Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Summer Bucket List

Summer is officially here!!! I'm staying up late, connecting with friends, blogging more, and working on getting stuff checked off my Summer Bucket List.  Today I've teamed up with Creating and Teaching, The Kindergarten Connection, Live, Love, Laugh Everyday in Kindergarten, and Simply kinder.

My list isn't too exciting, but for me, it includes all of the things I want to do this summer.  A few of which I have already checked off and plan to repeat as necessary.

Notice how Sleep In is first on my list and it isn't checked off.  My body is still on school year wake up time.  It doesn't matter how late I stay up, I just can't sleep in.  Maybe it is the neighbor's Harley that wakes me up at 3:00 AM every morning.  Seriously, what compels a person to blast the radio on his motorcycle while it is warming up at 3:00AM???
Teacher Summer Bucket List
I'm almost ready to check the second item off my Summer bucket list. Watch Orange is the New Black.  I binged watched seasons 1 & 2 last week.  I am slowly making my way through season 3.  I have 4 episodes left and I don't want it to end.  The writers do an amazing job with reflecting on the inmates past a little bit at a time.  It is funny how some of the characters personalities or appearances remind me of people I know in real life.
Teacher summer bucket list,
Pedicures With Friends and Dinner Out With Friends. These were the first items on my list I was able to check off.  Of course they will need to be repeated a few more times.  I love a good pedicure.  Can you guess which toes are mine?  The Dinner Out With Friends has happened quite a bit already.  I love being able to reconnect with my friends, catching up on each others lives and of course sharing a few adult beverages are always nice too.  BTW those are mango margaritas from my favorite restaurant.  I've been there a few times in the past few weeks.  There's something about good food, drinks and friends all combined together.
Teacher summer bucket list,
I really want to take a vacation to the beach and just do nothing but dig my toes in the sand and maybe take a dip in the ocean if it is warm enough. This is a favorite beach of mine in Nerja, Spain.  It is on the Costa del Sol.  I was there in 2013.  Unfortunately we were only able to spend 1 day there, but it is a wish of mine to return.  
teacher summer bucket list, beach,
Something that I have been doing daily is walking the dogs.  Every night my husband and I walk our two dogs and the neighbor's two miniature dachshunds.  We are dog sitting.  We are also currently dog sitting a miniature chihuahua.  Apparently our neighbors and friends think we are running a dog sitting service. 
what teachers do in the summer

As for the other items on my bucket list… I am working on it.  I would like to take an extended weekend trip and visit my family that doesn't live near.  The blogging is coming along, the TpT products have been on the back burner for a bit, but I'll get to them.  I actually find creating via my computer to be very relaxing.  As for my office, well…. it is a never-ending process.  There are days it looks fresh out of Pottery Barn and other times it looks like I'm auditioning for Hoarders. 
Well, that's my summer bucket list.  I told you not too exciting.  No trips to Las Vegas this year. My husband told me to go and a few of my bloggy friends were kind enough to offer to share their room, but after much contemplation, I decided to sit this year out.  The past few summers have been so busy, they didn't really feel like a vacation.  It has been nice to just sit about in my pajamas all day, watch movies and do nothing.  So, what is on your bucket list this summer?

If you would like to read more about Teachers on Summer Break head on over to these fabulous bloggers.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Preparing for the First Day of School Part 1

back to school supplies, teacher supplies, summer prep work, Amazon, teacher tools
During the summer I spend a lot of time planning and preparing for that First Day of School. There are so many behind the scenes preparations that need take place before I unlock that door to greet my new class.

To make all of my prep work quick and easy, there are a few essential items I need.  I don't mind spending the money, if it makes things easier and saves time.

First on the list is Name Tags
I use name tags on everything, their cubbies, coat hooks, tables, book boxes, and probably most important of all on that first day, the students.  We have 5 kindergarten classrooms that is potentially 120 brand new 4 and 5 year olds running about.  Each of us have our own system for labeling our students.  All involve some sort of name tag that either clips onto the shirt or hangs from the neck of each child.  Here is what I use.

student name tags, kindergarten name tags first day of school, kindergarten first day name tag, Amazon,  red lanyard

