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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How To Make Worksheets For Your Classroom (Or TeacherPayTeachers)

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I’ve had numerous people ask me recently to teach them how to make worksheets for their classroom and products for TeachersPayTeachers. Being a visual learner myself, I decided to lay it out step-by-step in the hopes of making it as simple as possible!

Yes, there is a LOT of information included, but I tried to make it as simple as possible. There will be variations if you have a different version of PowerPoint, but it shouldn’t be too hard to modify the steps. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them below!

Step 1: Open PowerPoint and click “layout.” Select the blank layout.

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When I started creating, I used Microsoft Word. I can’t even tell you how overjoyed I was the day I learned to use PowerPoint instead! It is SO much easier to move things around where you want them!

Step 2: Select “Slide Size” (usually in the Design tab) and set a custom size to your page size.

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You can definitely set it to 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 8.5. My school’s printer doesn’t like to print all the way to the edge of the page, so I always set my size to 10.75 x 8.25 or 8.25 x 10.75.

Step 3: Add borders.

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You can find all sorts of cute borders on TpT and insert them following the clip art step below. I personally like to make my own borders by inserting a shape.

I use the rectangle to make my outline. In the Format tab (this only appears if you click on the shape), I choose the white center and black border and then click on “Shape Outline” and “Weight” to make it thicker.

I didn’t even think to add this as a picture, but you can easily make your border centered on the page too! Just go to that Format tab and click where it says “Align.” Click “Align Center” and “Align Middle” and it will be perfect!

Step 4: Insert text boxes wherever you need them.

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You can do this with the Insert tab, but if you look at the Home tab, there is a box with all the shapes and a text box. It will also keep frequently used shaped here.

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You can find all sorts of fonts on TpT! Remember: some of these are free for personal use in your classroom, but if you want to sell your work, you’ll have to buy font licenses from each seller (if the font was free).

Some of my favorite font sellers are: A Perfect Blend, Kimberly Geswein Fonts, Cara Carroll, and  Babbling Abby.

If you want to sell on TpT, you will also want to make your copyright (your name or the name of your store) very small and place it in a corner. I generally set mine to pt 8. This will make sure your work is always credited to you!

Step 5: Insert clip art.

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Again, there are a lot of options for free clip art on TpT. You want to download them and save them to your computer. Then you can open your folder, right click the image and “copy,” then paste onto your page.

Many clip artists will include both JPG and PNG images. I personally like to use PNG images. These will have a clear background instead of a white box behind them.

If you do decide to sell your work, make sure you create a credits page showing which clip artists you used! There are many great examples online, or even in TpT products you own.

 

Step 6: Insert any shapes and lines. You will use the same steps as making a border, but I will show you how to format it so it is the perfect size and in the right place.

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Format the color of your shape:

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There is nothing that bugs me more than when a shape is not perfect! This is a little trick I learned to make sure it is the right size:

Go to the Format tab. On the right, look at the sizes for the height and width. If you need a shape to be a certain size, you can change these. To make a circle perfectly round, make sure both the height and width are the same.

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Ok, you got your shapes together, but they’re not in the right spot. You don’t have to move every piece individually!

Click your mouse and hold it down as you go over and around the shape, just as if you were making a text box or square around it.

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Let go and all of those pieces will be selected together and will move together. You can click one piece with your mouse and move the whole thing. You can also use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move it, which is helpful if it’s something so small your mouse can’t click it properly.

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You can duplicate the shapes by having them selected and clicking “Ctrl+D.”

If you want them perfect lined up, just move it around. These handy red guidelines appear that will show you when it is aligned to another shape!

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And now you’re done! At least with the PowerPoint section. However, there are a few more steps!

Step 7: Save as a PDF.

This will ensure that your fonts and layout will look the same, even if you are on a computer that does not have the fonts downloaded or has a different version of PowerPoint.

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At the top, click the File tab then click “Save As.” It’s not a bad idea to save your PowerPoint as a PowerPoint too just in case you need to go back and edit (I generally do this right at the beginning and save throughout in case my computer suddenly shuts down!)

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Name your document and click “Save as Type.” Select “PDF.”

If you are just wanting to make worksheets for your own personal use, then you’re done! You can print and go.

 If you want to sell your work, then after you have added a cover,  you have a few more steps to make sure your work is secure. I will show you how to secure your PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro. This is a paid program; if you aren’t wanting to spend the money right away, I believe they do offer a free trial.

Step 8: Open your PDF and select “Protect.”

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If you don’t see this option to the right, you can go up to the top and click the Tools tab.

Step 8: Password protect your document.

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You will click “Restrict Editing” and put in your password. Make sure it is something you can remember easily but can’t be guessed easily.

Step 9: Change the security settings.

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Click “More Options” then click “Security Properties” from the drop down menu.

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When this box pops up, click “Change Settings.”

