Teacher Feature: {Kinder Learning Garden}

We are so excited to be featured on TBA!  We are huge fans of all you bloggers out there and
we LOVE teaching kindergarten and sharing ideas with fellow teachers!
A Little About Us
We are Joanne & Suzanne and we have been team-teaching kindergarten together since 2000.   Team-teaching is like a marriage, you have to give, take and then give some more.  However, not all team-teaching partnerships work.   Believe us, we have seen many go down in flames over the past 13 years.  Thankfully ours is flourishing.
We share two classrooms, but we each have our own set of 24 students.  The great thing about team-teaching is that for the majority of the day there are two credentialed teachers in the classroom working with the students.  We support each other throughout the day and when we are not teaching, we share in the "prep" work!
We truly love working with kindergarten students and couldn’t imagine teaching any other grade.  We feel the first year of school should be a time of learning, wonder, and fun for both child and family. Our goal is to give each child the tools he/she will need to be successful in a safe and nurturing school environment.  The balance between what is developmental and teaching the standards is difficult, but we do the best we can and are always looking for the best teaching practices available.
Oh and we almost forgot to mention that we are both mothers.  Between the two of us there are 5 kids ranging in age from two to ten.  So our lives are very busy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!  
Independent Work = Success!!
Our goal is to engage students in age appropriate activities that support the development of fine motor skills while meeting the kindergarten standards.  For our feature we wanted to share something that we feel is instrumental to the success of our kindergarten students.  We choose to have students working independently doing hands-on activities versus worksheets whenever possible.  These hands-on activities provide students with the opportunity to learn to follow multi-step directions and problem solve.  As everyone knows this is at the heart of the new Common Core Standards.   As an added bonus, students end up with a unique project they can be proud of.
How Does It Work?
All students receive the same materials and guided instruction through modeling but the result of each student’s artwork is unique.  Our independent activities consist mainly of making Theme Books. Depending on the theme we are studying, the students make a book page everyday.  This provides the students with an opportunity to be an illustrator.  
Each book usually consists of 5 - 8 pages.
     Through book making the students:          
  1. Strengthen fine motor skills
  2. Learn to follow multiple-step directions
  3. Learn to problem solve
  4. Discover spacial relationships
  5. Learn to work independently
  6. Learn colors & shapes
  7. Learn to cut circles,
ovals & triangles from squares & rectangles
How to handle passing out Theme Book pieces to students can be very time consuming as well. An easy way to cut down on wasting your time is to teach the students to get their own supplies and this includes getting their own pieces to make a Theme Book.  We have a small round table set-up in the center of the room with a blue line on the floor next to it.  Students know to line-up and get their pieces they need from the plastic box.  All of the pieces are in individual plastic containers to keep them organized and easy for the students to identify.  You will be amazed at how quickly students are able to get their work done while you are teaching them to be responsible and organized.  
Those are two skills they will need throughout their lives.
Keeping your classroom organized from theme to theme can be tricky.  We have come up with a few ways to help us stay prepared and ahead of the game.  We have our helping parents or volunteers prepare our Theme Books a week or two ahead.  We have them cut all the pieces and put them in big Ziploc bags labeled with the page numbers.  We store all of our bags in a drawer with the page blacklines.  All we have to do is grab the bag with the pieces and corresponding page and we are ready to make the page.  There is no last minute cutting nor running around and looking for pieces.  This is a huge time saver!
We hope we have given you a few ideas to get your classroom off to an organized and successful start.
A huge thank you to TBA for having us!
Please head on over and check out all of our other fun ideas.
Joanne & Suzanne

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