Thursday, March 31, 2011

I forgot one!

You know you're a kindergarten teacher when you find yourself calling to your dog: "Not safe!" or "Uh-oh!" instead of commands dogs actually understand.

You Know You Teach Kindergarten When...

(...I'm not so sure how I'm feeling about this Grey's Anatomy musical event so I figure this is a good time to make my list...)

-You own silver glitter TOMS and a highlighter pink J. Crew shirt and think: "Man, if I were five, I'd want to be in my class too!"

-You search through your bag for a pen...and instead of finding a normal blue ballpoint find at least one of the following: a dry-erase marker, a tricolor "Hold Right" pencil, a Mr. Sketch marker (or in my case an entire box...), a silly band, and a snap cube.

-You willingly sing loud and proud in front of your students despite how tone deaf you are.

-Freeze Dance Friday means 3 minutes of jumping around the classroom to Greg & Steve's "The Freeze." Kindergarten dancing=jumping up and down. Try it. It's the best dancing ever.

-Nearly every day begins with, "Miss ________, I love your hair/shoes/jacket/earrings/face/etc." followed by 10 hands shooting up in the air from students who want to compliment you as well. I usually respond with, "Boys and girls, we could do this all day--I love your compliments, but we have a lot of learning to do so we are going to have to stop soon...". :)

-You've heard the following joke, or a variation of the following joke, every day for the past 4 weeks:
Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Tree, who?
Tree shoe.
Tree and shoe=substituted for any and all items within students' view

-You've watched a Leap Frog DVD to help you fall asleep since it was still in your laptop from rainy day recess, and you were too tired to get up to find a different movie to watch.

-At least once a day you have a moment where you just start laughing with your students, because silly stuff just HAPPENS, and every classroom needs laughter.

-You see "love" blossoming in the form of students sitting next to each other in the classroom library...and the kids are sharing a book and also holding hands. Love of reading? Check. Kinder crushes? Check. New carpet seats the next day? Check.

-You LOVE your job.

"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity." -JFK

Today my class met up with the class of my super cool friend, Miss Smith, who teaches 5th grade. On Tuesday at our staff meeting, we played some of the games our students learn with our PE and recess coach, Coach Tes. We are lucky enough to have an amazing program called Playworks at our school for our students...and we are even luckier to have Coach Tes! She is phenomenal!

We had so much fun starting our day with 20 minutes of physical activity! My students only needed a minute or two to settle down when we returned the classroom, and I really saw a noticeable difference in their energy levels. Relative to last year, my students this year are younger. Last year I had 5 students who turned 6 in December, and by March over half of my class (more than 10 students) was 6! Tomorrow is the first day of April, and only 6 of my students are already 6! The age difference may not sound like a big deal to anyone besides parents and kindergarten teachers, but I can tell my students this year have extra energy to burn, so we do even more singing and dancing than last year (who knew it was possible?!). As a result, playing a game this morning with Miss Smith and her students helped burn some of that energy and let our bodies and brains really focus on learning.

Monkeys=better google
image results than
mosquitoes! :)
This morning, we played "Monkeys and Mosquitoes," a team game of tag. We split into two teams (see if you can guess what they're called...), and the teams stand facing each other. Then the teacher (or coach or game leader) calls out either "Monkeys!" or "Mosquitoes!" Whichever team's name is called has to chase the other team and try to tag as many people as possible. If a player is tagged, he/she freezes and then switches over to the other team. It's a little confusing to explain without any pictures or demonstrations, but it's a GREAT game to play with LOTS of running involved. Even more fun, at the very end we switched it up and made one team the long vowels and the other the short vowels. So, when we said "bit" the short vowels had to chase and to tag the long vowels. Gotta love sneaking learning into games!

...The learning didn't stop there though. Students then wrote notes to Miss Smith and her class to thank them for playing with us, and tomorrow each student will have a nice surprise waiting on his/her desk: a personal response from a 5th grader. I can't wait to see their faces when they find their letters!

