Posted in Uncategorized

Day, unit and long-range plans in Kindergarten Mathematics Teaching

One of more difficult aspects in the move to the Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program is the change in planning.  In the former program teachers use to select themes to base their year around and planned the entire year out.  Long Range Plans were done in a similar way to older grades.  In the new program the students are the leaders.  We follow their lead in their play and inquiry and it is our role as educators to guide them while making sure we are addressing the curriculum expectations.

The team should use inquiry-based learning to build on children’s spontaneous desire for exploration and to gradually guide them to become more focused and systematic in their observations and investigations.  pg. 15

Planning is still very important in Kindergarten, however built into the planning there needs to be flexibility.  The students are the leaders and often the best learning takes place when they are following their own questions and inquiries.

Long-range planning is helpful, especially for new teachers, to understand the ultimate goals for the end of the school year.  What knowledge and skills are students expected to know going forth into grade 1?  What knowledge and skills in the Kindergarten program need to be developed before other skills?  For example before estimating quantities students need to understand that quantity is greater when counting forward and less when counting backwards.

Note: In Kindergarten students are not coming from a previous grade so they come with a wide variety of background knowledge.  Teachers should be very aware of this when planning.

In some school boards a math alignment may be provide to aid with long range planning (Grand Erie Math Alignment).  This can be very helpful in seeing progression through the year and also through the grades.  In saying this flexibility is key and sometimes changes need to be made – this is OK.  Last fall we had a variety of different apples out at an exploration centre.  We didn’t expect students to start comparing the different weights of the apples.  We took this opportunity to delve into a unit on weight.  We normally would teach weight later in the spring but this was what the children were interested in so we got out the balances and scales and had a great engaging study of the measurement of weight.

Unit Planning in Kindergarten is important, but again flexibility is important.  It is very important throughout a unit to have a solid understanding of the curriculum and the Big Ideas.  An understanding of what knowledge needs to be covered is important, however, to ensure your math program is the most engaging for students it is important for teachers to be flexible in instructional tasks.  One example is the unit in our class we recently finished on sorting.  Much of our unit was planned around sorting buttons.  Part way through our unit our students showed an interest in the pumpkins growing in our community.  We continued our unit on sorting however instead of buttons we started sorting different types of seeds, including pumpkin seeds of course.  We were still developing the same skills of sorting and describing attributes however the specific tasks changed.

In planning daily math lessons it is important to use a variety of structures, teaching strategies and groupings.  Traditional lessons including teacher demonstrations and rote learning still have a role in math lessons.  Every day in our Kindergarten class we add a new number to our hundreds chart.  Through this 5 minute routine we are learning how to print our numbers, counting, and patterns in numbers.  Only by lots of practice do students learn number order and how to print and recognize numbers.

When developing more complex mathematical ideas structures such as three-part lessons help students create their own understanding.  A traditional 3-part lessons includes the following parts:

  1. Getting Started (10-15 minutes): Whole class lesson to introduce idea and problem.
  2. Working on It (30-40 minutes): Students actively engaged in a task
  3. Reflecting and Connecting (10-15 minutes): Students share ideas and understandings

In a Kindergarten classroom 3 part lessons can be valuable but they do need to be modified slightly.  With our youngest learners they are very limited in how long they are able to stay engaged in a task.  A large group / whole class lesson can be used to introduce a problem.  The largest change would be in the working on it section.  Sometimes students are given a small problem that can be solved in 10 minutes. Other times a problem is explored during exploration/play time as students choose to visit the centre.  There are even times that a problem is explored over a number of days.  The important part is that students are engaged in working through the problem.  As they are working on it, educators are documenting student work, observations and conversations.  This all is brought together in the reflection and connecting stage.  This can take place at the end of the same block of learning, at the end of the day or at the end of a number of exploration blocks.

In conclusion, effective and purposeful mathematics planning is very important in Kindergarten teaching but it always needs to be flexible and adaptable to student developmental needs and interests.