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Click “Changes Allowed” and choose “None” from the drop down menu. Then click “OK.” Make sure that you don’t change the printing option!

Step 10: Save your secure PDF. You’re ready to sell it!

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Click “Save” and when the box pops up, select the same folder you saved it in before. It will say another document has the same name and ask if you want to save it still. Click yes.

You are officially done! I hope this tutorial was helpful to you – whether you want to make worksheets for you classroom or TpT. Again, if you have any more questions or want another tutorial, just let me know!

If you do decide to start selling your work on TeachersPayTeachers and you found this tutorial helpful, please consider signing up through my referral link (this provides me with a small commission, but does not take any sales money from you):

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Signup/referral:nburszty

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Transitional Readers in Kindergarten

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If you’re a kindergarten teacher, you know that every year is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get. Every year I have kiddos come in who range from not knowing their own name to knowing a few letters to being able to read and comprehend chapter books.

Today i’m going to talk about what you can do to meet the needs of those high students without cloning yourself… because let’s be real, sometimes it feels like you need to if you want to fit it all in! And these ideas aren’t just for kindergarten – many can be used with any primary grade level!

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I’m going to start with talking about guided reading. Right now I have a group of kiddos who read and comprehend at a range of levels M-U (3rd-5th grade levels). The word comprehend is so important because it doesn’t matter if a student can read a higher level text if they don’t understand what they read.

Sometimes that can be difficult to explain to parents why I have their student at a lower reading level when they’re convinced they can read every Harry Potter book back-to-back, but what’s the point of reading if you don’t do anything with it? (Does that make sense? I’ve got spring break brain, HA!)

We’ve been working all year, and one area I found my kiddos struggled in was retelling nonfiction.

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I LOVE these Scholastic Kids newsletters! Yes, they’re a lower reading level, but they are laid out perfectly to show my students how to pick out the main idea and supporting details.

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After reading a few times, I have my students fill out this graphic organizer. You can find it here. If it was a magazine with 4 points, i’d either have them just choose 3 or add another on the back.

On day 2, we would put this into paragraph form, which was definitely a challenge as they had never done that before! First, I had students write a topic sentence using the main idea, then put the 3 details into sentences, then write a closing sentence. I taught them that they could just reword the topic sentence to write the closing sentence (So “There are dangerous animals in summer.” might become “Those are some of the dangerous animals of summer.”)

Then, because I do want to push my students further, I have them go back and add more to each detail (this extends over multiple days – so a day for the graphic organizer, a day for writing, a day for adding more details, etc).

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Students use sticky notes to add on to each detail. Often they want to say “But there’s no more here!” and I have to make them go back and read because of course there is. 😉

Now, this step is extra, but  I wanted a way to make the structure more visual to them.

 

First, I had my students cut apart their paragraph. Then they glued it down in order, this time adding in those expanded details with the post it notes.

Then, they wrote their paragraph again and this time illustrated it:

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Pretty impressive! Now that they understand the structure of a paragraph, we’re working on writing multiple paragraphs about an animal they’re researching. Once they’re done, we’ll learn how to type it up and they will get to present to an upper grade class (they’re dying to do this!)

Again, those graphic organizers can be found here. Honestly, I use them every day for any skill I think we need to work on – making connections, predicting, retelling, and more!

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What about literacy centers? If you go back to this post, I show you how I differentiate my literacy centers to meet the needs of all my students:

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This group is my purple group, so they know that they can choose any basket with a purple ribbon or any purple folder.

Some centers are very easy to differentiate because I just need to change up the sight words. For example:

-Read it, Make it, Write it

Mystery Sight Words

-Sight Word Stamp

-Roll and Write a Sight Word

I also like to have them do research and write as a basket. One basket contains a bunch of Scholastic Kids magazines and the same graphic organizer so that they can get more practice even when they’re not at my table.

I LOVE the PBL projects from Digital Divide and Conquer! I sometimes start these with the students and then make them a basket.

I also put out these animal research tab books out and let my students choose an animal to write about. You can try the lion tab book out for free here:

 

I hope these ideas were helpful to you! Do you have any great ideas for meeting the needs of your higher students? I’d love to hear them!

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Organizing for Guided Reading & Guided Math

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If there is one place I am organized (the only place I am organized), it is at my small group table. What happens at this table is so important, and it happens SO fast, that I find I need to be as efficient as possible.

Keep in mind, this is what works for me and its taken me 4 years to figure out exactly what did and did not work. Hopefully you can use some of these ideas, but if something doesn’t work for you – find something that will!

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Ignore the mess in the background! It’s proof that i’m human. 😉 This is how my table is set up each day. I’m supposed to be able to fit 6 at my table, but I can only fit 5 right now and i’ll show you why in a minute. I prefer to have 5 or less in my groups if possible (We share kids between classrooms to try to make this doable).

