It's hard to believe it's already February, the year sure is flying by! Check out what we've been up to lately...
As we returned from break, we thought about all that we had done so far in Kindergarten as well as thinking about the future. The children had a chance to write about something they were proud to be able to do after the first 81 days of kindergarten. Lots of great answers! Next, they were tasked to think of something they hope to do or learn over the course of the rest of the year. Hopefully we can make these hopes come true!
In Math, we have been learning lots of new games to help the children take their skills to the next level. Many of these games have helped the children start to think about the relationships between numbers. In one game, "Collect 20", children rolled a die to see if they would add one, two, or three chips to a pair of ten frames. With each addition, they had to determine the new total number of chips. This allowed children to learn different strategies for figuring out this total; they might count all the chips, use the ten frames to help them, or think about adding one, two, or three more. Another game, "Racing Bears", had the children roll a die and move a bear the corresponding number of spaces. Children had to make sure they weren't counting the space they were already on and think about what to do when they ran out of spaces but had more numbers. This gave the children a chance to start to break numbers apart. This work with number relationships helps build an important base for addition and subtraction work.
In Discovery, we used eggs to begin our exploration of balance. We talked about how one way to define balance is when something stays up and doesn't fall down. The children were challenged to balance their eggs somewhere in the classroom. Even though this was a tricky task, quite a few children found success! Later we recited "Humpty Dumpty" and the children tried to balance their eggs on a "wall". This time, the task was much more difficult. Even though no one was successful this time, stay tuned for what happens at the END of the unit...
Next, we got our bodies involved. Again, we talked about balance meaning something staying up, but this time we were talking about ourselves! Children were challenged to stand on one foot. The children noticed this task had its challenges, and counted how many seconds they could stay up. Some noticed strategies that made the task easier, such as using their arms or closing their eyes.
Later, we used our body in a different way; this time we used our bodies to balance a cup and keep it from falling. The children found all different parts of their bodies they could use: their heads, their feet, and even their noses!
Later, we learned about a different way to think about balance and about a tool called a pan balance. We learned that this tool helps us determine the relationship between objects' weights. Experimenting with pan balances, we learned that the heavier object goes down, the lighter object goes up, and that when the two objects weigh the same the balance is even, or balanced. The children were challenged to think of one object that is heavier than them and one that is lighter. I even made the list!
After using a pan balance in various ways, the children got a chance to make their own balances! They worked in pairs to complete a "shopping list" of parts they'd need. Later they worked with their partners to build the balance and try it out!
The children learned and noticed a lot through this activity. Some learned that they had to work hard and persevere to complete the task. Others used their balances to compare the weights of different Duplox people and animals. Lots of fun AND lots of learning!
To celebrate all the balance learning so far, we had an afternoon of balance games. The children played a variety of games that reinforced the concepts we've been learning. Children had to find different ways to balance different objects, from robots to elephants!
Another game tasked the children to keep a bear balanced on ice cubes, and think about what kept the cubes from falling. A final game presented an extra challenge; children had to remove discs from a structure while keeping it balanced. They noticed what happened to different pieces of the structure as each disc was removed. Thanks to our parent volunteers that came in to help us play!
We made it to 100 days of kindergarten, definitely a reason to celebrate! The children made glasses to wear, did a variety of math activities, and best of all made a special 100th day snack! The children each received a place mat with ten ten frames. We talked about how these ten ten frames added up to 100 spaces! Children then chose from a variety of snacks, filling each ten frame with one snack. Of course, as much fun as it was to make the snack it was even more fun to eat it! Check out some pictures of the children working on their snacks. Thanks to our parent volunteers for helping us with the snack!
The children also wrote about one of their favorite things from the first 100 days of school. There were many wonderful answers, from math games to special events to wellness (always a favorite)!
Along with our special days and celebrations, we were lucky to have some special visitors. Two of our visitors brought along some special friends, a collection of owls and birds of prey! They read us an owl story before introducing us to lots of different owls. They taught us about the different kinds of owls and their characteristics, such as their weight and what they like to eat. Everyone enjoyed the fun and informative visit!
We also had a visit from one of our Lincoln firefighters! He taught us all about fire safety, including how to crawl under smoke and how to stop, drop, and roll. The children had a chance to practice both techniques. Later the firefighter showed us some of his gear so that children would be familiar with it if they ever needed help from a firefighter.
Finally, we had some visitors come to teach us about Chinese New Year. They told us about the traditional lion dance, explaining the lore and that the lion is meant to scare away bad luck. After performing for us, many of the children got to try out the dance themselves! Others got to practice "feeding" the lions red envelopes.
Of course, amidst all the learning and special events we still had lots of time for Learn and Explore. The children continue to use this time to explore interests and build connections with friends, all important parts of learning too!
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With only a few weeks left in 2018, we sure are keeping busy! Check it out...
Squares, Circles, and Triangles...Oh My!
We have continued our work with shapes over the past two weeks. The children enjoyed a cross-curricular activity that began with a "shape walk". We explored around our hallway and playground to look for shapes all around us and photograph them. Children noticed the square floor tiles, circular lights, rectangular bricks, and more! Later, in Technology, they used the pictures they had taken to create their own shape books!
We continued with the concept that shapes are everywhere and make up the world around us by creating a shape mural. We thought about what theme and environment we could use for our mural, settling on the ocean. The children used shape stencils to help draw each shape. They created all different components of the mural, from mermaids to seaweed!
The children also had the chance to create individual art using the various shape tools. They used the stencils and paper pieces representing pattern blocks to create beautiful works of art!
