Friday, March 26, 2010

Just Like Me.

If I didn't know it by now, I'm always being watched. I quickly discover what kind of teacher I am when I see my little ones mimic me. I see the direct influence of how I act as a teacher, when I allow them to play the role themselves. This opportunity comes when they read a book to the class, lead calendar time, or present their show and tell. They know how to play "teacher" so well, in fact, it tends to sound just like me.

I noticed it twice today with two different children. One dear friend led circle time. Towards the end, as the recess teacher came in, all the sprouts jumped up and ran to the door. Without any hesitation she quickly shouted, "Come sit back down, I didn't dismiss you yet!" She then waited until the entire class showed her their perfect and quiet listening before she dismissed them one at a time. It was sweet to see that although she was never coached on this, she knew exactly how to be the teacher.

The second occurrence was when another friend was presenting her show and tell. Before she began she did not say a word. She stood there, staring at her class mates, and held her presentation behind her back. After waiting a bit she finally spoke up, "I'm waiting for you to show me five ways to listen." That's my girl! She demanded their attention, as she rightfully should, and again waited until the whole class was quiet before she began.

As their teacher I have a power influence over their lives. They are watching my every move and I am happy to set a good example. This particular technique is used by me on a daily basis. And now, as they watch me wait for them, they in turn wait for their friends. I couldn't think of an easier way to teach them the valuable lesson of respect.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Go Team!

Had I realized how well our class meetings or "team time" would go, I would have done the activity much sooner. I am so very thankful for that hour I had to kill in the bookstore a few weeks back. It was here that I happened to find a book about "Positive Discipline: Developing Mutual Respect, Cooperation, and Responsibility in your classroom, " -- an eye catching title to me, knowing that respect and cooperation in my classroom was something my Kindergartners desperately needed.

The difference made in the past month since we've implemented these meetings has been outstanding. At first the opportunity to share feelings were usually sad ones. They expressed how somebody hurt their feelings earlier in the day. It wasn't said to bash on their friend, but for the rest of us to gain an understanding of how our actions affect others. We came up with a solution for a better tomorrow, and left the day happy that our feelings were heard.

Today seemed to mark two special occasions of classroom cooperation. The first was exhibited during clean up time. I said, like always, "Can we make it in two songs today?" All together they shouted, "No we can do it in ONE!" And sure enough, they cleaned up faster than they have have before simply because they worked as a team. The second occured during the feelings portion of Team Time. This is the time where my friends can talk about any feeling they want. Two students who have never shared a happy feeling before, raised their hands and said, "I have a feeling." We expected their feeling to be sad, but as they began to speak they both started with "I'm happy because..." That alone put a smile on all of our faces. It seems as if our whole classroom is getting turned upside down with pure cooperation and uplifting feedback to each other.

There is now a shared effort to always be on the look out for each other. Every student knows that together we are a team and therefore they act on it. Every team-mate knows that they are valued and their feelings are heard. They feel safe enough to tell others how they feel, and the other team-mates are more than happy listen and help give a solution. Responsibility is a word they both know and follow. They are becoming problem solvers and self-thinkers. They are willing to accept responsibility for their actions because they know how it affects others. They understand the importance of how compliments make us feel good, and are eager for their daily opportunity to put a smile on somebody else's face by giving one. Most importantly, we now leave every day in smiles, as we get our stickers, put our hands in the circle, and shout one big "GO TEAM!"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine.

Our Thomas the Tank Engine toy set is quite popular during choice time. The most valued pieces happen to be Thomas the train himself. Luckily, there are two. It makes sharing easier. Yesterday I became the honorary member of this center. I was invited to not only play with them, but I was also given the other Thomas. Now this is quite the honor, as the Thomas trains are in high demand and always in use. Usually when I am invited to visit this center, I am only given Harold the Helicopter or Sir Topham Hatt to play with.

I was excited to get to play with a train for once, and drove the train at the top of the hill. My fun didn't last for long as my attention quickly became needed elsewhere. At this point, I left my Thomas unattended.

