Plant Investigations

Examining the parts of a plant is a fascinating experience. Choose one or two different plants and take them out of their pots. Shake off dirt to expose the roots. Lay the plants on a table or counter along with some magnifying glasses. Help students identify the flower, leaves, stem, and roots of the plants. After discussing the purpose of each plant part, have the students draw a plant, complete with roots. 

For a scripted lesson of this activity and other great plant games and ideas, 
check out our plant unit.

Teaching Students to Work Cooperatively

Today’s world is a mass of inter-connectivity. Working collaboratively is an essential skill that must be nourished and fostered in order to succeed in such an environment.

How to work as a team does not come naturally to an egocentric kindergartner. It is something that must be taught and practiced. Intentional “Teamwork” activities allow students to work together for a shared benefit. Such activities will not only provide collaborative experiences, it will build many other social and emotional aspects of a student's self including:  Self-management, social awareness, self-awareness, responsibility, decision making, caring about others, contributing, relationship skills, and more.

Today we had a lesson on “Teamwork.” After learning the vocabulary words opinion and decision, we did some role-playing that provided opportunities for students to practice coming to a group consensus.  We then read “What’s the Big Idea Molly,” by Valeri Gorbachv.  Next I divide the class into groups and asked the groups to each make an animal that lives in the jungle.  I then reminded the students to listen to each other’s opinions and decide how they would construct the animal.

At the conclusion of the activity we had a debriefing. I asked the students what types of strategies their group used to complete the animal.  I listed their responses.

This was a great activity. And only one child cried! He was pretty mad that his group made the lion a girl lion instead of a boy. This was a great opportunity to talk about consensus. Even though it was not his opinion, he could support the group decision. And, everyone loved the finished product!

Reaching for Higher-Level Thinking

Today we had our semi-annual field trip to the Youth Garden Project, and it make me think how we can easily scaffold our students to a higher level of thinking.

We all use questions to find out what students know, but how often do you use questions to help students learn? Knowledge-based questions have an important role in education, but so do higher-order questions. These questions often challenge students, making them think beyond the remembering stage. They may focus on understanding material, applying what has been learned, or creating something new.

Around 90% of the questions most teachers ask are knowledge-based questions, so incorporating higher-order questions into your lessons can be challenging.  Bloom’s Taxonomy - the traditional or the new version - is a great place to look for help in crafting questions. You can find lists of words that go along with every level of behavior. Choose one of Bloom’s levels and try to write one or two questions each day for a week. Pick another level the next week, continuing through the taxonomy week-by-week. After highlighting each level, try to include questions from a variety of levels in your daily lessons.

The questions that we ask will impact how our students learn. Help students tap into higher-level thinking with higher-order questions!

Digraphs and Diphthongs

One of the goals of Phonics and Word Recognition is to help students use sounds to read and write words. Working with consonant and vowel sounds, beginning phonics rules, CVC words, and high frequency words helps students move into reading.

Our Digraph and Diphthong packet includes worksheets and four games to help your students understand and use digraphs and diphthongs. The games vary in style and format and can be easily adapted to support struggling students or to challenge high-achieving students.

Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22. Whether you celebrate for a week or a day, take note of this special day. Take a walk, plant flowers, or pick up litter with your students. Have a discussion around the concept of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Play a game or construct the Earth. Whatever you do, it will help your students develop a greater awareness of their role in taking care of our Earth.

For ideas, songs, math and reading games, literacy activities, and a construct project, check out our Earth Day unit.

Guided Readers for Beginning Readers

Guided reading is the bridge between shared reading and independent reading. It is an instructional strategy that helps students become better readers. It can be used in many different grades, but it is most common in kindergarten, first, and second grade.

Guided reading provides the opportunity to apply reading strategies in a supportive environment. With the teacher’s guidance, students can read sight words, decode words, use context clues, look at word structure, and decide if a word or sentence makes sense. 

In order for the teacher to provide pertinent instruction, guided reading groups should be limited to four or five students. Better readers can be in slightly larger groups, but guided reading is not a whole group activity! Groups can be flexible, but should be formed primarily on the basis of reading level. As students develop stronger reading skills, guided reading groups can be determined by interest.

