Posting a Class Schedule

I always post my class schedule front and center for my students. The first three months of school I refer to it constantly. During transitions, I turn each card we've completed over so students can see a visual I how many more subjects are on our to-do list before it's time to go home.

Kindergarten Schedule
I use two small pocket charts I bought from the dollar bin at Target. As you can see above each subject has a visual aid to help kids understand better. If you'd like to download the schedule cards I use above, here is the link.

Kindergarten Schedule Cards for Back to School

Kindergarten Schedule Cards - Page 2

Kindergarten Schedule Cards - Page 3 of 6

Back to School Basics: Classroom Zones

Guided Reading is one of the most important parts of the day. Students learn so much and there is no time to waste. Having excellent classroom management during this time is key. One of the best strategies to accomplish this goal to think of classroom zones for each of your student groups to physically encompass, think of what the theme of each center is going to be ( what skills each center will focus on consistently), think of what each group is allowed to do when they're done with their assignment.

Here are my four centers, their themes:

Guided Reading in Kindergarten
At the teacher's Table, I am there to guide the children through the rigorous activities. At the Listening Center the children listen to a story for 10-15 minutes before they complete their assignment at their seat or use a Literacy Puzzle. At the computer station, each of the six children has a computer game to do. 10 minutes of Reading Readiness game and 10 minutes of a Math game. However, one center is completely independent for the full 25 minute rotation.  The independent table is by far the neediest table for teacher-organization!

Here is my layout.
Kindergarten Guided Reading - Independent Seat Work

Kindergarten Seat Work: Phonics Sound Sorts
At this table I usually have cut and paste phonics activities for the kids to do because I like how it slooows them down and makes them think before they commit to gluing down a picture. Also, it is great fine motor practice. I only place four trash bins on each table because the children are expected to share with their neighbor. Each child has their own pencil box with supplies ( the boxes stay at the Independent Table). I like placing trash bins at the table because this keeps the kids from standing up and chatting with other kids. They have to stay in their zone. To keep them in their zone ... and keep them from getting up and distracting other kids I have an activity prepared for them to do when they are done with their phonics sort page. 

The table is right against the word wall so they are to write sentences on lined white boards. They love to choose different colored markers. 

Early Finishers Activities - White Board Sentences

Another option is magna doodles. They love those too. Both options are kept close by the table for kids to access with leaving their zone. 

Early Finishers Activity - Magna Doodles

Here are some typical phonics activities I have for the children at the independent table on a daily basis.    Letter of the Week, Vowel Review, Sight Word Work, Phonics Cut and Paste, and Word Families.

Vowel Letter Review - Cut and Paste

Short Vowels Worksheets 
Digraphs Worksheets for Kindergarten -
Picture Sorts

Sight Word Worksheets for Kindergarten

Sight Word Worksheets for Kindergarten
Sight Word : THE

Word Families Review for Kindergarten
CVC Words Literacy Center

Short E - Word Family Worksheet
Word Work for Kindergarten

Back to School Sale

I'm hosting a Back to School Sale on August 17 through the 20th. All my products will be 20% off.

The website I use to host my products will be giving buyers an additional 8% off on August 18th and 19th only for up to 28% savings on those two days.

Check it out if you get a chance. Make sure you enter the PROMO CODE at checkout. It is BTS13


Featured products are my Name Recognition Activities. Perfect for Kindergarten

Name Recognition Activity #1 - Completely Editable to
 fit any name between 3 letters and 11 letters long.  
Laminate with the child's picture and use it as a Literacy Center the first month of Kindergarten. Children will love to build their name and their friends' names as well. If  you don't have enough letter tiles save plastic bottle caps and use a Sharpie to write letters on them.

Name Recognition Activities #2
Students cut, match, and paste
the letters in their name. 
This file is also completely editable to accommodate names from 3 letters long to 11 letters long. Just take your class list to the computer and directly input the names. Great for Homework or Classwork.

Name Recognition Activities #3
Completely Editable for names from 3 letters
long to 11 letters long. Great for Back to School.
This activity is great for teaching students to recognize the letters in their name as well as the correct order of the letters. Ideal for Homework or Classwork the first month of Kindergarten or Preschool.

Every product above is featured at less than $4.00. With the sale discounts you'll be able to get them ALL.

Here is a freebie. I use it in my homework packet the first two weeks of Kindergarten.

