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A NC Mom to 4 wonderful boys, Wife to GREAT Husband, & TK Teacher!! Hey... Add a comment if you want!! I'd love to hear from you!!!

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Study - Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites

I have wanted to start a book study at my school for such a long time but no one wants to study a professional book.  I am a nerd when it comes to professional development!!  I can't get enough of professional development books, conferences, and workshops.   So, when I read about this book study over at Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten I was very excited. 
I bought the book on Kindle, because I had to have it right away.  I wish I had bought the hard copy though so I could underline, make notes and highlight the things I find important.  In a hard copy you can go back and forth when you want to remind yourself of something you have already read and if there is something you want to re-read.  Oh well, I will have to wait to get the hard copy and deal with my kindle copy :)
Ok, Elizabeth Hall of kickinitinkindergarten is beginning the book study with an overview of chapter 1 & 2 of the book.  She also has a linky party going for all those who want to participate and give their opinion, how they already use some of the ideas, or how they will implement the idea's into their own classroom. 
Chapter 1 - Brainstorming and Discussions
I enjoyed this chapter since we do a lot of brainstorming in our classroom.  Anytime we begin a new theme or skill we brainstorm all that we think we know about it and what we want to know about it.    With 4-5 yr olds they still need some guidance and a little help with getting started and staying on task, but as the year has progressed they are getting better at it. 
 It is the discussions that we have a hard time with.  Anytime we try to do Buddy Share (our version of Think-Pair-Share) but it always dissolves into a story about how someone ate bugs on the playground, or a brother who is better than another brother.  So, most of our discussions are done whole group in a circle.  I try to allow time to think, but to much time means minds wandering to other matters, so we don't always complete the discussion part of it. 
I have also found that even as I promote an open thinking, free environment to give opinions on subjects it doesn't always carry through to the classrooms after mine.  Where worksheets and teacher directed activities take center stage.  Am I doing a disservice to my students to get them in the habit of giving opinions, having discussions and being independent thinkers when they will be held back from exhibiting those traits in the years to come??  Hmmmm..... it's a thought that I grapple with from time to time.
Although I found this chapter to be a worthwhile read, it didn't really apply to my TKers, but I will try to incorporate more of the sentence starters in hopes of giving them the words needed to discuss and state their opinions or feelings about a subject.
Chapter 2 - Drawing and Artwork
Ahhhhhh.... now here's a chapter I could sink my teeth into!!!  I loved this chapter and know I give my students ample time and opportunity to create in my classroom.  Being an Early Childhood classroom, play is our work, art is our way of conveying or assessing a lot of our skills and no one thinks twice about it.  It isn't thought of as a waste of time by most people.  It isn't until our children hit the elementary grades that art in the classroom isn't always appreciated.  I have heard to many teachers begrudge another teacher for allowing her students to create art work as an assignment, or "All that teacher does is play all day, when do they learn?"  I am sure we have all either said it, or heard another teacher say it.  I see the push for more academics and less creative arts, and Marcia Tate gives us ideas and opportunities to incorporate art right into our lessons.  It does take a lot more work on our part, both in the prep and clean up, but in a well balanced classroom, where students are used to the expectations of art in the classroom, it isn't as hard as it looks. 
In our classroom we use the Pictionary idea every week.  We are of the Letter of the Week variety in our school.  We follow Handwriting Without Tears and we tie it all together by creating a picture dictionary to go with our letters.  So, if we are studying Bb, we learn our letter and sound, work on our HWT workbook, and then find that letter in our picture dictionary and write 3 words and draw a picture for each word.  In the beginning of the year we have words and pictures available to the students, but by this time of the year some students are creating their own words, phonetically, and drawing their own pictures.  Its amazing to see.
We also love to create books... classroom books, individual books, itty bitty books.  Some are open ended, others have a specific purpose.  For example, when we learned about apple trees we created both an individual book and a classroom book of what we knew about the apple tree, it's life cycle, where we find apple trees and what we do with the apples when they grow.  It was amazing and each book was different.  Did we have supplies available to use, yes, but each student used them differently. We had to write down words some students dictated, but others were able to write some idea's on their own.  It was both awesome and it was a hard pill to swallow when "Joey" decided that his tree was growing green apples, red apples AND yellow apples, but it was his way of showing understanding that there were more than 1 kind of apple tree, his 5 yr old brain just couldn't place them all on different trees.  So, allowing for some inconsistency's and looking further for the meaning can give students the confidence they need to try again, and not feel like they were wrong.  I hope I'm not digressing here ;)
I love using art in the classroom.  Drawing and creating are both area's of curriculum that are supported and encouraged in our TK.  We use it from Math and Social Studies to Science and Language Arts... it is a tool we couldn't live without.
I am looking forward to the next chapter in the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate which will be discussed by Dee Wills over at Mrs. Will Kindergarten.  I enjoy reading everyone's posts from the Linky party too!!!  This is a great way to gain ideas and share information. 

Our Farm in Action...

The kids LOVED the farm theme in the classroom this week!!  The Duck Pond was a huge success, but so was the Chicken Coop.  I was surprised at how much fun they had in the chicken coop.  They loved collecting the eggs, gathering veggies from the garden and milking Bessy the cow.  It was so sweet. 
We added slime to the mix this week also.  It was just a little science experiment that we had wanted to try for a few weeks, and we finally got to it this week.  Slime, along with some farm animals = FUN!!!

The Duck Pond in action!!  Although the slide was a little steep, the kids loved it and kept most of the water in the water tables.  I was surprised at the precision they had when transferring the water the from one table to the other. 


