April 29, 2020

What I'm Watching to Survive Quarantine

Self-isolation isn't for the faint of heart and if it weren't for us having access to a few creature comforts (like wifi, streaming, and food delivery) I'm not sure I'd be able to take it for longer than a week. I mean, at first it was simply having to get adjusted along with the uncertainty of what distance learning was going to look like and now every day is on repeat with no foreseeable end.

I am going to preface this with the honest truth that I know how lucky I am to be in a position to be "bored" or need something to do during this pandemic. Everyone's situations are hard, and there are extremely hard moments for us at times. But, what keeps me sane and allows me to have a little "me time" has been the ability to watch a few of my favorite shows in between preparing videos, lessons, and materials for distance learning.

With that said, here are my favorite shows I've been binge watching, a few I need to catch up on, and some that I haven't watched yet but am curious about.

Binge-worthy Shows

  • Tiger King (Netflix)
  • The Outsider (HBO)
  • Great British Baking Show (Netflix)
  • Peaky Blinders (Netflix)
  • Westworld, Season 3 (HBO)
  • Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Hulu)
  • The Real Housewives, Shahs of Sunset, Top Chef... (Bravo App)
  • Ozark, Season 3 (Netflix)
  • Ugly Delicious, Season 3 (Netflix)
  • Schitts Creek (Netflix)

Must-See Documentaries

Me when I meet someone new:

I should preface that a LOT of these documentaries are true-crime, so if that's not your thing...feel free to scroll ahead. ;) All are on Netflix unless otherwise noted.

  • Surviving R. Kelly (pt. I and II)
  • Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
  • Minimalism
  • Hillary (Hulu)
  • Amanda Knox
  • Don't F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
  • Amy
  • The Ted Bundy Tapes
  • The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
  • The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
  • The Inventor (Hulu)

Shows I need to pick back up on...

  • Divorce (HBO)
  • Atypical (Netflix)
  • Greys Anatomy (Hulu)
  • Stranger Things (Netflix)

Shows I'm Curious About

  • Outlander (Netflix)
  • You (Netflix)
  • Dead to Me (Netflix)

As you can tell I've managed to keep myself fairly busy during quarantine. It's been a great way to relax and unwind after a long day of planning and preparing materials for the next week of distance learning!

So, what are you watching?

April 27, 2020

Into the Forest | A Week of Inferring

Check out these amazing ELA read alouds and activities that embrace the forest habitat + inferring! See more at www.littlefoxteaching.com
This post may contain affiliate links where I will earn a small commission.
You can read my full disclosure policy here.

In kindergarten this week we're heading into the woods to learn all about forest habitats!

We wrapped up our Spring theme last week (you can check out those lessons here: Weather, Seeds & Plants, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Snails) and now we're ready to extend our learning right into learning about the forest and forest animals. Within this unit we'll be using the forest as a backdrop for our ELA skill building.

In reading, we're working on a few different skills. This week in particular, I'm introducing them to inferring. This is the natural next step for them as we practiced making text-to-self connections. Much of their inferring will rely on their own connections, what they already know, and details from the story in order to understand what is happening, going to happen, and what characters might be thinking or feeling.

In order to best help my students during distance learning, I've begun to make little read aloud videos where they not only get to see and hear me, but I record little intro clips explaining the story and the skill we're working on. I'm no YouTuber, but I did create a YouTube channel where I upload all of my videos. Feel free to take a peek around and use any videos you may find helpful for your own students!

Check out these amazing ELA read alouds and activities that embrace the forest habitat + inferring! See more at www.littlefoxteaching.com

If you're interested, see how I create these informational and read aloud videos using iMovie here.

In the forest mini-reader (freebie)

I love finding free resources that I can include in my distance learning packages each week. This mini-reader (among other great readers!) is one of those finds. Twisty Noodle offers up this In the Forest min-reader that is great for sight word practice (I, see, number words), reading 1:1, and using pictures to decode words. At least, that's what I used this for.

Check out these amazing ELA read alouds and activities that embrace the forest habitat + inferring! See more at www.littlefoxteaching.com

In the Forest Mini-Reader | Twisty Noodle

Making inferences

During week 1 of our forest unit we'll be exploring inferences in our reading. The stories I'm using for this particular skill (and that relate to the forest) are:

Little Fox in the Forest
This is a great story to use for introducing inferencing because it has no words! The beautiful illustrations allow students to track the story by relying on what they already know and what clues they're given in the pictures.

After reading and discussing the inferences they made, I am having them cut and assemble their In the Forest mini-reader. I created this video that helps guide them to reading 1:1 and I ask them to upload themselves reading on our Seesaw. That way I can monitor their reading and know they completed the task.

