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

Back to School Basics : Creating Heterogenous Groups with a Classroom Rug Seating Chart

Map of my Classroom's actual carpet

Once school gets rolling, I group my students in color groups. Before my district purchased this carpet for my classroom, I had 6 children in 4 color groups (red, orange, yellow, green) and the carpet had more than enough of each colored square for each child. However, THIS new carpet only has 5 squares of each color ... so it made things difficult for groups of 6. My solution was to ignore the carpet colors and create my own student groups in horizontal rows.

How I form my groups using the seating chart. 
The first row is one team. The second row is the next and so on and so forth. I still call them color teams because old habits die hard! When it comes to using color groups I'm a lifer! For example, in the images above the children in the first oval are in the Red Team. The second oval makes up the orange team, third oval is yellow team, and last oval is the green team. Once I solved this hurdle with the new carpet everything fell into place and I was able to move forward with teaching kids their assigned groups which bring me to ... color necklaces.
During guided reading they wear colored necklaces. Shown above. I cut a construction paper to fit inside these plastic name tag necklaces in four colors: red, orange, yellow, green along with a white strip of card stock (or an index card) with their name written clearly in black. This helps them to remember their teams. Once Kindergarten has been in session for about 3 weeks they can remember their color group and no longer need to wear the necklaces during guided reading (unless we have a substitute). I've used the same Lakeshore Clear Necklaces since my first year of teaching 8 years ago. They're pricey but very durable. 

Back to School Basics: Classroom Rug Seating Chart

After a full first day of teaching, I create a carpet seating chart. I base children's assigned spots on several factors but mostly on behavior. Then, comes the tricky part ... making sure the kids learn their spot! I drew, colored, and laminated a poster of the carpet and use post its to "write" kids's names in each spot. This way, I can easily reassign spots if children are not behaving like 5 Star Listeners where I originally placed them. If you're school uses Promethean Boards AND you have the same carpet I do this Flipchart will come in handy. Click this link and you're Good to Go! "Carpet Seating Chart Flipchart" "Seating Chart on Word Doc" (If you have the other Lakeshore rug, these bloggers have a great seating chart for free, too. Click Here or Here)
The hand drawn and laminated seating chart looks exactly like my classroom carpet. I purposefully did not assign any children to the center column and center rows for two reasons. 1 - The children need a way to walk up to the front of the room when I call on them and not have to worry about stepping on another child. 2- The carpet squares are too small for most kids! I purposely assign "taller & bigger" kids to squares bordering "empty" squares so they have space to spread out. Also, average size kindergarteners appreciate being able to scoot over a few inches away from a child that's too close to them as well. 

Back to School Basics: The Classroom Carpet

The Classroom Carpet! It really is a learning environment within a learning environment. Here is a picture of the exact carpet in my Kindergarten classroom. On the first day, I allow the kids to sit wherever they like.  I tell them that tomorrow they will have an assigned square. Then, I turn their attention to a poster I have pinned to the wall directly in front of the carpet. It's up high,  front and center.

We chant each star's sentence repeatedly and add a kinesthetic movement to each step. Basically mimic the movements shown in each of the cute characters. Once we all look like the child in step 5, I have the kids freeze as I explain we come to school to learn and if we're not seated like "Five Star Listeners" when the teacher is talking, a friend is sharing a story, the teacher is reading a book, etc., then we can't learn. For the first few weeks of school, every time I ring the bell we chant the steps. By the end of the second day, they all know it by heart. From that day on, I display the poster on my Promethean Board during transition times to indicate that I want them seated on the carpet like five star listeners by the time I'm done counting backwards from 20. Flipchart with Five Star Poster, "Self Adhesive Letters" They get a kick out of chanting the poster and bond over the camaraderie thus creating an "Esprit de Corps."

For kids who struggle to sit like five star listeners I start them on these behavior cards and send them home each day. Incentive Chart

My Very First Post

I am Miss Campos and I have taught Kindergarten for 8 years now. Lucky for me, I've earned my good cookies from each and every one of those eight years in the Kindergarten Corps. This blog will be dedicated to sharing everything I can with you all starting Back to School Basics to Last Day of Kindergarten Promotion Day with a few Marine Corps jargon thrown in along they way. I'll be posting as I teach this 2013 - 2014 school year. Stay tuned. Semper Fidelis.