The dry erase boards were temporarily moved when we made room for the farm areas, and the kids have LOVED using them in the dramatic play area, where the chicken coop and milking cow are located.  They are really practicing their writing and drawing.  It is so much fun to watch.

Here is the actual coop :)  The kids love it!!!

Since we are TK we do a lot of differentiating.  I have students who are still working on learning letters and sounds all the way to students who are reading and writing stories.  So, we have been doing a lot of writing activities that go along with our farm theme.  One of our first writing activities was drawing a picture of what our job on the farm would be, and them writing what our job is.  I loved the one that said, "My job on the farm is riding the chickens."  and also, "My job on the farm is helping the animals."  So cute!!!   We also wrote about what we get from cows.   We received a lot of "milk" responses, but we did get a few burgers, meat, and butter.  I was proud of them. 

The Baby Chicks finally made it to school too!!!  More pics to come!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Night at the Museum, we're almost there!!!

It's been causing some anxiety, sleepless nights, and at least one panic attack, BUT... it is finally coming together!!!! 
The TK Farm at the Night at the Museum!!!! 
Our "Duck Pond"
I know, it doesn't look exactly like a duck pond, but every time we visit a children's museum there is always a water feature for the kids to play in.   So this year I decided to add one!!!  I know that it isn't like the awesome sensory tables that I find over at Sand and Water Tables, but it is my first water sensory table and considering... I think it looks pretty good ;) 
(and yes, I totally think the slide is a little to steep... live and learn)

Chicken Coop... almost done, but I forgot the chicken boxes, so that will be finished tomorrow. 
And of course we can't forget Bessy the Cow!!  She is pretty much done, we have to hook up the "udders" and attach her tail and then she will be all set to play with.  She is always a favorite!!!

This is our veggie garden!!!  I am so excited.  I have seen it on Pinterest every time  I search farm theme and I have always wanted to make it.  But last year I had the chicks and veggies to sew, and I had to make a new Bessy last year too, so I never got around to it :(  but this year, I did grabbed some things I had around the house and busted it out!!!  WooHoo!!   I


When we have the whole space up and running I'll try to get some action photos.  I know it will be another great Night at the Museum!!!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Just a few things happening in TK

It has been some very busy weeks in TK!!  It has been one thing after another... 100th Day, Grandparent's Day, and Ground Hog Day.  With all that, they have a Night of the Museum evening scheduled for next Thursday.  ARGH!!  It seems that we have no time for any fun or even learning in between practicing for performances, creating "gifts," or getting ready for something or other.  How do you do it??  I'd love to hear how other teachers get things done when there is so many other things that tug at your teaching time!! 
We did have some fun though....
We have started to add these signs on tables for the kid to practice their sight words and help with new words they don't know.

10 cups with 10 blocks.... we think ;) 

This was one of our favorite activities!!  The kids loved, loved, loved coming up with words and then writing them.  I wrote down the first 35 words they came up with.  Using all the techniques we have been learning to sound out a word.  Listening carefully to the sounds we hear, tapping them out if we think it is a tough one, asking a friend if they hear any sounds they didn't by checking the word and using the resources around the room to find the correct spelling of a word.

I loved that they used words they found on the paper :)

They went back and forth all day filling in the words.  I was so proud of them.

Each child had to read their word to a partner after they finished writing, it helped us figure out the word sometimes ;)

At this point in TK most of the kids are able to memorize some sight words and use some easy emergent sight word books to read to me or their parents.  But we spend a lot of time on hearing sounds in words, blending sounds to make words, and deciding if a word is real or nonsense (a huge favorite of TK!!)  I know sight words will be memorized in Kindergarten so even though parents are sometimes crazy over sight words (which is a whole nother post!!), I want to help give my TKer's a solid foundation of phonics and phonemic awareness, so I spend more time on that.  Having them write out all those words (some sounding out, some from copying from a source) gives me more information to their growth than any assessment could. 

Just a few Valentines Day hand paintings... the kids loved it!!!

Oh, it's time for our Night at the Museum theme... FARM!!! 
The pink slime... just an added bonus of sensory play in TK!!!
I am excited to be a part of a blogger book study being kicked off by Elizabeth from kickinitin kindergarten!!!  I am so excited to be doing this, I always wanted to get a book study going in my school, but no one wants to spend their time reading professional developmental books, they would rather read fiction-best selling stuff.  I'm the nerd who can't get enough of professional books, conferences, or information.  I feel that the day I feel I can't learn more, that's the day I need to get a new profession.  So, head over to kickinitinkindergarten, or to where I found out about it at Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Connection and learn more about the book, Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites, by Marcia L. Tate, and the schedule of who will be leading the weekly discussion.  I'm very excited!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Circus Theme

Last week was a busy week for TK.  We learned about the circus, specifically what we see at the circus.  You see we have been talking about animals... winter animals, hibernating animals, migrating animals, and even animals that adapt.  So, I was hoping that we could really delve into the animals that we see at the circus.  How do they adapt to their environment, what are some difference we see about animals in the wild and animals that live with the zoo.  We DID talk about them, read some book, made some hypothesis', and created some art work... BUT... if you have ever taught kids, no matter the age, things don't always go as YOU planned. 
We focused on clowns, silliness, roaring lions, beautiful elephants...
but what excited us the most, was the prospect of seeing, and maybe even eating...

Yup... we couldn't wait until Friday when we got to visit the circus and see if we could convince our Mom's, Dad's, Grandma's or Grandpa's that a circus is not complete without a bag of cotton candy!!
Now, I heard it was a fun trip to the circus, but I unfortunately wasn't there since I was lucky enough to go to the SDE Pre-K Conference in Greensboro, NC.  I'll save that for another post... but it was fun and I can't wait to bring some of the information back to our classroom!!!