Free Name Recognition Activity
Perfect for homework.

Click here to download it for free.

Here is another name recognition freebie:

Free Name Tracing #2
Free Name Tracing with Bubble Theme

Back to School Basics : Classroom Behavior System for Kindergarten

Daily Accountability is key for Kindergarten and First Grade Students. A weekly behavior system will not be as effective. My students go home from school EVERY DAY with a colored behavior card that communicates to parents what their child's behavior was like that day.

I organize my notes like this:

Blue Card - Daily Classroom Behavior

Green Card - Daily Classroom Behavior Note

Yellow and Red Card - Daily Behavior Card

Blue Cards Top Drawer
Green Cards Middle Drawer
Yellow and Red Cards on the Bottom Drawer

I run them off on colored paper to match the card color.

Back to School Basics: Classroom Behavior System

Before the kids ever come through the door I already have my behavior system thought through. Here is the form I give to parents explaining my system. Without good classroom management no one is going to learn no matter how creative and rigorous a lesson may be. In my class, I choose a color bases system. I find the colors are easy for the kids to remember. It's easy to see the difference in color between, say, red and yellow. It's not so easy to see the difference between a clip being raised an inch to another word or to see that a card has been flipped over. Those kinds of systems are not visual enough for a small child. Kindergarteners can barely tell the difference between a b, p, or d!
Kindergarten Behavior Chart
Download my Parent Handout for this Behavior System
 for Free. Great for Back to School Night. 

I make sure to provide a legend that explains what each color means in the simplest terms possible. 

Before the kids arrive on the first day I pre-write all of their names and place them in a slot. 

Above is last years behavior chart. For this coming year I have purchased traffic light borders and will use them to replace the wrinkled construction paper squares. 

Parent Support Form

Pretty cool! I like it so far. 

By the way, the blue cards are the best! I give those out when a child shows exemplary behavior, is a role model, helps another child, or just as a surprise for following directions the first time. 

I give parents THIS handout on Back to School Night and explain to them how they can help to reinforce this behavior system with their kids for maximum efficacy. Parent Support is key with children this young.

Back to School Basics: Organizing the Classroom Environment

To help with classroom organization I label students' guided reading book bags according to their shape groups (remember these groups are homogeneous). I use large ziploc bags to house their leveled readers. During writing time, I pull student groups to the teacher's table by their color groups (remember these are heterogeneous). I use color team labels to house their writing journals. Once students memorize their shape groups and color groups they can put away their journals or book bags independently.

Classroom Organization - Labeled Baskets

I choose to pull mixed ability groups as opposed to leveled groups during writing because of time management. I pull the lowest writing group to my table they will take twice as long as the highest or middle groups. If the group is mixed, however, I can help all students equally and as they finish their journal entry and head off to their writing center, I can keep the neediest students at my table and help them finish their work.

Back to School Basics: Guided Reading Rotations Schedule

During Guided Reading, I normally have two adults in the room: myself and a parent volunteer or an impact teacher hired by the district. If my guided reading time is during a part in the day where I cannot have a parent volunteer or an impact teacher  then ... I change my schedule! Having two adults in the room is imperative to the continued success of my class. This is because every day my students need to be seen by an adult. They deserve this. I would consider it a shame if they went the entire school day without some small group and one-on-one time with a teacher. Therefore, my guided reading rotations go something like this. To download click here:

Keep the following in mind when reading through my chart.

Shape groups are Homogenous - Kids are with adults when they are in their shape groups. Instruction is more rigorous because it is meant to be guided (an activity they couldn't easily do on their own). 

Color groups are Heterogenous - Kids are independent when they are in their color groups. They can work with a partner to complete puzzles, games, read together, play computer games, go to the listening center.

Each child is assigned to BOTH a color group and a shape group. (More detail)

guided reading in kindergarten

Before I start guided reading I have usually already taught a sorting unit in Math so I sit the class on the carpet and say these exact words: "Now I'm going to sort you all by shape or by color. Remember when you're sorting by color; shape doesn't matter. When you're sorting by shape; color doesn't matter. So listen for your color OR listen for your shape." (For a few weeks I have the kids wear necklaces that have their color group and shape group written for them so they can reference it).

Here is how the classroom rug seating plays into the rotation schedule I have provided above.

