Teach Basic Kindergarten Readiness Skills and Set Up Routines for Back to School

Are you ready for Camp Kindergarten?  

This is THE perfect way to assess readiness skills, set up routines, and practice basic expectations to get the right start with your new kindergarteners.  Since the first year I started this, I have been amazed at how much fun the students have while also learning and practicing the basic skills and routines we will be doing in our classroom ALL YEAR LONG!  

If you have any experience teaching you know that the first couple weeks of school the most important thing you teach your students is ROUTINES AND PROCEDURES to make your classroom start off on the right foot!!!  Camp Kindergarten is developmentally appropriate for those little ones and is the perfect way to ease them into Kindergarten and make them excited about school.  What more could you want as a teacher?

I don't start this the very first week of school (which for us is only 3 days) because I reserve that for teaching classroom rules and routines (like walking in the hallways), playing fun getting to know you activities, lots of brain breaks, and lots of time to play and meet new friends......as well as drying some tears and attempting to keep them happy and excited to come back to school the next day.  

But once we hit the first FULL week of school, then we begin Camp Kindergarten!  We talk about how Camp Kindergarten is about learning how to be ready for Kindergarten and you have to earn all of your badges in order to be fully ready for Kindergarten.  I make it a big deal with lots of excitement around earning those badges each day.  

There are at least 5 days of Camp Kindergarten, but you could choose to do more.  Each day there is a slideshow (or could be printed into a book) to read to students about what the expectations are for that day.  Then there is time to practice that skill.  I like to do this in short centers with a different activity at each center.  This is also how I introduce the idea of center rotation and expectations.  I walk around and help or assess while the students work.  I might take notes if there are fine motor concerns.  Once they have completed the practice time, I present them with their badge for the day.  They get to take these home each day to show their parents and believe me when I tell you, you will hear about how excited the kids were about their badges at parent conferences or open house night.  This turns into a very big deal!  Kids love it and parents do too!

The first day is learning how to use play dough in the classroom.  We talk about opening and closing play dough containers, rolling it into a snake or a ball to make letters, numbers, or shapes, and how to not mix the colors.  We practice with play dough mats and I take pictures of their creations to share with parents on our class app.   

We have letters, numbers, shapes, pictures, and I also make name mats for them to make their name.   Once they have practiced they earn their first badge and are now PLAY DOUGH CERTIFIED. 

Day 2 of Camp Kindergarten is PENCILS.  We talk about how to hold a pencil and use our other hand on the paper, the proper pressure for writing, and that we don't break pencils on purpose.  Then we practice with some pre-writing lines, shapes, and curvy lines.  

When they are done, they have now earned their 2nd badge and are now PENCIL CERTIFIED!

Day 3 is coloring and crayons.  We talk about 3 Star Coloring and I then put this anchor chart up all year long to refer to.  

These pictures take longer to color neatly, so I don't always do this in centers.  I do, however, use the other sheets for morning work on other days.  When they have demonstrated 3 Star Coloring they earn their next badge and are now CRAYON CERTIFIED!

Day 4 is for cutting and scissor safety.  Of course we talk about how to hold the scissors and how to use our other hand to hold the paper and move the paper as we cut.  This is a very difficult skills for kindergarteners, and this is primarily when I find the most concerns.  But again, we practice in different centers and I walk around to help correct as they work.  

We also talk about how to hold scissors if we are walking and that scissors are only used for paper!  Once they have finished practicing, they are now SCISSOR CERTIFIED!

Day 5 is Glue Sticks.  There is also one for Glue bottles, but I don't do that one in the beginning of the year.  We don't use glue bottles very often, but glue sticks are used frequently.  We have to do the glue sticks after the scissors because much of the practice is first cutting and then gluing.  I have a ripped paper gluing practice page, as well as, we sometimes will do a rainbow name craft too!

You guessed it -- after we practice, the students earn their badge and are now GLUE STICK CERTIFIED! 

I do a 6th day of Camp Kindergarten, but you don't have to.  I introduce quiet reading time to my kindergarteners at this point.  Each day we have about 10 minutes for quiet reading time.  In the beginning of the year the students often need this time for a short rest or just some down time, but eventually we turn it into time to search for letters we are learning or heart words (sight words), and obviously at some point reading decodable text or at least finding decodable words in text.  

After they are Book Certified in my class, they have completed Camp Kindergarten!    

I have a certificate to give to students at the end or also a craft with mini badges to glue on.  This can be hung up for Open House.  Some teachers choose to make this as they go along and others do it as a culminating activity.  You decide what words best for you!  

Here is what other teachers are saying:

If you are ready to start Camp Kindergarten in your classroom this year, then click on the link or picture below:


I hope you and your students love it as much as we do!  Happy Back to School!!!

