Packing Up

Well this is it – the end of another year.  I was always amazed how the last few weeks of school just flew by.   I also remember that a few of those last days with the kids seemed to last forever when they were antsy and ready to be done!

One of the things that I found really helpful was to take some pictures of my classroom before I took it all apart.  Even if I wanted to do things differently the next year it really helped me remember exactly how it was set up.  Once the tables and shelves are all moved and all the walls are taken down I always had trouble remembering where things had been.

I took pictures of the table arrangements, the center configurations, and the circle time set up.  I also measured how much space I allowed for circle time – if I felt really crowded or wanted to make it a little smaller it really helped to know how much space I had used the year before.

I took a picture of my calendar set up, and which pocket charts I used in different areas of the room.

 

If you have to take down all the stuff on walls you might want to take a picture and make a note of where you put up permanent charts like the alphabet, numbers, etc.  I always thought I would remember, but there were times I stood there looking around and things just didn’t seem to fit!

I kept a file and it helped me remember how I had set things up a few years before if I wanted to go back to a previous arrangement.  Taking and keeping these pictures is so easy with a digital camera, and it only takes a few minutes.  I also tried to take pictures of bulletin boards or doors I had decorated with children’s work – so I could remember from year to year.

Of course you might also want to take pictures of other classrooms if you want to consider their arrangement when you go to set up in the fall!

I hope the end of the year is going well (or that you are already off enjoying a wonderful summer vacation!)

Pet Show!

If you are looking for a really fun, very easy activity for these last days of school – I highly recommend a pet show!  Some of my friends thought I was crazy but I really loved having a pet show that last week of school – and so did my kids!

Here is the invitation I sent home:

It usually worked out well to give parents a choice of an hour – I scheduled the animals about 15 minutes apart.  After I got the responses I sent home the master schedule.
Here is an example:

The year of this schedule I didn’t have many pets, some years we were booked every 15 minutes all day!  I included breaks, lunch, recess, etc. in the schedule too.  If the weather was nice we met the pets outside – I took out a carpet square for each child and we sat in a circle to learn about each pet from the owner.  Then we asked if it would be safe for us to touch or pet the animal, and the pet owner would show the best way to do it.  Sometimes the children walked around the circle and touched the pet as they went by, other times the child brought the pet around to each child.

Each pet would get a “trophy,” and a ribbon.

Depending on the amount of pets, sometimes we would give the award for a specific reason.  We brainstormed ideas of categories for trophies.

I would give children jobs – some would be interviewers, some would be writers.  Others would help the pet owners if they needed any help.  We brainstormed questions to ask each pet owner.

I had to choose children who could write well to jot down the answers.  I often teamed 2 children to ask the questions and we practiced reading them ahead of time.

The children really loved bringing in their pets, and they did a great job asking and answering the questions.  If a child brought in a stuffed animal I tried to find some time for them to show it and talk about it, I know some children might worry if they didn’t have a pet to bring, or if their parent couldn’t bring it.  Some also brought photos of their pet.  All of those kids took home a trophy picture and ribbon too.  We spent some time talking about how everyone would not be able to bring a pet, and that a pet show was still a fun thing to do.  We read Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats too!

Here are the masters:

invitation

questions

categories

trophy

Very fun!

Kindergarten Readiness

Every spring our office received phone calls from parents who were trying to decide whether their child would be ready for kindergarten in the fall.  I spent hours meeting with some of these new parents, and talking with them on the phone.  This was probably a bigger issue in Michigan because our cut off date is Dec. 1, so many 4 year olds qualify to begin our full day program.  Of course chronological age is not the only or the best way to tell whether children are ready for school.

When we spoke with the group of parents of incoming kindergartners I stressed that it is so important to consider the whole child.

So often parents see that their child is very mature in one area, but they may be very young in other areas.

I gave them a little information about each area:

But ultimately it is the parents’ decision.

This is a guideline we shared with all parents of incoming children to give them an idea of the skills that a successful kindergartner usually has before starting school.

We also gave them some ideas of things they could do with their child over the summer to help them make the transition to school easily.

I liked to send home calendars of activities that families might do over the summer.   I wanted these things to be fun, but also expose children to lots of language, letters, shapes, colors, counting, motor skills, and simple science concepts.  These calendars are not the same ones I sent out at the end of kindergarten, these are geared specifically for incoming children.

Hey, I love those preschool teachers that read my blog sometimes – please feel free to use these too!

