Thursday, August 2, 2012

What worked for me?

At the beginning of last year, I posted about all that I was doing to keep things organized. Now, that I am prepping for the coming year, I thought I would share what worked for me, and what didn't. 

This first part is actually from a different post talking about centers. I still absolutely LOVE centers for my pre-K and Kindergarten classes. The kids end up doing a better job on the main lesson because they get more individual attention from me. They are less likely to do a rush job, because I really break things down into smaller steps. They were moving on to a new center before they had a chance to mix every single color in their painting. For projects that took longer, I would change up the timing of the centers, and have two groups working on the main art project, but rotating at different times. I could do this, because I always had one group sitting on the carpet, building or reading. I would also forgo centers for some projects, especially towards the end of the year. Things that I have used for centers: BLOCKS, tons of blocks. I have a couple of different sets of wooden blocks and legos. I am considering getting foam blocks this year-not so noisy. We also have tangram blocks. While the original intention is for flat designs, my students also use them to build up.
I make playdough for one center, which the kids really love. When they start making a bigger mess with it, I will rotate it out, so they don't get bored. We keep it in bags, inside a covered bowl, so it lasts a few weeks. 

Last year, I painted my lower cabinets with chalkboard paint. This was a huge hit, and had minimal set-up. I'm in a different building this year, so I'm not sure if I will be able to do something like this again. 

My 6th graders added frames around the chalkboard paint, too. Most of these things were available for early finishers, too.  Those were my most popular, but I would sometimes rotate in free draw and modeling clay. I can't imagine that I will stop using centers any time soon, unless my class times were shortened significantly (right now, they are 45 minutes.) Thanks again, Becca Ruth!

Last year, I talked about going crazy color coordinating. Honestly, I felt crazy setting things up, but most of it really kept things going. The kids knew where things were supposed to go. It did make things easier. One thing that I used were table folders (I'm not sure where I got this idea, read it on someone's blog last summer.) I laminated a folded 9x12 piece of construction paper, where I had written the teacher's name. It made passing things out so much easier and faster, because I didn't have to do any of it. The kids passed them out-the kids picked them up. The only problem I found was that I didn't discover that names were not on everything until much later, which made assessments harder if I was doing anything outside of class. I would even attach them with clips to the drying rack. Students were supposed to put their wet items on one of the racks underneath their table folder. Some would get mixed up, but not so many that it was too confusing. I could just pull paintings off of the drying rack, stick them in the folder, and they could be passed out quickly again.

I had originally intended to use colored placemats for the students to cover their table and keep with their paintings on the drying rack. I didn't like them at all. They seemed to just be in the way, and didn't stay on the drying rack very well. The only thing I used them for was underneath the playdough at that center. I still have some for last year for that purpose, but I won't try to use them for other things. It is just easier to me to clean the tables. 

You can see my table folder's clipped onto my drying rack. 

My crazy color coordinating will continue this year. I'll keep using those things that work. Since I have so many sinks in my new room, I think I will be color coding them, too.

Last year, I had the students in grades 3-6 start each class with a 5 minute drawing. I liked the idea that they would have more time for drawing practice, and that it would give me 5 minutes with back to back classes to get last minute things organized and see who was there. However, it seemed to take too long. Not the drawing part, but putting the sketchbooks (a folder with loose paper really) away. We ended up abandoning it towards the end of the year. What I would really LOVE to have are actual sketchbooks for the students to use. One year, several years ago, I made sketchbooks for a whole grade, but I'm not sure that I have the time or resources for it this year. I'll have to think on this more.

Another thing that worked really well for me with organizing was my job chart. I loved having it. It was easy to change the jobs out in the bubbles, though I didn't rotate them except when we changed out media. It was easier to keep some consistency.
We studied all of these artists last year, and I think I will change the artist this year to different ones that we will study. I can't wait!


  1. Great ideas! I plan on using folders for each table to collect the art work this year also. It seems like it really helps to get things passed out and handed in much faster. I also am labeling each table by color instead of numbers this year. i am going to give each color a job and rotate it each week. Hoping it gives me more time to get silly things like attendance done. Also hoping it will help build more responsibility among all the students to help out. Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Angie---after struggling to keep Kinders entertained for an entire 45 minutes, I think your centers ideas sound fantastic. I usually just provide free draw paper (which they love), but I think I'll integrate centers as soon as I can get my head wrapped around all of it. If you can offer any more advice, I'd love to hear it a little bonkers the first few weeks??

  3. I have different colors of poster board for each grade labeled with the teacher name. They are folded in half and stapled on the edges. They are all on a large drying rack in the order they come to class. It works really well! Each class has the papers put into the folders to finish next time. If it is a 3 dimensional project, I have a shelf in my closet with dishpans labeled with the classroom teacher's name. The works go in there. (if they fit!) It works out pretty well. I was here looking up your center information for kindergarten. I am going to try that this year. My only problem is I have them for just 20 minutes! I am going to focus on skills, with beading patterns, building with blocks, etc. I will let you know how it works out!

  4. Oh, 20 minutes. That is tough. I've been using centers with pre-K with only 30 minutes. Good luck!


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