To reinforce the idea of how we can put shapes together, the children worked on pattern block puzzles. They were tasked to fill in the outlines using only the shapes available with pattern blocks. They had to use their spacial visualization, thinking about what shapes they needed, which shape would fit where, and whether they needed to rotate a shape. As a final step, they had to count the number of each shape they used.
Another task that required children to think about the relationships between shapes and how to combine them was a game called "Fill the Hexagon." In this game, children rolled a die to see whether they would add a triangle, rhombus, trapezoid, or hexagon to their game board. This prompted all kinds of mathematical thinking, such as how many rhombuses would fill a hexagon or how many triangles would be needed to create a trapezoid.
Finally, we had a little extra fun with shapes and the weather by making pattern block snowflakes. The children used white versions of the pattern block shapes to create all kinds of designs and formations. We talked about how in nature, no two snowflakes are exactly alike and how there are limitless possibilities; our designs were just a few of many many more!
In a study the crossed many curricular areas we explored light and dark. We began by talking about light made by people versus light made by nature. After completing a sorting activity, the children recorded their own ideas.
Later, we learned about two tricky terms connected to light: opaque and transparent. To help introduce these terms we did an experiment. The children each decorated a black square of construction paper and another made of clear plastic. After, we shined light through both squares. The children discovered that the light DID go through the plastic, but NOT the paper. We then learned the terminology used to describe the two materials.
To reinforce this concept, the children were challenged to come up with an object that is opaque and one that is transparent. Lots of great ideas, from windows to people to fish!
Our author of the month for December was Robert Munsch. We read a few of his funny stories, including The Dark. This story tells the tale of a girl who discovers a mysterious dark that begins eating all the shadows around her until it grows so big it takes over the whole neighborhood! In fitting with our work in Reading, we identified and discussed the problem in the story. The children then made their own pages for a class version of the story.
Candles Burning Bright
A tie in with our study of light was learning about candles. We talked about how at this time of the year there are many celebrations and traditions around light. We learned about the winter solstice and its significance in connection to these holidays. The children shared some of their own traditions and celebrations. Children even made paper candles in Art.
Of course, the highlight and culmination of this learning was the chance to make our own candles! Children dipped wicks into colorful hot wax, adding more and more layers as they created their candles. Special thanks to Ms. Pearce and our parent volunteers for making this project such a success!
Our learning also extended into Math. The children were challenged with another combinations problem, this time with a candle theme. At this point in the year, many children are able to come up with one solution independently. Some are even finding multiple solutions and beginning to notice patterns!
K105 Knows All About...A Lot!
Since November, we have been working on a different kind of writing: all about books. Like the "learn about the world" books we have read, these books give information on a specific topic. We learned about facts, and how each one gives a piece of information on the topic. The children wrote about a range of topics, from unicorns to dinosaurs to Santa Claus! After all their hard work, the children each picked one of their favorite books to finish up and share with the class during a Writer's Share. They practiced responding with compliments, questions, comments, and connections. Everyone was (rightfully so) proud of their work!
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As we move into the last month of the year, we've been busy as usual! Check out what we've been up to...
Old McDonal Had a Farm...
In Reading, we have been working on important skills as we move towards conventional reading. Much of our learning took place through a variety of farm animal activities. One such important skills is being able to distinguish between a letter and a word. We read a story about animal sounds and created our own simple versions. Through this text, we noted that three letters could work together to make one word. While a simple concept, it's an essential one to have mastered.
We have also been focusing on first letters/sounds in words. Often, when children identify a picture they can use the word to figure out the first sound and in turn the first letter. Again, mastering this skill will help with reading. In order to read, the reverse process must often take place: using the first letter allows children to determine the first sound and combine this information with a picture to figure out the word!
Along with these skills, we have been working on identifying elements of stories as well as retelling these stories. We have read a variety of farm stories, and discussed the setting, characters, and problem in many of them. This aids in the next step of retelling the story. The children used many of the simpler stories and some props to perform dramatic retellings. Lots of fun!
We Are Super Readers!
We have also discovered something new in Reading, our super powers! One morning we came back to the classroom and discovered a note from "Reader Man". He let us know that we have our very own super powers! The first power we learned about was "Pointer Power". This power involves pointing under each word as we read. The children decorated their special pointers and have been using them in Reading. This provides important practice with 1-1 correspondence, the idea that when they point to one word they should say one word to match.
We have also been doing some Interactive Writing. During this task, teacher and student "share the pen". One example of this activity was writing a thank you note to Reader Man. The children helped by writing in letters, numbers, and snap words they know as we developed the note together. In a similar idea, children have been helping "write" the morning message. I write most of the message, also leaving out letters, numbers, or snap words. First, we read the message with the missing parts. This helps develop phonics skills as children try to read words with a missing initial sound. We also think about what "makes sense" when it comes to the missing words, using another of the three cueing systems. Children take turns filling in the blanks to help complete the message and then we reread the final product.
Those Tricky Teens
Last week we focused on the tricky teen numbers! We learned that "numbers in the teens start with a one" thanks to a fun video. All children made a set of number cards that included the teens and practiced putting them in order. We played "Spin and Record-Teen Numbers", a game which gave us a chance for additional work recognizing and writing the teen numbers. Finally, each child created a tricky teens book. Each page displayed both the number shown in familiar 10 frames and the written numeral. Each page was missing one component for the children to fill in. These activities gave us lots of practice with the tricky teens!
The Shape of Things
After finishing our work with teens, we began a unit on shapes. We read The Shape of Things, a book about how shapes are all around us and different shapes can become different objects. The children made their own version of pages from the book, turning shapes into kites, mountains, houses, and even eyeballs!
