Saturday, December 19, 2015

Giddy on Break

I am giddy. Yes, I believe giddy is the word.  I am on WINTER BREAK. The first few hours of break. So I thank Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday as I share five things that make me giddy with gratefulness.

Bloggin' Around the Christmas Tree!

1.  We had a MARVELOUS week in my classroom. It was full of magical things every day- like fairies and elves and reindeer... and place value, adding on, and even a couple of running record assessments. We were all giddy. My kidpeople were perfect. Well, not quite. But sorta. Kinda. They really are precious, aren't they??

We peaked in naughtiness on Tuesday. I was peeling them off the ceiling... walls... and floor all. day. long. I was using my grumpy voice and labeling it as such. This was TUESDAY! With three more days to go in the week.

My class of little elves– literally bouncing off the walls

As we are line up to go home, a couple of my kidpeople are in the habit of saying, "I'll miss you, Mrs. Wright." It's endearing and it warms my heart everyday, reminding me how truly wonderful kindergarten is. But do you know what I answered when one said that on Tuesday? "Well, I will not miss you. Or you. Or you. Or you, or you, or you... I will not miss any of you tonight." THAT got their attention. THAT is not Mrs. Wright's usual response. What happened to the hugs and high fives? Everyone pulled up short– those in the line, dallying to the line, and still stumbling around in the coat hall.

I continued. "This has been a poopy, grumpy day with very little learning. I had to say the same words over and over and over. I will not miss you tonight. I will go home and do a lot of resting and sleeping because this kind of day makes me tired. I want MY kidpeople back. My WELL BEHAVED and DOING THEIR PERSONAL BEST kidpeople. We have a lot to do this week, both learning and fun, and we aren't going to get to do this good stuff if this behavior continues. Can MY kidpeople come back tomorrow and for the rest of the week so we can learn and have fun and not. be. grumpy?"

And are you sitting down? It worked! Those words that just came out of my mouth, unplanned and very honest, worked. Somber little faces slunk out the door and the REAL kidpeople came back the next day. And the next. And the next! (Well, except for the one who plugged the sink and toilet in the bathroom during lunch with paper towel so that a big mess ran all over the floor. HE was not a REAL kidperson. He had a lot of apology letters to write, and he was busy writing them when other kids were doing new fun centers the next day. hmmm. Natural consequences suck.)

Anyway, on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, and Friday, one of my joyously wonderful kidpeople declared while lining up, "We had a BETTER day!!!!"  I agreed and told them how much I would miss them. Truly.

2.  I was giddy on my way to school yesterday. I took a cue from Kristen at A Teeny Tiny Teacher as to how she organizes a hot chocolate party. She puts everything the kids need in individual baggies so it's super simple to pass out and clear up– mini-marshmallows, candy cane, and cookie all go in each baggie. I asked PARENTS to make up baggies for us and supply cute cups, napkins, and hot chocolate (known simply as chocolate milk before it is heated). All I had to do was lug my crockpot... I mean, I wouldn't be a teacher on the last day before break if I wasn't lugging SOMEthing. And it worked beautifully. Not perfectly, but beautifully.

Here are the tips that will make it perfect next year. One. It takes a LONG time for cold chocolate milk to get hot in the crockpot. I mean even kindergarten hot, which isn't very hot. I put a gallon in my crock pot just before lunch, but after lunch AND music, I still only had luke chocolate (named after lukewarm, not Luke in the Bible). Even kindergartners can handle warmer than luke. It wasn't a problem as we simply watched the movie first then had the party treats after gym. Next year I will put the crockpot on at the start of the day.

And two. Ask your parents to UNWRAP the candy canes before putting them in the baggies. I knew from prior experience that kinder fingers have a hard time unwrapping those perfectly wrapped candy canes. I was frantically opening bags and unwrapping those babies while the kids were at gym. (Yes, those of you who are REALLY following along will have picked up I have TWO specials on Friday afternoons– music right after lunch, then gym toward the end of day. None in the morning. Yep, I think that is dumb. But I did not think it was dumb yesterday when I needed the time.)

Here are a couple of leftover baggies now in my kitchen so you see what they looked like. Leftover cookies. In the kitchen. I don't think anyone in the family saw me bring them in.... they'll never know...

LOOK at those cookies! Man, they were lovely and delicious. I was impressed. How can a working mom have time to make these cookies? Surely they were store bought. I asked the kiddo who brought them in if his mom baked the cookies and he gave an enthusiastic, 'YES... my mom is a good cookie baker." Dad was quite amused at pick-up time when I told him I was impressed with mom's cookie making abilities... apparently I should be impressed with her cookie purchasing abilities. Those kindergartners are not to be trusted with their stories.

