Friday, December 30, 2011

Technology (Reading and Spelling)

At my school, our classrooms have been blessed to have tablet pc's and LCD projectors in every room. In my classroom, we are using Saxon Phonics for reading and spelling. As a way to enhance my lessons with some engaging activities, I use Microsoft PowerPoint and an excellent FREE site: As a new letter is introduced for the week, we visit Starfall's website to see their cute, animated, fully colored two minute video for each letter we are looking at. (found in their section called "ABC's Let's Get Ready to Read." From their website: " opened in September of 2002 as a free public service to teach children to read with phonics. Our systematic phonics approach, in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice, is perfect for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Starfall is an educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children."

As students learn most of the letters, I begin to do Starfall story reviews from their section "Learn to Read". I take key words from the story and create PowerPoints for the class. For instance, previous to reading through Mox's Shop, I created a PowerPoint that I recorded my own narration over. Each slide introduced a key CVC word from Starfall's story such as a character's name or element from the story. I use this opportunity to also compare and contrast how animal characters in the story are fictional and different or like real animals that are well known to the students. 

Students have a kindergarten lined piece of paper in front of them. They see a picture and hear me say what it is in the PowerPoint and repeat it themselves. They then slowly sound out the word with me on the PowerPoint. As they say each sound, that letter appears on the PowerPoint slide eventually spelling out the word. We then blend the letters together and say the word again. The word disappears and students see only the picture. They then repeat the process themselves as they spell the word on the paper in front of them. The next slide brings the word back as a way for them to check their spelling. I do this with 9-10 words from the Starfall story. We then go to the Starfall site and view the story together.

The Starfall stories have so many child-friendly options. When you move your cursor under each word of the story, it highlights the word, so you can move along as quickly or slowly as you like. If the students can not read the word themselves, you click on the word and a child voice will read it to them. If you click on different parts of the pictures, they are programmed to do a variety of different things. At the end of the story, students are always given the option to vote on whether they liked the book presented or not. Also, the background wallpaper changes with the seasons. 

This website has tons of free and inexpensive download options and also allows for students to make printouts of things they create here. It also has a tab called "More Starfall" which offers an amazing amount of new things in a "Teacher Lounge". If you haven't seen or tried this site yet, I highly recommend you explore it in the New Year! I have used this site with many of the K-3 grade students I tutor and we all love it!

100th Day Activities

Teaching Blog Addicts (TBA) asked what we are doing for the 100th day of school. Here is a preview for you!

My students are really enjoying counting the days down until the 100th day of school. We have an animal roller coaster roaming the walls of our room as seen above. There is a new animals for each day we are in school. I am amazed that there are actually 100 different animals with no repeats. This set was found at Really Good Stuff. I had a bit of a back issue, so my wonderful friend (and parent in the class) Laura Huff of kind enough to come in every few days to put up the next few animals. She and I get a big kick out of watching the students exclaim in surprise when they see the new animals on the end of the coaster. Things got really exciting and tangible for them when we hit day 50 and they were told they were half way there!

The night before the 100th day of school, my students have homework. They are to choose 100 pieces of something healthy to bring to school for show and tell and snack. In our school, because of the prevalence of allergy issues, we do not mix and share snack foods. I do tell the students that they are not expected to eat all 100 pieces of their snack at once. They can snack on the rest later in the day if they like. 

My students are welcomed to school on the 100th day with a table setting that features a 100th day crown from Really Good Stuff and a special book. The book was created by If you go to their home page and look under products, you will see a tab on the right side of their page called "theme books". Here is the direct link to the item:,ProductName. They provided me with a cd I can use year after year. On their site, you can download this book. I found them at a conference I attended. Their products are very high quality and loved by parents. I have the students begin this book on the 100th day and we continue it until the next day. I let the students choose the pages they want to work on first. I have a parent prepare this book with the cool cover in a comb binding for each student. In this book, students have an opportunity to practice reading and writing the number 100 on each page. The book is made so that it is a hands on experience. There are things to cut and glue (such as money). There is a page to let the student draw what they will look like when they are 100 years old. They can draw and journal about what they'd like to eat 100 of. This is a terrific book! (by the way, they have tons of EXCELLENT theme books......I love them!)

