Another Science Center, Two More New Freebies, and a Round-Up of Thanksgiving Free Downloads!

 

I had a wonderful time last week at BlogWorld with my husband!  It was a great little one night get away, and just what we needed, even if it was a working vacation and only less than an hour’s drive away from home at the Los Angeles Convention Center!  What we learned was the importance of social networking in order to grow readership of your blog and website, and just how many passionate experts there are publishing such wide variety of material!

So to that I say, “Here, here!  I guess I’ll be needing to spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any other new sites I can squeeze into my day!”  That’s okay- I really didn’t want to cook that dinner anyway, and now I have the perfect excuse! Now if I can just stay awake long enough to do it all! Join me, and I’ll “see you” in cyberspace. Can’t wait to chat with you!
This week, I am conferencing with parents, and I should be done with the last of them by next week on Wednesday.  After that I am planning to set my classroom on “cruise control” as I head on into a wonderful and much needed one week holiday.  Hooray!
Finally, I just had to share this funny little conversation a parent overheard in the computer lab this week:  One Kindergarten girl says to another in the computer lab, as she is pretending to type away at her Millie’s Math House game: “Facebook me, okay?  Why don’t you Facebook me????”  The other little girl says, “Okay.  Why haven’t you friended me yet??????”   Are we raising digital natives or WHAT?????  They can’t possibly know what it is they are even talking about, but their games of pretend, imitation, and imagination have now crossed over into imitating their parents on the computer!   LOL LOL LOL LOL!


1. A Fall Reading Book Free Download
Here is a question I received via email.  I love suggestions, and this was a good one.  Keep them coming!
Q:  “I really like your idea of the index cards for sight words with the Halloween book. However, I can’t do Halloween.  🙁  So I was wondering what you use to make the book. I thought I could make one with Fall pages or else make one for Thanksgiving and be really early. I look forward to your blog every week. Thanks for everything you do!”

 

A: “ I’ll see if I can change it up a little and post one for Fall or something like that. I know it’s really a bummer when you are not allowed to mention the holidays!  To make the book, I use Quark Xpress and I draw the artwork myself using Adobe Illustrator.  Both of these applications, though, are on the expensive side for most teachers, and are not easy to learn, I’m afraid!  I don’t recommend you buy them without your own personal tutor in the house.  My husband has always used them and already had them on his computer, and therefore taught me to use them little by little over the years.

Okay, so here is the little printable reading book that I made with a November/fall theme! Hopefully, everyone will be able to use it.  Well, at least those of us that teach in the US will be able to use it, because it does have some little American pilgrims in it!  For those of you that are just joining us, I posted one of these little printable books a couple of weeks ago with a Halloween theme.  This is how I use these little books to help kids learn their sight words for this small group activity:

 

1.  To prepare, I make each child in the group an index card with the words that they are to look for written on the card in black permanent marker.  I color each word a certain color with a crayon.  For example, I might color the word “is” yellow and the word “can” orange.
2.   Before I dismiss the children to their groups, I give them the following directions for the books:
– A.  I read the book with the class whole group.
– B.  I tell them that they are to try to find each word on their index card and color it the same color that is shown on their index card.
– C.  I use my document camera to demonstrate what I mean, and have a child come up and try to point to each word on a page, and read the words aloud.  Then the child will see if one of the words in the sentence matches the words on the index card, and if so, then he or she will take a crayon and color it right there under the document camera so that everyone can see what is happening.
– D.  We do this a few times, and also do a few more with the whole class can responding with a “yes” or a “no” to my question of, “Is this one of the words we are looking for?”  If the answer is “Yes,” then I respond with, “What color should it be?”  Then the whole class can look at the index card and respond.

This is one of the best uses of the document camera that I have found!  By using it, I just turned a small group lesson into a whole group lesson, and now the follow up lesson can be done in small groups with a minimal amount of effort.   Everyone can get started immediately on it once they sit down.  Also, I once I get the children into their small groups, I always try to stop ONE child and listen to him or her read the entire book to me, whether or not he or she is done with the coloring.  Then I go on to the next child and do the same.  This is the best reason of all to do any coloring assignment in Kindergarten, in my opinion!!!  It can allow the teacher to spend just a little bit of time with a single child, because the rest of the children are busy with something else. 

 

2.  Turkey Feathers Matching Sets – Free Download!
As I was going through all of my Thanksgiving themed downloads from last year, I realized that there wasn’t that much for math, so I decided to try to rectify the situation!  Plus, I still have one little girl with a late fall birthday that is still struggling with developing number concepts past number two, so I thought that I might be able to kill two birds with one stone!  So I went into my file of alphabet turkeys from last year, removed the letters, and added numbers instead.  Then I went to my local craft store and bought some feathers and some more clothespins.  I used a hot glue gun to glue the feathers onto the clothes pins, pushing them down with the side of an old pencil as each one dried, and voilá!  I now have a new matching sets activity with turkey feathers- hooray!

