Sunday, December 6, 2015

Does CCSS Really Cost us Play & Socialization?

In the past few years, I have heard many an educator grumble about the new Common Core expectations.  The seemingly impossible standards, and the even more impossible standardized tests, certainly put teachers and students through the ringer.  In my teeny tiny Kindergarten world, the biggest complaint is always that CCSS is not developmentally appropriate.  "Where is the play?" I always hear.  "How about social/emotional skills?"

I am a baby teacher.  After 5 years into the profession, my perspective may not be on point.  However, I think like anything else in life, everything should be done in moderation.  Just because we are all held to the same standards does not mean that every single classroom will meet those expectations in the same way.  I am so lucky to be part of a very cohesive and talented team of K teachers who ALL reach our CCSS goals differently.  Through learning to teach to CCSS, we have been able to challenge ourselves as educators and expose our students to the very best practices we can find.  It's easy to read a standard and think "What?! There is no way my 5-year-olds can do this! We've never done it like this before," and then you teach it a few times, reteach it even more, and suddenly, they have it.  Even in the worst case scenario, where you simply cannot get students to reach a goal, they are still learning more now that we ever expected of them 5 years ago. 

I still have DAILY center time in my Kindergarten class-- center time that includes play dough, and sensory tables, and painting.  I still sing and dance and sprinkle glitter everywhere.  I still do daily read alouds (can you believe some K teachers interpreted CCSS to have said to STOP read alouds?! WHAT?!) I had an amazing mentor teacher who drilled into me that play and authentic learning experiences can never be replaced by dictated standards or fancy technology.  You know what? We still chart and track our DIBLES goals every day, we still challenge ourselves with sight words and leveled readers, we still begin addition right from October on, we still tackle writing 3-4 sentences by the end of the year.  It's all a matter of balance.  I certainly don't have the perfect formula for Kindergarten success, but I can say I am very comfortable with the choices I make for my little nuggets.

At first, this was tough, of course.  We went from half-day K where we barely could count to 31 and sing the letters, to full-day K where we had to count to 120 by 1s, 5s, and 10s, and be reading emergent readers by the end of the year.  A little mind-boggling, yes.  Impossible? Nothing is impossible with a smile on your face! :)

(I say that a little sarcastically, as I know that not everyone is in a building where this is a reality. I have a very supportive principal who trusts that we know how to do our jobs and lets us do our thing.)

The stress some administrators put on their teachers to achieve CCSS standards, however, can force a teacher to make the worst choices for his/her students.  From my conversations with older teachers who are against CCSS for Kindergarten, I gather that their interpretation of the standards means to force 5-year-olds to do worksheets all day long.  I read a blog article about a school who forced their Kindergarteners to take MAPs testing on computers because of CCSS.  I mean, use common sense, people! Of COURSE that is ridiculous! Of COURSE that will make teachers turn against the standards.  But these should not be common place practices.  These are simply interpretations of the standards gone wrong.  When the leaders of our schools are condoning these kinds of practices, that is the time to begin questioning things.  Remember, it's not like this everywhere.

As an ELL student myself, I am grateful that we have such rigorous standards today.  I may not be able to get all of my ELL students to "read and understand an emergent reader text," but it's important that parents know this is what their children ARE capable of with the right supports.  Teachers are loving, well-meaning, and hardworking people.  We punish ourselves when our kids don't reach an end-of-year standard or make their goals.  It's important to remember that they WILL make their just may take longer than other kids.  ELL students may not make their goals until 4th or even 5th or EVEN 6th grade, and that is unsettling for most educators.  But boy, when my ELL kids DO meet those tough standards...those are the days I live for in Kindergarten.

Here's another article that rings very true to me about CCSS in Kindergarten: 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

New Years Around the World!

I've finally finished my New Years non-fiction reader for this year's extended Holidays Around the World unit! I'll be posting pictures of my activities as we do them in class! Stay-tuned!

The plan so far is to have a classroom New Year's party and participate in some of the fun traditions that take place around the world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Holidays Around the World!

I hate that I blinked and November was gone! It's always so fast paced with Veteran's Day, conferences, and Thanksgiving.  Not only that, but the Seahawks are coming next week, so we have to make time for some fun Hawks themed lessons.  Anyway, apologies about not uploading more fun stuff for November.

MOVING ON.  December is just around the corner.  Which means...

I just purchased this from Gabby'sClassrooms and I LOVE IT.  I do Holidays Around the World as a theme each year but over time, I've just skimmed down to a few countries so that we can really go into more depth.  It's tough since December is such a fast-paced month as it is! I am using this wonderful product this year but I am definitely altering it to fit my needs.

I made the book Gabby's Classrooms provided but I just printed the pages I was going to teach.  Same with the passport and the scrapbook provided.  LOVE the idea, but I cut out a few counties.  Here's my schedule: 

Gabby's Classroom pack provides a fun scrapbook to make with your kiddos, as well as a cool passport that offers some cool opportunities for direct draws.  However, in an effort to preserve some of my existing holiday projects, I just combined Gabby's book with the art I already do.
I also LOVE LOVE LOVE  finding some food or music that is traditional in that country to really make some memories.

ALSO, as I'm sure you can see, I really love teaching about New Year.  This is because my family is Peruvian and we do some pretty hilarious things for New Years, including wearing all yellow, eating 12 grapes at midnight, running around the block with suitcases, and putting pennies in our shoes.  
It's crazy, but it's so much fun.  I love sharing these traditions with my kids. I have lots of funny home videos of my cousins & I doing these things growing up and the kids really love watching!

