Friday, March 27, 2015

Five For Friday!

Hi There!!!  I meant to do a Five for Friday last week, but just couldn't get to it.  There were conferences to do and bags to be packed for spring break so blogging didn't happen.  I am happy to be back and am doing a combined "2 week" Five for Friday linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching.

I had a few more students bring in some leprechaun traps.  They were all so excited about having the traps in our room and that the leprechauns were visiting our school. On Saint Patrick's Day, the leprechauns really made a mess in our room and they even left little footprints and glitter across our floor.  I adore the last picture where the children are on the floor, investigating the footprints.  How sweet!!!!!  This is one of my favorite times of year in the classroom and I am sad it has passed - but, there is always next year!

One of my little sweeties got sick on the carpet on Saint Patrick's Day.  The rest of the class did a good job calmly evacuating to the other side of the room.  We were headed to our tables in a moment anyway so leaving the carpet was not a problem.   I quickly went to the little girl with a trash can and my IA got her out of the room with a bag.  Poor things was so upset, and obviously, not feeling well.  Our sweet custodian came and cleaned it up, but the next morning when I walked in, my room did not smell good - at all! My principal had the carpet removed and it was cleaned with a steam vacuum carpet cleaner.  The children thought it was very exciting to get to choose to sit on the carpet, or on the tile.
I had conferences WED night and all day THURS so the timing worked out well for the carpet to be removed.  (But, my room seemed incomplete with my carpet removed)  I also saw the carpet on the THURS of conferences and it looked beautiful!!!!  It looked like a new carpet again.  I was told they went through 4 dirty tanks of water until it was cleaned.  Phew!  Glad it is all ready to go when we return to school on Monday.

My husband and I went to Denver for spring break.  That first weekend of spring break was so much fun!!!!  Both of my brothers and their families live in the Denver area so we all got together FRI night for dinner and time to catch up.  Then, we spent the weekend visiting and walking/hiking around Denver.  Denver and the surrounding areas have so many walking paths and trails all over the place.  Denver has great urban planners! The top picture is of my hubby, me, my sister-in-law and brother walking around on the trails by their house.  
The bottom picture is of my hubby, sister-in-law and other brother hiking around Red Rocks Amphitheater.  Have you been there???  It is stunning!  First of all, it is a great place to watch live music, and secondly, it is a beautiful place to hike.  There were so many people at Red Rocks hiking, running the stairs, doing push-ups and squats - it was motivating to see so many fit people.  My brother kept saying, "Suz, who is making them do that?"  Ha!  We had a lot of laughs.  

Another reason, actually the main reason, we went to Denver was because my husband was presenting at the American Chemical Society.  He is an organic chemistry professor at our local university and he is also interested in art.  I just think he is so talented and creative.  He combines chemistry, history and art and creates all of this unique imagery with oil paintings at his studio in Portland.
He had a poster in the Sci Mix Monday night and then he had his paintings on chemical warfare displayed all day Tuesday during a symposium on chemical warfare used during World War I.  He also did a little podcast about his art and then presented on Thursday on engaging students and the public through art.
I am so, so, proud of him and happy that he had a successful conference.  He got more exposure for his art, as well as positive feedback.  If you are intrigued by his paintings and want to learn more, you can check out his website Chemical Jungle.

We had a wonderful time in Denver!  We were able to spend time with family, my hubby had a good conference (and I even got a guest pass so I could attend his sessions), and we were able to explore this fun city.  I also rocked my Fitbit (I got over 21,000 steps 2 days in a row!).  
We enjoyed walking all over - sometimes it was just me since Dave was in a conference - and sometimes we were out together.  We also love good food and we found some amazing restaurants with incredible vegetarian selections.  
But, the BEST part about the vacation was having some quality time with my husband. We were so very busy before our trip.  He was so busy painting and getting ready for the show and the conference and I was very busy with report cards and conferences.  It was so nice to be in Denver without the regular distractions from home and just being able to walk and talk and enjoy life.  That is really what it is all about!  Enjoying the short time that we are here with loved ones.

We are now back in Oregon and it is always nice to return home after a trip.  This was an exceptional spring break!  I hope you have had, are having, or will have a great spring break as well!

When we return to school on Monday, we have about 2 and a half months left to learn!  Time is going by so fast - yikes!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Leprechaun Shenanigans!

I love the expression of the boy on the left!!!!

