Saturday, September 24, 2011

Read to Self

I am SO THRILLED at how Read to Self has been going in my room.  I've yet to introduce anything but Read to Self, but I'm planning on introducing a second daily this coming week...I'm hoping for more of the same success!

Thus far, our class has discussed why it's important to be a strong reader. We've discussed building our reading stamina, making ourselves strong readers and trying to get better every day! We graph our stamina every day, and on last Thursday, we made it all the way to 15 minutes! You should have heard the students cheer when we filled in that graph! :)

This graph is from Wednesday.  Sadly it doesn't have our 15 minutes on Thursday.

We also have started choosing good places to read in our classroom, remembering to sit where we won't talk and find a comfortable place to read the whole time. They are doing a fabulous job building their stamina and making great choices on finding a good spot to read! I am excited to see how we continue to grow as readers!

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But I will say I am a bit nervous about the Daily 5 despite my success up to this point.  My teammates all are doing "traditional" literacy stations and seat work.  I am determined to do the Daily 5 but I'm struggling with how to fit in our "seat work" which is usually handwriting pages and sight word sheets.  I also am having a hard time fitting "theme" stuff in to the schedule.  So if anyone has any advice on how to make it all work together, I would appreciate the tips!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Checking In

So this was a short week, just 3 days, but it was really great!  My kiddos are really a great bunch and I am *so excited* for this year.  I think we are going to have a great year! 

We started our Read to Self this week.  This is my first attempt at the Daily 5 and I have been pretty nervous about it.  But I was seriously amazed at how great the kids did right away.  Now, it's not perfect, but they were all engaged and I could tell by looking at them that they really *want* to do it right and build their stamina.  So needless to say, I'm thrilled and can't wait to see the class improve!

Also my principal told me yesterday that she is giving me a teacher candidate to observe for about 40 hours.  I am totally honored that my principal thinks I'm the kind of educator that other teachers should learn from.  It makes me feel great and everyone likes to be recognized.  On the other hand, I'm really scared!  I've only been doing this for 3 years, what if I don't do a good job.  I told my fiance yesterday that I wasn't sure I was good enough for someone to learn from.  He said "You realize 22 people already learn from you every day, right?"  Ha!  You would think I would have known that! ;)

And lastly, I'm REALLY struggling with fitting everything in this year.  Our day isn't actually any shorter than previous years but I feel like we have no time for anything but literacy and math.  I've had to cut back on some things to add 20 minutes of developmental centers.  And I've made it through a day or two only reading 1 book because we are so rushed!  We have a new math curriculum which has a lot of whole group instruction on the smartboard and then a lot of worksheet type work.  I really want to be doing math stations and pulling small groups, similar to Daily 5 literacy, but I don't know how to make the math fit with that style.  Does anyone use enVision Math and have some advice for me on how to modify it?  Seriously.  I feel like my kiddos are missing out on so much hands-on learning because I'm sticking to the assigned curriculum.

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading my ramblings ;)  I'm off to search for more inspiration!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

the Night Before the First Day of Kindergarten

So this post is coming after 12 long but good days of school. I finally have a moment to get the pictures together!  The first day of school, I always read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  Then I tell the students that my friend Chester left us a special note and we go on a "Chester hunt" tour of the school.  I put up clues on raccoon paw prints that I printed out.  I make a big deal about how maybe we will see Chester, especially as we follow the last clue back to our room.  While we are out, I have a teacher put a plate of cookies in the room with one final note from Chester.  The last note says something to the effect of "You almost found me but I had to go home.  Now enjoy these kissing hand treats and remember you are not alone!"

All of this is to say that the night before school, I made kissing hand cookies for not just my class, but ALL of our kindergarteners.  That means I made 90 cookies.  I started at 9:00...I didn't realize what a silly idea this was.  The store bought dough is too sticky to roll out easily so I had to make the dough from scratch, then I got ready to roll it out when I realized my rolling pin is missing.  Lost from moving last January I suppose.  So my impromptu rolling pin was a vodka bottle.
Then I was finally ready to start using the cookie cutter, should be easy enough.  If you have never used the kissing hand cookie cutter, let me tell you it's not so easy!  (Or maybe it's just me and I need cookie cutting lessons!)
This is the cookie cutter...cute but frustrating!
 I tried to pick them up to put them on the cookie sheet and the fingers kept breaking or stretching.  Finally I decided to roll it out on parchment paper and peel off all the extra dough, leaving only the cookies on the paper.  Then I baked it on the paper.  But I had to use a knife to help peel all the little bits between the fingers and the heart.

 I finally finished around 11:00, which was sooner than I imagined it would be.  My kitchen was a total disaster and I was not much better (as seen in the pictures below).

