Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sparkly Things Store

It's nearing the end of the school year which means two things in kindergarten math: time and money.

I decided to tackle money first. We spent awhile learning how to identify each coin and what they were worth. Most kids usually pick this up fairly easily. Then we began talking about making change. How can we make 8 cents? 6 cents? How about 10 cents? How about ANOTHER way to make 10 cents? I focused on this during morning calendar math for weeks (i.e. we beat the horse...)

Then, the very best part of the money unit was upon us. The classroom store. For two days I let the kids lose with crafty scraps and craft glue and asked them to make beautiful things that other people would want to buy. Look how busy they were!

So proud...

So focused...

So creative...

After two days of creating, the kids named the store and settled on prices. We gave them choices (10 cents, 8 cents, 5 cents, 3 cents, 1 cent). I let 5 kids shop at once and I ran the register. I was checking to see who could make the right change and who needed help. Halfway through the shopping spree, I announced a SALE! WE SLASHED EVERYTHING! Ha, now they had to make different change. Bwahahaha.

All in all I was able to focus on about 4 kiddos who still need help and feel confident that the others understand the concept. And they have beautiful sparkly treasures to boot!

Any other ideas of fun ways to teach money?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Money/Store Books

Here is a list of books that were recommended to me by our fabulous librarian. They all focus on goods and services, having money, or simply buying stuff. Exactly what I needed to get the kids' brains around our store!
  • Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
  • Something Good by Robert Munsch
  • Money, Money, Honey Bunny! by Marilyn Sadler
  • Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells
  • Goat and Donkey in Strawberry Sunglasses by Simon Puttock and Russell Julian.
Thanks Library Lady!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Need Book Advice!

Can anyone recommend a good read aloud for kinders about buying goods at a store? It doesn't need to be obvious (I'd like to stay away from, "Rosa goes to a store to buy apples." Boring.)

I'm having a hard time brainstorming.

My kids have been making beautiful treasures with crafty scraps and later this week we will price them (everything 10 cents and under!) and then buy and sell in our classroom store. I'd love a great book recommendation to support our activity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Deep Breaths

A few deep calming breaths after my previous post, nothing improves a day quite like a really good read aloud.

Thank you Cynthia Rylant for writing such a wonderful story.

The Perfect Storm

A recipe for the perfect storm:

1 newly pregnant teacher suffering from exhaustion and headaches.
1 year of working within the standard calendar
3 less breaks than previous years
22 more days of school left
18 children who seem to have lost ability to function

Put all ingredients into a classroom and stir.

I know many of my colleagues are suffering from similar complaints*. I am fully aware that some of it is me, but I am fully aware that lots of it is them. Just looking at colleagues faces confirms that. My daily pattern has been that I start off positive, I quickly become frustrated, then I speak slowly and softly, and then whammo, I yell. And I yell because I worked really hard to speak slowly and softly (I'm already mad at this point), but when a kid simply chooses to ignore me, I can't control it.

*The complaints are:
  1. incessant talking when a teacher is talking.
  2. incessant noise and playing during routine transitions.
  3. consistently being given specific one and two steps direction and NOT FOLLOWING THEM.
Not good. Not good at all. I've been saying things like, "there is NO WAY I can do this for the rest of my professional life." That's a big deal. This is my 4th year. Next year is that magical year that all the statistics say I have a good chance of leaving the classroom. Will I be another statistic? Or can I finish this school year, recharge over the summer and remember why I do what I do, because that list is a lot longer than my list of complaints.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tooth Brushing Club

Without going into specifics for reasons of privacy and also covering my butt, my fantastic co-worker and I came up with the idea of having a Tooth Brushing Club here in our classroom. Why you ask? Here is the non-specific butt covering reason:

I have a friend who missed a crazy amount (lots, I mean LOTS) of school due to very poor oral hygiene that likely led to weakened immune system that likely led to illness. Unfortunately I do not feel confident that his oral hygiene is a priority at home, so I made it a priority at school. With 17 of his friends.

Our fabulous administrator went out and bought 18 toothbrushes for my classroom. No one asked her but she did it. And she didn't get the cheapo ones. She got the fancy Oral-B ones with Toy Story, Cars and Disney Princess characters. That's some cash.

This morning I scrapped our normal routine and had the kids watch a 5 minute Brain Pop, Jr. flick on teeth brushing, then introduced The Tooth Brushing Club. I said it's not mandatory and you only had to sign up if you wanted to. Everyone wanted to sign up except my little friend with the dirty mouth. (I keep thinking of Orbit commercials, hence the "dirty mouth.") Unfortunately I forced him into it, but sometimes we need tough love right? It truly was a , "come on! Everyone else is doing it!" Great lesson to teach, right?

The poor little kiddo clearly doesn't like brushing his teeth because it hurts. And it hurts because he doesn't brush his teeth. Ugh. That's the tough part of this story. One that has been keeping me up at nights since November.

