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Alphabet Countdown To The Last Day of Kindergarten (2017 edition)

It has begun!  We are closing in on the end of an amazing school year.

Each year, on the last 26 days of school, we do a letter/theme a day from A all the way to Z on the last day of school.  Everybody on the kindergarten team shares ideas, but we all try to work with the things our kids are really excited about in our own classroom.  For example, I HAD to do "I is for Incredible Inventions" for one special boy in my class who has inspired everyone to become inventors this year (he's also the reason, I have pretty much gone through all my tape stash!...we go through LOTS of tape in inventions).

Here is the line up for this year:



A is for "All About Animals"

We started the alphabet countdown this year on a Wednesday.  The week and a half before that, we had been studying animals, and what they need.  Our "All About Animals" day was a mini research project.  The kids picked a beanie baby sized stuffed animal, and created a habitat for it in a shoebox (or something similar).  They did research on what the animal eats and drinks, and where it sleeps, and other fun facts about their animal.  On Wednesday, we brought all our projects down to the commons, and our 2nd grade buddies, the preschool classes, and a few parents and staff members, went around and let the kindergartners share about their animal.  The kindergartners favorite part is everyone attending the "Pet Show" had post it notes, and wrote specific "feedback" for each child.  They were so excited about their post it notes.  





B is for "Be Our Guest"

I have a lot of Beauty and the Beast fans in my room!  I'm ok with that...I always tell my kids Belle is my FAVORITE princess because she loves to read just like me!

On B day, we had a "fancy" tea party (with tea cakes, and REAL sweet tea), at snack, did lots of Beauty and the Beast themed reading, writing and math, and even got to watch part of the "old" Beauty and the Beast.



C is for Career Day

What do you want to be when you grow up?  I got lots of doctors, nurses, veterinarians, princesses, police officers, teachers, a gymnast, and an army guy.    We did lots of writing today about our chosen careers. :)





D is for Drive Inn Movie Day

Today along with our regular math and reading, we wrote about the characters, setting, problem, and solution from our favorite movie.  We also spent some time first thing in the morning decorating our cars for our drive inn movie.  Most of the kids spent the majority of their day in those boxes, they loved them so much!  The best part of the day was watching the rest of Beauty and The Beast with a popcorn snack at our very own Drive Inn Theater.



Looking for boxes?  These were the perfect size for our kindergartners.   




Alternative or Flexible Seating

 Confession.  My teacher crush* is Greg Smedley from 
 I love him from afar, of course, but I follow him on Facebook, read his blog, and once saw him speak in person at ITeachK.  He is amazing, and funny, and SO entertaining.  He also seems to be the type of guy who would be a blast to hang out with on a Friday night, and then go shopping at the dollar tree with on Saturday.  I hope to be half the teacher and presenter that he is someday.  :)

One of the things Greg has talks about a lot is how he uses flexible seating in his classroom.  He doesn't have tables! I read his posts...and found it interesting (yeah but...what about snack?  or testing?  or fighting over spots?). Regardless, Mr. Smedley put the idea there, and it's been in the back of my mind ever since.

This year, I decided to start out the school year out with a few "alternative" spots in my room.  I've added a few more as the year continued, and also started adding more "alternative lighting" and background music during certain work times.  It's SO exciting and I have been AMAZED at the difference it makes in my classroom.

Here's a few things I've been doing!




I added a set of 5 lap desks.  The lap desks work REALLY well for cutting projects.


I sent out an email to my district, and got 3 rocking chairs donated.  Great for reading or working with a clipboard

A class set of clipboards has been a must!


I found 4 of these kindermats on sale.  These might be my favorite option!  Lots of kids seem to work REALLY well and concentrate longer when they are laying on a mat with a clipboard.


I pulled one of my shelves out away from the wall.  It is just the right height for my kindergartners to stand and work.  This is THE most popular spot to work or eat snack in my classroom!  Easy addition to my alternative seating menu.


This picture shows two great choices.  My boyfriend made me a slide off cover for my Lego table.  I added some floor cushions and it became a perfect spot for kids to work.  My writing center also has cube chairs.  Perfect workspace for kids who need a space that kind of "hugs" them in.  

I have 2 of these tables.  (I'm not as brave as Greg and haven't removed all my tables!).  These are amazing for kids who need help organizing their work.  It gives them a spot of their own to work, but also makes an amazing space for collaborative work.

This is a little hard to see, but for large group activities, my kids sit on my rainbow rug.  At the back of the rainbow rug are six cube ottoman's.  They seem to help the kids who need that more defined space.






 I also have 4 of these wiggle seats.   The kids can choose them and use them on the carpet, or at a chair somewhere in the classroom.  I hope to get some more, they are awesome!


This is my reading/math small group table (and the closest thing I have to a desk).  The ball chairs have been wonderful!  They had a tendency to wander a bit, and that drove me a tiny bit crazy, so I bought pool noodles (yes, rainbow colors to match), cut them to size, used colored duct tape to connect them and made a "ring" for them each to sit in.


So...all those questions I had at the beginning:
Snack:  I have enough spots in my room at tables or at the "stand up spots" for all of my kids to eat snack.  the mats or other floor options aren't a choice during snack...mostly because I thought there would be a lot of spilled milk.

Testing:  If I am doing whole group testing, they can choose whatever spot works best for them, as long as they are spread out.  Hasn't been an issue.

Fighting over popular spots:  I usually pull "fair sticks", and tell the kids to choose a spot.  It's a "first come first serve" thing at that point.  I do a lot of teaching and reminding about what it looks like, feels like, and sounds like if you've chosen the best work spot.  It really hasn't been too much of an issue.

Noise:  This is the quietest group I've EVER had during work time.  Giving them choices (and knowing if they don't use their choice wisely then I get to make the choice for them) has been the best decision EVER.  

I can't wait to add more choices!  I'm thinking about some scoop chairs, bouncy bands (to put on table legs), and some taller wobble stools for tables.


I've also been trying some things with lighting in my room.  We often work with only half of the overhead lights  and our "magic lights" on.  Our "magic lights" are white rope lights strung around the edge of my room.  We turn them on and off with this amazing magic wand.  It was my favorite purchase this year!




video

I took a quick video of how our magic lights work.  It's Spring Break...so empty classroom, and a Lifetime Movie playing on my computer. :)

Kindergarten Funny of the Week:I have kids from other classes come to my room during intervention time. We were sitting at this table doing some math problems...Munchkin Girl: Why do you have these balls to sit on instead of chairs?Me: Well, sometimes bouncing a little while they are working helps kids think.Munchkin Girl: (Pause) Wow! It works. I keep thinking about a sandwich!.
*I stole the term "teacher crush" from my amazing team mate Nicole....who confessed to me her own teacher crush is Marsha from A Differentiated Kindergarten .  :)

ESGI...Seriously. Just Do It.



Spring Break Has Begun!

The last few weeks have been SO busy... in ways that only kindergarten teachers can truly understand.  :)  The kind of busy that makes me want to be in bed by 8:00 every night, but then leaves me laying awake thinking about all the things I have left to do.

I just finished all of my parent/teacher conferences at 7:30 last night.  I left the building a happy, happy teacher.I have the BEST parents, and my conferences were so much fun!

The getting ready for conferences part is what takes so much time! The amount of time it takes to individually assess 20 + kindergartners on uppercase letters, lowercase letters, letter sounds, sight words, counting to 100, number recognition, patterning, counting by 10's, 2D shapes, 3D shapes, etc...is incredible.

Like I tried to explain to one of my non-teacher friends the other day:  it's not like you can give your class a "test" that says "circle all the letters you know".  You have to ask each student "what sound does this letter make?" over and over.  If one of those assessments takes 5 minutes, that's 100+ minutes of classroom time for that assessment alone!  It's SO hard to find that time and still teach!

Several years ago, my team found something that TRULY made it easier.  It was an online assessment tool called ESGI.  Instead of the old school way of assessing...with big 3 ring binders of charts, along with flashcards for each skill, we could instead just pull kids over and assess quickly on our laptops or ipad.
 
Our favorite things about ESGI :

  • ESGI keeps track of everything they know and I can access that data anywhere.  If I want to work on my report cards at a coffee shop, I don't have to drag anything along other than my laptop.  I can work on report cards in the airport (and I have!).
  •  ESGI shows me who hasn't been assessed recently.  With all the sick kids I had over the past few weeks, that was a lifesaver!  
  •  ESGI gives us SO much information about our data, it helps us immeasurably in our PLC's and when making intervention groups.   
  • ESGI helps us compare this year's class to years before, which has been so valuable as we implement new programs and discuss their effectiveness.  
  • ESGI (with the push of a button) prints out individualized parent letters and easily lets us send home flashcards of the skills each student needs to work on.
  • ESGI makes it easy to create your own assessments using your school's sight words or other skills you need to assess.  
  • The ESGI peeps are the NICEST people you will ever meet.  Just last week, my team mate had an issue with a purchase order, but her subscription was up. She chatted with an ESGI rep for a couple of minutes and they extended her subscription.  They REALLY like teachers.  :)
The picture above was taken by that day's "Class Photographer".  Notice my "crown of invisibility" on my head that makes it possible for me to assess because no one can see me.  :) 

ESGI has an amazing thing happening right now.  If you sign up for a free trial, you can use ESGI for the rest of the school year for FREE!  

Let me say that again:
Get your free trial now and use ESGI

For the rest of the school year for free!

Plenty of time to prove to your administrators how beneficial all that data is to your program. 

Click on the picture below to get you your free trial till the end of August.  Seriously.  Just do it.:
 


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