Saturday, June 30, 2012

My 1st Day of Kindergarten!

So, I am OBSESSED with Pinterest. I found an adorable "My 1st Day of Kindergarten" frame! Although I did my fair share of stalking, I couldn't' find an easy way to create the frame so I improvised and made my own using fun crafty things from Joann Fabrics.

I have no clue who made this amazing frame...or else I would link back to it. 

Here is my final product...which took me most of today to make:

Both of these were taken from my balcony. The light in my apartment wasn't quite right. The glitter stars really do stand out :) 


  • Foam board
  • Fiskars detail knife
  • 1 pack: 4in letters (3 in would also work)-I used black letters
  • 2 packs: Plain borders (any color will do)-I used silver sparkle. 
  • Self sticking glittery foam stars

  1. To start, I measured the foam board using my Silver Sparkle Borders. I used 3 borders per side...layering to see each of the scallops. I stapled to make sure they'd stay together.
  2. I made marks to see where to cut the middle of the frame. Trim the border to size. I left about a centimeter hanging off the ends, since I knew I would need extra room for all of the letters.
  3. Cut the middle of the frame BEFORE gluing down the borders. I learned this the hard way...

4.  Place the letters. Mark them before gluing to make sure what you need will fit. I had a tough time fitting all of "kindergarten." However, moving them and slanting them helped a bit...
    5. Once glued, I decorated the letters with glitter stars! This was the best part...and completely worth the hard work! 
The goodies I used:

I am beyond excited to use this frame with my KDG'ers in August! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

D5 Chapter 3 Linky :)

I'm excited for chapter 3!! One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the year is set up my Circle! I usually save this for last. It's so fun to organize my white boards, markers, songs (this year I'll be using Heidi's Songs), books, puppets, etc. 

1. Establish a gathering place for brain and body breaks. 
I call my meeting area the "Circle." The only time it actually becomes a full circle is when we spread out to do games. However, none of my kids have ever called me on this :) This picture was from the beginning of the year. At this point, I didn't have our songs hanging from the easel yet (on a ring, of course for easy access). Our calendar journals are immediately to the left of my green chair. My kids have taken ownership of our calendar journals...which is great when I am absent. The good thing is, the books are at the kids' level so they can help me pick/find books. On the flip side, the books are at the kids level and sometimes there are wandering hands. 

2. Developing the concept of "good fit" books.
When I talk about "Good Fit" books, I have done the "shoe" example from The Sisters. However, my kids looked at me like I was crazy. Then they asked to play dress up in my shoes. Instead, I used a friend's car magazine. Flipped through it, read (with obvious difficulty). I asked my kids if they liked how I read. Being courteous KDG'ers some said yes. But then I picked up "Watch Me Throw the Ball" by Mo Willems, and read with fluency and expression. I asked which was better...the car magazine or Piggy & Elephant. Clearly, they loved when I read our Piggy & Elephant book. This is a great segue into choosing good books. 

3. Create anchor charts with students. 
This has been a great experience with my kids. I waited a couple of months this year to do this. Since this was my first year in KDG, I knew that we needed to experience all types of books before discussing what it's like to be a good reader. We usually make an anchor chart discussing how to read. Again, I use the car magazine as reference.  I model for the students how to read: using the pictures, the words or retelling a story from memory. All of my kids were able to feel successful. The kids helped me create the sentences and we shared the pen for beginning sounds and the "I can..." part of the chart. I drew the pictures with their help. Thankfully, no one laughed at my stick figure children :) 
The Read to Self chart was definitely more in-depth. This took some honing to make sure we used the kids' language...also to make sure it was legible. I had these posted above the chalkboards in my classroom. Depending upon the nature of the anchor, some I had closer to eye level. 

4. Short, repeated intervals of independent practice and setting up book boxes.
We started with 1 minute. The kids were so excited to read *like me* . They were beyond excited to experience their books. 1 minute was successful...for the first 2 days. We would model correct behavior as needed. A major problem were not my students who had lower reading abilities. My problem was my KDG love bugs. They would follow me with their eyes Whenever I would walk past one table, the arms would be extended for a hug. It's a horrible feeling to walk away from a hug. But it had to be done :-/

The book boxes were hugely successful. This is one of the few things that has gone well consistently over my last few years teaching with D5. On the left, you'll see our "Star of the Week" chart...after the start of the year, I replaced this with our word wall. To the right, you'll see my rolling cart & book baskets. 
I have my book baskets set up and ready to go at the beginning of the year. This picture was taken before I received my class list. What I've found to be the most useful...I purchased 36 (yes last year in first grade was a big group). 

