Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Great State of Texas!

Since we live in Texas, we like to teach a long unit about our state, some time around Texas Independence Day, which is March 2. Throughout this unit, we have learned many facts about Texas, as well as studied many tall tales that take place in Texas. The kids really enjoy reading tall tales, like Pecos Bill, because some really crazy things happen in the story that they think are very silly. They have fun re-telling these exaggerated moments. 

To conclude our Texas study, we have written stories about Texas today.

The first thing that I did when I introduced that we were going to write a story was draw out the story elements. 
The students came up with the characters, the problem and the solution of the story. Of course, we discussed that the setting would be Texas. :)
After this, we drew out a story map, using the 4-square model that I discussed in this earlier blog post.
 The students came up with each sentence. We practice reading our story, to make sure that it had a problem and a solution. 

After all this, I sent the students back to their seats. We have spoken many times in my class about how to make a "good illustration" for their writing, so we discussed this again before they started. The kids know that I like their drawings to be very colorful and fill up the whole page. 

They were able to copy the story that we created together, or... if they were really "thinking", they could come up with their own story, as long as it had characters, a problem and a solution. 

Here are some final "stories" about Texas that the students wrote!

What a great way to end our Texas unit!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Has Sprung... And A Personal Note

Spring has sprung in our classroom (literally)! Every once in a while I like to turn my "kitchen" center into something new. I usually gear it towards some sort of theme that we are learning about or a holiday that is coming up. This center is really important, because it is not only play time, but also builds social development, and vocabulary about the world and the community. 

Previously, this year, I have turned the kitchen center into Santa's Workshop at Christmas and Cupid's Post Office at Valentine's Day.

Now our center has turned into a garden! Students can sort flowers and seeds here. They can also act out planting a garden, watering it and raking dirt. Some students in my class have also taken it upon themselves to play "flower shop". 

On a more personal note, my son turned 1 recently! I went a little crazy with his party which was "sock-monkey" themed. Here are the pics from his birthday:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2 Presidents That Made a Difference... In Our Classroom!

We just got finished with a 2 week long unit on presidents in my class. It's amazing how interested these kids get over people who lived hundreds of years ago. I've been doing foldables throughout the year, but decided to do one on a bigger scale for this unit. For more on foldables, click here.

We learned about Abraham Lincoln for the first week and George Washington the second week. We did many compare and contrast activities, such as a Venn diagram to gain more understanding about each president. We made "pretend" money with the presidents faces on them. We even practiced drawing their faces, in a teacher-led, step-by-step, directed art project. We used these pictures for the outside covers on our foldable "books". 

Here is an example of what one looked like:
In the inside of each cover, I had students draw or label a fact about each president.

The middle section took us the longest to accomplish. I really worked hard on reminding them of the High Five Chart and the editing process. Yes, even kinders can edit their work! In fact, it really helped them to gain some ownership of the writing that they were doing. For more on the High Five process that I created, read my earlier post here.

I was so proud of how they came out. They wrote a lot about each president and really developed an interest in them with the more that each of them wrote!
Here are a few examples of a few writing pieces that we placed in the middle section of our foldable:

Although there are still misspellings after the editing process was complete, I knew that each student had given me their best work. Can you believe that kinder kids are capable of writing so many coherent sentences?! We had a great time with this unit and I will continue to do it in years to come.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine's Day is near!

Because I love Valentine's Day so much, I like to set up Valentine centers at the beginning of February. I have a housekeeping center in my room and I like to change it up every so often, so that the kids don't get bored. For the next few weeks, it is going to be a post office. The kids can write "letters" to each other and "mail" them out. Here is what it looks like:

In this center, they are sorting envelopes, writing letters to other class mates and acting out what would happen at a post office. 

I have also created some other activities for centers. Here are a few of them. The kids really enjoy these center games and I will probably keep them up from now until after Valentine's Day. 

We are also learning about dental health this week. The kids are each very eager to tell me about how many teeth they have lost and about their experiences at the dentist. Here is a chart that we made today as a class:
We discussed how some food are great to eat all of the time, and others should only be eaten sometimes, so that we can prevent cavities. Now the kids are working on making a model of teeth and they each get their own tooth brush to take home. I have shown them with my large model how to properly brush teeth and they use the toothbrush that they get to practice with this on their model.  
Tomorrow, we will practice flossing using this fantastic activity I found on pinterest!

(More on pinterest later)

Go check out some of my Valentine's activities at my teacher store located here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter in Texas?

Teaching winter, well... all seasons for that matter, can be an interesting thing when you live in Texas. We try to explain to the students that winter means cold and snow, fall means the leaves change colors, etc., but in Texas, at least central Texas, this is not so. We **might** see snow once a year, but the northern states would call it a joke. We have a few flurries and the kids get so excited, everyone rushes outside and school is immediately called off. It never sticks to the ground. Oh, and our leaves stay green or turn brown but there's no in between. So, it's kind of difficult to teach these things when the kids really have no basis for background knowledge. Therefore, many Texans learn about seasons that never really exist for us.

Needless to say, we have been learning about winter and snow and this week we focused on penguins. This can be a really fun unit.

