A Crop of Good Apples! Classroom Management Idea!

Whew! We just finished up our first full week and boy is it an adjustment! Friday was Day 6 and we are still going strong on learning procedures and routines. I usually teach procedures and routines for the first 2 weeks before actually diving into standards, just so that we have them down pat and second nature. It is so very helpful to have a class that knows what they're supposed to do and follows through - it enables me to do so much more with them when I don't have to worry about how they're going to behave.

One of my new classroom management ideas was born because of this Creative Teaching Press product: A Colorful Crop which is in the Painted Palette collection:

 It comes with a ton of apples - the red ones have 3 different styles! The tree itself is only 2 pieces, so it literally took 2 minutes to hang this in my hallway! My plan is to recognize each child in my class and give specific examples of when they are being a "Good Apple". When I catch someone doing something kind or following our procedures, I grab an apple, jot down their name and a quick note about what they were doing right, and then the next time we head out of the classroom they get to stick the apple on our tree!

So far, my students have earned them for such things as: translating for other students (I have 3 ELL students and I don't speak Spanish, thank God for Google Translate and my 1 little girl who is a real trooper and helps me explain things to the other 2!), giving sincere compliments (seriously, I wish her mama could come give lessons on whatever she did to make this little girl so polite and inclusive!) following directions quickly and quietly, setting a good example in the hallway (that was when the 1st graders were passing us and they were NOT doing the right thing!) and sharing and taking turns with our center time toys.
There are enough apples that everyone will be able to put an apple on the tree within the next week. I'll be looking for something positive in each child so that by Friday we all have an apple on the tree. After that, I'm going to ask the other teachers in our hallway to take the extra apples and award them to our class when they see us doing something that's worthy of a compliment - paying attention at an assembly, walking quietly in the hallway, cleaning up after ourselves in the cafeteria etc. This will help to reinforce all of the procedures and routines that we are still working on.
I know this will be a big help in recognizing positive behavior in my classroom and reinforcing our classroom procedures! 

Clean Up Songs

In my classroom, I require my kiddos to clean up their centers and regroup at carpet before picking a new center. At the beginning of the school year, our centers are bare bones to enable easier clean up as my kiddos get used to our routines and procedures. As the school year goes on, I add more and more to the existing centers, plus add more centers. This year we're starting off with just 7: Play Dough, Puppets, Dramatic Play, Lego Table, Blocks, Listening Center and Puzzles. Eventually, we'll have about 30 up and running at the same time!
When it comes to cleaning up, I always play a video on my SmartBoard. Since clean up songs are usually short, I often play the song twice, with the expectation being that once the song is over for the second time, everyone will be finished cleaning and be back at carpet. If a group isn't cleaning up their center, then I close that center for the rest of the day and those students are the last to pick their next center.

I have a whole list of videos that I play for clean-up, since I believe novelty is important. I switch songs frequently, so that the kids don't become numb to the same music every day. Here are my favorite songs to use:

The Learning Station has this fun video set in a classroom. It's very calming too, so the kids don't get too excited.

This one is over 5 minutes long, so I only play it once and I expect the kids to be done cleaning and at carpet by the time it finishes the 1st time. 

Here's the same song, but with a cute animated video set in a classroom. It only runs about 2 minutes, so I play it twice during clean up time.

Harry Kindergarten has this very catchy tune that I love, but it's less than a minute long, so I generally play it 3 times.

Storybots has this amusing video that my kids love too. Again, I play it twice or even 3 times since its short. Having it play during the whole clean up time keeps my kids on task and is an audible reminder of how much time they have left without me saying anything.

My kiddos really enjoy the Clean Up Robot from Mark D. Pencil and Harry Kindergarten too. They will sing along and act like robots, which sometimes makes clean up take a bit longer, but they're having so much fun it doesn't bother me :)

I think this one is my favorite, just because I like the rhythm lol! 

The kids love watching this one, because the pictures are drawn on the screen. I love how it repeats "Thank you very much!"

This one is a compilation of songs by LittleBabyBum. I use this one for the last clean up of the day when we move straight into Language Arts. The kids who are cleaned up get to come and watch the rest of the songs which are all versions of popular fingerplays and rhymes. I usually skip some of the songs so that we're not watching the same couple every time.

This one refers to cleaning up a bedroom, but my kiddos never mind that. It's a catchy song, and I often catch kids singing "Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up now!"

I hope you've found a new song or two to help out with your clean-up transitions!

How to Deal With Teacher Guilt

The Best Teaching Advice You'll Hear All Year

Recently, someone in a Facebook group mentioned how guilty she felt that she wasn't going to be sending out postcards to all of her students before the start of the school year. Another bemoaned the fact that she is not allowed to paint any of the furniture in her room, leaving her with dingy bookshelves and uninspiring filing cabinets. At my school, even though all of us were working during our "summer off" and trying to get our classrooms into shape for the school year on our time (and dime!) there are frequent mentions of the things that didn't get accomplished, or things that aren't going to be possible.

For my part, I see all of the wonderful BTS gifts for students that teachers have made and then think about how its one more thing that will take money and time in a season where I don't have enough of either! Yes, I want to print out cute tags and give away fruit snacks or bubbles or homemade play dough. Realistically though, I don't think it's going to happen this year.

