Student Led Learning in Kindergarten

My last few years in the classroom I really tried to achieve a more student led classroom, however I have had a really hard time wrapping my mind around how to achieve it on a day to day basis. Because I am extremely type A, I like to plan everything out the best I can, not to mention letting go of controlling the classroom and the content often goes against everything I learned in college. But I know that by focusing on shifting to a more student led classroom students become more engaged, independent, self aware, and able to find and run with their passions.

One way I have tried to "let go" and give my students more control is through the use of inquiry learning. Using this model I still take time to build background with my students on a topic, but then I really listen to the questions they want to investigate and those questions are what fuels our future learning. 

January is when we begin to dive deep into inquiry with our Antarctica unit. After reading and learning more about Antarctica, students decide what they'd like to investigate further.  Some students may wonder what it is like to visit Antarctica while others want to know what penguins do all day.  We then make a plan to find out more through books, videos, classroom guests, and even video chat when we can. Here are some pictures of our learning:
 
 





We do spend time discussing what collaboration should look like, how to be a great group member, and what to do when things aren't going so well in a group. But overall, I am always amazed at how well students come together and collaborate on their final projects. Kindergartners have tons of passion about their learning and it shows when they are given ownership over their learning choices.

  Want to know more? Here is an example of how I run a 3-4 week inquiry unit on the butterfly life cycle:





You can find this pacing guide and everything else you need for this butterfly unit here:

And other life cycles here:

I hope you will give student led learning a try in your classroom, even if it is just for one part of the day, you will soon become a believer like I did! Happy investigating!



Teacher Shopping Finds {w/ iTeachSTEM}

Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
It's been a tradition in my family - since I was a little kid - to go shopping the week after Christmas for calendars. Starting the day after Christmas, all calendars at the "calendar store" (aka mall kiosk that sold calendars) were marked down to 50% off. Talk about a deal! I always looked forward to going to the mall with my mom to browse the many colorful calendars and try my best to choose one I would love seeing on my wall all year long. While my tastes have certainly changed since I was little, the tradition is just as exciting for me each year.


Did you know that Go! Calendars (that calendar store from my childhood) sells more than just calendars?!? And EVERYTHING in the store is 50% off starting on December 26. It's hard to resist a deal that good! My new tradition (as a teacher) is to pick out a wall calendar for my home office, a planner of some sort, and a game for my classroom. ALL at 50% off! Of course, my own kids get to choose a calendar for their rooms too - keeping to the tradition from my childhood.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!

Here's what I ended up choosing this year.

WALL CALENDAR:
Years ago, my mom worked for a store called The Lang Co that sold beautiful calendars, mugs, coffee and assorted gifts. Maybe that's why I gravitated toward this calendar this year. I love the artwork and the uplifting words on each page.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!

Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
My favorite month's artwork for 2017 is May. It's simple and beautiful. But what I love the most is the statement: "Sometimes it's best to just let go." I think this might be my mantra this year. To let things go rather than spending time stressing and obsessing over things I can't change or control.

PLANNER:
Each year I choose an amazing planner with so many awesome pages and features. And I use it religiously on January and less in February and by the time March rolls around I'm back to making multiple lists in spiral notebooks and on Post-It notes.So this year I went a different route when choosing my planner.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
I bought this simple folder planner. I actually think it's going to be ideal for me. I may use it ALL year instead of just the first month or two of 2017. Isn't it cute?!? But in addition to being super cute, it's functional - for me.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Inside is a page-per-month calendar so I can keep track of the date and even jot a couple things on days I have appointments or meetings. Or better yet, the dates I have OFF of school or can wear JEANS to school. It also has a notepad (that can be switched out/refilled as needed and a pen loop so I will always have something to write with. That's it. Simple. Functional. And for me - PERFECT. (not to mention, cheap at 50% off)

CLASSROOM GAME:
I have so many of the classics already: Monopoly, Scrabble, UNO, Twister, Checkers and Mancala. I even have some that my fifth graders make fun of because they say they are "baby games" (as they sit and play them during recess). I've got a few puzzles and several sets of dominoes. So this year I went a different direction completely.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Keep in mind - I teach fifth graders. 10 and 11-year-olds who LOVE stuff like this. I can't wait to see their faces when I pull this card game out. If nothing else, it will keep them laughing during indoor recess.

