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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Get your FREE STEM Resource and Welcome 2019 with a BANG!


I absolutely loved this STEM activity for several reasons.

1.    It required absolutely NO prep! 

2.  All of the students had a plethora of knowledge about fidget 

3.  It was easy to see and hear the engineering design steps as 
     students formed their own learning.

This is a design challenge that enables children to go through the engineering design process/steps organically and authentically.You will see and hear the children go through the steps organically without prompting or bogging them down with paper and pencil activities to go with it.   Can you use paper and pencil to record the steps?  Of course but I felt it was successful by just pointing out where we were in the engineering design process with this activity. I felt the children were able to make the conenctions and  the engagement level stayed high as they moved through the steps.

You will witness learning through play, perseverance, collaborating, problem solving, improving, and  a joy of learning.  It's a perfect activity for your first week back after the NEW YEAR! 

The reason I feel this design challenge worked so well is the fact that every student was familiar or had prior experience with a fidget spinner to draw upon.

In the resource you will find lesson plans and helpful management tips aling with some background information.   

Click on the picture or the link below to get your FREE resource when you subscribe to this blog.  Your kids are going to love it!  


Monday, November 19, 2018

Save Money and Time with This

What teacher doesn't need more time and what teacher doesn't want to save money, even if it is so you can spend more on "ALL the THINGS?" 

Two of the biggest complaints we hear from teachers when it comes to teaching is something you just cannot buy.  TIME and MONEY.

Well, I am here to tell you I can help you save time and save $$$$$.   I've began creating resources to help teachers do just that. Save TIME and MONEY.   How you ask?

I have taught myself and learned how I can create documents that let you type in a word or words or skill or math problem once and then the entire document will auto-fill for you.  So now you can customize resources with the words or skill you need for you and for your students.  

There was a time when I recall downloading freebies during the holidays that consisted of read and color the sight word.  Only problem was the sight words weren't the sight words we were working on in class.  Ughhh!  the frustration.  But, I'd download anyways because I was in a pinch and I needed a back-up plan while we finished holiday projects.

If you teach grades TK-3rd then I believe these resources can help save you TIME and MONEY.   You won't need to search and spend hours looking for all those supplemental resources each week for your foundational skills.  

Further, the activities stay consistent which means your students become more and more independent each time they use the activity because they know how to use and do the activities.  

You may want to sign up to receive emails because I will be sending one of the auto-fill games below to subscribers.

Let me show you how I can help save you TIME and MONEY.  

But wait . . . 


or if you need weekly supplements for your phonics instruction take a look at this . . .


The above resource includes:

  • focus word cards
  • sorts
  • sentences
  • games
  • centers
  • notebook component
and you can use weekly sight words and your phonics focus!   Totally customized to what you need and every week the activities stay the same but the words change.

To get your resource that will save you TIME and MONEY you can click on the pictures or click HERE and HERE.

Don't forget to sign up to receive emails so you'll get your FREE auto-fill game and be updated when I add more resources that will save you TIME and MONEY!

If you are wondering how to differentiate sight words and your word work in a simplified way you may be interested in this post about my auto-fill sight word management system HERE.

Happy Teaching,

Monday, October 1, 2018

FREE Job Cards for Unplugged Coding with Bee-Bots


If you use Bee-Bots in the classroom, these job cards will help your students work as a team to get the job done.  Download the file to get the FREE job cards.  

I went back and forth on using job cards because ideally you want kids to be able to break up the tasks and delegate jobs with-in their own group.  If they can do this on thier own your students will be more independent and will get practice breaking tasks into jobs on their own.  In the long run it is better. Due to time constraints, 30 minute class sessions with kids and once a week, I opted for the job cards with kinder and first.  You can click on the picture or the link to download the Bee-Bot job cards.

Job Cards Download Link                                    

I did find that using the job cards made tasks less abstract.  It also helped kids take turns.  They switched job cards after one complete go through of the process.   These job cards are like training wheels so when students start designing mazes, obstacle courses, and so forth for the Bee-Bots, they will hopefully recall how they worked as a team and be able to pick and choose their jobs based off of the tasks and which job they prefer.   

