Tuesday, September 10, 2013


This year in particular I have a very squirmy, hands-on class.  I like to think of myself as an "out of the box" teacher and I like to personally meet the needs of each of my students.  One sensory need that I have become aware of over the past few weeks is my littles' hands!  They are constantly moving.  Their hands touch everything, everywhere and every time I am trying to get their brains to focus on something their hands distract them.  I needed to get some "fidgets" to keep their hands busy while I am teaching.  Now, when I took a brain research class a few years ago, this is where I learned about fidgets.  I also learned that I appreciate fidgets in my own personal learning environment so I knew my students would as well.  It is basically something you keep in your hands while you are listening and learning.  This was a hard concept to me at first especially when I thought about implementation.

I was racking my brain on what I could use for fidgets.  In past years, I only needed 1-3 fidgets, so I just used squishy or stress balls for the students who needed/benefited from them.  But this year I wanted to try and use them with my WHOLE class.  Then, my dear colleague, Mrs. Smith opened up my eyes during our 4th grade buddy time about the idea of fidgets.  She has amazing ideas and I love every chance I get to collaborate with her.  Check out her blog:  Mrs. Smith's Fantabluous Fourth Grade and her classroom Facebook page!  During one session with Kindergarten-4th Grade buddies, she started handing out putty to students who were making good choices.  It instantly changed the work ethic of our two classes.  They were focused and engaged and I to steal her idea!  I got a whole box of modeling clay gifted to me so I knew exactly what I was going to use it for...my fidgets!!!

My basket of fidgets.  This is just one "stick" of clay ripped into 17 pieces.

When I look out at my kiddos and I see their eyes not on me I have it deeply ingrained in my body to redirect students because that is how I check to see who is "with me".  But even if someone's eyes are on me, I have found they still might not be "with me".   I broke this habit this year (okay...I'm still trying to break it.  Is there some sort of 12 step program?)  I tested this out by letting them mess/look down at their fidgets while I was teaching but after I finished my lesson I opened it up to class discussion, I called on someone who typically would not be paying attention in the past,  but this time answered my question with full detail!  This got me to thinking that just because their eyes aren't always on me while using the fidgets doesn't mean they aren't listening.  Now, let's not get crazy!  The type-A teacher that I am, we definitely have rules about fidgets.  We discussed that it's important to make eye contact with your teacher most of the time.  If you look at your fidget that is okay, too.  What is not okay....(ready for the list?  Because some of my friends tried ALL these out...)  1.  throwing your fidget  2.  rolling it on the carpet  3.  hitting your friend with it  4.  putting it on your face  I could go on and on :)  My kiddos know that if they are not using their fidgets correctly they get taken away.  I don't even skip a beat with my teaching, I just hold the basket out and they put their fidget in.  We don't use fidgets every single time we are on the carpet, but if I am noticing my friends having a hard time focusing that day then we definitely use them.

I have noticed a big improvement in our attention span's when using fidgets!

Chance is keeping his fidget in his hands.

Preston is being a great listener with his fidget.

Taryn is sitting perfectly while exploring her fidget.

Isaac is ready to learn.

What tricks and tips do you use to keep your students' attention?!?
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Sit Spots

So a few weeks have gone by and we are currently in our FIRST full five day week.  As you may have read in previous posts, I have quite the group of amazing and excited and energized Kindergartners!  (Who DOESN'T, right?!?)  We have really been working on rules and routines and what a line looks like, etc... it seems no matter how much we practice we still struggle not pushing and shoving and fighting to get the top spot....first in line!  I have never had my students line up in a certain order but this year, I bit the bullet!

I was researching how I could mark spots just right for lining up and many other Kindergarten bloggers have been RAVING about sit spots.  Check them out here!  They are velcro pieces that adhere to your carpet.  You can easily peel them back and reuse them year after year!  They were made by a fellow teacher. (You can also use them to assign sitting areas....hence the name sit spots!) I set them up this week and things for the most part have been working smoothly as far as lining up.  The only tricky thing is if we are somewhere else in the building, I have a few friends that really struggle with where they go.  But with this new plan, they walk with a partner actually.  I figured I would try this as well.  The line will be shorter that way and I will be able to keep them ALL closer to me while we walk with a hand on our hip and a bubble on our lip.  We are making progress every day!

Look at us!! A Perfect number 4 line!

Making Mrs. Bowder sing from the rooftops!
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rules and Routines

Hello Friends!  Long time no see!  It has been a whirl wind of a beginning for the school year and I have neglected to update on what we have been doing in our classroom!

My family enjoyed our Labor Day weekend and spent the majority of our time at the State Fair.
Here is Miss Layla watching the beef show!  It was such a hot day!

Tonight I thought I would dedicate this post to beginning of the school year routines/rules.  These are SOOOO super important and they set the tone for the rest of your year.  Some might think I am quite strict, but I have very high expectations for my students and so in the beginning it is a big adjustment.  The first few weeks we have spent a LOT of time working on how we look and act in line and on the carpet.  We have also practiced cleaning up after ourselves.  I think a huge piece that makes a successful student is when they reflect on their actions and "grade" themselves honestly.

In Kindergarten we grade ourselves on a 1-4 scale, 4 being the best of the best and 1 being little or no effort.  We spent a lot of time talking and acting out what each area should look like/sound like.  Now usually, if I was teaching an older grade, we would make an anchor chart with words accompanied by a T chart of "looks like"  "sounds like" but I don't think they would have meaning with my littles as they can't quite read yet.  (soon....very very soon...but not quite yet!)  So, instead, we spend our time modeling over and over again what it SHOULD look like and what it SHOULDN't look like.  I first start out modeling what it should look like, and then what it shouldn't look like.  Then I call on students to model for us and we grade them.

Here are what some of our pictures look like from the beginning of our year.  (They always have a BLAST creating the number 1 photos.....I wonder why?  :) )

This is our Number 1 line.  We also practice lining up with speed and quietness.

This is our BEST number 4 line. 

Number 4 line.  We have a hand on our hip and a bubble on our lip!
Here are some pictures of voice levels!
This is a level 0 voice.  We should have a bubble in.

This is a level 1 voice.  We also refer to it as a whisper voice.

This is a level 2 voice.  We use this voice at station time.  It is our regular conversation voice.

This is what a number 4 carpet looks like.  
I forgot to add what a number 1 carpet looks like.  I will add this at a later time!

All of these pictures are printed and laminated and hanging in our doorway (for lining up) or on our whiteboard.  From time to time, I will ask a student to stand up and grade his/her friends.  We also compare ourselves to what the pictures look like.  

Another huge piece of Kindergarten is what we want our classroom to look like.  I take pictures of each kids' table as well as their tote being a number 4 vs number 1.  They will use this when they clean up their areas and grade themselves. I believe Kindergarteners (as well as other students) should be independent in many areas, especially in picking up after themselves.  They are expected to pick up their totes and clean their desks/cubbies.  They know my expectations as far as what our room should look like and that is where grading ourselves really helps us to know if we are on track or not.

The Blue table is a number 4!

The Red table is a number 4!

What are some of your favorite rules/routines to start off the year?
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