Monday, July 27, 2015

Playing with my Silhouette Cameo

Well, I bit the bullet and bought myself a new Silhouette Cameo! I have watched other teachers create amazing  projects with their machines and I knew that this was the next crafty-task that I wanted to venture into. You should check out my friend Kaci's awesome Etsy store. She sells personalized cups that are super cute! For now I'm sticking with creating projects for my home and classroom. 

Here is the Silhouette Cameo machine that I bought. I found mine new but used once on a local buy/sell/trade website and only paid $180 - but the going price is about $269. They were recently on sale on Amazon for $188, but that's a rare deal. Now, these are not for people who lack in patience. I've learned that trial and error are the best ways to jump in and practice.
Also, be prepared for the serious cost of starting up (you need to buy some basic things to get started).
I went to my local Michael's craft store and Target and picked up these items:
  • 1 Silhouette Scraper (see pic below)
  • Packages of Cardstock (they were $2 for a pack) - I bought colored, black, and white paper
  • 2 rolls of permanent adhesive vinyl. I got black and sparkly silver. 
  • 1 roll of clear contact paper

I already had my computer (laptop, and the Cameo "pick me up tool"). 

So, to begin I watched several you tube videos and just started playing around with the machine.  I watched some videos from Foto Bella, and others.


1. Use the cutting mat:
I learned that you need to put your cardstock or vinyl on the sticky cutting mat. Then you load that mat into the machine. Make sure the loading "wheel" rollers are on top of the sides of the cutting mat - this holds the paper/vinyl/mat in place. Some videos said you can load the vinyl in without using the mat - but I tried this and it was a disaster! USE THE MAT!

2. Cut your vinyl or paper down to size:
If you're cutting out bulletin board letters there's no need to cut the paper first. However, if you're doing a design that includes lettering - try to work with the smallest chunk of vinyl possible to do your project. You don't want to waste it.

3. Save your scraps:
If you have a 2" x 2" scrap that is big enough to save. You can use these scraps for little hearts, flowers, letters, etc. Save them!

My Vinyl Decal Computer Project
I have a hard "shell" computer covering on my computer. I wanted to decorate it with a quote to dress it up. So I'll take you step by step through the process of what I did to make it.

In the Silhouette program I designed the text that I wanted to use:
I typed the cursive font with Kg Eyes Wide Open. I used Hello Engineer for the all capital font. The curlicues are from the free Silhouette library and the font is from Kg Heart Doodles.
You will notice that the cursive font (enlarged below) originally shows red cut-lines that overlap inside of each letter - this means each letter will be cut apart and that's NOT what we want. You need to use the WELD tool to make the cursive letters all one piece. 
Here's how to use the WELD tool:
Click on the tool at the top right that has a gray rectangle with a blue letter "M" in a circle (colored blue in the photo below). This will let your modify the text. Choose the WELD option from the box that pops up. This will join the letters together.
See how the cursive letters in the word let are joined without the extra cuts inside the e and t. 

So next you should look at your design and figure out how big of a piece of vinyl you need count the guide line squares to figure out the size of vinyl that you need. I unrolled the black vinyl and kept the backing on it. Then I cut a 12" x 5" piece because my design was long and narrow. I stuck it on the sticky mat with the black (good) side up. I have my razor set to #1. 

Next, load the cut mat by lining up the mat (with vinyl) on it by pushing the Load Cut Mat button. The machine pulls the cut mat inside it a little bit. 

 Then back at the computer click the PEN tool (it's on the far right up on top). You will notice that the red cut lines get thicker and the guide roll wheels appear. Simply click the bottom right button: Send to Silhouette. You will hear your machine start zooming around. Make sure nothing is behind the machine because as your design is cut - the cut-mat will pop out of the other side.

When the machine stops the button on the Cameo screen will say UNLOAD - click that. 

Now it's time for "Weeding." That means that you pick all the vinyl off the mat that is NOT part of your design. All of the letters that you are using should STAY on the vinyl backing paper. 
You can see here that I'm pulling the black vinyl up while the white backing is still stuck on the sticky mat.

