Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We Are Alike, We Are Different

At the beginning of the year, while I was waiting to see what interests started popping up for Inquiries, we spent time getting to know each other and building our community!  Of course, we read books to get us thinking.  Here is one the kids loved that talked about how our facial features are different. 

I passed out mirrors and the kids all looked closely at themselves. We discussed how our faces had different shapes. Our eyes had a color, but also a shape! Same with our noses! 

We all made a blackline sketch of our faces to show how we saw ourselves in the mirror.

The next day, we had a discussion about what practice means. They did a beautiful job for a first try, but if they did it again, do they think they would do better, worse, or the same?  They all felt they would do better!  We discussed that practice helps us get better!  So we tried again and they felt that their second try was even better than the first.

The next day we read The Color of Us. It is one of my favorites! The names used to describe the different colors of people are beautiful!

During our exploration time, the kids took turns matching water color paint to their skin tone and painting the skin on their second self portrait. During this process, they learned how to paint with watercolor by rubbing the brush against the side to get rid of the drips and taking care of our water colors by washing their brush after each color. After it dried, they painted their eyes, mouth and hair. 

I always love these self portraits!  They dictated to us what their biggest goal was for them to be able to do be the end of Kindergarten and we wrote their goal on their self portrait. Here are some of their goals:
"I want to learn how to grow big muscles."
"I want to learn how to write my name correctly."

Here is one of my favorites:

Here is the display of their work:

Next, they want to create a friendship painting using their handprints inspired by one my kids made last year that is dislayed in the hallway! I can't wait to see how they make it their own!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writer's Workshop in the Beginning- Learning How to Tell Stories by Getting To Know Our Friends

Our writing requirements are very rigorous. By the end of Kindergarten, kinders are expected to write 3-5 page stories with two sentences on each page, using phonetic spelling, sight words spelled correctly, punctuation, first letters of sentences and "I" capitalized, and the rest of the sentence mostly lowercase. They have to write opinion pieces, informational/research, biographies, and stories with a beginning, middle, and end, a problem and a solution!  We start encouraging writing right away! We are using our opportunity to get to know our friends to get us started.  Right now our Writer's workshop is separate. I am hoping to integrate it more with our inquiries and projects soon!  I am noticing some kids are starting to do this during our exploration time on their own!

Each day a special friend brought items from home that would help us get to know them better!  Some friends brought favorite toys. Some brought pictures of family, pets, and vacations. Some made posters and some made books using photos about themselves to read to the class.  The kids enjoyed listening as their new friends got up in front of them and told them about themselves. We created a web map for each friend to illustrate and have been discussing the purpose of web maps to organize information.  They will use web maps many times this year as one way to organize what they learn from inquiries! Here are a couple web maps of our friends. 

After we get to know our friend, we prepare to each write a story about them.  They have been learning that pictures tell stories and are a very important part of stories. We have been studying authors such as David Shannon and noticing how his pictures tell us more than the words say. They have learned that the details in their picture are important for the reader to know where the story is taking place and what is happening in their story!  We are spending a lot of time learning to add detail to our pictures and using them to tell our stories!

We have also learned that there are certain things they have to do to be successful as a writer. They have to always do their personal best.  We read Leo the Late Bloomer and talked about how everyone's personal best looks different. One child might still be using only one color in their pictures, but if that is their personal best, that is okay and they are successful. But if someone uses one color and we know they can use multiple colors, that is not their personal best and they were not successful.  Hurrying to get work done is also not doing their personal best. 

We have learned that they have to focus on their work to be successful. They also have come to the conclusion (with guidance) that it is not kind to steal someone's focus away from their work! Their friends can't be a successful if their focus is taken away. Of course, they are allowed to discuss their writing with each other. 

We have learned that we need a plan to be successful. The kids have learned to first close their eyes and visualize what their story will look like, including all of the details. They have all been assigned a writing partner.  After they visualize their story, they tell their writing partner their plan as they show them with their finger where all the details of their story will go. After they "point and plan" they may get their tools and start writing their story.

These kids love to write!  They have such a positive mindset and attitude about writing! They also see how useful and needed writing is in what we do every day!  They watch me take notes, make lists and create plans. They are starting to create their own notes, lists and plans. During exploration time, they are also choosing to create books. Their favorite subject to write about is their family.   One child wrote a book about how dragonflies are different colors, connecting it to our dragonfly inquiry!  I'm excited for more to start integrating writing with our inquiries!

