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Planet Movies

I wanted to share with you the space activity I did with my students. I had the students create their own planet on Kidspix. I encouraged them to be creative. I had a balloon planet and a planet that only cooked blueberry pancakes. After they were done creating the planet, I printed each child's planet and gave it to them. They then had to write about their planet. I told them I wanted at least 3 sentences but most of my students wrote more. They had a great time coming up with new ideas for their planet.

After they were done writing about their planet, I recorded them reading about their planet using Audacity. Each student had a chance to record. They are now so comfortable recording, it only took 19 students about 20 minutes total to record. I was impressed.

When the student were done recording, I exported their planet pictures out of Kidspix as a JPEG and took the MP3 from Audacity and created a planet movie using Microsoft MovieMaker. Here is one example:

You are Cordially Invited to the Wedding of Q & U

This week we prepared for the wedding of the letters Q and U to make the "qu" sound. IMG_1048 Many arrangements were made. The vowels were invited and presents for the bride and groom were made. Girls wore veils and carried flowers and the boys wore top hats. The bridal party marched down the aisle to Cannon in D as the shushers held Quiet signs. The flower girl threw the paper letters and our principal conducted the ceremony.

IMG_1063We started having this ceremony last year to help remind our students that Q always needs U during spelling. The week leading IMG_1035 up to the ceremony, we did activities and read books that helped the students understand the concept. One of the activities is a word blend sorting. I made index   cards that have words begin with "qu", "th", "sh", and "ch" blends. I have the students sort the words and then type the words onto an alphasmart.

After the ceremony, we opened the gifts that the students made for Q and U. The students brought in quarters, Quaker oats, Q-tips, a quarterback, quills, a quilt, and a crown fit for a queen. The students had a blast during the ceremony. They enjoyed sharing their gifts with the class and they will always remember the wedding of Q and U!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

"The more that you read, The more things that you know. The more that you learn, The more places you'll go." Dr Seuss - Oh, The Places You'll Go!

In honor of Dr. Seuss birthday, I read as many of his books throughout the entire week.DSC03180 The students love hearing the stories and enjoy reading along with me. I think it is important to read as much as I can with my class. Reading is truly a meaningful learning experience that opens many doors for the reader.

One of my students brought in the Dr. Seuss book "There's a Wocket in My Pocket". This book is filled with tongue twisters and there is a warning in the beginning of the book that states that this book is dangerous. The class thought it was hilarious to hear me reading the book that they actually started counting each mistake I made. I'm proud to say I only made nine mistakes.

We also made green eggs and ham with another kindergarten class. As Mrs. Miller made the green eggs and ham, I read the book. I tried to have each student try a small amount but I did have some students refuse to touch it. I love asking the students if they think they might like it before hand. I get so many wrinkle noses and scrunched up faces but after they try it I have many begging for seconds.

I always take time to share facts and pictures of Dr. Seuss because I have many students who do not realize he was a real person. The students find it fascinating to hear how he came up with his stories and that he illustrated his books. I always have fun during the week of Dr. Seuss's birthday.

Teaching Space with Bookflix

This week I introduced space with books with Scholastic BookFlix. Bookflix is a book resource that takes a subject and presents it with a fiction and non-fiction book. Each book provides users with additional resources that help students expand their knowledge on the topic.

Since we were learning about space, I had the students begin the day with watching Happy Birthday Moon by Frank Asch. The students enjoyed watching the story on the computer. The story is presented with animation and background music that sets the mood of the story. The students are able to follow along as the narrator reads the story as each word becomes highlighted.

Happy Birthday Moon has follow Puzzlers that help the students build their comprehension questions. I enjoyed the puzzle Which Came First? Here the students place the sequence of events in order. I thought it was clever that Scholastic provided ways for younger users to listen to the direction. The students click on the ear and then are able to listen to what they need to do.

