Dear Weary Teacher

Dear Weary Teacher,

I know it’s only September, and I also know that you are tired. Beat. Worn down. And it’s only September. I know that you are overwhelmed. Stressed. Frazzled. And it’s only September.

I know that you are because I feel some of those things too. And my calendar says it’s only September.

September is an interesting time in the life of a classroom. It’s an important one, too. The climate that has been tentatively set at the beginning of the year has the potential to bloom into something wonderful–but it also has the ability to nosedive into something bleak.

By now, the “honeymoon” period has ended. You know, August wasn’t so bad. The routines were planned. The days’ goals were few because you planned to delve deep into the behavior and procedural tasks for the majority of your time. Your biggest celebrations came from the students following the routines smoothly and efficiently enough for you to begin teaching academic content. And that should be one of your biggest celebrations!

But then…other things started to crowd in. The meetings that told you about your system’s new initiative(s). The emails that told you about the new way of saying things that you’ve been saying–which is really the same things you’ve been saying, but you’re just going to learn new words to say it with and you have to say those new words from now on. In your letters to parents, in your lesson plans, and to your students.

The kids are more familiar with you now, and some are braver, too, and a few hiccups in the behavior routines start to happen. And…if you’re like me, you’ve started to loosen  your handle on a few routines that you may need to tighten back up on…and it wears you out.

And now, October is coming. And it’s bringing Halloween with it!

And after that, the month of November will sprint by, followed by December, where you try to fit in holidays and district assessments all at once and you wonder why those kids are acting so crazy!

So you are tired. Some days are hard. You may go home and wonder what teaching actually went on today because you were too busy running behind your routine, trying to catch up. You may go home feeling a little defeated because some of your kiddos don’t seem to get what you are teaching. You may go home poorer because you’ve spent a big hunk of money on school supplies that you think will enhance your lessons. You may go home with a hoarse voice because you’ve talked, discussed, listened, and talked some more. All. Day. You may go home and need a little bit of silence. Or Tylenol.

You are tired. I understand. I am, too. 🙂

But we will discuss the woes that make us tired no more, weary teacher friends. Lamenting those things will not make us more energized. It will not make us better.

If we want to feel better and more alive over our classrooms, our schools, our climates, and our own teaching, then we should focus on a few key aspects of teaching to wake us up.

1. You’ve made a difference already.  Remember how I said it’s only September? And you’re tired? Your weariness can also come from the fact that you’ve been working hard and impacting the lives of not just one other human, but at least 18 others! And their parents. And their siblings. That’s tiring work! You’ve already established a mindset in your students (I hope) that they are learners, able to use their learning to make a difference in their world and community. That takes effort on your part, and while you may not have received any feedback yet, you have made a difference. (By the way, my personal kids tell me all about their teachers’ cars, families, food preferences, and favorite colors. Your students love everything about you!)

2. You may be their only bright spot. You may be the only smile your students see, the only hug they get, and the only road that leads them out their current cycles. Some students go home and count the minutes until they are back at school, where they are safe, loved, and happy for a few hours. This alone can motivate us to keep pushing through these busy, overwhelming fall months. You can be the reason that they love school, whether you are tired or not.

3. You know your students best. It gets hard when people who don’t know your students and their situations tell you what they think is best for them. Especially if those people aren’t educators. Instead of letting this discourage you, take it as an opportunity for a breather. Step back, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you are the professional in charge of teaching your students. Think of their needs and your teaching goals. The advice you’re given from those on the outside, who are usually just trying to help, may actually be the best advice that you need! Or, it may be a reminder that what you are already doing is what’s best for  your students’ education.

So weary teachers, when you feel like giving up, remember those kids’ faces that lit up today when you told them how smart they were. Remember those parents who wrote their gratitude to you for encouraging them to keep reading, keep counting, and keep writing at home with their child when he or she needed it, ushering in a change in  learning. Remember the girl who told you how good you smelled and the boy who told you how pretty your smile was. Remember the little guy who will go to bed with more food in his belly and more confidence in his heart about learning and life and people.

Because of you.

