Wednesday, December 29, 2010

M is for Missing

Hi Everyone,
Along with this blog, I also have another titled Miss B Travels. It is a Travel Blog for my kindergarten's Miss Bindergarten Doll.
She has been traveling the country with her travel journal and books, visiting other kindergarten classrooms across the country.
It's been a great project for my class teaching them a little big about the geography of the country they live in.
Each week I pull up Miss B's blog in the computer lab as we keep track of her travels.
But Miss B has gone missing and I'm trying to track her down.

Her last known whereabouts were in Georgia and she was headed toward Citronelle, Alabama, but I'm not sure she arrived.
I'm hoping by posting this here, she will somehow be located. If anyone knows Miss K in Citronelle, can you please let her know we are looking for our Miss B!

Thank you!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

T is for Tummy Trouble

Six little ones stayed home from school today. So my little group of 17, was down to just 11.

Now you would think a kindergarten teacher would welcome the quiet.
Yes, it was easier to shuffle them all to our holiday concert, and line them up on their little rows on the stage, and yes I had twelve less shoes to tie, and 6 less jackets to zip.

But, the lessons I had planned, now need to wait until tomorrow because I don't want 6 kids to miss too much.  So I had to wing it a bit, pull some tricks  out of kindergarten sleeve to keep my 11 happy and busy.

We spent the day singing, playing, building and making snowflakes and I threw in an extra story.  The mood was lighter, not quite as busy, a little more relaxed and still fun. We really did have a good time with no real schedule to follow. But somehow it just didn't seem right.

The fact of the matter is those six little personalities were missed!

Each one of them has become so important to the dynamic of our classroom.
They all contribute, each in their own little way, and when one of them is noticeably absent it just doesn't feel right.

I hope with plenty of rest and some Mommy and Daddy love, they'll be back in the morning because we just aren't complete without them!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

G is for Gingerbread

Last week was gingerbread week in our classroom. The theme provided us with a fun week of activities that helped the transition between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are so many different versions of the classic Gingerbread Man that we never lacked for enough literature!

We started the unit with The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Karen Schmidt. 

It's a classic take on a classic story with the Gingerbread Man meeting a very sticky end on the end of a fox's nose! 

During literacy centers, I designed a glyph in which they created a gingerbread man of their own.
We added a little glue and some sparkles then hung them up to dry.

One of the centers I designated as "The bakery." I put out gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters and ginger and cinnamon scented play-do, which I made using a basic play-do recipe with lots and lots of spices mixed in. It smelled good enough to eat, but came with a stern warning not to!
I provided googly eyes and beads for decorations. They had a great time creating their Ginger people and were pretty impressed that their hands smelled like Christmas for the rest of the day.

About mid-week I read The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. 

I love this story, mostly because it ends happily with the little Gingerbread Baby living happily in his own little gingerbread house and not in a fox's belly.

Later, I created a graph in which I asked, "Which Gingerbread Story did you like best?
I gave each child a small gingerbread cut out with their name on it and asked them to place their gingerperson on the graph.
Gingerbread Baby won by a landslide!

We finished the unit by creating our own gingerbread houses. 
The day before I collected empty milk cartons from the lunch room and rinsed them well. 
We used cinnamon graham crackers for the sides. A little glob of frosting is just enough to glue the graham crackers to the milk carton.

We used canned frosting, but next time I will definitely make my own. Home made is a little big stiffer and stickier, where the canned stuff tends to be a little too slippery.
It did eventually work with a little perseverance, but it was a little frustrating for little fingers.
I provided, star mints, gumdrops and red cinnamon hearts to stick to the graham crackers.

The most difficult part of this was keeping their frosting covered fingers out of their mouths!

The kids were so proud of their sweet creations...and so was I!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just the Facts please!

The weeks after Thanksgiving and before Christmas are always a little tough to fill. The kids already have sugar plumbs dancing in their heads, so it's important to keep them busy and engaged to cut down on the chaos.

Away went the Thanksgiving and fall books and out came the Chanukah and Christmas books. The fall leaves on bulletin boards and the playhouse have been carefully packed away, and little by little the evergreens, dreidels, and Christmas lights are making their appearance.

It's sometimes a struggle to come up with activities in order to make a smooth transition from one season, holiday, or big event to another. So we kindergarten teachers have to be kind of creative.

Last week was gingerbread week, (more of that coming in my next post), this week we are talking about all things "Reindeer"!

I started my lesson with a web. I wrote the word Reindeer in the center, then went about my business trying to assess their current reindeer knowledge, which by the way exceeded my expectations as you will soon discover. I kid you not!

Me: Does anyone know any real facts about reindeer? (hands shoot up)

Darcy: I do Mrs. Collins, I know that Reindeer evolved from horses, they are horse cousins. Way back millions of years ago in the Jurassic period, Reindeer had 5 toes, but because they evolved now they only have two toes.

Me: Speechless, Jaw on floor.

