Thursday, October 6, 2016

Steve the Stickbug

Meet Steve!

Steve is our new Australian stick bug who joined our classroom today.  

We have already learned that Steve likes to eat blackberry and raspberry leaves.  We don't know much more about stick bugs, so this will become a good inquiry project for us.

We've decided that Steve looks a bit like a dried up leaf.  He didn't do much today, but he did dance a little.

As you can see, Mrs. Ross is not at artist, but I did model my story during Writer's Workshop today.

A few kids in the class chose to write about Steve as well.

We will be sharing Steve with Miss Mulder's classroom, so all of our kindergartners get to meet Steve.  We have so much to learn about Australian stick bugs!  If you'd like to help your child look up information at home about Australian stick bugs, we'd love to interview our experts when they return to the classroom.  A trip to Bridges Pets to visit the stick bugs and ask questions of the sales people might be a fun little field trip, if you're over that way!

Happy learning!

Name Tickets and Alphabet Cards

We are working our way through learning 26 letters in 20 days.  We've almost made it!!

A few times a week, kids come into the classroom and grab their name ticket and alphabet card to do a little practicing.

Right now, with our name tags, we are working on making sure we write the first letter capital and the rest lower case.  For some kids, this is easy-peasy.  For others, it's a challenge to remember to use lowercase letters.  Most of the letters we use in our daily writing will be lowercase, so we like to focus on these during our practice time.  After the kids practice writing their names, they can practice writing some of the letters from the alphabet card or practice our alphabet song in sign language.

Kids are REALLY getting the hang of our alphabet song and have started to internalize their sign language letters.  The other day, as we were writing, one of our girls asked me how to spell a word.  I was able to sign the first few letters to her, while simultaneously helping another student on his work.  Talk about multi-tasking!

Our next challenges in our morning practice will be learning to write the names of friends in our class and learning to sign our own names.  This would be something really fun to practice at home! When kids have learned to sign their own names, we'll have them show us in front of the class.

Happy writing and signing!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fine Motor Skills

We've started some Fine Motor Stations in the morning, when kids first arrive at school.  These are activities designed to build muscle strength in our little hands and fingers, which in turn helps us in our ability to write.

I really LOVE Play-Doh and clay!  I will be sharing homemade Play-Doh recipes in an upcoming post.  

Pinching with tongs is a great way to build strength in our hands!  I put some squishy plastic balls in our bean table and gave the kids the challenge to remove them all with different types of tongs.  Challenge accepted!!

Legos are one of my favorite toys for building muscles in our fingers.  In addition, Legos are just awesome for developing creativity.

Once kids have the proper pencil grips, I encourage them to do some tracing and use our stencils.

This is one of my favorite stations.  We have a sand tray, rocks, and shells that kids use to create art pieces.  I take pictures of their pieces of work to display in the classroom.  Any activity that invites the kids to pinch like you see in the picture below, is awesome for developing muscles.  

We are writers in kindergarten and every fine motor activity we try will help us build the muscles and stamina we need for writing. 

You may have noticed your child coming home and showing you a bit of sign language.  We are on a mission to learn the signs for 26 letters in the first 20 days of school and we've almost reached our goal!  Not only does sign language help us connect our actions to letters and sounds, but we are also (secretly) sneaking in a bit of fine motor work!

I would encourage you to think about adding some fine motor activities into your daily routines.  Counting Cheerios, by moving them one by one, watering plants with a spray bottle, painting with small brushes, drawing with markers, and even cutting coupons from the Sunday paper are all great ways to build muscles in our hands!

Have fun!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Class Meetings in Kindergarten

Let me start by saying that I love class meetings.  In my opinion, they are absolutely essential in any classroom environment.  Kids NEED a place to share, talk about problems, and CELEBRATE their excellent work and behavior.  

So, what is a class meeting?  Every morning we gather together in a circle.  

Some years I've done this toward the end of the day, but this year it works best to start the day off with a class meeting.  We start by singing Make New Friends, and we are learning this in sign language as well.  I usually have the kids begin sharing some compliments.  We learn what a compliment is and how to express thanks to someone for their work or behavior.  Right now, many kids are saying things like, "I'd like to compliment Joe for taking care of me when I fell down.  He came running over and asked me if I was ok and then walked me to the recess teacher."  Some kids are simply not comfortable sharing something like this in front of the group, so I never require everyone to share.  At this time, it's completely optional.  If we have a group with soft voices, we use a microphone so everyone can hear.  

Talking Bear (pictured below) helps us to know when it's our turn to speak and when it's our turn to listen.  We pass him around and the person who is holding him should be the only person speaking.

