Friday, 29 July 2016

A Peek Inside Two Puzzling Packs! CVC Word Puzzles

Hi everyone! Today I'm quickly stopping by to give you a peek at my two newest products! :) These CVC word puzzles are the perfect way for little learners to work on their phonics and reading skills.

Find-A-Word puzzles are always a hit with my kidlets! These worksheets are organised by vowel sound.  There are two puzzles for each vowel, with an additional two featuring a mixture.  That's 12 unique puzzles altogether! Kidlets read each word after looking at the picture clue and then find them in the puzzle.  I've also provided colour copies of each puzzle in case you'd like laminate them and use them with dry erase markers.

As kidlets solve each puzzle they are faced with multiple opportunities to apply their knowledge of letters and sounds - as they decode each word, and again as they search for the words in the grid. Because the words are organised by vowel sound they will fit easily into your phonics teaching sequence, or can be used for targeted intervention.  (Aren't medial vowels a huge hurdle for some of our little learners?) 

Spell & Find is a little trickier! Kidlets need to complete each word by correctly writing the beginning sound on the line before finding the words in the puzzle.  As our 6 year old was 'testing' some of these out for me I loved to see her thinking as she searched for words.  Initially she wrote the letter j for the word gem, and then when she couldn't find the word in the grid she went back and thought about another letter choice. :)

These resources are perfect to use during Literacy small groups! They're also great as a quiet 'Fast Finisher' task - kidlets can tuck one away in their desk or a folder and move onto a puzzle without leaving their chair. :)

Click on any of the photos above to see these resources in my TpT store - make sure you view the preview file there for a closer look inside each pack.  Happy weekend, friends!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Playdough! Creating Sensory Experiences in the Classroom

I love using playdough in the classroom - it's perhaps the most versatile of all the hands-on resources you can have in your bag of teacher tricks! As well as being a familiar and fun element of learning activities it's also a must-have for fine motor development - and with a few tweaks you can create some amazing sensory experiences for your kidlets to further engage and motivate them. Today I've stopped in to share a few of my favourite ideas with you.

Making your own playdough is easy and much, much cheaper than store bought. My go-to recipe has never failed me and best of all - you don't have to cook it!  Here's how it's done:

1. Mix 2 cups plain flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 tablespoons cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large bowl.
2. Add food colouring of your choice to 1.5 cups of boiling water. Add this to the flour mixture and stir well.
3. When the mixture forms a dough, turn it out onto a floured board and knead until smooth.  (Be careful - it might still be hot!) 
4. Store in cling wrap in the fridge when not in use.

Now that you've whipped up a batch of basic dough it's time to get creative with scents and textures!  This list of ideas is by no means complete - as you experiment you'll find that the options for sensory dough are endless.  Try these to start:

*Lavender Dough - add a few drops of essential oil to some purple dough.  Perfect to place as an option in your 'Calm Down Corner' for kidlets who may need time to settle themselves, or to play with first up in the morning during the beginning of the year when children may find it stressful to separate from their parents.  You can also add lavender flowers for some texture if you have some in your garden. (If you don't like lavender just use any essential oil!)

*Sand Dough - sprinkle some clean sand into your dough as you're stirring the ingredients together.  You may find you need a little extra oil with this recipe.  Don't add food colouring to this batch to make it look more like sand.  Lots of fun to use along with a beach theme - provide shells and coral for kidlets to press into the dough.  Use some coconut essence or oil for a real tropical island experience!

*Mud Dough - I use coffee in this recipe!  Stir some into the boiling water for a rich brown colour.  Coffee grounds kneaded through the mixture add a dirt-like texture.  Provide plastic bugs, sticks/leaves or pebbles for children to explore with.  Make a few batches and add them to a tray outside - kidlets will love digging around in it with construction toys!

*Spring Dough - add rosewater (or another floral essential oil) to some pastel coloured dough.  Have kidlets collect leaves and flowers from the garden (or bring them from home) to use when playing with this dough.