I bought these from Target/Staples: Book Baskets
I bought this at the Container Store: Rolling Cart

To facilitate distribution of the baskets, each table has a captain. The captains pass out the baskets. This year, by the time the baskets were used, the kids knew how to read each others' names. However, next year, I may write the students' names & include a picture on the basket. 

5. Calm Signals and check in procedures 
This I definitely need help with. I have used the thumb over the heart. However, after a while, it lost meaning with my KDG'ers. I need more practice with checking in & calming signals....time for me to STALK read other peoples' ideas! HELP :) 

6. Using the correct model/incorrect model approach for demonstrating appropriate behaviors. 

I hate to say it, but this is usually the funniest part of this whole D5 process. While it's hard to sometimes remain positive, I have found that using the "offender" as the positive force, then the child often feels ownership over certain behaviors. I mentioned above about my KDG'ers loving to hug....she stopped asking after I had her model the correct behavior. While it's hard to say no to the hug...she took ownership of ignoring me and pretending I was not there. The funny thing too, when the kids model the incorrect behavior, they get so many laughs...that it somewhat deters the students from incorrect behaviors. From time to time, I'll put on a big scene modeling incorrect behaviors. The kids think it's funny that I'm acting more childish than they are. It's worked so far :) Aside from this, we go over our R2S chart every day. Although I'm sure they tire of helps them to focus on reading. They're able to internalize what R2S is all about. 

**Any ideas to help me with signals & checking in?**

Hoppy Thursday! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Daily 5 Linky...Chapter 2

I am so excited to have finally linked up for the Daily 5. I’ve been using components of D5 for 3 years now. Two of these years were in first grade and 1 in KDG.

Do you trust your students? How do you build this trust? Are you able to trust them and allow them to be independent throughout all aspects of your day? Are you going to be able to stay out of their way?
I somewhat trust my KDG’ers. There are certain centers that I’ve used over the last few years that I know are good for my kids. The students learn them, they are accountable and if they become too routine, I can switch to another favorite. This has helped me so much with “word work.” However, I find myself hovering sometimes. As I am prepping to call a group…I’ll find myself distracted and hover. At each group, I have a very reliable captain. Even, some of less reliable/organized kids get a chance to be captain. Some of them simply needed this leadership role to WANT to learn. I try to get over my trust issues by modeling new centers for my students. We model & practice read to self. My kids have taken this and run with it. I’m constantly amazed by the simplicity of this task…and how trust worthy they are. This is probably the one aspect I do not need to hover around…

How much choice do you give your students throughout the day? Do you go over your daily schedule with your students or is it just 'posted' in the room
         Along the same lines as trust, I find it hard to give my kids choices. We’ll vote on activities to do, if we have free time at the end of the day. (Free time = Ms. Leonard’s brain hurts). At the end of the year this year, we were consumed with practicing for graduation…mostly because it was my first one. I didn’t know how the little ones would respond…so we practiced every day. Closer to the big day when we had finished our reading/math curriculum, for the last 20-30 minutes of the day, we would vote on fun games for free time. However, when we did our centers…I chose for the kids. I told them where we were going and when. How do you guys keep up with giving the kids choices and holding them accountable? Otherwise, my kids made sure to hold me accountable to our schedule. Everyday we discussed the upcoming events. I would usually write it all down on a white board/note pad for the kids to see. As we completed activities, the kids would come up and cross off what we had done.

 How are you going to create that sense of community where students will hold each other accountable?
I think that it is important for the students to get to know each other first. As with the beginning of the year, we all get new kids. They learn each other’s habits even faster than we’re able to. My kids sit at tables (as opposed to desks) they’re able to (forced to) deal with each other on a daily basis. I’ve found so far, that having mixed ability groups creates more community. I’ll look for a healthy mix of students who are capable of different things. Each child has something to add to the mix. 

Student ownership in learning? How do you instill this in every child?
There are times when I found this very difficult. This year I had an interesting mix of students. Most of my kids had prek. Even the ones who did not learned very quickly. For that, I feel blessed. On the other hand, I had many kids who had emotional problems/disturbances. These students needed different things from me. Some needed constant coddling…whereas others needed a smidge of encouragement…and they could be on their way working. Some of my more challenging students, I had to refer to counseling. They would refuse to work without constant grown-up attention. The one child, is a very bright child. She needed CONSTANT reassurance from a stable adult. Once she felt loved and safe…she would work. Unfortunately, once this happened, the other students were done and we needed to move on.

Stamina! How are you going to build stamina with reading? independent work? Will you use a timer? Will you set goals?
         I was so proud of my KDG’ers stamina this year! We started with 1 minute and quickly built from there. The students were easily able to go from 1 to 4 minutes. We practiced 1 minute for about 2 days. By the 3rd day…the kids had the procedures down pat. To encourage the kids, everyday I would make a big deal about posting our “minutes.” After each successful read to self time…we would cross out the old time and add the new one. My kids felt such an enormous amount of pride.  

