Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Check out my kids doing their first Buddy Reading Activity today!  First we all read the books (from Reading A-Z) on the ActivBoard.  I chose two "aa" books "The School" and "Pets" so that everyone would experience success.  With eighteen students, I gave nine one title and the others the second title.  

 Individuals practiced reading the book I gave them while pointing to the words.  Then they read it to a partner.  Partners were able to help if needed.  We switched books and did it again.  The kids LOVED it!  

I love watching them learn together and help one another.  It's fun to pair up some of the more reluctant readers with those already reading.  Everyone practiced "caring hearts" when working with their buddy.  Here are some more photos from this fun activity below.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

And Week 2 Begins...

Today we read one of my favorite books, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  This is the story of a little mouse who gets picked on because of her name.  She thought her name was perfect, until she started school.  On the day they have music, they find out that their teacher's name is Delphinium.  Suddenly Chrysanthemum's name is accepted and desired by all the kids at school.  

After reading the story, we learned about our new "Reading Response Logs".  Everybody wrote the date and the title in their new book.  Then we practiced writing or drawing about what we noticed in the story.  

Some students drew their picture and then I helped them write a sentence about it.  Others practiced using their "kid writing" to record their thinking.  I was SO PROUD of my readers, writers and thinkers!  

We will use this Reading Response Log for the remainder of the year to record our thinking and learning together. It will be a great way to watch each student grow!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Life Lessons to Classroom Application

As I mentioned in my bio, I am learning to become a runner.  Now this is so unnatural for me, it's not even funny!  Up until March of this year, I never ran anywhere on purpose in my adult life.  And my childhood wasn't filled with much running either. I was always last, and I didn't like it.  In March, though, I decided to work on my health.  My son is majoring in "Exercise Science" and had completed a half marathon last year.  He's working on his marathon for this year.  A friend took part in the Couch to 5K running plan.  And I was inspired.  So I started.

Literally, when I started, I could not run 60 seconds without feeling like I was going to DIE!  It was painful, and it was slow...but the plan was steady and doable.  Over the summer, I completed two 5K run/walks (I'm still a bit slow).  And now I'm training to participate in a half marathon in February.  This morning I completed my first ever eight mile run.  As I ran (and walked) I was thinking about my little K learners.  We aren't that different!

Anytime we are learning new things, there are times when it's just plain hard.  But when we take it one little bit at a time and inch our way forward, amazing things happen.

Dr. Brian Cambourne (Australia)  identified eight conditions that all learning requires (whether you're a runner or a Kindergartener).   They are:

  • Immersion—Children need to be surrounded by whatever they are learning.  As a runner, I have immersed myself into running websites, talked with other runners and read magazines about running. 

  • Demonstration— Model reading, writing and thinking for children. Let them see you writing notes, letters, stories, recipes, and lists. Make sure they notice you reading to yourself, for pleasure, for information, for directions, and for other purposes. Show them how to hold a book, turn the pages, and read aloud.  My running demonstrations have come from my son running along side me telling me what might help me run faster and more efficient.  

  • Engagement—Help children become active learners who see themselves as readers, writers and thinkers. Set up a risk-free environment so they can experiment with language, literacy and numeracy.  As a runner, I have to stay engaged in the plan and see myself growing every time I hit the road.

  • Expectation—Set realistic expectations for learning. Everything takes time, but we must expect that they CAN learn.  I am always motivated by the expectations of others that I can run a little further.  But I also have to expect that I can do things myself.  

  • Responsibility—Give children choices about their learning. Set up the environment to promote self-direction. With running, I have to take responsibility to get myself out there regularly. 

    • Use—Create a climate for functional and meaningful uses of oral and written language. Encourage children to read along with you; help you write notes, letters, and lists; and engage in lots of conversations and problem solving.  Basically, the rule here is: "If you don't use it, you'll lose it."  If I don't stay on my running plan, I won't be able to make progress.  

