Friday, July 27, 2012

First Day of Kindergarten


         This has been the shortest summer ever!  And since I have spent a lot of the summer reading and writing blogs, cutting out and laminating, rearranging and redecorating my classroom, and buying school stuff -- well, it doesn't seem like it could possibly be time to start back in a little over a week.  We were very lucky to get our floors cleaned the first week of vacation, so I was able to get back in my room in June.
        But now it is time to think about what we will actually DO when the room is full of all those little blank slates -- eager (I hope) to learn!  I am glad to have a place to get my thoughts together -- and there are lots of other ideas shared if you click on the link.
        We have Meet the Teacher night next Thursday.  I always take a picture of the kids -- and a picture with their family on that day.  I use the kids' pictures in lots of ways, and the family picture helps me remember who belongs to who. So I hope to have pictures of all the kids on the door on the first day.
        All the kindergarten kids usually meet in the library every morning -- some will eat breakfast at school first. I will meet them there and clip on a name tag that I've already prepared -- it will have their lunch number on there as well, and they will wear these to lunch until they memorize that long number.  I will already have asked the parents to say a quick goodbye and let the children walk in the room alone -- that worked really well last year.  I'm hoping for no tears!!
     Names will be on cubbies -- and they should remember where theirs is since I showed it to them just a few days ago. So they will put bookbags away and go to a table.  In the previous years, I have had math manipulatives, a "Kissing Hand" raccoon picture to color, or a ball of white playdough with red food coloring inside.  They squeeze the playdough until it all turns pink -- magically -- and we will later make it into a heart shaped magnet for them to take home.  I'm still thinking about this -- but leaning toward the playdough.
    After everyone is in the room -- and hopefully all they parents have gone to cry -- or celebrate -- because their baby has grown up.-- I will play the Jack Hartmann "Hello" song and gather everyone on the carpet.  I will use what I have learned from the "Whole Brain Teaching" website to teach
"Class -- Yes" and "Hands and Eyes."
 Now we will develop the CLASS RULES.
 Now, there are lots of rules to chose from, but I always like to let the kids come up with the rules we need to be safe and happy. I actually have the rules all laminated and ready,  but I think it means more if they take part, so I don't show them my posters until the next day.  And everything they suggest can be incorporated into my rules.  For example, if they say "Don't hit" -- that's rule #3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself.

    I'll show them the clip chart -- and their own name on a clip -- and explain how that works.  I also have a silver box full of Skittles -- it is amazing what they will do for one little Skittle.

    We will practice names a little -- the WBT way, then stand and sing "Ready to Read"  and look at the Morning Message.  This will mostly involve counting words, counting letters, and seeing what they know.

    I'll introduce the job chart and assign jobs, then we will start our first Letterland lesson (our phonics program).  We will meet Annie Apple and Bouncy Ben -- hear their story, song, and actions, and perhaps color a picture of Annie Apple.

   By now it is time to move around a little, so after a discussion about rules in the hallway -- and rules in the bathroom -- and a story about Pete the Cat Rockin' in his school shoes, we will go on a tour of the school.  This involves stopping in to meet the office staff, librarian, computer lab teacher, and the lunchroom.  I always have them walk thru and show them how to get their tray -- and don't touch the food -- show your lunch number at the cash register, and where to sit.

   On the way back we will have our first group bathroom break -- something of an ordeal trying to keep 25 kids quiet while they wait in line for the 2 toilets.  This is usually the place for the first Skittles to be given to those who follow all the rules.

