Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Project Based Learning {Part 3} The Finished Product

Today is my first official day of summer break!  I began reading a new "for fun" novel, went for a walk and did a little shopping.  :)

You can find Part 1 and Part 2 to see how we got to this place.

Here are the final projects that my students created in our Project Based Learning over the last 2 weeks of school.  Each group presented their information and their habitats with the class.

The Cave: moss (Dollar Tree), painted a box black.  Bats and Bears  Bats were hung from top of box.  A hole punch was used to punch 2 holes in each bat.  A pipe cleaner was put through then attached to the top of the box with a thumbtack.

The Meadow: Made from a paper box lid filled with shredded paper Easter grass.  Butterflies and flowers (Dollar Tree), Milk jug lid insects.

The Ocean:  The kids did most of this own their own!  Rocks (Dollar Tree); this group was very 'green' in using many of the items we had from our previous recycling unit.  The white container is a seal, opaque is a dolphin, green painted juice container is a turtle, and the clear water bottle is a shark.  The shark has tiny teeth super glued in the opening.   Fish were found here.

The Farm: The barn is made from a box covered in red paper.  The silo is an oatmeal container (left over from the recycling unit) that students covered with red paper.  All the farm animal idea came from Crafts by Amanda.  I showed them a variety of examples of farm animals, but they decided they wanted to make all of them from cardboard tubes.  They definitely put their own spin on some of them, but they were really cute!  The "hay" is yellow shredded paper Easter grass.

The Rainforest: They used paper bags to create the trees.  We cut the bottom of the bags open to give them something to glue to the box.  Leaves, tissue paper, lizards and snakes (Dollar Tree).  Earlier in the year we made tissue paper flowers.  On their shopping list, they asked for tissue paper to make flowers (they had a very detailed shopping list for me), so I thought they were going to make those.  They decided to just cut flowers out and glue them to the box.  The blue ball in the lower right of the box is a blue tarantula.  It is a styrofoam ball wrapped in yarn with blue pipe cleaners attached for legs.  What you can't see is that they painted mud puddles in the bottom of the box because "it rains a lot".  Some of the snakes and lizards are hung from the corrugated part of the box.  This group thought outside the box throughout the project and did not ask for help throughout other than a suggestion on how to make trees (which we googled!).

The Pond: Rocks & snakes (Dollar Tree), Fish and turtle (see ocean above)  I think some of the fish with the long "tails" look like tadpoles. :)  Frogs are from my math manipulatives.  The alligator is the long green stick.  If you look closely, you can see his left eye about 1/3 of the way down the stick.  He had an eye on each side.  They had a great time making him!

Each group also created a "science fair board" where they displayed their information.  Below is one example of a complete project with habitat and board.  Students presented their projects by sharing the information on the board.

All in all, these projects took about 10 hours to complete, beginning with the research through building the habitat.  After presenting to members of our class, another class came to visit and went through the room like a gallery walk, visiting each habitat and asking questions.  The following day was Kindergarten Graduation, so families visited the displays in the gallery walk format as well.  It was an awesome learning experience for students and myself; they were so proud of their work and excited to share their learning with others!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Father's Day and Volunteers

Yesterday was the last day of school for students; we go back Tuesday for a teacher work day.  These last couple months have gone by very quickly!

We worked on a little something for Father's Day yesterday.  Each child made a card for dad, and took home a little candy treat and a picture with the theme "My Dad Rocks"!  My inspiration was this rock candy treat that I pinned for my Sunday School class around Easter.  I never made it for them, but it seemed like something my kiddos at school would like too.

The photo has a heart made from decorative rocks (thanks Dollar Tree).  Each child sat in front of it, and I took their pictures.  The "My Dad Rocks" was colored then used as part of their card.

I also sent home a little thank you to parent volunteers inspired by this pin.  You can get a copy of the tags here.  The tags were attached to a package of microwave popcorn.

What do you do for volunteers?  Do you "give thanks" each time or do an end of the year treat (or both)?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Field Day

Today was our field day; it was a great day in kindergarten!  The rain held out until our last event.

We started off with some water games.  The kids had to soak a sponge then run it  to another bucket and ring it out to fill the bucket.

