Monday, December 7, 2009

Solid Shapes


Today the kids had a real blast building cubes with toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. This hands on activity helped the students really understand the difference between a flat square and a solid cube. Total cost for the lesson:
$1.00 for the marshmallows
$1.30 for the toothpicks

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Service Project

The students and I will be making Christmas cards to give to the homeless folks that my home church has been housing on the very cold nights. The children are learning that sometimes just by sending warm thoughts to others can help brighten some one elses day. The children are also learning that serving others is something good to do. I am really impressed at the kind hearts that my students have.

Pulling It All Together

I really enjoy utlizing all of the 5 senses in all our curriculum and pulling together varied sources of literature to make a well rounded learning experience for the children.

We are currently working on the following skills and themes in our class:
Reading-Our theme is Food with our focus on sequencing of events
Math- 3D solid shapes
Social Studies-Holiday customes around the world and now/then
Science-Motion of objects and reviewing changes in matter
Writing-Writing steps and directions

That's a lot of stuff going on, so combining things a little and having some creativity, all subject areas can be taught.

For science and math this week the kids are going to taste the difference between jam and jelly. After the taste test the kids will vote for their favorite and create a chart of the results. We will also make butter the old fashioned way with cream and salt. This lesson teaches the kids that you can change cream (a liquid) and salt into butter (a solid) by shaking vigorously and refrigerating it. The butter activity is also a great way to teach the kids how people made butter long ago versus buying it at the store like we do now.

In math we are using solid shapes (cones, cubes, cylinders and spheres) to build something. The children will use flat graham crackers, sugar cones, and various candies to make their own "gingerbread villages." Each structure must have at least one cube, one cone, one cylinder, and one sphere. That should be no problem at all, because there are many varieties of candy or food that fall into each category. This lesson teaches the kids that you can find examples of solid shapes in everyday objects and you can use simple shapes to construct more complex structures.

In social studies, we have been reading various books about the different foods that people cook for the different holiday traditions from around the world. For example, today we watched Too Many Tomales and discussed the Mexican traditions during the holiday season.


In writing I am bringing in all kinds of literature about food as inspiration for the students at Writer's Workshop. Tonight I bought a Food Network Magazine to illustrate to the kids that another purpose for writing is to give information and one form is a magazine. There are many pictures and recipes for the children to look at. Some of the other literature pieces include: If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, Pizza Party, Hold the Anchovies, Eating the Alphabet, Bunny Cakes, and many more.

Our next writing project will be to write a simple recipe, such as how to make a peanut butter sandwich or pizza. The children will first write simple sentences using the words first, next, and last. Then they will illustrate and bind the pages to create a "step by step" book.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving

Thank you to all my parents, you have been a tremendous support to our class this year. The play was a great success! I hope that many of you could capture the moments on camera to cherish forever. The luncheon was fun as well. Thanks for helping make the lunch possible by bringing in the food and helping serve the food to the children. We (Miss Maldonado and I) hope to plan a play for sometime in the spring since today's events were such a success.

I also wish all my students and the families a safe, happy, and fun filled Thanksgiving. Take this time to cherish loved ones.

See you all back in class on Monday!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

More Fall Fun

In just a few weeks we are going to have a Thanksgiving Luncheon along with Miss Maldonado's class. One class will be the pilgrims and the other class will be the Indians. Before the event, the children will be learning about life both long ago and today. We will read several books about pilgrims, the journey they took to come to America and how they worked together with the Indians. The children will learn about the differences between needs and wants. We may even do some kind of service project on campus, but that will be a whole class decision that we still need to make.


On November 23rd our class will have both our luncheon and our first drama production of the year. Our class will be performing the Thanksgiving comedy Turk and Runt. I performed this with my students last year and we had a blast! Performing plays is a great learning experience for children in many ways. The children practice reading skills by reading simple lines from a book, sequencing events in a story, and connecting a written text with a dramatized version. This is defenitely a large undertaking, but it's well worth it.