It wasn't but moments later I heard my dear friend with whom I was playing with shout, "Miss Molly! Get your Thomas under control!"

I was then informed that my Thomas had rolled down the bridge and had an accident with hers. I gained control of my Thomas once again and asked if I could then snap a picture. When finished, I showed the picture to another friend who asked to see it. "Thomas takes good pictures," he delightfully told me.

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Because he doesn't blink at all!"

I came to realize how delighted I am to have so many little lessons shared with me on a daily basis. Whether it's details about train accidents or how to be perfectly photogenic for the camera, my sprouts know quite a bit. It is a blessing to be a part of this wonderful experience and contribute myself to their bursting growth and development.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Birthday Bug.

I knew that today would be different, and the energy flowing in our classroom today couldn't have agreed more with that statement. Not only was it St. Patrick's Day, but it was also one of our classmate's birthdays. The latter event was clearly the most prominent. The excitement to his birthday has been building up for weeks. I assume it started when mom started making preparations for his first big boy sleepover party. Since then, every morning he would greet me, his classmates, and their parents with the exact number of days till his birthday. Many more times throughout the day he would repeatedly share this not so new information. This then caused all his friends to run home and tell their parents again, as if they hadn't already heard. That series of events has been on repeat for at least three weeks, so I knew today had to be big.

Enjoying the silence in my classroom moments before the first jumping bean arrived, I heard a faint but clear voice proclaiming, "Today's my birthday!" coming from outside. I quickly got up ready to eagerly greet him at the door, and as I opened I made sure I was the first one to speak, "Guess what?!" I quickly asked him hoping to throw him off from his ongoing birthday excitement. I didn't trick him. "It's my birthday!" he shouted back. Maybe I acted a little too excited with the initial welcome, but I couldn't hold it in. I was happy because I knew he was.

The birthday bug hit the whole class today as it seemed to be on everybody's mind. My class didn't seem to care all that much about St. Patrick's Day. When asking questions like, "Why is today special?" all they could answer is "Daniel's birthday!" This question happened to be sandwiched between a lesson about St. Patrick's Day, but that didn't matter to them. Journal entries were about him, St. Patrick writing turned into writing about him, and he ended up getting "compliments" from over half the class. Today was his day. Can't wait till Friday, as that birthday bug will be staying around for another friend's birthday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Un-Birthday.

My bursting buds always have the best ways of making me feel special. They know I love them, and in return I get the best love back. Their giving hearts are exploding with all the creative ways they come up with to show me they care. Here are a few that have brought recent smiles to my face.

1. This was one of the many pictures I received from a water color paint center. After one friend mentioned that his picture was for Miss Molly, a domino effect quickly took place. One after another were voices proudly proclaiming that their special picture was just for Miss Molly. It didn't take long before it seemed like a contest to see who could make the most just for me.

"Thank you for all the lovely pictures. It's not even my birthday but I sure feel like it is," I shared with them.

"Well this is your birthday present. I'm just giving it to you early," a friend replied.

Birthday or not, I'll take a birthday present any day.

2. Every day my sweet buds are given a choice to give, get, or pass on a compliment. They mostly always give, and on the days they need a little extra love we are all glad to give it.

Yesterday I was surprised when a friend spoke the name of who she was directing her compliment towards - Miss Molly. I'm always at their level and a part of the circle, but who would have figured a compliment would be given just for me? I now fully understand the importance of receiving one little compliment every day.

3. I happened to be working at my desk with a student when a morning journal entry was dropped off in my box. I quickly looked it over, acknowledged her with a "thank you," and got back to what I was doing. After a minute of her still standing there, I looked back up at her and said, "Is there something else you needed."

"I need to read it to you. This one is important," she replied.

The journal entry read, "Miss Molly and I love each other and hug each other," with the following illustration:

I had to respond to this. I gave her a big hug and told her how it made me feel special.

