This week I was only at school on Monday and Tuesday, and then flew out to Illinois for ASCD’s Kinder and Pre-K conference. I met a lot of wonderful people, and even had a chance to visit Mrs. McNamara’s PreK class in Schaumburg! Her students were absolutely delightful, and they were super excited to see me, which was incredibly fun for me. There’s nothing like being a celebrity to a preschooler! I guess I know now how Barney feels!
Anyway, they wanted to sing some songs with me, so we started with the song for number one on Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes, and kept singing until we got to number 26! The only reason why we stopped was because they had not yet been introduced to the number 27. And thank goodness, because I was certainly exhausted! It really was a delightful visit, and I was so happy that I was able to do it.
1. Bookmaking Fever!
A couple of weeks ago in my own classroom, something I like to call “Bookmaking Fever” broke out, and has been spreading like a virus ever since! I give all of the credit for this to one of my wonderful little students who decided to make a book at home and then brought it in to show me. He did a wonderful job of using inventive spelling to write his little story, and of course he illustrated the pictures as well. He titled his book, “How the Bear Got Into the Balloon.” (I believe he must have seen a teddy bear inside a balloon that someone gave as a gift for Valentine’s Day.) I was so excited about it that I asked him to read it to the class. It was such a cute story, and the kids loved it! He told us that he wanted to be a “story writer” when he grows up. Naturally, I saw my opportunity and grabbed it:
During their playtime, I quickly put out as many book making materials as I could find (such as scrap paper and staplers, etc.) and let them go. Voila! I suddenly had ten kids all excited about writing their own story books, and begging for a turn to read them to the class as well! The worst thing about it was getting them to stop when playtime was over, since many of them were still in the middle of their creations when it was time to stop. In years past when this type of thing has happened, I learned to give them a five minute warning that it would be time to stop, and I had to pull that technique back out of my pocket to make the transition a little easier.
Here are a few other things that I have been doing to make this time a little easier to manage for me in the classroom.
1. Give them lots pieces of paper pre-cut into small sizes (like 6” x 3”) rather than a bunch of full sheets of paper. Full sheets mean very large books, and the consumption of LOTS of classroom supplies. That’s bad news if you have to stick to a budget.
2. Have volunteers (if you have any!) pre-staple some little books together for children to write in if you don’t have time for (or can’t handle) a big mess on a certain day. Then the book making can go on, minus the mess. It’s not as motivational without the cutting and gluing for decorations, but it will suffice.
3. Consider giving the kids some little blank books to make during a small group rotation time to get those who are not choosing this at playtime involved in the process.
One thing I have to say that has made a great deal of difference in my students’ ability to write phonetically is the Sounds Fun Flash Cards. If you are not familiar with it, check it out here. This is a system for teaching kids to read and write sound “chunks” using picture cues and movement. For example, there is a card for the /oo/ sound with a monkey on it. Of course, the monkey goes “/oo/ /oo/!” So I teach the children to make a monkey motion and go /oo/ /oo/ when they see that card. There is also a king with an “ing” on his chest; the children bow to the king and say “ing” when they see this card. There is a pirate that swings his arm and says “ar,” a dog that howls and says “ou!” and a piggy that says “oy, oy!” Etc, etc., etc.! (Attention! We are all sold out of the printed Sounds Fun Flash Cards at the moment, but you can still buy the download and print the cards yourself if you want them immediately. We just had the artwork redrawn by a professional artist, and the new printed cards should be available in a couple of weeks.)
I have also been working on making up songs for this set of flash cards, and we are just about finished recording them! I should have that CD out by the summer time. I just need to give it a test drive in my classroom first to make sure that everything in there teaches what I want it to teach without any problems. So far, the kids are LOVING the songs! And those letter combinations are popping up all over their writing, and lots of the kids are recognizing those sounds in their writing as well. So it’s all good!