Remember it all, and rest easy. Our students–they are worth the weariness.

Rest up, weary teachers. Tomorrow is another day!

 

 

 

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Running Back to the Ark

The drop hit him on the nose first. He looked up, squinted into the sky.

The air smelled like rain.

Another drop, then another.

Soon the sound of pattering rain filled his ears as the air around him danced with drops.

What was his instinct?

Was it to run? Was it to panic, to grab his loved ones close and drag them back into the ark?

Before Noah had built the ark according to God’s instructions, the earth had not seen rain and storms that were strong enough to flood the earth. The Bible tells us that “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7)

Even though they’d been warned, their human minds could not comprehend what a flood would be like.

I don’t know if our human minds can comprehend a rain that floods the whole entire earth.

Noah listened to God and was spared. He built an ark and his family was safe in the flood.

After forty days and forty nights, the rains ceased and the ark eventually landed on dry ground. God promised Noah that He would never destroy the earth with a flood again (Genesis 9:11).

God promised. He is sovereign. He is holy. If He said that He wouldn’t destroy the earth with a flood again, then the ark was no longer needed, right? The animals could be released, homes could be rebuilt, and a new life could start.

But I have to imagine…had it been me, what would I have done the next time I saw rain? What would I have done the next time I heard the distant roll of thunder? How would I have reacted when I saw the sky flash with lightning?

I’m pretty sure I would’ve hiked up my robes and taken off towards the ark, leaving muddy footprints in my wake.

God’s promises hold true. He has promised to take care of us. In Deuteronomy, we are told to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I’ve heard those words my entire life, but have I really taken them to heart? He is with me. He is for me. He will never forsake me.

I say I believe, but I struggle with carrying blueprints to my own personal ark around in my back pocket.

What will I do if _________________ happens? What plan will I have? How will I take care of _________________?

Anxiety has long-since been my shadow, the one I can’t get rid of. It’s a greedy being, following me around, lurking in the shadows, always taking but never giving a solution.

I can watch the news and the anxiety reaches out and steals my joy, holding it high above my head where I can’t seem to reach. I can go through a School Crisis Training, and anxiety sidles up and envelopes me until I feel like I can’t breathe.

I’m sprinting back towards the ark.

I’m ready to hide, even though He promised that the floods wouldn’t overtake me. Even though He promised to take care of me. Even though He promised to be with me.

I think the problem with my heart is that I know storms will come in my life, and I’m not trusting Him with His promise.

God’s promise was not to keep me dry in the storms. He didn’t promise that no bad thing would ever happen to me.

His promise was that He was going to take care of me. He promised to be with me, to never leave me. His promise was that I will not be destroyed by disaster.

Storms will happen. Disasters will happen. But He has promised to take care of His children and uphold us, that we won’t be destroyed. Even in death! “…that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

There’s no need to run back to ark to be saved, because He said so. Jesus is my rock, my salvation, my calm.

Jesus is my ark.

And that’s all I need.

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The Least Likely One

I may have been the least likely one from my first grade class to become a teacher. I was probably the least likely one to sing in front of large crowds, and especially to speak at churches and teacher conferences.

I was very shy and apparently, I was a slow reader. I recently stumbled across my old first grade report card, and I noticed that every six weeks my wise teacher would write something like, “She’s very quiet…needs to work on reading.”

I lacked confidence. Maybe I lacked ability, too.

I remember how my class divided into groups to go into different first grade rooms for Reading instruction. Now, I know this process as something like “Walk to Read” or “Reading Rainbow” or some other fun name that simply means the kids are going to be divided up to meet with a teacher who will come to whatever level they are presently reading on and take them up from there. It’s a good concept and I’m sure it gave me a great foundation. But…

I. Was. Terrified.

I had just become comfortable with my new first grade class and teacher and now–BOOM–I was going into another room for about an hour a day with a different teacher and different kids. And I had to try and read when I couldn’t really figure out how to get started.

“She’s very sweet…her Reading needs improvement. She is very quiet and shy. She needs to gain some confidence in her abilities. ”

I was the least likely one from my class to become a teacher. Or a speaker. Goodness, maybe even a writer.

