Class Rules

January 6th, 2010

At the beginning of the year we created the rules for our classroom. According to Responsive Classroom, class rules should be entirely student generated. But in kindergarten when you ask a group of 5 year olds what the rules should be you get this list:

  1. Don’t hit
  2. Don’t push
  3. Don’t kick
  4. Don’t punch
  5. Don’t run
  6. Don’t yell
  7. Don’t slap
  8. Don’t bite
  9. Don’t throw things
  10. Don’t be mean
  11. Don’t talk
  12. No running
  13. No spitting
  14. No fighting
  15. No being mean
  16. No yelling
  17. No shouting
  18. No being loud
  19. No wrestling
  20. No stealing

And that’s the shortened version. When I let them start suggesting rules I usually get close to 50 or 60 “don’t's” and “no’s”. That’s a whole lot of things we aren’t allowed to do. And an insane list to remember.

So, I have to start tweaking the list to a more positive wording and narrowing it down. There is a long conversation which is mostly me saying things like “Hitting and kicking and punching and slapping and hurting other people is something we godn’t want to do. So can we make the rule be “Keep your hands and feet to yourself?” And I’ll be honest, in the end, the rules end up being the 5 rules that I use every year in kindergarten. (1. Keep your hands and feet to yourself. 2. Share. 3. Listen when someone else is speaking. 4. Walking feet. 5. Be respectful)

And every year in January we re-evaluate and re-write our class rules. Since we have to spend the first week in January re-learnign the whole routine anyway, might as well start fresh with new rules.

So today we sat and made the long list of ideas for rules. However, I told them none of the rules could start with the word “don’t” or “no”. I wanted all positive language. I wanted the rules to state what we could (and should) do, not what we couldn’t do.

I was seriously impressed with their list. If they suggested a “don’t” rule, the rest of the class immediately corrected them – YOU CAN’T SAY DON’T! – but after the shouting, they gave the student a chance to rephrase their idea.

The list included:

  1. Be best friends
  2. Be good
  3. Listen when people talk
  4. Be nice
  5. Be kind
  6. Be helpful
  7. Be respectful
  8. Tell the truth
  9. Walk
  10. Take care of the toys and books
  11. Only dig and build with sand or snow
  12. Share
  13. Have fun
  14. Learn
  15. Say please
  16. Watch where you are walking in line
  17. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough (this one made me laugh out loud. Earlier this year, I had over half my class hit with H1N1. I had them hand-santizing and going through tissues like good little germ0phobes. At least they were paying attention.)

We then talked about how some rules were pretty similar and they decided to have 6 rules total. The final list (with barely any influence from me):

1. Be safe

2. Be good

3. Be kind

4. Be respectful

5. Tell the truth

6. Have fun

Now, we’ll see if they stick to the new rules.

Best Movie Ever (according to 15 kindergarten students)

January 5th, 2010

Welcome to teaching in Minnesota.

Land of indoor recess.

I know what some of you are thinking. “Indoor recess? Sweet. No need to get on coats, boots, hats, gloves. No kids whinning because they are too cold. No need to stand on the playground and freeze while listening to the whinning about being too cold.” Well, all of that is great compared to 3 days in a row of indoor recess. The scientific term for indoor recess is “Cabin Fever”.

I, however, have found the cure. Disney and Pixar Movies. I know, shocking, isn’t it? But here’s the thing, my students were all born after movies like Lilo and Stitch, Monsters, Inc; Toy Story (1 & 2), Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King came out.

A month ago I brought in Lilo and Stitch and they had never heard of it. They were fascinated. This week, we watched Monsters, Inc. And they loved it. They sat perfectly still. They jumped when a monster acted scary. They covered their eyes when the monsters were on the “scare floor”. They laughed at the jokes. And they practically held their breath during the big chase scene at the end. When it was over, several kids asked if we could watch it again tomorrow because it was the “best movie ever.”

I think I’m going to introduce them to Fraggle Rock next. Or maybe The Sound of Music. Although, there’s a lot of kissing in the Sound of Music and in kindergarten we really don’t like the kissing parts. Hmmm….is the Princess Bride appropriate to show? They would LOVE that movie.

