Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Map Book

Have you seen this book?

My Map Book by Sara Fanelli is a great introduction to maps for young learners.  I shared this book with my kindergarten class and of course they immediately wanted to make their own maps.   The kids had several ideas that they wanted to try out.  They also said that they should add labels to their maps so people would know what the drawings were.  

We looked up several different examples of maps made by children on the Internet and the kids were inspired.  If you are looking up maps, make sure to look up Maps of Reggio Emilia by Children.  There are some amazing examples of kid drawn maps that took hours of collaborative effort.  In a half day kindergarten class, we didn't get too far on our maps, but several families told me that their kids continued their map making at home.

Happy map making!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

We Saw A Snort

 You can find connections to literature in every part of your day if you are on the lookout.  Let me explain....

A few weeks back CC and I ran to get a load of compost for our lawn because of a little moss problem, and by little I mean huge.  The moss had taken over almost every square foot of grass this fall and winter.   When my husband treated the moss our yard quickly turned into a mud/dirt/decomposing moss wasteland.  Not fun to play on and not fun to look at.  So CC and I were recruited to pick up the necessary compost to cover the seed that would restore our yard to the more grass than moss ratio that we are accustomed to.

While we waited for the tractor to load our truck, CC climbed into the driver's seat to sit with me.  I noticed a vintage tractor retired right in front of us and immediately thought of Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman.  We discussed what we could remember about the story and decided we better read it when we returned home.  I'd like to say CC made the connection between the tractor and the book, but it was me.  Her excitement was genuine and she wanted to take a closer look at the "Snort." 
We headed home and dove right into the book.  


Are You My Mother? has been a favorite at our house since CC was able to turn pages.  We have a copy of the board book and the "regular" version.  It was so fun to enjoy the story but also to really look at the machine that looked so similar to the tractor we happened upon that day. 
There is no prep work involved in this type of learning.  I think living with your eyes wide open to what you are doing and experiencing with your children is all that is required. 
What is out there for you to notice with your children today?

Friday, May 8, 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We've been busy in kindergarten lately.  (Well, kindergarten is always a busy place.)  I love setting up different provocations for the kids using natural materials, art supplies, and questions for them to think about.  I have a cute little wooden table in my classroom that is the place, kids have figured out, that I set up my displays.  They come in, in the morning, and head to the little table right after the unpack their backpacks.  There is always something to touch, smell, or explore.  This week we had an herb display on the little table.

I love creating a sensory garden at home, and this was a mini sensory garden for our classroom.  I showed the kids how to rub the leaves to release the smell of the different herbs.  Chocolate mint was the clear favorite.  Many kids had a strong response to the different herbs.  Some kids really didn't like many of the herbs, while other kids had a specific plant that they came back to over and over.   Eventually, we planted these herbs in planters in the courtyard, but we loved having them in the classroom and kids were very curious about how to use them when you cook.  We are in the middle of a cooking/baking unit in the classroom, so we will be snipping a few herbs to add to recipes in the next few weeks.

Obviously, our herbs and planting lead to a new book display.  I absolutely LOVE garden books and have been collecting them for the past few years.

Top on my list of favorite books for kids is Grow It, Cook It by DK Publishing.  I love this book because it teaches kids how to garden but also what to do with the fruits, veggies, and herbs they grow.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes is another favorite.  This is a great book for a reading and writing extension on imaginary gardens.

One more favorite is The Curious Garden by Peter Brown.  This one is just a beautiful story about creating your own garden out of a dreary, uninspired, space.

You don't need a lot of space to grow an herb or sensory garden.  A few small flower pots will do just fine.  There are so many ways to integrate learning into a gardening unit.  There is the science behind the plant, the sensory experience tied to the herbs, the literature that can be found about gardens, and the opportunity to keep a garden journal.  Best of all, the kids just love getting their hands dirty and growing their own food.

Happy gardening!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Loose Tooth List & Why Tools of The Trade Matter for All Ages

Last week was a really big week at our house for a couple of reasons. First, my oldest turned FIVE. That alone made me wonder where all the time had gone since we brought her home from the hospital, but I've been feeling that way since before she was born.

The bigger, and maybe more thrilling, part of our week was her losing her first tooth. I was utterly unprepared for it because she isn't even in Kindergarten and she's just a few days into being five.

There really wasn't any traumatic story to go with it coming out. She ate a piece of popcorn and out it popped. It was what happened almost right afterward that made my heart swell. She ran to her room and her 'art station' to write about what she had done RIGHT AFTER it fell out.

