Monday, August 29, 2016

More communication with calendars

Monthly calendars
I still send home monthly calendars with information about daily specials, Late Start days, No school days, field trips, assessment weeks, what our theme may be and whatever may be necessary.  I used to add student birthdays but that was too much in each square.

I  literally cut and tape because I have not found a calendar that can fill and list all that I put on.  I have a master page of "October" calendar items and update and copy year after year.  Habits are tough to break.  It's just what I do.

Calendar Skills
I want the families/children to hang the calendar in a place at home that they will look at every day.  
The first skills:
  • "Cross out the old day and circle the new day."  We literally say this during calendar time at school the first month.
  • Making an X is developmentally a challenge for some at the beginning of the year.  PRACTICE corner to opposite corner.
  •  Look at the numbers.  Point to the numbers.
  • Count the numbers beginning at 1.
  •  Tell what number to circle.
  • Moving left to right and row by row.
Each month, the calendar will have a new skill to add to doing as we increase our calendar work at school.
"Cross out yesterday and circle today."
What number comes after, next?
Point to the words of the days of the week at the top.
Count how many Mondays this month.
Count how many weeks in the month.
How many full weeks.
What is the first day of the week this month.
How many days in the month.
What is the second Friday date.
What days do we go to gym? music? art?
This is a good way for the children to speak clearly with information to their families when they practice at home.  

On the bottom of the calendar I put a list of upcoming dates and if there are any extra supplies that we may need.  We are always collecting soup labels (labels for education) and box tops (box tops for education).  We have a once a year all school system collection contest of poptabs so I remind the families to start saving now.

I have notes about learning how to tie at home.  Reminders to practice zipping and buttoning and putting on snow clothes so they can do it themselves at school.

And I always end with:

The more you practice (right)
The better they get!

Hand in hand
we grow!


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Newsletters and Home Connections

I still think it is important to have paper newsletters.  
However, I don't send as many as I used to.  (pre-technology)
News letters are a link to parent education and information.  This is my first newsletter I send home.
 Image result for handprint line

Hand-in-hand we grow!

 Kindergarten News

Our first days of kindergarten have been filled with learning procedures and responsibilities.  Here is a list of a few things:
o   Waiting in line
o   LISTENING and paying attention
o   Following directions
o   Getting ready when entering room,
1.    Put behavior folder in basket
2.    Pick up name card by closet and put it on the pocketchart, row by row, left to right
3.    Mark your lunch with your clip on your mailbox
o   Using a SOFT inside voice
o   Working (hard) the whole time in your spot, during the allotted time
o   How to get in a line and stay together
o   Taking turns, sharing
o   Expectations of when to be quiet, when to use a soft voice LISTENING and paying attention
o   Expectations to use a soft voice
o   Following with our eyes and attention to ‘track the presenter’/speaker
o   Learn some of our classmates names where we sit and work
o   Read our names (and names of our classmates)
o   Where to hang our school bags
o   Be responsible for our papers and class supplies
o   Lunchroom procedures and manners
o   Recess safety
o   Where we sit in our rows
o   Names of other school helpers, music teacher, p.e. teacher, art teacher, media helper in the library, computer helper in lab
o   Dismissal procedure…what line and where we sit, how to get our papers out of our mailboxes
o   Two fingerplays  “One Little House”  and “I wiggle my fingers”

Kindergarten has a very full day of activities and expectations.  Many children probably will come home extremely tired and even want/need a 20-minute nap or an earlier bedtime.  OR they may come home and need to move about to expend their extra energy.
Be patient and consistent in how you deal with the inevitable yellow bears (dots) as we learn how to “do school.”  If there is a major concern, we will contact you to discuss this further.  More than likely, it is just the adjustment period.  We usually give 3-4 weeks to get settled.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Mrs. Cantrell


This is a great app for quick reminders and communication to families through text.
I have updated my use of REMIND.COM to include the parents' ability to text back.  Thank you REMIND, this is a convenient feature.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Five for Friday, August 19, 2016

