Friday, June 16, 2017

How To End The School Year, Ready For Next Year

  It is that time of the year, just a few days left of school. The mom is me is ecstatic! I can't wait to play stay at home mom for the next 8 weeks. (Not that any teacher actually gets the full summer off, but that is another blog).  I am looking forward to afternoons at the park, extra cuddles, and best of all, nap time. :) The teacher in me is sad and overwhelmed. I am going to miss the kiddos I have spent so many hours getting to know and spending all of my free time figuring out how to help them grow both socially and academically. I am also feeling overwhelmed with all of the extra work that is added at the end of the year. No matter how much extra work is added, it is my number one priority to leave my classroom organized and ready to go for next year.

  I used to be that teacher. The one who heard the bell ring on the last day of school, shoved everything in a closet and went on my way to have that celebratory Jamaican Me Happy wine cooler. The last day of school was a magical day, but the weeks before school were TERRIBLE.  I came back to a dirty room and not knowing where anything was. I have thankfully gotten smarter and more organized.

How To End The School Year, Ready For Next Year

1. Start Early
Planning for the last day of school starts a month before the last day of school in my classroom. I make checklists, write ideas, make a shopping list, start clearing unneeded emails, start cleaning inside my desk, etc. I love to start early with all of that behind the scenes things that students don't notice, because although planning to end starts early, we need to teach until the very last second.

2. Let The Students Help
I clean everything, every nook and cranny. Yes, this might be excessive, but think of all of the germs that flew through your classroom this year. YUCK! Every year there seems to be a handful of children that love to clean and organize and will do most of this job for you. Some of these children even ask to take some of their recess to help and why not embrace? I let students help dust, sort out guided reading books, organize toys, etc. It is a win, win. Students love to feel like they are helping and teachers love the help. I have even had children say that cleaning was their favorite part of the day at class meeting. (Playing Kidzbop while cleaning helps)

3. Take Home Bag
This is a new idea for me this year. I bought canvas bags from Oriental Trading. I allowed students to pick out their favorite color, I wrote their name on the front, and had their friends autograph the back. This is a great end of the year gift, but also a great way to organize all of the odds and ends at the end of the year. I used to send home extra things the last few days of school, but then they kept seeming to come back. AHHH! Children would bring notebooks home and than would return coloring in them at recess the next day. Now I put items in student bags as we finish using them throughout the school year. I just put them in alphabetical order on a hook and slowly fill the bags up as we go along, best way I found to make sure any extra clutter leaves the room. 

4. Organize Your Files
I have gone digital with my files, which is a great space saver, but easy to get overloaded with junk. I make sure that my google drive and files are organized and with things I actually need before the school year is over. Depending how organized you are, this could take time, but I found it is a great project to work on in front of the TV. Nothing feels more inviting than an organized computer.

5. De-clutter
If you haven't used something in three years, discard it, you don't need it. This is especially true if you inherited things from a teacher before you. A big mistake teachers make is asking other teachers if they want something or bringing it home just in case. NO! If you didn't use it in three years, you don't need it. Do yourself a favor, get rid of clutter so you can come back to school in an easy to manage environment.

6. Prep
It always seems to be a fight for the printer/ laminator on the days leading up to the school year. There are so many things you can take care of now, Why wait?

I Print
   - Behavior Calendars
   - Poetry Binders
   - Open House Scavenger Hunts

I Laminate
   - Name Tags
   - Journal Covers
   - Bus Tags
   - Locker Tags

Yes there has been a time or two that I had to make some last minute changes and couldn't use the work that I had printed, but it just turned out to be scrap paper for my writing center. I say it is worth the gamble.

7. Partner Up
You aren't alone, everyone else is getting ready for the end of the year too. Share in responsibilities, it not only makes things go faster, it is less stressful. At our school we all use the same handwriting books, we get all of the materials together and when anyone has a free minute we work copying, binding, etc.

Do yourself a favor, get organized now to save a headache later.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

American Symbols

One of  my favorite units to teach my kindergarten students is American Symbols. This unit was especially interesting this year, because of the election. (It is always interesting to hear student opinions, aka repeated opinions that they hear from home, media, older students, etc.) In our school we have 2 weeks to teach this unit and have an emphasis on teaching students to write facts.  

The Big Book that I used throughout the week was America's Symbols by Judith Bauer. We did not read the book front cover to back cover and we did not read it in order because I wanted to expose students to the fact that nonfiction books are read differently than fiction books.  I would recommend this book because there are nice photographs and age appropriate text.

I also supplemented with these awesome Scholastic News Readers. These books came with my classroom so they are a few years old, but really peaked the interest of my little ones. My favorite was Who Works At The White House. After reading this book the children completed a writing project about which job they would want. So Fun!

While we were learning about American Symbols, it was important for my students to stay organized. I made the children flip charts where we recorded information about 4 different American Symbols. Students created their own pictures and wrote their own facts. On top of writing facts, we were also able to review some handwriting rules, and expose students to main idea/ details.

