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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 their 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.  Later 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, and their eyes lit up.  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.                         
Build It Math
                         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. 

Build It Math

  • 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.
Linking Cube Pictures
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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Monthly Giveaway: Every Month

If you don't know, I started a monthly giveaway.  It is very, very, simple to enter.  This month I'm giving away a $25.00 TpT gift card.  If you missed the newsletter, you can still join up until September 5th by:

1.  Follow this Blog (if you already follow then skip to step 4)
2.  Comment under the QR code videos on the video or with what number follower you are.
3.  Watch this 1 minute video to see how to join the monthly giveaway and claim your prize if you win.
4. If you follow me already then just comment on one of the QR code videos but you still need to watch the 1 minute video to see how to claim your prize if you win.

Friday, August 4, 2017

QR Codes 101: Creating a QR Code and Using Chromebooks to Scan Them

How to make a QR code

Many teachers have been asking me how to create a QR code and many more teachers have been asking can you use QR codes with Chromebooks.   In this short video, I will show you how to create a QR code and remove adds and how to scan a QR code using a Chromebook.  There may be other ways but here I am showing you what I use and know.  
If you want the interactive professional growth resource and you have no idea what or how you would use a QR code with and need ideas and inspiration along with editable templates, transcripts for the videos, and are left with more questions after the video above - make sure to follow me for when that resource is available. It will be available soon! Along with creating images, audio, and PowerPoint videos to link to QR codes.

I've added the resource but I will be redoing the first video on the first page in the resource download.  I sound gargly and not sure why.  This resource took a long tie but mostly for organizational reasons and getting everything in one document in what I hope is an easy to navigate resource.  Here is an Intro to the resource if you want a better idea of what is in it.
If you want to get started on this QR code journey and want more ideas and guidance,you can find the resource HERE or you can subscribe to this blog through the pop-up subscription and get it FREE as a THANK YOU from me for subscribing. If you don't see it in your email check your promotions.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The 1 BIG Mistake Teachers Make with Back to School Routines and Procedures

Don't let that be you! I think it is probably more common with NEW teachers and sometimes we just plain forget what and how we do things at the start of each new year.  

Which essentially means you are doing all the talking and the kids are doing all the listening which means you lost them a LONG time ago.

I always have to remind myself to take things slow at first and with each routine and procedure build in a task or activity that enables me to teach that routine and task.  The first day of Kindergarten can be rather tricky trying to decide the order in which you want to teach routines and procedures because . . . 

1).  Getting parents off and out the door and easing crying students into their new environment can take some time.

2).  You want to teach about  lining up because before you can go anywhere you need to teach how we line up.

3).  You want to teach restroom expectations by taking a trip to the restroom but have to teach lining up and walking in the halls expectations on your way but will want to do this before your 1st student says, I NEED to GO!  because shortly after the whole herd has to go too!

4).  By this time it is probably getting close to snack time and wait - you didn't do a single activity or task!  But more importantly you have to get back to class and have the kids go through the routine and procedures for getting their snack (You did set up a routine and procedure for separating snack and lunch - right? If not - you are going to have kids eating their lunch at snack time).  

5).  Back to class and now hopefully you had all those sweet parents help you get your student badges on so you don't have to worry about getting them on your kids yourself.  

6).  Now it's time to go through the routine and procedure for lining up again and getting your snack, and walking in the halls.  Lots of STICKERS Folks - LOTS OF STICKERS!  LOTS of PRAISE!

7) HMMMM . . .tricky part here because hopefully you have enough time to have the children set their snack down and have them practice the playground expectations and procedures for sliding, swinging, and what to do when that bell rings and where to go!

8) Do a head count and have your list of names before you head back.

9) On your way back to class now you need to go over hallway expectations, get drinks, and bathroom break again.  

10).  We are back to the class and now we go over how we enter the room and go ?????? where are they going? Hopefully the carpet.  Here you might have time for a read aloud and now is the time to go over carpet rules and whole body listening.   

11).  Guess what - It is time for lunch already!  One more time for lining up and walking in the halls and getting lunches routine and procedures.   Go early so you can show children where to put their lunchboxes after they are done eating.   I always ate with my students for a while until they got it down.

12).  Recess is over.  They'll want to go home!   Is it time yet? When do we go home?  You walk in the halls again, restroom break again, and lunchbox put away routine and procedure.  Enter the classroom routine and procedure again.  

13).  Do your kids rest after lunch?  Routine, procedure, and expectations for resting.

14).  Chances are - Dismissal might be about an hour away and you will need that time to get the kids ready to go home and have them go through the  routine and procedures for bus riders, parent pick up, and after school care at school such as AMPM.  Here is a good time to give them all a picture of a car/person/school and play a game by holding up the picture when you call bus rider, parent pick up, etc.   Play a game lining up in the order you need.   

15).  Be packed up early.  You can always sit in a circle (which you will need to teach) on the carpet and take turns (which you will need to teach) for what they liked about school or read another story.

16).  AHHHH!  You made it.  Now reflect and prepare for the next day and you can hopefully get in an activity or 2 that teaches more routines and procedures!  

And you had all those cute activities planned . . .if you didn't get a single activity done - that's okay! Go slow and teach routines and procedures as you go and as they come up - NOT ALL AT ONCE! You'll be less stressed and so will your kids.

Here is a video about teaching routines and procedures with activities if you need ideas or are looking for simple non stressful activities that teach routines and procedures as students are learning.  Did I mention it has clickable links to songs and links to how-to videos to  help implement some of the routines and procedures?  It will help get you off to a great start!

If you like the activities in the unit you can find it below by clicking on the picture.

Here is a 1st grade back to school unit that will enable you to teach a lot of routines and procedures while reviewing Kindergarten skills.


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