Sunday, August 31, 2014

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Setting Up Your Literacy Centers - Part 1 - Center Storage and Workspace

         My first two years of teaching Kindergarten I did not have literacy centers in my classroom. My students practiced reading aloud to me in teacher directed reading groups while the other students in my classroom sat attempted to sit quietly in their seats and worked on seat work. Ladies and gentleman, I have NO idea what I was thinking. Nothing about that setup was a good idea y'all, I just didn't know how to get started and I had SO many other things that were demanding immediate attention at school. The summer after my second year, I finally set aside some time to figure out how I would make literacy centers work in my classroom. As you may know already, I have a TINY TINY TINY - ITTY BITTY BABY sized K classroom. I read book after book. I read blog after blog. I sat drooling over clutter free classrooms with spacious work areas, classroom libraries full of labeled book bins, and tub after tub of organized literacy center materials. Some local teachers were gracious enough to allow me into their classrooms over the summer to see how they set things up. I spent hours investigating and I felt defeated. Y'all, seriously, I need to join an OCD or over thinkers anonymous group. If you see one, let me know ASAP. Finally, I came up with a plan that I thought could work in my classroom, took the plunge, and it has been BLISS ever since. No kidding. This is what worked for me... hope you find it helpful!

Because I have limited space in my classroom, I purchased a toy storage shelving unit from Ikea to store the majority of my current literacy center materials. The tubs are easy for my students to remove and replace. They are also a good size for literacy center materials and I liked the fact that I could purchase a larger bin in case I ever needed it. (Hardly ever use the red bin.) 

      I keep the tubs near the literacy center rotation chart.  This chart tells my students what area of the classroom they will be working in (brown table, yellow table, red table, or carpet), what two centers they will use, and who is responsible for collecting, exchanging, and returning all of the literacy center materials for the day. I use pictures of my students so that every kid can find their way to the work area no problem! Def worth the extra effort. (If the collector is absent, in the restroom, or meeting with the teacher his/ her responsibility falls to crew member #2.)

The attach copies of the icons on my literacy center rotation chart to the coordinating bins so that they are easy for students to find. I made these icons myself, but there are lots of freebies out there with similar icons for you to choose from if you don't want to make your own! (Unfortunately, I made these icons on a different computer that I no longer have access to. Sad day!)  

A few of my centers have supplies that are stored in other areas of my classroom. This is helpful because it prevents too much crowding at the Ikea tubs. 

Yes, I keep my listening center in my home living play center area. I have a baby classroom, remember? It works! I have never had a student who got out the home living materials during literacy centers. NEVER. The key is in introducing the center procedures. (Also, note the file cabinet and my storage closet. I store literacy materials that aren't in the current center rotation in both of these areas.) 

(I have a big book browser, but unfortunately it is nestled behind my horseshoe table - where I teach during centers. I store about 5 big books for use in literacy centers in a big box under my easel. Also stores pointers, etc.) 

I just had to share this journal entry that one of my K5ers wrote last year: 

"My Class"
"We learn in my class. Class is fun when you get a work and when you're finished your dream will come true." 

I think we all know what she is trying to say - obviously these literacy centers were a dream come true for this sweet girl!!! 

"Um... Miss Peden, I think a man thing just came up on your face!" Letter Mm Fun

     Introducing letter Mm to my students is always one of my favorite days of the school year! While my students are working on their morning work, I sneak over to my desk and apply a fake mustache. I act as if nothing has happened, and it normally takes a minute or two for one of my students to notice.  It is so funny because my kiddos are normally so take aback that they really don't know what to say. I have gotten some great quotes out of this.... "ummmm....Miss Peden, I think a man thing just came up on your face!" I continue acting as if nothing has changed and tell the students to stop being ridiculous and finish their work! This really gets them going... Eventually, I check my face in the mirror and act shocked as to how I suddenly grew a mustache! The kiddos debate all morning, unsure if my mustache is real or fake and very curious as to how it got there. When phonics time has arrived I finally ask students what the first sound in mustache is and proceed to introduce the letter Mm. While students work on their letter Mm handwriting sheets I call individuals over to tell me the name and sound for letter Mm so that they can receive their own mustache. Makes for great scrapbook / end of the year slideshow pics!

