Powered by Blogger.

Brag Tags in Kindergarten!

I've wanted to use Brag tags in my classroom for a longgg time.

Seriously. Like even before I had a classroom. 

So this year around October I finally bought the storage container {this Akro-Mils 64 slot toolbox is the one I bought from Amazon) and created a folder on my computer to digitally collect all the brag tags I had bought on TPT. 

And, then. The container sat at my house for a month before I brought it in. 

Then it sat under my desk for another few weeks.

Until finally one weekend in a fit of inspiration, I planned out how I was actually going to use, organize and display the brag tags. I gave myself a few days to get the bulletin board organized, then I started. 

My container wasn't stocked AT ALL (I think I had about 5 Brag tags printed and laminated). 

All I had was the bulletin board ready and I had prepared a ring for each student. On each ring, I had a card with the students name on it.

But I began anyway. 

Literally had only the first row done when I started using brag tags!
I immediately loved the positive reinforcement and seeing the excitement of the students when they got their brag tags.  Once I saw how excited they were to get them, that motivated me to make more brag tags and to organize them in the container. 

Now I give out brag tags twice a week at the end of our daily meeting (typically Tuesday and Friday). Towards the end of the year I started giving them out right away when I noticed students doing something extraordinarily awesome throughout the day. To create a spot for each brag tag, I simply cut the brag tag in half, taped it in with double sided tape and then put the laminated tags behind them. I also hole punched them one by one after laminating (a bit tedious - I saw on Instagram a teacher used a drill to create the holes in a whole stack of uncut brag tags...maybe I need to invest in a drill!). 

More brag tags added!
The funny thing is in retrospect brag tags are a super simple way of positive reinforcement. And it's easy. Really. It is. Once it's set up, you just choose when you're giving the brag tags and what brag tags students are getting. And I love that it forces ME to recognize positive behavior in ALL kids, both for the kids who do a great job all day AND for the kiddos who might struggle a little more.

Container in May...Almost completely filled up!
One thing that has helped me is to create a brag tag spreadsheet {yes, I love a good spreadsheet}. This way I can easily see what brag tags students have already received. Right now, I'm trying to give a new type of brag tag each time, but I know eventually I'll run out!

I give brag tags to reinforce our core school values, to reinforce our classroom rules and expectations and to celebrate holidays and birthdays. I know that technically brag tags are just for reinforcing classroom expectations as a classroom management technique but I love using them as a way to recognize holidays as well, especially in kindergarten.

I use brag tags that I've created, both my Technology Brag Tags, my Classroom Brag Tags, and brag tags from my Sticker Card Behavior Incentives pack,  as well as brag tags created by Ashley Schroeder and Angie Olson. I'm constantly adding to my collection by making more and by searching out new ones other people have made. Some of the brag tags you see in my container I created for my own use but haven't added to my TPT store yet.

Let me know if you have any questions!

End of the Year Ramble

Hey there! Well, it's been a longgg time since I've blogged. I almost did a Five for Friday post last Friday but then I remembered how much energy blogging takes....so I quit. I know! I mean I just talked to my students last week about the importance of not quitting! But it was a Saturday morning and I didn't think I had all the pictures ready, so I stopped. Instead I worked on some TPT products. So I didn't really quit per se. I like to think I just reallocated my time and energy where I would be more efficient and productive.

So I'm writing this post instead. It's rambling. It has no theme. It will probably have very few pictures (am I the only one who can never remember to take pictures at the end of the year??). It's almost May. I have 34 days until summer. This year has been a rollercoaster to say the least! Hired 5 days before school started, learning a lot on the spot, handling A LOT of big feelings (my own and the students ;)), working 12 hour days pretty much everyday since August 25th. But it's weird. Now that it's almost done, I'm gonna miss it. Maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome? ;) 

Luckily right now it looks like I'll be in the same grade and classroom next year, but our budget and the state budget are a bit up in the air so I have fingers crossed and prayers raised!! 

