Friday, September 25, 2015

An Apple a Day

It's here! Today is apple day! Teaching all about apples and Johnny Appleseeds is one of my favorite themes all year. Since Johnny's Birthday is on a Saturday this year, we had an apple extravaganza the Friday before. {Today!}

When I started planning apple day, I had this great idea that I was going to have parent volunteers come in and we would do several activities as small group rotations. Well, you know what they say, even the best laid plans....

I was only able to get one parent volunteer, so I had her pull kids one at a time for our messiest activity. We did all the other activities whole group. I was determined that we weren't going to miss out on any fun due to a lack of volunteers. 

I sent home a note prior stating that I was looking for volunteers, as well as asking for apple donations in the three colors. As my kids came in Friday morning they sorted their apple by color. 

We started our day with a short video about Johnny Appleseed (thanks Disney!) followed by a short read aloud. Since we had not previously talked about Johnny this was when I introduced him, as well as the concept of a tall tale. 

Then we spent our morning doing Apple centric things. I had my parent volunteer pull the kids over one at a time for apple stamping. I've learned this works best if the kids use a paint brush to lightly brush on the paint. Dipping the apple in the paint usually results in too much paint and then they can't see the star on their stamps. You have to cut the apple evenly in half horizontally to see the stars, in case you haven't done this before! 

While the kids were doing their stamping with our volunteer we did several things whole group. First, we tasted a slice each of red, green, and yellow. Then we decided our favorite and colored an apple to add to our graph. I forgot of course, to take a picture of our finished graph, but I'll grab one on Monday and edit this post. 

Then we made Johnny Appleseed hats. The kids printed their names and then glued them on along with die cut apples. 

Last, we made Johnny Appleseed sight word books. On each page the kids had to cut out the letters and glue them in the correct order to form the word "has." Then we practiced one to one correspondence and reading each page. This is one of the awesome cut and paste sight word books from KinderCraze. 

Now, had I had more volunteers, all three of these activities would have been done in small group rotations along with the painting. But it worked out just fine whole group! 

After lunch we had a labeling lesson in which we labelled an apple whole group, and then each student labelled an apple of their own. Then we turned the labeling sheets into an adorable Johnny Appleseed craft I got from Kindergarten Smiles apple pack. 

Both our crafts and our whole group labelled apple look great hanging in our windows, along with the stained glass apples we made earlier in the year! 

After recess and snack we spent math analyzing our graph. We looked at how many kids preferred each kind of apple and then made tallies to represent each group before making our own graphs. This too I'll try to grab a picture of on Monday. 

The kids absolutely loved apple day, and I absolutely love to see them excited about learning! 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Beginning CENTERS in K

This post could alternatively be titled "what works for me" because lets face it, there are a million ways to do centers, and what works one year with one class, might be completely awful another year with another class. Here is what currently works in my classroom.

I start off at the beginning of the year SOOOO slow. I introduce only one new center (and for that matter, one new activity at each center) each week. Before I ever let the students take over ownership I model, model, model, and we talk about what you should and shouldn't do at the center. After all that talking and modeling, we role play and take turns showing each other what behavior should and should not look like at our centers. Even then, I often have to revisit behavior during centers. It's an ongoing process and you just have to have faith that it will get better the more they practice.

That being said, the very first center I teach is the computer center. I am lucky to have six computers, so 1/3 of my class can be there at a time.

The very first week I rotate six kids through each day while the other 2/3 of my class plays a literacy game or has story time with me. The first week I introduced my class to and the second week to tumblebooks. We will eventually start working on istation once they are more proficient at typing in their student numbers and passwords.

The second center I teach is read to self/ book boxes. I call them book boxes, just personal preference.

 As I cycle students through this center they choose good fit books (at this point just ones that are interesting to them since most don't have a reading level yet) to fill their boxes. Once they have a box of books they choose a mini rug throughout our room to sit on. They also have the option to take a stuffed reading buddy with them to read to, so long as they read to it and don't play around with it. If I see them playing around with it, it promptly goes back into the bucket.

At this point, our second week, I now have six kids on computers, and six kids doing read to self each day, and the remaining six are working with me. (usually on beginning of the year assessments.)  The amazing labels you see in these pictures are from Kinder-Craze. Her library labeling pack can be found HERE.

Once those two biggies are out of the way and students are working at them well, I begin introducing our other centers. Some of these require teamwork, so putting these ones off a few weeks gives me a chance to see who should and shouldn't work together for maximum cooperation.