I guess it’s kind of funny that after I had this activity completely finished and this blog entry ready to post, Vanessa Levin of Pre-K Pages posted a similar activity on her blog, done completely with purchased Thanksgiving cups.  So if you would like to try it a different way, here is another route to go!  I guess great minds think alike.  By the way, I LOVE Vanessa’s blog, and I highly recommend it!

 

The children were really drawn to this activity (probably because of the feathers,) and were actually quite jealous of the little one that “got” to do it, and definitely wanted to join her!  So naturally I let them do it, since we were doing it during playtime anyway.  One little girl even clothes pinned several turkey feathers to the back of her shirt and waddled around the classroom, pretending to be a turkey, ha ha!  (Oh, how cute would it have been to have captured a moment like that on video!)  The only thing was that once they pinned the feathers on the turkey tail, they wanted to take it home and keep it!  They were certainly disappointed when I explained that I had to have it back, and that it was just an activity to be done at school and left here each time.  I enjoyed exchanging amused glances with one parent at dismissal time when one child ran to grab “her” turkey before exiting the door!
I am including this activity here as a free download for you today, of course!  One half ounce bag of feathers was enough for the 55 feathers needed for all of the turkeys, 0-10.

 

3.  A Science Center:  Simple Machines!
I had never thought about the concept of “Simple Machines” before until l read about it in NAEYC’s publication of Young Children, in an article by Sherrie Bosse, Gera Jeacobs, and Tara Lynn Anderson called “Science in the Air.”  When I started reading up on it online, I realized that there are TONS of fun things that young children can do with them.  To learn a little more about simple machines and what I might be able to do with them in my classroom, I did a little searching online and found a bunch of videos on www.youtube.com that showed me all kinds of little projects and things that my students could do with them!  All you really need to do is introduce the concept that what they are doing is making a machine, and perhaps read a little book or two, and you are off!  It seems to take very little effort on the part of the teacher; just lay out the materials and LABEL them so that administrators will know what it is the children are doing, because it certainly looks like just play!  (Of course, you and I know that this is how kids learn best anyway, right?)

 

I decided to start with “inclined planes” (ramps) and gave the children some wooden moldings that I bought at a hardware store, along with some blocks and some marbles.  I decided to give them the assignment of making a ramp that a marble would slide down into and land into a little ceramic dish that I had set out.  I like the ceramic dish for this purpose because it makes a neat little “ping” sound when the marble drops inside of it!  (If you would like to some see a little video clips of our ramps, click here and here.)  To make it a little easier, I put a plastic basket on its side behind the dish to form a little “back stop,” just in case the marble jumped out of the dish.  Therefore, the assignment was to make a ramp that was steep enough to make the marble roll, but not so steep that the marble would bounce out of the ceramic dish!  We also happened to have some heavy duty cardboard tubes that go with our block set, and one child had the idea of sending the marbles through these tubes as “tunnels,” and that turned out to cause GREAT excitement!  We happened to have a dad volunteer on hand on the last day of the week that was helping with this center, and he especially enjoyed helping the children create some fun tunneled paths, like the one you see in the picture on the right.  The kids were absolutely entranced (and also a little hyper and LOUD!) during this activity, and really only got to do it when they finished their art project and at playtime, but I am okay with this sort of arrangement!  The art project didn’t take so long, and they all got to do it anyway.  I left the center out all week, and I will be leaving it out all next week, too, because they are definitely not finished exploring it.  I’ll probably let them explore the ramps with some other materials, such as some other triangular shaped Magnatiles blocks and some toy cars next week as well.  By the way, those Magnatiles blocks are a wonderful toy to have on hand!  My kids play with them nearly every day.

As far as simple machines are concerned, I got lucky and just happened to have a couple of puzzles donated recently that had a variety of locks on them, and these are also types of machines, so that coincided well with our unit.  (They were donated by a preschool teacher who decided that it might not be a great idea to teach a bunch of two year old children how to get out of the house without help, LOL!)  I also happened to have a set of toy nuts and bolts, so when I discovered that they were also really a type of simple machines, I set those out as well.  I am hoping to raid my husband’s garage this weekend and find some real locks, nuts and bolts, and bring them in for the kids to fiddle around with.  I think that they will enjoy that, and will also benefit from trying out the “real thing.”  And I am planning on extending this unit on simple machines for at least another week or two, because it sure is interesting and FUN!

