Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Centers... and some new things on TPT

Hey Y'all!
Back in the fall I started something new/ different and I have to say that centers are now a BREEZE! Our must do baskets and choice baskets really make it easy for me to get in small groups and differenate my instruction, and centers.

1). Must do Baskets- These change out every 6 days, but it's not all new items. Most of the time I'm moving things from blue to purple to green to pink baskets. There are somethings that my blue baskets aren't ready for and those items I keep in the magazine bins on top. The pink baskets are truly my high flyers and their baskets are just that, skills that are above the current skill level. For example, my little high flyers are working on ending sounds while the rest of the class are working on beginning sounds.

Most months I am only changing out for all new activities every 2 weeks. My high flyers get new things more frequently because their things aren't easily traded to another color group. Of course I can pull an activity at any time and replace it with something different.

2). Can do choices- This is what my kids do when they have completed the task that I need them to do. Each neighborhood has books, puzzles, and baskets. I also have things like listening center, sensory table, writing, and magnetic centers assigned to each of the neighborhood. I have spent a lot of time discussing/ training my kids to know that a can do center has 2 people working together. Or you can work by yourself. I do this to cut down on the noise.

Changing out can do centers was tricky for me at first. Getting activities that the children could do independently and not turn into free play proved to be a challenge. But we made it past that. These baskets I change out when I notice that the kids aren't "picking" to do that anymore or that they are turning it into free play.

Here are some of my choices for can do baskets:

Fine motor activities:

Spinner games that we have used in must do baskets but still need some practice with.

Open ended matching or ordering games:

Matchy matchy games: think memory, or matching of any type.

We also have a computer area, books, sensory table, and iPads in our room that children can use.

This week is spring break for me and I am working to put up in my TPT store LOTS of $2 center game files. Each of these packs have 3 types of cards and 3 recording sheets. In the letter and sounds packs there are upper case, lower case, and sound cards and recording sheets. When I use these in our must do baskets I use a recording sheet and the children pull a card out of a "bag" and find it's match on the recording sheet.  When I put these games into the can do centers, I leave them open ended so that the children can decide what to do with them. Sometimes they match them upper to lower, sometimes the put the cards in ABC order. It's up to the kids and that means that they spend more time working on that item. I am obsessing over these jen hart Designs letters!!! Aren't they super cute?!?!? My kiddos are going to loose their minds!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

just Breathe....

Spring Break and for once we are not traveling. This week is about slowing down, resting, and taking time to just breath. What a thought, right.... just breathe! When do we ever take the time to slow our roll and take in life?

If you are like me, the school year is a flash of things to do. There are lesson plans, papers to grade, parents to communicate with, professional development, and that all happens around what we were hired to do... teach children. I am exhausted just thinking about it all! LOL!  But in all of that we have to make the time to take care of us.

A year ago, I reached a place where I was so far from healthy that I wasn't sure what healthy was. And then I started down a path that I will forever be grateful for. It's probably the hardest, scariest, and most private thing I have EVER faced. And along the way I have learned SO much!

Today I want to share with you something that I do each day that honestly helps with all the stress and pressure of being in the classroom. My secret is to breathe! Don't roll your eyes at me... I'm being for real. Ok, hear me out...

For years I would literally hold my breath and pray that nothing went so wrong that I couldn't deal with it. I would cross my fingers and move through the day. I could feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and the elephant that sat on my chest. Then I started on my journey... I worked harder than ever. Meals- check; lesson plans- check; lower stress- un not check. It wasn't until recently that I was introduced to the idea of breathing.

Here is how it works, first thing in the morning before my head lifts off the pillow I breathe. I focus on the rise and fall of my chest. In goes life giving oxygen and out goes the stress. I fight it off before it can even attach me. One breathe in, deep, where I feel my chest push the sheets up. And as I exhale I focus on what I have to bring to the day. Not the negative talk that most of listen to, but the positive, self affirming "I can do it" kind of thoughts. When I started it was only 1 or 2 minutes at most. Let's be honestly, this kind of thing takes building into. Now I go as long as I need too.

