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Tips for Using Interactive Notebooks in Kindergarten

I love seeing all the creative ways teachers use interactive notebooks in their classrooms but I’ve always felt that they’re more for older students because of all the different pieces and specific places to glue. (If you’ve ever used glue with kindergarten, you know what I’m talking about – total mess!) But this year, I was determined to make interactive notebooks work for my kindergarten class. For my first interactive notebook experience, I chose to use them in science however, these tips would work in any subject!

Want to use interactive notebooks but stuck with getting started? Check out these tips to using interactive notebooks in a kindergarten classroom.

Tips to Making Interactive Notebooks Work in Kindergarten

Setting Up Your Interactive Notebooks

  • Use a full-page label sheet to for the front cover. (This tip comes from Ashley at Teach Create Motivate.) I designed my cover to say Science Notebook with two scientists and a place for students to write their name. When I was ready to put these covers on my student’s notebooks, I printed them on these full-page labels which you put in your printer just like a regular paper. Then I trimmed the sides to fit and stuck it on the front, just like a giant sticker!
  • Glue a front cover for every unit or sub topic. My science curriculum has multiple units so each unit has different cover inside the notebook and that’s how we know everything after that cover page belongs to that unit. Some teachers use tabs to separate units or subtopics. I don’t do this because once we’re done with a science unit we don’t come back to it so there’s no need for students to tab back.

Want to use interactive notebooks but stuck with getting started? Check out these tips to using interactive notebooks in a kindergarten classroom.

General Tips

  • Trim the actual interactive notebook pages that go in the notebook. This makes one less step for students and saves a ton of time!
  • Give your students one page at a time. If you give them the background page plus any other pages where you need to cut and glue or fold, things get jumbled and at least one kiddo is going to cut something that shouldn’t be cut.

Want to use interactive notebooks but stuck with getting started? Check out these tips to using interactive notebooks in a kindergarten classroom.

 

  • Model, model, model! Of course this goes for literally everything in kindergarten but especially for the tricky interactive notebook pages.
  • Help your students find the next page. You wouldn’t believe how many interactive notebook pages I’ve had to pull out because a student just opened his notebook and plopped it down wherever it opened.

Want to use interactive notebooks but stuck with getting started? Check out these tips to using interactive notebooks in a kindergarten classroom.

Although interactive notebooks can be tricky to navigate with the younger students, it’s totally possible with these tips and tricks! What would you add to this list?

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Three Components to Engaging Math Instruction: A Guest Post by Alyssa Barban

Hello there! My name is Alyssa Barban and you may know me as BusyMrs.B from Instagram or Teachers Pay Teachers. I am a second grade teacher who LOVES to make math instruction accessible for all, while maintaining engaging, rigorous, and fun lessons. There are a few key components -three to be exact- to my math teaching style. Have less comfort in what you are doing, constantly push yourself and your kids, and always provide them with the support they need to be successful.

Have Less Comfort in What You Are Doing

As an educator, when I grow comfortable, I become lazy; meaning, I plan less, push myself less, and coddle my learners. In order to make math instruction engaging, we must push ourselves beyond our comfort level. Some of my most successful lessons took place when I let go, provided my students with learning opportunities, and let them thrive.

Consistently push yourself beyond your limits, because that is where greatness lies! Math can be fun, engaging, rigorous, and memorable with you as the teacher.

One of my most memorable lessons took place with the inclusion of jenga! I bought 24 (I know, I am crazy) mini jenga sets from Dollar Tree and painted the blocks multiple colors. We reviewed challenging curriculum, pushing students to collaborate, explain their reasoning, and challenge their own limits. When they learned the goal of this ‘game’, they were instantly hooked and ready to apply their knowledge! This lesson was loud, it was all over the classroom, but it was successful because it allowed for my students to apply difficult problem solving techniques to tackle word problems. When we allow ourselves to doubt our creativity and become too comfortable, we end up hindering our student’s growth.

Constantly Push Yourself and Your Kids

Our kids are capable of amazing things and it is our duty to believe in them, and push them beyond the limits we thought possible. When teaching math, it is easy to give up if they do not get it right away, or begin to make excuses. It is our job to push beyond those doubts, and to provide our students with opportunities to dive deeper into content.

Consistently push yourself beyond your limits, because that is where greatness lies! Math can be fun, engaging, rigorous, and memorable with you as the teacher.

Subtraction was a lesson that I was DREADING as an educator because I had doubts of my student’s and my own abilities. But instead of giving up, I decided to push beyond our ‘typical’ parameters. We pulled out sharpies and balloons and broke down numbers before subtracting. We challenged ourselves, made mistakes, but learned in the process. We are now just days into subtraction and have written on balloons, played musical addition and subtraction, learned a chant, used base ten blocks, whiteboards, and written in chalk. When we push beyond the typical, we can create opportunities for our students to engage in content multiple ways, increasing their potential.

