Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Daily 5 ...the Beginning and Parent Communication Journals

Crazy times right now for Kindergarten teachers isn't it? =)  I absolutely love teaching Kindergarten but any K teacher has to admit that the first six weeks of school is incredibly exhausting.  I am so excited this year to have one of our Title 1 teachers helping me with my beginning of the year baseline testing! This is SUCH a HUGE help! I've also had the luxury of having one of our beloved retired Kindergarten teachers come in and help out in my room several times...she even stayed ALL day on the first day of school!  I couldn't ask for more....I'm so lucky!    Now because I've been blessed with all of this help I've actually had time to get the ball rolling on a few little projects. We've only been in school seven days now but I'm the type that likes to jump in and get started right away with my regular routines, etc. It's sooooo hard to slow myself down and have the kids practice routines.

I just want to get started.


But in order to have success with 21+ five year olds following my procedures and expectations we must go s-l-o-w-l-y and practice.


So on Monday of this week we did begin discussing our Daily 5 (Daily 6 in our room) routines.  I am calling it our ABC Centers with my kiddos. I just like that name better for them.  So far they know that we will be having ABC centers and that Mrs. M can't wait to get started! They know that I will be working with groups of kiddos on reading. I have told them that they will be working on reading and writing activities when I am doing this.  So far so good and they seem excited but are a bit tired of discussing rules, blah, blah, blah. 

You get the picture. 

I HAD to get them started DOING something so we began by making an "I" chart for read to self.  We practiced two days in a row for very short periods of time. They did great! Today we created our "I" chart for read to someone else.  We practiced one round of sitting "knee to knee" and reading. We discussed the different types of ways to read a book first. The books I used for this practice round were our pre-decodables that go with our reading series.  Two sets do not have words and two sets include our popcorn words "I" and "can."  The kids did an excellent job on the first round...the second round not so much.  Looks like more practicing tomorrow. I'm hoping to squeeze in a round of practicing working on abc work....fingers crossed!

This week I also sent home our parent communication journals / homework journals.  We are not completing homework just yet in the journals. I'll be posting more on that later in September.  For now I'm including a copy of our news letter and their child's reflections from the past week. 

This past week I had the kids draw about their favorite centers that they were able to work in.  My high school helper and myself labeled their work for them. I have one little one that attempted to do the labeling himself! Yay!

The kids also drew pictures of their friends that they played with either at lunch,recess or quiet time.  It's so hard for them to get to know everyone's name at the beginning of the year. It was so cute to see them go ask what their friend's names were so they could draw/write about them in their journal.  

During the school year the children will be completing two homework options in their journals each week and then each Friday we will be writing our reflections in class. As the year progresses the goal is for them to begin WRITING  and DRAWING about topics that we have learned about and skills we have worked on in addition to the social items like center time and friends we play with.  Parents in some of my past classes have really enjoyed these journals. Some will write in them themselves. They may ask me questions about school work, etc but often they write sweet little notes to their children about how proud they are of them and what a good job they are doing!  Too, too cute!

We just had a our first fire drill today! So this week in our journals we will be reflecting on the fire drill and on another page our CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM activities. 

I hope everyone is hanging in there during these first busy, busy weeks!  I'm so looking forward to that six week marker when there is a noticeable difference in the calmness of my class, our routines and school life in general. =)  Have a great rest of your week!
                                                                                                         Mrs. M

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Little Visit Down the Hall

Wow! We have been in school now for almost a week! The beginning of the school year is always a crazy time but also very exciting. This year several of my co-workers and I decided it was time to redecorate, reorganize and basically spruce up our rooms a bit.  I recently posted a tour of my own classroom.  Today I want to share a little glimpse into Mrs. B's room.  I share many of her ideas here on the blog and it's time to show off her room a bit . =)

If you've followed my blog for some time you've read before that Mrs. B was my amazing student teacher several years ago. We've since become teaching buddies who love to bounce ideas off of one another. When we first moved into this building the walls were ALL white and there was very minimal furniture or homey touches. It was very stark and in some ways uninviting.  Well twelve years later we all added bits of color and  our own unique furniture and touches. It was an improvement but Mrs. B and I were beginning to feel a little overwhelmed in our own classrooms. We decided that it looked like crayon boxes had exploded in our rooms. We figured it was time to tone it down a notch or two.  We each chose the above wall color for accent walls in our rooms. Twelve years ago I would have never imagined that I would paint my classroom a neutral color! I had a yellow and red classroom in our last building.  It seemed unimaginable to me but...

It was time though for a change of pace.  I love the results for both of our rooms! So here we go on to Mrs. B's room!

Right inside Mrs. B's front door you will find her calendar area. I love the new blue/brown color scheme you'll see throughout her room, but what really caught my eye was her new idea for floor puzzle organization! Once you become a "seasoned"  teacher ( we started teaching when we were 5 you know...) you find that some of your favorite classroom materials just don't hold up. Sometimes it's just their boxes or containers though. Such is the case for our floor puzzles. What Mrs. B decided to do is take part of the original box and attach it to a basket with the puzzle pieces. Then the kids can see the desired result and it's organized a bit better.

