Sunday, August 9, 2015

This is the greatest advise.  Recently I drove by a brush fire with my seven year old granddaughter in the car.  The highway was reduced to one lane, there were helicopters flying over dropping chemicals, fire trucks, and police cars.  It was scary.  It was a comfort for both she and I to look for the helpers.  Over time I think this could really develop a true appreciation for those who help and maybe even cause her to consider how she could be a helper.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My Love Affair With Journals

Not that long ago journals in my kindergarten classroom meant one thing, a writing journal, a place to free write stories.  Today we use journals for much more.  When journals are filled at the end of the year they represent a connected body of work that shows growth and progression.  They are an accomplishment that students are proud to share with their families.  Students also use journals throughout the year to look back as a reference or point of comparison.  The only negative side is that parents don't get to see daily work coming home.  At the beginning of the year to keep parents in the loop, I sent home one journal each Friday.

ABC Interactive Notebooks
There were at least 2 pages for each letter of the alphabet.  Students glued in interactive pieces that gave them opportunities to practice the shape and sound of each letter.  Weekly homework for each letter was also glued into this journal.

Writing Journal
This was used as a traditional free write journal.  Sometimes we had a prompt associated with the book or theme we were doing.  I had planned on using these daily, but because I was trying to get in a variety of writing experiences, we used it less than I had hoped.

Math Journal
This is my favorite new addition to the classroom this year.  I never felt comfortable teaching math to the whole group in kindergarten.  Math almost always involves manipulatives of some type and has been difficult for me to get everyone's attention at much wasted time.  This year we did math centers - journals, games, and iPads.  We did some whole group activities, like sharing what we did with our math prompts and interactive white board games, but the heart of instruction was with 4-5 students in a small group.

Math Journals -  The first 2 quarters I used Kathryn Warner's Math Problem Solving Prompts  from TPT.  These are wonderful open-ended prompts that are easy to differentiate and extend even within the same small group.  Using her examples I was able to write my own prompts for the rest of the year, but honestly I'm hoping that as we speak she is busily working on writing the 3rd Quarter prompts to share with us soon!  The small group helped me to guide each student to their next level of understanding and identify trouble spots.  The students did a better job of working together and talking through the problems in a small group.

Games - I try to get a volunteer for this center whenever possible.  I haven't done a good job standardizing the game process so that students only have to learn a few routines and just practice different skills.  If you are mixing it up a lot and don't want to spend tons of time teaching the rules to the center, it is just better to have a volunteer.  This summer I have tried to organize math games according to CCSS and put them on Pinterest.  Some are independent and others will run more smoothly with guidance, especially the first few time.  Hopefully this will make planning much easier next year.

iPads - We are a 1-1 iPad class and while that is a wonderful blessing, it is also a huge responsibility. Am I using this great resource in the best possible way?  I was always struggling to find affordable math apps that targeted the skills we were working on specifically in kindergarten.  This year I used Kindergarten Works Computer Center Math from TPT.  I downloaded the file to the dropbox app Showbie and students are linked to hundreds of online math games.  The games are organized by quarter in two week increments with 3 difficulty levels, so the games are always changing.  Even though Leslie has created these centers to be used on a computer and anything using Flash will not work on our iPads, my students love all the different activities.  Many of the games are problem solving and I really enjoyed seeing my students work together to take on the challenge.

Literature Response Journals 
This is a new one for me that I will try next year.  I felt last year with all that was going on with writing, math, and literacy centers that I did not focus enough attention to read alouds.  We read books.  We did activities together to develop comprehension, but there were not as many activities for students to respond individually.  I believe incorporating Literature Response Journals into our daily activities will help students begin to take a closer look at patterns in literature and types of literature.  This Read, Write, Think lesson has helped me think about how I will set up these journals and use them to address and assess specific CCSS.

Digital Journals
This will also be a new one for next year.  I plan to use this type of recording for themed research projects in science and social studies.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Kinder Garden

I love making murals in my classroom, but sometimes it can be a little hectic with 14 kindergarten students all working on different projects.  This year we spent a week talking about bugs (butterflies, ants, and honeybees).  In pre-k they spent a lot of time talking about the butterfly life cycle and so this year we focused more on the structure and then related it to other bugs.  Of course, we hatched out our painted lady butterflies during this time as well.  We each chose to make an ant or a bee from three sections of an egg carton.  We tried to be anatomically correct with 6 legs, two antennae, and 2 eyes.
Insects (If You're Happy and You Know It)*

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen,
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen,
Six legs, two wings, and compound eyes
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen!

*This is not original!  I got it a long time ago from a source that I cannot remember!

