Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Joy in the Homeschooling Journey

As you know, I retired after thirty years of teaching this past May.  What you might not know, is that I have the most wonderful opportunity of helping my daughter and son-in-law to homeschool my grandson.  We officially started this past Monday, although we have had many days of classroom fun during the last several months.  Today, I want to share some pictures with you of our first day.

I had sixteen years of experience teaching kindergarten.  What I do not have experience in is homeschooling.  However, I know what I want it to look and feel like, and even more importantly I know what I do NOT want it to be.  I am extremely comfortable taking care of my own curriculum.  I am extremely comfortable not using a ton of workbooks or computer program to teach my dear grandson.  Instead, you will find us playing, creating, and having FUN as I help him learn everything (and more) that he needs to learn.

The sign on our door.  We both take ownership to this very special place.

I added new shelves found at Walmart for only $15 and added baskets that I had previously purchased for my classroom.

We begin each class session with the pledge and Bible study.

 We made mommy and daddy a special keepsake on the first day of school.  I found this for Free on Teachers Pay Teachers.  You can find it here.

 We do calendar work, check the weather, and learn about shapes each morning.

  We won't be doing a ton of worksheets in our classroom.  I don't believe in using them just for the sake of using them.  But cutting and gluing are important skills.  

  We used colored popsicle sticks that I added magnets to for visual discrimination and building the same shape.

  We played a fun board game for Social Studies about the neighborhood.  Board games are so much fun.  It doesn't even seem like learning!

  We won't be using a curriculum that has him learning strictly online, however, we will be watching some videos.  This one was a science video from youtube about living and nonliving things.

  We worked on some CVC words by sounding out the word, and building the word with blocks and then wrote the words.

  So much learning from this probability game that I made.  Predicting, less than, more than, sizes, and more!

 I could go on and on about the many things that could be learned from this simple puzzle that I purchased at the Dollar Tree.  It's my favorite place to shop!  Want to learn more about homeschooling your child without a purchased curriculum?  Find full details at my homeschooling Facebook page, "Fun Learning with Grammy."

Homeschooling my grandson is DEFINITELY My Kind of Teaching!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Genre Reading Challenge

Have you ever had an idea, event, or experience that suddenly made you “click” with a co-worker?

For me, that experience happened when I read “The Book Whisperer” by Donovan Miller last summer.  I was literally blown away.  I could not underline, highlight, and take notes quickly enough.  I raved about it to my co-workers, but only one of them was interested in reading the book.  I quickly shared my book with her and BAM!!!!

After four years of working together, my co-worker and I REALLY started bonding.  I had always admired her and looked up to her (figuratively and literally as I’m barely 5’0!!).  We were having daily conversations, brainstorming about getting our class involved in the 40-Book Challenge, and making Google Forms.  The next thing you know, we have come up with an idea to fill our hallway with books.  GIANT Books. 

We made nine giant books for nine different genres.  Above each book, we added the characteristics of the genre.  To finish the look, we added a matching bookmark.  During the year, students wrote recommendations and added to the books. These could also be used to list all of the books read during the school year.

Instead of using reading logs which always seemed to get lost or parents didn't sign, I made an interactive notebook for the students to use.

We took notes as we worked through the PowerPoint over several days.  Students used the notebook during the year to write a reading response.

At the beginning of the school year, we became a 1:1 digit school.  So, in addition, I created a Google Slides product to use with Google Classroom.  These worked extremely well also, by giving students a pre-selected response to write about.  

All of these items can be used just simply for getting your students excited about reading.  It could be used in the media center.  These giant books can be located in a central location or maybe even the cafeteria to encourage students to read.  You certainly do not have to implement the 40-Book Challenge or read “The Book Whisperer” to encourage students to read, read, read.  Sometimes, all it takes is a giant book to spark that curiosity. 

If you are interested in any of these items in my store, you can click on the pictures below.

But, oh, what better way than to let your love of reading bond you with a co-worker who becomes your teacher BFF?  Wouldn’t that be even MORE fabulous?

That’s justMy Kind of Teaching

See you soon!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

FREE Scavenger Hunts

How do you learn the best?  

For me, it is certainly not sitting and listening all day long.  That's why I like to put some movement into our homeschooling day.

Whether your children are five or fifteen, there's fun to be had in a scavenger hunt and I have several for you.  The best part?  They are free!

Notice the higher vocabulary on some of these.  Your child is like a sponge.  Take advantage!  Don't minimize vocabulary even at the youngest age.  A rich vocabulary helps to expand your child's brain.  Explain the meaning of the words and use them in everyday conversations.

