What came first: the chicken or the egg? Most importantly, who really cares? In Kindergarten, I can tell you that we care a lot more about eggs than chickens these days, that’s for sure! This week, we have done gobs of activities with eggs, and I am hoping that it will not be too late for you to make use of some of them. Actually, I think that we teachers stress out a lot more about giving children holiday themed activities after a holiday has passed much more than the children do! I have seen them gladly accept a forgotten holiday worksheet or game many times as I squirm in discomfort, knowing it is a bit overdue. In any case, I hope you enjoy these activities!
1. What’s Inside? Book
I have a black and white computer print out of a very old book from Wiggle Works by Scholastic that is called What’s Inside? by Mary Jane Martin. I have saved it all these years because it is a nice, easy to read book, and I had enough copies of it for a reading group. The basic text goes, “What’s inside? It’s a baby _____. That’s what’s inside!” Each page features a different baby animal that hatches from eggs.
After last week’s success with the Bunny Book, I wanted to do something similar, so I decided to have them make a What’s Inside? book. My sample went something like this: “I found an egg. What’s inside? Look and see!” “Here is another egg. What’s inside? Look and see!” “Oh, look! Here is one more egg. What’s inside? I can’t wait to find out!” Each time the children got to the “Look and see!” part, they were to open up their plastic egg and read a note that they had written. The little note could have anything on it at all, but my notes said, “A kiss,” “A cuddle,” and “A hug.” My thought was that the children could take the eggs home and read the book to their parents, and then open up the eggs and read them the notes.
The kids were excited about the idea, and eager to try it! Just like last week, I told them that I would not give them the eggs to make the notes until the book itself was completely finished. That tactic is becoming a good motivator for the reluctant writer! I also told the children that if they chose to write about something other than finding eggs and wondering what was inside, then I would not be giving them any eggs to go with their book. That really helped last week, when I finally convinced some of the more struggling writers that it might be worth taking the risk to try to write about this new topic! And lo and behold, it worked again this week! By today, only one child was still “holding out and holding on” to his original safe topic, which was “I love my mommy,” and “I love my daddy.”
Some children choose to write about topics like this because they already know how to spell all of those words and it is less work and less risky. But this also means that they aren’t gaining any new skills, either! So providing a little motivation to draw them into a newer, riskier topic was definitely worth it, I think! And the children’s writing is improving more and more every day!
To help get them started, I taught them the “What” song from Sing and Spell Vol. 2 and the “Find” song from Sing and Spell Vol. 5. We also learned the “Bossy E” song from the new Sounds Fun Phonics Songs CD! (It is now at the CD duplicators and printers, and should be on the website in a couple of weeks.) The kids seem to really be getting the idea about the Bossy E, so they weren’t having any trouble with the “inside” word at all. They also seem to be suddenly finding those Bossy E’s all over the place and are decoding them with few problems! I must admit, I was nervous about introducing the concept to them, for fear it would confuse them with the short vowels, but so far, so good! I’ll keep you posted, but I think it is going to work out GREAT!
What is it about short u CVC words that are so consistently difficult for most groups of children to sound out? Once they know the words, they are no problem. But the catch is that the children must really, REALLY know how to sound out any and all types of CVC words, even nonsense words, so that when they come to those longer multisyllabic words, they will be able to attack them with confidence and decode them well. And that is why we teach them to read nonsense words as well as real words. Once I really understood this reality, I began to buy into the task of teaching them to decode nonsense words in earnest. I like this type of worksheet because it allows me to keep a group of children busy coloring, and then stop just ONE of them and have him or her read/try to read some of these words to me. Click here to download my Easter Egg Color by Nonsense worksheets!
The biggest problem with short u words is that so many of them sound like nonsense to many five and six year olds anyway! Words like “lug, mug, jug,” etc., do not usually end up in their working vocabulary, so the children do not necessarily know which word is a nonsense word or not! And THAT’s a problem! So I got out the flash cards from the short u unit of my CVC book and put them on my rolling pocket chart. I told the children that if they were not sure if a word was a real word or not, one thing they could do to check was to see if that particular word was on the chart. If it was on the chart, then they would know for sure that it was a real word. That seemed to help a lot. Other than that, those poor little ones just keep trying to “make sense” of so many of these unknown words that they keep grasping at straws, trying to make it into a real word that makes sense to them. We went over them as much as we could ahead of time, and I even put the worksheet under my document camera and they watched as I did the whole thing in front of them ahead of time as a whole group lesson before the small group rotation began. No matter what, this one was just a hard one! I think that if I could go back and do it again, I would put all of the words on flash cards and then sort them as real and nonsense words for a day or two ahead of time. THEN I think it would have been more of an independent activity. I will probably use those very same words on another worksheet sometime soon so that they can try it again. The fact is that the children had a much easier time completing a worksheet with long e words- but there were no nonsense words on it. I suppose it is just a difficult concept, because the children can no longer rely on making meaning of the word to double check their decoding.
