Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Establishing a Morning Sign-In Routine

In my district, we ask our PK teachers use some type of student sign-in as part of their morning routine. I was in a classroom the other day and the class sign-in chart caught my eye. I was amazed at how well the students were already writing their name when just 5 weeks earlier they were only drawing lines and scribbles on the sign-in chart. That experience is what prompted this post.

Young children come to school with a wide range of ability levels when it comes to recognizing and writing their names. The differences may be due to the length of their names and which letters are included in them, a difference in age, varying rates of development in fine motor skills, and even a varied interest in writing.

One way to address this challenge with preschoolers and make the most of your instructional time is to implement a sign-in system as part of your morning routine. Begin by teaching your students that each day as they arrive their job is to sign in. You will have to do a lot of modeling and reminding, but eventually your little ones will rely on the predictability of the routine and remember to sign in on their own.

There are a variety of ways to have your students sign in each morning.

This example came from Not Just Cute: Intentional Whole Child Development. Amanda uses photo holders and index cards to have her students sign in. She writes the child's name at the top of an index card. The children locate their name card when they arrive, then write their names on their cards. Amanda dates her cards each day and keeps them as a way to track her students' progress.

This example came from Teach Preschool: Promoting Excellence in Early Childhood Education. Deborah has her students sign in each morning using a clipboard. When students arrive, they find their name on the printed list and write their name in the space next to it. 

Here is another example of this same idea. This example is from a classroom in my district. This teacher uses a picture of the student instead of their name and has the clipboard lists grouped by who sits together at a table. 

I suggest using the student's name and their picture. Students need a well printed model to look at when learning to write their name and their picture gives them a visual as they learn to recognize their own name and the names of  others. This example is from Rainbows Within Reach and it incorporates both names and pictures for student sign-in. 

This example came from Learning and Teaching Preschoolers. Tami uses two notebooks so that two children can sign in at one time. I like this example because it allows you to keep the sign-in pages from week to week so that you can show growth throughout the school year. 

Here is another example I found on Pinterest. Unfortunately, it did not lead back to a webpage or website. 

This example uses a dry erase board and comes from a model classroom in my district. There are student names and pictures on both sides of the board. This same idea can be recreated on poster board or chart paper. Create the sign-in adhering the name/picture cards onto a couple of sheets of poster board or piece of chart paper. Then laminate the poster board or chart paper. Students can use dry erase markers to write their name each morning and you can wipe it off each afternoon after they leave. This method does not allow you to track their progress, but it saves time and paper for you. 

Regardless of how you choose to implement an arrival sign-in routine, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

1) Provide students with a model of their name to look at when writing. In the beginning, I highly recommend including their picture with their name. 

2) The model of the child's name should be written so that the first letter is a capital letter and all of the other letters are lowercase letters. 

3) Do not include last names until after Christmas.

4) Give students plenty of space to write their name in. 

5) Do not have them trace their name.

Encourage and validate any marks students make for writing. Give instruction within the Zone of Proximal Development. When needed, choose one aspect to correct or offer instruction on. For example, letter formation. You might choose to do this during small group instruction while the students are in centers. 

Point out all of the positive aspects you notice when looking at their names. Your students will grow as writers when their work is praised and when they have a good model to follow. Don't weigh them down too much with corrections. This can make the task of writing frustrating and unappealing. 

I found this unit on TPT. It is a pack of editable student sign-in sheets. You can easily go in and add your student's names and their pictures. Find this unit, by Keeping it Captivating, here for $5. 


Anonymous said...

Just curious - why no tracing of names?

Camille said...

I was wondering about no tracing also. Do you just mean for the sign-in sheet or never at all? If never, please explain why. I am fairly new to kinder so want to learn good teaching technique. Thanks!

Karen said...

Tracing does not encourage kids to form letters on their own. They do need a model to look at so they know what their letter should look like, but tracing takes away their need to think about how to form letters and to try it independently.

Anonymous said...

As a kindergarten teacher, I am curious to know if preschool teachers teacher the proper formation of letters, or simply porivde a model for children to decipher on their own?

M McCoun said...

I am a Transitional Kinder teacher. I believe we put too heavy an emphasis on children writing with a pencil in TK and Kinder. I think it so much more beneficial to spend time on developing small motor skills and letter formation with other modalities such as practicing crayon grip, forming logs with play dough and then forming those into the letter of the week, incorporating "Whole Brain Teaching" hand movements in developing left to right for reading and writing, air writing, etc. I use Handwriting Without Tears and the program teaches many foundational skills prior to having the students actually write (scribbling, aim and draw, forming letters with wood pieces, etc.). In addition, oral language is so important. Kinder standards include writing to address a prompt. How can they write a sentence if they are not taught first how to speak in complete sentences. Really think about this! I have taught fifth grade where this was still a problem.

Exposure to print is very important, but being thoughtful and purposeful in teaching foundational skills for writing is a huge and long process. From my experience, If you start them writing their name without thoroughly teaching letter formation in multiple ways, many students form their letters incorrectly and later this really slows down their writing process.

I would suggest using the written name cards with the pictures in a pocket chart in the first 4-6 weeks for students to move their name to an "I am here today" side. Then, progress to orally spelling their name by touching each letter and saying the letter, progress to air writing the letters as they say them, or at a center forming their name with play dough or wikki sticks. By January, my students are introduced to pencils and write their names with amazing fluency and letter formation. It's a long process, but I feel it is purposeful and worth it.

April Larremore said...

I think you are absolutely correct in all that you suggested and do. In my district we also do a daily attendance chart like you mentioned and suggest all the other types of activities you named for centers and small groups. While my district suggests daily sign in, they do not push handwriting practice, worksheets, or letter writing mastery in PK.

M McCoun said...

Hi April,
I just read your newest blog, thank you for going into such fantastic detail and providing examples of teaching foundational pre writing skills for our young learners. I value your insights and research and read all of your blogs. Every child develops at a different pace, so being aware of each child's developmental level in all areas and differentiating their skill building is key to their success! I now have some great new ideas to add to my bag. Thanks and please continue to add to your TPT products. I have many and love them all!

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