Consistently push yourself beyond your limits, because that is where greatness lies! Math can be fun, engaging, rigorous, and memorable with you as the teacher.

Always Provide Students with the Support They Need to be Successful

Every individual child is different and needs our support to allow opportunities for them to engage in conceptual learning. This does not mean to spoon feed them, it means to provide manipulatives, hands on, inquiry based learning, and provide visual representations of common knowledge (anchor charts).

Consistently push yourself beyond your limits, because that is where greatness lies! Math can be fun, engaging, rigorous, and memorable with you as the teacher.

My place value unit that can be found in my TpT store provided my students with multiple ways to engage with content. They were learning hands on, building numbers, comparing numbers, creating 100s charts, and more! Their engagement was through the roof because I incorporated food and kinesthetic learning. When we provide our students with tools to be successful and the opportunity to apply their learning, they will be successful!

Consistently push yourself beyond your limits, because that is where greatness lies! Math can be fun, engaging, rigorous, and memorable with you as the teacher. 

Consistently push yourself beyond your limits, because that is where greatness lies! Math can be fun, engaging, rigorous, and memorable with you as the teacher.

Why You Should be Differentiating in Your Classroom

Differentiated instruction is such an important aspect of a successful classroom. In any grade, there is always a range of students’ capabilities. Some students flourish in some areas and need support during others. Some students need hand-holding throughout all subjects and others need a challenge. Differentiation can give students the extra support or challenge they need to never stop learning and never give up.

Do you have students ranging in levels and capabilities? You need to start differentiating in your classroom. Read here to find out why.

Differentiation: An Overview

By definition, differentiation is the “development from the one to the many, the simple to the complex” – Merriam Webster dictionary.

When teachers differentiate instruction, they tailor the lesson to the students’ needs by taking a concept they want their students to learn and providing support to lower students or a challenge to higher students.

Helping your Struggling Students

Your struggling students benefit a ton when you differentiate instruction because they are the ones who need extra help. They’re the kids who seem to be lost, don’t know the instructions, or guess to try to get by. There’s nothing wrong with this type of student, they just need you to hand-hold a little more.

How to help your lower students

  1. Model more than you would for the average student
  2. Do more examples together
  3. Work in a small group (with students at a similar level)
  4. Take the content and make it simpler
  5. Make it hands on

Differentiating in the Classroom

Challenging your High Students

Your high students can greatly benefit from differentiating instruction because they need a challenge to continue to grow. These are the kids who are raising their hands, know what to do before you tell them and could easily get bored because they already know everything you’re going to say. These kiddos need a push to reach a higher level.

How to challenge your high students

  1. Give higher level thinking assignments
  2. Talk less, model less, give less examples – set them free to work on their own
  3. Work in a small group (with students at a similar level)
  4. Let them be helpers to students who have trouble – sometimes students learn more from peers
  5. Make it hands on

Differentiating in the Classroom

When to Differentiate

Differentiating is tough, I’m not gonna lie. Taking a concept and splitting it up so it’s taught at all students’ levels seems like a lot of work and honestly, it is. That’s why I’ve chosen to focus on differentiating during reading and math.

 

My lower school team uses guided reading as a way to teach reading. I learned this teaching strategy when I got my credential so I was familiar and comfortable when I started teaching kindergarten. If you have a strong program (we use Fountas and Pinnel) and materials then it’ll be simple enough. Now, guided math is a different beast. This is my first year using guided math and I am just starting to get the hang of it. (That’ll be another post for another time.) What I’m learning this year while using a guided math is to differentiate by tweaking the curriculum program we have so I’m not making more work for myself.

 

Differentiating is such a magical tool that can really help students grow and flourish if you put the time in to set up a system, create the lessons and work with your kiddos in small group settings.

 

Do you differentiate in your classrooms? What tips would you give a beginning differentiator?

Differentiating in the Classroom

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Guided Reading: The Ins and Outs

Guided Reading Groups: How to Set up Your Groups in the Beginning of the Year

Classroom DIY: Guided Reading Caddies

More to come on Guided Math!

 

Projects: An Alternative to Homework

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Calling all teachers: do you give homework? I’ve been giving weekly packets since I became a kindergarten teacher 4 year ago. I do like that while students are doing their homework, they are practicing what we’ve been learning in class and are given an opportunity to show their parents what they’ve learned or what they struggle with. However, I feel that students should be exploring the world and using their hands to learn instead of completing worksheet after worksheet. That’s why this year, I’m sending home monthly projects.

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Monthly Projects

Monthly projects are given in place of one of my weekly homework packets. They are designed to reinforce certain skills or concepts we’re learning but in a hands on way and so parents get involved. After each project, students present to their classmates about what they did and what they learned. It’s so precious to see kindergarten students get excited about their learning and put on their grown up voices to share what they did with their friends.

Projects By Theme

I created these projects to go along with a theme depending on which month the project is assigned in. For example, this September, my students completed an “All About Me” project so we could get to know each other on a deeper level.

This chart shows the name of the project, theme and what content area students are working on while doing the project.

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Projects and Family Involvement

What I love most about projects is that they involve my students’ families. In our “All About Me” project, parents helped their child by finding pictures of them as a baby or as a family. During the “Great Candy Investigation”, families worked with their child on different activities revolving around candy. This type of “homework” is more engaging than the typical pencil and paper work. It’s something students will remember as they grow older. They won’t remember the worksheet, they’ll remember the activity.

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Resources

My Monthly Projects Resource is a growing bundle, meaning if you purchase now, you get a deal because it’s priced low and as I add more projects to the resource, the price goes up. Check out my Monthly Projects Resource here.

Or check out the Monthly Projects I’ve already created through clicking the pictures!

Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class. Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class. Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class. Need a more engaging way to get students working at home? Read here to find out how projects work in my kindergarten class.

Do you send home projects in your classroom? What types of projects would you and your students enjoy?

The Benefits of Morning Work

Each morning after circle time, my students go to their tables for morning work. I believe making time for morning work each day is so important in kindergarten because it serves as routine, reinforces weekly learning and promotes independence.

Benefits of Morning Work

1. Routine

Having a solid routine gives students the ability to be successful because they know what to expect. Every single day, students in my room know that we will begin at the carpet for our morning circle, then we’ll go to our tables and complete the morning work. Our morning work focuses on language arts and math skills that we have learned earlier in the week or in the prior week. Although the worksheets and skills change, the directions and activities stay the same. This creates routine in the worksheet and promotes independence.

2. Independence

Believe it or not, kindergarten students can be independent. By creating an expected routine and modeling the different activities on the morning work, students learn exactly what they need to do. Before you know it, they don’t need you to model or read the directions! Morning work can give students the confidence to feel independent in other subjects and in other areas of the classroom.

Benefits of Morning Work

3. Reinforce Learning

The biggest and most important aspect of morning work is that it reinforces weekly learning. The morning work that my students complete follow along with the skills we learn in our language arts program as well as skills learned in math. In the beginning of the year, students work on finding and matching letters, sounding out words and counting. By the end of the year, they are circling nouns, correcting sentences and adding and subtracting. Morning work is a great opportunity to see how your students are retaining the skills learned in language arts and math.

Kindergarten Morning Work Bundle

Check out my Kindergarten Morning Work Bundle that you can use for your entire school year! This bundle comes with six units, which is broken down into six-weeks per unit, one sheet of morning work per day.

Morning Work Bundle

What benefits do you find in having students begin the day with morning work?

Circle Time: What does it look like in kindergarten?

Each morning, the first thing we do is come to the rug for circle time. I find that starting with circle is a great way to start the day because it is a routine that students know well and sets our day up right away for the learning ahead.

Circle Time Routine:

As students come into the classroom and put their stuff away, I play a good morning song. Students know that once the song ends, they need to be at the carpet ready for circle.

Calendar

To begin, we start with the months of the year song. We discuss what month we are currently in, which month it was before and what month it will be after.

Then, we sing the days of the week song. After the song ends, I choose a student to tell us what day it is today. Next, we discuss the date and I put the calendar piece on the calendar. Students repeat the full date (example: Today is January 25, 2017).

The calendar helper comes up and moves around the days of the week cards. The calendar helper is the leader during this part of circle and says what day it is, what yesterday was and what tomorrow will be. The rest of the class repeats after the calendar helper.

Example:

Calendar Helper: “Today is Wednesday”
Class Repeats: “Today is Wednesday”

Calendar Helper: “Yesterday was Tuesday”
Class Repeats: “Yesterday was Tuesday”

Calendar Helper: “Tomorrow will be Thursday”
Class Repeats: “Tomorrow will be Thursday”

    

Place Value

After calendar is over, our place value helper comes up and adds one straw to our place value chart. This helper also changes the days in school card and announces what day we are on in kindergarten. I love this portion of circle because it reinforces place value and we discuss making bundles. Students love when we get to make a BIG bundle on the 100th day of school!

Weather

Once we’ve discussed what day of school it is, we sing a weather song. After the song is over, the weather monitor comes up and changes the weather and temperature cards. They announce to the class what the weather is today.

Letter of the Day (Beginning of the year)

In the beginning of the year, we have a letter of the day. During this time, I introduce the letter and we watch the Zoophonics video (just that letter and the previous letters we’ve learned). I like the Zoophonics program because it discusses the letter, sound and makes a movement for students to kinesthetically connect to the letter.

Circle Time Materials

Songs

In the above sections, I’ve linked the songs I play. I put these on a SmartBoard lesson with a picture and we sing them as we get to that part in our circle time.

Circle Time Set

I’ve created a circle time set of the posters and all the cards you’ll need to set up your own circle time. There are three versions: a bright colors theme, jungle theme and a black and white ink saver.

What circle time routines do you have in your classroom?