The next week we talked about plant structure and needs.  The students chose one of 5 groups for our mural: sun, flowers, clouds and rain, ant tunnels, and bugs.  They met with their group of 2-3 students and wrote down all the supplies they would need for their project.  I gathered each group's supplies for the next day.  The first day the sun group finger painted yellow and red.  The ant tunnels were cut out of black paper and attached to the board The flower group made stems, drew flowers, and began painting them. The bug people drew some insects they colored with markers and others to be painted later.  The clouds and rain people drew the clouds on white paper, attached cotton balls, and cut out raindrops.  If they ran out of tasks, they got their book beach bags or journals.  The second day, students finished up painting, making leaves, and made all the labels for the board.  They worked really well together and are very proud of their creation.

Monday, January 12, 2015

UbD Unit: Penguins

Theme: Penguins

Stage 1 – Desired Results
Established Goals: (Resources – CCSS ELA, Illinois Social Studies Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Illinois Fine Arts Standards)
CCSS RI.K.2 With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell details of the text.
CCSS W.K.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects. (shared writing)
CCSS W.K.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.  (propose a question and students use provided resources to find the answer to the question)
CCSS K.L.5 Sort objects into categories (flightless and flighted birds)
CCSS K.MD.2 Compare/Contrast two objects (flightless and flighted birds)
CCSS K.G.1 Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe relative positions of theme objects using terms suck as above, below, beside, in front of, behind and next to. (sphere and hemisphere)
Student will understand that…
·      Form follows function (American Architect, Louis Sullivan)
Essential Questions:
·      Why can’t penguins fly?
Students will know…
·      Vocabulary – flightless, sphere, webbed, tobogganing, Antarctica
·      Penguins are flightless birds that live in the southern hemisphere
·      Penguins have small flipper-like wings that make them excellent swimmers
·      Penguins and other flightless birds have smaller wings in comparison to their bodies than flying birds
·      Penguins have shorter wing feathers than flying birds
Students will be able to (skills)…
·      Identify main topic of an informational book
·      Retell details from informational books
·      Gather information from provided resources to answer a question
·      Sort objects into categories
·      Compare/contrast two objects
·      Describe objects in the environment using the name of the shape (sphere, hemisphere)

Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence
Performance Tasks:
·      Gather information from resources and draw a penguin showing characteristics (shorts legs, pudgy body, flipper-like wings and beak)
·      Retell details from readings and other resources to add to class web
·      Exit slips – identify the earth as a sphere, model a sphere from play dough, describe other items in the environment that are sphere shaped
·      Compare/contrast pictures of flying and flightless birds
Stage 3 – Learning Plan
Learning Activities:
1.           Cut and Paste penguins (directed)
2.      Popplet graphic organizer showing initial guesses to essential question (shared)
3.      After listening to book tub titles and book titles, select books best used to answer question
4.      iPad App ABCmouse (penguin facts and quiz)
5.      iPad App California Academy of Science (videos and live cams)
6.      iPad App Pocket Zoo (penguin sounds, videos, cams)
7.      iPad App World Book Animals (whole group – too much reading)
8.      Read informational text – National Geographic Kids: Penguins, Baby Penguin, Face-to-Face Penguins, Scholastic Science Readers Level 1 Penguins, Pierre the Penguin (a True Story)
9.      Read fiction text – Tacky the Penguin (book and app), Tacky in Trouble, Penguin Pete, Ahoy!
10.    Website: www.wonderopolis (projector together-video and text –What is an Emperor Penguin, Why can’t penguins fly?)
11.    Penguin live cam Sea World San Diego
12.    Writing Prompt: How would you teach a penguin to fly?
13.    Diving experiment (2 liter bottles, different shapes of clay, which shape "dives" through the water fastest?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Learning the Names and Sounds of the Letters

Each year I begin by challenging my kindergarten students to learn all the names and sounds of the letters by Halloween.  I remember way back when this was a task I devoted the entire year to accomplishing.  Then I went to a workshop presented by Michael Heggerty, author of Phonemic Awareness: The Skills That They Need to Help Them Succeed!  He challenged teachers to raise the bar and get as many students to learn the names and sounds of the letters as early as possible in the year.  It doesn't have to be 100%, but we should be working towards that goal.  It really makes perfect sense.  How can we ask a kid to sound something out, if they don't know the names and sounds of the letter?

This year I had an epiphany when I realized how important it is to use just one picture for students to associate with each letter, at least in the beginning.  As they start to pull away from using the pictures, they can still visualize the image and can use the cue to help remember the name and sound.  When I first started teaching kindergarten, I was left with a wealth of resources by an excellent teacher.  The philosophy was to bombard the students with as many examples of the sounds in as many ways as possible.  I now think this was not the best approach.  AFTER kids know most of the names and sounds is certainly the time to bombard the senses though.

This is the alphabet that I used this year.  I have printed individual sheets that are kept ready at hand and the alphabet strip over the chalkboard also uses the same pictures.  My students have learned the names and sounds of the upper and lowercase letters in record time this year.

Amanda Richardson 2014  Graphics & Fonts Dianne J. Hook