Thursday, 18 December 2014

Differentiation with the Monsters!

If you've read my blog in the past then you'll know that I just love my monsters!  I have two - the Alphabet Monster and the Number Monster.  I can say without a doubt that they are the most versatile and possibly the most engaging resource I use when teaching all sorts of concepts - I use them almost every day.  For me this teaching tool is so important because of how super simple it is to differentiate activities for the needs of my kidlets.  With a $0 investment you've got a resource to use for teaching new skills, practising during review and an easy assessment tool.  Don't believe me? Keep reading!

How to create your monsters!

You can make a monster out of literally anything you have lying around. My Alphabet Monster was made first from an old wine glass box, some paint and bits of scrap paper.  Because I'd been using him and calling him the Alphabet Monster I ended up needing to make another friend for maths - so the Number Monster was created from a tissue box.  There's really no need to have more than one - you could just give your monster a name and them use him/her for activities in any subject area.  I was worried that because my monsters were cardboard they wouldn't last long, but I've had them now for two years with no damage. Of course you could use an old plastic container to make yours more sturdy.

Once you've made your monster the fun begins!  Give them a character - they need a voice so that when they are fed they can gobble 'Nom nom nom nom nom nom!'.  This is super important because it's what will keep the kidlets hanging for their turn and giggling when others have theirs. My Alphabet Monster is a grown up so he has a deep, loud voice but the Number Monster is a baby so his voice is much more gentle. :)

Food for your monster!

I always begin any monster activities with "I think the Alphabet/Number Monster is hungry! We need to feed him." We then refer to anything that goes into their mouths as 'monster food'.  Here's where using monsters becomes so quick and easy - you can feed them anything! Any flash cards that you use for other activities - sight words, letters, phonics pictures, numbers, shapes, ten frames... the list is literally endless.  You can also feed the monster manipulatives - magnetic letters or numbers, small objects from around the classroom (perfect for beginning/ending/rhyming sound work), shape blocks, counters etc.  And of course it's important to have a stash of scrap paper squares for kidlets to create their own monster food by writing or drawing.  As each kidlet puts their food into the monster's mouth be sure to make your monster's gobbling noise.  Don't worry if you monster's mouth gets too full - monsters have very bad manners so if there's no more room they will simply burp and spit out whatever they've already been fed.  Be prepared for the hilarity that will ensue when this happens! :)

Time to eat... with easy differentiation!

When we feed our monster I ask my kidlets to sit in a circle.  If we're using flash cards I lay them out in front of me and hold the monster on my lap.  Then I choose the kidlet doing the best job of looking and listening to start (I go around the circle so I can be sure everyone gets a go, but you could keep choosing those behaving nicely first!).  Here's where differentiation becomes super duper easy - just ask each student a question most relevant to their needs.  Doesn't matter if they're still working on beginning sounds while everyone else is thinking about rhyming - everyone gets a slightly different question so no one will feel like they've had an 'easy one'.  If you've got a little learner who needs more of a challenge ask them a question accordingly.  No need to prepare anything in advance and everyone participates as they are able!  When the question is a little too difficult I simply say - "This question is a tricky one! Let's all try to figure it out."
Here's a few concepts that are perfect to practise or review with your monster: 

*letter recognition
*beginning/medial/final sounds - children either choose a card/object or draw/write their own idea
*segmenting - children choose an object or card and break it into sounds before they feed it to the monster
*blending - "Feed the monster the t/r/ee" etc.
*counting sounds or syllables - ask the children to choose an object or card with a specific number of sounds or syllables
*sight words
*number/ten frame/number word/tally recognition
*one more/less
*teen numbers - "Feed the monster the number with 1 group of ten and 3 extra ones"
*number bonds
*counting - "Feed the monster 5 counters"
*tens blocks - ask kidlets to choose blocks that represent the given number
*shape recognition

The list, friends, is pretty endless.  You can see why I use my monsters daily!  I just love that kidlets become so invested in the characters that whenever the monsters come out they wave hello.  Watching them giggle as they feed them carefully so as not to be 'bitten' always makes me smile and this year one precious kidlet actually took time on the last day to go and give the monsters a pat goodbye.

I really hope that this post has inspired you to get crafty and make your own classroom monster!  I'd love to hear if any of these ideas work for you. :)

Friday, 12 December 2014

A Christmas Conversation!