Another activity that the students LOVE is our dalmation dotting activity. I have an 8 1/2 x 11 black line master of a dalmation dog, sans his spots. The students use stamp pads and pencil erasers (new Ticonderoga work best, they don't break). The dalmation dog is drawn such that he has 10 areas for "dotting". The students place 10 dots on his right ear, 10 on his left ear, 10 on his face, and so on. Before they can go on to another area of the dog, they must count to check that they have 10 dots. I found small stamp pads at Michael's on sale. I save the stamp pads and pencils each year. I have used the same set for 8 years now and still going strong!

During the day, we also use a 100 spaced (10x10) grid. The students use fruit loops to fill in their grid before counting them by ones as they place them onto a string for a necklace. I love this activity because it allows for a lot of individuality. Some students just go right into and fill the grid up haphazardly with whatever fruit loop their cute little fingers touch first. Others will unknowingly let me see that they understand patterning VERY well by creating AB or ABB or ABC patterns....calling out, "I need two more purple ones!" They love snacking on the broken ones and somehow we end up with quite a few "broken" ones. I wonder why.....I love this activity because it allows them to count by 1's, 10's, 2's, 5's according to what pattern they made.

I also have a number of other fun things we do that day. Let me know if you are interested in any of my other ideas and I'll send them your way. Also if you'd like a copy of the dog, I can send that to you once we get back to school too.

One last item: in order to transition from one fun activity to another (or to clean up), we see if we can finish what we are doing before everyone counts to 100...sometimes, to move them faster, we count by 5's or 10's!

Have a super fun 100th Day!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Linky Party is having a linky party for the best 11 things about the Past Year.

Here are mine:

11. Favorite movie you watched: The Muppet Movie (a bit cheesy, but brought back fun memories)

10. Favorite TV series: I don't watch T.V. but I did enjoy watching through the old Get Smart series with my kids. They loved it too. We also loved checking out the Gomer Pyle, USMC series.
9. Favorite restaurant: Chipolte (mostly to go, but I love that our family can all get exactly what they want in their burrito)

8. Favorite new thing you tried: Blogging and the G cycle at the gym

7. Favorite gift you got: A great attitude from my son (that was really his gift to me) and it keeps on giving.

6. Favorite thing you pinned: brand new, still checking it out

5. Favorite blog post: my students just love seeing something in the room that has a picture of them with their 4th grade buddies in it!

4. Best accomplishment: Wow, how do you really categorize what your best accomplishment is? This makes me wonder about what I really consider as an accomplishment...Getting to the gym nearly every day since Thanksgiving.

3. Favorite picture:  the one means lots of my friends are hanging out again! Ha! Do you like the "guard dog" in the middle of the shoes?

2. Favorite memory: Two parents from my class are in the Air Force together and they brought a Black Hawk to our school for show and tell!!!How cool is that?

1. Goal for 2012: There are so many, so I'll cheat and put more than one: to be a more thoughtful person, continue to use my gym membership, and find a way to supplement our income.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Super Fun and Active New Year Idea

Do your students ice skate inside during the school day? Mine do! I am currently collecting shoe boxes and 200 count tissue boxes from the parents in my classroom for our upcoming New Year Winter Activity. I see that many people are looking for new ideas for the New Year, so I thought I would pass this one on. It has been a HIT every year.

Collect enough shoe boxes and empty 200 count tissue boxes so that each child can have two boxes for ICE SKATING! I actually try to get more, as the boxes break down and the child will need to switch out to get some good ones. Sometimes, our local Payless Shoe Source store will donate boxes to our activity.

Our kindergarten class, along with the other kindergarten class reserves our multi-purpose room for this activity. We have a parent tape down an "ice skating rink". Basically, a large oval with an oval inside of it so that if you stood two or three children side by side, they could "skate" along the oval track. They are not to go inside the middle center oval and can only "skate" in one direction so that no one gets hurt.

