Friday, April 18, 2014

A Rainbow of Skip Counting Fun in Kindergarten

We have been learning how to skip count in my Kindergarten classroom for the past 2 weeks and the students have had a BLAST!  You know how much I love adding a fun twist to any traditional instruction, so we even made a few trips outside to practice skip counting in a kinesthetic way… with Skip Count Hopscotch! 
skip counting hopscotch

I have more information about the hopscotch to share with you further down in the post, but before my students could hop, they needed to gain an understanding of skip counting and visualize the process for how it works. So let's start with the basics

Skip Count Anchor Charts

I began my skip counting unit by adding a few colorful charts to my classroom calendar area. One chart was added for each skip counting set: counting by 10s, 5s, and 2s. 
Teacher anchor charts for skip counting

Learning to Skip Count

Even before the fancy charts were added to the classroom, my students were gaining confidence in counting by 10s and 5s. We started counting by 10s as we prepared for our 100th day of school and we use tallies each day to mark the date on our classroom calendar. 

Once the children started to gain confidence in counting orally by 10s, we started with our first Rainbow Skip Count page. The class and I worked together to fill in the missing count by 10 numbers on a 100 chart, using the big classroom chart as a reference. I modeled this process in our calendar area, and each child gathered on the floor around me to complete the page with me. 
skip count practice pages

As a finishing touch, students use a personal skip counting chart to trace their skip count numbers with markers or crayons to make it a rainbow counting page. In addition to the class anchor chart, each student was given a smaller 8.5x11 laminated student chart that showed the rainbow colors as a guide. 
Rainbow Skip Counting anchor charts, student chards and practice pages

Here you can see a child proudly displaying her rainbow numbers in front of our class skip counting charts. 
rainbow skip count practice pages

The next day we were ready to skip count by 5s. My students have certainly had less practice skip counting by 5s so this activity was more of a challenge for them. 
rainbow skip count practice pages

Differentiated Skip Counting Activities 

The great thing about my Rainbow Skip Counting pack is that it is DIFFERENTIATED. Students that have already figured out the pattern for skip counting by 5s can complete a skip count by 5s pack with lots of blank spaces. Students that are still working to gain the skill can begin by tracing numbers on the chart that are gray instead of blank. It's a great way to provide a little extra support for those who need it. 

DIFFERENTIATED Skip Counting Practice
DIFFERENTIATED Skip Counting Practice

 DIFFERENTIATED Skip Counting Practice

Once several students have mastered skip counting by 5s, we were ready to move onto skip counting by 2s! This skill is a particularly big one to master, so I break it into a few parts. The entire class started with a simple skip counting page that only went up to 40. This was a good first step. Several student writing pages for skip counting by twos are available in the pack to differentiate for the various needs of your students. 
Rainbow Skip Count pages

After any page from the pack is complete, I ask students to read their numbers and skip count for me. If students are able to skip count quickly, fluently, and easily, I know they are ready for a more challenging activity. For students who were quick to skip count by twos up to 40, it was time for a BIG challenge: going all the way up to 100!

Rainbow Skip Count pages

The rainbow design of the skip counting charts is a valuable tool for helping students keep track of the rows on the chart, but it is ESPECIALLY valuable for the skip count by 2s chart. There are SO many numbers and it is very easy for students to become lost or overwhelmed while they work. The rainbow rows remind students that they are on the orange row, or the blue row, or the dark green row and helps them to remain on task in the correct row with minimal confusion. 

Rainbow Skip Count pages

Skip counting by 2s up to 100 is quite an accomplishment!
Differentiated Rainbow Skip Count Practice

Differentiated Rainbow Skip Counting is available in my TpT store for $4. It has everything you need to help your students rainbow their way into skip counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s: teacher charts, student charts, and student practice pages. 

Differentiated Rainbow Skip Count Practice

Skip Count Hopscotch

Paper and pencil activities can be very valuable (especially when I let my students use markers) but I wanted to add a kinesthetic element to our skip counting unit. One day while were were outside for playtime, I brought some sidewalk chalk outside and set about the task of quickly drawing a hopscotch board that would count by 5s. I had a few girls that were VERY curious and eager to help. All I had to do was draw a quick outline and add the numbers to the spaces. My little helpers happily grabbed some chalk of their own and traced all of my numbers and lines to make them more bold. The entire board took less than 15 minutes to complete. Then the REAL fun began! 
skip counting hopscotch

To help my students HEAR the number patterns and gain fluency while they skip counted, I made sure each child recited the numbers allowed while they hopped. 
skip counting hopscotch
You can purchase a 48 pack of Crayola brand sidewalk chalk on Amazon for less than $8!

