Monday, October 26, 2015

Make It Monday! DIY Watercolors

Hi there, it is Robin from Class of Kinders. I love being able to create in the classroom. I only wish there was more time to do it. The creations we make in my room are usually tied to a standard ...but that is always easy to do. Teachers can be creative too, right? (wink)
I am here to share a super easy tip on how to make your very own watercolors for your students. No need to buy those wimpy store bought watercolors anymore! This tip is one that my teaching partner (Elaine, from Kitty Kitty Kindergarten) introduced me. I am here to pass it on, because after all, isn't that what being a teacher is all about? ….sharing ideas and making them available to help others. I love these watercolors for two reasons.  One, I can recycle those old, dried out Crayola markers and two, I never have to ask for, buy or replace those expensive small rectangle trays of oval watercolors that seem to run out overnight. Not to mention these "DIY" watercolor are just. plain. better.
Here is what to do:
First, buy some containers, I got these at my local Dollar Tree. They come in a 2 pack, keep them both and double your stock or pass one along to a teacher friend and teach them how to make their own watercolors too.
Next, open them up. Notice they have this perfect little white stopper in them…no lid to pry off 
and cause a big spill in the process!
After that, grab that tub of old, dried out markers that you have hidden, stored, or tucked away. You know you have them. We keep them. Why? Because tossing them in the trash just somehow seems wrong. Find the colors that you want to make…decisions, decisions!
Then, place them in the cups filled with water and walk away…forget about them for the day. 
When you go back, test the color. If you want a more darker hue, leave them longer or add more old markers from your tub and plop them in! Just play with it. It is trial and error, but at some point you will get the color that is just right. You can always add more water if it is too dark.
While you are waiting…consider doing a directed drawing with your students. There are so many ones out there on pinterest. A robot, a pilgrim, a raccoon, how about a cow? Here is one we did from Millie Waits for the Mail. Super, super cute story. What a character Millie is! 
We used our green and blue watercolors for this one. It adds that special touch and the watercolors move so nicely on just a plain old piece of construction paper. So go ahead….pull out those old, dried out markers and give it a whirl. You will be glad you did.

DID YOU KNOW: has a new recycling program for markers? Yes, they do! It is called Crayola ColorCycle and you can read about it here. Kuddos to Crayola for offer a recycling program!

Thanks for stopping by…and Happy Creating!

Monday, October 19, 2015

7 Tips to Teach PaREnTs How to Read at Home

As a mom of 4, sometimes I DREAD homework time with my own kids. Two of my kiddos are extremely excited to complete homework and are often disappointed when they don't have any (Crazy right?!?!). The other two are more "normal" and it can often be like pulling teeth to get them to do it. Sometimes I don't know how to help them (5th grade math, 12th grade Lit) but I do my best.  However, as a teacher, I KNOW that they need the extra practice to become independent and critical thinkers when reading. I also know that many parents do NOT know how or what to say to their child when they are reading with them at home.  Parents will often just hand their child a book and say to them “read this”, but then continue to wash dishes, fold laundry, pick up toys,etc. They are not really engaging their child, therefor the reading homework is not really serving its purpose. To avoid this, we as teachers need to not only train our littles how to complete their reading homework but also train their parents on what to say to them while they are reading. Here is a short list and a freebie on what you can say to your parents in order to implement this into your students home lives:

1. Set aside 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to be with your child while they are reading - let the phone ring, turn your cell phone alerts and alarms off, or better yet leave the phone in another room, turn the t.v. and the video games/computer/Ipads off.

2. Get them excited about reading a book - Pull out some stories on your child's level of reading and let them choose the story. Many teachers will send home books on your child’s reading level, however if they do not, you can ask your child’s teacher what level they are on. Once you know their reading level, you can go to and purchase these books for a great price (usually $2-5). Or you could even just look up titles and see if you already have it at home and if you don’t head to your local library.