3.  I was giddy on my way to school on Friday for another reason- I was in my PAJAMAS!  Our last day of school before break is Pajama Day and I LOVE pajama day... and not because it is the last day before break... well, not entirely. (I have been known to host another pajama day for just my class during Seuss week when we read The Sleep Book.) All year long I keep my eye open for pajamas that will be cute at school on pajama day.  I love the idea of rolling out of bed, skipping taking a shower then putting my PJs back on. My husband thinks I'm nuts, but he's just jealous... he even said so here on his post.

My daughter, home from college, was not giddy as she sat across the table from me at the restaurant last night and said, "Mom, are you wearing your PJs?" Or maybe it was more like, "MOM! You're wearing your PJs!!! In a restaurant!!!!" I ignored her. She, too, has worn her pajamas out in public. She attended the same school I teach at, for pity's sake. Shouldn't make any difference that she was a kid then and I am an adult now. We were in our favorite family-run restaurant and I'm sure there isn't much I can do in the name of teaching that would shock them... I am already known as the Queen of Laminate– half the time I'm there, because I sit and cut the latest laminated project.

4.  I was giddy to remember that I don't have to write a parent newsletter next week, but that I will send some favorite eCards through Blue Mountain. The kids love getting them. There are a variety of mini-animations and some that you can make talk so you can send an appropriate greeting to all your students no matter what their cultural backgrounds and faiths. I think it is fun to stay in touch with the small fry over this two week break. Click on the pic to check them out. $4 gives you as many as you want for a month, so you can do Happy New Years, too. I don't get any kickback to mention these guys. I just like them and am always looking for ways to connect with my families.

5.  And last, but not least, I am giddy to realize SIXTEEN days of break lie ahead of me, and sixteen days is HALF A MONTH! Doesn't that sound marvelous. Half a month. sigh. Thanks to my friend and colleague who pointed that out to me in an email that I found at three a.m, when I got up, not from worry, or sickness, but from giddiness. I can read my new Downtown Abbey book, or wrap some gifts, or have one of those leftover cookies... wait. I already did that. ANYway, I am up on a Friday night which is usually CRASH night and I can do anything... ANY FUN THING I want to do!!!!  Yippee! I love break!!!! I love teaching, but I love breaks more as well.

So I sign off now, giddy with thankfulness to be a teacher, a kindergarten teacher with great students, and a great break ahead. Both of my big kids will be home– one from the other side of the state and one from Seattle. It doesn't get better than that. What are you going to do with your time off??

Thanks for stopping by. I'm gonna be posting a bit more in the next sixteen days half a month so I hope you stop by again. Head on back to see what others are up to. You've got time. You're on break.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Quick. There's Still Time. Freebie!

I'm dashing quick to give you a freebie. I made copies today for my own students and as I did, it occurred to me that some of you might like this as a simple freebie.

It's a Count the Days of Winter Break "calendar" that your kids can use at home to count the days until they GET to come back to school... yes, one of the things I love about kindergarten is that some of my little buddies love to come to school so much they happily mark off each day so they see they are getting closer to school time again!

I have my kiddos simply number the days off, not reflecting the numbers on the December and January calendar. I of the kids write "Bye" on the last day before break, and "Hi" on the first day we'll be back.  If you prefer, you can have kids begin counting on the first day that break starts (Friday) with a one, and then count all the way until the day they start back (Monday). The downloadable freebie comes empty, without any numbers or words in the squares. Kids color in the sledding picture when they are finished, and yes, DH Jonathan did the little illustration.

Our district takes all our weeklong breaks as whole Monday thru Friday weeks. We are no longer allowed to take off from a Wednesday to a Wednesday, for instance. Because of this my calendar is set up to reflect two whole calendar weeks. I'm sorry I don't have versions that show the break starting and ending on other days of the week, but with good old white out and a ruler, you could make lines that reflect any days of the week you might have off.

The calendar is kind of amazing as it can work in two completely opposite ways– it helps the kiddos be patient through the loooong wait to go back, and it helps us teachers appreciate every day of break that WE STILL HAVE– snort! So whether you download it to share with your students, or simply keep it for yourself, I think it is a gotta-have. Hope you enjoy it and may it bring a purposeful fifteen minutes of peace and quiet to your class in an otherwise crazy last week. Click on the picture below to download.