   Back in the room now -- on the carpet, criss cross applesause -- I sing Dr. Jean's "Everybody Have a Seat"-- and we will practice the RULES again.
   Reading Time -- We will talk about names -- long names, short names, and sort the names I have on the pocket chart -- as I see who can recognize their own name.  We will look at "Mary Wore a Red Dress" in a big book,
 then sing the song using  names of the children.  I might show the the Heidisongs "R-e-d spells red" video if we have time.
Sometime we will talk about voice levels -- 1 is a whisper voice and 5 is outside yelling.
  By now it is probably time for Gym or Art class -- don't have the schedule yet -- so time for teachers to take a breather and get ready for the rest of the day!
  Unless the schedule has changed, we go right from that class to the lunchroom.  Last year lunch was 10:50-11:20.  Oh, no -- another bathroom break!  If our library cards are ready, we will visit the library after lunch and check out a book.
  This year, we have "Enrichment/Intervention" on the schedule after lunch.  So this is the time I will introduce The Daily 5 and Cafe.  I'll read one of my favorites "No, David"
as I teach 3 ways to read a book. I have a little song about 3 ways that I will teach, then we will make a "Read to Self" anchor chart and model the right and wrong way to read.
I have  laundry baskets for some to sit in -- and I will assign good place to read on this first day.  We will try to build stamina -- training body and brain -- and color in a graph.
Math -- We will start our math time with calendar activities -- singing "Days of the Week" before the calendar person comes up to help me do the calendar. We are using Math Investigations -- plus Deb Diller's "Math Stations" -- so we have a mini-lesson -- just an intro -- and will graph bus riders and car riders with a pocket chart -- or magnets, if I get them done by then.  On this first week, we will just have exploration activities -- pattern blocks, etc.  During this time I will try to do a little math assessing -- find out if they can count, etc.

After another bathroom break -- PLEASE be quiet-- I'll introduce writer's workshop.  We will talk about procedures -- again -- as we gather in the carpet.  I am having a hard time putting my writer's workshop together.  Here are the books that I am trying to combine: "Talking, Drawing, Writing" and
Growing Up Writing" and "Mastering the Mechanics" and a book I got from Jessica Meacham's website -- plus a gazillion ideas from other bloggers.  All have wonderful ideas -- and more than I could ever complete in a year -- so I am still working on that.  The first day, I expect we will just tell some stories and do a self portrait in their journals.
Oh HELP! -- the day is almost over and we haven't made the magnets yet!! And I still have to get bookbags packed and planners given out and look at the list to see who is riding which bus! And I have 3 more books that I wanted to read!  Oh, and did I mention that I will need to start assessing to see who knows the alphabet?
OK, obviously I still have more planning to do -- when I get the final schedule and the final class list.
But I am glad to have a plan of sorts -- and you can bet I'll be checking out all the rest of the links during this last week of cutting, laminating, planning...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Daily 5 links from Yahoo group

From my Daily 5 Yahoo group -- a lot of links I want to save for future reference,

   Jul 13, 2012, at 11:09 AM, "Jacquelyn McTaggart" <> wrote:

> (Peony Room)
> [CAFÉ and D5 forms and icon graphics - free]
> [1st 6 weeks Kdgn. lesson plans]
> - great reading workshop resources
> [2nd grade teacher’s method for coordinating Daily 5 with Treasures.] This is excellent!
> -Picture books to teach skills
> daily5 for dummies.doc
> - 2nd Grade
> Beth Newingham
> Holly Nowalk – 4th grade
> Mandy Gregory 2nd-4th (Some Great stuff on Reader’s Theater)
> Mrs. Hayden – Good resources for Language Arts
> Mrs. Hillman – 3rd grade; Oelwein, IA – Lots of Resources
> Mrs. Meacham – Don’t miss this one; it is FABULOUS
> Laura Rieben – Another Great One (kdgn.)
> Mrs. T.G. 2nd-5th (Iowa) Great technology tips
> 2nd Grade
> Primary
> – The Daily 5 – Hundreds of forms, bulletin boards, icons, etc.
> - Ex. Teacher’s Overview of D5
> >
> Here are links to the Daily 5 Book studies happening around to blog world
> Kindergarten
> 1st-3rd Grade
> Upper Grade

Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Award -- You Like me!!!

An award, --for me??  !!!

