Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Our ECSE Classroom Schedule: Part Six - Closing Large Group (10:45am - 11:00am)

Hello, Everyone!  It is time to say goodbye to our classroom schedule series.  As the children come in from outside time, they all find their spot in large group. We then close our day with a daily recap and goodbyes.  

This is done a few different ways depending on the needs of the students.  It changes throughout the year to support novelty and progress.  Just think how many behaviors of disengagement would occur if we used the same goodbye process all year.  That being said, we do have to have balance.  We need to stick with the same goodbye routine long enough for students to understand the pattern and gain skills, but we don’t want it to become predictable and lose student interest. 

Therefore, today I will share a few variations on goodbye time.  I apologize as they are acted out at our home instead of the classroom but I think you will still get the idea. 

Our first version of goodbyes was this goodbye book that encourage waving.  

We use construction paper hands attached with a brad to visually show children the waving process.  On each page the teacher moves the construction paper hand from side to demonstrate waving.  

Followed by the Goodbye Ritual song from Conscious Discipline’s I Love Ritual CD-Volume 2 .  Note: I paired the Goodbye Ritual Song up with a powerpoint and social narrative of my son and his friend doing the actions to the song so that our students that had difficulty imitating gross motor movements would have a still life visual. 

Originally, we had one large yellow book to share the gross motor movements for each animal in the song.  But as certain students struggled with the imitation activity and attending to task, we added a few blue mini-books for those kids to follow along with.  

After the Goodbye Ritual Song, each student is called up one at a time to pick the goodbye of his/her choice from the goodbye apron below.  

The icons on the apron were ironed after I printed them on t-shirt transfer paper

Following each student's choice, he/she is dismissed to get his/her coat and book bag, and then line up to go home.  Note: In all of my goodbye examples, I have the students strategically dismissing after they do something in the front of the group so that their dismissal is staggered and the cubby area does not get to crowded.  

I say "strategically" because I call kids that have the ability to wait in line longer first while kids whom are better at waiting in their spots get called later.  One para waits at the cubbies to help kids get their things to go home and the other sits near the kids at group whom have the hardest time waiting.  

Here is a video example of Goodbye Ritual #1.  Again, use your imagination as the videos in this post are done in my home with my boys and my husband as the videographer since I no longer have a classroom of my own. :(  That being said, I think with a little imagination you will totally get the idea!!

The second version was created last year when we were working on teaching students to notice each other and say goodbye.  Each student had a copy of this book. 

Note:  The children were working on a variety of skills.  First, they were learning book handling and literacy skills as they each had their own book to follow along with.  Secondly, each page had a colored tape tab to reinforce color recognition and support fine motor skills in turning the pages.  Third, they were working on social skills as they found their friends and teachers, and used eye contact, waves, and verbal skills to say goodbye.

One of our students, who struggled with large group activities and looking at books, used this put-in tub with all the students and teachers photographs as her strength and interest was in put-in tasks.  It kept her engaged and focused during large group.

Following the book activity, we sang the following goodbye song to each student as the staff modeled saying goodbye and the students learned how to do so.  Note the song also works on calling friends and teachers by name and using the appropriate pronoun with names- he/she and his/her. 
It's time to say goodbye to Timmy, 
It is time to say goodbye to Timmy, 
How was his day? How was his day? 
He had a ____ day today!

The students then checked out by putting their photo in the tin can that represent how they felt about their day.  Did they feel happy, sad, okay, or angry about their day?  

Note: We used tin cans for this activity as several of our students enjoyed and were very good at put in tasks.  I purchased the tin cans at our local hardware store for $0.99.  They are empty paint tins!  You can get them in pint and gallon size.  We also use them for magnetic games.  
Click below to see a video example of Goodbye Ritual #2.

The third version is one I created a few years back based on the literacy work of Patti King-Debaun and Creative Communicating.  At that time, our external doorway was magnetic so I posted these magnetic icons on the door.  They are Boardmaker files that were printed on magnetic paper.   

After the students lined up to go home we would sing these words to the tune of "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" using early literacy and problem solving skills to add the correct pronouns and people into the song for each child.  

