Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Teacher Said She Loves Me

Sometimes I have these blog posts planned out that I want to discuss but something else weighs on my heart. That happened today. Today was a good day. Not because I pulled every reading group I had scheduled, not because we completed every activity to meet every daily subject and standard, and not because everything went smoothly. Actually all of that happened today, but that's not why it was a good day.

It was a good day because I talked with my kids.

I feel like sometimes it's so hard these days to connect with students without feeling teacher guilt. You should be assessing, so-and-so really needs an extra five minutes of intervention to get out of the "red zone", maybe if I wrap this lesson up we can review this standard to make sure the kiddos really mastered it, etc. All of that is important, and I'm not saying that I don't teach my kids the necessary standards and academics that we need to. We definitely work hard and play hard, but sometimes I feel like we should be able to play and connect a little more. We should talk with a little more and to a little less.

Kindergarten should be focused on play and social-emotional development, and you've probably read many blog posts about how this is no longer the focus lately and how academics are being pushed down their little throats before many are ready. However, I believe this applies to any grade. We need to be able to take time to talk with our kids, to connect with our kids, to reassure them that we love them.

I greet my students at the door everyday. They give me a high-five or a hug (student choice) and tell me good morning before they ever walk in the door. I am there to watch them walk down the hall and they know I am ready for them. I am waiting for them. I can't wait to see them. No matter what attitude I may have before that first student bell rings so they can walk down my hall, I am always ready with a smile on my face. I must be happy to set the mood in my room, and if I'm not really happy that first high-five or hug fills my bucket up too.

Morning meeting is usually packed full of songs and fun with a sort of hidden agenda of meeting language, reading, writing, and even math standards. There is nothing wrong with that, but today I changed it up a little bit. We all sat down and we took time to just share. No agenda, no connections to the day's plans, just listening to my kids telling me what they wanted to tell. The respect and community built in that small amount of time was well worth anything we skipped for the day. It is time I purposely plan that time back into my schedule or maybe, maybe I just keep it spontaneous like I did and purposely make it a goal for myself to include it sometime in the day, everyday.

I talked with my kids.

At the end of the day during dismissal we usually play some kind of interactive math game while different groups are leaving the classroom to go to after school care, car-riders to the cafeteria, etc. However, today we all gathered on the carpet and I asked them what was their favorite part of the day. We had an afternoon meeting like we did at the beginning of school and somehow it fell behind in the surge of more and more assessments that build up during the year and the more and more that my babies couldn't keep up with the standards. They try hard and work hard, but it is a struggle for them to be where they "should" be based on the pacing guide for our county and the state assessments.

I talked with my kids.

They were more attentive than they had been all day. It was the end of a very long day for five-year-olds and they were taking turns, all eyes on the speaker, ears open, criss cross applesauce, picture perfect. They were eager, participating, and their answers were fantastic. "Reading centers" "juicy word writing" "math centers" "snack". The things that were their favorites made me laugh and we connected. They could tell I loved them even without me saying it, but I told them anyway. I said it out loud once more to remind them like I do everyday "I love you all and I love being your teacher."

I took my group of bus riders to the buses and before each one of them got on the bus they had to give me a hug. I always tell them "Love you, see you tomorrow!" and I love hearing them say it back. I want my students to know I love them. They are precious to me and I want my little ones to hear that and know someone is on their side, especially since I don't always know if they get that at home.

Today was a good day. I talked with my kids today. Even if my students go home and can't tell their parents one thing they did, or remember one skill we practiced, I hope they can remember that "my teacher said she loves me."

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Monday, January 18, 2016

January Collaborative Corner Newsletter

Hello! Today I'm joining the Collaborative Corner Newsletter to talk about my resolutions and goals for this year. If you want to sign up just click the logo below to get a different newsletter with a different theme each month :)

January's newsletter is themed around our goals. For 2016 I have decided to focus on 3 goals for myself personally, as a teacher, and as a TPT entrepreneur. 

*I'm still in love with my store logo and personalized Melonheadz from my blog redesign :)

My hubby got us the Love Dare devotional which has daily devotionals for married couples. My goal is for us to complete it every day so that by this time next year we will have completed the "challenge." I hope we grow closer to each other and to God as we dare to learn more about what love is through Him. It encourages us to keep journals so we can reflect on our journey throughout the year and that is something I definitely want to start!

