Sunday, October 27, 2013

What we do during Math Centers

Every day we have math for 45 minutes (in addition to 15 minutes of calendar math in the morning). I am very lucky to have one assistant teacher and two high school tutors during this time, so we can easily break the kindergarteners up into four groups and have four teacher-led centers! Of course, the activities are very hands-on and the student mostly direct themselves. But the grown-ups are there to teach them the new game and emphasize important concepts, or help kids who are struggling with the task. I try to have four different types of centers each day, based on the Common Core standards and our math curriculum, Everyday Math.

1. Math Games
Math games allow the kids to develop number sense, practice counting and one-to-one correspondence, and try new skills such as measuring and graphing.
 In this game, kids roll a pumpkin dice and graph their results!
 In this game, kids spin a spinner, count the number of apples, and make that amount using cubes on the side.

2. Math Fact Practice
Fact fluency is very important for kindergarteners. By the end of kindergarten, they need to be comfortable adding and subtracting within 5 automatically, as well as able to use objects, drawings, equations, and their fingers to add and subtract within 10. So the more practice we can get, the better! Below is an example of a fact practice game.
 Kids roll two dice and add the numbers together, then find the answer on their Halloween sheet and color it in!
3. Math Manipulatives
Manipulatives are objects that kids can sort, stack and build with, to help them increase their skills at patterning, sorting and engineering. This center often seems like just free play, but is really disguised hands-on learning as well!

 Sorting coins
 Unifix cubes
 The ever-popular "wheels" as we call them (I don't actually know their official name!)
4. Math Journals
This center is with me, and is one of my favorite times to assess kids' thinking on challenging concepts. We usually do some sort of problem-solving question of the day. For example, below I gave them a piece of paper that said "Can you fill a circle using only squares?" (from this generous teacher who shared her idea on her blog). I gave each student a bunch of squares, and they all tried various ways to fill it up. In the end, we figured out that, no, you can't fill a circle with squares because the squares are too pointy! A circle doesn't have any pointy edges, so it's impossible!

Planting our tree!

Since I'm catching up on old photos, here are some pictures from our tree planting ceremony! All three kindergarten classes got together to plant a crabapple tree in the front of the school. This is an awesome hands-on way for them to learn what a tree needs to grow, as well as the parts of a tree. We each got to put a cup of soil and a cup of water on the tree, and we also sang a little song in honor of the tree planting. :)

Part 2 of our Writers Workshop celebration!

I didn't have a chance to post these last week, but here are the photos from our Published Author celebration! The third grade reading buddies came to our room and helped us celebrate. I announced the title of each kindergartener's book, and both classes applauded. Then they read their books to their reading buddies with pride!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Writer's Workshop: We are authors!

Our kindergarteners are officially authors! We started our Writers Workshop towards the beginning of the year, and have been working diligently ever since. Each day we start off the period with a minilesson from me, which helps the kids start to understand what it means to write a story, and later on what it means to add to, edit, and write even more stories! For this unit, I encourage them to write about anything they want, fiction or nonfiction. Most kids start off drawing pictures and using few (if any) words, but as we move on we will focus more on adding names, labels, and words we know to our stories. By the end of the year they'll be writing sentences! Here's a peek at what we did this past month.

For several weeks we worked on producing lots and lots of stories. Some writers worked on the same page day after day, and some writers added many pages to one story. Still other writers wrote several stories each day. At this point, I don't put a lot of restrictions on them because I just want writing to be a positive experience for them to express themselves. At the end of each workshop, we sit with our writing partners and share what we worked on that day:

I encourage them to touch the paper (the pictures or the words) and tell the story as they point. This sounds intuitive but in fact it's a learned skill! (Some kids tend to just face the paper in their own direction while they tell the story. :) )

When we were finally ready to publish, we picked our favorite story and gave it a title. Then we made covers for the story. When we were completely done, we had a very fun ceremony in which I played the Olympic theme song and announced the title of each published book. Then the author came up and we gave him/her a round of applause. Then they read their stories to their third grade reading buddies. I took pictures but they are on my other camera so I'll have to add them when I get back to school. Here are a few published pieces!

