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September 26, 2015

What's In My Teaching Bag?

Linking up with some fellow bloggers for some get-to-know-you fun! I've spilled out my teacher bag so you can see what's inside!  Take a look!



  1. MacBook Pro leopard print sleeve.  This girl LOVES all things leopard!
  2. Erin Condren Life Planner and Teacher Lesson Planner.  I am super organized and cannot live without planners!  My favorite part about these planners are the pretty designs, functionality, and the stickers!!! I love stickers!
  3. Senegence catalog.  My colleague sells it and just had a party at school.  I've been carrying around the catalog ever since.  I am guilty of leaving things in my bag for loooong periods of time. Eek! Under that catalog are various papers and notes that aren't important and can probably be trashed.
  4. Professional Development certificate from our training earlier this week.  It was titled "Teaching at the Speed of Creativity," and focused on the use of technology in the classroom and student driven projects.  
  5. Perfect Fit protein powder, which is my favorite healthy, quick,  small or post-workout meal.  It's great for school because I usually don't have time to eat lunch this time of year! 
  6. A Littlest Pet Shop toy that my precious daughter stashed in my bag.
  7. Kleenex, for those pesky seasonal allergies.
  8. Pens, although not my preferred flair pens!
  9. Not pictured, but also usually found in my bag are various receipts, my cell phone, my teacher iPad, sunglasses, my teacher badge, lipgloss, and my wallet!
What do you keep in your teaching bag?

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September 21, 2015

5 Tips for Stress-Free Literacy Stations

1.  Set clear and explicit expectations for students.  

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is the most important part of literacy stations!  I always tell my students that literacy stations are "working stations" and that we don't play during literacy stations.  I make sure they know that they will have fun, but they have to be working the whole time. We also talk about using "secret telling" voices and staying in our station.  A great book to read for voice levels is the book "Decibella and Her 6-Inch Voice," by Julia Cook.  I love all of Julia's books!



2.  Keep student work groups small.

I put two students in a group, because I have found that when students are grouped with more than one other person, they are much more apt to play, argue, and be noisy.  In other words, it is an absolute circus! I create my groups with one high and one low student, that way they can help one another.  If I have an odd number of students, like I do this year, I will have one group with three.

3.  Monitor stations for 2-3 weeks before starting reading groups, to make sure students are meeting expectations.

Even when they seem like they might have it down, give it a little longer.  Just like other procedures, the more time you spend making sure your students have it down pat, the smoother your classroom will run.  "I wish I had only spent a week setting up my station procedures," said NO TEACHER EVER! ;)

4.  Have a plan for what students will do when they finish their work.

This might include early finisher tubs, book tubs (like what you might use in Daily 5), journaling, or other activity.  In my room I have used book tubs in the past.  While it worked okay, students were bored quickly.  This year I am trying two different methods.  In our district, we are fortunate enough to have iPads in our classroom.  I have created an abcmouse.com account (free for teachers!), and profiles for each student.  When my students finish their station work, they may work only in the ABC Mouse app under their profile.  I am also going to try using an All Done Station that I purchased from Miss Kindergarten. I can't wait to try it out!



5.  Have a behavior management system in place.

I think it is a great idea to have a separate behavior management system just for literacy stations.  For instance, in my classroom, I use a clip chart, but I also have a system in place that is separate from the clip chart for literacy stations.  For stations, I use a punch card that I created.  Students get their cards punched at the end of stations when I check their work.  They do not get cards punched if they were too loud, were out of their station, or were playing instead of working.  This system has worked WONDERS for me!  When they get 10 punches, they get a piece of candy, and 20 punches is a trip to treasure box.  Again, this is totally separate from my regular behavior management system.  Students are motivated to do high quality work and to work quietly! It doesn't get any better than that!



September 6, 2015

Wobble, Baby!

If you teach early childhood like I do, you are most likely seeing a push-down of curriculum and pressure for more rigor, which equates to more seat work for little ones.  I try to incorporate as many brain breaks and movement opportunities into my day as possible, but when I heard about Wobble Chairs, I knew I had to find a way to get some for my Kinder darlings.

If you haven't heard about Wobble Chairs, they are a plastic stool with a rounded base that allows students to rock and turn while staying seated.  It also helps promote proper posture in young children.  Much like the yoga ball chair movement, but I preferred the stool to balls rolling all over my classroom.  Call me crazy.

So, last spring I wrote a Donors Choose project for a classroom set of 24 Wobble Chairs.  If you haven't done a Donors Choose yet, you should! So easy to complete and I have had both of my projects funded quickly.  I wrote this project pretty late in the year, and even though it was funded within a week or two (thanks the support of my awesome family, classroom parents, and other donors), the products did not ship until the start of this school year.