But God, He had other plans for me.

I eventually learned to read, as many, many kids do. It wasn’t on the timeline that was dictated by a set of standards created by non-educators. It just happened with time, practice, and patience from great teachers and great parents.

And then…I didn’t just learn to read…I LOVED to read. When I was in fifth grade, I found a book in a yard sale pile from a series called The Babysitters Club. And just like that–I became an avid reader. I started saving money for Babysitters Clubbooks, begging for books at the grocery store, asking for  historical fiction books at birthdays and Christmas, and hitching rides to the library. My school librarian came to know me by name, because I was no longer the girl who needed to work on her reading. I was the girl who was learning vocabulary, building up my comprehension and background knowledge, and even working on my speaking skills with each and every new word I read.

And I read all the time. I read on the bus, in study hall, in front of the TV, in the dark (“Paige–you’ll strain your eyes!”), in the floor, outside–everywhere.

I was now a reader. Albeit, a shy, quiet reader. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, except that God had other plans for me.

Because of my love for reading, my writing abilities were honed and sharpened. My teachers encouraged me greatly as a writer and gently prodded (and poked, too) me to write out of my comfort zone. I wrote for the school newspapers and the yearbook. And then I started writing poetry.  And then I started writing songs.

But sharing them was pretty hard.

You see, the devil, he is our enemy. And he will take things about us that are NOT bad, and he will make them seem like the worst possible traits to possess.

You’re too shy. You aren’t really a writer. You can’t even read the Biology book in front of your class without panicking. You won’t be able to share this.

I grew up in the “Singing Munchers”,  you know, and I’d been singing with my family for awhile (if you call my whole life awhile). I’d even sung solos and duets with my friends.

But sharing my own songs, and talking about them…that was another matter entirely. Sharing words from your own heart can leave  you feeling raw and vulnerable like nothing else.

I was the least likely person to be doing those things.

But God, He had other plans for me.

He had songs, He had words, He had women’s conferences, He had an army base full of singing soldiers (and a skipping CD), He had roomfuls of children waiting to learn, He had teachers wanting some inspiration. Yes, He had lots of plans for me.

Even though I’m the least likely one to work on His plan.

He has a history of doing that, you know. In the Bible, we see so many least-likelies. It almost seems like the least-likelies are His favorite ones to use! Could it be?

A tongue-tied Israelite adopted into Pharoah’s family, who later leaves his adopted family, only to murder someone and run away into the wilderness. That’s who God chose to use to guide His children out of slavery and towards the Promised Land. Moses was certainly an unlikely leader.

A harlot. That’s who God chose to aid His people in the fight for Jericho. And Rahab did exactly as He purposed.

A scrawny shepherd boy who slayed a giant, became a mighty warrior and leader, and then fell to temptation and committed adultery. That’s who God appointed as a King after His own heart.

Jonah was a runner who became a great prophet.

Mary was a young virgin who became the mother of Jesus.

Matthew was a despised tax collector who became a disciple.

Peter was an impulsive loud-mouth, by some standards, who became a leader of the New Testament church.

Paul was a Christian-killer who became a Christian and wrote much of the New Testament letters to the Christian churches.

And I was a sinner who became saved.

I was a struggling, shy reader and writer who became a teacher, writer, singer, teller of God’s faithfulness, and disciple of His love.

Even though I was the least likely one.

Where are you at now? Where are your struggles? The Lord delights in taking you right where you’re at and healing you, growing you, changing you. For BIG things. For GREAT things. For His glory. Through the blood and grace of Jesus Christ, His only Son.

He has great plans for you.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

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When You Thought I Wasn’t Listening

My oldest son Parker used to hang onto every word I’d say. Every. Single. Word. He and I would hang out for most of the day together and he’d always greet his Dad at the end of the day with, “Daddy, Mama said…” and off he’d go, repeating something I’d told him about that day. He really does have a great memory (I’m not biased or anything, right?) and he didn’t forget anything Mama said. 🙂

Parker and I were both so excited when he started preschool. His classroom was right beside mine, and he’d go into his room every day and announce in his high-pitched twang, “My Mama said we are havin’ hot dogs today” or “My Mama said it’s gonna rain today” or “My Mama said I should wear my raccoon shirt today”. It was as if he couldn’t go past the threshold without his daily Mama Announcement.

