Friday, August 28, 2015

Teacher Insomnia: 12 All-Natural Tips

Teachers and insomnia go hand in hand…

 …especially at the start of the school year.  Even the most seasoned and organized teacher has a million thoughts racing through the brain, making it hard to quiet down.

There’s no cure-all for insomnia.  But I’m posting 12 of my best all-natural tips. 

1)      See a doctor if you're worried, to rule out serious physical causes.  Worrying about your insomnia can worsen it.

2)      Meditate during the day, even if it’s only for a minute at a time.  Less stress during the day will help you sleep at night.

3)      Stop drinking 2 hours before sleep.  A full bladder will keep you awake.

4)      Block all lights from clocks, computers, and other electronics.  They can keep you from drifting off to sleep.

5)      Have a pad, pen and flashlight at your bedside.  If a school idea pops into your head, write it down, so it doesn’t keep you up.

6)      Listen to relaxing music.  Loop it softly on your MP3 player.  It helps shut off your teacher’s voice.  My favorite: guitar music or hypnotic counting songs.

7)      Be aware of body tension.  Briefly rub your shoulders, twist your ankles, or pull your jaw gently down and side to side.

8)      Massage your face.

9)      Lay a soft sock across your eyes.  Even better, fill it with a small bag of uncooked lentils or rice.  The weight relaxes the eye muscles and face.

10)  Breathe deeply and slowly.  Keep focused on your breathing.

11)  Repeat a phrase (slowly and silently), like “Sleep” or “Go away…” to block out other thoughts.

12)  Open and close your eyes slowly, every few seconds.  Increase the intervals till you fall asleep.

…and have sweet dreams!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Construction Toys For Kindergarten

Do you use construction toys in Kindergarten?

I think you should!  Kids learn by doing, and this is especially true in kindergarten.  Kids learn academics, practical skills and also those crucial social skills.

Here are some great construction toys for kindergarten.  You can simply let children explore, or suggest a goal or task for the day.

Click-A-Brick Mighty Machines 100pc Educational Toys Building Block Set - Best Gift for Boys and Girls

This is endless fun, and will also spark the creativity of your budding engineers!

Magformers 62 Piece Set
Magformers combine engineering dexterity with artistic flair.

KNEX Tinkertoy Vehicles Set.
There's a reason that Tinkertoy is a classic for over 100 years!  It's logistics and fun all rolled into one.  This one adds vehicle details for even more interest and variety.

Ideal Frontier Logs Classic All Wood 300-Piece Construction Set with Action Figures
Just add farm animals and kids will spin out their own stories, on and on!

I hope you allow time for kids to play with construction toys in kindergarten.  While some kids are engaged at more academic centers, such as reading and writing, others can spend time at the Construction Center.

If anyone asks, just tell them kids learn though play.  It's true.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Seating Arrangements In the Classroom: 5 Tips for Teachers

Seating arrangements in the classroom can make a teacher’s job so much easier, if you know the tricks.

If you could have the perfect seating arrangement, what would it be?  You should give this some thought as it makes a huge difference in the classroom dynamic.

Actually, there is no such thing as one perfect seating arrangement.  It depends on the shape and size of your classroom, but here are some considerations:

1)     Good flow, so you can walk quickly and easily around the room.  You don’t want to bump into furniture as you move.  You want to be able to walk around and confer with kids as they work, and at the same time scan the room to check that other kids are working on task.  Good flow is good discipline!

2)     Many teachers like to arrange desks in clusters for group work and cooperative learning.  Remember, the groups may be flexible, so kids’ seats may change during the day for different activities.  A typical cluster has six children; three on each side of a square table group.

3)     All seats should have a view of the whiteboard.  This way, kids can refer to the mini-lesson chart as they write or work on a project or manipulatives.  It doesn’t mean all seats must face the same way.  It just means kids should be able to see the full board once they’ve returned to their seats from the meeting area.

4)     Boy-girl seating is a smart choice.  It’s a fact: sitting kids next to their best friend of the same gender is a recipe for off-task talk and antics.  So try seating the first table boy-girl-boy, and the next table girl-boy-girl.

5)     Kids with special needs:

a.     Difficulty with focus – Keep these kids close to the meeting area or the teacher's desk, at the corners of table clusters, and spread out around the room, not all at the same table, and not next to each other.

b.     English Language Learners – Keep these kids close to an English-speaking buddy who can help demonstrate the class work.  You might seat ELLs in the middle of a line of three kids.

