Music is as synonymous with a kindergarten classroom as peanut butter is with jelly. I've yet to find a kinder teacher who doesn't LOVE music and understand the true power of getting kids up and dancing and singing!
When an older grade teacher asks me how I do it- how I teach kinder (which happens remarkably often), I always respond with, "Music along with lots of singing and dancing is the key!" I love it - it keeps me young and makes going to work everyday FUN!
I consider finding new songs/videos treasure.......I am seriously giddy when I find a new discovery! So, I thought I'd share a few of my kiddos' favorite songs. The following songs/videos are on youtube.
Here are a few really good transition songs and activities - perfect for when other children are getting a drink or putting things away or the group just needs a stretch.
Jorgeembonis the channel where these songs are found on youtube. I love each of these songs (and my kiddos do too).....but they have over 380 video songs on youtube including English and Spanish versions.
Bummer it won't let me embed this, but I'll share the link to it anyways!
I was blessed this year with a class of 2 extremes: either super high or super low.....I know we all love these classes so much. We have completed our first 4 weeks of school and I am seeing such a huge difference between the "haves" (one who know their letters) and the "have nots" (the ones who don't even understand what those squiggly lines mean".
Every day when we are studying letters I find myself frustrated because I am either boring the high ones or going too fast and over the heads of the low ones. So, yes I address the needs of my students in small groups. Still, I have a handful that are REALLY struggling with letters......
One activity I use to help my strugglers with letter formation, id, and simply fine motor skills is "Gelly Bags". Gelly bags are super simple to make and use, yet highly effective when used correctly.
HOW TO MAKE: Pour colored hair gel (yeah the kind you put in your hair) in a Ziploc bag. I prefer to use the gallon-size bags because it allows you to use larger letters underneath. That is important for those struggling letter learners who are still working on fine motor control. Also, I suggest using the name-brand baggies because you don't want an accident mess everywhere. The name-brand baggies are thicker and more durable.
Simply pour the gel into the baggie (it uses nearly a whole bottle, but I usually pour about 3/4 of the bottle. You want enough to cover the whole bag when you flatten it, but not so much that the gel is too thick to see through. You also want to use a light-colored gel....The darker the gel - the harder it is to see the letter - defeating the whole purpose of the activity.....light pink, light yellow, light blue work great!
Next, squeeze ALL the air out of the bag. This is uber important. When all the air is out, zip the bag up. Fold the zipper down and tape it really good with duck tape or packing tape. Squish the bag flat. Bam!! You are done!
HOW TO USE: Choose a letter that you are teaching. Place the letter under the gelly bag. Model how kids should form the letter with their finger. Be sure to remind them to use the pad of their finger - not their finger tip. There is 2 very good reasons for this: 1. Fingernails can snag the bag. (Trust me...I speak from experience) and 2. Using the pad of their finger is more effective for proper muscle memory.
I promised a freebie and I shall deliver. It is SUPER simple....but I needed simple, clear, and large letters to use with my "gelly bags". I figured if I needed them surely someone else would too.
So, what is your FAVORITE Letter id/Letter formation activity??
If you are a blogger please post about one of your favorite letter id/formation activities and link up!! You can use the linky picture at the top.....(If you aren't a blogger - no problem ......leave your idea in the comments! I can't wait to learn lots of great ways to teach letters!!
Whew!!! Some week this has been!! I had my evaluation today and I gotta say I LOVE the idea that I have that behind me. Do you get all worked up come evaluation time like me?
For nine years I've always had really good evaluations...but each year like clockwork - I start freaking out coming evaluation time. I wonder....."Is this going to be the year that I fall apart?", "Will my kids act like they've never been in school before", etc. Now - mind you - it's never happened, but it's my personal fear. I act like a crazy person until it's over and then I go back to normal.
For my evaluation lesson I was doing math problem solving with my kinders using the book "Little Quack"
If you haven't heard of this book - you are missing a super sweet book that your little ones will ADORE and it is perfect for both counting AND composing/decomposing the number 5. It also lends itself to lots of good higher-level questions you can ask...
This story is about a Mama duck and her 5 ducklings: Widdle, Waddle, Piddle, Puddle, and Little Quack. Mama duck decides it's time for the ducklings to go for a swim for the first time. But the 5 little ducklings are scared of the water and want to stay in their nest. One by one each little duckling gets brave enough to join in the water... The illustrations are perfect - showing both how many ducklings are in the nest and how many are in the pond as each duckling jumps in.
