After a quick week jam packed with activities, I'm finally sitting down and reflecting on everything we accomplished in Room 7. I always scramble around the week before winter break trying to create big, extravagant, winter displays and crafts for my students. Each year I realize that it's the moments during and in between all of my planned activities that create the memories with my kiddos. We had so much fun this past week and we bonded even more as a classroom family - and as a proud teacher, that's all I can ask for! Keep reading to see everything we did the last week before break!
Popsicle Stick Snowmen
I have a very diverse population of students and although most celebrate Christmas, not all do. I wanted to create something for families that would be holiday neutral, but could still be given as a Christmas present for those who celebrate. We spent a few days of the week on each step of the snowmen and students worked very hard knowing that their parents would be receiving them! I found a sweet poem to go with them that I got from Dee Dee Wills that I attached onto the scarves with twine.
Our snowmen watched us from the window to give us a little decoration since we haven't had any snow yet. At the end of the week students were able to take them home!
Guided Cut and Paste Reindeer
I'm always trying to find ways to get my students to strengthen their fine motor skills. An activity involving drawing, cutting and pasting is a great way to practice! I worked step by step with them creating a reindeer. I showed them how to draw each part, I demonstrated how to cut and glue it and then monitored their progress as they worked. We paired this with the book The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett. After reading, students got with a partner and did a turn and talk about what they might do if they met a reindeer. They could choose to do something that Teeka did in the book, or they could choose to create their own adventure!
If I Was a Snowman at Night...
Have you read the book Snowmen at Night? It's AMAZING! Such a cute story about why a snowman might look a little slumped in the morning. We watched a youtube reading of it because I couldn't find a copy at our nearest library. The kids got really into the idea of what snowmen might do at night. Here were some of the ideas:
- "If I was a snowman at night I would play football"
- "If I was a snowman at night I would play with my friends"
- "If I was a snowman at night I would look for reindeer"
- "If I was a snowman at night I would eat snowballs"
The kids had so much fun with this craft because they were allowed to rip up as much paper as they wanted to be able to create their snowman!
Christmas Cookies and Polar Express!
Before the students came to school, I transformed the front of our room to be the train in the Polar Express. There were blankets for them to cover up in and it was pajama day! The last day before break FLEW by! We made crock pot hot chocolate with marshmallows (my kinders measured, poured the ingredients and stirred by themselves), Christmas cookies and read the book Polar Express before watching the movie. Our afternoon was filled with our quarterly PBIS reward, Party with the Principal. Here are some pictures from our last day!
Before the end of the day party, we had time to do our daily rest time. The kids were EXHAUSTED and almost half the class actually slept! Usually I only have a few and the rest just lay quietly. Rest time is just about everyone's favorite time of the day and they all took advantage of it Friday!
Now we all have two weeks to recoup and ramp up for third quarter! Enjoy your break!!
To follow up on my week of fun post yesterday, I'm going to share my newest product with you that I created to add a little excitement to our math centers this week! My students are wiggly and losing focus in anticipation of winter break and holiday fun so I knew I needed to kick it into gear to get them excited about school this week! I revamped our centers so that they have a winter focus.
We work on 5-6 centers a day during math time and right now we're focusing on counting on, matching numbers to their value and representing numbers in different ways. We currently have 4 of my 10 center choices from my Winter Math Activities product out in our classroom (which leaves 6 new ones to come back to after break!). I added another hands-on measuring activity in place of one from my product as well.
1. Collect 10, 15 or 20 Together: In this activity, my students roll the dice and put that many mini marshmallows on their 10 frames. They then have to keep rolling the dice and count on until they reach their goal number. This game is a play off of Math Investigations, the curriculum we use. We're currently working on collecting 20 together.
2. Number Matching: In this center, students get to fill up their "hot coca" with as many marshmallows as the paper indicates. My kiddos LOVE this center because they often make the personal connection to their memories of drinking hot chocolate. Students also get to practice writing the numbers as well which they enjoy.
3. Match the 10 Frame: In this center, my minders have to match the 10 frame given on the top of the page and correctly count and identify the total number of snowflakes needed to make their own. I found these cute snowflakes at Michael's on sale!
