Sunday, December 10, 2017

Letters & sounds

Learning letters and sounds is one of the most important parts of the kindergarten curriculum. Our daily schedule has a dedicated time for phonics (a half hour each day), as well as writing time, whole-group reading, small-group reading, and literacy workstations. But we also work on learning letter formation, identification, letter-sound-matching, and spelling throughout the day in various ways. Here are a few activities that we've rotated through this month:

Letter formation
I've put out various versions of letter formation practice throughout the year, including using legos and foam shapes.

Letter-sound matching
We also do lots of letter sound matching activities. Each week students receive a new word sort, which usually asks them to match pictures to their first letter sound. I also have lots of matching games for letter-sound sorting.

Early spelling of simple words
Below is a picture of a student matching what are called "CVC words" to their picture. CVC stands for Consonant-Vowel-Consonant, and are usually the first words that students master how to spell. Some CVC words include bug, cat, and fin. They're easy to sound out, since they have a definitive beginning and ending sound, with only one vowel sound in the middle.

At the beginning of the year, we did handwriting as a whole group every day. Now, it's a rotating center that students do once or twice a week. We completed our uppercase books a while ago, and now students are working on their lowercase letter books.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What does a scientist do?

Last week we began a discussion on what scientists do. I loved hearing the students' ideas. We brainstormed ideas that we associate with "scientist," and then they each drew a picture of a scientist in their science journals. Afterwards, we read the book Ada Twist, Scientist, which is about a little girl who is filled with questions about how the world works, and does investigations to figure out the answers to some of her more pressing questions. While we read the book, I encouraged the kids to add to their drawing. Here's how they turned out!

Next week we'll dive into the science practice of asking questions, and begin by asking some of our own questions about the nature treasures we brought in. Here are some scientists exploring them:

For Forest Friday, we got to plant daffodil bulbs in the forest around the new pine trees. We'll get to observe these as they grow in the spring!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

We are thankful!

We had a short week last week, because of Thanksgiving break, but we still packed a lot in! Here are some projects we worked on:

Editing and publishing our first books!
We actually finished these last week, but the kids were proud to be done with them and share them with families at parent-teacher conferences, so I wanted to post the few pictures I remembered to take! Here is one student working on his editing checklist, which the writers are using to do before they publish their final draft. The prompts are simple, such as "I wrote about a time when I did something" and "I stretched out my words." But the idea is to help students learn that writers double-check their work before they show it to readers. The published books turned out great!

Leaf Hunt
On Forest Friday, we went on a walk to collect leaves, and then made them into leaf art, inspired by the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. We also stopped to play for a while in the nature playground in our front schoolyard. :)

Shape Scarecrows
We did an art project using shapes to make a scarecrow!

We are Thankful
We talked a lot about gratitude, and wrote books based on Todd Parr's I Am Thankful. These turned out great, and it was so fun to see what the kids were thankful for. Here are pictures from a few different books:

And last but not least, I want to say how thankful I am to have such a wonderful class of kindergarteners! They are kind, sweet, and generous, and it's so much fun to learn alongside them.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Developing literacy skills throughout the day

Kindergarten teachers do their best to create what's called a "language-rich environment," since the ability to read and write first begins with language. This means we try to provide as many opportunities as possible for children to explore language through environmental print, conversations, and texts. In our classroom, I do this through formal lessons on reading, writing, and phonics, as well as exploratory opportunities that kids can take part in organically. Here are some examples of literacy-rich activities that we have available in our classroom:

Each morning we start out with a morning message which we read chorally (together). The message repeats the same thing each day, with only a few changes (the day of the week, what special class we have, etc.). Predictable text is a great way for students to learn early literacy skills, including skills such as reading from left to right, moving down to the next line when you get to the end of the first one, touching under each word as you read, and using the first letter to figure out a word you don't know. I also ask a different question in the morning message each week, which we answer together. The question usually pertains to a math or literacy skill, such as the one above, which says "Do you know any words that start with L?"

