Saturday, October 29, 2016

Literacy time: What does it look like?

Literacy is a big part of a kindergartener's day. We start off the day with community breakfast, followed by brief morning work and then Morning Meeting. After that, we launch right into Literacy time. On Mondays, we do writing during this time, usually focused on "Weekend News" (more about that on another day!). For the rest of the week, we do Shared Reading (where I teach about reading strategies and read aloud a big book, often chorally with the kids) followed by Literacy Workstations. This is one of the kids' favorite times of day! There are ten total workstations, each centered around an aspect of literacy (reading, writing, listening, speaking, phonics and problem solving).

Children visit two stations a day with their partner; by the end of the week, they'll have visited almost all the stations. The kindergarteners are becoming very independent during this time, which allows me to meet with small groups of students to work on reading. The activities at the workstations change frequently, so it's an engaging and fun way for the kids to grow their reading and writing skills. Below is an explanation of some of the stations, as well as photos of the kids in action!

1. Big Book Station
Here, students read and explore the big books that we've read aloud previously in class, as well as looking through new ones.

2. Read to Someone
Partners find a cozy chair (or beanie baby) and pull out books from their book boxes to read together.

3. Art Station
Kids use paper, colored pencils, scissors, staplers and glue sticks to create books and other pieces of artwork.

4. Loose Parts
"Loose parts" are materials that can be moved, combined, and designed in multiple ways, to enhance creativity and imaginative thinking. Right now our Loose Parts stations has clay with cutting, rolling and shaping tools. This will change throughout the year.

5. 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 two people. :)

6. Computer Station
This is always a favorite - using Ms. Woods' computer! I set up the internet browser 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. I regularly add literacy and math games to the link, after teaching the class about how to use them. Right now, we use two book-reading websites (Bookflix and Storyline Online) and

7. Science Station
This table is dedicated to the investigations we're currently doing during science time. Below, students observe, sort and draw leaves. This will change as we explore new topics in science and social studies.

8. Teacher Table
At this station, students work in small groups with me to practice reading, writing and phonics strategies. Below these students are learning to touch underneath the words as they read. They're using "reading phones" that allow them to hear their own voice while others are reading out loud next to them.

Not pictured are two more stations, Word Work and Read to Self. This time is a lot of fun to watch and participate in - if you'd ever like to come for a visit during this time, let me know!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Reading to ourselves and our partners

One of the first things we learn about in kindergarten is the joy of reading! Each student gets their own book box filled with 10-15 picture books, and every day we spend 20 minutes doing "Read to Self" or "Read to Someone" time. We learn that there are three ways to read a book:

  1. Reading the pictures
  2. Reading the words
  3. Retelling a familiar story
I emphasize this so that even students who can't read the words (which is most kindergarteners at this point in the year!) are able to enjoy books both new and old. Eventually, we will add easy reader books into their book boxes, which are small books that I use to teach reading skills and are filled with predictable, repetitive text that will allow students to read the words. The students also have poetry binders in their book boxes, which I fill each Friday with the poem of the week. 

Here are some pictures of our class reading to themselves and to their partners!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Forest Friday: Our sit spots

We've been learning all about looking closely and observing like scientists this month. Every Friday we have "Forest Friday," since we are lucky enough to have an amazing school forest right on our playground! Each kindergartener picked a spot in the forest to call their own, and we visit these same "Sit Spots" every Friday afternoon. For about 10-15 minutes, the kids sit and listen, observe and draw what they see in their science journals. We have been asking the question "What has changed in my Sit Spot since last week?" Afterwards, we share with the class what we observed. Below are some pictures of us in our Sit Spots:

And here are some of our observations. It was fascinating to see what each child noticed!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Raising caterpillars in kindergarten!

We've had an amazing start to the school year, and one of the highlights has been our unit studying monarch caterpillars! Below are some pictures of our studies.

When we first got the caterpillars, they were large and ate TONS of milkweed! Here are our scientists taking notes and drawing what they observe in the caterpillar cage:

We used the book Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons to teach us about the process our caterpillars were going through. We also had quite a few students who had already raised caterpillars before, so we looked to them as experts!

Here we are demonstrating the life cycle of a butterfly:

Before we knew it, our butterflies had formed chrysalises and then began to emerge!


When their wings were ready, we took the butterflies out to the school forest to let them go. It took a few tries, but eventually they all flew away! (Except one who had a damaged wing - we kept him for a while and then eventually let him go as well.) The kids were cheering as the butterflies flew away to go on their long journey south.

Thanks to all the parents who helped support our studies by bringing milkweed, offering advice, and talking about the butterflies with your children!