Saturday, September 24, 2016

Never Tie a Shoe Again

I'll never, ever tie another shoe again!

Why should I?  I figured out the holy grail of kindergarten sneakers!

This year, not a single kid could tie a shoe.  NOT ONE!

You know what that means: I knew I'd be squatting all day, knotting a spaghetti tangle of shoe laces.

Did I panic?  Yes, briefly.  Then I recovered--and realized what I had to do.

Instead of teaching my kids about the science center, I spent 10 minutes teaching shoe tie center.

Hey!  It's a song!  (But shhhh; it's for my ears only: "Shoe tie, don't bother me, shoe tie, don't bother me...cuz I belong to somebody!")

I opened the Shoe Tie Tutorial on my SMARTboard, and followed the "Easy Tie" Steps.  I used the kid's sneaker I keep in my learning center, and I showed each step in real-time.   And...I had my kids act out the steps in mid-air:

1)  Pull the laces out
2)  Cross them over
3)  Put one lace into the hole
4)  Pull the laces tight

etc., etc...

I went through the steps twice, then I set up my Shoe Tie Center (with a printout of the shoe tie tutorial in a binder), and watched the magic happen.
Day One, one girl learned how to tie shoes.  She signed my Shoe Tie Club poster, and she won an award and a little prize.

Day Two, she taught 4 other kids, using the binder pictures...
Once my kids master the easy shoe tie, they move on to the advanced shoe tie.  That's the one where they have to loop around a loop.  It's a piece of cake--not!  (no pun intended!)

The doctorate level involves making a double knot--which every teacher knows is a MUST to get through a whole day.

Now I'm singing a new song--seriously, I can't get it out of my head.  It's sung to the tune of George Michael's "Careless Whisper."

"I'll never tie a shoe again
Guilty feet have got some rhythm..."

And, I'm doing a happy dance!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Easy Feedback Comments for Kindergarten

Easy Feedback Comments for Kindergarten are a no-brainer:

I need to attach feedback comments to every piece that goes up on the bulletin board.  Why?  Because everybody says so.

But, I want quick and easy feedback tickets.  Why?  Because... 
  • I want to spend my time with the kids, not writing tickets. 
  • I want to give each child immediate verbal assistance, which will bring them to the next level.
  • I want to spend my time planning and preparing wonderful days of school!
  • Writing feedback tickets takes a loooong time!  Especially if you write both "glow" and "grow" comments.
  • Kindergarten kids can't read the tickets anyway.  It's really more for the grownup viewers, who want to see that you are assessing kids' work.
  •  I want to put up kids' work immediately, to fill the classroom with their colorful souls!

Need I say more?  I came up with a PERFECT feedback ticket that includes glow and grow comments, and makes everybody happy--supervisors, kids, and me.

It even has room for me to write a personal comment, like: 
"I love your creative coloring!"
"You added unique and fun details!"

"You filled the space with details that belong in your story!"

I print the tickets on colorful papers, cut and staple to each kid's writing.  A few quick check-marks, a 1 - 4 grade at the top, an extra comment if I choose, and I'm done.   

That's why I was able to fill my bulletin boards with kids' work by the 3rd day of kindergarten--despite a to-do list that's a mile long.
 OMG, wish I'd thought of this earlier in my career!  It would have saved me countless hours of precious educational time--month after month after month.

If you'd like to use the feedback comments for kindergarten, here they are:
...and enjoy your extra time!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

When Kids Cry in Class...

When kids cry in class...
Here are some good solutions.

The first days of kindergarten are almost guaranteed to have a crying child, and maybe more than one.  Separation issues are tough.  Even if that child has been to school before, and even if he or she knows and likes you, tears can flow.  And a child who's crying can set off another.

What to do?  Here are some tips. 

None of the tips are guaranteed--sorry, but that's the scoop--however they will give you the support you need to carry on.

