Grad School Chronicles: Week 3

Week 3 of graduate school has come and gone.  Early in the week, I received a greeting card in the mail from one of my very best friends from Cincinnati.  I enjoyed my lunch and read encouraging words regarding my new life journey.  She knows I am flat broke now that tuition bills have started to flood my mailbox, so she stuffed a Starbucks gift card inside before mailing it.  :)

Week 3 reminded me that I am not in this alone.  I have peeps all over the country supporting me, applauding me, and cheering for me!  With that being said, I hope to gain new friends in the field of education while attending grad school.

Lunch {leftover pork stew} with greetings from Kermit and Miss Piggy.  Bliss!
What are my thoughts for the week?
I really, really miss being in the classroom.  Perhaps the full time program was not the best fit for me.  I was so much happier attending the part time program at another university, even though it was not a degree I truly wanted.  Thank goodness student teaching starts in early May.  I miss my "littles" and the joy they bring into my life.  

The reality of no longer being employed truly hit me this week -- in multiple aspects.  I need to remind myself that I will A) obtain a higher paying position once this is said and done, and B) I will be able to teach a much broader range of ages/grades with this degree in hand.  This will be worth it in the long run.  I know it will.  I simply need to keep reminding myself of this as I battle overwhelming feelings of edTPA-based fear.

It is still really early in the game, but I am ready to begin making prison-style tally marks on my office wall as each week passes.  I do not believe I feel the need to do so out of negativity toward the program, though.  I am a planner, and I tend to feel a bit lost if I do not have a visual in front of me.  My goal for this coming week is to create that visual so I can settle into my new life as a full time student.  Check in next week to see if I followed through with that thought.

Grad School Chronicles: Week 2

Week 2 of graduate school has come and gone, and I managed to capture the most beautiful picture to represent my week.



One personal goal I strive to meet each week is to make sure I am following through with staying healthy.  For me, that is somewhat of a multifaceted goal.  Think of it as a goal with lots of little sub goals surrounding it.

A sure fire way for me to ensure I am physically and emotionally taking care of myself is to go for a run.  Friday evening, after a loooooooooong week of overwhelming classes, I hit the road running.  It was a clear day, which is unusual to see in Washington.  The moon was beginning to rise, and I snapped this picture as I ran through campus at WSU.

The moon was bright that night.  I have a feeling my future is about to shine as bright as that moon.

What are my thoughts for the week?
At this point, I am working hard to keep my head above water, but all in all, I have a much better idea of expectations and due dates.  This is an intense full time program that heavily relies on group work.  So far, the groups I have been involved with have consisted of people with a similar work ethic to mine.  I am really dreading the day I am paired up with someone I have a difficult time connecting to and communicating with.  I think we have all been burned by group work in a past educational setting, and I know for me, that left a bad taste in my mouth.  I look forward to seeing positive results from collaboration in the classroom.

Celebrating My One Year Anniversary with a Sale!

Save BIG January 20-21!  I've marked my entire Teachers Pay Teachers store at 20% off!  Use the coupon code START16 to save an additional 10%, which will make a 28% total savings.

Here's a fun little tidbit of information for you; this sale just happens to coincide with the one year anniversary of my very first sale on Teachers Pay Teachers.  How stinkin' cool is that?

Click image to browse my TPT store, which is FULL
of awesome pre-k & kindergarten resources!
This sale is a GREAT time to stock up on smaller resources that will support your ever-growing curriculum needs.  I purposely create items that can mix and mingle with many different types of curriculum.  (Mainly because this is what I need for my own classroom!)  One of my best sellers and personal favorites is my Mrs. Wishy-Washy Story Sequence and Retell Cards and Activities packet.  Children looooooove the story, as well as creating the sequence crown to take home and retell the story to family members!

Click image to preview and purchase my Mrs. Wishy-Washy activity packet.

With savings up to 28% off, this is an excellent time to purchase pricier products that might be a little over the normal weekly/monthly classroom budget.  For instance, my Preprimer Sight Word Memory Game Bundle, featuring 13 themed versions of the game, will provide an entire school year of sight word fun.  My kiddos love the familiarity of playing the same game over and over.  The themes provide just enough "oomph" to keep them interested.  Or how about development-based resources, such as my Student Portfolios .  Oooooh, or my "I Can" Statement Cards for bulletin boards!  These help parents (and sometimes administrators) decode early learning standards.  These are especially helpful during conferences!

