Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Life of a Teacher...on Christmas Break

This school year has the longest Christmas break compared to any other year teaching I remember - two weeks! It's amazing what you can accomplish in two weeks! (When I say "can" it doesn't mean I've actually done anything monumental.) Someone at a Christmas party asked, "so what do teachers do on break?"  While she was hoping for a great conversation starter, I'm like... "umm... laundry, closet organizing, sleeping in, dental appointment, oil change..." Haha! It's true!

However, I have found time for some hobbies as well. I tried some new recipes: butternut squash soup for supper one night and these lovely chocolate mousse bowls for Christmas dessert.The balloon dipped in chocolate trick does work!

I'm also hoping to test run a couple of crockpot meals for when school starts up again. For Christmas this year my mom upgraded my "beginner" crockpot (with 4 settings).... to a programmable, heavy duty, crock pot! (My enthusiasm at this gift is undeniable evidence that I have crossed over into adulthood.)

This weekend I found these awesome little gadgets to spice up reading groups...Laser Finger Beams!

I'm always looking for new "pointers" to add to my collection. They are a great incentive for encouraging my students to "track" the print as they read. At the beginning of the year, in my reading group, some  students aren't interested in pointing to each word as they read. (Shocking!) It's funny to see how everyone sits up straight and starts pointing to the words when I bust out my jar of pencils with toppers. I usually start by having them read while pointing with their finger. If I see with my "spy eyes" that they are on task and doing their best, they may pick a pointer.

Enjoy your break! Be refreshed!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Get 'Em Moving

My first year teaching kindergarten I had an energetic group of kiddos. I quickly learned that one of the best ways to keep them engaged and learning was to get 'em moving. All kids need to move. It's who they are, it's how they learn, and it's healthy for their bodies and brains. (It's important for me to keep this in mind during this cold part of the year, when my students don't get as much time to release their energy by playing outside.)

Here are a few fun ways I incorporate movement into...

 Calendar Time

Days of the Month Song
We divide into boys/girls and alternate standing up to sing each month...
                            Girls: "January"
                            Boys: "February"
                            Girls: "March"......
                            All: "12 months in a year!

100's Chart
Counting by:
10's: We jump up and down for each 10, holding up 10 fingers in  front of us. When we get to 100, we give our biggest jump with our 10 fingers above our heads.

5's: We either do "jazz" hands while sliding from side to side OR we do jumping jacks.

2's: We pretend that we are T-rex dinosaurs (squeeze your elbows to your sides and hold out both hands showing 2 fingers) and stomp like a T-rex.

Days of School
My kids love singing this song! The original song was for the 100th day of school, but I modified it so we could sing it more than just one day of the year. I will sometimes pick a leader and they will lead the class in marching in a line around the room. When I sit back down in my chair by the easel, they know it's time to march back to the rug and find a seat.

We've Been Counting
(to the tune of "The Ants Go Marching One By One")
We've all been counting one-by-one,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We've all been counting, oh what fun,
Hurray! Hurrah!
We've all been counting one-by-one,
And now __(# of days)__days are done,
(When you sing "done" -  freeze! Everyone has to freeze like a statue and stop singing until you begin again.)
Today's the __(77th...)__ day of school!
Of school, hurrah!
Boom, boom, boom.

Get 'Em Moving: Phonics

Karate Words
Give your students a CVC word. They do a single hand "karate chop" in front of them for each sound or letter in the word (alternating hands).

End by saying the word while striking a "kung fu panda" stance.

(Word of Wisdom: Give the "We are karate chopping the air, not the friend next to us..." safety speech before doing this activity.)

Body Sound Breakdown
Use your body to sound out each CVC word! (Example: "CAT")
"C" (hands on your head), "A" (hands on your tummy), "T" (touch your toes).... "CAT" (say the word while jumping up to stand tall).

Sock Hop
My students love seeing how fast they can spell the CVC word I give them. They spell the words by hopping on the letters using this felt mat I sewed.

You could easily take a big piece of fabric and draw the letters on it with a permanent marker.
I'll share some of my favorite movement ideas for math in another post. I'd love to hear how you get your students moving and learning!

Friday, December 19, 2014

"5 Star" Sight Word Review

I am always looking for new ways to spice up reviewing our sight words. One of my students' favorite activities is "Star Words" (maybe because it sounds like "Star Wars"?) I originally found the idea from Shari Sloane at http://www.kidscount1234.com/high.html

Every few weeks, I will hide our "Star Words" before the students enter the classroom. Sometimes they are our new sight words or ones that my students are having difficulty remembering. they each receive a recording sheet and silently search for the hidden stars. To earn a sticker on their papers, they have to read all of the words for me.

