Sunday, October 23, 2011

Teacher Tips That Save Valuable Learning Time!

Here are a few easy-to-implement tips that will - hopefully - save valuable learning time in your classroom!  (By the way, if you were wondering...the cutesy, wootsy apple table cloth was a $5.00 clearance item at Target.)

1) Pencil E.R. - So the pencil sharpener in our classroom is not the best and I hate how loud it is, so my Kinders do not sharpen their own pencils.  Instead, we have a pencil E.R.  The children know that when they need a new pencil, they put their old one in the Pencil E.R. and take a new one from the sharpened pencil cup.  This system works really well.  The only problem is one a child has a really "cool" pencil and they do not want to risk losing it, in which case, I tell them to set it on my desk (not in the Pencil E.R.) and I will sharpen it later.

Since this photo was taken, I have replaced the cheap Target $1 cup (on the left) with a super cute glass cup my great friend made for me for my birthday a few years ago.  It had been sitting on my desk because I was afraid the kids would break it.  I am, however, training myself to GET OVER IT!  (No good teacher keeps all her "good" stuff to herself.)  You can see it in the photo at the top of this post.

2) Crayon Lost and Found - This is basically the same concept as the Pencil E.R.  If the students find a crayon on the ground, the put it in the Crayon Lost and Found.  This is great because it minimizes those "Mrs. Unger, I found a crayon!!" interruptions.  Also, if the kids need a particular color, they know where to go and what to do without my help.

3) Whisper Phones - Oh the uses!  I keep a basket of Whisper Phones on our catch-all table.  Whisper Phones are useful for students who have difficulty hearing themselves sound out words when they read and write.  They help students who are easily distracted stay on task - I think the physical reminder of having a Whisper Phone on reminds them, "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be writing / reading right now."

4) "Please Sign Up!" Journal - Do you ever try to do one-on-one or small group instruction and other students constantly interrupt?  This idea might help (and it helps young writers with name writing).  Instead of interrupting you, instruct the students to sign up, if they want your attention and/or help.  When you are between interventions, check the list and touch base with the top one or two students on the list.  Be sure to cross off their names after you have checked in with them!

5) Headbands, Hats, and Other Hilarious Head Pieces - This idea piggy-backs off of the "Please Sign Up!" journal.  When you are working one-on-one or in small groups, wear a hat or headband of some sort, as a visual reminder to the other students that it is not a good time to interrupt.  I teach my kids to not interrupt if I am wearing a hat, UNLESS there is "fire, flood, or blood."

It is difficult to see, but this is my basket of hats and headbands.  You can find a lot of seasonal headbands in the $1 bin at Target.

I found this princess hat at the Bristol Ren Faire.  I used to have the same one in pink (from the same faire) when I was a young girl!  Too bad I did not keep it....

6) The Boo Boo Basket - Any elementary school teacher knows the number of boo boo's that can happen in a single day.  It can be overwhelming...and slightly annoying.  I have a basket of Band-Aids in my classroom, but the students know they can only have one if we see blood.  Otherwise, they can rub some boo boo lotion on the owie.  Leftover hotel lotions or any cheap lotions that you have laying around your house work great for boo boo lotion!  Tip!!  Put Band-Aids on your supply list at the beginning of the year.  You know you'll need them!

7) Mini Garbage Cans - I have 6 plastic mini garbage cans that I found at the Dollar Tree. These can be handy when the kids are doing a lot of cutting and you do not want them getting up and down, up and down. Just place one can on each table.

Here are a few more ideas.  I do not have close-up photos for them, but you can spy these ideas in the picture at the top of this post:

8) Bell - I keep a bell handy to signal clean-up time or if I need my students' attention for whatever reason.  Tip!!  Keep the bell in a cup, so the kids are not as tempted to pick it up and ring it.

9) Baby Wipes - My students often ask to wash their hands, even if they have the smallest amount of glue on their hands.  Instead of sending the kids to the backroom, which can cause chaos, I tell them to grab a baby wipe instead.  Tip!!  Put baby wipes on your supply list at the beginning of the year and you will not have to buy them youself.

10) Bank - I do not know how it happens, but my kiddos often find spare change in our classroom, in the hallway, on the get the picture.  The kids put these coins in our classroom bank.  Right now, my school is having a "Pennies for the Playground" fundraiser (we are trying to get a new and much-needed playground for our school), but you could purchase the kiddos a special treat once they have collected enough change.