The lanyards might be a bit long, but I just double knot at one end to shorten them.
However, if you prefer the clip style, you might try these.
badge holder clips, Amazon, teacher tools
I also use the clear name tag holders for my student book boxes.
student book boxes, magazine box, IKEA
Next up is Magnetic Tape
I have a very large magnetic white board that due to its location works better to sever as a bulletin board rather than a white board.  I use magnetic tape to keep my items in place.  i also use it to keep my word wall cards in place.
teachers helpers, classroom magnets, magnetic tape
I use a ton of Laminating Pouches during the school year so you can bet I use a lot during the summer as I'm prepping. I prefer the thick 5mil. but the 3mil. work great too.
teachers, classroom, schoollaminating pouches, laminator for teachers
Of course if you don't already own this Scotch Laminator- you should.  I LOVE mine.
teacher tools, teacher must-haves, scotch laminator
I also use a lot of labels.  I buy small ones at the Dollar Tree-you can read about that here and here, but I buy these for the covers of my homework folders and for the insides.
teacher labels, labels for classrooms, teacher tipsshipping labels, book labels, classroom time savers
Last is Adhesive.  I love these little dot rollers.  I used to scrapbook a ton.  I have a huge adhesive roller tape gun that I use for large projects, but these little rollers are fantastic for using in the classroom and sticking down small items.
tools for teachers, teacher tips
So now that I have all the supplies I need to start prepping, you might be wondering what am I will be doing.

The name tags are a given. I laminate my printed name tags before placing them in the badge holders.  You would be amazed at how many times those name tags go into their mouths.  YUCK!!!  I make sure our room number is on the tag.  This helps other teachers know who the teacher is, especially if a child gets lost on the first few days- believe me it happens.

I use the adhesive roller to stick down my library pockets while I am placing them onto my poster board. I use just a few dots to keep the library pockets in place before I send it through the school laminator.  They are moveable which make it great if you need to adjust them a bit.
classroom take-home readers, library pocket chart
The Avery labels as I mentioned above, are used for labeling our homework binders.
kindergarten homework
Several years ago a created a homework binder product that can be found on TpT.  
homework for kindergarten, homework binders, homework folders., homework labels
Well, that is it for now as this post is already too long.  I will be back soon to show you what I have created as the summer progresses.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where Has the Play in Kindergarten Gone

What has happened to kindergarten?  Where has the PLAY gone?  

Learning through play, kindergarten play based learning
Some schools offer a TK (Transitional Kindergarten) program, the models are different from one classroom to the next and the curriculum may or may not be developmentally appropriate for a young five year old.  Some TK's have a specialized curriculum that was designed for a TK, others are just using the kindergarten prescribed program, and trying to make it fit.  That of course is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole.  The whole idea behind offering a TK program is to give those young school-aged children a "Gift of time" Rather than forcing them to learn an entire year of curriculum that for many is far beyond their reach, they have two years to learn in ways that are developmentally appropriate. They have time to learn how to be a responsible and respectful student, they have time to learn how to play, they have time to be a kid in kindergarten.  

There is also the blended model, but what is that really? Isn't that just a buzzword for a combination class?   With so much emphasis being put on academics, we have taken the "PLAY" out of kindergarten.  It is now up to me to be even more creative then I feel I already am.  I need my kids to pass the DIBELS benchmarks and the progress monitoring, the monthly district assessments, and the phonics screeners.  

But WAIT- I want my kids to LOVE school.  I'm their foundation to their lifelong education.  I am often their first introduction to academic learning.  If they come to school not liking kindergarten, then I have failed.  Who doesn't love kindergarten?  It is supposed to be a magical introduction to school.  It is supposed to introduce them to learning, playing, making friends and leaving with the desire to want more, the desire to want to learn how to read.  It isn't supposed to give them stomach aches because they know I am going to ask them to segment words or read from the list of high frequency words they should already have mastered.  

So what do we see happening to our little babies, and yes, I call them babies, they have a lifetime to grow up and be kids, teenagers, young adults and so forth.  They are our babies. Our babies are not learning how to play, they are not learning how to share, take turns, or be curious or imaginative. 

Our kids are coming to us with less language, they are now the generation of handheld devices.  I see little ones younger than two years of age holding onto a tablet or cell phone. Gone are the days of the alphabet game on car rides, listening to the wee-sing or Raffi songs.  Now they are listening to Taylor Swift while playing Minecraft.  A short trip to the grocery store calls for the device to keep them entertained and quiet.  When I was a kid our entertainment was the radio and playing I Spy. as we looked for letters on license plates. 

I know we need to educate our kids in order to be a competitor in the global maket, but at what cost?  Do kids who learn 100 or more sight words in kindergarten, who can compose and deccompose numbers 11-19 and who can write a narrative report, perform better when they are in middle school and high school then those students who learned to read in first grade and who learned two digit addition in second grade?  I ask this question, because I really do want to know.  Are these kids better human beings, are they learning life skills that will take them a long way in life or are they just leaning how to recite rote information, click on apps and be non-verbal.

By forcing children to learn more at a rapid pace and younger age, we are taking away their ability to develop cognitive, social, academic, and developmental skills that could actually prepare them to be better students later on.  We are stifling their ability to formulate expressive and receptive language skills.  We are taking away their time to develop social and emotional skills as well as their fine and gross motor skills.

So, with all that being said, I know that come August many teachers will be faced with teaching kids who truly aren't ready for the rigors of today's kindergarten.  How can we meet the vast needs of our babies?  I for one am planning on bringing play back to kindergarten,  I plan to spend more time developing language skills, social skills,  and fine and gross motor skills.  You might be thinking but how??? My goal this year is to focus more on the learning through exploration and play and to use centers that don't always have an exact outcome.

I know this is going to be difficult, but I am willing to give it a try.  After last year with so many kids crying about how school was too hard and all the assessments I had to but my babies through, it is time for a change.  I know I won't be able to change it all over night, but baby steps in the right direction is what I am aiming for. The next time someone asks me the question of "Where has the play in kindergarten gone?"  I want to say nowhere, it is right here;. We learn through play in my kindergarten classroom.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whole Brain Teaching Book Study

Have you heard of Whole Brain Teaching?  I first heard about it two years ago at the I Teach K conference. I didn't think of it much more after that until last year when a friend suggested I read the book.  I Googled the book, found the website, and read a little bit, then ordered it from Amazon.
educational book study, kindergarten blog Whole Brain Teaching

When it arrived, I was excited to read it.  I read the first part, watched some Youtube videos and even made a Pinterest board for all the things I could find about WBT.  I tried to sit in on a webinar,  hosted by the books Author, but I had a terrible connection and gave up.  I wasn't really sure how it could work in kindergarten, but I gave it a try.  I  started with the "CLass"" "Yes"".  I couldn't believe how quickly my kids caught on, and it worked.

Then assessment time came  and that was that.  I never finished the book, i never tried to watch more webinars and I never implemented anymore steps.  So that brings me to now.  It is summer break, the book is still in my reading basket next to my big comfy chair and I will be starting a book study in my Teacher Facebook Group.  I also have another blogger friend who will be joining me to help me  lead the very casual discussions.  I've shared it on my Facebook fan page and in my Facebook Teacher group.  I was surprised to learn that many teachers like myself already had the book or were planning to read the book.

I'm inviting all of you to join the book study on Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids. It won't be anything formal. It would require you to have the book, read the book and discuss it. We are planning to start on June 30th.   Also if you have Amazon prime, I think the book is available for free on your Kindle downloads.
You can join the Teacher Facebook Friends group here
Time 4 kindergarten Facebook Group, Teacher groups,
 If you want to see what I have pinned on my WBT board, you can see it here.
Follow Time 4 Kindergarten's board WBT (Whole Brain Teaching) on Pinterest.

So, grab the book and join the Whole Brain Teaching Book Study, we can all learn about it together.  This is going to be fun!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hosting the Staff End of Year Luncheon

Serve guests their drinks in fun bright colored plastic insulated cups.
Some people might think I'm crazy for even suggesting that the staff end of the year luncheon take place at my home instead of a restaurant.  Usually we got on a Mexican restaurant to eat at and then we pre-order meals before the last day.  After all the report cards are handed out, last minute hugs and photos are finished, our staff meets up for lunch.

You want to get there early to get the prime seat.  Nothing is worse then being stuck at the end of the table or next to someone you prefer not to be sitting next too  The conversations are hard to follow and your are stuck there, sitting in your chair until the bill arrives.  Then there is the dreaded trying to figure out who owes how much money, who didn't pay for their 2nd beverage and so on.

This year we voted on a restaurant or my house.  One its was decided we'd be dining in m backyard, my husband offered to cook rather than paying to have it catered.  Once again it went to a staff vote.  Now many of my co-workers have had the pleasure of dining at our home.  they know my husbands hobby is cooking and he is quite good at it.  This explains the never ending trying to loose weight but can't.

I love to have parties.  People are always surprised to hear that I have party dinnerware for 30.  This is all separate from our everyday dishes.  You name the tray, chaffing dish or dessert cup, we have it.   So when it came time for the party i wanted to have it be a little more festive then drinks on the patio served out of red solo cups.

summer party favorsI'm not sure what made me think of it, it could have been my never ending trips to Target and the .99 Cent Store.  They are next to each other.  If I go to one I usually go to the other.  I decided to purchase fun summer drink cups for all staff members who had signed up to attend.  When they arrived they were told to "Grab a Cup and Pour a Drink".  We used a sharpie to write names on the bottom, just in-case someone forgot which cup they had.  Next time I think I'll try using my chalk pens on the outsides.  Everyone can decorate their own cup.  In hind sight- I should have written- "Grab a Cup and Fill It Up".

My co-worker/friend brought her Margaritaville machine- this is next on my party purchase must-haves.  My daughter played bartender, my husband prepared and served the food and our guests left happy, full and with a new cup.

The best part about this party was that people were able to move about, have many different conversations and really enjoy our last day of school. As a bonus when someone knocked oner their drink, it didn't spill and make a huge mess.

