Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kindergarten Graduates: Nine Months Later!

 With the closing of school came the Kindergarten Graduation (Kindergarten, Eighth, and Twelfth for our school, with K and 8 having their ceremony together). It was a stressful time planning for me and trying to wrap everything up for the school year, but so exciting for the kids. One of them strut down the hall and was proudly saying: "Tomorrow is Graduation Day!" I hope that they all will be just as stoked to be doing the same thing in 12 years!

Our ceremony went something like this:
- Students walked in
- Director spoke
- Kindergarteners sang "Ready to Go"
- I spoke
- Handed out diplomas to Kindergarten
- Slide show of the year in pictures with the songs: "The World's Greatest" by R. Kelly, "I'm On My Way" by Rusted Root, and "Waving Flag" by K'naan
- Eighth Grade adviser spoke
- Eighth Grade speakers 
- Handed out diplomas to Eight Grade
- Reception

It went well. Very well! And all the kids looked great in their caps and gowns. They did complain relentlessly about how scratchy the caps were and kept them on only until they got their diploma!

The Song: Ready to Go
I searched a nice long time to find a perfect song for my kiddos to learn and sing. After listening to too many songs on youtube, I found this one. You can find the original song here: Ready to Go. My students sang without the song in the background because I rearranged it to include the chorus in the middle as well. I thought this would better break up the song to let students catch up if they got lost. They also loved the chorus and we added clapping after the lines in the chorus. 
There is a powerpoint that I found here. I changed it around and you can download the version I did or do the original if interested. I point ** where we clapped. 

How Time Flies!

Last summer around this time, I found out I would be teaching Kindergarten for the 2012-2013 school year. I never imagined just how much those kids would grow from when they came into my class at five (and four) to when they left it nine months later. Boy! It was an incredible experience to be a teacher to the youngest learners at school. Setting them up for the success they have had and, I am sure, will continue to have has been a humongous reward.

Where We Started:
- Most students did not have any preschool or head-start
- No student could name every upper and lower case letter of the alphabet
- No student could read more than one, two, or three of the beginning sight-words
- Few students could count to 20 (most missed 14, 15, 16, or 17)
- One student only knew a few words English, another was at a beginning speaking level as well

Where We Ended Up:
- Students know expectations, routines, etc.
- Students know all the letters and can write stories and answer questions
- Students use phonics to decode words and write words including tricky consonant blends like: sh, ch, th, ph, and wh and tricky vowel blends like: ou, oi/oy, ar, oo, ay, ee, etc.
- Students can read all Reading Street readers, majority were reading the Above-Level option for reading groups
- Students could count and read/write numbers to 100 and beyond
- Students know addition and subtraction to 10 or more
- Students know so much and are eager to learn more!

It is astonishing just how much kids learn in one year of school. I was very lucky to have my students who were eager to learn and loved to be challenged. I have high expectations in my classroom and all the students met those expectations. They will most definitely be going places in their future!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sight Word Flashcards and Chains

Now, if you had read any previous posts (all those months ago), I had been very nervous to start teaching Kindergarten. Fortunately, since I found out in June that I would be teaching it, I was able to prepare for most of the summer. My intention was to do something for Kidnergarten each day. I wasn't that successful, but I did do a lot. One of the DIY projects that I did were sight word flashcards with paint samples. I made all of the Reading Street words at that time.

When I started out with my kids back in August/September, I introduced the first six all together (I, am, the, little, a, to) and displayed them in a pocket chart by our morning meeting so the kids could see it during this time. We would go through it, I would have them fill in words in our message, etc.

I tested them on them before Reading Street had even introduced the last two. I had a few students get them all. So, to make sure I challenged her (and in turn all the other students), I grabbed at some random others from the year that we were using in our morning message and were seeing in stories. I eventually made more cards to cover pre-primer and primer dolch and a lot of the fry words. At this point in the year, I have seventy-two cards displayed and a number of kids with all of them.

Now, the kids are eager to learn and they love the flashcards. For playtime, I often have kids ask for the sightwords to go through. Some ask for the new words that I haven't even introduced yet. In fact, I need to add more words for some of my higher readers. The kids also use the flashcards in writing. When they are writing a story and get to a word that has been introduced they will go over to the charts and take the word out, bring it to their spot, write the word, and bring it back. This allows me to direct them over to the chart instead of spell words out for them. It also helps them practice reading them more! I do allow kids to ask others for help when finding the words. Most get their own though.