Carefully remove the outside vinyl and then you will see the letters are filled in with vinyl. You need to use a tool to pick the little bits out of the holes. 
Here I'm using the Pick Me Up Silhouette tool to scrape the insides out of the letters. 
Now your lettering should be stuck to the vinyl backing. 

Cut a piece of clear contact paper that is a little larger than the size of your design. Lay the contact paper right on top of your design and then use the scraper tool to rub over the top of it. The letters should stick to the contact paper. Peel it up carefully making sure the letters stick. If they don't, then press the design down and rub it some more until it sticks. 

 Place your design on the surface that you want it to go on.
 Use the scraping tool to rub over the contact paper and push the vinyl design on to the surface you want it to stick to.
 Carefully peel the contact paper up making sure that the letters stay down.

 Here is my finished project!

Now if you're like me, you're going to have some mistakes along the way. When I applied my design I broke the word "done." I had to re-cut that individual word because during my weeding process I broke the loop. No bueno!
See picture below. This is when you say, "Ah, man!" Take a break - and then regroup and go start the process over!

I used a small scrap of vinyl and stuck it to the cutting mat to fix my oops!

I cut and pasted the word I needed to fix into a new document on the Silhouette program. Make sure that you line up the design to match where your vinyl is stuck *see how both the vinyl and text are in the top left corner.

Then I sent it to the Silhouette, cut it, unloaded it, weeded it carefully and applied it with contact paper. 

I hope this little tutorial was helpful. I'm still new at using the machine and today marks my one-week anniversary of having the Cameo. If I can do it so can you! Happy crafting!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Math Strategies You can COUNT on!

I've worked with an amazing team of bloggers to bring you a host of fabulous math strategies.  After you read my tips and tricks you can see these great bloggers for more ideas!
 Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasbord
Elyse at A is for Apples: 
 Bonnie Kathryn from Kinders & Beyond
Math is so much fun and it all starts with learning to count! I want to show you a couple of ideas that I use to work on counting actual objects with my kindergartners. I strongly believe in using dice to work on counting skills. Spots on dice help students instantly recoginze number quantities 1-6. This instant recognition helps build number automaticity which is crucial for beginning counters. There is a lot of research that shows that young students need to work on a skill called subtilizing (or instantly calculating groups of dots in sets). Dice games are a great way for students to build their numeracy skills. To differentiate my activities for different abilities, I start with one die for beginners, and add another if a student is more advanced.

I have a preschooler of my own who loves to test out my counting ideas - so these activities are kid-tested and approved! Already he is talking about numbers and realizing that a 6 is composed of 2 sets of 3 dots. He's making comments like 2+2=4. I'm so excited about his development of number sense that he is discovering through play! 

First,  in the classroom you should use high-interest materials. This means dinosaurs, bugs, rocks, and whatever else your kids will see as fun. High-interest materials equate to high-engagement.

I ran to my local Dollar Tree store and found some supplies. I decided to make a dinosaur game using this awesome biting dinosaur. If you don't have a dollar tree - you could use tweezers, fingers, or a sock-puppet, but these dinos are the greatest. Get them before they're gone! :)

I picked up a package of dice for my games, a couple of storage containers and two of these mini-tumble tower block sets, and a bag of rocks. 
I spent $12 of my own money on these supplies (don't forget to save your receipts for you educator tax deduction).  I got a few more things like wiggly eyes and foam sheets for other projects.

Dinosaur Counting Game

Directions on how to play this counting game:
1. Dump all of the mini-dinosaurs into a small tub.
2. Roll the die & count.
3. Use the biting dinosaur to bite the mini-dinosaurs and pick them up and put them in another tub. Count them as you bite! You could also place the dinosaurs on a ten-frame or number line.

 Here my 4 year old son is using two dice to add 3+3. He was so excited to figure out the sum all on his own simply by using the dinosaur to help count the dots on the dice. 
Not only will your students work on counting, but this is a great activity for fine-motor skills. Look at these little hands working hard to grasp the trigger to pick up the little dinos.