And for my own kids? Well...

Sammy adores cats and also wanted a calendar that she could fit in her purse. She turns 20 this month, so she is always on the go.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Derek would be happy with anything, but this year chose a calendar that has "activities" for his to do each month. Can't wait to see him try some of these.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
Abbie loves all things pink, Frozen, and Barbie. Since her calendar last year was a Frozen calendar, she chose to go with Barbie this year. I personally like the way each month has a positive affirmation along with the Barbie pictures.
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!

And an added bonus? They gave me an extra 10% off military discount since my hubby is a veteran. Four calendars, a planner, a card game and a puzzle for only $41.79? I'd say that's a deal worth taking!
Looking for great after holiday sales? My favorite yearly trip is to the calendar store at the mall where everything is 50% off starting the day after Christmas. Even toys, games, puzzles, and candy!
What fun things did YOU snag during the after Christmas sales? Share in the comments below!

Teacher Shopping Finds with Mrs. Thompson's Treasures


Today I'm sharing with you a few of my favorite teacher shopping finds! 

1. Kinetic Sand - This sand is so amazing! For younger kids it is great for creative play, but older kids love it as well! My nine year old loves to play with it during read aloud time each day. It can be used for fidgeters who need something to put their hands too, or as a fun relaxing activity when a students needs to unwind. If the kids are careful with it (not slinging it around), it is not very messy at all and cleans up so easily. It never dries out either! We just got some fun colors (blue, purple, green, and pink) for Christmas and love them! 
Image result for kinetic sand

2. Read and Find Out Science Books - I absolutely love these books! They are full of information about different science topics and I use them to supplement our science curriculum. Many also have activities and experiments to try at home to reinforce the concepts. Even if they are just being used for reading books (not a science lesson), they are fun to read and easy to learn from! 

Image result for lets read and find out science

3. Jumbo Dice - What's not to love about these colorful jumbo dice? The kids love using them when we need dice for an activity or game. I love them because they are hard to lose and they are QUIET! (Nothing more annoying than dozens of dice rattling all over the room!)
Image result for jumbo dice






Amazon Prime Teacher Shopping Finds



I know that you may have heard so much about Amazon Prime, but it really is AMAZING. And yes, there are great deals on books, but there are so many other great teacher tools as well. 

First grade technology

Technology is definitely a big part of our lives and our students' lives. I'm not at a 1:1 school site, so I'm constantly trying to make use of the 5 iPads that belong to my class. I found this headphone splitter a few months ago. IT'S THE BEST! I'm able to allow up to 5 students to listen to a read aloud, while other students are able to use the remaining iPads. Click {HERE} to check it out. 

Amazon Classroom
Belkin Rockstar Multi Headphone Splitter 

First grade classroom

Amazon has helped me with classroom organization, which is crucial for a teacher's sanity. We have so many pens, pencils, clips, and notepads to keep track of. I found this cube to organize my pens. Click {HERE} to check it out. I also used a sunglass organizer for supplies. Although I feel like the price keeps going up on it. Want to see it? Click {HERE}.

classroom staples

The main reason I LOVE AmazonPrime is because I can get my classroom staples speedy fast. Out of your favorite markers? No problem. There's a even chance you may be able to get your items the same day. Including the most important teacher find... COFFEE. I buy mine in bulk. 60 K-cups. Yes, please! #coffeeaddict

Have you found some awesome teacher goodies on Amazon?! Please share them below or find me on Instagram! I'd love to check them out. 

Happy shopping!




