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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Valentine's Day Write the Room

I just completed my "Will You Be My Valentine?" write the room activity. My kindergarteners love write the room, and we could use some work on short vowel sounds so I really look forward to using this next week during literacy centers.

There are four picture cards for each short vowel sound, and there is a recording sheet for students.

Some ways you could use it:
          For Write the Room: Hang the cards around the room. Students will read the picture, listen for the short vowel sound, and write the word under the correct column on the recording sheet. The cards are self-correcting – students can look at the monster on the card and the monster on the vowel on the recording sheet to check themselves.

This is part of the recording sheet.

The monster on the card matches the monster on the recording sheet.

          If your not a fan of “write around the room,” I included sorting mats. Students can stay in one spot to sort them on the mats then complete the recording sheet.

          This could be used as an assessment to see how students are doing with writing CVC words.

          I included a color and black-and-white version!

Write the Room is one of my kids favorite activities - and it's just perfect for kindergarten because it gets them moving around! You can grab this one at my TpT store. What other write the room activities would you like to see created?

-Alexis :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Can we get 100 cans by the 100th day?

If you are looking for an extra 100th day activity, you may want to do a Food Drive! Our 100th day is coming up Feb. 1.

Below is the note I sent to parents explaining the food drive - feel free to cut/paste/adjust to use it if you can.

Kindergarten is holding a canned-food drive event in our classrooms. We are CHALLENGING each class to bring in 100 cans by the 100th day of school on Feb. 1. We want to show our children that if we all do just a little to help, it can quickly turn into A LOT! If all of us bring in 4 cans, we can easily get to 100! If each class brings in 100 cans, we will be donating 700 cans! Of course, you are welcome to bring in more J You can start sending in cans whenever you’d like.

This project will also reinforce skills we are working on in math, science and social studies! We can sort the foods by food groups. We can keep a tally mark chart of how many cans we collect. We could locate on a map where the different cans originated from. We will be able to sort our cans into groups of tens and/or fives and practice skip counting. Lots and lots of hands-on-learning fun!

I also made a graph to hang in the hall for us to keep track of the number of cans that each class has:

I'm thinking we will make tally marks to track the amount of can to show two groups of five make 10. I also want to print a map of the world so we can put stickers on the map to locate where our canned foods come from.

I love all the 100th day ideas out there! This one is new for me this year :) What new activity are trying this year on the 100th day?


Monday, January 28, 2013

Arctic Research Update...the end is in sight!

When I say "the end is in sight" I do mean it in the best possible way...we have be totally immersed in all things arctic for the last week. We have had REALLY cold weather to accompany our arctic animal unit - even an early release last week due to ice; however, in typical South Carolina fashion it will 67 tomorrow!

Our research projects have been really great. If you haven't read about how it all started you should look at my first post. Introducing the project with a "real purpose" got the kiddos SO excited to begin. They love their journals and you could tell by the amount of work they were willing to put into it each day. 

To manage the study, the children were able to choose what "team" they wanted to be on and each team had a different animal to learn about. Lucky for me, it worked out that pretty much everyone got their first choice of animal. During our literacy station time (and every extra second) each day I called over groups to research with me - we read books and got on the internet to gather information. We would pick a topic in our journal to work on, and we completed around 1-3 pages throughout the day. Some groups were more independent than others. My groups with strong readers could "lead" their group with less help from me so I could devote more time to those that needed more guidance.  Here are some pictures to show how things went...

I used the "sound record" feature on the Promethean Board to record a message from the research team in the arctic.

 The researcher told us he sent us a package that should have arrived. We all got to head down to the teacher mailbox room to check it! In it, we found some photos of animals that they needed help identifying. At this point, students could choose what "team" they wanted to be on. We had eight animals, and the teams were mostly groups of three. We had two groups of two. The box also had our journals that would guide our study through the week. (The journals are on my TpT store!)

We drew what we would look like if we were actual researchers in the arctic! So cute :) 

Here are students that were able to read through nonfiction books and gather information with a good bit of independence.

We went to the computer lab with our "Third Grade Mentors." We normally read with them once a week, but this week they helped us find pictures and additional information for our project. I created folders for each animal on our common drive. Each folder had a PDF with links to get to information. The sweet third grade teacher taught her students how to save the pictures in these folders.