Maggie: I know another reindeer fact Mrs. Collins. I know that reindeer leave a scent trail on trees and bushes so they can mark their territory and other reindeer can find them. And, I know they have iron in their noses so they can tune in to the earth's magnetic field and find their way if they get lost out on the tundra.

Me: uh huh.

Amanda: Mrs. Collins, Mrs. Collins I know another true fact!

Me: Okay, Amanda go ahead.

Amanda: Reindeer can FLY!

Now that's more like it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

T is for Thanks

I usually like to keep my blog posts on the positive side. There are certainly ups and downs of teaching kindergarten and the good things I write about always outweigh the bad.

But occasionally I see and hear things that I just feel need to be addressed. Maybe this blog is my way of venting.

Our school recently held its annual Harvest Fair. It's a nice little tradition where children can bring in a little money and purchase some gently used items from the White Elephant Table, some recycled jewelry, crafts or snacks from the snack table.

Most kids bring a small amount of money to school on that day but there are always a few who just forget or who's parents just can't afford an extra dollar or two. I am always sure to have some single dollars or quarters on hand just for that reason.

I noticed three of my cherubs had no money with them, so I handed them each a dollar. The first two both smiled and said, "Thank you!" One sat and said nothing as she took the dollar from me. I noticed the pout on her face so I had to ask "what's wrong?" Somehow though, I knew what the answer was going to be.

"Just a dollar? That's all? That's not enough."

I was speechless, and what I really really wanted to do was take the dollar back from her.  Instead I gave her my "good manners" speech, and how a simple "thank you" was really a much better thing to say.

Is the sense of entitlement so ingrained in children that being grateful for the things they have is a thing of the past? Or is it simply a question of good manners. Just knowing when to say "please", "excuse me" or "thank you, that was a really nice thing you did for me."

Now I know she's only five and I suppose manners are something you have to be taught. I do my best to model good manners. I say thank you when they hand me their little drawings in the morning. I say please when I ask them to pass me a pencil or crayon. But there is only so much I can do. 
It needs to come from home, after all, a parent is their child's first teacher.

However, being thankful goes beyond using good manners to show it. Being grateful is appreciating the little blessing that come to us each an every day.

What am talking about are the blessings of the people in our lives. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Special friends who are there with a smile or hug,  and teachers who care enough to place a dollar into a child's hand.

I was reminded today how truly grateful I am when I saw a facebook post from a friend who just arrived back in Afghanistan to serve after some time spent at home. He was mentioning how time stands still there, that it hadn't changed, it was the same "dusty and nasty", but in all of that, being away from his family for the holiday, he still managed to find something to be grateful about..."the food is pretty good though."
If that's not thankful...I don't know what is.

Stay safe Brian, God speed...

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

B is for Butter

Popcorn, baked potatoes, warm bread...some things are just better with butter.  My days are filled with it, little five-year-olds buttering me up. Spreading the little niceties in the form of compliments and lately they are laying it on thick. I enjoy it because it is always heart warming to hear something nice, especially when it comes from the people who matter the most.

Most of the buttering has been coming from one little one in particular. I knew from the minute she walked in the door she was going to challenge me. Cuter than a button, but a tough nut to crack. Just a little bit stubborn...sussing me out, wondering how far she could push me, wondering what she could get away with. She's one of those kids who was just looking for limits and I was sure to set them right away.

She's suddenly become my best friend. Happy to be in school, following directions, and thriving, but she is laying the butter on so thick I can barely taste the bread. Hugs after hugs come my way, sometimes she'll just feel the urge to get up in the middle of a lesson and give me a hug. 

A typical conversation goes something like this....

"Mrs. Collins, do you know who my favorite teacher is?"
"Who Amanda?"
"You Mrs. Collins"
"Thank you Amanda!"
"Mrs. Collins, do you know who the best teacher is?"
"Who Amanda?"
"You Mrs. Collins."
"Thanks again!"

and my personal favorite

"Mrs. Collins, do you know who the prettiest teacher is?"
"Who Amanda?"
"You Mrs. Collins!"
"Why thank you Amanda, that makes my heart happy."

Now little Amanda isn't the only one spreading it on thick...My little Tinkerbell has her buttery moments too.

We've been learning all about symmetry and today was the day we painted symmetrical pictures.
I folded their papers in half and instructed the cherubs to paint only one half of their papers.
Tink needed a little clarification...
"Miss Collins, what side do I paint on?"
"You pick, but only paint one side of the paper."
"Just one side? But which one?"
"It doesn't matter, but only paint one."
"Is this side okay?" 
"Yep, that side is perfect, excellent choice!"

So she painted, and then I showed her how to fold the paper, and rub her hand over it so one side of the paper would transfer to the other.

"Okay, Tink, ready for the magic?"
We carefully unfolded the paper...and her jaw dropped. Instant Symmetry!
"Mrs. Collins, you are a genius!"

