Fairy Tale Day

Our Fairy Tale Unit would not be complete without our Fairy Tale Day Celebration! Kindergarteners were invited to come to school dressed as their favorite fairy tale character today. Look who came to celebrate:

We had Rumplestiltskin, a dragon, Belle, Cinderella, Baby Bear, a little Pig,  a frog, and more!

Once students crossed into Fairy Tale Land, they were shocked to hear that Rumplestiltskin had placed a spell on Fairy Tale Land because he wanted to ruin Cinderella’s and Prince Charming’s very special wedding day. The kindergarteners had to travel through Fairy Tale Land completing seven STEM challenges. At the end of each challenge, the students would receive a magical letter and a stamp on their Fairy Tale Land Passport. All of these pieces were stored in their fairy tale duct tape pouches that we made during Friday Fun a few weeks ago.

At the end of all seven rotations, the seven magical letters would be unscrambled to create a special word that will break the spell!

Here is a quick look at the rotations:

  1. Goldilocks needs help making a new chair that can hold Baby Bear. Students used cubes to create the chair. Baby Bear was a can of soda….it was a lot of weight for the chair to hold!

2. Beauty and the Beast needed a new stained glass window for their castle. They specifically needed a rose to be in the center of the window.

 

3. Rapunzel needs help escaping her tower. First, students measured the length of her braid using nonstandard unifix cubes. Then they constructed the tower using Magna-Tiles, making sure her braid was close enough to the ground to allow her to escape.

4. The gingerbread man needs to be captured! Students had to build a trap to do just that!

5. Little Red Riding Hood needs help finding Grandma’s house. Students used dominos to create a safe path for her to follow.

6.  Snow White needs help tricking the evil witch. Students built an apple tree with the goal of holding the most apples.

 

7. Jack needs help escaping the Giant! Students had to put a 100 chart in order to help him escape!

Phew! Once the challenges were complete, students took out their magical letters and arranged them to create the word:

 

FRIENDS! Because friends make everything more fun! What a magical morning we had.

 

Grateful

Thank you, Covid! (I cannot believe I am even saying that!!)

What a year! We have just three days of school left in this strange yet incredibly successful school year. I often find myself reflecting on my teaching practices at this time of the year, making notes of what worked and what needs changing. This year is no different, however, I find myself energized and grateful for what I learned and accomplished this year. Yes, Covid made teaching tough. But many of the changes I made to circumvent the restrictions and protocols are ones that I will continue to utilize in years to come. Covid has made me a better teacher, and it certainly made me more grateful for little things that I never have noticed before.

Rewinding back to September, we usually have an all-school orientation meeting the Tuesday before school begins. This year we opted to have each student select a 20-minute time slot to come for an individual teacher meet and greet. What an amazing day this was! To be able to connect with each student in a one-on-one environment set the tone for success. I was able to show each student their supplies, their desk, the bathroom, the handwashing protocols, and more.


I also did a quick reading assessment so that I had a baseline for who was blending sounds together and who was learning the alphabet. Each student had a chance to ask me questions, tour our learning space, and soak it all in without anyone else around!

Going over classroom expectations meant that students had to do a lot less listening to me yap the next day. Golden! This orientation day was so meaningful to me that I already have begged to do it again next year, even though it means potentially six hours of orientation instead of just one. The extra time spent on my part was worth it because of the connections I made with my new students.

Another Covid thank you is the individual book bins I started. In the past, I had a class library filled with thematic books. There was also a section that housed “just right” books for the students. (These are books that are at students’ reading level.) Well, Covid protocols prohibited the sharing of materials. I racked my brain to come up with a solution. How could I get all the important books into the hands of my kinders without having to sanitize in between each reading? The lightbulb moment was individual book bins!

I fill each student’s bin with several books that relate to our current unit of study. Then I fill them with books that are at or near their reading level. Any time a student finishes early, they are welcome to grab their book bins. They LOVE this! I rotate the books every Friday so that students always have something new to read. I will definitely continue this practice next school year.

