Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tips To A Kindergarten Teacher From A Kindergarten Teacher

I am so excited to be joining this linky hosted by Mary from Sharing Kindergarten!

I still have 3 weeks of this school year left, but it is never too early to begin thinking and planning for the next year!  

My 'Book Nook' has changed over the has also grown to be one of the largest areas in my classroom!  Each year I add a bit more to it to make it the most inviting area of the classroom!  I want my students to WANT to go there- and to feel relaxed and as comfortable as they do in their own living rooms!

I am so happy to say that this is the most sought out area of our classroom:
Welcome to the 'Book Nook!'  I have 2 areas rugs, plastic crate 'seats' and 'benches,' chair pads, stuffed animals, reading phones, leveled books and themed books available at all times for my students to use.

The wooden 'benches' you see are actually 2 vertical bookshelves that I turned on their sides.  They house our math manipulatives and table top boys on the outside but also serve as benches for more seating!

Here is one of my new additions for this year- another bench!  This is made from 2 plastic milk crates and a piece of plywood covered in batting and material!  I put plastic bins of books between the crates for added storage!
For readers workshop the students sit all over the classroom.  I purchased these chair pads 2 years ago and they are still going strong!  Two students can fit on them back to back and it helps keep their tushes warm during our COLD NY winters!  They stack neatly and because they are flat no one rolls off them onto the floor like traditional throw pillows!  The kids also line them up against the wooden 'shelf bench' I mentioned above as back cushions!

As we learn to read we are eager to show everyone and anybody!  So I have some stuffed animals in our Book Nook that always have an ear waiting to hear a story!  Rule is- in order to hold him you must be reading to him!
My hubby made me a class set of reading phones using PVC pipe many years ago.  They are stored in the Book Nook for easy access!

You want your reading space to be easy to manage and maintain!  All my themed books have a certain color dot on them that matches the dot on the book bin labels.  If they don't see the dot, they are to put the book in the 'Book Return' bucket so that I can easily find its place/replace the sticker.  I have one wooden shelf that houses my seasonal books- those are the only books that change throughout the year.  The rest stay in the buckets as you see here.  I have a wheeled cart that I purchased from Really Good Stuff this year that holds all of my leveled readers.  We roll that out for book selection during Readers Workshop.
See the hooks?
This area used to be one of my coat/cubby areas.  Now I used the hooks to hold all of our class books.  As we make them I put a binder ring onto the book and then hang it on a hook.  It prevents our class books from getting ruined and puts them on full display!

Here is a candid shot of how I often catch my kiddos when it's 'choice time':

I have 2 filing cabinets in my room but there is no way that is enough to hold all my centers!  I had plastic totes that I was using to hold them but was running out of space to store the containers!

Last summer I made these:
I ditched my guided reading table chairs for 6 storage 'chairs.'
My husband cut plywood to fit each crate and then I covered them with batting and fabric.

The red crates holds all of my September/October centers for both ELA and Math...
The Orange holds November...
Yellow as December...
Green has January/February...
Blue has March/April...
Purple has May/June!

If there are any recording sheets, I fold them up and put them in the bag with all the center pieces so that everything is together!  I simply take the gallon sized bag out and it is ready to go!

At the end of the year, these crates get lifted up to store on top of my cabinets!

Behind the curtains I have 'boxed centers' and/or games I have purchased from Lakeshore, as well as materials I need for guided reading/small group instruction (magnetic letters, cookie sheets, magna doodle, letter tiles, guided reading books, etc!)

As a side note- the 1/2 circle discs on my table are peel & stick dry erase 'boards'!  Now I don't have to hand out boards during groups- simply hand the kids a marker and sock (we use kid size socks as erasers) and we are good to go!

If there was one thing '15 year Kindergarten Teacher Me' could tell 'Just Starting Out Kindergarten Teacher Me' it would be....USE PLAY DOUGH MORE!!!

I shamefully admit that I did not use play dough in my kindergarten classroom for many, many years! 
What a disservice I was 'providing' to my students!
I was under the impression that play dough was only for play- boy was I wrong!

So now we start the year off on Day 1 with Magic Dough:
(Click the picture to download this tag!)
They then store their Magic Dough in their cubbies and we use it for the first few weeks of school for many name activities: 
Then I let them take that dough home in a ziploc bag, but we keep our containers ready!

We make dough throughout the year (find some recipes here and be sure to check out all my posts about play dough by clicking here) and have that 'seasonal dough' to use for centers, choice time, indoor recess, and even 'warm up' for writing!

Here we used our 'licorice dough' for math centers practicing positions!

And our 'clove and ginger' fall dough for positions:

We used 'candy corn dough' to help us build sight words:
(The play dough stampers and rollers are from Lakeshore- I got them as part of a Donor's Choose project about 3 years ago!)

We even use the dough to help with CVC words!

When we were learning all about space in preparation for our field trip to the Planetarium, we made glow in the dark play dough...that REALLY DID GLOW!!!

And we always end the year with a fun 'summer time' dough...watermelon!

In addition to the fine motor benefits associated with using play dough, when you scent it, you also tap into sensory stimulation and can use it for a lesson on 5 senses!
The measuring and mixing can be incorporated into math and how it changes from ingredients to dough is great for science exploration!

My last tip is to let them create!  Again..I want to have 'veteran me kindergarten teacher' speak to 'newbie me kindergarten teacher'...they don't have to be 'perfect' and 'cookie cutter' in order to be displayed! I thought that if it wasn't from a 'mold' or looking 'just right' as my model showed them I would wonder if I could display it...would it be a reflection of me and 'bad teaching?'  HOW WRONG I WAS!!!

Take time each week to let them just create!  You can show them the 'how to' but then let the rest be up to them!
I don't give my students 'tracers' when we make a project...I used to...but not anymore!
I L-O-V-E the uniqueness I get when I let them be them...and their creations can be very telling!

Here are a few of our unique and wonderful creations from this past year:

I LOVE how each is so different!!!

They did each get a 'pre-cut' cat for this- but the choice to decorate it and how to decorate it was all their own!

Look at all the variety of trees!!!

Each had its own personality!

I love their interpretations of his face and hat shapes!

Similar- yet so different!

Inspired by a chick picture on a math game- yet interpreted in so many different ways!

Each egg was a different shape- and each bunny inside was a cute as the one next to it!

Look at how they view our solar system- all on their own!

Given the choice of scraps or crayons, some chose scraps, some chose crayons and some chose a mix of both!  No one's creativity was stifled by a particular medium in which it had to be done, but the end result was the same!

Beautifully unique paintings for our moms for Mother's Day!

With all the different flowers in the world, why use a cookie cutter mold to create just one kind!

When you dump your scrap bucket and say 'Make ANYTHING YOU Want!'

No color, cut, was create and show me the lifecycle!

Inspired by Eric Carle...similar...yet so unique!

I hope some of these tips will help you out as you plan for your next batch of kiddos!
I can't wait to read what these other amazing K teachers have to say!
Be sure to check out the links to all the participating blogs by clicking here!
(And those of you new to Kindergarten...WELCOME...and now you have a TON of Kindergarten teachers to follow!

Until next post,
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