(Side note - People are absolutely amazed at my little grandson's vocabulary.  It's because we never simplified language just because he was little.  So many people think, "little person, little words".  NO!!!  Use those big words.  They can handle them!)

Use one of these scavenger hunts when you and/or your child is feeling restless or use it when you need a fun break.  Other benefits are exercise and cognitive thinking.  What one person finds as an answer may very well be a different answer from another person.  It's good to discover that more than one answer will work.

Click on picture to download your free copy.

I hope you enjoy these FREE scavenger hunts.  Don't forget to join my FB group, "Fun Learning with Grammy" to see more activities in our homeschool.

That's just, "My Kind of Teaching".

Monday, June 25, 2018

No Prep Math Centers for August

Teacher confession time...

Every year, without fail, the end of school rolls around and for the entire last month, I CANNOT WAIT for the last teacher workday and summer to begin, and...Whoa, whoa, WHAT???

Just like that, I would start reflecting on things to prepare for the next school year, changes I wanted to implement, and new ideas to try.  I always got so charged up, that it would take me two-three weeks to get out of school mode and into summer mode!  Does this happen to you??  (PLEASE, say yes... lol)

The first thing I always tried to do during the last month of school was to prepare my "No Prep Math Centers" and "No Prep Literacy Centers" for the first month back in school.  It's a perfect time of year, because I always had a lot of students who couldn't wait to help by cutting and bagging.  (Hence, the NO Prep)  Don't worry, that it's now summertime, they really ARE so easy to make, that you'll have them made in a snap!

Today, I'm going to focus on my No Prep Math Centers for 4th grade.  However, you can find these for 2nd grade as well as 3rd grade in my store, along with No Prep Literacy Centers for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades.  (Just click on the grade level to see the units.)

Each month usually has ten centers along with two-three bonus activities.  If you are like I always was, there is WAY too short of a prep time in your day and EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND is precious!  These centers are a breeze to get ready!  I have included games, interactives, foldables, movement, and more!  There is no colored ink used (other than answer guides), to make this even MORE user-friendly!

You have several choices for printing:
1)  Copy onto regular white copy paper.  Use for the week and then throw in the trash and print a new set next year!  (Easy-peezy, right??)
2)  Want to have those pops of color?  Print just the game pieces on colored paper (or construction paper).  Again, you can throw away or keep.  (Mine have held up for 2-3 years without lamination.)
3)  Print on colored cardstock and laminate.

How you choose to prepare, really depends on the amount of time you want to spend prepping. 

This month's centers include:  

Fractional Sets 

Fourth grade is HUGE for fractions, so I like to get the year started with review of fractional sets.  I like to always print the directions for all of my centers on colored copy paper to draw the students' eyes.  I also like to use two different colors for the fraction and the fractional set.  I only use a couple of pieces of my hoarded precious color copy paper.  I make copies of the student response sheet and my answer page on regular white copy paper. 


I love to keep this center out (along with several of the other ones) to use for small group remediation.  Some students need that extra support and guidance on a concept, and being able to play this as a game works perfect.  In the center, the students work together to decide if the number rounds up or down.  In years' past, I have used this as a center during our unit on rounding, and then used the worksheet for a formative grade.  I am then able to see at a glance which students need to work in a guided small group.

Place Value

This activity is one of my favorites to do during the first couple of days of school during our math time as we are getting settled in.  While I'm checking to make sure I'm positive how every child is getting home, or I'm checking in supplies, or any of the other million and one things I need to accomplish, the students do this activity as a whole class during quiet time.  (Admit it, you know by the middle of that first day back, you need just a LITTLE time to rest your ears!  haha)  I put the directions on the document camera and project onto the large screen at the front of my room.  I carefully explain the directions and even do a couple with the students to make sure they understand.  Then, while they work, I'm able to do some of those much needed beginning of school chores!

Comparing Numbers

This is one of my students' favorite centers every year and it is oh, so, simple!!!  Students play in a small group.  The number cards are stacked upside down on the table.  Students take turns going around in a circle and drawing the top card.  They begin in the ones place to build the number.  (This game can be played for any place value to differentiate your students' needs.)  Once every child has built his/her number, someone spins the spinner using a pencil and a paper clip.  If the spinner lands on greater than, the student with the largest number wins.  If the spinner lands on less than, the student with the smallest number wins.

Classroom Treasure Hunt

I love giving my students every opportunity throughout our day to have some movement, considering that recess is only 15 minutes each day.  (Sad, sad) My students LOVE these scavenger hunts.  I print the cards on bright paper, scatter them all around the room and students move around reading the cards and writing the answers.  I've used this center both as a small group and as whole class (which is my favorite).  I like to collect their response pages to use as an informal data collection for different skills so that I can start forming small remediation groups.  However, I always place the cards under the document camera so that we can review and discuss as a class.

