Yet I found myself exploring all of the resources that Erica Bohrer offers on her awesome!  If you do not already follow her, you definitely should!  Check out all of her freebies:

FREEBIES from Erica Bohrer

Her printables and ideas are so full of color, include real-life photos, and clip art that pop!  She is a first grade teacher, yet so many of her ideas can be used in Kindergarten.  Enjoy!  :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holey Moley - I have followers!

Yippee!!  I cannot tell you how excited I am that some wonderful people are actually reading what I have to say!  Seriously, I think I scared my husband (and my cats) when I read "4 followers" on my blog dashboard.  Thank you SO much for following me!  You definitely put a smile on my face.

Now, on a different blog is not showing my followers.  (I suspect it has something to do with the template that I am using.  My followers gadget was there, until I downloaded that template.)  Any tips on how to get my followers gadget to show again??  Any help would be MUCH appreciated.  :)

Cindy word - AMAZING!

Now that I have entered this wonderful world of blogging with other teachers, I feel compelled to tell you about someone who has SO inspired my teaching.  Her name is Cindy Middendorf and if you are not familiar with her, do yourself a favor - visit her website and read her books!  If I have my facts right, she was a teacher for 30 years and 22 of them were spent teaching Kindergarten.  She is now an educational consultant.  I had the pleasure of attending two of her sessions (I would have gone to more, had they been offered) at the Wisconsin State Reading Association this last winter.  GOOD NEWS for those of you who live in Wisconsin or our neighboring states...she will be the presenter at the Wisconsin Kindergarten Association Fall Conference this year!  Mark it on your calendars - Saturday, October 15th in Stevens Point.  See the link below for more information:

WKA Fall Conference

I highly recommend her professional development books.  Buy them, sit down with a cup of coffee, a pen, a highlighter, and Post-It notes, and enjoy!
- Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten
- Building Oral Language Skills in PreK and K

Cindy Middendorf also has a Differentiated Instruction focused lesson plan book through Scholastic.

Click on the link below to visit her website.  Although, I have to warn you, she will leave you wanting more!  (I do not think the site is updated often.  Let me know if you find a blog or other online resources by her, please!)

Cindy Middendorf's website

I so hope that Cindy inspires you in the same way that she has inspired me.  So many great ideas from her, so much energy, so much passion.  Have fun!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


This is all so new to me, I am not sure I am posting correctly...fingers crossed!  I created an account at Teachers Pay Teachers and I (hopefully) posted two documents that I use in my own classroom.

The first document is titled "How We Get Home!"  These are cards that I fill out and safety pin to my Kinders' backpacks the first weeks of school.
How We Get Home! cards

The second document is titled "Kindergarten Questionnaire."  I am so hoping this formats correctly for you all.  When I open it in Word, it looks great, but the preview on TPT looked funny.  If you download these documents and they do not format correctly on your computer, please let me know!  Thanks.  :)
Kindergarten Questionnaire

Dollar Tree and Starbucks Giveaway!

Debbie at Teaching and Learning Make the World Go 'Round is giving away a $10 gift card to the Dollar Tree (one of my very favorite teacher stops) and a $5 gift card to Starbucks (another essential stop for teachers).  Stop by her blog to read about it and enter!

The Magical Music Box

So I have to admit:  I have not actually tried this classroom management idea quite yet.  However, I plan to start this school year (and since I work at a year-round school, our first day is on Monday, so we will be starting sooner than later).

Anyway, find that music box you have stuffed away in your supply closet, dust it off, and smile because now you have a good use for it!  Each week (or day, whichever you prefer) wind up the music box.  When your little scholars are too noisy, open the music box.  Once they have lowered their voices, close the music box.  If the music box has music yet to be played at the end of the week, celebrate!  Maybe you might bring in a special treat, maybe the students get 5 extra minutes of recess...whatever motivates them!  If all the music is done or "gone" by the end of the week, have the students come up with a plan of action on how they can keep their music on the music box.

Okay...after a couple of months passed since I wrote this post, I FINALLY got my hands on a music box.  It is not the most child-friendly or colorful music box in the world, but it was free.  (Actually, it was a gift that I purchased for my mother and she never used it, so I took it back, HEHE.)

It has a "Wizard of Oz" theme, specifically the Wicked Witch.  Like I said, not exactly Kinder-friendly, but it will get the job done.

I hope you are able to use this idea!  If you do, let me know how it works out.  :)  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Not-So-Permanent Marker

Wow!  Who knew you could erase "permanent" marker!?  Thanks to Hadar at Miss Kindergarten for sharing!

Okay, two updates:

1 - I tried Miss Kindergarten's tip yesterday and IT TOTALLY WORKS!!  (Now I am just kicking myself in the rear for throwing so much away and giving so many items to the kids to take home because I thought the marker could not be removed.  Hmpf....)

2 - I just read a tip from The Mailbox that you can also use whiteboard cleaner.  Apparently, it will also remove permanent marker.