Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pattern Books

Our current writers workshop unit of study is Writing Pattern Books to Read, Write, and Teach! Read you might ask. I thought this was a writing unit! The fact is that reading and writing go hand in hand and the children will be creating books that resemble the little leveled reader books that are in their hands as emergent and beginning readers.

The children begin by choosing some content, something important that they want to say. This is the meaning or main idea. The pattern is constructed to fit with it. For example: I see . . . I see . . . I see . . . or I play with . . . I play with . . . I play with . . . The children then find ways to use pictures and words along with the pattern to make books that others will want to read. The repetition gives them practice writing high frequency sight words (which by the way we are practicing during readers workshop, coincidence . . . I don't think so).

Our next step will be to notice how authors incorporate questions and answers, see-saw patterns, or twists to the end. The children will begin to write longer patterns and make them a bit more complex. These books will also be added to the now ever growing classroom library for everyone to read.

Finally the children will create pattern books with opinions, letting us know how they think or feel about something. They may begin to include dialogue to capture their voice!

Of course we will wrap it all up with a writers celebration! Stay tuned for more on all this writing.

Friday, November 29, 2013


This group of children just love to work on projects that require messy paint, lots of cutting, glueing, and a whole lot of silliness! Handprint turkeys were a big hit so we expanded on them and created turkey wreaths with handprint feathers, turkey place cards, thankful pop-up books, among other holiday decorations. We celebrated all of our hard work with a party which began with rearranging our room so we could all be seated at one long table. We thanked those who made it possible for us to come together and share a delicious (and nutritious) snack. Our turkey was a huge hit and several children were surprised how much they enjoyed fresh pineapple.

The next 3 weeks will be a whirlwind of gingerbread stories, songs, and activities. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Donors Choose Headphones

Our headphones arrived from Donors Choose!! Thanks to everyone who donated to our project. When the box was delivered to our classroom the children knew immediately what was inside. They were full of questions about when and how we would be using them. We started with our iPads and they worked like magic. Easy to use, easy to adjust the volume, and allowed everyone to focus on their iPad uninterrupted. We use them with our classroom computers and CD player. We have taken them to the technology lab where we can all be on our own computers working on a variety of literacy skills and activities. We LOVE our new animal faces headphones!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sophie the Therapy Dog

We had our first visit with Sophie the Therapy Dog this week. Sophie is a 5 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and has been working in our school since she was one. Sophie is very mellow, adores human attention, and loves to sit with children and listen to them read books or do math. Yesterday she watched as we put number cards in order. The best part was when she would point to the cards as we read them out loud!

Sophie does not judge, she does not rush anyone along, and she is always encouraging. I have witnessed children take risks that they would never do around their peers or even with a teacher. Sophie always comes with her owner, Nancy, who sits quietly behind Sophie giving commands to Sophie when necessary. It's quite amazing to watch and she is just so darn cute!!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Apple Projects

Our first apple project of last week was making homemade applesauce. The morning began with everyone getting a chance to use the apple peeler/corer machine. They loved watching the apple spin and then pull the apple off and see the large spiral. We made a huge pile of peelings and cores that were brought to the cafeteria to be composted. The apples sat all day long in the crockpot, filling our room with sweet apple smells until late in the day when we finally got to savor our sauce. Most of the children really enjoyed the warm mushy apples. A few were put off by the chunks and after trying a bite or two politely declined seconds!

juliegeorgerogers's 09-23-2013 applesauce album on Photobucket

On Tuesday we cut apples in half to reveal the surprise inside . . . you'll have to ask to find out just what that surprise was! We painted the apple halves and stamped them on paper creating colorful patterns.