We have 3 rules at Cascade View.
1. Take care of yourself.
2.  Take care of others.
3.  Take care of our school and community.

We use visuals to help us remember these rules and we PRACTICE them in some way during our class meetings.  Puppets are a favorite way for us to practice, but we also do lots of role play and even have some short videos to help us remember.  (For other teachers who may read this blog, I purchased some great posters and small cards from TPT that we use during class meetings.)

In addition, class meetings are a place to discuss problems.  We work on presenting problems without talking about other kids by name.  For example, we practice saying, "SOMEONE took my spot at Center Time and then I didn't have anywhere to work."  Then, kids will help that person come up with ways they could have solved the problem.  

I could go on about class meetings forever!  They are such a powerful tool for kids in the classroom.  Even in a class as young as kindergarten!

Happy learning!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dot Day

It was Dot Day in Kindergarten today!

If you aren't familiar with books by Peter J. Reynolds, please be sure to check them out at the library.  I'm a huge fan of his work and the mission he has to help children. Here is a great video with Peter that we watched in class, which also helped inspire our Dot Day work.  Here is the You Tube video of the book. 

And now, onto our Dot Day work...

This was our first experience with tempera paints in the classroom.

Peter Reynolds talks about mixing his colors, so we practiced mixing our colors as well.

For many kids, this might be a first experience with BIG messy projects like this.  The kids did a GREAT job!

I loved the different interpretations of what great "dot art" might be and we really focused on the way Peter Reynolds encouraged us and showed us that even a little dot can make beautiful art work.  All we have to do is give it a try!

The kids loved experimenting with paints and this was a great opportunity for me to introduce this art material in the class.  It also set the foundation that we all have unique types of art and one piece isn't better than another.

Here is the Dot Day song, if you are interested.  The official Dot Day is on September 15th, but Peter Reynolds says it's on September 15th-ish.  You'll just have to read his book called Ish to find out all about that idea!

Happy reading and painting!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Math Exploration

With week number 1 under our belts, the kids and I are feeling good about our accomplishments so far!  We spent the week exploring some of our different math materials and figuring out how some of the pieces fit together.  It's important for us to start slowly and make sure we understand the expectations with our materials.
There was a lot of creating and there was also counting.

Kids figured out how to build with materials they may not have used before.

There was sorting, counting, and even a bit of dramatic play.

We made lots of different creations and learned that Mrs. Ross prefers that we not build weapons with link cubes.

Our Bridges math lessons will begin on Monday, but we will continue to provide these math materials in our Math Work Places. After our whole class lesson, kids will go to self-selected Work Places to build and create.  As the year progresses, we will have specific tasks that kids will be doing at the Work Places.  

Happy learning!

Play Based Centers

Our play-based centers were a HUGE hit with the kindergarten students this week!  The goal of these centers is to provide kids the opportunity to self-select projects to work on, based on their own interest.  As you can imagine, getting 22 five year olds to work on projects together for a sustained period of time is a remarkable challenge.  We begin this work by introducing areas of play which are familiar to kids.  These are things they may already be familiar with and probably know how to work with appropriately.  Adding friends to the mix, learning to share materials, and learning to interact with one another is our next step.  This week, our focus was just on learning to love and take care of ourselves, our classroom, and our community.

We opened up the bean/sensory table and added scoops for measuring.

The Lego table was open for building and lots of imaginative play.

The ponies are an absolute favorite!  I've loved watching the kids have their ponies take on the roll of certain characters.

The kids love the barn too. I picked this up for my daughter at a garage sale, many years ago.  She loved telling stories with her horses too and I would take pictures of each scene for her to make a book out of later.

The Home Center can be messy at times, but it has already been turned into a kitchen inside of a home, a restaurant, and a coffee shop.

Dora's dollhouse is another one of those activities that builds the language kids need for story telling.  I often hear kids saying things like, "Maybe we should have Dora be walking to her grandma's house and then Swiper can come up and find her."  Just like that, they are identifying characters and coming up with a problem for the story.

The cars and our rug mat have become a place of counting and dividing.  The kids love to line up all of the cars and then make sure everyone has an even number.  

Playdough has to be my personal favorite center.  I make playdough for each new month and put different toys out for kids to explore.  Playdough is great for developing fine motor skills, as it builds the muscles in our hands and fingers.

As I mentioned, the play-based centers will become more play/project based as the year goes on.  Right now, I want these kids to LOVE coming to school each day.  I want them to learn to take care of themselves, take care of each other, and take care of our classroom.  They are wonderful children with beautiful hearts and this is an amazing time for them!

Happy playing!