Saying Goodbye

Another year has passed and as I say goodbye to 2016 I began to think about how I say goodbye to my students.

homonym-wave-3

A short time ago I talked about the importance of greeting my students every morning.  Many years ago I used to also say goodbye to each of my kiddos.  As I was reflecting on my teaching, I realized that this ritual was one of those things that I slowly stopped doing.  No reason, in particular.  It just faded away.

verbs-hugging-1

Just as I want to touch-in with each of my scholars as they come into my classroom, I want to touch-in with each kiddo as they leave.  This reinforces that I care about them–just as we hug our friends and family goodbye.  If one of my little friends had a rough day and then turned it around I can give a quick nod to their accomplishment.  If, on the other hand, they’re day didn’t end so well, I can tell them, ever so quickly and quietly, that I know tomorrow they’ll do better.  It isn’t all about my friends who have difficulties, though.  I can give quick acknowledgements to my scholars for any number of reasons: how they helped another student, how they finished a tough assignment, and so on.

hand-shake-colorWe say goodbye in one of three ways: a high five, a handshake, or a hug (the 3 h’s).  A great by-product are the little rituals that begin to emerge.  When I first started saying goodbye to my scholars years ago, I had a firstie who was so tiny he could barely carry all of his belongings.  None of the 3 h’s worked for him.  We ended up doing a pinky handshake.  This year, one of my sweeties fell in love with “High Five Kitty Cat” on GoNoodle.com  Now she HAS to give me 3 high fives and say “High Five Kitty Cat, High Five Kitty Cat, High Five Kitty Cat.”  Some kiddos will change up their goodbye daily while others like to do the exact same goodbye.

adverb-happily-1

The fist bump has now come into fashion.  Personally I don’t particularly care for it.  It’s just me, I know, but it feels so… impersonal–especially when I get greetings at church with one or when my adult son wants to say “goodbye” with one.  There’s just so little physical contact.  During the break I tried to re-think my position on the fist bump… ugh!  Even though I really don’t like it, and haven’t used it, I’m going to give it a try.  Maybe I’ll personalize it with the old fashioned explosion.

Are there any special rituals you like to include when you end your day?  I would love to hear about them.

soft-c-celebrate-1

Happy New Year!  I hope you and your family and your scholars have a great 2017 and I’m sending you all hugs!

 

Voting Day

image

Happy Sunday, friends.

When I was a senior in high school, I had an amazing civics teacher.  She thought that it was important for everyone to be heard and that every vote mattered.  As part of my final project for her class, I was part of a Get Out the Vote campaign (although this was not what it was called at the time, and it was not connected to any party).  I went from door to door to try and register every person within a 5 mile radius of my home to register new voters.  Wow!  I still can’t believe how many doors I knocked on.  More importantly, it wasn’t about red or blue, Republican or Democrat, it was about voting.

Tuesday is voting day.  And it is only made bigger by the fact that it is also a national presidential election.  I used to have my scholars vote for president, but have come to realized that my students’ vote reflected more of their parents’ opinions than their own.

In June, a talked to you about  voting in my class during our state’s primaries.  Since it is a presidential election I thought about having my student vote for president… with a twist.  I thought about including myself and our principal as a presidential candidate.  But I really want my future “civic minded” kiddos to think about making a decision on something that will have a direct impact on them.  Something that is tangible and based in reality.

I have several things that I am thinking of having my kiddos vote on: a fun snack choice, a fun art project, a free choice activity–such as play doh vs. shaving cream, or a brain break activity–outside vs. gonoodle.

The most important piece of the voting choice, I feel, is relevancy.  Choose something that will have meaning to your students.  I like to start my day talking about the importance of voting day–remember: never bring political views into the conversation.  It is about making informed decisions.

