Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Oh, Halloween. A day dedicated to kids running around with bulky costumes while consuming mass amounts of candy and desserts. Sounds like a teacher or parent's worst nightmare. Not for me! My outlook on Halloween? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Despite how zonked I am right now, I had an extremely enjoyable day! Life is too short, kids won't be kids for long..... let's have fun! 

I take my Halloween costumes VERY seriously. I won't settle for a simple witch, clown, or ghost. I always think outside the box and come up with costume ideas that are meaningful to our class. Last year in 2011 when I taught Kindergarten, I dressed up as a pretzel. The kids knew how much I love pretzels and bringing me pretzels during snack time became a daily competition among the students.

This year, I dressed up as a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a common theme in our Pre-K room. We have a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom behavior chart, we read the book a lot, and always watch this fun YouTube video:

Happy Halloween!!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Morning Meeting

We are in the midst of Hurricane Sandy. I am sitting here waiting for the power to go out so I figured I would blog while there was still time.

Before we begin, I want to thank a former co-worker and very best friend, Ellen. She is the inspiration for my Morning Meeting board. I spent many hours in her Pre-K room as a novice teacher and always loved her set-up. When it comes to education- why reinvent the wheel? If it works, steal it from your teacher friends!

A. Calendar Bags & Balloons. This is so much fun! Each bag is filled with fun stuff for the month. Calendar numbers, birthdays, holidays, etc. Each month we take down the bag and peek inside. The kiddos nearly screamed with delight when I pulled out the pumpkin calendar numbers for October. Can you guess what November will be? The balloons above have months on them and contain candles that have student names and birth dates on them. It wasn't planned, but don't the balloons and bags together resemble a hot air balloon? :) *The floating pumpkin is just a decoration hanging from our ceiling

B. Calendar. The calendar plays a large role in our room. We count the letters in October, count the days in silly voices, talk about the days of the week, and so much more. Ask any student in my class what Ms. Francis's favorite day of the week is and they will respond "FRIDAYYYYY!!!" F is for Friday AND Francis :)

 C. Bear Helpers. The kiddos LOVE helping out and having a special job each day. Each bear has a student's name on it. When I choose a student to receive a job, I sign their name to them in ASL. At this point in the year, most of them are able to identify their names in sign.We also take the time to recognize beginning and ending letters in each student's name. We also love finding the letter of the week in their names. 

D. The Weather Bear & Weather Wheel. How cute is this little guy? Before we dress him, the Weather Helper uses the Kindle to discover the weather for the day. I believe the app is AccuWeather. It's great because it displays a large image of the weather for the students to see. For example, if it is raining, the Kindle screen displays water droplets. The Weather Helper moves the weather wheel and then dresses the bear. 

E. Daily Schedule. I created the schedule on my own using Word. The schedule is a great tool for my young students as it gives them a visual reminder about what we are doing and how many more activities to go before mom or dad comes to pick them up. We remove the activity once we complete it. Click here for a copy of the schedule I created.

F. One Hundred Hands. Morning meeting wouldn't be complete without a manicure! Not for me, but for our paper hands ;) Each day we paint one finger to represent a day in school. I believe we are up to 33 days. Once we reach 100 fingers we will celebrate the 100th day of school! This is a great visual to help students get ready to skip count. After we count the fingers, we also count how many hands are up. I have an assortment of nail polish colors for the Calendar Helper to choose. Lately red has been the winner. The student chooses the color and I paint the "finger nail".

G. Morning Meeting Storage. I wasn't going to include this, but now that I think about it, it's one of the most important parts of Morning Meeting. This bin holds CDs, pointers, stickers, markers and other "teacher tools" essential to Morning Meeting. I suggest having a bin with several drawers to organize your meeting. These drawers were donated to all the teachers by family from my class :)

Hope you enjoyed looking at my Morning Meeting area and are inspired to steal some ideas!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Doing Science: Foaming Pumpkin

"EWWWWWWWWWWWW" "It looks like barf" "It stinks!!!" "COOOOOOOL!" "I want a turn!" 

You know it's a successful science lesson when you hear any of the above comments. On Friday, we mixed baking soda and vinegar to make foam come out of a pumpkin's mouth.

  • First, we carved the pumpkin. We took turns removing the "gunk and seeds" from inside the pumpkin. Then, we voted on the shape of the eyes, nose, and mouth:

  • Second, we took turns adding baking soda to a cup:

  • Next, we placed the cup inside the pumpkin and poured the vinegar:

  • Finally, we watched it foam!!!! My favorite quote was, "The pumpkin is puking!!!!"

