May 17, 2021

Advocating for Play in a Post-Covid Classroom

 


2020 taught us a lot as a teachers. 

It taught us how resilient our students are (and how we are!), how to adapt within any given moment, and get back to the basics which is the social-emotional wellbeing of not only our class but with our colleagues and ourselves.

That's why I couldn't stress play enough - especially for kindergartners - and how it's ever more important as we all begin to welcome students back to campus.

We all know that as teachers we need to maximize academic time in our classrooms; that ever changing requirements and expectations are being placed on us by administrations and districts. However, in that mindset of pushing every minute for school work we forget that there is so much to be learned about purposeful play.

Purposeful Play

One of the biggest things we can do for our youngest learners at school is to provide opportunities for play. For some god-forsaken reason play has been shunned by school districts everywhere and teachers are pressured to maximize the amount of academic time from the moment students arrive to the time they leave at the end of the day. Yet we struggle to understand why students aren't excelling as they should or wonder why so many students have behavior problems.

Play needs to be understood as the means for children to explore and interact with each other - problem solve, connect emotionally with others - as well as build the necessary skills to make them academically successful.

Will our students be able to solve their own problems if we, the teachers (or adults), are always there to intervene or to offer up resolutions? Absolutely not. Children need the opportunity each day to encounter situations where they need to put into practice the things they are learning - especially so if we're speaking on a SEL level.

Connecting Play to the Common Core

One of the biggest pressures teachers face in the classroom is this push from admin to maximize academic time over play. Well, there's a way for us to interpret our Common Core (or any set of state standards) that will allow us to incorporate play as a means of skill practice. After all, the Common Core Standards are a roadmap to what students should be able to do by the end of that academic year. 

As teachers we get the opportunity to expose our students to those standards beyond the blocks of time for direct instruction. Play can easily be incorporated to practice those skills in centers or play stations in the classroom. A discovery center, dramatic play, and similar stations can be created where students have time during the day to explore, interact, and still manage to play.

Connecting Play to the Real World Workforce

When I moved to San Diego in 2018 I took a temporary teaching position for a class called EAK. It stood for Early Admitting Kindergarten and was a glorified Pre-K class full of eager 4-5 year olds who were learning how to do "school" in the semester prior to entering kindergarten in the fall. In that district they had an initiative called "World of Work" where students as early as kindergarten learned about their personality traits, what they're interested in, and how their skills and interests will lend themselves to careers. I was amazed to see my young students engaging with each other in play while making connections on a variety of levels: communication, problem solving, imagination & creativity, etc. and it all linked back to building the skillsets that they'll be expected to have as they enter into the workforce.

Balancing Playtime in Kindergarten

A lot of people hear "play" and they think it's just a time for students to check out and is something that is mindless. For sure students of all ages need this time (I mean, why do you think us adults are so stressed out all the time??) to unwind and relax, but purposeful play is more than what we think.

Play affects so many aspects of a child's development. These areas include: mindfulness of others, builds communication and speaking skills, empathy and compassion, motivation, and develops their imagination and creativity. 

"...during play, children learn and practice key social, cognitive, organizational, physical, and emotional skills, including creativity, imagination, and problem-solving.1 The benefits of play are progressive in nature, meaning that the skills kids develop during their fun and games build upon each other." - VeryWell Family

Making the Case for Play

It may take some convincing on our part with admins to allow areas such as play kitchens and dress up simply because they don't see the importance behind this type of play anymore. However, it can be so easy to provide the studies that back-up the importance of play and give them a visual on how play will be experienced in the classroom and that this time will have academic benefits.

Here are a few examples of how you can give your admins a visual of how your play stations will change throughout the year and depending on the unit of study!

Dramatic Play:
Play kitchens can easily be transformed into anything the curriculum covers!

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For example, it can become a post office during a lesson on writing letters or learning about community helpers. In math it can become a bank where students practice counting money, exchanging it for other values, and...again...learning about various careers in finance. It can also become a storefront or grocery where students engage in goods/services, using money to purchase items, and put into practice their communication skills.

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Items for these play centers can be donated by student families or purchased! You'd be surprised how many odds and ends you can find for free to fill these centers!

Constructive Play:
Block areas are an obvious place where anything STEM can take place. Traditional building materials can be used such as blocks, Magnatiles, and Lincoln Logs or other materials such as toothpicks, paper rolls, and play-doh mats can be used.

