Sunday, January 28, 2018

Explore tables

Every few weeks I try to set up a new explore table, also called a "provocation," that gets students thinking and trying new activities related to science, social studies, literacy and math. I usually post a question that gets them started, and they can take it in whichever direction they'd like. Some are more open-ended than others, and I usually try to relate them to what we're learning in our core curriculum, or else what students have expressed interest in lately. The kids can explore them throughout the day at various times, including choice time, literacy workstations, and phonics time. Below are several examples that we've had in the room lately!

Can you match these faces?
This one is a pre-made activity that I purchased as part of a Discovery Box kit on skin color and identity. The game can work as memory or matching practice, and helps students look closely at facial features on a diverse array of pictures.

Can you stamp these words?
This provocation had half-sheet pictures portraying a dog, a cat, a fox, and other pictures that can be spelled with three letters (called CVC words, for consonant-vowel-consonant). The letter stamps made them more intriguing than just having pencils out for writing.

Can you draw a snowflake?
This one was a bigger hit than I expected! I just put out blue sharpies, quarter sheets of paper, and a step-by-step drawing of a snowflake for them to try.

Can you make real words and nonsense words?
For this activity, you roll three letter dice, put the vowel in the middle, and see what word you get. If it's a real word, you record it on the "real word" column, and if it's a silly word (like bem or dop), you record it on the "nonsense word" column.

Can you draw your family?
This one included a tutorial on how to draw a person, plus words to label the members of their family, skin color crayons, and sharpies for outlining. We modeled our drawings off of Todd Parr's The Family Book.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Writing our All About books

We started a new writing unit last week, on informational books, which we call "All About" books. Here are some pictures of the process. We'll continue to work on these books for a few more weeks, and then choose one or two to publish and send home!

First, we brainstormed things we were experts on. I loved seeing what the kids came up with.

Next, we chose one topic and made a bubble map, a simple graphic organizer to help writers think of information to include in their books.

Then, we got started on the actual book writing! Below are a few examples. A lot of kids chose to write about animals, but many also did family members and favorite toys. I love how much their writing has grown over the past few months, and these books are a great way for them to showcase it!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Winter activities

Winter is here and we've started learning about what happens in winter, as well as doing lots of winter-themed activities and lessons. Here a few from the last couple weeks!

We've been reading lots of non-fiction books about winter, and using those to kick-start our unit on writing non-fiction ("all about") books.

For Forest Friday, we read a book about squirrels in the winter and played a game called "Squirrels" in which one partner was the squirrel hiding nuts in the fall, and the other was a squirrel trying to find them again in the winter! (Instead of nuts, we used pinecones.) The kids had a lot of fun with this game.

We also got to paint pinecones, which was a great fine motor activity! 

We've also learned some new math games lately, including Cover Up (where one person covers three numbers on a number line, and the other person has to guess what number is covered up) and new pattern block creations.

Plus we've tried to play outside as often as possible, before the snow melted and it got really
cold again!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Garbage: A math game to play at home

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 as well). 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 is a picture of kindergarteners playing Garbage with their math partners! I forgot to take any more photos but you get the idea!