I encourage students to bring winter clothing such as hats and scarves and mittens. They put them on, slip on a pair of shoe box "ice skates" and head for the "rink". I know Christmas is over in January, but I play Christmas music anyway. You could use any music you like. We have the girls skate around for about 5-10 minutes while the boys are over at tables coloring in winter coloring pages and eating muffins and drinking hot cocoa. After 5-10 minutes, I fade the music and the girls and boys switch places. They are usually needing a rest after skating around for that period of time. It is fun, but tiring. Our Principal and Vice Principal always pop over to skate around and do silly twirls with the kids. The children LOVE this!

Toward the end, we clear the "skates" to the side and line one class up on one side of the "rink" and the other class up on the other side. I pour "snowballs" (white cotton balls) into the center of the rink and count to 3. The children rush to the center, pick up "snowballs" and proceed to throw them at the kids on the other side. They love this snowball fight and no one gets hurt! It makes for awesome pictures. For privacy, I did not post any pictures of this activity as I do not want to post pictures of my children here. However, I can promise you that if you stand at the center end of the rink, you will get fabulous shots! When we feel they have thrown enough, we ask each child to pick up as many snowballs as they can and return them to my bag. I save them for the next year. Generally, the snowballs can handle being used for about two years in a row and then they become kind of ratty and pulled out.

At the end of the activity, we check the bottom of the tissue boxes for box tops, take those off and let the children stomp down all the boxes. We then put them in the recycle bin and head back to class.

If you have any ideas for how to make this activity more fun, I'd love to hear from you!

Happy New Year!

Liebster Blog award

I got the Liebster Award!!! Now, I'm passing it on!!!

I was given the Liebster Blog Award for new bloggers!
Thank you, Jennifer at  for giving me this award!
Now, it is my turn to award other new bloggers with this award!
Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Thank the giver and link back to them.
3. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
I get to name 5 others new to blogging! WOW!
Here are the ones I chose:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

New Year Resolutions

livelovelaughkindergarten is having a linky party asking us to talk about any New Year resolutions we have. Until last year, I have never really considered being serious about making or keeping any New Year resolutions. Last year, on Christmas, I made my first resolution: to go the entire year without drinking soda. I have officially gone 365 days without drinking a soda...and no longer care to do so. I don't want to list too many however, here we go:

Here are my resolutions:
1. Focus on the positive each day
2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day

1. Organize my teaching books that are on the shelves behind my desk.
2. Create a monthly theme unit

1. Try to post at least 2 times a week
2. Create a fan page on Facebook

Happy New Year!!

Kindergarten Art Ideas

Though today is Christmas and these projects were made for Christmas, you can either file this idea away for next year or adapt it for any upcoming holiday such as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.

For this project, copy any picture you'd like onto a transparency. I have used pictures that are 7" around. Have your students color them with PERMANENT markers (water color markers will just rub off). Encourage them to not use the same color side-by-side. Find a spot with a light color (such as yellow) to write their name in a dark color. I then cut poster-board circles the same size. Then I lightly crinkle aluminum foil squares (about 8" square) and wrap those over the poster-board circles. I then glue the colored transparency right onto the aluminum wrapped poster-board. Trim any excess overhang.

Important note: If your markers do not color the transparency well, let them dry and go back over them later. The darker you color each segment, the more beautiful it will look up against the crinkled aluminum.

Some other ideas to do with this:
1) punch a hole in the top and tie a ribbon through it to hang it up.
2) make two and put them together so they can be double-sided.

New Year's Art Idea

As the lights twinkle on the tree for a few more days, some of you may be thinking ahead to projects for the new year. As a teacher, I am always thinking about what type of project I should have ready to go for decorating the class with a new season or holiday approaching. Here is a fun idea I had that you may like.
A number of years ago, a friend drew this outline for me. I enlarged it to about 5 inches tall or so. I print out two for each child on card stock or construction paper. I then invite our 4th grade buddies to our room to work on these with us. The children first decorate all of the "snow child" with crayons, markers, and colored pencils. They draw a hat, a jacket (and maybe a scarf), pants, and snow boots. My student gets one and the 4th grade buddy gets one to do. I have the 4th graders encourage their kindergartener to make patterns for the jacket and hat and use details such as checkers or stripes. I then supply cloth pieces, sequence, and small jewels for them to decorate their person with. I ask the students NOT to decorate a face. While they are working, I go around the room and take a close-up picture of their face. I then print out the pictures on my Epson Picture Mate (wallet size). I cut a circle around the child's face and then have them glue their own face to the "snow child". For the purpose of privacy, the next picture is the completed project without the pictures glued on yet.