Here are some things I'm excited about for the end of the year:

Life Planner. I joined the pre perks (not the official name - my Sunday brain can't remember the name) group with Erin Condren. So I can place my order TOMORROW! I really am loving the new colorful design this year. I know sometimes people buy a Life Planner and don't end up using it, but I USED mine. Despite being pretty tech, I need a paper and pencil planner. That thing was my bible this year. If I don't write it in my planner, it's not happening! Every morning I'd check it to preview my day ahead. I'm tempted to get a Teacher Planner but for lesson planning, I really am a digital girl. I have a template I print and add to my lesson planning binder. That way when things change I don't have to rewrite it all {for some reason, rewriting is a huge pet peeve of mine...I like to be efficient}. Having digital plans allows me to easily retype or copy and paste things.

See this post for more information on my spring classroom management strategies {yes, TWO posts in ONE weekend}.

We planted seeds on Earth Day and I've loved watching them grow with my students - so fun! Ironically, as as kid, I wasn't big into gardening. My family was though and I grew up with flower gardens galore as well as a large vegetable garden. I always found it to be a ton of work and everything took so long to grow and you got dirt everywhere! And you were destined that once your hands got dirty, you got some hair in your mouth! But now I love gardening. I love digging in the dirt, the magic of planting the seeds and watching them sprout, watering them and rooting for them to grow stronger and stronger until they bear fruit {or vegetables}. Now translating that excitement to my students is amazing. We planted beans and flowers and we are keeping track of the changes in a chart on the board. 

See this post about how I've been organizing my classroom. {I know...THREE posts after ZERO posts? And I didn't even drink any caffeine!}

And that's all I have right now!

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope you enjoyed this ramble ;). 

Spring Classroom Management Strategies

Over spring vacation I knew I had to do something for the end of the year for behavior. Since this is my first year teaching K I was a little stumped. I decided to create two new behavior incentives for the end of the year: Sticker Cards and a Secret Star Student, as well as one more informal strategy.

Everyday, I select someone to be the Secret Star Student of the Day. It's a secret all day long, until the end of the day, when if they are a role model student, they get their name announced and they receive a special brag tag. My favorite part of this is when the other students cheer when the students name is announced.

With the sticker cards, each student gets a sticker card starting at red. I attach a page of stickers to my lanyard and when students are doing the right thing {I'm focusing A LOT on following directions right now}, they get a sticker. You got your book bin and are set up for private reading? Sticker! I asked you to sit at your table after coming in from lunch and you did? Sticker! It really helps me ignore the misbehavior and focus on the positive behavior. When I do this, I find it decreases the negative behavior because a) they want a sticker; and b) they don't get attention for the misbehavior and their classmates are less motivated to join in because they want a sticker! After they have filled up their sticker cards, they get to trade them in at the end of the day for a new card and for a reward. I keep track on a chart when they trade it in and what for. I have a list of items they can trade the cards in for {yes, this list was made by me. I thought of a variety of things my students have expressed interest in over the year and then decided what works for me. I know, selfish end of the year teacher.} After the student has traded in their card, once they have received their reward, I highlight it that way I know it's done.

Something else I've been doing that's a little less formal is having them echo my directions. I started this after last week at the end of Readers Workshop, I did our typical clean up signals and a minute later looked around and NO ONE (okay maybe like 3 kids) was cleaning up. So now after I give the direction, I ask them, what did I say? And they repeat it back to me. Because sometimes they genuinely don't hear. And sometimes they THINK they hear, but they end up doing something different then I instructed. This helps them process the directions and it helps the "non-listeners" hear the direction multiple times from me and their classmates.

Here's to managing the end of the year wiggles!

Spring Cleaning Bug!

If you've been watching my IG story, you know this past week I've been on a bit of an organizing frenzy {as I do EVERY spring! But this year, I have a messy classroom at my disposal so it's worse!}. 

I started with my cabinets. The top pictures are the before and the bottom pictures are the after. I have pretty much organized all of the cabinets next to my door and am about halfway through organizing my cabinets nearest my computer. I have since added labels and organized even MORE...when I finish everything, I will definitely share more pictures!

Then I attacked my classroom library. I know, it looks the same! But before they weren't leveled - I had an amazing parent volunteer who leveled them all for me. Even still it took me about three hours to organize them all into containers. 

For next year, I want different containers {the red just doesn't work for me} and different labels. But that's really just appearance...the important part is that the actually leveling and sorting is done!

A post shared by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on
I also revamped my teacher tool box. This photo is from when I was about halfway done. As a tech teacher, I didn't have a lot of storage space so I used it mainly as a place for students to access materials they would need during class. Now I changed it to a storage space for my own materials. This helped me streamline A LOT! These materials used to take up about three cabinet shelves and now only take up one. 