We made posters for each shape describing its characteristics. We noticed circles have no flat sides, triangles have three points, and even that squares are a special kind of rectangle with four equal sides. Later, we learned a song to help us remember the number of sides for each shape and made a book to go with it. At the end, the children were challenged to think of other 2-D shapes not included in the book. Finally, we played "Roll and Draw a Shape". This gave additional practice thinking about the formation of shapes and a chance to draw them.
Children had other chances to work with shapes and practice identifying them. They definitely enjoyed playing shape bingo!
Children also used various materials to make different shapes. Using a model, they created shapes out of popsicle sticks. This gave them another chance to think about the characteristics of shapes as they thought about how many sticks they needed and how to put them together.
Playing with Shapes!
There we lots of chances to play with shapes. Children used elastics on geoboards to create designs made of lots of different shape components. They also got to use a geoboard app to experiment even more!
We took back out a familiar material: pattern blocks. This gave the children a chance to work with these familiar shapes to make more creations. As they created designs and patterns, they had the opportunity. to notice how different shapes could fit together.
I Can Use an I Message!
Our Amaryllis bulb we planted has sprouted! In fact, its stalk has grown quite a bit! We observed the plant, drawing "true science drawings" with correct coloring and details. We also measured the stalk using cubes, and will be noticing how much it grows over time. Stay tuned!
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Leaves are Falling
Recently, we began a cross-curricular exploration of leaves. We began our study during Discovery by observing leaves. The children looked at color, shape, and texture. This provided another opportunity for the children to be scientists and practice the skills scientists use every day.
Following up on our leaf observations, we examined a collection of leaves to again notice important characteristics. We used what we noticed to sort these leaves into categories. This is another important scientific skill worth practicing.
We read another book by our author/illustrator of the month, Lois Ehlert, called Leaf Man. In this story, the leaf man travels across the world passing by lots of different sights including orchards, ponds, and fields. One of the most interesting parts is how Lois illustrates her pages, using leaf collages to represent animals, objects, and scenery. Inspired by her work, we created our own collages out of leaves we gathered from around our school. The children came up with a variety of different creative ideas, and we have compiled them into our own K105 Leaf Man book.
In Math, we revisited a familiarly formatted word problem. This time, the children had to look for combinations of red and yellow leaves. Many children are now starting to find more and more combinations. We will return to this format over the course of the year, building skills as we go.
As we wrapped up our study of leaves, we used our combined knowledge to create leaf pile displays. We used a variety of leaf stencils that echoed some of the different types of leaves we had observed. We also talked about the colors of leaves in the fall, using water colors to mix and combine and make our piles reflect this. The children created beautiful creations, which we have happily displayed.
We are Readers...WOW!
In Reading, we have continued to build our identities as readers and expand our skill set. We introduced an important concepts that are relevant to many stories and will be a thread throughout the year: character, setting, and problem. We defined what each term meant, thinking together about finding these concepts in some of our old favorite storybooks. We then read The Thanksgiving Treat. The children were challenged to find these three concepts in this new text, and they rose to the occasion!
We have also been building towards decoding and encoding more and more. We have been expanding our letter/sound relationship knowledge as well as our repertoire of sight words. We have been using these skills to write more and more. Recently we wrote about what we are thankful for. It's wonderful to see how the children have employed their growing knowledge in their writing!
We have been thinking about how we can gain even more from the books we are reading. One thing we have begun to do is mark "wow pages" in learn about the world books. The children use sticky notes to indicate a page they find particularly interesting, and then have the opportunity to share their wow pages with their partners during partner reading time.
We Are Writers
The children have been working incredibly hard during Writing. As mentioned, they have been using their skills to write more and more conventionally. They are also working on honing their craft and developing their storytelling. We have been keeping track of all the things we've learned that writers do.
To celebrate all their hard work, the children participated in a writing share. They each chose a story they had written that they felt proud of. They spent some time revising their stories using all the skills they'd learned. Finally, we split into two groups and the children had the opportunity to share their work with their group. We talked about how writers support each other, and one way to do so is to respond to others' writing. The children offered questions, comments, compliments, and connections in response to their peers' pieces.
Objective: Ordering Objects
In Math, we have continued working on the concept of comparing. We returned to an old familiar tool: inventory bags. Previously, we had focused on using our counting skills to find out how many objects were in each bag. This time, we counted the objects in two different bags and compared, deciding which bag had more objects.
We have also moved on to a new concept, ordering. First, we defined the idea as putting things from smallest to largest. We circled back through many of the activities we had done while learning about comparing, this time making the shift to ordering. For example, we played a version of Grab and Count, Grab and Count: Ordering. This time, the children grabbed four different handfuls. They made towers to help them order, allowing them to both count the number of cubes and compare the length of their towers to help them put their handfuls in order. Later, we took back out our number cards and worked on taking four cards and putting them in order. The children have taken well to this new concept.
Building our TEAM
We have continued to do important learning during TEAM Meeting. Through a Donors Choose project, the class received a collection of new books to add to our classroom library. The books included important ideas around social-emotional learning, family, and diversity. We read one of the books, All Our Welcome, and talked about now matter who you are, where you're from, what you believe in, or how you look you are welcome at our school. We look forward to reading more of these books over the course of the year.
One day during Discovery, the children were introduced to a "mystery object". They were charged to use their skills as scientists to observe and draw the object, guess what it was, and decide whether or not it was a living thing. There were many great guesses, including garlic, onion, pepper, squash and cocoon.
Eventually, we did find out that the object is actually a bulb and that it is a living thing. We talked about what it needs in order to grow, including water, sunlight, food, and oxygen. We planted two bulbs, and will be spending time over the coming weeks observing as they grow.
