My Squirrel Students: Picking a Spot to Play

My squirrel students are the ones who just cannot choose a place to play. They are the students who can go to 40 different places in the classroom within the first 7 minutes of playing in the classroom. It was exhausting my energy saying “Please choose a spot to play in the classroom or I will choose a spot for you.” The squirrel students were also bothering other students who had already established a chosen play place appropriately.

I thought long and hard about what to do for my worst offender, E. E displays immature behaviour on a regular basis in the classroom and needed lots of help picking a place to play. Here is what I developed for him.

I printed off a four square and slid it into a page protector. I placed it at eye level in the classroom so E could see it. I brought E over and told him that this four square was only for him and that it was to plan where he played in the classroom. We read the numbers together as well as the title. Afterwards, I explained to him that we would set my cell phone timer for five minutes. If he stayed at the first area of play for five minutes, he would be able to move on to the second square. After all four squares were complete, he was free to go where he wanted.
We then took a dry erase marker and drew the areas of play. Excuse my awful drawings – I was making it happen quickly. I chose the first square, E chose the second and third, and I chose the 4th.

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This worked great the first day. He went to where he needed to go without complaints and felt totally empowered about the situation.

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One problem: he couldn’t hear my cell phone timer because of loudness of the classroom. Claaaaaaaasic. I made a joke to my student teacher: “Well what should I do, tape my phone to his sweater?!” And she then smartly suggested a stop watch. The only stop watch I found in the school didn’t count down. Back to the drawing board. I didn’t want to use the online visual timers because we frequently use the smart board for visual directions. It’s tied up most of the time.
I remembered about a timer I use to have that worked great for literacy stations in previous years. I was cheap, loud, and portable. All things we K teachers love. Minus the loud, sometimes.

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I laced it through a lanyard with some wire and had E wear it from play spot to play spot. I taught him how to set it, how it stop it, and how to restart it so he could move from area to area independently.

HE LOVED IT.

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It is now hanging proudly on the board next to his four square, ready to wear for the following day. E was so proud to show his mom how this worked when they came for interviews.

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Independence for the win.

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Today, I Cried At School

I was sitting at my computer desk, back turned to my students playing in the room. My eyes started getting a wee bit wet, and my nose and collar bones felt hot.
Then I heard my name 6 times in rapid succession from a tiny voice behind me.

Me: “Yes? What is it? I’m a bit busy right now.”

Student: “Can I go get my snack? …Are you crying?”

WOW. Well I just got your peer to practice saying the /f/ sound for the last 20 minutes without success but YOU realize I’m CRYING.

Me: “I’m just feeling a bit sad now. Wash your hands and go get your snack.”

Student: “OK.”

It was 1:47 PM and I just had to let it all out. There at my desktop, I cried. Speaking of snacks, I thought to myself, I need some cookies right now. TIME TO STRESS EAT.
I had just had two very unsuccessful speech group practice activities. One group was working on expressive language. The next group was working on the /f/ sound. It went awful. Terrible. That’s ACTUALLY what I wrote on the small group work sheet that tracks the dates and times they come to see me. It ACTUALLY says “terrible” on the page.

I cried for the students I couldn’t help say the /f/ sound clearly.
I cried for the student who came to me begging to play the expressive language game, even though her expressive language skills were just fine.
I cried for the same student who asked me if she could leave after two turns because the pace of the game was too slow
I cried for her again when I saw her wandering around the room aimlessly, bored at having nothing challenging enough to do.
I cried for her once more when I just wanted her to choose something to play with that would make her happy. Because she is a kid.
I cried for the student who I had to make a play schedule for because he is too immature to pick a spot in the room to play for more than 1.5 minutes.
I cried later on in the day when I had a social worker visit me asking if a certain student had confided anything in me lately. Any teacher who has ever had a social worker visit them knows what that means.
I cried thinking of how fortunate I am to have a great student teacher and then cried some more thinking of how I am possibly going to continue the rest of the year by myself when she is gone.
I cried at the fact I didn’t pack cookies for a snack today. Because I really needed those friggin cookies.

I pouted a bit to my #kinderchat and #wtdk friends on Twitter. Then I picked myself up, and moved on with the day.

I cried for the weak. I cried for the strong. Today was a day where I worried about every single one of my students and it became too much. I worry about each of them every single day, but today was just one of those days. Tomorrow is a new day.

Then I came home and ate some cookies. And some squares. Because they were right next to the cookies.

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