 

4.  A Thanksgiving “Round-Up” of Free Downloads!
Well, okay.  Not ALL of these are freebies, but MOST Of them are!  (It just depends on how long the artwork takes me to draw, since I do draw artwork on the freebies myself.)  My class is using and reusing so many of these resources that I posted last year during October and November that I thought that it would be worth another mention, especially for those of you that are just joining us.  And anyway, it’s always a good reminder of something that you may already have printed and tucked away somewhere in your classroom, already prepped and ready to go!  I have to say that as I was “pinning” some Thanksgiving photos to my new Pinterest account last weekend, I realized that there are a whole lot of Thanksgiving projects that I created just last year and already totally forgot about.  (I think I must be going CRAZY, ha ha!)  In any case, at least get those freebies and gobble them up while there is still time to use them before the holidays!

**1.  Pumpkin Patch Counting Worksheets Free Download
I used this last year more during October, but this year my class reached the point of needing it now during November.  That worked out great, since I found these little pumpkin ice cube trays with ten slots each at the 99 Cents Only store right before Halloween!  I also bought some “Pumpkin Table Scatter” at Target in the dollar section in October.  I think that the Table Scatter is meant to be a decoration, but as soon as I saw it and that there were 125 pieces in each one, I knew that they were REALLY meant to be counters for me, LOL!  So I bought two of them and then decided to use them with my Pumpkin Patch Counting Worksheets. 

Using the worksheets is simple, but the kids really need an adult or an older student (like a fifth grader) with them to make it work.  They choose a number on a pumpkin to try to build, and count that many pumpkins into their ice cube tray.  Then they raise their hand for the helper or teacher to check and see if they counted correctly.  If so, then they receive a crayon and may color that ONE pumpkin.  Don’t give them any crayons at all until they finish counting out the pumpkins correctly and tell you how many they have.  After they color that one pumpkin, then they must give that crayon back while they build another number.  Then they raise a hand and the activity goes on, etc.

 

I stapled all of the pages together for each child to make a packet so that he or she could work at his or her own pace.  And, if I believe that a child needs to repeat a page because they really haven’t mastered counting out that many of a certain number, (like from 11-20,) then I will have them do that paper again.  We will work on this activity on and off for a couple of weeks, but not every single day because they will get tired of it.  The children that have mastered the whole thing will get to play with my iPads and iPod while their peers work on their Pumpkin Patch worksheets.

**2.  November Graph Free Download
This is a graphing worksheet with a November/Thanksgiving theme.  Enough said?
There are lots of other graphs posted as free downloads on this blog as well.  Just use the “Search this blog” feature on the right side bar and type the word “graph” into it and press return.  Then scroll up to the top of the page and you should see a list of entries where I mention graphing, and most of those will likely also have a free download of a graph.  🙂

**3.  Barnyard Bang Game:  (Download for purchase) $5.00
This game ties in well with Thanksgiving, since it includes a turkey that is trying to escape becoming the farmer’s dinner!  It helps kids practice sight words, color words, alphabet, the numbers 0-30, ordinal numbers, and sorting. Includes blank cards so that you can modify the game to include your own sight words, etc.

Barnyard Bang Math Question Cards
 

The game includes enough cards for you to print it out as a math game as shown in one picture, or as a language arts game as shown in the other picture.
The game is played like this:  The teacher gives each child a card in turn.  If the child gets a question card, he must answer the question or identify the number or word.  But if the child receives an activity card, then he or she gets to do that activity!  Some of the activities are shown in the picture below.  The children love this game, and it is a fun way to drill and practice these basic skills.

Barnyard Bang Activity Cards
Barnyard Bang Reading Cards (in B/W)
 

**4.  Turkey Tails Sight Word Game (or Alphabet Game)  Free Download
I have used this resource in two different ways.  The first way is to use it as an independent center and have the children clip clothespins with letters written on them onto the turkeys.  In this case, I glue the turkeys down onto paper plates.  For sight words, the children can focus on the individual letters in each word and spell the words by clipping the letters onto them.  For the alphabet, the children can match the upper and lower case letters by clipping them onto the turkeys glued onto paper plates.

The second way I have used this resource is by making a game out of it.  In this game, the children all chant,
“Turkey tails, turkey tails!
One, two, three!
Turkey tails, turkey tails!
Where could it be?”

Then they take turns searching for the words “Happy Thanksgiving” by selecting a word or a letter and looking underneath it.  It’s fun- but watch out, because they peek!  I prefer to put the turkeys on a pocket chart rather than on a table; it seems to be easier to keep them from peeking that way and it keeps the game fun.  Also, last year I decided to make a little black Pilgrim boy hat out of construction paper to place under the turkeys rather than the “Happy Thanksgiving” words that are included in the download- but if you want that, you’ll have to figure out how to do that yourself because that’s not in the file!