On the other side of Mrs. B's entrance we have her science center and ABC center. I love her lockers/cubbies with her students' pictures!

The house center.The little couch used to be in her reading area but.....................

She was able to add a couch this year!! Yay! You can also see her collection of pointers and across from the couch is an additional shelf with books sorted by themes.

The Art Center

Here is Mrs. B's new behavior board! Her "Get Spotted" concept is very catchy. :)  You can see the WBT rules and the behavior clip ladder. When the students get ready for home in the afternoon she puts a "garage sale" colored dot sticker in their student planner ( you could also just use a monthly calendar page) that matches what ever color their clip was on that day.  It's an easy visual for students and parents to see what type of day the child had. She also is "spotting" kids doing great things throughout the day. If a child is spotted doing something special she writes it down on a colored "spot" (circle) and sends it home to the parents.  Very cute Mrs. B!!

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down the hall from my room. I work with an amazing bunch of teachers and I can't wait to share more of their awesomeness!   Have a great weekend!
                                                                                            Mrs. M

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Planning for Daily 5 and Guided Math Stations

Wow...the first day of school is almost here! I have the room set up and now I'm working on getting some of my organization and planning sheets finished up. I'm always interested in how other teachers organize their planning. There are some great ideas out there on the blogs! Since I'm still working on my actual schedule my daily planning pages are still under construction. I did however finish up my planning sheets for my Daily 5 time and my math stations. Yippee!!

I am so excited this year that I have a nice block of time for Daily 5 and actually about thirty minutes for my guided math/stations! This is in addition to our whole group reading time and whole group math instruction.   I'm used to having smaller chunks of time broken up throughout the day. This will be a luxury!

This year I am transitioning back to implementing Daily 5 instead of traditional literacy centers.  I've attempted it once before but it really wasn't the best year for me to be attempting something new...too many other changes and challenges.  Now I'm ready and very excited about this time of our day!  During our forty minute block of time I'm planning on two rounds of our literacy choices with two whole group two mini lessons followed by a wrap up at the end of our allotted time.

The reading series we are using is broken up into the following:
  • 10 Units
  • Each Unit is 3 weeks long
  • Week One and Two introduce new letters, sight words and skills. Week three is a review week.
  • There are several "free" weeks throughout the year...I incorporate many of my thematic units during these weeks.                 
When setting up my Daily Literacy Choices planning sheet I've included what unit we are covering and the corresponding skills. I've arranged my room so that the children will make their daily literacy choice but yet go to a specific section of the room to work on their chosen activity.  For my  planning sheets I've listed the "regular" activities that will routinely be offered in these areas and have left space to fill the the additional activities we will be working on for each unit. These plans / records are kept in a separate binder from my regular daily plans. I have this binder divided into units that correspond with our reading series.  

I do keep another planning sheet for my guided reading/strategy groups but they are not quite finished yet. As far as keeping track of the kiddos and their choices I am going to use a weekly sheet and mark the date they they worked on each choice. They will need to work on each choice at least once and most should be visited two times.  
I am sure that I will have kinks to work out....

There are always kinks. 

But I think I am off to a good start and can get the ball rolling on Daily 5 (or 6 in my case since I am keeping ABC work separate from word work.)

Now onto math!! I am piloting Singapore Math this year. I am very excited...this series looks great! I've already set up my math binder according to the Singapore chapters....just like my Daily 5 (6) plans I'm keeping these separate from my regular daily plans. It may seem like a lot of binders but trust me it helps me to stay organized.  My plan is to be able to have two rounds of math stations during my thirty minute time frame. During round one I am hoping to be able to work with a small math group. During round two I'm hoping to work with individuals on extra practice or assessment.
For my actual stations I am hoping to only need eleven but may have to up that to twelve as our enrollment keeps growing! Here you can see our set up for our stations...


For my math stations planning sheet I'm simply listing the unit/core concept and have boxes to fill in  for each station. 

This will be our second year with our current reading series and my second year to pilot a new math series (this one is different from last year.)  Let's not forget the transition to Common Core....Lots of changes these past two years!! =)  I'm feeling a little less overwhelmed now that I have some of this accomplished.  Hopefully all of you are having success in your planning and can have a nice smooth start to your school year! Our open house is Thursday and our kiddos start next Tuesday....I can't wait!
                                                                                       Mrs. M

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Classroom Tour

I always love that feeling when you finish the room yet again and then it's just time to wait for your  students to arrive!

This year my room was due for a makeover. Towards the end of the year last spring I was starting to feel as if a crayon box exploded in my room and left it's mark on everything.

It was time to tone it down a notch or two.  (Or three or four.......)

