Saturday, August 18, 2012

Can you ever have too many books?

The answer this week was YES.
This is just a portion of the mess I faced.... stacks and stacks of books, some categorized but most not. There must be a million ways to sort books, but I kind of like to keep things simple so I make piles by month, then some by author, and the rest I throw in together and call "great stories." I got rid of about one third of the original stacks, then began to organize, label, etc. This took me half a day but the results were worth it:
As you can see I've got a THEME going on this year. First time I've tried this, but I like it! Yes of course it's Western. What else?! And now, to ride off into the sunset towards my last weekend before the little darlin's show up....

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sight Word Jewels

I made a very cool Sight Word game for March. I got the idea from Sally a really really long time ago. It always takes me forever to get around to making all the stuff I have been piling up on Pinterest... which is about as interesting as all the reasons it's taken me so long to post. *cough* *cough* FLU *cough* *cough*

Anyway, it is a very cool game and the kids LOVE it. So much that we are still playing!

I got bags of clear, flat "jewels" (like you put at the bottom of a fishbowl) from the Dollar Store. I printed out sight words, cut them out and Mod Podged them to the bottom of the jewels.

Then I found a pretty gold Star Box to put them in. Then I found some silk drawstring bags. Each player gets a bag. The game is simple: Take out a jewel, read it, put it in the bag. Repeat. Of course you could do variations: use the word in a sentence, write it down (we did it in rainbow letters for March), etc. etc.

These jewels were a hit with my class that likes to TOUCH things. They are heavy and smooth and clack together in a very satisfying way. They seem a little magical actually. The reading resource teacher actually snagged them to use with her first graders too! Try making these, you will love them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Been trying to post for awhile, Blogger was being stubborn!

If you have a boring job to do... you know the kind... where you are thinking "for this I went to nine years of college?!" try letting the children help you out. For instance, I had a bajillion magnetic letters that I needed to sort so I could create sets and start making word games. Did I want to sort them? No. Did I trust the parent helpers to sort them? No. (More on this later in a post entitled "Bad Help Is Worse Than No Help At All".)

The obvious choice? The children. This gave them letter recognition practice and I have to say they LOVED it. I used empty strawberry baskets and propped a letter card in each one. Then I gave them a bowl of letters and let them sort away. The LOVED this. Like, more than I would have expected. And they did a pretty good job. It was fun to see what letters I had a lot of, what letters I needed more of. And be sure to provide a basket for "things that are not letters" because well, you know.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mr. Potato Head Does Room KE

I got this idea from Journey of a Substitute Teacher. I was very very excited to find Small Cowgirl's long forgotten Mr. Potato Head over Winter Break when I attacked her room. She had a fit when she saw me stuffing him in my backpack to take to school but I promised he would go unharmed. The children are NOT allowed to touch him but as a class reward I pull out one part at a time until he is complete. A quiet calendar time? Feet. A courteous sharing? Body. Lining up without me yelling to be quiet / hands to themselves / come out from under that table? Eyes. Etcetera.

I also pull parts off. Screaming at the top of their lungs? (Yes that did happen, and it was because they were excited, but REALLY.) I yanked off an arm and threw it back into the box. Ouch. We haven't made much progress this week.

They loved it... last week. We actually got him all put together in four days and the envelope on the back (labeled with a big question mark) revealed their popsicle party prize. Then, as is typical with this group, some lost interest and have been wrecking it for the rest. I find managing this class is like keeping deer out of my garden: I have to mix it up. One thing works for awhile (lights, sprinklers, mountain lion urine) and then bam, they are wreaking havoc again.

Sixty more days to go.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Journals In Kindergarten

When it comes to teaching writing in Kindergarten I find the journal process invaluable. I don't do a lot of fussing about it, just model the way I want them to write on a giant chart paper pad and then send them on their way. Of course I narrate my thought process, sounding things out in an exaggerated way, talking about capitals and lower case, periods and spaces. And of course most of them just hear "blah blah blah."

BUT when it comes to topics this class loves to come up with ideas. At the beginning of our journal journey they actually generated this map ON THEIR OWN. I think it pretty much covers most areas of interest for five year olds (and for me most days as well) BUT I still like to ask them each afternoon what they would like me to write about it. One of their favorite topics is "my best class", an imaginary class sometime in the distant past that was perfect in every way. I write about how wonderful that class was at listening and being quiet and all the incredible incentives they received for their amazing behavior. Inside I am dying but they take this topic very seriously. Other favorites include what I do in the morning before school and all about my horses and the farm. Then I throw a similar topic idea out to them and send them off to write.

