Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Assigned seats?????

When I first began teaching Kindergarten I hit the jackpot in more ways than one...

First of all I had dreamed of not only being a teacher but being a KINDERGARTEN teacher. I only  taught second grade one year and have been blessed to be in Kindergarten ever since.

Secondly,  I've had some amazing students and parents that I have been so fortunate to work with.

But thirdly.....I had the most unbelievable room!

It was HUGE.

Not only was it huge....but it had charm. High ceilings, wood trim and moldings painted red, storage and an entire wall of windows that went up to the ceiling.

However, this was the days before projectors, smart boards or even white boards. =)  The actual blackboards (well some were green too) in my room were not  even usable.

Yes...this was right before the blackboard paint came out too. =)

Once the first school year in this classroom began I soon realized that my approach to seating was going to have to be creative.  The room was a very long rectangle shape and since none of the blackboards were usable I covered them up with paper and used them as display space.  At one end of this huge rectangle I created a math meeting space (carpet area) for calendar and various other math activities. My husband built a huge easel that included a dry erase board.  At the other end of the rectangle we had another carpet area and another large dry erase easel for literacy activities. Everything that was taught whole group was taught from one of the two carpet areas.  My tables were spread out across the room and incorporated into centers. Once an activity was introduced from one of the carpet areas  and the whole class needed to be seated at a table at the same time it was really NOT a big deal. Each student just chose a spot and got to work.

Well...fast forward a few years and it was time to say goodbye to the old building. =(  In it's place we did get an amazingly beautiful new facility! This time complete with whiteboards, projectors and smart boards.  I've been in this new room for a while now but figuring out seating has always been and issue for me here. I LOVED not assigning seats! I liked to observe the choices the children made each day about who they would work with or socialize with. I feel it helped them in many ways to learn from each other.  At some point within my new space I decided I needed to start assigning seats.

I have no idea why.

Maybe I just had a difficult time at first arranging a square shaped room?  =)

This year I decided that after the first few weeks of the school year I wanted to give not assigning seats another try.  I did want to begin the year with assigned seats since this is what I've become used to and it also gives me a chance to put names with faces early in the year if they are assigned to one spot.

Yesterday was the big day! We gave it a try! It was amazing!

No arguing.

No running to pick a seat.

Everyone was engaged and working.

It was calm. Well okay as calm as a Kindergarten room can be.

We did meet and discussed the situation first. Everyone was very excited to give this a try.  I still have two carpet areas in my room to this day. One for literacy and one for math. I still give most of my whole group instruction from one of these two carpet areas.

Our Literacy Carpet Area

Our Math Carpet Area

So together we discussed that when picking a seat there would be no running, pushing arguing. The kids decided that if someone broke this rule they would have to move their clip down on our behavior ladder.

Right now I'm keeping community supplies on each table. As the year progresses we will begin using our writing tubs and the kids can just grab theirs before going to a spot if we are working on writing.

So now after two days without assigned seats I am hooked once more.  Here's a link to my classroom set up from before school started. I've moved some things around since then ( I LOVE to move my furniture around) but you'll get the general picture.  You'll also see my beginning of the year name tags!  Once we dive further into our writing workshop time I can't wait to see the stories that will develop and who will create projects with each other.

I'm just curious how many of you assign seats???
                                                                                      Mrs. M

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Daily 5 Word Work and ABC Choices

It's the 20th day of Kindergarten for my class and things are beginning to move along quite nicely for us! I began implementing the groundwork for Daily 5 during our second week of school.  We began with "I" charts and practice sessions for "Read to Self," "Read to Someone"and "Listen to Reading."  Currently "writing" is an option but the choices are a bit limited until we progress further with our writing workshop time. The kids are able to use word lists, letter stencils and various writing utensils for the time being.  More to come on this....

For my Daily 5 session I am calling it our "ABC Center Time."  This just seems to work for my class. We have ABC centers in the morning and math stations later in the day.  I'm also tweaking the Daily 5 approach a bit to include 6 daily choices.  I've split the word work choice into two categories....word work and ABC work.  For early Kindergarten students this is a huge! By adding this choice they are able to have an additional focus on developing their knowledge of the alphabet. So important before jumping straight into reading words for many kiddos!