We read the note and then they got to cleaning right away!

For throwing this together at the last minute, it worked out pretty well!  

I sent home a note in my homework packet about making leprechaun traps.  It is optional, but a few kiddos brought some in.  After the excitement on Thursday, several more sad they would be making traps over the weekend.  It would be fun if more came in on Monday.  Look at these cute traps!

The note on his says "Leprechauns Not Welcome!" and then he has a bunch of strapping tape at the bottom of the hat where the leprechaun will get stuck once he falls in.

The next two are pretty similar with shiny coins and a lever system where the cup will lower and catch the leprechaun when he tries to get the gold!

Each child explained to the class how their trap works.  The students were so excited about this and then I had them turn and tell a friend what type of trap they would make if they were to bring one in on Monday.  

Later in the day, we did a directed drawing of a leprechaun.  I have done this for years with my students.  The drawings are adorable!!!  

They loved how their drawings turned out and they loved coloring the leprechaun!  I gave them some guidelines as to how to color, but ultimately told them that it was their drawing and they could color it how they wanted.  

This "Leprechaun Directed Drawing" is actually a freebie in my TpT store and you can find it here!  Enjoy :)

I also have another favorite activity that we do in class.  It is a fun positional word activity.  A leprechaun is looking for gold and goes all over trying to find it.  It is an interactive book and the students love it.  

If this is something you are interested in, you can find it here!

Since I had a work day on Friday, I was able to accomplish this: 

Phew!  Report cards done!  I printed them out first thing on Friday and went over them and made any edits/changes that I needed to.  I then printed them again, got them stuffed, and they are ready to go home with the students.  What a good feeling.  :) 

We have conferences this Wed evening and all day Thursday.  This is only a three day week with students.  Friday begins our spring break. (Yahoo!)  It is a comp day since we work WED and THURS night.  On Friday, my husband and I are headed to Denver, CO.  My husband is presenting at the ACS (American Chemical Society) Conference and both of my brothers live there so it is a mix of business and pleasure.  I am super excited!!!!  But, these next 4 days will be busy and we still have a lot to do before our break comes.

The students will be surprised to come into the classroom to find the leprechauns have been back!  The traps have glitter on them and we have another note and mess in our rooms.  Our leprechauns, Sean and Molly, sure like to have fun in our room!

Do the leprechauns visit your room?  What kinds of mischief do they do in your classroom?

I used the cute Shamrock clip art from Educlips to hide my students.  You can find that clip art set here.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten Linky Party

Yesterday I read The Kindergarten Connection's post "The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten" and I loved it.  Every word she wrote was right on and it got me thinking about the things I have heard over the years.  I have been teaching for awhile so I have heard many comments.  Some of these have come from friends, former student's parents, administrators, and other teachers.  I don't think anyone meant any harm in saying these comments.  These all came from a place of love and/or simple curiosity.

"All you do is cut and color."
"You teach Kindergarten?  That must be so fun!"
"Awwwww.  They are so cute at that age."
"What are you still doing here?  (Looking at the clock) The kids are gone."
"I could never teach kindergarten."
"I remember taking naps and eating graham crackers."

Kindergarten is a special grade and I am happy to be a part of it.  I am currently in my 18th year of teaching.  16 of these have been in wonderful kindergarten.  This grade truly has my heart!  I also taught one year in first grade (which I loved) and one year in a 3rd/4th combo (I'm glad I tried it, but was happy to go back to kindergarten.  I realized I liked teaching children how to read, rather than teaching children who were already reading).

Here is the TRUTH about teaching kindergarten:

All you do is cut and color.
Ohhhhhh.........if only it were this simple!  Yes.  We do cut and color.  I try to incorporate these skills into our different learning activities because they love it so much, and, they are 5 and 6.  But, that is not all we do.  Kindergarten students have so many academic standards they are required to learn - knowing all of their letter sounds and being able to apply those sounds to blending sounds into words, accurately reading grade level text, write sentences, and understand concepts of print.  They also have to identify the numbers to 20 (writing them, naming them, and understanding what each number represents), decompose numbers to 20 using base ten blocks, solve word problems, and solve addition and subtraction problems in multiple ways.  These skills are not easy for 5 year olds.  This is hard when children come in with very little background knowledge.

