Kindergarten Boot-Camp

March 30th, 2008

For those of you keeping track, no, my class still has not earned everything back. In fact, on Friday (a half-day, nonetheless) they lost some of the stuff the earned back. They were so close and then they had to go a screw it all up again.

We were doing shaving cream art. This is an activity that I save for days right before a vacation or days when not too many kids are in school (like half-days). It involves giving every kid a glob of shaving cream and letting them smear it all over their table. They practice writing numbers and letters in it and in the process it cleans of the tables. Plus, to clean it up all they have to do is rub it until it disappears and then I just wipe the soap slime off the table with a wet rag. It’s also a time when they can (in theory) sit and chat with their friends, listen to a fun cd and get a little messy.

But not Friday. Oh no. Friday they started off great. Everyone was ready and excited for shaving cream art. They spent the first few minutes using it correctly (and my rules are pretty simple – use your own glob, don’t clap your hands or slap the table because it splatters it everywhere, and stay in your seat) we had music on, there was a lot of good conversation and then something in their little brains fired off and all 18 of them went berserk. They were tearing around the room, stealing shaving cream from other tables, shouting at each other, flinging it everywhere. So shaving cream was done. They spent the next 5-10 minutes cleaning it all up and the last 10 minutes of art with their heads down practicing being quiet. So art’s gone again for awhile.

I don’t mind if we spend the rest of the year practicing how to act like 5 and 6 year olds. They actually seem to do better when they have less things to choose from. I really think that this group gets over-stimulated very quickly and does better with way less options.

3 Weeks

March 19th, 2008

I read somewhere that it takes 3 weeks to replace a bad habit with a new, good habit. My kids have been without their stuff for 2 and 1/2 weeks. They are slowly – I repeat – slowly, earning it back.

Here’s what we’ve accomplished:

They earned back the library and the book boxes on their tables.
They earned their jobs back (funny, they earned back the right to do chores…)
They earned half of their learning labs back.
They earned back the puzzle shelf.
They earned back choosing who they sit next to at Morning Meeting.

It’s not a lot, but it’s a good start. About 16 out of my 20 kids have made a genuine effort to change their behavior and are getting really fed up with the 4 that are refusing to change. My only fear is that we will have worked this hard for a whole month and when we come back from spring break it will be back to square one.

Want to Know How Boot Camp Is Going?

March 17th, 2008

Right now I am at work. My kids are all in the room. They have spend the last 4 minutes practicing sitting still and quiet and still have 4 more to go. They wasted 8 minutes of the class time talking instead of listening and so now I’m showing them how long 8 minutes is. They aren’t really happy – and I have a list of kids who will be doing more practicing at recess because they are choosing to make more noise right now.

And it’s only Monday.

And Next Week Will Be Week Three

March 13th, 2008

I had originally thought 2 weeks would be enough of time for my kids to turn their acts around, but next Monday we will be heading into week three. So far all they have earned back is their journals and the puzzle shelf.

We still do all the curriculum and academics but it’s very boring. If it’s a paper that says to write something and then color it, well, they haven’t earned crayons back yet so I guess they don’t get to color. Next week we are going to work on the simple things – crayons, glue, scissors, and if they are really on task, construction paper and paint. Hopefully we can do learning labs again soon, but at this rate, they may be in for a couple months of nothing fun.

We are going on a field trip at the end of the month (well, the ones who earn it are going). It’s to a park commonly referred to as chutes and ladders. (click on the creative play areas link.) We are hoping it helps to cure the cabin fever the kindergarten class is currently suffering from.

Kindergarten, Take 2 – Days 4 & 5

March 7th, 2008

It was a good thing that days 4 and 5 were half days.

Here is yesterday’s schedule:
8:00 – 8:30 Breakfast
8:30-9:00 Morning Meeting (with me repeating the phrase, “I’ll wait” about 5000 times)
9:00 – 9:30 Practicing putting on coats and backpacks. Quietly.
9:30-10:00 Bathroom Break and then practicing sitting quietly for bathroom break.
10:00 – 10:30 Gym class
10:30-11:00 World Language
11:00 – 11:30 Lunch
11:30-11:45 Getting ready to go home

See how jam packed that was with academics? Kinda sad that we didn’t get anything done.

Today was a little better – we’ve moved past Anger and have now reached Bargining. Today they got to practice using the math toys. We worked on using them quietly and carefully. We also worked on playing with/sharing with our friends and staying in the group they were supposed to be playing with as well as cleaning up quietly and quickly. And there was success. They played quietly, they were having fun with out being crazy. They were coming up with their own “games” and working together. They cleaned up relatively quietly. And then the bargining started. “Since we did such a good job, can we have our stuff back now?” “Can we do all of this again on Monday? We promise, we’ll be quiet.” And on and on it went for another hour.