I begin by telling my students that all around the country grown-ups are voting for who they want to be our next president, as well as on a variety of issues.  I tell them that we will be voting within our classroom and tell them the two things that we will be voting on.  Since these activities are usually liked by all students, I ask them to think of reasons why they might want the first activity.  I then ask them to think of reason as to why they might want the second activity.  I take the same number of pros for both choices.  I want to keep the choices positive as I want my students to vote for something, not against something.

My students are all working on an activity as I have a few kiddos come up and vote.  Since my kiddos are kinders I use pictures and words on their ballots.  I want my voters to be able to vote for what they want.  As my kiddos vote, I give them an “I voted” sticker from the Registrar of voters.  I am fortunate in that there is a polling place at our school and the pollsters are always very kind and give me a class set.  I do have a class set in reserve in case this polling place leaves.

I admit that I do go through the votes before sharing them with my students–although my kiddos will never know this.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  1) I want to know what the outcome is so that I can prepare.  2) I want to arrange the votes to make it more interesting.  Yeah, yeah, I manipulate how the results are released.  It makes it more fun to have the outcome go back and forth!  3) Lastly, if there is an even number of kiddos voting, I need to know if I have to put in my vote.  Although this hasn’t happened, I want to be sure.

However you may be feeling about this election, and election day in general, bring some joy into your day.  Cheer, moan, celebrate.  But most of all… have fun!

 

Emergency Sub Plans

During the last few weeks, I have been battling a low grade “bug”.  I finally woke up one morning last week and just couldn’t make it in.  I’m finally better and I am no longer coming home and crashing on my couch for a 2 hour nap.  Yeah!

My saving grace that fateful morning was my emergency lesson plan.  They are fairly simple, and although they took some time to prepare, they have been worth the time.  I strongly urge you to invest the time to make them.  Obviously, creating an awesome sub folder, would be awesome, but just in case…

I start my letter, of course, with a welcome and then I provide the visiting teacher with necessary information for the general running of the classroom.  It looks something like this.

——————————-

Good Morning:

Welcome to room 305. Most of the students’ name tags are at their desk. We have an open policy on going to the bathroom (sign language, letter “t”) and getting drinks. However, they do need to ask. I do not let them go while I am teaching at the carpet or at the tables, nor may anyone stand up and just leave (except for a tissue). Try to monitor how many times they ask to go out. I have outlined the day’s schedule, but please modify it as you see fit—simply let me know so that I may adjust my lessons accordingly when I return. I hope you enjoy your day.”

The following is important information and the daily schedule.

Scholar of the Day (helps lead flag/song/calendar and sits in the back chair): ________

Table Monitors pass out papers, get scissors and glue, etc.:   Circle color

Red                 Orange            Yellow            Green              Blue                 Purple

These students can be extremely helpful and are high functioning/verbal students:

I list several girls and boys here.

 

 

These students have special needs:

  • Child’s Name—IEP, speech
  • Child’s Name—IEP: Selective Mute (DO NOT try and make talk!)
  • Child’s Name—IEP: Autism, ADHS

 

Additional information about these kiddos here: push in and pull-out support information.

 

Tell the scholars Mrs. Weiner will give them a surprise if everyone does a good job listening and following directions.

Please be sure the scholars straighten up their tables and floors.

The teacher next door is very helpful if you need anything.

——————————-

I then proceeded to create a skeleton outline of my day.  Although you could create an outline for each of your days if they have different schedules, I created an outline of my average day.  I then went through my day time by time.

I won’t show you my entire day, because let’s be honest, it will be fairly boring.  But here’s what my general outline looks like:

——————————-

 

Mrs. Weiner’s Daily Schedule

7:45-8:00:       Independent Reading: Students come in, get book bags, go to seats, and begin reading. Reinforce quiet reading.

8:00-8:15:       Opening:  Attendance, Pledge, Calendar, etc.