We also have to teach them to hold a pencil, write their name correctly (with a capital letter and the rest lowercase), and yes, we also have to teach them how to hold scissors properly and cut carefully.  This doesn't include all of the social skills we are teaching - things like being able to take turns, line up, sit and listen to a story, how to play nicely with others.

I currently teach in a half day kindergarten so all of this (and much more) must be taught in 2 hours and 45 minutes - not including specials (PE, Music, Counseling, Library) and recess.  Phew!

You teach Kindergarten?  That must be so fun!
It's true!  Kindergarten is fun!  I am thrilled that I get to work in a job that I find fun, rewarding, and new, each and everyday.  But, it is not all about "fun".  I wish it were so!  Kindergarten is busy.  I am constantly walking around the room and being called "teacher" by 5 different children at the same time.  They have a hard time waiting their turn and when they want help, they want it right then (never mind that they see me working with their friend directly across the table from them).  They have a hard time being independent.  You have to be well-planned in order to keep the students engaged and on task.  Activities must be changed often (in one lesson) and we have to take "Brain Breaks" to keep them focused.  They are 5 and so they need to move and talk or else they will burst :)  Kindergarten is fun, but it is also tiring, and demanding (see educational standards above).  It is fun, but it is so much more!

Though my students think school is fun (yeah!) they also think it could be more fun.  I had a student ask my student teacher, earlier this school year "Why does she have all these toys in here if we can't play with them?"  Awwww.  It is just so tempting to see those!  My AM kiddos get to play - once every 2 weeks.  We alternate library/activity time every Friday.  My extended day kiddos get to play in the room 3x's each week.  They so look forward to that time - and so do I.  They are having fun, but they are also learning to get along, share, construct, use their imagination, and just enjoy some choice time.

Awwwww.  They are so cute at that age.
They are so cute at this age!  It is true.  But, cute doesn't get you an "M" for Meets Grade Level Expectations on the report card.  I do love looking out at their sweet smiling faces everyday.  I LOVE that they love coming to school and that they want to learn.  That is my main goal as a teacher.  I want the students to WANT to come to school.  If they do, everything else will fall into place.

We have to plow through loads of academic content (see above) and so I can't adore them all day.  We have work to do, and math to learn, and books to read, and songs to sing, and friends to make, and schedules to keep, etc.

What are you still doing here?  (Looking at the clock) The kids are gone.
Ha!  I think all teachers know how to respond to this comment.  If only it were this simple.  I can't do the job I want to do in my actual work hours.  I wish I could, but I can't.  I work after my contracted hours ALL. THE. TIME.  I am not necessarily happy about that because sometimes I just want to relax and do other fun things.  And, sometimes I just say no.

But, for me, teaching is enjoyable.  I like planning and creating things for my little kiddos.  I want to make sure their art work is hung up, and our room is tidy, and that I am ready to go for the next day.  I need to have activities ready for parent helpers and IA support.  And, I am also uber organized - that takes time.  But, if things are in their place, then I know where to find them.  While I work outside of my contracted work hours often, I make the choice to do this, because that is who I am.

I could never teach kindergarten.
I agree.  Kindergarten is not for everybody.  They are young and need a lot of nurturing.  They need the right combination of love and structure and firmness.  They need reminders to cover their mouth with their arm when they cough, they need help tying shoes, they need reminders to look in their backpack for homework folders, they need help getting into lines, and so much more.  They need a lot of academic support and kindergarten teachers help rear their love of learning.  We teach them beginning reading, writing and math skills and try to give them the best foundation possible, all while making school an enjoyable, loving and safe place to be.

Kindergarten has my heart.  It might be fun to try first grade again (way, way down the road).  But, like the comment above, I sort of feel the same way about any grade above first grade.  As teachers, we find the right fit for our personalities and we know our strengths.  I couldn't imagine being in a different grade level at this point, and don't foresee changing grade levels anytime too soon (at least I hope I don't).  I'm not done with kindergarten.

I remember taking naps and eating graham crackers.
Those sound like the days!  We don't take naps in kindergarten anymore (actually never have in my 18 years of teaching).  With a half day, we don't have time.  We also don't have time for snack.  The students eat breakfast, have a whirlwind of learning activities, and then it is time to go home and eat lunch.  Oregon is going full day next year!  Woohoo!!!!!  While we still won't have naps, it will be nice to slow down a bit and be able to spend more time in literacy and math.  It will also be nice to be able to talk about holidays and social studies and science without sacrificing literacy or math.  And, it will also be nice to add in a regular activity time/play schedule.  As far as snack goes?  Maybe.  We will see how things go next year with full day.