I told my kids that it was okay to have the third grader do a lot of the writing because our time was limited in the computer lab - however, we all know at this point in the year you can should never underestimate your little ones! This child had her whole research page filled out all on her own! She was so proud of herself!

Presentation is a key part of PBL, and I have been thinking for days about how we will show what we have learned...I can't ever commit too early on how a project may end because so much of it depends on how the kids are progressing (and what their teacher has time to prepare/buy.) I went to Bi-Lo Sunday afternoon to get poster board and none was to be found...but they did have small pieces. I bought all that they had, and decided we could make a "quilt square" response. (Appropriate with the Arctic as well, haha...cold - quilt...even some of my kids got it!)

I recorded another voice over of the researcher telling us he sent us poster board and describing the quilt project. I like to give the students choice on how they present most of the time, but I just could not think of another way to really manage it with this particular project - we are all doing it the same way; however, each group does look different. I drew this out in front (with their help) of them to help them understand what quilt pieces they needed to include. 
Their only requirement was to have a title to tell the name of their animal, and four quilt squares.

They had to talk with their group about who was going to do what. I have to say I am incredibly blessed this year with a group that gets along really well overall (most days...knock on wood for tomorrow). 

They got started right away, and were to use their journals to guide them. Some got it...others didn't.

Here are some that are almost finished - overall we worked on our quilt squares for probably 45 minutes today. They were constantly up and down and talking so the time flew! Below are some pictures of the ones that are almost done. Tomorrow we'll look over them to decide if we want to add anymore color, and we will add photographs that they found during their research on the computer.

We will practice presenting them and then share them with our class. I plan to record them so we can "email" them to the Arctic researchers we are helping. It may be neat to use them in the listening center as well on the computer.

 Hope you enjoyed a peek at our project! It was our first attempt, and I have learned a lot from it. I would love to hear about research projects you guys do in your rooms!
-Alexis :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin's Big Words - LOVE mural

If you're looking for  quick activity to reinforce the message of LOVE that Dr. King taught us you may want to consider this activity...

I started by drawing a heart with the letters "MLK, Jr." in the middle. Then I had students cut out people from magazines. We talked about how different all of these people look. We then glued them into the heart to show students even though we LOOK different, we all need LOVE and kindness. We all have feelings, and we have to get to know the person inside. This is a great anchor chart to leave hanging in the room to remind students of Dr. King's message throughout the year :)

Before and After:

Thanks for reading!
-Alexis :)

Arctic Animal Research Journal

Well...I think I'm almost ready to begin our first research project! Based on my (limited) understanding of Project-Based Learning, you want to provide opportunities for purposeful learning by presenting the students with a problem for them solve.

A little background...flashback to October in my classroom...
when we did our community unit, I had my brother write my class a letter asking about our community. He lives in Colorado and we live in South Carolina. He sent pictures of places that he lived, worked, and played, and he wanted to know about where we live, work, and play. This gave my students a purpose - we had to learn about our community so we could help my brother. They had a great time with it, and I do believe some of my kiddos were more engaged because of this approach. It also allowed for higher-order thinking skills because we were able to compare and contrast the communities. Because this approach went well, I am really excited about introducing our Arctic Animal project tomorrow!

We have already learned about penguins this year, and we took a break from the "cold" to learn about MLK last week. Now we are jumping back in. I found this GREAT website called Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears with ebooks on different levels and activities. We will read about life at the poles and introduce the Arctic Region. I will have students begin to brainstorm animals they think live in this region...all normal so far...until the alarm sounds on my phone with a message for me to check my email. I can make a big deal about this because I NEVER check my email in front of my kids - but it must be an emergency :)

On my email, there will be  a video link where a scientist (a.k.a my sweet husband) from the arctic requests our help! He will tell us about how they can't get their computers working right and they need help identifying some animals. He tells us he has sent us a package with all the details - we need to go get from the teacher mailboxes ASAP.

Of course, we ALL will get to get to go to the mailboxes where we find this:
Inside the box are pictures of animals he and his team of researchers need help identifying. He needs to know what the animal is, where it lives (land or water or both), what their babies are called and what they look like, what they eat, and what their predators are. He also included these journals for us to use while researching and he needs to hear back from us by Friday or Monday at the latest! Can we help him?

