Saturday, September 29, 2012

Nature Trail

Fridays are awesome in kindergarten :) We celebrate all the work we did during the week and take extra time to read and play with our fifth grade book buddies. This Friday was gorgeous, so we decided to take the classes out to the Nature Trail. 

Yes, we have a beautiful nature trail on the grounds of our school. 
The trail is maintained by parents and occasional boy scouts looking for a service project.
And yes, we know that this is an amazing treasure. Seriously, other schools could come take a field trip to our school just to see this place. Very nice.
Our fifth grade book buddies walked out to see the nature trail with us.
Walking along the trail
Over bridges

Stopping along the way

To the outdoor classroom

What a beautiful day :)

Making friends

Goodbye for now. Until next time!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Organizing Kindergarten

Someone said it's like herding cats....

But it's a little more complicated than that. I'm not just herding them. I'm teaching them to read, add, and write. Our job in September was getting organized. Here are some of favorite organizing tools in my kindergarten class

1. Color coding kids:

Red team, line up! Orange team, line up! Green team, go straighten the chairs at your table :)
The table colors are useful for organizing a lot of the work we do during the day. I use have also used the same colors to mark their reading folders, Song and Poetry Binders, and math journals.

Each table group also works together in centers and math tubs during the day. I use this colorful pocket chart to keep track of the rotations. By moving just the color cards, I can keep track of which book box they have read, which center they are going to visit, and which math tub they'll be working in.

2. Call and response management:

When I need their attention, I call, "Oh, Class!" and they answer "Oh, Yes!" Or I call "Oh, classy classy class!" and they answer "Oh, yessy, yessy, yes!" It just feels more like a game than "Give me five" or "Your attention, please." Plus, there's some phonemic awareness built in there. :)

To sit on the carpet, we use call and response again.
"Criss Cross" ("Criss Cross", cross legs)
"Applesauce" ("Applesauce", sit on carpet)
"Hands in ice" ("Hands in ice", hands frozen in their laps)
whisper: "That's nice." ("That's nice.")

We do call and response when we review the rules.
Other call and response throughout the day keeps us all together, and makes learning fun!

3. The schedule:

Another pocket chart shows an outline of our day. It would be nearly impossible to list all of the routines and details of our day on a chart like this. None of our projects lasts more than 30 minutes. Most are closer to 5 minutes. Reading independently is still a 3-minute activity, so that is just listed under "Reading workshop". Yikes!

4. Organizing the work space

We spent quite a bit of time in September learning about how to use the spaces in the classroom. Students have assigned chairs for morning work , assigned seats on the carpet for group time, and assigned reading spots, which we call their very own Book Nook for silent reading.

The students use their cubbies to keep their snack, any papers that are going home that day, and the daily folders that they carry between home and school for notes and school work.

The student mailboxes are used for work that stays at school. Right now, they have their Draw and Write books, their math journals, 15 copies of their names to practice writing, and a pencil box so that they each have their own pencils and crayons.

All of our work areas are now clearly defined. We created I CAN signs for each center.

And one of my FAVORITE tools is this "found" basket. Because I quickly realized that my little friends would be endlessly following me around with the little pieces that they find throughout the day and can't put away on their own. Now, they drop them in the "found" basket. woohoo!
5. Organizing student materials:

Besides the student cubbies and mailboxes, students also have a place in a pocket chart to store their lunch tags. Another chart holds their behavior cards. Students start on "green" every morning and afternoon. When there is a behavior problem, they flip to the yellow card. If the problem continues, they flip to a red card and parents are notified. Except no one ever gets to red. yet.

This is yet ANOTHER pocket chart that holds the clips that students use when we rotate to our afternoon centers. They are allowed to choose any center, but we can't have 25 kids in the art center. So, each center is limited to the number of clips that are available in the pocket chart.

 This is just the very tip of the iceberg. There were so many things to get organized in September! I am excited to move into October and see what new adventures await!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Math Tubs

This is math instruction in a busy, busy kindergarten classroom! 
A big part of our instruction is built into the calendar time each morning. We are counting the days in school, reviewing the 100 chart, building patterns, and seeing how the calendar works. Next week, we add a daily graph, highlighting real ways humans use patterns and numbers. Imagine that.

Each afternoon, we also have a guided math lesson. It usually includes a math story and sharing the pen as we complete a big book worksheet together. This is followed by independent work and practice in number formation --- a couple of worksheets. Ugh. Worksheets. I don't think the paper and pencil practice are an incredibly valuable tool for the students, but the "ugh. worksheets." are important for assessment and parent communication. 

Finally, our busy, busy math lesson includes math tubs. The hands-on activities that students share with each other in their table groups. This week we built patterns using the pattern blocks.

We ordered number cards in a card game. I love these cute counting turtles :)

One math tub had a graphing game. I was seriously impressed with their graphing skills!
I got the little dice shakers at the dollar store. Kids shake the container and then color a square above the number on the die. Sweet and simple. They loved this math tub.

And the final math tub held white boards and markers for practice in number formation. 
Around and back on the railroad track ! Two two two!

I have 5 groups and 5 tubs (no picture of the other pattern tub) ... enough to work in each math tub once each week. It's a great part of the day, when all the table teams are working independently and I get to meet with students and discuss what they are learning. The kids say that they love this part of the day. Me too, kindergarteners. Me too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Zero the Hero- Day 10

Omigoodness. I love him.... such an unlikely hero, with his super soft baby blue fur and floppy bunny ears. He came to help us group our counting sticks into a group of 10. He brought us a 100 chart and everyone had a few Zeros (Froot Loops) for snack. 

