Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hope you're having a great Halloween! Wow, what a day- the Halloween party and parade festivities at school have left me exhausted.

My "bat pup" and I are ready to sit back and wait for the trick-or-treaters!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More October Math Stations

I know I shared some of my math stations earlier in the month, but....October is a long month! are some of the math stations my kindergarten students worked on last week. More pumpkins, bats, and monsters too!
Station 1: Pumpkin Patch
(Students roll the dice, and then cover up that many pumpkins on their math mat. First one to cover up all the pumpkins in their pumpkin patch wins. I used some orange bingo chips I happened to have, but you could also use little orange pom-poms or pumpkin erasers with this game. This darling free game is from Musings of Me-and she has tons of other terrific pumpkin math activities too!)

Station 2: Pumpkin Seed Counting Book
(My students loved reading this fun pumpkin counting book and coloring in the correct number of pumpkin seeds on the 10 frame on each page. Great for number review and reading practice! This fantastic and free book is from Fran at Kindergarten Crayons.)

Station 3: Spooky Numbers 1-12
(My students had already played the easier version of this game a few weeks ago, so I decided to let them all try out the harder version that goes all the way up to 12 (instead of 6). They loved it-and of course they all though they were so smart to be playing the harder game! They roll a 12-sided dice and trace the number they roll.  This game is from Mrs. Wills' Halloween Math Work Stations Pack.)

Station 4: Gone Batty
(Students take turns picking a card and counting how many moons are on the card. They then cover up the corresponding number on their game board with a bat eraser. Students especially loved when they got the special "gone batty" card that let them pick any number to cover up. This fun game is from Miss Kindergarten's set of Gone Batty Math Games-there are several different game boards and cards included to make this game more challenging.)

Station 5: Halloween More or Less Game
(Students each take a card and count how many pictures are on it. Then they spin the spinner and see if the person with more or less on their card gets to keep the cards. This was perfect because we have been learning about more or less in our math book this month! This cute game is from Mrs. Wills' Halloween Math Work Stations pack.)

Station 6: Halloween Eraser Patterns
(Students use all of those bat, ghost, and pumpkin erasers I got at Target to complete the pattern on their paper. Some of the patterns are very simple and others are a bit tricky-so  great way to differentiate! These fabulous and free pattern pages are from Nicole at The Kinder Kid.)

Station 7: How Many Pumpkins in the Pumpkin Patch?
Students choose a number card to clip to the top of their math mat, and then count out that many pumpkins to put in the pumpkin patch. I used pumpkin erasers but you could also use paper pumpkins. This awesome free game is from Confessions of a Homeschooler-and she has tons of other great pumpkin activities too! )

Station 8: Measure the Monsters
(Students measure the monsters with unifix cubes and then color in how many cubes tall each monster was on their paper. We haven't worked much on measurement yet, but the kids loved this! This game is from Mrs. Lee's Monster Madness Unit.)

Station 9: Monster Number Roll
(Students roll the dice and color in a monster on their paper with that number. Simple and fun! This game is from Mrs. Lee's Monster Madness Unit.)

Thank you to all of the fantastic bloggers who created these games-my students and I are thankful for your creativity-it sure is making math fun this year! Now I just need to prep some stations for November!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Read Write Sing!

I had an awesome afternoon yesterday browsing books with fellow kindergarten blogger Chrissy from Read Write Sing! You must check out her blog-she has tons of great ideas! It was so much fun to meet another blogger-and Chrissy is super nice!

Two kindergarten teachers can get into lots of trouble in a bookstore! I showed some serious restraint and only went home with four new books (and it was Barnes & Noble's teacher discount weekend- hooray!).

How Rocket Learned to Read
A darling book about a little bird that teaches a dog to read!

No More Monsters for Me! (I Can Read Book 1)
The perfect read aloud for our monster theme next week!

 My students are obsessed with Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series!

Another cute Elephant and Piggie Book to add to my collection!

It has been such a wonderful experience blogging these last few months and I am so grateful for all of my new blogging friends that inspire me with their amazing ideas-wish I could meet you all!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alphabet Practice

While several of my reading groups are now reading leveled books, I still have two small groups that are working on the alphabet. The first group knows roughly half the letters in the alphabet, so we are really working hard on learning all of the letters. We are practicing reading the alphabet chart daily, and doing lots of letter sorting so they start noticing the different features of each letter. We have also been playing some fun little games.