Addition with and without Regrouping

I have yet to give students "naked" addition or subtraction problems without hearing groans from someone.  However, when they have a cool name like "Ninja" attached, all of a sudden, the students can't wait to complete the problems.  (I'll call ANYTHING a cool name if it encourages students to do their best work!)

Standard, Expanded, and Written Forms

Our curriculum map always begins the year with all things related to place value.  I've tried to include a lot of activities in the August unit to help reinforce those concepts.  As always, I copy the instructions on colored copy paper.  I make three copies of each of the other pages so that the standard form is one color, the expanded is another, and the written is yet another color.  I then have students play this game with a partner (or in a small group of 2-3 students).  Students turn the cards face down.  They take turns turning one card from each row to try to make a match in the classic "Memory" game.  On another week, I have the students complete the second part which is the response sheet of cutting and making the correct matches.  Numbers look very similar to make sure that students really understand the different forms.

Word Problems

Sometimes, students just have to be convinced that they enjoy math.  "I LOVE Math" is an accordion book that students make.  They then choose a word problem card, read it, and solve in their book. 

Bar Graph

I've combined the fun game, "I Spy" with a bar graph.  Students search for the pictures counting how many there are of each and then put the information into a bar graph and answer questions.

Ordering Numbers

I always make two sets of these numbers.  (Make sure you use two different colors for your own sanity of keeping them separated...haha)  Students will work together to put the numbers in order.  Students then work independently to complete a response sheet putting numbers in order.


You can store the pieces of each center in a ziploc bag, a large envelope, a small basket at the center or whatever makes life easiest for you.  

Direction posters are included for each center.  Placing these in the center gives explanations to the students so that you are not spending valuable time explaining multiple times.


I don't worry about printing because I have HP Instant Ink.  This means that I get 300 pages every month.  It is based on the pages, and not the ink.  My printer lets HP know when ink is running low and I receive new ink in the mail before I even need it.  SCORE!!

Click on the picture to get your own great deal on a wireless printer so that you too can print all you need without worry!  
Please keep this link to enter to get extra months of FREE ink!

(Please note this blog post has an affiliate link for the printer.  This means that if you purchase using the link, I receive a very small commission that helps me with the upkeep of my website.  However, this doesn't add to the price of the item for you.)

Click on any of the above pictures to see this product in my store.

Easy, peezy, making your life breezy...

That's just

My Kind of Teaching!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Once a Month Grocery Shopping - Part 2

How did you do getting your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer organized?  It was a real eye-opener for me the first time I did it!  Now that you’ve made a list of what you have on hand, it’s time for step two!
When you go shopping for clothes, shoes, items for the home, etc., you probably don’t go into a store planning on paying the full price do you?  No, we all love those great sales and try to find the best deals.  Grocery shopping should use the same mentality and that is what we’re going to focus on this week.

Step Two
Whether you use (or don’t use) the weekly flyers for the best sales, it’s time to look at them just a little differently.  Pull out those weekly ads in paper form or on-line and think critically as you look at the ads.  The point is to get stocked up with the things that you normally use in your meal preparation.  Look through everything that is on sale.  Which are the best prices?  What is your grocery budget?  You might only be able to get one item at the sale price, or your grocery budget might be enough that you can get several.  Remember:  It will last just as well on your pantry shelf, refrigerator, or freezer, as it will on the store shelf waiting on you to pay full price when you are completely out of the item!

The secret to saving the most money is to get to the point where you are ONLY buying those items that are on sale.  The “Big Idea” is to get stocked up by purchasing only the items that are on sale, even if it is not something you need for this week’s menus.  When money allows, buy several of those items.  (Many sales items are repeated in a 12-week cycle.)  Always check the expiration date and don’t purchase more than you can use in that length of time.

Now that you’ve perused the weekly ad, make a list of the items that you want to purchase.  Be sure to include the name, size, and price of the item on sale.  If money is tight and there is something that you want, but is not a pressing need, don’t purchase it.  Wait until the next time you see it on sale.  If money is REALLY tight, you might only be able to stock up on a limited number of items.  However, anything you can stock up on, will save you money in the long run.

Add up the total of everything on your list so that you have an estimate of the cost.

If there are multiple stores that have items you want to purchase, combine into one shopping day if possible, but don’t forget to take along a cooler for your cold items. 

By staying stocked up on items, you will find that it is rare to need to purchase things at full price.

