What Kind of Class Do We Want?

img_6072I love the way winter break is like pushing the reset button. I’ve enjoyed relaxed days with friends, family, books and the mountains. It’s been fabulous. It’s recharged my mind, my body and my soul. I’ve allowed myself to step away from my classroom (physically and mentally) and now I feel a renewed sense of excitement, energy and possibility as I get ready to return in a few days.

My kids and I have enjoyed 17 days off. While it’s been wonderful, I know that January 3rd is going to be like starting all over again in many ways. Seventeen days to a five and six year old is an eternity. But I love the idea of a second “first day” of sorts. It’s a chance to re-establish our community, to get to know one another again, to reteach those things that were falling apart in December and to revisit what kind of class we are. It’s like a blank slate that we can create together again.

One thing I always do that first week back is to ask my kids, “what kind of class do we want to be? What kind of community do we want to have? Who are we?” Those are big questions, but my kindergarteners never fail to think deeply, to reflect on what was working and what wasn’t, and to create a promise of sorts that guides us for the rest of the year.

We start this conversation in our morning meeting on the first day back. I take notes on chart paper as we talk and start to determine what really matters to us. We read new books and revisit old favorites that first week back and talk about what makes characters kind and likable, or unkind and unlikable, and how that might look in our classroom. Books like Grumpy Bird, Each Kindness, It’s Okay to Make Mistakes – and any Todd Parr book, Red, A Crayon’s Story, I Used to Be Afraid, Walter Was Worried, The OK Book, Elephants Cannot Dance, Ish, The Invisible Boy, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  and Last Stop on Market Street – just to name a few of our favorites. The main idea here is to determine what would make our classroom a wonderful place to be – and how can we contribute to that.

We revisit the chart daily, adding and revising our thinking. After a week or so, we create our own chart – through interactive writing – that reflects who we are in this classroom. We always display it in a prominent place so that, as one of my kids said last year, “everyone who comes in here knows that this is how they have to be. You can’t be mean and come in our room.”

2014-01-09 15.38.53

Last year’s chart as a work in progress – adding things to it as we discuss.

This document serves as a class pledge or promise for the rest of the year. We read it and use it as a tool to solve problems, resolve issues and remind us of what kind of class we are. It’s a powerful tool to come back to when the inevitable problems arise.

img_5638

Last year’s  finished chart with photos!

How do you reset after a long winter break? Best wishes to everyone for a fantastic second “first day”!

Update: Here is our chart from last week (January 2017). We will be working on making our class chart next week. Stay tuned!

img_0826

First Days of Kindergarten Read Alouds

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 8.19.45 AMThanks to Cathy Mere (@cathymere) and Mandy Robek (@mandyrobek), August 10th is a special day for teachers and book lovers everywhere. It’s 10 for 10 Picture Book Day (#pb10for10)! I’ve decided to share my top 10 (ok, maybe a few more…) favorite read alouds for the first days of kindergarten. These are mostly old favorites, but they are loved, read and reread throughout the year. I find these books a perfect mix of nonfiction, fiction, wordless and repetitive text that draws readers in from the first day of kindergarten and leaves them begging for more after the first week. Enjoy and happy reading!

What are your favorites for the first week of school? Please share!

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.30.36 PM

A favorite nonfiction text that kids love to read and guess what animal is in the picture.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.30.19 PM

We love Todd Parr. This is a great book to start the year with. We live the mantra, “a mistake is a chance to learn something new”, and this book helps me teach this from day 1.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.30.05 PM

A very fun book that helps children see that they can read the pictures as well as the words. The repetitive text and detailed illustrations help children begin to tell stories and understand that they are readers – reading the pictures and the words.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.29.47 PM

We love, love, love this book! It’s a great story that begs children to guess what will happen next and to join in on the refrain. A class favorite throughout the year.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.29.29 PM

A good nonfiction book with fabulous photographs and a simple text line to read aloud. Children love this. And after I introduce Mrs. Wishy-Washy, they love that Joy Cowley is the author of this book, too!

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.29.05 PM

A good partner to the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, with rich photographs and a simple text line. Children are extremely engaged in this nonfiction text.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.28.49 PM

A timeless classic that helps me teach the important lesson of “team”. We are all in this together and we are here to help, support and love each other. It’s a must-read for the first week of school.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.28.32 PM

A fun read aloud for math workshop. Rhyming text and silly pictures pulls kids in and gets them excited about books and math.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.28.18 PM

This repetitive text is one that children love. They will read it along with you and beg for it to be reread. A favorite throughout the year.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.28.04 PM

A simply wonderful wordless picture book that helps me teach that reading can be reading the pictures. Children love the adventure the characters have as their chalk drawings come to life.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.27.44 PM

Who doesn’t love Pete the Cat? The book, the song, the characters and the authors…they are all a big win in kindergarten. The message of, “it’s all good”, is one that we revisit often throughout the year.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.27.30 PM

A classic, that children just love. Skit, skat, skoodle doot, flip, flop, flee – who doesn’t love repeating that line?

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.27.09 PM

I launch our writer’s workshop with this book on day 1. The author’s notes in the front cover show children how David Shannon got his ideas for this book. We start making books on day 1 – just like David Shannon.