 After two weeks of American Symbol fun, we ended this unit writing a class letter to the president. The plan was to have this be an interactive writing experience, but due to a snow day, it was more of a shared writing experience. This is the first time I have had a class write to the President, so I will need to check back and let you know if we get a reply.

Assessment Tip:
After completing the Space and American Symbol Units, I give my students this free Main Idea/ Details Assessment that can be found on my TPT page.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Student Clipboard Gifts

   I always try to start the school year off with ideas about what gifts I will give my littles for Christmas and graduation, but those ideas always seem to change as I get to know my students. It seems that every year the children are interested in something different. Two years ago the children loved chapter books, last year fancy pens, and this year ... clipboards.  My students LOVE clipboards! I have been collecting them for the last few years so I have a handful and they are one of my most popular items. In our class students can choose to write at their table spot or find a quiet place to work, using a clipboard as their writing surface. The rule in our class is, if you choose a clipboard, it is a 0 voice area. (This rule has helped focus clipboards from a social area to a working area). Using this passion as a guide, I decided to customize clipboards for each of my students to bring home. 


Scrapbook paper
Rubber Cement
Letter Stencils
Stickers (Optional)


1. Trace out student names on scrapbook paper and cut out.
2. Use rubber cement to glue the letters 
3. Add stickers under the clipboard clip so students can do some of their own decorating.

Although this project was a little time consuming, it was a fun craft project that my students will surely enjoy.

Added notes

* I bought the clipboards from Dollar Tree, only costing one dollar each.
*I tried using Mod Podge, but it ended up staining the clipboards and not sticking well. I strongly suggest rubber cement.
* If you pick a busier paper, I found it best to trace the names to make them easier to read.
* Don't forget to print out one of these fun color by numbers so that students can practice using their clipboards right away.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


5 Things To Include In A Kindergarten Newsletter

I am a strong believer in weekly newsletters, but I am also a strong believer that newsletters shouldn't be a long drawn out process. Families are busy, they need right to the point, short tidbits of important information. I send out my newsletters weekly via email, only providing hard copies to families upon request. I do not print my newsletters in color, because I know that a
after a viewing, they will get recycled anyway. 

Things to include in a kindergarten newsletter
  1. Upcoming events 

I put this on the front page, because this is what parents are looking for. I include field trips, upcoming student birthdays, due dates, and community events. 

   2. What can we work on at home?   

This is not designed to be a list of things to do, that is too overwhelming for parents, especially with students whom are struggling in multiple areas. I like to start this section with a question. Can your child ______, if not it is never too early to start practicing. 

An example might be, 

Can your child count to 100, if not it is never too early to start practicing. 

Kindergarten students are expected to be able to count to 100 independently by the end of the school year. Some great times to practise are in the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, or even during bath time. Counting to 100 is tricky, so please be encouraging and don't think that you have to start your child at one each time. Maybe your child has mastered counting to 39, start at 30 instead.  Thank you for your continued support at home.

   3. Photos, Photos, Photos

Nothing gets parents more engaged in a newsletter than seeing a picture of their adorable kindergartner. (Make sure to follow school policies about pictures in regards to confidentiality.) I love taking pictures of the kiddos and sharing them with families. I have a google doc checklist where I keep track of which student is presented in the newsletter each week to keep things fair. I am lucky enough to have the world's best gym teacher whom also provides me with pictures often. So fun!

   4. What are we learning?

Nothing drives me more nuts than hearing a parent ask their little one what they did in school today and they respond nothing. AHHHH! This section lists the concepts we are learning for the week to help parents stay up to date and guide at home conversations

   5. Cutesy!!!

Who wants to read a boring newsletter, not me. Add some color, add some clip art, add something. We make learning fun for our students, lets provide some fun for the parents too. If you are interested in any of the clip art on this page click here School Supplies Clip Art, created by yours truly.

                  My Newsletter Example

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sign Up Genius

Every year our kindergarten has a friendship feast. Each class is required to make a dish to pass and share with ALL of the kindergarten students. Our school has five kindergarten classes with roughly 20 students in each class. Yikes! Although this event takes lots of planning, the outcome is amazing! All of the students come to the gym with a handmade hat and placemat. We have long strips of paper laid on the gym floor as their tables and children get to sit wherever they would like. After the principal shares a holiday story, the children get to sample all of the different foods that the classes made. It is so wonderful to hear the students talk about the food that they made and hear how proud they are. 

This year my class will be making  Fruit Pizza. I like to ask parents for donations on events like this and would get so frustrated keeping track of who was bringing what. Luckily I found year. I highly suggest giving it at try! The website is free, easy to use, and even has the option to send parents reminders. I decided not to invite parents via email and listed the link on my newsletter instead. I love anything that will save on paper.