I am currently working on making a book similar to Gabby's except about New Year just to go along with the holiday theme.  I've planned two days to teach about it and I have about seven traditions and countries to squish in there!

Stay will be fun!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dia De los Muertos

It's Dia de los Muertos time! It's SO HARD to choose a theme in October.  Over the years, I've accumulated so many wonderful products featuring baths, spiders, pumpkins, and nocturnal animals.  Last year, my fiance and I decided to actually spend a Halloween together, and we were stumped to find a couple's costume we both wanted. Finally, we picked Dia de los Muertos skeletons, and my October in Kindergarten changed completely! 

We absolutely love Open Wide World's Mini Pack featuring Scrappin Doodles clip art!

 I altered one of the coloring pages provided in the pack and made it into a Color By Number for the kids to do as a Fast Finisher activity. Great decoration for our outward-facing window!

 We worked on using sight words in our sentences with our Dia de los Muertos theme in mind! The kids LOVED learning about sugar skulls.  I really emphasized that the skulls were NOT supposed to be scary.  I have a few little nuggets who don't celebrate Halloween who asked if they could learn this.  It's really important to clarify to both students AND parents that Dia de los Muertos is NOT the Mexican version of Halloween! It is a day that simply remembers the dead, similar to how we remember veterans on Veterans' Day. 
We also tried our best to learn some Spanish words.  I always try to teach my students about having empathy for kids AND PARENTS who are trying to learn English.  One year, I had a student ask a Spanish-speaking mother "Why can't you speak English good?" It really startled her, and witnessing the event made me prioritize teaching this as part of our classroom culture. Part of teaching that empathy is encouraging students to try to say some Spanish words, even if it sounds funny.  Usually the Spanish-speaking kids BEAM during this part, finally having a chance to excel at something language related! I encourage them to use "calavera" when taking about sugar skulls, and "papel picado" for the traditional paper decorations.

 The boys LOVED making their black sombreros.  I pre-traced them in silver sharpie and they simply cut them out.  I printed these black roses from Microsoft word...not the prettiest when cut out, but definitely enough for the boys in my group! They loved making their own fancy hats.

The ladies colored their own marigolds, cut them out, and pasted them to sentence strips for hats. 

 When the time came, we made our masks for the "Walk of the Dead" parade! I had a parent cut the eyes out beforehand, but the kids colored and cut the mask out.  I just stuck a fat popsicle stick to the side. Then we took to the streets! (Well, within the school grounds!) We marched outside in a line and did one lap around our school :)

 After the parade, we came inside for a surprise party! Pan de Muertos for everyone from our local Mexican shop (although, I had to go to three places to find it.  Dia de los Muertos is ONLY celebrated by one tiny part of Mexico, so I actually had to ask my Mexican families to keep an eye out for me at the store!) We were so lucky to have a mom make us homemade tamales and bring some Mexican jello as well.

Food always makes for a memorable cultural experience!

I usually make this a two week unit.  We also use Cara's Creative Playground's Day of the Dead pack.
I think it's kind of geared for older kids, I extracted what I could use and I LOVE the non-fiction printable book that comes with it!
WHICH brings me to my own Dia de los Muertos creation! I'm using this pack for math homework this week! Half this week, and the other half next week.  It's FREE! :) Enjoy. 

Not included in the pack is this no-prep dice roll game.  I absolutely love these as Fast Finisher activities.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bilingual Conferences Reminder

Friday was a Waiver Day for us here in Washington State, so I was busy working ALL DAY LONG on my conferences plan! I love to translate for families because I have built a relationship with them over the past five years! It's nice to be able to chat between would-be awkward silences down the hall way towards the teacher's classroom.  Additionally, being a teacher myself, I can often fill in information for parents without the teachers having to spell everything out.  BUT there's only one of me, and I have my own class of 25 to attend to.  This means that as much as I would love to, I simply can't translate for all of our families! I did manage to squeeze out a LITTLE time for these conference reminders...and now I'm sharing with you! Hopefully they are easy to use :)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Gotta Pump Those Color Words!

I hit color words like CRAZY from September to November.  I know letters and their sounds are crucial, but a lot of my seat work ends up being those "Color-Bys," which I love for their multi-step directions AND for the fact that they usually take the kids a while to finish. That being said, kids tend to get frustrated not knowing how to read the color words.  Well, my friends, never fret! I have a couple great color Write the Rooms right here! 

September Pete the Cat Write the Room
(will post image's on my work computer!) 
This one is a FREEBIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October Dia de los Muertos Write the Room

Also, I am absolutely obsessed with Kristen's Kindergarten's Stamp-a-Number AND Stamp-A-Letter!
She has an entire pack with numbers and letters I use & re-use as Fast Finisher activities or for a sub.  LOVE these!! I bought this pack about 4 years ago and I still use it from October-January.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Freebie Friday is Coming EARLY!

Hola, amigos!

Freebie Friday is upon us, but guess what? I'll be in DISNEYLAND tomorrow and won't be able to post! So, lucky you, you get Freebie Friday one day early! Here we have an apple sort focused on the sight word "like." You can use it in class as an activity or send home as homework for parents to help with!

Happy Thursday!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Construction Time!

I am in the process of moving from my old classroom blog into this, a more teacher-focused, blog. Please check back soon for updates and links to my TpT store!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hola Hola!

Here you'll find lots of (hopefully) helpful resources to use in your Kindergarten class.  If you don't run a dual language classroom, NO PROBLEM! This is an all-inclusive blog, just like your wonderful classrooms :) My goal is to support the CCSS in Kindergarten, as well as to provide our Spanish-speaking families with a little extra love to navigate through the challenging world of academia in America.