Wednesday, March 27, 2013

X Marks the Spot! Teacher Wil

 X marks the spot
With a dot, dot, dot  
With a dash, dash, dash 
And a question mark.
With a ripple up
And a ripple down,
With a crack of an egg
And a warm summer breeze.
This simple poem, shared with us at a KG workshop by Judy Ellis last year, is a great example of how we can bring oral language into the classroom. 
"Early readers must hear abundant spoken language.  They must playfully interact with language through rhyming and other word play before they are ready to decode sounds and sound sequences.  Adequate oral language experience is a prerequisite to, and highly predictive of, reading success" (Marylin Pitcairn, 2006)
We first introduced the poem to the children by showing them the poem in a pocket chart. Each child was invited to find a word that they could read.  This gave each child an opportunity to try reading new words in a low risk setting. With time, more words are recognized and children gain confidence in trying to decode words they may not yet know.
We then taught them the physical movements that go along with the poem. Each child took wrote the "code" on their friend's back. They were delighted with being able to write the code on their classmates as well as feeling it when they were the recipients! 

A few weeks later, after a disappointing attempt to catch leprechauns in traps, the children found the following message on the board:

The children quickly made the connection between the letter X on the board and the poem we had been reciting for the past few weeks.  They found a big envelope in the classroom with an X on it and the fun began.  The envelope contained a map of the Rec Center (map reading skills!) and a clue.

We found Stephanie upstairs (she had trouble counting, but we helped her determine that indeed that envelope had three dots!). 

The kids knew that dash, dash, dash was the next clue ... off to the gym!

The next clue took us to the library (where all questions can be answered). Christine had found an envelope with a large ?   

The ripple up and the ripple down were tricky to find (up the ramp and down the stairs).

They led us to the bird cage in Room 15 (where else could eggs be found?) and out to the courtyard for the "warm" summer breeze!

Each group took turns digging under the X and found what those naughty leprechauns had left them.

The children were SO excited at finding their treasure. They worked together to figure out clues: readers helped emerging readers and quiet, observant children were able to find where clues were hidden sooner than their speedier classmates.  Once we returned to the classroom, everyone wrote in their journals, sharing what they had enjoyed about the day. As an adult, it was wonderful to see our shyest child bravely ask the librarians if they had seen a "Question Mark", watching the children work together to figure out where the next clue might be hidden in the building and all of them practicing self restraint when they took turns to dig. This silly poem not only helped build our love of reading and writing, but also nurtured our small community! 

We would like to thank Stephanie at the front desk, all the librarians and teacher Meryl and teacher Jean for being such good sports!

Friday, March 15, 2013

One Hundred Days in Kindergarten! Teacher Lisa

Last month the kindergarten class celebrated our 100th day of school. We had been preparing for it all year, carefully tracking days with unifix cubes, recording them on a chart in the classroom and adding to our "Hundreds Necklaces" every 10th day.


We've also been using hundreds charts to draw "mystery pictures" for the past few months to develop familiarity with counting patterns and sequences and to increase number recognition. Children follow oral directions to identify numbers and color them until the mystery picture emerges.

On day 99, the children counted out 100 pieces of cereal and used them to decorate crowns. (This was a glue-intensive project so doing them a day early gave them time to dry).

And then it was Day 100! The children arrived, put on their crowns and added the last 10 beads to their necklaces.
Next, we held a Hundreds Hunt. We hid stickers with the numbers 1 - 100 throughout the classroom and the children looked until they found them all. Each child had his/her own clipboard with a hundreds chart and a highlighter so that they could record the numbers they found. Once it was highlighted on their individual sheet, they added their number to a class chart until every space was covered. We talk a lot about perseverance and this activity definitely took some!

As it happened, our 100th day was also a PE day, so we took our celebration to the gym where the children each completed and recorded 100 physical activities.

Earlier in the month we explored how we grow and change. Children drew self-portraits and we displayed them with their baby photos and some writing about how they had grown. As part of our 100th day celebration, we read stories about growing "even older" and they made "future" portraits and wrote about what they think they will do when they are 100 years old. 

While the hundredth-day-of-kindergarten celebration originated as an engaging context for exploring the number 100, that was just part of what made the day special. We were also celebrating the community we have become together and the learning that has taken place since these children entered the classroom in September. We playfully referred to ourselves as being "100 days smarter" but it's true - and that is always something worth celebrating!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Cars, Ramps and Ball Runs - Teacher Elaine

As teachers, we are sometimes faced with a bit of a challenge when it comes to getting children to try new things.  We strive to plan activities that engage children and enable them to be active learners.

One such activity is “car ramp painting”.  It not only looks fun, but it provides simple lessons in physical science and leads to various discoveries such as:

·        Some cars are faster than others.

·        Different wheels make different tracks.

·        The tracks make new colors when they overlap.

·        A steeper ramp makes the cars go faster.

Another activity is “car ramp racing” that we set up in the hallway.  The children push three cars down the ramp, predicting which one will go the farthest.  They then record the outcomes with dot stickers on a chart that we count at group time.  Some children made an innovative discovery that it was easier to push the cars down the ramp by sitting on the chairs.

We also set up a “street board” with wooden cars, buildings, and people.  When playing in this area, the children are practicing language and vocabulary skills.  They create all kinds of scenarios using their imagination and creativity while forming friendships at the same time.

One of our favorite activities is the “ball run” that Teacher Sue put up in the loft.  Here the children are challenged to take turns, negotiate, work together and plan strategies to catch the balls.  They discovered that it was fun to send the balls down the runs one at a time and also block them so many roll down all at once.

All of these activities provide opportunities for children to practice skills such as problem solving, cause and effect, collaboration and cooperation while learning to understand their world.    

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pajama Day Fun - Teacher Jean

Pajama Day is always a hit with the children and this year was no exception. All the children brought their own stuffed animal to spend the day with them, and many of them started the day by making crowns, hats, leashes, etc. to clothe their furry friends in. The invention center was a flurry of activity!

Some children couldn’t wait to start the imaginary play, making up stories and taking “naps” with their friends~both real and stuffed.

The stuffed animals waited together on the shelf as the children helped clean up the room before story time.

Then they got to join the children on the rug to hear about Panda’s adventures at one classmate’s house. (As part of our home-school literacy connection, Panda takes a turn at each child’s house, after which they get to practice public speaking by sharing what they did with Panda.)

It’s amazing how something as simple as wearing pajamas to school and bringing stuffed animals can make an ordinary day seem like a holiday. We are truly privileged to share these special days and simple pleasures with our preschoolers.