Good Morning

Good Morning!  Good Morning!  Good Morning!  Happy, Happy Thursday!

Now, I know that it’s not actually morning, but this really is how I greet my scholars every morning.  As I walk out my door, I want to greet my students with a smile and a positive attitude.  If we have something special happening that morning, such as Art or Yoga or an assembly, I can add a quick announcement, as well as let their parents know.

As my students come into the classroom I stand by the door and greet each and every child as they come into our classroom.  There are so many reasons why this is a wonderful thing to do.  First, if a child has been absent, I am able to touch in with that child and reconnect with them.  Last year I had a kiddo who was out for a week with the flu.  By standing at the door and greeting each child, I was able to touch this sweetie on the shoulder and tell her how much she was missed, and how glad we were that she was feeling better and was back.  She just beamed!

Another reason to greet each child is to make a positive connection with each and every child.  All of us have those kiddos who are seem to be sooo needy!  My morning greeting allows me to make eye contact with that child and compliment them on their cool Ninja turtle shirt, their pretty hair ribbon, or ask if I can borrow their “too cute shoes!”  I’m not even a “shoe gal”, but this just cracks them up!

Lastly, this happy greeting helps parents feel reassured that their little treasures are in safe hands (something that a parent shared with me years ago).  By waiting until every child has entered into your room, parents have the opportunity to check in with you about quick little things.  Many questions can be answered quickly and helps with building my classroom community and parent community.

When I used to pick my kiddos up on the playground, I used to walk down my line and greet every child.  This takes a few minutes of your morning time… minutes that could be used to do two or three other quick, little things.  But it is well worth it.

One final thought.  Last year, after giving my over-the-top, cheerful hello, and greeting each student, a couple of moms giggled at me.  Their eyes were still blurry from sleep and the caffeine from their coffee cups hadn’t quite kicked in.  They wondered how I could possible be this energetic, this early in the morning–without the aid of coffee.  I told them that they should see what I looked like just prior to opening the door.  But by starting my morning enthusiastically, I set the tone for my entire day.  It’s hard to start dragging when you’ve started your day as a cheerleader.

 

Color Week: Part 2

Hello friends, and happy Monday.  Welcome to Part 2 of my Color Week post.

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Yesterday I shared many of the color activities I use in Color Week: Part 1.    As I said yesterday I use my color unit to teach many of my academic routines. Above, and below, is what my Red Color Song {A Mini Unit} looks like.  I have also included a 1/2 size and larger size version of my color poster.  You can buy all 12 of my Color Songs Mini Units in one bundled package.  When you buy the bundle, I added a free Gray Color Song unit.  This is only available if you buy the bundle.

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I will continue where I left off yesterday and continue to use red as my color.  After singing our color song I give my kiddos a “Red” book.  Years ago I created little books for my kiddos in which I slowly introduced sight words.  Each of my color books follow this same idea and introduces a new word or phrases in each book.  The last page of each book has a fun twist.  (The red apple.  Yum!)

For the last two weeks we have been circling words in our morning message.  Now it is time for my scholars to try this on in their own book.  Using a red crayon, we work together (on the document camera) reading and circling each word on each page.  As each kiddo finishes circling the work on each page they holds up their red crayon (or whatever our color of the day is).  This helps me as I am scan my classroom to see how my kiddos are doing and zoom in on those scholars who are struggling.  This is a standard routine that I will use throughout the year.

Throughout the day we do a lot of sorting activities.  You may have noticed that I include 12 sorting cards within the Mini Unit.  Just as I try to do during my charting, I tried to use only those items which are always red.  Since I include 12 color color sorting cards within each of my color lessons, I decided to make these Color Sorting Cards: Headers as a freebie for you with my sorting cards.  Use these headers to sort 2 or more groups of color cards.  I place these cards at a center. Each day I add a new header and the next set of cards.

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Throughout this week I also read a variety of color books.  I read the books that I made from the days when I had an Enchanted Learning subscription.  I read one color book per day.  I also read, Red is Best, Did You Say Red, and  The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, is a fun book in which each crayon writes a letter to Duncan, who just wants to color.  If you plan on reading this book over a few days, be sure you start at the beginning.  It initially appears as though the letters stand alone; however, they are woven together.

An integral book that I use during my unit is the famous, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Eric Carle.  During the afternoon we create a fun innovation of this book.  I had planned on sharing this innovation with your today; however, I realize that I won’t be able to do it the justice that I want.  I have a lot of old blacklines that I have used, and altered, for years.  I want to be able to give you a blackline that you can use with your kiddos right away.  So I’ll share my innovation with you in an upcoming post.  At that time I will give you all of the materials so you can create your own book with your class.

Many kinder teachers, and Transitional Kinder teachers use community crayons with their kiddos.  As you introduce each color, give each student their own crayon and slowly build their own personal set of crayons.

