Sunday, May 27, 2012

163 Days Later...

     We're in the home stretch - 163 days down, 18 to go! While I'm feeling the usual mix of bitter and sweet to see another group of kinders go, this year seems to be much more intense.  In my 13 years of teaching kindergarten, this has been my most challenging class by far. (Some might say it's the universe's way to pay me back for last year's class- my BEST ever!) Sometimes you just get a funny mix of kids. Over the course of the year, I've come to see little groups forming.  There's:
  1. The very innocent group of younger boys who still love Thomas the Tank engine,
  2. The rough and tumble bunch who still struggle with keeping their hands to themselves,
  3. The super sensitive girly girls who cry that "She's being mean to me" if someone says "I don't like pink."
  4. The crafty girls who say "I don't like pink" after they find out it will make the others cry - just to make them cry.
  5. The bunch who learns things from their older siblings and are kissing behind the bookshelves and asking how to spell sexy!!
  6. The few stragglers who don't fit into any group but just try not to get involved with the drama. And boy is there drama!
As tough as this kind of group can be, it seems that it's also the kind of group that you get most attached to.  So as we gear up for the end of the year I'm both ready for them to move on and sad to see them go.  Do you feel that way, too?

With so much curriculum to cover, there's just not the time that there used to be to foster the social skills that this group really needs. I try to fit in as much cooperative learning as possible so we can learn to work together, but it often leads to tears, broken pencils and a whole lot of nothing being accomplished.

Until day 163!  To end our Poetry Unit, we celebrated by writing group poems to share with the class.  My hope was that working in groups would foster some teamwork. We focused on the idea that "Poets feel with their hearts" and wrote about shared experiences that gave us strong feelings.  The plan was to brainstorm something that everyone in the group has experienced and then have everyone contribute at least one line to the poem. I was worried about the kids agreeing on a topic, including everyone in the writing process and just being kind to each other.  Well, on day 163, the stars aligned and we did it! Together!

Most of the poems were list poems, like this one:

Going to the Ball Game
Wearing hats
Screaming loudly
Having fun

Some of the work literally brought me to tears it was so inspired, like this one:

Lost My Grown-up
In the store
Can't find Mom
Pumpy heart
Sticky hands
I think I might cry
Really can't find Mom
Where is she, where is she, where is she
Turn the corner

When we read them to the class, the kids clapped wildly for each other.  They gave compliments like, "Jack, I really like the way you put spaces between your words. That makes it really easy to read," and "That happened to me once and you really used your hearts because that is EXACTLY how I felt."

So, today I celebrate my little motley crew.  It might have taken 163 days, but somehow between the tears, the teasing and the broken pencils they've learned to respect each other, work together and cheer each other on.  They have become a team. My team.  And I'm going to miss them like crazy...

Happy Memorial Day - Have a great day off tomorrow!

Update 5/28/12
This year my class was obsessed with Pete the Cat, so to celebrate the end of the school year, I wrote an emergent reader for the kids titled, Pete’s Summer Vacation about all of the things I imagined Pete would do with his days off.  I try to base my math and literacy stations around books we love, so it was pretty neat when the kids asked if our last bunch of stations could be based on this book.  So I went to work and came up with a bunch of math and literacy stations, as well as a cute autograph craftivity.  I think it’s the perfect way for my class to end the year. I'm going to post the 100+ page unit to TPT as well as some freebies here, but I'm looking for 2 or 3 proofreaders before I do that.  If you have some time today and can get back to me this evening with any edits, I'll send you the unit for free in exchange for your help. I know it's a busy day, but if you have the time to help me out, leave your email in a comment.  Thanks!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Embracing Change (Well, SOME Change)

     I like to think of myself as being able to embrace change. I understand that fads will change and adapt over time, and most of them I can go along with.  I loved replacing my regular reading strategies with the popular “Beanie Babies” strategies. I found great educational uses for SillyBandz.  I even made Angry Birds math stations.

     While I can roll with these changes, I deeply value nostalgia and feel that there are some things that are harder to embrace.  For instance:
  1. When did kids start adding, “Cha Cha Cha” to the end of each line of “Happy Birthday?”   Is that a local thing or do your kids sing it too?  It makes me crazy!
  2. For decades, kids everywhere have settled playground tiffs by using, “Rock-paper-scissors-shoot!”  Lately however, all the kids say, “Rock-paper-scissors-SAYS shoot!” Says??  Says?? That’s all wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong!
  3. This one is my biggest pet peeve.  I’m all for learning from environmental print, but if my kiddos don’t stop writing “we” as “wii” my head is going to explode! (I made a poster for my writing center to help with this. You can grab a copy if your head is ready to pop, too!)
     So, I guess I’ll have to keep rolling with the changes, embracing some and cringing at others.  How are you with change?  What drives you crazy? I was given a glimmer of hope (and nostalgia got a point) the other day when one of my kids said, “Holy Moly, Jeff Spicoli!”  80’s reference anyone?
Have a great night!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Appreciation Continues. . .