 First 3 days with students.  
I have forgotten, even after 36 years, how things take at least four times as long to do at the beginning of the year.  
I am remembering quick phrases that rhyme to get their attention.
  • 1,2,3,  Look at me.
  • 1,2,3, Your eyes look at me.
  • 1,2,3, All eyes look and see.
  • Waiting in a line, and you're doing fine.
  • Hands on top, (students respond) Everybody stop! (hands on head)

We made our name hats.  I showed names printed on paper and asked "Whose name is this?" to check on instant name recognition.
Then they glued paper names onto a sentence strip and decorated it.  We measured the sentence strip around their heads for a name hat.  I keep these in a gift bag for substitute guest teachers to use.

First fingerplay that I use:
I wiggle my fingers.
I wiggle my toes.
I wiggle my shoulders.
I wiggle my nose.
Now all the wiggles are out of me. (We shake our hands to shake out.)
So, I can sit still
As still as can be.  

 The end of the day, we learn the fingerplay:
One Little House
One little house (hold up hand in a fist)
Shut up tight.
Open the door (open fingers)
 And there inside (using opposite hand point to palm of open fingers) 
Are....1,2,3,4,5 (point to each finger while counting)
Five little children tall and straight (point to each finger from base knuckle going up)
Ready to go to kindergarten (wiggle fingers of 'children')
Don't be late!  (put hands behind back)


In closing, after my first week of school with students, I need a break for my aching feet.
Trying equal parts of salt and baking soda in warm water.
Ooops, where is my glass of wine!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Five for Friday August 12, 2016


August 12, 2016    WOW, where did the summer break go?

Thank you Doodle Bugs Teaching for the link up.

Our school system arranges two days prior to the start of school to assess our incoming kindergarten children.  
Part One is Dibels: First Sound Fluency and Letter Naming Fluency.  
Part Two is a Readiness Assessment consisting of:
  • naming pictures
  • concepts of print
  • short story comprehension
  • color identification
  • pointing to a capital and lowercase letter
  • rhyming
  • beginning and ending sounds
  • writing name and a cvc word
  • math skills of counting, patterning, number recognition, shape recognition and simple verbal addition and subtraction process

We have completed the kindergarten assessments and the student rankings will be ready Friday.  Then we will make  our class lists from sorting the students in ability groups: high, average and low.  We just found out that we will only have two kindergarten classes.  
Sadly our third teacher friend had to pack up and move to another building.  We start school next Wednesday.  We will miss you Danielle! 

 When our students are in classes, then I can type up name cards for mailboxes, folder labels and other activities.  What a rush.  I'm already tired and overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. 
So many people say back, "oh you've done this for so many years, it probably is getting easier!"   Well, we teachers know it does NOT.  Yes, we know what we want to do but it all takes time.  And there are always new themes, new procedures, new colleagues and new administrators.  We teachers tend to be perfectionists.  We want things just so.  
I find that I forget how much work it is these first days, weeks of new kindergarten classes.  
NO MORE daily NAPS for me!


Monday evening, 5:30-7:00 p.m., we have our Kindergarten Parent Orientation meeting.  The parents will find out whose class their child is in.  The bus drivers will talk about bus safety.  And we teachers discuss what Kindergarten is all about now.  I always mention that if the parents remember what they did in First Grade....that is what we are doing in kindergarten now!
It is fun to be reintroduced to some parents that had been students in my class!  (At least no one is a grandparent yet from my first classes.)


I love finding inspirational quotes.  Here is another favorite.

Does anyone have a good story to laugh at?
....a funny movie?
Laughter is the best medicine.......

Hey, I'm on the verge to cry to release this tension. 

But I still love it!    


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Week 1: Group Games and Other Name Activities

It goes without saying, you can do these anytime of the year.  Week 1 is a good week to introduce these.

Learning each others names by hearing and seeing.

