Thursday, June 22, 2017

Favorite Props and Reward Systems for Teaching Online

*Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, at no cost to you! This helps support my little blog.*

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have started teaching online with VIPKID. It has been a lot of fun so far, and a great way to earn some extra cash without ever leaving my house.

Since you are teaching over a computer screen, you have to approach things a little differently. The kids respond well to props, puppets, toys--anything to make the lesson more exciting.

Favorite Props for VIPKID | Apples to Applique

I just got these finger puppets and I LOVE them. I like that they have animals and people. Better yet, the people are a family, and family words (grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, etc.) are used in several lessons. They don't take up much storage space, are easy to use over a webcam, and are fun for kids.

Some of my other favorite props are these magnetic letters from Lakeshore. Like most things from Lakeshore, they are not cheap, but they are all lower case, which is hard to find, and they have enough of each letter that I can set up several activities in advance. They help a lot with explaining the "point and read" slides to Level 2 kiddos.

Favorite props for teaching online | Apples to Applique

My favorite purchase so far is, hands-down, this puppet by The Puppet Company! He is so funny and cute, and has been a hit with the kids. He's perfect for my Level 1 babies.

These basic vocabulary cards are on my wishlist to buy soon. There are so many cards that I'm sure they could be used across multiple lessons.

Reward system for VIPKID | Apples to Applique

I also recently made this reward system. VIPKID has some sample reward systems that you can use or draw on a whiteboard, but I wanted to come up with something different. I wanted it to be fun, colorful, easy to use, and reusable.

Reward system for VIPKID | Apples to Applique

I teach most of my classes back to back, with only a couple of minutes between, so I needed something that didn't take a lot of time to "reset" for each student. I made this ice cream cone system with my embroidery machine and added some Velcro, so it's quick and easy to add or take away scoops.

12 Reward Systems for Online Teaching (VIPKID) | Apples to Applique

I also have some fun printable reward systems available in my TPT store! With 12 options from flower gardens to superheros, you're sure to find something that clicks with each student. Check it out here!

I know I sound like one of "those people", but VIPKID has been the best side job ever! They are a great company to work for. If you're interested in becoming a VIPKID teacher yourself, shoot me an email! I'd be happy to answer any questions. As long as you have a bachelor's degree (in anything!) and experience teaching kids in some capacity (Sunday school, summer camp, etc.) you are eligible to apply. If you're ready to take the plunge and meet some adorable students while making some extra cash, sign up here using my referral link and type in this code in the referral box: 02YUUI.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

6 Differentiated Literacy Stations from One Board Game

*Note: this post contains affiliate links. This means that I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, at no cost to you. These purchases help support my blog.*

6 Differentiated Literacy Stations from One Board Game | Apples to Applique

I know it's summer, so probably the last thing you want to think about is planning for school. However, summer is the perfect time to prepare fresh new activities for the coming year.

This idea for new literacy stations is simple and fun, and can be used for multiple activities and skill levels. It also takes less than 5 minutes to prep, so I promise it won't take away from your summer relaxation! Sound good? I am all about engaging activities that don't take hours to prepare!

All you need is some dice and an old game board. Many classic kids games will work, like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. It doesn't even need to have all the pieces, so thrift store finds are perfect for this.

Here's your super-complicated prep--are you ready?

Write a letter name in each game space.

That's it.

6 Differentiated Literacy Stations from One Board Game | Apples to Applique
Simple, one-time prep takes about 5 minutes!

I just tossed the Candy Land cards, because I don't need those millions of pieces complicating my life. Since our purpose for this game is not color recognition, dice work just fine. Counters also make excellent game pieces if yours are missing, so bring on those garage sale games with all the missing pieces!

There are so many ways to play, and it can be differentiated based on the needs of your students.

1. Player says the name of the letter they land on

2. Player says the sound of the letter they land on

3. Player names a word that starts with the letter they land on

4. Player finds a picture that starts with the letter they land on (requires some alphabet picture cards)

5. Player finds the lowercase letter to match the uppercase letter they land on (requires lowercase alphabet magnets or cards, or a chart for students to point to)

6. Player writes the letter they land on (upper or lowercase or both, depending on level)

6 Differentiated Literacy Stations from One Board Game | Apples to Applique

You can approach this literacy station different ways. You can introduce it with different objectives at different times of the year, depending on what you are targeting at that time, so that all players complete the same activity during game play. Or, it can be differentiated in one game session, so you can use mixed ability groups. For example, if I'm playing with a high level learner and low level learner in the same group, they can each have different requirements. When it's my low level learner's turn, I can ask her to say the letter name. When it's my high level learner's turn, I can ask her to name a word that starts with that letter. If I have a kiddo who needs fine motor practice, he can write the letters on his turn. All of this can be accomplished during the same game!

