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Welcome to The Crazy Pre-K Classroom! Please enjoy your stay, explore my posts and join for more to come! Blessings, Christine

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About Me

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Round Rock, Texas, United States
I am a wife, a mother to 2 boys, and a Christian Kindergarten Teacher. Besides spending time with my family, I enjoy sewing, scrapbooking, quilting and creating innovative, hands on lessons for my students.

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Why teach Pre-K?

Because, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13

Because, I love it and am called to it!

For my children and my husband!

Because I am me!

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Why Are Children In 2017 So Much Harder To Teach Than Just 10 Years Ago? (with 10 practical strategies to curb the chaos)

 
 I recently conducted an entrance testing for a 5 year old attending our Kindergarten in the fall. Our testing is truly quite simple and just gives us an idea of who the child is and what their personality is like. I will tell you that my heart was breaking for this child. When I walked up to this child to introduce myself she was alone, no parents with her, and she had a huge stack of worksheets that she was supposed to "study" while she waited for me to test her. I saw that she had a school uniform on and asked her where she went to school. Her reply was devastating to me, "I just got kicked out of school because I wasn't learning good enough."

  I have been teaching in my current school for 12 years, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten. Over these last 12 years one thing is for sure, children have changed! Mostly I believe due to technology but also contributing to this change are the breakdown of families and the lack of freedom to explore our environment. There have been huge shifts in parenting norms and the role of parents in their children's lives. Let's face it, kids have a whole lot more to deal with now then we did when we were growing up. Gone are the days where we roamed the neighborhood on our bikes until dark, played down at the lake without supervision and had the freedom to just be kids. Now our students are far more restricted and micromanaged than we ever were. I have compiled a list of the biggest changes I have seen and the results within my classroom. I hope you will add to my list and join the discussion of how we can tailor our classrooms to meet the ever changing needs of the children we teach today! (these are not in any particular order)

1. More Academics = less play based learning and underdeveloped social skills
2. Longer Days= tired brains and bodies (not to mention later bedtimes and earlier wake up times)
3. Overload of Technology= poor concentration and attention
4. Less Environmental Exploration= sensory issues related to texture, noise and light. Also lack of social skills and underdeveloped muscles in the core and vestibular system of the body.
5. Higher Academic Expectations=learner burnout
6. Less Movement and Less Tolerance of Movement=pent up energy and frustrated learners
7. Helicopter Parenting=children with less confidence and lack of independence
8. Shortened Recess Times=information given during instructional time not being processed by the brain as intended and underdevelopment of gross motor skills
9. Less Freedom to Run, Climb and Play= weakened core muscles and underdeveloped vestibular systems
10. Helicopter Parenting= less emotional and social development, children learn to use their parents for everything instead of developing appropriate independence

     Is it just me or do these changes seem alarming to you as well? Of course all of these do not apply to every child, there is a mix depending on the experiences the child has before coming into your class and how their families are raising them. So, what can we do to combat these changes and get children to learn and blossom in our classrooms? (this is by no means an inclusive list of strategies, I would love to know what has worked for your classrooms.)

1. Set reasonable, age appropriate goals. For instance: Don't expect that a 5 year old can sit perfectly still at a desk for long periods of time and can do multiplication in Kindergarten (O.K. I am exaggerating but you know what I mean!) Instead evaluate your group in the beginning of the year and start with short periods of time on activities and build up to the desired amount of time that is still reasonable for the students age. I like to track time building on stamina charts to show progress to the students.

2. Integrate movement at the beginning of lessons and during transitions.

3. During those movement activities intentionally cross the midline to stimulate the brain.

4. Allow for flexible seating within limits. Be sure to set out rules and procedures for flexible seating so the class understands how each type of seating can be used, when they can use them and what behavior you expect them to exhibit while being given this privledge. This can be as simple as cushions on the floor or as elaborate as ball chairs. There are so many options!

