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All year, my school has been REALLY into talking about mindsets.  I've become more aware of my own fixed mindset over certain things (just to name a few things I felt like I wasn't good at and couldn't get better at... singing, cooking for large groups, certain kinds of math- yikes!) and I've started to change the way I think about all of that.... maybe if I practice these things, I CAN improve!  It's not that I'm not good at math... it's more like maybe I'm not good at math YET!  :) 
I'm learning how to talk to my students to encourage them to have a growth mindset and encouraging their parents to do the same.

I'm working on creating a cool interactive show to help teachers talk to their classes about having a growth mindset, but in the mean time- I whipped up THIS! 
excuse the ugly brick walls in my school ;) ... I try to cuten them up!

My kiddos at home (2nd and 4th grade) helped me come up with all the BEST words because they've been learning about mindsets in their classrooms as well.  The words are:
Grow your brain
take Risks
have an Open mind
Work hard
Think hard
Have courage

Mistakes help you learn (or mistakes help me learn)- both versions included- you pick!
not yet Instead of not
try New things
be Determined
S-t-r-e-t-c-h your brain
put in Effort
Take your time... be patient

After hanging this up at lunch today, my colleagues around school and on Twitter have said they're LOVING it.  So am I!  And so can you!  Get more details and grab it (PLUS 10 super cool motivational posters!) HERE!

And don't forget to check out YouTube for tons of great resources on mindset... here's one for your class:
and one for YOU! Enjoy (and see if you can learn anything new!)!

Line Up Words, Word Wallets and a FREEBIE!! Making Popcorn Word Practice FUN!

Sight words, Dolch words, Fry words, Popcorn words, word wall words.... whatever you call them in YOUR classroom, teaching kids to recognize, read, and write those commonly occurring words is a big part of Kindergarten life!  
Hi!  If you're new here, thanks for stopping by!

I've been teaching Kindergarten and 1st grade for the past 15 years and have seen a lot of cool ideas.  I wanted to share just a few of them with you today as I link up with the other awesome Kindergarten teachers from "I Teach Kinder!"  Yay! 

  Where, oh where, to put those words?!

 Usually I've had a huge word wall that takes up a lot of space, but this year I tried to think outside the box and do something different!  I took the huge space and made it into this colorful, easy "WOW Work" display and decided to just pop my words above the alphabet at the front of the room we refer to everyday!  I'm liking it so far because everything is in one place.  I DO have to stand on a chair to put them up there, but it's no big deal.
If you're wondering WHAT in the world that is next to the "how," it's my little sticker school picture.  So if they forget the word, they can always think of Mrs. HOWard!  Ha! 

A few more ideas:
  • Dark backgrounds are GREAT for making your words stand out!
  • Make words different colors so that if you're trying to point to a certain word for a student, you can tell them, "It's the yellow one above the letter I!" (Mine are colored according to the month we learned them in... red= September, orange = October, etc. in case you wondered)
  • Resist the urge to laminate your words!  Yes, I know we want them to last FOREVER, but laminating can cause a glare with the lights and make words trickier to see.  Mine are printed on cardstock and taped up with scotch tape (I have concrete walls!  Yikes!) and they're hanging in there just fine on the 4th year or so of using the same words.
  • Post new words of the week in a special place (you can kind of see mine towards the bottom of this pic) and move them up to the wall after the week is done. 

Awesome Idea: Line Up Words!

