Friday, November 20, 2009

Yay or Nay?

Situation: your class is sitting in the hall doing a pretty good job being quiet. Another class is completely out of control and their substitute teacher is screaming nonsense and no one is listening. The noise is deafening. Do you reprimand the loud class or ignore it because they're not yours?

I flipped on a class today... did the look-of-death-finger-pointing-your-teacher-would-be-so-disappointed-with-your-behavior. I began my speaking in a firm voice but was being completely ignored so I yelled. Really loud. They froze. They became quiet, but that's not really my preferred mode of dealing with loud kids. I immediately felt guilty for a) yelling, but b) also butting into a class and a teacher that's not mine. But then I didn't feel bad because they were so completely out of control. I decided that I would want another teacher to do the same to my kids if the situation ever presented itself.


I have a newish kiddo who has infected my angelic class with evil. Oh I know this sounds incredibly harsh, but this blog is to be a therapeutic tool when I need it, and boy do I need it.

This child is smart and knows exactly how to push my buttons. Until today I have stayed in control and maintained the belief and practice that with a child like this, bad behavior is ignored and good behavior is praised. Today the child is in control. After hours of ignoring, after hours of my stress level rising, I snapped. I didn't snap at the child, but after ignoring really ridiculous behavior (pretending to chew gum, laying on the carpet, kicking my feet while I'm teaching, poking classmates, you name it, it was done) I thought I would have an ulcer. I was so tense. I gave the child a warning... "you continue this, you will leave this classroom." The child called my bluff and off we went to the Principal's office.

I'm so frustrated because no matter what I try, I'm not getting even close to the result I want. Incentives work for a day or so. Reasoning fails. Ignoring doesn't work. Positive response works for a day and then seems to be forgotten. I'm trying to keep a running log of the behavior to look for patterns, hoping that eventually I can put together a behavior plan that will actually work, but in the meantime, this child is driving me BSC.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Proud as Punch

I am so darn proud of me and even more proud of my kids. I had this idea in the shower (don't you love those?) and I tossed the idea out to my kids and they turned it into a fabulous teaching tool. We have been making a Forest of Rhymes. Throughout the day, at unscheduled times, the kids can tell me two words that rhyme. Then we sit together and write one word on the trunk of the tree and the other on the leaves. Some kids are writing their own words and recognizing that their words have different beginnings and the same ending (to quote a special friend from last year, "ta da!") Some kids can work out the beginning and ending sounds and I fill in the rest for a lovely little interactive writing lesson. Some kids are just thrilled that after several attempts they can sit with me as we sound out their words together.

Example of an attempt:
"I have a rhyming word! Bat and bubble."

"Sweetie, bat and bubble have the same sound at the beginning, but the end are different, they don't rhyme. Let's try again."

(This generally repeats itself 3 or 4 more times before the little one gives up. A handful of my kiddos just don't get rhyming yet.)

Now, if you know me, the fact that they are allowed to do this pretty much at any point during the day, is a stretch for me - a good stretch. A it's-good-to-work-on-not-being-SO-structured stretch.

Here's our masterpiece in development:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NYT Editorial

I often think the kids in my school are forgotten. No one seems to be speaking about them when talking about test scores, new initiatives, or "kids these days..." But then a good friend said she thought of me while reading this.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Squirrel Suggestions? Help!

I have started doing interactive science notebooks with my kids this year and it's going well. They keep their notebooks in their book boxes and often read them in addition to their song books and library books. I love that the science content we learn is accessible on a daily basis and not quickly forgotten.

But I am stumped and here is why:

The kids need to know that squirrels need food, water and air to live.

In their science notebooks, the teacher information is on the left side. This is where I provide a picture, or a sentence about what we have already learned through read alouds, shared writing and discussion. The student information, their interpretation of the information, is on the right side. I am desperately trying to think of a way for a 5 year old to show that a squirrel needs food, water and air to live.

Please please please give me your suggestions! I've given up looking for pictures of air and water for them to glue into their books.

Testing Rant

While I've had this information for a few days, it just sunk in today.


Our math pacing guide has changed (I'm okay with change) but now we are paced to give 4 different math assessments 2nd quarter. FOUR. There's a total of seven all year and we gave 2 1st quarter. So we are cramming in FOUR leaving just one for 3rd and 4th quarter. We're also now teaching addition and subtraction 2nd quarter, where I used to leave this to 4th quarter when I felt that my kids had a stronger sense of number. Side note - if you work with 5 year olds, do you think addition and subtraction are developmentally appropriate this early on? I'd love to hear what you think.

These assessments need to be done one-on-one, the student at my table, me on my laptop recording their actions and responses, while the rest of the students are working independently at math centers*. I need to do this 80 times in 18 days while teaching.

*My kids are used to centers, they do them daily, but math is in the afternoon when their attention spans are shorter and they need a bit more direction and support than they do in the morning literacy centers. Math is also incredibly hands on so the centers tend to be noisier and busier than my literacy centers. Oh, this is also the time my wonderful assistant is on her much needed break.

Shall we try some addition?
4 unsupervised math centers + 1 lone teacher completely engrossed with a student at her table = chaos.

How about some subtraction?
80 individual tests - scheduled math block = 0 time to teach math.

When little things seem so big...

This morning as I was standing at the door greeting my little ones, I watched one of my girls walking slowly to the classroom. I greeted her with the standard, "Good morning Maria!* How are you?"

Maria looked up at me with watery doe-eyes (she really has doe-eyes) and said, "not good."

"Oh... sweetie, what's wrong?"

"It's my book. The juice exploded and it's all wet and it ripped."

