Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Technology Gadgets for the Classroom

I am super excited to have 3 new tech items for my kindergarten classroom this year.  I received all three items this summer and had plenty of time to "play" with them before bringing them into my classroom.  Below you will find out the 3 items that will transform my classroom this year and how I plan on using them!

Technology is one of my favorite things to use in the classroom!  These three gadgets are great for school.  Check out some wireless tech tools and how an echo dot can be used in the classroom!  Number one is a must have for me!

1.  Amazon Echo Dot

  • This might be my favorite purchase.  I am so excited to introduce my students to Alexa.  I can't wait to use the Dot to play music, look up the weather, check math facts, spell sight words, and more!  I can hear it now: "Alexa, does 3+3=6?"!  So many possibilities!

2.  Wireless Mouse

  • Another exciting purchase for me!  I can't stand sitting at my computer or standing at the board when teaching, however, it is often necessary to navigate the screen, slides, websites, etc.  This wireless mouse will allow my students to be in front of the class & I can navigate from the back.  Students need to be the center of everything, I love how this will allow so much flexibility when teaching!

3.  Wireless Doorbell

  • School should be fun!  Wireless doorbells add a little fun into the day.  I can't wait to use this as an attention grabber and for transitions.  It will even add some extra excitement when our mystery readers arrive & ring the doorbell!  I purchased a doorbell with 2 different clickers, that way I can have one and my assistant can have one.  There are sooo many awesome tones as well - holidays, birthdays, songs, nursery rhymes, calming chimes, rings, etc.  I love the options!

[This post contains affiliate links]

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How to Start Flexible Seating

Flexible Seating is a phrase that has been buzzing around the education world for quite some time now.  I LOVE seeing so many teachers getting their toes wet with this.  It has been a game-changer in my classroom over the past two years and I want to help you get started!  Here is my advice for starting flexible seating off at the beginning of the year!

Flexible seating has made a big impact on my kindergarten classroom environment over the past two years.  Check out these tips and ideas for getting started with flexible seating in your classroom!
  • Make a plan - flexible seating does not mean you have to get rid of all of your traditional seating  - it just means that students have options of where they sit.  What do you want flexible seating to look like in your classroom?  It looks different from classroom to classroom, start with what might work in your room.
  • Get rid of the idea of a seating chart - true flexible seating does not have a seating chart, no more assigned seats *only do this if you are going 100% flexible seating at all times*
  • Look at what you already have - do you have good tables and desks?  If so, figure out if you can lower some (by taking off legs) or if you can raise some (extending legs or with bed risers).  Do you have a counter or shelf that could be used as a standing desk?  Do you already have clipboards or whiteboards?  Start with what you have!
  • Ask for donations - you will be amazed at how generous people are!  You may get old bean bag chairs, couches, pillows, carpet squares, and more.  You can even start on Donors Choose and make a project there.  Don't try to buy it all yourself, trust me!
  • Get rid of some seating and add in your new seating. You can go all out or start with just one type of seating.  I introduced Wobble Chairs in my classroom and that was it at first.  The kids could work at that special table during the day when they were doing independent or center work.  This was a great way for me to see how flexible seating could work in my classroom and a great way for me to see how the kids would do with seating options that were not so traditional.
  • Introduce the seating to your students.  Model how you use that option.  Model how you don't use the option.  Have a student model the incorrect way and the correct way.  Allow that option to be available to students.  Put this in your lesson plans for the first week of school.  Teach it to your students!
  • Make sure the rules are clear (whatever rules you decide).  The two rules that I highly encourage are "Teachers have the right to move you at any time"  and "Pick a spot that works best for you".
  • Have fun!  Teaching is supposed to be fun - enjoy it, embrace it, and love it!  
Wondering what seating will be best for you?  Check out 18+ Flexible Seating Ideas for Your Classroom!

Let me know if you have any questions.

(contains affiliate links)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

10+ STEM Bin Ideas for Kinders!

Me: "What is your favorite thing about school?"
Students: "STEM! (and recess!)"