Another activity that I will continue is the use of QR codes for my Listening Workstation. I have amassed a huge collection of books on CD. Again, when I found out we couldn’t share materials, I knew there was no way I could use my listening center the way that I always had. I started thinking about how to implement a daily listening activity that required little to no sanitizing and remembered a training I had attended about QR codes. I tried it out myself and was thrilled to see how easy it was to use, especially with a newer iPad. Use the camera function, scan the QR code, click on Safari and push play! Kindergartners could do this, no problem! I asked our Tech Department for a class set of headphones, which I promptly numbered so each student had their own. Then I prepared all the QR codes according to the themes I teach. I made each student a personal QR code binder ring where they would store their QR codes.

With more than 150 different QR read-aloud codes, I sent home a full binder ring after Winter Break. Students will bring home their second set tomorrow. Parents, if you need some downtime this summer, give your kids their iPads and their QR code ring, and they can listen and read along dozens and dozens of books, all uploaded to a safe sharing website, so no YouTube ads!

So much of my kindergarten program revolves around hands-on activities that focus on language arts and math but that also have a fine motor development component. It was important to me that I figured out a way to continue to be able to make these activities a part of our daily learning. Fortunately, I found these pencil boxes on Amazon that are great quality, easy for the children to open, and not super expensive.

I must have ordered fifteen or more sets of these boxes! (Thank you, Laguna!) These boxes made it easy for me to prep the activities ahead of time and keep the supplies organized. Everything needed to complete the activity, from tongs to dice to dry erase markers, fits into the pencil box. Plus, I have stored each monthly set in a large crate, so the activities are already prepped and ready for next year!

Students loved using the fun tools and manipulatives daily to solidify skills and strengthen their fine motor muscles!

We continued with Literacy Workstations, but since we needed to be six or three feet apart, I decided to move half the workstations outside with my assistant. What I noticed immediately was that the classroom was much quieter, with only half the students inside. This meant the children were very focused during their Literacy Workstation rotation with me. More focus meant more reading! Plus, I strategically arranged for the four rotations to have a group inside for one, and then outside for the next, and so on. This gave the students ample opportunities to move and get their wiggles out in between each rotation. This is another Covid tweak that I will continue to use next year.

A final Covid gift was the technology that our Tech Department gifted me. This included a Madonna-inspired microphone headset that I received the second month of school from our Tech Department. My voice was gone, my throat was aching from how loudly I had to speak so that students could hear me over the mandated fans and air purifiers, the open doors (which let in the neighbors’ construction noise!), and the spread-out desks. Tech Department to the rescue! With the gift of the headset, I was able to set the wireless speaker up in the back part of the classroom. I could be anywhere in our learning space and everyone could hear me! Then, as I was walking laps around the classroom showing the illustrations while reading a picture book aloud, the Tech Department suggested I try a document camera. AMAZING! I could project anything onto the SmartBoard with the document camera. This meant that students in the back row could see just as well as those in the front! Another problem solved.

I am very proud of all we accomplished this year. Our program was not compromised. Students still engaged in all the meaningful and educational activities like in years past. I am grateful that from these challenging times,  we found positive alternatives to make learning fun.  I do look forward to the day when I can see my students’ smiles and welcome them to play cooperative games with each other or help a friend pick up something that has fallen, but wow….we did it. We did it together with positive attitudes, trust, and kindness. Thank you, parents, for your care, calmness, and trust in me. Thank you, Laguna, for the ability to purchase whatever my classroom needed to make learning successful this year. And thank you colleagues for your unwavering support, love, and laughter during this challenging year. WE DID IT!!

 

Earth Day

We have been enthusiastically celebrating Earth Day for the past week. It started with an earth necklace project, where students painted salt dough circles to look like the earth.

We also wrote about what we can do to help keep the earth healthy. Here are some of our ideas:

The students participated in five Earth Day-themed rotations today. There were math activities, fine motor activities, craft activities, and more!

Students used pattern blocks to make the earth and a recycle logo.

Geoboards with Earth Day inspirations helped students to strengthen fine motor skills while using shapes to make the earth, a leaf, recycle bins, and trash cans.

We completed our multi-day earth necklace project with students adding some beads to their necklace.

Our celebration wrapped up with a book exchange. Each student was invited to bring in a gently used book to add to our exchange. They took turns choosing a new book, to which I added a special Earth Day bookplate with their names! Happy Earth Day!