8:15-8:50        Math: _________

As students finish their work, they put them in yellow basket and get a math tub. Remind them to work quietly and “1, 2, 3, 4, no more”

8:55-9:20        Read Aloud/Shared Reading: _ ________________________________

9:20-9:43        Writing: _________________________

9:45                   Warning Bell: snack monitors get snacks ready. (Names) Share writing

9:50      Snack:  Walk the students around the corner for snack.         Duty    Duty Free

 10:05   Recess: Meet class outside door and walk to playground        Duty      Duty Free

10:20   Pick up students on playground. We line up on the Purple Square—line

——————————-

The great thing about these is that I can quickly access them on my computer and can type in the information at home and send them to the school (so they can print them and give them to the sub.)  If I know I’m going to be out I can print up a blank copy and hand write the information.  This helps me on those days when I have to attend a workshop.  Since most of my materials are in my “Days of the Week” drawers, there isn’t a lot of searching for materials.

Now, this outline doesn’t include any “special events”.  When these happen, I simply cross out the academic instruction and write in the item: Prep, PE, music, etc.

I hope this gives you some incentive to set up your own Emergency Lesson Plans.  Do you have any additional ideas?  I’d love to hear them.

Good Morning

Good Morning!  Good Morning!  Good Morning!  Happy, Happy Thursday!

Now, I know that it’s not actually morning, but this really is how I greet my scholars every morning.  As I walk out my door, I want to greet my students with a smile and a positive attitude.  If we have something special happening that morning, such as Art or Yoga or an assembly, I can add a quick announcement, as well as let their parents know.

As my students come into the classroom I stand by the door and greet each and every child as they come into our classroom.  There are so many reasons why this is a wonderful thing to do.  First, if a child has been absent, I am able to touch in with that child and reconnect with them.  Last year I had a kiddo who was out for a week with the flu.  By standing at the door and greeting each child, I was able to touch this sweetie on the shoulder and tell her how much she was missed, and how glad we were that she was feeling better and was back.  She just beamed!

Another reason to greet each child is to make a positive connection with each and every child.  All of us have those kiddos who are seem to be sooo needy!  My morning greeting allows me to make eye contact with that child and compliment them on their cool Ninja turtle shirt, their pretty hair ribbon, or ask if I can borrow their “too cute shoes!”  I’m not even a “shoe gal”, but this just cracks them up!

Lastly, this happy greeting helps parents feel reassured that their little treasures are in safe hands (something that a parent shared with me years ago).  By waiting until every child has entered into your room, parents have the opportunity to check in with you about quick little things.  Many questions can be answered quickly and helps with building my classroom community and parent community.

When I used to pick my kiddos up on the playground, I used to walk down my line and greet every child.  This takes a few minutes of your morning time… minutes that could be used to do two or three other quick, little things.  But it is well worth it.

One final thought.  Last year, after giving my over-the-top, cheerful hello, and greeting each student, a couple of moms giggled at me.  Their eyes were still blurry from sleep and the caffeine from their coffee cups hadn’t quite kicked in.  They wondered how I could possible be this energetic, this early in the morning–without the aid of coffee.  I told them that they should see what I looked like just prior to opening the door.  But by starting my morning enthusiastically, I set the tone for my entire day.  It’s hard to start dragging when you’ve started your day as a cheerleader.

 

Color Week: Part 2

Hello friends, and happy Monday.  Welcome to Part 2 of my Color Week post.

slide1

Yesterday I shared many of the color activities I use in Color Week: Part 1.    As I said yesterday I use my color unit to teach many of my academic routines. Above, and below, is what my Red Color Song {A Mini Unit} looks like.  I have also included a 1/2 size and larger size version of my color poster.  You can buy all 12 of my Color Songs Mini Units in one bundled package.  When you buy the bundle, I added a free Gray Color Song unit.  This is only available if you buy the bundle.

slide2

I will continue where I left off yesterday and continue to use red as my color.  After singing our color song I give my kiddos a “Red” book.  Years ago I created little books for my kiddos in which I slowly introduced sight words.  Each of my color books follow this same idea and introduces a new word or phrases in each book.  The last page of each book has a fun twist.  (The red apple.  Yum!)