Here are printable copies for you!

whole child

physical

social

emotional

cognitive

puzzle

What Can I Do To Help

Traits

June

July

August

I am thinking of all of you as you finish all the assessments, projects and clean up that is required at the end of the year – and missing all the hugs!

 

 

Summer Learning Packet

Research shows that many children lose some of the skills they have acquired over summer vacation.  I always encouraged parents to listen and read to their child, take them to a summer reading program at our local library, review and practice sight words and reread the books we made in class.  I also encouraged them to take their children lots of places and talk to them about everything!

I made summer calendars with suggestions of something to do each day to reinforce what we learned all year.

It took me about 20 years to figure out that it is MUCH easier to send a list of the activities instead of putting it in a calendar format.  I searched and searched (and am not very computer literate!) but I could never find a calendar program that would update it every year – so each year I had to retype the activities on a current calendar!!  It was crazy!  Then I realized I could just write the list instead – and I did this for our monthly homework calendars too!

Here is a printable version of the calendars:

monthly activities

I used to also send home a lot of activities for families to use to reinforce letters, sounds, rhyming, etc. over the summer.  But when my children began to come to Kindergarten full day almost all of my students were confident in those skills.  If you would like to send home materials to review those things, please check out my blog post called Parent Games under the Homework category.  There are links there for materials and suggestions of activities parents can do with their child.

I still wanted to send home some suggestions and activities, so we purchased reproducible leveled books from Reading A to Z, and I copied some of them for each family.   Here is the letter I sent home along with those books.

A to Z books letter

Here are a few other materials I included in our Summer Learning Fun Packet.

Our Everyday Math program had a reproducible sheet of coins that I included in each packet too.  I always told parents that it was even better to use real coins if they could!

Here is a set of the suggestions to print:

Summer Learning Fun suggestions

CoinGraph

 

 

 

science ideas

I included a chart to tally the weather – good reinforcement for both tallying and weather!

Summer Weather Tally Chart

I also wanted to encourage the children to practice and review our sight words over the summer.

Happy to share a format that you can print!

20 kdg words

sight and never again words letter

sight word memory

Sight Words

words for vests

I stocked up on spiral notebooks at the summer sales, and I gave each child one to use as a journal over the summer, along with some kind of fun writing tool.  I usually looked for colored pencils that have a spiral of different colors on each pencil.

I know these are crazy, stressful end of the year days!!  You are all in my prayers!

More Father’s Day Ideas

I tried to think of a Father’s Day gift that Dads might actually use.  One of the least expensive ideas was a keychain that I ordered from Oriental Trading.

They charge $5 for 12, it’s hard to find anything for about 50 cents/child.  Naturally I usually had 25 or 26 kids so I tried to find another teacher to order with, or ordered for several years at a time to save on shipping costs.

These keychains have a small paper that slips inside and the children can draw or write on it to personalize it for their Dad.  I usually put a photograph of the child on one side and had them decorate the other side.

Then we made a little car as “gift wrap.”

I cut construction paper 9 x 6 inches and folded it 9 x 4 1/2 inches.  Then I traced the car on the folded edge.  My children usually did their own tracing, but they might forget to keep it on the fold.

Here is a printable tracer:

car tracer

The children added wheels and details.

 

The fold is on the bottom so it makes a little ‘envelope.’  We put the keychain inside and stapled the sides together.

We also made a Father’s Day card.

I copied these for each child and cut them apart – trimming them pretty close to the words.

Then I cut construction paper 4 1/2 x 12.

I glued the words on, close to the bottom edge.  I liked using rubber cement but a glue stick would work too!

Then we folded the card in half and cut two strips near the top.

We cut out ties – this one is construction paper but sometimes we used wall paper or wrapping paper.

Then we glued the tie under the collar, and glued the collar edges down.

And added details.

Here is a peek at the inside:

This is quite small, and many children would have trouble writing in that space, so I usually took dictation.  I used to make these larger size (just enlarge on copy machine and use 18 x 6 inch paper folded in half) and then the children had room to do their own writing.  I downsized many projects when supply money was low.

Here is a printable copy of the insert for these cards:

Card insert

I hope you’re having a great Memorial Day weekend!

Father’s Day Gifts

My favorite gift for Father’s Day took a little time, but it didn’t cost anything!  Each child dictated how to fix something, and drew a simple illustration.  I compiled all of their ideas and made a Father’s Day Fix-It Book.