I made these job cards last year and wrote this reflection about using job cards and Bee-Bots last year  if you are interested in reading it.

I'm going to say it again, I am in a 1st year (now in 2nd year) Innovation Makerspace position after teaching 13 years in grades K-2.  It has been a learning year for me with lots of hands on PD.  

I also want to give you 2 different perspectives and I would love for you to comment on your thoughts.

Reason for Job Cards:
I made job cards because many kids in K-2 were having a difficult time working together to figure out how to get the Bee-Bot to its destination as a team.  

My Thoughts: 
I am limited on time in reality but if I was in the classroom and had the same kids everyday . . .
  • I could find the group that was successful.  
  • Have all the kids come to the carpet
  • Have the kids share how they were successful.  
  • Have them demonstrate.  
  • I could ask other groups why they weren't being successful and see what they say. 
  •  Arguing, not taking turns, one person doing all the work, someone is confusing their left for right, someone keeps drawing the arrows wrong (TRUTHS).  
  • We would have a discussion on how we can resolve each one of those things and try again.  
However, I have 30 - 45 minutes max and that includes students engaging and connecting to what they did the week prior, connecting to the days activity, lesson, clean-up, reflection and out.  

I went home and reflected on the issue and I really have 2 different perspectives on using job cards which leaves me perplexed.  I struggle with my own views at times.  It is totally off the charts - CRAZY.

  • Not a lot of kids were very successful the past few weeks in their limited time with me. 
  • Some kids weren't sharing.  
  • Some kids were doing ALL the work. 
  • I wanted to speed the Bee-Bot process up because I want them to create their own maps, mazes, program, etc. (maybe time should not be an issue and the more valuable lesson would be what I mentioned above).
Results With Job Cards:
The kids who worked as a team  authentically saw the successes of working as a team and that together is better.  It turned into a lesson more on teamwork and helping each other to be successful (valuable). Kids also switched jobs (necklaces) with-in the same group until every-one had a turn to do the job.
Very few teams were unsuccessful on the first try and we discussed why.  It was always because they weren't working as a team.

Concerns About Using Job Cards:
When I did a design challenge with 4th/5th graders mid-year, they completed a reflection piece. I found that EVERY single group that finished ON-TIME without having to use lunch recess, after school, or extra class time were successful because they delegated tasks (jobs) with-in their group.  There were very few.   Others who were less successful did not delegate tasks(jobs) and required additional time.  My thinking is that kids don't necessarily understand how to identify the tasks (jobs) and how to delegate so they can work as a team. That was an assumption on my part that never crossed my mind to teach.  

  • As teachers, we always assign job cards like the ones you can download in this post but are we taking away the opportunity to help students identify tasks (jobs) and how to delegate them?  It was a real issue with 4th/5th graders.  This was with 5 classes and all 5 had similar results so it wasn't just a single class.   

  • Would job cards be the intro for lower grades  (K-1) and modeling how to work together? While other grades identify the tasks (jobs), write them out in a class discussion, then decide in their groups who has what job (2nd). 3rd-5th find and identify the tasks in their group, describe the job then choose which job they want with-in their group? 
I basically described a pathway for teaching kids to identify jobs, describe the task and choose their job to work as a team so they can be successful.

Perspective 2:
Makerspace is suppose to be about figuring things out.  Forming your own learning through discovery.  Did I just take that away by giving them necklaces?  Am I micro-managing the kids and not letting them figure it out on their own?  Does this process need to be taught? Is giving students job cards telling them what and how to do things again so they don't have to think on their own?  I found that to be a real issue in a first year Makerspace. 
Children of all ages wanted approval for the simplest of things and confirmation they were doing it right.  Children specifically wanted me to tell them what to do - HUH? UH - NO

  • If I had the same kids everyday, I do believe with these recent revelations, I would teach children how to identify tasks (jobs) so they can delegate or choose jobs on their own.  They can make their own job cards and necklaces if it is an ongoing activity for the year.

