My Photography

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Kindergarten classroom, version 2.0

Remember the post about my Kindergarten classroom? All the pictures I posted were taken during the first couple days of school, and since then much has changed in our room! 

We've received new materials from abroad, I've gone and done tons of shopping  for classroom materials, and my understanding of my students' needs in the class has deepened as well. A few weekends ago I spent a ridiculous amount of time at school rearranging my classroom, and have been meaning to take pictures to post ever since. This Friday before class I finally got around to it! Everything was ready for our Friday, which is a half day and so lessons are a little different than usual. Down below I'll explain why things are set up as they are, and how the day went! 

Here are some pictures that give a general idea of the class set up to start with.

The view from my (messy) desk.

Usually these tables are in this position but separated,
I pushed them together for a sorting activity.

The white table is usually clear, and used for the writing/art center,
but it was all set up for a sensory tub activity on this day!

In front of my desk is the supply shelf where students help themselves to
pencils, crayons, early finisher activities, coloring sheets, playdough, and
more! They've become remarkably self sufficient in such a short time.

Also, I can't believe I'd ever complain about having too many windows, but
having so many makes wall displays really tricky! Plus the bulletin board seen
here is for the Arabic teacher's use, so that limits my options even more. 

A view from the back corner, you can see the "game center" cabinet
which is filled with puzzles, flash cards and dominoes for the moment.

As you can see the space is much more compartmentalized now, and there is a lot less open (read: wasted) space. The shipment that arrived from Turkey was full of furniture which was very useful as a way of creating boundaries between centers. I only have six students but this room is functional enough in my judgement to fit fifteen or so without an issue, which is a likely class size for next year.

Now I'll explain some of the areas we have in the room. This is the circle time area where we gather first thing in the morning, last thing in the afternoon, and periodically throughout the day in order to regroup or read a book. The rug is not one I would have chosen in different circumstances, but how ridiculously difficult it was to find a decently large circle rug in Casablanca was astounding. In the end my boss kindly got it for me on a Sunday afternoon and picked the most colorful and biggest one he could find. It serves its purpose for sure and the kids love it, but they definitely get distracted by the Cars! 

This is our reading center, which usually looks a bit more inviting with the pillow arrangement, but one thing I hold to in my classroom is that the children must pick up after themselves, and the way they leave a center is the way it stays. They've been extremely good at keeping them looking nice so far, but sometimes their ideas of interior decorating don't match mine exactly. ;p 

This is everyone's favorite center-- the block center. For now it's stocked with toy cars and dinosaurs, two kinds of big blocks and two kinds of smaller blocks. The Jenga blocks have been the favorite of late. I limit this center to two kids because otherwise I'd find all three of my boys there sometimes, and things would get out of hand. There are all sorts of real life physics and math skills that are learned here every day!

Our "home" center is a popular one too, where we have baby dolls, stuffed animals and toy food. I've seen eggs being scrambled, soup being served to the construction workers in the blocks center, the baby dolls being handed from one child to another as if they were real babies with necks supported and everything, and lots and lots of enthusiasm for cleaning the classroom with that little cleaning cart. That cart is probably the single most popular item in the whole room, and the kids love to voluntarily clean the room!

One thing that's important since my class is totally full of ELLs (English
Language Learners) is keeping the center names simple and to the point, thus
this is the "Home" center even though it's more of a supermarket right now!

The centers will be developing and changing throughout the year as I receive new materials and rotate the ones available to keep the students interested. Once I get more materials that are on their way now I will be creating a math and a science center, or possibly a math/science combination center. 

I don't have a sensory table, but last weekend I went to the store and bought a tub to use as a sensory tub. We've used it twice already and the kids loooooooove it. I was silly to have started with confetti as the filler since it's so hard to clean up, but it was store bought and therefore easy to just dump in and start using. It also sets a good precedent, because the kids spend so long cleaning after themselves now, so when we use less messy materials they'll be sure to leave the area spotless.

I was very proud of their hard work with the sensory tub yesterday, because I gave them quite a task! Hidden inside were flashcards and small realia of objects beginning with A, B, C, or D. The students had to:
1) Find the objects and put them in the correct sorting plate, 
2) tally the objects found on their tally sheet, under the correct letter heading (and the sheet had capital letters and the plates were lowercase!)
3) graph their results at the end.

For two of my students I skipped the graphing part, but next time I'll probably change their task as well, since the level of challenge was a bit too much for them. With a lot of teacher intervention they did a good job at the end though! The other four students were able to do all of it themselves with just some teacher guidance, and I was very proud.

Their little faces were so concentrated!

Our daily routine is some variation of the following:
-Circle time (as detailed above)
-Whole-class instruction (usually either alphabet/literacy work or English language learning)
-Center time (I choose centers for students to rotate though, where they do specific work I've prepared for them or just explore the materials there)
-Choice time (students choose what center they want to explore and stay at. There are limits to how many students can be at each center, so both making good choices and accepting the choices of others is a big learning experience!)

I used the sensory tub as part of a Friday-morning center time. Fridays are half days for us so I usually skip the whole-class instruction. The other centers were the reading center (mostly because the kids rarely choose it during choice time, so I need to get them there sometime! Reading to children is not a priority in most Moroccan families and it's clear that most of my kids don't even know what to do with books)...

and the aforementioned sorting activity. One thing we focused on this week as a crossover of language and science/math was "big, little, in the middle!" We chanted and sorted various things all week, and that's how I introduced tallying and graphing. The challenge for this activity was for them to sort the flashcards we'd been working with all week without any teacher help into the big, little and in the middle categories! They did a lovely job.

These two needed absolutely no guidance!

These two sorted the cards by color as well, which I thought was a great differentiated
activity which they came up with themselves! Little minds at work. =]

Wow, well I kind of got carried away in this post! After wanted to share the new set up I was so excited about how the sensory tub introduction is going, and giving an overview of a normal routine just seemed the natural extension!  I promise not to be quite so detailed in the future.

While I do miss teaching at British Council and have been happy to head back there periodically to cover classes etc, I really absolutely love this world of Kindergarten teaching, and am so glad to be doing it this year!