Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fall Center Fun

This was the best week ever! We had so much fun doing all of our fall inquiry centers and ended the week with pumpkin day on Friday! My friends are getting so good at working independently at centers and we were able to do so many fun things during our 25 minute inquiry block at the end of the day. Here is what we were up to this week!

Observation Center:

I grabbed a bag of fancy gourds from target and a few magnifying glasses from the dollar tree to create a fall observation center. We talked about what it is like to draw an observational picture and I put a poster of what an observational picture of a gourd looked like at the center. My friends did this center totally independently and had so much fun! I was really impressed with how hard they worked and they were so proud of their drawings!

Fall Tree Q-Tip Painting

At this center, we used fall colors and q-tips to paint our very own fall trees. You know when  you have a really specific idea in your head of what the outcome of a painting will be? Never happens in kindergarten. But that is OK. There fall paintings came out beautiful and they were so creative! I love how hard they worked and how responsible they were with the paint. A project that could have turned messy never did and I was so proud!

I love the leaves falling off of her tree!

Pumpkin STEM Challenge

The week before we started these centers I was all over pinterest searching for a STEM pumpkin challenge. I saw really cute pumpkin stands made of straw and held together with masking tape. Problem was-- I really needed this to be independent and my friends are still having a tough time ripping masking tape. SO we improvised and instead the challenge was-- make a pumpkin stand out of blocks! This was extremely low prep and my little engineers were all engaged and working on problem solving skills. 

Pumpkin Day

On Thursday we had told the kids that we would have a very special surprise for them the next day. They went home SO excited and wondering about all of the possibilities. All of our kindergarten friends listened to a story and when it was over, we had a pumpkin patch set up outside! Everyone had their name written on the top of their pumpkins to extend the search. Afterwards, we came inside to paint!

Pumpkin Math and Science

After lunch, we had extra pumpkins set up to do pumpkin math and science activities. Students visited three centers: pumpkin exploration (parts of a pumpkin), sink or float, and pumpkin measurement. 

Our school custodian was kind enough to cut our big pumpkin open for us. I had it cut right down the side so that they could see what a pumpkin looked like from this angle. I figured that they had seen pumpkins with a top cut off before, so I wanted to do it a little differently. I also put some pumpkin seeds and pulp under our amazing view scope from oriental trading. We are going to be using this so much and it was totally worth getting! You can grab it HERE. 

The kids were AMAZED at what the inside of our pumpkin looked like! We even got to feel inside and used our senses to describe the pumpkin.

We did some measurement with a pumpkin too! We measured the circumference with linking chains, height with snap cubes, and weighed it against some rocks. The kids filled out a responding sheet at this center.

We also did our "sink or float" activity and talked about why pumpkins float!

Happy fall! 

Friday, September 29, 2017

STEM and Next Generation Science in Kindergarten

When I first heard about the Next Generation Science Standards coming out I was worried. I had always connected both science and social studies to the topics we were covering in our reading curriculum and I was nervous about fitting in morning meeting, math centers/ guided math, Daily Five/ guided reading, snack, rest time, and play time, with a separate time for science. Don't get me wrong-- i've always done hands on science-- planting flowers, hatching butterflies, etc, but I hadn't ever had carved out specified time for it. I did a lot of reshaping of my schedule and figured out how to designate a 25 minute block of time for what I decided to call an "inquiry" period.

Carving out that 25 minutes for an inquiry period is! And you know what else? Even though new standards in education can be scary the Next Gen standards are appropriate for 21st century learners and actually an amazing thing because they are hands on!

Next Generation Science is not a text book. Or a worksheet. Or a lecture.  It is STEM. It is real, hands on problem-solving. It is a way to teach even the smallest learners the most amazing things. Our inquiry period has ended up being one of the best parts of our day!

This week, we launched STEM in our classroom with some hands-on centers! We started by reading the book Rosie Revere Engineer which is a MUST READ for anyone doing STEM activities with their class. We talked about how we are a class of engineers-- and engineers fail all the time! The most important thing is that they don't give up-- they work hard to make their ideas better! My kids really grasped hold of this and I could see it right before my eyes as I observed them working at each STEM center.

Before we did any centers, I wanted to do a whole group challenge and observe my kids working together. For some, this was their first time working as a team to accomplish something. We talked about how we need to use our words and talk to our team members in order to accomplish a task. The question I posed to everyone was: can you build a bridge that a car can drive under? I showed them the "road" that they would have to build their bridges across and split them into teams of four! It was amazing to listen to them problem-solve together and it made me so happy that every team was able to communicate and work together to accomplish a goal!

After our whole group challenge, we began our introductory centers. I had four centers which we began on Tuesday. By Friday, all of my friends had visited each center.

Marble Mazes

This was an independent center-- I introduced this center to my friends by simply asking "can you build a maze that a marble can travel around?" My friends had so much fun at this center. I even overheard a conversation between a child who was becoming frustrated and another child who said "don't worry, engineers fail all the time. Just keep trying!"

