The Color of Us

As we were heading into the three-day weekend where we have Monday off to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., I felt compelled to help students understand why we have this day as a holiday. I began the lesson by reading the book:

From Amazon: With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmonies, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity, are promoted in simple and straightforward prose. Vivid illustrations of children’s activities for all cultures, such as swimming in the ocean, hugging, catching butterflies, and eating birthday cake, are also provided. This delightful picturebook offers a wonderful venue through which parents and teachers can discuss important social concepts with their children.

I then told the students that we would not have school on Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I asked if anyone had any information to share on Dr. King. One student raised his hand, and he said, “He wanted all people to be treated equally.” I asked the student to expand upon that thought. What does it mean to be treated equally? The student told the class that people who had black skin had to drink from different water fountains and had to ride in the back of the bus or on a different bus entirely. “Yes,” I said, “Dr. King gathered peacefully to educate people that one’s skin color does not matter. Everyone deserves to have equal access to water fountains, buses, education, and so much more.”

To further illustrate this idea that what we see on the outside does not make us who we are on the inside, I used an activity that I was given during our last professional development day earlier this month. In fact, in our PLC (Professional Learning Community) group, it had been my turn to present. Each of our presentations this year has a DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) focus. I wanted to discuss creative and innovative ways to integrate people of color into my curriculum. With an already full schedule, I was finding it challenging to attain this goal in meaningful ways. I strived to do more than read a book authored by a person of color or that has a Black main character. I also wanted to teach the students about Black leaders who have made a difference, including artists, musicians, scientists, writers, doctors, and more. My colleagues brainstormed many ideas with me, and I am thrilled with the innovative lessons and collaboration ideas we discussed.

One of the lessons a colleague suggested involved showing the students two different colored eggs to illustrate that people are like eggs…different colors on the outside but the same on the inside. Because my family has 13 pet chickens, I decided to bring in all the colored eggs laid daily in our coop. Look at the beautiful range of colors:

When I began the lesson, I asked the students to describe what they saw. They noticed that the eggs looked different, describing the colors that they saw. I had them choose two eggs to draw on their worksheet. Next, I carefully cracked each egg into a bowl. Here is what we saw:

“Mrs. Delwiche!” one student exclaimed. “It’s just like us! We might look different on the outside, but on the inside, we are all the same!” I could not have said it better! There was so much excitement in the air as the children recorded their findings.

Each week for the next month and a half, I plan to introduce a Black leader who has impacted our lives today. These leaders range from scientists to artists to athletes to t.v. personalities.  I have compiled mini books that share information about these leaders in a kindergarten appropriate way. I know the students will be excited to learn through this collection of mini books.

Gingerbread Celebration

Wooden gingerbread house craft

We finished our gingerbread literacy unit today with a fun celebration. Before I get to the activities from today, I want to share a little bit more about the gingerbread unit. We began by learning about the history of gingerbread and then moved into reading more than a dozen versions of the folktale The Gingerbread Man. These versions included The Gingerbread Girl, The Gingerbread Boy, The Gingerbread Pirate, The Runaway Latkes, The  Runaway Rice Cake, The Runaway Dreidel, Stop that Pickle!, The Gingerbread Baby, The Gingerbread Cowboy, and MORE!! We compared the characters, setting, and plot of these stories. Students also used their five senses to explore a gingerbread cookie. Throughout the unit, we completed two experiments. First, we tried to figure out why the gingerbread cookie would rely on the fox to cross the river. We put a gingerbread cookie in water and watched what happened. It quickly became clear that the poor cookie would disintegrate!  Next, we each made a hypothesis on which liquid would dissolve the gingerbread cookie the fastest. Here is a time-lapse of that experiment:

The liquids we used (going clockwise from the top) were water, milk, apple juice, and rootbeer soda.

Back to today’s celebration! For Friday Fun, there were three activities: making a gingerbread necklace, building 3D shapes using gumdrops and toothpicks, and designing and painting a wooden gingerbread house.

A student beads a gingerbread necklace.

Students use gumdrops and toothpicks to create 3D shapes.

They used their Gingerbread Notebooks to record how many gumdrops and toothpicks they used for each shape.

Finally, students designed and painted wooden gingerbread houses. I found this project a few weeks ago and was so excited to bring it into the classroom. It took some prep, and thankfully, I have a handy husband. He cut different shapes and sizes of wood. I then sanded each one to get rid of any splinters or sharp edges.

Next, I stained each piece of wood with a rich brown wood stain.

My six-year-old son, 16-year-old daughter, and I each created a prototype.

During our celebration, students first used paper and pencil to design.

Students then sketched their designs on the wood using a pencil.

Pencil sketch

Next, students used a paint pen to trace over their pencil lines.

Finally, they painted their roofs white.

I just LOVE how these turned out!

Next year, this will be one of the first projects we do in December so that we can have them up during our unit!

 

Busy Little Elves!

The kindergarten students had a big surprise when they arrived at school today….our classroom had transformed into an Elves Workshop!