Do I recommend Bee-Bots
Yes, I recommend Bee-Bots (Not sponsored), my views are my own after using them with many classes and many grades!

If you don't have Bee-Bots they are worth having. You only need 1 or 2 in your classroom for students to use in a center.  They cost around $100.00 but they definitely have a low floor high ceiling. There are so many uses for them and any grade will love them if your kids have yet to be exposed to coding or beginning robotics.  They are not hard to use and kids who can read, can read the manual to get some authentic non-fiction technical reading in.  Bee-Bots aren't just for Makerspaces.  I really want to say this because my goal as the Makerspace facilitator is to help teachers understand how the things we use in a Makerspace can be used in the classroom.  I don't necessarily feel that a Makerspace should be an isolated classroom that kids visit once a week for 30-45 minutes.  My goal is to find ways for teachers to integrate a Maker Mindset into their everyday instruction and activities so it doesn't become one of those added extra things where we all say, "and when am I suppose to do that?!!!!"

Please leave any thought or comments about the job cards below.  Thanks for reading!

More Unplugged Coding If you are looking for more unplugged coding and you are just getting started, you may like one of the resources below.  They will help you and your kids understand the basic concepts of unplugged coding before moving into robotics that require coding.  Lesson plans are included! Click on the pictures to learn more about the resource.


Tonya Leslie

Monday, May 28, 2018

Does Coding and Electronic Integration Scare You?

I honestly thought I was on my A game in the classroom and I always received amazing teacher evaluations.

I was always reflecting, improving, reflecting, researching, and improving to meet my students needs.  I thought I was doing everything or at least trying to do everything with regard to student success but then I took a new position this last year.  

I could write a book or two on the first year.  It's one of those things where you don't know what you don't know. This summer I plan to write a series of blog articles to help teachers get started with a Makerspace in their own classroom and integrate technologies so students are producers and not consumers.  I thought it might be helpful coming from someone who has been through it and who was also a classroom teacher for the past 14 years.

I wanted to make this post short and sweet so let me get to it.  

When I started my new position I realized there was a whole new world different then I was use to when it came to teaching. Even though I worked very hard at trying to be 21st century teacher and making learning relevant for students in the traditional classroom, I found myself at the bottom of a mountain looking way up at all the new learning that was ahead of me in this new space and position.  Not because I needed to teach students how to be creative, innovative, and makers, but because as the year progressed I realized how I limited my students in the past to my own knowledge.  I realized that in this new space it was difficult to see academic discrepancies. As the year progressed, I found out that many  times the lower academic students in this space and the students with behavior issues had no issues in the space and excelled.  They were often the leaders.  They were inspired, motivated, engaged, on task and LEARNING.  I haven't blogged a lot about it but I have posts on my Instagram feed.  I love the post where you can hear a little girl saying, "I'm so proud!" after figuring out how to hook a Makey-Makey and coding to her "cardboard coffee machine."  Actually, here is the short video.

This is the same student with a second iteration.  She added music so her "customers" wouldn't get bored while waiting.  Watch out Starbucks!  This is a 5th grader who added this in (2) 45 minute labs with NO prior experience.  I also had never heard of a Makey-Makey prior to this year.

I began to see learning in a different light as I learned beside my students.  I began to see how I would change my teaching if I were back in the traditional classroom.  If you want to learn more and track my journey, subscribe to this blog.  I hope to help teachers get stated in integrating electronics and technology in the classroom and I don't mean using I-pads, QR Codes, and Google - although those are great tools.  If you need help with those, leave me a comment as well.    

Know that at the beginning of my year, I wanted  to melt the legos and I had NO clue about coding, micro-controllers. LED's, Making with Cardboard, Little-Bits, squishy circuits, Arduino, Makey-Makey and so forth.  Even though I have a masters degree, engineering, electronics, and robotics were something smart people do.  That misconception came from not ever being exposed to it.  I don't want my students to think the same thing. Now I am loving it!

