Tuesday, October 21, 2014

S-l-o-w-i-n-g Down...

EVERY year I keep telling myself that I'm going to take it slow with my new Kindergartners. We are not going to rush into ANYTHING.  Not rushing to start amazing inquiries right off the bat. Not rushing to have all of our Daily 5 routines in place by the second week of school.  Not rushing with learning how to read by November....you get my point.

However more often than not I rush. Not only do I rush but... I rush the kids.  Even though we know better as teachers we are in such a hurry to get our routines in place and dive into those activities that may require a bit more training and patience on our part. 

But this year I finally did it. I guess with it being my 22nd year of teaching and all I finally listened to myself! We took it S-L-O-W.  Very slow....

In general our regular class routines and procedures were introduced over the first two weeks.  Then we spent a significant amount of time revisiting them. In the past it was during this time frame that I felt the urge to rush on. I've always worried the kids would get bored if we didn't move on quickly to busier activities. 

It just flowed this year and we are definitely not bored.   Once the initial routines were in place I began with our Daily 5 "I" charts.  Each one was introduced and practiced over the course of several weeks.  I fought the urge to work with small groups or hold individual conferences during this time.  I was there to facilitate in helping them build stamina and to become comfortable with the routine. 

Eventually I did begin working with small groups but only briefly.  I wanted to be available to reinforce the behaviors we were working on.  As the weeks wore on I was finally able to work with my groups for longer time periods. It's amazing....the room is running like a well oiled machine as I work with my little group. 

Today I was brave and worked with students on individual reading and writing conferences during our daily 5 time. Again...success!! The room ran on it's own and I held several conferences without interruptions or the room being loud. For only being October I was thrilled.  In the past I may have attempted this earlier but it would not have been as successful.
The next step for me is to really begin kid watching and having discussions with the students as they are working in their centers. I am looking for that first inquiry to develop...again I'm fighting the urge not to rush this!

Today I'm sharing a few shots of some of the fun we have been having in class this Fall.  We recently visited a pumpkin patch and have lots of gourds and pumpkins to observe.  The vocabulary and literacy skills are really beginning to emerge as we talk about and observe our loot!

 We've also become BAT crazy in our room! I'm not sure where this possible inquiry is headed but so far the children have been investigating bat books, working with bat math manipulatives, creating bats in the art center and even creating bat caves in the block center!

Thank you for reading The Daily Cupcake! I hope we can share more from our room with you soon!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Giving Birth

A wise former Kindergarten teacher recently said "You know....teaching Kindergarten during the first six weeks of school is like giving birth. If you really remembered at the end of each year how difficult (sometimes painful) those first weeks are you would never do it again." Luckily those of us that truly love teaching Kindergarten have selective memories and we tend to push aside those challenging memories and focus on the magic that begins to happen after the first six weeks.  If you are a Kindergarten teacher you know E-X-A-C-T-L-Y what I am talking about. 

Today was the beginning of my selective amnesia for this year.  

I was finally able to take a breath, stand back and really see the beauty and wonder of what has been happening in my classroom during these early days.  

We HAVE accomplished so much in such a short time span that it almost seems painless now (almost!)

Below is a sampling of how our classroom and activities have evolved so far this year.  I look forward to sharing more as the year progresses but for now I'm enjoying a little peace after a day that went very smoothly in our classroom. 

One of our inquiry/science centers.  So far this year we have observed shells, rocks and last year's bird nests.   Today apples and gourds were added. 

Some very basic math tubs to get us moving on counting, sorting and number recognition.  

The smarties in our room are beginning to shine!  We are buttering popcorn words and are sequencing sentence strips!

My favorite area of our room....our art area.  It's almost always quiet and tranquil in this area as the kids begin to explore the materials.  

Above you can see some apple paintings that a few have started.  Below are some of our apple orchard representations they have been constructing.  

We have a morning center time and an afternoon center time.  I do allow block structures to stay up during the day (after morning centers) for children to add to and re-configure.  

Thank you for reading! I've enjoyed reading the many back to school blogs, classroom reveals and early literacy / math center posts by my favorite bloggers! I hope to be contributing a little more regularly to the blogging world and sharing the amazing things that happen in our room....now that I've seem to have remembered how to blog and have forgotten those beginning of Kindergarten challenges! =)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Our Bird Nest Discoveries

An interest in "birds" has been common among many of my students this entire school year.  It started  last fall when a student brought in a petrified hummingbird, lovingly named "Anna", in for us to observe.  At that time I really thought it would turn into a large inquiry but the children's interest veered off in another direction.  They did however continue to paint birds from time to time and add them to a decorative tree in our room.
Our same friend who shared Anna the Hummingbird with us recently brought in a new bird's nest for us to observe.  The children began making little eggs to place in this nest and one that we already had in our science center. 
You can imagine their excitement when our wonderful custodian, Ms. Melissa, brought in an abandoned Robin's nest for us to observe!
We quickly got to work with recording our observations and wonderings!
The word list/anchor chart has been particularly helpful in assisting the children with their independent writing about the eggs and nest.  We created the chart together during a class meeting.
During our class discussions it became clear that the children understood why mama bird left the nest.  It was in a garden and they decided there was too much noise with the tractors and gardening going on.  What they were disappointed about was the fact that our eggs would not hatch. =(  They were hoping for some baby Robins to care for I think.  As a substitute we watched videos together of baby Robins hatching and also one of a mama Robin building her nest. 
We have a lot of other exciting things going on in our room right now but I am curious to see if their interest in the Robin's nest will continue.  I know some have expressed a desire to have Anna the Hummingbird come back for another visit!