"Snowflakes Are Falling on My Head"
Even though it's not officially winter yet, we certainly had some winter weather! The children enjoyed spending time outside during the recent snowy days. Favorite activities included catching the falling snowflakes and rolling snowballs for snow people.
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Hard to believe we're already into November! A lot has been going on, check it out...
Counting and Comparing
In Math, we have continued to discuss and practice counting strategies. Children learned about "inventories" and practiced counting bags of different objects. We also talked about using recordings to show not just how many things we've counted but also what we've counted when taking inventories. We had lots of opportunities to practice these important skills.
We also started a unit on comparing. This began with a conversation about comparing objects' lengths. First, we counted out ten Unifix cubes to make a measuring tower. Then, we compared our tower to a variety of objects and determined whether each object was longer or shorter. Finally, we recorded our findings.
We have also learned about comparing numbers, with lots of different opportunities to practice. One activity used our familiar cubes, as well as returning to a familiar game: Grab and Count. In this case, however, we drew two handfuls of cubes and compared the two handfuls. We even recorded our findings on a ten cube tower, circling the tower that showed the higher number. Sometimes we had to figure out what to do when the handfuls were the same!
Later in the week, we tried this game with a variety of other objects. With some of these, children ended up with handfuls greater than 10. We again had to problem solve when it came to recording these higher numbers.
Finally, we had one more chance to practice with the game "Compare." Like the game "War," children flip over cards and determine who has the higher number. This is another game that provides practice with social skills such as taking turns and being a good sport, as well as reinforcing important academic skills. These games can be a great way to reinforce these ideas at home!
We Are Readers and Writers!
While we declared ourselves readers and writers at the very beginning of the year and have learned many important strategies, we have started to move towards decoding and encoding text. We have begun attending to the words as well as the pictures, and using strategies to help us read some of the words. One thing we can do is look for sight words we have learned, such as "the." We can also look for letters we might know at the beginning of words to help us. Combining what we can glean from the pictures, we might be able to read longer words! With this story, we were able to work together to read all the words! In other cases, we may only find a few words or letters we know, but this is a great start!
We have also talked about using exact words with stories we have heard over and over again. This is especially true with simpler texts or those with patterns that scaffold this work. One example is Mrs. Wishy-Washy, where the children have enjoyed chanting the refrain "wishy-washy, wishy-washy." If we know the exact words from repeated readings, we may be able to start finding those words in the text.
We have also talked about a specific kind of words, transition words. These words help us link and connect pages. We tried this with one of our "Old Favorite Storybooks," Pumpkin, Pumpkin. This text lends itself well to using these words, and we focused especially on the words "and then." Later, we talked about other transition words, "time words." These are words like first, next, and later. After learning how we could use these words in Reading, we talked about how they could help us as writers. We returned to the phrase "and then" and noticed that it often coincided with when we were ready for the next part of our story on a new page. We practiced telling our stories and listening for where we might use "and then" to help us think about when it might be time to start a new page.
Just like we are thinking more about letters and words in our reading, we have started to focus on these things as writers. We have begun our routine of weekly sentences using our sight words. Often modeling our sentences after the red books we have been reading, all children are able to write their own sentences with little to no support! We talked about three major word writing strategies: looking around the room, using the word wall, and bubblegum stretching. With the first strategy, children are encouraged to use environmental print to help them; this may include the color words on the wall or the names of our animals. Our classroom word wall is filling up more and more each week as we learn new words. This is a great resource when writing. Finally, we have had many opportunities to practice bubblegum stretching! We say the word we want to write slowly, stretching it out. We listen for as many sounds as we can, trying to write the letters for the sounds we hear. This may not look exactly like "the way the word would be spelled in a book", but this inventive spelling is exactly what we want children to be doing during kindergarten. We have also begun to use paper with lines during Writing. If children feel ready, they are invited to use these lines to add words. Many children have risen to the occasion, applying the strategies we have been learning. It's a very exciting time!
We also have a new author/illustrator of the month, Lois Ehlert. We have a variety of her books available on the shelf in settling space. We will be reading a selection of these stories, noticing Ehlert's unique style of illustrating. Stay tuned for when we make our own version of one of her books! On voting day, children were very curious about what grown-ups were doing. We talked about making choices, especially the importance of making a choice based on how you yourself feel. Then we voted between two Lois Ehlert books for our read-aloud.
Pumpkins on the Vine, Pumpkins on Our Mind
The class recently enjoyed a cross-curricular exploration of pumpkins. This became the topic in Reading, Math, and Discovery. In Reading, we read many different texts that helped us expand our pumpkin knowledge.
One thing we read a lot about was the pumpkin life cycle. We read The Pumpkin Story, using the strategies we've been practicing to read many of the words. We then created our own stories about the different stages and our own graphic depicting the cycle. We recalled how we had learned about the life cycle of an apple, thinking about similarities and difference between the two. Along with this idea, our life cycles helped us practice the important skill of sequencing. We also learned a poem about a Jack-O-Lantern and practiced sequencing using a puzzle version. This is an important skill, which supports both reading and writing.
In Math, the children were challenged with a pumpkin word problem. This was a similar format to the previous problem about apples. This time, the problem was scaffolded by providing physical pumpkins to use. This helped children who were still working through this concept. Some children even came up with more than one solution!
Pick a Pumpkin
Thanks to the generosity of the K105 families, each child got to pick a pumpkin to use during our exploration. They completed a packet with a variety of activities related to their pumpkins. First, they observed their pumpkins using some of their five senses and shared some of their observations. Using this information, they then drew their pumpkins. We talked about a true observational drawing, which involves making the picture match the object as exactly as possible. This includes noticing the shape, color, and other details and putting them into the drawing.