Posted in Gardening with Kids, Preparing for Kindergarten, Professional Development

Teaching in the Digital Age – Chapter 4

Last night I finished chapter 4 in Teaching in the Digital Age and it was entitled: Use Audio Recordings to Capture Powerful Moments

I thought it would be appropriate to create a podcast with my reflections on chapter 4.  I have used podcasts in the past but now have some more ideas on how I can effectively use audio recordings in a developmentally appropriate manner in my JK/SK class.

Audio Recordings in Kindergarten

It took me a bit to figure out how to add an audio file but I managed to get to work.  Another new skill!

The linky for the Book blog party and a summary on chapter 4 can be found over at Teach Preschool.

I have been thinking for a year about setting up my listening centre and by the end of the year I had enough points on my scholastic account to purchase the traditional set up but now I think I am glad I didn’t. I think it would be a wiser decision to figure out a way to get an iPod touch into the class.  It will be easier for students to use, take up less space, and be much more conducive for sharing audio recordings we make in class.  Another item to add to my wish list!


Posted in Books, Preparing for Kindergarten

Camouflage – Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit

It was one of those really long, but good days.  I want to just curl up and go to bed but I thought I should post about our book today.

Our next book from the “Kindergarten Ready, Set Go!” calendar was Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by Il Sung Na.  I read this book to my Kindergarten class back in March as a diagnostic task for assessing their ability to Make Connections.  After studying signs off Fall and our unit on migration in November I wanted to see they  could connect with this book and how the different animals know that it is time for winter.   After that activity I put in on the shelf but pulled it out today to read to Eileen and my niece who is visiting for a couple of days.

Since it is not really a time of year when they can relate to changing seasons, just VERY warm dry weather, I decided to focus on a different aspect of the book.  The rabbit in the book know it is time to change the season and changes the colour of it’s coat.  We talked about why he might change his colour, and with some prompting we figured out that he might want to be able to hide.  In the winter with a white coat, he can hide in the snow but that wouldn’t work very well in the spring so he changes his colour to blend into different surroundings.

I then sent the girls on a hunt to each find 3 stuffed animals in our ‘stuffy bin’ that they could hide outside.  I talked about how we would want them to blend in with their environment.  They really didn’t understand this at all but had fun playing find the stuffy.  I was glad I picked 2 to hide so that it was bit harder for them to find.

They didn’t quite understand the hiding concept and I found them just laying on the grass.  It was kind of funny that Lyric hid her first and then Eileen pretty much just went and put them in the same spot.

I thought that I hid mine in places a bit more difficult to find but I also was more strategic picking what animals to use.

They found the hummingbird pretty easy but needed a lot of guidance to find the brown monkey in the bush – can you find it?

Even though the girls didn’t understand the purpose of the game or really understand camouflage at all we had fun.  If I was to do this again, after reading the book I would show them some images of real animals and how they use their colours to camouflage.  Then I would give them toy animals to hid that they would be able to blend into their environment.  For example they may have had more luck with the green turtle.

After playing we went on a search for some very special twigs and then took them back in to the air conditioned house.  I told them we were going to make our own animals that we would then later hide for Kaitlyn to try and find outside.  I got out the goggly eyes, pipe cleaners, white glue and a bit of gold glitter glue.  We made our own creatures out of our sticks, and the two pinecones the girls just had to use.  I found my inspiration at KinderNature.

They are a bit more camouflaged but the urge for the girls to pick bright colours for their legs won out (mine is the one with the brown legs).  We didn’t have time to hide them for Kailtyn today but we will make sure we do it sometime this weekend before my nieces go home!

