Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bright Ideas: Reset Your Classroom Management

I'm joining up with the Bright Ideas Link Up again this month! I'm on Fall Break, and I'm taking the time to think about what's working in my classroom and what isn't. Fall Break is the perfect time to "Recharge, Reflect and Reset Your Classroom Management!" Here's my Top Ten Classroom Management Tips:

I hope these tips help you head back to school with a positive spirit! Head on over to these blogs for some other Bright Ideas:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Documenting Play Based Learning!

We've had a great week learning about Fire Safety! We got a visit from the firefighters, watched that fire safety video that has  to be as old as I am, and did a bunch of fire safety activities! Alas we did not get to see the fire truck shoot water as a) we are in a drought and b) there are so many pre-k and K friends that logistically it was impossible to take them all outside around the truck safely in the time allotted. We now have 40 pre-k kiddos and almost 60 kinders!

I did get to grab a pic of a firefighter in uniform...and yes, they did send the cute ones! Made my Wednesday morning :P

We only have a 3 day week next week (Monday to Wednesday) and then we have Fall Break! Can you believe it is here already?! On Friday we were doing calendar time and when we got to the "Days in School" part and I realized it was day 40 I looked at my assistant in shock. Time is flying! We are a group of high flying learners though, and luckily I took a ton of pictures this week to document it!

We do at least 90 minutes of free choice centers daily (sometimes more depending on whether we can get out of the cafeteria/bathroom ahead of schedule :P ) During that time my assistant and I are floating between the centers, assisting & extending learning. How do I justify that amount of "play time" in my day? Anecdotal records! I take pictures and make notes as I walk around, this is not the time for me to catch up on emails, filing or record keeping, this is serious learning time! Check it out:

This little guy was in Math Center using our foam shape blocks to build a wall. You can see he sorted them by color first, and then figured out how to stagger them to overlap them. I snapped this pic and then had a quick convo with him about how he sorted the blocks, how many green blocks there were and what shapes he used. Bam! I now have data on his sorting, counting and shape identification abilities!
Next I hit up the Pipe Builders. These things are so popular in my classroom! Usually we try to make a stack that will touch the ceiling, but look what I caught this little guy doing: sorting by color! He was picking out all of the yellow ones and putting them back into the container. We had a quick convo about what he was doing and why ("Because the yellow ones are cool") Then we counted the pipes in his stack and voila! I have data on his sorting and counting skills!

Also in Pipe Builders, was this little guy who created AND NAMED his ABB pattern! How fabulous is that in pre-k?! I also had him count how many pipes he used to make his pattern and got data on his one-to-one correspondence skills!

Over at our Letter Center, this little cutie was playing my Fire Safety beginning sound match-up game. I only put out a handful of letter Fire Stations and sound fire trucks at a time and she was able to successfully match all of them! Bam! Data on which letter sounds she knows!

In Math Center a group of 3 kiddos were playing with my Fire Safety Counting activity by clipping clothespins over the correct number for each set of pictures. One little sweetie is still working on one-to-one correspondence within 10 and the other 2 cuties are working on 10-20 (those dratted 15, 16, and 17 are so hard to get in order!) So now I know who needs to work on rote counting, and who needs more one-to-one correspondence practice!

We first played this Fire Safety Positional Word game as a whole group. Then I put a set out in our Felt Board Center and listened in to the conversation that ensued. Although we're still iffy on identifying the extinguisher and fire hydrant, the two cuties at this center knew "in between", "on top of", "under", "next to" and "in front of"! In case you're wondering, "The big fire truck is in front of the house that's on fire. The firefighter is next to the fire station and he's going to get in the fire truck that is between the two firefighters. Then they're going to get the hose and put out the fire! The other firefighter is going to get hit in the head by that thing on top of her! Then an ambulance will have to come!"

I got these Magic Boards and Printing Practice cards from Lakeshore Learning and my kiddos love them! I control this center by only putting out 6 letters at a time (we have 4 boards). I get to check pencil grip and fine motor skills while they "play" and as we talk about the letters I get to see who can identify which letter and who knows the sounds.

Of course, the learning doesn't stop in the classroom. We get an hour of recess daily - 2 30 minute blocks. (jealous yet?  I love my district!) I think people would be amazed at the amount of learning that takes place on a playground. Not just the social skills aspect, although that certainly applies, but tons of math and science too! Lately we've been seeing some migrating Monarch butterflies, so we've had great conversations about seasons and migration. We found an ant hole the other day and a group of kiddos spent 10 minutes observing the ants, placing leaves and small twigs in their paths to see what they would do. I might have to get an ant farm for our Pet Center!

