Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hour of Code and Reading Buddies

When I asked students how video games are made, they had offered ideas such a someone took a photo with their phone photos or made the game a movie.  After some discussion, they were surprised to find out that someone actually writes the instructions in a programming language that run them... along with apps, websites and computer software.  Their interest peeked when I told them that they could learn to write computer code for others to enjoy, just like video game programmers.

Coding practice provides a wide range of benefits for young learners.  It gives them the opportunity to embrace their creativity while practicing problem solving, mathematics, critical thinking and persistence.  As we say in reading workshop, we never give up when we use our persistence power.  The same goes for coding.  In our classroom we presented kids with coding challenges using the app Scratch Jr.  We studied the various codes and connected the process to work we were doing in EveryDay Mathematics centered on ordering.  By choosing various directions and putting them in a particular order, we discovered how to solve a challenge problem with a programming code.

Next, we partnered with Mr. Shepherd's second grade class for several coding challenges.  With a second grade partner students created several coding projects.  But the fun did not end there... we now have second grade reading partners to grow our reading skills.  Check out the video with our second grade buddies.

Check out the movie I made with Magisto: Hour of Code and Reading Buddies

Simply click below to watch my movie.

Hour of Code and Reading Buddies

p.s. automatically turn your videos and photos into beautiful edited movies. Try it out, it's free!

Sent from my iPad

Family Breakfast

Back in December we held our annual Family Breakfast...lots of fun and time with family!

Simply click below to watch my movie.
Family Breakfast

Sunday, January 7, 2018

School Routines & Expectations That Build the Social Curriculum

A primary focus in our room thus far this year has been building a strong classroom community.  For kindergarten children this encompasses a broad range of social learning about themselves, their peers, the larger school community and how each is interrelated.  This begins by learning about their own emotions to understanding the perspective of others, and to witnessing how their actions and choices affect others.  All of this leads to knowing how they can contribute to the larger community in a positive manner; helping to make others feel happy and in turn feeding their own sense of joyful learning.  Every moment of every school day provides an opportunity for growth as a person as well as learner.  I am amazed at how much learning beyond academics occurs in our classroom and I am prepared to support every child along his/her path this year.  The photos that follow, from Whole School Meeting to school expectations to learning how one's brain works, shows some of the ways young children build social skills to last a lifetime.

Whole School Meeting happens every Friday.  It is a time for learning and celebrating as a school community.  We meet special guests, learn about school expectations, share learning in classrooms and close the meeting with our PBIS Fuzzy Drop into our three school expectations containers.  Each week the school has a goal of filling either one or two containers in order to earn a whole school celebration.

Second graders lead the pledge of allegiance at Whole School meeting.  Teachers can be seen doing skits to teach a concept.  Here Mr. Allbee and myself act out a common problem on the playground, using the swings,  and brainstorm solutions for how to take turns.  Mr. Shepherd nominates a staff member to fill the fuzzy bins.  Our mysterious "B-Man" often makes an appearance to remind us to BE Safe, BE Respectful and Be Ready To Learn.

We use several "systems" for behavior including Whole Body Listening and PAX Voices/Quiet to help us with the three school expectations.  In the beginning of the year, our class made a list for every expectation in every possible location of school... these lists described in "kid languague" what it meant to be safe, respectful and ready to learn in the classroom, on the bus, in the cafeteria, etc.  We are returning to these lists now in the winter to make book of drawings depicting how the kids describe those three rules... showing that learning social expectations is ongoing throughout the year in kindergarten.

This class loves art projects!  They not only have fun, but learn independence such as finding their materials and following the pre-taught steps to making a cut, color and glue project.

We are a fabulous group of actors!  We often role play social and academic learning situations to practice concepts.  There is always a group taking a turn as "actors" and an "audience/ set directors" group who announce, "Quiet on the Set!  1, 2, 3 ACTION!"  Here we act out safety rules on our bus...the importance of walking and staying in our seat "bubble" area and not in the aisle.

Role playing walking in the hall for our PBIS school expectations.  Wow!  Look at our full bear of fuzzies our class collected in one week.  Each Friday we bring this bear down to Whole School Meeting and add it to the collection bin along with other classrooms in the school.

Learning to navigate the school day, work independently and resolve conflicts or challenges are as important as academic learning.  Knowing how and when to use the skills they learn for certain situations takes practice.  For kindergarten children, all of this starts with being comfortable in one's classroom, knowing how it is organized and where to find what they need independently.  There are lables and routines... just to name a few....scissors to use for opening their own snacks, a drying rack for art, waiting spots on the floor for sink and water fountain lines, a cup for pencils to be sharpened after school, cubbies to store works in progress and ways to keep our bathroom clean.