The writing center is usually the next center introduced because it can be done as an individual activity or working together with a partner. This year the first activity I introduced there was a handwriting activity.

 I printed out free alphabet handwriting sheets from The Moffatt Girls and slipped them into plastic sleeve protectors I got off Amazon. I set them all in a tub at the center along with a cup filled with dry erase markers. My markers have erasers built in on the cap, but that would be something else to think about if yours don't.

 Lest you are starting to think I'm an expert at running centers, let me shatter your preconceived notions for a minute. Friends I can't even tell you how many times I modeled this activity. We talked about where you can and can't use the dry erase markers, how to trace the letters, how to erase it clean for the next person, etc. etc. etc. Over, and over, and over. I still had two kids who took dry erase marker and wrote all over their faces the third week of school. True story.

The second week of the writing  center I started introducing a color activity since we had been working on our color words. Students could use the color cards to write six different color words and draw an accompanying picture. This activity is part of Kindergarten Smiles Writing Pack which I love, love, love, and you can find HERE. I made the color cards so my students could have some extra support and you can find those for free HERE.

Next up, the magnet center. I set up my magnet center on the side of my big eye sore filing cabinets, but you could easily use a magnetic white board or even cookie sheets. This is one of my students favorites. I use a variety of activities here, including some magnet board activities I got from Lakeshore Learning, but the first few weeks I keep it simple.

 I printed this letter matching activity from Kindergarten Smiles September Word Work Pack, (found HERE) and the students match up magnetic letters to the letters on the cards. I keep two tubs of letters at the bottom of the center so that students aren't all crowded around fighting over one bucket. I also keep a mini rug here also for the students to sit on while they are working.

And the final center that I've introduced thus far, is the word work center. My students complete this center on our large rug at the front of the room not far from my guided reading table. (Where I can keep a good eye on them since these activities require them to work together nicely)

I keep a laundry basket right near the rug and inside are tubs with games that have been stored in pencil pouches. Each pouch has an instruction card and then all the pieces needed for that activity. The students can choose out a pouch and work together to complete the activity. 

Thus far they have been introduced to an alphabetic order game, and a letter/sound match up game.

Both are from the September Word Work Pack I was telling you about earlier. Later in the year as my students become more proficient at these activities I will leave clip board with recording sheets and pencils in the laundry basket too so that they can complete a recording sheet after finishing an activity.

There are two more centers that I have not yet introduced that my students will start in the next few weeks. The first is the listening center. Here I have tubs of books set up with their corresponding CD and students can choose one to listen to. Eventually this one will also have a recording sheet too.

And the last one is the Ipad station. Here the students can sit on the stools and use many of the same learning tools that they would use on the computer. I am always looking for new (FREE) apps to introduce to my students so if you know any good ones please leave me a comment!

I have a new charging station this year that I am hoping will help the students be more independent in keeping our Ipads charged up!

Now, let's talk logistics. There are two times of day that you may find my students working on literacy centers:

1) during iii (intervention time) ALWAYS. This is half an hour EVERY morning that I work with my struggling learners and during that time the rest of the class does centers in pairs.

2) during reader's workshop. This only happens at the beginning of the year while we are still building up our read to self and read to a partner stamina, and later in the year when I have testing that needs to be completed, or as a special treat. Since MOST of the class is working in centers during this time, they work together in groups of three.

Since my iii center time happens every day we work on a 5 day rotation schedule Monday-Friday. My struggling learners are automatically with me, and then everyone else is given a partner, advanced kids paired up with proficient kids.

During reading time I have my groups of three on a six day rotation, same as our fine arts. This way all six groups of three kids each get to cycle through everything. These are heterogeneous groups (one struggling, one proficient, one advanced student each) so that they can rely on each other and work together for support.

I use center cards in mini pocket charts from target on my center board so that my students can easily look each morning and see where they go. 

I taped my rotation schedules right next to the board so I can easily change them at the end of the day. You can see them here to the left of my centers board:

My center signs are 4x6 and made to fit in plastic upright picture frames from Michaels. The frames are a steal at only $2 each and come in other fun colors besides hot pink. I then made the rotation cards to match. I am sharing my signs and rotation cards  HERE for free, but please be advised that I don't have time to make any changes, add any other centers, or make them editable. 