Printable version:

fix it cover

One year one of my student’s Dad was a DJ and read exerpts from our Fix It book on the radio all day on Father’s Day.  Just like the cookbooks you might have made where children dictate how to cook something, these books are guaranteed to make any Dad smile!

I always began by talking about how things often get broken, and need to be fixed.  I asked who does most of the “fixing” at their house, and we talk a little bit about different kinds of tools – just naming things people use to fix things.  Then I told my class that most Dads need to fix a lot of things, and maybe we could help them by telling them what we know about how to fix things, and I would write it down and make a book on the computer.  I told them it was just for fun, and they didn’t really need to know how to fix things, it was fine if they just made up how they thought you could fix something.

Some children were really confident and just sat down and spouted off their ideas.  Other kids needed a little prompting, and I had no problem with that.  I called each child individually to dictate his/her ideas, and I tried to keep them from repeating how to fix the same thing a lot.  I used to write it out and then type it, but in recent years I always typed as they dictated.

Here a few of the questions I asked (I didn’t ask every child each question, I just used them to encourage more details or to get started.)

Have you ever seen someone fix something?

What do you know how to fix?

What has gotten broken at your house?

How did it get broken? (This often adds fun details to the story!)

What tools would you need to fix that?

Where would you buy that?

Where would you get that tool?

How much would it cost?

What would you have to do first?

How do you take it apart (or open it)?

How long would you have to do that?  or How many times would you do that?

How do you know if it’s fixed?

What would you do then?

As soon as the child finished his/her dictation I gave them a very small square of paper – maybe 3 x 3 inches or less and asked them to draw a picture of the broken object using a pencil.  I used to give them bigger paper but then I had to reduce them on the copy machine to fit next to their part of the fix-it book.  Pencil shows up better than crayons to reproduce.  Don’t forget to have them write their name on the back!!  It is really hard to match up their illustrations with their dictation if they forget to write their name!!  Another option would be to add the child’s photo next to their dictation instead of a drawing.

I made these Fix-It books small (1/2 page) to save paper.  If that is not an issue for you it would be fine to use a larger font and bigger pictures.  I tried to include every child, but occasionally a child was absent for quite a few days and I just wanted to get it done.  When that happened I took dictation from that child and later included his in just one book for him to take home.

I had one Fix-It Book saved on my computer so you can see the layout and get an idea of how it came out.  I taped on their illustrations next to their text before I copied it on the xerox machine.  I would collate these pages, cut them in half and add the cover.  I never worried about what order I put the pages in, but if several kids talked about fixing the same thing I tried to put those a few pages apart.  I removed the last names for this post.

 

I have a couple more Father’s Day ideas to share – please check back soon!

 

End of the Year Program

I used the theme of All I Learned in Kindergarten for our end of the year program.  I wanted a way to celebrate all the progress the children had made, and to remember some of the highlights of our year together.  The parents of my children were very supportive all year, and most of them attended our end of the year “extravaganza!”

Here is our invitation:

And this sign was at the door of the Media Center

We used the Media Center (library) for the actual program that we presented.   Throughout the year I had reinforced what we were learning with lots of songs about different subjects.  We started the program singing lots of those songs that we learned through the year, then we acted out 4 very simple little plays, and we ended with silly, fun songs.  Although we did have to review the songs, and practice acting out the little plays – it wasn’t too hard because we weren’t learning new songs now.  We did practice how the group would move and where they would sit for different parts of the program.

We walked into the room where the parents were already seated in a single line, and the children formed 3 lines in the front.  The back line would be standing for these songs, the middle line would sit on a riser, and the front line sat on the floor.  But we began the program singing the song that we sang every morning – Hello Neighbor, before they sat down.

To introduce each song, 2 children recited a sentence about what we learned.  For example, the first 2 said “We learned the alphabet forward and backward.”  Then we sang the alphabet, along with signing it – forward and then backward.  Then the next 2 children said “We learned about the calendar.”  The whole class sang all the songs.

This seems like a lot of songs, but it went quickly, and since they already knew the songs it was easy to do.  Most of these songs had simple motions that went along with them.  I think I already shared most of these songs, but I will add them at the end of this post again.

After the songs, the front row walked forward, turned around and sat down.  That way they were facing the area where we would act out the stories.  Then the middle line walked forward and sat, and then the back line.  They stayed in their lines, this just made it look organized and planned, and I put strips of masking tape on the floor to show where each line would sit, so they had an aisle in between.  The parents were sitting behind us.  Sometimes I even brought in sets of risers for the parents to sit on so they had a good view of it all.

I introduced each simple play by telling what we learned through that story.  That was the cue for the children who would be acting that play out to get up and get their props, and go to their starting location.

These plays were all basically retelling stories that we had spent time studying during the year.  Every child had a part in one of the plays.  Each play only took about 5 minutes to act out.

Here are a couple of the simple scripts we used:

The Little Red Hen

The Three Little Pigs

Sorry, I didn’t save the scripts for PJ Funnybunny and the Little Engine That Could.

We used cardboard cars like these for the train cars in the Little Engine that Could.

Of course they lined up and moved together like a train.  The other engines that came along approached from the other direction and stopped face to face to talk, then chugged off to the round house!

These houses for the 3 Pigs story were made of lightweight wood.  A child can kneel down, hold the sides and peek through the window.  When the wolf blew it down they gently laid it down – face down.

After the plays, the children walked back toward the riser, but this time they just sat in their 3 rows.  One small group (5-6 children) stepped up on the riser at a time as we sang a few songs just for fun.  There were a couple of years that I just had the whole group sing the ending songs because my class just couldn’t handle all the moving, but parents really enjoy seeing their child featured in a small group.  I know it is a lot of moving and seems like quite a bit to do, but my classes usually handled it fine.  You could easily just sing the songs, or keep the children in the same place throughout the program.

Here is a the program I gave parents:

I copied these 2 pages back to back and then folded the program in half.

After the program we all went back to our classroom.   I called each child up to me, one at a time to pass out a certificate.  I used to think up something special about each child – something they were good at or had learned, etc.  But one year a parent got very upset at a colleague of mine because she gave her daughter a certificate that said her daughter had a great smile.  The parent was upset that she hadn’t mentioned something more meaningful.  So I decided that instead of thinking up something myself, I would ask the children what they were proud of learning this year.  We would brainstorm a list of suggested things, and each child told me something about him/herself.  I made a certificate that included their name and what they were proud of learning and glued it onto construction paper.

Here are a couple examples of the certificates I used:

I included a certificate like this in each student’s time capsule too.

Before the program I also interviewed each child, and when I called them up I read a paragraph about him/her too.

These interview papers were glued onto the reverse side of their certificate (both were glued on opposite sides of construction paper.)  I told the children that we were doing this just for fun, and they enjoyed all the parents’ laughter.

Here are the questions I asked the children for these “interviews.”

You might have already read about these certificates and interviews in my blog post about time capsules.

I gave each child a little award ribbon with a sticker that I put on their shirt, and of course I gave them each a hug!

After each child had been recognized I passed out thank you cards for the parents who had regularly volunteered in our classroom.  This can be a sensitive thing too, I always spoke about all the ways all parents contributed to our classroom, and thanked them all.  I listed things like chaperoning field trips, attending parties, sending in supplies, making sure their child was rested and ready to learn, etc.  Then I told them that there were so many fun things that we were able to do because we had hands on help in the classroom, and that I was sure all parents would like to thank those who were able to come in and help.

The thank you cards we made were a large piece of construction paper folded in half.  On the front I typed a note thanking the individual parent, and included a picture I took of the entire class.  On the inside – one side contained the poem – 100 years from now I will be remembered because I was important in the life of a child…, on the other side there was a short poem about volunteers, and every child signed their name.  I had them sign their names on each one instead of photocopying these – we did it assembly line style.  Then I called up the son or daughter of each volunteer to give the card to his/her parent.  I usually also got a small gift for volunteers like stationery or a plant, but I gave those to them privately.

While I had the attention of the whole group I showed them all the things their child was bringing home for the end of the year.  All of these things were in grocery bags labeled with their child’s name.  I showed them the Time Capsule and reminded them not to open them until high school graduation, their portfolio (using this term loosely – it was a collection of work through the year).  Also a collection of writing and drawing from over the year.  I had a sample of a self portrait from the beginning and end of the year, and on the cover of that I glued their photo wearing a cap and gown that I put on each child and took a picture.  They each chose a class book that we had made too.  And then I gave them each one or two books to keep.

Then they enjoyed ice cream sundaes!!   It was quite an extravaganza!!

Here are the song words:

Hello Neighbor  (dr. jean)

Macarena Months (dr. jean)

Days of the Week (dr. jean)

5 Senses

Bones song

Healthy song

Oceans (dr. jean)

Transportation Songs

Layers of Forest song

Recycling

The Family of the Sun

Insects

She’ll be comin round the mountain

McDonalds

Magalena Hagalena

Taco shop

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