Saturday, September 26, 2015

Five for Friday on Saturday

Well I survived the first six weeks of school. Unfortunately, my blog did not. But I took some pictures this week and my sweet girl is sleeping so I thought I would share a few things from the week. I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her weekly party.

1. This week was all about pets. We used Jennifer at First Grade Blue Skies Directed Drawing pack to draw pictures of dogs on Friday. I think they turned out great. This is a great pack if you haven't checked it out. The week before we did dinosaur but I forgot to take any pictures. We have been working on the sight words I, like, and the and writing sentences with spaces. So we wrote a sentence together to put on the picture.

2. Since we were talking pets and my husband is a veterinarian, he came to talk to the kids. He brought a few animals for them to check out too. It was great. They got to pet a dog, see the cat Martha and the parakeet Beaker. The kids really enjoyed it and bragging on my hubby he does a great job with the kids.

3.  This week the kids got to do a science lesson on germs with our eighth grade students. I teach in a K-8 school. I love the opportunities that can be created for students. The eighth grade science teacher is a former primary teacher and her daughter is in Kindergarten this year. So she asked k-2 teachers if they wanted to participate. It was fun and the 8th graders did a great job. They used glitter and lotion to show the spread of germs. Then they colored their own germ and pledged to wash their hands. I think the plan is to try to do these lessons once a month. 
4. This picture of our door is from a week or two ago. We had our book fair and the theme was monsters. So since my class theme is superheroes I went with The Hulk. Well actually my husband went with the Hulk. He made the door for us. I'm all about kids making stuff like this but I just couldn't handle it at this point in the school year. I had too much going on. I did let them color books.

 5. So I have been on the GoNoodle bandwagon for a while. But I was on maternity leave last year when Pop See Ko was released so this past few weeks have been my first pop see ko experience. The kids love it and I love anything that gets their energy out. We are crazy about GoNoodle!

I'm going to leave you with an extra picture of my sweet girl. I took a selfie of us yesterday before I went to school and she went to a friend of ours. She stays with some friends on Fridays. She loves it because she gets to hang out with her bestie. My friend has 3 girls and the youngest is 2 months younger than Sus.

Hopefully I'll be back again to share some more about what we are doing in the classroom. I would love to know what you are doing. So be sure to check out the linky party at Doodle Bugs!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Non Worksheet Morning Work

Hi guys! I am so excited about getting back to blogging. I'm excited to share some good ideas and strategies with you as we near school starting. School starts in one month for me. I'm so not ready to leave my baby but I'm excited about a new start. Speaking of new things to be excited about, have you checked out periscope? It is so much fun chatting with other teachers on this great new platform. I've only gone live once but I'm planning to do another one tomorrow. I just haven't decided on my topic. I'm thinking either something related to books or something related to technology. What would you like to see? You can check me out at Ms. Kerri's Krazy Klass on periscope.
I have been doing some thinking and reading about early childhood education. I read a post the other day from Pre-K pages about worksheets in the early childhood classroom. I tend to think that the more hands on we can be with kids at this age the better they are. In fact we all probably learn better when we are hands on. I definitely learn more by doing. I've been wanting to read the book Worksheets don't grow dendrites since I saw the book study earlier this year. But I was knee deep in mommy hood and not thinking about school at the time. It is on my wishlist on Amazon (Maybe I'll get a good deal on it on their big sale tomorrow). But until then, I'm examining my own teaching practices. I think there is a time and a place for a worksheet and since TPT I'm finding a lot better resources.  But I'm rethinking my approach to morning work.

