Conference Notes

I just got back from the Oklahoma 2011 State Superintendent Regional Curriculum Conference here in Lawton, OK. The keynote speaker was Janiel Wagstaff who had some interesting information to share about the Core Curriculum State Standards (CCSS).  As a kindergarten teacher, the CCSS does not seem like a radical change from the Oklahoma P.A.S.S. especially in math. I can see that I'll have to beef up my instruction in place value, but other than that I think I am already meeting the Math CCSS for kindergarten!

The Language Arts CCSS is a bit more difficult, one of the things that interested me the most was the push for more informational texts. In my classroom, the majority of the books that I read aloud are fictional. I do of course have some nonfiction, informative texts available, especially in my Science Center, but most of those are nature related. Since the majority of college texts are informational, in order to prepare students for college and/or the workplace, we must expose them to more informational texts and give students the strategies to comprehend them. Thus I will have to really look at my future book purchases to make sure I am including a greater proportion of informational texts. My challenge this summer will be to find informational texts to go along with each of my theme units.

The best part of the day was a presentation titled "Make Language Arts Memorable - Make it Multi-Sensory!" by Charlotte Wheeler. Multi sensory instruction (engaging 2 or more sensory modalities at the same time) is most effective method of teaching. I think we all know this, but it's so easy to get into a rut and not include enough multi sensory experiences. I came away from this presentation with a renewed commitment to brain-based learning. One of the things I am going to focus on is incorporating the appropriate music with our activities. According to research by Eric Jensen, students should listen to music in the range of 55-70 BPM for maximum productivity while they work, while energizers should have 100-160 BPM. Mrs. Wheeler recommended Whistle While You Work and Wake Up the Young Brain and I will be checking those out soon!

Something else I walked away with was this idea for a Very Hungry Caterpillar snack idea. Its made with green grapes, a long toothpick, 2 mini chocolate chips with a little bit of frosting to hold them on.

For writing prompts, (CCSS really emphasizes writing throughout the curriculum) this website has some neat ideas to start simple stories.

So, all in all, it was an informative day and I enjoyed getting a little 'grown up" time after being out of school and at home with my 4 kiddos for over 2 weeks now!

Inspiration for my blog title

I have compared my teaching day to "herding cats" many times over the last two years! Then one day I decided to google the term to see where it came from. I never did figure out the origins, but this commercial was too darned funny! My kinder kiddos loved it and whenever we are getting a bit out of control I'll pull it up on my SmartBoard - it helps them focus and it helps me remember that it could be worse lol!

My first blog!

Now that the summer is here, I can finally start a blog about my kindergarten teaching experiences! I've been wanting to blog for a while, but with classroom commitments, 4 children of my own and an Army husband, free time during the school year can be seriously limited! So, I'm going to use my summer break to start this blog, organize some of my themes, and get ready for next year! Hopefully I'll be able to blog on a weekly basis during the school year, now that I have the setup done.

Right now I'm working on my Back-to-School theme. Our school stresses teaching nothing but procedures and the 8 Expectations for the first 2 weeks of school. However, I find that I have a better day if I actually have some concept to teach as well. There's only so many times a kindergarten class can practice lining up before they rebell because of sheer monotony!

 I love "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn and usually do a few activities around that. One that my kinders really enjoy is the "Chester Scavenger Hunt". I ask the prinicipal, secretary, cafeteria manager, computer lab coordinator and librarian in advance to be in on our "hunt". I give each of them a heart shaped sticker for their hand and a simple rhyme to read when I bring my class around. This way we get in a tour of the building and meet some of the most important people for my kinders to get familiar with. When the rhymes lead us back to our room, we find that Chester has already been there and left us a snack! Here is the link for the rhymes I use, they have a cute little Chester glyph too! I also found a Chester plush racoon, complete with a heart on his paw! I use him during the first week as a reward for good behavior. He might sit with someone during story time, or hang out at the quietest table, or even lay down for a nap with a special friend!
I also have them color a picture of a racoon and complete a sentence: "On ______'s first day of kindergarten, she felt __________". This will be the first page in their kindergarten scrapbook!

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