Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Last Days of Kindergarten

The last days of any school year are stressful!
I call it a marathon because it just keeps going and going and going; and then suddenly it's all over.
So here is how we spent the last few days of kindergarten.

A few days before of our Kindergarten Program I started gathering everything that we had been making for the last month or so. 
I'm really bad about forgetting things because I tucked them away somewhere for later, so I wanted to make sure that didn't happen.

My cute little bubbles gift for all of my students.
The cute little gift tags came from Stephanie Stewart and you can check them out here.

My year-end books/memory books. 
We've been working on these all year.
You can check out my blog post on them here to see everything I put into them.

Our beach ball books we made awhile ago.
Check them out here too.

Each student's awards are tucked inside their white envelope and ready to go.  All I had to do was a final check through and seal them up.
You can check them out here.

Our student-made ABC books.
These are from Miss Kindergarten.
And you can check out my blog post I wrote on them last year if you want, just click here
This year's cover looks a little different from last year's only because I printed the covers out on neon cardstock instead of white cardstock, letting the kids color them, gluing them onto construction paper and then laminating them. 
Way easier just to copy on colored cardstock.

The afternoon before our Kindergarten Program I let each student look through their Year End Book.  They were so excited to see and remember all of the work they did throughout the year!

I called two students back to my table at a time and let them look through the pages while everyone else was playing in centers.

When they were finished looking, I had them take their book and place it on their table in front of their nametag.

After everyone had looked through their book, I had some helpers help me pass out the ABC books, beach ball books, and bubbles.

You might have been wondering where all of my classroom chairs went to.
They were in the gym, set up and ready to go for our Program at 8:30 the next morning.

Chairs for all five sets of kindergarten classes were ready to go.
We definitely like to set things up the day before, nothing is worse than running around the morning of a program trying to get things set up.

I tried to set my chairs up by colors, but as you can see, they really don't match.
  So I kind of gave up toward the back.
Oh well.
I also labeled the backs of my chairs with my name written on a piece of orange duct tape.
Usually the gym teacher has 4th graders help us by bringing our chairs back to our classrooms, and I wanted to make sure mine didn't get lost or mixed up.
Not like that has ever happened before :)

Our gym floors were just refinished and look so pretty. 
But we don't have a canvas cover yet, so we couldn't put folding chairs out for the parents.
They had to sit in the bleachers.

Our program was wonderful!
Our kindergarten program is our music program and awards program wrapped into one, not a graduation.
The classes walked out to Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Then we sang and danced to "Oh What A Miracle" by Hap Palmer.
(I suggested we use this song after my mom found a video a few years ago of my kindergarten graduation.  And yes, we sang this song during the program in 198something.  It's old people!)
Then we sang a school version of "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah." 
(I can remember where I found it, probably some website a long time ago.  There's no music, we just sing it acapella.)
Then we did the "Dinosaur Stomp," from GoNoodle, led by our music and P.E. teachers.
Next we had the actual awards part of the program where we called out each student to receive their awards.
We sang "Good-bye Friends" by Dr. Jean.
Then we danced/walked out to "Kids Just Wanna Have Fun," also by Dr. Jean.
When the parents met us back in our classroom we watched my classroom slideshow dvd.
They loved it!

Usually we purposely schedule our program for the very last day of school.  Well this year the program was scheduled for us, the week before school let out.  So we had to find some fun things to do those last few days.
So we went to the park one day.
Another day we had a movie day.
Two teachers paired up and showed a movie.
Can you tell what movie was in my room?
Can't you tell from all the girls?...

We watched and sang along to Frozen.
We even had three little boys in there with us.  They were smart, they knew where the girls would be.

Then we had a water day!

This my friends is call a redneck water slide.
All you need is a hose, a tarp, and some Dawn dishwashing liquid.

We enjoyed snow cones!

We even got sprayed by the fire dept with their hose.
Can you tell I teach in a small town?

They loved it!

This little stinker didn't want to get sprayed in the face, so she sunbathed instead.

I had no clue what this cutie was doing, but she was sure having fun.

So some others decided to come join her.
I called them my "synchronized sidewalk swim team."

Then we dried off a little and played with chalk and bubbles.
This was the beginning of Olaf.

Here was another Olaf.

And of course Olaf had to have an Elsa.

Then we ate watermelon while we played on the playground.
And that is a wrap for my 9th year of teaching.
It's been a great year!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tips for a Kindergarten Teacher

Today I'm linking up with some fabulous kindergarten teachers over at Sharing Kindergarten to share tips for other kindergarten teachers!
So if you're new to kindergarten, coming back to kindergarten, or want new ideas for teaching kindergarten, then this is the place for you!
Kindergarten is it's own little world that is constantly changing and growing.  So unless you've ever taught kindergarten, you really have no idea how different it can be from the higher grades.

