September 2014 - Down River Resources
Howdy, friends.
The first weeks of kindergarten go by pretty fast, especially since every activity takes so long. By the time you know it, you are already handing out progress reports for the first grading period! That is currently where I am in my life as a teacher!

Wilson Fundations

In our school district, we use Wilson Fundations as the phonics program, though Fundations is a whole language program teaching many other reading skills. It is amazing how my students learn the difference between vowels and consonants early in the year! Also, I enjoy that the students have a keyword (the picture) to help them remember the letters and their corresponding sounds. I have seen the impact that the fidelity to the program has on just a few short weeks my students will be able to read.
Wilson Fundations
Week 1: Letter t (top)
Week 2: Letters b (bat) and f (fun)

Reader's Workshop: Anchor Charts

During the first 20 days of school, all of the teachers at our campus create charts for Reader's Workshop as we establish routines and procedures. These are consistent in each grade level though each teacher adds their flare! My charts just happen to be colorful and have visual aids for students to remember what the text says. (This is also a great time to model a list in writing.)
First 20 Days Charts for Reader's Workshop
We keep these rituals and routines consistent through the school so as the students move through the grade levels, they are more proficient thus reducing the teaching time for them. In addition, many students move for year to year in our location, mobility rates in the area usually range from 18-25%, so this allows those students to know our procedures.


The first few days of writing, we talk about stories. I talk about the people we draw are the characters we see in the books we read. I emphasized the setting, where the story takes place, from the beginning of the year, as the students had a difficult time picking up that concept last year. It is now week 4 and the students know what the setting of a story is already! Yeehaw!

After the first couple of days, I started to get frustrated that the students were drawing characters that resembled marshmallows. Because of this, I did a directed draw. I modeled using the document camera and I showed the students the process I go through to draw a character. I focused on how characters can be changed to resemble boys vs. girls and adults vs. children, etc. This is a sample (1/4) of the illustrations from my kindergarteners.

The following day, the students applied the skill of drawing a person as they drew their families. Look the illustration on the bottom right, this student is still drawing a "marshmallow man" so he may need some additional support as the weeks continue. I love the variety of how the students see themselves and others. Look closely at the characters. Could you rate them by their complexity? Which picture is the most detailed (look at the features)? Which picture is the least detailed? Then, between the other two pictures, look at the characters faces. It is interesting to analyze these student samples. I look forward to sharing more as we progress.
Happy Drawing!

Howdy, friends.

I wanted to update you on my interactive notebooks. One of my favorite tips to offer teachers, especially new teachers, is how to make a cover last on a composition notebook! Throughout the years, my practice has been improved. I used to have the students glue the covers on the front or tape them with packing tape. The method I lay out below is much easier and holds up better!

All you need is...patience and... (It is actually a pretty quick process!)
-Students' composition notebooks
-Half-page cover that students have colored and made their own (this builds ownership)
-1 foam brush (any size works)
-1 container of Mod Podge glue (make sure it is one that dries clear)

Using Mod Podge on the notebook covers helps maintain the durability of notebooks
Step 1: First, dip the foam brush in the glue, be generous. Brush the glue in the middle of the notebook where the cover will be placed.
Step 2: Next, place the student's cover on top of the glue and hold in place with your hand.
Step 3: Then, while holding one half of the cover page, glue the bottom with vertical strokes. Be generous and pull the brush across hard to eliminate "bubbling." Then, glue the other half of the cover page with vertical strokes.
Step 4: Finally, paint a frame around the perimeter of the cover to seal the edges to the notebook. Lay out on a flat surface and allow to dry.

Note: I create my own notebook covers. (Two fit on an 8x11 landscape paper.) I use an outline font and black line clipart so the students can color in the letters and pictures. These are great to give to the students in the first few days of school as you are putting away supplies!

Happy Gluing!