Each student had an elf hat on their desk. (Would you believe I glued the ears all on UPSIDE DOWN?! Yikes! We all got a good laugh about that!)

I had four activities planned for the students.

Students wrapped the gifts that they made for their parents. This was great fine motor work!

After wrapping their gifts, students chose ribbon to add flair and created a personalized gift tag.

Another activity was a hidden word activity where students used magnifying glasses to find CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words hidden in the picture of an elf.

Students also used unifix cubes to measure gifts.

The final activity had students searching the classroom for stockings. They read each CVC word, found the matching picture on the recording sheet, and then wrote the word.

I absolutely adored hearing the students’ excitement and responses to the activities. After we had completed the workshop stations, I gave students a few minutes to decorate their desks. This was perhaps the best gift yet:

Have I mentioned just how much I LOVE my job?!

December Morning Exploring

We are four rotations into our December Morning Exploring activities, and the individual storage boxes have been a very successful way to keep the activities organized during COVID. A focus this month is for students to use the instructions insert to help remind them how the activity works, therefore building independence with their learning. Students are loving these fine motor building activities and look forward to them each morning.

Addition Practice: Students sort the erasers in the container and record how many of each they have. Then they add the two numbers together.

Students roll two dice and add that number of water beads to the cookie cutters.

An added surprise is that the water beads held their shapes, creating a festive shape!

Students choose a card that has a picture of a CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word. They find the letters that spell the word, link them together, and then write the word.

Polka dot painting with a cotton swab helps strengthen fine motor skills in a super engaging way!

Students choose a number and then link the cards that show the value of the number.

This missing addend activity has students choosing a number card and building that number using a ten frame and bells. Then, the students must solve the missing addend equation.

The sight word chains activity is a real winner as it has students reading and stamping high-frequency words and folding and taping rings to make a chain.

Students choose a card that has a picture of a CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word. They find the letters that spell the word, link them together, and then write the word.

I love the students’ engagement in these activities and appreciate how their independence is growing, making it possible for me to read with each student individually daily.

Happy 50th Day of School!

We finally celebrated our 50th day of school, and I am beyond thrilled that we have been in person for all 50 days! I had a really fun time decorating the room yesterday after the students left for the day. Take a peek!

I loved watching the students excitedly come into the classroom this morning. There were so many squeals of joy and “oooohhh’s!” I was grateful that the students trickled in slowly, so I was able to take individual photos of each cool cat with their masks off.

  

During one of our activity stations this morning, students went outside and learned how to blow a bubblegum bubble.

It was hard work! Look at our class results:

Students also learned how to make a rootbeer float. I love this craftivity!

Students practiced sequencing the three steps, using the words first, next, last.

Then we had to enjoy our own rootbeer floats! (Not to worry, parents! I made the floats with two small scoops of ice cream!)

We also took time to write about wanting fifty of something. There were some really creative ideas!

From learning how to Hand Jive, to hula hooping, to learning about the differences between life in the 1950’s and today, I’d say we had a really successful and FUN 50th day of school!

 

November Morning Exploring

I revamped our Morning Exploring bins once again! For the past two months, we have been using a rotation where it takes two days for each student to rotate to the next bin. With nine bins, that means it takes 18 school days to complete! With new activities begging to be showcased monthly, we just do not have 18 days to focus on one theme! So I decided to make two sets of each activity. This was a big task, but fortunately, I already had a lot of extra materials I could use to make these duplicate activities.

I recently received a back-ordered order of pencil boxes. I noticed immediately that these pencil boxes are quite challenging to open and close, and it became clear that they would not be an effective tool for students to use frequently throughout the day. I began brainstorming ways to use these boxes for something else. 
Why not make two kits for each Morning Exploring rotation using the pencil boxes as a way to keep the tools and supplies organized?! It works like a dream!

They are just the perfect size!

This month’s Morning Exploring activities are varied and build on a plethora of skills. Just wait and see!

Who’s ready to use algebraic thinking? Students are introduced to solving equations to ten with a missing number. They roll little balls of playdoh (fine motor!) and put the required number of balls in the ten frame to show the number at the top of the mat. Then they must count the empty squares to figure out how many more they need to get ten.

Another activity has students rolling two dice and adding them together. They must then move that number of water beads to the fall-themed cookie cutters.

Then and Now Writing has students writing high-frequency words using a pencil and the quill of a feather and black paint. They had SO much fun with this activity!

Leafy Patterns engaged students in extending colorful patterns using acrylic leaves.

Students use a feather to write high-frequency words in sand.

Q-tips were used for students to create fall-themed polka-dot masterpieces…and strengthen their fine motor skills!

Students used sunflower seeds to demonstrate number sense of teen numbers.

This addition activity has students sorting the acrylic leaves according to color. They recorded the number of red leaves and the number of yellow leaves and then added them together.

Having two sets of each activity prepared really made Morning Exploring so much fun! The feedback from the students has been very positive. They love doing the same activity as a peer and seeing the results of their friends’ work. I am planning on doing the same for our December tubs!

A Must Have Reading Game!

Have you seen Blah Blah Blah, the Phonics Card Game?