(Credit goes to Shari Sloane. Click here check out her site and get a copy.)

At the beginning of the year, the stars are hidden in very obvious places. By this point in the year, I get a little more creative...

New ornament?

If I could find a ton of mini flashlights for cheap... and batteries weren't an issue, my kids would love doing this activity with the lights off.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

You Can't Catch Me - I'm the Gingerbread Man!

I love having special themed guests visit our classroom throughout the year. The vice principal has  appeared as Johnny Appleseed, my practicum student as Cat in the Hat, my brother as King David...even my husband has been lucky enough to be John the Disciple.

Well... I decided to give these volunteers a break and invite a different special guest - The Gingerbread Man! I built it up throughout the day telling my students, "He said he was coming to visit today. I'm not sure when though..." Oh yes, I had my kinders going. They kept asking when he was coming and guessing as to which previously mentioned guest I had conned into helping me:  "Is he visiting before lunch?" "He's the principal - isn't he?"

I found the idea floating around on Pinterest and found the cutest clues to hide as a scavenger hunt. I used the following gingerbread man hunt created by Katie Mense on teacherspayteachers. Click on the picture to check out her great product.

My students freaked out when we arrived back at our classroom from art to find a note from the gingerbread man taunting us to find him. I was able to keep our "fast walking" around the school reletively quiet by telling them the gingerbread man would hear us and run away if we were too loud. He led us in quite the chase... library, office, music room, gym.... and finally back to his "favorite room" - our classroom!

Let me tell you - the excitement was high! We integrated math skills by tallying whether or not we should eat him....

It was a unanimous vote "YES"!

We all laughed when the last student added his tally mark and said, "Bye, bye, gingerbread man!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Decorating Gingerbread Houses

I decided to tackle decorating gingerbread houses once again this year. As I laboriously tried to cut triangles from graham crackers (not as easy as one may think), I vaguely remember telling myself last year not to do this again. How come I only remember how much joy my students had when decorating them last year? I do not remember how much time - and hot glue it took beforehand. The librarian compared it to childbirth - "you forget the pain that led to the joy". Haha! After making it through "labor", the joy of seeing my kids decorate their houses was totally worth the 6am trip to Wal-Mart for more frosting and hot glue sticks. They frosted, sprinkled, and decorated to their heart's content. Some of them opted our of afternoon free choice time to keep loading the candy on their houses.


(Words of Wisdom: If you ever try this with your class, give each person their own bag of frosting, plat of candy, and cupcake liner with sprinkles. We all know that our kids can share, but we are choosing not to invite conflict to this party. )

              Wow! Look at all that sugary goodness!

I always tell my class that the candy is old and bad for them if they eat it, because if I don't - they spend more time eating than decorating! I give each of them a little handful of "fresh" candy to eat before they start decorating so they aren't tempted.

This is a model from last year when I added "trees" for them to decorate.

Looks like poor frosty has a head wound!
How do you decorate gingerbread houses with your classroom? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beginning the Journey

Welcome to my blogging journey as a Kindergarten teacher.  My hope is that this blog will encourage, humor, and inspire you. I have a flair for the dramatic and can find humor in almost any situation, which is probably why several close friends have told me I should write a book about my life. I also believe finding humor in the midst of chaos is why I’m still a teacher. This is my sixth year teaching. I started as a Pre-Kindergarten director and after two years transitioned to kindergarten- which I love.  I didn’t plan to teach at a Christian school… but God did. Following God is always an adventure. 

Let me share how I began my teaching career. Go back 6 years - I'm a college student with student teaching under my belt, weeks before graduation. I was filling out the dreaded, novel-sized teaching position applications… while secretly hoping to be hired at the school I student taught at. I loved this school. I loved the teachers, I loved the students – it was a perfect plan. But…they (along with many local schools) ended up cutting several positions due to budget cuts. Very few area schools were hiring. I was devastated. “God, this is the worst year for me to graduate! Now my applications are in piles with seasoned teachers. I don't stand a chance. I don’t want to move away from all I’ve ever known… I don’t want to sub…" I didn’t really know if I could trust God with the dream of having my own classroom.  

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m interviewing for a Pre-Kindergarten director position at a private Christian school. You know how this part ends – I got the job! Now looking back… I see how the disappointment of having so few places to apply was really a blessing. It was God’s way of closing the doors that weren’t His best for me so I could see His dream - not mine. Be encouraged that when you delight in the Lord, you can trust Him – He is for you and His plan is best!

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

 Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;

Psalm 37: 3-7a