One game we play involves them locating different letters. I will tell each student a letter and then they have to point to that letter on their alphabet chart. I can individualize this easily if there are certain letters I have been working on with the particular student. If they locate the letter correctly, I put a little pumpkin eraser on that letter on their chart-which they love!

Another game we have been playing is where they can point to any letter they want on their alphabet chart and tell me its name-if they do this correctly, then I let them take a little Halloween eraser to cover up that letter. These are similar skills, just in one game they are locating the letter and in one game they are generating the names of known letters so that they become more fluent with the alphabet.

My second reading group that is working on alphabet skills is a little more advanced. The students in this group know most of the letters in the alphabet, so we are not just reviewing the letters, but also working on developing knowledge of letter sounds. One game I play with this group is where I will make a letter sound (like mmmm) and then they have to point to the letter on their alphabet chart that makes that sound. If they do it correctly then I let them put a little ghost eraser on that letter of alphabet.

We have also been concentrating on hearing the first letter in words, so we've been playing a fun little game to go along with that. I have a pack of alphabet flashcards that I got at Target over the summer that I use for this game. I show the students a picture flashcard and they write down on their dry erase board the letter they think the word starts with. For example, in the photo below I showed them a picture of a turtle, we all said the word turtle together, and then I asked them to write the letter it begins with. Then I turn the flashcard around so they can see if the letter on the back matches the letter they wrote. They all did great and wrote the letter T! When they write the correct letter I let them take a little pumpkin eraser to put at the top of their dry erase board-it is amazingly motivating for them since this is a challenging game!

I really encourage them to refer to the alphabet chart for help if they get stuck. So, if they weren't sure what turtle started with, I would ask them to think about what picture on their alphabet chart started the same way, hoping they would think "Oh, turtle starts like tiger on my alphabet chart, so they both must begin with the letter T." I like how with this game they are not just working on hearing sounds, but also writing the letters as well. Soon I hope to move on to middle and ending sounds and have them write down several letters they hear in each word.

You might notice in my photos that I sometimes use file folders that I have cut in half as little "privacy screens" between each student at my table. We don't use these everyday, however this just makes things easier so that I can say something like "Point to the letter B" and they have to do the work themselves instead of just looking to see what letter their neighbor is pointing to on the alphabet chart. Another thing I do is keep little baskets on my guided reading table with a dry erase marker an eraser in each so that when we use the dry erase boards everyone has all the materials they need in their little basket.

I would definitely recommend the alphabet charts I use in my classroom. I got them years ago from Teaching Resource Center and laminated them so they would be extra durable. I love that they come in a large poster size that I keep on my easel for shared reading (see above photo) and then also the small individual size so I can give each student their own copy of the alphabet chart to work with. My students frequently use the mini-charts for writing workshop, reading groups, and even several of our literacy stations. I think that consistency is important when students are first learning the alphabet, so I like that they use the same alphabet chart with the same picture icons for everything.

I'd love to hear how your reading groups are going-especially any tips you might have for working with those kiddos that are still struggling to learn the alphabet.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Anyone else going through tons of play-doh? It has to be the best invention to keep 5 year olds occupied! My students loved it when I made them magic play-doh at the beginning of the year- it's just homemade play-doh with a dot of food coloring hidden in the middle so that when they start rolling it around in their hands it "magically" changes colors. I haven't cooked up any homemade play-doh since the first week of school, but I did just see a recipe for pumpkin pie play-doh on Pinterest last night. I bet it smells delicious-I only hesitate to make it because with the class I have this year-surely some of them would try to eat it!

My students love our play-doh literacy station. At the beginning of the year they rolled out long skinny "play-doh snakes" and shaped them into alphabet letters. Now that we are further along in the school year, it is all about play-doh stamping. I wrote a grant for Lakeshore's wonderful play-doh letter stampers a few years ago, and they have been wonderful! My students love stamping our sight words. Lately they have been using the play-doh word work pack from Leslie at Kindergarten Works. They are practicing stamping the missing letter and also stamping sight words (there are also CVC picture cards and word family stamping mats too that I'll let them use later in the year).

