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Half Day Kindergarten vs. Full Day Kindergarten

It is always sad to see a student and their family move away even if the move is positive for the family. For me, it's hard to see a student and their family move because I have just spent the last five months building a relationship with them. For my students, it is also hard to see their classmates leave especially when they notice something that they can relate to their friend.

I recently had a student move out of state. I learned from the student's parent that their child has started a half-day kindergarten. I was surprised to hear that school districts still offered half-day kindergarten because I thought that it was non-existent. During the first week of school I always read Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus because the book is about her first days of kindergarten. The kindergarten that Junie attends is half day. I usually have one student ask why she begins her school day after lunch instead of after breakfast. I normally breeze over the question because I thought half day kindergarten no longer existed because I assumed all kindergarten classes were full day. I was wrong.

I wanted to use this blog as a discussion for Kindergarten teachers or Early Childhood Educators to discuss the set-up of their class. I am always curious to hear fellow teachers share what goes on in their class (the good and the bad).  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks!

Writing Center

Img_0376 This year I started a writing center in my classroom and my students can't get enough of it. The writing center is a small circle table near the word wall. I placed the writing center near the word wall so the students can find words on it to use. On one of the first days of school, I had the students gather near the word wall and I shut all the lights off. I had been given a laser pointer and I used it to show the students how the word wall could be used. Now when the students are at the writing center they can use the word wall as an additional resource.

I organized a shelf near the table that is filled with greeting cards, envelopes, stationary, writing paper, blank paper, stickers, clip boards, stencils, and a mailbox. I had everyone I know saving the suppliesImg_0377  over the summer. I spent many hours in the beginning of the school year organizing this shelf. I have picture labeled baskets so the student know where everything belongs with it comes time to clean up. On the table I have a Lazy Susan that contains crayons, markers, pencils and colored pencils. I also have a small white board where I write words the students could use or hang up picture dictionary pages that go along with our theme.

During our afternoon centers, the students have a choice to visit the writing table. At first I told the students no more than four students at the center, but once the writing center became popular I allowed more students there. Some days I have eight students crowded around the table. It never becomes out of control because the students are so focused on their pictures or letters.When the students are visiting the writing center I always push for them to use their imagination. I encourage them to color the entire paper and add as much detail as possible. As the students finish their work, they put their work in an envelope and put it in our mailbox. I made the mailbox out of a shoe box and decorated it. I cut a hole on top of the shoe box for the students to slide their mail into the mail box.

Before the students go home at the end of the day I deliver the mail. The students sit on the carpet as I hand out the mail. The students sometimes bring the letters home to their parents or they give their friends gifts. The students enjoy time spent at the writing center. Lately, I have been having students bringing letters from home to put in our school mailbox!

Bulletin Boards Woes

In the past I have absolutely avoided doing bulletin boards. I felt like it was a battled between me and the paper and I always left sweaty and defeated. The paper was always ripped and I could never get those words straight. I always used to joke that there should have been a class in college called "Bulletin Boards for Dummies".

Over the summer, a co-worker of mine went to a conference and told me the importance of changing the bulletin board throughout the year. Of course the first thing I did was roll my eyes and think back to all the trouble I have had in the past. Later that night, I Google bulletin boards and I found some ideas that I could actually pull off.

Board For the first creative bulletin board I had to recruit my fellow kindergarten teacher for help. I found this idea at the Bulletin Boards Around the World website. We created a jungle theme complete with banana trees, monkeys, an alligator, and my favorite: a hippopotamus! Each bunch of bananas represented a kindergarten class. Each teacher wrote their students names on a banana. Surprisingly, this only took us about two hours and we finished for Meet the Teacher.

Little_board My next big bulletin board experience was creating a memo board for students' work. This was another idea I found at Bulletin Boards Around the World. I bought the fabric and ribbon at Wal-Mart and I made the buttons out of card board. This is a great idea to hang pictures as well as students work. It's easy to hang up and take down. The hardest part was making the ribbon straight and tight enough to hold the papers.

