Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Great Kindness Challenge- Week Highlights

My school participated in The Great Kindness Challenge last week.  We had a week full of school wide kindness activities and of course each classroom is doing kindness focused lessons, also.  Here are some of the highlights of the week in my classroom.

Each day of Kindness Week had a theme, think dress-up days. Kinder teachers are made for dress-up days!  Monday started off the week with "team spirit" day where we were encouraged to wear sports or dance team clothes.  Considering that I have to borrow a shirt for every sports team spirit day I decided to re-work the 'team' in team spirit.  I give you, KINDergarten Team, complete with our names on the back... in glitter (nothing is really 'complete' in Kindergarten until you add the glitter!)

One of my favorite whole school activities was the door decorating "contest" (everyone won in the end).  We had a great time decorating our door and even more fun going on a tour around the school to check out the other doors. My door was already covered in snowflakes and will need to be redecorated for Valentine's day and the 100th day so I went for the minimalist approach.  We also expanded our door decorations to include a portion of the wall (part of my master plan to be able to decorate for the 100th day and not have to be, "that person" who took down the Kindness Week decor the day after). Our "Flurry of Kindness" was made by asking students to pick the one word that was the most important in their idea of "how to be kind."  Once a word was selected, the word was written by an adult in Sharpie and then written (and written, and written) by the Kinder using rainbow writing.

We even made the local paper with our all school heart photo! It's "KIND" of awesome.

Check out my original Great Kindness Challenge post for more information/ideas.

Keep up the kindness!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Valentine Love!

Are you ready for the love-fest that will be invading Kinder classrooms everywhere starting tomorrow?  

I always get some kick out of how Kinders turn the holiday that happens during a month into something that begins on the first day of that month.  We all know the moment that the "October" calendar title gets placed on the classroom calendar there are cheers of, "Halloween!"  We go through the same process in December (oh man- December), and February brings us to "I got Trolls valentines!" "My mommy said I can get Shopkins cards!" Today brought a special moment where one of my students informed everyone that she would be wearing special leggings for Valentine's day and that people should touch them because they will be really soft. (Teachable moment of the morning- reminders about keeping hands to ourselves even if we want to touch someone's clothes.)

This year I had a chance to try out three sets of Valentines from my favorite game company, Peaceable Kingdom. (If you don't own a Peaceable Kingdom game yet- get one! You won't regret it.)  These cards are really fun- one set is even scented! (Flashback to your own childhood memories of scratch and sniff stickers and of course, getting dots on your nose from smelling a scented marker a little too close).

I've ranked the three sets I tried for cuteness factor and how user friendly they are for my Kinders. All three of these packs are adorable and well constructed. I tested out writing on the "To" and "From" lines on each of these cards and I was able to write on the Valentine with a pencil- no permanent marker required here! You'll be happy with any of these!

The frog bookmarks are sturdy enough to survive being tossed between the pages of an early reader chapter book (or even a not-so-early reader chapter book.)

Each bookmark pops out of a rectangular card which fits neatly inside the enclosed white envelope.  The envelopes have enough adhesive to actually stick (envelopes that don't stick are one of my teacher peeves.)

Next up I'm putting the Tic Tac Toe Valentine.  This Valentine has a fun bonus- you get to pop off the X's and O's and play the game.  The game pieces are made of paper and can be reused for multiple rounds- best game of three, perhaps? 

The kit comes with envelopes and stickers.  My plan was to use the stickers on the envelope (even though the envelopes are sticky enough to stick shut) so that the envelope is reusable.  I love the idea of playing the game, don't so much love the idea of finding little X and O game pieces everywhere- easy fix if you use the envelope to hold the pieces!

Okay- I am partial to a pencil "gift" for my students.  These scratch and sniff pencil toppers have a sweet grape or strawberry scent to them (even though I was nervous about smelling the skunk- don't worry, all good!)  The holes in these cards made for easy assembly.  The only thing to know about these is that while the box seems large enough to have pencils included, it does not.

You can get any of these Valentines here!

What ever way you celebrate with all your little Valentines, I wish you a month full of love! All holidays are month long after all, remember?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Great Kindness Challenge

This week I won't be teaching Kindergarten.  This week I'll be teaching KINDergarten.

January 23-27, 2017 my school will be participating in The Great Kindness Challenge. Check out the event website- it's loaded with activities and resources!  Each day this week has a different kindness theme, complete with wardrobe options to match (we all know Kinder teachers are great at dressing up- it's basically an unofficial requirement for this grade level).

