Friday, June 26, 2015

Managing Centers in Kindergarten!

Hi friends! Today I'm teaming up with Kreative in Kinder, Sharing Kindergarten, and Mrs. Hoffer's Spot to talk about a very important topic: 

 The topic of centers can be tricky… there are TONS of different ways to go about it, and centers look different in every classroom! I can honestly say that I have done them differently almost every year of my teaching career. I was also way too nervous to try them until about my 2nd or 3rd year of teaching… So if you haven't quite found your groove for centers yet, RELAX!! Don't worry!! It's all about learning and growing and finding what works best for YOU! 

Today I want to share with you some tips and tricks and things that work best in my classroom… Feel free to tweak or take any ideas and make them your own :) 

First of all, storing centers…
I like to keep my centers for different parts of the year stored in labeled bins. In here I keep letters, magnets, word work activities, etc… 

My weekly centers go in different bins that I keep out in my classroom. These are the bins that I used in my old classroom. Each "bug" that is on a drawer represented a different group of children. 
This year at my new school, I used color groups. I had five different color groups with 5-6 different students in each group. It is easier for me to manage having 5 different groups as there are 5 school days each week. Each group got to do each center once a week! 
I made a "color sign" for each group. I got the frames at Michaels

This is what my centers board looks like. At my school we call it "workshop," but it's the same thing! The color groups have magnets on the back, and they are the only things that move on the board. At the end of workshop each day, I move the magnets down, and the magnet on the bottom rotates up to the top slot. So, my centers do not change on a daily basis, but on a weekly basis. Each group does one activity for 20-30 minutes each day. 

At the beginning of the year, I put my kiddos names on magnets, and I shuffle them between the groups. I move kiddos around a lot until I feel like each color group has the right vibe and everyone gets along. 
These are the bins that I keep workshop materials in for the week. I found them at Big Lots at the end of the summer last year. They are nice and big and can fit tons of materials inside: 

When I set up for  workshop, it looks something like this. Each group finds their sign and bin, and takes their materials back to their table. We have already previously discussed in the beginning of the week where all of the different groups are working at so there is not a big traffic jam :) 

I keep 3 of my groups the same every week, so that helps a lot! There is always a computer group. I am super blessed to have 6 computers in my room. I also always have a group that gets to have free reading time in my class library. They LOVE just having the freedom to read with their friends or the bin of puppets that I keep over there. Finally, I have a set of 6 iPADS that is also a workshop group each week. I move the color signs to each area so that the students know which group is going to each activity! 

So, my computer, iPAD, and class library centers stay the same each week, although students are working on a variety of programs on the computers and iPADS…that leaves 2 more groups for me to plan each week! 

One of my groups is with me and we generally do something with sight words or a reading comprehension passage later in the year. Here are pictures of my "teacher group" center early in the year working on sight words: 

And here we are later in the year doing reading comprehension: 

Using highlighters when they are in my group is a big privilege, and they love it!! It keeps them very motivated while we are reading and finding vocabulary words. :) 

When my kiddos are working in an independent group during workshop, I like for it to be something that they will not need my help with. I want them to always try and ask their peers for help first. Using stamps and working on sight words or spelling words is a great independent centers activity: 

I always like to use direction icons too if my students need to complete multiple steps during a center activity! I post their directions on a whiteboard or cart nearby in case anyone has questions! I tell them to check the board first if they come to me. This really helps to foster independent thinking! 

When my independent centers are math related, I want my students to be using manipulatives. I keep manipulatives in table trays like this:  

I store our table trays in our cubby area, and a table captain from the table can go and grab it for their group when they are working. :) 

My workshop/centers groups work very well because we are in a solid routine! This definitely takes time and practice for the kiddos. In the beginning of the year, my centers are very simple, just to get the kiddos used to working in small groups together. I like to reward my kiddos for working well in their groups too. 
A great management tool that I started using during workshop time and when my kids are sitting in their color groups is table points!   

Halfway through the year, I converted our small group signs to table point signs too. When a group was on task or working quietly, I would tell their table captain for the day to go get a "clippie" for their sign. Sometimes I even kept clips in my pocket and went around and clipped them on group's signs that were working quietly. At the end of the week, the group with the most clips on their sign got a small reward or extra free time. :) 

To make the signs, I stuck two popsicle sticks inside my table group signs to help keep it sturdy.    
Then, I used double sided tape to stick the table points signs to the popsicle sticks. The signs were laminated first. It worked perfectly!  This was such a great help to keep my students motivated and on task during centers. 