Displaying their success, I started paper chains in the hallway to show the words they get correct. Each time I add words, they get tested on all the words to date. Occasionally students lose a word, but it isn't all too often and they usually get it back again quickly. My students, fellow staff, and I have loved watching their chains grow!

Back in September!

Around Thanksgiving

And a few weeks ago!
At this point, I now need to figure out how I can keep going. Students have numbers, colors, and some other sight words that they have had since the red group. But, I haven't been able to add them cause I don't know what to do with the new words! If you have any ideas, let me know!

I just wanted to share what I do in my class. The kids love it and it has been great seeing how they have learned their sight-words and applied it so well with reading and writing!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Read Across America!

It's been awhile since my last post. Swamped with a crazy schedule and long days, I am amazed at all the incredible teachers and parents who dedicate their time consistently to their blogs. Thank you to all of you!

Kindergarten has been a fabulous experience and I adore teaching my kids. Their drive to learn is phenomenal and I am just as eager to help them soar. I have wide ranges of ability within my class (whose class doesn't?) and meeting each of their unique needs can be challenging. Still, Kindergarten allows for center time and small group plans easier than with my second and thrid graders.

The Books

The last few days have been a step away from the regular curriculum, however, to celebrate Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Day. Boy, we plowed through a number of his books: A Great Day for Up, Would You Like to Fly a Jet? Would You Like to be a Vet?, Yertle the Turtle, The Cat in the Hat, Oh, The Places You Will Go!, and Horton Hears a Who. Even after all six books, the kids loved the different Dr. Seuss stories and a few brought books of his that we'll have to read into the next week. We'll see how many books of his we can read by the end of the school year!!

The Crafts
 As many others do, we made Dr. Seuss hats to go along with the book: The Cat in the Hat. Easy enough craft with hard white paper base of 12x6. The red strips were random widths, but 6 inches long. The bands were made with red construction paper at 18 inches and worked just fine, but I will probably use thicker paper to make it more sturdy next year.
In their hands you can see the other craft we did. We made Thing Ones and Thing Twos and Thing One-Hundred-Ones. The kids wanted to be able to write any number, so why not?! They were a little tricky for some, but the results are still great!
The Activities
We had a pajama day for curling up and reading for a school-wide Read Across the School day. We had guest readers: different teachers and assistants reading. We watched Horton Hears a Who. And we wrote a book review for: Yertle the Turtle.

I love Dr. Seuss and we'll likely do some other activities with him next week and throughout the rest of the year. We'll definitely be doing things with The Lorax around Earth Day and we will probably read  Oh, The Places You Will Go! again at the end of the year. I'll be sure to post what all the things we do with those are.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Math Manipulatives Question and Quick Update

Wow! It has already been four weeks since our first day of school. The time has flown by so incredibly fast. My 17 kindergartners have adjusted fairly well. When we transition from one place to another and I say: "Sit down on the carpet in rows," or "Sit down on a face," or "Sit down with your heads down at your desk," I'll have many students day: "I already know!" How glorious is it to get into a routine! Things in a school, of course, will change around, but we're off to a great start! Below is our coconut tree, styled (of course) from 'Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.'

On the math subject, I have been taking a graduate class about mathematical understanding. It has been absolutely fantastic! I am so happy to be able to take this workshop for free. The stipend and $600 worth of math materials or resources is a phenomenal bonus too! Last year, I lacked a lot of math resources for my students. I made up for it with using the Smartboard with all materials you could find in a class being displayed on the screen. I still faithfully use the Smartboard in my Kindergarten class, but manipulatives have been great to have.

I have ordered about half of what I can, but also am unsure what else to get. So far, I have ordered from Nasco, it is much cheaper than many other teacher supplies sights. I have ordered pocket charts (calendar, hundreds chart, and two double-sided graphing charts), a graphing floor mat, a walk-on number line, linking cubes, tangrams, pattern blocks, transparent counters, red-yellow counters, links, 10-frame trains, color dominos, and foam solid-figures. My classroom already had wiggly worms for counters and plastic coins. I already made a bunch of foam dice from the dollar store's inch-cubes and lucked out on getting 600+ unifex cubes for $15 on Craigslist.

So, my question is, what other math manipulatives or materials would you recommend for Kindergarten or other early elementary grades?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Look At My Classroom and Easy Decorations

Last year, I had a very rectangle room with no windows to outsides. I only had windows way high that lead into the gym where my students (especially at the beginning of the year) would oooh and awe at the high balls. Despite that, I loved my room! I loved the light blue color, I loved the options for a dark, dim, bright, or very bright room. I loved having computers and printers. I loved the right place bulletin board, white board, and Smartboard. I even loved the skinny, yet simple hallway! You can see some of the pictures of my classroom last year right here.

Welcome Door

 Side wall with Focus Wall, Computers in Back

Side Wall at another arrangement with White Board

Lockers in Hallway

The door decorations were simple. I can't remember where the clipart came from (I am sure a simple google search), but you can use print sets of the crayons in different colors from google docs here: Big Crayons Decorations. I'll use those crayons and the locker decorations again. I did a similar google for crayons to find the small crayons and printed them out on different colored paper, cut some yellow rectangles and green triangles. The link to the crayons for the locker decorations are here: Small Crayon Decorations. It was simple. A few of mine went missing (the fault of a few students playing around) and some of my second graders volunteered to make new ones. So- both the door and locker tags were easy and turned out cute! 


I am sure a lot of you have moved classrooms. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Mine? I think for most, it's about the best classroom in the school. I think I just get attached! Now, I have a bigger room, I have windows, a door to outside, a bathroom, sink, carpet on one side and tile on the other. A Right now, the room needs to be painted (the paper was peeled in some places) and I need to figure out decorations. I lack quit a bit! There is a lot to do that I can't do until the room has been painted, but here it is:

I wanted a library and I made one! 
The door to the right leads to OT/SPED, I do get to use the computers in there if the room isn't in use.

Cabinets, a lot had things in it already, but I organized them the best I can now.
The storage on top looks messy, but sometimes just need to out of the way!
This door leads to the first grade room.

From the front. I'm standing right in front of the smartboard. 

My back alley way, door to the bathroom.

Anyway! It's pretty decent. I think its just hard not knowing what it will look like until after they have painted. They're only doing the front bit, not the sinks and back, so hopefully it will all look okay together!

On a separate note: there's a cool clipart giveway at Learning in Spain. Check it out, cause we all love clipart!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Resolutions For and Jitters About the New (School) Year

Since there are currently two Blog Hops going on right now about the new school year, I figured I'd participate in both. Really, they go pretty hand in hand.

The first blog hop is about resolutions by Teaching Maddeness. Now, I've only ever stuck to a few resolutions. One was my freshman year of college and I resolved to taking ONLY one tray of food at each meal and not getting ice cream every day. The other resolution was an idea stole from someone else: brush my teeth with my left hand once a day and my right hand the other time. I'm hoping I'll be able to stick to these resolutions like the ones above.

  1. GO HOME! My first resolution is to go home after school and not arrive ungodly early. I left my home at 6 am to get in by 7 (gotta love traffic); kids arrived at 7:30. My kids would leave between 3-3:30 pm. I left before 4 about five times. Typically, I was there till about 5:30. Add about a 45 minute commute and my day lasted over twelve hours with commute. I then quickly grab the dog to go to the dog park for an hour in apology to him. So, my first resolution is to get out at 4:30 every day, except on very special occasions.
  2.  STAY POSITIVE! Now, I am a pretty calm person and can tolerate a lot of things. I grew up with a brother with Autism; I had to learn patience early on. But, things got to me this year and I didn't always stay positive. I hope teaching Kindergarten I will be able to remind myself that they can't know everything and will need plenty of reminders- all while staying cheery enough.
  3. SING and DANCE! I worked four years at a Girl Scout camp and taught Sunday school for eight years; I was used to singing and dancing with kids. I did very little of singing and dancing this last year. Yet, I believe it is a great way to learn vocabulary, learn conceptsA HUGE part of that was my students beliefs. To some (mostly my third grade boys) music and dancing were against Islam. So, I didn't fight them. I did use the Reading Street Amazing Words songs with my Seconds and sang Reading Street songs with them. I did very few songs with the combination and none with just the Thirds.
  4. LAUGH! Laughing, we did that, but not enough. I think they need a good laugh in at least a few times a day. When student teaching, I had kids read Shel Silverstein after specials and tell jokes at the end of the day. I definitely want to hear laugher and see smiles on my kids' faces every day.

