Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Or, as teachers think of it, half a year down, and half to go!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Recommended Site: Giggle Poetry

This site was recommended to me by our reading facilitator. I've added it to the sidebar for future referencing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Tis the Season - For End-of-the-Year Bargains

Although garage and yard sales normally happen during the summer months, down here in south Texas, and in areas where the temperatures are less inclined for snow, these sales occur in the winter time as well. In my area, this is the time of year when parents unclutter their kids' closets and toy boxes to make way for the new toys Santa brought. This is also the perfect time to get a few "new" items to put in your classroom, at really good bargain prices!

Here's a few tips and tricks to give you an idea what to watch out for, and what you might want to avoid:

* stuffed animals - you'll need to machine wash them before taking them into your classroom, unless you feel doing so would destroy the toy, then don't buy
* puzzles - double-check with the seller to make sure all the pieces are there, and stay with the larger sized/small number ratio (ex: 24-28 pieces per puzzle)
* trucks and cars - stay with the metal cast and not the plastic
* doll houses and make-believe furniture - keep in mind how much room you have in your classroom before purchasing
* incomplete LEGO, building block, Tinker Toy, and Log Cabin sets
* marbles, balls
* small play sets like Army men, dollhouse people, etc. - be sure to clean thoroughly first before using
* card games - although it might not be a game 5 year-olds can learn, I can find lots of other uses for them. And many times the kids love to make up their own game with them.
* old picture books, workbooks, and coloring books - even if a few pages have been scribbled on, they're worth a nickle or dime and placing them in your writing center (perhaps there may be a page or two inside that would make a great worksheet, too!)
Remember, today's generation is inundated with video and other types of electronic games. More often than not, I'm finding my classes lacking in imaginative skills. Playing make-believe and creating worlds out of thin air need to be encouraged. Toys which give them that ability are the best kind. And garage sales are great, inexpensive places to stock your classroom.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Why I Love Teaching Kindergarten

Because they believe. Fiercely. Because they fill their world with hope and expectation. It's not make-believe. It's wishes-to-be. Santa isn't just a gift-bearer. He's the symbol that all children are equal, no matter who they are or where they live. Santa loves everyone the same, and always will.

I love teaching Kindergarten because these children trust you to be there for them. To teach them. To guide them. To keep them safe. And most of all, to love them. A child who loves you will do anything for you.

Merry Christmas to all. Here's wishing you get to see the holidays from a child's eyes, with all the wonder and magic attached. And a gift or two from Jolly Old St. Nicholas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Goodie Bags - A Wildly Successful Experiment!

Every year, as per school "custom", we have the children do a book exchange for their presents under the tree. Similarly, we teachers give each child a coloring book and small pack of crayons. And, as it's been every year, there are students who don't bring a book to trade out, (which left me to go to my emergency stash to wrap one), or some parents go whole hog and buy these elaborate, expensive books (despite the "no more than $5" requirement). Which means some kids have a great present to show off, while others may only have a slender board book from the dollar store.

This year, my compadres came up with another idea that they got from fellow teachers at other schools. It's called Secret Elves, and here's how it works.

The following letter is sent to all parents:

Dear Parents,

During the last week of school before Christmas vacation, our class will be participating in Secret Elves. Your child will be assigned one day to be a Secret Elf and bring a special treat for their classmates. There are 24 students in our class, so be sure that if you're buying items by the package, there will be enough to go around. Please see the calendar below for your child's Secret Elf day.
Some suggestions: 

* Christmas pencil
* small ornament
* playing cards
* candy (no hard candy)
* small toy (look in party aisle)
* small book
* bouncy ball
* key chain
* spin tops
* baked treats - individually wrapped, like Rice Krispy bar, brownies, etc.
* erasers
* small Frisbees
* toy rings, necklaces, or bracelets
* plastic bugs, animals, etc.
* plastic holiday cups
* holiday straws
* spring pop-up toy - Santa, Reindeer, etc.
* parachute toy
* holiday temporary tattoos
* stickers
* holiday whistle
* mini bubbles
* small activity book or notebook

Thank you for all your help!

Then below that, we placed names inside a calendar square. Prior to each child's day, we sent them home with reminder wristlets. To prepare for the stash of goodies, each child got a white paper sack to decorate. As the goodies came in, we distributed the items. The students grew more and more excited as the bags got fuller. By the last day of school, they were crammed to the top. (These are a couple of bags that were accidentally left behind.)

We followed our usual routine the last day. But instead of having snack time, that's when we had our party. But we didn't get to open our bags. (Imagine 24 little kids spreading out all of it on their tables!) Instead, they were given their bags as they left, their eyes bugging out of their heads as they clutched their heavy sacks.

