Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Math Stations

In addition to our new Engage New York math curriculum, I've also been adding several hands-on math stations. The stations are based on current concepts we are working on.

Here is our Gingerbread 10 frame game.

We have a counting path game that also connects with numeral recognition. You may remember homework that asked kids to create a counting path with their finger as they count.

I've loaded some fun new kindergarten math games on the LeapPads.

The bingo markers are a big hit. Kids are using a ten frame and numeral cards to show how many.

We've been working hard to learn the proper way to write are numbers. Our dry erase books give us a little practice.

Clay number mats are a fun way to practice too.

Pete The Cat's Groovy Buttons is a hit with the kindergarten crowd! Kids draw a number and then show how many on the ten frame. You've just gotta' love Pete!

Math stations are a nice break from the Engage New York lessons and seem to compliment our work well!

Learning About +1

We've been working on the concept of +1 in math. One of the hands-on approaches to developing this concept is through staircases.

We talk about starting with 1, and then what happens when we add 1 to that. We repeat the process until we get to 10.  The + symbol has been new learning for many of the kids and so has the idea of building a staircase. While some kids can just see the idea behind the staircase and build it, others need to be taught how to do this. 

This is a great concept to work on at home. Have your child build a staircase out of Cheerios. Start with 1 and then work through "+1" until they get to 10. For advanced kids, have them try writing the +1 number partners as they go. 4+1, 5+1, 6+1.

Happy counting and adding!

Monday, November 24, 2014


Oh, how I love art!  I am, by no means, an artist.  As a mater of fact, I FEARED art as a child.  I could not draw to save my life and it seemed that it was always part of every subject.  We had to draw models in math (pictures to represent our thinking) and it went hand in hand with the subject of writing.  That doesn't even begin to touch the traditional - Friday Art Project.  I was no good at it, and it really frustrated me, but I wished I could do art because I loved the idea of it.

When I became a teacher, I decided to take the fear out of art for my kids.  I started taking art classes for teachers in college and have spent many years practicing art with my own kids.  I can honestly say that I am no better at art than when I started, but I've learned to overcome my fear. I strive to find the art in every day life and make things beautiful around me. My big learning is that it just doesn't have to be perfect... that's all.

When I was at the NAEYC conference in Dallas, a few weeks ago, I was able to hear Peter Reynolds speak.  I could have listened to him all day.  He just GETS kids.  He knows their thoughts and fears when it comes to art and creativity and helps them think outside the box.  The books, pictured above, are a trio which really inspire kids to be the artist THEY are and not try to be perfect.  Sky Color, Ish, and The Dot are absolutely beautiful stories about the fact that it might not look exactly like a house, but it's house-ish.  Today, we did some Peter Reynolds inspired art.  It didn't have to be perfect, but it was our way of practicing small motor, trying to draw something new, and then adding labels later.  

It was good day, and we were ALL artist-ish.

(These books really are great and should be read over and over!  Check them out at the local library if you can, or keep them in mind for Holiday gift giving.)  

Math Storytelling

Sorry for the horribly blurry picture.  That's what you get when you don't tote the fancy camera to school every day.  

Story telling is a big part of our lives in Kindergarten.  We are working to develop our oral language every single day, and it's not just in literacy.  We are also working to develop our oral language in math.  Over the past few weeks, we have been telling math stories.  The math stories "sound like stories" but they also focus on numbers and addition.  

In this story, 4 little bears were driving down the road when they noticed that two of their bear friends needed a ride.  The four bears driving, plus the two bears being picked up, make 6 bears in the car.  This is a very simple activity parents can encourage their kids to do at home.  Cheerios are great manipulatives to use as counters.  Have your child pick a number (5, 6, or 7 would be a good start) and then tell stories that include number partners.  I always have kids finish up with telling the number number partners and how many they equal altogether.  It's a great way to combine literacy and math!

Happy counting and story telling!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Character Day

Book Character Day landed on October 31st.  Our school participates in the Halloween fun of dressing up, but we like to stick with a theme that supports the educational work we are doing in the classroom.  We chose book characters or Nursery Rhymes for our theme in kindergarten.  

During our class party, we had lots of fun activities and many parents to help us out.  There were games and puzzles.

Brand new playdough mats, with a harvest theme.