To say that Miss Smith is awesome is an understatement--I am so glad my students spent time with her students since I know they now have great role models to look up to at school!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

RAWR! Student Writing!

At the beginning of the school year, I was at Target and saw the cutest hamper...

I knew I needed it, because it clearly fit my safari theme. I was also inspired by Sarah Cooley's "Sound Muncher" (Check out her super cute blog: First Last!), but I wasn't sure exactly how I'd use it in my classroom.

For part of a grad school assignment last semester though, I decided to turn the lion hamper into my mailbox. Students could write me notes or draw pictures for me and put them in my mailbox, and I promised to check it...and a trend began! Usually I give students some direction with their writing, but if it is a free choice, I often have a few letters or pictures waiting for me at the end of the day.

Today's letter, however, just made my day! I think I am going to frame it for when this student wins a Nobel Prize or Genius Award, because I'm pretty sure she will, and I want to be able to say: "I was her kindergarten teacher!"

Continued on the back: I used crayons. how do you like it.

Ridiculously amazing, right? I love my job and my students.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I'm on a blog-updating roll.

So half the school year has passed since I began this blog. Woops. Life has its crazy twists and turns, and I don't even know where to begin. So much for using this blog to recall the amazing and fun lessons I did the first 3/4 of the school year!

Let me instead jump ahead to RIGHT now, March 28, and share my current obsessions:
1. Organizing. Like crazy. I've been labeling and sorting everything in my classroom. Nothing makes me happier than when everything has a place, and I am finally getting all my resources organized!

2. Donors Choose. So, I've been obsessed with Donors Choose since August when my first project for puzzles was funded. Since then my students have had all sorts of amazing learning experiences thanks to generous donors. Plus, even though my bank account is still taking a hit with all that I buy for my classroom, I have been able to be more picky about my own purchases since we have all kinds of cool stuff from Lakeshore and other great places via Donors Choose!

3. Designing my classroom for literacy. I cannot get enough of Debbie Diller's Spaces & Places. Oh my goodness! This book is filled with amazing photos of classrooms that are designed for developing students' love for learning and creating literacy-friendly environments. Every teacher needs a copy of this book!

Spaces & Places: Designing Classrooms for Literacy

4. Books! Certainly not a new obsession. I have a hard time walking by a bookstore lately without purchasing multiple books! I've been splurging a bit on books about literacy and reading...and also books for my students to read and for me to read to them.

Current favorites include:

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
A great book about how it's okay if our writing and drawings aren't perfect!

365 Penguins
Our latest favorite book: 365 Penguins! We just went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and we read this book the day after! You'd be amazed at the responses I got to: "What would you do if you had 365 penguins?" Responding to literature in kindergarten? You betcha!
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!
Any and all Pigeon books by Mo Willems! My students LOVE Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant and Piggie of course! Check out his many amazing books!! I linked to one for each character!

Pigeon has been our wonderful take home friend this year. He goes home in a backpack with a journal and a couple of his books for students to read at home with their parents. Everyone should get a Pigeon!
Don't Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus - Plush Stuffed Animals (with Voice)

4. Critical Thinking. Lately I've really been focusing on how to engage my students' brains and thought processes beyond "simple" academic skills. We're doing a lot of problem solving, explaining our thoughts, and responding to each other's thoughts. I credit my amazing advisor for helping me think a lot about how to do this in a kindergarten classroom, and I am really happy with the results I'm seeing! One amazing resource for all of this: The K-Crew! I love the Buzz Book, After the Buzz, and What's the Problem?! They are all fun ways to engage students in shared writing and problem solving--and everything is ready to go!

Well, that's all for now. I'm hoping I'll be able to keep up blogging, especially since I get pretty much all my great ideas from other blogs (in other words, they're not my ideas...good teachers borrow!), so wish me luck, please!