Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"The Dot"-Themed Classroom

Yes, I am one of those teachers who uses a theme to drive my class decorations--and I do not apologize for that! :) I like to use literature or places as my themes, this year I chose one of my favorite books: The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. It's all about being creative and taking risks, which are traits I'd like for all my Kinder students to learn.

Now, I am not one of those super-creative, Pinterest-addicted people. Most of my bulletin boards are blank because I will post student work or anchor charts or things that come up as we go along throughout the year. And I am not done yet-I still have many, many things to do, but I wanted to share what I've done so far.

My main bulletin board as you walk in and my theme for this year! :)

I'm not quite happy with this library (please ignore the printer in the corner, it won't be there for very long)-but loved the "dot"-shaped cushions.

My Word Wall! I always make it interactive so the kids can take down the words and use them in their writing.

My math board, I still have to put up my calendar.

Even found an alphabet with dots! :)

What do you think? I was going to say I'll be glad when it's finished, but we know we are never finished, right?! :)

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Classroom Philosophy

So my to-do list is like 3 pages long and I'm sitting her playing with Tagxedo!

If you aren't familiar, it's like Wordle, but you can make the words into cool shapes. This is my classroom philosophy that I'm including in my Open House packet.

Every day in my class we:

It's supposed to be a handprint, but I see a turkey! :) That must be the early childhood educator in me. Just wanted to share!

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Putting Yourself Out There

I am big on teaching my students how to be risk-takers. I am trying to do a better job of that myself in the classroom! Usually, I am completely willing to try new ideas or learn about new strategies. But often times it's harder for me to put myself out there and share ideas with colleagues. First of all I can't hide the anxiety when it comes to public speaking-even in front of people I know. (I heard the other day that public speaking is the #1 fear of Americans, #2 is death.) Secondly, I always worry too much about what other people will think of what I am sharing. I am the first one to admit that I don't know what I'm doing half the time and I'm sure there are people I work with who have already figured that out for themselves! :)

So this summer I met with my principal with some ideas of how we can better use technology to collaborate and to challenge the kiddos. One of my new pet peeves is the fact that we have an expensive laptop cart, an ipad cart and all it is ever used for is our reading and math programs. So she picked a few of my suggestions and put me on the schedule to present during our pre-service training weeks. The kids are now expected to read independently every day (kind of a combination of regular workstations and Daily 5) and keep reading logs. So I showed them how the students could use blogs or a restricted group on Goodreads to discuss and evaluate what they are reading. I talked about doing listening stations with mp3 players. I showed them how to do digital portfolios and they had an opportunity to play with that a little bit on those laptops. We also discussed doing a book club reading the Book Whisperer and then moving on to fiction and maybe discussing a new book every 6 weeks or so-being the passionate readers we want our kiddos to be! I've wanted to do that for a long time now and I thought with 15 new teachers being added to our staff this year, maybe there would be some interest.

I was actually very proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit. You always wish you had some kind of feedback-you want someone to say this is cool, I'm going to try this or even if they said this is dumb at least that would be a response. But there was none. No takers for a book club either. But that's ok. I took the risk. And I know my students would be proud of me too! :)

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Higher Level Questions for Back-To-School Read Alouds

I know the first week of Kindergarten you're just trying to get through the day and not lose anybody.
I do try to start laying the foundation though, for what I am going to expect from them throughout the year and that is higher-level thinking. Will they get it the first week? In many cases no, often they haven't been asked to think like that before. But I want to start getting into that routine anyway. These are a few stories that I use the first week of school and some higher level questions that might help them start thinking more deeply.

Since we introduce so many rules the 1st week, a way to explain why they are important, and a great book about teamwork as well.
1) How did Officer's Buckle's rules compare to the rules in our class? Are any the same?
2) Would the story have been different if Gloria was a cat?
3) What would the world be like if we didn't have any rules?
4) When have you worked with someone else and made a good team? What helped make it a good team?
5) Was it right for Gloria to act out the parts without Officer Buckle knowing about it?
6) How did the speeches change over time, how will his new speeches look?

I love this book! It's about a little boy telling the farm animals he's going to Kindergarten and they hypothesize about what that is because they haven't heard of it before.

1) What other things that the boy does daily do you think confuse the animals?
2) How was the boy's 1st day of Kinder like yours? Different?
3) If you were the boy, how would you explain what Kindergarten was?
4) Do you think he did a good job of explaining to the animals?
5) When the boy goes to 1st Grade, will the animals be confused again?
6) How would the story have been different if the boy was just going to the store?

1) Why do you think Victoria made fun of Chrysanthemum's name?
2) How did the parents make her feel better? What do your parents do for you when you are sad?
3) How would you handle it if someone was making fun of your name?
4) How do you think parents decide what to name their child?
5) Was Chrysanthemum right in the way she responded to Victoria?
6) What would you do if you heard someone making fun of another kid's name?
7) Create a new ending for the story.
8) If the main character's name was "Jane", how would the details of the story have changed?
9) Were there any patterns in the story?
10) How did Chrysanthemum change over the course of the story? Will she still like her name as she grows up? What do you think she'll name her child?

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fortune Favors the Bold

One of the first lessons I teach the first week of school is how to take risks. I make it very clear-I am not talking about skateboarding off a roof kind of risk, but a raise your hand to answer a question when you're not sure you are right kind of risk. We have a lot of discussions and I want them to know upfront raising a different point of view is actually a good thing. Our first words on our Word Wall are "creative" and "unique".

Therefore my back-to-school read-alouds the first week are usually a little bit different. My favorite risk-taking protagonists:

Oddrey is a perfect example of a gifted student (and a teacher who really does not understand her well). But her different way of thinking saves the day in the end.

This story is on Tumblebooks and you get to hear it read by Robert Munsch himself. My kids LOVE this story! A little girl wants to wear her hair different from everyone else, but every time she changes it the other students (and even the teacher) copy her. So she has a bit of a diabolical plan!

One of my new faves! Woolbur is different from the other sheep and as hard as his parents try to get him to conform-no avail. I adore the ending.

This story is on Reading Rainbow if you have access to Discovery Education. Monique finds cool accessories in her mother's trunk and wears them to school, but it doesn't go well with their uniforms. The kids really understand the word "unique" after this story.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

A Start....

We officially go back on Friday, however we have been allowed to work on classrooms for 2 days now. I moved to 1st with my kiddos last year and am moving back to Kinder. Unfortunately, that means everything had to be packed up-closets, cabinets, everything. *sigh* Because I've had some abdominal surgery plus I've been in physical therapy for my knee, I put out a plea on my Facebook page asking if anyone had older kiddos I could borrow for the morning yesterday to help me move the furniture. I was so heartened by the response. Several former parents volunteered their children and they came in yesterday morning to help me out. 

We got most of the furniture moved into place (although I'm still not really happy with it) and most of the bulletin boards done-which is a start! I'll go in today and start going through tubs and boxes. I'm pretty much the WORST packer in the world. I'm always afraid it won't get done in time so I just start throwing things into tubs-no labels or anything of course.

I forgot to take actual before pictures, but here is where I am now:

I am in love with my Word Wall and can't wait for that to be done to share with y'all! :)

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Welcome Letters Done

Every year I beg to get the names and addresses of my students so I can send out welcome letters. Usually rosters are not distributed until the last minute, they are always making changes. I like to send out letters though. I like that the parents have my e-mail address to notify me of any concerns before we begin and also that they have access to the schedule/supply list on our class website to receive any last minute updates.

This year it was harder than usual! I'm hoping it's not a sign that maybe for some reason I shouldn't send them this year. First I decide to just address the envelopes from the files instead of writing them down and then copying them over. I didn't know the files were mixed with other Kinder classes-oops! So I had to go buy more envelopes. Then this summer all our computers were upgraded so they have no printer pathways on them (all the printers I found at school were not even connected to computers). Of course, my printer at home doesn't work. So I go to my public library and print a copy. Make the copies on my cute paper with kids on it only to read it over one last time and find a typo. :( I wrote you instead of your. If it were a weekly newsletter, I might just write in the missing letter-but this is their first impression of me. *sigh*

So I go to the Dollar Store (closest store where I could find printer paper)-I find one with dots on it (which goes with my The Dot-themed classroom). And go back to the library to print/copy again.  But now they are done and I can send them out tomorrow. I am sending a little frame with it where the kids can draw a picture of themselves doing their favorite summer activity-that will be my first bulletin board-I'm going to make one myself. :)

Can you/do you do welcome letters for your kiddos?

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