My kids can start coming into my room at 7:50 and the bell rings at 8:00. After the bell rings, we have announcements, the pledge and such. It takes me a few minutes after those announcements to get started with my day. I need to take attendance and do the lunch count. So I need something engaging for my students to be doing during this time.  On the first day of school, I have always had the kids play with play doh. It is open ended and gives me a chance to talk to parents if needed. But after that, I have had the kids do a coloring sheet. I'll admit that this is what the other teachers do and I didn't really question the practice. Last time I was in Kindergarten I changed this some. I had the kids do a phonics sheet on our letter or words for the week. I feel like this was a better use of our time rather than a coloring sheet. But I've changed my mind. There is nothing engaging about a worksheet period. I want to come up with some better activities for my students. I asked some of my kindergarten teacher friends and they had some good suggestions.
What I am thinking is that I will have a different activity each day. Like on Mondays we do play doh, Tuesdays will be all about math, Wednesdays will be all about writing, Thursdays could be for name practice, Fridays for puzzles and fine motor. I want it to be pretty easy for me but I know for that to happen I have to do some planning. I think having a theme for the day will help some. I think at first it will be a lot of exploration and then as kids get more experience with school and the activities we do, the work will be a little more challenging. Another thing I'm thinking is to let one group of kids each day use our iPads and iPods. This could be a rotation.
I've started pinning some ideas. You can check out that pinterest board out here.
I would love to know what you have your kids do when they come into the classroom. Please leave a comment and let me know. (This reminds me of my great great Aunt Jenny. She would call companies on their 1-800 numbers on the back of their products. She always said, "They love to hear from you.") I would love to hear from you!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Five for Friday

I can't believe it is already this far into July. School will be starting in a little over a month. I have such mixed feelings about it all. There is a part of me that is excited for a new school year and getting back into working again. But then I know I'm going to miss my sweet girl more than I can imagine. She has been my companion for the past 6 months. I have only left her a few times. (She wouldn't take a bottle so that didn't help out at all) We are trying to figure out childcare and that has been a nightmare. I just have to trust that it will all work out. I'm linking up this week with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching for her weekly party.

1. I finally made it to Target not just once but twice now. The closest target is about an hour and half away so I alway enjoy when I can get to the dollar spot. I got some pretty good things. Here's my haul:

The dollar spot is my go to for name tags. I try to stock up on them when they have them. Then I don't have to worry about throughout the school year. I also found some puzzles and board books.

2. My sweet girl has started sitting up from the floor on her own now. We need to get on the baby proofing soon. She'll be crawling before I know it.

3. Sunday I posted a linky party all about advice for teacher mamas. It is open until the end of the month I would love for you link up with your advice. I'm so nervous about trying to balance it all.  Head over and leave your advice or add your link. 

4. I have been working on a color unit for about 2 weeks now. I'm still not done but I'm so excited about it. I took the things that I do each year with colors and turned into an awesome unit. There are play doh mats, books, and crafts to go with each color. Hopefully I'll get it finished this week. When you are trying to get everything done in a small amount of time (nap time), you do what you can.
5.  I read a couple of middle grade books this past week that I really enjoyed. They were Wonder and Mockingbird. I have seen Wonder on other older grade blogs, but this was the first time I read it. They both were great for giving an insight into how kids are different are treated. The main character in Mockingbird has Asbergers and it offered a unique perspective on how our kids see the world.

I am brainstorming a new series for my blog called "In my class" where I write about how I teach different concepts in the classroom. Some ideas that I have are phonics, sight words, centers/reading groups, morning meeting/calendar, and behavior management. Anything else you would like to read about?
So that's all for me this week! I'm so excited, my mom, sister, niece, sweet girl, and I are going to the farmer's market in the morning. I can't wait. There is a local dairy that I follow on Instagram that posts all this yummy goodness I can't wait to try.
By the way, do you follow me on instagram. You should. I post more about my personal life, teaching, reading, and such. Check me out here.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Advice for Teacher Mommas Linky

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I've been out on maternity leave since Christmas break. My beautiful little girl was born in January and I took the spring semester off of school. I am so glad that we were able to do that. It wasn't easy and we've had to sacrifice some but it has been well worth it. I have loved my time at home. But I'm starting to look forward to going back to school. There are days where I could really use some adult interaction (not sure how much of that I'll get teaching kindergarten.) I am also really scared about going back to school. I have always worked really hard at teaching and pour myself into it. I didn't really worry about what time I left school and worked however long I needed to. But my life is completely different now that I have this sweet girl.
I am terrified that I won't be able to be a good teacher and a good mama. But I know there are lots of great teacher Mamas out there who are doing both. I started thinking I probably wasn't the only one who was worried about trying to do it all. So I thought I would start a party to share some tips and advice. I would love for you to link up with your best tips and advice for moms who are also teachers.

