Kindergarten Portfolios and Memory Books

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When people ask what I love about teaching kindergarten, one of my first answers is always the growth that happens each year. Students come in not knowing their own name or having held  a pencil before and leave first grade ready.

One of the best ways to show that growth to both students and parents is through portfolios. Portfolios are a place to keep writing samples, work students are proud of, and to track data and goals. And at the end of the year, they become a wonderful memory book to send home to parents!

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I keep my portfolios in individual binders because it’s easy to quickly insert pages. However, you could just keep each student’s pages in a file folder and then bind at the end of the year.

I start collecting work samples from the very first day of school. Each month has it’s own section. Instead of buying dividers, I have students make a simple craft on construction paper, which is slightly larger than printer paper and makes the perfect divider. As you can see in the picture above, the construction paper is slightly taller than the binder, so if that bothered you, you could trim them down.

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At the beginning of each month, students also draw a portrait of themselves and write their names. I love to see how the pictures get so much more detailed throughout the year!

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I also have them write their uppercase and lowercase letters and fill out a calendar to show number writing. At the beginning of the year, this is rough, but again, the growth is always amazing to see!

Throughout the year, students choose some of their work samples that they are proud of to put in their portfolio. I also choose work that I think represents them as a students and I have a few seasonal writing prompts that I give the whole class.

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Finally, I have one of my FAVORITE sections in the portfolios: Data tracking and goal setting.

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Students help me track their data – sometimes by coloring in what they know and sometimes just by discussing it with me. I let them set their own goals, usually just one or two at a time, that they want to work towards. When they achieve it, they get to add a page to the binder celebrating  the achievement.

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I have students (or me depending on time) use different colors each time I assess so I can easily see where they started and how much they grew each time. This is also very helpful to have on hand during parent teacher conferences – you can just pull out their child’s binder and show how much they’ve grown from the very beginning.

You can find everything you need to easily put together your own portfolios here:

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How To Differentiate Your Centers in Kindergarten

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I talked previously about how I managed my differentiated centers last year in this post. However, i’m in a new school this year and i’m not sure i’ll have all that space!

I wanted to show you an EASY way to differentiate your centers and then give you a peek into HOW I differentiate them. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work!

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I have different colors for below level, on level, and above level. I wish that yellow folder was purple but beggars can’t be choosers! These are normally at least $4 at Office Depot, but I got them when they were 2/$1 plus I had a coupon making them around 30 cents each!

So in each basket center, I would have 3 folders. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year teaching my students how to get out THEIR color. If you assign students centers, you could have 1 basket at each center and that basket would hold the 3 folders for any students who go to that center so you don’t have to change it out.

You could also just have one basket hold all the blue folders, one hold all the pink folders, and one hold all the purple folders for students to choose from if you want to give them more choice. It cuts out a lot of space!

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What I LOVE about these folders are the pockets! I can keep the recording sheets and instructions in the zipped pocket and smaller pieces in the little pockets!

I promise this isn’t an ad for these, I just really wanted to show you because I am SO excited about that feature. 😉

So then the activities as that center are very similar, but at different levels. To the students, it looks like they are doing the same center or almost the same center, but I know each student is getting what they need.

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This is the below level sight word center from my September pack. Students are matching sight words to sight words. They are just working on recognizing the word in print.

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This is the on level center. Now students are building the sight word and working on spelling it.

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The above level activity is, again, very similar but now students have to unscramble the sight word. This requires them to use higher order thinking skills.

I differentiate my math centers in the same way.

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Oops! Notice the mistake? Even teachers have trouble subitizing. 😉

I change it up by what numbers are used and sometimes by the task. So for the subitizing center above, my below level students are sorting up to 5, my on level students are sorting up to 10, and my above level students are sorting up to 20.

You can get all of these differentiated centers by month in my store, or you can get the growing year-long bundle right now! It is a STEAL right now as I add in the months and it’s guaranteed to make differentiating your centers easy!

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You can also pin this post for later:

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What’s In Your Writing Center?

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The writing center has always been one of my favorite centers; probably because it has always been one of my students’ favorite centers as well! Seriously, they choose to go to the writing center during free time over computers or legos.

So what’s the key to making your writing center so engaging to your students that they choose to go there over playing? The answer is: choice!

Of course, choice doesn’t mean having a free for all at the writing center. I make sure to set high expectations for the materials at this center and I don’t put out all the choices at once. I introduce 3 at the beginning of the year and then 1-2 each quarter.