We use science journals on most Forest Fridays, as well as during other science activities, to record our observations through drawings and words. Students learn quickly that they can convey information through print, the way scientists do.

I have several rotating centers that students can use during literacy and choice time, such as the magnetic letters and name cards to the left. 

Each day Mrs. Thompson and I meet with students in small groups for reading lessons, called guided reading. This allows us to target specific skills that students need to advance their reading abilities. These lessons are often accompanied by writing lessons, since reading and writing are interwoven.

This is another example of a literacy center that helps develop phonics skills (specifically letter identification), as well as fine motor skills, since the object of the activity is to pick up the marble with the tweezers and put it on the correct letter. Fine motor skills help students with literacy skills such as writing and drawing.

Another choice during phonics time is to match letter cards with an alphabet mat. These choices rotate throughout the year. Soon students will be  doing word sorts that match their spelling abilities during this time as well.

Another choice center, using foam shapes to make letters. The physical act of forming the letters helps students recognize them in their reading and call them to mind during writing.

We also have a time called Writers Workshop three days per week, in which students write and draw stories based on a loose theme (such as "stories that happened to you" or "All About books"). This is a picture of our very first writing project, which involved depicting the farm scene from our field trip, labeling the contents, and writing a sentence to go with it. After this initial activity, kids were reading to start writing their own stories. 

As always, let me know if you have any questions about learning in our class! I realize that I've been neglecting the subject of math, so I promise to post pictures about it soon!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Literacy time: What does it look like?

Literacy is a big part of a kindergartener's day. We start off the day with community breakfast, followed by brief morning work and then Morning Meeting. Then we launch into Literacy time. On Mondays, we do writing during this time, usually focused on "Weekend News" (more about that on another day!). For the rest of the week, we do Shared Reading (where I teach about reading strategies and read aloud a big book or poem, often chorally with the kids), followed by Literacy Workstations. This is one of the kids' favorite times of day! There are ten total workstations, each centered around an aspect of literacy (reading, writing, listening, speaking, phonics and problem solving).

Children visit two stations a day with their partner; by the end of the week, they'll have visited almost all the stations. The kindergarteners are becoming very independent during this time, which allows me to meet with small groups of students to work on reading. The activities at the workstations change frequently, so it's an engaging and fun way for the kids to grow their reading and writing skills. Below is an explanation of some of the stations, as well as photos of the kids in action!

1. Big Book StationHere, students read and explore the big books that we've read aloud previously in class, as well as looking through new ones.

2. Read to Someone
Partners find a cozy chair (or beanie baby) and pull out books from their book boxes to read together.

3. Art Station
Kids use paper, colored pencils, scissors, staplers, and glue sticks to create books and other pieces of artwork, as well as dry erase markers and boards.

4. Loose Parts

"Loose parts" are materials that can be moved, combined, and designed in multiple ways, to enhance creativity and imaginative thinking. Right now our Loose Parts stations has clay with cutting, rolling and shaping tools. This will change throughout the year.

5. iPad Station
Our classroom iPad is filled with learning games related to reading, writing, spelling, math and science. This station is also great for learning to take turns, since there is only one tablet and two people. :)

6. Computer Station
This is always a favorite - using Ms. Woods' computer! I set up the internet browser to go to our class blog, and they click on "Websites for Kindergarteners" on the righthand side, then choose any of the learning games there. I regularly add literacy and math games to the link, after teaching the class about how to use them. Right now, we use two book-reading websites (Bookflix and Storyline Online) and

7. Science Station
This table is dedicated to the investigations we're currently doing during science time. Below, students observe, sort and draw leaves. This will change as we explore new topics in science and social studies.

8. Teacher Table
At this station, students work in small groups with me to practice reading, writing and phonics strategies. Below, the students are learning to stretch out the sounds in words as they read and write. 

Not pictured are two more stations that I haven't added yet, Word Work and Read to Self. This time is a lot of fun to watch and participate in - if you'd ever like to come for a visit during this time, let me know!