I am always on the hunt for fun and educational games to play at school, either in homeroom class, with my kindergarten students, or with the students I see as part of my role as the EK-1 Learning Specialist. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found this gem! It is from the website Mrs. Wordsmith. I was intrigued when I read the description:

“The hilariously fun phonics card game

Finally, a way to make phonics fun! Blah Blah Blah is a hilariously fun card game, perfect for kids who have been introduced to the letters and sounds that make up words but who need some practice in order to master them. Decode words using phonics with three decks of increasing difficulty, race to get rid of cards by matching sounds and letters, and play wild cards to trip up your opponents!”

I quickly placed my order and excitedly waited for the game’s arrival. Who doesn’t love a good game, much less a good card game? (My children and I have rediscovered playing cards these past six months!) But a game that focuses on identifying the sounds of letters in words? Even better! I have been a constant cheerleader for teaching students how to read using phonics. With 44 phonemes (sound variations) in the English language and more than 170 graphemes (different written representations for these sounds), learning how to read in English can be tricky, to say the least!

When the game arrived, my son and I quickly sat down at the kitchen table to play a round. The game has three levels. The first level focuses on CVC words…just short vowels. The second level focuses on CCVC or CVCC words…words with short vowels, blends, and digraphs. The third level focuses on long vowel spelling patterns with blends and digraphs! A teacher’s dream, that’s for sure! Blah, Blah, Blah helps children become aware of the phonetic regularities in English, and it gives them an interactive and FUN way to master these patterns.

Here is what the playing cards look like. (Photo from Mrs. Wordsmith website: https://www.mrswordsmith.com/products/blah-blah-blah-phonics-card-game)

Back to the game: My son and I began with the first level. I immediately was excited at the thought of bringing this into my classroom! Level 1 is just perfect for kindergarteners. After dealing seven cards to each player, you place one card face-up on the table. You have to match a letter from your card on it in order to place your card down. The reading practice comes into play when you place your card down. For example, if a card has the word dog on it, you have to make each letter sound/d/ /o/ /g/ and then blend the sounds together to read the word. These are the EXACT skills we are working on in kindergarten daily! We finished the first deck and then moved on to play with the second and third decks, each deck getting more challenging. Blah, Blah, Blah has quickly become a favorite game! (It is played like UNO…which is another of my family’s favorites!)

So if you are looking for an engaging and educational game to play with your child, I encourage you to take a look at Blah, Blah, Blah. You won’t be disappointed!

Monster Reading

We are doing A LOT of reading in kindergarten! One important skill in regards to reading is tracking or one-to-one correspondence. This simply means that students are touching each word as they read it. Pointing to each word as the student reads helps the reader learn to look carefully at print. It also encourages directional movement and voice-print match, two early reading behaviors. This week we practiced decoding words using some monster finger puppets. The students LOVED this and were begging to read more!

I am always on the lookout for fun finger puppets. I found these monsters at my favorite Dollar Tree. I also found these googly eyes. I love that students are practicing an important skill while having fun!

 

Halloween Spooktacular!

It was all treats for this teacher on Halloween! What a magical day we had in kindergarten. For the first time ever, students were invited to wear their costumes to school all-day

We began the morning with a “Make a Monster” Kit.

It was so fun to see what each student created with these kits.

Next, we had Friday Fun. Students made bouncy balls and Halloween keychains.

Students even had a Halloween-themed pokey pin activity.

We played a fun spinner game in math where students spun a spinner and then had to make the number using a ten frame.

After PE, students added any finishing touches to their costumes, and we headed to the backyard for a socially distanced ‘Skeleton Square Dance.”

After dancing, students went “Trick or Treating” around the school. There were seven stations that we visited. Each station had a treat for students to enjoy at the end of the event.

We ended our Halloween Spooktacular with a picnic of sorts in the backyard.

It was  GREAT day!

 

Fine Motor Fabulousness!

So many kindergarten skills involve fine motor…..and fine motor can be so tricky to develop and strengthen. It involves more than cutting with scissors or holding a pencil properly. I try to sprinkle fine motor activities into our everyday learning as much as I can. We use playdough. tweezers, stickers, hole punches, and pokey pins as much as possible to strengthen the littlest muscles!

Students working on a pokey pin activity.

 

Another GREAT fine motor activity is Perler beading. This group of kindergarteners LOVES making Perler bead creations. Students have the option of using their fingers or a small pair of tweezers to place the beads. Creating with Perler beads also helps build hand-eye coordination and fosters creativity.

We also spend quite a bit of our Friday Fun time sewing! So far this year, we have sewn pumpkins and coasters. Our first project was a minky fabric pumpkin. Students used a running stitch to sew around a circle of fabric we had prepared for them. I put a series of black dots circling the fabric so the students knew where to place the needle next. Look how cute these turned out!

Today, students sewed festive pumpkin coasters. This was a multi-step sewing project, and I was very impressed with the students’ enthusiasm and focus on completing the project.

The kindergarteners are so excited about sewing that they asked if I could include it as a Choice Time choice. Time to plan some new projects!