No child got more than another. No child got "better" than another. And for the couple of children who didn't bring anything, I didn't have to substitute something to make up for the lack.

After talking to the other teachers, we decided this experiment had been a wildly successful attempt. We plan to do it again next year, and the next, and the next...

Here's hoping your Christmas party was also a rousing good time!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another Quick and Easy Christmas Activity - Santa, Please Fill My Stocking (pattern included!)

Short and sweet, the children get to color their stocking however they want. Then they can either draw what they want Santa to put into their stocking (or, in our case, they found a picture in a catalog), and glued it on. Add some cotton balls for the fluffy cuff, and you have a hangable work of art. (For those students with good scissor skills, they can cut out the stocking before working on it.)  Click here for a PDF copy of the pattern.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Letter C Activities

Our Letter C activities included:
* recognizing all children whose name included a C
* finding pictures that began with C from Catalogs to make our anchor chart
* Cutting and pasting Cat pictures in an AB pattern

* jumping on the letter C on the floor every time we entered the room

* making Candy Canes by tearing red and white construction paper, and glueing it in an AB pattern

* using toy Cats to play Cat-tac-toe

* painting with toy Cars
* and on Fun Fun Friday, we wore Caps upside-down

* and enjoyed snack time with hot Cocoa, Cookies, and Candy Canes

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quick and Easy Christmas Decoration - a Fingerprint Tree!

This is a super easy and super quick Christmas decoration or ornament. I found a tree template online, shrunk it so four fit on a page, and ran them off on cardstock. The children used their watercolors to decorate. Cut out after it dries, add some glitter here and there, and voila! Hang with yarn or a bent paperclip.

I'm using fun ideas like this one to "blackmail" my kids into doing their work first. Everyone's tired, but anticipating the holidays. Or they're not feeling well. So I've resorted to the old tried and true, "As soon as your work is done, you can make this!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oatmeal Wreaths

Right off, I'm going to say that this is a very messy activity, so be sure to lay newspaper down, and have all long sleeves secured above the elbows! But it's so much fun, and the kids had a blast doing it, that I had to share!

You need small paper plates, uncooked oatmeal, and green tempera paint. Toppers are red pompoms.

First, have each child cut out the center of their paper plates. Be sure they put their names on the back. Then lay a thin layer of glue over the outer ring. (I had them use their index finger to smear the glue around.)

Next, put the oatmeal in a container, and squirt paint on top. Let the kids mix the oatmeal with their fingers. (The neat thing is, they don't need to wash their hands BEFORE this activity!)

Next, have them pat a thin layer of colored oatmeal onto the glue and outer ring. (Child with gray sleeve did get it in the paint, but fortunately tempera is washable.)

Let dry. We did this activity in the morning, and didn't add the pompoms until right before the end of school. Next time, I'll have them dry overnight.

Voila! An oatmeal wreath they couldn't stop touching. The sensory input had a big impact! A fellow Kinder teacher said I should have done this while we were studying the letter O, since the wreath looks like an O, and we used Oatmeal, but I had run out of time before I could include it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Leibster Award!

Guess what? I've been nominated for the "Leibster Award" by Ashley over at Tales of a Reading Specialist.  What is a Leibster Award you ask? It's a really neat award given out to blogger newbies. I am so honored to receive the award and excited that people out there read my blog because I had originally made it to share resources with my co-workers. It definitely made my day when I read the e-mail.

So let's get down to the rules!

1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them in your post.
5. You cannot “tag back” the other blog, but leave a comment on this post with the URL of your Liebster post so I can learn more about you & see whom you nominate.

11 Random Things About Me

1. My hubby and I are empty nesters.
2. We are "owned" by a pug named Daisy.
3.  I have a B.M. and an M.M. in vocal music, along with my educational degrees.
4.  I'm a Pinterest-aholic.
5.  I watch just two TV shows per week, and right now they're both on hiatus. Darn.
6.  I could spend all day in my jammies, in front of the computer.
7.  I love horror movies.
8.  This is my 34th year teaching.
9.  One day, I hope to travel overseas and visit places like England and Ireland.
10. I'm also a best-selling and award-winning author of sci-fi, paranormal, and fantasy romance fiction.