I would love to hear other ideas you have for implementing this board game in your literacy stations; I'm sure there are other variations I haven't thought of yet. Leave me a comment to let me know how you can use this in your classroom!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jumping on the Bandwagon with VIPKID

You guys, I am not usually one to jump on bandwagons. I avoid MLM schemes like the plague, I roll my eyes at the new diet fads that come out and patiently wait for them to pass...that stuff is just not me. But, I recently have made the jump onto the newest bandwagon in Teacher World...teaching for VIPKID.

Teaching with VIPKID | Apples to Applique
My virtual classroom! (I have added better lighting since I took this picture.)

In case you aren't familiar, VIPKID is a company that hires native English speakers to teach English to children in China. I kept getting sponsored ads for it on Facebook and ignored them. Honestly, I figured it was a scam. Then a couple of colleagues in my building started teaching for them and said how much they loved it--and they actually got paid! They said it was fun and easy and a great way to make money.

I still resisted. At the time, they had a minimum requirement of 7.5 hours a week, and I didn't know if I could fit it into my schedule. After all, my husband has been working full time and also doing grad school and intern hours as a therapist full time, so he's almost never home, leaving me to tend to our two littles alone. Fitting in another whole work day didn't seem feasible.

Then they removed the minimum hour requirement, the school year ended, and we had some things come up in our personal life that some extra money would really help with, so I decided to take the plunge.

The interview and hiring process was a little intense. You have to teach sample lessons to adults pretending to be children, who are also grading you at the time. It was a little awkward. After getting hired, though, I've really liked it! The classes fly by, the kids are cute, and there's little planning involved.

I've been fortunate in that I've had all of my time slots booked from the get-go. This doesn't happen for everyone right away. I think this is because I have a few years of teaching experience, I have a master's degree, and I am certified in ESOL, all of which I mention in my bio. I also opened slots during their peak times, which just happened to be the times that work best for me. It's actually working out perfectly; I teach from 6:00-7:30 or 8:00 am, and then I am finished about the time my kids are getting up and around. It's weird starting the day off with them knowing I've already put in an hour and a half or so of work, from my computer, without leaving my house! And I don't feel like it has taken away from any of my time with them; I'm still able to fully enjoy my summer!

I am excited about how this job has the potential to seriously help with our debt snowball (Dave Ramsey, anyone?) and I don't spend any of my time or money on commuting, gas, daycare, etc.

I have no intentions of turning this into a VIPKID blog; there are plenty of those out there, and that's not my niche. However, I did want to share it because I think other teachers could really benefit.
I am happy to answer questions! If you would like to hear more about this opportunity, send me an email at
If you're ready to give it a try yourself, please use my referral link! VIPKID is NOT an MLM setup, and there are zero requirements to sign anyone else up, ever. However, just like many companies, they do offer referral incentives. :)
Click here to use my referral link, and then enter code 02YUUI in the referral box.

I'll update you all occasionally on my experience with VIPKID, but I will still focus primarily on early childhood ideas. I'm getting ready to roll out some new resources in my TPT store, and am working on coming up with some great differentiation ideas for the early childhood classroom, so stay tuned! It may be summer, but teaching never really stops!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Field Trip Wristbands

As the school year is drawing to a close, it's time for lots of field trips! Keeping track of kids on a field trip can be stressful, especially if they are very young, or have special needs. These printable wristbands provide an extra safety precaution as you prepare to take your kiddos out to explore the world!

Printable and Editable Field Trip Wristbands. Just type in teacher contact info and print! | Apples to Applique

They are super quick to use. Just type the school or teacher contact info into the boxes, print, and go! Print on bright paper for greater visibility. Or, to really make organization easy, print on a different color for each chaperone's group.