Anyway if after ten minutes of guided instruction they STILL can't come up with a topic I am glad to have this map hanging up for the non-listeners to see.

Monday, March 5, 2012

We Are Quiet As A Mouse

Have I mentioned how much my class likes to talk? Like talk talk talk talk talk until the cows come home. There is not much of an impression I can make on these Little Darlin's and yelling does no good at all. I actually told one of them today that my horse listens better than he does. Sad but true. Can't wait for the email from his Mom.

Of course the books will tell you to focus on positive behaviors and the other problems will magically disappear. With this in mind I created these little table signs. I ripped this off from a veteran teacher, she actually taught Kindergarten for FORTY YEARS yes you read that right. She had these adorable signs and I copied them shamelessly. I found the little mouse picture on Google Images and added the text, just glue sticked the whole shebang onto a tripod of pink paper. The pink paper is essential in the adorableness factor here, along with the yarn tail of each mouse (there is one on both sides). Of course your sweet little students will pull the darn thing off and you will have to replace it endlessly so be ready with extras.

I drop this little sign on the table that is being the most quiet. Sometimes it actually works. Anyway it does look adorable.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What To Do With Your Valentines

Teachers have a special talent for making a book out of just about anything. Here is my collection of Valentine Books. I got this idea at the California Kindergarten Conference about ten thousand years ago and have enjoyed making books out of my Valentines ever since.

Nothing is easier to make and the children adore them. Just glue the selection on some construction paper and add stickers or other embellishments if desired. Or not. Laminate. Punch holes and tie the pages together or just staple them.

If you already threw your collection for this year out, I will pause while you grab a Kleenex.

The past couple of years I have been so lazy resourceful that I just slipped the pages into some plastic sleeves and used metal rings to put them together. Do it. I promise you will love having your own collection!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shape Books

We just finished our unit on shapes. (Don't judge.) My favorite part of this unit is stamping the solid shapes to see what shapes appear. It's like magic and really the best way to learn this concept. I just let them paint flat side of some wooden shapes and stamp away. Don't let them dip, it doesn't work as well.

A gripe: We do Harcourt Math and my biggest complaint about the newest version of the series is a switch in the language. For instance instead of SHAPES we are supposed to teach the word FIGURES. GO FIGURE. This is ridiculous and I secretly refuse to do it teach both terms. Another ridiculous one is saying FEWER instead of LESS THAN. What? What???? Who says this? FEWER is not a useful word unless you are looking for something to rhyme with... oh never mind.

Anyway, we stamp our shapes on cardstock and this becomes a book cover. Usually I make a number book with this cover but this year I decided to make a Shape Book instead. On each page there is the word of the shape and an example to color. Then they cut out examples of the shape from magazines and practice pasting things on the page without a) covering the word and b) letting anything hang off the page. Results will vary.

Our books had triangle, rectangle, circle and square pages but of course you could add more. And if I only had a brain I probably would have made it the Solid Shape Book and they could've found spheres, cubes, cones and cylinders.

But I will NEVER call it a Figure Book. Ain't gonna happen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Come On Feel The Noise

This Noise O Meter is not even a little bit original.... it's been flying around the blogosphere for ages, but I thought you might like to see my version. The arrow is taped to a clothespin. The first thing my class wanted to know is how that arrow was able to move up and down and stay on the chart. They are so funny.

When I use this I ask the class to show me with their fingers what number the Noise O Meter is on. Then I ask them what that means. The pictures I used are just random Google Images. Nothing special but the pictures give the right impact.

One of my favorite times I like to use the Noise O Meter is transitioning from recess to indoors. I take it outside and show them the arrow on 4. Then they watch me move it up to 2 or 1. It gives them a clear sense of my expectations. For about a minute.

Question: How much noise do you tolerate in your classroom? Is it whisper quiet all the time? Or do you mind a little on - task, active learning noise? Don't mind the roar? I admit I am pretty tolerant of more noise than most teachers. It is at Big Boss's request that I ask for less developmentally appropriate volume rowdy banter most of the time. Asking Kinders to be hush hush all the live long day would wear me plumb out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Managing Just Fine

Miss T is having a managament linky party so I thought I'd play along.

