Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A few more pictures from the last month

The last few weeks of 2014 flew by! Here are some pictures I have been meaning to share but hadn't had a chance to.

Number sense activities with our Math Expressions curriculum
Doing yoga to calm our bodies after recess!
Doing "finger flashes" for each number 1-20
Some pictures of our amazing family potluck!
Thanks to all who attended. It was a lot of fun!
A few family portraits, which the kids gave as gifts to their families
These were inspired by Todd Parr, an author and illustrator that we read often!
The kids used oil pastels to make the drawings, then filled it in with water colors 
Our last week of school was Gingerbread Week! We did a science experiment to see what would
happen if a gingerbread man really went in the water, which he is too afraid to do in the stories!
Playing a math guessing game on a gingerbread-themed number line
Playing "Don't Eat Pete," a beloved game that involves identifying teen numbers and eating M&Ms!
Decorating gingerbread cookies at our winter party!
My mom came to help, and she had the genius idea of using popsicle sticks to spread the frosting

And last but not least, some adorable pictures of the whole class on the day of our all-school Winter Sing!

Garbage the math game: all you need is a deck of cards!

One very important math concept for kindergarteners to learn is number order. We hope that they are able to place numbers on a number line, which looks something like this:

We also hope they master what's called "hierarchical inclusion," meaning that they know that numbers build by one at a time. For example, if I said "5," I hope they can see and understand that 5 is one more than 4, and one less than 6, and picture those numbers in order. We do lots of games and activities with number lines and counting to help them develop these understandings.

We also work a lot with what is called a "ten frame." Ten is the most important number in our Base 10 number system, so we spend a lot of time becoming familiar with it in kindergarten (and every grade after that...). One way for kids to be comfortable with ten is to use a ten frame when we work with numbers. Here is a picture of a ten frame, which is essentially two rows of five boxes.

To represent a number, we fill in the boxes with the corresponding number of dots. Here is a ten frame for the number 6.

We do many games using ten frames at school, but I wanted to pass one along that can be done at home using a regular deck of cards! This game is called Garbage, and it's a great exercise for kids to become familiar with both ten frames and number order.

The game is somewhat complicated to explain in this short blog post, so instructions for how to play can be found here. But most likely, if you put a deck of cards in front of your kindergartener and ask them to teach you how to play Garbage, they'll be able to tell you with ease! We have been playing often, and the kids love it. (One thing to note: You may need to teach them that jacks, queens, and kings can be used as "10s." The decks of cards we play with at school are math cards, so they have numbers written on them instead of a regular card face.)

Here are some pictures of kindergarteners eagerly playing Garbage with their math partners!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Literacy + Math Workstations: A favorite time of day

Workstation time is one of my favorite times of our school day, and the kids really love it too. This hour is exciting because the kindergarteners pair up with a partner and rotate between ten stations (each pair of kids goes to two stations 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. 

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 take it home! Often times they like to revisit familiar books and read them over and over again. A current favorite is I Stink by Kate McMullan.

2. Math Tub Station
Here partners play together with math manipulatives, including pattern blocks, building cubes, geoboards, 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 game - sorting our names by syllable. 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! I set up the screen 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.

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!

6. Library Station
Partners can read books from anywhere in the room, including the classroom library, the big book basket, the poetry chart, and their own book boxes.

7. 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 several partners. :)

8. Writing Station
There are several options here, including highlighting sight words in our weekly poems, searching for words hidden around the room, and writing stories.

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, this kiddo is playing a memory game where you try to match the numbers to their corresponding ten frame.

10. Teacher Table
Here is where I meet with students to do Guided Reading at their current reading level. We practice phonics skills, sight words, and reading strategies. Most of our readers are currently working on one-to-one correspondence (touching each word as you read it) and using the illustrations and first letter of an unknown word to figure out what it is. The partners above are stretching out words for each other - for example, one partner says "rrr-uh-nnn" and the other says "run." This is called phoneme segmentation, and is an important early literacy skill! Often I use my Teacher Table time to teach a literacy or math game that they can then play on their own at another station.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Integrating technology: the hour of code

Our class participated in the Hour of Code this week! The Hour of Code is a nationwide movement to teach children computer science in a developmentally appropriate way. Using programs provided for free by the website code.org, the kindergarteners played games and solved puzzles in the same manner that a computer programmer teaches a computer to complete tasks.

As code.org explains it, coding "helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path." This year over 74 million kids participated in the hour of code! After a quick introduction from me, our kindergarteners dove right in and advanced through the levels quickly. It was definitely clear to see that they are the "digital native" generation. They definitely could have spent more than an hour on these games!

The best part is that we can use these programs any time, so coding will become another option in our literacy/math workstation time, as well as our computer lab visits. You can access our class link by clicking on "Websites for Kindergarteners" on the right hand side (or click this link) and scroll all the way to the bottom. Then click on the black and white boxes labeled "Code Studio." Below are some pictures of our little computer programmers!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What does Writer's Workshop look like in kindergarten?

Our kindergarteners have made huge strides in writing this year. Imagine, we went from the beginning of the year, where most of our kids didn't believe they could be authors, to now, when each child is writing dozens of stories!

I took a video last week, so you can see a snapshot of what the Writer's Workshop hour looks like in kindergarten. A few things to notice: kids are writing independently, using their resources to help them spell and brainstorm. A few students are using books, a few using word lists, and a few talking to each other. And all of them are hard at work! (Well, with a few exceptions of kids who are still in the brainstorming stage :)). And then the second video shows one of our writers proudly reading her story! She's doing a great job pointing at the words as she reads them back to me. This is a hard skill for kindergarteners to master, because it requires remembering what they wrote and deciphering their own writing!

Below are some pictures of our class's second set of published books, which were personal narratives (true stories about their lives). They worked on these stories (and other like them) four days a week for a month! That's a lot of writing, and it's amazing to see.