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Welcome to kindergarten! Join me as I share my experiences in the classroom, my professional learning and reflections and my love of teaching. Teaching is an exciting journey - come along as I share mine!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Chalk-a-Bration!

It's Chalk-a-bration time!

I was hoping to take my students outside for a little chalking fun today.  But...it's Halloween and it's Michigan so that means it's raining!  We made do with black paper and brand new pointy chalk instead!  Check it out...I love that some of them added words too!








 
Join Betsy at Teaching Young Writers for more chalk-a-bration!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gone Astray




Join the Two Writing Teachers crew for more slice of life stories!



Can you figure out my riddle before you get to the end? 


Gone Astray

You elude me
Hidden
My eyes open wide
A thousand thoughts
Swirling

You're chased away
By worry
Stress
Children and work
Extinct

You vanished
The hours stretch
Or rush past
Still I wait
Anxious

You evade me
In the midnight hour
Where you are concerned
I have no power
Gone

So come Mr. Sandman
Bring quiet to my head
Don’t be my enemy
Sleep
Be my friend

Now that my youngest is two, there aren't too many sleepless nights.  You have to understand - this girl would NOT sleep in her crib until she was about 14 months old.  She would sleep fitfully for short bursts in her carseat, but would not lay down in her crib.  We tried everything from rocking her to sleep, rocking her almost to sleep, laying her down awake, a constant routine, changing up the routine...nothing worked.  She had to sit in her car seat, which we would rock, and cry herself to sleep.  At this point, we would EVER-SO-CAREFULLY carry the car seat into the bedroom.  This child wanted a bottle in the middle of the night until she was almost one year old.  She was not an easy baby and sleep was not our friend until she was about 1.5 years old.  

Luckily, we are out of this dreadful routine and are sleeping soundly every night.  Except one night last week.  I went to bed at 11:30...too late, I know, but it happened.  Here is the line-up for the rest of the night:
12:30  feverish five year old climbs into my bed
1:00  finally fall back to sleep
2:00 I got a text - yes, a text! What?!  Ugh - sat us straight up in bed in surprise!
3:00  luckily, I didn't see this hour!
4 o'something  feverish daughter can't sleep, doesn't feel good
5:00 finally fall back to sleep
5:45  worst sound in the world echos in my bedroom
ALARM CLOCK!
6:00  dragged myself out of bed
7:00  leave home to attend staff meeting
In case you didn't notice, 3:00 was the ONLY hour I didn't get to experience during this night.
And that, my friends, is where this riddle poem was born.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celebrate!

Join Ruth Ayres for her first office CELEBRATE this week link up!
Share a celebration from your week - big, little or anything in between!

Discover. Play. Build.

I thought that I would be celebrating my daughter's quick recovery from whatever nasty little bug has been going around.  She was out of school on Tuesday and Wednesday but was able to return for the end of the week.  That changed this morning, however, with she woke up with a fever again!  Boo!

So...I decided to celebrate something else!  This morning I also woke up to an email - with good news!  As I read the Teacher's Notebook newsletter this morning, I stumbled upon one of my own creations!  They selected one of my products to list as a freebie item of the week!  I had submitted it for review a couple of weeks ago without a lot more thought, knowing that there are probably hundreds (at least) of submissions each week.  It was a delightful surprise on this cold rainy Saturday.

If you'd like to check it out too, click here.  My "Monster Roll and Color" is the first freebie listed!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Week in review 10-18-13

A Week in the Life of My Little Monsters:

We made applesauce with the apples we bought at the cider mill last week!  This was a culminating activity for our 5 senses science unit.  We enjoyed the smell of the apples while we chopped them and while they cooked in the crock pot all day and the sound of slicing and chopping the apples.  We touched the apples while we cut them into pieces and we used our sense of sight as we watched them cook down and darken throughout the day.  Finally, we used our sense of taste to try the applesauce!  Yum!




So much great concentration when chopping the apples into little pieces!!

Literacy Centers - unfortunately, I didn't get pictures!  We played letter soup - the kids had to spoon up a magnetic letter, say the letter and the sound.  Also, we used bags with hair gel sealed inside to practice tracing letter cards and we practiced letters and sounds by jumping on the letter or sound on our classroom rug that was named by the teacher.  Finally, we used a spinner with capital letters and tracing sheets with lowercase dotted letters to practice our letter writing skills/uppercase and lowercase letter matching skills.

How about a little math tub time...

This is from The Common Core Diner Math and Literacy Pack by Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasbord

Based on an activity from Debbie Diller's Math Workstations book

Ten frame number match game from Teacher Tips by Susanne Terrell
 
 
From my Monster Count the Room set

And our beloved guided drawing lessons!  This week we practiced people, faces, moving people, houses, cars, cats, and dogs.  I only snapped pictures of the people, but how cute are they?





