Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall crafts!

My class has been loving fall! For the last few weeks we've been immersed in everything apples, autumn, and pumpkins. Here are some of the crafts we've made.

The fall trees were very easy-just torn paper for the grass, tree trunk, branches, and leaves. Then students told me something they like to do in the fall and we added the typed sentence to the bottom of the paper. I like how each tree really has its own personality!
The apples are probably my favorite craft though! I don't ever want to take them down from our classroom windows-they look so pretty! Just put an apple outline on some clear contact paper, have the kids fill it with tissue paper squares, then cover with another piece of clear contact paper and cut it out. Pretty quick and easy projects! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Teaching About Elections & Voting

With election day coming up next month, I have been planning ways to teach my kindergarten students about voting and elections. I think this is a very important topic to teach about-and I hope my kindergarteners will encourage their parents to vote.

We will be holding an election at my school for the kids (we use the Kids Voting program) so my students will get the opportunity to vote just like mom and dad. We're keeping it simple for the kindergarteners though-we'll only be voting for president, governor, and senator.

So, how do you explain a topic as complex as voting to kindergarteners? I plan to start with some great read alouds. Here are some of the books I will be reading and discussing with my class (you can click on the books for more info on them).

My favorite book about elections is "Grace for President." It is about a little girl named Grace who runs for school president. It's neat for the kids to see how the candidates make campiagn promises on how they would change their school if elected-and it always leads to a discussion on what we might want to improve in our school. Sometimes I have my kids write about what they would do if they were our school's president.
I also love the book "Duck for President." It is by Doreen Cronin, the same author as "Click Clack Moo." The illustrations are great and it gives a funny take on the election process. In the end, duck learns that being president really isn't all that fun-it's a lot of work! I saw an idea (on Pinterest I think) where kids write about which storybook character they would nominate for president-I might do this activity as a follow up to this book.
Rosemary Wells always writes great books-so I had to get this book she wrote about voting. In the book "Otto Runs For President" a little dog named Otto runs for school president. You get to see how sometimes in a campaign, the different candidates are not very nice to each other, and try to show one another up with campaign promises.
The book "If I Ran for President" explains what it is like to run for president in a way kids can understand. It briefly touches on things like the primaries, conventions, debates, and campaigning. It's told from the perspective of a kid who is imagining what it would be like to run for president.
The book "If I Were President" is also told from the perspective of a kid imagining what it would be like to become president. It highlights some of the perks of being president, like: having your own personal chef, getting to travel to different countries, and being famous. It also describes some of the work of being president too, like: going to meetings, giving speeches to congress, and being in charge of the military. Very kid friendly book!
This is a cute story told from the perspective of a kid who thinks his teacher should be president. He lists lots of funny reasons that she would be perfect for the job! This would be a good book to start a discussion about what the requirements are to become president and what might be some qualities of a good president.
Are you planning on doing anything fun to teach your class about elections and voting? If so, I would love to hear your ideas-I could use some more ideas for kindergarten appropriate voting lessons, activities, books, and crafts!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Alphabet & Sight Word Practice

I hope your October is off to a good start! I am still in a bit of shock that it is already October and time to start thinking about report cards! I'm not ready for that at all! September went by so quickly, that I still have tons of photos that I never got around to posting and blogging about-I will try to get to that this week!

My kinder kiddos have been working super hard to learn all of the letters in the alphabet, and they love playing different alphabet games during our center time. We have also started working on our kindergarten sight words-and I am thankful that I can take my time with our sight words and just focus on one per week (we only have 26 required words-and I know plenty of schools have more than that!).

Here are some of the alphabet and word work activities we did last week during center time.