We did a project to go along with our Itsy Bitsy Spider book.

There were some yummy fall snacks.

There were also the cutest book characters ever!  Check out Pinkalicious below!

Overall, I'd say it was a great day!  Thanks for helping us out, parents!

Big Buddies

Last week we were able to meet our Big Buddies!  The kids were REALLY excited when I told them all about it.  We will be meeting with our buddies once or twice a month to do projects, spend time reading together, and just getting to know someone else at our school.  For the first meeting, kids were given pumpkin puzzles.  Their job was to find someone who completed their puzzle.  Some kids have one buddy and some have two.

Once they found their buddies, they wrote and drew about their buddies together.  

We are really looking forward to getting to know our fifth grade friends a little better!  It should be a fun year!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What We Are Reading Now

We're always ready something in Kindergarten.  I try to introduce as many different genres, authors, and topics as I can.  Kids are drawn to different things.  Some kids LOVE books about science, while others can't wait until I read Berenstain Bears.  Over the past few weeks we've been diving into the Pinkalicious series.  If you are not familiar with these books, they are worth checking out.  They look girly on the outside, but everyone likes them.

Of course, we've also been reading books about Fall, pumpkins, firefighters and leaves.  If you asked me which book on this shelf is my favorite, there is no way I could choose.  It would be like choosing my favorite child.  If you're looking for a new book to check out at the library, the kids loved Where the Wild Things Are, Fall is Here I Love It, Pumpkin Pumpkin, Firefighters A to Z, and of the Five Little Monkey books, and Alphabet Rescue.

I try to read multiple books to the kids every day.  Asking your child what story we read at school is always a good question.  Our big focus right now includes identifying the characters that are in the book.

Happy Reading!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Highlight of Our Day

There is absolutely nothing more exciting that changing spots in Kindergarten.  We switched our table spots today and then changed our carpet spots as well.  I imagine it would be the same as getting a new cubicle (or classroom in my case) at work.  There are new friends to work by and get to know.

It's especially fun in kindergarten because there are so many people you haven't even gotten to know yet.   It's an exciting day!

Don't forget to ask your child who they sit by now!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wild Things

 Today, in Kindergarten, we read the classic book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

We spent a lot of time trying to infer what was happening in the story and what we thought the author was trying to tell us.  We also looked carefully at the different features each wild thing had.  Some had scales, some feathers, some wore stripes, and some had fur.  The kids picked their favorite wild thing and then we were ready for our project.

The kids made their own wild things with oil pastels.  This is only the second time we've used oil pastels in art, and the kids did a great job.  Getting just the right amount of pressure is always a challenge with oil pastels.  As kids were drawing, they naturally started counting and we heard things like, "My wild thing has two horns."  I pointed out that this was math conversation and to keep those numbers in mind as they were working because we'd be labeling our work shortly. (I love it when kids' conversations naturally lead where I'm about to take them!)

The labeling began shortly after kids finished their wild things. We counted claws, legs, teeth, stripes, feet, and many more features. Kids wrote the number next to the area they wanted to label and we encouraged them to use the beginning sound of the words to show which part they were labeling.  "5 C," for example, means 5 claws on that hand.

This is always one of my favorite lessons in the fall.  It incorporates using new materials (oil pastels), a classic children's book, art, math, and writing.  The morning class finished their wild things today and they are bringing them home. The afternoon class will be doing theirs on the next Friday they attend.  If your child is bringing home their wild thing today, please ask them about it!  Have them read you their labels and practice counting together.  It's a great book to keep in mind if you are wanting to take a trip to the public library too!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Homework for Parents

Am I allowed to assign homework to parents?  If I could, I'd assign THIS book for all parents to read.

I read a lot of books on early childhood education.  It's my passion!  As you know, I have kids of my own and 40 kindergarten students who rely on me to have a firm understanding of how they learn.  This is the SINGLE BEST BOOK I've read about early childhood education.

Mariah Bruehl is the author.  I purchased my copy of the book from

This book is brilliantly written for parents with young children.  Mariah briefly discusses developmental stages in reading, writing, math, science, and social awareness.  She explains what parents will see when they work with their children.  The best part about the book (in my opinion) is the fact that it is all about learning through play and life experiences.  It's not about sitting down with a workbook.  It's about real life.

