Sunday, August 18, 2019

Morning Work Buckets - Your Questions Answered


I get asked about Morning Work Tubs and Buckets A LOT. I started using them in 2015 and I never looked back. You can read my original post HERE. Honestly, not a lot has changed since I first started using them, but I know you have a lot of questions about them. I am going to try to answer a few of the most asked questions.


One question I get asked a lot, is what do you do at the beginning of the year? Honestly, I will not start using them until September, two weeks after school starts. I tried putting out just simple math manipulatives at the beginning of the year, and that did not work for me. My number one rules is kids need to be independent with them.




Whether you teach Kindergarten or First Grade, you need to take the time to TEACH kids how to use them. The last week of August, I will take our 5 activities to teach the kids. I pick activities that i think my kids can independently complete, after i have taught them. I teach them on the carpet. I have kids sit in a circle and I model how to take everything you need out of the bucket, work on the activity, and put it back. These activities are all designed to be never ending, so they will last for the amount of time you need to work. The beauty of Morning Work Buckets is that some days you made need kids to only work for 5-10 minutes, but other days, you may need 15+ minutes to complete everything. I show kids how they can "start the activity over" if they think they are finished. After I have introduced all 5 activities, I place a bucket on each table and have students "practice" the tubs. Is this going to take longer then my normal 10 minutes? YES!!!!! But remember, if you take the time at the beginning of the year, you won't have to take as much time later on in the year. The 5 buckets I am teaching will last my class the entire month. They will do each activity once a week for the month. At the end of September, I will teach another 5 centers.





Another question I know a lot of you have asked is HOW do you organize your Morning Work Buckets? I put them in zip-lock bags and I put the bags in plastic tubs. I put everything they need in the zip-lock bag - dry erase markers, letter tiles, math manipultives, etc.Each tub has a monthly label. My Morning Work Tubs are NOT thematic, but I know what month I usually pull them out for. Also, I know that sometimes, I may use a center in January and then again in March. When January is over, I put that bag in March. I made these FREE monthly labels that you can download HERE FREE. I am use the same labels for my Math and Literacy buckets and my book boxes so you will get labels for all of those.


Last year, I started putting numbers on my buckets to help me stay organized. I use the same 5 buckets all month long and rotate them through the tables. My tables are labeled by colors. I know the yellow table always gets box 1 on Mondays. The blue table always gets box 2 on Mondays...and so forth and so forth. You can get the labels FREE HERE. I also make sure there are enough activities in the bucket for each child. For some activities, that means printing out multiple copies of the activities. The activities that need multiple copies, are usually single pages. For letter activities, sight word activities, and cvc word activities, there are multiple copies included.







Throughout this post, I have shown you pictures from my Kindergarten Morning Work Buckets and my First Grade Morning Work Buckets.  Each set has more then 50 Math and Literacy activities. There are some activities that are in both products. You can look at the previews to see what is included in each one. I also have TWO FREE activities for you down below.



I have shared this FREE sight word activity before. It is one of the first activities I created for Morning Work Buckets and I still LOVE IT! You can download it FREE HERE.


I shared this FREE Math Activity with you all last spring. It is differentiated with dots, ten frames, and numbers so that it can be used throughout the year. You can download this FREE resource here.

I hope I answered most of your questions about Morning Work Tubs. You can always ask me if you have additional questions.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Construction Word Builders




I love creating resources that make simple centers. A few years ago, I created Construction Word Builder Cards. This summer, I decided to give them a MAKEOVER! I updated the fonts, colors, and clip-art. Plus, I made the Sight Word Builder EDITABLE. Then, I decided to bundle them and include FREE Letter Building cards, with the purchase of the bundle.


First, the Editable Construction Sight Word Builder  includes over 100 sight words. There are unifix cube letters you can use or you can use letters you already have, such as magnets or tiles. Students get to build the sight word and write the sight word. This is great practice for an independent center, RTI, or a morning Work Bucket.



The CVC Construction Word Builder may be my favorite. Students get to practice changing beginning, middle and ending sounds to build new words. The cards are labeled on the side what sound they are changing to make it easier for you to differentiate.


I created this Construction Letter Building activity. I am excited to use this at the beginning of the year. You can get this FREE with purchase of the Literacy Construction Builder Bundle.

I hope you enjoy these low prep literacy centers.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Assessment Data Punch Cards


How are you at collecting data? Truth. It has been a struggle for me. Yes, I am a Special education Teacher and I KNOW the importance of collecting meaningful data, but I am always struggling with an easy way to do it. I have tried using post its. It was a mess. I have tried complicated student binders that held SO MUCH data, I got lost in it all and I could not keep up with it. This last school year, I created two resources that helped me tremendously by simplifying it. One, these Assessment Data Punch Cards. Two Assessment Data Binders, which I will share more on soon.