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AMAZON Teacher Finds with Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching!

My Top 20 Amazon Teacher Finds! 
Save Time and Money!


With two little ones, activities, volunteering, everything that comes with being a teacher on top of a husband who is deployed half of the year I rely on Amazon for all of my teacher items! I have been an Amazon Prime member for 5 years now and it is the best thing ever! I started as an Amazon Mom for diapers and wipes and now we use Subscribe and Save plus all the digital features in my home. The best part for me is, at work when something is needed I just quickly get on my phone to go to Amazon and get what I need!

99% of everything in my classroom has came from Amazon! Yes, everything you see in these photos below came from Amazon. Below are a few photos of my classroom that just shout Amazon! I completely create and put together my entire classroom through the app on my phone.

[colored card-stock, ink, border, fadeless bulletin board paper, laminating pouches, laminator]

[white card-stock, printer ink, magnetic tape, laminating pouches, laminator]

[white card-stock, ink, writing items, laminating pouches, laminator]
[the holder was a Target Dollar Spot steal along with the #2 pencils]

[hangers and command hooks to hang anchor charts]

[best magnets ever]

[favorite storage]

[colored card-stock, ink border, fadeless bulletin board paper, laminating pouches, laminator]

To be honest... Taking time to make trips to the store + gas, doesn't make sense to me. Amazon normally saves me $ on the product I want, plus I save more $ in gas and I don't waste time driving around town. It is seriously a lifesaver! I can get what I need and want without lugging little ones around in car seats and carts!

Here are some of my favorite teacher finds on Amazon that are used in my classroom daily:

1- Magnets
2- Magnetic Tape
3- Laminator
4- Laminating Pouches
5- Black Hanging File Folders
6- Hangers for Anchor Charts
7- Markers, Pens & more!


8- Storage
9- Paper Cutting Board
10- Colored Copy Paper
11- Card-Stock
12- Fadeless Bulletin Board Paper
13- Border
14- Automatic Air Freshener [Um, yes because I have 5th graders!]
15- Variety of Student Supplies


16- Writing Folders
17- Dry Erase Pockets
18- Mini Erasers for Student White Boards

If you are not using Amazon, then you are not saving time and $ on your classroom! I hope you gained a few ideas from this post along with some items you can use delivered to your door step!


Teacher Shopping Finds with The McGrew Crew

As teachers, we all know many of the "hot spots" for good, but economical, teacher deals! Some of my personal favorites are Target (dollar spot), Dollar General or Dollar Tree, Big Lots and Tuesday Morning. But sometimes us teachers don't have much time to drive all over town searching for those perfect deals. Enter Amazon! I know Amazon has been around for a while, but we've just recently (in the last year) started utilizing it more. We finally broke down and became Amazon Prime members. This changed my life! I used to be very intentional about placing my orders, making sure to make the most of those insane shipping costs. But with prime, if something pops in my head at 3 in the morning I can have it headed to my house with just a couple of clicks on my phone! I wanted to highlight 3 of my favorite Amazon purchases!

*Click on each title to see the item on Amazon*

As a home-schooling mama this is one of my most favorite teacher toys! When we first started schooling at home several years ago, I admit, I went a little crazy with this thing! But it's held on and is still going strong and comes through on all my laminating needs...or wants! ;)





This is my most recent Amazon find! It was a Christmas gift for my preschooler. He loves it and was so excited to use it that he actually completed his first experiment Christmas night! I love how big all the tools are, which are perfect for little hands. I also appreciate that the experiment cards are simple and easy to use. It comes with several experiment cards but you can the kit in many other ways! It was the perfect way to introduce science to my littlest guy!

 Seriously! How awesome are these headphones? I don't know about your kids, but mine always complain about headphones. I came across these on amazon one day a few months back and haven't regretted it once! My kids love these and never have complaints about them! They're comfy and easy to travel with. And there are so many cute options to choose from...even some for adults!