His little brother Peyton didn’t always listen to Mama as closely as Parker did. However, Peyton had a much more important person in his life to listen to…and that was Parker.

As Parker has gotten older, like all boys do, he has found other things to listen to besides me and his Daddy. He listens to his friends, his music, his games, and his shows. He’d never dream of entering his fifth-grade classroom with an announcement of ,”My Mama said…”

And I don’t think I’d want him to, as heartbreaking as it is to see him move away from me. No, I know I don’t want him to cling his Mama days for the rest of his life. But letting go, it hurts.

It’s hard.

And it’s frustrating.

I find myself lamenting over the “not listening” when I trip over my boys’ shoes in the front hallway after many reminders to put the shoes up. I find myself mumbling under my breath when I see a sink full of dried-up toothpaste after prompts to wash it out when you are done! I find myself demanding, “Are you listening to me? Do you hear me?” when I think they are not listening to my voice as closely as they should.

And I find myself begging God for Parker to listen to me and his Dad when we warn him about choices in life, in growing older, in his speech and conduct. As he tells us what is going on at school, with people in his class, and what he has seen on the news.

And as I’m pleading and grasping for peace, my Father whispers to me.

Listen, Paige. Be still. 

He reminds me that my voice was never meant to be the ultimate one in Parker’s heart anyway. His dad’s voice was never meant to be the one that took up the room in his heart. Parker has a Heavenly Father whose voice is big enough to be heard over the loudest noise of this world.

It was the Voice that spoke Parker into existence, that counted every hair on his head, that called him by name. It’s the Voice that delights in him, that calms his soul, that sings over him. The One who speaks life will never let go of my boy…His boy.

Yes, I need to keep praying. His dad and I need to keep guiding and speaking truth.

And I need to let go a little.

In early summer, Parker brought me a poem he’d written in school. It was for Mother’s Day. He had written:

             When you thought I wasn’t listening, I heard you praying for me when I was scared.

             When you thought I wasn’t watching, I saw you give supper to a sick person.

             When you thought I wasn’t listening, I heard you singing songs at church. I saw you              raise your hands. 

He’s listening. He’s watching. He’s taking heart.

I guess I just need to do a better job of listening, myself!

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

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To the Christian Teacher in a Public School