That would be the front to my heater that the kiddos are making words on. I lucked out that the heater is metal so the magnetic letters stick on perfectly! I just used some tape to make a little grid.
My students this year LOVE wikki stix. They have been practicing making letters and words out of the wikki stix. I have a special dry erase board designated for wikki stix only since it makes the board so sticky!
I just adore this "Roll a Sight Word" game. It is so easy to play-just roll a dice and write down the corresponding word on the sheet. We play this all year long and the kids think it is a new game every time I switch which words are on the paper. To get this awesome freebie from Mrs. Parker, click here.
 My students are doing a great job practicing their sight words with these fun little cards. First they read the word at the top, then they build it with letter tiles, and finally they trace the word at the bottom and practicing writing it on the line. These sight word practice cards are a part of my Fall Fun: Literacy Games Pack.
This little sight word board game was a big hit last week with my students. So easy too-just roll the dice, move that many spaces, and say what word you landed on. This game (along with lots of other game boards) is also from my Fall Fun: Literacy Games Pack.
We're still practicing letters too-so the kids also had the option to play the same board game, but with letters instead of sight words.
Yes, I am a brave teacher-our stamping center is open for business! My students have been practicing stamping the alphabet with these wonderful free alphabet stamping pages from Shannon at Kindergarten Hoppenings. For my more advanced kiddos, I have been using Mrs. Wills' fantastic sight word stamping pages.
I'd love to hear what your students have been up to-and please share any fun alphabet or word work ideas that you have! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple Themed Centers

I'm gearing up to start teaching a unit on apples to my kinders in about a week or so. I guess that means fall is almost here! To go along with our study of apples and how they grow, I like to have a few fun math and literacy activities for my kiddos to do that have an apple theme.

Last year my students worked on lots of different apple themed math stations. Click here to check out my apple post from last year which includes links to several free apple math games!

This year I made some new apple themed literacy center activities to help my kinders learn their letters, sounds, and sight words. One of the games my students will play at our alphabet center is this very simple letter tracing game. I'll have a bag of magnetic letters and students will take turns picking a letter out of the bag and tracing the letter they picked on their paper. Click here to download these free letter tracing sheets (both capital letter and lowercase letter sheets included).

This game can easily be differentiated for students of different levels. The easiest way to play would be to give them a bag of capital letters and a capital letter sheet so they can trace the exact letter they pull out of the bag. To make it a little trickier, you can give them a bag of lowercase letters along with the capital letter sheet, so that they pick a lowercase letter but then have to find and trace the corresponding capital letters. Or, for really high students, I think I might give them a bag of little objects/toys/pictures and then when they pull out an item they have to determine the item's beginning sound and then trace that letter on the sheet.

I also have a pack of alphabet themed literacy games for sale in my TPT store that works on lots of different literacy skills, including: syllable counting, beginning sounds, capital and lowercase letter recognition, and sight words. Click here to check it out! I'd love to give away a free copy of this game pack to the first 2 people to leave a comment (and their email address) on this post!

Anyone else planning apple activities for the coming weeks? If so, I'd love to get some new ideas and hear what you and your students will be up to!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fun New Pointers

I decided to get crafty this weekend and make some fun new pointers for my students to use! Each pointer has a different letter at that top. These are very easy to make! I saw this idea last year and can't remember where I saw it-maybe Pinterest or someone's blog?

I started with a pack of magentic letters from Dollar Tree and 4 sets of plastic swizzle sticks I found at Goodwill (looks like they were originally from Target). You could also make these with popsicle sticks too. In all, this project cost me $3... not too bad!

I just put a little hot glue on the back of each magnetic letter and then stuck the letters onto the swizzle sticks. Not much to it!

So many possibilities for how these alphabet pointers can be used! I could put these pointers at the big book or poetry center and then students could pick a pointer and then use that pointer to locate that letter in the big book/poem they are reading.

They could also be used at the alphabet center-students could pick a pointer at then practice writing that letter on a dry erase board or make the letter out of wikki stix.

You could even have just have the class sit in a circle and pass the jar around, and every kid has to take a pointer out of the jar and say the letter they pick-or we all have to trace that letter in the air and the kid with the pointer can use it as a magic wand to trace the letter in the air. So much fun!

Have you made and fun projects for your classroom lately? If so...please share!

Product Review

Today I'm reviewing a fun new product from Lakeshore: The Phonemic Awareness Plinko Game. My students and I tested out this game last week and had a blast!

It comes with a bag full of very durable wooden chips with pictures on them. Students take turns dropping a chip into the Plinko board, and depending on which box it lands in on the bottom of the board, you either say the beginning sound, ending sound, or a rhyming word. These are all very kindergarten appropriate skills!

