Kindergarten Friends Can Do So Many Things!

Before I start I have to say this post is a bit late.... so on the last day of September let me share a fun thing to do for your entire school year.

I create an "I Can" Book where the students complete one fine or gross motor skill each month and at the end of the year we compile them in a book.

Somehow I completely forgot all about this until this weekend - oh no!! How could I have done this when it is one of my favorites?! So, on Monday, October 1st my class will be doing the September page.... oops! I figure we are only one day off - so we are going to make it happen!

I do this book from September through May (or apparently October through May this year) and for the first and last month the activity is "I can draw me." It is fun to see the growth they make from the beginning to the end of the year!

In the other months we do things such as cut a jack-o-lantern or paint a snowman or make an origami cup out of gold paper for the leprechauns...guess which month that is for!

Years ago I made elaborate memory books and now with 29...yes, I said 29!!!! little ones in my class I want to simplify things, but still have it be special! I also think that our standards in kindergarten are so intense and yet, working on cutting and coloring and those "old fashioned" kinder skills is important too!

Here are a few pictures of the I Can Books... sadly, the only student sample is from September - the rest are mine (not as fun to see!) The fonts are different because they are from different school years:

The pages you need for this book and the directions for all the pages are available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You too, could start this in October like me!

I have another fun "I Can" based activity I will share soon!


Gingerbread Man Hunt!

We have a tradition at our school for our new kindergarten friends! To help them get to know their school campus we go on a hunt for the Gingerbread Man.... or Gingerbread Girl! I know, I know, most people wait until December, but I have to say, it is a fun way to start our school year! We are also doing a color unit in September and so we introduce The Gingerbread Man on  "brown" day.

We spend a week reading many versions of the famous Gingerbread Story. We compare these different versions: What characters change? How does the ending change? We compare and contrast the adventures and experiences in each one:


Add there's even more....

And there's even more... but you get the idea!

During the week we do other activities:

*We label a gingerbread man together.

Some years I have the kiddos label their own gingerbread man, too. But this year we just did the one together. We refer to this chart though when graphing (see below) and writing in our journals.

* Using gingerbread cookies we make a graph of which part of the cookie you bite first. On the count of three we all take one big bite! What did each child bite first? The head? The leg? The arm?

* We write a story telling our own adventure of the Gingerbread Man.

*We learn "The Gingerbread Man Finds Shapes" song by Frog Street Press-This song is on the Color CD. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the color songs on here and the Gingerbread Shapes Song is just one of the added non-color bonus songs! Get your own Color CD Here!

And finally at the end of this week we bake a gingerbread man! Note to self: try not to do this on the same day as a space shuttle is flying over your school!

(I inherited this pan from a previous kinder teacher so I am not sure where you can find one!)

She is ready for the oven! We walk as a class to put her in..... but when we come back later, she is gone!!! Luckily she has left us a note!

The note reads, "Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man! Look for me in the custodian's office!" (As the kids voted to make our friend a girl I was thinking... oh no, the poem says "man"... but they didn't seem to mind. This is one of the first years I have more girls than boys in class, hence the girl vote.)

As we get to the custodian's office we find another note and so on. We stop in the library, health tech office and front office before finding our way to the principal's office. The kids LOVE this and they are learning about important places at school.

As we enter the principal's office she turns the lights out and using flashlights we search all around until someone spots "her" on the top shelf. Then our principal chats with them about all the reasons they may come visit her office in the future. Hopefully to celebrate a great piece of school work :)

The kids are wearing their special Gingerbread Man hats! You may also notice the gingerbread friend has green eyes and they were yellow when we put them in the oven! Oh no - that is my mistake! During the baking process the "goodies" always sink down and I replace them, but made this key error. Most of them won't remember, but of course the little one who chose the eye color WILL remember! The same gingerbread magic that allows her to run around our school also helps to change her eye color.... of course!

Endeavour Sighting

We had a special treat at school yesterday when the Space Shuttle Endeavour flew directly over us on its last flight. The space shuttle is being retired, so it made sure this last lap through California was a good one! It passed through so many tourist attractions such as Dodger Stadium, The Queen Mary and Disneyland... not sure how we were so lucky.... but there it was right over us!

All 800 students were gathered on the field....waiting.... and waiting some more! It was a hot, hot day too, but finally it was there and so worth the wait!

I couldn't believe how low it was and how well we could all see it! The kids started screaming and yelling. It was a very cool day!

To top it off, it was the annual Gingerbread Man Hunt Day in kindergarten....yes, we do that in September and not December, but my oh my, it was a busy day! I'll post soon about all the gingerbread shenanigans!


Behavior Management

So, let's talk about behavior management. It is isn't the most novel idea, but I too, use a clip chart. But wait, keep reading... there are some ideas to keep this old idea new and fresh!

I like the clip chart because it is something visual and tangible.  With my clip charts I always be sure to have at least 2 "jumps" up and 2 "jumps" down.

I currently use the ocean themed chart shown below. The other one I used when I had a circus theme in my room.

