Monday, March 13, 2017

how being a kindergarten teacher will make you a better parent

Let me preface this post by saying I don't have kids. Just a 4 year old goddaughter I'm very close to and a 1 year old dog. Mostly, this post is supposed to comical and light-hearted so please call of the dogs and have fun.

I spend my days with other people's children. All day long.
And over that time, I have gathered more than a few pieces of advice I'd like to give myself when it comes to my own children. This is not a parent bashing post. I know being a parent is the hardest, toughest, most underappreciated job next to teaching ;). I also know kids will be kids sometimes despite a parent's best efforts. But, for are some ways that I think being a kindergarten teacher will make you a better parent.

1. You will know essential skills to teach your preschooler...because you've seen kids who don't have them.
Guys, I'm not even talking ABCs and 123's...I'm talking BASIC. When I started teaching kindergarten, I remember having to sit my kids down everyday and show them our center tubs. They were atrocious. Things were tossed in there, not in the right baggies or boxes and pieces of different games were strewn about. After having 5 come to Jesus meetings in a week about this - I took a step back and realized...I was lecturing them but it wasn't working. These kids didn't know what I meant by neat and tidy. The next week, I literally dumped all the games out and one by one showed them exactly how to put a game away when you're done. I showed them how I put the games into baggies with all the pieces and put it away nicely. We role-played scenarios in which you're playing with a friend and it's time to clean up - what do you do? They practiced. Guys, we spend a whole morning on this.
The next week, we only needed one come to Jesus meeting.
This is one example. I'm talking flush when you use the toilet; how to use a tissue to actually blow your nose instead of wiping snot around; how to put a marker lid on and wait for the popping sound.
Best believe my preschoolers are going to practice these skills in my house. Their kindergarten teacher is going to use them as the good example!

2. You will never ever ever EVER buy your 5 year old shoes with laces....unless they legitimately, every time, ON THEIR OWN know how to tie them.
Just, trust me. Velcro all the way. You will never subject another teacher to the torture. We will all be better off for it.

3. You will never ever buy a romper for your kindergartener.
This goes hand in hand with 2. Trust me, I know they're cute. But unless you're willing to come up every time your kid needs to use the bathroom, leave it in the store.

4. You will know what is normal development...and when to seek help. Plus, where you can get it.
I have seen kids who I know need help because they're struggling beyond the normal disequilibrium. They are very behind...but their parents don't see it.
Maybe they are the only kid in the house or the oldest and the parents don't have anything or anyone to compare them to. They don't want to believe anything is wrong. Have you ever had a conference in which you pull out another student's work (anonymously) to show a parent in comparison to their child and see a face of shock? Then, comes the helplessness. The cool thing about our job is we can identify needs and refer parents to help (or give them tips for home!). The cooler thing is if you have your own child with a struggle, you'll identify it, know that the "stigma" is sometimes less important than the help the child needs and can get.

5. You will teach your kids to respect their teachers....even if you don't like the teacher.
Your kids might seriously hate you for this but in the long run it will make them better people. Let's face it - we live in a world where someone is always going to be in charge of you. You go from having a parent to a teacher to a boss and it's important to know how to respect them. And don't ever think a [good] teacher's kid is ever going to get away with being disrespectful. Even if the parent has to close the door and rant, they are going to make their kid apologize for any behavior and they won't bash you in front of their kid. Mostly because teachers have a tight community and understanding. Everybody dumps on us and we definitely don't need any more.

6. You will never name your kid Skyline (or Kaylsea, Killian, Phiroshus...).
Enough said.

7. Your kids will never be able to use an excuse or emotional appeal.
You've heard EVERY excuse in the book. You've also heard every appeal for trying to get out of something. Like, how badly can an elbow hurt? And you know how to diffuse a tantrum in 0.8 seconds. This is another one your kids might hate you for but society (and even they) will eventually love you.

8. You love kids and you understand them really really well.
I mean, why else are we doing it? I run into people all the time who say they don't like kids. I totally don't get that - I mean, I barely like adults! But it is true that kids think in their own way and they even communicate in their own way.
You'll be the parent who can always decipher their kids early spelling or analyze their scribbling. You'll be able to comprehend chopped up sentences or whole conversations given through half chewed cracker crumbs. Plus, you'll have amazing patience with your kids because 9/10 they're not nearly as bad as some kids you deal with in your classroom. OR, you'll have patience because you feel oh so lucky to have them and to be in the great situation you're in because you know kids who aren't so lucky...
After all, kids are kids and you love kids.

I think teacher's kids are pretty lucky (coming from mom was my PK teacher!).
And I think teacher parents are even luckier.

So, what do you think should be added to the list of reasons being a kindergarten [or any age] teacher makes you a better parent?

Thanks for reading! Happy teaching!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

stations/guided reading

Happy Spring! I am currently on Spring Break and loving it. 
Today, I wanted to share how I set up my small group guided reading and stations time. :)

I like a "learning buzz" in my classroom at all times. That means, students are not sitting quietly at their seats doing independent work. From day one, I have kids collaborating, moving, working together, and talking. The person who talks in your room the most is the person who learns the most. Because this is a precedent from day one - it doesn't even phase the kids at my table. It's a controlled chaos in which I know kids are learning.
I have 6 stations in my room and they are color coded.

1. Red - Teacher Table - where I meet my guided reading groups (more about grouping in a minute)

2. Blue - Letter & Word Work - depending on where kids are they work on letter recognition or word work skills here (beginning of year more letters and mid-year moving to words). Each kid has a list of letters or words they will work on based upon data. When they master those, they move on. I mix up sight words and words using phonics skills, depending on what the kids need. Some things we work on here are:
  • Letter sorts
  • Word sorts
  • Write, stamp, decorate
  • Rainbow write
  • Roll & Read
  • Play-doh words
  • Building words with magnet letters or felt letters on felt board
  • Writing our words on white boards

3. Yellow - Buddy work - one page usually reviewing skills from last week that kids complete together. They have the whole week, each time they're at yellow, to complete it and it's about one of the only worksheets we do. After they are done, this is the station with reading games that have retired from my table so they choose one of those.

Here, kids are playing sight word towers - they turn over a word and if they can read it, they take the blocks. At the end, tallest tower wins.

4. Black - Read to self/Buddy read/Library - Essentially, a reading time in our class library. They can also choose to practice their sight word rings here.
5. Green - Pocket chart center - changes a LOT. Sometimes, I throw a pocket chart game with a recording sheet in there, sometimes we have a poem of the week for them to fill in/write.
6. White - creation station - some sort of craft/art that goes with our weekly theme or skills and sometimes a free art time. This is a good way to get everyone a cute art piece to hang in the hall by the end of the week with just a few kids working at a time.
We start stations day one in our room by practicing a station a day. Students quickly know where stations are located (therefore where they should be) and what activities are allowed there. I use a pocket chart that has the 3 colors my groups will go to each day. 
They look at the pocket chart, find their first color and get started. Then, all I have to do is say "switch" from my table and they go on to their second color. We have practiced so much, it's second nature to them. I will get a few stragglers to my table from finishing things which is why I love having some warm-up activities to start with. 

One of my favorites is my fast fluency - each phonics skill has 3 levels of words so I can differentiate. If students see a fast fluency at their spot, they grab a marker and eraser and get started writing and reading. I can follow along to check on their progress.
Check out the -ar, -ay, and -ai packs in my store here

Okay, onto how I group my kids and when I meet them. I do everything digitally through Google drive/docs so I have this on there too.

(sorry for blurry picture - picture of a screen!)
I have 5 fluid groups named after vowels - A, E, I, O, U. Students can change from groups at any time based upon observation and data. 
At the beginning of the year I would see my low (U) group every single day. Then, my school started an afternoon intervention piece for our lowest students and most of my U group went to that. Because they were getting an extra 90 minutes in the afternoon, I dropped them to 4 days a week to see another group in my room. However, if you don't have an extra intervention time, I suggest seeing your lowest kids every single day. They should be reading with you as much as possible.

In an ideal world, I'd see all my kids every day but that doesn't always work. So, I see my low (U) group 4 times a week, my O, I, and E groups 3 times a week, and my A group twice a week. (If you're deciphering the picture: BK = black, Y = yellow, B = blue, etc.)(M1 - Monday first station, etc.)

Everyone goes to yellow and white 2 times a week which means they have 2 15-20 minute periods to finish the one worksheet for the week and their art project. They don't have to sweat being finished and hurrying to finish to move on. At the end of the week, I check for everyone's work in the box. If it's not done, they finish it Friday afternoon before free play. Easy peasy. 

I hope this gives you some good insight into how I have set-up station time in my room. We love our literacy stations and activities and I love getting to read and work with small groups of kids each day. I truly feel this is when the bulk of our learning happens. I also believe students are getting good practice in collaboration, problem-solving, and independence. 

Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for reading.

