Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tin Foil Art - A Change of Pace

One of my favorite aspects of teaching Kindergarten at Options is that I get to think outside the box and be super creative.  I'm excited to explore different forms or art and materials throughout the year.  We're going to be talking all about our bodies for the month of October as we continue talking about who we are and where we are in place and time.  I have so many activities set up that I decided to let one of our art projects jump to a week earlier :).  First, we talked about different types of art.  There are paintings and clay pots and drawing and statues.  Statues was the one I was looking for.  We talked about what statues are and then made our best statue poses.
 Next I showed them a pipe cleaner statue that I had made and we slowly worked through the steps together so each child could make their own statue.  1. fold a pipe cleaner in half for the legs. 2. bend and twist a pipe cleaner to become the body and turn over the top and twist to make a head.  3. use a slightly shorter pipe cleaner to twist around the body to make the arms.
 After our pipe cleaner statues were made we worked on a step by step tin foil statue.  Using this precut template we slowly crinkled the legs together, then the arms together, then formed the head into a ball.  There were some tears as the project was rather difficult and we accidentally ripped off legs, arms, and heads along the way.  Nothing a little tape couldn't fix though!
 After the two demonstrations the kids were turned loose with the tools for the day - pipe cleaners, scissors, tin foil and tape.  The creativity was fantastic!  I love providing an opportunity that they may not have considered (or would not be allowed at home).  So, if you haven't yet, check your child's backpack for the tinfoil and pipe cleaner villages, families, and plants versus zombies characters that were lovingly made in school on Friday.

A quick review of the rest of the day:
 We're still practicing how to shake hands, playing with play dough, loose parts and toys while building friendships, practicing finding letters and reading, as well as practicing drawing and writing in our journals.
 We are so busy and having so much fun that I'm taking WAY too many pictures all day long.  I tried to share with you an overall vision of our day in these 10 pictures.  We continued exploring different science themes and instrument families.  We did so much awesome learning!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Routines and Friendships a 4 1/2 Day Challenge

It takes Kindergartners about one month (22ish days) to make friends and get into the routine in school.  At the Options School we only meet once a week for the school year, which means a mere 32 days TOTAL.  I cannot stress the incredible importance of learning routines and making friends as the top goal of our first 4 1/2 days together.  Our initial 6 week inquiry block is: Who We Are.  Our discussions and activities are providing us with language to describe ourselves as learners, writers, mathematicians, scientists, readers, friends, bucket fillers, and so forth.  We have also been discussing friendship and families with comparisons of how our families are the same and different and what we need to do to make and keep friends.
Shaking hands and telling each other what color of eyes they have, practicing good reading skills, learning about vowels and consonants, and developing friendships through play with play dough/loose parts and toys.
Every "project" that involves writing, drawing or creating is given ample time in the first 4 weeks to be shared with the whole class.  EVERY child gets a chance to share their work EVERY TIME.  Through the school year we'll shorten our sharing time and rotate who gets to share each week, but for now, every child, every time is the golden rule.
Utilizing a "How to Draw with Simple Shapes" book we drew pictures of some of our favorite things and then shared with the class.
Many of our group lessons start off with a children's book read aloud to the whole group.  With rich text and captivating illustrations I can quickly give children the language to discuss a concept and develop a starting point for kids to tackle their projects and learning in their own way.  I am also modeling how to share and lead the group, a skill we'll be adding to our days as the year progresses.
Sharing about our families and science explorations aid in developing friendships and language to describe ourselves.
Painting is an amazing activity for kids.  As a form of expressing creativity, children who have the opportunity to paint learn to think with an open mind and to look at situations creatively.  They make decisions on their own from the beginning of the project to the end.  They can use a paint brush or their hands.  They can mix all the colors into one color or selectively mix to create art.  They can express themselves without the limitation of words.  And, they have a blast while doing it.  We will try to paint every single day in Options this year.  If your child doesn't have a paint smock in their backpack please consider donating an old adult shirt for their cause.  Just leave it in their backpack each week and it will get plenty of use!
Sharing pages for our Class Numbers Book and spending time painting.
Though it can be quite challenging to have my own son in my Kindergarten class, it is also a ton of fun.  I get to see him grow and learn and participate in the awesome activities that I prepare for the class.  It feels a little sad when I create something awesome and then can't share it with my own children (which is why I very often repeat activities that I've done with the preschoolers with my own kids).
I am having a blast creating and exploring, teaching and learning with this group of Kindergartners.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What Kindergarten Should Look and Feel Like

Please forgive the very picture heavy post.  We had such a fantastic day today that I ended up with 200 photos and it was way too hard to pick just a few.
We read "The Way I Act" and created this poster to remind us all year long.
Today was the type of kindergarten day I hope we have each week, all year long.  It was full of laughing, excitement, reading, light bulb moments, friends, hugs, dancing, painting, math, writing, and sharing.  I love singing our welcome song with ASL, it is such a fantastic way to start the day.  Maybe soon I'll film it and share it with you so you can join in the fun.  After a little discussion about which hand is right and which is left we tucked our left hands behind our backs and practiced shaking hands and introducing ourselves and sharing about our favorite animals.  
 We had a most fantastic group reading lesson today.  I LOVE sharing with kids a few key strategies to help them learn to read.  Today we talked about the things good readers do.  I talk about this ALL THE TIME over on the preschool blog.  I encourage kids to LOOK at the letters, POINT to the letters, make the letter SOUND, and LISTEN to the sound they're making.  It is SO FUN to watch their eyes light up as you tell them that all they have to do is follow those instructions and it will immediately make them a reader.  Many kids came home with the Letter M book from the Amazing Action Alphabet.  We'll be working our way through her mini reading books throughout the year with the appropriate group of students.  Share in their joy by having them read their new book to you at home!

