Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Silhouette "Wet Method" with Pictures

So, I'm back to talk to you about using my Silhouette Cameo and the "wet method" of applying vinyl.  I've been making personalized cups for people - myself, my brother, and my family. As a beginner I was getting frustrated with the little air bubbles that appeared under the vinyl even after scraping it down. Ugh! So annoying!!! So I watched some youtube videos & learned how to do apply vinyl in a new and much improved way! In this tutorial you will see step by step how I put a name on a water bottle. 

First: Cut your vinyl and weed it (pull out all the surrounding area and the insides of letters). 
Leave it on the backing paper.

 Put a piece of contact paper or transfer tape over the top and rub it down so the letters stick to the contact paper (my contact paper is Con-Tact brand from Target). I find that it works on 651 (permanent vinyl) but it isn't strong enough to pick up glittery vinyl.

Next, carefully lift the vinyl by peeling up the transfer paper. If a letter doesn't stick - put it back down and rub it some more. 

 Next, put a towel down and spray the surface of where you are going to place your vinyl letters with a water/soap mixture (1 cup water + 2 drops of baby shampoo). This will work on plastic or stainless cups. I haven't tried it on glass or other surfaces yet.

Place your vinyl on the wet surface. Reposition as needed. 

Smooth the vinyl down and press the contact paper down with your fingertips. 

 Rub the vinyl with the scraper and push the water toward the edges. Use the towel to absorb the water and wipe it away. During this step you will notice that you are also eliminating all of the tiny air bubbles!

Dry the surface getting as much water out as possible. 

This is the hardest part! Let the cup rest for 20 minutes to an hour. Keep the transfer tape over the vinyl and don't touch it. If you peel it off too soon it will be a little wet underneath and the lettering will peel right up. Wait! :) If you're like me - go make some new designs or chat on Facebook!

After about 20 minutes, carefully peel back the transfer tape. Have a tool handy to push down any letters that lift. Or tap them down with your fingers.

Lastly, spray the letters again and wipe it clean! Ta-da! You have a personalized cup!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First Day of School Stories - the Good, the Bad, and the Funny!

Oh boy, the school year is just around the corner - and for many of you school has already started. My blogging buddies and I have decided to post some back to school stories to let you know that you are not alone as you tackle a new year of kindergarten! 

I'm getting the back-to-school itch that comes after summer vacation - my dining room table is heaped with fresh borders, a new treat jar, and binders of new sensory bin activities. I can't wait to get into the classroom! And by the way - I'll be teaching kindergarten at a different school this year. I applied to move buildings after teaching for 11 years in the same room, and I was hired to work at a school down the road from my old one (same district). I'm totally freaking out because the school is still under construction and I literally have over 100 boxes to open and unpack...and I've never even stepped foot in my classroom. Besides all that, it's time to think about what "Back to School" means for me.

The Good!

Every year I get to start fresh - I love using the summer to dream up ideas about how to make my classroom more student friendly. I have had so much time off that I've been able to prepare huge amounts of sensory bin activities. I have the amazing year-long set from Marsh over at Differentiated Kindergarten. See her set below:
Marsha McGuire from Differentiated Kindergarten 
My fingers might have almost fallen off after all the cutting and laminating and cutting, but my students are going to love the new games I have prepared for them. My goal is to move away from "worksheets" and add in more hands-on literacy centers. I have this Lakeshore sensory table with the two compartments and my students love it. I hope to see it be used every day!

I bought this train table used at a garage sale and painted the top with chalk paint. I can't wait to make it a fun center too! I plan on converting it (by filipping over the top to the opposite side into dinosaur land). I bought moss, rocks, and have some little logs and a volcano to make it a fun place for the dinosaur toys to roam. See - I finally got smart and realized that the dinosaurs needed a place to play - instead of stomping on the lovely dollhouse and rawring at the family inside. 
My students love to play and when they enter my room on the first day I always have lots of things to keep them busy. I put out pattern blocks, unifix cubes, and soft stuffed animals. Playing is so important because most kids will jump right in and play. I'm so glad I'm adding these new finds to my classroom.

The Bad!
Well, recess is one of the times that teachers enjoy at the beginning of the year - it is a time when everyone gets to take a break - well usually! Last September on the first day of school I had a student who was ready to test boundaries. Instead of running to line up at the end of recess (which we practice before setting the kindergarteners loose) she stood about 100 feet behind everyone else. I called her by name to line up and she backed up every time I called out her name. As I approached her to escort her to line she started sprinting away. Well, thankfully I have an aide who is a young and healthy fella - I called to him - and said don't let her escape - run and go get her. Meanwhile I had to holler to the other teachers on the playground to have the one holding the with the walkie talkie radio for backup because "we have a runner." Out of the office comes our behavior specialist jogging in his sneakers. The "chase" ended when the child was met on the opposite side by the playground. Oh boy!  For the first week of school I had to approach this child and hold her hand before the whistle was blown so I could bring her in by holding her hand. And hey, by the end of the year this sweetie was a role-model for following the rules and routines of the class. So my tip to you is - wear comfortable shoes on the first day of school. You never know when you might have to practice your Olympic sprinting!

Another story of something gone wrong was when we were making these adorable first day of kindergarten crowns. You can grab them free from "My Heart Belongs in Kindergarten."
Well, we cut out our crowns and glued them to sentence strips. Then we got ready for lunch. A little guy in my class ran to the front and took cuts in line. I walked him to his seat and told him he would have to try lining up again without running. Well, as he waited he took a pencil to his headband and wrote some legible profanities - I didn't notice them until we were in the cafeteria. I had to confiscate his precious crown and let him know that that kind of language was clearly unacceptable! There's nothing like having to say, "You can't say or write XXXX XXX at school. It's not very nice!" But hey, I learned that he could already write some CVC words and knew a sight word! :)

The Funny!
What's more funny than bathroom humor? Well, kindergarteners and the bathroom! I got the great idea of adding these vinyl targets to the insides of the toilets to give the boys something to aim at (instead of the constant misses and messy floor). Before school started I ordered my little targets from an Etsy shop like LilMrsCrafty's shop. I stuck them to the insides of the toilets and when school began I showed the children the restroom and told them to aim for the target. 
I had a little boy who was crying and very upset a little later in the day - he didn't want to go to lunch, but I knew that he was super excited for school because I met him at open-house with his mother the night before. So during lunch I called his mom and told her he was upset. She said she would come down to school and see what was wrong. The family is bilingual and the child had limited English. When his mother came to school he told her that there was a monster in the bathroom and he was afraid of it. After thinking for a bit I realized that he might be afraid of the target. I took his mom to our class bathroom and explained that the target was for the little boys to aim at when going to the bathroom. Her child told her he thought it was the eye of a monster looking at him. Oh man, I felt so bad - my new target was mistaken for a monster's eye! His mom laughed and explained to him in his first language what it was for and he calmed right down. In the end we all ended up laughing together and going about the day.

Later that week we read the story Where the Wild Things are and we made a monster craft. My teaching team kept teasing me that I was trying to scare my students with all the "monsters." I've always said that in order to teach kindergarten you have to have a sense of humor. I hope these stories have given you a little chuckle. If you want to read some more stories hop on over to my blogging buddies sites and read on!

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: