Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ingredients for a Successful Open House...Clone Not Included

I love Open House.  I love the feeling of excitement in the air.  I love meeting my new students and their parents. I love watching them explore my classroom for the very first time. And I love the anticipation of amazing possibilities for a new school year.  I just wish that during Open House I was cloned.  One of me to cheerfully greet each child and their family at the door.  One of me to dutifully make sure everyone signs in.  One of me to graciously guide short tours of the classroom.  One of me to patiently answer questions and jot down specific details about each child that I know I won't remember later.  One of me to photograph each family to capture the memory of a school year beginning.

I know that somehow (even without cloning) I will make it through the evening with a smile on my face.  But I must follow my checklist of successful Open House ingredients to make sure that I am prepared.
  • A sign in sheet that specifically asks how each student will be transported to/from school and if they will bring or buy their lunch.  Not only does this give me vital information for the always hectic 1st day of school, but also prompts a new parent to think of those details if they haven't done so already.
  • A table set up with examples of the items requested on my classroom supply list.  I also place copies of my classroom wish list on the table.
  • A table set up with examples of our Kindergarten curriculum.
  • A photo album that includes pictures of classroom activities and field trips from the last school year. 
  • In each child's cubby I place an envelope of school forms and grade level information for each parent and a small goodie bag of treats for each student. 
  • I have served simple refreshments in the past.  Cookies and lemonade or juice are yummy and inexpensive.
This year I have added a powerpoint presentation that will loop continuously through the evening on my large screen.  It was pretty simple to put together using a free Microsoft template.  I think it is a really good addition.  Some parents, specifically those who have never had a child in elementary school before, are overwhelmed at Open House.  They have lots of questions.  The presentation is another way to answer those questions while they explore the classroom and I visit with other families.  I have added a post of my presentation in case you would like to view it. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A New Calendar Song for a New School Year

I am always looking for new catchy tunes to incorporate into my daily classroom routines, such as Calendar Time. Boy, have I found one! It's called "The Calendar Song" by Busy Beavers. The song includes the names of the months and the days of the week, which I think is pretty nifty. If you like the song, check out their website for more learning fun.  Busy Beavers....your stuff is great!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


"We worry about what a child will become tomorrow,
yet we forget that he is someone today." ~Stacia Tauscher
Two weeks from now I will report for pre-planning which means the school year fevorishly begins for me and my colleagues at Crawfordville Elementary.  A four day period is packed with faculty meetings where LOTS of information is dispensed, student data is examined and diagnostic tools for the year are presented. Around these meetings precious moments are spent in the classroom setting up for Open House and planning for the first few weeks of school.

From the time I receive my new classroom roster and I see the 18-21 precious names listed, it is very easy for me to get caught up in ideals.  For instance, ideally all of my students will come in on the first day with superior readiness skills and the ability to sit attentively quiet for 15-20 minutes at a time. Ideally, I will have no students with behavioral issues stemming from either fragile home situations or extreme social delays. Ideally, by the end of the school year all my students will be able to write a small paragraph and explain the differences between a rectangular prism and a sphere. Ideally, my students will show amazing progress on pupil progression standards and ALL will easily make it to 1st grade.

But this will be my 8th year of teaching primary education, so I am kind of aware of how this works. Within two hours of the beginning of the first day of the school year my ideals always change....and I have to say, for the better. 

I suddenly remember what my true ideals are for teaching Kindergarten.  Ideally, I will respect the diverse backgrounds of my students and use that knowledge to create a classroom family where my little ones accept each others' differences and support each others' needs.  Ideally, I will celebrate the small successes of my students.  Every lost tooth, every pair of new shoes, every haircut, every new friendship created.  Ideally, I will recognize the developmental strengths and needs of my students and work to create a classroom where everyone is challenged to achieve at their own pace and feel successful every day. Ideally, I will create a learning environment that looks a lot like preschool at the beginning of the school year and a little more like a 1st grade classroom by the end.

And finally, the single most important ideal of all.....I will let them be little.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Storytime Books for the 1st Week of Kindergarten

Some are oldies but goodies.  Others are new classics. Here is a list of the books that have become a tradition in my classroom for the 1st week of Kindergarten.

At the top of my list is "We Like Kindergarten" by Clara Cassidy.  This Little Golden Book was a childhood favorite of mine.  I spent hours admiring the illustrations by Eloise Wilkins.

"The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn.  Who can resist Chester the timid racoon and the love he has for his Mommy. 

"Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten" by Joseph Slate.  I love how Mrs. Bindergarten's classroom comes alive as she prepares for the 1st day of school.

"Will I Have a Friend?" by Miriam Cohen.  Making new friends is always a pretty scary task for Kindergarteners on the 1st day.  This book gently guides students through the process.

"The Crayon Box That Talked" by Shane DeRalf.  This is a great book to introduce the concept of creating a classroom family and learning to accept others, no matter how different.

"Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come!"  by Nancy Carlson.  The title says it all and the author depicts a Kindergarten classroom as a cheerful, welcoming place.

"There's A Dragon At My School" by Philip Hawthorne and Jenny Tyler.  The repetitive text featured on each page draws young children into the story.  A great read for introducing classroom rules.

"The Meanies Came to School"  by Joy Cowley.  Giggles abound everytime I read this book to my students.  This book is part of a series about the adventures of michevious, but harmless, monsters.

Here are some titles that I hope to add to my collection.

"The Night Before Kindergarten" by Natasha Wing
"Tiptoe to Kindergarten" by Jacqueline Rogers
"Kindergarten Rocks" by Katie Davis
"Countdown to Kindergarten" by Alison McGhee

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eleven Truths of Kindergarten (so true I'll swear by them on a stack of Caldecott Winners)

  1. "l-m-n-o-p" sure do sound like one letter when you say the alphabet real fast.
  2. 5th graders are as tall as giants when you pass them in the hallway.
  3. even though it is loud, Mrs. Pearce's bathroom toilet will not gobble you up when you flush it.
  4. a loose tooth, about to fall out any minute, is a really big deal.
  5. the excitement of a good fire drill can last all (and I do mean all) day. 
  6. a well-earned visit to the Principal's treasure chest is as good as a trip to Tiffany's on 5th Avenue. 
  7. "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" is one scary story if you do the Troll's voice just right.
  8. a new haircut or a new pair of shoes are definite cause for spontaneous Show and Tell.
  9. "Humpty Dumpty" is not just a rhyme about a cracked egg, but is really all about life's consequences.
  10. if the moon is full or the chance of rain is more than's going to be one heck of a day.
  11. a bandaid and a hug will fix just about anything.