August 27, 2012

My First Day in Pre-K

Well, day one is in the books! And, I have to say, I am really happy about how it went! You know how you always have a picture in your head of how you think things are going to go on the first day? Well, I had a picture in my head of how I wanted things to go, but really had no idea how I thought things would actually go since this is my first year in pre-k. But, the really cool thing is that in my morning class, which is pre-k 4, everything went EXACTLY as I hoped it would! My kiddos were great, we rocked right through everything I had planned in the time I thought it would take, I got to spend a lot of time talking with my kiddos to learn a little about them, and we actually dismissed on time! I had SO much fun! We read, we sang, we played, we shared. I couldn't have asked for a better first day!

Now, my pre-k 3 class in the afternoon was still good, but not quite as close to the Utopia I had created in my head! I was hoping for a wonderful, drama free, tear free afternoon. But, I had really built myself up to expect the worst. Lots of people had told me how I would need to get any extra person I could find in the school to be in my room to help me with criers and runners. But, there were no extra hands available, so it was just my TA and me. I was terrified that we were going to have a ton of crying darlings and not have enough arms and laps to soothe them. Well...we only had two that cried!! One stopped pretty quickly after I picked her up and held her for a little bit. But the other...ummm...let's just say her vocal cords are probably REALLY worn out tonight! Before dad left, she was fine. Extremely shy, but fine. But when dad was ready to go, and she wasn't ready for him to leave, I had to scoop her up so he could get out the door. That's when it started... Blood curdling screams for the next hour! I felt so bad for the poor baby! Nothing we tried helped. All she wanted to do was to bolt out the door. So my TA and I took turns blocking the door and trying to calm her down. Finally the poor thing had worn herself out so much from screaming and pounding on the door, that she laid down and fell asleep!! Now, I may be new to pre-k, but I am NOT stupid! We just let her sleep! We woke her up when it was time to go home!!

Once she was asleep, the rest of the afternoon went really well! My kiddos are just adorable! I kept catching myself just smiling and giggling at the things they would say and do! Everyone says that at some point I will get past the "cute" factor, but I don't think I ever will!

So...what did we actually do today? We met Llama Llama to start our day. We read "Llama Llama Red Pajama,  and I brought out my stuffed Llama Llama. We read "If You Take a Mouse to School," and I brought out my stuffed mouse. At the end of the day, we read "Llama Llama Misses Mama." But, I made sure not to read this one until it was time for mamas to come back! We sang "Tooty Ta," "Five Little Monkeys," and "The Alligator Chant." We read "Apple Happy" We learned about and played with things from our math & science center and reading center. And, in pre-k 3, we played with bubbles, which was the favorite activity of the day! If you want to take a look at the books we read today, just click on the links below!

I am so glad today is done! And, I'm even more glad today went so well! I am super excited to see what tomorrow holds! I know I will probably have the same screamer in my pre-k 3, but I am ready for it! I have a feeling this is going to be a GREAT year!!

August 23, 2012

Calendar Time in Pre-K???

So, how many of you have ever used calendar time in your pre-k or kinder classroom? I know I have! It's one of those things you do just do because that's what everyone does. I mean...doesn't everyone do calendar time?? It seems to be such an integral part of any early childhood classroom.

Now, I have a different question...

How many of you have pulled your hair out while trying to do your calendar time? The kiddos get restless...they have NO idea how to figure out what today is...they think Saturday comes after Tuesday...they think "yesterday" means anything that happened at any point in their lives before they went to sleep the night before... Yeah, been there, done that!

But, for some reason, we just keep on doing it. Day, after day, after day... Sure, there are some kids that get it. Sure, there are some skills that we actually can teach effectively during calendar time. But, is it the best use of our time in an early childhood classroom? Is it the best way to get our kiddos to understand the passage of time? Is it the most effective way to teach those few things that they do actually learn?

I say...NO! And, the NAEYC agrees with me!

