Now that I've been teaching for five years I'm finally starting to get in a groove. I've learned the hard way what works and what doesn't. And with each year I add to the tools in my teacher toolkit. Here's some things that I've discovered over the past five years that have made my life way easier:
1) Label Everything! My kinders have no trouble putting away supplies because I make it painfully easy for them. For pre-readers it is really important to have pictures as well. A new thing I've tried (with success so far!) is adding stars to the bins that are open to my kiddos during free choice. It really cuts down on the kids pulling out things that I don't want them to AND I threaten to pull off the stars and "close" the bin if they go wild and crazy with a particular bin.
2) I found these great number mats at Lakeshore. They are a bit of an investment but totally worth it! My kiddos have to stand in alphabetical order when we go to lunch. They each have a number that puts them in this order. The problem being that a good part of my class don't recognize or know numbers over 10. Here's my solution: The first day of school I spread these mats all over the floor and write the kiddos numbers on their hands. They find their number and memorize the picture, and we have pain free lunch line order from there after! Woo Hoo! I use the number mats for the first couple weeks and then phase them out when the kids are ready. Sidenote: Every year at some point whoever is number five is MIA, and I call out, "Who is 5?" and half the class raises their hand! Haha- they think I'm talking about their age. Love it!
3) Backpack Hooks were the bain of my existence for my first few years in kindergarten. For some reason my backpacks just could not get along- throughout the day I was constantly hearing, "So and so moved my backpack!" or "I can't find my backpack!" Solution: names on the backpack hooks! Why didn't I think of this earlier? Plus as an added bonus when I need to sneak something into my little ones' book bags I can find it easy peasy lemon squeezy (do your kiddos say this- I'm not real sure where it comes from!).
4) Picture Prompts: This goes back to the whole having pictures for non-readers. I try to make my kinders as independent as possible, and clear step-by-step instructions (like the ones below for our morning routine) make it possible for all my kiddos to be instructional.
5) Floor spots: Every class is different but I have come to value the greatness of individual spots on the floor. My lakeshore rug is perfect- the squares are just the right size for my kinders. This year I've decided to try labeling the spots with letters. We pass around a cup filled with Popsicle sticks with letters written on them to pick our spots each morning. This way my kids aren't tied to one particular spot, but if I do want one of my special friends to sit somewhere specific I can remove that particular stick and hand it to them. It's working great so far. I also drew arrows on the letter spots to show my kiddos which way to turn when we do turn-and-talk.
6) Labels, labels, labels are the best thing ever invented for teachers! I use them for everything. I recommend the Avery 5160 and 5163 (I have the numbers memorized because I use them so much!).
I have lots more but I'll save for another post! What are your time savers that help save your sanity during the school year?