However, the kids LOVED the hunt and the cookies so in the end, was the stress worth it?  Yep :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

BlogHoppin': Friday Free For All

Can I just say how excited I am my first full week is over?  It's been long and sometimes frustrating but my kiddos are already showing improvements!  Which means I'm starting to remember why I love this job! ;)

Friday means the LAST DAY of Teacher Week!  I'm kind of sad, I'm really enjoying my first linky-party type event.  However, I am really excited about all the freebies I'll be seeing out there today!  Here is my small contribution.  I am always using my SmartBoard and I try to make my own activities that are themed to go with what we are reading/learning.  So I though I would share two of my SmartBoard programs that I made for the beginning of the year.  I have no idea how to embed a SmartBoard file so I've posted links to them on the Smart Exchange.

First up is my abc order and letter matching that is themed for "The Kissing Hand."  It's nothing fancy, but I always start the year with that book and this is a nice and easy activity that is a good introduction to the SmartBoard.  My kids liked it!
Kissing Hand ABC Order and Uppercase/Lowercase Letter Match

This one is a palm tree with all the letters at the bottom.  I used it for retelling the "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" story.  I also played an "I Spy" game.  I would call a student and say "I spy the letter A" or "I spy the letter that is the last in the alphabet" and ask them to find it and put it in the tree.  Again, pretty simple but a good activity for beginning of the year!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Retelling Tree
Here is an image of the chicka chicka boom boom tree.

I hope you find these files useful, I'm very excited to share what I have! :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blog Hoppin': 3 for Thursday

Hallelujah!  It's almost Friday!  This is the first full week of school for me and it is kickin' my rump...getting back into the routine is not so easy this year.  Anywhoo, to celebrate Friday-eve let's talk about my favorite things!

First up: my favorite font.  This is a really tough category!  I'm going to include my favorite "teaching" font and my favorite "fun" font because they are certainly not the same.

Next: my favorite teaching blog.  I look at quite a few and really love many.  I follow around 100 and add more every week!  However, if I must pick one favorite I think it would be April Larramore.  She always have fabulous stuff and lots of themed ideas!

Chalk Talk

And finally my favorite teacher resource website.  As I mentioned a few days ago, I LOVE my SmartBoard!  So I think my favorite website is Smart Exchange.  They have great programs
 already put together that I can edit to be exactly what I need.  Also, their Smart Table programs are fabulous when I have access to the Smart Table!  I also use Jessica Meacham's site a lot.  Especially as I start my Daily 5!  And, like everyone else this summer, I've become a Pinterest fanactic.

So there are my favorites!  Thanks for checking them out :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where It All Goes Down Wednesday

I'm back again with more Blog Hoppin'!  Today is probably my favorite (so far anyway!) because I LOVE looking at classroom photos.  I constantly find new things to do by looking at other teachers' rooms.  

So my room this year is a forest theme because I wasn't sure about going full-on owl theme.  However, after seeing a ton of super cute owl ideas I know what I'm doing next year!  I've already posted some pictures of my room so I'm linking to my previous post.  Go check it out and leave feedback - I would love to know how to improve my shoebox-of-a-classroom! :)

Classroom Photos


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Wooo..I am bloggin like crazy tonight!  Time for Blog Hoppin's Teacher Talk Tuesday.  I am supposed to give advice to new teachers.  While I don't feel totally qualified for this (I feel like I can always use more advice) I will give it my best shot!  My top 5 tips:

1.  Take some time for yourself!  It's so easy to get overwhelmed and absorbed in school.  If you let it take over you will burn-out quickly!  

2.  Take it slow at the beginning.  Especially in the early grades, like my kindergarten.  It's so important to establish routines and a sense of community and in the long run the time spent on this will make all the "learning" with curriculum go much more smoothly.  (This is something I have to remember every year!)

3.  Stay out of the "politics" and gossip of the school.  I am always amazed at how much we adults can act like catty teenage girls!  Just keep out of it and stay positive and you will enjoy teaching much more (not to mention being more professional)!

4.  Communicate with parents.  As much as possible.  I try to send home positive notes/phone calls/emails and that way if I do have a not-so-positive conversation that isn't the only communication I have with that family.  I love getting to speak to parents when they pick up my students - I feel like I'm able to better involve them in the learning process!

5.  Lastly, be sure to give clear guidelines on scissor use!  My first year of teaching, I started about 3 weeks into the school year.  I assumed my students knew how to use scissors so I only gave a cursory review on use.  So during a cutting project, as I was helping one student cut his paper, another student came up to me with blood gushing from her mouth and she was wailing.  I panicked, of course, and sent her to the nurse and we finally figured out that she had CUT. HER. TONGUE.  With safety scissors.  She had to get stitches IN HER TONGUE.  It was repulsive.  And I felt like a terrible teacher.  Luckily no one blamed me and I've become much better at explaining scissor use.  This story always gets my new kiddos and no one has ever tried to put the scissors anywhere but their paper!

I hope these tips will be helpful to someone!  And if this is your first year, congrats and good luck! :)