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December 18, 2006

Taking Charge

We work hard to keep students focused and engaged during circle time. Given their short attention spans, we need to incorporate plenty of songs, movements, and upbeat transitions to make sure those twenty minutes are productive. Today I decided to see how well they knew our routines by stopping before each transition and asking them what happens next. I shrugged my shoulders exclaiming, “Oh no! I don’t know what we are doing today. What should we do? Should we just sit here and look at each other until we get picked up?” Despite the obvious attraction of an all day staring contest marathon, the students opted to take charge and suggest we look at the schedule. We then decided it would be a good idea to have a Schedule Manager to remind the class daily. What would I do without them? 

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Great idea Sophia. I have our schedule posted and we discuss it at the beginning of the day. Doing what you did is a great way to work on sequencing with something that is personal and they can relate. I'm always doing sequencing with stories and charts. I'll try this in January when we return after break. It will be a great way to get back into our routine.

Good to hear. Let me know how it goes in January. Can you tell us more about your story charts? I do some shared writing with the children telling me what happened in the beginning, middle, and end. What is your approach?

Sophia,
I use a couple of go charts(graphic organizers). One is listing Title, Author, Illustrator, Photographer, Vocabulary. A go chart that is used in the upper grades, I modified for our use. On the chart is a triangle, under that is a square, under that is a circle. For the triangle we discuss and list the title, setting and the characters. For the square, we discuss and list 3 main events in the story. In prek, I ask them what happened in the beginning, middle, and then the end. With the circle, you list if there was a problem and how it was solved. I also write out nursery rhymes or simple songs with picture clues. I laminate the chart. Use velcro to add the pictures. After several readings, I take the pictures off and pass them to several students. We reread the chart and the kids help each other to add the pictures in the right order. I'll try to take some pictures and send it to you by email tomorrow. It is our party day Wednesday, so it may be Thursday.

Thanks. That would be great.

We are performing "The Gingerbread Man" and having a party of Thursday, so I understand.

We are also, coincidentally, doing a "beginning, middle, end" chart for "Caps for Sale" tomorrow morning.

A couple of my kids have been having a hard time with transistions lately. They were doing fine up until a week or two ago, but now they drag their heels and even cry to the point of tantrums when we move from one activity to the next. Sometimes I know that they are wrapped up in what they are doing and do not want to move on, but at other times they are finished and still do not want to move on. Any suggestions??

Kim,

Great to hear from you! I find that songs, time limits, and whole class rewards work really well. Let's call it the STR approach to transitions.

Songs: 1. I choose popular nursery rhymes that force them to move from one area to the next in a fun way (e.g., Little Miss Muffet and Hey Diddle Diddle). I set clear expectations for how they "run away" after being frightened by the spider to make sure it doesn't get out of control; 2. Transition songs like "clean up clean up everybody everywhere, clean up clean up everybody do your share", "read, read read a book we are getting smart" for when we are moving from independent reading to circle time, and "my hands and feet are folded, my back is straight and tall, my eyes are on my teacher, I make no noise at all" for getting ready for circle time.

Time Limits and Whole Class Rewards: I either use a kitchen timer or just count down from ten, depending on the transition. If they are ready when time is up, we add a ticket to our whole class ticket box. For each ten tickets we get a prize as a class (e.g., ten minute dance party, special shared reading books from the literacy coach, special new fruits or veggies we haven't yet tasted, etc.).

Let me know what you think and, if you decide to use any of the strategies, how well they work.

Sophia

Kim,

Since it is only a couple of kids you could either revamp your systems as I suggested or develop individualized reward systems to go along with the strategies I suggested. You may also want to develop songs or reward systems based on their individual interests, since it is only a couple of them.

I hope this helps. Thanks for your interest in the blog. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Sophia

Thanks for all of your suggestions! We start back with kids tomorrow, so I will plan to use some of your transition tricks to help them. I am looking forward to a fresh start and a good start, so I know I will spend a great deal of time tomorrow reminding them of our procedures & routines. I have really enjoyed reading your blog. This is only my second year teaching so I am always looking for great ideas to use in my classroom.

Kim,

Great to hear from you. I look forward to hearing how everything goes. I will be posting a piece tonight about my first day back. Thank you for your ongoing interest in the blog.

Regards,
Sophia

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