We have been learning how to try to spell words.  They are trying this by adding labels to the stories about their friends. We won't tell them how to spell anything! They stretch the word slowly and write down the letters they hear. If they don't know the sound, they guess. They will get more sounds correct as they know more letter sounds. They know that they are not adults and we do not expect them to spell like adults when they are 5!  I want them to have the freedom to pick up a writing tool and write something at anytime. I don't want them to worry about if they are spelling the words right or not. This will also help them feel free to write down what they see, think or wonder during our inquiries. 

Some of the kids have started writing sentences in their stories. After I showed the class what they did, more have tried! We will model sentence writing this next week since they are now showing interest!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dragonflies and Bumblebee Traps: Learning About Wondering, Inquiry, Documentation, and Problem Solving

We had a visitor come to our class last week! Here is a picture!

The kids were fascinated and of course the questions and observations started flowing!  
"Why does he have such a long tail?" 
"What do they eat?"
"Why are they so cool?"
"His eyes are so big!"
Some friends even took clipboards and started drawing it.  I was so proud that they thought to do that on their own!

Since I am working on letting the kids direct our learning, I grabbed onto the opportunity!  We created a chart and wrote down what they already knew about dragonflies. I told them that in Kindergarten we will spend a lot of time wondering about things and then find out answers to our questions. I asked what they wondered about dragonflies and recorded their questions on our chart.  

I then asked them how we could find out more about dragonflies?  How can we find the answers to our questions?  They answered that we could watch videos, use the computer and read books. As the year goes on, we will discuss more about tools we will use for research such as computers, phones, tablets, Google, YouTube, nonfiction books, etc. and use these tools together.  I thought it was interesting that none of them said we could try to catch more dragonflies to study.  I will have to try to hunt for some this weekend!

They were very fascinated with the big eyes so we took a closer look using our Promethium Board. I let them know that I found these pictures on Google Images. 

They noticed that they were different colors, different sizes, and took up most of their faces.  They also noticed they had hairy chins.  I used this opportunity to discuss what "documentation" is. We learned that when we document something, we want it to be as accurate as possible. We can document what we learn and what we notice!  We discussed using accurate colors and taking our time.  They all picked one photo and made their first documentation about what they noticed about Dragonfly eyes! Right now they are using pictures but later they will use writing skills to document also. Here is the chart showing thier documentation. We will use interactive writing to label it next week. 

We watched a video that taught us some facts about dragonflies. I let them know that I found the video on YouTube. We recorded together what we learned from the video.  This will go on our chart under "New Learning."  They learned that they can fly forward and backward.  They can also hover like a heliocopter. One friend made a connection to hummingbirds!  We learned that they cannot walk even though they have six legs!  They noticed that a damsel fly is different from dragonflies. They have long skinny bodies and rest with their wings closed.  Dragonflies have shorter, fatter bodies and rest with their wings open.  I realized that our little friend may be a damsel fly!  We will have to let the kids make thier observations next week and see what conclusion they come to! 

Next week we will look at the bodies of dragonflies and practice documentation through paint, sculpture, sketches, and labeling.  When we are done, we will put our documentation in the hallway to show everyone what we learned about dragonflies!

Another interest in our class started in the clay section of our art studio. Some boys started creating what they called Bumblebee Traps using materials set out for sculptures. Here are a few of the traps. 

They took them outside to our Butterfly bush because they noticed that there were bees around the flowers there. Some sat their traps underneath the bush. One friend tried to get his closer to the bees by holding it up higher. 

When the traps did not work, we brought them back inside and discussed what we could do? We had a great discussion about when things don't work or if you get a wrong answer, that is not a bad thing! Wrong answers and mistakes are used for good!! They were so surprised about this! Through our discussion, they all now know that if something doesn't work or we make a mistake or we give a wrong answer, it allows us to explore more to figure it out and solve the problem!  We decided that we will be a class of problem solvers!  So we set about thinking about what the boys could do to make their Bumblebee Catchers work. They know bees like flowers so they thought about adding flowers next time! One friend thought we could make a clay bee friend to attract bees. We ran out of time so we decided to continue our discussion next week!  The excitement in their eyes as we discussed this almost brought tears to my eyes!  

I seriously love this style of teaching. Following the students lead creates in them such an excitement for learning more!  In only three weeks we are becoming a community of explorers, wonderers, and problem solvers!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Math and Literacy Teaching Moments During Play

While we still explore literacy and math during station time, I am learning to grab onto these moments more often during play to show them how to apply these skills in their every day lives!

We found this Dragonfly in our room and the kids were fascinated! We put it on our science shelves for the kids to get a closer look!

Our new friend!

