Mystery Box Magic

Do you have a mystery box that you use for hundreds of things in your classroom. There is hardly a day goes by when I don't use one of mine to hold cards, objects, letters, etc. to play a skill based game. To make this box new and exciting, at times I decorate it to match the game or activity.

To make the cover I take a 11X17 sheet of construction paper, measure and cut to the width of the box. Then I measure the length of the cover to equal the three sides.  Next I crease the construction paper to fit the corners of the box (to make it foldable) and laminate.

This Cover is for an Alphabet Mystery Game

To prepare for the game, I simply cover the box by attaching the laminated sheet with a small piece of masking tape on each end. Here is a very simple snow scene cover that I use when I play some of our snow themed literacy or math games.

When , so I will have this box cover each time I need it, I simply fold and file.

Teaching Kindergartners to Rhyme

For those children that enjoy the 1000 plus hours of lap-time recommended to ensure kindergarten readiness by the National Institute for Children’s Health and Development, the skill of rhyming is usually learned unconsciously and effortlessly. However, for those students who enter kindergarten without that skill under their belt, learning how to rhyme can be a laborious task. So, why do children need to learn the skill of rhyming anyway? Does it really matter if they know that Jill rhymes with hill? Yes! Rhyming paves the wave to future reading success.

Rhyming impacts many components of the reading spectrum. It teaches children about patterns and structures in both spoken and written words. It helps children to read with inflection and animation which leads to increased fluency and comprehension. Rhyming is a crucial skill that will lead to enhanced decoding skills, especially when reading multi-syllabic content words. It helps children be more aware of the commonalities in letter sequences which will make them better writers and spellers.

As with any new skill, teaching a student to rhyme takes practice. A typical student will master any new skills with 25 opportunities to practice. But for a children with lack of exposure, speech and/or language difficulties, and for second language learners, this practice may equal 25 times 25! But, it will be worth the practice because learning to rhyme will increase awareness in the phonology and graphology of English, which are imperative to reading, writing, and oral communication.

If you are looking for games to fill those 25X25 times, most of our thematic units include rhyming activities. 

This packet includes four lessons and a worksheet to help your students understand the concept of rhyming. The lessons vary in style and format. Some lessons are scripted, others are designed for independent practice. Some lessons can be used with small groups while others can be completed with a large group. All lessons can be adapted to support struggling students or to challenge high-achieving students.

Rhyming Pairs: Matching rhyming words
Rhyme River: Producing rhymes
T-Shirt Twins: Matching rhyming words.
Home Sweet Home: Producing rhymes
Match a Rhyme: Matching rhyming words.

They Will Shine in Their Own Time.

I have always been an academically challenging kindergarten teacher, but I have gone to great lengths to ensure that academic skills are taught through play. I nurture my students at their academic level, the level for which they are developmentally prepared. Consequently it saddens me to hear teachers discussing where a child should be instead of celebrating where a child is.

This picture is my 1st grade class in 1964. I can remember that 1st grade was the year that we learned alphabet letters could work together to make words, a handful of sight words, and why Dick, Jane and Sally looked up and looked down. And guess what!  As far as I know, everyone in this class turned out all right. In fact, most went on to achieve great things!  And, believe it or not,  I doubt anyone left Mrs. Little’s First Grade classroom reading any higher than a level D. Rather, everyone thrived celebrating their own pace of learning enjoying recesses and story time.

But today things are different. Children are being pushed beyond their developmental limits and frustration is the result. This frustration turns into self-defeating attitudes, behavioral issues, a dislike for school, and trips to the prinicpal. And -- I don’t blame them! Because having unrealistic expectations is just cruel. 

When I was in college, my roommates took me skiing. I had never skied before, yet I was taken to the top of the lift  up the highest slope, and there they went! My roommates took off! “WHAT DO I DO!” I screamed.  “Oh it is easy.” They replied. “Just put your toes together and go down the hill.” Well that was the last I saw them. I proceeded down the tallest slope in agony! I cried, I fell, I tried, I fell, I (swore), I fell, I even tried just walking sideways down the slope. When I made it to the bottom, battered, broken, and sore, I crawled to the lodge and curled up by the couch and could not quit crying.

Do you think that I ever tried skiing again? No way! I was beaten down by this experience, and my trust in those roommates was completely gone. I was expected to do what I simply could not! I did not have the proper preparation to complete the task.