3. Egg Math Activities
I posted these two math activities on my HeidiSongs Facebook page earlier this week, just in case anyone wanted to make use of them before Easter rather than after. In any case, here they are!
A. The Egg and Bean Game
This is a take off of the old “Math Their Way” game called “The Bowl Game.” In this activity, the teacher places some beans on the table, and asks the children to count them. Then, the children hide their eyes while the teacher places some of these counters under the bowl. When they open their eyes up, they can see how many of the beans are left visible outside of the bowl. This should tell them how many are under the bowl. Basically, this is a missing addend game. To make this a bit more fun, though, we are using half of a plastic egg and some lima beans or jelly beans. I think that jelly beans would really make this a HIT! 🙂 The trick to get the kids to enjoy this game is to start with VERY small quantities so that the answer is very obvious to them, such as one bean outside the egg and one bean under the egg. Once they have that figured out, you can start adding in more beans. If you start with too many beans, they quickly become discouraged and it becomes a huge guessing game rather than a math exercise.
B. The Cup Game with Eggs
If any of you were reading my blog in August 2010, you may remember me talking about a fun and simple game using cups turned upside down. The cups had numbers printed on them. The children would hide their eyes and then the teacher would place an object under one of the numbered cups. The children would then have to guess which numbered cup hid the object. The teacher helped by giving them clues to narrow down the choices. For example, if the child chose a seven and the correct answer was a three, the teacher might say, “The number is less than seven but more than two.”
In this game, though, we are using egg halves rather than cups to give it a fun spring theme. Enjoy!
4. Skip Counting Songs
We have been enjoying learning how to skip count this year! In fact, we have been singing these skip counting songs while doing crossovers and “helicopters” each morning so that we can wake up our brains and get the oxygen flowing up to those brain cells where it needs to be. (“Helicopters” are what I call exercises in which you reach down and touch your right hand to your left toe, and then your left hand to your right toe, etc.) In any case, I think that most of the children can now count by two’s, five’s, and ten’s quite easily now! They can also count backwards from 20 because we have been including that in our exercise routine as well. In any case, please enjoy this video clip of the kids doing the skip counting songs from Musical Math! They love them, and they are a very effective way of teaching children this skill. Someday, I am hoping to write more of these skip counting songs! I just need an extra several hours in each day.
If you haven’t read one of these fun books yet, you are in for a treat! The kids absolutely LOVE these books! We got our first one last spring, and the kids fell in love with this story about some little “dust bunnies” (just flurries of dust, no less!) that like to “rhyme all the time!” But one of them sees a big scary monster with a broom coming, so each time that certain Dust Bunny is asked what rhymes with a word, he always replies, “Look out!” The children can see that he is warning the other Dust Bunnies, but of course they are oblivious, and the story proceeds from there. It is WAY too much fun!
I decided that it would be a great to have a set of these low level reading books, so I started saving my Scholastic Book Club bonus points. Then I spotted a coupon booklet that they were selling to parents in the September See Saw book club. Each one was for a four dollar book that you could purchase for just two dollars! I decided to buy one of these coupon books myself and then try to get some of the Dust Bunnies books with it, because each of these books are four dollars each. As soon as the coupons came in the mail, I phoned Scholastic and asked if I could order the books with the coupons, and they said yes! They sent me the books promptly in the mail, and that was that! The kids love the books, and each group has had a turn taking them home.
Meanwhile, Jan Thomas managed to come up with a second Dust Bunnies book! It is called “Here Comes the Big Mean Dust Bunny!” In this one, there is a big mean Dust Bunny that is a bully and he keeps torturing is fellow dust bunnies. I won’t give away the ending, but I can tell you that this book is just as much fun as the first one! And even though it has “Bunnies” in the title, the book has absolutely nothing to do with Easter, rabbits, or spring time at all. It can be used at any time of the year. I definitely give both books my “Heidi’s Stamp of Approval!” (Well, I would if I had one anyway!)