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!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What did you do in kindergarten ?

What did you do in kindergarten? (Day 2)

When you ask,"What did you do in Kindergarten today?" and the answer is "Nothing..."
Here's what they really mean --
  • Read the morning message together and practiced the words "Dear Class" and "Love, Mrs. Spencer"
  • Found out the difference between a word and a letter.  Counted letters in a word.
  • Said the pledge to the flag
  • Listened to stories/poems -- "I Love my White Shoes" and "Rocking in My School Shoes" and "Mary Wore Her Red Dress" and "No, David"and "Humpty Dumpty"
  • Sang and learned motion to several songs
  • Practiced air writing Aa and Bb and heard a song and story about Annie Apple and Bouncy Ben
  • Sorted long and short names
  • Explored math stations
  • Learned about the calendar and named days, months, and seasons
  • Practiced saying the rules of the classroom
  • Learned 2 ways to read a book
  • Visited the library and checked out a book
  • Visited the computer lab and learned to use a mouse
  • Found out about different voice levels in the classroom
  • Colored a picture of Annie Apple and tried to stay in the lines
  • Used a whiteboard and markers to write the letter "a"
  • Practiced reading and spelling "red" in a song
  • Walked quietly in a line -- at least we tried to be quiet!
  • Carried my own tray and ate lunch in the lunchroom
  • Cooperated with a partner to use math manipulatives
  • Told the teacher which letters I recognized
  • Went to art class
  • Made a school bus for the bulletin board
  • Played on the playground
  • Told stories about our pets
  • Went to the gym for PE
  • Glued a poem in my poetry notebook
  • Started making friends
  • Wrote my name on my papers
  • Made a Pete the Cat hat
This is NOT your mama's kindergarten!!  There is a lot to learn this year, and you will be amazed at all they will accomplish in the next 177 days of school!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meet the Teacher Night


      Well, it it almost time to start!  The door is decorated, the pencils are sharpened, planners are labeled, and this afternoon I met most of my new students and their families. I have 23 on my class list, and 16 of them are boys! Oh. Wow!  So many cuties -- some hiding behind mom, others bouncing around the room -- looks like it's going to be a busy year. I am eager to see how they all work together.
Just a year ago, I had a different group of little strangers, but before long we were all a community of learners.  It made me a little sad to see their names on desks in the first grade rooms.  And I loved it when many of them stopped by my room today to say hello and give me a hug. I miss that group of sweet kids.  

      But now I have my room ready to welcome a new class of little strangers, and I am wondering lots of things.  Will that little boy who was hiding behind his mom be able to let go without tears? Will the bouncy one be able to sit still long enough to learn? Who will be the first to write a sentence or read words? How many will already know how to write their names and count to 20?  Will I be able to inspire them to get excited about reading and writing? And will I ever get them to all be quiet at the same time? And, most importantly, will we become a community of learners who love each other?
I am praying for them, and thanking God for one more opportunity to make a difference in these little lives. It has been such a privilege to teach kindergarten for the past 10 years, and since I expect to retire after this year, this time is especially precious -- knowing this is the last time I will be teaching kids to read and write and do so many things. And on the evenings when I come home and collapse on the couch, tired to the bone -- I hope I still remember why I continue to teach! Right now, I can hardly wait to start introducing them to my favorite books and songs -- I love seeing their eyes light up when they realize that they can actually read a book by themselves. And I love seeing their amazed parents -- I have the best job in the world!( but I will have to remind myself of that for the next few weeks -- the first days of kindergarten are TOUGH!) Prayers are appreciated as we all adjust to school!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Summer To-Do List

   I am sitting on a tour bus with my daughter and about 40 other people, and we are inching our way up the Interstate toward New York so I can mark off number 10 on my summer to-do list.  The traffic is bumper to bumper, and has been this way ever since we crossed into Maryland. But the bus is comfortable and air conditioned, and we have watched 2 nice videos plus I took a nap, had hash brown casserole at Cracker Barrel, and best of all, the bus has wifi so I can use my iPad! And tomorrow we will spend the day in New York and see Aladdin on Broadway. 

    As for the rest of my list -- well, the summer went by so quickly! The 40th anniversary trip would not fit in, so that will happen in October. I worked on the weeds in the flower garden some, but it was always too hot or too wet--so now I guess I will just wait for the weeds to die. The church library still needs work, although I did make some progress. 
   On the plus side, I did clean out the closet, but the clothes are still in a basket, waiting for a trip to Goodwill. I made it to WV for a week long family reunion marathon, and ate DQ hot dogs and Tudors biscuits, so check that off! I kept walking and exercising, and actually lost a few more pounds--check!
And I have learned most of my music for chorus except the brand new song.

    As for getting rid of my school stuff -- well, I found a teacher consignment shop, but I spent $20 instead of selling anything. 