 

Only One You

Last week we read the book Only One You by Linda Kranz. “There’s only one you in this great big world. Make it a better place. Adri’s mama and papa share some of the wisdom they have gained through the years with their eager son. Their words, simple and powerful, are meant to comfort and guide him as he goes about exploring the world. This exquisitely illustrated book explodes with color and honest insights. Kranz’s uniquely painted rockfish, set against vibrant blue seas, make an unforgettable and truly special impression. Only One You will inspire parents and children of all ages as they swim through the sea of life.” (Amazon)

We used this book as inspiration to create our very own rockfish! I love how these turned out!

Desk Pets

What encourages positive behavior and gives students a chance to engage in creative writing? Desk pets, of course! The kindergarten students were introduced to these cute little items yesterday.

I chose to have ocean animal-themed desk pets, as we are still studying oceans.

Desk Pets are just like real pets. They need food, shelter, and exercise. I am using mini erasers for food and exercise and these great little boxes from Dollar Tree for shelters.

During Literacy Workstations, students met with me to fill out an adoption application. They took this activity very seriously.

The application asked for details such as the age of the desk pet, the potential name for the desk pet, and why the student would be a good owner. Then, students had to agree to:

-keep their pet in their provided home

-check-in on their pet each day they are at school

-always work hard in class to earn food, games, and decorations for their pet

-keep their desk clean.

The application was signed and dated….we’re very official here in kindergarten.

Then, they waited in anticipation as I reviewed each application overnight.

This morning during Literacy Workstations students were presented with their official certificates of adoption. There were big cheers all around!

After our math lesson, we had a few extra minutes for the students to read books from their book bins. I was delighted to see so many of the students reading aloud to their new desk pet.

In the days to come, students will keep a journal about their desk pets. I will also provide them with materials to make blankets and rugs for their pets. Some students are even incorporating their desk pets into their Choice Time activities! The possibilities are endless!

 

100 (Now 111!) Days Smarter!

We celebrated our 100th day two weeks ago with a very special day filled with learning and fun! We began with the hunt for 100 Hershey Kisses.

Next, I organized eight different learning rotations for the students to enjoy. Each student received a passport for the day to help keep track of the activities they completed. The stations included:

100 Licks!

Students predicted how many licks it would take to get to the middle of their mini-Tootsie Pop.

Would you believe it took more than 100 licks for most of the students?!

100 chart puzzle

Next up was a custom 100 chart puzzle I created for each student. I differentiated these puzzles by cutting the 100 chart into a certain number of pieces that best met the needs of each student. They LOVED this activity, and I put the puzzles in baggies for students to take home and to use over and over again!

Students made a 100th-day crown. They used stickers to make ten groups of ten. I love how these turned out!

Students used polka dot daubers to make 100 gumballs.

Students linked numbers zero-100 together in order from least to greatest.

Using ten groups of ten different colored pony beads, students made a festive necklace.

But the surprise favorite was building with 100 cups!

Students brought in collections of 100 items. There was a fun variety of collections!

But my favorite 100th-day activity this year was the writing activity and the aged-photo I created to go along with it!

I used the app AgingBooth to make each students’ 100-year-old photo.

 

Ice Fishing

It has been chilly for Santa Barbara recently, so the kindergarteners did some ice fishing. They fished for short vowel and long vowel words!

Once students had multiple fish, they put them into ABC order.

There was excitement all around! Students asked to be able to go ice fishing during Choice Time….nothing tells me that an activity is a winner like students wanting to play with it during Choice Time!

 

Glowing Under the Sea!

We went diving into our new ocean unit! I wanted to make the first day of this unit BIG, so I went with a glow-in-the-dark theme…like the bioluminescent animals in the midnight zone! I painted coral reef backgrounds. The students had made glow-in-the-dark jellies in art class last week that I had planned to use as part of the display.

I recorded students’ reactions as they entered the classroom when they arrived at school.  They were so surprised that almost every student was silent! After their outside playtime, I recorded again as they all entered the classroom together.  THIS was the reaction I was originally expecting!