How many times have you heard the term (or one similar) “They’ve taken God out of public schools!”? I’ve heard it many, many times but so far it has failed to worry me. Don’t get me wrong, it saddens me that a teacher can actually get fired if he or she offends someone by praying aloud or teaching scripture in a public school. It saddens me that some school systems (not mine) have taken the phrase “under God” out of their daily Pledge of Allegiance. It frustrates and sometimes angers me that other religions seem to be tolerated so quickly, yet Christianity simply will not be tolerated in some public school systems. It makes me want to cry out “What are we doing?” But when I get completely worked up over laws and rights, I feel the gentle push of the Holy Spirit saying this to me: “When was the last time you were this sad over the fact that some kids never have clean clothes on? Were you this upset when the boy in time out over there didn’t come to school because no one got up to get him dressed and on the bus? Are you this passionate when the same child just doesn’t get it no matter how much you teach?” You see, if I’m not careful, I can so caught up in the idea of protecting my Christianity (which does have its place) that I forget to actually live my Christianity. And as a kindergarten/first grade teacher in a public school, I need to live my Christianity every second of every day. I’m not worried that God has been taken out of our public schools. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and Omnipresent. He is everywhere all the time, no matter what laws politicians make up. No man has the power to direct where God can and cannot be. God is in our schools. Jesus is in our schools. He is in the hearts of His believers. His love shines through us. Us. We are to be Jesus to the world. So, to the Christian teacher in a public school, I am in no way telling you to break the law or hinder your job! But I am reminding you (and mostly myself! :)) that it’s okay for you to bring Jesus into your classroom. We may not be able to explicitly teach the Bible and prayer to our students, but we can live the Word. We can live the way Jesus calls us to live. That’s what He’s called us to do, after all! We are just seed-planters. He is the one who saves. So how do we plant seeds? How do we live the Word when we can’t teach about the Word? We love. Oohhhhh my, this is so easy for me to say right now as I sit in my comfy chair. After two months, I’ve conveniently forgotten that I won’t be sitting again for about 10 months. Farewell, comfy chair. It’s so easy for me to talk about loving when I haven’t met that child that’s going to do their best to make me dislike them. It’s easy to talk about loving when I haven’t been in a stressful parent meeting, data meeting, in-service meeting, faculty meeting, and collaboration meeting when I really just need to get in my room and prepare! But in order to show the love of Jesus, we are called to love. What does love look like in a classroom? I was really convicted of this a few years ago as I went around blabbing to anyone who would listen how much I loved kindergarten and how much I loved teaching. What does true love look like? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 How patient am I when my table is full of papers, files, and assessments and an unexpected parent meeting pops up during my prep time? How kind am I when the same child misbehaves time and time again? (That one hurts…) What about when that other teacher walks by with the perfect class in the hall and my class looks like a circus in comparison? Am I not just a bit envious? Or if it’s me with the perfect class, am I ever boastful or proud, even if it’s just in my head? I’ve just got what it takes to make these kids mind. My teaching must be top-notch…these kids are reading like second graders and it’s not even the first nine weeks! I’m soooooo good! With these verses above, I could go on and on about ways I don’t always show love as a teacher. I am grateful to a God who loves me in spite of me. And this year I am going to show His love, perhaps to little ones who have never experienced it in their own lives. I am going to be a seed planter, not by reading scriptures aloud at school, but by showing them in my actions. I am going to pray in my heart for patience, kindness, humility, trust, hope, perseverance… I am going to pray in my heart for my sweet little ones. jesus loves me You know the song “Jesus Loves Me”? There’s a line that I love. It says “Yes, Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so!” I’m so glad for His Word. I’m so glad that I can share it with my personal children, Parker and Peyton, and show them where it tells them that Jesus loves them. But what about those little ones who don’t know what a Bible is? How will they know that Jesus loves them? What about those little ones whose parents are so beaten by life that they haven’t shown their children God’s love? The Lord may place them in your room this year. He may put their name on your list. He may put them at my work table, in my story circle. I plan to show them the love of Jesus by simply loving them. Who will join me?

Sharing with friends at purposefulfaith.com, Tell His Story, andholleygerth.com.

tell his story     coffee for your heart rara

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Teachers, This Could Be YOUR Year

This could be your year. The one you’ve been waiting for.

It could be the first year you have your own classroom. You’ve studied, observed, interviewed, waited, despaired with disappointment, interviewed some more, waited some more, worked another job that you didn’t plan for, interviewed some more, and now…this is YOUR year. You have been given the keys to your very own classroom. And it’s full of…stuff, and anticipation, and a little fear–okay a lot of fear, and things to do. And it’s overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. There will be many times this year that the misgivings, the stress, the paperwork, the management hiccups, and yes–maybe even your coworkers–it will all threaten to overcome the wonderful feeling of having your own classroom, of finally achieving your dream. When those times come, take a step back, get a deep breath (and maybe a candy bar…and a Coke), and remind yourself of your dream. This is what you’ve waited for! Find a mentor who will build you up and who will praise the teaching profession instead of tearing it down. Surround yourself with those teachers who will help you and remind you of why you are here. This is YOUR year!

It could be your year for retirement. You’ve gone back and forth, wondering if the time was quite right, and now you know without a doubt. This is YOUR year for retirement, and your reward is waiting for you. One of my dearest friends is retiring this year. I know without a doubt that she will use every minute of the day to continue teaching and making an impact on the lives of her students. While she is looking forward to resting with her family, she is not “done”. She still plans and anticipates and designs wonderful opportunities for the students who are blessed enough to have her. If you are planning on retiring, this will be a year of “lasts” for you. Your last time to greet new students and parents, your last time to do conferences, report cards, observations, and more. This can also be a year of “lasting”, too. Your year to leave lasting impressions, words of wisdom, and influence. Yes, even if you are retiring, this is YOUR year. Enjoy it!

