Literacy Centers 101: Playdough Center

Sorry for the lack of posting, everyone.  I have been super busy these past few days with...well...a bit of everything!
And the fact that it's summertime means I have no clue as to what day it is (every day is Saturday, right?) so I don't even remember the last time I posted about my Literacy Centers. Sorry!
Anyways, on to the good stuff.
My first year teaching I remember my colleagues discussing various recipes for home made playdough.  You have to picture this...a twenty something girl straight out of Teacher's College thinking "What in the world are they talking about?"

Well, 2 kids and 8 years of teaching Kindergarten later...boy, can I hold a conversation about playdough!
That being said, every year, before it's back to school time, I whip up a batch of playdough.  We usually use it sometime the first week.
I love putting playdough out because, after you explain how you don't eat it, put it up your nose, put it on someone else or on the floor, kids are pretty independent about using it.

I run a Playdough Club with my parents (those who want to participate) throughout the year.  I have a post on that here if you want to read about it and pick up your free copy of the letter to start your own Playdough Club.
Basically, the parents are assigned to make playdough and bring it in to the class a few times per year, depending on how many sign up.
I include a recipe on the form too.

When my students are at the Playdough Center there's LOTS to do!
I have a bunch of various cookie cutters, rolling pins and alphabet stampers like these in the picture below from Lakeshore.
I also like to put out my Playdough mats.
I created these a while ago because I found that sometimes there really was no direction at this center.  That's okay too - I like kids using their imagination BUT I don't like when it turns into arguments and fighting.
They can choose a mat and have fun with that.
There are various mats that rotate throughout the year:  alphabet and numbers in the beginning and word families and counting skills the further into the year we go.  I even made CVC word mats so that students can not only form the letter but figure out what letter the word is missing.
I teach them to "roll out little long snakes" and turn those snakes into letters, balls, shapes, etc.
The kids are really good at this once they get the hang of it!
Playdough is almost always a center each week.  I love that it helps with fine motor skills and kids are learning something at the same time.
How do you use playdough in your classroom?

I am so happy to announce that these past few weeks I have teamed up with Tanya Solano of Ms. Solano's Kindergarten and we have just posted our new unit...
Click on the picture to check it out!
It's FULL of so many centers that your little ones will be keeping busy those first few weeks of school while having so much fun!


Teaming Up!

I'm so excited to announce that I will be teaming up with my BFF Teacher Blogger, Tanya Solano, from
to create a huge Back to School Centers unit!

If you haven't visited Tanya's blog yet, you should!
She's got amazing ideas!  And her classroom...adorable!
Click on the button above to get there!
Be sure to check back soon...the unit will be completed soon!


Sale Extended!

Due to technical difficulties on TpT today,
I will be extending my Christmas in July sale until tomorrow night midnight.

(Now it will be called a Boxing Day sale in July....for those of you not from Canada, Boxing Day is HUGE!  Lots of sales...yippee!)

Thanks for your understanding!


Christmas in July? Yes, it's true!

Don't get me wrong...I LOVE the heat! 
And I'm loving my summer!
But Christmas is truly my most favourite time of year....
so....I joined a bunch of other teacher bloggers on Blog Hoppin' and am offering all of my seasonal things (i.e. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, etc.) for sale tomorrow only!

(Please note: the sale applies to SEASONAL things only)

Thank you to Babbling Abby for allowing me to use her cute image!

 Don't forget the day only.....July 25
(not December 25, silly, it's Christmas in July!)

See you on TpT tomorrow!

And the winner is....

The winner of the HUGE Jackpot Giveaway is....

Congratulations!  I will be e-mailing you shortly with all of your goodies!
Thank you to everyone for entering and keep your eyes open for lots more treats before it's back to school time!


Literacy Centers 101: Writing Center

This week I'm doing a (quick) post on my Writing Centre
(I'm Canadian, remember, hence the spelling? HA!).
I have a small trapezoid table near the windows in my class and 4 small stools (thank you Ikea!) for students to sit on this way they know only 4 kids at a time are allowed at this center (it's a popular one!).

I like to keep materials in a 3 drawer plastic oraganizer.

Each drawer holds certain things:
- stencils
- pictures (from magazines, extra clip art, etc.)
- tools (pencils, erasers, scissors, glue)
Crayons and markers have seperate small bins of their own which sit right on top of this.  Oops - forgot to take a picture!

These are the posters I put up at my Writing Centre. 

I had written a couple of posts on this a while back, where you can download and print your own FREE Writing Centre posters with lots of themes.
Click here and here to go to those posts.
I like to put a variety of papers at this centre.  My kiddies like doing worksheets (like finding and colouring all of the sight words), writing simple messages on templates, or just piecing together paper to make something (that's okay as long as they have written something on it).

A lot of my papers at this centre come from Deedee Wills' monthly packs.
They are fantastic!  Click on the picture to check them out!