Here is the good ole "chart" that I use every. single. day. in my classroom. I find this to be a simple and straightforward approach that the lil darlin's can understand easily. At the beginning of the year we discuss the stoplight concept; what each color means, and how to apply that to their own behavior. If you are on green you are GOING, learning, and where you are supposed to be on the road. If you are on yellow, SLOW DOWN, you might get in a behavioral wreck. If you land on red, STOP, and head on over here:

At the beginning of the year I did not have this special little chair. My principal asked me to create it. I really could use several of these. However, I have mixed feelings about it. Unless I take the time to really review WHY the child has been sent there (after a significant period of time sitting in it) it is pretty meaningless. I also have a handful of kids for which ANY attention is great and they are actually HAPPY about sitting there. As in, when I ask them to leave, they say "Yay!" Effective? Probably not. That in combination with the fact that it is not nailed to the floor and so the perpetrator is apt to slide it around, fall off it or other similar antics depending on their personality. Yeah, you know the type.

Do you have a "Thinking Chair"? Do you think it works?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentine's Day Remix

First of all, how much does this girl's mother love her? This hair was TOO adorable.

This activity was an extension of the This Heart Says little book. I just drew a big jar, the kids chose a candy heart, copied it and cut it out and glued it in the jar. Then they got to eat their heart. Repeat. They LOVE this and the more they ate, the more they loved it, naturally.

Let me tell you there was a LOT of sounding out happening as we wrote, glued, and viewed our handiwork. This had every ingredient for a great language arts lesson: writing, reading, engagement, excitement, and candy. Yep.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mitten

We've read the story a bajillion times and so, now that we've committed it to meaningful memory, we get to act it out! I found all of the animals online so very very long ago. I printed them on cardstock and the lil darlin's colored them oh so carefully (no purple rabbits here puh-leez) and cut them out. We lay them out and I play the story on CD because if I have to read it one more time I'll scream it's fun and special to hear a different version, complete with music.

We put the animals in one by one... make sure the badger goes in the thumb... and... wait for it.....

AAAAAAACCCCCCHHHHHHHHOOOOOOO! The best part is letting them throw all the characters up in the air when the bear sneezes; of course we don't lose any because we've put our names on the back of every. single. one.

And now the mittens have been retired. The animals are still snug inside and they look adorable hanging above our windows.

Do you do a mitten activity with your class?

Monday, February 13, 2012

All You Need Is Love

Bracing myself for a crazy sugared up kinda day tomorrow. If today's rainy indoor escapades are any indication I am in big trouble. It sure didn't feel like there were four people absent.

Last week we made Valentines with our third grade buddies. I just threw a bunch of doilies and stickers and paper at them and said go for it.

This is a very special group I have this year. I think they are probably a typical class but few non teachers could grasp what happens in this room, day after day: the laughter, the tears, the confusion, the synthesis. The good days are incredible and my heart bursts with love; the bad days are well, badder than you could imagine. The noise, the mess, the chaos can sweep you away if you are not awake and aware to the beauty and uniqueness of being five. Because beyond the projects and activities, we are making memories. Everyone remembers their Kindergarten teacher, right?

I always wanted to be a celebrity.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Another Day Another Dime

Guided reading with a little Valentine book called This Heart Says. It's all about conversation hearts. Been doing this one for about 100 years.... it is darling and basically goes like this:
This heart says HUG ME
This heart says BE MINE
This heart says CUTIE PIE
This heart says COOL DUDE
This heart says GOOD BYE
This heart says THE END

Dutifully we stamp, stamp, stamp our letters. We are going to know our capitals and lower case for sure thanks to Fran. I have bought so much of her work now and it is all excellent. This was a freebie from a ways back, sorry for the link lack.

Excuse me but this is THE cutest Valentine word work activity ever. I put a little card with the word inside each heart box along with letter tiles to spell it out. Read, build, write the word. LOVE (got it here)

Our mittens are all painted and hanging, waiting for the parade of animals when we re - tell The Mitten tomorrow. We can't wait!

Hope you had a great week.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Currently February

In a feat of uncharacteristic technology, I bring you my Currently February post, courtesy of Farley.

I was so excited to make this work that 1. I used really boring font and 2. I didn't think about the answers a whole lot so sorry if it seems a little ho hum.

A big thanks to Jen for explaining the process. Yay me!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

What Did You Do At School Today?

Another busy day in room KE. We do LA Centers Mondays and Wednesdays. Along with some old favorites we whipped out Fran's little syllable flip book. We practiced clapping our names first before I spoon fed them this book on the pocket chart. The adored the pictures and you should definitely grab your own here.

We are cutting out and lacing up some big mittens for re - telling the story of The Mitten. On Wednesday we will paint them in patterns and color the animals that go inside.