NaBloPoMo Post #19: The Minnesota Children’s Museum in 10 simple steps.

November 18th, 2009

The kindergarten went to the Minnesota Children’s Museum today. Best. Field Trip. Ever.

Step 1. Take 30 children and add a mix of 9 parents and teachers.

Step 2. Divide children according to energy level among parents and teachers

Step 3. Board the bus.

Step 4. On a 8 minute bus ride answer the question “Is this the field trip?” 75000 times.

Step 5. Arrive at the museum and feed the children.

Step 6. Walk children to an exhibit room and say “See this big purple door? You may NOT go out this door without a grown-up. Understand?”

Step 7. Turn children loose.

Step 8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for approximately 2 hours,  substituting “purple” for “green”, “yellow”, “blue”, and “red”.

Step 9. Round up children.

Step 10. Board bus and return to school.

NaBloPoMo Post #15: Kindergarten

November 14th, 2009

I haven’t talked about kindergarten in a while.

Here’s the thing. I (heart) my class. They rock. Sure I’ve got one or two that like to try and push my buttons but that’s only about once a day. The rest of the week is smooth sailing. I haven’t figured out what the secret ingredient to this year is yet.

Maybe it’s their personalities. Maybe it’s the new routine I’ve created. Maybe it’s the fact that they have been told by numerous adults in the school that they are the best class. Maybe it’s the fact that I have sixteen – 8 boys, 8 girls. I have don’t know.

All I know is that when I ask them to listen, they do. When I ask them to settle down, they do. When someone needs help, they are helpful. They are respectful. They are responsible. They are funny and silly and try really hard on their work. When we walk in a line, it’s an actual line. They are fiercely protective of one-another. And they love to arm wrestle. When someone can beat me, they get a party. (I may let somebody win next week.) They understand the importance of admitting they were wrong or telling the truth. They know a bad choice makes me upset but lying makes me angry. They are proud of our class library. They are convinced we have more books than the school library. (There’s a good chance we do.) We work together as a community. They love me and I love them.

How’s School Going?

September 5th, 2009

We are now in week 3 of school (week 2 with kids) and things are still going well.

I’ve had 16 consistent kids but I do have 17 on my list. I’m not sure where #17 has been. She’s only been to school 2 of the last 10 days.

Since they’ve gotten a little more comfortable with life in kindergarten they are starting to show their true colors. And so far, it’s not too rough. There are a couple kids who think it’s really fun to speak Somali but I’ve busted them twice for swearing in Somali (because in my 4 years at the school the only Somali I know is a greeting, counting to twenty, a couple colors, mom, dad, teacher and about 15 swear words). And as a bonus, if I don’t bust them, the girls in my class will.

Oh. My. Word. Do I have tattle tales in my class. So far this year I’ve gotten “she’s looking at me”, “he’s coughing at me”, “he said I’m a girl” (and she  is a girl), “she said I’m 6″ and my personal favorite “she’s tattling on me”. Tuesday we are doing the lesson on the difference between reporting and tattling. I only want to hear about it if the person is crying, bleeding, or throwing up.

So my girls basically a sweet group. Very shy when it comes to speaking in front of the group but they are good friends with each other and get along together wel, when they aren’t tattling.

Back to my boys. They think they are a group of stand up comedians. I have never seen such class clowns. Everything is a joke or can be made a joke or causes them to break into a fit of giggles. And I usually have to send them to their desks to calm down. Not because they are trying to be disrespectful but because if they look at each other they start giggling again.

Oh, and did I tell you the story of the boy who meditates?

When we work as a group my class sits in a circle on carpet squares. The squares are always out and always in a circle. One of the boys will pull his square into the middle of the circle, sit down in the lotus position, close his eyes, put his hands together like he is praying and say, “oohhmmm” for about 5 seconds. The first time he did it, I tried to correct him and he stuck out one hand and shushed me, then finished his “oohhmmm”. He then moves his carpet square back to the circle and is perfectly behaved. Surprisingly enough none of my kids think this is funny. They just wait for him to be finished and carry on.