Expect to hear some growling as this game goes on. In the classroom this game could be played with a recording sheet if you wanted - students could write/trace the number they rolled, or graph it, etc. I know my students are focused and want their time spent simply counting - so at the beginning of the year I'll skip a recording sheet and just allow them to count. Their fine motor skills will be working as they use the claw, roll the dice, and count. When the game is finished, stash the supplies in a tub and put the lid on it! I know that this game will be a big hit in the classroom! Make sure that you teach expectations of using supplies like this so they don't get damaged or go missing!

Tumble Tower Game 

Directions on how to play this counting game:

1. Dump all of the little blocks into a small tub.
2. Roll the die.
3. Count out the specified number of blocks and begin building a tower/house/structure.
*You can play alone or with a partner taking turns building your own structures.
Make sure that your students know that their structure WILL fall down!
This is to be expected and encourage them to LAUGH about it instead of getting upset. When the structure falls down the game is over and they can play again.
Empty all of the blocks into a storage container (I used 2 sets!). Add in a die.

Empty all of the blocks into a storage container (I used 2 sets!).

 Here is my little man. He rolled a 6 and is beginning to build his structure. I rolled a 4 and started building the structure in the foreground.

Keep rolling the dice and building the structures. :) You will see that this game requires a lot of work using fine-motor skills as students pick up the blocks and place them in a stable position. It is fun to watch students learn from their mistakes. Students quickly realize that they need a stable foundation otherwise their structure falls down easily. This game works on so much more than just counting. 

Dots on Rocks

Directions on how to play this counting game: 

Use a paint pen like this Sharpie to write numbers 1-12 on rocks. Draw dots on different rocks to correspond to each number. Allow paint to dry.

1. Mix up all of the number rocks and dot rocks. Students sequence the numbers and match them.

Now this game isn't really innovative, but gosh it's so much fun to touch the rocks. Even as an adult I loved touching the rocks. It's a great variation to flash-cards because of the smooth texture. Your students will be begging to get their hands on this game.

Roll and Hide

Directions on how to play this counting game: 

1. Roll a die.
2.  Turn that rock over so the number is hidden. 
The game is over when they have hidden all of the rocks. They can continually flip them over back and forth for open-ended playing.
I used acrylic paint on these rocks and coated them with glossy mod-podge. Students will love the smooth texture of the stones, and teachers love the simplicity of the game. Put this in a little tub and your early finishers will have a counting activity right at their fingertips. Challenge students to count higher numbers by adding a second die and rocks up to 12. 

I chose to sort the rocks by size from smallest to largest before writing the numbers on them. It's a little scaffold for students who might not recognize the numerals.

5 Green and Speckled Frogs

Directions on how to play this counting game: 

To prepare this game you need a some blue and brown felt, construction paper, or scrapbooking paper.
I used E600 to glue the "log" to the pond. I painted frog rocks using acrylic paint, but you could use laminated paper frogs or plastic toy frogs instead. 

1. Teach the song 5 Green and Speckled Frogs to your students using a cd, book, or video.
2. Model how to subtract using the frog counters. 
3. Put these materials in a tub so that students can sing/retell the song on their own. 

 The frog rocks and felt log/pond mat fold right up and can be stored in a little tub.

All boxed up!

5 Little Ducks

Supply your students with 5 little ducks and one mama duck (painted rocks, or toys, laminated pictures of ducks, etc).  Teach them the song: 5 Little Ducks. They will learn how to sing/retell the song using the duck counters. I reused the frog mat and store the ducks with the frogs from the previous game. These could easily go in a sensory tub with colored blue rocks, real logs, and plastic bugs.
(here is a link to a youtube video)

 I hope you enjoyed seeing some fun activities to help your students to use for beginning counting and numeracy. Students need repetition, hands on materials, and lots of practice. 

Another fun way to work on counting is to have STUDENTS pretend that they are the animals in the songs. Print and laminate the mother duck and duckling (x5) signs and string them with yarn as necklaces. Choose students to take on the role of the ducks. They will love role-playing as the class sings the song. Did you know that there is a great website that has tons of free printables of story props that you can use for both reading and MATH? The website offers tons of free printables to make other counting games (Pete the Cat, 5 Little Monkeys, etc). Students love acting as characters and playing pretend! :)

Grab the necklaces here!

