Teaching from Home? 5 Sanity-Saving Tips You NEED to Try!

Hi!  If you're reading this, I'm guessing you're bravely diving into the world of distance learning!  Me, tooooo! There's definitely a learning curve to all this new-ness, isn't there?!  So that's why I'm here: to share some of the things that are SAVING MY LIFE right now! I hope it makes your life a little easier, too.  Let's go!

1. GET ON GOOGLE DRIVE:

If you haven't done much on Google Drive yet, THIS IS YOUR TIME TO TRY IT OUT!  Do you have other people at your school you can share ideas and plans with?  Google Drive is a game changer because you can all be looking at a document or presentation at the same time, editing it in real time while you're on a Zoom call together ...or you can add your links and ideas anytime and know that everyone from your team will be able to see and access it.  It's the ultimate way to share the load of distance learning... and that leads me to tip #2...

2.  SHARE THE LOAD:

I really hope you have a team or at least one like-minded colleague that will share ideas and work with you (if not though, keep reading because I have ideas for you, too...).  For example, my kindergarten team is sending out 3-4 short video lessons per day to our students (I'll show you what that looks like in a sec).  At first we thought we'd all do our own videos, but we pretty quickly realized that would be SO. Much. Work!  If you're up for that, hey- more power to you, but when I go to our Google Drive and just grab the link for each day's math or writing lesson from my friend, I almost want to cry because I'm SO RELIEVED to not be doing this all alone.  What a gift to be able to share.


If you're feeling alone though, I want to encourage you that you can find some teacher friends to support you on TPT and also on various Facebook groups.  For example, my school is using Seesaw as our content sharing platform and there is a "Seesaw Teachers" Facebook group that is overflowing with knowledge and helpful info to get each other through this time.  Whatever YOU are using (any specific curriculum or platform or grade level) search for it on Facebook, and chances are there is a group there ready to answer your questions.  Also- check the group's search feature because your good question may have already been asked and answered!  If you're on Seesaw like me, be sure to check out the "activities library" for TONS of FREE activities you can use with your class.  We're all in this together.  💕

3. GET ORGANIZED:

It really helps me visualize everything when I have two main templates that are editable in Google Slides : a weekly AND a daily template.

  •  Here's the scoop on the weekly template:

You could use this in so many efficient ways:
  1. Get Yourself and Your Team Organized: It can help you see what’s coming up this week.  If you’re sharing with teammates, you can even share it over Google Slides so you can all edit and add links!
  2. A Weekly Newsletter: It can give parents, students, and/or administration an overview of your week.  You could make it as detailed or general as you wish. Personally, I send it out Sunday evenings to parents so they can have a quick peek at what is coming up.   It says basic things like “Writing Journal, page 1” or “Math Lesson about more and less.” You could add learning targets, links, and more, but mine is just a simple week-at-a-glance with no links because I want them to get the links from my daily slide and not work ahead. 
  3. A Guide for Students: You could also share this with your students and, depending on their age, it might be a really efficient way to give them their weekly assignments.  I’m staying away from this because I think it would overwhelm and confuse my kindergarteners, but YOU know your students best!

  • Now here's the scoop on the DAILY template:

This is how my students get each day's lessons. They just click on each picture and it zips them over to a video or site. SIMPLE. CLEAR. BEAUTIFUL.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Distance-Learning-Organization-Kit-EDITABLE-Lesson-Meeting-Templates-5395008


I send my students a one-page PDF (like the example here- you choose the stickers and arrange them any way you wish) each morning that contains the day's 3-4 lessons represented as picture stickers. Each picture is linked to a video so that when kids click on the picture, they can follow the directions in the video and before they know it- their schoolwork for the day is done!  YAY! 🎉

You can create/edit everything in Google Slides and downloaded as a PDF ...and if you're saying, "Wait- HOW do I do that?! And how do I link the stickers to a video?!" I promise it's all super easy and I'm giving out simple step-by-step details if you need them!  You can do it and I'll help you!


The stickers though! 😍They make me soooo happy! There are almost 100 of them so most everything you'd want is there, but you also get blank, editable ones in case you need to add anything.

