Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Update: Why I Haven't Blogged

Okay bloggie peeps, since Thursday I:
  • contracted sun poisoning
  • lost landline phone service (it will be a week before they can get a serviceman here)
  • lost internet service (again, a week before help arrives)
  • went out of town
  • spent a total of 20 hours in a car
  • drove through several severe storms
  • drove through tornado warnings
Once things get back to normal I can't wait to see what you have to say about the ending of D5.  Happy trails 'til then!

-Robin (written while the neighbor's internet was working)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Can You Relate?

While cleaning out a desk this weekend I found this...

And realized I'm a dinosaur. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Teacher's Reflection on the Movie Massacre

I had another post in mind-one that was lighthearted and would hopefully make you smile.

But then James Holmes committed the unspeakable act of ambushing a theatre and these are the words my heart needs to express...

As I learn more and more about the Colorado shootings, one life keeps tugging on my heart.

It's that of the sweet six year old girl who was murdered in the midst of what was supposed to be entertainment.  This fall, a first grade classroom will have an empty seat due to those actions.  Maybe in eleven years her classmates will remember her at the graduation ceremony and leave a chair vacant in memory of her.

Veronica Sullivan's life ended in the early black hours Friday.  I'm assuming she'd completed kindergarten a month or two earlier.  And as a teacher, I can't help but wonder what her teacher must be thinking right now.  Amidst the depravity of the act and how grossly unfair it was, I'm sure she's questioning: Did I make the year count?

I know we always say, "We only get one year with them" but as this innocent girl's death provides truth to that sentence, it makes me reflect on my own classroom.  And the following questions come to mind:

  • Did I praise them enough?  When kids walk into my room, will they know this bit of bricks where we learn is a place where they will hear words of encouragement?  Do they know that even if it's a rough day, correction will be gentle?  Do they want to come in my room? 
  • When kids walk in my room will they know they are valued?  Will they understand their thoughts and feelings are essential to making our classroom?  Did I tell their parents that their child is a treasure? 
  • Did I help them understand there are people to whom you can turn if you find yourself in trouble?  Do they know that in 20 years, if they need guidance they can still seek out me?  Do they understand there are better ways to express yourself-killing innocent people and stock loading guns are not effective and that there are people who will walk through the valley with you?
  • Did I make every day count?  Not only will there be an empty desk in two months, but an empty chair at supper.  Forever.  Did I make each day worthwhile?  So the families won't think I'm wasting precious time with their children-they will be grateful for the bond their children have with their classmates and every adult at the school-parents, custodians, lunch ladies.  I want families to say, "My child loves school."

I know these are lofty reflections-written in the "lazy" days of summer, not in the middle of the year.  I know some days will wear flat wear you out.  I know some years a class may be more challenging than others.  I know what it's like to be swamped with paperwork, conferences, mandates and testing while having a sinus infection, bronchitis and an ear infection-all at the same time.. 

But when you get right to the heart of it, all of those things are secondary.

If I can help each child feel loved, appreciated and valued-those are the most important "core" lessons they will learn. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to School Freebie

Hi Friends,
Here's something I made for my parents at Back to School night.  It's called "The ABCs of Kindergarten".  I thought you might be interested~and left it in Word form so you can add and delete.  Unfortunately, once I did that my cute font was gone.  If you would like to see its cuter, more elementary form, download the Cool Dots and Toy Train fonts and re-open it.  Please let me know if you think I need to change anything! Happy Friday-we've made it to the weekend!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study: Chapter 6 Word Work

Confession: Now that "The Closer" is down to the last few episodes, I'm not sure if I can focus on much else.  I have my suspicions about the leak and how the show will end and am awaiting to see if they're correct. 

But since the show's on once a week, I need something to occupy my thoughts.  And what's better than ironing out how to use D5 in a classroom?  And reading how your fellow bloggers implement D5?

Of all of the choices, Word Work is the most challenging to me.  Which is why I'm super psyched about seeing how the K crew is implementing it.  But here are my thoughts:
Experimenting with words for learning and looking for a spelling pattern.  Since I'm new to kindergarten, I'm assuming there will probably be the widest range of abilities in this grade than any other.  (I should probably point out I've taught 1st-5th, so I've earned the right to make that assumption.)  I am expecting some to arrive with no letter-sound knowledge, some with only letter identification skills, some who know letters and sounds, and some who are already reading basic sight words.  And their needs will be met accordingly. 
  • For the ones who need to practice letter formation, they can use Play-doh, sand in a pie plate, or even plastic mesh to help create their letters.  (I like to take the small plastic mesh-there's a real term for it and it will come to me after this has been poster.  Or if you know what I'm talking about, please tell me.)  With the mesh, kids can trace a letter and then "feel" the letter-so they can understand which direction a b points or that a g has more on the bottom than the top. 
  • For those who are reading, I have made paint chip word families.  They can write down as many onsets as they can think of.  (It will be interesting to see if any of them list blends or digraphs.)  Then they can sort their words into real and nonsense words.   Another idea is to have them read poems that include sight words.  Have them record sight words and underline the rimes that create the rhyme. 

