Monday, July 30, 2012

The First Day of Kindergarten - Linky

This will be my 19th year of teaching Kindergarten! Believe it or not I still get butterflies before the first day of school!  However, after 18 "first days" with kindergarten children I have learned a few tricks to help the first few days of school get off to a smooth start.  Mrs. Ziegler from Teaching With Z is hosting a "First Day of Kindergarten" linky party. What a great idea! Even a veteran like me is getting some great tips from the teachers who have linked up so far. I wish something like this existed when I was getting ready for my first day of teaching kindergarten years ago!

When thinking about the first day everything seems to come so natural and automatic now that I've been doing this for a while. When I really thought about what would help a new teacher out the most (or even a teacher that is just new to Kindergarten) it was hard for me to narrow it down.  So here is a "condensed" (no not really...brace yourself) list of some of my favorite tips and ideas.  I'm sure I'll think of many more once I hit "publish" on this post! =)

Pre-First Day

1.  The first day of school really begins for Kindergarten parents way before the actual first day....communication with the parents is essential.  I send post cards to my students and an introduction letter to my new parents. I tell them just a bit about me but mainly share how excited I am about being their child's teacher. I also give them a few tips to help them prepare for our open house. We have a long list of info that is needed on that night and many new parents are taken by surprise.  When the families come in for open house they already feel like they have a connection to you.....a huge icebreaker in some cases!

2.  At our open house (or you could have this for parents on the first day if you do not have an open house) I have a packet with info about my room.  They've already received information about the school in general, but this gives them a chance to really get an idea of what their child's classroom and Kindergarten experience will be like.  I am attempting to also include this information on my class website, but am having technical difficulties. =(  

In this packet I include: 

  • An overview of our literacy and math programs
  • Literacy center, math center and traditional center descriptions
  • Housekeeping items...lunch money collection procedures, birthday procedures, snacks, extra clothing storage, etc.
  • Information on homework procedures for later in the year
  • Contact information
One piece of information in the packet that really seems to help my parents is "tip" sheet for making the start of the year go smoothly.

Now all of these tips so far have be prep work for the actual first day. What do you do when you actually have 20+  five year olds and their parents walking through your door on the first day? is what seems to work for me:

The First Day

1. Have something for the kids to do while you answer those last minute questions from parents or help a child who is having difficulty separating from their parent.  I always seem to use playdoh for this. I've tried coloring, looking at books, puzzles and manipulatives and playdoh seems to hold their interest the best. In the early years when I would have them just wait for me at their seats or on the carpet I would always have a couple wandering around the room ...or worse yet.....trying to escape!!! Ugh!

2.  I put homemade stop signs on my centers / shelves that I do not want the kiddos running and getting into right away. I know some teachers that use red tape for this purpose as well.  I tell the kids that if there is a stop sign we have to wait and hear the rules before we can use the area/materials. This has been a life saver on those first few mornings when curious five year olds want to explore EVERYTHING in the room. Not that they all obey the stop signs of course but it works for the most part.

3.  Once our office makes an announcement that it's time for parents to say good bye (they are very nice/respectful in their approach to this of course) I tell the kids to give one last hug and kiss and we will get busy having fun! I've been very fortunate over the last few years and have had very few "criers."  Warning....if you are new....expect criers or upset kiddos some mornings during the first few weeks of school. Once the newness wears off they begin to miss home again sometimes. This took me by surprise the first few years. I figured after the first couple of days that they would be all adjusted...I was soooo wrong. 

4.  Once the parents are gone we settle in for our first morning meeting. Of course the rules are introduced and then  I go over a VISUAL schedule. They just want to know when they are going to get to PLAY of course! When they look at this schedule it gives them a visual for seeing when they will not only get to play outside but also in the room for our traditional center time.  I put a huge star on our center time schedule card so they know when they will FINALLY  be able to use some of the fun stuff in the room.  As we complete things on the schedule I flip the cards over. They love counting how many cards we have left until center time and time to go home. 

5.  Speaking of centers.....keep it simple and introduce the traditional centers first. I like to take my time introducing my literacy / Daily 5 centers and math centers. I don't want to rush this process and feel they need time before starting these important activities. During the first few days I introduce whole group activities during our Daily 5 and math center times. We all practice "read to self" or "word work" before we begin rotations with either of these center times.  I usually open up the majority of my traditional centers on the first day. I have helpers take down the "stop signs" in these centers. They get so excited about this! I do put them up again after center time and we discuss that we only go to these areas of the room during this special time of the day.  This helps the next morning when some do "forget."  

