4.09.2014

Wordless Wednesday: Saving Anchor Charts


I haven't done a linky party in a long time, but I saw this one on Instagram and found it would be a perfect place to ask a question to other teachers. Many teachers that I have worked with in the past laminate and save anchor charts, poems and other visuals that they handwrite or create on chart paper.  I do anchor charts and write out poems for every theme and unit, and now I am struggling with what charts to save and what charts to laminate and keep to reuse next year? I will definitely not save ones that are specific with my students' names and ownership on them.

What anchor charts/visuals do you save and which ones do you make new each year?




3.16.2014

Dealing with Class Behaviors

I didn't know if I would be able to blog about this topic when I was in the middle of dealing with it but now I think it's safe to say we are out of our funk. We have completed a 180 from where we were in January and February. It's easy to think it's always sunshine and rainbows in kindergarten and first grade, but the reality is, we have some really great days and some realllllyyy tough days.

The months of January and February were tough because we were battling cabin fever. We had a snow day (or 2) almost every week. We had February vacation. We had Valentine's Day, the 100th day and many other very "excitable" events in our classroom. I know this sounds like fun. What's wrong with a bunch of snow days and a vacation?! But from the teacher's shoes, snow days, vacations and holidays can sometimes be our worst nightmare. I paid for every single snow day we had. Disruptions in routines are the downfall of my classroom and all of these fun filled and unexpected events caused our class to unravel in the days we were together. Some days it felt like it was September again. My kids were forgetting our simple classroom rules like raising hands, saying please and thank you and walking in the hallway. They were forgetting how to be nice to each other. They were irritable. They were fighting with each other. They were driving each other bonkers!

So what is a teacher to do when her class is unraveling? Well, I'm not entirely sure if there is one answer for this. But here is what I had to do.

I took away everything fun. I KNOW. It seems heartless but all of my other behavior systems had failed me and I needed the shock factor to really get them to understand that I was serious and that we could not go on like we had been.

At the end of what I can only describe as our worst day all year, I took all of our toys out of the classroom as my kids sat and watched. I put garbage bags on all of our computers. I took away our "Scrap Monster" which is really just our recycling bin but the kids have free reign over it to make crafts. I needed them to understand that school is FUN and the things we do and have we are LUCKY to have and we don't just get them because we are supposed to. We get them because we deserve and earn them! It was a sad day and I felt that inner conflict that all teachers are familiar with. Was I being too harsh? Was this going to work? Would they even care?

The lone chair sat where we once had our kitchen, our toy shelf with blocks, Legos, Knex, figurines, etc. Such a sad day!

I sat down with my principal after school and asked her for her support. My kids really respect and love her so I knew if she helped me it would help them. We came up with a plan. She kept all of the toys in her office where we could easily see them every time we walked by. I took photos of the toys and made puzzles out of them. On Monday I told the kids that we had to earn each toy back ONE puzzle piece at a time. The only way to earn a piece was by following the rules, trying our best and BEING NICE TO EACH OTHER!! We talked a lot about different scenarios and how we should behave, how we should treat each other. The kids learned that going on the computer during math or reading isn't just "part of school", it is STILL a privilege. They didn't like doing paper and pencil work during that time!

It took a LOT of management, praise and encouragement but the kids did it. One toy, one day at a time. They worked together to get each thing back. Every time we earned something back, the child who earned the last piece to the puzzle got to go to the principal's office and get the toy. We cheered each time something came back. It took the full week to earn everything back.  I was really, really proud of them and noticed a huge change in behavior. Slowly but surely I had gotten my class back!



Now here's the thing...

More often than not, I blame myself for bad weeks and bad days at school, wondering what I could do differently or how I can improve our class. Although I needed to do something drastic for the kids to make a change, I also used this rock bottom as a way to reflect on the things I was doing each day. I reflected on my groups of students. Was this a bad combination of kids that led to behavior problems? I reflected on my timing. Was I leaving enough time for us to line up for music class quietly or did the kids feel rushed and chaotic? I reflected on my planning. Was I planning lessons that were keeping them interested and engaged? Despite my students needing strict routines, there is something to be said about a change of scenery helping everyone get out of a funk. I decided to rearrange our classroom, reorganize the way we did centers and find some new things for them to work for. 

