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Aug 10, 2016

Simple Assessments to Start the Year Off Right

Back to school time is always so busy with getting ready for your new kiddos. You are decorating your room, planning engaging lessons, working on long range plans, and much much more. One thing that used to stress me out about back to school was assessing all of my students. Let's face it, we must know what level they are at so we can best meet their needs, but I dreaded all the time it took me to complete those assessments. Well, I have great news for you! I have found just what you need to complete these assessments quickly, easily and possibly even win a $50 TpT gift certificate too!


What you need is ESGI. It is a total life time saver. I have been using ESGI for the past 2 1/2 years and I can't imagine not having it. If you haven't heard of it before, it is an online assessment system specifically made for pre-K to 1st grade teachers. There are pre-loaded assessments for you to use, total time saver. You can make your own, if you prefer. You administer the testing online with a laptop or iPad. No more shuffling papers and and trying to aggregate all your data, ESGI does it all for you.



After giving your assessment you can easily review your data. There are bar graphs showing how many students were correct/incorrect. Making it easy for you to plan your lessons. You can view these reports whole class, for individual students or by groups. After my initial testing I put my students into like ability groups in the program that way I know what to focus on when we meet for Guided Reading or RTI groups.


You can also look at an overview pie graph of all categories tested. This also can be viewed by whole class, individual students or groups.


In addition, they have a classroom management component that you can set up. I use it to track homework, forms turned in, book orders, etc. Plus you can print name cards, cubby labels, class lists, as well as many other items.

Honestly I could go on and on with how great this program is. If you want to read more about the specifics of how I use it in my room check out the post I did a few months back by clicking HERE.

However, if you are ready to give it a try ESGI is offering a very special deal for back to school that you don't want to miss! Here the the must have details:

1. New members can sign up for a FREE 60 DAY TRIAL by clicking on the button below or using my promo code B7284 during the special back to school window (August 1st-September 30th)


Pre-Kindergarten - 1st Grade Classroom Tools

2. If you fall in love with ESGI, you can purchase a one year license using my promo code and save $40!

3. As a bonus, just for being a trial user you will be entered into a raffle to win one of ten $50 TpT Gift Cards!

What have you got to loose! You get to try out a fantastic program, save $40 off if you decide to purchase the program and possibly win $50! 

Be sure to share this exciting info with your teacher friends and teammates so they can get the great discount and chance to win too!

A huge shout out of THANKS to ESGI for being such a great supporter of teachers everywhere!

If you have any questions,be sure to leave them in the comments below, or send me an email and I would be happy to help!


Aug 3, 2016

My Top 3 Pinterest Finds for Back to School

Can you believe that it is that time already. How can it be August 3rd and I start back to school in just 1 week! Wow, this summer has just flown by. I have enjoyed time with family and relaxing, but I have also been thinking about my classroom and some new things I want to try this year. 



I am excited to be linking up once again with Ashley at Just Reed, Lisa at Pawsitively Teaching and Marissa at Inspired Owl's Corner for this month's Pinterest Pick 3. This month it is all about back to school. I am so excited to share with you some of the things I have found!


I know there has been a lot of talk over the last year about flexible seating. In fact I myself got rid of all of my tables, except for my guided reading table, last year and I absolutely loved it. My kiddos were more engaged and on task than ever before and I will never go back. I have bath mats, yoga balls, scoop rockers and crate seats currently in my room. With that said, I still wanted to find some additional creative seating options. Here is what I found.

(Click the picture to view the original pin). I thought these tire seats were a fantastic idea. So cute and totally doable, especially for me. My husband has several old tires laying around at our Auto Body Shop that I could take for my own. I haven't made any yet, but it is on my list. I may not have them for the beginning of school, but I figured it would be fun to introduce them when we come back from fall break to kick things up a notch. 

Another area I want to incorporate into my room this year is STEM. I did do a few select stem projects last year, but I would like to have it be a weekly thing in my room. But I just wasn't sure how to really accomplish that. Then I came across this pin.
(Click the picture to go to this pin). Brooke Brown shows you exactly how to set up a STEM center in your room and how to utilize it. This totally made it seem doable and easy for me to have STEM be an integral part of my room. I can't wait to see what my kiddos create!

I saw this pin and thought this was just perfect for back to school! We all need to have a little emergency kit and this one is just adorable!
(Click the picture to be taken to the original pin) I do keep a little box with most of these items she includes and a few more. I add a bottle of Tylenol, feminine hygiene products, some Starbucks Refresher Via, and a few protein bars. Are you sensing a theme here? Yes, I need snacks! There is a free printable included in this post too. This would make perfect teammate gifts or even for your child's teacher!