I Want My Hat Back
This is such a popular story and a funny one to introduce to students! I love finding new ways to incorporate this Jon Klassen favorite and this week we'll be reading it to practice inferring.
During our reading I will direct students' attention to this part:
Photo | Golden Hare Books
At this point in the story Bear realizes that Rabbit stole his hat (and previously lied about it). They have this sort of glare-off where the reader has to infer what each character is thinking. I love that this is such an intentional part of the story and a great pausing place for the next activity...

I Want My Hat Back FREEBIE! See more over at www.littlefoxteaching.com

I found this idea from Jayne of Smart Kids blog where she has her students think about and share what they believe Bear and Rabbit are thinking in this moment. I changed the concept up a bit for my kinders and created this worksheet that they could complete while distance learning. I also placed a Seesaw logo at the top because I use this indicator on my work/lesson plans to let students know which work they need to snap a photo of and upload to share.

Feel free to snag this freebie for yourself to use with your inferring lessons!

April 25, 2020

How I Create Distance Learning Videos in iMovie

This post may contain affiliate links where I will earn a small commission.
You can read my full disclosure policy here.

I've received a lot of praise concerning the videos I've been making for my students during distance learning. Our school has been away for more than a month and it looks like we'll be finishing the year this year. A huge bummer, but necessary in order to keep our student families and communities safe.

We've also gone live with instruction and unfortunately for me, I'm not available during the day to host live sessions due to having my son and managing his schedule and services he requires for his ASD. Since I'm missing out on that time (I have amazing assistants helping me with the live sessions!) I make these videos to help supplement me not having that face time with my students everyday.

Disclaimer: I am not a fancy YouTube specialist nor do I claim to be. My tutorial today is for the everyday teacher who uses what's on hand. If you want to get serious and invest in anything, that's completely up to you. I don't have that interest or budget...but to each their own!

Equipment & Software

In order to create simple videos that will impress your students you'll need a few things to pull it all off. Here's what I use:

  • 13" Macbook Air
  • IPEVO document camera (that's what my school has)
  • Visualizer app (download from Apple app store)
  • iMovie
  • PhotoBooth
  • Headphones with a microphone
  • Canva (to create the graphics)
  • *optional: ring light

Of course, you can use whatever technology you'd like, but this is my setup at home that produces the videos you see on my YouTube channel and what I send to my students. You can always upgrade these items through a simple search on Amazon or inquiring with your school to see what they have available.


Much like with your photos, your videos are going to need the best lighting so that your end product are clear and visible for your students. In my apartment we get ample sunlight during the day, which is a great time for me to begin recording my videos. However, a ring light or something similar is a great (and an affordable option) for those who don't have natural sunlight as much as others.

Once you get yourself set up with the right lighting and your tech is ready to go...you're ready for your first step in creating your video: recording!

Recording your videos

The first step in creating your videos is having your content ready to go. This could be your books for the read aloud, any anchor charts you want to hang in the background, or handouts you want to model. Think about what you want your video to be about and have those items prepped.

Using PhotoBooth or Visualizer App
  • To record my intro videos I use the PhotoBooth app that comes pre-installed on my Macbook. I then drag the video to my desktop where it saves as an mp4 file.
  • To record my modeling videos for assignments or my read alouds, I use my IPEVO document camera and the Visualizer app. This gives my students a birds-eye-view and keeps my hands free to model or read pointing 1:1.
  • Within the Visualizer app I record using no sound. I'll add my voice over in the iMovie app.

Pulling your videos together in iMovie

Once I've recorded everything I need for my videos I open iMovie, another app that is pre-installed on my Macbook. iMovie does take a little bit of time to figure out, but with a little fiddling you'll get the basics very quickly.

Step 1: Open iMovie and click on "Create New"
This will launch a brand new project in iMovie and it will give you the choice of Movie or Trailer - choose movie.

Step 2: Utilizing the Features
iMovie gives you a few different features that will enhance your video. They are:
  • My Media (where you'll upload your recorded videos from earlier)
  • Audio (the optional background music)
  • Titles
  • Backgrounds
  • Transitions (how your media transitions from one slide to the next)

I personally only use everything except for Backgrounds - I have no need for them.

Step 2a: My Media
In this step, you should drag and drop the mp4 files that you recorded earlier directly into your project like it prompts you. I add a cover graphic that I created in Canva first, then my intro or content videos. Once I have my media in my project how I like, I'm ready to add background music.

Step 2b: Adding Music
This step is optional, but adds value to the overall quality of your final work. You can upload and use whatever music (i.e. from your iTunes) you want, just be wary of copyright if you plan to share the videos publicly. I stick with the included songs in iMovie, which are:
  • Playful
  • Simple
  • Travel

The other songs are a bit intense, but depending on your project you may want to use them. This is where you can play around with the vibe you're trying to achieve.

As you can see, I have my graphic first, then my intro video, then my content video (in this case a read aloud). When I'm ready to add the music I want I drag and drop it into the space under my uploaded media (it'll appear as green).

