What I'm Teaching in a Half-Day Program

Do you teach half day Kindergarten?  It is a constant juggling act to get it all in, keep students engaged (without being overworked), and keep things moving because the end of the day comes quickly!  I have my students for 2 hours and 45 minutes each day and I try my best to jam pack it full of learning and fun along the way.  Here is a look at what I'm teaching this week in a half-day program.

My day is broken up into 5 sessions.  We have Morning Work, Word Work, Reading, Writer's Workshop, and Math.  

We start every day with MORNING WORK that focuses on our letter of the week, sight words, grammar skill for the week, and writing sentences.  This activity gets them in their seats and working as soon as they get in the door.  As soon as they are done they raise their hands and I come by to check their work and I give them a stamp.  Once they have a stamp they can move on to a WORD WORK station.   
 WORD WORK stations consist of 5 different "core" stations that I have introduced throughout the year.  Students choose from:
Cut and Glue
Word Work
Write the Room
They have to go to Lexia once daily but the rest of the stations are completely up to them.  I time the stations 15 minutes at a time and ring a chime when time is up.  When the chime rings they clean up and move to another station.  This 45 minute block of word work time gives me time to meet with 3 small groups daily.   
Reading: After our word work stations we have a reading lesson (I use a CAFE model: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expand Vocabulary) and we go to Read to Self time.  This gives me another opportunity to meet with students and read with them.  I also use Heidi Songs during this time in our day.  You can read more about how I use them to teach sight words HERE.  

Writer's Workshop: My Writer's Workshop routine and lessons come from Lucy Calkins units of study.  Right now we are working on personal narratives.  This week we are working on telling a story with more than one detail and at the end of the week we will put all of our details together into a little book.  This is our first attempt at plan, write, edit, and publish.  It should make for an exciting week! 

Math:  I use Guiding Kinders in my classroom for math and have loved these units from Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills since I first started them last year.  You can see more about them when I first started them HERE. The post is titled "Math Workshop, I'm in LOVE"....just to let you know how I really feel about them! They include daily fluency, group lesson, partner work, and independent work. 
Once my students finish their independent work I use math tubs to keep them moving.  We don't all finish at the same time so this gives my "fast finishers" a hands on way to keep working on math skills.  We also have an online learning program called SPLASHMATH they can go to if they want to too.  For the students that don't finish right away this time gives me an opportunity to work with them one on one or in small groups.  Some days I'm working with one kiddo and some days I have 4 or 5 sitting at my horseshoe table working through the new concepts.  It's a really flexible way to give additional intervention.    
After math tubs we get together again to solve our "Problem of the Day" in our journals.  I put this routine all together HERE.   We don't always get to our journals but I like to make sure we solve 2 to 3 problems a week.  The whole routine only takes about 10 minutes! 

OK....where is the fun?  I have to be sneaky to plan any fun into our tight schedule but I've managed to figure out a few ways to make it happen!  First off....WACKY WEDNESDAY!

We have early release on Wednesday for Professional Learning Communities so these days are already a bit "wacky".  When I started teaching half day I realized that I never had any time for science, social studies, or any of the amazing things we get to explore when we are in Kindergarten.  After a quick talk with my principal I ditched our regular routine on Wednesday and adopted "Wacky Wednesday".  On these days we start with our regular routine and then I spend the rest of the day exploring new things.  This week we are talking all about dental health with a cool little book from Simply Kinder.

Our other little bit of fun that we have each week (ok...it's actually a lot of fun) comes on FUN FRIDAY.  On Friday we get out the paint, blocks, STEM activities, iPods, Starfall, and iPads and we have 2 hours and 45 minutes of centers.  What am I doing during this time?  I'd love to say I have my feet up and I'm enjoying a latte but that would be a lie.....sigh....I am getting ALL of my assessments and progress monitoring done for the week during this time.  I'm a little bit of a data geek so this is actually fun for me too (and students love to come show me what they know so it's fun for them too!) 
Fun Friday Center: Starfall on the Chromebooks

Turtle Diary games on the Mimio

Lakeshore STEM activites (we call this the problem solving station)

 That's how we shake things up in a half day kindergarten program.  It is a whirlwind adventure that happens twice a day in my life.  As soon as I finish with the first group the second group comes in and we start all over again. (OK....I do get a lunch break...I'm not completely bananas!) 

I'm linking up with Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten for Peek at my Week.  She has some amazing links for dental health week, yay for collaborative planning!   


Counting Collections in Kindergarten and a FREEBIE!

It's that time of the year.  Here we are with 100 days of school behind us and we can REALLY count!  I jumped on this lesson earlier in the year and to tell you the truth the stars just did not align for us.  It was a mess, I wasn't ready, and they were not ready.  With a little patience and some extra planning it went PERFECT this time around!  Here are the highlights! 