That's it for me...sorry for the short post...I'm off to Vegas tomorrow for the I Teach K! conference and I have some last minute things to pack (and an early flight too!).
Hope to post pictures from the conference soon!


My Daily Schedule - with a little FREEBIE!

There's no typical day in kindergarten....I bet most of you can agree!  But I do have my routines set out from day one and try to stick with them as much as possible!
We have so much fun learning every day!
All of my students have routines down pat by the second month or so and that's when things really get rolling!

Here's what my daily schedule looks like...
Mrs. Albanese’s Daily Schedule

8:30-8:45 -> arrival, O’Canada, announcements, hand
in Communication Folders, etc.

8:45-9:00 -> Morning Meeting - Chit Chat message (modelled after Deanna Jump), alphabet song, sight word identification 

9:00-9:20 -> Writers' Workshop - I always start this time with a story pertaining to what we are doing.  We do either printing practice or journal writing.  My students will either complete a printing page (alphabetically, one letter per week) or write a journal entry about a particular theme/unit of study.

9:20-10:00 -> (Mon/Tue) Morning ABC Baskets (I got this idea this last year from Julie Lee and it works great!) - students must complete their Morning ABC Basket.  They rotate through these each day so by the end of the week they will have completed them all.  These activities are those that you can find in my TpT units.  Some activities the students must turn in at the Finished Work Basket.  Other activities are games revolving around sight word identification, letter/sound recognition, building CVC words, creating simple sentences, etc.  I explain each basket to the whole class at the beginning of the week before I let them complete the activities with their groups.  I use this time to work with my students who need more help reviewing a specific concept, who are unable to complete a journal on their own, or who just need reinforcement when it comes to letters and sounds!

*Wed/Thur – the students go to Phys. Ed. and Friday we use this time for a Religion Journal, theme-based craft or things we have not finished during the week.

10:00-10:20 -> snack
10:20-11:20 -> Literacy Centers and Guided Reading - My students will complete the activities set out for them at the Center board.  All students must first make sure their Morning ABC Basket work is complete.  On Wed/Thur the students are almost always working on their Morning Baskets first at this time.  They don't have to complete all of the activities from the Center board when they are done their basket work; they can choose which ones to do from their options during that time.  I pull a small group of students to sit with me for Guided Reading.  Then they return to their centers.
11:20-1:20 -> This is my lunch and planning time.  The students have Italian class at this time and are also supervised by a Lunch Time Monitor.  They have outdoor play during this block.

1:20-2:00 -> Math Baskets.  I introduce a concept that I want the students to be familiar with (like reviewing how we tell the time) and explain each activity before students complete their basket.  Again, most of these activities come from my units on TpT.  While the students are working on their Math Baskets, I call those students that require more one on one time to review different math skills.  In one of the baskets, there is always a specific activity pertaining to our focus (i.e. time -> telling time to the hour/half hour matching game and worksheet).  By the end of the week, all of the students will have completed that worksheet and turned it in.  In my other Math Baskets, there might be activities related to patterning, counting, sorting, etc. all skills we have already touched upon.  Once finished, students can see which activities they can go to on the Center board.
2:00-2:20 -> Library Mon.&Tue. only - the other days we keep working on math during this time

2:20-2:40 -> snack (we also hand out the Communication Folders that have notes, reading books, etc.)

2:40-3:00 -> DPA (Daily Physical Activity) on Mon.&Tue.  DPA is mandatory each day (when students don't get Phys. Ed.).  I usually play different CDs that allow students to get up and move or we play games outdoors (like Duck Duck Goose).  On the days when students have Phys. Ed we will play Bingo, a sight word game, read a story, etc.  There is always something fun to do as a closing activity at the end of the day!

3:00-3:20 -> get ready for dismissal (yes, it takes this long, more so in the winter time!) 

3:20 -> dismissal

*Fun Fridays -> I keep this day open each week for "catching-up" and Choice (where students can choose any center that's on the Center board, not just what their group is supposed to do) and they can sit anywhere for snack time instead of assigned seating.  So much fun!  We also use Fridays to write in our Religion Journal, create a craft based on our theme, and learn about our Child of the Day!

So there you have it!  Phew!  A very full day but we manage to get it all done (well, most of the time!).
Here's a picture of the planner I use.  It helps me lay out my month and plan ahead.
I just updated it for the 2012-2013 school year.
Click on the picture to view it in my TpT store.
This is a picture of a page that a students completed in the Alphabet book.  You can find this activity in my Alphabet Printing Book on TpT.
This is what my Alphabet Song chart looks like.  I use the chart to review letters and sounds.  I have uppercase on one side and lower case on the other. 
You can find this in my Alphabet Printing Book also!
I like to sing a song with my kiddies...I actually got this song from the Leapfrog DVDs.  Have you ever seen the Leapfrog Letters and Sounds DVD?  It's incredible!  My daughter loved it and learned her letters and sounds by watching it (yes, really, she focused so much better on the DVD than when I worked with her!).  Anyways, the characters in the movie sing a really catchy song - "A says /a/, A says /a/, every letter makes a sound, A says /a/".  Well, we've been singing that song in my classroom each day and it works!  I made large flashcards that I turned into a booklet.  You can find these in my Alphabet Printing Book too! 
(Yes, I put A LOT of stuff into that packet!)
Here is a little freebie for you!
I created the alphabet chart I spoke about for each student.  That way, they can use the chart when they are writing in their journal and I even have it posted at my Writing Center.
Click on the picture to download.