Posted in Books, Preparing for Kindergarten

Black All Around

Our next book in the 2012-2013 Kindergarten Ready Set Go Calendary was Black all Around written by Patricia Hubbell and illustrated by Don Tate.  The girls have really enjoyed making their movies so I thought I would expand on that.  I gave them my iPhone and sent them on a hunt throughout the house to find items the colour black.  They love taking pictures on my phone so this wasn’t much of a request.  We then downloaded them to the computer, decided which ones needed retakes, and made a quick slideshow using iPhoto.  They helped me create the opening and closing slides.  Everyone was tired today so I did most of the picture cropping but I think this is something Kaitlyn is almost old enough to do herself.  Voila!

These activities are to help prepare Eileen for Kindergarten and this one was great for colour practice but I got some good ideas for Kaitlyn out of this exercise.  Some of the photos were not great so in 1 minute I talked to her about staging the items and holding the camera/phone very still – her retakes were a huge improvement. I am thinking she may almost be ready for her own camera – or maybe even just giving her my old camera.      It needs to be fixed but I may take it in and if it doesn’t cost too much I think she would love it.  Then we can start to teach her how to use a camera properly and I am pretty sure that soon enough she will be taking better pictures than me!

Posted in Books, Preparing for Kindergarten

Best Babysitter

The next book on our “Getting Ready for Kindergarten” list was Froggy’s Best Babysitter by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz.  This would be a great book for teaching concepts of print, styles of text or even onomatopeia but we decided to continue making connections.  This worked very well for us because a favourite movie of ours lately has been Mary Poppins.  Last time we watched it I made sure to point out the part at the beginning when Michael and Jane are reading their father their own advertisement for their new nanny.  After reading the book today I challenged my children to come up with their own qualification for their “Best Babysitter”.  We decided to share their ideas in a movie.

Posted in Preparing for Kindergarten

Getting Reading for Kindergarten

When you register for Kindergarten in our school board (Grand Erie District School Board), one of the items in your package is the calendar “Kindergarten: Ready Set Go!” This is a collaboration of a number of organizations included school boards, heath units, libraries and the Ontario Early Years Centre.  Throughout the calendar there are pages to help parents prepare their children for Kindergarten.

For February the information was on immunization requirements.  My children are up to date on their immunizations but tracking them is a pain.  In this age of electronics I don’t know why I can’t just authorize my family doctor to send the records to the health unit every time they get a new vaccination.  It just seems it would save a lot of time and man power on every end.  But I digress from the reason I am blogging.

In each month there are 2 or 3 books listed.  When Kaitlyn was getting ready for JK we read all the books listed but this year I thought we would do something a little more formal with Eileen.  We are going to be reading all the book in the calendar and sharing the activities we do for each book.  My goal is to do this every Saturday or Sunday but we will see how that schedule goes.  We are starting a bit behind the eight ball.  We didn’t register until February so we missed January (we will try and make those books up later).  It took a few weeks for the February books to come in so we will work on collecting our books earlier but hopefully we are on a roll now.

Our first book was Happy Valentine Day, Curious George by N. Di Angelo.

I realize Valentines Day had already passed but I thought we could read the book anyway.  This is a very cute Valentines Day book, with fold out flaps.  For us that means we keep it well out of Michael’s reach!  For teachable moments, the flaps give a great opportunity for making predictions. In the story George and the man in the yellow had invite the neighbourhood over for Valentines Day.  They  decorate the house, make cookies, and make valentines to exchange.  Like many children George finds a box and is immediate intrigued with the box.  He set to decorating the box to put his valentines in.  This would have been a perfect book to read before Valentines Day and then we could make a box for our Valentines, but I wasn’t going to let that stop us.  Instead we made our own special treasure boxes.

I had my niece and Eileen for the afternoon last Sunday while Kaitlyn was at a birthday party so I thought it would be the perfect time.  We went to the dollar store to find boxes.  I didn’t want to use cardboard so that they would be more sturdy and last longer but you could easily use cardboard boxes.   I also let them each get a package of letter stickers.  I wanted them to practice spelling their names on their boxes but other than that they could decorate them any way they wanted.  First I let them paint the box any colour they wanted.  Of course they both picked pink.  I didn’t have any pink paint but that never stops us – we learned that when you mix red and white together you get pink.