Do you do any fun color activities in your classroom?  I’d love to hear about them.

 

Color Week: Part 1

The beginning of the school year is so busy, what with teaching routines getting to know my new scholars, and helping my little learners adjust to a full-day of kindergarten.  For some of my kiddos this is old hat–they’ve already spent a year in Transitional kindergarten or full day preschool.  However, for some of my kiddos, this is the first time they are venturing out into the big world and stepping into a classroom.  Not to mention helping my students who speak little to no English.

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This is why I look forward to my color week, or I should say weeks.  Over the next two weeks we will be learning about colors, and doing a variety of color activities.  As you know, when teaching something new we should always bridge the new learning with something our students already know.  Most of my students already know all of their colors; although, I do have some sweeties who really don’t know all of their colors.

We have spent the first two weeks of school building our wonderful classroom routine.   I have also spent the first two weeks teaching my scholars how to line up, how to go to their seat, and how to come to the carpet.  By teaching colors I can bridge their knowledge of colors with teaching many of my academic routines.

The following is how I use colors to incorporate our routines into our learning.  Since I do a lot of activities on each day I decided to break my post up into two parts.  Here is what we will be doing for the first half of tomorrow for our red day, as well as each of the following days:

First, I send home a note announcing our Color Week.  I tell the parents that each day we will be learning about colors and doing a variety of color activities.  Most of the kiddos will wear the “Color of the Day”, while some will not.  This is fine.

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Math:  We start our day by sorting ourselves into red/not red:  This becomes part of our morning routine and helps students learn how to organize and analyze data, talk to and with one another, and think critically.  We count, question, and build our math vocabulary by using words like more than and less than.  Plus, both groups get to pose for photos–which is always fun.

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Color Hunt:  During our literacy time we go on a red hunt.  I give each student a 2″ x 2″ red piece of paper.  I always have at least one or two kiddos who don’t know their colors and this provides them with something tangible to look at.  I am also able teaching my “passing out” routine, as we will go on many “hunts” throughout the year.  We learn how to work with one another while we walk around the classroom quietly–the key being walk and quietly.  This is a prelude for learning how to do many of my literacy centers, including read and write the room.

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Partner Talk: After returning to the carpet, my students use partner talk to think and discuss different things that are red.  I like my kiddos to try to think of things that are only red and always red.  A strawberry is only red and always red, but a shirt might be red or blue or green.  Of course, I accept all (reasonable) answers, but I want to challenge their thinking.  Although we have already started using partner talk, I teach them two phrases: next door neighbors (students who sit directly next to one another, as shown above) and across the street neighbors (students who sit in front of and behind one another, orange/green and blue/purple rows).  The reason I use 2 different sets of partners is to provide students with different opinions.  I also begin teaching my students what to do if their partner is absent (they turn and and make a triad).  The little girl in the purple row is about to turn and join the blue row.

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Charting:  Now that my kiddos have discussed red things with one another we take turns sharing out our thinking and  I chart their ideas on a paper with a red marker and label each picture.  When we are finished, I put all of the pages together into a book.  This will go into one of our centers for the little learners to practice reading.  (Of course, I model reading the various pages each day–more modeling and teaching of our routines.)

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My color posters were getting quite old and faded so I made new ones for my kiddos this year.  I was so excited making these.  When I started making the first set of Color Posters, I realized that I had so many animal graphics that I could make also make a set of Animal Color Posters.  You can get them separately or save $$$ and buy them Bundled.  I mounted them on colored paper, laminated them, and hung them up.

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Each day we learn a color song, included in my Color Songs Poster Set.  I have  included links for each of the color songs on YouTube as well as I a SafeShare.tv link for each color song. SafeShare is a link that is ad free and safe for your students to watch and use on their own.  Students can practice reading the posters, which support 1:1.  These posters, and many other activities, are included in my Color Mini Units.

Tomorrow I will share more about the color activities included in my mini units (along with a freebie), and the rest of the color activities that I do with my kiddos in Color Week: Part 2 of my Color Week.  I will also share with you a fun innovation that I make with my scholars.

 

Give Your Students Positive Responses

Often times, while I am teaching, my kinders will just sit and listen politely, that is, between rolling on the floor and chewing their shirt collars.  So beginning on the first day of school, I give my students positive responses that I want them to use.  I will tell my students that we are going to do something that is “really hard” but I know they can do it.  Instead of just letting my statement hang in the air I say, “Boys and girls, say ‘Mrs. Weiner,'” And they respond “Mrs. Weiner.”  I hold my finger up in the air and shake it, “I know it might be hard,” (they repeat) “but I can do it!” (I point to myself and they imitate me and repeat it).