5. Allow noise and fidgeting within reason. Allow children to swing legs, fidget in their seats etc. as long as they are working and not disturbing others. Don't ban talking all together as long as the children can stay within boundaries. Use a voice level chart to regulate the loudness and amount of talking that is allowed for certain activities.

6. Avoid sitting for long periods of time. I strive for no more than 15 minutes of lecture teaching without a movement of some type. Even just 30 seconds of simple stretching that crosses the midline halfway through a lecture can make a huge difference in attention span for kids.

7. Use single user technology in the classroom sparingly. It is a shame that a good number of our children are on technology for multiple hours a day at home. Encourage using technology in the classroom as a partner or group activity to allow for socialization and problem solving instead of an alone activity.

8. Incorporate tactile and sensory stimulating materials into your day. These can be a simple as listening to a book on tape, watching a brain pop video or playing/learning with tactile objects like wikki sticks, playdough and kinetic sand. Allowing for sensory input is not only beneficial for those who struggle with sensory issues but is so good for all children! We often play squish the sound where we make small playdough balls and squish each sound as we pull apart a word. (There are so many activites that can incorporate sensory input, that is another blog post for later.)

9. Plan a schedule that allows for movement and sensory input often. 3-5 minute brain breaks with gonoodle.com, youtube.com and brainopop.com give children an appropriate release for pent up energy.

10. GO OUTSIDE! I know all caps, no I am not angry. I just feel like this one has had one of the largest impacts on my previous classes. I will often plan a read aloud for outside and have the children bring their crayons, pencils and clipboards with them to complete a reading response. Not only do I get better attention form the class but the quality of their writing and drawings is much higher. Something about being out of those four walls in the fresh air is so good for them! (I wanted to title this one "more recess" however I know that most of us have restrictions on the amount of recess we can build into the day so if nothing else teach a lesson outside when the weather is cooperative.)

      Now with all of this being said there needs to be limits and expectations for each one of these strategies. You will need to evaluate how these can be worked into your classroom in a manner that doesn't drive you crazy by the end of the day. I can assure you that with the proper procedures in place allowing these "behaviors" as some would call them can change your classroom for the better and make for a much more enjoyable school year for you! If you are struggling with where to start with some of these then pinterest and teacher bloggers are your friends. There are so many activities and ideas out there on the web. I could not list them all here if I tried!

   And please do not get me wrong, I do believe there is a place for quiet working time and for technology however I believe these should be limited and the amount of time the class spends on these types of activities should be broken up into small sections. If you do small group rotations then plan at least one of your math and reading centers that allows movement throughout your space. I love read the room activities for incorporating movement while engaged in learning. I also love to play math games that involve putting numbers in order around the carpet, jumping over the river (blue paper) if the child gets and answer correct etc. These activities can easily be self regulated with the proper procedures in place.

    Our classrooms are changing and will continue to change with each new set of students. Do yourself a favor and go with the flow when it comes to some of these changes. There is nothing we can do to stop them and so why make ourselves crazy trying to make our current students be the same as students we have taught in the past. Where there is innovation in the world there will be changes in society and that is no different for kids than it is for adults. Let us also remember that the experiences we allow these children to have will make an impression on who they are. When we have expectations that are not developmentally appropriate we risk the chance of causing more harm than good. Remember the little girl I spoke of at the beginning of this post, she has at 5 already been told she is not a good learner and that will probably follow her throughout her entire educational career!

     I hope this blogpost is helpful to you. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. Here's to a wonderful new school year in the fall!
Blessings,
Christine


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Top 10 Necessities for New Teachers (that your school probably won't buy you!) and a free teacher startup checklist!


We all know that being comfortable in your daily space is important. Having items that make you happy and are exactly what you want can help make your year go smoothly. It is also a real pain when you figure out you need something and have to beg, borrow and steal to get your lessons ready for the next day! I've been there 1000 times and now I am the teacher everyone comes to when they need something. (I guess it helps that I am a hoarder, but don't follow my lead on that end!)

