SOME ADVISE FROM LITTLE NIPPERS
A few years ago, I taught in a TK classroom for 20 kids and 5 of them required special needs. I was fairly new in this type of setting. I had been teaching for a while but not for a classroom with quite that many students. Furthermore, I hadn't any experience working with children with special needs. As one would expect, the first few months were very rough!
During my summer break of that year, I reflected on how I could have done things differently. I have since planned a curriculum that I think works very well. It integrates traditional education along with the Montessori philosophy. I'd like to share my thoughts with my readers:
Firstly, I'd like to state that I have not been trained in the Montessori principles. If you are searching for information about this philosophy there is a great deal of material available online or at your local bookstore. I have, however, done quite a bit of research and have used many of their ideas in my classroom.
So lets start with the first month of school... September:Week 1
Typically, the curriculum for the month of September usually involves Apples, All About Me and Fall. While these themes are tried and true, I think the first month should really focus on Social Development:
- What is expect of the child in the classroom?
- What is proper behavior?
- What does it mean to be a good friend?
I accomplish these very important lessons with the help of Montessori practices.
I really love the way Montessori schools instills courtesy and respect for others and how they have found a way to delineate work space for their students. I can't tell you how many times a conflict has developed in my classroom over a child taking anothers toy or disrupting a friends Lego structure! Montessori students place their work on trays or mats.
|These tools indicate a "boundary" for what they're playing with and the students|
in the class understand (from day one) how important it is not to ruin some else's work.
I found this idea from a great website about "Introducing Rules and Routines in the Montessori Preschool Classroom":
It talks about how to introduce classroom rules on the first day of school. The teacher from this article gives her students a tour of the classroom and demonstrates the proper way to walk around anothers activity. She has her students practice getting their activities, cleaning up and being respectful of others. She spends a lot of time the first day role playing and observing the children to ensure that these simple rules are followed.
I used this concept during the first week of school and it worked wonders! In my classroom, we typically have time allotted for a project after Circle Time. However, during the first week of school, I didn't plan any projects. Instead, I used this time to let them practice these basic grace and courtesy lessons, while I observed to make sure everything went smoothly. There were more than a few students that needed gentle reminders but by Week 2, most of them were already getting the hang of it and we were ready to move on!
A Note About Parent Involvement: Motivating parents to be involved in the classroom was surprisingly very difficult when I taught the TK class. This was due partly because the center I worked for was set up as a daycare which catered to working parents. Honestly, I was disappointed because I feel that if you can get the parents more involved it creates a warm, friendly, family-like atmosphere. Therefore, this year during my Open House I tackled this problem head on! I requested that the parents stay in the classroom with their child during the first 10-15 minutes to help them do morning work. I explained that in doing so, it acclimates the child, slowly gets them used to the environment and allows us all to get to know each other better. What happened? Well...there are less complicated drop offs, less separation anxiety and we are all, slowly, becoming good friends!
The first week I started off with coffee and bagels. This set the mood immediately! Having a "Parent/Child Activity" readily available is also helpful. During Week 1, I arranged letters on the tables and asked each parent to help their child spell their name and glue it to their "Communication Folder" (just a paper folder I use to store work being sent home and any parent letters). See below for more ideas on "Parent/Child Activities".
Week 2 - Building A Rainbow
This idea I got from Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten. If you are unfamiliar with her website, I'd advise you to check it out! She has become my go to place for creative curriculum ideas. Below is the link to her "Rainbow System":
She uses Rainbows for good behavior. Every time a child is caught doing the right thing, they earn a piece for their rainbow. At the end of the week, if their rainbow is complete they get a prize.
I can honestly say that Mrs. Lee's system works! I have students working very hard to earn their rainbow each week. For prizes I've got small items from our local toy store such as: a baby slinky, rainbow sketch books and eraser puzzles to name a few.
I also planned a whole week of Rainbow activities to kick off this concept. If you look online there are quite a few great Math, Art and Science lessons that you can incorporate into your week. My personal favorite is the Teaching Heart Blog:
Parent/Child Activities: In the above website there are some great worksheets that I used in the morning for my Parent/Child Activity. Check out the "Rainbow Race" and the "Fruit Loop Rainbow" Sheet. I've used them both and they are great activities.
Week 3 - Establishing Jobs
By week 3, my students had started to remember the concepts of respect and courtesy and they were working very hard at earning their rainbows. This week, I introduced jobs. Following the "Classroom Economy" concept, my classroom jobs consist of the following:
If you are unfamiliar with a "Classroom Economy" it basically means that the kids earn "money" for their jobs and at the end of every month they can buy items in our classroom store with the money they have earned. The "money", is monopoly money and the "store" consists of donations of small toys and trinkets from the parents and the community. At first, there were different salaries for different jobs. For example, the Banker, being the most important received the highest salary. However, given that my classroom consists of 4-5 year old children, this concept caused some conflict. Therefore, I now give them each $1 a day for a job "well done". This means that they have to try their best. If there is any complaining that they do not like the job that they were assigned to for the week, they get docked a days pay. I also read on a website (I apologize for not remembering which one) that the teacher issues "violations" for any "off-task behavior" such as running in the classroom, dishonestly and rudeness. I've adopted this concept in my classroom and it certainly helps with general behavior issues!
Parent/Child Activity: This week I created my own worksheets to follow our theme; (1) A Librarian Word Search, (2) A drawing of the weather, and (3) Make your own Calendar. I'm having trouble uploading these worksheets because they were made in Word. I hope to find a way soon!
Week 4 - Friends
This week we talked about what it means to be a good friend. There are many books that can help explain this idea to children. Any book about courtesy and respect will work. The following are my personal favorites:
Parent/Child Activity: For this theme, I created 2 word searches. One with all the boys names in my classroom and another with all the girls names. They also practiced writing each others names! This was all very exciting for them!
This concludes my September Curriculum. Once I've established these basic rules regarding courtesy and manners then I'm prepared to move on! I have to say, using the Build a Rainbow and Classroom Economy concepts have really helped with Classroom Management, along with increased parent involvement. Having the parents in the classroom for the first few minutes allows me to bond with them a little better and I've noticed that more and more of them have asked to be involved in other ways (such as reading a book or cooking a meal). It's really been an eye opener!