This has been a fun linky party.  It was nice to think back and put my thoughts down.  I think all teachers have heard comments about the many different things we do, grade levels we teach, time we have off from work, etc.  Again, I think these comments are meant in a loving, curious, and kind way.  I don't think people realize what they say or how they say it can be taken the wrong way.

Kindergarten is a special grade level and I don't want to teach anywhere else at the moment.  I am happy with my little kiddos and truly love teaching all of the skills mentioned in this blog post.  I do hope this reads as a loving tribute to my grade level of choice and to the people who made the comments.  I am writing this in a good place, but sometimes it is hard to convey meaning in writing without hearing the tone.

I do believe these are my TRUTHS.  What are yours?  Join in this linky party to share your thoughts!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Read Across America Spirit Week

We had a fun week celebrating Dr. Seuss with Read Across America Spirit Week.  In the past, my school has had several big events associated with this week - door decorating, school wide Drop Everything and Read, and an assembly with a guest speaker.  This year, we downsized and only had spirit days.  It was still fun, but at the end of the week, I realized that I missed the other events.  Each spirit day was paired with a Dr. Seuss book.

Monday was, simply, Read Across America and we wore pajamas.  One of my favorite days in the school year!  Soon comfy :)  We did different reading activities all day - I read, they read to themselves, and we made this cute hat.  I have no idea where the hat came from though.  I have had this hat pattern for years and it is really cute.  

Tuesday was My Many Colored Days and we wore our class tie-dye t-shirt.  At the beginning of the year we put a plain white t-shirt on our school list.  Each child brought in a shirt and all the classes picked different colors.  We wore the shirt the day before our winter break, on Tuesday, and we will also wear them on field day, and on our field trip at the end of the year.  It is amazing to see all of the classes in the school in their class t-shirt.  Field day looks amazing and is so colorful!  My favorite color is green, so of course, we had green for our t-shirt color.  I had the shirts on their desk when they walked in.  They pulled the shirt over their clothes.  However, for field day and our field trip, they change in the bathroom so they only wear the tie-dye.  Also, I keep the shirts at school and bring them home and wash them.  I keep them in order to make sure we have the shirts to wear when we need them.

Wednesday was Fox in Socks and wear your craziest mismatched socks to school.  We took a picture with everyone who wore their crazy socks to school.

Thursday was I Can Read With My Eyes Shut and we wore a shirt with words on it that we can read. Some of the words were too funny!

Friday was Hooray for Diffendoofer Day and we wore our school shirt, or school colors, - purple, grey, or black.

We also made these Thing 1 and Thing 2 hats from First Grade Blue Skies.  I had the students color the hair blue and I just used red construction to attach it to the hair.  I gave them a straw and then taped the Thing 1 or Thing 2 (I let them choose which "Thing" they wanted) to it.  They held it up in front of themselves.  They loved it!

There are so many great ideas on Pinterest and I saw some fun ideas on Instagram and other blogs.  However, it is report card testing time and this is where I spent most of my week.  Boo :(

All in all it was a fun week.  Things will be back to normal next week without spirit days, and I am ALMOST finished with my one:one assessments - yeah!

Did you do anything to celebrate?  I hope it was fun!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hip, Hip Hooray! It's the 100th Day!

Hi, Ho, 
Hi, Ho,
100 Days ago,
We came to school,
and we're so cool!
Hi, Ho,
Hi, Ho, 
Hi, Ho, 
Hi, Ho!

That song is how I greeted my students in the morning.  It is pretty easy to pick up and so they joined in soon enough.  I don't know where that song came from.  I have been singing it for YEARS in kindergarten though.  It is quite fun and the kiddos love it.  Do you also sing this song?  Or, do you sing a different one?

We had a such a fun day last week!  I teach in a half day kindergarten situation and it is hard to fit it all in with less than 3 hours of school.  I was wanting to change up some of the activities I did this year, so it was fortuitous timing that I read two blog posts by Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade and Vickie Plant at Primary Press that gave me new ideas.  Thank you ladies!

