Classroom Tour: Part 3

I hope you’re not getting tired of seeing my room.  I feel the need to capture the essence of the room in all it’s glory because in three week, no doubt it will not be nearly as tidy or organized!  I always start out great, but with little ones it takes a great deal of energy to keep up the organization once they’re involved.

Art Center

Here we have the Art Center.  This is always a popular area as well.  Especially with the girls!  They seem to really enjoy creating things with paper, glue, and scissors.  Believe it or not, but the art center also doubles as the teachers’ lunch area.  After the kids are dismissed at noon, we congregate in the little chairs at the table to eat lunch and talk shop together.  The other day I didn’t pay close enough attention to whether the chairs were clean, and sat in some glue.  That was awesome.  One of the hazards of the job.

Discovery Center

Next to the art center is the Discovery Center.  It’s pretty lame as far as centers go to be honest with you.  It consists of the sand and water table, a tin of magnetix and a bin of science stuff (rocks, magnifying glasses, and shells) underneath.  The curriculum we use is so heavy into phonics that science isn’t part of it at all, so it’s something I have to add above and beyond.  It’s definitely a challenge.  As is coming up with things to put in the sand and water table (which we call the “discovery table” since way more than sand and water can go in there.)  I started out the year with popcorn kernels in the table.  The kids love to scoop and fill buckets with them and dump them out.  This group has been really good about picking up the kernels that fall on the floor.  When they tire of the popcorn, I’ll probably put sand in next.  I’m waiting for a new table liner to be delivered.  It got cracked and I can’t put any water in it till I get the new one.

Group Meeting Area

These next three pics are of our group meeting area.  This year I actually have masking tape on the floor in a circle shape, whereas in years past I’ve had them sit in rows.  Again, this is supposed to help create community when everyone can see one another.  So far so good, except I had to assign spots.  I started out the year with blank tape, then had to add names due to some little friends who have a difficult time keeping their hands to themselves.  In the picture on the left you can see our jungle jobs, our class rules, the calendar, and our daily schedule.  The picture on the right is our behavior management board.  The premise is that each day the kids start on green.  Their monkey can move up to blue or purple for great choices and exceptional behavior, or down to yellow, orange, or red for not so good choices and behavior that hurts themselves or others.  On Friday I send home  a weekly report that shows where their monkey ended up each day.  It’s not ideal, but it’s a good way to keep the parents aware of what’s going on.  I’m actually trying some new behavior management techniques I learned in Donna Whyte’s book, and so I’m having to move people down the palm tree much less these days.

Morning Meeting Wall

We’ve got one more post to go on our classroom tour.  If you have any questions about the room or where I got things or how I made things, let me know!

Classroom Tour: Part Deux

I had a tough time with that last post.  After I got all the pics uploaded and text entered, it got all wonky when I hit publish!  I had to edit the stupid thing three times.  Hoping this post behaves.

Puzzle Center

Continuing our tour of this year’s PreK classroom we have the puzzle center.  Also known as fine motor center, manipulatives, etc., etc.  The kids call it the puzzle center, because that’s where the puzzles are.  It also has quite a few math games in there, but you know I can only have so many areas in the room so combination centers are good.  Last year’s class had a thing for dumping every single bucket of manipulatives together mixing the pile up and then not cleaning up the mess.  This year’s group (so far) seems as OCD as I am about keeping the legos in the lego box and never mixing the counting/sorting bears in with them.  Love!

Kitchen Center

Next up we have the kitchen center.  This seems to be the most popular center of the year so far.  It’s always packed full of cooks and little mommies walking their baby dolls around in the stroller or shopping cart.  Remember, my class is mostly girls!  This group seems to get along really, really well though and there have been very few squabbles.  I so wish I could share pics of my little friends with you (I don’t for the sake of safety and the families’ privacy), but the other day as I was snapping pics around the room I saw one little girl helping another to tie the back of the apron she was trying to get on. So sweet!