So, before we worry that a child is not working at the level we feel that they should be (at least according to our pushed down curriculum), please remember that these children are in our care and they are trying to meet our expectations. But, maybe they are not quite there. Perhaps they need more practice in vowel sounds before they should be expected to spell words. Perhaps they should have more practice in number sense before expected to add two digit numbers, perhaps they should be given every opportunity to shine at their own time.

Teaching Kindergartners to Blend the Play Way

The systematic teaching of all phonological awareness skills is imperative to ensure a students’ future reading success. Daily, intentional instruction of, and more importantly, the “playing with" individual sounds in a meaningful way will build cognitive clarity as students experience how sounds work together to form words.

A child’s future reading success is directly linked to his/her understanding of phonological awareness skills. Consequently, daily intentional, strategic teaching of those skills must exist in the kindergarten classroom. The best way to teach these skills? Well the play way of course.  The last few weeks I have been practicing the art of blending sounds together to make words. Tomorrow I plan to add a little kinesthetic action to the skill to help students that are struggling with the concept.

Bounce the Blends
Common Core Objective: RF.K.2. Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).
Materials: Gather a small basketball (I have a jack-o-lantern ball that is perfect for a halloween theme).
Today we are going to make words by blending sounds together. On your turn, I will bounce three sounds like this (model as you say the sound, bouncing once for each sound) /b/ /a/ /t/.
What is that word? When the child responds bat, throw the ball to him and then have him toss it back.  Repeat again with a new word continuing as time allows.

*Note. When students conquer the skill of blending use this same game in a reverse manner. Have student draw a picture card and then bounce once for each sound in the word, then say the whole word as they toss the ball to the teacher.

--Check out our online store for a huge variety of kindergarten activities that keep PLAY in kindergarten.
Kindergarten Kiosk

Fostering Positive Classroom Behaviors

We all have had those active classrooms with “behavioral challenges.” In fact, the trend is that instead of one “hard” student in the school (as it was early on in my career), it is expected that most classrooms will have at least one or more behavioral challenges that change the tone of the room.

Each time I see discussion boards swing to this topic, I am always saddened to see the listings of behavioral reinforcements (stickers, candy, extra recesses, on and on) that is used. Using these extrinsic rewards actually is compounding the problem!!! 

Rather than using monetary rewards, I would like to suggest that teachers focus on intrinsic rewards; teaching children to feel that natural sense of accomplishment that is being smothered with behavioral modification reward systems. I have found great success using this approach. Children thrive in an atmosphere of high expectations where a task is completed because of the sense of accomplishment that one enjoys from its completion. An atmosphere where the caring and respect for others and oneself is taught, modeled, and practiced. An atmosphere where children are taught how to make good choices and feel the differences those choices bring to their life.

In college I first learned all about the Glasser Circle and I loved its effects. Next, I was trained using the Tribes Learning Community. But for Kindergarten, nothing can beat “I Care Cat: Peacemaking Skills for Little Kids.” I love this program. It is simple and effective. As students learn how to self-manage conflict, care for and listen to each other, and be responsible, the climate of the classroom changes. 

Another thing that I always use is the “Turtle Trick.” This valuable tip to help children control anger, teaches students how to regulate and control their disruptive impulses and natural aggressions. I have seen the lives change in students that are given this tool! We must remember that children want to be good. 

So, before you hand out the stickers, I hope that you will take a look at other methods that actually fix the problem. Methods that give children the instruction and experiences necessary to function in our society.

Playing with Blocks in Kindergarten

Playing with blocks develops hand-eye coordination, strengthens important motor and spatial skills, builds a capacity for divergent and creative thinking, and strengthens social skills, and language skills. If this is not enough, complex block play is linked with advanced math skills later in life (Wolfgang et al 2001). 

Cognitive benefits are further enhanced if particular tasks are given at the block center. This week I will be placing some small vehicles with variances (trucks, cars, buses, etc.) at the block center and asking the students to build a track with ramps to race an opponent. This is always a favorite activity. You can just feel the brains power working at this center. --Keep Play in K!

Harvest Time

Kathleen's Science Center in Idaho: Home of the Spuds
Apples, pumpkins, potato, corn....these are just a few items that are being harvested in the field or gathered from a garden. Take advantage of fall’s bounty to add a twist to your skills or introduce a scientific process.  

Let your students investigate a pumpkin by reaching in to grab a handful of seeds to count. Cut an apple in half to examine the seed “star” in the center. Use a balance to see how many counting bears will equal the weight of a potato. Use related flashcards to review numbers, letters, and sounds. Read books - fiction and nonfiction - about apples or pumpkins. Graph your favorite kind of potato. Write about eating any of these foods or about a harvest or garden experience. 