Monday - Rotation One

When I send the triangle team to the teacher's table for guided reading and the rectangle team to the independent table the only teams left on the carpet are they yellow team and the green team. Remember these teams are heterogeneous ability groups. They get assigned to the listening center and the computer  games.

Here is what the second rotation looks like:

Monday - Second Rotation

When I send the circle team to the teacher's table and the square team to the independent table, the only teams left on the carpet are the red team and the orange team. This allows me to send them to the listening center and the computer games now. 

Every two days every team has rotated through each center and I'm ready to prep for another set of activities and assignments. This thoughtful and well-balanced system was passed down to me by a mentor teacher my first year of teaching. I've kept it every year since ... because it works!

Back to School Basics: Guided Reading Folders : Differentiated Instruction

Organization Help: Once school routines are underway, I level my Kindergarten class into four guided reading groups: high, medium, low, and focus (RTI) groups based on their beginning literacy assessments in phonemic awareness, phonics, sight words, and writing. (More detail) In order to make differentiating instruction for each level more organized, I keep a tub behind my guided reading table with four folders squared away: one for each group.
classroom organization for guided reading
Guided Reading Organization
One folder for each leveled group
Keep activities inside each group's folder
I use shape groups because they have to learn their shape names anyway so why spend class time naming and referring to "animal groups" or other silly, cute terms? I'd rather keep things simple. I pull out each folder when I see each group during rotations. This folder system makes sub plans easy too because I simply state to pull out a lesson from each shape groups' folder. Saves me from sticking post it notes all over different piles of paper or books in the room! 
classroom organization for guided reading
Each leveled group has a folder that contains differentiated
activities for their reading level. 
In the picture shown above, the Triangle group's folder contains 3 guided reading leveled readers from Houghton Mifflin, their beige dictation book ( I let them decorate their cover with markers) where I ask them to spell CVC words, or CCVC and CVCC words to practice their segmenting skills. Also, we see a stack of phonics worksheet where they sort the sounds for "P". These activities will typically last that group two weeks because we also do hands on activities/games/sorts, etc that don't require paper/pencil. When I notice a folder getting emptier, I use my teacher prep time to makes copies, find leveled books to put in there, etc. 

These folders could also make it easy to take anecdotal notes for students. Here are the anecdotal note pages I use for my guided reading groups. 

Kindergarten guided reading
Anecdotal Notes for Guided Reading

Back to School Basics: Partner Talk for Kindergarten

The classroom rug is a learning environment within a learning environment. It is the best place for strategic partner talk in Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade. The importance of the seating chart on the classroom rug plays a big role in classroom management here. Once I have students in the second and fourth row facing their partner, I pass out "Talking Sticks." They are pictured below. The idea came from a book called, "Structured Language Practice." In our district, we nicknamed all the wonderful strategies in the book as "slips." (More on that later)
Talking Sticks - Kindergarten Partner Talk
Talking Stick - Structured Language Practice
I chose to add a parrot sticker on purpose because parrots talk a lot!  A monkey stick will do the trick too! These popsicle sticks have stickers on the end and they are all the same.  The cup contains 12 sticks; one for each pair of kids. The rule is that only the child holding the talking stick may speak. The other partners must quietly listen. This ensures that children are also listening to their classmate. After a few seconds I ring the bell and that is their cue to pass the talking stick.

Yet another version of talking stick is plastic microphones from a local dollar store or the dollar bins at Target. Same rules, different realia. I like to keep things different for my kinders. To them the slightest change is like a whole new ballgame.
Talking Stick with plastic microphones
Kindergarten Partner Talk -
Plastic Microphones
Besides the trusty, "Turn to face your partner" trick, there are other ways to group children for partner talk that don't involve the carpet seating chart. Here are the contents of the other cup, my Chargers cup. (Can you tell I'm from San Diego?)
Partner Talk - Match the sticker to find your partner
Partner Talk - Select a partner by matching the sticker
It contains 24 foam popsicle sticks. Each foam popsicle stick has a sticker on the end. The matching stick is the same color and has the same sticker as well. To assign RANDOM partners, I hold the cup up above the head of each child so they can't see inside the cup and have them select a stick. After each child has pulled a stick I give the class 1 minute to find their partner and sit together. If you can get all three of the above you'll be good to go when it comes to partner talk.

Covers! Yet another way to sort Kindergarten students into pairs is with thematic hats!