Turkey Color Words Worksheet
 

**5.  Turkey Color Words Worksheet Free Download
This activity is really for both the teen numbers 10-13 and for the color words, too, because it is a color by number worksheet.  I zeroed in on the numbers my kids were having trouble recognizing last year and created a worksheet just for them.  🙂

**6.  Dinner’s Ready Singable Book Project (Download for purchase)  $4.00
In this “Singable Book,” the children sing about and learn the vocabulary of a typical American Thanksgiving dinner.  Of course, it rhymes, too!  Plus, it’s got this really neat hidden pocket in the last page with a secret dinner plate inside of it that one child told me is “out- STANDING!”  I like this project because it is SIMPLE and easy enough for everyone to do well and get it right.  🙂

Pilgrim Color Word Worksheet
 

**7.  Pilgrim Boy and Girl Color Word Worksheets- Free Download
After drawing a pilgrim boy and girl, I decided to make my first two creations a couple of color word worksheets for the holiday! I like these because the children also need to trace the color words, so it helps them notice the letters in each word, rather than just having them take a quick glance and a guess as they rush in to color.

Turkeys and Scarecrows Bulletin Board
Turkeys Mounted on a Bulletin Board!
 

**8.  Decorate a Turkey Homework Assignment Free Download
I always send this turkey home with at least a week’s notice for the children to decorate it and then bring it in to share.  The sheer variety of what I get back is simply astounding!  And I always tell them that simply coloring it is fine, just in case I have a family that cannot do more.  I still want all of the children to have a chance to share their turkeys, no matter how much effort appears to have been put into them!

**9.  Thanksgiving Guided Drawing Free Download
Want to know how to show your children how to draw those pilgrims?  This download will show you step by step exactly how to do it!  It even tells you how to describe the steps to your kids.  Most kids are very successful with guided drawing!  Just put those who are especially anxious right at your feet if you can, so that you can help them along if needed.  Or, assign them a peer helper to get them past a rough point, which is usually just a diagonal line or two.
Want more guided drawing lessons?  Use the “Search this Blog” feature on the right hand side of this blog and put in the words “Guided Drawing.”  A whole variety of them should come right up!

 

**10.  Thanksgiving Sound Effects Story Free Download
This is a Thanksgiving themed sound effects story that I wrote to get my kids to listen to and understand the story of the first Thanksgiving. I found out last year that several people used it for their holiday programs for their parents!
In a “sound effects story,” the children are supposed to listen carefully to the reader and listen for certain words to be said.  When these words are read, the children should make the indicated sound and/or movement.  This helps to capture and keep the attention of the active and auditory learners.

 

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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. I love your blog! I teach first grade, but I get so many great ideas from you that I adapt for my kids. Thanks for your generosity.
    I could not access the Science in the Air article from NAEYC. Then I realized that you left off the "f" (for pdf) at the end of your link. I found it on the website and downloaded it.
    Thanks again for sharing your great ideas with the rest of us!

  2. I love that you said you use these activities to "Kill two birds with one stone"! Maybe you should have said "turkeys"! 🙂

  3. I can't wait to use your Thanksgiving story with sound effects. My students will love the inactive element. I am thinking of adding pictures for my ELL and visual kids. Thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful ideas! They add fun to my students' school day!

  4. You are simply Superb, Heidi. I just downloaded the Fall Book that you so graciously made when I said I couldn't use the Halloween book and it's wonderful. Also, the new Wiggles book is fantastic. What a way to teach positive behaviors.
    Thanks, Heidi.

  5. Thank you Heidi for the creative Sound Effects story of Thanksgiving. I have never done anything like it and hope to give it a try! My students love joining in with big books, so this should be similar. It would be great to have picture props to use as reminders…I will look into that. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. I love your blog and all your freebies. In fact, I love just about everything you create. I have all of your cds and dvds…what a difference they make! The kids love them! Their favorite is counting to 100. So cute!
    I have a question. I love the sounds fun poster and cards. They are just the ticket for journal writing. Are you still planning to create worksheets for the sounds? I use the sight word worksheets and the format is great. I'm sure the sounds fun would be just as helpful.
    Thank you for all your hard work…and thank you for sharing with all of us.

  7. To Anonymous,
    Thank you so much! Yes, the Sounds Fun Worksheets are coming! They are being split into two different volumes because there is so much material, and we had to hire an illustrator because there was too much for me to do. Book one is done, but not yet formatted for the printer; book two is still being illustrated. We are just busy with all of the sales and with formatting our new website that things are happening too slowly! Sorry, we are going as fast as we can!
    But I'm glad that you are enjoying the products and freebies!
    Heidi

  8. Love your Bang games. We played Barnyard Bang with the numbers last week. I added some sight words to make another Barnyard Bang with your words and my current sight words.
    Thanks for all your helpful hints. I enjoy reading your blog every Monday.
    Linda

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