A big thank you to Chelsey at 
for offering this to me.

This award is named for the German word "Liebster," which translates to "beloved" or "favorite", and is given to a "new, up and coming blogger."
Here are the rules:
1. Link back to the person who gave it to you.
2. Post the award to your blog.
3. Give the award to at least 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers.
4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they have been offered this award.

I hope this is as exciting to these new bloggers as it was for me!

Great Scavenger hunt here
Kindergarten Love

Detailed plans for first day of kindergarten
Lanier's Lions

Whole Brain Teaching ideas
Blessings of Teaching

Emergency sub binders
The Meek Moose

Love the ""I Can" charts here!
Sample's Superstars

So many bloggers -- so many good ideas!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Picture Books I Love!

The Teacher Wife is having a picture book linky party!
        I've already written 2 blogs this week, and I was going to take a break.  But then I ran across this picture book linky, and I had to jump in.  I love finding new picture books -- I always have a wishlist going on at Amazon and a wishlist for our school librarian.  I have already found more books to add to those lists tonight.

       Here are some of our favorites.

After I read "Press Here" -- ordered by the librarian from my list -- it NEVER got back on the shelf because one of my kids checked it out every day for the rest of the year.  No other class in the school ever got to see it!

Abiyoyo is another book that flew off the shelf all year.  It's not a new story, but the kids loved to hear it again and again.  It has a giant and magic tricks and a song to sing -- I always know it will be a favorite every year.

      I know others have mentioned the Pete the Cat books -- they are my absolute favorite new books and I have shared them a LOT.  I really like this one even more because of the opportunity to talk about the subtraction equations as Pete loses his buttons.

      I got this book years ago when I sold Discovery Toys.  My own children about wore it out, so I was excited to find a big book copy in my school a few years ago.  The illustrations are wonderful and I use this as a mentor text for teaching about details during our Writer's Workshop.

       The Big Green Monster book is another one that I discovered from a blog list, and I'm so glad I did. It's great for retelling, even  those who can't read the words can read the pictures and tell the story.

    Thanks to all the teachers who have shared their favorites -- my wishlist is growing again!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Daily 5/ Word Work

Click Here

I like to introduce "Word Work" after the children have built up a good bit of "Read to Self "stamina.  It's pretty exciting for them when I start pulling out Play Dough and puzzles and fun things like that, so we have to practice a LOT before I am willing to turn them loose with Play Dough and ink pads!
1. Experimenting with words for learning and practicing 
a spelling pattern (brainstorm a list of ways you can '
do this).

At the beginning of the year,  word work is often more like "Letter Work" as the children do activities like matching capitals and lower case, sorting letters by "In my name/not in my name" and tracing over letters.  Gradually we will start working on word lists, and using everything from play dough to white boards to stamps to spell out the first words.

2. Memorize high frequency words (How often do 
you introduce new words? Do your students have 
their own lists of words  that they can work on? 
How will you keep track of words that they 
already know?  

 During Daily 5 Word Work time, we continue to use a variety of ways to practice reading, writing, and spelling the words on differentiated lists. We use a lot of Heidisongs to practice the hf words, and also work on them in small groups with white boards and "Mix and Fix" -- I spell the word on a sentence strip, then cut it apart and mix it up for them to "fix."  I also make a word ring with about 6 - 8 of their own words for some of them to take home to learn. They love to play "Bang!" -- pulling a word on a stick from a can and trying to collect the most words without getting "Bang!"
But after a while, I start sending a list of 10 words home every night. Every morning my assistant checks anyone who is ready to read their list.  If they can say all 10 words, they get to have lunch with the teacher -- woo-hoo!  I have a centerpiece that I put on the table in the cafeteria, and they enjoy sitting with me and chatting while everyone else has to be quiet. I don't know why it was such a great incentive, but some kids learned over 300 words this year.
 I hope we will have access to the ESGI assessment this year -- that's another great way to quickly assess their words.