After drying Gramma had come by so she helped the girls spell their names on their boxes.  Then I gave them a wide variety of materials from our craft bins to decorate their boxes.  They mostly picked hearts, jewels and stickers to decorate.  Many stuck on themselves but a few needed to be glued.

They turned out pretty cute – and we could make a connection to the book we had just read. We decorated boxes just like George!

Posted in Books, Kindercrafts

Awesome Chinese New Year Unit

This was my first Kindergarten unit I pretty much developed on my own.  I was so excited to do it and had been looking forward to it since we had our own Chinese New Year celebration at home last year.  We did this unit from the time we got back to school after the Christmas break and culminated at our Chinese New Year party on January 23rd, it was a total of 4 classes.  I had a number of picture books we used throughout the unit.

Day 1:

Book – Lion Dancer by Kate Waters.  This may seem like a strange book to start the unit with but I had a method to my madness.  Our biggest creation was going to be our own Chinese Lion costumes and we were going to make our own dance and musical instruments.  This was a great book to introduce the Lion Dance.  After reading we made a list of all the Chinese customs in the book.

After reading the book we watched a few youtube clips of lion dancing. Each group was going to make their own lion head. On this first day all they did was paint a base colour for their box.  The key for success is finding the perfect size box.  I happen to find 4 boxes all the same size that were perfect to fit over a 4/5 year old’s head.  My EA had pre-cut eye holes in each box so the kids didn’t have to worry about that.  We also learned our “Lion Dance Song” and  made up or own clapping pattern for our dance.

Before we left for the day we added Chinese New Year to our calendar and found China on our map of the world.


Day 2:

Book: Happy Chinese New Year, Kai-lan by Lauryn Silverhardt.  I am always hesitant using book based on shows the kids watch because sometimes the writing is forced but this book was pretty good – and had lots of great Chinese traditions.  I also tied in nicely to our Character Ed trait of Responsibility that we were learning about in January.

After reading this book we watched a few clips on youtube and compared the Chinese Lion and Dragon dances.  They are very different but both very important in Chinese culture.  We finished our Lion Head costumes this day and I attached a red strip of fabric to each for the tails.  Basically all I did was give them as many craft materials that I could find and let them explore.  For some reason I am missing a number of my pictures but when I find better pictures I will add them in.

We started working on our dance, which was pretty much just a marching pattern to match the clapping pattern we had created.  Now we added instruments instead of clapping.  We used small hand drums and small cymbals.

For fun the kids made Chinese spin drums using old CDs we painted red, doweling, string and wooden beads.  We didn’t use them in our dance as it would have been chaos but it was fun for the kids to make and take home.

Day 3: 

Book: My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz.  This is a very simple book but great at showing the variety of Chinese traditions around Chinese New Year.  Again we made a list while reading the book.

After reading the book we made a Venn Diagram (with pictures) comparing the traditions in each of the tree books we had read.

It was a crude drawing but showed how special food and red envelopes were in all the books.  From here I suggested that maybe we could use some of these common traditions to hold our own Chinese New Year celebration.

To finish off our day we integrated our patterning studies in math into our Chinese New Year studies.  In math we created patterns on strips of paper that were to be used as tails for kites.  At the end of the day our Big Buddies came to visit an helped us make dragons on diamond paper for our kites.  We used our handprints for the body, cut out the head and then got creative with the decorations.

Day 4: Chinese New Year!!

Book: A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong.  This is an awesome new book.  It was great for retell as we told what happened on each day of the new year celebration.  We also did a text-to-text connection picture where they made a connection between this book and one of the three previous books we read.

During math we made Chinese lanterns and decorated them with patterns using different colours and shapes.