Of course, March is leprechaun month, considering Saint Patrick’s Day is coming on the 17th. We started reading books about leprechauns last week. One of my students asked, “Are leprechauns real?” I never quite know how to answer questions like these in regards to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and so on. But my standard response is usually, “Well, some people believe in them and some people don’t. So it’s really up to you if you choose to believe!” One of my little ones cried out, “Well, not in MY world!” That really gave me a chuckle. So cute! I wanted to say, “Not in my world either!” but just I bit my tongue and just smiled.
Today I am giving you a free download of the patterns for the leprechaun that we make each year to decorate our classroom in March. This is a two day project for us, because it is too time consuming for the kids to do all in one day, at least in my opinion.
I’ll warn you that this leprechaun is suspiciously similar to the Christmas elf that I gave you in December! I’ll also go ahead and tell you that it took SUCH a long time to write up the directions and create the patterns for it (about four hours) that I would have preferred to sell it on the website rather than give it away, but the reality of the situation is that we may pull together the best free downloads from the blog and post them for sale when we have time. So you may want to peruse the blog as soon as you get a chance and download anything that looks interesting to you now, while it is still free! 🙂
Update: (Feb. 19, 2015:) We animated this cute little Leprechaun into our Green Song that is on our Colors and Shapes DVD! Check this out- it’s SO much fun!
I always make these flowers every year to decorate my classroom, and put them around the insects that I gave you last week. When my class makes these flowers, I provide a whole bunch of tracers cut out of old file folders and let them choose which type of flower they would like to make. Today I am giving you the four different types of flower tracers in large and small sizes, plus a leaf pattern that I regularly use.
We usually do this as a joint project with our book buddies, and encourage them to be as creative as they would like to be. These are the rules: there are no rules! I put out hole punchers, crazy scissors, and lots of paper scraps in bright colors. I also give them some paper cut to the correct sizes for the different flower patterns, and some green paper for stems and leaves. I do give them some leaf tracers, but I also show them how to cut the corners off of a green rectangle to make a leaf with rounded edges.
Having some very creative finished samples for them to look at really helps! So consider asking a fifth grade class to make some samples for you that include paper that is curled or accordion folded, etc. Layered flowers with three dimensional elements look wonderful, too! Sometimes, we even put stickers on them, but I prefer to just give them lots of different colored paper and plenty of time.
We often do this project more than once in the spring time so that our class may be filled with flowers. I consider this to be a good use of time, since I am encouraging creativity here. Plus, the added bonus is that it really helps develop their fine motor skills. We also look at each one when we are finished and admire the elements of each one that we really like. Sometimes, having the children write about what their flower looks like is a good way to encourage descriptive writing as well. For example, they might write, “My flower is pink and blue. It has yellow dots and some curls.” Consider mounting the flower over their description and posting these papers in your classroom.
4. More Addition Ideas
Since my class loved the Shark Teeth Addition activity so much, I decided to do the same thing with an insect/springtime theme! So I made a butterfly and ladybug addition worksheet to share with you today!
A team mate of mine at my school also shared with me one of her ideas for teaching addition, and I have a picture of it here for you, though not the master. She drew it freehand. The children roll a die to get the correct number of petals on each flower, and then glue them on. Then they create a flower that has the total number of petals at the end, and write the corresponding equation. It came out really cute!
Well, last week I promised that I would give you another one of these water color resist activities with a St. Patty’s Day theme, and here it is! For those of you that are unfamiliar with this activity, what you do is simply take a white crayon and write a sight word in the spaces at the top. Then have the kids water color paint the paper any way they like, and the word magically appears! I always then drill my class on the words when the papers are dry. My kids love to paint these papers and lots of them choose to do them at playtime as well, so I always copy off enough for everyone to make two. In case you are new to my blog, you can find more of these papers by searching my blog for the following: Insect Sight Word Surprise, Sweet Sight Word Surprise, and Secret Sight Word Surprise. Enjoy!
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