3. Generalize spelling patterns (brainstorm a list of 
ways you can  do this).
 We don't do this right away, but later in the year we will "look for the chunks." This is often a pocket chart activity, but I also have some foam dice to make words with. We also make charts of word families that I hang around the room during the second semester for "Writing the Room."  
4. Adding to our knowledge and curiosity of unique 
and interesting words. (What is the best way 
to do this?)
I'm always keeping my eyes open for new words to add to their vocabulary. I have monthly word charts for them to read and copy, and several picture dictionaries they can use. I keep a dictionary handy for looking up words in our stories.  When we find a good one, I write it on a sticky note and stick it above the board on the alphabet letter that it starts with. Last year, we  talked about the word "devour" and wrote it on a sticky note.  About a week later, a little red-headed boy said, "Teacher, I DEVOURED that ice cream!!  I was thrilled to know it was now part of his vocabulary.
Other things to think about:

·       What materials do I already have?
I   I have everything I need -- except some fresh play dough.  I plan to use letter stamps more this year -- but if they can't keep from getting ink everywhere, I'll have to put it away again!  I have letters to string, letters on bottle caps, magnetic letters, alphabet puzzles, Lego letters, flash cards, wikki sticks, pocket charts, and a ton of TPT stuff.

·       What materials would I like to get?
          I still have a lot of things on my TPT wishlist...
·       How will I store them?
    Some of my activities are in drawers, on shelves, and all within reach of the kids. But I have more in plastic envelopes that I'd like to find a better way to organize.
·       Where will students work?
Messy word work -- like play dough, water colors, and stamps/ink will have assigned spots at tables.  But most of the other activities can be done on the floor.

I takes a lot of modeling before I am ready to let some of the children do Word Work independently -- it's the part of Daily 5 that is most likely to cause problems.  But when they are finally able to choose an activity and follow all the procedures, it is amazing and wonderful -- and a lot more fun and effective than boring flash cards or writing words 5 times each!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Look at My (polka dotty) Classroom


All the themed classrooms I've seen on other blogs have inspired me to try a little change in my classroom this summer.  It first started with the book barn that my husband built for me last summer.
I liked the splash of red, so I looked for some red valances to replace the shabby old ones I've had for 8 years.  Here's what caught my eye on ebay.
Now I was on a roll.  I saw some polka dotted curtains covering shelves on Pinterest, so I made some to cover my toy shelf -- not only because it looks pretty, but it covers the distraction of toys.  That will help keep the little brothers and sisters from pulling them all out and making a mess at open house.
I found the red baskets at Dollar Tree, so sorted my special books by monthly theme and put them on top of the shelf. I need some labels -- and luckily I found some red polka dotty ones on TeachersPayTeachers, but haven't added them yet.
Then I found more red baskets at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, so I decided to replace my mismatched library baskets

And a few more red baskets at Dollar Tree!
The middle basket has some little tiny composition books that I plan to use for math journals for the first month of school.
By now, every time I went in a store, I was looking for red/polka dots, and look what I found at Hobby Lobby!
While I was taking pictures, I thought I'd add some of my other favorite things, like my rug from Donor's Choose.
And the ice cube tray that holds my white board markers so the lids don't get lost...
And from Deanna Jump and The Cafe' Book and the Daily 5, here's my leftover bulletin board from last year.  I have new polka dotted border to add this year.

My math stations go here, but this is still a jumble from the end of the year -- it's my next project to work on.  I will try to have 10 - 12 stations when I figure out how to merge Investigations, Common Core, and Math Stations.

Another new addition is this big wall unit that I was lucky enough to get when our principal wanted to get it out of her office -- and I was the closest room that had space for it.  All my professional books finally have a home, and there's room in the bottom for all the extra math and literacy stuff.
Finally, here are two more places that I find help...

and my wonderful assistant -- who is taking a much deserved vacation this summer!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Classroom Management Questions!