Finally on Wednesday we experimented with cut apple pieces to find out just what makes them turn brown. The initial thought was "poison". Alas, after determining that there was no poison in our classroom and watching apple pieces turn brown right before our very eyes the decision was unanimous that the only thing touching the apples was air. Air was the culprit! It was determined that since we breath air, and air turned apples brown, it was okay to eat an apple that has turned brown. 
You might think we stopped there . . . oh no! We had to test this new theory. We cut a fresh apple and put half in a bowl open to the air. The other half went into a bowl with a lit candle and quickly covered with tinfoil. The air was "eaten" up by the flame so the apple could not turn brown. The children could see the difference in the amount of brown on the two apples and concluded that their theory was correct! We learned a new word that day . . . oxidation!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chapin's Apple Orchard

Our first field trip of the year was a huge success. Chapin's Apple Orchard does a wonderful job teaching the children all about an apple orchard, the importance of bees, the hazards of rodents and bugs, how to pick apples, and how to make cider. I was so pleased with how well the children interacted with our host, Steve, and how engaged they were the entire time we were there.

We began in the barn learning about the roll bees play in an apple orchard. One of our parent volunteers donned a bee suit so the children could see the various parts of a bee. With a bee puppet Steve began to show the children how they communicate through dancing . . . alas they already knew all about that from our Gail Gibbons book and our favorite bee dance video. The children pretended they were apple trees covered with blossoms as the puppet went from blossom to blossom collecting nectar. The children pretended to be bees and Steve used the "smoker" to put them in a sleep state so he could collect the honey.

After a fun jaunt to the orchard (great game of "red apple / green apple" along the way) the children learned about the dangers of mice and moth larva. Again, Steve effectively used puppets to engage the children and gave them plenty of "think" time which kept them involved. They eagerly listened to the directions for picking apples and followed Steve to an area where they could pick and eat a juicy and delicious apple!

From the orchard we walked and ate our way back up to the barn where a basket of drops were waiting for us to press into cider. With the help of some more parent volunteers the children counted 50 apples that were pressed into cider. Everyone agreed that there is nothing like fresh apple cider.

We brought 2 large bags of apples back to school with us and will be using them throughout the next week for cooking projects, art projects, and some science investigations.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Friendships

We work, play, eat, celebrate, imagine, discover, talk, laugh, and create together on so many different levels throughout each and every day. Each toy, tool, and activity brings a new opportunity for interactions with others and a way to learn and discover something new. There are table seats with a small mixed group of friends, circle seats with "turn and talk" partners, bugs on the rug seats where everyone chooses who and where they sit in the meeting area, a variety of play areas in the classroom, quiet spaces in the hallway, cafeteria tables which allow for mixing with other classrooms, related arts throughout the building that support the whole class, and recess opportunities that are limitless.

Wow, that's a lot of interactions for children so very new to school! With all these interactions problems are bound to crop up from time to time. The children are taught to respond to others by using an "I message". If someone takes a marker that you are using you are faced with a situation. Tell the teacher? Grab the marker back? Yell at the other person? Use your body to get what you want? All of these options have been tried by children so far this year. Slowly, very slowly, children are responding by simply saying, "I don't like it when you take the marker I'm using. I need it to finish my drawing." The majority of the time the offending child does not know that the marker was in use (even when it's in someones hand) and being told directly results in understanding and a return of the marker. The offender must also apologize using a complete sentence, "I'm sorry that I took the marker. I won't do it again." Problem solving at it's best!

Through all of these interactions the children are beginning to form new friendships and are becoming more aware of others strengths and common interests. Kindergarten is a busy and exciting place to be, for all of us!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When you think you are done . . .

You have really just begun!

We have had 3 writers workshop mini lessons and that was the phrase that taught us how important it is to revise our work. Through modeling the children saw how a simple drawing of a cat started the previous day could have more added to it and could quite possibly teach somebody something. The children's work then took on life with backgrounds, labels, and titles. Six school days ago they did not believe they were writers. Today they do and they are. I love Kindergarten!

An opportunity arose during writers workshop on Friday to teach one student the importance of spaces in between words. With the help of a very important tool (space man) she successfully used spacing and then with the help of our document camera taught the rest of the class her new found knowledge and shared our bucket of space men with the entire class. So much more powerful than had I introduced it myself.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting Ready

Our classroom is almost ready for the first day of school and I'm so excited! I've been unpacking boxes and organizing all of our toys and materials. We have lots of new math tools and a new doctors office that has yet to arrive in the mail. I had a visitor today who helped me start up our Smart board and make sure everything is working as it should be. Here is a drawing that she made.
Kaedyn's self portrait using Notebook techology