The learning possibilities are endless - math, literacy, and science goals and standards can all be met while focusing attention on items that are relevant to your students, Stop by your local grocery store...or your own gather some fruits or vegetables that are being harvested, then begin! 

For more ideas and related center materials, check out these units:

Literacy Activities:
 Letter Whoo: Identifying Upper & Lowercase Letters
 Collecting Acorns: Blending Onset/rime
 Catching Crows: Identifying Letters
 Hidden Sounds: Identifying Beginning Sounds.
Math Activities:
 Scarecrow Patterns: Making shapes with pattern blocks
 Whatʼ s Missing: Developing observation & descriptive skills
 Leaf Count: Counting Leaves
 Leaf Graph: Graphing Leaves
 Leaf Hunt: Ordering Numbers
My Leaf Book
Trace and Write Letters A-Z
Writing numbers 1-10
Writing Prompts/Word Wall
All About Autumn
Harvest Word Wall Words
Guided Reading Book
Fall Leaves
 A Tree For All Seasons: Creating trees to represent
the four seasons
 A Fall Walk: Observing and recording the change of
season found around the school yard
 Seasonal Change of a Tree: Using senses to
observe and record the seasonal changes of a tree.
Art Projects
Leaf Person
Fall Leaves
Leaf Rubbings
Drawing Lesson: A Shapely Scarecrow
Pattern Block Scarecrow
Leaf Painting
Fall Tree
Autumn Leaves
Pick It Up

Literacy Activities:
Apple Tree Rhymes: Producing Rhyming Words
Harvesting Spuds: Identifying Uppercase Letters
Harvest ABC Train: Letter Identification
The Country Store: Clapping Syllables
Math Activities:
Ordering Baskets: Ordering objects from least to greatest.
Harvest Sorting: Sorting potatoes or apples into groups
Harvest Balancing: Experimenting with a balance
Number Bingo: Identifying the numbers 0-12
Trace and Write Letters A-Z
Fall Patterns
Writing Prompts/Word Wall
What I Know About Apples
Harvest Word Wall Words
Guided Reading Books
In The Fall
Apple Experiment: Examining an apple using math and science skills.
Pumpkin Report: Recording Observations
Art Projects
Potato People
Potato Truck Portfolio Page
Apple Thumbprints Portfolio Page
Apple Prints
Construct Pumpkin 
One Potato
I Like Potatoes
The Apple Tree
The Pumpkin Patch

Apple Unit Newly Updated

Our Apple Thematic Cross-Curricular Unit has been updated! It includes an updated look on one game, a new game, new apple songs, a new "photo" word wall. 

Contents Include:

Shared Reading Lessons:
And Apple is its Name Oh: Enjoying Songs & Poetry
Way Up High in the Apple Tree: Enjoying Songs & Poetry
Yummy Apples: Word Substitution

Literacy Activities
ABC Apple Orchard: Identifying Alphabet Letters
Apple Tree Rhymes: Producing Rhyming Words
Eating Apples: Identifying Beginning Sounds
Color Word Worms: Matching and Writing Color Words
ABC Apple Trace: Tracing Alphabet Letters

Math Activities
Willy the Wandering Worm: Identifying Numbers
Apple Number Memory: Matching Numbers
Bobbing For Apples: Working with 5-Frames
Math Journal Sticker: Draw an Apple Story

Apple Wordwall (Realistic Pictures)
Apple Parts: Labeling Activity
The Way I Like Apples
Johnny Appleseed
Aa Handwriting Sheet

Guided Reading Books
I like Apples
Apples Guided Reading Supports

Apple Taste Test: Making Comparisons & Recording Data
Apple Life Cycle: Portfolio Sample

Art Projects
Apple Tree Art
Apple Mosaic

Eating Apples (Be careful, this one will not leave your brain)
Five Little Apples
Have You Ever Seen An Apple
The Apple Tree

Parent Teacher Conference Prep Magic!

This parent conference report took me exactly 3 minutes to produce for all 23 of my students using ESGI! This would have taken me hours to do by hand. If I want to print flashcards for all incorrect answers, no problem. That will probably only take me another 3. Hum. Maybe I should get a pedicure today with that extra time.

If you haven't signed up for your free trial, do it today! 

Just click here and try it for 60 days.

New Blog Design

Thank you Michelle for the new blog design!