Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Long days in full day kindergarten...

These last 2 weeks I have been feeling just how long full day kindergarten really is. Can the holidays be getting to my students already? Yikes! This year has been my first experience with having full day kindergarten. While I am thrilled not to have 2 half day classes (especially with assessments coming up after Thanksgiving!) I am finding that by the end of the day my kiddos are just done! Really-I'm not sure there is a single lesson I could teach after 3 o'clock that they would pay attention to. I'm exhausted at that point too!

So...I have been messing around with my schedule a bit lately, and have added an extra center time to the end of the day. This was probably one of the best ideas I have had in a long time. Unlike my literacy centers in the morning and my math centers after lunch, this end of the day center time is completely free choice (no checking the center board to see where I've assigned them).

My only rules for this "free choice" center time are:
1. No more than 3 kids at a center...because well...that is a recipe for disaster
2. Pick a center and stay at it (kinders would switch centers every 2 minutes if they could!)
3. Pick a different center than yesterday (this way everyone gets a chance at the more popular centers and I don't see the same kid at the blocks center everyday!)

I have found it so interesting to see what centers my students pick to go to at the end of the day since they have the freedom to choose. I let them pick from any of our literacy centers, any of our math centers, and any of our play centers (blocks, housekeeping, puppets, etc.).

It warms my heart to see kids who don't even know the entire alphabet yet pick the writing center because they have a "really important story to write" or want to "make a card for grandma." And luckily, those kiddos that don't know the whole alphabet or all their letter sounds yet sometimes pick the alphabet center and get some extra practice at those skills too!

I have also been surprised that many kids love to choose math centers at this time (it's a great way for me to see which of our 10 math centers they like the best).

Another favorite center has been the big book center-and not because they just love reading big books. Nope-what happens is one kid declares that they are "the teacher" and uses the pointer to completely imitate me. They have the other kids sit on the rug while they stand next to the easel and point to the words and ask "teachery" questions-it is both scary and hilarious to watch!

This week kids have been loving stamping names at our names center. See how brave I am with the purple ink? I saw the idea of using ice cube trays to hold alphabet stamps on Pinterest and it is working great!

Now, I would be lying if I said they all run to academic centers at the end of the day. Our two most popular free choice centers are the blocks center and the housekeeping center-but I am managing to be sneaky and insert a bit of skill work even into these centers! Students are busy reading lists of foods as they prepare to write their own shopping lists, counting out play money at their "store,"  and writing receipts for "customers" (ok me) that have ordered a pretend pizza. I even caught one kid writing a Thanksgiving "menu" this week.

We only have free choice centers for the last 20-25 minutes of our day-but it is very much worth it! The kids are engaged in lots of great learning and social skills practice and of course I get to do fun things like one-on-one assessments and catching kids up who missed projects.

I am very curious to hear what happens in your classroom after 3pm-can you get anything done?!


  1. Do you really teach past 3pm?????
    We go home at 2:57 and I always have centers at the end of the day and I teach first grade. I just feel it's better for everybody. LOVE your centers! It looks like so much fun to be a kinder in your room.A Teeny Tiny Teacher

  2. Thanks Kristin! 2:57 sounds like a lovely time to end school! Sadly, dismissal doesn't start until 3:25 and I am lucky if I've loaded everyone on their busses by 3:40!

  3. I totally know how you feel! We get out earlier than you, at 2:40, so our cutoff time for paying attention is 2:00. I usually do Religion last because I am a bad person and it's a non-academic subject.....

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  4. Our school is 9:10 to 3:55! I know how you feel. Luckily, my kids go to specials around 1:45 and when they return, we have centers. My favorite part of the day (and of course, theirs, too!). Play is a great way to learn!

  5. I awarded your blog the Sunshine Award. Find out about it
    here. :)

    Lil' Country Kindergarten