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September 11, 2015

New Grade Level, Combination Class, New School, Here We GO!

New Grade Level, Combination Class, New School, Here We GO!New Grade Level, Combination Class, New School, Here We GO!

HeidiSongs: New Grade Level, Combination Class, New School, Here We GO!

In this post, I am going to share what it is like to go from teaching Kindergarten at the same school for 20 years to a first/second grade combination class at a completely different school.  Many people have been asking me how it has been going, and how I am doing.  I have been putting off writing about it mainly due to lack of time!  I really am excited to share my experiences, though!

So what is it like to suddenly jump into what feels like TWO brand new grade levels at the very same time? (I taught first grade for five years before I started teaching Kindergarten, but it’s been SUCH a long time!)  Well, in short… at first, it just felt like someone pulled the rug right out from underneath my feet!  It’s been exhilarating, frustrating, scary, fun, humbling, nerve-wracking, an incredible amount of WORK, but most of all… WONDERFUL!  Here are a few of my thoughts on how it has been. (I’ve included A LOT of pictures!)

Sight Word Surprise!
Sight Word Surprise! There’s more info and a free download here!

My Brain Won’t STOP!

One interesting thing that has been happening “inside my brain” is a HUGE burst of creativity!  I can’t seem to stop the new song and new teaching ideas that are taking root in my brain and are longing for more time to bring them to fruition!  Ideas and possible song lyrics continually run through my head from the time my alarm goes off and continue on and off all day long and into the evening.  Then they pop into my head in my dreams and while I’m in the shower.  I have tons of little sticky notes on my computer with song ideas, and a phone full of little voice memos of songs that I’ve come up with while walking my dogs, singing in the shower, or even while driving!  (Don’t worry; I pull over and sing into my cell phone!)  But sometimes, I just wish that there were an “off switch” on my brain, so that I could just let it rest for a while!



Is it Hard to Bond with Older Children?

I admit that I was a little worried about bonding well with older children.  One thing that always drew me to Kindergartners was that it was always so easy for me to connect with them.  Bonding with children that are a little older than Kindergarten has been a real joy, and something that I had told myself I shouldn’t count on, because after all… they’re older.

But this is what I have found:  first and second graders might not all automatically throw their arms around their teacher on the very first day of school.  But once they warm up, they are just as wonderful little people as kindergartners!  It makes sense, after all… they are all adorable little people that each remind me of my own children, nieces, and nephews when they were in first and second grade.  As we plan our two remaining daughter’s weddings this year, I look wistfully back on “my babies'” first and second grade years, and wish we could go back and do it again!  (Our daughter Katie is getting married on September 19, 2015!!!!  And our daughter Krissie is getting married on November 15, 2015!  You may recall that my other daughter, Kimmie, got married back in 2012.)

Katie Butkus, soon to be Wright
Here is one of Katie and Tim’s engagement photos! Isn’t she beautiful?

Krissie Butkus, soon to be Patterson!
This is one of Krissie and Nick’s engagement photos! She looks stunning!

Gabe, Kimmie, & Penny Giron!
This is Kimmie and her husband, Gabe! Penny was just a PUP! I love that little family!

Did I Really Get a Good Class?

My class full of Fabulous Firsties and Sensational Seconds are really a wonderful group of kids, and I am loving them more and more each day!  I am constantly impressed by how much they know and can do, and of course it does sometimes seem like they are “little geniuses” compared to Kindergartners!  And actually, that’s a really GREAT mindset to have in my situation, because I am learning that the amount of preparation and the organization it takes to keep a combo class running smoothly is enough to make any tired teacher start to see their glass as “half empty” rather than “half full.”

HeidiSongs School Bus Bulletin Board

HeidiSongs: Bus Bulletin Board
Each child has a school bus with their name on it on my wall! Here is a blog post with the free download of this art project!!

Consequently, I find myself complimenting my class many times a day, and repeating how wonderful they all are, and that they are the very best students in the whole school!  And whether or not it’s really true, I think that it feels really good for them to hear it, and I know it feels good for me to say it!  In fact, the more I say it, the more it seems to come true!

HeidiSongs: Apple Jenga - STEM Challenge
As a STEM Challenge, we did Apple Jenga! I challenged the kids to build a tower as tall as they could with the apple balanced on top! The tallest tower won! I think the tallest was about 10 inches! Both my first and second graders LOVED this and even after the game was over, they wanted to keep trying!

