Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Saving Pluto! Our Kindergarten Space Adventures!

"Poor Pluto" is a phrase I have heard quite often around my classroom the past few days! I began my outer space unit as I always do by reading a Magic School Bus book about space. When we began discussing Pluto I explained that it was no longer a planet.  My kids were not happy with this news! "That's not fair!" and "The scientists are mean!" were phrases I kept hearing as they worked during center time. When I went to observe in our art center this is what I discovered:

They used various materials from the art center to create "tools" to get Pluto into it's own orbit and become known as a planet once more!  This continued with all sorts of materials for a couple of days. The yellow and blue plastic circles are large "magnets" to help pull Pluto into line. They were having so much fun with this topic I couldn't help but to integrate some writing and math center activities into the fun. Below are some writing samples from this past week.

"Pluto is sad because he is not a planet. Pluto is my friend." and "I will build a big magnet. I will go up to space and I will build a rocket."

We also worked on an outer space shared writing activity. The boxes help define the beginning, middle and end of the story.

As we made up the story together the kids would tell me how to spell the popcorn words. The words with * are how the kids spelled them with their "kindergarten spelling."

Here is a writing sample from one of the kiddos. My kids love "stickies" and we use them often with our writing. Her stickie artwork can be found at the top of this post, but I wanted to share her story. It is so cute! "Hi, I am a astronaut. I went into space. I want to go to the moon and I want to go to Saturn. Good bye!"

I have so many samples from this week it has been hard to choose! I love seeing their creativity when they get excited about a topic! Finally, I wanted to share a few photos of activities from our literacy and math centers. We will soon be ending our outer space unit. I can't wait to see what will spark their interest next!

                                                                                                         Thanks for stopping by!

In our word center the "must do" assignment was to make a sentence out of an assortment of space words. I love how the student in the top two examples filled in words on her own! We've been working on "make sure your sentence makes sense" during our writing workshop time.
Another addition activity in the math center! I did fill in the sum of 5 on each paper and asked them to create their own story addition problem. "Three creatures are on the planet. Two creatures are flying."
This is our awesome model of the solar system that I inherited from a retired Kindergarten teacher! What a good deal! The kids just love it. In our science center this week they read books that focused on each planet, worked with the model and wrote about their favorite planet.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reading Inventory and Common Core

Happy Dr.Seuss Week! The elves Zippy and Charlie from our hall are having fun with The Cat in the Hat!

Common Core is no longer a "scary" phrase around our grade level at my building. Just like many of you we have spent hours aligning our curriculum. Since we adopted a new reading series this year it was a perfect chance for us to really examine our different reading inventories and strategies.  My buddy teacher Mrs. Burton took her existing reading inventories and revised them into  these emergent and beginning level inventories which are aligned to the common core.

There is also a copy of the parent friendly breakdown of the common core on her class website  This breakdown also includes the math standards. Speaking of math I had so much fun with one of our math center activities today! Since addition facts are such a big focus I'm trying to find fun ways to bring more of this into my classroom. Today we read The Tortoise and the Hare.  I then put out my floor number line and our classroom "tortoise and hare." The kids took turns  rolling dice for their favorite to race down the number line. They used marker boards to write the equation for each roll. (If the hare was on 2 and you rolled 3 it would be 2 +3=5) They had a great time with this today and I'm sure it will be one of the popular center choices for a while! Thanks for visiting my blog today and hopefully you found something that you found helpful!
Well here they are...the tortoise and the hare! Chester the raccoon was cheering on the tortoise who unfortunately didn't win.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Word Wall Evolution

