Monday, August 31, 2009

Thank you for donations!

I want to shout out a huge thank you to all the parents and classroom sponsors for your gracious donations. Thanks to your donations our class now has:
Germx to keep unhealthy germs away
Clorox Wipes to disinfect the desks each day after the kids leave
Copy paper to print lots of decodable and leveled readers for more targeted instruction
Construction/colored paper to create fun projects this year
Tissues to wipe our noses
Whiteboard markers to use during our small group instruction later this year
Snacks to keep our tummies full in the afternoon
and many more things

I want to give a special thanks to my home church Pine Ridge Fellowship for the Walmart gift card. That will help us stretch the dollar to get more supplies for special projects this year.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hands on learning

So, what exactly is hands on learning anyway? This is a question that many parents ask me. Hands on learning is a time when children actually use materials, manipulatives, and others objects to learn about many concepts. Examples: Using dyed pasta to create an ABB pattern for math, using magnet letters to create words, using magnetic word cards from the word wall and sorting them on another magnetic board according to the number of syllables, using marshmallows and toothpicks to create 3D cubes. I could name many others.

I can tell you right now that I am NOT a fan of giving students a bunch of worksheets to learn. Worksheets limit the students ability to be creative and does not engage the kinesthetic learner.

We just finished out first week of school. Yay!! Everybody made it out with a smile on their face. The first week is a time that we spend getting to know one another but also a time to learn some fun routines and activities that will later be a part of our normal curriculum and station times. I decided to teach the word can already, since the word is used in several beginning of the year books we are reading. Rather than having students simply memorize the word by using flash cards and copying the word over and over again, each student made the word with play doh. By using the play doh the students practiced letter formation, sight word recogntion and helped strengthen the small muscles in their hands.

Later in the year the students will learn how to play many of the games that I have created for center time. These games are tailor made to match the kindergarten learning benchmarks for several subjects. Here is a game I made this past May. The students were reviewing all of our lightning words (sight words) and some CVC words. The game promoted counting skills as well because they earned pennies for correct answers and had to count out the correct number. Games not only allow students to practice reading and math skills, but also role playing, taking turns, cooperation etc.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Welcome to our classroom!

I'm so happy that a new year is beginning. We just had our annual Meet the Teacher event at school. The room is all ready for all kinds of learning this year.

The students and I are on a very important mission. The students are setting out on a journey to learn the fundamentals of reading and math, discovering science and exploring the world around them. We have a space and astronaut theme in our classroom. Each student is part of our astronaut team. All team members have to work together to complete a safe and fun mission.

Take a peek inside our classroom:

Here I am sitting at our small group teaching table. I meet with small groups of students to teach reading and math skills. During station time you will see me wearing a special visor. The visor is a reminder to the students at stations that I am busy teaching and they must wait to ask me for assistance.

This is our group meeting area. We spend a lot of our time here. Our days start as we complete a morning message, read a story and make connections with our reading and the world around us. Later in the morning we have calendar and math time. There are a variety of songs we sing and dance to, so that is why we need so much room. In the afternoon we hold writing minilessons here. I like to share the pen with students as we create collaborative lists, letters, stories and articles on many science and social studies concepts.

Our library is another favorite spot in our classroom. We have over 800 books. Yes, even in kindergarten! I think it is extremely important to get books in children's hands as early as possible. Our books are organized by theme and author. Throughout the year the students will do an author study on some of our favorite authors. The children will enjoy reading books by Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Leo Lonni, Bill Martin, Marc Brown, Rosemary Wells, Karma Wilson, Ezra Jack Keats, and many more.

In our classroom we have student desks. Each student will be repsonsible for their own materials and supplies. Inside each desk students will have their supplies as well as a writing journal and a math journal. Each group of desks is named after a planet. This is our Earth Group. Students will complete indpendent and group work at the desks. In the afternoons the students will also use this space during our Writer's Workshop (my favorite time of the day).

At the front of the classroom you can see our word wall. It is empty now, but in just a few days we will begin adding names and words to the wall. I decided to put the word wall on our magnetic whiteboard, which creates an interactive way for students to use words. During station time students will use the words for sorting activities. A favorite activity is to sort the words by the number of letters in the word. To the left is our writing center. At the writing center the children can find several resources such as word books and picture dictionaries.

In this bin you can find the students' STAR folders. The folders will go home every day. Inside the folder are several learning tools to use for practice at home. There is also a school year calendar, class newsletter and money/notes pouch. Students who take extra care of the folders will receive a special prize at the end of the year.

Here are some other views of the classroom:

This is the Mars group. To the left is our computer station and to the right is our small group teaching area.

This is a picture of the Neptune group and the back of the room. On the cabinets doors are astronaut cutouts. Each child will earn several mission patches after successfully mastering different skills. Some of the skills include letter identification, counting to 100, number identification to 30, tying shoes, reading our lightning words (high frequency words) and several others.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What's the big picture?

Sometimes as teachers we can get all wrapped up in lots of details. There are many!!! The room needs to be set up so that it creates a great learning environment. We have to make sure that we've got our plans done. We have to come in everyday and teach the kids. We've got to do assessments on a regular bases. Grading has to be done. We have to keep track of student behavior. Then find time to meet with parents one on one. Then there's the paperwork to fill out for various reasons. There are meetings I need to attend, both as a whole staff and as a grade level. If we are doing a fund raiser or going on a field trip, then there are tasks involved. There are plenty more details and tasks, I can promise you that.

Thinking about all these tasks can be daunting, it can be very stressful when we focus on all the details. This Sunday I heard a great message at Church. The message was based on stepping back and refocusing on what the big picture was all about. I need to step back and refocus on what my purpose is as a teacher. Why am I here? Why do I come to school everyday? Why do I do all these tasks as a teacher? You're probably thinking, for the kids. Right? In part, yes. The sole purpose for all the things I do as a teacher is to use my gifts that God gave me to do his will. God is my ultimate authority.

Each day I go in to teach these children in a way that would be pleasing to God. These children all have talents and gifts that are only given by God. It's my job to do whatever it takes for children to develop and realize those gifts and meet children's individual needs. If I'm focusing too much on completing all those tasks just to check it off on my to do list, then something is wrong. I've lost that vision. That can happen, I'm human. That's where prayer comes in. Every morning when I walk into the classroom before the children come, I start by praying to God that he can work through me to provide the best education for these kids. I can't do it on my own, I'm on God's team.

There is no doubt that so many tasks still need to be completed. Completing those tasks is essential in meeting any goals I have for the children. So, I need to evaluate whether the certian task will help me fullfill the goal. There are many hopes and goals I have for these children.
1. They will learn
2. They will view learning as a continual process that NEVER ends
3. They will reflect on learning
4. They see the need to keep learning
5. They see the connection of school to the real world
6. They feel valued as individuals
7. They feel successful
8. They enjoy the learning process
9. They will discover and use the gifts God gave them
10. They will become life long learners

As I end this post I pray.
God use me to do your will this year. Give me the strength, passion, wisdom and patience to meet these children's needs. Guide me in how I plan lessons for these children so that the children can discover their gifts and talents. Put the right words in my mouth each day, as each word I say can help to mold these children. Help me keep my focus on the whole child. God, you've been there for me each day. You've allowed me to reach many children and help them discover strengths they never knew they had. I thank you for providing me the opportunity to have this position and the chance to meet so many wonderful children of God. You are a great God who created these little darlings. I pray all this in Jesus' name. AMEN