I’ll be back next Friday with your next steps to save money as you begin making a monthly menu using ONLY those items you already have on hand.

Helping you save money and stretch those dollars is justMY KIND OF TEACHING!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

10 Things to Buy at Dollar Tree in June

Whether you are homeschooling your child or just looking for some fun (and cheap) activities for the summer break, you can't beat shopping at the Dollar Tree!  Whenever I shop anywhere, I'm always looking and thinking of fun activities I can use the item for and not necessarily how it is normally used.  Keep reading for ways to cover literacy, math, science, social studies, and much more!

#1 - Mini-dust pan and brush
This makes a fun game to play at home or on a road trip!  Write upper-case or lower-case letters, numbers, cvc words, sight words, etc. on small pieces of paper.  Let your child throw the cards up in the air to scatter all over the floor.  Call out something for your child to sweep up into the pan.  This is a fun and simple game that will have your child learning and practicing important concepts while "Sweeping Up!"

#2 - United States Wall Map
All children need to learn about geography, map skills, and the states.  Place this on a wall.  Use a push-pin, or highlighter to mark the places you travel this summer.  Keep it up all year to continue using as your child learns about important landmarks, capitals, etc.

#3 - Clothespins
Using clothespins to clip items helps your child develop fine motor skills.  Use clothespins to pick up pom poms or other small items.  Call out a number and have your child use a clothespin to pick up and count out that many objects.   

 #4 - Patriotic Table Scatter
There are so many great educational activities to do with these.  Sort by colors.  Sort the stars by large or small.  Count the red items, white items, blue items.  Count the stars.  Compare which color has more and which has less.  Are there more large stars or small stars? Make patterns and then have your child finish each pattern.  Use the clothespins you purchase to pick up the items.  After you've completed a LOT of math activities using this one simple product, glue the pieces on construction paper for arts and crafts - make a Happy 4th of July card, make a poster to carry to a parade, make place-cards with names for a get together or with the name of food.  Use your imagination.  This one activity can keep your child busy for a LONG time! 

 #5 - Cyclone Fever Twirly Toy
My grandson has had SO much fun with this one.  The heat index has been CRAZY, so he's played with it inside.  Again, this one is great for math activities.  Predict which color will fly the highest or the most distance.  Measure to check.  It's a great science lesson for force and motion also!

 #6 - Straws
Sort the straws by color and count them.  Cut the straws into different lengths and put them in order from shortest to longest or longest to shortest.  Make patterns.  Use the straws to make shapes.  Add large marshmallows to build 3-D shapes.  Use the straws for non-standard measurement of the distance of the twirly toy (10 yellow straws or 20 blue straws).  Use the straws as counters for adding or subtracting.  And of course, use them for drinking delicious and cold slushy drinks!

 #7 - Bug Catcher
Not only will your child love scooping up and catching insects, but there are other uses as well!  Use these with items in a container of water.  Catch small objects as they are floating by.  Pick up pom poms, or scoop up rice.  This is another fun way to develop fine motor control.

#8 - Pick-up Pairs Card Game
These cards are great for developing your child's vocabulary.  Discuss the types of habitats of the different animals.  Discuss different kind of skin coverings.  Sort the animals by their skin, or where they live, or number or legs, or classify as mammal, birds, amphibians.  One of our favorite games is to turn them all over and play a game of classic memory. 

#9 - Cookie Sheet
Not only is a cookie sheet magnetic, but it's the perfect size to hold in a lap when traveling this summer.  Use it to hold items for playing so they stay contained.  Use it to keep crayons from rolling off.  It's also perfect as a desk top for books and coloring books.  It can even be used for a food tray!  

#10 - Puzzles
Puzzles are a lost gem in today's world of technology.  When I taught kindergarten, we used a lot of puzzles in the classroom.  This is another activity that is perfect for developing fine motor skills.  Puzzles also help build logic, reasoning, and cognitive skills.  We love to put small magnets on the back of each puzzle piece, pop them into a ziploc baggie with the front of the box for reference, and take them along on a road trip (or even just a trip to town).  Use the puzzle with the cookie sheet to make for an easy and fun activity that really sticks!  

(Please note this blog post has an affiliate link for the magnets.  This means that if you purchase using the link, I receive a very small commission that helps me with the upkeep of my website.  However, this doesn't add to the price of the item for you.)

Do you love the Dollar Tree as much as I do?  It's a frugal and effective way to have fun learning at home.  Don't miss out next month, when I give you ten more ideas to purchase for July.  Fun and frugal learning, that's just...

My Kind of Teaching!!!