I went to visit my friend Kristie today. She is a Kindergarten teacher at Bonny Doon Elementary school. It is one of my "sister" schools in the county. It is a small single school AND district, just like mine. Because I don't have a group of fellow kindergarten teachers at my school, it is very important for teachers at our small schools to reach out and connect. So, I am very grateful that my administrator gave me a day to go observe Kristie and learn from all her wonderful ideas. Yea!
I was so impressed by the many great things going on in her class! I just had to share some of them on the blog and also process what I saw so I can incorporate it all into my own teaching.
There were some great, things in the room environment that I just loved! The first thing I noticed was this COOL tree in the middle of the room. I think it is such a fun idea!
I also loved her cutie patootie number line. A big theme for the year is the butterfly life cycle. It is a metaphor for the kids and the changes through the year in the classroom. She calls her kiddos caterpillars. They will soon turn into butterflies at the end of the year.
And this sun on the back wall. Yes, shine, little caterpillars. Shine bright every day at school! (and you too, Miss C!)
And, you just have to love this built in bench in a nook perfect for gathering the group. She has books, anchor charts, and other goodies posted around the space. It is the heart of the classroom.
I was so glad I got to see Kristie's morning centers in action. They had three activities and then another special activity for the TK kiddos. (for those of you reading not from California, TK stands for transitional kindergarten. These are pre-kinder kids that are just not quite old enough for kinder, or those needing more time to mature, that are receiving a pre-school curriculum in a kindergarten class. Yes, you heard right. She is teaching a double grade with pre-school and kinder students!)
I love her anchor chart on behavior expectations for centers...
and her centers chart, too. She changes the top three cards when it is time to switch centers. Then the little caterpillars come look to see where they each need to go.
They had a sight word job with the instructional aide, a writing activity with Miss C, and Life lab. For those of you not familiar with the life lab program, it is a garden based environmental education curriculum that was developed at UC Santa Cruz. If you want to know more, you can check it out here: http://www.lifelab.org. Kristie's school had a life lab teacher to do the center outside with the kids. Each center lasted for about 30 minutes. These are some shots of the sweet learning garden at Bonny Doon:
At the sight word table, they were doing a trash or treasure word sort with sight words(treasure) and nonsense words(trash). Kids had to read the word on the paper and decide which it was, and record it correctly on their paper. If it was trash it went into a little trash bin. FUN! I saw this idea on Pinterest. I bet Kristie did too. TK kids had another sight word activity: building words with linker cubes. I think the kinder kids got to do this too, when they were done with the sorting.
The TK kiddos also had another task to do after building the words- a letter/sound match activity.
The two boys that I worked with for a bit, both seemed like they had some knowledge of the sight words AND knew lots of sounds. They are ready for Kindergarten next year!
Kristie's writing center was great! The kids have been studying South America, and the rain forest. Today they were writing about the sloth:
They developed the sentences as a group. Miss C modeled the correct writing on the board. Then, students wrote them in the book they were making. Next, Miss C took the kiddos through a step by step drawing of a cool sloth (or they could draw their own version if they liked). TK kids had a different book, and just copied the word sloth under the picture space. I liked this because the group had a good discussion about the main idea, with a fact, and added more detail. It is explicit instruction to help expand their thinking and writing. And, for those of you who use Step Up to Writing in your school, you will notice the colors are aligned. Great!
She also had a great writers anchor chart with a similar idea on expanding sentences.
For math, later in the day, the little caterpillars did some Marcy Cook tile boards. I helped out, so I didn't take pictures. If you don't use Marcy Cook math materials in your classroom, you really should check them out. If you ever get a chance to go to a training with her, GO! You can check out the materials here: http://www.marcycookmath.com
As I was wandering around Kristie's HUGE classroom, I also noticed so many signs of creative activities happening.
And other evidence of powerful teaching and learning!
The thing that I think Kristie has done an exceptional job with is social-emotional development and behavior expectations for students at school. I saw so many signs that respect, kindness, and good manners are the norm. Reminders for all these are woven throughout the day and the year. She was ever vigilant, modeling perfect behavior, gently reminding, and holding expectations high for appropriate behavior at all times from students. What a lovely community of young learners I saw today! They were polite, respectful, and on, what I would consider, best behavior ALL day. This is no doubt due to Kristie's incredible work all year long. At this time of year, when most classrooms are getting loud and bouncy, the kids in Miss C's class were doing business as usual and it was BEAUTIFUL!
Some examples of the great things I saw:
And a voice meter (that's what I call the one in my classroom):
And this is something that I really liked a lot. These tally marks are a record of all the times the little caterpillars give Miss C "goosebumps" for their good behavior - kindness, great transitions, whatever. But this is the best part- there is NO REWARD!!!!!! They are just doing it to feel good about themselves, and receive the intrinsic motivation they should for behaving well. (And learn days of the week, tally marks, and practice counting by 5s as well.) This is genius! Kudos, Kristie!
What a wonderful day of learning for teachers (me!) and students at Bonny Doon! This has become a huge post, so I will stop here. But, be on the lookout for my next post about the student art show I got to see later in the day. It was spectacular! I will do that post soon. There are many more photos to edit...
Thank you to my friend, Kristie Carruthers, and Stephanie Siddens, principal of Bonny Doon School! You made me feel so welcome and I appreciate your time with me today. You must be very proud of the wonderful school community you have.