Friday, August 17, 2012

Garage Sales and Doughnuts

I have done a great job of staying away from garage sales this summer, but today I cracked. To be fair, it was a friend's garages sale, and she called me, saying that she had stuff she thought I'd like and it was going fast! So, good friend that I am, I got up, threw some clothes & sunscreen on, and headed over. I kept it down to $10 and got some great book sets for my Title kids, some Scholastic book videos on VHS, and some books on tape (including Eric Carle and Leo Leoni).

Then, because my friend's daughter is such a good salesperson, I bought a doughnut. It was my favorite kind of doughnut (which I think she did a good job of guessing! If she hadn't said "We only have one cinnamon left," I probably wouldn't have bit!). I wasn't going to eat it until I got home, because if you see above, I hadn't eaten breakfast yet! But it was sitting on my front car seat, and calling to me, so I caved. Then I paid for it all morning with a tummy ache! So not worth it!

Now, I just have to make sure I actually use these new books and tapes!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

To Clip or not to Clip?

So, I don't have a consistent behavior management that I love. I have a few systems in place that I use on and off, and in all reality it depends on my mood. Last year I was either sick or recovering most days, so I really didn't have the energy to be proactive, which ended up wasting a lot more energy!

(SQUIRREL! I just overheard my husband use the word "vacay" with a construction foreman! LOL! Really working hard not to laugh in front of them...)

By the end of the year, my management system was based on smiles, raised eyebrows, and exasperated looks. SUPER effective. *she says sarcastically*

A solution? Maybe? Everyone is blogging and TpT-ing about their Clip Chart systems: rainbow-colored banners where kids' clips can start in the middle on green (Ready to Learn) and move up and/or down through a variety of levels, with the goal of ending up on purple (Outstanding) or red (Call Home). Lots of people have shared their takes on it, but the original work is from Rick Morris at

I'm wondering if I can adjust this to the bucket-fillers concept? We now have the book in Spanish, and my new roommate will be focusing on that again this year. I can use the bucket and pom poms for the whole class, and the chart for individuals. We could use markers or colored pencils to indicate kids' behaviors on a calendar or daily record sheet if necessary.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Projects to Start With...

So much to think about and consider before we get rolling in just a few weeks! Here are some routines I want to think through and revamp for next year. Interestingly, they all have to do with folders! Stay tuned to see what I come up with...

  1. Homework folders
  2. Communication folders (should 1 & 2 be the same?)
  3. Sub folder
  4. Writing folders
  5. Science/Soc St/Song $& chant folders
  6. Math folders
Now, last year, a good chunk of these folders spent a good chunk of the year empty, in a basket, collecting dust on my top shelf. And the kids' papers were a mess... At the same time, I have to remember, they're only five!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Post specials to Calendar

My friend Tonia at Kinder-Korner gave me a good idea today. On the calendar on her class website she has marked the specials they go to each day. That's a great idea because it reminds parents when kids need to wear their tennis shoes to school--although they really should be wearing them every day!

Other items to post could be the theme or topic for the week, sight words, letter focus, read alouds, links to supporting websites (like PBS's Clifford games when we're reading lots of Clifford books or Scholastic's home fire drill activities). I could even include attachments to our pictorial input or anchor charts for skills that families can practice at home. Weekly homework reminders would be helpful, too.

Oh, the possibilities! Now, if only my families had the internet! I guess I really need to set those computer lab open houses up... 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Teacher Tips #ORVSD

So, in addition to my full-time teaching job, I also do some work on the side as a trainer with the ORVSD: Oregon Virtual School District.  I was thinking tonight about what I could do this year to share information with teachers and encourage teachers who are using Google Apps for Education in their classrooms. We've often played with this idea, but no one has every really fleshed it out: Tech Tips for Teachers short video blogs (the name is certainly up for improvement). If Ican put together a short video each week one one specific thing--conventions or best practices or a different way to think of or use a Google tool--and then be available to moderate comments or a discussion, that could really helpful to connect teachers around the state who are doing the same thing.