I have the kids helps me act out the story as I told it. I used a large brown circle of bulletin board paper for the next (big enough to fit 5 kids) and a large blue circle of paper for the pond. We followed along with the book as each child (duck) moved into the pond. The kids had a blast (gosh I wished I had pics:0) Perhaps I should have asked my principal to take pictures (hahaha! :0)
Of course the hilarious part of the story is that my promethean board died 5 minutes into the lesson - so I totally had to wing it "old school"! :0)
So - what is your most memorable evaluation lesson???
I just LOVE playdoh -- ok so maybe it's the kindergarten teacher in me....but I do love it...
It's so motivating early in the year. And, it provides some of the best fine motor exercise available. A couple weeks ago I shared a freebie with you for working on letter id. Click HERE if you didn't get it....
These are perfect because kids love using playdoh, they are hyper-focused on those letters as they form each with playdoh, and simply manipulating the playdoh helps develop the fine motor control they will need later in writing. It's such a super simple activity, yet highly effective!
My kids literally grieve each year when I put the playdoh away after we have a good grip on our letters. So, I decided to incorporate using playdoh in math tubs and in my word study center. Here are a couple other packs I've made for playdoh:
Last week I posted about our writer's workshop at the beginning of school. I love sharing what I do AND it's great for me to be able to go back and see my own process. If you missed my previous post click HERE.
I promised I would keep updating how our writer's workshop is going so I'm back today for a little update......before it starts to looks very different. EEEKKKK!!!!! I'm excited for what's coming up. But let me share with you the new routines we put in place this week.
Last week we got our writer's workshop folders. I LOVE these folders. They are called Nicky's folders and they are made from a soft plastic. They have a clear pocket on the front and back of the folder - plus the pockets on the inside. My grade level bought these for our take-home folders - but I had to buy more to use for my writer's workshop folders. They last all year. They bend and mold so easy. I tell my kids they are "magic writing folders" and they need to have their folders under their paper as they write (really it's to keep them from losing their folders all over the place, but it does help make their writing more clear)........ok, so maybe I'm falling for my own story a little :0) Anyways, they believe it and LOVE their "magic folders".
When it is tidy up time after we've shared (super important to have them share), kids place them in their chair pockets. They fit perfectly sideways and don't fall out. I gotta tell you that I LOVE these chair pockets too. They aren't the regular size - they are "mini-sized" just like my little ones. I got them at Really Good Stuff HERE. I love that they are really holding up extremely well. I was so afraid they would tear, but I haven't seen any of that! LOVE THEM!
We also stopped using community crayon tubs for writer's workshop this week. We received our own "green pouches" where we keep our individual crayons and pen. This is an important step in writer's workshop for my room because they are no longer tied to sitting at the tables.
NEXT STEP: We will begin talking about how all writer's don't sit at tables to write. They find nice, relaxing places to perfect their craft. I will do lots of modeling how I choose a good spot to write and which spots are not good. We practice finding spots to write and in time it becomes like second-nature.
I love this time for 2 main reasons:
1. I like when they are spread out around the room because they generally talk less and it a quiet hum begins indicating thinking writers are at work.
2. I love the feel of the room - lights are turned down, calm music playing, and kids spread out (some slouched over a low table, some laying on their bellies, some choose to sit at a table) - it's about choice. Controlled choices. THIS IS WHEN THE REAL WORK OF WRITER'S WORKSHOP CAN BEGIN TO UNFOLD!!
This is something I've toyed with using for years, but I am such a forgetful Nelly I've never really kept up with it. I always figured I'm in charge of what we do in the class so why do the kids need to see our schedule?
I am a total convert! I made the decision I was going to use a schedule this year and I am so glad I did. I even employed the kids to help me with it and keep me on track. THEY LOVE THIS SCHEDULE! If I forget to flip a card over after we've done it - they remind me. They also use it to help them understand our day internally. If we have 2 more activities before lunch - I no longer get a ton of "When is it lunch time?" questions anymore. They look to the schedule and determine for themselves. I often hear them say, "It's not too long before lunch. We just have big book left." I love hearing this talk! I am now convinced of the importance and benefits of using a visual schedule. If you don't currently use a schedule - listen to me. I didn't used to "get it", but now "I totally get it". Use one for Pete's Sake! :0) QUESTION: Do you use writer's workshop? Do your kids sit at tables or choosing their own writing spots??