Don't forget to subscribe to this blog to learn how I did it and you can too.  I will give you easy steps to get you started - PROMISE! and I didn't melt the legos.

I ran across a very informative website that will give you an idea about what I am talking about.  You can start with this link HERE.  It will help you be mindful when having students use electronics for activities or projects for a start.  No affiliation.  I could read the site for hours upon hours.   

I am not an expert but I am willing to research, learn, try it out and share.  What do you want to know/learn about it?  Leave a comment.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ease your End of the Year Student Assessments with These

I know that when it comes to end of the year assessments, it can be a struggle.  At times it can feel like you are up against a wall with the pressure of time.  You are now out of time and the testing has  to get done.  Sometimes kids must stay in the centers a little longer than usual so you can finish up that last 3-4 minutes of assessments with a student.  From experience and from listening to other kinder and 1st grade teachers, behavior can take a nose dive as you devote time to assessing while students must manage themselves.  

This means you need engaging activities that students can complete on their own so they do not interrupt you.  I have found that these "End of the Year" summer linking cube pictures do just that.                         
                         more pictures are included but not shown
Linking Cube Pictures
Another way to use these is to pair the pictures with stories. Students work on the pictures that go with the story for that day. 


  • Some students lay the cubes flat.
  • Others build the picture and stand up.
  • Students must use critical thinking skills to turn the cubes so the entire unit stays together.

Kids love these.  Kids spend a long time creating the pictures. Kids can spend an entire week building these.  But . . . kids are also working on:

  • counting
  • estimating
  • fine motor
  • spacial reasoning
  • patterning
  • even and odd numbers
If you don't believe me, try it out for yourself.  Click on the picture to download 3 of the Summer Build It Linking Cube Picture Mats below.  

FREE End of the Year Activities

If you find you really like them you may want the BUNDLE to use throughout the year or to go with your themes.  I'm adding more to it and you'll be able to download all the extra build it units for FREE.  You can take a look at it by clicking on the picture below.
If you are looking for more end of the year resources check out this FREE Reading Seed Poem to send home with your kids at the end of the year. It is super cute and can be sent home as a gift.  

Happy end of the year and have a wonderful SUMMER!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

An Open Letter to TpT Feedback Leavers

Dear TpT Feedback Leaver,

Do you know when you leave feedback for a resource that it is more than just words?  At times you inspire, motivate, and brighten our day but what you say is so much more than words. You help us reflect, think, and help us improve our resources with constructive criticism.

Today I am writing this letter because someone left feedback for many resources and they weren't even paid resources.  They were FREE resources which rarely get feedback at all. Someone took the time to leave feedback for not 1 but for 19 resources!  

I opened up my email to find a ton of FEEDBACK and I could absolutely HUG this teacher!  If she was here I would take her out to lunch.  I would take her to get a pedicure. I would take her to get a Starbucks. But most importantly, I would tell her how much I appreciate the feedback and how much it meant to me.  Her feedback came at a time when I needed it most.

This teacher made my day, month, wait . . .
she made my year.  She inspired me not to give up, not to stop creating, not to forget why I create in the first place.  It is feedback like this that feeds our hearts and inspires us to KEEP on KEEPING on.

You see TpT feedback leavers, we spend hours and hours and sometimes upward of 40-80 hours on one resource and sometimes it may take months or even a year and sometimes longer for those resources to be discovered.  When we aren't paid with money for those creations, feedback is a form of payment.  It is a payment to our hearts, to our inspiration, to our motivation.  It is what keeps us going and creating even when there is little to NO monetary gains because it helps us know we helped a fellow teacher and helped more kids besides our own. 

So, TpT feedback leaver, know your feedback does more than give you credit toward future purchases. Know your feedback is appreciated and know that feedback can brighten our day and maybe even stop some resource creators from giving up.  We appreciate your time and value what you say.  Happy TEACHING and CHEERS to a great year!  