I was hoping for more foaming action, but the kids still had fun! I hear that if you add dish soap to the mixture it will bubble more. Has anyone tried it?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Frugal Teacher: Whiteboards

Looking for another creative way to save money? Did you know that clear report covers double as a white board? The best thing is: you can even put worksheets inside the report covers for the students to complete with a dry erase marker. At my school, The Sara Marie School, we emphasize the importance of recycling and being eco-friendly. Instead of printing 20 tracing sheets for each student to use, I print only 4 and slip them inside a report cover for the students to complete using a dry erase marker. The kids really enjoy using dry erase markers and it has really cut down on the amount of paper I'm printing. Thanks to my co-worker and friend, Michelle for a brilliant idea :)
Another tip: Laminate a blank piece of white paper. Draw numbers, shapes, or letters on the laminated paper with a dry erase marker and slip it inside the report cover. Now you don't even have to print a tracing sheet! Take a peek at my student tracing the letter A. He even wrote more on the side!
Never lose erasers again! Glue a pom pom to the cap of the marker for students to use as an eraser!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Name Recognition

Greetings from The College of Saint Rose. I am sitting in the library waiting to go to my 7:15PM-10:00PM class. Bummer :( I am finishing up my M.S. in Special Education Birth-Grade 2 and I love it! The line between Gen. Ed and Special Ed is becoming quite thin. Inclusion is on the rise due to extensive research that proves students with special needs thrive in environments that contain students without special needs. I feel that EACH child is special and since no two children are alike, how are teachers not implementing strategies used for children with special needs? Sorry for are examples of how I get my kiddos to recognize and spell their names, as well as the names of their peers!:

Crack The Code: Students must "high-five" their name or the name of their classmates' before coming into the room. Can be used with sight words later down the road. My BFF Tara uses letters and sight words with her K students right now.

Student Playing Cards: The students can play memory or a matching game using the faces and names of their peers. The kiddos LOVE finding their own picture and name :)

Messy Letters: In the very beginning of the year I used painter's tape to tape the first letter of their name to neon paper. I gave them finger paint to smear all over the paper. When it dried, we peeled the tape. They had fun recognizing their letters.

Oops! Going to be late for class..............................

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Homework in Pre-K?

Happy Sunday! For me, Sundays are a day to lay in bed with your laptop and organize your lesson plans for the following week. Here are the themes for my Pre-K class for the week of 10/21/2012

  • Language Arts: Letter T- identifying, writing, and letter sound
  • Math: Identifying and counting to 5 and shapes review.
  • Science: Woodland animals: nocturnal animals. On Fun Friday we will do an "exploding pumpkin" experiment!
  • Social Studies: Community helpers: bakers & firefighters
The idea of homework in Pre-K is quite controversial. Personally, I feel that giving a 4 year old paper and pencil homework is inappropriate and a waste of time. I developed a "homework" program for my young students that encourages hands-on, meaningful experiences that reinforce what we learned that day. The Homework Caterpillar is composed of four sections (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) containing hands on activities for the student to complete at home. Once the  student completes the activity, they color in that day's section of the caterpillar so I know they completed it. On occasion, I will send home a tracing "worksheet" or coloring activity that closely ties to what we learned that day. The students LOVE the caterpillar and look forward to coloring it in each day. Some students really get into the coloring and decorate each part of the body. It is so cute!

Click the above link for a Homework Caterpillar that you can customize. I left my homework examples on the caterpillar for you to use as a reference. Feel free to download, customize, and use how you wish. :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weekend Wind-Down

Happy Friday, Teachers! We made it another week! Every Friday I will post an inspirational, funny, uplifting video, quote, picture, or story to take you into the weekend.


PS- I want to meet Taylor Mali so bad!

aDOORable: October

I have been recently obsessed with decorating my classroom door in creative ways. My inspiration comes from Pinterest. I sleep, eat, and breath that addicting website. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with my Kindle on my chest after a late night Pinterest binge. 

Check out my latest aDOORable creations! Happy Halloween :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Frugal Teacher: Bookcases

Introducing the first "The Frugal Teacher" post! Close friends and family know about my 6th sense: the sense of sale. Wherever I go, I manage to sniff out a good deal and am all about saving. My classroom is entirely made up of my own personal purchases or hand-me-downs from marvelous teacher colleagues and this year especially I have been on a hunt to make the most of a penny. 

Check out my bookcases. They are made from rain gutters. When I went to Home Depot and asked one of the employees to cut the gutter in half, he looked at me like I had 6 heads. I explained to him my plan to turn them into bookcases and before I knew it, he was paging his boss and 3 other employees to come hear my great idea. Have a look:

Supplies needed: 
  • 1 plastic rain gutter (the book cases above are made from 1 gutter cut in half)
  • 4 L brackets 
  • 4 screws

Cost: ~$10

Check back later for more thrifty ideas for your classroom!

The Sara Marie School

This is my first official post! My teacher name is Miss Francis, but my name after 3:00PM, Saturday and Sunday is Joanna. I recently embarked on an adventurous journey with two of my closest friends: we opened a school! We are the co-founders of The Sara Marie School : a nursery through grade 2 (we aim to reach grade 5) non-public school. Last year, we lost a very dear friend Sara to Cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer which took her away from us at age 26. The school was established to honor her and carry on her educational philosophies. It has been an overwhelming roller coaster of emotions this past year and I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I decided to start a blog to showcase my life as an educator and co-founder of a school. 
Thanks for reading :)