Here's a few pics that show you some of our VERY early word work and ABC work activity choices.  I'm thrilled that we have been able to have two rounds of our choices daily! Here's how my communication arts block is set up:
** I'm currently working on some word work activities and reading activities with the entire group. (30-45 minutes)

** When a few of the kiddos leave the room to go with Title/At Risk  teachers for reading we begin round one of our choices. (15-20 minutes)

**After meeting for a mini lesson we move on to round two. (15-20 minutes)

**We finish up with our writer's workshop once all of my kids have returned. (35 minutes)

This may not be exactly the way the sisters outline the Daily 5 routine but it does seem to be working for our class and our current schedule.  This week I was even able to begin meeting with kids! It was so exciting to see their faces when they realized they could actually read!!

I tend to prefer hands on activities for my ABC and Word Work choices. I do add more paper/pencil activities as the year progresses, but for now you'll see mostly manipulative type games, puzzles and activities.  The first activity was inspired by Pinterest! These are some little plastic plates used for appetizers! I got them at the local supermarket.

After matching the lowercase letter tray to the uppercase tray the kids can check their answers on the back of the white tray.  There is also an ABC chart nearby for them to use as a reference.

Here are two more choices that focus on matching upper and lowercase letters....

Some beginning sounds activities...

This activity comes courtesy of my own kids' toy closet. =)  Matching picture snap cubes to the correct beginning sound.  I believe this came from Lakeshore several years ago.  I've also made my own before by placing small stickers of various objects on regular snap cubes and writing the letters on the other cubes with a Sharpie.

For this activity we are using word cards from our reading series. These are obviously all letter Mm cards (the first letter we are focusing on) and each child can make their own Mm words poster.

As part of our word work I also like to include working on NAMES. This is a picture of our name tree. As the year progresses I have various ways of displaying our names depending on what skills we are currently working on.

For our first activity with working with names the kids can simply spell their name with magnets. At times I have the magnet letters sorted by letters. For this activity I like to put them all together so they have to hunt for the correct letters.  Many of the kids also like to spell their friend's names with the magnets.  

For those of you attempting Daily 5 I hope it is off to a smooth start for you! Many of the above activities could also be used in traditional literacy centers as well.  Next week I'm hoping to add new choices to our word work and abc work, but also begin focusing on the writing piece of Daily 5.  Here's a link to the planning pages I'm currently using to help me organize the activity choices.  I'm sure I'll be editing these as the year goes on but they seem to be working for me right now.

                                                                                       Have a great rest of the week!
                                                                                                     Mrs. M

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Wheels on The Bus Class Writing

I LOVE The Wheels on the Bus!!  I usually try to incorporate this book into my literacy activities fairly early in the school year.  I was sooo excited when Mrs. B shared with me a "Wheels on the Bus" book that I'd had never seen before....The Wheels on the School Bus!!! Too, too cute and perfect for this time of the school year.  After reading both books and doing some comparisons we moved on to some beginning writing activities.  

We began by creating a word list of "bus" words.  I, like many other Kindergarten teachers, have some kiddos who can't recognize their own name and others who are reading. Reading quite well I might add. I'm really making an effort to differentiate my activities to accommodate my various types of students in my class right now.  Right now my readers in my class are not quite writers just yet. So it was a very beneficial experience for them to help me phonetically spell out the words on our first thematic word list.  Later as we reviewed they had a fun time trying to identify the difference between "wipers" and "windows."  For my non reading students we focused on "yellow" and "school bus" for words that they may use in their beginning writing activities. Overall it was a successful first try at a class word list.

Later in the week I created our first class story activity.  Of course I picked sentences that would incorporate our word list and the popcorn words we had just begun working with (I & can.)  

During a group meeting the class took turns either helping me phonetically spell, copy words from the word list or write the popcorn words to create this story. They LOVED it! They have had so much fun using our pointers and reading it to each other during our Daily 5 time.  I always love these types of beginning literacy activities. The kindergartners are so thrilled when they realize they CAN actually read! Such an exciting moment for any K teacher! : )   Have a great week!
                                                                                                                         Mrs. M

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This Week's Math Stations ...Numbers 0-5 Focus

We made it through nine days of Kindergarten...whoo-hoo! I'm enjoying this three day weekend and hope that things begin to settle down into a nice routine.  I did introduce my math stations to the kiddos on day 2.  I focused on establishing routines and just gave them some time to explore various manipulatives, etc.  By day 9 I could tell that some of my smarties are REALLY ready to move on to more challenging activities! You know how it goes...some are ready to begin addition with double digits and others are still roaming the room and can't begin to identify basic shapes or numbers.  The joys of the first few weeks of Kindergarten I suppose but still a bit challenging for even an experienced teacher.  =)

So we are still going to take it slow at first and focus simply on numbers 0-5 with a few other basic skills tossed in.  Some of my kids are still focusing on the routine of our math station time so I am probably not going to attempt to work with any groups this week just yet. If it is all going amazingly well I may just try one or two.  