My kindergarten team and I always joke that at the beginning of the year, what you need to do most is model, model model.  Of course when we're joking around it usually sounds like waddle, waddle, waddle.
But modeling is exactly what every kindergartener needs at the beginning. 
Most people don't realize what a variety of kids you get in kindergarten.  There are some who have only ever stayed with mom all of their short lives, their are others who may have some experience with other adults in a mother's day out program a few days a week, and their are others who have been in daycare and preschool since birth.
So don't be surprised if you ask the kids to line up the first day of school and they all gather around you in a clump.  This cracks me up every year!  You have to actually model how to line up, where you stand, how you need to stand behind someone else, how to walk down a hallway.  This is something that teachers new to kindergarten always seem to find out the hard/funny way.
You need to model EVERYTHING!
Here is a quick checklist of things I model the first week of school:
  • How to ask to use the bathroom
  • Why we have to ask to use the bathroom
  • Don't forget to turn on the bathroom light
  • Never lock the bathroom door
  • Flush when you're finished
  • Always wash your hands
  • Make sure to push your chair in
  • How do we sit on the carpet
This list could seriously go on and on.  And I seriously act all of these things out myself.
Usually my teacher friend across the hall and I will team up during our phase in days, when small groups of kids come each day until 11:30.  One of use will act out the scenarios while the other talks it though.
Model a few things at a time or as the need arises.
And definitely don't expect things to be perfect right away. 
Always remind and model again with patience and love.
They will get day.

Nine years ago when I was told by my first principal that I would be moving to kindergarten I thought she was nuts. 
Of course in my head I was remembering the movie Kindergarten Cop and how crazy and wild those kids were at the beginning.
Then I realized that that did not have to happen.  I am way too OCD.
Kids crave structure.  Don't get me wrong, they love play and unstructured times.  But it's been my experience that kids feel more comfortable and secure when they know your expectations, when they have a general idea of the classroom schedule, and feel a sense of independence when they know where things are and where they go back.

I like to keep an anchor chart board at the front of the room.  That way parents and students know what we're learning about.
Plus it's super easy to pull the poster off the clip when we are reviewing a new concept.

Label everything!
This lets kids know where things are and where they need to put them back.
This helps so much during clean up because the kids can be independent, with a little training.

Once again with the labeling and also having different designated areas for things.

For example, the blue and green tubs are my blocks centers.  So when a group is assigned to Block Dock, they know exactly what they can and cannot play with.  And they know where to put it back.

One of the biggest organization tools I've used this year is my schedule chart.  At the beginning of the year I taught my kids how to read our daily schedule (with pictures).  This way they weren't always bugging me about when was lunch or when was recess.  They could look up at the schedule and see exactly what we had to do before lunch and recess.
This was a definite sanity saver for me!
And it would crack me up when someone would say "when is centers?" And another student would answer "look at the schedule!"

This one is so important, especially in kindergarten.
As kindergarten teachers, we are often the first adult who spends as much or more time with the child than the parents.  In some cases I've had parents who were very loving and appreciative of everything I did.  Then there were others who would write me notes daily asking why this happened or what was I going to do about that situation.  As tough as it is, those are the parents that need the most love. 
When I get frustrated I stop and think about how their baby, their whole world, is being entrusted to me.  It takes time and effort for some parents to trust and support you and realize that you want what's best for their child, just like they do.  Usually the ones that give me the hardest time are the ones that come back to see me when their child is in first grade and thank me for everything.  It's like they finally understand that everything I did the previous year for the support and love of their child.
So just keep working at it!
Sometimes if a parent is questioning things, I'll invite them to come spend some time volunteering in our classroom.  This way they can see what things are really like.  And most of the time when they leave they tell they can't believe how hard I work and that they are thankful for me. 

Mission accomplished!

This one can be a tough one depending on your supervisor's understanding of early childhood.  But seriously, they're five years old.  Let them play!
Over the past 9 years I have seen such a dramatic change in the expectations of kindergarten.  My county implemented those new standards, you know the ones I'm talking about, into our curriculum 4 years ago.  So the new standards plus the standardized assessments and expectations that come along with them, have made big changes.
But you have to remember that these are little kids.  They need to explore and learn to love learning.  They cannot be expected to sit and listen to a teacher all day.
Play is when students are learning how to take turns, resolve conflict, share, etc.  They need this time to learn how to socially interact with others.
Here are some ways I work play into our academic day:
  • Guided Math - letting the students explore through manipulatives
  • Guided Reading - letting the students play and manipulate words in Word Work
  • Play centers - after my students complete their work center (main course center), they may go to their play center (dessert center).  My dessert centers include Block Dock, Book Nook, Puzzles, Creation Station (play-dough), Observation Station (science), and Byte Site (computers). 
  • Recess - outside
  • Recess - inside - we are lucky enough to have a play room that is a dedicated room just for kindergarten to play in when it is too cold, too wet, or too hot to go outside.
  • Go Noodle - this was a lifesaver during my school's standardized testing weeks.  Kindergarten doesn't take the tests, but our recess, lunch, encore times are all affected by it.  So Go Noodle was my go to during those weeks. - My kids love the indoor recess, zumba, and the field trips the best!
Here are some pictures of my kiddos enjoying some centers and GoNoodle play time!


Looking for more tips for kindergarten?
Click the picture below to check out some more awesome kindergarten teacher blogs!