My students love to roll for sight words! Found here.

What did you do at school today? Always scouting for new Centers ideas.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cooperative Learning in Kindergarten

Today I paired up my class and in honor of Groundhog's Day we drew each other's shadows.

My class has been pretty wild this week and the end of yesterday was absolute chaos so I did not have very high hopes for this activity. Surprise! It was so beautiful. They were amazed, enthused, engaged, and didn't want to stop.

I let the leader for each group (remember my five colors?) choose their own partner and then I paired up the rest randomly. Somehow, this worked: it seemed fair to everyone that the leaders got to choose, and I only had to make six more pairs to finish off.

Each person took turns tracing the other's shadow, and then they switched. Next they filled in the outlines with details. When it was over, they had a terrific time walking around trying to guess who's was whose.

Someone edit that last sentence please.

I highly recommend this game. (I introduce just about everything to my class as a "game" - it makes everything sound more appealing.) The only thing better about today was delicious muffins in the teachers' lounge.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More Than You Wanted To Know

I've been tagged by Kim for this meme. It's like I'm in the Secret Club. So excited.

1. Tell 12 things about yourself
2. Answer the 12 questions from your tagger
3. Create 12 questions and pass it on to 12 bloggers

*** I have a personal blog that I've been writing for six years. It's really boring and noone reads it.
*** I have run four half marathons and one full. My last half was in Disneyland last September and I haven't run since.
*** My oldest daughter is in college. That makes me.... really old.
*** I have been teaching for thirteen years (see above).
*** I taught first grade one year. No offense but I didn't like it. I also taught a K - 1 combo one year. I liked that a little better. All other years have been all K, all the time.
*** For awhile I was really into raw food and occasionally will eat mostly raw, usually in the summer.
*** I am obsessed with bentos and have been known to buy Japanese bento books I cannot read.
*** I have a BA in art and taught middle school art for one year about two lifetimes ago. I got in trouble for letting the kids play Bingo.
*** I have my own room. I love my husband but I don't want our stuff to touch.
*** My favorite clothing is from Lucky Brand and I spend wayyyy too much at that store.
*** I am a Leo sun and a Scorpio rising. (Yeah.)
*** My controlling nature and perfectionist tendencies make me the best. teacher. ever. (See above)

OK now I will answer questions from Growing Up Teaching.

1. What is the last book you read for fun? A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
2. What is your favorite teaching book? The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong.
3.What reading and math series do you use, if any? Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt, respectively. We haven't adopted anything new for about six years. (insert eyeroll)
4. What was the worst thing that ever happened in your classroom? Sometimes rats escape. But I haven't lost one yet.
5. What's the one thing you can't live without? My horse.
6. If given the chance to skip a day, what would you do? Sleep, blog, and eat cookie dough.
7. What's the craziest thing you have ever done? Skinny dipped in the ocean under a full moon.
8. What is your favorite spot on earth? Hawaii.
9. Are you a morning person or a night person? Morning.
10. What was your favorite game to play as a child? Twister.
11. What super power would you love to have? X ray vision.
12. What are you doing for Groundhog's Day? At school we will be tracing our shadows in chalk outside on the playground with a partner.

And now twelve questions:

1) Milk chocolate or dark?
2) What do you drive?
3) Pets?
4) Do you like your principal? Why/why not?
5) What is your favorite clothing brand?
6) How do you de - stress?
7) What is your favorite go - to easy dinner?
8) What is the first thing you do when you get home from school?
9) On average, how many hours per week do you put in at school during non - school hours?
10) What's the biggest challenge for you in the classroom?
11) If you weren't a teacher, what profession would you choose?
12) What's your favorite part about teaching?

Here's who I'm tagging:

Kinder Friendly
Fairy Dust Teaching
Conversations in Literacy
Journey of a Substitute Teacher
Spotlight on Kindergarten
Learning is a Journey
Mrs. Ayala

Yee Haw!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Going Nuts

As indicated above, our school has a no nuts policy (specifically no peanuts) and this is a BIG deal. Last year there was a Little Darlin' with a severe allergy that could cause serious complications if exposed to peanuts. This year there are THREE such students, including one that has an extremely "high profile" parent. This is a Mom who, at Open House last year (her allergic daughter was not yet attending our school) freaked out because my rat's food had a peanut in it. (Who knew? Uh yeah. I do. Now.)