I know one of the hardest things for me about using Google Apps with my students is that I'm the only one I know of at my grade level. I know there are plenty of other kinder and primary teachers doing creative things with these tools, but they don't work where I work, and we don't currently have a good way to connect over this issue.

This could be a resource where there was a live component--every Wednesday from 4-4:15 or something--but then the videos and discussion would remain as a resource that teachers could search and read or refer to later.

What about the Google Apps CAFE? Creative uses, Application (naming conventions, etc.), Fabulous project ideas, and Exemplary teaching practices? That's probably a stretch. One thing I'll have to consider is that many of the ideas, practices, and conventons I want to share would require my colleagues' help. They'll have to be willing to respond to my emails, or else I can comb through their presentation materials and websites to get the info... Either way, lots of research.

But we can use the extra cash, and I'm not coaching this year, and I hopefully am not having surgery, either, which took up lots of extra time last year!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Free Fonts from Mrs. Law

From my email-it-to-myself-so-I-can-find-it-later archives:

Free teachery handwriting fonts from Mrs. Law to download on my various machines!

Summer Tips from Teach Preschool

From my email-it-to-myself-so-I-can-find-it-later archives:

Summer Tips. 

Sounds like I'm a little late! I'm sure they have lots of fun ideas to explore later! I'm pretty sure I saw this on Facebook. Mostly, she's just a great blogger!

Spanish Jump Rope Rhymes

From my email-it-to-myself-so-I-can-find-it-later archives:

Traditional Spanish jump rope rhymes and maybe some hand claps? These are perfect for developing the rhythm and cadence of language! They should definitely be part of our Emergent CAFE Menu!

Poetry Ideas

From my email-it-to-myself-so-I-can-find-it-later archives:

10 Ways for Kids to Experience Poetry

It also includes a link to this blog post about poetry baskets:

iPad folder games

Also an idea from Dr. Jean's blog:

Photocopy your iPad open to a horizontal text-input screen on cardstock, mount and laminate. Or attach inside a file folder. Kids can "type" their names, the alphabet, sight words, etc. How fun is that! This also develops early keyboarding skills as it familiarizes kids with a QWERTY keyboard. In this world of high-speed electronic communication, keyboarding is a crucial skill!

You could also make a class set mounted on cardstock and/or tagboard, and use for whole class letter ID activities and sight word practice. Maybe even blow up a big one on the wall or Smart board! Oooh, you could make a Smart board game where touching the key brings you to a page with objects or a game for that letter!

The Alphabet in My Mouth

I saw this SUPER CUTE class book idea on Dr. Jean's blog! I LOVE it! I think we could even do this on our iPad, and draw the letters inside our mouths, then create an "eBook" using iMovie with our voices singing the song. I can't wait to try it out! It sings well in English and Spanish. Here is the song:

The Alphabet in My Mouth
(Tune:  “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”)
I’ve got A /a/ /a/ in my mouth.
I’ve got A /a/ /a/ in my mouth.
I’ve got A /a/ /a/ in my mouth,
And I can read.

El abecedario en mi boca
(Tune: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," adapted by Mrs. Doring)
Tengo la A /a/ /a/ en mi boca.
Tengo la A /a/ /a/ en mi boca.
Tengo la A /a/ /a/ en mi boca, 
Y yo sé cómo leer. 

Student Work Display

When our school was designed and built about ten years ago, they really tried to think of everything. One of those things was that hallways tend to become display space in elementary schools. It was a smart thought, right? However, instead of lining the hallways in beautiful, soft cork, it's this unfinished, scratchy, slivery wood material. You can, technically, staple into it, but the staples don't like going in, and they don't like coming out! Most teachers have a set of pliers for this purpose. 