The other linky party is by Fierce in Forth and is about first day jitters. Teaching a new grade in the fall and I am full of jitters! Of course, accepting the Kindergarten job, I knew I'd have two months to prepare myself. A month into the assignment, I'm still nervous- but I do have some great ideas swirling through my head!

  1. TEACHING KINDERGARTEN! Okay, that is very broad, but it's also very true. I am very nervous about teaching Kindergarten. Teaching them to recognize letters, numbers, to read, to write, how to go to lunch, etc. - I admit, I took advantage of my previous kids knowing how to do this. I've spent every day doing something for Kindergarten and a lot of my time is going into prepping myself. I think it will slide into place, but I just need to feel that I know what I'm doing and have the materials and ideas to do it. 
  2. CRIERS, RUNNERS, AND SCREAMERS! Well, I did have a few criers and screamers last year, but those were angry cries and screams, not scared and sad ones! I know at the camp I had some of these, but by no means is it the same as in school. With some twenty other students, I have no idea how I will be able to handle all of these problems. And, how will I able to handle it without other students catching onto the sobs? Any ideas you want to share are good ideas!
  3. BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHT and PARENTS: Last year, I was hired so quickly before the start of the school year and a program was put together then too, there was no back to school night for us. I don't exactly know what to include, how it will go, etc. I want to make a good impression and I want them to feel confident in me teaching their child. I want to get information out of them and I want to give information to them. I worried about being able to communicate with all of the parents and have things to do for the ones that only have a Kindergarten, yet catching all of the parents that have two, three, six kids at the school.
Sigh! So many more, but these are some of my current jitters! Alright, off to try to relax and play some frisbee with the dog. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Crafting and Researching for Kindergarten

As I will be teaching Kindergarten this next year, I have been aggressively making myself ready: mentally and physically. I am fortunate that the classroom that I am taking over is quite large and has plenty of resources already in it. The school or a previous teacher loaded up with puzzles, games, whiteboards, and flash cards. This is a complete switch for me from last year where I had virtually no materials (from the school) for half-a-year for my third graders in Language Arts. I very much utilized literature circles, reading a-z, library books, and online resources.

Anyway, I'll be using a mixture of curriculum and teacher-developed (and found) resources. I have Reading Street, Saxon Math, Math Expressions, Scott Foresman Science and Social Studies, a phonics program, and a writing program. In comparison to last year, this is quite overwhelming. On the bright side, I have my tentative year plan already made and won't stick to the curriculum religiously. I go by what way I best can connect topics, seasonal opportunities, integrating units, and, of course, state and common core standards. 

What I have been doing a lot recently is researching teaching techniques and classroom management ideas, making center and whole group activities, and crafting things for the classroom. I love the idea of whole brain teaching! I'm also planning on implementing the Daily Five and Writing Workshop.

Does anyone use whole brain teaching? How do you teach the rules? Do you use all of it or bits and pieces?

I had seen a number of cute chairs around pinterest and blogs and opted to create my own. I had an old chair that was worse for wear. I decided that it would be my project. 

I searched for paint tucked away in the basement and managed to find this teal and pink. I mixed the two to create the purple. 

My only task now is to find the fabric to go with it. I have a "The Frog and the Princess" fleece fabric that matches the color perfectly, but wouldn't be large enough to not show the faces. I also have a simple teal fabric and bought a green with teal spot fabric. Still, I am conflicted. Any ideas?

Freebie Fridays

Another activity I got done was this number puzzle. You can choose whether or not to have the addition as part of the puzzle. It's not self correcting (maybe I'll do another that way), but allows students to match different representations of numbers 1-10. You can download it at teacherspayteachers for free if you click the picture below.