I mustache you to tell me the sound for letter Mm!

Of course, we have to read some books to go along with our theme for the day! 

    I think mustache day is definitely one of my students' favorite days of the year too! The mustaches are easy to find at an affordable price. I have purchased them in the past from Target, Old Navy, teacher supply stores, and the Dollar Tree. You should give it a try! Definitely beats our Ll is for licorice activity! Yuck - we did not like the licorice!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Reading Lesson - First Day of Kindergarten

     One of my favorite lessons to teach is the very first phonics/ reading lesson of the year! We begin the lesson by singing the ABCs and then singing an alphabet song, both times I use a pointer to point to the letters posted above my chalkboard. (I try to have my students review all of the letters/sounds every day of school for at least the first half of the  year. Our favorite songs for this are Alphardy, Who Let the Letters Out?, and Phonercise. These are all Dr. Jean songs.) Once the students are settled, I take out one of my favorite books for back to school, Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! by John Gile.

      This is an excellent resource for teaching the importance of learning to read to K-2 graders. During reading, I pause to ask students why the boy has found himself in these negative situations. I also call on students to tell what has happened so far in the story. (Great way to assess where your students are on the first day of school!)  After reading the story we discuss reasons why it is important to be able to read and make a list on chart paper. Of course, we included other things in our list like being able to read recipes, the Bible, and reading for FUN!!!! In discussing reasons for reading you are also teaching students about reasons for writing! Common Core Standards yall!
     By the end of the book activity, the students are SO pumped to find out that they will be reading by the end of Kindergarten! I point out the alphabet above the chalkboard and introduce letters as sound pictures. (I try to avoid using the terminology A says /a/, etc. in my classroom.) I then use a whole brain teaching technique to teach "letters come together to make words." I demonstrate blending the sounds of a cvc word for students. I repeat the blend asking students to join me. This is a great way to get students excited about learning letter sounds from day 1. I truly believe we have to set the stage for WHY we are learning letter sounds before we can expect our students to buy into it and give us their attention!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kindergarten Curriculum and Textbooks - Link Up

     I'm going to go ahead and confess at the beginning of this post that I use curriculum in my classroom. If you write and create your own materials I think that it awesome... its just not a priority for me right now. I don't have a planning period. I don't have an assistant. I don't have a co-teacher, in fact, I'm the ONLY  Kindergarten teacher in my school. My kids don't go to specials. My kids do not have special ed  or other pullout programs to attend. I help serve my students breakfast and lunch and clean it up everyday. My school has gone as long as 3 months with no janitorial staff before, during, or after school - so I became responsible for cleaning my classroom and bathroom as well.  Some years I get as much as $100 to spend on school supplies and materials for my classroom. Some years I am given as few as 600 copies for the school year. Many of my students' parents don't speak English well and some of my students don't speak English at all before they come to me.(We don't have an ESL program either.) Our school day goes from 7 to 3:30 and I have early duty every other week of the year. I do not have ANY time during the school day without a full classroom of children who I am solely responsible for. If I need to go to the restroom... I am holding it until 3:30!!! Did I mention I get paid less than public school teachers?  But what I DO have is curriculum... which is finally aligned to the common core standards that my students are tested on and my job is staked on! Therefor, I utilize my curriculum on a weekly basis. I use it along with other activities and lessons that I create myself. I also have to say that I have a job that I am BLESSED by EVERYDAY. I have an amazing school family and I would not trade my boss, co-workers, or students for the world. I get to share Jesus with Kindergarteners who have never heard about Him before! What I DO have is worth so much more than the things I don't.  I am in LOVE with what I do and where I do it!    
    So getting to the point...last year we got this new curriculum - GO Math! Common Core edition - and it came with these GIANT student books. Were talking 532 bound pages yall! Don't even get me started on the 296 page homework book that comes with it... like I would ever see those again if I sent them home!!! Before this, I was accustomed to ordering unbound Abeka Numbers K and sorting the pages to hand out to my students. I did some simple math... 532 plus 296 is 828.. .so 828 times 15....12,420 papers to sort for math each year. YIKES! Not how I wanted to spend my summers... although I did talk to a teacher in my town who uses GO Math and does that very thing. So  I decided to put workbooks into my students' hands for the first time ever. I decorated and laminated half sheets of card stock to create giant bookmarks for our giant books. This didn't work so well at the beginning of the year last year because silly me didn't realize that I needed to teach my kiddos how to open up to their bookmarks. FYI: most K kids either rip the bookmarks right out or turn page by page until they find it. This year I went around to my students, put their hands in mine, and demonstrated one-on-one how to open the book and place the bookmark under the pencil box at the start of math each day. I did this for the first three math lessons and now my kids are using them no problem! Another problem I ran into last year was storing and distributing the books. My students sit at round tables and they do not have a place to store their individual text books. When I was half way through last year I became so tired of walking around and distributing/collecting these heavy books! I tried having the students shelve them and I never managed to coordinate it without it turning into a huge ordeal with books falling everywhere. Y'all sometimes I just get so busy that I don't stop and think first!!! We don't have these problems this year!!! 