Sweet buttery goodness.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

S is for Security

My cherubs this year are a very young bunch with most of them having summer birthdays.
Their young-ness presents itself in a lot of different ways, I have seen some separation issues, and some difficulties with fine motor skills.

But this year, more than any other, I've noticed a lot of thumb sucking. I am a little stumped as to what to do about it.
Since I'm not a dentist, I don't find myself concerned with what it's doing to their teeth, but I am concerned with its social implications.
The other kindergarteners don't seem to have noticed the thumbs, but if it continues into the upper grades they certainly will. Let's face it, kids can be mean to each other sometimes and although we do a lot to curb that, it still happens.

I've been wondering if it's the newness of their kindergarten experience that's bringing it on. Are they scared? Unsure? Am I in any way causing them to want to suck their thumbs in order to feel more secure?

I've been reading up on the subject, and most everything I've read tells me that school-aged kids who suck their thumbs do because it's become a habit. So if that's true, how do I break the thumb habit in school, and how do I suggest to parents that the thumb sucking at home should probably stop as well?

I pulled my little thumbkins over the other day to have a little chat. I explained to them as gently as I could why sucking their thumbs in kindergarten was not a good idea. I explained about germs, and what a big deal it was to be big enough to come to big kid school! I told them that I was ready to help them to not suck their thumbs if they wanted me to. I wanted to make it a choice, just in case it was some sort of security thing. I didn't want to make them feel any less secure than they may have already been feeling.

I told them, that when I noticed their thumbs I would just give them a quick "thumbs up." I knew this would be discreet enough not to call the other kids' attention to what we were doing. I give a lot of thumbs up in my room and this little gesture wouldn't seem out of the ordinary.

In the last few days we've been trying our little strategy, I haven't seen a huge difference in the frequency, but I have noticed that they immediately stop when I give my little sign. I'm hoping with a little consistency we can take care of this without too much drama. I've been giving a lot of positive reinforcement to these two, and just a few extra hugs too, because there is nothing like a good hug to help a person feel just a little more secure.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

C is for Compliment

I love new ideas to help with classroom management, so I thought I'd share one that works pretty well in my classroom.

The kids in my room love to collect compliments!

We talk a lot about what a compliment is. Sometimes compliments are about how we look. Sometimes they might receive a compliment about a good job they did, or my favorite...compliments for good behavior.

We collect them as we travel from place to place. As we visit art, music, science or gym. As we eat lunch, play on the playground, or walk through the hall. We collect them when we've been able to sit for a long time during an assembly or when our 4th grade reading buddies come to visit.

I tell them when I hear compliments about their good behavior it makes my heart happy. They also know that I have to hear the compliment with my own ears and they have to come from some one other than me.

I compliment them a lot, but the notice has to come from other adults or students in our building.

Lately, we've been getting a lot of compliments, so I knew it was time to present....The Compliment Frog!

The Compliment Frog lives in her pond on our classroom wall. Each time the class receives a compliment she hops up one Lily Pad, with a great big "RIBBIT!"

When she reaches the top, they earn some kind of special treat. Maybe a movie with popcorn, make your own sundaes, a choice from the prize box or extra recess!

So far the response has been great! When we are lined up and ready to move about the building, I just need to remind them that we are "collecting compliments" and they turn on the good behavior...and my heart is happy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A is for Amigo, F is for Friend

A little boy joined my class today. He and his family have just arrived from the Dominican Republic.
He speaks no English. I can't even begin to imagine how this must feel. 
New surroundings, new people, and on top of it all, a new language. How must that feel, not understanding?
I know he'll learn quickly as he's immersed in a language that comes so naturally to us, but is so difficult for others to learn. He has a big advantage  being in kindergarten where the curriculum is so language rich. 
As I struggled to communicate with him, I found myself wishing I had paid better attention during those 6 years of Spanish I took. 
There are words I remember, but with no one to practice with, any conversational Spanish I may have had is now gone.
I was amazed however, at the vocabulary I did manage to pull out of my head when I needed to. 

"Escriba su nombre aquí por favor." "Write your name here please.
"Es hora para el almuerzo." "It's time for lunch."
"Siéntese aqui por favor." "Sit here please."

Do this, do that, go here, go there. I felt for him.

I had the luxury today of being able to spend a little one on one time with him because my student teacher has taken over for the week. We sat together and played a simple card game. I named the pictures in English, he named them in Spanish. He smiled when I repeated what he said, maybe feeling good that he had taught ME something.

My favorite moment of the day came right after he arrived. I think that the other kids found him interesting. Mostly because he was a new arrival to a pretty well established bunch of kiddos and of course because he didn't speak their language.
One little girl decided to be his friend. She told me she'd stick by him and help him out. 
"I can help him Mrs. Collins because I can speak Spanish."
"Really Tinkerbell, I didn't know that about you."
"Yep, amigo, that means friend."

"Well Tinkerbell, I think it's safe to say the job is yours."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

F is for First Field trip to the Fair on Friday!