I was a fan when I heard of the idea of a week devoted to Kindness.  After checking into the program I discovered that one of the bigger sponsors is Peaceable Kingdom.  Peaceable Kingdom is my favorite company for the cooperative games.  Check them out here!  The games are age appropriate and entertaining.  The games are also made from recycled materials and parts are replaceable (just call the company- they are super helpful and 'get' the mystery of where game pieces disappear to within classroom walls.)  I reviewed the company a few years ago, I still think they're fabulous!

I don't have too many exact plans worked out, yet (the inspiration moments that happen in the shower or on the way to school haven't hit yet).  Here are the two ideas I have plotted out on my particularly blank plan book for next week.
  • One of my lessons is going to be to make a Kindness Quilt (out of paper).  We'll be reading the book The Kindness Quilt and making our own quilt as a class. When I was in Kindergarten my teacher had an annual family project where each Kinder's family decorated a fabric square which was sewn into an actual quilt.  I have always wanted to bring that project back and feel that this paper quilt may eventually become my version.  For now, this is an in-school project.  
  • We're also participating in a door decorating contest (school wide) where our classroom door will be transformed from sparkly snowflakes to a, "flurry of kindness."  (Taking down all of the snowflakes to put them back up in a week just isn't a good use of any of my prep blocks- this would be an example of 'working with what you've got').

So what will you be teaching?  Ready for the challenge to teach KINDergarten? You've got this!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

MLK Day Projects

Part of my MLK Day mini-unit includes one of my favorite projects of the year.  

I've always been a fan of the Curious George movie soundtrack- it went from the stack of nap time CDs in my 3 year old classroom, to being a regular supplier of background music for the end of Kindergarten slide show.  If you don't own it- add it to your teacher collection, ASAP!

The track that I use for this project is, "My Own Two Hands."

How often do we have to reassure our Kinders that they can do things? They live in a world where they are frequently the smallest, where adults often complete tasks for them, and where things take practice and perseverance to accomplish with independence. Yet, from 8:35am - 3:00pm there are these teachers (that's us, of course) who help them each discover the many things they can do!

Here's the break down of what I do for this project:
1. Begin by reviewing the important characteristics about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Talk about some of the changes that happened because of what he dreamed.

2. Have students turn and talk about what they could do to keep MLK's dream happening. (Be kind to a friend in the class, play with someone who is alone, help someone tie a shoe).  Try to have students be specific when they say, "be kind" ask one way they could be kind.

3. Each student picks one idea that they talked about.

4. Provide students with a large piece of white paper.  You will need to write the sentence stem, "I can _________ with my own two hands." Read the sentence stem to students and model where the words go.  I do not model adult spelling, I use the same strategies I have my students use and have them 'help' me spell my words.

5. You will need to do the hand tracing for this project to work.  While students wait for you to trace their hands they can write their words.  I trace both hands with thumbs together.

6. I explain to my students that they need to sketch and color inside of the hands.  When these are hanging on a hallway bulletin board it makes a nice visual to see all of these hands amid the white of the larger paper. (It really is OK to leave a paper without coloring in every inch of it as blue sky!)

Alternative version this year!
After completing the "My Two Hands" project with my Kinders we worked on a combined effort with our 4th grade buddies.  This time we had students trace and cut their hands out of construction paper.  Students worked together to complete this paper, focusing on what they could do together. 

These projects came out so nicely we decided to share them at our all school meeting. Who doesn't love big and little buddy sweet projects?!

Remember, you, too can do many things with your own two (teacher) hands!

New Year, New Blog

New year, new blog... well, kind of new.  Taking on an old blog and making it new again is more like it. This teacher's New Year's (blogging) Resolution is to create a resource for other Early Childhood Educators to be able to find monthly home and school projects. Got to put all of those face-less, name-less, work photographs to good use!

Speaking of New Year's Resolutions...
In January, my student's work on planning a New Year's Resolution at school and finalize their choice at home for the January home project.  We connect New Year's Resolutions to our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr study by focusing on making goals and planning ways to make those goals happen.

How exactly do you teach Kinders to make a realistic goal?