It was a tough winter, but this was back in February and the past two or three weeks have been full of good behavior and I couldn't be prouder of my kiddos for working through it! In many ways it was the spring cleaning that we desperately needed! 

3.11.2014

GoNoodle! A Classroom Website MUST

A few weeks ago my class started our very own GoNoodle account and we are OBSESSED. We can't get enough of it! If you're new to GoNoodle, it's a website that is devoted to brain breaks and movement in the classroom. When I first joined, I was uneasy about when it would be okay to use it and how my kids would respond. We all know that sometimes when you turn on music and have the kids move around, you may be making the craziness worse. That is not the case with GoNoodle.


When you start an account you pick a mascot that will represent your class. As you choose exercises and complete minutes, you move on to new levels and your mascot gets bigger. The kids can't wait to see if we beat another level and they love watching McPufferson grow! It only takes 15 minutes to move on to a new level. When you reach the next level, the background changes too.

Before we started, I told them there were some rules that we had to follow.

  • Everyone has to participate or it won't work (teacher secrets hehe). 
  • You have to stand behind your chair.
  • You have to follow exactly what the brain break tells you to do (no jumping around when you should be doing Zumba!)
I was amazed that my kinder-firsts really follow along with the Zumba dances, the yoga poses and the different movements involved. It is a great way to get up out of our seats and have a brain break! There are a variety of videos on it so you can choose what best fits your class. Before we go to lunch every day, we have a "free dance" to the Happy song from Despicable Me 2, but before we start centers we do yoga to get us ready to focus. 

At this time of year when we are all in desperate need of movement, GoNoodle is a total must. Last week a teacher at my school emailed everyone to apologize that her class may have sounded "rowdy" because they were trying to beat a level! I love it. 

GoNoodle will even send you a class pack of stickers with your mascots face on them! How fun is that?

Here are a few of the great breaks available! Go now and GoNoodle!






3.08.2014

These Things are Fun and Fun is Good!

What a fun week it was! Even if I did have to stay home sick on Wednesday...

We had one of our most exciting weeks by celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday, Read Across America week and by welcoming a new month.  Here's a recap of what went on in our kinder-first world.



One of my little buddies is such a good helper- I snagged this photo last week while he was helping me set up for Seuss week! 



I tried to do one book a day and base all of our activities around it, but when I got sick Tuesday night and had to miss Wednesday my plan went out the window. Monday was all about One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (I Can Read It All by Myself)




One Fish, Two Fish graph from my Read Across America unit.


Morning Work from The Tutu Teacher!


We have been listening to celebrities read our favorite children's books aloud on YouTube lately. If you Google a children's book title you can usually find an audio version with photos. I also search YouTube for them. 






This was our book cover project. We learned about the title, author and illustrator on a book cover! 


Do any other teachers out there get so excited about a Pinterest idea, only to have the kids want nothing to do with it!? That's what happened when I made blue jello with Swedish Fish. They would barely touch it! Oh well..I enjoyed it :)




The Lorax craft..orange paper plates and yellow tissue paper. So simple and so cute!







I have to brag for a minute about one of my moms this year. She is an AMAZING baker- she bakes all organic, natural dyed baked goods and decorates them beautifully. She surprised us with this amazing display of Lorax cookies and truffula tree pops! 


This was another Pinterest flop but they were fun to make- Cat in the Hat kabobs. I suppose they would have gone over well if they were made out of marshmallows and Swedish Fish, but I tried to take the healthy snack approach. Fruit is the first thing to go at our holiday parties but it turns out they didn't go crazy for these! 


Finger painting followed by a writing prompt: "If the Cat in the Hat came to my house we would...."



Green Eggs and Ham sight word game from my Read Across America packet.

For the second Friday in a row my kids have been so good- it makes my weekends much better when I come home feeling on top of the world. I love my little guys so much. Have a good weekend everyone! 





3.02.2014

Penguin Party



I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a month go. I think I was actually starting to have seasonal depression from January and February! Between multiple snow days, February break, Valentine's Day and the 100th day, let's just say our class was in rare form and it was hard to keep everyone on track. I am looking forward to spring (even if it takes a few more weeks). At least we made it to March!