After watching Happy Birthday Moon in the morning, I had the students watch the non-fiction book Updated: The Moon. Here the students were able to physically click through the fiction book on the moon. They could either drag the top corner of the page to switch pages or click the green arrow. Students have the option to read the story on their own or listen as the narrator reads the story. Words are also highlighted through the book. These words are vocabulary words. The reader can roll their mouse over the words and listen to the definition.

There are puzzlers for the non-fiction book as well. One of the puzzles is a word match that follows up with the vocabulary words. There is one more puzzle that compares the two books and asks the students to decide if the statement is fact or fiction. 

I also found that it offers a biography on Frank Asch. I thought it was a great way for the students to relate to the author. Again for young readers, it has the option to listen to the biography or for older readers to read it. For teachers there is also a section to extend the lesson online. Scholastic provides websites that reinforce the lesson on space.

Overall, I was impressed with the product. I will always believe teachers should not let the computer to the teaching but let technology enhance learning. This site does have a free trial that I strongly believe you should check out. There are many stories and many topics to choose from!

We are reading!

It's time for the high schoolers in my county to take their mid term exams. The entire county has short days to work around their exam schedule. I thought this would be a good time to see what levels my students are reading at. I have been assessing my students all week. One half of me is exhausted and the half is doing a dance in the middle of the room.

Assessing my students takes a lot out of me.  The assessment that I give my students is the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA). The way the assessment is given, I have to read with each on my students individually. Some of my students have been improving significantly making their reading assessment last 45 minutes each. While I'm reading with the students, I have to find ways to keep the rest of my class busy. The frustrating part of DRA is having the students not taking the assessment from interrupting. Even when I talk to the students before I begin the assessment and remind them not to interrupt, I always get a few who forget.

The GREAT side of doing all the assessments is part that sees the students improving. I love to hear my students read books that they think are too hard. They begin these "hard" books with hesitation and close the book with huge smiles and confidences beaming from their faces. It makes all the hard times from the entire year worth it!

Reading Backpacks

I always have parents ask me where to find books that are at their child's reading level. To save parents time and money, I started sending reading backpacks home for students to practice reading with their parents. I send the backpacks home on Mondays and the parents have till Friday to read the book with their child. I encourage parents to read the book with their child every night but I understand how busy life gets.

I use the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to assess the students to see what level they are reading. DRA breaks reading levels up by using the letters of the alphabet. My students start reading at an "A1" level and by the end of the school year they are expected to be reading at a"C3" level. Each grade level at my schools uses the DRA reading assessment. Each year our students are in school their level increases according to their skill level. Our school provides teachers with an entire room of books that are organized by reading level. Teachers are encouraged to use the room to find books at their student's reading level.

When I send the books home, I also include a list of generic questions that could go with any book. The list includes questions on characters, setting, comprehension, fiction vs. non-fiction, etc. After reading the book each night, students should be able to answer the questions. As the reading levels increase, comprehension becomes very important.

I also send home a red reading booklet where the students can illustrate their favorite part of the book. The students use the same red reading booklets when our reading buddies come to read with us. The students are familiar with the booklets. The backpacks provide reading practice for my student at home. It helps builds their confidence each time they read a book at their level.

Pajama Day

To end our week on nocturnal animals, we had a pajama day. The Dsc02962students came to school in their  pajamas. When they walked into my class, I had most of the lights off and  I was sitting on the floor. The students quickly put all their backpacks away and came to join me. We watch the announcements and then I read them a "bed time" story. The students laid on the floor and pretended they were falling asleep.

For the rest of the day I kept most of the lights off. Our reading buddies came and read them another "bed time" story. The third graders were jealous and they wanted to wear their pajamas. Our principal also wore her pajamas to school. She came on the announcement and all my students were so excited to see her in her pajamas. I also wore my pajamas and slippers as well as the rest of the kindergarten teachers.