STACK THEM HORIZONTALLY, MS.PEDEN!!! EASY YALL!!! We haven't dropped a book yet! Every student had the pick up and return procedure down pat by the second day of school!! (With the exception of one student who needed a few extra days to get the binding facing out.)   

     So I'd love to hear from you K teachers / early grades teachers out there who are using curriculum in your classrooms.  Do you sort it or do your kids use the textbooks themselves? Do you send textbooks home? What do you do when they don't come back? Do your students ever tear the pages out themselves? Tips? Tricks? Let's hear it :) Link up below! 

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

Monday, August 25, 2014

Emergency Contact Info and Linky!

As you know, I am the only K5 teacher at my school. Y'all I would be so lost if it weren't for my teacher mentor, role model, and BFF, who teaches K4! Momma C is always looking out for me. PRAISE THE LORD! Two years ago she came up with this awesome idea for us to store each student's photo alongside their emergency contact information. This is very helpful for subs who may not know the students names! You can't always rely on 4 year olds to speak up and say who is who at the beginning of the year! Of course, Momma C showed up at school having already secured this photo album for me. I think it came from Dollar Tree or Walmart.... either way its not an expensive buy!

The green floral pages slid right out and I replaced them with some cute pirate covers. 

I added pictures of my students along with the parent contact info. and now I am all set for another school year! You can download these pirate covers, parent contact forms, and a set of generic covers for FREE at my teacherspayteachers store! Check back tomorrow for a chance to Link Up!!!! ;) 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pirate Classroom Management and Behavior Chart

      My first year teaching I modified my behavior management system several times.  When I started teaching, I had a one card system that I used with this "Don't Walk the Plank!" chart.

          After students had received a warning, they would turn their card into me and I would make a short note regarding what happened and date it. Example: "8/22/2011 - running." I sent the cards home at the end of the week for the parents to sign and each student received a fresh card on Monday. My aunt swears this worked in her K class. Let me just say - it was a NIGHTMARE for me! The kids I taught my first year were not the kind of kids who could come to the front and pull their cards, for one. They were throwing out all kinds of tantrums or taking forever and a day to retrieve it. I am also not the kind of teacher who can keep teaching, keep monitoring, and write behavior comments on students's cards throughout the day without getting a little bit distracted or confused. If you can do it all... then more power to ya! ;) 

     On to nightmare number 2.. I changed to a system I had observed in a K class when I was student teaching.  I gave students four linking cubes and students lost cubes throughout the day if they did not follow our classroom rules. I would go to the student's desk to retrieve the cubes, but they still had to physically remove the cube from their pencil boxes and put them in my hands. This may have been worse than the first option. Students were constantly playing with cubes during work time, stealing cubes from other students, and my favorite... throwing their cube trains at me when I asked them to hand me a cube. Don't get me started ya'll... my first class was just like that. Seriously. It wasn't just me. 

     Finally, with the help of the K4 and 1st grade teacher I came up with something that worked better for me! I attached these faces and names to my chalkboard and started moving the students' names myself. 