Last summer, I created two of the seven Assessment Data Books. I created Letter Identification and  Sight Words. The idea behind it was simple. Once a week, I would assess students on their letters and their sight words.  If they could read the letter or the word, I would give them a punch. You can also use stickers or have students color it in, if you do not have  a star punch. When they had 5 punches, I would know that they had mastered it. I did not want to overwhelm students, so I started with the just the letters they knew, and then added in letters as they were formally introduced. I wanted students to feel successful. Some students know all their letters after 6 weeks, while others still may not know them after 6 months. I always want kids to feel successful.







I was so happy with how easy this was to keep up with. It gave me great data for IEP Goals, Report Cards, RTI, and Parent Teacher Conferences. Best part, I USED them. Each of my students has a drawer for their guided reading books, dry erase boards, math tool kits, etc. so I had students add this to their drawers. I think the most important part of data collection is to find something YOU WILL USE!

Does this sound like something you might like but you aren't sure? I have a Free Sample for Number Recognition that you can try before you buy. See if it is something you like and will use.

If you can tell this is something you LOVE, it is ON SALE for 50% off for a limited time. You can buy the entire Assessment Data Punch Cards HERE.

These are the products I used to create these punches. If you click on the photo, it will take you to an Amazon Affiliate Link where I will receive a small commission for sharing.




Friday, June 21, 2019

Positive Behavior Management for the Classroom

Hello, teacher friends! I hope you all are enjoying your summer vacation. I have been enjoying spending time with my kids, trying new recipes, pinning freezer meals to make my life easier when school starts in fall, reading some fabulous books, and a little bit of cleaning/organzing (wishing it was more). If you are in my new Early Childhood Facebook Group, you might have saw my post asking about what kind of teacher you are in June - Forget About School, Pin All Things Teacher, Or a Little of Both. I am totally a little of both. I view June like New Years. I make resolutions to be  better mom, a better wife, and a better teacher. And I pin...A LOT of things.

Last summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about how support children in my classroom with behavior needs. I realized, I NEVER wrote a full post on it. Yes, I shared a little, but here I am ready to share it all with you. If you do not want to think about teacher things this June, you can still pin it for August.


I created this calm down kit last summer, and I have to say it was one of the BEST investments I have ever made. I keep it on a shelf in corner where kids get easily access it and have a little bit of privacy while they calm down. I will walk you through what is in it.



First are these hand fidgets that I found at Michael's. I allow kids to sit at the carpet with fidgets AFTER I teach them the expectations. First, they stay in our hands. They do not get thrown and they do not get handed to other kids. You still have to follow all carpet expectations.

  Teaching a child to calm down is a skill that has to be explicitly taught, like any other skill. This is the calm down book, taken apart for you to see. I laminated it and put it on a ring. It teaches kids skills to stay calm. Get a fidget. Listen to music. Ask for help (isn't it sad how many kids do not know how to ask for help?) I go through this book with a child WHEN THEY ARE CALM. You cannot teach a skill when a child is already frustrated. That is only going to elevate them more. Save this teaching tool for when they are calm.


Visual supports are essential for any child. They help a child connect the words to the action. For a child that has special needs, such as being on the spectrum, or a child with behavior issues, visual are ESSENTIAL! It is easier for a child to process a visual directive rather than a verbal, especially if they are frustrated. While these can be a great tool when a child is frustrated, they still have to be taught when a child is NOT frustrated. Make it a game for the entire class. Show the class the picture (if you have a document camera, that would be awesome, id not, just hold it up). Have your entire class practice the skill. Once you have taught all the skills, point out when a child is doing what they are supposed to. You do not have to call out a specific child. Hold up a a card that says hands to self when there are students who do not have their hands to self, and say "I see students who have hands to self." Hopefully, students realize they do not have hands to self, and follow that directive without you having to specifically ask them to. Again, this works best when a child is NOT already upset. Over time, the child will learn the skill, and be able to do it when they are upset.



Identifying feelings is also essential for teaching a child to be calm. Kids can say the words happy, mad, or sad, but they may not know what it means. We need to teach kids what their emotions are and how to respond to them in an appropriate manner. It is great to be happy, but that does not mean you can talk to your friend while I am teaching. It is ok to be sad and cry, but you can't cry to avoid work. It is ok to be mad, but you cannot throw a chair. Squeeze a ball instead.



These are some great calm down skills.  Take 5 deep breaths and blow on the windmill. Kids enjoy blowing on the windmill and it will help them calm down (sometimes, they need more then 5). You can do the same thing with water.