6.  Over's better to have too much planned than not enough.

7.  Keep in mind you may not get to all of those amazing plans that you wrote. =)  Frustrating...but true.

8.  Transitions (bathroom/going to specials) takes FOREVER at the beginning of the year. Our bathroom breaks can be over twenty minutes sometimes. Ugh.

9.  If you have a full day program you may want to let your kids practice holding a lunch tray with play food in the room first. Our school has a little video that shows kids going through the lunch line and finding their seat in our cafeteria. After we watch this I have them practice in the room before we actually head to the cafe. HUGE, HUGE improvement over the days when I would just march down to the cafeteria with my class on the first day.

 Saves a lot of tears....mine, not theirs!

10.  One last tip...I always have the kids draw a self portrait of themselves on the first day and write their name. This gives me some insight into how detailed their work is and of course if they can write their name or not. I usually have them do another self portrait each month and these go into their portfolios. made it! Thanks for reading until the end of this l-o-n-g post! I hope that everyone has a great "First Day" regardless if you've taught twenty five years or if this is your first Kindergarten classroom.  Kindergarten is amazing and I am so looking forward to working with my next class! Best wishes to a new year!
                                                                                              Mrs. M

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Transitioning My Room Arrangement from Traditional Literacy Centers to Daily 5...Oh, and some Cupcake Fun!

Well as the summer break dwindling down my "teacher girl" bff's and I decided we were in desperate need of some cupcake therapy!  We usually get our favorite from a local bakery and they are scrumptious, but.............

We decided to head to Jilly's Cupcake Bar in the St. Louis area for something different! 

Jilly's was a first place winner on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars and we just had to try it out! We now have a new teacher cupcake favorite!!! I'm saving the Key Lime for later if my kiddos don't get to it first! =)

I've been trying to get into my room to get a few things done here and there. I hate the last minute rush of trying to set up my room. Ugh.  So as I've been working I've been trying to come up with an arrangement that will easily accommodate my students' Daily 5 choices. I'm slowly but surely making the transition from traditional literacy centers to the Daily 5.   I've attempted Daily 5 before but it was new to me and I was having a challenging year. I returned to traditional literacy centers because I was comfortable and familiar with them. I'm ready now to give Daily 5 another try. I am going to have to tweak a few of the ideas though to make this work for me.  For instance, take a peek at my choice board..........

I am still going to call this time of day our "ABC/Literacy Centers" even though the routine, etc. will be geared more to a Daily 5 model.   I actually have 6 choices because I am separating ABC's from words/names at the beginning of the year. I may combine the two as the year progresses....I'll have to wait and see how this goes.  The students will be telling me their choice and I'll put their stick in the appropriate envelope. I may add a recording chart of some type to the board to keep track of where they are going throughout the Daily 5 time frame.  

Now I'm not anywhere near having my room finished (we don't start until August 21st) but I do have the basic layout for my activity areas set up.  I plan on using my chart/big book area from my traditional literacy center days for the "read to someone else" choice. The students of course can practice reading charts and big books to each other, but they can also read to each other from their book boxes.  There is an additional carpet area on the other side of the easel that can accommodate this as well.  

For "listening to reading" I'm using my traditional listening center (I use the vertical shelf to store this center's materials) and I'm also using our classroom computers to listen to Starfall stories and books that go with our reading series.  

For "read to self" I'm using our reading center of course. I'll also have some extra tables and a carpet area in our math center that can be used for this choice as well.

My traditional literacy center "post office" is going to work out great for the "writing" Daily 5 choice.  We will also continue to use our writing center pictured below...

On the other side of our writing center you can see our word wall. I also have a shelf with our abc and word choice materials.  There is one additional table to the right of this  and I'm hoping this will work for those that choose ABC / Words.  Right next to the word wall is a large tree pocket chart that I use for our class names. These will be incorporated into our word work early in the year.  

Obviously it's not set up yet but here is where I plan to work with my strategy and guided reading groups.  It's basically in the center of the room so I should have a great view of everyone as they are working on their choices.  There is also a white board under the pocket chart and although you can't see it in this view, my projector/mobi will be able to be utilized in this position.  

I am so looking forward to making this transition to the Daily 5. I know my choices and arrangement may not be exactly like the model the sisters describe but I feel it's a good start for me.    Now I just need to finish setting up the room and I'm ready to get started! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Liebster and Pinterest

I want to send a big THANK YOU to Liz from Crazy for Kindergarten for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award!  

Liebster is German for needless to say that I am very honored to be nominated for this!  Part of the responsibility for receiving this award is to pass it on to five other blogs that have under 200 followers. I have so many so this is a bit difficult but here are my nominees:

Stop by and check out these great blogs....they are full of great ideas!!


