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Fostering Positive Classroom Behaviors

We all have had those active classrooms with “behavioral challenges.” In fact, the trend is that instead of one “hard” student in the school (as it was early on in my career), it is expected that most classrooms will have at least one or more behavioral challenges that change the tone of the room.

Each time I see discussion boards swing to this topic, I am always saddened to see the listings of behavioral reinforcements (stickers, candy, extra recesses, on and on) that is used. Using these extrinsic rewards actually is compounding the problem!!! 

Rather than using monetary rewards, I would like to suggest that teachers focus on intrinsic rewards; teaching children to feel that natural sense of accomplishment that is being smothered with behavioral modification reward systems. I have found great success using this approach. Children thrive in an atmosphere of high expectations where a task is completed because of the sense of accomplishment that one enjoys from its completion. An atmosphere where the caring and respect for others and oneself is taught, modeled, and practiced. An atmosphere where children are taught how to make good choices and feel the differences those choices bring to their life.

In college I first learned all about the Glasser Circle and I loved its effects. Next, I was trained using the Tribes Learning Community. But for Kindergarten, nothing can beat “I Care Cat: Peacemaking Skills for Little Kids.” I love this program. It is simple and effective. As students learn how to self-manage conflict, care for and listen to each other, and be responsible, the climate of the classroom changes. 

Another thing that I always use is the “Turtle Trick.” This valuable tip to help children control anger, teaches students how to regulate and control their disruptive impulses and natural aggressions. I have seen the lives change in students that are given this tool! We must remember that children want to be good. 

So, before you hand out the stickers, I hope that you will take a look at other methods that actually fix the problem. Methods that give children the instruction and experiences necessary to function in our society.

Playing with Blocks in Kindergarten

Playing with blocks develops hand-eye coordination, strengthens important motor and spatial skills, builds a capacity for divergent and creative thinking, and strengthens social skills, and language skills. If this is not enough, complex block play is linked with advanced math skills later in life (Wolfgang et al 2001). 

Cognitive benefits are further enhanced if particular tasks are given at the block center. This week I will be placing some small vehicles with variances (trucks, cars, buses, etc.) at the block center and asking the students to build a track with ramps to race an opponent. This is always a favorite activity. You can just feel the brains power working at this center. --Keep Play in K!

Harvest Time

Kathleen's Science Center in Idaho: Home of the Spuds
Apples, pumpkins, potato, corn....these are just a few items that are being harvested in the field or gathered from a garden. Take advantage of fall’s bounty to add a twist to your skills or introduce a scientific process.  

Let your students investigate a pumpkin by reaching in to grab a handful of seeds to count. Cut an apple in half to examine the seed “star” in the center. Use a balance to see how many counting bears will equal the weight of a potato. Use related flashcards to review numbers, letters, and sounds. Read books - fiction and nonfiction - about apples or pumpkins. Graph your favorite kind of potato. Write about eating any of these foods or about a harvest or garden experience. 

The learning possibilities are endless - math, literacy, and science goals and standards can all be met while focusing attention on items that are relevant to your students, Stop by your local grocery store...or your own gather some fruits or vegetables that are being harvested, then begin! 

For more ideas and related center materials, check out these units:

Literacy Activities:
 Letter Whoo: Identifying Upper & Lowercase Letters
 Collecting Acorns: Blending Onset/rime
 Catching Crows: Identifying Letters
 Hidden Sounds: Identifying Beginning Sounds.
Math Activities:
 Scarecrow Patterns: Making shapes with pattern blocks
 Whatʼ s Missing: Developing observation & descriptive skills
 Leaf Count: Counting Leaves
 Leaf Graph: Graphing Leaves
 Leaf Hunt: Ordering Numbers
My Leaf Book
Trace and Write Letters A-Z
Writing numbers 1-10
Writing Prompts/Word Wall
All About Autumn
Harvest Word Wall Words
Guided Reading Book
Fall Leaves
 A Tree For All Seasons: Creating trees to represent
the four seasons
 A Fall Walk: Observing and recording the change of
season found around the school yard
 Seasonal Change of a Tree: Using senses to
observe and record the seasonal changes of a tree.
Art Projects
Leaf Person
Fall Leaves
Leaf Rubbings
Drawing Lesson: A Shapely Scarecrow
Pattern Block Scarecrow
Leaf Painting
Fall Tree
Autumn Leaves
Pick It Up

Literacy Activities:
Apple Tree Rhymes: Producing Rhyming Words
Harvesting Spuds: Identifying Uppercase Letters
Harvest ABC Train: Letter Identification
The Country Store: Clapping Syllables
Math Activities:
Ordering Baskets: Ordering objects from least to greatest.
Harvest Sorting: Sorting potatoes or apples into groups
Harvest Balancing: Experimenting with a balance
Number Bingo: Identifying the numbers 0-12
Trace and Write Letters A-Z
Fall Patterns
Writing Prompts/Word Wall
What I Know About Apples
Harvest Word Wall Words
Guided Reading Books
In The Fall
Apple Experiment: Examining an apple using math and science skills.
Pumpkin Report: Recording Observations
Art Projects
Potato People
Potato Truck Portfolio Page
Apple Thumbprints Portfolio Page
Apple Prints
Construct Pumpkin 
One Potato
I Like Potatoes
The Apple Tree
The Pumpkin Patch

Apple Unit Newly Updated

Our Apple Thematic Cross-Curricular Unit has been updated! It includes an updated look on one game, a new game, new apple songs, a new "photo" word wall. 