*Chocolate Dough - replace about half a cup of the flour with cocoa powder.  You can use more if you like but I find the chocolate smell becomes too strong.  Perfect to use during an Easter or Valentine's Day theme, or with cupcake liners.  Kidlets will love to decorate their creations with cake sprinkles! Be warned - no matter how many times you explain that it's not food, someone will always eat the chocolate dough.  :)

*Candy Cane Dough - this one is my absolute favourite! Make 2 batches of dough and dye them Christmas colours.  Add peppermint essence.  Whenever we use these Christmas themed playdough mats I always bust out the candy cane dough!

*Fairy Dough/Magic Dough - add fine glitter to dough of any colour.  Girls particularly love pink dough! They will spend hours with the fairy dough, especially if they have a selection of beads, crystals and sparkly things to add to their creations.

*Fruit Dough - steep some herbal tea bags in the boiling water before adding it to the mixture.  Dye the dough the best colour to match your scent - yellow for lemon etc.

*Jelly Dough - dissolve a packet of jelly crystals in the boiling water before adding it to the mixture.  This is your scent and colour all in one!  Make multiple batches to use in a pretend play ice-cream store.  (See below!)

A word of warning: If you have any children who find strong scents overwhelming you will need to use scented dough carefully - I find that the essential oils can be particularly strong if you're too heavy handed.

Obviously you could just provide the dough as an option for kidlets to use during free play time, however we all know that there's less and less time for that in our little learners' school days. :(  Luckily it's easy to use play dough into a meaningful learning activity.

Playdough mats are a staple in my maths and literacy small groups, particularly at the beginning of the year.  Perfect to work on letter and number recognition and counting skills.  Click on the images below to see the ones in my store if you don't already have some of your own!

Alphabet Mats
Numbers 1-10 Mats
Grab some alphabet cutters to use playdough in a sight word or phonics task.  

The options for using playdough in a pretend play setting are pretty much endless!  Create a cafe, restaurant, bakery or ice-cream store with a few bits and pieces from the kitchen and a few batches of dough!

I hope I've sparked your imagination and inspired you to use scented or textured playdough in your own classroom!

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Holiday Photo Catch-Up!

Hello friends! It's been far too long since I stopped by to share a post with you all  - but I have a good excuse, I promise! We've been enjoying a lovely family holiday in Tasmania for the past two weeks.  Today I'm sharing a very quick photo round-up of our adventure so far. :)

We started our trip near Hobart - after a 6am flight we spent the afternoon in Geeveston at the Tahune Airwalk.  The air was so clean and the views were gorgeous! Our 3 year old slept very well that night after no nap and a 2.5km walk!

We took a steam train ride on the Wilderness Railway, which runs from Queenstown to Strahan.  It's quite a long trip so we had booked the carriage that supplies food and drinks - the girls were entertained with morning tea, lunch and dessert while we travelled!

The scenery was just beautiful.  

One of the days we were in Hobart was rainy, cold weather so the activities we had planned had to be changed.  We stumbled (through Google) upon a small zoo just outside of the city.  Zoodoo was amazing! The girls loved the bunnies (they are a pest in Queensland so you never see them - only very rarely at a baby animal farm).

We took a safari bus and got to feed some animals.  The emus, camels and zebras came right up to the open sides of the bus!!

We also got to feed a lion which I thought was very cool! No safety worries - just a pair of tongs and some steak through the fence! :) I'd never even seen a lion before so to feed one was lots of fun.

One of my 'Bucket List' items has always been to see Wineglass Bay which is in the Freycinet National Park.  I was lucky enough to be surprised with a scenic flight right over it!

We had absolutely glorious weather and the views were just spectacular.

The plane was tiny but we managed to squeeze in...


We spent a day at Tasmazia - just outside of Launceston.  I'd been looking forward to this ever since I'd seen the photos online.

It was just the cutest place ever! we walked straight into a giant hedge maze, and once through that we found ourselves in Lower Crackpot.  A tiny village with more mazes and miniature townships.

