Saturday, June 21, 2014

Now I Know My ABC's

One of the things we've been looking at for next year is an interactive word wall. We have our Popcorn word wall but that is not easily accessible to the kids and it doesn't really allow for them to add to it as they learn to spell words that aren't already up there.

But I also wanted something different, not so store bought.

I saw this on Pinterest.......

and naturally I thought....I could do that!! 

I'll admit mine isn't quite as perfect as the Pinterest version (is anything we try to copy from Pinterest ever as perfect?) but I think it looks pretty great and above all else the kids had a blast making the letters with their bodies while I photographed them.

This board will be designated the children's word wall. They will have access to small cards that they can print words on that they know and add it to the word wall. It will be all theirs. I hope to see it full of words. I'm excited about this board. I can't wait to see what the kids do with it. 

Mind = Blown!

I'm getting really excited about all the uses for technology in the classroom. Our board is really encouraging 21st century learning. We are getting more iPads, Apple TV and projectors.

 I've been wanting to find ways to change things up next year (since we only have a week left of school this year!) One of the things I've been wanting to do it find a way to help my littles calm themselves after lunch recess. They often come in wired and the afternoon can be difficult.

A little research led me to this YouTube channel .  I decided to give it a little try with my class just to see how it was received.

Wow, they LOVED it! The videos are great, the kids are engaged and the girl doing to yoga really knows how to hold their attention. 15 minutes of yoga settled my class right down for an afternoon of learning.  We did it twice and the difference in the kids self control and energy levels was noticeably different.

The plan is to do this everyday after lunch next year.

Do you use QR codes with your class? I'm new to the world of QR codes but I wanted to build a library of ebooks for our class. The children love the listening centre but it's temperamental and doesn't always work for the kids. CD's get scratched and tapes get tangled.

I downloaded an app called QR Code Maker. It's super easy, you just input the link to the ebook you want to use and it creates the QR code for you. You then save the picture of the QR code and print it.

I also added a picture of the cover of the story so that the children could choose which story they wanted to listen to.  I've got 10 stories in the book so far. I've created two books for the kids to use with the iPads.

But it gets better! When I was looking for ebooks I wanted ones that showed to pictures...not just audio stories. There are a ton of YouTube videos of authors like Robert Munsch and Mercer Mayer reading their own stories. But I don't like linking directly to YouTube because of the ads, suggested videos and other random 'crap' that can lead 'over anxious clickers' to an inappropriate video.

Then I found this website. lets you input the URL of YouTube videos and then generates a 'safe URL for you to watch the YouTube video without any of the unwanted extras.

It took a little extra leg work but I was able to generate a safe URL for the YouTube videos for the ebooks and then create the QR code for the safe URL. Now my kiddies can watch/listen to the ebooks without my worrying that they are going to find their way to something untoward.

I am one happy girl!!

And now I'm also a QR code junkie. I'm currently sifting through TpT and downloading QR code math centres and language centres.

I guess I know what my summer project will be!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The End is Near!

Terribly sorry for my absence. Things have been so very crazy around here for the past month or so.

We've had a provincial election and while that's always important, this was particularly nerve racking because one of the leading candidates vowed to eliminate Early Childhood Educators in Full Day Kindergarten. (He was also going to cut support staff and raise class sizes.) All of this meant that had his party won, I'd be on the bread lines by September.

Thankfully though, because of his faulty math (among other things) he didn't win and so my job is safe.

I've also been very busy with my class blog. I have a blog for the kid's parents to keep up with what their little darlings are doing in school and while I've really slacked over here, I've been very diligent about keeping up with that one. My goal for the coming school year is to be active on both blogs. They will in essence be the same; the only difference being this blog will not show pictures of my students.

The school year is nearly over for us - two more weeks. It's been a great year. The thing I love about Full Day Kindergarten and the Inquiry based model is that each year is so very different from the last.

Let's talk inquiry for a minute shall we.

The line our school board is really towing is that each kindergarten class should be inquiry based. Students (of any age) learn best when they take ownership of their learning. I agree wholeheartedly. Most teachers though, are not up to speed in how to deliver this type of program. They are co-learners with their students.

But something has started to happen. Because the opportunities for professional learning offered in the area of inquiry based learning is so scarce within the school boards many educators are left on their own to glean from the  thousands of articles, blogs, books etc available online in the library what it means and how it fits into a kindergarten class in the public school system....a place where the report cards they are completing have not caught up to the new curriculum expectations.

So then there are extremes.....teachers who are under no circumstances going to embrace this new 'way'. They will continue with worksheets, teacher directed activity, explicit instruction on everything.  Or teachers who go the other way; misinterpreting what the inquiry model means and throwing out all the old ways. Everything in the class is neutral, wicker and natural. I'll be honest, that kind of looks bland to me.

My partner and I have decided on a different approach. We both agree, inquiry is important but we also acknowledge that it is not the only approach to teaching our youngest learners. There is a place for it in the class, yes, but there is also a place for explicit instruction, some guided activity, We've toned down some of the space so it's not over stimulating (I remember my first year working in Kindergarten feeling over stimulated by all that was on the walls) but it's not all blacks and browns either. And yes, there are some teacher created materials, though there are no mass produced ones (ie borders and bulletin board displays)

With two weeks left in the school year and our students in school right up until the last day we've slowly begun to strip the walls of this year's things and prepare for next year.