  • I also made some letter tiles this summer.  (Thanks, Classroom DIY).  So that way if a child needs to practice short vowel or long vowel words I can hand them to rime and let them work.  Also, after they've made a list of words, they can circle (or star or underline-whatever your preference is) the words they already know the meaning of.  For instance, a child might not understand the word "vat" even though they can decode it.  These words can be used for vocab instruction.

Memorizing high frequency words.  My school has an assessment binder which lists the various high frequency words.  I need to check and see what lists need to be read so I can have the greatest understanding of which child is below, on, or above level.  I have sight words in a ring of various colors.  This helps the kids know which words to use.  As far as helping the kids learn them, I'm going back to ideas that I've used before:

  • Whiteboards and dry erase markers.  I've already got the various word lists on rings, so they can practice writing them.  For a nice variation of strategies (instead of "Write your words five times" like I heard growing up) here are some ideas for writing words.
  • Shaving cream.  Those who chose word work in my 1-2 split had the option of writing their words in shaving cream.  I have five or six cookie pans I bought from Dollar Tree that were used for this alone.  We went over how much cream to put in the pan and how to clean up.  There was also a strict "use only one hand" rule-if they get both hands they tend to play among other things. 
  • Reading rods.  Have them make words on the reading rods.  Although this summer I saw something where sight words were written on the side of Legos and I thought that would be fun to try.
  • Desks.  While this sounds like being a glutten for punishment, this was actually one of the quietest groups.  They were to get their ring (I told them which color) and then take a washable maker and one paper towel.  They dampened only half of the towel, returned to their desk and practiced writing words in the marker on their desks. 
Generalizing spelling patterns.  Please see my answers from the first question.

Vocab:  This is the one that stumped me.  With kids reading different levels of books, how do you make unknown words interesting to kids?  I've pinned Marzano's 6 Steps of Vocabulary Instruction, but I also think kids need to be taught the various ways you can determine the meaning of a new word: context clues, diagrams, looking it up.  I think this part of the Daily 5 lends itself well to helping children find prefixes, suffixes and root words in the words they encounter.  Depending on the child and what skill needs to be developed, they may draw a pic (and/or explain) of how the prefix changes a word's meaning.

Materials I already have: pencils, crayons, paper, shaving cream, whiteboards, dry erase markers and cookie tins.  I also have the homemade letter tiles.  And the marvelous Marsha McGuire posted some resources that are too darling for words.

Materials I need:  Veteran K teachers, I will gladly take suggestions!

Storage: I would like to put the corresponding resources in one of the mondo resealable bags.  (They're my second fav school supply right after Sharpies.)  This way it's contained in a central location and when it's time to put everything away, I will have a cabinet or bookcase where they will fit. 

Workspace:  Since I know that children will be all over the room, this is the only one where I'm kinda strict.  I have told them if they use shaving cream or markers they need to use them at their seat.  This way, if they make a big mess they won't be infringing on another child's space. 

I am so excited to see what you have to say.  You've got great ideas!  Keep up the good work!  In the words of Brenda Leigh Johnson (main character on :"The Closer"):  Thank yew.  Thank yew so much!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dollar Deals

Of the multitude of sins I commit every week, probably the most consequental is living 40 miles away from the nearest Target.

I work in a county with not one, but two, Target stores.  And (sadly) I never seem to be able to make it to them. 

So when I see the fabulous posts singing the praises of my favorite bull's eye, there is a fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth because I can't remember to ever stop there.  (True story: a student of mine gave me a gift card to Target in 2010.  Now, in the summer of '12, more than half the balance remains.)

So for those of you who may live closer to a Walmart than a Target, this post is for you.

Looky what I found for less than $1:

Glue sticks for ten cents apiece?  Why, yes, I'll buy an entire class set!

Welcome postcards?  For 88 cents?  You better believe I'm getting these instead of the $5 ones at the parent-teacher store.

More 88 cent finds: bookmarks and stickers.  You show me a teacher who says they have enough stickers and I'll show you a teacher two days from retirement.

Dual sided whiteboards with lines on 'em?  For 88 cents?  I do believe I'll purchase a small group set.  (Though to be fair, they're not nearly as sturdy as the ones you order.)

Cute clipboards for ninety seven cents?  I need two more for a class set.  (Again, in the interest of fair packaging, these aren't nearly as sturdy as the more costly ones.)

And what's a shopping trip without the occasional impulse buy?  3 cute folders (for eight eight cents) end this shopping trip.

And, truth be told, I found some more fun and useful items at my local Dollar Tree.  I found first day of school books among other items.  (When I can remember where I put them, they will happily be on display.)

Happy school shopping, bloggie friends!