Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Math Work Stations

I don't know who loves math work stations more-me or my students! It is one of the few parts of our day that is actually going very smoothly. Here's what we're up to this week:

Station 1: Counting Game
(The kids count how many objects are on the picture card and match it to the corresponding number card. Each kid  in the partnership gets their own little baggie of picture and number cards to work with.)

Station 2: Apple in my Lunch Game
 (Kids roll a dice and place a cube on the apple that has that number. This game is from Mrs. Wills' Back to School Math Work Stations Pack-you can download it on TPT here. I have slightly adapted Deedee's awesome game, and give each kid  in the partnership a gameboard and whoever covers all of their apples first wins.)

Station 3:  Lego Spin and Graph
(Students spin the spinner and then color in what color lego they spun on the corresponding graph-download this free game here)

Station 4: Zoo Game
(Students roll a dice and then place that many zoo animals (actually erasers) on their math mat. Download the free math mat here)

Station 5: Race to Trace
(Student roll the dice and trace the number they rolled on their paper. Download this free game from Sharri Sloane here)

Station 6: Lacing Bead Patterns
(Students make patterns using the lacing beads Target was selling in the dollar spot this summer)

Station 7: More or Less Game
(Kids each take a picture card and count how many objects are in the picture. Then they spin the spinner to see if the kid with more or less in their picture wins the cards. This game is also from Mrs. Wills' Back to School Math Work Stations Pack-you can download it on TPT here)

Station 8: Lego Patterns
(Students pick a paper showing a lego pattern, copy the pattern using the legos, and then try to extend the pattern (actually I think these blocks are technically called Duplos). To download this free game click here)

Station 9: Pattern Block Exploration (Sorry-forgot to take a picture!)

Station 10: Making Numbers out of Wikki Stix (Again sorry-forgot to take a picture!)

I really like how much math practice my kindergarteners are getting each day as a result of the math stations-and they are working on reinforcing so many different math skills too! One thing I haven't decided yet is how often I will change the math station tubs out. Right now they are getting to do 2 math stations a day, so they get through all 10 in the course of a week. So I am thinking they should be able to go at least 2 or 3 weeks before I change them out. And I have also considered just changing the games slightly to make them more seasonal so the kids are working on the same skills but with different clipart or game pieces that will make it seem fresh. I really hate to take too much of my math time to teach them new stations (because it took forever to teach them these, model correct behavior with each game, etc.). Of course I'm sure that I'll always have a few math work stations that focus on whatever skills we're learning in our current math chapter and then the other stations will all be review.

I'd love to see what stations everyone else is doing for math (or for literacy!). Please share any ideas or tips you have!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gearing up for week 3!

After 2 weeks with my new kindergarten students I am still feeling exhausted! This week was better than week 1, but the improvement is slow. I certainly have a few little ones that are testing my limits! I think I just have a rambunctious group this year! This week I am planning to work a lot more on getting to know each other, building community, and developing social skills. Anyone have any good suggestions of activities or books for doing this? Here are two books I know I need to read because we have had a few little incidents!


Our class just doesn't feel like a family yet, and my kiddos are starting to get on each others' nerves by the end of the day! I did not have these challenges with my students last year, but I know each group is different. We have been working a lot on classroom behavior and learning our routines. I have always used a stoplight for behavior, like the ones below that have green, yellow, orange, and red apples and kids' clips are moved after a warning.

However, I felt like this class needed a bit of an extra incentive, and since we are working so hard on using quiet voices in the classroom, I made us a jar for "quiet critters" and whenever the students are working quietly, cleaning up quietly, walking in the hall quietly, etc. we can earn them.

So far it is working and the kids are very excited about earning "quiet critters" (they are actually just some pom-pom critters I happened to have lying around, but I told the kids they only come out when it is quiet-they don't like noise!). When the jar is full we'll earn a class treat. I'm thinking maybe some popcorn and watching the Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD. 

Even though my kinders have been a bit of a challenging bunch, one thing that has been going very well for us are our literacy and math work stations. These are my favorite times of the day. My kids are already pros at reading the work board and figuring out what stations they are assigned to for the day, and they have learned a lot of different station activities already. I have always done literacy work stations, but this is the first year I am doing math work stations. Honestly, I just can't believe I never thought to do math stations before, because they are so wonderful. My kids love their stations and are learning so much-and of course it is freeing up lots of time for me to assess kids (and hopefully I can start working with small groups soon).

I will have to post more on our work stations later in the week-I really need to get back to blogging regularly again - I miss all of my blogging friends! I hope the beginning of school is going well for all of you and that you're not feeling quite as tired as I am!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Wow-after just 3 days of school I am exhausted! I'm thrilled tomorrow is Friday-I will really need the weekend to recharge and get ready for a full week of kindergarten next week.

I can't decide if I have just blocked out my memories of how difficult the first week of kindergarten is, or if my class this year is just extra challenging! I just don't remember it being this hard last year!

The worst parts of my day by far are the transition times-I truly dread having to get them all organized for lunch and dismissal-and lining up and walking down the long hall  to our special classes (art, music, P.E.) takes forever. I know it will get better as they get into a routine-but it is so hard to be patient and remind them 100 times about the right way to do things in school. I have been trying to use little songs and rhymes whenever possible to help things along.