4.  PREPARE TO BE A YouTube STAR:


Okay, not really (how did we sign up for THIS?!), but I do have a list of my TOP 10 secrets for creating awesome teaching videos at home (...even if you don't feel like a YouTube star)!  You can read all about it HERE!

5. TRY SEESAW!  

If you're still searching for a way to deliver and share content with your students, I will tell you I've been using Seesaw for years and I love it - in both my face-to-face AND distance learning classroom.  It's kid-friendly (remember, I teach 5 year olds, so if they can figure it out, most kids can!) and parents love it, too.  The student work journal is the perfect place to post links to your daily (or weekly) lessons for kids.  


As I mentioned earlier, Seesaw also has a huge free library where teachers can share activities.  They also have a "Blog" feature I'm using for my students to do "Show and Tell."  Students can post pictures or videos (everything has to be teacher approved before it actually hits the blog) and they can comment on each other's posts (these also require teacher approval, which I love.).  I'm a huge Seesaw fan.  And remember- if you have any questions, their Facebook page is awesome.

I hope these TOP 5 tips help save you tons of time and sanity during distance learning!  💖 We're in this together! 

TOP 10 Secrets for Creating AWESOME Teaching Videos at Home (...even if you don't feel like a YouTube star!)

Well, here we are teacher friends!  Who would've ever IMAGINED so many of us would be transforming corners of our homes into video conferencing and recording studios?!  We did NOT sign up for this!  However- I know us, and we will do ANYTHING for our students.... even if it means becoming YouTubers. :) 

So in honor of our new adventure, here are the top 10 secrets for creating awesome teaching videos at home (...even if you don't feel like a YouTube Star!). 

1. Find some good, natural lighting:  Sit yourself in front of a window with the light coming in towards your face.  Don't put a window directly BEHIND you or you'll probably look dark and hard to see.  Take out your phone and spin around and see how the light changes your appearance.  If it's late in the day or you don't have access to a window, think about shining a light towards yourself.

2. Consider your camera angle and orientation: You don't want to have kids looking up your nose, etc. so you may want to prop your computer or phone up on some books or boxes or get a cheap phone holder to help you out.  If you're using your phone, also be sure to have it going landscape (the long way) because that's what works best for sharing videos.

3. Simple lists can be your friend: If you're nervous about forgetting everything you want to cover, jotting down a little list of highlights can be a great way to keep on track.  You can even put the paper (or typed list or script on your computer) where no one will see it!   They'll think you're such a pro.  ;)

4. Be thoughtful about your background:  Keep it simple and clean and/or maybe even school related.  Without a doubt- even if you're working from a spare bedroom or sitting in front of your couch, your kids are going to love seeing you no matter what.  Just make sure everything they're seeing is something you'd be okay with the whole world seeing (my Principal keeps half-joking about things like, "Don't film with your home bar in the background."  :)

If you have a chance to still get into school, grab a few things from your classroom (or maybe you have something like this around home) : a lamp, globe, student artwork, a sign, class picture, plant, etc.  Here's my set up, complete with the "Pop Art Heart Directed Drawings" in the background!):  
Special shout out to my husband and ALL the family members out there who are letting the teachers they love take over and TRANSFORM corners of our homes into virtual classrooms! We appreciate you!

5. Don't be TOOOOO much of a perfectionist:  This is me.  I like to do things really, really well.  A few of my teacher friends have encouraged me though to NOT re-watch and re-record my videos over and over.  I needed that.  Is it worth me taking hours and hours of my day to make the perfect 3 minute video my students will watch ONCE?  Probably not.  Do it well, but don't worry about being PERFECT.  Be yourself. If you make a little mistake (just like you might in the real classroom!  You might cough or your dog might bark, someone from your family may wander into the shot...), it's okay to laugh about it and keep going. Our video skills will improve with time and no one should expect us to be flawless, including ourselves.  