Contents Include:

Shared Reading Lessons:
And Apple is its Name Oh: Enjoying Songs & Poetry
Way Up High in the Apple Tree: Enjoying Songs & Poetry
Yummy Apples: Word Substitution

Literacy Activities
ABC Apple Orchard: Identifying Alphabet Letters
Apple Tree Rhymes: Producing Rhyming Words
Eating Apples: Identifying Beginning Sounds
Color Word Worms: Matching and Writing Color Words
ABC Apple Trace: Tracing Alphabet Letters

Math Activities
Willy the Wandering Worm: Identifying Numbers
Apple Number Memory: Matching Numbers
Bobbing For Apples: Working with 5-Frames
Math Journal Sticker: Draw an Apple Story

Apple Wordwall (Realistic Pictures)
Apple Parts: Labeling Activity
The Way I Like Apples
Johnny Appleseed
Aa Handwriting Sheet

Guided Reading Books
I like Apples
Apples Guided Reading Supports

Apple Taste Test: Making Comparisons & Recording Data
Apple Life Cycle: Portfolio Sample

Art Projects
Apple Tree Art
Apple Mosaic

Eating Apples (Be careful, this one will not leave your brain)
Five Little Apples
Have You Ever Seen An Apple
The Apple Tree

Parent Teacher Conference Prep Magic!

This parent conference report took me exactly 3 minutes to produce for all 23 of my students using ESGI! This would have taken me hours to do by hand. If I want to print flashcards for all incorrect answers, no problem. That will probably only take me another 3. Hum. Maybe I should get a pedicure today with that extra time.

If you haven't signed up for your free trial, do it today! 

Just click here and try it for 60 days.

New Blog Design

Thank you Michelle for the new blog design!

Parent Conference No-Hassle Notes

Once again ESGI saves a teacher time in just three simple steps.

Step 1: Schedule your conferences with a few simple clicks.

Step 2: Print conference letters.

*You can select if you want all letters and notes to be printed in English or Spanish!


Step 3: Print reminder notes.

Do you want to try this time-saving tool 60 days for free? 
Click on the ESGI on my sidebar, or here directly on the words. You will love everything about it! 

Meeting Common Core Standards through Dramatic Play

Kathleen's castle!
Do you have a playhouse or dramatic play center in your room? Many principals, as well as parents and even kindergarten teachers, don’t understand the purpose of a playhouse. They hear the word play and understanding ends there!

The value of a dramatic play center cannot be overstated. In this center, students can take on the role of mom, dad, baby bear, chef, doctor, teacher, or post master. Shy students are often more willing to participate when they can “be” someone else. Students have multiple opportunities to take turns, share, and negotiate as they play together. Language and vocabulary development are increased through speaking and listening in the center, especially if it is changed throughout the year to be a hospital, restaurant, a 3 Bears’ cottage, etc.

Reading and writing skills can be practiced in the playhouse. Students can write restaurant orders, grocery lists, or letters to mail. They can read in a hospital room or a playhouse kitchen. With alphabet or number flashcards Baby bear or Goldilocks as well as students in a school room can review letters, sounds, or numbers. 

In order to capitalize on the benefits of a dramatic play center, include a variety of materials for students to use, change the “scene” occasionally, and determine which standards are best addressed by the activities that you anticipate in the playhouse area. Check out the standards for Speaking and Listening, Reading Literature and/or Informational Text, Reading Foundations, Writing, and Counting and Cardinality. Post some of the specific standards that are being met or include the standards in your lesson plans. In addition, or as an alternate, post an explanation of the learning benefits of the dramatic play center.

Whether you have an actual playhouse or a defined area in your room, students can thrive in a dramatic play center. Deliberately Incorporate this center in your weekly plans to meet learning objectives and state standards.

Here is my learning center poster that is posted by my playhouse.

Television Viewing and Young Children

American children view an average of four to six hours of television daily (which may not even include time spent playing video games). Researchers can now document the effects of extensive television exposure through studies of the human brain.  This Research indicates that TV viewing and Video Gaming are  linked to  a range of negative behaviors: Violence, aggression, obesity, poor academic performance, stubbornness, limited communication skills, and behavior that is not age appropriate.

Each time a child is watching  television or playing video games, time for other activities that are imperative for a child’s natural development are severely limited. Childhood is a period of growth and development; when kids need to play both alone and with peers. Playing is a child’s work! Children also need to talk! Talking with adults as well as other children develops imperative oral language skills.

The amount of violence on television and in video games is increasing and experts agree that this violence is harmful to young children. Children who see violence on TV or in games can become frightened, worried, suspicious, withdrawn, or may develop bullying behaviors. Researchers also have found that children who watch violence on television (including cartoons and gaming) are encouraged that bullying and aggressive behavior is acceptable.

Many research studies indicate that excessive television viewing and video gamin has a detrimental effect on learning and school performance. The hours spent viewing television interfere with homework and with natural learning opportunities. If your child is not performing well academically, ask yourself if your child is watching too much TV or playing excessive and/or  violent video games.

The average child sees 20,000 commercials a year. That means 700 million dollars are being spent introducing your child to heavily sugared products. This gives your child a distorted picture of how they ought to eat and causes unhealthy eating habits.

Television is a fabulous invention with numerous educational and entertaining programs. However, when it comes to young children, it must be used wisely. Set limits! Replace that extra time with alternate activities such as sports, games, play, chores, reading conversation, homework,  or hobbies.