Thursday, June 30, 2016

Is it just me?!

Please tell me it isn't just me.  I love summer.  Time for projects of all kinds - fixing things, painting things, organizing ALL the things.  I finally have time to go buy the supplies I need or get the missing pieces for all of my half done {or only imagined thus far} projects.  I love it!  I feel like a free woman.

My husband, not so much.

This is basically me in July when I realize I've spent more in the past 3 weeks than in the past 5 months...minus school supplies.

And now I'm being watched.  Woopsie!  That's really all I have today.  I just need some emotional support.  ;)  Remember to pin from the previous post to win 1 of 2 free giveaways!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pencil Grips & Paint Sticks {Giveaway}

{pin this pic to win 3 Step Training Kit}
When The Pencil Grip, Inc. contacted me about doing a review on pencil grips, I was like "Really?  Pencil grips?" because either you need one or you don't, right?  Or we'd buy them from the school store just so we could trade colors or collect the little rubbery ones with glitter in them.  Apparently, no.  The fact that I'm just learning this is a little embarrassing {please don't tell my OT!} but when you think about it, it makes sense.  The pencil grip is just like any other teaching modification...use it as support when needed, then slowly back it off until it isn't necessary anymore.

Lightbulb moment, you guys.  Big time.  Pass the sunglasses.
The Pencil Grip, Inc. offers multiple grips that offer different amounts of support.  In my classroom, we worked from the 3 Step Training Kit, which is what I will review for you here.  There is also a Jumbo Grip, which offers support up to the 2nd knuckle, a writing C.L.A.W. which actually gives each finger a specific pocket to fit into and those classic triangle grips we remember from school.  Okay, plus also an assortment of funky, colorful grips in case you {I meanyour students} want to do a little trading on the playground.

The nice part about the 3 Step Training Kit is that if you know a child's grip isn't correct but you have no idea how to go about fixing it, you can work through each grip and see which has the best results for each individual student.  You'd start with the green one on the left, the Crossover Grip. The wings on the sides keep the student's fingers from crossing over one another.  This is an easy one to figure out by watching your students write.  If their fingers lay on top of each other, this is the grip for them.  Next you would move to the red one, the Pinch Grip, which helps stabilize that tripod grasp.  This is one I can see using a lot in my classroom for students who need just a little bit of structure in knowing where to place their fingers.  It gives them freedom in writing with just a little bit of support.  The final grip is the blue one on the right, the Pencil Grip.  This is another one I can seeing using frequently in the classroom because it still provides a little bit of control assistance but basically just makes writing more comfortable for all students.  Maybe it would be an incentive for your students who just don't like to write or need help with stamina.

The only warning I'll give is to pay attention the R and L marked on the grips.  I had a hard time knowing what meant at first...does it mean for right and left handed kids?  Does it mean put that on the right or left side of the pencil?  I had to check the website to find the answer but I did see the markings are actually helpful, once you know what it means.  If your student is a righty, they put their thumb on the R.  If the student is a lefty, they put their thumb on the L.  Easy peasy.  And awesome that the same grips can be used for all students.

You guys.  They also sent me a new product called Kwik Stix.  Order them now.  If you like crafts, order them now.  If you hate crafts, order them now.  They are so easy & clean {it's paint?!} & nice.  Order them now.
My first use was to trace my students' hands on a clipboard for one of the teacher assistants who helped cover me when I need to "go to a meeting" or "call a parent" {ie. pump for the baby in the library closet} twice a day.  I traced their hands, any residue came off with a simple paper towel wipe, and they were done!  I threw it in an organizer bag with a thank you note & a school mascot {make it personal} and they worked great.  I knew it was a nice product.  But I wanted to really test it out.
Enter the 2 year old.  :)  One morning when she lost her TV privilege, er...she was bored...I decided to get the Kwik Stix out and see what mess she could make with them.  She loves to color, paint, whatever and is obsessed with tracing her hand on things so if nothing else, I figured I could get some kind of Father's Day card of it.  Immediately I was impressed with how well they glided and moved smoothly on the construction paper.

She was able to pull the lids off with minimal struggle and switch out her colors easily.  I noticed that the colors kind of layer on top of each other, so you don't end up with an entirely brown paper which is nice for those students who like to paint where they already painted and then paint another color on top of that again.  We did a little color mixing experiment and blended a few together.  There could be a really cool art lesson on primary and secondary colors in there!  The Kwik Stix did get a bit of the other color on them but after a few marks on the paper, they were clean.
The most amazing thing is how UNMESSY these things are!  Even when she really went to town and colored over and over the same place, it never created a really wet spot or puddle.  The box says it's dry in 90 seconds but for the most part it's dry much quicker than that.  She freely flipped her paper back and forth to paint on both sides and we only had one little spot on her placemat where it was really layered on.

