Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Day in the Life of Full Day Kindergarten - Part 2

Photo Credit: www.canstockphotos.com
I am back for Part 2! Monday we went through Morning Work, Meeting and Message. 

Hour TWO - 8:45-9:45

The 2nd hour of my day is actually our planning time. It begins with a restroom and water break for my kids. Then the kiddos go to one of their specialists classes for 45 minutes each day. For the past two years it has been as follows:

Monday - Art 9:00-9:45
Tuesday - Computer Lab 9:00-9:45
Wednesday - Gym 9:00-9:45 (this will change this year due to new TN state laws)
Thursday - Music 9:00-9:45
Friday - Library 9:00-9:45

During this time I would LOVE to say that I'm usually in my room planning or putting supplies together for today's lessons but that's not always the case.

We have Common Planning Time so this is what my week looks like:

Monday - Self Planning Time (I usually use this time to begin planning for the next week and getting supplies and tech ready for the days lessons)
This is the Planner I use from A Modern Teacher. It's all on editable on my computer. I send my copies to Office Depot and have them spiral bound every year. I love it!

click pic for link

Tuesday - RTI Meetings (These happen once or twice a month depending on our facilitator. We have a new one this year so we'll see how it goes. During RTI meetings we mainly discuss the course of the Tier 2/3 students and look at their progress. We look to see if we need to change a course of direction or get other resources involved. If there is no RTI it is self planning time again.)

Wednesday - PLC Meetings (We meet weekly as a team with either one or both administrators and sometimes again with the RTI facilitator depending on the learning goal. This is when we look at skills, assessments and outcomes that happen within the classroom and see what we need to focus on and what we can move away from)

Thursday - Team Planning (This is when we meet as a grade level to get plans together and whatever copies we need to the copier. We also create CFA's for the next weeks and get a course of action going for those who are below, on and above the skill level.)
These quick checks from Susan Jones were a great help with our CFA's.
click pic for link

Friday - Self Planning Time (Finish up lessons and get materials ready for next week. I also use this time to get newsletters, notes and websites updated)
Part of my planning was made easier because of these easily laid out products by Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills! 



Is your planning time really your time or do you have other things that you have to take care of? Leave a comment and let me know.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Day in the Life of Full Day Kindergarten - Part 1

Photo Credit: www.canstockphoto.com
Welcome to my series A Day in the Life of Full Day Kindergarten!

I wanted to start this series because I am in several kindergarten groups on Facebook and I see the question arise over and over...how do you fill your Full Day? This of course is in comparison to Half Day schools. 

I am entering my 15th year of teaching kindergarten and have been Full Day for every year. This series will show currently how my day flows. Each part will be each hour of our day. Feel free to steal borrow any and all ideas you see in this series.

Hour ONE - 7:45 - 8:45
The first hour of school is the most critical hour. Set a routine and rehearse that routine over and over and over and one more time for good measure. Our first hour usually consists of unpacking, putting things in their place, morning work and morning message. So here is the run down of what we do.

7:45 - 8:00 Students enter the classroom. 


My students cannot enter my classroom until they have been greeted at the door. I try my best to be standing at my door before they enter, but some times things happen. Either way, they line up along the wall next to our room and come in one at a time. I shake their hand, look them in the eye and say, “Good Morning, Sally!” Always start the day with a smile and a friendly gesture. 

"Greeting students will have the most immediate impact on your day or each class period.  A sincere greeting establishes a positive climate for the classroom.  You experience greeting people in daily life.  You are greeted when you visit someone’s home or business, board an airplane, enter a place of worship, or just see a friend.  A greeting is the first step in making a connection." - Harry & Rosemary Wong

"In the classroom where the teacher greeted the students at the door, there was an increase in student engagement from 45 percent to 72 percent.  This was recorded when the students worked on the assignment and presented no discipline problems.
In the second study, students got on task faster when they were greeted at the door, in comparison to the control class that was not greeted." - R. Allan Allday reported in Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2007 and 2011

This is also the time when students unpack their backpacks. I use a simple anchor chart to help remind them. This is the general layout. I usually have pictures, but I'm moving things around this year and need to take new pictures.
I recommend having only 3 to 5 steps for arrival. Keep it Simple! Especially for kindergarten friends.

8:00 - 8:15 Morning Work/Pledge/Teacher Work
Morning work overlaps into this time frame. I have always had a worksheet or something to do, but this year I'm switching to Morning Work Baskets. 
I really like this idea from My Fabulous Class and I want to do something similar this year.

I have several centers that I can make multiple copies of so that I can have 4 or 5 at a time working with the same center.
While they are working quietly at their table I am doing all of the fun stuff. Taking attendance, checking for lunch money and notes. I have my kids keep these in their folders. It's so easy for me to get the basket go quickly through the folders then return them to the student.
During this time I also put their homework or notes for the day in here. I give the folder back to them and it goes in their mailbox. That way they can put any work they do straight into their folder throughout the day.

We also say the pledge and have a moment of silence during this time. AND I am playing quiet classical music while they work.

