Sunday, December 29, 2013

Imagination & Play...Where To Begin

Source Credit
Christmas Break has given me the luxury to reflect; burrowing under a comforter with a peppermint mocha has been a perfect position for dreaming!  I've been doing a lot of thinking about the pace of our classroom schedule, the non-negotiables of the district, and how to meld these things with my personal philosophy.

We all know that the expectations of kindergartners have grown more rigorous, especially with the adoption of Common Core.  The trickle-down-effect into the PreK arena is placing a burden on our youngest learners and their teachers.  (I've just typed, deleted, and rewrote my next sentence 5 times.)
*Deep Breath* 
Our little ones need more time to play.

Our day:  150 minutes for Literacy, 90 minutes for math, 50 minutes for each-Science and Social Studies, 50 minutes for Ancillary classes, 30 minutes for lunch AND recess.  When you do the math, it becomes clear that we aren't in the building long enough to accomplish all of this, especially when you factor in that our trips to the bathroom take at least 10 minutes each time (the bathrooms are on a different floor than our classroom, with girls and boys at opposite ends of the building).  As a K team, we've gotten creative with the science and social studies blocking.  And we try to work free choice into the afternoon --a 4 hour block with no transition or break--, with a small amount of time when we focus on intervention for struggling students.

~Which leads me to a mini rant on the fact that these children rarely get to play... the ones who need practice with language and social situations.~

I've also had time to update our class photo album.  It's bursting with pictures of children building block towers, creating yummy things with playdo, imagining a different life for the manipulatives.  These are the things that make them say, "Can you take a picture?".  They beam with pride, joy, and abandon.  They work things out with minimal involvement from me.  Not long ago, I heard one of my girls tell a boy, while assembling a puzzle, "You need all kinds of help, boy. You should be glad I'm here!".  His reply?  "Yup." ;-)

My students live in an urban environment.  I've been worried about them since day 2 of this break.  Are they hungry?  Did they find presents under the tree?  Are they sleeping?  Did they get enough hugs today?  When I add the joyful photographs to the facts of their lives, I see play as vital.  The way through circumstances, the practice of finding silver linings in the storm clouds, can be discovered with an active imagination.  Learning to manage our emotions and engage others in socially appropriate ways can be discovered through play.
A non-negotiable.

I want, need, to give my students more opportunities to imagine, to dream.  I'm working on a Dream Journal idea, pondering a repositioning of subjects, tweaking station/center choices, ravaging my sons' Lego collection.

Do you want, need, to dream with me?  Ideas welcome!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thank You Notes...A Gift For You

Maybe you sent 'thank you notes' home 
on your last class day...OR
maybe you have some mailing to do over the holiday break.
(I'm mailing mine, to see if addresses are still current.)

I love the graphics that Krista from Creative Clips 
shared during the days leading up to Christmas; 
how could I not make something special?!

Have a very merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Paper Chain Poem

A gift for you...
(It's been corrected and can be easily downloaded now!)
I'm a bit late with the paper chain--
trying to save paper, cutting it down to 15 circles.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Snow Day Calculator

(and ice, which is not so nice)
Have you seen the Snow Day Calculator?
By the calculations, I have a 58% chance 
of a snow day tomorrow!

The downside?
There is a 42% chance that my commute will 
exceed the normal hour and become epic.
Oh, and also?
We don't have any snow days 
added into our school calendar.
But at the moment, driving the highways on a 
sunny day in June seems like a good idea!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Attitude Adjustment

I saw this on Twitter, over the weekend;
no clue as to source, but I'd love to give credit!
There is an album filled with pictures in our classroom.  The book is always a favorite when free choice is given.  I can't post these photos online.  I've tried to camouflage faces with pic apps, but the magic is lost in translation.

The photos have provided a side benefit for me this year-- they are a reality check.

I see evidence of joy, community, and learning in each picture (despite the documenting of behavior that I do each evening, beyond the discipline referral sheets that need signatures to be returned).
Many days, I miss it in the moment.  The challenges of the system can be overwhelmingly frustrating, the need for flexibility is exhausting.  To get up each morning and do it all over again, I need an attitude adjustment.

