Happy 50th Day!

We had a rockin’ good time on our 50th day of school! I did a classroom transformation and turned our learning space into a 1950’s diner. Click below to see it!

Room Tour

We started the day snapping photos in our photo booth. I loved seeing all the festive outfits.

I shared a quick Power Point Presentation with the students that showed pictured of clothes in the 1950’s vs. today, furniture, cars, houses and more! They could not believe the size of a 1950’s computer!!

Next, I introduced the students to the activity rotations for the morning. Using Smart Notebook software, I created a new rotation visual so the students knew exactly where to go and what to do.

I tried to use the same set up as I usually do during our Literacy Centers so that the students could confidently participate in the activities. We have the Word Work station daily, so the activity for the 50th Day was similar to one with which they are familiar. (Students chose a picture card with a CVC word and then listened to the middle sound. They chose the pink bubble with the correct letter to complete the word.)

Students also completed a Write the Room activity where they found cards with pictures and words relating to the 1950’s. They recorded the word on their recording sheets.

Another activity was for students to use 50 LEGO bricks to create anything they wanted. Here are some of their ideas:

 

When the students met with me, they completed a writing activity. I love how these turned out.

Finally, students joined Mrs. Riley outdoors to learn and practice how to blow a bubble. They then recorded whether or not they could blow a bubble. We created a class graph with the information. Here are the results:

It sure was hard work blowing a bubble!!

We finished our celebration with a yummy root beer float. Delicious!

I am excited for the next 50 days!

Friendsgiving

We have been celebrating Friendsgiving all week in Kindergarten. I first introduced the idea of showing gratitude to our friends through a read-aloud on Monday morning. The Most Thankful Thing, by Lisa McCourt was the perfect way to start this activity.

“When a little girl asks her mom what her ‘most thankful thing ever’ is, Mom turns the question into a fun trip down memory lane. Turning the pages of Mom’s photo album, they discover many wonderful moments in Mom’s life, from summer camp to winning a trophy in a soccer tournament, from singing onstage to her wedding day. But one event in Mom’s whole life is the very best ever — the birth of her precious little girl.” -Amazon

We then compiled a list of things for which we are thankful. Next, I told the students that for the rest of the week, we would be making small, thoughtful gifts for our friends. Students picked a name from our special turkey and that was the person for whom they would create each project.

We began with a drumstick bookmark.

I was nervous that the students would have a hard time with completing the craft and giving it away, but so far, they have been very excited to sneak their crafts into their friends’ Friendsgiving Swag ags.

The next day, students made a corny joke book. I printed jokes on colored paper. Students chose a joke and then cut the joke part off the punchline part. Here is an example that I made:

The next day, I shared some things for which I am thankful.

The project on this day was to write an adjective on a turkey feather to describe their friend. Look how cute these turned out!

Students made a “sweet as pie” craft.

They also made a pinkie promise to their friend. Here are some examples of the special promises that were made.

It was very sweet to see how seriously the students took their promises. I love that they promised something that is important or special to them.

With two days left before break, there are a few more projects to go! I plan on having the children make a fall-themed bracelet and a turkey pin to give add to a friend’s swag bag!

Parents, I will be sending your child’s bag home on Friday! They will not have opened them yet! Please share with me your child’s reaction!

 

How Does It Work? Morning Exploring Edition

I LOVE Morning Exploring (Marshia McGuire, TPT) tubs. They are simply amazing. Each month I organize nine different fine motor building activities that have either a math or language arts focus. Last year, I created two kits for each of the nine activities so that students had their own materials to use independently. (I promise, Business Office, there was a reason I ordered 180 plastic pencil boxes!) This prep last year made setting up the monthly activities this year a breeze! Take a look:

A bonus activity is to use the letter beads the creature eats to spell a word or put in alphabetical order.

When the morning bell rings, students wash their hands and then head straight to their desk where their Morning Exploring activity awaits. (We previously have discussed each of the activities, and students are encouraged to use the “I can” cards included in their box to remind them of the activity. Also, the majority of the activities each month have the same goal, they just use different manipulatives and get increasingly more challenging as the year progresses.) This daily routine gives me a chance to connect with students, submit attendance, check in with parents, and work with students as part of our Read Every Day! program. (Read about that by clicking below.)

How Does It Work? Read Every Day! Program

 

Morning Exploring encourages students to work independently. It also solidifies math and language arts skills while strengthening fine motor. And the students LOVE the activities! A win all around!

