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Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016

So here we are, 2016! It's been a long time since I've even thought about blogging until recently. I have actually been thinking a lot these past few months on how much I miss teaching Kindergarten. And then I slap my forehead and remind myself how great my current job is.

As you may already know from my last post (back in May 2015) I got a new job teaching Pre-K in Nashville. I was psyched and so ready for a new adventure in my life. So I packed up my classroom of 6 years, wiped my tears after saying goodbye to some of my best friends and made the hour drive to my new home! (Well.... technically moving came 2 months later after I started teaching in Nashville. But that's not important!)

Anywho- I'm so honored to be a part of a Pre-K grant we have in Nashville. I get to work in 1 of the 3 "Pre-K hubs" in the district. If you are like me, when you think of public school Pre-K teachers, you envision maybe 1 or 2 pre-K teachers in an elementary school, right? Well, that's true for most of Nashville. But now we have 3 "hubs", which are school buildings filled with ONLY preK classrooms. So in my building, there are 10 pre-k classrooms. It's AMAZING. I love it. I get to work with so many creative, fun, friendly "experts" in our field! It's my dream job! My principal is so knowledgeable of early childhood and she really knows her stuff and encourages developmentally appropriate practices! Ya'll... I'm talking PLAY. These 4-year-olds actually get to play while they learn. I've been ranting and raving about how we need more play in schools for kindergarten-3rd grade. And now I get to do it!

We have a wonderful curriculum that provides books, small group ideas, instructional transition activities and more! Planning is a breeze b/c we are encouraged to use the curriculum to fidelity because the research behind our curriculum has shown how effective it is. We do 6 week studies on things like:
  • buildings, 
  • trees, 
  • clothing, 
  • reduce, reuse and recyling
  • exercise
  • balls
  • music making
  • boxes
  • pets
  • roads
  • bread
We also use a "Beginning of the Year" study the first 6 weeks and a "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" unit the last 6 weeks of the school year.

So if you're any good at math, you might be thinking "How on earth do you teach all of those units in one school year?" Well... we don't! We figure out what the children are interested in and use the kid's interests to determine what unit we'll dive into next! So after I finished the beginning of the year study, I thought about how great it would be to do the buildings study since they were doing a lot of construction in the front of our building so we could take walks outside while the weather was still nice and see how it changed as the year went on. I also thought trees would be fun with the leaves changing colors in the fall. So I talked to the kids about it. I told them the things we would investigate and the fun activities we could do. Then they each got to vote on what study they would be more interested in. Buildings won, so that was our next unit! The kids had a blast on our walks around the building and watching the different construction vehicles in action!

My dad, who's an engineer, came in with a hammer and nails, screwdriver and screws, wrenches and more! He showed the kids how to work all the simple tools using scrap wood from his garage. He even brought in some toy construction vehicles for the kids to play with in block center, left a small level for them to use and some orange cones to warn their classmates that they are hard at work! We made "blueprints" in our journals of what we would build in block center, and Ms. H (our para) painted boxes with the kids and made different buildings.

Some great activities we did was after reading The Three Little Pigs! Out in front of our building, I grabbed some straw (or hay!), an old brick and a stick. I passed the materials around and asked the kids what they think was the most "sturdy". We made predictions and tested them out by pretending we were the big, bad wolf and "blew the house down!" They had a blast. So I put the materials in the Discovery Center for them to examine and play with during centers.

I also printed off some characters from the Story on a Three Little Pigs unit I bought off TPT (I'll link it here later!) and put some velcro on the back for the kids to practice retelling the story in library center. (We did this in a small group first. And before the small group, we acted out the story with puppets I made!) The kids did AWESOME!

So during center time, I noticed the kids LOVE the music center. So I decided to do the music making study next! We have had a BLAST with this! We've made jingle bells with sparkly pipe cleaners and bells, guitars with old tissue boxes and rubber bands, and shakers with empty paper towel rolls, tissue paper and beans. My AMAZING para changed out our dramatic play center by adding some red curtains to a big wall, and putting the words "Center Stage" in yellow above it! She brought in her son's musical toys so the kids could pretend they were in a rock band or symphony!