"The Loose Tooth List"
play, jump, write, talk, walk
sit, yawn, stretch
ich, look

wash my mouth

I had found her in her room working away at her list and just a couple days before we'd added a stapler to her work space, after a couple rounds of practice stapling. She did her own cutting and stapling and presented me with the finished product. 

I was so proud that she wanted to express her experience of losing her first tooth through writing and that we have space in our home that is ALL hers, full of tools that can help aide the need to create. I'm not worried that none of the words are spelled correctly, or that her formation of the letters are wonky, there will be plenty of time in the future to combat that. 

I'm just glad that she was able to express and document the event in her own five-year old way.

Free Kindergarten Readiness Ebook - Are We Ready?

Several years ago I decided to write an ebook.  I had just sent my youngest off to kindergarten and I was thinking, "There were so many things I wasn't prepared for, when sending my child off to school."  I had been a first and second grade teacher for many years when my son (my first child) started kindergarten, but I was in shock to find out what kids were expected to do in early kindergarten.  I was slightly more prepared when my daughter started, but still not enough.  When I moved schools and grade levels, and became a kindergarten teacher, I decided to make it my mission to help families prepare for kindergarten.  My first ebook was born.  I shared it on my blog and sent it to a few kindergarten teachers I knew.  Several schools emailed me to let me know that they were printing it and handing parents a copy when they walked in the door to register for kindergarten.  I can't tell you how happy that makes me!

Well, several years have passed since I first put this booklet out there for people to see.  My opinions and suggestions haven't changed much over the years, but I was thinking that the ebook could use a little updating.  Over the past few weeks I've been updating photos, updating links to different websites, and adding a few things like the kindergarten readiness videos I made with LeapFrog.

Here it is!  I'd love it if you'd share this with anyone and everyone who has an young child at home.  It's a free ebook.  I really just want to get the message out about kindergarten readiness. 

Click on the link, above, to take you to Gumroad and download the ebook.  Please let me know if you have any trouble downloading the book.  I switch my provider this time, so I'm hoping  I don't have any glitches.

Please let me know what you think of the ebook!

Happy reading!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pop! A Book About Bubbles

The highlight of my work week... ok, maybe my whole year, is doing bubbles with my kindergarten students.  You might be thinking, "Oh, how cute.  They are probably working on the letter B."  Nope.  We are working on poetry writing, discovering properties of liquids, and exploring provocations about water.

Our work started with Pop! A Book About Bubbles.  This is a great book to get kids thinking about bubbles, and get them excited for the next step!  It also has a recipe for making your own bubbles.

I wish I could show you the joy on the kids' faces as they explored with bubbles.  There was such excitement! Links to the book and some fun bubble wands are below. (I'm an amazon affiliate.)  


After exploring with bubbles, we wrote fabulous bubble poems, made bubble paintings to go along with the poems, and then one of my super-awesome kiddos asked if we could put soap in the water table.  Ummm... YES!

One of the joys of teaching kindergarten is seeing the wonder in kids' faces and the excitement in their eyes when they try something new.  Most of the kids in my class have probably had an experience with  bubbles before, but using big wands, reading a new book, and adding soap to the water table made these experiences totally new for the kids.  It was a good day. 

Happy Bubble Making!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Reading and the Rain

We live in the Pacific Northwest.  This place is part of us and because of that so is the rain.

A few days ago CC and I were going about our normal Monday-preschool, lunch and some afternoon playtime.  We had grand plans to go outside and checkout our neighbor's yard project, complete with rented tractor, and rubble/dirt galore.  I try to get her interested in the outdoors daily, which is no easy task because she would rather stay in.  The tractor was my hook and just as we were getting ready to venture out, the rain started.  It was the kind of rain that you can see in sheets and waves as the wind blows it every which way.  We stood on the porch and listened then decided to stay in.  But, what to do instead?

I decided to try something that we've done before with little success.

I love to read and so does CC, she just doesn't love to give it a go on her own.  When she does manage to get off my lap long enough for me to open my book it is usually short lived-like I only get one page read-short lived.  I have continued to try this with her, me sitting reading my book with her next to me 'reading' hers, because I want her to see a love of reading modeled.

To make the pot a bit sweeter, I heated up some hot chocolate while she picked a stack of books to read.  I wanted this to be a positive experience, after all.  CC picked a nice variety of books for herself, some picture books, a magazine (with a search and find that held her attention), a collection of stories, a photo album, a picture dictionary, and a wordless book.  I'm reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, in case you were wondering.