I wish I had some advice but I'm hoping to get some good tips. I know that I will struggle the first 6 weeks of kindergarten trying to manage the difficulties of kindergarten and having a 7 month old. Especially one that isn't sleeping through the night. So here are some of my concerns (Maybe that will give you an idea or two for some advice.):

  • How to get it all done without staying really late?
  • Balancing being a wife, mom, teacher, blogger, and creator
  • Breastfeeding/pumping tips - I've been breastfeeding from the beginning and I really want to make it a year. But I'm so worried that my supply is going to suffer. My sweet girl refused a bottle so I  have a love/hate relationship with the pump. I dumped so much milk it makes me sick. But thankfully she will take a sippy cup now. So any tips for pumping at work?
  • Creating engaging and meaningful lessons for students without my family time suffering.
  • Being present as a teacher and being present at family time
  • Leaving school at school and turning off my worries (this one is probably wishful thinking)
Those are some of my concerns. I would love for you to link up with your advice and suggestions. If you don't have a blog, you can still participate by leaving comments with your advice. Come join the party. I'm open and ready to hear some great advice. Grab the images, add your advice and link up. Be sure to include a link back to this post so we can read all the advice.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dice Games for Math and Freebies

I have been wanting to link up with my Bloggy BFF Laura at Kinder Kraziness for her Math Monday party for a couple of weeks. But as I'm learning life with a baby doesn't always let me do these things. But she's still sleeping, so I'm taking advantage.
I think I'm a pretty good reading teacher but I feel like my math instruction can always use some work. I love the workshop format that Deanna Jump and DeeDee Wills have set up in their Guided math units. But I don't always follow that format. One of my goals for this coming up school year is to make my math a little more workshop like. Our math series for the past 4 years or so has been Envisions and it wasn't the greatest. But we're getting a new series this Fall so I'm interested to see what it is like. I've always supplemented my instruction with activities that I've created or found on TPT. One of my favorite things to do is incorporate games into my lesson. The kids have a blast and they don't even realize they are learning. Plus once we play the games a few times in class, I move the games into their math center. I would love to say I use Math Workstations but I have never been able to get that to work for me. So as part of my center time, I have two math centers the kids work on. There are lots of different games that we play but today I'm going to focus on dice games.
I almost always start the year off with a roll and cover game. They are pretty easy for kindergartners to learn how to play and they can be differentiated pretty easily.
The beginnign of kindergarten I like to focus on Pete the Cat and Jennifer Knopf from Herding Kats in Kindergarten has a roll and cover that I use. You can check it out here. I also like roll and color which is the same concept just you color the picture instead of cover it. I have one of these in my newest math pack Sweet Treats.

 I tried it with my niece today and she had a lot of fun. 

I found a freebie I posted some time a while back of a roll and cover with a pet theme. You can get it here.  It is simple but it gets the job done.
Another dice game that I love is Bump. The kids love this one too. They can practice their numbers and they have the opportunity to bump their friends off of places. I made a freebie for you that I'll be using the beginning of the year with a blue cat theme. Sophie and I tried it out today and she had a blast playing it.

I try to include some kind of dice game in any unit I create for math. Another one that has dice games is Growing A Garden of Math Activities. There is a bump game in this unit for spring or a plant theme. 

Last year in first grade, I bought Just Add Dice Math Games Bundle from Jennifer at First Grade Blue Skies. I loved this bundle. I could find a game for any first grade skill I was looking for and there was a theme for anything.  This became one of my favorite resources to use through out the year. 
My friend Kristen and Kristen's Kindergarten had a post all about dice games as well. So be sure to check her post out. 

