Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An Intentional Daily Schedule: Part 2 - Morning Meeting

I'm back with the second post in the series about my kindergarten daily schedule. Not only have I had to be creative with how I squeeze in all of our learning, but I've also intentionally carved out time for some of my most favorite parts of our kindergarten day. In my previous post, you can read all about how I've set aside uninterrupted time for our play centers (the BEST part of our kindergarten day)! You can read that post HERE :)

Here is another look at our kindergarten day. Today I'll focus on what morning meeting looks like, how to differentiate and change it up, and ways to keep it exciting and engaging!

I base our morning meeting routine off of the outline in The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete and Carol Davis. This book is published by Responsive Classroom, and I use so many RC strategies in my class. You really should check it out if you haven't already. Trust me, it will change the way you do classroom management! You can check out the book HERE :)

Our routine usually goes like this:
  • Greeting
  • Song or Game
  • Share Time
  • Group Activity

My students have two simple rules for greeting their friends: Look at them when you speak and use their name. We work very hard on conversational skills in kindergarten, and this part of our day reinforces those skills. Our greeting is constantly varied! We say "Good morning!" but in many languages, we shake hands, we high five...well here is a list below!

If you want more details about any of these greetings, leave your questions in a comment and I'll try to explain the best way I can! These greetings are a great way to make sure EVERY student in your class feels welcomed into your classroom each day. 

Now this part is pretty self-explanatory, but we LOVE singing and usually sing instead of play a game! We start off the school year with lots of finger-plays and preschool songs. Dr. Jean has a great playlist of songs HERE that are perfect for morning meeting! Anything with movement or hand motions are great for this time of day. You can also take a look at my Pinterest board called 'Morning Meeting' to see some other great song ideas.  

This is such a crucial part of morning meeting in kindergarten! Giving each child a chance to have their voice heard is so important. This time also allows for students to hear common interests and learn more about each other. I begin share time by asking my students a question. It can be a question about ANYTHING. I begin the year by asking lots of "What's your favorite ___?" questions. This really allows for students to hear what they have in common! We also do thematic questions like, "On Halloween, I want to dress up like ___." or "I am thankful for ___." 

One of the great academic pros of doing share time is building in academic language instruction. I always verbally give my students a sentence stem that they have to use to respond. For example, if they are answering the question "What do you want for Christmas this year?" my students would have to say "For Christmas this year, I want ___." This gives each student a chance to respond without feeling worried about how.

We also pass around a wireless microphone and our stuffed dog, Gus. He is our talking stick! Whoever is holding Gus gets to speak, but no one else! My students also make "quiet connections" if their friend shares something they agree with or also think. They just link their fingers together and hold them in the air!

I probably could have called this part of our routine "GoNoodle Time." We typically end our morning meeting with a KooKoo Kangaroo video because who doesn't like to start their day by dancing and laughing?! You can also incorporate any team building activity into this time, too. In our school, we use the OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program, so this would be a great time to stand and chant our 4 Anti-Bullying rules. You could chant your class rules, too! 

Thanks so much for reading! Sorry there aren't a lot of pictures for this post, but there isn't much to take a picture of during morning meeting! I will try to do a more permanent video to include on my Instagram so you can see morning meeting in action. I hope you already incorporate morning meeting into your day somehow. Even if it may seem tempting to cut it out due to time constraints, I promise it is worth it!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

An Intentional Daily Schedule: Part 1 - Play Centers

I have had to be creative with my scheduling over the past few years. Our kindergarten day is two hours shorter than the day I taught at my previous school. I knew there were things that would have to be sacrificed, but there are a few things that I knew I would never give up no matter how I had to squeeze them in! Below you will see our daily schedule. You will see that our day is packed full! I will continue this series in the next few weeks to share how we structure each part of our kindergarten day.

Aside from the required reading, math, writing, and specials blocks, I knew that our schedule had to incorporate time for my teaching passions (the hills that I will die on as my previous principal used to say). The first of these is our PLAY CENTERS.

As you will see above, our daily schedule includes 15 minutes of structured, planned, and intentional play EVERY DAY. This is the one part of our day that I will never give up! It can get loud, messy, and sometimes go beyond 15 minutes, but it is worth it! We know why play is important: children are social learners, they need time to practice social skills, they need to get their energy out, it gives them a creative outlet....

But I love play in the classroom probably for this reason the most: Structured play time gives all students - no matter their reading proficiency, math skills, or writing ability, no matter their native language, no matter their home life - a chance to connect to one another.

The conversations I overhear during playtime have revealed to me more about my students than I ever would have found out during typical classroom interaction. I have heard my students laugh, sing, pretend, argue, and disagree. I've watched wallflowers who never speak up create the most amazing structures in the block area, the student who has no English language proficiency laugh with his friends at the water table, and the most hyperactive of boys sit down and paint a beautiful picture of his family.

And for all the small instances I see it, the kids see it even more! They start to learn how to communicate and connect. They see common interests or find out hidden talents. Even if they never play together on the playground, I see students laughing and pretending together in dramatic play. Play unites children. It unites us as a whole classroom community. And I absolutely think it is important. There is always time for play!

Below you will see the 7 play centers that we use in our classroom. I've included some things below each picture that you could include in the center for your students. I rotate what is in each of my centers about 2-3 times per year, that's it! I love how my students get connected to the materials. They keep coming back to the same things and are able to adjust their plans and recreate amazing things!

  • Long Sterilite container found at a home improvement store
  • Bins underneath to store supplies that are rotated depending on what is in the table
  • Materials to put in the table for discovery: water and soap, dried pasta and beans, sand, potting soil and seeds, "moon dough" (recipe on my Pinterest board), cornmeal
  • Supplies for discovery: shovels, scoops, funnels, scrubbing brushes, small pots, children's gardening tools, small measuring cups

  • Play kitchen
  • Child-sized aprons
  • Various hats or other dress-up clothing
  • Empty food and beverage containers from home 
  • Plastic or ceramic plates, bowls, and cups
  • Plastic or metal forks and spoons
  • Kitchen utensils (spatula, tongs, etc.)
  • Small pots and pans (found mine at IKEA)

  • Anything that students could use to build (Wooden blocks, Legos, Duplos)
  • Random items that you would like to see students try to use to build with (shower curtain hoods, empty cans, yarn, binder clips, fabric - my students have created zip lines and tents on chairs from these materials!)
  • A big basket to store these items
  • Items are rotated in and out, not all out at once

  • 3-drawer Sterilite container for storage (one activity per drawer)
  • Anything that children would need to use their small motor movements to work with
  • Lacing buttons/cards, peg boards and rubber bands, gears, tweezers and beads, clothespins and dried pasta, various sizes of screws and nuts (More ideas on my Pinterest board)
  • Items are rotated in and out 3 at a time

  • 3-drawer Sterilite container for storage
  • Playdoh of any variation
  • Tools for cutting, rolling, squeezing
  • Stamps

  • Small containers for sorting (bowls, baskets, jars)
  • Any small items! This center is very broad. I have colored stones, rocks, seashells, marbles, and buttons.
  • Magnifying glasses

  • Construction paper of various sizes and colors
  • Crayons, markers, oil pastels, watercolors, tempera paint, colored pencils, paint brushes, scissors, glue, and any other art materials you like
I hope that you try some of these centers in your classroom. I promise you will immediately see the benefits! And if you are worried about doing play centers first thing in the morning, let me say that I believe that letting students come in and socialize, play, and create first thing actually helps them get ready for the learning later on! They get the chance as soon as they come in, so my students are more focused and ready when we come down to the rug. 

Play with your students and see how much you love it, too!

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