Friday, July 8, 2016

A Quick Tip: Control Loose Notebook Coils!

I hate notebooks.

There, I said it.  

I know I can't be the only one who feels this way.  Notebooks with coils usually end up tangled and pulled out until half the pages are loose, or the metal is used as a weapon.  Notebooks where the pages can be torn out usually end up with the pages falling out.  It's horrible.  Composition notebooks are great, but they are more expensive than regular notebooks and therefore just not in my budget! 

I've battled this problem because I always use notebooks with my students.  I felt like I spent too much time fixing notebook coils when some student decided to shove their pencil up in the coils even after I told them it was a "no no".

Even after setting down ground rules, including don't put your pencils in your notebook coils, your coils aren't toys, and other such completely worthless directions, I had to come up with a solution.  And finally, one day, I did!

These are actual student notebooks.  The plastic coils are even worse than the metal ones.  

The students even had difficulty opening to the correct page because the coils were in the way.

All you need to fix this problem?  2 plastic beads and a hot glue gun!

One bag of beads will do multiple notebooks and they are cheap!  

You can do it two ways, but I found it easier to put the hot glue inside the bead and slide it onto the coil.  I put one bead on each end of the notebook. 


Even with Kindergarten students using these notebooks, the coils stayed put.  It only took about 15 minutes of my time to do an entire class set, and they would keep the coils from falling out.  I just told my students they were not allowed to pull them off, and miraculously, they didn't!

And that, my friends, is how you get closure on those loose notebook coils!

I hope this was a helpful tip!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Keep Calm and Derby On!

I live in the Derby City, and the Kentucky Derby is a HUGE deal here.  Most people who live outside the area don't really understand the significance of the Derby, unless they happen to be horse racing fans.  Growing up an hour and a half away from the Derby, I knew NOTHING about it.  But now that I live here, I love everything Derby!

And just so I can put it into perspective how big of a deal it is here vs. other places:

I was at a Teacher/Blogger Meetup in Nashville a week ago, when American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes and became the first Triple Crown champ since 1978 when Affirmed won the Triple Crown.  That's a huge deal, right?  I had 23 people post on Facebook about it- and those are just the posts I saw!  Some of the other girls were checking their Facebook pages, and they had- you guessed it- NONE!  So yeah, you can say we pay attention around here.  :-)

Anyway, I just simply can't ignore the Derby, so we always have some Derby fun each year in the 4 days leading up to the Derby.  We only have 4 days during that week because Friday is Oaks Day, and we have to have it off!

We used this book during the week.  There are very few Derby books out there, but I like this one.  I don't usually read all of the words, because it can be kind of wordy, but it has good pictures and a lot of good information.

We made these adorable jockeys.  I love their cute little faces.  They turned out so cute!  

We also voted for the Derby horse we thought would win the Derby.  Several of my students voted for "Far Right", and I even had 2 choose the Derby winner, American Pharoah!  They got a rose from me when we got back to school on Monday for choosing the Derby winner.

We also designed and made our own silks like the jockeys make.  I pulled up images from the internet of different jockeys and their silks, and we talked about the purpose of the colors and patterns on the silks.

Then they got to make and wear their own silks out of poster paper.   

Aren't they cute? 

Once we finished making our silks, we had a silk contest.  We chose 4 of the best silks, one from each table.  I brought each of these students a rose for winning.

Then we watched our pre-school classes in their parade!  One of the Kentucky Derby festival events is the Derby Festival parade, so usually the pre-school does one every year. 

If you are looking for more fun Derby activities, I have another post here and here with several more activities and ideas!  I also have a fun Derby freebie that you can find at this post!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

100th day fun!

We celebrated our 100th day of school a yesterday, and we had tons of 100th day fun!  I have a few pictures and activities to share with you.  It was such a busy day that I didn't get pictures of everything, so I'll share the things that I did get pictures of.

I made this 100th day sign to hang on the door.  The kids LOVED coming in through the paper.  

We began our day by making our 100th day collections!

We asked each student to bring in 100 items.  We encouraged them to bring in small items that could be glued to a sheet of paper, such as pasta, cereal, cotton balls, etc...  We had a wide variety of items that included soy beans (that's a new one!), cereal, popsicle sticks, q-tips, and more!  All of my students except 2 brought in something, so I just had some extra cereal on hand for those who needed some.  

Then they used glue to put these items on a number 100 on their paper.

Then we made 100th day hats!

We use 10 strips of paper and I have my students draw 10 pictures on each strip.  You could also do stamps, stickers, or other small items and glue them on the hat as well.  

They made sure to count the number of pictures they had drawn on each strip before moving onto the next strip.

The hats take awhile, but they look so cute when they're finished!

Then we glue the 10 strips to a sentence strip, attach a little piece of paper that says "100 Days Smarter!" and I staple their hats together. 

Voila!  A 100th day hat!  
(You can see them in this picture, because of course, I forgot to take one!)

Another project we completed was 100 day gumball machines.  We used 10 colors of paint to put 100 "gumballs" on a plate.  We attached a red trapezoid at the bottom, and we had a gumball machine!

It was kind of fun watching the kids put the paint on their plates.  Some of them put their 10 dots in neat rows, while some of them just painted willy-nilly all over the plate.   

I was there to help them make sure they had 10 dots of each color and also for paint control! 