My amazing student teacher Ms. W helped me with the beginning plans for the happy to have some feed back. When you've been working in one class room for a few years it's nice to see it through another teacher's perspective.  The above pic is the view from my classroom door. You walk directly into our math area.  Have fun checking out the rest of the pics from my room....  I LOVE peeking into other classrooms! The only problem with it is that I always spot something that I want to try.....and then I have to make more changes. =)

The entrance area and where I store the math manipulatives when we are not using them in a math station. I love the cupcake drawing that one of my students made for me last year!

Our math stations....I like to keep our group meeting area for math separate from the area we use for literacy.

Our calendar and morning meeting area.  The schedule cards are from last year...I have no idea what my schedule will be like just yet. Waiting to find out the details later this week! =) Our writing tubs are also housed in this entrance area. I absolutely love my light table. It moves around my room depending on if I'm using it for math, science or block activities but typically it stays in the math area. I have some new transparent 3D shapes that I can't wait to use with it!

On the other side of the math stations rotation chart I have our pocket chart for our traditional centers. The students can choose their own centers by putting their clip on the appropriate card  and can change once during the allotted time frame. The numbers on the cards let them know how many are allowed in each center.

Our House Area

Our Block Area....which also doubles as a chart/rhyme center for the "read to someone else" choice during our Daily 5 time. 

In our literacy group meeting area you can also see our listening center and our Daily 5 choice chart ( I still refer to it as ABC centers with the kids.)  We also have clip board storage with a pocket chart activity area on the back.  

On the other side of our library shelf we have tables for puzzles and other fine motor activities.  I also have our new Pinterest inspired bathroom passes!  

I'm using the Pinterest rainbow behavior chart with a twist. Each time they reach the "super star" level they get to put their monkey on the tree. Although you can't see it really well in this photo the tree is divided into three sections. Each time they get their clip on "super star" their monkey can move up the tree. If it reaches the top by the end of the week they get a prize.  

Our Science Center

The Art Center and you can see the writing and post office centers.  

Our Word Work area for Daily 5 time.  Everything does double duty....the sensory table top is also used for word work activities during Daily 5 and the nearby art center table is used for ABC choice activities.  

My new curtains. =)  I'm using the frames for student artwork once we begin creating masterpieces in our room!

I LOVE my teaching buddies! They've been showering me with Cupcake items for awhile now! 

It makes me smile just to glance at that shelf during the day.

Of course it makes me want a cupcake too but that's another story! last Pinterest inspired idea. Our going home clip chart. I love the cheetah tire tracks! I'll add the clips with student names and bus numbers as soon as we have our open house.

Thanks for taking the "tour" of my room. I'm getting ready to begin the piles of paperwork and organization that is so abundant this time of the year. But....I'm also going to take a few "tours" of my own and check out some of the other classrooms that bloggers have been posting about. I just linked up on TBA's classroom photo linky. Go check it out...There are some great ideas and amazing rooms out there! 
                                                                                  Mrs M

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Self Help Skills Tool for the New Kindergarten Class

Doesn't matter how long I've taught but each year I seem to forget just how little and YOUNG the new Kindergartners are when they first begin school! It's amazing how they grow and mature during the school year!

I tend to have selective memory I guess.

By second semester I have put out of my mind their frequent needs in regards to self help skills like tying shoes or zipping up a coat. Now this doesn't mean that I don't help them if needed...of course not! But by second semester they really seem to have the hang of such things and their need for me to assist them dwindles considerably.  They are becoming big kids. Yay!

However, here we are and it's almost the beginning of the year again. I'm bracing myself for bathroom breaks that take twenty minutes and once again helping with the individual self help needs of twenty plus kiddos.  I forget just how L-O-N-G everything takes at the beginning of the year until it's here again.

But......this year I have a plan!

I am so excited!

My teacher pal Mrs. B has this amazing tool that she uses with her class to help them help each other with classroom needs and individual self help needs.  It's a class YELLOW PAGES DIRECTORY of student experts!

Genius! is how it works.  Once a child in the class completes a skill that you normally would have to help with they sign their name on that page of the book.  For instance, once a child learns to tie their shoes their name goes on that page. 

This also works for zipping coats...

Buttoning those pesky buttons....

The yellow pages also works great for classroom odds and ends such as putting books in the correct tubs, organizing a center or helping friends with projects.

Here is the magic part of using this little tool in your classroom...when you are WORKING WITH A SMALL GROUP or ASSESSING A STUDENT or basically helping another student and would prefer not to be interrupted a child who has a particular need can go to the yellow pages and see who is an "expert" in the room and then can go to that child and ask them for help. 



Mrs. B keeps this right next to the front door so all of the kiddos know where to find it when they need it.  At the beginning of the year it does take some practice to help the kids remember to use the yellow pages instead of just asking you first. However, once they catch on it is a great help to you and the "experts" can feel very proud of themselves too! 

                                                                                                      Mrs. M

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