Click image to purchase my Preprimer Sight Word Memory Game Bundle.

Click image to preview and purchase my Student Portfolio.

Click image to preview and purchase my "I Can" Bulletin Board cards.
Thank you for helping me celebrate the one year mark and for each and every purchase!  Teachers who are willing to collaborate and create rich, engaging curriculum for their students are the best!  Remember to use coupon code START16 to get maxim savings.  :)

Number Match Up Cards One to One Correspondence VALENTINE HEARTS Theme {PreK, K}

***New product discount! 50% off until 1/20/16 at 4PM (PST).***

Thanks for your interest in my Valentine Number Match Up Cards (#1-25)


This download includes:
- 1 color version of cards (10 printable pages)
- 1 black and white version of cards (10 printable pages)



Click image to preview and purchase this hands-on math center activity!

Choose either the color or black and white set of cards. Print 1 copy of each page within the set, cut along dotted lines, and laminate. Students will match numeral cards to dot cards, building critical one to one correspondence skills as they play. (If using the entire set of 1-25 at once will overwhelm your students, choose the cards that best fit their individual and current needs.)

{Tip 1} Create a numbers mini book with these cards by printing one copy, cutting along the dotted lines, and placing inside of a 4x6 “brag book” style photo album (with the number and matching dot card side by side). Place in your math center OR in your library area.

{Tip 2} Create a flip ring to keep near your group meeting or guided reading station. Print, trim, laminate, punch a hole in the upper left corner of each card, and insert a book ring. 

{Tip 3} Copy, trim, and send a copy of the black and white cards home with struggling students!

These cards can be used in so many engaging ways. Be creative & shoot me an email letting me know how you are using them in your classroom. 

Find more of my hands-on math activities HERE!

Check out my other holiday themed resources HERE!

Happy Counting!

A-Z Valentine Write The Room Activities & Word Wall Cards

***New product discount! 50% off until 1/19/16 at 4PM (PST).***

Thanks for your interest in my A-Z Valentine Write The Room Packet. I had such a great time coming up with A-Z Valentine words for my students, and they have had the best time reading, writing, tracing, counting, and getting the most from the activities included in this packet. Parents have been excited to see how letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are worked into our classroom word wall each season. My seasonal Write The Room packets have been very engaging for families, which tends to encourage reading more at home (always a huge plus!). 



Click image to preview and purchase this Valentine's Day themed activity packet!

This packet includes:
- 18 printable pages
- 26 (A-Z) word wall / pocket chart cards
- Table top word chart (I place them acrylic sign holders!)
- 3 differentiated levels of word recording sheets 
- My favorite winter word write, draw & tell- Beginning letter match up
- Syllable count and match- Syllable count and graph
- Spin and spell

Words of Focus:
arrow, bow, Cupid, dear, envelope, February, greeting card, heart, I love you!, jewelry, kiss, love, mine, note, one, pink, quill, rose, stamp, teddy bear, unite, valentine, wing, mailbox, yummy, zig zag


Classroom Ideas:
Print, cut, laminate, and hang the word wall cards around your classroom . You can post the cards in your writing area, a pocket chart, or hang them around the room (walls, doors, cubbies, backs of shelves, etc.). Students can use them to spell & read each word by pointing with their finger or with a pointer. They can record/write the words on the recording sheets provided in this packet.

My students take great pride in writing and reading key words of the season. I hope your students looooove these activities as much as mine do.

Find more of my seasonal WTR packets HERE!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Grad School Chronicles: Week 1

As of this week, I am officially a full time student (again).  That's right, I am in the classroom as a student, rather than a teacher, and I have decided to document my graduate school journey week by week here on my new(ish) blog.

 You might recall that I have been attending graduate school for a solid year, but I decided to jump ship, change universities, and go for a degree in elementary education.  So far, we have spent a lot of time talking about early childhood education, which is great because both of my degrees were directly related to ECE.  However, I am really looking forward to learning how to teach upper grades.  By that, I mean first, second, and third grade.  Anything over that scares the pajeebers out of me!

This is my "coffee room", which is actually supposed to be the dining room.  :)

The image above totally captures the first week of classes!  Books and binders spread out all over the coffee room.  I have spent many hours in this room reading throughout the week.  Basically, if I am not in class, I am in the coffee room reading.