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?
(affiliate links included)

I had a goal last year to bring more STEM into my classroom.  I looked over my classroom schedule and realized it was near impossible to fit this in and still teach enough ELA and math.  The kids went to STEM for specials once a week, but it was something they were really interested in.  I decided to do a DonorsChoose project to get some STEM items I could use in my classroom.  My plan was to use these as "morning work" when kids were entering school between 7:15 - 7:45.  I would also allow them to be options if we got Free Choice time on Friday's or other days.

These STEM bins were a huge hit.  They arrived late April and that was the first time all school year that no technology was used during free choice time!  This is what the kids want.  They want to build, create, test, and revamp!  I sat back and just watched their minds work.

Here are some items that are kindergarten tested & approved for STEM bins!

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

2.  Legos
STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

7. K'NEX
STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

8.  Trucky 3
STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

STEM bins have become a daily activity in my kindergarten classroom.  The kids love the hands-on learning that they can do.  They create projects and use their imagination.  I am so glad that I have been able to integrate STEM into the schedule at my elementary school.  My kindergarten students love #1 and even convinced their first grade teachers to get it!  What is your favorite?

I can't wait to make these more than just buckets in my class this upcoming year.  I hope to integrate these STEM bins into all of my subject areas! What is your favorite STEM activity?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Best Books for the First Week of School

I love the first few weeks of school.  The students always seem so well behaved, eager to learn, and are soaking in everything!  My favorite thing to do during the first week of school is to read LOTS of books.  These are a few books that I consider must-reads for the first week of school!

This list of read-alouds is great for the first week of school with your kindergarten students!  These books and activities will help fill your school day when you head back to school.  My kids favorite is definitely number 2!


(affiliate links included)

  • The Kissing Hand - Follow-up Activity: Create a chart with all the students feelings about coming to school 
  • No, David! - Follow-up Activity:  Sort different behaviors into either a No, David or Yes, David column (ex: throwing a ball inside vs. throwing trash away)
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom  Follow-up Activity: Create a large display in your classroom with a coconut tree - have students add their names to it.  Have students create individual trees where they stamp their names onto the tree.
  • First Day Jitters  Follow-up Activity:  Make Jitter Juice!  Mix green punch with some sprite & serve to your students!
  • The Rainbow Fish - Follow-up Activity:  Create a chart showing ways to be kind to one another, create an act of kindness jar & place pebbles in the jar for each act of kindness you see - reward the class when they fill the jar up!
  • The Book with No Pictures - Follow-up Activity:  Make a slime -call it Blork or Bluurf - have your students play with it before filling out a chart talking about how blork/bluurf  smells, feels, looks, and sounds.
  • My Mouth is a Volcano - Follow-up Activity:  Practice different noise levels for your classroom - practice whisper voices, silent voices, partner voices, group voices, etc.
  • Kindergarten Rocks - Paint actual rocks - place them in areas around the outside of your school to brighten peoples day!
  • Chrysanthemum - Follow-up Activity:  Have students count how many letters are in their name - create a class graph!
  • The Night Before Kindergarten - Follow-up Activity:  Have a former student come in and answer any questions your students may have about kindergarten!
What are your go-to books for the first weeks of school?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ideas for Flipgrid in a Kindergarten Classroom

I love summertime.  It gives me time to relax and learn about new tools for the classroom.  This summer I learned about Flipgrid.  Flipgrid is this really awesome platform where you create video grids around a question or a topic.  It then can be shared with your students, colleagues, PLN, etc.  Those people upload video responses.  You can then respond to responses and so on.  It is GREAT!

So, with all these new tools and platforms, I always want to know how it would work with my kinders.  I know that my kids are capable of doing anything they put their mind to, however, there are some technology tools out there that really are not very kinder friendly.  This one, Flipgrid, is!

I have found a new technology tool that I love for my classroom.  Flipgrid is a digital video message board that you can use with other teachers, your students, or globally.  Check out these ideas for how to use flipgrid in your kindergarten or elementary classroom!  I will definitely be doing 1-3!

Here are some ways to use Flipgrid in your Kindergarten or elementary classroom!