One of my co-workers asked me to answer some questions for an education class she is taking.  I thought my answers might be of interest to others -- I've learned a lot since I was taking education classes myself!

Do you use more of an authoritative approach or an authoritarian approach with your teaching? Give specific examples and details.
As a beginning teacher many years ago, I had a big paddle and I knew how to use it!! But years of experience have showed me that the authoritarian approach is not helpful to the teacher or the students.  Instead I like the old saying "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."  That may not be true with flies, but it sure is true with people -- particularly little people. I try to have a positive behavior and discipline system -- I switched to the clip chart method last year.  I love how it gives the children opportunities to "clip up" as well as "clip down." And when they do sit in time out , I remind them that the reason they have to sit there is so they can practice following the rule -- I never say "Because you are BAD!"  I do insist that they listen to me and follow the rules, but I hope they listen because I have something important to teach them. I try to encourage them and help them to want to become life-long learners.

Do you use intrinsic motivation or extrinsic motivation when you teach? Give specific examples?

One word -- Skittles!  Actually, I used to give Skittles and prize box rewards a LOT.  Now -- not so much.  In fact, the reward for getting to the top of the behavior chart is a pencil that says, "My teacher is so proud of me!" 
and the reward for mastering a list of sight words is -- LUNCH WITH THE TEACHER!  WOW!!
But I want them to work hard to learn to read because they will love to read -- not for a prize.  Last year, one of my kindergarten girls wrote "The best part of kindergarten is "Read to Self" because I am good at it'" I want the whole class to feel that way and not even think about getting a physical reward .I encourage so they will feel proud of themselves when I use their paper as an example of good work or let them write the Morning Message for the whole class.

How do you nurture classroom community? Do you use rituals, rites, routines, celebrations, conversation, or play? Give specific examples.
We start the year learning about "teamwork' and together we write the rules of the classroom.  I also teach them about how to be a 'bucket filler' -- and to look for ways to help fill someone's bucket..  We have lots of songs to sing together, like Jack Hartman's "Ready to Read" that we sing nearly every morning as we meet on the carpet. We celebrate birthdays and academic achievements .  At the end of the year, each child wrote a letter to each of their classmates and we bound the letters into a book for them to take home. It took about 6 weeks to write all the letters, but the kids were so proud to get all those letters on their day.

What do you see as your strengths with your classroom management? Give specific examples.

Probably my strongest point is that I am always looking for new ways to improve  -- most of my good ideas have come from books and blogs and collaboration with other teachers.
I've learned to model, model, model the behavior that I want from "The Daily 5."  I adopted the "clip chart" behavior plan from another teacher, then found out more from teacher blogs.  I got some great ideas from "Whole Brain Teaching" website, and the Nellie Edge newsletter has also been very helpful. But each class is different -- each child is different -- and I've learned that I also have to be flexible and even with my plan in place, sometimes I have to try a different approach.
I also keep a notebook and time-out record of behavior issues so I can talk to parents about specific problems and work on solutions.
 And, of course, I love my children and I think they respond to that with respect. 


What have been the biggest challenges with your classroom management? Give specific examples.

When I first started teaching kindergarten, I had more to learn than the children!  My home/school communication was not very good and my noise tolerance was pretty high.  I had come from a little Christian school where I NEVER had behavior problems and parents were very involved.  When I start teaching in a school with high poverty, it took me a while to realize that I was going to have to change my ways. These children have parents who are working long hours-- or not working at all --or in prison -- or homeless.  So I have to work harder at getting parents involved in their children's education -- while realizing that they may not have time or energy or skills to help.
The other challenge is just the "getting started" part -- taking children who have never had to sit down and listen, never used a pencil or scissors, never been away from mom -- and gently introduce them to school and a whole new world!!  I have to blend a class of little children from all kinds of experiences -- some with a wealth of background  experiences, ready to read -- and others who are extremely immature and sometimes neglected.  That can be a big challenge, but the rewards are great when it all comes together.