This was a great follow-up to the Hop by 10s hopscotch I created an an indoor option for our 100th day of school. 
skip counting hopscotch

You can read all about how I created the indoor hopscotch board and download FREE number printables to create your own Hop by 10s board. 
make your own indoor hopscotch

Do you have a great tip or activity for skip counting in the classroom? 
Please leave a comment telling me what you do… I would love to hear your ideas! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Earth Day Student Watercolor Painting Tutorial

Integrate a little fine art into your Earth Day lesson plans with a simple (and sweet) watercolor painting. I completed this activity with my own kindergarten students last week and it was a huge hit. This blog post breaks the entire process down into small, easy steps that will give all students a feeling of success!
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

I love, love, LOVE the simplicity of this project! 

All that you need is a piece of white cardstock, water color paints, a pencil, black crayon and a hearty-shaped template. (I created mine from an old file folder.)
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

Have students place the heart template in the center of the cardstock and trace around it with a pencil. 
Earth Day watercolor painting project with EASY step-by-step directions

Use the pencil to add a few "blobs" to the heart and create the appearance of land. 
Earth Day watercolor painting project with EASY step-by-step directions

Then, add lines that extend from the heart to the edges of the pages. This will give the appearance that the heart-shaped earth is shining.
Earth Day watercolor painting project with EASY step-by-step directions

That's is all of the drawing that's required!
The next step is simple but oh-so-important to help prevent the paint colors from running together. Use a black crayon to trace on top of each pencil line. Encourage students to add a little extra pressure and make nice dark lines with the black crayon.
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

Once all of the pencil lines have been traced with black crayon, your students will be ready to paint!
Earth Day watercolor painting project with EASY step-by-step directions

In my kindergarten class, I gave step-by-step painting directions so the students would be mindful of using the proper colors. Each student began by painting the land "blobs" green.
Earth Day watercolor painting project with EASY step-by-step directions

Then, they used blue paint to add the oceans to their heart shaped earth.
Earth Day watercolor painting project with EASY step-by-step directions
Finally, the rays of light around the earth were painted with red, orange, yellow, and purple. 
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

The completed project is stunning. 
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

Now that you have seen the tutorial, let me share a few photos from when I did this activity in my own classroom. We completed this painting during VIP day so each of my children had an adult by their side for the project. Having an extra set of hands is not necessary, however. I would gladly do this same project even on a day without any classroom volunteers. As long as you provide step-by-step directions and only give one or two instructions at a time, kindergarten students can have success completing this project independently. 

Here you can see students carefully tracing their pencil marks with a black crayon. 
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

Then it was time to paint! Notice that the students used green watercolors to paint the land first, then added blue oceans to the picture.
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

It's important to tell students how to use watercolors successfully. They don't intuitively know how much water to use. I always give plenty of reminders to keep the paints wet, but not soaking wet. I remind the class that if they want dark colors, the paints should only have a little bit of water in them. The lesson is worthwhile because every single painting that my students created was just as vibrant as this one! 
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

I mounted the completed paintings on black construction paper. 
Isn't this just gorgeous?!?
EASY step-by-step directions to make this Earth Day watercolor painting

More Ideas for Earth Day

Need a few more ideas for classroom Earth Day projects? Use handprints from the entire class to make a giant painting of the earth. Or create a pretty "stained glass" window decoration of the Earth with tissue paper. Click on a photo for more information! 
giant handprint painting of the Earth
Earth Day window decoration

Interactive Sight Word Readers for Earth Day

Integrate literacy into your Earth Day lessons with the Interactive Sight Word Reader "We Can Take Care of OUR World." Students will work to spell the sight word "our" while reading about many items that we can recycle to care for the Earth. 
Perfect emergent reader for Earth Day!

Get Your School Involved

Teach your students an authentic lesson in ecology… create a school-wide recycle center! Many standard classroom supplies (such as glue sticks, crayons and markers) can be recycled! Read all about my school's Recycle Center and discover resources to establish one at your school too!

tips and resources to create a Recycle Center at your school

What are your classroom plans for Earth Day?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Idea: Creating a School-Wide Recycle Center

In honor of Earth Day, I am stepping out of my classroom to share today's Bright Idea. I didn't travel very far, just down the hall and around the corner to my school's recycle center. Does your school recycle? This year I took on the task of revamping my school's recycle center; transforming it from a mismatched heap of waste bins into a clean, streamlined area that actually enhances the visual appeal of our school hallway. 
tips for creating a school-wide recycle center

Today's blog post is part of the April Bright Ideas link up. Educational bloggers from across the country are uniting to share our best classroom ideas with you. You'll find a complete list of links at the bottom of this post so you can hop along and stock up on more great ideas. 
bright ideas link up

I know you have lots of reading to do, so let's dive right in to today's Bright Idea: Creating a School Recycle Center that's organized, attractive, and practical! I also have some of ideas for how to help your school raise money while you recycle!
tips for creating a school-wide recycle center

As you can see, my school's recycle center is located in a section of lockers. This was a BIG change. 

The Old Recycle Center

Previously, our recycle center consisted of 12 gallon buckets. Some were white, others were blue. A stand was built to hold the buckets and 8.5x11" signs were taped above each bucket for labeling purposes. We also had a huge gray bin shaped like a bottle that was intended to hold empty bottles and several large rubbermaid totes for recycling paper. All lined up in the hall and overflowing with recyclables (with an assortment of trash mixed in.) Oh, it was classy. 