I have been pretty ambitious this week and started both my literacy stations in the morning and math work stations in the afternoon. We have been reviewing and modeling what they can do (and can't do) at each station every day (boy does this take a long time!) and also doing lots of whole class reflection after each station about what went well and what they want to try to do better. For the most part the stations have been VERY simple (for example some of the math stations were pattern blocks, number puzzles, counting bears, and making numbers with wikki stix). I've also been keeping the rotations very short! I think I let them do each station for about 8 minutes- because that was about how long they could focus and I really don't want them getting into any mischief at their stations! So far my kiddos have mastered a few important rules like:

1. You can't leave your station and wander around and pick a new one!
2. You can't put anything at the stations in your mouth-seriously!
3. After stations we go out to recess (okay how can they not remember any of the rules and procedures we talk about yet half the class remembered that recess was right after our literacy stations! I guess they only remember the really important stuff!!)

I was feeling a bit down after the first two days of school since they were so very challenging- but day 3 today went a bit more smoothly. Maybe that's because we started off our day with an introduction to Pete the Cat, who the kids absolutely adore. We kept singing his song, and reading his books, and watching his YouTube videos every chance we got today and that helped keep everything upbeat!

Another big hit today was the "magic playdoh"-I have to thank Jill at Marvelous Multiagers for this idea. It was truly magical as no one ate the playdoh and no playdoh ended up stuck in the carpet or crumbled in chair pockets or smashed in children's hair! They really just played with it-and pretty quietly too! The magic part is that you put a little dot of food coloring in the middle of the white ball of homemade playdoh and as the kids roll the playdoh around in their hands it changes colors. The kids were amazed-and there were tears when I suggested the playdoh stay at school so we could play with it tomorrow instead of bringing it home!!

I hope all you bloggers out there have a good start to the school year and if you have any words of advice-please share!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Classroom Pics!

I feel like I have been living at school lately! After putting in some VERY long hours this last week I feel like my classroom is finally coming together. I'm not sure I'm ready for school to start tomorrow though! Here are some pictures of my kindergarten classroom (I have taken so many great ideas from other bloggers-as I'm sure you'll see in the pics-so please don't think I came up with everything!).

This is the view you get when you first walk through the door.

Here is my whole group teaching area.

Here is my calendar wall (my math work station tubs are numbered and ready to go on the shelf below).

Here is my classroom library-it is my favorite part of the room!

Here is a close-up of one of the library shelves.

On top of this shelf is the leveled section of my library.

I plan to read the class many stories from this comfy green chair I got at Target.

Here is my bulletin board with my lovely tissue paper flowers hanging above.

Here is the writing center.

Here is the alphabet center.

Here is the drama center-so many puppets!

Here is my art easel and my sand table (which is full of play-doh activities right now).

Here is the housekeeping center.

Here is the listening center.

Here is the science center.

Here is the pocket chart center.

Here is the blocks center (later in the year the big book center will be here on the rug).

Here is where I keep my word work activities.

Here is my guided reading table.
Looks like the kids will have a great view of the playground as I am trying to teach them!

Right next to my guided reading table is my "teacher area" to help keep me organized!

Here is a view from the back of the room.
You can see my 4 student tables and then past them are my cubbies against the side wall.

I have a few more pictures I'll have to post later in the week-but right now I'm off to prepare my plans for the first day of school! Hopefully everything goes smoothly tomorrow-I'm getting a little nervous since I have 21 students this year and I've never had so many before (I know lots of you bloggers have even more students than that-so I'll just be thankful I only have 21!).

Several bloggers are having classroom photo linky parties. Head on over to "Pocket Full of Kinders", "Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher", and "Teaching Blog Addict" to link up and check out all the neat classroom pics!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Looking for Math Games?

I'm super excited to be starting math work stations in my classroom this year. I know my kindergarten students will benefit from all of the hands on math practice! Here are a few math games I've created-I'm using the little foam shapes from Target's dollar spot as game pieces, but you could certainly use something else!

Just click on the titles of the games to download your own copies!

If you're interested in more uses for the little foam shapes, head on over to the Target Treasures blog where I am guest blogging today. There you'll find my top 10 list for ways to use foam blocks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Full Day K!

I just got some great news today- I will be teaching a full day kindergarten class this school year. HOORAY!

I am pretty excited about this since for the last 3 years I've taught half day kindergarten. I can't believe I will get to have my students all day- no more rushing and cramming everything into 3 hours! It sure solves the problem of how to fit math work stations into my schedule! Even though I had 2 wonderful classes last year, I am not going to miss writing 2 sets of report cards, having 2 sets of parent conferences, going on field trips twice, or repeating my day at noon!

Now, I know full day kindergarten has its own challenges. So, please, give me your best advice if you teach full day. How do I deal with kiddos getting tired and cranky in the afternoon (I can't send them home at lunch time anymore!). I do know that my school allows for a rest time after lunch and the kids bring rest mats. I know my kids will also get an a.m. and p.m. recess. I have no experience with helping kinders do a lunch count in the morning, or even learning their lunch numbers for the cafeteria though. Mostly, I'm wondering how I make the full days move quickly those first few weeks when they seem so long...