In this post, you’ll find a set of FREE blackline masters to create an authentic kindergarten portfolio designed to help document children’s developmental and academic progress. I have also outlined what I do during the first week of school, which should help you figure out how to use them!
But first, just a word or two about my vacay! Last week, my husband and I were blessed enough to spend a wonderful week on the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii! We hadn’t been there in many years, and enjoyed it thoroughly. But like all good things, the wonderful summer and our beautiful vacation had to end, and now it is back to work!
I already spent my first day back in the classroom trying to push the furniture back into place after all of the cleaning that was done over the summer. The cubbies and storage units for the toys and supplies are such heavy pieces of furniture, and they always seem to wind up on the opposite side of the room from where they belong. Luckily, I managed to round up our very helpful new custodian and his assistant, who spent 25 minutes helping me move it all back into place. For some reason, my classroom also received the high honor of becoming the dumping ground for all of the furniture and supplies that were moved out of the kindergarten foyer and kitchen, so I had to move all of that back into place as well. The air conditioner in my classroom broke sometime over the summer, so it was just a little hot in there, but miraculously there was already a repairman there this morning fixing it! So now I am saying good-bye to the summer and Getting Ready for the Inevitable: a new school year- (hooray!) and tons of work (boo!). I guess when the going gets rough, I’ll keep looking at these gorgeous photos! Aren’t they beautiful?
And so… here we go! Our first day back for teachers is on Wednesday, August 17, and then school starts August 22. We are experimenting this year with having the meeting that we usually have with the parents on the first day of school on the SUNDAY night before school starts from 4:00 to 6:00! So I am really hoping that this will ease up the pressure of having all of those parents AND children there on the first day of school together at the same time. That way, the parents should be able to drop the children off and go- hopefully! We’ll see how it goes. In any case, if you would like to see what I do on my first day of school, please see my blog entry on Aug. 10, 2008. I do pretty much the same thing each year! I thought I would blog this time on what I do during the rest of the first week of school as well. I hope it is useful to you!
1. Kindergarten Portfolio Samples
Each year during the first two weeks of school, the teachers at my school and I have always faithfully collected portfolio samples to help document the children’s entry level abilities as far as written work is concerned. These portfolio samples are taken again at the end of each trimester and shown at parent conferences. I always find this extremely helpful in conferencing with parents later in the year, especially at the conference that takes place at the end of the first trimester. It is particularly important for the parents of the children that are truly struggling, because sometimes, the only notable progress that can be clearly seen is in that of fine motor skills! Because we always have a few children that have never had any preschool experiences and few literacy experiences at home, it is nice to have something to show parents of these children that can almost always show a dramatic improvement in just a few months time. Children from backgrounds such as these often have never even held a pencil or a pair of scissors before, and so if you can document their beginning struggles as they make their first attempts to copy even a single letter, and then show their parents how far they have come, you will surely look like the hard working teacher that you really are! And THEN- even if they have only learned half of the alphabet after all of your hard work-(God FORBID!)- you will still be able to genuinely praise the child for some real growth, and that feels good for both parent AND child! (I like this because the children are expected to attend the conferences with the parents at our school, and it’s hard when there isn’t a lot of good news.)
Our Kindergarten portfolio includes:
1. Alphabet Copy- (capitals and lower case)
2. Number Copy- (1-30)
3. Name Writing- (from memory, and they must do the first and last name on lines by the end of the year.)
4. Visual Perception Shape Copying Exercises- (Two pages- one simpler, one harder)
5. A Self Portrait
6. A Writing Sample
7. A Coloring, Cutting, and Tracing Sample (Use any that you have)
I have recreated each of these pages that our district uses so that I can them to you here today. The copies I have been using for years were hand drawn by a retired teacher and are copies of old copies, and are in terrible shape! So it will be good to have some nice, professional looking portfolio pages of my own to use now as well. I especially enjoy seeing the children’s progress in how they are able to copy the Visual Perception Shapes. At the beginning of the year, only a few children are crossing the midline and are able to make the most complicated shapes. But as their visual perception and fine motor skills improve, there is an immense improvement in what they are able to accomplish on this. Also, if you try them all, you will notice that at the beginning of the year, these tasks take some of the children quite a long time, and some of them may not even be able to finish. But by the end of the year, they are whizzing through them in no time flat! So it really is a fun thing to watch as a progression, especially if you are at all interested in child development.