In the meantime we will continue to observe and move on to the next big item of interest!  So much to do in so little time.....only 25 school days left!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Beginning of an inquiry.....The Puffer Fish

My oldest son also happens to be one of our high school helpers in our kindergarten classroom first thing in the mornings.  Recently we read a book about Puffer Fish while my son was working with some of my students. I told the kids that he had a Puffer Fish (mummified) that he got on vacation one year and maybe he could bring it in. Total excitement!

Then.....my son forgot to bring it in the next day.

Of course this was my fault. If you have teenagers you know what I mean.

However, he did remember today and once again total excitement from 22 Kindergartners!

Today I wanted to let them have opportunities to observe the Puffer Fish and develop questions about this creature.  They also LOVED watching videos of real Puffer Fish puff up as they were writing about our model. 

Stay tuned for updates on their observations and wonderings.  I can't wait to see where they go with this topic!

Monday, April 7, 2014

An Inquiry of Beavers

Well lets just say that my little darlings have been busy little beavers this past month! I have enjoyed watching this class really develop deep interest in special topics/projects this year.   Their interests start off slowly and usually with just a few of the kids. But as the inquiries become more complex I'm finding more and more of our classmates want to participate in the fun! 

So early in the year this class became VERY interested in maps and that led to an inquiry about the St. Louis ARCH.  It was a fun inquiry and one that many could relate to since the Arch is not too far away and many of my students have had the chance to visit it.  As the excitement about the Arch died down we moved on to the regular day to day activities in our literacy and math centers.  Smaller inquiries started to form. Some were about dinosaurs and a small study about the moon and space.  However, I did not expect BEAVERS of all things to be our next topic of interest. 

I am not a fan of rodents.

At all.

So when it was apparent that we may be studying Beavers I myself was not too excited. However, this interest all began with yet another ARCH structure being built in our block area.  Even though that project ended around Christmas my kiddos still enjoy building the Arch.  On one particular day the Arch structure turned into something else.
I asked the group to describe this structure to me and they did so by writing about it.
"We are holing the water (back) on the structure."  So they built a dam.  This was one of those block structures that they entire class became excited about....even if they didn't participate in the building of it. You know we've all had those structures in our classrooms! So the next morning I tried to build upon this during our morning message. 
I really thought the project would take off as a study of "dams."  This class not only has shown an interest in the Arch this year, but the Eiffel Tower and all sorts of bridges.  So I thought a study of "dams" would be logical. I wasn't sure if they would become interested in man made dams or beaver dams so we began to read and discuss both. 
As the discussions began in was clear that their interest was leaning more to learning about Beavers...so a  Beaver Inquiry began!  Below are some of the writing, building and art projects that occurred over the course of about a month.  Although I'm still not a "rodent" fan I do have to say I have a new appreciation for beavers!
One of the beaver facts the kids clued in to was that beavers build a dam and then build their lodge which they get to by underwater tunnels.  Below you can see their representations of this.

Who knew there were so many books written about beavers! Below you can see some of their favorite beaver facts.

"I like beavers because they have fur and their fur is soft. "

"Beavers can make dams for them.  Beavers live in the pond. They slap their tails (when their is danger.) Beavers have caves."
Noodle collages was another fun way the kids could show their representations of beaver dams and lodges!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A License to Read!

Do you remember when you got your very first driver's license?  Many of us do and remember it very fondly! =) 

Well the kiddos down the hall from our class in Mrs. D's room get to earn their license a little early....just it's not a drivers license but a READING LICENSE! 

Mrs. D has been using this tool for some time now to help her students choose good fit books for their familiar book baskets.  Everyone in her room is issued a Beginner's License with a black dot on it. 
The black dot (under their age) corresponds with the first of her leveled tubs in her class library.

Above you can see her orange tubs which have the black dots on them. Students start by choosing books from the first tub and progress onto tub three. 
Once they feel that the black dot books in tub three are too easy they can schedule a conference with Mrs. D.  Together they will decide if they are ready to move onto the next level of books.
After they move onto the next color/level they are issued an upgraded license!! Whoo-hoo!!   Mrs. D puts a new color sticker on their license and they can begin to choose books from the next level.  They get so excited when they are able to upgrade!!
What a fun way to encourage reading to self or reading to others! =)

Friday, January 31, 2014


We have all had those students that really touch our hearts in one way or another while they spend their days with us in our classrooms.  Last year I had an amazingly close knit group. They really and truly cared about one another.  Something that is sometimes hard to achieve in a classroom but this group did it effortlessly. I could go on and on about how wonderful this group was. I am so glad to have been connected with these little guys even if it was for just a short time in Kindergarten.

And so the story of a friendship formed in Kindergarten continues now into first grade for two of my boys. It is amazing to see how their bond was strengthened due to very sad and unfortunate challenge presented to one of the boys. Their friendship has now received national and even international attention!  You can  see their story here that was featured on the Today Show and NBC Nightly News.

If you would like more information on Zac's story or to donate to his fund you can check out his page here

Their story is truly inspiring....  =)

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