Hopefully I'll be back again next Monday to talk about some more Math games that I use. But meanwhile check out the party at Kinder Kraziness and see what others are doing in math. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Teacher Story And the lessons learned

This year I start my 12th year teaching and have felt like maybe I was at a crossroads with teaching. I have been on maternity leave since Christmas break. I love being home with my daughter and thought maybe it was time to say goodbye to teaching. But after a lot of praying and studying, I am returning the classroom. It isn't possible financially for me to stay at home but more than that I still have work to do as a teacher. A few months ago, I was participating in a Bible study on the book What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst. Through this study I knew that God was still calling me to be a teacher. I feel pretty strongly that teaching is a calling from God. Part of why I was thinking of leaving teaching was because of all the difficulties we are facing in the classroom these days. My class size and responsibilities are growing. My freedom to really teach is slowly being taken away. I left in December feeling pretty beaten down. Of course the pregnancy hormones probably played a big role in that. I am participating in another Bible study from Proverbs 31 ministries and this morning my reading got me thinking about my journey as a teacher. The things I have been through that have led me to where I am now. I thought I would share and maybe it would encourage a new teacher or remind a veteran teacher of what it was like to be a new teacher. So here is my teaching story. It is a long story so grab a coffee and settle in.

I went to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The teaching program at UT is a five year program. You major in something else besides teaching and then complete an extra year getting your masters and doing your student teaching. I student taught in first grade and learned a lot. I learned a lot about school culture because we started on the first inservice day and ended on the last inservice day. I learned about needing a best teaching partner and about not eating in the teachers' lounge. I learned about trying to do what was best for our students and what was required of us. But it still didn't prepare me for my own classroom.
I decided that I was moving to Nashville after I finished my masters classes. Several of my friends lived there and my extended family was there. I got an early contract saying that I would have a  job come August. I remember my first interview just like it was yesterday. My mom and I got up early and drove to Nashville so I could interview at this middle school for a job that I knew I didn't want. But I was too scared to say no to an interview. I was offered the job but declined it because I knew middle school teacher wasn't for me. Eventually I returned to Nashville over the fourth of July and interviewed at a couple of other schools. By this time I had a lease on an apartment and was excited to interview at a fairly new school not too far from my house. I was interviewing for a first grade position which seemed perfect since I had done my student teaching in first grade. I returned home without knowing whether I had gotten this job or not. A few days later the principal called me and said she was in Knoxville, could I meet her to discuss a different position. We met at Macalisters on the strip and she offered me a third grade ELL position. I had no idea what she was talking about but I liked the idea of being at a fairly new school near my house. So I accepted the position. The first time I went to see my classroom I was so disappointed. Here I was in this school that was only a few years old and I was in a portable. And it was a disgusting portable. And it was no where near any of the other third grade teachers. They were all inside on the second floor. I was smack in the middle of fourth grade. But I made that room as homey as I could. This was before Teachers Pay Teachers and creating my own classroom materials. I quickly found the closest teacher supply store and found things to make the room better. This first year was definitely a learning experience. Being an ELL teacher, I had a self contained classroom of third graders who English was not their first language. I was suppose to have a small class. But instead I had 21 students. 3 spoke no English at all. 19 of them were boys. I was in way over my head.
This is me on the first parent night ever. I was so nervous and really had no idea what I was doing. While I thought this was the hardest thing I would ever have to do at the time, looking back on it I have such fond memories of this first class. My grandmother would come in once or twice a week and work with my kids that didn't know much English. I made great teacher friends who I could cry with and grade papers with and plan with. My best teaching memory from this year was a student who came in not knowing any English and being terrified. He would meltdown and refuse to move like a preschooler regularly. But I learned that he had just come into the country to live with his mom who was living with an abusive boyfriend. We worked through all that and at the end of the year he stood up and read a three paragraph paper about his favorite things in third grade. That is one of those moments I hang on to when teaching gets hard and I feel discouraged. Here's another picture of me that first year and my lovely room. 

The next year I was moved into the school building with the other third grade teachers. My best teaching friend and I planned together a lot. I had so much freedom with what I was teaching and I loved it. If there had been teacher blogs and TPT then, I would have been all over them. I was open to anything new. This picture is of the girls in my class and me dressed as Junie B. Jones. 