One of the things that we did accomplish during the crazy month of February was our penguin unit. It was our first *successful* nonfiction unit. In fact, when we revisited it this week after having a week off, I literally jumped up and down when one of my boys raised his hand and remembered that krill is what penguins eat and that they huddle together in a creche to stay safe and warm. They actually listened! They all love animals and love learning about them, so this was definitely fun for all of us.

Here are a few photos of our penguin fun!








(Ripped paper penguins photo from Pinterest...I forgot to take a photo of ours!)


What did we use?








1.26.2014

Drama, Drama! Fighting Cabin Fever in the Dead of Winter

Ever since we got back from winter break, my class has seemed to have a BIG case of cabin fever! With the bitter cold and the nonstop snow, we haven't even been able to go for a walk outside! I truly believe that because I have a small class, it is so much easier for the kids to get on each other's nerves because they are always around each other. We are like a family. Since we haven't had the chance to run around outside on the playground at the end of the day, we've been going a little bonkers inside our classroom. The result? A lot of tattle-taling and drama about things that aren't important!

When I left school on Friday I was determined to plan a lesson all about tattling, kindness and what defines a "real" problem. We are even tattling on each other for our coat sleeves brushing against each other as we put our coats on at the end of the day! Seriously?! A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend at another school and she had a great visual for "problem sizes" that her speech therapist made for one of her kiddos (thanks, Rebecca!). I tried my best to recreate it tonight because we need all the help we can get! I hope you are all surviving the dead of winter!   




1.08.2014

Fall Highlights from Mrs. Hornung!

They say if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. In July, I decided to get married and start a new job in the same season. There were a few times along the way that I thought "WHAT was I thinking?!", but to be perfectly honest I would not have done it any other way. I have a history of overworking myself at school and that's what I was mainly worried about in August. I wondered how could I be an overworked teacher AND an overworked bride? The answer was, I couldn't be either and what a blessing it truly was. Planning a wedding during the same time that I was opening up a new classroom turned out to be the BEST way to balance it all, because I simply did not have a choice. I couldn't stay at school until 9pm being a perfectionist and I couldn't stay home all day being a bridezilla. I had to just do what I could in each area of my life and be done with it.

There are, of course, some things that I couldn't balance. I couldn't balance exercising. I couldn't balance blogging. I couldn't balance regular get-togethers with my girlfriends. I couldn't balance my one night a week of waitressing. But those were all things that would still be there when my wedding was over and my classroom was settled. So here I am married with a settled classroom, and as I expected, those things are all here waiting for me to return to them!

Before I dive in to the rest of the school year with my little love bugs, let me give you a highlight reel from our September-December. I have a truly great group of kids and I fall more in love with their little personalities and hearts every day. They are so sweet, so loving and so FUNNY!!! They bring me to tears at least once a week in laughter.




Following our field trip to a local apple farm, we had a blast on our Apple Investigation Day! We had a sweet volunteer (my sister, Lily) come in and help us make homemade apple sauce and try all different varieties of apples. We also tasted freeze-dried apples, apple jam, apple cider and apple juice!









On Halloween we had more special visitors- my mom and my Aunt Karen! They helped us do our special Halloween centers which were made fun by wearing our costumes. My kids love having new people to show off to! When it came time to change into our costumes, one of my buddies was surprised to see we were twins!



Our Thanksgiving crafts were my favorite of the year so far..paint swatch turkeys and thankful pumpkins!



We ventured into the city to see Dinosaur Train LIVE!


We learned what appropriate coloring looks like.... :-/



We did interactive poetry journals.


We built words.


We fell in love with puzzles! 


We pretended we were Miss Eager!




We listened to lots of books.


We were caught doing flashcards at free time (!!!!!!!).


We wrote about what we do if we lived in a snow globe and why we love Christmas time!


We made Christmas presents for our families.


We were invited to Miss Eager's wedding.


We made predictions about the wedding....


We had a bridal shower!


We made friends!!

Happy New Year! 

Love, Mrs. Hornung :)