Luckily I had a parent generously donate many cans of play-doh last year, so we haven't run out yet. However, I just found a great use for our empty play-doh cans. Play-doh cans make a great storage container for small game pieces. For example, in my alphabet station this week students are playing Mrs. Wills' Fall ABC Matching Game and all the little game cards fit perfectly into the play-doh can!

Now bigger game cards definitely won't fit, but anything small-like small math manipulatives or letter tiles fit easily. Mrs. Wills recommends using a frosting jar for many of her math station game cards-so that would be a good option if you need storage for bigger cards or game pieces (but I am trying to stay away from the frosting-so I don't have any of those jars to recycle!!). You could even make cute little labels to stick on your play-doh cans to match the materials you are storing inside of them-no time for that this week though as I must finish my report cards!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Parent Teacher Conferences

Our parent teacher conferences are coming up in a week and so I am starting to get prepared now. Even though this will be my 7th year teaching, I still get stressed out over conferences. It's so challenging to communicate to parents about how their kindergartener is doing in school in just 15 short minutes! Kindergarten parents also have tons of questions-especially if this is their first child in school, and I like to be able to address all of their questions and concerns. Of course we also have to go through the first quarter report card and I like to show lots of work samples, examples of assessments, and any little anecdotes I might have about the child.

Over the years I have had parents ask me how they can help their child at home, and I've often just given a quick tip or two-usually encouraging them to read lots of books at home! I also always have a few students that are still struggling with basic concepts like name writing and letter recognition at this point in the year and really like to encourage the parents of these students to work with me to support these skills at home.

Last year I finally got my act together and made a list of math tips and a list of literacy tips for parents. They are just quick one-page lists of ideas parents can try at home with their kindergartener. I tried my best to make many of the ideas fun. I handed these tip sheets to parents at the end of our conference and many really liked them.

Feel free to download these if you think your students' parents would find them useful. If you have any tips for successful parent-teacher conferences, I'd love to hear them!

Friday, October 14, 2011

October Math Work Stations

Math stations are moving along...we're still working on things like noise level and cooperating with our partners, however the students are independent enough now that I don't need to be constantly monitoring the stations. This has been particularly nice this week since I have been able to use my math station time to pull students for some of the endless report card testing that needs to be done one-on-one.

This week the math games were a bit of a hodge podge of all our October themes (bats, fire safety, pumpkins). We are currently working on numbers 1-10 in our math book, and our math stations this week focused heavily on number recognition and counting skills.

Station 1: Boo Game
(This game is from Mrs. Wills' Halloween Math Work Stations Pack. Students roll the dice and cover up the ghost on the game board with that number. Mrs. Wills also offers a more challenging game board with bigger numbers to help differentiate this activity.)

Station 2: Halloween Counting
(This free game is from Kelly's Kindergarten. Students pick a game card, count how many pumpkins are on the card, and then cover up that number on the game board's gate. The students had such fun folding up the paper to cover the gate on this game. Kelly also offers a fall version of this game board-which is a good option if you can't use a game board with witches on it.)

Station 3: Spooky Numbers
(This game is from Mrs. Wills' Halloween Math Work Stations Pack. My kids never tire of this game. You roll a dice and then trace the corresponding number on the game board. Somehow just the name "spooky numbers" and the clipart of "spooky eyes" at the top of the sheet made this game seem completely new to my students even though they play some variation on this game every week! Mrs. Wills also includes a more challenging recording sheet with larger numbers where students can roll two dice. )

Station 4: Firedog Math
(One of my teammates created this game long before we were all using computers to design math stations! I love how simple it is, you just roll the dice and color in a square with the number you rolled. The kids liked seeing which firedog would win by getting the number above him rolled the most.)

Station 5: Number Matching Game
(This game is from Julie Lee's October Small Group Intervention Pack. Students counted the objects on the picture cards and then matched the picture card to the corresponding number card and number word (the number words provided a nice challenge to really get my students thinking!)

Station 5-part 2: Pumpkin Seed Counting
(Since the number matching game above doesn't take that long, I also included this simple game in Station 5. Students counted how many pumpkin seeds each pumpkin card had and then matched it to the corresponding number card. This game could easily be made by drawing seeds onto pumpkin die-cuts.)