The untough part is that everyone else is so enthusiastic about brushing their teeth, we actually are running into management issues. But you know what? There are worse things. We made a list of when we can brush, and how many can do it at once. I have no doubt that the wrinkles will iron out...

In the meantime, brush away kiddos. Brush away.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Long Overdue

For the first time all year, I have made the Smart Board a student-run center during math. I'm not sure why it's taken so long, but I'm glad I finally got to it.

Or maybe it's good I waited this long? I was happily surprised that this group needed very few reminders on how to use it independently. They were definitely ready.
(P.S. If you're curious, the kids are playing a coin/money game. It's been great because we are in the early stages of learning about money.)

Ants Freestyle

I'm trying something new this year with ants. Normally I would set up the ant farm and then lead lessons on the parts, the life cycle, the tunnels, etc.

I'm not really feeling that this year.

So, instead, I set up the ant farm and gave the class instructions on when they could come observe. It took a few days of reminders, but they have it down now. Throughout the day, kids are at the farm staring at the ants and making comments like, "oh I can see 6 legs!" or, "they are the same color as a penny!" or, "look, that one died!"

We also learned our Ant Parts song, and I will likely do a lesson on the life cycle, but nothing too serious. I'm more interested in them watching the ants, that's the fun stuff.
(Don't worry. That giant ant to the left is plastic. The kids also play with models of the lifecycle while they observe.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

How much does good behavior cost?

Turns out, it costs about half a million dollars. That's how much our school district is budgeting to address the "discipline problem" in our schools.

Hey, parents? You owe us $500,000. And no, we don't take checks.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thank Yous Don't Cost Money

Everything in my mind and body is telling me that it's time to get positive and refocus on what I love about my job, but it being Teacher Appreciation Week, I'm having a tough time not feeling just a little bit bitter.

Our administration has fallen over themselves showing us love this week with treats, gifts, lunch and breakfast. And frankly, they have to because there is a huge, obvious, awkward void in the actual classroom.

Our school send out calls to parents reminding them that it's teacher appreciation week. MORE THAN ONCE. They encourage families to have their students write their teachers notes about why they appreciate them.

Newsletters and fliers with similar information.

The administration is practically begging our families to show a shred of appreciation for the teachers.

I got a box of chocolates.

The chocolate giver is a super sweet kiddo and even if he just gave me the card that said "thank you" from his mom, I would have been happy.

One kid.

As teachers we don't ask for much from parents. Please just keep your kid fed and somewhat clean, return permission slips when we ask, and show up once a year for a conference.

But when you're actively being encouraged to show a little love, and you simply ignore it?

I'm not going to say it doesn't sting a little bit.

Especially, (and warning, here comes the bitter) when I have friends in wealthier schools who clean up in Starbucks gift cards this week.

All I want is a simple thank you. Thank yous don't cost money.

***Update*** Apparently the most recent call-out to parents sparked something. I received a few very thoughtful gifts this morning, and more importantly a note from a student saying thank you. A small portion of my class, but more than just the one I previously complained about. Now, who wants a box of Ferrero Rochers? How about a frozen Sara Lee Cheesecake? A dozen mini cupcakes with bright pink frosting? I'm happy to share.

OH, I almost forgot to mention my favorite... a small plastic trophy for my desk that says WINNER. Ha! I'm the Michael Scott of kindergarten.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Things are getting pretty bad in here.

Here are some of the things students are not doing:
  1. listening
  2. following directions
  3. acting like human 6 year olds
Because it's better to be positive, I suppose I can list the things they ARE doing:
  1. arguing with each other
  2. arguing WITH ME
  3. pushing
  4. shoving
  5. stealing
  6. lying
I always accept some responsibility for my classroom's behavior, and I'm happy to do it this time as well. However, if an informal observation of every single teacher's face in this school was done, it will be clear that it's not just me.

When I picked up my class from P.E. today they were standing in a very quiet line. "Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?" I asked.

Turns out, a bad thing. The ENTIRE CLASS had to sit out of P.E. class for not following directions and talking incessantly while the teacher was talking. Normally we have one or two kids sitting out because when you have 2 classes of kinders in a room it can get a bit hairy. But on Thursdays, it's just my kids and the P.E. teacher. The giant gym, 18 kids, and a teacher. No class is ever that lucky. And my class blew it.

As I type this (i.e. vent my extreme level of frustration so I don't do or say anything that could get me fired) my class is sitting in the dark with their heads down.

Someone is sniffling and I don't care.

Like I said, it's getting pretty bad in here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This is my Shangri-La

Do you see these two? Do you really see them? Do you see them working together? Do you see them checking each other's work? Do you see them working on one project? TWO KIDS, ONE PROJECT?

If you teach young children, you know this is what we strive for but rarely get.

This is my Shangri-La.