Dollhouse/ Community Building

This little section really has no name.  The dollhouse and all it’s accessories have great memories for me.  We bought it for Marissa when she was 15 months old (just a few months before Bekah arrived.) At that time we didn’t know we’d end up with 3 daughters and that the dollhouse would see LOTS of use over the years.  Here is the same dollhouse, 17 years later, in my classroom.  All the kids love it, but it doesn’t really fit into any center, so it’s kind of off by itself.  You might notice the bookshelves are full of empty picture frames.  One of the things I most hope to achieve this year is a sense of community in our classroom.  After reading Donna Whyte’s book, ” You Can’t Teach A Class You Can’t Manage” this summer, I realized this was something missing in my teaching.  One of her ideas was to make sure there was a strong home-school connection, and one suggestion was to take pics of the kids with their families’ at orientation and display them around the classroom.  Thanks to IKEA I was able to get a bunch of frames cheap!  Actually, you could play a good game of “spot the IKEA products” in all my classroom pics 🙂

Desks

This next area caused no end of dilema for me this summer as I was mentally planning out my room.  About 4 years ago I switched from using tables to using desks.  I liked that the kids had a space to store their things within reach.  After reading many books and articles this summer, I began to rethink the wisdom of desks in PreK.  Back to the thought of building community.  The problem was finding enough tables again (they are now being used in other classes throughout the building) and coming up with storage and procedures for all their school supplies.  I decided to try grouping the desks together.  Solved both of my problems.  It seems to be going well, except for one thing that has always been a problem with the desks.  Snack crumbs!  I’m forever having to remind them to keep their crumbs on their napkins and make sure their desks are kept clean so the desk fairy will leave them a surprise.

Block Center

The last area of the room I’ll share with you today is the block center.  Last year this was the most used center (all the boys I had no doubt.)  This year it’s been used minimally so far.  I’m up in the air about how I’m going to handle center time.  In past years I’ve always started out the year by letting them choose whatever center they’d like to play in, then after a week or so transition into assigned groups that rotate through all the centers.  The goal being that all the children learn to use all the resources available in all the centers (as opposed to playing with the cars every. single. day.)   By having them with a randomly assigned group (we choose names from a bag) that they stay with for one whole week, they learn to play with all the students, not just their besties.  For now I’m sticking with “free choice” in centers and so far it’s going well.  I think this year I’ll play it by ear and may or may not ever assign centers.

With as large a room as I have I’m pretty sure we’ve got two more istallments before you’ve seen my whole classroom!

Classroom Tour: Part 1

Well, we did it.  We survived the first 3 days of school.  After 13 hours of sleep last night, I feel somewhat rested.  For me returning to work started much sooner than the 22nd, and it all caught up with me last night.  After a week and a half of planning, then 3 days with the kids, I am finally ready to share the pics and stories from this year’s classroom.Every year I choose a theme to decorate my classroom with.  A few years ago when I was in a different classroom I did a monkey theme.  The room I’m currently in is over double the size of that room, so I added jungle into the mix and used all my monkey stuff from before.  I’m very pleased with the way it turned out!  It came together much easier than I though it would.  So, let me take you on a tour 🙂

Hallway outside my classroom

This is the hallway outside the classroom.  I don’t have a bulletin board out there so I don’t have to stay within the boundaries.  I kind of went “wild” (pun intended) with the use of animal print border.  The kids coat hooks are underneath and on the opposite wall which looks really boring since that’s where I hang their projects and we haven’t done any  yet.  This year I have a class of 14 students: 11 girls and 3 boys.  Now, it may seem strange but I prayed for this!  Last year I had a class full of challenging boys and it was one of the toughest years I’ve ever had.  With lots of girls you get lots of tears, drama, tattling, and pink.  With lots of boys you get fighting, kicking, fighting, wrestling, fighting, punching, and more fighting.  Since I have 3 daughters, I am well equipped to handle the drama of girls!  Boys challenge me.  I really needed an “easy” year.  After only 3 days with my new class, two of my three boys are more like 3 boys in one!  So, God knew what he was doing.

View of the whole room from the door

As you can see, my classroom is huge.  I love having such a large room, but there are a few down sides.  After 3 days of going over classroom procedures and keeping my kind, caring teacher voice in constant use, my throat is killing me and my voice is scratchy.  The other challenge is trying to make such a large room look decorated.  Having to cover such tall walls is tough.  The color monkeys on their vines in the art center are one of my favorite things I made.  The key for me not getting overwhelmed was buying some pre-made stuff, and making some of it.  The other thing that helped was the work order I put in to have my classroom painted bright colors was approved.  They painted one wall yellow and one bright blue.  It made a huge difference in the feel of the room and made it much more friendly feeling.