6. Relax, look at the camera, and be confident:  It might help you to tape a little photo of someone you love by your computer or phone's camera (see example below).  You can remember to look at them and feel calm and confident as you're teaching. Take a deep breath and dive in!
Now let's get into the actual video creation:

7. Find a good way to record:  I am using Screencast-O-Matic (another good, similar one I’ve heard of is Screencastify).  It lets you show yourself, your computer screen, or even BOTH at the same time (like your face can be in a smaller rectangle in the corner, still visible to the kids while you’re looking at my computer screen together!).  You can also flip through those 3 options over the course of a single video.  Once the video is recorded, you can upload it straight to YouTube from Screencast-O-Matic.

8. Decide exactly how famous you want to be: (I'm kidding...) I recommend saving your video in YouTube as an UNLISTED video.  If it’s private, no one can see it besides you.  If it’s public, the whole world can see it and it can show up in Google searches, etc.  If it’s unlisted, only people with the link can see it ...so I think that’s PERFECT for our purpose.  
9. Filter Out The Junk: ONE MORE STEP! You probably know that after you watch a YouTube video, the screen fills with suggestions for videos to watch next.  I didn’t want my kids to see all of that and be responsible for them potentially clicking on some inappropriate garbage so I recommend filtering your video through another site like “Safe YouTube,” safeshare.tv, or viewpure.  It’s VERY EASY.  You just grab the address of your YouTube video and then paste it into the site you want to use and they’ll give you a NEW link to give to your kids.  Your video will still be on Youtube, but now when kids watch it, they won’t have any risky pop ups. 

10. Beware of Blockers: Some servers may block certain video sites so this might take a little troubleshooting, but it shouldn’t be too bad.  For example, I had to put it a request to our tech department to please unblock “safe youtube” on any devices kids are borrowing from the school.  Some families may also have filtering software set up at home that they will need to adjust so their child can view YouTube or whatever site you used to filter the videos with.  It’s an easy fix, but I just wanted you to be prepared. 

Got it!  Now how do I SHARE my videos with students?
Do you want a SIMPLE, BEAUTIFUL format for sharing your lessons and videos?
Would you like to learn helpful tricks like how to easily turn a picture into a clickable link that zips kids right to your video or site?
This is what I'm using and loving:


Best of luck, teacher friends!  You've got this!  I believe in you and I'm in this with you!

Finding Organization, Accomplishment, and Routine at Home in the Midst of Crazy Times (or ANY time)!

Now more than ever, routine, accomplishment, & organization are GOOD for EVERYONE!  If you’re working from home and/or diving into distance learning for your kids and feeling like you don't know how you're going to squeeze it all in (for yourself OR your kids!), this system could be a total game-changer for you! The idea here is that once you have the tasks laid out, people understand and can clearly visualize what they have to do, get it done at their own pace (with minimal reminders or hovering from parents!), and be free to do what they want for the rest of the day (Screen time? FaceTiming friends? You're the boss!). 


quarantine routine organization job chart family plan daily tasks corona virus
Here's our chart all set up, ready to roll!

Here’s how it works:


1. DEFINE THE TASKS: The family works together to clearly define the jobs (you could just talk about it or actually even SHOW kids if you think they’re not 100% clear on it already - like what does it LOOK LIKE to successfully “clean the bathroom” or “clean your room?”

I am in LOVE with these little icons! There's also a blank, editable page so you can add anything else that fits specifically to YOUR family!
2. SET IT UP: Either first thing in the morning or at bedtime the night before, have kids help set up a list of tasks to be done.  What do you want to accomplish?  What needs to get done for home or school or yourself?  Put those tasks on the “to do” side of the chart. You only need to include things that don’t already get done automatically (for example, if your teens are good about showering, don’t put that on their list.  However, if they need reminding, just have them add it to their list.)  Everyone will be able to clearly see what needs to happen before they are “free” to do other things.  Be sure to give your kids some voice in what the day’s tasks should be.  Getting them to buy in and own this whole idea is huge.