Our chairs arrived to my site on a Friday, so I spent the weekend unpacking.  They were so easy to assemble!  They come shipped in a flat box, and are in three parts.  The top and the base snap onto the "stem," and ta-da! They are ready to go!



I grouped them at tables by color, because I tend to be super obsessive compulsive organized, and anxiously awaited the arrival of Monday morning! 

Monday arrived and "Katy, bar the door!" The students were just as excited as I was! There were many unforeseen hiccups, and I found myself saying, "Okay, new rule!" about every 5 minutes.  I run a pretty tight classroom, and I didn't like not knowing what to expect with the chairs.  So here are some things I wish I had known about the Wobble Chairs before my students arrived:
  • Students will try to spin on the chairs, both on their bottoms and laying on their stomachs.
  • Students will try to stick their feet out and balance on the chairs (almost like a reverse plank).
  • Students will want to rest their feet on the plastic base, instead of the floor.
  • Students will "fake" that the chairs are "too wobbly" to stay on.
It took me all of twenty minutes to figure out about every ground rule that needed to be established.  Luckily, that is about the time it takes from the time students arrive to the time we meet for morning meeting.  During morning meeting, we established these rules for the Wobble Chairs:
  1. Bottoms on the chairs at all times.
  2. Feet on the floor.
  3. You may rock on the chairs, and you may twist, but no spinning.
  4. If you can't handle the Wobble Chairs, you get to sit in a regular chair. 
I made sure to keep several "regular chairs" on hand in my room, just in case.  So far, no one has had to move to a regular chair, although it has been threatened at least twice ten times.

I've had the Wobble Chairs in my classroom for a week, and I am already seeing the benefits! I am so excited to see what the year brings.  My students are SO much more focused during long periods of seat work, because they can move.  It's hard to tell movement from a picture, but if you look closely below, you can see some rocking and leaning.



Of course, I still break up seat work with brain breaks, but I have noticed such an improvement in behavior and focus during these times.  Once the "newness" wore off the chairs, they have been such a great addition to our classroom!  I will definitely be doing a follow-up post, but for now, I am in love with wobbling! :)  And, yes, I have tried them out myself! Wobble, baby!

Why I Teach Kinder


Most of the time when people ask me what my profession is, they respond to my "Kindergarten Teacher" answer the same way:  "God bless you!" "How do you do it?"  And I can't blame them, because I respond the same way when others tell me they teach Middle School.  Teachers are a special breed, and we are definitely called to our area of expertise by a higher power.

I love my job.  LOVE my job.  There are days when I come home frustrated and angry and threaten to find something else to do, but that feeling is gone in about an hour.  My frustrations are never because of a student.  Every part of my being feels an enormous sense of responsibility, pride in, and love for every one of my students.  I'm also very seldom frustrated with a parent.  Most of my qualms, most of what makes me feel disheartened, is what education is becoming.  How educators are neither trusted nor valued by our government and, as a result, or society as a whole.  But in spite of all that, I come back every day with a smile on my face.  I will continue to come back because I was born to spend the day saying "sit on your bottom" a hundred thousand times.  I was called to sing silly songs and play with my students.  I have learned that you can be firm in your discipline and still pour your heart into those precious beings.  

I teach K because I may be the only person who hugs a particular child that day.  I teach K because it's pretty awesome having a throng of little people tell you that you are beautiful and nice and the best teacher they've ever had and you color so pretty (all in one breath).  I teach K because I care about the foundation of education.  I care about social skills and manners and cutting and gluing and coloring and skipping.  I teach K because I want to foster independence in those kids whose parents do everything for them and for those whose parents have told them "you can't."  THEY CAN!  I teach K because there is nothing more fulfilling than hearing a child say "I love school!" or "I did it!!!" I teach K because I believe in our future and I believe that our students can have a quality education, in spite of what legislators are doing to ensure otherwise. 

My students know that it's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hit.  They know that it's okay to be frustrated, but it's not okay to quit.  They know that they are safe when I am near.  They know that they are in charge of their own bodies, lives, and choices.  They know that there is more to life than a number on a page or a statistic in a study.  They know what good readers do, what good writers do, what good mathematicians do.  They know that play is important.  They know that school is fun.  

I'm not perfect, and neither are they.  We laugh together, we talk together, we grow together.  We make mistakes and we learn how to correct them.  And every year, when May rolls around, it is so bittersweet.  I love seeing how much they have grown, how far they have come.  I love that I will get a month or two to relax a little and spend time with my kids. But I'm always sad, too.  I'm sad that they won't be in my care everyday.  I'm sad that they will love another teacher, maybe even more than me.  Because my students are my children for a year.  It's so hard to let go.  At the same time, I know they will go on to greater things than simplistic Kindergarten.   Many years from now they may not even remember my name, but they will all have a very special place in my heart. 

Those precious little hands and hearts and minds.  That is why I teach. 
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