Library Center

Here you can see the blue wall.  This area of the room was perfect for the library center.  This year all 3 classes (2 PreK and 1 K) absorbed the school library into their classrooms to make it possible to create a music room.  Every week we will have a music class in the first and third marking periods.  In the second and fourth we will have a phys ed class once a week.  It’s exciting to have these new opportunities available to us!   There are still around 8 boxes of books to be sorted through and split up between the classes.  That will be an ongoing project throughout the year no doubt.  I was really excited to see my students in the library center looking at books and playing with the puppets of their own accord.  Typically, the library center seems to be the most unused centers in the room.  I really wanted to make it look fun and inviting.  Once I get to know this group a little better, I’ll be able to fill the bookshelf with books that really interest the kids.  I have a feeling I’ll be looking for a lot of princess books this year!  Part of the library center is the puppet tree, and that’s always a big draw to spend time there.  On the second day of school I was attending a “tea party” in the kitchen center next to the library when one of the boys came up to me with the spider puppet on his hand.  The spider proceeded to “bite”my arm to which the little guy said to me, ” You’re Peter Parker, but now you’re spider man too. Shoot webs from your hand!”  Trust me, this boy is going to be providing plenty of fodder for Tiny Talk Tuesdays this year!  He is one funny kid.

I’m so happy with one of my summer finds.  This is a shoe rack I found at Good Will.  It works great as a puppet tree!  I’ve been wanting one for a few years now for my ever expanding collection of hand puppets, but the wooden ones in the school catalogs are ridiculously expensive.  This works great and the kids seemed really excited about it too.   Check back soon for the rest of the pics of my classroom.

Puppet Tree

I hope you enjoyed seeing part of my classroom.  More to come this week!

Vacation 2012

This summer has been very different from any other.  Typically the girls and I would go on a few trips since we are all off, and then on Phil’s vacation we would all go somewhere together.  To accomodate Bekah being in the summer production of The Music Man, Marissa’s summer job and driver’s ed, and the general cost of going anywhere these days, we stayed home.  Until this week.  Last night we got home from our mini-vacation away, and I’m pretty sure I’d still be sleeping if a text hadn’t woken me up. Does anyone sleep well in a hotel??

The girls really wanted to go to Six Flags Great America, so we planned the trip around that.  It’s in Gurnee, Illinois which is only about 2 hours away.  There’s an indoor waterpark/resort across the street from Six Flags and we thought that would be fun for one night.  We’ve done indoor waterparks in the Dells before; Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari, and Wilderness.  Key Lime Cove in Gurnee was way smaller than the other 3 we’ve been too, and now that our girls are older, we had played out the waterpark in about 2 hours.  Kind of a let down, but the resort did have really cool wristbands that were your room key also!  You just hold your wristband up to the door and it opens it.  Magic!  We are an easily amused family.  The indoor water park wasn’t bad, just kind of small.  Although we did have fun playing h-o-r-s-e in the basketball court pool.  Our family is also extremely competitive.  I enjoyed the lazy river and the wave pool, but one can only float around for so long.

The cool thing about the package at Key Lime Cove was that our Six Flag tickets as well as a shuttle to and from the park were included.  We decided to go to Six Flags on Thursday to hopefully avoid crowds.  That we did!  The park was not at all crowded, and the lines for the big coasters were blessedly small.  Of course the rain may have had something to do with that.  The morning was just cloudy which actually made things nice.  Marissa, Rebekah, and I rode pretty much all the big coasters together while Alisha and Phil waited for us.  A lot.  I rode the carnival type rides with Alisha and Rebekah since Phil and Marissa tend to get motion sick on rides that go in circles.  Did you catch that?  I rode almost everything!  Things were great until around noon when the skies opened up.  We ate lunch hoping for the rain to let up.  It didn’t.  This didn’t stop the rides, and it didn’t stop Marissa, Rebekah, and myself from riding the Batman and Superman (that one was SO cool!) in the rain.  We also rode the Viper which was terrible!  Wooden coasters are the worst, and in the rain they are downright painful!  The rain stings your face and the shaking of the coaster knocks everything out of joint.  I’m still regretting riding that one.  We made it until about 2:00 when the thunder and lightening started and they shut down all the rides.  We were soaked!   And by soaked I mean when we stood in one of the store to seek shelter for awhile, there were puddles under us from the dripping.  The only coaster we didn’t get to in time was the Raging Bull which I was on the fence about anyway.  Have you seen those little seat restraints?  I’m not sure about that one.  We had so much fun!