To begin with, my wonderful friend and colleague and I (with the help of her student teacher) decided to make the day extra special by creating a walk way for the students.  We were inspired by Pinterest (of course!) and worked late on Monday night making an entrance for the hallway that the students wouldn't forget.  It was great to see the children's excitement and to also watch the parent's flashbulbs go off in the morning.  It was quite the photo op!  We had a carwash for the children to walk through, and then the big 100.

I am also happy to report that the 100 lasted all day!  The students were very respectful and so we rolled it up, stored it in our music teachers large closet, and we will have it again for next year.  The 100 was hard to resist - so we had to take a picture :)  

As the students walked down the hall they were excited to see the outside, and inside door decorations to our classroom.
Let me tell you that it took us a long time to enter and exit the classroom.  They all wanted to walk through sparkly blue, red and gold streamer that I bought from Oriental Trading Company.  A child would walk through, and then the next child would wait until it settled down and then walk through it, and then the next child did the same thing, etc, etc.  It was really cute!

I had stations set up in my classroom.  My students sit at 5 different tables and the tables have colors and shape names.  Here is how I had my centers rotations set up and it made for easy visuals.

The 5 stations were:

1) Puzzles and Cups - seriously - who knew that 100 red solo cups would be so much fun?!?!  This is something I have read about and seen pictures of, but after doing it this year, I will definitely add this to my rotation.  They came up with some pretty cool structures and it was funny how each group reacted differently to the structures falling.  Some yelled, some gasped, and others had blood-curdling screams!  The puzzles are from the Dollar Store and have...........yup..........100 pieces!

2) 100 Snack Station - Like many of you, we had 100 pieces of snack!  Each child counted out 100 pieces of snack - 10 of each snack.  Unfortunately we ran out of time to eat the snacks at school so they took them home.  They sure had fun counting them out!  I used a great sheet that I found online and I can't figure out where it came from to give credit.  Does anybody know?  I'd love to give credit. It was a great organizer!

3) Zero the Hero - We have been using the Zero the Hero packet from Growing Kinders and my kiddos are so very good at tally marks because of it!  They love Zero the Hero and we finally completed our last page of the book.
4) 100th Day Hat - The biggest surprise of the day was that making the hat was the longest center.  When they are allowed to use markers, they always do their personal best!  This cute hat pattern came from a freebie at Primary Press.

5) Ice Cream Cones - This cute idea came from The First Grade Parade.  Cutting out all of this on the 100th Day would have taken for-ev-er, so we started cutting about 2 weeks ahead of time.  We cut out   one scoop, or two, each morning when we arrived.  This was such a good strategy!  On the 100th Day, they glued the ice cream cones on thin orange strips of paper, and then cut out the numbers and ordered the numbers 10-100 on the scoops.  Most of my kiddos were able to order the numbers without a problem.  Yeah!!!!

They sure brighten up our classroom cabinets!!!

Meanwhile, I had a parent helper call the students to the back to paint 100 gumballs.  The gumball base is from The First Grade Parade and the Ten Frame format is from Primary Press.  10 sets of 10 different colors.  They loved it and the gumballs also look great out in our hallway!

Last but not least, we had our 100th Day Fashion Show!  This idea is a great freebie from Maria Manore at Kinder Craze.  So many of my students participated!!!!  It was a highlight of our day.

Never mind that the boy wearing the goldfish glued to his shirt started picking them off and eating them.  Oops!  Glad I caught that right away!  Some decorated the back, others the front, and others did both.  My shirt is pictured at the top of this post.  I put 100 butterflies on my shirt.  I wanted to say something like "100 Days Fluttering By" but the butterflies were so big I couldn't fit the statement.  I had 50 on the front and 50 on the back.  Students used buttons, fingerprints, googly eyes, foam pieces, stickers, and more!  LOVE this idea!  

At the end of the day, I had a collection on my desk from items that fell off of the shirts as the day went on!  Ha! Ha! 

It was a fabulous 100th Day!!!!  I will do many of these new activities next year.

Because our day is so short, we made our Zero the Hero guys the next day.  These are from Growing Kinders and they are adorable!!!! 

My favorite part of the day though was having my homeroom students for the entire day and celebrating math and counting!  My school has a large ELL population so we have transitions for ELD and native language literacy.  Homeroom days are precious to me and the children loved being together all day too!

This post is exactly one week later, but our classroom room is decorated with all of our activities from this fun day dedicated to 100 and focusing on ten groups of ten, tally marks, and numbers!  I hope you also had a wonderful celebration!