I added a frog necklace too (copy 5). Students will love pretending to eat bugs and hopping off a log as you sing the 5 Green Speckled Frogs song.

Aren't you excited to work on counting in your classroom!

My blogging besties have have worked together to bring you tons of great counting strategies. Click their buttons to hop over to see their math strategies and creative ideas.
 Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasbord:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Calendars

Here are my updated calendars - print these and pop them in your lesson planning binder! :)

They are great for planning, mapping out your year and more!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Typing Sight Words

I'm gearing up for some word-work centers for next year. 
Here's a little typing activity you can use. 
1. Just print these on card stock.
2. Laminate the page.
3. Students "type" their sight words and write them with a dry erase pen. 
I hope you can enjoy these. 
I know this idea has been floating around the internet and this is my spin on it. 
Clipart was drawn by ME (Teacher Laura).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

TIPS to a Kindergarten Teacher, From a Kindergarten Teacher

I'm linking up with SHARING KINDERGARTEN to pass on: 

Tips to a Kindergarten Teacher, 

From a Kindergarten Teacher

As the school year comes to a close, it's great to reflect on what worked well. Here are some of my thoughts on how to have a great year in kindergarten.

Relationships are key to maximizing the growth of students. Parents and students must know that you  love and care for them. This year I had the most amazing support from parents who were on my side. I was able to talk to parents about areas that I wanted to target for growth - from behavioral issues to phonemic awareness. Parents trusted that I wanted what is best for their children so they supported me and followed through at home. I had one struggling student who came back after the weekend and moved up 3 whole levels on my sight words (he learned approximately 75 new words over the weekend). Without parental support - there is no way that this would have happened.

There are lots of rough days in kindergarten - but it really helps to remember that all behaviors are ways for students to communicate and they serve a function. When a child yells at another, it's probably not because they are mean-spirited. They might be communicating with others in a way that they have learned at home or they might not have the words to express refusals. Sharing is something that we always work on in class. Let's pretend that student A is playing with Legos and student B takes some away. Student A will likely need to be coached on how to tell student B that they are using the toys. Without proper coaching, the students might get into an argument about how to play with the same toys. Student A might need help telling student B that they are building a structure and is using a toy or they might need help learning how to play together. I always try to assume positive intentions and look at the function of behavioral issues. When you start realizing that behaviors are functional - you can be pro-active and prevent a lot of problems.

Two heads are better than one. I've learned that it's beneficial to collaborate on lesson planning with a team of educators. Each person that I have worked with has had particular strengths. I have learned wonderful teaching strategies from experienced educators. I love working on team goals and picking the brains of my colleagues. They always have something to share that I haven't tried. 

I have also been able to push my grade level team out of their comfort zone to try new strategies. I think it's important to use your co-workers to your advantage and really learn from one another. At my school we teach systematic English language development. At first my colleagues were not sure what teaching ELD should look like. As a licensed ESOL teacher, I was very confident in this area. One day I volunteered to move my class outside to the patio and I did a demo lesson while 2 teachers and 60 students gathered around my class as if in a fishbowl. Both the students and teachers saw how we used particular partnering routines and how easy it was to implement. It is important to make sure that your teaching is intentional and purposeful. And you have to be willing to share and learn from others. 

Ok, this is super important!! Teachers must be super organized. You don't want to be scrambling
for guided reading books or digging through a pile to find where you put your read-aloud book. You must plan ahead and keep your teaching resources organized, filed, and easy to access. What happens when you turn your back to 30 5-year olds? Well, you don't want to know! If you spend 5 minutes a day looking for teacher "stuff" that adds up ... just think that by the end of the day that's 25 minutes of wasted time! Think of how much teaching you could pack into 25 minutes! Now, if you are like me, you might need to use your mid-day prep time to catch your breath and chug your water bottle. But I always come in to work a little early or stay a little late to make sure that my lessons are prepped and ready to go. I know some teachers who zip around their rooms during their prized prep time and are able to prepare their lessons in that time. As long as you're ready to go - that's the important thing. Show your students that you care about them and that their time is valuable by planning ahead and being on top of your teaching game!

Now hop over to SHARING KINDERGARTEN to read more tips for teachers. 
Click Below!