Sunday, October 28, 2018

All the leaves are falling down

We've been reading and learning a lot about fall lately! A big part of fall where we live is the changing (and falling) leaves. On Forest Friday, we brainstormed what colors leaves could be, and went on a leaf hunt to collect as many colors as we could. Next week Friday, we'll learn about why leaves change color, and make a "leaf rainbow" of all the colors we found. We also spent some time in the garden putting it to bed for the winter, which meant raking up leaves (and jumping in), adding leaves to the compost pile, and pulling out dead plants from the garden beds. Below are some pictures of the fun!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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. Then we launch 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 or poem, often chorally with the kids) and Read to Self time, 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 most or all the stations. The kindergarteners are slowly becoming independent during this time, which allows me to meet with small groups of students to work on reading, writing and phonics skills at my teacher table. 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. Read to Someone
Partners find a cozy chair (or stuffed animal) and pull out books from their book boxes to read together.

2. Art Station
Kids use paper, colored pencils, scissors, staplers, and glue sticks to create books and other pieces of artwork, as well as dry erase markers and boards.

3. 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 wooden blocks and sticks, small plastic animals, and kinetic sand. This will change throughout the year.

4. 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. :)

5. Explore Tables
These tables provide hands-on experiences for kids to try various skills, everything from fine motor practice to letter identification to scientific observations. Last week our theme was apples, so these partners are pulling letters out of a box and tracing the letter they select. The month before, we had rocks and magnifying glasses for kids to look closely.

6. Lexia
Lexia is an online literacy program that students do every week for up to an hour. The program adapts to their current skill level/knowledge, providing them with a "just-right" literacy game or skill practice.

7. Teacher Table
At this station, students work in small groups with me to practice reading, writing and phonics strategies. Below, the students are learning to stretch out the sounds in words as they read and write. 

Not pictured are several more stations that I haven't introduced to the class yet, including Word Work, Handwriting, and Writing. 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!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Outdoor learning

As you might have figured out, I am a strong believer in the benefit of the outdoors as a place for learning and exploration for young students. I try to take our class outdoors as often as possible, while still adhering to the curriculum standards of the kindergarten year. I've noticed over the years that being outside in nature tends to energize students to learn and explore more than some might in the classroom, and also allows for gross motor and fine motor skill development, as well as a connection to the natural world. Below are some ways we've connected to the outdoors lately!

Garden Time
We're lucky to have a beautiful garden and front yard play area at our school, and several dedicated parents who serve as our "garden liaisons." Before the weather got too cold, we were trying to go to the garden on a weekly basis. Below are some activities that we did while we were in the garden.

Will it sink or float?

Shredding paper for the compost

Sidewalk chalk

Looking for insects

Watering the plants and harvesting some vegetables

Playing in the digging pit

Making wind testers

Blowing bubbles on a windy day

Making streamers fly in the wind

Forest Friday
We also have a time called Forest Friday every week (unless it's very cold or rainy outside). This week we read the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, went on a leaf walk through the schoolyard and the mini forest, and then came back to make leaf art like in the book we read!