Howdy, friends. Sorry for the delay in this post. My husband has made about 75 calls to the cable company since we moved into our new house and still we have yet to receive a good solid signal. Shockingly, my husband still is sweet! Our internet issue has made blogging tremendously difficult! But... I have a stockpile of lessons and activities coming your way in the next few weeks to make up for it!

Last week, I really started focusing on scientific inquiring and investigations. This is something that is a newer nugget of knowledge for me to initiate in my classroom. I have always had my kids speak and draw pictures, but writing can be a daunting task, especially for someone who has never had a class on "How to Teach a Kid to Write!" Needless to say, my students are always excellent authors because I model writing so often and we practice daily. In kindergarten, the student expectation in our district is two sentences! That's not so bad!

Field Investigation: Bumpy Seat

We focused on the five senses and how we use them to conduct investigations. We did an investigation each day to explore our five senses. We went on a listening walk and heard our assistant principal's high heels clicking on the tile floor. We also heard boxes dropping on the floor as new textbooks were being delivered. The scientists thought this was pretty neat. Then, we traveled to the playground where we heard the coach's whistle, basketballs bouncing, and children screaming while playing a game.

The following day, we explored my favorite sense, touch (texture- the way an object feels). I read a small children's book, I Touch, about a small child touching soft, hard, and gooey things. This text introduced the scientists to the describing words we used and activated prior knowledge as they related to the small child touching a teddy bear, blanket, cereal, etc. We discussed that we use our hands as a tool to identify texture and I wrote the investigative question on our chart paper (see photograph of chart paper on easel below): How can we describe objects on the playground?

Field Investigation: Smooth Bridge
Then, we went on a field investigation to our playground. We felt the BUMPY metal seat and the SMOOTH bridge, along with the ROUGH rock wall around the perimeter of the jungle gym, and the HARD plastic slide. It was amazing how quickly the scientists built the academic vocabulary since they had a sensory experience. At each object, I said, "The ____ (object) is _____ (describing texture word). The scientists repeated after me. This helped them achieve the goal of describing the playground using texture words.

I did a lesson last year with objects in the classroom (blocks, Legos, books, etc.). It surely did not have the same results. THIS LESSON WAS A BIG IMPROVEMENT. Plus, these field investigations helped me continue teaching safety rules so when we go outside later in the year to observe the patterns of movement, weather, and organisms, there are no problems as the expectations have been taught and practiced.

We came back into the classroom and washed our hands (continuing to practice science safety.) Scientists gathered back on the rug to debrief after our investigation. We repeated the question together, "How can we describe objects on the playground?" I posted a sentence stem. *This is the first time my students have seen a written sentence stem (they have used oral sentence stems so they have a little experience with how they work. I highlight the words they will need to copy as a scaffold for my students.

Together, we decide that we will write about the slide. I model how I would use the posted sentence stem to write my own sentence. I copy the word "The," emphasizing that the sentence begins with a capital letter. I place a finger space and write the playground object that I would like to describe, "slide". I copy the word "is" after placing a finger space. Finally, I select a texture word from the word bank at the bottom of the chart, "hard." I show the students how I use my finger to create another space and write my final word and add a period which signifies the end of the sentence.
Normally, I would take down our shared conclusion so the students do not copy it, but I left it up for additional support for my struggling students... plus this is the first time doing something like this for them. I handed each of them a strip of paper to write their conclusion and turned them loose!

Independent Conclusion: The ____ (object) is ____ (texture describing word).
It was so exciting to see how the conclusions came out. Look at the photograph on the left. This really was a great formative assessment to show me what the students learned during our science lesson.

The first student wrote, "The hard is" (That student read it, "The slide is really hard.") The second student copied my conclusion. (This is why it should be removed. Only a sentence stem should be left up.) The third student wrote, "CTYD s in in." (That student read it, "The wall is hard." CLICK HERE TO HEAR THE SCIENTISTS READING THEIR CONCLUSIONS!

I look forward to seeing what these scientists come up with next investigation!

Happy Scaffolding!

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