Sunday, August 12, 2012

Getting Ready for Fall

With the start of kindergarten just around the corner, I'm diving back into planning full-force.  Tonight, I had a little fun making these cool name tags.  

They are made out of a branch from the Apple Tree in my yard.  I love these because:
- They come right from nature and are extremely durable; and
- They are super easy to make.  All that's needed is some ribbon, a branch and someone to saw the branch into pieces and drill a hole.  In my case, that was my husband.  The names are written with a sharpie.

I used brown ribbons for the boys (brown/boys = same beginning consonant) and green ribbons for the girls (green/girls = same beginning consonant).  Also the brown represents the bark of the tree and the green the leaves.  

How will we use these?  At first for name identification and recognition activities.  Year long they will be used when we have specials and the kids need name tags.  I'm sure we'll find other reasons along the way too.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Egg Hatching: Day 1

For the past two weeks, we've been learning a lot about chickens and eggs, and oviparous and viviparous animals in preparation for our egg hatching project.  On Friday, our egg hatching project started.  We placed 30 sex-linked eggs into our classroom incubator.  Each child got to place several eggs into the incubator, which was very exciting for all of them.

After placing the eggs in the incubator, talked about how long the eggs would be in the incubator and calculated the chicks anticipated birthday date on our calendar.  We also counted out 21 unifix cubes to signify, visually and mathematically, the number of days until hatching.  Each day we will add to our calendar and add a unifix cube to a twin unifix tower to watch our countdown progress.  We also made predictions about how many eggs we thought would hatch, how many hens and how many roosters we'd have.  The neat thing about sex-linked chickens is that you can tell the gender at hatching.  Roosters will have a yellow spot on the top of their heads.

Our incubator has an egg turner, which slowly turns each egg to make sure the embryos don't get stuck in one location and stop growing.

I'm looking forward to the hatch date.  Until then, we will be monitoring the temperature and humidity in the incubator, weighing the eggs to see if there is any change in weight, candling the eggs to check for growth...and crossing our fingers that the process works and we end up with some little chicks.

Leading up to our first day with the hatching eggs, we read the books "Chickens Aren't the Only Ones" and "Animals Born Alive and Well."  Both are written by Ruth Heller and introduce children to oviparous animals (those that hatch) and viviparous animals (those born alive and well, i.e.: mammals).  We completed a sorting activity that I found on the My Montessori Journey blog.  We also had an oviparous animal egg hunt.  Each egg was filled with a picture of an oviparous animal.  The children collected the eggs and then recorded which oviparous animals they found.

Bulletin board with our oviparous/viviparous animal sort.

Working on our oviparous animal egg hunt.

KinderStore: Finishing Up Our Money Unit

We finished up our money unit with a math store in the classroom.  Each child was given 30 cents for shopping (1 dime, 2 nickels and 10 pennies).  They were allowed to select any item they wanted, as long as they could provide the correct change, or tell me what they needed back.

I worked one-on-one with each child as they made purchases.  This allowed me to assess what they had learned during the unit.  The other children worked in learning centers.  To manage the order of when each child came to the store, I had them pick numbers from a bowl.  I then gave them a small sticker with their number to put on their shirt.  This ensured that they didn't lose their number.  It worked well and everyone knew when they'd have a turn to go shopping.

Here's our KinderStore.  This is actually a puppet theatre that wasn't being used.  It was perfect for the store.

I purchased a number of items from Dollar Tree for this project.  Each item was assigned a price.

It was interesting to watch the strategies each child used at the store.  Here, the child counts out and "purchases" each item before moving to the next desired item.

This child placed all his coins on the price tags, checked to make sure he had it right and then said this is what I'd like to buy.

Here's another example of a child that used the price tags as a guide for their purchases.

The plastic snakes were a big hit.  One child bought 4 of them. ;)

Here the child holds up the item and the money to confirm that they have the correct amount.

Decisions, decisions!  It was hard to choose which eraser to purchase.

The store proved to be a great activity for the entire class.  Each child was fully engaged and applied the skills they had learned during the unit.  The store will remain "open" in the coming weeks.  I have placed some classroom manipulatives for purchase, along with play coins inside the store. Keeping the area open will give them more practice handing money and integrating what they learned through play schemes they develop.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Kindergarten Interest Areas

Each day I work with children in small groups during our language arts block.  During this time, the other children are engaged in activities that I've set-up in various interest areas in our classroom.  I'm calling them interest areas because they are flexible and ever-changing in terms of purpose.  For example, one day children may be engaged in an art project at an interest area, while the next day the activity is more math focused in the same area.  I do have a "math" center and a "writing" center, but I'm liking the greater flexibility I have with interest areas.

Here are some examples of the activities that have been putting out at each interest area over the past several weeks.

Spring Flowers 
Using bingo dabbers and circle stickers the children created flowers and other pictures.  I found this idea on Pinterest.

I've wanted to introduce weaving into a classroom for quite some time and just never really got around to it.  NAEYC's latest issue of Teaching Young Children has an article on weaving and it gave me the inspiration I needed.  I found these simple looms and loops at Jo-Ann fabrics.  I remember making pot holders this way as a child.  My biggest brainstorm was using an old baby-gate I had in my house as a frame for weaving.  Plus, the former kindergarten teacher left a huge supply of old neckties.  I had no idea what I was going to do with them all and then I realized they would be absolutely perfect for weaving through the baby gate.  Now, I have a weaving area in the classroom.  

Word Puzzles at the "Writing" Center

Eggs in a Basket

Lakeshore sells a game called "Strawberries in a Basket Counting Game" for $24.95.  I love the idea of the game, but didn't want to spend the $ for such an easy to reproduce game.  Since we are talking about oviparous animals in class and hatching our own chickens, I decided to make my own "Eggs in a Basket" game.  This cost me $6 at the dollar store ($1 for two large green dice, $2 for 2 sets of blue baskets, $3 for bags of colorful eggs).  These supplies are very flexible and I've been using them for other activities too, making the $6 investment quite worthwhile.  The game itself is easy.  Roll the green dice and then put that many eggs in your basket.  The person with the most eggs wins. 

Marble Mazes

Another idea off of Pinterest.  I made these marble mazes with a top and bottom from a sturdy candy box, colored straws and hot glue.  Easy peasey!  The kids are having a great time with these.  I might have them try making there own marble mazes because they've been asking a lot of questions about how I made these ones.

Discovery Area

I created this discovery area in the center of the room.  My initial plan was to have it focused on science explorations, similar to what is pictured here.  However, I've ended up using the area for a wide range of activities.  I like that 4 children can comfortably sit or stand around the tables and have ample room to work. 

Cleaning Money

On this day, the children cleaned pennies using salt, vinegar and cotton swabs.  Each child had their own workstation for cleaning.

New Classroom: New Environment

I took a blogging hiatus when I found out that I'd be moving to teaching kindergarten at our of sister school because of the sudden departure of the teacher.  Over the past several weeks, I've had to ramp up on the kindergarten class, families and curriculum, while handing over management and Pre-K classroom responsibilities to my peers.  Needless to say, it's been a pretty busy time, leaving no time (or inspiration) for blogging.  I've been in the kindergarten class now for two full weeks and things are starting to settle down again.  

Before starting in the kindergarten classroom, I moved over a lot of the materials I've accumulated and reorganized the classroom to meet my teaching style.  Below are the before and after photos.  

Kindergarten Before

Kindergarten After

The significant changes I made to the classroom included:
(1) Moving the large block shelf in the middle of the room for a more spacious, open feel; 
(2) Creating several interest areas, which I can change according to the needs of the week/day; 
(3) Rotating the semi-circle tables so I can face the classroom during small group instruction times; 
(4) Removing some of the extraneous items from the room (like the Dora kitchen set); and
(5) Moving the sensory table from the classroom entrance to a nook. 

