It's been a while since I posted pics of our classroom happenings. Too long. But the start of this school year has been exhausting. I'm finally getting into my "groove" and ready to share with you some photos of my new crop of Kinders and the fun that they have had so far at school this year.
Discovering a good book...or two
Celebrating an important birthday...number 5!
Milking a coconut
Using the Mimio to make learning really fun
Observing our classroom pet, Gus, up close
Working with magnets and creating at the easel
Listening to a favorite story read by our Assistant Principal, Ms. Kelley
Sorting pasting together
Painting rainbow toast
Making Banana raisin bread with N's Mom, Miss Melisa
Patterning the letter Mm with macaroni, M&M's, and marshmallows and the letter Nn with Nerd candies
I love it when my Kinders take the initiative to play with sounds, syllables and words. I think it's a true indicator that my instruction in phonemic awareness has not fallen on deaf ears. Yesterday A. came to me and asked if he could call his good pal Nicholas a different name....like Nic. I told him that he might want to check with Nicholas first to see if it was ok with him.
Then I couldn't help but go with the moment by suggesting, "You could call him Nic or even Nic Nic."
To my surprise A. took it a step even further. "I could call him Nic, Nic Nic, or Nic Nic Nickety Nic Nic."
I figured A. must like Nicholas very much to spend so much time thinking of just the right new name for him.
Yesterday while on the playground, two friends collided on the slide. With one friend in tears and the other suddenly asking to go to the bathroom I knew there had to be a story behind the drama, so I brought both of them together to find out.
"Friend A" - otherwise known as the friend in tears, simply explained that he got bumped and it hurt.
"Friend B" - otherwise known as the friend needing to go to the barthroom, had a little bit tougher time telling what happenend. His words spurted out quickly. "Going by him.....didn't mean to......bump......steps.....going down."
Finally after we took a few deep breaths and I gently prodded him with some questions, the truth came out. And it was one scenerio I haven't quite heard before.
"I was on the slide. I needed to go down. And well....his nose got in the way."
The Kindergarten classrooms at my school use Dr. Jean Feldman's "The Rules Rap" to teach our rules. I created a slide presentation and social story as visuals to go along with the song. On the last slide/page I included a picture of me smiling with the sentence, "When we follow the rules it makes Mrs. Pearce happy."
On the first day of school I introduced the rap and the rules using the social story. When we arrived at the last page N. asked me how old I was in the picture. I laughed and asked him how old did he think I was. He matter of factly replied, "In your 20's." I then asked him how old did he think I was in person. "He said, "In your 30's."
Yesterday was the second day of school, and we reviewed the rules by rapping the rap and reading the story again. The kids did great and remembered many of the rules. When we arrived at the last slide/page I asked the group, "What does this picture tell us happens when we follow the rules at school?"
Several kids in the group chimed in and answered, "It makes Mrs. Pearce happy."
I have spent the last week setting up my classroom for the new school year. Finding the perfect physical location for my developmental centers and work tables was the easy part, because I really liked the classroom setup I finished the last school year with and decided to use it again. Placing all the stuff that goes in and on the furniture...well that's another story and here's why:
In Kindergarten there is so much stuff. Big stuff and little stuff. It takes up space fast. And space is what we always want more of in a classroom.
It is important to place the stuff in just the right spots. For example, you don't want to place math manipulatives too close to homeliving because then you will have hundreds of little pieces of stuff mixed in with plastic food.
I have to make sure that all stuff is clean and working properly. Nothing is worse than me or a student getting ready to use stuff and it not work. Kinders expect stuff to work all the time.
You want to ease your kids into stuff. If you put out too much stuff at the beginning of the year then you have the potential for chaos and mess. I like to interchange my stuff throughout the year to keep things interesting for my students (and me).
Stuff has specific rules and purpose. The purpose and use of all stuff must be explained during the first weeks of school. A Kindergarten teacher can never take for granted that students know how and when to use stuff appropriately.
We got new Science curriculum from "National Geographic" this year. It is wonderful. But it is three big boxes of more stuff that I have to find a place for.
I know that during the first week of school I am going to get all the supply list stuff from each of my Kinders. I have to have very specific places to store all this stuff and gently explain to my Kinders that we will not use all of it during the first week. (They get very excited about their stuff).
