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! 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 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....  =)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Lights at the Light Table

Just before our Christmas break began I was looking for something new at the light table to keep my kids engaged.  I put out our "Christmas Lights" book and the interest in creating their own light designs really took off at our light table and overhead center.  As an added bonus literacy was integrated through the Christmas Lights book and several also wrote about their representations! =) 

Take a peek at what they came up with............

The "before" picture of the overhead center which is right next to our light table.
This pair created a North Pole scene.  The bears are the elves!
They were very excited to see the image on our ceiling!
They collaborated together to write sentences describing their scene.
At the light table another pair began their own Christmas Lights design.

"The lights are flashing." 
This student picked a particular image she wanted to re-create.
I love her written description of her design! "The purple triangles and the reindeer and the red circles are his nose and the bottles are the people. "
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Friday, November 22, 2013

What We Are Interested In Now....the St. Louis Arch

Whoo-hoo! We have our first big project going on! I'd been waiting to find something the children were very interested in on their own.  I tend to do a lot of thematic teaching but prefer it when the children begin to show interest in something that we can begin to investigate together! 

Sooo....this one started with a map.  Several were very interested in drawing their own pictures of Texas and Alaska.  At some point someone found St. Louis and said they just saw the Arch that weekend. 

We live in a small town about 45 minutes away from St. Louis so the Arch is reasonably close enough for many of my kids to have seen before.  Once the discussions of the Arch began we started investigating books about the monument. 

When I began some discussions with the kids about their drawings/writing about the Arch I discovered that many did not know it was in St. Louis. A few told me Chicago and even more thought it was in our hometown!  So we created an Arch word list to help us with our writing and began reading about what other things there are to see in St. Louis. 

My kids really love this picture of the last piece of the Arch being placed. They have studied it over and over again as they try to create their own block structures of the Arch.

One of my students was very excited to share a picture of her Great Grandpa who had helped to build the Arch!!  She was quite famous herself on the day she brought this in!  =)

Some of our Arch sculptures

A mural a small group created

A plan for an Arch block structure

The finished project!
The interest in the Arch has been going strong for about two weeks now. I plan on bringing in some models of the Eiffel tower to see where they go with that.  I'm hoping Mr. M would consider sending me on  a field trip to Paris so I can bring home some actual photos of it for the kids to observe.  One can only dream.......

Friday, November 15, 2013

Self Help Yellow Pages

Ah.....late fall and upcoming winter. Outdoor play time during this time of the year can be very challenging for any early childhood teacher! The coats, zippers, buttons and the shoes that still aren't tied.  Ugh!

However, my teacher buddy down the hall has a very cute solution for this. I've blogged in the past about this but I thought it might be helpful to re-visit this little gem. 

Once the weather changes (and the constant demand for Mrs. B's help at the beginning of recess)  she pulls out an old copy of an actual Yellow Pages and discusses how they are used as a reference to find an expert to help you with something. 
Mrs. B uses the example if her tooth hurts she would go to the dentist page and look up a number of a dentist to call. My class recently turned our dramatic play area into a pizza parlor so we spent some time looking at the adds for pizza.  You know...just in case we needed to call an expert on how to make a good pizza. =)  My kiddos are always thinking! 
So once the concept of the Yellow Pages is introduced ( you could also show similar examples from online resources)  she creates a page for whatever self help skill the children are needing help with. 

There is a picture and a title for each page and once a child is an "expert" at a skill they can sign their name on that page.  If someone in the room is having issues with a skill (zipping up their jacket for example) they are to go to the yellow pages and look up an expert to help them with it! 
What a teacher sanity saver!  =)
Mrs. B's yellow pages is not limited to recess self help needs.  She also has pages for kids who are experts on the computer, the listening center cd player and other various classroom needs.  This allows her to continue working with students during centers and not have to fix a CD or computer issue. 
I'm always on the lookout for ways to make our day go smoother in our classroom! Please share if you have any other ideas you feel would be a great addition to our yellow pages! =)
                                                                                                                           Mrs. M

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