Saturday, September 7, 2013

A New Batch of Smart Cookies!

(*NOTE: Each parent will get a copy of his/her child's photo like this at the end of the year.)

It doesn't matter that Tuesday was the beginning of my fourth year teaching kindergarten -- I felt like it may as well have been my first.  When I say that, I mean I'm fairly certain I have blocked previous first days of school out of my memory.  I was so excited to start school again! I was thrilled to meet the students at Open House.  During the work week, I was still staying up until 11 and waking up at 5 without any problem.  Last week I thought to myself, getting back into the routine will be so easy!

Ha.. ha.. ha. Let's be real, getting back into the routine after summer break is never easy.

On Monday night, I stayed up until 12:30 working on things I should have worked on over the summer (oh, hey, my friend procrastination!) and tossed and turned until 4:30, feeling anxious about the first day. I made it to the gym in the morning (yes! success!) and into the classroom feeling READY for the day! BUT I made a crucial mistake:

I walked into the classroom remembering where I left last year's class.... not remembering that this year's class is brand new.  Without. any. experience.

When I felt like no one was hearing a word I said, I thought to myself, huh, maybe God just doesn't have teaching in the cards for me this year ;)  And then, miraculously, on day two...

I realized that every single kid actually heard what I said on day one. And they even started applying it! Okay,  I thought, so maybe I am terrified and overwhelmed on every first day, and I just purposefully pretend that day doesn't exist.

And about that whole staying up late and waking up early thing? Well, since I've come home and passed out instantly every day this week, I think that's a sign that it's back to an early bedtime.  Transitions are so hard for me - the first month of summer I was still waking up at 5 to 'stay in the routine' ... of course, by August, I was ready to sleep until 9 every day!  If it's a struggle for me, I know it's tough on the little ones.

Since we went so procedure & rule heavy on day 1, days 2 through 4 were much more fun and hands-on.

4-Star Kindergarten Rubric  could have sworn I pinned this. Love this rubric for simple, day-to-day K writing skill reinforcement. Free on TPT :)

On Wednesday we got our pencils and crayons and discussed the 4-Star Rubric.  Need another copy or want one in color? Click HERE.  I will periodically go around and leave stars on papers letting children know how they're progressing in name writing and coloring.  Some friends are already at 4 stars! If that is the case with your child, please remind him or her to always produce quality work.

Didn't you kind of hate showing the teacher your best work in school?
Then you knew you'd always be held to that standard. ;) 

Most of the kids are good at staying in the line but not so good at using realistic colors. I'm big on realistic colors.  I tell the students their picture should look as much like a photograph as possible.  Miss Kusniez said that one of the kiddos in her class colored hair purple and when she asked if we actually have purple hair, the response she got was "well, Lady Gaga does." Hmm.

Thanks, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.
You've really helped our youngest generation. 
We also discussed voice levels in the classroom, which I've never done before. I realized I needed to when kids were shouting across the desks at one another.  Together, the class and I came up with voice levels from 0 (no talking) to 4 (shouting, which is only ever used outside), and I just so happened to find a pre-made chart that matched what we'd discussed perfectly! I printed two and hung them on opposite ends of the room with clothespins on the appropriate level so the kiddos would know what noise level we were supposed to be working at.

We mostly stay between levels 0-2.  0 for the carpet or Language Arts stations, 1 for Morning Journal and Math Stations, and 2 for group work.

In the first few weeks of school, to get used to the idea of stations in the morning for Language Arts and in the afternoon for Math, we rotate four tubs of materials among the four tables.  This gets students used to the idea of staying quiet while working, listening for the timer to know when to clean up, transitioning between activities, sharing and, in math especially, helps get out some of that desire to play with the manipulatives.

When it's time to clean up, I say "Hands on top," and students reply by putting their hands on their heads and saying "EVERYBODY STOP!"  This gets everyone to stop playing and recognize that it's cleanup time.

Next week I will start to introduce actual stations with "I Can" lists.  Rotating the tubs allows everyone to stay occupied while two students at a time try out the stations. Eventually, as we've gone over the objectives for each station, the tubs will be phased out and students will go in pairs to stations around the room.

As a whole group, we worked to create a graph of boys and girls in our class.  This was a great introduction to the SMART Board, since everyone got a turn to interact with it.  We tried to make another graph on Thursday, but we had some technical difficulties with the computer's response time. Ugh. Sometimes technology is the best thing ever, other times it's simply frustrating.

The kids were excited to see that we have more girls than boys in our class.  Funny how they didn't notice it until we had the graph! Another reminder how much kindergartners need clear examples to make ideas concrete.  Even when it comes to behavior!

I feel like such a bad guy when owls are flying out of the tree in the beginning of the year:

But, it's amazing how quickly behavior changes when a student has been asked to fly his/her owl.  Most students fly it once and never fly it again for the rest of the year. They absolutely hate seeing their owl out of that tree. If your child complained about flying his/her owl but you noticed a green stamp on his/her behavior calendar, it just means the behavior infraction was something minor that was quickly fixed (i.e., talking in line or not sitting criss-cross applesauce).

In addition to our owls in the tree, students now have a sticker chart on their desk.  Students can earn stickers when I see them behaving accordingly without any direction from me.  When sticker charts are full, those students get to eat lunch in the classroom with me! (Or we can eat outside if it's a nice day.)  Should your child get a full chart, you will get a note letting you know which day he/she will be eating in the classroom so you don't accidentally pack a PB&J or anything with nuts.

On Thursday we reviewed proper use and care of scissors and glue.  To use both, we read The Kissing Hand and completed a sequencing page to show what happened at the beginning, middle and end. Almost 100% of our class can follow along with a combination of auditory and visual instructions.  Did your child ask for a kissing hand of their own on Friday?  If you're not sure what happens in the story, or your child would like to hear it again, watch the video below for a read-aloud by author Audrey Penn:

Yesterday we read the story Hands are not for Hitting and came up with nice, helpful ways to use our hands.  (See picture below.) I appreciated the top one, "Help my mom get vegetables out of the car." Haha.  These handprints will be displayed on a bulletin board in the cafeteria so the whole school knows how helpful and caring kindergarten is.  The new rule in our class is: if I see you accidentally forget and put your hands on someone else in a mean way (pushing, hitting, pinching, etc.) you must make up for it by giving that person a hug, handshake or high-five to show you will use your hands for good and not for bad.

By Friday I was so amazed at how quickly students were settling into our routines.  I am eager to see how much social and academic growth they all make this year!

As always, owl be teaching you tomorrow!


  1. Thank you for this! I love seeing what you all are doing in class. When I pick Marley up from school and ask her what she did that day she says 'nothing' (i don't remember her turn 15 years old!). It makes me happy to know that you aren'tmaking them sit and stare at the wall all day ;)

    Also, I have purple in my hair!

    1. Hahaha. Well, if it makes you feel better, I don't want them adding lip piercings on their pictures either, despite my having one! :-(

      And yes, kids seem to think I do nothing with them all day. Of course, they'll always remember what playground they got to go on if you asked that!

      Anyway, thank YOU for reading! It is my goal to make parents feel as much a part of the classroom and their child's learning as possible. :-)

  2. I just had to watch The Kissing Hand video. Too cute. Have a great school year Sam! Your students are blessed to have you.

  3. Sounds like your year is off to a great start!! :) Your students (and their parents) sure are lucky to have you!!!!!