Fall_board_2 Currently my class is working on a fall bulletin board. I found the idea at Miss Renee's Kindergarten Pad. We made a fall apple tree surrounded by pumpkins. The students made the pumpkins and cut their hand prints out to make the fall leaves. My students are really getting in to working together with making this. It's making our school family stronger. I've soften to the idea of bulletin boards. I found it relaxing at the end of a hard day and I also enjoy finding the different ideas online.

Classroom Set-up

The school where I work is different from the schools I attended when I was younger. The school where I am currently at is a modified pod school. Orginally built in the 1970s, the classrooms were actually one big room with four classes per pod. Students, teachers, and parents could easily walk from classroom to classroom as it was all open. Over time, chalkboards, bookcases and filing cabinets separated the classrooms as teachers felt students were easily distracted.

Now, classrooms are separated by floor to ceiling temporary walls. Classrooms are still connected in the middle and outside parameter of the pod. There are positive and negative things to be said about teaching in a pod.

I like the fact that at any given moment, I could peak my head over and know I have someone there for emergencies. We are in such close proximity that not only do I get to know my students but the three other classes as well. It is also great to know if I forget supplies I know I can borrow them from my neighbors.

Surprisingly, the noise in the pods does not bother me. I am bothered when other classes walk through my classroom to get to another destination. My students become distracted because of the added noise and movement. My classroom has no bathroom therefore my students are required to visit other classrooms in the pod. The pod contains two sets of bathrooms for eighty children. I have to be extra cautious when sending more than one student at a time. Even though I have been at this school for three years, I still get confused and lost when I visit other classrooms.

Next year we will be going to portable city as we will be gutting the building we are currently in. The process will take one school year (cross your fingers). It will be nice to have four solid walls but I will also be losing the closeness I feel towards my co-workers.

Special thanks to Ann Miller for helping me with the history of our school***

Centers

Today, I started rotating reading centers with my class for the first time. My school requires a 90 minute reading block in our schedule. For 60 of those minutes, I do centers with my students. I group my students according to their level and provide centers focusing on reading. Throughout the year I change my centers constantly. I try not to let my students become bored with the 60 minutes.

Library

One center I never change is guided reading time with myself. During this time, I can read with a group (3-4 students) that are on the same reading level. This is one of my favorite times of the day. It allows me to focus on the needs of the student. I feel that reading with a small group is sometimes better than one-on-one time. The students learn from each other. I usually read a short book each day with each group. Some days, I switch it up and turn the guided reading time into reading games. Nothing sparks interest than a friendly competition.

Another center I have is seatwork. During this time, the students can work independently on a small assignment. Normally, I have the students work on class books or writing assignments (later in the school year). I provide each student with a picture dictionary that contains words they can use during this time. Each page has 8-10 words with a picture describing it. I put the dictionaries in binders that allow the students to add pages in throughout the year. At the end of the year, I allow the students to take home the dictionary pages to use at home during the summer.

Computers

One center that the students never become bored with is computers. I have three computers in my classroom. Some groups have four students. I simply have the students share one computer. This year I started the center on Starfall.com. For those of you who do not know about Starfall, I strongly suggest checking it out. I used this site with my students last year for the last six months of school. They never became bored! I know some adults who spend time playing on Starfall. One suggest for the computer center: earphones. If you have access to earphones, I would use them. The earphones help with the noise level in the classroom.

Abcgames

Another center I have is actually two centers in one. At this time, I split the group in half. Half goes to listening center and the other half goes to ABC games. I like using 2-3 students at listening because the students sometimes become cramped with four students crowded around a small table. I change the book weekly. The alphabet games are always changing. This week I have the students sorting upper case letters and lower case letters. One website that provides alphabet centers is Kelly's Kindergarten.

Alphasmarts

My last center is alphasmarts. In the beginning of the year, I only have my students type the alphabet or classmate's names. As the year goes on, the students type sight words, poems, or word families. Today, the rotating centers went smoothly. I only had the students spend ten minutes at each center. I allowed more time for transitions because I wanted the students to learn how to correctly go from center to center. I will use the rest of the week to go over center procedures and by next week we should be rotating smoothly.   

Read about other teachers' centers here!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Early Childhood Teacher are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.