Happy teaching!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

math: favorite number

Remember how math is my favorite subject to teach?
I was not lying!
Today, I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite math activities to build number sense. 
Let me preface by saying I don't teach math facts in my classroom. I teach numbers. We dive into numbers every single day - dissect (decompose) them, build them, play with them. And the math facts come. Not only do students start internalizing them, they also understand that big numbers are made of littler numbers and there are many ways to put numbers together and take them apart.

 We use this particular activity as a warm up every single day and have been for a while. It's simple, fun, open ended, and easy to differentiate. Also, you can use it in any grade - just change the parameters or content (4th-5th grade could do a favorite fraction!)

And we call it My Favorite Number.

I either use my small white board [below] or (more recently) our interactive whiteboard [above] to display this activity. If I want students to come up and be a scribe then I will use the white board (we don't have SmartBoards boo!). Otherwise, I try to use the interactive whiteboard and the projector because it's prettier. 

Here's how it goes.
First, I look for a student who's being oh so good to be out special number picker (you can also use your leader of the day). I ask them what their favorite number is. At the beginning of the year I gave them parameters like 1-10 and then 1-20. Today, we have no parameters and my kids will even say numbers like 156. I draw a cloud in the corner and put the favorite number in it. Then, students have to think of a way to show, describe, or make that number.
This is the part I love. Every kids hand goes up because whether they say "30 + 4" or "draw 34 with ten frames" or "uhh....34 hearts?" each kid knows a way to show that number.

The growth I've seen doing this activity is amazing. At the beginning, students were mostly using pictorial representations but slowly and surely they began giving me number sentences (starting out like "uhh,...if you put this 2 and this 3 together it makes 5!")  to represent the number. They also choose larger numbers too. Despite being simple and lacking bells and whistles, the kids LOVE it. I think it has something to do with the way I scaffolded it and the confidence they feel. They are also so great at cheering each other on. They will congratulate a friend for thinking of a really cool or obscure way to represent a number. I see their brains turning (and fingers moving!) trying to think of a way no one else has said yet. We always fill up our board!

100% answers from my kindergarteners in December. 

My kids loved this whole group warm up so much, I took it over into small group. This is amazing because I can quickly give each kid a different number and tell them to give me 5 ways to show it. Assessment, differentiation, intervention, quick, easy (all my favorite words!)

[13: 10+3, base ten blocks] [20: 10+1, 10+10], [8: 4+4, ten frame, domino (4+4), 8 flowers], [22: 20+2, 21+1]

I just love activities that students love, require no paper, are easy to differentiate, and build number sense. And I'm sure you do too! I hope you can incorporate My Favorite Number (fraction, integer, whatever!) into your everyday routine. I think you'll see the amazing confidence in your kids and love it too.

Want a way to start today? Click here for a Favorite Number sheet. You can put this in a center, use it at your table, laminate them, put them in page protectors, or whatever else you want! :) 

Happy teaching!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

all time favorite reasons I love teaching math

Math is hands down my favorite subject to teach. I did not think I would say that but through college, I had some phenomenal teachers who made ME love math for the first time and inspired me to pass that onto my students.
So, without giving too much away I am going to jump into the reasons I love teaching math.

I don't think I truly understood math until I began learning how to teach it. It was during this process that I began to realize math is all about patterns and they're all around us! Did you know numbers connect!? WHAT!? Today, I love helping my students build their own knowledge of number and operations so they begin to make connections about how math skills are all related. 
One of the ways I do this is through my approach to teaching math facts. Instead of teaching facts by +0, +1, etc. I first teach numbers and then we brainstorm the ways to make that number. For example, the first weeks of kindergarten are filled with talking about each number 

From there, we move onto breaking those numbers into parts and transferring that to number sentences (obviously after covering what addition means). By December, my students have internalized many addition facts without a fact sheet, flash card, or drill. They also have a good understanding that there are many ways to make one number and how numbers are related (hello, MORE patterns!) This is an easy transition into part part whole relationships.
I also LOVE using my 100 number chart. We start using this tool the FIRST day of school to find patterns. Now, my students have their own and use it for fun - seriously, they find patterns during recess time. They think it's fascinating. That's the dream people!

