Saturday, February 20, 2010

Just Good Practice

Just one more day off and it's back to school. It's been a quiet February vacation for me and it's just what I needed.
The quiet gave me some time to re-think kindergarten. At least how we've been doing kindergarten.
Kindergarten has become very academic. Sure, we can blame No Child Left Behind, and the need to keep pace with children from other countries who most certainly will all become nuclear- physicist-brain-surgeon-astronauts.
But, like it or not, it's what kindergarten has become," the new first grade". I'm all for being progressive, but there are children in kindergarten who still need to learn to write their names, cut, play with Play-doh, glue, hold a pencil the right way, sit in a circle, pack up a back pack and walk in a straight line. Kindergarten has become developmentally inappropriate.

Yes,we still have Play-doh and finger paint, we have blocks and puzzles, we have a housekeeping areas, Lego, and sand tables, but these areas and materials are being used less and less all the time, it's not because we as teachers don't like to deal with the mess. We want our kids to make messes, messes help kids learn.

We are given packaged reading and math programs, some good, some not so good. Do kids learn this way? Yes, of course they do, but there is something lacking. Time. Time to play. Free play with minimal adult interaction helps children learn about each other and the world around them. Play helps children learn to share, socialize, solve problems, and negotiate.

Because we are given these packaged programs we are of course expected to use them. It is important to teach children to read and write, it's important to teach them number sense, how to add and subtract, measure, collect data, make patterns, and count by 5's and 10's.
This will be our 5th year using our current reading program, and frankly, I'm becoming bored with it. The same stories year after year, the same writing prompts, the same activities, the same themes. The fact is, if I'm bored with it, how are the kids feeling? I'm sure my practice is reflective of how I feel, you can't hide that from five and six year-olds, they are a very perceptive bunch!

So I've spent the past week planning. Planning to make kindergarten fun and interesting again. Fun for me, and in turn more fun for the kids. To make it more developmentally appropriate again because even the brightest of them need to learn those all important social skills.

I know, isn't this something I should have been doing all along? Yes, I've always differentiated my instruction based on the needs of my students, their academic needs. That's the difference. It's a delicate balance, planning activities that address both their academic needs with their social needs and the need to just have a good time, and to know that that's okay!

It has to be okay because, It's just Good Practice.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vacation Quote of the Day

Since we are on winter break I have no cute kindergarten stories, but I have the pleasure of hanging out with a very sweet, and sometimes very funny nine-year old.

Patrick: Mom! This is really awesome Chicken Parmigiana!

Me: Well thanks Patrick, I'm glad you like it.

Patrick: Well I know you made it with love, and you know, I do enjoy things made with love.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

F is for...

Kindergirl: "Mrs. Collins, she just said a really really bad word."
Me: "Really? She did? I don't believe it. What did she say?"
Me: "Really?" Not believing any of this for a second knowing who the "she" was in question.
Me: "It must be pretty bad then. Whisper it in my ear."
Kindergirl: "She said $@*%!"

Not at all what I was expecting, but she was right, it was THE mother of all swear words.

C is for...
Today one of our activities was to create sentences that tell about animals we've seen in real life.
Here are a few samplings... (names changed)

Brianna saw...
a duck.
Jimmy saw...
a skunk.
Cammy saw...
a swan.
Isabella saw...
a squirrel.
Jack saw...
a kangaroo. (umm...okay)
Mrs. Collins saw...
a coyote.
Zachary saw...
a cockroach.

N is for N...

Me: Does anyone know who that man is on the Nickel?
G: Martin Luther Washington!
R: No it isn't, it's Abraham Washington!
Me: Actually, it's Thomas Jefferson.
G and R together: Who's that?
Me: He was a president.
G: Never heard of him.
Me: I know...right!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Penny for Your Thoughts

Today during Math we were "discovering the penny".
During the lesson, I passed out a penny and a magnifying glass to each child. I asked them to tell me what they noticed about their penny.We talked about Abraham Lincoln, we talked about the words on the penny, the numbers on the penny, how some pennies are older than they are or even older than me! "Even older than YOU Mrs. Collins?"
Then we talked about the Lincoln Memorial on the tails side of the penny.

Me: "Does anyone know what that building is?"
A: "The White House, it's where the presidents live.
"Me: Great guess A, but it's not The White House."
M: "I know Mrs. Collins, I know, I know, I know!"
Me: "Okay, okay M, what is the name of that building?
"M: "It's the Vampire State Building!"

Only in Kindergarten!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Epidemic Proportions

There is no denying it. I have a classroom full of tattlers. I've been trying to put a stop to this when I first noticed it in late September, just a few weeks after school started. I pulled out the infamous Tattle Jar pretty early on hoping to put a curb in their tattling ways.Maybe it comes from their competitive nature. One trying to out do the other by making themselves look good by making another look bad. Maybe they are just looking for a little extra attention, their moment in the sun!
Whatever it is, it is getting the best of me. Actually, it's pretty much driving me crazy.

Normally the tattle jar just sits innocently on the shelf just waiting for someone to come up and tell their tattle into the jar. This serves two very important purposes.
1. Everyone gets a chance to be heard because the tattle jar is a VERY good listener, and
2. It helps me keep my sanity.
But suddenly telling the tattles in the jar was just not working. I was hearing tattles all the time again. Silly things, like "he said poop" or "she broke the pink crayon" or he poked me in the a- hole." (I kid you not)!!
The tattling is pretty wide spread, but there are a few notorious tattlers.
I know who they are of course, but I wanted hard, indisputable proof.
So starting at the beginning of January instead of just telling the tattle into the jar, they had to write down their name on a piece of paper, fold it and drop it into the jar. I promised each child that I would still stick my ear in the jar at the end of the day and listen to all their little issues.
I never expected to get this...

A jar FULL of tattles. All those tattles that would normally land in my ears, and bounce around inside my brain like ping pong balls were now in that jar.
Today when the kids left I dumped the tattles, a full month's worth, and this is what I discovered...
There were a total of 63 tattles in the jar. We had 18 school days in January, so that comes out to 3.5 tattles per day. It doesn't sound like much, but those of course are only the tattles that land in the jar, I still get to hear most of them.
Most of the tattles came from girls and most of those came from two girls in particular. (I KNEW it!)
What is it about little girls?
The boys were only responsible for 7 of the total tattles, are boys more capable of rolling with the punches? It would seem so.
So tomorrow we will have the "tattle talk" again. I'll explain to them again, the difference between "tattling" and "telling". I'll pull the two notorious tattlers aside and show them all their tattles...
maybe a little visual is just what they need.