I love Christmas time linky parties! Today I'm joining Abby's Christmas Conversation to share some fun holiday facts about myself.

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Cheap & Cheerful Christmas Crafts!

Hello again lovely friends!  With Christmas fast approaching I wanted to stop by and share some easy and super cute craft projects that my kidlets worked on in their last few weeks of school.  Because we finished on the 2nd of December we got into the Christmas spirit really early to make sure the classroom was looking gorgeous and festive before the school year ended.

Let's start with some snowman fun!  I've seen this cute snowman catching snowflakes project all over Pinterest - you can even grab a few different templates from TpT (like this freebie) but because I always decide on the spur of the moment to get crafty I just winged it!  I used powerpoint to make a circle and trapezoid outline which I then printed to white paper.  Then I just sliced up some red, green and black construction paper along with some freehand orange triangles.

The kidlets used white oil pastel to draw some asterisk snowflakes on a large sheet of card which were then painted with blue wash (we used powder paint).  In our Summer heat the paint dried in about 5 minutes so we could move on with the snowman straight away.  I let them glue down the pieces of their snowman with a sample that I'd made as a guide.  We used brown oil pastel for the arms when everything was stuck down.  I just love how they turned out and when they were all hanging up it was just the cutest display ever. :)

Another super easy snowman project are these craft stick ornaments.  Simply paint the stick white and when it's dry glue on a black hat, orange nose, red or green scarf and some buttons.  Use Sharpie for the eyes and mouth and be sure to hot glue some ribbon at the top for hanging on the tree.  This year we used paper, but last year's felt option turned out a little nicer.

I work at a Christian school so we spend lots of time focusing on the Nativity story around Christmas time.  This year we worked through some crafts that matched each part of the story we were learning about.  First came a paper plate angel as we read that one visited Mary to tell her about the baby Jesus.  We pre-cut the plates just to save time.  The kidlets painted the edges yellow and added gold glitter.  The face is just a paper circle with eyes, nose and mouth drawn on in marker.  We chopped up some sparkly pipe cleaners to use for the halo.

To make this gorgeous Jesus in the manger craft I used this freebie from Doodle Bugs.  I just sliced up brown construction paper for the manger itself but used the templates in the pack for the swaddling and face - we just copied them onto blue and off-white paper.  The straw is crepe paper that the kidlets chopped up.

As we read about the shepherds hearing of Jesus' birth and travelling to Bethlehem to visit Him we made some super cute sheep to display with some clipart images of shepherds I got from Scrappin' Doodles.  I don't have a photo of the whole display though, just the cute sheep!  We used a wine cork to stamp the sheep's wool with white paint, and then did some directed drawing for the head.  The kidlets cut their drawing out and glued it on with some rectangle legs and googly eyes.

This year I ran out of time for a Three Wise Men art project, instead we wrote about what gift we would like to give Jesus.  Lots of kidlets wrote that they would give him their heart or all of their love.  :)

Hopefully I've shared an idea or two that you might be able to use in your classroom. I'll be back soon with some Christmas maths and literacy ideas!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Currently December!

Oh my... I am so late to the Currently party it's not even funny!  I do have a good excuse though - my seriously slack blogging lately has been a result of end of school year madness!  With report cards, organising our Christmas concert and staff party and getting my Preppies ready to move on to Year 1 I've been frantically busy for the last month or so.  Now that I'm finally on holidays I'm planning to pop by here much more regularly. What better way to get back on track than with Farley's linky?

Listening: I was woken up this morning by a huge clap of thunder.  We get thunderstorms almost daily here in Summer - the ones in the morning usually have a tonne of thunder, but the evening storms can be quite dangerous with lots of rain, lightning and hail.

Loving: Speaking of waking up - how glorious to open your eyes and realise that it's the first day of a six week break from school!!  My plans today involve coffee, the couch and Pinterest to celebrate. :)

Thinking: I sat for a long time wondering what to add as my 'Thinking' item and then realised that my mind is completely blank.  After a very, very busy term organising our Christmas concert and staff party, writing report cards and getting my Preppies ready to move on to Year 1 it is really wonderful not to have a giant list of things to do whirling around in my brain.  I'm sure I'll soon start thinking of next year and everything I have to do to get ready for that, but at the moment it's tumbleweeds!

Wanting: End of school year madness means that my house is in desperate need of a thorough cleaning.  Any volunteers?? :)

Needing: My school finishes up a week before the public schools do, so I would really like to get my Christmas shopping mostly finished before the malls are full of kids! I have bought some very cute gingerbread man wrapping paper, but that's as far as I got.

Giving: Do you use Three Ring?  Although this isn't a super exciting or Christmassy piece of advice it's one that will save you a tonne of time.  Visit Three Ring to set up your class profile and then use the app on your iPad or iPhone throughout the year to save notes, photos or videos of your kidlets reaching their learning goals.  You can save the evidence into categories - Spelling, Reading, Number, whatever you want! - and then review each child's progress in each area during the year and for report cards.  Oh, and it's FREE! :)

Well friends, the time has come for me to make another coffee and do some pinning.  I hope that wherever you are your weekend is relaxing and fun.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

It's Currently November!

I'm always surprised at how fast time flies - November already?  Popping in for a quick catch up with Farley's Currently!

It's Spring here and the temperatures have been unusually hot - getting up towards 30+ degrees C every day! (That's close to 90 degrees F for my friends from the US!)  Today we also had ridiculous humidity so I'm really hoping we get a good thunderstorm tonight to break the heat.

Only 4 and a bit more weeks with my Preppies!  After that we have 2 days of assessing next year's crop before our Summer holidays.  This year has gone soooo fast, but I am ready for a break.

Next Saturday is my birthday and my family is coming up for a day at the beach and then I'm having a bbq with friends.  I'm really looking forward to relaxing!

I'm definitely having an end of the school year energy slump... Why does that always happen when there's still so much work to do!!  I think I might have to resort to a morning Berocca for a kickstart each day.

With report cards looming on the horizon I need to get my assessment started this week.  Some is done from last term, but I know that if I don't get onto it I'll be panicking at the last minute.

I have a book on my night stand that has been there for a while, it's called 'Catching Air'.  I try to read a few pages each night but to be honest it's taken me so long to read it that I'm not really engaged with the story.  Hopefully over Summer break I'll be able to get some good stretches of reading time in! :)

That's all from me - time for dinner and Sunday night TV.  Have a wonderful week friends!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Happy Snaps Sunday!

I just love Shanyn from Classroom Chit Chat's Happy Snaps Sunday linky.  It's a chance to share any random photos from your week that have made you smile.  My pictures this week are from around my house!

This weekend I did some serious spring cleaning and as a reward I treated myself to a new lamp! I really, really want a standing chandelier floor lamp, but they are really expensive. I found this cute little one that satisfies my yearning for crystals until I can splash out and buy a bigger one.

I had a few frames that needed photos, so I finally got around to having some printed.  My favourite is this old one of (from the left) my cousins Emma and James, me and my oldest friend Kristy.  It was taken at one of our birthday parties when we were about 4.  All of us were born within two months of each other and have always been close even though now James and Kristy both live in Canada. I have a similar photo of us when we met in Seattle a few years ago - Emma was travelling through the US with her now-husband and James, his wife, Kristy and I drove down from Vancouver to meet them for a few days.  I love this photo because of all the happy memories it holds for me.  I'm so glad I get to see it every day now! :)

It's Sunday night here so I'd best get to organising myself for another early morning start tomorrow.  Mondays are terribly persistent!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Five for Friday!

I'm not sure about everyone else, but when I actually do my Five for Friday post on a Friday I really feel as if I have my life together! :)  Here are some random moments from my week.

It's that time of the year when I really start to see some lovely progress with my kidlets' writing.  We've been using our Spacemen Spacers to make sure our sentences are easy to read and I'm seeing more kidlets spelling 'tricky sounds' correctly in their words.  I also love that full stops are appearing at the end of sentences instead of between random words :)

Next step is to make sure we're choosing interesting and exciting words in our stories!

Every time I walk past the garden near my classroom and see the gorgeous sunflowers blooming there my heart lifts a little.

Sunflowers must be the most cheerful of all the flowers!

This morning we played a new 'game' my teaching partner found on TpT.  Spelling CVC Words - Can you beat the computer? was a HUGE hit!  Each slide shows a picture, and the aim is for kidlets to write the word correctly before the letters appear on the screen.

This was great practice for my little learners who are still working on their segmenting skills, and a speed challenge for the others.  I love that the photo shows two kidlets cheering because they beat the computer. :)

This morning I saw a post on Facebook that made my heart skip a beat... 'The Magic Faraway Tree' is being made into a movie!