Reese has taken to wearing one of my scarves - it's almost as big as her!

We had a (very cold) but fun time here. :)

The girls have seen more than their fair share of wildlife this holiday! As well as animals we saw at Zoodoo they also saw Fairy Penguins in the wild at Bicheno - no photos from that as we saw them at night and a camera flash would scare the penguins. We wen to Seahorse World and Platypus House while we were in Launceston.  The end of the tour at Platypus House was lots of fun as the girls got to feed some gorgeous echidnas.  Reese was very excited when two almost crawled into her lap!

For a few of the days we were in Tassie we toured around the wine regions.  The scenery is just beautiful.

Riley is particularly fond of Riesling.  Just joking - of course! This winery (Puddleduck) served verjuice and cheese so children were included.  

We're ending our holiday in Melbourne to visit some friends.  They've taken the Riley & Reese to the aquarium so we're doing the obvious tourist things....

...sitting at a riverside bar blogging...

...and researching shares! :)

If you've read this far I think it's only fair for me to share with you that I've got some of my favourite product discounted while I'm away - follow this link to grab some discounted math games!  

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Must-Read Novels: 5 books you'll want on your vacation reading list!

Hello friends! Isn't it lovely to wake up and realise that you don't have to lesson plan for the coming week? As much as I love teaching kidlets in the classroom, I sure do appreciate a few weeks of alarm-free holidays. :)  Since we're all having a break from teaching-related things (at least for a few days!) I thought I'd stop past to share 5 of my all-time favourite novels - linking up with Kacey and Five for Friday.  Whether you're relaxing by the pool on your summer vacation or snuggled under a blanket during winter break like I am, you won't be able to put these books down!

1. Three Wishes - Liane Moriarty

You might have heard Liane Moriarty's name mentioned recently - Reese Witherspoon is turning one of her recent books, Big Little Lies, into a movie.  Three Wishes is her first novel - and, in my humble opinion, her best.  It's all about the lives of Lyn, Cat and Gemma - 33 year old triplets who are just about as different as three sisters could be! Each of them are dealing with the ups and downs of their own lives, as well as the challenges that come with being part of a trio.  This story is beautifully written - it's funny and heartwarming. You feel like you know the girls so well that you must keep reading to see how the twists and turns unfold for them.

2. Tully - Paulina Simons

If you've read any Paulina Simons books, most likely it was the Alex & Tatiana trilogy (The Bronze Horseman, Tatiana & Alexander, The Summer Garden) - also three amazing books and well worth reading!  Tully has been one of my favourites since I was about 18 and I've read it probably 10 times. I'll be honest - it touches on some dark topics.  It follows the life of the main character, Natalie, through her teenage years and adulthood.  She struggles with tragedy and loss early in her life and in the years afterwards she's kind of searching for acceptance, love and closure.  

3. Plain Truth - Jodi Picoult

This was the first of Jodi Picoult's books that I read and it's by far my favourite!  It's set in an Amish community where a newborn baby has been found dead in a barn. An unmarried, teenage girl named Katie who lives on the farm is is charged with the baby's murder and is believed to be the mother.  A big-city lawyer comes to live with the family as she represents Katie during the trial and she experiences 'plain' life in a way that opens her mind and heart.  As with all Jodi Picoult books there's a great twist at the end!  (Another fabulous book by the same author is My Sister's Keeper.)

4. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

I know, I know! We've all seen the movie so I don't need to explain what this book is about. :) But if you haven't read the book you are seriously missing out. It is hilarious.  

5. The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

I've only started reading Kate Morton's books in the past couple of months and I'm so glad I discovered them! She writes stories set in the English countryside and all of them stretch across generations.  The Forgotten Garden is all about a girl called Nell, and her search to find the family she believes abandoned her and her real identity.  Another page-turner that you won't be able to put down - I had to keep reading late into the night just to find out what the ending would be!

