I'm a little late posting about this, but technically I have three "first" days so I'm not that far behind, right?? My school does Kindergarten Phase In days so that teachers can have time with small groups to test and to teach routines, procedures and foundational skills in preparation for the first day altogether. It's a nice way to ease into the school year, because it forces us to put academics on hold and to focus on social skills and routines. I'm always grateful for my small group time with the kiddos in order to get to know them better, but I'm always antsy to have them altogether for the first time!
Every year, one of the first activities I do is read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. There are SO many activities that can be done with this book and it can really help with that separation anxiety your kinders are probably feeling on the first day of school. This year, we decided to do a fun handprint activity with an accompanying poem - this way families have a physical reminder of just how little their child was on the first day of school.
I can't remember where or when I found the poem, but it's very sweet and I wish I could credit the person who wrote it! I like that it's a reminder to parents that they are always in their child's mind, even if it may not seem like it. The book, The Kissing Hand came with stickers in the back and luckily I still have some left so I put it in the middle of the painted hands! I've used plain red hearts as well. Kids love making this and it's a good way for me to observe their gluing skills!
I like to find new and fun ways to track my students' growth academically throughout the year and I've tried several different types of data folders. I'm excited to try my Kindergarten Portfolio that I created for this year. You can find it on Teachers Pay Teachers! This portfolio really allows students to hold themselves accountable for their own growth - it can be done independently and tracks the same foundational skills throughout the year so that they can do comparisons. It also leaves room for pictures so that they can see how they physically change throughout the year. I'm excited to see it unfold and it has gone very smoothly the last two days.
Since I have such small groups each day, I try not to overload on the academics, but I do try to get an idea of where the starting point for each child is. That's why I use these data folders right away.
Additionally, we focus a lot on teamwork and social skills. I like to set the tone of a classroom family early and firmly. See more about this in my post about Classroom Expectations. On these first days, I do different activities to allow students to feel comfortable around each other and to practice using kind words and positive language. I set up fine motor and free play activities to cultivate an environment that encourages cooperative play. This way I can sit back and observe how students react and engage with one another. This is just as important as academics! Especially in kindergarten! I recently read a fascinating article about kindergarten behavior, how important it is and how it carries with children throughout their lives. Some activities I set up for my kids are play-doh stations, math manipulative stations (pattern blocks, geoblocks etc.) and puzzles. I don't want to give too much structure too early because I want to see their little imaginations run wild! This way I can see what interests to incorporate into later lessons.
One of the other important things I'm always sure to include on the first days (And every day for that matter) are BRAIN BREAKS! Love them! I use a lot of different resources, but my favorite is by far GoNoodle. It's a free website that features Kid's Zumba, Koo Koo Kangaroos, yoga, physical and thought provoking exercises and SO much more! The kids love it because they get a little monster that represents the class and it grows as they continue to do the activities. I tried it out on my tiny little group today and they really loved it!
I love that these breaks get the kids moving, gets their wiggles out and in turn allows them to be prepared to focus on a new task. I use brain breaks throughout the day, but generally after an especially long chunk of academics and at the end of the day while we're waiting on buses to be called. Look for a post later in the year on keeping your dismissal time organized. It can be a crazy part of the day and it's taken a lot of tweaking for me to get it right!
I'm excited to get all my kinders in one room on Friday (22 and counting!) and really get started with the year!
As I sit here preparing for two full professional days, Open House and a 4 day week with kiddos, I can't BELIEVE how quickly this summer has gone! I'm sure that we all think that every year - I'm never ready for summer to be over. But on the other hand, I am always excited and ready to meet my new students, get big hugs from my old students and spend time with my coworkers who, as the years pass, are more like family than anything else.
Every year I have a picture in my mind of what I want my room to look like, how I want the first day (or days in my case - K phases in the first week) to be, what I want to say ... but every year nothing goes quite the way I've planned it. And over the years, I've learned that that's okay! You may have noticed throughout my blog posts so far, but if you haven't, I'm a major planner, pretty organized and I'm still learning to expect the unexpected! This is why before every year starts, I try to remind myself of these 5 things (in addition to much more!)