Building Structures

When I introduced this center I asked my friends "can you look at a picture of a real-life structure and make it with blocks?" As a team they picked a structure and replicated it with a variety of different blocks. This required a LOT of teamwork-- at first a group of friends wanted to build separate things instead of working together and you know what? I didn't even have to intervene because then they said "engineers have to work together to solve problems like we did with the bridge." Amazing!

Boat Challenge

Here, my friends had to build a boat out of tin foil that would hold a certain amount of math manipulatives. The best part about this center was that they failed so many times but never, ever gave up! Each child made their boat stronger and learned from their failure. By the end, everyone was able to complete the challenge!

Introduction to Coding

This was the BEST THING I HAVE EVER GOTTEN FOR MY CLASSROOM and I will be using Colby the blue mouse for SO many things this year! This was the only center that was run by me-- and only because the coding kit was brand new. I wanted to teach my friends how to use it before I let them work on their own. We started out with the cheese super close and the kids built a code then input it on the mouse. Each time, we added to the maze (turns, etc) and moved the cheese further away. They problem solved and figured out what needed to be added or changed to get Colby to his cheese. The joy on my friends faces when they finally got the code right was priceless. It was incredible how these little ones were able to work as a team to code and this will be used in our classroom until the very last day of the school year.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant Centers

We had such a fun second week of kindergarten! I am loving my kids and they seem to be enjoying all of the activities we have been doing together. This week, we read Elmer the Patchwork Elephant by David Mckee. I have about a 25 minute "inquiry" block in my day where we are able to do science and social studies activities. I am planning on using this time to implement Next Generation science standards. This week, we continued our "getting to know you" activities-- the theme was that we are all special! Elmer is one of my favorite books and it fits so well into this theme.

This week I had four centers that were "Elmer themed". Each group completed one center per day and by Friday everyone had done everything!

Sensory Paint Bags: I put some paint and shaving cream in a ziplock bag (the real kind-- the dollar tree kind may rip on you...) and duck taped the bag shut. The kids had a choice of using a Q-tip or their finger to practice letter formation. I made letter cards with a beginning sound picture for them to pull out of a container.  You can grab the letter cards for free HERE

Hidden Words Activity: I do the Daily Five during my literacy block. It has been my goal to sneak in word work activities during our beginning of the year inquiry centers. That way, the kids are already introduced to them when we start guided reading/ the Daily Five. For this activity, the kids wrote their names and word wall words in white crayon. Then, they colored over it in marker. You can grab this activity and a few others for free HERE

Painting Elmer: We learned how to use water color paint at this center. I printed out Elmer on cardstock and the kids got to make their very own patchwork elephants. I had them write a sentence about why they are special using the sentence frame "I can___." Grab this for free HERE

Color Mixing & Traveling Rainbow: This was the "teacher station" because I didn't want my small friends handling the food coloring solo. Before we made the rainbow, we did some color mixing. I let each child in the group choose which two colors to mix together. After, we made our rainbow! We simply put paper towels and linked them to the next cup to make the rainbow travel. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Centers

Our first full week of kindergarten is in the books and we had SO much fun. We have been launching Daily Five, began math centers/ math workshop, and read one of my favorite books... Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! We read the story during our "inquiry" science/social studies blocks. By the end of the week, my friends were able to read the story with me!

After the story each day, my class split up into their inquiry groups and went to a center. By the end of the week, they had visited all four centers (we started on Tuesday)!

My small friends had a great time with their centers and learned a lot too! In addition to practicing letter recognition and letter sounds, they also worked on their independence. We do centers pretty much all day so this is really important in my room.

Here is a look at our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom centers!

At the Play Doh alphabet center, students worked with the play doh mats to form each letter. I use play doh a lot in my room, so I wanted to get them working with it right away. They did wonderfully! When we were learning our math centers, I had taught all of my friends to roll their play doh "into a snake" first. They all did it on their own at this center! The play doh mats are awesome and they are from Lakeshore. If you don't have them, you can grab another set that is included in my Chicka Chicka resource.

Bingo Center
Here is our bingo center! I had both upper/lowercase letter cards and beginning word pictures so that my friends could do something appropriate for their level. This isn't just a great center for letter recognition and beginning sounds-- it is also great for working in a group and learning about winning and losing.

Sensory Letter Center
At the sensory letter bin center, students chose letters out of the bin and found the matching letter on their mat. I included more mats then were needed at the center in case they finished early. If they were done with ALL of them, I let them practice making each others names with the letters. I was so proud of how well they worked independently.

Art Center
I love crafts. Any way I can incorporate them into centers, I do! At this center, the kids cut apart their names and glued it to their papers. They wrote their name and counted how many letters are in it. Then we made the top of the palm tree using green paint and handprints! I had taken pictures of them earlier in the week so we glued it on. At the end, they had their very own Chicka Chicka palm tree.

Chicka Chicka BOOM Cards!