I then tape the projects together on the back of their "hands". I alternate a kindergartener and a 4th grade buddy all the way across the back of my room. The entire project ends up looking like a string of paper dolls.The children LOVE to see these hung up with them as they come back from a long break at Christmas without seeing their buddies. If you'd like a copy of the "snow child" template, please contact me and I will send it to you.
Happy New Year!!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Developing Oral Language in Kindergarten: taught by Mrs. Huff

The pretty, green Christmas tree sparkles at night time.

The sparkly, green Christmas tree sparkles at the night time when I am home.

The shiny, big Christmas tree sparkles next to the cute, white snowman.

The fat, enormous Christmas tree sparkles in the sunlight.

The trees waiting to be read by parents at our Christmas party this week!
Here are some examples of a special writing project my class participated in that I know has definitely had an impact on the way they are learning how to talk.

For as long as I have been teaching, I have been interested in the concept of developing the oral language of the little people I spend my days with. In my earlier days of teaching, I found myself so excited that students would respond to what I planned to teach them about. I am still excited when I see that they want to engage with the concepts in each lesson. However, I soon realized that even though students were engaged and students responded, they did not often respond with "much". Answers were usually given in short and fragmented thoughts. Almost never did a student respond to a question or give a comment in a complete sentence. Even if they did, there was generally just a list given of what the student knew.

Over time, I began to study and evaluate my students for how they respond to me. I listened to how they speak to each other. I wondered if they were developmentally ready to learn how to expand the way they talk. I wondered if the development of oral language in a young child was simply the coincidental by-product of the classroom environment. If I spent most of my time accepting simple short answers in an attempt to quickly move through my curriculum and get to the next subject, I soon realized that I was actually training my students to respond like autobots with little attention given to critical analysis of thought and attention to descriptive detail.

I began to experiment with expectations and realized that a student can rise to the level you teach them at. When I do not model how to expand with description what I am saying, I get a regurgitation of lists of facts from my students. When I express myself with more expansive description and prod my students to do the same, they are able to do so. I do realize that while a student will rise to the level you teach them at, not all students can rise to the same level. As a result, I alternate how I ask my questions with some students. For some students, I may request their answer in a complete sentence and ask them what else they would like to tell me about their answer. Another student may be given a cloze sentence to complete in which they add their own descriptions, but I place key concepts into the verbal sentence for them.

Imagine my excitement this year when a writing teacher placed her child in my classroom and expressed an interest in helping to teach my students in kindergarten how to become better writers. Mrs. Huff  has spent hours each month bringing a writing theme into my classroom. She has taught my students in-depth about what adjectives are and how they can be used to make your writing more interesting to read. She has taught them how to love to create a picture and choose exact adjectives that accurately describe their picture and then learn how to write those words onto their paper. She has brought in beautiful literature that matches our theme and is full of adjectives as a model of expressive and interesting writing. This month, for Christmas, she brought in a Christmas tree picture and had them decorate it the way they wanted to with crayon, sequence shapes, glitter, and glue. She had an open sentence printed in a cute star font that said, "The___________, _____________ Christmas tree sparkled________________.They then brain stormed words that would describe their tree. These were written on the board for them to use in their writing. They were then asked to choose two words to describe their tree and wrote those on their paper themselves. They then dictated the rest of the sentence to Mrs. Huff or me and we wrote what they said on the last line. Some of them really got into the descriptive part of it and said, "The beautiful, tall Christmas tree sparkled in the dark forest while I was asleep." Truthfully, some of their comments were basic, but when asked for more description, they really loved getting creative to add more detail.

