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?