This guy is army crawling through the obstacle course in the gym.

A little corn hole action.

Cheering on our friends in the relay race.
We had a good day together, though I'm not so sure they were as tired as I am.  When our last event was off due to the rain, my kiddos did three 10 minute work out videos to fill the half hour.  :)

Tomorrow is their last day of kindergarten (teachers go back for our work day on Tuesday).

I haven't forgotten to finish up my explanation of our project-based learning; I'll be back in the next week or two for that.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Project Based Learning {Part 2}

If you have not read how this project began, you can find part 1 here.

Students finished up their typing and illustration of their animal in KidPix on Friday.  We also began the creation of our habitats.

After filling in their graphic organizer with facts about their animals, students typed the material in sentences to make a mini report about their animal.

We used KidPix to do our typing and illustrating because students are familiar with the program.  
Students also drew an illustration of their animal, but I didn't catch any pictures of that step.

On Friday, students also began to create their habitats.  They made me shopping lists early in the week, so I gathered the materials they needed.  Below are a few pictures of the group worked that happened Friday.

The farm group working to make a silo from an oatmeal container and construction paper.

My friends who are studying the pond are making an alligator  by painting a stick.

The cave group is creating their cave by painting the inside of the box black.

My rainforest friends are making flowers to brighten up their forest.

Monday my kiddos will finish their animals.  They will also begin assembling their habitats.  Tuesday will be a day to put the finishing touches on the project.  In the afternoon on Tuesday, students will practice telling one another about their projects.  Wednesday our families come to see us graduate, and we will have the opportunity to share our projects with them!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Five for Friday {Linky Party May 17}

I'm linking up with Kasey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday.  Here are 5 things that have kept us very busy this week!

1.  We graduate from kindergarten next week.  Graduation is a big deal at our school as we are a preschool/kindergarten building, so our kiddos will be moving on to elementary school next year.  We graduate next Wednesday, so this week we had a few practices.

2.  We had some preschool friends from down the hall visit us on Tuesday to see what kindergarten was all about.

3.  On Wednesday we spent the morning in college.  It was a great experience.  You can read more about that here.

4. We have been working on a project-based learning project.  I'm excited to finish next week and share our learning with parents when they come for graduation.  Part 1 of our project is explained here; more to come soon!

5.  Next Friday is our last day of school (with kids), so summer packets are being assembled, books gathered, report cards and end of the year materials are being completed.  It is going to be a crazy week!

Have you started your countdown yet?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kindergarten to College

My students (and those on my team) had the opportunity to visit my college alma mater, which just so happens to be in the town I teach in.  Nothing like starting them early on the idea of college!

We went on a tour of campus, guided by the 2 teachers on the team who attended the college.  Students saw the athletic building, football stadium, a classroom, the library, the science building (there are cool fish tanks in there), a dorm and finally had lunch in the cafeteria.

This afternoon I had students write about the trip.  Many of them said their favorite activity was running a lap around the indoor track.  Who knew!?!  They could not get over the fact that you lived in a room with another person and share the bathroom with so many people.  When I asked them to think about what was different about the classroom we saw and our classroom, one student said "Where is the SMARTboard?".  :)

They were very well behaved and said how much they loved the trip.  Even though the college is in our town, they were in awe.  When I asked them how many of them wanted to go to college after we got back, every hand in the room went up because "college is so cool".  Hoping for some future Raiders in my kindergarten class!

Checking out the fish!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Project Based Learning {Part 1}

We began our Project Based Learning adventure yesterday.  Students are exploring a habitat and learning more about the animals that live in that habitat.  After learning about the habitat and the animals that live there, students will create their habitat and share their learning with their families after our kindergarten graduation ceremony.

Prior to beginning our project, I called students over one at a time and had them tell me an animal they wanted to learn more about.  I then put students into groups of 3 or 4 based on the habitat of the animal they chose.  I have 6 groups.

Day 1:
I introduced the project by putting the letter below up on our SMARTboard and gave each student a copy.  We read the letter together.  The "characters" in the letter include one from each habitat being studied.

We followed the introduction with getting our bags of books.  I reserved books at the library about each habitat as well as books about animals that live in each habitat.  These books were sorted and bagged for each group.  Students started yesterday learning about their habitat.

After filling in our graphic organizer about their habitat, we went to the computer lab in the afternoon to type sentences about the habitat.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how well students worked together to type their sentences. Because of limited availability and our crazy end of the year schedule, students even had to share computers.  We printed these sentences, and they will be displayed by our completed habitats.

Day 2:
Today we continued our learning about our habitat and also began learning about an animal that lives in our habitat.  Each group had one "notetaker".  His/her job was to write down the animal facts needed on our graphic organizer.  The other members of the group were responsible for using the books in the book bag to find the needed information and share it with the notetaker.  Any information not found it books was then searched for on National Geographic Kids.  Each child will eventually have a turn to be the notetaker in their group.  The notetaker was also responsible for drawing that animal.

It was very interesting to me the way students divided the responsibilities.  The groups are relatively well mixed in terms of ability.  One group does not have a strong reader, but a student in that group has really stepped into a leadership role, which is great to see!  Two groups function VERY well together and their roles just naturally fall into place.  It seems that the groups of 3 work together better than the groups of 4 at this point.  I thought it would be the opposite with the "odd man out" scenario in a group of 3.

We ended the day with students making me a shopping list of the things they thought they might need to create their habitats.  This was interesting.  I showed them a couple examples I had found online and told them to think creatively.  We just finished talking about reusing and recycling, so I encouraged them to think about items they could reuse.  I took a trip to the Dollar Tree tonight to pick up some of the things on their lists.  I'll post a picture when they begin creating their habitats (Friday or Monday).

I'm really excited about this project, and I think my students are too.  This is the most independent they have had the opportunity to be and I think their ownership helps their engagement and excitement.

We are off to be college students tomorrow morning as we visit my alma mater! :)

Monday, May 13, 2013


The title sums it proud of my kiddos!  Our building is working on end of the year testing as I am sure many of you are.  We give an assessment at the end of the year that is provided with our curriculum and is used to help place students in their reading classes for first grade (our program uses an ability based grouping system in grades 1-5).  Our goal is a level 3 at the end of kindergarten.  Kudos to my kiddos...95% scored a level 3 or above!   Even more exciting to me (and my little group of readers) is that 52% scored a level 6 (out of 9 levels) or higher.

They have worked really hard at reading this year, and their hard work shows!  The best part of their doing well, for me, was that they were excited to read!  They could not wait to take their turn to go read for one of our testers (we do not test our own students for this test).  One asked to go read during recess!  They truly looked forward to their turn to "show what they know" and were all confident in their abilities as readers.

Over the next week or so, we are embarking on a little project-based learning journey.  Check back soon to hear about our adventure.  We are exploring animals and their habitats.  What experiences have you had with project-based learning?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Mother''s Day snuck up on me this year.  I knew it was coming up, but many other things in our classroom made it seem like it was much further away.  We got to work this week on a personalized stationary idea I found on Pinterest.

I started by printing a white piece of paper (made into 2 columns) with the phrase "A Note From.... ____'s Mom" in each column.  Then, each student created 2 unique designs on the paper.

Students then chose 3 colors of card stock.  I traced over all of their drawings with an ultra fine tip black Sharpie.  The paper was run through the copier on the desired colors, then cut in half length-wise.

Finally, we folded the cards and put them in a ziploc.  Students wrapped them in a decorated brown paper bag with a homemade card attached.  I think their stationary turned out great!

Love her abstract drawings!

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Can We Build It? Yes, We Can!

We had a busy, yet productive day today.  This afternoon, we had a special activity.  A few months ago, I read on a blog (I wish I could remember which one...if it was you, please let me know so I can give you credit!) about a teacher who talked to her local Lowe's store and they donated extra "Build and Grow" kits to her classroom.  I thought this sounded like a great idea, so off to our local store I went.

I was put in touch with the woman in charge of the workshops, who was more than willing to send the extra kits our way.  There are 4 teachers on my teaching team (about 80 kids).  80 kits were provided along with 50 hammers and 50 sets of goggles.  The hammers and goggles have to be returned, but the project is for the kids to keep.  

We invited parent volunteers to come and help us build today.  The kids in my class were SO proud of their work and told me how much fun they had.  They did a nice job looking at and following the directions.  Construction took place on the picnic tables on our playground.  I learned that one adult for every child is not too many; we could have used a few more sets of hands.  We made it work, and the end results were great!

The kits came with stickers to decorate.  Some took them home to finish and others chose to put stickers on while on the playground.
Have you ever done anything like this with your class?

Monday, May 6, 2013

TpT Is Having a Sale!

As I'm sure you know by now, TpT is having a Teacher's Appreciation Day sale Tuesday and Wednesday.  Everything in my store is 20% off, and with the code TAD13 you will receive an extra 10% off site-wide.  Happy Shopping! :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Five for Friday Linky {May 3}

I'm linking up with Kasey from Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

We have had a fun-filled week of learning about keeping our planet clean and going on field trips!

1. Learning about life "long ago" on our visit to the Haines House, a stop on the Underground Railroad.  You can read more about this trip here.

2. In our block center, we have been building with materials that can be recycled.  A note went home asking students to bring in recyclables.  They love making towers!

3.  We are measuring weight by trying to create numbers that equal one another (like an addition problem).  It was been very interesting to watch their thought process.

4.  Touching the tadpoles caught in the pond at the Nature Center on our field trip.

5.  I had a very proud moment (with no picture) when reading one-on-one with one of my kiddos today.  I frequently think this guy is not paying attention has he is turned around, playing with any piece of trash on the floor he can find or talking to his partner.  He is a good kid, but listening to me talk is not one of his favorite activities.  Today, while reading with him, he started a cold read of a new book he picked out.  When he came to a new word, he took that little finger and covered up the end of the word, then sounded it out.  In my shock, I said, "What made you do that?!?"  He responded, "You tell me look for little part."  H-U-G-E proud teacher moment!  You kiddos do hear what I say! :)  What a great end to my week!

With only 3 weeks today, we are going to be crazy trying to fit it all in.  Coming up next week: *building with Lowe's building kits, 1/2 day PD for me on Wednesday and preschoolers visiting us on 2 separate occasions.  

What do you have to look forward to next week?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

History In Our Town

On day 2 of our field trips this week, we visited the Haines House, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  While this topic was a little above my kindergarten students' heads, the idea of "then" and "now" fit right into what we can learn and understand.  The volunteers at the Haines House, most of which are retired teachers, do a great job bringing this history down to our level.

The Haines House is located about 3 blocks from our school, so it is an easy walk for us.  Students visited 3 different areas of the house during our hour and 15 minute visit.

In the dining room, we learned about a typical day for a child in the 1800s, practiced writing on slate and compared items we use today with what might have been used in the 1800s.

Matching 1800s items to the items we use today.

The kitchen was an interesting experience for us.  We didn't see many of the things we see in our kitchen today.  Students helped make butter and cornbread while learning about life and chores of the house in the 1800s.

After mixing their cornbread, students saw what it looks like when it comes out of the oven- shaped like an ear of corn. They then were able to taste cornbread.

I think their favorite part of the visit was upstairs where we learned about toys and games while visiting a child's bedroom.  Girls wore aprons and boys wore vests as they tried out different toys that children their age would have played with in the 1800s.

This toy taught children the proper motion for milking a cow.

A parent on the trip asked her group at the end, "Did you see any video games while we walked around?"  After thinking about it, a couple of the kids looked shocked to think that no, they didn't see any.  It's all about perspective!

What field trips have you been on or do you have planned this year?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Going to the Nature Center

Our local university has a Nature Center about 6 miles outside of town.  We take our kindergarten students there twice a year: fall and spring.  Each time we go, we see our barnyard friends- the donkey, sheep and chickens, feed the fish at the pond, visit our adopted Sweet Gum tree and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.  We had a beautiful day, and a good time was had by all.

We fed the sheep and donkey oats.

Learning to pump water from a well

Taking a peek into the pond.  The kiddo pointing is showing me the tadpole he sees swimming away.

We touched tadpoles and observed a crayfish.

Checking out the map to see all the places we visited on our trip.