3. GET TO WORK: As people work on the tasks, they can move them across the chart : from the “to do” side... to the “working on” space ... to the “done” side!  My 8 year old LOVES this so much that she literally races around, getting all her work done.  Personally, it also really helped ME as an adult to be able to visualize and knock out all the tasks I needed to get done each morning.  It truly is something everyone can use and feel good about.  
One more tip about the work - some parents like to inspect their child’s work before kids can officially move the task to the “done” side. You know your kids best- maybe you need to do that, or maybe not.  Jobs can be done in any order, as long as they all get done.
Options, always lots of options! :)
I hope this idea was helpful to you! If you want even MORE details, an EDITABLE Google Slides copy of everything seen here, and info on what magnets we used, etc, you can grab this helpful resource in my TPT store HERE!  Take care & be well, everyone!

Resources to Help Your Students LEARN from Home!

What a crazy couple of days, huh?!  If your school hasn't started thinking about an extended "Spring Break" or taking a little time off to keep the germs away, it may be happening soon!  I know it's hard to look at resources on TPT and figure out, "Is this something my kids could do without me at home??"  So I thought I'd help you out and do a little round-up of some things I could imagine sending home for my kids!  Click the any pic to be linked to the resource.

1.  At Home Learning Choice Boards


These are brand new and I LOVE THEM.  3 unique choice boards are included on Google Slides. Each board is already filled in with 16 thoughtfully selected tasks that are age-appropriate for Kindergarten (give or take a year).

I feel like each board could be a week’s worth of “homework.” You may also send other supplementary learning or some books or worksheets, but depending on what you need, this may be enough right here.

If you have older students or want to change anything about the tasks, you can EDIT EVERYTHING on each of the boards to reflect what your class is learning and what you want them to work on.

You can also edit the directions (Do you want families to complete a certain number of tasks per day? Should parents initial the boxes their student does? Should they snap a photo of the completed board and send it to you?). You’re the boss!

2.  Super Speedy Sight Word Reading Challenge


This is an EXCELLENT "game" kids can play on their own (or with an adult) to help build their reading fluency and sight word knowledge.  One paper lasts an entire week!  There are two ways to play (for a time goal or a # of words goal) and the object of either game is to get FASTER!  Word lists and tables are completely editable on Google Slides!

3. Roll, Write, and Race!


Have you signed up for my newsletter and gotten this HUGE FREEBIE on Google Slides yet?  This game is perfect for practicing spelling or sight words.  It comes with 28 EDITABLE options you can add all your own words to.  Kids think it's so exciting to see which word will get to the top first!!  Read all about it HERE!

4. Story Journals

There are several super fun options here!  I'd do a packet/resource per week and assign a page per day (each resource has MANY page options and I do one page per story/day).

Each resource has a theme like: 
  • Gingerbread stories
  • Pigeon by Mo Willems stories
  • Goldilocks stories
  • 3 Little Pigs stories 
 
You could easily give your kids a link to the stories on Youtube (I don't provide those, but if you just search them up, I know all of the stories are out there- many with SEVERAL options to choose from!).  Kids could watch/listen to the story and then complete the info.  Gingerbread, Goldilocks, and Three Pigs all follow the same template each day so kids will get familiar with it.  The Pigeon packet has more variety, but it's SO FUN and definitely a favorite of mine to teach!  

5. Writing Journals

I have a couple options here!  If you want to whip up some blank journals with cute covers, try these:

 If you want an April journal with pre-typed prompts, try this:


I know many of us are into "How To" writing this time of year so you also might like to send a handful of these home for kids.  My class LOVES them and begs to be allowed to write even during choice and rest time because they love writing in them so much. :

Hope these links give you some great ideas! Stay well!

Valentine's Day Ombré Hearts!

Look at this beautiful project, just perfect and so fun for Valentine's Day!  This is a project handed down from many other teachers- I did not make it up, but I tried it for the first time this year and think it's a keeper! :) Let me break it down for you step by step so you can try it, too!
1. Print or trace a large simple heart.  One of my co-workers just drew one for us with pencil and we copied it onto white construction paper . Easy.