4. Tally it, Make it: We have been working HARD on representing numbers in different ways, especially with tallies! It can be hard to remember that diagonal line for 5! Instead of having students just write the tallies, I decided to use small popsicle sticks so that they can easily manipulate them. My kinders also represent the value of the number by using craft snowflakes.
5. Measuring with marshmallows!!: This one isn't in my product, but it's pretty self explanatory. Anything my little ones can reach from the carpet, they can measure with large marshmallows! They took after their leaf measuring center and began to measure themselves today.
As we continue our week, we're working on a TON of winter crafts that I hope to get up by the end of the week. We're creating ornaments and completing writing prompts with art activities. I'm excited for you to see it! I hope you're enjoying your week before break with your kiddos!
Well everyone, my kinders have officially made it! They completed eight... EIGHT assessments in two weeks and survived! It was hard on all of us - my least favorite part of the year is the stress that those assessments put on these little ones. I know many of you experience this with your students too. But we powered through and thankfully we finished our unit early so we have the WHOLE week this week to do fun winter/holiday things!
Today we started off the week by reading Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows. For those of you who haven't read this book, it's a cute rhyming story about several different types of animals who hibernate and they use a log as their train to hibernation station! The kids love it because all of the animals are wearing the PJs which to any kindergartener is either adorable or hilarious. After reading the story, we did a little team building activity where the students had to clear the chairs from our tables and stack them neatly so that we could use our tables as caves and dens.
Students had to hibernate underneath the tables and for the first round, could only wake up when I gave them a pair of rhyming rounds. This worked perfectly with the book because it's a rhyming book! A few of my students are still struggling with syllables so we played a bonus round using certain numbers of syllables as the wake up call.
This was such a fun activity for the kids - they got to move, be animals AND they got to practice some academic skills. I wish you could all see the excitement on their faces when they "woke up" to the correct answers!
Finally - one more exciting part of my morning - my students work with magnetic letters each day and their main focus is to spell out words they know. This morning I walked over to the board and students (in multiple groups) were making complete sentences without any prompt! I could hardly contain my excitement, and neither could they! We're excited for a week full of fun, winter themed activities and NO tests!
Talk about long time no write! (That was poor grammar, but you catch my drift). Last you all saw, I was still in the old apartment, dreading moving. Well, now I'm knee deep in tile samples, unframed walls (IN MY BEDROOM), color swatches, painting and heaps of drywall dust. I'm loving every second of it, but have seriously missed my product making and blog writing! This will be a quick one, but I hope to squeeze another entry in this week. Dream big, right?
In the last few weeks, my kids have become true lovers of reading. Nothing makes me happier than when my students choose to read books on their own. We have filled up their book-in-a-bags with tons of leveled books from the book room. They're all so excited that they can really read the books in their hands and I'm equally excited to see the lightbulbs turning on every day in every reading group.
Here are a couple of my little ones during a familiar read at the beginning of reading group today. At this point, my students don't take their books for independent practice until their second read - this way I can monitor how they self check and help them remember how to use clues to figure out words. I got a GREAT idea from a colleague of mine and took some old LeapPad headphones and cut the cords off of them so students can wear them to block out sound while reading during group. Although the room stays quiet and students whisper read at my table, some need that extra help to focus. It has been so helpful and the kids really love wearing them! And even though Halloween is over, we're still rocking the witch finger pointers, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put those back in storage!
As for word work, we've graduated and moved on from ABCs and we're fully into working on sight words and beginning and ending sounds. Below is one of my sensory play activities. Students get a list of words according to ability (we get six lists throughout the year) and work on finding the letters in the beans to make those words. This really keeps them engaged and it's easily interchangeable throughout the year. I've color coded the lists so that when students are ready to move on, they just go to the next color for more of a challenge! Once I have all my lists completed, I'll upload this to my store.
Last but not least, if you haven't checked out my TPT store in a while, I just put up a great little product for independent final sound practice. It's a quick and easy, no prep activity that can be used in a number of ways to help students practice ending sounds in words. Hop on over!
It's been a couple of weeks since I've even been able to look at my Teachers Pay Teachers store OR my blog! This post will be a little personal and a little school related since I've had a lot going on in both areas! First exciting news - we're buying our first house! We're moving in this week so as you can imagine it has been CRAZY at our apartment, purging, packing, cleaning and repeat. In fact, Joe could see how bummed I've been about not being able to do much on here, so he's doing double duty with packing and cleaning off our balconies as I work on here. This is a peek of what it looks like to be us right now:
And that's just our entryway! It's a disaster in here! As stressful as it is, we're so excited about our new house and can't WAIT to get started on renovating and decorating the new house. I'm sure more pictures of the moving process will creep onto the blog here and there.
