Friday, January 30, 2015

Sight words!

Sight words have become a very important part of the kindergarten curriculum. Sight words are words such as the, to, are and like. These words are the ones that appear most frequently in children's literature, so learning these words will give kids a tremendous boost in their reading. These words also tend to be ones that are hard to decode (or "sound out"), so we encourage kids to memorize as many as possible. Then when they come across a word in a book, they don't need to spend time or mental energy sounding it out - they will just know it automatically and can continue on with their reading.

We do lots of work with sight words each day, but there is always more you can do at home! I suggest making flashcards of the sight words we have learned, going on a sight word hunt while you are reading a book, or mixing up the letters in sight words and trying to put them back together in the right order. Anything families can do to boost sight word practice will be a huge help when they are reading and writing!

Here are some activities we have been doing with sight words:

Each week we learn our two new sight words, sing a song about them to the tune of BINGO (ask your child to spell a sight word and chances are she/he will spell it out to the tune of B-I-N-G-O). Then we write them on this sheet to hang them on the fridge at home.

Last week we learned how to play Build a Man (aka Hangman) with sight words! This is a big favorite, and is a great way for both partners to learn the words, because they need to focus on which letters are in the word, how many there are, and what order they go in.

We also started watching these two videos from Harry Kindergarten - the sight word rap! I encourage you to watch it at home as well!

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I also had to share this adorable picture of two friends at the listening center together, reading a story arm in arm :)

Winter explorations

We are studying the question "What happens in winter?" Here are some glimpses into the discoveries we've been making lately!

What do you see in winter?
We went on an observational walk outside, and then wrote about what we saw outside. This was great practice for stretching out words for spelling! These are hanging on the board in our classroom if you'd like to come see.

Making Snowflakes
We learned how to make snowflakes out of coffee filters. A few kindergarteners noticed that when you throw them up in the air, they float down, instead of falling straight down like other objects. This led to a fascinating 20-minute discussion on what makes things fall down, and why some objects behave differently than others! The whole class chimed in, and we began talking about gravity and how heavy objects are. The kids were so fascinated by the concept of gravity that we ended up interrupting our next activity to read a book and watch a Bill Nye the Science Guy video about gravity and how the earth turns. This is still a favorite topic of discussion and research!

Free play
I put cotton balls and marshmallows in our sensory table to use as fake snow. Throw in a couple of toy cars, and this area was a hit! The sensory table is a great place for kids to develop imaginative play, fine motor skills, and sensory experiences.

One of our options for homework was to walk around our neighborhood or homes and record what happens in winter. Here are some of the response sheets!

Time for Kids Antarctic webcast
We were also very lucky to participate in a very cool webcast put on by Time for Kids. A scientist studying penguins broadcast live from Antarctica to share what life is like at the South Pole! There were fewer glimpses of penguins, and more talk from the scientist, than most of the kindergarteners had hoped. But it was still a very cool thing to see!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Thinking like a scientist: our new way of studying science

Much of the country, including our school district, is beginning to incorporate new science standards (benchmarks for learning in each grade level), called the Next Generation Science Standards. These new standards ask kids to do lots of hands-on, inquiry-based science and engineering, even in kindergarten! So we are beginning a new way of studying science in our class this year. We started with a big essential question, which is "What happens in winter?" We'll then rotate between four learning stations in order to find answers to this big question. Below are details on each of the four science stations we'll be doing: Research, Engineer, Create, and Investigate.

Some of our initial ideas on what happens in winter
Part of thinking like a scientist is learning to use resources to find information. At this station, kids choose from a big pile of non-fiction books on all kinds of topics. They find a book they are interested in, and then find a cozy spot to read it. When they're done, they have the option of choosing another book to read and learn from, or to cut out a "circle map," which they glue into their science journals and record pictures or words that describe what they learned in their book. Later in the year, I plan to open up this research to include tablets and computer, so students can investigate more topics they are interested in and won't be limited to just the books I put out.

Engineering is also part of the Next Generation Science Standards. We watched a video produced by NASA for Kids about what engineers do, and we learned that they start with a problem, and make a plan to solve the problem. To simulate making a plan and carrying it out, I provided pattern block templates. Students choose the template they want, and find the right pieces to match the shapes. I will slowly reveal more and more complex building projects at this station, including giving students the ability to make their own plan and put it into action.

Another part of thinking like a scientist is learning to use the creative side of your brain. Art projects help students practice creativity, problem-solving, and fine motor skills. For our first week at the Create station, we'll be dipping Styrofoam peanuts into white paint to make snow scenes. 

The last station is the investigation part of science! This will be a teacher-guided station involving lots of different hands-on science investigations. Since we are studying what happens in winter, we started off learning the story of snow. We read this book:

which taught us all about how snow crystals are made. We then went outside to find some snow crystals ourselves, and see what we could see. 

For our investigation, we learned that scientists always start with a question. The question this week was "What kind of snow should Olaf stay away from?" (It never hurts to incorporate some Frozen references into every day learning :) ). So we went out and gathered three scoops of snow, and added different elements to them to see what would happen.

We made a prediction about which cup would melt the fastest:

And sure enough, it was the snow with warm water that melted the fastest! So a note to Olaf the snowman: stay away from warm water.

For more information on the new science standards, click here and here. And you're welcome to stop by during our science period at any time!

A glimpse at math in our classroom

Math is one of my favorite times of day, because students are working in small groups on various number sense tasks. I work with one group at a time to do our "core instruction" lessons (which come from our district's math curriculum) and the rest of the students work on other projects, including math games, number lines, building materials, and free choice activities. Here is a short one-minute video of what math looks like in our room!

First you'll see a small group working on their "Math By Myself," which involves filling in missing numbers on a number line. This helps them practice learning number order (what comes before and after a certain number), as well as identifying and writing numbers. Another group has finished their Math By Myself, and moved on to the math tubs area, where they are building some kind of structure with pattern blocks.

Next is a group working with me on writing and drawing simple number sentences, such as 2+3=5. We are just now starting to delve into addition and subtraction, and I always accompany the writing of number sentence with some kind of concrete depiction of the numbers. For example, when writing 2+3=5, the students in this group are drawing two objects, writing a plus sign, drawing three more objects, and then drawing five objects altogether.

The next group is working on math activities such as addition puzzles and shape stencils. The last several groups have free choice, and they are working together to learn in the dramatic play area and block area.