Saturday, January 31, 2015

For the LOVE of February

As teachers of young children have you ever wondered why February has so many special days considering it is the shortest month of the year!  I’m not complaining, but there’s even two holidays in the month of love! All together February 2015 will have only eighteen school days but at least four “special” days: Groundhog’s Day, 100th Day of School ( for some ) Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, and Valentine’s Day! Whew! No wonder it’s my favorite month! 

Each month, my kindergarten kids make a “cute” calendar to display at home. Last month the calendar was a mug of hot chocolate with real marshmallows. This month it’s a Teddy Bear holding a huge heart. With each calendar, I send a note to the parents asking them to help with basic standards, such as reciting the days in a week, months in the year, and recognizing numbers to 30, 40, and beyond. These are important skills to practice, but what I enjoy more is the feedback that I receive from the parents:

“My child loves bringing home the calendar each month! We have a special place that we hang it and cross off the date each day. When the end of the month gets closer, we start predicting what next month’s calendar will be! “

Another parent mentioned that she saves the calendars from year to year and uses them for decorations. If I’ve taught siblings in the family, then there are two calendars side by side!

Here’s a peek at February’s Teddy Bear:

 February Calendar for Kindergarten

A few months ago, I started making the calendar markers for the month too. It’s fun to have it all prepared before February arrives!

I hope your February will be filled with LOVE and many BLESSINGS!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Groundhog Day

We all know that young children love making predictions. It gives them a sense of empowerment and challenges them to make connections between events, facts, or stories. If the prediction happens to be correct, their sense of accomplishment is heightened. 

If you watch a young child making a prediction, it’s as if you can actually ‘see’ the gears in his brain engaging! Predictions encourage children to ‘think about’ and analyze stories or situations. It is a powerful tool that activates new synaptic connections at any age. 

All teachers encourage children to make predictions and back up their opinions. You will often hear a teacher in a primary classroom asking, “Why”, countless times in a day to check for understanding and analysis.

As educators, we know that the human brain “turns on” when it feels challenged but “turns off” when it feels threatened. Good teachers attempt to create activities and lessons that stimulate the human brain without shutting it down. Often times there is a fine line between the two that teachers struggle to determine.

One of my favorite writing samples from the last 3 decades is from a Sunday school teacher: She asked her class to write a few sentences explaining why we celebrate Easter. One little boy wrote: “This is why we celebrate Easter because Jesus came up from his grave and if he sees his shadow he will go back in!”  Do you see ‘why’ it is so important to ask “WHY?”

Groundhog Day offers the primary teacher opportunities to engage their students in predictions, surveys, research, and graphing, just to name a few. My kids love to predict if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow on February 2. I’ve included a FREEBIE for you to create a classroom graph showing your kid’s predictions as well. 

I also have a Groundhog Day product in my TPT store with poems and pictures that you might enjoy.

As I live in SO CA and we need RAIN, I hope Phil WILL see his shadow and we can have 6 more weeks of winter! I’m sure that’s NOT the desired outcome for teachers in other states!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The 100th Day of School Celebration

The Big Day is finally here and it’s time to CELEBRATE! 

Over the past 3 decades, I’ve created, modified, and recreated my 100th Day of School activities. As I grew older.. I meant to say .. wiser, my 100th Day of School Celebration evolved into a well organized and exciting time for my fabulous kids! 

There is one caveat however! I ask six parent helpers to help with the celebration, or if I don’t have enough parents than I ask 6th grade students to help with the day. (They love to help!) 

You can see the 6 tables in the picture.
I create 6 teams of 5 students each, as I have 30 students. 
There are 6 activities created for the day:
   1. 100TH DAY COLLECTIONS     2. 100TH DAY MUNCH     
    3. 100TH DAY NECKLACE     4. 100TH DAY TALLY MARK RACE                5.100TH DAY SELF PORTRAIT       6. 100TH DAY HATS 

The children always stay at the same table with the same parent helper. Important note: The teacher (me) does not have a team. I am always FREE to take pictures or help with any issues. I love it!  

Each TEAM completes activity one, then waits until I give the signal to begin activity two.  By not having rotations, I can control the allotted time for each activity by observing the teams. If an activity is taking too long, I tell the parent helper to speed up the team, or if the activity is going too fast, I help the parent helper to slow down the team. When all the students have finished an activity, we take a 2 minute break and sing and dance, “The 100th Day of School” song, and then begin the next activity.

I also give points to the teams throughout the day for ANYTHING! I just want them to feel like a team and earning points is always a good motivator! I make tally marks on the board so everyone can see the points.

I also lay colored butcher paper on each table according to the team’s color. If a child should complete a task early, she/he may draw a picture on the butcher paper.

There are lots of wonderful 100th Day of School books to choose from, but my all time favorite is: Mr. Wolf’s Pancakes, by Jan Fearnley. 

I’m sure my activities and stories are similar to the same ones that you implement in your classroom. If you are interested in viewing more of the activities in my 100th Day of School Celebration Unit, you may go to my TPT store: Kindergarten with Susie.The 100th Day of School is one of my favorite units and one that my kids remember fondly too!

I would like to give away 2 of my 100th Day of School products! But … I am so new to social media that I’m not even sure I’m doing this correctly! If you will leave me a comment and your email, I will pick 2 winners on Tuesday evening. For all of you wonderful social media wizards and incredible teachers, my warmest thanks for your efforts to support me! You can’t imagine how much I appreciate your kind words and knowledge.