1. Open House - Make it simple!
I have reworked the way I do Open House several times. My Open House, like many, is tacked on to the end of a full professional day. As important as it is, don't stress! Have a few stations out to keep families occupied, but also allow yourself to be available for the many questions that will be coming your way. The more work you put on yourself before your first full day with kiddos, the more overwhelmed you'll feel at the end of that first week! Enjoy meeting your new students and their families and don't worry if you don't have 75 activities out for everyone to see. Be creative, keep everyone engaged and that will be enough! The parents and students are more excited about meeting YOU than your centers and stations! :)
2. Let your students know you're nervous, too!
I always thought twice before making a vulnerable comment such as admitting I was nervous, too, but quickly realized that it helped to form the bond with my students! After all, Julie Dannenburg made a whole book out of it with First Day Jitters! Every time I tell my students that I'm nervous for the first day of school they can't believe it - it's a real conversation starter. Usually I get the big eyes and side stares - they're so surprised it gets them to forget that they're nervous and participate in a class conversation!
3. You might not get through your plans...
And that's okay!! My first couple of years, I panicked when I realized I was 3/4 of the way through the day, but only about 1/3 of the way through my plans! At the end of the day, I'd think back and realize that we had so much fun, it didn't even matter! Oftentimes now, I get excited if we go in a different direction than the original plans because that means students are contributing and participating. For the first week, it's good to have a guideline, but if you don't get through every beautiful craft or meticulously planned activity, you'll live. And let's be honest, your kiddos won't know the difference those activities get pushed back a day or so as long as they're enjoying themselves.
4. Make your students feel at home
This should actually probably be #1 because it needs to be at the forefront of your mind all week! Especially for you kindergarten teachers - this may be one of the first times your students have ever been away from home for the whole day! Even if they are accustomed to daycare or babysitters, school is so much different! If a student is feeling lonely or sad, encourage them and pair them up with a more outgoing student. If they miss their family more than most, contact their parents and ask for them to send in a photo for the moments they need it. Do everything you can to make your students feel comfortable with you, their classmates and to love school! For those of us in primary, we set the foundation for how a child feels about school. It is our job to do all that we can to show them how to love it as much as we do!
5. For a minute, forget the forms...
I know we're all caught up with assessments, screeners, SLOs, back to school forms and all the other paperwork that goes up to our ears by day 4 of school. It's hard to ignore, but DO IT! Even if just for a little while. Forget needing to know how many letters that child knows within the first hour of school or finding out whether he meets the beginning of the year benchmark. Instead, sit down with your kiddos - no papers, no agendas - and play with them, read with them, talk to them and listen to them! As educators, at the core of us we know that we'll know more about our students when we spend time with them than if we drill them with assessments. We just have to find the balance and remember what's important Let's keep it our priority while swimming through our deadlines! It's certainly a goal for me!
I know that many of you have already started your year - I love looking at how classrooms are turning out and the back to school activities happening. If you're feeling overwhelmed during this whirlwind of a time, I hope these reminders help you! I hope they help me next week!
For a few years, I've seen those cute frames that students hold up to their little faces and use to mark a milestone in their lives - their first day of school! Parents use them as well as teachers and I always LOVE looking at the transformation of that little one from the beginning of the year to the end! I have thought about making one for a while and as I mentioned in my Five for Friday post, it was a rainy day recently and I thought, why not make a frame now? I wandered my way over to Michael's for a "quick" trip which turned into two hours - you know how it is - and I found some great materials for this project (and several others).
I had already purchased the bulletin board letters at Staples in anticipation of this project. At Michael's I bought the frame (on sale), the ruler ribbon, Mod Podge and the scrapbooking flowers. I had the vision, but had to get started!! First, I took all of the contents out of the frame and threw them away. Then, I measured out the ribbon to go around the frame. I used craft glue to initially stick it on, but knew that wouldn't be enough to keep it still after 23 sets of little hands hold it on the first day of school. After the craft glue dried, I covered it with a coat of Fabric Mod Podge.
I not-so-patiently waited for TWO hours for the frame to dry (as directed on the bottle) and looked over it, making sure all the sides and edges were firmly in place. After this, I went ahead and started punching out the letters I needed. I knew that with a 14x18in frame there was no way I could get the entire word "kindergarten" on there so I settled for the abbreviation, K. I also began placing the scrapbook flowers (which are made out of book pages) in any place I saw imperfections I didn't like on the frame.
After placing the objects where I wanted them, I glued them down using my lifesaving Elmer's CraftBond Dual Tip Glue Pen - it's great for projects like this because it has a fine point tip for things like the flowers and letters, but a broader tip for things like the ribbon. Worth. Every. Penny! It takes a while for the flowers to really stick so I had to leave it alone for another hour or so before I could pick it up and move it around.