Today was the anniversary of 9/11. This date is always a surreal reminder of the tragic events from 11 years ago. I still cannot believe it's been that long.
11 years ago - I was 24 years old and in law school. I had 3 small children - my daughter had just turned 1 and I was 3 months pregnant with my 4th (a whole nuther story :0)
..............it was a different world in so many ways.............
I am so touched by stories I hear from teachers who were teaching that day. I just CANNOT imagine. I'm sure if I found myself in that position I'd find the words to comfort and hold it together -- but I truly respect those that had that and other extremely difficult jobs that day.
9/11 is a very special day for me - with all the things that changed that day -- the thing I remember the most was a revival of all things AMERICAN. It was unlike anything I'd had ever experienced up to that point. I saw many citizens and non-citizens proudly displaying American flags, holding hands, and just being a part of the American spirit. It was the MOST memorable time in my life and one I will NEVER forget.
Because of the importance of this day in our collective memory - it seems fitting to "remember" this day with our younger generations.....Of course in kinder we can't/wouldn't want to discuss the events of 9/11 with our little ones. So, I try to "remember" the day as a patriotic celebration. I never even say anything about 9/11 or terrorists of course. We just celebrate our country in a few ways on this day! I thought I'd share!!
Disclaimer: I know there are lots of super cute ideas......some way cuter than what I do. However, I teach in a district with a strict curriculum that doesn't allow alot of time for crafts and such....so I do what I can :0) I know there are other teachers that deal with this as well - so I hope this helps some of you!
We made heart badges today that say, "I love U.S.A". We read a book about our country....most thought our country was Dallas or Texas. You know - kinders have zero concept of city, state, and country. But I tried :0) We learned that our country is the United States of America and that we can shorten that and call it U.S.A. (they thought that was super cool!). We also talked about our flag and our nation's colors (red, white, and blue). We discussed that the pledge of allegiance we do each day is a way of saying I love my country.
We topped off our mini-celebration by learning a song from the FANTABULOUS Debbie Clement. She is my new favorite children's singer.....dare I say replacing Dr. Jean......ok maybe not replacing (I mean who could replace her)....but definitely a wonderful addition to my classroom songs collection. :0)
You can read all about her and her song "Red, White, and Blue" HERE! I'm also always blown away by her art ideas too! She is an amazing singer and an amazingly sweet lady.....just LOVE this song! I've been singing it all day long..... "Red, White, and Blue - I love you!"
This song is PERFECT not only for 9/11, but also Constitution Day coming up on September 17th (next week) as well as any other time you are studying our FANTABULOUS country!!
The lovely Debbie Clement is allowing me to give away 3 downloads of her lovely "Red, White, and Blue" song. Here is how you enter this super easy giveaway...... Simply leave a comment below about how you teach patriotism to your students (plus your email address). On Sunday morning, I will choose 3 winners via a random drawing!!! You will get the download emailed right to you! You could even use in on Monday morning for Constitution Day!!! I can't wait to see other teachers' ideas on teaching patriotism!!! EEEKKKK!!!!
Being a kindergarten teacher is like giving birth I swear. We ALWAYS forget the process that gets them to where they are in May. It's sometimes scary when we are confronted with where they came from (in August/September)......If we remembered what they were like at the beginning of the year - we probably wouldn't agree to teach it again! Just kidding!! :0)
I'm always in shock every year to see where we are beginning. "I know we will get there! I know we will get there!" is what I continuously repeat to myself. I do love, however, hanging their writer's workshop pieces outside in the hallway. It's easy to lose sight - so I have to really focus on the work they are doing.
During writer's workshop I stop by a few children and listen to the stories they are telling. It's so important to treat everything they attempt as writing masterpieces and the most interesting stories EVER! ........"Oh my goodness - you got to cook dinner with your mom? That is so cool. I bet it was fun!" Once you add in that kind of enthusiasm, they will expand upon their current stories and all stories they draw/write.
Notice that we have not begun to talk about labeling their pictures yet. We will start that this week....EEEKKK!!! I'm excited for that!
But for now I will relish in what they ARE capable of doing! Those pictures tell us so much about what the kiddos can do AND how they see the world! It will be an exciting year!
*Currently we are still sitting at our table seats and using communal crayons and pens during Writer's Workshop. We also have our Writer's Workshop folders and continue practicing using those.