You'll notice that when I turned my back to check on the baby, she decided to paint her hand and see if she could make handprints on her own.  You know, since 2 year olds with paint in their control have little to no patience for waiting on help.  ;)  She did make some prints & the clean up was still super easy.  I took a baby wipe to her and it was done!  Super easy clean up.  Super. Easy.

So...who wants to try it next?!  The Pencil Grip Inc. has agreed to give away BOTH products, the 3 Step Training Kit of grips and a set of Kwik Stix.  Just pin one of the pictures on this post that say "pin this pic to win..." and leave the link to your Pinterest board in a comment on this post.  Sharing is caring.  That's it!  :)  If you don't have Pinterest, you can share it on your blog or website instead.  Still leave the link.  And then seriously...get on Pinterest.  It is a game changer.

I'll choose 2 winners on July 9th: 1 who pinned the pencil grips & 1 who pinned the Kwik Stix.  Yes, you're welcome to pin & enter for both.  ;)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Super Jonny {how to help sick parents}

I'm often asked to do book, website or activity reviews and I pass on most of them.  But this little guy, Jonny, got my attention.  His mom is sick and he wants to help.  A little guy who wants to help others?  You tell me that doesn't remind you of any little kids you know.  I just couldn't pass him up.
One of my coworkers was diagnosed with cancer, went into remission and was rediagnosed within the last two school years.  She's a teacher, mom of two, and all around amazing woman.  I tried to read this book from the perspective of her son and daughter who are in this situation.  I admittedly put it off for a while because this topic can be scary and hard to breach.  But when I finally got the courage to read it, I let out a sigh of relief because it was just...nice.
What Does Super Jonny do when Mom Gets Sick by Simone Colwill starts by introducing Jonny as a superhero - what kid doesn't relate with that?! - with his sidekick bear, whose next mission is to help his mom.  As the hospital staff is introduced to the reader, Jonny shares his superhero tools with them and they explain how their equipment is similar to the tools he uses.  As the pages turn, the text and illustrations are both upbeat and simple in a way that is inviting instead of intimidating.  While the illustrations are realistic {mom laying in bed, hooked up to an IV}, the hospital setting and staff are portrayed as friendly instead of scary.  It teaches in a way that is basic enough for young readers but would also provide conversation starters for older children who may have questions for their parents but not know where to start.  By the end, after Jonny has exhausted all of his ideas, he learns that he doesn't need to do anything super to help his mom feel better but be there for her.  It's a sweet story about the power of a child's love that would be a great read for any child who is dealing with a sick parent.  The story is also versatile in that it never depicts a specific illness or injury so it would be helpful for multiple situations.

As a teacher, I love that Simone has included guide notes in the back.  These would be helpful for parents reading this book to their own children or for teachers to use in the classroom.  Often when one of our students goes through something traumatic {be it an illness, death, fire, or loss of any kind} we try as teachers to find a way to give enough information to the rest of the students that they can be sympathetic and understanding without going into any frightening details of what could be a very adult situation.  This book's simplicity and guide notes in the back would be perfect to help teachers or social workers engage a student's classmates in a discussion of what their friend is going through and answer any tough - but real - questions they may have.

The guide notes would also help get your students thinking about how to help others.  So if there's a sick teacher, child or community member in your lives instead of a sick parent, it would still be a great jumping point to teach empathy.  It would help your kids try to understand emotions from someone else's point of view as they brainstorm ways to help.

If you are, or know someone who is, a sick parent there is also a great list of ideas of things that you can do as the parent to help your child go through the illness as well.  Since Simone has Crohn's disease, this information comes from first-hand experience and is practical.  It would be a great book for friends or parents who are in this unfortunate situation.  You can get your copy from or Amazon.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ouch! Owww!!!

Teaching all of these sounds is new to me.  I taught short and long vowels in kindergarten and would do some often found spellings like double vowels, ing and the standard digraphs but our 1st grade curriculum has like 73 sound spellings to teach.  What the what?!  I can barely remember the difference between a digraph and a diphthong let alone all of the rules for when a consonant makes a soft sound.  Whew!  Thank goodness for Pinterest...a few of my own good ideas.  ;)

We taught the /ou/ & /ow/ spelling this week and I used these anchor charts from The Teacher Wife.

