Friday, December 30, 2011


I always think it's funny for teachers to celebrate New Year's in January--there should be a holiday just for us in May! That's really when the new year begins in the classroom. :)

I do try to be reflective and look back on the year so far, to see what I can change for the all-important second half of the game. This has been a challenging year for me. A lot of the tricks that have worked in the past are not working for me this year. Some days I go home feeling pretty defeated. Of course that just means we change what play we are going to run and get right back in the game. (Can you tell I was watching Friday Night Lights on DVD over the break?)

Anyway, here's my to-do list for the upcoming rest of the school year:

1) Connect with parents better. I always have staff kids in my class (my record has been 4 at one time). I find myself stopping them in hall to share an anecdote or dropping an e-mail--"Johnny cracked us up today, guess what he said", etc. I am going to try to start e-mailing or sending a positive note to all my parents on a weekly basis.

2) Focus on my small group instruction. We moved, then had a week of testing :(, then report card assessments I needed to do individually. The students are definitely going to have to get back to that individualized instruction, especially in reading.

3) Have more fun! I love to incorporate art and music into our activities-it just seemed like that would be frowned upon in our test-prep mode. The kids are definitely going to be getting their hands dirty!

4) Doing more cooperative group activities. I think I shied away from this a bit this year because my kids can't get past hanging up their backpacks in the morning without fighting over a certain hook! Seriously, they will argue over who is last in line-will argue over anything. They need that experience with working in groups on a project.

5) This one is more for my administration--track my data better. I know,  it just sounds ridiculous coming from a Kindergarten teacher but we have weekly assessments they want broken down by objective and what percentage mastered which objective. 10 years ago it was who could cut and who could play nicely with others; now it's how many words per minute they read for fluency. We have to do what we have to do-so I need to find a more effective way of doing that.

Just thought I'd share what I was thinking about. I asked the kids to write their resolutions before the break-pertaining to academics-gave them examples of learning how to read better, add, etc. My favorite one was the little girl who wrote she wanted to learn how to bowl! :) Now that could be data I can track! I just don't think she'd want me to be the one to teach her that skill-I get my bowling and golf mixed up-golf scores are high and bowling scores are low.

Hope everyone has a very Happy New Year! Can you believe it's going to be 2012 already!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Unanswered Questions

I've gotten questions in the past about the icons, I think this link explains them all pretty well. They are symbols for ideas to get the kids thinking more in depth about what they are learning:

Anyway, one that seems very easy to incorporate is "Unanswered Questions"--however, with the little ones hardly anything is as easy as it appears! They are so used to us telling them everything they need to know about a topic or listening to the story and that's it--it's really a challenge for them to think about what information they weren't given.

I have posted before about using this site :  to get pictures to use in their warm-up activities before whole group reading instruction. (I wouldn't let the kids get on it themselves, they do sometimes have pictures from war or protests. However most of the pics are human interest, nature or kids/people from other cultures.) They give me complete sentences to describe what's going on-adjectives are encouraged. They might give me a title or the main idea.

I've also started using it to incorporate the Unanswered Questions. They are finally to the point now where they can switch gears between a question and a sentence. Sometimes they go for the easy ones-where is this taking place? But often they will use a why.  Why is this man rowing a boat through a building? I am also trying to get them to think about what may happen next. Anyway, I find it's an easy way to work on oral language/reading objectives and through in a little social studies with some depth and complexity at the same time! Talk about compacting curriculum! :)

Grinch Ethics

We read the story of the The Grinch and I asked the students to write about the ethics revealed in the story. I especially challenged them (because it's very easy to say what he did "wrong") to think like the Grinch's lawyer and defend his actions. Some of them wrote that the Grinch right because he gave everything back, some that he taught us what Christmas spirit is all about. Some still wanted to lock him up and throw away the key! :)

Right to give the Christmas decorations and presents back.

Right because it was showing us we have to spend time with our families.

The Grinch is wrong because the Christmas spirit is not to steal.

The Grinch was wrong because if someone sees the Grinch steal he will go to jail.

He is right because showing us to not steal.

Right because he put all the presents (back).

Always an interesting perspective from this student! :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

If You Were An Ornament...

It sounds like one of those get-to-know-you activities. If you were an ornament, what kind would you be....hmmmmm? :)

This was one of those improvised, last-minute, not in my lesson plan kind of lessons (that happens probably more than it should in my class). Our schedule was changed and I had an extra 1/2-hour and had to figure out something fast for the kids to do. I wanted to do something with perspective and December-related so I decided to ask them to write from the perspective of an ornament. How would you feel, what would you see, etc.