     I have come up with my list of necessities that I find make my days in my classroom a whole lot smoother and I do not spend time going to the store after school or groveling at my coworkers feet! I normally make one or two large Amazon orders per year to stock up on the consumables. I try to also buy everything on prime so that my shipping is free! I also keep and eye on Amazons lightning deals in case any of my necessities come up on an extra great sale price. The following list is in no particular order of importance:

1. Day Planner/Lesson Plan Book
     Whether you choose a Daytimer, Erin Chondren, Simple Calendar, Standard Teacher plan book, or whatever you need a planner that works for you! With all of the meetings (IEP's, 504's, Ard's, teacher meetings, parent conferences, professional development and the list of meetings goes on and on) that come with teaching make sure you have a planner that will help you stay organized and is easily used.

2. Laminator/Laminate
     I only use the huge school laminator when I have an item that does not fit into the 8.5x11 pockets that go with my personal laminator. This way I do not spend my time trimming laminate for each page and for the smaller items the laminate pouches are a much easier size to handle and cut. I find that using my personal laminator saves me tons of time. I can laminate without leaving my classroom! I can take it out whenever I need to and no need to wait for another staff member to laminate if you have that restriction. I have tried multiple brands of laminate pouches and prefer the Scott brand because they allow for a larger margin around the paper and melt well into the cardstock I use. I don't truly have an issue with the other non brand pockets they just are not always big enough to allow for a good margin and sometimes leave bubbles. (I am a little OCD about my supplies!)




3. Favorite Pens in all colors
We write so much throughout the day that having pens which are comfortable in your hands and write smoothly are a must! Papermate flair and inkjoy pens are my favorite colored pens and the Uni-ball Vision pens are my favorite all purpose black pens.




4. A really, really good stapler
Whether it is for boards or just paperwork a good stapler is a must. One year I bought a cute turquoise stapler because it matched my room. Come to find out it didn't open so couldn't be used for boards and was so cheaply made that even when I was just using it for papers it was too flimsy to staple properly. I ended up chucking it in the trash and ordering myself the following stapler. I have had it for several years now and love it!


5. Scented chisel tip markers for anchor charts
I love using scented markers on my anchor charts. The kids love the novelty of it and the colors are bright.

6. Sharpies Galore
O.K. so I have an obsession with sharpies. I admit I have hundreds of them! I find they bleed through anchor charts so I don't use them on the easel but I use them almost everywhere else!

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7. Fabric Scissors and Paper Trimmer
     I know, you are like fabric scissors, we don't use fabric in the classroom, but trust me you will not regret buying yourself an extra sharp pair of scissors that are sturdy and will last forever.

A decent scrapbooking paper trimmer makes cutting laminate a breeze!

8. TpT Subscription
    This one is free but if you get your Teachers Pay Teachers account set up and get familiar with the site before school starts then you will be ready to log in and search for free and priced items for your lessons. You will also get notices of sales and favorite sellers new items to your inbox if you so choose. (If you get a chance I would love to have you follow my TpT store here!)

9. Post its in all colors
     I use post it notes constantly, whether it is to write myself a reminder or for use on my laminated K,W,L charts I use them to organize information. They are great for graphic organizers like Venn Diagrams or Can, Have, Are charts etc. I made my anchor charts with my sharpies and had them laminated, now I can choose the colors for each section of my chart and write straight on the post its instead of my chart. The color distinctions also give the kids a visual separation in the graphic organizers as well.


10. Colorful Dry Erase Markers
So you have your standard 4 pack of Expo markers with black, red, blue and green which are great but I find that using a variety of different colors while teaching gives the kiddos a visual separation of the information you are presenting. These are also great in your dry erase centers for student use!

I hope you find this list of must haves helpful when getting ready for your next school year! I would love to hear what your must haves are! Below you will find a free download of my classroom startup checklist! Enjoy, Christine

Click Here to Download your Free Classroom Start-Up Checklist!


Disclaimer: These are all actual products that I use and love. I was not supplied with any free products or paid for my opinion for anything in this post. Affiliate links are included.