Another thing that has kept me busy is planning and preparing for my Grandma's funeral last week. She passed away over six weeks ago, but with family schedules we couldn't do a memorial service for quite some time. Even though it wasn't under the greatest circumstances, I was able to see my entire family and it was AMAZING. I don't get to see my cousins often, so it was really fun spending the weekend with them.
Now that life is (sort of) back to normal, I'm trying to get back on track with everything! For the last couple of weeks, my students have focused on shapes in math. This is one of my favorite units! It's a shame ours has to be so short. We use a ton of songs like the one from Teacher Tipster that my kids love and plenty of centers involving play-doh and geoblocks. I love hearing all the academic language my kiddos learn while they're exploring and creating shapes! Here are some pictures of the centers we use:
How are you practicing shapes with your students? I love new center ideas!
Just throwing this one in for fun because we're dog sitting for my all time favorite girl this week! Caddy is such a jelly bean when she's here, but he loves it, too. Hopefully even with all this moving ahead of me I'll be able to post soon!
Earlier this week I saw Ms. K's Little Rays post on Daily 5 which got me thinking about how mine run. I love love love my literacy centers every day! Every year I am constantly changing bits and pieces to make it better for each of my classes. One part of my literacy centers that has always been tough for me to keep organized is the meet the teacher station. How is it that I can keep my kiddos organized, but I can't always keep ME organized??
I've had these bin organizers for a couple of years and I've never had a great use for them. I've used them for extra supplies and I tried using them for word work - neither things were effective uses of the space.
When my friend and professional organizer Danielle helped me put my room together this year, we really wanted to make these bins work. We decided to have them essentially be the command center of my guided reading materials. This has worked out perfectly for me! In previous years, all of my materials were scattered in several different places and I never felt fully prepared during groups. I was always up and around looking for letter mats or whiteboards. Now I have everything in one spot right behind my table.
For now, post-its are a perfect temporary labeling system for these bins until I get a firm idea of where I want everything. Activities, as you know, are ever changing during small groups so whatever labels I end up using will need to be easily removable so I can switch them out easily. Right now, most of my students are working on a Pre-A level. We're using a lot of letter and name activities. Here's what I have in these bins so far:
Having this system has helped my groups to move so smoothly because I have everything ready and prepped for each group and it's all in one spot! Another thing that my kindergarteners work hard on is knowing when I'm unavailable to them during centers. I always try to have a clear signal that shows them that my attention is needed at my group and that I cannot be interrupted. I have tried several things and this year I'm using a lamp behind my table. If the light is one, it signifies that I'm working with a group and cannot be interrupted. It's working well so far!
There is always room for improvement, so I'm sure that this will be ever-changing throughout the year! I'm already prepping mix & fix activities for our sight words. How do you set up your meet with the teacher stations?
Keeping things organized
Like always, I like to create a space that's easy for my kiddos to maneuver and work with. My goal is always to get my students to be as independent as possible so that they can take responsibility for their own learning. This is why I put all of the centers and materials that they'll be using on a daily basis on a low level that's easy for them to reach. I also do my best to keep everything labeled and in bins or baskets so that they're easy to carry around the room - my students take the baskets from the shelves to a spot in the room to work in. Here is how I have my word work center set up:
As you can see, since it's the beginning of the year, we're focusing primarily on letter identification and sound recognition. I threw in some rhyming because we've worked on that and it needs to be reinforced independently. I only introduce three baskets at a time so that students aren't overwhelmed with new activities and the directions that go with them. This is also a way to keep students engaged and to prevent them from getting bored quickly by introducing at once and as a result, overusing the activities.
