Bubbles!

I wanted to start the year with a fun, hands-on, and very engaging units to get the students hooked on our thematic notebook activities. Usually I begin the year with our Five Senses unit, but I have found that particular unit requires a lot of cutting and writing – two fine motor activities that most students are still refining at this point in the year. I find myself teaching cutting and printing skills in a frantic way in order to get them ready for the Five Senses activities….and this is not helpful for anyone! So, this year, I decided to find a quick mini-unit that didn’t require as much of those two fine motor skills. Bubbles!! We began the unit by learning some facts about bubbles, including how they are made. Students even completed a diagram of a bubble! (Who knew?!)

The students were bubble blowing investigators. First, they had to predict or estimate how many bubbles they could blow in 60 seconds. Then in small groups, students took their own bubble bottles, pencils and Bubble Lab Notebooks outside with Mrs. Riley and got to work. (Initially, pre-Covid, my idea was to do this activity whole group. How lovely would it have been to see the children running around counting bubbles?) Not only did the Bubble Lab focus on counting, but it also introduced students to tally marks as a way to record their information. Take a look:

Students were surprised with how few bubbles they blew!

Today’s original lesson plan was to have a big bubble blow out. Students were going to use many different items to blow bubbles, seeing which items made the best bubbles. They were going to use straws and bowls filled with bubble solution to blow lots of bubbles. They were going to use their desks as a background for blowing bubbles….they were….I decided, due to our mask wearing rules and the fact that blowing bubbles requires students to remove their masks and blow out air, that I would put together a kit and send the items home. Parents, are you ready for a bubble party at your house?! Here’s what’s coming your way!

Students will receive a bottle of bubbles, a cookie cutter, a paper clip, a piece of string, and a custom bubble wand that the students made today during Friday Fun!

And here is the students’ recording sheet that I am sending home in each students’ Bubble Lab Notebook:

The perfect weekend activity!

Friday Fun

Today we had our first Friday Fun of the year! Students had two important craft projects to complete. The first project was a beaded lanyard for their masks. A student came to school last week with a homemade mask lanyard, and I knew we had to make them during Friday Fun! I purchased bright colored beads of all shapes and sizes. I love how they turned out. Some students chose to use a color family, while others made color patterns. Others used only sparkly beads and other students used every color! An added bonus is that this kind of bead lacing is an excellent fine motor building activity.

The other activity was for students to personalize a mini chalkboard. These chalkboards will be used in the coming weeks by the students for phonics practice. I brought out the smelly markers today too. The students always love using smelly markers!

 

Literacy Workstations Six Feet Apart!

One of the things that kept me up at night this summer was the question, “How can I implement my interactive and differentiated Literacy Workstations with all the COVID restrictions?” I love having workstations that allow movement. I also use a listening workstation daily as a way for one group to enjoy an engaging and independent activity while the other groups work with either my assistant or me. And the sensory table….what could I do to make that activity COVID-safe? Finally, how do I have small groups work with me when they can not sit close together? Talk about overwhelming! I needed to start thinking outside of the box for sure!

The first thing I tackled was the Listening Workstation. I have been collecting books with coordinating CD’s for much of the last eleven years and have amassed an incredible collection that offers a large variety of titles. But with COVID, there is no sharing of materials…or if students have to share, the headphones and books need to be wiped off in between each use. No time for that! I started thinking about QR codes that, when scanned, would bring students to a safe website where they could not only listen to a story, but also see the words on the pages, just like my old-fashioned listening center. As luck would have it, I found a resource** on Teacher Pay Teachers that had everything I was looking for! (and the QR codes are dynamic…so whenever a code does not work, the author finds a new link…but the code stays the same!)

Fortunately it was in the budget for each student to receive their own set of headphones. While iPads are shared, we quickly wipe them off in between uses. I made special binder rings for each student that holds their QR code of the day. By the end of the year, students should have 100 or more book QR codes on their rings! How awesome is that?!

Next, I thought about how I can incorporate movement into the Literacy Workstations. Since students are sitting at desks and they can not share space, there would no longer be groups sitting together at one table and rotating together to each workstation. I still wanted students to move, so I created outdoor learning spaces. This space is made up of tables and lots of shade. I also purchased some great square shaped rubber mats.

I took this photo right after lunch. We do Literacy Workstations in the morning, so the entire area is shaded at that time.