Img_0516_2 Later in the day, my students went next door to our neighboring kindergarten class. There the students ate pancakes and drank hot chocolate. I read the class the story "If you give a pig a pancake" as Ann Miller, the other kindergarten teacher cooked the pancakes. The whole room smelled delicious. All the student ate the pancakes and were begging for more. (Click here for an "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" extension activity!) Dsc02974

During our "breakfast", I had a great idea run through my head. I have a black filing cabinet in my classroom. I quickly ran to make star dicuts and I taped them to the cabinet. I took a picture of each student with the nighttime sky as a background. The pictures came out great. I love taking pictures of the students on days like this. By the end of the school year, I have my camera filled with pictures of my students and none of me!

I have to remember next year to make a bulletin board of the night sky. I thought about it today (because I'm obsessed with bulletin boards this year - click here for other teachers' bulletin board ideas!). Maybe we could add nocturnal animals to it. I have a whole year to think about it. I would love to hear more ideas to do on pajama day. If you have anymore activities, please post them in the comment section. We have the only job that allows us to wear pajamas to work. We have to enjoy it!

Reading Buddies

Every Friday morning, my class becomes impatient waiting for the arrival of their third grade reading buddies. Once the third graders arrive, my kindergarteners and their buddies find a quiet spot in the classroom. The third graders read a book from their classroom and my kindergarteners listen intently. After the first book is read, my students have their buddies read their library books.

I have always enjoyed having the reading buddies visit. The third graders have a chance to practice reading and my class has a chance to hear a new story. After each story is read, I have my students, with the help of their buddies, illustrate their favorite part in the story.

I provide each student a reader's notebook. The notebook has a place for the title, illustration, and sentences. It also has a voting option that allows the student to circle one smile if they thought the book was ok, two smiles if they liked it, and three smiles if they thought the book was excellent.

I have had many parents tell me how much their child loves when the reading buddies come. My students are always on the lookout for them when we walk to different places in the school. When we do see our buddies, our straight, quiet line quickly becomes filled with waving and greetings to our buddies

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

After our first podcast was a big hit, I thought we should do another one. The students had fun making "A my name is..." and we had recently made a class book called Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The class book was based on the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star nursery rhyme. The students were asked to complete the sentence "I wish I had a _______".

With help with our computer lab teacher, Mrs. Paul, the students were taken out of my class two at aTwinkle_twinkle_little_star  time to record their part. After each student recorded their part, as a class they recited the nursery rhyme as the introduction to our podcast. The students also added a short rhyme to the end of our podcast.

Mrs. Paul and I did the recordings out of order. The software we were using allowed us to do that. It was simple to add recordings to the beginning and end of the podcast. The students had fun coming up with different ideas. We had wishes for monster trucks, money, and a seal. After the podcast was complete, we listened to it as a class. There were many laughs and giggles. Some students became shy when they heard themselves and others thought it was very cool! 

Download Twinkle_Twinkle.mp3

Teaching English Language Learners

In the three classes I have taught, I have had a handful of students whose first language was not English. When I tell my non-teacher friends that I have students who do not speak English, they are surprised. They always ask the question "How do you teach them?" My reply is easy. I tell them that I treat them like any other student; I just spend a little more time explaining things.

The lucky thing about teaching kindergarten, is that students who speak another language are not that far behind. Many of the skills kindergarten teachers teach are essential when learning a new language. The Strategies for English Learners blog provides a list of tips to use when teaching English learners.

Teachers in Florida are required to have an ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement. Teachers coming out of college are now already ESOL endorsed. Veteran teachers have to complete the 300 hour course requirement or take 120 hours and take the ESOL endorsement test. Teachers in Florida have to be ESOL endorsed in order to teach students whose first language is not English. With the high population of ESOL students, it is now mandated for teachers to be ESOL endorsed.

The ESOL students that I have had in the past have showed the most growth over the school year. It always amazes me that these students come on the first day of school speaking no English and leave for summer vacation reading and writing!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Early Childhood Teacher are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.