This is a NEW idea for me, shared from a teammate who got it from one of her old teammates!  Don't you love how teaching works?  She said when she first heard about it she was like, "Oh, man.  That sounds like too much work!"  But once she actually tried it, it was not bad at all.  I totally agree.
So here is the idea... 
  • You need at least 1 word per student so this is something you'd probably start a couple weeks/months into school... like NOW!  (Although as I'm typing this I'm realizing you COULD steal this idea and do it from day 1 with letters... oh- that'd be awesome!!  Keep reading and it will make sense...)
  • Each child is assigned a specific word that is THEIR word for however long you want.  Post their word by their name somewhere... like their name tag on their table/desk or here is a picture of how mine are displayed on lockers in the classroom right next to the place where we line up. Ideally, you should assign kids a word that's difficult for them so they can really get to know something NEW.
Kids can see which word belongs to them this week.
  • Next, use tape to put words on the floor.  I used a sharpie marker with colorful masking tape on tile, but my teammates used colorful duct tape on carpet.... so whatever YOU have, you can make it work!  Not a great picture and these words have been stepped on for a month or two so they're a bit dirty... but you get the idea.  I think they'll last long exactly long enough until it's time for me to switch up all the words! Score!
Words are written on tape on the floor about 18 inches apart.
  • Then, when it's time to line up, kids just find their "line up word" and stand on it!  Wah-lah!  You just avoided any arguments about who "budged" in line AND helped your kids learn their words all at the same time!  Now that's multitasking, Super Teacher!  ;)
  • Switch the words out every week or couple of weeks or anytime you feel like majorly freaking your kids out... haha!  You know they love that kind of stuff... "We got new line-up words?! Oh my gosh... what's mine?!" 

Assessment... How are we doing?

I'd really encourage you to do little assessments at least once a month to check in and see who is really remembering their words.  You can send them home to help inform parents and recruit their help.  Oftentimes they're happy to help if they just know WHAT to work on.  My monthly assessments look like this (this is September so it's short and sweet... the other months have these words, plus others we've added since then):

 But wait!  BEFORE you send them home, take a minute (literally, it just takes few minutes) to analyze your data.  Which words were missed over and over by kids?  Who knew them all?  Who missed a bunch?  I record it on a sheet like this... it doesn't have to be pretty (excuse the sideways pic.... names are cut off on the top there):

This valuable info will help you figure out who needs certain line-up words AND it can really inform and direct your teaching.

Another Winning Idea: Word Wallets!

Okay, who doesn't love money?!  Once a month I tell my kids they're worked so hard on learning their words so today is PAY DAY!  Whoop, whoop!  Of course they cheer!!
I give the kids 3 pages of money.  On each "dollar" is a word we've worked on this month.
Kids cut the dollars out, try to read the words and put them into their "word wallet."
No pressure to make your dollars green... sometimes I do, but usually I don't and it's still just as awesome.
The wallet has a "YES... I can read these words!" side and a "NO... I can keep practicing these words side!"  Kids often like to color those sides red and green.  And you'll be happy to hear they are always REALLY honest with themselves.  It's sweet.

Mine are fun and fancy, but you could TOTALLY make word wallets with strips of paper for dollars and just fold and staple some paper to make your wallet- easy cheesy!
Next, I have them get with a buddy and read their words to each other.  They can help each other out on words that are tough.  After that, they put their wallet in their folder to take it home.  Parents love these because it's another simple tool they can use at home to really help their kiddo learn those words fast!


 Many years ago, I got frustrated with the order our curriculum was suggesting we teach sight words.  It was super random and one of those times an experienced teacher needed to step up and say, "Wait a minute... we can do better!"  So I decided to re-work the lists to put them in a different order, beginning with the most commonly occurring print words first and holy cow!  It REALLY made a difference!  My kids are learning their words faster than ever.  And THEN guess what happened next?!  They're reading faster than ever since these words pop up so often in books!  It's like magic and so, so fun (for me AND them)!

I'll share my list with you here... it includes 78 of the first 100 Fry words, well over half of the beginning Dolch words, and I bet it includes most or all of the Kindergarten sight words your district wants kids to learn.


I did put ALL of these words into a nice little package you can get on Teachers Pay Teachers, but I'd love to give you the entire month of September for FREE!  It includes: I, am, a, at, an, go, to, the, this, is, and my.  You'll get:
* a bracelet for each week with the words of the week on it
* a trace, write, mix & fix, glue and color page to go along with each word (all of that on one page per word)
* a word search for the month’s words
* a word detective coloring sheet (see below... my daughter was a Kindergartener and she loved this- I think her teacher put out extra for the kids to practice if they want and she does it a few times per week!)
* a roll-a-word dice game (my class was SOOOO excited playing this- it was adorable- wish I had a picture of that!)
* all the fancy assessments you saw in this post and 2 styles of helpful tracking sheets! 

 Pick it up HERE!

Thanks for reading all my ideas on how you can help make learning words FUN in Kindergarten!
Be sure to stop by and see what all my friends from I Teach Kinder are also sharing today in our linky here:

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Well, here in MinneSNOWta, we're gearing up for one of the first really measurable snowstorms of the year...  So in honor of that, I found a bunch of pics of fun SNOW projects to share from my classroom!  And I'll even end with a FREEBIE!

For starters, how CUTE is this?!  I screenshot it and think it came from one of my Facebook teacher friends.  Love it, right?!  And the card is just perfect!!
Kids could have fun making these for their teachers!

Tissue Paper Collage Trees!

Next, I've done this fun art project for the past several years... it's so pretty!  For some reason, I'm always in love with anything like colorful tissue paper collages.  :)  You have to spread it over 2 days cause step 1 needs some drying time.

1.  You need big paint brushes, watered down glue, white paper, and tissue squares.  Have kids just use the glue and brushes to stick tissue squares onto paper.  Emphasize that they want to fill the spaces and brush the end down so there aren't chunks of tissue sticking up.  Also model the right amount of glue so that it dries nicely.
Love the colors!
2.  Also on day 1, use blue paint to paint a wavy line about mid-way across the paper.  Paint one half of the page blue and leave the other half white.  Let it dry.

3.    Once the tissue papers are dry (like the morning of day 2), I usually cut out the triangles.  Vary sizes and shapes a bit.  Some years if I'm feeling brave, I let kids cut their own.  Use your judgement.

4.  Finally glue on the trees, add q-tip dots of white paint, mat onto black paper and it's done!  And it's beautiful!

Last year I even got some butcher paper to make big envelopes and sent these home with kids as a holiday gift for their families.

I think this would be awesome for families to frame and bring out to display each Winter!


Snowmen at Night

Here's another cute easy project!  I think I saw the idea on Pinterest and just whipped it up to go along with  the great book: Snowmen at Night.

You can see the picture below to figure out what supplies I used.  Then just use the pictures to guide you as you put it together!  We also added some writing with the prompt: "If I were a snowman at night, I would..."  One of my teammates made that. 

I even wrote measurements on some of these for you so you don't have to guess!
Ice skate, go sledding, drink hot cocoa, go swimming... :)

Ready for another idea?!

Snowmen Handprint Ornaments!

These are all over pinterest, too!  We did these as holiday gifts for families.  It's made by painting white paint onto their little hand, having them wrap their hand around the bulb, and then once the paint dries, you use Sharpie markers to turn their sweet fingers into snowmen!  Adorable, right?! Plus it's a cute keepsake to remember how little those hands were.  I also write their name and the year on the bulb right after they made their handprint so I knew who's was who's.

I learned that you need good quality white paint (some more watery stuff I had didn't work) and also certain bulb colors are better than others... like a red bulb might give you pink snowmen.  So definitely test drive this project with your supplies in advance.

Finally, a FREEBIE!

Colorful Snow Circles!

These are awesome and SO simple.  I love brightening up grey Winter days with COLOR!

1.  Start by reading a great book about snowflakes like Snowflake Bentley or just look up great up-close pictures of snowflakes online like HERE. They really are AMAZING!
2.  Model for kids how to draw snowflakes with 6 lines.  Do an X and add another line through it.  Then add more little lines or dots on the lines.
3.  Here comes the freebie... I made a paper with 9 light grey circles on it.  Have them use white crayons in each circle.  Instruct them to press HARD.


4.  Take watercolor paints and go over each circle in a different bright color.

5.  Be amazed as the snowflake appears!  WOW!!!

Quite possibly the BEST thing your students have EVER drawn! 
I am STILL freaking out about how much I LOVED this project and I'm excited to share it with you because I'm sure you'll love it, too!

Over the Summer I spent a LOOOOONG time making this directed drawing show that teaches kids step-by-step how to make a really awesome self portrait.  I tested it on my kids, my nephews, my next door neighbor girls... kids from age 3 to 4th grade... and they ALL came out really beautiful in the end.  It actually sent many of the kids off on drawing tangents where they got really into art because they felt SO PROUD of what they discovered they were able to do!   Sweeties....

And finally school got going and I was able to test it out on my real class of 23 Kindergarteners.  You guessed it- MORE BIG SUCCESS!  In fact, parents were astounded that their child could be taught to draw so well!  More than one mom told me, 

"That is THE BEST thing he has EVER drawn!!!"