Narrowing down favourite books to just 5 is tough!  I could easily add another 10 or so to this list without too much extra thought. :) Hopefully one of my suggestions has caught your eye.  Please click on the images to go to the Amazon listing for each book to read the full blurbs because I'm sure I have done an awful job in describing the stories.  Don't forget your local library will more than likely have a copy of these books that you can borrow for free!

If you have any great novel suggestions I'd love to hear them.  

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Hands-On Ideas for Teaching 2D Shape!

If you've read my blog before you probably know all about my passion for ensuring that little learners explore concepts in a hands-on way! Today I thought I'd share some ideas for teaching 2D shape that will keep your kidlets' hands and minds busy.

For the beginning of the year I love to use this song - to the tune of 'If You're Happy and You Know It'. (I didn't come up with it - it was a gift from Pinterest many years ago!)  Before you begin, make sure each student has one each of the shapes you'd like to focus on.  Either give them blocks or pre-cut card, or have them cut around paper templates.  The song goes like this (just change the shape name each time):

Put your {square} in the air, in the air!
Put your {square} in the air in the air!
Put your {square} in the air and wave it 'round up there,
Put your {square} in the air, in the air!

This activity is perfect for the beginning of your 2D shape learning because it focuses on simple shape recognition.  At the end of each verse you can ask questions about the shape if you like or talk about the properties in a more detailed way.

During this stage of learning I also like to include some informal shape work - usually in fine motor groups first up in the morning or as a maths craft.  The photo below came from Pinterest as I don't have one of it in action in my own room.

Make up a collection of coloured paper shapes.  Laminate them if you'd like to use them long term!  Simply provide kidlets with a board/table space to design a picture using the shapes.  As they work you can ask lots of questions and talk about the shapes and how they are the same or different.  For example, "How many triangles have you used?" or "A square has 4 straight sides, do any other shapes?"  I prefer to use the laminated shapes during morning work for a while and then have the kidlets create a collage with paper and glue as a maths craft.

The biggest unexpected hit in my classroom during 2015 was this simple activity that I came up with to fill a spare 10 minutes.

I cut some shapes from old cardboard boxes we had in the room and put one at a time in the feely bag (my fancy name for an old Toms shoe bag!).  I blindfolded one kidlet and asked them to feel inside the bag and guess which shape was in there.  Of course, they need to know how many sides each shape has, whether they are straight or curved and the shape name - so this is a great activity to discover if any kidlets aren't quite getting it.  I was very surprised to see that everyone was just desperate to have a turn feeling inside the bag, so I ended up putting it and the shapes out for discovery play time.  For the few weeks afterwards I would see pairs and small groups of kidlets playing the guessing game independently. :)

For a whole class activity I love "I Have, Who Has?" This version includes colours and comes in 2 levels (one with 'trickier' shapes!). 

I have two all-time favourite 2D shape crafts!  The first is a shape ice-cream!

To make this craft just print out some shape outlines on coloured paper (I make mine in Powerpoint) and some labels on white paper.  Give each kidlet one of each and have them glue the labels on each shape before assembling their ice-cream.  (I use a second triangle for the cone).

Next up is a shape pizza!

Normally you would paint the paper plate pizza dough coloured before you complete this craft... but I must have been pushed for time the year I took this photo! :)  Cutting out the little shapes is a great job for parent helpers (they can even do them at home) - use a circle punch to make it easier though.  Kidlets go ahead and make their pizza, and then record the number of each shape they have used.  {If you're anything like me the first time you do this activity you will cut enough shapes for 6000 pizzas and use the shapes for years after!}

Now time for a couple of tasks perfect for small group rotations or centers.  2D shape learning fits perfectly with patterning concepts, as often times we ask kidlets to create patterns using colour and then shape.  I use pattern blocks all the time and love these pattern block cards - children copy and continue the patterns shown.

We also love to 'Link-it-Up'!

I hope you've found an idea or two that you can use in your classroom! Thanks for stopping by today. :)