We also made necklaces with 100 fruit loops.  I've made these in Kindergarten and first grade, and the kids LOVE them.  In Kindergarten, they used 10 of each color (obviously with some repetition!)  So they may have 10 red, 10 yellow, 10 purple, etc...  In first grade, we did 20 of each color, and they used 5 colors.  

Of course, I don't have a picture of the necklaces, because I was busy helping students and I didn't get a single picture, but you can see them in this picture below! 

The last activity of the day that we did was our 100th day snack.  Check back and you'll see how I manage the madness that is our 100th day snack!  

Happy 100th day of school!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Making Shape Creatures!

We have been working on shapes at school, and I determined that our math program, Engage New York, doesn't do nearly enough to help my kids learn their shapes.  I also wanted to make learning about shapes fun and hands on.  I wanted them to find shapes in the world around them and use shapes to make things too.  I feel like we don't get the opportunity to let our kids be creative enough with our current school climate, so I was really excited to let my kids just have the opportunity to be creative!

So I decided we were going to make Shape Creatures!  

I used our Ellison die cut machine to cut out a ton of shapes on construction paper.  We have a few dies that have different sizes of squares, triangles, circles, and rectangles.  We also had some larger sized Ellison shape dies, so I cut out a bunch of those as well.  I put a ton of shapes in a basket at each table, and provided each student with a big white piece of paper for mounting their creature.  You could also use a die cut machine, such as a Silhouette or Cricut, or just cut out shapes the old fashioned way.    

Once I got all the materials prepped and ready, I just let them go to town, using as many shapes as they wanted.  I also put some scrap papers out just in case they wanted to cut out shapes for arms or legs or hair or whatever.  This is totally against my Type-A, has to be in control of everything, personality.   

But I let go. 

And they got creative!

Once they finished making their creatures, they counted how many of each shape they had used on their creation.  

Then they filled out a sheet with how many of each shape they had used to create their creatures.

 Then they decorated their creatures with some crayons to create lips and hair, if necessary.

I love how unique each one is!  



I love how easy this activity is to prepare!  Just cut out some shapes and let them go to work!  I loved watching them be creative with their creatures.

Looking for more shape activities?  I have many more activities for flat and solid shapes in this shapes pack.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fun with Shapes in Kindergarten

Each year, after we learn about properties and numbers, we dive into shape fun.  I think it's the perfect time to learn about shapes- it's fun, and even the struggling kids enjoy it.  I enjoy planning activities to let the kids work with both solid and flat shapes.  We use manipulatives and play games and just generally have fun while learning.

We use Engage New York for our math program, and it's definitely not my favorite.  It doesn't hit certain areas very hard, such as shapes, which is a topic Kindergarten students love.  So I have to supplement with some other things I've found or used before, so that I can make sure my students really understand whatever concept we're studying.  We do fun activities in centers to give them hands-on experiences with whatever we're learning.  And the same goes for Shapes.

For example, I really love these Pattern Block Puzzles from our old math program, Investigations.  I pulled them out to let the kids experiment with filling in the pictures with different shapes.  And if they used too many hexagons, I made them fill in that space with other shapes.

 Another fun activity we did was make our own pattern block pictures.  They made the pictures with pattern blocks, and then they used paper pattern blocks to glue their creations to the paper.  Then they got to draw things to add to their pictures, such as clouds or eyes, to make them more realistic.

They made people and trees and flowers.

I love seeing how creative they can be!  

We also played a little game called "Shapes Spin and Cover."  There is a flat shapes version and a solid shapes version.  The kids spin a spinner with different shapes on it, and they have to cover an object on their board that is the same shape.  The first one to cover their board wins.

They also loved this "5-in-a-Row Shapes game.  You use a regular 6-dot die for this game.  The kids roll the die and cover a shape that has the same number of sides as the die they rolled.  They cover the shape.  The first player to get 5 in a row wins. 

I like this game because there is a little bit of strategy to it.  If you aren't careful of which pieces you cover, you won't win, because you can't move the piece once you've set it down.  So you have to choose which shape you are going to cover, since there are multiples of each shape on the board.

Another great game I pulled out from our old Investigations curriculum is called "Build the Hexagons."  The kids roll dice with shapes on it, and they have to fill their hexagons with that shape.  They have to figure out which shapes will fill their hexagons without anything overlapping or not fitting within the bounds of the hexagon.  This is a great way to see which shapes fill a hexagon that are not hexagons.

(I found a freebie of this game from Shari Sloane at  Just do a google search for "fill the hexagons" and it should pop up.  I couldn't find a link on her website to download it from, but if you search, it pulls up!)

I noticed that some of my students were struggling with understanding if some objects were solid shapes or flat shapes.  So I made some sorting cards so we could practice sorting shapes by different attributes.  The kids all got a shape card and they got to come up one at at time to sort their picture and tell me why it fits in that category.

We did this several times. 

We sorted by shapes.

We sorted by whether or not a shape is a solid or flat shape.  We also sorted by curved and flat sides, rolls or doesn't roll, and stacks or doesn't stack.  We did this as a whole group, but you could also do it as a center.

You can find the "5-in-a-Row Shapes" game, the "Spin and Cover" game, the sorting cards, and MORE in this shape activity pack available in my store.
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