Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our New Phonics Materials

Oh, friends, I can't even tell you what a happy teacher I am. I've spent the past few days in literacy training courses, learning to use our new adoption materials. One of the best things about our new program is the comprehensive, systematic, plan for teaching phonics and phonemic awareness.

At the beginning of the school year our focus will be on letter discrimination and letter identification. We'll look at letters and see similarities and differences in the formation of the letters. We'll also take a quick tour through all of the letters of the alphabet.

The in depth study of letters and letter sounds will begin a few weeks into the school year. In this part of our instruction we'll be working on consonants and short vowels. We introduce a few dominant consonants first, then add a few vowels. Once we have a few of those basic letters, we can start blending words!

There are several components within a week's worth of lessons:

*Phonemic Awareness- how we hear sounds, developed through songs, rhymes, and poetry

*Sound/Symbol Relationship- using workmats and letter for hands on work

*Blending Sounds- sounding out words letter by letter (consonant, vowel, consonant words)

*Spelling- using boxes to help sound out individual words (boxes are called Elkonin boxes)

*Sight Words- basic words we should all be able to read quickly

*Decodable Text- reading books at home and in the classroom

I'm so excited about our new literacy materials. Phonics is just one small piece of literacy instruction. It will be taught for 30 minutes each day. I'm excited to share other components of our balanced literacy program with you. Information about shared reading, our writer's workshop, guided reading, how children read independently, and reading at home will be coming soon!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Organizing for Back to School

Welcome to my Kindergarten blog! If you're here for the first time, scroll down and keep reading. My newest post will post first, so you'll find introductions down below.

Many of you know that my daughter is starting kindergarten this year. I have a son in 4th grade and now a kindergartener. I know first hand that there is a direct relationship between how organized a child is and how well they do in school. Every day I see kids who are rushing in with no backpack, folder, or snack. Then I see the kids who are prepared, calm, and organized. I know which kid I'd rather be. (And which kid's mom I'd rather be.) Don't get me wrong, we have chaotic mornings around here too, but there are a few things I like to have in place to help fight off the craziness.

The Homework Station and Art Cubby
This week I reorganized our art area. My kids like to do their homework at the kitchen table. Our art cubby is on the backside of the kitchen cupboards so it's the perfect place to store everything they need for special projects, writing assignments, and book reports. There will be writing homework for your kindergartener during the year. Having crayons and markers will be a great incentive for writing!

If you haven't noticed, there are a few school supply sales out there right now. NOW is the BEST time to stock up on school supplies for your home as well as school. I always restock my kids' home art supplies in the fall, but I also buy enough so that when the markers dry up in February, they are ready to go. Guess what, if you buy them in February they will cost 3 times as much.

I need to say one more thing about homework. The kids in my school, as well as my own kids, have a folder that they bring home every day. THAT FOLDER NEEDS TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL EVERY DAY! It's really important and drives teachers CRAZY when kids don't have their folder. So, have kids put their folders in their backpacks as soon as they are done. It really helps me out, so THANK YOU in advance!

Entry Way Organization
That brings me to entryway organization. This week I also made sure the coats, bags, backpacks, and shoes were ready to go. I put away the swim bags that used to hang here. Sadly, they don't need to be ready to go anymore. This is the room the backpacks are hung in. Let me tell you, my daughter's folder is already in her backpack, ready to go. Yep, it's that important!

Library Books
The coat room is also the place for library books. The brown bag is filled with books ready to go back to the public library. The white bin stays there. It's for library books we are still reading or haven't started reading yet. Let me just tell you how devastating it is for a five year old when all of their classmates get to check out library books, but they can't because they couldn't find their book before school. Keeping the books in one central place helps kids have less chaos as they are heading out the door for school.


Reference Papers
Teachers send home lots of papers. With two kids in school now, I know I'll have lots to keep track of. I bought one of those magnetic, stick to the fridge, file holders at Staples. Then I bought five folders and labeled them. I have one for each kid, one for me, one for my hubby, and one that just says Home. That way when I need to know what time my son has football on a particular day, I know the schedule is right there. I also keep classlists, teacher contact info, PE days, and all that good stuff in there.


Home Management Binder
That brings me to my favorite part of my back to school organizing week.

My home management notebook has so many wonderful forms and checklists in it. I have dividers for menus, shopping lists, chores, emergency contacts, babysitter information, family birthdays, and much more.

I think I'm well on my way to an organized start to the school year. Then the Holidays will get here and everything will be thrown into a tailspin. Oh well, at least in September and October we'll be organized. I even organized my junk drawers earlier this week.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly no expert in organization. There is still plenty of chaos around my house. These are just a few things I wanted to share that I did around my house this week. School will be starting before we know it.

What is your best back to school organization tip? Leave your best ideas in the comment section. We can all use all the help we can get! (By the way, if you sign up for a free Google account it is super easy to leave comments.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Welcome to Kindergarten!

Dear Kindergarten Families,

Welcome to Hilltop Elementary School’s Full Day Kindergarten! My name is Mrs. Ross. Some of you may know me as the half-time kindergarten teacher. I have been teaching the half time kindergarten program for the past few years at Hilltop. I’m excited to be moving to the full day program. I’ll have so much more time to work with your children and get to know them better.

My husband and I have two children, a five year old and a nine year old. I know first hand that Kindergarten is a very special time in the lives of students and their parents! My little girl will be going off to kindergarten this year too! I am excited to teach your child this year and look forward to this important journey with them!

Kindergarten is an essential developmental step in your child’s educational experience. Students in our class will be learning social skills, routines, and what it means to be a self-directed learner. Children come to kindergarten with many different skill levels, abilities, and life experiences. Some children are excited and ready for any new adventure at school, while others are apprehensive about leaving home and coming to a new environment. I encourage you talk about school and the exciting times students will have as the new school year approaches. The Children’s Librarian at the Lynnwood Library can suggest several terrific books on starting school. There is also a terrific display of back to school books at the Lynnwood Barnes and Noble.

Upcoming school events you should be aware of include:

*Kindergarten Parent Orientation – On August 31st at 7:00 PM, we will have a very important, parents-only, meeting at Hilltop. We will discuss curriculum, bus information, and answer any questions you may have. Please meet us in the gym.

*Meet the Teacher – September 1st, at 4:00 PM kindergarteners and their families can come to room 18 to see their classroom! This fun afternoon is an important time for students to get acquainted with the classroom and begin to feel comfortable with the transition to Kindergarten. You are welcome to bring school supplies on this day as well! It really helps us to have these in advance, so our classroom is clean and orderly on the first day. Please be sure to sharpen all pencils before bringing them to school.

*All students will meet in the gym on the first day of school, September 7th. Parents are welcome to come on the first day. If parents choose to come into the classroom, please help your student find his or her desk and backpack hook. You are welcome to come to the classroom to take pictures and make sure we get settled in. Then, please say “good-bye” and wish your student well on an exciting first day of school! A quick and speedy farewell will help your child transition to our classroom more easily. Chances are you are more anxious about the first day of school than your child is! I know that was the case at our house when my son went off to his first day of school!

If you have any questions or concerns or if you would like to volunteer to help out you can contact me via e-mail @ I do most of my communication through email, so I will be gathering all parents’ email addresses at the kindergarten orientation meeting.

Once again, welcome to Room 18, at Hilltop. Let’s work together to make this a great year!

Becca Ross