Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Imagine What They Learned

I spend so much time teaching my students safer, kinder, and more productive ways to solve problems and express disappointment, fear and anger. I do hope none of their parents let them see the news yesterday, or let them watch it at all this week. 

My heart hurts for the young children who were likely NOT at home last night, safe and sound in bed, during the chaos in Ferguson. Imagine what they saw. Imagine what they felt.

Imagine what they learned.


My thoughts go out to you, their teachers as well.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gobble Gobble Headbands

My school hosts a wonderful Thanksgiving Luncheon for students and families each year, and the meal is always followed by recess.

With four classes of kindergartners on the field, playground, and blacktop, it can be difficult to keep track of my Super Stars, unless...

They're wearing turkey crowns!

Here's what you'll need for each headband:

(1) 2 X 18 strip of brown construction paper
(1 each) 2 X 4 rectangles  for the red, beige, and orange feathers
(1) 1 X 4 rectangle in dark brown for the turkey's headband
(1) 4 inch diameter brown circle for the turkey's face
(1) small orange triangle for the beak
black marker to draw the eyes
1 X 1 inch squares in black, yellow, and red for the pattern

Several Stars decided that AB and ABC patterns were "too easy," so they decided to create ABB and AAB patterns across the long brown strip.

The orange beak and eyes were added to the brown circle, and then students glued on the turkey's headband and feathers.  Then the turkey's face was glued near(ish) the middle of the headband.

After fitting each headband onto its owner's head, my Stars insisted that I wear mine as well.

Ta da!  Er, ~gobble gobble~!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Teacher Tip: Use Your Desktop Monitors and Interactive Whiteboard as Anchor Charts

My students and I LOVE using our interactive whiteboard, but there are times when it's apparent that it has taken over a substantial portion of my dry erase/display area, and others when we have so many items open that scrolling through them all without accidentally clicking them closed takes a bit more time than what we'd like for a quick filler activity.  Not wanting to have to work through seven clicks to open a file, or fill the screen with zillions of little icons, I sat down and determined what kinds of content I'd like to have readily available for transitions: letter naming, number identification, plane and solid shape review, and sight word practice.  Finding cute and appropriate clip art, photos, or available wallpaper/desktop patterns online can easily fill a weekend, but it's ~worth it~.

(If anyone knows the source of this adorable autumn image, 
please let me know so I can give credit where it's due!)

Popping the pile of autumn leaves into a Word document, I added a text box and typed in our second quarter sight words.  I like to save documents like this as PDFs so they don't get altered, but I also keep a copy in Word, and take a screen shot when necessary.  Using the new image as the wallpaper on our SMART Board ~and~ on our desktop computers gives my students multiple opportunities in small and large groups as well as individually to quickly review and practice whatever is displayed. 

I too, can quickly reference a targeted skill without having to search, click, open, and wait.  I change the desktop/SMART Board wallpapers by month, but can also have a different image on each of our five desktop computers if I need to differentiate during centers.

How else can teachers and students use the valuable real estate space found on interactive white boards and desktop computers?  Comment below and share your ideas!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Veterans Day Craft

Being the wife of a United States veteran, and having taught so many students from military families, it has always been important to me to include a Veterans Day craft in my lesson plans each November.

Here's what we used for our hallway bulletin boards:

(1) large 12 X 18 inch piece of light gray construction paper (cut as shown for body)
(1) 3 X 18 inch rectangle of light gray construction paper (arms)
(1) 5 X 8 inch rectangle of light gray construction paper (curved at top for helmet)
(1) 7 X 7 square of light gray construction paper (curved at bottom) 
(1) 6 X 6 square of skin colored construction paper (for face; curved at bottom; will be glued to 7 X 7 gray square)
(2) 3 X 4 rectangles in dark brown (to be cut into boot shapes)
(2) 3 X 3 squares in skin colored construction paper (for hands)
(1) 7 X 1 and 1/2 inch strip of red, brown, yellow, or black paper (for hair)
(2)  2 X 2 white squares (for eyes)
Red, white, and blue construction paper hearts (we layered ours)
(1) 1 X 4 strip of black construction paper (my students wrote their veterans' names on them and then glued them onto the hearts)
(2) shades of gray paint, one lighter than the other
(1) sponge, cut into smaller rectangles

Before working with the skin colored construction paper, my kindergartners glued the long rectangular gray strip across the back of the torso portion of the body piece.  Then they applied two different shades of gray paint with sponges, to mimic the digital camouflage pattern on modern Army uniforms, onto the body, arms, and smaller helmet piece.

Then the Stars glued the skin color piece onto the remaining gray piece, making sure the curved corners matched up.  The gray peeking around the face looks like the helmet's strap.  Then the kindergartners chose their soldier's hair color and glued it above the face:

After the paint had dried, the Stars completed the assembly of their veteran soldiers by gluing the helmet to the top of the head (leaving some hair peeking out), eyes onto the face, hands onto the end of each arm, and boots at the end of each leg. They used crayons to color in the eyes, and add mouths and cheeks. Then our red and white hearts were layered on top of the blue heart, and each student wrote his or her last name across the thin black rectangle, to mimic a soldier's name tag.

We hope visitors to our school enjoy our Veterans Day bulletin board during Open House later this month.

Thank you, Veterans!

Helping Guest Teachers Accentuate the Positive

Since the beginning of the year, my students have loved keeping track of their helpful, safe, and friendly behavior on a ten frame that is strategically displayed by the classroom door:

Quick to show appreciation for good behavior, colleagues compliment the Super Stars whenever they observe us working together:

"What a polite and quiet line you have, Mrs. Sommerville!"

"Oh, I hope my second graders notice what good role models the kindergartners are being."

"Oh my goodness!  Your class was so quiet that I didn't even know they were coming down the hallway!"

"Your students did such a good job in the library today, Mrs. Sommerville."

"My students really appreciate how your Super Stars look at our artwork without touching it when they walk by."

"We appreciate how your Super Stars use manner words in the lunch room."

Accentuating the positive really does help eliminate the negative.

Wondering if we could use our talent for compliment-collecting in a way that would help guest teachers whenever they spend time in my classroom, I created a new chart for substitute teachers to use that I initially drafted with my students' help:

Laminated to make it reusable, our guests can use a dry erase or vis-a-vis marker to keep track of the great behaviors he or she observes.  It can be easily carried on a clip board or in hand, and even displayed within easy viewing of my class.  Even better, my students are EXCITED to keep count, and share the number with me upon my return.

I'm going to continue to encourage my subs to try this "accentuate the positive" model whenever I have to be away from my class, and look forward to their feedback.

How do you help guest teachers manage classroom behavior when you're away?

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Teacher, I Have Magic Pants!"

"See?  Watch me, I'll show you!  I put the rocks in my pocket..."

"... and after I wiggle around a little bit (wiggle wiggle, dance, wiggle), they're gone!"

Sure enough, my Super Star's pocket was completely turned out and ~empty~!

Using a whisper voice, she then confided, "Mrs. Sommerville, they're not REALLY magic pants.  There's a hole in my pocket!  Don'ttellanyoneplease!  See?"

After looking around to see if any classmates were watching, she pulled open the cuff of the bottom of her jeans, and out rolled the rocks:

"Ta-daaaaaaaa" she whispered enthusiastically!

It's just another reason why I love kindergartners.

They can still teach me new tricks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What Can Mistakes Tell You?

Today as my Super Stars were reviewing facts about plane shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle and hexagon), I was listening, watching, asking, and supervising as I walked through the room helping each student with his or her math journal.  Joining a friend at a spot on the carpet, I took a peek at her page:

She gladly read and pointed her way through each column:

"Circle (shape), circle (not the word she glued down), and it has zero sides and zero corners."

"Square (shape), square (not the word she glued down), and it has four sides and four corners."

"Rectangle (shape) rectangle (CORRECT word), and it also has four sides and four corners, but two of the sides are long, and two of the sides are short."

She continued on through triangle and hexagon.

Asking her to look again at the circle and square columns, I asked her to find the word for each and read them to me.  She misread "square" for "circle" and "circle" for "square." I then asked her what sound she heard at the end of "circle."  She said "l," so we looked at both words again, to see if "l" appeared near the end of either.  Asking her what sound she heard at the end of "square," she said "r." She quickly looked at the words, and then realized her mistake, laughing "Oh!  I just looked at the beginning sounds.  "S" and "C" can both make the same sound (snake, cereal).  Next time I'll look at all the letters."

Mistake explained, I got another glimmer of insight as to how my friend first looks at words: by initial letter/sound.  

With some gentle pulling, she was able to apply more glue and give the words "square" and "circle" the old switcharoo.


I've uploaded the PDF printable journal page for you.  The images on the PDF display correctly when printed, so don't worry about the square that appears to be missing its bottom!  The page would also be easy to print out and then enlarge if your students need bigger pieces with which to work.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spooktacular Pumpkins: Numbers Greater than 10

With several months spent away from the blog, I'm afraid it's gotten a bit cobwebby in here!

~sweep sweep~

~dust dust~




Experienced kindergarten teachers know what new-to-service kindergarten teachers discovered in August and September: the beginning of the school year, though exciting, is c-r-a-z-y busy.  Throw in a barrage of new germs shared by many enthusiastic children, and you can imagine how difficult it can be to find not only the time but the energy to blog once the dismissal bell rings.

The big payoff to all of the extra time and effort spent teaching, practicing and reteaching routines, rules and procedures is apparent when students and teachers alike enter the classroom one day, and can feel the rhythm and step right into the tempo of our scheduled activities.  Last week was when that magical stanza was reached by my Super Stars, and I was extremely grateful to find it ~still~ in place today, after students returned from a three day weekend during parent teacher conferences.  

With a smooth transition after calendar and story time, the Stars sat through directions, and returned to their seats to assemble large orange blobs, and black, white, green and brown construction paper into jack-o-lanterns with toothy grins.  The goal?  To fill each jack's mouth with MORE than ten teeth:

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The candy corn footprints are helping us learn to count by fives (parent volunteers discovered how many students have ticklish feet!):

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Has your year gotten off to a good start?  I hope so!

Let me finish sweeping the place and letting some fresh air in... I'll be back to my regular blogging routine soon!