Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ready! Action! Day One!

It is difficult to believe.. it is IMPOSSIBLE to believe that the first day of KINDERGARTEN for many of you is only 2 days away!  It's still summer! It's hot outside and the days are still long!  Children are not ready to start school! TEACHERS are not ready to start school! Isn't that why AUTUMN was invented? Doesn't fall HERALD the beginning of school?

With only 2 days remaining, you have very little time to sleep, eat, chat, or catch your breath, let alone READ a blog! With that in mind, I want to TOSS OUT a few IDEAS for the first day that are not essential but just plain CUTE.

For the last decade, my first day of kindergarten begins with the story, The Kissing Hand. I am fortunate that the parents STAY with their children during the first hour, as it is ESSENTIAL to read this story when the CHILD and the PARENT are TOGETHER! After reading the story to the children and the parents, I quickly share an endearing personal story with everyone...

One morning, many years ago, I was leaving on a business trip to present several seminars in the Midwest.   My oldest son, Brian, a senior in high school, was backing the car out of the garage, and my son, Justin, a high school freshman, was in the passenger seat.

As I stood in the middle of the garage waving good-by, my eyes filled with tears, and in a quivering voice I shouted, 

"I'll miss you both so much! I love you 
to the moon and back!" 

Then something magical happened: Brian turned off the engine and jumped out of the car. My "all grown up", high school senior, ran to me, gently opened my hand, and KISSED  the center of my palm. He curled my fingers around the kiss, and said, "Mom, whenever you're feeling alone and missing us, press your hand against your cheek and remember how much we love you!" Then he jumped back in the car and took off for school!

To tell you that I was STUNNED does not begin to describe my emotions. Did my 18 year old son, just give me a "kissing hand?" Tears filled my eyes and ran down my cheeks as the love in my heart was overflowing. 

Honestly, as I'm sharing my story, most of the parents in the room, including the dads, have tears in their eyes.  But  then I exclaim, "Hey brand-new kindergartners,  give mom and dad a "KISSING HAND" and hurry back to the rug for a special TREAT!"

As I'm saying this to everyone, I'm holding a huge container of chocolate kisses ...  that I can only share when all the parents are GONE
The most difficult and emotional day of the school year is OVER! Now, I just need a WEEK OFF to get ready for DAY TWO! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Classroom Fairy

Surprise! Your room is ready for the first day of school!

Oh my!  What a trick it would be if we could open our classroom doors and walk into a "ready-made" room! The bulletin boards would be bright and colorful, the tables and chairs would be organized, the books would be neatly stacked on the shelves, and our teacher desks would be cheery and color coordinated! 

The room environment would be PERFECT, and we could begin to think about CURRICULUM and TEACHING STRATEGIES! Just think of all the TIME we would save!

BUT, we all know it's not going to happen! The CLASSROOM FAIRY is not going to wave her magic wand and make our classrooms ready to go!

And,  if you're like so many other kindergarten teachers, you want the "cutest" room ever! Perhaps you even have a color or classroom theme that you can't wait to show off!  You've been buying lime green and turquoise paper, chevron borders, and striped baskets, for the last few weeks! 

You are ready to create a masterpiece with or without a fairy to help!

But, wait a moment ..I would love to be your cyber WINGLESS FAIRY and offer you a few suggestions:

Go EASY on yourself! Keep in mind that as much as you may WISH that your room looked like the ones you see on pinterest boards, the fancy touches do NOT make a quantitative difference in the academic growth of your students.  

Kindergarten room environments should meet the NEEDS of your young students. They should be bright and colorful, but not over stimulating and busy.  Your little ones should have access to the majority of the materials and be able to INTERACT with TEXT on walls, posters, sight words, BIG BOOKS, and phonics materials. 

Although it is not always possible,the text should be LOW enough for kids to see it, touch it, and read it.  

Every year, for the last two decades, the characters from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, by Bill Martin, are on my wall.  The characters were created years ago, so the NEW KIDS have nothing to do with the creation of these characters. Does this mean that they have less ownership of the wall?  No way! Don't we all love a good chocolate chip cookie, regardless of whether we baked it or mom baked it?

My kids love interacting with this WALL STORY and I love TEACHING many of the kindergarten foundational skills from CCSS ...  beginning on day one!

Brown Bear Interactive Story Wall

After reading the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, by Bill Martin, I use the wall to model READING! I want my kids to see what REAL reading looks like.  Using the classroom reading wand, we practice reading from left to right and touching EACH word. (CCSS: word awareness) We also talk about "characters", sequencing, colors, before and after, letter recognition and letter sounds. By painting the title (later in the year, the kids will paint the titles) we can practice touching each word with the big reading wand! 

This interactive WALL STORY remains up for the first month of school. We "PLAY" with it EVERY day in whole group, small group, individual instruction, and especially during the kids CHOICE TIME. Everyone wants to "practice" reading the wall!  There is always a flurry of excitement happening around the wall. I can hear kids exclaiming, "My turn to read! Watch me, Mrs. Kane. I can really do it!"

And in reality, isn't this exactly what we want to happen in our classrooms? Kids choosing to practice reading while modeling concepts of print for their peers?

Maybe the CLASSROOM FAIRY left a little MAGIC after all!

Saturday, August 2, 2014


If you're anything like me, the anticipation of the first day of kinder, is beginning to keep you awake at night, and consume your thoughts during the day!

How will you ever be ready in time! What needs to be done for the first day and what can wait until the following week!

What materials do I need for the kids to survive, but more importantly what materials do I need for me to survive?  

After 38 years of teaching, you would think that I would be calm and have everything ready for a great first day! But I never do! Not once, not ever!

I'm so nervous on the first day of school, that  just before I open the door to meet the new kids, I'm feeling queasy and a little bit light-headed. 

Let's face it, over the years there's been a variety of precious children walk through my door. If I had to pick the most challenging, it would be the screamers and the extra loud criers. There have been times when I can't hear myself talking over the screams! 

And then, there's the year that one little boy ran home during recess but I never even noticed. Mom brought him back and told me to keep a better eye on him!  Are you kidding me, with 33 little kids, I wish he had taken a friend home with him! I would have been down to 31!

But, the most heart breaking .. are the little ones that come on the bus, on the first day, ALONE. No mommy, no siblings, no english. Just a tiny name tag with a name. One year, a little boy with a "Luis" name tag walked through the door. I tried to get his attention all day, but he never responded.  I discovered later that he's never been called Luis in his short life. He's Jorge. But mommy thought she should write his "BIRTH" name on the tag. 

And every year, there's usually one parent that CRIES as she's SQUEEZING her little one IN A DEATH GRIP, and telling her that everything will be all right. "Mommy loves you so much! I know you can be a big girl and stay here ALONE. I'll be back when YOUR TIME is over!"

So is it any wonder, that I'm a nervous wreck just before I open the door and see the whites of their eyes!  The lyrics from Disney's Aladdin sums it up, " It's a brand new world just waiting to happen..."


And just when everything is seemingly PERFECT, we say GOOD-BYE... until the new year begins again ..IN JUST A FEW WEEKS!
This is my First Day of Kindergarten Letter! My Countdown to Kindergarten packet on TPT has more ideas!