Later, the children dictated some of their observations. This gave them another chance to think and talk about their pumpkin. They also shared why they chose their pumpkin, with a variety of answers!
Another activity involved measuring the pumpkins. We used both Unifix cubes and yardsticks to measure the height of the pumpkins. We talked about how to measure using both of these tools. Later, the children learned about circumferences and were challenged to measure their pumpkins. We realized that we couldn't use a yardstick the way we had when measuring the height. The children learned how they could use a piece of string and wrap it around their pumpkin to find the circumference. After making a prediction about their pumpkin's circumference, they found the exact circumference and used the yardstick to measure the string.
Another day, the children worked together to put all of the pumpkins in order by size. This involved a different way of thinking about the pumpkins dimensions. Would they use height, circumference, or some other factor to determine the size order? Once we had all agreed on an order, the children recorded where their pumpkin fell in the line.
In another crossover activity in Math, we opened up our pumpkins to observe the inside and removed all the seeds to count. Despite a few skeptics, we had lots of fun removing all the seeds! We read How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? and learned about different counting strategies. Groups worked together to come up with a prediction. They then filled ten frames with seeds and worked with a teacher to count by tens. Groups counted 410, 455, 362, 483, and 244 seeds!
We went back and finished reading How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? and found out some facts about how to tell how many seeds might be in a pumpkin. We learned that each line on the outside of a pumpkin corresponds with a row of seeds. We also learned that the darker the pumpkin the longer it has grown and the more seeds it will have. We compared our pumpkins to see if this made sense with our observations, which it did!
We finished this unit with another fun cooking experience. This time, the children worked with our volunteers to make pumpkin pancakes! The children added and mixed the ingredients, learning about measurement and using their senses to observe the different ingredients. After taking turns mixing the ingredients together, our batter was ready to go! When the children returned from Wellness the pancakes were cooked and ready to eat. They were a big success, with most children even having a second pancake! It was a great way to wrap up our exploration, and thanks again to our volunteers for their help!
It's been a busy few weeks! Check out some more pictures of what we've been up to...
As the seasons change, so do we! It's amazing how much the children have grown as learners these past three weeks! Check out what we've been up to...
Phonics and Favorites
We have settled into many of the important routines that will continue throughout the year. Each week, we will continue to focus on a new letter in Phonics. A component of this work is playing "letter games" with magnetic letters. The children practice listening to sounds and moving the appropriate letter. As time goes on, we will up the ante during this activity and start to do work with manipulating sounds and letters. Other routines will include learning a new song associated with the animal of the week and creating a letter book. These books help practice writing the letter and expand vocabulary.
We have also introduced another routine to our weeks. Each Tuesday, we will learn one or two new "word wall" words. These are also known as high frequency or sight words because of how often children will encounter them. They are also often irregularly spelled, and therefore important to recognize easily by sight. Each week the children will get a "red book" associated with the word(s) of the week. They will highlight the new word(s) and practice reading the book. The books are scaffolded, meaning they will grow in complexity as we introduce more and more words. Later in the week, they will write a sentence using the week's word(s). This offers children a chance to start to use their writing skills and we will also focus on conventions such as spaces, letter case, and punctuation over the course of the year.
We spent the first weeks of school reading "Learn About the World" books during Private and Partner Reading. During this time, the children also listened to many repeated read-alouds of fiction books. We are calling these books "Old Favorite Storybooks" because we have read them over and over and children are now familiar with their plots. This helps them reread the books on their own or with their partners. We will continue to focus on strategies that will further support these readings.
One of our "Old Favorite Storybooks" is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? It is also by our author of the month for September, Eric Carle. We made our own version of this book with ourselves as the characters. The children have really enjoyed reading and rereading this version, making it our own "Old Favorite Storybook".
Making Meaning from a Message
Sorting and Counting
An important part of Math is noticing characteristics of objects. The children worked on this with many of the materials that have been introduced over the last weeks. This week we focused on sorting different objects based on their characteristics including color, shape, and type. These skills will be important as they learn new concepts down the road.
We have also been focusing on our counting skills, with many of these skills embedded in games and activities. One game we learned was "Grab and Count". Children grabbed and counted a handful of cubes, then recorded their findings. We talked about strategies for counting accurately, such as moving objects one at a time.
Another way we practiced was making counting books. First, we read Anno's Counting Book. This book shows a scene with a variety of objects such as trees, buildings, people, and animals on each page. With each turn of the page, the number of objects in a group increases. The children made their own versions showing a growing number of objects on each page.
One more game we played was "Roll and Record". This game has a number of embedded skills. Children roll a die to see what number they get. Many children are able to subitize (identify the number based on the the dot formations they see) while others practice counting the dots. Next, they write the number in a grid. With each roll, they add a number to their grid. This gives the children many opportunities to practice writing their numbers. They also notice trends as certain numbers rise faster than others, and can make predictions.
Is It Alive?
In Discovery, we have continued to learn about the world around us. One thing we have learned about is the difference between living and non-living things. We read Is It Alive? and talked about how we can tell the difference between something that is alive or not alive. The children then made their own version of the book by putting in their own ideas.
An Apple a Day...
Over the last three weeks, we have embarked on a thematic exploration of apples that crossed all domains.
We began our exploration by learning that apples can come in different colors. We then used some of our senses to compare three different types of apples. Later, we voted for our favorites of the three. We ended up with a three way tie! Later, we read an apple story to help us learn about the way an apple grows. We used cards to match individual words to their spot in the story. This helps with attending to letters and words.