How Does It Work? Read Every Day! Program

Since my early years of teaching, one of the most important programs I implement each year is the Read Every Day!-formerly the Home Reading- Program. This program is instrumental in propelling my students into motivated and accomplished readers. It also provides me with an opportunity to differentiate for students.

So what is Read Every Day! and why does it work? Well, since 1998 I have been collecting books. (Yikes! When did I get so old?!) Decodable books and Guided Reading books. I found that when parents were eagerly trying to support their beginning readers, they were struggling to find material that their early readers could actually read independently. Children were becoming frustrated because they couldn’t read the Level 1 readers that were dubbed “perfect for beginning readers.” That is when my quest for decodable text came to be. (A line of text in a decodable reader might read: “Sam sat on a mat” and uses mainly words that can be sounded out or decoded.) I knew that if I could collect a bunch of books that students could read, and send them home nightly for practice, I would see an uptick in the confidence and skills of my beginning readers.

Now, more than 20 years later, I have amassed a huge collection of books that students take home nightly. (Thank you, parents, for all your Scholastic Book Orders throughout the years! I put the Bonus Points to good use!)

Once a student begins to blend sounds, I start sending home a word list. These lists have ten CVC words on them, organized by the middle vowel sound.

Students take the list, read it aloud to someone at home, return it the next day, and read it aloud to me. They choose a sticker, and then I select a new list to send home.

Here is an example of a student’s Read Everyday log.

Once I see their blending skills have solidified, I begin sending home books. First, the books have mainly CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words with a few high-frequency words sprinkled in. The next level books still have short vowel words but include digraphs and more challenging high-frequency words as well. Next are books with the long vowel magic e spelling pattern, found in words like cake, pile, stove, etc. Once students can read words with long vowels, I try to transition them to Guided Reading books, usually beginning at a level D. “Guided reading levels are simply a system developed originally by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell to help organize reading skills and strategies so that readers are not overwhelmed. It ranges from levels A-Z with A being the simplest and Z being the most complex of the guided reading levels.” (mrs.richardsonsclass.com)

Read Every Day! really motivates the students. They love the accomplishment of finishing a book each night or of reading a chapter book. Students look forward to choosing their daily sticker to decorate their Read Every Day! folder. By the end of the year, we have really colorful folders that demonstrate the program’s success.

The Case of the Missing Letter D!

When I arrived at school Friday morning, the letter D was missing from our alphabet wall cards! We had a crime scene on our hands! I processed the clues that the suspects left behind and got busy setting up a display of evidence so that my kindergarten detectives could solve the case!

I met the students outside when the bell rang. They were very curious about the yellow caution tape. I explained the situation…the letter D is missing, and we need to find out who took it! I directed the students to the carpet, where we took a closer look at the evidence that our suspects had left behind. Click on each of the underlined words below to watch videos of the morning unfolding.

Evidence!

Suspects!

Activities

Once all the activities were introduced, students joined their group to complete each of the five activities so that they could earn their clue to discover who did not steal the letter D. The activities included:

1. Write the room: students searched the room to find cards with the letters of the alphabet. Each card was missing a letter, and the students needed to figure out which letter was missing.

2. Students identified the beginning sound in CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.

3. Students colored pictures that started with a specific letter to reveal a particular shape.

4. Students used pattern blocks to build the lowercase letter d.

5. Using a white crayon, students wrote hidden letter sounds. They then painted over using watercolors to reveal their writing.

After each activity, students opened their silver briefcases and solved a special clue that told them who the suspect was NOT. Here are some examples:

After completing each of the five rotations, we came together and reviewed our notes.

Just like we suspected, Ms. Clifford was the person who stole the letter D. Watch and learn why she did it:

We loved the doughnuts! There were many happy detectives!

Pumpkin Day!

We had the perfect fall day for Pumpkin Day! Before school, I set up a little pumpkin patch in the backyard on campus.

When the bell rang, the kindergarten students came into our classroom for a quick lesson on the lifecycle of a pumpkin. All the written activities for the day are included in this fun pumpkin-shaped book.

Then it was out to the patch we went! Each student selected a pumpkin of their choice.

Once we were back inside, we used our five senses to describe our pumpkins.

Next, we broke into groups where the students participated in five pumpkin-themed activities. Here is how I organized our centers:

Students measured the height of their pumpkins using unifix cubes.

