Sunday, August 10, 2014

We've hit the ground running

It's pretty much a fact that teachers get nervous on the first day of school, just like kids. Or maybe it's a combination of anxiousness and excitement. This year was really different for me, though.  I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the first day of school was in July.  I'm used to school starting on a cool day at the beginning of September! I told David the night before school started, "I feel like I'm about to go lead summer camp."  As a result, it was only calm excitement this year! And a lot of accidentally writing "September" on date lines instead of "August." 

My biggest hurdle at the beginning of this year was not knowing any of the parents. Everyone at Spotswood knew I was big on parent communication and was strongly (still am strongly) invested in their child's life. I built myself up with a positive reputation in the community, and parents were excited to see their child assigned to my classroom. (Or so they told me...!) This year was different. Postcards went out letting parents know their child's teacher was Mrs. Richardson, and I know any of the parents familiar with Shirley Hills probably thought, Mrs. who?? 

I tried to let parents know at Meet'n'Greet a little about myself and my teaching beliefs, but you really only have 3 minutes with everyone before you start your spiel over again! It's not much time.

I guess I'm still getting used to the Georgia curriculum, too. I know we're a Common Core state, but despite Virginia lending a helping hand in coming up with the Common Core standards, the state opted to use their things that I'm used to teaching in kindergarten (money, time, skip counting by 5s, etc.) aren't part of the kindergarten curriculum any longer!

Most first weeks of school go something like this: Repeat and model the rules/procedures. Repeat and model the rules/procedures. Repeat and model the rules/procedures. Pause to wonder if you're going crazy because no one's following directions. Repeat and model the rules/procedures.

Not this year! This year I started the year with sixteen (yes, sixteen!) well-mannered, hard-working, carefully listening students. Plus, I had Mrs. Dean in the classroom with me! Another teacher!! Having a small class and a para reinforcing what the kids are learning is amazing. (I'm not delusional; I know the class size will grow... but for now I'm enjoying it.) 

We went over the rules and procedures for the first couple of days (and I do have to give reminders here and there), but we've been able to move into the swing of things pretty quickly. I'm pretty impressed by the "yes, ma'am" and "ma'am?" responses I've gotten from children. After seven days of school, I haven't come home and immediately crashed like years past. (And I haven't sleep-walked into the living room and shouted at David to "just sit down and stop talking!" like I did in my first year of school. Side note... I never said that out loud in the classroom either. But I can't lie, that's typically what's going through my mind!)

So... with all this extra time not asking for cooperation, what have we been doing??

Working with our names!

With blocks....

Magnetic Letters...

And scissors and glue!

Earning our pencils, scissors and glue with proper use!
Yes, we introduce materials one at a time. I model, the students share what they noticed (the good and the bad) and then we practice the good things we saw. I felt bad because I broke a pencil, bit it and tossed it across the room as a 'bad example.' When I went to hand out the sharpened pencils, I accidentally handed that pencil to a student. (I had sharpened it, but completely forgot about the biting. That's not something I normally do!) The poor kid said "No, I don't want that pencil, that's the broken one." I replied, "It's okay, I sharpened it!" He was like .... "It's not okay! You bit it!" :( :( :( True story. Terrible. I instantly gave him a new one and apologized profusely. Luckily, I don't think we'll have an issue with pencil biters this year.

Just a dot, not a lot!
Just a line, that'll be fine!

Exploring math manipulatives, counting & writing numerals!
Clearly we have to get some play time in with those manipulatives before we start sorting, adding, patterning, etc. with them. 

Writing Workshop
We have been writing since day one! Even students who cannot form letters are able to draw pictures and orally tell their stories. Writing workshop will progress to multiple-page stories, but right now children are doing what they can. That means it will vary from scribbles, basic sketches and detailed pictures with labeling to full sentences! (Parents, this writing doesn't come home! You will see it when you come in for conferences and at the end of the year.) Right now we're just getting used to having a specific writing time and thinking the way writers think.

Reading Workshop
We are all readers! From environmental text to pictures to words, all children have some reading capability. Our workshop currently consists of a mini-lesson and free exploration of engaging books in shared tubs on tables. Students attempt to use strategies taught in the mini-lesson as best as they can! (i.e., a lesson on searching for patterns in phrasing on pages may equate to patterns in characters found on each page.) We will transition to personal book boxes with leveled text as we progress through the workshop.  I've never done reading workshop before. I've always set up my reading groups with Debbie Diller's Literacy Stations and it's worked wonderfully, but I am excited about the passion I've already seen these children show for reading.  I expected the kiddos would maintain interest in the books for roughly 5 minutes at the beginning of the year (as they've shown in years past), but these students read books quietly for a full 30 minutes on the second day of school! When I asked a student what his favorite part of school was so far, he said "uhhh... I like writing... and reading a lot." (This is literally unheard of. I usually get "Recess. Or maybe lunch.")  I am going to figure out a way to incorporate both reading workshop and literacy stations in my day, because I think a combination will be best for student progress and active engagement. 

Mrs. Dean agreed, a good mix of fiction and non-fiction books
kept the children involved.

Speaking of recess being a former favorite..... recess in this state is umpleasant to say the least. I am a fan of playing with the kids at recess. I walk around the perimeter of the playground to keep an eye on everyone, and if a kid challenges me to a race or a round of tag, of course I'm going to accept! I was surprised to see a 15 minute recess on the kindergarten schedule, but with hot, humid gnat-infested weather like this:

I can't imagine a longer one. My favorite recess story so far is when a group of children ran up to me and said "MRS. RICHARDSON, COME HERE! WE FOUND A ROBOT!"

For the record, it was just a cement block under the gravel. In fairness, it had an indentation that could have been a robot eye. Or plug. Or something. The five-year-old enthusiasm and creativity astounds me.

I'm pretty excited to see all the growth these students show over the course of the year. I can already tell it's going to be an amazing one!

1 comment:

  1. Mrs. Richardson, seeing our class on your blog is so exciting! We have such a CUTE class. So glad I am privileged to be a part. Graham is my grandmother name and that is how my Google account signs me in, but it's still just me, Mrs. Dean