I've been asking myself how I can turn a difficult ordeal into an adventure for the children.  Can I woo a child out of an anger funk, or a temper tantrum, and into the excitement of learning?  Have you ever dealt with flying chairs--or shoes, fists thrown into tiny tummies, ugly words?  Usually, by this time of the year, a group of kindergartners is hitting their stride, moving forward.  This class becomes more chaotic by the day.  Their circumstances outside of my room are beyond my control, but I set the tone in room 122.

From an ordeal to an adventure.... this is my December mantra, and possibly my resolution for 2014.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reading Street K-Word Cards...Giveaway!

Would you like to have this set of word cards?

My Word Wall is located on the
folding doors of our closet area.
These doors were built, oh, around 100 years ago
and are covered in slate.
I have the letter sections marked off
with painter's tape, but that is about to change!
My closet doors are going to get a good spraying of chalkboard paint.
Then, I'm going to add my new word cards to the wall!

I want to include number words, color words, 
and Dolch Pre-Primer words on my wall, 
in addition to the 40 high-frequency words 
from Reading Street.
This product contains 72 words, each printed in two sizes; 
larger cards are for the wall, smaller cards are for fluency practice, etc.

Just leave a comment with an email address, 
if you'd like a chance to win this set!
I'll notify the winner on Friday, Nov. 15.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Currently

"" is my food board on Pinterest.
I'm excited to try this new spin on the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!
You can find it HERE at It's Always Autumn.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Whooooo wants a freebie?!

I can't wait to make these adorable owls with my kindergartners!
A group of owls is called a parliament.
Last year's parliament stayed on the board
until the gingerbread people arrived!
This year, my kinders need writing support.
We are learning to organize information with brace maps, 
then transferring our knowledge to writing prompts.
(Writer's Workshop is a different story!)

If you'd like to have a copy of this page, 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Spiders! Color Words and Schema Booklet FREEBIES!

Oooh, I love this time of year in the classroom!  Our curriculum doesn't call for a study of spiders, but I'm sneaking it in :-).  I actually like the critters....when they are not moving!

My kindergartners enjoy a predictable sentence; they also need a quick review of color words and an opportunity to follow through on their reading.  I'll be using this work page within the next few days.
If you'd like to have it, grab the color word page HERE!

We are also working on schema!  You can find my writing booklet HERE!
Creepy AND cool, right?!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

An Average Day and Currently!

This is my life.....

Alarm begins to chime on the iPhone at 5:30am; I optimistically think I'll jump up and grab the delay-brewed coffee, but

6:00 is the magic number.  Coffee, book (currently, "The White Princess" by Philippa Gregory), weather, devotion.

In the car by 7:15 for the hour long commute.  I happily pay for more coffee, pray for more courage.
Swipe my badge, drag my bags, take a deep breath before 8:30; redo the Blackboard Configuration Boards for Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, and distribute the "Do Now" activity.

Head back outside because the students are gathered on the side lot, waiting to pledge and clap the day into existence.  We walk the lot, stream through the tunnel, and climb two flights of stairs to enter our home-away-from-home for the next 7 hours.

Wonderopolis, Morning Meeting, Reading Street, Bathrooms, Encore Class, Guided Reading, Literacy Stations, Bathrooms, Lunch, Guided Math, Math Stations, Rest/Intervention, Social Studies, Bathroom, Recess, Science, Writer's Workshop, Free Choice/Intervention, Dismissal... hugs, tattling, defiance, laughter, potty accidents, curse words, untied shoes, bandaids, observations, evaluations, celebrations, accomplishment, growth, tears, regression, progress, reality.

5:00pm, swipe the badge, drag the bags, navigate the rush hour commute, walk through the door 11 hours after the first step out of the door.  Dinner by dad :-), dance carpool, 7th grade homework, binging on Homeland, asleep before 9:00.

37 days complete.
(If you teach, or have taught, in a large urban district, your advice/thoughts/tips would be much appreciated!)

During our study of community helpers, we made a cityscape with shapes.
My district mandates that the scoring rubric be displayed with the work,
SO, of course, I made one!
Feel free to use it as a springboard 
for your own rubric creations.
The clipart in the rubric and at the top of this post 
was created by the very talented Krista Wallden!
Her wonderful work can be found in her TpT store.