Our playground is surrounded by pecan trees, so we know all about squirrels and hibernation now. My rule is that we can gather the nuts and play with them as long as we a) don't smash them and b) leave them outside for the squirrels at the end of recess. 

Generally the kids will come with a handful of nuts and want to count them, but the other day they decided to combine all of their nuts and count them altogether. We had about 5 kids running from tree to tree and bringing the nuts back to our bench. It was difficult for them to count the nuts since they kept forgetting which nut they had counted. Then one kiddo noticed that the nuts fit into the pattern on the bench and that if they put them in a row it would be easier to count! By the end of recess we had over 30 nuts and I knew who had one-to-one correspondence and who could (& could not!) rote count correctly above 20.

We're going to continue with our Fire Safety theme this week since we only have 3 days. I have to turn in report cards on Wednesday, but after going through my pictures and notes I have a ton of ideas for writing those pesky notes on the report card, plus I can confidently fill in many of the items! The rest of my assessments will be done on ESGI since I won a free year long subscription on Twitter! You have to check out #teacherfriends on Tuesday nights! Tons of fun and great guest speakers - last week it was Steven Spangler!

For those wondering how little Sullivan is doing, He's already 1 and is almost a walker! He can cruise while holding onto furniture and has hit all of his physical milestones which is fab since he's still only 17lbs due to his allergies. Here's a picture of him getting ready for school in the morning: 
  Look at the wild hair!

Alright, I'm off to do lesson plans for my short week - hope you have a great Columbus Day tomorrow!
Oooh! Just found this giveaway from ZipADeeDooDah Designs! Head over to her FB page to enter to win!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fire Safety Freebies!

Well apple season is fading fast and next will come Fire Safety, Autumn, Bats, Scarecrows and Pumpkins! This year there are no religious concerns, so I might even sneak in some Halloween!

Here are a few things that have been happening in my classroom:

We made apple play dough by combining Apple scented conditioner and baking soda! It took about 2 bottles of conditioner for one large box of baking soda.

It smelled delicious and was so fun to mix up - cold and squishy!

My Kats had a great time with it - this was purely sensory play as it wasn't the right consistency for a lot of molding. Just feeling the texture and smelling it was entertainment enough though! Word of warning - this is a messy activity! After we played we had to wash our hands and tables and sweep the floor! Thank goodness for my assistant who did the table washing and floor sweeping while I took the kiddos to breakfast and bathroom break!

We did an easy peasy torn paper apple craft - great for strengthening fine motor skills and darned if these pre-k kiddos didn't knock it out of the park! I was really impressed with how quietly and studiously they worked at tearing up the paper and gluing it - although in future I think the purple glue sticks will have to come out for this kind of thing - with the white glue sticks they couldn't see where their glue was as well which made for a LOT of glue being used lol.

We've been hitting letters too! So far we have formally done E, F and L but they are picking up many letters just from eachother's names! One of our favorite activities is making our names with playdough.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, this is how you spell "I love my teacher because she's beautiful!" This little guy is a charmer and the biggest lovebug!
We've been using activities from my Alphabet Letter Sounds pack and my Alphabet Emergent Readers. We use the activities during center time and so far I have to say we are rocking it! Look what one of my sweeties did during free choice centers:
 Gotta love it when they practice on their own and think its fun!

In other news, some of my sweet Kats are wearing out our Dot Markers! 
Can you guess what his favorite color is?! For about a week straight he would make at least 2 of these all-red papers each day. Meticulous attention to detail, not a white spot to be found! When he wore out all our reds he started on other colors. Unfortunately, now our markers look like this:
They're still about 3/4 full and I hate to throw them out. Call me a hoarder, but there's got to be something I can do with them, right?!

I've been working on a bunch of Fire Safety stuff for October! It's our first theme of the month, and I can't wait. We'll have the fire department visit next Wednesday...I always cross my fingers that they send the cute ones....its the least they can do for making me watch the same old fire safety video again. I swear it's been around since I was little! Here are the three new packs I made: 
 This Fire Safety Math & Literacy pack has 10 Math Activities and 4 Literacy Activities - including 2 Emergent Readers! There's two freebies for you in the Preview too:
 Just click here to check out my Fire Safety Math & Literacy Pack and download the Preview!
And a Fire Safety Rhyming Match-Up! These are great for center time activities!

