Monthly No Prep Homework Packets: Preschool, Kindergarten & 1st Grade             
These easy to use, no-prep homework packets are intended to be copied and sent home with Pre-Kindergarten, T-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and/or 1st grade students during the month of February.

These packets (all 12 months are available) offer an opportunity for students to practice early learning skills that are typically being taught during the winter months with family members. However, you will also find the varied activies to be useful as center activities, targeted instruction, supplements for students at diverse learning levels, second language learners and more.

Parents and children love these easy to use packets and beg for more! The monthly nature of the packet offers great flexibility that fits the busy lives of families.

Subtraction in Kindergarten

I have just finished teaching the subtraction unit to my kindergartners this week, and this video pretty much sums it up.

If you are looking for more subtraction practice for your kiddos, you might want to check out these practice worksheets.


"Wonders" (McGraw Hill) Sight Word Card Sets

 Are you looking for some great flashcards to supplement your Wonders Reading Program? This set contains 21 sets that can be used as flashcards, write the room cards, game cards, fluency cards, writing center cards, and on and on.

Contents Include

Star Word Cards
Basketball Word Cards
Apple Word Cards
Space Word Cards
Clover Word Cards
Pocket Word Cards
Piggy Bank Word Cards
Leaf Word Cards
Valentine Word Cards
Framed Word Cards
Fish Bowl Word Cards
Gumdrop Word Cards
Beehive Word Cards
Bathtub Word Cards
Little Chick Word Cards
Horse Word Cards
Lamb Word Cards
Mud Word Cards
Penguin Word Cards
Halloween Headstone Word Cards
Panda Bear Word Cards

The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers (NY Times Article)

This is my 22nd year of teaching kindergarten and consequently I have been able to see the fruits of my labor as I follow the lives of former students (of whom I all love, by the way)! I have seen my students become professional football players, businessmen, teachers, loving mothers and fathers, (sadly) prison inmates, and of course much much more.  

Was I able to predict what their future held for them in kindergarten? 

I love this article that was published in the New York Times on July 27, 2010, written by David Leonhart.  

The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers

How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect the rest of your life?