Keep in mind: each audio clip is only about 1 min-2 mins long, so you'll simply copy and paste it for the length of your video.

Step 2c: Recording Your Voice Over
This is a fairly easy step once you get the hang of it. The great part is, if you hate it you can always delete that recording and start again.

Tip: Use headphones with a microphone to drown out background noise. Being a mom at home with a preschooler it's tough to find a quiet place in my house. But, my headphones with a mic really do help drown out unwanted noise.

When you're ready you'll click the microphone icon and it'll count down from three then begin recording. The media file will also play and I simply record my voice over it, in this case the text from the read aloud.

Tip: don't do one lengthy recording - rather, break it into pieces. It's easier to edit that way.

Step 2d: Editing your voice over and background music
Okay, so far you're doing amazing! See...once you play around with it, iMovie isn't as terrifying as it looks! Right? ;)

The next step is to edit and balance the background music and your new voice over. Obviously, the most important audio file is your voice over that is explaining the work or reading of the book. So, we want that to be the loudest.

Take a look at your voice over. It'll be the box above your music bar. There will be a line where you can toggle it up and down. This determines how loud or soft you want the audio file to be. For my videos, I turn it all the way up to 200%. I do this for ever voice over file in my project.

Now, I'll need to adjust my background music. I'm going to do the same thing: toggle this line but down to between 2-5%.

You can edit your music and voice over files however you wish, just make sure your voice stands out and it's drown out by any music you put in there.

Step 2e: Final Touches
This is the last step in iMovie to create your video! You have all of your media and audio files in, you've completed your voice over, and adjusted and fine tuned your background music. Now, it's time to add transitions and/or titles.

A transition is another way to add simple things to your work that will improve the overall quality! So easy to do!

Just click on the Transitions tab and you'll notice a library of transitions open up. Find the one you want and simply drag and drop it between your media files. You'll see I use transitions between my opening graphic and intro video and one between that and my content video.

You can use titles however you'd like, I only use them at the beginning of my videos to display the topic for that particular video. It can be the name of the read aloud, the skill I'll discuss...anything. Just like Transitions, a library of titles will pop up and you can drag and drop the one you want. It'll show up as a purple box.

To edit it, just double click and change the text.

Saving and Uploading to YouTube

The most exciting part in all of this is when you've completed your project and you're ready to share it! Not every video needs to be automatically uploaded to a service like YouTube, so you can simply save it to your computer. Depending on the length of your video and how large it is, it may take a few moments so be patient.

In the upper right hand corner of iMovie you'll notice an upload icon. Click this and a menu pops up with how you'd like to save your project. Most often I upload it straight to YouTube so I don't have to save the file and use the space on my computer. I recommend that for those who have YouTube channels they want to upload their work directly to - it simply cuts out the step of manually uploading the video. However, if you plan to use your project in a different way, then saving it as a File to your computer is your best option.

The final cut

Here's my published video that I will send to my student families for a distance learning lesson on making inferences. You'll see how each step is pulled together to create a simple video for students.

To make the cover for my videos:
Program: Canva | Template: YouTube Cover | Clip Art: Bitmoji

And there you have it! I hope this tutorial is enough to get you started...there are a TON of videos online of more in-depth ways to work with iMovie. For me, this process works and I'm all about working smarter, not harder.

Watch this tutorial in action!

Create simple, but engaging distance learning videos for your students using iMovie and this easy-to-follow tutorial! Visit littlefoxteaching.com for more details!

Happy producing!

April 23, 2020

Plants & Gardens Unit | Snails

This post may contain affiliate links where I will earn a small commission.
You can read my full disclosure policy here.

This week we're officially on spring break and it couldn't have come at a better time. Although this spring break does look a lot different than the one we had planned. We had to cancel our trip to Texas to visit family and even though I'm on break, my day-to-day routines haven't changed very much. I still wake up (admitting, later than usual) and find myself managing time between a full day with my son, checking email, and finding time to do things for myself in between.

However, now that I've found this new sense of time I thought it would be fun to finally  get on here, spruce some things up (did you notice the slight website theme change??) and share what my kinders and I have been up to leading up to our break!

Exploring Spring

Spring had sprung a couple months ago and in English class with my kinders I took full advantage and kicked off our spring ELA theme! There has been so much learning, exploration, and fun these last couple of months - with this last month being our first with distance learning. If you've been following along, we've covered:
 And to wrap up our spring theme last week we learned about snails!

Snails! Les Escargots!

One of the awesome aspects to working at a French-American school is that I am exposed to a whole new way of teaching. From instruction to curriculum and, as a teacher, it's been amazing to learn and observe my French colleagues teach. With that being said, one unit in particular that I was most curious about was....snails!


Yes, snails.