Hope that you found something that you can use to make this the best back to school ever. Hoping you all have a wonderful year! Now be sure to check out the other posts to find more great back to school ideas!

Jul 3, 2016

Fun Classroom DIY Projects

I know what you are thinking...It is summer, I am on vacation, I am not in school mode yet. I get it I really do, I am just one of those crazy people who can't figure out how to turn it off! I have been officially out of school for 4 weeks, and although I have done my fair share of lounging around the house and hanging out with my boys, I have also been thinking about some things I want to do in my classroom for this next year.

Today I am linking up with Lisa at Pawsitively Teaching, Ashley at Just Reed and Marissa at Inspired Owl's Corner for this month's Top 3 Pinterest Picks. 


I am constantly multi tasking, I can't help it, I just cannot sit and watch TV. So I am usually on my phone or laptop checking out IG, my favorite social media, Facebook or Pinterest for ideas I can use in my classroom. My Top 3 picks this month are things I am going to make for my classroom this month.


First up is a sensory table. I actually first pinned this idea over a year ago. I will even admit to the fact that the supplies to build this table are in my washroom as we speak and have been there for a good 8 months. So I am committed to Get. It. Done. this month. 


I want to be able to have my kiddos use this is class each week as a word work center. I will have either, rice or beans or pasta, etc., I plan to change it up frequently,  and there will be sight words on laminated cards in the bin as well. They will find a card record their answer and keep digging. I think they will love it. Click on the picture to see the original pin and get the easy directions to make your own!


Next up is this great idea for another word work activity. Just paint a Paint stick, or leave it natural your call, add some magnetic tape and Voila, you have a fun activity!


However, when I saw this pin, my wheels started turning. I just picked up some cute magnetic numbers in where else, the Target Dollar spot, and this would be perfect to practice math equations with my new numbers too! I am so excited, not to mention this should be a quick 30 minute or less project to complete. Sorry to say this pin lead to a dead end, but you can click on the image to go to the original pin if you want.



My final pick this month is for this cute, yet highly functional close reading toolbox kit. We have been doing a lot of talk and had several PD's at my school about the benefits of close reading.


Click the picture for the original pin. This blog post contains step by step directions to complete this, plus a FREE download, and who doesn't love free, of the adorable labels to make it. Not to mention I already have these little boxes in my stash. I just can't pass up using a Michael's coupon for 50% off. I knew I would need them sooner or later.

Hope you got some ideas you can use and that you make the most of your summer, whether you are getting to the end of it or just beginning. May it be unforgettable!

Now be sure to check out some of the other great Pick 3 posts for more fun ideas!




May 18, 2016

3 Easy steps to go Paperless with your DRA Testing

Don't you love giving reading assessments? I am sure most of you are shouting a resounding NO in your mind! I totally agree with you. I love seeing the results when I finish though, and I am always so excited and encouraged by all the growth my kiddos have made. However, the process itself is not my favorite. Well, I am here to show you how you can go paperless, thus making the process a bit easier for you. We use DRA in our school, but you could use this same process with any reading assessment that your school is using.
All you need is access to an iPad, the ability to scan documents to your computer, Google Drive or Dropbox, the app Notability, and you're all set. I promise if I can do it, you can too!
The first step is to get the test recording sheets into your computer. I used my printer and it has the feature, scan to email. I just scanned each sheet in and it was sent to my email. Yes, it was time consuming. However, it will never have to be done again. Each time we test I have to make copies of all the recording sheets and it is time consuming too. Not to mention then you have to file those recording sheets somewhere. Now all my test results are neatly filed in a folder in my Google drive.

You will want all pages of each assessment in one PDF. I have adobe pro, so I just combined the individual scanned files into one complete file for each level.
You can also scan groups of pages together so all relevant pages are in one document. You need to then save those files to either Google Drive or Dropbox so that you can access them from the app.
Next, you will need to download the app Notability. Yes, it is a paid app at $5.99, but I feel like it is totally worth it, since I use it in many other ways as well. There are some other apps that would do the job as well, one being Seesaw, but I have been using Notability for a few years and was already familiar with it so that is what I use.
Once you open the app you will need to get your DRA tests into the app. Click on Import in the upper right corner, then choose either Google Docs or Dropbox. You can choose multiple documents to upload at one time. Once you have your tests in the app you are ready to begin.


