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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Best Back to School Year Ever! Comment to WIN!

Best Year Ever Giveaway TPT gift card

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter and comment.   

It's that time of year when I stop and think about what I failed miserably at in my class or the things that bothered me most.  I pick the ones at the top of my list, reflect, and try to find a solution for the following year. Because . . . guess what?  If you don't fix it, the problem is going to be there the next year too.  Don't make that mistake.

I'll post the full list in its entirety but for the sake of a NOT so long post I am going to tell you about my center problem in case its your problem too. Plus I needed to start my summer on the lighter side.
First things first.  Know Thyself.  Hee, Hee, Hee. Seriously though.  If you keep searching for cute center ideas for your word work, writing centers, any center for that matter and try to implement them because they look great in someone else's classroom, sigh - Pinterest, you might be setting yourself up for failure before your kids ever start to use the centers.

Here I am working backwards so Part 2, and Part 3 , and however many parts come after that will examine and discuss the actual implementation. Follow me HERE if you want to be updated when I post them otherwise this blog will be lost in the blogosphere abyss.

Watch then Read on.  I have to break up all these words with something so hang tight.

Problem(s):  I cannot manage little pieces (My Problem/My Weakness).  I cannot stand the amount of set-up time it takes kinder kids to set-up a center with lots of pieces.  I mean, really. Have you ever did a rotation and a pair of kids in a center just get started as the timer goes off to clean-up?  UGGHHHHH! Micromanaging the actual center is not for me.  I need centers that are easily accessible, easy to set up for the youngest of kids, require little prep but are still a meaningful activity and NOT a worksheet (sometimes a worksheet but in the form of a recording sheet - I am okay with that).  Follow the same format so I am not reteaching EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Can be differentiated (beginning of the year they will not be because I need all kids to learn the system first).  I will differentiate later and in small groups once the kids are independent enough to not interrupt and work and work together.  
Organizing Centers
So I know, NO matter how much I like a center I see and NO matter how CUTE it is, I think twice about it and 
1st does it suit the needs of my students 
2nd does it fit my teaching style in other words, "WILL IT DRIVE ME CRAZY?" 

Honestly, I had to come up with something that would work for the beginning of the year in kinder that fit my checklist.  Here are some I have so far. You'll have to come back and check as I adjust and think out loud on this blog (feel free to comment with your suggestion(s).  There is always room to make things better.

Here is my ABSOLUTE favorite.  My kids love them too and the format of the games stay the same the whole year - the skill changes.  I am only going to show you the alphabet because right now I am working on beginning of the year word work centers.
Centers for Kindergarten
                     {Alphabet Center Games Link}
Children match the letters that are the same, matching capitals and lowercase, and beginning sounds for the letters of the alphabet. 
The games can be played independently or with a partner and you can use them for differentiation later.  Notice the cards are attached. Kids just open and play.  They use cubes or whatever markers you desire.  The kids love them.  You can find them HERE.  
Alphabet Activities

But HERE is a the link to 5 FREE Alphabet Games for you to try yourself.

I am working on rhyming, alphabet sequence, ending sounds, and middle vowel sound games but I do have CVC games and Simple sentences HERE, and CVCe games HERE and more difficult phonics games HERE.
I have math games in this format HERE.  Tried and true so I am keeping with them all.

Then I have the center(s) below that I made after I reflected on what another teachers response was to using centers.

She said, "I don't really like centers because in kinder you don't know if they are doing it right and if they can't read the words then they are doing it wrong and if they can read the words then they don't really need to be doing it." Hmmm.  Okay.  Valid point but I see value in centers for 3 Reasons (probably more but here are 3). 

1).  Children get to work together and learn social skills.  Kids teach each other what they may not have learned from me.  Plus there is research that supports one of the first steps in students self regulating is peer support or partner work.  Plus the research behind games and learning is huge.

2).  Children have the opportunity to get out of their seats, move around, and typically have fun while working. We know kids need to move.

3).  It enables me to work with children either in their activity or in guided work/reading groups based on skill or ability while the rest of the children are practicing skills they learned and doing activities that are meaningful and will engage them.

Beginning Sounds Center
                    {Beginning Sounds Center Link}
I really am thankful when people have a different view on things because it pushes you to reflect and either abandon an idea or make it better.  