     Well, it's the end of Teacher Appreciation Week and I hope you feel as appreciated as I do.  Our PTA went overboard this year They treated us to breakfast on Monday, lunch on Tuesday, a manicurist in the Teacher's Room on Wednesday, a dessert bar on Thursday and a masseuse on Friday.  How great was that?  They also organized surprises for the kids to do each day.  One day they brought in fancy school supplies (boy did I get some cool sticky notes!), one day they brought in a handmade card, one day the brought in a little something sweet. It took a lot of time and effort to organize such a fabulous week, and it certainly made us all feel very appreciated!  I'd love to hear how you were celebrated at your school so leave a comment if you'd like to share.
     To show my appreciation to everyone who takes the time to visit my blog, I thought I would end the week with a bunch of freebies. 
     First up is a little end of the year goodie.  I usually do an end of year slideshow for the kids and their families and for the last song I use "Movin' On to First Grade" by Stuart Stotts and Tom Pease.  You can listen to a clip of it here - it's the CUTEST song!  The kids all sing along and the moms all cry. To match both the beginning of the year badges (here) and the 50th Day badges (here) that I made earlier in the year, I made similar ones for the kids to wear for the slideshow.  You can use them a lot of different ways, so grab a set to send your kiddos off in style.
   The next thing I have to share is a game I made in honor of one of the boys in my class who said he was "so over" all of the flower and butterfly themed spring math and literacy stations that have invaded our classroom.  He was totally right, so I made this baseball themed sight word game.  It's played like the old classic game, Bang!, and the kids love it!  Grab a copy below the picture for your anti-butterfly crew.
   The last freebie is something I pull out and dust off when I'm writing last minute sub plans. Yesterday I had a surprise curriculum writing work session to attend (yes, that tragically means I missed my massage...) and left this for my sub to do during Math.  It's a basic number Bingo, but the kids have to first fill in the missing numbers on their boards.  It's great for both counting and number writing practice and the kids never get tired of it. Detailed directions to leave for the sub are included.
     I hope you all had a great Teacher Appreciation Week and my wish for you is that you feel appreciated year round for all that you do.  Have a great night!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Room for Another Freebie?

After yesterday's Jackpot and blog hop are you going cross-eyed too? I spent hours downloading the most awesome freebies!  Everyone was so generous, I definitely feel appreciated, how about you?  Well, if you have room on your hard drives, here's another quick freebie that your kids might enjoy.  My kindergartners love to solve secret codes, so I made one for us to do this week in honor of Mother's Day.  Following the key, they have to find the matching flowers and write the letters to spell out the secret message.  It's great not only for emerging reading and writing skills, but it also strengthens visual discrimination. Click below the picture for a copy.  OK... I am now walking away from my computer to give my hard drive and my tired eyes a bit of rest to recover from yesterday.  Have a great night!

Sunday, May 6, 2012


As most of you know, there's a HUGE Teacher Appreciation Jackpot going on here in teacher blog land. I've spent the last 2 hours downloading some really great stuff. Teachers are so generous!  Click here to see where the K-2 hop begins.

I missed the sign-up to join the Jackpot, but I still thought I would offer a freebie.  Like many jackpot items, it is one of my best selling items from my TPT store.  The 80 page Ready for Summer Math and Literacy Centers is normally an $8.00 unit, but you can grab it today for free - it's just for today, so don't dilly-dally! If you download a copy, I would love a comment to hear what you think!

Stay tuned all week - I'll have a whole bunch of freebies posted in honor of Teacher Appreciation!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Little Teacher Appreciation

     If you're a fellow blog stalker there's no doubt that you've heard about the Teacher Appreciation extravaganza happening over at Teachers Pay Teachers this week.  TPT is spreading the love with a 10% off coupon (TAD12) and many sellers are offering an additional 5-20% off, adding up to a whopping 28% off!  Woohoo I already have 14 things in my cart and I've just started to browse - yikes!
     Be sure to pop back and visit often this week, I'll be posting a bunch of freebies to show how much I appreciate all of my fellow hard-working teachers!  If any of my TPT products have been on your wishlist, be sure to grab them in the next few days - everything will be 28% off from May 6-8.

Wishing you a great night and a whole bunch of appreciation!