Happy October, friends!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Reading Street K, Unit 1 FREEBIE!

Our kindergarten classes use Reading Street 
as the basis for our Language Arts program.
I'm finding that my little friends are not applying 
the skills from the workbook pages.
Powerpoint to the rescue!

And you can grab it HERE!

Do you use Reading Street?
What other things would you like to see?
Have a WONDERFUL week!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

FLASH FREEBIE! Updated Skills & Behavior Reports

With a class of 23 and counting, I realized that I needed a more 
streamlined way to gather information for parents/caregivers.
(I had 11 students on the 1st day;
today was day 21 and I have 23 students.
I have no idea if there is a "cap" number.
Last year, the K classes had 32 and 33 students, respectively!)

My district is DATA-driven.  
I may never get any real teaching accomplished 
if I spend my day taking notes!
To that end, I've added a behavior report 
(with fab clipart for each month)
into my Weekly Skills product.
Yes, it's still only $1 on TpT, but for a limited time,
you can grab it FREE by clicking the link!
(Sorry! Time is up!)
Please leave a comment if you find this helpful.
I hope you are all having a wonderful school year!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Words On Wednesday

Breathe in......mmmm, I can almost smell this rich, warm, coffee.

Morning is still not my favorite time of day, 
but I've become attached to the ritual
of waking up to coffee at 5:30am.
This pocket of time is my bridge from yesterday to today.
I try to let go of the things that didn't play out as planned, 
to take note of student behaviors while also preparing to 
let us all begin anew, ready to learn.

My new job requires mega amounts of documentation.
This requires a vigilance in remembering details, names, times.
Some nights, I go to bed with a spinning head,
worried that I've forgotten to take note of something
that will become an issue tomorrow.

So, back to that yummy cup of coffee.

For thirty minutes, as the dawn appears, I let go.
Yesterday is history.
If it makes an appearance in my "today", I'll deal.
But before the day spirals into a story to be written, 
I breathe in......

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back-To-School Sale on TpT! & FREEBIES!

I have one week under my belt!
My class number is at 18, and growing.
With a new lesson plan format to follow, 
plus an initiation into Blackboard Configuration,
I'm just a teeny, tiny bit overwhelmed.
Thankfully, I can stock up on materials for
Writer's & Reader's Workshops 
on TpT during the BTS13 (that's the promo code) sale!

Everything in my store is 20% off!
What can you find?

Grab these for FREE!

Thanks for checking out my store!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week '13--Talk About Me Monday!

Today was my first day of school in the new district!
I'm trying to take a mental break from the lesson planning 
and linking up HERE seems like the perfect diversion. BUT-- 
because I have a 45 minute commute and need to be awake at 5:45am, I'm cutting the number in half. 
1.  I've moved from teaching kindergarten in a Christian school to teaching K in a large urban public school district.  To my surprise, there are many similarities in the two schools.  Not the doctrine, of course, but the limited resources and need for extreme flexibility are familiar to me.  Look for a Donor's Choose project soon, in my sidebar!

2.  My oldest son is now a junior in I still see his three-year-old smile when I think of him.  Second son starts his senior year of high school tomorrow.  Darling daughter will be a sophomore and youngest son is going into 7th grade.  This summer, there was one day where they were all in the house at the same time.  I have proof!

3.  I'm thinking about earning a master's degree in gifted education.  This year, I'll find out just how time consuming it will be to maintain Blackboard Configuration boards for five subjects, daily, as well as writing lesson plans in the Madeleine Hunter format.  If I can successfully keep up with all of that, a graduate degree might be doable!

4.  I need coffee at dawn, peanut butter Balance bars, and a book on my iPhone.

5.  I prefer teaching in an air conditioned room during a hot Missouri August, wish I had tickets to see Keith Urban next Friday, and read young adult fiction for fun.

*Bonus Fact*
The Perseid's Meteor Shower holds a special place in my heart (hello, 18-year-old self!) and it's tonight!!!  Well, there goes bedtime!  

 Follow along this week with Blog Hoppin'!