Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mystery Bag Monday!

One of my goals as a teacher is to help kids maintain and grow the sense of wonder that they naturally have already. Kids are continuously curious and excited about trying new things. My job is to hone that curiosity so they can apply it to solve problems and learn new things. Enter Mystery Bag Monday! This is my latest way to sneak in a little bit of excitement and wonder for the kindergarteners, while also incorporating observation skills, science, writing and critical thinking. We've had two Mystery Bag Mondays so far, and they are a HIT. Here's how it goes:

First I reveal the mystery bag, and give them one clue at a time about the item inside. After each clue, I ask for guesses from students about what they think might be inside. At the beginning, they are basically guessing at random. Then we try to use the clues to narrow our guesses - for example, guesses for this particular bag started along the lines of "a shoe!" and "an apple!" Then when I wrote down the clue "It is rough," we talked about how we could rule out the apple (since apples are smooth). Their guesses after my clue "It is from a tree" really allowed me to gauge their understanding of what comes from trees! Most guesses were apples or fruit, although some guessed branches or other items.

Then we pass around the bag and use our five senses (except sight! no peeking!) to help us figure it out. Their favorite thing to do is smell the bag without opening it. For some reason that is hilarious to five year olds. :) Then I have them draw or write in their science journals what they think is inside. We come back to the rug and share our guesses, and then I go for the big reveal! The first week the Mystery Bag item was a branch with a woodpecker hole on it, and the second week it was black walnuts - which one of the kindergarteners brought in to share! She was so excited that they would be the Mystery Bag item, and she did an awesome job of not sharing our little secret.

Here are the little scientists drawing their guesses, and sharing them in the circle:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Math Centers: our first explorations in the world of math

We have been trying so many new things this first month of school! Last week was our first time learning how to do math centers. We split into four groups, and practiced rotating between four different centers. Three of the math centers were fun games or building materials, and we were lucky enough to have Ms. Breuer and our two high school tutors help us run those centers. Then the fourth center was math journals with me! Each student gets their own math journal which looks like this:

Every time we meet, we will talk about a different math sentence, number problem (what we grownups used to call "story problems") or concept, and use our journals to draw or write how we find the answer. I tell them to "draw what their brain thinks about." For this first math journal, I gave them the simple prompt "I see a blue circle" (I got this awesome idea from another teacher). Here's a few kindergarteners showing what their brains thought about:

This simple prompt gave me such a range of ideas about where their thoughts are coming from! For example, the student above is drawing herself sitting on the rug, which just so happens to be a blue oval!

We'll continue to have math centers 3-4 days per week. This is a great time for kids to practice a lot of the math concepts that we learn as a whole class. It also gives me the opportunity to work with them in small groups to help boost their understanding of numbers, shapes, and patterns!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Science investigations: a tree walk

The gorgeous weather this week made for so much fun when we started our first science unit - on trees! We talked about what scientists do (several kiddos want to be scientists when they grow up!) and then I gave them their official science journals. We brainstormed what we already knew about trees, including, but not limited to...

  • they make amber [she meant sap, but it was not worth getting into the difference]
  • they are fun to climb
  • they have green leaves that let us breathe, and...
  • I have a big one in my yard
Here are the science journals that the kids have now. I encouraged them to write and draw anything they saw with their scientist eyes.

Then we took off on our first of two tree hikes! In the first grove of trees, we found tons of berries, pinecones, and cicada shells! Then we walked around the school and noticed all the different types of trees. It was very exciting and the kids took some awesome notes. We'll continue to study trees for the rest of the month. At the end of September, a tree sapling will be delivered to the kindergarten classrooms and we'll plant it on the school property!

Here are our scientists in action:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Our first week of kindergarten!

Welcome to a wonderful new class of kindergarteners! We've had a fantastic week. Here are some of the things we did:

1. Meeting our new friends
We do lots of get-to-know-you activities this first week. Here are some of our kindergarten friends this year!

2. Reading new books!

Our focus book for the first week was called The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. This is the story of a raccoon who is nervous about leaving his mom for kindergarten. She gives him a kiss on the palm of his hand and tells him to keep it for whenever he needs a reminder that she loves him! We did several activities around this book, including this poem with the kiddos' handprints!

3. Exploring math materials during Math Choice
Math choice is every Friday. This is a time when I pull out lots of math materials that the kids can manipulate, build with, and explore. They get to choose which items they use, and they work cooperatively in groups of four. This was a very popular activity this week! I should mention that our assistant teacher, Ms. Breuer, leads a rousing game of Uno with the kids during this time too!

4. Graphing our birthdays
To begin our discussion of "more" and "less," we shared our birthdays (most kindergarteners aren't sure when their birthdays are, so it was really more like me sharing their birthdays!) and graphed them by month. Then we talked about which month had more and which had less!

5. Free choice time!
This is the best time of the day for kindergarteners (with the exception of recess I suppose)! Play is such an important part of a five- and six-year-old's day. They get 20-30 minutes a day of unstructured play in the classroom, so they can explore all the areas of the room - the block area, dramatic play, art table, puppets, math toys, puzzles, etc. This is a time for kids to learn to play together. It's also a time for me to observe their social interactions, notice what they are interested in, and generally have fun with them!