Once again a bold leader has inspired the rest of the class in the gifts to Miss Molly. " I was gonna write about that too ya know," another added maybe feeling a little left out. Tomorrow I think I might just get more. After all, it is my un-birthday.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Routine is an incredibly important aspect of any early childhood classroom. Children thrive off of the security they feel when clear and consistent schedules are implemented. Knowing what comes next allows them to feel safe and in control of their environment. It helps them to focus on their current activity, finish it efficiently, and prepare for what they know will come next. In the larger picture, it allows those previously thought of as "rough" transitions carry on a whole new a steady flow that puts the whole class at ease.

For my Kindergartners, they know what comes next. So much that sometimes it feels like they're going on throughout their day ahead of me. We have those catch up moments where I'll have to bring to their attention, "Yes, you're right that's next, but not yet." This concept only proves their strong need for independence and their ability to flourish from it.

There are days when our schedule doesn't quite go as planned. I'm not talking about straying from lesson plans, but the daily routines that never change, like our welcome song. Today I got so busy trying to complete all the items on our morning agenda before the music teacher arrived, that I completely forgot to sing our welcome song. We went on with music class and the rest of our morning as scheduled, but those little tikes certainly didn't forget to sing the welcome song. I thought for a moment we could easily have a day without it, until I remembered the disaster it created last time. It threw off the entire pace of the day.

It's amazing what difference the lack of a one minute song made, so for their comfort (and my own sanity) I was sure to accomplish singing it as soon as they reminded me. It's a good thing to remember just how important routine is to these five-year-olds. I most likely wont be forgetting our welcome song anytime soon, but if I do, I can always count on my sprouts to remind me. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Successful Secret.

Today we did a written phonogram review of all 26 letters. It was an exciting experience to see the progression of writing that they've gone through since the start of the year. However, I noticed one small detail that many of my students continue to keep doing. They insist on writing their letters from bottom to top. We've gone over this many times, yet no matter how creative I get with the way we write them, they always have their own way of writing letters.

Since my previous techniques were not working out so well, I decided to try a new technique to hopefully get some better results than the ones that I was previously getting.

Before I continue, I must admit that this technique was largely inspired by Mr. Halpern, a fellow Kindergarten teacher, whose blog I simply admire. This idea came from one of his recent blogs, Secret.

(Back to my story...) "I have a secret to tell you," I whispered, "but you have to show me you really want to know first before I can continue." At this point they all got intently focused as they were more than determined to hear my secret.

"I know the secret, Miss Molly!" a friend shouted. He was right. I've told him it before, and I suppose he accepted that it really was a secret.

Now, the rest of the classmates were especially intent on knowing the secret, for they couldn't be left out!

"If you write your letters from top to bottom instead of bottom to top they will be straighter," I said enthusiastically. "If you don't believe me, then try it with our next letter L."

They got straight to work and before I knew it I heard all sorts of excitement, "It worked! It really worked Miss Molly!"

"Can I tell my mom?" a little voice asked.

"If you think she must know, then yes, I will allow it," I told her.

"How about my sister? She doesn't even know this one!" another added.

"How about you choose to keep it to yourself or share it. I'll leave it up to you."

"Ok, but I think she needs to know this one!"

Success! I am happy with the way this "secret" technique turned out. Hopefully I'll be seeing some straighter letters coming my way.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Compliment Jar.

"Get your hands ready! One, two, three *CLAP*."

This short little phrase inserted several times in the day makes a world of difference. It occurs right after I give a verbal compliment for something the whole class has worked hard to earn. Whether it's for good behavior or wonderful teamwork they all carry happy smiling faces as soon as I pull out that compliment (pom-pom).When the compliment drops in the jar, we clap once, and it's settled.

The second jar is to keep track of how far we have to go. As we watch one jar goes down, the other goes up. Meanwhile, excitement builds as we are that much closer to completing our jar full of compliments. The smile that each compliment puts on their sweet little faces could be enough of a reward, but to show further appreciation I have for them a special treat to work towards—Friendship Fruit Salad.

