Monday, October 20, 2014

Fire truck!

   Such a busy week -- learning all about bats and starting math assessments and progress monitoring --  but we did squeeze in a little visit with the firemen when they came to Valmead for the Boys Book Club.  We just had 10 minutes before dismissal, but I got a few cute pictures to share. It is past midnight and I have bus duty in the morning, so no time to write an actual blog. So here are the pictures and I am going to bed!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Help! Teaching Math to 5 year Olds -- STRESS!

    If you read my blog regularly, you probably know that I sing with Carolina Style Chorus, part of an international organization of woman who like to sing together in the barbershop style -- a Capella  -- the Sweet Adelines. This was the weekend of our big yearly fundraiser, so I left school and went straight to work setting up tables and chairs and gathering all my best dishes and table decorations for the event, the Festival of Tables. My son made cupcakes for the dessert table, and by 2:00 a.m. we
were done for the night. This morning I left the house at 8:00 to continue the preparations. We had about 27 tables to decorate,  served the food to our guests, then took off our aprons and put on our sparkly outfits and stepped up on the risers to do what we love -- sing. It was great fun and we got a standing ovation. But then it was time for all the clean up and pack up. I got home at 3:30, left all the decorations and dirty dishes in the car, and stumbled to the bed, where I collapsed and slept for about 2 hours.  Here are a couple pictures  -- the first one is my table. Can you tell that I love cardinals?

Here's another pretty one

And my favorite, the dessert table!

      Although I love my job, it can be stressful, and singing helps me unwind -- and makes me a happier and more relaxed teacher.
       Speaking of stressful -- it has been one of those weeks as I tried to find a way to cover the required math standard.  "Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way... And record each decomposition by a drawing or equation."  In other words, I need to get them to understand the different combinations of numbers that are equal to each number -- like 5 is 1+ 4 and 2+3 and 0 +5.  We always try to give them hands-on manipulatives, so I started by giving each child a set of 6 connecting cubes. The plan was to let them trade one cube with a partner so they would have 5 + 1. But before I could even get all the cubes given out, they were making guns or crosses, taking their partner's cubes, losing part of the 6 -- it was impossible.  I was ready to beat my head against the wall.  So I took up all the cubes and just demonstrated with magnetic buttons on a cookie sheet.

   Then I saw an idea on another teacher's blog, so I made some little bracelets with pony beads to demonstrate the concept the next day.

   These helped - at least they weren't making guns -- but still didn't seem like they were getting it.
Back to the drawing board.
     Then my blogger friend, Heidi Butkus --creator of many songs and games and videos we use in my class-- shared an idea about using a jack-o-lantern picture to make combinations using teeth. 

I had the little equation cards that I bought from Teachers Pay Teachers -- Guiding Kinders Math Workshop by Deedee Wills and Deanna Jump. These worked very well to help the kids start writing equations.  
Heidi also sent me a pattern for trees to use for this activity, and I already had some little apple erasers that I bought a few years ago, and this worked great -- they finally got it and were even able to work with a team to do some equations.

     So, looks like they are starting to get it -- and I am so grateful for all those teachers across the country who are helping me teach in a way that the children understand. You can't always just turn to the next page in the workbook in kindergarten -- sometimes you have to explore other ways to get the lesson across and go beyond the book. It will still take lots of practice, but that is what kindergarten is all about!

    We learned about fire safety this week -- a subject very near to us, since 2 of my students have had house fires in the past year. I asked them to sit down with their family and work out an escape plan, and so I feel a little better about that.  The " stop, drop, and roll" message was fun, but had to correct the misconception that some had -- you only do that if your clothes are on fire. "What do you do if your house is on fire?" STOP DROP AND ROLL!! " "No, you get out of the house and call 911!" 
 Look at the cute fire trucks they made.

    I am seeing progress in their writing, too -- some wrote describing sentences this week about apples. They were so proud.

   Still working on spaces between job isn't finished I will keep singing!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We Survived the Field Trip!

             Today we went  to the apple orchard on our first field trip, and thanks to some great parent and grandparent volunteers,  I think almost everyone had a good time! The bus ride was kind of long, but we sang lots of songs and that made the time go by faster..
            First off was a trip on a wagon pulled by a tractor through the apple orchard. We saw apples growing on dwarf trees and bigger trees and even some baby trees.

    After the wagon ride, we went in to see the conveyor that graded the apples as peewee, small, medium, and large. We found out that the best apples are sorted to be sold, the slightly bruised ones are squished for cider, and the rest are called deer apples because they are fed to the deer.