We further explored the way apples grow, learning that this process actually goes in a circle, or a cycle. The children were given all the different parts of the life cycle, and worked to put them in order.
For Math, we made our own apple tree counting cards. Children created a series of cards, one for each number. Skills involved included writing and identifying numbers, counting out the correct number of apples, and using their visual-spacial skills to plan how to fit their apples on the trees. After creating their cards, they had the opportunity to sequence their cards by attending to the number or counting the number of apples on the trees.
Children also made an apple matching game. On one apple was a numeral, and each of these apples had a pair with a dot formation for the letter. This gives children another opportunity to become familiar with the formats of dots they will see on dice and work on subitizing. They can also practice counting the dots to confirm they have the correct number.
Playing the matching game with a partner supports many of the important skills of working together, taking turns, and more.
Another Math activity challenged the children to create patterns using different colored apples. We talked about different kinds of patterns, and watched a fun and silly GoNoodle video about patterns that the children really enjoyed: https://app.gonoodle.com/activities/banana-banana-meatball?s=Search&t=banana.
We did one final project to help us think again about how an apple tree grows. This had a slightly different focus than our learning around the apple life cycle. In this case, we thought about how an apple tree changes over the course of the four seasons. We learned a song to help us with this learning and then used a variety of art materials to show our trees throughout the seasons.
One of the highlights of our work with apples was the grand finale, making apple sauce!
The children learned about the steps for making applesauce, making their own copy of the recipe to take home. They then used a special tool to help peel and cut the apples. Finally, they made predictions about how many apple seeds would be in their apple core before counting to compare the actual number to this estimate. Of course, the favorite part of the process was eating the applesauce at the end! It was a big hit! Thank you again to our parent volunteers for helping us with this project.
Later in the day, we put the leftover apple peels in the discovery area. The children enjoyed observation the peels using a variety of tools.
The Cat in the Hat and More
We have enjoyed a variety of special days in the past weeks. The children enjoyed dressing up in red for color day. During All School Meeting we lined up by grades, which each grade representing a different color, to create a rainbow.
We have also had our first birthday in K105, and had lots of fun celebrating! In K105, we have two birthday traditions: making a birthday jar and a birthday story. For the birthday jar, each child uses a piece of chalk to color a small cup of salt. Each child then pours their colored salt into the jar and gives the birthday child a wish. The jar ends up with beautiful layers of different colors, a special momento to take home. Children also invite a family member or two to come in and read a book to the class. We look forward to celebrating many more birthdays over the course of the year!
The children have continued to enjoy Learn and Explore. The block and dramatic play areas continue to be popular choices. In both these areas, children engage in imaginative play and work on important social skills such as negotiating, taking on roles, and cooperating. We have also introduced new choices to Learn and Explore. The children have been very excited about the opportunity to use iPads during this time. Each child gets one turn a week, and for now are able to use the "Letter School" app that we use during Handwriting for additional practice. As the year goes on we will add more options. Recently, we had water beads in the discovery area. The children enjoyed these sensory materials, and used tools such as scoops and tweezers to add to the explorations.
Check out all the pictures from the last three weeks here...
Parts of the Day
There are many parts to our week, and it can be helpful to know them by name and know what happens during these times. I will try to include updates with specific skills and foci during these learning times, but the information below gives a big-picture view and explains some of the practices and routines.
Reading - Reading happens every day and is an umbrella for many different components. Often we have "read alouds" where I read a story to the children and we have conversations focused around comprehension or reading strategies. "Shared reading" is when the children are invited to participate along with the teacher. This may be done through a "big book" or by a copy of a book projected on the smart board. Here, reading strategies are often the focus. A more standalone component of reading is Phonics. This begins our reading time each Monday, and is when children are introduced to the letter we will focus on for the week. They meet an animal that begins with the letter, learn a song about that animal, and brainstorm words that start with the letter. On Tuesdays, we practice writing this letter during Handwriting by working through a rotation of tasks such as using an app on the iPad, using a pushpin to "trace" the letter, or practicing the letter on a white board.
For the rest of the reading workshop, the children have "jobs" which generally consist of one of three things: Letter/Word Work, Word Games, and Private/Partner Reading.
With Letter/Word Work, the children have folders that contain work associated with the letter and word(s) of the week. On Mondays, when a new letter is introduced, children highlight the letter in the song we've learned and work on a letter book. On Tuesdays the word (or words) for the week is introduced and the children highlight the word in a "red book." The word is also added to our "Word Wall." On Wednesdays we generally do an activity related to a theme or type of learning that is the focus for the week. On Thursdays the children complete a handwriting sheet with the week's letter and a sentence with the week's word. Finally, during "Finish Up Friday," the children finish up what's in their folders and any other work for the week, and may complete an extra activity if time remains when this work is done.
Word Games are when children apply their knowledge of letters and sounds during activities and word-play games. On Mondays we complete a lesson from the New Phonics curriculum, which usually involves manipulating magnetic letters on a magnet board. We also use the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness curriculum to practice important skills such as identifying first and last sounds as well adding, deleting, or substituting sounds.
During Private Reading children select books from a collection of baskets or elsewhere in the classroom library. They find a quiet spot away from classmates and read on their own. So far, we have talked about two different kinds of books, "Learn About the World" (Non-Fiction) and "Favorite Stories" (Fiction). After this, they switch to Partner Reading. Each child has a partnership that last for multiple weeks, and they find this partner to read together. This may mean taking turns sharing facts that they have learned in their respective "Learn About the World" books or taking turns reading the pages of a "Favorite Story." During this time, teachers are often circulating to ask children to read to them and "conference."