The choices then stay the same, but the vocabulary cards and the themes change to keep it fresh. I have themed writing centers that I can keep all month or change out whenever we focus on a new topic. This keeps my students excited and connects what we’re learning in other areas to our center time!

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I keep the choices in these letter trays. You could hang the vocabulary cards on hooks or on a ribbon using clothespins. I’ve done both and they both work just fine! I also keep visual directions for each activity here so students always know the expectations.

I’m going to show you some of my favorite activities to keep at my writing center below!

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This free activity is perfect for beginning writers because it exposes them to sentence structure, sight words, and vocabulary, but also scaffolds their writing by providing the sentence frame.

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In this activity, students will trace the sentence and use the vocabulary cards to finish the sentence. They will also draw a matching picture, which gives them practice drawing matching illustrations.

You could also save paper and make this reusable by sticking it in a dry erase sleeve.

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Again, you can find this activity free here.

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This is another great activity for beginning writers, but I love this activity for all year because it exposes students to vocabulary and gives them practice with longer words.

Some of my students choose to stretch out the words instead of looking at the vocabulary cards and that is perfectly fine with me! I love seeing their progress throughout the year.

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ANOTHER easy activity, but it’s also easy to differentiate! Students can write generic lists, which I usually keep out from day 1, or I can have them write lists on specific topics.

Again, this exposes them to new vocabulary and drawing pictures to match their words.

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I have two different levels of writing paper. One just has a couple lines and is perfect for emergent writers. Once my students can write multiple pages for one story, I also let them add covers to make their own books!

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I also have story starter paper, which is great for those students who take ten years to think of a writing topic. They already have the topic provided for them; they just have to write about the picture!

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This is an activity I usually introduce the second semester, because I like to take the time to teach my students the proper way to right a letter. It annoys me so much to see a page with just a heart or “hi.” written on it!

How engaging would this be if you actually had a mailbox, though?? I know they usually put small ones in the Target Dollar Spot around Valentine’s Day. You could let students “mail” their letters and have a mailman as a classroom job to deliver the letters!

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This is another activity I save either for the end of the year or for my more advanced writers. If you taught 1st or 2nd grade, though, this would be perfect for all year long!

I have so many of these research flip books, so I can keep ones out that match with what we’re learning or put out ones that match student interest. The National Geographic Kids books are perfect for research, or I let my students use Kiddle (the kid-friendly Google) on the computers!

If you want to start your own writing center, or even just change yours up, i’m offering my Themed Writing Centers for the Year for just $15 right now as I add in the themes! There are currently 10 themes included (a $30 value), and I will be adding in at least 29 more!

In each themed pack, you’ll get the visual directions posters you can display, picture vocabulary cards, multiple labeling pages, list pages, writing and story start paper, a card, and letter paper.

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Interactive Anchor Charts

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If you’re a teacher, you already know the importance of anchor charts. They literally “anchor” our learning and provide a resource for students to look back to throughout the year.

But have you ever felt like you put all this time into making a cute, pinterest-worthy anchor chart and your students rarely, if ever, look at it again? It seems like it just became a part of the classroom decor? Well, most likely, the students didn’t have a connection with that anchor chart!

 

When students contribute to anchor charts and they become interactive, yes, the charts may not come out quite as cute, but they make a connection to the chart and its content and they will be much more likely to use it as a resource.

 

Here are some ideas and different types of interactive anchor charts you may want to implement in your own classroom:

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This is a type of chart that many of us are already implementing in our classrooms. As I introduce each letter of the alphabet, I have students brainstorm words they know that begin with that letter. I quickly write the word and sketch the matching picture.

 

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I add ANY word the students think of, so long as it begins with the correct letter and is school appropriate.

 

This is a great time to build connections with your ESL students as well! If they give me a word in their home language, I will add it to the chart with a picture (Google Translate is my BFF), and explain to the class why we are adding it and what it means. It means SO much to them to see words in their own language on these charts!

 

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I use charts with sound boxes all the time as we’re learning cvc words and short vowels. The cute “Aw Man O” at the top comes from Michelle Hudgeons.

 

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Of course, I could just write words that students brainstorm on the chart, but I think it means so much more to have them help me stretch out the words and use the sound boxes themselves. We will use sound boxes all year long and I want my students to become experts at stretching out words that they’re writing, so I need to make sure i’m modeling it as much as possible.

