Monday, November 24, 2014

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Weekly Paint Day

Fridays are Fundays because each week we have a "Paint Day!" Parents come in to help us create 7 pieces of art in under an hour and a half! Each Friday I demonstrate to my 32 kindergartners, and the parents, how to complete each project. We then assign the parents to the activities and then the kids get creative! Once they finish one activity, they move to another station that has space. This continues until they have finished all 7 projects.

One corner of the room, by the sink, is set up with 3 double-sided painting easels so that 6 students can paint at the same time (2 parents usually cover this center; one on each side). The nearest table to the sink is the watercolor station. There are 5 other tables that have art activities that involve cutting, gluing, coloring, etc.

Yesterday's Paint Day, the first this year, featured the following projects:

PAINT: Paint a rainbow in the correct order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple
WATERCOLORS: Paint a rainbow around your name (pre-printed on white paper)
CUT & PASTE: Color of the day "Flip Book" using pastels
GLUE: Glue beans down to create your name on a paper "balloon"
MATH: Create a "Square Bear" gluing together only squares
READING: Glue pre-cut letters in the correct order to make the words "red" and "blue"
CREATE: Make a rainbow windsock with rainbow tissue paper streamers

We had 14 parent helpers yesterday; mostly moms, but also 2 dads, one older sister, one grandmother and one aunt. We average 10 parent helpers a week, but have had as many as 20 at one time (and as few as 5). I remind the parents that the number of projects we can complete depends on the number of parents who show up. Only on a few occasions have I actually had to cut down the number of stations due to not enough help.

The parents love coming in on Fridays. Not only do they get to spend time with their child, they get to socialize with the other parents. Just as importantly, they can see first hand the concepts we are working on in the classroom.

Next Friday we will take our knowledge of painting in the order of the rainbow to create a clown with rainbow hair! We will also use beans once again, but this time in a math project in which they glue down the correct number of beans to match the pre-cut numeral. We will use bear stamps to count numbers and watercolor a number flip book....

On Wednesdays we have a similar activity called "Wednesday Workshops" in which parents come in to run each table. More on that in another blog....

(To see photos of "Paint Day" activities, go to and click on "Paint Day" under the "Class Pictures" tab.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sleepless in Minneapolis

I travel all around the country giving workshops at various teacher conferences. After ten years of doing this, one hotel begins to look like the next and nothing exciting ever happens. Well, almost never...

I had just finished a two day conference for the Minnesota Kindergarten Association (MKA) held up in Hinckley, MN at the Grand Casino this past weekend. I gave two workshops and the Association put me up in a nice room at the hotel. The conference ended on Saturday afternoon and I headed south back to Minneapolis for my flight back home to San Diego. I was originally scheduled to take the 9:00 p.m. Delta non-stop on Saturday. However, just days after purchasing my ticket, I was sent an e-mail stating that the flight had been cancelled and that I was now booked on the 6:00 p.m. flight. I called Delta to let them know that the only reason I chose their airline in the first place was because they offered a 9:00 p.m. flight and Southwest didn't. There was no way I could make a 6:00 flight that night when the conference, two hours away, didn't end until 4:00. Now, in addition to paying $25 per suitcase (each way), I had to pay another day of rental car and an extra hotel night. I should have gone with Soutwest in the first place and saved the $50 luggage fee and the headaches that awaited me.....

I arrived back in Minneapolis and decided to stop by the Mall of America, the country's largest shopping center. I had been there on previous trips but decided I couldn't be in Minneapolis and not go there again. After a couple of hours, I decided that it was time to find a hotel. Last time I was in Minneapolis I had stayed at the Motel 6 across the freeway from the Mall of America and very close to the airport. Since it was already late and I had to wake up at 6:00 a.m., I didn't need anything fancy. I checked in and headed to the second floor.

As I neared my room, I could feel music blasting from the room next door. I went inside my room and the music was even louder. Even the t.v. at high volume didn't do much to drown out the noise. Although it was cold, I turned on the fan hoping that would help eliminate the noise. Finally, after midnight the music suddenly stopped. But the walls were so thin I could now hear the t.v. of the neighbor on my other side.

I was so tired I dropped off to sleep despite the noise.