I am addicted.  But I think many teachers are so I'm not alone! =)

Last week I pinned this little gem for bathroom passes...
Teaching 4 Real: Classroom Craziness Set Up Day 2.. FREEBIE Included

I love this! You know who is out of the room and they are not carrying something with them into the potty...eeewwww! 


So here is my take on this little project.....

When I put the magnetic tape on the back of my see through plastic plates they ended up looking like "eyes" so I added the mouth and the girl's bow with permanent marker.  My teenage daughter did her best "kindergarten handwriting" to model her name on the girls' pass!! =)  Everything has magnetic tape on it so I'm hoping it will be an easy way for them to mark their name down when they need to use the restroom. 

Little Miss Smarty pants  My beautiful and amazing teenage daughter said they probably won't remember to erase it when they come back to the room.  I think they will because they are kindergartners who love to write and erase with dry erase markers! We'll see I guess!
                                                                                                      Mrs. M

Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Day of School...Homework!?!

The first day of school is getting closer and! It doesn't matter how much time off I have off  in the summer it just never feels like enough to get things ready for the school relax just a bit! I do have one item ready though.....the first day of school homework!

In Kindergarten....yes. First. Day. Of. School. Homework.

Now parents may panic just a bit when they read the title on the homework page, but once they see what it is they can relax!
Don't we all have those little kinders that come in on the first day of school expecting to learn how to read THAT DAY?
Well this is a great solution to that getting discouraged on the first day of Kindergarten.

No, no... not in our rooms! =)

Ms. B down the hall has been sending this environmental print homework assignment with the kids on the first day of school for years and they LOVE it!  Not only are they excited when they realize that yes they CAN read some things, but they have HOMEWORK too!

Big kid homework!

So here is the form that she sends home with the kids on the first day:

Once they bring back their homework she does a couple of things with them. They do meet as a class to "read" their homework to each other. Then some years she has made these into a book for the class library.  Of course this is a class favorite right away because it is a book that all of them can read!!

Other years she has displayed the labels on a board near her reading center and whole group area. This gives them opportunities to read the labels or look for specific letters in large group and small group settings.

Hope everyone is enjoying as much summer as they can before heading back into those classrooms!   Enjoy every minute of it =)
                                                                                             Mrs. M

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Word Work....Daily 5 Chapter 6

Word work....I love it! It has always been one of my favorite parts of planning my traditional literacy centers! At times I have to admit it has been the majority of my literacy centers!

Ooops.....I need a little balance I suppose!

So as I'm reading The Daily 5 (and the school year is inching closer and closer)  I'm really beginning to think about the logistics of planning my Daily 5 choices.

For the beginning of the year I'm planning on having many alphabet activities as part of my word work choices.  Although I plan on keeping some of these choices available ALL year it is imperative at the beginning to have a solid foundation with their alphabet skills and then begin to work on building words.

Does anyone else agree????

Our district does have a basal series that introduces the alphabet quickly during the first three weeks of school. We then slow down and focus on individual letters and sight words. From this point on usually one to two new words are introduced each week for two weeks. After two weeks there is time to review and then we begin again.  These first few weeks gives me a chance to put out many of my alphabet activities and assess just where my kiddos are at.
This is one of my favorite alphabet charts to do with my kids. I use it with the Dr. Jean song that incorporates actions for each lower case letter. This is introduced whole group and then the following extension activity is a word work choice.  Lower case magnetic letters can be sorted or they can also write the letters on the form.  I've also made the same chart with tape on a white board and the kids sorted the letter magnets on the white board and recorded them on the sheet.

I also LOVE to focus on their names as part of our word work at the beginning of the school year! I have a pocket chart that includes just the students' names.

At the beginning of the year I use just their first names. For word work choices there are so many possibilities when using names!  I usually have cards with their names written on them in tubs near the tree.  I like to have them circle our focus letters they can find in their name, write a list of names that has five letters each, cut apart their name into a puzzle and they have to put it together...the list goes on and on.  As the year continues I add last names to the tree. Here's a fun name activity for matching first and last names. Again, I would keep these in a tub near the tree and the kids practice matching the class names.

As I begin to introduce our popcorn words I start to add them to our word wall. I always introduce our new words during whole group but then REVIEW, REVISIT AND REVIEW again and again during small groups.
I'm revamping word wall for next school year but this system has really been working for me. I just need to make it a little more organized and not so busy! =)  

I have the word wall located near tables where the students can choose to work on their word work activities. I love to let them use stamps, wikki sticks, paint....just about anything that they can create our words with!

