Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Necessary teaching supplies

Ahh! There's nothing like the smell of new crayons to get you going in the morning! I love scent of brand new school supplies!

In my first year of teaching Kindergarten I was totally clueless about what supplies I would need as a teacher and what supplies my students really needed. The first thing to keep in mind is that it takes years to build a perfect classroom, don't expect to have all the supplies your fellow teachers have. Here are a few examples of some items that you might want to consider splurging on your first year.

For the teacher:
A good stapler, a three hole puncher (I got a great hole punch and pencil sharpener at Sam's), lots of pens in a multitude of colors, a lanyard for your classroom keys and whistle, a clip board, varying sizes of binders, manila folders, ziploc bags in varying sizes, permanent markers, invisible tape, masking tape, electrical tape (this works great for marking where students are to stand when it's time to line up),  and very very comfortable shoes! Take it from me...don't wear brand new shoes your first day, you'll be so sorry!!

For the students:
Individual sized dry erase boards (I know these can be pricey, but you'll get a lot of use out of them), a package of men's tube socks (these are used as erasers for your dry erase boards and they hold the marker!)

 lots of baskets and containers (they have a great selection at the dollar store), playdough, beanbags (try orientaltrading.com), books (goodwill is a great resource as well as garage sales), a pencil sharpener, extra crayons, markers, dry erase markers, printable labels, clip boards, and pick out a cute theme for your classroom. If you're teaching Kinder specifically, you'll need a calendar, days of the week, months of the year, colors, numbers, and words for your word wall. Luckily many teaching supply stores sell these in a set and they have some really cute themes! Check out www.lakeshorelearning they have lots of awesome sets. Be sure to laminate everything before you put it up so you can protect your investment.

Lastly be sure to keep your receipt! In Texas you can write up to $300 off of your income taxes for work expenses. Some schools will reimburse you for some purchases so make sure to ask a fellow teacher. Although I've never had this happen to me, but hey you may get lucky!

The First Day

Don't worry...there's no need to panic! Just remember that this is the first day of school...You won't even get into anything academic for the first three weeks so you don't have to worry about that. The first day is all about maintaining the chaos! When I first started teaching Kinder, my main concern was what am I supposed to do if I'm not teaching anything academic?

In this post I will go through a minute by minute guide of what you can do on the first day.

7:40 Arrival
Collect students from wherever they congregate...every school is different in their a.m. procedure, but i'm just going to go through the day like it was my school and you can just adapt this schedule to meet your needs.

Stand by the door and shake each child's hand and exchange names as they enter. Tell them to leave their backpacks on and go sit on the carpet. Once everyone is in the room, I sit on my little stool and introduce myself again and tell them I am so glad they are here and that we are going to have a great year!

This next step may sound a little harsh, but I like to set the precedent right away. I tell the kids that I have two big rules and they are: Number 1...I am in charge of you and you have to do what I say. Number 2 You do not tell me no, when I ask you to do something, you say yes
(or yes ma'am, if you are into that) and then you do what I'm telling you to do.

I always do this on the first day and anytime I get a new student. I promise it will make your life so much easier if they know you mean business right from the get go!!

7:50 Unpack
You explain to the kids that this next step will be how they unpack their backpacks each day. Have the kids go to the area where you'll have them keep their backpacks and sit down together. One by one call the kids over and show them where you want them to keep their stuff. Tell them that when they get here in the morning they will take their daily folders and any lunch money or notes for you out and show them where you want them to put that stuff. Now this is the fun part, as each students puts their things away the whole class with clap for the student. Then call up the next student and repeat. This helps teach them your unpacking procedures and gives the kids a chance to learn the other kids names.

It takes forever, but it gives you an opportunity to make sure they get it right and gives you a little insight into their personalities.

8:10 Bathroom Break
Now you will show them how you want them to line up to leave the room. Before the first day I put little pieces of tape on the floor to show them where I want each one to stand. I call them up one by one and show them where to stand. ( on the first few days I put them in abc order, once I get to know their personalities I change them around a little bit). Once I have them in line I teach them the line up song.
TEACHER: Lining up is easy to do
TEACHER: When you take care of only you
TEACHER: Feet together hands by side
TEACHER: We've got spirit we've got pride
TEACHER: Sound off
TEACHER: Hit it again
TEACHER: Ready to go
STUDENTS: 1,2,3,4, Out the door

Okay, have them sit back down and now you'll explain the bathroom procedures, it's up to you whether you want them to sit against the wall to wait for their turn and when they are done...or have them wait in line the whole time. I've done it both ways and there are pros and cons to both. You just go with what works best for you.

