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 Amazon.com.

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.