Printable and Editable Field Trip Wristbands. Just type in teacher contact info and print! | Apples to Applique

Get your printable wristbands here in my TPT store!
I would love to hear about the awesome field trips you are taking your students on. Leave a comment below to tell me about your favorite field trip, either as a student or a teacher!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Dinosaur Excavation Sensory Experience

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no cost to you, and helps support my blog!
I don't know that I've mentioned it before, but my husband is also a Pre-K teacher--at least, for a few more weeks. He's almost finished with his degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, but for the time being, he's teaching littles, like me. We joke that between both of us teaching Pre-K, and having two toddlers of our own, our whole life revolves around early childhood!
But that gives us a great opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other, and to support each other in our work.
Recently, my husband was doing an animal unit, and he had the most awesome display outside his classroom.

Dinosaur Excavation Sensory Experience | Apples to Applique

Is that cool, or what? Seriously, I wish I could take credit for it. He is awesome at this kind of stuff.
This got my wheels turning, and made me think..."Oooh, the kids would love it if I buried some plastic bones in the sensory table and gave them tools to excavate." So, after doing an Amazon search and finding some plastic bones (that weren't meant for dogs), that's just what I did! This was the wrong time of year for it, though. When Halloween stuff comes out, I bet it will be much easier to find toy bones!

Dinosaur Excavation Sensory Experience | Apples to Applique

I buried the bones in dirt, and gave them paintbrushes and kid-safe magnifying glasses. It was the cutest thing ever, and the kids had a ball!

Dinosaur Excavation Sensory Experience | Apples to Applique

The potting soil we used may have made my classroom smell like a freshly planted garden, but that was a small price to pay. This quickly became one of their favorite learning labs.

Dinosaur Excavation Sensory Experience | Apples to Applique

They learned new words, like "archaeologist". Their little imaginations were working, too, as they told me about the types of dinosaurs they were finding. 

Dinosaur Excavation Sensory Experience | Apples to Applique

Even most of my "neater" kids weren't shy about just digging their hands into the dirt.

Dinosaur Excavation Sensory Experience | Apples to Applique

I love labs like this that combine sensory play and imaginary play. The longer I teach early childhood, the more I'm realizing the importance of sensory processing in young children. What are some of your favorite sensory activities for young learners?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Testing Signs - Free Printables!

Testing season is here! While it is definitely not our favorite time in the world of education, we understand it is a necessary evil tool to measure our students' success...or something like that.

I've got a couple of "testing" sign freebies for you today! While they won't make testing any less monotonous (anyone else resorted to counting ceiling tiles in the classroom?) they will at least be cute hanging on your door. And who doesn't need a little freebie to cheer up their life in this final push through the rest of the school year?

First, a "Testing" sign in my most popular classroom decor theme.

Free Printable "Testing" Sign | Apples to Applique

Download yours here! (The downloads have much better resolution than these pictures!)

Second, since so many of us are limited to black and white printers at school, a "Testing" sign in a fun black and white theme.

Free Printable "Testing" Sign | Apples to Applique

Get your copy here!

May your season of testing be short, and your students' scores high!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sky and Weather Activities for Pre-K

*This post contains affiliate links; I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

We are in the middle of a unit on sky and weather. This unit was not initially not my favorite. It is so much easier to get Pre-K kids engaged in a unit on, say, wild animals. Something about animals that have ferocious teeth gets 4-year-olds excited. The more dangerous it is, the more they want to learn about it. It's a little hard to garner that same excitement when talking about clouds.

Sky and Weather Activities for Pre-K | Apples to Applique

The last few years, I've been working on gathering some resources and adding some activities to flesh out our weather unit, and it's been going better.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Egg Matching and Pattern Activities

I'm excited to introduce this little activity to my students when we get back from spring break! For whatever reason, they love playing with Easter eggs!

Easter Egg Matching and Pattern Activities | Apples to Applique
Get yours here in my TPT store!

I saw the original idea on Facebook, but expanded it to allow for differentiation.
Level one is a set of cards with simple color matching.

Easter Egg Matching and Pattern Activities | Apples to Applique

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Up, Up, and Away! 3D Student Kite Artwork Display

Kites always seem to make their way into early childhood curriculum at this time of year. After all, what embodies spring better than the classic high-flying toy?

My students had to decorate a paper kite as their monthly family involvement project. We send something home once a month for them to decorate with their families, and then display the finished project at school. I love seeing the creativity that flows through their projects!
I mentioned this to my husband, who, as it happens, is also a Pre-K teacher. (Just for a few more months, though, until he finishes his degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Whoohoo!) He also just had his students decorate kites...but, as usual, he one-upped me in the creativity of his display, and I had to share it here.

