Sunday, September 27, 2015

Found objects: Learning to look closely

We started our first science unit this week! We are beginning by learning what it means to look closely and observe the world around us, using our five senses. We went on a walk around our school grounds and each kindergartener chose an object that they wanted to study further. We called them "found objects." Many kids chose sticks, rocks, or leaves, and some chose tomatoes or flowers from the garden!

Next we talked about how to notice various features of our objects, including texture, color, and shape. Then each scientist sketched their found object in their science journals.

This was their first introduction to the concept of labeling their pictures, which is a great skill for writers during our Writers Workshop time that will be starting soon. As you can see at this point in kindergarten, a label usually consists of just the first letter in the word, such as "F" for flower. Eventually by the end of the year, we'll be writing words, sentences and questions in our science journals.

We have lots of "found objects" from nature available in the classroom, including those that kids bring in and put on the Wonder Table, as well as others that are available during free choice and math time. Here are some pictures of the creative structures the kids have built with the natural objects!

We also got to spend lots of time in the garden this past month! The school is lucky to have a community volunteer that supervises the garden during kindergarten recess several times a week, so the kids can harvest vegetables and play in the "digging pits" during their recess time. 

Bringing in broccoli flowers to share with the class!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

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

During free choice, the kindergarteners love to play with these cards that have 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. A few kids have also taken to calling them "credit cards" and using them as currency during dramatic play. :)


Playdough is another popular choice during play time. I set out playdough, trays, and cookie cutter letters without any specific directions, and sure enough, the kids ended up spelling their names with the letters!

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!

Oh and one last thing. Each Friday afternoon at the end of the day, we gather together on the rug and do what's called "Shared Writing." Together as a class, we write a letter to our families about what we learned and tried during the week. I ask students to come up and "share the pen" with me, to help us write letters and words. Here is our letter to families from this week!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Learning lots of new things in our second week

The first two weeks of school are filled with meeting new friends, learning routines, and exploring the classroom. We spent a lot of time learning about each area in the room, and playing at "free choice" time, where the kids can pick anywhere in the room to play. 

We did projects that helped us learn how to use different classroom materials, like glue bottles. Below are pictures of the kids practicing the mantra "dot dot, not a lot" when using liquid glue. :)

We got to visit the school garden, and spent lots of time playing in the sunshine on the playground.

We are lucky enough to be paired with a third grade class as our "reading buddies." They come on Friday afternoons and sit down with the kindergarteners in pairs to read them favorite children's books. It's great reading and listening practice for both groups of kids, and it also helps the kindergarteners form relationships with older students in our school community.

And of course, we spent LOTS of time reading books! We learned something exciting this week that -- all of us can already read!! This was exciting news for the kindergarteners, who often feel defeated when looking at a picture book with tiny words that are indecipherable to them. But we learned this week that one form of reading books is called "reading the pictures." This is a great way for young learners to pick up a new book from the bookshelf or library and immediately become immersed in it. They can just study the pictures and tell themselves what is happening in the story told in illustrations. I encourage you to have your kindergarteners "read the pictures" in the books they bring home from the library!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Our first day of kindergarten!

We had a great first day of kindergarten today! We got to meet lots of new friends, read Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, and have music class. We also had lots of free choice time to explore the classroom and learn to play with our classmates. We will be learning many new routines this week, and by next week our kinders will be old pros! Here are our first day of school photos. If you'd like a copy of one of these, just send me an email. Thanks for a great first day!