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This set of drawers is where my 6th chair would be and without them I would be lost. I keep my alphabet charts, sound boxes, and analogy charts on top in dry erase pockets.

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In the small top drawer, I keep my magnetic letter trays. I used to keep these out, but I found that letters would mysteriously “walk away.” 😉

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In the middle drawer, I keep things I need for guided reading. I keep my pencil trays with dry erase markers, erasers, pencils, and highlighters in them and I keep one tray to the side filled with extras just in case. I also keep small sentence strips from the dollar spot in here.

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In the bottom drawer, I keep my items for guided math. Most of my manipulatives are kept in separate tubs, but I keep things I bought myself in here. I have counting bears, 50 & 100-charts to practice counting, magnetic ten frames, and playdough.

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I also keep this 10-drawer cart over here because you can never have enough drawers. On the top is a “junk drawer basket.” I keep random things like sticky notes, scissors, and glue in there and I also throw in anything students bring up to me during guided reading.

The top 5 drawers are for each of my guided reading groups.

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In each drawer I keep a folder with any printables I need. For example, my Pre-A drawer has all the letter pages we will be doing from my Letter ID Intervention pack. In my Pre-A drawer, I also keep a pile of magnetic letters to match to alphabet charts.

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I also keep each groups’ writing journals in here so that I don’t have to sort through one big pile. These were just blank journals I found in a cabinet. If it’s day 1, I keep their books in here too. After that they go in their book boxes.

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This binder is my LIFE. Seriously. It was originally just for guided reading, but I recently made the back half for guided math. In the very front I keep my schedule and the interventionist’s schedule side-by-side, but I won’t show you that for privacy purposes.

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I have a tab for each group. In each tab, I keep a chart with what letters/sounds they know, what sight words they can write, and then all my lesson plans. I switch kids around quite a bit, so I just change out the charts as needed. We use Jan Richardson’s lesson plans (which I seriously love and suggest you check out), so I don’t have anything fancy to show you there.

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After that, I have my math intervention groups tabbed by what skill they need to work on. I just write the students on the front with a vis-à-vis and I can easily erase/add as needed. I also put the day of the week I aim to meet with that group on the bottom.

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After that, I have all my regular guided math groups. Again, I write their names on the tab cover. I can only meet with 1-2 of these groups a day unfortunately.

Hopefully some of these ideas were useful to you!  I will have blog posts up soon about how I organize and teach each reading level in kindergarten – from Pre-A all the way to Transitional!

Lesson Planning Bonanza! {With a Template Freebie}

Ok. Before you throw rotten tomatoes at me, I know, you’re on summer break or you’re about to be on summer break and the very.last.thing you want to be thinking about is lesson planning.

I 100% understand. During the last 2 weeks of school, my lesson plans were single words scribbled into a mini-notebook I found while cleaning out cabinets {true story}. #typebteacher

But my brain has been on overload planning mode now that it has nothing to do, so I’ve been putting my all into getting my lesson plans for next year pumped out. It’s going to be a crazy busy year, so I thought i’d deal by getting ahead.

Just in case you’re in my same boat, or you’re just browsing for ideas for next year, I thought i’d share how I lesson plan with you {and stay tuned for a freebie at the end!}

You might have seen a picture of my lesson plan binder that I shared in this post. I have a yearly curriculum outline and then weekly plans. The only day that gets its own page for planning is the first day of school.

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This is what the curriculum overview looks like. This is a great free template I got here.

This doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but it gives me a quick glance at themes and what i’ll be teaching that month. The “GK” stands for Guiding Kinders, which is what I will be using for shared reading this year. LOVE Deanna and DeeDee.

I like having this monthly overview at the front of my binder so I can quickly look ahead and feel more prepared.

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This is what my actual lesson plans look like. I print them back to back so that when I open my binder I can see both the morning and the afteroon.

Again, these aren’t super detailed. You could make them that way if you wanted, but I view lesson plans as more of a guide. They tell me what lesson to teach or what activity I want to do, but most of those lessons already have full lesson plans in another binder somewhere.

I made these lesson plans before we changed our daily schedule for next year and i’m too lazy to go back and change them all so the subjects aren’t quite in the right order. That’s ok.

Here is the daily schedule I put in my binder:

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Like I said before, the only day that is special enough to get it’s own full 2-page lesson plan is the first day of school. Here is how I made that:

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Oh goodness. I just realized these have changed as well now that I need to introduce flexible seating! I’ll go over how I will introduce that in another post.

We actually have two first days. Half of the class comes for a full day Thursday and the other half come Friday. The lesson plan this day is pretty much all routines routines routines.

SO. Here is the freebie I promised you!

There are templates that look just like my pages but without the words, then there are blank pages with just the frames. The font I used on every page was “HelloTypewriter” from Hello Literacy and you can add tables to the blank pages by clicking “insert table.”

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