Economists have generally thought that the answer was not much. Great teachers and early childhood programs can have a big short-term effect. But the impact tends to fade. By junior high and high school, children who had excellent early schooling do little better on tests than similar children who did not — which raises the demoralizing question of how much of a difference schools and teachers can make.
There has always been one major caveat, however, to the research on the fade-out effect. It was based mainly on test scores, not on a broader set of measures, like a child’s health or eventual earnings. As Raj Chetty, a Harvardeconomist, says: “We don’t really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes.”
Early this year, Mr. Chetty and five other researchers set out to fill this void. They examined the life paths of almost 12,000 children who had been part of a well-known education experiment in Tennessee in the 1980s. The children are now about 30, well started on their adult lives.
On Tuesday, Mr. Chetty presented the findings — not yet peer-reviewed — at an academic conference in Cambridge, Mass. They’re fairly explosive.
Just as in other studies, the Tennessee experiment found that some teachers were able to help students learn vastly more than other teachers. And just as in other studies, the effect largely disappeared by junior high, based on test scores. Yet when Mr. Chetty and his colleagues took another look at the students in adulthood, they discovered that the legacy of kindergarten had re-emerged.
Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more.
All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten. A student who went from average to the 60th percentile — a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher — could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.
The economists don’t pretend to know the exact causes. But it’s not hard to come up with plausible guesses. Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime — patience, discipline, manners, perseverance. The tests that 5-year-olds take may pick up these skills, even if later multiple-choice tests do not.
Now happens to be a particularly good time for a study like this. With the economy still terribly weak, many people are understandably unsure about the value of education. They see that even college graduates have lost their jobs in the recession.
Barely a week seems to go by without a newspaper or television station running a report suggesting that education is overrated. These stories quote liberal groups, like theEconomic Policy Institute, that argue that an education can’t protect workers in today’s global economy. Or they quote conservatives, like Charles Murray and Ramesh Ponnuru, who suggest that people who haven’t graduated from college aren’t smart enough to do so.
But the anti-education case usually relies on a combination of anecdotes and selective facts. In truth, the gap between the pay of college graduates and everyone else grew to a record last year, according to the Labor Department, and unemployment has risen far more for the less educated.
This is not simply because smart people — people who would do well no matter what — tend to graduate from college. Education itself can make a difference. A long line of economic research, by Julie Berry CullenJames HeckmanPhilip Oreopoulos and many others, has found as much. The study by Mr. Chetty and his colleagues is the latest piece of evidence.
The crucial problem the study had to solve was the old causation-correlation problem. Are children who do well on kindergarten tests destined to do better in life, based on who they are? Or are their teacher and classmates changing them?
The Tennessee experiment, known as Project Star, offered a chance to answer these questions because it randomly assigned students to a kindergarten class. As a result, the classes had fairly similar socioeconomic mixes of students and could be expected to perform similarly on the tests given at the end of kindergarten.
Yet they didn’t. Some classes did far better than others. The differences were too big to be explained by randomness. (Similarly, when the researchers looked at entering and exiting test scores in first, second and third grades, they found that some classes made much more progress than others.)
Class size — which was the impetus of Project Star — evidently played some role. Classes with 13 to 17 students did better than classes with 22 to 25. Peers also seem to matter. In classes with a somewhat higher average socioeconomic status, all the students tended to do a little better.
But neither of these factors came close to explaining the variation in class performance. So another cause seemed to be the explanation: teachers.
Some are highly effective. Some are not. And the differences can affect students for years to come.
When I asked Douglas Staiger, a Dartmouth economist who studies education, what he thought of the new paper, he called it fascinating and potentially important. “The worry has been that education didn’t translate into earnings,” Mr. Staiger said. “But this is telling us that it does and that the fade-out effect is misleading in some sense.”
Mr. Chetty and his colleagues — one of whom, Emmanuel Saez, recently won the prize for the top research economist under the age of 40 — estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesn’t take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.
Obviously, great kindergarten teachers are not going to start making $320,000 anytime soon. Still, school administrators can do more than they’re doing.
They can pay their best teachers more, as Pittsburgh soon will, and give them the support they deserve. Administrators can fire more of their worst teachers, as Michelle Rhee, the Washington schools chancellor, did last week. Schools can also make sure standardized tests are measuring real student skills and teacher quality, as teachers’ unions have urged.
Given today’s budget pressures, finding the money for any new programs will be difficult. But that’s all the more reason to focus our scarce resources on investments whose benefits won’t simply fade away.

What Should Young Children Be Learning?

Dr. Lilian Katz has certainly shaped me as an educator. I think I have read and studied everything she has written, and  I could listen to her words of wisdom all day long.  Following are but two bits of wisdom she imparts...

“If you do not build a foundation properly, it can be dangerous and very expensive to repair.”

“We must resist the temptation to start our students on the 3rd floor.” 

This video is lengthy, but well worth the time for all educators and parents of young children! Dr. Katz uses the analogy of structural engineering and foundational education.

Making Snowflakes

Although true snowflakes are hexagons, a square is the perfect way to help young children learn how to independently cut snowflakes!

And as everyone knows, all kids love to make snowflakes! In fact, they can go through a ream of paper in a very short time. If you are low on that precious commodity, kids are just as happy with newsprint, recycled paper, or any scraps that are readily available. They love to use magazine pages, newspaper ads, discarded homework, etc. 

By taking advantage of this natural enthusiasm for snowflake cutting and simplifying the activity, it becomes a great opportunity to review basic shapes, aid development of hands and finger muscles, and build student independence and confidence.

Students will also have the opportunity to be creative through experimentation and practice. 

So, cut a stack of various size squares of various types of paper, model "How-To," hang the instruction poster and let the scraps start flying!