Seating arrangements in the classroom should be on your radar starting well before the children arrive.  You should tweak and adjust as necessary when you meet the actual children, till it all feels just right.
For more tips on seating arrangements in the classroom you might want to study my Teacher’s Kit for Kindergarten Teachers.  You’ll find tons of thoughtful ideas on setting up your kindergarten class, as well as thorough teacher scripts, step-by-step guides to teaching rules, posters, printables, and more.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back to School Sale - Kindergarten Teacher's Dream

One more back to school sale, in case you missed the last one.  It's a kindergarten teacher's dream...
My entire store is 20% off, plus the 10% bonus (EFFECTIVE 28% OFF) at checkout with this code:  MORE15

Last sale, my best seller was this First Days of Kindergarten Teacher's Bundle for kindergarten teachers.  It features step-by-step instructions for setting up a kindergarten classroom, as well as moment-by-moment teacher scripts for the first day of school.  It's like I'm whispering in your ear, giving you expert advice at every turn.

But I don't stop at the first day.  We go through the first week of school--including all the printables, posters, parent letters, and forms you'll need.  Then I point you in the right direction for the next few weeks of kindergarten.

This best seller includes the Teacher's Kit, combined with a School Rules and Bathroom Rules pack.  Each of those three can be purchased separately: 

Even at regular prices they are each very generous kits, and they are priceless to anyone who wants that extra boost of confidence that comes with a thorough guide.
Here's more kindergarten treasure: a How-to-tie-a-shoe photo tutorial for your learning center.  To quote one buyer:
"It works! It really, really works! I'm never tying another shoe, except my own, once a day. I love this product!"   -FULL STOP-
Please stop by my store and browse.  I think you'll find plenty of useful and creative items, at super-generous prices.  Meanwhile, I'll be sending you my best wishes for the start of your new school year! 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

First Day of Kindergarten: 5 Don’ts…

On the first day of kindergarten don’t, under any circumstances…

Well—let’s say—if at all possible, please don’t… 

1)      Don’t collect all the supplies bags

Many kids bring shopping bags full of supplies.  Some are for personal use, such as pencils and crayons.  Others are for shared class activities, such as glue, markers, or tissues.  Don’t collect the supplies and place them all in the back of your classroom.  You’ll find that many students did not label their supplies and you’ll never figure out whose they are. 

Don’t let kids unpack all their supplies either.  This will make a huge mess, and it will be awkward for kids who don’t have any supplies.  Unless you have parents or a teacher’s aide helping you unpack and sort supplies during those first few minutes, kids can leave their bags on the floor next to their chairs for the moment.

Later you can unpack and sort the supplies yourself.  Or, during a writing activity you might let an early finisher help collect certain supplies.

2)      Don’t bring students to the meeting area first thing

Have kids sit at their tables, where you have placed their name tag, and quietly read a book.

Take care of meeting and greeting parents and kids, seat them, make name tags for the kids who don’t have one, take attendance, and make a quick seating chart. 

3)      Don’t give kids toys or manipulatives first thing

Give them each a high interest book to read, and place a basket with more books on their table.  Coloring and toys can become a—you guessed it—huge mess until they know the rules.

4)      Don’t do anything until you teach rules

Be clear and detailed starting from the very beginning:  teach exactly how to get out of your chair, push it in, and walk to the meeting area quickly, quietly, and sit carefully in your right spot.

Don’t say, “Boys, line up,” “You, go to the bathroom,” or, “Everybody, go back to your seat” until you’ve taught them precisely how.

5)      Don’t ONLY teach rules

Do fun stuff, too.  These will soothe kids’ first day anxieties and create the expectation that kindergarten will be wonderful.  Sing a song, make them laugh, read a fun book, let them write and color, give them a sticker or award…and leave them wanting more!   

In other words, don’t do anything you will later regret and wish you could un-do...

Please do...have a pleasant first day of kindergarten!

For more don’ts and plenty more dos on the first days of kindergarten, you might want to study my Kindergarten Kit Bundle.  It’s thoughtfully compiled by yours truly, a longtime kindergarten teacher, and it will take you step-by-step through your first day and beyond.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How to Learn Children’s Names Fast – Teacher Tips

Want to learn kids’ names fast?  Of course you do!
Why?  Because you’re not just teaching…you’re teaching kids.  You’re bonding, making kids feel special and valued—like they’re part of a wonderful club. 

Kids will be better behaved when you know their names.  They’re not “You!” they’re “Chrysanthemum!”  You know what I mean.

Here are 7 tips for teachers to learn children’s names quickly.

1)   Create name tags with LARGE first names.  That way, you’ll see the face and the name, and form an association.  Write the last name and class, too, much smaller, in a corner of the tag.

2)   Plan a seating arrangement before the kids arrive.  Then you’ll associate seats with names.  Place your name tags around a table, boy then girl with non-English speakers next to a native; and kids who you think might need extra attention up front closer to the meeting area. 