A very special Thank You to Mrs. Huff for your constant attention to my growing writers who are becoming more interesting speakers! Please visit her blogspot for some more wonderful Writer's Workshop ideas! You can see her work at

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three Activity Centers From One Book

penny rubbings
Today, we read Pat Brisson's story, Benny's Pennies. Beautifully illustrated with the use of textured and torn papers, the pictures in this story bring to life the wonderful choices Benny makes with his five pennies. Though this book is part of our Houghton Mifflin Reading program, I love that you can integrate math along with the concept of ways to honor family members. As we head into the Christmas holiday much of the point of why people give gifts gets lost in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bombardment. While many of the television, internet, and other media messages make it seem like the advertisement is bent toward what we can get and give to others, much of it is also very "me" related. 

Reading this book with my class was a wonderful opportunity to look at choices that Benny made. He was generous with his money, spending it all on others and none of it for himself. He was thoughtful to ask his family members what ideas they may have for ways to spend the money. He was kind when speaking with community members as he asked if they might help him to find something his family members would like. We discussed how it is enjoyable to give to others. The children offered what they would like to give to others if they had money to spend without being prompted to discuss this.

The story itself has many wonderful components all wrapped together. The story is predictable with a rhyme scheme. Also, after each penny is spent, the children have an opportunity to revisit how many pennies he has left. When the story is finished, each family member has a gift and the final page can be used for a recalling activity in which you can integrate ordinal numbers. You can focus on what Benny bought first, second, third, fourth, and fifth. You can ask what he bought last and first.

I set up centers in my room after reading this story. In one, my students enjoyed re-enacting this story. They had the opportunity to take turns being Benny as well as the shopkeepers Benny visited. They used real pennies to purchase items. They then took the item they bought and drew a picture of what they bought. If they were able to, they labeled the picture. Some students were able to write a sentence about what they chose to purchase and who they would like to give it to.

At another center, students used their real pennies to pencil rub over them randomly around a piece of paper. I then asked them to choose groups of pennies and circle them. They then labeled the groups according to how much money was in each circle. They seemed to enjoy having control over choosing how many pennies would be in each of the groups.

The final center had them complete a picture page that had the following prompt on it:

If I had five pennies I would buy____________for____________________.
These pages will be finished tomorrow and put together for a classbook called, "Bear's Pennies".

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Peek at My Classroom

"Mr. Harry" getting into the Thanksgiving spirit!
"Mr. Harry" is a handmade puppet that is extremely well loved by our classroom. He "learns" along with the kindergarteners. He likes to try the modeling part of my direct instruction before the students get to. He often makes "mistakes" and the students enjoy helping him to figure out how to do something correctly. Using the puppet is a great way to get a quick informal assessment about who may not be "getting" the objective. The students often learn how easy it is to fix mistakes by watching how "Harry" gets to ask for help and learn from his mistakes. This puppet was made by Cheryl of They come in a variety of colors. See the video portion of her website to see how "life-like" this puppet can be! Her puppets sell for $40 but are WELL worth the price!

The front of my classroom.
At the front of my classroom, I have my magnetic whiteboard and the screen I can pull down for teaching on my tablet pc through my LCD projector. I have the program, "Journal" on the computer that lets me write in any color or thickness, but I prefer teaching with the software "Kidpix" because I can do all of the above plus write in any medium and add stickers or animation as well. It also has sound I use at times to keep it fun. It can be distracting, so I use it minimally. One erase feature it has is an explosion and the students really love when I choose to change what we are doing. Our school also allows us to scan each worksheet we have to a network, so I can pull the worksheet up on the LCD projector and "write" on it after the students have completed their paper as a way for them to check their work.

Student work bulletin board on side of classroom
 This is a bulletin board that I use to put up student work. It is the first item you notice when you walk into our front door. I change it according to the month or what we are studying. Some months I leave the work up for a number of weeks. Other months, I may change it a few times. For this scarecrow project, students got to design their hats and shirts and choose the color of their overalls and shoes. They also got to choose 2 different watercolors for the ground and foreground. They also embellished the overalls with confetti leaves, plastic buttons, and cloth patches.

Back wall of the classroom by backpack hooks
The back wall of my classroom is twice the size of this picture. I use this large open space for students to showcase more of their work for the month. In this case, we made monoprint fall reflections. I found this project at http:/ This was designed by Pat Higgins, a teacher from Maine. I changed it by having the students wash the top half with watery light-blue watercolor paint and the bottom with a darker wash. Then they washed silver watercolor over the bottom to make is "shimmer" like a lake.
The projects get tons of compliments.