Partner Talk adjustable hats for Kindergarten
Partner Talk in Kindergarten -
Thematic Hats with adjustable
elastic band and brads
Like the foam partner sticks, students get one minute to find a partner and sit down together. You guessed it the flowers must pair up with the bees. No two bees may end up together nor two flowers. These adorable adjustable hats can be made out of any theme : frog and lilly pad, owl and tree, frog and insect, baby animal to adult animal, etc. I selectively choose who is allowed to be a bee and who is allowed to be a flower based on the homogenous ability (shape) groups shown in the prior post found here. For example, Triangles (low) and Circles (focus) will be bees and Rectangles (high) and Squares (medium) will be flowers. This way, there is always a structure to the pairings. This avoids the ol' Blind Leading the Blind scenario.

partner talk in kindergarten
Partner Talk Hats -
Match Snails to the
Here is an alternate to the hats I pictured above with flowers and bees. Match snails to leaves. Print out and glue to strips for a quick, easy alternative.

Update July 9th : I just returned from my local Dollar Tree store and found these 3 gems. 
structured language practice - partner talk
Partner  Talk Cards (and Hats)

Milk and cookies ! Ketchup and mustard! Cheese and Mice! So cute. I'm definitely going to make a new set of covers out of the mice and cheese. However, I'm going to laminate and save the other two sets in their card format and pass them out by hand when I want to do partner talk activities. Hope you can make it out to Dollar Tree and snag these up too! 

Back to School Basics: Guided Reading Groups and The Classroom Rug Seating Chart

For the first month or two of Kindergarten I carry on and keep children in "color groups" which are heterogenous ability groups. After I have assessed students and given them time to become familiar with class routines and teacher expectations, I sort them into "shape groups." These groups are homogenous ability groups (phonics and phonemic awareness). I make a hooplah out of it and get the kids excited. It motivates them to learn their new shape groups. I also change the classroom rug seating chart to structure what level student is near what level student.
Partner Talk
Classroom Rug Seating Chart - Ideal for Partner Talk
Rectangle Team is the High Group
Square Team is the Middle Group
Triangles are the Low Group
Circles are the Focus Group

This seating arrangement is ideal for Partner Talk during shared reading or writing! I have students in Row 2 and Row 4 turn to the person directly behind them to answer the questions I present to the group. This works well because it has students chatting with a partner who is not too far away from their literacy ability level. I still continue to use color groups simultaneously so that arrangement looks like this:
Classroom Rug Seating Chart
Homogenous and Heterogeneous Groups
Throughout the school year I change the Classroom rug seating chart various times throughout the school year. For certain, over each of the 4 Quarter breaks my district calendar has scheduled. This ensures that students don't get stuck in their shape groups and are allowed to move up or down to receive explicit instruction at their level. Here is my student list I keep in my Teacher Binder.
Kindergarten Teacher Binder
Guided Reading List
In addition to having my master list in my teacher binder, I post CHARTS of who is in which shape group so that children can learn their shape groups easier. But, most importantly, so that a substitute teacher or student teacher can easily see who is in which group. Yut!
Shape Groups
Guided Reading Groups
Shape Groups
Heterogeneous Grouping
Shape clipart from here. Border clipart from here.

Back to School Basics: Writing Center Groups

Once I have my class separated into 4 color groups, I use these groups to sort them during writing centers. When I was a boot (aka new teacher), I didn't implement writing centers. I sent kids to read their book bags or draw a picture etc. Big mistake! Writing centers are brain friendly and it will pay off in the long run. Needless to say, I'm very Gung Ho for writing centers.

Since my color groups are based on the carpet seating chart and my seating chart is based on students' behavior they are heterogeneous (not by academic ability). Here is the chart I created to assign students to their writing centers.
When I begin the school year, I only use the page shown on the right side: computer (, chalkboard, magnet letters, and magna doodles. I add the second page with 3 more writing centers after January (pocket chart sentences, letter stamping, book bags). 
Magnet Letters

Magna Doodle
The rule for each writing center is that students cannot scribble or draw. They must write. They are allowed to write the room, write student names, capital letters, lowercase letters, sight words, color words, number words, sentences, etc. I send my students to their writing center after they complete their writing assignment in their journals. As they are still learning their color groups, I post student names on the color cards instead of just writing "red team" or "orange team," etc. 
Color Groups