    After we saw the cider mill, we were able to taste a cup of cider and some apples.  We even got to choose 6 apples to take home with us. Then they let us go in the cooler room where they store the apples. It was COLD!

     We had a picnic lunch, then got on the bus for the trip back to school. Everyone had a good time except for one of our little friends who had an ear ache. He was in great pain, and he cried until he finally fell asleep on my lap. I am so grateful for the moms, grandma, and a dad who came along to help.  
     This is  one tired teacher now, but I am sitting at the eye doctors office, waiting for my eyes to dilate so he can finish the exam, and trying not to fall asleep. Tomorrow we will write about our adventure at the orchard

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We Love Apple Week

   This is apple week in kindergarten, and tomorrow we are going to the apple orchard for our first field trip.  The children brought in all kinds of apples, and they have described and compared them this week. Today we did a taste test to see which kind of apples were the most popular.  The winner was the green Granny Smith apple, but yellow and red were close behind.  Mrs. Austin used some of the apples to make applesauce in the crock pot -- it was very yummy. She brought her cool apple peeler to speed up the peeling process.

   The other new activity this week is learning to read with a partner.  It was amazing to see them sitting in pairs, engrossed in their books.  After reading back to back for about 10 minutes, they turned side to side to share books. I want them all to be book lovers, and they are on the way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Things A Kindergarten Teacher Says

  Since some of my readers will never spend a day in kindergarten, I thought I would share what you might hear.  Some days are a little crazy.  
"Have a seat.  Have a seat. Have a seat. "
Get you fingers out of your nose and go wash your hands.
Get your hands out of your pants and go wash your hands.
Do not crawl under the stall -- now go back under there and unlock that dook.  Wash your hands.
Line up.  Line up.  If you can't  be quiet, you will all have to go back and sit down.
I like the way some of you are standing so quietly!!
I love you, too.
If you would stay in your seat, you wouldn't spill your food.
Who does this belong to?
I'm sorry, but you can't get another library book if you didn't put yours in the book basket.
Listen when others are speaking, especially your teacher!
We don't play guns at school. No, not swords either.
Do not throw rocks!
You know all the ABCs? Yay!!
What is the month? No, Monday is a DAY - see d-a-y day.
You wrote a sentence! I am so proud of you!
What is that rule about hands???
What a good helper! Thank you for picking up that mess!
Yes, I can snap your pants.
Yes, I can tie your shoe, but please ask someone to teach you to tie your shoes.
If you didn't scratch your scabs, you would not be bleeding.
Go get a tissue.
What a good job of reading! Was your mom happy when you read that to her?
You know all the color words! Wow!!
A new student? Oh, come on in -- you can sit here......sigh.....
It is time to start more assessments? I just finished the last ones!
Don't forget your field trip money.
Name on your paper!
Again? You just went to the bathroom 20 minutes ago!
I love you, too.(more hugs) now go sit down.
No, it isn't time for lunch. I promise I will tell you when it is time for lunch. Don't ask again.
Just a minute -- I'll get the mop. 
I called your mom. Go sit by the trash can until she gets here.
What stinks? (I only say this inside my head)

Oh, what fun. Sometime I can't get a complete sentence out.
Today I have a -- stop that! -- a story about -- get your hands off him -- a story about a -- I love you, too, but go sit down -- the story is about -- 

But, they are learning! Somehow, with all the craziness and interruptions, they are learning to read and write. Today I talked to them about using details when they draw a picture, and I was so tickled when one drew himself and made stripes on his drawing to match his own shirt. And I am seeing sentences. And some are sounding out words and using sight words in their writing. 

Through it all, I still love my job. I love opening little eyes to a whole new world of words that gradually make sense -- I love the random hugs that I get all day long -- I love to sing songs and tell stories and teach poems -- I love being able to look across the room to my assistant and know that she knows what I am thinking. And I love when the bell rings and the last child is loaded on the bus.  I am blessed.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Endless Assessments

       We have been in school for 19 days, and I spent many hours doing assessments this week.  In the perfect fantasy kindergarten world that the lawmakers imagine, teaching continues during the assessment weeks.  But in my real world, that is not exactly how it goes.  Oh, there is still teaching going on, but my assistant is teaching the whole group while I work one on one with each of the 21 kids.  I assessed letter naming and first sound fluency last week -- "What is the first sound you hear in  the word _____?"  This week I've been checking to see if they know a word, a letter, a period, a capital letter, etc. etc. etc. as they read thru some little books. I pretty much have to take them individually down the hall to a quiet room while Mrs. A. takes care of the other 20. Luckily, she is a wonderful teacher, but you just can't do much  small group teaching by yourself.  I have also assessed naming numbers and shapes, word recognition, and letter sounds.  So I have a real good picture of what each child knows, and that is helpful. But I'd rather be teaching!  I will be working on progress reports this weekend to share all this information with their parents, then we can go back to our previously scheduled program!
         On the bright side, some of them started writing actual sentences this week.  That is a huge step for little kids. and a big thrill for their teacher. Quite a few can read the color words now, several passed the first list of sight words, and we gave out award certificates to those today.