Right now I have 21 kids and 11 stations.  I have the kids grouped into pairs and one group of three. For the most part the majority of my kids are doing well with stamina and staying with their assigned math basket activity.  Hopefully this will continue this week with our new focus.  

In each of the baskets we have one new activity and for the early finishers I've left in the manipulatives from the last cycle of math stations. I've also included number books in each basket. This really helps with the kids that finish their assigned activity ahead of the rest of the group.

For this round of math stations you will see very little paper/pencil activities.  I prefer using hands on activities....especially this early in the school year. I'll begin to add recording sheets and more paper/pencil tasks as the year progresses.  Math is something that I enjoy teaching but sometimes takes a back seat when planning my literacy activities and centers.  I'm currently loving planning my math basket activities and love seeing what others are doing in theirs.  There are loads of great activities out there that make learning math fun and meaningful for the youngest of learners.  

 Basket 1     Piggie Counting

I LOVE my pig counting set! This is actually my second set of pigs. The first set I inherited and didn't really appreciate the value of them at the time. The pigs somehow found their way into my  block area and became part of my farm unit. A couple of years ago when ordering for a new school year I saw the pig counting set and ordered a new one. I'm so glad I did! The kids love it! It does go up to number 10 but I am only putting out the cards and number cups for numbers 0-5.  I've used this activity in different ways but for this round of stations they are going to draw a card from the stack and count out that many pigs. Once finished they will put those pigs in the corresponding number cup. When the partners are through the stack they can count the pigs in each cup.

Basket 2   Counting Cubes 0-5

This is most likely an "early finishers" basket so I have work mats in the basket as well. When finished counting the cubes they can continue to explore them in various ways.

Basket 3  Match Me

Our math series is focusing on 0-5 right now, however they've also included some activities on same/different.  These cards are from the series but you could use any type of memory game cards.  They are also playing the game "match me" with the bears. One partner picks a bear from the bag and the other partner has to match it with one of theirs.

Basket 4    Writing Numbers 1-2 and Number Puzzle

In this basket I've included tactile numbers for finger tracing. Yes...I will have glitter everywhere but I love glitter so it's okay. They can then practice writing 1 and 2 and work on the number puzzle.

Basket 5 Number Matching Puzzle and Color Matching File Folder Games

Basket 6    Play-Doh Mats

My play-doh mats are always a hit! I think I got them from Lakeshore years ago but I'm not sure. Later in the year I'll use them for addition and subtraction story problems.

Basket 7    Another Number Puzzle, Exploring Pattern Blocks and Number Books

Basket 8   Number Bugs

I love the number bugs! The kids have to match the color pieces, count the dots and find the correct "head /number."  Again you can see more tactile numbers, writing numbers and number books.

Basket 9    Chicka Chicka Coconut Number Book

A coworker shared this cute Chicka Chicka Boom Boom number book with me. It's from Katie at Little Warriors.  She uses the bingo paint daubers with it!  Cute! Cute! Cute!   Like many other Kindergarten classrooms, we have been working with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom so I'm sure they will love this one. =)

Basket 10    Number Stampers

One of the perks of your own children getting older is that you get to bring their toys to your classroom when they no longer want them!  These stampers came from Lakeshore and go to number 10.  Unfortunately we lost number 7 deep in the toy box years ago and it has never been found. = (

Basket 11    The Kids on the Bus

We will be working with The Wheels on the Bus this week so this is perfect timing for this little activity! I have two sets of number cards 1-5 and the partners take turns pulling a card and counting out that many "kids" to put on the bus.  We will repeat this activity with addition and subtraction later in the year.

I hope that you are enjoying this long weekend. Best wishes to those of you starting school for the first day on Tuesday!
                                                                                       Mrs. M
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