Favorite Back-to-School Resources

Kindergarten Back-to-School Resources



Out of all of the resources that I have made for my classroom over the years, these resources are my absolute favorite for back-to-school.  They have all come out of years of classroom experience, routines, and student needs.  I hope you find them all useful as well!


Following the success and enthusiasm I received for my Kindergarten Readiness Handbook, I decided I needed to make a condensed version that focused only on essential literacy skills.  Ideally, I hand out my Kindergarten Readiness Handbook in the spring when I meet next year's crew.  This gives them between six and three months to work through the handbook and practice all of the skills to help ensure kindergarten success.  However, not all of my incoming students come to our Spring Visits, and I have a large number of students who move to the area during the summer.  So I created this book for those students and give it to them the first week of school.  If I feel necessary, I will also quickly conference with their parents to review the goals and standards. 

The Kindergarten Back-to-School Handbook focuses on essential beginning of kindergarten literacy skills: letter recognition, pencil grip, handwriting, name practice, concepts of print, letter sounds, beginning sounds, rhyming sounds, and syllable counting.

 

Since I began student teaching in kindergarten over a decade ago, I loved creating pages for our yearly memory book.  And for the better part of that decade, my pages were all mismatched and poorly put together.  So this summer a big goal of mine was to complete a uniform yearly memory book for the upcoming year. 

I could not be happier with the result: my Kindergarten Memory Book.  When I shared it with my partner teacher, her enthusiasm was all I needed to know it was exactly what we were looking for.  What makes this memory book different is that it spans the ENTIRE year.  All together, it has over 80 pages with specific pages for all 12 months.  For each month, we have one self-portrait and writing page.  Those end up being my favorite pages, as it so clearly showcases how much my students have grown over the year.


Over the years, I have gone through more number posters than I'd like to admit.  And last spring, I created two sets that my students use more than I've ever seen before.  They are large, stand out, and easily accessible to all students no matter where they are in the classroom.

My Number Poster Cut-Outs are a set of zero through 20 posters that have the number word and corresponding stars to count.

My Number Handwriting Posters are a set of zero through nine posters that have the number word, corresponding stars, and path-of-motion numbers and arrows for students just learning how to write their numbers.

Both sets are large and come in both English and Spanish.

 

Proper pencil and scissor grips are always at the top of mind when using these skills in the beginning of kindergarten.  And it never ceases to amaze me the horrible (or worse--nonexistent) habits kindergarteners can get before stepping foot into my classroom. 

My Pencil Grip resource was created last fall when I realized that parents could not help their student's grip at home if they didn't know how it was being taught in class.  And we all know how incapable a five-year-old is at clearly communicating what their teacher actually said in the classroom.

My Scissor Grip resource was created after some great parent feedback for my Pencil Grip resource.  And lets be honest--scissor grips are even harder than pencil grips.  And as of this summer, both resources come in both English and Spanish and also include tabloid-sized classroom posters!


It seems like every fall I end up creating different handwriting practice pages.  And this fall is no different.  But in my defense, I have a brand new phonics curriculum and wanted my handwriting pages to correspond.  So enter my Phonics Set Handwriting pages.  I love them because they are quick-and-easy with lots of tracing practice, the path of motion, and can be cut in half or we can get through two letters at once.

For math, a few years ago I created these Number Handwriting Pages that have numbers one through 20, are differentiated for different levels, and also come in Spanish.  I still use them throughout the year in kindergarten.


A pet peeve of mine was students off-task and disengaged during word work.  I attributed this to the inability to write, and the white boards that were so enticing to draw on.  So I created my Rainbow Word Work Mats to eliminate both problems.  With the magnetic letters, students do not need to have the fine motor handwriting skills necessary to write.  And without a white board and marker, students are unable to draw on the boards.  And as an added bonus, they can use them to create their own words, to spell sight words, to practice ABC order, and more!  I love using them during word work, small groups, and even during my English Language Development block.

Organizing My Units of Study in Phonics Set

 

I love using the workshop model in my classroom, and I have been waiting years for Lucy Calkins to come out with Units of Study in Phonics.  Last school year, some amazing kindergarten and first grade teachers in my district took on the role of piloting.  And in May, I finally got my hands on the set.  I'm SO excited.

But while I'm the most organized person I know, the thought of organizing the set seemed incredibly daunting.  So I ignored it for over two months.  Business as usual.

As I'm now starting to feel the stress of back-to-school, and even more so, back-to-school with brand new curriculum--organizing the set has become a quick priority.

I've searched online and talked to friends who've already taken the task on, but I haven't necessarily been excited about what I've seen.  Everything shows five full-sized filing bins; one for each unit.  Makes sense, but selfishly I don't want to have to find space for five bins.  So I broke it down into two bins and a small tote for the small group resources.  The first bin has grade level resources, unit one and unit two.  The second bin has units three through five.

For the file folders, I went with my fave Pendaflex Glow Hanging File Folders (I needed four sets of 25 folders).  Of course any old file folders will work, and I probably could have found enough in my classroom to get the job done.  But I'm persnickety and {needed} neon.  Bonus--they match with all of my Astrobrights and neon sticky notes.  Winning.