You'll want to instill really good bathroom habits now so you don't end up with problems later. I explain about going in the restroom no more than three students at a time, using the toilet quickly, washing hands with one pump of soap and getting one paper towel and making sure it goes in the trash can. I then get a volunteer to show us how to wash hands. (I've always had a sink in the classroom so I have one student demonstrate there) Have a little fun with it and ask another student to show you the wrong way to wash your hands...this usually lightens the mood a bit, but also lets them know what you don't want to see and that you expect them to do it properly. Now have that volunteer tell you or show you the right way.

Now have them line up in the same spot you have given them already and then start off the song.

Take them to the restroom. Make sure you give lots of compliments to the students you see doing what you've asked and correcting the ones who aren't...ex. Stephanie, I love how you only got one pump of soap, great job! ex. Casey, remember we stand quietly while we wait our turn.

8:30 Activity

Back to the carpet...
Teach the kids an attention grabbing device. Hand clapping, song, etc. Practice this several times!

Show the kids the activity they will do next. (This is where you can have them draw a picture or do a worksheet...whatever you and your team decided before school started) If you are in situation where you don't meet with a team, comment below and I can give you more details.

This is the time where I talk about supplies, show them where to find them, how to use them etc. I know that you may be thinking this isn't necessary, but after years of experience, don't put it passed them to do stupid things with the supplies! I am silly with this part though, saying things like crayons only draw on paper, not on hair, or teeth, or your friends teeth etc...they get a kick out of this. Scissors only cut paper, not hair or clothes or your friends hair or clothes, etc.

Now show them their seats and let them do the activity for a while. Take this time to walk around and check their progress, making sure to compliment great work...I usually ask a student or two if I can show the class their excellent work...they love this and it gives the other kids an idea of what you think is good work. Ex. Look class! I love how Marie is coloring inside the lines and doing her best!

9:00 Read a loud
Each year I like to bring out a picture of myself when I was in Kindergarten...this usually leads to a little discussion about my life and family and it allows them to get to know me a little better. Then I show the kids my favorite book when I was there age, Pumpernickel Tickle and the Mean Green Cheese. I read the book aloud, then I urge the kids to bring their favorite book to school this week and we'll read them aloud to the class.

9:20 Lunch time practice
Next I have the kids line up, using our new lineup song, and we take a little trip to the cafeteria to practice lunch time procedures. I'll go over how I want them to enter the line, where they'll sit, where to put trash, etc. I have them actually go through the line and pretend to put food on the tray and pretend eat and throw it away...it's a great opportunity to discuss lunch time manners and voice levels appropriate for the cafeteria. On the way back to the classroom you might have them stop for a restroom break...You'll see a lot of restroom breaks in the schedule today, but this is some students first time in school and they need plenty of opportunities to practice anyway.

9:40 Play a Game
I like something simple and easy for the first day, like "Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?"
Another opportunity to get to know each other better.

9:50 Centers
For the first three weeks I don't pull small groups because it is essential to set up good center procedures and behavior, otherwise when it comes time for small groups, you'll never get anything done!
So for these early weeks I set up simple things and have them rotate often...ex. blocks, drama, drawing/writing, computer, books, etc. The first day I'll will choose what centers they visit by assigning groups (you can even just send them in their table groups to keep it simple) I'll let them play for about 10 minutes then I'll use my attention grabbing signal, have them clean up, then switch centers. If the students don't get a chance to visit all the centers then assure them they'll get a chance this afternoon. Make sure they clean up before switching. And as they play, walk around the room making sure they are getting along and using equipment properly.

10:30 Restroom and Lunch
In my experience you have to eat lunch with the kids for the first week to help ensure good manners and behavior so be prepared with a meal that's easy.

