Brain Books = Data Collection that is FUN

Report cards are due next week. If you have ever seen a Kindergarten report card, you know that means I have to assess a million different things for every one of my students. One on one. During class time.

This used to be a HUGE headache. I used to get overwhelmed, and then put it off, get even MORE overwhelmed, then finally do it in a rush and work late every night until they were finished. And when they were finished I would say to myself: there has to be a better way!

A good friend showed me how she kept all of her data in a binder. Keeping data together was a breeze because everything she needed to test was ALREADY there. Another friend showed me how she kept data in individual folders for her students. I decided this was the path for me. Brain books. Simple, concise, and you only have to worry about putting them together ONCE.

I keep all of my students papers in individual binders. I could place them all in a single spot for easy access (I know people who do this and it works well for them!), but by putting them in binders, the kids have ownership. Their binders are so important to them and they love, love, love to track their own learning.

My brain books have pages for EVERY single standard we learn and test (plus a few more I find important) over the year. Each week,  I have a goal like “I will test all of my students on this skill,” or “I will grab so-and-so who is brand new and test all of his literacy knowledge so I can put him into a reading group this week.”

It’s magical.

And the COOLEST thing is – no one hates testing.

I’m going to say it again because it is a miracle sentence: NO. ONE. HATES. TESTING.

In fact, they love it. I love it.

I enjoy that time with my students because it is some of the only time I have to be one-on-one with them. We are focused on a certain skill and we get to celebrate the fact that they know more than they did the last time! How amazing is that?!

My students love come to my teacher table because they get to add to their brain book. Maybe they get to color in a few more squares on their sight word graph or make a new learning goal. Whatever the case may be, it is enjoyable for them.


I am all about letting them choose the color I test with, the color they fill their data in with, the sticker they put on their shirt, the way I holler their achievements to the rest of our class.

I am telling you, 100% truthfully, data collection is one of my favorite things about Kindergarten. I think it is a very special time of growth and teacher-student time that is incredibly valuable to our classroom community.

Oh, and I finished my report cards in one day. How, you ask?

I already had the data 😉

Does this sound strange to you? Do you have questions about how I make it work? Please ask! You can either comment here or email me at

I would love to help you make testing and data a more enjoyable part of your life!

Looking for a resource to get you started? I have just posted my literacy brain book on Teachers Pay Teachers. It is my first product so I would love any feedback you have to give!


Thanks for reading! I appreciate you!


Mo Willems, Pigeon and Directed Drawings

Mo Willems, Pigeon and Directed Drawings

Hello friends!

I hope August treated you well. It’s September! Yippee!

A few weeks ago I did this super fun, whole week unit on Mo Willems and I wanted to share some pictures. We learned from his writing style and drawings and used them as inspiration to be authors and illustrators.

It was incredible to see my 5 and 6 year olds take on this role so CONFIDENTLY. This age is so fun because they really believe they are capable of whatever they put their mind to – and they are!

My absolute FAVORITE activity was our directed drawings of Pigeon. We just love him. We especially love yelling “NO!” whenever he asks us to drive the bus or stay up late. And we giggle a lot when he tries to get out of taking a bath or finds a hot dog.


Didn’t these turn out SO cute?! Oh my word. I’m thinking about “losing” them (at my house) instead of returning them 😉

I found this image when doing a google search (I couldn’t find the original source! I’m sorry!) and thought hey! That doesn’t look to hard! So I figured we would give it a try. I explained and drew each piece on the smart board while they watched and then they did it on their papers. I had them use crayons instead of pencil so there could be no erasing. It worked out really well!


The kids really, really, really loved it and were so proud of their accomplishment!


Here is a close up of a few of them. I mean every single one turned out so great! Every one!

So I am completely obsessed with directed drawings now. I purchased a great set on Teachers Pay Teachers and we have already tried out a pig to go with our Three Little Pigs book last week. It is one of my favorite new activities!

The final benefit of this project is reading the hilarious stories my students keep writing about Pigeon.


One of my boys was writing “If You Take a Mouse to Pigeon’s House.” I was cracking up when he told me all the things that would happen. Think: the mouse will try to eat his hot dog; the mouse will drive the bus and pigeon will be mad, etc. So creative! I love that they have gained the confidence to draw him and even mimic stories they have heard.

I hope these drawings gave you as much joy as they have given me!

Rainbow Names

Kindergarten is so fun. Especially at the beginning of the year.

I tend to ask myself a lot of questions before the years starts:

  • Will students know their own name?
  • Have they ever seen scissors before? What about glue?
  • Will they try to eat it?
  • What are they going to do with a frantic totally calm teacher who tries to do a complex craft the first week of school?

Oh, the questions. They go on and on and on, but this last one brings me to a funny story about my fifth day teaching this year. That was the day I decided we should make a really great name craft to put up at open house. I had dreams, people. Big dreams.

I took large pieces of art paper and cut them in half. I wrote their names nice and big and had this picture in my mind of *rainbows* (and maybe unicorns – who knows). I cut construction paper into tiny little squares and kept them sorted by color.

Then I realized there was no actual way the kids would be able to glue and place these pieces on their own. (To be honest, I always knew this in the back of my mind but I wouldn’t admit it to myself until I was in too deep.)

So I brainstormed and the best strategy I could determine was to put one color of paper on their tables at a time and put glue on one letter at a time for all twenty two students. At the same time. On our fifth day of school.

Good plan, right?


Luckily my students were quite patient and didn’t really seem to mind their teacher running from table to table to glue names and change out the tiny strips of paper. And who cared that some names had four letters and were done almost immediately while some had TEN LETTERS. Let me repeat TEN LETTERS.

Well, against all odds, the names turned out beautifully and really made our room look fun and inviting for open house!

Version 2The kids were so proud and the parents were very impressed. They are now hanging out in the hall for the school to admire so in the end it was totally worth it.


What projects do you like to do at the beginning of the year? Have you ever had an experience like this one?