         Next week we will start our apple theme in preparation for our first field trip to the apple orchard. That will be a lot more fun than assessing.
       Still reading!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Building Stamina /Finally Friday

'   We made it through the second week of kindergarten! And even though it is exhausting, there have been some bright spots.  One of my favorite times was when I managed to have a couple reading groups and they memorized  read the words in the first little reading book. They are eager to take the books home to read to their moms, so I will send those home next week. I hope it is a thrill for their moms!

      It was 6:10 when I finally left my school this evening.  My car was the only one left in the parking lot.  That does not mean I am more dedicated than anyone else -- I think it just means I am slow.  But there is not a minute to do anything during the day when you have 21 children to teach.
Even at lunch we are opening milk and juice cartons, yogurt containers, etc. and cleaning up spills and moving kids who are wrestling instead of eating -- not exactly a relaxing time! So even though I resolved to leave by 4:00 some days, I have only managed to do it about 2 times.

  •   I had to do a "self-assessment" on the computer and check endless boxes to show how I thought I was doing at meeting the standards that I will be evaluated on this year. 
  • Then I had to write out my yearly Professional Development Plan to show what standards I planned to work on this year.  
  • Registered for a workshop for professional development
  • Made arrangements for a sub on some days I am going to miss school.
  • I had to make some phone calls to set up our first field trip to the apple orchard and fill out the paperwork to get that approved. 
  • I found a note from a parent that I didn't answer, so I had to call her and apologize -- things get buried on my desk during the day, and it was 5:30 before I got to that layer.
  • I printed out all 21 names in Dnealian font so I can start working on correct letter formation when they write their names next week.
  • Wrote my lesson plans so I don't have to do them at midnight on Sunday!
  • Looked for math magnetic buttons that I put away last June -- still didn't find them
  • Checked email messages and wrote dates in my calendar for faculty meetings, due dates, field trips, picture day, etc.
So, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home -- so grateful that my son knows how to cook because I hadn't even thought about supper.  I heated up some spaghetti,  sat on the couch and turned on a documentary about Nazi Germany.  When I woke up, it was midnight and Jimmy Fallon was on.
What an exciting Friday night!
If you made it through my long, boring evening, here are some pictures from this week.

      I brought a turtle to school and we compared living and non-living things -- the one on the left is plastic. They drew turtles and some wrote " I love turtles" 

      We continue to work on building stamina -- one day they were able to read for 8 minutes!
      I am also working on building stamina -- I'd like to be able to stay awake past  9:00 on Friday night!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Well, It Is a Start!

One week down, and we are starting to see progress!  The first few weeks of kindergarten are really challenging -- so much to learn! But they can say the rules and most can write their name.

They know that 3 blasts on my whistle means to run for the line when playground time is over. They've learned some songs and poems, and did a good job on sorting shapes and writing a - d on the whiteboards. They love markers.

The line for the bathroom is endless, and it is so hard to keep 16 boys quiet in the hall, but we will keep practicing until they are able to do it. Might take all year....
few know all the letters and most sounds of the alphabet. But some don't know a single letter. So next week we will try to do some small group reading activities -- making words with those who are ready, and teaching the letters and sounds to those who will need a lot more help. It always amazes me to see such a gap in the readiness level at age 5.

So, if you have never heard of "Daily 5 and Read to Self" -- let me say that it is almost magical to see all these little children  begin to sit quietly and look at their basket of books.  We track their stamina on a chart, and today, the second day, they were able to sit quietly on one spot and keep their eyes on the books in their basket for 4 minutes. FOUR MINUTES is a lot for a little child. But I have confidence that they will make it to 20 minutes before too long. Then we will be able to work with small groups while the rest of the little ones will practice reading and writing independently. Glorious day when that happens! It won't happen this week for sure, but one day, one day.....

I am thankful it is Friday! And thankful for the opportunity to teach one more class of sweet little kids  -- hope I am able to keep with them!!