Suddenly I heard footsteps and the creaking of the floor above me. I looked at the clock. It was 4:00 a.m. At least, I thought, I was able to get a few hours sleep. The person above me walked from their bed to their bathroom. From their bathroom to their bed. Back and forth. Back and forth. For over 15 minutes this person paced their room. I don't know if the person stopped pacing or I was again too tired to care, but I dropped off to sleep once again.

Until the woman screamed. Or was it someone's television? Off to sleep again.....

"Police! Open the door!" Were they next door? Across the hall? Upstairs? I couldn't tell, but the paper thin walls let me hear them shout their instructions to open the door at least three times. Were they here for the woman who screamed? Was the pacing man above me involved? Before I could answer, I was asleep again.

An hour later the alarm rang and I had to get ready to go to the airport. As I checked out, the manager smiled and asked how everything went. I said that I had never spent a night with so many noises and distractions. Were the police really here, or did I dream it?

Yes, they were indeed here, she told me. I could tell from the way that she answered that it wasn't the first time the police had come to this motel. But it would definitely be the last time I come.

The optomist in me reasoned that I would be able to sleep during the 3 hour flight home. And indeed as soon as I sat down in my seat I drifted off to sleep. That is until the baby in the seat behind me started crying.....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daily E-Mail Newsletter

Today's blog is actually a reprint of an article written about me a few years back and the daily e-mail I send out to the parents of my students:

You’ve Got Mail! From “Mr. Kindergarten”"Parents love the daily email newsletter," reports Dwayne Kohn. "I have more than 40 names on the list, representing 27 of my 32 students. Divorced spouses both receive the information. In addition to parents, there are grandparents too. They love to see what their grandchildren are doing. The parents love the fact that they know exactly what is going on in the classroom each day, almost as it happens."
A typical daily newsletter from Kohn's classroom at Breeze Hill Elementary School in Vista, California, contains a review of what students did in class that day, a preview of coming activities, a "classroom needs" list for upcoming projects, an explanation of the assigned homework, and other games parents can play with their children at home. Other items -- such as upcoming school events, a listing of students who have earned a classroom "Wall of Fame" certificate for special achievements, thank-you notes to parent volunteers, and photos of the kids also might be included. Kohn publishes a weekly printed newsletter each Friday and special printed notices when needed so everyone receives the important news, not just those who are online.
"We have one father in the Navy who can see what his daughter is doing in kindergarten from his submarine on the other side of the world," Kohn told Education World. "Whenever parents send us pictures for our photo wall, I share them with everyone by sending out one or two along with the e-mail. That allows me to thank the parent for the pictures, share them, and get other parents to send in their pictures too."
Kohn uses his newsletter to appeal for classroom supplies. When a request appears in the message, he often receives the needed items the very next day. On a few occasions, when he’s asked for snacks for students to enjoy during recess, parents dropped the treats off that afternoon when they came to pick up their children. With two daily sessions of students, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, the e-mail message is also helpful when last-minute scheduling changes occur. Kohn even relies on e-mail to invite parents to last-minute assemblies or events.
"When we ask for party supplies, for example, parents can sign up online," he explained. "I send out the list of what we need -- paper plates, forks, napkins, punch, fruit, etc. -- and parents e-mail me to identify what they can bring. I update the list each day in the e-mail newsletter, noting which items already have been promised, and we end up with exactly what we need. That also works for art supplies, volunteers, and more. Parents love signing up online, and we don't have any lost notes from kids or miscommunications."
To save time, Kohn starts with a basic template for his newsletter. He uses the same title and graphics each day, with headers like "Tonight's Homework," "Today in Class," and "Upcoming Events." Then he updates the text.
"You can add attachments, class photos, and other items [to an e-mail newsletter], but don't make it too long or parents won't read it," Kohn advised. "Change the content each day. Other than a calendar of events, don't send out the same material more than once or parents will assume nothing is new and not read it when you do change it. If nothing is new that day, don't send out a newsletter, or just send out a brief note stating that nothing is new. In kindergarten, though, there is always something new each day!"
For privacy purposes, recipients' names and e-mail addresses can be undisclosed. Kohn has chosen not to hide this information because parents of his students use e-mail to chat, schedule play dates, and send invitations to birthday parties. Parents especially appreciate that they can contact Kohn via email at any time.
"The daily e-mail newsletter is a great way to get parents more involved in the classroom," he reported. "You can reward volunteers by mentioning them in the news, such as 'Thank you to Tom's mom for coming in today.' Not only will that parent respond to the positive praise, the attention often encourages others to become involved."
Regular e-mail communication also helps the class academically, Kohn believes. He notes that when students are congratulated for reaching a specific milestone, other parents often work with their children to help them achieve the same goal.
Kohn added, "The best part about the daily e-mail is that it takes only about 15 minutes, and it allows me to reflect on the day and prepare for the next day's activities."
Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Monday, April 18, 2011

Filling Easter Eggs

Continuing on the theme of Easter....

