Thursday, August 28, 2014

The First Day of School

Here's what we did on our very first day!

Upon arrival, the kids found these treats on their tables. We enjoyed them as a mid morning snack. :)

8:30 Morning Centers:
Kids practice washing hands/lining up
find names at tables & sign in
Books & Puzzles
Use bathroom before meeting

8:55 Ready for Assembly
Sing Open/Shut Them
Find names on the carpet - go over rules for assembly
Practice lining up for assembly

9:00 All School Assembly in Gym

9:30 Morning Meeting and Calendar
Sing The Bear Went Over the Mountain
Picture schedule introduction
Sing Where is Thumbkin?
Practice with magic wand (quieting down)
Read “David Goes to School”
Draw Self Portraits:

 Early Finishers: Puzzles or Books
 Recess Rules & Consequences for not listening (have aides talk to them)

10:00 Recess and Snack

10:20 Math & Reading Workshop:

Song (and Big Book): Itsy Bitsy Spider
Talk about working in stations- how should we act?
 Rotate workstations:
 Playdough at aide’s table
 Beads at Circle Area
 Blocks in Block Center

11:15 Whole Group Math:
 Watch Zumba Kids song on the SMARTboard
 Magic Wand & Open/Shut them
 Kids watercolor paint birthday hats for our birthday calendar:

11:45: Lunch

12:15 Rest

Sing The Bear Went Over the Mountain & Open/Shut Them
Rest time: Kids find a comfortable place and rest with lights off
Read “No, David!”
Talk about rules
Be nice, be safe, be a good listener (write together)

1:15 Centers
Practice quieting with wand
Tour of Centers, talk about clean up
Assign kids to centers (not ready to choose yet), close computers- take pictures of kids for coat lockers/cubbies
After 20 minutes, have kids stop and clean up. Assign them to new centers.

2:00 Outside
Play outside
Practice recess rules

2:30 Yup’ik

3:00 Go Home: Take first day of school newsletter.

The first day went awesome! This is my 7th year so far and my smoothest start yet! I love my class!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Signing In

Every morning my kiddos go through a sign in routine.

When they come into the room, their work is laid out at their tables, in a really cool dry-erase sleeve from Really Good Stuff.

The baskets from Kaplan stay in the center of their tables all day and contain everything they'll need. To sign in, they need an Expo marker and a sock for an eraser. I'm having them use golf pencils this year because they are great for beginning fine motor skills, and then I don't have to deal with erasers! Next week I'll add crayons to that fourth slot.

I rotate weekly through 6 slightly different forms of the sign-in sheet, just to keep it interesting. Later in the year, we will start practicing last names as well.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Classroom

Homey is my goal, and I've had two visitors call it that this year! Yay!

Here is my room! I've spent 3 years in it, and finally feel like it's starting to look the way I want it! The first picture is a bulletin board covered in Burlap. Each child has their own square, where I hang their work with thumbtacks. So easy!

This is a favorite part of my art area. A HUGE dry erase board for them to work on. Gross motor skills!

Here's my brand new word wall! The first words I'll put up are the kid's names. I don't know if you caught it, but somehow I misordered the alphabet and put S before R. Oops! The letter cards are FREE from TpT. The ribbon was a thrift store find, and the owl border is from Really Good Stuff.

My cute little block center. Just the basics for now, as they learn to sort and put them away correctly.

Here is my first science center of the year. The kids love trying to crack the nuts, and it really gets them observing and talking to each other.

I simplified our meeting center big time. One of my big goals this year is doing more project based learning, hence the KWL chart being a major focus of our calendar wall.

I made the schedule myself. It's FREE on TpT!

This is my parent info center that is out in the hall. Each month I send home a homework calendar I get from TpT each month (they are awesome!), some parenting tips, and the current week's newsletter. The newsletter also comes from TpT. Wow, I didn't realize how much I spend on there!

This year, I put my teacher desk/table right next to the door, so I can be more accessible to parents and kids as they're filtering in.

Here's my adorable new reading center. The kids LOVE LOVE LOVE the little couches, and they look so cute on them. I ordered them from Kaplan.

I'm really looking forward to this year. We already have 6 days down, and I just love my class!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unit 1 Math Centers

Here are the math centers I use at the beginning of the year. At this time we are studying counting, comparing and ordering numbers 0-5 (K.CC.4). I keep my current centers in tubs labeled with numbers, and store the unused centers in Ziploc bags.

Tub 1: Lakeshore Learning's Bug Sequencing Puzzles

 Tub 2: Lakeshore Learning's Count & Link Kit

 Tub 3: Lego and Number Card Match

 Tub 4: Number Puzzles (I think I got these through Scholastic Book Clubs!)

 Tub 5: More Number Puzzles!