I must have all stuff discreetly and compactly organized before the Fire Marshall visits during the first semester of the school year....or me and my stuff will be in hot water (no pun intended).
Seriously. I am thankful for the stuff I have. I am thankful to work in a school district that provides funding for me to buy stuff every year and maintains a beautifully equipped school to put it all in. I am thankful to the parents of my students who so generously provide stuff to my classroom so that their children can have a wonderful Kindergarten experience.
I also know that even without all the stuff, my students CAN learn and I CAN teach. If we come to school every day with a heart and a brain ready to learn, then we can do it. All the stuff just makes it even more fun.
Watching this video of Dr. Jean Feldman explain the basics of reading readiness is the next best thing to sitting in one of her workshops. This is a wonderful FREE resource. I think it could be shown during the Kindergarten Parent Night that we hold within the 1st month of the new school year to reinforce those basic oral language and prereading skills to parents.
The video also affirms why I love teaching young children so much. Isn't readiness readiness exciting!
This past week a group of faculty and staff members from my school gathered to load up two trucks with buckets full of new books and a cooler full of ice pops. Our mission was to spread the gift of literacy to the small town where we teach and live. It was so much fun to fellowship together and to see some of our students and parents in their neighborhoods. You can imagine the looks of surprise we encountered. Usually our students see us only at school or perhaps in the grocery store or at church. It was a wonderful way to spend a summer evening and we look forward to doing it again.
During the past 8 years I have tried many different types of seating set ups in my circle time area. When I taught Prek, my classroom was provided with a beautiful and colorful rug purchased from a classroom supply company. Since then the two KG classrooms I have taught in have not included rugs. So I became very creative. Here is what I have used so far....
Individual carpet squares donated from a local flooring store.
+: Each child has a clear boundary of where they need to sit.
-: It takes a few minutes for students to get a carpet square from a stack, put it on the floor, and actually sit on it.
Two indoor/outdoor carpet pieces taped together with colorful duct tape. I even used spray paint to add numbers (1-24) to the rugs.
+: Provides the same use as expensive rugs purchased from classroom supply companies.
-: These carpets last about one school year before they are worn out.
No carpet at all
+: Students have the freedom to sit where they want to in the circle time area and there is no need to worry about keeping the carpet clean.
-: Students have no boundaries of where to sit during circle time. This works great for a class of students who are more mature and have great awareness of personal space. Not so much for a class of "younger" KG students.
......So what do I do this year? What have you used in your classroom? Help!
For the past month, I have been receiving a steady stream of classroom supply catalogs in the mail. I love to go through the catalogs....much like I did Christmas catalogs when I was a little girl. Here are the items that are at the top on my wish list for the upcoming school year. I have included links to their online catalog descriptions in case you want to check them out. Just click on 'em.
I finally topped 100 followers! Thank you to everyone who has checked out my blog during the past year. I started this adventure as a way to journal my experiences as a Kindergarten teacher. What I didn't expect was to receive two blog awards, positive feedback from teachers all over the country, and to gain countless resources and daily motivation from fellow bloggers. The possibilities for networking are endless and I look forward to more blogging fun....So stay tuned!
I love a good idea. A good idea that is free...well that's even better. I found one over at The Snail's Trail blog.
Check out these word builder slides. All it took to make them were some paint sample cards and a permanent marker. The nice folks at my neighborhood Wal Mart gave me the paint sample cards. I needed about 35 (2 3/4 x 5 1/2) single colored cards and 15 (2 x 9) multi colored cards.
I wrote word families on the large cards and beginning phonemes and diagraphs on the multi colored cards. It took about 15 minutes to make. Easy peasy!
When I first began teaching Kindergarten, I discovered two developmental milestones that were MUCHO important to my young students. Losing a tooth and tieing a shoe. So important that I felt that they needed to be truly celebrated, almost as much as having a birthday.
I implemented two recognition "clubs" that are easy to manage and the kids absolutely love them. It was a simple thing to do. I purchased two kits from Really Good Stuff (I do love this company) that included posters, matching stickers, certificates, and "tooth" necklaces. I hung the posters in a special place in my classroom. I introduced the "clubs" during the first week of school. We also read books about what it's like when either of the two happen.