8:15 - 8:45 Morning Meeting/Morning Message
This is my absolute FAVORITE time of day! I love Morning Time! With our meeting, we sit in a square (circle) and greet each other formally. Students play some type of greeting game, sing our morning song and answer the Question of the Day.
Morning Meeting is COMPLETELY different from Calendar Time. We do calendar in our math block.
Kristen has some AMAZING ideas from A Day in First Grade (click the pic)

And HERE is a link to one of my previous posts about Morning Meeting.

Our Morning Message usually consists of a repeated message (everyday we say, Good Morning, Today is ____. It is date 2016. We will go to _____. ) Then we go into our skills checks. I usually do 2 activities that lead back to yesterday's skills (one for language/one for math) then I go into a skill we will be learning today for an pre-assessment. And yet we are still having fun.
I always end the message with a repeated sentence. (Have a Magical Monday, Terrific Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday, Fantastic Friday! Love, Mrs. Starnes)

There is sometimes a little time left if our meeting runs over. After that we line up for restroom and get ready for our special class for the day.

And that is the first hour! It's my favorite one and where we get to review a lot of behavior and academic skills. Make the MOST of that first hour!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Brings Glad Tidings!


I am about as excited as Rapunzel! And a little scared too. Like Rapunzel deciding whether she should leave the comforts of her tower or stay.
My reason for this....

We won our custody case!
My husband and I began our summer getting custody of two adorable children. We are very excited about this and couldn't be happier. And yet there are still fears. Though we have custody, the parents still have a chance to get them back. We don't know when..if when...it will happen. 

So until that time, we get to live life to the fullest as a Family of Five!
Here are our 3 beautiful kiddos.


Layne, Luna and Mason.

Now I am getting off of here and getting housework done while they nap. I'm still trying to get the hang of having 3 kids and cleaning, laundry, meals and working on school stuff for next year. Trying to work blogging back into it as well.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Kindergarten Round Up!



This past week was a crazy one. I had to stay after school for something everyday. Tuesday we stayed for our Kindergarten Round Up. 
I don't know the origin of the "Round-Up" idea, but this was our first year calling it that...to "round-up" our new kiddos for next year.

Since our registration is all done online, this was mainly to meet the kids and parents and get their email information. Sweet and Simple. We will have a Kindergarten Camp during the first week of summer to really work with our kiddos and help them transition into their new role as students.

So here are some tips for keeping it sweet and simple!

1. Have a plan - Duh, right?  Our plan: We had one entrance and exit. At the entrance, they met our admin who checked proofs and made copies of proofs and gave them their cumulative folder. Then they came down the hall and had other information copied (birth certificate, social, etc). We had only two of our rooms open. One for parents to fill out their info and ask us questions. The other for the children to make a craft. 

2. Have your information together - What do you want your parents to know? What do you want them see? What is the most important?
Other teachers are your friends, there is information out there that is nicely shared by others. Use it!

The first brochure I found was from Leslie at KindergartenWorks. It is an editable powerpoint that I easily made my own. Her information that is already included is amazing and it's free as long as you share her awesome talent. You can find her brochure here:


The other piece we had was this flier from Tara West. This gives a quick list of what they need to know with Personal, Social and Intellectual skills. And again, it's free. Just click the pic:


The last was a brochure I made about our Cub Camp. We will be spending four days with students that are able to come. This will be my first time with this endeavor and I'm looking forward to it. 



3. Be ready to answer any and ALL questions - Those of us who have taught kindergarten know that parents come in with all different types of fears concerns. I had some who came in, filled out their information, grabbed their papers and left, but that was rare. There were parents who had just a few questions because it was their 2nd or 3rd child going through. They wanted to know what had changed, what was the same, when would they know who their teacher was etc. Then there were the first time parents. They had never had a child in school before. Be prepared to have to be asked every question that can possibly thought of, including my favorite from the other night, "kindergartners do get to eat lunch, right?" Yep, that happened =)

4. Have an easy activity prepped and ready for your new kiddos - Our mascot is a bear so I found a cute bear activity from Krazy for Kindyland. We cut out the pieces ahead of time and glued the pencil together. We let them do the rest and if they could, write their name on the back. 



It's hard to believe that it's time to start thinking about next year's students when we still have 2 months with our current class, but it's always fun to see what next year holds. We had a good turn out of 35 (we are a small school, only 4 on our team, so we'll be looking for about 35 more). The rest, we hope, will come over the next few weeks. 

Do you have a Round-Up for the next year? I'd love to hear your plans and what you do or expect.

Monday, March 21, 2016

My New Crazy Life

Since my last post in August of last year, my life has been a big whirlwind of crazy. It's been a good kind of crazy, an expensive kind of crazy, a crazy kind of crazy.

Middle of August, my husband and I were asked a huge question. I knew the answer right away, but we discussed it first. This question led to us acquiring a lawyer (<----Expensive Crazy) and heading to juvenile court several times. Hopefully our last time will be this June. 