This is the basic technique to meditation. The breathing that is. Many people  I have shared this with say that if they had to stay in bed that they would fall back to sleep and then be running late. You don't have to stay in bed. But here is my caution..... don't move far, ok go pee but come back don't start your day. Breathe first. Sit on the floor against a wall. Sit in a chair. Find a place that will be your place. This place will be where you go every morning to breath. Couch, chair, bed... I promise it doesn't matter where as long as it happens.

So this is how I start my day. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in.... picture what you want the day to look like. Picture the calm... breathe in, breathe out, breathe in... focus on what it feels like. Feel the calm.  This is what I take with me into the day. The calm. I can't magically stop stress from happening but I can stop my reaction to it. I can wash myself in the calm of breathing. Picture it.... grades due, lesson plan check, parent on the phone for you, and your sweet class is struggling with talking because it's a full moon. Makes your heart beat pick up right? Mine too... only now I breath. I change my reaction to what is happening and I am healthier because of it.

Bottom line, breathing gives your body the life giving oxygen. It steadies a racing pulse and a racing brain. Starting your day this way, focusing on breathing and picturing your day, gives you a calm that you can call back at any time. I can be in a staff meeting and "feel" the air change because of the new what ever we are being asked to do... and I breathe, I breathe deeply. And I bring the calm back.

So why the soap box? I don't want another teacher to face another day not being able to escape the stress. That stress turned me to food to cope. I was unhealthy. I was killing myself to cope wth things that I couldn't control. Dr Pepper, pizza, Reese Peanut butter cups, cupcakes... I felt in control. I felt the calm... the same calm that I achieve now by breathing.  I am watching others loose themselves because they don't know or don't use this simple technique. I didn't. I didn't know how. So I am sharing my newest found coping mechanism. I hope that it helps you too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Puppy.....

A year ago we lost the most wonderful dog. Bailey was a rare find. She was the center of my world, and then she crossed the rainbow bridge.

My world seemed to end... and there was a day when I wasn't sure I would be able to fill the hole she left. But time races on... and holes get smaller. At Christmas, we decided it was time to think about a new puppy.

Only, there wasn't much thinking into it. Mid January we brought home Rylee, a black and white English Springer Spaniel. And oh my! She is a spit fire. She is our new baby! Here are a few adorable pictures!

And here is a picture of both of my babies when Bailey was the same age as Rylee. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How I got my groove back....

Hey Y'all!
Did you ever see the movie called "how stella got her groove back"? Today I'm gonna share how I got my groove back. I love teaching kindergarten and this summer, like many before this one, was a summer of unknown. Will I get to stay in K or will I be moved? Are numbers high enough? For most of the summer our numbers showed that I was moving grades. Then we hit teacher week, you know the week we go back and have meetings? I still couldn't make myself change classrooms. Then it happened... numbers finally got approved and I got to stay in K. I can't begin to tell you how much I LOVE this group of kids! They are funny and crazy and excited about learning!

During my time off this summer I did a LOT of blog reading.  I mean a lot... big kid blogs, pre k blogs, and everything in-between. I started getting excited about teaching again. By the time I got my class list, I was ready to be a teacher again. Yea I was really that close to leaving the profession. Y'all ever have those years??? I did and it sucked! But I learned from it. I learned that I have to be first.... yep you read that right. If I am not taking care of myself then I am going to get down and I might not get back up. I worked hard to loose 30 pounds and over the summer I started crossfit. It's no joke and I don't love getting up at 4am. But being healthy is a priority! But back to my groove ...

After all my reading this summer I am changing how I do my centers. I read a lot of Kim Adsit and Mr. Greg blogs and how they do centers. I LOVE how choice reigns supreme in there rooms! But honestly neither of their ways were a perfect fit. I'm not sure if anyone's way is a perfect fit to others. I am using parts of how they do centers that have been tweaked to fit me!

Let's start with a peek at what my district MADE for me!! Yes I just requested the shelves and this is the beauty their brought me. I already had the baskets.

First we are calling our centers neighborhoods and my center groups are being called "families". The families stay the same all year. The neighborhoods are marked by forest animals (this years theme) and I have 5 this year. And the room has hanging animals over the area. Also all choices in that neighborhood is marked with that animal.

The kids are going to be doing a must do and can do baskets. A must do basket is for 1 person to do and will based on Mr. Greg's differentiated baskets. The can do baskets can have 2 friends working the "games" in the basket.  They are also labeled with a #2. This tells the kids that 2 friends can work on what ever is in that basket.

Let's talk about these must do baskets. After reading and watching some of Mr. Greg's videos on centers and these baskets, I knew that I needed these in my room. That beautiful shelf that the district made me holds 24 baskets. There are 6 per color, but no more than 5 children per color. I have these color campers that I write the names of the children according to what color basket they get. This is how I differentiate! I love that I can group all of my according to what they need. For example, the blue group has several activities about shapes. They are working on telling the difference between square and rectangles.

Just look at how engaged these little ones are! And honestly, things couldn't be going any better!

And that is how I got my groove back! (if only I could get my blogging groove back)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What ya' thinking about?

Hey Y'all!
It's finally hotter than hell... with a ton of summer left... here in the south.  I love my summers off because I don't have to get out in the heat. ;) This week there have already been so many things that have gotten me thinking... I mean deep big world kind of thinking! So many things that I wish I could say but my momma taught me better. hehehe.

My heart is breaking for the men and women who lost their lives in Orlando. I can not imagine what a person must be like to kill that man folks! It makes me worried about our future. My prayers for those who lost loved ones.

This week is the first of two weeks of teacher training that I am doing with Arkansas A+. Many months ago we secured the rights to show a video by Dewitt Jones. He was a photographer for National Geographic and has created this movie about "Celebrate what's right with the world". Kind of um... timely given what is happening currently. I HIGHLY suggest that you look at it. Mr. Jones really shared his heart and reminded me why I choose to stay positive, even in times when life is dragging me down. There were so many things that he said that hit home. But it also set me on my own path of thinking.

I realized that I had lost the ability to celebrate what was right in my classroom.  I was being pulled down by all that was wrong... learners are too low, student behavior, and the demands placed on working in a high needs school. I was no longer looking for the things we could celebrate. I had lost my passion and that was a choice! I sat as we watched this video and thought about how easy it was to be so unhappy once the choice had been made not to celebrate. Mr. Jones has a unique perspective that really hit home. He talked about a time he was sent to an area to photograph a field. When he got there he was frustrated at the lighting or the field or what ever that day and he decided to leave and come back the next day... but the next day became the next week. When he returned the field had lost the dandelions and had turned into the puffballs. He talked about how he almost left again but was drawn back to what he had been tasked to do... celebrate what was RIGHT in that field. So he changed his perspective and the photos that resulted were AMAZING!

I had a field but I was never able to do what he did. I couldn't get around to celebrating what was right... or what was going right . I couldn't see the beauty right in front of me. I know that this lesson I can learn and won't be stuck having to repeat it. Look at that beauty....

So this week is pretty amazing. I feel like I've been plugged into the mother ship and am being healed. I needed this. I needed this more than I knew. The faces, the conversations.... all are a tide that is helping me so much.  I have been able to show people my passion for technology in the classroom. But even better I have been able to help them celebrate what is right with technology and grow a deeper love for the potential. I feel like the puffball flower above... gosh it looks like it is ready to explode with potential. That is how I feel!

I still don't know what I am teaching and I sure can't plan anything BUT... and this is a big ol' wide BUT I am going to celebrate this time! This gift that was given to me to rest, recharge, and celebrate!

Friday, June 10, 2016

What ya' reading this summer?

Hey Y'all!

I've been on summer vacation for all of 5 days and I still can't believe that the summer time has finally arrived. This summer I have a couple of books that I want to read. But I also want to know what you are reading this summer. So here is my summer reading list....

I've already started 17000 Classroom Visists Can't be wrong and I'm in LOVE!!! This books would make a gear book study for a school or team. Since I am unsure of what I'll be teaching this year my view point has shifted from what I apply specifically to K to looking at the bigger picture. The authors actually suggest viewing this book through the lens of big picture first, specific to you second.

So tell me... what are you reading this summer?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Closing up for the year....

Hey Ya'll!

WOW! Can this year really be over? And end this way? For the first time ever I am unsure of my teaching future. There are so many things swimming in my head and I'm not sure I want to spill them out of my head but I also don't know what to think.

Let's roll back time. This has been absolutely the hardest year in my teaching history. I had some of the hardest kids and the class dynamic was HORRIBLE. I taught "friendship" lessons right up to this last week! I've never had to do that. I've never deal with the attitudes that I did this year. Talk about an "oil and water" class. You couldn't break them up enough to keep the peace. EVERY time I had a sub my class went crazy and the sub would leave me a note saying how horrible the whole class was. My favorite note was the one where the sub said that she would pray for me because of how horrible my class was. And that she would NEVER sub at our school again. Oh yea! My kids ran off a sub. I can't begin to say how many times I cried and cried over things that I knew I would never get to change. Here is the break down of this year.... 20 kids (I started with 21). 7 of them were girls... of the girls 3 had MAJOR attitude issues. I'm talking teenage mean girls kind of attitude. One little one started the school year with answering a question with "bitch please". Yep that was how my year started with the girls. Then there were the boys. 14 boys who were ALL boy! Of those 14 boys, 4 of them received behavior services for aggressive behavior (one of them came from a behavior based pre k). Then you have those with ADHD. Or the ones who's parents refuse to see that their child needs help... stomping your foot and throwing things is NOT a normal reaction 173 days into the school year. But heaven knows I couldn't get anyone to hear me.

I won't go into the attendance issues or the fact that this was the LOWEST group of children I have ever worked with. The year ended with one child still not being able to identify the letters in their name. They learned to write that name around February, but mom wouldn't let us test. I promise you this child has a processing issue but I can't get mom to do anything. UGH! We fought in our building being a distressed school and were questioned on EVERY thing we did. We were forced to write ridiculously long lesson plans... which took away from me being able to research or look for help for my struggling kids. And yet every chance we had teachers were scolded for not moving kids farther. I mean really! UGH!

And then we were emailed that there would be staffing changes next year. There is a really good chance that I won't know what I'm teaching until late summer. And that I might not be in K. I have not been quiet that I want to move to pre k, but I doubt that will happen unless I look for work elsewhere. So how do I feel about changing grades? Not sure. Some moments I think that I would be happy moving but then I start to panic. I love working with the little ones, but is it time for a change? UGH! I'm really not sure about all of this. And worse is that I am such a planner and not being able to do that has me worried. We are also on the states distressed school list and get lots of suggestions and people watching what we do. I fear that if I move grades in a critical year with the state watching every move we make that I won't have the ability to make mistakes. Like I have no room to breath or be creative. This is where the fear comes from. 

Honestly, there has been a lot this year that has forced me to a place where I am almost unsure of who I am. I remember once hearing that so and so had a mid life crisis and I thought... really? a mid life crisis. They must not have been very sure of themselves. And here I sit wondering if I am having the same thing happen. No I'm not out buying sports cars or chatting down men. But I do wonder who I am or better who I want to be this second half of my life. And no a potential grade change isn't the only thing that has me thinking this. I started loosing weight in February and am 32 pounds lighter than I was on Valentines day. That is enough of a loose that I don't recognize myself in mirrors. I mean if I'm standing there looking, yes I know it's me. But say I'm at a public bathroom and catch a sideway look at the mirror. I have to take a second look to see who it is. That my friends is a little unnerving. And I've had to downsize ALL my clothes! So I'm trying to limp to the end of the school year on 1 pair of work pants, that are really too big and that I have to wash nightly. I'm wearing a size that I haven't worn since before my kids were born, and I am able to walk in to Old Navy and buy clothes. All of this is SO different, not bad, just different and it's enough to make me off kilter.

Don't get me wrong, I love this. I love what is happening to my body and lifestyle. But I am not one who does change well. And I feel like there has been almost too much change thrown at me at one time. You also have to know that NOT a single coping mechanism that I used to use can I use now. That is dr pepper and surgery sweets are out, so I'm struggling to find balance without them. I don't write all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me. I need a place to process and this is it.