I left the wall postings, but I plan to slowly change these over.  There is a lot going on in the whole group area on the wall.  I'd like to create a more subdued space that directs the eye to what is most important in that area. 

It was a lot of work, but I'm happy with the outcome and the class has responded well to the changes in the room. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Our First Ramp Challenge

The children are still extremely engaged with ramp building.  This past week, I decided to add a little more complexity to their building through a challenge.  On Monday, I gave them a bucket and told them their challenge was to roll a ball or marble down a ramp that dropped into the bucket at the end.  They all acknowledged the challenge, but we didn't have anyone give it a try on Monday.  On Tuesday, I reiterated the challenge and a bit of a discussion ensued about how it might work.  One of the children directed me on what to do, and not satisfied with my efforts came forward to demonstrate how I should be doing it!  Love it!!  After that, the challenge was underway and we had a number of good examples to show-off.

Here's the first ramp that met the challenge!

The next two pictures show how the children adapted their thinking and made a mental connection that met the challenge.  They first called me over to show me their ramp with the bucket.  I commented how they had incorporated the bucket into the design of the overall structure and asked them if they had tested it out to see if the ball would land in the bucket.  They did a test run and saw that it wouldn't work as designed.  They quickly re-vamped the design and came up with a working solution (which you can see second in the series of pictures).

The next two pictures also show the trial and error process at work.  If you notice, this child has the right idea, but the initial construction has the ramp on it's side and the incline going in the opposite direction of where he is placing the bucket.  After some testing and reflection, the child created a ramp that works and has drawn the interest of some of his peers.  

Watching these connections being built right in front of me is amazing.  It shows the hard work that children do through their play and exploration.  I can't wait to see what develops this week with the ramps. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chasing Rainbows

To cap off our weather-themed explorations, we focused on rainbows this week.  Even as an adult, I find rainbows captivating and magical since you never know exactly when and where one will appear.  Even with all the right ingredients in place, rainbows can still be elusive.  No matter, the Pre-K class got to see lots of rainbows this week right inside our classroom.

We dove into rainbows right off with two stories - one fiction, one non-fiction - to gain some background knowledge.  We learned that the spectrum of colors is always the same because the colors blend to create new colors.  That's why orange is surrounded by red and yellow; and green is surrounded by yellow and green.

The fun started when we actually caught a rainbow in a bowl.  Colors mixed and created a rainbow right in front of the children's eyes.  It's a visually appealing experiment that lent itself well to color mixing discussions and documenting our observations.  This idea was highlighted on the Chasing Cheerios blog. You can find the specific instructions and documentation sheets on the Kid Zone website.

We did this activity in groups of 5 to accomodate each child and make sure they had a bird's eye view on the action.  I enjoyed watching the different designs that emerged each time we did it.  This is definitely an activity that could be repeated because the visual results are different each time.  Here are some pictures of our "captured" rainbows and the children documenting their observations.

After they completed their observations, I transcribed their answers to the question "What did I see?."  I love hearing their explanations.  It shows the critical thinking skills they are building as they observe and ponder what it all means to them.

We viewed rainbows all over our classroom through two prisms.  The children enjoyed seeing where the rainbows would appear when they held it up to the light in the classroom.  They also got to see rainbows dance across the room as sunlight streamed through the prisms in the afternoon.  That was a very exciting moment indeed.

Finally, we also saw rainbows created by our "Rainbow in Your Room" machine.  This is a really neat device that projects a rainbow onto a wall.  It works best in a dark room, but the rainbow is still visible in a lit classroom.  Here's a link to the product on the on the Amazon site.

Finally, we flexed our creative muscles by painting our own rainbows.  The children were given rainbow colors and allowed to create a rainbow from their own imagination.  Here are some of the little artists hard at work on their masterpieces.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our rainbow focus as much as we enjoyed our rainbow-filled time in the classroom.  I love how a science topic like rainbows can be woven into a variety of content areas to create a comprehensive set of memorable lessons for the children.