So this year there has been some scandal concerning this policy. Little Allergic Girl was sitting next to another student who was eating a NUTTER BUTTER COOKIE. A serious infraction of the rules. Luckily a parent noticed and whisked the offender away (not without tears I might add - he really WANTED that cookie) and notified the staff. Somehow L.A.G.'s Mom (rat food lady) found out and became hysterical. Etc., etc.

Big Boss Lady fired out an email to us teachers pronto instructing us to remind our whole parent population of the policy, stat, cc her, take no prisoners. I complied immediately because I know that Big Boss Lady likes prompt compliance. (Yeah.) In my letter I reminded parents to remind anyone that might be assembling their student's lunch of the policy (since I noticed the offender had been picked up by a different caregiver lately - you know - it happens.) Then I sat back until the smoke cleared.

Well it wasn't long before a parent (not in my class) took offense of this situation and made a big deal out of the fact that we should NOT be telling him what his child can or cannot eat. That people with allergies should learn to take personal responsibility without setting limits on others. That denying peanut butter to low income families was a tax on them personally since peanut butter is a cheap and easy source of protein for them. (!) And that he was protesting the policy through his pocketbook: he would not be making his yearly donation towards the big Fund Raiser, at considerable cost to our district. And he encouraged other parents to do this as well, if they felt the same way.


Does your school have a no nut policy? I'd love to hear your opinions.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

When the Going Gets Rough


Do you dread Mondays? Are you dragging your boots on Sunday afternoon, wishing you had just a little more time to brace yourself refresh and renew before you go back to face your class again? Have the Magical Moments of Learning become something more akin to Why Wasn't I a Business Major?

It's OK, admitting it is the first step.

I've created a little list of tips for teachers that I've been using these past weeks and it's putting a little more spring in my step when teaching. I adapted this list from Anne Voskamp's 10+ Real Helps for Really Busy Moms and I highly recommend her book and her website also.

10 Tips for Worn Out Teachers

1. Teaching is not an emergency. It's not an emergency if a couple kids don't get it today. Slow down and hug them anyway.

2. Wake up and look around. There are wonderful things happening in your classroom if you are noticing.

3. Going slower may actually get things done faster in the long run. Think of all those mistakes you won't make.

4. Laugh at least as much as your students do. Research shows most Kindergarteners laugh around 300 times a day. Do you?

5. Never forget that being a teacher is an incredible GIFT. Children are amazing and so are you.

6. Classrooms are about learning, not perfection. A perfect classroom is the one that is "animated, creative, authentic" and probably loud and messy.

7. Believe that you have what it takes to be a great teacher. And if you need help, ask for it.

8. Stop hurrying. Make adjustments in your schedule so you can slow down. The demands on our time at school can be overwhelming but as Ann says, "Hurry hurts kids."

9. Work on patience. Breathe before you speak. Practice being gentle with words and touch.

10. Celebrate a good day, and on a bad day, celebrate twice.

Good luck tomorrow!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

70 Degrees and Snowing

Did you make paper plate snowmen with your class this week? If not, you should. These guys are fun, and fun is good. (Thanks, Dr. Suess.)

Did you cut paper snowflakes with your class this week? Oh yeah, it's 70 degrees but it's snowing in Room KE! Be sure to use coffee filters to make your snowflakes. They are thin, light and easy to cut. They are already round and so, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

We have been reading all the snowy classics this month... Snowy Day, The Jacket I Wear in the Snow, Snowballs and more. My little California kids were laughing and having a great time making it snow. They were begging to make more and more! So... cool.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Centers Today

Independent Center: cut, match, glue and color the hats on the snowmen. This worksheet is older than dirt, I had to go over it with a black pen in some places and add the large print instructions on the top. I think it might have originally been a ditto! Raise your hand if YOU are older than dirt and therefore remember dittos... particularly the smell.

Here's one I made up myself. Alphabet beads, pieces of pipe cleaner, and a simple worksheet: read, string, write. The beads are really tiny so good for fine motor. Also reinforces directionality and matching lower to upper case letters since the beads are capitals. Is that cool? Or confusing? The jury is still out but they did seem to be having fun.

Snowmen Counting Book, because we can't get enough number writing practice! Find this darling book here.

Snowman poem on a chart, here we practice tracking print. Again we track on our own poem on paper and then do a listening exercise, circling certain words in certain colors, then illustrate. Turned out cute!

And on the pocket chart, an easy book to review the sight word "can" (think assessments!) and to make it a little more challenging I sliced up the last word in each sentence and helped them re - assemble it, dealing the letters out like a hot game of Texas Hold 'Em.

That's all I got... and a pretty good poker face.