I brought him to my class because Zero the Hero is one of my daughter's favorite kindergarten memories. What a great way to highlight the patterns on the 100 chart and counting by tens.

You can find more Zero the Hero activities here: 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Constitution Day

It is Constitution Day and we LOVE a reason to celebrate in kindergarten!
Let's spell constitution... Give me a C.... wait, I have a better idea. Let's do USA. Give me a U! Give me an S! Give me an A! Now get back to work, we have a lot to do today!

(And I HAVE to figure out how to rotate pictures in blogger!!)

We read about our country, discussed the pledge of allegiance, made cute handprint flags and patriotic hats, and did our first dot-to-dot- a good citizen star. Hooray for the red, white, and blue! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Songs and Snacks

One of the best parts of the day... (holy cow, HOW do I pick a best part of the day????).... anyway, ONE of my favorites parts of the day is Songs and Snacks, when the kids relax and chat, eat their snacks, and then join me on the carpet to sing a few songs together.

When I first got my ukulele out, some of the kids were amazed, even thrilled. I was feeling pretty good about my mad uke skills until I noticed a couple of kids plugging their ears. That's okay. I've gotten mixed reviews before. I can handle it.

You should hear their darling voices singing

There's a little wheel a-turnin' in my heart.
There's a little wheel a-turnin' in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
There's a little wheel a-turnin' in my heart.

And who can resist Jenny Jenkins?
I'll buy me a foldy-roldy tildy-toldy. seek-a-double, uza-cuza roll to find me!

And their favorite:
Lou, Lou, Skip to my Lou
Skip to my Lou, my darlin'!

Right now, we are just singing. In a couple of weeks, I'll put the lyrics in their Songs and Poetry books so we can read all the words as we sing. Rig a jig a jig and away we go! hi ho, hi ho, hi ho!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Brain Breaks

I am having a great time in kindergarten! This is my Brain Break Jar. When we've been sitting a little too long, we can pick a popsicle stick out of the jar and do whatever it says.

"Hug your knees" and "Wag your tail" are a couple of the sticks. My mentor  in college, Martha Coombs, said that this kind of activity is really one of the perks of teaching in elementary school. I mean, there aren't that many jobs where it is okay to say "You know what? This activity really isn't going very well. Let's all stop for a minute and do the Mexican Hat Dance."

I added plain no-movement purple sticks to our jar so we can play a game of ZAP. We'll keep pulling out sticks and doing what they say until we pull a purple stick. ZAP! (I want them to learn how to play the game of ZAP with word cards later, so I'll model how to play a game and how "getting zapped" isn't terrible, it's part of the game.)

I originally found this idea on Pinterest from this blog:

I made up my own movement ideas, I found a list of movement words here:

Another teacher uses a timer to move for one minute in her popsicle stick movement idea:


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall Weekend

"What do teachers DO on the weekend, anyways?" inquisitive kindergarteners want to know.
So, here's what I'm doing this weekend:

1. Reflecting on the week. Some thing went really well. I love that the kindergarteners are so happy at school and excited to learn new things. They LOVE our literacy centers and math tubs, so we are off to a great start. Other things are not really working... snack takes a lot longer than I thought. And I need to come up with a way to have them illustrate our classroom rules this week so we can easily review them together.

2. Sorting books. That's right, I'm sorting through boxes and boxes of books. Well, they were in boxes. Now they are in piles and  knocked-over piles.  This week, the table groups will practice selecting and looking at books from shared book boxes. I want to make sure each box has a good mix of books so that students can read the pictures, retell familiar stories, and recognize the alphabet in alphabet books.

My dog was going to help, but she decided not to stay for the pictures.

3. Planning. I'm not going to spend the whole weekend sitting with a lesson plan book, but I AM going to keep thinking about the week. My head is full of songs we need to learn and cheers we can use.

4. Having fun. We all need a break sometimes, so I'm going to parties, baking zucchini cookies, painting in my art journal, hanging with my family, going to the theatre, and working on some crafts that I love. Oh, and resting. So I can make it through another week in kindergarten!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

THANK GOODNESS I found this :)

More fun in Kindergarten today:

 A little boy had to go lay down in the office, he was feeling so sick. Came out smiling 2 minutes later. "I burped and I feel all better!"

10:30 am: "Are we going home next?"

And my favorite: "Hey, Teacher, I love you."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Busy Kindergarteners

Happy, happy day!

My little kindergarten class is having so much fun. Today was our first full day, and I can't even tell you how much we learned. They are smart and kind- and have some awesome dance moves!
We worked and played hard all day long.

One of my little cuties set up this table for all of her new friends to share a snack together. Kids sure do make friends quickly, already giggling and hugging each other.

When I paused during our alphabet review-- "hmm, what is this letter?", one student stood up and reached for my apple pointer. She announced, "Here, I'll take this." Clearly, she could read the alphabet much more fluently than I was. Hehehe, they are honest and charming. And oh-so-lovable.

Happy First Day, friends! See you tomorrow!

Monday, September 3, 2012

'Twas the night before kindergarten...

Everything is ready now, and I'm as excited as I was when I was a student in elementary school, excited as I am every year.

The first day of school is the best day of the year, no doubt about it. I love it more than Christmas, more than Halloween, even more than the LAST day of school (which is an AWESOME day, too!)

I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight, as I look forward to seeing all of their little faces again.

3, 2, 1.... HAPPY SCHOOL YEAR!!!