  • Book Reviews - Students upload a review of a book they read (you can even create a separate topic for each genre if you would like: non-fiction, poetry, fantasy, etc....that would be good for upper grades!)
  • Weather Reports - One of our big science standards is to understand weather and how it changes over time.  My kids will submit reports on the weather.  I hope to collaborate with classrooms across the country or globe to have them submit weather reports as well.  My kids could really see how weather is different all over the world!
  • Culture Reports - One of our big social studies standards if to understand how cultures are the same and how they are different.  I hope to have people from my PLN and classrooms around the globe add videos to a Culture Grid.  Topics will include food, clothes, traditions, etc.  We can then look through videos and learn about many cultures!
  • Genius Hour Pitches - Use this as a place for your kids to pitch their ideas for genius hour
  • PBL - Use Flipgrid as a place for students to reflect on PBL
  • Math Word Problems - I am going to let me my kids be the teachers!  They will submit a response where they state a word problem they create.  Students can then access the grid and solve their classmates word problems.
  • Writing Process - Create a grid with a topic for each part of the writing process - have students check in after each step!
  • Individual Portfolios - Create a topic for each individual student.  Let that serve as a digital portfolio for that student.  They can share any work on their individual Flipgrid topic that they would like - writing samples, word problems, counting, book responses, etc.
How are you going to use Flipgrid in your classroom?

Monday, July 17, 2017

End of Year Dress

Don't you love Pinterest?  I remember seeing a teacher who let her students design her dress and I knew I had to do that for my End of Year Celebration.

This activity is a keeper for years to come in my kindergarten classroom.  This dress is created by my students.  They made my teacher outfit for our end of year celebration.  See how easy this DIY dress is for classroom teachers!

I bought this plain white dress on Amazon (last minute decision, needed quick shipping!!), and it was perfect!  I was nervous about a white dress being too light, but this was great.  It also was cheap enough that if I couldn't get the markers to work with my kiddos, oh well! (affiliate link)

So, I brought the dress to school and wrapped it around a cardboard box so that the fabric was not doubled up anywhere.  I pulled out plain old sharpies, of course the rainbox pack, and called the kids over.  My directions were "draw"!  That is it.  Use color, make it as big as you would like, draw me a picture that I will love!  I rotated the dress until all the white space was filled.

 This activity is a keeper for years to come in my kindergarten classroom.  This dress is created by my students.  They made my teacher outfit for our end of year celebration.  See how easy this DIY dress is for classroom teachers!

 I let it dry overnight (not even 24 hours) and rocked it the next day at our end of year celebration.  It was a hit!
This activity is a keeper for years to come in my kindergarten classroom.  This dress is created by my students.  They made my teacher outfit for our end of year celebration.  See how easy this DIY dress is for classroom teachers!

I have already bought a few dresses for the years to come!  I can't wait for this to become an end of year tradition for me.  I hope I can hold on to the dresses & wear them when my kiddos graduate from 5th grade!


The 3 Big "To Do's" before heading Back to School

Ahh, summer vacation!  It is supposed to be relaxing and refreshing for teachers, right?!

I have a hard time turning my teacher brain off - I think it will always be on, summer, fall, winter, and spring.  It is just who I am.  Summer is a time for me to check some things off my list that stay there all year long.  These are the 3 things that I think should be at the top of every teachers summer to do list!

Every teacher loves a summer break, but we all know that the classroom and school are always in the back of our mind.  Here are 3 things that help me prepare when heading back to school and allow me to be organized for my next school year!  Number 1 is relaxing to me!

Toss It.  Wash It.  Update It.

1. Less is more - toss it!

Less is more! Tidy up your classroom space with these 3 simple back to school steps.  Get rid of that junk in your storage space and other easy things teachers can do over the summer to help prepare for a new school year!

 I recently went into a storage closet at my school that was filled with stuff from teachers over time.  I have not been able to utilize the closet as a teacher at this school for 3 years because it was that packed with items from teachers who don't even teach at the school anymore!  I think we all have a weak spot as a teacher when it comes to tossing things out - "I can use those empty tin cans for something!"  "Don't get rid of broken crayons or pencils that are snapped in half, you can use them for something!"  The truth is, most of that stuff sits around, and accumulates, and just wastes space.  Less is more - toss it!  Go through your items: closets, shelves, storage bins, filling cabinets - if you haven't touched it in the past 2 years, TOSS IT!   If you have used it in the past two years or know something you will use it for this year, keep it.  Trust me, it feels good to get rid of stuff.