11:20 Restroom/ Rest
After the restroom, I have kids sit on the carpet again and I go over Rest Time procedures....in my experience nap time has lasted the first 9 weeks and it's only for 20 minutes. I tell them that they don't have to fall asleep, but they have to stay silent. I let them bring a towel only, no pillows or stuffed animals because there just isn't enough storage. I tell them to try and not lie next to someone they might be tempted to talk to...you can even assign them a space if you already have some talkers. I tell them that they will have 20 seconds to find a place to lie down...anywhere but behind my desk/teaching table, under or on their tables, or by the door.
I start counting down from 20 very slowly and I tell them when I get to 10 one light will go off and when I get to 1  and both lights are off, voices must be off! The first few days I walk around to ensure they are all quiet...complimenting those who are doing a great job! I also don't allow them to take their shoes off, many still don't know how to tie their own shoes and it takes up too much time.

11:50 Activity
Towels are put away and we'll do a short activity or game

12:15 Restroom/Specials
I explain that in Specials they are to follow the rules of the teacher in charge!
While they are in specials I make sure their "How we get home cards" are attached to their backpacks and if there are any doubts as to how they are getting home I'll call the parents.

1:15 Recess
Usually as a team we will gather the students outside by the playground and go over the rules of the playground

1:40 Activity/game/snack/circle game

2:00 centers
This is a great time to either let them explore whatever  center they didn't get to go to earlier in the day, or you can practice dismissal procedures. Before they leave for the day make sure that each child has their "how we are getting home" tag on their backpacks and they know where to go.

2:30 Dismissal
It's a good idea to bring a clip board with students names and how they are getting home with you during dismissal and check their names off as you go. Also try and have their parents phone numbers on the list as well just in case.

Congratulations on surviving your first day!!

Now of course this was just an example how how you could run your first day, but as you can see, you don't need to worry about rushing into any academics just yet...there'll be plenty of time!

Before you go home and pass out, make sure you've got everything laid out and ready for tomorrow!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How are they getting home?

This is an essential question that you need to find the answer to before the end of the first day. You 100% cannot rely on the certainty of a 5 year old, even if they sound like they know what they are talking about...always double check with the parents!

Before the first day I make little cards with the student's name, teacher's name, and parents phone #. If they are taking the bus then I put their address on there as well. The first day of school is so chaotic for you and for them and you shouldn't just rely on your memory to tell you where they need to be.

 School Buses Colorful Cut-Outs, 36/pkg    Shoes Cut-Outs®, 48/pkg Race Cars Colorful Cut-Outs, Assorted Design
You can buy little cut outs like these, found at Teacher Heaven. I laminate them and pin them to their back packs sometime throughout the first day. You can use a variety of other shapes for walkers, parent pickups, after school care, etc.  You'll also need to change them out if they'll get home another way the second day.

I have a poster like this found at AZlearningbug that I keep by the door. I usually wait about a week before filling it out, just to give things a chance to settle down. But once it's up, it's a great way to keep other teacher's and staff informed if you have to be away during dismissal...just make sure you keep it updated!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meet the teacher night

About a week before school begins you will have a "Meet the Teacher Night". Here are some tips to help you get ready...

Before the event:

1. You'll probably have a list of your students names by now. Call each student and invite them and their families to the event. Calling them will help ensure a good turnout and sets up a good first impression. Meeting the teacher before the first day also will help alleviate the nervousness that some students feel.  Ask them to please bring any supplies they have purchased. While on the phone...if they can't come ask them how the child will be getting home on the first day of school and every other day after that.

2. Prepare a packet to hand out to each family that includes a "Getting to know you questionnaire", your classroom rules and procedures, a little bio about yourself and your goals for the year, and how you want parents to contact you.

3. Make a log in sheet for parents to sign when they arrive...make a few of the same and disperse them throughout the room, that way you won't have a line forming to sign the sheet. On the sheet have a place for them to put their phone number, email address, and most importantly how the child will get home on the first day of school and each day after. Most of the time with Kindergartners, parents will drop them off and pick them up the first day.

4. Put each child's name on a piece of paper or a post it note and attach it to a chair. This is where you will tell them to put any supplies they brought. Seeing their name somewhere in the classroom helps students feel more welcome!

During the event:

1. Wear a name tag and stand by the door, as families approach, introduce yourself and ask the student to go and find their name. Ask parents to please sign in and take a packet.