Yeah, the meditating kid – totally one of my favorites.

First Day of School

August 24th, 2009

Every year the first day of school reminds me of a few things that I tend to block from my brain:

1. Standing for 8 hours hurts. My cute little ballet flats went perfectly with my outfit and I looked really professional but tomorrow it’s back to dressing like a hippy and wearing my chacos or keens with everything.

2. Talking for 8 hours hurts. I always manage to forget how much constant talking I do the first few weeks of school. I spend the whole day saying things like “hands at your sides”, “1-2-3-eyes on me”, and a keep up a constant stream of praises and compliments to reinforce behavior. Note to self: do not forget water bottle tomorrow.

3. The first couple days of school are boring. At least in kindergarten. Kindergarteners, in general, have a healthy fear of their teacher and LOVE school so they will do anything to please their teacher which means until they start getting comfortable in school they spend the first few days following every rule and it takes no effort to keep them on track…which means I don’t have too much to do those first couple day.

My day went well today. This was my first year with a crier. The kid who would not let his dad leave until I had to physically hold him in the classroom while his dad bolted. (Dad’s idea, not mine.) But he got over it pretty quick and by mid-morning was doing fine.

I think the kids are getting smaller. I have a tiny group. They don’t feel much bigger than Lexi.

I rearranged my classroom this year. Really rearranged – moved bulletin boards and everything – and I think it’s going to help with transition times quite a bit. Everything is in arm’s reach of where I am teaching and I finally have a set up where all the kids can see the board from their desks.

13 of my 19 kids showed up today. I know for sure 2 more are coming tomorrow. I hope that all 19 show up by week’s end, I really don’t like having to teach the same lessons over and over to keep teaching the routine as new kids trickle in.

Most of my kids are really quiet so I don’t have a sense of personalities yet. I do have 3 boys who are going to be trouble and probably end up being my favorites.

I Think I May Need To Start A Coin Collection

May 9th, 2009

Our school raised money to help build a clean water well for a school in Africa through charity:water. i’m pretty proud of our kids. They collected $180.84 (and it’s probably closer to $200 because I haven’t gotten the money from two classes). It doesn’t sound like much money but every little bit helps and for our school, raising this much money is impressive.

Anyway, Today I took all the coins to the bank and put them through the coin counter. Many of the coins were rejected because they weren’t American money. I’ve now got coins from El Salvador, Mexico, England (before they went to Euros), Europe (after they started using Euros), Canada, Kenya, Somalia and a few others that I haven’t identified yet.

Frustrations with kindergarten

February 19th, 2009

I’m not sure what is going on in my classroom but the children seemed to have checked all ability to listen and be respectful at the door. And it’s not just my class. Every teacher in our school is complaining of some variation of this problem.

All of a sudden you are a “cool kid” if you get sent to the office. In order to be in some random club you need to get sent to the office. Consequences have no meaning anymore. Today my class lost learning labs (their absolute favorite time of day), recess and choice time due to behavior. Guess how many of them cared? Yeah – zero.

This isn’t like last year where all I needed was a serious crack down in the rules and the kids shaped up. This is something entirely new. This is a whole new level of defiance. And they are mean. Mean to me. Mean to each other. Mean to other adults. They are rude. There is swearing. And a lot of “I HATE YOU”. There is bullying and lying and stealing. And it’s all in an attempt to get sent to the office. I know their game. Nobody is going to the office. Not anymore.

And I have a plan but I’m not sure how it will work.

Currently our class rules are:

1. Share

2. Keep your hands and feet to yourself

3. Listen to the person who is speaking.

4. Respect people and things.

5. Be safe.

That’s it. Not tough rules to follow. And I didn’t write them – they did.

