Here’s a typical morning in my classroom:
At 9:15, Miss Slinger arrives, and she puts the sign-in book (a spiral notebook numbered on two pages 1-20), pencils, and tub of journals on the sand table, which is right inside the door. She also moves all the magnet nametags from the “Who’s Here?” section on the side of my desk, to the “Who’s Not?” section.
At 9:30, I open the classroom door, propping it open with a big red chair. I sit in the chair and greet the children as they arrive and start putting their things in their cubbies. Some of them stop by for hugs, and if I remember, I bring out the hand sanitizer, and give everyone who comes in a squirt. I collect Friday folders, give hugs, remind children not to leave their backpacks in the middle of the hall, and send the breakfast eaters down to the cafeteria. The children walk past me to the door and line up to sign in. Yes, sometimes they have to wait in a line, and they do a really good job of it. Occasionally if the line doesn’t seem to be moving, I’ll go check in with the child who is laboriously writing his name, and give that child a little assistance.
After signing in, the children move their nametags to “Who’s Here?”, grab their journals, and have a seat at the table of their choosing. I don’t direct what they do in their journals, only that they go to the next empty page, do some writing and/or drawing, and do their best work. Miss Slinger puts a date stamp on the page when they are done, and then they get a book to read or some extra paper to draw on. We have small white boards and markers, and many children use those at this time.
At about 9:45 I turn off the lights for cleanup, and then we gather in the meeting area for centers time meeting. I have a tub under my chair where I have — if organized enough on that particular day — gathered together materials showing what will be available in each center. Today I showed them sea animal coloring pages for the art center, beads and number tags for the games center, a number activity for the math center, and Under the Sea math booklets for the writing center. Then I pulled out a clothespin from a bag, and read off the name of that child. “Where would you like to work today?” Each child in turn tells me where he wants to go, and then puts the clothespin on the centers time pocket chart next to the card for that center.
Some children headed for the blocks or the house as usual, a few went to the sand table or to the book corner, and four lucky kids ended up with me at the math center. Miss Mellow, the afternoon teacher, had made a sheet divided into three vertical sections, one labeled with a large number 1, the next with 2, and the last with 3. The children traced the numbers with white glue, and then covered them in beans. Then they used large foam stickers to place one sticker by the number 1, two stickers with the number 2, and three with the 3. I was surprised by how easy this was for them, and only had to talk it through with a few children who put one sticker in each section (“one, two, three, look teacher, that’s three!” — which is perfectly logical, if you think about it). Most of the class cycled through the math center today. They are allowed to move to a new center whenever they want to; they just have to move their clothespin to another center that has room.
Miss Slinger sat at the writing center with four girls who wanted to work on their Under the Sea number booklets (kindergarten-level worksheets from the Learning Page). They stayed their the whole time. Our special ed teacher was visiting, and she sat mostly in blocks with the student she is working with.
I turned off the lights for a five minute warning at 10:45 (a bit late), and reminded the kids that after the five minute warning, they cannot switch centers. I established this rule to prevent children from hearing the warning that time is almost up, and abandoning a mess at their current center to go play somewhere else. The class knows this rule and yet consistently tests it. I had to send several kids back to their original centers, and tried not to laugh at their four-year-old righteous indignation.
Then we cleaned up and sat down for morning meeting. At morning meeting we sing our good morning song, practice the letters and sounds we’ve learned, sing the months of the year song and update the calendar, count how many days we’ve been in school on a hundreds pocket chart (each day we turn over a new number — today’s number was 69), and then add a straw for today in the place value pocket chart. I counted out the straws in the ones pocket (nine), and then when I put them back in, we always say, “Wait a minute, that doesn’t say nine!” in chorus. “What number does that say?” I ask, and the children answer, “eight!” Then I flip over the new number so it says nine. Then we read our morning message, which follows a rigid pattern, so that children can memorize it and “read” it with me. Some of the kids actually do start to read it by the end of the year. Next we sing the math song of the week, and then I do some academic instruction. Today we read a book about MLK and discussed him some more, and we named different kinds of sea animals from yet another poster. (Miss Slinger is running out of wall space to put up all my posters.)
After that (11:15) we had activity time, which on Tuesdays is Readers’ Workshop. I missed it today, because I had to leave to do a mentoring meeting before an observation I will do tomorrow, so a sub who was in the building and available came in to do it. At 11:45 we had story time, and I read our new Special Story, The Signmaker’s Assistant, for the first time. When we were done discussing the story, we held hands in a circle and sang the school family song, and then we went out to bundle up for the buses home at 12:15.