The clubs manage themselves. Lots of independent practice takes place. Wiggling loose teeth and looping strings. The kids ALWAYS remind me when they are ready to be members (and their friends do too). We write their names on the posters. Stickers, certificates and tooth necklaces are presented to them. And most importantly, we take a few precious moments to marvel at the space that a missing tooth left or watch in awe as shoes are carefully tied.
Yep....these are milestones definitely worth celebrating again and again all through the school year.
It happens every August. A new crop of parents enter my classroom with their Kinders in tow. They are curious, excited, eager, and sometimes a little apprehensive about the learning adventure that is about to begin for their child. When I talk with them about their child's readiness they often share with me common sentiments. If their child has a summer birthday, they worry that their child is not yet ready for Kindergarten. If their child has a fall birthday, they worry that their child will not be challenged enough in Kindergarten because they just missed the cutoff to attend the year prior (Florida's cutoff for Kindergarten is September 1.) Regardless of the concern, I always reply with the same honest answer, "Let's get started and see where the year takes us."
As an early childhood educator I know that Kindergarten readiness is much more than a chronological age listed on a form. It is a composite of the development of the whole child in which all domains (cognitive, social, adaptive, and physical) are taken into consideration. For example, where one child may be reading before Kindergarten begins, he/she may lack important social skills that are equally as important for success in a formal school environment.
In the past five years I have seen a new approach taken by parents. Some are making a conscious decision to delay Kindergarten for an additional year to allow their child to be the oldest child in class, instead of the youngest. I am intrigued by this, particularly because I have seen an increase in this school of thought, and wonder if it tied into the national climate of high-stakes testing in public schools.
I found a recent article, "Who's Ready for Kindergarten?" in The New York Times. It is actually a collection of various opinions written by educators and researchers. All with valuable viewpoints and meaningful "a-ha" statements.
Take a look, see what you think, and let me know. I would love to read your comments about this subject.
I have been in the classroom every day this week....as a student. I am working toward earning a K-12 Reading Endorsement and the class I am currently taking is all about assessment. Norm referenced...criterion referenced....standardized.....formal....informal....portfolio based...curriculum based.....diagnostic, etc.... You name it and our instructor, Terry, is covering it successfully.
Before the class began I anticipated gaining new knowledge as well as making lots of connections that link new information with my past experiences in the classroom. This has happened...and then some.
My fellow classmates represent a wide range of educators. Elementary, middle and high school. Primary, intermediate and secondary. General education and ESE. Some have been educators for over 20 years and others are just beginning or returning to their careers. I love the diverse backgrounds and perspectives that a heterogenous mix like this brings to learning!
This morning Terry asked us to write down one tidbit of advice for a beginning teacher. After gathering them, she shared them with us. As soon as I heard two or three, I immediately knew that I wanted to include them in my blog and asked Terry if I could. She generously agreed and even added one of her own.
(Dancing skills are also good to have)."
"If you stay organized, you will stay more ahead of things.
Organization keeps you sane."
"Develop routines early and stick with them.
Practice them with students and make sure they understand them.
Start slowly if you need to, but make sure students understand the routines
....and follow them."
"Make sure you establish your rules Day 1 and be consistent."
"Give classroom jobs to students who exhibit
challenging behaviors or have low achievement levels.
It will make them feel important and reduce problems."
"Be consistent. Students crave structure.
Don't be wishy-washy. Make a decision...and stick to it."
"Don't be afraid to call parents/send notes, etc... Most parents appreciate it."
"Talk to your administrator when you have concerns
about a student (academically and/or socially, etc...)"
"Teach the class as a whole, but meet the needs of individual students."
"Seek out kindred spirits who will support, listen, share, and collaborate.
These relationships are essential for your emotional growth as a teacher."
"Remember that you became a teacher because you love the kids.
You are not their friend, but you love them."
"Before one can even begin to teach,
your students must believe that you care about them as individuals.
You must like them and treat them respectfully.
(Or at least make them think that you like them)."
General Survival as a Teacher
"You can't fly by the seat of your pants.
But you can tap dance if you know all they steps."
The school year in our district always ends around Memorial Day. Because of this, I never get to recognize Father's Day in my classsroom. But if I did...here are a few books from my own library that I would enjoy reading with my Kinders. Each book celebrates the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of little ones.