Writing - We write at least three times a week, usually Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This generally begins with a whole group lesson focusing on a strategy or aspect of writing; often this includes modeling by the teacher. Some children then go off to begin writing, while others remain on the rug for a "writer's circle." This is a time for children to practice telling their stories to a partner while the teacher circulates to help launch them into their writing. We often end a writing session by having one or two children share a piece of writing.
Math - Math also happens everyday. Our curriculum, Investigations, is very hands-on and game-based. Consequently, many lessons begin by learning a new game and later playing that game, either as a "job" during a rotation or as a whole class. Other "jobs" might include working in our "Math Workbooks" or doing the "Counting Jar." This activity happens most weeks, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Children are given a jar with a collection of objects, often ones that fit a theme or begin with the letter of the week. They count the objects, make an equivalent set using chips on their plate, and record their findings in a "Counting Jar Journal." This activity helps focus on counting strategies and skills. Some days we have "Math Choices" where children select from a variety of options based on their interest. These may be games we have been learning, or other recently introduced activities.
Discovery - This is when we learn about the world around us. This may include a focus on something from our culture (like a special tradition) or on an important person. This is also when we use our five senses as scientists. So far we have been focusing on weather, and are now shifting to learn about the lifecycles of various living things. Later in the year we will learn about balance before returning to additional learning opportunities around weather and living things.
TEAM Meeting - This is the time when we learn to be good teammates; it occurs at least every Thursday. We have created our "Team Agreement" and refer back to this when we are thinking about this task. This is a time for explicit social-emotional learning instruction. It may begin with a story that inspires a discussion or involve modeling and practicing a skill.
Outdoor Explore - This is the time each day when we go outside and explore our immediate surroundings. This may just mean time on the playground, or we may learn a game or even venture further off into the campus.
Recess - Recess happens after lunch on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. All kindergarteners go out on the playground together. Children make self-directed choices, practice important social skills, and of course play! After Recess, we come in for a few minutes of Peace Time where the children may read a book or relax and reset while we listen to calming music.
Learn and Explore - Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, our days end with Learn and Explore. This is another time where children make self-directed choices, play, and practice important skills. Some of the choices include art, blocks, dramatic play, and discovery. These choices all include embedded academic skills, and at times children also may rotate through a specific task related to a specific learning domain.
Each day we have at least one Special. Our specials by day, name, and teacher are:
Monday - Music with Mr. Siskavich
Tuesday - Wellness with Mr. Cassidy AND Art with Ms. Pearce
Wednesday - Wellness with Mr. Cassidy
Thursday - Library with Ms. Sajdera and Technology with Ms. Matthes
Friday - Art with Ms. Pearce
Being a Good Teammate
Social-Emotional Learning is such a big part of kindergarten that it deserves its own focus. Here are some of the ways we work on being a good teammate, including terms and language we use. I'll update the list as new concepts are introduced.
TEAM Agreement - This agreement was developed based on the children's ideas of what makes a good team. Each child signed it, and we have it hanging in the classroom to refer to.
C.A.R.E.S. - This acronym, which stands for Cooperation, Ask/Advocate, Respect, Empathy, and Safety, is a shared school-wide expectation. We talk about how we as a class are a team, but we as a school are a team as well.
Jobs - Each child in the class has a job to help our team function. This may include being the meteorologist who checks the weather, the assistant who takes attendance, the electrician who turns on and off the lights, or the mathematician who helps us track the days of school. Children have their jobs for a week before rotating to a new job.
Whole Body Listening - We begin the year by reading about Larry and his idea of Whole Body Listening. Since part of our Team Agreement is to listen to each other, this is an important skill. We learned that we don't just listen with our ears, but with our eyes, mouths, and the rest of our bodies as well.
Body Check, Volume Check - We occasionally do a body check, to make sure we are Whole Body Listening. We also have a volume chart which ranges from a 0 - Super Silent to a 5 - Too Loud. We use this chart to do a volume check to make sure we are at the right volume.
Volcanos - We also read a story about a boy whose mouth acts like a volcano. He can't help erupting (interrupting) and needs to learn strategies to help him. We've practiced these strategies and make sure there are no volcanos in our class (most of the time).
Bucket Filling/Dipping - During our most recent TEAM Meeting we read a story about a boy who discovers everyone has an invisible bucket. The bucket may be filled when someone does something kind, or when you do something kind for another. However, someone can also "dip your bucket" if they do something unkind or something that is upsetting.
Checking In - If we dip someone's bucket or in some other way upset them, it is important to check in. We use this term rather than simply jumping to an apology to help children really consider the feelings of the other person first. They ask "Are you okay?" and may follow this up by asking what they can do to make the other person feel okay. This may then elicit an apology at the child's request.
Nothing Like a Good Book
See You Later, Alligator
We began our Phonics program this week, and children were introduced to Abracadabra Alligator. He taught us about the letter A and its sound, including a silly saying, a trick to remember the A sound, a cheer, and a song. He had lots to share! Ask your child to share some of this learning with you at home!
Along with our introduction to the letter A, we have added a new part to our week: Handwriting. We learn about the formation of the letter, starting with our song that teaches us that we start our letters "at the top". The children then practice the letter through a variety of sensory experiences during handwriting stations.
Let's Take a Selfie
The children were also introduced to another familiar routine. At the beginning of each month, the children will complete self-portraits. We read We Are All Alike...We Are All Different to inspire us to think of all the ways we are both similar and unique individuals. This book also helped us think about all the different aspects of ourselves that could be captured in a portrait. The children really rose to the occasion!