I am one of those teachers that doesn't do anything that is not purposeful. This means, basically, that I do my homework. I read. I research. I study. Then, I decide what to do in my classroom. So, naturally, when I found out I was moving to pre-k, I was on the hunt for anything and everything I could get my hands on regarding best practices in pre-k. One of the most perspective-changing things I read was an article called, "Calendar Time for Young Children: Good Intentions Gone Awry." You can read it for yourself here. This article (along with some other research I found) really made me rethink how I was using that 20-30 minutes every day that I normally spent on calendar time. So...I started thinking...and thinking...and thinking...

What do I know about prekinders that makes it necessary for me to adjust how I do my calendar time?

#1   Prekinders need to develop the concept of  yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
#2   Prekinders are not able to really grasp the concepts of days of the week or months of the year. They may be able to sing them or regurgitate them, but they don't understand them.
#3   Prekinders need to develop their numeral recognition and proficiency with the counting sequence in authentic, meaningful contexts.

All of this led me to some MAJOR realizations about calendar time!!!

#1   There is really no place for a traditional calendar time in a developmentally appropriate pre-k classroom.
#2   To deepen prekinders understanding of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we need a daily activity that is solely focused on that skill.
#3   To deepen prekinders understanding of the passage of time, we need a concrete, linear representation of the days as they pass.
#4 There are MANY different ways to expose my prekinders to the math skills generally covered during calendar time. does all of this transfer into a real classroom on a daily basis?? Well, let me tell you what I'm planning on doing!

During our math circle time, we will be doing lots of activities to reinforce numeral recognition and the counting sequence. BUT..small groups and centers are where the real development of these concepts will take place. My kiddos will learn to count by counting varied objects during centers. They will learn to recognize numerals by playing games and engaging in different small-group and center activities where numerals naturally occur. They need to be learning and practicing these skills in authentic ways as much as possible.

Now, for the passage of time... This is where it really looks different! Rather than posting a calender and adding a new number to it every day, I have spots set aside to post five different pictures that we will do at the end of each day. During our closing circle time, we will talk about all the things we did that day. Then, we will choose one of them to draw. (At first, I will draw the pictures. In time, the kiddos will take it over!) We will also write a sentence to go with the picture. Then, the next day during our math circle, we have a child-generated representation of "yesterday" that is very real and tangible to them. We can talk about what happened yesterday, what we might be doing today, and what they think we will do tomorrow. The pictures will stay up for the week, then I will move them into a folder to create an ongoing class journal of our year. This will give us a long-term reference for things that have happened in the past. Here is what our picture display looks like (sans pictures, of course!):
Another way we will document the passage of time is by simply making a paper chain that has one link for each day we've been in school. On either side of our picture display, there will be a paper chain. One for pre-k 3 and one for pre-k 4. We will add 10 links to the chain, then it will move up to the wall, and we will start a new one. Every 10 links we will also change the color. As we go through the year, they will be able to see a concrete representation of just how long we've been in school, even if they don't have the concept of the bigger numbers yet.

In addition to all of this, we will be doing a whole-group math journal every day. This is where I can target skills that most of my kiddos need extra help with, skills that we just need repetition with, or problem solving skills. But, my biggest focus will be on the problem solving aspect. I really want to get them thinking about how to figure something out.

So, there it is! No calendar time in Mrs. A's room!

August 13, 2012

But, Everything is Blank!

After almost 11 hours working in my room today, I still cannot say that I am done! But...I made a TON of progress!! Let's see...all I have left to do is label EVERYTHING, make objective signs, make my daily schedule cards, get all of my binders ready, work on take-home packs, get apps on my iPads... Is that it? Oh...nope! Also need that tiny little thing called LESSON PLANS!! I know I will get it all done. I always do! I just don't think there is a lot of sleep in my future the next two weeks!!

Anyway...I am really happy with how my room is coming together. I took some pics from each corner of my room to try and give you the overall feel. Now, keep in mind, this is still a work in progress!

I also took some closer pics of my displays. You will notice that they are all blank! There IS a reason for this! And, it's not that I am not finished yet! My displays are all done...well, at least until my kiddos show up! Every tiny little thing that goes on my walls is kid-generated in some form or fashion. If they don't have a hand in making it, I don't put it up! Why do I do this? Well, there are several reasons. First, they will be a lot more inclined to actually use the displays if it is their work! They are invested in it, they have ownership in it, and they actually like to refer to it because it is their own work. Store-bought posters or even cutesy teacher-made posters look great, but I want my walls to be used by my kiddos more that I want them to be cutesy! Second, their work is absolutely precious, and I actually like it better than store-bought or teacher-made stuff! Third, I don't want them to feel like it is MY classroom. I want them to feel like it is OUR classroom. It is just as much theirs as it is mine. If I have every inch of the room decorated before they ever hit the door, it is 100% mine, and that's not what I want it to be. Now that I've said all that, here they are!

This is my ABC line. Ideally, it would be in one straight line, but I just don't have the space to do that unless I put it all the way at the top of the wall. And, that is WAY too high for prekinders to be able to see. Here is a closer shot of it.
I use the same key words for each letter that we have on our ABC anchor chart. I have the letter and word on each sign, and my 4's will supply the illustrations for each letter over the first few weeks of school.

I know the words are really hard to see, but this will be my number line. There is a background paper for each number from 1-10. My 4's will be supplying the pictures for these as well. Once they are done, I will be adding the numerals and number words to each sign. Here is a closer pic of the words.

These will be my shapes posters. My 3's will be the illustrators for these! Once their part is done, I will be adding the shape words to each one.

And, finally, these will be my color posters. My 3's will be doing the work on these, too. I will add the color words once the artwork is done!

I can't wait to show you the finished products once school has started and we get them done! They always turn out super cute!

August 8, 2012

Classroom DIY

So...I've been working like crazy in my room again! In fact, tonight when I was leaving school at about 7:00 (I know, I know!!) the alarm keypad was messed up, and I couldn't arm the alarm. I tried to call my principal, but he didn't answer. I texted him and waited...and waited...and waited. He finally answered me, and told me what to do, so I actually got to leave!

I am on a mission this year to spend as little $$$ as possible on my classroom. So, in an attempt to work with what I have, I did a couple makeovers to two of my shelving units. One was easy! One wasn't that difficult, but took me a couple days. Here is what I did:

This is the back of my ABC shelf. Before, it was nasty dirty! You could tell there had been two different signs of some kind attached to it with rubber cement, and the residue would NOT come off. There were also lots of pencil and marker marks on it. It just looked old and tired. I really wasn't going to do anything about it until I found 4 bottled of red acrylic paint in one of my cabinets! So, I started painting! It only took 4 coats to cover everything!! But, the result is well worth it! It doesn't look so nasty anymore, and it added a nice splash of color to my room!

This is the one that wasn't really that difficult, but took some time. This is the back of my play kitchen. I wanted it to be my board for our beginning circle time, but I couldn't attach anything to (at least not easily) as it was. DIY creativity (with some input form my mom) went to work! I got some foam board from Dollar Tree (4 pieces at $1 each). I used spray adhesive to cover the entire surface with the foam board. It was kind of like putting a puzzle together! I had to cut several pieces to fill in the entire space. Once I was done with the foam board, I let the adhesive dry overnight. Then, I used the spray adhesive again to attach cork to the foam. The cork was $14.99 per roll at Hobby Lobby, but I used a 40% off coupon to make it only $9! Now I have a bulletin board on the back of my kitchen! I'm still going to cover it like you would any bulletin board. I mean, who just wants a huge thing of cork board showing?? Not me!! So, the real "after" pics will be coming in a later post once I get my board set up!

Now for my favorite project of the day! I made my center signs that will hang from the ceiling over each center. I was at Michael's yesterday, and they had scrapbook paper on sale 6/$1. Plus, they give teachers a 15% discount! So, I really got my hoard of cute paper for only 14 cents each! That means I made all 8 of these signs for only $2.97!!!!
I am pretty darn happy with how they turned out! I can't wait to get them laminated and hung!!

So...all three of these projects were brought to you for only $16!!! Can you believe it?? And, what a difference that $16 has made! I am super excited about how my room is coming together! But...I'm not gonna lie...I'm ready to be posting about what I'm doing IN my classroom, not what I'm doing TO my classroom! 19 days and counting!!!

August 6, 2012

Getting a Face Lift

Not blog! I really wanted my blog to be cute! I mean, it was OK...but just not really what I wanted. And, I didn't have any way to add all the extras to it since I was just using a free background that didn't have anything else available that matched. So, I started searching....and searching...and searching...and finding nothing that did it for me. (Now, let me clarify here that I was looking for FREE blog sets. I am a complete cheapskate!!) I even started looking at the blog sets that you have to PAY for! ~shudders~ But, come on! There is nooooo way I'm paying $80-$150 just to make my blog cuter! Especially when it doesn't make me any money!

So, like I always do, I set out on a mission to make it myself. After we got home from church, I spent my entire day on my computer trying, and trying again, and trying AGAIN to make something useable. I started by creating a new blog that I can only use for the purposes of trying things out, without worrying about screwing up what I already have. Google became my BFF as I was trying to figure out how in the heck to make all this happen! I found some great tutorials that helped me every step of the way. (Don't ask me now where they are! I used so many different ones, I couldn't even begin to find all of them again!) I would just Google, "how to _____ in Blogger," then click on the different sites that came up in the search results until I found what I needed. I already had some awesome digital scrapbooking sets that I found for FREE (my favorite word!!) at Grany Enchanted's site, so I got busy making a background, header, post divider, button, gadget headers, and favicon. I spent hours making an image, putting it on the faux blog to see how it looked, making adjustments, and trying again. And, as of about 2:30am...I think I finally have something I'm happy with!

I wish I could say this DIY project was as easy peasy as all the other things I've decided to make myself! I mean, it wasn't really difficult...just tedious. It was hours of repeated trial and error, and that can get very frustrating! I will say that if you aren't comfortable messing with your HTML code, you do NOT need to take this project on! There was a lot of HTML adjusting that went on! Personally, I really enjoyed it! I love doing stuff like this, which is why I was up half the night doing it!

I like the face lift my blog got yesterday, and I hope you do, too! I'd love, love, love to hear what you think about it!!

August 3, 2012

Rockin' Resources Linky Party

There have been a TON of linky parties and blog hops circulating lately, but I could not resist this one! Kelly over at The Teacher Idea Factory is hosting the Rockin' Resources linky party where teachers are sharing the things they could not live without in their classrooms. I can't wait to go take a look at all the wonderful things other teachers are using! (Which also means I'll probably be doing some shopping later, too!)

I have a few things that I love, love, LOVE in my room!! Here are my 5 faves:

Smelly Markers!!!
Any kiddo who has ever been in my class knows that I love my smelly markers! I know there are different brands floating around out there, but I am a total Mr. Sketch snob!! They cost a little more, but my nose says they are worth it!!

Self-Adhesive Business Card Holders!!!
I use these to label EVERYTHING! I use the business card template in Word to make the labels, then slide them in! Easy peasy!! I put them on my tubs, lockers, cabinet name it, I put a clear pocket on it! It makes labeling things (and changing the labels on things) super easy! And...if you Google them, you can buy them in bulk which makes them MUCH cheaper!


 My Printer!!!
I am definitely not one who likes to spend money if I don't need to! (I used to spend half of my paycheck every month on stuff for my room, but I got over that about 3 years ago!) Now, if I see something cool in a resource book or in someone else's room, I do not go running to the nearest teacher store to buy it. I get on my computer and make it! Without my printer, I would still be going broke!!

Dry Erase Crayons!!!
I got SO lucky with these! I stumbled across them last fall in the clearance section at Walgreen's. They were only 99 cents a pack!! I had no idea if they would work, but for a buck...I bought every pack they had! There are 8 jumbo-sized crayons and a mitt for erasing in every pack. I love them! They wipe off very well, and you don't have to worry about lids that are missing or not on all the way. They never dry out! And, since they are the jumbo size, they last a really long time!