For the last two weeks we have been circling words in our morning message.  Now it is time for my scholars to try this on in their own book.  Using a red crayon, we work together (on the document camera) reading and circling each word on each page.  As each kiddo finishes circling the work on each page they holds up their red crayon (or whatever our color of the day is).  This helps me as I am scan my classroom to see how my kiddos are doing and zoom in on those scholars who are struggling.  This is a standard routine that I will use throughout the year.

Throughout the day we do a lot of sorting activities.  You may have noticed that I include 12 sorting cards within the Mini Unit.  Just as I try to do during my charting, I tried to use only those items which are always red.  Since I include 12 color color sorting cards within each of my color lessons, I decided to make these Color Sorting Cards: Headers as a freebie for you with my sorting cards.  Use these headers to sort 2 or more groups of color cards.  I place these cards at a center. Each day I add a new header and the next set of cards.

IMG_5812.JPG

Throughout this week I also read a variety of color books.  I read the books that I made from the days when I had an Enchanted Learning subscription.  I read one color book per day.  I also read, Red is Best, Did You Say Red, and  The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, is a fun book in which each crayon writes a letter to Duncan, who just wants to color.  If you plan on reading this book over a few days, be sure you start at the beginning.  It initially appears as though the letters stand alone; however, they are woven together.

An integral book that I use during my unit is the famous, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Eric Carle.  During the afternoon we create a fun innovation of this book.  I had planned on sharing this innovation with your today; however, I realize that I won’t be able to do it the justice that I want.  I have a lot of old blacklines that I have used, and altered, for years.  I want to be able to give you a blackline that you can use with your kiddos right away.  So I’ll share my innovation with you in an upcoming post.  At that time I will give you all of the materials so you can create your own book with your class.

Many kinder teachers, and Transitional Kinder teachers use community crayons with their kiddos.  As you introduce each color, give each student their own crayon and slowly build their own personal set of crayons.

Do you do any fun color activities in your classroom?  I’d love to hear about them.

 

Color Week: Part 1

The beginning of the school year is so busy, what with teaching routines getting to know my new scholars, and helping my little learners adjust to a full-day of kindergarten.  For some of my kiddos this is old hat–they’ve already spent a year in Transitional kindergarten or full day preschool.  However, for some of my kiddos, this is the first time they are venturing out into the big world and stepping into a classroom.  Not to mention helping my students who speak little to no English.

crayon-kids_1

This is why I look forward to my color week, or I should say weeks.  Over the next two weeks we will be learning about colors, and doing a variety of color activities.  As you know, when teaching something new we should always bridge the new learning with something our students already know.  Most of my students already know all of their colors; although, I do have some sweeties who really don’t know all of their colors.

We have spent the first two weeks of school building our wonderful classroom routine.   I have also spent the first two weeks teaching my scholars how to line up, how to go to their seat, and how to come to the carpet.  By teaching colors I can bridge their knowledge of colors with teaching many of my academic routines.

The following is how I use colors to incorporate our routines into our learning.  Since I do a lot of activities on each day I decided to break my post up into two parts.  Here is what we will be doing for the first half of tomorrow for our red day, as well as each of the following days:

First, I send home a note announcing our Color Week.  I tell the parents that each day we will be learning about colors and doing a variety of color activities.  Most of the kiddos will wear the “Color of the Day”, while some will not.  This is fine.

image

Math:  We start our day by sorting ourselves into red/not red:  This becomes part of our morning routine and helps students learn how to organize and analyze data, talk to and with one another, and think critically.  We count, question, and build our math vocabulary by using words like more than and less than.  Plus, both groups get to pose for photos–which is always fun.

image

Color Hunt:  During our literacy time we go on a red hunt.  I give each student a 2″ x 2″ red piece of paper.  I always have at least one or two kiddos who don’t know their colors and this provides them with something tangible to look at.  I am also able teaching my “passing out” routine, as we will go on many “hunts” throughout the year.  We learn how to work with one another while we walk around the classroom quietly–the key being walk and quietly.  This is a prelude for learning how to do many of my literacy centers, including read and write the room.