Here is a photo of our former recycle center in it's early stages. No heaps of stuff yet, no overflowing rubbermaid totes, and no giant plastic bottle, but this gives you an idea of what we were dealing with. Just imagine this multiplied by five. I'm sure you can imagine my horror. 
BEFORE photo of a school recycle center… you should see the AFTER!

Using Lockers as a School Recycle Center

As an upgrade, a set of unused lockers was designated to become the new home of the St. Mary School recycle center. Each locker contains a different type of material to recycle (batteries, plastics, ink cartridges, etc.) I created signs for each locker to help the school community easily sort discarded items. The design of each sign is clean and simple with uniform fonts and colors. Plus our school crest. Because I love our crest. 
use lockers to store and organize a school recycle center

A friend of mine is able to print banners at work. She created a banner for the recycle center that encourages all members of the school community to "Keep St. Mary Green." 
(We are a certified Green School in the state of Michigan)
tips for creating a school-wide recycle center\

The Interior of Each Locker

The inside of each locker is just as clean and simple as the exterior. A school family has a connection to a local packaging company. We measured the interior of the lockers and had custom boxes created from corrugated plastic (in navy blue and white to coordinate with our school colors.) This completes the visual appeal of the entire Recycle Center, from the inside out. 
use lockers to store and organize your school recycle center - GENIUS!

What to Recycle (and how to earn some extra cash)

Whether you're just getting started with recycling at school or looking to expand your existing recycle center, there are several organizations that can help you get going and (even earn some extra cash for your school!)

Plastic and Cardboard

For plastic and cardboard, check with your school's local waste distributor. See if they offer curbside recycling for your institution or check to see if there is a drop-off location where you can bring recyclables. 

Unfortunately, our school's waste management company does not offer a pickup service for recyclable materials. Nor is there a drop-off facility for recyclables in the city. I know. It makes me mad too. In the past we have enlisted the assistance of parents to pick up our plastic milk jugs from the cafeteria to take these items home to their own curbside recycle service. The maintenance crew also helps us by taking our plastic waste to a local facility. 


abitibi dumpsterSchools produce a LOT of paper waste and this is a great opportunity to monetize all of that discarded paper. My school works with Abitibi Paper Retriever to collect community paper waste in a special dumpster. When the dumpster is filled with paper, Abitibi empties it and we earn money! Abitibi services several cities in the US. Check the map below and visit their website to see if your school is eligible to work with the company.
abitibi paper retriever map

Crayola Marker ColorCycle

Elementary schools use a lot of supplies. Why not recycle them? Crayola now offers a ColorCycle program that encourages schools to save discarded markers and ship them to Crayola. The markers are then recycled into energy for fuel. 
recycle Crayola markers and Crayola will turn it into ENERGY
This quick video shows how the process works and is a great resource to share with your students during ecological lessons and activities. 


You probably noticed that we save crayons in a locker as well. I would love nothing more than to tell you that Crayola has discovered an effective way to recycle crayons. Unfortunately, that is not the case, but we save our crayons anyway and put them to good use. We drop our crayons off at a local industrial scrap recycling center called Arts & Scraps. My school is located in Macomb County, Michigan. If you are from the same area, it is a great facility to look into. They LOVE getting crayons from us. Most cities have similar industrial recycling programs that are worth looking into. 

I also discovered a national crayon program called Crazy Crayons that accepts shipments of crayons for recycling. No prep is required, but the prefer to receive shipments of crayons with the wrappers on that are sorted by color. You just need to pay the shipping costs for sending the crayons.

Glue Sticks and Glue Bottles

The students at my school go through a LOT of glue sticks. ESPECIALLY in kindergarten. As part of the Elmers Glue Crew, we save all discarded Elmers glue stick and glue bottles. These are shipped toTerracycle at the end of the school year and we receive one cent for each glue bottle or glue stick that is returned. It helps save the environment and it provides a little extra income for something that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Earn money for your school by recycling Elmers glue sticks and glue bottles

Turn Waste into Revenue with Terracycle

The Elmer's Glue Crew is just one of Terracycle's many recycling brigades. Schools are invited to sign up for multiple brigades through Terracycle. There are a variety of popular brigades which recycle everything from cell phones, to binders, to Colgate toothpaste containers, to Solo cups, and more! Many of these offer a cash donation for shipments. Check out Terracycle's website to see which brigades have open slots. 

tips for creating a school-wide recycle center

This Earth Day, help your school make a difference in the world. Go green and establish a school recycle center (or broaden your recycling efforts by joining a Terracycle brigade to earn some extra cash for your school).

Are you a new Kinder-Craze fan? Don't miss out on any of the fun! Join me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more bright ideas from 150 different bloggers, check out any of the great posts below! So many great ideas, all in one place!