  • I start this project by reading Squirrel's New Year's Resolution.  We 'stop and talk' after almost every page quickly asking if Squirrel had figured out a New Year's Resolution yet.  
  • After the read aloud explain to students how New Year's Resolutions help people be kinder, more helpful, and/or get better at something.  Have your students turn and talk about things they want to learn/do this year and have a few students share out ideas when they turn back.  
  • Show students the following paper (this link is being fixed).  Students should each pick two goals. I use two versions of this paper to allow differentiation between my students.  The idea is that students each brainstorm two goals which they will take home and select from with their families.
  • The family home project connection for this project is using this paper.  Students work with their family to pick one of the two goals from their brainstorm.  Families should talk about how their Kinder can accomplish their goal and how their family can support them.
When family home projects return to school (I always leave a week for families to work on these projects) students take turns sharing what they worked on.  Sharing family home projects allows students an opportunity to connect family work with school work.  I also feel that by being clear with the families that the projects get shared, more families work on completing these projects.

Happy Resolution Planning!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bring on the Kinders! Day 2 2013

With day 1 accounted for I was ready for day 2!  Here's some basic information/ ideas from Ms C's attempt on day 2, which was also approached armed with the name tags, a pile of books and invisible bag of teacher tricks.

Day 2

Schedule "routine" items for day 2:
Playground rules, quiet sign, attention getter ("bump-ba-da-bump-bump" is the only one I use), clean up bell, fire drill, morning meeting, and jobs.  I also had to re-teach how to use the sink and the process for washing hands before snack.  Day 3 may include another round of this- I really want to get the sink routine under control before I spend the entire year cleaning up puddles and running out of paper towels.

Activites for day 2:
After reading Wemberly Worried we talked about things we worry about in Kindergarten.  Students drew a picture of his/her Kindergarten worry, again with the option to write words if they were ready.  Here's a link if you're interested:

The second must-do for Day 2 was the start of a project using the Kissing Hand.  This project will take a few days.  Before working on this project students explored scissors.  We talked about how to safely use scissors and then students were asked to cut a piece of paper into strips.  This is a great way to quickly tell who has used scissors before and who will need hand-over-hand support for a while.  The first part of the Kissing Hand project was to cut out a tracing of his/her hand (I did the tracing).

One other teacher must-do is to take the class outside for photos on the playground.  I love the colors of the playground!  Make sure that you take your class outside when no other class is using the playground.  I have my class sit in the shade so that each picture is of only the child and some of the playground.  I do this again at the end of the year (for the slide show).  The beginning of the year photos are used in the Art Gallery, hanging next to each child's self portrait spot all year. 

Books for day 2: 

Day 2 "things to send home": 
The only items I sent home at the end of Day 2 were from the school.   

Good luck everyone!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bring on the Kinders! First Day 2013

Ok- #1 Blogger slacker here.  I have lots of Kinder D5 items to post at some point.  For now, I want to share some first day items.
Day 1

Armed with name tags, a pile of first day of Kindergarten books, and of course my teacher "bag of tricks" (the invisible one), I started off my year with 17 new friends (#18 hasn't arrived yet).

Schedule "routine" items for day 1:
Supply sorting, cubby routines (lunchbox on top, backpack on the hook), bathroom "how to," School Listening Look, School Walking Style, cafeteria rules, school tour, classroom tour, preview of Choice Time (teacher selected choice), quiet time with books, and lots of extra time for dismissal!  I saved a few items for day 2: Playground rules, quiet sign, attention getter ("bump-ba-da-bump-bump" is the only one I use), clean up bell, fire drill, morning meeting, and jobs.

Activites for day 1:
Every year I create a book of self portraits that each student draws, monthly.  The first entry in each book is a drawing from the first day of Kindergarten (the last page is for the last day of Kindergarten).  Before students complete this activity we explore the crayons.  We look at the crayons and talk about what we do and don't do with them.  There is a space on the portrait page for writing- this is not an expectation but I want to provide an opportunity for students who are ready to write or at least ready to try.  My first day portrait paper:

Books for day 1:

Day 1 "things to send home":
I send home a first day letter to the parents letting them know of some classroom policies and procedures that I need to share prior to Back to School Night (in late September).  Mainly, I let them know about my birthday policy.  I ask that families do not send in gift bags and that if they would like to send something in they can send in something for classroom, preferably a book.   As far as "celebrating" birthdays, I ask that parents send in a special book (they are also welcome to come in and read the book).  Attached to the letter is a copy of the supply list/ wish list, a dismissal log, and an allergy alert (from the nurse).  I also send home a small home project, a "me bag."  Each student is asked to bring in 3-4 small items in the bag to share the following week.  Lastly, a small postcard from me, saying some of the things we did on our first day.

I had a great, exhausting day with my new batch of Kinders and I hope everyone else did, too!

Happy School Year!