 I thought some of them came up with some interesting answers...we're starting to get past just the "I would feel happy" comments and into more details of a day in the life of an object.

This one is a little candy cane obsessed these days! ;)

"I would hang on the tree"-very proud of this student for actually starting to sound out her words-for the longest time it was "but I can't write".

"I see a present."

"I would feel sad because people will touch me and if they have germs". That would definitely be the downside-guess what now you know how Kinder teachers feel at the end of the day-very germy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Making New Friends

Now, let me preface this by saying we are in the midst of a Gingerbread Unit right now.

In the morning, when the kids arrive they always do journal writing. Today's prompt was "To make a new friend I would....". Most of the kids wrote 'be nice' or 'play with them'. One of my students brought his up to me and I'm pretty good at reading Kindergarten, but I couldn't decipher it. I asked him to read it to me. He said "I couldn't spell 'ingredients'. And it took me a minute but I did realize I had asked how to 'make' a friend. :)

It was one of those moments where you have to stifle a giggle. They can be soooo literal sometimes!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingerbread Ethics

I asked the kids to write about whether it was right or wrong that the Gingerbreads all ran away. Of course, I am really encouraging them to get into the "why" of it all but it's challenging for them.

It is wrong to eat the gingerbread girl because it's make-believe.

It's right because they almost ate the tortilla.

It is right to run away because the gingerbread girl did not want to get eaten.

It is right because if you eat it won't be alive. It is wrong to talk to strangers (ie the fox).

Gingerbread Unit

I love reading all the various versions of the Gingerbread stories this time of year. If you are not familiar, here are a few:

Just too cute!

The kids also love this one-a gingerbread who can't understand why the bakery items aren't speaking to him.

Great comparison to the tortilla-they shout different rhymes, different theme.

Desert animals chasing the tortilla-a little Spanish vernacular thrown in. My kids acted this out one year for the Christmas program-you should have seen the tortilla costume-priceless!

Also new vocabulary for them-had to look up what an omebashi plum was-apparently very good for you.

The kids' favorite-I think because they love pickles so much,

My new favorite-lots of new New Orleans vocabulary-chere!

Of course I love that she's smarter than the boy and gets away at the end!

You can compare and contrast-even doing a 3-circle venn diagram or triple bubble map. Compare the different animals chasing them, different settings. We've even charted who got away and who got eaten. I always have the kids write their own runaway food story-that's going to be an upcoming post!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Candy Cane Critical Thinking

I'm a big fan of asking kids to find new uses for old things. Tis the season to create a new use for candy canes! I demonstrated with my pen and how they've seen me use it to open things or wrap up my hair. We brainstormed a list of other uses. And then I sent them off to create 4 new uses for candy canes. They came up with some things I would not have thought of.... (these pics are not the best, I don't know what's going on with my camera).

a ladle, love their euphemisms---grandma spoon :)

A heart, a pickle, a circle and a letter

I think she's a future American Idol singer-but I would never have thought of a microphone-very creative!

A heart, square, and a stick

bed, car, backpack and table-love her illustrations!

I don't know if my Ruby would be able to be walked on a candy cane-it would be gone before no time!

So Much For Early Childhood....

I'm wondering if any other Kinder teachers who are reading this are accountable for standardized test scores for their kiddos.

I ask because we start our testing this upcoming week. 5 fun-filled days of me reading questions aloud and the kids sitting in their seats that whole time bubbling in answers (very developmentally appropriate don't you think?). The best part is, even though this test is given for the purpose of identifying GT students (that's why it's given so early)--this will be my accountability for the year! I'm told because it's the only test we take, it's the only data we have. Of course, we know differently-we have tons of data on our kiddos-observational data, sight word inventories, fluency rates, number of letters/sounds learned, etc. It's much more accurate to sit down individually and test one or 2 objectives at a time. But this is what counts-multiple choice answers on a norm-referenced test given in December. :(

The best part is, since I teach a GT class-my kids are expected to score a whole grade level above. I'm required to get an average grade level equivalency of 1.3 on the total battery scores. Even though I've only had these kids for 3 months (and I have 25 of them-much less time to work with them individually). So I was expected to effectively teach a year and half's curriculum by this week. I can't even articulate how challenging and stressful that has been. Kinder is foundational-you can't just snap your fingers and have them reading--there are a lot of steps involved to work up to that. Not to mention there are a lot of activities I like to incorporate that are not based on the test requirements-projects, creativity, critical thinking exercises, the GT icons--it's a lot to incorporate day to day as it is. Next year our official evaluations will be based 50% on test scores alone-they haven't decided yet if this is the test they will use for Kinder, but if they do, man, there goes the concept of Early Childhood Education.