3)   Make a seating chart.  Make it simple; it will be obsolete after a few days.  Fold a plain white paper into 24 boxes, 6 X 4, in roughly the configuration of the kids’ seats.  If you need more boxes, fold accordingly.  Write the kids’ names in pencil, because they may change after day 1.

4)   Write a description of each child on your seating chart.  You can do this as they sit eating their lunch or as they write at their seats.  

This is for your eyes only, so write just enough to trigger recognition, such as:

·       “Paul McCartney”  (for a kid who looks like the young Beatle)

·       Big, happy eyes, brown buzz cut   

·       Tiny braids with color clips

·       Longer hair than _____

·       Taller than _______

·       Rounder face than ______

5)   Sing a song with the kids (to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”).  Teacher: “(Name, Name) are you here?”  Student response: “Yes, Yes, I am here.”

    6)   If your school or district allows it, take a photo all the kids sitting together in the meeting area with name tags in view.  Study the photo and names overnight.

7)   Take photos of the kids at their seats while they’re writing, and review them at home, referring to your seating chart with names.

You want to learn every child’s name quickly.  It makes a huge impression when you greet each child with a big hello and their name.  They’re part of the club now.

For more tips, here’s a comprehensive Teacher’s Kit: Love Your First Days of Kindergarten.  Inside you’ll find full scripts from the moment kids walk in the door till the moment you say goodbye.  Also: lessons, printables, posters, letters to the parents, and hundreds of tips to get started for your first week of kindergarten and beyond.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Back to School Icebreaker

A back to school icebreaker?

Yes!  You get to know your students, and they get to know each other.

Not just their experiences and preferences, but also their accomplishments, hopes, and dreams.

I love to see how this back to school icebreaker evolves.  You can do the very same activity twice, at the start of the school year and at the end, and see how the kids have changed.

I hope that you, dear teacher, make a lovely back-to-school motivational craft box, too.  And watch your self shift by the end of the school year.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Kindergarten Teachers: 7 Tips to Prepare for your First Day of Kindergarten

Are you a new kindergarten teacher?  Here are 7 tips to prepare for your first day of kindergarten:

If your have time and insight, you’ll see there are hundreds of things to prepare.   In my experience, this is the bare minimum that must get done before the first day of school:

1)    Clean the desks and chairs and arrange them in clusters within view of the meeting area.  You want to make a good first impression that kindergarten will be pleasant and organized.

2)    Place a high-interest book on every desk for the kids to sit and read first thing.  This will buy time to ensure everyone is settled, and to take attendance.  Place an extra book basket on each cluster of desks.

3)    Have a list of the class names to check off as kids arrive, and write name tags beforehand, if possible.  Write kids' first and last names as well as your class on the tags.

4)    Place name tags out on the desks before the children arrive.  Place them boy and then girl; and if you know certain kids will need extra attention, place them up front, closer to the meeting area.  Have extra name tags for new admits.

5)    Prepare paper for children to write on, 30 pencils and 12 boxes of crayons in case they don’t bring their own.  These will be used a bit later on the first day.

6)    Prepare to talk about rules: classroom, bathroom, lunchroom and line-up.  It helps to have visual posters about each of these. 

7)    Have a fun book to read to the class, and questions for discussion.  Also, a few short songs to teach, and extra activities ready to go, in case you have extra time to fill.

These are the must-dos for your to-do list.  For more essentials to prepare, as well as posters for teaching school rules, you might like this First Days of Kindergarten Teacher’s Kit.  It includes all you need, before, during and after that crucial first day.  You’ll find teacher scripts, lessons, posters, printables and tips—compiled by a long-term kindergarten teacher.

For even more thorough preparation, here’s the same Kindergarten Teacher’s Kit, bundled with School Rules and Bathroom Rules, with more charts, photos, points for discussion, a writing prompt about rules and bulletin board-ready rubric.
With preparation, you can have that calm and confident first day of kindergarten you've imagined!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Back to School Sale--Shop Now, Unwrap Later!

Are you thinking “back to school?”  --Or just “back to school Mega Sale”?  If a tiny voice in your head says YES!
Back to School Sale - Renee Dawn at teachers pay teachers

…Then pour yourself a cup ‘o Joe, and stop by my shop.  It’s all 20% off—every stick of chewing gum—plus an extra 10% at checkout!  Monday August 3rd and Tuesday August 4th only—so please, shop now.  Even if you don’t tear open the wrappings for another few weeks.   J
Number Chart Robots 1 - 30

You’ll find super fun stuff—like this so-cute Number Chart Robot pack.
Nursery Rhymes Creative Writing

Keep window shopping, and you'll notice this Ultra-Creative Writing with Nursery Rhymes, which makes a dazzling bulletin board display. 
School Rules - Lists, Charts, Lessons

Tons of practical stuff, too: School Rules, which you should teach like you life depends on it—it does!
KIndergarten Back to School Mega-Bundle

And, if you’re starting out as a new kindergarten teacher, please consider this Kindergarten Back to School Mega-Bundle.  It includes class set-up, lessons, teacher scripts, posters, printables, and behavior management materials which you can use all year.  If you get it today, it'll be at a price that will make you gasp.
Counting Songs - Relaxation and Behavior Management
And finally my personal favorite, because I couldn’t get to sleep without it—especially as our school days loom closer.  It’s my counting songs, which lull me to sleep when I play them ever so softly.  They’re great for calming for kids, too, and--as a side benefit--they're spot on for teaching counting.