Here's a glimpse of my class' work and a few close ups:


Yes, these are beginning-of-the-year KINDERGARTENERS!  And because of the way I set it up (all just part of the show so you can be just like me), we didn't have any tears... just lots of focused, really engaged tiny artists.  It was amazing.

So what's included?  You get 2 files: a set of 25 different paper options (details on TPT) and a gorgeous, full color show that guides everyone step-by-step through the drawing process. The show is full of detailed photos, clear explanations worded in ways that kids understand, tips and reassurance for artists, and loads of creative variations so all YOU have to do is flip through this show, one page at a time.  It's SOOOOO easy.  In case you wondered, our entire pictures from start to finish took about an hour... two 30-minute sessions with a snack break in between.

 You can find the Self Portrait Directed Drawing HERE!

AND there's more... you can even use the directions to draw 2 people side by side (special paper is included for 1 or 2 people) which makes a memorable gift for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, etc!  In fact, I became friends with a students family and saw this artwork still hanging on their fridge a YEAR after we made it.  I think that's a good sign!  :)

These pictures were paired with some writing sheets you can grab in my Mother's Day Project Pack on TPT. (Note: the Mother's Day project pack is this writing paper and several other super cool Mother's Day ideas, but the directed drawing stuff is HERE... they just work well together).

Thanks for stopping by!  I'm sure the directed drawing is something you, your students, and their families will treasure and enjoy!

Fun Idea: Tally your local football team's wins and losses!

Here's a little something FUN to add to your calendar routine!  
Choose a favorite football team (could be your high school team or a favorite NFL team) and use tally marks to track their wins and losses as a class.  
It's HILARIOUS and so sweet how excited kids will get to tell you on Monday how the team did!  And there's usually one or two kids who are REALLY into football and can give you serious details about the game.  I learn a lot from them and can take that info home to impress my husband!  Ha!
I recommend football more than other sports like baseball or basketball because those others have too many games to track.  Football is just right with about a game per week.  
The scores are perfect for talking about which number is greater and less than, etc.  
So there ya go- just a FUN idea!

We are Fam-i-ly!

 Here's a simple idea you can start up anytime of year to strengthen the bond between home and school. Invite families to send in a 4x6 family photo!
I LOVE this wall and all that it symbolizes!
I just cut a bunch of 6x8 black rectangles of paper and kept them handy and then as kids brought in pics, I mounted them on the black background (helps them all look the same size cause some sent in bigger or smaller pics) and popped them up on the wall. 
I did this at the start of the year and feel like it helped ease the transition between home and school. I had a few missing mom and they loved being able to see her picture if they wanted to. 
I also think it just sends powerful messages like: families are important, we care & want to get to know each other, families and classrooms work together, and so much more! 
Try it out any time of year and show them all you care!

Colorful & Fun WOW Work Display!

How fun, happy, and simple is this? All you need is a couple pieces of 12x12 scrapbook paper, some clothes pins, and maybe some cute tape to cover the clothes pins!
AND if any of you out there are dealing with lovely BRICK walls like me, I hope you know the glue gun trick! I'm tellin ya, you can tape and retape with all kinds of tape onto those dang bricks, but if you get gutsy and grab the glue gun, that's going to be your BEST bet. The glue peels off when you're done with it, but it holds those hard-to-hang items better than tape. You're welcome.  And if you have real walls you can staple or pin into... Count your blessings! ;)


Whew!  It's been a LONG TIME since I've blogged!  So long in fact that I completely forgot how to log in to my poor neglected, yet still awesome blog!  After wasting spending about 2 hours trying to crack the code and discover a way back in, I told myself, "Hey! It's time for a FRESH start!"  So here I am!  I'm so glad you found me! 
My old blog is HERE if you're interested in seeing my past posts.
And I also have THIS related website I created and pay for the domain name on just because I wanted to have a one-stop-shop where my students could find all the BEST ad-free, top quality educational games, songs, and videos!  Please feel free to use it with your kids... it's made to share!
And finally, speaking of sharing, I love sharing ideas and products with other teachers so you can zip straight to my store on Teachers Pay Teachers HERE.