My thought was that students who were using the iPads for the Listening Workstation would sit on the rubber mats that are spread out. Students working on printing or other skills with my assistant would be spread out around the tables. The tricky part would be getting students in the routine of bringing the supplies that they need to each rotation. AND, because I want them moving, they do not simply go from one outside activity to the next….nope….I make sure each group has an outside activity and then an inside activity. (Rubber mats and tables are wiped down between groups.) Students’ supplies are in a pencil box that they bring with them to Mrs. Riley’s station. They are learning to bring their headphones and QR code rings to the Listening Workstation. I am confidant that as the year moves on, it will be easier for students to remember what they need for each rotation. Another activity that I love to incorporate during Literacy Workstations is Write the Room. I purchased a clipboard for each student. I have certain cards around the room, taking extra care to place them at least six feet apart. Today students searched for uppercase letters and then matched the uppercase letter to the lowercase letter on their recording sheet. They loved it!

Next up…small group work with me that is differentiated. I put my reading table to good use, placing colored dots on top that I could use to help students have a visual of where I want them to sit. Usually, I work with four to five students at a time. This year, I am meeting with two students at a time…one sits at the red dot and one sits at the green or blue dot. After each rotation, I quickly wipe down the table and the seats.

I love, love, love, meeting students at their reading level…so this was a time that I was not willing to let go. Since my groups are made of either three or four students, I have another little activity planned for when the student is waiting to work with me.

Finally, the sensory table. I am still trying to wrap my head around that one! I purchased enough shoe box sized bins with lids so that students could each have their own sensory bin. Now, I just have to figure out how I am going to integrate them into Literacy Workstations. Usually, students are searching for laminated cards that have a certain phonics theme….but I’m undecided if preparing thirteen sets of laminated cards for a ten minute activity is a good use of resources. Maybe something will come to me on how to accomplish using individual sensory bins this year.

Today was our second day of Literacy Workstations. I am happy to report that it went a little more smoothly than yesterday! (Air quality has improved enough that we are allowed to be outside again.) We will keep practicing our routines and soon these new kindergarteners will be Literacy Workstation Pros!

**QR Code TPT resource by Mrs. B Teaches Me

FIRST DAY!

There was EXCITEMENT in the air! Today was our first day back to school for the 2020-2021 school year.  AND it was our first day back IN PERSON since mid-MARCH!  (insert happy dance here!) Students were introduced to some of our routines yesterday during our one on one orientation times, so they knew that once they arrived in class, they would wash their hands. After that, I wanted to take an individual first day picture. With a lot of space outdoors, I asked each student to remove their mask for a quick minute. I had prepared “First Day of K” signs…one for each student to hold.

After a Zoom Welcome Meeting with Dr. Surber, we dove right into fine motor building playdoh activities. The children loved exploring all the new tools they received.

With the new layout of the classroom, it was important to me that students immediately were introduced to ways they could use the space around them to move and stretch during learning times. We practiced standing in our desk area, sitting on the carpet in front of our desk, laying on our tummies under our desk, and sitting in our desk chair. I read aloud the story “The Line Rhyme” by Alisha Gabriel about routines, and we made a list of all the routines in our classroom. We marked off the routines that we have already learned and practiced. (Our hand washing discussion happened yesterday and today….I forgot to mark it!)

Next, students were introduced to one of my favorite fine motor building activities…pokey pins! Students were all given a large push pin. After discussing how to carefully use a push pin, students were invited to sit on the floor by their desks and start poking polka dots on their paper. I mentioned that students would see something magical after they poked all the polka dots!

They were thrilled to see the sunlight streaming through the poked holes!

After snack and recess, we came back to class to start our kindergarten portfolio. Students will complete a series of activities each month in their portfolios and will have a wonderful collection of activities that show their growth from September to June! Today’s writing prompt asked students how they felt on the first day of school.

 

Kindergarteners also shared their summer treasure boxes. We placed each one under the document camera and projected their three special summer items onto the Smart Board. They loved seeing their treasures on “the big tv!” Finally, we enjoyed both Art class and Spanish class today. Would you believe that we were only at school for half the day?! What a bunch of happy worker bees I have this year! As one student said on her way out the door, “The worst part of the day is leaving school!” Sounds like we had a pretty successful day!

 

Classroom Reveal

It’s time for the classroom reveal! I had A LOT of work ahead of me this summer to get the classroom ready for possible in-person instruction. Furniture had to be removed to make room for socially distanced desks. Everything needed to be individualized….that meant several trips to the Dollar Tree and Target to purchase bins and tubs to prepare individual playdoh bins, reading bins, sensory bins, supply boxes, and more!
So here is the classroom in August:
And here it is today:
(Please excuse the still shot here….clearly I need help with editing!)
With the notification that our waiver was approved, I am ready for students to come IN PERSON and start learning!! This might be the best first day of school yet!!

It’s Me…

Like many teachers, I have been working most of the summer to plan for the 2020-2021 school year. I actually have two, no make it three plans for this upcoming school year.