This week we will read the book, use picture cards to practice sequencing the events in the correct order, assign reading parts for the different characters, and begin our first practice run. Some children will be going home with a script to practice the lines at home as well, because some characters will more more speaking parts.


Look for a flyer about the play by the end of the week. The flyer will include the day, time and location of the play.

Monday, November 2, 2009

ABC/Word Work Station

One of the Daily Five choices for the students is the ABC/Word Work Station. This is actually an entire area of our classroom that contains several activity choices for students to practice the following skills:
  • Letter identification
  • Letter sound connections
  • Sight word recognition and writing
  • Word building
  • Phonemic awareness (rhyming, segmenting words into individual sounds or syllables, blending sounds to make words)
  • Sorting words
  • Ordering letters

You can see how our center area is organized.

video

Organizing all the materials has been easy once I found those nice white rolling bins. I labeled each drawer of the bin with a ID tag holder. When I make a new game, I take a picture and add it to the ID tag holder. By labeling the bins, the kids can clean up with ease. The key to keeping kids on task is to provide many choices. From time to time I may add a new activity to keep it fresh, but there will always be the regulat choices.

One choice that I have nearly every week is to create words for the target letter. I simply change out the laminated words cards and keep the letter cubes out. Towards the end of the year, I have students actually complete a word book as an assignment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Day Activities

Next Friday will be our 4th annual class Pumpkin Day. The ideas came from a colleague and friend of mine who served as my adopted mentor teacher during my first year of teaching kindergarten. During Pumpkin Day the kids will complete several reading, math and science stations that involve pumpkins. As the children rotate through the stations they will record their observations and results from their experiements. Since this is such an involved day, parent volunteers are a real asset. By having several adults in the room the kids stay on task more and the transitions run much smoother.

Reading Activities
  • Read and color the book One Little Pumpkin (to the tune of Ten Little Indians)
  • Act out the felt board story Five Little Pumpkins
  • Listen to stories about pumpkins (both fiction and non-fiction).
  • Use words cards to build informational sentences about pumpkins (ex: A pumpkin is orange. A pumpkin has seeds. A pumpkin can grow. )
  • Write describing words about a pumpkin

Science/Math Activities
  • Use your five senses to learn about the pumpkins (feel the inside and outside and tell how they are different, look at the color, smell the inside, and taste the roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie)
  • Estimate who weighs more: You or the pumpkin. Test your hypothesis by using a scale. Have a grown up at the station help you write the number. Then circle the number that is bigger. You can use a hundred chart to help you "see" which is bigger.
  • Measure how big around a pumpkin is and compare it to your waist. First use a string to measure around each. Then use pop cubes to measure each string. Record the number and circle the number that is bigger.
  • Use a balance beam to compare the weight of a small pumpkin to manipulatives (teddy bear counters, pop cubes, crayons, etc). Put one small pumpkin on one side of the balance beam and fill the other side with a manipulative. Make them balance. Then write the number to show how many of each manipulative you used to equal the weight of the pumpkin
  • One to One corresponce counting game (making your bear counter hop a select number of spaces on the pumpkin patch game board.
  • Counting Seeds (looking at a number and counting out that many seeds to match)

Crafts
  • Pumpkin Sun Catcher

Please be aware that Pumpkin Day is not about Halloween. The focus will be on the fall harvest food. We have been studying about where pumpkins grow, the stages of growth, and what we can use pumpkins for. We have also talked about how the pumpkins that we generally see on Halloween night have been changed into a Jack-o-Lantern by carving or painting them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall

I know this is totally unrelated to school, but I am soooo happy that the weather will be cooler for at least a few days. I've been living in Florida since I was 5, and this October is probably the hottest one I can remember.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Class Mascot