What are my thoughts for the week?
What in the WORLD have I gotten myself into??????  What in the WORLD was I thinking getting myself into a situation where I have to relive student teaching all over again??????  Sigh.  I can do this.  I am organized, a diligent worker, used to rigorous, university level academics, and have been teaching pre-k for years.  I have experience in the classroom already.  So why has the mere thought of this journey sent me into a tailspin?  

I deserve a big glass of wine once this week is over!

Color By Letter Decoding Activity {WINTER}

Thanks for your interest in my Winter Color By Letter packet. Students will decode and match color names to a combination of upper and lowercase alphabet letters. Packet pages range from 3 – 5 letter/color combinations. 



Click image to preview and purchase this literacy center activity.
This download includes:
- Two versions of my color by letter activity pages (18 with colored letter codes, 18 with black and white letter codes)
- 18 different coded designs in all
- 2 coloring sheets without codes (just for fun)
- 38 printable pages in all (18 color, 20 b/w)

Simply print pages the pages you need and add them into your literacy center. 

{Tip 1} I use these pages in a variety of ways, but one of my favorites is to use them during small group sessions. We incorporate letter recognition and listening skills as we color together.

{Tip 2} These pages also make wonderful additions to home learning packets. 

{Tip 3} If your students are pre-readers and you want to use the black and white pages, it is helpful to either A) go through the pages and color OVER the letter/color name for children OR B) have children mark the letter/color during whole group instruction. You could also use an anchor chart to help students identify each color needed per letter.

Find more of my alphabet activities HERE!

Check out my other Winter themed resources HERE!

Valentine Hearts Alphabet Sort & Match File Folder Game {Pre-K, K}

Thanks for your interest in my heart themed A-Z Valentine Alphabet Sort & Match File Folder Game. Students play the game by sorting through the game pieces and matching one game piece per letter on the game mat. 

Click image to preview and purchase this Valentine theme game!

Click here to preview and purchase game.


This download includes:
- 11 printable pages
- Color & b/w version of game mats (b/w game pieces)
- File folder tab labels 
- Directions for game assembly

{Tip 1} If game pieces are ending up everywhere but the file folder game mat, try placing the game on a large tray or cookie sheet, as well as placing game pieces in a small container. That usually does the trick for students unable to figure out space boundaries on their own.

{Tip 2} Have students match lowercase letters to uppercase game mats (or vice versa)!

{Tip 3} Need to create this game in a hurry? Instead of printing, laminating, trimming, and Velcro'ing the game pieces, use 1" plastic letter tiles OR magnetic alphabet letters on the file folder game mats instead! That is my personal favorite way to use this as a literacy center activity!


{Tip 4} Send black and white pages home with students in home learning and homework packets.  We are working on building stamina and fluency...practice makes permanent!

Find more of my file folder games HERE.

Alphabet Match Up Cards Lowercase to Uppercase {Valentine Hearts}

New product discount!  50% off until 1/9/16 at 4PM (PST).

Thanks for your interest in my Valentine Alphabet Match Up Cards.  Print 1 copy of each page, cut along dotted lines, and laminate. Match uppercase to lowercase letters. Students can match lowercase to uppercase letters to make a pair. (If using the entire alphabet at once will overwhelm your students, choose the cards that best fit their individual and current needs.)

Click here to preview and purchase this literacy game!

{Tip 1} Create an alphabet mini book with these cards by printing one copy, cutting along the dotted lines, and placing inside of a 4x6 “brag book” style photo album.

{Tip 2} Create a flip ring to keep near your group meeting or guided reading station. Print, trim, laminate, punch a hole in the upper left corner of each card, and insert a book ring. 

These cards can also be used in so many engaging ways. Be creative & shoot me an email letting me know how you are using them in your classroom. 

Find more of my hands-on alphabet activities HERE!

Mittens & Snowballs Alphabet Sort & Match File Folder Game {Pre-K, K}

***New product discount! 50% off until 1/8/16 at 4PM (PST).***

Thanks for your interest in my winter themed 
Mittens Alphabet Sort & Match File Folder Game. Students play the game by sorting through the game pieces and matching one game piece per letter on the game mat.


This download includes:
- 17 printable pages
- Color & b/w version of game mats & game pieces
- File folder tab labels (uppercase / lowercase)
- Directions for game assembly




Click here to preview and purchase this printable download.
{Tip 1} If game pieces are ending up everywhere but the file folder game mat, try placing the game on a large tray or cookie sheet, as well as placing game pieces in a small container. That usually does the trick for students unable to figure out space boundaries on their own.