For more info about this week's units/activities, check out the following awesome creations!  Click on the picture to take you to the Teacher's Pay Teachers link.
Common Core Ten Frame Math Activity   The Common Core Diner!  A Common Core Aligned Math And Lit     Monster Count the Room



Coming next week:

Bats, bats, and more bats!  Fall math tubs!  More drawing lessons! 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where It All Started



I’m channeling my inner Sophia (anyone remember the Golden Girls?) so hang in there with me.  

Picture it: northern Michigan in the spring, a tiny, quiet lake where the only residents are retired couples, a dead-end dirt road in the middle of nowhere (literally).  After a day of work around the house, the neighbors have gathered around the bonfire pit in their lawn chairs for a cool drink in the warm spring afternoon sunshine.  A van drives slowly up the road and comes to a stop in front of a tree-filled, empty lot.  Every door opens and the troops file out…a thirtyish couple - the wife very pregnant, and then…a thirteen year old, a twelve year old, an eleven year old, a ten year old and finally grandma and grandpa. 

I often imagine what this scene must have looked like to the by-stander birds and squirrels.  I imagine the neighbors mouths hanging open as the people kept coming out of the van.  It must have looked like a clown car packed full!  And imagine the noise level that must have accompanied all the kids who had been riding for two hours in the van and were finally free!  It must have been something to witness.  I can also imagine the feeling of dread as the thirtyish couple began to look at the empty lot with the for sale sign.  What was this huge group of people like?  Where did they come from and were they planning to stay?

The thirtyish couple was my parents and the yet-to-be-born baby was me!  Just before I was born, my parents bought the empty lot and cleared much of it for their “cottage,” which was actually a house.  My dad and his friends built the house from the ground up.  It was built as a weekend/vacation home with thoughts of retirement in the distant future.

It turns out that my dad had worked with one of the neighbors and found out about the property from him when my dad mentioned that he was looking for a lot up north.  The group of neighbors became an influence in my life immediately.  They were like extra grandparents to me.  They watched out for me (and my siblings), they celebrated birthdays and milestones with us, and teased us about boyfriends and girlfriends.  Some of my first words were “Take a walk Carl” because Carl liked to tease me and that was my feisty comeback. 

We spent nearly every weekend and family vacation at the cottage for the next eighteen years of my life.  When I went to college, my parents retired and moved to the cottage, which then officially became known as “the house up north.”  When I went home for the weekend as a student that is where I went.  When I met my future husband that is where I took him to meet my parents (and the rest of the neighborhood).  This place was a cornerstone in my life.  It was the tranquil place in the middle of nowhere that I resented a little for its lack of excitement and young people as a teenager and the place that I miss dearly now.

I realize, looking back, what an important role the place and the people of that neighborhood played in my development.  It was at the cottage that I learned how friends interact by watching the adults.  It was at the cottage that I learned that people outside of my family cared about me.  It was at the cottage that I learned about relationships.  It was at the cottage that I learned about storytelling. 

While all the lessons I learned there were important, it is the storytelling that really stands out.  Each weekend, as we huddled around the bonfire and looked at the stars, I listened to hours of stories told by my parents and the neighbors.  I heard about the “old days” when they had to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow. (Has anyone else heard this story?)  I learned about why Carl called the refrigerator an icebox when he told about how he used to help his dad get blocks of ice to put in the bottom of the fridge/icebox before they had electricity in his house.  I learned about how thick the ice needed to be on the lake before it was strong enough to ride snowmobiles on it.  I learned how to tell a joke and how to weave a story for an audience.  I learned more sitting around that bonfire that I did in some of my classroom experiences, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

As I look back at my journey as a writer, it most certainly started around the bonfire every weekend since before I was old enough to understand the stories.  How lucky I was to experience such a thing!  I truly learned to write by learning oral storytelling first.  Now I try to give my students that same experience.  We spend the first months of the school year learning to tell a story.  We practice rehearsing our stories, practice thinking through the important parts of the story, and we practice telling a complete story from start to finish.  We tell stories orally to a partner, a small group or the whole class.  This is the way I launch writing because I know there is much value in learning to tell a story and without that piece, writing becomes an even bigger opponent to tackle.  From storytelling, my students are able to transition into drawing their stories.  I teach some guided drawing lessons to help with this transition as well.  By the time November arrives, the kids are so good at telling and drawing stories, they are able to concentrate their efforts into getting the letters and sounds down on the page.  I may not be able to recreate the bonfire but I can certainly recreate the storytelling experience. 

I can only hope that my students get as much from their writing experience in our classroom as I did listening to stories around the bonfire.  I owe a lot to that little northern Michigan lake in the middle of nowhere.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come on!

Ruth Ayres is starting a new adventure on her blog Discover. Play. Build.  Each Saturday, link up and share your celebrations, big or small.  Be sure to leave comments for others as well!  I've been thinking about and mentally writing my post all day! 

Discover. Play. Build.

Today I am sharing a list of celebrations because I just couldn't narrow it down.  That's a pretty good problem to have I think!  Here they are...in no particular order.  My top 6 celebrations from the week:

1. Today is my sister's birthday!  It's a beautiful fall day here in Michigan and a lovely day to celebrate!  And because it's her birthday...I won't even tell you how old she is.  Happy birthday to a wonderful lady!

