Saturday, October 31, 2015

Math Work Spaces

This year we have a new math curriculum in the Snohomish School District.  We are using the Bridges curriculum.  I have to say, I am really liking it so far.  It's developmentally appropriate for kindergarten and has a lot of fun games that provide practice time for the kids.

Every day we start our math time with a whole class mini-lesson.  After the mini-lesson, we head off into Work Spaces.  Each table in our classroom becomes a Work Space and the kids have jobs to do.  

Here is a game where the kids spin the spinner and practice writing the number they spin.  We are working on proper number formation and always starting to write our numbers at the top.

We use write and wipe markers on laminated sheets.

Here's another station where kids work with partners to play a game where they are adding numbers to total 5.

One of our newest Work Spaces is our pattern activity.  Kids build patterns and then document their pattern by coloring it onto their recording sheet.

One of the favorite Work Spaces is Spill the Beans.  Kids start with five beans and spill them onto the table.  Then they record how many red beans they have, again focusing on correct number formation as they are writing.

So far, Math Work Spaces have been a hit in kindergarten!  The kids are enjoying them and learning so much every day!

Happy learning!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Character Day

Welcome to Book Character Day!

Caterpillars explore in the sensory table.

Cheetahs make cards for their mommies.

Hulk, Elsa, and a wizard read ebooks on our tablets.

It's a magical (and exhausting) day in kindergarten!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Learning About Bats

We've been learning about bats in kindergarten lately.  We have lots of bat books in the classroom, but here are a few of our favorites.

Two of the most important lessons we learn are that we shouldn't be afraid of bats and that if we see a bat, we shouldn't touch it because it might be sick if it's out during the daytime.  We've watched a few short movies about bats that show them in caves and help us see their body parts up close.  Some kids said these books and movies seemed creepy.  When asking them more about their feelings, it turns out that the part that is scary to the kids is the dark.  Obviously, bats come out at night and the night seems scary to kids.  We talked about the good things that bats do for us (eating so many of the annoying bugs) and kids started feeling better about this cool creature.

We also made bats out of Model Magic, with is a clay-like material that dries hard.

We used small pieces to help kids with their fine motor skills.

We used our learning from books and videos to create bats that had the different body parts we had learned about.

Big ears, thin wings... we worked hard on our bats!

Happy learning!

Monday, October 26, 2015

We Need Pressed Leaves

Fall is in full swing and the leaves are showing off a bit.  I really love the beautiful leaves... but who doesn't?  Driving through the mountains this weekend reminded me that it's time to start leaf collecting.   We use leaves in the classroom for math, art, science, and literacy connections.  When I ask kids to bring leaves to the classroom, they are usually GREAT collectors, but the only way we can use these leaves for our projects is when they are pressed.  Pressing leaves is very simple and doesn't take up a lot of space. 

I usually start with a couple of paper towels on the table, and then I set a few leaves on top.

Next, you set a paper towel on top of the leaves and another layer of leaves is set on top of that towel.

I keep layering as many paper towels and leaves as I can, and then put a big stack of books on top.  They need to sit like this for several days so they become dry and flat. Once they are pressed and dry, I store them in an OPEN container or ziploc bag.  There will still be a tiny bit of moisture in the leaves, so you don't want to close them up and grow mold.  That's a science experiment I'd rather not do right now.  

I would love it if each child could collect and press 50 leaves.  We are looking for a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors!  Thanks for your help!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Class Meetings in Kindergarten

I've been teaching for 20 years now and there has never been a year when class meetings did not play a central roll in my classroom environment.  Yes, it takes time out of our week, but it is extremely valuable time that sets the tone for how we work and play together.  

Each morning the kids bring their chairs to the circle.  We usually start with compliments.  Right now, most of the kids say, "I'd like to compliment x,y, and z for being my friend.  As the year goes on, we try to focus on the actions those friends do that make us want to be their friend.  

Class meeting time is also a time to discuss problems in a safe way.  We roll play different scenarios and try to help our friends find ways to solve problems.  A few years ago I had a kindergarten student who was having trouble with another boy at recess.  The student went home and told his mom about the problem.  The mom told him that she would give me a call and talk to me to see if I could fix things.  The little boy responded, "No, mom, that's ok.  We have class meetings and I can bring it up and talk about it with my class."  That, right there, is the whole reason we do class meetings.  Kids are learning how to take ownership, understand when they can solve a problem and when they need help, and learning to have the confidence to ask their peers for support.  It's absolutely fabulous!

Class meetings are also great for introducing vocabulary words like respect, responsibility, persistence, patience, and gratitude.  We learn these words through books, role play, conversation, and music.  My hope is that by building a better foundation for education in the classroom, I am also improving our character education.  

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


One of the things I love the most about kindergarten is that I get to set up a wide variety of experiences for the kids.  I don't simply want to introduce new concepts through books or video, but I want the kids to actually experience new things every day.  I truly believe that the sum of our literacy lives is made up of experiences we all have.  Kids make deeper connections to books about trees when they have had time to experience, learn about, and observe trees.  If a child has been to a pumpkin farm and learned, first hand, how the pumpkins grow then they will be able to make connections to the books about pumpkins that other kids may not be able to make.

The big idea of experiences making up our literacy lives connects to writing as well.  How many times, as a child or even as an adult, have you been assigned to write something and it seems like that blank page is staring you down.  It looks back up at you and you look right back at it, not knowing even where to begin.  Having experiences in the classroom or at home will help kids gain ideas to write about, but also learn to add details to their writing.  Instead of simply drawing a picture of a pumpkin growing in the pumpkin field, kids might draw a mucky farm and show themselves wearing sturdy rain boots.  These are all details that they may add to their picture because it is something they actually experienced, and in turn be able to add to their writing.

The header of my literacy blog is filled with pictures of baking, art, and running through the hay fields.  These may seem like strange pictures to represent the big idea of literacy, but it all comes back to experiences.  Yes, I want my students and my own children to learn to read and write, but the best way to enhance their reading and writing is to provide as many different experiences as possible.  It's all about playful learning and everything we do, each and every day, is bringing us back to learning!

Happy playing, learning, and growing!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Beautiful Mess

We had a painting kind of day on Friday and that is my favorite kind of day in kindergarten.  I love creating a beautiful mess.  I realize that many parents cringe at the idea of painting at home.  I know, it's messy, clean up is horrible, and it can create more stress than it's worth sometimes.  Well, I will happily create messes in my classroom and take on a bit of that chaos for you.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you shouldn't paint at home.  It was truly one of my favorite activities with my kids when they were younger.  Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks for painting at home with kids:

*Buy a vinyl table cloth at the dollar store and cover your table with it each time you paint.  It won't matter if the kids spill, makes clean up faster, and protects your table.  It will be the best dollar you have ever spent.

*Have a paint box and fill it with water color paints, finger paints, and washable tempra paints.  These are the three easiest to clean.

*Save small jars to store brushes in and use as a water jar.  Having a designated jar for washing brushes is a must.

*Always have baby wipes in your house.  Even if your kids are past the stage of needing wipes, they work perfectly for wiping paint off of hands and wiping a glob of paint off of the floor.

*Paint with your kids.  I always found that my kids focused longer on their piece of art if I was focusing on my piece of art at the same time.  (No, I don't really consider myself an artist, but I tell the kids that we are ALL artists and just need to keep practicing our different forms of art.)

In kindergarten, we create a beautiful mess each and every time we break the paints out.  The kids need this time to explore and let their creativity shine.  I would encourage you to try a few painting days out at home too.  I hope you will see what a beautiful mess you and your child can create together.

Happy painting!