 To spice it up, if a child moves their clip to the top and are still behaving well then I move their clip onto my clothes.... Yep, that's right. I put a clothespin on myself. No one said teaching kindergarten was a fashion show. Want to motivate them even more?.... if that child continues to WOW me with their behavior then I put the clip in my hair! They LOVE this!  I have to say I did not come up with this idea. I got it from Rick Morris who has GREAT ideas and if you can ever see him speak you SHOULD whether this is your 1st year or your 30th year! Here's his site:

Another little fun trick I use (that I again got from Rick Morris) is to have a child paint their clip gold after they have reached the highest point on the chart 3 times. Actually it's just yellow paint, but we call it gold because I often say, "You are good as gold!" If they move that clip up another 3 times then we add a little glitter... and in kindergarten, glitter makes everything exciting! After we add the glitter we "retire" the clip and the child starts fresh with a plain wooden clip. I have a ribbon hanging near the chart for all our retired clips. The kids are motivated to get as many clips as possible on that ribbon.  So yes, I need to have a good supply of clothespins on hand, but you can find them at The Dollar Tree.

The key is that I try to focus on the POSITIVE! I tell the parents that they will hear from me if their child ends the day at the very top or very bottom of the chart, but any other movement in the middle is between the child and me. This is the note I send home if they move their clip all the way up: (It actually available at my TPT store along with the ocean clip chart shown above - Just click here!)
I don't have a  generic note for when a child reaches the bottom of the chart. In these cases I contact the parent and handle each situation as I see fit.

It is a bit tricky to manage how many times a child has reached the "Super Star Starfish" or whatever I am currently calling the top level, but I have had the most success with just good old fashioned tally marks by their name. I used to use an a spreadsheet and date it- but this was too much work and not necessary.

I used to have a treasure chest, but I don't anymore. I find that they are very excited about all the clip shenanigans! And to make sure it works all year... I only introduce things one at a time. Right now (since we are only 9 days into school) it is just the chart. In about a month I will start "wearing" the clothespins. Then another month later I will introduce painting them... and so on.

On another note, I also use whole group class motivators. This year I am using sand dollars. I have ten (real) sand dollars.... hey, I live at the beach so I figured I should have some authentic "ocean" things going on in class. Plan A was to add a magnet to each one and put it up on the white board when the class earned one, but they seem too fragile. So Plan B is to just put them in a mason jar as they are earned. Once all 10 sand dollars are in the jar we will earn a prize. It is the marble jar concept, but 10 sand dollars is a lot quicker than filling up a whole jar with marbles and for kindergarten I like to speed this process up. I think if they have to wait too long for anything exciting to happen they lose interest. In the beginning of the year I am more generous with my sand dollars because I want them to have the experience of earning the prize so they can look forward to it next time.

They can earn a sand dollar for all working quietly or cleaning up nicely. I tell them one for sure way to earn a sand dollar is if we get a compliment from another teacher or staff member. They walk down the hall so quietly when they see an adult just hoping they may say, "Oh what a nice and quiet line you are walking in!" Sometimes I will even give them one if the whole class remembers to return their library books.  I do also take them away if needed. This rarely happens and actually if I just walk near the jar and hover my hand over the top it seems to do the trick!

The prizes vary depending on what I can get my hands on and what that particular class is like.

I like the balance of the group working toward a common goal and each of them also being responsible for themselves on the clip chart.

I am linking up with What the Teacher Wants and their Linky Party! Check out all the wonderful ideas out there!


Under the Sea

As promised, here are pictures of my ocean themed room!
The two above pictures show you most of my classroom. I am lucky to have a big room! I used various sea animals for the table names and found a stuffed version to hang from each table. On the windows you see the TLC Humpty Dumpty activity. I love all the TLC Nursery Rhyme projects. Actually, I just love everything from TLC! Here is a close up my class rules:
These rules are available for  at my Teachers Pay Teachers store- just click {HERE} It even comes with a fun mini book about the rules. I'm not sure why I took this picture before hanging my last rule... oops!
Ta da!!!!! My very own Deanna Jump Palm Tree in my class library! If you want one of these... go to Deanna Jump's blog and she gives you step by step directions!
My "O-fish-al" business area will be where I post literacy and math centers. It will also be my Focus Wall. Our district asks us to have a focus wall where we post our current learning concepts and standards.
Just a last few pictures!

From Circus to Ocean

This school year I decided to change from a Circus Themed classroom to an Ocean Theme. Why, I don't know... I just moved classrooms last year and one would think I should get a lil more time with it all before tearing it down!  I love having a theme in my classroom, but find that I like to change it often....why? Why do I like extra work?  So far I am loving the ocean theme.... so maybe this time I will stick with it longer! Here are some pictures of the chaos I entered when I walked into my room at the end of August. Do you ever feel like you may have a heart attack when you walk in for the first time at the end of summer?!

I did love how all the student work really popped on the black background. Most people thought black was an odd choice for a kindergarten classroom, but I loved it! But time to pull it all down!
These walls are TALL and LONG and it was a full work out to get it all down. There in the corner is my old circus reading tent that was in the library... it was a big hit so if you are looking to do a circus theme you will need one! I got that one at Oriental Trading Company. Now on with the ocean! I decided on a light blue background and used sheets from Walmart to cover all the walls. The work won't pop as much, but the blue will be soothing. Ocean classroom pictures coming soon!