Well I can honestly say that my personal style of implementing a USEFUL word wall has really changed over the years! When I first began teaching I would have my class help make a list of words for whatever letter of the alphabet we were working on. These were written on large sheets of chart paper and strung across the wall on a clothesline hanging from the ceiling. It seemed like just about any Kindergarten or first grade room I went into had something similar to this.  I rarely found the kids referring to these charts when working on their own writing and honestly they were a pain to hang up! So it was on to phase two...thematic word charts. These charts would again be class generated and include words and illustrations pertaining to whatever theme we were working on. I would hang them in various spots around the room, but usually around our writing center. I did encourage the kids to use the words in their writing. For the most part they did while we were working on that theme but once we moved on to something else they forgot about using the previous chart as any sort of reference. After a few weeks the older charts would be taken down and replaced with new ones.
  Phase three introduced popcorn words!
New words being introduced stay on my large group easel until the kids are familiar with them and then they move to the popcorn wall.
 I jumped on the traditional sight word wall wagon and attempted to have a designated spot in the room to display our sight words. At first this was just a list of our words and eventually I moved on to sorting them alphabetically.  During this phase of mainly using a sight word wall I missed my focus on thematic words. I felt as if my kids were not as creative in their writing. Something was missing and  I figured there had to be an organized way of implementing both without being too visually overwhelming.  Onto phase four which is what I am currently using in my room. My seasonal/thematic word wall in addition to a traditional sight word wall.  My sight word wall is in a spot that can easily be seen from our large group area and our writing and reading centers. Our thematic word wall takes up the top section of one entire wall in my room.

 I begin in the Fall with our thematic charts and as the year continues I just add the new charts but LEAVE up the old ones.  I'm always encouraging the kids to use these charts to help them with their writing.

I've just added the February and Dinosaur words to our wall. There is still 1/3 of the wall left for our remaing topics this year.  It is amazing how often the kids use words from various charts to help them with their writing about other topics. The other day I had a student writing about a skeleton (from our dino words) and the skeleton was wearing winter clothing that the student found on one of our charts made in January. I love to see their creativity flourish as a result of using the wall as a reference in their writing!  We've just begun our outer space word chart complete with pictures of space items that the kids illustrated themselves. Can't wait to share with you! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting into the swing of things...well at least I'm trying my best!

Ugh! I've enjoyed two snow days off last week, Presidents' Day and then received a "bonus" day off with my youngest who had strep throat. I just couldn't get back into the swing of things today! Luckily I have an AMAZING class who sailed through yesterday with no problems despite a tornado drill (that the sub thought was an earthquake drill and had everyone under the tables) and a second grade visitor that stayed with the class half the day. Gotta love a class like this!  Well as we try to get back into somewhat of a normal routine I wanted to share a few of our big book/chart center snapshots.  This is one of my favorite centers in our room. The activities tend to be changing often depending on the needs of my class. I always have one "must do" activity and then the kids are free to choose from the other options in the center. Usually they choose to partner read with big books, write daily news for the class and butter popcorn words they can find in our thematic charts. They use a yellow marker for the buttering.  I forgot to mention that we call our sight words popcorn words. I've tried heart words as well, but I tend to like the popcorn theme. This week the kids can pick their favorite big book and record on their popcorn sheet any of our newest popcorn words they can find in the book. Simple activity, but they love it! Hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week!

Yes, I know this looks like clouds! It is supposed to be popcorn and my kiddos didn't even mention that it looks more like clouds. Aren't they sweet?

Our big book center. The kids use clip boards when they have a recording sheet "must do."

I LOVE themed pointers for the students to use with partner reading and big books! My lovely cupcake big book pointer is  from Target.  One of my favorite Kindergarten teachers down the hall got one for all of her Kindergarten teacher friends. We do love our cupcakes in our hall! My snow theme pointers pictured at the top of this post are about to get put away and we will be making some rocket pointers to go with our space theme. These snow flake pointers are stir sticks also from the dollar section at Target! Love dollar sections don't you?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Science Lab in Kindergarten...well sorta!

I love just watching my kiddos during center time some days! It's so amazing what they can come up with on their own when left with the right materials and some suggestions. Last week I read a book about rocks to the class prior to center time. I told them I was putting out my rock collection in the science center for them to look at. These are just rocks kids have collected at recess and have given to me over the years. Well for my class this year it was like a treasure! They set up their own "lab" for observing the rocks. Besides observing with magnifying glasses they also used our mirror collection to create reflections from the window to bounce off of the rocks.  Without prompting they even made their own recording sheets for their observations.  As Kindergarten teachers we are so focused on reading, testing, math skills and  now Common Core that we sometimes just need to sit back and watch these amazing kids we are so fortunate to work with. It was a very welcome break for me before I began yet another round of reading conferences!  Of course I didn't have my camera on the day they set up their lab but I'm posting a few pics of our science center materials and also some fun things from our house and math centers this week.  Thanks for stopping by!