2.  My daughter is in my kindergarten class this year.  I had my reservations about it but it has been a great experience so far.  It's a blessing to be able to watch her learn and grow in the classroom setting and also to know that I had a hand in that growth!

3.  I have a great student teacher this year!  She's beginning to take over much of the teaching (which is a celebration itself!) and is doing well.  We also were fortunate to take our first field trip to the local cider mill this week.  The weather was beautiful and the trip was great!

4.  My principal and student support coordinator made a deal with the school to wear Thing 1 and Thing 2 costumes if the school reached a reading goal.  Each month the school sends home a reading calendar and asks students to read throughout the month and record it on the calendar.  The deal was if 75% of students completed and returned their reading calendars in September, they would dress up for a whole day.  This was a first time challenge and the students came very close!  There was a 73% turnout and because they were so close, Thing 1 and Thing 2 made their appearance during the lunch and recess periods on Friday.  It was truly a sight to behold, many pictures were taken and many smiles were shared.

5.  I have been reading such wonderful writing lately!  I've been lucky to watch my friend's writing journey soar to a new level and lucky to read both her drafts and her finished pieces.  It's been a lot of fun for me to watch each piece develop and to see her writing process in action!  I'm so proud of her and the success she has found as a writer.

6.  It seems a little odd to celebrate a conversation, but I had a good conversation with a friend this week.  It was nice to share a moment with someone who has been in similar shoes as my own.  I had been feeling a little lonely in one aspect of my life until this conversation when I learned that she too had experience in this area.  I didn't think I had any friends who could relate to my situation but she could.  It felt really good to know I was not alone in my feelings.  Her positive perspective and understanding was just what I needed and I left the conversation feeling a little lighter.  I'm thankful to count her as a friend.









Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pressure Cooker





I'm standing on my soapbox today for my slice of life.  This topic has been eating at me for a while now and I couldn't help but write about it.  It just came out.  

For more slice of life stories, be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers.





I feel it.  I feel it building this year like a pressure cooker.  I hear it in comments from my colleagues.  I see it on the faces of fellow teachers I pass in the hallway.  I can’t get away from the feeling of content and deadlines being shoved down my throat.  I can’t get away from the notions of “we have to get the kids to do things faster/sooner/better.”  

Logically, I understand it.  I know that things change at the top and there is a trickle down.  I know that when you sit at the bottom of the educational mountain, the push down is going to stop there. Unfortunately, it seems that the trickle down has become more of a gushing, roaring river as it has cut a path down the mountain and found the way to my kindergarten doorstep.

While I may know how this works LOGICALLY, I feel very differently in my heart.  My heart knows that my students are only approximately 60 months old.  My heart knows that I can push the thinking of my students only so far, and more than that is useless.  My heart knows, as a teacher, I am should meet my students where they are as an individual and then guide them toward the next step.  However, the next step should not be expected to be a huge LEAP.  

It seems the expectation has changed.  Now I am expected to meet the children where they are and then SHOVE them toward where they “should” be.  It’s a game of tag gone awry…ready or not here it comes!

What happened to learning through play?  What happened to looking for the next step and guiding the child to discovery?  What happened to learning about child development and then using that knowledge to help determine what the child is ready for next?  When did “they,” whoever the decision-makers are, learn about what is best practice for teaching?  When did “they” learn about the developmental stages that a child grows through?  Most importantly, when did “they” learn what is best for children?

Learning and growing is like planting a seed.  A child is a seed that we plant in our kinder garden.  We give that seed the sunshine, water and nourishment that is needed for growth to happen but it will ONLY happen on the seed’s own timetable.  There is no pushing the agenda for a seed.  I cannot force a seed to sprout without light and water and nourishing soil any more than I can force a child to learn something the brain is not ready to accept.  I can use all the best techniques and spend time one-on-one with that child and put the best materials in the hands of the child, but if that child is not ready to take on the learning, it’s not going to happen.

This group of people who are the “they” are making decisions about things that they know nothing about.  I would like the opportunity to ask them to consider a few things.  When you need brain surgery, do you ask your neighbor to do it for you?  When you have a tooth that is painful, do you pull it out yourself?  Of course not!  We call upon the experts. 

Why are “they” not calling upon the experts to make educational decisions?  When did it become logical and appropriate to ask lawyers or businessmen to determine what should be taught in a classroom? Where is the professional respect for teachers?  I wonder what would happen if “they” went to the emergency room only to find out that their so-called doctor was really a plumber or a computer programmer?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What a Wonderful World



I see trees of green,
red roses too.










I see them bloom,
for me and you.










And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.










I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.








The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.










And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.











The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.










Are also on the faces,










Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.










Saying, "How do you do?"
They're really saying,
"I love you."










I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,










They'll learn much more,
Than I'll ever know.










And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

 










Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.












Oh yeah.



For more Slice of Life stories, visit Two Writing Teachers.