My teacher resolution was to be more intentional in planning writing. I do have a set writing block but I feel that it is the area where I do not plan as rigorously. I know we have a writing mini-lesson and a writing center in our morning Daily 5 rotations so when there is a school assembly, fire alarm, or some other random occurrence in the life of an elementary school classroom it seems like my writing block is the first thing to be minimized in the schedule and I want this to STOP! I want to build more confidence in my writers by being a more confident writing teacher. I actually started a huge bundle of resources that I am going to use in my room to help me with this resolution (see below!)

Last fall I started my blog with the best of intentions and then wedding planning, kindergarten, and grad school took full control. Now that there is a break from grad school and no more wedding planning, I am ready to make my blog a priority in my TPT life. I also want to collaborate more with other bloggers. To be more intentional about my posts, I planned out my blog posts (color-coded with my favorite pens-thanks hubby for the stocking stuffer!) and linkies throughout the month where I can collaborate with other bloggers. If you want this incredibly cute planner for yourself click here to get it free from That Teaching Spark! It's perfect for a calendar dedicated solely to my blog. I'm just going to stick each month into my teacher agenda and be ready to roll!

What are your goals for this year?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Why Being a Former Special Education Teacher Makes Me a Better Kindergarten Teacher

This is a post that has been on my mind for quite some time. It is something that I have wrestled with as I left one field for the other. I took a unique path to becoming a special education teacher. I graduated from a K-6 licensure program, but I worked in a private autism intervention program for three years in college and was starting my master's in autism and ABA the summer after I graduated. I loved working with children with autism, and knew I wanted to do that again eventually. I took both the elementary and the special education Praxis tests because they were changing the tests and I wanted to have both licenses for when I was ready to teach children with special needs after I graduated from grad school. However, there was a different plan for me.

I was offered a K-5 autism classroom position and I could not refuse. A classroom of my own full of babies with autism? I knew it was perfect for me. It was the hardest and best decision I had made. I learned so much: how to be a strong advocate for my students, how to be more independent because even on a special education team being the sole self-contained classroom put you on your own most of the time, how to differentiate like crazy for my students on all different ability, behavior, and grade levels, and how to find the positive in very sad and trying situations.

When my classroom was dissolved with many of the other county's self-contained classrooms at the end of the year, I made the best decision for me and came back to my home school and accepted a kindergarten position. The position I had originally wanted after graduation, what I had went to school for, and what I knew I was prepared to teach without any extra classes. However, while I have wrestled through the year with guilt for leaving special education, with wondering if I will ever want to teach special education again after I finish my masters degree, I have finally realized that teaching special education first has made me an even better kindergarten teacher. Why? There are so many reasons.

1. I understand what roles the specialists play in my students' lives. I know what the resource teachers are going to do when they take my students away, more about the speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and social workers. I understand how crazy their schedules are and  try to be flexible and understanding when they need to make a change. I am willing to collaborate and attend meetings because I know how many they have to attend without me and how important it is for the regular education teacher to be part of the team.

2. I understand how to reach all of my students on a deeper level. I differentiate EVERYTHING and every activity has more than one level to reach all of my students. I can handle more severe behaviors and come up with my own behavior plans and interventions before needing to call outside help. I can implement more interventions in my own classroom and understand a little better which students just need more time because of their home background, or because they just need it repeated a few more times, and which students I should start preparing PEP's for and realizing they might need to start the testing process for special education because there is something deeper going on. And when it is time to start those data is on point ;)

3. I design my classroom environment better. I use visuals, a visual schedule, first/then boards, and make sure the environment is not too stimulating. I have alternative seating options, integrate more movement activities, more sensory activities, and we even learn sign language. My students actually request we practice our "hand abcs" in the hall and we sign our sight words daily. We have set daily routines and change activities with timers every fifteen minutes so they have enough time to work but not enough time to get distracted. My daily schedule and plans set my students up for success.

4. I am more accepting of all of my students. I think more about what they go through at home, about their families, about outside factors that are affecting their behavior and academic progress. I volunteered to be the inclusion classroom and students from the adaptive room spend some time in my room with my kindergarteners. I know how important it is for them to have that time in my room and how it also benefits my littles, helping them be more accepting and loving towards all individuals.

