Monday, September 29, 2014

What do scientists do? An investigation with apples

We started our first science unit, which is all about what scientists do! The biggest message I hope the kids walk away with is that anyone can be a scientist, and that scientists ask questions about all sorts of things that they wonder about. Since it's apple season, I decided to introduce the concept of science investigations using apples!

Mystery Bag Monday
First we learned that scientists make observations using their five senses. For this activity, I introduced Mystery Bag Monday. I put an apple inside a brown bag, and told the little scientists that they could use their hands, nose, and ears to figure out what was inside the bag - but not their eyes! After passing around the bag, they went back to their science journals to draw what they thought was inside. Most guesses were apples, but some also thought baseball or other round objects - definitely using their observation skills!

We talked about how we observed that it was a hard, round, and smooth, and we inferred that it was probably an apple. 

Then we came back and shared our guesses. And most were right, it was an apple!

The next day, we started discussing how scientists ask questions about the things they observe. I put up this slide on the Smartboard:

For example, I wondered whether or not an apple could sink or float in water - so we decided to try it!

The next day, I continued to model what types of questions scientists ask. I held up four apples of different colors, and told the kids that I had seen each of these apples growing on trees when I was apple picking over the weekend. As we observed, they looked different on the outside. But I didn't know whether or not they were the same on the inside!

So of course, we decided to investigate the answer using our five senses...most importantly our sense of taste!

This week we will continue to learn about what scientists do, and the kids will get a chance to ask their own "I wonder" questions.
We also have an apple orchard in our dramatic play area, and are learning some apple poems and songs to go with!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Our math routines

We're off to a great start in math this year. Each day starts with Morning Meeting, one of my favorite times of the day. After greeting each other and answering the "share question" for the day, we move on to our morning math routines. This includes putting the date on the calendar, singing the Days of the Week song, and marking our days in school (the first picture below). We've had 14 days of school already (even though the pictures below were taken on day 13)! We also count out loud up to the number of days, which is good practice for kindergarteners who are expected to count to 100 by the end of the year. Last, we display the number of days in a different way (the second picture below), so kids can become familiar with our Base Ten number system. These charts show them that 13 is represented by one row of 10 and 3 extra dots ("ones"). This is a concept that we will revisit all year.

We've also begun more hands-on math activities, such as the one below involving counting mats and number cards. In this game, one partner displays a number card and the correct amount of blue/red squares. Then the other partner needs to make the same display on their counting mats. Even for kids who are already adding and subtracting, it's good to develop a deep number sense before moving on to more complex math.

Our last math routine is Number of the Day! Starting at one, we explore one number per day and the kids record it in their Number of the Day packets.
  1. First, we write the number. Kids at this age often write their numbers backward, and that's completely fine. This is good practice for them to recognize what the numeral looks like. I sign songs that go with each one - my favorite is how to write the number five. As you write it (in the way this video portrays), say "Long neck, belly fat, number five wears a hat." 
  2. Next, we fill in the ten-frames. (Click here for more information on what a ten-frame is.)
  3. Then we draw a picture to represent that amount.
  4. Last, we find that amount of objects from around the room, and bring them back to the circle to share. This helps the kids get a concrete idea of the amount this number represents. They can see that the amount of "five" is the same, no matter if it's five markers, five blocks, five stuffed animals, or five toy cars.
Below are some pictures of our Number of the Day routine!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

We are peacemakers

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:

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 in his classroom. We then discussed what a peacebreaker (like David) looks like, and what a peacemaker looks like in the classroom. 

Last, we agreed to be peacemakers in our own classrooms whenever we can. We did a craft representing ourselves as peacemakers, and then shared one thing we will do to be a peacemaker at home or at school. Here were our ideas:
Millie: I will hug my grandma when she comes.
Trevor: I will help my mom and dad find something if it’s lost.
Ava: I will help my mom or my chaperones and give them a hug and kiss.
Erblina: I will give my family a hug.
Owen: I will always wash my hands.
Veronica: I will give my family a big hug and tell them to be careful.
Leo: If I find a feather, I will give it to my sister Lisa. 
Aidan: I will help others.
Alex: I will listen to my parents when they say “go to bed Alex.” 
Liam: I will love my mom and dad forever.
Dustin: I will hug my mommy.
Lillian: I will help my brother read books.
Kira: I will always help my little brother when he needs help.
Jacob: I’m gonna help my mom and always listen to her.
Blake: I will help people stand up.
Lily: I will help my mom.
Kahlan: I will help my mom set the table.
Amara: I will help my mom cook.
Ethan: I will do art.
Myles: I do my jobs.
Argjend: I will cook with my mom.
Ms. Woods: I will help my kindergarteners to learn.
Here are pictures of us making our Peacemaker People!

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!

Learning our names

We've spent a lot of time talking about names this week! Working with names is a great first step to early literacy for kindergarteners. For most students, seeing their own or a friend's name in print is the first time they have understood that a word can represent a concept. My goal is for all of our kindergarteners to be able to recognize, spell, write, and count the syllables in their own name, plus begin to recognize and write their friends' names. Here are some activities we've been doing to increase familiarity with names.

Special Name of the Day

Every day during the first month of school, I pick a new person to be the "Special Name of the Day." When the name is picked, that child comes to the front of the room and picks his/her name card out from a chart where I have written all the names on index cards. Then we study their name, following the same routine each time:

  1. We count the letters in the name.
  2. We say the letters in the name.
  3. We cheer the letters in the name. (Gimme an S...S! Gimme an A...A! Gimme an M...M! What does it spell? SAM!) (needless to say this is their favorite step)
  4. I cut apart the name, and the child tries to put it back together correctly.
  5. We study the features of each letter in their name. Does it start with a capital letter? Are the letters tall or short? Do any of the letters have a tail (like g and y)? Do you have any of the same letters in your name?
  6. Each person draws a picture of the child, and writes their name underneath.
  7. The child takes home the packet of pictures from their classmates, as well as their name puzzle, so they can practice putting it together at home.
Name Magnets
Our assistant teacher, Ms. Breuer, made awesome name cards with each child's picture and their name written in capital letters. Kids can find their own name, or a friend's, and use magnet letters to spell the name on this small magnet board. The kids love doing this!

Name Mats
We made these name mats and put out playdough so kids could roll it up and write out their names. Next week I'll put something new, such as dry erase markers or bingo dobbers, so kids can practice forming the letters in different ways.

We will continue to work on writing, tracing and reading our names throughout September. You can practice writing and reading your family members' names at home too!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Our first week

The kindergarteners did such a great job this week! We learned lots of new routines, new names and new activities. Here are some highlights.

First Day Feelings
We read the book The Kissing Hand, about a raccoon named Chester who is very nervous to start school. Then we talked about all the feelings a kindergartener can have on the first day of school! Afterwards, we made a class book about which feelings we had. Most of the kids felt excited, with a few nervous feelings in there.

Free Choice
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 and guide their social interactions, notice what they are interested in, and generally have fun with them!

Math Choice
We also learned a new math activity called 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!

Shared Writing
Each week we will compose a shared writing piece together, in which kindergarteners "share the pen" with me. Usually we will come up with a sentence as a class, and I will choose several students to help sound out words and write them on the chart paper. This week's shared writing was a letter to families highlighting a few other things we did this week.