 

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Similar to sound boxes, as we begin learning more complex phonetic patterns, I begin having my students stretch out the words and label the pictures on our anchor charts.

 

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I am NOT worried about spelling here! If they forget a phonics rule we’ve already learned I may remind them, but otherwise I let them use inventive spelling to encourage taking risks in their own writing.

 

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These charts may be pre-made, but they show students how to do something step-by-step and they should match the task exactly.

 

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This chart shows students step-by-step how to solve our addition word problems.

 

I had the steps already written on the chart, but I made sure we referred to this chart constantly as we practiced solving word problems whole group. Every time we did a step, I had a student tell me what number it was and what it said. They HAD to refer to this chart so that it would be more likely they would refer to it later on when they needed help.

 

Another example is letter writing. This time I did start with a blank chart:

 

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I only had the numbers written on here so students knew how many steps there were. Then I wrote the letter in front of the class explaining what I was doing as I went.

 

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I made sure to use different colors to make the difference in each step obvious.

 

After we finished this chart and went through the steps a few more times, I put this at the writing center. Letter writing was now an option and, because they had this chart to refer to, I expected all students to follow this format.

 

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Again, these are charts that you are probably already using in your classroom! These charts are your KWL charts, your Can, Have, Are charts, and your bubble charts. These charts are meant to document student learning.

 

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Here is a very sorry looking dinosaur Can, Have, Are chart. 😉 We completed one column every day and wrote about that part. Students were able to use the chart as a resource and were more likely to be able to recognize the words because they contributed the information.

 

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This is a bubble chart we made after reading a book about spring. The pictures help students know what the sentence is about, which helps them recognize the words because, again, they came up with the words.

 

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This last chart type is one that is usually pre-made and they can be easy for students to forget about if you are not diligent about making sure to refer to them often.

 

We used this chart when learning about character traits, but we also had a chart with even more traits I displayed on the SmartBoard:

 

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We read “Tops and Bottoms” and then used both charts to fill out this character traits sheet:

 

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I made sure that we referred to that chart often throughout the rest of the year as we read stories together.

 

If you have any great anchor chart tips, be sure to leave them below!

 

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Beat the Teacher: A Whole Class Incentive

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We have officially reached the time of the year where this is the constant soundtrack in my head:

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Maybe it was because spring break was so early this year, but it just feels like the summer bug is hitting us hard right now! As we’re getting ready to become first graders, I knew it was time to give us a little extra motivation.

There are variations of this incentive all over the internet, but this one works well for us! My class this year thrives on friendly competition and we have a good relationship – this is important with this incentive!

When my students came in this morning, our white board looked like this:

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With this incentive, it is important that you only choose one goal to work on. We have been on the struggle bus when it comes to sitting on the carpet peacefully, so that was our goal.

Every time I  saw students showing whole body listening, raising their hand to speak, and listening when others were talking instead of shouting over them, they got a magnet in their ten frame.

Every time students rolled on the carpet, yelled out, or talked during a lesson (sometimes i’d give a warning first), I would get a magnet in my ten frame.

I got these large magnetic ten frames from Lakeshore Learning.

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Their goal was to have more magnets in their ten frame than me by the time we were done at the carpet. If they happened to fill their ten frame, I game them an “X” on the chart and the board was cleared.

If I had more magnets or we tied, they just didn’t get an X. Nothing more than that!

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Now, for this particular goal, it is a lot of work. It was a new competition every time we came to the carpet. I would clear the ten frames after every carpet session to keep the competition fresh.

I would also have to clear the ten frames mid-lesson if the class filled their ten frame. Good thing teachers are pros at multi-tasking!

I also want to mention that this is not meant to be a long term incentive. I’m sure you could use it long term, but I think it would be most effective when it’s new and exciting.

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If students had more magnets than me or they filled the ten frame completely, they would get an “X” on this chart. When the chart is full, they get to choose one of these prizes:

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We’ll vote on which one we want as a class. If you download the freebie, an editable PowerPoint version is included so you can choose your own prizes.

By the end of the day we had 4 X’s, so it shouldn’t take us too long to get there!

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The little guy on the board was to remind us of how we are supposed to look at the carpet. I could just point to him as a reminder. I’m actually shocked at how much my students needed that visual!

I’ve included him just in case your class has the same goal, but you could use this incentive to target any desired behavior!

If you want to try this incentive in your classroom, you can grab it free here:

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Or pin this post for later:

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