Throughout this book study, I really hope to learn better management (trust) techniques. It's hard for me to relinquish the control. Two things that I've found that worked for kids relate to our D5 Read to Self chart. We made it together...and the kids followed it to a T. 

This chart was from my last year in 1st grade. I did not get any good pictures of my KDG Read to Self chart. The KDG chart was a lot shorter...but just as poignant! 

Any words of wisdom on the trust/choice issues? How are you able to ensure that the kids will behave while making their choices? How do you ensure they will make the right choices for them? My only idea so far is just to have them turn in an accountability notebook that would have their weekly rotation listed...with the work they completed. 

I've linked up on Kindergarten Smiles Page!

Hoppy Sunday!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Long awaited...graduation pictures!

I think I have finally detoxed after the craziness...that was graduation.

This might be long:

To start...I am posting a TON of pictures. These were just some of my KDG'ers that I saw the morning of. Most of the pictures are on their own families cameras *I hope they email me!!*

My kids were amazing. On the day of the ceremony, they all played their A game. Despite some technological snafus, my KDG'ers didn't miss a beat. They were loud (when singing), they were funny (when receiving diplomas) and they danced their hearts out to "Dynamite."

The little ones were perfectly loud (despite the wireless microphone NOT working). One of my little guys did not freak out when the mic went out. He waited patiently for our principal to fix the problem and picked up where he left off reading. PERFECT!!

The KDG'ers sang "Every Move I Make." Since I teach at a Catholic school, I made sure to incorporate a song about Jesus. My kids rocked the song. Tired of the dance, yes...but energetic beyond belief the day of.

The KINDERGARTEN poem was adorable...

Of course, during diplomas, some of my little ones were on fire. One boy grabbed it out of my hand,  said "I'm done" and walked back to his spot. The whole room (150+ people) was precious. We had practiced smiling for the photographer (my mom and another one of my very gracious KDG parents). Some of my KDG'ers had an entourage that required full red carpet style photos...while other students were receiving their diplomas. RUDE To each their own.

Finally, our last song was "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz. I must admit that one of my KDG'ers older brothers sang Dynamite *by himself* in our school talent show. And won first place. WOW. Needless to say, the whole room erupted when the kids sang and danced.

We ended with a procession (read: mad dash off the stage) to the back where we had 2 cakes, 3 cookie cakes, sandwiches, fruit trays, presents, etc. WHAT A DAY. That's why it has taken me 2 weeks to post the pictures.

Thank you to MY mommy for buying us 2 beautiful cakes. Yummy!

After the procession off stage, it took my principal about 10 or so minutes to get everyone's attention which point, he graciously thanked me (aw, yay) but most importantly, my volunteer: Miss Maribel. I'm so grateful to have had her this year...EVERY SINGLE DAY. Talk about an amazing person!

At the end, I see my wonderful little ones. They are sweet beyond belief and so ready for first grade. I cried during our last practice (the Weds before the Friday graduation) but did not cry during the dress rehearsal or big ceremony. Good thing first grade is right next door...because I'm not quite ready to say goodbye :)

Our last picture: Miss Leonard's Smart Cookies

Hoppy unable to sleep late night posting!

Maureen :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Favorite Things...Linky Party!!

Hi all,

Link Up!
Summer is upon us! Graduation went well- pictures are forthcoming...until then...

I've had more time to blog stalk peruse. I found this at Sharing Kindergarten. I hope to do more fun linky parties this summer. 

Some of my favorite things:

1. My Macbook/iPhone/iPad. I cannot live without any of them. I'm able to blog stalk, read fun books, listen to music and take pictures as I deem necessary. 

2. Gummy worms. I have no clue what it is about sour/sweet/regular gummy worms. I.cannot.get.enough. What's the worst is that I always buy them at my #3 favorite thing in the checkout aisle...

3. Joann fabrics! I am obsessed with this store. I love to craft for myself (crocheting) and for my kiddos. I've purchased so many things at Joann's. Some weeks, I think it's safer not to count how many visits I've made...

4. My movie collection. I love movies...comedies, dramas, romcoms...all of them. My all time favorite movie: 

5. Buying things for my KDG'ers. I am obsessed with Lakeshore Learning. Although I try to make things (or buy from fantastic TpT sellers) Lakeshore always has what I want. If not, they order it for me :) 
7. Last but not least, one of the simplest pleasures I can imagine...reading. Happiness abounds when reading. As of late I have done more school reading than personal (Wow, 50 Shades....). I love the Daily 5 and have been stalking to join up with a book study. 

Hoppy summer vacation! 

Maureen :)