Questions from Tales of a Reading Specialist:

1. In what part of the country do you teach? I teach in a small city in southeast Texas, 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
2. Why do you blog?I love to share ideas.
3. Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?Merry Christmas!
4. What strategies do you employ for difficult students?If you mean "difficult" as in "I don't wanna do this" students, I employ the Your Choice method. "You can have your snack and go to play in centers after you finish your work, or you can sit here. Your choice."5. Favorite blogger to follow? Hands down, The Organized Classroom Blog (and Classroom Freebies)

6. Best blogging tip?Keep all ideas Simple, Quick, and Cheap
7. Best Read Aloud?Anything by Dr. Seuss.
8. Does your school have a book room? If so, how often do you use it?I don't know what you mean by a book room, but we have a classroom library, and a school library, which we use with frequency. The kids go to the main library at least once a week for story telling. And they're allowed to use the classroom library during center time to "read" books they find there.
9. Where do you go online to find additional resources?

10. Do you give presents to your class for Christmas? If so, what?I give them each a book, a pencil, a small notepad, and a small toy. This year the book is Guess How Much I Love You.11. How is your classroom library organized? Genres or levels?

For Kindergarten, it's just a hodge podge of different genres, both fiction and non-fiction. They're books I pull from for additional reading material when needed for unit study.

Blogs I've nominated for the Leibster Award

1. Miss Nguyen's Class
2. Creative Lesson Cafe
3. Coloring Outside the Lines
4. Crazy for Kindergarten
5. A Digital Kindergarten
6. EnRiching Kinders
7. Fresh Starts and Big Hearts
8. Hoppy Kindergarten
9. Kinder Doodles
10. Kindergarten Kel
11. A Worm in the Apple

Questions for you!

1. Do you stay at school to work, or do you take the work home?
2. Pie or cake?
3. What is the best part about being a teacher?
4. What is the not-so-good part about being a teacher?
5. If you could have one wish for your classroom, what would it be?
6. What 3 things do you want every child to know before they leave your classroom to advance to the next grade level?
7. Do you play music in the classroom during the school day?
8. What do you do when the weather prohibits going outside for recess?
9. Do you have a special "tip" that you pass along to substitute teachers?
10. Classroom aide or no aide?
11. If a college student asked you if they should pursue a teaching degree, what would you tell them?

Thanks again to Ashley!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Letter O Activities

Our letter O activities included:

* recognizing everyone who had an O in their first names
* made an anchor chart with O words and pictures cut from catalogs
* made AB patterns with Owls

* glued Cheerios to letter O
* jumped onto the letter O taped to the floor by the door every time we came into the room

* glued yarn into the shape of the letter O onto Orange paper

* taste tested black and green Olives
* learned about Opposites, and made a class book of opposites using pictures from a catalog

* made our own Ocean, complete with Oatmeal sand and an Octopus
(the octopus was from our die-cut machine)
* for Fun Fun Friday, we used watercolors and painted a coloring page that had pictures of several objects that began with O (otter, octopus, olive, owl)
* after painting, we used shaving cream to clean the table tops, and of course practice writing our Os

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Schools Should Have Washing Machines: A Request For Hand-Me-Downs

I don't know how things are at other schools, but mine could sure use a washing machine. My students are bringing their sweaters and "hoodies" to keep them warm, and so often these articles of clothing are unbelievably dirty. That's not mentioning how many children are wearing shirts and pants that are encrusted. And I'm not even going to go into specifics about their underwear or socks!

For the worst cases, I've taken individuals to see the counselor, in the hope she might have some donated items that would fit. Most of the time she doesn't, but I have to try.

So here's what I'm asking. If you have children's clothing that your kids can't wear, or you know someone with clothes left over from a garage sale, or a person just willing to give away kids clothing, please think about donating them to a nearby school. They don't have to be new. Just clean and wearable.

Both the child and the teacher will be very grateful!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Shape Hokey Pokey

There are a lot of ways you can check for understanding, especially when it comes to shapes, colors, etc. One fun way I do it is by doing the Hokey Pokey.  I hand out a set of attribute blocks to each child. Then it's easy to have them stand by their desks and grab the correct block as I call out a shape.

Ex: "Square!"
Proceed to sing: "You put your square in. You put your square out. You put your square in and you shake it all about." Etc.
Give them a couple of seconds between verses to put down the old shape and grab the next one you call out. Children who pick the wrong shape can quickly exchange for the correct one without embarrassment.

You can also do this for colors. I sometimes use the unifix cubes for colors, since there are more to select from.

If you don't have attribute blocks, or any of the other manipulatives, just run off a set of shapes on colored tag and cut out to keep in baggies. I've also had the different shapes on plain paper. Then, as a whole class project, we colored individual shapes certain colors (they would follow my guide.) Ex: square is blue, triangle is red, circle is yellow, and so forth. They would cut out the shapes and place in baggies, and keep as their own personal set of shapes.