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Using open-ended materials can be a game changer for any constructive play center because students explore by using their imagination to build and create! Also, you can use blocks and repurpose them for learning academic concepts like sight words as seen below! Here's more play-based sight word center ideas!

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Maker Space Play:

I have always incorporated a "Creation Station" as a part of my daily ELA centers but a maker space can also be a fun station where students can create by using open-ended materials similar to the constructive play station. This is fun and a highly engaging state of play because students can explore the curriculum in a more creative medium.

Games with Rules:
This is huuuuuge for students in kindergarten! There are rules for everything in life and sometimes it can be difficult for young kids to completely understand. That's why it's so important for young learners to have opportunities to play games with rules and who even have winners and losers. Learning to lose is a challenging skill because it often leads to tears and hurt feelings. However, it's a necessary skill to learn and practice just like taking turns.

Games for this station can be as simple as the millions of TpT centers we all own and have prepped or it can be board games like Chutes & Ladders.

Types of Play

Just as it's important to provide play for kindergartners, understanding the types of play you can observe in children this age is also equally important. This will provide you with what types of activities and games to include in your stations that are appropriate for your classroom!

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This is a great visual for the types of play you will see throughout the year and how each child goes through each one at different times. Our classrooms should be flexible and always be ready to change depending on the needs of the class and what is being studied/explored. 

Establishing the "rules" for Playtime

Just like at the beginning of the year or introducing any center, it's very important to establish the ground rules together as a class and be something that's reinforced and discussed all year long. Creating rules as a class invites students in on the conversation about safe and fun behaviors that should be expected and enforced not just by the teacher, but the kids themselves. Slowly play becomes a self-running machine and this time is now more equipped to be purposeful and not chaotic or appear as another recess time. 

This is another point to share with your admin in support of having purposeful play as a part of your daily schedule. Community and citizenship skills are intertwined as it relates to developing SEL skills and understanding that we must all work and play in the same space where we can do our best thinking and learning.

Advocating Play in a Post-Covid Classroom

One of the biggest points in support of play that should resonate with any administrator is getting kids readjusted to learning in the classroom again. A year like 2020, and even into the 2021 school year, took its toll on students of all ages and in the younger grades its so important that a child's social-emotional wellbeing is seen as a top priority. Admins need to support their teachers and one way to do that is to allow them the opportunity to establish purposeful play as a part of their daily routines.

There's so much research to support purposeful play in kindergarten and should be considered when a teacher is interested in creating a space/time for it. As teachers we need to prepare ourselves for skeptics and have on-hand a means to present your ideas for play and how it will be used as academic time as well as a means for students to explore and interact with each other in a variety of ways.


May 10, 2021

Exploring Eureka Math for Kindergarten | Module 1

 



Years ago when I set out to develop an interactive notebook for Eureka Math's curriculum I had no idea how much it would impact other classrooms! I'm so excited that I am not the only one out there who was looking for a more streamlined way to present the lesson material. It's a great curriculum, but oftentimes the activity pages are not developed by actual teachers - and if they are I'm sorry for that criticism! 

In math it's so important that students are presented with a skill, have an opportunity to work with it in an environment where the teacher is there to support, practice on their own, then move on to another activity that has them continue practicing that skill just in a different way. This is especially true in kindergarten where these kiddos only have so much of an attention span and ability to absorb new information in their budding brains.

That's why after the success of my second grade module interactive notebooks I've set out to adapt Eureka Math's modules for kindergarten and make them available to all of you!!

Interactive Notebook-Style Notes

Each module is designed to be either presented as individual pages or better yet...an interactive notebook. Using a composition book, students are able to track their learning in one place. This allows them to keep their work safe and have a place for all of their thinking during each lesson.


Aligned Curriculum

I've taken the meat from each Application Problem and Problem Set in module 1 to create each page for their notebooks. I've purposefully slimmed down the number of practice problems as it was my biggest complaint about the original lessons and curriculum as a whole. It's just too much! Each child can demonstrate their understanding with just a few practice problems - not 20.


Module 1: Number Sense to 10

In module 1 for kindergarten students are learning all about numbers to 10 and how to identify and use them to compute and solve problems. There are 36 lessons total in this module and each one builds upon the other to develop number sense. This module, and a child's ability to count quantities, will assist them in future modules throughout the school year.


Age Appropriate Lessons

There's so much fun in these lessons and I've done my best to create pages that not only align but are appropriate for this age group. I was also intentional about the fonts I used as well as the use of clip art as visuals!


