Saturday, July 21, 2012

Parent Helper Sign Up Sheet

Pin It Now! has a linky on how to get parents involved.  Parent involvement is key.  You have to have parents on your side.  They need to feel that they can trust you and that you are looking out for the best interest of their child.  If you do not have that, then it will definitely work against you.  I have found that most parents want to be involved in their student's schooling, but some just do not know how.  It might be because they are a single parent, struggling to make ends meet, or it might be because they are insecure about the knowledge they feel they lack.  At the beginning of the year, I use a sign up sheet that allows parents to sign up for things that they feel they could contribute to.  Find the page below for FREE here at TPT.
The sign up sheet opens up opportunities that may be more achievable to parents who are unable to be room mothers/parents or join the PTO.  At Parent Orientation, I express that our classroom is alway open for them to share their talents and experiences.  I have had parents come in and share for Chinese New Year, Dental Week, Fire Prevention, holiday crafts, etc.  I can always relate things back to the curriculum and it gives students and parents pride in our class. It may sound weird that you get more parent involvement by asking them to volunteer, but it works.  What you are doing, is making them feel welcome in your classroom and at your school.  This helps to gain their support and opens up communication.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fun App to Teach Handwriting

Pin It Now!      I have taught from 1st to 5th grade.  I think it is easy to underestimate the importance of PROPER handwriting.  By the time students get into second grade, it is very hard to undo improper handwriting strokes. By then it has become habit.  Not only is writing improperly messy, but more importantly it is uncomfortable, harder, and makes learning cursive next to impossible.
    My four-year-old has been learning to write his letters.  He can make the letters, but not with the correct strokes.  I kept trying to help him learn correctly, but he just wasn't interested.  To him it looked like the letter and so he didn't quite understand what I was telling him.  I found that if I kept pressing, he would get bored with it and want to go off and do something else instead (sound familiar to anyone else).   So.... after trying out some apps on iTunes, I found one the we both love, love, LOVE!  It is called Letter School.  There is a free version, which I tried first, then the full version which is $2.99.  That is a little more expensive than the apps I normally get for my kids, but this one will not disappoint.

 Letter School not only reinforces the letter sound and corresponds it with a word(and picture), but it offers three ways to practice drawing it. The first two ways show dots and the letter outline. Here is the best part: children HAVE to start at the correct spot.  The third way lets them be a little more independent at drawing letter.  When a child has mastered the correct form, a star goes by that letter.
     This is a super way for preschoolers to get the practice they need to make proper letter formation automated.  It works great on an iPhone, but would be a fun way to practice in class on an iPod touch or iPad.  After you typical handwriting practice this would be a great way for students to get reinforcement and make a kinetic and visual connection with what you have been teaching.  A child that hasn't even begun learning their letters would enjoy and benefit from it too.  It could also work for older children who aren't quite making the connection of why they need to change their strokes.  Try the free version here or go for the full version here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cute clipboards for gifts or functionality!

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     Make these cute little clipboards for a co-worker, child's teacher, or yourself!  They are super easy and inexpensive too!  I made the one with the clothes pins for my students to take to lunch as a behavior monitor.  Each student in my class is assigned a number, so I number everything!  This helps me to be able to use classroom items for several years versus just one by adding student names.   I added numbers to the end of the clothespins with American Crafts Galaxy Markers, but you can also just use a permanent marker.  I also used the Galaxy markers to put the white border on the solid green paper.  You can find these clipboards very inexpensively at dollar stores or office supply stores (see here).  Make sure it has a flat clip so you can jazz it up with ribbon.
      Along with the clipboard, you need craft paper, modge podge, a foam brush, ribbon, and clothespins (if you are using this for a behavior monitoring system.)  I used my Cricut to cut out designs and letters, but you could also buy these pre-cut.  For the larger background paper, I find it best to use the thinner craft paper rather than heavier card stock grade.
    I find Modge Podge very easy to work with, but here are a few tips that I have found along the way.  First off, paint the glue not only on the back what you are adhering down, but also on what you are gluing it to.  I have found that when I do not do this, I get more air bubbles.  Also, it is very gooey which is good!  It helps you to be able to manipulate your paper better without tearing it.  If it is not quite were you want it, just slide it around!  I use my Cricut scraper  to help get the air bubbles out.  I start in the middle and gently push the bubbles out to the edge of your paper.  If you do not have one of these, you could use the flat side of a ruler.  Larger things are harder to get down without air bubbles, and I find that thinner paper does better on a large scale.  I used the card stock thickness on the smaller designs for added texture.  Also, if you use your Cricut and piece cuts together like my bear with the flower, make sure you Modge Podge it together on the clipboard itself and not just craft glue it together.  If you do not do this, the design will warp once you add the Modge Podge to it.  After Adhering your designs down, you alway put a layer or two of Modge Podge on top to sort of seal it.
  Now for the finer details....  I used my Cuttlebug texturz to texturize the paper in some of my designs.  This is an easy way to really make your projects look amazing, even with store bought die cuts  The clothespins were made by trimming paper just a tad smaller than the clothespin itself and Modge Podging the paper to it.  The ribbon was easy...just tie it in a knot.  I also added a little tulle with the ribbon to really fill it in.
   Questions?  Suggestions?  Please share!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Website: Blissful four EDUCATION!

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I have the opportunity to stay home next school year.  It was a tough decision, but one that is right for my family right now.  I realized the other day that all of the wonderful sites that I had spent years collecting would soon be wiped off of the district server!  You can imagine the panic!  So...I went to weebly and made a new one!  Now it is nowhere near as cute, but it is probably more functional.  Hopefully some of you can use it with your students, project it to complement your lessons, or even use it at home to enrich your children.  I hope to put some of the units that I've made over the years onto TPT soon.  These links will also go with them.  It is after all July.  This is usually the time that most teachers start preparing for the new school year.  You see that I am still in teacher mode myself :-)

Click here to go to my website!