     This year I revamped my chart to match my pirate theme and also added a face for students who go above and beyond! I made these faces using my Cricut cutter and they are SO cute! Sorry about the glare.. I promise they look WAY better in real life! 

    I am usually standing near the chalkboard when I am teaching, so this chart allows for very minimal disruption to my day. I just quietly move names as needed while I am teaching. Unless a student does something major (hitting, biting, etc), I always give one warning before I move his name. I give my K5ers a visual reminder warning by writing their names on the board. This also helps me keep track of who has received a warning and who has not. At the beginning of the year, I make sure my students understand that its OK for your name to be written on the board. This is just between me and the students. If mom/dad ask if you got in trouble and all I did was write your name on the board, then the answer is,"No, I had a good day!"

     I know that many teachers are using  much more fluid behavior charts that allow students to move both up and down the chart all day long. What I have found works best for me is allowing every student one positive move, daily. (Of course, I adjust this rule as I see fit from time to time.) When I allowed for movement in both directions all day long I found that I had a group of students whose behavior became out of control until just before recess or just before dismissal. Some students were trying to see how much they could get away with and still be able to make it back to happy by the end of the day. I just wasn't a fan of that.
    One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in teaching is that what works for one teacher or class doesn't always work with another teacher or class. We have to keep adjusting until we find something that works for both us and our students.  In case you are interested in trying out my happy face chart I have created this resource that is available in my teachers pay teachers store.  It includes a set of pirate faces like the ones shown on the chalkboard below, some pirate whole brain teaching rules, and weekly and daily behavior forms. It is on sale for a limited time!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kindergarten Writing: Labels

     Ya'll,  I am already achieving one of my goals for the school year! I am letting the students direct more of our learning and activities and it is working SO well.When I got to school today, I was planning  to follow some curriculum plans for my first labeling lesson. We were simply going to discuss labels in the classroom and do a fast write the room activity today. Then I realized I had the perfect opportunity to teach a truly meaningful lesson on labeling and it was staring me right in the face.

     I bought one of these awesome shelving units for my classroom two summers ago at Ikea. I loved using it so much that I went back to Atlanta this summer and got another. I had planned on making some cute labels with clip art and such to go on the containers before school started. Yep. That just never happened. So half way through the first week of school my students had noticed me rummaging to find what I needed during our calendar time, lessons, etc. One of my students even said, "Ms. Peden, you sure do need to figure out where you keep yo stuff, because you really don't know! You need to put something on there like you put on our literacy centers." When I turned the lights on in my classroom this morning, I glanced at our shelves and realized they set the perfect context for a meaningful labeling lesson! I grabbed post it notes and a pen and I was ready!

Best things about this lesson: 

1. My students LOVED it! They were INVOLVED and FOCUSED the ENTIRE time! I'm talking about my always-distracted  la-la-landers too! Yes, I just called my la-la-landers involved and focused! Everyone was anxiously awaiting a turn to stick a label on, check the bins for what was inside, or spell the word for our label.

2. This lesson taught my students how to use environmental print when they are writing. On our third bin I pointed out that we could use the label on our Mr. Sketch scented markers to help us with our label. I had a student take the marker and spell Mr. Sketch aloud for the class. "M-R-polkadot - Capital S-K-E-T-C-H!... Oh wait, no, Ms. Peden, I think I meant period, not polkadot!!!" Polkadot - how cute is that?!?! A few bins later we were trying to spell "Base 10 Blocks." The same student who had helped me with the marker pointed out that our blocks center had a label on it and we could use it to help us spell the word "blocks" for our label. She proudly got up and pointed the label out to the class. After that, other students used classroom labels to help us spell calendar, glue, and scissors.

3. My students got to practice using kindergarten writing. We don't have to spell everything correctly! I am so glad they are catching on to that early this year.  I have had some kids in the past that just would not participate in emerging kindergarten writing. These kids were trying their best and really working to get the sounds in the right order. We were writing "counters" on the blue bin shown above. If you look closely you can see that the "n" was originally an "r." A few students had suggested I write "r" after the "a" because they could hear the "r" at the end.  When I followed this students directions a few students looked closely at the words and suggested I change the "r" to an "n" then add "t" and "r" to the end. I love how they acted as a group on this!