{Tip 2} Have students match lowercase letters to uppercase game mats (or vice versa)!

{Tip 3}Need to create this game in a hurry? Instead of printing, laminating, trimming, and Velcro'ing the game pieces, use 1" plastic letter tiles OR magnetic alphabet letters on the file folder game mats instead! 

Find more of my file folder games HERE.

Happy Teaching!

Assembling Pre-K & Kindergarten File Folder Games

File folder games make great center activities and small group work.  I have also used them as one on one instructional tools with children in need of review and/or stamina building.  I have made a lot of file folder games over the years.  With that being said, I have assembled a lot of file folder games over the years, and I have learned a few tricks as time moved forward.

It did not take me long to realize that I really, really, really dislike wasting my time when it comes to putting together classroom stuff.  So, when I put together a game, I want to make sure it will last me several school years (plus, plus, plus).  I laminate, double side tape, and Velcro the heck out of pretty much everything I possibly can.  It simply makes my stuff last longer.  Of course, I have had super destructive students in the past, and I even had one vomit all over a game.  (All it takes is one juicy sneeze to ruin a game that has not been laminated!)  These things pop up now and then, but for the most part, these games are made to last.  Here's how I prep my file folder games for the long haul.

All of my supplies are ready to go.  I like to set up a little work station and prep one game at a time.  I learned the hard way to work on one game at a time.   Doing so means I can easily figure out where I left off and there is less of a chance of game pieces getting mixed up and lost. :)

I start off with a few basic supplies: 
- a file folder
- a laminated envelope to hold game pieces
- scissors
- sticky dots (purchased on Amazon)
- clear Velcro dots (can be purchased on Amazon)
- packing tape
- double sided tape (purchased on Amazon)
- the game board(s) and game pieces (already laminated and trimmed)

Can you tell I buy a lot of stuff from Amazon.com?  :)

STEP 1:
Use packing tape to add the envelope to the front of your folder.  That's where the game pieces live when the game is not being played.  You can read more about laminating envelopes HERE.

Game closed...


STEP 2:
Use permanent double sided tape to adhere the game mats to the file folder, and label your file tab while you're at it.  I always include file tabs with my file folder game downloads; they are the exact labels I use for my own classroom.  I use packing tape to "laminate" the tab.  I also add a colored sticky dot to the file folder (usually by the tab label).  This is a critical part of clean up time in my classroom; especially when more than once child is using an identical game.  Game pieces with yellow sticky dots go to the file folder game with the same color dot.  :)
...game open and ready to play!


STEP 3:
Add a colored sticky dot to each game piece.  Place clear, hook Velcro on the game mats where game pieces will sit and white, loop Velcro on each game piece.  This keeps the slippery lamination from ruining the game for young children.  {From a student standpoint, there is nothing more disappointed than having the table bumped, all the game pieces slide off the mat, and the game end too soon.  Another HUGE benefit to Velcro on file folder games is the "come back to it tomorrow" aspect.  If a child needs to revisit the same game another day, they can pick up right where they left off.  It has saved many tears from being shed and boosted self-esteem in kiddos who often do not finish work at the same pace as their classmates.}

Anyway, back to the game piece assembly.  I use an assembly line mentality for this step.  I place all of the clear dots on the game mats first.  Then, I add the white dots on top of those (sticky side UP).  From there, I add the game pieces to the mat.  Leave each game piece on the mat until this process is complete.  I find I have a better chance of making sure the game pieces actually sit on the mat correctly when I do it this way.

This is the loop side of the Velcro.  This is the side that will stick to the game pieces.

Place one clear Velcro hook dot in the center of each apple (scratchy side up).  If you look closely, you can see that each apple has a clear Velcro dot in the center.  Sit one white Velcro loop dot (fuzzy side down) on top of the clear dot.

Center the game piece on top of Velcro dot so the soft, loop Velcro sticks to the game piece.  Each game piece will look something like this once you're done.
I place the game pieces in a small container, usually a plastic sundae cup from the restaurant supply house, and tell children to choose the card that is in front and find the match.  This helps a lot of kids feel less overwhelmed.  Notice, you only see ONE GAME PIECE on the top of the stack...not twenty-six.

Placing game pieces in a small container to go with the game mats helps children with space & boundary issues keep the game together (most of the time).