After Six Flags we checked into a much more affordable hotel, sat in the hot tub to warm up from being drenched, then went to the mall to eat dinner.  There are more choices at the food court (for the picky eaters), and much cheaper than the restaurants around our hotel.  We were so tired we didn’t even shop!  However, we went back the next morning and walked and shopped the entirety of Gurnee Mills Mall.  Slowly though since we were all pretty sore and tired from Six Flags.

We obviously weren’t shopped out though since we decided to stop at IKEA 🙂 on our way home.  Mostly for dinner, but also to do some shopping for my classroom.  As a side note I would like to report that while a little tough, it was possible to maintain my gluten free eating the whole time.  The hardest place was Six Flags, but thanks to apples and GF Larabars I did not starve.

Here are some of the things I’m sure will become favorite memories:

  • foregoing icecream at the mall for dessert to walk from our hotel to Cracker Barrel to buy candy
  • watching the Olympics in our hotel room (while eating candy)
  • getting soaked and riding crazy roller coasters
  • playing games in the kiddy casino…I mean the arcade…and seeing who could get the most tickets for crappy prizes (Skee ball is my favorite!)
  • Marissa and I were discussing lousy hotel coffee…Me: You know what we should get for trips like this? Alisha: Matching shirts? (I was going to say Starbucks Via

This may not go down in Mongold history as the best vacation ever, but it was a very good one!

What’s your best vacation story?

 

Back At It

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have more to say than can fit in a tweet or a status update.  Let me tell you, that’s a good feeling!  For the past couple months I’ve been on hiatus not just from blogging, but from life.  Not by choice, by necessity.  Thanks to some new meds, the help of a therapist, and God’s grace, I am finally feeling like myself again.

I’ve been really worried about the coming school year though, wondering what in the world I would do if I wasn’t back to “normal” before it was time to prep my room.  When picking a theme and getting my room ready, a great deal of it rides on my excitement and enthusiasm which has been in short supply these last months.  I can’t even tell you the relief I felt Thursday when I woke up and literally felt as if someone had flipped my switch back on!  I woke up excited about the day, had a bunch of ideas for school, and basically was happy just to be alive.  The fact that I even felt happy was miraculous to me!  The feeling has stayed with me through Friday, and even this morning.  I know I can only ride this wave for so long, and trials will come my way, but the feeling of hope is one that I pray will stick around the longest.  Happy is circumstantial. Hope is eternal (when it’s anchor is Jesus!)

I’ve also decided on a theme and have been running full steam ahead with plans.   Years back I did a monkey theme and while I’m using that stuff, I decided to add the jungle in there as well to broaden the ideas.  I’ve been sketching out my bulletin board plans and scouring the internet and especially Pinterest for neat ideas.  I have lists everywhere!  I’m super excited to get in my room and start moving furniture around as our school library room is needed, and the K teacher and myself are absorbing the bookshelves and books into our classrooms.  I’ve also been reading some books this summer by my favorite presenter at the teacher’s conference, Donna Whyte.  Her book You Can’t Teach A Class You Can’t Manage is giving me the confidence I need to face a new year with a bunch of new kids.

The best news is that before school starts we’ll be able to fit in a mini-vacation away!  We’re taking the girls to Key Lime Cove (and indoor water park resort), Six Flags Great America, and Gurnee Mills Mall (yeah, shopping!)  It’s only 3 days, but it’s exactly what we need, and it’s only about an hour and a half away.  The bonus is that Marissa will be able to drive and rack up some more driving hours.  Teaching your teen to drive…that’s another whole blog post!

I’m interested to hear what you all have been up to this summer!