There was definitely a problem with children not knowing what a pictures name was (lacking vocabulary).  How can children complete the center if they don't know the picture name?  Here, to eliminate children coming up to me (after they asked their partner and 3 before me and they still didn't know a picture name) I added a self-checking piece but in reality it's like a minute to minute and a half visual mini-lesson and activity. I did include large self-checking cards if you don't have access to QR code devices.  

I would only include the alphabet letters you are working on for the week and then add each week as you go.   This binder makes it easy to pull later on for RTI , small group, and storage.  You could always laminate and put on a ring but I just can't. It won't work for me.  

    Here are more binder centers I just posted too!
Handwriting Practice

Okay - so Rainbow write and Play-dough Words are not new.  I know, but here is why I made these.  I NEED THEM IN THE SAME FORMAT.  I also do not like the loose cards everywhere or the amount of time it takes kids to find a specific letter, and so on.  This just simplified it.  However, I also wanted children to practice rainbow writing and forming the play-dough the way the letters are formed so the cards inside actually have lines, numbers and arrows to guide them. 

 I do have videos (20-30 seconds each) correct letter formation using the cards but haven't decided if I want to add them to these centers or make it a separate "Write the Room Center."   Any thoughts on that? 

 Well, I ended up making a "Write the Room."  I like it and I think the kids will too!  Just so you know, when I reflected on what I needed to improve on I decided I didn't do a very good job on letter formation and handwriting.  So I am attempting a fun fix for the kids with these activities rather than a "drill and kill."

How it works:
Each letter has a QR code with a picture for that beginning sound.  Children scan the QR code and a short video on forming that specific letter is played.  Children then either write the capital and lowercase or find the letter in their alphabet booklet and trace the capital and lowercase 3 times (dependent on which recording sheet you choose).  But . . . if you are working on 5 letters for the week the you can choose those 5 letters and put them in a booklet form or the other recording sheet has space for 5 capital and lowercase letters.

Here is a short video that shows you what the kids see after they scan the QR code (I have put these in quietyoutube and Safeshare so they are ADD FREE and you can test them to see which you prefer.

I hope I made it better for me and for you!  If you haven't watched the video, you might want to go back and watch it.  I hope to be posting once a week on centers and how I implement them.  It will be interesting once school starts because I will update on how the centers worked well and what didn't work so well but for now, I hope you found some useful ideas.  Don't forget to follow (Click HERE) if you want to read more on "Getting Control of Centers." 
Back to school Activities
and you can get the whole Back to School Beginning of the year Bundle HERE.

Don't forget to comment on any of these centers or any center in my store to WIN!



Happy Teaching,

Tonya Leslie


  1. Ha! Totally agree with you about lost pieces, taking forever to set up, etc. :). I've never heard of binder centres. Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Barbara!
    Thanks for leaving a comment. I'm having a giveaway so you're entered already! Getting centers under control totally dictated my summer. I do hope it pays off this year!
    Warm regards,
    Tonya Leslie

  3. I love the fact that there are no loose pieces in your letter games and how you integrate technology into the beginning sounds one. The video is a great visual piece as well!

  4. Thanks for commenting! I loose pieces ALL THE TIME. Probably more than the kids :)

  5. My favorite is the penmanship practice pages. Love "Write the Room" too!

  6. I really love using centers in my classroom. It helps me give the individual attention the students need and also helps with differentiation

  7. I was looking through your TPT store and I really like the "rock around the clock" activity! It is really cool!!

  8. First of all, I am your newest TpT store follower! I love your activity ideas- so original! I would most like to use one of your QR code centers. I try to make my center time as independent as possible so I can attend to the small group of kiddos I am working with at the time. The QR codes would allow students to self-correct and that's awesome! I am trying to making this year the best ever by being as prepared and organized as possible...we will see how long that lasts! HA!

  9. Thanks for leaving a comment! Last year was the first time I really implemented QR codes and it was so helpful for me and them! I put them on independent sheets too so if I have early finishers they can scan the QR code for a song about the lesson or a mini-lesson on what they are learning. It helped tremendously with motivation and giving me time to get get to kids who needed a little extra help. Thanks for following me! Happy Back to SCHOOL!



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