My Focus for 2017

I've believed for a long time that the key to a happy life is balance. Not letting one thing outweigh others. Making sure to make time for all the things that make you happy, because if you spend your time on only one or two things you love, you'll end up despising them. 

Now, it's SUPER easy for me to say that, but it's actually really HARD for me to do that. I tend to follow whims of passion and moments of inspiration until I look up and realize hours have passed without me focusing on anything else. Then I don't work on that thing for a week, two weeks, a month. Because I've wrung out every idea and ounce of creativity related to it in that inspired session. 

Now that's not necessarily a bad thing. It can actually save a lot of time, instead of spending little bits of time everyday, getting it all done at once can feel great. And I firmly believe that you should take advantage of inspiration because inspiration can turn a chore into a very fulfilling experience. 

However, that said, this tunnel vision of productivity can lead to not having time or energy for other things. Things that NEED to be focused on little bit by little bit EVERY day. Things like running. Things like relationships with family and friends. Even things like TPT or this blog. 

I'm going to build a more consistent blog reader by blogging a little bit, more consistently instead of sitting down and spending twelve hours on my blog then not touching it for two months {NOT saying this happened to me recently or anything!}. 

So my goal for 2017, in teaching, in running, in my relationships, in this blog, is balance. Anytime I start to feel a little burnt out by one area or I am feeling uninspired, step back and do something else. Chance are I've been spending WAY too much time in that one area and I've lost my focus and my inspiration. 

P.S.As a special THANK YOU to my blog readers, I whipped up this New Years Pennant Freebie
I can't wait to hang this pennant in my classroom to greet students on their first day back from break and I can't wait to see how other people use it in theirs! Grab it here!

Winter and Holidays in Kindergarten

Oh hey there! From the little world of Kindergarten! Where germs are a plenty! And, where I with my un-seasoned immune system was sick for, well, a while! But I'm alive and well!

I wanted to share with you all winter and holiday things that have been happening in my classroom. 

We celebrated the beginning of winter this week with all things snow - including these shape snowflakes that I designed to wrap up our math unit on shapes. 
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

The Shape Snowflakes are a FREEBIE in my store until the end of my vacation so grab them now!

 We also did all things Gingerbread!

We started actually last week by reading Paul Galdone's book. Then this week we continued by reading Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby, Richard Egielson's The Gingerbread Boy and Gingerbread Cowboy (I really wanted to use Gingerbread Girl too but it's not out yet! I may have pre-ordered it.). As we read each version, we discussed how the books were similar and different. Students then wrote their own page for the story to create our own class book.

Students made their own Gingerbread people using the Gingerbread Glyph from Little Red's Schoolhouse to have them create opinions about the text represented by which colors they chose to use in their gingerbread man (or woman in my case ;)). They came out super cute.

A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on
We finished with a little science experiment testing to see if the Gingerbread Man would really dissolve if he fell in the water. He would! I loved hearing their justifications for their predictions and then hearing their observations when he was in the water.

Students created these little reindeer decorations for their families. Let's just say this was an 11th hour project idea (as in I was creating the model for it 20 minutes before they came back from lunch and realizing it left a lot to be desired)! Definitely wasn't quite as cute as I thought it would be but now I know for next year! 

Students filled up the Fuzzy Heart Jar and voted to trade it in for a Holiday Party where they could dress up (other options brainstormed included a field trip to Chuck E Cheese...I quickly explained that we'd have to justify the field trip for being EDUCATIONAL to the principal...sorry Principal for having you ruin all our fun!).

They had quite the list of things they wanted (a tree, presents, maybe even a visit from the man in the big red suit ... kidding.. kind of :p). 

Student: We should have a tree.
Me: Hmm...I could make a paper tree.
Student: No, like a real tree. To put presents under.
Me: Presents?
Student: Yea, the presents you're getting us. {Ahh! Thank you for letting me know!}
Me: So where should I get the tree? It's kinda close to the holidays and most places are sold out.
Student: You can bring in yours.
Me: Then what would I do for a tree?
Student: Buy a new one.