After four solid days of wind driven rain I was starting to have my doubts that this field trip I had been planning since August was actually going to happen.
But I awoke to the sun and all my weather fears disappeared. It was going to be a glorious day!

I arrived at school extra early so I could get organized. Name tags ready, chaperones set. I had emailed the bus company two days before just to confirm.

Jayna, my student teacher and I kept the kids busy for the hour before it was time to leave. We made sure they had used the facilities, checked the lunch situation, ordered bagged lunches for the kids that forgot then lined them up to go.  The kids were getting antsy so I made the decision to wait for the bus outside.
There we sat...and sat. We waited...and waited. Thankfully, I have some moms who are very good at singing "The Wheels on the Bus."

At exactly 9:05 I decided to make a phone call to transportation, only to hear this, "We are unable to take any calls now, but please leave a message and someone will return your call."
So I left a message which basically said, "Hello, we are waiting, where are you???"

A bus pulled up, but sadly, not our bus. I did ask the bus driver to radio in to find out where OUR bus was, was it coming? Did they forget us?
She assured me there were only two buses out that day, the one she was driving and another waiting at Collins Middle School to take those kids to the Topsfield Fair.
"Umm, could it be remotely possible that they sent the bus reserved by Mrs. COLLINS to COLLINS middle school by mistake?"
Nice bus driver relays the message, gets her reply and politely says to me, "we're sorry there seems to be a mix up. The bus will be here in 10 minutes.
Now the only reason I even thought that was a possibility was because last year 10 giant boxes of file folders were delivered to me at my school, but were supposed to go the middle school, but I digress.
Exactly 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to leave, 54 kindergarteners and 15 grownups were on the bus headed for the fair! Hurray!
Because of our late start we hit some traffic. Arrival 10:15, 45 minutes later than planned. This was going to be a world record tour of a very large fair.
We split up into our groups, Jayna and I took 5 kids with us and headed off. The first stop, snack in the arena while we took in a horse show.
While I explained the fine art of walk, trot, canter and posting (yes, I know this stuff) the kids ate their snack. Because if we were going to run through this fair, we needed some energy!

Look how happy they are! (sorry for the smileys...privacy rules and all that.)

We stopped briefly to look at this amazing sand sculpture on our way to the sheep barn.

If you've never had the "pleasure" of smelling sheep, you haven't lived. 
Yes, they are quite cute, and fuzzy, but they are not nicest smelling of creatures. 
                                                             The kids didn't seem to mind though.
It's funny to see kids with farm animals. Some make friends instantly, some aren't so sure. This little girl wanted to take this one home with us.

One of my little guys imitated every animal noise he heard. He baa'd when we visited the sheep barn, until he saw the cows, then he mooed. Until he saw the roosters, ducks and alpacas. I had no idea what sound an alpaca made until I heard the little guy make it.

Funny, no matter how much  you tell a kid NOT to put your hand near an animal's mouth or into a cage, they will attempt it anyway.
These little horses named after the Seven Dwarfs may looks sweet and innocent, but they BITE, and little kindergarten fingers look an awful lot like carrots!

The hit of the fair, as always is the Giant Pumpkin. The kids are always amazed at this thing. Is it any wonder? Three of them could fit inside this amazing orange squash.
But the highlight of the fair this year had to be my friend the animal impersonator, he's kind of a funny little kid.
We saw this...
I said to Jayna, "Here come the duck sounds."
I readied myself for the quack, but it never came. Instead I heard....


It was a great day, and you know you had fun when the kids (and chaperones) fall asleep on the way home! Can't wait for next year!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I'm pretty proud to be able to call myself a teacher and even more so to be able to call myself a kindergarten teacher. Not everyone understands how difficult a job teaching kindergarten can be. 

I don't mean to diminish what other teachers do because I know how hard they work. I see it everyday. The planning, the patience, the paperwork and the preparation. The planning of field trips, differentiating instruction, notes to parents, meetings to attend. The school day begins long before the kids arrive and ends long after the kids go home, and more often than not we are working at home too because there are just  not enough hours in a day.

I am not complaining. I love my job. We don't do it for the money or the summers off. We do it because we love kids and it's pretty reassuring to know that we are making a difference in the lives of children.

Even though we know in our hearts we are making a difference sometimes we just need to hear it. Just as we let the kids in our class know when they are doing a good job, sometimes grownups need to know it too.
For  teachers it might come in a note from a grateful parent, a good review from a principal, another teacher, or the best thank you of all...the smile on a child's face.

I'm also really proud of this blog. My own little spot on The World Wide Web. I write from the heart, which is why I don't post as often as I might otherwise. I am thrilled with every new follower both here and on K is for Kindergarten's Facebook Page, and every little comment left. 

Today I received an email message from congratulating me on K is for Kindergarten being named as one of their Top Teacher Blogs! I don't receive any actual "prize" for this distinction, but I do get to post a little badge on my blog page. Which is really enough for me, because sometimes all you really need is someone to say,

"Congratulations, you did good."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

C is for Chocolate

"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get." ~Forrest Gump

Even though Forrest was talking about something much bigger, the same can be said for kindergarten. Because many of the children who come into our classrooms in September are unknown entities it's up to us teachers to discover who they are.