 Tub 6: Pegboards (I like to keep at least one center open-ended!

Tub 7: Number Dot Cards and Pom Poms (to match up and count)

For now, 7 is enough! I will leave these out for the first three weeks as we learn the rules and routines of workshop time.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Maintaining my Energy

This one seems like it would be the easiest of my resolutions, but it's by far the most difficult! A couple months ago, my husband bought me a FitBit Flex for my birthday.

I love this thing! I wear it like a watch, and it records my activity throughout the day. I've worn it with a heart rate monitor, and it's pretty accurate at measuring the calories I'm burning! On things like a stationary bike it's useless, but I can enter that info on my own. Getting credit for my workouts is such a motivator!

Here's what my phone app looks like on a good day:

Before this year, I honestly rarely worked out. Having this tracker plus having friends to drag me to the gym have been key. It's hard to get myself there, but I feel so much better afterwards! It definitely has helped with stress, and with back pain caused by sitting in those tiny Kinder chairs too much!

Here's what else I've been working on:
  • Sleep. I aim for 7.5 hours a night. Trying to keep a close-to-normal schedule on the weekends has helped. Staying up until 2am on Saturday and sleeping until noon really messes me up for the first half of the next week! I do much better if I'm in bed by midnight and up by 8 on the weekends. 
  • Drinking More Water. I bring a 24oz water bottle to school every morning, and start drinking as soon as I'm done with my coffee. Then I refill it at lunch.
  • Bringing a Healthy Snack. I get crabby when I'm hungry! By first recess at 10:00, I'm usually starved. Just a few tablespoons of mixed nuts and dark chocolate is enough to hold me over. In the afternoon I munch on a granola bar.
  • Getting to Work Earlier. I give myself a half hour before the work day starts to check email, surf around a bit, listen to music and sip my coffee in peace. I absolutely hate feeling rushed, so this helps me start the day in a more positive state of mind. It's also become a great time to work on this blog!
My first few years teaching, I really worked myself to death and neglected my health. I didn't realize how connected my physical/mental health were to my teaching until taking an incredible behavior management class by Fairy Dust Teaching's Sally Haughey. A happy teacher makes a better teacher!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Revamping my Curriculum

  1. I want my kids to have rich experiences.
  2. It takes forever to plan engaging lessons from scratch.
  • Find the right balance of routine and novelty.
  • Do it in SMALL steps.
Provide new, exciting materials every day, or stick to the same old, same old? I've been on both sides of that spectrum. And neither is ideal. A balance works best.

Here's what the first half of my lesson plan template looks like currently, to show how I manage the "routine" part. It's so easy to just fill in the blanks with this week's theme, story, etc.

Now for the fun part, the novelty! I've gathered many great ideas over the years, but had a difficult time fitting them in! I always feel like there's not enough time, but when I think about it, there is a lot that can be cut out, and plenty of activities that don't need to be done as often. This leads into the next points...
  • Take time to browse for new ideas.
  • Incorporate your passions into your teaching.
  • Get organized!
Pinterest is a teacher's best friend! You can browse my boards here:

Sarah's Pinterest

My biggest passions are definitely art & science. So I looked for ways I could incorporate those into everyday math, reading, and writing activities. I found so much great stuff!

So many wonderful ideas. But so many that take a lot of time to prepare. *sigh*
Organization is key! I invested heavily in ziplocs, tabbed binders, and totes, and it has paid off.

Over the summer, I gathered all my great lessons together and got all my files sorted out so that I can be more efficient and get everything in that I want to! I am most proud of myself for eliminating almost ALL worksheets!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Becoming a Happier Teacher

"Nothing without Joy." ~Loris Malaguzzi

The Happiness Project. Have you read it? As someone who craves organization and structure, I was in love with this book! The idea is that you make resolutions, break them down into achievable steps, and track your progress. It occurred to me that the same concept could be applied to teaching. I LOVE my job, but I get frustrated and worn out often.

Here are my resolutions: 

1 Maintain my energy

  • Sleep for at least 7.5 hours
  • Drink 6 cups of water
  • Bring a healthy snack
  • Exercise an hour a day
  • Run a teaching blog!

2 Revamp my lessons
  • Find the right balance of routine & novelty
  • Take time to browse for new ideas
  • Incorporate my passions into teaching

3 Revamp my classroom management

  • Develop an "attention getter" bank
  • Reflect on and provide for individual's needs
  • Give them time
  • Use Class Dojo & keep it positive

4 Get organized

  • Place master copies in binders
  • De-clutter
  • Organize & label cabinets
  • Organize plans for the year into files

I'll delve way deeper into each of these areas in the next few weeks.

For now, here's a "TO DO" list I keep on my desktop to remind myself of my goals every day!