I also included specific clip art for each Application Problem so students can identify what is asked of them. Sometimes they write or draw and others they listen, speak, share, and use manipulatives along with the teacher and class to revisit a math concept!



The GROWING BUNDLE

Of course, just like my 2nd grade modules, I am offering this resource as a GROWING BUNDLE! It's a way for you to snag all 6 modules in one download for 10% off just for bundling! You simply pay up front for the resource and as modules are released the file will be updated and you simply head to "My Purchases" on TpT and re-download the file! It's a great way to ensure a years worth of modules and it supports my efforts to create resources like these for all of you!





May 4, 2021

Teacher Appreciation SALE 2021

 


It's that time of year again where we can all do a little more to support our favorite teachers. Whether it be loving on your child's teacher in the coming week or helping out your teacher spouse, there's no greater way to show them you care than simply recognizing their hard work.

When Covid first hit this time last year, I remember my team and I had to scramble to somehow pull together weekly lesson plans that students could do from home...in a matter of mere days. It was one of the most stressful teaching experiences I've ever had, but much like any hard circumstance, I grew stronger from it. I continue to be so grateful to my amazing kindergarten team during that time and I couldn't be happier to see them back on campus and beginning to resume some sense of normalcy.

With that being said, teachers were hit hard during the pandemic and so much more was placed on their laps. For a brief moment the hard work and dedication of educators were put in the spotlight where, for once, we were collectively recognized for what we've been able to do and maintain while students were required to learn from home. But, somehow with the passing of time, that spotlight began to dim but we nonetheless continued to love on our students and families during a year that would look like no other.

Teachers Pay Teachers SALE

My shop will be participating in TpTs annual Teacher Appreciation Sale where my entire shop will be up to 20% off! It's a great time of year to stock up on the items that will help finish out your year on a high note - or even begin to prepare for next year. I love these sales because I'm able to get organized while saving a dime.

Let's see what's new and what's on sale this week!

Eureka Math - Kindergarten

Many of you have LOVED my interactive notebooks for second grade and I couldn't be happier to see them working in your classrooms! That's why I've set out to create an interactive notebook for the modules for kindergarten! I'm close to finishing Module 3, which will be uploaded soon(!), and you can already snag Modules 1 and 2

To also make things easier, I've uploaded a GROWING BUNDLE for these Modules. Save an instant 10% off with this bundle and as modules are released they'll be automatically added to the .zip! Simply go to "my purchases" on your TpT dashboard and re-download the file. It's that easy!





It's Springtime!

A Study of Snails - Life Cycles

One of my fondest memories (right before Covid sent us home) our team was launching our spring unit and instead of studying butterfly life cycles we studied snails! It was my very first time studying these little critters, but they fit perfectly into our garden and plants unit. I adapted much of what they learned into this simple student workbook that can easily be worked into any curriculum on life cycles.

Why not try something new this spring? You can read all about this unit here.






As I mentioned before, our unit on snails was right in the middle of our spring theme where our kinders learned all about weather then seeds and plants. During our seeds and plants unit we did a little study comparing similar stories with Jack and the Beanstalk. All of these units were a great way to keep kids engaged and learning meanwhile blending their knowledge from one subject to the next!


This bundle includes the 3 units we tackled, which are:

End of the Year Prep


It's never too early in my book to begin preparing for the end of the year. Hopefully many of you are heading back to the classroom and will be able to host your end of the year celebrations in person. In any case, student awards are a fun way to recognize students and their hard work - especially during this crazy year.

This resource has been updated to include a way to edit right in the PDF! Simply type your class names into the highlighted box and they're instantly plugged in! Also, choose from 50+ awards for your kids!



Social Studies

Ancient Civilizations Workbooks | China & Egypt

 
These two resources were first created when I taught second grade. We did a whole unit on ancient civilizations that took us from China to Egypt and even South America when learning about the Aztecs. I personally love teaching history and these packets were fun to bring together. You can read all about how I used them in my classroom here and here. The packets helped students begin to build upon their note taking skills and keeps their work all in one place. 



Covid-19 Resources

Many teachers and their students headed back to the classrooms this year - my previous school reopened in September but as a hybrid model. There was so many new routines and procedures that our kinders needed to learn and practice all year long, so I created this bundled resource to help. You can see more here or grab it for yourself during the sale!




There's so much more to see and explore at my TpT shop and I sincerely hope you find all the resources you can to make this an engaging end to what has been a crazy year! Happy shopping!