Friday, May 29, 2015

Find a Purpose Friday

I did a major purge in my classroom over the past week or so.  I'm not sure what brought it on, but oh so much clutter I'm sure had something to do with it!

I found some things that there has to be a good use for, so I'm starting a little mini series on Fridays sharing the items that need a project to go with them.  I'd love for you to share your ideas on how to use these things!  If there is interest, I think it would be fun to do a linky once a week throughout the month of June of things that you need to find a purpose for!  Please comment below if this is something you'd be interested in!

Here is my first item:

I found this bag of marbles in the depths of my closet, and other than marble painting, I don't know what do with them.  I teach full day kindergarten.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On the Map

One of the topics my kiddos wanted to learn about in the month of May was maps.  They mentioned countries, states and maps and general.  Our music teacher taught them the 50 Nifty States song.  If you've been reading along for a while, you know that many of my kiddos are readers, and after learning this song, they found great joy in reading and finding the states they sang about on the map.  Thanks Mr. Smith!

I focused more on maps and why we need them.  We also did quite a bit with cardinal directions.  This tied in perfectly as we had 2 walking field trips during this time and talked about using a map to help us find our way.

We started off day 1 making a paper compass from Mrs. Payton's Map Skills pack.  We then took our compasses out on the playground and lined up facing North.  I called out directions such as "take 3 steps to the South" or "hop 5 hops to the East".  Students learned to turn and use their compasses quite quickly through this activity.  We smiled as we were talking to the library and a couple students yelled "We are walking East right now." and would alert us to the direction we were going as we made turns. Glad to see this lesson sunk in!


Students also worked in groups to create mazes, which tied beautifully into our next unit on games.  The mazes represented trying to get somewhere without a map.  It can be a 'maze' trying to find your way from one place to another, but maps are here to help us.  Thanks to my friend Em from Curious Firsties for picking up the straws for our mazes at IKEA!


We added a magnetic marble and a magnet to play with each group's maze.  This was a center activity that they loved!
Here are some of the books I found at the library and on Amazon for this unit:



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Unofficial Start of Summer

Memorial Day weekend is here; where did the year go?!?  The kiddos I had in third grade my second year of teaching are graduating today (makes me feel old!) and my current crew of kiddos graduates from kindergarten Wednesday.  Wednesday is also our last day of school for kids.  This year flew by!

My experience this year has been nothing short of amazing.  I love that my students have had the opportunity and desire to help others throughout the year and have grown in ways that a test score will not show.  I'm definitely sad to see this class go, but I look forward to seeing all they accomplish over the next several years.

On a fun note, get your summer started on the right foot by visiting my friend, Diane's, blog, Spreading Joy, One Giggle at a Time.  She recently had a blog redesign and is having a giveaway to celebrate.  Her social stories on TpT are great for K and 1st grade kiddos.

Spreading Joy One Giggle at a Time

As we celebrate summer this Memorial Day weekend, thanks to all those heroes who have served our country and become the real reason we celebrate Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Food Pantry & Food Drive

One way we decided to help others as the school year is coming to a close is to run a building-wide food drive.

To prepare for the food drive, we walked to our community's food pantry for a tour and a peek at how things work.  One of our district employees is on the board at the food pantry, and she was gracious enough to lead the tour.  Prior to our visit, students created a list of questions they wanted to get answers to on our visit.  2 students volunteered to be our note-takers at the food pantry and 2 kiddos were our "official" photographers on our trip.





Students were immediately excited to see the freezer with ice cream in it and a volunteer who showed them the forklift in action.





After learning about how the food pantry works and what their needs are, we set to work organizing our food drive.  A couple classrooms allowed students to visit and share what we learned.  A group of students created an iMovie movie trailer to share their knowledge of the food pantry with others.  Our last group created the flyer to send home to all students explaining our food drive.

We were learning about measurement in math, so we put our measurement skills to work to decide how to set a goal for our food collection.  We decided that weight was a better idea than length.  We set a goal of 400 pounds of food since we have just over 400 students in our building.

Our food drive ran for a week.  It was shared via our school district's social media pages as well as in our local newspaper's "chalkboard chatter" section.  At the end of the week, we weighed the food collected and sorted it into groups because the kids wanted to count how many items we had too.



We are happy to report that we collected 413 pounds of food!  My kiddos were so excited to meet our goal and help others in our community!



The final part of our project was a representative from the food pantry coming to pick up the food.  5 of the kids helped him load our collection into his vehicle.  He made it fun for them by allowing them to ride on the cart on the way back up the hallway.  They couldn't get enough of it!



This was a great project for a class and was well-supported by families.  My kiddos have looked forward to helping others throughout this year.  I hope it is something that they will want to do in the future as well!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Avid Readers

Last summer I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  I picked it up at a Scholastic Warehouse sale because it was cheap and I had read some good reviews on other blogs.  I did a blog post last summer when I originally read the book.


