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.