Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fingerpaint Phonics

Here it is, the end of the school year! My students have made it through all 135 phonics lessons of our curriculum and we still have a week to go. This class has done so well with reading and writing and summer is coming quickly. I know that many of the students may not read or write much over the summer, so I came up with an idea that they thought was a blast and I think they might continue to try at home.

I have to admit that after nearly 40 weeks of kindergarten, I can not believe I have NEVER brought out the finger paints for my class! They LOVED it! I should have done this sooner. The first time a child finger paints is truly a priceless. Most of them put one finger in the paint and looked tentatively at me. After being reassured that it was okay to do, they dove in and started to mix colors. After a few trial and errors, we went with only two primary colors so that they could see how they mix to make another color. 

Before the writing/reading lesson began, I let the children experiment with how the paint felt, mixed, and how designs could be made by dragging their fingers in wavy and circular patterns all over the paper.

As I said, most students were a bit tentative about how messy they were willing to get their fingers. You can see below that some children had absolutely no reservation about diving in! I had to stop this one from lathering all the way up to the elbows!

After the students experimented with the paper, I had them spread the paint to every edge of the paper. I then said a word and had the students repeat the word back to me slowly. They used a finger to spell the word in the paint. For those who struggled, I had them say the word slowly again. As the initial sound was made, they drew that letter. They then added the medial vowel the same way. Finally, they said the final sound and added that letter or digraph.


The students enjoyed this activity so much, they asked to do it later during our "free choice" center time. They worked in pairs with each other, taking turns pretending that one of them was the student and the other one was the teacher. One student would say the word and the other student would try to spell the word. The terrific part of this activity is that it is so easy to create a blank slate over and over again. I hope you get to enjoy this activity with your students!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Open House with pictures !

Open House at my school is a celebration of what each child has done for the year. It is a time for the students to show off how much they have grown and changed in their abilities throughout the year. We coincide ours with a Spring Concert where each grade sings two cute songs about growing up and changing. At the end of the concert, all the students come back to sing an all-school song for a finale. Our school is big enough that we do two shows, one for students with the last names that start with A-K and the other for those with L-Z. In between the two shows, the students bring their parents to the classrooms to show off their work.

As my students were pilfering through and organizing their work for their parents, I LOVED how much they saw that they changed. They were looking at how they drew, colored and wrote in September and started hemming and hawing about how they had to get out their erasers to fix their work. I told them that if they did, their parents wouldn't be able to see how much they changed. They seemed to get that concept and be OK with it. I could still tell that it annoyed some of the students to have to put out some of what they considered to be "messy" work.

Here are some pictures from our room from our Open House.
The view toward the front of the classroom.

Toward the back of my room with our mobiles.

Toward the other side of the front of my room.
I kept a number of books the students made from each month of the school year to put at their table for the students to share with their parents. This included an amazing month-by-month Writer's Workshop book they created with my good friend, Laura Huff. Other books shown were monthly math journals and two writing journals. One was about friends and the other one was about family. They then brought them around the room to show them the work they had on each wall.
I used my white board to put these up. On one side of the paper, I put up their self-portrait from September. On the other side I put up one they did in May. They were so funny to watch as they analyzed their work from August.

The houses are brown lunch bags stuffed with newspaper. They were studying "form" in art with a focus on geometric shapes.

The students studied community helpers and then chose one they liked. They had a person template that they had to take home to decorate with their parents using materials such as cut out paper and cut out cloth. They added anything they wanted to the picture that had to do with their community helper. In school they wrote about what their community member was, what the person would need to do their job, and what they did for their job.

We displayed our butterflies and ladybugs that we had since they were in the larvae stage in front of drawings that they had made every five days of the changes in each of the insects. They did a great job of labeling their drawings.

Our class puppet, Mr. Harry was showing off the recent butterfly art we had in class. The students drew shapes with sharpie on a foil butterfly and colored them in with sharpies to get the beautiful deep and shiny colors.

Finally, the students hung up the salt dough maps they created of the continental USA that they had created and painted while studying landforms.

Self-portraits from September and May with signatures.
Studying form.

Our Community Helper wall.

We hatched butterflies and ladybugs.
Mr. Harry at our butterfly creation wall.

Salt dough maps of the U.S.A.

Open House was a really fun night. I enjoyed watching the looks on the faces of my students as they proudly showed off what they had worked on this year. Not every piece of every item was finished by every student. Each child works at his or her own pace. I told the students that everything was going home, so they could work on it at home if they wanted to finish it there.

If you do something similar, I would love to hear what you do for Open House!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Free 22 page Word Work packet

It is the end of the year. Some of my students are finishing all of their work and some of them are still trying to catch up as we enter the final week of preparing for Open House. What do you do with your students who have finished? I create word work packets for my students. We have just completed a few weeks of working with silent e words so this packet includes short AND long vowel words. This is a 22 page packet and you may have it for free!!
Simply click the picture to retrieve your free copy!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Teaching Metaphor for Kindergarten

The early morning curfew dissipates and I unlock “the airport” and review the day’s flight plans.  I liken my teaching experience to the experiences of an Air Traffic Control (ATC) officer. The hours are long, and the job is intense at times and fraught with stress amid rewards realized when students are properly geared and prepared for success on their future educational journey.
Each morning brings 22 student “pilots-in-training”, all flying down the school halls, looking to touch down safely in my room. Each of them has come from a different life direction and cultural experience. Most students arrive on time. Some of them have experienced problematic delays and arrive after their scheduled arrival time, and in a battered state. To encourage early morning camaraderie between students, each is encouraged to be welcoming of the other, regardless of where from and how their school mates cruise in.
The ATC officer works with prepared flight patterns and readily deals with blips on radar and conflicts that arise during flight time. I, too, work with a prepared plan for my day. My radar has to encompass being able to read each student emotionally, knowing exactly where they are on the screen academically, and celebrating and integrating each of their cultural backgrounds as they take flight on their educational experience.

 As the ATC officer knows each flight and the specific plan for that flight, my job as a teacher involves engaging all students and providing them group and individual support as they begin and finish each lesson. It is imperative that I understand the uniqueness of each student as I prepare and organize their materials for processing. It is because of their uniqueness that each student equally has something different to bring to the lesson. While recognizing their individualities, I have to model and provide opportunities for positive interactions and experiences during lesson engagement that allow for students with differences to complete tasks together while being respectful of differences. Each student wants to feel that what they have to offer is accepted by others.

As the ATC officer looks for problems before they develop, I work to be aware of which students need priority attention while still having opportunities available for those who need slight re-direction in a precise fashion that will still enable them to be successful in their task completion.

In looking for ways to provide a more interactive and meaningful journey for each of the pilots-in-training in my care, I have taken a pro-active approach to search out varied training opportunities that can be immediately incorporated into the classroom. I participate in many teacher training experiences that are available to me in my district, regardless of curriculum subject. I also attend numerous conferences a year and subscribe to many educational journals. In order to be able to best direct the path my students take in their educational journey, I continuously participate in activities that teach me new ways to provide varied lessons that can intermingle the needs of the diverse student population in my room. Recently, I have taken classes to learn more about Google documents and learned how to build a Google website.

To further engage students in their journey, I venture to learn ways to implement given and new technologies into my daily presentations. This results in varied opportunities and the inclusion of varied learning styles in a way that results in possibilities for all students of all abilities to have access to learning options that can help them succeed academically. In the last few years, it has been documented that technologies used during a school day are more often used for practice drills and non-curricular specific activities. In an effort to maintain 21st century technology integration expectations,I have participated in numerous technology training classes. As I learn more, I have become a mentor to other teachers in the methods that technology can be integrated and used.
While teaching, it is important that I understand which students can take off on their own with little assistance while finding ample air space for those who haven’t perfected their take offs and need more guidance from me. I must provide lessons with practice activities that can be successfully completed by all students with all levels of abilities in my room. In order to do so, each student is evaluated prior to lesson introduction for prior knowledge activation. They are also informally evaluated during lesson progression and formally evaluated upon task completion. In cases where a student may not be meeting a given goal, I reflect upon reason for why that may be. I solicit ideas from mentor teachers and immediately look for opportunities to integrate new ways to meet the needs of that student within the next teaching opportunity.
As the ATC officer deals with factors that my impede a smooth take off, flight, or landing, I face similar obstacles as a teacher. Obstacles for student success can come in the form of other staff members, parents, or even some of the other students.  In my lesson planning, I include educational opportunities for students to learn that differences, whether real or in opinion, are to be observed and accepted.
Another factor that can impede the journey to educational success for students is whether or not the curriculum offered is relevant to my student population. By providing curriculum that students can relate to, academic learning can happen at higher levels because of a deeper interest that results in presenting students with learning experiences that they find interesting and meaningful.
I work to prepare my students to learn to think critically in order that they may work together as they deal with problems that do arise along their educational journey. In teaching the students to learn to work together cooperatively, it is important to combine communication strategies, constructive problem solving techniques, and peace building opportunities.
Using my lesson plans and reflection notes, students in my room are encouraged to suggest and incorporate modifications to lessons based upon their own areas of expertise and interests. This enables them to accomplish their goal in a manner in which they receive personal satisfaction while doing so. As a result of this encouragement, other students may learn many time-saving pieces of information that may benefit their educational experience.

I keep copious anecdotal notes like an ATC log as I observe each student and their abilities (or lack thereof) to take off and complete a task or master a concept. Time is spent by me in daily reflection upon interactions with students and the notes logged during the day’s journey. Input is gathered from many student experiences and incorporated into ways to possibly alter and make the lesson better for future students. The ATC officer assesses each plane on radar through observation and orally through pilot communication. I utilize many types of assessment on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis.

I informally observe each student through observation and visual cues such as “thumbs-up, thumbs-down” answers. I also have students draw a face at the bottom of their paper that depicts how they felt they did while completing a task. If they were confident, they could draw a happy face. If they weren’t they could draw a sad face. If the student wasn’t sure, he or she could draw a face with a line across at the mouth.

 Each day, I conference with students for a few minutes about how they felt they did in school. We discuss concepts they understood as well as concepts they felt they struggled through.
Formal assessments are done in an interview format. Each student is presented with a mini task that mimics a concept taught. These assessments are formally scored using rubric scores and used to alter instruction to allow for future concept attainment.
Flight manuals have to be concise and clear for a successful flight to take place. Instructions used while I teach are pre-tested to evaluate whether they are written in a way that allows for all students in my room to understand and utilize them. They are also tested for whether or not they are helpful in having all students meet given objectives. While most activity in my room happens in large group format, instructions also include options for individual choices that ultimately benefit our overall group.

Cross-group communication is encouraged between all students in my room, regardless of their background or expertise, as they work together as a team. At times, it is difficult to do so, but it is imperative to learn how to be accepting of others beliefs, opinions, and cultural backgrounds to encourage open and fair interactions between students as well as between students and staff.
For each lesson I teach and each experience I bring to my students, individual and group responsibilities and expectations are reviewed every time. Rewards and consequences for good or poor choices along the educational journey are reviewed as well. Reflection opportunities are provided orally and in written form so that students have the chance to assess not only their work, but also the attitude and behavior they had during the completion of their work. The frequency with which this is done eventually allows students to know that for each learning experience, they will have an opportunity for personal reflection. Any needs for changes are noted and incorporated into future learning journeys.
 All pilots are given training and learning experiences that build upon other learning exercises while learning new ones at the same time. Much attention is given to review as I plan each new learning exercise. As each one is introduced, I model the experience and provide practice opportunities. This is the same for pilots in that they are provided practice take-offs and landings before venturing on the real journey.
As each day ends, my teacher-as-ATC officer duty is to review the day’s events with students and to ensure that they return to their original place of departure safely, both physically, and emotionally. Like pilots-in-training, my students are given practice homework that builds upon each day’s introduced concepts. As I close the “airport” for the day, I personally reflect on the day’s experiences and make necessary adjustments for the return of the incoming crew the next morning. My final checklist to check for task completion is small, but the tasks are all very important.  I  evaluate whether or not I was able to engage and support all students in their learning, understand and organize my subject matter for student learning, assess the actual student learning, create and maintain environments that facilitated student learning, plan instruction and design it so that it included learning experiences for all students, and whether or not I am doing all of this while still finding ways to continue to develop myself professionally.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day Gift

Today, the students in my class enjoyed making a gift for their moms for Mother's Day. I waited for the 40% of sale of beads at Michael's and purchased a combination of clear, silver, and multi-colored glass beads and clear, stretchy string. I was happy to see that at the check out, they gave me another 15% off for being a teacher!

I set a piece of felt at each table spot. I gave each student a baggie with enough beads to make a bracelet for their mother. The bag included a piece of the stretchy string. The students placed one of the larger beads in the center of the string. I told them to place their string on the felt like a "U" so that the bead in the center was pointing downward.
We then invited in their fourth grade buddies. Some of the beads were a little small, so they were a little tricky to work with. The only directions given were to make sure not to place the same type or size or color of bead together. These came out really beautiful when the students were encouraged to use a colored, then a silver, then a clear bead.
The kindergartener chose what bead they wanted to come next. They placed it on one side of the bracelet. The fourth grade buddy found a matching sized bead and placed it on the other side. They did this until all beads were placed on the string. They were encouraged to not pick it up when they were finished. If they do this, they could accidentally pull one side and dump their beautiful handiwork.

I went around to each spot and tied the bracelet off. It would have been nice to be able to use a real clasp, but this would have taken an incredible amount of time to complete for 22 bracelets, so I opted to just tie it off. The bracelet string is stretchy so it should nicely fit each mother.
Each bracelet turned out differently because of the color combination of the glass beads. The students were so pleased that they created this for their mothers! I then had them wrap their bracelet up in the felt piece and place it in a bag they decorated for the gift.

In case you missed it, I am giving you the links to my FREE Mother's Day activity. You can find it by clicking on the picture.

I also have a book I created that you can purchase for $2.25 in my store. The pages are not numbered so if you only want to complete one or two of the pages to give as a gift, you can. If you'd like to see it, you can click on this picture.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Mommy Is Magic

"My Mommy Is Magic" book cover
I want to start this post by saying a huge "Thank you!" to Christina for allowing me the privilege of guest-blogging.  You're the best, Christina!

My post today is for Mother's Day.  One of my favorite books for this holiday is My Mommy Is Magic by Carl Norac.  It is such a sweet and lovely book.  The illustrations are colorful and bold, and really convey the emotions that the little girl feels toward her mother.  The text is easy to read and will keep the attention of young students.  I especially like the line "If I hurt myself, my mommy kisses the sore place, and... Ta-da!  It's all better."

Here is a writing page that matches the book:
My Mom Is Magic

When I was little, I remember learning a poem/song that had a line for each letter in the word "mother".  I found that song on iTunes by Eddy Arnold.  It's sort of a country version of the song that I learned as a child, but it's super-cute.

In keeping with the topic, here is a guided reading book that you can use with your students that incorporates science with language arts:
I Love You Big

In combination with Teacher Appreciation Week, TPT is offering a 10% discount on everything from May 6 through May 8 (use promo code: TAD12).  Also, many teachers are lowering their prices for these 3 days, including me!  Two new packages that I recently put up are now on sale: Fantasy Guided Reading Unit and Spring Guided Reading Books.  Enjoy the sale and have a wonderful Mother's Day!

Sharon Dudley, NBCT
Teaching With Sight

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Free Shiny Butterfly project idea and Sale!

My class is studying butterflies and ladybugs. We ordered larvae for each one through Insect Lore. My students are flying in the door and rushing to my desk first thing each day to check on the development of the insects. Every five days, they are documenting what changes have been happening. It is really neat to hear the things they notice about how the insects are changing. One of the five butterfly larvae that I have was a lot younger than the others. It is still munching around on the food floor while the others are on their way to a beautiful transformation up in their chrysalis. I seriously hope that when I get to school tomorrow, that last one has hitched itself up there! I want to get them into the butterfly habitat this week.
If you haven't ever watched a Painted Lady come out of a chrysalis, it is pretty amazing! A reddish liquid pops out with the butterfly and leaves a stain under or next to where it opened. It never fails to happen that one student will walk by and exclaim, "Oh no, the butterfly is BLEEDING!!!!!"
You won't believe what happened one year. We painstakingly watched larvae morph into five beautiful butterflies. The children were so attached to them, they didn't want to let them go. It was time. We went out to the back of the school near a wide open field. In a way, it was sort of magical how one by one, the butterflies found the opening and flew up and hovered close by before taking off, upward and outward. All of a sudden, from the dark shadows of the nearby pine trees, a hawk came swooping down and chowed the butterflies in a line like a Pac-Man eating up dots!!!! My class froze. Then all 22 of them took off in different directions screaming their heads off! Sad to say, the next science lesson had to be The Food Chain! Years later, they still come up to me and talk about it, only they kind of laugh at the incredulous possibility of it ever even happening!
In getting ready for the butterflies to hatch this year, I came up with a project for each student to design what they think the butterflies might look like when they hatch. I cut poster board into 11x14 rectangles and covered them with foil. I then drew a few renditions of a butterfly body. They took black Sharpie markers and drew various shapes on the wings. I tried to explain the fact that what you draw on one side had to be on the other side. Some students got it, most did not. They were then allowed to use any color other than black to fill in the shapes. They came out beautiful! Do you think I should leave them as is, or should I cut them out and mat them on black paper? I plan to hang them up at Open House.

ALSO: I am participating in the Teacher Appreciation Week sale at TpT this weekend! I am offering a 20% off sale, plus, if you add in the promo code listed on the graphic, your total savings can be 28%! Click on the picture and it will take you to my store. The sale begins on May 6th and goes through May 8th.

I have over 30 items in my store. Here are front covers from a few of them. You will be happy to find that many of my items in the store are free as well!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Over 450 New Fonts Added to Google Docs!

I am so excited about a new feature on Google Docs! “Today, we added over 450 new fonts to Google documents to make it easier for you to add a little something extra to whatever you create,” explained Software Engineer Isabella Ip on the Official Google Docs Blog.  
 I like to create my own worksheets, but for so long, one of the only fonts I liked to use for students was the comic sans. Google Docs didn't have much variety. However, now, they have over 450 new fonts that you can use anyway you like! Not only that, they have added 60 cool new templates you can use as well.

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