Short Story: We were asked to help a friend of mine with his 5 grandchildren (<---- Good Crazy). It is a long and sad story of what these children have gone through and the drama continues with every continuation of court. We are trying to gain full custody of the 2 younger children. Big L (a boy) is 3 and Little L (a girl) is almost 2. Along with our Mason, that's THREE toddlers (<---- Crazy Crazy). 

We have been working with the grandparents, who have been AMAZING, and currently have visitation every weekend. 

It has been a learning experience, to say the least. The boys act like brothers. They get along for about 2 minutes then argue for five. Sis is a whole new world for me. I've been a boy mom for 3 years, never expected to have a girl and don't always know how to deal with her diva attitude...yes at 1 she has diva attitude.

So, I've been focusing on keeping things running smoothly at home and smoothly at work. I've been trying to keep my work at work and my home at home. 

It's been hard to find the down time I used to have to blog and tell everyone what's going on in my room and that has been a lot. I've not been able to share new ideas or ideas that I use from others and giving them some praise for their awesomeness. It's just been hard.

I'm hoping to get back to normal...whatever normal is now...and blog again. In the mean time, if you are the praying kind, please pray for us. Pray for the judge who has a big decision to make in a couple of months. Pray that the kids involved get what is best for them and what they deserve. 

If you want to know more, we have a GoFundMe Account set up. I'm not asking for donations, I just have more info here. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Making Sense of Math: Reasoning Strategies


I am hosting again for our Making Sense of Math Series and this weeks topic is 

Reasoning Strategies

This one can definitely be a tough one for our kindergarten students. Many are still just learning the concept of numbers and grasping the basic understanding of what comes next. So how do we teach them strategies that will help them with problems?

First of all

Build a DEEP understanding of Number Sense
Marilyn Burns says,
"Number sense essentially refers to a student's "fluidity and flexibility with numbers."" (Gersten & Chard, 2001)
Students with a strong number sense can "think and reason flexibly with numbers, use numbers to solve problems, spot unreasonable answers, understand how numbers can be taken apart and put together in different ways, see connections among operations, figure mentally and make reasonable estimates." (Burns)

Sounds like a lot doesn't it!

Here is a video I found that shows how great it is for students to learn about numbers in a variety of ways. 

This is just a simple glance at what we can do to show our students different ways to learn.


This video is one that I can't WAIT to try this year. What a great way to make number sense fun!


Again, these are just simple ways to help develop number sense.


As number sense grows, you will see students vocabulary and discussions about numbers improve. I love Number Talks and they are so much more meaningful when the students are providing the answers and guiding the discussion. But we have to be there with logical questioning to keep things moving and to get their mind to think about other things.

Guess what they do when they have to switch gears like that - REASON!

I love to model my reasoning for students from day one and eventually give it to them to explain their reasoning for their answers.

It all starts in kindergarten and remember reasoning can be as simple as something inductive like what number does not belong? what number does not make sense?




Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Making Sense of Math: Estimation

Last week, I completely bombed in the blogging world. That last Sunday, we threw my mom a surprise Retirement Party! She was completely shocked. After that, my niece and nephew stayed with my parents and we had fun filled days every day! It was a great week. 

Now, back on track....

This week, the focus of our discussion is Estimation.  Why is estimation important for number sense? 
Estimation is a higher level skill that makes students conceptualize and mentally manipulate numbers.

This is HARD for these little ones to understand.
Kids (not just in kindergarten) are so accustomed to finding the CORRECT answer, that they have a hard time letting go of the factual and rearranging their thoughts to the conceptual.

I will even admit that I cringe a little when working on estimation. 
At one point, I used to incorporate it daily into my calendar time like this:

This kids would have to estimate how many and give their answer. In the beginning this was good, but soon they caught on and started counting instead of guessing. So I switched methods.

We still do it as a part of calendar time, but instead, I have a jar like this (click pic for link to Post-It idea):

Our week goes like this:
 Monday - pass the jar around to have a look. What do you see? Is the jar a little full or a lot? Think about how many might be in there.

Tuesday - show the jar again and count out a small amount (if you have 20 only count 3 or 4, if you have 50 count out about 10....just so they get an idea of what a small amount looks like)

Wednesday - students write their guess on our estimation chart. I've done this two ways and I like the 2nd the best. My chart is laminated so I had them write on their jar with a dry erase marker. This was good, but you would have some who liked to copy what they saw from others. So I got the small Post It notes and had them write their answer at their seat, then go put it on their jar.



* I label their jar by number but you can also write their name on their jar. 

Thursday - we count out a few more and I ask if anyone wants to change their answer. Some might and some will keep their answer.

Friday - we reveal the answer and see who is the closest. This is a great time to talk about more and less, we use the 100's chart to see how far off their guess was. 

We do this WEEKLY and it really helps build their skills. 

You will still have yours who always guess 100, but sooner or later they get the idea. 

Estimation is not a tested skill for our district. However, this is such an important skill to help with number sense that I feel it needs to be taught in kindergarten. Tying it in to calendar time makes it simple and easy and less cringe worthy.

What are your ideas for estimation? Come see others at