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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Super Star Kindergarten Friend" Anchor Chart

At the beginning of the school year, I talk tirelessly with my class about the expectations for Kindergarteners.  Our classroom has three main expectations -- BE SAFE, BE RESPECTFUL, BE RESPONSIBLE.  Of course, underneath each of those is a list of specifics like using walking feet, speaking kindly, putting their things away, doing their best work, etc.  We still talk about our classroom expectations often, even 70+ days into the school year, but a while ago I felt like I could also put language to what my students can do to go above and beyond in the behavior department.  If the things we first discussed early in the school year made them meet the behavior expectations for Kindergarten, what behaviors would push them beyond and allow them to EXCEED expectations?

I put together this anchor chart.
**Sidenote.....Please excuse the "Motion Words" chart behind the "SUPER STAR Behaviors" chart.  Totally didn't realize it was there until after I took these photos... Ooops! ;)
 I work so hard every year to get my students to say "Good morning" to me when they enter the classroom each day.  I wait at the door to greet them each morning, and I am always shocked by how few children look at me and wish me a good morning, even if I say it first!  I am determined every year to make this a habit for my students.  It's January, and most students have gotten it.  It's definitely SUPER STAR behavior in my book!  
Eye contact, compliments and other encouraging words, doing the right thing without being asked or when no one else is looking, being a leader with their words and actions...  These things make Kindergarten SUPER STARS!
 My students know what is expected of them in the classroom, so now THIS is the list we review.  I want them to know what to do to go above and beyond.  Specifics.  
 This has been wonderful for my go-getter students who are always looking for ways to rise above and find new ways to challenge themselves.  Giving them the specific actions has helped them to know exactly what they can do to stand out in this area.

So basic, and yet so helpful!  Holding students to high expectations and giving them the tools to be SUPER STARS in the way they speak and act.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What's my WHY??

I've been loving the world of Periscope lately.  It's such a great form of PD -- quick, convenient, and FREE.  I haven't jumped into creating my own scopes yet....maybe one day....but I have learned so much from the talented educators that I watch.  I love this simple way to constantly be improving my craft.

A few days ago, I was watching a periscope by Sarah from A Rocky Top Teacher and she asked a question that has stuck with me...."What's your WHY?".  What is it that gets me out of bed each morning, year after year, ready to tackle another day in the classroom?  What motivates me to press on when things are hard?  What inspiration do I pull from to carry on and continue navigating the unpredictable waters of education and working with children and their families?  

Each school year is new and different than the ones before.  With every class comes a new "flavor"...a new set of interests and abilities, strengths and challenges, personalities and unique needs.  While it can feel like a lot of work getting accustomed to the changes each year, it's also part of what keeps our job as teachers interesting, exciting, and fresh.  It's what forces me to continue learning and growing, bettering myself so that I can better meet the needs of my students.  I love learning.  I love having reasons to dig into new books about teaching and being able to build my expertise in new areas.  The day to day challenges of teaching are made worth it by the celebrations and breakthroughs, the laughter and smiles, the confidence-boosting and victories both big and small that also happen.

I teach because the Kindergarten babies in my classroom make me smile every single day.  My face lights up when I see their faces walking down the hall each morning.  And at the end of the school day, I am exhausted in the best possible way.  I am ready for the day to be over, but I also can't wait to see their bright faces again the next morning.  I am exhausted because I have loved, challenged, supported, encouraged, celebrated, cared for,  and enjoyed my students during the school day.  And I have been loved and inspired and motivated by them.  These little ones that I hope to inspire each day never cease to inspire me!  

I teach because the moments of success and breakthrough override the hardest days.  There are few things that compare to having a front row seat to watch as your students overcome challenges and reach their goals.  I get to help kids learn how to read!  I get to teach students how to solve conflict!  I get to watch students become critical thinkers, leaders, and encouraging friends!  I get to support them and cheer for them and celebrate with them.  And then I get to watch as they leave my Kindergarten classroom and continue growing into the best versions of themselves.  

Even though sometimes being a teacher is really, really hard, there is NOTHING else I'd rather do.

I teach and I learn every single day.  Such a gift.

Monday, November 30, 2015

I LOVE Directed Drawings!

You know those things that you do with your students and just love??  The things that you make time for every week, just because they make you happy?  For me, directed drawing is one of those things!  And doesn't just make me happy.  My students absolutely LOVE this time!

I have directed drawing scheduled for 30 minutes every Friday morning and it is easily one of my favorite parts of our week.  Each student has their own box of 64 crayons that they only use during this time, which of course is special and super fun for them.  They love getting to use all the colors that they don't have in their pencil boxes.  I am not exaggerating when I say that they CHEER for directed drawing time!