3. Point to the words with them -  Model how you keep track of the words you are reading as you read. The pointing will gradually fade with time as they learn to self track. If they are having trouble with pointing to the words, you can get some fun pointers from the dollar store to have them use. (There are little finger lasers, witch fingers with red nails, magic wands, anything will work.)

4. Model seeing the punctuation before you even read the sentence so you know HOW to read the sentence - say to them, “Look their is an exclamation point so I know that I need to sound really excited when I read this sentence” or “Oh, this sentence ends with a question mark so I know my voice will go up toward the end of this sentence”. Then read the sentence exactly how you explained to do.  A great book to practice this with is called “Yo! Yes?” by Chris Raschka.

5. Put voices to the characters to help them distinguish between them - Changing each characters voice may seem a little silly, but when you do it children begin to understand the character as its own “person” just like he or she is and that the characters can have individual personalities just like a real person can have. (Plus its fun to stop acting like a grown up sometimes and just dive into a make-believe persona for a short while.) This is called reading with expression and the more you do it, the more fun the story will be!

6. Model your thinking - When we read as adults we often ask questions and find the answers to those questions, we predict what we think will happen next or “who done it”, we make connections from our own life experiences to the story, and we describe the characters personality traits and compare them to ourselves. This may seem like a common, easy thing that we do while reading but children have to learn how to think this way.  So as you are reading and thinking these things, say them out loud so your child can hear how a reader should be thinking. Engage them in your thinking by asking them “What do you think will happen next?” or “How did the character feel when that happened?” and “Have you ever felt that way before?” or by saying, “I wonder why the character wanted to do that?”. If you come upon an answer to these questions while you are reading, model out loud to your child how you found the answer in the story or how you used your schema (back ground knowledge of events) to answer it.

7. ENJOY the time with them -  Your kiddos not only crave the time with you but they enjoy the child like behaviors that you succumb to when you read with them! Soak it all in because before you know it they will be grown and will not be able to curl up in your lap with a good book any longer.  It is just as much for their benefit as for yours!!!!

Click Parent Reading Task Card to get this FREEBIE for your parents to use as they read with their child each night.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Assessment Made Easy

I am honored to introduce our guest blogger this week, Melanie Redden from Snips, Snails, and Teacher Tales. Melanie is without a doubt one of the very best teachers I know and for sure the very best teaching partner a girl could ever hope to have. I have learned along side this spectacular person for over a decade. My two best years of teaching were spent Platooning with Melanie. She is a gift to all who know and love her. It is my pleasure to share her words of wisdom. Be prepared for brilliance!
Hi there!  I’m Melanie from Snips, Snails, & Teacher Tales, and I’m so honored to have this opportunity to be a guest blogger on Planning In Paradise!  

WARNING:  I’ve NEVER blogged in my life.  So I am terrified excited about sharing a few ideas and FREEBIES to help make assessment in your classroom a bit easier.  Try and stay with me here...

If you are anything like me, by this time in the school year you are drowning in paperwork.  There are assessments to give, papers to grade, and student progress to track.  It certainly doesn’t help that first quarter report cards and parent conferences are looming right around the corner.  Basically, it’s crunch time!

So go ahead!  You know you want to!  Hit that EASY BUTTON and make all that stress disappear!  “How?” you ask.  By putting part of the responsibility back into the hands of your students!  

Here are a few ways that I do that in my classroom.  

At the start of each math unit, I write down the standards that we will be covering on a piece of chart paper.  I know, it’s not pretty (and definitely not “Pinterest Perfect”) but I’m all about fast, easy, and practical.  As we move through the unit, the students will use the chart to notify me of which concepts they would like to receive either (1) enrichment or (2) remediation.  They simply write their name down on a sticky with a quick note to me and then slap it up on the chart.  This has been a great tool to use when making small groups for math rotations.

