Saturday, November 23, 2013

Learning about a peaceful classroom

As part of a social studies unit on how to be part of a community, we are studying peace in our classroom. I was excited by how easily the kids grasped the large concept of "peace." It's become a great way to talk about how we treat others in and out of the classroom. We started off reading a book by one of my favorite children's authors, Todd Parr, which gives different ideas for what peace is:

Then we wrote our own version of "The Peace Book," with each kindergartener drawing a page and writing what peace made them think of. Here are their pages:

Here are their ideas about peace:

After that, we read the book "David Goes to School," which is about a character named David who breaks lots of rules and generally wreaks havoc on his classroom. We then discussed what a peacebreaker (like David) looks like, and what a peacemaker looks like in the classroom. Here's what we came up with:

Next week we'll talk more about how to maintain peace in the classroom. I'll introduce a peace table where kids can go when they are having problems with someone else, and we'll role play when and how to talk about something at the peace table. This is a great way for the kids to practice social skills such as compromise, patience and forgiveness! More on the peace table when we get it up and rolling!

Sight Word Turkeys

We've been doing lots of turkey- and Thanksgiving-related activities lately. One of my favorites has been making sight word turkeys! The kindergarteners got to choose their six favorite sight words and write them on the turkey feathers. My favorite part (besides the fact that five-year-olds can get excited about words such as "the," "am," and "see") is how different the kids' turkeys turn out even when they're given the same instructions!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's Mystery Reader Day!

Okay so today isn't Mystery Reader Day, but Friday was! A few weeks ago I sent home notes to family members, as well as to other teachers at our school, inviting them to be a mystery reader in our classroom. Our first mystery guest was Friday, and it was Mr. O, our music teacher! The kids easily guessed who it was after the somewhat uncreative clues I gave them. For future mystery readers who come I will try to be more creative!

Parents and family members, if you're still interested in being a mystery reader, just let me know. We have quite a few scheduled in the next few months, but the more the merrier! This is a great way to get the kids excited about reading, and also to hear some fun new books.

Measuring in Math

We have been exploring measurement this week during Math Centers! In kindergarten we start learning to measure using non-standard measurement, which basically means measuring something using anything but a ruler (cubes, paperclips, our feet). Only after we get really good at that do we start talking about using a ruler. We'll be exploring measurement all year long since this is a major kindergarten Common Core standard. Here's what we did this week!

We started off using Unifix cubes to measure pictures of school supply items (which I found here for free), and recording our answers.

Then we worked with our high school tutors to measure large items around the room using our hands. Teamwork! (In case I haven't mentioned it to parents, we are very lucky to have two high school tutors come to our classroom for almost an hour each day during Math Centers. They each run a math center and are a HUGE help!)

After I introduced them to a standard ruler, we went around the room finding objects that were bigger and smaller than our rulers.

When the kids met with me for math journals, we played Top It (which is basically another name for the card game "War") using these cards. Working in pairs, the kindergarteners took turns flipping over a card. The cards could have either a number or a quantity on them.  Whoever had a bigger amount on their card got to keep them both! This was a great way for me to assess each student's number sense. For example, I could see who was able to recognize a group of three without having to use their finger to count each one (called one-to-one correspondence). For others, this was great practice getting better at one-to-one correspondence. I could also see who automatically knew which number was bigger than the other (another kindergarten skill to master).

I forgot to get a picture of our final measurement activity...measuring ourselves! I will post a picture tomorrow, but basically we measured each other using yarn and then displayed our heights on the classroom door, along with a picture of each student. Our display is definitely getting a lot of attention in the school hallways! I have seen more than one fifth grader walking past on his knees to approximate the height of a kindergartener. :)

Next week in math we'll be focusing on patterns!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pumpkins galore

Ever since our pumpkin patch field trip we have been having all kinds of fun with pumpkins - doing pumpkin math, reading pumpkin books, cutting open pumpkins to see what's inside... Here are a few of our pumpkin adventures we've been having!

Investigating a Pumpkin
First we shared our observations about the outside of a pumpkin, and recorded our observations in our science journals. (My favorite descriptive word was "squiggly.")

Then the next day we opened up the pumpkin to see what was inside! Most of the kids were excited to stick their hands in there, but a few wanted nothing to do with that squishy mess. We estimated how many seeds were inside, and then counted them by tens. We ended up with 297!

