Christmas Math & ELA Stations in Kindergarten

I mentioned in my last blog post that I have been MIA from blogging and social media due to accepting a job as a kindergarten teacher a few miles up the road.  I was not expecting to start working again (as a paid teacher) until fall of 2017.  My mind has been wrapped around all things grad school related for so long, I was thrown for a loop when I was offered a job out of the blue.  For whatever reason, my heart said yes.  Luckily, the school district and I were able to work it out so that I would still be on track to graduate on time, which is coming up this weekend.  (YAY!)

I want to back things up a bit to fill you in on some of the details.  This was not at all a typical situation.  To step in as the replacement teacher two months into the school year is not optimal.  It was a classroom in need of, well, a lot.  A lot of structure.  A lot of routine.  A lot of S-T-R-O-N-G classroom management skills.  A lot of knowledge of child development.  A lot of content knowledge of state standards and how to implement those standards with a group of students in dire need of an environmental overhaul.  Again, the theme of my life for the past two months has been..."a lot".  It has been a lot of diligent, challenging, methodical work to get this group of little learners rebooted.  They needed a highly structured teacher to come in and teach them what school is all about so they have the opportunity to be successful this year and beyond.  Luckily, I was able to provide them with what they needed, and I did it in a way that has been SO MUCH FUN!

I knew right away that I wanted to implement learning stations for math and ELA.  Creating and managing learning stations has been one of my strengths for many years, and I love the hands-on  environment stations create for young learners.  Direct instruction is necessary, but time to practice what teachers are preaching is a critical step for children.  Stations are also a great way to differentiate work for children with varying academic and developmental needs.  They allow slower workers to work at their own pace, while fast finishers can do their thing and start over again for more practice.  Children who are developmentally a bit behind the bulk of the group gain exposure to and practice with grade level concepts, which will allow them to move forward in their learning when the time is right.  Teachers, IAs, and volunteers are able to support each student as needed, while giving room for independence.  It's a beautiful thing.

I've posted a few pictures taken during our daily ELA and math stations.  From left to right; my alphabet letter matching file folder game with magnet letters (found in my TPT store), whole group sentence writing on mini white boards, measuring holiday shapes with Unifix cubes (by Nicole Ricca), building alphabet letters on the light table with the Handwriting Without Tears shapes (from Amazon), gingerbread dice addition game (by Nicole Ricca), more whole group sentence writing on mini white boards.  Again, these are SMALL snippets of all we do in the classroom during station time.  For the record, I did not tell them to write "I love you Mrs. C", but I do love to read it and see it!  :)

My husband made the white boards and light table for me.  Love him!

A station favorite is write the room.  I had everything read to go.  My tiny, aqua pocket charts I bought at Target back in the summer.  There are four charts hidden around the room.  Inside the pocket charts are the holiday WTR cards I created a couple of years ago.  The matching recording sheets reside in the tub dedicated to that station.  The only thing my classroom was missing for this particular activity was clipboards, and that problem was solved with a quick trip to Wal-Mart.  These littles are so proud of their writing.  They bring me their clipboards to show off their hard work, and then they ask if there are more words they can write.  I love it!  I have noticed more and more students heading over to the pocket charts during Writer's Workshop when they get stuck writing  a word.  Although they are encouraged to pull the sounds out of words when writing, I have to admit that I am impressed with their ability to use the resources in our classroom!  (Can I hear an amen from those of us who turn to Google each time we need to write an unfamiliar word?)  I can hardly wait to switch the WTR activity to "winter words".  You can find my Christmas and Winter write the room activities in my TPT store by clicking here.
Writing the room is serious business in kindergarten, folks. 

And that brings me to my dramatic play bakery.  At the very end of our day, I have 25 minutes of free choice center time built into my schedule.  This time allows me to touch base with each student and make sure they have their backpacks stuffed and ready to go home for the day.  It's simply a fun way to end the day.  They get to choose from five or six options that are presented to them on the interactive white board.  Dramatic play is one of those options.  We'll talk more about how I let children choose where they want to spend time in a future post.

This classroom was quite chaotic when I took over as the teacher.  All manipulatives, extra furniture, dramatic play props, books, crayons, pencils, glue sticks, etc. had to be removed from the room until I could guarantee children were able to be safe in the room with "extra stuff" sitting around all day.  One by one, the most critical items came back into the room, along with explicit instructions regarding how to treat those objects.  Sigh.  I told you.  It has been...a lot of work.

With that being said, you can imagine how THRILLED I was to see how quickly students shaped up and were able to "do school".  To celebrate our success as a class of learners able to cooperate and be safe, my husband and I spent our Thanksgiving break busting our humps to create a dramatic play bakery to be used during free choice centers.  We created this amazing walk-up window that will serve multiple purposes throughout the year.  With a quick canopy change, it can be an ice cream shop, flower shop, vet clinic, hot cocoa stand, post office, grocery store, food cart....the list goes on and on.  The silver base was an old TV stand we picked up at the Goodwill Outlet for $10.00.  The two pipes holding up the canopy are conduit, from Home Depot, covered with dollar store wrapping paper.  The canopy is made of PVC pipes that have been draped with wrapping paper.  It all pops apart for storage.  I will try to snap a few more pictures of the bakery before it "closes" for the season.  We will be making room for a new business to move in soon.  I hear that a coffee / hot cocoa stand had signed a lease already.  Shhhhhh...don't tell my students.  I want it to be a surprise when we come back from winter break.  :)
Our grand opening day as a success!  Those are cinnamon rolls, frosted cookies, and gingerbread men on the pastry shelf.

These kiddos are EATING UP KINDERGARTEN.  They went from literally running out of the classroom (and hiding in the parking lot) never wanting to leave the classroom.  When it is time for our learning stations during math and ELA blocks to be over for the day, I hear multiple, "Oh, maaannnnn!  I wanted to do it some more!"  Best of all, they have learned to be attentive during direct instruction and independent during our learning station blocks.  This means, I will be able to focus on small group instruction after the holiday break.  I am beyond thrilled with the way things have shaped up in our classroom.  We've come a loooooong way in 8 weeks.  I am one tired teacher...a lot.  :)