And that's okay! It's okay if my classroom isn't picture perfect on the 1st day of school - students will still love my room because they'll know they are loved IN my room! It's okay if every project isn't finished in time for the first day - my students will love seeing them trickle in throughout the year! It's okay if I don't have a cute, photogenic gift ready for them on the 1st day - my real gift to them will be a love of learning! It's okay if my hallway display isn't Pinterest worthy - the student work displayed will more than make up for my lack of design style!

This week I have 4 days of meetings and professional development before the kids come on Friday. This will be the last 4 days of summer for my own children. I'm choosing to get accomplished what I can before 5pm each day so I can be home to take my kids to the pool each evening. I'm forgiving myself in advance for not getting everything on my to-do list finished. I'm excusing myself from "teacher guilt" and I'm looking forward to school starting on Friday...ready or not!

And one of the new things I'm implementing this year is the Magic Triad from Great Expectations. The Magic Triad describes the 3 things you do when greeting individual students each day: kind word, gentle touch (hug or high five) and a smile. Starting your day off with those 3 things sets the tone for the whole day! I did a version of this last year, but this year I want to be more mindful of greeting each child so that no one gets lost in the shuffle as students are entering and putting away their things. In addition, I have to expose my students to rhyming words as much as possible to help their phonemic awareness develop! So I created these Rhyming Morning Greetings with picture cues. I intend to display this by our door so as students walk in they can show mee which creating they would like with their smile and kind touch! If you'd like to adopt this practice too, just click the picture to download it for free in my TPT store!

I Am A Child Posters

Fitting play into the Early Childhood Classroom:

As I've been readying my classroom and looking at all the gorgeous pictures of  classrooms online, three things have struck me:

It is so hard to fit it all in!
Many of our classrooms weren't designed for 25+ children and all of their learning centers. Often it's a difficult choice to decide which center wins out over another in terms of space. If you have a Block Center, you may not have space for that Easel and then what about your horseshoe table for small groups? Which is more important??

It's expensive! 
I can't believe how many lovely kindergarten and pre-k teachers are out there trying to cobble together a classroom with very little financial support from their districts. Some are moving to K from different grade levels and suddenly are thrown into a room with little in the way of center time activities. In order to have play-based learning taking place in these classrooms, the teacher has to be extremely creative, scour garage sales and beg, borrow and steal from their own family's pockets to get everything they need for their classroom.

There's so little time in a day!
There are so many mandated practices out there that it can be very difficult to see where play can fit into the day. When you have to have a dedicated Language Arts block, with small group rotations, Math, Social Studies and Science, plus daily or weekly assessments, when do you fit in centers?

Here's what I know though....

It is incredibly important for us, as early childhood educators, to advocate for our students. To share with administrators that play based learning works. That social and emotional skills are just as important as letter sounds. That moving and exploring, dancing and singing, are vital to our students' well being and will serve them well in the future. That any academic gains achieved through rote drilling will soon fade away while the benefits of a play-based program will last into adulthood.
So, forget about matching caddies for supplies - the students won't care what color scheme you go with. Concentrate on getting those centers in your room - housekeeping and blocks, an art center, play dough and puppets - those will be more important that any bulletin board could ever be. Check Freecycle, Facebook, Craigslist and garage sales, go through your own children's toys, ask at church, and get your centers started. Remember, you can add as you go - something is better than nothing - and at the beginning of the year too many activities can be over stimulating anyways! The Dollar Store is a great place to shop - students won't care if the puppets cost $1 or $20! 

Fit that play time into your day any way you can! Set a dedicated amount of time (an hour at least!) for free choice centers and then defend that time with everything you have! Protect that time with research, show your administrators that your students can play AND learn at the same time. Invite your principal to come sit in at center time to see how your students are interacting and using the various center materials to increase their learning!
Click this picture to see the full size version - it is perfect for demonstrating all the learning that takes place during play!

Recently I came across two "poems" by authors unknown that spoke to this very subject, so I made them into posters. You can display them in your classroom to help remind yourself, parents and administrators that childhood is precious, and our littlest learners need their learning packaged very differently than older grades!

Just click the pictures to download them for FREE in my TPT store!
As we head into a brand new school year, let us all remember that children need play, love and structure. 
 Let's try to give them all 3 everyday!
I hope you all have a wonderful school year!

Pirate Theme & Reading Hut!

I am gearing up for this school year and I started by making the most adorable Pirate themed classroom decor posters!


These are my alphabet posters - vowels are in red and consonants in black!
I love the way the pirates match the color signs!

These parrots are too cute - I had to use them for numbers AND shapes!
This is my behavior clip chart for this year:
 I can't wait for my little pirates to earn their gold clips!

Then, while I was at Frog Street Press' SPLASH conference this weekend, my husband created the most wonderful Reading Hut for my classroom!

He made the frame collapsible so it will be easy to get to school and set up in my classroom! He covered the exposed bolts with corks to protect little heads too! You can tell he's a dad because he made sure that my little pirates will be 100% visible while still giving them a cozy space!

On the inside are these lights that I can plug in, and the tiki torch has a battery operated led candle in it!

Isn't it amazing?! I had no idea he was working on it while I was gone! I love it when he surprises me!

Now its time to actually start moving things into my classroom!
It's a blank slate now, but I can't wait to show it to you when it's finished!

By the way, today is the last day of the TpT Back to School Sale! My entire store is 20% off, plus if you use the code BTS15 you get an additional 10% off at checkout!

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