I always love the little one-on-one conversations I have with them as I'm playing games, singing and dancing, helping them to cut around a particularly difficult corner, discussing a story or assessing their abilities. 

I enjoy finding out what they like to do, who their friends and pets are. They are always so eager to tell me about their parents, brothers, sisters and cousins. 
Although I have loved each and every one of the children who have walked through my classroom door, there are some classes who, for whatever reason are more difficult. Sometimes socially they just don't mesh. Some years they require more loving care, patience and understanding because of things they are dealing with both in school and out. Some years they require more one on one attention because academically they need a little more support.

They are all sweet, each in their own way, and I truly do love them all for their uniqueness and diversity.

This year I have 18 little bon-bons, and they all fit very nicely in my chocolate box. They all seem to compliment each other without being over-powering. Some are crunchy, some a little nutty, some are soft and squishy, some nicely fruity but ALL are very sweet. 

Yes, kindergarten is like a box of chocolates...and this year, I got the Godivas.

Monday, September 20, 2010

B is for Busy!

Busy, too busy to blog! Here my little corner of blog-dom sits. Unattended, unwritten.
I have inspiration...18 little inspirations to be exact, but I lack the time, and energy.
Thanks for sticking with me and visiting regardless. Rest assured the writer in me can't stay idle for long.

Back soon!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

First Day

There is something in the air this time of year. I can feel the buzz. I see the occasional school bus rumble by with drivers new and old rehearsing their routes. The newspaper is stuffed with circulars with deals to be had on supplies, new clothes and shockingly new white sneakers. The shelves are stocked with lunch boxes and back packs. The days are still warm, but the nights are cool now and the crickets have come alive with their late summery songs.

Back to school means something different to everyone. Those without a vested interest might think of it as busier roads and a harder commute in the morning with those big yellow busses with their red flashing lights in the way or too crowded aisles at the local Staples.
For kids it marks the end of running around barefoot and dirty grass stained feet that leave footprints in the bath tub. The end of staying up late and sleeping in, of playing in the waves and digging the biggest hole on the beach. It marks the beginning of homework, soccer practices, football games, and figuring out new schedules, report cards and meeting new friends. The beginning of getting out of bed to the sound of an alarm and eating their Frosted Flakes with their eyes half-shut.
I am a parent AND a teacher. 
The start of school holds so much promise for me but in different ways. As a parent I was never sad to see my boys start school. Maybe it's the teacher in me, but I've always known they were where they were supposed to be.
They were adorable walking into kindergarten for the first time, lunch box in hand and L.L. Bean on their backs. I was full of questions. Would they succeed? Will someone hug them if they cry? Will they make friends? Will they ever have to visit the principal's office or sit in the "thinking chair"? Will their teacher love them as much as I do? There was really no way to know the answer to those questions as I sent them off for their first real experience without me, but time does tell and I'm happy to say I can answer "yes" to all those questions. 
As they have grown older I don't worry so much of their school success because they have proven themselves as students, but the question now is what kind of people will they become? 
I have come to realize that school doesn't just teach kids academics it helps teach them how to be people. How to get along with others on the playground, how to share, how to take responsibility for their actions, how to be part of a larger community and hopefully to become life-long learners.
Being a parent has made me a better teacher. I understand how those mommies and daddies feel dropping their children off for the first time.  The building is bigger, there are more kids, and the expectations are higher. I try to greet those nervous parents with a reassuring smile, a comforting touch on the shoulder and even sometimes a hug and a tissue to wipe the tears. I want them to know that yes, I will hug their little boy when when he cries, and give a band-aid to her little girl when she scrapes her knee. 
When the school year begins and I look at those  scared little faces looking up at me from their spot in the circle I do my best not to let them see that I'm scared too. Will they like me?  How will I possibly teach them all they need to know? How to walk in a line, pack up a back pack, write their names, when it's okay to read!!! But every year I take their little hands and lead them wherever they let me, wherever they need to go and wherever OUR learning will take us. It's just what I do, but mostly what I do is  love them as if they were my own, because for 9 months of the year that's exactly what they are.

I first posted this in August 2008, I'm repeating it now, because I don't think I can say it any better than I did then. One thing has changed however, this year I'm sending my oldest off to Syracuse University, farther away than he's ever been from me. So even though I've never been sad to see them start school, this year might be just a little bit different in that respect!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

W is for Winners!

Thank you all for the wonderful response to K is for Kindergarten's Very First Giveaway!
I am pleased to announce the two winners of the Bob Books giveaway.

Winners were chosen randomly and have been notified by email, they are

Diane B. and Laurie C!

Diane and Laurie will each receive...

  • A Bob Books Lunch Box
  • Copies of Bob Books Sight Words Kindergarten
  • Copies of Bob Books Sight Words First Grade

Congratulations Winners!