When the students got used to this version, we then changed it up a little to discuss what type of vehicle the students would be going home in using the magnetic icon below.

Click below to see an video example how Goodbye Ritual #3 works.  

Note: A modification you could use if you do not have a magnet door is printing these icons smaller and using a cookie sheet.  If you would like either version, send me a message. :)

The fourth version I'll share was created for my afternoon students who were returning from the previous year and needed something a little higher level than the goodbye book.  In this example, the students worked on spelling their first or last names depending on their level.  

You can access the board for this activity on Boardmaker Achieve or by emailing me. The song is sung to the tune of "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain".

To make for easy storage, I placed this goodbye version in a binder using page protectors. The other side of the binder had the morning classes goodbye waving book.  


The morning goodbye book was on the front of the binder going vertically and the afternoon goodbye book was on the back going horizontally.  

Following singing about each student, each student would come up one at a time and check out on an adapted version of a 5 Point Scale by Kari Dunn Buron based on the ideas of Conscious Discipline and the Feeling Buddies.

Click below to see an example of Goodbye Ritual #4.  

As the afternoon class matured and made progress, we moved on to other versions of checking out.  One was where the students worked throughout the day to earn gold tokens as a class and we then counted the tokens to see if we earned what was in the treasure box at the end of the day.  You can see more details about this version by clicking here.  

Following the token count, each student signed out at their level using this chart.  Some kids wrote the letters of their first name, some put the letters of their name in order, some did a combination of the two and others simply matched letters by color.   If they were past working with their first name, we moved them on to their middle and last name. 

 If you would like a copy of my sign out chart to revamp for your students, let me know!

And last but not least, here is a way I choose to have a K-5 classroom of students say goodbye at a week-long summer school program provided by TASN-ATBS.  Throughout the day, the students worked collectively to earn frog tokens.  Then at the end of the day, we put them all together and counted them as a class.  After seeing how many we earned, each child was responsible for reporting how many they earned using these leveled activities.  

Activity 1:  (the simplest level) Putting the frog tokens 
the class collected in the frog collection jar.  

Activity 2: The student reports how he/she feels about getting or not 
getting all the tokens using a modified five point scale.  

Activity 3: The student practices reading sight words to say if the class
 reached or did not reach their goal.  (Their goal was to earn 30 tokens.)

Activity 4: The student reports the exact number of tokens the class earned 
by circle the numbers on the chart and then filling then in the box. 

   Activity 5: The student finds the number the class earned on the 100s chart. 
Note that numbers 1 through 29 are red to show the class did not earn 
the amount needed for a prize and numbers 30 though 100 are green for go 

meaning the students get to open the frog pool with mystery prizes inside.  

Activity Six: The student graphs how many tokens were earned on a bar graph 
to compare the week's results. 

As I mentioned above if the class earned more than 30, they were able to open the frog pool and pick a prize.  Usually a choice between two items (bubble gum, fruit snacks, and small candies or party favors).  Note: the students do not know what is in the pool each day as there is motivation in the mystery of not knowing what the prize will be for the day!!

Each student comes up to report using their leveled activity and then gets to hang it on the chart below and pick their prize for the day (if the tokens were earned for the day).  After reporting and picking their prize, they get their belongs and line up for dismissal.  

You can see a video of this goodbye on the TASN-ATBS website under trainings on demand:  Leveling Large Group.  

That is it for now... See you later alligator! Until next time, make your goodbyes fun and functional for your students!!  Use the time to connect with your students as connecting always pays off.  CONNECTION=COOPERATION!  As shared by Dr. Becky Bailey, connections on the outside build connections on the inside!  Just what we want:)  

Goodbye For Real Now! Best Wishes,


Monday, September 1, 2014

Our ECSE Classroom Schedule: Part Five - Outside Time (10:20am -10:45am)

Welcome back to our classroom!  We left off with the students just finishing up snack.  With full bellies (and some help from dear Mother Nature), we head outside for a little sunshine next.  That being said, we live in Kansas so occasionally rain, snow, or 70 mph winds deter us from outdoor play.  

