Saturday, April 18, 2009
The switch from half day to full day Kindergarten can be quite intimidating for the teacher! If you are getting ready to move to full day Kindergarten, you might want to attend the I Teach K conference this summer in Las Vegas. There are always lots of ideas to be had there. I know that when we went full day, my principal was willing to send me for more training to help me through the transition. This will be my fourth summer presenting at I Teach K, and despite the fact that I have taught Kindergarten for almost twenty years, I always learn something new and exciting there. My advice for anyone new to full day K is to plan for more activities that you think you will need or have time for. Get them all ready, and put your supplies in a place where you can get them easily during the day. Then try to plan your day by rotating through active, then passive, then active lessons as much as you can. Remember, just because your students will be there all day, their attention spans are still the same, and they will certainly not be able to just sit and learn all day. Typically, we would do a lesson, then sing some active songs, then do something with manipulatives (like patterning), then read a book or do another lesson, then stand up and sing another active song, etc. Recess was in there, too, of course! If you have an aide, you should also be able to rotate through a variety of activities as well. I ALWAYS have some active songs ready to sing. There is lots of music with movement available on my website, but if you don't care for mine, I would recommend that you find some that you do like and plan on using it to help your kids get through a long day without having to sit all day long. For me, music is always a part of nearly every lesson. And in the afternoons, I put out lots of creative art supplies and let them just create for as long as they want. Those children that are not interested in doing more creative artwork can play while the others are creating. The wonderful thing about full day K is that there is plenty of time to allow them to do things like this! If your school will allow you to let the children have a rest time, then definitely take advantage of that during the first few months of school for sure. My students really benefited from a chance to just rest with some soft music or books on tape playing. I remember that one day, eight out of twenty kids fell asleep! I let the children that didn’t want to sleep read books or draw on clipboards with paper and crayons. I did, of course, let them know that they were not allowed to get up and do other things during this time. I also used to plan our playtime for right after their rest time, just in case someone wanted to keep sleeping. That way, the child wouldn't miss his or her instructional time. Later in the year, we just lay down on the carpet with our journals and write or draw. The children that are ready to write can write about anything that they want, and the others can just draw pictures and copy words from the wall. The students loved the restfulness of this time, and really enjoyed sharing their journal entries with me during their playtime.
On the first day of school, I introduce the Zoo-Phonics characters and movements from A-Z, usually as early in the day as I can. Then, later in the day, (usually after recess), I also introduce my Jumpin' Numbers and Shapes cards, along with a few of the songs (usually Zero, One, Two, and Three.) The next day, I do Zoo-Phonics again early in the day from A-Z (although my cards are always mixed up and not in any particular order.) Later again, usually after recess, I review the Jumpin' Numbers and Shapes cards and sing the songs we learned the day before. Then I introduce another few songs- maybe the songs for Four, Five, and Six. Each day, I follow this routine, along with the other things you would normally do on the first few days of school, like read stories about starting school, play games with names, learn how to make patterns, do some graphs, etc. Every day, then, I add on a couple of new number songs and review the previous songs. How many songs I do each day really depends on how long my class can pay attention and how much they are enjoying it. Often, I have students who are repeating the year, or who had siblings in my class. These kids often know many of the songs, and will beg for their favorite ones, so that makes me go a little faster sometimes. I start adding in the color word songs right after Zoo-Phonics early in the morning on the second or third day of school, along with one letter song per day from my Singable Songs for Letters and Sounds CD! Then we'll do ZP and then sing a few color songs, learning just two or three and then adding them in as the children can handle it. I try to introduce as many as I can without exhausting them and making them tired of the songs. I try not to "cram it down their throats,” but I want to introduce as many color words as I can while still making it fun for them. Typically, first thing in the morning, I will take roll, salute the flag, and do the calendar, and then stand up for ZP and singing. After that, I will read a story and explain some type of art or hands-on activity that we will all do together. Then, we'll read a story and then go out for recess after that. Once we come in from recess, we'll read a story to calm down and maybe do a graph. Then we'll do our numbers and shapes cards and songs, and then have some inside playtime until it is time to go home. Our students only stay half day during the first four weeks of school; after that, they stay until 1:20 (school starts at 8:15.) At the beginning of the third trimester, the kids begin staying until 2:15 and then go home after that. Thursdays are Compact Days and the kids go home at 1:15 all year, except during the first four weeks. We can sing a little more in the afternoons once we start staying later. This extra time allowed me to finish teaching all of the alphabet songs by the fifth week of school. We usually did the alphabet songs in "chunks;" for example, we worked on A-F for a while, then G-L for a while, and then L-Q for a while, and so on. As far as the sight words are concerned, I usually start with the word, "the" after about two and a half or three weeks of school, and then introduce "see" on the same day, or a couple of days after that. We continue doing ZP every day for the first three weeks of school faithfully. After about three weeks, I start pulling kids individually during their playtime to see who knows ZP yet. If the majority of the kids know all of the sounds and signals, I start doing ZP, but with modified "transitional" cards that I made with the ZP font. These have the ZP character on the front as always, but on the back, there is just a plain letter. I drill the kids on ZP, but just show them the plain letter and ask them to do the sound and signal as always. If they get it wrong or hesitate, I flip the card over to the ZP side for a quick look, and then flip it back to the plain letter side. So when they are doing the sounds and signals, they are doing it while looking at the plain letter. Though I may give them a quick review/look of the ZP side, they are looking at the plain letter while they "do it, hear it, see it, and say it" simultaneously. As soon as they give me the correct sound, I say, "What's that letter name?" and those that know it call out the name of the letter. This helps teach the ones that don't know the letter names. I begin pulling the lower ones out during playtime to work with them individually on the ZP Transitional cards to try to teach them the letter names. Last year, I kept the lowest of my low kids for after school tutoring and worked on this same routine again with them and also added in many of the alphabet activities that are on the handout for my Singable Songs presentation. By the time about four or five weeks of school have passed, most of my students know most of the alphabet and the sounds. Once they know them, we stop doing ZP except maybe once a week, or even just a couple of times a month for review, (although I do have them signal the sounds as we learn to sound out words.) We pick up on the sight word songs, and learn about two or three songs per week. Again, how fast I go depends on the attention span and attitude of my group. If they are loving it and begging for more, I give it to them! If not, then I just stick to about two new words per week. We do activities with the words in small groups to help the learn them. We also write them while the music plays in large groups using a class set of magnadoodles or white boards. Most of the activities that I do are listed on the handouts from my presentations on Sing and Spell. So basically, I don't follow the ZP manual really at all! I did when I first started doing ZP, but since then I have trimmed it down a bit to make it more manageable as far as time is concerned. Another thing that really helps is to show parents how it works at your first parent meeting, and have them learn it. Then use the ZP font to make cards that the kids can take home. Most parents are really "gung-ho" to help at the beginning of the school year, and are eager to have a way to help their kids. When the parents work on ZP at home, it goes much faster than without. I would say that about one fourth of our student population have parents that may not help their children at all, (either due to lack of language or because they don't know how to help, etc.) I usually help the children from these families in my room during after school tutoring or during playtime. You have to make sure that they are practicing making the correct sounds when they do ZP, or they will likely learn that incorrect sound and this can be hard to correct.