Saturday, August 27, 2011

Finally making progress in the classroom!

Before I start this post, I want to make a quick note, because this week has definitely been an unusual one.  Instead of the normal focus on going back to school (our first teacher work day was Friday), the focus has been on getting ready for the hurricane.  It seemed a bit bizarre to be working in my classroom yesterday, while the rest of the area is battening down the hatches.  At this point we are thankfully awaiting only a category 1, but the last time a "1" hit us, I was one of the fortunate ones who only lost power for 5 days.  Lots of people closer to the oceanfront area were without power for 14+ days.   We have about 24 more hours of this until the storm has passed by, so I'm posting this now while we still have power.

I have been concerned about getting into my classroom (in a new school) for the past 3 weeks.  The custodians hadn't finished the floors (they finished them YESTERDAY), and even though I was able to work in the room, I didn't have the furniture I needed in order to complete my unpacking.  Thankfully, another set of shelves arrived from the warehouse this week, and yesterday, I was able to "borrow" several pieces I needed from other K teachers (like a big book easel, and library shelves).

This is what I walked into (even though I've spent HOURS in there over the past two and a half weeks):

I did have a few minutes of panic during the day, even though I'm trying to keep my stress level very low.  At 10 o'clock, when this stuff was still sitting in my room (after two weeks of asking for it to be taken out), I had to make an urgent appeal to the office to make it 'go away'.  It was hard to explain that I couldn't begin to set up the room until it was gone---I am someone who has to actually move things around to see how it works, and I had several things I had to take into account.  My big issue was where the carpet was going to be placed, so I could figure out my calendar area and word wall area.  The classroom is wonderfully large, but it has an unusual arrangement (where the a/c units are, where the whiteboards and smartboard areas are, where the computer drops are, etc.).  Eventually the things were taken out of my room, and put across the hall into the computer lab (the computer resource teacher is LOVING me, I'm sure).

The other moment of stress came right after things started to be taken out of the classroom, when it was discovered that the rug for my room had not yet been ordered ( and I was told at first I would just have to do without a carpet until the new one arrived.  Later in the afternoon, I was actually able to 'borrow' the library's rug (she had a rug on top of her carpet for storytimes), which made the arrangement of furniture a lot easier.

I knew I had a LOT to get done, because we have the storm to deal with, and its highly likely that we may lose teacher work days before school starts in a week.  My room is definitely NOT done, but I was thankful to have been able to make this much progress.

Still a long way to go, but I'm a LOT closer to the finish line than I was when I started the day.  It has also started to feel like "my" classroom---and as I worked, I was very conscious of how much of my own personality gets put into the design of my room.  I know what is important to me and to my teaching style, and the room ends up reflecting all of that.   I know any of you reading this will completely understand this.

One last note--the way my room was prepped for the storm:   :)

That should definitely stand up to Irene, don't you think? :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Getting Started--What to do if you are just 'starting out' with centers?

I got an email from a new-to-kindergarten teacher, wanting to know a little about getting 'process centers' started.  I talked a little bit about 'process centers' in a previous post.  

In order to not drive yourself crazy as a new teacher--and those of us who have been there KNOW it can happen--being a new teacher is VERY stressful--you need to keep it simple.  I put together a few ideas that I shared with her, and maybe you can take something from this post as well.  This is not meant to be all-encompassing, but rather an easy way to get you started.

I love using Letter Tiles.  If you don't have any, you can make your own easily, but usually there is something in  your classroom.  This is a great way for students to practice letter recognition, and begin to familiarize themselves with print.  A GREAT resource is Making Learning Fun.  You can print out lots of different themes, and students can practice matching letters to letter tiles.   


Magnetic Letters—there are SO many things to do with this center.   You can make simple word cards (with a picture cue), and have students match uppercase to lowercase, lowercase to lowercase, uppercase to uppercase.  You can give them cards that they have to match letter to letter in a sequence, with some letters missing.  Example:  a b ___  d  e ____ g
You can find some of the missing letter cards at Mrs. Saylor's Log:

Playdough—a good one for tying in math or reading skills.  Kindergarten Works has GREAT freebies to get you started:

Pattern Blocks –I use these year round.  Have students create patterns on their own, or complete patterns that you have started on sentence strips. Have students complete designs with color clues (the shapes are colored in). Have students complete designs without color clues. 
Here are some FANTASTIC freebies:
(check out her pattern block sets)

If you are able to spend a little cash, I'd definitely check out Heidi Songs:
Scroll down to see her number pattern block sets---she also has letter sets.  She also has a GREAT blog—you’ll want to check it out!

Math Centers—These you can change all year to correspond with the skills you are learning.  Start out with students matching numbers to sets (giving them ‘number mats’ and have them count out objects to correspond with them). 
Check out Kindergarten Hoppenings for LOTS of number to set matches—she has recently posted a tree and apples set, and bus and kids set.

ABC center  This is another center I use year round, changing it as the students' skills increase.  I start by having students match letters (matching upper to lowercase, or upper to upper, lower to lower)


Magazine Search---Hubbard's Cupboard has another set of wonderful resources to get you started:

Fran at Kindergarten Crayons also posted a lot of free sheets to use, but I can’t find them at the moment.  Go check here to see TONS of other fabulous ideas she’s shared (and there is even a linky party at the bottom):

Classmates names—I laminate each student's name and picture, and make them available at this center.  They start by practicing writing their friends names, and then move up to writing ‘notes’ to their friends.   I also let them put together each other’s “name puzzles” together (sentence strips cut into individual letters:  L i e s l—then put in a bag with the name “Liesl” on the front---students take the pieces out and put them together.  They can then also match it to a picture of their friends’ face).