  • Approximation—Accept children’s mistakes when they are learning to talk, read, write and do math. Congratulate them on their accomplishments. Guide them gently into accuracy and soon they will begin to self-correct.  My approximations as a runner are MANY!  I'm thankful no one is there whispering in my ear "that wasn't fast enough" or "you don't run well enough."  

    • Response—Listen to children, welcome their comments and questions, and extend their use of oral and written language. Celebrate the enormous language and literacy learning that is occurring daily!  The response of friends and family is important to the learner.  I love it when someone says, "You can do it!"  Or "I want to give it a try too!"  
    You have probably also learned something in your adult life.  You're no different than any child learner you know.  If we can keep these things in mind, it will help us encourage the learners around us and ensure that we create the proper conditions for maximum learning and growth!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    The Seeds are Planted...

    In our little learning garden!  Day 2 has come and gone and I am so proud of our young learners.  They are building a community of caring already that makes me tingly all over!  This morning one child came in a little tired and weepy.  I hugged her for a minute and asked if anyone else could be a kind friend to her.  I LOVED watching two other little girls come take her by the hand and sit and tell her it would be OK.  SO SWEET!

    We started our Letter Quest today...we're going to learn our ABCs (well at least visit them over the next 13 days).  I got this idea from Krazy for Kindergarten and thought I'd give it a try.  Found the book for 75 cents on (which is a great way to get durable books).  I LOVE this BOOK!  It'll be a new favorite for a long time.
    We made these "My Kindergarten Friends" books and gave each child one to keep for our ABC hunt.
     First we hunted for A's and B's in our room...a la the Letters are Lost.  Here are some of my cuties finding letters in the room:

     Once we found the letters, we came back together and let some of the kids come Rainbow write today's letters.  They loved doing this as well.

    Then we added a picture of our friends who's names started with A or B to our friend books along with their picture.  The kids all practiced writing their A and B friend names.  And then the students rebuilt their name in the pocket chart.
    Each student will take home my official certificate when they have "joined the Name Club" and have been added to their friends' books.  Tomorrow we'll do C and D and my kids are PUMPED knowing that their names are coming!  I have to say I love this activity on so many levels.  The kids helped each other.  They are learning to listen.  We are practicing that important alphabet and it's downright FUN!  

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    First Day of K

    Today is the first day of Kindergarten!  Eighteen sweet boys and girls are going to enter this classroom for a year of learning and growing together.  I'm sure there might be tears for a few.  But I am ready.  I want them to know that they are special and this is a special place where we will spend a lot of time this year.  Today we will read "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn.  This is a perfect "first day of school" story.  Hopefully, it will help the boys and girls know that they are loved both at school and at home. 

    If you are a parent and you are reading this, don't forget to ask your child to tell you all about this wonderful story!  You may even want to pull up the video of Audrey Penn reading the story on Barnes and Noble's site--just click the picture below for the link or click here.   

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Before and After (a snippet)

    I'll be posting updates here all year...but I thought you should see our "Before and After" shots of our Learning Garden:

    Open House was a real joy for me today!  I loved meeting 17 of my new friends and their parents.  What a great group!  It made me look forward to Monday even more.  Happy Weekend!

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    It's Coming...

    I cannot believe this new school year is finally coming!  I have been working hard all summer long preparing for a new crop of Kindergarten learners.  As I received the class list the other day, I started wondering just what personalities will be in our Learning Garden this year?  I'm sure some will be happy-go-lucky, others will be full of questions, still others may be shy and scared.  It's OK.  It's so special to be able to learn together!

    So, as I prepare to go back to MY first day of school on Tuesday, I'll be thinking about YOUR first day of school next Monday.  I am looking forward to meeting you and your families even before that at our Meet Your Teacher.

    Whether you're excited, scared, happy, nervous, or all of those balled up into ONE...know that we're going to have a lot of fun learning together this year!