Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dear New Kindergarten Teachers... I have a message for you

Dear New Kindergarten Teachers,
This is my annual letter that I like to write as school approaches. It is now August and soon you will be decorating a classroom for the first time or returning to a room full of boxes and dust. It all feels overwhelming but take a deep breath because I am going to guide you through some first steps in this process. Why me? I have taught this grade for over 25 years. I guess you would call me a veteran teacher. Sit back, grab a cup of Joe and read on.

1. Create a room environment that you love: Do not try to do everything at once. Clean up the room and be sure all boxes are put away. Put up fadeless paper or use fabric on your bulletin boards. This will save you so much effort in the long run. Stick to colors that are calm and pleasing to the eye. I am a big fan of black with colorful borders. 
2. Do not fill up your bulletin boards with "stuff." You can put up titles if you can't bear the empty walls but keep in mind that you want to fill the room with beautiful student work! Does that make sense?

You are going to want to set aside one bulletin board in your room just for writing. I use fancy clothespins and keep all their writing stacked together with the current one on top. You can dye these clothespins to make them colorful. I use medium size clothespins (smaller than standard ones) from Walmart. Check out this simple process and wear rubber gloves to do this.

Here is the perfect packet for that: This will provide you with a systematic monthly writing form for each month of the year. Click on the picture to take you there. My teachers love this product. At the end of the year you can collect all the pages, take a picture of each student for the cover and use this for Open House. 
Click on the picture to grab each item in my store! 

You will need to focus on letters and sounds this year and these are known as Foundational Skills when looking at the Common Core. Students will need opportunities to do lots of word work to build their skills. This is the work of teaching them how to read. You will need pocket charts (at least 5-6), a carpet with colorful squares that accommodates your whole class and places for small group instruction and independent work. Stay with me. What kind of word work should you do: Here are some possibilities:


Hot off the press:

Here is my latest alphabet packet that I love. It is simple and engaging since kids are using dot markers to identify letters of the alphabet. You can make a simple alphabet book from this and parents can review the letters with their student. I cannot wait to use this.

  I also created a bundle of beginning of the year materials that I think make life much easier
These are just simple little foldables that are a single page and require little prep. I send them home with parents to fold and many of them appreciate being able to help.

Throughout the year students need practice with letters and their sounds, as well as numbers. I use these in my classroom and love them. Why? I am a fan of cut and paste practice that students can do independently once it has been modeled. These are Common Core aligned and require some critical thinking since it has examples and non example.They are very simple and will support any reading program.
I am required to use the Open Court Reading program in my classroom but I found that the readers did not build enough fluency and did not give my ELL's enough support so I designed Sparkle Readers to help fill in the gaps. I have carefully aligned them to the Common Core and have both fiction and non fiction text. My kids adore these! I have 7 different sets. 

What makes these unique? I am so glad you asked me. I have dots under the text to help your young learners with tracking and I have also provided strips with the same text to use in a pocket chart so that you can practice the text with your students before you even hand them a book. You will love these and I keep promising to make more. I will make that happen.

What about those sight words. Principals want you to collect data and want students to be able to recognize these with great ease. These are words that appear in most emergent readers. This is my top seller because it works:
As the year progresses our students need to learn how to blend sounds to make words. How in the world do you teach that? These packets spell out the process and work well with young students. You will see a variety of them.

Some frosting on the cake:

Kindergarten students love to help in the classroom so I finally decided to make a job chart  to build community in my classroom. It changed the climate entirely. I spent time explaining the importance of each job and students looked forward to being assigned important responsibilities. It is the best behavior management tool on the planet! Mine is flexible and I show you how to "build" it for your specific classroom needs. How did I survive without this? Included in this packet is a book to run off for your students a
bout building community with jobs . It 's a "must have."
In kindergarten is is important to label everything in sight or kids use whatever is close by. Trust me I have learned the hard way. Backpacks need labels, cubbies, tables, and and journals. These are editable so that makes them well worth having! You just type in your student names. WOOHOO. I gained a lot of popularity with this little item... I am not even kidding.

Are you exhausted from this post? Stay with me just a little longer. Common Core is all about using a collaborative model and I created a few things to build this at the kindergarten level. I have tried this products and had so much success. If you give children a bingo dauber they will engage in learning. This is a trade secret that few teachers know about. Here are my collaborative packets that you can whip out when you are being observed:
Check out the rest but I have tried to hit some of the hot spots for learning. Remind yourself to take one day at a time. Forgive yourself when things go south. It happens to all of us. Don't forget to go outside and play. Love your students. Remember to hug them and listen to their stories. 
I am having a huge sale in my TpT store so join the shopping frenzy Monday and Tuesday. Now is the time to buy these products that will get you organized and on your way to a successful year.
My entire store will be 20% off and you will get an additional 10% off from TpT using the code BTS14. Wowza. Now you can afford more! Have a wonderful year in the best grade there is. I love kindergarten.

Click on this picture to get to my store and happy shopping friends.




Meredith said...

You just gave all those newbies a plethora of very valuable information. Then, all those amazing products ON SALE!! Fran, you are so thoughtful, creative and helpful.

Lee Ann Rasey said...

A very nice letter! I am kind of "new" to kindergarten. I taught K way back when there wasn't so much to teach in kindergarten and it was half-day. The past 4 years I was part-time kindergarten Title I and now I just found out I am a full-time K teacher once again! I have been reading so much about literacy centers and Daily 5 and I would like to do one or the other, but I can't decide which one. Is it possible to combine the two? Our school is departmentalized and I will be teaching the ELA to 2 classes for 1 hour each, 30 min. of which will be spent on our adopted phonics program. Not sure how to cover the other ELA standards in 30 min.?? I was thinking of doing the centers/Daily 5 with my class in the 20 min. I have left at the end of the day. Any insight you can provide for me is greatly appreciated!! Have a good school year!

Fran Kramer said...

Your big concern needs to be how to implement the Common Core. I do not use the Daily 5 so I cannot advise you on this. However, I think literacy stations will offer students an opportunity to practice skills they have learned and build their independence. CCSS recommends a collaborative model so I start out with partner work. I hope this helps.