Flag Day

Hi there!  Thanks for joining me today as I share some quick ideas to use in your classroom for Flag Day.  Now don't go telling me that you don't have school when it's flag day because that doesn't make me feel better. ;)  I am well aware that many people are not in school during Flag Day, but unfortunately I am not one of them.  Here I am - still teaching away for another 8 days.  So if you happen to already be on your summer vacation and you're reading this....maybe you teach about American symbols or could use these ideas at other points in the year.  I hope so!

Here are a few books I have read to my class this time of year. 



 The Flag We Love and Our American Flag give some historical background, but is still easy to get through with little ones.  F is for Flag is a great one to explain why our flag is so important and what it stands for.  And finally, The Pledge of Allegiance is just that - the words to the pledge.  I like to show this using our document camera so students can see what the real words are for the pledge.  We all know they have their own cute variations.  :)

I made this quick little freebie to complete after we read about and discuss the flag.  It doesn't take much time, and frankly at this time of the year, we don't have much time.  So if you click on the picture below you can grab this American Flag FREEBIE too.  

And what would any holiday be without a craft???

I've done many different flag crafts over the years and of course you know Pinterest has TONS of ideas out there.  This is just one that I love displaying in the hallway.  

We actually made this flag when it was Veterans Day so I have a Thank You Veterans sign to go with it from my Proud to be an American pack.  But this is a fun way to bring the class together on a craft.  Obviously they all traced and cut out their hands on red, white, and blue paper (many times).  I cut the stars out using an Ellison cutter.  Then we all worked together to complete the project with a large piece of bulletin board paper as the background.  We wanted to be sure it was as accurate as possible.  The kids really enjoyed this project and it looks great in the hallway.  

So again, if you are out of school for summer already - I am happy for you (really I am).  But maybe these ideas will find their way into your classroom for other reasons in your school year.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Happy Flag Day!!!

First Grade Smiles

Mother's Day isn't just for Mothers

Mother's Day is a special day, but can also be a sad day for some.  Some have lost their moms, some don't see their moms, some want to be moms, and some are moms to babies in heaven.  This can be a tough day to navigate in the classroom as well.  However, I do still think it is an important thing to discuss and acknowledge with your students.  It's ok to reach out to families ahead of time to ask if there is a special person or maybe more than one that students would like to honor for Mother's Day.  It doesn't have to be a mom.  I have had students make gifts for moms, grandmas, aunts, step-moms, or family friends.  I try to normalize the idea that all families are different and there are many people in our lives who love us and who we love too.  

To help navigate this holiday in the classroom, I made this little pack last year and I just LOVED how it all came out with my kids.  They had so much fun making these things for their special people in their lives and I had a lot of moms and family members share how much they loved reading them.  

This pack includes this craftivity where the flowers flip up for students to write.


The pictures are a little blurry so here is what my kiddos wrote:
I love you because...
*We make Tie Dye together
*You take me to Denny's
*You cuddle with me
*You love me no matter what

There is also a flower shaped gift book with 3 different versions.

*After I go to bed my mom always tweets on Facebook.

*My mom loves when I change my sister.
*My mom does not like to do laundry.
*My mom is the best at cleaning.
*The best thing my mom cooks is bacon - Yay!  (Haha!)

*My mom loves when I give her breakfast in bed.
*My mom spends lots of time texting.
*My mom does not like when I spill my drink in the car.
*My mom's favorite thing to do on the weekend is to sit around the house.

And finally, there are some printables included too.

I love my mom more than I love...
*video games (that's saying a lot for some kids)
*my toys, because my mom gave birth to me.
*cousin Amy because she doesn't let me do anything.
*cookies because I love my mom and cookies, but I love my mom more.  

You can find this Mother's Day pack in my TpT Store.  


Now a quick question for the moms who are reading this....

Which phase of motherhood are you in right now?  Are you in the early phase with little ones where you just adore each and every little moment because it's all new and exciting?  This next image makes me think of my littles ones.  

Or are you in a later phase in motherhood where you are looking back at those moments?  Maybe older children who might be a little more difficult or maybe your children are all grown and out of the house?  This next image made me think of my tween/teen kids (I have 4 daughters total).  

There are so many moments of struggle and doubt as a mom, but then #10 where we, MOMS, would do it ALL again is just so true.  Motherhood isn't perfect or easy --- definitely not easy --- but it IS worth all the moments!  Happy Mother's Day to the moms reading this!


Let's not forget the dads and other special males out there.  

I also have a Father's Day pack in my store to check out.  

These two packs are conveniently bundled in this money saving bundle:

Thanks for stopping by today and I hope you have fun creating Mother's Day gifts with your students. 

