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.