This Friday we are going to make a list of possible names for our new class mascot. Voting for the new name will take place on Monday so that the kids can have enough time to think about the best name. The gorilla was donated by our ESOL teacher and I splurged and bought the astronaut costume at TJmax.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Buddies

Every year my class has been paired up with either a 4th or 5th grade class at our school. This year I decided to pair up with Mrs. Raimundo' s 4th grade class. The older students will be our Book Buddies. Twice a month, usually on a Friday, we will meet in our classroom to practice reading. Each kindergarten student will be paired up with a 4th grader. The 4th grader will be there to listen to the children read or read to my students. There may also be times when the 4th graders will assist the children with a fun science experiment that is more hands on and needs more supervision. This Friday will be the first time that the children will get to meet each other. It will sure be an exciting afternoon on Friday!

Pen Pals

Just last week we received our first letter from our Pen Pal class in Hatfield Pennsylvania. The kids were so excited when they realized how far away they live. This week we worked together on a class letter that we will send on Friday. Each month our two classes will exchange letters and pictures. Hopefully by the end of the year each child in our class will write their own letter to a student in our pen pal class.

Pen Pal projects like these not only provide the children with a fun experience, but it also teaches them many things.

This project will help our class learn:

  • Children in our country have many things in common
  • Map skills, such as finding where our pen pal class lives
  • The purpose and format of a friendly letter
  • How to write asking and telling sentences
  • Most imprtantly, that letters are a form of writing that can connect you with other people.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ways to Read a Book

During our whole group instruction we have been learning all about the different ways to read a book.
  • Read and tell about the pictures
  • Read the words
  • Retell the story

By teaching the students the three ways to read, more children can feel like real successful readers even if they have a limited amount of decoding skills and sight word recognition.

Read the Pictures
This week the students are practicing the skill of reading the pictures as they "read" our first decodable reader "I Am Picking Apples." The book has no words but has many picture clues that help tell a story. The students are looking at the pictures to see what is happening. Later in the week we are going to make sentences to match the pictures.

Read the Words
This is primarily what most adults think of as reading, At this point in the year I expect the students to begin finding sight words in the books and use picture clues to help with content words. During station time, the students are allowed to use pointers to locate sight words within the sentences in the big books we share. Our new activity that students have started doing is using small sticky notes to underline sight words or words that begin with our target letter.

Retelling a story
This is the last way that students can read a book. During this reading session, the students will tell what happened in the story after reading it more than once. They may pick a few pages to focus on to show a sequence of events. In the case of reading a non fiction book, a student might choose to tell one or two facts they learned from the book.

When your child is reading nightly, ask your child which way they are going to read the book. When students get in the habit of using all 3 ways or reading, they will become more successful readers and will build their reading stamina, and they will be more willing to choose more challenging books.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Homemade Playdough


Playdough was one of my favorite things to play with as a kid. Kids these days are no different than me. We use quite a bit of playdough in the classroom for different reasons. The only problem is having large enough quantities of playdough without it drying out quickly. If you buy the Play-Doh brand, the price can add up pretty fast.


This year I am trying very hard to limit the amount of money I spend on the classroom without sacrificing student learning. I used a recipe from Family Education.com to make a large batch of playdough. I made about 8 lbs of playdough for about $2.00, and I got all the colors I actually wanted.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Open House

I want to thank all the families that came to Open House this Thursday evening. I hope everyone enjoyed their time exploring the classroom and seeing the children's work samples.

If you signed up for a conference date during the month of October, I will be sending you a notice in your child's folder. The notice will be sent home a few days prior to the conference. Please complete the questions on the conference notice so that I can cater the conference to your needs.

Thanks again for all your continued support this year!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Making observations

This week as part of our science curriculum we have been learning about the importance of using our eyes for observations. The students learned that when we observe the world around us, we can better understand how things work. My dad brought in a chrysalis from our back yard butterfly garden. Throughout the week the students learned the proper way to use magnifying glasses as they watched the chrysalis and began recording in their science journals.



Just this morning something amazing happened...the butterfly emerged from it's chrysalis! Boy were the kids excited! All day long they used the magnifying glasses to see if the butterfly would flap it's wings. We also let all of the other kindergarten classes observe as well. This afternoon I took the butterfly home to release it back to it's natural habitat.




Low and behold...we have another catepillar on another bush in the garden. I'm sure the kids will be even more excited to see the caterpillar make the chrysalis. Lets hope it doesn't make it on the weekend. He he he :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Homework Folders

On Tuesday all the children will be going home with a bright yellow homework folder. Inside the folder you should find:
  • All About Homework page that explains my homework policies and guidelines in more detail
  • September homework calendar
  • September reading log
  • Worksheets and recording sheets for ALL activities listed for September.
  • Any leveled/decodable readers that can be used for daily reading

All children who complete all the activities and daily reading for September will get to visit the Treasure Box!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Fun Website

I just found a new fun and interactive website to use either in the classroom or at home. It's called Literactive. The best part is, all the materials are free to use, as long as you register. Be sure to check out the guided reading books. The students can actually click on each word to hear how it is supposed to sound. Too cool!

http://www.literactive.com/Home/index.asp

Monday, August 31, 2009

Thank you for donations!

I want to shout out a huge thank you to all the parents and classroom sponsors for your gracious donations. Thanks to your donations our class now has:
Germx to keep unhealthy germs away
Clorox Wipes to disinfect the desks each day after the kids leave
Copy paper to print lots of decodable and leveled readers for more targeted instruction
Construction/colored paper to create fun projects this year
Tissues to wipe our noses
Whiteboard markers to use during our small group instruction later this year
Snacks to keep our tummies full in the afternoon
and many more things

I want to give a special thanks to my home church Pine Ridge Fellowship for the Walmart gift card. That will help us stretch the dollar to get more supplies for special projects this year.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hands on learning

So, what exactly is hands on learning anyway? This is a question that many parents ask me. Hands on learning is a time when children actually use materials, manipulatives, and others objects to learn about many concepts. Examples: Using dyed pasta to create an ABB pattern for math, using magnet letters to create words, using magnetic word cards from the word wall and sorting them on another magnetic board according to the number of syllables, using marshmallows and toothpicks to create 3D cubes. I could name many others.


I can tell you right now that I am NOT a fan of giving students a bunch of worksheets to learn. Worksheets limit the students ability to be creative and does not engage the kinesthetic learner.



We just finished out first week of school. Yay!! Everybody made it out with a smile on their face. The first week is a time that we spend getting to know one another but also a time to learn some fun routines and activities that will later be a part of our normal curriculum and station times. I decided to teach the word can already, since the word is used in several beginning of the year books we are reading. Rather than having students simply memorize the word by using flash cards and copying the word over and over again, each student made the word with play doh. By using the play doh the students practiced letter formation, sight word recogntion and helped strengthen the small muscles in their hands.




Later in the year the students will learn how to play many of the games that I have created for center time. These games are tailor made to match the kindergarten learning benchmarks for several subjects. Here is a game I made this past May. The students were reviewing all of our lightning words (sight words) and some CVC words. The game promoted counting skills as well because they earned pennies for correct answers and had to count out the correct number. Games not only allow students to practice reading and math skills, but also role playing, taking turns, cooperation etc.



Friday, August 21, 2009

Welcome to our classroom!

I'm so happy that a new year is beginning. We just had our annual Meet the Teacher event at school. The room is all ready for all kinds of learning this year.

The students and I are on a very important mission. The students are setting out on a journey to learn the fundamentals of reading and math, discovering science and exploring the world around them. We have a space and astronaut theme in our classroom. Each student is part of our astronaut team. All team members have to work together to complete a safe and fun mission.