That's kind of a problem with me. I have school on my mind all summer. When we go out of town, I always look for a teacher supply store.  I bought a bunch of stuff from Teachers Pay Teachers, and I pin kindergarten ideas on Pinterest and I read blogs and books about effective teaching. I spent at least 4 full days at school working on my room -- on my own time, of course. And the corner of my living room is still stacked with school stuff.  I have a stack of games and activities waiting to be laminated. And the floor beside my bed has a stack of books as well. And here I am on vacation -- blogging about school.
     I did read some other books this summer, often until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. And that creates another problem, because I need to get on a school time schedule by next week!
    So, I didn't quite do it all, but I enjoyed having the time to just do nothing some days. And I have to admit that I am looking forward to meeting my new class. I could have used another week -- but that would mean missing the NYC trip -- making memories! I thank God for the opportunity to spend time with my family, near and far, and for another opportunity to teach children. 
     New York City, here we come! I wonder if they have any teacher stores there??

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Monkeying Around on the Fourth

                                                                  Four on the Fourth
      One of my favorite teacher bloggers, Ms.M,  is having a Four on the Fourth linky party, so I thought I'd add 4 of my latest shopping finds.  I didn't really plan on doing more school shopping for a while, but my husband had some Bass Pro Shop gift cards that were burning a hole in his pocket.  The 4th of  July seemed like a good time for a drive to Concord Mills, the huge outlet mall about 1 1/2 hours away, and oh, joy! It has an Education Express store! So while Sam was in fishing supply heaven, I headed for the teacher store.
       My first mission was to find some bananas to use with the Top Banana letter recognition unit
that I use at the beginning of the year.  (Thank you, Marsha McGuire). What do you know? I found bananas. But then I saw these really cute monkeys with the bananas, and thought, Wild about Kindergarten, or maybe Welcome to the Zoo? So I put the bananas back and got this instead.

     So I am not exactly sure about how I will use them, but there are lots of possibilities.

     Then I found this chart -- perfect for charting the mastery of letter recognition and later sight words.


       Now all I can see are monkeys, so I added these stickers and incentive charts to my cart.

    That was enough with monkeys and bananas!

    My other purchase was some new sticks for my "BANG! Game. I think I got that idea from Reagan Tunstall several years ago.  My kinders always love that game, and my sticks were pretty dirty, so I got new sticks that I color coded to match the sight word lists -- now I can differentiate. The kids can choose a stick by the color that matches the sight word list they are working on.

     I have turned in my supply order, and I don't intend to buy any more school stuff - until TPT has a nice sale sometime before school starts. I have a couple things on that wish list.  I need to make one more trip to school to do a little more sorting and purging, then I hope to forget about it for about a month. 
Happy July!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dollar Tree Treasure Hunt

         I promise I was just stopping in Dollar Tree to get a fly swatter and a paint scrapper!  But of course I had to look down a few aisles, and looky here! Pete the Cat's shoes! And although I already have about 10 boxes of eraser manipulatives, I couldn't pass these up.  And then I saw this squishy caterpillar, and I knew I had to have that -- it will be great to pass around when we read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." It's also good for wiggly kids to hold while they are trying to sit still.
      And craft sticks! I'm going to make new sight word sticks for my "Bang" game -- the ones I have are so grimy from many, many hands playing that very popular game.
       Oh, and a little tiny bag of Lindt truffles was calling my name...
       While I was in the neighborhood, I stopped in Walmart and found some plastic name tag holders -- my others have been chewed and curled, besides having food dripped all over them. 
         So, I came home and quickly made a game frame for Pete's shoes. Just roll the dice and put that many shoes on the footprints -- good counting practice at the beginning of the year. They will also be used to make patterns, sort, add and subtract.  
          I stood and admired all the colorful baskets and tubs that could hold crayons, pencils, etc. -- and met another teacher who was doing to same thing -- but we decided to hold off on buying new containers.  After all, we ARE  on vacation and not hardly thinking about school at all... Really!

Monday, June 16, 2014

End of Another School Year

   I locked my classroom door and turned in my keys this afternoon after carrying out 2 crates of books, coffee cups, a terrarium, some leftover Oreos, and the lone surviving goldfish in my fish tank. After eagerly counting down the days, I felt a little sad to be walking away. I am looking forward to having time to do all the things on my summer list, but I am already missing the hugs and smiles from my little ones. And my assistant/ best friend is flying to France tomorrow to visit her daughter and granddaughter, so I am really going to miss seeing her every day.
   There will be a lot of changes next year. Because of our shrinking enrollment, we will have fewer teachers next fall, and abou a third of our teachers will be moving to a different grade. I am feeling lucky to be able to continue teaching kindergarten, but unless we get more students, I will be the only kindergarten teacher next year. That will be very strange, and I will miss collaborating with my teammate after 9 years together.

