Wednesday, August 1, 2012

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?

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