Hello readers of Apples & ABCs!  I'm so thrilled to be guest posting today! This is Kate from Teach with Kate, and today I'm going to give thanks to some of the most important educators out there: Kindergarten Teachers. 
On my outdoor, Southern California school campus, the sixth grade teachers don't really mix with the Kinder teachers.  I mean, they're lovely people and fabulous teachers.  We know they're doing good work within their colorful walls, farm bulletin boards, princess days, and hot chocolate centers. We see their cute laminating in the work room and occasionally, in the lounge, get to pour half and half in our coffee simultaneously. Sadly, the school day sucks us in and we're lucky if we catch a glance of the back of their head during recess. But even though our interactions are limited during a normal week, we are fully aware of the benefits we reap as sixth grade teachers -- benefits that are a direct result of some major Kindergarten awesomeness.  Here are six important things my class o'tweens learned from you.

How to sit in one spot with others.  It's something we take for granted in the upper grades, but having 29 students who know how to sit in one spot for certain parts of the day is invaluable. I know it required an incredible amount of energy to make sitting in one spot...well, fun, but you somehow managed it! You sang songs, did chants, awarded points -- and now I can use my math time focusing on solving ratio word problems without kids who randomly skip over to the window.  Thank you!

  How to walk quietly in the hallway.  Believe it or not, the 'bubble in your mouth' trick doesn't go to far with 12 year olds. Shocking, I know. That's why I'm so glad you spent your mornings walking past the office with big-cheeked 5 year olds. You happily prance and explain, "Keep that bubble in your mouth, friends!!" They smile and watch their friends to see if anyone will lose that invisible bubble. They're engaged and excited.  And now, I have a class who can walk quietly by the library without so much as a concern.  They get it! So thanks. 

How to be curious. If you're not chasing leprechauns, growing butterflies, making clouds out of shaving cream, or hatching chickens, you're up to something that sparks those little minds. Your students are full of wonder and you cash that in like a Vegas pro. You show them how fun it is to question and explore, to discover and experiment. It catches like a fire and when my sixth graders are tasked with building an earthquake-resistant structure, they are eager and dedicated.  They know the journey will lead to something spectacular.  They've done that before.

  How to get along. I know that recess drama can get you down. Who stole this ball, who tattled on whom. Where's my special pencil and so-and-so won't let me go down the slide.  These experiences, while frustrating for you, have ultimately helped these littles navigate the complex social structure of the recess yard.  I know you spent a lot of time role-playing and practicing "what to say when you are mad", "how to be a good friend on the swings", and "why throwing sand at someone's face isn't a 'good' choice".  But because of this work, work that you never get to fully witness the results of, I have a class of kids who can skillfully implement and execute an organized game of kickball completely tearless. Tearless! It's amazing. 

  That reading is magic. Do you have any idea how much your over-emphasized renditions of Pete the Cat or Chrysanthemum have sparked a love of reading? You taught my kids that reading is fun, that reading is worthwhile. You taught them how to imagine the characters and "see" the story.  You talked about the story, and showed them that stories open a whole new world where friends can experience an adventure together. Because of this, I don't have to fight to have students read 'The Road Not Taken' and discuss potential symbolism. I get the buy-in. They already know that those words are the page are magical because they saw it first hand. With you.   

  That school is a safe place for their hearts. You are the ones who show our kids that school is not only a fun place, but a safe place where they can be loved as they are and where people care. And I know, usually it's easy to love a sweet almost-six year old who hugs you almost daily, but I also know that sometimes you're tired.  But even still, you look in their eyes and listen to their 35th story of the day and you smile.  So they learn that teachers can be trusted, that teachers love them.  They come to you with their problems and you help.  At five, it's a big deal. But at 11 3/4, it's huge. When my kids walk into my room on the first day of school, with worries about divorces or sick grandmothers, with an growing awareness about the world they already know I'm on their team. I do absolutely nothing, and they know I'm going to be there for them no matter what. You showed them that, and they remember. Kindergarten teachers, you are appreciated.  These little people learn some big things in your class. 
 Thank you for everything.

Silly McGilly: St. Patrick's Day Fun in the Classroom {Giveaway}

Move over Elf on the Shelf, Silly McGilly is coming through!  I am excited to share with you a fun little friend to liven up the classroom in the month of March.  Silly McGilly loves visiting homes and classrooms during the St. Patrick's Days season.  What I LOVE about Silly McGilly is he is a stuffed toy that comes with a book, you set him on the windowsill a night, and it invites the REAL leprechaun to come and play a trick as the kids are sleeping or away from school.  This gives me the freedom to pick how often a leprechaun will come and play some fun tricks in our classroom.

Three Irish American sisters were inspired by their own children to create Silly McGilly.  They were brought up to appreciate their Irish culture but they realized there wasn't a defining story or character for children to embrace, so Silly McGilly was born! 

The book is an adorable story of the mischievous little leprechaun Silly McGilly.  The illustrations are beautiful and it comes with an adorable stuffed toy of Silly McGilly himself!

