Since many of you can't visit our classroom during the day, I thought I would take this time to share with you some of the things we have learned since the start of the school year. Even though we have begun to learn skills in the areas of reading, writing, and math, I would say a larger portion of what we have learned so far has involved routines and procedures. In order for this year to be a success, students must first understand how to do the common, everyday things in our classroom. I think you would be amazed at some of the things I've had to teach. Let me give you an example.
It was the first day of school. One little boy in my room (who shall remain nameless) was in the bathroom for quite some time during one of our restroom breaks. I decided to peak into the bathroom to see what was going on. Well, to my surprise I see the little boy pushing against the divider that hides the urinals. He continues to do this until he got on his belly to try to crawl under the divider. I said to him, "Buddy, what are you doing?" Without missing a beat, he responded with wide, fearful eyes, "I'm trying to open the door, but it won't move!" I proceeded to explain that this was just a wall, and that he needed to walk around it to get inside. Poor thing! Ironically enough, later on that same day, I heard a different little girl crying outside our door. Yes, you guessed it...she couldn't open the door to our classroom! It was at that moment, I decided I needed to do a whole class lesson on how to open all of the doors in our classroom.
Every day has brought about moments such as these, where I've had to teach spur-of-the-moment lessons on the smallest of tasks. I'm sure if you could be a fly on the wall, you would laugh at some of the conversations I've had to have with my students. :)
Over the years, I have found one of the most effective strategies when teaching routines and procedures is by using pictures. Throughout the first few weeks of school, I carry my camera around and take pictures of students showing me the correct ways to do various things. For example, when I taught students how to sit on the carpet (yes, this was actually one of my lessons), I took a picture of one of my students sitting the right way. After collecting many photos of students acting out various routines and procedures, I created PowerPoint slides to share with my students. These slides serve as reminders to students throughout the year on what to do and how to act at school. Here are a few of the procedural pictures I have taken:
In addition to learning routines and procedures, my students have had lots of practice with reading, writing, and math. In particular, we have continued to build STAMINA (yes, this is a word my students now know) in the areas of reading, writing and math. The results have been AMAZING! My students are able to do Read to Self independently for 12 minutes, and they are now able to write independently for 30 minutes. Never, have I ever, had a group of kindergarten students build stamina this quickly! I am hoping to begin working with 1-2 small groups in reading and writing within the next month. We will see if they are independent enough to let me do that. Here are a some videos and pictures from Read to Self, Writers' Workshop, and Math by Myself. I think you, like I, will be blown away by how serious they take their jobs as readers, writers, and mathematicians! Keep in mind, many of my students cannot read or write words yet, so this is really incredible!
Many of these skills are developed through play. You can't have learning without play, and you can't have play without learning! My students love to play, and they're really good at it. They love to build, create, imagine, and work together with their friends. My favorite part of play time is seeing my students socialize, problem solve, and share. These are the invaluable skills I previously referred to that will serve them the rest of their lives! Here are some pictures and a video of their play time. Many of the pictures were taking in our new Social Emotional Learning Room, a place that is made up of a pretend doctor's office, school, art area, restaurant, and construction site. This is our 2nd year to have this in our building, and we are very blessed. The students absolutely loved coming here and will love coming once a week the rest of the year! A big thank you goes out to the PBIS lead teachers for putting this room together.