Up, Up, and Away! 3D Student Kite Artwork Display | Apples to Applique

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hats for All Occasions!

A couple weeks ago I posted about the Author Study Hat I had listed in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. My students love making these kinds of hats for all different occasions. These make the perfect last-minute activity for a class party or as a culmination to a unit. Students color and cut them out themselves, which makes it more meaningful for them (and easier for you).

I'm excited because I just finished a big project--a huge bundle of 23 of these hats! This price is quite a bargain--it's like getting 6 of the hats completely free!

What I really love about these hats is that you don't need to use a sentence strip, as the band is included. Plus, the band of each hat is decorated, which sets my hats apart from other similar sentence strip hats.

NO PREP Holiday and Events Hats Bundle with 23 Hats | Apples to Applique

There are hats in there for just about everything!

Included are:
Autumn (pumpkins and leaves)
Autumn (leaves)
Thanksgiving (turkey)
Thanksgiving (cornucopia)
Christmas (tree with gifts)
Christmas (gingerbread girl)
Christmas (gingerbread boy)
Winter (snowflake)
Groundhog Day
Valentine’s Day
100th Day
Patriotic (Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, etc.)
Author Study (customizable for Dr. Seuss Day and more)
St. Patricks Day
Earth Day / Recycling
Off to a BRIGHT Future (last day of school)
Birthday Crown

I hope your students enjoy these as much as mine do!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Author Study Hat for Dr. Seuss Week

Dr. Seuss Week is almost upon us! It sneaks up on my every year! I will never again forget the date, though, because my second daughter was born on Dr. Seuss's birthday two years ago. She came so quickly; I had planned to be at school the next morning for our Dr. Seuss Day fun. We had a visitor coming to read and everything. Well, she had other plans and surprised us in the middle of the night by making her appearance into the world a week ahead of schedule, and I missed out on Dr. Seuss Day with my class--which is kind of a big deal when you teach Pre-K, but she was completely worth it! Of course, we had a Dr. Seuss themed 1st birthday party for her a year later. :)

Now that the date is embedded in my brain, I think I'll be a little more prepared for it every year. I hope, anyway.

This year, I think I'll have my kids design these easy hats. They can draw their favorite Dr. Seuss character on the book, and it's totally customizable, so we can use them for other authors later.

Author Study Hat for Dr. Seuss Week | Apples to Applique

These color-cut-and-go hats are always a hit with my students, and give us something simple but fun to do during parent parties. They love being able to wear their creations, too!

Get yours here in my TPT store! They are super teacher-friendly and great for the last minute, because there is no prep! Literally print and go, then the kids do the rest. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Caps for Sale Dramatic Play Center

My kids absolutely love dramatic play and retelling stories. We read "The Three Little Pigs" a few weeks ago, and since then, they just kept acting it out during their learning labs time. One of my paras made them some pig and wolf masks, and they all had a blast!

The next week, our librarian read them Caps for Sale and then had them act it out. Again, my kids just couldn't get enough, and started doing this on their own during learning labs. I decided to make a few cute props to aid in their play. I contacted my go-to clip art person, JolieDesign, and she came up with the fantastic clip art for me. Seriously, if you need clip art for your classroom, hit her up!

I am ecstatic with how these turned out!

Caps for Sale Dramatic Play Center | Apples to Applique

I designed retelling cards to help kids with summarizing or retelling the story in their own words. My students like to hold these up and play teacher with them. They're also helpful after a read-aloud to just show the kids and ask them questions about main events in the story.
I also made a sign for the peddler to either wear or display in their center, and masks for the peddler and monkeys. For the hats themselves, I'm giving them beanbags to stack on their heads; it gives them great gross motor practice!

I love watching kids act out their favorite stories. One of my students takes her turn as the peddler and always says, "Caps for sale! Fifty dollars for each!" It cracks me up every time, but the other kids don't seem to mind her price increase and just roll with it. ;)

Of course, I can't keep a resource this good to myself, so it's listed in my TPT store. You can find it here: Caps for Sale Retelling Kit and Dramatic Play Center. I hope your students love it as much as mine do, and I would love to hear how you utilize this kit in your classroom!