"Your book from me? Or your library book?"

"My library book!" Tears began to fall...

"Oh, Maria... let's not worry too much. I will talk to Miss Booker* and we will see how we can fix it."

Sniff, sniff. "Okay."

I'm waiting to hear from Miss Booker if we can grant little Maria clemency. Her devastation seemed to be all she could handle. Poor little thing... she spent the entire morning absolutely distraught because she ruined her library book. I heart her.

*Of course names have been changed!

UPDATE: Miss Booker dismissed any financial charges for little Maria, but she ruled that she complete some "hard labor" in the libary to work off the cost of her book. LOVE IT!!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New favorite read aloud

Llama Llama Red Pajama

I laughed out loud when I got it at a workshop, and laughed more as I read it to my class. It's a super fun read. Especially if you have a little one(s) at home.


When using/implementing the Patterns of Thinking into my instruction, I have found that it's... well... it's difficult. The patterns themselves are not difficult to understand, and they're not difficult to apply to many lessons when I am sitting with my colleagues for a brainstorming session. What is difficult is getting the patterns to be part of my own schema, so that I automatically turn to them when planning lessons.

The systems pattern is an easy one (at least I think so). Parts make up wholes, and those wholes are parts that make up bigger wholes. I have found using this language with kindergarteners quite easy. "Yes! I can do this!" I never really got any further than "parts."

I felt like my white-belt was a sham. Like maybe I should have only been rewarded a white bracelet.

Then, when quickly throwing together and on-the-fly lesson (come on, you know you do it too) about past and present, the distinctions pattern popped into my head. We ran with it. Honestly, the beginning was rocky, but my kids don't hear "what is, and what is not" as often as they hear "what are the parts of..." Once we got rolling, I think they got it. Now I'll spend some time working distinctions into my language. Up next, relationships. Or maybe perspective. Both seem daunting for me and my 5 year olds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In their shoes...

I attended a workshop yesterday focused on shared and interactive writing for kindergarten classes. The information was great, the ideas were creative, and it would have been incredibly engaging except that I've heard most of it before. Now, I'm not being all "oh here we go... this is so beneath me," I promise, I'm not. It verified that what my school does is amazing and actually ahead of the rest of the county. I wish everyone gets the training and professional development opportunities we get. So with that being said, I wish the presenters either were aware of a solid group of people the workshop already had this type of training, or if they didn't know, I wish they had asked. Then they could have differentiated for us to keep us engaged, or asked us to share what we do so we could hear people's comments and learn from others as well. This must be what my higher kids feel like when I'm teaching content that they already know. Sometimes it takes being in their shoes to really get it.

Monday, November 9, 2009


At the beginning of the school year, I struggled with time, seemingly too much of it. Our bell schedule changed to a later start time and even though the minutes seem to match the previous year's, the day felt so much longer. I was used to having just about all of my instruction time before lunch, the short afternoon reserved for specials and on some days, free choice time. Now, I have a solid chunk of instruction after lunch and if you know kindergarteners, this is not a great time for instruction. My kids and I left for home each day exhausted. Last year I barely had time for free choice time on a daily basis, usually only having it 2 days a week. This year, I seem to have wide-open time at the end of the day, perfect for free choice. This year I had room for a morning break on Thursdays to let my kids run between reading and writing. Well, that was then.

This is now.

Now I feel like I don't have ENOUGH time. Is it possible that I secretly want my kids for longer? I vowed to launch into guided reading groups directly at the beginning of the quarter. I've gotten started, but it's not nearly as steady and consistent as I'd like. Same for writing and math. We're not desperately behind, but we are not where I wish we were.

Yes, I have had meetings, planning days, fun-kindergarten-days like Fall Fest taking up time, but not enough for me to lay blame.

I suppose what this is is priorities. In the beginning of the year I needed my kids to become part of our community, to learn the rules, to learn the routine, and to master some basic skills. They needed to know their ABC's, the sounds the letters make, how to count to ten and how to write their name. They needed to be able to tell a story to their friends and listen to others' stories. Now I need them to apply that basic knowledge to recognizing words, recognizing sentences, learning how to apply that phonetic knowledge to the words they see everyday. I need them to take their knowledge of the word "five" and apply it to the quantity, many different ways. I need them to add math words to their vocabulary like "more," "fewer," "most" and "least." I need them to transfer their phonetic knowledge, and their concept of story, and create stories of their own. These new "needs" take much more time than the skills from first quarter.

Reading Workshop once dragged on, now it's over in a flash. Wait, what? Time's up? Newman. We didn't finish. Same for Writing Workshop. Storytelling was fun, but the time could drag on. Now the kids are feverishly writing at their tables and I am amazed when I only get to conference with 2 or 3 kids.

Did I feel this way at this time last year? Or the previous year? How do I not remember?!

I think it's time to revamp my schedule. If it's better on paper, that's half the battle.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Today's Lesson

"Friends, (heavy sigh),... everyone farts. We all do it and it always smells, but the smell goes away in a minute. Don't make a big deal about it. Okay, back to what we were talking about..."

Monday, November 2, 2009

At a loss...

It wasn't my birthday, it's not yet Christmas, but I was the recipient of this today:
It's a jet spa attachment to my bathtub. Little did the gift-giver know that I take a bath every single night... this is a PERFECT gift! I'm just at a loss because it's a rather personal gift, no? It's so incredibly generous and thoughtful and I love it, yet I am wondering if I will be able to get into my "bath zen" and not think about the gift-giver while in a tub of bubbles. I take those baths with the specific purpose of NOT thinking of the gift-giver and his 20 little peers.