I love this time for lots of reasons.  

1. The students are SO engaged.  You know your kiddos love something when you could hear a pin drop in the classroom.  Sometimes I tell students what we'll be drawing and sometimes I don't.  It is so much fun to hear them guess what it could be as we go.  They really stay equally engaged whether they know what we are drawing or not.  Either way, they are completely immersed in this activity every time we do it.

2. It boosts confidence!  EVERY child can do this.  Even the drawings that are a bit more complex always turn out awesome and adorable!  One step at a time, you can draw ANYTHING!  The kids are always amazed and PROUD of their finished products.  

3. It's a great, indirect way to work on basic shapes that are needed to write letters and numbers.  Vertical lines, curved lines, horizontal and diagonal lines, etc.

4. It's also a fun way to practice relational concepts.  Above, below, next to, around, etc.  

5. It's a chance to TEACH kids the process of drawing.  How do you draw a dog?  A shark?  A person??  Then, they take what they've learned and use it -- during writing time, choice time, and at home. 

6. Parents LOVE it too!!!  I have received so many positive comments from parents about the beautiful drawings their children complete at school.  They are always AMAZED at what their Kindergarten kids can draw.  These pieces of art are treasured masterpieces!! 

I would not consider myself a gifted artist. At all.  But even I can do this.  And if I can do it, I know that anyone can do it!  The step-by-step directions take things that look challenging, and make them completely doable!  For 5 year olds and even for their artistically-challenged teachers. Ha!

I haven't remembered to take pics of every directed drawing we've done, but here are some that we've already completed this school year.

We drew this dog on the first or second week of school.  A brand new Kindergarten baby drew this!

Spiders at the beginning of October.  We added them to glitter webs.

Pumpkins, also in October.  We painted these with watercolors.  They turned out beautiful!!

Scarecrows to start November.  I love these every year.

A couple of weeks ago we drew these Happy Thanksgiving turkeys!  Adorable!!
Each one has it's own personality.  Love!

In December, we'll be drawing elves and reindeer.

I have found free directed drawing how-to's by searching Pinterest, but here are two of my favorites that I've purchased:

If you haven't done directed drawings with your students before, I encourage you to give it a try!  So much FUN and I know that your kids will love it!!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five for Friday :: November 13

 Hey there!  Happy Friday!

Every Friday morning during calendar time in my classroom, my students and I sing "It's Friday, it's Friday, it's Friday, Friday, Friday....wooooh!".  I've been singing it all day long.  Hip, hip, hooray for Friday!

Here's what 's been going on lately in my classroom!

1. Kindergarten students digging through their Halloween candy buckets to bring you your very favorite treats must be one of the most pure acts of love possible.  My sweet Kindies have been flooding me with Twix bars ever since Halloween.  Love them so much.  I know how precious Halloween candy is to kids.  Their generous little hearts are so special!
(And I'm just going to pretend that I don't see the calorie count on that full-size candy bar!  Yikes!!  Cover your eyes!  Don't look!!!)

 2. Sometimes teachers just need permission to take things one day/hour/moment at a time.  This verse has been in the forefront of my mind this week.  I'm so thankful for TRUTH and precious, timely reminders.

3. Few things melt me more than Kindergarten friends immersed in books.  Looking, talking, learning together.  I had to capture this sweet moment from today.

4. 'Tis the season for turkeys!!  We started these "Thankful Turkeys" last week and finished them early this week.  Love.

5. And we made these directed drawing turkeys today!  They turned out too cute for words!

Wishing you a relaxing and wonderful weekend!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Five for Friday :: October 23

Happy FRIDAY!!  Yippeeeee!  I love my job so much, but Friday is still such a GREAT feeling!

I'm linking up today with Kacey for Five for's been too long!!

1. Last week, I received my very first package from Naeir.  The box was BIG and I was so excited to see it on my doorstep!  It had been a while since I'd placed my order and I had forgotten exactly what I was getting.
Inside were labels and post-its and book tape galore!!  ALL of this was less than $25.  Such a fabulous resource for teachers!!

2. I got to be twinsies with this cutie pie earlier this week.  I love that long sweater that she wears!!  It's always so much fun when my students show up wearing something similar to me.

3. We recently finished our Five Senses unit in science.  I always love starting the year discussing what it means to be a scientist and how we can use our body to explore the world around us.  This activity from Kindergarten Smiles was a favorite activity with my students this year!  I just used a sound CD that came with my reading curriculum.  It was lots of fun!