If you are hosting a party and will be serving some beverages, pass on the solo cups and head to your local Dollar Store or .99 Cents Store.  You can download my signs by clicking the pictures below.
insulated drink cups for summer partiesinsulated drink cups for summer parties

I found these similar cups online at the Dollar Tree 
double walled plastic tumblers with straw

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer Break-Week 1

I've been on summer break for a week now.  However, I haven't really done anything that screams "Hey, I'm on SUMMER BREAK!!!" I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday working on aligning the CCSSS for math.  Thursday and Friday were spent on developing a new report card that matches CCSS.   Saturday we spent with friends and Today I spent 5 hours purging old files and unused old copies of stuff.  I felt like i was drowning in paper.  I'm not done with de-cluttering and purging, but today was a good start.

Rumor has it they are cleaning our rooms this week.  If that is true, then maybe…. fingers crossed mine will be done by next weekend.  That would mean I could go in and put my room back together and begin set-up for the next year.  I'd love to walk away in July and not Return until I absolutely have to to.

Summer plans consist of eating healthy, walking the dogs and maybe  a weekend get-away.  My son entered me in a contest to win a trip to Frog Street.  Its in Texas, someplace I haven't been yet.  It would be fun to go and meet up with some other teachers I know will be there.  You can vote for me by clicking the photo below.  While you are there please like my friend Jennifer's photo too.   Her picture says it all.  We had such a fun time in Atlanta together, I now we'd have even more fun in Texas.

Here's to hoping week #2 has a little fun in it...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tips for Kindergarten Teachers

kindergarten teachers tips and tricks.
Yesterday was my last official day with students and here I am already thinking about next year.  Something that really saved me this year was labels.  I label everything!!!

At the beginning of the school year I create one page of labels for each student. Now before you start thinking- I can't do that, labels cost too much. I've got the solution.  Head over to the Dollar store and find these labels.
classroom labels, student labels
I buy several packs at a time.  I use them to label everything at the beginning of the year, coat hooks, notebooks, journals, pencil boxes, crayon boxes… You get the idea.  They also work great for labeling children's artwork.  When the project is finished just stick the label to the front corner.

If you can't locate them at your local Dollar Store you can purchase a case on-line.  Just find a few coworkers to split the cost and you all will labels forever.
labels from the Dollar Tree.
Want to see what other tips for kindergarten teachers my fellow kindergarten friends have to share…

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Last Week of School

The last week of school is here!!! The kids are ready for summer, the teacher is ready for summer.  Report cards are completed and ready to stuff into envelopes.  The class DVD's are almost finished.  I'm just waiting until Tuesday to add the last of my photos.  Tuesday is our field day.  We have such a fun time that I must include photos from that day.  If you are making a DVD slideshow for your students, you can read about mine in this post and grab my free personalized DVD covers. If you need song suggestions, they are listed in the post too.
Class DVD, Last Week of School, Summer Break, School's Out for the Summer
Ending the last week of school can be difficult.  You've probably ran out of copies on the copy machine, you might have started packing up your classroom and you are probably having trouble getting your kids to focus.  I make our last week fun and memorable.  Here are my plans for our last week of school.
lesson plans Last Week of School, Summer Break, School's Out for the Summer
Each morning we will review skills we have been working on.  I'll be using 1 math and 1 language arts page from my May Homework-Morning Work Pack.

We will be writing daily in our writing Notebooks and I will be reading some of my favorite last week of school books.  I have listed links to the books below.

Kindergartners don't really understand what it means to say good-bye on the last day.  We will talk about it several times this week.  I will try not to say too much about going onto 1st grade as I do have a student who will not be moving on this year.  I will focus on how they will be having a new teacher after summer break.  I let them know I want to see them in the fall and hope that they come to visit me.  I still have kids who come back often just for a hug and a hello. 

The week will be busy with long lists of things I will need to do.  Then of course there is the last day.  We no longer do a kindergarten promotion.  Last year we surprised the kids with a movie in our multi-use room.  We will be doing that again this year.  They will receive a pack of movie, drink and popcorn tickets,  We will watch a short movie before returning to class.  Towards the end of our day the entire school gathers in our center court to say good-by to our second graders.  They will be moving on to our intermediate school.  We will then have about 10 minutes of dance time. before picking up our back-packs, one last hug and for me a teary eyed goodbye.  I will then gather my things, and head home quickly to set-up for our staff luncheon celebration.  We usually have it at a restaurant but this year we thought we'd try something new.  The best part is my husband is catering it all.  He will be preparing enchiladas, homemade mango salsa and some tropical adult beverages.  

So here is to a fabulous last week of school. Only 5 days left and 2 of those are 1/2 days!!!
Last Week of School, Summer Break, School's Out for the Summer

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