Play name games this week.  It will help everyone learn each other's names and feel connected and important.
  • Sing "The More We Get Together" and include the children's names.
  •  Adapt Fingerplay "Where is Thumbkin?" and use children's names.  "Where is Jaiden?" and Jaiden answers, "Here I am!" and waves to class. 
  • "Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?"is the kids all time favorite circle name game.
Sit in a circle.  Clap knees and hands in rhythm while saying,
"Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?"
"__student name___stole the cookies from the cookie jar"
(Student responds). "Who me?"
(Class says)  "Yes, you!"
(Student says ) "it couldn't be"
(Class says). "Then who?"
(Student says another classmate's name)
Chant continues with next name.

The first few times playing, I just go down the circle line.   If student doesn't know the next child's name, they need to ask softly "what is your name?"  This helps practice how to ask someone a question and how to answer a question.
When everyone seems to know how to play the game and classmates' names, then any name could be chosen to go next.  Each person only gets one turn.  My name is usually chosen last and I never admit that I took the cookies,  "could be?!"
Adaptation:  Write students' names on a cookie shape.  Pull out a cookie as the next chosen.  Students will begin to read friend's names.

  • Adapt the story of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? to recite names.  Children sit in a circle and chant the phrase , "Mason, Mason, Who do you see?"  then Mason would say student's name next to him.  "I see Kira looking at me."  Class chants Kira's name and it continues around the circle.  IF a child forgets the next person's name, practice asking "What is your name?"    
  • Guess Who is missing? 
 One student is selected to be the 'guesser' and turns their back (goes in the hall to wait, closes their eyes...)  Teacher holds up a name card or taps a student to hide away from the group.  The guesser returns and class chants "Who is missing?"  The guesser tries to guess who is NOT in the group.  If needed, a clue could be given,  It is a boy.  or She is wearing a red shirt.  

Matching names and pictures:
  • Take pictures of students and use the pictures to hold up and class has to say the student's name.
  • Use the pictures to match the picture to classmate's name.  
Writing names to pictures:  
  • Make a page with students' pictures and their name.  Classmates can practice writing the names on another paper.  You can make a class book and title it, "These are my school friends."

  • Give students a clipboard with paper.  They love to write on clipboards and making their own list of friends' names.  Sometimes they say it is a list of those they want to invite to their birthday party.
      Students can take class surveys asking:
    Yes  No Questions
    Do you like ice cream? 
    Do you have any brothers (sisters)?
    Do you have a pet? Do you have a dog (cat)?
    Do you know how to tie your shoes?

    Students names are written under the answer yes or no. 

    Tracing names and rainbow writing letters:
  • Make a sheet in grey print of students names to practice tracing the letters.  Vary tools to write with from markers, crayons, colored pencils.  
  •  Write or print name in large print or bubble font and place page in clear zip bag for playdoh snake writing.
  • Using large print name students can paint over letters
  • Print name with a black watercolor marker and students can water paint over the letters to watch them bleed.  They think it's cool. 

  • Shaving cream writing

  • Use letter stamps to sequence letters in name correctly.

    And the more they practice,
    the better they will get.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2016

    Dry Erase Boards

    I'm in the process of ordering dry erase markers for our classes this year.  In the past, we've used the cone-tip markers from
    We like these points because they don't breakdown and the children can hold them efficiently not needing to worry about the flat side of store purchased markers.  These also come in blue, purple, black.
     And they last a long time.  We use our dry erase markers almost daily so each student usually only go through 3-4 throughout the school year.

    Letter Writing Practice:
    In September we begin having the students practice writing their letters that we've introduced for writing form.
    When the children enter the class, (after checking in) they pick up a board, marker and a 'helping card' as a model of the letters they are to practice writing.  
     They compare their letters and sometimes get help from their peers.  I call this 'before the bell' practice. 
    Soon they will be writing letter pairs of the entire alphabet.  Later I encourage them to write numbers  to 10, 20 or as far as they can after the alphabet pairs.