So for the last two years, instead of switching out cutesy thematic bulletin board displays we've stapled a solid paper background and silver boarder on in September, and then stapled a piece of laminated construction paper for each student. Last year, I put the student's name and picture in the corner of their spot, and then throughout the year we use clear scotch tape to attach student work to their special spot. The idea has caught on and spread from the kindergarten classes to most of the primary hallways now. It's SO much faster and easier to manage throughout the year than pulling out staples!

For next year, I think I'm going to purchase one of the a-la-carte flat colored sheets from Walmart in their dorm section to use instead of a paper background. My teaching roommate purchased fadeless paper and cut and laminated it, but I think I might just try scrapbook paper? Something cute and colorful, or maybe just solid cardstock. Last year we taped work up, but it fell down a lot. I think this time around I'm going to Mod Podge coordinating scrapbook paper onto clothespins, and hotglue on two clothespins per kid. We can still tape on, but I think for most of our work, one or two clothespins will be plenty. I even collected clothespins that had been written on front and back out of people's trash at the end of the year last year! =)

Now to chose my colors and get my Mod Podge on!

A Box a Day Keeps the Clutter Away!

Clutter Free Classroom's Flash Freebie today was labels for daily planning magazine files or book boxes where you put your read alouds, copies, materials, etc. for each day of the week. I've tried this method on-and-off the last two years, but it's hard to find room for this in a shared classroom, and to keep up with things--especially if you have materials you didn't end up using. I do really like the idea, though! Maybe if it's cute and in a new space (new classroom for the fifth year in a row!), it will be easier to keep up with. I like the quick and visual way of long-term (well, for the week) planning, instead of writing out: "I'll need this book for Monday and these copies for Tuesday and died pasta shells for Friday," or something like that.

I do know that having everything together like this makes it so easy for a sub to follow, or for my assistant to show my sub the plan. I did do this faithfully one week at a time (one tub per week) when I was out for an extended period last year for my surgery.

Cheap cardboard magazine files

Clutter Free Classroom Post

On Yearbooks and Sleepless Nights

Just a preemptive reminder to myself:

This year I MUST create videos/photo slideshows and yearbook pages THROUGHOUT the year! Last year I had an excuse since I was sick and gone SO much that I was constantly in survival mode playing catch-up. But really? I pulled way too many all-nighters the week before graduation finishing our year-end iMovie and scrapbooking our yearbook (when no moms showed up to help =(  ). This year I cannot do that to myself! Maybe this week I can create some default scrapbook layouts for each season/field trip/party so next year I just have to drop in the photos? Or maybe I can print out the photos in a blank layout and have the kids illustrate them after each event... That may be a cuter keepsake than my scrapbooking skills! Hmmm...

Ooh, I know! For the video I think I want to record kids saying what we did and where and when. Like a short little introduction for each scene, instead of creating a title screen! This we can also do throughout the year, and I really need to show kids the videos all along, otherwise there's no point in recording and saving them, since only 1-2 minutes of each event makes the final DVD! I wonder how much of this I can do on my new iPad?

Name Cards

To add to my last post on Name Tickets and handwriting practice, here are a few more thoughts:

The name cards we make each year on cardstock for the kids are how we mark attendance each day. The first kids who come in pull the cards out of a pocket on the attendance pocket chart, and spread them out on a nearby table. As the kids come in, they find their name, and put it in the pocket chart. When we clean up to start class, I use the remaining names on the table to mark attendance online. The kids are welcome to go grab their name card at any time throughout the day if they need it to copy when writing. Later in the year they like to grab their friends' names to write them accurately in their journals or to write them letters or lists during free choice.

I've found in the past that for most kids, the name cards are the perfect size to be covered up with a jumbo sticky note which are see-through enough that they can trace their name. Maybe this is how we start the year? The kids pick up their name, trace it (or just the first letter or two to start with), then bring it to me to check. Once their name is written correctly to the best of their ability, they can put it in the pocket chart and go make a choice.