11) Hand Sanitizer - This is a must everyday before lunch!  A 3rd grade teacher at my school said they put hand sanitizer on their supply list.  I am thinking Kindergarten should do that as well!

Woah!  This is getting to be a LONG post.  I guess I should stop there.  Please leave a comment if you have any great teacher tips to share that help save valuable learning time in your own classroom!!  Thanks for stopping by!  :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cooperation in the Classroom!

I cannot tell you how much my Kinders LOVED this lesson on "cooperation" and "teamwork."  (I think the Tug-O-War activity had something to do with it!)  Read on to find out what we have been up to!

Each Wednesday after recess, we have a Classroom Meeting.  (The last two years, this was called our Bully Prevention Meeting, but that mindset did not work with my Kindergarten students.  I have really changed my focus this year and it is going well!  Conflict management and team-building is more effective with my kiddos, I have learned.)  Anyway, this is what the lesson looked like:

1 - I borrowed a strong rope from our gym teacher and cleared a lot of space in our classroom.  Then, I called up two small groups to play Tug-O-War against each other.  I was smart about the groups that I called because I wanted to make sure there was never a winning team, so I made sure their sizes and strengths were about even.  Of course, we had several rounds of Tug-O-War because everyone wanted a turn.  At the end of each round, I asked:  "Was there a winner?"

2 - The students really got excited when I told them their goal was to WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM (or in other words, COOPERATE) in order to beat Mrs. Unger in a game of Tug-O-War.  They smoked me!!  Of course, I asked:  "What happened when you work together?"  WE BEAT YOU, MRS UNGER!!  :)

3 - I then lead a discussion about what happened during those rounds of Tug-O-War.  We related those ideas to real-life. = It is easier to get a job done when we cooperate and work together as team.

4 - I read aloud and lead a discussion about The Great Big Turnip also called The Enormous Turnip.  This is the version we read and it worked very well, especially because we have a Big Book version in our classroom:

5 - Finally, we made this bulletin board display.  Cute, huh!?  It was easy...the students colored and cut-out the person outline, so that it looked like themselves, and then they taped it to the butcher paper.

This is Room 105 cooperating and working together as a team to pull out the turnip!  I wrote the header - "Room 105 knows that cooperation is the key to success!"

Here is a close-up of a few of the people and the turnip.

How do YOU teach cooperation and teamwork in your classroom?!  I would love to hear about it!

Thanks for stopping by!  :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pirate Ship Behavior Chart - A FREEBIE FOR YOU!

A reader recently requested more information about my Pirate Ship Behavior Chart, so I decided to provide the freebie to all of you!  Please visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to get this printable.  (It was brought to my attention recently that I did not give credit to the person who thought of this idea.  So I just have to HUSBAND was the one who thought of the Pirate Ship / Treasure Chest behavior system, hehe.)

You have to do some printing, cutting, arranging, and gluing but it should look something like this when you are done.

You will notice that the plank is NOT on the printable.  It was too difficult to align that perfectly from page to page, so I just used brown construction paper.  Also, I printed the pages with the clouds twice and on the second page, I added rain using a blue marker.  When all the pieces were glued down on blue posterboard / card stock, I laminted it all together.

If you want to read more about how we use this behavior chart in my classroom, click HERE!

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!  :)

Cindy Middendorf at WKA!

I feel so LUCKY to have seen and heard Cindy Middendorf present yesterday at the Wisconsin Kindergarten Association Fall Conference in Stevens Point!  I went to two of Cindy's sessions at WSRA (Wisconsin State Reading Association) in Milwaukee last February, and still I gained some many new nuggets of knowledge from her yesterday.  If you are not familiar with Cindy, check out her website by clicking HERE! 

I have some great news!  After the conference was over, I went up to Cindy to thank her for coming and to ask her if she ever considered starting a blog.  She said that it is a work-in-progress or at least a goal of hers.  I am not sure of her exact words, but either way...YIPPEE!

If you want to read a bit about her published books, check out my previous post about Cindy Middendorf HERE.

Katie and Company was one of the vendors at the conference.  I could not keep my hands off of her items!  Here are a few that I purchased.

How cute is this!?  Are you familiar with the song "Who Let The Letters Out?" on Dr. Jean's CD "Kiss Your Brain" (which I also purchased at the conference)?  This flannel board set goes along with that song.