By providing my students with their responses, I am giving my kiddos the mindset that I want them to have.  That of a positive, can-do attitude.  I want my scholars to feel empowered to accomplish something difficult, not trepidation.

I also want to teach compassion and understanding.  Every so often I make a mistake while I’m teaching. (I’ll even pretend to make a mistake.)  I take advantage of this opportunity to provide my kiddos with an appropriate response.  “That’s okay, Mrs. Weiner.  We all make mistakes!”  Of course, I always add hand movements and dramatic flair.  While you may not feel comfortable clapping your hands to the side of your face and gasping, “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!” you can definitely find a style that works for you.

I have seen the benefits of teaching my students these affirmations during my lessons.  Since these occur throughout the day and are woven into my lessons, my students become habituated to responding in positive ways.  While working at their seats and interacting with one another, I occasionally hear my scholars use these same phrases with each other.  I have to admit I did a happy dance when I heard one of my kiddos say, “That’s okay, we all make mistakes!  Besides, I think it looks awesome!” I’ve even had parents tell me that their son or daughter is saying these things at home.

So instead of teaching one lesson on having a positive mindset, try weaving a positive mindset into your lessons.  In addition to building a great classroom community, you will be providing an inspiring soundtrack that your students will always have access to.

 

 

 

 

Sign Language in the Classroom

 

Classroom management is always  priority among teachers.  A positive classroom environment with clear and consistent rules and expectations can save hours of instructional time over the course of your school year.

My words can speak volumes throughout the day; however, it is often times my silence that is golden.  Every teacher knows the power of an approving smile or the reassuring thumbs up. We nod our head, give a high-five, and even wink or lift our eye brows to acknowledge how well a student is doing. The same can be said for the disapproving finger wag, head shake, or scowl.  We use all sorts of various non-verbal gestures all day long.

Quite a few years back, I had a delightful little scholar who had autism (undiagnosed at that time). He didn’t, or couldn’t, respond very well to verbal commands.  He struggled in the general education classroom setting and I spent a lot of time looking for ways to best support him.  As I talked to him, I found myself using many of the same hand gestures over and over again–above and beyond the simple yes/no and bathroom signs.  He began responding positively, and far more consistently.  As the years passed, I learned that this was also a good support strategy for my English Language Learners (ELLs). Wow, a two-fer.

I began to incorporate a standard set of hand signs in my classroom, what I refer to as Mrs. Weiner’s Sign Language.  In addition to supporting my students with special needs and my E.L.L. population, an unforeseen bonus came out of my use of hand gestures: improved behavior among all of the students, not just the targeted child.

Every teacher has had this happen:  We ask a specific child to please sit down and three others jump up, requiring us to ask each of them, individually, to also please sit down.  If it didn’t drive us so “nutty”, it would be funny… almost.

Now, when I ask a specific child to please sit down or sit cross-cross, with my sign language, there is a different outcome.  Other students, who were up on their knees or sitting side-ways, begin to follow the same behavior.  While in the middle of a lesson, I briefly look at the student in question, whisper their name or get their attention in some other fashion–sometimes a slight finger snap, and then give them the necessary sign.  They usually respond very quickly.  I am sure to thank them (in sign language), in order to recognize their efforts.

Below are the signs that I use in my classroom.  Some are traditional ASL signs, while others are my own creation.  It is very incomplete as I use signs for everything from “the same” in math to “each letter sound in the alphabet”.  Please feel free to use any of these signs or modify them to fit your needs.

One of my sweeties from last year volunteered to demonstrate some of our signs.

Class stand up – hands held out in front of you, lift them upwards.  This one is also great to use in our school assemblies, as it often gets loud and not all of the students can hear you.IMG_5531

Class sit down – hands held out in front of you, bring them downwardsIMG_5532

Sit down (1 friend) – two fingers on one hand “sitting” on top of two fingers on other handIMG_5530

Sit criss-cross (1 friend) – similar to sit down, except fingers are turned side-waysIMG_5539

Turn around – point finger downwards and “swirl”IMG_5534

Thank you – ASL – touch chin, extend towards person

Look at me – two fingers ONLY at my eyes  (I don’t use the “I’m watching you” motion)IMG_5533

*Yes (no photo): fist in front of you making a “nodding yes” motion.  This is the ASL sign.

*bathroom (no photo): children make the letter T – for toilet (or R for restroom). This is the ASL sign.

*drink (no photo): children make the letter W – for water (hold up 3 fingers).  This is MY sign.

Thank you Blake, for volunteering to come in after school ended last year.  He took his job very seriously, and I was able to get him to give one final, fun photo!image

If you are interested in the ASL alphabet, I’ve included a link here.

 

Solution to Charting Bleed Through

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Although I don’t officially report back to school until next Wednesday, I went into my classroom on Monday.  I’ve  spent a few hours each day in my classroom getting back into the teaching mode.  I know, I know, I’m a little bit nuts.