This will work much better if they trickle in. It may be tough to manage if they all come in from recess at once, at least at first. I wonder when I'll have my assistant this year? Last year she came in for a few minutes during this time to check in with me, then left right away for her lunch break. If there were two of us, it would be no trouble... We'll have to see!

When They Come In

Okay, folks. Let the randomness begin! This is the part where I "blog" the random ideas I think of throughout the day so that I can get them out of my head and organized electronically so I can remember them when I need to, and don't have to dream about them all night long. Because really, teaching all day is tiring enough--I don't like to do it all night, too!

I teach afternoon half-day kinder, and the beginning of our day is hard because the kids trickle in at all different times. And when the bus is late, sometimes half my class is 15-20 minutes late. As much as I LOVE starting the day off with exercises and Brain Gym and/or calendar time, I couldn't figure out any way to make that work last year. I had great intentions of starting with handwriting groups like my roommate (and morning teacher) does, but that just didn't happen. Because of the nature of my morning Title I Reading position, I have a lot of paperwork that has to be done each day for each student. I don't like to go back after school because by then I've often forgotten the formative notes I wanted to write for each student.

So, this means that a lot of days, I enter my kinder classroom 5-15 minutes before class starts. On the days I don't have a lunch, I sometimes enter with the kids (I am so thankful for a McDonald's that is close enough I can drive through and get back in 5-8 minutes!). Which means that if I am not completely ready for class the night before, I need that first few minutes to pull things together. So, last year, it ended up as free choice time every day. I know the kids need that play time, but it caused me to cut a lot of valuable things out of our day that affected our end-of-the-year achievement. The biggest of those areas were science and handwriting.

So, here's my thought for next year: What if we start the day with self-directed handwriting activities? Then on the days when I'm able, I can meet with small groups or one-on-one with kids to work on their name writing & later sight words.

I think I want to try (for reals this time--not for pretend like I have the last three years...) Nellie Edge's "Name Ticket" strategy where the kids come in and the first thing they have to do is write their name on a small slip of paper. Then, that slip becomes their "ticket" for the next activity. Instead of free choice, we can do "fine-motor-building choice" activities, like Crystal's (from Kreative in Kinder) pokey pin activities, coloring, playdoh, wikki stix, etc. Even some of our toys like puzzles and Legos may fit into this goal from time to time. I can also put out the HWT magna doodles and wooden shapes, and get kids practicing their names, letters, and numbers. The downside to this is that the kids who come in late will get less practice, but maybe it will be a motivator for kids and parents alike if they know they're missing out. I can't do much about the bus situation, unfortunately. =( Sometimes they're just really, really late. Like last year, there were a couple days where my bus riders were an hour late to school! Once because the bus was in a minor car accident, and a couple times because someone else's field trip caused the bus run to start late. Hopefully we won't have to deal with that quite so much this year!

Also, it just dawned on me (note the random thought process...) that we're going to be bringing the kids early this year and let them eat lunch and go to recess with the first graders. Since most of them eat lunch for free, that may mean I have a lot more on time this year, and if the bus is late, it will make them late to lunch--not to class. That may change how I think this one through...

Storage will also be an issue. I already have tubs for math centers and tubs for reading centers and tubs for ELD activities that take up a lot of shelf space! Instead of putting one activity on each table, I think I'll just make a set of drawers or a toy shelf or maybe a big dish tub or bucket full of acceptable activities. Then I can put whatever I want them doing out in the evenings, and they can come in for the day and use their ticket to choose. Maybe I'll do a star chart system like Bridges does where they have a handwriting folder and have to check off each activity at least once a week, or something like that. Probably not until later in the year, though... Although, it would be nice to have a record of their writing progress in a folder instead of just recycling their little papers each day. Maybe we can glue them in every now and then...

How do your kids come in for the day, and what do you do for handwriting practice?