This is an exact transcript of a conversation I had during our brainstorming session. Gotta love kindergarten!
So here was my compromise: the tree we ended up with in the right corner. I called it a "Winter Tree" and their present was a new box of crayons {they are ROUGH on their crayons!}. 

They also read about the three holidays using mini books. I got the top too books from Reading A-Z and the bottom one I found on TPT. It was REALLY hard to find a leveled book on Kwanzaa that was at their reading level. Even this one I had to remove a lot of pages. We read the Kwanzaa book together on the carpet since it was above their reading level, before they went and read the other two books in partnerships. Then they chose a symbol of each holiday to illustrate and write about. 

For our holiday party they of course had to create the decorations. I had three stations  - paper chains, snowflakes and paper lanterns. One of my students is really talented at making lanterns so I had her help teach the class. I absolutely loved doing this for a couple reasons.

One, I feel like there isn't a lot of time in my regular everyday schedule for things like this. I know, I teach kindergarten. But the day is so structured that it's hard to find time for activities that allow choice and creativity - unless they're directly connected to the curriculum.

Second, I loved seeing how well they did rotating from center to center.  We even paused in the middle for our morning break and when we came back, they went right back to their station and knew which ones they had left to do. It's these opportunities for independence and student choice that I feel like I haven't been doing enough of in my classroom.

Third, I loved that the lantern idea genuinely came from a student. She was making one during reading (I mean, during free choice) one day and instead of being mad, I was really impressed! She said she had learned from a Youtube video. Being able to then incorporate it into something the whole class was doing and giving her the opportunity to teach others this skill she had learned was clearly empowering for her. I want to be able to give my students these opportunities a lot more often! I also wish there was more time where I could let them explore and demonstrate what they already know, beyond academics. Sigh, things to work on!

A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on
And now I am officially on Winter Break and I am SO excited. I'm honestly a little surprised it's already the end of December - they say time flies only when you're having fun! All joking aside, I am having fun, it just takes a lot of energy and I'm looking forward to ten days with no alarms! 

Happy vacation!

Five For Friday 10-14-16

A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

Oh hi there. The dear lovely people who meander over to read my blog. Which I have not posted on in OVER. A. MONTH. I'm sorry. Really. Except I'm not. Because I've had very little time to actually think about you blog, or you dear reader. 

Because at the end of August, five days before Teacher PD Days began, and two days after I had officially declared my classroom decorating done, I got a phone call. From my amazing principal. Asking me if I was still interested in the kindergarten position I had applied to earlier in the summer. 

Um yes!

But SO MUCH WORK later (oh hello, brand new classroom to decorate and organize, and new curriculum to teach, and new assessments to administer and evaluate), here I am. Officially 7 {SEVEN!} weeks into the school year. 

When I get tired, I ask myself if I'm truly content (I am) and I remind myself that this has my dream for 13 years. HALF MY LIFE! So let's just say, yes, it's a lot of work. But teaching kindergarten is also amazing.

Since I switched classrooms, a big part of the transition besides the planning and teaching was decorating, organizing and cleaning my new classroom. I know we teach the kids that when you're done, you've just begun, but two classrooms to decorate = not as fun as it sounds. I'm still rearranging and organizing things in my classroom! 
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

Friday I got inspired and instead of doing the things I should have been doing, I cleaned and rearranged my classroom. Amazing therapy, people! 
I also have been organizing my teaching materials. At night, my way of procrastinating is making pretty binder covers for them. I know only other teachers will understand this.

 One of the best things in kindergarten is that there are a lot of BRAND,  NEW experiences  for the kids {and for me!}. 
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

This is my favorite quote from this week.
A photo posted by Katie (@voraciousteacher) on

And this is something I never realized I'd have to teach! Oh, kindergarten!

I received a grant for Osmo kits this summer and my students LOVE using them! It's so hard to find time for extra things like this during the week, but I try to remember to set it up during our dismissal time for kiddos to use. 

I also {somehow} snuck in a half marathon in September where I ran a PR of 1:47 (left), and a marathon last weekend where I ran a PR of 3:46 (right). I'm officially taking a break from training until the beginning of November and instead I'm focusing on recovery and cross training. 

My goal is to post at least once a month from now on out. Fingers crossed I do! Even though I taught technology for two years, in a lot of ways this year feels like my first year of teaching. 

Follow by Email

Back to Top