My school uses performance-based assessment.  So I created this Student Grading Rubric to help my students with the self-assessment process, as well as to understand the expectations.  {’s great for parents too!}  
Student Grading Rubric

I don’t know about you, but when it comes time to grade papers I often fantasize about what it would be like to hire a personal secretary.  I know, I know...assessment drives instruction!  It’s necessary in order to get a complete picture of each child in your classroom, as well as a snapshot into the effectiveness of your teaching.  So instead, I just squash my fantasy and hit that EASY BUTTON!  As a result, I created this Show What You Know document.
Show What You Know Freebie
The students use this form to record the learning goal or the objective that we are working on.  I love to use this tool as a lesson quick-check to see who is grasping the concept and who may need some additional support.  Referring to the Student Grading Rubric (that I enlarge into a poster), my students will check where they feel they are in the learning process.  Then they will show me what they know with an example of their thinking for that objective.  I love that I can just walk around the classroom and take a quick grade by glancing at the examples they provide.  No papers to collect and grade!  EASY!           
Finally, as a way to hold my students accountable for their own learning I have created these individual Math Data FoldersWith these folders, my students have really become aware of their strengths as well as the areas that need improvement.  They use their data folders to continuously reflect on their progress by setting goals and making plans on how to be successful in math throughout the school year. 

In the folders, all of the Common Core math standards for 2nd grade are organized by topic. My students record both a formative and summative grade for each standard. This allows them to determine which areas need improvement. In the back of the folders, we keep goal setting and reflection sheets in order to make a plan on how to increase proficiency before the summative assessment is taken. Once all standards have been covered in a topic area, the students will take the overall grade and graph their progress on a growth chart.
Math Data Folders & Goal Setting 
This data folder will ensure that your students know at all times how they are progressing, so that report card grades will never be a surprise. They are even great to use as evidence of student growth to show parents during conferences. 

If you’ve stuck with me this far, then I sure hope that you have found some inspiration to make your life easier and your students more successful! So go ahead...hit that EASY BUTTON! 


* I told you she was brilliant! Thanks for sharing, Melanie. This makes assessment and goal setting a piece of cake! Snips, Snails, and Teacher Tales you are the best!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Read our story on the TPT Blog!!!

Here is our story about the support and collaboration that has led to friendships and laughter, collaborative blogs and Facebook pages, Vegas conventions, and Pinterest parties… the list goes on and on.

Monday, October 5, 2015

How a little laughter can help with your classroom management :-)

Laughing in class?  Is this appropriate? In my class it is required!!!

Laughter is good for your health and has a L O N G list of benefits.

Because I want my classroom environment to be as stress free as possible I have implemented a few laughter generating strategies to help create as many positive experiences that my students and I can share.   

The Joke Jars are something new for me this year.  Our schedule is a little crazy this year and there are lots of transitions.  To help settle the wiggles I pull a joke from the Joke Jar.  If we line up fast and quiet there will be a minute free for a joke!!  Jokes are pulled throughout the day to speed up our transitions or to give us all a little brain break.  Jokes are submitted by the students and they are so proud when their joke is shared.  
We had also had jokes submitted by big brothers, sisters and grandpa. 
 Grandpa’s jokes have been very entertaining for sure!!

I have also checked a variety of joke and riddle books from our classroom library.  
These books are available for students to copy their favorite joke for the Joke Jar.

When visiting the library I encourage the students to look for books they think are funny.  Before returning the books to the library the students share examples from the book for a good laugh.

We also sing a variety of funny songs read funny poems and watch cute and silly kitty and puppy videos from YouTube to get the giggles started for our brain breaks.

The most valuable and productive strategy is to LAUGH AT YOURSELF and invite others to do so too.   When ever you do something silly or wrong, share it with the class and laugh at it.  For example, Last week I bent down and my glasses fell into the sink and for what ever reason I didn't realize it.  When they were discovered by a student I just started laughing at how silly I was not to notice.   The entire class began to giggle just for a moment and quietly returned to their writing assignment.  Wishing you lots of laughs in your classroom.