Station 6: Candy Corn Count
(This game is from Julie Lee and Deanna Jump's Autumn Math and Literacy Centers Pack. Students took a card out of the candy corn bag (finally a use for this darling bag from Target's dollar spot!), colored a candy corn on their sheet the same color as the border on their card, and then recorded how many candy corns were on the card. I just found another cute candy corn math game to put in my little candy corn bag next week-check out this free set of candy corn number puzzles at Mrs. Freshwater's Class.)

Station 7: Pumpkin Counting
(This was probably the most exciting station for my kinders this week. I bought the little pumpkin containers a few years ago (possibly at Target?) and wrote a number on the back of each one. Students can practice lining the pumpkin containers up in number order and then they count out the right number of pumpkin erasers to put into each little basket.)

Station 8: Batty Ten Frames
(This game is from the Nocturnal Animals Math and Literacy Centers Pack by Katie at Little Warriors. The students pick a bat card, color a bat on their sheet the same color as the bat card, and then record how many dots were on the bat's ten frame.)

Station 9: Polka-Dot Pumpkins
(This game is from Julie Lee and Deanna Jump's Autumn Math and Literacy Centers Pack. Students picked a pumpkin card, colored a pumpkin on their sheet the same color as the polka-dots on their pumpkin card, and recorded how many dots were on the pumpkin.) 

Halloween Eraser Patterns
(This was not actually one of our math stations this week. However, yesterday I had a student that was causing some trouble during math stations time and needed a little time out from her station and a little time away from her partner! After a few minutes though, I figured I didn't really want her just sitting in time out wasting her precious math time, so I had her practice making patterns with these mini erasers. I am finding so many great uses for these little erasers that I will have to do a separate post on them!)

I'd love to hear how your math stations have been going this month!

Also, if you post about your stations, then be sure to link up to Mrs. Wills' Stations Linky Party.
If you decide to post about another fun part of your week, go ahead and link up to Clutter-Free Classroom's A Peek in My Planbook Week in Review Linky Party.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bat & Owl Books

My class had so much fun learning all about bats and owls last week! There are some great books out there about bats and owls-both fiction and nonfiction. Here are some of my favorites.

I think my favorite book about bats is Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde. This cute book is written in a question and answer format, and tells all about the smallest bat in the world- the bumblebee bat. After reading this book, we of course had to find out what the smallest owl in the world is- the elf owl.

I just happened to spot a wonderful book about elf owls at the Scholastic book fair my school had last month. It is called The Perfect Place for an Elf Owl. You absolutely have to check it out-it was written by first and second grade students! It has a darling repeating format, where a baby elf owl looks for his mama owl in all different environments (the forest, the arctic, etc.) so you get info on the owls that live in all of those different places. Finally at the end of the book the baby owl finds his mama where elf owls live-in a cactus nest in the desert. My students adored this book-because they could tell the illustrations were made by kids like them. There are also several pages at the back of the book with photos of the book's student authors researching owls and writing the book-so inspiring for my young writers!

We read many informational books during our study of bats and owls. Gail Gibbons is a great nonfiction author and my students enjoyed learning tons of facts from her Bats book and her Owls book. We learned about the different kinds of bats and owls, where they live, what they eat, and so much more! There are great diagrams in these books too for the parts of an owl/bat. After reading these two books we had lots of good information to use to compare bats and owls.

If you're looking for unbelieveable photos, you have to check out Seymour Simon's books. His nonfiction book Amazing Bats has amazing photos that fascinated my kindergarteners. There were lots of up close shots of bats and even little baby bats!

Two fun fiction stories about bats are Bat Jamboree and Bats Around the Clock. Both books are written by Kathi Appelt and have really cute illustrations. I especially like these two bat books because they can be used to tie in math concepts. Bat Jamboree is a counting book and Bats Around the Clock can be used for teaching about telling time to the hour. Both of these books also rhyme-which is always fun!

I have to admit, I'm a little sad to move on to studying fire safety this week since I don't have nearly as many good books around that theme! If you have any fun book recommendations for the month of October-please share. I am a total book addict and love finding new books to add to my classroom collection!