In addition to our centers, we did the some Boom Cards! Boom Cards are digital, interactive, self-checking task cards. My kids will be using Boom Cards throughout the year during math centers (math through technology center), Daily Five, and inquiry centers. I have been introducing the cards and how they work this week on the ActivBoard as a whole group. We completed these sets of cards throughout the week and it was so much fun! I can't wait for my friends to start doing them on their own. Here is a video preview of the Chicka cards:

If you are looking to do Chicka Chicka Boom Boom centers with your own class, you can hop on over to my store and check out my resource by clicking the picture below. It includes all of the activities above and more!

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Classroom Reveal

My classroom is *almost* ready for my new kindergarten friends! I say almost because for the next few days, i'm sure i'll come up with something else that needs to get done. To be honest with you, when I walked into my classroom last week for the first time since June, there really wasn't a LOT that needed to be done. We are lucky enough to be allowed to leave bulletin boards up, so I could have just organized and called it a day. But for some reason I feel like it's not really a new year if I don't change some things around in my room. So--I created way more work for myself then was ever needed, but at the end it was totally worth it and I love how it turned out.

Here is our guided reading and math table. Our crate seats got a makeover with bright pink polka dot fabric!
These crate seats are a life saver. They created so much extra storage for me! I have six crate seats at my reading table and another six as computer chairs. I store everything from folders to puzzles in them!
Our classroom library is ready to go!
My library is labeled by genre-- not level. I'm not a big believer in sorting books by level. I'd much rather my kids pick out what they're interested in reading. We start launching the Daily Five on the very first day of school, so I have preselected 3-4 books and put them in each child's book box.
This is my second guided reading/math table and the home to our yoga balls :) They are kept in place by pool noodles!
It's hard to tell from the picture... but in addition to names, children have a picture of a fruit tapes on their cubbies. I split my kids up into three groups: pineapples, watermelons, and apples. This is how we will pack up this year-- i'll call one fruit group at a time! :) They are scattered so that the kids aren't on top of one another while they pack up.
You can't tell from the picture, but the scrapbook paper is glitter!

Here is our break corner! :)
Clutter really bothers me-- behind the curtain are shelves where the construction paper and math manipulatives live. The kids will be able to access it, they'll just have to slide the curtain. :) 
Our word wall and kitchen/ play area.
When it's time to play, the kids can just slide the curtains out of the way. Everything is labeled! Woo!
A big goal of mine was creating an organized space where everything has a spot. I also wanted to minimize distractions. I have LOTS of toys in my room, but the shelves are open and it looked cluttered. I grabbed about 3 yards of polka dot fabric and a tension rod and made some curtains!

I also wanted my friends to feel like this classroom is theirs. I created a "you are loved" picture wall by hot gluing clothes pins onto small scrapbook paper. I am so excited to get pictures hung up!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Back to School with Oriental Trading

Is it really August already? Summer is flying by WAY too fast. Luckily for me, we don't officially go back to school until the first week in September so there are still plenty of beach days left. August is my "prep" month-- I try my best to get things done for my classroom here and there, that way i'm not stuck doing it all at once the week before the kiddos come in.

What's new for this year? Well, I got some pretty awesome stuff from Oriental Trading that is going to make this year even better. By the way, Oriental Trading has a new section of their website called Learn 365-- it's a one stop teacher shop and it is AWESOME! Here's what I grabbed from their store:

Magnetic Ten Frame Answer Boards: Ohhhhh when I saw them I HAD to have them. How perfect are these for math workshop!? There are so many things I can do with them-- numbers 1-20, addition, subtraction, etc. They come in a pack of four, which is the size that my math workshop groups usually are. They also include the double sided counters. I'm really excited to get going with these! I can't wait to share the different activities I am going to do with them. Grab them HERE!

All About Numbers Pocket Chart: Keeping with the math theme, I also grabbed the numbers pocket chart! We always have a "number of the day" that we discuss doing morning meeting and this chart has everything I could ever want. What a great way to teach your kids to see the same number in different ways! I will definitely be relying on this for the first half few months when we learn about the numbers 1-20! Grab it HERE!

Sensory Numbers: Learning to write the numbers 0-20 is something that we focus on throughout the year. As teachers, we know that students learn in all different ways. If we acknowledge this and give them a variety of tools to learn, they can be successful. These textured cards are perfect to help my little ones remember each number. I am planning on using these during math workshop, RTI, and may even put them out at my centers! Grab them HERE!

Sensory Letters: Well, if I was getting the numbers I HAD to get the letters too! Again, these textured letter cards are a great way for students to use their sense of touch to learn. I plan to use these cards during guided reading, RTI, and I will put them out at the word work station for addition practice. Grab them HERE!

Patchwork Owl Bulletin Board Cutouts: Each kindergarten at my school is named after a different animal. We are........ the owls! There are 4 dozen owls and I use them for LOTS of things-- my birthday wall, my classroom door, and labeling. They are so cute! Grab them HERE!

Oriental Trading truly has everything you need to make it a great school year! Head on over to Learn 365 to check it out!

Disclaimer: This post may contain sponsored content, affiliate links or review products. Regardless of this these are 100% my own opinion. 

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