Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What I changed to make my first week a success

Last week was probably the best first week of school I've ever had! My new friends are a sweet little group, and I think we're going to have a great year together!

I tweaked some things this year that helped me have first week success. I used to plan out every minute of the day with story time and coloring sheets and art projects and school tours. None of those things are bad, but I was constantly "on" and by the end of the day, I was exhausted! Plus, I had to endure these questions all day:

"Can I play with the playdough?"
"Can I play with the Legos?"
"Can I play on the computer?"

That's when I realized that all my kids really wanted to do was PLAY! So this year, I LET THEM!! I changed my lesson plans and let go of some of the cutesy activities (not all, but some). Instead, I put in a lot of free play. Each afternoon, I pulled out some super easy activities for my kids to do:
  • unifix cubes
  • links
  • pattern blocks
  • 3D blocks
  • Legos
  • playdough
  • art (markers and paper)
  • toys (old princesses and dinosaurs)
  • computers

Let me back up...Before we started stations each day, we practiced our 4 station rules:
     1. Stay in your spot
     2. Use an inside voice
     3. Share the toys
     4. Work the whole time.
These are the same rules we use for math stations and reading stations, so now the students are already familiar with them.

Then, I split the kids into 5 groups of 4-5 students, and they had about 10-15 minutes to play at each station before we rotated. This was FABULOUS!!!! It gave them time to explore the materials in the classroom, get to know their classmates, and practice their station behavior. Plus, this was a time when all eyes weren't on me. I could breathe. I could double check how everyone was going home. I could give baseline tests. I could sit at a table and just enjoy my students.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to use many of these same stations, but I'll replace one or two each week with more academic activities (handwriting, letter puzzles, spelling color words, rolling dice and counting...that kind of thing). This gradual approach will hopefully set us up for station success this year!

By the way, here are some cute videos we used this week to introduce station rules:

Inside voice...


Whether or not you've started back yet, I hope some of these ideas help you with your first weeks of school!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Sunday Scoop! (8/16/15)

I believe this is my first time linking up with The Teaching Trio for the Sunday Scoop to share a little bit about my plans for the day. Here goes!