You can...
  • talk softly, ask her to stop crying
  • ask her to help you so you can hear and help the other kids
  • say a very soft "shhhh..."
  • hold her hand
  • hold her shoulder
  • lay her head very gently down on the table; she may fall asleep and wake up renewed
  • give a tissue
  • ask a buddy-classmate to talk to her softly
  • have a buddy share a toy with her
  • offer her a small, chew-able treat such as an M&M (but not if she might choke on it from crying)
  • give her a stuffed animal, toy, clay, book or other item
  • have her sit near you
  • have her sit at her own seat
  • have her sit at a farther table so the other kids can hear you
  • ask a parent to stay with her in the room
  • in an extreme case, call the office and ask a school support adult to stay with her or take her outside the room to calm her (guidance counselor, social worker, para)
When all else fails...

You have no choice: you simply must talk over the crying; calmly and un-dramatically.  Bring the kids to the meeting area, and try to carry on over the crying.  If you ignore the crying, eventually it will stop. 

The one caveat is if you have a runner.  You must intervene when a child tries to run out of the classroom to chase their parent, or run home.  Gently lead them back to their seat, or hold their hand, or sit them right in front of you at the meeting area.

If the crying is so loud that the class cannot hear you, then quickly explain a writing assignment and let the other kids go back to their seats to write, draw and color.

Remember, the crying will stop.  Ignore it as best you can.  Offer a tissue or toy every so often, without too much coddling. 

If the crying stops, even for a moment, smile and say, "Thank you for helping."

And you should know, that we've all been there.  I've seen it all, even a "barbershop quartet" of criers.  It's OK; The crying will run its course and stop.

And afterwards, never, ever remind the child of their crying episode!  Let it be a long-forgotten memory for both of you.

If you'd like more advice for your first days of kindergarten, please take a look here:

Sunday, September 4, 2016

New Kindergarten Teacher's Guide

Are you a new kindergarten teacher?  This is much more than a kindergarten teacher's guide.  It's a step-by-step, moment-by-moment, account of what to do and what to say when you start teaching kindergarten.
The first days of kindergarten can be daunting.  There are so many variables: kids' personalities, your principal's expectations, rising rosters, missing supplies...

I know.  I've been there--on the first day--well-over twenty times.  And that's not counting the times I've done it in my sleep (only half-joking).

I started writing this guide in my first year teaching kindergarten, recording all the little tips and tricks that worked, and the "terrible tales" to avoid. 

Over many years I added minute details.  Some came from my own experience.  Some came from helping other teachers set up shop.

If you're a new kindergarten teacher, I think it will help you, too.

It's a complete mentorship that will show you how to set up for your first day of kindergarten.  

You'll see a minute-by-minute account of what to do, and what to say, on your first day of school--from the moment you greet the kids to the final dismissal.

You'll get materials and advice for the first full week of teaching kindergarten.  After the first week of school, many standardized curriculum programs will begin. 

The First Days of Kindergarten guide will be a resource you can return to all year, to reinforce rules and procedures for the most effective kindergarten class possible.

If you'd like a super-bundle of kindergarten resources, which will add song, dance, laughs, crafts, 3Rs, and good behavior to your year, it's here:
I'm wishing you a CALM and CONFIDENT first day of kindergarten--and a pleasant, successful year!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Best Tip for Teachers

The best tip for teachers is... human.  Open your heart, and show your human side.

What? you want more tips?  OK, here goes: be calm, confident, relaxed, patient, respectful, generous, positive, appreciative, kind, caring, helpful, persistent, dependable, trustworthy, safety-aware, knowledgeable, resourceful, creative, prepared, humble, bold, energetic, friendly, fun, funny, strict, forgiving, gracious, present, appreciative, flexible, thoughtful, considerate, tactful, fair, curious, interested, interesting, good-humored, punctual, clean, and well-rested.

Too many tips?  OK, look at it this way.  If you don't show some of these traits, ask yourself why, and what effect it might have on your kids.  What do your facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language say?

Maybe the best advice for teachers is the one that resonates most in the moment; the one that you personally need to hear right now.

Here's a tip: (drumroll...) be yourself.  Nope, it's not a cliché; it's a challenge.  We both know how hard it is, at the same time we're doing all the other stuff a teacher does. 

So, your mission, if you decide to accept it is: to be comfortable in your own personality, share your quirks and preferences, things you've done, seen and loved.  Weave yourself seamlessly into your lessons; show how you can weave your self into life.

After all, you're like an ambassador, welcoming kids to the human race.

You're a teacher, and your longest-term teaching point is to teach kids how to be human.