2. You'll want to try and avoid getting into in depth conversations on this night, mostly because you're going to be super overwhelmed with lots of people and you don't want to be rude to the other parents...if you find yourself being cornered by an over zealous parent, simply say that you really want to be sure and give them your full attention so let's go ahead and make an appointment or set up a good time to call and talk in more detail.

After the event:

1. If you aren't totally exhausted, make a little mental note of who brought supplies, who showed up, and whether or not they signed in.

2. Some teachers like to make a spreadsheet of the supplies that each student brought, but since I use a "community" approach to supplies I don't find that necessary.  I will go through the bags they brought and sort things into piles. If they have already put their names all over everything then set those things aside for later...nothing is more annoying then labeling all of the students take home folders just to have a parent call to say why aren't you using the folder they brought.

3. If you are totally wiped out...go home...and get some sleep all of the supplies will be there tomorrow. Uh-oh my procrastinating side is coming out. Seriously though you don't need to stress about the supplies just yet...as long as you have at least the crayons out on the first day you'll be fine.

Preparing your classroom

Okay...so you got the job! Congratulations! Teaching Kindergarten is such a rewarding endeavor, but it takes loads of preparation! The key to being a successful teacher at any grade level is being prepared. Speaking from a true procrastinator, I know what I'm talking about! I have always prided myself on working well under pressure. In high school I'd be skimming a book, I never even cracked moments before the test...speaking from experience and a lot of stress that could have been avoided...don't do this.

I know it's still your summer vacation, but now there are actually some things you can start preparing even before you get into your classroom. Usually you get a few days to work in your classroom once your contract days begin, but it's never enough time and admin loves to sneak little meetings in on those days to suck up that precious time.

So let's start by talking supplies...first you have to decide if you want community supplies or individual supplies. For Kindergarten I recommend community supplies. Especially at the beginning of the year these kids will be all over the place and keeping track of their own heads will be a challenge let alone which crayon box is theirs.

I love using play dough containers to keep the crayons. You can fit a standard box and they won't fall out. Head out to the shops now and take advantage of the back to school sales. I know you think you'll have plenty of supplies from the kids, but it never hurts to have extras... and you'll be surprised at how many kids will come to school the first day with absolutely nothing with them.  Buy the play dough and put it in a ziplock for later use and get those crayons in there. The first time I used these I went through the trouble of ripping off the label, but this isn't really necessary. You can always stick a label with the kids names on them later.

 Okay, another thing to think about is unit storage. For Kindergarten every week or two you will focus on a new unit of study. My first year in Kinder I inherited 45 file boxes from a Kinder teacher who retired. I was also lucky enough to have an enormous closet to store them in...you probably won't be so lucky to have this much storage so I would recommend smaller boxes like these. These are cowboy boot boxes, which you can go to a shoe store and ask if they'll gift some to you. Go ahead and start labeling them now. You will definitely need a box labeled, "All about me", "First week of School", "Family", "Community Workers", "Winter Holiday's", "The Gingerbread Man" (My favorite!), and if your school allows religious holiday then Easter, etc. or if you work at a public school then a lot of times we would do "Eggs" during Easter week or "Bones/Bats" for Halloween.

You'll want to have at least some of these boxes ready now, because you'll be bombarded with so much stuff during the first few weeks and throughout the year, that it's great to have a place to shove it, instead of a big pile in the corner which is what I did my first year!

Now that you've got your boxes for things on theme like puzzles, toys, etc. you need a place to put all the papers and when I say all the papers, I mean all the papers!!! By the end of your first year you'll be convinced that a whole forest was bulldozed for the amount of paper you're going to collect!

So run out to a big box store and get your self at least 100 file folders, the regular old manila one's will do. You can start labeling those as well with the same titles as the boxes above and if you are teaching Kinder specifically you can make one for the Math subjects too. If your school has an online curriculum, it would be a great tool for you to find out what subjects will be taught so you can use those categories to label your files or boxes.

Below you'll find a file box that I want you to put by the door of your classroom, this will be a place to keep important papers on your students, notice how it's numbered. The reason for this is so that next year all you have to do is remove the papers and you are ready to go, instead of having to re-label all of the folders with each students name. Make a chart like this to hang on the wall next to the file box

These are just a few things you can do to get ready, at least until you get your list of names. Until then, have fun going to your local teacher's store to get classroom essentials, like a classroom calendar, desk name cards, etc and get to the laminating machine if you can!