During the last block we had our party.  Most of the party was spent eating.  We order Won Ton Soup, Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls and Vegetable Lo Mein from our local chinese food restaurant.  We bought small egg rolls at the grocery store and I made sticky balls for desert.  I was so proud that everyone tried everything and I didn’t hear any complaints.  After eating any students that wanted make dragon masks.

Day 5: The Wrap Up

 To summarize everything we learned on Chinese New Year every student completed a glyph.  I found a colouring page of a dragon and simplified it for our use.  You can find the instructions for the glyph dragon glyphs.  I know I took pictures of the bulletin board with the glyphs and when I find it I will add them to this blog.

Posted in Craft Thursdays

Months of the Year Calendar Wheel

In the land of Kindergarten the role of the calendar in the school day has been changing over the last couple of years.  There is an interesting article about how traditional calendar time in a Kindergarten or Preschool classroom may be wasted time.  I have been playing with the calendar in my classroom since September and am still not happy with how we do it, right now we are using if for counting and patterning but I think I may switch things up again.  I don’t concentrate on the days of the week or months of the year with my students right now, I am trying to figure out the best way to approach the topic.

I am currently readying Carol Copple’s Growing Minds: Building Strong Cognitive Foundations in Early Childhood.  This was the latest publication I have received with my NAEYC membership.    In the article on Cognitive Development in the Preschool Years I appreciated the quote:

“Even though research shows that preschoolers’ capacities are at time underestimated, they do have limitation in their reasoning skills that affect learning.  They have a limited understanding of ideas such as time, space or age, for instance, and don’t use these abstract concepts to help themselves reason unless the ideas are made real and relevant to their current lives”.

This is an American publication so the students in my class fit into the categories of both preschool and kindergarten, the joy of a junior & senior kindergarten mixed class.  My youngest student just turned 4 and I have a student who will be 6 in a few weeks.  I can see this development in my own girls, Eileen is almost 3 1/2 and Kaitlyn will be 6 tomorrow.  Eileen is learning the months of the year song at school but to her it is just a song that she sings like any other song.  Kaitlyn knows all the months of the year, the order they go in (without singing), can relate them to the seasons, and can read most of them.  So knowing where they are I set a goal for us – I want to see if I can get Eileen to start to understand the concept of a year and the months, and I would like Kaitlyn to be able to spell the words. Out of this came our months of the year calendar.

To make this calendar you will need a large piece of bristol board or other heavyweight paper, a piece of scrap heavy weight paper in a different colour, a metal fastener, pictures of family members and events, markers and glue.  To prepare an adult needs to cut out a large circle from the bistol board and divide it into 12 slices.  I went over the lines with a black sharpie to make them stand out.

The girls and I then reviewed the months of the year song to remind Kaitlyn, and to make some connections for Eileen to the song she already knows.  I found a version on Youtube that we watched.  With their help I printed the name of each month at the top of the slices.  I did it in pencil and then Kaitlyn went over them with marker.  Next we brainstormed special days in each month.  I wanted to make this a concrete activity and tie it to things that are important to them.  For every event with I either printed out a picture on the computer or they drew their own pictures.  Kaitlyn did an awesome job with her drawings and backgrounds and Eileen even got her hands in their with her own decorations.  Both girls played an active role in deciding what would go on our calendar.  Their selection included: birthdays (all 5 of us), holidays, trips we would take this year (Great Wolf Lodge, Skiing in Vermont & Disney World) and the start and beginning of school.  The best part of this calendar is that it is personalized for our family.  We hung it on the wall in our playroom and hopefully Eileen will begin to associate the different months to the events in her life.  To finish off I cut out an arrow to indicate which month we are in right now and attached it with a metal fastener.

The other great thing about this style of calendar is that it is continuous.  It shows that after December the months start over again.

If anyone makes your own wheel I would love to hear how it turns out!

