Sunday, April 22, 2018

Savanna Investigation

Much of February and March were spent in the warm climate of the African Savanna! 

Well, maybe more inside than out!
As is customary when we begin a new investigation, we brainstorm about what we already know and what we want to learn about the subject. This time, we recorded our ideas on a web and continued to add to it as we discussed savanna animals and their habitats in more detail. 
Our Kindergartners were curious and eager to dive in further. Where is the African Savanna? Where is AFRICA in relation to where we live? We read many books and looked at a globe to find answers.

We talked about what the savanna looks like and what animals live there. We worked collaboratively to create a savanna mural, painting the sky, adding grass, then trees and animals over a period of days.
Some were even inspired to make individual murals!
We had the opportunity to learn more about savanna animals through looking at books, observational drawing and painting, measuring and comparing the size of various animals, and making animals out of clay. 

 We love this process of learning as there are so many ways for each child to connect to the topic in a real and authentic way. 
(As you can imagine, we had many lions and cheetahs running on the playground throughout our investigation.)

After exploring savanna animals for a couple of weeks, we were paired up to begin our animal reports. Each pair had to work collaboratively, which led to listening to one another, showing patience and compromising as needed. We were very proud of how they worked together to not only agree upon an animal, but to research information, write it down, draw and paint their animal, then organize the information onto a poster. 
 When we finished our reports, each pair presented them to the class. We were excellent presenters, as well as audience members. 
As individuals, we decided which animal to mold out of clay. After they were fired, we painted them, then created a habitat to look like where they might live within the savanna. Our dioramas were so creative and fun! We were very proud to display them, along with our savanna sunset paintings at our Spring Showcase.  

The level of engagement and continued curiosity led to this being one of our longer investigations. We had a beautiful visit to the African Savanna and will remember it for years to come!  

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"It's All Good!"

One of our favorite series of books is the beloved "Pete the Cat" books by Eric Litwin and James Dean. We enjoy the fun illustrations, the predictable text that helps us join in and read along, the funny things Pete say and does, the songs he sings, and his laid back attitude, taking everything in stride. (You can watch a live version of the author reading and singing "Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes" at the following link: )

Throughout our exploration of Pete the Cat books, we were inspired to:

  • Practice math skills using groovy buttons
  • Read and write color words
  • Write about the shoes WE loved, kind of like Pete with his white shoes. 
  • Take a sensory walk with our bare feet, feeling and describing how each step on the path felt.
  • Learn to draw Pete the Cat by following step-by-step instructions
  • Put on puppet shows with Pete the Cat and other characters, too.

We also learned that we were going to see "Pete The Cat: The Musical" onstage. Live!
We discussed what happens in a play and how it is different from seeing movie characters or characters in books. There are a lot of elements to putting on a play, both onstage and backstage and way before the show! There are costumes, sets, words to learn... so many roles for many people. 
The day of the play was very exciting. We met in the lobby with our special grown-ups before walking in to the beautiful theater together. 

Upon returning to school, we reflected on the play and shared our favorite things. "I liked when the cat catcher tried to catch Pete!" "I liked when the girl wanted to get married and she put a tutu on him!"
Once we expressed our ideas, we drew and wrote about it in our journals. 
We were so inspired that we decided to put on our own play. Through much dialogue, we decided the setting of our play would be at the beach, so we got to work creating an ocean and beach backdrop.

We also discussed possible characters. We needed costumes! We drew a design of our character, if we chose to be one, then gathered materials to make our creations.

A play usually needs words, so we split our class into two groups and worked collaboratively within our groups to write a script. Both groups were set at the beach, since that was what we decided as a large group. Each group came up with a bit of a different story, with characters they created previously, and, of course, Pete the Cat. Some friends narrated and some friends worked behind the scenes. We all took part in the process, which really is what it's all about! 

 Once it was all put together, we practiced, then presented our plays to our friends in the preschool. The Kindergartners did an amazing job, and the preschool was a fabulous audience. 
After performing, we reflected on how we felt about the process. Some of us felt nervous once we saw the other kids watching. Some said they were nervous, but then the nervousness went away! (These kids are so great about expressing how they feel!) 

We love what can happen when you start with a simple idea ... "we're going to see the play Pete The Cat"... add a few books, a few more ideas, then follow the children's lead after that. As we often say, Kindergartners really can do amazing things! 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Happy New Year (Part 2)

December was a short month, but we managed to squeeze in a lot of fun, festivities, and learning. We began by exploring The Gingerbread Man. The predictable text and repetitive lines made this a fun and rewarding story to explore. Our investigation of the book, and variations of the story, really brought about some in-depth learning, especially in the area of literacy. 

We compared and contrasted what was the same/different in each book. We voted on our favorite version of the story, read a Gingerbread Man poem, and even built traps to try to catch the Gingerbread Man!
First, we drew our plan for our trap and thought about the materials we would need to build it before getting started. 
One of our goals in Kindergarten is to install the practice of making a plan for our work, even our play. Mapping out an idea is a very important part of learning how to prioritize, be intentional in our actions, and organize our thoughts and movements. It also helps us gain a sense of ownership in our learning. 
Once our plan was drawn, we went to work building. It's always great to see ideas put into action. Sometimes, we have to alter our original plans based on materials available, or to improve functionality. Revising a plan is another important way to increase our flexibility in our thinking, and to build onto an idea. 

It was fun to share our trap with the class and explain the thinking behind the design, and how it works. Some of us built our traps alone and some of us helped our friends build, paint and test the traps.

Our Gingerbread focus ended with a cook day baking... you guessed it... Gingerbread Man cookies! We rolled and cut the dough, then decorated and ate them once they were baked. We don't think any of them ran away. Taking a bite might have made us sympathize a bit with the Fox in the story. They were delicious! 
There is so much learning happening when we can "dive in" to a particular focus. Learning math is fun when you are playing a "build a Gingerbread Man" game or measuring a giant Gingerbread Man using various measuring tools. We feel confident as budding readers when we recall familiar text when reading "You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man". We explored our five senses by making a book, creating a page for each sense. We were also engineers, designing and building Lego bridges for the Gingerbread Man to get across the river!

December also found us getting ready for Christmas, writing Christmas cards and making gifts for our family, building countdown chains, exploring melting Christmas trees in science, and learning about the first Christmas when Baby Jesus was born so long ago. 

This month, our focus has been on Pete The Cat! We look forward to sharing the fun we are having and the learning that is going along with it very soon. As Pete likes to say, "It's all GOOD!"