The first day of school is Monday, and I've already met all but two of my students, thanks to a short Open-House-type visit yesterday afternoon!
I'll wrap up some details for you today, and then unveil the classroom in all its glory tomorrow, okie dokie?
I made center tags:
Many teachers list their centers on a single chart, somehow rotating names of students to cycle them through activities each day. Some teachers leave all centers as "free choices" for the year. I make center tags that are located at EACH activity, and I myself rotate students' names/photos (not shown for confidentiality's sake) that are affixed to each tag with hook-and-loop tape or dots. This may seem labor intensive, but for the first few weeks of school, I like to move through the classroom, helping and monitoring each student in all of the center locations. I signal it's time to clean up and move to the next center with a special clap or by ringing a bell. Rotating the tags myself gives me the chance to see if the students are cleaning up appropriately, or are just leaving their mess for the next student to deal with as everyone else moves on. Catching students cleaning up gives me the opportunity to provide positive feedback, and I'm able to redirect mess-makers back to their last center before they become too engrossed in the next activity. After the first month of school, I can become a center that students will visit, and I can trust the kindergartners working elsewhere to clean up before moving on without too much intervention on my part.
Changing the photos to rotate students through centers assures that I won't be stuck sitting all morning as well!
Each center lasts anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes, and no, none of my centers are "optional." Every student cycles through every center, visiting their favorites, and knowing that, should they encounter an activity they're not very fond of, it WILL end, and they WILL make it away from there to work elsewhere!
Here's a close up of my "Welcome" card (it's a postcard by Mary Englebreit, available at many teacher stores) and the button my kindergarten colleagues made for each student:
I put a poem about the first day of school in the card for parents to read, and let my students know they can wear their pin for the first week of school, and then transfer it to a lunch bag or backpack. I'm guessing there are a few parents out there that save the button for their childrens' scrapbooks or photo albums!
While new kindergarten students need quiet and calm guidance paired with nurturing on their first day of school, many parents are just as tender-hearted and emotionally fragile as their children. I give each family a little gift bag that has a cotton ball, some kleenex, and a tea bag before they leave us on the first day. The cotton ball is to remind parents of their child's soft spirit, the kleenex is to help them dry their tears, and I encourage parents to go home, heat up some water, make a cup of tea, and relax.
Frankly, it's the most gentle way I've found to...cut the apron strings.
We'll be learning about colors for the first two weeks of school, so I've prepped some die cuts and art activities in advance:
I'm not sure if we'll make necklaces out of the die cut shapes or use the shapes for some other activity, but the large white apples with green stems are ready for students to cut or tear red construction paper out to glue onto them on "Red Day." On Red Day we'll wear something red or bring a red item from home to share. Same thing for Blue Day, Yellow Day, Green Day, etc., and of course we'll read books like Green Eggs and Ham, Blueberries for Sal, Green Wilma, Who Said Red, Harold's Purple Crayon, etc. Dressing in similar colors and making group projects helps to bring us together as a class, giving us ownership of our surroundings, making us feel like we belong, and forging bonds with classmates and teachers.
Tomorrow I'll be baking "Kissing Hand" cookies, but will post classroom photos for you to see too!