Tap on the test you need to give and then tap on the title of the document and add the student's name that is being tested. This will make it easy to save and keep organized. Then administer the test as you normally would except that you will be making your notations on your iPad. I use the Adonis Jot Pro Fine Point Stylus (click here if you need it) as it makes a fine line which makes it easier to make notations on the form as opposed to a regular stylus.

You also have the option of recording the student reading during the test. Just click on the microphone in the upper right corner.

Once the test is complete and you have scored the student you will need to save it by sending it back to your Google Drive or Dropbox. Just click on export and choose where you want the document sent. Now it is saved in my drive with the student's name in the title, since I added the name prior to giving the test.
Now that I am ready to move on to another test level or another student, there are a few options. You can import a blank test again from your Google Drive/Dropbox or what I currently do is just quickly use the erase feature in the Notability app. Then after it is erased I just click on the title and put in the new student's name.

There you have it! I am loving using this paperless system to test my students. It is so much easier to prep for test giving and it is so much easier to file and track the data since all of my tests are saved in one digital location. Not to mention, I can easily and quickly share those results with administration or additional teachers. If you have any questions regarding the process or getting started I am happy to answer them. Just leave me a message below or email me via the contact tab at the top.

Have a great week and a fantastic end of the year!



May 1, 2016

Currently May

Hope you all are enjoying your Sunday! I am taking advantage of having nowhere that I have to be today! I have been missing out on joining Oh Boy it's Farley for her fun Currently linky. It has been just crazy busy. Now I see this is going to be her very. last. one.
Truth...I am kind of sad, but I totally understand she has hosted this fun linky for a long time and as she said...all good things must come to an end. Thanks Farley it has been a blast! Here we go!


Listening...It is Sunday afternoon and in this race family, if we are not at the track NASCAR is on the TV.

Loving...this beautiful weather. It has been a lot of back and forth here in central California lately, hot, one day, rainy and cloudy the next, then mild temps in the 70's.  They say a high of 85 today. I love me some warm weather, and we desperately need the rain, so it is all good!

Thinking...How can there only be 23 days of school left. This school year has totally flown by. There is still a lot of fun to be had in that time and I want to make the most of every minute I have left with my littles!

Wanting...A Fairy Godmother! I am pretty sure I have said this before. I keep hoping I'll find one I guess. I don't love cleaning, I mean who does, well maybe my mother in law, but anyway, I don't want to spend every weekend cleaning my house. I want to spend time with my boys and family having fun. If I could get someone to do ALL the cleaning, it would be a dream come true. For now, I guess I will just keep dreaming about it and plugging along.

Needing...I usually try to do a load or two of laundry a day so it isn't all backed up on the weekend. However, this week was busier than usual and I haven't done a load since Tuesday. Oh My! Which means that with myself, hubby, 3 teenage boys, towels, sheets, etc I have like 8 loads of laundry to do today. No joke!

Truth...I had to think about this a bit, I could give a generic answer or I could just lay it all out there. Well friends, here is is...I am a Hot Mess! I mean my classroom looks clean, my lesson plans are done, my kids are fed, the laundry is being worked on, but I still have a To Do list that I feel like is ever growing. I feel like I am just surviving. I feel that so many times I have to settle for giving less than my very best in certain areas, just so I can try to appear like I have it all together. Well the cat is out of the bag, I do not have it all together. So if you feel this way too, know that you are not alone! I even posted this on my IG today...


Happy Teacher Appreciation week my friends you are appreciated! Have a super week! Be sure to head back over to Farley's and check out all the other fantastic bloggers who have linked up!

Mar 12, 2016

Books & Brackets

The month of March brings lots of fun activities...March Madness Basketball finals, St. Patrick's Day, Easter and the official beginning of Spring! It is always a fun time in the classroom with so many great things to learn and do. To help celebrate all the fun that March brings I am linking up with 14 other great bloggers to bring you Books & Brackets.



We are each sharing a favorite book to use during the month of March and you have a chance on each blog to win a copy of that book. In addition, you will be able to collect some great freebies and have the opportunity to win a $75 certificate to TpT. 

One of my favorite books for this time of year is The Easter Bunny's Assistant. This is just a fun book. The kids get a kick out of it and it is great for reinforcing many writing skills. 


The story starts out with the Easter Bunny getting ready to dye his eggs. His friend skunk wants to help, but....each time he gets excited he releases his "skunk" smell. 