Always Thankful,
Tonya Leslie

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Long Time Coming: A Fully Editable Auto-Fill Sight Word Management System SIMPLIFIED

editable sight words
Last year I thought I had finished this resource but I didn't finish before school started back up again. I have been tweaking this system for the past 3 years and each year I was able to integrate more of the components so it was a well rounded sight word system to help students master sight words and move ahead at different times WITHOUT going absolutely crazy.  

I'm going to post some pictures and hopefully the pictures will explain most of it.  The 1 thing that I feel made this resource the most successful was the display of the word lists with student clips that were placed within the children's reach.  This alone is worthy of a try with your current words and clips with students names.  You don't have to own the resource to do that but if you do this, you will see how much easier it is for you and kids to keep track - AT A GLANCE.

Differentiating sight words
The children ended up using the lists for everything.  Half the time they were all crooked because they took them off the walls to use them then put them back which was absolutely FINE by me because anything would be fine if it meant they would NO longer interrupt me when I was trying to teach small groups.  

This also made it easy for volunteers to come in, pull a word list off the wall or see the names and then pull the kids and work with them on a game of SNAP! Without asking me what to do.  

Parent volunteers would also help assess students if I wasn't able to on a particular day.  They would just grab the tote, pull out the color of folder for the students who were suppose to be assessed that day (1 or 2 colors per day depending on how many kids were on a color at a time) and assess them.  

If they passed their assessment, students would move their clip, color the rainbow color they passed in their data notebook and wall display, and then continue on to the next set of word with the same type of sight word activities but with different words BUT after they put their new fluency sheet and word list in their home folder. Children learned to put the sheets in by them self and they did great!

For Word Work, I did put the "sight word" word booklets in the center bins and I kept some in a basket so children could use them if needed to. Children would choose off of a choice board. It looked like this (I would velcro the picture squares so I could add activities as children learned them and take them off as they became bored of them or the activity needed a "time out" because it wasn't being taken care of properly.

They had:
Rainbow write
Water Color Fry Words 
(they got the supplies them self).
Sentence Boards
String A Word
Spin A Word
Roll A Word
Playdough Words
Test a Buddy (They loved)
Stamp a Word  
Tile A Word
Magnet Words

The reason I have squares is the kids would put a clip on he square and the RULE was 2 clips per square which they understood quite well.  We had other choice boards too and this was one of 4.

I'm probably leaving some out but it was good to be able to rotate and change activities to keep it fresh.


I did have a phonics games as a choice too to break it up (but they were still differentiated)

If you wondering about the phonics and CVC practice - I did that when I pulled them in small groups to work and work on reading. And a lot of times I included a choice board that included alphabet and phonics centers. It was really dependent on my schedule and the class for the year.

At the beginning of the year I had Alphabet Games as a center.  It was so important to me that they learned to take turns and work together and have good sportsmanship.  That is why I made sure to include the games.

Children chose from a variety of activities each day and chose one a day BUT they always used their SIGHT WORD list they were on in the activity. If they finished early they could practice the list before or after (I also put the QR CODE SIGHT WORD CARDS) in the center bins so students could scan and listen to a word if they could not read it.  You may be wondering why I didn't just have them ask a friend and that is because I wanted them to get a little-mini lesson on the word which is what they got when they scanned the QR code.  

(These I am currently in the process of redoing and they are almost done and I LOVE THEM)!

Okay.  That was long but let me tell you, this worked so well for me and the kids and my volunteers and it helped me implement word work, fluency, data tracking, homework, and kept me ORGANIZED.  Let me say that again because that is really a struggle of mine but these really did keep everything organized and simple while I was able to differentiate and give students choice in the classroom when learning their NEW words. 

Now you can use your words.  You type your words in the resource once and the ENTIRE document fills in for you.  You are ready to go for the year once this is set up. YUP

Thanks for reading and Happy Back to SCHOOL!
differentiating sight words

Tonya Leslie


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