We watched clips on National Geographic Kids this week. If you haven't been on this website, it's great for young kids. There were many short video clips and pictures of all different kinds of penguins. Go check out this website. It can be great for any science unit in early childhood.

You may remember a couple of blogs ago, when I wrote about the 4-square graphic organizer. Here is a picture of how I put it into place with the penguins unit.

I begin by telling the kids that we are going to write about penguins today on our 4-square. By now, they are very familiar with this term. 
This year, we started introducing the terms noun and verb in kindergarten. We have had a lot of success with it, which came much to my surprise. 

We begin by teaching them that every sentence has a noun in it. We talk about all of the words that could be nouns.
Here are some noun posters that I have created for my classroom:

When we introduce a verb, we do a lot of acting out. "Can you act out the word 'throw'?", "Act out the word 'play'." Verbs are things that we DO. When we make a sentence we have to have a noun (person, place, or thing) and your noun has to be doing something, which is your verb. 

Anyone who has taught early childhood will know that a beginning writer will often write one word and tell you they wrote a sentence. Sometimes they will even add a period so that you really "know" it's a sentence. :)

I will often act out silly scenarios where I ask the students if it would make any sense if I went on the playground and told another student this sentence: "Dog." They often laugh and say, "Noooo! That wouldn't make sense!" Then I'll ask, "Oh, did I need to tell you what the dog did?" They'll all shout yes in unison. I'll do this many times with various nouns and then I'll ask them to give me a sentence about a dog that I could tell my friends. Students will come up with many different things. "The dog ran." "The dog ate a bone." "The dog licked me." etc. "Oh!" I'll exclaim, "It would make more sense if I told you what the dog was DOING, wouldn't it?"

When completing a 4-square, we always use blue for the noun and yellow for the verb. This is to distinguish to the students that these are two different kinds of words. Later on, in older grades, when they are adding in adjectives and adverbs, those kinds of words each have their own color as well. 

I began my lesson today by telling my students that we were going to write about penguins. I wrote the word "Penguins" in the middle of the 4-square. Then, as I was filling out each section, I would ask my students what my noun was. After they gave me the noun (Penguins), I would write it and have them come up with the verb, something that a penguin does. As you can see, they thought of many good things:

Penguins waddle.
Penguins play. 
Penguins slide.
Penguins eat fish and krill.

The 4-square graphic organizer has been great for my kindergarten classroom and it can be adapted all the way through elementary and probably further. 

I included my noun posters in my newest packet on TpT which you can purchase here:

Also, please go download my free winter math journals. And be on the lookout for my newest freebie which is coming soon, the Valentine fluency pack. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sound Mapping

In my classroom, to teach the letters and sounds, we do something called sound mapping. It is a research-based way to teach the alphabet (letters/ sounds) and basic writing skills. 
Single Line Write & Wipe Board
I start each morning with 30 minutes of this. I have a class set of these whiteboards in my room from Lakeshore Learning. I LOVE them! They are perfect for the kids and just their size!

You can purchase these white boards here at Lakeshore:

This is the basic breakdown of how I teach sound mapping each day:

1.   Introduce new sound. Have students listen and try to repeat. Show children your mouth formation and talk about placement of teeth, tongue and lips. Use mirror if needed.
2.   Have students listen for the sound. Students will clap when they hear the sound. Say various alphabet sounds and the new sound mixed in. Remind students to look at your mouth formation to give them clues about the sound. This can also be done with words that begin with the sound.
3.   Show the students how to record the sound on the board. Make sure to focus on the starting point and then the direction of the correct formation. Have the students look at your letter on the board and trace it in the air with their pointer finger.
4.   Students will write the letter in the air, on the carpet, on each other’s backs, and on their hands. This is before the white boards come out. Ask the students many times while they are doing this what sound they are recording.
5.  Show the students several times on the board how to record the sound.
6.  Pass out white boards and have the students try to record the sound with markers. Walk around and assess the students, as they record the sound. Some students may need you to hold their hand with the marker and help them the first few times. Correct any errors you may see.
7.   After a few minutes of practice, erase the white board and tell the students that they now must do it from memory. Students will repeat the sound that they are recording as they record it on their white boards.
8.   Follow up with additional practice in small group.

I also created a poster for my classroom to teach basic writing skills. It's similar to CAPS which I'm sure many of you have heard of, but I felt it was more kinder-friendly. This year, my whole school has adopted the High Five Model and I'm working on a version for older grades as well!

I also have this hands-on poster that I made to go with it, that stays out all year long in my classroom. 
The pieces are velcro-ed on and as I introduce each piece of the high five, I add the new piece to the poster. I begin the year by stressing the "teacher" handwriting, which all goes back to the sound mapping. Sound mapping, after all, is creating a map in one's brain of the letter and the sound. If the students are using their "teacher" handwriting, they will create a better "map" in their brain. 

I have had great success with this in my classroom! I've been teaching letters and sounds this way for 3 years now and my students are becoming amazing writers!

Please go check out my new packets in my TpT store!

Go check out these and download my Winter Math Journal FREEBIE. 
All of these and more are located at my teacher store: