Monday, April 10, 2017

Learning about Geometry

During the month of March our math focus was on learning about Geometry.  We had the opportunity to learn a lot of new vocabulary, not only the names of shapes; rhombus, trapezoid, sphere and cylinder to name a few, but also words that help us describe shapes like vertices, edges and faces. 

We started our shape investigation with a simple question about circles and squares.  Can you fill a large circle with small square tiles?  

Most of us were pretty sure there must be some strategy to make this work.  After manipulating the squares and trying various ways, such as building up and overlapping squares, some came very close.  In the end we all came to the same conclusion: you can’t make an actual circle with squares because a square has straight lines and a circle is a curved line.  This began our discussion on the attributes of two dimensional shapes.

 The next day our question was about how many ways there are to make a hexagon using the pattern blocks.  Again, with some manipulation of shapes, flexibility in thinking and a little bit of collaboration we were each able to come up with at least six different ways to make a hexagon.  

This naturally led us to try to see what else we could create with the pattern blocks.

 We spent time looking around our environment trying to find shapes. It was amazing to see how many two dimensional and three dimensional shapes we could find in our classroom, outside and around the church.  

 We created shapes using toothpicks and clay, read books about shapes and categorized shapes using their properties. 

 It was exciting to watch each student expand and build on their current knowledge of shapes!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Building Leprechaun Traps

The month of March found us deeply involved in a building inquiry. So, as St. Patrick's Day approached,  it seemed appropriate to ask the question "can we build something to catch a leprechaun?" Let's back up a little... some of us had never heard of a leprechaun, so we had to list what we knew about leprechauns before anything else occurred! 
We read the book Clever Tom and the Leprechaun, a story about a man who catches a leprechaun, only to be tricked by him when it comes to finding his treasure. Before we could even pose our question, the students were discussing the ways THEY might catch a leprechaun!
So, we broke into groups and set out to build a trap for a leprechaun. Before we could build a trap, we had to discuss and write a plan. We drew and wrote our ideas down, editing as we changed our minds. 
When you are a kindergartner, it is not always natural to collaborate, listen to your partners, and compromise ideas. It takes a lot of practice, but these kindergartners did just that... after a bit of trial and error, of course. 
There was a table of supplies to "shop" from. All ideas had to be talked about and agreed upon within the group before anyone ran to grab a material. We had to answer why we wanted to use a certain item. What would our trap look like? What would attract a leprechaun? 
"We need gold!" "They like rainbows!" The ideas were flying. It's amazing to watch the process of collaboration and how one idea may spark another. The level of excitement was high as each individual did their part to make the whole plan come together. 

Of course, there were times of struggle. Times of giving up on a great idea to make room for someone else's great idea. It was messy. It was loud. But, it was also enjoyable to hear their excitement as their plans came together and they explained to us how their trap would work. Some practiced their expertise in making the trap beautiful. Others were more focused on the action of the trap. By day two, all three traps were completed. Not one was like another. 
 This one drew the leprechaun in with it's shiny gold. There were cozy beds to draw him in, and lots of foot traps dug into the styrofoam to catch his little feet!
"We buried the trap!" - B.W.
 "It needs to be beautiful so the leprechaun would want to go in the trap." - B.E.
"If his foot goes here, his shoe won't even come out!" - P.G.
"If the gold (beads) breaks, he will flyyyyyyyy into the trap!" - K.T.
 This one also had  gold added to entice a leprechaun. 
"We made a house with a chimney and three beds that are traps." - C.S.
"We put three beds in. I made a little basket with a little pillow inside of it with a blanket." - S.B.
"You walk in and you get stuck in one of the beds." - D.J.
This included a bridge to run across, where he would be caught in a hole as he headed towards the shiny treasure. 
"So, he'll run into the hole. He's trying to get gold. I made the bridge." - I.A.
"There's a hole, but when it doesn't fall in the hole, we will just trap him!" - S.D.
"I'll tell you about it after we finish making it!" - G.G. 