*Beginning this week - we will begin to branch out to other places to write in the room. Before I do this - they will have to have their own crayons and pens. So many routines and procedures still to learn.
I love teaching the kids how to choose a quiet place to work. When they sit at their tables it tends to be noisy and their attention isn't always on their work as you can imagine. But as we learn how to choose our writing spots - the room quiets to calm hum and we get alot more writing work accomplished!
I have also prepared my students' writing portfolios and we've already put in their first writing pieces!! Here is my Writer's Workshop Portfolio. Click Hereto check it out!
This portfolio is a great way to organize a writing portfolio throughout the year by months and to keep fantastic documentation on kids' writing progress.
Well, we are now into week 2 and I'm still going.....perhaps not strong, but I'm definitely still going.... Hey, I call that a success!
I now have the following centers/workstations up and going strong:
* Puzzles (beginning of Retelling center)
We are working our way up to 9 or 10 center/workstations (including ABC, Retelling, Word Study, Writing, PocketChart, Listening, Library, etc.).
I have begun using my Center chart just today. Kids are grouped in pairs of 2. They either get to go to a stationary "center" or they are doing a "table center". (Table centers is how I teach the routine of centers and their procedures). We are slowly working our way toward the stationary centers and away from the table centers. Hey - it's week 2 in kinder - not bad!
I am now prepping the kiddos in anticipation of opening the next center/workstation: ABC. We have been reading a few ABC books (ABC Danny is our favorite - he is such a silly dog)..... These will be some of the first things in our ABC center. We also began using ABC Playdoh mats that I made.
Real simple activity to reinforce letter identification PLUS needed fine motor work as well.
Here are some snapshots from my classroom today:
I love my new ABC Playdoh mats - the text is sooooo easy to use with playdoh and they have bright, colored picture cues to match. I put mine inside sheet protectors, but you could also laminate them to protect them from the playdoh. I just find sheet protectors nice and easy!
I want to show you a new "toy" I got for my classroom that I am in love with....and better yet my kiddos are in love with.....:0) Here it is!! It's called thePhonemic Awareness PLINKO game ......hahahaha - you know...like from the Price Is Right game show?? (Gosh I remember watching that show as a kid - I always wanted to do 2 games: the "punch a number game AND PLINKO!!) This super cool game is from Lakeshore Learning (yes otherwise known as "Teacher Heaven":0)
I love this game because it allows you to help your kiddos practice phonemic awareness tasks (rhyming, beginning sounds, and ending sounds) in a fun way.... The kids really have no idea they are doing anything other than playing a game --- and we know that's when they learn the most!
There are some other reasons I love this game:
1. It is built so sturdy....there is nothing worse than getting a cool activity, but getting a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach because you know the first time you put it in a center it will be tore up. We've all had those items....they look so cute, but just don't hold up to a bunch of kinders or first graders using them..... Well, rest assured - this thing is WELL made! It folds up so you can store it, but it is NOT made of cardboard - so I don't have to worry about putting this in a center. It will hold up.
2. This kind of goes along with being sturdy..... I love the little circle "chips". I love the pictures. I find that sometimes I get game pieces and it's hard to tell what the pictures are - the pictures are confusing. NOT HERE! The pictures are beautiful and clear. The kids and I didn't have any problems figuring out any of the pictures. Plus.....and this is the part I really like ...... the "chips" are wooden - not cardboard! Talk about sturdy!! Nice job Lakeshore!!
Grade Appropriateness: Kinder, 1st, and beginning of 2nd.
I obviously used this game at the beginning of kinder. We have not thoroughly discussed rhyming or beginning/ending sounds yet so I gave my kids lots of extra support to play the game. In fact, I had them practice using the game by simply saying the name of the pictures. But I CANNOT wait to use this game throughout kinder in both small group review lessons and in literacy centers. It soooo engages the kids - they just think it's so fun!
This is PERFECT for kinder from mid-September through the beginning of 2nd grade (for 2nd grade it would be an activity they could do pretty much independently right off the bat)......
I LOVED this game!!!
If you haven't ever heard of Lakeshore Learning (well... where the heck have you been?)...but if you haven't, check it out.....this link even offers up to $15 off of any purchase you make from Lakeshore.
Love it when companies really listen to teachers and give us stuff our kids NEED and WANT to use!!