Thursday, August 27, 2015

Perspective of a Principal

One of the first concepts of Kaplan's Depth and Complexity that I work with my kiddos on is Multiple Perspectives. Many of them, believe it or not, think the world revolves around them. :) So it's actually a challenging task for them to put themselves in the shoes of someone else. I jump up on a table (ok, if I'm honest with my bad knee it's more like crawling up on the table) and demonstrate to them how the world I see up there is different-a la Mr. Keating in Dead Poet's Society. Then I read them a story called:

In the story we meet a principal who loves his school sooo much that he decides to have school on the weekends, and holidays, and summers. One student lets him know that plan is not working because kids have to learn how to climb trees and teach their dogs to fetch and teach their brothers to skip. It's a cute story. 

So we talked about what the principal's job is and started thinking about what a principal would see, do, feel, dream, believe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Whew! To say that this week has been exhausting is an understatement! I think most Kinder and Pre-K teachers just literally forget how hard the first week is! We get our kiddos into such a routine-they know where to sit at lunch, they know where to stop the line in the hallway, they know how to put lids on glue sticks, etc. Most of my Kinders have not been to school before so I'm having to repeat myself a lot! I also have 15 out of my 20 students who are boys! Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled with the 20 part, usually it's upwards of 25 (last year 27) but because the state is no longer excepting class size waivers from us, we have more reasonable ones this year-which is nice. But all the boys, boys, boys! I have come home every day this week and slept for a few hours before I get up and get some work done. What's that saying about how teaching Kindergarten is easy?! :)

One of the first vocabulary words I teach my kiddos is "unique". I want them to know my expectation for them is that their work is unique. I want them to come up with something different from their friends, different than any student has come up with before. I read them the story Chrysanthemum and we talked about how she had such a unique name. I then asked them to write about what made them unique. Here's what they came up with:

I like butterflies.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I Am Not Offended.....

So we are doing pre-service activities and talking about our evaluation process yesterday and we are supposed to choose 2 criteria to work on throughout the year. Now I could choose 12! :) Because I know that there are a lot of things I could work on. One of our admins came over and asked if we needed anything and I jokingly said "yes, tell me what goals I should choose" and she said "Miss Trayers, you know the way you teach is just really out there, I don't understand a lot of what you do, so I wouldn't even know what to tell you". My GT coordinator flat out tells parents I'm "weird" in my ideas when she gives tours to prospective families.

Now some may have be offended by that, but I actually take it as a compliment. I, like Molly Lou Melon, Vashti, Unique Monique and Tacky the Penguin strive to be different! I don't want to be like everyone else teaching from the same lesson plans they have used for 20 years. I don't want to do the same cut-and-paste "projects" that someone printed from TPT or create the same cutesy bulletin board someone else pinned on Pinterest. I want to be a trailblazer! I want to take risks, I want to be the rebel. I want to discover the new technology, the new strategy. 

So call me "different" or "weird" all you want to...I will smile and say "thank you"! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Classroom Theme This Year

Sometimes my themes just come to me, sometimes I find myself less inspired. I like to choose a literature based theme to guide my decorating process. This year I decided on Alice in Wonderland. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be! :) 

My word wall-they can take the words off and use them in their writing.

My library area.

Math word wall and calendar.

The library. I'll post more finished room pics when it's done. Doing my take everything out of the cabinets thing to purge what I can right now-so technically it's a mess!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Using Menus

I very much believe in giving kids choice when it comes to the product their activities take. I found a really great resource with templates for different kinds of menus: . There is also Ian's Differentiator:

I did a survey of parents at the end of the year last year and one of the 2 responses I received indicated they didn't like the way I did homework. That there wasn't enough variety in the worksheets I was sending home each week. So I decided to change how I do it. (By the way we are required to send homework or I wouldn't even do it in Kindergarten-the parents also always request it). I am going to do it with menus this year. This is what I have for the first week-it will get more challenging and more tailored to individual needs when I get the kiddos and assess what they already know.

They will complete one activity each night from the reading menu and one from the math. We'll see how it goes. I like trying new things! I use this for their workstation activities and every once in a while for how they create their end-of-unit projects.

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Reading Recommendation

I am really proud of myself! I am one book away from my personal goal for the year which is 40 books. In 2013 I read 16, last year 27--so I made my goal 40 this year and even with a few months left I have almost reached that goal!

The book I want to recommend for you is:

I think this is an incredibly poetic tribute to her husband and her marriage. The author's husband passed away suddenly at 50 years old. Both of them were artists, he with paint and her with words. This story not only details how they met, married and created a family but also how she dealt with the grief of his loss. Not a long book but one that will definitely stick with you. I couldn't put it down.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Assessing Creativity

I love challenging kids! I love seeing what they can come up with and guiding them in being better critical thinkers. Believe it or not, even GT kiddos when they start in early childhood, don't always have those creative thinking skills. You CAN help them learn to think more creatively but it's important to see where they are at the start. So the beginning of the year is when I like to do some activities to see just what kind of creative skills they already have.

1) Divergent Art-this is actually what they use to assess creativity when they do research. Give the students a line (I like to start with the "S" shape) and ask them to use their creativity to turn it into something. Quite often on the first day of school with that shape I get a bunch of snakes. However, the more we learn about being creative throughout the year, the more creative their answers get.

2) Problem-solving classroom community activities-I like to give them some materials (what I use varies-pattern blocks, counters, plastic cups) and the goal is to make the highest structure in the room. Usually their first instinct is to just stack all the pieces up and what happens is it starts to fall down a lot. They have to think about a way to make it stay up or scaffold it somehow.

3) New uses for everyday things-give the kiddos an object and ask them to come up with something new you can use it for. This is particularly challenging for them because it really means to think outside what they have always known. School supplies make great fodder for this the first week. What can I use a pencil for besides writing?

(my all-time favorite answer using a paper clip-it's a hanger for ant clothes.)

4) Open-ended art projects. I know I'm in the minority when it comes to Kinder teachers here! :) Most teachers are having the kids cut and paste a cut little first day activity they found on Pinterest so they have something cute to put on their bulletin boards. Me, not so much. I would rather give them something more open-ended and see what they can do creatively. Yes, you get a lot of questions like what color should I use or where should I put this, but it's a great way to lay that foundation of "you're the artist" which is my philosophy.

Just a few ways to see where the students are in their creativity levels from the very beginning. It is also great to see the growth throughout the year as you use these activities regularly.