Buttons and Blocks
In Math, the children were introduced to more materials that we would be using throughout the year: square tiles, buttons, and attribute blocks. As with previous materials, the children had a chance to explore and create with each one.
Next, the children learned about describing and matching objects based on their attributes. We began by exploring with a variety of buttons, noticing their shape, color, size, and other characteristics. Children then played a button matching game in pairs to reinforce this skill. We also explored these concepts by playing "Attribute Blocks Matching".
Wild About Weather
We have continued learning about weather in Discovery. Each day, we collect more data as we check the weather and the temperature. With even more data, we can begin to notice patterns and trends. We have also been thinking about all the different types of weather have have or could experience. The children even got to draw themselves in different kinds of weather.
Even More to Learn and Explore
The children continue to enjoy Learn and Explore. They have enjoyed choosing from a variety of options, from the Sand Table to the Block Area. Another popular area is Art, where mask making has been a popular pastime. The children have even been experimenting in the Discovery Area!
Check out all the shots from these last two weeks...
We Are Readers!
Marvelous Math Materials
Many of the early lessons in Math include learning important routines and exploring with materials. We learned about the calendar by reading When is Saturday? and the children began using their own calendars to record the days. We also learned about taking attendance, and how to count the number of children present and absent. The children enjoyed watching me model and pointing out my mistakes!
Much of "Math Workshop" was dedicated to exploring many of the materials we will be using throughout the year. Children enjoyed time with pattern blocks, connecting cubes, Geoblocks, and bottle caps. After a day of having an opportunity to rotate through each material, the children got to choose the material they wanted to use. We then did a "museum walk" to check out each other's creations.
What's in a Name?
We spent much of the first two weeks exploring with our names. The children used a variety of materials to create pieces for a "name poster" such as playdough, paint, and bingo dotters. We will be putting together these posters and displaying them in the classroom. They also made their names out of various math materials we had been exploring. Later, we read Chrysanthemum and talked about the length of our names. The children then each made a "name train" by counting out the correct number of Unifix cubes and adding a letter of their name to each cube. Finally, they created a math name poster with multiple components: a number line, a ten frame, and squares with each letter. This poster also asked to record how many letters in their name. Because names are both important and familiar to children, this is a wonderful way to introduce important literacy and math concepts. We will continue to use what we've learned about our names throughout the year.
What's the Weather?
K105 is a TEAM!
So Much to Learn and Explore!
One of the favorite (and important) times of our day is Learn and Explore. During this time, children are free to choose where they want to play and with whom. One of the many benefits of this part of our day is that it gives children agency over their play choices. This time also provides numerous opportunities for skill building. In the social-emotional realm, children are working to cooperate, negotiate, and take on leadership roles. There are also many "academic" skills embedded in play, such as the popular "Letterbots". We have learned about the different areas to choose from and how to use each one properly. Over the first week and a half we added new areas and materials. The children were especially excited to open the "dramatic play" area. We will continue to expand the options available throughout the year.
Check out some familiar faces and more shots from this week below...
Lots More Ladybug Learning
We continued with our rotation through the four ladybug research stations so that every group had done all four. With each rotation the children learned new facts and added a new page of research to their collection.
Once we finished our research, we used what we had learned to write ladybug reports. The children wrote about the ladybug life cycle, what they learned from their models, what a ladybug eats, the body parts of a ladybug, other interesting facts, and even named their reports! It was amazing to see them rise to the occasion to put take on this challenge.
Unfortunately, our time with our ladybugs came to an end and it was time to release them. We used this as an opportunity to talk about fact versus opinion. First we returned to our ladybug bulletin board and added a new category for ideas that were opinions and talked about what an opinion is. The children then had a chance to write an opinion about where we should release our ladybugs using the facts we had learned.
Our ladybug work also continued in Math. We worked on a packet of ladybug themed sheets that helped us practice our counting as well as addition and subtraction. We also did another combination problem with a ladybug theme.
Wind is Moving Air
We have continued our conversations about air and wind in Discovery. First we discussed how objects could hold air. Following this discussion we sorted objects into two categories: objects that did hold air and objects that did not hold air. Another day, we shifted our focus to wind. We learned that wind is moving air and went on a "wind walk". The children discovered many signs of wind including a flag, leaves, ripples in puddles, and even their own hair.
Growing a Garden
We were very lucky to have a visit from the Lincoln garden club. First they read us The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, a story that told the tale of how seeds can (or cannot) end up growing. We then listened to a presentation on many different kinds of herbs and got the chance to feel and smell some of them. Finally, we got the opportunity to plant our own herb garden with all the herbs needed to make a pizza!
Our author of the month for May was Leo Lionni. We read a variety of his stories, including a personal favorite Swimmy. In TEAM Meeting we talked about how swimmy worked together with his fellow fish. In Reading we made our own version of Swimmy and wrote about how each of us would work with our team to create something.
Along with continuing with guided reading groups in Reading, we began to write about the books we were reading. We had one response that focused on character, setting, and problem. Another asked about our favorite part of a book and why we felt this way. This expanded our conversations abut books into writing.
Getting Going with Games
In Math, we are learning new games that help us practice addition and subtraction. The children each have their own card to keep track of the games they've played, and will challenge themselves by going up in numbers.
Diving In to Diversity
We have used the last few TEAM Meetings to discuss diversity in many of its forms. We read The Skin You Live In and discussed how we can celebrate our individuality as well as our similarities. The next week we read a story about Ruby Bridges and talked about her bravery in the face of adversity. Finally, we read King and King and talked about the importance of inclusiveness.