Obviously, my students' favorite part was dropping the chips and watching them fall through the game board! Everyone wanted a turn!

We played the game together as a whole class since naming beginning sounds, ending sounds, and rhyming words is still a bit challenging for the beginning of kindergarten. I could see my students being able to play this game independently as a literacy center later in the school year though. I also think it would be a great idea to give your kiddos dry erase boards and have them try to write the beginning/ending letter when the chip falls into those parts of the game board.

Overall a fun game-thanks Lakeshore! If you would like to purchase this game or any other items from Lakeshore, they are currently offering a "Buy One, Get One 50%  Off" special:

One new item I am considering purchasing with that coupon is their alphabet picture stickers- I always make alphabet books with my struggling students to help them learn the letters in the alphabet, and these stickers would make that book-making process so much easier! And of course my fave Lakeshore product is my lowercase alphabet dough stampers- these are fabulous and have gotten tons of use in my classroom the last few years!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Center Time!

Today was the 14th day of school and already my new kiddos are becoming pros at their centers. We just jumped right in on the second day of school and have been practicing every day since! I am just thrilled with how quickly my students have picked up on our rules and routines during center time-they are doing awesome! Most don't even need my help anymore to check the center board and figure out which centers they are assigned to each day.

Both my morning and afternoon classes just adore their center time each day. Last year with full day kindergarten I actually had time for 3 different center times during the day (literacy centers in the morning, math centers in the afternoon, and play centers at the end of the day). No such luck this year in half day, so even though most of my centers are literacy based, I sneak in a few other types of centers too (science, math, play centers) so they can work on those skills too!

My center time is 45 minutes long, and my students get to go to three 15-minute centers each day. I choose their centers for them, and I also assigned them each a center partner (any more than 2 kids at a center can really be a recipe for disaster). Since they have to stay at each center for 15 minutes (which feels like forever to a kindergartener) I make sure that most centers have at least 2 activities for them to choose from so it holds their attention the whole time.

Check out what we've been up to at our centers this week!

Writing Center: Students practiced their handwriting-kinders sure do love dry erase markers! 
Writing Center: Students played "Roll a Letter" and traced the letters they rolled on the dice (this game is from Deanna Jump & Julie Lee's School Fun Centers Pack)
Alphabet Center: I put a set of magnetic letters into a cloth bag, and students took turns pulling out a letter and then coloring in that letter on their paper-this simple game was a hit! (You can grab this awesome and free alphabet page from Growing in PreK)
Alphabet Center: Students use blocks to build letters (the cards and blocks are from Lakeshore)
Listening Center: Students enjoyed listening to books on tape (yep-keeping it old school in my class- no iPods or CDs to listen to-just good ole cassette tapes!)
Library Center: Students chose books to read from our classroom library (so thankful to have a class that loves reading this year- even my kids that don't know any letters love retelling books like Pete the Cat at this center!)
Playdoh Center- Students made alphabet letters out of playdoh
Playdoh Center: Students used playdoh stampers to stamp the missing letters on these fabulous alphabet cards made by Leslie @ Kindergarten Works (playdoh stampers are from Lakeshore)
Pocket Chart Center: Students matched together capital and lowercase letter flashcards (happened to spot these cute flashcards at Walgreens a few weeks ago-I love that they have the animals on them to help kids that aren't great at capital/lowercase letter matching yet)
Computer Center: Students played the alphabet letter games on
Science Center: Students tested different objects to see if they were magnetic or not, and then sorted pictures of the objects onto the pocket chart
Math Center: Students made pictures out of pattern blocks
Math Center: Students made numbers out of wikki stix
Puzzles and Games Center: Students played this board game from my Alphabet Games Pack. Students rolled a dice, moved that number of spaces on the game board, and told their partner the letter they landed on.
I'd love it if you'd check this pack of alphabet games out at my TPT store. I'd also love to give away this pack of games for free to the first 2 people to leave a comment on this post (just make sure you leave your email address in your comment!). Happy Wednesday!
Let me know how your first days/weeks of school have been going and if your class has any fun activities they've been enjoying during center time!