I don't know about you, but I am WAAAAYYY busy this week. We have lots of special activities and craft projects, a party or two, and even a field trip... yes, sometimes I am a little nuts. I think I do it so I enjoy the well deserved vacation even a little more. Off I dash again– thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

This Week's Five

Hello Saturday! Thanks Kacey at Doodle Bugs Teaching for the Five for Friday linky. Here's five things from my teacher life this week.

1.   Here's an idea and a request. This year I have more than the usual number of students who struggle with fine motor movement. There are a slew of strategies to help kids develop fine muscles, but this week we did some of our centers UNDER the table... as in, writing on the table as if it were the ceiling. I had the kids put reading cushions down on the floor first to make it more comfortable and to give a boost to those with shorter arms. (No, I don't have T-Rex students... you know what I mean...)

Writing Under the Table– they LOVED it, especially the boys!

Writing this way gives kids great fine motor practice, but perhaps more important than that, it is fun. The joy of doing it gets even the most struggling writer excited about writing and drawing. As this was the first time I did it this year, I just gave them blank paper and markers.

I would like to do this more regularly with different kinds of writing and drawing activities, and this leads to my question- what is the easiest way to set it up, or let the kids set it up? I put masking tape loops on every corner of every sheet for the kids ahead of time. It worked, in that they could get it up there and it stayed, but it was such a long prep on my part. I have a couple of ideas floating around in my head but I want your tips before I begin. Anyone have ideas on how to streamline this process? Please share!

2. Another favorite activity this week was Twenty Clues. The kids arranged a few chairs as pairs, back-to-back– I love when the kiddos do the set-up, good for them and good for me. I put out picture cards upside down on a tray. Kids partnered up and then one chose a card. After peeking at the picture (they keep the card pressed to their belly to cut down on cheating) they came up with clues so their partner could guess.

Twenty Clues

Listening to the clues was hysterical very insightful. We have played this whole group several times, with me giving the clues, so they know the general idea. You see the complexity of giving good clues as you listen, though. Here are the clues one little guy gave for a picture of a semi-truck: It is black, it is big, it is round, it is fast... needless to say it was taking a while for his partner to guess. They both happily stayed at it, though. (I intervened with some prompts to give clues for what it is used for which is one of the most valuable sorts of clues.) The language practice is fantastic and even my ELL kids who have to work harder than the rest want to play it again and again. And they have to cooperate in order for it to work at all.

You can change this game to Twenty Questions, too, where the partner without the card asks the questions, but in my experience that is a harder version.  I have various picture cards with photos of all sorts of objects. I figure I'll print up small copies of pictures off the internet if we run out. Give it a try- bet your kids love it. And it's good for kids of all ages.

3.   My new business cards just arrived. Whoot! I have a couple conferences coming up and they'll be especially handy to have. I was very selective in the info I shared as I wanted them to be broad enough to cover my various roles in life. I wanted people to be able to contact me, of course, but I ended up limiting that to just my email and blog address. I considered printing front and back, but decided a blank back was handy for writing any notes I wanted to give a specific person. I didn't include my district as I would prefer people to contact me directly and not through work, and they can jot it on the card or email me if it is pertinent to them.

What do you think? It helps to have a husband who is also my designer. I love how it ties to the blog. And although Jonathan says that QR codes haven't caught on as well as they could, I decided to use QR code link to the blog as it allows anyone using a phone to just click instead of typing out the address. Do you have a business card? What do you include?

4.  I HOPE you all read this week's guest blog post done by none other than that same husband of mine. Between business cards and posts I've kept Jonathan pretty busy. This quick read will give you a grin and a chuckle!! Click on pic!

5.  And last but not least, I HOPE you'll read my review of a delightful new book, When a Dragon Moves In Again. It comes with a little freebie so you'll want to check it out by clicking.

All for now. Check out everybody else's favorite linky party to see what's up with them.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next time!

Dragons and Babies– a New Book Review

Don't you just love hearing about new books? I sure do. Today I share When a Dragon Moves In Again.  It's written by Jodi Moore and illustrated by Howard McWilliam. The folks at Flashlight Press gave me a reviewer's copy so I could spread the news, which I happily do!

This story is about a little boy whose imaginary dragon comes to stay with him right around the time the family is prepping for the arrival of a new baby. Our little protagonist has a slew of mixed emotions about becoming a big brother and it's very convenient to blame the dragon for some of his less-than-brotherly behaviors.

Things take a turn for the worse when the dragon, his dragon, takes up residence in the baby's crib! Did the dragon really switch sides? How can this come out okay in the end?