Mariah also writes a blog and offers online classes for parents and teachers.  I have taken her Playful Learning class online and it was fabulous. My kids took her writing/photography class  over the summer and enjoyed it as well.

Happy reading!

Shape Man

One of my favorite kindergarten projects is Shape Man.

We start by reading the book Shape Space and talking about the different shapes we see on Shape Man.  Then, the real fun begins.

We use construction paper to make our own Shape Man.  We did this project on Grandparents Day and we completed it in record time!  It usually takes at least half of a day to complete when there are no helpers in the room. 

(these photos are from a previous kindergarten class)

The kids loved building their giant Shape Men and the grandparents loved seeing their geometry, direction following, and small motor skills being used!

Thanks for helping, Grandparents!
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What a Day!

Happy October!  It's Fire Safety Month!

What's better than a day in kindergarten, filled with painting, pumpkins, projects, and P.E.?  A day filled with all of that, PLUS a fire truck and real firefighters!

The firefighters showed us their truck and even tried of all of their equipment for us.

Firefighter Dave and Firefighter Greg came into our classroom and taught a lesson on fire safety.

We read Firefighters A to Z and learned lots of new information about a firefighter's job and tools.

I can't decide what the kids enjoyed most about the day, but I'm pretty sure the fire truck was high up on the list of happy things today!  By the way, the firefighters told the kids that any family without a smoke detector can stop by the fire station and pick one up.  What a great day!

Painting Pumpkins

One of my favorite art projects to do with Kindergarten students is a pumpkin painting project.

I love this project because all kids can be successful.  I don't claim to be an artist, but by seeing things in shapes and drawing those shapes one at a time I'm able to make my chicken-scratch-drawing actually look like a real artist might.  If I can do it, anyone can!  

We started this project by playing around with oil pastels.  It's a new medium for many kids and the texture is a bit different than regular crayons.  I let the kids draw anything they wanted and then encouraged them to draw skinny lines and fat lines, just to experience the pastels.  Then, we moved on to the pumpkin lesson.  We looked at real pumpkins and talked about the ribs, or lines, on the pumpkins.  We started our drawing with an oval (after a little practicing with drawing ovals in the air).  After that, we drew the ribs of the pumpkin along side of the oval.  After adding a stem and some leaves on the side, we were ready to paint.

The painting is the fun part because we break all of the rules!  Up to this point, we've used mostly water colors.  I tell the kids to BE SURE to wash their brushes before changing colors and remind them not to mix the paints because it will turn our paint trays into a muddy mess.  Well, in this project, the kids need to create their own shades of orange.  We use red, yellow, and orange paint and mix them all together.  Kids load up their brushes with two different colors and paint away!

I can't wait to have the kids cut these out, add their leaves, and hang them in our pumpkin patch!  I'll be sure to post a picture!  The kids did a GREAT job cleaning up after themselves too.  I was so proud of our little artists!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Very Favorite Movie Ever - The Letter Factory by LeapFrog

It's confession time.  

I have to tell you a story about my inability to teach my son when he was in kindergarten.  It pains me to tell this story, but there is a happy ending.  

My son attended 2 years of Preschool and I worked part time as a second grade teacher at the time.  On my days off, we would play games, go to the library, read books, write and draw, and even practice things like letters and sounds.  I did all of the things I was "supposed" to do with my son.  He went off to Kindergarten knowing a lot of letters and sounds, but not all of them.  The teacher did a few assessments, and I think due to nerves, he demonstrated that he knew even fewer letters and sounds than he did at home.  I continued to work with him at home and the work in the classroom continued as well, but his progress was VERY slow.  By the time Christmas Break rolled around his teacher informed me that he would be pulled for remedial work when we returned from break. 

Oh, my goodness... I can't even begin to tell you how my heart sank!!

I am a teacher!  I have a Masters Degree in Reading and Literacy, for goodness sake, and I can't get my child to learn letters and sounds!?!  I kept doing all of those games and activities that I knew were great for kids, but nothing seemed to click with him. 

Shortly after the conversation with my son's teacher, I was at Target and spotted a movie on the shelf. It was called The Letter Factory by LeapFrog.  I knew a little about LeapFrog and knew they were an educational toy company, so I figured it may be a little reinforcement for his learning. 