You can find this, and all of the above activities in my Positive Behavior Management System.





 I did share this FREE Positive Behavior Clip-Chart last year. Clip-Charts are controversial. There are kids who will always be at the top and those who will always be at the bottom. For those who always at the bottom, it can really impact their self-esteem, especially if say something negative, like go to the Principal or call parents. I created this clip-chart with I can statements. The bottom says I can improve my behavior. AND PLEASE, let that child improve their behavior. Give that child the chance to move up. Do not force a child to stay at the bottom because then you are saying they can't improve their behavior. Here is my example. Andy throws his pencil at Sarah within the first hour of the day. This is a very, very bad behavior. You will have to call Andy's parents at some point to tell them. You may have to take Andy to the Principal. This is not ok, but, my guess is Andy will be spending he rest of the day in your classroom since the didn't actually hurt anyone. Do you want Andy to be negative all day? Do you want him to feel ashamed and embarrassed? Do you want him to do it again???? Yes, I have had Andy that did something like this multiple times  a day. I ALWAYS gave him the opportunity to turn it around (unless he had to go home for the day, that happens). Guess what eventually happened? Andy went from disrupting the classroom 10 times a day to 7 times and eventually less then 5...most days. Then in first grade, wow, Andy was disruptive less then 5 times a week. It really does get better. Eventually, but you, as a teacher, has to try to stay positive for your kids. Unfortunately, you do not know what kind of negative interactions they get at home. Be the positive in that child's life. You can find this FREE Clip Chart HERE.


Another resource I used last year was Positive Behavior Brag Bracelets. There are 40 different bracelets to give out to kids. Kids thrive on praise. They want to please, even if they don't know how. Last year, a parent told me her child kept ALL of their bracelets on their wall for the whole year. It was their little brag wall. I wanted to make sure I wasn't always giving them out to the same kids, so I made sure to have a class list where I could check off who got one. There are are holiday and seasonal bracelets too. I print odd enough of those for everyone to get one. At the beginning of the week, I tell kids that I am going to be watching each of them and want each child to get one and I always make sure each child gets one. Rewards shouldn't be withheld. FIND A REASON to reward a child. I always write on the back of the bracelet what that child did to earn it. I think this is meaningful for communication with parents. You can buy these HERE.



There are always kids who need their own, individual reward system. This one comes from my Positive Behavior Management System. It includes picture cards for what they are working for. I know some teachers that want children to get the same rewards and the same consequences because that is fair. I am not going to sugar coat this for you. Every child should get what they need, not what is fair. Some children are able to work for a long stretch of time, other need to build their stamina. I think that concept is easy for teacher to understand when we are talking about reading or writing, but not behavior. The truth is, behavior is no different. Some kids can stay on task for 10 minutes, others for one minute. As teachers, we should want children to feel successful, whether that is in reading or behavior. For this, I usually give a child or 2-3 items they can choose to work for (there are times where they can work to go outside and swing, but other times where I do not have support to take them outside. Some children may only be able to attend to a task for 3 minutes. If they sit for 3 minutes, I give them a star. When they earn 3 stars, they get their reward/break. If they earn the reward several times, I bump it up to 4 minutes. I want them to be successful, but I also want them to grow. I also may adjust it based on the activity, the time of day, or how the child comes off the bus. If they struggle with reading, but do well in math, I may ask them to work 5 minutes for math, but only 3 minutes for reading. If a child has been earning 5 stars to get their reward/break, but come off the bus crying, I may switch it up to 3. Remember, YOU WANT THE CHILD TO SUCCEED!!!! Remember, 10 minutes on task is better then 30 minutes of classroom destruction.

I created this FREE reward chart that you can use instead of the one above. You can decide how many stickers they are working for before they get a break.


My last tip for creating positive classroom behavior is to have a classroom schedule and use it! This helps to reduce anxiety for children to know what is coming up. It helps them to visually see that most days are similar. At the beginning of the day, I go over our schedule. We have a little star next to what activity we are on and move it down as we go. After lunch, I go over our afternoon again. If something in the schedule changes, i take the time to tell them. If it is unexpected and I do not have a visual for it, I put up a blank space and tell kids what item goes there. You can get this editable schedule here.


Some students need an individual schedule. They need to manipulate it themselves. They may only be able to handle seeing a few items at a time. This can be a great intervention for a student that may need a BIP. This individual schedule is included in my Editable Daily Schedule.

I hope this post has helped you visualize your own positive classroom environment. Please, let me know if you have any questions about what I talked about today. I promise, if you implement even a few of these ideas, your classroom will change for the better.