"Magic Wand"!!!
 I got mine as a door prize at a staff development session several years ago. You strike it on any hard surface and it makes this quiet, chime-like noise for several seconds. I use it as a signal to turn off your voice and give me your attention. My daughter (who will be a 6th grader) told me this week that her teacher last year would strike it once, and they all had to be quiet before the noise stopped. I'm always looking for fun ways to get my kiddos' attention and this was definitely a welcome addition to my toolbox!! They come in several different shapes, but mine happens to be the star.


Now, I'm off to blog hop and see what everyone else is sharing! You can link up and share your faves by clicking on the button at the very top of this post!

August 2, 2012

A Day at Home and Binder Covers

After a week and a half of working in my classroom, I decided to stay home and give my poor son a break! He's been at school with me every day that I've gone! He's been a trooper, but we are hanging out at home today.

But...that doesn't mean I'm not working on school stuff! I feel like I'm always working on school stuff! (I'm sure you know EXACTLY how that feels!!) I started this morning with organizing all the books I have double copies of. I've decided those are the ones I'm going to use for my take-home packs. I'm really in the processing phase of that project...trying to decide exactly how I want to do it and what I want to include. So, after I got the books organized, I switched gears.

I wanted to find some cute binder covers for my lesson plan notebook, assessment notebook, student information notebook, etc. I played around on TPT for awhile, but couldn't find anything that was exactly what I was looking for. I always do...I decided to just make them! I actually made five different ones, and I probably won't end up using any of them! ~sigh~ I might, but my room is all primary colors. I had to buy some sets of digital paper to make primary colored binder covers, but the Etsy store I bought them from emails them 48 hours after you buy them. Since I don't have them yet, I just started playing around with the digital paper I do have. The ones I ended up making are pretty darn cute! (Even if I do say so myself!) So, I decided to go ahead and post them on TPT. I did them as custom covers, so if you buy one, I'll add your text to it and send it to you! You can click on any of the images below to head over to my TPT store and check them out!

So...what project should I start on now??? Oh, yeah...laundry!!

August 1, 2012

Linky Parties and Giveaways!

I finally took a break from my own classroom to see what was going on with all the wonderful blogs that I follow, and I was so excited to find some linky parties AND giveaways that I could share!

The first linky party I'm joining is the First Day Jitters Blog Hop hosted by Fierce in Fourth Grade. You can link up by clicking on her button below!

 So, what are my first-day jitters?  Well, that's pretty easy since I'm teaching pre-k for the first time! I'm really not too jittery about the 4's. But, the 3's....that's an entirely different story! They are SO little! I'm just nervous about the first few days (weeks) while they get adjusted to being at school and away from Mommy. I know there will be tears, anxiety, fear, and more tears! I really hope I can make them comfortable to get through this phase of our year as quickly as possible!!

The second linky party is the New (School) Year Resolutions Link Up hosted by Teaching Maddeness. Here is the button to link up!

I've never been big on New Year's Resolutions, because I really don't wait until January 1 to make a change if I need to work on something. But, I ALWAYS set new goals for myself at the beginning of each school year. I'm sure these will change some as I get into my new grade level and really get a feel for what I'm doing, but for now...these are my goals for this year:
  1. Stay child centered! This is a big one for me, and I really want to stay focused on it, even though I know there will be lots of times when it would be easier to be teacher directed. (Especially with 3's and 4's since there is so much they aren't able to do for themselves.)
  2. Keep the parents involved! This is a little harder to do in my building than in many others I've worked in, but I'm already working on several different ways to keep them involved as much as possible.
  3. Honor my TA! I've never had a TA that was in my room all day. I've shared TA's with other teachers before, but having one all day, every day is something new for me. I want to make sure that I always remember that she is just as much a part of the room as I am, and I don't want to do anything EVER that will make her feel like anything less than that!

And now for the giveaways! The first one I found is from Math is Elementary. She is celebrating 50 Facebook likes by giving away a $25 iTunes card! And, who can't use that?!?!?! Just click on the button below to visit her blog and enter!

The second giveaway is from Elementary Adventures. She is giving away a $25 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers!! I would LOVE to win this one!! She's celebrating 100 followers! Click the button below to check out her blog and enter her giveaway!


Both of these giveaways end soon, so hurry over to enter before it's too late!!