I planned different activities….each activity had a glow-in-the-dark component. I displayed the rotation of activities on the SmartBoard. Students knew which group they were a part of according to the sea animal on their headband.

Here is a closer look at the activities:

Students searched the room for sea animals with pictures on them. They then spelled the words on their activity sheet using a highlighter.

Using a glow-in-the-dark ruler, students measured sea creatures and recorded their answers in inches. They again used a highlighter to record their answers.

Building items found under the sea using glow-in-the-dark rubber bands and geoboards was a hit!

There were many fun designs.

Coloring CVC words using neon crayons was fun as well.

Students identified 3D shapes, including the number of faces and vertices each shape has.

Students strengthened spatial awareness and practiced identifying shapes by building sea animals with pattern blocks.

The final activity was using glow-in-the-dark perler beads to make an ocean animal. Glow-in-the-dark perler beads?! Who knew?! This activities is a great one for strengthening fine motor.

 

We had so much fun learning in the midnight zone. I was impressed with how well the kindergarteners focused in the glowing classroom. What a special day!

Dinosaur Reports

Students have been working on a dinosaur research project for the past month, and today was the day they finally had the opportunity to share their hard work. The research process began in January when students chose a dinosaur that was unfamiliar to them. Using the website Pebblego, students browsed through dozens and dozens of potential choices that included herbivores, carnivores, sauropods, theropods, bird-like dinosaurs, and more. I created a special research folder for each student that I personalized once they chose their dinosaur.

Next, students created a pencil sketch of their dinosaur on their title page.

Then the research began! There were six questions the students used to guide their learning.

Students were encouraged to write using their best guess spelling. At this time in the year, our goal is to write using spaces between words and beginning capitalization with some ending punctuation.

As part of this collaborative unit, the kindergarten class learned about dinosaurs in each of their specialist classes. In Technology, for example, students drew and labeled their chosen dinosaur.

In art class, students used oil pastels to draw their dinosaur in their habitat.

The final piece was a clay sculpture!

We took all these collaborations and put them together using an app called Shadow Puppet. Here is the end result:

I am so proud of the students’ projects!

Dino Day!

We are finishing up our Dinosaur Unit, and today was our official “Dino Day,” where it was dinosaur activities ALL DAY! In preparation for our big day, students made a paleontologist hat to wear while participating in the activities.

Our paleontologists worked deep in the jungle today.

 

We used our time from the beginning of school until before lunch to complete seven different rotations. I structured the activities like this:

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the activities. The Fizzy Dino Egg activity started more than two weeks ago when the students each made their own dinosaur egg using baking soda, water, and food coloring.

Students mixed the ingredients.

Then, they molded the mixture around a plastic dinosaur toy, creating the shape of an egg.

We let those eggs dry, and then today, students used pipettes and vinegar to melt the egg and reveal the dinosaur inside!

It took a lot of patience and fine motor work to finally hatch the dinosaur!

The Dinosaur Discovery activity was a write the room activity, where students took their clipboards and walked around the room in search of dinosaur-themed words. They then recorded these words in the Dino Dig Day notebooks. Activity three was Dino Dig, where students had to chisel away and reveal a dinosaur.

Students then had a chance to build dinosaurs using pattern blocks.

For rotation 5, students chose a variety of dinosaur stickers to use as inspiration for writing dinosaur sentences. They LOVED all the sticker choices!

“1. This is a carnivore.
2. It hunts.
Pterodactyl is not a dinosaur.”

I love how students are using their best guess spelling to demonstrate what they have learned!

“1. This is a dinosaur eating a plant.
2. This is a mommy dinosaur that’s coming to its baby.”

Rotation six had students measuring dinosaur footprints and comparing their size to their own feet!

Another dinosaur-themed math activity was the Dinosaur Math Toss where students tossed a bean bag through a hole. They then chose one of the numbers on the hole and used it to write an addition equation, which they later solved.

After the rotations were finished, students had a chance to practice being a paleontologist. They were given paleontologists tools: a chisel (toothpick), a shovel (gelato spoon), and a brush (watercolor brush) to use to excavate chocolate chips from a cookie. Once removed from the cookie, students counted and compared the number of chocolate chips.

It was a fun way to end the day!