Finding Flow in Our Kindergarten Day

Saturday, 15 September 2018

What do a great yoga class and kindergarten program have in common?

I can sum it up in four letters:

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

I came to this conclusion during a not-so-great yoga experience I had this summer.

The teacher, we'll call her "Yogi," knew the poses well enough, but did many things that disrupted the flow of the class.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

Flow can be defined as moving along in a steady, continuous stream.

It can also be defined as losing ourselves in something.

Both on the mat and in the classroom, it can bring about a sense of calm and focus.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

The best yoga teachers know how to orchestrate a “dance” between themselves and their students that seamlessly pulls you along through a series of movements in a continuous, steady flow.

I've also seen classroom teachers create a flow to their day through well-thought out routines and transitions built around students' needs and development.  

So, how do we get flow?

Well, this is what I'm thinking, during the above mentioned yoga class, as I noted Yogi's mistakes between sips of water and downward dog.

And while that probably wasn't very "yoga-like" of me, it did help me identify 7 flow factors.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

Full disclosure: I too have made every one of Yogi's mistakes as a classroom teacher and have had much to learn about flow!

#1 Bring Positive Energy

Yogi arrived a few minutes late and brought with her an energy that was hurried and frazzled.

How many times have the children arrived at your door when you weren't quite ready for them?  Getting to school a few minutes early can make a big difference in the whole trajectory of the day. The energy we bring filters down to the children.  Calm, focused teacher = calm, focused children.

#2 Prepare the Environment

Because Yogi was late, she didn't get a chance to survey the space to ensure that it was optimal for the yoga experience. The fan was too loud making it difficult to hear her directions and the music kept fading in and out.   

Check your space to see that there are no disruptions to learning.  Make the environment as comfortable as possible and welcoming for the children.  Play background music that enhances learning rather than amps kids up. Choose cool colors that calm vs. bright colors that stimulate. Be selective about what goes up on the walls so the learning space isn't too visually cluttered.  Consider adding plants and soft lighting for a more soothing effect.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

#3 Ready the Materials

Usually yoga materials are gathered and distributed at the beginning of the class.  Yogi suddenly decided that we needed straps in the middle of the class, so we all left our mats and headed to the supply closet to get them.

Gather your teaching materials before students arrive and designate a bin or basket to keep them close to your teaching area.  Student supplies should be easily accessible for them to retrieve during transitions.  Have a consistent plan for sharpening pencils and replenishing supplies to minimize interruptions during instruction.

#4 Have a Plan

Yogi kept changing her mind about what she wanted us to do and it was noticeable that she didn't have a solid plan in place. 

Begin with a plan that has an end goal in mind and is "back-mapped" to create a well-thought out course for you to follow.  Use routines that are safe and predictable for students, but throw in a little novelty to keep things engaging. Remain flexible and responsive, but rather than making a lot of adjustments in the moment, set aside time to reflect and alter the following day's plan based on your observations.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

#5 Consider the Sequence

Yogi didn't follow a challenging pose with a restorative (resting) pose which failed to give our bodies exactly what was needed in the moment. One movement didn't flow into the next and there was no sense of rhythm to the class. 

Carefully balance the activities in your day so that children receive a good mix of structured vs. unstructured activities along with much needed water and movement breaks.  Consider building your day around larger learning blocks to create less transitions.  Explore the idea of alternating between "in and out breath" activities as introduced in Waldorf education. 

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

#6 Minimize Talk

Yogi's directions were sandwiched between comments and stories that were unnecessary and distracting.

Choose your words carefully and be concise with your directions. Use predictable language that children will come to recognize as part of the routine of the day.  For example, you might use a catch phrase or "magic words" such as "Off we go," to signal the end of a lesson and the dismissal of students to independent work.

#7 Be Responsive  

Yogi didn't offer any suggestions for modifications as we moved through the poses even though some of the participants clearly needed some.

With each assignment, think up a few ways to alter it for those who might find what you are offering a bit challenging.  Provide choices so children can learn to decide what is best for them in the moment.  Leave space on your plans to note observations throughout the day that might better help you meet individual needs.  Set aside time to sit down at the end of the day to read over your notes and make adjustments to the next day's plans.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

At the End of the Day

When I left Yogi's class, the "bumpy" experience left me distracted, annoyed, and feeling negative.