2.  Germs be gone - wash it!
Yuck - I know the items in my classroom have been loved and used all year long!  All that loving, leaves lots of germs.  I wipe things down and clean things off all year, but there is something to be said for a good cleaning.  Take your bins, baskets, scissors, legos, toys, buckets, etc. and put them through the dishwasher and get those items clean.  Clear off your shelves (see if there is anything to toss *step 1), and WIPE THEM DOWN.  Get your room and items clean.  It will feel great!


3.  Refresh the look - update it!
Check your website, social media, blog, e-mail, class page, etc.  Make sure your content is up to date, clear out info that is no longer relevant.  Add more recent photos.  Look at your files, what is no longer relevant for these kiddos, update it, find something that will work better.  Take the time to make those small changes and you will be all set for the new year!

What is your must do before heading back to school?

Monday, May 15, 2017

if it INSPIRES one student...

My "non-teacher friends" are always commenting on some of my elaborate outfits that I have worn to school or my collection of onesie pajamas that continues to grow.  They say "teachers do the craziest things".  I like to think there is some sort of method to my madness.

I figure, as long as whatever I do helps one student, then I am going to continue doing those things that "non-teacher friends" (love them!) will never understand.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, shoes and indoor

Each time I come to school in a bit of an odd outfit, the kids are always intrigued.  Why are you wearing that?  Who are you?  Why do you look different?  They are curious and seeking knowledge.  As a teacher, you have a lot of power.  You can simply answer the question and let the child move on OR you can reply in a way that is going to make the child wonder, explore, and want to know more.  I prefer the latter.

You see, I've worn multiple onesies to school this year.  Yes, the kind that you have with the footies when you are a kid.  I have been a shark, The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, Ms. Frizzle, and the list could go on.  Is it fun for the kids? Of course, they are kindergarten students and they do LOVE that kind of stuff.  Is it crazy?  Maybe, depends on who you ask.  Are they learning from it, YES!  And here is the proof:

Ms. Frizzle was a new outfit for me this year.  I had some funny looks, but as the kids started piecing it all together, they couldn't stop asking questions.

I remember talking to one boy who seemed to be the most curious.  "Why are you Ms. Frizzle?  Do we get to go on a field trip?  Is the lizard going to move?  Where did you get the dress?...." and the questions went on and on and on.  I simply responded to my friend, "I wanted to be this character (ahhh, see his brain turning and making connections) out of all the characters I know. What if you could be any character you want!  Would you be one that you know or would you create a new one?  My little friend said "oooooooooooohhhhh......".  And walked away.

Fast forward many weeks to writing one day.  This little friend had some wonderful writing about the ocean.  A boy explored the dark ocean and saw lots of ocean animals.  He was so excited to share his story.  He read it to me and it was fabulous.  He pointed to his picture and said, "but ya know Ms. Cones, ya know who this is?!?!?!"  I made my best guess, "you?".  "Nope!! That is Scuba Joe!  He is my character.  You said we can be any character.  Scuba Joe is my character!" and his eyes lit up as he continued to tell me all about this character he created.

So might teachers be a little crazy?  It depends on who you ask.  But as long as it inspires one student, I am happy with being crazy.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing
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Monday, April 3, 2017

You Are Only a Kid Once



As a teacher, I often think back in my life to when I was the same age as my students.  What was I doing?  How did I learn?  What did I enjoy?  How can I replicate this in my classroom?

I have very fond memories from my elementary years.  I remember exploring in the woods with all of the neighborhoods until the sun went down.  We would always find cattails or frogs to bring back home.  I remember creating forts out of every blanket in the house with my brothers.  We would have to twist and turn the furniture to get it just right to hold the blanket in the perfect position.  I remember playing school with my best friends.  I, of course, always had to be the teacher.

Kids are growing up in a different way today.  While this can seem vastly different than my childhood, the foundation is really the same.  Kids are exploring, creating, and dreaming big.  Those three things are such an important aspect of childhood.  