Tomorrow, the rules are coming down. There will be new rules:

1. You can’t say you can’t play.

2. You can be mad but you can’t be mean.

3. Even when you are mad, you still have to follow the rules.

4. Nobdoy goes to the office.

There will also be a new seating chart. Currently we are at tables of 4. And the tables are starting to get into fights with each other. Not anymore. Nobody gets to sit at tables. I have a class set of clipboards. We will all be doing our work in one big group, in a circle, together. All supplies are now communial. You want crayons, you need to ask politely. You want help, you quietly ask a friend. Finished your work early? Help someone who needs it.

We will begin working and functioning as a community again. We are going to be in this together. If one person needs to calm themselves down we will all stop and take a break and calm down. If 2 kids need to practice walking in a line quietly we will all walk to show them how it should look.

By the time I leave for Ethiopia my class will be back to functioning as a unit. And it may mean no academic teaching for a week or more but right now their behavior is more important to me than whether or not they can do a pattern or count by 5′s.

It’s Friday.

February 13th, 2009

You have no idea how glad I am that it’s Friday. This has, by far, been the longest week of the school year. The other kindergarten teacher was on vacation this week. So there was a sub. A terrible sub. It basically sounded like someone turned a pack of wild dogs loose in the next room which meant my class spent the week freaking out because they had to know what was going on over there. Plus it was really warm weather but we couldn’t go outside because the playground was a lake so they were cooped up and mad about that. Then computer class was canceled so they were mad about that. Oh and we had a lock-down drill. That entails squishing the class into a corner of the room and sitting in the dark with zero talking and when it’s over they ask about 4000 questions about WHY we have lock down drills even though I’d already spent 25 minutes answering the same 4000 questions and explaing that is was just a practice. We finally did get to go outside but they had been stuck inside for so long that being safe in the parking lot (on the way to the playground) was not a priority so much of today was spend practicing being safe. Oh and then there was Valentine’s Day. We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day at school. We explain the holiday and offer them a chance to make friendship cards but that’s it. Even with no candy and no party they still get all wired and crazy. Tuesday will be better. Because it can’t be worse.

My Day (or at least 35 minutes of it)

February 10th, 2009

Today at 12:25 (Rest Time)

Me: Find your mats. Find your spots and lay down quietly. (Class tears through the room using mats as shields as they crash into each other.)

12:26 – Me: Everyone freeze. Carry your mats. Walk to your spots. Watch where you are going. (More shields and crashing).

12:27 – Me: Freeze. Try again. Walk to your spots and lie down. If you crash into another person there will be consequences. (All 18 kids are laying down)

12:28 – Me: This is rest time. Your voices need to be off and your bodies need to be still. (There’s no talking but there is humming, singing, and any other noise that isn’t technically talking.)

12:29 – Me: Voices off means no noise. No humming, no talking, no singing, no counting. Your bodies and your brains need to rest so lay still please.

12:30-12:35 Complete silence in the room.

12:35 Another teacher comes in to talk to me.

K: I talked to (another teacher) and she’s going to ….

Me: Zero voices please.

K:….and she’s going to tutor your ESL students…

Me: Heads down.

K:…she’s going to tutor your ESL students at least 3 times….

Me: Go back to your mat. You don’t need a kleenex right now.

K:…at least 3 times a week….

Me: Whatever is in your mouth go spit it in the garbage right now. (if you are wondering it was birdseed)

K:…3 times a week for 1/2 hour…

Me: Put your shoes back on. Rest time is not over yet. It’s still zero voices and heads down.

K: I think the best thing…

Me: Your mat needs to stay in your rest spot.

K…would be for her to…

Me: Heads down.

K…for her to mirror what you and I are working on.

Me: Sure, no problem. Take your feet off the table and lay still. We can talk about it more after school.

K: (standing up to leave) Oh my goodness, is this all day long? Every day?

Me: Yes. Rest time is NOT over. You need to lay still.

1:00 Me: If you are awake, you may put your mats away and sit in the circle. (More mat shields and crashing into each other.)

So, that’s part of my day. And believe it or not several kids actually slept through that whole exchange. And no, I wasn’t yelling at the same kid the whole time but it’s amazing the excuses they can come up with to get off their mats.