Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Never Too Late

We are coming towards the end of the school year… Only two months left to go… and yet I find myself revamping and redoing my entire curriculum! When something is broken you don't just leave it be and let it sit there broken, taking up space… NO, instead you find a way to fix it or throw it away. That my friends is what I have decided to do.

Let me give you a little refresher… I was on leave for the first two months of school (gasp!!) I know EXACTLY what you are thinking, and you'd be correct. I came back in November to a giant mess!!! And I mean a M-E-S-S!!! While my kiddos were safe, and loving school, there were no expectations set for them, well at least not up to my standards. So for the two months of school I had to "retrain" my little ones on how to do EVERYTHING - from how to unpack, no we do NOT hand the teacher each paper out of our backpacks one at a time, to review bathroom rules - no we cannot all go to the bathroom every ten minutes. It was quite the uphill battle and I'm still facing some struggles now at the end of the year but each day we are getting better, we are learning more, and we are becoming smarter! Another unique characteristic of my little class is that 21/25 of my students are seen by the ELL teacher four days a week. Because I have such a high number of students who receive services I work closely with the ELL teacher and she typically pushes in once a day… at times she will pull my most struggling students out to work in a smaller group in a quiet setting.

That being said I realized after our second benchmark assessments for the year that my kiddos just weren't making the grade, so to speak. I found this both disappointing and frustrating! Most peoples first reaction might be to blame my circumstances - well you missed the beginning of the year, you work in a Title 1 school with high needs students, the majority of your students don't speak English as their first language and most of their families cannot read, write or speak English so there is little help and support at home. And yes, in some respects they would be right. But it's too easy to place blame elsewhere. SO I sat and I sat and I sat and I thought and I thought and I thought some more… I was at a loss… what can I do, how can I change this. This my friends, is where the blogging world was my biggest resource! I started scouring the Kindergarten blogs to see what everyone else was doing and I started reaching out to other Kindergarten teachers for advice. My greatest source of help immediately was Mr. Greg over at The Kindergarten Smorgasboard. THANK YOU MR. GREG!!! Not only was he patient and kind in answering my questions his advice to purchase the book The Next Step In Guided Reading was AMAZING! I can't sing his praise enough. I took this book and I have made it my most prized possession (for now!)

After reading the book I then got down to making literacy centers. They aren't perfect and they are a work in progress but they are something, and the kids are independent at them!! So to me that is a major plus! Using this book I began my guided reading… well, let me just say that my kiddos have LOVED the new curriculum. They are enjoying meeting with me at least once a week (I'm working on managing my groups and my time better to meet with them two or three times a week - I CAN DO IT!!) and I'm seeing such positive changes in them. They are beginning to develop a love for reading. They are feeling empowered because they are completing their centers on their own.

You'd think with two months left of the year I'd just keep going the way I'm going since things are running smoothly… if you believe that, then you don't know me very well! Now that I've got a decent handle on my guided reading I'm on to make my centers even better. For this I've reached out to Marsha at A Differentiated Kindergarten. First off she already has amazing centers that she makes and sells, but again I found someone who has been patient and kind and willing to share her knowledge. I am currently reading EVERY (yes I said every) post she has written about Daily 5. Not to mention on my wish list to purchase next is the Daily 5 book. My goal is to hopefully get at least one, if not two of my 5 independent centers differentiated by the end of the year. I'm also working to get a sensory station up and going in the next week or two! I cannot wait for this, and Marsha was my inspiration. I went out on a limb this past week and asked if I could try one out. I didn't get a two thumbs up, but I did get a give it a try and I'll come see what it's about… for me that's good enough! (At my former school a sensory bin would have been frowned upon!)

I've gotten so push back from some people about the logic of changing so much so close to the end of the year. But here's my logic - 1) Don't these kids deserve to get the best I have to offer? So if I find something new that I think will help them shouldn't I give it a try? 2) These kids are great and they are flexible, they adapt well, and they understand the ideas of how to work in centers - so why not try new things with them? I'm not talking about totally changing their centers - but rather make them differentiated!

And guess what - while some teachers might be shocked at the thought of changing so much so close to the end my administration is smiling! They are loving it! They have given my their blessings. They come in often to see what I'm doing and are hoping to have others come and visit me too! I'm no expert yet, but that is my goal! I'm hoping to be the best I can be and expand my knowledge and learning even more to better help my students succeed!

I'm looking forward to continue my adventures of centers and guided reading - and hopefully, eventually daily 5… (I do know I need to work on getting certain supplies, like items to use for listen to reading, guess I'll be looking in to Donors Choice soon)…