Talking is Learning Too!

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In kindergarten we do a lot of talking! Now some of it is not helpful, productive talk and from time to time we do have to put our heads down on the table and pull ourselves together.
But talking is such a natural inclination for us human beings.
In our class I do believe we have managed to harness the power of talking for good rather than evil.

One example is a strategy we use called “teach-ok”. It is a call and response( I say “teach” and the kids respond “ok”) and proceed to teach their friends what they know about the topic at hand. The kids might teach their friend a prediction they have about the book we are about to read, or they might teach a friend what our writing mini lesson was just about. Basically it is a strategy to get all kids actively engaged in our discussions and deepen their understanding of a topic by explaining it to others. “Teach-ok” also helps the students build rapport with each other and feel more confident about raising their hand to share with the class after they have had a chance to bounce their ideas off a friend.

In kindergarten we have realized that talking is learning too.

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Experimenting with Force and Motion

Our current science unit is Force and Motion. Last Friday we read Sheep in a Jeep to introduce our unit. Then we got hands on with toy cars and marbles. We were able to figure out how to make objects move in various ways and also how to make objects stop. We connected science vocabulary such as; force, motion, push, and pull to real life examples and actions. Over the next several weeks we will take these concepts deeper.

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Writing and Recognizing Numbers to 20

Our class has been working hard to master writing and recognizing numbers up to 20. We have played a variety of games for extra practice.
Bingo is a fun way to get lots of practice. The kids make their own bingo boards to practice writing the numerals.

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And sometimes we write our numbers, just because.

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Ancient Egypt Behavin’ Raven Celebration

We earned 300 Behavin’ Ravens! That means someone in our class showed safe, respectful, learner behavior 300 different times, certainly something to celebrate! The kids chose to do crafts to celebrate and I of course felt compelled to spice it up. The children have been a teensy bit obsessed with our read aloud book Mummies in the Morning. I thought this celebration would be a good opportunity to teach the kids a little something about ancient Egypt and give them a chance to get a little creative.
We began by watching a video clip that depicted everyday life in ancient Egypt. When I previewed the video I noted the many shirtless men in the video and knew it was time to have our first “let’s-not-judge-other-peoples-way-of-life” talk. In kindergarten this type of talk requires excruciatingly explicit statements such as ” you may not say eeewwww if you see something that seems weird to you. You can think, oh that’s different, instead.” We enjoyed the video with a minimum of “eewws”, as well as many “ooos”, and “awwws”. My personal favorite part was when one child was saying out loud “oh, that’s different” and the person next to them was like “sshhhh, you are supposed to think that, not say it!”
We continued our journey into the ancient world by learning about hieroglyphs. The kids got to type their names in hieroglyphs on the SMART board as well as create scrolls and cartouches with hieroglyphs.

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One child even invented her own hieroglyph!

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We moved onto learning about pyramids and building our own which required some problem solving on the kid’s part. The vertical requirements of the build stumped them at first as I am sure was the case for the ancient Egyptians as well.

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Next we went glam and created our our collar necklaces which turned out super pharaoh-chic!

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And I think this pic of the glitter mess sums up the success of our fun celebration.

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Daily Routines Build Number Sense

We have several daily routines that help children build number sense. It is great for kindergarteners to be able to count and write numbers. Those skills are very important to students future success with mathematics. But those skills are more about memorization than anything. What kindergarteners really need is number sense, or an understanding of how numbers work. Number sense involves children understanding concepts of quantity, order, patterns, and place value. Number sense can not be taught by telling. Number sense evolves from a child’s experiences with numbers. Children work with numbers and make discoveries about how numbers work. One of our daily activities that promotes such discoveries and understanding is “Today’s Question”.

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Today’s Question is a data collection activity in which the children answer a question to collect data and then participate in whole class discussions about the data. We talk about what we notice, represent the data numerically, compare and order the data, and discuss patterns.

A Case for Open Ended

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Above are some pictures of the smart things kids do when they are given open-ended opportunities for learning. What do I mean by open-ended? I mean activities that are exploratory in nature, activities where there is no specific end product or right answer. Each approach a child takes is valuable and each discovery they make is equally important.
The pros of open-ended tasks are numerous, one of the most important is that the learning that happens is very meaningful to children. It’s not something the knowledgeable adult shared with them, rather it is their own discovery. To the child it feels like the first time the discovery has ever been made, and in a way it is the first time. For a moment we can all be Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, or Lief Erikson.

Funny Bones

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We have been gradually working through our “Amazing Me” health unit.
We explored our five sense through apple tasting. We further refined our senses with a variety of individual work activities such as Braille, matching objects by touch, and matching sound shakers.

Last week we learned about our skeletons. At “play time” some children chose to rebuild our skeleton puzzle and pose sassy ways for a photo op. I did not prompt these sassy poses; it was all the kids. They sure made me giggle.
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To write on the lines, or not write on the lines? That is the question.

imageIf you have ever observed kindergarteners writing, it is interesting to note the many ways the students use or don’t use the lines. You will see children using the lines conventionally and others ignoring the lines completely. You will see students squeezing tiny letters in between the lines.
Parents may wonder what’s ok.
At this point in the school year, it’s all ok. At certain times of the day I explicitly model and teach letter formation with lines. We call it writing “the kindergarten way”. The children are still exploring and making sense of the lines in a variety of contexts. By the end of he school year I will expect all students to be able to write their names and letters “on the lines”. Many children will also be able to create compositions “one the lines”.
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What is Literacy work time?

Literacy work time is an industrious time in our class. The children are busy choosing literacy work all around the classroom. I meet with small groups to provide reading instruction targeted to the groups unique needs.
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The special thing about literacy work time is choice. Each child picks their own work and the amount of time they spend on that work before they move on to the next activity of their choice. On a good day, the child stays busy. More often than not, a child has an amazing day. The child has an epiphany about a literacy concept they previously did not understand. Or maybe the child applies their knowledge and invents their own work, adding more meaning to their learning than any work I could dream up.
Case in point. Here my friend B. has figured out that she can type the sight words on her iPad using a white board app. It was B. who figured out how to type in the app, and B. who decided to use this discovery for such a productive means.
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Hey?!!?! I didn’t teach you that!

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These kindergarteners have been exploring a white board app. I taught them to use the pens to write their name. They learned to take a picture and edit it with pens. Then they taught their friends.

Turns out editing pictures is a handy skill to have…how else could you draw a mustache on your teacher!

I don’t know if I should be proud or annoyed. Just kidding. I am proud. Yup. Proud.