Introducing the concept of word work
Word work is one of the few centers that my students are allowed to move around in. We put a lot of focus on staying in one spot for centers like read to self or tablets. For word work, I want students to be able to work on multiple activities, but I want them to learn how to do that respectfully and quietly. To introduce the concept, I sometimes do a "write the room" like I did today. Write the room is an activity I sometimes incorporate into word work throughout the year and it encourages movement and focus. We did a trial run today with the letters F-N. I explained to students that our word work center would be similar to this and we talked about how important it is to keep focus even while moving around the room. Write the room also encourages students to look in multiple places for an answer they may need such as the word wall, the Phonics Dance letters, the focus wall etc. Here's what write the room looked like for us this morning - the students did really well with it and it carried over to their behavior during word work!
Working Together In the Center
Something I do in the beginning of the year during word work is intentionally put out less centers than there are students. This encourages sharing, community building and the ability for students to learn from each other. Right now students are grouped by RTI tiers (mostly so that I can remember who belongs in what tier), but throughout the year I will probably split them into heterogeneous groups so that students can learn from others who are on different levels. I also change groups frequently so that students can never get too comfortable and stick with just one partner - I think it's important for them to form bonds with everyone in the class. Working together in these centers sets a strong foundation for our classroom community and for other centers/group activities throughout the day.
Our reading centers are about an hour after our day starts so it really sets the tone for how our day will go.
The students and I review our expectations together before centers every day and we have silent signals to help get each other back on track. I've come to find that the less kiddos can engage themselves in silly, off track behavior during centers (even if they're genuinely trying to get other kids on track), the better off we are. That's why we created our silent signals! Students can put their finger on their lips to remind others to use quiet voices, they can point to our expectations poster if someone is having a difficult time or they can give students a "zero" sign if they are in a center that is intended to be silent (like tablets or read to self).
Here's how some of my students looked while working on word work today!
What are you doing for your word work centers? I'm always looking for fun new activities to add in!
Still working on character description this week! Last week students had a pretty tricky time with the whale and with other characters in the book. This week we created a character - my cat at home. As you can see from all the dashes coming off of him, my students are getting much better at describing! They had a lot of fun with this because we compared it to a real picture of Sammy so that they could do a comparison before describing. I'm so proud of how quickly they're progressing!
Following suit with more ReadyGen activities, we're still working on Little Pip. Students have been a little antsy about the length of time we're spending on the book, so I decided to add some fun background information and nonfiction activities. This week we watched the live penguin cam at the Sea World. The kiddos were fascinated! We were able to pick apart their features, watch them swim in shallow (and deep) water and we also spent some time counting how many we could find in each area of their habitat. My students were so engaged during the lesson, they actually begged to watch the penguins swim during their free choice one afternoon!
Have you seen all of the AMAZING tape options out there right now? I have an entire BIN of just decorative (and, of course, sensible) tape stored in my classroom. Scotch Expressions is my favorite brand right now. Also, I found this great (and shockingly usable) whiteboard tape at Michael's sometime before the school year. I've used it in a couple of places around my classroom. If you haven't seen these - I definitely suggest investing!
I've put my Name Activities product to use this week! It has been working really well so far! I've only put out three of the activities in the writing center so far and students have caught on really quickly and have had little to no trouble understanding what they need to do. I love how the activities allow my kiddos to be so independent! For more on this, check out yesterday's post.
Here's a snapshot of my Kindergarten Portfolio product that we've started working on this week. We're not quite finished, but it's fun to see the progress students make from month to month! They love seeing how they're growing academically and they like to point out what they've learned so far. The writing prompt is still mostly drawing at this point, but one month (hopefully soon) there will be some words written by them on those lines at the top!
I like to get my centers going and running smoothly as soon as possible in my classroom. As mentioned in previous posts, I usually start with community building centers and sneak in the academic ones one at a time each week. This week we introduced the writing center. The most important thing for a child to learn to write is his or her name! It builds confidence for their ability to write all other things. That's why before I use my writing center as an actual "writing center", it's used as a name center. This gives students the opportunity to practice writing their names and their friends names in a variety of ways before they start working on sight words, sentences and stories.
Because I started my year off with several young kiddos with late summer or early fall birthdays, the name center is essential to my classroom this year. We started with it full swing this week and it has been very successful so far! Here is how I have it set up to ensure that students can be as independent as possible during center time!
Starting off, students can pick one of three activities provided in drawers next to the writing center. They are labeled with my favorite chalkboard labels from the Dollar Spot at Target. I loaded up on these at the beginning of the year and find new uses for them almost every day! The drawers are clearly labeled with numbers so students know which ones they can pick from.
