Quick Tip – Time Timer, A teacher’s best friend

In one of my early years of teaching, I was given a Time Timer to use in my classroom.  I have since moved schools and had to buy my own Time Timer.  I use it so often that I sometimes wonder what I did before my Time Timer days. 

time timer 2

 

I love this timer because it shows a piece of red for the given amount of time.  As time passes, the red gets smaller.  The visual is fantastic for students.  Some of the newer Time Timers also have a buzzer that, when turned on, beeps when the time runs out .

Here are 5 ways I use my Time Timer on a daily basis:

1.  At snack time – I set the timer for 12 minutes for snack.  Students know that when the timer runs out, everyone puts away the rest of their snack.

2.  As a clean up warning – I give students a 10 minute warning for clean up time.  It gives them time to finish up what they are working on and helps them switch from something they want to be doing (playing) to something I want them to be doing (clean up).

3.  As a signal to rotate centres – If a new center is overly popular, setting the timer to let students know when it is time to switch can be helpful.  (The only time I would limit time in a centre is when it is something new so that everyone has a chance to check it out before home time).

4.  As a reminder not to rush – For students who tend to hurry through a given task to move on to something else, setting the timer for a required amount of time can remind them to slow down and do their best work.  If they finish before the timer, they need work on improving their work until the timer runs out.

5.  And to keep me on track – Any time I tell students that they have __ minutes to do something, setting the timer helps me keep my word.  Before my Time Timer days, I would often say things like  “In 5 minutes…” or “You have __ minutes to…” and while I got busy working with students, 5 minutes could easily turn to 10 or 15 minutes without me even noticing.  When I set the timer, nobody lets me lose track of time!

 

If you are looking to buy your own Time Timer, they can be ordered from places like Spectrum or Scholars Choice or can be bought directly from most “teacher stores”.

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Quick Tip – Tracing letters and shapes made easy

Looking for a simple way to practice drawing basic shapes or printing letters?  Try writing it in highlighter for your child to trace.  They can see what they need to write or draw and you can see their pencil lines when they are done.

Tracing highlighter

Here’s one more highlighter tip…..use a highlighter to let students know that they have a simple correction to do.  If they reverse a letter or number or forget a capital somewhere, simply print over top of the error with highlighter.  When they go back to it, it is easy for them to see their simple mistake, erase and correct it.

Paper chains with purpose

Everyone loves making paper chains, especially during the holidays.  Here is a new way to use those paper chains.  Try using those paper chains to countdown the days to Christmas (or to winter break for students who don’t celebrate Christmas).

In our class, we start with chains that are 25 links long on December 1st (our strips are 8.5″ long by 1.5″ wide).  As patterning part of our curriculum, we talk about all the different patterns we can make out of two different colours (AB, AAB, ABB, AABB, ABBB, etc.).  When they are done, we then hang them up on the wall, spread out around the classroom so that each child can easily get to his or her chain each morning or afternoon.

chain patternsEach day, we count the links left on our chains and then take off as many as needed (usually one per day but after a weekend, it may be 2 or 3).  We then count to see how many are left.  On the strips that we ripped off, we practice printing numbers.  (With older students, I would have them write a number sentence like “25-3=22” but with younger ones, we count and if there are 22 days left until Christmas, for example, we might practice writing “22” over and over again on one of the strips we just ripped off.

As our countdown continues, we get to watch our chains get shorter and shorter and shorter, we practice printing meaningful numbers for a purpose that is motivational for students, we count backwards (which, by the time we are close to 10, students have figured out the pattern and really understand what is happening) and in just 2 minutes a day.

Do you have a favourite way to count down to something special in your classroom?

Halloween crafts for early learners

I love Halloween for doing crafts with my kinders.  It seems that my boys (who are often the ones needing more exposure and practice with activities involving tracing, cutting, threading, etc.) are often very motivated and interested in practicing these skills when they involve bats, spiders or anything else Halloween.

Here are my top 5 favourite Halloween crafts for early learners (click for instructions):

#5 – Five Little Pumpkins

#4 – Pumpkin Sewing

#3 – Black Cats

#2 – Spider Webs

And my #1 favourite Halloween craft……Pop Can Bats

Do you have a different favourite Halloween craft for early learners?  If yes, please share your favourite below.

Finding your “favourites” made easy for kinders

A couple of years ago, I came across Symbaloo, a great website for sharing internet favourites with my kinders and their parents.  With symbaloo, you can create your own account (here’s mine) and make buttons for your favourite curriculum-related websites.  The brilliant thing about it is that you can add an image to each of your links so that non-readers can find their favourite sites too.  Also, you can constantly edit your Symbaloo page, adding and removing buttons as needed.

I set my Symbaloo account as my homepage on my classroom computers to help make my students more independent at finding their favourite sites (that being said, I still have to supervise them closely, but it stops me from being constantly asked to help find the pattern machine game or Toupie et Binou).

And, if that is not all, Symbaloo now has a FREE iPhone app! If you create your own free account, you can now access it and any other webmixes you like on the go.

I like to share my Symbaloo site with parents so that at home, they can easily find websites that are appropriate for kindergarten students.  Parents have the option of setting it as their homepage or adding it to their iPhone as well.

As a French immersion kindergarten teacher, my links relate to French language learning, math and problem solving.  What is your favourite website for your kindergarten students or child?

Teaching Kinders to Hold Scissors Properly

If you are like most kindergarten teachers, the beginning of the school year brought you a handful of students who are still learning to hold and use scissors properly.  If you are looking for a strategy to help them remember how to hold those scissors, try using these six cues that our OT used with my students.  I have made them into a poster with visual cues that my students are able to read independently as a reminder to themselves and each other.  (No chicken wings means keep your elbows down).

One other little trick that I sometimes use for students who are having a hard time keeping their elbows down is I have them lie down on their stomach while cutting.  As they need their elbows to support themselves, they are forced to keep their elbows down and in turn, use their helper hand to steer.

What do you do in your class to help your students learn scissor skills?  If you have another trick or idea, please share it below.

Teaching kinders a proper pencil grasp in five simple steps

At the beginning of every kindergarten year, I have at least one child who fists their pencil.  Here is my favourite way, in 5 simple steps, to teach most children how to hold their pencil with a proper tripod grasp.

1.  Make an elastic pencil holder (as you can see, I made this one out of a black and a blue hair elastic, a big star bead and a small zip tie).

2.  Have the child slide their dominant hand through the black elastic.

3.  Have the child hold the bead with their middle, ring and pinky fingers.  This gives these fingers something to do and gets them out of the way.

4.  The thumb and pointer finger become “pinchers” to hold the pencil.  I find using a Start Right pencil grip, makes “pinching” easier at first and stops the thumb and pointer from wrapping too far around the pencil.

5.  For most pencil fisters (or students who use too many fingers to stabilize their pencil), the pencil will often lean forward when they try using only their thumb and pointer to hold it.  To fix this, simply thread the un-sharpened end of the pencil through the small loop you created in the black elastic.  The pencil will be tilted back and held in the web space between the thumb and pointer.

Do you have a different tried, tested and true way of teaching your students proper pencil grasp?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.