I posted musical words all around the room that I found online. (I'll post that link also, later!) Then our music teacher gave me the idea of sorting the words by the type of instruments they fall under. So made posters for "strings", "percussion" and "wind". The kids love to refer to the posters as we are reading stories and listening to music. Our music teacher has been letting us use different instruments each week such as a banjo and bells. I brought in my sister's old guitar and let the kids play them during centers. They LOVED it! I hope to find some next instruments when we return this week! =)

Something that I personally love is that we are not allowed to use worksheets AT ALL. We incorporate the learning through games and their play. So I'm going to make it my goal the rest of this school year to post some of the ways we do so... in hopes that inspires other pre-k and kindergarten teachers to do the same in their rooms!

To assess, we use an app on the ipad (which is part of our curriculum). The app allows us to record video, voice, take anecdotal notes, take pictures, and more! Once we get the learning documented, we are able to go into this app, attach the learning objective that's being met and then SCORE IT! The best part is that the app gives examples for each level so we can have a "level playing field" when scoring out kids.

The only downfall is that it's A LOT OF WORK. Like.... we need to be doing it every single day and sometimes I find it hard to teach and get the good, quality data. (I know... I'm preaching to the choir! I struggled with this in kindergarten too!)

Some other wonderful things about my current job? We have a garden! And the kids helped plant everything in it. Every class has an hour time slot each week, where we split the class in 1/2. The teacher takes one group down to the garden and our "Plant the Seed teacher" does a mini garden lesson and then breaks the kids into garden centers or a fun garden activity. The centers are things like "watering plants, potting station, library (they can grab a garden book and blanket and read anywhere in the garden, art (painting or sidewalk chalk), journals and digging. The kids get their hands dirty and they love every minute of it! When the clean-up bell rings, we gather under the gazebo and sit on the hay bails and sing our Plant the Seed song. Then I meet my para 1/2 way and we switch groups. (Her group stays in the room and works on social-emotional skills with our school counselor. It's a fabulous program.)

And one of my favorite parts of my school week is our Global class. Nashville's Global Education center provides a 30 minute lesson for each class in our building to teach multi-cultural lessons. We've done zumba, learned to play Djembe drums, learned a song to sing with a berimbau, learned about Native American culture and got to play with their toys, their drum, sit in a teepee and more! It's a wonderful program and the children love it!

I cannot say enough great things about my school!!! Everything we do is so beneficial for these children and they WILL be ready for kindergarten! And I can say that after teaching K for 6 years in a low-income area! I wish all kids could go here!


My goals for 2016:
-Post small group ideas, transition activities and center activities we do to inspire others to incoporate learning through play
-Work harder in changing out my centers and making them relevant to our unit of study each week
-Be more consistent with teaching activities EVERY DAY
-Be more purposeful in interacting with the kids during play and have high-quality conversations to build their language skills and vocabulary

Well if you made it through this whole post, I appreciate you! Let me know if there is anything you'd like to know in my next post!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR! Hoping 2016 is the best year yet!!!



4 comments:

  1. Hi Jessica!

    I teach pre-k in Austin, Texas. I would love to teach at a solely early childhood school. Sounds like a dream! From your unit studies list, it sounds like your using Creative Curriculum. My district just adopted it this year and I'll be piloting the curriculum beginning this semester for my 3 year olds. I would love to hear more about what center activities you use during each unit!

    Happy New Year!
    -Danyette

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    1. Hey Danyette! Yup- we use the Creative Curriculum! I don't know much about the 3 year old curriculum, but the PreK one is great! Definitely gives us lots of great ideas! (I'll be honest though, I do miss the fun thematic units I was used to doing in Kindergarten- not doing the Gingerbread Stories in Dec. was heart breaking!)
      Let me know how you like it!
      Jess

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  2. This is a great post! read it till the end and loved it truly. thanks for keeping us updated this way. i wish you the best of luck with your work. take care :)

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