Since I've been drifting back and forth these past two years between Daily 5 and traditional literacy centers I have really given some thought to where to store my materials. When I am implementing traditional literacy centers I have an ABC Center, a Name Center and a Word Work Center.  They are all located near one another and the kids would rotate through these. For Daily 5 I plan to keep my materials stored the way that I currently have them. I have my file folders, game boards and various manipulatives sorted on shelves into these categories.  During Daily 5 I plan to have approximately six alphabet/name/word work activities available at the designated work tables for the  kids to chose from. I may have to adjust this as the year progresses of course but this is the plan for now.   

Head on over to see what questions Tammy from  Kreative in Kinder has posted us to reflect on while reading this chapter!  I have loved reading what everyone has posted about during this book study and I can't wait to see more!                Mrs. M                   

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rules, Rules, Rules

This summer really seems to be flying by! But now that I've returned from a fabulous family vacation my thoughts are drifting more and more towards how I'm going to set up my classroom this year. I was actually able to get in a bit earlier than usual to do some much needed painting and curtain making!

Whoo-hoo ahead of schedule!!

For now.

I'm trying not to get too excited about this.

They were nice enough to let me in to get these projects finished ...we have AMAZING custodians in our hall!   But soon they will be closing down our hall to finish all of the necessary floor waxing and cleaning.  It may be last minute again this year when I'm actually able to get in and get my room put together.  So in the meantime I'm keeping myself busy shopping! Not a bad trade off in my opinion! I've been lucky enough to score some fantastic finds at the dollar sections and am getting ready to complete an online order for the last few needed items. I may not actually step foot in a teacher store this year which should save me a TON of $$$$!

I'm also looking forward to the Whole Brain Teaching conference that our district is hosting next week!! I especially love the fact it is FREE and five minutes from my house! Could you ask for anything more?

Speaking of WBT.....our entire school uses the WBT rules. It is very consistent and has worked out great for our large building.  I am however wanting to change up my behavior system though. I've looked at all of the "rainbow" behavior systems found on Pinterest. I'd like to use this concept but tweak it a bit. I'm waiting until after the conference to see if I have any brainstorms while I'm there! =)

Love that this gives opportunity to move for above average behavior.

I am however planning on creating this adorable "rule" book that my teacher buddy down the hall uses. 

For this book she uses our regular school rules but also expands with some "extras."  She brainstorms with the kids first about what rules they would like to see in the book.  

She has the kids write the rule or behavior goal and then includes photos of the kids modeling the desired behavior.  

This by far is one of her class' favorites in her reading center all year! It's also a great resource to use with the kiddos when a "refresher course" is needed for class rules. =)  Looking forward to learning more about WBT next week and I can't wait to share! Have a great weekend!
                                                                                                                       Mrs. M

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Randomness and Some Awards

I was sooo looking forward to this view during the last month of school! Beautiful isn't it? 

I just returned from our family vacation in Florida and am pleased to say that I was good and didn't blog the entire time. =)  I was tempted one rainy morning but read a non-school related book instead. I think my Kindle is worn out after this vacation.  Now though I feel so behind in the two blogging world book studies that I'm taking part in. I hope to get back on track with these this week.  

I did return to some nice awards though! What a great surprise! I received this one from 


I also received.................


Thank you so much to all of you and I return the nominations to each of you! You should check out these blogs if you haven't done so already!  Okay so here are the rules for receiving these awards:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their post.  
2.  Share seven things about yourself.
3.  Nominate 15 or so bloggers you admire.
4. Contact the bloggers to let them know and link back to their site.

Seven Random Facts about me.........

1. I LOVE to sleep in late....just not a morning person. Must. Have. Coffee. 

2.  I have three kiddos who are 16, 13 and 11. 

3.  I am a DANCE MOM, FOOTBALL MOM AND A WRESTLING MOM!  Our Falls are spent at sporting events...both boys play football and my daughter cheers. Our winters are spent at wrestling meets. This is not too exciting for my daughter! The rest of our time is spent going to her dance competitions, volleyball games and basketball games she is cheering at.  

4.  I coach middle school cheerleading. 

5.  I've been a vegetarian for 20+ years. This is not really that interesting but considering my entire family are meat eaters it can get tricky at times to say the least!

6.  I LOVE old houses!! Mine is 86 years old. 

7.  I married my high school sweetheart....18 years now. =)

Besides those that are listed above I would like to nominate the following amazing blogs for both awards:

Thank you again to those that nominated my blog and please stop by their blogs! They are all awesome! 
                                                                                                       Mrs. M

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