Typically, when I leave a yoga class, I feel calm, focused, open-hearted and ready to give to others.

Think about how you want your students to feel at the end of  your school day.

How will you establish a flow to your day that will help them feel calm and focused?

Which of the flow factors are you doing well?

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

Which ones are you working to improve?

Thanks for stopping by!

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Kindergarten Classroom Zones 2

Saturday, 8 September 2018

In Kindergarten Classroom Zones Part 1, I shared my plan for setting up my classroom in "zones" as inspired by Julie Morgenstern's Kindergarten Model of Organizing.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

In this post, I show you the down and dirty process I went through in creating those zones!

(Note: I've been adjusting to life at home without any children for the first time ever and I think I needed a project to throw myself into and this was it!)

Step 1 Sort Your Stuff

The first step was to unpack everything and place it in the zone in which it would be used and stored. This made it easier to get started and helped me avoid that, "where do I begin" feeling.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

In doing so, I emptied every cupboard and closet.  I quickly found that I needed a "don't know" pile for those things I wasn't sure about.  As this pile grew and grew, I realized that this was the stuff I would probably have to get rid of since it didn't really have a home!

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Step 2 Organize Each Zone

Once everything was sorted, I went zone by zone and began to put things away.  I had to think about how often I used certain materials, how much space they took up, and whether they were really worth keeping.

I liked the idea that some materials, that had been hidden away in cupboards, might now get more use since they would be more accessible and stored in their appropriate zone.

While I wanted things to be out and easily accessible to both the children and I, I didn't want the visual clutter, so in many cases I "containerized" stuff rather than just placing them loosely on shelves.

These baskets were a great deal! One had a $1.99 sticker on it and the cashier at the Christmas Tree Shop let me buy all 6 for that price! #MerryChristmastome

kindergarten classroom set up and design

I also had to consider which materials were going to be open and closed to children in each zone so that I could be intentional about what I offered at any given time. It was also important (and challenging!) to leave some empty space in each zone to set up and rotate out new invitations throughout the year.

Step 3 Add Soft Touches

Lastly, seating options, pillows, lighting, rugs, and plants were added to soften the zones and make them more inviting.  This was the fun part and felt like dessert!

kindergarten classroom set up and design

This process took about 5 days and involved evening trips to Walmart, Big Lots, and The Christmas Tree Shop to find just the right storage containers.  I found it helpful to have pictures of each zone "in progress" on my phone and a measuring tape in my purse to use while out shopping.

Here are the "done enough" zones as they looked before the start of the school year!

Meeting Zone

In this zone, I placed everything we might need for morning meeting, birthday celebrations, and whole group instruction.  I added the blue bins to hold instructional materials that I need for the day (one for morning and one for afternoon).  The middle one holds supports such as fidget toys and egg timers.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

I maximized storage behind the easel using shoe pockets and baskets to hold different types of markers, sharing balls, interactive writing materials, sentence strips, and erasers.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Also in this area are lots of empty bins that will eventually hold the books we will read together. 

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Unpacking/Packing Zone

This is the spot where children keep their belongings.  Each child has their own cubby basket that houses tool boxes and headphones. Backpacks rest on the base of the cubbies and coats are hung on the hooks. 

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Next to the cubbies, is the place where lunches are stored.  Take-home folders go in the "turn-in bin" on the bottom shelf.  Homework folders go in the bottom cubby.  

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Supplies Zone

It used to be that many of our community supplies were spread out all over the room.  Now they are in one central location and in easy reach of my small group table so I can quickly grab white boards, highlighters, or makers when we need them.  

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Teacher Zone

Here I put supplies that are mainly for me to use.  Sticky notes, pads of paper, and note cards for communication, files for important papers, and a little basket of Rx that holds cough drops, Tylenol, and a never ending supply of tea bags!  

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Art Zone

Everything art goes here! Paper is stored below the easels, brushes between the easels and collage materials are kept in the little linen bins on an old toy bin rack. And in case you are wondering where I get all these little bins, it's from The Christmas Tree Shop ($1 each)! 

kindergarten classroom set up and design

These shelves are organized by color and hold paint, markers, crayons, and colored pencils.    

