Sunday, February 9, 2014

Love is in the Air and a FREEBIE!

I love the month of February. There are so many exciting things happening this month! 
- "I Love to Read" month
- The Olympics
- Valentine's Day
- President's Day
- Black History Month
- Dental Health Month
- Groundhog Day
- the list goes on... 

At our school we also have conferences and 2 lyceums left to squeeze into the month. Whew! I wish that there was a way to put a few more days into February! 

I have created a packet of materials that require NO PREP to use. Well, I guess you do need to print them off, but does that count? 

I'm planning on making one for each month. If there is a specific skill that you would like to see, let me know and I'll try to include it next month. These were just some of the basic skills that my kiddos need to review. You can check out the packet by clicking on the pictures below: 

Also check out my February Number Puzzles and Pocket Chart Games by clicking on the pictures below. 

All of my Valentine's Day/February products will be on sale through the end of the week! 

And now, onto the FREEBIE! 

Ever wonder what to do with all of your extra or broken crayons from your classroom? Well, let me tell you about what I started doing last year.

Most people have heard about melting down broken crayons to make larger crayons, but why not turn them into a gift? My kinders last year loved them and I thought I would do it again this year. 

Unfortunately, I didn't think about taking pictures until AFTER I had done most of the crayons. So, the few pics that I took on my phone will need to do. :) 

Materials Needed:
Crayons - Craft Knife - Oven - Muffin Tin or Candy Mold - Snack Size Ziploc Baggies

I found this candy mold in the baking section at Walmart. Isn't it adorable?

Step 1: Gather all of your crayons and a craft knife. Simply slice lengthwise down the crayon and peel the paper off. Newer crayons work the best as they paper peels off easier. 

Step 2. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees

Step 3. If you are using new crayons, you'll need to break them into smaller pieces. Place them into the mold/muffin tin until it is pretty much full. 

I put similar colors together so the picture below shows blues and purples. 
I also made other ones with yellows/oranges, shades of green, and reds/pinks. 

Step 4: Place the crayons in the oven for about 10 minutes. You will need to check on them often until you figure out how long it will take each batch to melt. I checked at 9 minutes and could still see the shape of the crayons and came back 2 minutes later and they were completely melted. I'm not sure what happens if you "overcook" them, but it might not be so pretty! :) 

Step 5: Let them cool. I tried to take them out of the mold after 20 minutes and broke off a leg from one of the little people. I waited another 20 minutes and they popped right out!

Step 6: Continue with other colors.

Step 7: Put them into baggies and attach the gift tag. I simply printed these out, cut them out and stapled them over the opening on the baggie. I've left space on the gift tag for you to write your name. Sorry I don't have the ability to make it editable. :( 

Want to make these for yourself? Click on any of the pictures above to get the gift tag. I've created one that says "You color MY world!" and another that says "You color OUR world!"in case you are giving the gift from more than one person. My para and I usually give gifts together. We'll be adding these crayons to a few other little items for our kiddos. What do you like to do for Valentine's Day?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Where Have You Been All My Life?

OK, I have to be honest here. For the past year or so I have turned up my nose to some of the blog posts about online assessment programs. I kept thinking that they were just being paid to give a positive review. Then I started doing my research and I was amazed by what I found.

Over winter break I was looking for a way to make my assessments do more. I wanted them to do more for my students, my families and more for me! I needed something to help guide my instruction. Everything that I found led me to ESGI.

ESGI (Educational Software for Guiding Instruction) is an online assessment tool that not only assesses the students on what they know, it also analyzes the data and creates reports for parents, teachers, interventionists, etc. I signed up for the free 60 day trial and haven't looked back since!

The time saved using this assessment tool is worth every penny! I can easily assess my entire class in under 20 minutes. I simply choose an area to assess and call them over one at a time. They know our routine now. They stand right next to my computer and I start the test. The items are displayed on the screen. I simply press "Y" if they know the item/concept or "N" if they don't. The data is instantly recorded and the results are displayed at the end of the test. The kids absolutely love to see the pie chart at the end. They actually ask when they can do it again. I can't help but smile knowing that they are holding themselves accountable for their learning, but they don't even realize it! :)

This is an example of what the results look like after I have tested a student. The gray pie charts show areas that I haven't assessed yet with this student. I can click on the "Details" tab and see what items they do/don't know.

After I have completed the assessment there are a number of options. 

I can send home parent letters, letting them know what skills their child still needs to work on. I can  even print off flash cards for them to take home. It really is THAT easy! 

ESGI offers a variety of pre-made tests that you can use, or you can create your own. I created one to assess the sight words in our reading series in less than 5 minutes. If I want to, I can opt to share the test with others, or I can make it a private test only available on my account. The possibilities are endless!

One other feature that I have found to be extremely beneficial is the bar graph option.

I can choose any area of assessment and bring it up on the screen. I can click on the green area to show which students have already mastered the skill. I can also click on the gray area and it will tell me which students still need practice. There are many ways to utilize this feature. I can print out the names of students to work with in a small group. I can give the list to a parent volunteer or an interventionist and know that they are working on specific skills. When I wanted this done before, I would have to dig through papers to find the data I needed. Now, one click does it all!

The best part of ESGI is that I can access it from anywhere. I can see my data at home. I can test students on my computer. I can use an iPad or tablet for assessments. I can share the information with co-workers. I can even have more than one person logged into my account at one time. If I have an interventionist working on reading skill assessments and I'm working on math assessments, we can both be using it at the same time. I absolutely love it!

Oh... I guess that isn't the best part. 
The best part is that if you try it out and like it you can get a reduced rate for $159/year. If you want to receive the discount, you will need to follow the link below.

Check it out for yourself! I shared the program with my co-workers, principal and assessment coordinator. All of the Kindergarten teachers are going to be using the program next year! It has made my life so much easier and I can't wait for you to try it!

Just a note... if you sign up now, your subscription will last for a full year, not just until the end of the school year. :)