If you are looking for some Wintertime activities, you may wish to check out these two quality products.


A Snowman Time of Year

Looking for a great Snowman unit that thematically includes  areas of literature, music, art, literacy, math, science, independent practice, creative writing, word wall, and guided reading? The activities in this unit are clearly written, easy to use, and need limited amounts of "one-time"  preparation. 

Table of Contents
 Literacy Activities:
Snowman Spill: Automaticy of Lowercase Letter Sounds
Snowman Match-up: Matching Letters and Sounds
Build a Snowman: Blending and Segmenting Words
Snowman Melt: Reading High Frequency Words
Draw a Snowman: Reviewing Early Phonics and Phonological Skills
Independent Practice
 My Favorite Things: Identifying Medial Sounds
Beginning Sounds: Identifying and Writing Beginning Sounds
A-Z: Fluently Connecting Dots From a-z.
Writing the Alphabet A-Z and a-z: Practicing Alphabet Letter Formation
 Math Activities:
Snowball Fight: Comparing Numbers
The Snowman’s Buttons: Decomposing Numbers
Snowman Sets: Joining Sets Using a 10 Frame Strategy
Snowman Sums: Making a Sum of 10 Using an Unknown and a KnowN Addend With Visual Representation.
Independent Practice
Symmetry Snowman: Symmetry Activity
Snowman Puzzles: Using Geometric Shapes to Construct a Snowman
The Tallest Snowman: Measurement
Snowman Number Hunt: Matching Quantity and Numerals
Math Journal Prompt: Joining Sets
Guided Reading Books
The Snowmen (Level B)
The Snowmen (Level C)
Writing Prompts/Word Wall
My Snowman
How To Build a Snowman
Snowman Word Wall
The Melting Snowman: Observing States of Matter
Science Journal Page: Why does the sun melt the snowman?
Art Projects
Snowman Gallery Art Show
Marshmallow Snowman
Shape Snowman
Painted Snowman Portfolio Sample
Five Little Snowmen
I’m a Little Snowman
Drawing a Snowman

Parent Teacher Conference Reporting Form and Intervention Packet: Winter

Are you getting ready for your winter parent teacher conferences in Kindergarten?

You will love this easy form that will make reporting to parents a breeze! Bonus! This packet includes Intervention Packets in both English and Spanish to give below grade-level students an extra boost. Send these packets home with parents to offer additional support for their child's academic learning.

This packet follows the suggested benchmark Common Core Assessments that we have available in printable form as well as offered free with your paid ESGI subscription.


Fostering the Five Domains of Human Development and a Freebie!

Teaching is a performance skill. Like a dancer who practices muscle movements daily until his body can perform intricate dance routines with ease, an actor who studies unconscious body movements until she can recreate them on the stage, or a writer who knows all of the elements of a well written tale so well that she can construct a page turning novel, teachers learn and practice the elements of lesson design, behavior management and modification, and lesson delivery, until these become second nature.

While studying Early Childhood Education as an undergraduate, I received tutelage from great instructors who were true early childhood theorists, Dr. Barbara Taylor and Dr. Sally Pena. Both of these women taught me the importance of including the five domains of early childhood development into every lesson plan. I remember the time I spent writing exhaustingly detailed lesson plans made specifically to include all five domains. The time turned out to be invaluable practice for my performance art, however, as now it is ingrained in me to be mindful of these important aspects of the learning of young children. Although I don’t write these mega-detailed lesson plans anymore, those domains of development are always fore-most in my mind when planning my kindergarten day.  

So what are those important areas of development?

