Sunday, December 29, 2013

Imagination & Play...Where To Begin

Source Credit
Christmas Break has given me the luxury to reflect; burrowing under a comforter with a peppermint mocha has been a perfect position for dreaming!  I've been doing a lot of thinking about the pace of our classroom schedule, the non-negotiables of the district, and how to meld these things with my personal philosophy.

We all know that the expectations of kindergartners have grown more rigorous, especially with the adoption of Common Core.  The trickle-down-effect into the PreK arena is placing a burden on our youngest learners and their teachers.  (I've just typed, deleted, and rewrote my next sentence 5 times.)
*Deep Breath* 
Our little ones need more time to play.

Our day:  150 minutes for Literacy, 90 minutes for math, 50 minutes for each-Science and Social Studies, 50 minutes for Ancillary classes, 30 minutes for lunch AND recess.  When you do the math, it becomes clear that we aren't in the building long enough to accomplish all of this, especially when you factor in that our trips to the bathroom take at least 10 minutes each time (the bathrooms are on a different floor than our classroom, with girls and boys at opposite ends of the building).  As a K team, we've gotten creative with the science and social studies blocking.  And we try to work free choice into the afternoon --a 4 hour block with no transition or break--, with a small amount of time when we focus on intervention for struggling students.

~Which leads me to a mini rant on the fact that these children rarely get to play... the ones who need practice with language and social situations.~

I've also had time to update our class photo album.  It's bursting with pictures of children building block towers, creating yummy things with playdo, imagining a different life for the manipulatives.  These are the things that make them say, "Can you take a picture?".  They beam with pride, joy, and abandon.  They work things out with minimal involvement from me.  Not long ago, I heard one of my girls tell a boy, while assembling a puzzle, "You need all kinds of help, boy. You should be glad I'm here!".  His reply?  "Yup." ;-)

My students live in an urban environment.  I've been worried about them since day 2 of this break.  Are they hungry?  Did they find presents under the tree?  Are they sleeping?  Did they get enough hugs today?  When I add the joyful photographs to the facts of their lives, I see play as vital.  The way through circumstances, the practice of finding silver linings in the storm clouds, can be discovered with an active imagination.  Learning to manage our emotions and engage others in socially appropriate ways can be discovered through play.
A non-negotiable.

I want, need, to give my students more opportunities to imagine, to dream.  I'm working on a Dream Journal idea, pondering a repositioning of subjects, tweaking station/center choices, ravaging my sons' Lego collection.

Do you want, need, to dream with me?  Ideas welcome!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thank You Notes...A Gift For You

Maybe you sent 'thank you notes' home 
on your last class day...OR
maybe you have some mailing to do over the holiday break.
(I'm mailing mine, to see if addresses are still current.)

I love the graphics that Krista from Creative Clips 
shared during the days leading up to Christmas; 
how could I not make something special?!

Have a very merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Paper Chain Poem

A gift for you...
(It's been corrected and can be easily downloaded now!)
I'm a bit late with the paper chain--
trying to save paper, cutting it down to 15 circles.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Snow Day Calculator

(and ice, which is not so nice)
Have you seen the Snow Day Calculator?
By the calculations, I have a 58% chance 
of a snow day tomorrow!

The downside?
There is a 42% chance that my commute will 
exceed the normal hour and become epic.
Oh, and also?
We don't have any snow days 
added into our school calendar.
But at the moment, driving the highways on a 
sunny day in June seems like a good idea!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Attitude Adjustment

I saw this on Twitter, over the weekend;
no clue as to source, but I'd love to give credit!
There is an album filled with pictures in our classroom.  The book is always a favorite when free choice is given.  I can't post these photos online.  I've tried to camouflage faces with pic apps, but the magic is lost in translation.

The photos have provided a side benefit for me this year-- they are a reality check.

I see evidence of joy, community, and learning in each picture (despite the documenting of behavior that I do each evening, beyond the discipline referral sheets that need signatures to be returned).
Many days, I miss it in the moment.  The challenges of the system can be overwhelmingly frustrating, the need for flexibility is exhausting.  To get up each morning and do it all over again, I need an attitude adjustment.

I've been asking myself how I can turn a difficult ordeal into an adventure for the children.  Can I woo a child out of an anger funk, or a temper tantrum, and into the excitement of learning?  Have you ever dealt with flying chairs--or shoes, fists thrown into tiny tummies, ugly words?  Usually, by this time of the year, a group of kindergartners is hitting their stride, moving forward.  This class becomes more chaotic by the day.  Their circumstances outside of my room are beyond my control, but I set the tone in room 122.

From an ordeal to an adventure.... this is my December mantra, and possibly my resolution for 2014.