This salad is filled with different kinds of fruit, each symbolizing all the wonderful things we'd love to have in our classroom. Peaches, sharing, apples, listening, bananas, hard workers, marshmallows, kind words... etc. I brought it on the first day of school, and it has become one of those very special treats we look forward to having again. With about 20 more compliments left, we should be sharing this delightful treat within the next week or two. Yay!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Boogers For Breakfast.

"You don't scare me! I teach Kindergarten!" This t-shirt I find particularly awesome. I think I might just need it. It can be applied to moms and many other teachers, but there's just something about Kindergarten that I have a certain bias to.

Before I worked with children, many things would gross me out. I would have typically walked away from snot and throw-up, but being a Kindergarten teacher has taught me how to embrace these quite natural parts of life. I am not a mother, and I sincerely applaud all of you who are. I'm sure you've dealt with far worse, but at least I can say I've had my share.

Not out from the ordinary, but yesterday my sprouts and I caught a booger eater. Typically we would just have ignored this common occasion, but this day a conversation was started about it. I could tell the influence of all of the parents preventing their own booger eaters, because their comments reflected just that:

"That's dirty you know."

"Now you have to go wash your hands!"

"Yeah you are gonna spread germs!"

"It's OK, I do it all the time," she quickly defended herself.

Interested in her reasoning behind the matter I asked, "And why do you do it?"

"Because I get hungry OK?!"

Alright, that's funny, but boogers don't fill you up. Certainly it had to be a joke! "Are you serious?" I asked with a smile.

Her reply was no more than a straight face and simple "Yes."

Note to self: Remind parents to feed their children breakfast. ;)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Facing Your Feelings.

Feelings is one of those things that there is just no way getting around of. Everybody has them and whether good or bad, we all must learn to face them. For a Kindergartner, learning how to both process and respond to feelings, as well as deal with them appropriately becomes an especially difficult task, yet a vital part of their personal and social development.

It is my goal for the Kindergartners whom I have a large influence over, to be put in a secure enough environment where they know they can express their feelings freely without feeling put down. I want them to understand that everyone has feelings of sadness or even anger and that by expressing them we can together solve them appropriately.

During our first week of my newly implemented Team Time or class meetings, they were given an opportunity to express their feelings with the complete attention of their peers. I brought out my feelings faces chart, and as each of them held our Talking Monkey, they were able to share their I-statements in a safe environment.

Our structure for the I-statements goes something like:
“I feel____, because _____, and I wish _____."

When these tender sprouts would share with us a feeling in which they felt earlier, I noticed them starting to grasp empathy and how their actions truly affect others. Some of the feelings shared were expected, yet others came as a complete surprise. It was a unique discovery to see that the more outgoing ones in the class had already let everyone know how they felt, whereas the more reserved ones didn't feel bold enough until the Talking Monkey was in hand to express their feelings. That physical stuffed animal gave them a sense of ownership and allowed them to immediately have the respect of others as we listened intently.

It is delightful to find my sprouts learning how to cooperate and listen to each other in ways that they haven't before. It is obvious that an awareness of others is especially starting to take place, and resulting in a much more enjoyable classroom.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Developing Mutual Respect.

Last week I walked into Barnes & Noble Bookstore to kill time before my next appoiment. I walked in convincing myself I would not buy anything. With my general love for teaching and education it is hard to come across the areas of the store that apply to this subject without adding to the list of books I feel the urge to buy. First stop: Children's Books. I spent some time in this section smiling at all the books I'd love to have. When I left, I managed to avoid any books in hand. Next stop: Teaching & Education. I flipped through the pages of many books and wrote down titles of interest for later reads. Then I came to one that sparked a particular interest, "Positive Discipline In the Classroom." The subcaption reads, Developing mutual respect, cooperation, and responsibility in your classroom. Just what my class needs. Determining this book as a "need" rather than a great want, I purchased the book, and dove into its inspiring contents right away.

