Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th of July Photo Journal for Kids

Are you ready for the fun and festivities of the day?  I know I am!  The cookies are baked, the fried chicken has been ordered, and 60 of my closest friends are coming for a picnic.  It's shaping up to be a fun day!

If your kids are anything like mine, they will eat too much, stay up too late, and be pretty grumpy on the 5th of July.  Here's a quick and easy project to do with them AFTER the festivities have died down.

My Firework Photo Journal has been posted on the LeapFrog Learning Path site.  

Have your kids paint up a firework journal to get in the 4th of July spirit.  Then, after the 4th, print out a few favorite photos to add to the journal.  This is a great way to encourage your kids to keep writing over the summer!  Check out the LeapFrog Learning Path site to see the full how-to.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Celebrating the 4th

CC, like most young ones I know, loves holidays.  She loves everything about celebrating - eating good food, visiting friends and family, and most of all decorating.  You can look in just about every room in our home and she has added her own brand of decoration in random places - an collection of orange streamers on the wall in our family room, a post-it in a bathroom with a smiley face on it, a card taped to the wall of the office that she addressed to the family, she even decorated her new playset in our backyard with squares of colored paper.  When we started talking about the 4th she started jumping around excitedly about decorating -you'd think I had just announced a trip to Disneyland! 
We jumped on Pinterest for inspiration, decided on a garland, and started the hunt for supplies.  Around here a lot of the fun is in the search!  We collected scrapbook paper, ribbon, glue sticks and got to work.  As the creating began, so did the learning.
CC decided on the pattern, naturally sorting by colors.  We talked about each color and the sounds in each.  Two of the sound/letter correspondence CC mixes up is /y/ and /w/ so it was a great opportunity to isolate the /w/ sound in white and decide on what letter makes that sound.  She is also reading CVC words so we talked about the sounds and letters in red.  All of this occurred in about a minute, with no prior planning on my part, just a little parental knowledge.

It was serious business once we got started.  White, red, blue, white, red, blue with a double check in there to make sure everything was going right. 

Great find motor practice folding, cutting, and applying glue for CC.  So much learning and she had no idea.  She was just over the moon that we were decorating for a holiday.  

The last step in our holiday decoration was for CC to cut the triangle shapes out of the garland.  I did some, she did some.  The don't all match, but I love them even more because they don't.  She was so proud of herself when it was finished.

Our garland headed straight for our fireplace mantle, where else.  It really added some color and pazazz!

Watching CC practice emerging skills, review mastered ones, and smile made my morning.  I wonder what else she will decorate before the holiday arrives??
Happy and safe 4th of July!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Reading on the Road

On a recent trip to the library, CC picked up a book that included a CD and checked it out without me really noticing.  She usually wonders around the children's section bringing over books that strike her fancy until I let her know one more.  We don't have any real "rules" about how many or how big or what section the books come from. We have come home with some very eclectic mixes and other times books that are almost painfully the same.  This visit included the book Officer Buckle and Gloria with a CD.   We popped it into the CD player and had a listen. 

I may be coming to this party late, but this changed out car ride experience.  We are listening to great stories AND being entertained while running around in our car.  Glorious!
We discovered a whole section of the library, all be it a little section, dedicated to books with accompanying CDs.  The selection seems to rotate and keep us happily entertained.  Requesting a specific book with CD is another way we have kept our reading on the road fresh. 

Here is our most recent haul.  Some were old favorites and some were completely new to us. Either way, great! 
I think this was a win for us both.  CC can listen to great literature while we are driving and there is a little less whining and complaining coming from my back seat. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Language Development Through Story Telling

It's camping week in kindergarten and today we were telling campfire stories.  Now, I'm not a big fan of spooky stories, especially with the kindergarten crowd, but we did have a fun time telling funny stories.  Someone who walks into my classroom during this story telling time might think it's a fun activity, but not a lot of learning.  Storytelling, however provides much more than just a little fun.

Kids are natural story tellers, but as they grow it becomes harder and harder when it's not practiced regularly.  Without practice, kids become frozen with fear when they are given a blank piece of paper and asked to write a story.  When I became a teacher, I remember how much I didn't like teaching writing because I just wasn't skilled at story telling.  After 20 years of learning more and more about writing, I have discovered that one key to literacy is oral language development. I have become a better writer, myself, and I think my students are better writers because of the time we spend talking and telling our stories out loud.  

Today, we sat around the campfire and I threw out a few story starters.
*We all sitting around the campfire, warming up and making s'mores, when all of a sudden...
*It was breakfast time and we were drinking our hot cocoa when we heard...
*I couldn't believe what happened the day a skunk came to camp.

We told our stories together, asking different kids for ideas.  I would ask questions like, "Then, what happened?" or "What happened next?" or "How did it end?"  These questions led kids to keep going with their ideas and also show how stories have a beginning, middle, and end.

We documented our learning by writing our stories, but we could also have acted out our stories and taken pictures, made videos of our story telling session, or used puppets to create our ideas and document through pictures or video.  All of these methods are great ways to help kids reflect on their work.  

Camping brings great experiences, but if you are like me and don't care for camping much, you can always bring the story telling indoors.  Working on oral language development through campfire stories is a great way to help your child learn to love language and writing rather than fear the blank paper staring them down.

Happy camping!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Homemade Lemonade

Oh, how I love cooking in the classroom with my kids!  They were jumping with joy when they walked in the room and saw lemons and a lemon press.  Of course a few kids yelled, "What are we making Teacher?" (Yes, they still call me Teacher, even though it's almost the end of the school year.) I asked them what they thought we should do, and it didn't take long for the suggestion of LEMONADE to come up!

I started by showing them an online book about lemonade that was on Reading Rainbow.  Our school has a subscription to the service, so I can't share the link.  Then, we started squeezing lemons.  We needed 3 cups of lemon juice and all of our lemons made about 1/2 of a cup.  At that point I pulled out the bottled lemon juice and told them that we'd take the easy way out to come up with the rest of the juice.  (Although I think they would have squeezed lemons all day if I would have let them.)

Here is the recipe we used:
2 cups sugar
1 cup hot water
2 cups lemon juice
1 gallon cold water

Dissolve the sugar in hot water.  Add lemon juice and then cold water.  Stir.

We made our lemonade on a very hot and sunny (by Pacific Northwest Standards) day.  The kids were thrilled with the cold treat and really loved sharing with the recess teachers who are outside for most of the day.  

If you are interested in more lemon activities and books about lemonad, here is a post I wrote for LeapFrog Learning Path with more ideas.  Lemony Learning Activities

Now, let's hope the sun comes back out so we can enjoy our lemonade on a hot summer day!

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.