As I readied some of the areas of my room today, I began hanging up a large pad of chart paper in the front of my room.   Often times as I create charts, both for and with my kiddos, my markers bleed through to the paper behind it.  Ugh!  I just hat it when that happens.  Don’t you?!  It seems that for every chart I make, I have to throw away 1-2 pieces of chart paper because they are decorated freckled with colorful dots from the prior chart.  This drives me nuts.  I also hate the waste this creates.  To solve this problem I started putting large pieces of construction paper underneath my paper.  But this still involved waste.  I also tried several other methods, but they never really solved my problem.

That’s when I remembered a cool idea that I read some months back (I wish I could remember where I read this, as I would simply sent you to their site).

Instead of creating your charts from the top page, start with the last page.  Flip the entire chart pad of paper to the last page.  When you chart on this last page, those lovely little freckles will only decorate that huge piece of cardboard on the back of your pad.

Now you can tear your chart off of your pad and had it up in your room.

I know what you’re going to ask next because I asked myself this question this morning.  Kristine, what if I want to keep me chart on my pad of paper so I can go back and reference it–like I do when I create from the top down?  I’ll still end up with the bleed-through problem.  Here’s my solution.  Take two large binder clips and clip them to the top of your pad of chart paper and clip your newly made chart here.

Until next time,

Keep Smiling,

Happy Sunday Friends.

Wow!  I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted anything.  Last month my favorite oldest son  came down and visited for a little more than a week (not to be confused with my favorite youngest son).  Shortly thereafter I went on a vacation of a lifetime to celebrate my 30th anniversary–a cruise to Alaska, via Vancouver.  This was our first vacation without our 2 amazing sons.  I was off-line for close to 10 days and in an internet-free zone.  There wasn’t  even wi-fi for most of our trip and  I didn’t really open my computer for more than a week.

Today I want to talk about the importance of taking breaks.  Often times I dive into things that I love and enjoy it so much that I can’t, or won’t, pull myself away from my activities.  When summer arrives, I am usually able change up my routine and spend my days working in my yard, visiting with family and friends, and literally running around from place to place doing miscellaneous errands.  For me, this is a break from my usual school-year routine.  I try to set aside school for a few months and let my mind get re-energized.

This summer was significant different.  Knowing that I was going on this fabulous vacation I spent my summer doing just the opposite.  You see, last year I injured my foot.  If you recall, I even took 5 weeks off in January.  Then… I reinjured my foot in May.  Since I knew I would be doing a lot of walking throughout Canada and Alaska, I spent the first part of my summer sitting.  Just sitting.  Not going anywhere it my rediculously heavy walking boot.  It was crazy.  I blogged, I created a lot of materials for next year’s class, and I worked on my website.  I was having so much fun being able to work non-stop without any interruptions.

It was nothing but school.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely loved it!  I learned how to do so many new things: rounding corners on documents, updating the look of my blog, and so on.  I was able to get digital projects completed, as well as update and fix past materials.  Since I was sitting for hours on end, I whiled away my time “working” on my computer–it was so much fun!

Then my forced break came–my vacation.  Great news: my foot was healed and gave me very little problems.  I had so much fun kayaking, ziplining, watching the salmon run, and even bear watching.  Oh my gosh!  Glaciers.  New friends.  Visiting new places.  It was amazing!

I want to share a secret with you–I was worried about leaving my computer, and my creating, behind.  That would be a hundred hours of work time lost.  But just the opposite happened.  Just as my vacation approached, I’d had about a dozen stressors come crashing down upon me.  Stressors that I didn’t realize were wearing me down.  Without knowing it, I needed to step away from it all–even the things I love to do. And  I came back completely renewed.  It has even taken me almost a week to come back to my blog–gasp!

We all KNOW that we need breaks from our day to day routines, but we rarely put that into practice.  I think some of it is the culture of our country, as I learned from two new friends who we met on the ship (they’re from Canada).  We are work-aholics.  And as teachers, I think we spend so much time taking care of others that we think we can do it all.  We’ve heard that we need to take breaks, but we think we’re the exception and that we’ll be just fine.  But we aren’t, and we won’t.

So as you begin the new school year, you will read a lot about taking time for yourself.  Going to the gym.  Working in your yard.  Doing something unrelated to school.  I’m asking you to join me in trying to do that at least once a week.  We should do it daily, but I’m all about setting yourself up for success.  So even if I don’t get to the gym every day (and I won’t as I still have to “babysit” my foot somewhat), I’ll try and hop on my stationary bike for 10 minutes a day, or at least once a week.  In fact, I see it beckoning to me right now.

What 1 thin will you do for yourself that will take you out o your normal routine and give your brain a break?  And cleaning out the garage doesn’t count!