I might go back to being a special education teacher one day, but right now I know that my background makes me a better kindergarten teacher. I can better understand how to help those special friends that are in my room, collaborate and communicate better with specialists and families, and differentiate and advocate for every one of my students. I use my skills to be a special/regular education teacher at the same time, and I believe it is helping all of my students grow.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ten on Ten: January 2016

It's the tenth of the month so I'm linking up with the Classroom Game Nook for Ten on Ten! I hope you enjoy these ten pictures that capture my last month!

I married my best friend and the love of my life!

We honeymooned in Walt Disney World. The whole week was a fairytale!

I enjoyed sensory Christmas centers with my kinders

and wrapped Christmas present books for them to read independently over break.

I found tons of cute classroom items at Target! (and of course bought them all)

I started a year-long daily devotional Love Dare with my husband :)

I relaxed, planned, and created over break.

I organized my classroom for the new year. So much colored paper for centers!!!

I started a 30 day yoga challenge. It's on YouTube. Join me in the mornings!

What did you do this past month? Check out other teacher bloggers on the link-up below and leave me a comment below :)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Flash Freebie Friday

Welcome to Flash Freebie Friday! I'm linking up with Happy Little Kindergarten today. Be sure you check her blog out to see what other great authors are posting for free today only!

Today's flash freebie is jam-packed of differentiated winter clip cards centers for your kinders!

Included are clipcards to identify how many items are in the ten frames, how many more are needed to make 20 with the ten frames, and adding ten frames to numbers to 20. 

There are so many ways to play! You can:

-Attach tape or magnets to put around the room or on white boards for math around the room

-Differentiate by putting in a pencil pouch with clothespins and have students only complete the ones in their bag

-Use at your small group teacher table for a mini-lesson or review activity. I print these 4 to a page for smaller cards!

Click HERE to download for free today only! Happy Friday! 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Math Tip Monday: Teaching Word Problems

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So...planning out these blog posts and link-ups might have been the best idea I had for my blog. I've actually been consistently blogging and feeling like I have lots to share! This is my first link-up with K's Classroom Kreations and Theresa's Teaching Tidbits for their Math Tip Monday. This occurs the first Monday of every month so check back later if you enjoy and make sure you check out the other bloggers below for more great math tips!

This month's focus is teaching word problems. As a kindergarten teacher this could sound really scary. Words AND numbers? When I heard I had to be teaching word problems early on to prepare for the middle of the year county math assessment all I could think at first was that my babies were still trying to read (and learn letters!) and tackle literal questions, how could they solve word problems where now they had to use their developing reading and comprehension skills to solve math problems? I quickly realized that if I could believe they could do it they could. And with some love, fun, and scaffolding, they could do extremely well.

So first of all, when I teach word problems I need this. All of this.

Just kidding. That is just what I brought in this morning for the first day back from break. So much stuff in that teacher bag and so much food to get through the day! Instead, I actually use these four main things with some extras supplemented:

What I normally start with is the actual word problem and I like to have themed word problem task card sets for my kinders. The last theme we did was toy shopping because it was Christmas time! So take this one for example.

You can see that we are working on a very literal problem in this case. There are no unknowns because I was working with a group that was having a difficult time with word problems in general so we were starting at ground zero. What were we going to do first? Break out the first/then boards!

You can see that this little guy first has to do math and then gets to go to the computer center. Sadly these first/then boards were in black and white because I ran out of colored ink before Christmas break. Now they are pretty and colorful! He only had to do three tasks before he earned a fun activity because he needs short amounts of tasks right now to stay successful and motivated. Every time a problem is completed he was able to put a puppy on the board because that was the token he chose. 

This friend was working for the same thing but could handle more problems and chose the dinosaur tokens. Not every one of my students uses these boards for reinforcement but some of them need them and some of them want them, and I have the options available at small group teacher table and for independent work! After I set up the first/then boards with what they have to do first, their "must do", and the students have chosen what they want to work for (I have a board with picture options so they can't choose anything I haven't set out as an option) then I let them choose what kind of token they want to put on their board. I choose the amount of tasks they have to complete and they put on their own tokens as they complete their work. After this is set up I pass out the recording sheets.

This friend could handle looking at all of the problems on the page, but for some of my friends I have to block off different tasks by covering it with a piece of construction paper or folding the page. I keep all of the tasks on the page because that might be our goal to complete by the end of the week, etc. They get a special reinforcement when we finish all of the tasks even if it takes us a couple of days. Always focusing on the positive!

