Kindergarten Teacher

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Using Class Dojo for Work Management

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Many teachers have been using Class Dojo as a behavior management system. If you are familiar with me you know that I avoid using these systems or any kind of reward in my classroom (read here.) However, I have been trying to find a system to allow my students to keep track of their completed work each week that would also give parents access to this information. Teaching management skills as well as time management are very important to me, even in Kindergarten. Until this week my class used a paper printout of all the jobs and colored in a box each time they filed away a job (yes, we use files)  This system has worked really well except we are wasting paper each week and there is no easy way for parents to see how much work they are completing. Enter Class Dojo. What I did was take all the behaviors they have built into the system and changed them to the names of all of our literacy centers. As the kids finished work they would pick the correct center and give themselves a point for that job. Since this was our first week I kept the iPad at my teacher table and assisted as they added their points each time. My hope is that after two weeks of working with them I can set up a computer or an iPad in the room specifically for Class Dojo and let the kids do this independently. I will update this post if that does not work out for some reason but I think it will after watching the kids use the system this week. I have pictures below to show some of the process of using the app this way.

One surprise benefit I realized is this app will give me important data about my centers. I can easily see what stations are being visited most frequently or first in the week (meaning favorite.) I can also look at each student and see what centers they are doing most often, or the ones they are avoiding each week. Since I give my class complete control over what centers they want to work on this data could really benefit me in planning stations.

Positives: Free!, easy to use as teacher, easy for kids to use, parent sign up is simple, web and app based, data for centers

Negatives: Cant add kids pictures instead of avatars (update below), can’t customize behavior icons (job icons), kids can see how many stations other kids have finished (wish there was an option to not display total) *please note these are negatives mainly because I am using the app for a different way than it was intended.

*Update: They have added a new feature this week  to allow you to customize the avatars with your own images (explained here)

This is what is displayed on the iPad for the kids to enter their points. When they tap on their avatar a menu pops up with all the center choices for my room. As noted above I don’t like that they can see the points for their friends.

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The image below is a sample image of an individual child’s progress during the week. This is what parents can see. The app shows what jobs they finish each day as well as the time those jobs are entered. The time stamp isn’t crucial to me at this point but I can see where it could be helpful given individual kids. Are they working better in the morning vs afternoon, etc. I should also note there is a pie chart above this info that shows how many of their points are positive/negative. I told the parents to ignore that part of the app and focus only on the completed centers.

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The image below is from the Dojo account on the web. I am able to see what parents have connected their account and even enter a parents email to encourage them to join. My understanding is the app will send parents a weekly update which is nice in case they forget to check. Parents can login online or use the free app to keep up with the progress in real-time.

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So how do parents sign up? Once you enter the students names into Class Dojo you can then download a pdf with the access codes for the parents. For my kindergarten class I did not worry about the student account. I just asked parents to join.

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Overall I was very impressed with the simplicity of getting my class setup and the design of the app and website. Hopefully they will consider others that might want to use the app this way and give more options that would make it more successful for that use.

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Organizing Weekly Work Using A File Cabinet

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My Kindergarten kids file away their finished work each day in file cabinets. I use two different cabinets and half of their names are in each file. I have found the multi-colored files work best because when they open the file they see the color inside also. I teach them to make sure the inside is the correct color so they know they are using the correct file. They are able to handle this after just a quick demonstration and this system has worked well for me for many years. They learn to stay organized and it makes it super easy for me to check their work Friday morning to see what they might need to finish for the week. The unfinished work is kept in a separate shelf (see below) which also makes it easy for them to know what they still need to finish. Basically, with this system I expect the kids to keep track of their work.

On Friday morning I have them each bring me all their finished work and we go through the work together. Anything that needs to be adjusted/fixed/completed would be moved to their unfinished work bucket to complete. As I meet with each child the class plays in imagination tubs because I think every Friday should start with fun and play. Usually it takes me about 20 minutes to go through all the work and then we switch to centers to finish up the work from the week.

Please share your ideas for keeping their work organized in the comments! 

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$25 DVD Player as a Listening Center

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The first question I am sure many people will have is WHY would I use a DVD player for my listening center. It all started when my old CD player died this week. I went to several electronics stores and was not able to find a cheap CD player that had a place to plug in headphones. Apparently that feature is not standard anymore. That led me to come up with another option… the DVD player. The main reasons I decided to use a DVD player are: 1. they can play audio CD’s 2. they are cheap  3. they are small 4. I don’t need speakers, actually I prefer not to have them. Speakers take up space and when the kids accidentally (or on purpose) unplug the headphones my class is blasted with the audio.

Here is what you need to make this happen (images below):

- A cheap DVD Player (with composite output): I was able to find one $25-$30 at every electronics store. My understanding is all DVD players can play CD’s. Make sure the DVD player has composite output. The cheapest ones should have this and it will say on the box.

- Adaptor: you will need a “RCA audio to 3.5 female” adaptor. I ordered this one on Amazon and will update the post when it arrives. Another option is to visit Radio Shack or Fry’s and see what they might have. I used some connectors I already had (yes I am a geek)

That is all! If you are curious about the headphones I use look here. The headphone splitter I use can be found here.