Teachers, this could be the year that you go from being an average, good teacher to being a GREAT teacher– a leader in your grade level and in your school. This could be the year that others begin to migrate towards YOU, because they know that no question is too silly or lame for you to answer. This could be the year that parents begin to notice your kindness and caring for their children, because you put forth a little more effort and seem to go the extra mile for “your” kids. This could be the year that you step up and lead a collaboration, or a professional development, and others realize that you are serious about your profession. There will be days that your innovation and inspiration are threatened by the programs, the mandates, and the paperwork. But hold fast, and do whatever you can to keep yourself off of the road to complacency and complaining. Instead, focus on your kids. Know your students, study them, and plan according to their needs. Then…work your plan! 🙂 Make this YOUR year to rise to the top. You’ve got this!

And friend, this could be your year to have “The Class”. You know, the year where you go home at night and cry? And eat all the foods? And gain all the pounds? And break out in all the zits from stress? Yeah…it could be coming for you. This could be the year when all the stuff that has worked before Just. Doesn’t. Work. Anymore. At. All. I’ve been there. More than once. I’ve second-guessed myself at every turn. I’ve dreaded the field trips and Christmas parties and even just the regular days because of “The Class”. Yes, I have. There will be days that you will go and cry in the bathroom while your friend taps on the door and offers you tissues. And M&Ms. There will be days that you have really hard discussions with parents about behavior and emotions. There will be days that you beg your principal to “just come and see” what it’s like in your room, and then the principal finally comes and the kids are perfect. But y’all– there will be days when  you look back and realize the impact you have had on “The Class” and some of those stinkers will look you in the eyes and tell you they love you and you will realize that this very hard year made you SUCH a better teacher. Yeah, this could be YOUR year. I’ll get the chocolate for you and push it through the crack in the door for you, okay?

Maybe you are feeling the burn-out that attacks so many educators, even now right before the start of school. Maybe you’re thinking I’m none of these things. I’m not new. I’m not retiring. I’m not great. And I’d sure better not get “that” class again. I’m due a nice, quiet, mundane year, right? It’s not going to be my year for anything.

Well, I can tell you right now that you will have reasons for this to be your year. On the first day of school, there will be 18-35 reasons staring back at you, waiting to see how you will impact their very lives.

This could be your year to be the person that teaches the first grade boy that he CAN read and learn.

This could be your year to be the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps the middle school girl from taking her own life.

This could be your year to be the roadmap that shows the high school boy a way out of the destructive cycle he is stuck in.

This could be your year to give her the first compliment she’s ever gotten.

This could be your year to give him the first pair of new shoes he’s ever received.

Teachers, this is your year. You don’t see how? The circumstances don’t seem to add up? Then, MAKE it your year. You have the power to change your outlook and your outcomes. You have the power to change lives!

This is it. This is YOUR year. Let’s do this.

Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

What Does Math Look Like in a Kindergarten Classroom?

Ask ten teachers, you’ll get ten different answers. No teacher is the same, so no teacher’s routine will look the same. Anytime I do a math workshop or professional development session on math, the question that I get asked the most is “What does a math lesson look like in your room?”

The first thing that comes to my mind is routine. Math instruction in my room is a routine that we follow daily. Parts of the routine look different from day to day, depending on the standard I am teaching. And, yes, I follow the Common Core Curriculum when teaching students about math concepts in my classroom. I’ve heard lots of views on  Common Core, and I urge you to look up the actual standards and decide for yourself what to believe about them before forming a firm opinion. Common Core Standards are not a program; they are a set of high-quality standards that each child should master before moving on to the next grade level. How a teacher chooses to teach the standards is not necessarily a representation of the standards themselves. Lots of factors come into play when I am deciding how to best present the standards I want my students to master…time allotment, student behaviors, the program I may or may not be using to guide my instruction, and the current data of student progress are major factors that decide how I present math standards and instruction in my daily routine. So even though my content may vary, my routine stays mostly the same. This helps with behavior-both the students’ and mine! 🙂

The second thing that comes to mind is action. Math instruction in my room doesn’t look like stillness and quietness. It involves lots of talking and doing. This is why math stations are an important part of my routine.