I shared some photos of what the leprechaun will leave behind for my class during the month of March.  The first couple of days he is going to leave little decorations, and then I will start having him leave our St. Patrick's Day activities.  These will be normal books or practice pages that we would have done anyways, but now the leprechaun will leave them for us! ;)

On the first visit, he will leave little shamrocks on all the students' desks!

He is going to leave us counters and manipulative for our math bins and language arts sensory bin!

Silly McGilly will leave us shamrock number cards for us to practice putting the numbers in order and number recognition! 

Then he will leave our class different St. Patrick's day sentence practice pages!

I have two different St. Patrick's Day books that the leprechaun will leave our class.

A fun activity to leave behind are these shamrock necklaces that I cut up.  I bought these from the Dollar Tree and just cut them at different lengths.  The students pick a strand, count them, and write the number on a whiteboard.  You could have them make addition sentences too, if they are ready for that!

Silly McGilly is going to leave these fun pot of gold 10 frame to practice counting!  I have them for you as a FREEBIE!  (I made it for numbers 10-20)

The most exciting part of this post is that you can enter to WIN a Silly McGilly for your own classroom!!!  Enter to win below.

I had to show you this picture....  I was photographing Silly McGilly and Hercules wanted to play with him SO BAD.  In our house, any stuffed toy belongs to him.  He couldn't understand why I wouldn't give it to him!

To learn more about Silly McGilly click here!

MINTED Valentine's Day Cards for Teachers ($250 GIVEAWAY!)

I am super excited.  I teamed up with Minted.com, which is the most ADORABLE stationary around.  Their product is extremely high quality and is my favorite company to get printed stationary.  They have Christmas cards, announcements, invitations...basically anything you need printed, they have it.  

I want to share with you their new classroom and kids Valentine's Day cards.  This line is perfect for kids to give to their friends in the classroom or for a teacher to give to the students!  Look at the adorable Valentine's Day cards that I chose to give my kids!

I picked this card from their store but what is amazing is that when you find a card you like, you can modify it picking the colors, font, and text!

I purchased some bubbles, pencils, puffy hearts, and conversation heart candies from Target to add to a goodie bag for each student.  The cards I chose are gray, so I am going to use a sliver Sharpie to write their names.

I put all of their Valentine's treats into a little goodie bag to go with their Minted Valentine's Day card!

Minted has decided give away a $250.00 gift card in store credit to one of my amazing followers!  You can use the credit to shop your heart out on Minted.com. :) 
The giveaway will be live for one week.  Click on the picture below to enter! 

Minted is also generously giving all of you FREE stickers if you purchase a set of classroom Valentines (with a purchase of $20 or more).  Use the code: CLASSROOM, and the offer expires January 31, 2016.

Guest Blogger: Using Hand Signals in the Classroom

Hi!  I am Maria from Everyone Deserves to Learn!  I am going to share with you some "checking for understanding ideas!"

Did you get that?

Do you understand?

Easy peasy, right?

Raise your hand if you've ever said that to your students.  {Raising hand wildly over here!} I'm also guilty of calling on the same 3 kids over and over again.  It's so hard to change, especially when you've been saying the same things for years!  I have been trying a few different ways to break those bad habits, and I hope some of them can work for you!

Checking for understanding is something we are constantly doing before, during, and after lessons.  It can tell us which students are on the right track, which are the wrong track, and which kids are on Platform 9 and 3/4.   But when does checking for understanding become a tool we can actually use to drive instruction?

Enter the Marzano Scale.  I started using this on the first day of school this year, and am so glad I did.

After I've conducted direct instruction and before we move on to independent practice, I stop and say, "Show me how you understand."  Sometimes I'll use it as a quick pre-assessment as well.  My students will then raise anywhere from 1 to 4 (sometimes we get silly and raise 10) fingers to show their understanding.  From there, I can assign partners or groups based on what I've seen.  This strategy has worked out well for both my high and low proficient students; the physical response lessens any speaking anxiety they have.  

The next strategy works really well for my low proficient ELL's, and would work for any student who is on the shy side.

When I ask a question to the whole group, I wait to see my student give me a thumbs up on the table before calling on him.  

Earth shattering? No.  Easy? Not always, especially when we are holding a group discussion.  Effective?  Absolutely!  Waiting for that thumbs up avoids unnecessary speaking anxiety for my student, and saves the rest of the class from a overly long wait time. It's not a very visible signal, and it's just between the two of us.  He can lay his fist on the table with his thumb to the side, or he can hold his thumb up (like in the game Seven-Up).  

None of my students have asked about it , but if they did, I would simply tell them that's how I know their friend is ready to answer.

I use lots of hand signals on my part as well. They help a lot when I have very new newcomers at school who are unfamiliar with classroom rules or spoken directions.  
Finger to ear- listen
Finger from mouth - speak/tell me
Brush two fingers on one hand against two fingers on the other - Stop/Don't do that
Hand from chest in a circle- everyone

Do you use any hand signals in your classroom? Share in the comments!