A colleague of mine was complaining about having to fill so many Easter eggs for her classroom. I asked her why she didn't let the kids fill the eggs. After all, that's half the fun of Easter.

I usually ask the parents to send in plastic eggs and filler starting two weeks before the big Easter Egg Hunts (see previous blog). Besides the obvious chocolates, jelly beans, etc., I also ask for non-candy fillers: erasers, small toys, stickers, etc. As the items come in, I thank each parent in our daily e-mail. This usually results in even more donated items the next day. I keep the parents aware of how many plastic eggs we have and how much filler we have so that we get the correct balance (not too many empty eggs!).

The day before the Easter Egg Hunts, I place piles of the filler in the middle of each table. I demonstrate how to stuff each egg. One small candy just won't do, I explain. You have to get as much stuff into the eggs as you can. That usually means filling up both halves and quickly closing the egg before things fall out! I then show them the "Shake Test." Once you close your egg, shake it. If you can hear things inside moving, open it up and stuff in more! The kids have a ball! With 32 students, the eggs are filled up rather quickly. I usually have some parent volunteers in the room. Once the kids head outside for recess, they then perform the "Shake Test" on the eggs that kids have just filled and add more candy where needed.

I use only wrapped candy for this activity. Any bags of jelly beans, M&M's, etc. are used for other activities. One such activity is a jelly bean graph. I make sure to save an empty plastic egg for each student so that once they finish the jelly bean graph, the candy goes into the egg before being put in their basket.

The most frustrating part of this for the kids, of course, is that they can't eat any of it! At least not until the next day (and even then, I only allow them to choose one candy!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Egg Hunt

I always have two Easter Egg Hunts in my Kindergarten class. The first one inside, and the second one on the playground.

For the indoors search, I "hide" a variety of plastic eggs, candy, small toys, etc. around the classroom, but in plain sight. In fact, I tell the kids to watch me as I "hide" the stuff on chairs, under tables, by the sink, next to the computer, on the bookshelf.... I then have the students sit on the carpet and choose two (who are at the same reading level) to come to the front of the room. I have them turn their back to the dry erase board, facing the other students, while I write their "clue" on the board. These clues can range from a color ("blue", "pink"), a couple words ("yellow toy," "green egg") or a complete sentence ("Look for an egg by the sink." "Get a purple egg."). I then say "Go!" and the two students turn around, read the clue and are off to find their egg (Running is not allowed. Those who do so are disqualified and end up without an egg.). The first to find the correct egg gets to place it in their basket. The one who doesn't win gets to have another turn until he/she does win an egg. If both students find the correct egg at roughly the same time in different parts of the classroom, we have a tie and both get to keep the egg. (It is amazing how many ties we have in our class!). Once everyone has had a turn (and won an egg), we start over. We normally play until everyone has won three eggs. (Meanwhile, the parents hide the remaining eggs ouside....)

For the outside Easter Egg Hunt I used to count the number of eggs we are hiding, divide that number by how many students we have and tell them they can only get that number of eggs. It would take the parents 20 minutes to hide all of the eggs. However, the kids would find them all within 2 minutes. So, in order to stretch out the search, I now have the kids line up on the edge of the playground. I spell the name of a color ("B-L-U-E"), count to three and shout "Go!" They then have to find one egg that color. Once everyone has found that color, they line up and we do it again with another color. We continue through every possible color. Then, for our final hunt, it is a free-for-all and they can keep whatever they find.

If, despite the attempt to balance out the eggs among the students, I still find that one student has far more than the rest (usually someone who picks up 4 multi-colored eggs when I said "One blue egg.") and another has far fewer, I will ask the first student is he/she would mind sharing with their friend. I've yet to have a child refuse to share.

Once back in the classroom, while we are graphing jelly beans, the students are allowed to choose and eat ONE candy from their basket. The basket, by the way, is a plastic milk gallon that has been turned into a rabbit (See the "Easter" Holiday unit from After our graphing activity, it is time to hop on home.