Bi-monthly word wall for writing project
This mini word wall is across the room from the bulletin board the scarecrows are on. I found the large month word posters and word squares at The word squares were posters that I cut apart so that I could use some words for more than one month. Above it is my rollercoaster of numbers that we are hanging up as we count from 0-100. The students were so excited when they passed the halfway mark and look forward to celebrating the 100th day of school.

Calendar Area

Side view of Calendar Area
This is our calendar area. You can not see that I have a large, colorful alphabet rug on the floor in front of this area. After returning from our morning enrichment (computers, music, art, P.E., or the library), the Bear of the Week will lead us through our calendar time. They discuss our schedule for the day and count the days of the month we are in to decide what number comes next. They then use the pattern colors to tell what color that balloon will be. They spin the weather wheel to the correct type of weather while we sing, "What's the Weather Like Today". Sometimes we sing in opera voices. Other times we pretend to sing like Oscar the Grouch. The students like to come up with different ways to do this, so I let them at times. We then add a straw for each new day and then count the tens bundles and the single straws. After that, the Bear then puts that numbered yellow square number up on the blue chart. A wonderful mom in the class comes later in the week to catch our rollercoaster up. The bears on the calendar wall are the "Yesterday, "Today", and "Tomorrow" bears. Their hats change with the month. Next to the weather wheel on the wall, we use different shape pieces to graph how many days we have been in school for each month.

My desk area
This is my desk. I do not sit here very often. In the morning, I have a bin the students place their homework folders in when arriving at school. During the day, I have "In" and "Out" boxes on the desk. I take the "In" boxes home to grade them. When I return to school, the papers go into the "Out" box to wait to be placed into our weekly Friday folders that go home. During the day, we move at a fast pace and often, I will pile things on the desk as we move from one activity to another. The pile is always dealt with before leaving for the day.

Storage area
This is the area I use for storage. Seasonal and re-usable items go in the large brown cupboard. The two file cabinets are the only ones I have in the room. They house my phonics and math curriculum as well as all the treasured tried and true themed worksheets, journals, and field trip information. The turkey page was done by a wonderful parent in our classroom who conducts "Writer's Workshops". Mrs. Huff has been working a few times a month with my students to teach them how to make their writing more interesting by adding two adjectives to their picture. She then encourages them to write these words themselves. She then has them dictate the rest of the "story" to an adult who writes the rest for them.They then decorate the background of their paper to match what the student dictated to the adult. You can see more of Mrs. Huff's wonderful work at her blog,!

Phonics review activity

This is an activity we did on one of the days right before Thanksgiving break. Reviewing the letters we have introduced for the year so far, students were encouraged to see if they could come up with their own words. Most students could do this. "Mr. Harry" helped a few who struggled to come up with a word themselves.

I'd love to hear what you think of this room and perhaps how you would use the space if this were your room!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Classroom Management

Placing responsibility for behavior management upon the students themselves saves a teacher a lot of wasted teaching time. Students enjoy receiving stickers from me, but they do not enjoy having to give any of them back. In my classroom, every student has a set of 10 laminated sticker charts. I laminate sheets of construction paper and use large die-cuts to cut them into specialty shapes like fish, penguins, pumpkins, turkeys, books....etc. The shapes are hole-punched and placed on an O-ring. Students work to fill their first sticker chart with 20 stickers. When they receive 20 stickers, they may visit my prize box. However, in instances where they have made a poor choice and have not responded to one verbal reminder, they understand they must remove one sticker of their choice and place it at the corner of my desk. Having to remove the sticker themselves gives them an opportunity to ponder the choice they made. If the system is used consistently, my time having to discuss behavior items while I am teaching is minimized. I simply explain to the student that during their free time, we will have an appointment to discuss the behavior issue. Once a student receives 20 stickers and visits the prize box, they open the O-ring, remove the filled chart, and bring it home to share their great news with their family. They are then free to choose which chart on the O-ring they'd like to begin anew with. Students do not receive stickers for simply doing the behavior they are already expected to. They receive individual reward stickers for exceptional behavior choices such as a kind act or thoughtful word toward another. They can also receive group reward stickers for working well together as a group through a project time. Students are incredibly motivated to work toward a prize and their next chart and minimally end up having to give me many stickers. This has been an excellent tool for behavior management in the kindergarten classroom.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Student Organization