I'll be bringing out my Fire Safety themed Ten Frames too:
I can't wait for next week! Now I'm off to pick out an outfit for Picture Day tomorrow! Have a great night!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop: Anti-Chaos Bag

I'm joining up with a whole boatload of bloggers to bring you the Bright Ideas Blog Hop!

If your house is anything like mine, it can be kind of always hectic in the mornings. Although my husband is usually around to help out, being a military man there are plenty of times when he is suddenly called to go do something and I'm left to get all 5 kids and myself ready for school on my own!

The oldest two are fifteen and twelve and you'd think that would make it easier, but you'd be wrong! My twelve year old son is not a morning person and has been known to collapse sobbing if his favorite shirt isn't dry when he goes to get dressed in the morning. The fifteen year old sleeps like the dead and will even talk in her sleep - so waking her up is a 20 minute ordeal - even if she tells you "I'm up! I'm up!" in her best peeved teenager voice, chances are she's sleep-talking and she'll lapse back into unconsciousness the minute you turn your back, thus missing her bus and requiring a last minute ride to school.

The middle two are ten and eight and chances are they might be dressed and ready and you might be thanking the heavens that at least they are on track. Ha! Don't be fooled! The minute it's time to actually get in the car, they suddenly can't find their backpack that they know they brought in the house last night (chances are it's actually hanging in your classroom) or they suddenly remember that they have to bring a canned food item or they left their homework upstairs on their desk - any little thing that delays leaving the house!

The baby is sweet and adorable and never does a thing wrong - unless it's to spit up all over himself the minute you strap him in the carseat, thus necessitating a complete outfit change. If his breakfast does stay down, chances are someone moved the Sharpie so you have to search for one to label his bottles, even though that is the designated bottle-labeling-Sharpie and no one is to touch it under threat of dismemberment, but somehow, it wanders off at least once a week.

In all of this chaos, it is a small miracle that I actually get to work on time and semi-prepared for the day. However, while I might be dressed and ready to teach, there are tons of times I get to school and think "Darn! I forgot ________!" or "I wish I had ______" Like the day when I forgot my sunglasses and got a splitting headache at recess from the glare. Or the day we had a windstorm during recess and my hair looked like a bird's nest afterwards. Or when a kiddo gets sick and I am calm and collected while dealing with it but then wash my hands 20 times in hot water trying to get rid of the germies and my hands get all chapped. Let's not even talk about those days I drag myself to work feeling under the weather because A) even a sick me is 10x better than a sub and B) even coming to work sick is 10x easier than preparing for a sub.

If even a portion of my mornings sounds familiar, then you might want to make yourself an Anti-Chaos Bag this weekend. I'm talking now, today, while you're thinking about it, because if you put it on a to-do list it will get put off and next thing you know you'll be at school on Monday thinking "Oh no! I forgot _____!"

Here's what mine looks like:
 Isn't that a beautiful pattern?? Don't laugh, it was the least garish looking bag I found at Walmart. It's an Anti-Chaos Bag, not a Haute Couture Bag people!

What do you put in an Anti-Chaos Bag?! Everything:
I've got lotion for chapped hands, hair bands so I don't have to resort to rubber bands, floss - not only for teeth but for replacing broken shoelaces in a pinch or at least wrapping around the frayed end so you can get it back thru the hole! Handy wipes and a lint roller (it's always the white cat that rubs up against my black pants legs as I'm trying to get out the door!)

A fuzzy sock filled with rice makes a quick heating pad when tossed in the microwave for a minute or two - great for cramps or muscle aches. Airborne is a must for when a cold is coming on, a tea bag for those stressful days when schedules are changed, tempers are frayed and someone says "Teachers, please remember to be flexible." Which is really code for "Suck it up and don't complain because it won't do you any good anyways!" Antacids and Midol....your students will thank you....'nuff said!

Extra sunglasses for when you forget your regular pair. Microwave popcorn for A) those days you forget your lunch but the cafeteria food is not appealing or B) those days you have to stay late but your stomach is trying claw its way out of your body to go hunt down its own food. An emory board so that snag doesn't become a painfully short nail. Mints because, let's face it, your coworkers will thank you!

You might also consider gloves/hat for winter months because you know the day you forget them is the day you have recess duty and it will be cold! I'm even tossing in $1.25 for those days I need caffiene and don't have any cash for the vending machine....

There you go - an Anti-Chaos Bag that guarantees that, even if your morning starts out stressful, you'll have everything you need to fix it! Stash this somewhere safe in your classroom - the next time you have a hectic morning and forget something you'll be glad you did!

Now head on over and check out other Bright Ideas!
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