Because guided reading is designed to develop independent reading, students should be able to read at least 90% of the book without any help. Books of this difficulty are “just right” - they give students a bit of a challenge, but don’t frustrate them. 

If you’re looking for some “just right” books, Kindergarten Kiosk has a number of guided reading books to meet your needs. Each of our units includes one or more books; we also have numerous sets of guided reading books available. Help your students cross the bridge to independence through guided reading!

Word Families

Rhyming is an important literacy skill. Children become familiar with rhymes through songs and rhyming books. As students begin to match, generate, and produce rhymes, they are able to focus more on the sounds within words.

While most students develop the ability to rhyme through games, songs, and books, some students struggle with rhyming. Approaching rhymes through word families can be beneficial for those students. Whether you use a commercial product or just write a word family list on the board, you can reinforces the skill of rhyming. Have your students read or decode each word individually, then read through the entire list quickly. Help students notice not only that the middle and end sounds are the same, but also that the letters for those sounds are the same.

Word family work not only helps students improve their ability to recognize rhymes, it also helps them become better readers. Sounding out each word provides decoding practice. Furthermore, when students recognize the pattern of a phonogram, the number of words they can read increases significantly.

Word families are a simple way to reinforce rhyming and practice decoding. Pick a different word family every day and have some reading fun!

Kindergarten Testing and Developmentally Appropriate Practices

Today at free choice some of the kids actually got out the testing cubbies and took tests of their own creation. I guess when you have a play-based classroom even testing is fun!

Developmentally Appropriate Kindergarten Teaching

Anyone that knows me, is a reader of my blog, or a purchaser of my products knows that I cling to the developmentally appropriateness of kindergarten teaching. Also, I am very academic, I believe that each child can and should reach their their full learning potential in the kindergarten setting. How can you mix the two? Easy! Teach learning skills through play using proven developmentally appropriate methods.

I found this article written by Diane Marie entitled "The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten." I think she is spot on! Here is the link:

A Kindergarten Map!

Our Map of our Town!

The only thing more important to a child beside themselves and their families are the communities in which they reside. This week we have been studying our community as part of our Social Studies curriculum.

To start the unit, I introduced my students to Google Earth. It is fabulous! I started with the earth small in the sky and then brought it in closer and closer. I then zoomed into the United States. We talked about our country,  the United States. Next we zoomed in to see the markings of the individual states. Then we zoomed to our state, Utah. We looked around at the names of some of the communities. We then began to look for our town, Moab. We scrolled to the south-eastern side of the state and found it! (This caused some excited cheers)! We then took a look around our town to see some of the sites. Next we went to street view to see our individual houses. We looked for businesses, hotels, the swimming pool, hospital, etc. Anything that had meaning to the students!

Then, we made up a song to the tune of  "The Sidewalk Went All Around." and also of that tune, "The Green Grass Grew all Around." (A song my class is very familiar with).

We have a planet. It is our earth.
The best little earth. That you ever did see.

And the twinkly stars go around, all around.
The twinkly stars go around.

And, on that planet. There is a country.
The best little country. The USA!

And the twinkly stars go around, all around.
The twinkly stars go around.

And in that country. There is a state.
And it's call Utah. The bestest state!

And the twinkly stars go around, all around.
The twinkly stars go around.

And in that state. There is a town.
Moab's our town. The best little town.

And the twinkly stars go around, all around.
The twinkly stars go around.

And in that town. That Moab town.
There is my house. The best little house.

And the twinkly stars go around, all around.
The twinkly stars go around.

The Next Step:

Now it is time to put our Google Earth map making skills to work! Each child was assigned to make a family project of something in our community. A favorite building, a favorite site, a favorite place, etc. The model could be made from 2-d or 3-d (a little common core there) shapes. The students then could bring in their models as finished. Below are a few examples of projects.

In class, we have constructed roads, vehicles, our own houses, paper doll versions of us, and painted landscape, etc. Here is the project as it stands today, there are still more home projects to be returned.
A hallway view

The LaSals and the Red Rock Rim

Can you see the rock crawler on top of the red rock cliff?