    Large Group writing:
    • When a new letter is introduced, we use our dry erase boards to practice before writing on paper.
    • I call out a letter and the students write the upper and lowercase letter pair.
    • Name writing practice
    • Write the letter that makes the /b/ sound....
    • Stretch out a word into sounds and write the letter of the sounds to build word.
    • Draw shapes
    Group Dry Erase Writing Game Activity:
    1,2,3 write....1,2,3 show:
    Teacher/leader says "1,2,3 write a letter/sound/word" for students to write.  Students hold board on their lap while writing then hold board near chest to hide (do not rub on shirt it will erase).  

    When teacher says "1,2,3 show" students hold board above their head with back of board to teacher (assistant can see from the back of the group)

    Then I say "show me" and students turn boards around to show me.

    When I break down the steps, it gives 'time' for those who need to think and write without rushing.

    The first one done, is not always the best one done.


    The more we practice (right),
    the better we'll get!

    There are more dry erase board activities that I will post later.

    Have a great new school year.



    Saturday, August 6, 2016

    Five for Friday October 7, 2016


    Thank you Doodle Bugs Teaching.


    Even though it is October, we are still battling the bees.  I was stung last week as I took the kids to the bus.  OUCH!  So at home we've been trying this inverted top bee catcher.  This time we used a water bottle, but you can also use any plastic bottle.  Cut around top about an inch on the straight side.  Invert so the cap top is inside the bottom portion.  It is best to seal the cut edges.  Put dark soda pop about an inch from cap edge.  The bees go in for the pop and cannot get out.  


    For Fun Friday, I read Leo Lionni's little blue and little yellow.  I gave each student a little blue and a little yellow (about 1 blue to 2 yellow ratio) playdoh and they mixed and squished and rolled until 'they were green.'  

    They also had to record their work.  They were allowed to take their green playdoh home to retell the story.

    Name _______________________________________________________________________

    K.RF.4.4  Read common high-frequency words by sight.    K.SL.4.3  Listen to and follow directions.
    Directions:  Read the color word and draw a circle to color to show the playdoh color ball.
    Blue       +       Yellow      =     Green
                          and                                     makes

    At Home:  Make snakes, “flat” (2 dimensional) shapes: circles (pancakes), squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, diamonds, ovals


    I nearly forgot that I needed to make the yellow playdoh (I already had made blue to use at the beginning of the year.)  So I jumped out of bed at 10:30 and made up this easy recipe.
    3 cups flour
    1 1/2 cup salt
    6 tsp. Cream of Tartar
    3 cups water
    3 T. cooking oil
    food coloring
    Mix dry ingredients together.  
    Mix wet ingredients adding food coloring in a large pot. 
    Blend both batches.   Stir over low heat  until it forms a ball.  Turn it out on the counter and knead a bit.  Let it cool and store in large zipbag.
    You can add scents such as pumpkin pie spice to dry ingredients.  I'm going to make a batch of red to blend with yellow for the kids to make orange, that will be scented with the spice.

    I have an idea for Thanksgiving that we will let the dough dry.  Coming soon. :)


     So I'm now going to read the last Little House series The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It is a beautiful cool sunny Saturday.  My favorite reading porch glider is waiting for me.
    I'll grade papers later.

    we grow!

    Thursday, August 4, 2016

    Tying Teachers I CAN TIE

    Fit To be Tied
    Tying Teachers

    Teaching kindergarten age children responsibility is one of the first lessons of school.
    To encourage responsibility for self needs, I start off the year letting them know that I do not tie their shoes. (I know it’s harsh and I do tie in an emergency) They need to learn!  The more I do for them they will not take the effort to learn for themselves.  It is part of growing up.

    During our Parent Orientation meeting before school begins we remind our families about Home Skills kindergarten which includes tying and zipping, learning their address and phone number.

    I keep a bag of “fancy” shoelaces on my rocking chair and occasionally after recess  we take 10-15 minutes to practice tying with a partner who is a Tying Teacher.

    If the child wraps the lace around his/her thigh, they can see and work it easily rather than being all squished up tying on their shoe. 

    To become a Tying Teacher, they must prove they can tie ‘one loop, around and through’
    The “two bunny ears method’ is a good start when you’re four before coming to school, but now it is important to learn the grown up way.  It is interesting to find out that some adults only know the two loop method.