Just so you know, as a management technique, we usually xerox the pages in sets of four, all stapled together at the beginning of the year with the dates already on them. So for example, before school starts, each student will have a packet of four Lower Case Alphabet Copy papers stapled together. The top copy says “Entry Level” on the date; the second says, “First Trimester;” the third says “Second Trimester;” and the fourth says “Third Trimester.” And it is the same for each and every one of these pages; they are all copied and stapled into sets of four with the approximate dates already on them, just for the sake of expediency. Then, all I have to do is pass them out and make sure that EVERYONE gets their name on them!
Also, when the children have to do the name writing paper, they CANNOT copy their name at all. They HAVE to do it from memory. You may have to take away their name tags, if you use any! And be careful when you pass out the name papers again at the end of the first trimester, because they may realize that they really “blew it” at the beginning of the school year and try to erase it and fix it after the fact. If they are unable to write their names at all at the beginning of the year, you’ll have to note the child’s name on the back of the paper, obviously, or the child will copy it. OR… they may just copy it exactly the way the did it at the beginning of the year- completely wrong AGAIN! So I usually give this test to them individually and simply cover up the name sample that they wrote at the beginning of the year with another piece of paper.
I always feel a bit awkward when I give the children the Writing Sample page at the beginning of the year, because almost NONE of them can actually write anything other than their name and a few other words or letters. They often sit and do practically nothing, and just keep asking me what to do- even though I thoroughly model what I expect. It’s a pretty unreasonable expectation for most of my students, but I tell them that if the only thing they know how to do is write their name and make a picture, then that is good enough. And if they can only make a few letters or scribbles and make a picture, then that is good enough, too. For those that are starting school with zero writing skills, I do very much appreciate having a solid record of this fact, so I am willing to put them through it- but only as gently as possible. It makes a great visual representation of their progress from the beginning of the year to the end, and makes ALL of us feel wonderful when all is said and done! If you have never kept a portfolio of your students’ work, I highly recommend it!
2. What to Do on the First Week of Kindergarten
As I mentioned above, I outlined what I do on the first day of school quite thoroughly in a previous blog post. Here is what I do during the rest of the week. And those portfolio papers mentioned above come in QUITE handy! Keep in mind that my district allows the children to attend Kindergarten for only a half day for the first four weeks, so this is a half day schedule. I always plan on being very flexible with my lesson plans for the first couple of weeks, because you never know what types of issues will come up that will need to be dealt with right away. So anything that doesn’t get finished will just have to wait until tomorrow, and that’s just the way it is.
8:00-8:15 – Outside Recess
8:15-8:30 – Enter classroom; take attendance. Do the flag salute. Learn about the calendar and update it.
(This may take more than 15 minutes, since it is our first day doing it. I am shooting for 15-20 minutes, though.)
8:30-8:45 – Sing the songs for numbers zero through five (from Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes) that we should have learned on the first day of school. Learn the songs for numbers six, seven, and the circle song from the same CD. Learn the songs for the colors red and yellow from Sing and Spell Vol. 2.
8:45-8:55 – Read Bono Goes to School to review the rules and illustrate them with my monkey puppet. Sorry, this book is out of print! I am working on a book of my own about learning the rules, and it will feature a dog, so get your dog puppets ready if you like this idea! (**UPDATE 9/9/15** I wrote a book called Wiggles Learns the Rules at School! Check it out here!) Otherwise, if you are following along with me and looking for ideas, you may want to review your classroom rules at this time with a story and talk about them with a puppet. See my blog entry on the first day of school for more details on this.
8:55-9:05 – Explain how to do the Alphabet Copy Upper Case page, and fully demonstrate the entire thing from beginning to end, verbalizing what I am doing as I go along. Example: “I am making a letter A! I start at the top and then make a diagonal line…” etc. I have found that if I only do the first few letters, many children believe that they also only need to do the first few letters! Also, if you have copied all four pages and stapled them together, then make sure they know to do ONLY the first page on top, or some will attempt to do them all. I also show them where to put it when they are done, where to put the pencil away, and how I push my chair back in. After that, is it okay that I go play with the toys in the room? NO! And believe me, I make that VERY clear. The ONLY thing that they may choose to play with when they are done with the paper is the Unifix cubes, pattern blocks, or a book. That’s it. I choose a child that I feel (or hope!) won’t cry to demonstrate this for me. I have the child make the right choice (the Unifix cubes, etc.) and I praise him for it. Then I have him make the wrong choice (dump out a box of toys) and then I put him in time out and make him sit there and watch another child play with the cubes.
This visual representation of what will happen if they disobey is very important to most children, I think. They are used to seeing and understanding (hopefully) what they watch on television rather than following verbal directions. So if you can keep this in mind when you give directions and teach, you are likely to have better success getting them to cooperate. Then, before you send them to go do the paper, show them how they will freeze when you ring a bell. All hands stop and go up, and their bodies FREEZE. Praise them for this, while a couple of children demonstrate. Make sure you choose a “rascally” child to be a demonstrator, so that both you and he know that he understands your expectations. Then have them show you how they clean up the toys, and that cleaning up doesn’t look like playing. 🙂 Then make sure they all WALK to get their papers and pencils to do the project. It helps a lot if the tables are already set with the supplies that everyone will need to do each project, so if you can manage to get it all set up before school or during a recess break, do it, or have an aide or volunteer help out with that.
9:40-9:45 – Explain how to make a birthday crown. I fully demonstrate the whole project, from beginning to end, and verbalize what I am doing as I go along. I buy my crowns from Discount School Supply. We paint them with Liquid Water Colors and then glue on some rhinestones. After that, we put on some happy birthday stickers that I print out on address labels. I always make a couple of extra crowns, because there are always a few new kids during the school year, and I keep these crowns for the children to wear on their birthday. They only get to take it home at that time.
Just as before, make sure that the children know what they can play with when they are finished, but make it something different this time, such as puzzles, Lincoln Logs, and Gelboards, for example. Go through the whole routine just as you did for the Alphabet Copying paper, but do it more quickly this time. They should always know what they can do when they are done BEFORE you send them off to do any project, and it should not be something that is more fun than the actual project, or they will rush through it just to get a chance to play with it.
9:45-10:05 – Make the Birthday Crown, and then clean up.
10:05 – Explain what will happen outside at recess and remind the children of the rules before they go out. Most importantly, remind them of what happens when the bell rings outside, and how they should clean up their things when it rings and then come inside, and where they should line up. Remember, many parents do NOT enforce the “time to come inside now” thing, and some children are not accustomed to an adult that means what they say the first time he or she says it! They are also used to arguing with that adult (or ignoring them completely) when told that playtime is over. So make it clear that this is not acceptable before you release the children to play, and what will happen if they don’t come when called. I, at least, find it very embarrassing to be the teacher whose children (or child) won’t come in after recess! So I remind them EVERY DAY for a while.
10:05-10:25 – Recess/Snack
10:25-10:40 – Story time
Before we begin story time, we address any recess issues that came up here first. Then I usually read a book such as “No, David!” or Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten. There are so many wonderful back to school books- I just pick one off the shelf! Vanessa Levin’s blog Pre-K Pages has a great post on favorite read alouds this week, so check it out! All of the readers are sharing their top ten all time story books. Great idea, Vanessa!
10:40-11:10 – Playtime
I explain ALL of the rules thoroughly before releasing them to play, including reviewing the freeze bell, and what cleaning up looks like as opposed to playing. This is important! I also talk about what toys and materials are okay to play with and which ones are off limits, such as my teaching supplies. Also, we cannot dump things out and then walk away to dump out another set of toys. I review this every day during the first week of school.
11:10-11:15 – Clean up time!
11:15-11:20 – Pass out things to go home, and talk about dismissal procedures. I always discuss again what is going to happen when I open the door and we see our parents. Will we run when we see them? NO! Do you get up if mom calls your name? NO! We wait until the teacher calls our name and only then can we go. We can NOT- EVER- leave without telling the teacher. Children are always trying to slip past me as I speak to a parent at the door. And they are so small that they can do it. And sometimes their parents are NOT out there calling them, either. NOTHING is worse than losing a child- NOTHING. So go over this thoroughly with the children, and make sure that parents understand your policy as well. Nobody leaves without telling the teacher, ever. It’s for the child’s safety.
Days Three, Four, and Five
My schedule for the rest of the week will be strikingly similar! I will be doing just about the very same thing every single day, but we will be doing a different portfolio paper each day, and sometimes more than one. I always do the story writing sample dead last, though, because it is the hardest. I try to get the name writing sample by the third day of school, because many learn this quickly and I want to document it if they didn’t know it on day one. And, that one goes so quickly that they can usually do the Visual Perception Paper as well also on the same day.
Each day has an art project to do, too. My first day project is our Self Portrait. This is a square of paper that the children cut the corners off of to form a circle. They then glue it down on a colored piece of paper and then decorate it to look like themselves. I do save these for the bulletin board, and then send them home with the entire portfolio papers on the very last day of school. They make a nice cover for the portfolio, along with a picture of the children on their first day of school. Don’t forget to take one of each child, and mark them off on a list so that you don’t miss anybody! They change so quickly, you’ll hardly recognize them at the end of the year when you look back at them. I will add a couple more songs each day as well: a new alphabet song each day, and a couple more number, color, and shape songs until we have covered them all. It won’t take long before each child has a favorite song, and the whole class is singing along so happily- I can’t wait to see it!
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