This week I have started implementing many of the techniques shared in this book and am already experiencing more than positive results. The book shares "Class Meetings" as one of the ways for students to have a say about their feelings and together solve problems of concern, but before you can jump right into these meetings they must have practice in communication skills. As an introductory to these brief meetings which I will call "Team Time," we sat in a circle together and practiced the basics of listening.

Each student had the chance to tell the class a story that they wanted to share. I first had them walk out of the classroom to come up with their story, while the rest of us came up with a plan that would exhibit poor listening skills. While the storyteller came in excited to have their turn holding our new "talking monkey" friend, we listened most intently. After three seconds we then did our poor listening action. Things we came up with were: covering our ears, talking to our friends, hiding under the table, walking away, turning our backs, closing our eyes, clapping our hands etc. I was surprised to see that even though each child knew that we would probably do something rude or distracting, they were stilll thrown when we did and felt sad. We all had the opportunity to share our feelings of how this made us feel, and then execute proper listening skills the second time around.

I don't expect listening skills to be mastered right away, but we will continue to practice, practice, practice and get better in time. We are taking small steps to developing a mutual respect in our classroom, but in the end will make a big difference.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Danny Dog Delivers Delicious Doughnuts.

It wasn't but a week ago that I wrote the blog "Back To The Basics." It was here that I shared one of my discoveries for the need to go back to some simple concepts that will help enhance their reading skills and strengthen their phonemic awareness. I have since then come up with new activities to build these skills and went back to some of the early fun ones that we stopped working on. While working on strengthening awareness of the initial consonant we brought back our alphabet alliterations. They remain up in my classroom all year under our alphabet line, yet somehow these fun little friends and phrases were forgotten.

While working with these alliterations and ultimately tongue twisters I decided to record on mp3 their hard work of practicing them. They had a blast repeating their one phrase was recorded at the point of near perfection and enjoyed learning each other's phrases to help friends out. Afterward, I did some editing to the track, so that listening to themselves stumbling over phrases would not frustrate them. I then let them hear their individual voices for this fun class track. They were in awe as they tried to guess every one's voices, and we ended up in all sorts of smiles and laughs. I have yet to stick it on a CD or my iPod for us to listen to during snack time, but I have no doubt they will be excited to hear their voices once more when I get around to that little surprise.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Busy Bees.

As humans, we are all seekers of personal independence. We want our voices to be heard and our opinions to be known. We desire to be self-governing beings who are not subjected to the control of others. We find it is a great thing to feel respected by others, and value feeling like important and useful members of society.

The need for gaining independence starts at a very young age. Children desperately seek to do everything themselves and have a need to be recognized for their successes. The phrase, "I did it!" does not run far from their lips. Although they still need guidance in the way they think and act, it becomes the responsibility of caretakers to nurture this need. This nurturing comes by teaching something that goes hand and hand with independence—responsibility.

To become independent one must first learn how to be responsible. Responsibility is not learned by having things done for you, but by having the opportunity to make the right choices. It is very important for eager doers to positively be thought of as capable. They are capable of making good choices and will often exceed expectations when their caretakers believe they can do it. If young people see themselves as the ones making choices, they're more likely to take responsibility for their choices. If they own up to the choice, they own up to responsibility.

I strive to allow my Kindergartners to develop this necessary tool through every area of planned curriculum and presented learning opportunities. I look to give them opportunities to develop responsibility and think for themselves. One of the ways I find success in this area is by giving them something to take ownership of. Each week my Kindergartners receive a classroom job from our “Busy Bees Job Board,” where they learn the importance of responsibility and self-worth. Taking pride in their job is what they love best because of the outcome given by the completion of their specific task. This simple poster brings so many special gifts to our classroom: responsibility, cooperation, and respect of eachother just to name a few, with added opportunity for growth in self-worth by feeling like important and valued members of our classroom.