They predicted the circumference of their pumpkin, used yarn to measure, and compared their results.

Students listened to several stories about pumpkins using QR codes.  They completed a mystery picture using a hundred chart.

Finally, students practiced rhyming by matching pumpkin pairs.

But, we were not done celebrating all things pumpkin! We completed a survey that answered, “How do you like pumpkin best?” Students in kindergarten like pumpkin bread the best.

We also enjoyed a science experiment where we investigated whether or not a pumpkin would float. Most students thought pumpkins would sink! Even after I placed a pumpkin in water and they took turns watching it bob up and down, many students still did not believe that their pumpkin would float. I gave each student an opportunity to try! They were simply amazed!

We wrapped up Pumpkin Day with a yummy pumpkin muffin treat!

How Does It Work? Literacy Centers Edition

Every year, I revamp Literacy Centers, formerly known as Literacy Workstations. I decided to change the name this year because often, when students hear the word “work,” they are less inclined to be excited about the activity. So, Literacy Centers was born. My centers’ rotations also depend on the number of students enrolled. I like to keep my groups small with three or four students; that way, they truly receive individualized instruction. To do that this year, I am moving from four center rotations to six. I spent the summer trying to balance our daily schedule innovatively…there was no way I could expect the students to participate in six centers daily. Plus, if each center takes 15 minutes, having six daily rotations would mean a lot less time for thematic units. (I will post about thematic units soon!) So, after a lot of sketches, prototypes, and ideas, I decided that students would complete six Literacy Centers over the course of two days.

Here is how that currently looks:

I am in charge of managing the four inside centers, and Mrs. Riley manages the two outside centers. (The outside stations are the stations with the sun clipart. I thought this visual would help students know where to go.)  Let’s take a look at the activities.

Students who are meeting with me are receiving differentiated instruction that meets their individual needs. I use various materials to help students learn letter sounds, blend sounds together, and ultimately begin reading. Once students are reading CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, they begin reading decodable text. Because I am meeting each students’ needs during this specific rotation, I also prepare lessons that target reading comprehension skills. Using Guided Reading Level books, I can easily differentiate my program to accommodate all reading levels, including those students who come into kindergarten reading at a third-grade level!

For the Listening Center, in the age of COVID, students use an iPad and their own set of headphones to listen to a story. Each story can be found by scanning a QR code. Students are then taken to Safe Share T.V., where they listen and follow along with a book that is being read aloud. Many times the story that I have chosen fits in perfectly with our current topic of study.

The Word Work Center has been completely revamped. Look at these perfect storage containers! I saw them this summer and intended to find the number I needed in the specific color I wanted. I am grateful my sweet husband agreed to stop at just about every Dollar Tree on the way to Monterrey to make that happen!

Inside each kit are all the materials one student needs to complete the activity. Here is a closer look:

Students match uppercase and lowercase letters and link the matching cards together.

Students use clothespins to clip the images that start with the given letter.

My goal with the Word Work Center is that students are engaged, demonstrating knowledge, building fine motor skills, and working independently for ten to fifteen minutes. As students’ literacy skills grow, so will the Word Work Center. The focus will move from identifying beginning sounds to middle and ending sounds to digraphs and long vowel sounds. There is so much that can be covered!

The Write the Room Center allows students to move around the classroom while completing the activity. I hang little cards around the classroom that have images on them. As students become more familiar with my hiding places, I try to get creative and hang the cards in trickier spots. (I might have hung some on the ceiling or under a student desk at one point!) Students have their own clipboard and recording sheet. Each Write the Room activity is based on a specific skill. For example, last week, students looked for picture cards that rhymed with an image on their paper.

Here is an example of the picture cards that were hanging around the room.

They then had to either draw a picture of the item that rhymes or write the actual word.

Recording Sheet

This is the perfect way to differentiate the activity! I love that students can be active during this center and that they have to demonstrate an independent understanding of specific skills.

The fifth rotation meets outside with the kindergarten assistant, Mrs. Riley. Mrs. Riley’s center usually focuses on learning our weekly Star Words, or sight words, or practicing printing using a specific series of strokes. We begin the year using the Zaner-Bloser printing curriculum. As the year progresses, students are given several opportunities to formally practice printing in a small group environment, focusing on pencil grip, letter formation, and more. I have created a Dinosaur A-Z printing book and a Santa Barbara Marine Life A-Z book to support these learning goals during our thematic units.