Also being that some years our kiddos have some pretty fragile health needs, we don’t always go out when the big kids do.  Our school has the policy that students will go outside if it is above 20 degrees with the wind chill.  We go case by case and year by year with this policy.  Never going out if is below 20 but also implementing other policies as needed.

We try to prepare parents and students by reminding them to dress appropriately for the weather with reminders, notes in the handbook, and monthly newsletters like the one below.

Despite our efforts, it is a judgement call whether we go outside or not.  On somedays due to a drastic weather change from the day before, parents do not dress their kids appropriately for outside play.  I always have a few extra coats and jackets for kids to borrow, but if I don't have enough we go to Plan B

(Plan B:  You may remember from my explanation of centers that if we do not go outside, we simply stretch the length of each center by 2 minutes to add a total of 20 minutes to learning rotations to prevent down time at the end of our day.)  

The routine for going outdoors is to line up on designated circle spots and wait for all the peers and teachers to go out together. 

Note:  There are two doors to our classroom so we actually have two ways to line up.  Lining up on the circles to go outside and lining up on the triangles to go into the hallway.  

Just another way to add shape recognition and listening skills to our daily routine!  We also have square shapes by the sink for students to stand in line for washing their hands before snack. 

The lining up process for outdoors time can be lengthy as we try to support all students in working on independent skills to get their jackets, hats, and gloves on.  Although this is an important life skill, it makes the transition and wait time a little lengthier than I would like. 

We try to keep our students engaged and on their toes during this transition by talking about our day, reviewing concepts with "I spy" games and guessing games, or singing songs that encourage imitation and active listening. 

For example, we may sing to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It".

If you’re ready to go outside, clap your hands, CLAP-CLAP***
If you’re ready to go outside, clap your hands, CLAP-CLAP
If you’re ready to go outside clap, clap your hands.
If you’re ready to go outside, clap your hands! CLAP-CLAP

***We change the action words to take a deep breath, stomp your feet, shake a hand, give a hug, stand quietly, etc.  I like to change the song's words to fit the class' needs in that moment.  If we need a little connecting, it might be hug. If we need to calm, it might be breath or stand quietly.    

Another great chant we use, adapted from Miss Molly's work at Colby Head Start.

Standing in line playing a game, 
when I point to you, please tell me your name!***

*** We change the chant depending the level of the students and what their goals are.  We might say tell me your mom's name, tell me your birthday, tell me your favorite toy or even say non-verbal directives for our limited language communicators like point to your nose, or point to your teacher, etc.  

When all the kids are ready to go outside we review the outdoor rules and expectations. 

Note:  Sometimes the rules need to be more specifically taught with visuals of students doing the activities. 

Or with a social narrative to support the students in knowing the rules and what the consequences are for not following the rules.  

 (We simply chalk out a pink circle on the sidewalk for the sit out spot.)

Other times we find it more beneficial to create video examples of what to do/not to do outside. Click below to see a video model that was created to support our kiddos in the ever challenging task of lining up to come inside.  We watched the video while reviewing rules at large group during morning calendar. Then refer to it again on my iPhone or iPad as needed.  

Following the review of the outdoor rules, we get all the students ready for a successful walk to the playground by singing this song to the tune of  Gilligan's Island found on Mrs. Jones' Room blog adapted from work by Dr. Jean.  

Note: We sing the last line "I’m ready to go out!" when we are headed outside. The song is perfect for body awareness and line up expectations.  However if you are like me and never get the tune right, you can record it on a big mac placed by the door so it starts and sounds the same every time. 

Now that we have prepped the kids for a successful outside time, we can head out the door!  We are fortunate to have a preschool playground a short walking distance from our classroom.  The only challenge is that we walk by the elementary playground on the way to our playground.  (I am sure you see some trouble dancing in your head with preschoolers whom are a little overly excited and impulsive.)  

Needless to say after the first week of school, our principal was kind enough to add a paint yellow line to visually help get us all to our playground.  The children also have another (blue) line going through the big kids' playground to dismiss to parents at the end of the day.  