The kids who were interested visited it. We have just started talking about documenting what we see through pictures. The next step will be to add labels to our documentation, but for now I am getting them used to the concept of documenting what they see or notice, then verbally sharing their documentation with the class to inspire others. 

Below are two friends who documented and shared what they noticed about our dragonfly. Next week we will see what we can find out about dragonflies since they are so interested in this one we found (And an inquiry is born)!

Documentation of a dragonfly

Documentation of a dragonfly
We have also started talking about making plans. Below, some friends created plans for their block structures. The one on the right is a plan for this Monday! Again, at a later date they will start the next step of labeling their plans. We will ask questions to guide them into coming up with the idea themselves!

Creating plans in the Engineering area
These friends grabbed a ruler that was by the engineering area to measure and record how tall their structures were! They modeled and shared with the class to inspire others to try it!

Measuring structures
I have noticed there are two areas of our room that I need some paper and writing utensils to encourage documentation and planning!

Color mixing blue and yellow to create different shades
The Color Shades area would be a perfect place for the kids to document what they noticed! I will be adding clip boards with paper, colored pencils and crayons to this area on Monday!

Sculptures clockwise from top left- Stingray, fish, rattle snake and crocodile!
The Sculpture area of our art studio is another place for us to either create a plan, or document what they created.  They can also use writing to create a label for their art! Some clip boards and writing tools will be added to this area on Monday also. 

The picture below shows that a friend was using the balancing scale to explore weight in our sand box! She was so proud of the fact that  she thought to do this, she ran across the room to grab me and show me what she did!

Measuring in the sand box
These kids are writing cards and notes for family and friends. 

Creating cards and notes for family and friends
This friend is writing a multi page story about her family. I have noticed that many kids who are choosing to write books with more than one page are writing them about their family. I will need to remember this for the future!

Writing a book about her family
I love seeing all of the learning that is taking place through play! All it takes is setting out the materials and taking the time to discuss with them what they are doing and asking questions!

The pictures below show some of the things the kids did while exploring  our math and literacy materials during station time. The kids love station time and with the rigorous standards for Kindergarten, I am not ready to let go of these quite yet!

Exploring Literacy
Making names
Exploring shapes, weight, measurement, and patterns

Next week we will continue to get to know each other during writer's workshop and we listen to a special friend each day and write a stories about them.  We will also be focussing on how we are all alike and how we are all different and we will start a small inquiry about dragonflies!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Starting Out Our New School Year

I want to start out by welcoming all of my new parents to our class blog! This blog was created to share all of the wonderful things that your kids do in our class!

This week was our first week with all of our 29 new friends together! We are very crowded but doing what we can to make the best of it! The kids have let us know that they want to feel happy, safe, and successful in our school.  Our days have been filled with learning how we behave to have a happy, safe place for us here at school that will help us be successful!  Next week, the kids will help create a poster showing these three things.

We are also meeting new friends!  Each day we have a special friend that we focus on! We create a web map about them and then the kids write a story about our friend.  We gather the stories and staple them into a book for our special friend to take home.  The kids are in the process of learning that we can tell stories through pictures.  They are very simplistic drawings at the moment. They will get more detailed as we study authors and how they use pictures to tell stories.  

Right away we started hearing, "But I don't know how to draw..."  We read this story called "Ish" by Peter Reynolds:
It's about a child who doesn't think he can draw anything right.  His sister tells him to make them "ish!" As in tree-ish or horse-ish, or dragon-ish.  After she tells him this, he feels free to draw anything and everything without worrying that it looks "perfect" or is done "right." This story really helped give the kids confidence to do their personal best and be happy with the results!

We have also been reviewing letters and the sounds they make! A project they are working on as a class is to create a big book about the alphabet to help them out if they forget! Here is an example of one of the pages.

The "Hh" page for our Big Book of ABC's
They are also learning to read some alphabet books that are being sent home. These are for them to keep in a box or bag beside their bed to practice their reading skills throughout the year. They will build up a large collection of these books so they will need a special place for them to keep them!

We have also been exploring math materials.  The kids are playing with them and us teachers are pointing out some of the math concepts they are exploring naturally without our direction! Here are some examples of things they started doing naturally when the materials were provided to them!


Comparing weight


We also found kids practicing counting! They loved exploring these materials!

We have an hour of our day dedicated to exploration and sharing.  Right now the focus is on taking care of the materials, cleaning and organizing, and playing kindly with our friends.  Here are just a few thing they explored:

Developing strong finger muscles by creating sculptures with clay

Mixing colors.  I see a future inquiry on shades beginning here!


Clay, home living, our sense of sight, and painting

It has been a great start to our new year! I look forward to exploring with this group!