All the items get wrapped up in these cute fabric bag, when not in use.  :)  Here is a tip:  When I teach my kids a new letter, I also teach them the letter in sign language.  So when we sing this song, my Kinders "raise the roof" with their hands on the "Who let the letters out?" part and then they sign the letter when they sing the letter sound.

Here is another super cute flannel board set that I purchased.  This particular one goes along with the song "Bingo, Bango, Bongo" from Shari Sloane's awesome CD, "Get Ready!"  It is a catchy tune that helps the kids count by ones, twos, fives, tens, and hundreds.  Shari's CD is worth every penny and you can buy it off her website.

I could not pass up this owl puppet for only $7.95!  There is a poem that goes along with this owl, though I am not sure what it is; She was selling the poem with the bigger $30 owl puppet, but not with the little guy.  Anyway, he keeps an eye on the kids when they are walking in the hallway.  I always walk backwards in the hallway to keep an eye on my kids anyway, so I plan to let the line leader hold the owl.  I am thinking I might reward the person who has the best hallway behavior, according to Mr. Owl, of course.

I even won this FREEBIE!  I was so excited...I never win anything!

WKA also gave us some other freebies, just for attending the conference.  I received a pack of construction paper (always valuable in a Kindergarten classroom) and this pen!

Hmmm, I suppose I should stop blogging and start lesson planning for the week.  Whoops!  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

Every year when my students learn the letter "C," we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

So when I saw this photo on Pinterest (orginally from an online article from Pottery Barn Kids), I just knew I had to re-create this AWESOME caterpillar!

Here is what I did!

First, I bought two 3-packs of green paper lanterns from a Party Outlet.

I also purchased a can of red spray paint and painted one of the paper lanterns red.  (The Party Outlet did not have red lanterns.  Besides...I did not want to pay another $7 for one lantern.)

I added a simple nose and eyes using green and yellow construction paper.  When I got to school, I used purple pipe cleaners to make the antennas.

This is what it looked like after I hung it from our classroom ceiling!

Okay, it may not be as cute as the one from Pottery Barn Kids, but I love it and so did my kids when they walked into our classroom!  We spent the morning reading the book, talking about the life cycle of a caterpillar / butterfly, and doing related activities.  My kiddos especially loved the activity in which they "crawled" into their cocoons (a sheet), wrapped themselves up, and then emerged as beautiful butterflies!

Thanks for stopping by!  :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Writing About Families and a FREEBIE!

Once I start yapping, I sometimes forget my train of thought.  So before I even start getting into the details of this post, I must first credit the wonderful ladies over at Kinder Gals.  Kim and Megan were the ones who came up with this AWESOME writing activity and I knew I just had to use this idea in my classroom.  Head on over to their amazing blog to read and see (their photos are so great) how they implemented this idea in Megan's classroom.

Here is what I did with my Kinders!

First, I read aloud The Family Book by my FaVoRiTe children's book author and illustrator Todd Parr.  If you are not familiar with his work, click HERE to visit his website.  I have so many of his wonderful books!  His illustrations are colorful, simple, yet powerful.  His words are short and sweet, very Kinder-friendly.  I love the messages that his books send.

Next, I hung these cute little buggers up on our whiteboard.

There are many words to describe me, but - unfortunately - "creative" is not one of them.  Our amazing educational assistant made these for us!  I am oh-so-grateful to have her join Room 105 this year!!  Here they are up close:

We only filled out the first two kids "Families can..." and "Families have..." right away in the morning.  They were already getting antsy by the second one.  We then went on with our daily Reading rotations / small group instruction and Literacy Centers.  After that was over, we went back to the carpet and finished with "Families like to..." and "Families are..."

I gave each child a pencil, a clipboard, and a writing sheet so they could write the words / copy the words from the board.  This was a GREAT challenge for many of my kiddos, but I find it is better to make the writing activity interactive than have them only suggest ideas.  Many children will tune out if they are not writing themselves.

If you would like your own FREE copy of the writing sheet, click HERE to visit my TPT Store!  :)

All of these ideas came directly from my students - though some of them borrowed their ideas from Todd Parr's book.

This is what our bulletin board looked like when we put it all together!

Here is the work of some of my developing writers:

Like I said before...this was a challenging activity for my emergent writers.  I always encourage them to do their best every time!  For some of my hesitant kiddos, I am just happy for their participation.  :)

Well, I guess that's it!  Let me know how this writing activity works in your own classroom!  As always, thanks for stopping by!  :)