  1. Gross Motor Development: Are the young children in our care using their large muscles daily? We must give students the opportunities to crawl, walk, run, skip, climb, and climb.
  2. Fine Motor Development: Do we give children opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination? The opportunity to control precisely the small muscles in their hands? We must give students the opportunities to color, write, use tweezers, tear paper, glue beans, build with small objects.
  3. Language Development: Are our students hearing stories with rich vocabulary, participating in vocabulary rich dialogues, participating in enriching phonemic awareness activities, and strategically practicing phonics skills? We must give our students a rich auditory and oral environment and be keyed in to their needs in vocabulary.
  4. Cognitive Development: Do we challenge our students with cause and effect, reasoning and problem solving skills? We must make sure that our teaching affords opportunities for neurological development and that we are helping to wire and in some cases, rewire, their young minds.
  5. Social/Emotional Development: Are we giving our students opportunity to be social? Do we have adequate opportunity for play-rich experiences? Do we foster a classroom environment of caring? Do we explicitly teach important life-skills? We can never underestimate the importance of social development to a young child. 
As I learned from Taylor and Pena, crafting lessons that include all of these domains takes practice, but after time, it becomes second nature. And, sometimes, you just might find a kind blogger who gives one away for free! Like this game, "Day Traders" that includes all five of the domains: Gross Motor (walking), Fine Motor (writing words), Language (Oral Language and Sight Words), Cognitive (Problem Solving) and Social/Emotional (Play Based). 

Conquering Those Pesky Vowels: Early Learning Essential

In January, typical kindergartners have mastered the alphabet letter names and now know more than half of the letter sounds, hooray! But with that sigh of relief comes the reteaching and reteaching of those pesky vowels!

Vowels are most easily mastered if the reteaching is thorough and strategic. To begin this strategic teaching, review the alphabet letter that represents the vowel and the sound-card that you are using in your classroom or homeschool setting. If you don’t have defined sound-card you can check out ours. I also recommend’s videos, they are great and kids love them. I recommend spending at least two days on each vowel for review.

As you provide a visual and auditory (sound song) link for A E I O and U, add further supports. Using hand cues to teach short vowel sounds adds a kinesthetic link. Teach your students these signs as each vowel is reviewed, then continue to use this cues as vowels are continually reviewed (I love how these signs actually match the mouth formation we will discuss below). 

Teach children the linguistic characteristics of these vowels. I found that even though I was scared to take linguistics as an undergrad, and then terrified of advanced linguistics as part of my masters program, I loved these courses! I found the knowledge I gained to be crucial in regards to the effective teaching of reading. Here are the characteristics that one must know to better teach those pesky vowels.

The /a/ sound /æ/
The vowel is a jaw vowel made with the voice on. (Have students feel the sound made by touching their throat).

The /e/ sound /ɛ/
This vowel is a tongue vowel (it rises ever so slightly) made with the voice on. (Have students feel their mouth widen and tongue lift).

The /i/ sound /ɪ/
This vowel is a tongue vowel (it rises ever so slightly) made with the voice on. (Have students feel the sound made by touching their throat).

The /o/ sound /ɔ/.
This vowel sound is a jaw vowel made with the voice on. (Have students feel the sound made by touching their throat).

The u sound /ʌ/.
This vowel sound is a jaw vowel made with the voice on. (Have students feel the sound made by touching their throat).

Using mouth cards and hand signals as mentioned above help children learn the correct mouth placement as they practice and practice voicing vowel sounds. The differences become clear as students feel the changes that happen within their mouth. Make sure to pass out mirrors so students will be able to visually see the differences.

Be patient. It takes a lot of listening and voicing practice to conquer these separate and distinct (pesky) vowel sounds. And remember that with all phonemic awareness practice, English Language Learners will get it, don't give up on them! But it will take added patience and practice as some of these sounds are not even made in their native tongue. Your patience and continued practice will pay off. As with all pre-reading skills, if added emphasis is placed on oral-phonemic practice until mastered, the transference to the written word will be very easy.

As you spend a week or two reviewing vowel sounds, you might want to check out our new vowel practice early learning essential. This packet also contains the sign language hand cards, mouth placement cards, vowel sound cards, and a vowel song poster and pocket chart cards. With the great low price of $4.00, you will be on your way to vowel sound victory!

Here are some of our other great vowel practice products: