Monday, July 16, 2012

Schools IN for summer!

Well here it is, the middle of July, and we here in the Sunshine State (or at least Brevard County) are gearing up for.... wait for it.....


I know, right?! What the...

As you can tell, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of early bedtimes and even earlier mornings (for myself; I don't have kids. Except for the 18 or so I have for 8 hours a day from August to May). Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my school and co-workers, and couldn't be happier to have a job lined up doing something I truly enjoy. It's just, ya know, sleeping in and staying up late has kind of become the norm for me this past month and a half. I'm a night owl by nature. But I digress.

I have a lot of ideas floating around that I want to implement this year (thanks a lot, Pinterest!!), so I'd better get crackin'. I figured I'd blog about it to help myself prioritize and organize my to-do list. These ideas may help some fellow teacher friends-and parents, feel free to take notes. And if you don't fall into either one of those categories... you may want to check back later for a post that is more interesting. :)

Ok, where to begin...

Things to order

As many a Kindergarten teacher will tell you, we often make most of the things we need for our kiddos, but there are some instances where time is money, and it's just as easy to order it than buy the supplies and put the time into crafting. For instance:
Alphabet picture stickers- Lakeshore Learning
I'll use these during small group literacy instruction as we learn each letter of the alphabet. Students can make a foldable flip book, attach a picture sticker to each page, and write the word below it. We can also use the letter stickers as headings for our 'dictionaries' in the back of our writing folders. We put frequently used words and high frequency words in the dictionaries. (They used to be on our word wall, but we're implementing a new word wall philosophy this year throughout the school. More to come on that later.)

Photo nameplates- Lakeshore Learning
The kids love decorating these to look like themselves. These go into a cup, where I pull a stick when I want someone to give an answer to a question, come up and write on the board, use for random pairings/groupings, and more. (I have to say that when I randomly draw a student name to generate an answer, I always give the student the option of 'passing' and having a turn later. I was one of those kids that HATED being randomly called on by the teacher. If I know the answer and want to share, I'll raise my hand, darn it!)
Discount School Supply
This bad boy works wonders for the writing center. Guess how many marker caps we lose on a daily basis, or how many markers dry out each week due to said lost caps.?! Come on, just guess! 10? 20? That sounds about right. Money and sanity, down the drain. So this little wooden block with holes in it, and the caps glued in? Genius.

Jumbo people sticks- Lakeshore Learning
Ok, here's a prime example of something I could easily make. I want to use these in the writing center as a 'classroom directory.' The kids love writing each other's names, sending letters, and more. I'll also include a picture of me and my name, although it's quite funny to see how they sound-spell 'Haymond.' :)
This swell idea came from (another) Ashley over at The School Supply Addict. The girl's got a million awesome ideas, including this:
School Supply Addict
Use tape to section off an area for construction and block building. This gives the students some boundaries and keeps block creations (I'm looking at you, race car tracks!) from stretching into the quiet reading and writing areas. This also allows the option for students to keep their creations up and add to them later. Along with this, I want to organize my blocks a bit- same size/shape blocks in baskets, etc. (This is only the tip of my anal retentiveness iceberg you are sure to notice the longer you read my blog. Consider yourself warned.) 

Rubrics to create

She has another brilliant idea, which leads me into this next section. Let me begin by saying that photograph rubrics in primary grades are really spectacular; the children love starring in them, and they are great for developing pre-reading skills and decoding. I have used them to show our daily schedule, classroom rules and class jobs for many years. Here are some other wonderful uses:
First off is a photo rubric for how to line up and how to transition to our seats for seat-work. I might implement one for circle time too. 
School Supply Addict

Short of going into a very detailed description here (you can click the link above and read for yourself- and as a bonus, she uses the term 'hot mess' in her explanation!), it's basically photos of the students demonstrating how our line would look if we lined up with a rating of 1 (chaos) to a 5 (pretty darn perfect.) One of the best parts about this is having the kids act out the chaos scene. It's amazing how just letting them get the 'naughty' way out of their system can encourage them to follow directions from then on out... 

Speaking of behavior modifications, there's always the trusty clip chart. I like this particular model:
Clutter Free Classroom
I especially like the option of kids being able to move up throughout the day. For some children, if they clip down to a warning color (and don't have the option to clip up), they figure they're s.o.l. anyway and mights as well really go crazy! I also like the idea of assigning numbers to students, and having numbers on the clips; this way, when a visitor or parent comes into the classroom, it's not glaringly obvious that little Jonny is yet again having a crappy day and has already moved his clip to orange by 9:00 a.m. Read more details by clicking on the link under the picture.

This is a great visual for knowing what kind of voice/noise level we are allowed for different activities:
This will be helpful for answering the many questions that inevitably come after giving out an assignment:
First Grade Glitter and Giggles
Simply place a check next to what is allowed, and an 'X' next to what isn't. It's the little things that keep you sane...

Speaking of insanity, here's a writing rubric that would come in handy not only for students' references, but also for my assessment:

Now, don't shoot the messenger. I know it's ludicrous that we're asking 5-year-olds to be able to produce writing samples like these (at least the Level 4). What's worse, we have to mark them 'below grade level' when they're not demonstrating a specific level. Now, I'm not going to go into developmentally appropriate practices and what-not in this post, but I will say that I do NOT agree with many of the standards our district is asking our babies to meet. At this age the brain is still developing and learning through meaningful play. Not to say we shouldn't raise the bar or have high expectations, because some kids can and will master this writing thing just fine at age 5. It's just not fair for the ones who aren't there yet, because more likely than not, they'll get there in their own sweet time. 
ANYWAY- this writing rubric is pretty nifty, all things considered. 

Alright, I suppose I should end this post now and continue it another time. I still have A LOT to share and prepare! 

Instead of ending on a sour note (unrealistic district standards?!?), I'll link you to a wonderful school in Connecticut where I really learned the value of developmentally appropriate practices. Thanks for the memories, Five Mile River Nursery School! I wouldn't be anywhere near the teacher I am today if it weren't for my experience teaching with you all.

"No play,
No learning.
Know play,
Know learning." - Irresistible Ideas for Play-based Learning

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