        "Grajwashine" (graduation) was sweet, and I hate to lose some of the great parent volunteers I had this year.  Just when you get to know them, it's time to start all over again!
       On the other hand, I can finally see the top of my desk! And I found lots of treasures under the piles of papers, including a bag of candy leftover from teacher appreciation week!
    So, I'm about to have some of those Oreos and milk, prop my feet up and contemplate my schedule for the next few days.  Do I start with the weeds in the flower garden, the piles of bills and mail, or the mopping and dusting? Or just finish the book beside my bed? Plenty to keep me busy all summer, and August will be here before I know it! I love this job!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Top Ten Things I Want To Do This Summer

Mrs. Jump's Class
        This is a milestone day for me -- I just noticed that I have had 50,000 hits on my blog!  That is so funny!  And incredible --

        Deanna Jump, my blogger role model, had a great idea -- of course, all her ideas are great. That's why she has a gazillion followers. But this time she suggested that we make actual plans for the summer, unlike my usual "whatever" summer.  And since I spent last summer having a little battle with cancer -- I WON, thank you, God  -- I think I will make a to-do list of thing that don't involve medical tests and lying on the couch!

       1. Before I can  really get to the "relaxing " part of the summer, I HAVE to get my classroom de-cluttered and reorganized.  This will probably be my last year teaching -- I plan to retire at the end of next year -- so I need to give away, throw away, and otherwise get rid of years of accumulated teaching materials that I don't use anymore. We have 2 planning days after school is out, and I hope that will be enough to clear out all the excess.  Only 13 more days of school for us this year!

       2. Celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on June 22.  We still haven't decided exactly how to mark this momentous occasion -- but it will not be a fishing trip or Army reunion, two of my darling husband's ideas. I love the man dearly, but, really?


       3. I also need to clean out my closet.  I either need to move down a size or give up, but I know there are things I cannot wear and it is time to face the facts. In fact, I plan to clean out all the closets. My son graduated from college this month, so I am sure there are some treasures in his closet --  but it might be a little scary.

        4. On the other hand, I intend to keep up the walking I have been doing -- and try to hit my goal of 10,000 steps/ 5 miles a day.  If I do this, maybe I will be able to wear those clothes...
        5. I will also get rid of nearly 45 years of teaching materials that I have kept at home -- I have hoarded in case I need them someday.  I will also try to be realistic about which books I will actually read again. It is so hard for me to turn loose of  books, but I am going to try. My file cabinets need work, too.

         6. I need to spend time catching up on my volunteer job as church librarian. And I want to read lots of books that I have purchased for the library, too -- no time for fiction during the school year.

         7. Pull weeds out of my flower garden! Then I can sit on the front porch in my new rocking chair and not feel guilty.

         8. Go to West Virginia to see my brothers and other relatives.  While I am there I will eat hot dogs from the Dairy Queen and biscuits from Tudor's --any pounds I gain will be worth it.

         9. Learn all the new music we are getting in my Sweet Adelines chorus. I will listen to learning tapes while I am walking laps.

        10. Take my daughter to New York for a girls only trip to celebrate her birthday. Take lots of pictures and make lots of memories! School will start right after we get back, so this will be the last time I will have to relax before the craziness starts again!

       There, I feel better about summer now!!  I have a plan!!


Friday, May 16, 2014


     As you can see from the picture, we are in the final countdown. We have 18 days left -- and each child gets to do all the classroom jobs one more time. Every day one child gets to do it all -- line leader, erase the board, do the calendar, office messenger -- and when everyone has had a turn, it will be graduation day. The year has gone by quickly, but I will admit that I am about ready for a break.  But I sure will miss the hugs, the laughter, and the daily adventure of kindergarten. I always thought I would retire this year, but I am just not ready to give it up yet, so I will be back best fall. Ready to do it all again.
       I have been busy assessing literacy for the past two weeks.  I have hardly taught any this week. My assistant has done most of the teaching this week while I have been pulling children out, one at a time, to read and answer questions.  I am overjoyed -- dancing around the room HAPPY--to be finished. I still have math, writing, and spelling to assess, but the worst is over.  And best of all, everyone made good progress and every one of them can READ! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tweetsie Railroad on Letterland Day 2014

      A field trip to Tweetsie on Letterland Day is always the highlight of the year.  But I hope I look at the calendar before we plan next year's trip. This week also included Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, and my own son's graduation from college, as well as progress reports and assessments! Whew!

       We are very lucky to have a park like Tweetsie so near our school.  When they transform it to Letterland, it is a perfect reward for all the hard work of kindergarten. The kids were met at the gate by Firefighter Fred and his fire truck --  and lots of parent and grandparent volunteers. Every child had a hand to hold, and that is the best kind of field trip.  Since my springtime allergies were reignited by all the pollen, I was grateful I only had to hold my tissues to catch sneezes all day while other adults took responsibility for my class.

        There were lots of Letterland characters roaming around and signing autographs.

     I even got my picture taken with Mr. O!

The buildings and shows were all changed to reflect the theme.  

Even the train became the Letterland Express. It was fun to watch Red Robot try to steal all the "r" sounds, but the Vowel Men made him give everything back.

        I had an exciting ride in one of the little cars with one of my students -- had to grab the wheel a few times -- but we made it back without wrecking!

        My favorite place was the Fudge shop -- the only air conditioned and pollen-free spot in the park.  But you can only stay in the candy store for so long before you have to buy something, so I knew I needed to get out of there!


         We had a blast!!