I really, really, really hope that the characters and magic lands live up to the ones I created in my imagination when I was growing up!  My greatest wish when I was about 9 was that one day I would get to climb the Faraway Tree myself - I was convinced that Silky and I would be best friends. :)

Because I am such a party animal I'm spending my Friday night doing laundry and finishing off a pack for TpT.  Here's a sneak peek:

If you've read my blog before you'll know that I love combining hands-on and fine motor activities with literacy and numeracy concepts.  This little ditty focuses on digraphs and as soon as I've added cards with words as well as pictures it will be ready to upload!  Fingers crossed I don't get distracted by 'Say Yes to the Dress'!!

~Update! I did get distracted by Friday night TV but got this pack uploaded today. :) Check it out here!~

Thanks so much for popping by!  Be sure to visit the linky to see what everyone else has been up to this week. :)

Monday, 20 October 2014

Happy Snaps Sunday!

Hello lovely friends!  My friend Shanyn from Classroom Chit Chat has recently started a fabulous linky called 'Happy Snaps Sunday'!  The idea is to post photos you have taken or seen in the last week - for no other reason than they make you happy. What a wonderful idea to spread a little sunshine around the blogosphere. :)

This week my most reluctant writer was excited to write a story about a boat (our phonics focus was 'oa/o_e/o).  I reminded him that for sentences to be a story "something has to happen".  Here's what I read when I came to check on him:

"On Sunday I went on a raft.  I went to an island.  Something's happening." I just love this little treasure. :)

During our History work we've been thinking about families.  How gorgeous are kidlet drawings?!

One of my closest friends had twins recently and her little man is just to die for.  I could eat him up!!  

And finally, who doesn't love a bit of Grumpy Cat?  This pin gave me a good chuckle.

That's it from me today! Be sure to link up with Shanyn and share your Happy Snaps, too. :)

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Five for Friday!

Hello lovely friends!  It has been such a long time since I've visited the blogosphere and I must admit I have really missed sharing ideas, chatting with followers and reading about all the wonderful things happening in other classrooms.  I hope you won't mind if my Five for Friday this morning covers more than a week?  I need to catch up. :)

My plans for Spring break this year involved staying close to home, getting my house cleaned and organised, making a heap of resources for my kidlets and having afternoon snoozes.  Instead, I booked a last minute vacation and spent some time in the Hawaiian sun with a couple of friends!

We stayed at Waikiki and enjoyed long days of beaching, eating, drinking and shopping.

What a treat to have a whole week to relax!

After a public holiday on Monday I had a short week with my kidlets.  We got straight back into the swing of things and did some number revision in Maths groups.  You probably know that I am an advocate for getting little learners up and moving whenever possible, so we played Gone Fishin'!  Using a magnetic rod we caught numeral and number word fish and matched them up.  Next week I'm going to use the ten frame and tens block fish in number line activities, and we'll complete some recording sheets as well.  This week, though, we just had fun casting a line! :)  

I love, love, love all of Marsha's resources and we used her 'Constructing Numbers' pack this week, too.

Loved hearing the kidlets sing the relevant line from Harry Kindergarten's Numbers in the Teens/Twenties songs to remind themselves about groups of ten and extra ones.

We had lots of fun in guided reading this week... although we only spend a small amount of the time playing a game I know that it's my kidlets' favourite part of our time together!  Depending on the needs of each group we worked on different skills.

'Magic E' practice.

Working on letter recognition and common sounds.

It's official - we have a new favourite GoNoodle brain break!

Dancing Robots has been put to the side for I Like to Move It, Zumba style!

If you could see into my storeroom at the moment you would most likely faint from shock.  It is a giant mess!  Had to spend some time yesterday afternoon sorting out resources that I should have put away properly weeks and weeks ago!

After sorting and rubber-banding everything back together I popped all of our word family resources back into the concertina file I keep them in.

Each word family has it's own labelled pocket with all of the master copies of worksheets kept in a plastic sleeve.

I keep the laminated display and activity cards in a ziplock bag - it's so easy to take out the whole bag to use during the weeks we are learning and revising each word family.  I usually use laminated envelopes to keep my resources in, but this pack from Marsha needs a whole filing system of it's own! I really need to buy some more of these concertina files to keep sets of worksheets in - it would make my life so much easier if everything related to the same concept was in the one place. :)

I hope you have had a wonderful week and are enjoying some weekend time relaxing and resting!  I'm off to do the same. :)