Play dough with loose parts and the toy center during our reading time.
Every day we spend time drawing and writing in our journals. Then we share our journals with the whole group.
 After writing comes science, and it was another AMAZING time of our day.  Today we talked about archaeologists, magnets, and color.  This month we're exploring our year long main topics in short spurts during our science time.  We'll get more into these concepts throughout the year.  Today we repeated magnets from last week and introduced color blending and archaeology.  We had a big table top sand box with dinosaurs, scoopers and paint brushes at the archaeologist center.  The color center was a HUGE hit.  There were color mixing jars to shake, color wheels to paint, and shaving cream color mixing.
 By the time we were done with science there were a few of us covered to our elbows in either shaving cream or sand.  In some cases: both.

A quick art lesson about glue.  Draw a speck, a dot, a puddle and a lake.  Talk about the size of each.  Then on one piece of paper demonstrate a speck of glue, a dot of glue, a puddle of glue, and a lake of glue.  Through a little discussion kids can come to the conclusion that a dot of glue is the appropriate size of liquid glue to use for a project.
We continued our conversation about how families and friends are important and help each other during our art time.  Many of the children were able to bring family photos and some even had a list of people in their family.  Thank you to the parents for supporting that!  We then were able to share about our families and make our own family trees.
 Our first lesson on identifying instruments and the sounds they make was amazing.  It was fantastic to hear from kids who could identify orchestra instruments and how to play them (in the air).  Many have siblings that play an instrument that we explored today.  As we listened to the instruments we also practiced air playing them.  Then we danced around to a variety of operatic scores.
 Subitization is a fancy word for being able to recognize a group of objects as a number without needing to count.  Think about how you look at the roll of a die.  If it lands with 5 dots on top I'm quite certain you don't count the dots every time.  You just know that that arrangement is 5.  That's what we're going for in kindergarten right now.  After we played some subitization games each child received a piece of paper to draw and write all the different forms of one number that they possibly could.  Then we shared our work with our class.  As we share our work and discussion of numbers and their representations we increase our mathematical vocabulary.  
 As this is my personal blog and I am a homeschooling mom I like to highlight the fun things that EMan did during his Options school day.  I don't get to see much of CJ during school (he's in the second grade group) but EMan I have direct access to for this school year :).

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!  Happy learning!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Options Kindergarten - Our First Full Day

We had so much fun on our first full day of Options Kindergarten.  We started the day off singing our good morning song with ASL.  I was impressed with how many kids remembered it and how many commented that they taught it to a brother or sister or sang it for a parent.  Next we read "How Full is your Bucket? For Kids".  It was a fun opportunity to give a book to each child and allow them to read and follow along.  They are able to enjoy the pictures, follow along in the book by turning one page at a time to match what I'm reading aloud, and even follow along with the words.  I take the opportunity to give my students as many books as possible throughout the year.  This is possible because I participate in the Scholastic Reading Club and every time a parent orders books it gives the classroom points to earn free books.  I strategically pick those free books to match our lesson plans and give each child their own copy to keep at home.
 As we're still learning our routines and expectations we had very similar centers during our reading time as we had on our first day of school.  We made foam crayon name crafts, we played with play dough and loose parts, and we explored the toys and small classroom library.  After centers we explored our science activities.  The kids were SO EXCITED!  We used the loose parts from the play dough play to experiment with a bucket of water to see what would sink and what would float.  We also explored magnets and started making body maps.  The body maps were super exciting as each child got to lay down on a large sheet of paper and have their outline traced.  They then took it to their own space in the room to add details to their drawing.  It's a project we'll be working on for a while with our "Who We Are" inquiry block.  After gym class and lunch we read one of my favorite books "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More".  Then we got busy painting with water colors!
 We spent time talking about drawing pictures and writing words to match and then wrote in our journals.  The kids did a fantastic job and it was fun to watch them take center stage to share their drawing and writing with the class.  We will keep the journals at school and send them home at graduation.  It will be so fun to look through and see their growth in writing!  During music and movement we read a book called "Loud and Soft".  It is all about the different animals of the world and if they make loud sounds or soft sounds.  We took some time to dance and move like animals to the song "Animal Action" by Greg and Steve where it instructs kids to move like different animals.  They had a hoot!  The teacher next door popped her head in and asked if we were imagining we were animals because she was hearing weird sounds :).
 For math we played a few different games.  We learned how to play "Staircases" where we took turns rolling the dice and making a tower the same number of blocks tall.  The first person to have a staircase of block towers 1-6 tall was the winner.  Next we played "Build a City".  It is very similar with rolling the dice and building towers, but this time we added our towers to a city block and at the end stacked all our towers together to make skyscrapers!
 We had a fantastic day of exploring concepts that we'll be working on all year.  We really nailed down our routines and will be ready to jump in again next week!