    When someone needs their shoes tied, a tying teacher can teach them not just tie them.

    I send this note to families to practice at home.

     Children need to learn how to tie their own shoes.  This is considered a HOME SKILL.  Learn it at home!
    Practice tying
    A parent shared this little rhyme that she made up as she taught her children to tie.  It could help!  Try it.

    Criss cross    (make x and go under)
    Pull them tight
    Make a loop to look just right   (make loop near shoe end)
    Over the loop    (go around the loop)
     Under your thumb    (push through in thumb space)
    Pull it tight and there it's done!  (take hold of loop ends)

     PRACTICE and LEARN how to tie!  You can be a TYING TEACHER.....

     2 loop (bunny ear) tying is the first effort many children learn.  NOW advance to 'around and through' to be a Tying Teacher.
    When the children are successful at tying, they also receive a Tying Teacher certificate that I made up proclaiming them a TYING TEACHER.  

    The more they practice (right)
    the better they will get!                    


    There are alot of variations of tying instructions and videos.  I prefer the one loop around and through.  It helps manipulating the use of their fingers and following directions.  This is the basic tying that when pulled snug, stays tied and unties with a pull at the end of the lace.  (exception are these crazy rounded shoelaces......they don't stay tied  any way!) 


    Wednesday, August 3, 2016


    Some parents need a school 'wake-up' call.  Recently I spoke to a group of parents of soon-to-be kindergarten students.  I always have them 'remember when they were in first grade and what they did,'  THAT is what we are doing in kindergarten now.  In the back, a parent said out loud, "WOW"  
    Most new parents or parents who haven't had children in kindergarten, even within the past 5 years, don't realize the new expectations.  So in response to the "WOW", I said Thank you.  It is our job to also parent the parents, teach the parents what we do in school now.

    During our parent orientation meeting (in place of Open House) at the beginning of the school year, we give an information packet.  The definition and explanation of Home Skills is an important page. This is what it says:

    What does this mean?

    As children enter our academic kindergarten, there are many areas they should be able to do, or are in the process of "working on it" before they come to school.  These skills of development are called HOME SKILLS.

    Fine Motor Skills
    Fine motor skills are needed for success in school to do "writing" are:
    • zipping and/or buttoning own coats
    • tying
    • colors neatly and carefully
    • uses scissors with control 
    Throughout the year the students will be using these skills in the classroom work.  
    Your child should be given many opportunities at home to practice these skills so they can do them at school confidently. 

    Large Motor Skills
    The development of a child's large motor skills enables him/her to control their whole body to sustain their attention and focus in school.
    Playground skills such as:
    running              skipping           hopping
    throwing and catching               climbing

    Provide times for free outside play which allows these skills to develop.

    Outside play is also important for VISUAL development as well as the physical development.

    Verbal Skills
    Being able to speak in sentences and using correct grammar helps children to be well prepared for following directions as well as writing, reading, and test taking.
    Your child should be able to:
    Recite their full name clearly.
    Recite their telephone number
    Recite their address including city and state
    Retell stories in correct order
    Recite nursery rhymes

    The Importance of Play
    Turn off the tv, computer, video games so the children can develop their whole body and mind.
    Bright minds never say " I'm bored."
    Allow your child time to think of something to do.  Imagination is a wonderful thing. An active imagination crates wonderful stories, increases vocabulary and well-rounded children.

    Children should have chores to do at home.  Chores appropriate for kindergarten students include:
    folding towels           cleaning their room
    caring for pets           collecting the garbage
    setting the table        helping to clean off the table

    Following through with the chore until it is finished develops responsibility.  Don't accept the excuse, "I can't"
    Encourage your child to try new things and reward them for their efforts.  (praise is worth more as a reward than money allowances or gifts of toys)

    Parent Responsibility
    1.  You are your child's first teacher.
    2.  You should be a support to the school for learning and practice at home.
    3.  You should help establish positive homework routines.  Find a special place at home to do homework.  Set a specific time to do homework.
    4.  READ to your child.
    5.  Talk with your child.