Take a peek inside our classroom:

Here I am sitting at our small group teaching table. I meet with small groups of students to teach reading and math skills. During station time you will see me wearing a special visor. The visor is a reminder to the students at stations that I am busy teaching and they must wait to ask me for assistance.
















This is our group meeting area. We spend a lot of our time here. Our days start as we complete a morning message, read a story and make connections with our reading and the world around us. Later in the morning we have calendar and math time. There are a variety of songs we sing and dance to, so that is why we need so much room. In the afternoon we hold writing minilessons here. I like to share the pen with students as we create collaborative lists, letters, stories and articles on many science and social studies concepts.




Our library is another favorite spot in our classroom. We have over 800 books. Yes, even in kindergarten! I think it is extremely important to get books in children's hands as early as possible. Our books are organized by theme and author. Throughout the year the students will do an author study on some of our favorite authors. The children will enjoy reading books by Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Leo Lonni, Bill Martin, Marc Brown, Rosemary Wells, Karma Wilson, Ezra Jack Keats, and many more.



In our classroom we have student desks. Each student will be repsonsible for their own materials and supplies. Inside each desk students will have their supplies as well as a writing journal and a math journal. Each group of desks is named after a planet. This is our Earth Group. Students will complete indpendent and group work at the desks. In the afternoons the students will also use this space during our Writer's Workshop (my favorite time of the day).






At the front of the classroom you can see our word wall. It is empty now, but in just a few days we will begin adding names and words to the wall. I decided to put the word wall on our magnetic whiteboard, which creates an interactive way for students to use words. During station time students will use the words for sorting activities. A favorite activity is to sort the words by the number of letters in the word. To the left is our writing center. At the writing center the children can find several resources such as word books and picture dictionaries.






In this bin you can find the students' STAR folders. The folders will go home every day. Inside the folder are several learning tools to use for practice at home. There is also a school year calendar, class newsletter and money/notes pouch. Students who take extra care of the folders will receive a special prize at the end of the year.


Here are some other views of the classroom:

This is the Mars group. To the left is our computer station and to the right is our small group teaching area.




This is a picture of the Neptune group and the back of the room. On the cabinets doors are astronaut cutouts. Each child will earn several mission patches after successfully mastering different skills. Some of the skills include letter identification, counting to 100, number identification to 30, tying shoes, reading our lightning words (high frequency words) and several others.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What's the big picture?

Sometimes as teachers we can get all wrapped up in lots of details. There are many!!! The room needs to be set up so that it creates a great learning environment. We have to make sure that we've got our plans done. We have to come in everyday and teach the kids. We've got to do assessments on a regular bases. Grading has to be done. We have to keep track of student behavior. Then find time to meet with parents one on one. Then there's the paperwork to fill out for various reasons. There are meetings I need to attend, both as a whole staff and as a grade level. If we are doing a fund raiser or going on a field trip, then there are tasks involved. There are plenty more details and tasks, I can promise you that.

Thinking about all these tasks can be daunting, it can be very stressful when we focus on all the details. This Sunday I heard a great message at Church. The message was based on stepping back and refocusing on what the big picture was all about. I need to step back and refocus on what my purpose is as a teacher. Why am I here? Why do I come to school everyday? Why do I do all these tasks as a teacher? You're probably thinking, for the kids. Right? In part, yes. The sole purpose for all the things I do as a teacher is to use my gifts that God gave me to do his will. God is my ultimate authority.

Each day I go in to teach these children in a way that would be pleasing to God. These children all have talents and gifts that are only given by God. It's my job to do whatever it takes for children to develop and realize those gifts and meet children's individual needs. If I'm focusing too much on completing all those tasks just to check it off on my to do list, then something is wrong. I've lost that vision. That can happen, I'm human. That's where prayer comes in. Every morning when I walk into the classroom before the children come, I start by praying to God that he can work through me to provide the best education for these kids. I can't do it on my own, I'm on God's team.