Since my first giveaway was so successful I will be doing others in the near future. Thank you to everyone who entered and for checking out K is for Kindergarten!

Please come back often!


Monday, August 9, 2010

K is for Kindergarten's Very First Giveaway!

I was approached earlier this month to provide an opportunity for a giveaway for you, my loyal readers!
Having never done a giveaway before I was a little skeptical. I wanted to preview "the goods" before posting them to my blog.
After receiving my preview package of Bob Books I decided to go ahead with the giveaway. To be honest, I was also thrilled to have the opportunity to fill up a little blog space since my posts over the summer come few and far between!

Here is what Scholastic has to say about Bob Books...

"From the #1 bestselling learn-to-read program come two brand-new sets focused on learning and practicing Sight Words.

Sight Words are words that are recognized by sight rather than sounded out, in order to achieve reading fluency. They are the most frequently used words in the English language, and are often unable to be read phonetically (“was”, “are”, and “out” are examples).  Bob Books Sight Words feature the top Sight Words in two sets – one for kindergarten and one for first grade – in order to allow parents and children to read, learn, and practice easily and enjoyably."

Two winners will each receive 
  • A Bob Books Lunch Box
  • Copies of Bob Books Sight Words: Kindergarten
  • Copies of Bob Books Sight Words: First Grade
The giveaway will run until Saturday, August 14th and the winners will be announced on Sunday August 15th.

To enter click here, and Good Luck!

A quick thank you to Scholastic for sponsoring this giveaway!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

L is for Listen

     One of the most popular literacy centers in my room is the Listening Center.
In our school we are lucky to have a book room full of leveled books and literacy material as well as our school library where we can borrow books on CD or tape for use in the center.  I also have various titles in my room, but I am always looking to add to our choices.
Buying multiple copies and CD's of favorite stories can get expensive, most starting at $35.00 for a CD and multiple copies of books to accompany it.

I love to read aloud to my students, especially books with rhyme. I find rhyming books are engaging for them, and entertaining for me as well. I have favorite stories that I could read over and over and the kids certainly have their favorite stories, so I decided rather than spend my allotted instructional supply money or my own hard earned cash, I would make my own.

I still needed multiple copies of favorite stories and thought using up some of my Scholastic Points would be a good way to get copies without having to pay a lot of money for them.
I chose 7 titles, books I love to read aloud and books I know they would want to listen to and ordered 4 copies of each book.
Titles such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
 and my personal all time favorite, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes.

All tallied I got 28 books for less than 10.00 in shipping cost, quite a bargain!

I know a lot of teachers tape their own CD's but since I had never done it before I was just a little intimidated by the little microphone on my computer. I never really like the sound of my recorded voice, but it's something I just had to get over!

So I pulled up the Garage Band Application on my Mac and got started.
I began by reading the title, author and illustrator and didn't forget to say, "When you hear the chime, please turn the page!"
The hard part was remembering to ring the chime before each page turn!

It took a few "takes" before I was happy with my expression and clarity but once I was, I was pretty happy with the final result.
A carefully designed CD cover, and tah-dah...instant listening station!

After listening, I always give the kids a task, sometimes I'll ask them to journal about what they heard, sometimes simply to draw a picture, or often I'll give them a "book report" to complete. As the year progresses I make these a little more challenging by adding a space for their written thoughts.  I collect these and include them in their reading portfolio which goes home at the end of the year. These are a good way for the me and the kids to keep track of all the books they've read...or in this case listened to!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Really Great Idea!

One of the great things about summer is I have a lot of extra time to surf The Net looking for great ideas from other teachers. Some I bookmark for future consideration, but every once in awhile I hit on something that I need to act on right away.

Disclaimer: I can't take credit for this Really Great Idea, I discovered it on Filth Wizardry. But it's too good not to pass on!

I had a bucket of Duplo blocks which my now nine-year-old grew out of a long time ago. I had them in my classroom but discovered that the kindergarten kids were much more interested in regular sized Lego blocks.
I had been considering donating them to a home day care or preschool but then came upon this Really Great Idea. 

First I dumped the blocks into the sink and sanitized them using 1 Tbs of bleach per 1 gallon of water and let them soak for awhile, I rinsed them and spread them on a towel to air dry.

The drying part is pretty important before moving on to the next step.

I purchased Avery Removable Multi-Use Labels. Number 5418 works best, the labels are 1/2" x 3/4" and fit perfectly on the square Duplo bricks.

I used Sharpies to write lowercase letters on each label. I used a red Sharpie for vowels and blue for the consonants. Then applied each label to a Duplo block.

Letters should be placed horizontally so the Duplo "bumps" are facing to the left. The label on the Duplo block above is NOT placed correctly, but I only discovered that as I was typing this!

When the blocks are joined together, children can build words using the Duplos.

Then I labeled large Duplo blocks with Sight Words.

I love finding ideas like this...a new purpose for some old toys!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Day in the Life...