During reflection, we had a lot of ideas to share about what we liked and what was difficult about this project. As teachers, we love how this group so openly shares their ideas and is willing to discuss their feelings on a topic without hesitation. Isn't that the essence of collaboration? To cooperate and work together towards a common goal, each contributing in our own way?  Besides collaboration, we used skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and persistence. And while we may not have captured a leprechaun, we continue to gain incredible life skills that will not only help us in future projects at school, but as workers and members of society for the rest of our lives. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Literacy and Beyond

From time to time, you may be wondering what's happening on a daily basis to further learning in one specific academic area or another. In this post, we would like to address some of the ways we are diving into literacy. 

In January, we began utilizing book boxes at one of our learning centers. Every Monday, each student chooses 4 new books at their reading level to add to their book box. As they rotate through centers, they have a chance to read independently or with a buddy, exploring the books they have chosen, or revisiting their poetry folder. 


We each know that there are many ways to read, one of which is to look at the pictures and retell a familiar story. We may also look for letter sounds we know, or sight words we have learned.

We spend time each day during 1st circle learning about the connection between letters and their sounds and how the sounds in words work. It's especially fun to change the first letter of each our names to one particular letter we are focusing on and see how they sound in this new form. We also notice right away when it doesn't change the name at all! (For instance some of our names that start with "C" still sound the same when they start with "K"!)

Another new addition to our week is Writer's Workshop. After a group lesson in which the teacher introduces the lesson and models writing, students are encouraged to think of an idea for their writing and share that idea verbally with a friend. Afterwards, we choose where we would like to write, sometimes finding a quiet place alone, sometimes with friends.

During the writing exercise, we work on drawing a picture, labeling, and adding an idea in the form of a sentence. 

When the exercise is finished, we have the opportunity to share our writing with the class.
 We especially enjoyed writing about and with our stuffed animals during our Puppy Picnic Day! 

 As with much of our learning, it spills over into other class time as well. We may find students writing invitations to all of their friends...

... they write and share about Buddy's adventures at home...

... and create and tell stories as they are immersed in dramatic play. 

We are thinkers, readers, writers and speakers, with amazing imaginations and such willingness to take chances and try our best. We have come a long way in the first 1/2 of our Kindergarten year. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Run! Run! As fast as you can...

We had such a short time together in December, with two weeks off for Christmas and extra days for snow! However, our investigation of "The Gingerbread Man" and variations of the story, really brought about some in-depth learning, especially in the area of literacy. 

We started by reading two classic versions of The Gingerbread Man, taking note of repeated words, characters and the plot. 
Each day that we read a new version of the Gingerbread Man, we recalled the events and characters in the story and added our observations to a graph. It was so rewarding to see how much our Kindergartners retained from each book. They recalled details from previous days' stories, compared them, and even shared their predictions on how the current story might end. 
During centers, we were able to explore the words in the poem further, underlining sight words and becoming familiar with starting letters and sounds to decipher new words. After each book was read, we wrote and drew about our favorite character from the books.

We had fun in our dramatic play area, baking gingerbread cookies, and more!

We explored math concepts through dice games, adding parts to our gingerbread people as indicated by the number on the dice and the corresponding items on the pictograph. 

We enjoyed sensory exploration, creating gingerbread people out of
gingerbread-scented playdough...

.. and painting gingerbread people with puffy, gingerbread scented paint. 
 We wrote a Gingerbread Man book, adding pictures and words each day during center time. When we were finished, we read them together as a group during circle. How amazing that we are becoming readers , writers and illustrators
We retold the story during another group time, placing characters and events in order by picture. 
We even practiced our engineering skills to see if we could build a bridge for our gingerbread people to cross the river. 

We really did run, run as fast as we could through December! But, we had a great time, too! We are looking forward to more explorations in the coming months. Happy New Year!