I wanted to give a little update about a year after having read the book.  A little disclaimer: I have a "high ability cluster" this year in my class, so my "results" are not typical of my classroom.  I'd like to think my reading had some effect though!

We started off with bags of books on day 1 this year.  I loaded them with As and Bs from Reading A-Z.  My strategy behind this was I don't know how they will treat books and how many have handled them in the past.  If they can't read the words, they can read the pictures.  I set the expectation that everyone would "read" their books during our "quiet reading time".  We tracked our stamina (about 6 seconds that first day if I remember correctly) and we were on our way to becoming readers.



As we started to get more into it and students started being able to independently track text 1-1, I started adding leveled books from my classroom library to students' bags.  By the end of October, we were at about 5 minutes of quiet reading time.  Last year, I introduced the quiet reading concept in October.  This year, my students were asking when we didn't have quiet reading time why we didn't get it. (insert "HOORAY!")


By January, most of my kiddos were pushing a C-D guided reading level and were picking up sight words like crazy.  We continued with our independent reading daily and the expectation that if you finish early, you get out your books and read.  Students recorded themselves reading their "book bag books" on the iPad for me to watch every other week.


I met with my guided reading groups daily and was really seeing some progress.  My kiddos were getting excited about books!  By March, they were asking for more time to read.  Their stamina was about 15 minutes at this point, and they wanted to know when we could read some more.  Due to some scheduling beyond my control around this time, I had to cut our dedicated block of reading full group, but I did replace it with a "read to self" type center during my reading rotations.


My kiddos cannot get enough of books.  They are spontaneously sharing recommendations with each other and have asked to take books home (they receive 2 Reading A-Z books on their level weekly).  This guy below even got comfortable with his DRA book today :).


In the book, Miller states over and over to set the expectation for kids to always have books available for themselves to read.  They should have a book anytime they have down time.  This expectation is clear in our classroom; my kiddos don't even ask anymore what to do when they are done, the books automatically come out and there is a low reading buzz.

We were going on a field trip last week that was about 35 minutes away.  We have never gone on a trip this far since I have taught kindergarten, and I couldn't imagine what they might get into on the bus that long (didn't want to think about it).  I allowed them to each choose 4 new books that morning and told them they could take them on the bus to read on the way there.  They thought it was cool that I was telling them they could take books out of our classroom to read on the bus.  Behavior on the bus was amazing, and it was so fun to watch and listen to them read to themselves and one another.  Some of my colleagues thought I was nuts, but it was such a blessing to see them so excited about books.



I am incredibly proud of my kiddos' reading progress this year, but more than that, I love that they love books.  My teacher heart is so happy to hear that they want to go to the library over the summer and love to read to each other.  I'm looking forward to our last few days together and am planning to add in lots of "quiet reading time" and not-so-quiet-reading-time so we can share our books with each other.

How do you grow readers in your classroom?  What are some of your students' favorite books?  We are always looking for recommendations!




Sunday, May 10, 2015

Photo Collages

My end of the year gift to my students varies every year, but it usually involves pictures in some way.  Some years it is a DVD, others it is a little picture book in the form of a scrapbook and one year it was a class picture with a cute border (must have been a really busy May that year!).

This year I thought I was making a DVD, but realized 2 things: one-I hadn't watched for DVDs to go on sale and didn't want to pay full price; two- as I went to upload my field trip pictures last week, my iPhoto sadly said it was out of space.  DVD just not in the cards this year.

During the TpT sale last week, I purchased an end of the year memory book for my kiddos to complete.  I decided that I'd go back to my Powerpoint created picture collages and incorporate them throughout the book.  While searching for a free way to edit pictures online, I found fotor.com.  Not only could I edit pictures, but I could quickly and easily make photo collages!

You can choose anywhere between 2 and 8+ pictures per collage. 

Choose "open" then "computer" to choose your photo.

Once you upload your photos, you can drag them into the collage or click "fill" and it will fill your selected photos in for you.  I saved each collage to my desktop and will print tomorrow to include in their end of the year books.

I liked Fotor.com because I did not have to create an account, and it was easy to save my creation to my computer.

What do you use to create collages or edit pictures?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Day

It has been quite a while since I've been here writing.  School and other commitments seem to be getting the better of my evenings!  Hoping to find more time to fill you in on the end of our year once things start to calm down.

I wanted to share a quick teacher appreciation idea that my students made for the other teachers on our team and our specialists.  It just so happened to be Nurse's Day too, so we made one for our nurse as well.  Inspiration came from this pin.  A parent suggested that my kiddos make something for all teachers for teacher appreciation day, but we settled on a more manageable number!




I found the pots (plastic) at the Dollar Tree along with the gum drops, crinkle paper, skewers and 1 pack of cookies.  The other 2 packs of cookies were from Aldi.  In the bottom of the pot, I put Model Magic clay left over from another project.  For 8 "bouquets", I spent about $10.

After showing my kiddos how to make a flower, they did the project completely independently.  It was a great little project for them, and those on the receiving end appreciated it too.