Then I wrote both spellings on band-aids and let the kids put them wherever they wanted.  Warning: all day long, people will be saying to you "You hurt your head?!  What happened?  Oh no!"  But hey, at least the kids will remember.  And whoever said teaching meant not making a fool of yourself?

I'll have to do these cute Ouchie Owie lists from First Grade Wow next year!

Be careful OUt there!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cosmic Yoga for Inside Recess

Rain, snow, the mud after rain or snow, freezing temperatures...I feel like indoor recess happens a lot more in the winter.  I love letting my kids play in fun centers {blocks, legos, puppets and other things they don't usually get to play with} but sometimes I like to change it up.  My kids like having a dance party with Just Dance Kids on YouTube but new favorite is Cosmic Yoga!

The girl on the videos is named Jamie and she is adorable.  I mean, I'll listen to anyone with an accent, but she really makes the yoga fun.  The backgrounds change and she takes the kids on an adventure every time.  She goes to different countries, looking for different animals and teaching little tidbits as she goes.

The videos last between 15-25 minutes so if I pick one for inside recess we usually still have time for a dance party or something more high energy afterward.  But trust me, your kids will like this.  Even the boys.  Even the ones who won't dance.  Even the ones who are too cool to have fun.  They're mesmerized by her!  It's too cute.  :)

If you really get into it she has other little video clips, too.  She posts a new yoga pose demonstration every week {although you don't really need to know anything because she demonstrates and explains everything well in her adventures}.

She also posts little meditation videos.  This one was about helping kids recognize and name their feelings as she talks to them about wanting to know what is inside a treasure chest and how the feelings change once she opens it.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Crayola SALE {limited time!}

Crayola is having another MAJOR sale on Zulily.  This time instead of just art accessories like crayon aprons and table/chair sets {which they still have} they actually have crayons and markers and colored pencils on sale!  I.E....the stuff we use every day!!

If you've never checked out Zulily, take 10 seconds to create an account.  They really won't hound you with emails.  I actually don't get any emails except for the shops I've favorited - like Crayola.  ;)

There are a lot of things in the sale.  Click on any of the pictures to go to the sale page.  In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite highlights.  And act quick - these sales only last for a few days!
I looooove the multicultural flesh crayons.  We use them with every project.  And we draw ourselves a lot in kindergarten!  I've also posted before about how much I love the construction paper crayons that practically glow on even black paper.  I am getting these for sure!

Yes, it's winter, but when it's actually spring and warm enough to go outside and play with these cool chalk things, will any of these outside lovelies be on sale?  Definitely not.  Ordering NOW!!

I really like these big activity books for my students for a few different things.  I've given them away as Christmas or End of the Year gifts before.  I also like to have them on hand for the end of the year when the big kids are testing for days on end and we have to be quiet and stay in the classroom.  Since the pages are oversized, they get to lay on the floor and color.  They love it, it's somewhat quiet and they're busy in case you need to start taking anything down.  ;)  Princess for girls, Ninja Turtles for boys and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Bubble Guppies for your own littles at home.  There are other options too.  Check out the sale!

I love this easel and it's almost 50% off!  There's a chalk side, a paper holder, a dry erase magnetic side and a supply tray.  Check out the product listing on the sale page.  So awesome.

Click any of the pictures to see more of the Crayola sale.  It's only going on for a few days!!  I can't wait to smell those new crayons!!!!!!!!!!  :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

super. simple. snowmen.

Last week we compared fiction & non-fiction with snowmen.

The first day we read Snowmen at Night & made an anchor chart about the elements of fiction stories.  {they have illustrations, make-believe elements, a problem/solution, a beginning middle & end, characters and you read it just for fun}

The next day we read How To Make a Snowperson on Reading A-Z and made an anchor chart about the elements of non-fiction stories.  {they have photographs, teach you something, don't have to be read in order, may have a table of contents, labels, etc}

Then we wrote on snowballs to show what we learned!  On the top snowball, they wrote to tell how they know that Snowmen at Night is fiction.  On the bottom snowball, they wrote to tell how they know that How to Make a Snowperson is non-fiction.  The middle snowball was optional and used as differentiation for students who finished quickly or I knew could be challenged with thinking on the next level.  They wrote about whether they like to read fiction or non-fiction books in general, while providing a reason, of course.

Then I got out the scrap bucket of construction paper and let them go to town with hats, gloves, boots, arms, bows or whatever they wanted to create!

They're super cute hanging in the hallway and I figured you'd think so, too. Click the picture below for your free snowball template download!

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