This frame is now hanging, patiently waiting to help capture the first day of Kindergarten for all the students coming SO soon!
We spent last weekend at my family's lake house with friends. We spent most of the time outside in the sun and on the boat. We had a great time until... Caddy got SKUNKED! That's right, my seven year old, already sore from swimming 13 hours a day lab found his way over to the smelliest animal on the planet and proceeded to get sprayed. The rest of our Saturday night entailed trying several home remedies, using almost all the shampoo in the house, airing out the inside and washing everything in sight! It makes for a funny memory, but it wasn't so funny for this dog mom when I was in the shower with my stinky boy for almost an hour! Needless to say, Caddy slept for the remainder of the weekend and was a little embarrassed about his new scent (that he's still faintly carrying around today).
A few of my many packages came from Amazon for my new school year purchases! Among these packages came this book. I'm excited to add it to my other beginning of the year books!
Did you see my post earlier this week about creating this attendance/lunch choice chart out of a cookie sheet? I finally got a chance to hang it up in my room this week and it looks great!
Yesterday was a very rainy day in Cincinnati. So what better use of my time than to craft for my classroom all day? I got a few things done, but I'm by far the MOST excited about my first day of school frame! Stay tuned for a blog post coming soon about it!
You can't tell (because I'm always more interested in taking pictures of animals than an actual project - the dog next to Caddy is our sweet neighbor dog Indy), but the blue board to the left is going to be a painting of the globe! My principal asked my dad, who happens to be an artist, to help our school out with the global theme we're starting this year. As you can see I've been lots of help! Today, we're finishing it up, driving it over to the school and doing some more painting!
In years past, I have mostly used the method of a pocket chart for my attendance and lunch choice. Although this idea has been great and easy for the kids to do, it takes up a LOT of space in my classroom! I wanted to find a way to better utilize those big spaces and to shrink my attendance chart in some way. I decided on using a skinny wall space near my classroom door that would be hard to use otherwise. I started thinking of things that could fit into such a small space and I came up with a cookie sheet! I looked up some ideas and liked many of them, but wanted to put my own spin on it.
I needed to find some cookie sheets for my magnetic letter activities during guided reading as well as for this project and found some on sale at Kroger if you use your Plus Card (only $2 each!!). I decided to use a 10x15in sheet for this particular project. I wanted to limit the chart to one cookie sheet given my limited space, so I opted to get something a little longer than the standard 9x13.
I thought about using contact paper to cover my cookie sheet, but realized quickly that it would be a real hassle to get around all of those curves and edges. Instead, I used Scotch Expressions Washi Tape that you can find in most places, but I got mine at Staples. I used the tape to divide the sheet into thirds. A tip - make sure you measure the sheet after you've lined the sides with tape (after I outlined my sheet with the Washi tape, I had about 8 inches left of usable space). I also got two different types of tape and layered them to add a more textured effect to the chart. Also, I couldn't originally decide which tape I wanted so used both! It turned out nicely because the tape is slightly transparent so with only one layer, it was still a little darker than I wanted. With mixing the two patterns/colors, it made the border more interesting!
After outlining and dividing the entire cookie sheet, I wanted to cover up the tabs at the top and bottom so that it looked a little more finished. I have a ton of leftover chalkboard tape from several organizing and crafting projects, so I decided to use that. I found this tape at Target in the scrapbook and craft aisle. I have found dozens of uses for it, including my DIY library divider project. Since the tabs are a tricky shape, I included some step by step pictures below so that you can see how I tackled the small, curved space.
After these steps, I labeled each tab with a Permanent Chalk Marker. I used the chalkboard tape and marker to label each section of my divided cookie sheet as well. The last step was to label my magnets.
Always looking for a bargain (as I know we all are), I found these magnets at Staples and for 24 magnets a pack, they're pretty cheap! I decided to label these with a black permanent marker - if the writing doesn't stay, I plan on sealing the magnets with clear nail polish. We'll see how long they last as is! I use numbers to label my chart so that I can reuse the magnets year after year. After all these steps, I ended up with my finished product!
I plan on tacking down the corners of the tape with some hot glue to ensure that little fingers can't easily peel it up. I'm hoping that this will be an quick, easy and independent check in process for my students. Hopefully you find this helpful and can put your own spin on the idea to make it fit in your own classroom!