2. Model how this is done ahead of time for kids so they SEE how the painting happens, but here is the plan: 
a. Give each table  or small group of kids a plate with a squirt of red paint.  They paint 1 or 2 horizontal stripes of red along the top of their heart (don't worry if the line gets hard to see- it works out).  Tell them to NOT go all the way to the edges of the paper- just make sure the drawn heart gets covered. 
b. This is a "team project" so when everyone at their table/group finishes with the red, they should raise their hands to let you know they're done.  You come around with white paint.  Give them a squirt of white.  Their job is to use their brushes to mix, mix, mix.  They each add 1 or 2 more stripes or the little bit lighter red and then raise their hands again.  
c. You just keep coming around and adding more white each time until their heart gets covered.
Let them dry for a day.  Once they are dry, kids could probably cut  them out, but I cut them out myself for my class.  

 Notice what happens if kids painted all the way to the edge of the paper- the edges roll up.  Remind kids they JUST need to cover the heart.

I hung ours up like this!  Our 100th day of school and Valentine's Day both happen the same week.  Even if yours are both in the same month or so, this would be a fun way to display them.  My teacher-friend added a kindness quote to her's- so cute!

Btw, for the "100 reasons we love our school" I had kids each write their names on a heart and I let them each write a couple more things they love, like gym, other teacher's names, things we learn about, etc.  My "100" shape kind of stunk this year (LOL), but it works, right?! :)

Happy Valentine's Day!


FAVORITE Word Work Activity... Our FREE GIFT to YOU!


BIG NEWS!  Exciting times around here at Howywood Kindergarten!  

1. We're launching our very own online shop at www.howywoodkindergarten.com and we'd love to have you check it out (just click the word "shop" at the top of any page here)!  

2. We're also starting up an occasional newsletter to just shower you with sweet freebies and share cool new ideas (and let’s be real, by "occasional" we mean: we're honestly just too busy to send things out very often- LOL- so don't worry- we promise to never get "spammy").  You can sign up in the sidebar to the right of this post and your first free gift will get delivered right to your inbox. YAY!  :)  So let's talk more about that free gift...




This is literally the MOST POPULAR, engaging, effective, and really simple word work activity from Katie's classroom:
 

Roll, Write, & Race!
You and your students are going to LOVE this.  It stands the test of time, works with any kind of class... with any words... all year long!  And we just gave it a huge make-over so now it's 28 extra FUN and FESTIVE pages for every season of the school year!  Yessssss!  Your kids will literally go crazy for this activity (in a good way... but warning: there miiight be some cheering and excitement, see video below) ... and most importantly, the emotional connection this game creates makes it a highly effective way for your kids to get familiar with their words (sight words, spelling words, etc- you can really use it for anything you want)!


Here’s the scoop on how it works: 

Each page teaches 6 words and each word corresponds with a # on a die.  Kids roll the die and write the word in the blank above the corresponding number (be sure to have them actually WRITE the word and not just color in spaces like they’re graphing).  It quickly becomes an exciting race to see which word will WIN by making it to the top first!  I like to play this whole group (kids will literally be cheering for the word they want- it gets intense... in a good way that makes the words so memorable to them!) and I also like to use this as an independent word work activity for our literacy center time.  This resource includes 28 fun seasonal variations of the game that make it SIMPLE for you to keep things looking fresh and super motivating for kids ALL YEAR LONG.


There are 2 ways you can teach kids to play this game:
1. Zero Prep:  You can train kids to select their own 6 words to use and write them in at the bottom of the sheet.  You can coach them to choose challenging words, anything from their spelling list or the class word wall, or give them a list to choose from. Print-and-go sheets for this are included as part of this PDF.

2. One Minute Prep:  This one is EDITABLE on Google Slides (your easy link is included in the freebie) so you can type in the exact 6 words you want kids to use and print.  I like to look at assessment data and choose the top 6 trickiest words for my class.  Then ...just print and go!
So there you go!  Sign up (on the sidebar to your right) and you’ll get a link to your very own editable copy of Roll, Write, & Race right away (HEADS UP: it miiight land in your “promotions” folder.  If you drag the message to your "primary" inbox, we’ll show up there from now on and you won't miss anything). We hope this first freebie (of many we hope to share with you!) will be a huge hit in your classroom!