...of a kindergarten teacher on vacation.

6:30 a.m. Turned over and opened my eyes, blearily looked at the clock mocking me from my bedside table.

6:35 Ignored evil clock, turned over and TRIED to go back to's summer I can do this.

7:00 Gave up. Stretched and was very happy to realize my sunburn felt much better. I might even be able to attempt a bra today! Really, it's the little things.

7:10 Sat down at the computer. Logged in. I have a daily ritual here.
Email account #1...a few updates from friends, and one from my sister in law in the midst of planning her son's wedding.
Gmail account...nothing. boo.
School account. nothing. yeah! updates, looked at photos, dug for treasure, played a little Bejeweled.
K is for Kindergarten on Facebook
Empire Avenue
The Salem News ...I read the news today...oh boy!
Read my daily blogs

8:00 Arrival of Kid #3. He's an early riser like his mom.
"Hey mom, your sunburn is brown now!"
"Yes, it is!"
"What's angina?"
Seriously...where does he come up with these questions?

9:00 (Yes, I really wasted almost two hours on the internet)
Decided I was hungry.
"Hey Patrick, what should I have for breakfast?"
"Lucky Charms, they're magically delicious."
"Okay then, Lucky Charms it is." Yes, I really did eat them, but I ate around the marshmallows. Yuck.

9:10 Grabbed my latest read, Three Cups of Tea, poured myself a cup of my own and sat on the front porch in my jammies to read a chapter or two.

And so began my day. Vacation day # 19 if you count the weekends.
I really enjoy my mornings of leisure, when I'm in no real hurry to go anywhere. I did eventually leave my porch. I had things to do, mundane things, like the bank, and the post office, Target (why Target do you torment me so...), and to Salem State College to check on a schedule change for hubby. A lot of running around but I did get a very nice surprise when I was able  to say hello to some very good friends. :)

Summer is like that, full of little unexpected surprises.
A sudden shower when the sun is shining brightly, an email from a friend suggesting a girl's night out, the lady bug that landed on my leg while sitting on the beach, lunch without the kids, discovering the laundry fairy...or fairies folded it all while I was out, or a card in the mail just to say, "I'm thinking of you."

Vacation doesn't always mean days at the beach, mini-golf, trips to the water park...sometimes it's just nice to kick back and enjoy the surprises...they're magically delicious.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Good Things

     Without any kindergarten stories to tell, my summer blog posts consist of a lot of rambling about pretty much nothing.
     We are just 15 days into summer vacation and we've already gone on countless bike rides, sometimes twice a day, been to The Willows at least 5 times, once to play some Skeeball but most often to get ice cream...I could live on the stuff. We've been to the movies twice and tomorrow we'll head to the beach to spend the day in the sand, sun and surf.

     I like the summer because I get to be just Mom. My boys don't have to share me with 18 other children, they get my full attention.
As Patrick gets older he needs my attention less and as Mikey and Daniel get older they WANT my attention less.
     With this lack of attention I find myself with some time to fill. I find it hard to do nothing. I actually find it a bit unsettling.
     I did pamper myself the other day with a pedicure, there is nothing better than that, and I browsed the book store and came home with three books that can not in any way shape or form be considered "professional" reading. I've taken naps, gone for walks, and sat on the porch and watched the world go by. All these things help me to rejuvenate. It's what all teachers (and kids for that matter) need after 9 months of really hard work.

However, today, I made a big mistake.

I woke up nice and early, before the heat and humidity of the day settled in. I laced up my running shoes and decided to go for a run. I took it slow because I wasn't out to win any races. (Not that I could anyway) I just wanted to get in a little exercise, enjoy the beautiful weather, the early morning quiet and clear my head a bit.

The mistake wasn't in the running, the mistake was in the route I decided to take. I live less than a mile from school and my route this morning took me right up past the front door. That's when I should have looked, smiled and kept going. Did I? Nope.

I walked up the steps and tried the door.
I pulled and it opened. I felt something drawing me in. I walked up the steps and looked down the dark hallway. I could hear  the common sense voice in my head  saying "Don't do it Lisa, turn, run as fast as you now!" I really should learn how to listen to that voice.

Somewhere below me I could hear a radio playing. Most likely a custodian polishing a floor. I kept walking until found myself standing at my classroom door. I took a step inside. The mess was still there. The piles of materials still covered with sheets just where I left them. Did I really expect it to be any different than when I left the mess two weeks ago? Was I secretly hoping some magic spirit, perhaps the ghost of Horace Mann himself may have had pity on me and taken care of that mess? Moving is a messy business and it will be mine alone to deal with. Thanks a bunch Horace.

I stayed for only 5 minutes because I wasn't going to do anything about it at that moment anyway, and a dark quiet school building kind of gives me the creeps, so I turned and left.
That little five minute visit pretty much ended any hope of a peaceful, serene, clear-my-head run. My head was now filled with visions of the piles of materials I'll have to put away, planning I'll have to do to start the year, and the kids I will welcome into my room in September. That feeling of being overwhelmed that I've been trying so hard to overcome was hitting me again, a left to the gut, a right to the head. I ducked, I spun, and then I arrived back home defeated as I hit the mat.