The old movie cover looks like the video on the left and the updated, 2014, version is on the right.

Over the break, we watched the movie together a few times and I'm telling you, Friends, it was like MAGIC!  All of sudden, my son was not only remembering his letters and sounds but he was singing them in the car and at the dinner table!  I went back to Target over the break and bought every game I could find to go along with the Letter Factory movie.  I really couldn't believe that a movie could do for my son what I couldn't do with all of my games, tricks, and practicing, but by that point I was just thrilled that he knew his letters and sounds.

As the years went on, I suggested this movie to every parent who would listen.  I think it's brilliant and the kids LOVE it!  The movie is available at stores everywhere, Amazon, and (last time I checked) it was available for streaming on Netflix.  I highly suggest tracking this down.  For a while, I was able to get it through the local library too.  Our goal in the classroom is to have kids knowing their letters and sounds by the Christmas Break.  I know that seems like a big push, but that will get us on our way to reading and writing!  We practice these letters and sounds every single day, in class, but I will also be sending home practice for kids at home.  This movie (and the games that go along with it) could be a fun way to practice!

(Full disclosure for my Confession Post: I mentioned that I really love this movie and it really fueled my passion for the tools and resources that are available for kids.  I found this movie almost a decade ago, and since then, I've actually starting working for LeapFrog as a writer and photographer.  More on that later, but I wanted you to know that my love for this movie and the games has nothing to do with the fact that I work part time for LeapFrog.  I think it's the best educational movie ever made and that was my opinion even before being employed by the company.  I don't get any kick-backs for encouraging families to track this down.  I just really think it's brilliant and well done.)

Happy letter learning!

Bats In A Cave - Day 2

Yesterday I shared with you the game we played during math time.  Our main focus was on Conservation Of Number.  We worked on the idea that even when we move around our five bats (beans), there are still going to b 5.  Today's focus was on parts of number.

There are full directions for playing the Bats In A Cave Addition game on the LeapFrog Learning Path Website if you are interested.  We played the game with 3 bats and took turns hiding bats and guessing how many were hiding.  The kids loved the game and I sent home 5 beans with each student today.  I told them it was their job to teach parents how to play the game, but the directions are on the LeapFrog website (above) for parents as well.  I would start your child playing the game with only 3 bats, and then move to 4 or 5 as they are ready and becoming more confident.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bats in a Cave

We played a math game today called Bats In A Cave.

Our Engage NY curriculum suggested playing a similar game with bears and individual tubs, but we changed it up a bit.  Our focus was on "Conservation of Number" where kids develop an understanding that if they started with 5 and put 2 on top, there would still be 5 all together... we just moved them around a bit. It's the same idea as having 20 objects all in a line and then messing them all up.  There are still 20 objects there, but the five year old brain doesn't realize that.

There are full directions for playing the Bats In A Cave Addition game on the LeapFrog Learning Path Website if you are interested.  The game we played in class was specifically focused on Conservation of number, while the game on the LeapFrog website has more of an addition/subtraction focus.  It a really simple and fun way to work on number fluency with your kids at home!

Happy counting!

The Importance of Play - Kindergarten Center Time

 One of my absolute favorite time of the day in Kindergarten is our Center Time.  Over the past 10 years, standards have changed, and in some ways (lots of ways) I feel that Kindergarten is the new First Grade.  Even with all of the pressure to have rigor in the classroom with regards to curriculum, I will always find time for play.  There is so much research around the benefits of play in the Pre-K and Kindergarten settings.  One of my favorite books is called The Importance of Play by Vivian Paley. So, twice a week we play.  We reserve our Center time for days when we don't have Music, Library, or PE.  Kids get to play and explore, use language to learn new ideas, practice sharing and working as a team, and just be messy and have fun.

There is a lot of messy play during Center Time. I want to be able to provide clay, play doh, paints, and things that splatter all over the tables.  I have no problem wiping up paint and shaving cream if it means the kids get that sensory experience.

The Sensory Table has been a fast-favorite.  Right now it's filled with wheat kernels.  My cousin is a wheat farmer and saved a big bag for me.  Right now, we are just working on taking turns, sharing materials, and learning to contain the mess just a little bit.  Soon, we will add measuring cups, scoops, and funnels.  It's a great way for kids to explore capacity.