This is what the adaptor looks like…

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The back of the DVD player needs to have composite output. Often called RCA or Red/White cables…

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Fun Activities for Practicing Self-Control

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In the picture above the kids are practicing self-control. They have to keep their hands on their knees and not pop any bubbles. VERY difficult but they are so proud when they are successful. We talk about what control feels like and how they are able to achieve it. This activity is crucial for my class to develop and understanding of the vocabulary and the feeling associated with self-control. I do promise them they will get a chance to pop the bubbles after we are successful with self-control. Another activity uses music instruments (maracas, symbols, etc.) The kids get in a circle and they have to pass the instrument to the next student without making music (shaking, banging, etc) Also very difficult! I hope to come up with more of these type activities so we can continue to practice all year.

Teaching self-control is an important part of my “behavior plan” in the classroom. I often hear teachers complain (including myself) about kids lack of self-control but what are we doing to help kids learn about it? One of my big concerns is that for kids to practice self-control they need to be given opportunities to be in control. This is why I don’t use behavior systems or rewards in my class. I feel those take the control (power) away from the kids and place the control with the teacher. Another major part of self-control is I rarely tell kids you “can not” do something. This DOES NOT mean I let them do what they want but instead it changes the wording I use with the kids. For example: Johnny does cartwheels across the room. I would say “Johnny, you can do cartwheels but self-control means you choose not to because you might hurt someone.” I repeat this over and over with my kids and we talk about it a lot in the room. I give examples often of adults that have to have self-control so they know we all have to make choices. For example: “guess what class, I saw a piece of chocolate cake in the staff refrigerator. I could have eaten it but I chose not to because it wasn’t mine.”

I have found this way of handling most behavior to be very successful and I feel it works because I am supporting the kids, telling they why the behavior does not work in our class and giving them the control to fix the behavior. Giving kids the power to choose and the understanding of what control looks like has led to a happy classroom for us all.

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Photo Tour of My Kindergarten Classroom

I have had several people ask for pictures of my room so here you go! A quick tour of my class. If you have questions just let me know in the comments…

The front of the room: I have a projector and white board and typical calendar stuff although I don’ t spend much time on the calendar. Most of my morning message time is spent on Wonderopolis and the Number of the Day.

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Year long calendar. This is something new I am trying this year. We will use sticky notes to add important dates. The tiny icons at the bottom of the white board is our visual schedule.

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Number line, shapes, and color words. I don’t have many decorations on the room but these are important and used all year.

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The orange table and one of the many living centers in my room. I color code each table just to make it easier on me.

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I think it is important to have science tools and investigation materials out at all times. This table is where we keep those things. As we begin to explore outside we will bring in things to place in our investigation station.

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Book shelf

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Math Tubs. The top row of buckets are the math workshops for the week and the other buckets are manipulatives and free choice activities. I keep all my dice and other math materials we use often on the top of this shelf also.

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Imagination Tubs: They “live” in the hallway and you can read more about our play time here.

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Our class has 7 student computers and one teacher computer. You can see one of my windows in this picture.

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Back of the room. Water bottles and snack are kept here plus a lot of my teacher supplies. This is also where we paint because there is a small tile area around the sink. Having a sink in the room is awesome!

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My teacher table. Right now it is full of our literacy jobs to explain to the class this week. I keep all my supplies for guided reading in the metal shelf.

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Twitter Friends Map

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The second window and yet another living center.

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The document camera

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My teacher easel. The small magnetic white board is used for the student jobs which we haven’t started yet this year. The buckets are for the kids GO folder, journal and interactive notebook.

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File cabinets. These are basically empty and only used for the kids to file their work. Yes, my Kindergarten kids file their own work. Finished work is placed in their file and it goes home every Friday. The key to making this happen is using colored files.

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Another work table and a few extra imagination tubs that need a larger shelf for storage.

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Work buckets. Unfinished work goes in these buckets. The digital picture frame has pictures of my family. After this month I will add pictures of the kids from my class each month.

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Lockers and more storage for me :) The Be Brave name tags I use can be found here. I also have a small version of the “All About Me Project” on their locker. They are using them for journal time and I love how much they talk about them!

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Outside our room we have a big wall for student work. Right now a large version of the “All About Me Project” is posted.

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My teacher desk. The word wall is posted above my desk.

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Gripcase: iPad Case for Young Kids

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Gripcase and LetterSchool app

I often get asked what case I use in my classroom for the iPad. Until recently I didn’t have a favorite and would send a link to a cheap and simple case from Amazon. At the end of last year Gripcase contacted me about trying out their case. Full disclosure, they sent me one to try for free but the case is typically $40. I checked out the product online and agreed to try out the case without any promises. Now that I have had time to use this case in my classroom and see who it works I am happy to say it is a wonderful case for young kids and kids with special needs. I especially like the available stand for this case and the kids enjoy using it.  **Every time I show an iPad picture on my blog someone asks about the app so I will go ahead and share that they are using LetterSchool app. This is one of the first academic apps my class uses. It is fun, creative and does help with learning letters. If you teach kids that are learning letters it is a must have app.

Highlights of Gripcase: 

- Very easy to “install” and has never come out of the case

- Easy for kids to carry, the handles on all sides makes it perfect for small hands to hold

- Most cases that offer this level of protection are very bulky. The Gripcase does increase the “footprint” of the iPad but it is not bulky.

- It really does protect the iPad. Regardless how it falls the iPad is protected. Especially the corners, and yes I tried.

- The material is soft yet not fragile.

- The stand is wonderful (separate purchase)

- All the ports are easily accessible (see headphone concern below)

Concerns for Gripcase:

-  Headphone port access might not work for all headphones. I wish the access point was a little larger but it has not been an issue for us thus far.

- The case might not fit into charging stations

Check out the video below if you want to see a video review and I have also posted a few more pictures below the video.

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