When students are given the time to explore, they discover so many new things.  My favorite time to let kids explore during class is at science time.  We study weather.  This can be a really tricky concept for five and six year old kids.  How can it be sunny outside and cold at the same time?  Why doesn’t it rain every time it is cloudy?  If we can’t see the wind, how do we know it is there?  I spend time teaching my class about the tools we use to measure weather.  The students get to create their own wind flag and go outside and figure out what wind is and how a flag can show us that it is windy.  Students get to take a thermometer outside and see what happens to the temperature in the middle of winter with the sun shining.  My kids learn so much and start teaching one another when they are given the chance to explore.

My students are encouraged to create.  Students have had opportunity to code, film, build, paint, and more in my classroom.  They have created paths for robots to take using different coding techniques.  They have designed structures that would keep a little pig safe if the big bad wolf were to come knocking.   Through creating, they are able to teach their peers.  They make mistakes and keep working until they find a way to fix it. 

My students are encouraged to dream, and to dream BIG.  We recently used the Green Screen to compose a piece based off of the book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”.  Students shared what they want to be when they grow up as they flew across a page of the Dr. Seuss book.  I have students in my class who want to be doctors, paleontologists, mommies, electrical engineers, policemen, and more.  When time allows, we pull out blocks, Legos, Lincoln logs, iPads, baby dolls, animals and paint and allow kids the freedom to explore these paths.  I was in awe when an aspiring engineer created a catapult out of Lincoln Logs.  My kids are encouraged to follow their dreams, no matter what that may be.  

Kids, regardless of when they were born, learn in the same ways.  They learn through exploration, through creating, and through dreaming big.  My hope is that my students leave my room at the end of the year inspired and not afraid of taking risks.  We are only a kid once, and I want my students to make the most of it.

This is me in Kindergarten!  Fun Fact:  I teach at the same school that I attended as a Kinder Student!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

#EdCampWake

Well it has been quite a while since I posted anything on this blog!

I attended EdCamp this weekend, shoutout to #EdCampWake , and just loved it.

EdCamps are so unique in so many ways.  The people who attend are clearly excited and passionate about education, or else they wouldn't be wasting a Saturday to be there.  There are no presentations or lectures, it is all driven by what the attendees want to learn more about!

I attended 3 sessions:  Genius Hour, Technology for Young Learners, and Blogging.  Each of these sessions giving me valuable information and new ideas to use moving forward.

My take aways from each:

Genius Hour:  Kids are always wondering this and wondering that.  They need time to answer these "wonders".  Let your guard down, allow for a little chaos,  and you will be amazed at what your students can create, discover, and learn! 

My Next Step:  Create a WonderWall - put it up in my classroom.  Students add sticky notes whenever they wonder something.  Find a time (or perhaps 2 times!) before the end of the school year to let kids participate in a Genius Hour and find out some answers to these wonders!

Technology for Young Learners:  They can do it!  #KindersCan use all sorts of technology to help enhance their learning.  BrainPOP Jr., Seesaw, Green Screens, Draw & Tell, Shadow Puppet, Little Story Creator, Buncee - you name it, they can probably do it!  Don't be afraid to try something new with your kiddos, if it doesn't work, try it again, just in a different way!

My Next Step:  Look into BYOD for kinders!  Who is currently a BYOD class/school?  What suggestions would you have?  Any management tips?  If that doesn't work, start drafting a grant to get more technology for my little learners!

Blogging:  Well, I am writing this post, so clearly this session had some influence on me.  I haven't been blogging.  I don't know how long I have even had this blog, but I rarely post, and posts have been more product posts than anything else.  My excuse:  "I don't have time to blog!".  Well, that isn't what it is about!  My new motto:  I need to make time to blog reflect.

My Next Step:  What am I doing in my classroom?  What went well? What could have gone better?  Blog about it!  Get my blog up and going again!  Add a variety of posts!  I have been encouraged to blog about my Flexible Seating in my classroom, so I will be adding that to the blog as soon as all the words come to me.  I am hoping that my blog will be used as a reflection tool on a monthly basis and that it can showcase the good, the bad, and the sometimes even ugly.

Why Blog?  How can a blog help you as an educator?  Find out what I experienced while at EdCamp that I can bring back into my classroom.

So, here I am, reflecting, on my experience at #EdCampWake.  I look forward to being back in the near future!!

Until next time!
Kelsey Cones