Here are the journals:
I had Staples bind these because our book binding machine didn't look like it was up to the's OLD. It was only $28 for 22 books. I have a terrible addiction to spending money at Staples.

The journals are available on my TpT store for $4, but I'll make them 1/2 off until tomorrow since you've read all of this!

Hopefully, my kiddos will take the bait and be SUPER EXCITED about the challenge of helping a REAL researcher from the Arctic. Talk about making the learning meaningful! I'll keep you posted this week on how things develop :)

What ways to do try to make the learning meaningful for your students?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Arctic Animal Literacy Centers

We are gearing up next week for my first ever "research" project in Kindergarten. I am at a brand new school this year, and we are (supposed to be) a Project Based Learning school. I am really excited about moving forward at this school with projects and problem-based learning experiences. This year has been tough because we didn't really receive much training on how to implement PBL - everyone has felt  a little lost; however, this summer we have lots of PD planned!

Are any of you fabulous folks at a school that is using PBL? If so, let me know so I can follow you! :)

More posts to come on PBL...We have done several projects this year, but this will be our first one where the kids are conducting research. This is a daunting task for me to manage - so much additional "stuff" going on that it's hard to fit in the reading groups I love so much! I have some fun ideas for making our first research project "problem-based" - I'm finalizing the details then I'll have lots to create, but I'll post it and maybe some of you can give me some feedback!

In the meantime, I have created my first unit of Literacy Centers to accompany our Arctic Animal Study. There are five activities that can be differentiated that are aligned to the Common Core Standards.

Hope over to my TpT store to read more about the activities included. 

It's on sale until Monday!

Thanks and HAPPY FRIDAY!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Introducing Dr. King in Kindergarten

I really love teaching my students about Martin Luther King, Jr. It's great this time of year to review our rules and why they are important while recognizing positive behaviors in the classroom as well! I introduced Dr. King yesterday by giving my girls a morning snack of Cheerios and apple juice while the boys had to sit on the carpet and watch. 

I just had to sit back and let the conversation unfold...and boy did it! (Warning...last year I had a child BURST into tears when they didn't get snack so choose wisely which group you'll give it to!)

Lots of questions from the boys like: "Why do they get snack?" "That's not fair!" 

ANNNND...the responses from the girls was even better: "We are better than you." "We worked harder this morning."

I couldn't have asked for a better lead in to our discussion of how this made each group feel. We recognized that it made the boys feel mad, sad, confused while it made the girls feel like they were better than the boys. While some of the girls said they felt bad eating it and watching the boys just sit, I pointed out that it didn't stop them from eating it. 

We discussed how this was indeed not fair - we were ALL special, but the girls are no more special than the boys. I then went on to explain how laws, or rules for grown-ups, used to be very unfair until a man named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized this and began to spread the need for change. 

This activity was a great kick off to the week - My kids are hooked! How do you guys introduce Martin Luther King, Jr.?

For reading this post, you can hop to my TpT store and grab this FREEBIE. I take black and white pictures of pairs of friends and they work together to complete this writing response.

Hope you're having a great week!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Morning Work FREEBIE

I am always looking for meaningful activities to fill that time in the morning when students are coming in. One thing I do each Wednesday is a quick and easy sight word writing activity. Students write the sight words we are focusing on in marker, crayon, and pencil - they LOVE it :)

Grab your free copy here at my TpT store!

If you like it, I have this packet with 16 of them at my TpT store!
I am so excited to begin this blogging adventure! I have been following so many incredible blogs on teaching over the last few years, and it has been so fun to keep learning and trying new things in my classroom. I have been fighting the urge to begin blogging because honestly it just lengthens my ever-growing "to-do" list; however, I have lost the fight and I am jumping in to the blogging world!

I have learned so much from all of the bloggers out there like Deanna Jump, Cara Carroll, DeeDee Wills, and Abby Mullins - these ladies have become "household names" and I want to give them a huge huge huge THANK YOU for making me a better teacher each and every day!

I hope I can begin to help other teachers (like these ladies have helped me) while continuing  to learn from all of you wonderful folks!

Thanks for stopping by!

PS - Check back soon for some FREEBIES posted!