We snuggled up on the couch together, side-by-side and started reading.  I don't know if it was the rain, the perfect combination of book choices, or the hot chocolate but on this day I read 6 whole pages in my book!  I count that as a success both for me and for CC.

She was able to gain some stamina in her reading, see someone who genuinely loves to read, and had a positive experience.  I was able to take a breath, model for my daughter how important reading is, and dive deeper into my story.

Encourage your little ones to pull up beside you while you both read.  They may only last a minute, maybe even less, but it is a start.  I've been trying this for over three years and felt a bit more successful today. 

And, it all started because of the rain.      


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Day At The Beach

I'm always amazed at the way the beach can draw the most reluctant kids into exploration.  Last week, during our Spring Break, we took a short trip to Birch Bay.  The day we arrived was beautiful.  We played at the pool and then decided to check out the beach during low tide.  We went to the Birch Bay State Park and found a few people digging for clams, but not a lot to look at.  By the time we walked out to the water, the kids were complaining and wondering why I made them get out of the pool. Clearly, it was time to try a new beach.  We asked a few locals and found out that Semiahmoo beach had better tide pools, so we hopped in the car and took off.

There was so much to look at and explore at Semiahmoo!  Everything seemed full of life.  We watched the barnacles reaching for their dinner, collected rocks, got squirted by a few clams, flipped over rocks and found little crabs, and discovered baby sand dollars.

The kids couldn't resist wading in the tide pools!  There was just so much to explore.  The big kids were up to their knees in the water, collecting as many sand dollars as they could find.  The little kids were on the look out for baby sand dollars.  Me?? I was looking for starfish and chitons, while getting stuck (knee deep) in SUPER smooshy sand.  I have to admit, it was pretty hysterical! 

So much to learn and so much to explore!
I love a sunny day at the beach! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Where We Keep Our Books

Being a mother of two young children, I have always worked to make sure that they both have full access to their own set of books at any given time. I find great comfort in reading and my older daughter, Maggie, almost five, can often be found reading in her room. 

My younger daughter, Audrey, a two year old, tends to 'read' books at a much quicker pace, and is a bit more reckless with how she treats them. We keep a bin of board books in the living room that she can keep organized in her own way and can help by putting them away when they're done. Although she's only two, she has favorite books and favorite authors. I have a bin of board books in the garage that I rotate for her.

In Maggie's room, we have a bookshelf that I scored for free when she was a baby that has proven to be one of our best places to store her books. I wallpapered the back of it and it has been full of books ever since. Every couple months we go through it and weed out books we're done with, forgot about, or are ready to give away. 

We try to read chapter books at night time and some of my old favorites I keep on Maggie's dresser, away from two-year old hands. 

Library books tend to have a floating life in our home, depending on how great of a book it is or where we last read it. Maggie's school is near the local library so we go there with great frequency and this means that we're often hauling books in and out of the house. For the most part we keep the books on her bedside table and back in to our library bag when we're done with them. That way they don't get too lost. 

 In our living room we have a bin of seasonal books that hold special books. I have bins in our garage that I use to rotate at appropriate times. It's always an exciting day when we change out these seasonal books because it means new books......or at least books we haven't seen in a year.

To me, books should be getting read, thumbed through and loved. I find great comfort in walking into somebody's home and seeing that they're readers. There are books on every subject, and there are also books written for all ages. This is just how we have books in our home for little people. 

Documenting Learning On Instagram

Are you on Instagram? I post pictures of home life, my kids, family vacations, and school life on my Instagram account. Come join me! My user name is homeiswheremystorybegins. I'd love it if you would follow me.

I've been using hashtags, which my 14 year old reminds me that using hashtags does not make me cool. Ha! I was on Instagram before the teen crowd had even discovered it!

#CTInquiry is a great one that is inquiry based. #teachersofinstagram, #allaboutinquiry, and #makelearningvisible are all hashtags that I'm starting to use.

Come join me, friends! Help me prove to my 14 year old that I have followers who are old enough to drive.

Search for me on Instagram. homeiswheremystorybegins 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Meet My New Partners!

Are you ready to meet my new blogging partners?  I'm so excited to add friends who are teachers, literacy lovers, and parents of young children as contributors to this blog.

I'd like you to meet Hannah, Angela, and Nicole!
Here's a little about them.