It is amazing the difference these two lines have made for the kids.  Note: the paint was actually just left over yellow and blue paint from grounds department painting the parking lot. 

Of course with these added lines came a visual to prep the kids for which line they were going to walk.  

It is simply velcroed to the wall and flips to the other color line when needed.  

We also have a chart to show who is the leader of each line. The pink line is a sidewalk chalk line on the playground where the kids line up to come back inside when the whistle blows. 

(Yep!  We do use a whistle in preschool! It is a great habit to get into since that is what is used on the big kids' playground.)

So after we follow the yellow line to the playground, the students have the flexibility to play on whatever equipment they choose unless they show a need for more structure.  My philosophy is that all kids need down time and outside time is a perfect time to do that if kids can play in a safe and functional manner. 

If, however, they show that they need support to be safe or play in an appropriate way, we will make modifications and add supports. 

For example, one of our little guys would tune out and simply walk along the fence when we were outside so we created this visual to support him in using playground as it was designed. 

Note: After he finishes all five activities on the visual, he could go back to walking the parameter of the playground as he seemed to find comfort in doing so and needed it for downtime.  

The idea is teach new skills and create balance.  We wanted him to experience typical playground activities so he could possibly engage with peers and staff.  By giving him an organized structure to do that, he learned outdoor play skills and eventually played on the equipment without being prompted.   He still does not play on the equipment for significant lengths of time, but has some balance of playing and interacting socially and getting the downtime he needs. 

Another support we added for a little girl was a clipboard schedule with first-then icons.  She loved to swing and would spend the whole time on the swings if we let her so originally we structured it so she had to do something else first and then could go swing.  Later when she was ready for the next step, we created a three choice system in which she had to pick three things to do then she could do her preferred choice that seemed to change from week to week from either walking along the fence or swinging.

When we started having our little gal do new things like the trikes and sandbox, we had to build in more structures.  For the trikes, we added a token system to show her how many turns she could have as she hated sharing the trikes.  This actually turned out to be a great structure for all the kids.  They could each visually see how many rides around the bike path they got and when they needed to share their trike with friends.   

Note: We had a staff person standing at the start of the bike path to take tokens each time the students went around and facilitate the kids in going the correct direction around the path.

For the sandbox, our little gal had a different problem.  She hated the sandbox and wanted nothing to do with it so we added three sand tools and a bucket.  To start, the expectation was just for her to pick up the sand tools and put them in the bucket. Then as her sensory system got used to touching the sand, she was expected to scoop sand into the bucket three times and then she could be done.  Eventually, we removed the bucket system as she was comfortable to play in the sandbox without the added structure.

One more structure we added to outside was a aided language boards that hung on the storage shed.  These are similiar to the communication systems in the classroom centers and were used to support kids in communicating what they wanted to play with outdoors.  If you look closely you will see two icons for bikes and balls on velcro right inside the shed door. These were great for kids to take off and hand to a teacher like PECS communication to request the bikes or balls.  

Generally speaking, outside time is 15 to 25 minutes depending on the weather and how the rest of our schedule for the day played out.  For our morning kids, we do outside time toward the end of the day as it is typically warmer later in the morning making it more likely that we will get to go outside.   Ideally however, we would do outdoor time more in the middle of our day so the kids can have unstructured downtime to burn off some energy in the middle of the day to make for more focus time in the classroom.  

Finally, while outside we try to have staff spread out so that one person is helping on the swings, one by the equipment, and one by the trikes or sandbox depending on what is out for the day. This is a work in progress as it is in our nature to speak to each other at this point in the day about how the kids did throughout the day or to develop tweaks and restructures that need to be put in place, as well as other adult conversation kinds of things! :)  We really have to be disciplined to do this zoning step. If you would like to try the zoning system and/or support your staff in being more effective at it, I suggest you take a look at this excellent book by McWilliam and Casey.  

That's outside time in a nut shell, folks!! :) Join us next time as we close out our day with end of the day group time!  Until then...Enjoy the outdoors!! 

Playfully Yours,