I loved the vivid illustrations that capture the full gamut of emotions in the book. McWilliam adds incredible detail in whimsical ways. I enjoyed every page, even the endpapers that let the story begin right in the front cover and go all the way to the back. The "oh, fancy endpapers!" were a big hit with the kidpeople, too. (I am kind of an endpaper nut, so my guys always check out the endpapers of books.) In the front of the book the endpapers show a scrapbook of the family before the baby is born, and then the scrapbook includes the baby at the back. Here's a peek.

You also see the dragon in previous shots at the front because this is not the first book in which our hero and his dragon appear, hence the title, When a Dragon Moves in AGAIN.  We first meet the boy and dragon in When a Dragon Moves In, which you should also take a peek at. It really is fun having an imaginary dragon friend.

Some of you might recognize McWilliam's illustration style from another book he illustrated and I reviewed last year– I Need My Monster. You can read my review of that book, which I LOVED, by clicking on the book cover below.

Another reason for adding this book to your collection is that it focuses on a topic very pertinent to the kindergarten classroom– the arrival of newborn siblings. Moore handles the complex and conflicting feelings that big brothers and sisters have about new babies in very true ways which all my kiddos could connect with, even those who don't have younger sibs.

I had been saving this book because a little guy in my class was expecting a new baby brother at Thanksgiving time. When my student got back from break and shared his news, I was ready. We read the book which lead us into a great discussion of how babies act and what they need in their habitat– we are all about habitats now that we just wrapped up our animal unit.

I then put a twist on the book's theme with my illustrator husband's help. I had Jonathan draw a baby dragon which I then copied in small size. All my kiddos drew a suitable habitat for their new baby, then added their cut out and colored baby dragon to the scene. They got to use glitter glue on the wings and a small piece of felt for a baby blanket. The kids just loved their babies. I also gave a writing prompt– What do you think is the best and worst part of having a new baby in the house? Their answers were great– with poopy diapers and kissing cheeks coming out the tops in each category. (I'm sorry I don't have photos of their work– my role as lead teacher pulled my out of the room several times this week and I missed my opportunity.)

I give When a Dragon Moves In Again five stars. I think you and your kids will enjoy it whether you have new babies arriving within your families or not.  And if you'd like the baby dragon to use as an extension, just click on him below for a downloadable freebie. To use him in different sizes you can print at a reduced size, or print him out in multiples per page so he comes out a smaller size.

One more thing to mention– Flashlight Press has a wonderful collection of children's picture books. You know how you just sort of resonate with some publisher's choices? Well, it's like that for me with Flashlight Press. I have purchased several of their books, and reviewed Maddi's Fridge, in addition to I Need My Monster. Not only are the books wonderful to look at, but their stories catch your attention and bring you in, and the content is also very in-line with what primary grade teachers want to teach and discuss with kids. Maddi's Fridge is one of those special kind of books that deals with real life problems in non-preachy ways. You can read my review by clicking.

Take a look at the rest of the Flashlight Press collection by clicking on their image here.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next time!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How to Know You Live with a Kindergarten Teacher

Today I have a guest blogger! My husband Jonathan takes over the keyboard to share his perspective...

You know you're married to a kindergarten teacher when...

... Parmesan containers, potato netbags, and paper towel rolls can never be thrown away without checking first.

... Her summers off entail a lot of new projects for you.

... There's a line on the family budget for picture books, even if you don't have children.

... You now remove boxtops and labels for education without even being aware you're doing it.

... She refers to "one of my moms" when she only has one.

... She always points out cute children in restaurants... and you sometimes need to restrain her from "stepping in" when they are being naughty.

... She is starting to lean to the right because she always has a school bag on her shoulder.

... You have become used to her celebrity status during "teacher sightings" when shopping... and the ecstatic reaction from the same child each time you round the corner of the grocery aisles.

... She says she's totally sick of testing, though that's all she talks about.

... She gets up extra early and puts in hours on the computer before she goes back to bed to stay home sick.

... No weekend is complete without a trip to school.

... Plans for dinner at home often get changed to "Let's eat out" by the end of the day.

... You actually know what IEP, RI, NWEA and Level C mean.

... Saturday errands consist of two things for home and five things for school.

... A dinner never goes by without a funny kid story.

... You have to check that she means your in-laws when she refers to "my parents"

... She often comes home later than you even though school gets out at 3:30.

... You never realized how important dollar stores were.

... You sometimes wish you could pull off going to work in pajamas or inside-out clothes like she does.

Thanks, Dear. Remember, real men marry kindergarten teachers!

Is there a kindergarten husband in your life? Give him a big grateful hug– sometimes we couldn't do it without them!

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