A new school was built down the road that was opening the next year and some of the students from our school were being moved to this new school. That meant some of the teachers would have to leave too. My principal that I worked for was not always on the up and up with us. In fact, we were a pretty tight staff because we had to stick together. She wouldn't tell me if I was the last one hired or not. So when the principal at the new school contacted me to interview for the third grade ELL position, I jumped on it. She was your dream principal and I ended up taking the job at this brand new school. The school wasn't finished until the week of inservice. The school wasn't even approved for kids until 7 am the first day of school. It was such a cool experience getting to start a new school. I loved it. I loved my principal and assistant principal and I loved my teammates. But I started to miss my home in East Tennessee. So at the end of this school year, I packed my stuff up and headed home. In case you are counting, this would be the fourth time I packed up my classroom and moved to a new one. Thanks to my aunt and uncle and then my dad. 
Now when I moved back home I had no job just some connections. I also had no apartment. I was moving back in with my parents who didn't really have room for me anymore. My sister had just graduated college and was living back at home too until she got married in May. But I felt like this was where I was suppose to be. I went to a job fair for the county and was basically told they couldn't hire anyone anytime soon. I left and cried. I had left a job I loved and tenure to come home to hear there are no jobs. I was told not to worry about it that there were jobs and come July they would be hiring. And that was right. In July I got a couple of calls for interviews. I ended up interviewing at my old elementary school that was down the street from my parents for a kindergarten/first grade looping job. I really didn't know anything about kindergarten but accepted the job when it was offered. I spent the remainder of the summer reading about kindergarten. I was so excited to start my new job but terrified. My sister helped me get my room ready and I met a new teaching friend who was also new to teaching and new to kindergarten. I love my school that I teach at now. I've been there for going on 9 years now. But that first year was hard. There hadn't been very many new young teachers in a while and there was a lot we had to figure out on our own. We did a lot of things wrong because we were told wrong or because we weren't told the right thing to do. 
My first day of school as a kindergarten teacher was a blur. The only thing I can distinctly remember is the student who was crying and singing "If you're happy and you know it." 
Remember how I said my first year teaching was the hardest thing I ever thought I would have to do. I was so wrong. My first 6 weeks in kindergarten was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Part of it is just how kindergarten is. The first six weeks is the hardest but a lot of what made my experience so hard could have been prevented. 
I truly had no idea what to do with kindergartners. I had zero experience as a kindergarten teacher and how much they didn't know. I'm also not the smiley, warm and fuzzy type. I love my kids but it takes a lot of effort on my part to be smiley and upbeat. I live in a small community and it didn't take long before some parents were complaining about me. (In fact, I had a parent call and complain on the first day of school because I wouldn't let her son play with the counting bears. Of course the fact that he was throwing them at other students wasn't mentioned at all)  I was struggling and I was mad at myself for struggling so much. I am an overachiever and I'm use to succeeding and I was drowning. In the middle of the day, I got called to the principal's office for a meeting with my principal, assistant principal and the teacher next door (Who I had known since I was in 7th grade). This caught me off guard as they told me that parents were concerned that I wasn't warm and fuzzy enough for kindergarten. Of course I cried and really didn't know what to do. I was prepared to fix my teaching but how do you fix your personality. Luckily, it wasn't just a meeting to tell me what I was doing wrong, they had some ideas to help me connect with the parents better . I was crushed though. I went home and cried to my dad and really didn't know what to do. I'm so thankful that I have parents who believe in me and a dad that knew that I just needed to cry. (As I write this, I still cry a little over it.) 
The assistant principal set up a visit at another school for me so I could get some help. It helped a lot to visit this other classroom and in another school where my troubles weren't so widely known. I also held an open house and took the opportunity to interact with the parents in my class in a less stressful environment. But the damage had been done. I really doubted myself and probably still do doubt myself as a kindergarten teacher because of this. I was also told by someone from central office that I didn't have the personality of a kindergarten teacher when he came to observe me. He had nothing negative to say about my lesson. But thought I wasn't warm and fuzzy enough with the kids by not letting them talk to me during the lesson about whatever they wanted. My opinion then and now is that during teaching time is not a time to share and let students hang all over me. If you wanted to see how I interact with the kids like that, come during recess or free center time. Those are the times when the kids come and talk to me and tell me what is going on with them. 
This class was the most difficult class I have ever had. They continue to be a difficult class and teachers in other grades can't believe the mix of kids I had for two years because I looped with them. But I learned a lot those two years and am a much better teacher because of it. But I believe some of this could have been prevented. Here's what I hope you take from my story:

- Reach out to new teachers in your grade and in your building. I have made an effort to do this since I had this experience. If someone had reached out to me, I think I could have had a better year. There were so many things that I didn't know about the school culture and no one told me. In fact, one of my co-workers was doing everything she could to prevent me from having a good year. 
- If a teacher is struggling, don't talk about it with the parents in your community. Talk to the teacher, see if you can help or stay out of it. 
- If you are starting your first year, it will be hard but you can get through it. Find a teacher to be friends with. 
- IF you are starting your first year, don't be so hard on yourself. You will struggle and it's ok. 
I'm starting my 9th year at this school and in kindergarten and first grade this fall. I still am not a smiley person but I have learned how to put on a smile for my kids. I know the first 6 weeks is going to be hard and I can get through it. I know that if I spend more time enjoying my kids and less time worrying about other teachers, things will be good. I have also learned to ask for help and to offer help. 

I would love to hear your teacher story.  Grab the button and link up with me. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Using Alphabet Books and a Freebie

I have planned on posting all week long but it just hasn't happened. My sweet girl has had a difficult week. She has decided that she no longer wants to sleep longer than 2-3 hours at a time at night. She had been sleeping for at least 5-6 hours at a time for a while so this has been a difficult adjustment. She also has decided that she wants to get up early. Usually I get up by 7 so I can have my quiet time, start chores and do whatever else before she gets up at 8:30 or 9. This makes posting and updating things difficult. I'm working on updating some old units that I have on TPT. I'm kind of embarrassed by some it. Right now I'm working on my Cupcake Math Unit and giving it a complete overhaul. This was my first unit I ever created and I did it on publisher. I don't have publisher anymore so I'm having to start from scratch on ppt. But I'm really pleased with what I've been working on. I can't wait to use it this fall when school starts back. Here's a sneak peak:

I love this clipart from Creative Clips. I plan on overhauling a lot of my activities with new clipart, fonts and activities. But first I need to organize my clipart. Currently is by artist but I have a hard time knowing what I have so I need to work on a different way.
I'm linking up again with Reading Toward the Stars for her weekly Book talk party.
Last week I wrote about what I've been reading. I've finished a book or two since then but I wanted to blog about alphabet books. I try to read a book or two to Sweet girl everyday and every night her daddy reads to us before bedtime. We've been reading The Chronicles of Narnia during this time and are on the 5th one I think. I know it's advanced for a 5 month old but I love this time as a family and we've enjoyed it. 
I had a Hawaiian themed baby shower at my school because that was the theme we were going with Sweet girl's nursery so she got several Hawaiian themed gifts. One was an awesome alphabet book. 
Animals Sing Aloha

I love this book because it is like the traditional alphabet book that has a letter and then something that starts with a letter but it also has the sound as part of the song and letters kids can trace with lines for how you would write the letter. Obviously my 5 month old is not doing that but we are talking about the letters and their sounds in a fun way.
We also got the Dr. Seuss ABC book.
It is another fun read with alliteration and silly animals. This one is just a fun one to read and gives another opportunity to talk about letters.
The last one I discovered accidentally. It wasn't a gift at a shower but a book I already had and hadn't read. I love Sandra Boyton's books. They are perfect for little ones. Her A to Z book is no different.
This book has an animal that starts with the letter and then an action word. The animal is doing the action. I could see a lot of potential for this book in the classroom. There is another book that is similar that is animals and adjectives.

What I love about these alphabet books is that it gives us the opportunity to talk about letters in a fun way.  A friend of mine is working on her phd in reading and she read that reading alphabet books at home is one of the best ways for kids to learn letters. Because at home they have the opportunity to talk about and interact with the letters. So that is now her go to gift for new babies and kids.
I have a freebie to share with you that is a couple of activities to do after reading some alphabet books. They aren't earth shattering but they could make a neat class book.  Click here to get the file.
What are your favorite alphabet books and what do you do with them? If you download this file, I would love to hear about it.