Easy prep!  I grabbed 50-100 small items from around the room and put them in my trusty zipper pouches that I use to hold cards in our word work centers.   I made them all different...only a few actually had 100....we treated it like a scavenger hunt!   The zippers help us keep all the items together and the clear pouches let them preview what collection they would like to count. 
I used clear bingo chips, beans, glass gems, unit counters, beads, craft sticks, pennies, and mini erasers.
I also made sure that I had our egg cartons available from our Guiding Kinders lessons from Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills.  They are our go to counting tool right now so I made sure they were out in case the kiddos wanted to use them.  I also made copies of a counting collection page so they could keep track.  That's all the prep it took to get this FULL DAY of math ready!  Yes, in a half day of Kindergarten this took us all day!  
I introduced counting collections all together on the rug.  (I actually started by showing them a video on 100 from Brainpop Jr.
Then I posed the question,  
"How can we keep track when we count?"
We came up with some strategies together.  They mentioned counting by 2's, 5's, or 10's to make it easier and a lot of them said we should line them up and count and point.  Hooray for strategies!  
We agreed that for today we would start out counting by 10's and I showed them the counting mat.  After that I paired them up and sent them on their way. 
Filling the 10 frame to make 10.  Great counting practice!
Making piles so we can count by 10 to see how many.
All the different materials added to the excitement!
Once they counted their collection their next step was to record.  I'm not going to lie...this is the hardest part!  I really laid out the expectations here and showed them what they needed to have to be successful.  Their motivation to finish was the promise of getting to pick a new collection to count.  That's all they needed to get to work! 
Look at all of the different strategies for recording!
Some of the students needed to go back and do a little more work before they could really tell me that they knew exactly how many items were in their zipper pouch.  A few partners couldn't agree so they had to go back and recount.  Even if that happened there were so many great math conversations going on.
Our anchor chart we made at the end of the lesson.
 This lesson was part of our 100 days celebration.  We kind of celebrated all week (all month?) because we had so many fun things to explore.  I put them all together here in an Easy Prep Centers unit and you can see it HERE in my store or click on the image.  I also posted a little FREEBIE too from the packet so you can try it out.  

  Thanks for stopping by today!  Have a great week friends! 

Centers Organization

Centers organization...  It's probably one of the hardest thing to get a handle on when you teach primary. Materials have to be organized, meaningful, and engaging for students.  If you leave any of this to chance your center time may just fall apart.  Believe me...I've lived to tell the tale! 

 While my students are doing their word work center each morning I am teaching intervention groups so I have NO TIME to fix their problems for them.  My intervention time depends on them being as independent as possible.   Here are a five tips to easy center management.

1.  Where do I put centers?

In my experience centers work best if they are stored where students can access them easily.  A simple bookshelf works great for that.  I had this shelf that I originally used as a mailbox to hand back work but now that I have 45 students I can't use it for that anymore.  It gives me plenty of space though as a centers shelf.

2.  Keep them consistent!

My centers are the same each week. I stick to ABC Center, Cut & Glue, Word Work, Write the Room, and the Listening Station. I switch out the activities but no matter what my kiddos know what is expected of them at each center.  Also, once I get them "trained" on an activity I keep including it!  
We have 4 or 5 different types of Cut & Glue centers now and every kiddo has their favorite. 
Students can cut and glue letters, words, sentences, or reading concepts.

 3. Let your centers grow with your students.  

I start the year with very simple ABC Centers.  By Fall Break we don't really need that center anymore (although we keep it because they love it!).  I introduce the Word Work center to switch our focus to words. 
Students enjoy using dabbers (or daubers...) putting the alphabet in order, and writing letters in this center.
These are examples of what our ABC Centers have at the beginning of the year.  Very simple but hands on!

Word work centers focus on sight words and building CVC words.

 4.  Allow your students to move around the room.

Independence means "doing something by myself" in our classroom.  I don't need permission, I don't need to tell someone what I'm doing (Kinders love to tell you what they are doing), and I can make good choices.  
Our Write the Room center is a weekly favorite (I have some kids that would do it every day!)  The only rule about Write the Room is that they need to be independent. Students use the recording sheet to collect words from around the room.  Recently they have been discovering words from the math vocabulary wall, our writing goals charts (friends names) and they are noticing that our focus wall has a lot of great words on it.  
Students use a clip board and walk around the room for this center. 

   5.  Choice!

I am a huge control freak!  I have this uncontrollable urge to tell everybody what to do all of the time.  This is a big struggle for me in the classroom but when allow myself to "let it go" and give students choices my day goes so much better!  When students have a choice they are that much more engaged in the activity.  I only make the suggestion that they should do a new center each day.  To round out our choices we have a listening station available each day. Students listen to a story and then complete a response page to go with it.  I make our listening station meet the comprehension focus for the week (character, setting, retell...)  If they only have time to listen to the story that's ok!  Listening to reading is so important!
Here are some easy prep ideas to get centers organized in your room!
Kindergarten Centers Unit 2