My last center trick to share with you is to rotate centers seasonally. I like to put things in fun plastic bowls that I get at the dollar store, just to keep it interesting and fresh for my students: 

Pillows at our small group table are a nice touch too. :) It helps the kiddos who are in my teacher group for the day to feel special! I love the "home-like" environment that it helps create for our classroom:    

Thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope that you learned some new ideas that you can put to use in your classroom! For more ideas about managing centers, be sure to stop by: Mrs. Hoffer's Spot, Kreative in Kinder, and Sharing Kindergarten

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Alphabet: Tips and Tricks!

Hi friends! Today I'm teaming up with Simply Kinder, The Kindergarten Smorgasboard, and The Kindergarten Connection to talk about one of my favorite topics: 

I want to share with you some of my favorite ideas and tips to help keep your kiddos engaged while they are learning their "ABCS"! The alphabet is something that is at the heart of Kindergarten curriculum. Kiddos need to have a good and solid foundation of the alphabet in order to be successful readers down the road. All of the ideas in this post are things that I review with my class throughout the school year to help ensure a thorough understanding of the alphabet. 

First up, one of my FAVORITE simple and easy center ideas:  

ABC letter spoons are easy to create and last all year long! Use a sharpie and write lowercase letters on clear spoons, and capital letters on white spoons. Put clear nail polish over the sharpie to help it last even longer! I didn't do this the first time I made these spoons, and they still managed to last for the whole school year. :) 
 I keep the lowercase letter spoons in one cup, and the capital spoons in another cup. My students LOVE sorting the spoons, and matching the letters. I also have them put the spoons in ABC order as they are matching them. 

Another easy and quick way to make letters to use during centers or small groups is to collect water bottle caps and write the letters on them with sharpie! My students collected these for me last year during the first month of school, and we ended up with a huge collection. You can put clear nail polish over the sharpie again for added protection. My students use these for letter matching, ABC order, and for sorting. Later in the year, we use them for spelling and making CVC words. These bottle caps would work perfectly with the activity below: 
Being able to "sort" and make groups is such an important Kindergarten skill, and my students love being able to sort letters in their small groups. They sort bottle  caps, letter cards, beads, and all sorts of fun things! I have them sort by capital and lowercase letters, as well as by consonants and vowels later in the year: 

Make sure to check out stores like Dollar Tree, and The 99 Cent Store to get cute things to make letter cards out of: 

In addition to Dollar Tree, I always check the bargain bins and discontinued section at my local teacher stores like Lakeshore to see what deals I can find! I snagged these library pockets years ago and wrote capital letters on them. I also got random cut outs like the bones and bananas pictured below to write lowercase letters on. My kids LOVE putting the letters into the pockets to match them. 

Another fun way to help students master letter matching and ABC order is by using ABC puzzle pieces: 

My students love using stamps to stamp the alphabet. This activity is especially fun the first few weeks of school. It helps me to see whether or not my students have any knowledge of the alphabet before coming into Kinder. 

When I work with my students whole class, I like to do LOTS of tracing practice! I also send home tracing practice in weekly homework packets during the first few weeks of school. 

My kids love reading any kind of alphabet books. 

The alphabet Bob Books are a favorite of mine too! Great for parents to read with their kiddos, or to use in small groups in the classroom. :) 

My students also like making their own fold and read books that they can take home and save! I like to give each student an envelope or ziploc bag to save all of their alphabet books in. They can take out old letter books and read them when they have free time. 

This is how we store our alphabet books:

I have saved my favorite tip for last:

I am a BIG believer in the power of music to help children master letters and sounds. 
  • I have used the "Zoo-Phonics" program to help students associate a letter and sound with an animal action. My kiddos love the song and have lots of fun getting to act out each sound. 
  • Dr. Jean is another awesome resource for alphabet songs. Some of my favorites by her include: Letter Pops, Who Let the Letters Out? and Phonercise. I love using any song for the alphabet in my classroom that my kiddos can also do an "action" to. It is so important to give kiddos the opportunity to get up out of their seats and wiggle around. Being able to do that while reviewing the alphabet at the same time is a total win win! 

Thanks for stopping by today! 
To learn more about teaching the alphabet, stop by: The Kindergarten Connection, Kindergarten Smorgasboard, and Simply Kinder