Passing out papers to nearly 25 students for each activity can add up to a lot of wasted teaching time. My students sit at 4 tables. In the center of each table, I have a plastic paper holder. I place colored manila folders inside the paper holder. Red folders hold phonics papers, blue holds math papers, green holds science papers, etc. I place just enough papers (plus 1 for the inevitable ripped or spilled on paper) for each student at the table in these folders.
The students have learned to manage the boxes themselves. They understand that when it is time for the phonics lesson, the Paper Manager opens the box, takes out the red folder, and passes the papers to their table mates. The red folder is then set back inside the paper holder on top of all the other folders. Once the phonics lesson is completed, the student slips their paper back inside the appropriate colored folder. The Paper Manager then takes the colored folder and slips it under all the other folders. I stack the colored folders in order that they will be used each day. At the end of the day, I collect the four boxes, grade my papers, and fill the folders with the next day's papers. This is also a great time saver in the event of a need for an emergency substitute teacher.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Organization

Corners are great hiding places in some classrooms. How do you use yours? My first few years of teaching, I spent some of my time trying to use one corner to camouflage the stacks of unfinished work my slower students would create. It was unsightly and I was embarrassed by the disorder. I had a difficult time managing unfinished work for students and found that when I went to search for something a student might suddenly be ready to work on, it was often difficult to get to.
A number of years ago, I began to implement a plastic folder system that has saved me and my students a lot of time and frustration. I found a set of plastic folders that open at the top like a pocket. They came in a pack of 25 with 5 colors. I have 4 tables in my room. I assigned a color to each table. I then numbered each folder. My students know their number and the color of their folder. Now, when they are unable to finish something they are working on and we need to put it away until we can work on it later, the students understand they have an organizational system. They simply pack what they haven't finished into their own pocket folder and bring it over to a hanging file box. They slip the pocket folder into their numbered file and transition to their next activity. At any time, during the day, if a student has finished something and has time to go back to finish their work from earlier, they simply return to the file box and retrieve their numbered folder and get back to work without any prodding. This has gone a long way toward teaching the students personal responsibility. They are now in charge of their own organization.
Since these folders are plastic and only numbered, they can be reused year after year.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Eight weeks into the school year, my kindergarten students are finally responding well to transition time between activities. Eight years into teaching, I have finally realized that transition time can still be a teachable time. For so long, I have often compared transition time in kindergarten to something like trying to change the laundry on spin cycle. In the past, when I have asked students to stop what they are doing and have expected them to move on to the next stage of the day, I found myself grasping into thin air to retrieve one of many tools that don't really do any good. I have tried positive praising of other students near students who are transition time wasters. I have threatened with "The Great Count Down", "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" and still the same offenders were wasting time. I handed out stickers to those who obeyed and still the offenders would be anywhere except where they were supposed to be and still wasting teaching times.
Instead of losing valuable teaching time trying to lasso the wandering ones, I move immediately to where I expect my students to move to in the classroom. I have our classroom puppet, "Mr. Harry" begin to show the students who are listening something really interesting that is related to what we have learned about so far. The puppet has a really large mouth which is great for holding and hiding things. I pretend that he is telling me he has something he wants to show me and I begin talking with him about what it could be that he wants to show me. This is a great reward to those who follow my directions immediately. They get to see "the whole show". Those who have been anywhere except where they were supposed to are often drawn right over to the area I want them in by the interest we are showing the puppet. I then have the puppet reveal what he wanted to show us and I begin allowing students to ask a few questions. Before you know it, all the students are seated in a new setting and ready to hear about the next thing I want to teach them about. This has begun to work really well. Those students who are wandering about have learned that if they do not change venues when asked to the first time, they will in turn, miss out on something really special that "Mr. Harry" has to share. It has been working extremely well and we now often have enough free time left at the end of the day to incorporate a "Free Choice" activity for students.
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