Sunday, September 8, 2013

Free Choice Rant and Some Apples!

The other day, I was talking to one of my past students who is now in 4th grade.  Let me tell you the names of  three of her five teachers in her short little schooling career so far:  Mrs. Kisloski (Kindergarten), Mrs. Kozlowski (third), and Mrs. Kurkowski (fourth).  No kidding.   We only have about 22 classroom teachers in our school Pre-K to 5th grade- and three of us have these crazy K names! (Mrs. Kurkowski  married into that name this summer. ;)    So- if your name is K(something)ski, you are probably a shoo-in for a job in my school.  Apparently, they can't get enough of us! ;)

I have been busy making my schedule grid for this year- figuring out where and when I am going to fit in all my goodies each day, every day.  My schedule changed from last year, so I have been playing around with getting everything in there.  As I have worked and reworked my schedule, I find that whenever I put in the words "Free Choice" I feel a pang of guilt.  I had to sit myself down here and type it out. 

"Free Choice" is essential for my students.  Period.  I will not get rid of a small chunk of time that they can choose activities, interact with others, and practice all the wonderful Character Education skills I want them to learn and use for the rest of their lives.   We would never teach, teach, teach what a capital letter is, what reading strategies are, or what a number line looks like- without giving our children lots of opportunities to work with those things and practice using those skills we teach.  It is no different when we  teach skills like using kind words, sharing, negotiating, and problem solving while interacting with others.  To acquire and perfect these skills, children need time to practice them.




With the CCSS and Six Shifts in ELA and Math- I feel the pressure to fit in more, more, more-but I never want to forget what good teaching is.  We all know what it is.  We just know.  Without a balance of academics, relationships, exploration, independence, free choice- and some fun- the standards are just a checklist to try to get done, rather than meaningful content to teach.  I remember in the late 80's when our district switched to a curriculum which taught cursive writing in Kindergarten.  I went for a week of training, and was completely taken with the presenter.  I still remember the black and white little jumper she wore.  She could have read the phonebook  and sold me on that curriculum.  Her dynamic personality was the key to her being a successful teacher, not the program.  Later, our district decided that cursive in K wasn't the way to go, and we moved on to something different.  Curriculums come and go, initials on programs change all the time- but the programs are similar, modified a bit, but if they were once good, sound teaching ideas, they still are.  Math Their Way was fabulous- then sort of went by the wayside.  Now many of the "new" math ideas I see look very much like Math Their Way.  That program had good teaching concepts, and they really don't go out of style. 

Free Choice time is also an invaluable chunk of time for me with my students for several reasons. I have a couple this year who aren't used to sharing anything,  and who whine, cry, don't know how to use those kind voices to talk to or make friends.  I can model all I want to in whole group lessons, but they need the chance to practice playing with real, live friends. Then, I can observe, praise, and teach informally as they play.

I also use this time to work one on one with students.  It is actually a Free Choice/Art Center/RTI time- because writing that makes me feel better. This coming week I will be checking skills and working on writing names.  One. on. one.   For me, there is nothing better than having one student beside me and helping him/her form each letter correctly. I can see if the student really understands how to write each letter.  In a whole group- or even small group- I feel like it is hit and miss. I don't have that uninterrupted time with a student where I know we covered each letter.
I guess the need for "Free Choice" time never ends.  When I come home and read all of your wonderful blogs, I love reading and sharing educational ideas with all of you.  It is the most valuable professional development going- the "common core."  However, I also love hearing about your new homes, your own children's successes, your weight loss progress, your tough days that we can share and get through together, and your silly situations that we can laugh about together- the real stuff- the "free choice." We all need some "free choice" in our days.

OK- I am done with that rant! I feel better.   I  am actually planning lots of academics for the week- so don't worry! :) It is the start of COLOR WEEKS!  Tomorrow is RED day.  I love reading  Ten Apples Up On Top!

Some years, I have the children cut out apples and glue them above their picture. This year, I found stickers.  We are going this route.  I am going to have them count each one for me to check one to one correspondence.
I have apple magnets that I use for quick images counting. I quickly show  a number of apples on my magnetic board and the children tell me how many I have on the board.  I will probably only use images to five for this lesson since it is day four of school. :)

Michele Moss has a free Smartboard lesson at her TPT store using tens frames to go with this book.
My friend Amber Monroe from School is a Happy Place has a fabulous freebie at her store!
Ten Frame Apples Up On Top {A FREE Ten Frame & Equation MaTen Frame Apples Up On Top {A FREE Ten Frame & Equation Ma

Rebecca Stone has a great free emergent reader at her TPT store.  It's a perfect addition to our apple lesson.

Apple Picking Emergent Reader FREE                Apple Picking Emergent Reader FREE              Apple Picking Emergent Reader FREE
We are also doing some apple printing, which I will show tomorrow.  I am introducing "I" and "like," and working on writing names - forming those letters correctly!  We will be taking our Red class picture and, of course, our CRAZY Red class picture.
Here is one more thing I made I thought I would show you.  I saw the idea on Pinterest from Teach Beside Me.    She used it for color sorting, numbers, or patterning paper clips.  I thought it was great! I made a magnet stick for all my students.  I had some red/yellow magnet dots that will be great for adding. I also thought these would work well for spelling sight words with magnetic letters. 

Have a wonderful week! 

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