The Lego table is always a hit, especially with the boys.  I've always wondered why Legos draw the boys, and not as many girls.  The kids love building spaceships and cars.  They are learning how to share the wheels because there are never enough to go around.  Legos are great for small motor development.  It's really hard work pinching those little pieces and taking them apart.  The language the kids use while creating their spaceships is impressive.  Today I heard someone say that the spear on their ship reminded them of a Narwhal.  That comment led to kids asking, "What's a narwhal?"  It's a perfect example of the way oral language is developed through play time.

I have to admit, it kind of made me sad the day that my son (who is now 13) told me I could take his cars into the classroom.  Kids LOVE playing cars.  Sometimes I pair the cars with a racetrack carpet and other times I put out the blocks and traffic signs.  I love watching the kids build a city out of their blocks and then drive their cars around.  The planning that goes into their city is amazing, and the various shapes of the blocks add an extra challenge to the construction.  Meanwhile, kids are reading the signs and talking to their friends about the "rules" in their new town.

My philosophy on parenthood goes like this:
"When all else fails, make some play dough."

I'm telling you, friends, play dough has saved my life on many occasions.  I will share the recipe soon.  Sometimes, on rainy days when my kids were young, I would whip up a batch of homemade play dough and the peace would be restored to my house in two minutes flat.  

I love adding play dough to our Center Time because the rolling, squishing, ball forming, and snake making is so wonderful for developing those small muscles in our hands that we need in order to hold a pencil and write.  With this batch of play dough, I added some cinnamon, a pie plate, and real apples as our inspiration.  Suddenly, we had a pie shop right in the Kindergarten classroom!  It's amazing what a little play dough and some imagination can do!!

There are so many more centers that I have to tell about.  We open about 7 or 8 different centers each day, and each has a different learning goal or experience to provide the kids.  Center time is a happy time in Kindergarten, as it should be!

Happy Play Time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Classroom Tour

I was so happy to have well over half of our families join me on Curriculum Night!  I appreciate you taking your time to learn what will be going on in the classroom this year.  I know, as a parent, my hope in attending my kids' curriculum night isn't to find out about the publishers of curriculum or even the text books the kids will use.  I want to spend time in the classroom!  I want to meet the teacher who will be spending more waking hours with my child than I will be. I want to know that my kids will be cared for, loved, and are being taught by someone I have faith and confidence in.   (If I were in church right now, I know I'd be hearing a few Amens!)

For those who attended, I hope I was able to give you a glimpse into our classroom life and I hope you feel a bit more confident in your child's teacher this year.  For those of you who were not able to attend, I have the next best thing.  I've already sent out a link to our Curriculum Night tab, at the top of the blog.  That link will have all of the information I went over.  As for the other part... spending time in the classroom... I have a mini-photo tour for you.  There will be many more pictures to come, but here's a start:

Our classroom is not "done" by any means.  There is a lot more "cute-si-fication" that needs to happen.  (Yes, that's a word.)  Bulletin boards need to be completed, curtains need to be sewn, and art work needs to be hung.  My goal in showing you the almost-finished product is to show you where the kindergarten magic happens every day.  I'm hoping that your child comes home every day saying that they had fun here.  I guarantee you that there is learning and hard work happening here too, but I'm hoping they will remember the fun parts over the hard work.  

After almost 20 years of teaching, I have a pretty large classroom library.  I have books in several places in the room for kids to access and I also have my seasonal books hidden, which I bring out as the months change.  The little table in the library area doubles as a small motor/art station.  I found pictures online of Andy Goldsworthy's artwork and set them out with a sand, rock, and shell tray for kids to explore.  

There are a couple different "teaching spots" in the room.  We have an easel set up for modeling writing and a rocking chair for our main story time.  We also have the area, above, to do flannel board stories and practice letters and sounds.

I love my little nature table, by the back door, too!  Last week we had sunflowers set up for the kids to explore and this week it's rocks.  Right now I'm changing things out pretty quickly.  I'd like to find out topics the kids are most interested in learning more about.  I really LOVE the natural curiosity of kindergartners!

There is so much more to explore in our little corner of Cascade View Elementary, but that will have to do for now.  It's a happy place, filled with music, laughter, and learning.  

Thanks for taking the classroom tour!