I have been fortunate enough to not be forced to use a math curriculum. This means I have been able to create my own resources and tailor lessons to my kids (the dream!). Now, I know that many people equate making math fun to using games and I certainly do that too. But, it doesn't have to be just that. More than being able to do math, I want my students to see the value and joy in it. Numbers are crazy cool and figuring a problem out is rewarding. I make math fun in a number of ways.
  • Modeling - I am not above jumping up and down during a story problem, giving epic high fives (to myself), and talking through how awesome the math we are doing is. It translates, people. You know what doesn't? Forcing kids to fill out epically long math worksheets. It just doesn't.
  • Making it interactive - my story problems ALWAYS involve my kids and the things they are interested in (Pokemon, Shopkins, you name it). They have a buy in, they see the value, and it relates to their life.
  • Duh, GAMES - how is anyone teaching math in 2017 without games? Pinterest, TPT, Instagram - there are so many ideas and they are awesome! One of our current favorites is Salute. 2 students put a card on their forehead (a la headbands) without looking. A 3rd student tells them what their sum is (hello vocab). The students must then use that knowledge to figure out the number on their forehead. Insta-part-part whole practice! (Can you tell that's one of my favorite skills to teach?) 
If I never had to teach math whole group again, I'd actually be more happy than drinking my morning coffee. Stations are fun, they get the kids moving and talking about math, and they allow me to meet with small groups of kids. And seriously, it doesn't have to be hard. I have 4 stations - teacher table, math games (sometimes includes iPads), buddy work, and manipulatives (literally, this is kinda an excuse to sneak some play time in our day but also a chance for kids to use those manipulatives with a discovery approach). Easy peasy. Any time I introduce a math game at my table, I move it over to games. Having a small group allows me to differentiate which leads me to.....

Because I don't have to follow a curriculum and because I teach in stations, I can let students move at their own pace. One of my favorite joys is seeing students take those connections and run with them. For example, after spending weeks working on place value (one of the most important stepping stone skills in math), I had students start connecting that knowledge to this "big kid" problems they saw. Now, a group of my kids can do this:
AND they understand it. Do you know how excited they were? Math is the easiest subject, in my opinion, to differentiate and it's so cool to see kids take off. Once you master a skill, there's so many other ways it comes in handy (hello, back to number one!) 
Just like math is fun, it's also hands on. I mean, how else are you going to explain numbers, addition, etc.? Every good teacher knows math must be taught with manipulatives and the more the better. 
Kids are naturally drawn to cool little trinkets which makes math one of our favorite parts of the day. Sometimes I will ask a question and nobody wants to tell me the answer but as soon as I ask someone to show me they jump on it. Never underestimate the power of mini erasers, a pointer, white board markers (so easy and they love it), or even counters. My must have manipulatives are ten frames and ones (we build numbers every single day with these and I just made mine on index cards), counters (duh), mini erasers (when we get tired of our counters), and DICE. 

So, there are some reasons I love teaching math. I truly do think that it's such a fun subject that is unfortunately not celebrated as much as it should be. Students should be having fun and experiencing success with math every day.

How do you teach math in an untraditional way? 
Leave some reasons you love math in the comments. Happy teaching!

Oh, and since you made it all the way through this post I am going to reward you with a FREEBIE. I made these part part whole task cards to use as an around the room activity. Each card has a letter so it can correspond to a recording sheet. You could also use these in a pocket chart, for a center, or at your table. Possibilities are endless. Snatch it up! 

hello, welcome, and freebies for you

Hello. Welcome to Aubree Teaches. My name is (obviously) Aubree and I teach Kindergarten in Oklahoma City. I am a city girl to the core and currently live with my new husband (November 12, 2016!) in downtown OKC. We have zero real babies but one incredibly spoiled fur baby, Luna. I started teaching this year, following after my mom. I grew up in her classroom (why I'm so smart ;)) and learned so much about being a dynamic teacher (she is seriously the best). My mom and I currently manage our TPT store together (Teaching with the Gibson Girls). She teaches 2nd grade. 

I love connecting with other teachers, having 'teacher talk' and growing. I think everybody that gets into teaching is an avid and lifelong lover of learning. 

All that to say please please follow along and leave some love so I can't follow you too. I can't wait to meet you and share. It really is a great community we have with this fantastic, chaotic, rewarding job.

Happy Wednesday!

oh yeah, here's some freebies from my TpT store. JUST for you...and all those other people who download them. 

This Beginning Sounds Match freebie is a pack of printable to help your students with beginning sounds. You can either use crayons or dot paints (I am not so lucky) to match. I love to use these with centers at the beginning of the year and lately I have been using them at my table with my intervention group.

If you have students that need work with beginning sounds, snatch this NOW. It is FREE. And be on the lookout for ending sounds, middle sounds, and rhyming packs coming soon.

Click HERE

Happy teaching! :)