Back to School: Meet the Teacher/Open House

It's back to school time and time to meet your families.  Every school does things a little differently.  Our school has always done an Open House night a few weeks into school when parents and children come in to see the classroom together.  This night is the first time teachers meet the families, but it is obviously not the first time the teachers meet the students since they've been in school for a couple weeks.  It wasn't until I moved to Kindergarten that we did a Meet the Teacher day (sometimes called Back to School Night), but we just call it Kindergarten Orientation.  This is a day the week before school starts when parents and students come in to meet the teacher, see the classroom, ease some nerves, and spark the anticipation.  Because this is Kindergarten, this is the first time these little ones are likely going to see the school and classroom, too.  There are so many questions that need to be answered, but of course, not time enough to answer them all face to face.  Therefore, I knew I needed to prepare the classroom for families to be able to move around, check things out, but also take care of business.  

My first step in planning out my day was to make a list of all the pieces I would need and want for this day to run smoothly.  
* Collect information for my purposes
* Distribute information to parents
* Time to explore the classroom and school
* A way to collect the classroom supplies that are brought in
* Something FUN for my students

Step 1: What information do I need to collect from parents?

* Sign-in sheet so I know who attended in case they slip in and out quickly.
* Transportation Information - how will the child go home from school?
* Student Information - This is one thing that I really love getting from parents.  I love starting the year off with a picture of each child through the eyes of their parents.  It gives me something to go from as I get to know them, but it also tells me about the parents and what they view as important.  
* Classroom Volunteers - If there are any parents of family members that would be able to volunteer in the classroom. 


Step 2: What information do I need to distribute to parents?

* Information about me to introduce myself
* Information about the school
* Information about Kindergarten (or whatever grade level you teach)
* Information about my classroom


I wanted the information about our school and classroom to all be in one place, so I created this booklet to give out to parents.  It includes tabs about our schedule, communication/contact information, school information, classroom information, and curriculum information.  At first I thought this might be time consuming to put together, but it really wasn't bad.  It probably took me about 20 minutes to get them all together once I printed them out.  First, I cut the tabs out (I cut about 4-5 pages at a time to speed things up).  Then, I set up an assembly line so I could grab all the papers and staple them together.  I was SO happy with how they came out and got tons of compliments from parents and other teachers about them -- the time put in was well worth it!

Once I had all the papers to give out, I put them all into a folder.  I labeled one side with RETURN to school and the other with KEEP at home, so it was very obvious what parents needed to do.  Again -- very much worth the time put in to create the folders.  This helped keep parents organized and myself organized as papers started coming in.  


Step 3: How can I help my families explore our classroom and our school? 

It's definitely a good idea to give families a guideline for what they might want to check out while they are there.  Not only is this helpful so they can really get to know the school, it also keeps them from just standing around in the classroom or even worse -- taking things off the shelves to play with.  And instead of just calling it a checklist, I called it a Scavenger Hunt, which of course makes it MUCH more exciting!  :-) 

Step 4: How can I collect classroom supplies in an organized way?

I used to just have parents put all of their child's supplies in their cubbies and I would sort through it later.  WHY would I do that when it is so much easier for them to sort it out as they drop it off?  You know, it's sometimes embarrassing when it takes many years of teaching and doing something one way to realize there is a much better way to do it.  Face---meet----palm!  So, I took some of my many bins and crates and placed labels on them so all the supplies could be sorted right from the get go.  You can only imagine how much time this saved me!  

Step 5: What's something FUN I can give to my new students to get them excited to come on the first day?

The most important thing for me on this day is to meet ALL of my new students and to get them excited for school to start.  I like to give a little gift for them to take with them as they leave.  Here are some of the things I have given over the years.  

The last couple years I have had peanut allergies in my classroom, so I've stuck with the bubbles to be safe.  I also leave out a coloring page to either work on there or take with them.


Some years I've attached balloons to the gift.  Balloons are a HUGE crowd pleaser!  


But this past year I had a child with a latex allergy, so no balloons.

One more thing I've done in the past (when allergies aren't a concern) is have some cookies out for families to enjoy.  

And just one more thing for fun --- set up a photo booth for kids and families to take pictures!  For this, I reused a wall decoration I had purchased from Party City for my daughter's Under the Sea birthday party.  I hung it on the wall and had photo props for the kids to hold.  

The only thing I haven't mentioned yet are the signs and table tents I use around the classroom to direct everyone where to go.  I use them both -- signs on the wall and table tents on the tables.  This sets up different Stations for the families to visit so they know when they have finished everything.  

So there it is!  After years of being much less organized, I have finally found a great way to set up and pull off a Meet the Teacher night that will knock their socks off!  If you are interested in any of the ideas you see here, you can check out my EDITABLE Meet the Teacher pack by clicking below.  Just about everything in this pack is editable so you can make it your own and make it fit your needs.  

And if you are looking for any other items as you get ready for Back to School, here are some of the things I use to survive the beginning of the year!