WALT: We Are Learning To.  I was fortunate to have an incredible science teacher mentor in college who taught me to have a daily objective for my students and to tell them exactly what it was in the beginning and end of every lesson.  In telling children what the learning intention is, they can begin to focus their thinking around a specific learning strategy... one they can access when they practice a skill.  Each day I write a "WALT" statement on a set of wipe off sentence strips either before, during or even after a lesson to remind students of what they are learning to do.  You will see many WALT statements in photos this year.

We have student jobs each day such as counting the number of days we come to school, weather, and calendar.  As we near the 100th day of school these routines become even more important as we gather weather data and count in different ways. 
Learning to name and recognize feelings formed the foundation of our learning about Conflict Resolution.  We used the book David Goes to School as a resource to understanding perspective taking... how our actions effect others and their feelings.

Feeling Puppets and the Problem Puppets helped us to brainstorm Win-Win Solutions when a conflict arises. 

Learning about and how to use our brain to make wise choices is a life-long skill.  Using the Mind-Up Curriculum we learning to focus our thinking, calm our bodies and thoughts, activate our prefrontal cortex (PFC) to make decisions that help us and our classroom community.  

Here we learned that we have the power to open the pathway of messages that flow through our amygdala to our PFC.... we can choose to be closed and tight in conflicts/choices (I don't like any orange foods; I am angry at...) or we can use techniques to calm our amygdala, open the flow messages to the PFC which we use to make a good choices (well I could try that new orange food; I am feeling angry but I can take a deep breath to calm down instead of using unkind words or actions).  We will use Mind-Up Lessons all year and build our community poster with strategies from each lesson. 

Learning to navigate the school day, work independently and resolve conflicts or challenges are as important as academic learning.  Knowing how and when to use the skills they learn for certain situations takes practice all year.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Magisto: Alphabet Work

At the beginning of a new school year it is not uncommon to hear kindergarteners exclaim, " I want to learn to read!"  They are eager to move from from being read to by an adult to unlocking the code themselves and reading exactly what is on the page.

The start to this school year was no different; I could see the desire in their eyes and so began our reading work with letters and sounds.  Reading is more than knowing the names of the letters and their sounds; it is knowing how to play with sounds, match sounds to pictures, and write letter characters to match sounds they hear and produce orally.  

Developing a firm foundation with letter work was key the work we are doing now with rhyming, syllable segmentation and site words in daily guided reading groups.  As this video shows, the key to early letter/sound experiences is to have fun with reading to develop life long lovers of reading.  I hope you enjoy this video of some of those experiences!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Butterfly Metamorphosis

Kindergarten aged children have real life experiences with changes in weather and the seasons.  Using their background knowledge and applying it to how the seasons affect people, plants and animals is a how we introduce the concept of life cycles.  At the end of the summer butterflies are laying the last of their eggs here in Vermont from which caterpillars will emerge.

We gathered Painted Lady caterpillars in a tank in our classroom to study the stages of their life cycle and metamorphosis.  From here we will study the life cycle of a sugar maple tree, apple tree, and the cycle in nature of the four seasons and how they are interrelated.  In winter we will study why certain animals either migrate, hibernate or adapt.  

During the first few days the caterpillars were in a small cups on top of tank, eating food that resembled an oatmeal mixture.  We started our observation journals, drawing exactly what we saw.

It's always more fun to make observations with a magnifying glass just like scientist do in a lab.  The caterpillars grew in size rather quickly which we noted in our drawings.

As the caterpillars began to slow down their eating we placed them in the tank and waited for them to attach themselves to the paper on the underneath side of the cup lid and form their chrysalis.  Once their chrysalis was hard we taped them to the inside of the tank and waited for the butterflies to emerge.

When the butterflies emerged they took time to rest and dry their wings.  We observed them eating the fluids inside the chrysalis and then provided sugar water on a sponge for them to eat.  We could see their long straw-like proboscis stretched out and in as they fed. 

As we released the butterflies we wished them a good migration trip!

We discovered the symmetrical features of butterflies and noted the duller color on the underneath side of their wings.

When butterflies migrate they are seeking warmth & shelter, food and a place to lay more eggs to continue the life cycle.  These needs cause them to migrate when the season change here in in Vermont.