image

Partner Talk: After returning to the carpet, my students use partner talk to think and discuss different things that are red.  I like my kiddos to try to think of things that are only red and always red.  A strawberry is only red and always red, but a shirt might be red or blue or green.  Of course, I accept all (reasonable) answers, but I want to challenge their thinking.  Although we have already started using partner talk, I teach them two phrases: next door neighbors (students who sit directly next to one another, as shown above) and across the street neighbors (students who sit in front of and behind one another, orange/green and blue/purple rows).  The reason I use 2 different sets of partners is to provide students with different opinions.  I also begin teaching my students what to do if their partner is absent (they turn and and make a triad).  The little girl in the purple row is about to turn and join the blue row.

image

Charting:  Now that my kiddos have discussed red things with one another we take turns sharing out our thinking and  I chart their ideas on a paper with a red marker and label each picture.  When we are finished, I put all of the pages together into a book.  This will go into one of our centers for the little learners to practice reading.  (Of course, I model reading the various pages each day–more modeling and teaching of our routines.)

Slide1.PNG

My color posters were getting quite old and faded so I made new ones for my kiddos this year.  I was so excited making these.  When I started making the first set of Color Posters, I realized that I had so many animal graphics that I could make also make a set of Animal Color Posters.  You can get them separately or save $$$ and buy them Bundled.  I mounted them on colored paper, laminated them, and hung them up.

slide1

Each day we learn a color song, included in my Color Songs Poster Set.  I have  included links for each of the color songs on YouTube as well as I a SafeShare.tv link for each color song. SafeShare is a link that is ad free and safe for your students to watch and use on their own.  Students can practice reading the posters, which support 1:1.  These posters, and many other activities, are included in my Color Mini Units.

Tomorrow I will share more about the color activities included in my mini units (along with a freebie), and the rest of the color activities that I do with my kiddos in Color Week: Part 2 of my Color Week.  I will also share with you a fun innovation that I make with my scholars.

 

Give Your Students Positive Responses

Often times, while I am teaching, my kinders will just sit and listen politely, that is, between rolling on the floor and chewing their shirt collars.  So beginning on the first day of school, I give my students positive responses that I want them to use.  I will tell my students that we are going to do something that is “really hard” but I know they can do it.  Instead of just letting my statement hang in the air I say, “Boys and girls, say ‘Mrs. Weiner,'” And they respond “Mrs. Weiner.”  I hold my finger up in the air and shake it, “I know it might be hard,” (they repeat) “but I can do it!” (I point to myself and they imitate me and repeat it).

By providing my students with their responses, I am giving my kiddos the mindset that I want them to have.  That of a positive, can-do attitude.  I want my scholars to feel empowered to accomplish something difficult, not trepidation.

I also want to teach compassion and understanding.  Every so often I make a mistake while I’m teaching. (I’ll even pretend to make a mistake.)  I take advantage of this opportunity to provide my kiddos with an appropriate response.  “That’s okay, Mrs. Weiner.  We all make mistakes!”  Of course, I always add hand movements and dramatic flair.  While you may not feel comfortable clapping your hands to the side of your face and gasping, “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!” you can definitely find a style that works for you.

I have seen the benefits of teaching my students these affirmations during my lessons.  Since these occur throughout the day and are woven into my lessons, my students become habituated to responding in positive ways.  While working at their seats and interacting with one another, I occasionally hear my scholars use these same phrases with each other.  I have to admit I did a happy dance when I heard one of my kiddos say, “That’s okay, we all make mistakes!  Besides, I think it looks awesome!” I’ve even had parents tell me that their son or daughter is saying these things at home.

So instead of teaching one lesson on having a positive mindset, try weaving a positive mindset into your lessons.  In addition to building a great classroom community, you will be providing an inspiring soundtrack that your students will always have access to.