Then I took the seeds home to toast them, and we ate them the next day! One student also brought in her own pumpkin seeds, and another brought in pumpkin cookies. Kindergarteners can never get too many cookies.

Pumpkin Math
We did lots of fun pumpkin-themed activities at math center time, including making jack-o-lanterns with pattern blocks...

measuring how tall we are using pumpkins and apples...

and measuring Ms. Breuer too!

We also did a fall-themed "Count the Room" activity where I hid cards with varying amounts of pumpkins, acorns, or leaves on them. The kindergarteners' job was to find the cards around the room, count how many items on each one, and record that number.


Pumpkin Fun
We decorated paper pumpkins with glitter, sequins, stickers, and googly eyes. And we got a brand new pumpkin patch in our dramatic play area, where the kids can buy and sell pumpkins, draw on a real pumpkin (with washable markers - the waxy surface on the pumpkins allows it to wipe right off - this was a huge hit!), and read autumn-themed books.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Farmer visit in October

I didn't have a chance to post these pictures until now, but a few weeks ago we had a farmer visit in our classroom! We have a play farmers market in the dramatic play area right now, and have been sampling lots of vegetables from Ms. Breuer's garden, my CSA share, and other vegetable sources. I used to teach a healthy/seasonal food program when I lived in Chicago, so I am a big proponent of finding ways for kids to learn more about where their food comes from. Our kindergarteners have all been very open-minded about trying new foods which has been awesome! In order to connect more concretely where food grows, I contacted one of my friends who runs a farm with his partner, about thirty minutes from our school, and he agreed to come!

In the morning, we brainstormed our favorite fruit or vegetables. As you can see, my current favorite vegetable is a beet. The kids each drew their own favorite, and I was excited to see that apple wasn't the only thing mentioned - many chose tomatoes, carrots, or oranges!

Then we made a list of things we know about farmers, and things we want to learn more about. We also listed some questions to ask Farmer Dennis. When he arrived, he started by showing us some pictures from the farm.

Then he passed around some really funky looking vegetables! I think our favorite was the jelly melon.

After answering our many questions, we posed for a picture and then Farmer Dennis headed back to the farm!

Afterward we had Mystery Bag Monday during science, and I used one of the green peppers that Ms. Breuer gave us from her farm. I told the kids it came from Farmer Dennis by mistake! I figure the lesson that it grows on a farm (and not in the grocery store) was passed on either way. :)

After we guessed what could be in the Mystery Bag, a green pepper was revealed, and we did a taste test! There were mixed results, with some really liking it and some not so much...

It tasted crunchy

It tasted bad :)
When the kids get back to school on Monday there will be a pumpkin patch in place of the farmers market in the dramatic play area... But shh it's a surprise!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Leaves in the fall!

To continue our unit on trees, we have begun to look closely at leaves, which is always fun in the fall! Here are some excerpts from our leaves explorations:

Going on a leaf hunt
Our school grounds have so many types of trees! Here are we collecting as many as we can with our partners.

Sorting leaves
Lots of kids also brought leaves that they collected from home. After talking about characteristics of different leaves, we paired up and sorted leaves in any way we chose. The object for me as the teacher was to see how their brains were working, so I asked them how they sorted them. Most chose to sort by color, but quite a few thought of their own ways to categorize leaves, including Pointy/Not Pointy and Soft/Rough. Sorting is a really important math concept for little minds to master, and leaves are a fun, hands-on way to practice.

Leaf Gallery Walk
Whenever possible I try to incorporate movement into the classroom so kindergarteners can get some of their energy out. If it were up to me we'd have a recess/outdoor break every hour :) But since that's of course a bit unrealistic, I try to use ideas like Gallery Walks to get them up and moving! After we finished sorting our leaves, we all walked from table to table to see how others sorted their leaves, kind of like a leaf gallery or museum!

Leaf Fun
The leaf table was something new I tried this year, and it was a hit! I just filled the sensory table with leaves, acorns, and pinecones that the kids collected. Add a few shovels and it's like bringing a fall leaf pile indoors.

We also played some leaf sorting games on the Smartboard, and made leaf collection books, but for some reason I can't find a picture of them. Next week if we have time I also want to do an observational leaf walk now that the colors have really popped on the trees around here! The kids will bring their science journals and hopefully take some good "notes"!