Along with training children to take one game piece at a time, I make sure to teach expectations of cleaning up game pieces and prepping the game for the next person.  Teaching kiddos how to use a game is important, and showing them how to clean up and take care if it is equally important.  Otherwise, all of your hard work assembling fun games for them will be destroyed.  Especially if you have certain children in your class who tend to be a bit rough on classroom materials.

Keep one hand on the game board when pulling off game pieces.
I have found it is best to teach (and then re-teach, and re-teach some more) the importance of leaving one hand on the game mat as you pull off the game pieces.  This ensures the game mats and folders stay together longer.  I've also learned to add extra double sided tape to each corner of the game mats.


Do you use file folder games in your classroom?  Have you discovered any tricks that make them last through normal classroom wear and tear a bit longer?



Number Match Up Cards One to One Correspondence WINTER SNOWMAN Theme {PreK, K}

***New product discount! 50% off until 1/5/16 at 4PM (PST).***

Thanks for your interest in my Snowman Number Match Up Cards (#1-25)

This download includes:
- 1 color version of cards (10 printable pages)
- 1 black and white version of cards (10 printable pages)

Click image to preview and purchase this math game!
Choose either the color or black and white set of cards. Print 1 copy of each page within the set, cut along dotted lines, and laminate. Students will match numeral cards to dot cards, building critical one to one correspondence skills as they play. (If using the entire set of 1-25 at once will overwhelm your students, choose the cards that best fit their individual and current needs.)

{Tip 1} Create a numbers mini book with these cards by printing one copy, cutting along the dotted lines, and placing inside of a 4x6 “brag book” style photo album (with the number and matching dot card side by side). Place in your math center OR in your library area.

{Tip 2} Create a flip ring to keep near your group meeting or guided reading station. Print, trim, laminate, punch a hole in the upper left corner of each card, and insert a book ring. 

{Tip 3} Copy, trim, and send a copy of the black and white cards home with struggling students!

These cards can be used in so many engaging ways. Be creative & shoot me an email letting me know how you are using them in your classroom. 

Find more of my hands-on math activities HERE!

Check out my other WINTER themed resources HERE!

Happy Counting!

Alphabet Match Up Cards Lowercase to Uppercase {MITTENS}

***New product discount! 50% off until 1/3/16 at 4PM (PST).***

Thanks for your interest in my MITTENS Alphabet Match Up Cards



Prep Is Simple
Print 1 copy of each page, cut along dotted lines, and laminate. Match uppercase to lowercase letters. 

How To Play

Students can match lowercase to uppercase letters to make a mitten pair. (If using the entire alphabet at once will overwhelm your students, choose the cards that best fit their individual and current needs.)




{Tip 1} Create an alphabet mini book with these cards by printing one copy, cutting along the dotted lines, and placing inside of a 4x6 “brag book” style photo album.

{Tip 2} Create a flip ring to keep near your group meeting or guided reading station. Print, trim, laminate, punch a hole in the upper left corner of each card, and insert a book ring. 

These cards can also be used in so many engaging ways. Be creative & shoot me an email letting me know how you are using them in your classroom. 

Find more of my hands-on alphabet activities HERE!

Happy Teaching!

SNOWMAN Counting Hands-On Math Mats 1-25 Low Prep (Pre-K to K)

***New product discount! 50% off until 1/2/16 at 4PM (PST).***

Thanks for your interest in my Snowman Counting Mats (1-25). This download contains four versions of my snowman themed counting mats: color or b/w, with or without numerals (6 mats per version). Choose which version meets the needs of your students.There are 24 printable pages in all.
Click here to preview and purchase this math resource.

Students use transparent counting chips, puff-pom balls, beads, buttons, number tiles, or other small manipulatives to count and match one manipulate per circle or number on the mat. 

Click HERE to find out more about this resource!
Assembly is super simple – no to low prep, depending on how you wish to use them. 

No Prep:
Black & white pages can be printed & used as counting mats, recording sheets, and coloring sheets for fast finishers.


Low Prep:
Print the counting mat pages (choose color or black and white) and laminate (or slide into page protector).

{Tip 1} If manipulatives are ending up everywhere but the mat, try placing the mat(s) on a large fast food/restaurant tray or cookie sheet for each student. That usually does the trick for students unable to figure out space boundaries on their own.

{Tip 2} I also use black & white copies as counting/number assessments.

Find more of my math activities HERE!

Purchase this snowman math resource by clicking HERE.  


Happy Counting,
Heather Cacak
Pre-K Teacher Heather