Our upcoming Writers Workshop unit will focus on adding labels and words to our stories, and making sure that your story sticks to the same topic. Sometimes this can be a challenge, especially when we write for multiple days in a row and the kids have to remember what they wrote about the day before. Oftentimes the story will start off describing a trip to Grandma's house and then end up about an evil head that eats pumpkins. My favorite book title from one of our writers this year was "The Hole that Sucked in Dana." Dana gave her permission to be featured. :)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin patch field trip on a beautiful fall day

Last week we got to visit the pumpkin patch! We went on a (short) scavenger hunt, visited the "haunted house," and took a tractor ride to the fields to pick out a pumpkin to take home! When we got back, we wrote a letter together about our trip. Hopefully those pumpkins made it home in one piece!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our first day of Literacy + Math Workstations

We have been talking about these workstations for weeks, and on Friday we finally started them! Literacy and math workstations are really exciting because the kindergarteners pair up with a partner and rotate between ten stations (each pair of kids only goes to two per day, and then they hit all ten throughout the week). We have seven literacy-related stations, two math-related stations, and one "teacher table" station, where the kids will meet with me to practice reading and math strategies in small groups. I've been introducing the stations one at a time for several weeks, showing them how to do them and letting some eager volunteers model the right way to do it. Friday was the first day that we tried all ten at the same time, and the kids did great!

Without further ado, here are the stations with our learners hard at work!

1. Listening Workstation
At this station, partners listen to a book on tape. When they're done they draw a picture of their favorite part and vote on whether the book made them happy or sad. :)

2. Math Tub Station
Here partners play together with math manipulatives, including pattern blocks, building cubes, number turtles, and other hands-on math items.

3. ABC Workstation
Here there are three options for activities related to reading and writing. Below is a picture of one choice - Writing Around the Room! I have hidden letters taped up around the room and the kids take a clipboard around the room hunting for them. When they find a letter, they write it down on their paper until they find them all! This station also includes two other letter games this week.

4. Smartboard Station
This is always a favorite - a giant touchscreen! At the beginning of the year the kids play letter and number games on abcya.com (which is a great website for them to play at home too, by the way)!

5. Games & Puzzles Station
Here kids get to pick from letter-, word- and number-related puzzles and board games. This is also a popular choice during free choice time!

Here the kids cozy up next to each other while reading books, and pick out books to read together or alone. At the beginning of the year, since most of us can't read the words in these books, we teach them to "read the pictures," which means figuring out what's happening in the story based on what the pictures show. They can also retell the story to themselves if they have heard it read out loud before.

7. Pocket Chart Station
This station comes with a tub full of pocket chart games that the kids can choose from. "Where's Johnny Appleseed?" is a major favorite, which is what these two smarties are playing. The apple cards each have a different letter on them, and one person hides a picture of Johnny Appleseed behind his letter of choice. The other person has to point and say each letter in order to see if Johnny is hidden behind it!

8. Big Book Station
Big books are so exciting to read! These two are using my teacher pointers to read a giant nature book together. They can spread out on the carpet, or prop the book up on my teacher easel and pretend to be reading to the class.

9. Math Fact Practice
This station is filled with math games that the kids have already learned during math centers. They choose their favorite and play together. The games cover all sorts of math concepts, from number sense to measurement to addition/subtraction later on. Below, these girls are playing a racing game - roll the dice and move your character that many spots. First one to the finish wins!

10. Teacher Table
I don't have pictures of the teacher table this time because I was walking around the room making sure all the kiddos knew what they were doing - but they barely needed me! They are such independent learners already. Today we stayed at each station for just about seven minutes. We'll be doing workstations every day, and the kindergartners' stamina will increase so that soon we'll be working at each station for fifteen minutes or more!