Now we have all of these things but what about actually getting down to the teaching math part? Well for this particular group I start by reading the task aloud together. So we shall revisit the problem. 

First I read the entire word problem to them. Then we STOP and focus on two really important ideas: numbers and vocabulary. The first thing we look at after we read the entire problem is we look to see what numbers are involved. I usually have a teacher copy laminated of all my task cards so we can mark them up as a group. I let my students do this with colored markers because I want them to take ownership of their math. It is their learning after all! So we could do something like this.

Then we look at the vocabulary. He buys 7 bears. Does that mean he gets to keep 7 or he has to give 7 away? Are we going to get 7 toys or lose 7 toys? We discuss what it means to buy something (hey economics social studies integration!) and what we would do with that 7. Then we keep it in our head and look at the next word. He buys 7 bears and 1 doll. that means he puts the doll with the bears or...what do we think that means? Is that one more or one less? Is our number of toys getting bigger or smaller? Greater or fewer? We discuss using our math vocabulary cards to help us. I LOVE math talk. Then we look at the final target words: how many and all together? What do these words mean? What are they telling us? As we discuss we are marking up our task cards with different colors and comparing to the vocabulary cards I introduce weekly that go on our math focus board.

Now our task card looks like this. Notice the words in red we discussed were all words from our vocab cards that could mean put together, or more, so they were in the same color. The words in blue are a type of question we have been working on, "how many" questions, so they are in a different color. Now that we have fully comprehended our problem it is time to work with our hands! First re-read...

Tommy buys 7 bears. STOP. Here is where you can get out your manipulatives of choice (I themed them that day and had small toys, pom poms, jingle bells, and other holiday items. Sorry I forgot to take pictures!) or incorporate some movement and use your kids to act it out. This day I had one of my kiddos grab 7 toys out of the "toy box" on my teacher table. We counted them out one by one aloud as a whole group so everyone was participating as I monitored my one little guy's 1:1 correspondence. 

Then we looked at our vocabulary as we read again. Tommy buys 7 bears and 1 doll. The next child then got out 1 more toy out of the "toy box". Each child kept their toys in front of them so we could finish reading the problem aloud. Tommy buys 7 bears and 1 doll. How many toys did he buy all together? Did the boys need to put their toys together and then count? Yes? Why? I make them explain their reasoning. They have to defend their answer. I make my babies work hard!

Then each of the boys took turns counting out the toys using their 1:1 correspondence. This little cutie wanted to show me how she could use her fingers as manipulatives as well!

Time to mark it on the recording sheet and put a token on the first/then board if the student has one! I try to make my math really interactive for my kiddos with a huge focus on comprehension and vocabulary. The themes really help them (and me) have a blast with math! I'll have to take more pictures of our marked up task cards, use of manipulatives, and supplementary vocabulary cards and solution math talk strategy mats next time we work on word problems this week! 

How do you teach word problems? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday Scoop

I love this super cute and simple link-up from Teaching Trio. It makes for the perfect blog on my favorite day- Sunday! I have always loved Sundays for the long hours of family time and quiet time. Growing up Saturdays were always chore days and we had to have our homework done then too. I'm glad I was raised that way because now I keep my Sundays protected from the Sunday planning blues and get to enjoy my last day of the weekend. Of course I have a few more work-like things planned for this Sunday because it is the last day of winter break and I need to wrap some things up!

I HAVE to load my classroom library into my car from where I took it ALL home over break. I'm a bit of an over-achiever and I wanted to get it all organized by months to make it easier to pull my classroom library books out every month when I switch them out. I did accomplish that task but now I must load them all back up. It was definitely worth it to accomplish that in the living room during a Disney movie marathon instead of staying late at work :)

I also HAVE to finish reviewing our county blue folders to make sure they are all ready for when my mentor teacher checks a random few of mine this week. I also really need to finish one month of fluency so that my bundle has 12 units complete which was my goal over break.

I HOPE to hang the rest of the picture frames I got as Christmas presents and finished filling with our wedding and honeymoon pictures and would love to finish January plans but....that is definitely a hope ;)

Finally I'm HAPPY to watch one of the new DVD's my husband and I got for Christmas. Here's hoping he picks one I will enjoy as well but either way it will be a relaxing evening for us both.

Happy Sunday to y'all! Make sure you click the image below to see what other teacher bloggers are doing today.