Our Science Center

My class loves playing teacher in the math center! This week they actually got out counters and marker boards on their own and wrote equations. The "teacher" in each group would check the "student's" equations. I loved  watching was hilarious!
I'm always looking for ways to add literacy elements to my traditional centers. The ABC cookies have been a hit this year.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Visitor From the North

 This past Christmas our class had their own Elf on the Shelf named Zippy. They loved looking for Zippy each day and looked forward to his notes and treats. I have to admit that their behavior was wonderful when they thought Zippy would be watching.  Well lately our behavior has been a bit...well...naughty! So, it was time for Zippy to pop in for a visit! He has to keep his reports current for Santa you know.  The kiddos were so excited to see him at their Valentine party! Zippy even hung around in the classroom for an extra day. I think the kinders wore him out though because when we came back from P.E. he was taking a nap on his shelf.  The class was VERY quiet during his "nap time" and wrote a few stories about him that I'm sharing with you.  Enjoy!
"I think Zippy is getting a sun burn because the lights are on."
"I like you Zippy. You are my friend. Are you going to be watching the party?"

"I like you Zippy. You are my friend and you are in the North." This was written after we discussed how tired Zippy was. He usually is on vacation at the North Pole this time of the year!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Snow Days!!

Oh boy it was tough getting back into the swing of things after a weekend off and two snow days. I'm not sure if it was harder on the kiddos or myself! However, we made it and after our Valentine party tomorrow, yes tomorrow, we should be able to get back to our "normal" routine. Oh wait, we have President's Day off next week! Well normal may have to wait for a few days. In the meantime here are some pics of what we have been up to in our writing center.

 I love a good "theme" in a Kindergarten classroom! Now that the "holidaze" are over and we've covered just about any snow and winter activity out there, it is time to move on to something new. DINOSAURS it is!!  Hope you find something that interests you. I know we are having fun!

I LOVE thematic "stickies" that you can get from craft stores. I put the dino stickies in the writing center and let the kids create their own stories based on their stickie pictures.
A writing sample from one of the books pictured above. The top sample is "Dinosaurs all around."

The Writing Center

My students are using word rings this year. Each child has spiral note cards where they can write their own thematic words. During our writing workshop time they often use the rings to look up words they know they've written before. Although this student used his "kindergarten spelling" they are also able to copy words from our thematic word charts. 

Dinosaurs in the block area...a must have for a dino unit! Tomorrow the kids will begin writing stories to go with the structures they create in this center. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Welcome to my room!

How first blog post! I like many others out there are addicted to classroom blogs! I am amazed with all of the creativity and felt I could share a few of my ideas from my own here I go. I will be the first to admit  that I'm not always the most techno savvy! I guess I'll learn as I go so please be patient.  First let me fill you in on my personal teaching experience. I have been teaching for 19 years and 18 of those have been in Kindergarten.  I have seen so many changes in curriculum and instruction during this time. It's mind boggling! However, I am so fortunate to work with eight other fantastic Kindergarten teachers. Yep, that's right, there are nine of us at our building!  I learn so much from them each day and I hope I can share some of their awesome ideas (along with a few of my own of course) with you on this blog.  Thanks for stopping by!
                                                                                                         Mrs. M.

Here's a few snapshots of my room and a few center activities for the upcoming week. It's supposed to snow here so some of these may have to be postponed while we enjoy a snow day! Have a great weekend!

Our reading center...AKA "The Stage" and our book box area. The white tubs store leveled readers that the kids can "shop" for to put in their book boxes.

After making this chart with the kiddos I put it in the ABC center and they first sort letter magnets into the different catagories. After this they write each of the lowercase letters onto the recording sheet. Also in this center I have our latest stamping activity. I love to use The Short Books to help the kids learn their popcorn words!

I've collected so many alphabet stamps with different fonts over the years. This little organizer from the hardware department has been a lifesaver in keeping them organized!

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