There is no doubt that so many tasks still need to be completed. Completing those tasks is essential in meeting any goals I have for the children. So, I need to evaluate whether the certian task will help me fullfill the goal. There are many hopes and goals I have for these children.
1. They will learn
2. They will view learning as a continual process that NEVER ends
3. They will reflect on learning
4. They see the need to keep learning
5. They see the connection of school to the real world
6. They feel valued as individuals
7. They feel successful
8. They enjoy the learning process
9. They will discover and use the gifts God gave them
10. They will become life long learners

As I end this post I pray.
God use me to do your will this year. Give me the strength, passion, wisdom and patience to meet these children's needs. Guide me in how I plan lessons for these children so that the children can discover their gifts and talents. Put the right words in my mouth each day, as each word I say can help to mold these children. Help me keep my focus on the whole child. God, you've been there for me each day. You've allowed me to reach many children and help them discover strengths they never knew they had. I thank you for providing me the opportunity to have this position and the chance to meet so many wonderful children of God. You are a great God who created these little darlings. I pray all this in Jesus' name. AMEN

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Manipulatives- Making your own

Kids love using manipulatives in class. In kindergarten we use them primarily in math, reading, and science. The kids calls these "learning toys" and they have a great time exploring and creating new things. Lots of these manipulatives are the expected ones: pattern blocks, linking cubes, teddy bear counters, letter unifix cubes, magnetic letters, etc. The possibilities are endless though...if you can just be creative.

I want to offer my students the best learning tools I can. Sometimes though, my pocket book just doesn't always agree. So, how can you get more manipulatives without breaking the bank? Find free stuff or make your own.

Here are some free or inexpensive items you can buy or make to use as manipulatives
-Recycle water bottle caps-you can write letters or numbers on them. Use for a variety of activities.
-Collect shells the next time you go to the beach. The kids can use them for counting, sorting, making patterns
-Dye pasta. I'm sure you could do the same with white rice too. The students can sort the pasta in various ways. We also use them during math to copy, extend and created patterns. Our favorite activity is creating our own pattern necklaces. See pictures of what you need to dye the pasta.








-Buy mini erasers from Oriental Trading or Smile Makers
-Use different shaped snacks and cereals. An excuse to play and learn with food.
-Cut the colorful foam sheets into inch squares. Write a letter on each one. Instant soft letter tiles for word building.
-Collect leaves. Put in a science center with some mini magnifying glasses.
-Spread some shaving cream on a desk and practice writing. Makes everything smell great too!
-Buy plain sponges from the Dollar tree. Cut into shapes.
-Collect buttons. Search your button box, grab the extra buttons you get with some blouses.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Reading

One of the benefits of teaching is having the summers off. Now, that does not mean that it's all fun and games. Yes, I take some time for myself, but I value the time to be able to read professional development books so that next year I can be even more spectacular than the last.

Here's what I've been reading:
Teaching With Love and Logic-Taking Control of the Classroom.....Jim Fay and David Funk explain the importance of giving students choices.

The Daily 5 by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser-Focuses on a new approach to "centers." Instead of having center activites change week to week, there are only 5 simple tasks involved: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Working with Words, and Work on Writing. I think it will make my planning a WHOLE lot simpler. No more spending hours every week coming up with cutsey center activities that aren't true reading activities.

---You can read more about The Daily 5 by going to The 2 Sister's Website


Teaching With Intention by Debbie Miller-She has really got me thinking about the "why" of everything I do in the classroom. I've had lots of "ah ha" moments along the way.






Now for the fun books
My best friend and I were on our way to Chattanooga TN this summer. We desperately needed to take a break and stretch our legs. What a better way to do that than go shopping for books? :) I stumbled upon a book called Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith. I have since finished that book and am about halfway through with the second book in that series, Age Before Beauty.

Welcome

This blog is going to serve as both a class webpage and a resource spot for Prek-1st grade teachers. I hope to highlight all of the exciting things happening in my classroom.