Our final rotation will change twice a week. For the first two days, students will enjoy using their Challenge Kits. (Foxwell Forest, TPT) These kits are amazing! Of course, they are theme-based, which I love. They also focus on strengthening fine motor and spatial awareness skills. Each kit uses building blocks (aka LEGO bricks), a mini Magna doodle, and playdoh. Students receive a set of task cards for each manipulative. This week students will be creating things that have a short vowel a in them.

Examples of Challenge Kit cards. Really incredible. Kind of wish I had thought of the concept!

The activity for the second rotation is a Playdoh Literacy Kit.  Students have other opportunities to use playdoh for creative fun, and I aimed to find activities that focus on literacy skills. Activities for this center include a syllable smash where students choose a picture card and roll several balls of playdoh. They then smash the same number of balls as there are syllables in words.

Example of cards students will use for Syllable Smash activity.

Students also use playdoh and letter stamps to identify the pictures’ beginning, middle, and ending sounds.

I anticipate changing this sixth center activity as the year progresses and students learn different skills. Perhaps this center will turn into a writing center second semester. I know the possibilities are endless.

We are wrapping up the second week of this new-to-me system, and so far, so good!

 

How Does It Work? Busy Boxes

New this year are Busy Boxes! This summer, when I was at the Dollar Tree in the teacher section, I was inspired by some really cool-looking lidded boxes. I knew I wanted them for the classroom, but at that point, I didn’t know how I could use them. Think, think, think! A-ha! What if I created activities that were of high interest and so engaging that the students would use when they finish an activity. All the supplies needed would be included in each box! In the past, when students completed their work, they were able to grab their book bins or work on their Extra Word Packets. (These packets are thematic and differentiated worksheets that offer students an opportunity to reinforce and strengthen skills or offer challenge opportunities.)

So, immediately, I started going through my files and setting aside math and language arts activities that I love, but often do not have time to formally use. I also remembered that I had created a bunch of fine motor strengthening activities that my class last year enjoyed using. I had so many fun and thoughtful activities that I wanted to include. I even had the perfect shelf already in my classroom that I could use to house the boxes!

Here are some of those Busy Box activities:

Cut along the dotted lines using fancy scissors.

Strengthen fine motor skills but putting and taking apart screws and bolts.

Old-fashioned fun with dot-to-dots and a smelly marker!

Write a kind note to a friend using a fancy pen.

Practice drawing symmetrical objects.

Jenga! I wrote letters on Jenga blocks. Choose a block and say the letter name and sound.

Practice sewing with these lacing activities.

Identify shapes with this shape spinner game.

Mazes are a great way for students to sharpen their pencil control and problem-solving skills.

I introduced Busy Boxes to the class last week, and students could not get enough. I did have to remind students that it is important that they do their best, careful work on the original activity, as many were wanting to move right to the Busy Bins! I am considering making Busy Bins an option during Choice Time so that the novelty wears off. I’m happy they were such a success.

It’s a New School Year!

We’re off and running for the 21-22 school year! I am excited to share some new additions to the kindergarten program and take an opportunity to go into more detail about some of the “oldies but goodies” that are tried and true! Let’s start!

This year, I decided to really focus on strengthening the social side of our classroom family. One of the things I wanted to try was implementing a morning greeting daily. When students enter the classroom, they choose a greeting.

It is fun for me to try to anticipate each student’s selected greeting. Fist bump continues to be a fan favorite!

Another new part of our day is the addition of a daily question to our Morning Meeting. Each week I assign students a partner. This week the partners are avocado and toast.

After I ask the question of the day, students find their partners and share an answer. I found these cute question cards that help me keep this portion of our morning meeting interesting. (First Grade Lemonade, TPT)

To practice truly listening to our partners, I encourage pairs to share the other person’s response.

I also wanted to add a quick practice skill to our Morning Meetings. The addition of pocket chart rhymes and songs is something I am looking forward to using daily to teach literacy and math skills. In the example below, students sort cookies according to the number of syllables the image on that cookie has.

Each year, inevitably, markers become estranged from their caps, Morning Exploring manipulatives fall out of their tubs, and crayons roll away. I end up having random items all over the classroom. This year I decided to create a “Found It!” bin where students can put all the items they find! Hopefully, the items will be reunited with their owners!