Posted in Kinder science

Kindergarten Pumpkin Activities

Last week we finished up our study of pumpkins in my Kinderoo class.  I thought I would share a few of the activities we did.  I started with a google search for ideas and came across a great blog from Mrs. Nelson’s Class.  The one item is borrowed from this page was their awsesome Science Pumpkin Observation Sheet.

I started the unit by having all the kids sit in a circle on the carpet and I put a pumpkin in the middle of the circle.  I didn’t say much and let them start the conversion.  They first started asking where it came from and we discussed where you can get pumpkins.  I grow my own pumpkins so this branched into a discussion of growing pumpkins.  From here we introduced the word ‘observations’ which has become our BIG word in science.  I handed out the pumpkin observation sheet.  Each child drew a picture of what our pumpkin looked like and made a decision as to whether they thought it was big, medium or small.  On the back of our sheet we also recorded it’s weight (8 kg) and diameter (77 cm).

The next day when they came into school I had set up our ‘pumpkin patch’ in the science centre (sorry I forgot to take  picture).  I had gone to our best local fruit stand and purchased a wide variety of pumpkins in size, shape, colour and texture.  I arranged them all on a green table cloth to constrast the colours and make it look like grass.  On the science wall behind the patch I put a pumpkin patch sign along with a number of descriptive words: big, medium, small, orange, white, smooth and rough. For activity I placed a bin with a number of  pumpkin observation sheets and pencils next to the pumpkin patch.  Students were encouraged to visit the science centre and make their own observations on the different pumpkins present.

To go along with our pumpkin study we learned about the colour orange.  We have been learning our colours and I carefully timed orange so that it would coincide with our pumpkin study.  We learned our orange song and practiced it throughout the week. This was also sent home as homework at the end of the week.  I also have worksheets available for interested students to reinforce the colour.  Once we had learned the colour orange we also added to our observation sheet that pumpkins are orange.  As an art activity I gave each child a paper plate and a drop of yellow and red plate.  I asked them to paint their paint orange – a great exploration activity.  Once they were all dry we added faces and made our pumpkin patch on our bulletin board in the hallway.

After thoroughly observing the outside of the pumpkins it was time to cut one open.  Before cutting it open everyone made a prediction of what they thought it would look like on the inside on their observation sheet.  We cut it open and recorded our observations. I made a chart with pictures of: and eye, ear, nose, mouth and hand.  We used our five senses to record our observations.  I took the seeds home and cleaned them and dried them out.  I added to the pile the seeds I had at home from my own kids jack-o-lanterns and I also took some from my brother-in-law (who carves very cool pumpkins on Halloween).  At the next class we made our pumpkin observation booklets to record our observations from the inside of the pumpkin.

I had precut the orange construction paper for them and glued in the observation sheet.  Each student was given a piece of wool and a handful of seeds and asked to make a representation of the inside of the pumpkin.  Then they used the observations that we made as a class and recorded one observation for each of the 5 senses (they wrote ‘no sound’ beside the ear as we didn’t hear anything).

Math: When we started this unit we had just begin our lessons on counting and number recognition in math so I wanted to keep the math lessons as simple as possible.  Because of this, and the large number of seeds that can be inside a pumpkin, we didn’t do any estimation of the number of seeds in a pumpkin.  Instead my teacher partner gave me the perfect activity that fit very nicely to what we are targeting in math right now.

Each bag had a number of dots that corresponded to the the number in the upper left hand box.  Students were to glue pumpkin seeds on each dot and then count the number in each bag.  This was a bit time consuming but a great activity.  If I was to do this again I would give my more advanced students a sheet without the dots and they would have to determine the number of seeds in each bag.

Literacy:  In one of our literacy centres I had large pumpkins cut out of orange construction paper and I wrote on them the first 12 Jolly Phonics letters that we have learned.  Students had to pull a letter out of a bag, say the letter name and sound and match it to the corresponding letter on the pumpkin.  If this was easy for them they were to say a word that started with the letter: eg – s, sss, snake.

Everything in our unit went very well – and I love it when everything integrates so nicely!