Just the Facts

–I have 21 students.  I was set to have 22, but one child moved over the summer.  So I now have 11 second graders and 10 first graders, all with about an equal number of boys and girls- ten girls and 11 boys!  Very well planned!
–Most of my first graders entered first grade reading very well.  The average reading level among them as measured by Accelerated Reader is about 1.6 (grade one, sixth month).
–My second graders all read quite fluently!  The average reading level among them on Accelerated Reader is about 1.9 (grade one, ninth month, and climbing!)
–I have no children with major discipline problems in my class, but we do have some “regular” kinds of issues now and then, just like any other class.  I am very thankful, though, that I do not have children attempting the kick, hit, or bite the others, or hurl a chair through the window, etc. So, basically, the class was “protected” when it was formed since the teachers knew how difficult it is to teach a combination class, even without the extra issues of a child with an IEP for behavior issues, for instance.

Of course, the better prepared and organized I am, the better things go!  If I am not well prepared in one area, or something changes at the last minute, of course I wind up with more discipline issues to deal with on that day….  Have you ever noticed that?  It’s one of the BEST reasons to “overplan” that I can think of!

HeidiSongs: Computer Lab
They LOVE the computer lab!

HeidiSongs: Insta Learn Tiles
Insta-Learn Tiles!

Veteran Teacher, Rookie Mistakes!

Anyone would think that after teaching for twenty-five years, there would be mistakes that a teacher just wouldn’t make again just because she’s in a new grade level at a new school!  Well, here are some of the dumb things I did over the last two weeks, not in any particular order:

1.  Planned to use liquid watercolor paints on the first day of school, knowing I did not have an aide, nor any volunteers, nor any real way to set it out ahead of time.

2.  Thought I could pull off a group rotation on the first day of school and have it go WELL.  Uh, NO.  It was a disaster, big time- but that’s because my watercolor paints couldn’t be set up in advance because that was where the first graders sit.

3.  Gave the wrong words on a spelling test.

4.  Gave a spelling test with the words posted on the wall.

5.  Managed to offend someone even though I was trying really hard to be careful.  Duh.

6.  Planned for Monday’s schedule, even though it was Tuesday.

7.  Sent the first grade homework home with a second grader.

8.  Still can’t get my timing down to pick up my students off the playground in a timely manner (because of the distance… I’m always the last class to leave the playground!)

9.  And- worst of all- I actually had to take away five minutes of recess from several children, even though I know that taking away recess (and the chance to burn off energy) often makes things worse.  But there was nothing left to do!  So I took the whole class out for five minutes of EXTRA recess, which those children didn’t get.  Except today we couldn’t do that, because there wasn’t time, due to an assembly.  So whatcha gonna do?  Sigh…

Okay, I guess that’s enough whining!

Here are some more pictures of some fun activities and lessons we’ve done so far!

Horse Race Dice Game
Horse Race Dice Tray Game from BoxCars and One Eyed Jacks!

HeidiSongs: Martian Guided Reading Fingers
Martian Guided Reading Fingers! I gave each kid a green, alien finger and had them follow along in their book while it was being read aloud! They LOVED this! Of course it probably had more to do with the fingers than the reading, but I’ll take it! Here’s some info on doing guided reading!

HeidiSongs: Minions

HeidiSongs: Minions
We made Minions!! I found this idea on Pinterest! It was pinned from!

HeidiSongs: Writing
Then I had them write a few sentences about why they are “One in a Minion” and I put them on the wall with their minion!

HeidiSongs: One in a Minion

HeidiSongs: One in a Minion

HeidiSongs: No David Guided Drawing
We also did guided drawing! You can get free directions to teach your kids how to draw David from the No, David! books by David Shannon here.

Pete the Cat Guided Drawing

Pete the Cat Guided Drawing
We did Pete the Cat Guided Drawing, too! You can download this one, free, HERE!

Birthday Crowns
We made birthday crowns! You can get a blank white set from Discount School Supply! I let them paint their own! Then I will give it back to them on their birthdays.

Sight Word Chalk!

Sight Word Chalk
Sight Word Chalk! They wrote all the sight words from their list out on the black top!

HeidiSongs Sing & Spell Center
I set up a Sing & Spell Center. I had my Sing & Spell DVD playing and the kids wrote their sight word as they heard it! Some of them couldn’t help but sing or move along. One student even pretended to CONDUCT the song! Ha!

Sounds Fun Phonics Bingo Game
We played my Sounds Fun Phonics Bingo Game!

HeidiSongs: Wiggles Wall
Here is our Wiggles Wall! The Wiggles art project instructions come with the Wiggles’ First Day at School book, but you can download it here for FREE! The angry Wiggles down there on the bottom is my favorite, HA!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed putting it together! I really do love my class and as scary (and sometimes frustrating) as a huge change and transition like this can be, I know it’s going to be a great year, and I thank God for blessing me with such a good class!


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