Sweet dreams, and I’ll see you soon--after the back to school sale blows over.  If you're looking for me, I'm shopping, too!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

First Day of Kindergarten: Tips for the First Few Minutes

The first day of kindergarten—never done it?   I’ve been teaching kindergarten for over 20 years, and done it more than 20 times (not counting the ones I do in my sleep!).

Tips for First Day of Kindergarten - First Minutes
Here are some tips for those first few minutes of your first day of kindergarten.

1)       Smile!  Yes, smile.  Not a fake beauty pageant kind, but a warm, genuine smile that comes from your deepest core.  The place that remembers what it’s like to be 5, and scared, shy and nervous.

2)       Greet each parent at the door, if that’s possible.  Say your name, and give a warm handshake.  Make them feel like they're joining your family.  They are!

3)       Ask the child, “Who are you?”  Then find the name on your clipboard sheet.  Ask the parents to check the spelling and correct it.  Ask if they prefer a nickname, and possibly if the child speaks English.

4)       Ask the parent to come in and check the posters on the wall, and then help their child find their seat (I have placed the name tags out on each desk: boy, then girl), and to read a book.  I have one book on each desk, and a basket of extra high-interest books in the center of each table.

5)       Needless to say: NO cutting, gluing, toys, or even coloring—nuthin’ honey, till you’ve talked about rules!

6)       I hang 3 posters for the parents.  The first tells when and where the dismissal is—for today and tomorrow.

7)       The second poster asks parents to help seat their child, put on their name tag, and have them read a book till we’re ready.  And meanwhile, they can place on their child’s desk ONLY these supplies, in order from largest on the bottom—if they have them—4 folders, 3 marble notebooks, a pencil case with 5 sharp pencils, a crayon box and 1 large eraser.  This way I can see who still needs to bring supplies.  The second poster also directs parents to place any extra personal supplies (extra pencils, crayons, and sharpener) in the child’s book bag. 

8)       The third poster requests—if they can—to please help put the shared class supplies into the right bin in the rear of the room.

9)       I have baskets, tubs and even large clean garbage bags (for all the paper towel rolls), one for each type of supply that parents send, such as markers, post-its, glue, and tissues.

10)   When all the kids have trickled in, give parents a friendly, “2 minutes, and we’ll ask you to go” heads up. 

11)   Meanwhile, take care of those last few things that MUST be done.  Make sure every child has a name tag, and take last minute attendance.  The school office may ask for a list of how many kids have showed up, as well as the names of your “no-shows.” 

12)   If a parent has a letter for you or money (for Scholastic News or the like), place it in a basket under your desk for safe-keeping.

13)   You can thank the parents for helping, then say, “It’s time to say good-bye, so we can begin!”  Remind parents to pick up their child, where and when.

14)   Usually, a principal will allow parents to stay for the first few minutes of kindergarten.  If not, please ask your principal if you could have a teacher aide help for those first few minutes.  If no one is helping, you can lead the kids straight into the room; have them wait at the meeting area.  Call each child in turn, and show them where you’ve placed their name tag.  Have each child in turn sit, put on their name tag and read a book till everyone is accounted for.

The first day of kindergarten will be memorable.  Most important is safety.  You want to set a tone of calm and orderliness. 

Equally important is setting a tone of expectation, that kindergarten will be fun and wonderful.

Are you a new kindergarten teacher?   Welcome to the club!   I’ve helped many teachers settle into kindergarten, and it would be my pleasure to help you, too. 

I’ve created a First Days of Kindergarten Teacher Kit, with scripts for exactly what to say and do on your first day of kindergarten.  Also, posters, charts, writing activities, awards, and tons of tips—all you need for your first week of kindergarten and beyond.

My First Days of Kindergarten Bundle adds a complete package on teaching school rules so they stick, and bathroom rules; with photos, chants, and discussion points.

If you'd like a comprehensive Kindergarten Back to School Mega-Bundle, it's here.  It includes kindergarten set-up, scripts, lessons; printables for reading and writing, and materials for math and behavior management that you can use all year.

Best wishes—and I’ll be thinking of you on your first day of kinder!