Our “Found It!” bin

The current contents of the bin.

I also went crazy with crayons!  Students each have a set of 24 crayons in their desks.

Isn’t this teacher hack the best? What a perfect container in which to store crayons.

I spent waaaayyyy too much time at the Dollar Tree this summer collecting crayons. I found pearl crayons, colors of the world crayons, neon crayons, unicorn crayons (!) Of course, I had to have them all….and they are all organized into these perfect little containers. You need a specific crayon? I for sure have it!

This year I also decided to change up Literacy Centers, aka Literacy Workstations, and have a two-day rotation where students complete three centers a day. (I will post about Literacy Centers soon!)

The classroom setup has evolved. I moved my small group table to the other side of the room, utilizing the space in this strange corner where a student desk could never be because of a door. (My classroom has a grand total of seven doors!)

I also moved our Read Every Day! station and Mrs. Riley’s work area to the opposite area of the room. This space was also awkward and unusable as a location for students’ desks because of the wall that would block their view of the SmartBoard.

I added a bright, colorful carpet to the back of the classroom for students to use as an inviting place to create, build, and work. I am excited that I can have a space in the front of the room to welcome students to sit on the carpet. Currently, there is room for about half the class, so the students who are seated in the back of the room have the first option to come up and sit on the rug.

I gave my crate chairs a makeover, using this fun owl-themed fabric.

I created a new birthday display.

Late last year I requested new iPad charging stations from our Tech Department. My wish was granted when I received four charging stations to house my 19 brand-new iPads.

The bins sit atop a solid shelf and are at the perfect height for students to be able to grab and go. Each iPad has a number that corresponds to each student, so students will be able to remain logged in on specific apps…yippee! I have iPad expectations clearly posted.

Each year, I read the book “How Full Is Your Bucket?” We really work hard to fill one another’s buckets daily in a variety of ways. I wanted to make this idea more concrete, so I created this interactive bulletin board. Students customized their buckets, and I hung them, along with their bucket filler tag ring. Now, each time a student is caught making a positive learning choice, we can easily add a tag to the ring!

I love how bright this display is!

Here we go! What an exciting year I have planned!

How Does It Work: Morning Meeting Edition!

I have revamped our Morning Meetings this year and am just thrilled with how they are going. Our day starts with a greeting. I meet students at the door where they select a greeting from eight choices.

Click on this link to watch our greeting in action!

I switch up the greetings weekly, but so far, the fist bump has been the most popular. We begin our Morning Meetings after a quick round of Morning Exploring. (I will upload a blog post about Morning Exploring soon!) I start the meeting by quickly reviewing the schedule for the day.

Next, I pick a Lucky Duck. The Lucky Duck is the student who is the helper of the day. This student is the line leader, helper, brain break chooser, messenger, etc. They do all the jobs for the day!

We then launch into our Morning Message where we begin by counting the number of days we have been in school. Currently, we are reviewing letter sounds. We watch a quick and silly Story Bots video for each letter. Then we do a morning Chit Chat on the SmartBoard. Here is an example of our Chit Chat for tomorrow.

Students take turns giving me words that begin with the letter of the day. Later in the year, students will begin editing the Morning Message, as I will begin to make intentional errors to help teach specific spelling and grammar rules.

Next, is our Question of the Day. This year my goal is to encourage the students to make connections with each other. One way of doing that is through the question of the day. Using our pair system, students find their partner of the week and take turns answering the questions.

Examples of questions include, “What is your favorite color? What is your favorite food?” etc. Then I ask the partner to share the information they learned.

Another new addition to Morning Meetings is the poem of the day that focuses on phonemic awareness or literacy skills. This week, students chanted “Sizzle, sizzle, Breakfast time. Pick an egg. Find its rhyme!”

They searched for a bacon card that rhymes with an egg card. I, of course, made up hand movements to further illustrate the poem. Super silly, super fun…what better way to learn!

Morning Meeting is also a time for me to check in with the students about social experiences. If I am noticing that sharing has become a challenge, then I read aloud a book about sharing. We discuss what sharing looks like and feels like. If students are struggling to use kind words with each other, then Morning Meeting is a great time to role-play and model conversations.

Morning Meeting takes anywhere from ten to twenty-five minutes. These are some of the most important minutes of our day, as we not only strengthen academic skills, but also build our kind and compassionate classroom community.