We’re still practicing Monday. And Tueday. And Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And possibly the Monday after that.

Kindergarten, Take 2 – Day 3

March 5th, 2008

Today there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Tomorrow there will be much practicing.

It’s a really good thing tomorrow and Friday are half days.

Funny side note, we have half days because it is time for parent-teacher conferences. Hmmm…what ever are we going to talk about?

Kindergarten, Take 2 – Day 2 The Five Stages of Grief

March 4th, 2008

I’m pretty sure that my little experiment is sending my kids through the 5 stages of grief.

Yesterday they were pretty much in denial that all there stuff was gone.

Today was Anger. There was crying, there were temper tantrums, there was flat out refusal to do work, there were trips to the office, there were snide comments that school is boring and I am a mean teacher. My guess the anger stage is going to take a couple days to work through.

But I see bargaining in the near future, lots of “please can I have_______? I promise I’ll be good.” and maybe some depression when they learn the answer is still no.

Hopefully acceptance will come soon.

Kindergarten, Take 2 – Day 1

March 3rd, 2008

Here’s the highlights from Kindergarten Bootcamp, Day 1.

When they saw everything covered their first thought was that I was getting them all new stuff. Umm, let me think about that…No.

They didn’t quite understand that they have nothing left to use until it was time for learning labs. I asked them to look around and tell me what stuff we could use for learning labs and what centers were still open. When their answer was “nothing” I think they got it.

The point was made even more clear when Ms. Melanie came in and asked who was coming to special groups with her and I said no one because we had to practice. Melanie fed right into it and talked about how she was sad because she had a fun new game to try and now she couldn’t and she would be back on Wednesday to see if anyone was ready to come with her, blah, blah, blah. By this point I had a few on the verge of tears. Things were starting to sink in.

The best reaction of the day was when I explained that there was going to be no learning labs and no write away and that it was going to take more than one day to earn their supplies back – from the back of the room I hear, “shit, she’s really serious.”

Yep, I’m serious.

Kindergarten, Take 2

March 2nd, 2008

Tomorrow, kindergarten is starting over. My class lost all their privileges last week and when then come to school on Monday, it is going to be a bit of a shock.

My room was a very serve yourself style room. All of our supplies are kept on low open shelves so if the kids needed scissors then went to the scissor bin and got a pair. If they needed crayons or markers, they knew where to look. The toys were set up the same way. Some days I would only let them play with certain activities but most days they had a choice and understood how to take things out, play with it and put it back in its spot. The library was organized and kept that way by our class librarians. Floors and tables were kept clean by the class janitors. Up until about a month ago, they took pride in their room and took care of it. This last month…I don’t know what happened. Something in their brains snapped and they all turned into out of control seek and destroy missiles. They have been ripping books, coloring on anything within reach, not putting things away, throwing toys at each other, fighting over everything, breaking each others pencils, and in general not caring. Now I realize it may be cabin fever but I can’t let them get away with behavior like this just because they haven’t been outside. So Friday I told them if they couldn’t get their acts together then I would take away all the “fun” parts of school and we would practice the rules. One of my kids countered me with a “you won’t really make us do that” and I quickly reminded him that I have never told them anything that I didn’t make them do. I stayed after school for about an hour and half covering bookshelves and toy shelves with black paper, taking down the job chart, our hopes and dreams chart, our behavior lights. I took away all the crayon and pencil boxes. The puzzles are gone. The library is closed. There is no more access to the toy and block shelves. Dramatic play and the sand table are closed. The media center is gone. So is the science center, math center, writing center and art center. Special groups with the school councilor have been canceled for the week. Gym class and computer class are going to involve practicing the rules. Recess will consist of practicing walking to the playground and back. They don’t get to pick spots to line up. There will be a line order. And around Wednesday I expect that they will be forming a coup.

But it needs to be done. We will be spending the next 2-3 weeks re-learning how to behave in kindergarten. We will rewrite our hopes and dreams. We will recreate the rules for our classroom. We will remember that we are kind and caring community. We will learn how to appropriately play with toys and use our supplies. We will work together to keep our room clean and to put things away where they belong. We will work together to repair the damage that has been done to our toys, books, walls, desks, chairs, and anything else that has been colored on. We will learn that not being the first in line is not the worst thing in the world. We will create new jobs in our room. We will remember to listen when others are speaking. We will remember to share, to take turns, to help others and be patient.

I keep saying we because my class is always included in doing these things. At the beginning of the year (and it has continued all year) we hold class council meetings were we discuss and try and solve problems we are having. We also create the rules for our room as a class not just me telling them what to do. If I include them in the process it becomes much more meaningful for them and they remember it and hold to it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.