I've noticed that one of the most important things for me to do for my writing center is to have everything prepared for the students so that they don't have to get up! Nothing is more distracting for a kindergartener than to see a classmate wandering the room looking for supplies during center time. They tend to stop, chat, and the next thing you know, they're talking about recess, and that one time they played at grandma's house. As funny as kindergarten conversations can be, it's important for them to stay focused during center time. That's why I have all the writing supplies they could need in little cups at the writing station. Additionally, I have all of their names posted on the writing bulletin board so that they don't have to walk over to the word wall to find them. I'm planning on adding their pictures near their names to help them with associating the names to the correct people.
In my name center, I start out with some of the easiest, no prep activities in my Name Activities pack in my TPT store to get students familiar with name writing. Right now, we're using an activity in which students write their names and then measure how long their name is with counting bears, an activity where students circle the letters in their name and an activity where students write their own name, a friend's name and then draw a picture of their friend. Students have really enjoyed these so far! My product has nine different activities in it so I can go for three weeks, rotating centers without having to recycle them!
Hanging above the center is a poster reminding my kiddos to work on stamina! This seems to be our mantra in Room 7 this year, I can't turn around during centers without hearing someone saying they're working on their stamina! This poster can be found in my What Can I Write About product. This word has been very effective for my group this year - it reminds them that it's okay if it's hard, but that practicing helps them to get better!
In a few weeks, my students will be ready for sight words and simple sentences in the writing center and I'll be redoing the entire thing (with a similar framework) so that they can still be challenged. Look for posts about how it changes throughout the year.
It was a three day weekend and it was much needed! I celebrated Labor Day by watching the WEBN fireworks display from my back porch. Cincinnati always puts on a great show every year and I'm lucky enough to have the perfect view from my house! The school year gets so busy - I was grateful for the extra day this weekend to spend time doing something I love - creating activities! I was busy working to create my newest Teachers Pay Teachers product for classroom newsletters for most of the day Monday. While I was working from the comfort of my couch in PJs, my view was of my napping animals all day! I just love when Sammy lays with his paws in the air like that!
It's tough to come back ready to go after a three day weekend for some kinders - but mine have really handled this week like champs! We're knee deep into our schedule and we've almost got our routines established. We've introduced 2 out of the 5 reading center choices and this is their second week on tablets. These two boys were working hard on a phonics game - they decided to play the same game so that they could help each other through the tough parts. Building community and working together takes a lot of work and it can be really hard! My kiddos are finally settling in and figuring out how to not only be around each other all day, but work cohesively as well. It makes all those chaotic and tear-filled days worth it to see them come together!
We have introduced Read to Self this week - I would say this is one of the toughest centers for my little ones, especially at the beginning of the year! In my classroom, instead of using book boxes this year, I'm using book-in-a-bags to save space. The students really like to have their own bag to carry with them anywhere in the classroom. To encourage students to be excited about this center, I let them lie down, get comfortable and use pillows during this time. Stamina is our key word for the first 6 weeks and all the kiddos know it! I hear them telling each other "even though this is hard and I'm BORED I'm NOT giving up!" So exciting to see them intrinsically motivated this early!
Our district adopted the ReadyGen program this year and my team is figuring out a way to make it work for our kindergarteners. We're starting the year out with the book Where Is Home Little Pip? It's a sweet book that captures the importance of home to all living things. It has really opened my students' eyes up to the world around them - they couldn't believe there was a place on the bottom of the Earth that's cold all year round! We worked on describing words this week and we decided to describe the whale in the book. It was tough at first - adjective are a difficult concept at this age! But by today they were able to create a short list of adjectives as a class.
Last year, we created these self assessment posters for our students and I rarely got around to using them. I was determined to pull them out this year and make them meaningful! One of my personal goals this year is to work on helping my students with their metacognitive skills and to really get them thinking about their thinking. In the middle of the week I had students think about whether or not it was easy to describe something. We did the whale activity and afterwards, I had them write their names on post-its and we introduced these charts. I told them about the importance of being honest because it helps me to know when they need help and when something is too easy. I expected everyone to put their names on green, but was happily surprised to see that many were honest about how well they thought they were doing with describing! Hopefully I'll find more use for these throughout the year and that they will be accurate and effective for my kinders.