Enjoy the weekend! (What am I talking's summer....every day is the weekend!)


20% off Fourth of July Sale!

Happy 4th of July to all my friends in USA!
I hope you are enjoying your day!

To celebrate I am throwing a 20% off flash sale today only in my TpT store.
Click the picture above to go to my store!
Hurry over and stock up!

Thank you to Cindy Del Valle from Primary Reading Party for the adorable graphic above!
She is having a sale, too!
Click here to visit her blog and her TpT store.
Her stuff is adorable!

Primary Reading Party


Literacy Centers 101: Pocket Chart Center

Day 3 of my summer vacation and what am I doing???
Well, I did have a wonderful time today at Centre Island with my husband, kiddies and dear friends of ours.
But I am also hard at work!
Yes, I just can't seem to stay away from this computer!

Since I have received A LOT of e-mails this past school year asking about my Literacy Center time, I thought I would share a little bit more about that with you.
Each week during the summer, I plan on explaining one of my Literacy Centres...starting today with my Pocket Chart Centre (this is a favourite in my class!).
I have various pocket charts in my classroom.
When my students arrive each morning, they find their name card on the floor and place it in the "I am at school today" pocket chart.  The helpers of the day place any students who are away on the side (smaller) pocket chart, "Who is at home today?"
My Literacy Centre cards are housed in a pocket chart which I change every week.
This coming school year, I plan on changing things up just a bit...I'll keep you posted!
You can here to read more about that and to get your free centre cards.
I also use pocket charts often during instructional times in the day - for instance, when we are learning about the Child of the Day (more to come on this in a few weeks), building a sentence, sorting letter sounds, etc.
I even use it during math time!
When my students are assigned the Pocket Chart Centre, they have specific tasks to do.  Most of the time, there are predictable sentences in which students must match the words, pictures and then complete the worksheet.
Since I have varied levels in my class (which class doesn't?) those students who were only able to match the picture to the sentence or word to word could do just that.  For those students who were able, I kept a paper basket on the side with a container filled with coloured pencil crayons.  They would also complete the accompanying worksheet for a challenge.

At times, I like to reinforce a skill or concept taught and I will place it at the Pocket Chart Center.  For instance, when we discuss syllables, I would put out this activity.

Click on the picture cards below for your free download.
I just uploaded my All Year Long Pocket Chart Activities to TpT.  I have included 20 fun activities for you to print, photocopy, laminate and have ready-to-go at your Pocket Chart Center!
Your students will have so much fun playing and learning at the same time!
*I have included a free pocket chart activity when you download the preview at TpT.  Be sure to check it out!*
There are a few other pocket chart activities I have available on TpT.

Alphabet Picture Cards Sort

Pocket Chart Alphabet Center Cards

Pocket Chart Math Center Cards

If you would like to link up with me and share a bit about your Literacy Centers, I would love to read all about it!


Happy Canada Day! ... and a crayon FREEBIE!

Happy Canada Day!

I'm so excited that summer has officially started for me.
If you have been following my recent posts, you will know that my last day with my kiddies was Thursday and we had our end of year meetings on Friday.
Bring on the summer!
I have had a lot of e-mails lately asking me about my crayon bulletin board that I displayed at the beginning of last year.
The idea is from my best friend, Mrs. Aquino (a JK teacher), who actually made them with me years back. 
You can read more about that post here.

I am attaching the templates that I used.
You will need water bottles (250mL), one per student.
On the black ovals, simply create a text box overtop of them using the font that you like (I used Kristen ITC in font size 26).  Make sure the font colour selected is white so that it will show up on top of the black.
Print on a blank sheet of sticker paper or regular paper, cut them out and stick them to the coloured paper.
Print the crayon stencil on various colour of construction paper.  Roll the empty water bottle around the construction paper and hot glue gun it.
To make the tip, cut out a rectangular piece of construction paper the same colour as your crayon.  Roll it around the top of the water bottle, forming a triangular shape and hot glue gun in place.  You may need to trim excess paper.

I love this bulletin board - and I get A LOT of compliments!  It's a little tedious to make, but you can use the bottles over and over by simply printing new labels.
Oh, and watch out for the hot glue gun - ouch!

Hope you enjoy the rest of the (long) weekend!