And that's what works for me! I'd love to hear what works for you if you do something different or if you have any tips! 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Scenes from our first week!

I've had the most wonderful first week at my new school! I'm over the moon excited about the kindergartners sitting in my classroom each day, and very inspired by the staff I get to work with. Change is scary! But not as scary as never getting out of your comfort zone, learning new things and meeting new challenges. 

We implement Staggered Start at most schools in my county, so my students came one day Monday-Wednesday, and then the whole class started full time on Thursday. Those first three days with only one third of the class are SO special to me. It gives the students a chance to meet a few new friends, get to know our classroom and school, and get comfortable with me. When they come back on Thursday, they already have some familiar faces to put them at ease. Walking into a new classroom with 17 unknown faces can be very intimidating! I love that I get the chance to get to know them in a small group setting and that we have time to do some very special activities that we otherwise wouldn't be able to do in a large group setting on the very first day. 

My Team has a special Gingerbread tradition that they do every year during staggered start. We read The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, and then we decorate Gingerbread cookies. When we are all done decorating our cookies, our data processor comes around and collects them to take to the kitchen. She's going to warm them up for us so they'll be extra yummy.

While our cookies were warming up we quickly did our calendar  routine, then headed down to the cafeteria to pick up our cookies. 

We were in for a huge surprise! Our sweet cafeteria manager told us that a few minutes ago she heard the oven ding and when she went to take them out, a whole bunch of cookies jumped out of the oven, ran across the cafeteria and out the door!! Well, we just couldn't believe it! 

We searched the school high and low for those cookies! Our media specialist told us that they had ran through there a few minutes ago and that if we found them we should tell them to never, ever, run. 

They weren't in the art room, the music room, the clinic, or the science lab!! 

Finally, we decided we should tell our principal our problem, and maybe she could help us! It's a good thing we checked with her, she had a special gingerbread friend who said she thought she saw them head back to our rooms!

And wouldn't you know it, there they were! We quickly ate up our cookies before they could run away again :) 

We also had time during those first three days to make beautiful stained glass apples for the big windows in our room. This is a project that could have been very stressful for me, had it been a whole class activity. But in a small group setting it was just right. Next time we do a contact paper/tissue stained glass project with the whole class the students will already have an idea what to do. 

apple window decorations
I got the templates for the apples from Kinder-Craze

On Thursday and Friday we spent a lot of time doing community building activities with our whole class and rehearsing the rules and routines we'd learned on our first day. We also got a chance to complete a few projects for Open House and to begin learning about reader's and writer's workshop!

My room is ALMOST done! Sadly it wasn't ready for meet the teacher, or the first week, but the students still loved it and I've received lots of compliments about it. I was hoping it would be done for Open House next week, but it doesn't look like it will. Hopefully by September! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

New Year, New School, New Room! {Before}

It's here folks! Another school year has snuck up on us! Last year this time I was on maternity leave and I had seriously forgotten how exhausting it is setting up a classroom! It's especially a challenge this year because I am starting over, FROM SCRATCH! Last spring after 9 years at my current school, I accepted a new Kindergarten position at a great school much closer to our home and spent the last month or so of the year driving all my stuff home from school. 
I can't even tell you how many trips I made with a car full of stuff!

Now that August has slowly crept up on me, I'm tasked with moving all of that stuff out of my garage and into my new room. And you know that's only half the battle. Once it's all in there I  have to organize and find a place for it all, choose a layout, and of course, DECORATE! 

Thankfully I've got a big, open, bright space with plenty of room and lots of natural light thanks to some HUGE windows. We're going to have so much fun keeping those windows decorated! 

I've spent some time (in between summer fun with my family) crafting and shopping for my new space. My son is now an errand pro. If it carries classroom stuff, we've been there! Target, Walmart, Michaels, Joanns, Hobby Lobby, Ikea....

She asked if I was a teacher.... what do you think tipped her off?

Here are some BEFORE photos of my new (empty) room! See what I mean about a huge, bright space?

Those two doors on the far wall attach to another Kindergarten Teachers room who I got to meet this week. She's super awesome, so I'm excited to work next to her!

I've been so inspired by Maria Gavin's room which she's shared on her Blog Kinder-Craze and I'm definitely going to incorporate some of her great ideas, as well as black and brights color scheme!

Click the picture to tour Maria's amazing room! 

 I can't wait to see how it all turns out and of course, show you!