I saw something on Pinterest (a teacher's best friend!) and I knew I just had to do it with  my class for our math board.

When we're teaching young children about math, in particular number sense, we often tell them, "Use your fingers." Or we'll hold up a set number of fingers and ask, "How many?"
Now what if we used that same technique as an anchor chart?

So we did just that. I took photographs of the children's hands using their fingers as numbers. We then worked together to print the numeral and write the number word to go with it. We've got it hanging on the math wall now. Next year's class will begin by adding pictures to it that they create (ie 1 bead, 2 stickers, 3 popsicle sticks.)  And at the end of next year they will be asked to co-create their own number board for the following year's class.

I can't tell you how much I love this board. When the children arrived the first morning it was up, they all abandoned their tasks and went right for the board to take a look. Over the next few days I had some of our younger students coming to me with their fingers up telling me what number they were showing me so it's already proving it's worth. 

In the first picture you can see our alphabet. It's just canvas that I painted the alphabet on. I love it but it's so high up the children can't utilize it the way I'd like, as is our 'popcorn' word wall. 

We've got some great plans to correct this problem too - but I'm going to save that post for when I have pictures of it to show you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Garden of Numbers

Number sense can be a tricky thing to teach. Identifying numbers and being able to count with one to one correspondence in Kindergarten varies so much with each child. It's one of those areas that you can have two children who are the same age and at the same level on one area but are at completely different ends of the spectrum in this.

We're nearing the end of the school year and that means assessing how far our kids have come with their number sense.

I decided to make a spring game; flower pots with dots on them (numbered 1-30) and flowers with numerals on them (1-30).

The idea was to choose a flower pot, count the dots and match it to the flower with the corresponding numeral.

 You get the idea.

This was a fantastic activity for all of the kids, at all levels of understanding because the children who were better with their one to one correspondence and counting past 10 were challenged to choose pots with many dots while the children were are still developing their number sense skills were encouraged to choose pots with less than 10 dots. And because the children glued their pots onto construction paper I was easily able to write my assessments right on the back of their papers.

Our math board is beautifully decorated now with a garden of numbers.


My class has been working with opposites for the past week.

It's funny how concepts that seem so simple to us are so much more difficult for them. And trying to explain the meaning of the word opposites without using the word...

"What is an opposite? Well, it's the opposite."

Um, yeah, that's not going to work.

So to facilitate this we brought out the opposites pack. Anchor charts, right the room, matching games, and create your own opposites books.

The children had a blast with the set and the concept was more easily understood with the hands on activities.

You can download the opposites set at my TpT store and my TN shop

Friday, May 2, 2014

Red Wigglers the Cadillac of Worms...tee hee

I'm probably dating myself with the title of the post.  Anyone who was old enough to have watched WKRP in Cincinnati will get it.

Anyhow...a few months ago I bought a table top compost bin from Scholastic. It's pretty nifty, it has three different compartments so that you can compare the rate of decomposition of different items.

When we read the story The Day Mother Earth Got Sick and the children talked more about it we decided it would be a good idea to see for ourselves what happens to garbage we through on the ground.

Isn't it wonderful when the children take themselves down the very path you hope they will. The whole reason I bought the compost was in preparation for reading that book in hopes the kids would naturally find their way down this road.

We did some brainstorming and decided to put food in one compartment, paper in another and plasticine in another. We buried them in the soil and documented day one.

A few days later we were lucky enough to be given some composting worms (red wigglers...the Cadillac of worms!)  so we put them into the compartment with food. The children insisted the worms not be put into the compartment with paper or playdough since those items were trash and would make our little wormies sick.  I think the story really made an impact on them. 
 We've been documenting the changes every few days. We now have mold. Yuck! But it's also a good sign that things are decomposing. The children are excited by the changes they are seeing.  I just hope the worms are eating it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Earth Day Activities

Earth Day is approaching next week, the perfect time to revisit how we can help keep our Earth clean and protect our natural resources for future generations.

Kids don't really think that far ahead, they are focused on the here and now.

We use a couple of great resources at this time of year with our class. One of my favorites is this book. Seriously, in my opinion this book is the single best story teaching children about the damage pollution is doing to the earth and the illustrations are amazing.


 It leads us into some very rich conversation about how we can make our smaller environment (our homes and schools) cleaner.

That usually results in conversation about littering. We all don rubber gloves and head outside and pick up trash in the school yard. 

That leads us to talks about garbage, the three R's - reuse, reduce and recycle.

In our classroom we have a grey bin for recycling paper, a blue bin for recycling plastic bottles and aluminum cans and a garbage can (sadly we don't have a green bin for organic waste however all the children do at home so we talk about that too)

One of the skills we work on at the beginning of the year is learning what goes into what bin. It's great for the data management strand in math but it also helps eliminate sandwich crusts in the blue bin and juice boxes in the garbage. We co create anchor charts to post near the garbage corner and we do a lot of reminding. The good news is that by October our kids are pretty good and knowing what items from their lunch bags go into what bins.

When earth day rolls around we revisit this activity only this time it's a table top sorting game. And while I'm all for kids getting their hands dirty, I'm not too keen on them picking through the trash so I created a cleaner version of the garbage/recycling sorting game.

You can get it at my TpT store or my TN store....absolutely free!

Happy trash sorting!