The third thing that comes to mind is intervention. I meet daily in small groups with each child in my room. I love small groups because I can work with a student on his or her level more intensively than I could in a whole group setting.

So, here it is! This is what a typical day of math instruction looks like in Mrs. Givens’s room (and add in a few nutty comments and occasional fire drills, tornado scares, and restroom emergencies…hey, it’s kindergarten!).

  1. Read math literature. I use books that deal with whatever standard I’m teaching. I may read a book several times that week to point out the skill we are studying.
  2. Count to 100. We count by ones, tens, fives, and twos depending on how much time we have that day. We may count backwards from a certain number. We may start at a random number and count on from that number. At beginning of year I count to 25 or 50 depending on the level of the class and move up as they are ready.
  3. Count around the circle to find out how many kids are here today. We then fix our “attendance towers” to show how many students are here and how many are absent. We talk about which tower is longer, shorter, has more, fewer, etc.
  4. Weekly Data. Each week, we work with a question on the board to display and interpret data. We have a different task for the data each day.
    1. Make it Monday- we  make the data. I have the question ready and students write their name under the proper response as they come in and unpack. During our math routine time, we count how many names are in each category and record a numeral in each category.
    2. Tally it Tuesday- we add tally marks on the data.
    3. Write it Wednesday- we write sentences to tell about the data.
    4. Thursday Change-up– we show the data in a different way; a Venn Diagram, bar graph, etc.
    5. Figure it Friday– we make an addition sentence out of the data. At the end of the year we do a subtraction sentence, too, if it’s appropriate.
  5. Counting Basket. Our “helping hand” for the day brings us the class counting basket and shows how he/she counted the items in the basket. The kids have already  looked in the basket, then counted out the same number of items in their own personal basket. We talk together about how to record in our journal what is in our counting basket. At the beginning of the year, a child may only draw how many items are in the basket. We move on to using numerals, number words, tally marks, and ten frames to show a certain number of things. At the midpoint of the year, we begin to form addition and subtraction sentences to show the number of items in our basket.
    Math stations involve a large variety of hands-on manipulatives.

    Math stations involve a large variety of hands-on manipulatives.

  6. New Concept Discussion and then Small Group Instruction/Stations. Sometimes I discuss the new concept whole group and sometimes small group. In years that I have lots of children with exceptionalities, I usually like to do small group lessons more than whole group depending on the needs of my students. Stations can be done in so many ways in kindergarten! My teaching friends do all sorts of different stations set-ups. I am doing partner stations this year, where students work with one partner and two  partner sets come to me for small group instruction.
    A student has constructed this addition sentence to explain her arrangement of tiles.

    A student has constructed this addition sentence to explain her arrangement of tiles during partner stations.

  7.  Concept Discussion after stations if needed. Depends on how stations went, I like to come back to whole group for a discussion of concepts learned at stations. This discussion is usually student-led, unless Mrs. Givens needs to “talk shop” about a certain behavior or trend that needs to stop! 🙂

 

At the Teacher Station

During Math stations, I make myself a station to do intervention and/or enrichment. Each month, I print off a monthly math journal from KetchensKindergarten.com. We usually start off small groups with a page or two from the journal. The journals cover common core standards and are very open-ended for discussions.

After journals, we play a game that goes with the new concept we are working on. Since I have same-ability groups, I can make the game math the abilities of the kids in my group for intervention or enrichment.

Sometimes we may end the small group by doing a quick paper for my records or for sending home to parents.

I understand that I am one kindergarten teacher of many. My routine does not have to be your routine. This is what works for me at this time, this is what makes me feel like an accomplished teacher, and this is what grows my students.

What kind of things are in your math instruction routines? Let me hear from you!

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