4. This will be an ongoing project for my classroom. I know that we teachers are all about perfectly organized rooms with color coordinated, themed labels  everywhere. I'll be honest, I don't like the vibe or look of these yellow post its in my room. But I do LOVE the hard work my students put in, and I know I would get questions if I replaced them anytime soon! I am also excited to remake the labels with my students as we learn new phonics rules, like adding "s" to the end of words. 

Instead of just teaching students about labels, I was teaching my students some important skills that are vital in the early days of writer's workshop. We were working on stretching sounds and identifying beginning, middle, and ending sounds in words. It was a great afternoon. I snapped this pic when we were finished and one of my students  asked if I would post it on facebook! They wanted me to add a caption that said "K5ers did most of this work. K5ers rock!" Sharing our work with an audience that extends beyond the classroom! LOVE it!

I think this was an extremely successful because there was a true need for these labels and the students were already aware of the need.  I do not think it would have been as successful if I had just had my students making labels for things in the classroom (window, blocks, door, book shelf, etc.) A few of my  "K5ers," as they are calling themselves, were talking about things they were planning to label when they got home. Loved hearing that in the dismissal line today!

Kindergarten Classroom Schedule

Blog Hoppin' is hosting a week long linky party for Back to School and I decided to link up today! This is the schedule I have planned for our school year so far. What I am finding is that we almost never make it to Play Centers at the end of the day! Oh well.... such is life!  I feel like I can NEVER fit enough in!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School Boost!

My entire TPT store will be discounted an additional 20% off during the Back to School Boost tomorrow! Take advantage of this time to get anything that you want to use in your classroom this year! Go ahead and grab those items that you know you are going to want later! Copy, cut, laminate... get it all ready ahead of time! Check out my new common core shape unit while you are at it!

300 × 300

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hands On Color Words

Last week was THE best first week of school EVER! Seriously yall... my kiddos are SWEET ONES! We have already begun learning to spell our color words so I whipped up some fun little mats for practice. We are learning one color word a week and last week our color word was red. I use the Frog Street Press sing and read big books to introduce one color word a week in addition to our high frequency words. To celebrate the start of a great year, here is a free sample! Just click on the first picture below to download. The full product, Hands On Color Words is available in my TPT store!


1. Taping the mats down to the table can be helpful to your students. It will also solve the problem of cheap laminate causing your papers to curl up! 

2. Make both dry erase markers and toy cars available for the road pages.

3. Give students a choice on what mat they use! 

4. Send your students on a classroom hunt for small objects that match their color word. 

5. I prefer using play foam to play dough. It is usually something new for my kids, it isn't messy, and it doesn't dry out! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Why does the week before school starts in August always feel like the week of the tornado from my college days???

     Is it just me, or do you see similarities here too? Yes, I am ALWAYS thankful for freshly cleaned and waxed floors but I have enough to do to prepare my tiny classroom with out having to clean up the aftermath. Don't even get me started on all of the furniture that was moved out of place and then waxed down to the floors!

      I have just one more day before my pirates come running into the building for the first time this school year - and of course I'll be spending it in inservice meetings. Thankfully, I have achieved a great deal since I took this picture... but there is still work to be done. So here I am spending all of my weekend trying to finalize everything from lesson plans to emergency contact information cards. Of course, now that my classroom is almost tidy - my apartment looks a MESS - foam pirate hats and puzzles cover the kitchen table, laptops and planning books strewn across the floor, and you can't even see the sofa for all the laminate that needs to be cut. In the midst of it all I am trying to take time to rest and pray for my students. I keep reminding myself that it is OK to have a busy life, but not a busy heart. As Paul Miller says in A Praying Life, "Learning to pray doesn't offer us a less busy life, it offers us as less busy heart in the midst of outer busyness." My hope as I enter this school year is to keep my heart from becoming too busy. 

      And just in case any of you other teachers are scrambling around out there too (and I already know you are ) here are some too simple forms that can help you get your attendance/grade book in order. Hope you find them helpful!