This was a first for me and I couldn't wait. Typically in kindergarten there's always a unit on life cycles and a popular life cycle to study, in my experience, has been with butterflies. They're easy to manage, the kids are excited to have new visitors in class, and they get to observe life happen right in front of their eyes over a few week period. However, at my school in kindergarten they learn about snails!

Over the last month (even with distance learning) I've found myself really enjoying this unit. From the days prior to schools being cancelled and seeing the kids light up as the terrariums were set up in the classroom to observing the first batch of eggs that were laid. Although much of their snails unit in French has been online, it hasn't the learning and excitement around these little creatures.

Snails and ELA

Favorite Snail Read Alouds: Escargot | Are You a Snail? | The Snail and the Whale

In English, students will use their background knowledge about snails to assist them in their understanding of the English language through read alouds, vocabulary work, phonics activities, and crafts. Meanwhile, students are beginning to learn about how to reflect and connect to their reading. Which brings me to our reading focus for the week...

Making text-to-self connections!

We're at the part of the year where students have really built upon their understanding of story foundations such as: story structure, story elements, who the author and illustrator are and their purposes, as well as

For distance learning purposes I decided to create a YouTube channel for my students. On this channel I have read alouds, handwriting, and activity explanations. This has been an extremely helpful platform to use for distance learning because of how easily I can create content, upload it directly from iMovie, and even share the link via my class' Seesaw.

For example, as we launched our text-to-self connections during garden week I created this video to introduce my students to the concept of how we can relate to the stories we read. I included this video as well as the read alouds (also found on my channel) in my lesson plans so that my students could find everything needed for specific lessons.

Reading Skill: Text-to-Self Connections

Because my French colleagues taught the science component of this unit, I wanted to focus on the language arts aspect with English vocabulary and developing their abilities to relate to the stories they read with text-to-self connections. We've been working on these kinds of connections and snail week will be our final one. It's one of the easiest for students to grasp and therefore the first one we tackled. Here's how I blended our unit on snails with ELA skill-building!

Reading: Text-to-Self Connections
I used this freebie from Camp Kindergarten all week with my read alouds and activities. It's a great visual organizer for my kinders and gives them plenty of space to draw pictures - it's also a great tool to upload to Seesaw as an activity. With making connections, students would read (or listen) to a story and then draw a picture using details from the story and their own memories connecting the two.

Photo | Camp Kindergarten (FREEBIE)
One story in particular that I fell in love with during snail week is Escargot by Dashka Slater. She has written one other story with Escargot called A Book for Escargot and I look forward to more! It's a charming story with even more charming illustrations. Not only was it a great book for learning with snails, but it also lent itself for making wonderful text-to-self connections!

Amazon: $10.99
In this story, Escargot is a snail who so badly wants two things in life: to be the readers' favorite animal and to eat the salad at the end of the story. However, when he finally gets to the salad he realizes there's a carrot on it...and Escargot hates carrots! This is the perfect story for my students to practice text-to-self connections because who are the world's pickiest eaters?? Kindergartners!

At the end of the story Escargot tries the carrot and realizes it's not as terrible tasting as he once thought - thanks to the encouragement from the reader! This story allows my students to relate to Escargot and his unwillingness to try a new food by sharing a food they were once scared/didn't want to try.

The great thing about this story is that there can be other connections made. For example, text-to-text with Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss!

Amazon: $9.99

Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell by Sue Hendra tells the story of Norman, a slug, who so BADLY wants to be a snail because they have cool shells (slugs do not). So, he goes on an adventure to find the coolest snail shell - from a tennis ball to an alarm clock and many other items in between. Norman learns the valuable lesson of accepting yourself just the way you are! Another great read for making connections!

In addition, this story has a great SEL opportunity as well with: self-esteem, appreciating your own uniqueness, and understanding we're perfect as we are; that we should pretend to be something/someone we're not. There are a ton of stories with this message that can be used for text-to-text connections in addition to this one!

Snail Crafts

Photo | Toddler at Play

Fine Motor Practice

This is a great opportunity to have students work on their swirls and rounds. This skill lends itself to muscle development in the hand and that contributes to more control when forming letters and writing. I planned on the letter of the week being "O" which lent itself to further practice of rounds.

Photo | Messy Little Monster

Photo | Fiche-Maternelle

Playdoh Snails

Working with playdoh (we made ours at home!) is a great way to build up fine motor skills, but it's great for expression of creativity as well! Greyson really enjoyed making homemade playdoh with me and I've been enjoying the hours of play...

For Fun: Snail Racing!

Photo: Kids Craft Room
This is a great activity to include in any snail unit that is harmless to the snails and provides some fun for these long school days at home. It's especially great after viewing Turbo, which you can stream on Netflix. It should be noted that it does take a wee bit of patience for your kids, so be prepare for these racers to be slow...but that's also the fun part!

And that's a wrap for our snails unit!