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Science/Research Zone

This space backs up to our meeting zone and serves double duty as a place for calendar and news as well as independent research during discovery time. (Find the birthday bunting HERE!)

kindergarten classroom set up and design

The corner holds plants for the children to care for and jars of tiny treasures for them to explore.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Closed storage for science materials is found on the bottom shelves.  The tubs on top will be for collections of objects to observe, sketch, take-apart, and experiment with. Science tools are kept in the shoe pockets behind the tubs. 

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Building Zone

The blocks on the bottom left shelf are open to children.  The storage containers on the bottom right are closed storage and will be rotated in throughout the year.  The baskets on top will eventually hold smaller items known as "loose parts" that children can incorporate into their block constructions.  The clothesline strung across the back will be used for pictures that might provide inspiration to little builders. 

kindergarten classroom set up and design

More closed storage behind the chairs for additional materials that will be rotated in and out.  The counter under the window holds different shaped frames and wood pieces children can use while building.  

kindergarten classroom set up and design

The blue and green tubs hold fine motor building materials such as Legos, Knex and Magnetix.  We call these "tub toys" and reserve these for indoor play when we are unable to go outside. 

On the bookshelf are books about building that might also provide inspiration for children. 

Tinkering Zone

The baskets on the left hold train sets, marble runs, peg boards, and beads/laces. The cupboards under the window provide closed storage for this center.  

kindergarten classroom set up and design

This bookshelf holds tinkering materials that children might use to create or invent something new.  They can select their materials, place them on the tray, and bring them to the workspace by the window.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Writing Zone/Quiet Zone

This zone has a few different functions.  The location is in a corner, far enough away from our meeting area and work tables, that is ideal for 1:1 assessments.  It is also great as a quiet spot for a child who might need a break or is easily distracted when completing independent work.  Lastly, it is used as a writing center during discovery time.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

The counter behind it, as well as the cupboards below, are used to store writing and assessment materials.  

kindergarten classroom set up and design

(It occurs to me as I look at this picture that this is probably not the best place for our flag - it was placed there before I moved into this space and until this very moment, I have never given it a second thought! The lesson here is to take pictures of your space and you will see things you otherwise overlook!)

Math Zone

I didn't realize how many math materials I had accumulated until I gathered it all up in one space! There was so much stored in my closet and cupboards that just wasn't getting used.  So in order to make it all fit, I got rid of anything that I used only once or twice a year as well as class sets of materials that were not needed since I teach math in small groups.

Anything in the cream colored baskets is closed storage while the bead counters and brown baskets are open to children.  The empty space next to the felt board will be where I will rotate out new materials as they relate to our small group lessons.   

kindergarten classroom set up and design

These Pringle containers hold math manipulative/loose parts that I use during small group math as well as make available to children through games and center invitations.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Seasonal puzzles are stored in this basket and covered with a crib sheet.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

Reading Zone

This "secret door" actually leads to a closet that I am now using to store books including leveled readers, anthologies, big books, and collections of picture books. 

kindergarten classroom set up and design

The linen baskets will hold storytelling props that children can use to retell stories that we have read together.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

This shelf holds the children's book boxes.  Felt boards and felt stories will be kept on the top shelf.

kindergarten classroom set up and design

So that's it - but set up is never quite done until the children arrive and begin to use the space!

This process definitely raised my awareness about storage and use of materials and I'm sure I'll continue to tweak things as we move through the year.

Hope your year is off to a great start!

Thanks for stopping by!


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August Full Moon Freebie

Saturday, 25 August 2018

It's here - your August full moon freebie and I think you are going to love it!

In its simplest form, it is a calendar bunting that displays the months of the year along with full color photographs of seasonal activities.

It's available in two sizes and two decor styles (colorful wood or white washed wood).

But wait, there's more!

The larger bunting can also be used to graph and track children's birthdays by attaching a pendant for each child to the bottom of their birthday month.

Beads can be added to the metal rings that hold each pendant to represent the children's ages.

But wait, there’s more!

When a new month arrives, remove the pendants and affix them to your classroom calendar to mark the upcoming birthdays.

On each child’s special day, take down the pendant from the calendar, add another bead to the metal ring to reflect their new age, and string with yarn or a shoelace so they can wear their pendant throughout the day and take home as a birthday keepsake.

Also included are calendar cards for each month that match the bunting.

This full moon freebie is available for the next 48 hours, so grab it while you can! After that time, it will only be available for purchase.

Keep your eye out for the Harvest Moon in September - I'll have something "Fallsy" for you!

Thanks for stopping by!

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