Then two very nice things happened.
First, the mail came and in it was card. A thank you card from a very good friend. Reminding me that I have people in that building that care about me. She reminded me that good things WILL happen. I needed that reminder.
Then the phone rang and on the other end was another very good friend. Offering to meet me at school next week and help me get through some of the mess. She has so much more going on with her life right now, but still offered her help.

I instantly felt better. Just knowing that good things will happen and I don't have to go it alone lifted my spirits. I poured myself a cup of tea, sat on the front porch and decided to let it all go and enjoy the rest of my day.

It wasn't long before Patrick woke up and joined me on the porch with his bowl of Mini-Wheats.
"Mom, what's nougat?"

Ahhhh....Back to being just Mom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Settling in to Summer

My favorite summer writing spot is my front porch. Even though I live on a busy street, there is something so relaxing and old fashioned about the front portch. I will admit though, I'm not sipping lemonade or eating watermelon while sitting on my front porch swing, but I am sipping my Starbucks Iced Green Tea and typing away on my Mac Book. It may be the front porch, but I'm not one to turn my back on technology. So here I sit. Writing and wondering.

It usually takes me a week or two to settle in to summer. It's not easy for me to switch gears from my usual routine during the school year of getting up at 5:30 to being able to sleep in just a little bit later. I'm not a person who can lie in bed for hours anyway. Once I'm awake, I have to get up, but being able to hang about in my jammies for awhile is very appealing.

My summer vacation only started yesterday even though we've been out of school for a week. I had moving to do, from 124 across the hall to 134. The amount of "stuff" I've managed to collect is five years is amazing to me. It was, and still is an overwhelming task and even though my stuff is sitting in a new room it's far from organized. I have a good week if not more of work ahead of me.

But there comes a point when you just have to walk away. I had to walk away from the expectations. Expectations that it should all be done faster and more completely. But as I was cleaning out the last closet, seething with frustration and wilting from the heat and humidity, I realized the mess will still be there in August. It's not going anywhere, but I wonder...will I ever really be able to settle in to summer vacation knowing it's there waiting for me?

I think the answer is YES and I realized it yesterday. It was a beautiful, picture perfect summer day. Big puffy white clouds floating in a blue sky. Warm without a touch of humidity.
Patrick has been begging for me to take him to Salem Willows.

I reluctantly agreed as I do every year, reluctant not because I don't like spending time with the kid, reluctant because I know you can't go to the Willows without dropping some cash. But to a nine-year old there is something so very cool about dropping quarters into a machine and seeing how many tickets are going to come out. I'm good for at least one visit a year, and each year we have a great time together. Truly, it's one of the highlights of our summer, and it was a perfect day for it.

We spent close to two hours there and as we were walking back to the car, eating our ice cream, along the harbor on this picture perfect day, I realized that this is why I'll be able to let my room go.
Why what other people expect of me doesn't matter,  right at that moment, Patrick mattered more than an organized classroom.

August will be here soon enough.

Friday, June 25, 2010

On Saying Good-Bye.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." ~Dr. Seuss

I said good-bye to my kinderkids on Wednesday. It was a day that I expected to be filled with emotion, happy for what they accomplished, yet sad to see them walk out of my room for the last time.  Usually it's the children who challenge me the most that stir up the most emotion in me. In the past I would find myself a little choked up as I hugged each child and  sent them on their way. But this year was different. I didn't feel much of anything, and that bothered me. Was I becoming cold-hearted and unfeeling?

I thought that maybe after a few years at this I had become immune to the sadness that comes with saying good-bye, or perhaps the sense of relief that I felt after a particularly hard year was masking the sadness, hiding it for me to deal with at another time. 

But after two days of packing up my room to move across the hall, while watching my friend Leanne pack up hers to move to another school, watching Diane my friend and retiring principal pack up her office and my friend Pattie our retiring adjustment counselor pack up her office, it hit me. I had bigger emotional fish to fry. I have not become cold-hearted, unfeeling and immune, in fact it's just the opposite. 

My 18 children will be replaced by 18 new ones, but these teachers, my friends and colleagues can not be replaced. Sure, their rooms and positions will be filled by new people, but you just can't replace people you love and care about.
Will they still be my friends? Of course. We'll keep in touch, see each other for dinner or at an occasional professional development day, but it won't be the same. We laughed together, vented to each other, shared ideas, materials and the occasional cupcake and so much more. We are all different, yet so much the same. Passionate for what we do, teaching children.

We've spent the last two days together cleaning our spaces, being so busy that we haven't said least not yet, and  I'm not really sure that when the time comes I'll be able to do it with much composure. 

So I realize now, that I'm not cold-hearted or unfeeling, this year I didn't cry saying good-bye to my kids, because I'm saving my tears for my friends.