Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#DoGood: Projects That Make a Difference

I am a kindergarten teacher and have the responsibility to teach kiddos to read, write, "do" math, get along with others, learn to be a scientist and learn some about our country.  I believe that teaching is more than that though; it is making connections and exposing them to opportunities they may not otherwise have.

I teach in a high poverty district (all children receive no cost breakfast and lunch), but we've learned that there is always someone we can help!  I want to share some of the things my kiddos did to brighten the lives of others in December.  I tied these things into our study of traditions the best I could and otherwise completed them with the mantra that they are traditions for me and an important lesson in giving back to the community they live in.

One thing students did was organize a school-wide toy drive for our local domestic violence shelter.  This is the second year my class did this drive. Toys collected could be new or gently used, with an emphasis on gently used to teach students that they have more than others.  New toys were used as gifts for students at the shelter where the gently used toys were added to the shelter's play room.  Students designed the flyer (we collected for a week), cleaned the toys and helped carry them to the van when the shelter came to pick them up.

The second activity was to decorate cookies for the local police and fire departments.  We added the county sheriff department as well because one my kiddos has a partner that is a deputy.  They also took plates of cookies around the school staff members.  We decorated 143 cookies one morning.  It was such a fun morning of hearing their squeals and seeing their excitement for decorating cookies.  The hats were an idea from Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten.

My kiddos really wanted to give cookies to nursing home residents or hospital patients, but I explained to them that sometimes people who are in the hospital or nursing home can't have those kinds of goodies.  So they decided they wanted to make veggie trays for the nurses at these places and ornaments for the residents of a nursing home where one of my kiddo's grandma works.  The veggie tray went to the ER at the hospital.  They were so appreciative!  My mom is a nurse and said the ER rarely gets treats because people are in and out.

Parents were invited to donate veggies and the cookies used above (we used Gordon Food Service cutouts; 72 for $9.99).  I made homemade icing after "cheating" on the cookies and a parent offered to send in sprinkles. I cut the veggies the night before and a couple pairs of kiddos put them on trays the next morning.

These little wreaths had a ribbon added to the top to hang.  It just black cardstock "o"s cut from the Ellison with buttons glued on.

I loved that my kiddos were excited to give back.  The shelter shared a couple other projects we could help with this spring, and I'm looking forward to partnering with them again.  I know this can't be the basis of my instruction, but I want my kiddos to look back on kindergarten and remember that they grew as a people not just in academics.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Comparing Gingerbread Stories {Freebie included}

This is a post that probably won't be real helpful right now, but will be a good save for next year.  I know many compare the different gingerbread stories, but this year I wanted to try something a little bit different.  I have been using Guiding Readers the last couple months, and my kiddos love it.  For December, there was The Gingerbread Man and The Gingerbread Girl.  Things got a little off track with different things happening in our building so I knew I'd only have time to really get into one of them, so I chose The Gingerbread Man.

After doing the week of activities around The Gingerbread Man, we still had 2 days left until break.  I decided to put students into groups and assign them a version of the gingerbread story.  They were then going to present their version to the class.

While I have some pretty good readers in kindergarten, I knew that it would take them a while to read each book and making sure everyone in the group heard the story was a priority, so I took to YouTube to find the stories I was going to use.  I just searched the title of each story.  I decided to use copies of the books I had, but next time I might get a second copy from the library too so everyone could see more easily.

I loaded each story on an iPad in my classroom, handed the book and iPad to the group and they got started.

After reading (listening to) the story, students got to work on filling out information about their story.  I wanted them to be able to give a brief retell of the story (major highlights) then share: characters, setting, what the gingerbread person said and what happened at the end.  I had papers for them to fill out for each of the 4 things I wanted them to share and the retell was up to them how they did it.

After filling out their papers, each group got a piece of bulletin board paper to make a little display.  I asked that they include: the title of the book, an illustration of the character or cover of the book and their information they recorded.  For my own organization and sanity, I made each set of papers a different color and got 5 different colors of bulletin board paper as well.

Once the "displays" were completed, each group got in front of the class and shared their story.  You could see their faces light up with connections as other groups shared their stories and they compared it to the story they had read.  I used The Gingerbread Pirates, but it did not have the repetitive phrase in it.  The kids were surprised that all the stories didn't have that.

Here are their completed projects hanging in the hallway.  I learned that on the whole, my kiddos did not have very good spatial sense with that big piece of paper. :)  I'm totally ok with that, though, because that was not the point of the activity!  It was more about the process of thinking about the story and getting their ideas on paper.  They worked as a group, understood their stories and were able to make connections and comparisons.  

I had planned for this to be a 2 day activity, but they were so excited that they asked to continue.  In the end, they gave up their center time that morning to be able to finish their work.  I kept hearing "this is fun".

Here is a close up of each section of one of the displays.

You can download the papers students used in their projects here.  It is a freebie!  I plan to have students compare other stories in a similar way in the future.  If this is fun for them, I know they are getting something out of it!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas!  This year I asked students to share their Holiday Traditions with the class, and I used these ideas to plan lessons for the last 7 days before break.

I started off by decorating the wall near our door with a fireplace and their kids' stockings.  I saw something similar on LuvMyKinders IG page.  Our cafeteria worker made the stocking for the kids.  I was planning to use them as wrapping paper for the kids' gifts, but ended up letting them fill them for one another.  The kids made the logs and the fire for the fireplace.

I used binder clips to clip the stockings to a light string that was hung along the chalkboard tray.  Above this wall is our word wall.

I asked parents to help their child fill out a paper about their holiday traditions.  After a week and talking to the kids about why we needed these back, I had all but one back.  I sat with that child to help her try to fill one out the best we could.

Students then used their papers to help them create this "gift" sharing some of their traditions.  I saw this on Pinterest and was inspired.  My kiddos chose 4 things from their paper to share on their "present".  The presents were shared with the class then hung on the board near the fireplace (above).  They certainly helped our room feel more like home around the holidays.

I used Simply Kinder's Holidays Around the World pack to help teach students about holidays in different parts of the world.  We did a country or 2 a day over a week and a half.

Many students had a tradition of decorating cookies.  This is a tradition in my family as well, and we decorated cookies for the local police and fire departments as well as the county Sheriff (a student's dad is a deputy).  Thanks Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten for the awesome hat idea!

I created a playlist for the month of December using the kids' favorite Christmas songs.  This played throughout many different classroom activities.  We also learned 4 songs and went caroling to our preschool classrooms on the day before break.

How do you incorporate students' backgrounds and experiences in your classroom?  This was such a fun and easy way to learn about my students and their families.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Parent Gift 2015

On this beautiful Christmas Eve (56 degrees and sunny here in Ohio), I wanted to take a couple minutes to share our parent gift this year.  The kids loved these and were so excited to give them as a gift!

The kids started by painting an 11x14 canvas solid blue.

My pre-student teacher came back to visit and helped paint feet one day during centers.

After these dried, students came over during centers one day and wrote "Let It Snow" with a pencil (which I then traced with a silver Sharpie Paint Pen) and added details to their snowmen.  A paintbrush was used to make the hats then the back end of a brush dipped in the paint was used to make the eyes and mouth.  Last, students used a thin brush to make the orange carrot nose.

The last step was using a q-tip to add snow to our painting.  Below is an example of the finished project.

This project takes a few days with drying time, so it is best to start early.  I started about 2 weeks before winter break.  Fevers and vomiting were running rampant through our building, so I took into account absences.  

The kids wrote their name and the year on a large shipping label and put it on the back of the canvas.  They then wrapped their canvas (with some help) with brown bulletin board paper and attached a homemade card and a bow.

What do your students make for a parent gift? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#DoGood: Toy Drive

This is the second year my class has decided to do a toy drive around the holidays.   We collected new and gently used toys.  The idea was to give something you no longer play with as Christmas approaches.  The kids created the flyers (I typed; they told me what to write and illustrated) to send home with the whole school.  After the week of collecting, they cleaned all the toys with baby wipes and boxed them up.

Today, an employee of the shelter came with a van and picked up the toys.  In total, they collected 6 boxes of toys.  The local newspaper came as well.  The kids were so excited to help others out!  Toys collected were donated to our local Domestic Violence shelter.

I've been told by some of my colleagues that students can't donate because we are a high-need community.  The kids, however, never cease to amaze me.  Last year, a little guy who asked Santa for "food" for Christmas brought in a bag of Matchbox cards because he "didn't need them all and someone else could have some too".  I believe that every child can learn about giving regardless of their socio-economic status.  I put the emphasis on choosing a toy that they no longer play with rather than purchasing new, though all donations are praised.

Have you done a service-type project with your students? 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hour of Code

This week is Hour of Code, which I learned through IG and Facebook.  I decided that this was something my students needed to experience!

Today we headed to the computer lab to try it out.  When I explained to my kiddos what "coding" is, there were cheers that we were going to try it.  They were intrigued by potential careers using coding and there was a buzz in the room as we prepared to go to the computer lab.

The first challenge was going to be typing in the web address.  Typically we have the website open for them when entering the computer lab, and in the classroom, I have control over the bookmarks, so I put it in the bookmark bar for them.  I typed the web address and handed them out.  This was great because they were able to take this home in case they wanted to do some more at home.

As each person got to the website, they began to work at their own pace.  I showed them 2 levels in the room before going to the lab, so they had some idea of what to do.  We used the partner links part of the hour of code website and worked in Tynker.  This was my students' first experience, and I wanted it to be fun for them, not frustrating. This seemed like the most straight forward, game-like site.

Overall, it was a hit.  After being in the lab, I had the kids write about what they thought of their experiences.

"I think coding is hard because you really have to think."

All the kids agreed that it made them think, which in my world was a win!  This was big for us because there are times my students tell me things are easy, so it was nice to have them recognize that they had to think about what they were doing.  I downloaded the app "The Foos" for them work on in the room and bookmarked the Tynker page for them to use in our classroom too.  We also have Dash & Dot robots received through a recent project that we'll be exploring soon.  

How do you engage your kiddos in critical thinking through technology?