Since I last wrote about our daily schedule, a few things have changed in our kindergarten classroom! The biggest difference has been the incorporation of rotations to teach math and ELA skills. Those two areas of our day, along with our reading and writing workshop times, have been shifted and adjusted many times. I’ve finally found a schedule that allows my students plenty of time to work and doesn’t feel rushed!
I currently teach in a full day kindergarten that is 5.5 hours long. It feels like a perfect amount of time for this age group. We’re able to get our goals accomplished without feeling rushed or squeezed for time. I’ve taught in half day (3 hours) and a very full day (7 hours), but I’ve found the Goldilocks schedule with this school (just right).
Now, let’s get to the schedule. There are some main areas we’ll cover: academics (content blocks), social/emotional (play and meetings), and specials classes. Some things are set in stone, but most things during our day happen when they do because I’ve been allowed to choose that time for our class. Our admin is very supportive and teachers at my site have a say in many (but not all) scheduling decisions.
- Math (including number talk and rotations) – 45 minutes
- Phonics Workshop – 20 minutes
- Writing Workshop (including interactive writing) – 35 minutes
- ELA Rotations – 30 minutes
- Reading Workshop (including read aloud/shared reading) – 45 minutes
- Science – 45 minutes, one day a week
Math consists of a number talk/warm up (15 min), and rotations (30 min). During that time, I’m able to give whole group instruction and allow for differentiated small groups. Our number talk time allows me to introduce and practice content with all students, then when we break into our rotations I’m able to dive deeper with small groups of kids based on their specific needs. My number talk time is my whole group math instruction. To see what rotation time looks like, please read this post that goes into much more detail about them! You can also read this post to see what our number talk/warm up routine is like!
This is when I use the Units of Study for phonics from Teachers College. It is a 20 minute whole group lesson with all the kids on the rug. We learn the foundational skills standards and also link to the reading and writing standards. Using the phonics UoS has been amazing so far, and I especially love how it connects to the UoS for reading and writing. If you don’t have the Units of Study, you can use this time to explicitly teach foundational skills. In the past, I have used the Heggerty Phonological Awareness curriculum for a warm up followed by my Foundational Skills mini lessons.
After a GoNoodle break between phonics and writing, we begin our workshop time. Like I said before, I use the Units of Study from Teachers College. The format of writing workshop is as follows: Whole group teaching (including student practice on the rug), independent writing time (when you can pull students to confer or have writing partners work together), and whole group share out. Early in the year, I am not conferring as a one-on-one meeting but as I’m walking around. I like to stop by students as they are working, ask them questions, give any tips, and move on. The main goal is to get students independently writing, so I don’t scaffold very much during their writing time. Also, don’t forget the share out! It’s one of the best parts! Interactive writing doesn’t happen within this time, but at the end of the day during our closing circle. It’s a powerful tool for supporting writing growth, so I try to include it daily.
After watching students work in phonics and writing workshops, I am able to see if anyone needs additional support on the skills we’re practicing that day. Also, after reviewing classroom data from formative assessments, I’ve created groups of students with similar needs. So, this time of the day is set aside for groups of students to receive additional support. It follows a similar structure to years past (click here to read an older post), but this year I am working on making sure that groups are very intentionally planned so that their activities can be even more specific to their needs. Since I do have a classroom aide, both she and I have dedicated groups. I work with students who need additional support on a skill, and she works with students to do letter or word sorts based on the letters or words we studied that day in phonics workshop. The other groups are either playing differentiated games or activities based on phonics skills or they are using the iPads for practicing on Lexia (a leveled program provided by our district that is designed to support ELA skills).
Similar to our writing workshop time, reading workshop follows a whole group, independent work, partner work, and share out format. Before we start our whole group time, though, we have a read aloud or shared reading. This typically happens before lunch, then we start workshop time after lunch. During independent reading (or private reading as the UoS calls it), I can pull reading groups. I don’t have a lot of time, though, because the reading stamina for a kindergartners between the months of September-January is pretty low! I have 10 minutes to work with a group while the rest of the class reads. This is when I can do a strategy group (students who have similar errors in their reading or need coaching with a similar skills) or a guided reading group (students who are reading at the same level who I want to coach and push to the next level).
We do science class once a week for 45 minutes. On this day, we will skip our ELA rotations and read aloud. It’s not preferred, but with a 5.5 hour day it’s the best way for us to get this instruction in. We are partnered with a local program that has a specific curriculum for teaching science, so we don’t use an adopted textbook for these skills. Also, we refer to the NGSS to see how we can pull read alouds based on the standards. Although we only have this lesson once a week, we are doing science or social studies based read alouds daily.
- Play Centers – 15 minutes
- Morning Meeting – 20 minutes
- Snack and recess – 15 minutes
- Lunch and recess – 45 minutes
- Closing Circle – 10 minutes
I have started the day with play centers for the past 5 years, and it has been one of the best changes I’ve made in my teaching career. I used to give out morning work, but after lots of reading and researching I stopped. Play centers are a wonderful way to start the day for many reasons, but maybe the best one is that kids are excited and happy to come into the classroom! It also allows me to get attendance submitted, check folders, greet late students, and chat with the kids. It’s something that I never skip, even on days with subs, assemblies, drills, or any other thing that can potentially throw off our schedule. Click here to read a blog post from a while back about the play centers I have in my room. Since that post, I’ve also added a building area and listening center. I display the play centers on my screen with students’ names next to the pictures. I created it in PowerPoint using pictures of the students modeling the play centers from the first week of school. I rotate students’ names daily, but after a month or so I stop and let them choose which center they want to play in.
I follow the morning meeting structure from Responsive Classroom. You can head to their website to read a lot more about the benefits and structure of morning meeting. I highly suggest this book to help you plan your meetings. This is such a special time of our day where we sing, laugh, and get to know each other. It’s also where we resolve conflicts, set expectations, and learn how to be better friends and students. Unfortunately I have to skip morning meeting a couple of times a week because of our specials classes, but on those days I can address anything we missed during our Closing Circle.
Snack/Lunch and Recess
The only thing I’ll say about this part of the day is that you MUST explicitly model behavior and expectations for students during this time of day. You can’t assume that students will know how to appropriately act or play, and if there are specific rules at your school (no climbing up the slide, no playing tag, sorting your trash into recycling/composting bins) you should teach your students about them. We spend the first week of school outside with our students most days at recess even though it is our break time. We explicitly model how to use the playground equipment, what it sounds and looks like when it’s time to line up, where their trash goes, etc. If you don’t model these things, you’ll likely have more behavior issues outside. It’s worth giving up a few of my breaks to practice!
Another strategy from Responsive Classroom is closing circle. It’s a wonderful way to wrap up the day, check in with students, hear their thoughts about the day, and so on. Head to the RC website to read more, or check out this book. Even on days when our lesson ran long and we are feeling rushed before dismissal, I still include closing circle. It feels great to hear each students’ voice reflecting on their day, and it helps me gauge who I can support or check in with tomorrow morning.
Specials (Once per week)
- Music (Tuesdays)
- Library (Wednesdays)
- Art (Thursdays)