For the bins, I ordered two generic black file crates and a mobile file box for the small group resources (to be portable around my classroom).  To enhance the portability for my small group resources, I found plastic file jackets in the same neon colors as the file folders.  Again...winning.

All in all I paid about $125 for the supplies I purchased.  Definitely not a cheap project, but most of these can probably be found around your classroom or school for free.

With the supplies I purchased, I used five different colors of Post-Its (pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue) and cardstock to print the sticky notes and bin labels.  I didn't use the file folder labels because it just takes too long to print and cut the labels to fit.  So I went with my File Folder Sticky Note Labels {you can find an editable version here}.  It's super easy--just print the template, cover with sticky notes, print the labels you need, and stick.  I also love how they are bigger and easier to find what I need.

To get my Phonics Set Sticky Note Labels for F R E E, click here!  

Once I received all of my supplies, it only took me about two hours to print and organize my entire Units of Study in Phonics curriculum.  So easy.  Happy organizing!

Lift-Off Lemon Star Freebie!

I'm a Star! Craftivity

If you've been following my teaching journey, you know how much I love and use Astrobrights in my classroom.  Recently, I've been given the amazing opportunity to help celebrate Astrobrights 50th Anniversary by creating a project for my (current) favorite color, Lift-Off Lemon!  Currently, Astrobrights is having a sweepstakes where you can win a $500 AmEx gift card by simply posting your Astrobrights pictures on Instagram!  Read all about Astrobrights' 50th Anniversary Sweepstakes rules here.

I've been using Lift-Off Lemon for everything from homework, flash cards, posters, and craftivities the past few years.  For this special collaboration, I decided to create something new.

With the end of kindergarten and our Open House (a night where students and their families come to see and celebrate all we have accomplished throughout the year) coming up, I wanted to create something to honor their success.

I created a three-dimensional star craftivity (click here for the PDF), where students drew and wrote about what makes them a "star" at the end of kindergarten.  We brainstormed ideas that make us unique as well as new abilities (being a reader, etc.). 

To create the project, I first printed stars on Lift-Off Lemon Astrobrights cardstock and had parent helpers cut out three stars per student (I wanted to ensure they were cut out properly so they matched up when we glued them together).  We then wrote and drew on the three stars, then I helped each student fold along the dotted line and glue.  The best glue for this was regular Elmer's School Glue.  After they dried, I cut out string (I alternated between 1 foot and 1.5 feet of string per star) and attached the stars with paperclips and hung from the ceiling.

My students absolutely loved this activity, and I loved how they turned out!  I will definitely be keeping this project for all future Open Houses.

Enjoy!

I'm a Star! 3D Craftivity

Favorite Spring Resources

Spring is such a fun time in the primary classroom!  It's a time when the students are so capable and it's so rewarding as a teacher to see all of the wonderful things students can do.  Below are some of my favorite resources that I use in my kindergarten classroom during spring.  Enjoy!  :)









Interactive Read Alouds: "Mae Among the Stars"

Interactive read alouds are my absolute favorite time in the classroom.  An interactive read aloud is a purposeful and meaningful read aloud of a book.

When you do an interactive read aloud in your classroom: students are exposed to complex texts, students are developing high-level thinking, students are deepening their comprehension, students are expanding their vocabulary, and students are developing a love of books and becoming life-long readers.

An interactive read aloud also allows the teacher to model fluency and comprehension.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mae-Among-the-Stars-Interactive-Read-Aloud-and-Writing-Activity-4399081

I like to choose my read alouds for their theme.  One of the newest books in my classroom library is Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed.  This is a great read when talking about perseverance.  Last week I created an interactive read aloud resource for this book.  This includes a full lesson plan for the interactive read aloud as well as writing prompts and pages.  Click on the image below to check it out!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mae-Among-the-Stars-Interactive-Read-Aloud-and-Writing-Activity-4399081

Favorite Rhyming Books

Rhyming picture books are big in kindergarten classrooms.  The ability to recognize and produce rhyming words is a large part of phonological awareness (the skills that include identify and manipulating language and words) and an essential skill for early reading success.

Because I'm a big believer in early education and reading to babies from the first day you bring them home from the hospital, I hope this pin is helpful to parents looking for quality picture books to read with their littles.

I love all types of rhyming books.  Many in my classroom library focus on specific word families that we learn in kindergarten, but many just have a poetry-like rhythm that my students can't seem to get enough of.  When I read books with rhyming words or rhyming language, I like to pause intentionally before the rhyming word so that my students can "predict" the word that comes next.  This helps students to organically produce the rhyming words while using context clues from the story and the pictures to predict the word.

Read below the pin to see why I love these specific titles.  The links are just to Amazon--no affiliate links or rerouting.  :)



This is without a doubt my favorite Halloween read and quite possibly tops the list of rhyming books as well.  It's just a super fun story about a witch and the friendships she makes when they ask, "Is there room on the broom for a dog like me?".  I also highly recommend the animated version (on Netflix and Prime Video).


A true classic.  Madeline is a simple story about a little girl living in an orphanage and her adventurous spirit.  My students (both boys and girls) always seem to relate to Madeline--even though most don't know about orphans and orphanages.


Bear Sees Colors is a read aloud that I read the first week of every school year, and during summer school when I teach pre-kindergarten.  It would be perfect for little ones when learning colors.  I also use it for predictions--they are pretty obvious (especially for those that can already produce rhymes), but helps to reinforce the concept of predictions and my students confidence in participating.


This is another in the "Bear Books" series by Karma Wilson.  It's follows the story of our familiar friend bear and his hungry journey after waking up from his winter hibernation.  Bear and his friends are always a fave for kindergarten students.


Sheep in a Jeep is another popular series for kindergarten-aged students.  It's a classic, and even I can remember this one from my kindergarten days.  I also love using it when working on word work--I include both the rhyming words and the /sh/ digraph for challenge work.


Ok.  I LOVE this one.  Mostly because it has so many different word families that I can repeadely use it during word work and building CVC words.  I also highly recommend the follow-up title, "Dog on a Frog?".  Both are hilarious and my students can't help but giggle during this read aloud.


The Very Cranky Bear is not only a great rhyming read aloud, but also a super cute story about friendship and helping one another.  I also love describing the word "cranky" to my kindergarteners.


Gerald the giraffe can't dance, and his jungle friends just make fun of him because he tries.  By the end, he finds support from his friends and finds just the right music to help him dance.


I love this read.  The text is incredibly simple, and the pictures are so detailed and artistic.  I love reading this in the classroom, but it would be such a great read for younger kids at home.  The story follows a little girl who acts up and compares herself to various wild animals. 


This is a recent classic that so many parents already have at home.  It's a perfect bedtime story about  a construction site going to bed.  I would also encourage parents to get their students involved in their read alouds; have them read with you, produce rhyming words, and track the words as you read.


This is quite a popular series with many sequels.  Most recently they came out with "How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read?" that I bought at our Scholastic Book Fair.  I love how this book rhymes while discussing "unexpected" and "expected" behavior at school.


I LOVE The Gruffalo.  It actually may be tied with Room on the Broom for my top fave rhyming book.  This story is about a trickster mouse who walks through the forest avoiding predators by warning them of "The Gruffalo".  Little does he know, he's describing an actual animal that he soon faces.  There is also an animated version on Netflix and Amazon Prime that is a must-see.


This is a classic alphabet and rhyming book.  I love this also because there are so many activities and crafts that can go with this read aloud.


I love this read aloud because the text is so simple that it can serve as a mentor text during writer's workshop.  The story follows a boy who explores animals around a freshwater pond.


I have read this book even in sixth grade when working on back-to-school "get-to-know-you" activities.  I love how it's a story about a boy sharing his summer vacation adventures that get just a little exaggerated.


Of course a rhyming book list wouldn't be complete with at least one Dr. Seuss read.  I wanted to only choose one, and this one is probably my favorite.  I love how the cover says this is a book "to read aloud to find out how smart your tongue is".  I always ask my students if they think Dr. Suess will "trick" my tongue.

And that's a wrap!  It was tricky for me to come up with my top faves--what are your favorite rhyming read alouds?


Sight Words


Sight words are words that cannot be "sounded out" phonetically, and are also words that occur most often in print (similar to high-frequency words).  Sight words are taught as a whole by sight, so students can automatically read and recognize the words in print.  When I introduce a new word as a whole group, I use the "read-spell-write" routine.  First we read the word together many times, then spell it.  As we spell the word, I tap under each letter for the students (if they had their own flash cards or words, I would have them do it on their own).  Finally, we "air write" the word together (holding our pointer fingers up and writing it in the air).  All of these activities can be easily done in small group or one-on-one.

There are many different lists of sight words out there.  Over the years, I have used Dolch lists (mostly pre-primer and primer), lists from my adopted curriculum, and lists from my district.  Currently, I use a combination of all of these lists when I teach sight words in my classroom.  I explicitly teach about 60 sight words throughout the year, and have extra lists and sets for students after they have mastered what I teach.

To stay organized with my sight word instruction, I created a filing system that is organized by word as opposed to activity.  This helps me greatly because I can easily find an activity for each word when I introduce them.  I keep the words in alphabetical order for easy access.  Of course I had to use neon hanging folders; I found some great ones at Office Depot.

Three of the resources I keep in my sight word bin are my Sight Word Practice Pages, my Sight Word Bracelets, and my Sight Word Mini Books.  I use all of these activities on consecutive days, and may not use all three given the difficulty of the word.  These resources all have different purposes.  The Sight Word Practice Pages are great when first introducing the word.  They have students practice reading, spelling, tracing, and writing the word all on one page.  I also added a sight word bracelet at the bottom of the page as an option.  The Sight Word Bracelets are for going on sight word hunts in the classroom and at home.  Students trace and rainbow write the words, then wear them on their wrist for easy access and practice.  Finally, the Sight Word Mini books are intended to reinforce writing the words.

Happy reading!  :)