Finally after several mishaps the Bunny has had enough and kicks him out. Then he has a change of heart and comes up with a plan where his friend can still help and he won't have to put up with the horrible smell. 



Be sure to enter the rafflecopter below to win your own copy of this great book. Even if you don't win, you will want to get it, it is loads of fun.


I have created a FREE close read mini pack for you to accompany this great book. It contains a How to or procedural writing activity, complete with sequencing cards to be used as a whole group activity prior to the writing activity.


I have also included writing pages for a problem/solution prompt and an opinion writing prompt as well. Just click the image below to download.




Enter the rafflecopter to win your own copy of this fabulous book, The Easter Bunny's Assistant.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For your chance at a $75 TpT Gift card before to enter here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
To find out what other great books to use in your classroom during the month of March make sure to continue the through the hop below! We have 14 other amazing K-2 grade teachers who are excited to share their favorite books, a FREEBIE and a BOOK GIVEAWAY!



Good luck and don't forget to check back through the hop on Monday to see if you have won any great books, or even the grand prize $75 TpT gift card. 


Feb 15, 2016

PD in your PJ's

Have you heard of Periscope? Well,  if you haven't you owe it to yourself to check it out! It is a fun and easy way to get some great PD from anywhere. You can view live broadcasts from some of your favorite bloggers and teachers on any number of subjects.  I am excited to be linking up with some other fantastic bloggers to share why I love it and some suggestions of who you might want to follow.

So are you intrigued?...Let's get going...You can get started in just a few simple steps.
(1) Download the Periscope app. 

(2) Make an account.  Here is mine, luvmykinders, come give me a follow.


(3) Search for accounts to follow. Just click in the search box, see the red box on my pic, and start typing who you are looking for.


Ashley Schroeder and Angie Olson did a fantastic blog post with 25 tips to getting started on Periscope, be sure to check it out. Be sure to follow them on Periscope too, just so many fantastic ideas from the two of them.

Why do I love Periscope? It is easy to find quality content to improve my teaching craft at my convenience, while I'm getting ready in the morning, lounging with my coffee on a Saturday morning anytime or anywhere. You can connect with other teachers from all over the United States and Beyond.  Lastly, it's just plain fun!

Once you are signed up the app will notify you when someone you are following is broadcasting live. You can jump on if it is a good time for you, and the topic sounds interesting. The great thing about joining the live broadcasts are that you can comment and ask questions. But, if you can't join live, no worries. You can go back and watch the replays for 24 hours. In addition, most Periscopers have an account on katch.me where you can view past videos so that you don't miss a thing. One of the advantages of the replays is that I can watch them when I'm getting ready in the morning, or I have a few minutes while I'm waiting to pick up my boys, you name it. You can even fast forward and rewind in the replays which is really great if you are trying to take notes. Others even post them on youtube.

I am still new to posting my own videos. I will be honest I was a total nervous wreck the first time. The second time was a bit better, I know the more I do them the better they will get. Here is my latest Periscope on how we use flexible seating in our classroom. (Just click on the picture to view)


You can find me on katch.me under luvmykinders or just click HERE. This is where you will be able to view all the replays of my current and future scopes.

There are so many fantastic "scopers" to follow. Here are just a few of my favorites. For a huge variety of PD I love iteachtvnetwork. This is one channel that is facilitated by Shelia Jane, she has a personal channel that is great too, where there are a number of teachers and trainers who have specific times that they scope on a variety of topics each week.



If you want some great Literacy ideas for primary grades, I suggest Brooke Brown. She also has a ton of great STEM ideas. Brooke is just so sweet and totally gives practical ideas and tips.


For reading strategies, I love Jen Jones of Hello Literacy. She is a national trainer and has so many fantastic ideas.


I have 1/1 iPads in my room and am always on the look out for great new apps and ways to integrate them whenever I can. If you are interested in tech you must follow Kami Butterfield of Teaching with App-itude. She is a wealth of knowledge and she is funny too!


I am always looking for ways to up my game and make things as exciting as possible for my students. I am sure you have already heard of Hope King, she is one I also follow. Well,  Kinderbrations has taken inspiration from her and are doing some fantastic room flips. They are really stepping up their game and I love seeing how they are adapting things to their kinder classroom. Way to go girls!


There are so many more that I follow, I could go on and on. Head back over to the link up to get some more fantastic teachers to follow and jump on the Periscope train. It is the up and coming way to get PD that you are interested in, even when you are wearing your pajamas.