Plan One: on campus instruction…wahoo!

Plan Two: remote instruction…boohoo

Plan Three: on campus instruction with remote instruction if need be

I have been researching, learning, prepping, and creating using a myriad of resources, but what has resonated with me was an Instagram post from a teacher who has already begun her school year in person. She mentioned that students didn’t know who she was because they had originally met her prior to the mask wearing mandates. She had a brilliant idea of sharing a side by side photo of herself both wearing and not wearing a mask. How smart is that?!

So to my incoming kindergartners, many of whom I have not yet met, here I am!

I’ll let you in on a little secret…. under that mask you will find that I usually have a smile on my face….because if I am wearing a mask it means that I get to teach in person!

We have a little under a month before our school year begins….please wear those masks so that we can begin on campus and in person.

Dinosaur Dig Day!

We are finishing up our dinosaur unit this week, and what better way to celebrate than with a Dinosaur Dig Day?! I planned six activities for the students to enjoy, and I set up a special station in the library to showcase our dinosaur research presentations. Back in January when we first began our dinosaur unit, students chose a dinosaur the was unfamiliar to them. They researched their dinosaur’s habitat, body, food choice, and some interesting facts. Students recorded their information on paper and then using the app Shadow Puppet, put it all together in a fun multimedia presentation! I love how these came out!

 

Here’s a quick tour of the classroom and the stations before the dig officially began!

The dino dig stations included:

chocolate chip cookie fossil excavating

 

digging a dinosaur out of an egg

and then giving the dinosaur a bath 🙂

Sand art

and measuring dinosaur footprints. Additionally, there was a dinosaur pattern block activity.

Students also had the chance to show off their work from the past two months. I compiled it all into these folders and glued their adorable hatching eggs to the front cover!

What a fun morning! Next, we will dive deep into the ocean!

Happy 100th Day of School!

It is one of my favorite days of the school year: the 100th day! This day was jam-packed with activities and fun. First, students were invited to dress up like they might look when they are 100 years old.

 

When students entered the classroom, their first job was to try and find 100 chocolate kisses that I had hidden around the room and place them on a 100 grid.

By lunch, there were just four chocolate kisses that were left to be discovered!

  On top of the bulletin board

 Hidden in between some books.

Next up, students completed eight activities that explored the theme of one hundred days of school.

Students stacked 100 cups. Watch this fun time-lapse video.

Students created something using 100 LEGO bricks.

 

Students made a bead necklace using ten beads of ten different colors.

How many licks does it take to finish a lollipop? 100 (or more!) Students recorded each lick and then counted by tens.

 

Next, students linked number cards from one to 100 in order.

 

Students used 100 marshmallows to build a structure.

 

Here, students stamp 100 gumballs….ten gumballs in ten colors!

 

Finally, students read a decodable reader called “When I am 100…” and practiced spelling the high-frequency word when.

Students also were invited to create a collection of 100 items. Look at these fun collections!

Even the teachers got into the 100th-day spirit!

We ended the day with a parade around the classrooms to see all the different collections, and we enjoyed 100 cupcakes!

But the best part of the 100th day of school is celebrating the special friendships we have made this year!

See you tomorrow for day 101!

Heart Fillers

We have been working on being heart fillers! This activity, based on the book, How Full is Your Bucket, has the students writing compliments to the other students in the class.

I created a template to help the students write meaningful messages to each other. This template also gives students choice in what they write, while continuing to help them build their spelling and grammar skills. I love how they are turning out!

I made these adorable heart mailboxes to hold the messages.

During our Valentine’s Day party next week, students will open their heart mailboxes and read through these special messages with their parents. I am excited to see their sweet faces enjoying this special moment.

What If You Had T-Rex Teeth?

I read the best book aloud to the students earlier this week. What If You Had T-Rex Teeth (and Other Dinosaur Parts) is a hilarious book that looks at what would happen if people had certain dinosaur parts.

After I initially read this book, I immediately was inspired to use the book in conjunction with a creative writing activity. So, I created a writing template for the students to use. They would choose a dinosaur and the body part that is special to their chosen dinosaur and write what would happen if they had that dinosaur part. Students were encouraged to use their best guess spelling to write about this topic. I love what they came up with!

“If I had a Stegosaurus’ tail, I would roast s’mores.”

 

“If I had a T-Rex’s teeth, it would be easier to chew chicken.”

 

“If I had a T-Rex’s arms, I would catch a bunny.”

 

“If I had a Brachiosaurus’ neck, I would look at a beautiful view!”

 

“If I had a T-Rex’s teeth, I would chomp up my food in one bite.”

 

The students loved this activity as much as I did. I love when I can pair a fun piece of literature with an equally fun writing activity!