4. My students had the best time "flipping for good behavior" and earning a special, delicious treat last week Monday.  After earning all of the letters in the word APPLESAUCE, we got to make fresh crockpot applesauce in class and enjoyed eating it at the end of the school day.  
We had gotten to the point near the beginning of October when we just needed an extra behavior management trick.  I love having lots of resources to pull out of my bag of tools!  We haven't needed anything since, but I am ready with my next word for when we need a little boost again!  I love this resource from Ashley Sharp!

5. We began Literacy Work Stations last week!  It always feels overwhelming to begin this a few weeks into the school year, but we dove in last week.  It felt like ripping off a bandaid!  Just had to be done.  And, as always....the kids did great!!  I really do love this time in our day.  The kids love it too -- working at their own pace, feeling independent, and getting to choose their own activities when they've completed their tasks.
I've blogged about my Literacy Station routine before.  Click here to read that post.

I'll be spending my weekend filling out progress reports for next week's Parent-Teacher conferences.  Hope your weekend is terrific!!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's beginning to look like October!

Happy October!!  In Michigan, this week brought us from early September to mid-November!  The drop in temperature and bitter cold wind of the past few days has been a drastic change from mid-70's and sunshine!  It definitely feels like Fall has arrived....and just in time to turn the calendar to October!  It's beginning to look and feel like October in the classroom too!!

I make these spiders with my students every year.  I've gotten smart over the years and now always make sure to have a parent or two come in to help out.  These cute little guys require lots and lots of cutting, which is a challenge for some new-to-Kindergarten hands.  It's helpful to have another adult there to help.  My crew this year did a great job!  They turned out as darling as ever and they just make me happy! 

On Friday, we did a fun apple taste test.  Students tasted a slice of red, yellow, and green apple and then added their favorite to our apple poster....
 Later in the day, we analyzed our data and organized it into this graph so that I could tie in some of the concepts we've been practicing in math - graphing, comparing, more/less, greater/fewer.  Learning is especially fun when it's so delicious!!

 Each Friday, we do a directed drawing activity as a class.  Last week, we drew a pumpkin.  This week, my students got to paint their pumpkin drawings!  They turned out so beautiful!  I can't wait to pull out the watercolors again.  My students LOVED this calm, creative activity!

Caramel apples as a birthday treat from one of my sweet former students???  Yes, fall is here!!

Happy weekend!!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Vinyl in the Classroom

Well, hi!!  

I'm so happy to be back on this little old blog!  I had such a busy and wonderful summer.  Posting here just hasn't been a top priority.  BUT...ready or started on Tuesday!  Our first week of 2015-2016 is in the books, and it was great!  My kids came home excited every day and woke up happy every morning.  My Kindie cuties are easing into a routine, and they worked hard this week!  I didn't lose my voice (for the first time in 13 years, I think), and I'm not exhausted this weekend like I was expecting to be.  All in all, it's so good!  Summer is amazing, but having a job that I LOVE is pretty amazing too.  I'm thankful!

I didn't get many photos to share of first week fun this week (not much time for a camera on days 1-4 of Kindergarten!), but I do want to share some of the fun ways I'm using vinyl in my classroom this year.  I had so much fun with my Silhouette this summer!

My teaching partner asked me to make this crayon organizer for her.  I used the same mini 5-drawer Sterilite that I used for my pencil drawers.  Didn't it turn out cute???  I hope it helps to keep those extra crayons nice and organized for her this year!

I don't have caddies on my student tables, but I do have two other tables in my classroom for small groups to meet and work at.  I like to keep caddies at those tables with pencils, crayons, glue, etc.  I decided to add some inspiration to the plain caddies!  
Since I teach Kindergarten, not many students are able to read these.  Of course I tell them what they say, but honestly....I love having positive words around to inspire ME throughout the day!  I think that a text-rich classroom is key for our little learners!

This was a bit spur of the moment.  This school bus clip art from Whimsy Clips was begging to be used! ;)  Nevermind that this cute vinyl is covered by my bus information sheet...  Still adorable!!

I've had these buckets on my desk for a couple of years.  They hold my markers, pens, scissors, etc.  I love that they are all uniform, but they needed a little something.  Aren't these Melonheadz kids the cutest???  I love the fun that they add to my desk!

At the last minute before school started, I decided to simplify my life a bit by labeling the drawers and cupboards that students have access to.  The blue words pop and make it easy for students to find what they need.

I also added labels for a choice time cupboard and the band-aid drawer. (PS about literally took me a decade of teaching to realize that band-aids are something kids can apply on their own.  Having to stop instruction to put a band-aid on totally disrupts the flow of a lesson!  In Kindergarten, kids need band-aids A LOT, and 9 times out of 10, it's not for anything that requires my assistance.  Teaching independence is a beautiful thing!!)

HOORAY for a successful back to school week!  Next week we dive into more instruction.  My kiddos are ready!!