My name is Nicole.  I am a mother to a very curious, verbal,compassionate, and take-charge kind of 4 year old.  I am also a wife, homemaker, and former elementary teacher.  I love reading, literacy, and sharing this passion with my daughter.  Personally, I struggled to learn to read as a child and eventually got the hang of it thanks to Beverly Cleary - something clicked and I haven't looked back.  Knowing what I know now about early literacy experiences, I am providing my daughter with adventures that will fill her literary cup daily.

Hannah is a wife, mother, and teacher. Before she had children she taught elementary school for many years. Her love of all things literacy seep into all aspects of her life. Hannah, so devoted to reading, still falls asleep with her nose in a book each night. 

Hello, I'm Angela.  I've been a Kindergarten teacher of over 10 years, a loving wife, and a mom of 2 young boys. I decided my plate was not full enough so I decided to start blogging! Having been inspired by so many educators and parents over the years, I am now hoping to give back and be that same inspiration for others.

I can't wait to get started on our blogging adventure with these ladies!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How To Turn Playtime Into Writing Time

It's Parent/Teacher conference week in the school district I work in.  I love talking with parents!  It's one of my favorite parts of the job.  While conference week is exhausting, in the sense that I don't get home until 8pm on several nights of the week, I find it so inspiring.  I get to talk with parents about who their kids really are and give them suggestions for building their learning environment at home.  As I was chatting with a parent on Monday, she was telling me how her daughter isn't loving the writing process at home.  I shared several FUN ways to incorporate writing into everyday life, and this post popped into my head.

Here is the original post.

My daughter LOVES her horses.  We bought this beautiful barn/stable at a garage sale last Spring.  It was the best $15 I've ever spent!  My little girl will spend HOURS playing ponies and really loves the barn.  Over the weekend, she got out the blocks and made an arena for the ponies to do their tricks in.

She'd set the ponies up and start her story telling. Now, you should know that my daughter is a story teller.  For some kids, story telling does not come naturally.  They rely on their parents, friends, caregivers, or older siblings to model story telling.  My daughter, on the other hand, tells stories in her sleep.  Literally.  She talks all night long.  She talks to stuffed animals, friends, family, and one time even held a full conversation with a fairy, all while still asleep. 

As her barn and stable play was starting to wrap up, and I was ready to start a new sewing project, I decided to push her story telling to the next level.  It went something like this. 

 "Hey, if you'd like to, you could grab the extra camera off the counter and take some pictures of your ponies. That might be fun." 

She looks at me with a puzzled look.

"You could tell the same story you were just creating, but this time take pictures of your ponies in action.  I'd be happy to print them for you and maybe you'd even like to make a book."

Let the story telling begin!  My daughter spent the next hour, or so, taking about 100 pictures of her horses.  Her story telling was quite elaborate and she posed each horse for their own action shot.

When she was finished, she chose the 12 best photos and we printed them on the mini photo printer.  I've had this little printer forever and it's great when the kids what to be in charge of their own projects. You could, just as easily, upload them and send them to your local drug store for pick up.  Our local Bartell Drugs has on-demand printing that we use all the time.

Then came time for the book.  I really thought she'd want stickers, fun paper, or lots of markers.  Instead, she chose a simple, pre-made, book from the writing center and a pink marker. (I have a writing center set up in the house, filled with pre-made blank books, stationary, cards, envelopes, scrapbook paper, and lots of art supplies.)

She glued each picture into her book.  Most of the spelling was done in her own "kid writing" but when she came across a really tough word, she'd ask her brother. 

I didn't hover.  I didn't "play teacher" and tell her to fix things.  I didn't even remind her to use capitals at the beginning of sentences.  (Obviously!)  I just got out of her way and let her do the work of an author.  This was her book, her story, her photos, her way. 

When my daughter finished her book, she took pride in reading it to each of us.  I was thrilled that she was so proud of herself.  She knows that writing is hard work, especially when you've just finished kindergarten.  It really would not be appropriate if I asked her to correct her spelling, capitals, or go back and make revisions.  This experience was about building the confidence of a young story teller.  It was about play time turning into story time, and then to a writer's workshop.  I know there is a time and place to talk to her about the capital I, but this wasn't it.

When a woodworker goes into their workshop, they find raw materials and create something beautiful.  Kids need a writer's workshop to use in the same way.  My first grader built a story telling platform out of simple blocks and toy horses.  She created stories in much the same way a woodworker envisions the piece they are about to make.  Finally, she became a writer.  She used the story she had told through play, pictures she had taken, and a blank book to become an author.  She took raw materials and made something beautiful that she could hold in her hands.

What stories could your kids tell through their play?

Happy writing!